infertility · pregnancy · trauma

“So, How Was It?” The Feels Edition

I’m part of an online group for people who are pregnant through IVF, and it’s been bringing me back to last December full force. The minute clocking of how many days and weeks along, the agonizing over whether taking your medication early or late or not at all that day will cause an irreparable issue, the wondering, wondering, wondering.

I’ve already written a bit about the early days and weeks of my pregnancy with HB, how worrisome it was for me. There was literally nothing else on my mind. When I had abdominal pain acutely on one side of my belly, I was absolutely convinced I was having an ectopic pregnancy, which mandates “cancellation” of the pregnancy. This fear has to continue until the embryo is large enough to detect on an ultrasound, which means you’re even more pregnant than you were with a potentially non-viable pregnancy, which also means you’re even more invested in it going well, you’re even closer to seeing it come to fruition.

At my earliest possible time, I came in for an ultrasound because I was convinced my abdominal pain was the portend of bad news. She’d told me it was early, that just because they may not detect anything didn’t mean it wasn’t there. My blood levels were continuing to rise apace. Then, the frozen agony as she angles around with the wand like a spotlight in my body, searching, searching for life.

And there it was, a flutter on the black-and-white screen. A flutter in my uterus where it should be. She turns on the sound, and there it is… a heartbeat, an honest-to-goodness heartbeat. Not my own, something new, something hers. Her. New. Yes.

And this is how it was for every minute of every day for me. A terrified conviction that any moment could be the last, as it had been several times before. It was this way until my 20-week ultrasound, an in-depth three-dimensional view of the growing body inside me. I would not, could not with a fox, allow myself to breathe until that 5-month test. I know personally three women who’d had “bad scans” at that critical appointment, all three who’d had to make haunting, heart-breaking choices, and I could not allow myself to plan for the arrival of a baby until then.

To be honest, it was only a few weeks to the end of my pregnancy when I was posting in a group about my terror that it would all come crumbling down. This feeling didn’t abate until she was safely, healthfully in my arms in the hospital bed. It’s a horrible feeling. It’s a horrible cloud to live under during a time that many people feel can be the most blissful and abundant.

And this was usually the kind of content I gave when friends asked how I was feeling. The emotional piece. I expressed how difficult it was for me to trust, how I was awaiting the 20-week scan to really believe this would happen, how I was having a hard time wading through my own trauma. Funnily enough, after several minutes of my talking in this vein, friends would often say, “I meant, ‘How are you feeling physically?'” but I knew what they meant. That aspect just wasn’t that important for me to talk about (see previous blog!).

But there she was at 20-weeks, a face, eyes, nose, heart. Four chambers of a heart. All moving blood, red and blue pulses of light on the screen. Pulses of life.

Til the end, this is how it was, checking my underwear for spotting each time I sat down to the toilet. She was still right-side-up as my time came closer, and this worried me. (She did flip on her own eventually.) Two weeks to go, I hadn’t felt her move in over a day. I drank juice, did jumping jacks, drank cold water, and sat quietly in the dark awaiting her movements to confirm she was still there. Really there.

I came downstairs streaming tears. J drove me to the hospital. And she was there, really there, just moving less but healthy, beating, “breathing.”

Everyone does what they can to assure you, assuming things have been going well, that they will be well. Everyone with the best of intentions and with all the love they can muster try to hold your hand, physically or virtually, as you wade, slog, crawl through the darkness that creeps into the side of your vision. The unbidden thought. The momentary arresting of your breath.

So, How Was It?

Pregnancy is a nine-month mental labyrinth, regularly gnarling your joy into a Gordian knot.

Until it’s over. And the knot unravels, cascading open to reveal the most tender pulse of awe and magic this side of the veil.

beginnings · infertility · pregnancy

“So, How Was It?” Pregnancy Edition

At Mom’s The Word in SF. 7 mos pregnant.

As you may have read in my previous post, getting to pregnancy — and a pregnancy that “stuck” — was a long and winding road for J and I. That said, pregnancy itself? I’m reluctant to tell you!

One of the lessons I learned during pregnancy was that when people ask you a question about how it is going, often (though certainly not always!) the reason behind their questioning is loaded. Perhaps they will use your answer as a benchmark against which to compare, at length and with unasked-for advice, their own pregnancy or their partner’s. This looks like: “Well, when I was pregnant it was hell in XYZ ways; let me enumerate in great detail how I suffered.” “You’re tired now, just wait until the kid gets here.” “Better do ABC now because you’ll NEVER BE ALONE AGAIN.”

I really had a hard time with these conversations. And so, I stopped having them, mostly. The best advice I received during my pregnancy, and this lovely advisor told me to throw it out the window if I wanted!, was to Lie Positively. How are you feeling? Great! How are you sleeping? Great! [When the baby comes along:] How are they sleeping, eating, pooping, blinking…? GREAT!

The aim here is to stem the flow of unasked-for advice and the tide of misfortune that childbearers want, for reasons that completely elude me, to dump on you.

And why stem that flow? Why try to distance myself from that muck?

Because my pregnancy really was great. I loved it! (See, I told you you’d hate me for it!) At about 6 weeks pregnant, I awoke from a deep sleep because I was laughing. I personally believe/think/imagine that this was little Hannah telling me a joke or being delightful in the way she is and does. I think it was her telling me she’d come, and that she’d be a dose of sunshine.

I was mildly green around the gills for a few weeks, but I drank ginger lemon tea by the gallon, all day every day, and my nausea would abate. I didn’t retch once. And by week 10, the nausea passed.

I was ravenous. My coworker who’d been experimenting with baking bread (as many did during the pandemic!) brought me a large, circular loaf of crusty, whole-grain. I ate half of it before lunch time. Repeatedly, I took photos of the enormous hoagie sandwiches I bought at the corner store, after I’d already eaten my own lunch. I would text J that I was only going to eat half — this was my “accountability” text. Not because I was or would get fat, but because of the many times I’d already eaten it all and felt so sick afterward! And, inevitably, I would have to send the close-to-upchuck text that I ate the whole thing anyway! But, this time passed, too.

At about 17 weeks, even though I’d been waiting for the 20-week ultrasound to truly commit to “being pregnant/expecting a child,” I had to get new pants. After several fruitless internet searches, and deciding that, No, thank you, Gap, H&M, etc., I will not be wearing stripes throughout the rest of my pregnancy!, I bit the bullet and went to the “nice” maternity wear store and bought some wonderful jeans and a top that fit well and would serve me beyond pregnancy. I came home elated to show J: “I look like ME!” Not a circus tent, not a pastel-shrouded matron. Dark blue jeans, a black top, and bronze loafers: I looked like me. Just with a bump.

I’d always thought that I would be able to make due without the ridiculous accoutrements of pregnancy, like the pregnancy body pillow. However, on that tack, I was wrong. By the latter months, sleeping on my side wore on my hips, and luckily I was on summer break by now and could scour the second-hand online marketplaces, and found this C-shaped one that took me through the end comfortably.

My back didn’t hurt. My feet didn’t hurt. I didn’t get headaches or sweats or pox! I was just carrying.

The only wrinkle for me was my left knee. I’ve always had trouble with that one, whether when running or working out or skiing, and as my pregnancy progressed, so did swelling and pain. This meant I couldn’t even walk a block without limping and began to see a chiro and acupuncturist. I saw an orthopedist, and did eventually make the decision for a cortisone shot, which helped immensely, though temporarily. However, it also meant that I needed to find an alternative mode of exercise, and I started swimming at a local pool. It was glorious! I loved it. Outdoors, watching the trees pass by overhead, engaging in conversation with the retirees who frequented the pool and hearing about the gossip of which upstart was causing trouble in the fast lane (HA!). I’d never swum for exercise before, and it was quite lovely. Not the same as running, sure, but really nice and easy on my knee.

As the time drew nigh, and J and I moved into new place with more stairs than Coit Tower (ouch!), I hurriedly drove hither and yon to acquire second-hand clothes and other items. As it drew even closer, I finally turned to the internet to just send me this crap.

And, by month 8 and 9, we were ready — or as ready as we’d ever be. (And sure, I’m glossing over the fear and terror that occasionally gripped me solid. But that’s another blog.) ūüėČ

(Forgive typos/grammar; published after one draft; baby calls.)

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.

 

action · goals · honesty

If Wishes Were Horses…

8.21.18.jpgIn some reading or other, I learned about the difference between Wishes, Dreams, and Goals.  As I remember it:

  • Wishes are desires you aren’t willing to work toward.
  • Dreams are desires you aren’t sure how to work toward.
  • Goals are desires you’ve made a plan to work toward.

Writing the other day that I wish I had a lifted seat (ham-hocks!!!) made me reflect that it’s actually a Dream of mine, not a Wish.¬† I¬†am willing to work toward it, I’m just not entirely sure how to attain it.

Which makes me reflect further that, in truth, I¬†do know how to attain it… I’m just not willing to work for it, so it is a Wish after all.¬† Ha!

So, where the rubber meets the road is where I have to be honest about my true willingness to achieve what I want.  Surrrre, a hot ass would be AWESOME!  Buuut, did you know what nearly all the literature and friend advice says?: Do squats.  Ugh.  How boring.  And so, it goes from Dream (doing research) back into Wish (Meh, too hard).

Where it hasn’t gone — and here’s where I’m beginning to suspect the magic is — is into Goals.¬† Into becoming true and actionable, with action steps, and deadlines, and dates¬†Goals.

Okay okay, so maybe a lifted seat doesn’t get your relatable meter running, but maybe “Earn my small plane pilot’s license” or “Record the score for my musical lyrics” or “Earn a Second Bachelor’s Degree in Physics.”

Whatever floats your boat.

Goals are on my mind today because my Weekly Goals Group call is this afternoon and our question for this week is, “What are your Goals?”¬† Eek.¬† It’s a little more specific than that (what are the major areas of your life and what are your goals in each for the next 1, 5, 10, 20 years), but when we read aloud the question of the week last time, all of us ladies on the line laughed out loud, absolute hilarity ensured for over a minute.

As if the idea of nailing the whirling dervish of our wishes and dreams down onto the page was as ridiculous as hunting unicorns and pixies.

Oh, how we laughed, too, sheepish and blushing, because¬†this is the spot we avoid.¬†Don’t make me look!¬†¬†Like a sore tooth, we just chew on the other side; we make due not using our all, we pretend that this is a normal state of being.¬† And we laugh at the idiocy of the suggestion to face the aching tooth.

Goals necessitate that a person must be specific about what they desire, and then nail it to a calendar, or routine, or practice.¬† A goal is not a fairy; a goal is one unavoidable action at a time.¬† A goal is a partnership that holds you accountable so you can’t kick your desires down the pages of a calendar.

A goal is so real and, therefore, so vulnerable.  (Hence the hilarity giggles.)

A goal being a real thing means it’s subject to struggle and injury.¬† But it is also capable of growth.

Wishes and Dreams do not grow.  They are the things of childhood fancy.

A Goal is a Grown-Up tool—and a dance partner—and it begs and invites you to dance with it, every f*ing day.¬† Ugh.

action · avoidance · progress

Eating Frogs.

4.21.18

(I was sick yesterday, so this is Friday’s blog!)¬†¬†

With the last meditation challenge complete, I’m re-listening to the 21-day audio meditation¬†Manifesting True Success from Oprah and Deepak.¬† Yesterday’s was focused on “T” in the acronym SMART: Time.

On the phone with my new goals group this past Sunday, I told them that, while my larger goal is to write a book (details emerging), my relationship with Time must needs be my other focal point for our 6 months together.

“I cram,” I told the ladies.¬† In the last goals group, I would do all the writing the hour before the call and felt like I didn’t get out of the group all I might have.¬† Perhaps by writing a little throughout the week, I could have more time to reflect and therefore more time to evolve.

And, wouldn’t you know, the meditation this week was, “Timing for Success.”

I really liked the reference Deepak made to this categorizing of our daily lives:

  • Sleep time: Getting a full night’s restful sleep
  • Physical time: Time to move and let my body be active
  • Focus time: Being alone for a while to concentrate on what matters to me
  • Time in: Time for meditation, prayer, self-reflection
  • Time out: Time to simply be here, and rest into existence (How do you like that phrase?!)
  • Play time: Time to have fun and enjoy myself
  • Connecting time: Intimate private time between me and those I care about.

What strikes me immediately, and pointed out by my therapist many months ago, is that I make little time for Play.  What happens in that structure is that I avoid or procrastinate Focus time (and Physical time) because I feel deprived:

If I haven’t done anything¬†fun or creative, I have less in the well.¬† If I have less in the well, large tasks become insurmountable.¬† And so the cycle continues.

“Fun leads to productivity” seems like a strange concept, but for the deprivation addict that I am/have been, it’s key.¬† Because the reverse is true, too: “Productivity leads to fun.”¬† If I don’t put off what must be done, then I don’t feel guilty doing something fun.

When I feel guilty, I procrastinate even my fun!¬† It’s a terrible cycle.¬† So I have to shift to feeding all the parts of my day, and therefore myself.¬† If I want to focus more, I have to play more.¬† If I want to play more, I actually have to focus!

“Eat the frog first,” as they say.

With the new goals group, I hope to have a bit more accountability for my time—for my play time and therefore my accomplishy time.

fear · pride · self-support

Whose Idea was this Anyway?

3.2.18

Yesterday, we had our Purim carnival at school, each classroom decorated and hosting a games booth hand-made by students.¬† Children could wander from room to room, trying out the brainteasers, fortune tellers, and human whack-a-mole (super cute video of a kindergartner bopping 6th graders’ exposed noggins).¬† Music blared in the hallways, the chatter of kids egging each other on or roasting each others’ missed foozball shots.

And I sat in the center of it all with a large mug of tea, a gorgeous view out my classroom window, and the sounds of water-drippy spa meditation music.¬† Assorted pillows lined the back cabinets where students whispered gently or just reclined with eyes closed, others sat at desks coloring the mandalas I’d printed out, or softly played a game of cards.

I had called, “The Quiet Room.”

At my last school, I had learned the hard way that carnival days can be really frying for my nervous system.¬† I fall directly between intro- and extro-vert on most personality scales, and while I love a good carnival, amusement park, or festival, I learned that 2 hours of hyper-stimulation can wear me down to the bone — and I don’t bounce back quickly.

Therefore, last year, in my second year at that school, I volunteered to help out in The Quiet Room.¬† This room was an established zone staffed by a long-time teacher who’d earned, through her 30+year tenure, the right to staff The Quiet Room on chaos days.¬† Buuut, couldn’t she use a helper, in case she wanted to take a break, go to the bathroom…?

And thus, I inserted myself into the Quiet Room and my 2nd Purim carnival day was even as a still pond.

When it came time this year to volunteer to man different booths or rooms or stands… I knew it was my chance.¬† They didn’t¬†have a Quiet Room at my new school!¬† The staff meeting was continuing on, I didn’t have a role yet, I raised my hand.

“What about having a quiet room for students who need a break?”

“Sure, that’s a great idea.”

And then, wouldn’t you know, all the other teachers began shouting,¬†Ha!¬†I’ll run the quiet room!¬† Yeah, sounds great — can I do it?

I pounced back.¬† Facetious or not, no one was taking this room from me!¬† “It was my idea!¬† I get to man it!” I shouted them down.¬† And so it was sealed.

When yesterday morning, during the melee, the big boss strode into my classroom to see what The Quiet Room was all about and sat nearby to make whispered conversation with me, she asked, “This was your idea?”

And for an instant, I froze inside.¬† I felt a little embarrassed, a little shy, to own my idea, especially knowing it was a good one.¬† My heartrate quickened as thoughts of hedging leapt forward to reply something like, “Well, the other teachers thought it was a good idea” or “Yeah, kinda.”

Yet, I didn’t respond that way.¬† I didn’t diminish my accomplishment; I didn’t allow myself to¬†shy away from the spotlight of my boss’ opinion.

I rested calmly with my enormous mug warming my hands, took half a breath, and replied, “Yes.”

growth · scarcity · truth

I’m a teacher, so…

3.1.18.png

I spoke this quasi-sentence on the phone Monday when talking with a potential couples’ therapist.¬† She and I were getting to the brass tacks portion of the conversation, settling in on the, “How much is this gonna run me” dialogue, and I offered up that half-phrase.

“I’m a teacher, so…”

What implications are in that sentence?!¬† I am underpaid; I don’t have any money; I cannot afford your full fee; I cannot afford even close to your full fee; I am in a profession in which I will¬†never afford your full fee; I am poorly paid; I am undervalued.

Oh, honestly.

Whose “fault” is this? Well, surely, I could say it’s the “system’s” fault, it’s America’s fault, I could even say it’s the president’s fault.¬† And while each of those might have grains of truth, there is no honor in blame of others.

To be clear, a) it’s my “fault” I’m a teacher, and b) I’m manipulating the codified undervaluing of our country’s education system to seem poor and weak and un-robust so that I can get a deal on something.

I realized in recounting this later, that¬†this is such an “underbeing” phrase! How can I stand in one breath and tout the munificence of the Universe AND ALSO pervert the archetype of the broke teacher to my benefit?

Maybe you have your own version of the above sentence?¬† I’ve certainly said iterations of the same: “I work in nonprofits, so…” “I’m a student, so…” “I’m in the arts, so…”

I don’t enjoy realizing that I’ve capitalized upon the pity, or generosity, of my fellows to cajole a few dollars out of them, but I do appreciate learning that my understanding of my profession as an “underearning” one lurks beneath my thoughts, as does the notion that I need to depend upon others’ pity to have what I want in life.

It will be up to me to change the thoughts, or to change my profession (which I don’t wish to happen any time soon), or to increase my income in alternate ways.¬† In any case, using my “pain” to foster empathy in others is a low (and borrowed) form of power, and I vow to give it up, even a day at a time.

 

 

 

freedom · growth · success

Many drops in the bucket.

2.28.18.jpg

This morning, I completed the 21-day meditation challenge from Oprah and Deepak called, “Manifesting True Success,” and was struck deeply by this line:¬† Every path to success is a path to freedom.¬†¬†This brought me pause and led me to write, and emphatically circle:¬†What “freedom” am I seeking from this success?

What freedom am I seeking from becoming a tour pilot over Napa valley vineyards?  Well: competence, adventure, intellectual amplification, joy.

What freedom am I seeking from being a school teacher?  Freedom over my time (during the summers), intellectual & creative amplification, spontaneity.

What freedom from being in partnership? Stability, serenity, emotional growth.¬† From being a mother?¬† Joy, continuity, sharing my abundance. …

I can, and likely will, make a chart of each of my “Success –> Freedom” desires, because the magic piece is how to amplify each of these desired successes in my daily life¬†as it is.¬† If I want to share the abundance of my heart, how can I do that today?¬† If I want to expand my intellectual engagement, how can I do that today?

How can I inject today with each of the freedoms/successes that I seek?

Every day I open the WordPress site, I must click a button labeled, “Write.”¬† And each morning I click it, I feel a hearty dollop of joy, competence, and esteem drip into my personal bucket.¬† I feel accomplishy, even if it’s the only thing I do this day (as it insinuates that I’ve already written Morning Pages and meditated, as I won’t blog without clearing my personal pathways first).

When I cross off “moisturize face and body” on my Habit Calendar, I feel competent, self-loving, and prosperous (as it implies I purchase and replenish my moisturizer).

Every morning I drink my coffee, it implies that I’ve set it up the night before, replenished and ground new beans when it was low, and desire to gift myself a physical pleasure.¬† Competence, stability, self-love, and prosperity.

In every morning, I can list a host of ways I feel successful before breakfast!¬† And that’s good, because lately in the afternoon when I continue to sit reading¬†Game of Thrones for 3 hours… I start to feel less esteemable.

So it will be up to me to see if there is a “success” to be gleaned from 3 hours of sedentary imbibing of gore, and to parse out what it is I’m attempting to accomplish if there’s not.

What freedom am I seeking from this success?  And how can I own that freedom today?