Follow me on the crazy, hopeful, discouraging, funny, and ultimately successful (one way or another) path to parenthood while facing infertility.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Making Changes, One Sign & Space at a Time

Toward the end of last school year, a special friend gave me a beautiful sign, which fit perfectly in the nook where our glider lives and matched the color of the upholstery and the owl pillow which my sister gave me before that glider ever existed. It fit the decor, and it fit the hope that we felt that it would ring true sooner than later, despite having had three opportunities that weren't the right ones and a lot of radio silence. I cried when she gave it to me because it was such a beautiful sentiment. It felt true and immensely possible at the time. even though nothing had panned out yet.

But now, it just smacks of shattered hopes. Because it's not quite true, now is it? This is not a wish that magically came to be, no matter how much we wanted it to.

Now it makes me very, very sad, because we are in this place of transition, having made a very difficult decision...since it has become clear that the impact of our many years of limbo and waiting and living as though we could be parents without actually ever becoming parents has taken a toll on my health (both physical and mental), and we are both exhausted. Thanks in large part to my April crisis, we have come to an end to this chapter...left holding nothing but a lot of sadness and frustration. And hope for a new future we have to re-envision, but right now I feel a bit in the muck.

A couple weeks ago, after a weekend of de-cluttering, Life Without Baby work, and finally putting my Baby Binder in the flower box with all the other relics of infertility, I had to go to the grocery store to pick up a prescription. I was feeling too puddle-y to go by I made Bryce come with me.

And there it was, a little wooden sign, in a display by the checkout lines, that I just had to have.

As a general rule, I hate decorative items with words on them -- those "Always Kiss Me Goodnight" or "Live Laugh Love" things are not for me, because they sort of feel like they are yelling at me -- STOP TELLING ME HOW TO FEEL, THROW PILLOW/SIGN/WALL DECAL!  (That said, a delightful throw pillow for the new couch that says "Fuck. This. Shit." is one of my favorite recent purchases and will probably stay on the couch FOREVER.)

The sign that we found toed a line between the kind of kitschy thing I despise but also oddly appropriate to the point of kismet, like some buyer at the grocery store we have was like, "Some infertile couple facing down the end of their journey to have a child will need this right now." So I bought it.

I don't think the people who made this sign meant it to mean what we take it to mean, but it works for us.

And then I did this.

It made me feel sad to change them out, but also lighter. It changes the space from What-Could-Have-Been to more What-Is. That space is a great reading nook, and the chair can swivel all the way around to face the woods behind our house, and it also feels a bit like being in an escape pod in Sta.r when you recline it. I love this nook, actually. It will just have a different purpose than we originally envisioned, like so much else we are working our way through in this difficult, difficult transition.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Out From Under, Mostly

Hi friends...I am so, so grateful for the outpouring of love and support since I wrote last. When you feel so alone in making a decision that you fear will be totally misunderstood, and then have a zillion people holding you in their hearts and feeling for you, it really is amazing.

I have been missing for a little while here because life has been psychotic. Remember how I'm pursuing my National Board certification? Well, ha ha ha, with all the insanity of March and April I really did not get a whole lot done on the, oh, over 70 pages of writing that was required to finish out the second half of that process. I had planned to do a lot over April Break, and then, well, I went a little koo-koo and couldn't quite do that as I was trying to put myself back together again. But, the submission date was May 17th, and I had to get both components in as I have a grant covering the cost and if I don't I have to pay it back (to the tune of nearly $2000), and I wanted to finish SOMETHING that I started, so I worked like a banshee over the past two weeks to get it done. I managed to submit Component 3 on Monday and Component 4 late Tuesday night, after literally writing every day after school until bedtime and all weekend long, minus my mom's graduation ceremony for her graduate certificate at the divinity school and a Mother's Day lunch on Saturday afterwards with my sister and my mom and the guys. SO MUCH TYPING. I wrote and compiled 50 pages for Component 4 over just four days. I sincerely hope I pass.

So, that meant that I wrote and wrote and wrote all Mother's Day. Which is just as well, because this is my first Mother's Day where I have the knowledge that I will never be celebrated on this particular holiday, that it will never be for me. Every year I hoped that THIS would be the year I could be included in Mother's Day, and every year I was left going, "Maybe next year." And this year, it's "Okay, so...never." But, I didn't really get to think too much about it on the day, since I had to type type typity type and edit, from the time I got up to when I went to bed. With the exception of food, which let me tell you, National Board has left me exhausted but also with extra poundage due to the increase in takeout in our household during this time. Because my deadline coincided within days with Bryce's deadline for his course this semester, and so it's been a real house of stress around here. And a real house of non-environment-friendly takeout containers filled with Indian food, BBQ, pizza, Thai... and then sitting for hours. Not the best combo.

And behind all this work is my sadness.

I love on Mother's Day to have a good wallow, and I was denied that this year. So today, I am off on a personal day to celebrate being done and take time to recoup from the insanity that was my push to get my National Board writing done after having my world turned upside down, and also to have my  Mother's Day Wallow. It is now safe to go back on Facebook as most of the Mother's Day posts are below my feed. Well, safe-ish. I am reading Ever Upward by Justine Brooks Froelker and drinking coffee and trying to type even though it hurts, because of yesterday. And in a way it stings to take a personal day. Because those have always been saved in the past few years for my adoption leave, since I get 5 paid days for the adoption of a child, 8 if I tack on my personal days. And so I saved them. Well, I don't have to save them anymore.

What happened yesterday, you might ask?

Well, in a wonderful twist of 2017 being The Year Of Urgent Care, I fell flat on my face walking into school yesterday morning. As in, I was wearing a cute olive green dress and my Dr. Scholl's tan wedges (Dr. SCHOLL'S! Not any stupid wobbly high heel nonsense!), and carrying my bag, and purse, and coffee, and flowers for my TA's birthday, when I hit a seam in the sidewalk going down the hill from the parking lot to the door and my foot teetered and I lost my balance and BAM! I dumped it, hard. Face-first. I am a disaster. I scraped up my knees something awful, chipped my FitBit (although I suspect it took the impact that could have broken my wrist, so thank you, FitBit), and scraped up my left hand. Oh, and my pinky immediately swelled up all purple and raspberry-looking and hurt like a bitch. So I lay there on the ground (did I mention my dress was short? Thank goodness for modest underwear), bleeding, crying, coffee and flower water pouring down the hill, while a coworker who had JUST COMPLIMENTED ME ON HOW CUTE I LOOKED came running to help me. You don't look quite as cute covered in blood and mud with mascara running down your face, let me tell you. I just shook my fist at the sky and was like, "WHY? 2017 has to DIE! WTF!" She ran to get the nurse, and more teachers came out, and the flowers were whisked inside just in time as my TA saw me on the ground as she came in and rushed over, and I took a real fun wheelchair ride through the halls of the first floor to the nurse's office, doing the Queen's wave because I felt so awkward and like a spectacle (although that probably didn't help). Meanwhile, one of the teachers used my phone to call Bryce and tell him that he needed to come pick me up and take me to Urgent Care, and he DIDN'T BELIEVE HER and thought it was a joke, because HOW MANY TIMES IN ONE YEAR CAN YOU GET THAT CALL? Apparently, several. My principal came to see me and told me I needed a bubble. I apologized and said, "This is my second Worker's Comp claim in a few months! [remember the ice skating elbow incident?] I am a LIABILITY now!" and he said, "Well, it's a good thing your assets outweigh your liability." HA HA, yes, but for how long at this point? How embarrassing. I got sent to Urgent Care, told not to come back, and got my bazillionth x-rays of the year. I swear, I should glow by now. Luckily, my pinky is not broken even though it looks terrible, it is just badly sprained, and everything else is just black and blue and scraped up. Oh, and I strained my ribs somehow, so I am in a tremendous amount of pain. I'm never quite sure what movement will cause the excruciating pain, but apparently twisting around is one and putting my arm above my head to do things like shower and get dressed causes it, too. I am a mess.

This doesn't do justice to the way I grated my knees...

My right knee hit harder and is pretty purple today.

My poor hand. Luckily I'm right-handed. My pinky is purple all the way around that first segment. Amazing how much you need your pinky, small as it is...

Swanky new blue splint.

So basically, I finish National Board and my celebration is halted by yet another injury. Sigh.

When it comes to adoption, I have been slowly rolling out the news that we are done. It has been interesting. My principal literally started to cry (a silent man cry) and said he was just so sorry for this, and so sorry that there's a child who won't get to have us as parents. Which made me cry, because it was a beautiful way to put it. He understood, but it is very sad. He was one of our biggest cheerleaders through this process. I told a family friend I've known since childhood who called to check in, as she asked how "The Baby Hunt" was going, and when I said we were done and it was hard and we were sad but looking forward to a new life without the limbo and striving and near misses, she got really upset and then interrupted me and said, "I just want to SCREAM! I'm just so mad on your behalf, it should have worked out, you'd be such amazing parents! You'd be a wonderful mother! Argh!" I told her I appreciated her fury and sense of injustice on our behalf. I have gotten that reaction a few times. Some people ask if we think we'll ever return to the process. I can't think of that right now. Throughout our whole journey I was bad at breaks. Some people are able to put this aside and enjoy life without being in the thick of it as they take a break for a few months, six months, even a year. I envy that ability. I could never do it because I obsessed about wasted time, the clock ticking away, and I just wanted to keep my head down and just keep moving doggedly forward, so certain that working hard would result in achieving our goal. And now, to think of being like, "We'll just take a break and come back to it," well, that's not resolution, is it? You never know what life can bring, and I can't promise that we wouldn't consider something different later if we feel a push to do so, but I hate to disappoint's not likely. If we are going to embrace our life as a family of two and move forward, we have to do it without any What Ifs, without keeping a nursery JUST IN CASE, because otherwise it's not a real resolution. It's just more limbo. And I have had my fill of limbo. We. Are. Done. We need to move forward without any caveat. And that is hard for people to hear, but it is necessary for our survival.

Sometimes, I can't bring myself to tell people. Twice someone has asked me about adoption and I can't do it, I can't tell them that we're done. I don't want to in that moment. And that's okay. I usually tell them it's been hard, and we've had 6 opportunities in nearly 2 years but nothing ever quite works out, and then they say something like, "Well, I just KNOW it's going to work out for you. I PROMISE. You are both just so deserving of parenthood." And I know that if I tell them now it will probably go poorly (and I usually say, "I wish deserving had anything to do with it, but it doesn't..." and don't address the futility of making promises like that) and so I just hint that we won't always have the stamina to keep going, and how very long we've been at this quest, and plant the seed so that it's not a shocker when I do reveal that we are done. Whenever that may be. I haven't really decided how to share that beyond this space and the 1:1 conversations we've been having with people. Which is okay, but at some point I'll have to rip the bandaid off. Because there's a lot of people who fall in that in-between space.

In the meantime, Bryce and I are planning our summer vacation, the extravagant one, to be a honeymoon of sorts. We never did take one, as I signed for my first delivery of Ovidrel in my wedding dress. So now, we start a new life together, knowing that it will be us and the cats and maybe a dog after we take a couple years to be free. We haven't yet decided what to do about our house yet. That's for another time. Right now we lick our wounds and feed our sadness with vacation plans and celebrating THE LAST DAY OF PREDNISONE (which is today! Finally!) with a fancy dinner this weekend.

Thank you again, for all the love and support as we wade through the suck (as Mel put it) to get to the other side, to slowly reach acceptance and look forward to the joy that awaits in our new life together. Of being free of the albatross that was trying to make something come to fruition that just refused to materialize, no matter how we approached it, at least in carrying it so heavily. It will always be with us, but more as a specter and less as a physical load around our necks. And now with my National Board over (and scores not coming out until DECEMBER), and Bryce's class over, we can go into the warmer months with time to rediscover who we are without the quest for a baby, who we are just us two, and what our life can look like in this new reality.

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Finality Of Making The Call

It's over, officially over and the enormity and finality of our decision has me completely wrecked.

Bryce made the call to the adoption agency today saying that we were ending our journey, and I am forever grateful that he held the strength to make the first call (I say first call, because I want to call myself and thank our family advocate and get a little closure there, but I need a little space from today first).

I got the text that it was done while I was getting a haircut, and so my reaction to it didn't start until I walked to my car, to my beautiful Subaru Outback that Bryce bought me for Christmas (!) a year and a half ago so we'd have a safe and reliable car for our FutureBaby. The sadness started leaking out of my face and my breathing wasn't quite sobby but I could feel that my ability to hold myself together was going to be fleeting.

I got home, fed the cats, and walked up the stairs to the little room that's been closed up for a month or so.

I stood next to the crib and watched as my cat jumped nimbly inside, then sat on the soft carpeted floor and stared at all the HOPE that was contained in those 90 square feet, at all the LOVE and SUPPORT that filled it with everything we needed for the baby that didn't come to us before we lost the ability to keep pushing ourselves through uncertainty and loss for any more years, months, or weeks. The butt paste that expires in June that I bought in a fit of hope last year. The board books with personalized name plates that have messages to our Mystery Baby. The handmade blankets and hats and baby cocoons.

And I cracked into a million pieces of shattered dreams and felt the loss come howling out of me, sobbing great heaving clouds of grief into the space that held so much promise. I cried a deep animal cry, nearly identical to the one that came out of me when I found out that bed rest didn't create a miracle and my HCG numbers had plummeted from the thousands to 200 when we lost the only baby that was briefly growing in the right place.

I sat there, soaking in my grief.

And then I started picking up board books and reading them. After a few that made me very, very sad, I picked up this one:

In a moment of abject sadness, this book brought me hope. Hope of a different kind. The text goes like this (by Smriti Prasadam-Halls):

I love you most, I love you best, 
Much, much more than all the rest. 

I love you tall, I love you high, 
Way up in the sunny sky. 

I love you far, I love you wide, 
From over here... ... to the other side. 

I love you low, I love you deep, 
Down where the octopuses sleep.

I love you huge, I love you vast, 
For the fun to come and the fun that's passed. 

I love you big, I love you tough, 
When the path is smooth and when it's rough. 

I love you strong, I love you small, 
Together we have it all. 

I love you wild, I love you loud, 
I shout it out and I feel proud.

I love you soft, I love you still, 
And you know I always will...

I love you close, I love you tight, 
When you're wrong ...and when you're right. 

I love you night, I love you day, 
In every moment, come what may. 

Because I love you with my whole heart, 
From where you where you start. 

All I could think was, THIS BOOK IS ABOUT US.  It was meant for our Mystery Baby, who will remain a mystery forever and who has left indelible scars on my heart, but right now it tells the story of our love. It's a book for us, in this terrible moment, celebrating what we have in each other.

When Bryce came home and found me in the nursery, we sat and were sad together and talked about the phone call and how momentous it is to be done, to have this part of our lives come to an end and not the way we'd planned. I gave him the book to read. We hugged and cried and felt all the many feelings -- the sadness, the difficulty of making a decision, the empowerment of saying ENOUGH and having hope for what is still to come, different as it may be than how we saw our future together.

Today is a hard, hard day. It's a chrysalis sort of day, full of goo and being completely deconstructed so we can emerge something new and beautiful and different than before.

Want to read some #Microblog Mondays? Not more, because this surely doesn't count but it's what I've got today? Go here and enjoy! 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Best Birthday Present to Myself Ever (Also, I'm Sorry)

I feel I have to apologize a bit because in writing about my disappointing therapy session last week (which I have solutions for, thanks for all the suggestions!), I apparently dropped news that I hadn't mentioned before in a very offhanded way and I didn't mean to. Unintended consequences galore.

So, yeah. We are not renewing our homestudy. We are done. Our journey to parenthood has ended, or is in the process of ending, and it's a very surreal place to be.

See, going back to work was harder than I'd anticipated, because I only have so much energy and as a friend told me, I'm on a REST QUEST. So I have struggled to have the energy to get everything done that I've piled on my plate, and I've done a lot of "off the clock" processing that normally would happen here, and I just. didn't. know. where. to. start.

Do I start with how sad I feel?

How I feel like a quitter? (How Bryce told me if I'm a quitter then so are people who quit, you know, addictive drugs or smoking, which made me laugh and made a perfect kind of sense...)

How I also feel a sort of relief to be slowly shifting myself out from under the weight of uncertainty?

How I feel a crisis in identity, since who am I if I'm not keeping up the fight to become a mom? That the name of my blog is now a lie?

How it doesn't escape me that I posted my video of me reading my audition piece for LTYM the Sunday before everything went so horribly wrong, and everything in it was true and is true: I do have a strong desire to be a mother, but now it seems like it rings hollow? Like I'm going to be looked at like a liar, as a fake, as someone not quite committed enough to "sticking with it," even though when they start testing you for heart attack enzymes in the ER and you have a very public meltdown at school, perhaps you have actually stuck with it enough?

There's more, so much more. It's been weeks of hashing this out and trying to decide what to do and what the right choice is, for us, given our unique circumstances, and I AM EXHAUSTED.

But also, I feel that it is the right decision, despite the ways self-doubt creeps in via imaginary voices and arguments with people who might question our decision. Despite the fact that anyone who we have actually told has responded with nothing but compassion and empathy. As they should, quite frankly. This is a huge loss.

But it's also been a journey that has literally been a series of unfortunate events. At one point in our discussions, Bryce said that the last time he felt truly happy and hopeful that our future would pan out with a child was when we took our butterfly walk when I was pregnant, that incredibly brief moment where everything was the fulfilled promise of all we'd hoped so hard to achieve. That was almost FIVE YEARS AGO. Nothing quite went the way we'd hoped it would, and while I know "waiting is the hardest part" and "if you stick with it, adoption WILL work" are favorite catchphrases, the cumulative effect of close calls and long spells without calls at all and feeling like your LIFE is being passed over and you're not quite sure how long you can live in this limbo makes waiting and sticking with it seem Sisyphean. And you just want to live life out from under the weight, and it's been made clear that your body has its limits with stress and limbo, too.

So there it is. We are done, and I am sad, and empty, and we are slowly making our way around to telling people in our own way, in our own time. But I am only empty in a compartment, because I also see how very, very full the rest of my life is. That I couldn't be luckier to have this life with a wonderful man who loves me possibly more than I deserve, to have all the happinesses that we enjoy and have yet to enjoy. That I can start my 41st birthday knowing that the rest of my forties are going to be different than I thought, but that it's a new beginning.

And so, to get back to the title of this post, which should really be I'm Sorry, (and also, Best Birthday Present Ever)...

I bought myself a fabulous new throw pillow for our new couch, for which I splurged on expedited shipping to get it in time for my birthday tomorrow and it makes me laugh maniacally and do a happy dance when I see it:

Is that not the best thing you've ever seen?

I saw it in my head the other day, and then googled it AND THERE IT WAS. In real life. Purchase-able even! So much happiness in a little square. It's like I finally manifested something, ha HA ha ha.

I can get behind pillows with words on them if they swear and are strangely appropriate for life at the time.

(Lest you think this couch looks strangely like the other one, it's not and here is the temporary arrangement to prove it...the loveseat will go for real when the chairs come. IN LATE JUNE.)

And so we grieve and feel sadness and anger and frustration at the same time there is a bit of lightness, a feeling of CLOSE THE DOOR ON THAT CHAPTER (or volume, more like), and we look forward to all that is to come in this new life together.

Monday, May 1, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: A Good Fit

I miss my old therapist.

She "got" me, and while she had the advantage of knowing me for about six years, I feel like she "got" me from the moment she started running the pre-yoga support group.

She challenged my magical thinking, she made me think about tough things I tried to avoid, until space and distance and internet video communication made it possible for me to use my mask on her.

I'm not sure the new therapist I started with is the best fit. I have the unenviable task of having my next appointment being a conversation about what I need and want versus what I got the last time I saw her, and if it doesn't go well I will find myself in a position to find a new person.

We have decided not to renew our home study, and I shared that at last week's session with the additional information that now we are figuring out what to do with the two months before it expires, and how it is weighing on me, the emotional cost of staring down the end and figuring out whether or not to take advantage of those two months for whatever might come our way and what we can and cannot handle at this point.

The response I got was that there is another agency, somewhere in California, that is known for "quick adoptions" and that she could get that information for me if I wanted; that I should make sure that in five or ten years I don't regret whatever decision I make; oh, and also that part of her work could be helping me to not feel things so deeply, to better weather the storm of the profile opportunities and getting passed by or having to make a difficult decision so that I could continue on with the waiting and the limbo and the stress of endless What-Ifs.


I downplayed how all that made me feel both in her office and after until I stewed on it for a few days and it really made me a bit angry. I did tell her that NO, we are not doing another agency, we had that discussion in December and that is definitively not on the table.

I am truly stupefied as to why I would want to retrain myself to FEEL THINGS LESS DEEPLY when that is something that actually makes me the sensitive soul I am. It is the heart of who I am as a teacher, a wife, a friend --  and that sounds an awful lot like attempting to deaden myself to avoid pain which frankly, would not work for me anyway. That sounds like an empathy-killing exercise. NOTHANKYOU. I did not say any of this, I just gave her a perplexed look and said, "I don't think I'm trying to feel less."

Most importantly, I thought I had made it clear that I was seeking help with coping with anxiety and the grief related to the over seven years of trying to make it to parenthood and facing failure at every single turn, to cope with the fact that WE ALREADY MADE THE DECISION NOT TO RENEW before I even saw her the first time. That the end is nigh, and I want to work through being at the end, not open up brand new doors of complexity on the other side of the country that could cost a zillion dollars not to mention emotional costs (and frankly "quick adoptions" sounds shady as hell). Clearly I need to reclarify what I want to get out of counseling. Bryce feels like this past time set me back, actually. I can't say that I totally disagree.

I feel like I am getting more out of the reading and journaling my way through Life Without Baby. Which was a lot cheaper than what I am paying hourly, and challenges me without offering yet another suggestion that we try something different instead of listening to me facing acceptance.

I thought it was a good fit the first time, but then this second session has really given me pause. I guess it's time to advocate and then not let some weird guilt for a person I haven't built a relationship with yet keep me in a therapy situation that is unhelpful.

I miss my therapist that moved away, so much.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!

Monday, April 24, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Ode to A Couch

This is our couch, or rather loveseat, that is going the way of the dodo tomorrow, having been replaced by a more streamlined model that can seat more people. Or one person lying down without legs dangling over the armrests.

I hate its oversized nature, the space it takes up, the fact that this couch existed in the house before me and I did not help pick it out (petty, but true).

This couch has seen so much.

Some abjectly awful: I spent bedrest on this couch, desperately hoping to keep a pregnancy that didn't want to stay; I took the call that my HCG levels had dropped significantly on this couch, and wailed so loudly while curled up on it that a friend who was dropping off orchid food could hear me from her car and chose not to make her presence known.

Some hopeful but with more than a shadow of sadness: heating my butt from progesterone shots that I'd hoped would help us get to our baby; sitting on it while I razored out pages from magazines for the Baby Binder, the backdrop for hopeful photos of us waiting jokily impatiently for our first adoption shoot; sitting and talking about our hopes and dreams and realities during our first homestudy, and then our renewal last summer. We've had a lot of heavy conversations on this couch.

But it's also the couch we sat on where we first said "I love you," forever ago. It's the couch we spend Luddite Nights on, and where we spent Earth Hour by candlelight while I read aloud "The Call of Chthulu" as Bryce was real sick at the time. There's been canoodling on this couch, and snuggling up while we read together -- there's romance steeped in it, too.

There's so much history to this couch, but it's time for a new start, new memories that hopefully have a balance of a lot less pain and a lot more joy.

(I didn't realize you could write a whole post about a couch until I read Mel's post... thanks for the inspiration!)

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Making Progress, A Bit At A Time

This week was better than last week. Part of it was that it was actually Spring Break, so I didn't have (much) to feel guilty about in terms of missing work. There was no work. I didn't have to do sub plans, I didn't wonder what was going on without me.

Part of it was having the medications kick in -- the one that helps me sleep and I can take if I have a panic attack, and the one that takes a couple weeks to kick in, starts with a Z, and will help me long term with my wonky brain chemistry so I don't have those panic attacks in the first place. It's been two weeks for that one and I know it's not all there, but I definitely feel more...myself. Which was one of my fears with medication all this time that I've been denying my anxiety, that I'd feel less myself if I got pharmaceutical assistance. Not true. It's nice to have the horrible buzzing and fight-or-flight feeling gone. Also, the Prednisone is down to 20 so side effects are starting to lessen. They are also weaning me off the steroid eye drops because my eye pressure was a startling 27 at my last week's check.  While that is scary I get an extra day of break because they need to check the pressure again a week after being on what may be the world's most expensive pressure-reducing eye drops, which is tomorrow, and the timing necessitates a full day absence. It is a nice bonus/consolation prize, to get a little extra day in there, although I am really dreading coming back and answering questions and walking through the care gauntlet. I am so fortunate to work in such a caring, supportive place but it is a double-edged sword because everyone wants to know how you're doing and a few people saw just how not-great I truly was. So, it will likely take me FOREVER to get from Point A to Point B, and I can likely forget about prep periods, unless I figure out how to acquire an invisibility cloak.

But, that is just an update on what is, while I'd like to share some progress that I'm making, which is pretty significant if I do say so myself.

Life Without Baby Work
I am so happy that I bought this book by Lisa Manterfield. While I am not so happy about the reason, it is really good work. Although, it is also really, really hard work. I will admit, a part of me was hoping that I would start reading it and be like, "Oh, this isn't for me. This doesn't really apply, I'm not here yet." Oh, no. It was more like, "THIS LADY IS IN MY FREAKING HEAD. HOW DOES SHE KNOW WHAT I'M THINKING???"

I started underlining things like mad that resonated with me. Things like:
- "Sometimes we're prodded toward the decision because we have no other viable options, but in many cases we're faced with choosing between a dream and our sanity." 
- "We'll look at how to know when it's time to let go and how to create an ending for a journey that could potentially go on indefinitely." (emphasis mine)
- "This pursuit is linked so intimately to who you are -- your identity as a woman, your plans for the future, your place in the world--that walking away feels like a complete reversal of who you think you are and who you planned to be." 
- "The problem with hope is that it can become a heavy weight that you carry around with you everywhere you go, and if you don't set it aside, it's going to stop you from truly moving on and healing." 
- "But what is the price of persistence? When pursing a dream affects your health, relationships, or lifestyle, it's not sustainable." 
And this one, that I struggle with as I tend to worry too much about what other people think:
"Remember, this is a very personal journey that's different for everyone, and even though others might believe that if you just keep going you'll get what you want, only you can know when you've taken all you can take." 

This book is taking me a very long time to get through, but that's okay. I am used to reading books on infertility treatments, or dealing with emotions associated with infertility, or adoption, or adoptee experiences, or memoirs about people who have done all these things, and I move pretty quickly through them. I am a fast reader. But this is not that kind of book. The journal prompts are every five paragraphs it seems, and they really require a lot of thought and emotional energy. I could read it without the prompts, but I am a rule follower and I feel it's helpful and so to do the work as prescribed is the right way to go through it. I mean, is this really the kind of thing I'd want to slam through anyway? It's just hard sometimes. I can do at most three journal entries in a day, and then I need a day's space to recoup my emotional energies. The last one I did was, "What have you lost?" and that one was very, very hard especially because we are not quite done yet. We just have a date where we will be. And that date is soon.

Someone asked me if this was the kind of hard emotional work I should be doing at this time. The answer is yes. So much of my breakdown (or meltdown as my new therapist prefers to call it) centered on feeling like I CAN'T DO THIS ANYMORE, I AM NOT OKAY, I CANNOT PRETEND TO BE OKAY WHEN I AM UNDER ALL THIS GRIEF AND UNCERTAINTY. So, feeling like I am making a thoughtful decision, that I am working through everything to make sure that I feel peaceful(ish) with this turn of events and probable transition, that's good work when you don't have to be a functional human anywhere else.

Garden Work
Remember when I said that my disheveled gardens looked like my insides felt? Well, not so much anymore. I got out in the dirt over break and cleaned up several beds. I weeded like a lunatic yesterday (and my neck, shoulder, and low back is real pissed at me for it today, man it stinks to be 40) and got rid of a wheelbarrow-full of marsh marigold, wild strawberry vines, and violets that were choking things out. I rage-pruned the liriope (lilyturf) around the blueberry bushes. Everything looks so much better.

See ya, invasive weeds! 

This bed was FULL of marsh marigolds. Now, just hostas and forget-me-nots. And lots of space to plant new things!

The forget-me-nots by the chimney are blooming first, probably a radiant heat differential from the bricks. That is the nerdiest sentence I may have ever written. But aren't they cheerful? 

Admitting We Can't Do It All
So, Bryce has wanted to get a landscaping service in for a year now, because last year he just couldn't keep up with the lawncare and with starting his PhD coursework and just everything feeling so fucking overwhelming over the last year, he was at his wits' end. Our fall cleanup was pretty dismal (not helped by a heavy snow in November) and the spring state of the gardens and the yard was just causing a lot of stress. But I struggle, because the garden is MY thing. Sure, mow the lawn, but shouldn't I be the one weeding and cleaning up and doing all that stuff? Especially since I don't work in the summer and that's sort of my job? Well, I admitted that I can't keep up either and it was making me feel worse that everything looked crappy. Although this week I did get out and do a lot of clean up myself, we hired our snow plow guy to be our lawn-mowing, leaf-blowing, bed-edging, mulching guy too. And the cleanup was AMAZING. He is also interested in more natural, organic gardening and upkeep, and he respected that my Virginia bluebells were already up and those things are one of my favorites but also SO FRAGILE and rip if you blink at them...and he managed to get all the leaves and detritus with barely any damage. Then I met with the gardening lady he works with, who apparently works with several houses in our neighborhood (and here I thought everyone did it themselves), and she is going to do pruning, which I suck at, and divide the irises, and move some misplaced shrubs about. She also does consulting stuff, so I can work with her and she can show me how to do things at the right times and if I work alongside her it's cheaper because we split labor. She was super nice and said I had a lot of cool stuff and had great suggestions for areas where I need to put new things in. 

It was hard to let go of control in this area. I felt like if I didn't do it all myself, it was cheating. But like I told the gardener lady, I can do more in the summer. When school is in session, I just can't get to everything the way I'd like to and so I do need help so I can concentrate on new plantings and windowboxes and containers too and not so much on the other stuff. Except weeding. Despite the hell it wreaks on my body, I really love weeding. It is so satisfying to see a bed full of weeds and then see the wheelbarrow full of your work and the nice clear beds, the plants breathing a sigh of relief that you've removed the stranglers from their roots. I like that work. But it's okay to get help. And they both know that my snake buddy is my friend, so I am not worried about that. 


Bluebells further in bloom
Bluebells right in the middle

Fixing Furniture Problems
One of my plans for not feeling so stagnant was to buy new living room furniture. To get rid of the loveseat and fake-loveseat/bench ottoman setup that we currently have, and get some grown-up furniture that fits the scale of our living room. 

See what I mean about faking seating with the ottoman? Everything is so big and this space is so tight. It's nice, but that loveseat takes up way too much real estate to really only seat two people. Time to go! 
So we went to a local place that sells furniture among other wonderful things, and we found a couch that was perfect. Also two upholstered chairs that are cozy and curl-up-able but not so huge in size. The couch will arrive this week, the chairs unfortunately not for another 8-10 weeks because they only had one in the fabric we wanted and I wanted them to match (they don't match the couch exactly, they are both neutral but the chairs have a herringbone pattern and are a bit darker wheat color not dissimilar from the loveseat we have). We can mix things up with accent pillows. But not ones with words on them. Holy hell, the store was filled with pillows that said things like "Happily Ever After" and "Love Me Always" and "HAPPY HOME."  I put my ass right on that "Happily Ever After" pillow. 

I'm hoping that between these things, maybe little square ottomans with pillow storage inside and a more streamlined coffee table, maybe I can finally host bookclub or have a jewelry lady party. Maybe our living room won't feel quite so hobbitty. I hope the layout I have planned works out, because I am spatially challenged and realized when we got home that the measurement of the couch was for the space designated for the chairs... whoops. I think we can make it work. We will make it work and it will be awesome. 

Emotionally Hard Organization Work With That Coffee Table
So, that coffee table? See the three leather(ette I think) boxes under it? Those are were full of all kinds of emotional bombs. On the side you can't see there are stacks of magazines. I have been avoiding cleaning out those baskets for a very, very long time, particularly the one all the way to the left. 

I have been coloring on top of the sum total of my fertility journey. That box/drawer/basket contains all the pictures I have of embryos. All the surgical pictures. All the protocol sheets I saved, all the bills for tax purposes and FSA purposes, informational sheets, the four notebooks full of notes on doctor's appointments, decision trees, and journals dedicated to daily journaling about each cycle. TWO FILLED JOURNALS OF CYCLE NOTES FROM ALL THOSE IVF CYCLES WE DID. Every card, flower delivery card, amazon gift note, or invoice from a gift or condolence gesture we ever received for our losses or canceled cycles. And at the very bottom, every hospital bracelet I ever wore for a procedure related to IVF, be it a retrieval, a hysteroscopy, the laparoscopy to remove my ectopic pregnancy and tube, or transfer. 

It's a lot of grief in that box. And I wanted it close to our daily life for some reason. I have a friend, who I met through a mutual connection and who is in an adoption journey herself, and the first time we met in person was at a craft store because she wanted to help me figure out how to finagle that stuff in a healthier way, where I could corral it and honor it in a scrapbook maybe and then put it somewhere where I could see it if I wanted to but it wasn't so central to daily living. I never did it. 

Well, she is going to be so stinking proud of me because since we need to move all the furniture for the couch delivery to happen, we had to empty that coffee table, and I bought a pretty butterfly box and I put everything in an organized way into it and then put it out of the way: 

Look how organized and put away that is. 

Such a pretty box for such an emotional bomb. 
Except, I did throw something out, and it was a huge step for me: 

Why on earth do I need to keep these? NOTHING good happened while I was wearing these. Adios, strange grief relics. I release you to the landfill. 
It was sad in a weird way to drop them all in the trash, and then I tied that sucker up and threw it in the bin outside so there was no panicky grabbing them back, and then I felt so much lighter. It was like letting go of some of the weight of that journey, of what those procedures wrought on my poor body, and for no tangible result. So I release them. And with them, a little weight from my grief. 

I was proud of myself for not going through all the things when I put it in the box. I just organized what went there and then put it in the nook behind the glider, for now. There's room for more stuff to go into the box if I so choose, but for now it's encapsulated and out of our daily living space. 

Also, these were in the far right drawer and on the other side: 

This is easily three years of this publication.
I have had a subscription to this magazine for no joke, five years. It was a hopeful thing in the mailbox. Until it wasn't anymore. I have razored so many pages from it that my Baby Binder is in need of a possible second volume, and when I got to that point and didn't feel any closer to an actual baby for whom to use it all as a reference...I stopped razoring. I stopped reading it. It was just too painful. And I sure didn't want to set up a second Baby Binder for a mythical baby. But they kept coming. And I felt it was a bad omen to stop the subscription, even though YOU CAN TOTALLY START A NEW SUBSCRIPTION FOR JUST AS CHEAP WHEN A BABY ARRIVES. 

So when the one on top came, and I saw that adorable little girl and could envision her as mine, in some reality where we got chosen, it was too much. It was Good Friday and I was exhausted and it was the last straw. I just thought, WHY AM I DOING THIS TO MYSELF EVERY MONTH? and then I realized how easy it is to cancel the subscription online and I wondered why I'd held myself hostage for so long like this was the most insurmountable task ever. But I did it, and now I won't get them anymore unless I actually need them. In the meantime, I need to find a place for them -- what are some places where you can donate two to three years of a magazine like that? I feel like just recycling them is a waste. However, I don't want them in my house for much longer. Thoughts? 

So that, my friends, is pretty considerable progress. We even went out to dinner both Friday and Saturday night (Mexican Friday, German Saturday) and I did not feel overwhelmed or overly sad. We are working our way through our decision making process, which is really decision made and just waiting to see what happens between now and then. It's exhausting making all this progress. But I'm proud nonetheless. It is so wonderful to feel lighter. To feel less weighed down. To feel like I've smashed the mask. Sometimes I find myself crafting a new one, and I think I'll always struggle with that. If I just keep smashing it, it will be okay. It is hard to realize that, to paraphrase a meme a friend posted on social media, my rockbottom had a basement. But now I'm climbing back up, and hopefully no matter what life will be a much brighter place for it.