Saturday, March 17, 2018

Losing at the Genetic Lottery

Thursday was a rough day.

I was all excited about all the lovely progress that I felt like I'd made, and I had my Fatty Liver checkup appointment with my doctor. I was all ready to be like, "LOOK! Look at how great I'm doing at this losing weight thing!"

The scale had other plans.

I took off my sweater, my booties (I am now the sort of person who wears booties, which is weird), and I waited for the slidey thing to go LEFT. But it kept going RIGHT.

According to the evil doctor scale, I'd only lost ONE pound. ONE.

Now, I know it was afternoon and I typically weigh myself in my skivvies in the bathroom when I get up, after peeing. So that could account for something. Also, to get all TMI on you, I had to use the bathroom and I've been having issues with regularity, and so I could not vacate my colon before the appointment and so that had to account for some poundage, right? (Sorry, that's gross. But also I was like, COLON, why can't you be ON MY SIDE, just this once?)

It was beyond frustrating.

I let my doctor know that my scale told a different story (although truth be told I weighed myself the day before in my skivvies in the morning after peeing and it was up a couple pounds, making the number more like 4 pounds of success). Thankfully he is not a weight shamer. He was like, "This must be really frustrating."

Which is when I went into a bit of a tirade about PCOS. I said, "I've been doing some research and it appears that PCOS and Fatty Liver are buddies. They go together. And PCOS makes it really hard for me to lose weight, so I'm not really sure how this is going to work..."

He agreed. He said, "Yes. PCOS and Fatty Liver are definitely related, and it is a difficult thing because the thing that is making you in need of losing weight is the thing that makes that hard. Maybe we should shift the target, maybe 20 pounds is too much to aim for. Maybe 10-15 would be better."

And then he told me a whole bunch of information about how my body hates me and conspires against me that I REALLY COULD HAVE USED WHEN I WAS FIRST DIAGNOSED WITH PCOS.

Did you know: 
- Women with PCOS tend to carry their weight in their middle (knew that one).
- When you carry your weight in your middle, it's not just under the skin. You can also store it IN YOUR ORGANS, notably the liver, and around the intestines, causing all kinds of mayhem.
- PCOS in general makes you more prone to diabetes (knew that) but Fatty Liver is sort of the precursor there.
- I always thought I wasn't insulin resistant, but apparently I am.
- My PCOS plagued body takes carbs and converts them into harmful things for my body, exacerbating my Fatty Liver situation.
- Because I have celiac, I don't eat a lot of carbs, but when I do they are REALLY carb-y (gluten free bread products are notoriously high in carbs and low in fiber).
- If I was a woman of the same weight or even much higher who carried my fat in my hips, thighs, and ass, I would not have these issues. It's the middle fat that is the problem.
- If I can't get my weight under control, I will need to go on a diabetes management drug like Metformin to help me out with the insulin resistance piece.
- So many women I know who have PCOS were put on Metformin as part of their IVF protocols. I WAS NOT. IT WAS ALWAYS POOH-POOHed.

I started to feel both sadness and rage building up inside me.

And then, he said, "Well, one thing we could do to help you out is take you off your anxiety medication if you are feeling better and think you could regulate better on your own. People on SSRIs typically have a very, very difficult time losing weight. If anything, I see people who put on about 10 pounds each time I see them and then they've gained as much as 100 pounds in not much time at all."

This is about where my eyes started leaking and I couldn't stop my lip from trembling.

"I don't think that's a very good idea," I managed to get out without totally bawling. "This time of year is the worst. Because, you know, March-April-May last year were sort of a shitstorm of awfulness and I'm feeling all that pretty hard right now." And then more feelings ran down my face and he passed me tissues. 

I mean, WHAT THE HELL? I would love to not be on meds, but I sort of think that anxiety medication is my friend. Bryce said "It is SHOCKING to me that you weren't on anxiety medication before last year. SHOCKING." Which I had conflicting feelings about, but it's true.

This is when I detailed all the things in my Plan that I've been doing, and how frustrating it is to make so many changes and not see the change in the doctor's office, and how PCOS is just sucky and evil.

And then he said, "Your genetics are really working against you here. PCOS is going to impact you your whole life. You will need to be very conscious about losing weight and maintaining a lower weight, because you are at a higher risk not only for diabetes but for cardiovascular disease, particularly blocked arteries. But it also makes it so much harder for you to do what you need to to be healthy. I mean, I'd call you pretty healthy -- your vitals are good [although my blood pressure was up, probably from the moment I saw the disappointing scale report] and you have healthy habits. Keep going and see me in 3 months, when the weather is nice you'll probably have better results."

That was when I couldn't stop crying. I mean, PCOS is one of many pieces that robbed me of having children, but it couldn't stop there, apparently. And I received very little counseling about how it would affect me longterm. Only how it affected my reproductive life. And when that ended, I didn't think much about it other than the face fur and the pudgy middle and the thinning hair. I wasn't like, "hmmmm, gotta watch for the diabetes and blocked arteries!" Because I didn't think that I was heavy enough to worry about that. I guess I was wrong. And I feel just a tad failed by traditional medicine. I mean, my doctor is great and he was very compassionate and gave me a bunch of information, but it's irritating to me that it took me developing a complication related to my PCOS for it to come up as an issue.

Also, in doing all my PCOS research, I wonder why I didn't do more of that when we were TTC, and wonder if some of the things I'm trying might have made a difference. The answer is no, because it's totally unproductive to think that way, and we had WAYYYY more than PCOS against us. BUT. It is interesting to find out so much about how my body works NOW.

It sucks to find that your infertility diagnosis is sort of trying to kill you. That you've known for sure about it since 2009, but not known just how awful it could be to the rest of your body until now. That looking back it was totally obvious that you had this from the time you had your period, and it was totally missed. That going on the Pill helped with the irregularity, but masked what was truly an endocrine disorder that is so much more than weird periods and infertility.

Grrrr. I went home and did my school work and started to cry. I was listening to sappy instrumental music while I worked, which didn't help, but the crying just wouldn't stop. It was gut-wrenching, grief-stricken crying that I haven't done in a very, very long time. My eyes were puffy and my voice was raw. I talked to Bryce on his layover as he was coming back from his business trip, and he was lovely, but I was just SO SAD. I did buck up and get myself off to the first half of the high school's production of "Hello, Dolly" before picking Bryce up at the airport, but in the morning I had to do creative eye makeup because I totally had frog eyes.

It is so frustrating to find that things totally not within my control or doing are influencing my life in such pervasive ways. I didn't ask for freaking PCOS. Are there worse things you could have? Sure. But right now I definitely feel like I'm losing the genetic lottery, and everything is just going to continue to be more difficult than it has to be.

PS - weighed myself this morning in my skivvies after peeing and my scale was back down... SEVEN pounds down from the starting point. So WTF? Is it just the morning versus the afternoon? I don't get it. And I don't fully trust it. 

Sunday, March 11, 2018


I am not exactly feeling like it's anything to shout to the rooftops, but I've lost 6 pounds. So, if we're going with the 15 pound number and not the 20, that means I'm around 30% of the way to my goal.

My plan has been working out pretty well:

- I have been going to the gym 3 times per week, religiously. I have added in that 4th day of yoga/pilates for three weeks now. I did get some walks in, but then it got all icy/snowy again and that slowed. But spring has to come soon, right? RIGHT?
- My lunches are overwhelmingly plant-based, high fiber jobbies.
- I am not eating bagels for weekday breakfasts anymore. Maybe once in 4 weeks.
- Okay, I tried with the celery. I did so well for a while. It is crunchy, and I could fool myself into thinking it was a real watery chip. Sort of. But the strings...the strings are the worst. So I just don't eat as much of other things.
- The fish oil and probiotic have been a consistent thing. I feel like the fish oil is having all kinds of positive effects. I'm not so sure about the probiotic. But, it can't hurt.
- Definitely eating more fruits. Not so much more vegetables, but I do love me some roasted brussel sprouts, and I eat those several times a week.
- I'm doing okay with the water... some days better than others. I drink a fair amount after school.
- I'm not having as much sugary things. But you know, there are gluten free Girl Scout Cookies. So there's that. The ToffeeTastic cookies are damn tasty.
- The food diary.

Yes, the food diary really does work -- it is so powerful to write down what you eat and hold yourself accountable. I have the food diary as part of my bullet journal, and it definitely keeps me from mindless eating. Because if I DO mindlessly shovel food in my mouth, I don't have space to write it all down, and then the shame is DOUBLED. Self shame is a pretty good tool for me.

I am really enjoying my bullet journal, and feel like it is giving me a creative outlet and encouraging me to be somewhat artsy, and also it is helping me organize my life. The food diary is helping the stupid liver. The trackers are helpful, and I love the gratitude journaling.

So, progress -- 6 pounds down (around 2 pounds per week with one week only going down .4, but that was a somewhat decadent "fuckit" week, so I forgive myself. I gotta live, too, right?); and a beautiful bullet journal that I am STILL DOING in March with fidelity, and getting right fancy with.

I will leave you with some fun spreads and doodles. I do not consider myself a good draw-er, and my students will attest to that fact (I often need to label things to make them recognizable) so these things make me feel quite accomplished:

My lettering needs some work but I'm having fun experimenting. Those snowdrops...ridiculously proud of those! They are based on a picture of a stencil I found on Pinterest, but I did draw them.

It's lovely to see progress, with my whole liver plan and my bullet journalling. One of these will likely result in a good followup doctor's appointment this week...

Saturday, March 10, 2018

March: Let the PTSD Begin

I think I have learned to dislike March. It's a rough time of year, for a lot of different reasons.

One is that March has become the new Month Of Much Snow -- for a couple years in a row March has been particularly harsh, with snowstorms and cold weather and definitely no hints of lasting spring to be found. Maybe little hints, like the snowdrops that came up briefly before getting totally entombed by more than a foot of heavy wet snow, but then BAM! Reminders that it's still winter. I hope those snowdrops have a Lazarus moment when this all melts.

This is the view out my classroom window Friday, on what was NOT a snow day. 

Another is that I usually have my annual review meetings in March, and so it is filled with writing IEPs and having meetings with parents and meetings with students and parent phone calls and getting reports from service providers and assembling a giant packet of documentation in preparation for a day of meetings. My packets are due Tuesday. My meetings are 3/27. I LOVE having my meetings on the early side because it takes them off my plate and allows me to truly enjoy both April Break and fourth quarter, but it makes the first two weeks of March pretty hectic. I can see the light, though. The end is nigh.

Lastly, just the fact that it is March is reminding me of last March, and 2017 was awful in general but March, April, and May were particularly heinous. Luckily I didn't put a whole lot up on facebook while going through the worst days of my life, so  that"On This Day" feature will not be super triggering. However, I know EXACTLY what happened on particular days in March. And I am feeling just a little anxious and blech about these particular anniversaries.

I've already started the clock -- I had the ice skating trip already where I fell and hurt my elbow and spent February Break in a sling, and miraculously this year I did not injure myself. I did fall all the way at the end because a hockey player cut in front of me and I went "Nononononononono... FUUUUUUDDDGE" and ACTUALLY SAID "fudge," thank goodness. I landed on my butt, which all things considered is one of the better places to take a hit. That was actually the SECOND unfortunate event last year. The kickoff was breaking my crown on SALAD and deciding to have it just smoothed out since the gold cap part was intact so it was just cosmetic, and it's my very last molar so who's going to see it? Not even me. But I was reminded of that when I went to the dentist over February Break. I mean, I obsessively run my tongue over it daily, but I don't think about how it came to be. That was truly the beginning.

Now we're coming up on Bryce's birthday, and that was a day we spent entirely in the Emergency Room and it was no fun at all, as it was snowing, and my eye was all gross and red, and it took FOREVER to be seen. Which was okay because other people had more emergent issues, but it was a pretty sucky birthday for Bryce.

Not a happy birthday boy. I'll spare you gross eye redux.

It's just hard to think about all that came after that. All the physical and emotional pain, the complete and utter slamming into a wall of "ENOUGH," a period of time where I enjoyed lying facedown on the floor.

Occasionally I've found myself wanting to lie on the floor, facedown, again...but I'm consciously choosing not to. It does make me nervous that just the timing of things is bringing that back to the surface. And the pull to the floor is strong.

It's a weird set of anniversaries, and it is very, very hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that it's been almost a year since everything went so very wrong. That the series of unfortunate events had already begun this time last year.

But, I am stronger than the pull to the floor. I have truly found happiness after profound loss. I carry that loss with me. It never goes away. Sometimes it burbles up to the surface like sulfur in a hot spring, and spreads its stink about what was initially a beautiful, relaxing scene. Sometimes it is just like another thing in my purse (my purse that can hold a HARDCOVER, by the way!) -- I know it's there, like the mini altoids and more lipsticks than any one person should carry daily, but I don't think about it much.

Somewhere in there is my grief. But more clearly visible is a fun hardcover book that FITS IN MY PURSE! The lipsticks are in that zippered part. I would be ashamed to show you just how many there are in there. 

So, March is tricky. April is trickier. April 5th is when the shit hit the fan and I went to the emergency room AGAIN because it sure seemed like I might be dying, and then had a semi-public breakdown that has had the lingering effect of reducing me to tears when someone says "we can always put you on Prednisone," and was out of work for a little bit scooping up all my gooey parts and trying to reassemble into a functioning human. And May. May is when our dream of parenting officially ended. May is when we officially made the decision, May is when we called the agency and pulled the plug, May is when we dismantled a nursery, packed it up, and donated it to someone else who needed it. But then after May, the onslaught of remembrances ends. The "On This Day" will get me in June, as that's when I went "facebook public" with our decision. But otherwise, anniversaries become planning our trip, taking our trip, building up my office, redoing our spaces for our new life.

So that will be something to look forward to.

And this year, I know how it all turns out, so far at least. So that's something.

Someday this will not be quite so hard, will not be so fresh and raw and easily reopened. But for now, I am not loving March, and absolutely dreading April and May. I have to make a plan for self-care, for making new memories to smooth out those incredibly painful ones. Wish me luck.

Monday, February 26, 2018

#Microblog Mondays: Oh, Death Cleaning Lady...

So I'm reading this book, The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter, and I am MOSTLY enjoying the bejeezus out of it.

She is funny, she is snarky, at times it's a little dry and surprising -- after writing about her third death cleaning for someone else (her husband had passed and she was downsizing to an apartment), she said:

"It would have been incredibly nice to have had my husband's company to help me get through emptying our home, my third death cleaning. But it was impossible. He was dead." 

I love the concept -- cleaning and clearing so that if you were to die you wouldn't leave your family and/or friends with a cluttered mess to clean up on your behalf -- you will have already done it mostly yourself, leaving your home with mostly wonderful things you truly love and not, say, leaving a drawer full of exotic dildos for your grandchildren to find (a real example from the book!).

But there is the rub, the MOSTLY. It assumes that you have children, and grandchildren, to give your things to, to go through your stuff after you pass, to save the burden of cleaning up your cluttered home when you pop off.

The assumption runs deep, as she speaks of the wonderful baby clothes her mother hand-made for her  (five) children that she was saving for her own grandchildren, and says:

"I kept some of these items in a box in the attic, in case I was to be blessed by grandchildren. And when grandchildren failed to arrive, I would take the box down remind my lazy children of what I wanted. It worked. I now have eight grandchildren. And no baby clothes in the attic." 


That was the only thing that REALLY rubbed me the wrong way. Ah, I see. All I needed was for a parent to wave my baby clothes in my face and remind me of my unfulfilled promise of grandchildren and POOF! Grandchildren! My god, how freaking lazy must I be?

Fury. Total almost-throwing-the-book-against-the-wall fury. But then again, it's a really nice compact paper-over-board hardcover, so I didn't want to damage it. She redeemed herself with the image of grannies passing away with a hidden stash of dildos in their closets (lesson: keep ONE dildo when you think you may be nearing death, fifteen is too many and an unnecessary shock to your descendants).

It just amazes me how some people are so removed from infertility struggle. And how ever-present it is in my life. And how as I read this book, I think, "My goodness, death cleaning is particularly important for us because WHO WILL BE LEFT to help clean out our stuff when we're gone, given we have no dutiful children to (possibly maybe) take on that task?"

Sigh. (But also, enjoying this whole get-rid-of-clutter kick.)

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

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Purge Project

One of our goals for this year is to get serious about purging -- to clean and declutter, to make our home full of the things we love and devoid of the things we don't need or have sat unused for a long time.

I've read bits and pieces of Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and I've seen things in Pinterest for scaling back that I can do, and I recently bought the super morbid sounding The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson. I don't think I'm going to die anytime soon (at least I hope not) but the idea of "freeing yourself from a lifetime of clutter" sounds amazing. I also enjoy that her first chapter is called "Death Cleaning Is Not Sad."

Bryce has always been all about the decluttering, and it has always stressed me out. He laughs at me and asks if maybe I was raised during the Depression and don't know it. Ha, ha. It is very, very hard for me to throw things out, and I am always thinking, "but what if I need that..." but for some things, that never happens.

I remember throwing out a giant stack of Real Simple magazines from years ago, after insisting that I could razor out stuff and I would get to it all, and then realizing that there was NOTHING simple about that and that recycling them would feel like a giant weight, lifted. And it was.

Ditto my giant stack of Parents magazines. That one was weighted a little differently, but putting them in the recycling bin was an oddly healing act.

We go through our stuff on a fairly regular basis, but we decided to sort of create our own method, The Purge (not to be confused with the scary movies somehow ALL OF MY 13-YEAR OLD STUDENTS have seen), and it has been lovely to see space open up, stress get alleviated, and the things we love actually get used and appreciated as they deserve.

Principles of The Purge
For this, we go room by room and attack it. We sort of do the whole "Spark Joy" thing, and try to get over guilt that coats items like a glue trap, making it so that we keep things that we honestly don't want or need simply because we feel stuck out of obligation. That's deeply ingrained, and it's hard to loose ourselves from the glue trap of guilt. But we're getting better with it.

We touch everything and decide what's important. For us, a lot of what's important is books. I TOTALLY DISAGREE with Marie Kondo and her assertion that books are clutter and if you haven't read a book because you say you'll get to it "sometime," that actually means "never." LIES. I have actually done a fair job purging some of my books -- ones that are beach reads, or that didn't stick with me, or that I feel I enjoyed and can pass on to others and have them keep passing it on like a lovely literary regifting spree, or donated to a library so that lots of other people I have no connection to can read them -- but at the same time I have books I will NEVER get rid of. And I have books that I received years ago, and just picked up now, and I sure as shit finished them. I like to think of it as my library for the end of the world or more personal apocalypse -- if I have a disaster and can't leave the house for a while, I will have PLENTY of reading material that is new to me. So, no. (But also sort of yes, for the books that were Target impulse buys and were devoured quickly and can be passed on.)

Our goal isn't to get rid of everything, it's just to carefully curate and keep what we love, in a way where we can actually enjoy it and it's not surrounded by a whole lot of other things we don't love, suffocating in a pile of clutter.

Where I Have Trouble
I am super proud of myself, because like I've said, I HATE throwing things out. And I have managed to throw things out over the past month or so and keep them in the trash (or recycling or donation bin) and not rush over in a panic to rescue them. Some things that I keep are just plain weird. This morning I threw out four spent votive candles that had no wick anymore but there was still a chunk of wax, and they smelled really good, so I was like "I can MELT these and enjoy the smell!" But I know I won't actually do that, despite having a wax melter thing. They will just languish in a drawer with the zillion jar candle lids that I collected (and finally threw out). I won't use them as coasters (too unstable), I won't need them once the candle is spent, they should really just be tossed.

I have a tremendous amount of guilt from the tossing, though. There are some things you just can't donate, or that truly have no other purpose, and when I throw them out I feel the weight of the landfill and see the bulging eyes of a sea creature caught in that plastic island out in the ocean. I wish that there were more things that just didn't come with extra trash in their packaging -- I want to make a better effort to buy candles that don't have extraneous lids and are totally recyclable. So there's a plus, too -- more careful selection of items we buy to make sure they don't produce as much trash.

I also have "but maybe I will use this someday"-itis. Although, to be fair, I save a lot of money by smoothing out tissue paper and saving gift bags (I draw the line at wrapping paper) and beautiful ribbons, and I do reuse boxes for gifting or craft organization. But things like pants I don't have a prayer of ever fitting into again (and even if I could, will they still be in style then?), or a hideous (to me) trapeze-style swing tank top in orange and navy that's never been worn but I kept in a Stitch Fix because it was cheaper for the other 4 items... I'm never going to wear them. I should just donate. And make a lot of dusting cloths from t-shirts with stains. If there's another option for clothing that's damaged or stained other than the trash bin (because I don't think you should donate stuff you won't wear because of those reasons), please let me know.

Today's Progress
This break was largely about writing IEPs and doing schoolwork, but today I did NONE of that and instead attacked my drawers. I've been slowly redoing my drawers in my closet, which is necessary because I kept the nursery dresser and those drawers are SMALL (but perfect for bras, and pajamas, and exercise wear). Something I love about the whole Kondo philosophy is the folding things so that they stand up. It really, really makes a huge difference. I can see everything and get to it and I can put a ton more stuff in my drawers as a result. I suspect they'll be less wrinkly, too.

So I went and did that to my dresser(s), and it looks so pretty now:

The drawer that started it all -- my PJ drawer. Still not perfect, but pants on the left and shirts on the right and tank tops sideways at the back. 

Ooooooh, shirt drawer! The left are t-shirts with graphics or words on them. The middle are mostly short-sleeve plain t-shirts, with the bottom starting the long-sleeve party that continues on to the right. I can see EVERYTHING!

Pants! Jeans are a lot harder to fold so they stand up. It drove me crazy. But I have jeans on the left, my favorite jeans in the middle (I'm wearing the missing pair), and colorful/soft pants on the right with leggings at the back. Ahhh. 

This is a magical underwear drawer! On the left side are my camisoles. I got rid of ones that I haven't worn in forever. And then, the underwear. I got rid of anything with holes or stains I don't have to worry about anymore thanks to my surgery, AND I got rid of a bunch of fertility-related orange underwear. That felt good.  
I put all my tank tops in this bin in the door section of my dresser. So easy, and now I can use some of them more easily for layering with sweaters. 

It feels so good to get things in their place. It feels wonderful to take our house, which felt so crowded and overwhelming before, and make it a just-right space, clearing out what we don't need and keeping/adding what is joyful and useful and beautiful. I'm in love with this ongoing project!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Childfree After Infertility Silver Linings List

One of the things that Bryce and I have done since making the decision to end our parenthood journey and resolve childfree is to keep a list, a running tally, of all the GOOD things we have or will have because we don't have children. It's a nicer list than the one of all we've lost, which I did as a journaling activity while reading Life Without Baby. That one's a sad list of grief and loss and opportunities that will never present themselves, and there's really no need to go on and on about that one because it's pretty apparent. And it seems to be what people not in this community focus on when you resolve childfree -- all the "Oh but you won't..." and "It's so sad that you'll never..."

So this is by no means an exhaustive list, as we keep mentally adding things, but it's a pretty darn good one of things that are actually positive (for us) about being childfree at this point in our lives, post 8 years of very real trauma. It's a little crazy to me that we never actually wrote it down, and now's as good a time as any for some positivity!

The Childfree After Infertility Silver Linings List: 

1) We can sleep in on weekends
2) We can go out at a moment's notice, no need to find a babysitter
3) We can have light-colored furniture and not freak out (too much) about possible stains
4) We don't have to put those babyproofing plugs or locks or gates everywhere
5) If we wanted to, we could move to a house with a creek in the backyard (I always worried about toddlers drowning)
6) If we wanted to, we could move to a house on a street with two yellow lines (that was always a hard no because I worried about children getting hit by cars)
7) We will never have to fly in an airplane with a baby
8) We will never have to go on a Disney vacation (for some this is with or without kids a dream come true, for us it's always been a living nightmare)
9) We don't have to pay for daycare
10) We don't have to pay for college
11) We don't have to juggle schedules of gymnastics or hockey or violin lessons or tap dancing or swim meets
12) I will never have to be a Den Mother or a Girl Scout Leader
13) I don't have to deal with the Mean Moms out there
14) I will never be judged for breastfeeding or not breastfeeding (just for not having kids, ha)
15) We will never be judged for disposable diapers vs cloth diapers
16) We will never have to change a diaper if we don't want to
17) We will never have a trash can that smells like shit (maybe until we're really old, but fingers crossed for never)
18) We will never have to have a swingset/play equipment in my backyard
19) We will never have to worry about pedophiles, at least not coming after our own children
20) We won't have to worry about cyberbullying (for our kids, at least)
21) We won't have to have the fight over when you get a smartphone, or being the last person EVER to get a smartphone
22) No small person will ever yell, "I HATE YOU, MOM/DAD!" at us (and if they do it will be really, really weird)
23) We will never have to watch Bubble Guppies, or Pet Patrol, or Caillou, or any of the really weird and frenetic cartoons that are out now
24) We will never have children's music cds on loop in the car
25) No one but me will say "Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"
26) We won't have to go see the Wiggles or any other equivalent in concert
27) Ditto to Disney on Ice, Sesame Street LIVE!, the circus if it still exists anywhere, etc.
28) We won't have to go to Hershey Park
29) We won't have to go to Sesame Place
30) No one will ever beg us to go to Great Wolf Lodge, where all I'd ever do is worry about drowning in a wave pool or getting decapitated by a water slide (sense a theme here?)
31) We won't have to get up extra early on weekdays to get someone on a school bus
32) We won't have to pay for a wedding
33) We don't need a bigger house
34) We can stay in our smaller house, make it into our dream farmhouse cottage, and save a shit-ton of money not buying a more expensive bigger house
35) We can take some of this money we're saving and take really amazing, fancy trips
36) Bryce can get the fancy cars he loves and not have to worry about fitting a car seat in them
37) We can spend more time and energy on our marriage and nurturing our relationship
38) We can spend more time, energy, and money developing our own interests
39) We can do weird adult things like buy art for the walls that comes from an actual gallery (we might have done this with a painting from an artist we saw in Carmel-by-the-Sea, and it is FABULOUS)
40) We will never have to argue with someone to put their shoes on already
41) We will never deal with disliking our child's significant other
42) We will never have in-laws who we may or may not like (this could be a negative or a positive, but after one of the recent and horrific shootings where the guy was looking for his mother-in-law, my TA said she called all her sons-in-law to make sure they weren't harboring anger, and I was like SCORE! I will never have a son-in-law who might want to kill me! It was a very strange moment, and probably fairly inappropriate, but I'll take positives wherever I can get them!)
43) We won't have to watch the same movie over and over and over again
44) We won't have to put someone to bed over and over and over again
45) Our laundry loads are smaller and take less time
46) Traveling just two people is a lot cheaper than adding a third or fourth into the mix
47) We won't ever have a small child have a meltdown in a public place where people stare and stinkeye and wonder if they need to call CPS
48) We will never have to dedicate time in the evenings for homework help (although I felt I was particularly well-equipped for that task)
49) We will never have to pay for sports equipment, dance equipment, uniforms, instruments
50) We will never have to pay for summer camp
51) I won't ever have to volunteer for elementary school events (just middle school events that are part of my job, ha)
52) (Hopefully) No one will ever come into our bedroom at night and announce "I'm going to throw up" right before puking all over the quilt
53) We won't have to change sheets in the middle of the night for a wet bed
54) We won't ever step on a Lego (in our own home)
55) We won't be going to the emergency room for a tiny person's terrifying high fevers, or broken bones, or stitches
56) We won't have to worry about curfews
57) We won't have to teach someone to drive (unless we very nicely volunteer)
58) We won't have to add a teenager to our car insurance
59) We won't have to tour colleges or help with college applications
60) We won't have to worry if our child is doing drugs or having sex
61) We can go for as long a walk as we want to -- no need to walk at the pace of the smallest family member
62) No whining. (Okay, maybe I whine from time to time, but it's RARE.)
63) No Leprechaun Traps. Whoever thought those things up is the devil.
64) No freaking Elf on the Shelf. Why are people creating these things? And then why do people go crazy making them do things, so that kids go home and complain that their Elf is lame, and then you have to step up your Elf game? I am so glad to miss out on this phenomenon. I just like putting seasonal hats on my octopus pillow for my own amusement.
65) No pretending to be the Tooth Fairy, or forgetting about being the Tooth Fairy and then making up a story about why the Tooth Fairy forgot or couldn't get to the pillow in time.
66) No having to be careful when talking about Santa, or the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy
67) No being accused of being a dirty rotten liar when the truth is found out about all those creatures above
68) No worrying about getting an adult child out of the house and into their own living situation
69) The ability to afford fancy dinners out whenever, or last minute weekend getaways
70) The ability to accept last minute invitations or opportunities to do really cool stuff (like going to an OSCAR GALA next weekend!) because we don't have to juggle childcare
71) Being able to be sick without also having to take care of a tiny sick person, being able to wallow in sickness
72) Being able to wallow, period, without someone truly being dependent on you (I mean, there's Bryce, but he can make himself dinner if need be without supervision)
73) No one will walk in on me on the toilet in my own home
74) No one will walk in on me in the shower in my own home
75) No hosting sleepovers, ever
76) No crazy 21st century kids' birthday parties (even if I wasn't going to buy in to the craziness, they'd have to go to one eventually, and then THEY'D KNOW that's possibly an option, ugh)
77) No play dates where the parents are easily 15 years younger than me
78) No being mistaken for our child's grandparents when they're 12 and up
79) No having to go to waterparks or local amusement parks or spray parks
80) No house full of toys people (who obviously hold a grudge against you) have given you that are battery operated and make lots of noise
81) No having to leave a restaurant because a small person is crying/tantrumming
82) No video game addiction in my house
83) No teenagers using SnapChat or whatever new instrument of poor decision making comes out next
84) No getting covered in mashed sweet potatoes or peas or beets at mealtimes
85) No paying for college while also figuring out retirement
86) When I can retire is not pushed back by maternity leaves
87) I have accumulated more seniority as a teacher because I never got to take maternity leaves
88) We are done with living in a terrible, neverending limbo
89) We can make plans for a year from now without worrying about what if (profiles, treatments, clinic calendars)
90) I can go for a walk without my phone. I AM FREE OF MY PHONE TETHER.

That's a pretty good list, no? I'm sure there's more. For a lot of the things on this list there's a sad flip side, but for a bunch of them it's just straight up positive. Like Disney. And that demon Elf on the Shelf.

It feels good to make a list like this. It's definitely specific to our circumstance, and makes me feel very fortunate for our flexibilities and financial situation. I think there's so much value to making this list, though -- it reminds me of all the good things I still have, of all the opportunities that lie before us, despite being denied the life experience we most wanted.

It's a great life. It's going to be such an adventure.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Adoption and Ethics: A Memory Makes Me Think

There was a moment towards the end of our adoption journey where I had to stop, and think, and really re-evaluate how I was feeling.

It came from, of all things, a PEOPLE magazine article. There I was, on my couch after a long day at school, and I was reading about this place in West Virgina, called Lily's Place.

Lily's Place is a Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Center. In their own words:

"At Lily's Place, our mission is to provide medical care to infants suffering from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) and offer non-judgmental support, education and counseling services to families and caregivers. Together we can create healthier families and help end the cycle of addiction."

Sounds great, right? The article was full of hopeful stories of young women and couples who found themselves pregnant while either addicted or in methadone treatment for recovery, and were feeling at a loss until they discovered Lily's Place, where they could get help and support in weaning their infants from the drugs. Where their baby could stay and receive the treatment needed until discharge, and where they could receive training on infant care and the special needs of NAS affected babies, and follow up visits.


And you know what I thought when I read the article?

Sounds great, what a wonderful service. Oh shit, but what if that means that people who may have placed their babies in those situations will now choose not to, because they have support? What does this mean for MEEEEEEE?

I immediately felt a deep, dark, impenetrable shame. What the everliving hell was WRONG with me that I could think such a thing? I felt ugly. I wondered what the eff was up with my priorities.

Because, you see, services like this are incredible BECAUSE they make it possible for families to stay intact, for people to get the support they need in order to raise their babies despite terrific adversity. They are sorely needed in this era of opioid epidemic.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if there were more services to help people who find themselves expecting, but unclear as to how their future will pan out?

I felt insanely uncomfortable with the fact that even for a brief moment I was resentful that services existed that would make it less likely for someone to place their baby. That aspect of adoption -- that my only way of becoming a parent was through someone else's loss due to a variety of circumstances -- was tough to wrap my head around.

I felt the same way when thinking on profile opportunities where financial hardship was the main reason for placing -- doesn't that just seem WRONG, that money could be the only reason why you feel cannot parent your own child? That an inequity in circumstance, possibly built on privileges I hold that others don't simply by virtue of my race or geography or socioeconomic background growing up, could make the difference between someone raising their baby instead of placing him/her with me and Bryce? (And oh, yes, I have privilege -- I didn't have to work in high school to help pay bills, I didn't have to watch younger siblings due to lack of childcare, my family could afford my violin and my racing flats and my tap shoes without sacrificing food or bills, my state university tuition was paid for by my parents, I graduated free of any student loan debt...I had quite the head start from those things alone.)

I believe that there are many reasons to place, and there are many adoptions where placement was truly weighed and considered the best option by birthparents. I also, though, believe that there are many situations where someone feels that placement is the best option because there are no other options, no palatable services that would enable someone to feel that they could parent. And it makes me sad, because in my hopes to become a parent, I felt (albeit VERY briefly) resentful that someone had created a service that could do just that for many families.

How to justify these two things? How to take the desire to be a parent and the inability to become one genetically or biologically, and feel the complete injustice in that and feeling of every option being harder than the last, and weigh it against the ethical dilemma of who to service -- is it better to have more services for adoption, or more services to help pregnant women in need be self-sufficient? Does my desire to be a parent and to raise a baby to have "a better life" outweigh the possibilities of more people parenting their biological children because there were services available to give them a boost until things were stable?

I sincerely hope that most if not all adoption agencies provide a whole bunch of information about services that could help someone who's not sure what to do weigh out all the options, all the resources available, and then make a decision that's right in the long term.

In no way am I being a sour grapes person here -- I was not successful adopting and so no one should -- not at all. Adoption is a wonderful option, but it does seem like some situations feel...icky. Not coercive per se, but a little feudal, maybe. We felt very strongly that we were most comfortable with profile opportunities where the birth parents felt it wasn't the right time, or the situation's timing was terrible (pregnant after a breakup, pregnant and not with the person), or the person wanted to pursue other things (like education) at that time but stay involved through open adoption, or something like that. Luckily most of the profile opportunities we received were like that. But there were plenty that were financial reasons, like not being able to afford a third child, or worrying that paying the bills was difficult without a baby and it would be impossible and give fewer opportunities without placing. Those were far less palatable. We did have one situation where the birth parents had both gone through rehab recently and were in outpatient treatment, and felt that the added stress of a baby at that time when life was just coming together was too much. I'm not sure a place like Lily's Place would help in that situation, and they seemed satisfied with the plan they had made (it just didn't include us in the end).

I guess the upshot is that adoption is complicated, and it creates a whole lot of ethical quagmires that you have to wade through. I was horrified with my thought pattern when reading that article, and in part that made it clear to me that I was okay with moving on from the process, that something vital in my moral fabric could be irrevocably damaged if I put my desire for a child above other people's  possibilities to have a family without so much splitting. I hope that more services like Lily's Place become available, so that there are more choices and options for people who find themselves in a difficult situation, and adoption is one of several equally viable options for the future.