Friday, August 22, 2014

roots, wings, and bad-ass moms.

There are two 
gifts we should 
give our children. 
One is rootsand 
the other is wings.

Thanks for giving me both, mommacita.
I'm incredibly grateful for the 
strength of my roots. 

I'm trading in "blessed" and "lucky" for grateful this week. Thanks to the reflections of a colleague and some similar reflections I've had of my own, using the term blessed as often and as flippantly as so many have grown accustomed to is irresponsible, and sometimes downright offensive. It is a recent habit I have found myself taking up, and not one I want to continue.

I'm not one to preach the bible or even pretend to know most of what it contains. I was raised christian and I believe in god, but I am no expert when it comes to christianity. However, I refuse to believe that my god "blesses" some of us over others based on anything - our faith, our prayers, or even our ability to love and forgive. I do not believe that god "blessed" me with the privilege to know that I can bring a son into this world* and not worry (a single, tiniest bit) about if he is walking down the street in eighteen years and is stopped by the police that he will walk away without bullets in his chest. I don't believe that he (or she) blesses me and other white women with that piece of mind, and then chooses not to bless other  - equally loving, faithful, and forgiving - women with that same privilege.

I have absolutely no idea why I was born where I was or why I was born the race that I am. But I do know that I certainly don't believe that god has chosen me above others because of the depth of my faith, size of my heart, number of my prayers, or anything else.

I do know that we live in a country that thrives on systemic and deeply ingrained racism. As a result, the opportunities I have in life are not due to blessings from god, nor, more often than not, even my own achievements and abilities. They are most often due to the color of my skin. If and when I take advantage of these opportunities, god is not blessing me. In fact, every time I take advantage of these opportunities I need to ask myself what I will do with it - if I will selfishly hold it close and use it for myself, or if I will use it to help - to work to change the very reality I am naming right now. 

I am grateful for the roots and the wings (and everything in between) that my mom and dad have given (and continue to give) me. While I have undoubtedly been selfish and careless with many opportunities I have had in life, the opportunity to share the gifts that my parents have given me - my capacity for love, forgiveness, and compassion - is not one I will waste. 

And, every day, I am finding more of the strength, courage, and humility I need to make sure I don't selfishly waste other opportunities...

*I know there is some irony here. But it's for another day.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

finding a reason. (also, we have a really incredible - and over qualified - babysitter)

it's not this hard for the hens
This (to the left) happened Monday evening, following my last blog post, and the wifey simply could not resist. While we won't know the final outcome and survival rate until Tuesday, things have been going as amazing as we could have possibly asked for. All of the prayers, good juju, positive vibes, and loving thoughts that have been sent our way have certainly been landing in the right place.

In fact, I'm a little (or a lot) embarrassed to admit, when the embryologist (aka our world-class babysitter) called on Saturday morning and said, "all of your embryos are looking beautiful," I actually got choked up and had tears well up.* It was minuscule glimpse into the heartwarming joy new parents must feel when strangers tell them that their baby is beautiful, no matter how bold of a lie it may be. (Although, since it was coming from our embryologist, she was likely pretty genuine in sharing her feelings about those 8 celled little beauties.)
an 8-cell embryo (what ours looked
like on saturday) - only 6 cells are

visible on the plane shown

As stressful as the last sixteen months have been, as unfair as life has seemed, and as uncomfortable as I have been in all facets of life - physically, emotionally, and socially - it's quite possible that we are finally starting to be able to make sense of what reason(s) this all could have happened for. I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, no matter how twisted or heartbreaking the sequence of events is. This has, without a doubt, tested that belief (and then some).

While I spent much of our first year of marriage wondering what on earth could possibly be god's (or anyone's) reason for the journey we have been on, these last couple of months (which up until mid-July were mostly free of doctors and the-worst-kind-of-ultrasounds for the first time in a year), we had a chance to gather our wits, gain some perspective, and take ourselves out of the whirlwind for a hot second and breathe (or more appropriate, perhaps, chill like villains in the eye of the storm). Whatever you want to blame it on, we both feel older and wiser, in a good way, and although it's tough to forgive the heartbreak of losing a life-to-be and having to traverse the rocky and steep climb of trying to bring a miniature Boven-Betz into the world, we have definitely gained a ton and learned so much about ourselves, our relationship, and our loved ones through this Indiana Jones-style adventure. (I don't think that is actually an accurate descriptor, but it sounded fiery and fierce, which does feel apropos.)

The light is certainly getting closer and brighter at the end of the tunnel as we try to find our way out, and figure out the reason. And, perhaps, maybe there's lots of reasons.

For one, we've learned that the toughest times makes us love each other even more than we thought possible, and our marriage as tightly bound as the best of 'em.

I've learned that I am resilient, and if I need to be, a pretty tough bitch.

I've developed a deep understanding and empathy for not just people struggling with infertility, but for anyone who battles an illness or suffers from heartbreak that is invisible to the eye. There was a whole world of people (1 in 10 women) that I was only subtly aware were going through such painful grief and loss. Not only do I have an intense respect for these fellow ladies (and their partners, friends, and family), but I have hopefully succeeded in increasing familiarity and understanding of this diagnosis, and all the grief that comes with it, with an even larger group of people.

And, at the risk of being repetitive, I've learned about how much I value kindness, love, and empathy in my friends and family - and been blown away by the capacity which which our friends and family have shared those things with us. I have a new appreciation for what it means to be a selfless, thoughtful, and caring person, and friend. As we sat surrounded by many of our friends last night (and, as weird as this may sound, actually champagne toasted the eggs - because our Denver family is that amazing), I sometimes can't believe how lucky we are to have such awesome people in our lives. While I have always had an enormous amount of gratitude for the few close friends I have kept in my life, going through the past year and half and having our friends and family stick so close - even through new and uncomfortable experiences, lots of welcome questions, and often many gross/weird answers (they have to do what to you?) -  has taught me a whole new (and even more meaningful and mature) understanding of what I have to be thankful for.

If I can come out on the other side of this a more empathetic, forgiving, open, grateful, and loving person, that's certainly a meaningful reason. I'll take it. It still doesn't make the whole thing make sense or seem less unfair, but it's something.

*For context, I also just started sobbing uncontrollably during Mulan, rudely interrupting my bang-up sing-a-long to I'll Make a Man Out of You, at a moment I have never felt inclined to get emotional about in my previous 10 to 15 viewings of the movie. Thanks hormones. Thanks.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Strength. ("buckle up, lady")


I've run up against the concept of strength many times in my life. I'm not sure what my first experience with strength was, but I know a few that stick out as defining. Most of them involve my parents. There was the time my father had his life turned upside down by a mysterious stroke that left him without sight on one eye and forced to stop doing a job he had spent over 15 years enjoying to make sure he continued to provide for us - and never complaining once... even as he went off to work at midnight. In fact, we spent more time together during those first few years than we ever had - like our ritualistic Monday night Ally Mcbeal watching. Clearly an unfair life event, one where it's extremely tough to find the purpose or the reason, but I don't recall either my mom or my dad making a scene, we carried on. Even further back, as a kid, realizing how hard my parents worked to provide an amazing childhood and life for my brother and I - no matter the long hours or the multiple jobs, including late nights waitressing to make ends meet. Never a complaint from either one, just lots of love and attention for us whenever they could, which was always. There's countless examples of my parents exemplifying strength when it came to making sure their kids could achieve whatever crazy dreams we set our sights on (which at times included everything from my free-styling hopes of being a children's author/illustrator and owning the entire island known as Mackinac to my more type-A vision of being POTUS). 

An important side note, me working on the island for a year in a clothing boutique and almost throwing all my dreams out the window for a ridiculous Texas boy is BASICALLY the same thing as me owning the island. Basically.
mommacita hiking into the
Grand Canyon

There's also the year I spent watching my mom battle cancer (like when she fearlessly walked into my classroom of 7th graders wearing a red baseball cap with no hair to match mine underneath), and everyday she has spent as a victor for the last 6 years. Or seeing my dad find enough strength and humor to support his mom, unconditionally, as my grandpa lost a war with a cancer of his own, long before it should have been his time. Not to mention watching him love and support my mom through her battle.

There has been no shortage of those who model strength in my upbringing, and I'd like to think some of that bad-ass nature rubbed off on me along the way. Hopefully, god-willing, one day my son or daughter will reflect on the ways in which his or her mothers exemplified and embodied strength. One of those stories may even include how they come to understand how they were brought into this fierce, crazy, and oh so incredible world we live in (I initially accidentally typed "world we love in" ...fitting).

our first ever picnic

Because that, my friend, is why this idea of strength is weighing so heavily on my mind and heart in this moment. As I have shouted from the roof tops (and by roof tops I mean this blog), the last year and a half has been no picnic (although we did go on a lovely picnic recently). I've also continued to emphasize that while my/our story is heartbreaking and sanity-testing, there are many untold and told stories that, if we are playing the comparison game (which we shouldn't, but I will anyway, because as every operating style and values assessment I take tells me, I highly value competition - shocking, I know), are certainly even more unfair, devastating, and infuriating. Having now begun the more treacherous part of this journey, the $30,000 (plus) path we hoped and prayed we would never even have to take, I am even more in awe of the strength of other women who have gone through multiple rounds of IVF, countless IUIs, multiple miscarriages, and still somehow find the strength to carry on, and battle on.

While the financial strain is hard to wrap my head around, even being knee deep in it, it doesn't even compare to the emotional and physical strain of the process itself, and all that comes with it - especially the social norms, conventions, and taboos - that exacerbate the feeling of loneliness, hurt, and failure. What's more, when the journey begins - the journey of a life time, a journey with $30,000 price tag - the rest of life's little adventures, trials, and tribulations don't just close up shop and say "peace out, y'all." 

Since starting my "pre-cycle" meds early in July, I've traveled to Atlanta, South Florida, Chicago, Las Vegas, and Wisconsin. I've found out that my role at work is changing, my team is changing, and as a result of the many changes have been working through some major challenges, mental and emotional roadblocks, and just plain frustrations that have really tested my values and character. I'm also pretty sure that all of the people and situations that were put on this earth to drive me batshit-crazy have crossed my path during the last 45 days... There was the time I spent three full hours on the phone with AT&T because of a billing error on their end that still has yet to be figured as I sit here today. Or, the time that the pharmacy I am paying the big bucks to for the good stuff (aka hormone injections) simply didn't ship my order out and every person I talked to over the course of four hours was plum-mystified by that fact and could not tell me why (or even have the audacity to make up a convincing story so I could have some, albeit false, piece of mind). Yet, they expected me to trust that when they "shipped" it the following week, arriving the day before I needed to start administering them, that it would actually come ("Ma'm, I think at this point you are just making this more and more frustrating for yourself." SERIOUSLY? I'm pretty sure the fact that you and your podunk pharmacy didn't ship my medication and can't tell me why is what's making me frustrated right now). Or, the icing on the cake described in my last blog entry when I was charged twice for a test I took once and no one seemed to be concerned with the bigger issue that someone else's pee was tested under my name.  All just the normal stuff that comes on your plate as a functioning adult (even though, I must say, I do my job properly why can't everyone else do theirs right?!).

But hey, that's what makes life interesting and keeps your blood flowing, right? ...and your blood certainly needs to be flowing when you visit the magical island of fertility that I call CCRM. The only good vein I have between both my arms (the righty river) deserves a party of its own when this is all over.

I bring all this up to point out how lucky I am.  My ability to find the bright spots and see the blessings amidst a whole lot of pain, unfairness, and heartbreak I attribute to the strength I was raised with (and that was beaten in to me by poor decisions in early adulthood, too). I am surrounded by an amazing group of friends who have taken the time to understand this crazy ride we have been on, no matter how taboo or strange it is to have as dinner table or bar conversation (sometimes too weird, for all of us). Has it been sunshine and rainbows with everyone? Of course not. But, compared to many I have heard from in the last several months as I have shared our story openly, losing a friend - although disappointing and full of unsettling emotions - is fiddlesticks, especially compared to being cast off by your family, or not being able to share a huge piece of life with any of your friends. How do you go through hell - day after day filled doctors appointments, the worse kind of ultrasounds, blood draws, hope constantly chased by fear and loss, surgeries, miscarriage, toxic chemo drugs, devastating news that somehow manages to be followed by even worse news, injecting yourself with rage-inducing hormones three times a day and your life being dictated by "inject yo' self!" alarms on your phone - without even being able to hope for a call or text from your mom or your best friends eagerly asking for an update? How do you survive spending your life savings on something that has no money back guarantee, getting the worst possible outcome, and not being able to cry to your mom? Or, even more awe inspiring, decide to try again? These bitches are crazy bad-ass dictionary definitions of strength. Mountains and mountains (and more mountains - a whole mountain range, if we are going Oprah style here) of grit, strength, and an unyielding determination to not give up on dreams.
daddy and the wifey @ arches

So, as I lay in bed, desperately trying to sleep but resigning to failure thanks to the two large and spiky nerf footballs pushing in on my bladder and forcing me to pee 7 times in the last 83 minutes,  I'm grateful for my mom and my dad who are rooting with all they have for "Camp" to be part of our lives in the next year. I'm grateful for my brother and sister-in-law who compassionately navigated having another child of their own amidst all our heartbreak and loss, and text me daily sending us love and checking for updates. I'm grateful to a close circle of amazing friends who have had the patience and kind hearts to love us through a year of struggles and sadness, continuing to ask questions without reserve and fist pump while shouting "come on, lots of eggs!"...helping me laugh and find strength on the toughest of days (and in the midst of hormonal rages). I'm grateful for my mother and father in-law who helped us think through the decision to go ahead with IVF and continue to be the voice of reason and concern around my health coming first, at all costs. And I'm incredibly grateful for my wife, the only person I could have imagined going through the last 16 months of insanity with. She has helped me remain full of grace and love for others even when I have been pushed and tested beyond what seems fair. We love each other more than we did the day we said "I do," which I didn't think was possible. On a day and weekend where hurt and disappointment in others got the best of me (likely thanks to the ridiculously high levels of estrogen raging through my body), I'm feeling pretty lucky that I have loved ones who have the patience and listening ear to ground me in where they know my heart thrives, and restore my grace for others (and myself).

Here's to a kinder week.

...and, say it with me, "come on, lots of eggs!"