Tag Archives: feelings

Aunt Becky, PhD, and the Prayer of Relinquishment

At the end of the race, there are almost always bananas.

At the end of the rainbow, there is supposed to be a pot of gold.

At the end of a journey, a destination.



And at the end of the five stages of grief, there lies acceptance.

I don’t know that I’ve ever grieved heartily and with enough awareness as an adult to really notice any given stage of grief. Not until yesterday… when in less than 24 hours I managed to go from stage 1 (blissful denial) to rapid vacillation between stages 2, 3, and 4 in a torrent of tears and snot (so much snot) before I finally settled into a puffy-eyed, rosy lipped (my lips get very bright pink when I cry a lot) depression.

Puffy-eyed bedtime and only the Chamber of Secrets could provide me solace.
Puffy-eyed bedtime and only the Chamber of Secrets could provide me solace.


So, what happened, exactly? We’ll do it stage by stage.

1. Denial

I had a lovely time on Sunday night, the night before the embryo transfer. My cousin-in-law Megan had her second annual Take Steps for Crohn’s and Colitis fundraiser at UPaint and Party in Wausau. Almost everyone painted a gorgeous picture of a lovely little bird silhouetted against a bright sky flying from it’s cage. My painting somehow got a dementor in it, but I still had a blast. It was nothing but fun and I was in good spirits about Monday’s transfer. Yes, I only had three embryos, but it could be great! That was three chances — making for a potential family of five humans and my sweet Curly girl to boot. I was good.

The dementor just kind of happened...
The dementor just kind of happened…

Even Monday morning, though nervous and stressed about heading out the door a bit late, I was still making The Jerk-based jokes with my family.

Courtesy of my Shabsky.
Courtesy of my Shabsky.

And that’s all I need…

2. Anger

We arrived in Madison a mere 4 minutes late for our scheduled appointment. Big thanks to the state of Wisconsin for upping our speed limits to 70 mph — big help yesterday. The nurse brought us back to the procedure area, same as before, and began to collect vitals, provide information, prep us with our gowns and caps and booties and all that… and I noticed that all the while, she kept saying “the embryo.” Part of me assumed it was because they were planning to just transfer one, which was always the goal. A much darker part of me knew what it really meant though.

There was only one embryo left. Two of the three we had, the three I had been banking on, had stopped developing. Just stopped. We were going to transfer only one because we had only one.

The one. I'm sure someday I'll make Highlander jokes about this. Too soon.
The one. I’m sure someday I’ll make Highlander jokes about this. Too soon.

And that one? Not even ideal. Not sure on the details… and this image means pretty much nothing to me (no wonder they call it a ball of cells, eh?) so I can’t exactly glean anything from that, but something about it not being as developed as it should have been — an early blast instead of a mature/late/something one. I don’t know. It was hard to hear the embryologist over the buzzing in my ears that always comes when I start trying to hold back tears.

I was so unbelievably, inconsolably (even by Valium) sad. And angry. ONE?!?! After ALL THAT?! After all we had been through, all the thousands of dollars and hundreds of injections and ultrasounds and trips and tears and everything… just one. One shot. One sub-par shot.

But we did SO much. We’ve been through SO FREAKING MUCH. And so many people who do NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING, but get it on once or twice have babies all the dang time. ALL THE TIME. Why are they special? Why am I not? Why are they so obnoxiously #blessed and is #cursed even a thing?! Because I obviously am. What’s wrong with me that even with thousands and thousands of dollars of medical intervention this is still the best I can do??? One.

And if that one doesn’t work? There’s nothing in the freezer to try again. Nothing. We have to start over from zero. Physically, emotionally, financially from zero. Do it alll over again. And I know I’m too close, and I know this isn’t where we are yet, but I can’t. I shouldn’t have to! I don’t want to!! It’s not FAIR!!! (Which is truly the worst thing you can say as an adult because by this point in my life I am well aware that life is not fair and nobody every said it would be.)

3. Bargaining

But it only takes one. One is enough. One is better than zero and I’ve prayed and hoped and begged and done everything right. Everything I could do. I would do anything — hasn’t what I’ve done so far proven that? Wouldn’t we be good parents? Don’t we deserve a family?

Even just this weekend, the priest talked about the little boy who made a miracle happen by bringing Jesus his meager loaves and fishes. I’ve brought him mine, haven’t I? With everything I have done, all that I’ve been through… it’s time for our miracle now, isn’t it?

And there it is… the little embryo between the two air bubbles.

embryo ultrasound labeled

Or so they tell me. I wouldn’t know. As far as I’m concerned, this actually could be a print out of an ultrasound from a cow and I’d be none the wiser. But that has to be good, right? That you can see where it is? Inside me? Please, I’ll do anything to keep it there, to make it grow, to let it be life.

4. Depression

But then again, it really doesn’t matter anyway. It’s out of my hands and come next Wednesday, when we can finally test, this will all be over. Yes, pregnancy is a possibility. But really? If after all that, we were left with one embryo. Just the one, just hanging in there, is it really very likely that we’ll be pregnant at all? I have lost my hopefulness, my optimism. The best of it, the stuff on the inside. I have to keep saying to everyone, “Oh yes! It’s very exciting! We could be pregnant right now– not too much longer ’til we find out! Keeping our fingers crossed!!” When really, I know otherwise. I know, you know? And the best news of all — my attitude will not change anything and if ONE MORE MOTHER EFFING PERSON TELLS ME OTHERWISE I AM GOING TO FREAKING LOSE IT. (Oops… that bit might have been anger again.) You cannot visualize or positive energy or pray or wish or hope yourself into pregnancy. It’s biology. And my biology hasn’t really felt like cooperating so far. It is what it is (sorry, Aimee — I know you hate that phrase, but isn’t it the best depressive phrase kind of ever?) and I am where I am and what’s done is done and it’ll all be over soon.

Back and forth and back and forth, sometimes anger, sometimes bargaining, sometimes depression over a frightening number of cycles since yesterday afternoon. And then sometime this morning, as I chatted with my friend Marie (Seth, if we ever do have a baby, her middle name (or even his middle name, to be honest) is going to have to be Marie — fair warning) about normal things, the things we chat about all the time, and I felt my funk start to lift just a bit I started thinking about what acceptance might actually mean. And I realized that Seth’s Aunt Becky had kind of already set me up for it a while ago, believe it or not. Probably on purpose too. She’s super wise and all knowing like that. Like Dumbledore. A doctor even, the good kind, PhD-style like me. Her PhD isn’t actually in theology, although as a self-taught theologian she’s quite impressive, if I do say so myself.

Aunt Becky is on the right -- she says cool things like "academic wonks," is the homeliest in a good way person I know, AND throws groundbreaking bachelorette parties for her colleagues.
Aunt Becky is on the right — she says cool things like “academic wonks,” is the homeliest-in-a-good-way person I know, AND throws groundbreaking bachelorette parties for her colleagues.

A few weeks back she sent me a link to this article about the prayer of relinquishment:

The Prayer of Relinquishment by Catherine Marshall

Maybe I’m really late to the game and this is old news for everybody else, but in this moment, I’m so crazy grateful to Aunt Becky, PhD, for sharing it with me and I can’t recommend reading the whole thing enough if you’re in any capacity inclined toward spirituality. It’s so good.

This is the crux of it all, at least to me and right now:

“…it says, ‘This is my situation at the moment. I’ll face the reality of it. But I’ll also accept willingly whatever a loving Father sends.’ Acceptance, therefore, never slams the door on hope.

Yet even with hope our relinquishment must be the real thing, because this giving up of self-will is the hardest thing we human beings are ever called on to do.”

5. Acceptance

So as Catherine Marshall says Mrs. Nathaniel Hawthorne said once upon a time… why should I doubt the goodness of God?

I wear my bracelet all the time, the one that says “Always.” as a reminder that God is good. Always. No matter what. Why would this moment be any different? Pregnant or not, my life will go on. Pregnant or not, Seth and I will still love each other and we’re really lucky to have that. Pregnant or not, our little family will continue to flourish and decide what to do from there. All I can do right now is accept what is to come, relinquish the notion that I have any control over it, and carry on for the next several days until we have an actual answer to which I can react.

Yes, it’s hard. So so so hard. But as Melissa told me last night, even Jesus got angry. Why shouldn’t I? God gave me all these emotions and I’m free to feel them. They’re not wrong. They’re normal. And this is so hard. It’s no wonder that I feel angry and sad and depressed and worried and even hungry at times. (So so hungry.) We feel things. It’s what we do.


So stages of grief and all that aside… we had an embryo (i.e. the embryo) transferred to my uterus yesterday. At present, it’s a little ball of cells floating in space and the hope is that it will eventually implant into the uterine lining, effectively establishing a viable pregnancy. I don’t know how likely that is or is not. All I know is that on August 5th, we’ll do a blood test for HCG — a pregnancy test (not the pee on a stick kind). A negative is the real thing. Negative = negative. A positive could still be a false positive though, so if we do get a positive result, we have to do another blood test two days later on August 7th to look for rising levels of HCG, which will effectively confirm the positive result. It would be lovely to think that maybe I could look for signs and symptoms of pregnancy in the interim, but with the hormone overload my body is currently going through, I already have just about all of them and there’s no way any sign of actual pregnancy could be differentiated from the craziness happening in my body baby or no… so we wait.

Wait and accept and relinquish and let that little bit of hope in because that’s pretty much all we can do.

P is for permission.

So I’m at the letter P and you’d think that by now it would be obvious to me when I’ve chosen the wrong word for a letter. I mean, how many times have I started a post with “X was for Y, but actually it’s for Z” or whatever? A lot.

Actually, maybe just once. But I’ve thought it a lot.

Along those same lines: P was for pants. And it was going to be pretty dang funny. I hate pants, almost as much as they hate me, and I had tons of hilariously self-deprecating pants-related anecdotes to share with you… except, if we are of the same generation, then we both no doubt owned our fair share of stirrup pants, wind suits with matching tops, sweat suits with contrast color turtle neck, green jeans, whatevs. Right?

And if we’re not, I’m sure you had your generation’s equivalent– huge bell bottoms, stripes, plaids, butt-crack-displaying-low-rise, or something like that. Who hasn’t owned bad pants?

(I can tell you who– those girls. But I’ve already told that story. And even they probably had those pants, just not in my memory.)

But this is not a post about pants. It is a post about permission. And I was telling you about how I know when I’ve chosen the wrong word. Except I can’t really put that into words, except to say that I spend inordinate amounts of time jotting things down, writing and re-writing sentences, telling people about the “awesome post” I’ve got “cooking up” (yes, I used those exact words today… for shame), and then suddenly the real word pops into my head and I sit down to write it and it just floooows.

Permission it is!

We all live our lives by at least some rules– rules imposed on us by the society in which we live, either written or unwritten. I think most of us (read: me) also live by a set of arbitrary rules self-crafted (self-inflicted, perhaps?) slowly over time. My rule book has always been HUGE. And I do mean ALWAYS.

You can’t will away a fever that’s preventing you from attending school (and making you fall behind!! nooooo!) any more than you can control a feeling. Yet, Chapter 2, “Rules about Feelings,” has always been the longest chapter in my book. (Chapter 1– Rules about Hair, in case you were wondering. And that one’s not arbitrary; it’s trial-by-error.)

As a baby, feelings come on strong when you’re tired. You cry it out, someone notices, you go down for a nap, and wake up feeling a thousand times better. It’s a good system, really. Tried and true. But what about in adulthood? It’s not quite so simple then… people will fault you for taking a nap at your desk or sawing logs in a meeting. Myself included.

In the absence of naps (not always, I’m not a huge napper, but on Sundays, all bets are off), I’ve had to create another set of rules… and that’s where the list gets long.

Sad? Immediately look for a silver lining and explain why it’s actually good. (Also, eat.)

Mad? Label it an AFGO and move on. (Also, eat.)

Hurt? Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry. (Also, eat.)

Flusterated? Call your mom and explain to her that the combination of flustered and frustrated really is  a word. (Also, eat.)

Happy? Just eat.

And so on and so forth.

See? A solution for every feeling!

Except… feeling it. What if the first rule of the feelings section of the rule book was simply this:

Feel the feeling. Give yourself a minute. You have my permission.


Feel the dang feeling, nerd! Give yourself a cotton picking minute. Geez.

Either way.

And if you’ve felt the feeling and you still feel like there’s a silver lining, it’s an AFGO, crying would feel kind of nice, your mom should hear about your flusteration, you’re actually kind of hungry… then you can do that too. But feeeeel first. It shouldn’t be that hard.

Of course, with all the “yous” and “yours” I am obviously just talking to myself out loud on the Internet, but you knew that already.

(Speaking of the internet, I actually laughed out loud during a meeting when someone said “The Google” the other day. It just came out of my throat and I couldn’t stop it! Politeness– that’s a rule. Oops.)

I use a purple pen for all of my corrections. As a science writer, I got through about 6 pens or so a year (not even kidding), but purple doesn’t seem so bad to me. It stands out, but doesn’t scream WRONG like red does. It’s kind of my thing. To honor the letter P, tonight, I pull out my metaphorical purple pen for the purpose of correcting my rule book. The first rule of feelings is now:

You have permission to just feel it. Feel the feeling. It’s ok.


When I was really little, I used to tell my mom and dad that my feelings were hurt and they’d ask me, “Which feelings?” To which I would respond with the color of the feelings that got hurt. I distinctly remember it being the blue ones most of the time. I don’t know what that means, but I feel like I may have intuitively at the age of 3 been doing the thing that it’s taken until 30 to finally give myself permission to do.

Feelings aren’t for rationalizing, explaining, pushing away… eating (ahem). They are for feeling. Permission granted to do so.


This blog was brought to you, in part, by my enthusiastic and snuggly co-author from my in-laws’ super comfy couch:

Curls the Co-author


PS: My mom seriously hates it when people say “flusterated” like it’s a real word. It’s ok, mom… I give you permission to feel that hate. Feeeeel it. That’s right….

My Smile, My Choice

I’ve been working on this post for kind of a while, but have been struggling at keeping it from turning into an angry rant. You see, I recently pinned a little saying on Pinterest that I think is so important and I have embraced it as something of a blog motto– a blotto.

Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate.
{The Art of Simple}

Buuuuutttt… I kind of want to talk about something that SUPER bugs me. So what’s a girl to do? Flip it, that’s what!  I did it when I talked about the 23 things a while back. And I’m going to do it again here. Get ready for this masterpiece!

When I smile, my whole entire face kind of goes with it and it always has.  When I was in high school, a friend once said, “Can you even see when you smile?”  The answer: not always.  My eyes get tiny when my cheeks go up, I can’t help it.

Smiling Eyes
Eyes… So… Tiny…

On me, not smiling when I’m happy just doesn’t look natural (seriously, I have wedding pictures to prove it).

Not smiling on my wedding day? Practically impossible.

But smiling when I’m not happy?  Don’t make me go there.

My smile is mine to give away when I please and I firmly believe that I am under no obligation to anyone to provide a smile on command.  If I’m not feeling it, I don’t have to do it.  And when people tell me to “smile” it annoys the pants off of me.

Don’t tell me to do it– give me something worth smiling about!  Then we’ll talk.  Or maybe we won’t, maybe I’ll just beam at you and we’ll call it good.

Either way, I think that the smile command has roots in the good girl, the pretty girl, the happy, compliant, silent girl.  And all of that is probably the reason for my general disdain.

A while ago, one of my coworkers was patted on the head and asked to be good (not literally, of course, but that was definitely the point) because of my “bad” behavior in the past .  I can’t help but think that if I had I been a man and behaved the way I did or had my coworker been a man attending the meeting after me, the message would have been very different… or perhaps not been conveyed at all.  She didn’t need to be told to be good or that I had acted badly. Instead, my actions should have been viewed as a product of an unfortunate situation– one that, if not repeated, would give no reason for anyone else to behave similarly.

Again: change the situation if you want a different outcome, don’t just offer up a meaningless command.

Asking our girls to smile for us is, in my mind, akin to asking my coworker to be a good girl as an adult.  That’s not really ok.  Because why would you ever want someone to be disingenuous?

Little girls need to know that it’s ok to express their feelings, even if not verbally, then at least on their own dang face. If we note a frown, perhaps we should be asking why. From there, perhaps we could work together on a solution, or maybe just offer a little bit of support.* But what good does telling someone to smile do except to suggest that whatever has caused them not to smile is somehow invalid?

So I guess what I’m promoting (because I’m promoting, not bashing, remember?) is this: the right of women everywhere to express their emotions on their face. If they’re happy, smiles are welcome! If they’re not, no one has any right to expect it, let alone ask for it. So who cares if you have “b****y resting face” as the kids are calling it these days– your face is your face, and I’m sure it’s lovely regardless.

And as Roald Dahl says: If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.

Perhaps we need more good thoughts of which to think!


*Or you could try a really awesome joke. Here’s one of my favorites, my sister (the blood-related one, Sister Engineer) made this one up all by herself:

What did the robot say when I asked it to clean my room?

I don’t know, what?


Good one, Ab. Pure gold 😉

Or if that doesn’t work– consider a little song, like this one my little brother made up (to the tune of You Are My Sunshine):

You are my dinosaur, my only dinosaur

You make me happy when skies are PURPLE

You’ll never know, dinosaur, how much I love you, dinosaur

So please don’t take my dinosaur away!

They both make me smile, anyway! (Literally smiling right now! And with good reason!)