Monday, September 20, 2021

"You're the expert."

Well you never know what people are going to say...

In my last post, I shared the very hurtful example of experience v. expertise that an online presenter used. She compared studying pediatrics and working with children (her experience) to being a parent (when she said she actually became an expert). Insert eye roll. I already ranted in my last post. There were hundreds of online attendees. You know that woman hurt, annoyed, and/or offended many people, not just me. She also hurt herself because she is trying to grow her online business and she just turned off approximately 1 in 8 people in her audience.


That was one of the most egregious examples of pronatalism that I've heard in quite awhile.

So imagine my surprise when I was at work last Friday...

First, some background info. I have really been struggling. This pandemic is hard. I am beyond grateful for my new home, but 18 months of not going to restaurants or parties or community events is starting to get to even this homebody. 

My family lives in other states and gives me no credit or validation for what I am going through. (Typical. Standard operating procedures there.) They all go out to concerts and restaurants in their various parts of the country. They think I am overreacting. 

Also, there's a TON of stress at work at the hospital. There's regular work stress; then there's the covid stress, the anti-mask/anti-vax stress, and the stress of my pediatric patients cancelling their appointments because they tested positive.

It's really a lot. Too much stress. It all adds up.

So I woke up Friday morning and I was totally not feeling it. (Actually, I went to bed Thursday night pretty upset and slept for 12 hours. Also not normal.) But I woke up Friday and knew I needed to take a mental health day. But I also knew that there was a kid on my schedule that was coming in for his first appointment after his initial evaluation over a month ago. I really wanted to see this kid.

So I got up, got showered, got dressed, and got myself there. I kept myself busy with paperwork until it was time for his appointment. He showed up and we hung out. It was great. I liked getting to know him better and I was thankful for the opportunity to be able to work with him.

His mom was in the room so I was explaining what I was doing and why in case she was curious. But... And here's the point of this whole post... She just smiled and said, "You're the expert!" 

"You're the expert!"

Here was this woman trusting me with the most important thing in her life, her son, and she didn't question a single thing. She considered me to be knowledgeable and capable and she viewed me as an expert. She never asked me if I have kids. She doesn't know. She might think I'm 40. She might think I'm 30. Hell, with a mask covering half my face, she might think I'm 25. She might NOT think about it at all. Because it doesn't matter!!! Not my age, not my childbearing status. 

I have the education, the licensure, and, most importantly, her son's trust. He came to Friday's appointment willingly and without argument and that was good enough for his mom. She trusts me. She's counting on me to help. She sees me as an expert.

I'm not gonna lie. It felt damn good. Just one week after hearing the opposite (which was quite hurtful), I loved being told, "You're the expert." 

I'm still committed to lifelong learning. There is still SO MUCH more to know. I want to know how to help all of my patients and their families with whatever they need. It will take years to build the practice that I want to offer. 

But I'm doing all right in the meantime. This mom trusts me with her son's care. She explicitly said so. And that means more to me than she'll ever know.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Progression and Aggravation

There have been so many moments lately where I've stopped and marveled at how far I've come.

  1. A couple of Fridays ago as my co-worker was leaving work for the weekend, I said, "Enjoy your family!" Like, it just rolled off my tongue and that's what came out of my mouth. His family. The thing that I always wanted. He's married with 3 young kids and I genuinely wished him a great weekend with his family without a second thought. 

  2. Recently at work, I've done several of pediatric patient evaluations with nearly the whole dang family present in the treatment room. But what's a stay-at-home parent supposed to do? One kid has an appointment, so all of the kids go. It made me laugh inside my head each time. There I am, in the treatment room with a parent, patient, and 2 - 3 siblings (so at least 3 young children at once). The parent is looking to me for help. The patient is looking at me wondering who I am. The siblings are intrigued by me and each one of them wants to tell/show me something. I'm fielding it all, giving everyone attention while conducting the evaluation, and thinking to myself, "Now who is the childless one here?" Hahaha. But it's all good. It makes me happy to help families. A clinical instructor told me one time that any time you help the family, you are also helping the patient.

  3. The biggest marker of my healing happened just a week or two ago. One of my close friends from graduate school had her second baby. She texted me a pic of her and her newborn and... IT DIDN'T MAKE ME SAD. This is a Big Deal. I *hate* newborn-and-mom-in-the-hospital pics. I still do. Maybe I always will. But my friend texted me one of her and her baby (which was pretty uncharacteristic of her because she usually asks first before sending any pics but I didn't mind) and all I felt was happiness for her. The picture didn't bother me. It's a freaking miracle, reserved for only the most special people in my life.

So, I'm feeling pretty good, right? I'm working with kids, I'm helping families, and I'm genuinely supportive of my friends and co-workers, none of which causes me pain or drains my energy.


Then I attended a two-day virtual conference this past weekend. It was awesome and it was awful. The content was the awesome part. I learned so much. But, O. M. G., were the awful parts awful... I'll spare you every detail but the very mommy-centric vibe reared its ugly head early on and only grew over time. I actually left a couple of sessions early because the content wasn't worth sitting through the delivery.

Did you know that moms are the only busy people on the planet??

It was a lot of those kinds of judgments combined with the assumption that everyone has or will have children. I wondered how many people were viscerally turned off like I was. There were over 200 attendees. Mostly women. I couldn't be the only childless woman in attendance. 

Even my boyfriend noticed. As he came through the kitchen to occasionally snack, he could hear my conference in the living room and he commented on the amount of "mom comments" he heard. He said that doesn't happen in his experience with conferences. He thought it was weird. And annoying.

It was annoying, but it was also hurtful. Hearing one or two comments is one thing. To be expected. But hearing pronatalist comments all day and managing my energy with regard to them completely exhausted me. I got off my computer after the first day and just cried.

It helps that I like the life I've created for myself. That's how I get through the tough moments now. Living my life after infertility without my children is still hard sometimes, but I also wouldn't trade my life for anyone else's. I worked my ass off and I truly love where I am now (metaphorically but also geographically).

It's good I'm so secure with myself. (Hey, old self from my teens and twenties, it really does get better!!) It's good I'm so secure with who I am and the decisions I've made.

Because that's not all. There was one zinger of a moment during the 2nd day of the virtual conference that left me stunned. And angry. What I heard online at this conference was one of the most hurtful things I've ever heard regarding childlessness. (Prepare yourself.) The speaker referenced when she was younger in her career, childless, worked in pediatrics, and felt like she knew what she was doing. She said she was often asked if she had kids and she said she never understood the relevance of the question. (Do you see where this is going? Brace yourself...) But, now that she has kids, TA-DAA, she knows she didn't know what she was talking about before. 


The presenter implied (almost explicitly stated) that you can't know children until you have them!


And my short retort (that I shared only with my boyfriend, lol) went as follows: 

"Yeah lady, sure, whatever. Let me tell you, being childless at 25 is not the same thing as being childless in your 40s. Sure, I'm not a parent. But while you were "busy" with your own three kids the last several years, I have spent the last TWENTY-FIVE YEARS working with literally THOUSANDS of youth. You may be experienced with your children, but I am experienced with the wide range of the preK to young adult population as a whole."


I logged off for that session, returned for the next one, and then I was done. I immediately fell asleep for two hours. I learned a ton due to a lot of other women's generosity with their knowledge, time, and sharing their experiences, but the mom-ness of the virtual conference Wore. Me. Out.

So that's where I am. Noticing how I've changed, noticing what still hurts. Proud of my progress in recovery from infertility. Still managing related emotions as they occur. The journey forward is full of progression and aggravation. 

And that's how healing goes. 💜

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Sadness, Joy, and Holding on for Better Times

Hellooo. It's been awhile. How are you?

I don't know what I've been doing. 

Well, I do. On the days that I work, I clock 10 hours so there goes that day. I come home, shower, eat, read or watch a show, and fall asleep early. On the days that I don't work, I either do nothing or work on the house. I also make time to sew. I've noticed I feel better when I'm sewing regularly.

It's all conducive to my current lifestyle. Here I am, 18 months in, still maintaining stringent pandemic precautions. I go to work and go home. I run errands at strategic times, always wearing a mask. We don't eat at restaurants or socialize or travel. It feels like my boyfriend and I are the only ones, but I know there are others out there that are still staying home. Thank you.

It feels good when you know you are not alone.

I still think about infertility a lot. Most of the time I'm fine. Sometimes I'm sad. This morning I had a moment of deep sadness. I'm glad I changed my entire life. I'm relieved. It's easier to deal with my loss of motherhood now that I've created a life I actually want to live. 

I feel sad that I didn't get to be a mom. I really wanted to raise children. I also know I am touching so many more children's lives by working in pediatrics. But it will never be a substitute for motherhood. Miraculously, I am healed enough to where I can enjoy working with kids again. So now, instead of helping my own children, I am helping... A whole lot more.

I've worked at my new job for three months now. I've lived in my new home for two. I'm settling into my new rhythms and routines. I really thrive on routines. Routines help me eliminate some stress. For example, I do laundry on Sundays. I used to write it down in my planner, but I don't need to anymore. It's nearly automatic. And now I always have clean work clothes for the week.

However, this past Labor Day weekend I let go of my routines and I ignored all of my self-imposed Things To Do. I had a quilt idea in my head and I was determined to get it out. I think it's what I needed. I sewed for three days straight.

And I finished the quilt top! I posted a picture of it and two close-ups below. The color palette cracks me up. I don't even like pink. Or yellow. But I loved this fabric collection (GRL PWR made for Riley Blake Designs) and found a pack of precut 10" squares on sale. Score! 

I don't even know who this quilt is for. I'm just making quilts and improving my skills, not always knowing whom the recipient will be. I call myself a Sloppy Quilter. For once in my life, I cannot get bogged down in the details. When sewing, I just have to keep going no matter what happens. Imperfection abounds.

So, that's a glimpse into my brain. I go to work in order to be of service and to pay my bills. I go home and I rest. Sometimes I work on the house. Often I will sew. Someday this house will be repaired and remodeled. In the meantime, it is still a home. 

Trying to get pregnant feels like at least one lifetime ago, maybe even two or three. I thought the darkness that infertility left me with was here to stay. I suppose it is... But it's so much smaller now. There's so much joy and sincere enthusiasm growing around it. I didn't think healing was possible. I didn't think my future was going to get better. I remind myself of this. I frequently remind myself that I don't know what the future holds. It helps me cope during this difficult period. 

I'm holding on for better times.