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

Monday, July 24, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Reclaiming The Butterflies

Remember this picture, so full of hope, so full of the happiness and promise of a future that never came to pass?


That is a beautiful park that is hidden away, next to and behind a volunteer firefighter station, and it's filled with butterflies of all different kinds and meadows and a pretty little stream.

And we haven't gone there since that day, because it reminded us too much of celebrating the hope and happiness that came to such a crashing halt; it reminded us that we never, ever felt quite that same way again.

Until this past weekend. We went yesterday for the first time in FIVE YEARS and made an agreement that once we left the car we wouldn't talk about adoption or our family building disaster AT ALL.

And, amazingly, we didn't.

We talked about our trip to California that is nearly upon us, we talked about the peace and quiet of the place, we pointed out tiny peepers and little snake friends and all kinds of monarchs and swallowtails and frittilaries and other as-of-yet-unidentified-by-me butterflies. I've seen so many monarchs this summer, many more than last year, and it gives me hope as I have come to identify with those beautiful fluttering transformative insects.

We took a picture, not quite in the same spot, but I think we look pretty happy and at peace.



It feels good to reclaim this space for us, to start eliminating (or at least alleviating) the dark spots of trauma and memory and replace them with new happy experiences in our new reality.

Be like a butterfly. Emerge from the goo a beautiful, soaring, fluttery thing. 

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

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Important Thing Is to Get Up

I am incredibly sad today. Like, deep pit sad. Tight ball of grief in my chest, tears in my eyes (no Up required), unsure how to move on with my day sad.

I went to visit my best friend for a few days, but that's not why I'm sad. Mostly.

I left on Sunday, much later than I'd hoped (3:30ish instead of 1:30-2:00) because I was slow-moving and...sad. I haven't seen my friend since all things April, and her life is just so vastly different from mine. The three children probably have something to do with that: the exhausting hustle and bustle and chaos that fills her life and will never, ever fill mine. The contrast between the quiet and order of our little house and the beautiful cacophony and entropy of hers is always hard, but I was worried it would be harder now. Plus they are going on a beautiful Maine vacation up to Acadia, and I was putting together things to bring down and show them that were put together for us by my mother-in-law before I went for the first time in 2009, and that suddenly filled me with a dense gray fog because I realized I was going to help plan a trip that we'd hoped to do with our child someday, that I'd be sharing all the awesome places to go, the must-sees, the family-friendly hikes and activities...and we won't get to share that with our own child. It made me incredibly sad.

I feel like the past few weeks have been reminders of all the things I don't know what to do with -- sorting through picture books and keeping a whole bunch, but wondering...why? Who am I going to share them with? Who am I going to page through my tattered copy of The Little Ballerina with, a book from the 50s that was my mother's and is about a girl with weak legs who takes ballet lessons as therapy and then (totally believably) becomes the Sugar Plum Fairy in the recital, complete with toe shoes? Me myself and I, that's who.

(c) 1958

I'd probably be the awkward bee in the back

Maybe children who come visit. Will they care that this book mattered so much to me because I had weak ankles and took figure skating lessons to help as a little girl? That I could totally relate to Carol, although not the part where she becomes the star of the show because Grace is certainly not my middle name?

Then there's the Harry Potter books. I've read them all, multiple times, but Bryce never has. You know why? He was saving them to read with our child. I guess we'll read them together now, we talked about doing it as a Luddite Night activity come winter, but it's a sad thing to see the traditions you'd hoped you'd share with your own children become couple traditions that won't get passed on. I mean, happy that we can have couple traditions and share time with each other in this way, that is certainly special, but not the same as what we'd envisioned that's now gone.

I'm feeling the grief hard today.

My best friend said that it seems I've been spending a lot of time on the floor. Some of it is for physical comfort -- to lie on my back on the floor and do some spinal twists really helps give relief to my lower back/hips that are really bothering me lately. But I think she was talking about the facedown floor time.


She sort of has a point. I had a day where it took me the better part of an hour to get up off the floor. This day was when I found out that my friend was placed with a last-minute baby within days of me telling her about how we'd made our decision.

I went for a walk, but then after the walk...

Same pose, different floor.
The floor is very inviting.

I had a great time visiting with my best friend and her kooky family. The kids were loads of fun, and there were good times all around. I have no pictures of me with her kids, probably because I don't have to worry about putting them in a book that will entice someone to place their baby with me to parent. I enjoyed the experience, and didn't worry about having photographic evidence (which is always nice, but I'm sure there will be plenty of times in the future to take more pictures with those goofballs).

I survived the youngest, a 6-year-old girl, asking me about my "baby bag" (I use my diaper bag as a weekend travel bag because lots of pockets and it's quite nice), asking why I don't have a baby, asking if I'm a mother, asking why I'm not a mother... I was okay. I survived the Table Talk question card that asked "If you could live with any other family than yours, who would you live with?" and they all said "Jessica and Rice!" (They call Bryce Rice, and now Rice Pudding apparently. I can't say "Bryce" because they'll say, "Don't you mean RIIIICE?") Which was lovely, but also sad.

And then after a few fun days of child fun in the morning and evenings and adult fun while they were at camp (shopping, walking, and lunch in Rheinbeck! Climbing Mount Beacon! Lunch near Vassar! Sweaty morning hike in Locust Grove on the Hudson! A walk around the grounds at Hyde Park!), I drove home to my quiet house.

But it's MY quiet house with MY love and MY cats, and I was glad to be home and hug Bryce (aka Rice Pudding, a nickname he's not so sure about) and pet the kitties and go for a pre-dinner walk with the anticipation of delicious margaritas to follow.

And then at the end of the walk we ran into neighbors who'd been in the adoption process for four years, and they were pushing a stroller.

Because they were placed with their daughter through a different agency a month ago, the last week of school.

What the fuck, Universe? Are you TRYING to test the confidence in our decision? Are you TRYING to torture me with all the What Ifs and my sordid brain saying "oh, everyone who knows you and these other people are going to think you're a loser who gave up too soon, just look at what happens when you stick with it!" We couldn't have MISSED that interaction by even 5 minutes?

It put us both in a bit of a funk. I went over and said hi and was introduced to the beautiful little girl, and Bryce was just fuming that the timing put our paths together on this night where we should have been in a great mood, doing a little trip planning and snuggling up on the couch.

Instead we were both incredibly sad and ordered pizza and had one too many margaritas.

We are confident in our decision. It was the right one for us. But even Bryce said that these moments do make a body wonder if our decisions leading up to this were the right ones. Those pesky What-Ifs are a freaking plague. What if we'd started the process earlier? What if we'd gotten a second opinion earlier and gone to a different clinic and just gotten pregnant? What if we'd chosen a different agency? Did we make the wrong choices that led up to where we are now? I mean, so much of everything was a choice that I NEVER WANTED TO MAKE. I didn't ask to be put in these situations, in these circumstances that lead to one path or another. I do not regret our decision, which is good because I sure as hell am not going out to buy more baby gear so we could give it a go with another agency. We. Have. Had. Enough.

But these moments, so close together, sure as shit make you question things for a nanosecond before reverting back to the "OUR SITUATION IS DIFFERENT. We are NOT wearing the same shoes. I am NOT weak. I am NOT a quitter." mantra that is getting me through these things.

I am going to go for a walk so that I can reset myself today. I spent some time on the floor, mostly on my back (but a little with my face in the carpet, I'll admit it). The important thing is to GET UP. I think there's absolutely nothing wrong with sinking into the floor when it seems that cosmic forces effing hate you. But get up. Go for a walk. Do something to clear the fog away.

That's my plan, anyway (cue monster thunderstorm rumbles thwarting my plan...guess I'll walk up and down the street like a lunatic until it starts to feel too dangerous. Sigh).

Update: Totally thwarted by thunderstorms and heavy rain. Stopped now though, so three hours later maybe I can go for a bit of a walk before errands. Thank goodness for the hula hoop.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

I Held A New Baby Yesterday

Count this among small victories, even though I suspect I was trying to prove to myself that I'm amazingly okay (while I am okay, I am not quite THAT well adjusted that it didn't put me in a bit of a funk).

I went to visit my friend who was recently placed with the very last minute baby yesterday. I brought over two bags of gifts, one that was not wrapped in tissue paper that was stuff I had from before that I hadn't earmarked for someone else's eventual success, and one that was adorable books and a monster/alien onesie set for later, definitely wrapped in tissue paper and in the cuter bag. I also brought lunch over, because I figured they couldn't get out much since bringing their son home just over a week ago.

I knew that it was going to be hard, but I was also determined to not cry or need to leave. My friend was super sensitive, texting me every day to let me know that it was okay if I couldn't come, if it was too much, that even if I needed to cancel last minute it was okay, she got it.

I came in and immediately washed my hands. I got lots of kudos for that, because people don't always do that and he spent some time in the NICU and is really tiny, so that was lovely. I do all the right things, apparently. Lot of good it does me, but I'm glad it works well for everyone else's babies.

I ate my salad while I heard the story of how this tiny bean became theirs to parent, I focused a lot on that salad while that evil bitch in my head tried to push me into my dark pit by saying things like, "That could have been you" and "See? Wait long enough and it WILL happen." A part of the story is that it was between my friend and her husband and another couple, and both met the birth parents in person before the decision was made. How stressful that was, and how glorious it was when they were chosen, how unbelievable, how amazing.

As I held her baby, that tiny mini human who curled up in a little fetal ball on my chest and rested his tiny hedgehog-snuffling-noise-making head on my right boob, I felt so peaceful. I mean, I felt sad, too, because holding him as he slept and realizing I was making little rocking motions with my arms without even thinking about it, it just felt so freaking instinctual and also so very unfair that this is never, ever, going to be for me. That I will always be holding someone else's baby, never my own. But I don't ever want to stop holding babies. There was a part of me that when she said "do you want to hold him?" questioned whether it was a good idea, what with the timing of things and me being in a bit of a funk lately, but apparently my face said "HELL YEAH I want to hold that baby!" and honestly I really, really wanted that bundle of sweetness in my arms.

What helped me so much in not feeling bitter, in not beating myself up (too much) was imagining that other couple.

It might seem weird, because my friend is the one who was chosen, they are the ones who finally have this amazing happy moment. All the years of striving for this parenthood genesis have FINALLY come to blissful fruition in a surreal moment of "We choose you." It is easy to be like, "Wow, amazing, I can't imagine the crazy emotions of that moment when you realized you'd be a parent, for real!"

However, I can actually more easily imagine what it felt like to be the other couple, the runners up who did not get in their car wondering how they could install a car seat in it properly by the next day to pick up the baby. Who weren't driving home chatting a mile a minute about all the things they had to do to prepare, all the things they needed to assemble, how and when they were going to tell people this news. Maybe the ride to the agency was filled with those things, the What If dreams of those things, but only one couple got to leave full of the actual amazing anticipation of a tomorrow that would end the quest for parenthood. And it wasn't them. Their dreams died. I can imagine so clearly the trying not to cry as a social worker broke the news that someone else was chosen, that hopefully there'd be another profile opportunity soon. I can see the slow walk to the car, the sitting in a stunned silence until gasping, animal sobs escape and two people in the front become this many-armed figure of grief and comfort where there isn't much to be had. The drive back to a house that may or may not have had a nursery set up or things hastily gathered in a corner of a room, just in case...but that won't be used, not this time. The feeling of "What's wrong with US? Is this EVER going to happen?" and the devastation of a close call, so close that you can sort of imagine the child that could have been yours from the feature of his biological parents you just met but didn't click with enough to be chosen.

I can imagine what a situation like that would do to me, personally, and know that I didn't make a bad choice. I am not a "quitter." My situation is different from everyone else's, and so many factors go into all the ways things can go. As Bryce said later, that sort of situation would have undone me completely.

So I held that baby and tried so hard to be kind to myself.

It was interesting to see how people had already showered them with gifts, even just a week and a half in. People from the yoga class where we met had come to visit and brought handmade toys (a crocheted owl one stabbed me a bit) and every last one of them was successful. This friend was the last one still at it with me who I'd known throughout the journey, and now I am alone in leaving adoption, in ending this journey with a beautiful study instead of a nursery. Obviously these are two very different things, but I couldn't help but think about how lonely it was to have my breakdown, to hit my ENOUGH with such spectacular velocity that I was shattered goo on the floor, and how no one makes welcoming signs for that or showers you with prizes or says "Welcome to the club!" I mean, part of it is that having a baby is such a celebration, and finding yourself dangling from threads at the end of your rope is...uncomfortable, and messy, and very, very sad. It was lonely because I kept it that way, to some extent -- I was open here and had so much support from you lovely people, but I kept it super quiet otherwise while I was going through everything. There are lots of people who don't even know why we stopped, who might (maybe) wonder, "What HAPPENED?" I isolated myself in my grief and my loss and my anxiety and brokenness, and slowly let people in. Probably out of self-preservation to some extent. Almost in a parallel to expecting a baby and keeping your names a secret -- if you tell people before its final they have opinions, better to tell when the decision's been made. Which is why I didn't rip my bandaids off until our nursery was gone. It was irrevocable. Final. We had thought through everything clearly, and then acted so that it was decisive. No wavering here.

Apparently the yoga group has a facebook page for "Graduates." Apparently the person who runs it added my friend to the group and sort of announced her adoption on the Graduates page (which would have driven me crazy, because she didn't think she was going to do that and so didn't give express permission).

Let me tell you how I feel about this idea of "Yay, Graduates!" This was actually one of the parts of my unraveling in April. I eventually hid the facebook profile of the woman who runs the yoga because there was a photo shoot of a group of women who were the "recent graduates from fertility yoga" -- with something like, "They fought through hell together and so are uniquely prepared to be amazing mamas together!" This idea of "graduates" makes it seem like the logical next step in all this is a baby. And if you happen to not be successful, well, then I guess then you'd have to be a dropout. And that's what cycled in my head, my troubled Prednisone-marinated April head, over and over -- "DROPOUT DROPOUT FAILURE FAILURE!" I didn't make it to graduation. And it made me so mad, because I AM NOT ALONE HERE, and while this tactic may be great if you are successful, or if you are looking for a reason to do your 4th or 7th or 10th IVF cycle and just keep going and NEVER NEVER GIVE UP, I guess it would be inspirational, but for those of us who didn't make it to parenthood? It feels really awful. It feels like, "See? They did all the right things and they MADE IT and they're going to be GREAT MOMS because of it, because they STUCK WITH IT." It's like an avatar for the nasty voice in my head. So this idea that my friend has become a graduate at around the same time I flunked out, and that all these success stories just rally around and bask in the amazingness of it all...it got to me. Not in a way that makes me upset whatsoever with my friend, but in a way that makes me feel like I took a wrong turn somehow and I am being silently judged, or am a tragic yet slightly shameful sob story told in hushed tones while everyone is admiring each other's baby pictures. It reminded me so much of Mali's amazing "Infertility's Waiting Room" post, in the flesh...the surface parts. We all went through one of those doors, but I'm the only one who went through the door no one wants to speak of.

I know it's irrational, to a point. But it was painful. And I spent so much time making myself look okay, for them and myself. I did flinch when the whole Graduate thing was mentioned, because that bothers me so much, but otherwise it was looked fine. My arm smelled like baby for an hour. I drove home and a friend came to pick up a folding banquet table for her garage sale, and then when she was gone I sat and stared and then ate some buffalo cheese dip and those damn tears would not come.

So I went to my go-to "Make the rock cry" trigger -- I brought up the montage from UP on youtube and watched that super realistic portrayal of depression and grief after loss and then a readjustment, although one that didn't quite turn out the way they'd hoped. And then I started to cry when she stumbles up the hill and gets sick, because in my head I went in this dark spiral of "oh no, that's going to be me -- I did too many IVF cycles and I'm going to die of some related cancer before we get the chance to fulfill all our dreams and Bryce will be left alone and crabby and not wanting to deal with life anymore." WHAT. THE. HELL. So, the UP montage was probably ill-conceived. But I did cry a little bit, so it did its job.

Then I read and organized up in my study and I read a little bit of Living the Life Unexpected and I made a killer white chicken chili for dinner. So I occupied my thoughts with what I can do, rather than what is lost to me.

I think this is the balance I have to find...honoring the pain of the losses, the cumulative ball of grief yarn that has wound its way through our journey, but then finding a way to continue on, to pick myself up after I have a good cry and focus on something productive. To sit with my sadness, and then move towards something a little more positive than an oppressive pile of "could have beens." It's not. It won't ever be. And that's sad, but the "what ifs" can whirl until I'm hardly recognizable in the flurry of guilt and self-doubt...which isn't healthy.

I'm glad I visited my friend and her new family. I'm glad I held that sweet tiny baby. I'm glad I could be sad but not fall down the pit again. I'm so glad that I have this beautiful space to retreat to, to surround myself with beautiful things and cozy nooks to heal my bruised soul. And I'm so, so glad that I have you with me on this journey, that I'm not actually as alone as I feel sometimes.

Monday, July 10, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Little Stabby Moments

Obviously, there are many, many stab-through-the-heart-and-pin-you-to-the-floor moments when you decide you've banged your forehead up against a phantom wall more than enough times and it's clear that you are going to resolve your journey childfree. Moments like packing up the nursery, having a friend get "the call" from the same agency you used right after you tell her you're done, having to tell people your news and answer questions over, and over, and over.

But, I'm finding that it's the little ones that can get you over time, as we make our way through this odd period where the decision has been made, the nursery has been fully transformed into my lovely office space (I feel like "office" is too sterile for my cozy corner of happiness so maybe I should call it my "study" instead, unless that sounds too foo-foo-y?), we've told the vast majority of the people who we come into contact with regularly, we've planned most of our glorious California honeymoon trip (what's that about wildfires? La la la, I can't hear you), and we are settling into our house in its new identity as a cozy haven for two people who love each other very much.

Things like:

- Discussing our decision in June while walking down a street that is QUITE LITERALLY A PARADE of parents and small children headed to our local elementary school for an "open house and ice cream social" held by the art & music departments. Oh hey, Universe, way to showcase everything we won't have in a march of "nyah, nyah" that went on for, no joke, 20 minutes.

- Having every single freaking Friday we go to our favorite Mexican restaurant feel like Daddy-Daughter day, with a cute father and little girl combo sitting at a table directly behind me so Bryce has to watch it the whole time we eat (and drink those blessed margaritas). The sour part of me likes to pretend it's a custody thing so it's not quite so sad for us (although sadder for them). It's heartbreaking to see Bryce try not to notice, but still the feelings show up on his face when he thinks I'm not looking.

- The other day when we went for a walk in a local plaza mall and there was a man outside one of the stores with a toddler grabbing onto his knees/shins and giggling hysterically, and re-realizing that's never going to be Bryce.

- When Bryce was asked by a new coworker why he got his sportscar in a compact SUV version instead of a two-door jazzier model (he is much better at not explaining than me and said, "I just like this one" instead of "Because I needed something I could put a carseat in the backseat and a stroller in the back, which I don't need anymore.")

- When someone well-meaning tells me that I'm not that old, that I'm the age she was when she had her second son, that anything is possible, and I have to explain (or choose to) that actually it's not possible as I'm missing vital parts of my reproductive system now and that is actually okay by me. (I really feel for friends who are in their 30s and in this similar boat, because you must hear this ALL THE TIME. I hope at some point people stop asking or talking about miracles, but they still do it for Jennifer Aniston so I guess that just goes on until you're clearly menopausal, or maybe Betty White?)

Sigh. Tinier stabs are passing the baby aisle in Target and realizing that I never got the chance to buy that elephant version of the Sophie teether thing, which is probably a good thing because it was EXPENSIVE, but for some reason seeing that gets me more than "Mommy's Little Patriot" seasonal onesies or whatever else is further down the aisle I refuse to torture myself with at this point.

We'll survive these little stabby moments. I'm just proud I'm no longer reduced to a hyperventilating, pulse-racing mess when they happen (anymore).

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

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Buh-Bye, Triggering Book

I am not quite a hoarder, but I like to hang on to things. Inexplicable things, like the assembly instructions for furniture long since assembled (a meta moment discovered when I found the extra hardware and assembly instructions for a filing cabinet in a file IN said filing cabinet), those little notepads that you get from various charities that have about 24 sheets to them, every single address label ever sent, coupons for things I don't even buy, business cards that have long since (if they ever had it) lost their usefulness, spent candles I can't bear to throw out because there's still a tiny bit of wax in it and/or the container is pretty.

Some things I keep for sentimental value or because they have memories that make me laugh, like every card Bryce has ever given me, some notes on pieces of envelopes from early in our relationship (or frankly, last week), every notebook I've ever written in (an old notebook tells a hell of a story! Amazing what you remember from old to-do lists), a business card from, no joke, an Australian Elvis impersonator who hit on me while in the JetBlue terminal, flight delayed after visiting friends in NYC during my first month or so of dating Bryce, every card a student has ever given me, dried (dusty) spray roses from a rare Bryce bouquet sitting in a bowl.

In the midst of the healing purge post-childfree-resolution-decision, I've gotten better at throwing out or recycling or donating things like the spent candles, clothing that no longer fits me (some things I held onto forever, but I think if the time comes when that stuff fits me again I'll go on a clothing spree, or hell will freeze over, one of the two), assembly booklets for old furniture that will clearly fit through our doors, old catalogs and PEOPLE magazines, and books I don't need to hang onto anymore.

That's the hard one, the books. Except for one I found in a pile of books in my bedside table, Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness. That one I am donating, because it's been five years since I set it aside and I honestly don't think I'll pick it up again.




It's funny, because I loved A Discovery of Witches. I thought it was compelling, and romantic, and historical, and supernatural...all good things. And then, the second book came out.

It was all going great until the main character got pregnant, and she time traveled while six weeks pregnant, despite all the (apparent) risks of time traveling in such a condition, and, I don't think this is a spoiler because it's in the first 10th of the book, EVERYTHING IS FINE. At least to the part where I quit reading.

You see, I was reading it while on futile bed rest for my own pregnancy, which I LOST at six weeks and change, despite having the good sense not to time travel.

It seemed so hideously unfair that here I was, diligently lying on the (old) couch with a pillow beneath my butt to try to stop something unstoppable, having done all the things I was supposed to do, having drank all the wheatgrass juice and eaten all the pineapple core and avoided raising my heart rate too much and giving up hot baths and Friday margaritas for months before...and still MY little nugget was gone and this fictional lady's fictional pregnancy sustained TIME TRAVEL to the 1600s where "MEDICAL CARE" consisted of LEECHES and RAZORBLADES.

It filled me with fury.

So it's a little weird that I hung onto it for so long, thinking maybe I'd finish it when everything panned out for us. I bet it's good, I bet I'm missing out.

But it's going in the library donation pile, in all its pristine hardcover glory. Feckless time traveling wench. So unfair. I don't feel bad at all for letting this one go in the purge.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Un-Nesting

It was hard to nest for a baby that technically didn't exist yet, but we did it, not quite completely but close. We had a beautiful nursery. We had all kinds of gear at the ready. We hadn't quite set up the bookshelves as closet space yet, but we were confident we'd figure it out when the time seemed closer or had actually arrived.

It was more than a little bizarre to then just tear it all down; to in the course of a few heartrending days pack everything up and move it first to the back storage room and then to the living room so someone else could pick it all up and put it to use with people who really, really need it.

It was a process of un-nesting, and then building back up a nest of a different sort, a different nest, an Un-Nest. Making our house into something that reflects who we are, not who we'd hoped to be. Rethinking the purpose of that little room and moving quickly to transform it.

Some may have thought perhaps we were rushing through this transformation, but I can tell you that this un-nesting has been completely vital to my healing process. If that little room is now going to be my office, I needed it to look like a totally different space AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. I needed to eradicate the ghost of the changing pad on the dresser, of the crib, of all the hopes that rested in that sweet, sweet space of possibility. And if eradication was foolishly naive of me, than I would at least weaken the ectoplasm down to a tiny flicker of a ghost.

We ordered the desk over Memorial Day, so that it would arrive pretty soon after everything was taken out. I ordered my chaise lounge around the same time, and that came first. I got a sweet sculptural lamp for the side table that was first bought for the guest room this once was, and then I had one more piece to go in order to complete the space, furniture-wise at least.

This piece was the most important, because the space that was left empty was where the crib used to be. I couldn't truly relax in here when the ghost of that crib in that space haunted me so. I found a closed storage cabinet, a sideboard, at our favorite furniture and home decor store, Windsor Cottage, but it was a little on the pricey side (as was the beautiful lamp, also from Windsor Cottage) so I didn't buy it right away.

But it was PERFECT.

It had doors with a shelf inside, and three drawers. My plan is to bring my crafting stuff upstairs from the basement (hopefully sans the giant hairy wolf spiders that have been known to seek shelter in my craft supplies, shudder) and get a square card table that I can slide behind the sideboard to take out and use when I want to wrap things, or make cards or gift tags, or whatever. I have a boatload of rubber stamps that are in a state of disarray and neglect in the basement (possibly because of the chance of spider encounters, which are honestly so far and few between but traumatizing!), and getting them up here will give new life and also force me to reevaluate my supplies and get rid of things I don't need or use. This sideboard had plenty of space for all my stuff and was the perfect length and height for that spot in my tiny 90 square foot room. It was super well built and substantial. But it was also not exactly summer-budget friendly -- a price that I'd be fine with in February or March maybe, but not when my next paycheck doesn't come until September 15th. And Bryce just bought all our glorious sofas and chairs (hey, also from Windsor Cottage) and the trip so far, even though that's coming from adoption money saved up it still precluded some help monetarily. And I wanted to buy it myself.

We went on a search to see if we could find something similar elsewhere for less, but everything just wasn't right. It was either a little banged up, or too big, or had weird details like mirrors set into the doors (ew). Nothing was the same quality. Nothing stood up to the sideboard I'd spotted weeks ago.

Here it is, in the store when I first saw it.

And so, yesterday, I decided that the price was worth the quality and my vision of the new space, and I bought it. I will forego other things in order to pay for this beautiful piece, because it is simply like it was meant to go in this space. It was also a minor miracle that it was still there, because Windsor Cottage turns merchandise over rapidly and things are often here today, gone tomorrow, with their displays miraculously filled in with new things as if the sold item never existed. But that sideboard was there for me, yesterday, AND it fit in my car. Meant. To. Be. It is the only thing that I have bought in this un-nesting process that turned out EXACTLY the way I envisioned it, from the start, without any tweaking.

We've bought a lot of furniture from this store recently, and the owner is just the sweetest person you can imagine. We love coming in there because she just exudes warmth and friendliness and genuine...goodness. She's always so appreciative of our business (and honestly, we are slowly furnishing our house in her wares). She was asking about the space when I bought the piece, and I shared that it was tiny, and it was my office. And then I shared that it was so important to me to get this last piece of furniture in there, because it was a nursery, and now...it's not. And then I felt like I had to explain that a bit because her face got so sad and so I felt I had to explain it wasn't a late pregnancy loss or a baby loss of a physical baby, but more of a metaphysical loss of a baby who didn't materialize before it all got to be too much. I don't know why I do that. It's a huge loss, even if I never felt a kick or met this baby. Maybe it's huge to me because of the fact that we never got to meet our baby, he/she only existed in our minds, hearts, and hopes for what could have been a life as a family of three. There was so much possibility that brewed and fermented for so long and now has just dissipated in a fog of hollow sadness.

But anyway, back to the room spaces.

I can't tell you how amazing it is to transform our home into OUR SPACE. I thought that maybe we would move immediately when everything went the way it did, that it would be too hard to live in this house that has seen so much heartbreak. This house that felt like it was closing in on us, without the space we needed. Well, a funny thing happened -- when we donated all of our baby gear and we reclaimed the nursery and the back storage room area and bought new couches and rearranged the living room because my office could go upstairs...well, then we had plenty of space. It's like getting a new house without the hassle of moving. We know not to make any hasty decisions during this time of fresh grief and mourning, but I am so very surprised that my urge to move and start over in a new house has abated, and the more we make over our spaces the more I'm like, "huh...I could live here for a while now."

Since we redid our kitchen between registering with our agency and our homestudy visits, I don't have countertops that have seen injection mixing or the pouring of rubbing alcohol on the surface to sterilize it.

Since we replaced our living room furniture, I don't have any couches that have seen butt-heating from PIO shots, or weeping over miscarriages or negative tests, or social workers sitting and talking with us about the complexities of adoption as we go through our homestudy and subsequent renewal. It looks very different from when we did our hopeful waiting adoption shoot.

Since I've filled the nursery with my office furniture and accessories, I don't have (too many) visions of what used to be there, of the spaces meant for reading on the floor or putting an infant to bed or changing a diaper and clothing a sweet tiny human in all the adorableness that we accumulated over the years. The only thing that remains is one corner of wall decals with lovebirds, because I do want a tiny reminder that once we had a nursery and the hopes that lay within it, but it speaks to our love for each other rather than the love we never got to share with Mystery Baby. I packed up the stuffed animals and remaining board books and onesies that were displayed or hidden in the room, and put them in a tub for later consideration. I left just a few board books up, ones that mean something. Maybe they will go too eventually, but I don't mind them there at this moment in time.

It's a transformation that's been incredibly hard, but also incredibly healing. I feel in a weird way like it's a hopeful thing, creating my beautiful office from the ashes of our beautiful nursery. I feel like everything is going to be like this -- creating something new from the ruins of what will never be. Using our love and hope and newfound spaces and resources to create all new possibilities, a future that's not what we planned but has so, so much potential.

Hopeful before

Horribly empty after

Ahhh, beautiful desk space! (See my mockingjay pin, stuck in a little hole in the wallboard above my laptop? Heh heh heh)

Hopeful before

Ahhh, bookspace (clearly need bookends on that bottom shelf)

Hopeful before, and the wall decals that were physically painful to tear off (no need to worry, the adorable owl rug is safe in my other reading nook with the glider in the hall dormer)

Ahhh, so many reading nooks! I love this chaise lounge

Unfinished, hot mess before... never quite finished this project of taking shelves out and making closet space

Ahhh! Not quite finished, but better. Oh the irony, I gave away so many books because I didn't have the space before... now I have empty shelves! For now, bwah ha ha ha
Cat in the crib, at least someone enjoyed it

Horrible empty space that lasted the longest

Ahhh! Isn't it BEAUTIFUL? Perfect!

A very different feel to this spot, even with the remnants of what once was, of what could have been.
I love spending time in this space now. Funny how that transformation that was so painful in the dismantling has become so healing in the putting-things-together-differently phase. The work just goes on and on, but not all of it is terrible. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Happy for You, Sad for Me (Again)

I was supposed to have lunch with a friend today, who is waiting in adoption with the same agency, and who I saw the other day as she stopped by to chat. We talked about how my announcement threw her for a loop, but that she understood, and it's so hard to be in that space of limbo, and how my health situations were scary, how hard everything can be when you are wearing that mask, what her difficulties have been in the past six months or so in particular.

I got a text over the weekend that maybe we'd need to reschedule our lunch, something had come up that needed working out. A part of me knew what that something was, in all likelihood.

Today she very sensitively told me that they were matched with a birthfamily over the weekend and they are going to pick up the baby who will be their son today, and that's why we can't have lunch.

I am a whirlwind of emotions. How many times can I be happy for someone else and sad for myself? AN INFINITE NUMBER OF TIMES.

The timing of this one is beyond everyone's control, obviously, but also particularly difficult, as I just had a heartfelt conversation about how we'd decided to leave adoption, I just announced our decision and accompanying loss to the electronic masses, and now someone who waited in adoption (at least the homestudy ready part) pretty much exactly the same amount of time as we did is ostensibly bringing their baby home today.

Logically I know to tell that nasty little voice in my head to shut the fuck up:
You didn't try hard enough
That could have been you if you just stayed in the game longer
Everyone is going to compare the success that comes when you accept that "waiting is the hardest part" and stick with it to you just crapping out and leaving before you had a chance to be successful, and you're going to look like a quitter
You simply weren't up for the task

But that voice is there, and while I know so much is bullshit, because every situation is different, every facet of our separate journeys that may look similar to an untrained eye made our roads fork in this way, it's still hard. I may have cried a fair amount this morning. I cried for my insecurities. I cried for the future I wanted so badly but will never be. I cried for the lost opportunity to parent, to have the life we keep seeing everywhere we go but that won't be for us, ever.

I am legitimately excited for my friend, and hope everything goes smoothly. I know that there are complexities and difficulties ahead for both of us in our separate journeys, and joys, too. While she is navigating relationships with birth parents and sleep deprivation and poopy diapers, we will be tasting wine in Napa and hiking Big Sur. I am choosing to think about that part more than the fact that she will be using her glider/rocker to snuggle with a sleepy, milk-scented baby boy while I use mine to escape through my summer reading list and snuggle with my...fish-smelling cat.

It's a hard balance, this happy-sad dichotomy. I am not any less confident in our decision, and I know that the little voice is the most unhelpful bitch ever. I know we did what was right for us. It's just so hard to see (and feel) this contrast at this particular moment in time.

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

Friday, June 30, 2017

Telling People Is Exhausting

Well, I ripped off the Facebook band-aid as well, on Wednesday. I have to say that I had absolutely no assvice, and people were so supportive and lovely. People came out of the woodwork who I don't know that well but knew marginally in high school, and were just amazing. People I just met in the past few years were also amazing. I feel the need to reply to every comment, which takes time and, because of the community we have around us, is extensive. I have received some private messages that are just beautiful, and some righteous fury on our behalf, fist-shaking at the universe. I am looking forward to the trickle of responses slowing to a drip and then nothing, and recouping from this. It's strangely (not so strangely) exhausting to have such an outpouring of support, to be in this loop of "this is where we are" and thanking people for their sadness, their anger, their thoughts of love and hope for the future.

I did make it pretty darn explicit about what would be helpful to say. One of my smartass friends who I love basically made her comment all of them, and then personalized. (It made me chuckle.)

Here it is, different in some ways from the school one, and longer, but with some things the same. I think mentioning the donation of our nursery really helps too with the assvice, because it makes it clear that this is irreversible, not a fluke, not a phase, but definitively: we are DONE.

I have always prided myself on putting everything out there on Facebook, of having an authentic presence that speaks to the joys and painful parts of life alike. I must confess though that when faced with one of the most difficult years of my life, I simply wasn't in a place to share my reality here. I continued being honest and raw on my blog, but filled my Facebook persona with flowers, family birthdays, teaching stuff, octopus pillows, and at times, absences. 

I am ready to share our reality publicly now, despite fears of judgment or comments that are often meant well but frankly hurt (which thankfully have been very few and far between in private sharing.) If you're searching for something to say, "I'm so sorry," "This sucks," "I'm here for you," and "I don't understand why these things happen" are all good options. 

We are no longer pursuing adoption. After nearly 8 years of trying for a baby, first medically and then through adoption, we hit our point of ENOUGH at great personal cost. After tremendous thought, conversation, and consideration we are resolving our journey childfree. We never imagined that our quest for parenthood would end without a child, but that is how this crappy cookie crumbled. 

We have so appreciated your love & support, and we ask you to abide with us as we venture out as a family of two -- our future different than we originally envisioned but so full of possibility, love, and happiness -- which helps us face this huge loss that we grieve deeply. 

Thank you to all who contributed to our nursery -- it was such a special, beautiful place of hope while it lasted. We donated everything to an organization that helps women who don't have support for unintended pregnancies -- our loss will be someone else's blessing and help another new family get a head start. 

Thank you so much and much love to you all. 

There. Done. Explicit, but not too explain-y. I stole words from you and your amazing advice. I am exhausted from living in this space so completely for a couple of days. Band-aids are ripped, I am oozy, but maybe getting this out there to almost everyone (may the grapevine do the rest until our holiday card comes out... heh heh heh what do with this one...) will start the turn from traumatized and raw to the beginnings of some scabbing over, the formulation of some wings in my gooey little chrysalis.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

How I Ripped Off the School Band-aid

I am pretty proud of myself for how I managed the email that I sent out to my school, informing the masses of the end of our quest for parenthood.

First, I sent it the day before the last day of school for teachers, mere minutes before we all went out to wave goodbye to the students leaving on buses and in cars. Heh heh heh, sneaky timing, as a lot of people leave right after that. This way, there'd be enough time to not drop a bomb and disappear in a poof of smoke, but not enough time that I'd have to deal with fallout for days. Just one day. Sneaky sneaky.

I decided to finally send my email after I found out that a few people had asked friends of mine this sort of thing: "Is it true that Jess isn't adopting anymore?" and so I thought, well, these are the ballsy people (but not ballsy enough to ask me directly, although one person did do that in the hall about two weeks ago)...how many people might be wondering and at what point am I comfortable being shady corner-of-the-stairwell gossip? Really, at no point am I good with being gossip fodder. Best that it comes from me, no matter what it is.

So, I sent it. And it looked like this, with the heading "Thank You [Name of My Middle School] Family:"

Hi [Name of my Middle School],

It has meant so much to me and to Bryce to have such an outpouring of support from everyone as we fought for nearly 8 years to have a family. We have been amazed by the love, empathy, and hugs we have received. 

This has been an incredibly difficult year, and as some of you may already know, after a great deal of thought and consideration we have ended our journey to expand our family. We never expected that our journey would end without a child. As we grieve this loss, we know that it is the right decision for us -- to let go of the life we envisioned and fought so hard for at great personal cost so that we can live the life we have built together despite all this adversity. 

I read a beautiful book about surviving loss, The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy, and in it she says, "Everyone doesn't get everything." We have so, so much, and while this is a terrible loss, we can celebrate everything we do have in each other. 

I am so lucky to teach here at [Name of my Middle School], to be a part of this family that takes care of each other we're down. I appreciate your love and support now as we move onward to this new, unexpected life adventure as a family of two. 

Thank you and much love, 
Jess and Bryce

PS - We thank everyone contributed to our nursery, which was such a special, beautiful place of hope while it lasted. We donated everything to an organization that helps women who don't have support for unintended pregnancies -- our loss will be someone else's blessing and help another new family get a head start.

Not bad, eh? I don't think I overshared (there is that ominous "great personal cost," and I still felt the need to slap a number of years onto our suffering, but whatever), and I think I made it pretty clear that this was a firm decision  and we were looking for support, not talking out of/fixing.

It went pretty well, all things considered. I had one person hug me and whisper in my ear "International Adoption is always an option..." (she adopted internationally a decade and a half ago), and I managed to accept her hug and say, "We researched that option, thank you" and leave it at that. People always think that their way is the best way. This time I didn't have anyone tell me "oh but you'd make such a great mother!" (ouch, because I'm not ever going to get to be one) and no one suggested that we try foster care adoption, either (again, researched that one). I had someone tell me how much she appreciated that I let everyone in on this journey, how eye opening it was and how privileged she felt to be a part of it. I had a coworker who is also the parent of one of my students cry and tell me that "It's not the same, I know it's not the same, but you are a mother to every one of those kids that comes through your room. This is what you're meant to do, and you have so much love for these kids -- including mine." I usually hate the "your students are your kids though!" band-aid slapped on teacher infertility, but in this case I didn't mind at all because she acknowledged that it wasn't the same but that it is a way to mother. And I'd been thinking earlier this year about how I could direct my mothering energy just towards my students (which, honestly, I already do, poor things). I got hugs, and sweet emails, and a couple "You are so strong"s, which I didn't deflect because I should own that. Yeah, I'm strong. Thank you. 

There. That band-aid is ripped off and it wasn't too terribly painful. Now it's done and I don't have to talk about it at school if I don't want to anymore. Hopefully people respect that. 

Now for the facebook band-aid...that one is more daunting. I think I may actually include some of the things that aren't helpful since there are some people who are real good at assvice (OMG, thank you Loribeth, x2, for this word and for introducing me to Ariel Levy's book, among other things). I know it all comes from a pretty benign place but jeezum people can really stick a lemon wedge in my oozy wounds with careless or well-meaning but hurtful words.

Thank you for all the advice, real advice not assvice (I swear I'm going to use that as much as humanly possible). Your support helps me make sense of things that are hard to make sense of, and helps me to not be so much of my own worst enemy. Repeat after me, Me: I Will Not TEll Everyone I Had A Bit Of A Mental Breakdown. I Will Not Make Excuses or Justify. I Will Just Say We Are No Longer Pursuing Adoption And Please Support Us In Our New Adventure As A Twosome. 

I can do it, right? Probably not today. But tomorrow. Tomorrow I will rip off the final band-aid.

Monday, June 26, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Summer is HERE

Ah, the first Monday of summer.

It is glorious to not set an alarm clock; to still be in pajamas when Bryce leaves for work; to sit on the couch and read with my coffee. Today was sort of a boring day leading into summer vacation -- I did several loads of laundry, scrubbed out our kitchen sink and the dish drying rack that had gotten rather scungy, went to get my face waxed (oh PCOS, how you torment me), had a chiropractor appointment and then a therapy appointment. But, I finished my book (The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater, book four in The Raven Cycle, which is PHENOMENAL and I highly recommend), took a nap, talked on the phone with my best friend, and bought some perennials and hanging baskets at a farm stand before a crazy thunderstorm came and showered everything with small hail. It was a beautiful day, actually.

I keep lists in the summer to remind me both of what I want to accomplish and of what I actually did, so I don't fritter away the time too much as I attempt to melt into summer and then get some productivity going for house projects and prepping for next year. I checked most of the things off today, which felt good.

This week, though -- this week is all about relaxing and recuperating from a year that was difficult in so many different ways, and celebrating that I survived it.

One of my favorite spots to sit and read and enjoy the day. Can you see my friend to the left? It's a Painted Lady who came to visit and sun itself! 

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

Monday, June 19, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: How To Tell People You're Not Adopting Anymore


Wouldn't it be great if I had the answer to this unpleasant business?

Sadly, I don't.

I do a MISERABLE job telling people our news, and I've been doing it at an incredibly slow and excruciating rate of about 4-6 people per week, give or take two people.

The problem is, I feel the need to justify why every time I spill the beans, and so I end up telling people all about my autoimmune eye problems and my mental breakdown and I really don't think that's necessary. I should be able to just say, "We are no longer pursuing adoption -- it didn't work out for us" and leave it at that.

But instead I list out everything, I feel the need to say how long we did IVF before, and how incredibly hard everything was--as though I am convincing myself of the merit of our decision, too. I end up sounding a little loose in the screw department and a lot like, "See? This is the right decision, I can prove it, we did SO MUCH to try to have a baby and in the end it took over everything and had major health impacts and we chose to live a life not in stasis anymore...see? See how much it makes sense?"

I even practiced with a friend today, in anticipation of being asked for updates at the retirement party after school (no one asked, which was both a relief and a concern), "We are not pursuing adoption anymore and that's all I'd like to say about it for now." There's no way I'll actually succeed at saying just that, so I'm grateful no one asked but also worried it means a) people know through the grapevine but are quiet about it or b) people are tired of asking how it's going and not getting a good prognosis.

I feel like I need to just rip that bandaid off, go "Facebook Official" on the damn thing and send an email out to my school thanking everyone for their support but in case they haven't already heard, we are done with our family building escapades.

I am just so nervous about the possible fallout, of being accused of "giving up on my dream," of being told I wasn't meant to be a parent, of facing questions again of why we aren't pursuing a different kind of adoption (especially foster). But this creeping trickle of "hey, just wanted to let you know if you haven't already heard..." is killing me slowly.

I think this week is bandaid-ripping time.

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

Monday, June 12, 2017

#Microblog Monday: Honeymoon



I was mortified when I realized that last week was our 11th date-o-versary, eleven years since we kissed on a bench on our first date, and we acknowledged it NOT AT ALL. I totally forgot until Sunday, when I was getting a massage and talking about how Bryce and I met.

I guess we've had some heavy things on our minds, so we can be forgiven just this once.

One of the less heavy things is the planning of our amazing trip to the California Coast, which I am calling our honeymoon. Literally, when reserving our room in the hotel we're spending the most time in and it asked for a reason for our stay, I saw "Honeymoon" and was like, YES. That's right -- this is our GODDAMN HONEYMOON. We started infertility stuff before our wedding. The weekend I visited my best friend and wrote the letter where I proposed to Bryce, I was reading The Conception Chronicles, because I wanted to know what I was going to face as we knew we'd have trouble conceiving (trouble, ha ha HA ha ha). The day of our ceremony in the backyard, I signed for Ovidrel in my wedding dress. It's been CONSTANT.

So yeah, this is our honeymoon, the start of our new life just us two, a celebration of our love and ability to endure through pain and loss and heartbreak galore with our relationship strong and adoring.

We decided to do the California Coast -- flying into San Francisco, going to Napa for a few days, then going to Carmel-by-the-Sea for some Monterey Aquarium and Big Sur action, then down to Pasadena so we can visit with my dad, then back up to Santa Barbara for romantic beachy nature time, and then back to San Francisco, two weeks from when we flew in, to head home.

It's a crazy road trip with real romantic inns and views and activities planned.

Happy Honeymoon to us --  it doesn't make up for what we've lost, but it's quite the consolation prize and we are fortunate to be able to do it, using some of the money that was earmarked for adoption. Bittersweet poetic justice in that, but this is what we've got. And I am SO looking forward to it (even though a chunk of Highway 1 recently fell into the ocean...which isn't concerning at all...). After years of stagnance, a bit of extravagance is lovely to plan.

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

Sunday, June 11, 2017

My Space, Haunted By Ghosts

I bought a lamp this weekend.

Isn't that exciting? The thrills of my life lately.

It actually IS exciting, as it was a bit of a splurge and I just love the details in it, and it is part of the continual transformation of the upstairs little room into MY space, MY room.

It's got branches! And it's three-way, so soft light to bright light options.
It hurts even to say that, MY room, instead of The Baby's Room. Even though no baby actually lived here, and no baby actually existed that was kinda-sorta-definitely going to be ours, it's a hard thing to think of this room as something else, something other than what we'd planned for it to be.

I bought the lamp where we bought our living room furniture, and I'm looking for a piece to go where the crib was, something with some closed storage so I can move some of my craft supplies up from the basement where they languish fairly ill-attended. The shop owner was asking what kind of space I had, what kind of furniture finishes I had, and all I could manage was, "Well, it's a 90-square foot space, real small. It used to be another kind of room and now it's...not. I would like it to look as different as possible from what it was before."

I didn't tell her what it was before. I didn't feel like it. I felt the dark hole opening up inside me though, and a shadow overtook me and followed me the rest of the day.

For as beautiful as the room is becoming, it's going to take a while to think of it as a rebranded space. The ghost of What-Could-Have-Been lingers, and will be somewhat exorcised when my desk arrives on Tuesday and I can find a piece to go where the crib once was.

Things like this make it hard:

Creepy stuffed animals looking down on me. The owl on the left is a puppet, the barn owl I just love, the elephant was a gift from my grandmother, and the teddy bear is a really nice soft classic thing from a retired social studies teacher. I donated the rest, but these I wanted to keep. Maybe.
Do I donate them? Hang on to them somewhere a bit less visible? I am still filling the shelves in here, deciding what to put where. You can see this cast of characters from the street. Maybe it's not the best idea to keep them here.

But then there's the chaise lounge corner, which is turning out quite cozy (need one more pillow though, not quite right yet): 



I found the owl print at Target. It isn't nursery-like, but there were owls in here for a reason and I really, really liked this one. It reminds me of something my grandfather once had, I think. My memory is fuzzy on this one but it called to me and was the only one in the store, so I bought it...

Coy little thing.
And lastly, I hung this cat bell that my father gave me, I think from Japan, above the weird raised cat sculpture print we bought at a Renaissance Faire a few years ago: 


I always sort of envisioned an Owl & Pussycat theme in here, but then it became the Treetop Friends stuff on the bedding with birds, and so I sort of abandoned it. Well, happy Owl & Pussycat office theme. It is super cozy. 

And also sad. 

I am real, real sad tonight. I am struggling today, which is totally normal given the loss sustained. The shifting of our house to spaces that fit the life we actually have, not the one we wanted so much that just didn't come to fruition. The reorganizing, realizing I have all these things I was saving for our children and don't know what to do with anymore (jewelry from my childhood, books from my childhood, things I just don't know what to do with now that there's no next generation to gift them to). 

I am looking forward to the arrival of my desk and bookshelf Tuesday. I am looking forward to closing out this space and making it mine, all mine. It is a healing thing, but hard, so hard. I've vacuumed several times since we disassembled this room from what it was, and in doing so erased the marks from the feet of the crib. Except for one, which I can see has survived, next to the baseboard. A tiny impression of what once was, what was hoped, and what now belongs to someone who can actually use it. 

Transition is hard. Making this space over into a beautiful reading and writing sanctuary helps. Still, I am plagued by the ghosts of what will never be. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Gift of Failure

I was driving home from school today when I heard this story on NPR: "Total Failure: The Mountain That Got Away." (You can listen or read via the link.)

The message stuck with me and kept me in the car, rapt.

It was about a competitive mountain climber, Emily Harrington, and how she'd spent her whole life focusing on winning competitions, on summitting mountains, on being the best and finishing no matter what.

Except she did this one climb, in Myanmar, up Hkakabo Razi. It was a hairy journey just to get to the ridge that led to summit, and she found herself exhausted, food stores low, facing the choice to keep climbing and face death as a consequence, or stop and let it go.

The piece had these lines that spoke to me now, in the midst of abandoning my own uphill struggle:

"But she was exhausted and stretched to the limits of her skill as a climber. She felt that if she went on, she might not make it down. 

'It wasn't my time to keep climbing,' she says.

She turned around. And giving up? It may have been the best thing she ever did. Not just because she didn't fall to her death. 

High up on that ridge, she really understood that life wasn't so simple. There were wrong turns, bad weather and bad luck that were beyond her control. It was OK to give up." 

Could that be more perfect right now or what?

Some things are beyond your control. A lesson I seem completely unable to truly grasp onto and solidify for myself. As I occasionally sit here and get all morose in a sea of what-ifs, of examining all of our decisions (What if we'd gotten a second opinion before doing donor eggs? What if we'd gone to CCRM earlier? What if we'd moved forward with adoption sooner? What if someone could have picked us in June, had we not pulled the plug a bit early?), I have to remember that it doesn't matter how many wrong turns were taken, how many series of unfortunate events occurred so that we found ourselves almost on the trail to the peak, but without any more food, too exhausted to trust our footing, and unsure of health (physical and mental) if we were to continue.

Life isn't so simple as Prepare, Train, Do, Succeed. I wish it was.

I love this article because it doesn't extol the NeverNeverNEVER Give Up mentality that is so prevalent. It acknowledges that sometimes, giving up is necessary in order to continue on. That you can learn from that lesson of "This didn't work out for me" or even failure, which I hate using as a synonym for our experience, but it's true...we failed at having a child through every single means that we tried. I feel a little like we failed adoption, but I know that isn't true. Our infertility history going into adoption made every bump in the road feel like a mountain. We'd spent so much time getting to the mountain base that we had no energy to get to the summit after it wasn't quite as straightforward as we thought it was going to be.

So we let go of our dream, when it started to consume us and our health became collateral damage. We let go so that we could keep on climbing another day, on a different mountain. So that we could accept that some things are out of our control, and things don't always go the way you hope or plan. But there is always space for a new plan, a new adventure. (Probably not actually mountain climbing because I am terrified of heights, which is probably going to be an issue when we're driving the Pacific Coast Highway this summer...)

Here's to failure. Here's to knowing when to stop even when it is hard and against all of your work ethic philosophy to do so, but you are literally running yourself into the ground trying over and over and finding no success. Here's to all the new adventures that lie ahead, because we let this one go after a long slog of wrong turns and mishaps that seemed neverending. We did our best, and now we move on -- we'll carry our loss with us but we'll be able to move forward, up another mountain, towards another future that we'll figure out together.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Oh, Okay...So NOW It's Final

I was smacked in the face with the finality of our decision, of our outcome in this whole family building thing on Tuesday, when the woman who provides things to women who are pregnant without it being the preferred option as they start their new lives as parents came to pick up the contents of our nursery, of our kitchen drawer, of our back room storage area.

It was overwhelming. The giant pile of things, of hope, of all the love and support, everything we had for a baby so very wanted and so very hoped for...gone. She teared up as she saw just how much we had to donate, and hugged me and told me how sorry she was that things turned out this way.

I helped her load up her car, and then mine when it became apparent that not only would it take several trips otherwise but that the crib was definitely not going to fit in her car, ever. She hadn't wanted me to do anything, but I didn't feel right sitting on the couch while she loading everything up, and additionally my neighbors decided that this was the perfect time to hang out on the street and have a chat and I felt a little like there was a bit of a spectacle. Having some strange lady taking baby stuff out of our house and into her car without me would probably be stranger than me trying to look cheerful while helping.

Trying. At one point when I offered to help drive stuff she said, "you probably just want this over as fast as possible" and I teared up and said "I just can't look at it all sitting here anymore." And then I cried the entire way home, after we unloaded my car first and she said she'd unload her car, that I could absolutely go and take care of myself.

I am pretty sure that this was the hardest day. It felt worse than any of the other days that have peppered this journey to nowhere. The absence was overwhelming.

I figured out what it is. It's truly, absolutely over. Even if I was like, "WAIT! Let's reopen our homestudy!" (which I'm not), we have no baby gear anymore. We have made our decision and it is final with a capital F. There's no going back. We are definitely resolving our journey childfree. Right now it feels a lot like childless, since I had all these things for a child who existed in my heart, and now that dream is gone. It shifts and morphs between the two -- childless which to me captures the loss, childfree which captures the empowerment of a life that, once we scab over the rawness, will be full of other dreams, other possibilities. Even if it wasn't our desired landing spot.

It reminds me of my uterine surgery -- once that was over, I had absolutely zero chance of getting pregnant, ever. It was pretty close to zero before, but there was no going back, no deciding to reopen the treatment route, no way to have a spontaneous pregnancy "miracle." At first it made me sad, but I was so done with the treatment aspect of things and of birth control that made my body go nuts that I embraced the finality. It came after almost two years of knowing that IVF wasn't ever going to work for me, though. It came after trying other things and having them not work, and then saying, "Okay, uterus, I'm done with you. I'm locking this door and throwing away the key." It was a relief. It frees me to not be as sad when others get pregnant, because that's no longer an option for me whatsoever. I've let it go entirely.

Donating the baby gear is similar, but it happened at warp speed. We only made this decision a month and a half ago, really. I haven't had time to acclimate. Having a nursery you know you aren't going to use is painful, on a daily basis, the kind that saps you slowly. Donating everything all in one day and loading it all up and getting it out in a space of about an hour is excruciatingly painful, but then it's gone. Then the healing can start. Then the empty space in the living room that held the pile of things can be replaced with new furniture, a reading nook where my desk used to be since now my desk is where the nursery used to be. (Well, sort-of-desk. Still the plywood setup.)

I feel like everything is a series of Before and After pictures.

So much stuff. This pile goes about eight feet from one side to the other. 
After I got home and it was all gone. Strangely like the decal-free wall upstairs.

But it's also a series of transformations. That space was only empty for so long before we filled it with a rearranged, new-furniture setup in our living room. A living room that doesn't need space for a pack-n-play, a living room that can have light colored upholstery because there won't be any little sticky fingers wielding markers here. But it's cozy, and each new thing is a step towards embracing this new life we have ahead of us. The After we can look forward to that has a duller sort of pain, and a new kind of promise.

Not empty anymore.
So much seating now! 
It feels good to have change, to have movement, to have things not stay the same anymore. It's a soothing balm on the raw ooziness of letting our dream go.