Monthly Archives: May 2017

Fertility Friday: Creeping arrogance and why I’m not ready for the “logical” next step.

Many moons again, I very seriously did not want children. I had a vision of my life that included a big city, well-tailored clothes and sky-high heels, perhaps appearances on Saturday Night Live — most likely as a host.

Delusions of grandeur I suppose.

But I came down out of the clouds and dove head first into science.

I had a new vision of my life. Long hours in the lab, strokes of pure brilliance that led to world-changing discoveries. Maybe making SNL only as a weekend update, a joke about how someone so pretty ended up being a surprise genius.

Ok, fine…

Guest star for one sketch, but only as my busy and important schedule allows.

Clearly not cured — delusions still present.

I don’t think I ever said most of those things out loud, but we all dream, don’t we?

There are some things I did say out loud though.

While in my first delusion — no children. I didn’t want them. I wouldn’t have time for them and I had never felt maternal in the slightest. My sister would be the one to have 2.5 babies, a dog, and a house with a white picket fence. My high rise, luxury apartment building would be no place for a crib.

By the time I’d made it to the second delusion, I could see myself actually getting married and maybe having a family. But as a selfless world-saver, who was I to bring my own child into the world when there were so many others that needed love? No, I’d adopt. Maybe from a third world country. That’s what I’d do. It’d fit with the image. And no one could tell me it wasn’t a good thing to do.

And there was a  point, on a day where I’m sure that I was trying to impress someone, that I know I said it out loud. That someday, I’d adopt because there are just so many children in this world that need love and I’d undoubtedly be in the position to give it to them.


In the years immediately following, I thought relatively little about that incredibly vain comment. I was too busy slogging my way through grad school. Perhaps the most beautiful thing about that slog was that it thoroughly cured me of my aforementioned delusions for two reasons. First, I tried living in DC, the big city of my first high-heeled fantasies and found it to be a poor fit for my real-life personality. I’m a midwestern girl through and through and after a year or two on the east coast, I knew I’d be back near the Great Lakes before too long. And second, after six years of 24/7/365 hard work and intense scrutiny, normalcy was all I actually wanted — a job that felt meaningful without requiring hand-cuffs to anything round the clock.

I found all that and more happiness than I had imagined, even in my wildest delusions, in moving to Marshfield, in marrying Seth. And then we tried to do the next bit… the baby carriage. And I fully recognized the arrogance of my earlier comments, in thinking that I ever even had a choice.

It’s taken on a whole new meaning now, as we accept defeat and think about what comes next. Adoption is not necessarily off the table, but it’s certainly not a Right Now thing and it’s also not as simple as going to the baby store and picking out a baby. There’s an awful lot more to it than that and perhaps more than anything, it’s not about saving anyone but myself, my husband’s and my dream of having children. What better to exemplify the difference between 20ish and 33?


The reason I bring it up again, especially because it’s mortifying to admit the things I thought about once upon a time, and even worse to cop to the horrifyingly arrogant things that I said, is because the universe seems to be hammering it home to me at the moment. It’s this lecture from others that I most dread, and yet the phrase I most often hear — there are so many children out there that need love, you know!

YES! I do know. In fact, I know it so well that I said it myself more than a decade ago, like I knew what it meant.

Now, it actually makes me angry. Oh really… if there are so many kids that need out there that need love, then why don’t you adopt? What makes you so special that you get to have biological children, the regular way? Are you going to give me the $40,000+ and make sure a family picks me, considers me worthy, helps me to get through that agony and sits with me as I worry that a birth-mother might change her mind? Are you going to walk with me as I explain the concept that looks to any adopted child like not being wanted? And if they are a different color than me, are you going to make sure your children are sensitive to that or do I have to make sure that mine is extra-resilient?

Why do you get to assume, now that I cannot have children of my own, that the unloved children of the world have somehow become my responsibility?

That’s really the crux of it. That because the choice is gone, there is now a responsibility instead. That in trying as hard as we did in the first place, we somehow signed a contract that leaves us bound to the notion of children by any means — because so many children need love.

And consequent to that sense of responsibility shirked… comes the guilt.

I mean, there are a lot of children that need love and I do want children. I do have a lot of love to give. Is it, then, my responsibility? Is it the right way forward? Should we even have the right to think about it? Or is it simply a given that we ought to accept and move forward with.


Fortunately, my rational, 33-year-old mind, can bring me back to reality… and the creeping arrogance recognizable even in these considerations of responsibility. The fact of the matter is, no matter how much love I have to give, I will never be any child’s savior. To assume that motherhood via fostering and/or adoption is something I should do, or the right thing, the logical next step, or really anything other than a privilege and the ultimate fulfillment of love and family, is not ok.

Yes, there are a lot of children in this world, with families and without, that need love. But more than that, children deserve real love. They deserve to be wanted, to be dreamt about, to be wishes fulfilled. Not responsibilities to be met, logical next steps, pet projects, or consolation prizes. So until we are in the right place, heart, mind, and soul, I won’t stop being angry over that little lecture. And I won’t commit to the next step, no matter how logical it may seem to anyone else.


One of the most interesting things about infertility to me has been the way it has forced us to make decisions intentionally. There’s nothing wrong with having sex, getting pregnant, and raising children. But at a certain point in that process, nothing’s going to stop the train — and the train is a big one, a looooong one, an expensive and noisy and time-consuming, loud, and messy one. There’s little time to think, prepare, or even react. You just do. Or at least, I imagine that’s what it’s like.

When the train isn’t coming, you suddenly have a thousand different choices about how to get from point A to point B. Starting with, is point B even the destination you want? Have you considered C? What about D? Maybe even just staying put? Perhaps a train’s not even the best way to get there. Maybe a flight would be better — but can you afford first class or should you go economy, and potentially go more than once? Would it be worthwhile to rent a car first, see how far you can get that way before deciding on something more pricey? Perhaps you could rent or buy transportation from someone else? This metaphor is getting out of control… but I think you can see my point.

When things don’t “just happen,” it all becomes rather complex and you are forced to stand there on the platform and consider all the alternatives, with nothing but time to do so. Maybe even running head-first toward 9 3/4 once or twice, just to check and see if that’s an option.


Of course, standing there, you understand that there are many children who need love… but are you the right person to give it to them? Genuinely and as deserved? Another decision, one that takes time and discernment. Not lectures, not logic.

Fertility Friday: Not a Mom, Personally.

Mother’s Day is an interesting holiday in my shoes. I have an excellent mom, a really amazing mother-in-law, a sister and sister-in-law that are mothers to 2 whole nieces and 2 more half-baked babes on the way, a kick ass grandma and another kick ass grandma-in-law. So, legitimately, I have a lot to celebrate.

But, what about me and motherhood? How do I think about that?

Am I a mom? Was I?

A moment in time — what now that it’s gone?

Lots of people in positions similar to the one I currently occupy — GXP0, in medical terms, where X can is any whole number greater than or equal to 1 — might say yes.

Personally, I am G1P0 — pregnant once with no pregnancies reaching viable gestational age. Because I miscarried. And I do not say yes, for me. I say no.

No judgment on anyone who believes otherwise. It’s necessarily personal.

I’m honestly not saying this out of a sense of self-deprecation or even self-pity. This is a legitimate no. I do not feel as though I have ever been a mother and truly do not want to be celebrated as such. In fact, to do so only makes me feel worse — simultaneously a fraud and a failure. I never really knew what it was like to be a mom and I did not succeed in bringing life, or even the possibility of life, into this world. Anyone can imagine motherhood, and that’s all that I ever did.

Yes, it’s true that I would love to be a mother. Very much. It’s also true that I think I could be a good one. In fact, in a lot of ways, I’m quite good at caring for and supporting others. I can clean up vomit without flinching and I’ve done so on a number of occasions. But that’s not the same as motherhood and Mother’s Day is not a day for me. I don’t expect you or anyone else to worry about me on this day either. I mean that.

Is it hard? Most definitely. But as with most things that are hard these days — bumps and announcements, ultrasounds and smash cakes — it is not about me. And it’s certainly not my job, nor my desire, to take the joy away from others on account of my own pain.


So this Mother’s Day, please do celebrate yourself and the mothers in your life. Grieve with the mamas you know who have lost little ones, help them know that they are loved and their sweet angels are remembered. But also know that not everyone considers themselves a mother or needs to be told that they are – we’ll have other days, this one isn’t ours.

Women Rock Wednesday: Sacred Text and Chuck Taylors

Today’s Women Rock Wednesday starts with a man.

(Figures. Ugh.)

(Just kidding.)

But seriously, it does start with a man.

I was up north in Minocqua a month or so ago and chatting with a colleague I don’t see terribly often. Somehow, the topic turned to Harry Potter. I’m honesty not sure how. I swear I’d fess up if I recalled steering the conversation that direction, but I really don’t remember doing that. Regardless, we were talking about Harry Potter and the aforementioned colleague, Peter, told me about Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. A weekly podcast that takes you through the Harry Potter series, chapter by chapter, reading and discussing each through the lens of a specific theme and using various traditional spiritual practices to relate the reading and those themes to the world and our own lie.

Harry Potter and the Sacred Text

I’d actually never listened to a podcast before, but audiobooks have completely changed my running experience, so it seemed like something I could get behind. Two things first…

  1. I had to figure out how to listen to a podcast. It was a little bit of a process that made me feel o-l-d and required that I admit to more than one person that I didn’t even know how to start, but I got there. The little purple Podcast icon is now on my iphone home page and I’ve got all of the Book 1 podcasts loaded.
  2. This felt like something I really didn’t want to do alone, but taking a children’s book that seriously isn’t something you can ask just anyone to do. Fortunately, I knew exactly who I wanted to do it with. Unfortunately… anxiety. And that brings me to the real meat of this story: Nicole. Yes, I did just call my friend meat. And she is a woman. Two strikes against this post already.

Nicole and I were both chemistry majors at Michigan Tech. I can count on one hand (literally) the other female chemistry majors I knew while I was there — Beth, Amanda, Shannon. And because other women were so few and far between in my classes, on campus, in the dorms, there was really something special about the bonds I forged with them while there. There was a familiarity, a safety, a kinship with those women that may or may not have been unique to Michigan Tech, but was definitely unique in my life to that point and I sincerely value those relationships.

I loved (and still love, honesty) those women. But I was desperately shy around Nicole while we were still in Houghton. She had this gorgeous, unruly, curly black hair that she wore with absolute abandon, while I was still busy working my way out of the over-gelled, wet poodle, ramen noodle look. She wore rocker jeans and funky t-shirts and chucks with everything.  I never went anywhere or wore anything without a white, crew neck, men’s t-shirt underneath. She spoke up for what she believed in in class and on campus. I was busy trying to quietly figure out what I even believed in enough to speak up about. I put Nicole on a high pedestal and convinced myself I couldn’t reach her there.

Fortunately, Facebook emerged on the college scene circa 2005 and I was far more comfortable with virtual friendship than I was with the in-person kind. Nicole and I, like many other college classmates, became friends on Facebook and stayed that way after graduation as we went our separate ways — interstate moves, jobs and grad schools, marriages and more new states, quietly noting one another in our evolving Facebook feeds. So many times, though, there was overlap. Overlap in likes and dislikes, feelings about life milestones or political happenings, appreciation for four-legged creatures with fur and science, science, science. Curls and books. David Bowie and JK Rowling. It was too much to ignore, so we didn’t.

Nicole, from her pedestal on high, took the first big step when she sent me her actual phone number — allowing us to step outside of the Facebook world into the real one. And it was up to me to invite her, via that very real phone number, to do Harry Potter and the Sacred Text with me. I took a page out of Nicole’s Big Book of Bravery and did it. She said yes.


The first podcast was a revelation. The two moderators (hosts? what do you call a podcast star???) talked about spirituality and what it meant to view something as a sacred text – to love a work, feel at home with it, and to intentionally spend time with the words and their meaning in the context of our own lives. People have done this with a variety of texts for ages and ages – the bible, for example. So why not Harry Potter?

Why not, indeed?

I was enamored instantly and the week-long conversation that 30 minute podcast and single chapter of reading sparked between Nicole and I fed me in an incredibly profound way over that first week. We talked, also, at length about how quickly we wanted to go. The biggest part of me wanted to RUN, to devour it, take as much in as quickly as I possibly could. But a deeper, more rational part of me, convinced me that to savor it would be better. And as I listened to the second podcast on a walk with my pup in the sunshine this afternoon, I was so grateful for that decision. What I heard again moved my heart. I cannot wait to sit down with my book this evening and really reflect, using a version of  the spiritual practice of lectio divina  to fully engage with the text and my friend.

I learned in that first week that I am committed to authenticity. But as I think about this week’s theme of loneliness, I understand how terrified I was of authenticity for much of my life. I set myself up for loneliness by spending a lot of energy trying to fit in and worrying that I wouldn’t, rather than engaging others authentically and finding meaning in the relationships that resulted. That started to change in college to some extent, and even more so in graduate school, but only now is it something that I would consider intentional.

Perhaps that’s why now is exactly the right time for me to discover a real relationship with Nicole. Any sooner and I may have felt the need to purchase a pair of chucks, but she’d have seen right through it and I’d have blown everything. Or maybe not. But seriously, this woman rocks and now is definitely a good time!

Mental Health Monday: Thin Skin

I feel the concept of having “thin skin” is on the border of metaphor and simile.

I’ve been running a lot lately (not metaphorically, very actually) and the skin on the back of my ankles/heels is legitimately thin at present. Any time anything at all touches them — a sock, the sheets, my other foot — it hurts like crazy and even bandaids and copious amounts of neosporin (the kind with pain relief) isn’t helping. The only things that seems to help is toughing it out until the nerve endings go numb and from there, I’m good until I stop moving again.

Perhaps not an ideal strategy, but as with metaphorical thin skin, we can’t always (in fact, usually can’t) just stop whatever we’re doing for a good cry. Such is life.

This past week was like the for me, all over. Not just my heels. I just felt so raw and every little thing stung. Words in emails and off-the-cuff remarks, whether intended to be sharp or not, felt painful. And I struggled mightily to get through a couple of those days. Admittedly, in the dark before bed, at least one did end in tears. I couldn’t help them from coming.

By Thursday evening, I wasn’t sure I could handle one more (perceived) insult, and when Friday morning rolled around, only the promise of a weekend in eight hours got me out of bed. By 11:00 am, I was in the thick of self-pity when my weekly meeting with a close colleague came around.

It had been a stressful week, with work and otherwise, and I shared that with Tammy. In response, she shared with me the wisdom of another mutual friend. She said that long ago, when she said something similar, this friend would, without sympathy, look at her and ask, “And where exactly are you in your cycle?”


I had to laugh at myself then. I was feeling especially raw, but in reality, this past week wasn’t actually different than any other.

Sometimes I fall into this myth of mental health that if I’m doing ok, then everything should always feel ok. That true mental health is 100% happy 100% of the time.

If only!!

Some weeks will be up and some weeks will be down. Sometimes I will feel raw and sometimes I will feel invincible. Good mental health, perhaps, is being able to feel both the ups and the downs and knowing that it’s all temporary. No one feeling lasts forever, nor does it exist in isolation.

In fact, in the absence of any down, would any up really feel as good? And to be able to feel sadness, grief, hurt and pain, only makes us human.

Diagnosis: human? I’ll take that.

Mental Health Monday: Dangerous Neighborhoods

A few weeks ago, an email went out to everyone in my building at work with an important warning.

SUBJECT: Bear Near McMillian and Oak

MESSAGE: We were just informed that there is a bear near the corner of McMillian and Oak.  Please refrain from walking near that area today as the city ordinance is trying to capture the bear and potential cubs.


Right. Avoid the corner with the bears, a block from our building. I smiled to myself — how is this my life? How did I end up in a corner of the world in which Betsy DeVos might actually have a point?

I didn’t feel unsafe, just avoided the area for a few days… limited my runs to the other side of McMillian.

Until a few days later when the Marshfield Police Department made an important announcement on Facebook.

The 1500 block of N Hume Ave… in the field about a block from our house. Runs re-routed once again. No letting Curls out alone after dark. Empty pizza boxes left in the garage until garbage day. Again, I did not feel particularly unsafe.


It’s interesting, though, that a real live bear, a hungry, just-woken-up-from-hibernation-only-to-find-its-not-really-Spring-yet-in-Wisconsin bear, really did not concern me. Bears are kind of a fact of life around here. And waking up hungry in early Spring is what bears do. It’s not terribly hard to avoid being its food. Avoid the general vicinity, don’t fill your outdoor bird feeders or garbage cans with tasty treats, and you’ll be fine.

It’s so simple… when it’s a real live bear.

But when it’s metaphorical? When the beast lives only in your mind? Then what? Then it seems far less simple.


The work email, the Facebook post, they  reminded me of a walk with my aunt through a seedy area of Minneapolis back in October of 2015, shortly after I miscarried and she arranged a weekend getaway for us, saved my life.

We ventured out on foot from our lofty Airbnb in search of good food, unique shops, and a place to get a pedicure. We walked and walked and walked, ending up in a place that didn’t feel quite right. A dangerous neighborhood, perhaps. We certainly didn’t belong. We walked quickly, eyes straight ahead, and took a left into a safer neighborhood as quickly as possible.

We did stop for a pedicure, best described as unforgettable, right on the border between the two neighborhoods, safe and unsafe… and then walked on, leaving the dangerous space behind us in favor of Mexican food and more wine in the loft apartment. At some point along the way, maybe on the walk, perhaps over the wine, my aunt shared with me her own experiences with dangerous neighborhoods — dangerous neighborhoods of the mind.

I loved the metaphor. It was instantly familiar. Dark streets that suck you in, horrific thoughts lurking in shadowed doorways. Roads that lead to dead ends, that feel inescapable. Twists and turns in which a person can lose their way, lose their self.

How often have I ended up in a dark space like that? Unable to stop the thoughts, to prevent further escalation, to prevent the snowball from growing as it rolls down a very steep hill.

The mind as a city with unique neighborhoods, characterized by the nature of our thoughts. Yes.


I often spend time meandering carelessly through my mind, failing to use past experiences and mental maps to avoid the dangerous areas. I find myself in those places over and over again, let them suck me in, and get lost. Self-pity, body negativity, grief, jealousy — if I don’t turn back immediately, it can take a long while to get back to safety.

While I’ve always found comfort in metaphor, perhaps this would be a good time to find solution in reality. The neighborhoods in my mind, after all, can’t be all that different from the city of Marshfield. An unpredictable bear wandering the town on occasion — easily avoided, all things considered.

I can heed the warnings, the sightings of potential danger. I can keep the garbage inside until it’s safe to take it out, to get rid of it once and for all. And, if it’s not a bear, something more vaguely unsettling, I can call my aunt and ask her to walk beside me until I’m in a safe space again. A pedicure and bottle of wine to relax on the other side.