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.

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.


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.