Thursday, November 30, 2023

Not a Mom, Not a Career Woman

It feels so late. It's that time of year. The sun set several hours ago, but it's not time for bed yet.

I'm feeling reflective. Again, it's that time of year. I have my Xmas tree up with lights and ornaments, and the calendar year is coming to a close. Some things in life are going really well and some things are not. And, well, that's because that's how life goes.

I am in a much, much better place with infertility and living CNBC. No longer trying to conceive or adopt helps. Stopping trying and having that ending point--I really needed that. Then I could start to grieve. And that was a very long process. In a way, the grief is lifelong, but there's nothing like those first years. Of course, I didn't know I was grieving at the time. Learning that fact, as well as learning about the concept of disenfranchised grief, helped immensely.

All of my life, I thought I was going to be a mother. And then I gradually realized over a four-year period that I wasn't going to be. And it was really hard to process that. I had no idea what my life was going to be without raising the children I always dreamed of and assumed I'd have.

Now that I'm not trying to conceive or adopt AND I know I am not going to be a mother AND I've had years to process this reality, things are better.

It changed everything though.

And this week I've been thinking about how I was never interested in being a career woman. I always hoped I'd be a stay at home mom. And now... I'm... A woman with a job? I don't know. It just seems weird. I like working, but I'm not trying to have a career necessarily. I like my job, and I like getting better at it. But... I don't have kids to put through college or trade school, so I don't have to work myself to death. I'm not trying to build a resume or anything. I'm not climbing a corporate or clinical or any other kind of ladder. Plus, I don't plan on relocating for any job. 

I am where I want to be. 

I'm a divorced, childless middle-aged woman who's just trying to pay my bills and enjoy my life. And I've been thinking about how not having kids changed absolutely everything for me.

I had Day to Night Barbie (above) when I was a kid. I loved how her work outfit turned into a night outfit. But I never daydreamed about going to an office every day...

I *just* realized...  

I am a working artist.
I work to be of service to others, and I work to buy fabric. Hahaha. But true.

(And this is why I write... To figure things out.)

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Some Days Are Hard

Things are slowing down. I mean that in several different ways. 

I feel like I am slowing down. This season always feels a little slower for me. Not that life ever really slows down, but this is the time of year (in the Northern hemisphere) where the days are shorter and the weather is colder and I feel like I move a little slower. 

The blogosphere is slowing down. It has been for awhile. I didn't join until after its peak, but there is a lot less traffic now compared to seven years ago. I think about not writing and then I think, who cares if not many people are reading my blog. Someone might find a post they relate to through an online search someday, and I remember how rare and valuable it was to find something relatable in my earliest days of loss and grief. Plus, I still have thoughts and feelings about my experiences with infertility and living my life without children. So I still write.

My grief is slowing down. The onslaught of it. The major extremes. Thank God. That shit was NOT sustainable. Over the last decade I found a way I could stand to exist and then, miraculously, I even found some new things to be excited about.

But some days are still hard. Like today. Today was one of those days where I felt like an outsider in the world. And I didn't even leave my house or go online much. It was just a quiet Sunday where I did laundry and not much else. And even though that sounds nice, it honestly wasn't that great. I didn't have a very good day. 

It feels like my life is so different from most people's, and even I struggle to understand it. I want to understand it. Then I could understand all of the insidious judgments that I process regularly. If I could understand the cascade of effects that involuntary childlessness has had for me, then maybe there is a chance that others could understand. Maybe even other people could understand how my life is structured differently and stop their subconscious judgments.

Because it's just hard living a life that most people don't understand. I get that a lot of people probably feel that way about a lot of different things. But this is my life, and my experience is living childless not-by-choice.

It hasn't been easy. And that part is oddly overlooked in the long-term. Some days are hard.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Make It Meaningful for You

I cooked canned biscuits and boxed cornbread last week, cubed it all, and left it in a bowl covered with a kitchen towel to dry out all week. That's when I knew Thanksgiving was coming.

Yesterday I baked a cherry pie and two pumpkin pies. I also made the dressing (with the dried biscuits and cornbread) and sweet potato casserole ahead of time.

Today I made mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, macaroni and cheese, and cranberry sauce. I warmed up the ham and some rolls in the oven. 

My boyfriend made the gravy. He was going to smoke the turkey but started feeling sick last night and woke up feeling worse this morning. So we'll have the turkey later in the week. He usually makes the mashed potatoes too, but I did pretty well especially since I've been out of practice the last several years.

Other than sleeping, I was in the kitchen for almost 24 hours and I loved it. I love cooking and then eating the Thanksgiving meal. I love being thankful. I love drawing hand turkeys, which admittedly, I forgot to do this year. I love eating leftovers. I love being home.

Thanksgiving doesn't have anything to do with anything I'm missing. 

Thanksgiving is about celebrating what I have.

The holidays used to hurt so bad. From Halloween to, hell, Valentine's Day, everything reminded me of what I was missing: my children, raising them, being a mother, having my own little family. 

But it's not like that anymore. Not everything all of the time. Some things still hurt, but a lot of things don't. And Thanksgiving is a day where I cook and eat and think about all of the little things and all of the big things that I'm thankful for. 

I don't travel for Thanksgiving. I don't remember the last time I traveled for Thanksgiving. I'm always at home. So, it's never a big celebration with a lot of people for me. But I still enjoy it. 

I guess it's a holiday I've reclaimed just for myself.

The graphic above was created by one of my favorite artists and can be found here.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Give Yourself Time and Grace

Thanksgiving has always been a time where I can gauge my anxiety level. 

Many, many years ago I remember calling my best friend from the grocery store parking lot and telling her I was too anxious to go grocery shopping. She could not relate, but she assured me that it was fine and I was capable. She encouraged me to go inside, get what was on my list, and be done. And I did. And it was fine. But I felt really silly and slightly embarrassed that I was so anxious. And that happened way before my years of infertility.

Infertility shot my anxiety straight up. Higher than ever. Like, I was overachieving with how much anxiety one person could feel. I'm sure a lot of you understand.

And then I couldn't come down. Even after I quit trying to conceive. Even after I came up with the idea to go back to school and eventually move. I could not calm my nerves. And the smallest, slightest thing could make me feel so terrible.

Do you deal with anxiety? It's a very uncomfortable feeling. It's mental thing, a physical thing, and an emotional thing. Anxiety sucks. I wish I knew that's what I was dealing with back in high school. I had no idea. I just felt crazy sometimes.

One of the reasons why I moved to the town where I ultimately settled is because the first time I drove through it I felt at peace. The feeling reminded me of how I felt when I was a little kid living in a small town. Content, not crazy. 

I'm a city kid (because I lived in a large city for 25 years), but I think I'm really a country mouse.

I've been here 3 years now. Each year my entire body calms down a notch.

I went to the store last week to buy a turkey and a ham. I wasn't stressed at all. I admit that I took a couple of deep breaths before going into the store, but that was really only to recognize how far I've come. 

Infertility sucked and my recovery has taken a decade.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Not Building, Just Living

I can rest now. I'm not trying to get anywhere or become anything. 

I am no longer building, no longer creating a life I want to live.

I'm just living it.

I've said it a million times, but it's still true. I am very, very tired. And very, very thankful. I am grateful I got out of where I was and got to where I am (both geographically and emotionally).

I just felt such a sense of urgency many years ago. I knew I had to grieve, but I also knew I had to start working on changing my life. I knew I couldn't go on "living" the way I was.

And that brings us to today.

I don't have kids, and now I don't want kids. I wanted kids. Very badly. But that didn't happen for me. I gave my all to trying to conceive. I didn't know it would leave me with nothing, preventing me from pursuing adoption at the time. I was always completely open to the idea of open adoption. I worked for an adoption and foster care agency for several years. I got great training and felt like I knew what was up. 

But I didn't know the debilitating pain of infertility.

It paralyzes you and destroys you but leaves you alive.

So, yeah...

It was quite the devastation to my life. And I couldn't do anything about it.

But I couldn't do nothing either.

Which brings us back to today again.

So much is over. The last month, the last ten years. So much is done. You'd think I would've rested today. But instead I moved some storage tubs into my storage closet. It's a part of my healing. The decluttering of my home.

But overall, I'm gonna rest by doing less. I'll still go to work. And I'm getting back into my research. Plus, I've got several quilts in progress. But those are all things I chose to do. In this life I created.

Image (pennant banner for sale) found here. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

(Re)Connections/Seeing Old Friends

I was extremely lonely during my years of trying to conceive and undergoing fertility treatments.

Well, first, let me back up real quick. I missed my blogoversary last month. I started this blog in October 2016, a year and a half after my last failed IVF. I was deep in grief and back in school for the first time in a decade. And now it is November 2023, seven years later... 

The whole passing-of-time thing never ceases to amaze me.

Speaking of time, I went and visited longtime friends last week. I have written about all of them here over the years. I have known each person for ten to twenty-five years, but I hadn't seen anyone in at least five and a half. I am so grateful that I got to see these women from different periods of my life. I am thankful for every lunch, dinner, and late night I got to have. (I think the key to seeing everyone was having the idea months ago, texting people, and getting on their calendar at least three months in advance.) 

Three of the friends I saw have kids. Three other friends don't. One older friend has grown children and grandchildren. One friend couldn't go when a small group of us were getting together because of her kid's sports games. But, she made lunch reservations for us downtown during her lunch hour during the week, and I had the greatest one-on-one time with her.

It was interesting being on this side of things, eight years after I stopped fertility treatments. It was very different. Because I wasn't living in a place of longing for things to be different, I wasn't sad or even anxious. I was able to just be happy and present with the people I love. 

It was a trip I had been looking forward to, and I had a lot of fun. I hadn't been back to where I used to live for five years. Then it was great to come home. To where and with whom I live now.

It's the fall, and a lot is behind me. Graduation, pediatric coverage, my two trips. And also, I realize, I no longer feel the acute grief of involuntary childlessness. The lifelong loss is still there, but it doesn't constantly hurt now.

I think we've all learned a lot in 2023, whether we realize it or not. 

I can't put it into words... I can't put words to much of what we've all experienced in the last several years. But I know I'm proud of everyone. Kids or no kids. I think there are a lot of moving parts to life, and it is challenging to stay on top of it all. 

So, if you want, (re)connect with friends when and where you can. 

I sent one of my best friends from college a text a couple of years ago. We had been out of touch for many years, and it turns out she didn't have my new number or my correct email address. I stayed with her at the end of the week.

Three of my other friends that I saw have been my friends since we were teenagers, but it was really hard for me when they got pregnant and grew their families while I was wanting to do that too. Our lives took different paths. We understandably didn't see each other as much, but we still cared and always had each other's numbers.

Another couple of friends are women that just didn't have kids. One is married. I stayed with her at the beginning of the week. One is divorced. Both of their not having kids were for all different reasons and factors and whatnot.

We are not in contact all of the time, but we are in contact overall. I love my friends so much. Incredibly, everyone is happy and healthy right now. So we all got to celebrate that.

I'm grateful infertility didn't ultimately take all of these important connections from me. 

You know I love quilts. And I love gratitude too.
And it's November. So I thought the picture above was cute.
(It's a quilt pattern that you can find here.)