NIAW: The Ebb and Flow of Grief

There has been a lot of discussion recently on social media about infertility and the resolution of grief. I’m not going to summarize the many opinions and points of view, but I did want to offer my own perspective. There is no right answer to the question of whether the grief and pain of infertility goes away. For some it does; for others it doesn’t. For others it is omnipresent. For others it is a tiny footnote in their history. There is NO right response.

This year’s theme of National Infertility Awareness Week was “Start Asking.” I don’t think post is going to be on topic per se, but I guess it is my contribution to the topic. I don’t think we talk a lot about how it feels years after “resolving” infertility.

I have a child. He is almost 7-years-old. He delights us, makes us laugh AND infuriates us (don’t ask me about the entire bottle of glue on the floor this morning). I suspect our experiences and feelings are similar to many parents with a similarly-aged child. The thing is, I am still infertile.

I still have stage 4 endometriosis and a congenital uterine anomaly. Having a child cured none of that. I am reminded of it when I can no longer take BCPs to control my endometriosis because after 20+ years, they started to cause major pain and I must switch to progesterone pills which have their own delightful side effects.

I am reminded of it as I age and start to enter the “preventative exam” stage of life. I have none of the benefits that pregnancy and breast feeding are supposed to provide. I have all of the fears about what consuming and injecting fertility drugs for years may result in. What is yet to come?

As the mother of a tiny human well into childhood as opposed to babyhood, I should be over all this infertility stuff, right?

I’m not.

When Daniel was a baby, probably until he was a toddler, life was blissful. I was blissful. I had my long-awaited child and was happy. So happy. I knew I was still infertile; I knew I would never forget my journey or scars, but I was happy. Fulfilled. Delighted. Tired. I felt normal. Like a typical parent. I could pass. Siblings and our vision of our family were still possibilities.

Then, as he reached age two and three, my parent friends starting having their second or third children. And the grief returned. Life happened and we didn’t return to treatment – too busy mourning unexpected deaths in the family, job upheavals and other life issues.

And now Daniel is almost 7, and I feel – we both feel – too old to tackle the journey to have another child or the energy to parent. Opportunity passed. And the old grief is back. And the old bitterness. Because even if we did decide to go for it, it’s not like it is simple or inexpensive for us.

So it is an interesting dichotomy of seeing my beautiful miracle child and loving him and thinking of all the possibilities we had dreamed of and mourning them.

And I’m almost 39 and when I look in the mirror and see an older woman with wrinkles, eye bags and rapidly-proliferating grey hair, a less desirable woman, I wonder how infertility contributed to my perception of myself. When I think about not feeling much like a legitimate woman, I wonder about how those years of infertility contributed to that.

Maybe this post reads like someone choking on bitterness and unable to savor her blessings. Maybe that is true. I’ve always been more on the “glass half empty” side of things. I think my point is that what I have discovered is that infertility remains. It is possible to be resolved and suffering, happy and sad at the same time.  You can look forward and back, mourn and enjoy. The real point of this is YMMV (your mileage may vary). Maybe you achieve your child and never look back. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you do and remember how hard it is. Maybe you have miracle children after the long fight for the first one. All of those scenarios and feelings are valid.

My experience, my feelings,  happen to be different.

The Woman Card & Meternity Leave

Today was…another tough day of being a woman in the United States, and I read three posts that illustrated it perfectly.

First, I read How to Negotiate a Raise (if you’re a woman) and laughed uncomfortably because it is true. 

Then, minutes later, I stumbled upon an article about Trump’s comments about Hillary and the supposed woman card. Great article. Yeah, all those advantages that come with having a “woman card.”

A few hours later, this terrible post about a woman needing Meternity Leave without having children surfaced. Um what? 

I don’t think I have anything clever to say about the weird synergy of the three posts other than that yes, being a woman is still very much a liability in most circumstances. Even when we are acknowledged in the workplace, apparently it is to be envied for the nirvana and self-actualization we realize during a too-short, often unpaid maternity leave when the reality is sleep deprivation, vomit, pee, poo and no chance to think about anything else. I loved those rare days I got lunch during my 12 weeks. Or, we are viewed as liabilities because the children must be picked up at certain hours and have appointments, yet not being at your desk 8-5 can be interpreted as not pulling your weight.

Yeah, that woman card is great. We clearly have all the influence.

And PS: can we stop using the primary rationale for maternity leave as a time to recover from the physical demands of labor and childbirth? Because that excludes a lot of women who became mothers through adoption or surrogacy and don’t have the physical experience. It seems like the connotation is maybe we don’t deserve leave at all because we aren’t “mom enough.” 

100 Books in a Year

I read 100 books in 2015. I didn’t plan it. I was originally aiming for 60 books, a few more than I read in 2014. Imagine my surprise when I had reached 50+ by June. I in no way claim that every book I read was quality; many, the majority, were far from it. I think that reading is its own reward, though this is a sentiment I did not have in college (oh callow youth!). Reading is important and no matter what it is, READ!

Here are a few of my favorites from what I read in 2015:

  • Fates and Furies
  • Neurotribes
  • The Girl on the Train
  • This is Where I Leave You
  • Cooked
  • The Creation of Anne Boleyn
  • The Life and Death of Sophie Stark
  • The Wars of the Roses (really anything by Dan Jones – student of Starkey, SRB!)
  • On Immunity
  • Still Alice

Seriously, too many books to list them all. You can check out my Goodreads list. I read anything: https://www.goodreads.com/review/list/778179-keanne?page=1&shelf=read-2015

I did want to share a bit of the great writing I read in 2015. Even books I didn’t love had great writing.

From Cooked:

If we address frankly what is evoked by cheese, I think it becomes clear why so little is said. So what does cheese evoke? Damp, dark cellars, molds, mildews and mushrooms galore, dirty laundry and high school locker rooms, digestive processes and visceral fermentations, he-goats, which do not remind of Chanel…in sum, cheese reminds of dubious, even unsavory places both in our nature and in our own organisms. And yet we love it.

 

From The Department of Speculation:

He won’t just think about how unbearable it is that things keep breaking, that you can never fucking outrun entropy.

And

For fifteen, maybe twenty minutes, she’d suspend her fierce judgment of the world and fall silent there

From Fates and Furies:

By the time she came back, the boy had calmed. Sweat curled the hair at his temples. She put on the overhead porch fan and set the tray down on the little table, taking a lemon bar for herself. She’d survived on wine and sugar for months because, fuck it, she never really got a childhood, and what was grief but an extended tantrum to be salved by sex and candy?

I know there was more, but I cannot find it! Gah!

Will I read 100 books in 2016? Doubtful. I read what interests me, be it historical fiction or pulp fiction. We shall see!

What are your reading goals for 2016?

 

 

 

2015

Today, J came home mid-day from the last day of work for the year, looking more at peace than in several years. He bounded up the stairs to the porch with our takeout feast, grinning the entire time.

Today wasn’t only his last day of the year; it was his last day of employment period at the company at which he celebrated 14 years earlier in the month.

In October we found out he was being made “redundant,” and though other opportunities with the company were available, we agreed that he should search elsewhere. Mergers, culture, people…it had been a stressful few years and not a good fit.

So now, we greet 2016 with me as the breadwinner we joke. We’re OK. There are irons in the fire and ideally, J will get a few weeks of rest before moving on. Fingers crossed.

That is kind of how 2015 went. Not a bad year exactly but not exactly great. Highs, lows, stress, relief…the year had it all.

We are so fortunate in all we have that it seems churlish to think about the less stellar parts. Yet I’m tired of them. What I am just realizing is that this is what adulthood and adult lives are. Shit happens. Shit happens interspersed with good and great stuff. This is life. This is my life.

So I bid 2015 farewell. We did good stuff, watched good stuff, had fun and cuddles. Beach trips. Legos. Listen to Your Mother. Bad stuff too. Stress. Work. Bad complexions thanks to stress. Anxiety. Weight gain.

But as they say, tomorrow is a new day. Nay, a new year. Welcome, 2016. You arrive full of promise but I also expect the lows.

My collard greens are prepped & I have black eyed peas and pork in the wings. 

Goodbye, 2015. Welcome, 2016.

The Not Pinterest Christmas

It looks like it has stopped raining finally, but the sky is still gray and the ground soggy. That makes two rainy Christmases in a row (et tu, global warming?).  It is also absurdly warm –  gonna be 75 degreees today. Am I in Australia or North Carolina?

We’ve watched few Christmas movies so far. I can’t believe I haven’t watched Christmas Vacation yet.

The lights on the outside bushes look good except for the strand on the last one because that’s when I discovered the plug for the last strand of lights didn’t fit the plug that came before. It fits the first strand, though. I thought about trying to reengineer them all but it feels too late now, so we will go with the two rows of lights on the bush. Oh well.

Daniel broke one of the lights in the window when he was waving to me when I went to the grocery store the other day. No worries – it isn’t like the front windows can be seen because of the large bushes in front of them. I alone will notice the asymmetry of two windows and one light .

I baked a lot of holiday goodies yesterday. My knees hurt. But it was  a good thing to do because the one staple I didn’t check before heading to the store was our brown sugar supply.  We now have 10 pounds of it

I mailed photo cards on Monday and Tuesday. They were hastily designed and printed on glossy photo paper at Walgreens. No matte cards from Tiny Print, Shutterfly, Zazzle etcetera. I’ve been meaning to book a family portrait for a long time, but it did not happen this year. That is why our glossy card features photos of only Daniel. That and the fact we took no decent pics with us in them. There was one possibility but it made my double chins front and center.

I didn’t go to my 20th high school reunion because see sentence above about double chins.

I had to ask my mom to help me figure out how to hang garland on our stairs and she made me 4 beautiful bows in 15 minutes.

I fail at the decorative parts of Christmas. My windows are not decorated; we don’t have a wreath (still in a garbage bag in the garage). Our elf lives with us year round.

I did buy pink poinsettias for the front porch because it is a billion degrees this year.

Maybe I don’t have it together decoratively but that’s OK.

I have a 9-ft tree whose lights seem to work this year (knocks on wood). I got out the ladder to decorate it despite my fear of heights. It is beautiful.

There are sugar cookies “expertly” decorated by an eager 6-year-old for Santa.

We’re making reindeer food today.

There are gifts under the tree and surprises hidden everywhere.

We have a Lego Christmas book to read tonight.

We get to play Santa.

And I still have 10 pounds of brown sugar 

  

14 Years of Wedded Bliss

Yes, let’s all have a good laugh now because no marriage has constant bliss. 

But. Today, December 1, Jimmy and I celebrate our 14th anniversary. 

It hasn’t been perfect. It hasn’t been all rainbows and roses – that’s for damn sure!

But it has been good. Very good. The years of infertility acted as a crucible and fortunately, we came out stronger on the other side. Don’t get me wrong: we aren’t perfect. We argue. We disagree. Vehemently at times. But we are closer in ways hard to describe.

And currently we face chaos from work, Legos proliferating madly and constantly underfoot, the homework grind and a thousand other daily dramas.

It’s not perfect, but it’s good. Very good. Happy Anniversary, J. 

Thanksgiving: the Aftermath

  
And then after a delightful dinner, you are left with the detritus.

I was surprised how exhausted I felt by 8PM last night, considering that our day was low key and we were cooking for only the 3 of us. However, a friend reminded me that whether we are cooking for 3 or 30 (heaven forbid), the amount of work is the same. True that.

At least we have a refrigerator full of yummy leftovers.