Monday, February 29, 2016

#MicroblogMonday: Signs and symbols

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

In December of 2011, Grey and I were in the middle of our first cycle of IVF. Following the good news about fertilization, we found ourselves in a strange period where we were holding our breathe as our embryos grew. An odd sort of waiting period as we had more information then most couples will ever have about potential pregnancy, yet nothing was guaranteed.

One night during this period, I stopped at a local bakery to pick up some madeleines for dessert before picking up Grey from work. Upon picking up Grey, an idea manifested that we would take a detour and stop outside the clinic so we could be close to our embryos, sending them well-wishes. We were certainly a strange sight for anyone who passed, as we looped the building a couple of times in order to pinpoint where the embryology lab was located. Then we stood holding one another, talking out-loud to our potential embryos, encouraging them to grow.

It was in that moment that Grey took out one of those madeleine cookies and rested it against the wall of the clinic, below a window that we assumed lead to the lab.

It's been over 5 years since that night. 

Last night I made a batch of madeleines, beginning the work to find a recipe that we'll enjoy. I left them on the countertop to cool overnight, not thinking about that night. Till this morning, when both Beats spotted those cookies. And in that moment when they both reached up to retrieve a 5:30 am treat, I found myself wiping away tears.

Like many, my time in the trenches has lead to me collecting symbols and signs. From fertility bracelets and mantras to pennies and rainbows, my collection swelled. Getting pared down over time to those things that symbolized hope and light during moments when darkness threatened to take over. Two particular objects, a locket that I acquired before my second miscarriage and a pendant acquired prior to our final FET, have been most dear to me. The locket representing those potential babies lost too soon; the pendant acting as a promise and reminder that there is light and hope in the world. Still, the others hold meaning. Pennies and madeleine cookies. Cherry blossoms and rainbows. Reminders of all that has happened. Reminders of all that has been. 

And reminders of why it's important to believe that if its not okay, its not the end.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The choices we make

I've been processing a lot in my dreams recently. Following a roller coaster of a week, with people waffling on the medical care (short answer to the long story is I haven't undergone surgery despite constant warnings it was happening. Apparently I'm healing and they'd rather not cut), Grey having an excellent first interview with job option #1 and asked to a more formal interview with job #2 (aka dream job) after hearing nothing for about 3 days, daycare options being completely up in the air and work drama involving a member of the lab who is struggling with her own shit (E's been great about letting me come into her office, close the door and just taking a moment to breathe), I've been spent on a lot of levels.

All the while thinking and reflecting. Thinking about how others see the world, which still blows my mind on even the best of days, and also on what is considered socially acceptable. And what happens when we break the rules.

On Friday, Mel posted a question about chooses. It was interesting to mark the timing of this question as I've been thinking a lot about this and the options we are facing. More interesting was the comments section. People clearly choosing freedom over imprisonment, but what struck me was some focused on the assumption they knew their friends and family would ultimately forgive them for their decision to be free. And it left me thinking "but what if they didn't?" Change the offense to something more dire, where your choice of freedom meant that your loved ones would suffer and/or die? Hence they would hate you because they feared you. And though you were technically free, able to come and go as you please, you were forever separated from all you knew, shunned for something that wasn't your fault. Would you still chose your "freedom," even though you actually lived in a world of imprisonment? Where as if you chose a lifetime of being physically confined, but were free in the sense that these same people were now safe and living full lives. Where they could love you for your sacrifice?

Friday was a very good day for Grey. Two weeks after the shitty conversation where his previous employer blindsided him by announcing things weren't working out (despite repeated requests for a performance review and them lying to him that all was fine while avoiding his requests), he spent the day meeting with members of a team who were excited about the work they do and love thinking on their feet. This position would be a good fit for him with a path forward (completely opposite of his previous position) and it's been good to see him so excited.

Later in the evening, we began a candid conversation about being true to yourself. And about how others' perception of you can completely impact that imagine. Grey talked about how with his previous employer he began to wonder if something was inherently wrong with him. His attempts to bond with co-workers had been continuously rebuffed and he was attacked with catty comments constantly. They basically ran him down. It's only now that he's on the other side of it that he's able to see that those comments and attitudes really reflect on how much these people hate themselves, but at the time it was literally destroying him. And it makes me so angry because that ostracism was completely unnecessary. A sign of a toxic culture fueled by those who are too fearful to confront themselves and address why they are so unhappy in life.

This past weekend has been spent strategizing to make sure this never happens again. To lay a foundation so that our family can protect one another and those we love from stuff like this. We've already got some of this foundation in play, which has been apparent through the love and support we've received from our network (and thank you to all of you who have reached out and been supportive during this time. You've all been amazing in ways that we can't begin to thank you for), but we need to foster this internally too.

Still, I'm angry about the ostracism. The self-doubt that manifests from those who chose to ostracize.

Grey and I are in the middle of season 2 for Masters of Sex, which has been interesting both for the historical perceptive as well as providing an interesting commentary for modern-day science. It was scenes from a recent episode, where one of the characters confronts a choice about their healthcare options and an ultimate decision to stop, that really has been on my mind.

I won't get into specific here, but I will draw on parallels I've witnessed during my own interactions with the public regarding cancer. Specifically when the diagnosis is terminal.

There's a fear people have of "giving up." Stopping treatment altogether and accepting there's nothing more medically that will be done. Often the gut reaction from family and loved ones is anger and panic. After all, why would you not fight for your life? After all, there's still a chance as long as you keep fighting and refuse to let this disease win.

But what isn't well accepted is that this decision to undergo treatment after treatment is a form of prison. Instead of bars and chains, there's IVs and needles. There's days of recovering from the side effects from chemo and radiation (both of which are poisons that are meant to kill cancer cells, but also kill healthy cells too). And all that fighting is meant to buy you weeks, sometimes days. But though you gain that time being physically alive, you lose in actually living.

And yet, one thing that is known within the cancer community is that patients will often continue treatments simply for the peace-of-mind of loved ones. That they will endure hardships and discomforts solely to make others happy. There's been more discussion about this, with a push for family education about palatable care and pushing quality of life. Hard conversations with lots of emotions, usually driven by those who struggle with making peace and saying good-bye.

The bow on all these thoughts was an email from Pamela,  alerting me to a repurposed blog post about why we don't talk about infertility. I've been thinking a lot about this topic over the past few years as there's still a lot of discomfort from others about my continual connection with this community. So many truly want me to put this period behind me and pretend that it was just a bad dream.

And yet, I can't. I can't because of how much infertility changed me. I can't because my diagnosis resulted in my whole world burning down around me, resulting in a pile of ashes that so many feared so greatly. There was rebirth that came from this experience. Rebirth that has become a foundation for this new journey ahead.

Contrary to what so many want to believe, the Beats are not the reason that this healing took place. They've helped (I'd be lying if I didn't acknowledge that) and have been such amazing lights in my life, but healing has come through lots of self-reflection, continual exploration into some dark corners and learning how to accept who I am.

Part of this healing also meant living through ostracism. Being judged by others who, both those I've never met (and never care to) as well as those that I loved deeply. It's painful to be shunned on such a deep level and there were moments where I wondered if it would be better to simply disappear. Yet, after living through all of that, it's clear that once again we have to temper our decisions on how to live. That there will always be those who judge freely and bully. That their actions usually have so much less to do with those they attack and more about how they are feeling about themselves.

So I chose to stay. Drawing on the support from this community as I continue to heal. Even though I know that it makes so many around me very uncomfortable. Because doing otherwise was killing me. And it's a prison I'm not willing to live in.

Monday, February 22, 2016

#MicroblogMonday: Ying and Yang

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

For as long as I can remember, Grey and I have been ying and yang regarding our work. I remember coming home after getting some great experimental results only to learn he had had a fallen out with his graduate advisor. Or me having a terrible meeting with a student only to learn he had finally gotten that one key experiment to work where they could now finish the manuscript he had been working on for so long. Even with this move, my good days with this postdoc were often met with terrible, unfulfilling days for him. Always ying and yang.

This has been on my mind since Friday. The Beats and I have been struggling with a stomach virus, which has resulted in diaper rash for them and me feeling less than great where the sun doesn't shine. We finally got their rash under control, but following a full day on my feet due to an important experiment, I knew I was in trouble. 

I woke Saturday morning to severe pain and blood. In tears, I managed to get somewhat cleaned up and packed up for a trip to urgent care. The experience was horrible, with a couple openly laughing at me when I walked in the waiting room because I "looked funny." This followed by a meeting with a PA who was convinced I was making a big deal out of nothing until she got a chance to examine me. Within 10 mins, I had a referral to surgery (which is today), two prescriptions for steroids and a narcotic to help me sleep, instructions on EXACTLY what to tell other urgent cares if the condition got any worse and a diagnosis of a severely prolapsed hemorrhoid.

So what does that mean about Grey? Well, after one week of unemployment, the man had a successful phone interview with a company of interest and they are meeting for a formal interview (CTO, CEO and the team) this Friday. In addition, Grey's dream job came on the radar. And 30 mins after he contacted the hiring manager with his resume, they responded. Grey's got a phone interview on Tuesday. 

The man has been giddy with excitement. I honestly haven't seen him this alive from potential opportunity and options in over a year and it is contagious. 

On Sunday, while following doctor's orders and not moving much, I thought about our ying and yang relationship. And then I made a deal with the devil. I silently prayed that his dream job comes through, offering to sacrifice living pain-free. Just to finally see my dear husband in this position that he's hoped for for so long.

I know it seems silly. After all, I need to function too. I guess I'm at a point where if it truly a matter of one over the other, I chose for him. Our family needs this. And seeing this excitement in him fills me with hope.

Monday, February 15, 2016

When anxiety wins

Over the past few days, there have been many moments where Grey and I have been finding reasons to hope. Grey's networking has lead to two separate leads on potential positions and many more options are coming up that we weren't aware of. It's hard not to dream about a good outcome in those moments. Hope is alive.

But there are still the dark moments; the moments where anxiety wins. Moments where I find myself wanting to curl up into a small ball and cry until I'm past exhaustion.

Anxiety is something I've struggled with for most my life. Between stressing pleasing others and worrying about how others see me from a young age to worrying about not meeting certain milestones later in life, I've struggled with feeling like I'm a failure in life. Though infertility helped shatter a lot of that, there's still an underlying level for feeling this way.

Tonight my anxiety got the better of me. Fueled by a lack of appetite and a terrible commute home (90 min wait at the T station, which lacked heat, because the buses are operating on holiday hours) that resulted in me being chilled to the bone, I've been feeling the waves hit me again and again. All until I felt like I would suffocate.

So, anxiety is winning at the moment. Even though I know Grey is doing everything right and there's the potential to come out of this better off than we were before. Instead of being the supportive partner, I'm forcing back the tears and hoping that all of this will pass in the morning.

Because right now, it all feels impossible. And I'm tired of feeling like I've somehow fucked up beyond repair.

#MicroblogMondays: the importance of celebrating

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

In times of crisis, it can be hard to celebrate. Instinctively, there's this drive to put off any and all celebrating until one gets to a place where they have reason. After all, why would you reward a circumstance that is difficult or miserable? Why not wait until you're in a place where you have a reason to actually celebrate.

This rational makes sense for short-term crises. But what happens when there's no end in sight or resolution isn't clear is a vicious pattern where you find yourself isolated from all moments of happiness and missing milestones that need recognition. By waiting until everything is perfect, you effectively stop living.

For three long years, I did this to myself. Holidays came and went unrecognized and moments that deserved some recognition went without. Because we assumed that we couldn't and shouldn't celebrate until we finally brought home a baby. That there was no point. 

It wasn't until our 3rd failed round of IVF and failure to launch with adoption that it became clear we needed to stop this mindset. That we were missing out on too much of life and, thus, were adding to the pain.

Applying this lesson, Valentine's Day was celebrated in our house yesterday. Amidst the anxiety and fear, Grey and I found moments to be together and celebrate our family. Our landlady Martha had made a Valentine's Day tree and the Beats made ornaments to add to it.

The morning was started with heart-shaped pancakes and then a trip to the mall to play at the indoor playground (we've begun meeting other families who are regulars during the time we're there). Lunch was had, followed by a long nap for the whole family and then some craft time/ play time. In the end it wasn't a fanfare of a day, but we made a point of finding those moments of happiness and milestones to recognize.

This morning, Grey heard back from one of his contacts about a position. Nothing is guaranteed nor do we know if this is even a good fit. But it's a start. And the help continues to flow in, offering connections and options. And that is worth celebrating too. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

48 hours later...

"Where were you when you got the call?" my friend knowingly asked.

Shocked by her question, I began to laugh. "Clearly you understand this," I answered.

"Yeah, I was in a meeting. Thinking 'what the fuck? why is he calling?'"

"Grey at least caught me during a down moment. Still, I'm so scared. I don't know how we're going to survive this."

"I know," she said. "But you will be okay. And better things are coming."

The last 48 hrs have been spent dealing with the shock and anxiety from Friday. We've been replaying all that happened and the reality is there was nothing Grey did that we are aware of that caused this unexpected decision. Still, it's a blow that we were unprepared for.

That said, there's also been a sense of relief. Grey has struggled with this position as it was far from a good fit. I can't get into specifics about this, as this isn't my story to tell, but over the last few months I've watched my husband drop into a deep depression working his butt off for something he didn't believe in. And it caused so much tension as I am now in a position where I can move ahead while he was feeling left behind.

In the last 48 hrs, I've been watching Grey transform back to his old self. Fueled by the outpouring of support we've received from family and friends (and thank you isn't enough for all of you who left comments or reached out), he's begun warming up his contacts and polishing his resume. Watching him pour through job postings, he's found two separate positions he was initially considered for before he took this past position, told he was a leading candidate for both. And we're seeing more options that he either fits to a T or is fairly close. In short, there's hope for something very good to come out of this.

People keep asking me how I'm doing with all of this. Honestly, it's mixed. One moment I'm filled with anxiety, wondering how the hell I'm going to support a family of four on a postdoc salary. Yes, there's resources we can tap and there's some movement coming down the pipeline to resolve our situation with our condo, but there's still a lot of balls in the air.

But then there's those moments where I remember what brought us here to begin with. The fact that job security is becoming more of an illusion in this country. Over the last year, I've heard stories from many physicians talking about forced pay-cuts they've had to endure. I've heard from friends from undergrad who are still reeling from anti-union laws that put their jobs as teachers in jeopardy. I've watched academia shrink more and more, with professors spending most of their time fighting for grant money or managing administrative duties instead of pursuing the research that they love. In short, there is no more "safety" in employment. Just like there isn't in life.

Last fall, just before our cross-country move, I found myself rereading Steve Jobs's commencement address in 2005. Titled "You've got to find what you love," Jobs makes a strong argument for why it's important to take the risk and pursue ideas or dreams that make you want to get out of bed in the morning. Over the past couple of days, I've been thinking about Jobs's speech, particularly this part:
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
48 hours later, I truly do feel naked. Exposed and with no safety net. It's terrifying. But it also means that there's nothing holding us back.

Grey is charging full steam ahead. And I'm working on being more than brave; I'm working on changing my heart too. All while cheering him on.

48 hours later, we're not okay. But we're better than we were.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Pushed back under

It's been a couple of weeks with many critical deadlines. Between submitting a manuscript (hopefully finished today), finishing a review of a manuscript (earlier in the week), completing an application for a summer course (done and waiting for recommendation letters) and submitting homework (more on that one soon), there's been a lot of stress. All week, I've been ignoring the blogosphere and connecting with anyone outside of work with the idea that Friday I would surface from this craziness and rejoin the day-to-day.

Then Grey dropped a bomb and informed me he was fired today.

If I'm honest, this isn't entirely a bad thing. Grey's been very unhappy in this position for a long time, not quitting or job-hunting out of continual warnings that short employment would be a mark on his resume. It's funny how this is so one sided, though, as a company doesn't suffer from the same criticism (unless there's massive turn-over in general). Regardless, their decision that he "wasn't a good fit" has freed him from the obligation of staying in something that was making him hate life.

Still, I want to cry. The fact that we relocated only 5 months ago mainly for my benefit brings a great amount of guilt that I'm the cause for this. There's also the financial reality we are now facing of trying to figure out how bills will get paid while also managing the mountain of debt due to fertility treatments. How will we survive? How will we make it through without losing everything?

Already people are helping. Both Grey and I are already networking and focusing on the fact that a lot of good can come from this. We both have access to resources and others who have navigate very similar situations (quite literally). There's also the mindset we're both in which we learned from infertility, which is to hold fast to one another instead of pointing fingers and passing blame. To be the rock we both need.

Because at the end of all of this, it will be okay. Hell, it will be better than okay. We'll make sure of it.

Monday, February 1, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: painted toes

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

We've been battling sickness for the past month. Between fevers, running noses and hacking coughs, there's been many a sick-day and sleepless night. This past Saturday both Beats were cranky from mild fevers, so plans to visit the library and spending time outside were promptly canceled.

Instead, through a process I still quite don't understand, I found both Beats raiding my collection of nail polish. And then promptly insisting on having their toes painted.

It's been awhile since I've given myself a pedicure. Though I use to be meticulous about caring for my feet, these past couple of years doing anything besides trimming my toenails has become a challenge. So it was a bit of a circus going through my kit and finding all the supplies for this process.

In the end, both Beats happily admired their toes. Even He-Beat, who usually fights me even with trimming his nails.

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