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.

compassion · resilience · TEACHING

Humanity isn’t a bad word, just a hard one.

8.25.18.jpgBeing the first week of middle school, there are a lot of nervous students and even more nervous parents.  Meeting with a few of these parents this week, I said to a coworker that underneath the specifics of each child, underneath their “learning style” and labels, all any parent wants to hear from us teachers is:  Your child will be loved.  Your child will be held.  Your child will be okay.

It’s this last piece that I think is the hardest for some to grasp, because I think it’s hard to grasp about ourselves.  But a child is a developing being, and often what that means is that there are moments when they will not be “okay.”  They will feel angry, frustrated, lonely, righteous, overwhelmed, and frightened.  In other words, they will feel human.

The faculty read this summer was The Gift of Failure, and while there are efforts in place to disseminate this information to the parents of our students, too, until that happens, it’s a one-on-one meeting at a time to say, Yes, I hear that your child is having a hard time.  However, I also hear that this is a chance for them to learn something new about resilience, flexibility, perseverance, and independence.

The ironic piece is that, in my own way, I’m trying to protect these students, too!  Trying to save them — from “bio-doming” themselves, or their parents doing it for them.  I’m trying to save them from not experiencing the slings and arrows.  To be clear, I’m not injuring these children!!! I’m just holding what I see as the bigger picture… and that picture sometimes clashes mightily with the bigger picture a parent sees.

And, oy, how that “is what it is.”

There is little I can do to change the perspective of parents, except to gently encourage them to take their hands off the back of the bicycle seat and allow their child to falter.

I can also work on my own letting go of their experience and actions.  I want them to see things my way, but that’s a two-way street.

What I want and what is are generally extraordinarily disparate until I can get on board with what is.  And what “is” is that people are nervous, people are frightened, and I don’t have to save them from those feelings.  But I do need to open to the experiences of others and not consider my way the right way, either.

There’s so much “learning” going on, and we haven’t even had a full week of class!;)

G-d save and help us.  We are all only human.


commitment · community · courage · defeat · despair · faith · hope · hopeless · recovery · resilience

"This is the way to a faith that works."




I heard yesterday that another definition for resilience is
to move ourselves out of harm’s way, to get ourselves out of dangerous
circumstances. That resilience means to move toward health, wholeness and
…There are plenty of “definitions” I hear around, some more
Webster’s than others. But I get that part of resilience means to get out of
circumstances and situations that cause us to need to be resilient. – If you are the inflatable clown,
resilience means to step out of the way of the punch. You know, if you had
legs. Which I do. Long ones.
I didn’t actually intend to get healthy when I walked into a
room 8 years ago. I just wanted to stop getting punched. I listened, bawled,
accepted help, and getting healthy was the byproduct.
If it wasn’t my intention to get healthy, but by listening
to the voices in my head that told me to go somewhere I thought would help, I
got healthy anyway… is it possible that the same voices that feed me lines like, “It’s
worth it; You can heal; You are important; What you offer is important,” can
get me healthier almost without my willing it?
I mean, that’s the point, wasn’t it? It wasn’t me that
implanted that thought 8 years ago – the thought I had was, “Have another beer,
it will solve this moment, and nothing after that matters.” But the thought
that wasn’t mine was, “Go to a meeting.” Who the f*ck thought that?!
Wasn’t me. So that means there’s something inside me, beside
and under the voices that usually crowd out the cheerleaders and the still calm
being, that is there, speaking, helping, wanting for me things I can’t seem to
accept I want for myself.
There is something else inside me (not like a scene from Alien, though it feels as alien sometimes) that wants me
to be healthy, whether I like it or not. And most significantly,
I know how to or not
I don’t know how. But
the undergirding and buttresses of my soul do. And if that now long-ago experience was any
indication, they’re there, talking, waiting for me to listen, to follow, to
I was also at a point that I’ve later come to define as
surrender. All my best ideas gave me were the same thing, day after day. A Groundhog’s
existence. An eeking by, scraping at
the dregs of my self-esteem, morality, energy. I was running on fumes by then,
and in short supply they were. I feel
so much the same these days. So wan and worn and tired and unknowing and
I saw a bumper sticker yesterday that read, When you’re
lost, you can always follow your dreams.
Platitudes, sure. But it was a kind of wink to someone like
me who right now feels lost. It means
there’s always something to hope for. Without dreams, without hope, there’s
If what you can expect for your life is the same thing
you’ve always done, and the same experiences you’ve always had – if all you can
see for yourself is a life as an inflatable clown, … well, for me, there’s a
point at which I’m so exhausted of being it, that I simply don’t stand back up into
the firing line. And in that moment of surrender, of giving up the fight, …
well, that’s when it seems to me the change comes.
I’m not the first nor last to write about surrender as a
gateway to freedom. I’m not the first to terribly despise that that is so, or
to attempt lipservice to it in an effort to bypass the deflation. It’s not the
first time I’ve felt eviscerated by life and my efforts in it.
But, if I can recognize, remember, maybe even take comfort
in the fact that my evisceration led me to a place of light, friendship, joy,
health… I can try to let this time not feel as bleak. Doesn’t mean I don’t feel
like my butt has been kicked by life these past few years. Doesn’t mean I don’t
get to feel voraciously and vehemently angry. Doesn’t mean that I’m not going
to drag my fingernails down the face of “god.”
But the voices, the good ones, permit me all these feelings,
and gently – sometimes not so gently – whisper in my ear the directions toward
getting my heart inflated again.