Saturday, June 23, 2018

Stupid Question

I successfully completed the first week of my first clinical rotation, and it was exhausting. I always forget how much energy it takes to learn new skills and knowledge. Plus, I felt extremely unprepared from my coursework so I had to hit the ground running. I am in a good situation though. There is another student with me, and we both really like our clinical instructor. Our instructor is kind, supportive, knowledgeable, and experienced. She began pushing us out of our comfort zone the first day, which is good for me because I can stand back, observe, and take notes for forever. What I really need to do is get in there and do the hands-on work with patients.

I am working in a facility that has a lot of older adults in its patient population. There are a million different things we work on with the patients. One of the activities is pretty straight forward and simple. There is a beach ball with different questions written on each colored section of the ball. In a small group the patients toss the ball to each other and read and answer aloud the question that faces them when they catch the ball.

Before ever seeing this activity, I had already noticed the ball. More specifically, I had already noticed one of the questions on the ball. And wouldn't you know it, the first time I led this activity... The patients were taking turns tossing the ball and an older woman I had been working with throughout the week caught it and read the question she saw out loud, "How many grandchildren do you have and what are their names?" Grrrrr... You know this question irritated me. Plus, I knew this woman did not have any children, so therefore she did not have any grandchildren.

She answered, "None," somewhat flatly (or maybe I was reading too much into her response). Anticipating her answer and going off of what I knew about her already, I immediately said, "You told me about your nephews that are so important to you. What are their names?" Her face lit up as she shared her nephews' names and told the group a little bit more about them. Then the game continued.

It was such a small moment, but it stood out to me. I hated that question and I hated that my patient got that question on her turn. I have no idea what her life circumstances were. I do not know if she ever married; I do not know if she ever wanted children. I do not know if this is a painful subject for her. Considering her age, contraceptives were not widely available during her time, so I do not know if she just never had a significant romantic relationship with a man or if she wanted children very badly and could not have them.

It was such a small moment, but it was big to me. I thought to myself: I am never going to hear the end of this, am I? Once people stop asking me if I have children, they will start asking me if I have grandchildren. It was very defeating to me when I was already dealing with my emotions this week over learning a new career instead of raising my children.

I thought it was just me and no one noticed, but, amazingly, my clinical instructor did. The next day she said, "Phoenix, I noticed something yesterday." I figured she was going to give me constructive criticism because I have so much to learn, but instead she complimented me. She said, "Yesterday, with the patient XXX, you were so quick to ask about her nephews when she said she didn't have any grandchildren. That was very sensitive and observant of you. Not many people would have done that." I said thank you, that I had already noticed that question on the ball before ever engaging in the activity with patients, and that I hated it. To my surprise, my clinical instructor agreed. She said, "Everyone always assumes women, especially older women, are married and have children and that is simply not true. I would like to poke a hole in that beach ball and get rid of it forever. When you're out and about this weekend if you happen to be at a dollar store and see a beach ball, feel free to pick it up and bring it in. We need to write new questions."

So that's the first thing I did when I got off work. Okay, well first I showered because I have to do that as soon as I get home after working with sick patients all day. But right after that, I went to a dollar store where I found a beach ball. I bought that damn ball and you know I will be bringing it to work on Monday.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Beginning Again

Infertility stole so many things from me. Joy, energy, friendships, the desire to engage in activities I once liked. Recovering from infertility involves not only recovering from the trauma of losing your lifelong dream of children, but it also involves recovering from all of the other losses that infertility caused.

I used to like to cook. I was never a gourmet chef or anything. I just cooked simple things that I liked to eat. Infertility killed that. I was so depressed and I had no energy or motivation. I barely even wanted to eat. I skipped breakfast. I skipped lunch. Then for dinner it would a sandwich or a bowl of cereal or going out to eat. Cooking didn't happen for many, many years.

Then we moved to our rental house. Its kitchen was... less than ideal. The pipes were old, the water was gross, and the stove heated up the whole house (and it was already hot outside). Plus, I went back to school, which took every little bit of energy I had. So I continued to not cook. We continued to eat sandwiches, cereal, and take out.

It wasn't very healthy, nourishing, or cheap. But we were doing the best we could.

But... Drum roll please... I cooked something last week!

I bought ingredients, I mixed them up, I put them in the oven, and I made something tasty to eat. It was the first time I'd used an oven in at least four years. That sounds crazy to me, but it's true.

And I'm going to cook again today. :)

I start the next phase of my school tomorrow. I'm done with classes and now I get to actually do the hands-on learning in a real-world setting. I'm excited and nervous and my biggest concern is my lack of endurance. It's been a long time since I have been on my feet and interacted with people all day long. Classes were one thing, but they weren't all day and I could always come home and take a nap. (I'm telling you, infertility seriously knocked me down and out of life for several years.)

But I am committed to living again. I am committed to eating regularly, so I have the energy to learn as much as I can and to take good care of my patients. I know this next phase will be difficult, but I also know I will build endurance and be so much stronger when it is over.

So on Friday I meal planned. On Saturday I grocery shopped. And today I am going to cook. I'm making a breakfast casserole so I can heat up a serving each morning. I'm meal prepping my lunches (and snacks!) that I'm going to bring every day. And I thought of easy, healthy dinners I can make when I get home exhausted from a long day.

Part of me feels pretty lame. Cooking/feeding oneself every day is something that everyone does. If I had kids, I would have to feed them every day. It reminds me of when my sister told me, "You wouldn't be able to handle having kids." But dammit, very few people in this world understand what I have been through and how it killed my spirit. I need to honor myself and, instead of beating myself up, be proud of how far I've come. So that's what I'm trying to do.

I'm beginning again. In the kitchen. Which is pretty metaphorical in itself. Wish me luck! :)

Friday, June 15, 2018

Leaving My Healing House

Hellooo everyone! I have missed reading and writing. I look forward to getting caught up on everyone's blogs. But I am happy to share that I am settled in my new home. I am unpacked, organized, and, thanks to my mother who came to visit this week, all of my pictures are hung up on the walls and my new home is now decorated as well. I can't believe it: it's only been 3 weeks and I am already settled. My new home is the homiest home I've ever had. :)

I am so grateful for my little rental house, where I lived for a little over 2 years. It was old and it was far from perfect, but it brought me a lot of healing. It gave me time between living in my children's house and living here in my new home. I did a lot of grieving and healing in that rental house. Before I started school, I spent a lot of days just sitting in my recliner reading. It was there that I stopped reading TTC posts entirely. I had already started reading infertility blogs, but I officially ended my quest for children six months after moving there. I spent the rest of my time reading books and blogs about women living life without children after infertility and just putting one foot in front of the other. It took absolutely everything I had.

The house had a good energy though. I talked to the homeowner, a woman in her late 80s who had bought the house with her husband some sixty years ago, and learned she was an artist. It was not just a hobby; she was a working artist with pieces commissioned for important places all over the world. She said the house had good energy and had been good to everyone who had lived there. Plus, the house was close to school and had a backyard for my dog so it was perfect for us at the time.

Living in that healing house gave me the space I needed to deal with my infertility experience. It was there that I went through every single piece of paper I had accumulated throughout my TTC journey. It was there that I went through all of my files from the fertility clinics and adoption agencies. It was there that I decided to shred it all except for the pictures of my embryos.

Living in that healing house gave me the gift of time. It gave me an in between stage where I could sort through my things and sort through myself, deciding what to keep and what to let go. It would have been very difficult to go straight from living in the house I bought for my children to living in a place where I knew that I would never have children.

I cried so much and so hard in that rental house. And with each good cry I shed a layer of pain and devastating disappointment. I wrestled with my existential demons, wondering what was the point of anything really. I missed my expectations for my old dreams and I missed my previous relationships with my friends and family that had been forever changed. I grieved and I healed.  And then I moved out.

And now I am here.


Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Pictures of Other People's Children

One of the things I still struggle with as a woman who always wanted kids but is not going to have them is pictures of other people's children. Pictures of newborns, Halloween costumes, the first and last days of school, etc. just kill me on the inside. It makes me sad for what I lost and for what I will never experience.

A friend of mine just texted me pictures of his family vacation. He sent a picture of the scenery; a picture of him and his wife; and a picture of him, his wife, and their toddler. I don't know why he did that. He could have just sent me the picture of the scenery. Or the pictures of the scenery and the picture of him and his wife. He knows I wanted kids and that I'm still grieving. I guess he doesn't know how painful it is for me to see pictures of other people's family vacations with their children.

But am I wrong? I hate to tell people to just "get over it." But do I need to get over it? People have kids. Especially at my age. I can't expect people to constantly censor their experiences for my benefit.

How do I interact in the world that's full of fertile people? How do I participate in life with others when a lot of basic things are still so painful for me?

Do I surround myself with only young people who haven't had kids yet and older people whose kids are already grown?

Do I continue to grieve and blog and work on myself in hopes that things like pictures of other people's children won't bother me in the future? If so, how do I do that? Does anybody know?

I can deal with social media. I have all of my friends with kids hidden. On bad days I'm not bombarded with reminders of what I'll never have. On good days I can check in on my friends' posts and see what they've been up to and chosen to share with the online world.

But unsolicited text messages. Holiday cards. People sharing pictures at work and in social settings. All of these things are very normal things to do... But I am still figuring out how to deal with them.

I'm embarrassed about it. I don't want pictures of other people's children to bother me, to make me sad, or to bring me pain. But the fact is, they do. I like my life. I love my life. I'm working hard to create a life that is joyful, interesting to me, and full of service to others. But I am still trying to figure out how to deal with some things that are simply normal everyday interactions with family, friends, and people in general.

Monday, June 4, 2018

"But I Had Kids" -My Mother

(Note: This post has been edited from its original version. This version is more succint, less rambling.)

I was all set to write one post and then my mother called.

She asked how my unpacking is going. I have now lived here for a week and I am probably about halfway unpacked. I am functional. The bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom closet are unpacked. But I still have everything else like my books, office supplies, art supplies, and decorations in boxes. She expressed surprise that I wasn't unpacked yet. I said, "Well, I'm not going to just do nothing but unpack for five hours straight. I unpack a little and then I take a break." And she said, "Whenever we moved I always had everything unpacked within three days. But I had kids."

"But I had kids."

Dammit, that sentence annoyed the crap out of me.

"But I had kids."

What does that even mean? Her life was more important than mine is, that it was more important that she get completely unpacked immediately just because she had kids? That I am not fully adult with full-time responsibilities because I can afford to have some boxes lying around for a week or two? Seriously, wtf? Wtf does that even mean?? "But I had kids."

Well if you know me or if you've been reading this blog, you know I don't hesitate to say what's on my mind (as long as I can think of something in the moment). So I said, "That doesn't matter." And she immediately said, "You're right. I chose to unpack quickly."

I'm glad she followed up her thoughtless comment with a more accurate one, that she chose to do something and not she had to do something because she had kids. I made her think for one second. But I doubt she's thinking about it now, whereas here I am blogging about it.

It's just so annoying! "Because I had kids." "As a mother..." "Ever since I became a parent..." So many things are said that diminish my value and my experiences as a valid person capable of responsibility and empathy while going through life without children.

This won't affect me for the rest of the day, but I did want to write about it. Comments like this have gone from angering me to merely annoying me. But still... It just gets old.