Sunday, January 29, 2023

Blast from the Past (And an Answer!)

I am feeling very grateful right now. I heard from an old friend yesterday. We were best friends for over a decade until we started to drift apart about a decade ago. Our drifting apart hurt me so bad, and I wrote about it here: What Happened to My Friends Without Kids?

Well, last year I decided to text her on her birthday. We never had a falling out or harsh words. And I missed her. So I took a chance and sent a text. I figured I had nothing to lose but hopefully something to gain.

She immediately texted back! Turns out, she was so happy to hear from me because she didn't have my new number and she had emailed me every year on my birthday! (Where those emails went, I have no idea. I have searched and searched my accounts for them. I have yet to find those unread birthday emails.)

And so we were back in touch and texted occasionally.

Yesterday my phone rang. What?? I mean, nobody calls anymore... It was her, and she was just calling to talk. Actually, she called to lovingly chastise me for disappearing for a couple of years, and I was able to tell her that not having kids was really hard for me so I fell into a hole and didn't emerge until I had found my new spot in life.

We hadn't talked in 5.5 years and it felt like we had talked the day before. Gahhhh!  Priceless.

*****

So aside from this good news that I am back in touch with one of my closest friends, two very interesting points came up in our conversation.

One, I just so happened to learn what was going on with her while I was trying to conceive. I didn't ask directly or anything, but she just shared openly and unknowingly gave me an answer to a question I always wondered about: what happened to my friend without a kid??

Turns out, she had started dating a new guy. (That's when I knew we were drifting apart. I found out about her new boyfriend from a mutual friend, not her.) This guy had two kids, was going through a divorce, and didn't want any more kids. So, as I am completely lost and nearly despondent over not being able to get pregnant, she was struggling with knowing whether or not having kids was important to her. She told me it was a big decision and she talked to her psychiatrist about it endlessly. In the end, she decided she did not want kids and proceeded with the relationship. They have since broken up, but my friend still doesn't want kids and feels confident in her decision because she put so much thought and time into it.

Yep. As I was struggling with infertility, my friend was struggling with her decision. No wonder she couldn't be there for me how I wanted her to be there for me back then. (Side note, was it even possible for someone to be there for me in the way I wanted back then? I'm thinking no...)

Wow. When do we ever get answers? When do we ever get closure? And I got some yesterday.

*****

The second point is sad. Maybe I should have started with it first? End on a happy note? But... As we all know, that's not how life goes. So here is the second point.

So, my friend decided not to have kids. Then her younger sister tried for years and couldn't. So you know what that means. My friend's mom is not a grandmother; my friend's mom does not have grandchildren. And, apparently, she is DEVASTATED. She has cried to my friend multiple times and she's not engaging in the healthiest of behaviors. My friend is concerned about how much her mom is drinking and how poorly her mom is recovering from a months-old surgery.

Hearing that made me sad. I understand my friend's complete annoyance and even anger, but I also completely empathize with her mom. Her mom is feeling a deep, deep pain that nobody can help her with. It got me thinking about the disenfranchised grief and the ambiguous loss involved with grandchildlessness. Yes, my friend's mom got to have kids, raise them, and be a mother. But she also thought her life would take the natural progression and she would have grandchildren. Just like all of her friends are doing. But she's not. And she's sad, left out, alone, and grieving.

Involuntary childlessness (like my friend's sister) has such a far-reaching, multifaceted impact.

It changes people's lives.

*****

I'm happy. I'm sad. I'm grateful.

I'm happy for myself and where I am and what I'm doing. I'm sad for my friend's mom and everyone else across the world grieving the loss of their children and grandchildren. And I'm grateful to be back in touch with a friend that is so important to me.

💜

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Tracee Ellis Ross

I never watched a lot of tv until I started teaching. That first year of teaching (and all of the years that followed) was... EXHAUSTING! I would come home from the day, sit on the couch (because I was barely able to move), and watch two episodes of Girlfriends. It became my ritual.

A couple of weeks ago, I read this interview with Tracee Ellis Ross and I loved it. It's short, but there's a lot of good stuff in there. I especially appreciate her thoughts on not being married and not having children and what that means and feels like in our society.

I just love her. She seems so cool and confident and approachable and fun. I am totally aware that I don't know her and she doesn't know me, but she has such a great friend vibe. I just imagine she's kind to everyone she meets. It's been nice "knowing" her these last twenty years. 



Sunday, January 15, 2023

Breath of Fresh Air

Well, this semester is off to a running start! Instead of taking three classes, the program broke one of the classes into two, so I am taking four classes!! Maybe it won't be as overwhelming as it sounds right now...

So, get this. I had a positive experience with CNBC disclosure with one of my new professors. 

But first, if you want to go back in time and remember how horrible the professors were in my first program, feel free to reread this gem here: Self-Care Above All Else.

Ok, now back to the present! You can use this story to scrub your brain of that 2017 post.

In one of my classes we will have to complete three group projects with the same group. Although I like all of my classmates, I felt a little apprehensive about who would be in my group and what our topic would be. I had previously expressed an interest in women's health but then realized what that could lead to.

I quickly emailed the professor before the groups were assigned. I just flat out said I was an involuntarily childless survivor of infertility and failed IVF and, although I had expressed an interest in a group about women's health, I did not want to get stuck reading articles about pregnancy and post-partum issues. I told her that while I had healed immensely, I still avoided most things baby-related.

And do you know what she wrote back?

She wrote something along the lines of, "Thank you so much for letting me know. Of course, that makes sense, and I will definitely take that into consideration when forming the groups."

Gahhh that felt good! Recognition and validation without judgment or discomfort. It was worth waiting years to hear that kind of support.

And then you know what else?

I got assigned to be in a group with my two friends I've made in the program. And they both happen to be around my age, and neither of them has kids. I am pumped! I'm going to suggest animal therapy for our topic...

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

It Changes

Whatever you're going through, it changes.

Yesterday I felt a profoundly deep sadness for the loss of my children for a good 10 - 15 minutes. It hurt so bad I could barely stand it. And then it passed. It made me wonder, if I hadn't endured that feeling in the moment would it have lessened but lingered?

I've received two somewhat significant pregnancy announcements this week. 

One was from my advisor who asked me if I wanted to switch advisors. I assured her I did not. I've already received such valuable feedback from her, and she is extremely supportive of my topic. Just the way she requested a virtual meeting and shared her pregnancy news with me one-on-one and giving me an "out," showed me how considerate and thoughtful she is. I definitely want to keep her as my advisor.

The second one was from a co-worker. She mentioned it casually, didn't make a big deal about it, and kept on talking to me about work stuff. I congratulated her and immediately started thinking about her maternity leave, haha. By the afternoon I got an email from our boss asking if I was available to work more hours this summer. I replied "yes" immediately. I need the hours and I like the organization. If this is how I can get work and stay employed with this place, then I will cover my co-worker's maternity leave. 

And that explains why I am briefly coming out of retirement from pediatrics this summer.  To cover for my co-worker. Who will be on maternity leave.

It changes. All of it. How everything makes me feel as a childless not by choice woman. I still hurt. I still cry. But I also cover pediatrics for a co-worker's maternity leave. By choice. And I keep my original advisor for my CNBC research even though she's pregnant. Because I don't care. Ha!

Friday, January 6, 2023

Follow-Up Appointment

I continue to encourage you to get an annual mammogram once you are 40 and older. My mammogram last month showed something the doctor wanted to take another look at, so I got orders for a second mammogram and an ultrasound. I went this week. 

I'm sure you can guess I was nervous. It seems like everything makes me nervous. But I reminded myself that I'd been through much more invasive appointments many, many times and followed through with my follow-up appointment. 

And it started out good. Well, really, the whole thing was good. Everyone I encountered was kind and gentle and did their jobs well. 

But halfway through the ultrasound, I started crying. I just got scared. Thinking of the worst case scenario. Thinking of all of the other ultrasounds I'd had. Just thinking how hard life is for everyone everywhere. I felt very, very emotional. So I cried. And the ultrasound technician was just so nice, so kind.

(I'm glad I don't feel bad about crying. Because I cry often. Lol. But seriously, it is so important to feel your feelings. It can be a lot, but it's better than the alternative. Denial is confusing and repression sucks even more. In my opinion anyway.)

I'm not surprised I had an emotional response to my appointment. I usually do for medical things. Part of it comes from feeling scared like a little kid, and part of it comes from enduring infertility and lots of medical appointments (none of which were any good). 

Anyway, the doctor came in, looked at my x-rays and ultrasound, and told me he wasn't sure if what he was seeing was something concerning or just the way my body is. He wants to see me again in six months. So really, it's good news. We have baseline data and we will do another follow-up to check for changes.

Interestingly, I learned that women who do not get pregnant and have children typically have much denser breasts, which makes things like x-rays and ultrasounds more difficult to read. Great... Just another thing about my reproductive system that makes things harder...

But hey, overall, I'm glad. I mean, that's the point of getting a mammogram in the first place--to keep an eye on things. It's important to do. Go ahead and schedule yours if you're due.

Monday, January 2, 2023

Grief Anniversary

I've written about it before, but I always forget. My body always remembers.

Grief anniversaries.

But first, let me back up for a second.

The holidays are over! There were many years where I eagerly awaited the new year, knowing that all of the stereotypes and expectations of the holiday season would be behind me. The holidays don't bother me so much anymore. I celebrate the parts I like and leave the rest. They fly by so fast now. One minute I'm shopping for the Thanksgiving meal; the next minute I'm taking ornaments off of the tree.

So you'd think I would remember what comes next... My season of failed IVF.

On January 1, 2015 I went in for my first embryo transfer. I could barely sleep the night before, but it obviously wasn't from disrupted sleep due to partying the old year away. I was extremely anxious about oversleeping or having a car wreck en route to the clinic or some other disaster striking and wasting all that time, money, and energy on my first IVF cycle. (Yeah, it sucked. I hated every second of it. I only endured IVF for my children.)

This new year was weird. After months of heavy reflection, I told my boyfriend in the afternoon of NYE that we needed to take some time apart. Yeah, that completely sucked. I obviously love him, but I feel like I have two choices: stay how things are or change the situation. Much like infertility: I couldn't stay how things were (years of charting followed by repeated failed treatments), so I had to change my situation.  

It always sucks not liking your options.

And about my breakup, I still don't know what it looks like. It's only been communicated, not yet implemented. But I share here because that is what happened on my NYE. It wasn't the greatest day and I went to bed at 9:30. That has to be the earliest I've ever gone to bed on 12/31.

Of course, I woke up the next day not feeling it. But... I was REALLY not feeling it. I felt empty and weepy. And I kept thinking, but this is nothing new... I've been sad and frustrated for awhile... Why do my feelings feel so unexpected?

And then I remembered. Eight years ago I went in for my first embryo transfer. I was an anxious wreck. My husband was barely present. I was full of hope (sorta), and I've yet to have that level of hope since. Even though I liked my doctor and my clinic (a rare occurence!), the whole experience was awful.

And, spoiler alert, it didn't work.

And there I was yesterday, eight years later, feeling my grief for so many things at once.

The worst day will be on the 11th. I'm scheduled to work that day. But that's the day I found out my first IVF cycle did not result in pregnancy, and I fell to my knees just howling with my dog anxiously circling me trying to make it better.

Maybe I won't be at my best on the 11th, but I am still going to show up. Maybe I will encounter a patient that needs something only I can offer. I will go to work that day for them.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Everyone's Asking Again

I haven't written lately because I've been fortunate to pick up some holiday hours. I've been working hard, and I love it. I love my job. I'm so glad I didn't drop out of the graduate school program that I hated. (Instead I started this blog. October 2016.) That program was a means to an end, and now I get to work in this new profession. I liked teaching, but I knew I needed to do something different after infertility.

I work with adults now. I am learning a lot about older adults and the aging process. It's interesting and relevant because we are all aging. Every single one of us.

Interestingly, after going a couple of years without being asked if I had kids, I am now asked again somewhat regularly. Also interestingly, it doesn't even bother me. 

I am usually asked by older adult patients. I think it's just a common question to ask in conversation. I also think the question is sparked by my caregiving in the moment. I love providing patient care. I follow the rules and make sure I do what I need to do for ethical reasons and for the purposes of health insurance reimbursement. But I always take at least a moment to really see the person. Look them in the eyes, ask how they are doing, and listen to whatever they need to share. So, I think I probably give off a pretty maternal vibe, which is why people ask. I've always said I was born to be a mom.

But I'm not a mom. Obviously.
And I'm learning to be okay with that. 

It's easier for me now that I know I'm not going to have children. For 32 years I assumed I would. For four more years, I tried doing so. And then I sort of realized it wasn't happening...

That feeling of being in limbo really, really sucked.

But I digress.

Ten years ago when I was asked if I had kids I would feel so sad because the answer was no.
Now when I am asked I just simply say no because I don't have kids. 

Now I know I'm not having kids. I've grown into that idea, and I've created a life I want to live. 

And it's funny to me that I'm usually asked if I have kids at least once a day at work by a patient.

 And it's amazing to me that I'm okay saying no.