Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Missing My Children

I woke up missing my children today. The feeling was unrealized, lurking just below the surface. 

I was scrolling through posts on my phone and saw a cute picture of someone else's toddlers in a blanket fort in a living room in Somewhere, USA. It wasn't anyone I knew. It was some repost from a children's author or an artist or some account like that... 

But suddenly, I felt a visceral longing in my heart and being that will never be filled. My son or daughter never got to be a big brother or big sister to my other son or daughter. They didn't get to build living room blanket forts, play together, and antagonize each other. I didn't get to hear them laugh and bicker. And I felt profoundly sad. 

It's true. I never got that and I never will.

At the same time, I know if things had gone as planned my children would be way past that stage now. As their mother, I know I would still be sad. I know I would still have that longing in my heart for those days, those times. But I would be comforted by my memories and photo albums and the joys of the new little things in the present moment. It would be bittersweet but not tragic.

*****

It's important that I recognize these moments when they happen. It's important that I let myself feel the hard stuff when it surfaces. My losses are significant. I am allowed to grieve.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Mental Respite

I took the whole week off from work. 

I had to use PTO and get a doctor's note, but getting a break from having to be around unmasked people has done wonders for my mental state. I get next week off too. Then I'll reevaluate. I've decided I will no longer work around unmasked people, but I don't know what happens next. 

I'm lucky. Fortunate. Privileged. I've never felt unsafe at work before.
But I definitely feel unsafe now.

I travel across the district in my position. I work at multiple campuses, constantly in and out of classrooms and meetings. As of three weeks ago, the district had no way of contact tracing me. (When I realized this, I immediately submitted a lengthy list of my weekly contacts.) Currently, half of the students and staff at one of the elementary schools is quarantined. Overall, ten percent of my caseload has been quarantined at some point this semester. There have been documented positive cases at the preschool, the middle school, the high school, and most of the elementary schools. Did I mention they don't wear masks here? It's not safe.

And yet I got yelled at for requesting a zoom link for a meeting last week?
Insanity. I cannot trust these people. We live in different realities.

I'm mad.
I'm sad. 
I'm scared.
I'm tired.

I succeeded in doing almost nothing this week. On Tuesday I fell asleep at 4:30pm and slept for thirteen hours straight. Let me explicitly state: "That is NOT normal."

I don't know if I'd feel so resolute in my decision to no longer work around unmasked people if it weren't for my experiences with infertility. It sounds so basic and obvious, like, absolutely not--nobody should be forced to work with unmasked people. But... It is so easy to feel intimidated by an employer. It involves money and contracts and control. I remember not speaking up during my recent horrendously toxic experience in graduate school. There was a power differential. I didn't want to fail a class or get kicked out of the program. So I stayed silent.

But now? Well, unlike my younger self, I still try to keep my comments to myself haha, but I definitely no longer live how others expect. I no longer bow down to what others think I should do and how and when. My life is so fundamentally different from everyone around me. If I did what everyone else thought I should do, well, I wouldn't be living MY life at all.

And if I listened to my current employer? Well, I might not even have a life to live...

*****

Please be kind to yourself. 

Give yourself lots of grace and lots of breaks. 

For so many reasons, enduring this pandemic is really, really hard.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Before My Brain Breaks

I am in a mental space I've never been in before. 

For someone who's learned to manage pretty intrusive anxiety and depression over the last several decades, that says a lot. I don't take my mental health for granted. So when I felt like I was at my breaking point last week, I listened to myself. And when I say breaking point, I mean it literally. I felt like my brain was starting to crack. I felt like it was only a matter of time before I just... Broke.

I was processing slower, not comprehending as much. My head hurt. I was dizzy. I wasn't hungry. I was teary. I couldn't think straight. It felt like I couldn't get anything done at work. What I did get done wasn't that hard and took much longer than usual. I felt like my brain was slowly... Shutting... Down...

I don't want to get covid.
I've spent enough energy in my life on a chronic illness (infertility). I'd like to avoid another.

I don't want to spread covid.
I don't want to cause others' suffering, especially when I could've just stayed home. 

Hell, I don't even want to have an accident!
I can't need to go to the hospital because the hospitals are getting full!

The fact of the matter is they don't wear masks here. They say they do, but they don't. I sit in meetings all week and I am the only person wearing a mask. (They think it's fine if everyone is seated and not moving around. I do not share this belief.) My younger students do not wear them and I'm not allowed to ask them to wear one while with me. (Yes, I asked and, yes, I was told no.) My older students do not wear them properly (they're almost all under the nose) and a lot of teachers wear bandanas or neck gaiters (ineffective coverings) and pull everything down to talk. All the while, the number of cases in our county climbs. 

There was a community parade a couple of weeks ago, a potluck at work last week, and my boyfriend and I walked by a packed (standing room only) restaurant this weekend. I'm incredulous and I'm angry. How can people continue to live their lives like things are normal when I'm scared just to go to work? I asked my boyfriend, "Am I overreacting?" He immediately replied, "No. You're not overreacting."

I wrote about living in The Twilight Zone last June before I moved. I wrote about feeling gaslit two months ago. It's only getting worse. The Twilight Zone, the gaslighting, the virus. I know family and friends with travel plans. I see so many people around me living in denial of covid's existence, of how contagious it is, of how varied and potentially long-lasting its effects can be. This will not end well.

The bottom line is I don't feel safe at work. The risk of exposure is too high. The stress of being hypervigilant and monitoring my every interaction with people because I'm the only one consistently taking precautions has started to take its mental toll. I can't do it anymore.

I'm using a sick day to not go into work today. I feel like I'm doing something radical when all I want to do is stay safe. I don't know if I will get in trouble or what will happen. I'm taking it one day at a time. I'm hoping they move school off campus and fully online. I provide a valuable service to my students, but it's not like I'm saving lives here. In fact, I could actually be saving lives if I just stayed home. 

I'm angry I'm even being put in this position. It is their choice to not wear masks. It is my choice to not be around them. However, *their* choice is going to cost *me* money or maybe even my job.

In one way, it's a really hard decision about whether or not to go into work.
In another way, it's not hard at all.

I need to stay home to protect myself, to protect others, and to preserve my mental health. 

Going through infertility really drove home the fact that nobody is living my life except me. 

I can get another job. I can't get another life.


*****


And now for a brain cleanser on a completely different topic...

I finished another quilt. I used precut strips for the quilt top (so easy) and a furry fabric called minky for the back. It has my favorite colors, it's soft and furry, and I love it.

Time to start a new one! 

Below is a picture of the new quilt and a couple of quotes I enjoy. 

Stay safe and take care! πŸ’šπŸ’™πŸ’œ






(Art Credit: The plate is by UK anarcho-craftivist artist Carrie Reichardt, 2018.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Surviving Right Now

I'm still here; I just haven't had much to say. More precisely, I've had plenty to say but haven't felt like saying much. I feel like I am cycling through the same tired topics in my head. It's much like... Y'know... Infertility...

Some things don't have a definitive ending. They happen over time and change your life forever. It can take years to figure out how to live again within your new reality.

I think that's how I'm surviving right now. I'm relying on what all I learned while surviving infertility. Establishing boundaries. Practicing acceptance. Cultivating gratitude. Enjoying the little things.

None of it is easy, but what is the alternative? If I'm miserable enduring something and I'm miserable while working to change it, well then, sign me up for the work. I may not be able to change anything that's happening around me, but I can always work on myself.

And I say "work on myself" lightly. I don't have much left over these days. I go to work, I run my limited errands, I do my laundry, and I sleep a lot. But that is enough. Especially right now.

 


Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Mental Health Day

I took the day off. I've done nothing productive. I'm writing this from bed.
I woke up, thought Nope, wrote an email to my boss, and went back to sleep.

I got eight hours of sleep last night and I went on to sleep another three. That is not normal.

I've been in bed all day: reading, online window shopping, and watching murder mysteries on tv. I have exerted almost zero energy. I feel a nap coming on. This is not normal.

I'm keeping up with my blog reading, but I notice I'm not writing or commenting as much.

I make sure I sew at least once a week (and it's often more), but it's smaller tasks for shorter amounts of time. And that's okay.

Simply feeding myself several times a day feels like a lot.

I am so tired. Which I've written about a lot on this blog. Enduring infertility is exhausting on every level. Surviving infertility requires a strength on every level that you never knew you had. Plus, there's everything else life throws at you because it doesn't all just stop when you go through life-altering trauma. And now this. 2020. As if the majority of us didn't start out exhausted already...

I can't do much of anything that is affecting me right now. There's too much to list and there's hardly anything I can do about any of it. But I can put myself first. That's something I learned from infertility. I can ask myself reflective questions and do the best I can to meet my needs. I can decrease my expectations and increase my acceptance. Or try to anyway. 

But first I shall nap.



Sunday, October 18, 2020

Happily Ever After

Two recent occurrences reminded me that my life is not an acceptable narrative to some people.

I wanted kids and I don't have them?
Well, it must be my fault. And I'll never be happy without them.

No and no. But I refuse to explain anything to satisfy someone's fleeting questions about my personal life and trauma. It took me years to get where I am today physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially, and geographically. Why should I and how could I possibly satiate their curiosity in five to ten minutes? Especially when my life doesn't have the "right" ending for them.


Instance #1

A co-worker questioned my decisions about adoption and foster care. Regardless of the fact that she barely knows me and knows nothing about my own experiences with adoption and foster care, she not only asked if I had thought about either but she also seemed to pass judgment on the fact that I had done neither. Gross. I just briefly said something along the lines of, "Adoption is a lot harder than people think and the primary goal of foster care is reunification of the biological family." 

"Yes, but, if you really wanted kids..." (Yes, she really said that.) 

I'm done with conversations like that, with people like that. I wasn't there to correct her. We weren't in an educational or therapeutic setting. We were at work where such personal discourse is neither appropriate or likely to be well received. "Yes, but..."

No.

Or rather, I think I gave a dead end, "Hmmm..." out loud.

Conversation over.


Instance #2

My mom asked me if I wanted a Halloween box this year. I'm so glad she asked. She likes to send holiday themed boxes throughout the year. Not to my sisters and me. But to my niece, nephew, and me. It always makes me a little sad because I know she would be sending them to my kids. I like the candy, but I don't know what to do with the little toys and holiday trinkets. 

This year she asked me if I'd like one or if she should give mine to the little girl down the street. I immediately texted back, "Give it to the little girl down the street! She will love it." I also said those boxes always make me a little sad so it's okay to always give them to the little girl down the street. I wasn't sure how my mom would react, but I wanted to be honest.

She wrote back, "I miss sending them to you! But I understand. Phoenix, we love you more than life. You aren't too old to adopt, especially a toddler or a preschooler."

πŸ˜‘

First of all, I think it's weird that she formally addressed me by name in a one-on-one text message. But secondly, I AM too old to adopt. That process takes a long time and, as we all know, it isn't guaranteed. However, thirdly, and most important to me, it is not the responsibility of a baby/toddler/preschooler to make me happy! Putting that expectation on a child is unfair, twisted, and cruel. And I feel like that's what people are saying when they say, "Just adopt/foster!" Adoption and foster care can be extremely wonderful, but they involve very complex issues involving many people's lives.

This is not up for discussion. Definitely not with co-workers. And apparently not with my mom. I'm tired of explaining it to people who don't listen. Why can't people accept my life as it is? I do.

I did not reply. I never brought it back up and neither did she.

Conversation over.


*****

That sucks. Five and a half years after ending fertility treatments and I still get questions and assumptions thrown my way. I understand I'm in a population that's misunderstood and not often talked about, but that doesn't mean it's my responsibility to educate everyone at every encounter. Especially if it's a waste of my time or leaves me feeling drained. 

Not everyone's story ends with motherhood.
But I know you all know that. 

I've been sharing my most private thoughts here for the past four years so I know you all know that I've been working hard, both through grief and also through moving, grad school, divorce, and starting a new career.

It annoys me when I feel like people question my life without children. It makes me mad when they assume that their idea for me to foster or adopt a child is easy, a solution, and something I haven't already put a great amount of time, thought, and research into. I don't like it when people don't let me have my ending to my own story. 


*****

I endured years of infertility. 

The adoption agency I decided on went bankrupt. 

I used to work for a foster care agency and have had extensive training on trauma-informed caregiving strategies. I would have needed an equally committed partner to engage in foster care. My ex-husband did not have that desire or skill set and that was okay and perfectly understandable to me. 

After wanting to be a mother for as long as I could remember, I realized I was not going to be raising children in this lifetime.

Since I didn't have the life I wanted, I decided to want the life I had.
I decided to create a life I wanted to live.

So after taking full advantage of what it had to offer (e.g., in-state tuition, opportunities for clinical rotations), I moved out of the city like I dreamed of doing. I embraced all of the changes, expected and unexpected, that came with that. And I graduated, passed the board exam, and now practice in my new profession. 

I love it. I spend my work days helping others. I live in a warm home with good food and a great boyfriend. And after a lifetime of searching, I finally found my medium as an artist: quilting. 

It may not look like what others expect for me, but I worked hard to create this life for myself.

I like my happily ever after. 



(Picture from The Paper Bag Princess, Story by Robert Munsch, Art by Michael Martchenko, 1980)


Sunday, October 11, 2020

Four Years Here

I started writing this blog because I needed an outlet. I also needed connection with other women like me. I read TTC boards for many years. Then I switched to reading IF blogs for a couple of years. Then I decided to start writing myself. 

I was very nervous about writing on the internet, especially in a public space. But I was also out of ideas and I desperately needed an outlet where I connected with women whom I understood, who understood me, and who helped me understand myself better. 

It is more difficult than anyone can ever imagine to be a woman in this world who wanted to be a mother and raise children but didn't get to.

So, four years later, this little blog and I are still here... Chugging along... 

The immense personal and global changes that have occurred since my first post here were unpredictable. For me anyway. I did not foresee my divorce or the pandemic. However, my experiences with infertility helped prepare me to deal with both. Life sure as shit doesn't go as planned.

So in reflection and celebration of four years of blogging my innermost personal thoughts and experiences in what I hope always remains an anonymous, yet relatable, space, here are four of my favorite posts from my first year of blogging. None of these posts garnered very many reads, but I like them anyway so I am resharing.

*****

This super short post ends with an all-time favorite quote of mine. 

This post recaps my 2016 and reminds me of how far I've come.

I just plain like this post. I hope I never stop running my mouth and speaking my mind.

This post about an article I read on resilience really applies to the present moment.

*****

If you are a reader, thank you very much for reading.

If you are a fellow blogger, thank you very much for writing.

Thank you, thank you, thank you all. From the bottom of my healing heart.

πŸ’œ

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Taking Things Down a Notch

I need to slow down, do less, and rest more.
I don't want to maintain the level at which I've been operating. So I'm going to stop. :) 

I am going to lower my expectations. For myself and for others.
We cannot all be operating at 100% like everything is normal.

If I am this stressed out and tired, how do my students feel? Their parents? My co-workers? 
We are all freaking exhausted.

Yes, my bills still need to get paid. Yes, I need to go to work. Yes, I am thankful for my job. 

But no, no, no to most everything else and to anything extra right now. I can't do it. I cannot.
There's already too much to process on a daily basis. 

So here's my daily intention for this week:
Wake Up. Show Up. Be compassionate. Give 70%. Go Home.

I woke up early this morning to go grocery shopping before the store got crowded. I didn't really feel like it, but I am so glad I went. Now I have food for the week. I have housing. I have a job.
My basic needs are met. 

For this week, I am going to wake up and show up.
But I will not give away all of the energy that I have. I need a lot of it for myself.

Thank you, infertility, for my hard-earned understanding of how to take care of myself.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

An Announcement at Work

I was at work a couple of weeks ago when a teacher stopped by my office to let me know there were donuts in the break room. It was good timing because I was hungry. 

(Disclaimer: I'm not eating food indoors with other people at the moment, but I decided it was low risk to go grab a donut and eat it outside real quick.) 

I went down to the break room and saw several boxes of a variety of delicious, decadent donuts. I was surprised because I was expecting glazed donuts, maybe chocolate iced at most. These donuts were fancier than your usual box from the grocery store. I surveyed the situation and decided on a cake donut with chocolate icing topped with pecans. Then I read the sign on the table: "You 'donut' have to ask; Baby Smith is due in March."

And you know what my first thought was? Honestly?

"Oh, that's a good way to do that."

That was my first thought. My first thought was so practical. I thought, well, that's a good way to let everyone at work know at once. Cute even. Considering we're at an elementary school. And it really was a good selection of donuts.

I thought for a second about how much an announcement like that would have caught me off guard, hurt me, and ruined my day just a couple of years ago but now it didn't. I'm glad for that. 

I don't even eat donuts all that often, but I definitely enjoyed that one. 


Sunday, September 20, 2020

Roller Coaster Living

 I've got a lot on my mind. Unfortunately, not much of it is positive. Let's jump in, shall we?

  1. I had a very upsetting phone call with my mom yesterday. We were talking about books and recipes and whatnot. I try to keep the topics pretty neutral because I don't need her criticizing me, lecturing me, or otherwise invalidating my thoughts, feelings, and/or experiences. But I couldn't do it yesterday. I couldn't do the surface stuff anymore. When she asked if I had any upcoming time off, I asked her if she was asking whether I had any upcoming time off or if I was going to be traveling during the pandemic. That was the opening into a conversation about what is really going on in the world.

    Long story short, we have completely different ideas about what taking precautions looks like and I don't think I'll be seeing anyone I'm related to anytime this year or even next. It's angering and sad. I thought it was a decent enough conversation and that she was listening as best as she is able to, but then she texted me later in the day about needing to see me for Thanksgiving. In her exact words she wrote, "There are worse things than Covid--like not seeing your kids!" 

    Pause. Pause.
    Let that sink in.

    My own mother disregarded my entire experience with infertility with one single statement. 

    I am so pissed. I can give her a list of a lot of things that are harder than not seeing your kids THAT YOU GOT TO HAVE AND RAISE. (And, yes, getting Covid IS one those harder things... So is not getting to have and raise your children at all.)


  2. My next point is somewhat related. It's about Energy Vampires. Unfortunately, I have a new co-worker that prompted me to find an old book I'd read, pull it from the shelf, dust it off, and begin reading it again. The book is wonderful and it has helped me a lot. It's entitled "The Empath's Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People" by Dr. Judith Orloff. She starts chapter 5, called "Protecting Yourself from Narcissists and Other Energy Vampires," by stating, "Energy vampires are attracted to the openness and loving hearts of empaths. Sensitive people need to be prepared for them." Yes, yes we do!

    I'm encountering a new-to-me phenomenon: people who are jealous of my hard work and want to steal my happiness and personal peace of mind. But again, I have infertility to thank for my new awareness of these predatory behaviors. Now I can see it happening before I'm already entrenched in a friendship. I know the counselor that I saw for a year and a half during my failed fertility treatments and my subsequent recovery from them would be so proud of me and my hard-earned progress.

    I noticed the "energy vampire" activity because I didn't feel good when I was around this person. Like, my stomach physically hurt. Then I would be extremely tired after being in the same room with them for an extended period of time. This person was constantly questioning my life choices (not having kids, not adopting, getting divorced, moving to this small town, etc.) and I thought it was extremely weird. I mean, I just met this person! Fortunately, I am so confident in everything I've done in the last 5.5 years of my life to get to this point that my confidence in my life decisions is unshakeable. Maybe this is the first time I have actually felt secure in my lifetime... Whatever it is, her questions began to really annoy me. They were tinged with judgement and I wondered if her obvious unhappiness was just as obvious to her. Regardless, I'm keeping this co-worker at a safe distance and reviewing protection strategies for myself from this wonderful book that I'm revisiting.


  3. I'm having surgery tomorrow. Yes, the saying is true. When it rains, it pours...

    (But I had to have a covid test before I could be approved for surgery, so I'm happy to know that I am not, as of this point, an asymptomatic carrier walking around and spreading the virus. I am really glad to know that.)

    It's not the hysterectomy procedure that I scheduled for early this summer and then canceled due to covid stress and moving across the state. I met with my new doctor. He's male, which was not my preference, but I instantly liked him so I decided to stick with him. He has a great bedside manner, listened to all of my concerns, and answered all of my questions. Together we decided that a LEEP procedure would be the next best step. He will receive a pathology report after the procedure and I will either be all clear or then we will schedule a hysterectomy. Hopefully, tomorrow's procedure removes all of the unhealthy cells!

So, in my humble opinion, that's enough for now. A somewhat estrangement from my family (Is it an estrangement if the other people don't even realize?), majorly negative vibes from someone at work, and a full blown procedure with general anesthesia tomorrow. 

It's all right. I'm not going anywhere. I'm resilient and strong. 
This world can't knock me down. I'm along for the ride!




Sunday, September 13, 2020

Feeling Gaslit Again

Hello and Happy New Week. How are you? How are you really

Don't judge; just notice. Then reflect.

How are you taking care of yourself? How are you being productive? How are you having fun? 

(Yes! Getting out of bed, taking a shower, feeding yourself, and watching tv all definitely counts at this moment in time. You don't have to accomplish anything major. We cannot save the world right now, but we can somewhat save ourselves.)

*****


Please let me draw another parallel between my experience with infertility and this pandemic:

I feel like I'm going crazy.


With infertility, it felt like a constant barrage of judgment from others. What are you sad about? You have all this free time! Think of all the money you will save. You can travel! Kids are a lot of work; you don't really have a clue what you're asking for (despite the fact that I had spent almost 10 years in the classroom working with everyone else's kids all at the same time, not on an individual basis like parents get to do). So many people refused to tolerate or even allow space for my sadness; it felt like no one was acknowledging my loss. I was being gaslit by friends, family, and society as a whole. 

And now we are all enduring a pandemic. And society is gaslighting me again. If it weren't for my boyfriend and fellow bloggers, I would think I was the only person taking the pandemic seriously. 

I am currently going to work because my school district is providing classes and services on campus for students who choose in-person school. That alone freaks me out. And I will be honest, I am one of the few that consistently wears a mask all day. Everyone else takes them off as much as they can. (District policy is you can remove your mask if you're more than 6 feet away from students. This lets teachers lecture at the front of the room so students can clearly see their mouth and facial expressions.) I'm starting a new job in a new town and I am the Weird Mask Girl. It's not that I think I will get it here. It really is a small town in a remote area. It's that there's a GLOBAL PANDEMIC going on and the virus doesn't care about anything. The virus just spreads. I don't want to get comfortable because, quite frankly, it's just not safe yet. But I definitely feel some hater vibes from a couple of co-workers and random strangers around town when I venture into the grocery store (I've been twice at 5:30 in the morning) or the convenience store (more expensive, but more convenient so I've been going once or twice a week).

Then I call my mom for our weekly chat. (It's a new thing and it is working out well. For those of you that don't know, my relationship with my mom is challenging but I want her in my life.) And I learn that my aunt is there visiting. Even my family is living like there aren't more than 6 million infected Americans! My oldest sister went and visited my mom two weeks ago. Her visit marked the FOURTH state she had been in in the past month. And two of those states have high positivity rates. I mean, she voluntarily got on a plane for a vacation ffs!! And then I call my mom and learn her sister/my aunt is now there visiting. Way to contain the potential spread, everyone...

What the hell is going on? Why is my own family disregarding basic precautions? Why do they think I am the unreasonable one for going to the grocery store at the crack of dawn and for refusing to go eat at a restaurant? For my family, this is typical though. I'm the cRaZy one, the overly cautious one, the one that's "too sensitive." But damn, in the middle of a pandemic??

I feel like, yet again, my family and society are gaslighting me. I feel like the world around me is trying to operate like it is pre-March 2020 and it dumbfounds me. It blows my mind. People really, really don't get it. And then I remember enduring infertility with very, very little support.

I guess people just can't stand to be uncomfortable.

*****

I didn't know the skills I learned while figuring out how to cope with infertility would serve me so well during this extremely stressful time in our world. It's hard to say I'm thankful for infertility because it took from me what I desperately wanted: parenting and motherhood, but now that I am many years removed from the direct experience and I have worked incredibly hard on grieving and creating a life I want to live, I can appreciate who I am and what my life is post-infertility. 

*****

As for me, I am doing... Okay. Pretty well probably. I require a lot of sleep these days so I go to bed early. But I am trying my hardest to learn my new job and do a good job while I'm at work all day. Then I come home, eat, and rest. On the weekends I sew. I am so grateful I found something that puts me in the flow where I can forget about the world for a bit. And then when I'm done, I have a comfy quilt to use while reading everyone's blogs. :)

Enjoy your week everyone! πŸ’šπŸ’™πŸ’œ

Take care of yourself, ignore the gaslighting, and do something you enjoy no matter how small.


    I finished my fifth quilt! 

I used: 
      • 10" squares, Lucky Day by MoMo for Moda Fabrics
      • 10" squares, White Paper Grunge by BasicGrey also for Moda
      • Miss Rosie's Quilt Co. Cake Mix Recipe #6 piecing paper
      • Quilters Dream Orient quilt batting. 

The precut fabric and piecing paper make it so easy! 

You put a piece of paper on top of two fabric squares and literally sew on the dotted line and cut on the solid line. You end up with great looking quilt blocks! For quilting, I did basic stitch-in-the-ditch around the blocks and tried decorative stitches on the borders for the first time. 

I just learned how to quilt last year so if it's something you are curious about, you can totally do it! It's not a hobby that requires perfection. Well, not the way I do it. I'm a sloppy quilter and will be for years because I am learning. ;) But quilting can be very relaxing.


Sunday, September 6, 2020

Then Someone Asked Me

Haha it's been an interesting several weeks at my new job... 

I told you how I moved to a remote, small town and everyone here seems to have a lot of kids but that I met a co-worker who is also new to town and also does not have kids. Well, I had another interesting conversation with another new co-worker this week, and this time it was her asking me THAT question. It did not go as I would've predicted... In a good way. :)

Last Wednesday I went to meet a teacher in her classroom to help her figure out some paperwork stuff for her teaching license. I had recently gone through the process myself and, knowing how much new information she had on her plate as a fellow new employee to the district, I wanted to help relieve any stress I could. So, we were going through what she needed, making lists, and just casually visiting. 

Another teacher stopped by her classroom before leaving for the day. He looked extremely young. After he left, I jokingly said, "How old is he?? 12?" She laughed, said he was 24, and asked me how old I was. (It's even harder to tell ages when people are wearing masks.) I told her I was 40 and she said, "Oh good, I was afraid I was going to be the only person around my age but it turns out there's a lot of us. I'm 44."

Then she immediately asked me, "Do you have kids?" 

And of course I said no.

But it was what she said next that surprised me.

She said, "Me neither," and then she went on to share more. "For a long time I didn't meet anyone I wanted to have kids with. I never married. And then I was diagnosed with MS so I decided not to have kids. I wanted them, but I don't have them."

What. The. Hell.

Where were all these women during all of the years where I was severely depressed and constantly asked if I had kids and when I said no the conversation. Just. Ended. ???

Do I put out a different energy now? I'm sure getting older is one big contributor to the shift. Whatever it all is, I gladly welcome this change. I will never forget the trip I took to Las Vegas (of all places!) where it felt like every store I went into the person working there would ask me if I had kids and it would stab me in the heart. 

And now I've got women spontaneously sharing with me that they don't have kids even though they wanted them. Here and here. It's just incredible. And it's one more thing I don't take for granted.

πŸ’œ


Saturday, August 22, 2020

I Asked THAT Question

I started my new job this week. It's interesting. I am grateful to have an income to say the least. And I am glad to have a full-time position in my new career. I'm still working in schools, but my role is no longer as a classroom teacher. I spent all week trying to shift my mindset from teacher to student service provider. I was also adjusting to both wearing a mask all day and hearing co-workers' chatter about their kids and parenting.

I moved to a really small town. This is the kind of place that must be brutal for someone who is going through infertility. Everyone has kids and it seems like they all have a lot of them too. The majority of my co-workers are from here, left for college, and came back after graduation to get married, start working, and have kids. I'm really interested in starting an in-person support group here. I don't know how that would work with covid precautions and also with getting the word out to the community, but it's definitely an idea that's simmering in the back of my mind... Infertile women are everywhere. I would like to be supportive for anyone suffering here.

So far, the best part of my new job happened at new employee orientation. We were all in a gym, sitting two to a table to physically distance, and there were often short activities where you discussed things with the person at your table. I was sitting next to a woman who was very nice and friendly and I enjoyed talking with her. 

When we first introduced ourselves she asked if I had moved to town with my family and, not even thinking, I said, "It's just me and my boyfriend but we're glad to be here." Then later she asked me my age as she shared hers. If I was being more perceptive at the time, I might have realized that she was already scoping out my mother/non-mother status.

The morning session of orientation was several hours long, including a half hour for everyone to go around the gym and introduce themselves to the whole group. As I listened to everyone introduce themselves, I realized there was something unmentioned in both my table partner's introduction to everyone and in all of our table discussions with each other...

I couldn't help myself. I had to know. So, yes, I asked THAT question. (But I apologized first, if that helps.) I said, "I'm sorry, I never ask this, but you haven't said anything about them if you do. Do you have any children?" She said a simple no. I replied, "Me neither." Then we both smiled big smiles (you could tell even though we were both masked) and our excitement was palpable. 

And that is how I met my lovely new co-worker, who also doesn't have kids. :)

Thursday, August 13, 2020

They Grow Up

Since my last post I've been thinking about how much pregnancy announcements used to upset me and how little they usually do now. Mainly, I've been thinking about why that is. And I think it's because kids grow up. 

I don't want to be pregnant anymore. (Well, truthfully, I was never thrilled about the idea of being pregnant in the first place. The whole thing sounded scary to me. And now I've been through IVF, ha! I'm so brave I don't recognize myself. Except I do. Because I am damn proud of my growth.) But back to pregnancy, I was willing to go through it for the outcome: being a mom and getting to raise that little person. But not now. Not anymore. I resolved to create a life I want to live after surviving infertility without my children.

Had I become a mom through pregnancy or adoption, I would be way past the baby stage now. I love the human lifespan. That may sound weird, but it's true. I am probably the most people-loving, extrovert-presenting introvert you'd ever meet. But out of the entire lifespan, babies interest me the least. They are a little bit fascinating, but at this point in my life I'm not having one and they aren't part of my job so I just really don't care. Sorry not sorry?

I wouldn't even be in the toddler stage anymore. 

If things had gone as planned, I'd have two kids in elementary school. 

My kids would be growing up. 

Kids grow up. It sounds so obvious, but it's easy to forget when you're in the thick of it. Trying to get pregnant, hearing others' pregnancy announcements, watching your friends and sisters and cousins and well, at the time it feels like everyone but you, have babies and then toddlers and then more babies. But then that's it. A decade flies by. They're little kids and then big kids. They're pre-teens and then teenagers. And before you know it, they've become young adults, regardless of whether or not they've achieved financial independence. It's true. They grow up so fast. 

My years spent teaching and then my years spent in agonizing infertility limbo gave me perspective. Time goes on even when it's standing still. It's just like the saying goes: the days are long, but the years are short. I think that's why pregnancy announcements don't usually hurt now. I know how fleeting everything is. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Another Pregnancy Announcement

Pregnancy announcements used to REALLY bother me. It was so hard to manage my feelings of jealousy and sadness. Now that I'm not trying to get pregnant anymore, they bother me less. Usually.

I was texted the news of someone's pregnancy recently. In the past I appreciated being texted this information. That way I could feel my feelings without masking my initial reaction. Then I could set my own feelings aside and express a genuine congratulations. Well, that's how it was for me in the past. Like I said, pregnancy announcements just don't bother me like they used to.

But leave it to my family...

My sister texted my other sister and me to tell us that her oldest stepdaughter is pregnant. Just typing that brought a lump in my throat. Because it's remembering the text. She didn't just tell me privately (which I would've preferred) and she didn't just tell us the news. She sent the cutesy pictures that the couple used to promote, er announce, their pregnancy and she also texted a video. I did not watch the video.

Dammit.

That was my honest first reaction. This totally changes the family dynamics now. This changes all of the holidays. In my jump-to-extremes mind, this changed EVERYTHING.

But it doesn't. It just means that my sister is becoming a grandmother and my parents will become great-grandparents. Hopefully, all goes well with the pregnancy and delivery (something only fertility-challenged women think about with every single pregnancy announcement we hear) and then life will go on. 

I already vented to my boyfriend, saying I had no interest in spending any holiday this year with a pregnant woman. Then I complained about how googly-eyed my parents get nowadays when they're around a baby or toddler and how it makes me sad and uncomfortable. I got annoyed ahead of time and told him that my sister better not text me any newborn pics. I basically just said every ugly thought I had.

I don't like my feelings. They're not nice. But I accept them. I'm not going to hate myself for having them, which would only make me feel worse. I know these feelings come from a place of deep pain. I can practice having patience and compassion with myself as I continue to heal. I know I am happy for my sister's stepdaughter. I don't wish infertility on anyone.

Also, there is a pandemic and what I'm complaining about already (the holidays and time spent with family) may not even happen this year! So as soon as I complain about a not-even-planned-yet holiday season, I remember how lucky and fortunate we will all be if we can even get together in just three and a half months.

Anyway... 

I don't feel like I'm writing very clearly, but there are a couple of points I wanted to make here:

  1. Pregnancy announcements no longer bother me like they used to.

  2. Except sometimes a particular announcement will still catch me off guard apparently.

  3. I don't like that I have not-nice feelings about it all still, but I also don't judge myself for it.

  4. Pregnant family members or no pregnant family members, we should all be so lucky to be able to travel and gather with loved ones again this year.



Thursday, August 6, 2020

Back to the Doctor

Since I decided to cancel the hysterectomy surgery I had scheduled for June, I was due back to the doctor for another check-up. I really like this doctor I'd been seeing for the past two years, so yesterday I drove four hours into the city to see her one last time. She prescribed a valium for the procedure so my boyfriend drove us the four hours back home. Does it get more fun than an eight-hour roundtrip to see the gynecologist? ;) Needless to say, it was a long, tiring day after a long, tiring week.

Other than that, it really was fine. We didn't encounter too much traffic. We didn't have any car trouble. The hospital where my doctor works has free parking. We got there on time, everyone was wearing masks, the doctor was running on schedule, and my appointment went smoothly and quickly. I'm still covered by insurance from my previous job, which greatly lowers the cost of the visit. It wasn't a fun errand, but there's just so much to be thankful for. Plus, it's over!

The reason for the check-up is I keep getting bad test results. Combined with my family history and a couple of other risk factors, I need to frequently monitor my health. It's possible that I will need to reschedule the surgery, but my doctor said that if she doesn't see any changes in this sample compared to the others then we'll basically call it my baseline. 

She also gave me the name of a doctor friend in the next town over from where I moved to, so now I have a good recommendation for a new gynecologist nearby! I love this doctor, so I will probably like her colleague as well. I also take an anti-depressant medication and she was able to give me the name of a general practice doctor too. Both doctors are women, which I prefer, so there's just lots to be thankful for.

So, really, I walked away from that appointment (that I'd honestly been dreading) with some good information. And I will continue to monitor and take care of my health and do all I can to stay healthy.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

My Unsolicited Advice ;)

That was an extremely difficult move. All moves are difficult but throw in a pandemic and a rental truck shortage and you've got yourself set up for a very, very not-fun time.

But we made it. Two truck loads and unloads and twelve hours of driving later, my boyfriend and I now live in our new rental place. Absolutely nothing is unpacked. It took us two whole days just to recover from our soreness and exhaustion.

I have been extremely anxious throughout this process. Moves are stressful. Change is hard. The pandemic makes everything harder. In addition to the usual stress of moving, change, and unfamiliarity, there's an added layer of fear for me. Stopping for gas, getting food, stopping for a bathroom break... Every decision made is a calculated risk. It wears on your nerves.

Kind of like... Infertility. Yes, seriously. This is all way too familiar. I recognize that I am living and operating in a compromised, heightened state. Like I've done for years now. I just do the best I can with each moment, balancing rest with productivity, while trying to be patient with myself...

So, no, I did NOT want to do that move. I had anticipatory anxiety for weeks and then the whole thing sucked just like I thought it would. Ha.

But... What was the alternative?

Stay where I was? It wasn't where I wanted to be. None of the last nine years have been where I wanted to be. So I just keep moving away from what I don't want and moving toward what I do want.

And today, while still hot, exhausted, and surrounded by boxes, I know I am on the right track.

*****

So that's my unsolicited advice: move away from what you don't want and you will inevitably head toward what you do want. You don't even have to worry about where you are going. You're on your own timeline and there is no rush. And you don't even have to know what you want. (That would be a tall order!) Just pay attention to when you feel good, when you feel bad, when you feel peaceful, when you feel anxious, when you feel happy/excited, etc. Don't judge your feelings. Just notice them and use them as information as you move toward what feels right for you.



Monday, July 27, 2020

Won't Stay Stuck

Moving sucks, but I can't stay here. I know it's not where I want to settle, which is why I started updating my resume back in December. I started applying for jobs in January. That seems so long ago now, way longer than it's actually been.

I just won't stay stuck. I refuse. I mean, I can stay for awhile. Geographically, emotionally, etc. I can definitely stop and honor wherever I am for an extended period of time, but, ultimately, I always move forward.

I couldn't stay stuck in the house I bought for my children. I couldn't stay stuck living in the city where I planned to raise my children. And I couldn't stay stuck in the lonely marriage I was in.

And so I continue to move forward, albeit at a slower pace than I'd like. That moving truck I was waiting two weeks for? Yeah, it isn't available... Apparently, the company can only fill their reservations for one-way truck rentals within 48 hour windows. My turn was up yesterday and there were no large trucks available for today.

Oh a two week wait that ended with an undesired outcome? I've been here before. Lots of times.

Moving forward!

Luckily, there was a truck available for tomorrow. It's not a large truck, but at this point I'm just relieved to have a truck. Moving during a pandemic sucks an extra lot. I just need to get moved.

So, it might take my boyfriend and me two looong roundtrips to move, but we have a truck! I'm not stuck here. Which is good, because I don't like to stay stuck... ;) I like to keep moving forward, one small step at a time.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Remembering My Old Way of Thinking

I had a small experience yesterday that reminded me of how much I've changed.

I went online to reserve a moving truck for later this week. I was hoping to move on Wednesday or Thursday, but I quickly learned that wouldn't be possible. Oh... I mean, I thought I might be cutting it close trying to rent a truck at the last minute, but it turns out... I was right. There were no available trucks near me all week.

So I reserved a truck for the first day available. For two weeks from now.

Big sigh...
I thought...
What in the world am I going to do while I wait here for two weeks...

I started going through a mental list of what still needs to be packed and where I am in my various quilting projects... I was also telling myself to take a break and just take it one day at a time. There are plenty of things I can do on my To Do list. Or not. :)

And then it hit me. Two weeks! I remember years of my life being dominated by the Two Week Wait and I had honestly completely forgotten about that whole entire concept (TWW) and all the millions of other TTC-related acronyms.

I had totally forgotten.

I loved it. It made me smile. A concept/time period that used to always be on my mind has totally slipped from familiarity for me. It made me happy to realize that my thinking has naturally changed over time. I no longer feel controlled by a two week wait. I no longer even think about it.

I decided to give myself a break. I'll be productive or not. I'll get bored or I won't. The fact of the matter is I'm not moving for two more weeks. I have to wait for an available truck. For two more weeks I will stay safe and stay here. For two more weeks I will wait.

But I can do that.
I did that for years.
But now it's so much better.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Slowing Down while Moving Forward

Summer is definitely here. It may not be the summer we planned or envisioned, but it is here nonetheless. The days are long and the heat is intense. I keep thinking about the summer solstice last month, the pop articles that I read about it, and the concept of slowing down for the season. It makes perfect sense and I've been putting it into practice.

I'm no longer employed by the school district or the hospital where I was working. My new job doesn't start until next month. So these days I've been waking up without an alarm, drinking coffee, and easing into the day at a leisurely pace. Then I eat breakfast and pack. After several hours of that, I'm tired and it's hot and it's the perfect time to take a nap so I do that. A siesta, if you will. Every day this week. Then I wake up, do some laundry/dishes, and pack some more. Or I don't and I just sew, read, or watch tv.

That's the excitement you've been missing over here. So much to write about, huh? Haha. :)

Speaking of reading, there were two well-written posts that really resonated with me this week: one about living on the periphery of others' lives as a childless woman and another one that very honestly captures what it's like to lose your dream of motherhood. I will return to both of these posts to read them again.

But back to moving, this one is different from the others. It's smaller. In so many ways. Less stuff, less emotional baggage. Don't get me wrong, moving still totally sucks, but I'm grateful that every move I've made in the last four years has been an improvement. I keep moving forward.

I don't know how I will make friends though. Making friends as an adult can be difficult. Making friends as a woman without children can feel almost impossible. And now I'm moving to a new place in the middle of a pandemic. I'll just keep my expectations low and look for friendly faces when I start working again. I also found a place where I want to volunteer so I can check that out and see how they are operating under current precautions. One day it will be safe to congregate again and I look forward to meeting people in my new town. Over time, it will happen.

Right now it is a time to slow down. Well, for me, it's also a time to pack up and move lol, but overall... It's summer, it's hot, it's easy to get overheated, and it's easy to get overwhelmed.

Speaking of feeling overwhelmed... Current events are causing me to live with a constant, not-so-low level of stress. I've noticed that I'm slightly agitated and a little more anxious than usual. It's easy for me to think about how much I hate the pandemic, to ruminate over what it has already ruined, and to ponder the devastating long-term consequences of it all. So I allow myself time each day to read news articles to stay informed and then I read other topics or work on other tasks. I also noticed I was talking about the pandemic a lot, so I am making a conscious effort to talk about other topics instead. Basically, I'm doing what I did while learning how to cope with infertility. I firmly believe in dealing with reality, but I also believe in balancing traumatic experiences with enjoying the little things (or at least giving myself breaks).

Honestly, I didn't even want to write that paragraph above. I didn't want to mention the pandemic, but it is so pervasive in our world and in my thoughts that it would be a huge omission of my current reality to not talk about it at least a little bit.

So, reality acknowledged, I'd like to return to the message of the season. Summer can be an exciting, energetic time, but it's important that we pace ourselves. Don't overly exert yourself during the heat of the day. It's summer, it's hot, and it's time to

S  l  o  w     d  o  w  n     .  .  . 

Sunday, June 28, 2020

The Twilight Zone

I am familiar with the feelings that come when my own life is falling apart.
But navigating my feelings when the world around me is falling apart is a much bigger task.

I write this blog as I live my life after infertility without raising children. Infertility, for me, was life-altering and extremely traumatic. But that's how I also feel about the pandemic for everyone. It is a life-altering traumatic time period. The economic and social changes it has already caused have been devastating. As one of my friends succinctly said, "This pandemic is ruining lives." 

The future is unknown and any illusion of certainty has been removed. As survivors of infertility, we've already experienced this uncertainty on an intensely personal level. But this is bigger than each of our own individual lives. This pandemic is affecting everyone everywhere worldwide.

How are you feeling? How are you doing? How are your loved ones? How is your area?

  • I feel worried, anxious, and scared. 
  • I stay home as much as I can and wear a mask when I need to go out. I'm noticing and respecting my higher-than-usual anxiety levels, and I'm trying to be more patient with myself. I take everything one step at a time and I rest in between.
  • I think the majority of my closest friends (spread out across the country) are also staying home. That's good!
  • My family? I'm not so sure... As for now, everyone is healthy, although they take unnecessary (and irresponsible?) risks in my opinion. Several of them got together to celebrate a birthday at a restaurant/bar with an outdoor space last weekend. I most definitely didn't approve of this, but nobody asked me.
  • I don't know many people in the small town where I currently live, but I will say that it's a tourist town and I observed wayyy too many people out and about this weekend. I go for drives just to get out of the house and I saw way too many people on the roads, filling up parking lots, walking around, gathering at parks, etc. Why??? 

I feel like I'm living in The Twilight Zone.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

House Hunting Hurts

So I'm moving again. For those keeping count, this will be my third move since starting this blog. It will be my fourth move since selling the house I bought for my children. Moving is hard, but each situation I move myself into is such an improvement for my mental health.

For this move, I considered renting and buying. I want to rent first to make sure I like the area before buying a place, but there isn't a lot available to rent. Also, I'm sick of moving and I'm just ready to settle down and I pick this town. I got a job there and I can quilt anywhere. Eventually, I will meet a friend or two. Or at least have friendly faces at work.

The pandemic is making everything so much harder.

And I wasn't exactly at the top of my mental and physical health game before this. I give myself a ton of credit for all of the work I have done with processing my grief, but I am still emotionally injured.

Overall, I am so grateful. I have love and meaning in my life. My boyfriend is wonderful and I love my new career. The last missing piece is a Home. I know that home is where the heart is and home is what you make it and all that, but I really desire a single physical spot where I can put all of my books on the shelves. I want to stop changing my address and I want to finally unpack all of my boxes.

I'm 40. I'm ready to settle down and live the rest of my life. If possible.
But as always, I will go with what reality brings.

So back to moving. I started looking at houses to buy. At first it was kind of fun, looking at places and trying to imagine myself living there. But then three different houses I was interested in went into pending in one week and I felt such a disproportionate amount of loss that I knew I needed to step away from the process.

I cried all last week. By now you probably know that I'm a crier. It's how I usually process my feelings. But those tears HURT. Those tears were all about getting excited about something major for the rest of my life and then losing it before it ever happened. Way way way too familiar.

It took me by surprise. At first, I was so mad at myself. "I'm so damaged, I can't even look at houses to buy like 'normal' people do?" But then I was more compassionate with myself. "It's okay. You've been through a lot. Your resources have been low for years now but look at what all you've done anyway. You will get through this, but it's okay to take a break for now."

So that's what I'm doing. House hunting hurts too much right now. I'm taking a break.
Fortunately, I can share extremely good news: I found a place to rent! It is a HUGE relief.

So I will be okay. I am doing just fine.
I will continue to respect my healing process and where I'm at with things.

πŸ’œ

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Summer Solstice 2020

Happy Summer Solstice (to Most)! 🌞

(And Happy Winter Solstice to Mali! ⛄)


To learn more about what this day means, I found an article I like. I enjoyed a lot of its ideas:

  1. The article describes the solstice as a time for reflection and, as it signifies the changing of the season, a time for new beginnings.

  2. In particular, the seasonal change of the summer solstice is marked by the peak of sunlight which symbolizes "the triumph of light over darkness in the individual."

  3. The author also writes that it is a time to slow down, saying "the seeds of spring have been planted... It's time to let nature take its course."

So, here's to reflecting and beginning again. Here's to also slowing down and allowing what we've already worked for to come to fruition. Here's to honoring our own light and sharing it with others. 



(Photo Credit: Me; Can you believe I saw this massive rainbow earlier this month? Wow.)

Friday, June 5, 2020

Finding Meaning Again

It's a difficult time right now. For so many reasons.
And things were hard before this current time. Now everything is harder. Much harder.

Some things feel impossible. And these feelings are all way too familiar from my years spent in the throes of infertility. Maybe something I have learned while recreating my life after trauma and devastation will help you. For one, when all feels lost, hopeless, and without purpose, please know that meaning can be found again.

*****

During my darkest years, everything lost meaning. What was the point of anything? I had no important milestones left. There was nothing else I wanted to achieve. There were no other roles I wanted to fill. I didn't care about anything other than being a mother and raising children and that wasn't working out for me. I was afraid nothing would ever have meaning again. I thought I would never feel joy. I thought I was in for a bleak existence and there was nothing I could do about it. I shrugged and trudged on.

One day (five years and three months ago) I was scrolling through one of my social media feeds (during a break from reading fertility boards and some newly found infertility blogs) when I came across an informative video that combined two of my favorite interests. I felt something. I felt something for the first time in a long time, so long that I didn't even recognize the feeling at first.

It was excitement. Or inspiration.
Overall, it was interest and happiness and it felt good.

I felt confused for the rest of the day. I didn't know what to do with this newly rediscovered spark of a feeling. I decided to explore it. I decided to check out the profession that I saw featured on the video.

Literally.

I went to the library and checked out a bunch of books about the profession. I checked out the Occupational Outlook Handbook by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics to read about the average salaries and projected growth in the field. I checked out technical books to browse the language and topics within the profession's scope of practice. I even checked out a couple of introductory textbooks to see if I felt like studying that information for the next several years.

I learned everything I could to see if anything turned me off. Nothing did. I kept going.

Then I explored affordable schools in my area, determined what all I needed to do to apply, and just jumped in to see how much, if all, I could get done by the application deadline in five months.

I did it all. And, as I've written before, it all sucked haha. I cried the whole way through the process. But I'm extremely glad I did it, even more so now that it is all over and done and I am employed in my new field (my part-time job at the hospital--I'm back on the schedule, yay!).

I noticed, I explored, I learned, and I pursued.
I applied, I got in, I worked hard, and I graduated.
I studied, I took my board exam, I passed, and I got licensed.

And the day before yesterday? The day before yesterday I left my job filled with such intense satisfaction, contentment, and gratitude. My spirit soared. I just felt so damn good. One overwhelming thought filled my heart and brain and energized my spirit:

Providing comfort and care for my patients gives my life meaning. 

My life feels meaningful again. And I will never ever ever take that for granted.

*****

Finding meaning again is possible (and you don't even have to believe me right now). Yours will most likely look very different from mine, but please hear me when I say that life can be meaningful again. You deserve purpose and you deserve joy. πŸ’œ


Thursday, May 28, 2020

One Less Stressor

Last week I fell apart emotionally. I just ran out of steam. I could no longer deal. This week I fell apart physically. I got sick from stress and exhaustion. Running on empty tends to do that to me.

I felt like just giving up and lying around on the couch and feeling sorry for myself, not concerning myself with moving forward in any way. But then I dug in and resolved to fight the good fight. I've worked so hard to get where I am. Why allow myself to passively slide back into a hole?

I lost myself sometime over the last month or two and I hadn't even realized it.
Then Loribeth posted this:



Have I mentioned how thankful I am for the CNBC online community?
Someone is always there to be a friend and/or tell me what I need to hear.

So.

Yes, life is stressful. Infertility, failed treatments, graduate school, moving cross country, changing careers, getting divorced, enduring a pandemic. These are all extremely stressful life events.

Yes, I am tired. I've been writing that since I started this blog and I've been thinking it even longer. But I refuse to give up. The dark emptiness that I had for years is no longer just below the surface, but I know it could return if I give in and give up. Despite all of the stress, I don't want to give up. I deserve to do better for myself.

All that to say... I canceled my surgery date for the hysterectomy procedure. The doctor always said it was my choice. She would support my decision either way, that she would either perform the surgery now or continue to monitor my health and possibly perform the surgery later. After a lot of thought, I've realized that I just can't do it right now. I cannot voluntarily deal with managing one more major life stressor at this time.

The good news is I signed a contract for a new job last week. I felt immensely relieved and grateful. But, this also requires me to move several hours from where I am now. My lease ends soon and I don't have a new place yet. So, at this point, I don't even know where I would be healing and recovering from major surgery if I was having it next month... And that would be assuming I was able to move all of my stuff somewhere before surgery. That, combined with the fact that I never did get any conclusive results that indicated I needed surgery immediately, I am just going to wait and have another check-up in the fall. If I don't have to, I don't want to. Not right now. No surgery for me this summer.

So that's one less stressor. :)


Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Scattered, Depleted, and Sad

I am emotional and that, my friends, is an understatement. Today has been, excuse my language, a royal clusterfuck. I just haven't been able to stop crying.

I left this morning to go run an errand in the city. Driving in the city makes me anxious. Running errands makes me anxious. The pandemic makes me anxious. Seeing everyone in masks is off-putting and makes me anxious (although it is much preferred to people NOT wearing masks!). I'm not the greatest driver and I made a really bad mistake while driving. Thankfully, I didn't wreck but I've been having a hard time forgiving myself for it all day.

And something was up before that. I started crying as I was driving to the city, thinking about how I've wasted my life and how I would've lived my life differently if I'd known I was infertile (while also remembering that I had, in fact, already written a blog post saying just the opposite--that I WOULDN'T have changed anything about my life). The rational side of me immediately piped up and tried to talk me out of this line of thinking, but... I wasn't successful with myself.

Oof. I've started crying again. I swear, I've been crying all damn day. And I don't know why.

But I can guess.

The pandemic, my teaching job ended, I need to move, I need to find a place to move to, and I am so so so sick of moving. Everything is harder in a pandemic. I'm stressed, I'm maxed out, I'm emotional. My mom has been a total jerk to me for a solid year and a half now and I have run out of ideas for how to manage our relationship. I'm still healing from infertility, I think I'm still processing my divorce (which I know was the right decision but it's still very difficult to process), and I have not had a break from major life stressors in NINE years.

Did I mention the pandemic? Everything was hard enough before the virus; now everything feels almost insurmountable.

Plus I've struck out on all three important errands I tried to take care of this week.

Did I mention I can't stop crying? That's my go-to response when I am completely scattered, depleted, and sad. I don't even know how to cope today. I got home from my unsuccessful errand, went to bed, and cried. Then I got up and did dishes. Then I went back to bed and read until I started crying again. Then I took a shower. Then I got back in bed but made myself get out when I determined it would be better for my mental health if I got up. I am driving myself crazy.

I know this will pass. I've had the same mental health my whole life. I have forty years of experience with dealing with myself. And I am soooo much more compassionate with myself now than I was in my teens and twenties. It still sucks. But it will pass.

This post doesn't say much, but I'm having a really hard day and I know that I am never alone, so I am writing this for the other women out there having a hard day too for whatever reason.

It sucks. But it will pass. And you are not alone.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Congratulating Myself

My school year is basically ending this week. 
Teaching online school has been... A lot of things. It often felt exhausting and chaotic, but my students, co-workers, and I held on and got through it. I constantly wondered how effective my colleagues and I were being. However, it's the last week of classes and my students are still doing assignments and showing up for their regularly scheduled video conferences, so I think we did all right. I think my team and I provided structure, connection, and meaning during a critical time when that was what was needed most. I'm just sorry the school year had to end this way.

My students did so well this year. 
They came in timid and full of deficits in many basic study skills. So basically, they were normal middle schoolers. ;) The academic and social-emotional growth I saw this year was incredible. Some days were really hard, but the year was fun. I hammered the basics (math, reading, and writing) and taught them about other important things like manners, hygiene, and Gardner's Multiple Intelligences theory. My classroom was a place where they knew they could take a break if that's what they needed. I respected them and they respected me. I knew we had established positive working relationships when I realized how clean everyone was leaving my classroom every day.

I did so well this year. 
I jumped back into the classroom full-time for the first time since my years of trying to conceive and enduring fertility treatments. Technology had changed a lot, but human behavior stayed basically the same. And that's true for both students and co-workers, haha. I enjoyed teaching and I loved getting to know my students. I liked eating lunch with my friendly co-workers every day. There were a lot of stressful days and tons of awesome moments. Overall, I am happy to be moving on, but this will be one of those special years that I will always remember. I learned it is possible (and not hurtful) for me to work extensively with kids again.

πŸ†πŸ’œ



Sunday, May 3, 2020

Staying At Home

How are you doing with all of this? 

Loribeth wrote a post and shared some reflective prompts posed by a scrapbooker. 
There are some great questions to consider in there. 

As for me, I've spent the past 7 weeks at home, venturing out only for the post office and curbside pickup at the grocery store. I'm a public school teacher doing my best to help my students get something meaningful out of online school. My weekend job at the hospital is on hold because they've drastically reduced staff in my department. Oh, and my lease is up so I'm renting month-to-month as I prepare to undertake another massive move. 

Some day, I swear, there is going to be a break in major life stressors for all of us. :)

In the meantime, I'll use these questions to reflect.


For some questions, I'm still thinking about my answers.


  • What has surprised you? What has not surprised you?
  • Who or what has impressed you in a positive way?
  • Is there one particular news article or story that stands out to you?
  • What memory or moment will you talk about in ten years?
  • What will you do differently when life normalizes?


For other questions, I have immediate answers.



  • When was the moment you knew this was serious?  

          It started feeling stressful toward the end of February and with each passing day in March. I was wiping down my classroom multiple times a day instead of my usual once a day. Then I read Jess's post about grocery shopping, so I learned I needed to go pick up some things. Little did I know that would be the last time I'd go to that store. But when I was removed from the schedule at my weekend hospital job, I knew it was serious. They reduced our department to just a couple of people and told the rest of us to stay healthy in case they needed us.



  • What has been the biggest change to your everyday routine?

          I don't get to leave the house for work. I really like the separation between my work and my home. There are many reasons why. One small reason why is because I don't have a good work space at home. Another small reason why is because I enjoy listening to music on my drive to and from work. Yes, I can listen to music at home, but it's not the same. Nothing is the same... But the worst part about not getting to go into my physical work space is I don't get to see my students in person. Teaching over video conferencing just isn't the same. 



  • What have you learned to do because of this pandemic?

          I'm using the internet in new ways. I'm ordering groceries online and scheduling a time for curbside pickup. I'm meeting with students over video conferencing. We are using the internet and online documents in real time together, so that's a cool way that I can help students read, write, and edit during online school. 

          I've also been using less and wasting less. Food, toilet paper, money, time spent in traffic.


  • What change has created the most disappointment for you?

          The lack of sports. I'm not an athlete and no one in my family currently plays sports. But they're all sports fans. And there is a particular sport that I enjoy and follow. And my students play sports. And my friends love sports. Sports are just good. They are something to train for, something to strive for, and something to celebrate. Sports brings people together. And then everything just ended. Abruptly. Ended for high school seniors, college seniors, and professional athletes. Ended for coaches, trainers, officials, ushers, and fans. Ended for the economy and individuals' livelihoods. Ended the seasonal rhythms, the positive anticipation, and the joy that sports brings.


  • What have you observed in your community that has been heart-warming?

          My favorite thing so far is my school district organizing to give every district employee a free box of food right after campus closed with basically no warning. Our food services manager made it happen and all we had to do was drive to the district office to pick it up. Everyone got the same awesome box. It was glorious: fresh produce, fresh herbs, boxes of dry pasta, an industrial-sized can of spaghetti sauce, bread, sandwich meat, a box of tissues, homemade cookies, tea, honey, and lemons. It brought happy tears to my eyes. That box gave me such comfort, care, and community in a time when I really needed it.


  • What have you truly enjoyed about sheltering in place?

          The fact that I have felt so grateful. I also feel very stressed, scared, worried, and anxious. Yet I am also very, very thankful. Staying at home all the time without a lot of life's regular distractions really makes me face my choices, and I am satisfied. I have resolved my infertility by choosing to create a life I want to live despite the fact that I didn't get to raise/love my children. I like my life for the most part. I'm not where I want to be yet, but I'm not where I was anymore. I'm thankful I went back to school. I'm thankful I moved to another state. I'm thankful I got divorced. I'm thankful I like myself, I'm happy at home, and I live with my boyfriend in a place that's full of warmth, laughter, and love. 

          I think what I have enjoyed most while staying at home is his amazing cooking. :)


What about you? What are some of your answers to these questions? What are your thoughts and feelings on your stay-at-home experience? Feel free to reply in the comments or leave a link to your own blog post on the topic. 

This isn't an easy time for anyone. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. 

And remember that we all have a strength and resilience that we never asked for.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Love To Give

Elaine wrote a post about the children of others and her comment to my comment completely moved me. I wrote that I wanted children because I wanted to raise them. Then I listed three typical activities that come with parenting but aren't exactly glamorous or anything. And she pointed out to me that not only did I want to raise my children, I wanted to love them. It's such a seemingly small thing to say and, in retrospect, so obvious. But Elaine gave me a gift. I know I am still navigating the occasional fogginess of the post-acute stage of recovering from infertility without children, and she gave me some clarity. And for me, with clarity comes a little bit of peace.

Thank you Elaine.

I wanted children because I wanted to love them.

I have a lot of love to give.

***

And on that note, I have something beautiful to share with you. It's part of the latest quilt that I've been sewing for the past two months. Who knew working with fabric would give me such joy? πŸ’œ


Monday, April 20, 2020

This is Hard

the isolation
the uncertainty
not knowing when it will end
the waiting
feeling stuck
so many worries
financial stress
logistical problems
healthcare concerns
diminished cognitive capacity
slower to process
emotional
exhausted
scared
sad

This is hard, but it's not entirely unfamiliar.

Do those who have suffered from and survived traumatizing loss have a psychological advantage when it comes to enduring a global pandemic and all of its repercussions?

I don't know.

It's one thing to experience infertility and the loss of my children and motherhood on my own in my own life. It's another thing to experience such jarring life interruptions/disruptions/devastation on a global level.

I don't have anything earth shattering to say. I'm not even thinking clearly. I cried a lot this past weekend. And I'm doing fine. I'm staying home. I'm healthy, my needs are met, and I am coping with my stress decently well. But still... It's a lot.

And yet, it's familiar.

This is hard. 

Friday, April 10, 2020

Another Weird Anniversary

I had another anniversary of sorts this week. As of this week, I've been legally divorced for a year. It's crazy to think about ending fertility treatments just 5 years ago, selling our house 4 years ago, and now... I'm divorced.

I loved being married and then overnight I knew it wasn't a good marriage for me.

Except it wasn't overnight of course.

He and I had a long history. Love at first sight, dated? Friends for a long time, stayed in touch off and on, reconnected, dated for real, loved each other, got married.

But we didn't live happily ever after. Well, not together anyway.

I knew where I was compromising, but I chose to get married anyway. I wanted him to be the father of my children. I loved him and I loved being married. But it wasn't easy. I was lonely a lot.

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes infertility. I will always be thankful he was there for me. He did everything I asked even though, like most people, doctors' offices were one of his least favorite places. He sat with me who-knows-how-many times as I cried. Then we made new plans together and worked toward completely changing our lives.

But then, over a matter of months, everything changed. The closer we got to moving out of state, the more unexplainably angry he got. When it came down to it, I don't think he wanted to move as much as he/we thought he wanted to move.

He was the man I married, the man I chose to be the father of my children. When our children never came, it turned out he and I actually wanted very different things out of life. While my marriage got me through infertility, my marriage did not survive infertility.

There were several arguments leading up to me leaving him. The first one was bad, but I chalked it up to the stress of moving. The second one was also bad. It was only a month after the first argument and it really made me think. The third argument... Honestly? I went to bed. I was so tired and so sad. But I was also so, so over it. I knew I was done.

In a way, I did know almost overnight. It sucked and I didn't want to leave him, but I also didn't want to stay married to him. I knew I'd figure it out, one step at a time. I knew I'd survive getting divorced. 

Over the course of deciding to leave him, telling him, separating our stuff, dealing with the paperwork, and seeing him for the last time, I felt every single emotion possible. Except regret.

Now it has been a year. And we are in the middle of a global crisis. And all I can think about is how crazy everything is and how relieved I am to be divorced. I'm infertile and I'm divorced and I'm content. It's weird. Infertility and divorce refocused me. I know what's important to me in my life now. Infertility and divorce took all of my fucks. I have none left to give.

On the surface, I am currently anxious and worried. This pandemic and all of the changes it's causing are extremely stressful. Everything is at risk- our health, the economy, social norms, life as we knew it.

But deep down, I also have a hardened resolve. I may hate what's going on, but I'll get through it.

So here's to a year of divorce and to the gratitude I've cultivated for life's hardest learned lessons.