Saturday, January 21, 2017

Marching in Boston

I hadn't planned on attending. Given my dislike for crowds combined with juggling logistics of caring for the Beats, I planned to cheer on my fellow sisters (and brothers) attending the Women's March from afar. What changed my mind was walking into the lecture hall we'll be teaching in and seeing the inauguration being broadcast over that big screen. I just about cried as I watched the Obamas make their way on stage. And the silence that found our entire group when the cameras panned to Donald Trump spoke volumes about the thoughts that ran through my brain.

Grey didn't miss a beat when I told him I thought I should attend. Even after a night with He-Beat being sick, he took over childcare responsibilities, free me to make my way into the city. For anyone who assumes men don't care about what is happening, I can assure you his actions demonstrate how untrue that argument is. Armed with cash, a transit pass and a cell phone, I set off to protest.

And though I didn't stay long (and unfortunately was unable to connect with friends due to poor cell service), what I saw returned my faith in humanity. After a day where I was sick to my stomach, I felt a renewed sense to continue fighting for what I believe in.

Justine posted a beautiful testimony as to why she marched. Today I marched in a similar spirit, to protest the new political establishment that is pushing an agenda that I'm morally opposed to. But the march was also a community building exercise. To see people from all walks of life come together to also openly support one another.

"Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend." ~Martin Luther King Jr.




























Tuesday, January 17, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Wash, rinse, repeat

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

You always remember where you were when you receive bad news. With my first miscarriage, I was climbing the stairs in our condo. Our second miscarriage the news came while sitting in the car. Last year, Grey telling me he had been fired occurred while I was in the tea room. 

Yesterday it was while I was climbing the hill towards home.

The truth is we don't know exactly what will happen now that the company Grey works for has been sold. There's always the possibility that his job is secure, but given the talk occurring it seems like preparing to jump ship is the best course of action.

I'm just so tired of doing this all over again. We just got through my rollercoaster of job hunting, knowing full well that I'm truly not settled into anything long-term. There's also the fact that Grey actually enjoys his coworkers and has been loving working with this team. The final element is hearing about the Beats telling Grey that they love their school and their teachers. All of it just makes me want to cry.

So we're back on the familiar roller coaster of job hunting and finding childcare arrangements. Back to trying to make all of this work for our family.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The other side

Two days ago, I found myself navigating the tunnels of the university with my new coworkers in search of coffee. Walking through what seemed like a secret underworld, one of them asked me about the Beats. Smiling, I mumbled a distracted answer about living with 3 year olds, all the while trying to figure out landmarks so as not to get lost on the way back. In that absent-minded state, I asked my coworker if he had children.

"One," he answered. "After 6 failed rounds of IVF, she's our 22 year old miracle."

I almost walked into the wall.

Stumbling over myself, I shared that I had also gone through 4 rounds of IVF, 1 fresh cycle and 3 FETs. After doing a double-take, we began sharing tidbits of our journeys.

Just before we surfaced in the cafeteria, he turned and smiled at me in a way that spoke of memories of pain, uncertainty and deep loss. "It's funny how things like that shape you. How they never really leave you. And how even being on the other side, getting what you broke yourself for, you still find yourself forever changed by the journey."

*********************
There's a hope everyone facing infertility/RPL has of one day being on the other side. While in the thick of battling the pain, the grief and the uncertainty of the path towards resolution, promises are made about lessons that will never be unlearned, assumptions that will never be made again and new levels of empathy that will be practiced. Like so many, we vow to never take certain things for granted if, and only if, we can somehow come out the other side.

The truth is, I wondered what the other side would look like. Initially after our diagnosis, I held fast to the hope of quickly resolving so that we could put the whole experience behind us. But as time went on, I found it harder and harder to envious a life where we could so easily forget. As the version we originally planned for family expansion morphed again and again, I found myself wondering not only about whether a happy ending was even possible, but also how I could possibly navigate through life with the scars I now had.

Today marks 4 years since our final round of IVF that lead to me finding our road to resolution. As I type this, the end result of that pregnancy is in the room next to me, using every attempt known to preschoolers to remain awake for the night. Yet, despite the madness echoing throughout the apartment, the knowledge of how close we came to this not being our reality is very clear. I touched that version of life; walked some of that path.

But there's another aspect I hadn't considered all those years ago: the bond that comes with sharing those scars with others. Like a secret handshake, it only takes a sentence to reveal this shared understanding about a community so few would ever want to be a part of. But there's also a calmness that's come from being on the other side of a trauma. Of knowing that even though it did break me in ways I never would have thought someone could survive from, survive I did. Even when it wasn't pretty. Sharing that has allowed me to connect with others in ways I wasn't able to before.

Despite all that, I still am navigating my way through this world of being an infertility survivor and someone who is resolved. The strangeness that comes when people who are clueless about infertility talk about family expansion as if it was a given and all that goes with it. Every year, the pain of the past becomes less sharp and the triggers more defined. But the other truth is that it's also clear my whole being will never forget. That being on the other side doesn't mean you're somehow less broken; you're just better at finding the beauty in the scars.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Robobear vs. the Clique

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

Years ago, I there was an art show in my neighborhood featuring the work of Justin Hillgrove. Sometimes, if we're lucky, we find (or if we're really lucky, create) art, a poem, a quote that just says it all. 
by Justin Hillgrove
As my friend, the dear, departed Princess Leia, said to me, "Take your broken heart, make it into art."
~Meryl Streep

Friday, January 6, 2017

Honor Code

"So when are you planning on talking to Gramma?" A question that was asked with some urgency and continually pressed with more urgency by both my mother and my godfather. My answers range from "I know I need to do this" to "Soon." But the truth is always a lot more complicated than that. Just as most truths are.

Five years ago, when I made the decision to cease contact with my family as we were barreling towards our first round of IVF, I found myself having to make peace with a lot of different situations. I mourned the loss of my beloved godfather (my mother's youngest brother), of my father and my brother. My dad's younger brother too. But the women in my family, I was done with. My mom and sister, my aunts. But also with my grandmothers. My dad's parents were easy as my parents were still estranged. But my mom's mother was harder. Though it was clear she didn't understand, her continual refusal to act as matriarch and rein-in all the misbehavior of her children was the root cause for the ongoing issues. Even when confronted, it was clear she wasn't capable of making needed changes. And I was tired of it.

The problem comes in that my Gramma is now 80 yrs old and her health is rapidly declining. Add in the continual explanation that she doesn't understand why I would cut off contact and one gets a lovely stew: guilt and a sense of obligation stirred in with frustration and a feeling that empathy isn't part of the game.

Over the past couple of days, I've been thinking about all of this while also tackling the mountain of work around my new position. Classes start in under 2 weeks, so finalizing quizzes, section manuals and problem sets have been at the top of the list. Today, though, we talked about exams. And that's when I sat down to review the university's honor code. As I've been reviewing academic standards and a call uphold those by avoiding dishonest practices, I've found myself struggling emotionally. The familiar feelings of abandonment and pain surfacing when reflecting on why I haven't been able to call Gramma.

The problem comes in on two fronts. The first being that I don't feel I can be honest with my Gramma about why I made the decision to cut contact years ago. I big issue as that wall means that actual healing of our relationship really won't happen. The second is that I feel the big push for reconciliation really doesn't involve me at all, but instead is about the feelings and viewpoints of others.  In short, I'm being held to an Honor Code that is enforced only for a few. An ancient code that family connection trumps everything, especially during moments of life transition. Even if upholding that Code ultimately is unhealthy for all involved.

Honestly, I don't know exactly how to resolve these feelings. My gut is telling me to bite the bullet, call and lie through my teeth. Being very careful to admit nothing as I know it will ignite my mother and her siblings. The problem doing so also feels like it will further the divide. It gives me more leverage for why I don't want to expose the Beats to any of this. I never want them to feel this used.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Day 1

Firsts are hard for me. While others see new opportunities/things for their shininess, I worry about how the 15 billion ways I can break them or screw them up. This fear probably explains my attraction to buying used, repairing anything broken well past the expense of just buying new and all things vintage. But it also makes transitions hard too.

Today is my first day at my new position. There's a lot of logistics that need to be worked out (new computers, new systems to learn, hiring to be done, training to plan for and a big meeting at the end of the week with the three professors who will be lecturing), but the scary part isn't the logistics but what this transition actually means.

For as long as I can remember, my goal has been to be a scientist. Throughout graduate school, I refused to give myself the formal title as I saw myself solely as a trainee (even though others around me bravely owned it). After graduation, though I now had three additional letters to add to the end of my name, I still didn't own the title given my delusion that somehow I didn't deserve it. Over the past year, that mindset has changed. Part of it was coming back to the bench and authoring a review with E. But the other part has been actually looking at how science is done. That the title isn't exclusively for those who fit into the ever shrinking field of R1 research professor, especially as many of them aren't actively working at the bench anymore. In a weird way, getting back to the bench not only got me back to my roots, but it also made me realize that the science I'm most passionate about revolves around how we learn about it. And that I do hold the title of scientist and have for a long time.

That's where the scary comes in. Because today, as I close a decade-long chapter as a bench scientist/trainee, I begin one embracing being a science educator; using all my training to apply it to the goal in front of me as it's something I truly believe in. The weight of owning it isn't lost on me.

The thing giving me focus at the moment is an encounter I had the day I began negotiations for this position. Moments following publishing this post, I had an opportunity to observe a teaching session with a group at the medical school who is helping change the way we teach cell biology to high-schoolers. This team is conspired of experienced nurses, many of who have worked in ERs, who were taking a flipped classroom model. Starting with a round table session, where the teens were talking about neuron anatomy, it immediately morphed into a case study where the girls took on the role as medical students/residents who were charged with diagnosing and treating their patient, an interactive manikin named "Holly," who was experience severe chest pains and was acting odd. A few things came out of that case study, mainly the girls being extremely upset that Holly repeatedly lied to them about having used any drugs (cocaine was found in her system after a drug test), but the added element was why Holly was also suffering a heart attack. And that's where the nurses turned everything on it's head again and helped guide the girls back through previous lessons about neural biology and how cocaine impacts that. Before any of us realized it, the girls were 1 1/2 hours into the lesson, all alert and all of them wanting to know more about the biology of addiction and how it impacts our society.

That observation experience has been on my brain ever since. Because that impact, those ah-ha moments, are what I want to see more of. And though this field is new, the potential to have meaningful impact is extremely high.

Today is day 1 of embracing this path. Of taking ownership and being prepared to stand on my own two feet. There are many pitfalls already visible and I worry that I've made a selfish decision to drag Grey and the Beats down this road (I'm extremely lucky to have the support I have from them and so many). The fear that I'll find some new an exotic way to break it all.

Here goes nothing. And everything.

Monday, January 2, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Ring in the new

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

I know this transformation is painful, but you're not falling apart; you're just falling into something different, with a new capacity to be beautiful.

~William C Hannan
 
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