Wednesday, August 24, 2016

On my second blogaversary

Two years.  Two.  That's how long I've been blogging.

41,137 page views
177 posts
1406 comments

The stats don't provide the full picture though.

Friendships
Empathy
Compassion
Growth
Knowing
Acceptance

Those things and their impact can't be measured.

I do not have adequate words to express my gratitude for everyone who has been here for all or even part of this journey.  I owe a lot of the credit for where I am today to you.  The readers of this blog have been simply amazing.  I wouldn't be where I am if not for you. 

I am not the person that I was two years ago when I clicked "publish" and took my first blog post live.  I'm stronger.  I'm more confident.  I am resilient.  I've learned the importance of embracing grief, sitting with it, and working through it.  I've learned that my feelings are just as valid as anyone else's and that I don't have to apologize for how I feel.  In the last couple of weeks I've had more than one person tell me "you seem different" or "you seem more alive."  And the answer to both of those statements is that I am.  I'm emerging from the black cloud of infertility.  Dare I say it, I'm even happy most of the time.

There have been a lot of hard things in my second year of blogging.  I skipped my sister's baby shower and caused a bit of family drama.  My sister gave birth to my nephew and promptly forgot the struggle of infertility.  Two of my nieces celebrated their first birthdays.  I saw the conclusion of 22 consecutive months of at least one sister being pregnant.  Plus all of the unexpected stuff that jumps out and smacks me in the face when I least expect it. 

But there have also been a ton of great things about the past year.  Hubs and I bought a house and spent time fixing it up (only one urgent care visit required-so far) before we moved at the end of May.  Buying a house, I think, was a huge step in healing.  It is a happy house.  A house of hope and healing.  I got to meet fellow bloggers Justine and Sarah and for the first time in a really long time I could just be.  Conversation hasn't come that easy in everyday life!  I celebrated my 35th birthday and finally understood the cause of my midlife crisis.  I also took a huge step and outed hubs and I on Facebook for National Infertility Awareness Week, and the response was better than I ever could have imagined and I regained a lot of faith in my fellow humans. 

I'm looking forward to year three of blogging and reading blogs.  I hope I have enough to write about!  In the coming weeks you get to hear about my (overdue) annual visit to the gynecologist, always a treat for us infertility survivors.  My sister is also planning family pictures  for October, so I'm sure this will provide plenty of good topics for writing too, since, to put it nicely, I am not looking forward to this.

I've been buried with work lately.  I look forward to catching up on all of your blogs soon!  But in the meantime, thanks for reading, and thanks for being there for me.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

An unwelcome invitation

A little over a year ago I lost a friend as part of the fallout of stepping off of the infertility crazy train and moving forward with figuring out my new life without children.  The sad truth is that she was incapable of supporting me in moving forward and I got to the point where I knew that if I was going to get through this that I needed to surround myself with people who didn't judge or question me at every step along the way.  We've both moved forward with our lives and she seems to be doing quite well.  I found out through a mutual acquaintance that she was pregnant a few months ago.  While I had no desire to reach out to her or congratulate her, I'm genuinely happy for her and wish her the best. 

She finally announced her pregnancy on Facebook with photos from a maternity shoot (two things she said she'd never do, but whatever) over the weekend.  Even though I knew it was coming, it still stung a bit.

Yesterday I received a Facebook invitation to her baby shower.  As soon as I saw the invite, I had one of those moments where the air was immediately sucked from my lungs.  I sat there trying to catch my breath.  I asked, out loud, why she would invite me.  She knows I don't go to baby showers.

The logical, rational part of me knows that since it was a Facebook invite, she likely sent it to everyone on her friends list with one click of the mouse.  Even though we aren't speaking anymore I don't think that she would have purposely sent me the invitation because she knows something like that would hurt me.  All of the justification in the world doesn't help.  In fact, in a way, justifying her behavior only sets the stage to undermine my feelings about it. 

The truth is that receiving the invitation hurt me deeply.  It made me angry.  It made me jealous.  These things aren't easy to admit.  I know it probably sounds pretty horrible (at least to anyone outside of this community) that a baby shower invitation made me angry.  But it's a brutally honest admission, and while I'm not necessarily proud of this admission, I'm not ashamed of it either.  And I'm not a bad person for feeling this way.

Feelings are messy.  They aren't always logical.  You don't get to pick how something is going to make you feel, and sometimes you can't even anticipate it.  If there's one thing I've learned over the past couple of years, it's that boxing the emotions up (even the ugly ones) and not dealing with them as they come is not a good strategy.  On the other hand, working through the ugly stuff leads to healing.  Maybe there will be a day when a baby shower doesn't lead to such an intense reaction.  Maybe this day will never come.  But either way, it's okay.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Exactly what my soul needed

A little over a week ago, I met Sarah.  I've struggled to find the right words to write about meeting her.  Why?  Because I realized how important it is to be in the presence of others who get me and who understand what I've been through, and because I realized how many friendships have been lost or fundamentally changed because of infertility (or, probably more accurately, because of how infertility changed me).

I wasn't really nervous to meet Sarah.  We know each other through our blogs and we seemed to get along in the emails and texts planning their visit.  We decided to meet at a local lake to go kayaking.  I figured that in the unlikely event that we didn't have anything to talk about, at least we could talk about nature.  We didn't need to talk about nature.

I arrived at the lake a few minutes early, changed into my sandals, and applied sunscreen.  As I was finishing up Sarah texted to let me know that they were there and she was standing outside the boathouse and wearing a pink shirt.  I took a deep breath and headed over.

We recognized each other immediately and hugged like we've known each other for years.  With that hug all of the walls that I've spent years building came crumbling down.  I knew that I was with one of my people and that I could be myself with no fear of judgement.

I can only describe the next few hours as completely soul refreshing.  I can't even remember the last time I was this unguarded in a face to face conversation with another human being.  Empathy and understanding flowed from her veins, and I hope from mine too.  Laughter, sarcasm, and cursing came out of both of our mouths.  But so did deep and meaningful conversation. 

Just going kayaking with Sarah (and Julio) would have been enough to make my summer.  But the icing on the cake came the next day when hubs and I went out to dinner with them, got to show them our house, and seeing hubs open up in ways that he never has before.   

As they prepared to leave our house, Sarah and I hugged again.  But this time it was different.  I knew that in a few short minutes they would be gone and that I would need to rebuild some of the walls that I didn't need with her.  I managed to hold in the tears until they pulled away.  '

I suspect that it will not be the last time that we spend time with Sarah and Julio.  And I hope to get the opportunity to spend time with the rest of you too, because spending time with Sarah and Julio left me craving more time with my people.


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Talking

When we were going through infertility my husband was very stoic.  I knew it bothered him.  I knew he was hurting.  I knew it was angry.  But he almost never showed emotion.  I think he felt like he needed to be strong for me.  And I'm so glad that he was.  But at the same time I wanted, no needed, him to show some emotion.  I didn't care if it was anger or tears or something in between.  He rarely did.  It made me resent him.  Time passed.  We both started to heal, both individually and as a couple. I let go of any resentment that I still held on to and accepted that we handled our emotions differently, and that it was okay, and that there was no "right" way to handle it.

I found a support system through blogging and through pen pals who don't blog but that I met through blogging.  I found people I trusted and who I could share the good, the bad, and the ugly with.  Hubs never found that, and based on Eric's recent post, it doesn't seem like it is uncommon for men to not have a support system.  I'm becoming more open and starting to talk more publicly about infertility and how our journey didn't end with a baby.  Hubs supports me in this, but he still really isn't able to talk about it beyond a simple acknowledgement.

That changed over the weekend.

Sarah and her husband Julio came to Pittsburgh over the weekend, and naturally we spent some time with them.  I could go on and on about how amazing she is and they are, and I will eventually, but I'm still trying to process it all, and figure out the right words to capture it all and how much it meant to me (and hubs).

But I want to write about one small part of our time with them.  Something so small that they probably didn't even pick up on.  

Hubs talked.  At dinner.  At our house afterwards.  Openly.  Honestly.  Comfortably.  I've never seen him share like this before.  He's a man of few words.  To a casual onlooker it probably seemed like normal conversation.  But to me it it was like a breech in a dam.

I don't know if it was that we were with another couple just like us.  Or if it was because there was another guy who had been through many of the same things.  Or because it was the first time he's been around another woman who, like me, is trying to claw her way out of the hellhole that is infertility.  Or because he knew he could trust Sarah and Julio.  Or because of something else.  I don't know and he doesn't either (I asked).  He just said that talking with them felt "normal."

I also think hubs really started to see that I'm doing pretty well.  That I'm not as fragile as I used to be.  Maybe this was what he needed to finally get it all out there.  After Sarah and Julio left we laid in bed and he talked for what seemed like hours about all that we lost.  I want to be there for him like he has always been there for me, and maybe the weekend was a start.


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Historical

There has been a whole lot of nasty going on in United States politics (and in the country as a whole), but something historical happened last night, and I want to take a minute to acknowledge it.

Last night at the Democratic National Convention, the Democratic Party nominated Hillary Clinton as their candidate for president.  She was the first woman ever nominated on a major party ticket.  Women gained the right to vote in this country in 1920, and it took a freaking constitutional amendment to get that right.  Perhaps one of the most powerful moments of the roll call (the part where each individual delegate states who they wish to nominate) was when an elderly woman who was born into a world where women couldn't vote proudly cast her her vote for Mrs. Clinton.

Like Hillary Clinton or not, one cannot help but recognize the significance of this nomination.  This is a big step forward for women in the United States.  Whether she wins the election or not (and frankly let's hope she does, because the alternative is, at best, frightening), it's a huge nomination.

When I was a kid, being president was a man's job.  Specifically a white man's job.  The 2008 election removed white from the unofficial job criteria.  Now in 2016 we have removed man from the unofficial job criteria for president.  Kids today can look at our country's leaders and visualize themselves in that role someday.  How cool is that?  I couldn't visualize myself as president when I  was a kid. 

Last night made me proud to be an American. 

In November I will report to my polling place and proudly cast my ballot for Hillary Clinton.  I'm not voting for her because she's a woman (I don't particularly care what gender our leaders identify with, as long as they are good leaders), or because she's a Democrat (I'm proud to be a registered democrat and mostly vote that way, but I vote with my conscience on the issues, so sometimes it means I vote for another party's candidate), or because I agree with all of her platform (I don't!).  I think that she is a competent leader with a proven track record and feel that she's the best candidate to lead the United States for the next four (or more) years.

*****
Related, if you are an American citizen who is over the age of 18 and you aren't registered to vote, you still have plenty of time to get registered in time to vote in the November election.  If you don't know how/where to register, I'm happy to help you figure it out.  This will easily be the most important election of our lifetime.  You owe it to yourself to do your research and have a say in it!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

WTF?

There are times in life when you just have to smile, shake your head, and ask "what the fuck?".  Tuesday was one of those days for me.

Tuesday was the day of my dad's heart surgery.  It started out well enough.  I left my house at 6am drove the three hours from my house to my parent's house and made really great time, even getting there early enough to spend a little time with my nieces (Sister, BIL, and their three daughters live in my parent's basement).  We (my mom, dad, and me) left for the hospital around 11 and got there with time to spare for his 11:45am check in time.

His surgery went well, they found a 95+% blockage which was cleared and a stent was put in.  Unrelated, his cardiologist was freaking gorgeous.  He's already home and is doing great, despite being pissed that he has to take some time off of work.  But that's not what I want to write about.

We got my dad all checked in and were directed to a waiting area for the cath lab.  This is where we waited for him to go back to pre-op and while the procedure was going on.  As it turns out, in this particular hospital, the cardiac cath lab shares a waiting room with Labor and Delivery.  I'm not sure if I've wrote about it yet or not, but I seem to be swinging back into an anger phase of the grieving process, so an L&D waiting room was near the top of the list of places where I did not want to spend time.  I tried to have a sense of humor and sent a friend a curse word laden text.  She suggested that it would be nice if the waiting room space was also shared by a liquor store.

At this point I gave myself a pep talk along the lines of "you've got this" and "you only have to be here for a short time." 

Then my grandparents (mom's parents) arrived at the hospital despite being explicitly told that their presence wasn't required and that we would call with an update when there was something to report. At minimum, they shouldn't be driving on the busy road where the hospital is located (or at all for that matter).  I've never had a close relationship with my grandparents and because of some things that exceed the scope of this blog, but suffice to say that I don't care to have anything more than a cordial relationship with them.  Not to mention that they are very conservative, very religious, and plan to vote for Donald Trump.  Anyway, my grandma wanted to pray.  Ok, fine.  Prayer isn't my thing, but whatever, she thinks it'll do some good.  So I bite my tongue and bow my head thinking it would be a short, silent (or at least quiet) prayer.  She started praying.  Out loud, and not in a quiet voice.  For like five minutes.  In a busy waiting room.  I opened my eyes and we were getting funny looks.  Eventually it was over, my blood pressure was through the roof, and I was wishing to be anyplace else.  Then they tried to engage me in a discussion about politics.  I not so politely declined and reminded them that anything they read on Facebook should be fact checked.  This suggestion obviously wasn't taken to heart since my grandma shared this article last night with the comment "not surprising!"  Thankfully they got tired and left before I had a heart attack, but not before praying a couple more times.

My dad got out of surgery and was taken to his room.  I thought the most stressful part of the day was over.  Then my sisters started to stop by.  The first one brought her (very active, very loud) toddler to the cardiac ward.  Now, I'm no cardiologist, but I can't imagine that a shrieking child (even shrieks of happiness) is a good thing on a cardiac ward.  Then another sister stopped by.  With her baby.  This wasn't so bad (since he can more easily be contained), but then she started breastfeeding.  At this point I walked out of the room without explanation and found a waiting room with free drinks (unfortunately none were of the alcoholic variety) and hid there for the better part of an hour.

Around 7:30, we decided to go and get dinner.  My sister (with the baby) and brother-in-law decided to join my mom and I.  At dinner I was treated to a discussion about why there should be baby changing stations in men's restrooms.  When asked my opinion on the matter, I offered that public places aren't required by law to provide baby changing stations, and that most do so out of courtesy.  I then suggested that since this particular hardship had absolutely nothing to do with my life that I didn't care one way or the other.

My mom and I didn't get back to my parent's house until a little bit after nine.  At this point, I found out that during the getting ready for bed routine, my youngest niece (turned 1 last month) and my dog discovered the toilet.  My sister walked in on my dog drinking out of it and my niece with her hands in it splashing away.  This was actually a pretty good way to end the day, because I thought it was hilarious.  Also, thankfully, this particular sister is very laid back and didn't freak out. 

It was just one of those days where the things kept coming, and each seemed more ridiculous.  But the important thing is that my dad is fine and hopefully won't have any issues in the future, so any stress I endured was worth it.  A couple of days removed from it, I can laugh.  I mean seriously, who has to deal with that many triggering situations in one 12 hour period?

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Blondes have more fun?

I felt the urge to do something different and impulsive today.  So I dyed my hair.

Blonde.

Not Platinum blonde or bleach blonde or anything crazy like that.  But definitely quite a bit lighter than my hair has been in probably 15 years.

It's fun.  I like it.  I feel good about myself.

Maybe a new hair color is just what I need to lift any remaining fog from my funk.  I hope so.