Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Take care of you

There I stood.  Trapped.  In a group of women.  The day before mother's day.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the conversation turned to the next day.

Breakfasts and lunches and dinners in their honor.

Presents.

What spouses were doing for them.

What kids were doing for them.

Then bitching.  Mainly of the mother in law variety.

All of the pain and grief were at the forefront of my mind. 

I was holding back tears.

There was no way to get out of it. 

Breathe.

Don't run.

These were people I work with, after all.

No escape.

Then it happened.

I felt her take a step closer to me and interlocked her arm in mine.

I don't know what made her do that.  Maybe she saw the pain in my eyes?

She took over the conversation. 

She skillfully put an end to the mother's day conversation with no one realizing what she did and moved on to the next topic.

Except I noticed.

She brought me back down to earth.

She made me feel like I wasn't alone.

Without drawing a single bit of attention to me.

I will be forever grateful.

A little bit later we both happened to be leaving the function.  As we departed ways to head to our respective cars, she gave me a big hug.  She whispered in my ear "take care of you."

****
This woman is a mother.  But I think she also knows the pain that mother's day can bring.  She left an abusive relationship when her daughter was a toddler and raised her on her own.  She never had a partner to make a big deal out of the day. 

She knows that I don't have any children.  She knows I can't have children because I matter of factly stated as much at a business dinner a few weeks ago.  But she doesn't know the whole story.  She didn't know me during the infertility years.

But she understands.  At least little bit. 

And on that day she saved me.

I'm pretty sure she doesn't know how much it meant to me. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Missed

When in the throes of infertility and in the immediate aftermath I used the "unfollow" and "unfriend" functions of social media quite generously.  I don't think I need to explain my rationale to this community.

I've moved around in my adult life and have a lot of friends from different places and periods of my life.  The unfortunate reality is that I may never see some of these people again in my life, so I very much enjoy keeping up with them and their lives via social media.

Several years ago, I unfollowed a woman who was my roommate during my freshman year of college and lived across the hallway during my sophomore year.  We were pretty good friends during that part of our lives, but our paths diverged after college.  I unfollowed her during her pregnancy for her first child.  While she wasn't one of the bad offenders (like, for example, I don't recall her posting ultrasound pictures), but at that point, I couldn't handle one more pregnancy, so I unapologetically and unceremoniously unfollowed her.

I thought about her from time to time in the following years, but never "checked in" on her.  Over the weekend another friend from college posted a picture of the unfollowed friend and herself, which led me to check out the unfollowed friend's profile.  I wasn't surprised to see that she'd had a second child and then adopted a child through the foster care system.  I wasn't surprised to see happy pictures of her life.  But what I was surprised to see was a post commemorating one-year cancer free.  A little more profile stalking revealed that after experiencing some stomach issues, and a very proactive doctor, a small, but cancerous tumor was found in her stomach.  The tumor was removed and there were clean margins.  They got all of the cancer out.  They also did a course of chemotherapy just to be sure. 

A wave of guilt washed over me as I found out this news.  I felt guilty that I wasn't there to support a friend through a difficult period of her life, or even to let her know that I was thinking about her.

But then I stopped myself.  I unfollowed her for a reason during a very painful period of my life.  It was unfortunate, but it is what I needed to take care of myself.  I do not need to apologize for taking care of myself.  Plus, she is fortunate to have a supportive husband, family, and community that rallied around her during her time of need.

I still feel a little bad that I didn't know until a year after the fact, but the reality is that without social media, it may have been many more years, if at all, for me to find out.  But the guilt is softened somewhat, because I would have needed to endure 3-4 years of really hard posts (about her child and subsequent pregnancy) to find out this news earlier.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that sometimes there can be unanticipated consequences related to self-care, and sometimes those unanticipated consequences may make you feel like crap.  But in this case, being selfish and taking care of myself first was necessary for healing.

Friday, April 27, 2018

How much?

I've often heard (and even believed) that the universe never gives us more than we can handle. 

But sometimes I'd really like to ask the universe "what the actual fuck?".

The last two weeks of my life have been crazy, more last week then this week.  I work on an academic calendar, so my work life has a few insanely busy weeks a year, with late April being among them.  With work alone, sometimes I don't know if I'm coming or going.

It all started the Monday of the dreaded photo shoot.  The photo shoot actually went pretty well, and despite being as un-photogenic as I am, the photographer got some decent headshots.  But then the shit hit the fan at 4 pm.  It all started with a phone call from my dad.  Now, I know that none of you know my dad, but suffice to say, he is a man of few words, and generally despises his cell phone.  So to get a call from him, during his workday, from his cell phone was immediately a cause for concern.  As it turned out, he was in the emergency room with my mom, who had a heart attack.  Within 15 minutes, my husband called to let me know that our dog was vomiting uncontrollably and needed to go to the vet.  My mom was admitted to the hospital and we were in the emergency vet clinic with the dog until 2 am.

On Tuesday, Hubs' mom called to let him know that one of their family members passed away.  My mom was in the hospital undergoing further testing.  And the dog was home with us, and while he'd stopped vomiting, he wasn't doing well.

On Wednesday, my mom was still in the hospital for testing (some of the Tuesday tests were unable to be completed because her vein collapsed part way through a test involving dye and so had to be aborted).  Hubs' dad called to let him know that he had tumors in his throat (discovered during a routine endoscopy), and while the biopsies didn't reveal anything cancerous, the tumors would likely require surgical intervention.  The dog wasn't showing any signs of improvement but also wasn't declining.  At this point, he hadn't eaten anything since Monday morning, and we were on the outer edge of the limits that we'd been told he could go without food.

On Thursday, my mom had a heart catheterization, since a few of her tests revealed some abnormalities.  Fortunately, they didn't find any blockages or other issues.  As such they are calling this a "cardiac event".  They know something happened that wasn't supposed to, but they don't know what it was.  For a minute I savored the good news, only to get a call from hubs letting me know that the dog had started to decline, quite rapidly.  Off to the emergency vet, we went again, where he underwent another battery of tests and it was decided that he would need to spend the night for observation, fluids, medication, and more tests in the morning.  His blood work was normal, but his x-rays revealed a bunch of gas in the entirety of his intestine and a possible bowel obstruction.  When we left him, there was a 50/50 chance that he'd end up in surgery in the next 24 hours.

Friday was a good day in the sense that my mom got to go home, but also a day filled with worry for the dog.  I will never say that pets are children, but our dog is our family member and we care deeply for him.  We are keenly aware that he's getting up there in years (he's 9.5 years old), with the average life expectancy for his breed being between 10-12 years.  Simply put, while he is relatively healthy for his age and we don't feel like he is in any immediate danger of crossing the rainbow bridge, he has shown a marked decline over the last year, and we know he is in the twilight of his life.  Anyway, with fluids and meds, he improved a lot overnight, and the morning x-ray revealed that things were slowly moving along.  We were relieved that surgery was now looking less likely, and opted to continue conservative management with fluids and meds, reintroduce food to see if he ate and was able to hold it down, and then do another x-ray in the late afternoon.  We were very surprised to get a call around 7pm saying that he was excitedly eating all of the food that he was offered, that his x-ray revealed a lot of progress, and that they were comfortable with him going home that night.  We rushed to pick him up.  We spent the weekend laying low and staying home with the dog.

In the midst of all of this, an email from my boss lands in my inbox late Friday afternoon, and boy did it cause some chaos.  I was involved in a meeting last fall on the topic of this email, at which time, the next steps involved letting this thing work it's way through the appropriate channels to see if it was feasible.  I didn't hear anything else, nor did my two immediate supervisors, so I figured that this thing was a no go.  Except the boss decided that it was a go without bothering to inform my department chair or program director.  I should add that there has been quite a bit of head-butting and conflict going on, which I have done my best to avoid to this point, but now I was right in the thick of it.  At a time where I was already overly emotional.  And also at a time when I had to fit unplanned things and rearrange planned things in an extremely busy schedule.

It all got worked out, well at least in the sense of the parties that were involved in a pissing contest still are, but all parties acknowledge that I was put in a situation beyond my control.  Also cool is that all of this will result in a neat travel opportunity (or potentially two trips to the same location).  Mali, I'm almost sure this place was a stop on your most recent travel adventure abroad, so we may have to touch base.  :)

All in all, the last two weeks have been incredibly stressful and left me wondering at more than one point how much a person can handle.  Thankfully, everything seems to have worked itself out at least for now, and things are starting to calm down quite a bit.  Suffice to say, I think I could deal with a few uneventful weeks to get my bearings back.


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Already?

I despise clothes shopping with the passion of 10,000 firey suns.  I have exactly zero fashion sense, am painfully cheap, and am a difficult fit (especially for pants).  Admitting that I need to go shopping takes a while,  psyching myself to actually go is a process, and a pants shopping trip usually ends (unsuccessfully) with tears and/or cursing.  Needless to say, my work wardrobe consists of almost exclusively black trousers and lightweight shirts (because I also have zero tolerance for being hot).

I went shopping on Saturday.  For pants.  It ended with no pants, a lot of cursing/self-depreciation, and a six-pack of pineapple ale.  Well, technically a six-pack plus one additional can because we have antiquated laws about alcohol in my state and we have to buy beer by the bottle or the case, and the bottle shop that I buy at gives you a seventh can for a penny.

Note to self: Banish the thought of "I haven't gone shopping at (store name) for a while now.  I should try there." out of my mind and go to where I know the clothes fit.

Why did I go shopping?  Because I'm participating in a marketing photo shoot for work tomorrow. "Participating" makes it sound like this is a voluntary activity, but really it's not.  And I am the least photogenic person on the face of the earth.  I am looking forward to it like I look forward to dental work.

I thought that a new outfit might make me feel good, or at least a little bit better about this stupid photo shoot.   But it was not meant to be.  Ugh.

But anyway, that's not what I want to write about.

I want to write about the fact that there were advisements all over the store about Mother's Day.  Holy Hell.  Mother's Day isn't for a full month.  It's nothing more than a profit scheme for the greeting card companies holiday.  The store I was at sells clothing for women, men, children, juniors, etc.

When I saw the first advertisement, my eye roll was so hard that I damn near had a seizure.   I was so annoyed. 

I suppose this is an improvement over previous years, however.

But yeah, it looks like we (at least those of us here in the US) have a full month of advertising for a holiday that doesn't apply to us ahead of us!  Pass the pineapple ale!

Friday, March 9, 2018

The day dreams died

Four years ago yesterday we found out we'd never have children.

I remember that day like it was yesterday.  Hubs and I drove separately.  I was planning to go back to work after the appointment.  I remember squeezing my car into a tiny spot in the underground parking garage.  I remember meeting hubs in the lobby.  I remember the elevator ride to the 12th floor, complete with stops on the NICU floor, the labor floor, and the postpartum floor before we got where we were going.  I remember anxiously sitting in the waiting room while two young children being "supervised" by what appeared to be their mother and grandmother played loudly (as an aside, there is nothing that anyone can say that makes a valid case for children being in the waiting room of a reproductive endocrinologist's office).  I remember being shuffled back to the doctor's office.  I remember the atta boy he gave hubs for his stellar test results.  And I remember the complete lack of compassion that he delivered my abysmal test results with.  I remember sitting there but not feeling like I was in my own body.  I could see his mouth moving but I didn't hear anything.  I knew exactly what he was saying and how bad it was.  I remember being shuffled from his office to the office of the financial guy and listening to his pitch because we didn't have the energy to tell him that it was useless information for us.  I remember being shuffled to the IVF nurse's office and pretending to listen to her because, even after we told her we wouldn't be doing IVF, she insisted we'd change our minds, and we didn't have the energy to fight her.  I remember sitting on a bench in the hallway crying to myself and texting a friend while hubs used the restroom. I remember taking the elevator down to the parking garage, paying for my parking, and making it to the car before breaking down.  I remember that by the time I made it to the exit, my 15 minutes between paying and exiting the garage had already passed, and I couldn't get out.  I remember the parking attendant coming to the gate, seeing the look of me, him saying "aww, sweetie, it'll get better" and then scanning me out with his employee badge.  It's not lost on me that the only ounce of compassion I got that day (other than from my husband) was from the parking attendant. 

I don't know why this crappy anniversary hit me so hard this year.  Or even why I remember every moment of that day.  Generally speaking, things get less hard with the passage of time, but not this day this year.

In about an hour we'll head out to see my family, celebrate the birthdays of all of my nieces and nephews, and meet the new baby.  The trip was planned before I realized that yesterday was going to be so hard on me.

I know I've neglected this space lately, but today, on a day where I'm feeling not being able to have children viscerally, I'm glad I have it. 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

On my own

I am writing this while in Florida, poolside, and soaking up the last few rays of sunshine and warmth before heading back to the cold and snowy north.

I left home on Wednesday for a work trip to a professional conference.  I don’t have the sort of job where I travel for work a lot, at least not the variety of travel that involves a plane, but I do take a trip once or twice a year. Sometimes I take hubs along and sometimes I go solo.  This time I went solo, but met up with most of my friends from grad school.  We agreed months ago that no one would bring partners or kids. :)

Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling with hubs, spending time with him, and seeing the world, but sometimes it’s fun to be on my own schedule (which is always more free flowing and spontaneous than when I’m traveling with hubs), stay out later than I usually would, drink more alcohol than I usually do, and have a great time with friends without having to consider the likes/dislikes/wants/needs of another person.  I had a fantastic time and I’m so relaxed and recharged. It’s amazing what sun can do for thr soul! I feel like I should mention that I did do a ton of work related activities too!

My flight leaves in a few hours and I’ll be back to reality. I’ve enjoyed my time here, but I’m looking forward to hubs, the dog, our bed, and our wonderful life.


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

When sad is buried by happiness

I don't make a habit of passing out advice, especially unsolicited advice, but I'm going to make an exception.

If there is someone in your life who is dealing with/dealt with infertility/you suspect they may be dealing with infertility/would love nothing more than to have a child but doesn't have a partner/etc. and someone close to them (e.g., a sibling) has a baby, reach out to them.  A simple "I love you" or "I'm thinking about you" text works great.  Let them know you're thinking about them in a tangible way, yet one that doesn't necessarily require a response.

My sister had her baby yesterday.  

You'll recall that she's basically a coward and couldn't tell me that she was pregnant herself, instead relying on our mother to break the news.

I had limited contact with her while she was pregnant and only saw her twice.  The limited contact wasn't really intentional but was a product of busy schedules.  My sister isn't the most likable person to be around when she's not pregnant, and she's insufferable when pregnant.  

I moved past the hurt that came from her cowardice.  Or at least I thought I did.  As it turns out, not enough time has passed to heal this wound.  

I lost it.  I took it harder than I did any of the back to back to back sister pregnancies.  I cried myself to sleep last night.

Beyond being a part of a group text with my mom, sisters, and one of my cousins, my sister hasn't reached out to me personally.  Which is fine.  She can talk to whoever she wants.  I muted the chat and didn't respond to anything on it before I muted it.  I'll deal with it when I'm ready.

I am hurting.

And I'm hurt.

But the hurt isn't jealousy or the all too familiar pangs of the loss of dreams (though those were there too), rather most of it comes from the actions of my mother.  Or inaction, as the case may be.  

Part of being a parent is being there for your children, both for the happy and for the sad.  And if a person has more than one child, there is the possibility of both emotions existing simultaneously.  If there is time to take a gazillion pictures and gloat about a new grandbaby on social media, there is time to send a text to the one you know is hurting.

Yet no such text came.  And still hasn't.  The message that I don't matter was received loud and clear.  God, it hurts.  

I'm so mad at myself for letting my guard down and allowing hope that she would do better this time to creep in.

I am grateful for friends who are like family.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Winter Break

Yesterday marked my return to work after a restful winter break.  As an added bonus, I don't have to go back to the office until Monday! 

A few fun things happened while I was off.

I broke my 90+ week Grammarly streak.  If you don't know Grammarly, it is a browser plug-in that identifies spelling and grammar errors.  It also calculates the number of words written, number of errors, accuracy, vocabulary, etc. and sends you a weekly progress report.  I only use the free version, but since I do so much online for work, it's really helpful and has probably saved me from looking like a fool more than once.  Anyway, what breaking the streak means is that I powered down my work computer on December 23rd and didn't turn it on again until January 2nd, meaning that I didn't do any work during this time.  As evidenced by the length of my streak, detaching myself from work is something that I obviously struggle with.  It was a streak that I was happy to see go and am excited to start 2018 with a clean slate!

We also rearranged our guest room.  Previously, it was set up as a space that looked both nice and one that would be comfortable for guests.  But what we found is that we very infrequently hosted overnight guests and because of the setup, we really didn't use the room because the furniture took up so much room.  So we rearranged it.  We disassembled the gorgeous (but large and space eating) bed, put the mattress on a simple frame, and shoved the bed in the corner.  This simple rearrangement has given us so much more space in that room, and now we can actually use it!  As an added bonus, should we ever need to host guests, we have a bed for them to sleep in.  It's funny that we held off on doing this for so long.  In the wake of infertility (which saw us reserving a bedroom for "the baby's room") we decided we wouldn't do that again, rather we'd use space for what we wanted and adapt if necessary.  Yet that's exactly what we didn't do.

I bought myself a mountain bike.  I've been wanting to buy a bike for a few years now, but haven't done it for one reason or another.  This is actually my first brand new bike.  Growing up we didn't have a lot of money so my bikes were hand me downs and/or cobbled together with various bike parts and usually shared with my sisters and me.  So it's pretty cool for me to have my very own brand new shiny bike!  Unfortunately, I've only been able to ride it once as our outdoor temperatures have been pretty miserable, but winter will end eventually, and when it does, I'm fortunate to live in an area with plenty of bike trails! 

Finally, we bought a new car.  This was a semi-planned purchase, meaning that we planned to buy a new car, just not until Spring.  Hubs knew exactly what he wanted (and hubs isn't the sort of guy who compromises when it comes to cars) so we knew it would be a bit of a process and we were willing to take our time and get what we wanted as opposed to settling or paying too much.  We'd been casually looking for a few months, with the attitude that if something popped up that was interesting to us, we'd go and look at it, and buy if it met our criteria.  Well, as it turns out, year-end deals on cars are quite good, and we were able to get the exact car he wanted but at a higher trim level and for less money than we expected to pay.  What was striking to us, however, is how different the process of buying a car was this time as opposed to the last time we did it.  The last time we had an eye to the future, meaning that we bought a car assuming that children were in our future and we were careful to make sure that there was adequate space for car seats and growing children and such.  This time, beyond casually observing that the car did indeed have a back seat, we didn't pay any attention to that feature.  It was also interesting that the last time we bought a car the salesman was keen to mention all of the features of the car that would be good for "families" whereas this time, there was not a single mention of children.  Anyway, it's a fun car and it's fun to drive.  And it's definitely not a car we could have even considered if we had a couple of kids running around.

The time off was perfect.  And for the first Christmas season, since we put an end to our family building efforts, it wasn't a miserable season that I slogged through while wishing my life was different than it is, rather it was quiet and warm and perfect.  Instead of focusing on what we don't have, we were able to enjoy what we do have.