Gaps

This morning, as the twins were getting ready for school, my daughter said, “I wish I had a baby sister. One I could hold.”

Me too, kid. Me too. (Though I’d take a baby brother, too).

In the past month or so, J has grown obsessed with babies. Mothering her dolls, making faces at cute babies in the store, interacting with the babies at gymnastics. She notices how cute little ones are, sometimes even before I do.

I don’t know why her obsession seems to coincide with my letting go of the dream of another. It’s hard not to think about the last time I was pregnant, when I’d imagined the twins putting their hands on my growing belly to feel movement, a dream I knew better than to verbalize. Despite registering positive on every pregnancy test I used, I knew how transient that reality could be. It wasn’t my first time at the rodeo.

It often feels greedy to have wanted more. Especially when so many are still trying. And it’s hard to think about the many people who have hopped over here from Mel’s post who may see me as the imposter I often feel like. Infertility’s demons don’t go away because you have children, they just change.

***

I went to the doctor last week to have my shoulder looked at. When you have Kaiser, all of your recent medications show up in the prescriptions in the computer, and they make the medical techs go through the whole list to find out what you’re still taking. Which means that all of my fertility meds from earlier this year are on the list. I finally just told the tech that she could delete the entire rest of the list because they were all from the fertility clinic. She proceeded to tell me that she used the fertility clinic for her two kids, and all I needed was to “take a break, then try again.” She said it three times. “You just need to take a break, and then try again.”

Even after I said, “No. We’re done.”

“You should have another one. Take a break and try again.”

The gaping silence made her uncomfortable enough to leave.

***
I find myself finding ways to fill in the gaps. The gaps where searching for treatment options and scheduled monitoring appointments and living life in 2 week increments used to be. I fill them with good things mostly: getting healthier, focusing on photography, being more present at work. I do this. I fill the silence because the silence can be scary. I’m an introvert in many ways, but even when I’m alone I fill the perceived silence with activity for myself. I figure as long as they are healthy and productive activities it’s ok.

Sometimes, though, the gaps are so obvious there’s no way to fill them. All I can do is wait. Time will pass and they’ll get filled with something eventually.

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Breaking Up

I’m breaking up with infertility.

I’ve already decided on the date to break the news.

Our relationship has always been a volatile one. Only once did we manage to be on the same page at the same time. It was a good stretch of time. For 9 months between 2005 and 2006 we got along great and we did some amazing things. Two, to be exact.

But 9 months in the span of an almost 10 year relationship – well, we just can’t keep going on this way.

Now, even when we do see eye to eye, it doesn’t last long. It shouldn’t be this hard.

For a long time now, I’ve tried to act like infertility wasn’t there. You know how you can live in the same space but not really interact? Once a month, sometimes twice, I’d be reminded that things were futile. I’d see red and be angry all over again. But other than that, I spent a lot of time in avoidance mode.

I know it won’t be easy. There will probably even be times when I wish I could get back together and try again. But I’ve done that before, and it didn’t work out then, either.

It’s weird to think about what things look like without this relationship in my life. It’s been holding me back for a long time.

So, on December 12th, I’ll raise my glass to infertility, give thanks for the two amazing children it gave me, and walk away. It’s time. As with the end of most relationships, it’s been time for quite awhile.

It feels like that episode of “Friends” where the girls all burn things from previous exes to declare their independence from messed up relationships. We all have that box from an old relationship, don’t we? Mine’s filled with syringes and alcohol wipes and a sharps container. It sits on the top shelf in my closet, next to a stack of old photo albums and sweatshirts, and I can’t yet bring myself to get rid of it all.

Remnants of an old relationship. Of who I used to be.

I’m not that person anymore.

I’m a runner, a photographer, a reader, a friend, a daughter.

A wife.

A mother.

I am not infertile.

Shift

Sometimes you don’t even realize something is changing. All of a sudden, you do something, and you realize, “wait, when did that become ok?” Something that created a visceral response all of a sudden creates more of a sting. Suddenly it becomes ok to look past something and reach out to talk to someone whose words or actions or mere life experience felt like a knife in the heart only weeks before. Sometimes the change comes on the heels of weeks of feeling like things will never feel better. And then the sun comes up and you realize it’s shining into your room and you have your arms full and your heart isn’t unbroken but it isn’t shattered on the ground. 


Sometimes acceptance isn’t a sprint, but it doesn’t have to be a marathon either.



My second half marathon, much like giving up TTC, was something I was ill-prepared for. I’d battled off and on again pain since my first half marathon, and was also intermittently TTC between then and now. The pain, both physical and emotional, made it hard to maintain consistency with my running. We moved the treadmill upstairs, where we spend most of our time, and even planted it in front of the tv so I wouldn’t be bored. Still, I found getting on it difficult. 

It’s easy to find excuses. 



Finally, the weekend before the half, I decided if I could manage 10 miles, I could manage the race. And I did it. 10 miles in 2 hours and I felt pretty damned proud of myself. And then I spent a week limping. It’s like gearing yourself up for the cycle before the final try and feeling like everything was timed and executed perfectly, only to be gutted by the BFN. I wondered if I could even manage to walk the race, much less run it. More than once I said I wasn’t going to do it. I’d already proven I could do one, what was the point? It’s ok if I never do it again. Right? 



Weeks leading up to the half I got caught in a dark hole that I couldn’t seem to climb out of. Tears came every day, over seemingly nothing, and most days all I wanted to do was snuggle the kids and park myself on the couch with a pound of See’s candy. At one point, H sat me down and said “we’ve got to figure this out. I hate seeing you like this and I don’t know how to help you.” 



I went back and forth via email with my doctor. I talked to my friend L about essential oils. I cried. And then about two weeks before the half, the fog seemed to lift. I figured it was largely hormonal, corresponding with my cycle.

And then came the half marathon.

I didn’t run the whole week leading up to the half (after the 10 miler) because I was afraid I would be in too much pain to finish. I questioned whether I could even finish at all, and whether I really should even bother. Because if I couldn’t finish, why start? But you just never know, do you, when something amazing might happen.



It was a rough race. I was alone. I knew I wouldn’t have anyone at the finish waiting for me, because N had a soccer game and I was already feeling guilty about not being there, I wouldn’t have anyone else missing it, too. I was doing well and on pace until about mile 7 1/2, where the “mostly downhill course” advertisement became a total lie. Soon I found myself wondering where the hell mile 9 was, because it seemed like years had passed since I passed the mile marker displaying “8”. 



Watching the sunrise at the Johnny Cash bridge

Watching the sunrise at the Johnny Cash bridge

Just in front of the starting corrals

Just in front of the starting corrals

IMG_3158

It was about then that I saw her. Shorter than me, brown hair, running capris, looking at her Garmin and muttering “crap” to herself as she’d stop running and walk for a bit. I paced with her a bit, which was easy because I’d been run/walking myself the whole race. It’s how I’ve trained. I caught up next to her about halfway into mile 9 and said, “Hurting?” She blurted out, “I just can’t get out of my head! I just didn’t think this would be so hard.” “Mile 10 is just around the corner. You got this.” I said. “Really?” she asked. “Yep, we should see it any minute now.”

I walked with her a bit and said, “First half?” “Yes,” she replied, “I just didn’t realize how hard this was. I’ve done a half relay and I was feeling really good through about mile 7 but this is rough.”

About then, the mile marker for mile 10 came into view. “See, right there!” I said excitedly. “We got this, less than a 5k to go.” “I can do this,” she said, “although I’m pissed I’m walking.” “We can do this, there’s only one way to your car and it ISN’T on the medic’s quad. And don’t be pissed! You’re still covering the same distance as everyone else! After this next hill we’re running, ok?”

“Ok.”



And we did. For a few minutes until my muscles started to cramp again. And we would go like that – running a bit, walking a bit. And then we could hear the crowd. And the 13 mile marker appeared and I realized we both were going to finish.

She ran up ahead of me to meet up with the people waiting for her at the finish and I crossed the line alone.

I exchanged my timing chip for my medal and walked out to the curb across from the finish with an orange and a bottle of water, sat down, and tried not to sob. I had to wait for a bit for the bus to get back to my car. My phone had died, so I was essentially alone with my thoughts – I couldn’t text or call anyone to tell them how I’d done. I was pretty shocked, because not only had I finished, but I’d finished faster than my first time. A PR. Barely. But a PR nonetheless.

I lifted myself into my truck, stuck the key in the ignition, and plugged in my phone. It took until I was almost halfway home before it charged enough to turn on. And in those 20 minutes, alone in the silence in the car, something shifted. It wasn’t a stellar race by any standard. I walked up all the uphills, and walked probably 2 straight miles at the end. But all of a sudden 2013 stopped being the year I gave up TTC and became the year in which I completed two half marathons.

Lake Natoma

Lake Natoma

Is this thing on?

I know, I know. I’m not really sure how so much time went by between posts. Well, maybe I am. Between the new job and the kids activities and just trying to keep my head above water, I guess blogging took the hit. And running, apparently.

The new job is going well. At least I feel like it is. I’m still learning, but feeling a lot more comfortable with the technical material, and I feel like I’ve established myself with my staff pretty well. They seem to respect me and look for my opinion even on projects that have been in process since before I came on board.

The kids are so busy. J is on a competitive gymnastics team this year. She started gymnastics in May and quickly the coaches discovered how strong she is and how much she loves being in the gym. So now she’s in the gym three nights a week for 2 hours at a time. N is halfway through his first soccer season, and doing really well. His team had their first loss handed to them today, which he took fairly well.

Emotionally the last month has been rough. For those of you not interested in TMI, you might want to skip ahead a bit. Since the twins were born, my cycles have gotten closer and closer together, to the point now where it’s very possible for me to have two in a month. I’ve had 21 day cycle months, as well as months like this one, a whopping 25 day month. The cramps and moodiness start earlier and earlier, to where if I’m not bleeding, I’m in PMS hell.

Trying to process never TTC again while being in constant PMS is like trying to close the door in the middle of a hurricane. Add some surprise pregnancy announcements to some fellow infertiles re-upping for another tour of duty of TTC, and it’s difficult to find a place for it all. I decided I needed real closure, one that would increase my quality of life and take any remaining “what if’s” out of the picture.

I emailed my gynecologist and asked about an endometrial ablation. I bleed heavily, have severe cramps, and sometimes have two cycles in a month, so I’m a good candidate. There’s also hysterectomy, but I’d prefer to go with the least surgical first if it will help. I know an ablation won’t change the hormonal aspect of things, but I’ll be working in other ways to try and combat that aspect of things.

I haven’t been running as often. Finding time has just been really difficult. Which for some of you out there may sound like an excuse, and in many ways it probably is. I could get up at 5am and run on the treadmill. Or I could sleep that hour instead. I’m trying to get weekday runs in at 9pm on the treadmill, and long runs outside on the weekends. I’ve just not been that motivated. I’ve got another half marathon scheduled in a few weeks, and I’m not ready, but I’m not that far off, so I’ll attempt it with the goal of simply finishing.

I haven’t been knitting or reading much either. Nothing seems to really grab me recently. By the time I get home and get the kids in bed after having been at the gym with J or running around after a soccer game, curling up with a good tv show with H or chatting with a friend is about all I’ve got to give. I’m hoping I rediscover my motivation soon. Maybe it’s under this pile of laundry I’ve got going.

So it’s not that I’m not around, or that I’m not ok, although I’m not sure anyone would have wanted to read anything I had to say over the last month that’s for sure. I’m here, I’m ok, and I’m still reading what everyone’s writing. I’ve been a bad commenter, for sure, and for that I apologize.

I have a few other posts rolling around in my head, and I’m hoping maybe to get one or two of them written in the next week. One about my in laws’ surprise visit, and one about simplifying life to enjoy the things in it more.

I hope what’s left of my readership is doing well and I’ll try and be back much sooner this time!

Walk With Me

When 1st grade started, the kids and I developed a routine that included me walking them to their lineup spots on the playground, waiting for the bell to ring while they played, then alternating which of them I walked with to their classroom. I was one of many 1st grade parents who continued this pattern all throughout the school year. The kids would fight over which day belonged to whom, so much that we started including whose day it was on our morning task board. Often the teachers showed up separated by enough time that I could walk one of them to class with time enough to turn around and meet up with the other’s class. It meant not getting to work until 8:30 and only getting a half an hour for lunch instead of an hour so that I could leave by 5pm, but the extra time I got with the kids in the morning, and even the extra socializing I did with the other parents definitely made it worth it.

When 2nd grade started, J told me the second week of school that she didn’t want me to walk her to class any longer. She told me this in the car on the way home from gymnastics, which was good because I instantly had tears in my eyes. I walked in the house and H was cooking dinner, and I tried to shake it off, because I didn’t want J to know that I was upset about it – because I know this is the natural progression of things. I didn’t want her to feel badly for wanting to have a little more independence. Of course I couldn’t hide it and H did say something but I made it clear that it was ok she wanted to walk without me.

Two days later, it was her turn again, and she had changed her mind. She wanted me to walk with her. I checked and double checked with her to make sure SHE wanted it, and wasn’t just saying it for my sake.

The past few weeks, the pattern has been just like 1st grade, alternating who gets walked each day. Yesterday I prepped them that today I couldn’t walk with either of them, because I had an early meeting and needed to get to the office so that I could make the meeting on time. This wasn’t a new thing, it happened more than once last year, too, so they were fine with it.

This morning, as I do, I reminded them that I wasn’t going to be able to walk with them. J asked if we could do “curb” dropoff (instead of me parking across from the school and walking them to the playground gate). I said that it would depend on how bad the car line was when we got there.

“I feel really proud when we do curb dropoff. I feel…taller!” J says as she’s finishing her bowl of cereal. I take this in as I finish making their lunches.

We loaded up the car and I pulled around to the school to find the car line relatively small so I pulled in and right up in front of the gate. J says, “SO EXCITING!!” and she leans in and gives me a kiss on the cheek. “Off you go,” I say, and as I turn around I see that N’s lower lip is starting to quiver. “What’s wrong, buddy?” He’s silent. J says “I think he’s sad.” I realize what’s going on and ask him if he wants me to walk him to the playground. He nods wordlessly. I tell J to go on ahead and close the car door and I pulled into a spot in the parking lot. He holds my hand as I walk him to the gate and I start to give him a hug there only to realize he’s holding onto me fairly tightly. So I walk him a bit further onto the school grounds and say my goodbyes from the playground and make sure before I leave that I catch sight of J (on the monkey bars, of course) before I hurry to my car.

It struck me, as I was driving to my office, how as hard as this age is for me as their mom it must be 10 times harder for them. I want them to stay my babies – to be little and need me and want me around. But I also want them to learn to be independent, and figure out that they have control over their environment and that they can be proud of their independence. But I understand intellectually that this is part of their development, even when watching it makes my heart ache. Can you imagine, though, how confusing it must be to want your mommy but not want her? And to not understand how to express that? I was really proud of J for being able to tell me that it makes her feel proud to not have me walk her to class – it showed a really strong sense of emotional self-awareness that I’ve watched really develop since the start of summer this year.

I wish I could say honestly that when they ask me to walk with them, that I do it for them. The reality is, they’re more than capable of being dropped off at the curb and running in to be with their friends. I’m the one holding on to this vestige of dependence. I can argue that I do it because I get very little time with them during the week and walking with them gives me 10 more minutes with each of them the days that I do it. But if I’m really being truthful, I want to say, “Walk with me. Please. Stop growing so fast. Walk with ME.”

I’m struggling a lot this year with their growing independence. And I know I should revel in it, and I know I should be proud of us as parents that they are confident enough (most of the time) to push their own boundaries knowing all the while we will be here to catch them if they need it. I am so very proud of them, and grateful that we are raising them to be strong individuals. But at the end of the day, when J wants to sit on my lap or hold my hand as we walk down the stairs, or when N sits next to one of us with his arms around us on the couch – I want to simply freeze the moment and breathe it in. I want to make those seconds a part of the fabric of who I am so that when they’re teenagers and they slam doors and yell “FINE!” and tell me I don’t understand what it’s like, I can reach for those moments and remember.

Tonight I’ll go in and set each of their alarms for school tomorrow, kiss them each on the forehead, and make sure they’re warm enough. We’ll get up in the morning and once again we’ll eat breakfast, make lunches, and argue about how slowly they’re getting ready. We’ll load up the car with backpacks and they’ll buckle into their big kid booster seats, and I’ll park across from school.

And I’ll think, “Walk with me.”

Peace

Peace

Last night I emailed the Dean of our church. We haven’t been since Christmas. Wait. Easter? No. We had just moved and just gotten over being sick, so it must have been Christmas. I’ve admitted before I am disappointed when we go and it isn’t the Dean giving the sermon. I know the messenger shouldn’t be the focus, but he’s always managed to speak in a way that cuts through everything, that I can’t shrug off. My relationship with church, with God, is complicated – especially in the face of the past three years.

But last night I felt like I needed something. I’m still not sure what. So I emailed him, and asked him when the next time he was giving the sermon was going to be. He used to have the information up on his website, but his website got hacked and he took it down. I didn’t expect an immediate response, especially on a Saturday night. I was up at 5am, and checked my phone to find he’d responded around 12:30am, with a single line, “I’m preaching today.”

Message received.

I got the kids up and we made it to the 9am service. Dean Baker caught sight of me on his way in during the procession and I think he was surprised to see me. He found me during the “Peace of the people” where everyone greets each other and gave me a hug the way he always does – full-hearted. His sermon was about peace. He talked about how we all talk about peace as if it means lack of conflict. That we all want peace in that “can’t we all get along,” “can’t things just be easy” kind of way that allows us to just skate along in the status quo. And that true peace comes from knowing in your heart you’re doing what is right, and standing up for what you believe. Living fully, making a difference. And that kind of peace causes division. Because the peace in your heart that happens when you stand up, when you have the hard conversations, when you don’t settle for the status quo, those things make people uncomfortable.

I started to reflect on everything changing in my life right now, and how UN-status quo everything has been. And how unpeaceful it feels. And how hard it is and how scared I am. Maybe this is just the message I needed to hear. That true peace is scary, and not easy, and that it challenges the way things are to get to a place where our lives have an impact. That as long as there is love in our hearts, while it’s going to be hard, it will be worth it.

We got through the rest of the service, and we lined up to say goodbye to Dean Baker. He shook the kids’ hands and gave me another hug. He leaned in and said, “I’m preaching next Sunday, too.”

Message received.

I feel really sort of lost right now. I feel like a major fish out of water at work, more so than I ever expected. Turning 39 brings biology home and puts it on par with the finances at this point when it comes to TTC. School starting for the kids is one more marker of how quickly time is passing and has passed, and I find myself wishing time would move in reverse. I feel anxious and uneasy almost constantly right now. And I feel like I need to get back to basics again with Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection. Or actually get lost in Daring Greatly. Because all my worthiness issues have come back to the surface, and I’m finding myself letting fear take over more than anything else. I wish I knew what I needed. I’ve been running more. Knitting. Trying everything to make feeling like me not so scary.

I know the job move was the right one. It puts me as close to teaching as I’ll ever get – helping the teachers of our state. And it’s a good organization, I can tell that and I am proud to have been selected for the job. The issue revolves much more around my belief in my ability to succeed and my fear of failure than it is about knowing I’m in the right place.

I’m doing well at playing it off right now, which may or may not be to my benefit. But the kids start school this week, and they are both heavily involved in their activities right now, and I don’t want anything taking away from that for them. And I know I’ll get through it. I need to take back my own brain and create a plan. Right now, my plan is one day at a time.

And breathe.

Peace isn’t easy. But I sure as hell hope it’s worth it.

Change is Hard

I spent most of today feeling inadequate.  It’s been a relatively good week, all told.  I was feeling fairly comfortable by day 2, not in the technical skills, but just in the overall environment.  And then, today, I’m not sure what it was.  I just started to wonder what the heck I was doing.  I thought about tomorrow, and celebrating my birthday alone at work because I really don’t have any friends there yet.  I am missing my friends at my old job, and feeling that pull to go running back “home.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m going to dig in and make this place “home.”  It just isn’t yet, and that’s hard.  And I’m scared.  This is an environment I haven’t experienced since my time in the private sector.  It’s hard to explain, but this Agency isn’t run like a State Agency at all.  It’s much more like walking into a high powered corporation.  The pressure to succeed is definitely much more present.  

Now, I’m a highly motivated person who hates when I’m not the expert at work.  So I know I’ll work hard to get there.  I just hope I can do it.  

And yes.  Tomorrow is my birthday.  My boss asked me yesterday if 39 was bothering me.  I said no, but that 40 probably would a lot more.  Mostly because 40 was the line in the sand on TTC.  We’ve pretty much put the kibosh on it, without ever actually saying it, but unless someone delivers the winning lottery ticket, we’re pretty much S.O.L. But it’s one thing to say, “Hey we can’t afford to do this.”  And it’s entirely another to say, “Biology wins.”  

I haven’t been running consistently.  I’m running, just not enough.  I’ve been exhausted.  I’ve been not feeling great.  I’ve simply run out of time.  And YES, I know they’re all excuses.  But I’m going to lighten up on myself and hope that when the kids start back at school next week, that I’ll be able to find a consistent scheduling groove and get back into the swing of it.  

I sort of just feeling like everything is changing all at once right now.  The kids start 2nd grade in less than a week.  2nd.  Weren’t we just talking about Kindergarten?  How did we come to have second graders?  When I cleaned out my old office, I found pictures of the kids going back to 2007, when I started with the State.  And my heart ached for the pudgy little fingers and the baby faces in those photos.  I adore the little people they are becoming, but watching them grow further and further away from the babies I could hold in my hands is somehow more palpable this year.  

This post feels like it’s all over the place.  Maybe that’s just an accurate representation of how things look inside my head right now.  All I know is that I feel unsteady right now, like everything is getting away from me. But I’m going to remind myself that all I can do is get up, try my best, and do it again the next day.