We moved from a rural town to the “city” (okay more accurately it’s the suburbs) 4 and halfonths ago. In that time, I’ve made some observations on differences and similarities. I’d like to share those, in a very unorganized fashion, with you now.
There’s a saying I’ve heard that’s something like comparing the nice between coasts. It goes that if you’re stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire, west coast will offer thier nicest apologies for your situation while East Coast will ask what the insert your favorite expletive here happened and grumble about the work while changing your tire and helping you safely merge. It feels a little like that to me, with small rural town being the west Coast and city suburb being the East Coast.
Everyone here has been very kind and intentionally reached out to us and make us feel welcomed. Nobody cares if your kid is having A TIME while out in public and many will offer non-judgmental assistance. There’s something very relaxing about fading into a crowd so to speak. I’m one of an obscene amount of people and the insignificance is soothing.
I breathe a sigh knowing I’m not a political minority here as it’s more evenly split (regardless is I agree with various takes on issues, I enjoy not being one of like 12). Our new county has a completed pandemic virus vaccine rate of about 64% while our prior county had barely 43%. So I feel more cared for here and that’s important as we head into another variant. While I know nobody is 100% immune, I personally feel safer knowing our county is 20% closer to population immunity than the one we left.
And truthfully that was one of the reasons. And being triggered while living in our old house. And having access to basically everything. I’m leaving the house more and that is great for what’s left of my mental health.
I know city/burbs have their challenges too of course and I will find grievances but overall I’m so glad we took this jump. The landing has been soft. I feel at home.
Our current house is 122 years old. It’s an old house full of character, history and shenanigans. That is the nature of old houses. They are as ornery as they are beautiful.
Right around the time that we listed our house, we noticed a crack in the ceiling. Long story short, we ended up doing even more work (well hiring out) after our initial listing. Understandably though this slowed things down and made the process more difficult. As can be expected, this was a complication with showings. Not everyone who came to look was really on board with an older house and all of the shenanigans that follow. So, we continued to have showings but getting “not interested” feedback isn’t super fun.
How can they not see the love that is packed into this old house?
The truth is that eventually someone always sees the beauty. Eventually, someone did. The exact perfect someone who saw that love and loved the house back. They are comfortable with the “character” that is old houses and loved the updates we had already invested. As we are perched on the eve of transferring this old house to it’s new loving family, I am nostalgically penning a going away letter. So…
To the new family moving into this old house,
I hope you always feel the love in these walls. These walls have housed those who needed a temporary home, kept safe children missing their family, provided overnight accomodations for teens participating in competitions and kept us safe and sheltered through job losses. It was these walls that first heard the words “infertile” and “pregnant” and “sterile”. These walls have seen the joys of starting solid food, the curiosity of coloring and the challenges of potty training (don’t worry they’ve been cleaned and painted). The garage has housed the bike used to carry me to college classes when we only had one car and the wagon we use to tour the historic district just one street over. It was this mailbox that received official proof of college degrees and professional certificates.
As I look around at the house now, I think back to when it had aged carpet and laundry in the kitchen instead of enough counter space. I think back to learning how to fix catastrophes that come with home ownership. The space now is functional and beautiful so much more than when we first set foot inside That’s the love.
We have put love into this home throughout the last 11 years and we hope that it can be felt. It is an old house and so the work is never done, it still has lots of opportunities to be loved and we know you will love it like we did. For now, I hope when you take in your new home, the love we left for you washes over you, just like we know the love left for us in our new house will wash over us.
This house may be old, but it is good and it is full.
Adverse Childhood Experiences (read: trauma) are recognized factors for lifetime health and well being. You can read about them here… and if you don’t know your score, you can take a brief quiz here. In general, the higher the ACE score, the more risk factors are present for both physical and emotional health outcomes. The CDC reports around 61% of adults have a score of at least 1. I mention this because, being aware of your score can not only help you navigate your own health but it can also identify areas where you may need to make proactive changes for the next generation. (We call this cycle breaking)
I encourage you to look over the links above but a summary is that ACEs are forms of abuse, neglect and other traumatic experiences of early life and they are both relational and environmental. They also only encompass some early life trauma, there are less common forms that can impact you as well without adding to your ACE score. The potential consequences are increased risks for things like heart disease, cancer and other physical concerns as well as increased mental health conditions such as depression… they can also lead to further abuse or neglect of the next generation if left unmanaged. The good news is that they are preventable and we can change the course.
Environmental factors are not always preventable on a familial level which is why social support is key. However, relational factors can be controlled more as they are on a personal level. The way we interact with each other, with children, directly impacts the risks for ACEs. If you interact with children in any capacity, it is absolutely necessary to establish a trauma informed interaction style.
Why do I say trauma informed for everyone and not just children actively healing from trauma? Because trauma is genetic. Our DNA carries the trauma of the generations before us and therefore even in the best of circumstances, it is possible to have a baseline need for trauma informed interactions. The most basic way to describe trauma informed parenting specifically is that it creates feelings of relational safety. Safety is felt through being heard, through not being “punished” (this is different from natural or the occasional correlated consequence), not being physically punished, being spoken to with positive regard (no put downs or shaming), and having needs consistently met. Another important aspect is to model emotional regulation through various techniques.
Trauma informed parenting would fall under the heading of authoritative parenting. Quick note as even after all these years of being around the language, I still have to stop and process through the difference between authoritarian parenting (obedience and contorll based, highly strict expectations, low levels of compassion, affection and listening, aggressive tone) and authoritative (high compassion, affection & listening, developmentally appropriate expectations, calm assertive tone). Authoritative parenting goes by many names such as gentle parenting, respectful parenting, positive parenting, conscious parenting and holistic parenting, but the important factors are still developmentally appropriate expectations with necessary supports and high levels of compassion and affection.
It sounds easy enough on paper but we know that is not always easy in the thick of the day to day, especially if that is not how we were parented… and maybe we haven’t been ready to acknowledge that reality. It may be difficult to separate how we were parented from the core of who we are and therefore how we react, but it is imperative. I cannot definitively tell you why you were parented the way you were (speaking to those who did not have an authoritative style) but I can tell you that you can love and respect your parents while also acknowledging harm. It is possible to give our parents grace that they didn’t know any better or have better resources while also being vulnerable to the impact that had on us through our growing up.
Developing an awareness and understanding of our ACE score and the parenting style our parents used is the first step to preventing any harm from being carried onto the next generation. Awareness is the first step to rewriting our family’s DNA to be one without generational trauma. The next step is making sure the child inside of us is allowed to be safe and treated with unconditional positive regard… so that they can extend the same to their children. Doing the heavy internal work required is hard on its own but many of us do not begin until we are also charged with growing up tiny humans… and in such doing no harm. If you’re already doing so, I see you and if you are starting at awareness, I’m here for you too. This is hard and important.
Please also remember, that perfection is not the goal. You and me and all of us are going to screw it up sometimes, but there is a difference between stumbling along the way and patterns of behavior. Stumbling is an important part of learning to walk and then run… and getting back up (apologizing, trying again, relationship repair) is vital. So please let go of the parent guilt and any of your past mistakes, shame only serves as a weight keeping us down. Today is a new day. Make any necessary reparations and charge forward free of the guilt of things we didn’t know better than to do. You know now, so move forward.
Prioritize your healing (if necessary) and mental health so you can stay regulated under pressure. Utilize calming techniques and coping skills, and if you don’t currently have any, find ones that feel natural. The right one is the one that helps you remain under control.
Allow yourself and your children/children in your care to feel the full range of their emotions. Remember all emotions are valid and acceptable but not every behavior is allowable or acceptable.
Find a specific authoritative method that you connect with or bits and pieces of lots, whatever feels natural for your family. The goal is connection, authenticity and realistic expectations. (I will put some that I personally like to recommend below)
Find a support system. This may or may not be your family, some families are willing to learn and grow together and others will mock your efforts… if it is the latter, seek support elsewhere, but know that it is out there and you’re not alone.
Try. Make a mistake. Repair. Learn. Try Again.
Remember that parenting, or rather discipline has absolutely nothing to do with controlling our kids and absolutely everything to do with controlling ourselves. It will be a journey but the benefits are many. I’ve been on this journey for a few years now and I am amazed at how it has positively impacted our family and specifically my child. No child is going to behave perfectly and that is not the goal but if they grow to be kind, empathetic and emotionally mature humans, that will be enough. We only know how to be those things by having them modeled to us (at least typically, sometimes kids just grow up that way in spite of their models).
This is hard and you can do hard things. The power to shape the next generation and reduce their ACEs is within our reach. Together, we can make the world better by the act of wholly loving each other.
Grief is a weird process. It gets easier and harder as you move beyond the initial event. You grow to accept the reality of what has happened and yet the gravity doesn’t seem to ever to fully land. There is also no formulated path that must be journeyed to reach healing, the road is chaotic and winding. We like to say there are 5 stages of grief and you might move through them in this manner but that’s a pretty basic summary as the reality is much more complex.
As I have moved through this process, I have gained acceptance that we are done having babies. There’s nothing I can do to change my body or circumstance and for my own well being, I will be moving forward in acceptance. Truthfully, I’m mostly okay. There are a lot of things that can have closure in anticipation of the fun that is big kids. There is more freedom in big kids and I certainly have always valued my autonomy. Big kids have independence and skills that babies simply are not capable of having and with that comes a parental exhale.
So while it will always hurt, it is a fixed point in my timeline. What I keep coming back to and hurts the most is the absence of choice. There is so much power in having control over what happens to and inside our bodies. The choice to reproduce or not is well within that powerful range of control. To have choice over the comings and goings of your body, is to have sanctioned ownership over that same body.
So what happens next when that ownership is ripped away? How do you navigate within the body that has been stripped of choice? I don’t think that answer is straightforward either.
There are many choices I can make about my body. I can decide how to care for it, how to decorate it, how to use it, who to share it with, where to take it and how it is perceived by me. I can’t make it fertile. I can’t force it to make age appropriate ovum or enough estrogen. I have no control over those systems in my body.
I don’t handle having no control well. I like to have a plan and know what’s happening. My plans have plans and those plans have back up plans and the back up plans have back up plans. Staying in presumed control is staying safe.
This? There is no back up plan. Perhaps if my goal was acquire children, there would be but that is not my goal (and this is not the post for why but I digress). My hope and desire was to create and carry another life and I simply cannot no matter how hard I try.
So I merely exist in a world where my body is sterile. For now, existence is enough. It’s all I can do. So I will do it the best that I can… and that changes every day. Grief is weird.
I wrote the following a couple of years ago and aside from a few private shares, haven’t shared it yet. I never found a title I really liked so whatever is up there is probably as good as it will get. Perhaps a mild content warning is warranted because of brief mentions of SI (suicidal ideation).
To the girl who believes she was a burden
Who is never enough and too much all at the same time
The girl who can’t reach the standards she believes were set for her
Who is preoccupied with the emptiness telling her to end it all
That the pain of her existence will all be over with one choice
That the world will improve in her absence
That everyone she loves deserves better than all that is her
I know your very act of breathing hurts
I know you think there’s never going to be an end to the weight of living
I know you feel everything all the time
I know your world is heavy and awkward to carry
I know you feign power and strength to guard yourself
You hide your weaknesses
Your unending thoughts
I know you’re grasping at any hope you can find
I know you
I know because you’re me
Or you were
Now I wish I could go back and love you like you deserve
If I could I’d tell you…
Your existence is noticed
You’re not a burden
Not even a little
Not at all
You will breathe easier again
You will grow to value your strengths and weaknesses as they’re equally a part of the lovely mess that is you
If you have been wondering why I’ve been so quiet over here, stay here for an update.
We have been very busy since we returned from our family vacation. We had “camp” or respite with our niblings (the kin we fostered for a summer) and then immediately went into a full home renovation in preparation to sell. I’ll start with a brief update on the niblings.
Niblings are doing so well. Grandma and grandpa have legally adopted them and they are all settling into their new family dynamic. They are growing and learning and thriving. Most importantly, they get to see their mom regularly. After being over a year out from making one of the most difficult decisions of our lives, I would do it again for the outcome.
We had been talking about selling our house casually for a while but started to get serious about it this year. In preparation to sell, we knew we wanted to make some cosmetic updates. One lesson I did take from my childhood that I think is worth continuing is “leave things better than you found them”. We bought this house my junior year of college, in a “buyer’s market” in an attempt to have more space for about what we were paying in rent for a small one bedroom apartment. We bought knowing it was safe and functional but needed some love. We had hoped to fill the house with many people, namely multiple children.
We have spent the last decade slowly improving upon the house with a big final renovation this summer into fall. I do think we will be leaving this house better than we found it… but I hope I leave a better version of me too. After we found out that I am essentially sterile and we’re not going to be having any more children, I really struggled (and still do… and still will). I’d look around the house we had purchased to fill with children and feel sad. We are lucky, we did add one. It just wasn’t what we had planned. The house now felt like another reminder.
Being who I am meant, I could either feel my feelings (which I am told by my therapist is the healthy thing to do) or I can push myself to the brink of exhaustion just to feel anything beyond despair. So I threw myself into the house renovations. Knowing that my body will never carry life again, I put it through construction. My body can’t have more babies but it can spackle and paint and move furniture and manage construction projects. My body can stay alive even when it doesn’t want to…
Along the way, this maladaptive coping mechanism (and frankly, probably considered self-harm) changed. My partner reminded me to rest because I deserve it, my therapist reminded me that if I don’t let the feelings process, it will be worse later on and my community reminded me that there is space for me and my grief. My staying busy to run away from the depravity that is infertility grief became pushing the trauma out through physically moving my body… because our bodies remember when our minds want to forget. So I reclaimed ownership of my body that is strong and capable of the heavy work that is construction from the grip of infertility. And I took time to stop and allow the waves of grief to knock me down and overtake me moments before I bob back to the surface.
As we wait for the right buyer to come along and begin to make wonderful and happy memories in the house that no longer serves us, I am reflecting on the time we spent here. We bought it wanting to fill it with humans… and over the years we have… but not in the way we imagined. It has been a place to say when there wasn’t a safe place to go, it has been a temporary home, it has been an overnight accommodation and it has held multiple children, even if only one is for keeps. It HAS served its purpose and we thank it for its time.
I may have started this renovation in a place of sadness at what will never happen in this house but I leave it feeling strong, content and full of hope that our new house will be a place of peace and healing. The new house is for a family of 3 who are at peace.
So while we will leave this house better than we found it, I know I will leave the house a better person too. A person who is calm, who is happy and who is going to be okay.
Now that both of the adults in our household have been fully vaccinated for several weeks, we decided it was time to take a quick and close to home vacation as part of the healing process. Now we did still need to maintain precautions since children under 12 do not yet have access to the protection of the vaccine. J cannot tolerate a mask so we did lots of distancing and keeping them in a carrier to limit exposure.
We went somewhere still within our state and within driving distance to also try to limit unnecessary exposure and be an affordable option. It was kind of a rough adjustment to being not only not at home but in a hotel for the first time with all three of us so I expect our next vacation will be a staycation and that is perfectly alright. We went to a museum, to the zoo and to an aquarium along with some disc golf (of course) and trying some local restaurants. It ended up raining for a good portion of our trip so while we had intended to eat outdoors the entire time we did have to eat inside and that was the first time for any of us in over a year.
The whole thing was a big anxiety test. Mask restrictions for the vaccinated had been pretty universally lifted immediately prior to our trip, so I was trying to figure out my comfort level. I ended up opting to mask in lines and more crowded areas (the aquarium still required all patrons to mask which was actually a big relief) but worked to keep it off while outdoors and in spaces where we could distance very easily. It is odd though, our state has around a 40% fully vaccinated rate but there were definitely more than 40% of people without masks… I know math is my worst subject but there is a big gap between 40% and like 95%…
We did overall have a fun and relaxing time and I look forward to being able to do it again at a later date. For now, we are back to staying home (or mostly) until J can get vaccinated. The Delta variant was out but not as widespread during our trip but has since been found where we are, so to keep my vulnerable child safe, we have to return to limiting outings.
Putting on my public health hat on for a minute to briefly talk about variants which are stacked mutations of viruses. Viruses need a host to mutate and potentially become more potent. Vaccinated people are significantly less likely to host the virus (nothing is 100% of course but the odds are much better). Here’s a quick video. The faster we get to herd immunity through vaccination (having a majority of the population vaccinated), the fewer opportunities there will be for mutations.
And if you’re feeling hesistant, I get it, this whole experience is new. First, congratulations on making it this far into a pandemic, second, I have attached a link to hopefully address some concerns in the midst of widespread misinformation.
I’m going to try to give an update now that I am 3 weeks (real time) out from the not egg retrieval. If you’re reading this on a Monday, it means I successfully finished this sometime last night. There is a lot, so I’m going to just start writing and see what happens. I’ve had lots of energy or something just kind of sitting inside me and nowhere to put it, writing is typically my outlet but I’ve simply been unable to write. Here goes.
I’ll start with the easiest thing to update and that is on my physical recovery. Recovery can sometimes take weeks after an egg retrieval. Afterall a long needle was just in a very small and tender part of the body. At 3 weeks out, I still occasionally have pain, mostly in my right ovary… the “workhorse”. It is pretty annoying to say the least, the damn thing(s) doesn’t even work and has the audacity to hurt me. The immediate few days after were kind of rough, I obviously did not have OHSS (Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome) but I did have cramps and the all too common side effect that is constipation… that was a fine time. I must have still been pretty bloated the next day as a lady at the pharmacy (not for me, for a sick kiddo upon return) asked me if I was having a boy or a girl… I was too tired to help her learn why you can’t ask those things. I was also just tired, both from the physical aspects of having a surgery/procedure and from the unfortunate result.
My emotional recovery is going about as you may expect. At 31, I am having to come to terms with never having another baby. I’m forever grateful we beat the odds once AND I’m also not even remotely okay. Infertility is hard in lots of ways but the way that is getting me right now is the unexpected “trigger”. You cannot go out into the world without a reminder of the pain. There are no warnings either, it will be a question from a stranger or a surprise pregnancy (sibling ones in particular) in a video on social media. It doesn’t end.
So given the above, my mental health is not great. Pain this large is heavy enough to crush the carrier. You want to do anything at all to just make it stop. I’ve had more moments than I’d have liked over the last three weeks where only the realization of how “by any means” would impact my for keeps child can bring me back to the land of the living.
Grief is weird. You can be totally fine and then you’re very much not. I’ve of course had other experiences with grief, when my grandma died, our first round of fertility treatments, when our beagle died, when we realized that we were not the right fit (for them or us) for our kinship placement… but this… this is so different. So much deeper. I don’t know if I’ll ever really be okay, but I might eventually be better.
I’ve had many thoughts about grief over these few weeks and none of them really seem to truly capture the chasm. Maybe as I’m further out, I’ll be able to organize some thoughts and get out a piece but I don’t know. I can assure you that there will be no performative joy or toxic positivity here. When I’m moving into a gentler mindset, you’ll know, for now I give myself permission to feel, to rest and to let this grief overwhelm until it’s all the way done.
I did not sleep great. Of course. It was probably just as much the fact that I was in a strange bed as it was that I was anxious. I woke up before my alarm and waited until it was an appropriate time to wake up my partner. We got ready, packed and headed out. I did not get to eat breakfast, which if you know me, know that I get hangry. Once we arrived at the clinic, everything went pretty quickly.
We were very soon swept away to a private room set up like a living room rather than an exam room so it was very comfortable. The nurse assigned to me came in and talked to us about the procedure, post-op and what to expect. We signed the consent forms and I was taken back to a bathroom area to be weighed and change into the robe they provide. I was walked back to the operating room and met with anesthesia there. I was very concerned that I would need to take out my nose ring which is only about 3 or so months old and would definitely hurt to move around too much. Fortunately when I asked the anesthesia nurse, he said it was fine and they could work around.
There was some fighting with my veins to get the needle for anesthesia meds in and ultimately they had to go through my hand. Which if you haven’t had before, if probably one of the least comfortable places for an IV but it did the job. I met the doctor and embyologist before they let me know it was time to administer the IV meds. I always enjoy that moment when anesthesia first hits and I feel sleepy. I get good naps when I have procedures.
If you want to know what egg retrieval looks like, check out the video. Basically there was a long needle on a transvaginal ultrasound wand and all of that goes in and the needle goes through the vaginal wall and finds my ovaries.
When I started waking up, embryology was there to give the report. “There were no eggs” They checked every follicle and each one was empty. No eggs. The end of the road. We had already planned that this was our only go because of money (even with insurance) and headspace. If we had unlimited funds, I would probably keep trying after a break. We don’t. There will be no Evan Joseph or Eliana Jane.
So now we will be processing and grieving and looking up cool locations for a family of 3 vacation spot. I’ll be researching what other holes and ink I want to add to my worthless body until I maybe like it again. I didn’t even get to say goodbye to pregnancy and nursing and all those newborn things. I know I cherished it when J was a baby but that was as firsts. I didn’t know I needed to remember them as lasts too. I wasn’t ready.
As we work through this difficult time. I wanted to give a few reminders. Humans are so inclined to help, we need to fix. There isn’t anything to be fixed. You may feel inclined to say something to try to comfort us that won’t feel as comfortable as you had hoped. We won’t be “just adopting”, yes we are glad we “at least have one”, and while nothing is impossible, please don’t suggest it can just happen on it’s own. We each have a factor and I cannot live in a constant limbo of is this the month? It’s not.
There is no reason this should have happened and yet we are here. Life. Things happen and there may not be a reason. If you would still like to pray, pray for peace.
If our feelings of grief are causing you discomfort, please stay there. You don’t need to say anything. Just exist in this space with us.
Today was travel day before egg retrieval. We left shortly after 9 am for the 4.5 hour trip. We had packed lunches for the way up and had planned to stop once for bathroom breaks. We made good time and arrived right around when we had expected. After checking into the hotel, we found a local disc golf course, naturally and played a quick 18.
I had previously found a local padthai restaurant as my partner is a fan of that style of food. I am not an adventurous eater, I am selective and particular, mixed with sensory things relating to food so this was purely an act of love. They had gluten free options so I could eat without discomfort too and I actually found I enjoyed the taste as well. I would have customized my dish next time but would definitely eat it again.
While we waited for a carry out, we found the clinic location so we could quickly go in the morning. It was very close to both the restaurant and the hotel so it was an easy find. No shots today! SAY IT AGAIN! NO SHOTS TODAY!! My belly gets a very short break before being internally probed. We spent the remainder of the evening resting in preparation of our 8 am arrival.