Using My Voice

So, last week was exciting! In the wake of the Jennifer Aniston interview, which I initially didn't know about because last week was crazy at school and I had a raging migraine on Wednesday that sent me home early, I got a message from my journalist friend, the one who did the piece on MSNBC on embracing life without children post-infertility. 

She'd seen a call for pitches from an editor at Insider.com for an essay on the difference between being childless and childfree, and would I like to pitch it? She introduced me via email to the editor, and I wrote up a pitch. (Yay, networking!)

I didn't want to do a "this vs that" story. I find both terms problematic. I have a preference, but I wanted to write about how it felt to confront those labels and then where I landed, and how perhaps we shouldn't be so interested in the labels but instead look at the value that women bring REGARDLESS of whether they are parents or not. 

She accepted the pitch! I wrote up and finessed a draft in my dark office with my brightness turned way down on my laptop, and slept on it. I left a printed copy for Bryce to review when I went to bed, and read through his edits and suggestions, which were quite good. I came home, finessed it up, and hit send. 

It was published on Friday! I will admit  that until I got confirmation that it went live I was riddled with anxiety and self-doubt, They hated it, they are going to do a kill fee, I knew I shouldn't have put myself out there, etc etc. My nasty inner voice is relentless. I'm glad I didn't listen to it (much). 

But here it is! I hope I did us justice. I hope my voice continues to call out the way women are minimized or discredited for not having children, no matter the reasons why. I hope I was successful in sharing my thoughts without denigrating others. 


I didn't realize when they asked for a headshot that it was going to be MY GIANT HEAD at the top of the essay, but I do actually like this picture, so...okay? :)

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So Grateful for Representation

I was so excited to find out about the Allure interview with Jennifer Aniston, the one where she reveals that she is a CNBC woman, too. WOW! What an amazing interview. How awesome that she chose to share pieces of her very personal, very vulnerable history with infertility and IVF failure. Thank you, thank you for being a very public figure who shares that IVF did NOT work. And that it is hard, and lonely, and awful to go through the process and face judgment for choices known and unknown. My favorite part of the interview is when she talks about her resolution: 

"Coming out on the other side is what she calls “a little mosaic. It gets blown apart and then somehow gets put back together into this beautiful mosaic.”"

Okay, I am in love with that phrasing. I tend to go back to the caterpillar-goo-butterfly analogy, but a "beautiful mosaic?" PERFECTION. Broken and whole at once, taking what was dismantled and rearranging it into something new and beautiful that honors what was while being something new. Just gorgeous. 

You can read other takes on the news and the beauty of representation in the media, representation that Jennifer Aniston did not have to provide but chose to, and we appreciate it SO DAMN MUCH: 

Infertile Phoenix: One of Us: Phoenix Rising

Silent Sorority (Pamela Tsigdinos): Jennifer Aniston Is Officially One of Us! 

The Road Less Travelled (Loribeth): She IS "One of Us"!!

I loved Pamela's take on the egg freezing bit. I have bristled at the idea of egg freezing as an infertility failsafe. It is not the Hail Mary it gets touted as, and she goes into more details on that. It annoyed me when Mindy Kaling said that parents should give college graduates egg freezing as insurance for their future. Even when you freeze your eggs, you're susceptible to the same success rates as "regular" IVF -- which ALSO aren't great. And it's super expensive, which brings in issues of privilege and equity. 

I digress. 

I always felt a kind of kinship with Jennifer Aniston, for all the times she spoke out about how motherhood is put on a pedestal, and you can mother in different ways, and how maybe society is broken. My favorite (until the Allure interview) is: 

"We don't need to be married or mothers to be complete. We get to determine our own 'happily ever after' for ourselves." 

and 

"There is a pressure on women to be mothers, and if they are not, then they're deemed damaged goods. Maybe my purpose on this planet isn't to procreate. Maybe I have other things I'm supposed to do." 

The "beautiful mosaic" quote though -- my ultimate favorite. Thank you for putting yourself out there even though you owe it to no one. Thank you for being a very public story of "I tried to have kids and it didn't work out and it was awful but my life is beautiful." 

The Comfort Book by Matt Haig

 I recently read this book: 


I didn't love it quite as much as The Book of Delights by Ross Gay, which is still tops for me, but I found a lot of really great wisdom in here. I was reminded that I had it when I saw a picture of it in a post by Klara at The Next 150000 Days, and I put it into my short TBR pile. 

Here are some of my favorite gems: 

"We are not what we experience. 

If we stand in a hurricane, it doesn't matter how violent or terrifying the hurricane is, we always know that the hurricane is not us. The weather outside and inside us is never permanent. People talk about dark clouds over them. But we are never the clouds; we are the sky. We just contain them. The clouds are just the present view. The sky stays the sky."  - pg 184

"I used to worry about fitting in until I realized the reason I didn't fit in was because I didn't want to."  - pg 150

"No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man." - Heraclitus (pg 90, someone else's quote but I'd never heard it before and it resonated)

"You don't need to know the future to be hopeful. You just need to embrace the concept of possibility. To accept that the unknowability of the future is the key, and that there are versions of that future that are brighter and fairer than this one. The future is open." - pg 77

From a piece on "Possibility," quote from existential philosopher Rollo May: 

"Joy is the experience of possibility that the consciousness of one's freedom as one confronts one's destiny. In this sense despair . . . can lead to joy. After despair, the one thing left is possibility."     
 - pg 240

"It is easier to learn to be soaked and happy than to learn how to stop the rain." - pg 128


Pretty relevant stuff, no? 


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October Anniversary

How is it November already? October kind of came and went with a blur of activity, lots of it Halloween- and anniversary- related. 

School has been very, very busy and there have been a few draining situations, and I've been trying to keep some semblance of balance but pretty much collapse into a heap when I get home. One exception -- I am doing better at keeping up with The Handmaid's Tale by taking that time to get on the treadmill, walk speedily both flat and on an incline during the show, and then running (jogging if I'm being real) during commercials. It's great. But man, I am exhausted. 

So, instead of belaboring the sucky at the moment, I want to celebrate the wonderful -- THIRTEEN beautiful years of marriage with Bryce. What a gorgeous life. 

This year things were crazy with his PhD (he actually took a leave of absence to finish it out, SO CLOSE TO BEING DONE), and so we decided nothing extravagant for anniversary presents. We basically bought Halloween decorations for the house, for each other. Which was wicked fun. 

So, here is our anniversary in pictures: 


Harold and the haunted house are not new, but those amazing bats are!

Isn't she lovely? A Bryce prize...

It isn't Halloween without The Great Pumpkin, so what a find this was!

I found the fence and the new gravestone with the vulture on top in the middle, everything else is older. 

We had a beautiful fall walk on the Erie Canal

Bryce got us these fabulous mugs (I got the flowers at a farm stand)

Fun skeleton martini glasses from Bryce, with yummy Manhattans inside


Bryce got us some fun new art for the walls, and we framed some I got him last year... these are my favorites: 





And then the celebrations themselves! Our "private" anniversary, when we were legally married: 

Mmmm, lobsters from Maine with delicata squash and brussels sprouts... the towel is to save the table from water as we, um, dismember them... :)

Pajama anniversary! 

Wouldn't be us without an insanely unattractive weird face picture, hahaha


Fancy dinner out for Halloween anniversary over the weekend

My 2022 ghoul! Bryce is amazing. This was a "quick" drawing... and the "I chu-chu-chupacabra you!" is hilarious... let me know if you get the reference! 


And there it is, another anniversary in the books. We have a lot of fun. I can never feel fortunate enough for having such an amazing partner in life, and for weathering all the horrors we waded through to get to this space where we are a happy family of two. 

Why Do We Say "It's Okay?"

Just about immediately before my run with COVID, I had my consult appointment for my colonoscopy in November. Ahhh, mid-forties, what joys you bring... 

I HATE GOING TO NEW DOCTORS. Mostly because I have to recount the almost comically sad laundry list of awfulness that is my medical history, that is almost entirely centered on my now-defunct reproductive system. It is EXHAUSTING to go through all the procedures. I keep saying I am going to type up a handout so I don't have to do it verbally, and I think this last appointment definitely cemented that I need to buck up and just do it, for my own sanity. 

When I finished the emotionally draining recounting of my personal tragedies, the wonderful PA looked at me with pure empathy and said, "I'm so sorry you had to go through all that." 

And what did I say? 

"It's okay." 

IS IT? 

I mean, it's such a knee-jerk reaction that speaks to how culturally primed we are to wave away any kind of unpleasant feeling at any cost. "Oh dear, you are sad at my experiences, I need to make it go away so you are not uncomfortable." And thus... "It's okay." 

I actually paused and quickly said, "well, it's NOT actually okay, but I am okay with it and have a good life, so there's that." 

I felt a little better about that response. I feel like I need to really practice saying "thank you, I appreciate that" instead of the dismissive (to myself!) lie, "it's okay," or my amended verbal vomit.

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Easier, Not Easy

Remember that baby shower that I was going to attend, if only for a short time? Well, it was supposed to be this past week, and I was still out with COVID, so I was like, "ok, decision made for me." 

But then it got rescheduled, and now it's this coming Tuesday. So I had a choice. I could show up, put my gifts in the pile and give a hug and eat a treat and skedaddle weirdly. I could drop my gifts off and bugger off because frankly I suspect that Tuesday (my first day back after two weeks) I will be exhausted by the end of the day and so I have a great, legitimate excuse. Or, I could stoically try to make it through the whole thing to be "nice." 

I chose to just open up to the event planner and be honest: 

"Full disclosure, I am very very happy to celebrate J, G, and their baby, but cannot be there for gift opening. I'm not sure how much of my personal history you're aware of, but Bryce and I had a shower where people wrote in books and I still have a number of books for Baby Tennant (that never came to be)... I love the idea (obviously) but it is a little too scar-opening for me to be there for it. I hope you understand the dichotomy of "happy for you, but not willing to reopen trauma and no one wants someone crying at a baby shower."  

DID YOU NOTICE? Not once did I apologize. I did not go into a lot of detail, just the relevant. Mostly, I am proud of not apologizing. 

It occurred to me that it's been long enough (5 years and change) that there are people I work with who have no idea about my saga. They weren't there when we had our school shower. They weren't in the building when I sent out the heartbreaking email thanking everyone for their support and revealing that we had decided to end our journey and had donated (almost) all of the beautiful gifts for the nursery to a charity supporting new moms with a fraction of the support we had. They weren't there when I mysteriously went on a short leave thanks to a Prednisone-fueled breakdown brought on by autoimmune response to incredible stress and trauma. 

I am getting better at sharing less (outside of this space, of course!) -- no one is entitled to my story. I decide when and if to share any part of it in everyday life. And I am definitely getting better at not apologizing for my feelings or my needs based on my experiences. I hope people understand, but if they don't, that's on them, not me. (The event planner understood. I feel like most empathetic humans would.)

I was talking with Bryce about it after I sent the email, and marveling at how far away the raw parts are now. And what he said was amazing, and so wise. He said, "Well with time, it's going to get easier. But easier doesn't mean easy." 

How I love this man. How perfect. It is definitely easier. But, for me at least, I don't think it will ever be "easy." It's trauma that is a part of me, but not all of me. It is woven into my identity, but deeper under the surface. And I am just tickled that it is getting easier over time to own my story, to own my responses to these little stabby moments, and to own my right to self-care. 

COVID Updates

You know that saying, "we're in this together?" Well, Bryce and I sure are, because yesterday he also tested positive. Good news, now we can see each other again, bad news...we both have COVID. Luckily Bryce's case seems pretty mild, so far. Today he said, "I'll take this over a cold, I'm sorry to say." 

He's sorry to say because I am a disaster. I am nebulizing multiple times per day and STILL struggling to breathe. I'm on the benzo pearls (which don't touch the cough). I'm guzzling Gatorade, after discovering that Pedialyte is absolutely repugnant. (Bryce likes it though, which is great, because it made me gag.) I'm a couple days into Paxlovid. 

Oh, Paxlovid. Fun fact -- it makes your mouth absolutely disgusting. Everything tastes bitter and like you're sucking on a rock made of copper. Hot Tamales apparently help, so now I'm going to have cavities AND COVID. Ha. I also find that ginger anything masks it. It's horrific when you wake up. Imagine morning breath, x100000. I am pleased though that the other symptoms that were awful -- awful headache, body aches, fever -- are pretty much gone. I still get chills though and I am super duper tired. I got winded getting our Hello Fresh package from the front door. I had to stop twice going up the stairs to catch my breath. 

If the breathing doesn't get better I have to get back in touch with my doctor and get put on a Prednisone taper regimen. Gross. I absolutely hate Prednisone. The good news is that it won't be anywhere near the amount I had with my eye issue in 2017, so I should avoid having a breakdown this time. Ha. Ha. 

Otherwise, I'm sleeping, popping in on my work computer too much, reading, watching TV, and doing puzzles while I nebulize. I have to make it entertaining somehow! I am catching up on The Handmaid's Tale (new episode today!). 

I am seriously hoping that I will be able to come back to work on Monday. I was real proud of myself for calling in for the whole week instead of a bit at a time, but now I am hoping that this week is all I need. I have a bit of a squirrelly group (I feel like I say that every year) and apparently they are terrorizing the subs. Which, because LOTS of people are sick, many with COVID, has been a different sub each day and even each period. Not great. 

I am eternally grateful that I don't have to be primary care for anyone else right now. I am not grateful for parenthood not working out, but in times like these I am very much at peace with having no children to take care of while feeling this way! 

SOOOO attractive! I can pretend it's the world's worst hookah.


First COVID puzzle, I got to do it twice because the cat got startled and knocked it on the floor when it was 5/6 done. 


PS - I typed this on my laptop, so there will be no more hilarious and naughty typos!