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. 💙

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.


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.


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.

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.