Tuesday, January 9, 2018

When sad is buried by happiness

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

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

My sister had her baby yesterday.  

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

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

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

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

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

I am hurting.

And I'm hurt.

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

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

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

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

I am grateful for friends who are like family.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Winter Break

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

A few fun things happened while I was off.

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

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

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

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

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




Sunday, December 10, 2017

Holiday decorations

For a long time, there was a running joke between my sister-in-law and me, that it took getting married and having two kids before she felt truly accepted into the (extended) family, whereas all it took for me was getting drunk with Uncle Ed (then in his late 80s) on his homemade wine the very first time I met the extended family. 

Hubs is the oldest son of the oldest son and the first grandchild in both his paternal grandmother and grandfather's side.  In the eyes of his family, he basically walks on water.  I am hubs' second wife.  While I haven't asked directly, I gather from various bits of conversation with people in his family that they didn't like her, and that's putting it nicely.  When hubs and I first started dating, things happened quickly.  Within four months of dating, we moved to a different state and in together.  I expected the first Christmas gathering with his extended family to be interesting, and I had been warned by both my mother-in-law and sister-in-law not to take it personally if they shunned me.  They said that, best case, it would take them a few years to warm up to me.  It was interesting, but not in the tense way that I expected.  As it turned out, I got on quite well with his family.

Each year they do a gift exchange.  They draw names and bring a small gift for that person.  Since I wasn't around the previous year for the drawing, his grandma purchased a small gift for me so that I would have something to open with everyone else.  The gift was a Christmas tree ornament.  It's a light blue glass bulb with a dove carrying an olive branch painted on it.  Something I imagine that she picked up at the Parrish craft bazaar.  The symbolism was not lost on me.  His grandma passed away in 2014.

Hubs and I have quite the collection of Christmas ornaments.  One for every Christmas we've celebrated together.  Some have been gifted to us.  Some are handmade and gifted to us by nieces and nephews.  Some are personalized.  Some are stock from a big box store.  Some are just plain funny (like a pink glittery unicorn).  Silly as it sounds, all of them hold memories.  And needless to say, our hodgepodge tree will never be featured in any home magazine. 

I've been struggling with getting into Christmas this year.  Part of it has been the busy-ness of life, and part of it has been the fact that this season is just plain hard for me.  I thought that maybe decorating the house would help my outlook on things, and decided to put the tree up on Tuesday.

But what I wasn't expecting was the flood of memories.  Some of them good memories, like the ones that accompanied the chintzy "our first Christmas together" ornament and the ornament we bought at a little gift store by the beach we eloped on in Hawaii.  Some of them were hard memories, like the annual ornaments from the infertility years and the simultaneous hope and hopelessness that we felt when we bought them.  And some were bittersweet, like the ornament from hubs' grandma.

I had a good cry as I hung them all on the tree.  I let all of the hopes and dreams and changes in plans from the last ten years wash over me.  It was hard but good.  And by the time I was done, I felt a little better about the impending holiday.  It was even more worthwhile when hubs walked into the door, his eyes got huge, a big smile spread across his face, and he exclaimed: "you decorated!"

We no longer joke about birthing children as a prerequisite for family acceptance.  At the time it was funny, albeit in a slightly uncomfortable way.  If the same joke were made today, I'd probably come unhinged.  I'm glad that they accepted me into the family all those years ago.  If for no other reason but holiday gatherings would be pretty miserable if they hadn't accepted me.

For all of you joining me in the hard this holiday season, please know that you are not alone.  I wish I could say that it gets easier to handle the holidays.  It doesn't. At least for me.  But I've found that it gets a little less hard with each passing year.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The hard

I need to get back to writing in this space more frequently.  It gives me balance and a place to work through the thoughts bouncing around in my brain. 

I've had a lot going on lately.  Not bad, just busy.  It leaves little time for me or for writing.

Over the past few days, I've been feeling the full weight of all that we've lost.  Seeing all of the Christmas lights brought it to a head tonight.

Maybe it's the holidays and thinking about all of the traditions that we thought we were going to make with our children.  Maybe it's the sudden burst of people my age or older having babies making me wonder if we stopped too soon.  Maybe it's knowing that 2018 will bring another niece or nephew.  Maybe it's end of the semester stress.  Maybe it's all of it.

I'm struggling a bit. 

I'm trying to go easy on myself and I know it will get better again.  But tonight it's hard.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Validation Anniversary

One year ago today, I had surgery to remove endometriosis.  Well, I can't remember the exact date, but I know I had the surgery the Friday before Thanksgiving last year, and it's the Friday before Thanksgiving this year, so.....

Prior to the surgery, I'd spent 20 years insisting that something was wrong and begging and pleading with doctors to help me.  On this day last year, I got proof that there was indeed something wrong and that it wasn't all in my head.  I was validated.  All of those years of pain and misery suddenly had a cause.

Last year I couldn't make the 10-minute walk from the parking garage to my office without significant pain, and the three-hour blocks that I teach in were excruciating.  Exercise was out of the question.  Now I feel great.  I'm not completely pain-free, but I don't have much pain most of the time.  Walking from the parking garage to my office is no big deal.  Teaching in three-hour blocks is still taxing, but nothing like before.  I'm back to going to the gym 3-4 days a week and I'm doing things that I haven't been able to do in years.  I've also lost about 15 pounds which has been good for my self-esteem. 

Emotionally, I'm still very angry that I spent so long with nobody listening.  And I'm angry that this could have been a contributing factor to infertility and that if it had been addressed earlier in my life maybe we would have been able to have kids.  More globally, I'm angry that my experience isn't unique.  I'm angry that women's pain isn't taken seriously or is just plain brushed off.

Anyway, I'm feeling pensive today.  And so grateful that a doctor finally listened to me.  I really do feel like I have my life back.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Me too

Me too.

For a long time, I felt alone.

And then the two simple words, "me too" started showing up on social media.  Sometimes they were accompanied by a story, sometimes they were not.

The sheer number left me stunned.  And sick.  Women in their 70s to women in their early 20s.  And that's just among my friends.

Stories of being taken advantage of by a boss.  Or raped by a man, sometimes known, and sometimes not.  Stories of being assaulted.  Stories of being teased or catcalled.  Stories of sexual abuse.  And stories of the system failing them if they tried to report.

Their stories and their bravery made me feel all of the feels.

I didn't post on social media.  I didn't have it in me.  I lacked the courage to put it in print for the whole world to see.  I didn't want to have to explain or be pressed for details by people I didn't want to share with.  And I didn’t want to be accused of attention seeking. This space is a little safer for me due to the semi-anonymity.

Me too.  Me.  Fucking.  Too. And the thing is, I’m not special. Or the exception. That’s the scary part.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

When selfishness is called out

My sister is pregnant.  If you'll recall, she couldn't bother to tell me herself so I found out from my mom.

The elephant in the room was still present until earlier this month.  The same sister who couldn't bother to tell me herself that she is pregnant managed to publicly announce on social media.

I was pissed and I was hurt.

I sent her a text.  It wasn't accusatory or anything like that, but it was very direct and expressed my hurt that she could announce it publicly but couldn't send me a courtesy text.

Some time passed, though not as long as I expected, and she responded.  She didn't know how to tell me.  She didn't want to hurt me.  Blah blah blah.

Translation: My infertility makes her uncomfortable.  And she is selfish.

And when called out on it, she makes it about how she feels.

I just want to scream that it's not just about her and that I shouldn't have to ignore my feelings because of her.

*****

I'll see her for the first time since (not) telling me about her pregnancy over the weekend.  She's excited.  I'm indifferent.  I'm still miffed about her non-apology.  It'll be interesting, that's for sure.