Thursday, September 22, 2011

Spitting, IVF and Adoption

A few days ago, I ran by a woman watering flowers in her front yard. I said hello, then a few steps later I spit on the ground.

"That is so unlady-like!" she yelled.

I stopped. Walked back to her and said, "Are you a runner?"

"Heck NO," she snapped.

"If you were," I explained, "then you would understand why I'm spitting."

I kept running toward home, thinking about what had just happened.

We tend to judge people for the things they do, without ever taking into consideration why it's being done--or what it might be like to be in a similar position. Some things, I believe, can only be understood by being experienced firsthand. I wasn't spitting to be crude, I was spitting because it's a necessary part of being a runner. When you run, you understand.

I kept running--and I kept thinking. How many times have I shook my head and walked away from a conversation or question because I realize that someone couldn't possibly understand what it means to stand in these high heeled shoes of mine?

It happens a lot when I talk about adoption; most people don't understand why we chose it instead of IVF. Why wouldn't we do absolutely everything in our power to have a biological child? Why walk away from that opportunity and choose a different route--one that is more complicated, costly and complex than the other? Why subject myself to a life of questions and explanations about the origin of a child that is not biologically of myself?

Choosing to be an adoptive parent is no different. Choosing to say no to IVF is just the same. When you live it, you understand it. I can attempt to explain what it felt like or why we made that choice, but I wouldn't do the experience justice. Or, I could try to tell you how I knew adoption was the right choice---but it would come back to the answer to every complicated concept in each of our lives: we just knew.

How did you know your significant other was "the one?"

Why do you have faith in God? How can you detect His presence in your life?

Why do you love your significant other?

You know the answers to these questions, of course, but you'd be hard pressed to generate a concise answer. I'm not morally opposed to IVF. I don't believe adoption is a superior choice to fertility treatments. All I know is this: adoption just felt right. I have never, in the last 13 months of waiting for this opportunity, believed anything else to be more true in my life. I have never questioned our choice; never waivered from my pillar of faith in our path.

Maybe you get it, maybe you don't. That part doesn't matter to me particularly; what matters is that at the end of each day, I know we made the right choice. And if I have to spend the rest of my days telling people that if they knew infertility they would understand, then so be it. I'm ready for any challenge.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Storm Warning

Last night, a storm raged outside. While the rain poured from the sky, a storm was brewing within me.

I woke up at 2:34 AM, writhing in that same familar pain. I slept through the storm outside--it was my internal storm that woke me from my sleep.

It was excrutiating, just as it always is. It may be familiar, but it never makes it any easier to endure.

I quietly slipped out of bed, walking on my tip-toes and softly shutting the door behind me. Hoping the dogs and husband didn't hear me.

I flipped on the lights in the kitchen and reached up to the top shelf in a high cabinet for my familar bottle of Advil.

My fingers fumbled for the smooth white bottle.

It wasn't there. Could it be?

Could I have been so foolish as to use the last of my own personal monthly savior without replenishment?

I started to cry. I sat on the kitchen floor, pathetically sobbing.

They heard me. Everyone came running---on four legs and two.

Licked my tears from my face. Picked me up off the hard, wood floor.

And showed me where the Advil was: on the top shelf, in the high cabinet---laying on its side.

It's nice to know that in the midst of pure agony, there are dogs to lick my tears and a husband to gently remind me that I shouldn't give up so easily.

Sometimes, in our desperation to solve our problems, we don't look close enough.

There were six Advil inside that bottle; I took three and went back to bed.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Dropping the Ball

Life is about juggling. Whoever you are, whatever you do---you have to juggle a series of balls in order to exist and function successfully in this world. We all do it, we all know what it's like and we would all agree that it is never an easy task.

However, what happens when you can't juggle anymore? You know, like when someone keeps throwing more balls into the mix and some of them are on fire? Can you still juggle?

I have never been good at juggling, personally. For whatever reason, this time of year is especially hectic. My husband is gone a lot with work and other commitments, our social commitments increase significantly and work becomes incredibly hectic. Most days, I come home feeling completely overwhelmed--and wondering if I am juggling as well as I could. I second guess myself a lot. Am I doing everything I should? Could I be working harder? Am I forgetting anything?

It hit me yesterday that I am forgetting something: I have dropped the friendship ball. I am not talking to, caring about or giving enough attention to the friendships that exist in my life. I didn't consciously drop that ball, but I saw it lying on the floor last night. Waiting for me to notice it.

I could think of plenty of excuses. Multiple reasons for why I can legitimately explain my absence. But I don't think any excuse is good enough--valid enough--to explain why I stopped trying. Something just had to give, and I gave it up without even noticing. For me, noticing that I'm not doing as much as I could is enough to inspire a change. It's not always an easy thing to do, but it is rewarding.

How do you juggle?

Monday, September 12, 2011


{Photo by James Nachtwey for TIME, from here.}

Where was I?

Well, I was sleeping.

And for that, I have always felt guilty.

Very, very guilty.

I have always felt like I should have been paying attention.

I should have been fixated on my dorm room's television.

Instead, I was peacefully sleeping. Unaware of what was happening.

I spent the entire weekend watching every single documentary and special on television I could find.

In my mind, it was the least I could do.

Maybe, just maybe, I could make up for sleeping through such a horrendous tragedy.

Every story of bravery, every tale of selflessness---it all means something to each of us.

It reminds us that we are stronger than we think.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Broken Road

You have no idea how great I feel after getting this off my chest. I wrote it, stewed over it, almost posted it like five times and then realized I was incapable of saying or writing anything else until I hit "Publish Post." I had to let it float out into the universe instead of allowing it to sit on top of my brain any longer. That's just how I operate; once I feel something, I need to get it out. Even when it's ugly.

Since then, I have thought a lot about what I said. Perhaps too much, but I have been thinking. I thought a lot about how I said it and even how it may be perceived. The thing about this blog is that I write it for myself---regardless of whether it will be read by others or not. I don't often think about my readers while I'm writing because it prevents me from telling my real truth. I have to write like no one is reading in order to be my most authentic self.

I had a front row seat for a beautiful, amazing wedding this past weekend (my brother in-law married his college sweetheart on Sunday). I realized something very important as I stood on the alter in that church, witnessing the union of two people who love each other dearly. As a young husband and wife duo played the guitar and sang Rascal Flatt's "Bless the Broken Road," I cried. I stared down at my own wedding band as I clutched my bouquet a little tighter, remembering the day I married my husband and thinking about broken roads--and what it means to know that journey.

The song, as you likely know, is about appreciating the fact that finding love isn't always easy and things can get tough as we make our way through life. But in the end, we have a new appreciation for finding the right person because we have gone through the toughest part of our lives to get to our ultimate destination. I think, though, it's sort of lonely to think that we have to travel a broken road alone to find someone to love us in the way we need to be loved. Does every broken road have to be traveled alone?

I like to think of  my own "Broken Road" as a journey I've been fortunate enough to never need to travel alone. Through every step of it, I have always had someone by my side. It can often feel like we're alone, but that really has never been part of my story.

So when I think about that song, I remember why I was crying. I think God blesses every road we travel---no matter the journey--because we are actually being led to another road. For me, I can't say that I would call the journey to finding my husband a difficult one; that's not exactly what I remember. The journey we have taken together since then has been a tough road to travel some days, however.

On the days where I have clarity and I think about all the reasons why God would choose us to never have biological children, I think about that road again. Maybe He makes some roads easier to travel, so that we have enough strength, appreciation and determination to travel the rough pathways together. Some things just come naturally to us, while others require us to fight like hell. I believe that's just how life works.

When I talk about how I feel in those honest and less than happy terms, I believe it's just part of the broken road. It's part of how I learn to function in this world as a person who sometimes feels like I am broken myself. If you met me or spoke to me out there---in the real world---I doubt you'd catch a glimpse of my pain. I wouldn't let you, to be honest. But the only way I'm able to do that is because I have another place where I can be honest, no matter who is watching. And for me, that's here. This is my safe place--this is the place where I can say exactly how I feel and I leave feeling a sense of peace and relief. I unload my burdens, show off my ugly side and walk away.

But the thing about a broken road, or at least the point of the song with the same name, is that it doesn't last forever. You walk the broken path because it leads you to something amazing--something you realize later was all part of a bigger plan to bring you to where you belong.

And for that, I realize it's hard to believe that God isn't blessing our broken road, just like he does all the others.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Hierarchy of Dog Personalities

If you are a dog owner, you understand that every dog has its own individual personality. Some dogs, like people, are completely crazy. While others, like people, are sweet and calm by nature. It's actually quite interesting.

Someone once told me that a theory exists that dogs evolve through the world in a quest toward becoming human. In other words, dogs start out as very dog-like, then they die and come back as another dog (stick with me, I know this is odd) they continue on a quest toward becoming more wise and intelligent before they eventually return to Earth as a human. It goes against every religious belief I hold, but I sometimes think it's true.

Here's what I mean: you likely know a dog that is gentle, kind and wise; calm, protective and really sweet. You also probably know dogs that are crazy: out of control, destructive, poorly behaved and just indignant. The latter are the dogs that are still at the bottom of this proposed dog evolution chart.

I think a lot about this theory when observing my own dogs and I sometimes think it could be true.

Our lab mix, Rudi, is the wiser one in this family. Rudi has always been very calm--shy, even--and sweet. She wants nothing more than to lay in the sun, get scratched behind her ears and she is very protective and intelligent. Her main goal in life, however, is to never be alone. Ever. She needs to know where everyone is at all times before she is willing to do her other favorite thing: laying on the floor and napping.

Our beagle mix, Buster, is still working on it. What's it? Most of the time, it's not being completely crazy. He is completely obsessed with food. He wishes nothing more than to sit at the window (he alternates between the window next to the front door and those on the back of our house) and stare. It's like he's just waiting for a reason to go completely nuts. When a leaf moves, he howls like there is a large group of machete-wielding men coming to kill us all. He barks---a lot. So much so, even, that he actually lost his "voice" over the weekend.

You read that right: dogs can lose their voices, too. Buster and Rudi both spent a few days at the kennel this weekend while my husband and I attended my brother in-law's wedding. When I picked the pups up yesterday, the woman who owns the kennel looked at me and said, "Are you sure Buster is a beagle? I don't think beagles act like that." Then, she said he barked so much for so long that his voice was sounding a little hoarse. Huh? It didn't take long for me to realize she was right: and it's pretty funny. Just imagine a dog howling with a raspy voice.

Thankfully, our dogs were just as exhausted as us yesterday and we all took the day to lay around quietly without barking, howling or other assorted craziness.

I considered throwing the dog evolution chart away until I realized that a tired dog doesn't lose their craziness, they just need to recharge their crazy batteries before returning to normal. Whatever normal means.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Sugar Coating

Things have been very murky lately. Do you know the feeling? It's like that glass of water I was telling you about--the one with the dirt that always sit at the bottom, that has come to represent my fragile heart.

I can't say that I can put my finger on it exactly. But, I do know that I feel unnecessarily sorry for myself today. Oh, and yesterday. And the day before that, I think. I hate it when that happens. I hate it when I let the waiting and the influx of emotions choke my breath for so long that I forget all the things I should hope for. It's incredibly difficult sometimes--being positive, feeling uplifted, telling people that this messy life of mine was meant to be. Today, I wish it wasn't. I wish I could just have what I want.

Most days, it's easy to hope. Really, it is. I'm able to find peace in the pieces--and understand that my inability to have children really is alright. Or, that it could be worse--it could always be worse, you know. I tell myself a lot of things, and I tell myself so often that I almost believe it entirely. But, I have my moments. Today is such a moment.

In the midst of my hope, I also find where my deepest anger lives. I'm usually angry because I have to hope---I can't just exist and wallow in my endless supply of bliss. I hate that I have to tell myself it will be OK. I despise the quotes I have to collect to remind myself that this is all "part of the plan" and it was "meant to be" and "we're being tested" and whatever else helps me through the day. It pisses me off. It makes me want to scream.

Do people who get the things they want feel this way, too?

It usually smacks me in the face when I'm out in public. When some terrible mother is violently grabbing her child. Or, telling them to shut the hell up already as she rubs her tattoo-covered neck. I feel jealousy for these people? Really?

It's a slippery slope.

Despite the pain and anger I sometimes feel, I often remind myself of that choice we made over a year ago: adoption. Adoption is my lighthouse, standing tall and steady on the coast. It's the rock I cling to, particularly when I'm feeling incredibly pathetic. While I often feel as though I'm still choking through the salty waves, getting sucked down by the undertow, waiting for my rescue to arrive, I realize that lighthouse is still standing, even on the days when I wish it didn't have to exist in my life. In the darkness and through the light, it's always there. Waiting, just like we are.

As we wait for adoption, people tell me that my husband and I will undoubtedly be chosen quickly. Who wouldn't want us to be parents to their child, they say. I pray each night that they have it right. I hope a complete stranger can see through the pain of their own choice to catch a glimpse of mine. I hate that my hope has to feel like it's so far away sometimes. I despise that I still secretly wish I would become accidentally pregnant. I wish we didn't have to wait for, pay for, and kill ourselves for something that just happens for every single other person. Or so it seems.

But most of all, I realize something important: I need to stop sugar-coating my life. We do this a lot as women: we say things are 'fine' or pretend they are OK in the hopes of pleasing others. It's a toxic habit, and one that always--and I do really mean always--comes back to bite us. The bite is usually a hard one, too. I have spent a lot of time telling myself that everything is fine. So much so, even, that I forget to give myself permission to just genuinely feel exactly how I feel without any guilt involved.

My desire to please, my tendency to sugar-coat and my battle with infertility seemingly creates the perfect storm in me sometimes. I often say that I never want to be "that bitter infertile lady." But, who is she? Who is this terrible waste of a human life that I so desperately wish to avoid? Is she just authentically feeling her feelings, or is she so caught up in her own anger and grief that she's lost a part of herself? Does she too, cry because she's spent years thinking about anything but babies because it's just easier to deal with her life that way?

I don't know the answer to my heart's most sincere questions--because I'm too afraid to really ask. I am entirely too scared to chip away at the sugary exterior to see what's hiding underneath. It sometimes feels like it won't ever go away, or won't ever get better--but I understand that's not for me to decide. In my mind, the sugar is protecting something that is probably terribly rotten and ugly underneath. I'm sugar coating my ugly feelings because I'd rather not feel them--or let anyone know that they exist alongside my deepest hopes.

I could continue to tell the world I'm always hopeful; but I would be lying. I'm usually hopeful, occasionally angry and sometimes distraught. That's the truth--without the sugar. It's the normal, real response of an actual human woman who feels like she cannot do the one thing she was built to do; and it doesn't always have to arrive with a bow on top. I am beginning to understand that expecting every part of my life to arrive neatly packaged is a pipe dream. Sometimes it's messy. Most of the time it isn't pretty. But it's the only life I've got. And that's OK.


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