Friday, September 15, 2023

Peer Support

Most of the time these days I am at peace with being childless not by choice. Except lately I haven't been. I don't know why. Logically, I can appreciate the life I've created for myself. I can remind myself that my kids would grow up. I can tell myself that everything has its challenges. Just like being childless not by choice is hard, parenting isn't easy either.

But there is logic, and then there are feelings. The two don't always align.

I guess it's all a part of my process, a part of my grief. Sometimes I just feel sad for what I've lost.

And that's okay.

That's why I'm glad I have this blog. I have found a community that understands me even when I don't understand myself. I've formed online friendships with other women that support me when I'm feeling up and when I'm feeling down.

The power of peer support is immeasurable.

I've been reading what people have written for World Childless Week this year. It has been really helpful. It happened to occur at a time when I inexplicably needed it. I appreciate everyone's honesty in their writing and bravery for contributing.

Thank you to our community. πŸ’™




Sunday, September 10, 2023

Excluded at Work

I got mad last week. Really, really annoyed.

I am somewhat used to birth announcement emails at work. I do not think they are appropriate, and I definitely do not appreciate them. But, I realize that they are a thing. I don't know why, but they are an accepted practice in the workplace. 

(And, no, I'm not against celebrating people's good news. I just know that for every birth announcement email accompanied with a picture of the newborn, there is at least one person who has just had a miscarriage or is struggling with infertility. And that person definitely did not need to see that email as they are managing everything on top of their work responsibilities.)

So, sure, whatever. So-and-so had a baby. And now the baby is born. Fine. I'm glad everything went well. Truly. That is not sarcasm. I am not a monster.

However.

Last week I received a department-wide email that really pissed me off. It was about the woman I am covering for while she is out on maternity leave. The subject was "[Baby's name] Update." And I was like, what the... I clicked on it, and there were FIVE pictures of this baby.

What. 

I didn't need that in my life.

The email said they are so happy for mom and baby and cannot wait until she is back at work. There was no mention of me who is covering while she is out. I felt like I was unappreciated, like they just want me gone so my co-worker can return. But I realize I may be reading too much into it. My feelings about everything may be coloring my perspective.

But here's what made me mad. There was never a department-wide email sent out about my graduation. That actually has something to do with the workplace. My doctoral degree is directly related to my profession and career. I don't want the accolade for my ego. But if we're celebrating people's babies, I just wanted equal recognition of my hard work for the past 16 months. You know, since it is actually an appropriate announcement for the workplace... 

I felt so excluded.

I guess only babies are celebrated as an accomplishment where I work.



Monday, September 4, 2023

Labor Day

Labor Day doesn't make me think of work. Or a break from work. Labor Day just makes me think of pregnancy and, well, labor. Something I never had or did. I was always scared of it though. I kind of wished the stork thing was true. I would've loved it if a bird had dropped off a baby for me at my front door. Biological or not, I didn't care.

But I do appreciate this day off. I've appreciated this whole weekend. I haven't done a damn thing. I still feel so maxed out from my pediatrics coverage, school and graduation, and just the last 12 years in general. I'm limiting the rest of my year to what I already have planned and nothing else: working part-time, continuing my research project, and participating in the quilt sew along that started this month. I also have two trips planned, one to see my sisters and another to see my friends where I used to live (for the first time in over five years!).

I am very excited about my trip to see my old friends. I'm going for a long time--a whole week and I still won't have enough time to see everyone and do everything. Then I started thinking about it... The first two nights I'm staying with one of my best friends. She doesn't have kids. She never actively tried, but she never actively prevented either. Even though she's married, I suppose she is childfree by circumstance.

Then I'm going to spend two night in a hotel. I'll spend those days visiting old places and meeting up with friends at my favorite restaurants. I actually signed up for an all-day workshop and texted one of my best friend's sisters to see if she would like to join me. She's going to! We've never actually hung out without her sister. I just knew she'd be interested in the workshop. Also, she doesn't have kids. I'm pretty sure she and her husband tried. I think she is childless not-by-choice. Maybe it will come up; maybe it won't.

Then the last two nights I will spend with my oldest best friend (the one whose sister is joining me for the workshop). I haven't seen my friend in EIGHT years. We didn't have a falling out, but we were going through our own things for awhile and didn't keep in touch. I texted her on her birthday a year and a half ago, and we've been back in touch ever since. We are both very grateful for that. And guess what. She doesn't have kids either. She never wanted them. Well, it wasn't that easy. She wasn't sure if she wanted them or not and spent years in counseling before realizing she didn't. So she is childfree by choice. 

Also, we have plans to have dinner with a third friend who ALSO does not have kids. I think she might have wanted them, but... Her husband didn't. Nevermind that she is divorced now. So maybe she considers herself childless by circumstance? I'm not sure.

On the final day I will meet up with my best friends from high school. Among the three of them, they have seven kids. Now that I have grieved my losses and created a new life for myself, I can enjoy the occasional picture and updates about their kids. I love my friends, so therefore I love their kids. Even if I've only met two of the seven.

Weird, huh. That's a lot of women without kids. I used to feel surrounded by mothers and fertility, and now my world feels so much bigger. Thank God.

My feelings about having kids have changed too. That's been weird for me. I don't want a baby anymore. And that is completely crazy to me. My whole lifelong dream was to be a mother. What do you mean I don't want a baby anymore??

But I had to change. My life depended on it. 

I could not continue to exist with that deep, unquenchable yearning. I don't know how I did it. And if you would've told me ten years ago that there would be a day where I wouldn't want a baby, I would have known that you DEFINITELY didn't get it.

But I had to change. And, step by step and year by year, it happened. I think that's another reason that working in pediatrics just doesn't resonate with me anymore. I don't live a child-centric life, and I don't like entering and exiting that world every time I go to work.

It's just been a lot. A lot, a lot of hard work. What I've been through, how I've changed.

And those are my rambling Labor Day thoughts.



Saturday, September 2, 2023

Blue Moon

We had a blue moon on August 30th. This phrase is used when we get an additional full moon, and it doesn't happen very often. You've probably heard the phrase "once in a blue moon." Well, I really wanted to do something significant for the blue moon, but I didn't know what.

It figured itself out.

I've been writing about my pediatrics coverage a lot. How it feels different this time even though I've worked with kids for the majority of my career and even since knowing I wouldn't be having kids. How it has felt confusing for me. (And yes, I know those last two sentence were incomplete. I'm using my stylistic license, haha.)

Last Wednesday I got home from work and knew what I needed to do. Last summer I cleaned out boxes and boxes of teaching materials and kids' books. I mailed some to a friend, gave some to my boyfriend's sister, and donated the rest to the thrift store. But I still kept two tubs of things I couldn't bear to part with.

Last Wednesday I admitted to myself that I was never going to use those things. They would be better in someone else's hands where they would be used (as opposed to sitting in a storage tub in my still overcrowded house).

I gave it all away.

I took the best things up to work where they can be used with the kids there. The other stuff is sitting in bags that I will take to the thrift store. And then tonight I was talking to a friend and learned she is homeschooling this year. Her middle daughter is taking algebra and I got really excited. I had several helpful books and resources that I knew would be perfect for her. I ran home real quick to get them, and her daughter gladly took what I had to offer. I love it when I find a perfect new home for things I no longer need.

I could not let go of those things until this week. Now I don't have any materials left from my teaching and pediatric days. I am free and open to continue developing the second half of my career to work with older adults.

I honored my process and celebrated the recent blue moon in a way that was perfect for me.



Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Infertility Changes Things

I am halfway through my pediatrics coverage for my co-worker who is out on maternity leave and... I just don't like it. Quite honestly, it has been messing with my mind. I have always loved kids, always loved working with kids. But apparently, I am freaking over it.

I've said before that I never intended to have a career working with kids. I became a teacher to kill time until I became a stay-at-home mom. Spoiler alert: that never happened. Then I kept working with kids because that is what I knew and what I was good at.

I was really resisting the idea that infertility changed that for me. But I'm starting to be honest with myself. Infertility and being childless not-by-choice DID change it for me. I accept that now.

Infertility changes everything.

It's not entirely infertility's fault. There are some other factors that I just don't like now. When I started working with children, there were no iPads. Kids were not constantly plugged in. Kids did not expect to be entertained all of the time. Kids eventually got bored and felt motivated to read or to engage in creative play. Not anymore.

But infertility IS a major part of why I don't like teaching or working in pediatrics anymore. I don't want to deal with the consequences of other people's parenting. (Or the lack thereof.) I didn't get to parent, so I don't know kids' pop culture anymore. And I don't care. I still haven't seen Frozen, which is old by now, and I know I never will.

It's a world I'm not a part of. I've created a whole new world for myself, one that honors who and where I am now. Going back into pediatrics feels like major regression. It also makes me irritable. Just ask my boyfriend. (Thanks for the support, babe! It's almost over.)

I also traveled and saw my family this weekend. That is different too.

I talked to one of my aunts about my research project, involuntary childlessness after infertility. She was very receptive and even read my powerpoint presentation. I used to not be able to talk about the topic at all, especially with fertile people. That has changed.

I got along with my mom too. That's new. Of course, I am giving myself full credit for that one because she is still difficult. But I just don't care anymore. Not like I used to. Her personality is not my fault, and I am not going to make it my problem. I stood up for myself when needed, but mostly I just redirected the conversation to better topics when ugliness started rearing its head. 

At one point she was trying to tell me what my boyfriend and his young adult son should be doing. I told her that her comments were full of judgment, and she argued with that. But I did not acquiesce. She has not made an effort to get to know my boyfriend and his life, nor does she know much about his son. In addition to telling her how judgmental she was being I said, "I don't have to worry about any of that. I don't have kids."

She started arguing with me!!!

She said, "Well, that's not true." (It's not true that I don't have kids??) She continued, "You take care of a lot of people. His son is living in your house right now so that gives you a say. You take care of your patients. You take care of..." I cut her off. I simply said, "I. Don't. Have. Kids. All I have to take care of is myself."

Geez, she is such a control freak. And a self-professed expert on everyone else's lives.

Anyway, sorry about that. I just needed to vent about my mother who will never get it.

But I HAVE changed. I DO care less. I don't expect her to understand, and I've stopped explaining myself. It's progress. And I have infertility to thank for that.

Infertility changes everything.



Thursday, August 24, 2023

More IVF Failure in the News

It was only visibly posted for one day, so I'm glad I caught this article. I was sad to read it but grateful it made the news for at least a day. I was expecting a pregnancy announcement at the end, but there wasn't one. 

Tara Lipinksi, ice skating phenom and 1998 Olympic Champion, is currently CNBC. In the article, she talked about her struggles with infertility and multiple miscarriages. She used the one word that came up in every interview I did for my research about involuntary childlessness after infertility: isolating. She bravely shared what she's been going through for the last five years, and she didn't wait until she had a baby to do so. 

She said she wasn't emotionally or mentally able to talk about it publicly until now. 

She described infertility as a full-time job that your entire life revolves around.

She said infertility is much more difficult than the Olympics.

In addition to this article, she has a podcast coming out at the end of this month about her experiences with infertility. It's called Tara Lipinski: Unexpecting.

Thank you, Tara. I know you are helping a lot of women out there feel less alone. 



Sunday, August 20, 2023

Tired & Grateful

Pure exhaustion. That's what I'm feeling. As many times as I have written here about how tired I am, I have reached a new level of fatigue.

Enduring infertility completely wipes you out. It robs you of everything.

And then if you want to change your life after infertility, you have to do it while you are initially in an energy deficit. The good news is that the changes you make can lead to renewed energy. But that takes time. It doesn't happen overnight.

So. Please allow me to repeat my list. Infertility, failed treatments, going back to school, moving out of state, getting divorced, finishing school, moving to a new town, starting a new job, starting another new job, pandemic hits, moving to another new town, starting another new job, quitting that job due to lack of pandemic precautions, navigating unemployment, starting another new job, buying a house and moving again (last move!), quitting that hostile job, giving myself a sabbatical, going back to school again, moving out of my storage unit, getting two new jobs, conducting CNBC research, and graduating again.

Yep.
I'm tired.
Changing your entire life is exhausting.

And absolutely worth it.

And today is Sunday, my only day off in a 10-day work period with a 2-hour roundtrip commute. I am spending the day reading in bed. And blogging. And more reading. And eating snacks. The awesome thing is this is the first day I'm off work AND out of school, which means I do not have any homework to do!!!

There's so much to be thankful for. My home, my jobs, my education, my health. Ski season is less than 100 days away, and that is what I live for. (You'd think with the way that I talk that I am some expert skier. I am not, hahaha. I just love to ski. I'm a solid intermediate skier.) 

Also, that quilting sew along starts next month, and I am pretty excited about that too. The two guys that organized it have created a whole online community so we can post our thoughts, questions, and pictures; watch tutorials; be a part of product giveaways; and just all around connect with people around the world who are sewing this Alice in Wonderland quilt top for the next nine months. Although the quilt kits are sold out, you can still buy your own fabric and register for the online quilt community if this sounds like something you want to do. 

I'm thinking about what jobs I want to apply for now that I am graduated. I love my current jobs but they are only PRN, which means they call me when they need me. It's covering the bills for now (both places have needed me more than they anticipated), but I kind of want more steady employment. Or maybe I will wait until 2024. My boyfriend is telling me to just take some time to rest before jumping into the next thing. I think I should take his advice.

So that's where I am. Pausing in the middle of the road of my life after a very, very long and arduous 12-year period. I feel so dang 1) proud of myself and 2) grateful for you. I know I would not be where I am today without this blog and my readers. Thank you.

πŸ’œ

I'll leave you (for now, but not for long!) with a story from work this week.

I walked into a patient's room a couple of days ago. She was there while recovering from surgery. She was an older woman with a diagnosis of dementia. Once I met her, I realized how progressed her dementia was. She was very sweet but not able to communicate much verbally. For example, I tried to keep my language simple, but she answered every question with "yes." 

I noticed her patient chart did not mention anything about children. I was thinking about her need for care as her dementia continued to progress and asked if she had any kids. That was the first time she said "no." I told her, "I don't either." And just like with previous patients I have told you about, she immediately made eye contact with me with a knowing look in her eyes. 

I continued, "And I can't have them, so I won't be having any." And she looked at me and said her first complete sentence. She said, "And that's how that will be." I agreed and said, "Yes. That's how that will be." And we just looked at each other and smiled. It was a really powerful moment. I felt like, amidst her dementia-related confusion, she got to experience a moment of clarity right then. I felt like we really connected. 

It was an incredible moment that only women like us can understand.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Dr. Phoenix

Well, I did it. I graduated! 

But I didn't get here alone. I thank my parents for helping me with tuition. (Just being honest because school is expensive.) I thank my boyfriend for making me coffee, cooking delicious meals (or ordering pizza when his work schedule got too crazy to cook), and providing endless emotional support. I thank my classmates for supporting my research topic. I thank my study participants for trusting me with their data. And I thank all of you for reading and commenting on my blog throughout the years. 

I definitely did not get here alone. 

And I continue to move forward. I still envision providing therapeutic support to women involuntarily childless after infertility. I cannot believe there are no established services yet. I will continue to work on my research about involuntarily childless women after infertility. I encourage future researchers to investigate the broader population of involuntarily childless women (and men!): childless by marriage, childless by circumstance, childless and stepparenting, etc.

It's been a lot lately. A lot of big feelings. I was sitting next to my friend at graduation. At one point I was starting to tear up. I leaned over and said to her, "I can't believe I'm here. I mean, I barely left my house for years. And now I'm graduating with a doctoral degree??" Honestly, it was pretty overwhelming.

It's not often that this happens, but I am at a loss for words.

Just simply, THANK YOU. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I did not get here alone. You are a part of this too.

Thank you.



Sunday, August 6, 2023

Wrapping Up School

My 16-month marathon is coming to a close. I am so tired, so grateful, so excited, and so humbled. I still have so much to learn. But, the last 16 months have been one of the greatest investments of my time, energy, and money. 

Not only did I expand my skill set so now I know how to treat older and elderly adults in addition to children, but I got to conduct my own qualitative pilot study to explore the lived experience of involuntary childlessness after infertility! I am so grateful. Conducting actual research is a dream come true. Conducting research to represent our population in the academic literature is an honor that I took very seriously.

I am extremely grateful to the study participants that volunteered to be interviewed. I appreciate their willingness to talk about the worst experience of their life with me. I appreciate the trust they put in me, and I was very thoughtful throughout every step of the process: designing the study and collecting, managing, and analyzing the data.

I present my initial findings to my classmates and professors on Tuesday!

I conducted 15 interviews with women from 8 different countries. I analyzed the first 6 interview transcripts for my final project and will analyze the other 9 interviews throughout the rest of 2023. Then I will draft an article for publication in the winter of 2024. Afterward, I plan to present my findings at several conferences throughout the country. 

I am excited, and I could not have done this without you and your support. We are a growing population, we will be represented, and our collective voices will be heard!

Thank you.

πŸ’œ

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Conversations with Adults

They're not as easy as conversations with kids.
Kids don't want to solve my problems with a baby like adults seem to want to do.

I engaged in a long conversation at work last week. It was my choice. I chose to do it. But I was still wiped out afterward. It started when I said I'd be out for graduation in a couple of weeks. My co-worker asked about my research and I told her the title of my project. 

It set off a lot of questions from her. Which was good I guess. Because she didn't know much about infertility, fertility treatments, and living childless not-by-choice. And like I said, I chose to have the conversation.

But.

I need to remember how depleted and frustrated I felt.
Maybe I don't want to have those conversations anymore.

Did you try IVF?
Was it really like that?
All those shots?
How many?
How long?
How much?
Like, it's really expensive right?
Should I freeze my eggs?
Well, there's always adoption. Have you thought about adoption?
What about China? 
Can't you get a baby from China?
There's lots of 12 year olds. Why don't you adopt a 12 year old?
What if I got pregnant? I'll just give my baby to you.

I've gotta give my co-worker credit. She filled the BINGO card faster than most. And I promise you that she's a lovely person. Like I said, I chose to have this conversation. (But I honestly wasn't expecting every stereotypical question and comment in the book!)

Anyway.

Now she knows.
Two IVFs. Adoption didn't work either. Was married. Now divorced. ("Well, isn't it good that you didn't have children, then?" Whyyy does everyone think it's okay to say this to me??) No kids. 43. Here I am.

Gah. It was exhausting.

But she learned a lot. And I guess I did too.
Like, I don't want to do that again for a long, long time!

And then adult conversation #2?

Well, it was satisfying because at least I thought of what to say in the moment, instead of after. The context of the conversation doesn't even matter. You'll see. Here goes.

Her: Well, as a parent, I was so worried!

Me: I know! I'm NOT a parent, and I was also worried!!

Again, another lovely person. Just everyone is so entrenched in the pronatalist culture. 

I roll my eyes so much.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Conversation with a 6 year old

I was working with a kid earlier this week. He was probably thinking about who he used to work with, my co-worker who just had a baby and is out on maternity leave. But for whatever reason, he looked at me and said...

Kid: You're not a mom.

Me: Nope, I'm not a mom.

Kid: But you will be a mom.

Me: No, I won't be a mom.

Kid: Why?

Me: Not all girls are moms.

Kid: Why?

Me: Because not everybody's body works like that.

Kid: Oh.

And that was it. He accepted my answer.

He didn't ask any further questions. He didn't suggest adoption. He didn't offer me his kids. Ok, fair enough, he's only 6 and doesn't have any kids to offer. But seriously...

That kid was a breath of fresh air.

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Energy Changes

I've been hard at work, both at my jobs and with school. I have less than a month until graduation, and every minute counts at this point.

And I have done nothing today. I slept in, ate pizza, watched a movie, and ordered some fabric.

Maybe that's what I needed to do. I definitely feel like my brain is slowing down. I know my brain and body are tired. It's the last mile or two of this marathon.

I am amazed I have been able to do this school program. I am giddy that I get to conduct actual research. I am in awe at what is possible after such profound, life-altering loss. 

We don't have to save the world. We do not have that responsibility. But we can all find things that we are interested in and put our time and energy into stuff. 

...When we have the energy.

Because at first you don't.

Not for a long time.

Grieving is EXHAUSTING.

I will never forget that massively heavy feeling.
I will never miss feeling so adrift and pointless.
I will never take energy or inspiration for granted.

So I may be tired today. I may be stressed about the upcoming week and all of the work that my jobs and school will require. But I can do it. I have the energy to do it. 

And if I don't? I'll still be closer than I was before.






Sunday, July 16, 2023

My Childless Week

It was quite a week! Let's see if I can jot it all down.

My week started out with a freak computer glitch that resulted in the loss of all of my data analysis for my research project so far. Of course, I cried. I emailed my reviewers. I reached out to the data analysis software program for tech support. I experienced a lot of help and understanding from everyone. My data analysis was not recoverable. After I had a good cry and an hour nap I woke up and thought, "Well, I lost my data analysis, but it's nothing like losing my children. I will do the work again." And so I did. Everyday after work this week I came home and busted my ass to catch up. And I did! I'm back on track. (And I also know how to back up my data now, which I do after each work session.)

I began my coverage for pediatrics. It didn't fulfill me, but it wasn't horrible. My bosses have already received a couple of emails from parents and caregivers singing my praises. That was a surprise. It's only been one week! I figure this is an opportunity to really solidify the fact that my career preferences have changed. And that's okay. I'll just approach it like it's a reunion tour for my one-woman band, lol. I'll do my best and it will end.

I had my first annual review with my employer, and it was the best review I've ever had. I feel like I am only beginning to realize how abusive the majority of my jobs have been... But it is really nice to be valued where I am now. And the leadership team absolutely knows I am not interested in pediatrics long-term. They are working to find a different place for me in the organization, but they are grateful for my willingness to cover for three months.

Um... So, this was unexpected. But a second co-worker is out for maternity leave, so there's another co-worker in the pediatrics department covering for her like I am doing for the first co-worker. Guess. What. She can't have kids! It came up during the first or second day I was there. She's in her early 40s too, but she learned she couldn't have kids in her early 30s. So you've got two infertile women covering pediatrics for two women out on maternity leave. So... Where's our paid temporary leave of absence from work??

Then I had TWO patients this week in the hospital (yea, pediatrics AND the hospital, PLUS school work--it was a busy week!) that were childless women. TWO! The first one was a 90-year-old woman who is widowed and lives alone. I was trying to figure out who she has around for help and asked if she had kids. (Sorry about that question everyone, but I have to ask it.) She said she didn't have any kids, and I said I didn't either. She immediately whipped her head up and made eye contact with me. I continued, "I don't have any kids and I can't have kids, so I won't be having any." We smiled and held each other's gaze in a knowing, understanding, we-both-felt-seen-and-understood kind of way. 

Then the next day a similar thing happened with a second patient. She was in her early 70s and I shared the same information about me with her once I learned that she did not have kids. She shared with me that she had one tubal pregnancy, and nothing else ever worked out. She was visibly sad about being childless and I validated her pain, saying it is a lifelong loss. It gave me even more motivation to work on my research study. We need to raise awareness about involuntary childlessness, and we need to create support services for people who are enduring this phenomenon.

So that was my wild childless week! I talked about being childless not-by-choice with a co-worker and two patients, all of whom who are also CNBC. I covered pediatrics. I got support from my bosses in the workplace. And I lost about 30-hours of work but it didn't even compare to losing my children, so I just picked myself up from my minor setback and kept on working.

Wow.

Monday, July 10, 2023

I Don't Want This Default Career

About a month ago, I wrote about how working with kids has changed for me and how it has really confused me because I've always enjoyed it and I'm good at it. But as I was training to cover pediatrics for my co-worker's maternity leave, I quickly realized working with kids felt much different than it ever has. Part of that is infertility, part of it is the pandemic, and part of it is age. 

But I figured out the biggest piece of the puzzle while talking to a friend last week.

I never wanted a career in pediatrics! I only became a teacher to kill time until I became a mom. Since knowing I'm not going to be raising children, I've still worked in several different settings for children. It's what I know, and it was easy for me to get hired each time.

But I don't want to do it anymore. I reeeally don't want to do it.  

It's why I went back to school, to learn something other than pediatrics. It's why I got a job in a nursing home and a hospital, where I work mostly with older adults.

And now here I am, completely dreading my pediatrics coverage that begins tomorrow.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to work, and I definitely need the money. But dang, I haven't experienced dread like this since, well, right before I quit my last pediatrics job...

Another friend cautioned me that I'm probably still feeling the damaging effects from my last experience in pediatrics with an unstable, untrustworthy co-worker. I'm hoping I'll get in the groove of things once I get started. I have equipment at this job. I have resources. And the parents care enough to bring their kids in for services. I'm digging deep to try and find a decent attitude about the whole thing because it's what I committed to. It's what I'm going to do.

But yeah, working with kids was never going to be my lifelong career. I was going to be a mom.

Thursday, July 6, 2023

Annoying People Will Be Annoying

I may be happy, but I still get angry.
Like at last night's meeting.
I wanted to throw things.

It was a meeting for my profession's organization. It was virtual because all of us live across the state. We were meeting about possibly drafting a bill for the next legislative session. We were discussing logistics like statistics and stakeholders when someone brought up a good point about having a consumer on our task force to help guide our thinking.

But it was what was said next that pissed. me. off.

One woman said, "Do we have anyone on board that this legislation will help? Do we have any healthcare consumers that can't currently access these services? Ooh, do we have a mother that we can invite to join our group? A mother always looks good."

πŸ˜‘ πŸ˜‘ πŸ˜‘

Really?

A mother?

Dammit, I was so pissed. That woman's idea just landed so hard and with a thud. I hated it.

Of course, she would suggest a mother. Someone with kids. Someone Important.
Someone who is Worth Helping, whose life has Meaning and Purpose.

WTF?!?

I immediately wanted to leave the meeting. Just sign off without saying anything. But I didn't. I reminded myself that this woman has rubbed me the wrong way a couple of times over the years. I told myself that the meeting wasn't about this woman or even pronatalism and tried to stick to the topic at hand. 

I'm glad I stayed. It was a productive meeting. Issues were discussed. People picked tasks to do. And we will reconvene in two weeks.

But yeah. I was pissed. It's not just that one little comment but a lifetime of them. They all convey the message that my life is less important, and I am tired of this inaccurate sentiment.

The world should feel more inclusive for us.


Image found at https://kjcg.com/posters/dn4qrr9smxs6defp0n6up4u0dbohd8. 
It looks like this is a poster for sale by this consulting group that creates inclusive, collaborative workplaces. (Interestingly, exclusion in the workplace may be an emerging theme in my study on involuntary childlessness after infertility.)


Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Midpoint of 2023

I may be happier than I've ever been. I mean, I'm still anxious, nervous, sad, and confused, haha. I'm also happy, excited, content, and at peace. It's a lot. I don't mind. I'm thankful.

Right now I'm really busy balancing work and school. I'm very tired. It's a lot of demand on my energy. But soon, I'll just have work. And work doesn't have homework. ;)

But yeah, I'm happy. The biggest reason why I think I am happy is that I did not stay living my old life. My old life was completely structured around having children. Not raising children destroyed me, and all I had left was a life that didn't fit me. So I worked my ass off to figure out something different. And now I'm where I am. Literally. Today is the two-year anniversary of my permanent address. For the second year in a row, I am not moving!!! 

I love having a home. I love having a job. And I love, love, love having hobbies that I enjoy.

I wish the same for you. πŸ’™

And now, here's a throwback to one of my favorite posts. I wrote it four years ago today.

The Cost of My Freedom



Sunday, July 2, 2023

Enthusiasm on Fire

There was no singular event where I realized I was not going to have kids. 

It was a series of devastating moments. When it didn't happen immediately (like, within the first three months), I felt catastrophic. Then when my AMH was tested at the seven month mark (I think it was then, I can honestly say a lot of details are fuzzy now) and found to be *barely* detectable, I felt destined for the worst. But I went on anyway. Kept trying, went to the doctor, sent my husband to the doctor, underwent three medicated IUIs (with injectibles!!! Aaaahhhh!!!), and then IVF (Oh gawd!!!!). Twice. Then I took some time to process. Then the adoption agency I picked out, after conducting extensive research, filed for bankruptcy overnight. (Really. It's horrifying. Trauma on top of trauma for everyone involved.)

And then I couldn't do it anymore. I knew I tried all I could. I felt lucky to be able to try in the first place. To have a partner. To have a home for children. To be able to try medical intervention. I felt guilty for feeling so sad and empty when I logically knew that I had so much.

And I wanted to die.

That's the honest truth that people don't talk about very much. You also have to be careful where you express such things because involuntary holds are a real thing. (Sometimes that is what people need but definitely not always.)

I racked my brain to find a reason to stay alive. Well, first, I guess I chose to stay alive. Just out of practicality. I feel like I was lucky to get to go to college, so I should help others where I can with the skills that I have. Not doing that would be a waste of resources.

But I didn't think I'd ever feel happy again. 

I definitely didn't think I'd EVER feel excited.

That's a looong intro just to say that I *am* excited again. I realized last night that I was so excited I couldn't fall asleep. I just kept thinking about everything. In the best, most non-ruminatory way. I'm excited about my research and the rest of my coursework. It's hard and demanding, but I like it. I'm excited about my job. It challenges me and it's exhausting, but it's awesome. And most recently? I just found this new quilt community online. You get a mystery block once a month that you sew at home with helpful videos and online community support. Then at the end of the year you have a quilt top. I signed up. It starts in September. After graduation. I'm so excited!

I was very depressed as a child and teenager, but I held on. Then my thirties were pretty damn devastating, but I just kept moving away from things that sucked and toward things that didn't.

But after infertility and losing my children and dreams of motherhood, I thought I'd never feel happiness again. I was resigned to staying alive and doing what I could, but I didn't think I'd ever feel enthusiasm. 

But I was wrong. And I do. 

I will never take enthusiasm for granted.

The block-of-the-month quilt kit has an Alice in Wonderland theme. I feel like it's above my skill level, but I'm going to figure it out anyway. https://arteastquiltingco.com/online-shop/ols/products/new-sew-along-registration---september-2023



Saturday, June 24, 2023

Spiraling

I'm not spiraling mentally or emotionally, thank goodness, but I am thoroughly involved in the spiraling process that is qualitative data analysis. 

I love qualitative research. Instead of using numbers to describe things, qualitative research uses words (i.e., narrative data). Qualitative research can describe the experience of an individual or group. It is very different from quantitative research, but there are ways of ensuring the rigor and accuracy of qualitative studies. I believe qualitative research can build a great foundation for future quantitative research in evaluating the effectiveness of treatments and programs.

I am grateful for this opportunity to interview women around the world to study being childless not-by-choice. I appreciate the support from my school and the guidance from my reviewers. I especially appreciate the study participants for trusting me with their data.

So that's what I'm doing on a Saturday night. It's an honor to do this work. I love it.


Archival print by Debra Bucci found at https://aibgallery.com/product/spiraling-archival-print/


Tuesday, June 20, 2023

You Can't Predict the Future

Several weeks ago I was hanging out with two new friends. They are both in their late 30s and neither one of them has kids. At one point we were all talking about how we couldn't believe we were in our late 30s and early 40s. One of them asked us, "What did you think your life would look like at this age?"

What an interesting question! Especially with two other women I didn't really know.

The first woman shared that she didn't know, that she honestly couldn't picture herself living this long and so she had no idea what it would be like in her late 30s. (I think she was referencing some health issues she had as a teenager.)

The second woman proudly said that she figured she'd be a cat lady. She always pictured herself single with a bunch of cats in adulthood. I hope she's not disappointed that she has a long-time boyfriend and only one cat, haha.

Then they looked at me. "What about you? What did you think your life was going to look like?"

I hesitated. These women don't know me, don't know my story. I didn't know what to say, and I didn't know what they were going to say in response to whatever came out of my mouth. I stuck with my usual style and went with the truth. 

"I thought I'd be married with 2 or 3 kids, living in a 4-bedroom house, homeschooling, driving everyone back and forth to their activities, and basically writing lists, keeping schedules, and staying organized. I wanted it so bad."

They heard me. They listened. My new friends didn't think my dreams were lame. They also didn't think I was tragic and broken and deserving only pity for not getting what I desperately wanted. 

And then the three of us talked about how we ended up here. We've all had hardships, although we didn't talk about those. We just talked geography. We are all from cities. From three different states. Now we're all here. In a fourth state. Living rural. Experiencing all four seasons. 

And loving it.



Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Change in Feeling

Was it infertility? Or, was it the pandemic? Or, is it aging?
It's probably a combination with even more variables I haven't thought of yet.

Working with kids feels different. 

And I've worked with kids since knowing I wasn't going to be raising any. Actually, since knowing, I've worked in a couple of different positions in several different settings: preschool, public schools, and hospitals. It didn't hurt or bother me then. And it doesn't hurt or bother me now.

But something is different.

Am I sick of playing? I don't think so... Am I tired of redirecting behavior? Well, that comes with working with people no matter if they're kids or adults, so, no, that's not exactly it either.

Maybe part of it is I feel inefficient. I think Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller's teacher, had my dream job. Take the kid out to a cabin, have high expectations, and work with them 24/7. I'm kind of kidding but kind of serious. I feel limited in what I can do once a week or even five days a week. 

I still like kids. And kids still like me. I think. But I just don't want to do it anymore. And for some reason, this perplexes me and I want to know why.

Another idea I've been having is maybe I relate better to older adults now. As I work with people who are sick or injured in the hospital or elderly adults who live in long-term care, I can relate to their frustrations with their health and body. Sometimes I share that my body didn't work the way I wanted it to either, but most of the time I just empathize with their sadness and frustration.

I knew what it was like to be a stressed out kid.
Now I know what it is like to have your adult body fail you.

Maybe, after working or volunteering with children for 25 years, I'm just ready for a change. I mean, my oldest student is 32 now. My niece and nephew are grown adults. Even my own children wouldn't be little kids anymore. 

Maybe it's a case of kids grow up and so have I. Hahaha. (I don't mean people who work with kids aren't grown up. I mean I've always been very young at heart, but now I'm feeling older.)

Anyway, I wouldn't say I'm regretting covering my co-worker's maternity leave. I am grateful for the opportunity to work. I remind myself that working with kids is the one thing I know how to do confidently. But I still feel anxious and I honestly don't enjoy it like I used to, so I've just been thinking about it a lot lately.

I've read some old posts of mine recently. They remind me of where I was, what I was doing, and how I was feeling. They remind me of what I've already been through, what I've already endured and survived. So I know this pediatrics coverage will come and go. Three months is not a very long time. And I know I will like parts of it every day. 

It just feels completely different this time and I don't know why. 



Thursday, June 8, 2023

We Are Not Robots

I'm glad I started blogging when I did. There's no way I could write about the hardest years now with the same rawness as I did back then. I'm glad I tried to capture what I was feeling at the time. Blogging was completely out of my comfort zone, but I didn't know what else to do. I was walking death and everything hurt.

There are several messages I've repeatedly given on this blog. 

  1. Infertility sucks.
  2. Feel your feelings.
  3. You deserve to enjoy your life.

Let's talk about #2. What happens when you don't feel your feelings? In my experience, they get stuck. The feelings get stuck inside of me. They start to rot and they turn to anger. Stuck feelings make me a very angry person. I experienced this in my teens, twenties, and thirties, each decade for different reasons. 

But if I let it all out... If I frequently cry quietly... If I occasionally cry loudly... If I use my words to tell a person why I am mad, sad, or disappointed... If I journal honestly... If I blog vulnerably...

It gets out. The feelings get out. And they don't stay stuck.

Things that used to hurt me, hurt less. Things that used to bother me, I just don't care.

It makes room for other things. 

(Which, years ago, was just more grief. But that's a part of the process too.)

I've yelled this from roof tops at every job I've had: we are not robots! I couldn't care less about unfunded mandates and pointless, inefficient protocols. I loathe productivity standards. 


(Image found in an article called "We Are Not Robots" about workplace productivity. https://aurora.dawn.com/news/1144202)


I am a human being. I have good days and bad. I am awesome, and I make mistakes. 

I don't know... It's just... I read something recently, started crafting a response in my head, and decided to just write it down here. From constant productivity at work and home to the expectation that we process our emotions in a tidy and linear fashion, I am freaking over it.

We are not robots. 

And also? INFERTILITY FUCKING SUCKS.

My point is this. Be sad. Be devastated. Be mad. Be livid. Be angry. Be depressed. Feel sorry for yourself. Acknowledge your losses. Not raising kids when you wanted to destroys dreams and life as you knew it. 

But you're still left at the end. You're still here. 

And you deserve to enjoy something about your existence, no matter how small.



(Image found in a brief post about grief. https://www.debbieaugenthaler.com/listening-is-often-the-only-thing-3-2-2-2-2/)

Thursday, June 1, 2023

An Unexpected Conversation

I had an unexpected conversation recently. I don't even know what I want to say about it. Maybe I just want to share that it happened.

I was talking to someone I've met in the last couple of months. I knew she had two kids but didn't know their ages so I asked. (They are 2 and 7 if you were curious, but you probably weren't hahaha.) I was a little surprised that her oldest was 7 because she (the mom) looks so young, but she went on to say that she had her daughter at 18. Oh, okay, that makes sense.

She asked me, "What about you? Do you want kids?"

And I simply said, "I can't."

She probed further and I inexplicably did not mind at all. 

She said, "Why not?" And then apologized saying something like, "Sorry, I know it's not any of my business, but I'm asking anyway."

I actually laughed out loud at her approach and said, "My eggs are bad." She looked confused. I told her, "I waited until I was 30 to start trying and apparently that was too late for me." (Technically, I waited until I was 32 but I remember just saying 30 to her.)

What she said next was predictable: "Well, there's always adoption."

I simply said, "I tried that. I tried everything."

She looked at me with sadness but no pity (I don't know, I can't explain it, that's just how it felt) and said, "That's so sad." I agreed. I said, "It is sad. Thank you."

And then somehow we easily moved from that serious conversation to more light-hearted chatter.

I felt seen and heard by her, and I don't often get that from fertile women.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Productivity Overload

Tomorrow is the last day of May. Dang, 2023 has been a lot. 

And that's coming after 2020 - 2022 (pandemic) 

and 2016 - 2019 (selling my children's house, going to school, moving out of state, & divorce),

which followed 2012 - 2015 (infertility and failed treatments). 

My challenges of 2023 have included major relationship stress (which we've worked through, yay!), school stress (which is positive stress but still stressful), and training for pediatrics.

Whatever you have and have had on your plate, I bet you are tired too.

I think it's productivity and processing overload. 

I think I am burning out, but I also think I've changed massively.

This pediatrics coverage that I'm training for and will be providing feels so different from any other time I've worked with kids. On the surface, I know I don't have the energy I used to have. I know I don't have the same kind of enthusiasm. I also know I'm tired of kids on screens and other people's parenting. (Just being honest!!)

But today I realized that I have different things to offer now. I went to work at the nursing home. I was excited to drive there and grateful to be there. I connected with several different people in ways that were meaningful to both of us.

I've changed, and my gifts have changed.

And I'm very, very tired. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

This past Memorial Day Weekend feels like a reset of some sort. The past is behind me; the future is ahead of me. I mean, that's always the case...But I can get stuck in the past and anxious about the future, and that's not what this is.

I did nothing this weekend. No school, no work, no cleaning, no projects. Just lots of rest. Watched some tv. Sewed a tiny bit. I will honor where I am, follow through with my commitments, and say no to everything else for the rest of the year. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

My New Doctor

I changed health insurance providers this year, and of course my primary care physician (PCP) isn't covered by my new policy. I considered just paying out-of-pocket on the rare times I saw her because I liked her so much. Then I got a letter saying she's moving. 

So I didn't end up having a choice in the matter. I had to find a new general doctor. So last week I looked up who was covered by my insurance, made an appointment, and hoped for the best. 

I doubt many people look forward to going to the doctor. I know a lot of women who are childless not-by-choice hate going to the doctor. Especially a new one.

What's the waiting room going to look like? The decor? The magazines?

Plus, the paperwork. And the questions. Completing the medical history, figuring out the first day of my last menstrual period, just... Everything. It's a lot.

But I take a maintenance medication and need someone to prescribe it, so off I went.

And it was SO GOOD. I can't believe it.

It turns out the place that's covered by my insurance is within walking distance from my house. I've never walked to the doctor before. That makes it so easy! Then the place was fine. It was clean with bare decor and not a bunch of mother-child statues/paintings/charcoal drawings. There actually weren't any magazines so no Parents magazine or Women's Day (which is really geared for mothers, not women in general). The office staff was nice and friendly, and so was the nurse that did my intake stuff. She didn't say anything thoughtless as I shared my extensive non-reproductive history.

And then the doctor came in.

Are you sitting down? You should be sitting down.

She looks at all of my forms while I explain that I'm there to establish care because my current PCP is moving. I was fully prepared to educate her about involuntary childlessness, if needed, when she referenced Mother's Day, looked at me, and simply said, "I spent too much time on Facebook on Sunday and had to put my phone down."

Pause... Pause...

"Wait..." I asked her, "Do you have kids?"

And she said no.

I immediately asked her if she wanted to be my doctor forever. She laughed.

I said, "Seriously! Whether your situation is by choice or by circumstance, there is already so much you understand. So much I don't have to explain."

She smiled at me. She gets it. I can tell.

My new doctor doesn't have kids. 

Friday, May 19, 2023

Sick Day

Hi, it's me again. I'm so tired. Again. 

I woke up this morning to go train for the pediatrics coverage I'll be providing when my co-worker goes on maternity leave. I dragged myself out of bed, got myself in the shower, realized I felt like I'd been hit by a truck (full body exhaustion on the verge of physical breakdown), and thought, "Oh hell no." My thoughts continued, "I can't do this today. And that's okay."

So I texted my co-worker, emailed my boss, and went back to bed. I woke up in the middle of the afternoon and knew I made the right decision. I was not sleep-deprived, and I still slept an additional FIVE hours. That's not normal, and that's probably what my mind and body needed.

I am tired, but I am also so, so grateful. I like my jobs. And I really love that I have the opportunity to interview women around the world about their experiences with being childless not by choice.

But whoa. Going from that research topic to training for pediatric coverage is quite demanding on my energy in a very unique way that I cannot accurately describe yet.

I am realizing how pronatalist working in pediatrics is. I mean, duh. But also, yep, I'm realizing it. It is EXHAUSTING. I've worked with kids and their families for decades. How am I just now noticing this?

Of course, on Monday I was training with my pregnant co-worker and another pregnant co-worker. One is at 32 weeks and the other was at 40 weeks. She probably had her baby yesterday or maybe right now as I type. They were not annoying at all. In fact, they were both very enjoyable women to be around. But they were still pregnant. And I am still infertile. 

I thought I'd come home and crash (mentally and/or physically), but I didn't. I went the next day too without a problem. Then I spent Wednesday and Thursday working on stuff for school. I guess today is when I crashed. It was actually pretty good timing I guess, so thank you to my mind and body for that.

It's okay. I'm good with kids. I'll do what I can throughout the three month coverage. But then I'm pretty dang darn sure that I am really done working in pediatrics. I'm only coming out of retirement to help my co-worker, her clients, and my organization that needs someone to cover.

It's good though. There's so much good. So, so much good.

I finally have some friends! Like, in real life. So I have you all online, my old friends from where I used to live through text, and now I have some people here to actually hang out with. I knew it would take a long time, and I was right. Haha. However, I started going to this bar/restaurant, met some regulars, and now have plans to hang out with two other women. 

And in case you are curious... They're both in their late 30s and they don't have kids. Not that kids are a dealbreaker in friendships. Especially not now that I'm getting older so people's kids are getting older. But there's something about being friends with another woman who doesn't have kids. Even if you never talk about it. Even if you never know if it was by choice or circumstance. There's just a commonality there that doesn't have to be explained.

I also went to a quilt guild meeting this week. I walked into the room and THREE different people said, "Hi, Phoenix!" I don't remember the last time I had that experience. It felt good.

So I'm finally getting settled. I'm coming up on the second anniversary in my house, which means that will be two years in a row that I won't be moving. I'm always glad when I'm not moving. Maybe my nerves will slowly but surely calm down more with each passing year. Or not! Lol. Because that's life.

Anyway, I logged on to share I had a sick day, but then I started rambling about other stuff. Good stuff! So I'm happy to share. We all could stand to hear more good news in our lives.

So, Happy Friday! I hope you have some time to enjoy something you like, no matter how small...


Who knew I'd like hand sewing? But as much as I love piecing quilt tops, 
I also love sitting in my recliner and sewing on binding while watching tv.



Monday, May 15, 2023

Yesterday

Yesterday was Mother's Day, a day that used to hurt me but now I really couldn't care less. Like, I just don't care at all anymore. And I used to cry all day long. For years.

I can't believe how much can change. I really can't. Except I'm living it.

Take last year for example. After quarantining for over two years, my boyfriend and I started going out to eat at restaurants. On the second time we went out, it was Mother's Day. Neither one of us even realized it. Ha! I mean, who goes out to eat on Mother's Day and doesn't realize it?? (It was easy. It was later in the day and the place wasn't packed. Then we were seated next to a large table full of men. There were zero Mother's Day vibes going on hahaha.)

And this year? Pretty much the same. My boyfriend and I stopped at a place by our house for a beer and a burger. The sun was shining and it was nice. I ended up running into a former co-worker, and she said something great. She's single, no kids, in her early thirties, and works in pediatrics. She told me, "I woke up this morning and before I even got out of bed, I put my hand on my heart and wished myself a Happy Mother's Day for all the mothering that I do."

Isn't that a loving thought to have about oneself? I've always felt very maternal, so I loved it. :)

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Excluded Again

I'm feeling a little bit bummed. Yesterday I learned my boyfriend's family is all getting together for the weekend for his sister's youngest kid's birthday. We weren't invited. I think it's weird.

Being excluded doesn't hurt like it used to. It's more annoying than hurtful. It ain't my first rodeo.

I've written about my friend whose kid I was very close to. I was invited to every birthday party until I wasn't. Now THAT hurt me at the time.

I've written about my own sisters not including me when they would do stuff together with their kids. Sure, I was in my teens/twenties at the time, but I still would've liked to have been included.

I've written about my ex-sisters-in-law, who were my age and had children. They got together all the time with their kids and without their kids. I was never invited. One of them lived next door.

So it's not like being excluded by parents is a new experience for me. And, like I said, it's not painful like it used to be. But I was excluded again, and I noticed.

I told my boyfriend that I have to pull away from my relationship with her. I love his sister, but I can't put myself in the situation of continual disappointment. It's best to process now and move forward knowingly. I am not going to be the aunt to these children that I thought I might be because we are never invited to the big (or small) events. 

That's fine. It's fine. 

I'm glad I know how to protect myself. I'm glad I've learned to lower my expectations for others.

I'm not in a close relationship with anyone currently raising children.

And it annoys me greatly that the general public thinks I can have some great role with other people's children when parents repeatedly fail to include me in their lives.


Picture retrieved from 
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/07/learning/have-you-ever-been-left-out.html

Monday, May 8, 2023

More Reconnection

Remember when I wrote about reconnecting with one of my best friends at the beginning of the year? I said it was great to talk to her, and I unexpectedly got some answers about what happened while we were drifting apart.

Well, last week I missed a call from her. Past midnight. Oh no. 

I hoped nothing bad happened as I sent her a text in the morning after seeing her missed call. I told her I would call her after I got home from work and that I hoped everything was okay. She texted back, apologizing for calling so late and sharing she was emotional from one friend's funeral and another friend's terminal illness. I said no apology necessary and called her later.

We talked for THREE hours.

I listened as she shared about her friends. I listened as she talked about being a caregiver. I asked about mutual friends and we tried to catch each other up on everything. We covered so much and could probably still talk for another three hours.

At one point she flat out asked me, "What happened? You just disappeared." And I admitted that I did. I told her again that not having kids just about killed me. I was embarrassed and sad and ashamed. She said she couldn't be there for me because she didn't know what was going on. I told her that, in retrospect, I don't think anyone could have been there for me at the time. Even if they knew everything. I was so far gone. Nobody could reach me. Not even my best friend.

***

I give myself grace. 

I don't think I should have handled anything differently.
I don't think I could have handled anything differently. 

I completely lost myself, and I withdrew from everything. I didn't know what else to do. And now I'm on the other side of it and I still don't know what else I could've done. And that's okay too.

***

Not raising kids when all you wanted to do your whole life was raise kids is HORRIBLE.
It's no surprise I lost myself.
It's a miracle I came back to life.

***

Gahhh, it was so good to talk to my friend!!! 

And I have to tell you the funniest damn thing that she said. (Note: she's childfree by choice.)

She was at work the other day when her co-worker was leaving early to go to... Maybe it was a baseball game for his kid? But she said it didn't matter. It was some kind of game. And the other morning it was a parent-teacher conference. She said it's always something. She wasn't saying it rudely. She likes her co-worker and her job a lot. But she did say she is always there in the office, watching everyone with kids come in late and leave early. And she told me...

She said, "I love my job, but you know what my biggest mistake was? My biggest mistake about this job was not making up fake kids in my interview."

πŸ˜³πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

She has a point...

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Roadside Help from an Angel

I've just returned from a whirlwind trip to help my parents move. I took two flights and rented a car for a three-hour drive to get there. (In case you're curious: I'm still masking on planes. Not many people are. But, thanks to infertility, it doesn't bother me like it used to to stand out as different.)

The thing about moving is there is always more stuff than you realize. Always. There is always more. My mom kept saying the closets were giving birth. Fertile metaphor aside, I was starting to feel like she was right. Haha.

Anyway, it was hard work, but it was good. I got to spend time with my parents and my oldest sister. I got to see my parents' home of twenty years for the last time. We ate food, shared laughs, and conquered the overwhelming task at hand. 

It was my drive home that turned into a real adventure.

There I am, driving this rental SUV that is packed to the brim. Some of it is my stuff, and some of it is my parents' stuff that I am going to store. It's a full day's drive, but I upgraded my rental package so I could listen to Tom Petty Radio for the whole time. :) 

I'm on a skinny, curvy one-lane road on the side of the mountain. I'm enjoying the beautiful view, driving slowly, and scanning the road for wildlife. I take a turn and BAM! In the middle of the road is a large rock. To the right of me is the mountain. To the left of me is an oncoming car. There is also a car right behind me, so I don't want to slam on the brakes. Plus, there isn't enough time. I have nowhere to go and maybe 2 seconds to decide what to do.

I decide the rock is the least damaging option. I hope for the best and keep driving. 

Immediately, there's a loud sound and the tire light comes on. I know I have to get off of the road. But where? Fortunately, around the next turn there is a gravel area where I can pull off and park. 

I pause for a second and take some deep breaths. I'm thankful I didn't wreck. I'm thankful I'm not hurt. I'm also worried about how roadside assistance is going to find me and help me. Thankfully, my cell phone has a signal. I start making phone calls. I also unpack the car a third of the way to see if there is a spare tire in the back. Thankfully, there is.

As I am on the phone with roadside assistance, a pickup truck drives by, slows down, and goes into reverse. I think to myself, "This person is either going to help me or hurt me." I stay on the phone while the man rolls down his window and asks what is going on. I do not have a single bad feeling in my body, so I tell roadside assistance that a Good Samaritan has stopped to help me and I hang up.

This man. Bless this man. This total stranger stopped on the side of the mountain to help me. I explained that I hit a rock and popped my tire. He asked if I had a spare, and I said yes. He asked if I knew how to change it, and I said no. Then he parked his truck and proceeded to direct me to park on a firmer patch of ground so he could get started. Did I mention it's completely muddy?

I introduced myself. When he told me his name, it was the first time I got chills. His name was a name that is significant to me. 

Then, as he was teaching me how to change a tire (that's right, he didn't just do it, he also told me what he was doing each step of the way so I could learn), I could just picture him teaching his daughter when she was growing up. I asked him if he had children, and he said, "No, I wasn't blessed in that way." I got chills again.

I also blubbered, "I don't have kids either. I wanted them real bad, but that didn't work out for me." A few minutes later I added, "I'm sorry I asked if you had children. That question used to really hurt me, but it doesn't bother me like it used to anymore." He said, "Oh, it's all right. I understand that's how people make conversation."

The whole thing took less than an hour. But if he hadn't stopped... I would have been on the side of that mountain for awhile. I wasn't totally stranded, but I don't think roadside assistance was going to be there anytime soon. Did I mention it was a Sunday?

I told the older gentleman that I had some cash. He said he didn't need any cash. I grabbed several twenties anyway and said, "Please, at least have dinner on me." But he refused. He said, "You are a child of God. If we didn't stop and do something nice for someone every now and then, what is the point?"

I got chills for a third time.

Was he real? I shook his hand. He felt real to me. But the fact that he stopped on this curvy mountain road to change my tire for me. His name... His childlessness... His words to me...

He was my angel.



Thursday, April 13, 2023

Monday, April 10, 2023

The Heaviness Has Lifted

I can tell it's not January, February, or March anymore. And it's not just because of the sun shining and the snow melting. I no longer feel an inexplicable heaviness. 

Life, in general, feels a little lighter.

I am interested in learning more about grief. How it feels, how we process it, how it reoccurs. I'd like to help people with it. Everyone deals with loss of some sort. After I graduate, I'll explore more therapeutic approaches to grief and loss. 

My plate is currently full. Pleasantly full. Full of things I chose.
My jobs, my studies, my sewing projects, my home.

I shared several months ago that my boyfriend and I were going through something. Honestly, I thought we were going to break up. We didn't. I'm glad. :)

We are both growing in our own ways--me as a communicator, him overcoming depression. It got me thinking so much about infertility and not having kids. I developed so much resilience and so many survival strategies after losing my children and dreams of motherhood. It makes it hard when I see others struggling and perceive that they're not doing anything about it.

Nobody can solve our problems for us. Nobody can instill us with enthusiasm or a will to live.

We have to save ourselves. No one else can.

The past year of our relationship was tough. There were plenty of fun moments. He is one of my best friends after all. But still... It was very tough. 

It got me thinking about how childlessness has a way of changing everything. I realized that what I need in a relationship has changed. Drastically. I realized I assumed things about him just because he had raised children. (Pronatalism is so insidious. It gets to all of us. And also, no, he is NOT organized or orderly lol, something I thought came automatically after raising kids.)

It's been interesting. Thinking about my choices and patterns in relationships throughout my life. Comparing different time periods and my different expectations for partners. Considering how traumatic teen parenthood can be (for him) and childlessness after infertility can be (for me). 

But even during the toughest days, my boyfriend and I always had trust and communication. And trust me, I've held NOTHING back hahaha. And neither has he. It's important that we both share our perspectives.

Anyway, just kind of a rambling post... 

I wanted to share my good news. My relationship limbo is over! I ended it this weekend. I decided to stay and we are moving forward together. None of that is directly related to infertility (except for the fact that somehow most everything relates to infertility for me AND the fact that he has witnessed a shit ton of my healing, which is priceless), but it got me thinking about all sorts of new angles on the topic. 

But after thinking and analyzing nonstop for the last several months, I am giving myself a break. You all know I am good at that. ;) Breaks are important. Breaks are essential.

So today I am working on schoolwork while snuggled under my latest quilt. I like myself, my relationship feels fun and stable, and I'm happy at home. 

I hope you are feeling some lighter moments these days too.



Sunday, April 2, 2023

The Importance of Rest

The last week of March always feels so hard and heavy, like there's an invisible hand pushing me down and I'm moving through molasses. I think part of it is the anniversary of my last IVF and all of the trauma that comes with that, but I think another part of it is the first three months of the new year and the ending of winter combined with the time change. 

To put it simply, (for me anyway) the last week of March feels brutal.

So.

Allow me to talk about the importance of rest.

In an overscheduled society that is always going on and on about "self-care" but doesn't actually do anything to make self-care anything other than another scheduled item on a To Do list, we have to make time to do nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

Sit there in a chair or on a couch. Sit on the floor or stand in the middle of your kitchen. Lie down in your living room or sit in the bathtub. Sit there, stand there, lie there. Whatever you choose, just make sure and do nothing while you're doing it.  

As your mind inevitably starts to think about something (your To Do list, your most recent inner conflict, your stressors of the day), redirect your thoughts to nothing. 

Tell yourself: "Yes, yes, there goes my brain, always thinking... But I don't have to follow it."

Picture your thoughts packed in a suitcase that you're carrying. Set that suitcase down for a few minutes. You can come back for it later. Or not.

Come up with a resting place for your brain. I picture a bench and rest my brain there. Maybe you're a beach person or a mountain person or a field person. Picture your brain and body doing nothing wherever feels peaceful to you.

It's not an easy practice. We are used to going, going, going. Thinking, thinking, thinking. Doing, doing, doing. It takes practice to do nothing.

But rest is different from sleep. We need both. 

Our health depends on it.



Thursday, March 23, 2023

My 8th Survivor Anniversary

I began my day by reading Robin Williams quotes. I remembered one that always resonated with me, looked it up, and ended up reading a long list of his quotes. It was a good use of my time.

The quote that prompted the search:

"I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy.
Because they know what it feels like to feel absolutely worthless
and they don't want anybody else to feel like that."

The quotes that kept me reading:

"There’s a world out there. Open a window, and it’s there."

"The human spirit is more powerful than any drug and that is what needs to be nourished: with work, play, friendshipfamily. These are the things that matter."

"Sometimes you can have a whole lifetime in a day
and never notice that this is as beautiful as it gets."

So, anyway, today is my 8th survivor anniversary. Eight years ago today my last IVF failed and I knew I was done trying to conceive. I couldn't do it anymore. 

Here is last year's survivor anniversary post. 
And here is where you can find the links to previous survivor anniversary posts.

And now it's 8 years later. I don't have kids. I went back to school. I left where I'd lived for 25 years. I got divorced. I learned how to quilt. I started working in a new profession that I love. I moved a bunch of times. I bought a house. I went back to school again. 

It is okay now. (I wrote about that in my last post.) Still, I had a deep cry for about ten minutes yesterday. If I do not give in and feel it, it will persist for days. So, I went with it and felt it all. And it felt awful. And then it passed. Those feelings did not stay with me for the rest of the day. 

Because of my emotional acknowledgment and release, I was able to be creative yesterday evening. I went to a workshop on Saturday and learned about sashiko (Japanese slow stitching). Then last night I made a cute drawstring bag with my sashiko patches. I might have discovered a new obsession... I might want to make lots and lots of bags with sashiko patches now... :)

I made no plans for today. I slept in a little and enjoyed my coffee and blog reading. I need to go grocery shopping. I'm motivating myself by telling myself I can browse the fabric section for bag supplies. Later today I will spend a couple of hours working on the revisions for my Institutional Review Board (IRB) application for my proposed research study. I wouldn't be able to do academic work on behalf of women who are childless not-by-choice if I hadn't gone through everything I've been through. I'm grateful for the opportunity to conduct a pilot study.

So it's a good day. It's a good life. It's been extremely hard, but it's been worth it.



You can buy the pattern online for $6 here. 

It is designed to be handsewn, but I used my sewing machine. I also added a layer of batting to the exterior panel before attaching the lining to give the bag more shape. 

My sisters don't want a quilt, so I think I will sew these for them to use as make-up bags.