Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Bitter With The Sweet

Our California Honeymoon was overwhelmingly sweet -- romantic, relaxing, full of happiness and good food and gorgeous hiking.

But there was a bitter taste from time to time, and before delving into the gloriousness of the places we stayed and the great moments we shared, I'd like to expel the bitter all at once.

In-flight Irony
The first was less a sting than a mildly hilarious irony -- on our flight from Chicago to San Francisco, the in-flight movie was "Born in China." Oh yes, what better way to kick off our celebration of accepting our new life without children than to watch animals raise their babies in the wilds of China. How fascinating that pandas look insanely human as they hold their babies up to the sky, soothing them after a tumble down a hill. Or that a snow leopard can look as annoyed as any mom to be clambered over by her kids. I didn't listen to the audio, I wanted to read my book instead, but I kept seeing these vignettes of motherhood and infancy play over the seat in front of me and was just filled with "are you KIDDING me?" Luckily, the fact that we sprung for first class on this trip meant that I could have some sparkling wine and chardonnay to help make it more funny than sad.

Is It Better? IS IT?
Napa really held very few sad moments at all, except for a dinner out at Mustard's Grill (oh holy deliciousness) where I was overcome with sadness towards the end of our meal, and I couldn't really put a finger on the trigger. It was our last night in Napa, and we'd had a wonderful time, and I think maybe there was some sense of "See? See how our life can be amazing and beautiful and full of wonderful things and travel and occasional extravagance?" and I think I somehow interpreted that as "see, isn't this better?" and I couldn't see it at that moment in time. All I could think was I'd trade all the smoked duck and cabernet flights and butterscotch pots de creme in order to have a baby in my arms, a child to share these things with. It consumed me to the point where I had to excuse myself to the ladies' room because the tears just rolled down my face without any stopping, and I sobbed in the pretty bathroom until I could fix my face and come back out, somewhat reset by catharsis. I don't think anything was said in particular and I can't figure out when things shifted from "oh wow this is awesome" to "I feel so acutely all we've lost," but I was able to recover and we had a lovely evening after we returned to our beautiful room with its gas fireplace and cozy quiet.

Cosmic Ha-Ha 
Carmel wasn't as sad for me as it was for Bryce, as we arrived at our hotel and found that a couple with a baby were situated next to us. The hotel was much more family friendly than the Napa inn, and I think we were a little surprised and a little disappointed that our first foray into our room with its beautiful veranda and spacious sitting area was so close to a young couple who had what we couldn't achieve. Bryce was worried we'd be awakened to crying in the night, but ironically we heard nothing from them and a ton of barking from the couple who replaced them the next day with a very loud dog (this inn was very dog friendly as well). Still, it felt a little like another jab from the universe. I actually contemplated if in the future it would be helpful to note that we would like to be in a room that is not near very small children -- but then I thought maybe that was crazy. Is it? You tell me.

Funk and Fear
Pasadena was great -- we visited with my dad, we went to a fancy botanical garden, we went to Universal Studios. There was some brou-ha-ha at Universal where Bryce got sick, and I was in a bit of a funk already since despite my friend who brought the baby home from the same agency we'd used told me it was okay to hide her on facebook and that I might want to, I hadn't yet and so that morning I was just flipping through my feed when I saw the 6-week pictures posted, and they were beautiful and so happy. The pictures didn't get me. It was the hashtags: #worththewait and #dreamsdocometrue. These are great for them, just incredibly stabby for me. In no way do I think that they shouldn't use these, or that they aren't applicable to them, but it felt like hot acid in my wounds and all I heard from my nasty little voice was failure! see what you could have had? dreams don't come true for YOU, you're not worthy! you couldn't even wait properly! you don't deserve this happiness! Which is cruel, and I know it's not true, but it just seemed like such a contrast and while our trip had been amazing and beautiful it was like this little pokethrough of an alternate reality that won't ever be ours. I hid her. And I wasn't myself all morning. So when Bryce got unexpectedly sick and we couldn't connect with him for a little bit, I immediately went into worst-case-scenario mode and could visualize him ill on the floor of a men's room somewhere, not wanting to cause any inconvenience to anyone but then dying alone on a piss-soaked floor. My dad was like, "uh, that's not really a likely scenario, that's not going to happen," and I freaked out and hissed, "REALLY? You think given everything that's happened that I'd be spared that sort of thing too? You think it's not possible that I could end up childless and widowed, here on our honeymoon?" I sort of wished I'd brought my anxiety medication with me (it was in the hotel) but it worked out okay. My dad was unaware of the developments of the two people bringing babies home recently, and how that had made me feel, and how sad I was from the morning's ill-advised facebook viewing...after he was made aware and got teary-eyed himself, he said he'd check restrooms for me. But then, Bryce found us and said he was going to go to the hotel and we'd meet up with him later, to have a good time, but that he was feeling icky enough that he needed to go home and lie down and he'd be fine tomorrow. I was relieved but also just overwhelmed with anxiety, with the fear that I could lose everything. It was quite the bump in an otherwise great part of the trip, and it all turned out okay, but it really brought a ton of fears and feelings to the forefront.

Haunted by What Could Have Been
The last real sad moment was in Santa Barbara. It was pretty much one per leg of the trip, which is interesting for me to look back on. We went to another botanical garden, a more rugged hike-y one than the fancypants one in Pasadena. It was beautiful -- all canyon trails and redwoods and rocky mountainside backdrops. There was an exhibit in one of the conservation buildings about bees, and we went in. It was incredible -- they had all these really high-quality microscopes set up with little acrylic boxes of bee specimens so that you could see the way they carry pollen, or differentiate between bee families, or try to tell the difference between bees and look-alike flies and wasps, or examine specimens with their tongues out. It was beyond cool. There were little sweat bees that were brilliant green, or mermaid blue and purple. The microscopes made it possible to see their little faces, with the antennae and multi-faceted eyes. It was enjoyable (and air-conditioned). A family walked in -- a mom and two kids, one an older boy (maybe 9) and one a younger girl (maybe 5). The girl was hilarious, looking at the bees and exclaiming, "Ack! Ugly face...peace out, bee!" and the boy was ironically a huge fan of The Fly with Jeff Goldblum. His mom kept saying, "Everything he knows about that movie is hearsay! He hasn't seen it himself!" as if we might judge her parenting skills. (She didn't know her audience, clearly.) He kept saying that they should make a new movie with Jeff Goldblum and call it The Bee, and put a bee head on him instead. Bryce said, "You know, before seeing that version, you should watch the black-and-white 1940s one -- it's great and not gory at all, but real disturbing!" I'm not sure if the mom appreciated that film recommendation, but the kid really loved it. We set up the microscopes for the kids and showed them where some of the neater specimens were for exploring, with the mom saying "that's awfully nice of you!" as we left. And then I stood out in the manzanita garden behind the building, away from any windows where they could see me, and I just cried and cried and cried. It was so sad, because this is just the kind of thing we would have loved to do with our own child, and here what we have is these brief moments of interaction to cling to. I am grateful for those brief moments, and I so enjoy children of that age, particularly ones who are curious about nature and want to know more, but it made me so unbearably sad that we won't ever curate that in our own home. That these passing experiences with other people's children will have to satiate that unfulfilled desire to raise children who appreciate nature, who are inquisitive and experimental and would take the time to explore bee faces under a microscope. I pulled myself together, and Bryce assured me that he was very sad too, but that moments like that gave him hope that he could still have those interactions, no matter how briefly.

Even in these moments of bitter, there was the sweet.

It's hard to not have that balance -- how do you have a trip that celebrates this new beginning without acknowledging the loss that brought you here? How do you accept that with all these beautiful moments, there will always be a tinge of the life that will never be? I know to expect these moments of grief, or moments of "really???" that will crop up even in the most romantic and celebratory of times. To honor them yet move forward in acceptance and the joy of what we can have, of the experiences we enjoyed that we couldn't have if we were parents...that is the important part.

Monday, August 14, 2017

#Microblog Mondays: Back From Our "Honeymoon"

I have about a zillion thoughts from our two-week, extravagant honeymoon to celebrate our new life together after so many years of striving for parenthood through so, so many avenues and coming up short. I fully intended to blog from across the country, we even packed a little laptop, but it stayed shut and off in Bryce's backpack. I wanted to be present in each and every moment, knowing I still have three weeks before school starts to play catchup.

Here are a few highlights from our trip, which was incredible and had just the right balance of hiking, nature, fancy food and drink, decadence, silliness, and a whole lot of romance:

What a wonderful welcome!
It was interesting to me that Bryce felt incredibly uncomfortable calling this our honeymoon and needed to explain to everyone that we'd been married for almost 8 years but were just now able to take this trip. We didn't get anything extra or special for calling it our honeymoon (that welcome basket comes to everyone who stays at this amazing inn that I'll be writing about separately), just well wishes and happy feelings. It was fun to feel celebrated!

First full day, hanging out with the redwoods in Muir Woods

Hiked to the top, what a view!
Started our day of winetasting at 10 a.m. (!)
First night sunset in Carmel-by-the-Sea (no tinkering with color)

Absolutely loved the jellyfish (and everything else) at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
At Andrew Moleta State Park in Big Sur

Gorgeous view at Garrapata State Park a little further north in Big Sur area

Ubiquitous lizards (I must have at least 100 pictures of the cute little devils)

A butterfly on an aloe! Pretty pretty, not quite like at home

Saw my dad, here we're on line for the Flight of the Hippogryff in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Santa Barbara sidewalk butterfly

It was a place of incredible beauty, some of it only captured if you stopped and just took it all in, ignoring any hustle and bustle. It was a gloriously happy time, only occasionally marred by grief and reminders of what we've lost. But man, if this is just a taste of what we have to look forward to, it's not too shabby.

Off to catch up on reading! I feel so out of the loop...

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

Thursday, July 27, 2017

I Did Not "Give Up"

A friend of mine sent me this via text, and it made me smile:

Isn't it lovely?

I feel like I have had to explain this a bit over the past month or so, because people unwittingly say very casually "you gave up on adoption" and before that people would say "you gave up on IVF/pregnancy/your uterus/etc."  They don't mean it in a cruel or malicious way, but it is stabby nonetheless.

Maybe it's because of the mantra of "Never Never Never Give Up" that I used to hold so fast to, that works really great when you are successful and telling others how to navigate their experiences without taking into account just how multilayered and complex everyone's individual journey can be. Not all the nuances are apparent. What works for you may not work for me. We all have our different thresholds.

The mantra that used to push me forward (a relative term, since is doing 13 cycles of IVF without much success to bolster you FORWARD?) became a heavy weight, a feeling that I didn't have permission to move on because it would be seen as failure. Now you know how I feel about that.

It's a hard thing, explaining the difference between giving up which denotes quitting, failure, a lack of ambition or motivation maybe (at least according to our societal norms)... and moving on.

Moving on is my preferred term, because it doesn't connote those things, to me at least. It means that I found my point of ENOUGH,  that it was actually in my best interest to go in a different direction. It implies that this isn't a STOPPING point, as I think it could be construed. It's a shift. It's a movement onward to a future that holds every bit as much promise as any other one, possibly more because I won't have pushed myself past the point of health, physical and mental. It's an empowered choice, not a lying down and rolling to the side of the road. I mean, I do spend some time lying on the floor when I am overwhelmed by the grief of what I've lost, but I am also spending time planning out specifics for our fabulous California Coast trip and organizing my office space and spending time contemplating the big question of... what's next. It's not stationary. Stationary is what we were before.

There is a cost to persistence. I found myself fairly broken, body and soul, in the pursuit of something that just didn't want to materialize, not before the price became too steep. I am not against perseverance in the face of adversity, don't get me wrong. I believe in fighting for what you believe in, in pushing forward when things are hard, in pursuing the things that DON'T TRY TO DESTROY YOU. But sometimes it just makes more sense for sanity and for the health of the life you have, right this very minute, to move on. To let go of something that has become toxic to your existence. To say that it's okay to hope for a different kind of future, to celebrate all that you have instead of slamming your body up against a wall over and over and hoping for a different result before you are a broken sack of goo.

I didn't give up. (Unless it's giving up in the sense of giving up smoking, or meth.)

I found my point of enough. I decided to move on and take control of my life. I decided to let go of a dream, which was is painful and transformative and indescribably difficult, but it was so I could embrace my life and stop the death of a thousand cuts that left me in danger of losing myself.

I am empowered. I am strong. I have a beautiful life. I have new dreams. I am in mourning for the life I wanted that never came to pass, but I do not regret snipping the thread on that one. It was like the bittersweet vine that infiltrates my blueberry bushes, looking like a new shoot of the plant but in actuality squeezing the life out of what was already there.

The message bears repeating:

I'd had enough. There are many women who have also had enough, at all varying stages of the infertility game. Everyone's enough is different, for so many possible reasons.

Let's stop using the words give up in this context. It makes those in the throes of everything feel like moving on isn't an option, that you have to drive yourself into the floor or else have failed. Maybe if we phrased it as moving on, this choice (and I have issues with that word, too) wouldn't seem so scary, so prohibitive, so cautionary tale.

Moving on from the pursuit of parenthood should be a resolution like any other, honored for its strength and power and beauty in embracing a life to be lived fully and with purpose.

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 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!