fertility · infertility · resilience

Don’t Fear the Reaper: A Different Kind of Harvest

Swollen, painful belly. Trouble bending over to tie my shoes. Tired and nauseous. Pregnant? Well, that sort of depends on your definition.

If you’re asking whether somewhere in the world, there are tiny combo cells of my and J’s genetics, multiplying and developing as Nature intended, then yes, I suppose we are making what could be children.

If you’re asking whether those cells are developing within my own body, then no.

Last Saturday, J drove me to UCSF to have my IVF egg retrieval–or, amusingly dark, my egg “harvest”–and though the procedure went quite smoothly and as pleasantly as possible, I now get the equal & opposite reaction of having amped up my hormones and egg-producing parts in the form of the aforementioned common, but highly uncomfortable aftereffects.

On the plus(?) side, I’m getting to see how bloody inconvenient it is to be unable to bend to tie your shoes or sit without hinging at the waist. But. I’m not complaining… too badly. I’m grateful that it’s “Zoom school” for another few weeks for me, during which prep periods I can lay down and take steadying breaths to quell the nausea.

So, how did we get here? How come our genetic combos didn’t listen to all the very well-meaning, if increasingly painful platitudes and advice such as:

  • “It will happen”
  • “These things take time”
  • “There’s always next month”
  • “Have you cut out __ from your diet”
  • “Have you tried __(insert alternative medicine here)__”
  • “Are you taking prenatals”
  • “I have a sister/cousin/aunt/instagram follower who __ but now __” and
  • “At least you know you can get pregnant”??

(Don’t say these things, folks. We all know you mean well, and I’m sure I’ve even said them in the past, but unless they specifically ask for advice, just say something like, “That sounds so hard, I’m so sorry you’re going through this” and give them a squeeze on the arm.)

How come, despite all that and several mild interventions to boot, my body still refused to hang on to a pregnancy? Well, it should be noted that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in a miscarriage and 1 in 8 people experience fertility challenges, so it’s not altogether surprising. But as far as any medical reason? Perhaps my age (therefore my eggs’ age), perhaps the chemo, perhaps just the bad luck of the draw.

I’d said to J before we began “trying” that if and when we needed to talk about other options, we’d know. I said it after I had a chemical miscarriage last October; I said it after I had a true miscarriage this April; I said it after I had another chemical miscarriage in June: When the time comes to talk about other options, we’ll know.

And so it was, in mid-June on the final Zoom faculty meeting of the year that a coworker made an announcement. Coy and stilted, she announced that she, like the school, would be making some changes come the fall. A half-second’s thought of, “She’s not leaving, is she?” followed immediately by her display of a black-and-white photo we’ve all come to know from our social media feeds is a sonogram.

. . .

I smiled tightly for a moment. And then I turned off my Zoom camera and wept. Her little one was due the same month I’d been due when I was BFP (big-fat positive). The same month my pregnancy app community posts were gleeful with messages about Fall babies and pumpkin-toned newborn photos.

Camera off, I doubled over. In my desk chair in my living room, I wailed — with grief, with confusion, with exhaustion, with … well, despair.

When J came home that afternoon, I told him, “It’s time.”

The Universe, and my own soul, were achingly obvious in this message: You said you’d know when? Well, “despair” is when.

It wasn’t a hard decision to go for medical help, since I’d already made it, knowing that I would do what I could to aid a little one into the world. And I’m glad that it felt obvious and neutral. (There’s a book of index cards in the clinic’s waiting room filled with notes from other patients, some encouraging, angry, grief-stricken, even funny, and some telling of how IVF was something they’d never, ever considered and hope they’d still never have to.) But, though J and I tacitly agreed long ago that we’d accept and seek out medical intervention if necessary, we’ve also spoken that there are limits to what we feel, for us, is palatable intervention–or encouragement–of the “natural” parenthood option.

I had initial meetings with one public and one private fertility center. I moved my rainy-day fund from savings into checking. And a few appointments and Zoom calls later, my dining table was littered with syringes, vials, and swabs.

It’s all been a bit surreal, a bit wide-eyed as J and I filled out legal forms: What do you want to do with any frozen embryos if: you die, he dies, you divorce, you both die but within 30 days of each other?! But, it’s been 1000 times better than sobbing.

We’re in a waiting time right now; and any person trying to be a parent–“natural,” “assisted,” foster or adoptive–will tell you how very much of that there is. But, today I’m comforted in knowing that we’re taking the steps one at a time, little petri dishes of hope settled in a corner of an SF lab; comforted in knowing, too, that I’ll know when it’s time to have a new conversation.

life · miscarriage · trying

Quiet Journeys

It’s easy to remember when it happened because it was the late-April weekend I rescued a mouse. I felt like the Universe was underscoring that I was in a maternal mode, with so many living beings happening on one couch at once: myself, my cat, Mr. Mouse, and the tiny seedling inside of me. As I cupped the small being in my palm against my chest and pet its small head, its eyes drooping, its nose stalling its twitching in a pastoral moment of calm in its otherwise hectic life, I felt flooded with shimmering feelings of contentment, rightness, brimfulness.

As I stood up later that Saturday from petting Mr. Mouse in his temporary shoebox, I crossed the room a few steps and was struck. I doubled over, eyes squeezed tight, clutching my abdomen, my wind knocked out of me in my living room, my husband asleep on the couch nearby, still bathed in the warmth of the lazy afternoon. As I blinked myself back into the room, I breathed slowly, deep inhalations, attempting to abate the pain, attempting to forestall the dread and disappointment of what this sudden stabbing might be.

But, nature, whether the furry or fetal kind, will do as it bids.

Together we got in the car to the animal hospital: myself; my husband; the quiet, adorable, softest-fur-you’ve-ever-touched mouse in its? his? her? shoebox; and the 6-week old quiet, rather freakish-looking, hairless being in its? his? her? amniotic sac.

I was spotting by now, and the joint surrender of the mouse we’d housed for two nights after I found it hurting but responsive in the woods plus the embryo we’d known about for two weeks after several more months of timed trying felt staggering.

It was my first time, you know–getting that positive test. I’d had some kind of miscarriage in October of last year, and here were those symptoms all back again, but this time I had the proof to back it up. I was so excited. Of course, we all try not to be — but you know what Yoda says about trying. I’d lined up the test strips from the past week on the bathroom counter in order of increasing darkness of the positive test line. Because, wouldn’t you know, I’d been so impatient and instantly disappointed for the week prior that the line wasn’t coming up positive right away that I’d thrown the test strips in the trash… for 6 days! Six positive tests in the trash.

But there, on that Saturday morning, two weeks before surrendering a mouse, there it was: a BFP, as they say in the forums.

Seeing that line, I paused, wondering… I’d nearly thrown this one in the trash as the answer wasn’t immediate… did I do the same already?? Luckily this quarantine thing meant that we hadn’t yet emptied the trash and so I dug them out, these little strips of hope and disappointment, and lined them up and for f*ck’s sake–there it all was. A whole week’s worth of “You’re Pregnant.”

It was a hugely amusing and exciting morning, with J half-awake as I dragged him into the bathroom. (He later said his first thought was, “Why did she take so many tests??”) I explained my hasty discarding, my eyes lit up like Lincoln Center. I squee’d. I squealed. And I tried my best to remember the statistics.

I diligently called my doctor’s office. I confirmed how “far along” I was and made that first appointment when they’d see the heartbeat in just a week or two. I took a very long phone survey about my and my husband’s medical history. We watched videos on choosing which prenatal tests we’d want to opt for. We spoke soberly about decisions we’d agree to make if we had to.

I researched the best “baby tracking” apps, and downloaded three! I signed up to be a part of the “Due in December” message board, and began to research birth plans. I showed J the most fascinating, borderline disturbing 3D video of the development of an embryo up to the date we were at, when it really truly does have a freaking tail! I rewatched it several times, loving my lizard, hoping for my lizard, wanting to meet this, our very own lizard.

And then, the Saturday of the mouse surrender arrived. I spotted in the car, the mouse huddled in the shoebox, both of us quiet.

I delivered the mouse to the Lindsay Wildlife Rehabilitation Hospital, and filled out the card about how he’d been found and what care I’d given him (loved clementines and bananas, not so hot on celery) and lied that I hadn’t handled him… much.

On Monday, the doctor looked inside and saw the waning amniotic sac. In the apps, I marked the designation, “I’ve experienced a loss” (which I felt was a nice option so they would remove me from the “Your baby is as big as an orange seed” emails) and I moved the apps to a screen on my phone that I wouldn’t see regularly. Later that week, the wildlife center emailed me back to tell me Mr. Mouse’s injuries were too great and he hadn’t made it.

But I’ll tell you what I remember most, aside from the exalted morning when J, my mom, and I knew something new and fresh and remarkable had happened. What I remember most is that sun-warmed afternoon on a lazy couch with four souls entwined, compatriots for a time.

investments · money · savings

Some financial info resources. (TLNR: Out from under your mattress and into an ETF)

scroogeI spent a while this morning composing the below email to a family member interested in doing something more with their money.  I figured since I wrote it and it’s (potentially) useful, it was worthy of posting here!   

Hey!

It’s exciting that you are thinking of getting into some new “products” (or tools) for your money.

Though I’d been listening to Marketplace daily for many years (and still do!), my true start to learning about money was when, about 3 years ago, J explained to me what inflation was. Though I’d nominally understood it before, what clicked for me—and spurred me into immediate action—was that for several years I’d been putting my savings into Bank of America or Capital One (formerly ING) “savings accounts.”  What J’s story informed me was that, despite several years of diligent saving (“Look at me, I’m saving!”), my “savings” accounts were not keeping up with inflation at all.  This meant I was in essence losing money (actually, losing “purchasing power”).  Every minute I kept a dollar in there, it was worth less and less in the real world!

Thus began a mad dash to get my savings into a higher yield savings account as I continued to learn more about where my money could be most profitable.

Here are some resources I’ve found helpful as I’ve continued on my path to NOT LOSE MONEY TO THA MAN!!!  This is a long read, though is certainly not an exhaustive or complete survey. My hope is that it piques your curiosity, rather than overwhelms. 🙂

Good luck, and remember: There’s always money in the banana stand.
With love,
Molly 

 

SOME BASICS:

“Money: Master the Game“ (book by Tony Robbins): Gives a comprehensive look at different types of investments, what they mean, why people use them.  This was my textbook as I began learning (read: highlighter and marginalia!), though it’s had its detractors. He does try to push his own products but he also has a philanthropic lens that I find refreshing.

Ray Dalio’s “Economic Principles”: A medium-length animated video about how the economy works; also, I just like him.

Investopedia and NerdWallet (also MotleyFool) are great sites for researching any financial topic and getting a layman’s answer.

 

SAVINGS ACCOUNTS:

High-Yield Online Savings Accounts: Read up on which accounts have the highest yields and other parameters, and open an account!  It’s very simple to do. Yields are not very high right now because interest rates are falling, but because inflation is not climbing either, it’s kind of a wash.  (I’m currently in Marcus and Synchrony.)

In normal times, inflation is about 3% (hence why many people get a “cost of living” increase of 3% to their annual salary).  My online savings accounts have been as high as 2.55% during our more robust economy years, though right now they’re down to 1.55%.

By contrast, right now the Bank of America savings account rate is 0.03% (!!!) and Capital One 360 is 1.5%.  You can imagine my chagrin when I learned I’d been keeping all my hard-earned cash in such measly accounts under the illusion that it “at least was something.”

These types of accounts are where I keep my 6-9 months of emergency funds (or “Prudent Reserve”) as the money is insured and safe.

 

OTHER WAYS TO MAKE YOUR $$ WORK FOR YOU:

If you’re not needing the cash right away, and you already have about 6-9 months of Prudent Reserve/Emergency Cash in a savings account, you can look at putting the “extra” into other products.  A few that are relevant are here, in order of payoff from least to most: 

CDs: It’s funny that this is one of your first ideas, as it was mine, too! And while it is entirely true that your cash is completely safe, this also means that its returns are inversely beneficial — read: totally safe = hardly existent returns.

I did “experiment” with putting some $ in a 12-month CD at Marcus at 2.1%, and at the end of that year I moved it to their savings account — which was then  earning 2.25%! Moral: interest on a savings account will change throughout a year — sometimes down, so your CD money may be “winning the game” but sometimes interest will go up and your CD money will be “losing the game.”

Personally, I won’t be using a CD anymore as there are more advantageous places to put my $$. (Unless I use a CD ladder, which is a specific strategy.)

 

Short-term Treasuries: One way to get your money into “the market” with very little risk is to purchase a US Treasury bill, note, or bond (listed in order of length to maturity from shortest to longest). One recommended to us by our financial advisor is USFR, which is currently yielding just shy of 2%.

 

ETFs: Exchange-traded funds are one of the best tools to take advantage of the stock market.  This means that you are purchasing a portion of the entire stock exchange, such as the S&P 500.  One advantage of this is that the exchange (and therefore the fund) is constantly adding and subtracting companies who fall into the top 500 earners, so you’re never saddled with a losing company and you don’t have to keep track of which individual companies you’re holding.

Because this strategy is relatively simple for the investment company to manage, ETFs generally have a very low expense ratio (see below; and if your ETF does not have a low expense ratio run away quickly!)

Another advantage is that they’re relatively cheap to purchase.  Some examples of common S&P 500 ETF stocks are SPY (~$280) and VOO (~$250).  Anything owned by Vanguard or Fidelity are generally good bets.

Owning an ETF is one of the top strategies for investors, as is discussed here on Investopedia and at length in Robbins’ book.

 

OTHER THINGS TO NOTE:

Expense Ratios

All investments, from retirement to stocks, have an “expense ratio.”  This is how much the company that’s investing your money is taking from your earnings.  As Tony Robbins goes into at great length in his book, while a 1% expense ratio seems tiny, the amount they take is compounded (read: exponential), meaning that 1% can be an exorbitant amount in the end. (See the chart in this Investopedia article.) You always wants the lowest ratio possible and below 0.30% is one watermark for me.

Real-life examples:  My employer-sponsored 403b expense ratio is 0.45% which I consider to be very high, but it is the lowest one I found on offer.  I investigated which fund they’d automatically put me into and the expense ratio was even higher. I researched what other funds of theirs I could go in to and moved into a lower expense fund.  Yet, when I met with my 403b representative she was crowing that their 3% products were “so low” — luckily, by then, I knew that was WRONG!

By contrast, my Fidelity Roth IRA has an expense ratio of 0.015% (and yes, those zeroes are correct!).

Therefore, it is critical to look at what the expense ratio is for your investments.

 

How to buy a stock

Simply open an account!

I’m using Robinhood (an app with website access, too), which has 0% commission, meaning that I don’t pay Robinhood anything to buy or sell a stock for me (another important “hidden” fee to look out for).  It was easy to set up and to fund from my bank; it’s easy to monitor, buy, sell, etc. You can buy specific companies’ stock or an ETF.

For a more robust tool, etrade is a strong choice.

 

Bonus Read:

Quit Like a Millionaire.  Even though J and I are not in this boat (yet??), reading their strategies is helping us to frame our financial future.  We started down this line of thought by reading from others in the FIRE (financially independent retire early) movement.

* * *

These are some basics for how to take your money out from under your mattress safely.  And, perhaps it goes without saying, but: I am not a financial professional by any stretch and YMMV — your mileage may vary!  Carry on!

 

 

 

Jewish · marriage · tradition

balabusta.

larryWhile many Jewish outlets and friends have been answering the central question of Passover, “Ma Nishtana…?” — “Why is this night different from all other nights?” within the sphere of the coronavirus (see: Zoom seders, or “Zeders”!), for me and my family of two, the answer is separate from today’s pulsing pandemic.

For several years now as a mostly-grown-up person on my own, I’ve honored the holiday by purchasing one token box of matzah that sits nearly full in my cupboard until the next year when I try to determine if there really is such a thing as stale matzah.  Sure, I’ll eat a piece or two with some tuna salad, maybe even soften some butter to slather it and eat with my morning eggs, but that’s really the extent.  I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to several seders (the traditional Passover meal) over my years as a wandering Jew — from a 4-hour long one with amusing, hard-of-hearing relatives one-upping each other vociferously and with Eastern European accents about the horrors plane travel to a child-friendly seder replete with plastic finger-puppets and frogs to throw at one another during the recitation of the plagues that befell the Egyptian people.  

But, for me, the days of a “family seder” are long-past since my parents parted in my late teens.  My mom has made her efforts of seating folks around a collapsible table in her Manhattan studio apartment and my dad had enjoyed his seders in the company of his soon-to-be ex-wife’s family, but these all took place 3,000 miles from their California-rooted daughter.

And so it was, with not a little trepidation, that I undertook the creation of a seder of my own this year.

Those familiar with the holiday know the layers of family tradition, family bloopers, and family reminiscences that weave throughout the making of this “dinner.”  You know the arguments and boasting about the best consistency for a matzah ball, about the trials and lamentations of roasting a brisket to moist tenderness, and you know the general air of activity and festivity that emanates from a home where seder is being prepared.

And while J, a goy, can’t tell me whether his family falls stalwartly in the dense or airy matzah ball camp, I can surely tell him that the right way is dense — and he cannot contradict me!

I wasn’t altogether sure what my observation of the holiday would be as I walked into the local kosher butcher last week, replete with face mask and latex gloves.  But, as I walked the teeny aisles trying to not freak out about others’ proximity, I picked up a few items and a few memories of seders gone by.  I picked up items that I put back, imagining that, no, I wouldn’t be attempting aforementioned matzah balls — too risky — and deciding I wouldn’t subject J or myself to some staples of my own childhood seders, like the ubiquitous chocolate-covered jelly rings or jelly-suspended gefilte fish.

That said, I did come out with some “gesture” Passover foods: matzah (egg, of course), chocolate-covered matzah (dark, of course), and coconut macaroons (no, not those French sandwich cookies!).

I set them on my mantle at home, took a stylized photo to send to family and friends, and captioned it my “nod to the holiday.”

But, as day turned to night and day again, I wondered if I myself could cook a holiday meal after all.  My chief hesitance was that the food wouldn’t turn out well, but with only J and me to choke down whatever #epicfail would result, why the hell not?

And so, I looked up recipes for Instant Pot brisket and Instant Pot chicken soup, and went Sunday morning back down to the butcher for a 3-pound kosher brisket(!) and a box of matzah meal.  I bought an honest-to-god horseradish root as stores were completely out of the prepared kind.  I googled “How to make your own prepared horseradish” and “How to make your own charoset” — and I did my best to find recipes that most closely resembled how my mom used to make them.

And finally, on Wednesday morning, the first day of my Spring Break from teaching and the day of the big night’s meal, I opened the Haggadah.  It’s one my mom mailed me a few years ago with cartoon illustrations and transliteration — plus it’s super short, which I knew would please the husband (and myself if I’m being honest!). 

I flipped to the back where it very nicely taught you “How to set a Seder table” and began to assemble the pieces I’d need for the seder plate, gathering the smallest bowls we own to set on the largest plate we own.

And I began to cook.

The seder itself was lovely, my husband and I taking turns reading from our one copy.  Him calling “A-mein!” whenever I poked or eyeballed him at the end of a prayer.  Us pretending to wash our hands in non-existent water (swish swish drip drip).  My hiding the afikomen from him but giving a too-obvious hint!  There were “oops”es like the omigod-too-salty horseradish, and when I forgot to leave the cup for Elijah at the start of the seder, like my dad did.  And telling J, also per my dad’s tradition, to retrieve the cup and drink it on the way back to the table, pretending innocently that Elijah the prophet really did come and drink it!

Over the meal, we shared answers to Passover-related questions: What habits, of mind or body, do I want to be free from?; What has changed since last year’s seder (Hint: We got married!); and Where do we still see a lack of freedom in the world and what efforts will we take to help rectify it?

As the candles died down and our can-I-say delicious meal digested in our bellies, I felt a pride of accomplishment that I hadn’t known before.  I was, for the first time, a real Jewish wife.  I was a balabusta.

 

 

community · infertility · uncertainty

Here’s hoping for a different set of flowers.

pink-stargazer-lilies-nancy-watsonOver Winter Break, I spent several days sorting through papers and boxes in preparation for our move back to Oakland right over New Years (yay, diversity!).  In those sortings, I came across much of my writing from my graduate program in creative writing, one part of which was apparently to define and refine what my purpose was in my writing.  In one notebook or another, I repeatedly recorded that my purpose was, in essence, to illuminate my own experience that I may grow and heal, and that it may inspire others to grow and heal as well.

Apparently, that’s still my purpose in this writing.  As, in that spirit:

J. bought me flowers on Monday.

Before you die of envy, to be specific, he bought me “I’m sorry you’re not pregnant” flowers.

On Sunday, 40 days into my cycle (yes, late for me), with the repetition of October’s “boob heaviness” and fatigue and slight baby pudginess, I experienced some pain in my low abdomen. It went on throughout the day and I knew that sometimes there is cramping when a fertilized egg implants into the wall of your uterus.  I kept my spirits light (also knowing that it would be a little bit late if that’s what was happening), and when some spotting came in the afternoon, I spent time on the internet reading about implantation spotting… hoping.

It became clear the next morning this was not what was happening.  And so, as my body flushes out whatever may or may not have existed, and my temperature dips back to its normal level and my boobs return to their still awesome shape I assure you, I made an appointment with a doctor and will follow up with their fertility specialist today.  And have been relatively going on with my days.

But yesterday at the end of my workout class, the teacher asked us to bring our attention into our bodies. What were we feeling?  What was our body saying?  I closed my eyes, breathed in.  And my body swarmed with emotion from my feet and nearly out my eyes. I welled up; I nearly cried:  It appears my body was sad. I was sad.

It’s been a pell-mell dive into the new year, with the resumption of school and also did I mention a cross-county move?!  It’s been a week of writing things on and ticking things off a to-do list (where is that bottle brush anyway?).  To feel last night that I am experiencing some emotions was a bit of a surprise, frankly.  It’s natural, if not easy, to feel busy.  It’s hard to slow down and ask what’s really going on.

So, I’m grateful to that workout instructor who went off-script.  I’m grateful to J. for being such an understanding partner.  And I’m glad that I do have a purpose — to share, to shine light, to heal, and to create community through that sharing.  I’m not grateful for the hardship I go through, but I am grateful that I don’t ever have to go through it alone.

Namaste, b*tches.

 

hope · miscarriage · pregnancy

Maybe Baby.

11.19.19.jpg

It was about a month ago.  J and I had returned from Berlin, our honeymoon destination, a week earlier and I finally mustered the courage to ask him,

What if I told you that my boobs have been hurty for the last day or so?

A larger part of me than my pride cares to admit didn’t want to tell him.  There feels to me a dangerous assumption in our world that women cry wolf.  But considering we’d been trying for a pregnancy for several months, taking tests, checking out my belly in profile, wondering if maybe, maybe now… Questioning to myself, Am I just fatter than usual?  Is it just that I have burrito belly?  And I would say to him, Maybe I am.  And he would say, gently, it’s not likely to show up in evidence there that quickly.  And a week later, my body would concur by making it clear I was not.  Nope, my body would tell me, just cake belly.

This would go on for several months, several months of buying pregnancy tests in bulk, of the check-out counter girl telling me she hoped the results were what I wanted.  And I would go home, hold my breath, pee on a stick, and hope.  Then, results in, I would despondently cap the test, re-wrap it in its plastic sleeve and deposit it in the trash quickly, ashamedly, as if it had exposed some deep vulnerability.  Which, of course, it had.

The last two times I’ve peed this dance, I’ve felt the compounding nature of months of disappointment.  Earlier, it was easy(er) to say, “Well, we haven’t been very ritualized about our timing,” “We haven’t really been trying diligently,” and I would watch the calculations on my mental calendar extend.

Because I’d had it all worked out, you see.

Counting months from the summer attempts, it would be a Spring baby (if all went well) and that would be so great for a teacher’s timing — deliver at the end of the school year, have several months at home over the long summer, and desultorily return back to school in the Fall, delivering my child this time to the care of another.

It was the optimal timing.  And besides, it worked for my friend Jess who’s a teacher.  She got pregnant on her honeymoon in August and followed the gestational plan like a Swiss watch.  Surely, if she could do it, so could I/we.

Yet, as the months ticked away this summer with another negative line, another round of menses, I would have to recount and replan and force this new plan to be acceptable in my mind.  A summer baby is okay; we’ll have a 1/2 birthday for them so they can celebrate with their peers at school; school birthday parties are so important when they’re young.  … Okay, well, Fall birthday, okay, well the school age-start, we’ll have to decide if they’re to be a year ahead or a year behind their classmates; no worries, I have friends who’ve made either decision, just like my brother and I took either route.

New and revised plans laden, too, with disappointment, curiosity, worry, and damnable hope.

If it doesn’t work out to have natural children, I told my close friend before it all began — as J and I are older, I have chemo’d ovaries, we both have mental illness in our families, plus the myriad of reasons why a zygote decides not to become a person — then we’re open to the adoption conversation, or the foster one, or the refugee family hosting conversation.  J and I are very fortunate and we have a lot to give.  I’m open. 

And… I am.  But I would not be without a feeling of loss.  I am honest enough to know this about myself.  I am honest enough to admit that the idea of seeing what our DNA creates thrills me (as much as it worries me).  To admit that carrying on a lineage, a descendancy, feels important to me.  To admit that I know the hill of adoption and fostering is rewarding, as I’ve seen it be beyond measure for friends and family, but I know, too, that it comes with baked-in abandonment issues that can create ripples.

And so, when a month ago I turned to J in bed and asked him how he might feel if I told him I was having a sign of pregnancy — one that wasn’t on my mental list of knowns, one that I couldn’t have made up because I hadn’t known of it, one that could not be cried wolf — it was elating.  Thrilling.  And harrowing for how it could turn out at any which point.

For that week-long period, we examined the different changes, weighing my breasts in our hands, noticing they felt not only sore, but full, like a laden water balloon, wresting from our memory the way they’d felt before that week.  And indeed, they were different.  And every day I felt and cupped and squoze, and imagined.

I told my mom, with the preface to be cautious in her reaction, that my boobs were hurty, and she said that was her first sign, too.

A few days after my initial inquiry, I built up the courage to show him the darkening line on my lower abdomen, the one I’d colloquially heard as the “climbing line,” that pregnant women get — some say as a guide for a birthed person to climb up to the milky breasts upon birth if the mother is unable to guide them.  I checked it, this amber-colored stain we were both sure was new, in the mornings when it was certain it couldn’t be an imprint of my jeans’ zipper or a seam.

I began to notice that my jeans were fitting differently around my thighs, the cloth feeling tighter, and I looked it up online.  It is an early sign, the thickening of the thighs as they begin to store fat to become milk upon arrival of the baby.  I added it to my growing list of evidence — and I took the pregnancy tests.

But.  They told me: No.  They told me what I was experiencing in my body was not a pregnancy.  And I told them they were wrong, that it was too early, maybe, just hardly two weeks.  I told the blood test at the doctor’s the same thing.  No, you’re wrong.  Touch my breasts, look at this line.

But my body had the final word, too: the flow came, and I sat on the toilet in our tiled-white bathroom and I wept.

 

I know that our bodies are limitlessly wise, and I do not fault the Universe for sorting this one out because I know its reasons are always(?) legitimate.  DNA melding and dividing is a probability crap shoot, and sometimes the house rakes all our chips back in and tells us better luck next time.

So.  Here we are: “Next time.”  With hurty boobs.  A week to go before the jury releases its decision.

And I am yet to know how much heartache I will endure.

 

growing up · joy · marriage

Without a Net.

5.23.19.jpgIn the midst of wedding preparation, training to be a part-time fitness instructor, and finishing up school-year projects and grading, I’m also in a phase of planning that feels to overlay, underlay, highlight, heighten, and dwarf everything else in its wake:

Pregnancy.

The certain madness that a person so in-and-out of a relationship with her partner would commit on such a grand and irrevocable scale is both ludicrous and … natural.

J and I have had “the kid talk” many times in our being together, and while his worries (time and money) haven’t lessened, his anticipation and (could it be?) hope have increased.

For my part, I’ve gone through a bipolar vortex of “Don’t add more consumption to the world; What world is it you’re bringing new life into anyway,” followed immediately on its heels by “I cannot picture living out my life without experiencing this; I cannot picture not sharing this extraordinary existence with new life.”

It’s been a roller coaster, for me and for him!  He’ll ask every week or so: “‘Anthrax and Permafrost’, or ‘Rainbows and Lollipops’?”  It’s hard to know which answer will pop forth!

In truth, it’s both.  But, then, isn’t life?

I texted a girlfriend yesterday about a wedding DJ (because, yes, 6 weeks out, we have no music set!), and she gave a “squee, so exciting!” reply.  Which developed into an exchange that included: “Yes, it’s not a fairy tale” and “Relationships are f*cking work, dude!”

Because there’s also the nuts and bolts, the scales that fall from whatever vision of pure bliss we’ve all been conditioned to hold.

When J and I met, he said that he was looking for a “no-maintenance relationship.” Bah HAHAHA.  Oh, did my girlfriends and I have a good laugh over that;)  He even looked it up online when I protested its existence and when a result came up from a male blogger, he said, “See?!”

Then … he read the article,

wherein the author related, “There’s no such thing as a ‘no-maintenance relationship.'” J was deeply thrown:)

As I say about my work, my relationship is “good, and it’s hard, and it’s good, and it’s hard.”

I’m reading Michelle Obama’s memoir and have been so heartened to read how she and her husband have had to work repeatedly at maintaining, strengthening, and fostering their relationship.  The Golden Couple works at it!  I’m delighted to know this because it means: I’M NOT DOING ANYTHING WRONG.  It means that we all, up and down the ranks of humanity, are showing up daily to make a go of this great experiment.

The joy and fervor of laughter that is shared between us, the deep trust and faith in one another, the steadying foundation of love is coexisting with our frustrations, disappointments, and repeated calls to the table.

In what feels like a telescoping smack of my utopian vision, I am growing up.  Scales are falling, but what’s revealed isn’t bad or wrong.  It’s reality; it’s truth.

And the only way to build a shared (or individual) life is from the foundation of that truth.

 

journey · relationships · vacation

What Happened at Sea Ranch

Ring with Coffee 1He holds out his arm to me, hand outstretched, palm up, a playful invitation.  I clasp my own into his and spin an arc toward him, thinking, He wants to dance with me!  So rare!  So great!  Pressed against him now, his eyes peer up—just a few centimeters—into my own.  He says, “Come sit with me,” and begins to lead me the few feet toward the nook of the window.

The window seat is wide enough for us to sit cross-legged facing one another, and long enough for all three portrait windows to frame the vista of the Pacific beyond.  The sky is a mottled storm grey, clouds low and pale against a wash of deeper steel. The field between this window and that horizon is stuttered with beach and reed-grass, stunted cypress listing back from years’ of ocean gusts.  

We only sit, two humans on a bench, but my adrenaline is coursing a heady pulse.  I place my hands on his criss-crossed knees as he presses his own to my cheeks. I lean into his hold, breath coming shallow.  He’s quiet, intense in his gaze, and the air around has come to an electrified halt.

“You challenge me—”

I exhale a laugh through my nose and smile a tight, try-not-to-bust-out grin.

“—in a good way,” he continues. “You challenge me in a good way.  You’ve taught me that life is a journey, and I want to experience that journey with you.”

He speaks several more sentences—leaning in, cupping my face, a gentle and holy gesture—but they are already lost in the swell of the whole.  They’re earnest, and loving, and grand.  My eyes pool hot don’t-lose-it tears, a tight grin holding it all back.  The sound of his voice is sonorous and material between us—heavy, as if their meaning has the weight that authors strive to invoke.

Releasing my cheeks, his own eyes bright of withheld tears, he twists and reaches behind, searching under the nestle of pillows there.  From which he retrieves a box.  A small, ecru cube with silver lettering scripted across its top. He unfurls his legs and scooches off the bench-seat to kneel on one knee.  I unfurl my own and dangle them over the edge, vibrant and pulsing with anticipation, amazement, and delighted little-girl giggles.

“Molly,” he begins, flipping open the lid of the box.  Beads of perspiration have sprouted on his temples, a flop-sweat, sudden and scorching and radiant.  

“Will you be my wife?”

I push the syllable out of my mouth, and it rides on the crest of all we together have weathered.  It sails on the heights of our laughter and camaraderie, that goofy spirit pulled forth by one another.  It careens in the nadir of our sorrow and frustration caused to one another. One puff of air suspended between his query and my reply, pregnant with thirty months of torrent and swell and grace and awe.  Sourced from heart and faith and resilience and curiosity, I breathe into the stillness between us:

“Yes!”  

 

addiction · deprivation · effort

“Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.”

2.15.19.jpgIt’s been quite the run this past week, and I bring myself to my computer by the strictest of force.  I’d really like to start on grading the 55 papers I have waiting for me.  Or, I’d really like to take a long luxurious shower, instead of my quickies on the blogging mornings.  I’d really like to avoid the page right now.

When I get out of my habit of sitting at this page, I rebel.  I am much the same with other healthy habits, and as I’ve heard, “[We’re] the kind of people who find something that works and stop doing it”!  And I very much fit that assessment.

My week has legitimately been packed with actions related a significant upcoming work assignment for which I’m the point-person.  I spent the majority of Sunday working on the presentation I’d lead about it Monday morning, and thus spent little of Sunday night sleeping.  In fact, since Sunday night’s fitful rest, I haven’t slept one night through.

And the only action I’ve yet found to counter my brand of insomnia is regular (read: near-daily) exercise.

But. With the “exhaustion” on Monday after school, I didn’t go to the gym.  On Tuesday, I was “too tired,” too.  Wednesday, they don’t have my workout class at a “good” time for me, and yesterday, I told J (to no convincing at all) that the road back from class might be flooded and since we were going out in the evening, I didn’t want to risk not being back in time.  (eye roll)

On Sunday night, I shared some of my story of recovering from my cycle of financial distress, and found myself admitting that “deprivation” is still a way I undermine (and torture) myself.  No matter my level of earning, I can find ways to feel deprived (e.g. putting it all into savings so that my spending cash feels like pennies I have to hoard).

I reflect on my habit of “avoiding” my writing and my physical health (because you can be SURE that between the not sleeping, no gym, and malaise around creativity, I have mindlessly gorged on the trays of pastries set out at work).  There is surely no “gain” from denying myself the activities that (only afterward!!!) give me self-esteem, pleasure, groundedness and sanity.

But perhaps it is the “only afterward” piece that is the hurdle.

Waking up at 5am and “using”/”spending” 30 minutes typing a blog that, well, may or may not be significant to the world…  Rushing to the gym after a long day of teaching to spend/use another hour of “on” time…

None of these activities really benefits anybody except me.  And none of them “take” anything from anybody except me.  It’s this self-contained little circle of output and intake.  I am the engine that expels, and I am the gas tank that is refilled.

The only piece that makes any of this at all worthwhile is my deciding that it is.  For my own benefit, for my own life, for my own soul.

And for a person with a quasi addiction to deprivation of the soul, you can imagine that I fight multiple demons on my way to this page.

Though, on this morning, they can go fuck themselves.

 

authenticity · goals · theater

How to talk so the Universe will listen & listen so the Universe will talk.

2.6.19In a bout of manifesty goodness (or plain coincidence, if you’re feeling cranky), performance has been floating to the top of my experience again.  Last Thursday morning, my blog was about how I was feeling itchy for performance, feeling isolated in my creative endeavors, and that I wanted more engagement in the theater or music realms.

On my drive in that morning, after having told you all about that, I was on the phone with a friend and told her the same.  So: I spoke my intention in writing, then I spoke it aloud.

That afternoon, I received an email from a theater company I’d auditioned for several years ago inviting me to participate in their audition workshop.  Eeek.  Um. Well, I don’t have anything prepared right now!  I haven’t auditioned in years, and I certainly don’t have a piece ready to go.  “So,” I replied, “could I come to audit the workshop?”  It would be great for me to be around theater again, the language again, to glean what I could–and I’m happy to pay the cost;)

And he replied, Yes.

Later on Thursday, in preparation for an upcoming trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival with my 7th graders, my boss reminded me that we have an in-house Shakespeare expert in our drama teacher!  And while she’ll be instrumental in helping me form ideas for my curriculum and our trip… “Well,” I asked the drama teacher, “do you ever do audition coaching?”

And she said, Yes.

I am humbled and reminded that when I am specific and intentional about my goals, they repeatedly rise to the top of my experience.  I forget that sometimes it’s as simple as letting people know that I have such dreams and goals.  There’s a host of helpers, seen and unseen, just waiting for me to take ownership of them.

Even if it feels silly or embarrassing or I’m not ready or I’m good enough, that’s none of my business, frankly!  My only role is to tell the truth.  Show up.  And play this ongoing game of Fluxx.