So last week this photo above is how I was feeling. Infertility. Back Injury. My weight gain since the infertility battle began 2+ years ago. I was fucking angry, depressed, anxious, everything negative exuding from me. Pissed off a lot. Every time something emotional would occur, personally or for that matter, on the TV, my throat would swell up, feeling like I was close to choking.
And on Saturday morning, something interesting happened. While my husband was out working on the duck run in the backyard, I went to go return a few tools we’d borrowed from the local tool library, and decided to stop by my most favorite little tiny bakeshop to bring home some popovers for my hardworking honey. When I went in there, it was the same vibe as usual with the good smells, friendly owner, lots to choose from, and an impassioned discussion about our favorite berry-picking sites on Sauvie Island. But this time, as he was making up the marionberry cream to stuff in the popovers (these are popovers like no other, y’all), I also started chatting with the other couple and they made a reference to a restaurant I used to love to go to in childhood with my dad…a place only longtime natives would know about. And while the topic wasn’t important – it was just a great, happy discussion with some nice people at the local bakeshop – as I walked out of there with our goodies, I felt my step lighter, a residual smile parked on my face.
I felt normal. Just a normal person enjoying her neighborhood with other locals and feeling nothing but…joy. For those 10 minutes, I didn’t feel back pain. I didn’t think about my infertility. I didn’t feel like shit about this journey my husband and I have struggled through. I. Just. Felt. Normal.
Something about that moment, that feeling, I had felt so very little of in the past 6 months since my miscarriage and herniated disc injury in November. Yes, my husband and I have a great marriage and love each other deeply and enjoy each other every single day – that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m just talking about that feeling that the shit we’ve been dealing with is not an issue. That we’re going to be fine – just fine.
My back is still reminding me of my injury and every morning I still do 20 minutes of PT exercises followed by 15 Cobra poses every 60-90 minutes that I’m awake. I still can’t stand here and type for more than a few minutes without my back saying “please, please stop”, and let’s just say I feel like I’m 100 years old when it’s time for hubby and I to, well, you know.
But I ain’t giving up.
Looking back at December, I remember how simply getting out of bed was excruciating – that rolling onto one side carefully and slowly bracing with one arm, pushing through the pain to stand up, using tongs to reach things too far below and being afraid of lying on the floor because I didn’t know if I’d be able to get back up. Back then, I was preparing for my ERA biopsy that I feared might show that nothing was amiss.
Looking back at this February that is about to end, I see how things have evolved. I have a new PT (the third time’s a charm on that matter) that simply doesn’t send me home with no real homework (well, beyond her suggestion to “consider cutting out grains to reduce inflammation”) to stretch and strengthen my body. I have a chiropractor who works in tandem with my new PT (we even have a shared Google doc so both of their exercises they assign to me are aligned) and challenges me to be stronger than I think I am (he’s always right). And with just a couple of weeks left on birth control – my last EVER time on the pill, ever ever ever – we are excited to get started on this final cycle.
Whether it works or not is no longer what matters. What matters is that we find our way no matter the result. What matters is happiness.
I told my husband last night that as of right now, I don’t think I’m interested in pursuing domestic adoption if this doesn’t work. You see, I was thinking about Ethiopia and the fact that, while things are quiet now, it doesn’t mean it won’t happen, and if this pregnancy doesn’t occur from round 6, maybe we should just use these couple of years between now and a referral to – gasp – enjoy each other as husband and wife. Maybe we should just follow our other dreams of getting the house paid off, and traveling, and raising ducks and such.
You see, I’m 43 years old. Those of you who aren’t in your 40’s yet, I can tell you that something does change when you turn 40. It might be small, it might be large, but you do start looking at life a bit differently. And with my husband turning 50 this year, it’s even more intense for him. You start realizing what your life has been and start thinking more intensely of what you want it to be. Those bucket lists get really, really concise. And when you think about the opportunity to create financial security for the two of you in some very, very uncertain times? The romance of spending more than my husband makes in one year on trying, yet again, to expand our family, after we’ve already spent $50K+ with nothing to show for it other than a back injury and 40 extra pounds around my waistline and thighs? It’s not as romantic anymore.
It’s funny, when I wrote about adoption last week, there were some comments about “finding another agency” as if it were a given we’d automatically go forward with that, even though we were not sure. The world seems to tell you that if you stop the fight, if you stop the spending, that it must mean you don’t really want it bad enough. It made me think of championship games where they tell players “you just gotta want it more than the other guy” – which is total crap. Life is not so black and white. And if you choose your sanity over another financial risk, one that still doesn’t guarantee getting what you want? Many think, well, they must just not want to be parents that bad.
And it’s not that way. Not at all. Tough choices must be made, but they are worth it in the end if it means you find happiness. Happiness may not look at all like you envisioned, but it doesn’t mean it’s not valid or real. This morning I read Alaskan Blueberry’s blog where she spoke about the promise of spring and growing things in the garden and looking after her ducks and dogs and cat and it gave me hope. Hope that, as the quote says, “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”
Again, we are going full throttle into cycle six, but rather than thinking about how I will survive another devastating loss should that be what occurs, I am thinking about life in two ways: one, we could be pregnant, or two, we could get to use those frequent flyer miles that we’ve earned through all those expenses and fly first class anywhere in the world for free, exploring the places we’ve dreamed about going together.
What a concept.
While on the sofa last night, I suddenly had an urge to grab my trusty notebook. My mind had asked me, what do I want next out of my life? Beyond a family, what else is most important to me to pursue? And with that it reminded me immediately of something that helped me change paths in my career from a worker bee to a solopreneur – Warren Buffett’s 25-5 rule. Basically, the concept is that you write down the top 25 things you want to do in your life, which can be anything from working in your garden to volunteering for a cause to getting a promotion to going to South America to dropping 20 pounds, and then going through those and eliminating 20 of them. Basically, you go through it like an eye doctor exam – 1 or 2, 2 or 3, and so on, until you’ve prioritized the top 5 things on that list. Then you make the other 20 items your What Not To Do List, meaning, these are NOT things you are to do until the first 5 goals are met. Those are distractions to meeting your ultimate goals.
This can be life-changing.
So what I did was write a version of this I call my Top Five Beyond-Having-A-Kid list. And there were some interesting things that came from this exercise:
- Financial freedom was at the top of my list. I didn’t have to even play the “this or that” game to determine my #1, as it sits there reminding me every day that we are really, really close to being able to pay off our home in 2 years if my business continues to thrive. You see, my goal has been since going into consulting that I want to “make enough money where I could take a pay cut” – i.e., if I get things paid off, I won’t be reliant on my current salary. And since getting married 3 years ago, this evolved into wanting to “make enough money where we’re only reliant on one income instead of two”. We live incredibly simply and after 15 months of having a car (after 8 years without for me and a lifetime car-free for my husband), we have only about 5K miles on it, most which has been accrued on beach trips and doctor appointments. Before I got married I paid off my student loans and credit card, and now it feels crazy but amazing to think if we continue to live this conservatively that we could potentially be without a mortgage payment by 2018. Looking back at living paycheck-to-paycheck, thinking I would be stuck under a mountain of debt forever, it’s the light at the end of the tunnel. And if a kid did happen to come along? What a gift that would be to bring him/her into a debt-free world!
- I no longer have the urge to write a book. Five years ago that was the top thing on my list, and while I never published it, I did write it, and realized I not only didn’t want to share the profits of my work with anyone else (you can easily publish for free on Amazon but you give up a significant chunk by doing that), and more importantly, realized I didn’t really need the external attention. What I enjoy about my writing is the interaction with others, finding common ground, and learning from others’ experiences. And so with that, while it’d be cool to write a guest column for some magazine or something, I’m just fine where I’m at as a writer.
- Travel was 75% of the list. I couldn’t even think of 25 things that I wanted out of my life that extended beyond travel. Sure I’d like to see Gloria Steinem speak and sure I’d love to get another tattoo, but honestly, before any of that I want to keep seeing the world with my husband. Italy, Africa, Tasmania, Antarctica, Japan, Iceland, South America..and so many places within the US we’ve yet to explore, from Alaska to Louisiana to the Redwoods ad more. At the end of my life I want to have these memories of the world we live in and the many amazing people we’ve met on our journeys.
- A childhood dream reemerged. Big plot of land with room for horses? Yes please. And yep, horses. I was one of those girls obsessed with horses from a very young age, who spent her summers at horse camp and yet has not been back on a horse since my late 20’s. I’ve groomed a few, scratched a few behind the ears, etc. since then, but nothing like my earlier pursuit of all things horse. When we were in Central Oregon after my miscarriage in August, we stayed at a place with horses and it reminded me of what was missing. Can I live my life without having had a horse of my very own? I don’t think so.
- My health is everything to me. Part of being ready to end the DEIVF journey has been how my health has degraded in great part due to the stress, hormones, medications, etc., of this process, both with weight put on that makes me feel uncomfortable in my own skin and a back injury that makes me feel subhuman at times. I know I will recover but I don’t just want that – I want to be stronger than where I started. I no longer can take my health for granted – not after this herniated disc. I can live with the curves changing in me but I can’t live with a weak body, and so I know what I’ve got to do.
So that’s it, y’all, my Top 5 Beyond-Kids: 1) Pay off the house, 2) Get stronger and leaner, 3) Travel travel travel, 4) Buy a plot of land, 5) Adopt a couple of horses.
Maybe it is just the beginning…? Time to think about those dreams, y’all.