Can I order a new reality?

In the past month I’ve been to three OBs, one gyno-oncologist, one fertility doctor, to radiology and ultrasound, and a fertility support group. To say we’re overwhelmed with information and feeling would be an understatement.

The reality of our situation hits us in waves. Some moments we can find peace and hope. Others we are curled in a ball on the bed crying into our pillow. We’re up. We’re down. We’re resigned. We’re angry. We’re always, always sad. After all those experts took a look at my case, examined my uterus, the stupid fibroid encasing the top of it, my cancer history and sub-par cervix, and my god damned closed left fallopian tube, they all said the same thing: the fibroid has to come out and you’ll have to do IVF if you are going to carry your baby.

But one doctor at a different hospital was very frank and blunt and laid out the risks involved with such a surgery. The likelihood that I would have to be cut open is high instead of doing the less invasive surgery robotically. That would increase my recovery time as it’s harder on my body. Removing the fibroid is tricky and mine is large so I could start to bleed while they attempted it laparoscopically and then they might quickly have to open me anyway. Even after that surgery and subsequent recovery, there is no telling if my left tube would open OR if it would be safe for me to carry a baby to term. The uterus could rupture while I am carrying our baby which is very risky for me and for the baby. What percentage are these risks? I don’t know. But they exist and are making us very concerned about moving forward with this path towards being parents.

After the appointment with the blunt doctor (we appreciated her candor and time), we sat in the car in the parking lot and talked about what to do. Mr. Darcy felt that we should not move forward with me having the surgery and trying to carry our baby. He thinks it is too risky and he doesn’t want us to go through that. He basically said, “You are the most important thing to me and I don’t want to lose you. We can find another way to be parents.” (Everyone I tell this to goes “aww” or tears up.) I’m pretty sure he has some PTSD from having to watch me during that rupture day and I don’t blame him. He’s got a lot of anger towards doctors who were negligent, rightfully so. I’m mad too it’s just that I’m more sad and I have to spread what little energy I have to trying not to fall completely apart. I mostly agree with him on this as I’m not sure what my body can do and I’ve lost faith in it. What if I went through with the surgery and we paid through the nose for IVF and I still didn’t get pregnant? By then we’ve likely lost a year, we’re closer to 41, and if it doesn’t work we’ll have to start anew on a different path, all of which are time-consuming, lengthy, and costly.

Depending on the day, hell, the hour, my decision changes. It absolutely breaks my heart to think that I cannot carry our baby. That we will not have a child with our genetic make up. Please don’t tell us how we will love an adopted baby just as much even though you mean well and you’re probably right. We’re really sad and mad right now and trying to wrestle with the reality that we can’t be parents the way most folks can. Please don’t tell us about surrogacy unless you have gone through it. It’s complicated and costly and difficult to get support with that option. This is an uncomfortable situation for everyone. No one knows what to say and all the advice is well meaning and most of the time we appreciate it. Sincerely, we do. But there’s a huge piece of this that makes us feel really, really alone and lost and like failures, and so angry at unknowns and bad luck and EVERYTHING. There are parts of this that we, as husband and wife, are unable to even support each other through. Grief is often a solitary process.

We’re still looking into the options though not really the one where I carry the baby as all signs point to that being not the right path. We’re still looking to talk to adoptive parents either through foster-to-adopt or private adoption and anyone who has done surrogacy. We appreciate your good thoughts and sympathy and your well-meaning advice. I might not respond to every email right away but I will eventually. I am buried at work under a 400-person gala fundraiser that is sucking the life out of me. I’ve hardly had time to feel my feelings on this because I’m working my ass off and have no spare time. I cry in the car or on my morning walks and then I get back to business because this event isn’t going to plan itself despite of me wishing it would or the numerous times I’ve walked into my boss’s office saying I want to quit (she refuses to entertain these dramatic outbursts- luckily we’re friends).

I probably won’t be writing again until after the fundraiser. That is, if I survive it, or if I’m not crumpled in a ball in the corner having a nervous breakdown.

Crossroads

Last week we had appointments with a new OBGYN and a fertility doctor as well as enduring an hour-long ultrasound appointment (where they put us in the same room as the day I ruptured). Yesterday, I took myself to radiology for an hysterosalpinogogram or HSG as ordered by my new OB. An HSG is where they fill your uterus with contrast dye to get a better look at it and the fallopian tubes. Or in my case, the left fallopian tube as that’s all I’ve got left. To say this is an uncomfortable procedure would be a bit of an understatement. Filling a uterus that quickly with liquid causes it to severely cramp, to the point where I was doing deep breathing and at one point said “shit” pretty distinctly because OW.

But that wasn’t the worst part. As the dye filled my uterus and we watched the screen, it was clear even after pushing more dye into me that none of it was making its way into my left tube. My left tube is not open which pretty much means we can’t get pregnant naturally. Maybe my right tube hadn’t been open either which is why our baby got stuck there. It’s not like they check these things before they tell you to go ahead and get pregnant. So much is left up to chance and we just seem to have pulled the short straw when it comes to fertility.

As I laid there on the cold steel table with my legs bent and contrast dye leaking out of me, looking at the image of my uterus and that god damned useless left tube, reality hit me and I started to cry. I have endured countless indignities and disappointments in the past 14 month and for what? To come to this hard truth as I lay naked from the waist down dripping on a towel and crying in front of three women.

I feel like a failure. Like my body has betrayed me. As if I am disappointing not only myself but my sweet husband and our families because my body can’t make a baby without medical intervention. I’m 40 1/2 years old so time is not on my side. I have spent my entire life knowing that I want to be a mother but never fathoming that the choice would be taken away from me because my body can’t do the job. I foolishly believed that even if there were complications, THIS would not happen to me. Over and over, I am reminded that life happens with or without the plans you’ve made.

So we are faced with choices, all of which come with their own difficulties. Do we take the path towards IVF meaning I  will have to get the 7cm fibroid that is sitting on the top of my uterus removed and wait 3 months before starting the laborious IVF process which has no guarantees for producing a child and is very costly? Or do we decide not to medically intervene, let go of the want for our own biological child, and start the long process of becoming foster-to-adopt parents- enduring months of training, home visits, scrutiny, soul-searching, to hopefully be placed with a child that will not be taken back and put with birth relatives after we’ve attached ourselves to him/her? Or do I just get the hysterectomy and we adopt some dogs and take that trip to Paris and grow old together with no children to raise?

We’re overwhelmed and conflicted, feeling so much pressure to make the RIGHT choice as we grieve this huge loss. We also don’t have that much time because if we are going to do IVF, I’ll need to have that fibroid surgery right away. The clock keeps ticking and I wish I could rewind time and change this. But here we are, at a crossroads, pondering which way to go.

Right now we need to do some research about foster-to-adopt and IVF. We really want to talk to people have lived through both- the good and the bad stories- so we can more carefully weigh these options. If you have any experience with either or know a blog, a friend, a family member who has done any of these, we’d welcome the chance to hear their story.

After the Horrible Thing, there comes a lot of Awkwardness

Some people have remarked, “You must be sick of being asked how you are.” I am not. Because, surprisingly, not that many people are asking. I’ve gone back to my normal life. I get along out in the world without crying publicly. I talk about regular things like movies and the weather. I’m managing. I’m not a basket case. But I’m not alright either.

It hits me at strange times. Like after retelling my ordeal to a friend who hadn’t read my posts. Like after talking to a pregnant acquaintance and it coming up. Like being somewhere where there are a lot of kids. I love being around kids, holding babies, and entertaining toddlers but it hits me in a different way now because the “what if” hangs heavy on my heart. Sometimes I just cry because a commercial strikes me as sad and I’ve had a day where I’ve seen too many pregnant people. I don’t really understand the psychology behind it all but that’s why I made an appointment with a counselor who specializes in infertility and grief. I do not know how to navigate this.

I think the most awkward situation has been encountering pregnant people. It’s usually a situation where they don’t know what happened to me and it somehow comes up and I see their face turn to horror as the capital A Awkward Situation unfolds. How awful must it be for them to stand in front of a woman who went through some horrific “miscarriage” while they are carrying a baby inside them? I mean, I feel so terrible having them find out about what happened to me. And at the same time my heart breaks because WHAT THE FUCK? WHY IS THIS A THING I HAVE TO ENDURE? But I try to be kind and gentle and reassuring. I do not blame them. I’m not angry with them. Of course I’m envious. I’m human after all.

I wish I was the kind of person who was extremely private. But, uh, I am quite the opposite. I’m a sharer. Maybe an over-sharer. But having shared my struggles publicly has brought a lot of people into my life who are in a similar place. For that reason alone I don’t ever regret sharing because no one should have to feel alone. And I think that by being vulnerable, I’m encouraging other people to do the same.

I know it’s difficult for people to know what to say when someone is having a hard time. So many tell me they are afraid they will say the wrong thing which I think leads a lot of people to say nothing. I have totally said the wrong thing to someone. It was not the end of the world even though I felt terrible and it was absolutely not intentional. I can’t speak for every person who has had a crisis but for me, saying nothing is not the response I need. I’m publicly acknowledging that something terrible happened to me. It’s okay for you to bring it up. It’s okay for you to email, text, call, stop me in the hallway and say, “I’ve been keeping up with what you’ve been going through and I just wanted to say how sorry I am. I’ve been thinking of you.” It’s really that simple. You do not have to fix anything. Please don’t try to. You do not have to give me advice on what I should do next. You don’t have to remind me how strong I am because right now I do not feel very strong and it makes me feel like a failure. That’s not your fault! It’s just how it is. Showing up for someone is not an easy thing and there is no manual on it. But I think most people want to be reached out to, to be thought of, to be cared about on good days so it’s even more needed on bad ones.

Grief is a lonely experience as are health crises, and break ups, and all that other hard stuff. We’ve all been there at one time. We can relate. Maybe you’re the type to call up and ask for help. There are some of us who struggle doing that when we’re in a good place so think how hard it must be when you’re feeling so down. A few friends pushed through my resistance and showed up because they knew I would never be able to ask for it. They’ve admitted they worried I’d think them pushy but honestly, they lovingly forced me to connect with people at a time I wanted to crawl into a hole. Every card, call, text, email, comment on my blog, tweet, or Facebook status meant something to me. Even if you just said you were sorry, it helped. Thank you for showing up for me.

And so, here I am in this complicated place. I appreciate you listening.

More Waiting with a Side of Unanswered Questions

There’s a package sitting on our dining room table unopened. I know what it contains which is why I’m avoiding it. Weeks before during the happy blip of being pregnant, I ordered it thinking it would help us understand the next nine months.

There is no book that will help us with where we find ourselves now. And opening that envelope will just rip me open.

You’d think I’d be used to that feeling at this point but it still startles me. Yesterday was my follow-up appointment post-surgery with the doctor I met briefly before he saved my life and removed my ruptured tube. My anxiety, an emotion I wasn’t intimate with before this last year of my life, was high that morning as I got ready to leave. I had hoped my questions would be answered and that it wouldn’t be all bad news. We’re really weary of the bad news. Mr. Darcy accompanied me and as we pulled into the parking structure I think we both had our own reactions. The last time we were there was one of our worst days. It’s hard to not be triggered.

We rode the elevator and walked hand in hand through the lobby where I had sat in my sad wheelchair, shaking in pain, watching all the pregnant women walk by, as I waited hours for that fateful ultrasound appointment. We checked in at the doctor’s office and sat in the waiting room while pregnant woman after pregnant woman walked in. All in all we waited 40 minutes for the appointment.With each passing minute our frustration grew. To me it just felt so. . . flip. Like no one cared that I had been put through hell no thanks to any of them that worked there. I went to the restroom while we waited and ran into the nurse who had seen me that morning two and a half weeks ago. She looked at me like she recognized me and I tried to keep walking because I didn’t want to talk to her. But she said my name and came over with a look of wonder and concern on her face saying how good it was to see me. I tried to make light of it so I wouldn’t lose my cool. I’m tired of being the center of the scene back there by the nurses station. She said something about how she was glad I was okay and that I was famous around the office. I must have half-smiled and backed away towards the restroom. I don’t really know just that I wanted to get away from her and that conversation immediately.

I don’t want to be famous for what I went through.

No one there seems sorry for not helping me sooner. I had to be wheeled into the goddamned office because I was in so much pain I couldn’t walk and barely could get on the exam table. I had been spotting for three days. I was faint and nauseous. MY BLOOD PRESSURE WAS 82/50 for fucksake! The doctor said she “didn’t know what” she was looking at during my ultrasound. But yeah, by all means, make me wait two more hours for the ultrasound office to fit me in. I’ll just rupture in a room full of pregnant women. No worries.

Excuse me, it’s just that I’ve kind of reached the anger phase of this grief shit.

When they finally took us back to an exam room, it was the same nurse who had caught me in the hall on the way to the bathroom. I thought Mr. Darcy was going to jump out of his chair when she joked about how my blood pressure was much better than the last time. Or when she talked about how mad she was at the ER nurses for not taking my condition seriously. She finally left us before either of us said something we’d regret and the surgeon came in. He didn’t really remember my case even though he had my file in his hand. He wondered aloud where the photos of my ruptured tube were because he could have sworn he’d taken them. He asked me to lie back so he could remove my stitches and when my abdomen was revealed his reaction was, “Hoooo boy! That’s a bruise!” We told him that this was it getting better as it had been deep purple and ran the expanse of my left hip to across my bellybutton. He said it was from a ruptured blood vessel- he must have hit it when they went in that side.

I had a list of questions mostly pertaining to what’s next and what we are going to do about the fibroid they found. He left again to look at the MRI images he didn’t remember I’d had and came back to tell us the fibroid is submucosal meaning it’s growing into the inner cavity of the uterus and has got to come out. It’s about 8-9cm, not 12cm as he previously told us, and it sits on top of my uterus making it dip down. It could be why the pregnancy got stuck in the tube but we don’t know.Apparently that fibroid was visible when I had my CT Scan last year for the cancer but no one mentioned it to me. It was about 7cm then and grew to about 9cm during the first weeks of my pregnancy.

I could have had a bad tube but it’s too late to check that one. He told us to make an appointment with the fertility doctor we saw last year when all the cancer stuff was happening and get more clarity. If (probably will happen) I have the fibroid removal surgery, I need to wait 2 months before that happens (Sept) and then wait 3 months after that to try to conceive. If it looks like my other tube is problematic or if the risk of another ectopic is too great, and we don’t want to waste precious time, they might suggest harvesting my egg and Mr. Darcy’s sperm and implanting it into my uterus. That is, if my uterus is fully functioning after my fibroid surgery. If the embryo takes, hopefully I can carry it to term but I might need a cerclage on my cervix because of my previous surgeries on it from the cancer. I will have to have a c-section.

We’re running a marathon with a lot of hurdles.

We have a series of appointments in late August/early September- one with the fertility doc, two with different OB-GYNs because there is no way in hell I want to go back to that clinic and those doctors and nurses, and another with my gyno-oncologist for my 3 month follow up. I never thought I’d have so many doctors, have had all these surgeries (prior to last year, the only surgery I’d had was when I was 8 on my tonsils), or be trying to figure out how to fix my body so we could have a baby. I took so much for granted- my health, my body, the option to have a baby. I spent so much of my life trying not to get pregnant and here I am, desperate for it.

Last night I finally just succumbed to the sadness and anger and cried my eyes out. The trauma of the rupture day was too tangible after spending all that time at the scene of it. The sadness for what we can’t get back and the worry of what is to come just racked me. I’m not a quitter but I’m going to have to train for this fight. I’m not afraid of the surgeries though I worry about the cost of all this and the toll on my body and psyche. There is a lot ahead of us, so much still unknown, and we’re just trying to make sense of it all while feeling all the grief of what we’ve lost. I just don’t want us to become beaten down to the point where we don’t enjoy our life because we’re so consumed by this.

It would be so much easier if we didn’t want a baby. But we do. And so we keep at it.

Tightrope Walking

It’s been a week since my life blew up, quite literally, inside my body. I haven’t left the house unless you count walking out into the backyard. I haven’t put on a bra or driven a car or slept without waking with a pain in my abdomen or some distant memory of the trauma of last Monday. I don’t have much of an appetite but I make myself eat so I can take my pain medicine. They gave me Oxycodone which I hate. It made me have the angry sads and coming off of it was unpleasant. I’m still very sore in my belly so I take my high dose ibuprofen and take it easy as I can. I cry at random- at a touching scene on the TV, when I walk by what would be the baby’s room, when the delivery guy brought flowers from a friend, when I do too much and get winded. I’m going a little stir crazy and missing out on the most beautiful Seattle weather but the thought of returning to work or being social or even going to the store paralyzes me.

I do not yet have a new normal.

Everything feels overwhelming to me and I care very little for the bullshit of life. There is so much of it and there is nothing like a traumatic emergency surgery and loss of pregnancy to shake the snow globe of perspective. I am waiting for things to settle so I can see clearer. Right now I feel panicky and I try not to let my mind drift there, to the dark place of what ifs and worst case scenarios. There are too many maybes and I’m too tired to play them all out. They do nothing to help me exist in this new reality. We’re trying to just take it day by day, sometimes hour by hour, until we have our follow-up appointment next Wednesday where we will bring all our questions about what’s next.

It’s funny what you think is your worst thing. As a kid, my dad dying was my worst thing. Then I got cancer and thought, wow, this is definitely The Worst. And then I had a ruptured ectopic pregnancy which jeopardizes our chances for having a baby and I’ve got a new Worst Thing. There will always be trouble coming, won’t there? Seven months ago I was worried what my first pap smear results would be after my cervical cancer surgeries. That was our big hurdle then. And we waited and worried and hoped and wondered and tried to heal as we do now. What I said back then rings true again today:

I have never been more acutely aware that the great lesson of my life is patience. To lean into the waiting and the wanting and the wondering. To trust the process and let hope buoy me when I feel myself spiraling into what ifs and worry.

I have no idea what’s next. Do we ever? I used to think all my plans and lists would keep me safe. My coping mechanisms that served me all those years are laughable to me now. Oh honey, I want to tell my younger self, there is no such thing as safety. Life is a tightrope and you can spend your life building a net without ever getting up on the wire. Or you can take it step by delicate step, balancing, falling, and getting back up again and again. But you can’t look down. Only out and up because, sweet girl, the views are spectacular.

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” – Helen Keller

There was a baby. Now there is not.

My period was late.

I took 3 tests, all negative, but after being 5 days late, I took another. That one said ‘pregnant.” A visit to the doctor’s office confirmed it. We were pregnant after only trying for two months. For about two weeks we got to pretend to be normal. We told a small handful of family. We started to clear out the baby’s room. I took a lot of naps. I was 7 weeks along on Monday.

I was at dance class when I started to have abdominal pain. I felt light-headed, queasy, and wondered if this was the beginning of morning sickness. It felt terrible though- like I was shaking and breaking out in a cold sweat. Some friends at dance helped talk me through deep breathing so I could get steady on my feet. I ended up waiting in my car until Mr. Darcy could come meet me. I didn’t feel safe to drive and the earliest the doctor could see me was 1pm. I was writhing around in pain, the jostling of the car made me feel worse. It was so bad that Mr. Darcy went and got a wheelchair from the doctor’s office so that I didn’t have to hobble from the parking lot.

They couldn’t find any sign of the baby with a trans-vaginal ultrasound so they drew blood then told me the main ultrasound office would see me at 3pm. I had to wait an hour and a half while countless pregnant women passed me by, sitting there in increasing pain and fear, wondering what was going on with my body and who would help me fix it. By the time 3pm rolled around and we were in the ultrasound office, I could barely hold the pen to fill out the paperwork. The pain was so all-encompassing and I feared I might pass out. I finally gave into the agony and moaned out loud which drew looks from happy pregnant people sitting around the waiting room and the staff working behind the desk. Mr. Darcy called out in frustration, “Can someone please help my wife? She is in extreme pain!” I recall trying to get up on the exam table and fainting and later when they couldn’t find anything in the ultrasound, they wheeled me to the bathroom hoping that emptying my bladder would help. I never actually made it inside because as I was sitting there, I told them I was going to faint. My ears were ringing and the room was spinning. I threw up and peed on myself simultaneously while I passed out. My clothes were soiled and I was disoriented and mortified. They gave me scrubs to change into and while we tried to get me dressed, I passed out again.

The pain had pushed my body to this violent reaction. I had no control over it and was petrified.

They finally called down to my original doctor’s office and sent some nurses up to transfer me to the ER. All they could see on the ultrasound was a fibroid mass that is about 12 cm. I’d never had a fibroid before and no one, in all the countless exams I’ve had to endure, has mentioned it to me. It was blocking their ability to see my right fallopian tube which was where our baby had set up residence. Being about the size of a blueberry, it couldn’t make it in the small space and was rupturing. I’m not sure exactly when the rupture occurred but all that agony was because of it and the subsequent internal bleeding that followed the rupture. As they carted me down to the ER, I passed out again. Mr.Darcy said I had my eyes open and was twitching. He thought I was going to die. In all I threw up/peed myself/passed out a total of four times. I remember being in the ER as they waited to open a room to me and making Mr. Darcy turn  me on my side even though the pain was excruciating because I was going to throw up again and I was afraid I was going to choke on it. The nurse seemed unphased as he called out for help. They hooked me up to saline and got me some painkillers finally which my body ran through. The shot me up with Ativan so they could put me through the MRI. Every time they had to transfer me from one bed to another the pain increased. It wasn’t until after 12am that they took me into surgery. At that point I just wanted to not die and to not feel that kind of pain. It had been going on for over 12 hours and I was beyond exhausted. I felt so bad for Mr. Darcy too who had to witness it all. It scared the crap out of him but he never left my side.

They wheeled me out of emergency surgery and to my own room around 4am where Mr. Darcy was nodding off in an uncomfortable chair. I didn’t really sleep- hooked up to a catheter with these pressure bands around my legs to help with blood clots (I had lost two liters of blood and they had to do a transfusion) and the unfamiliar sounds of the hospital with the nurses coming in all the time to check my vitals. I stayed there for most of the day, attempting to pee on my own, eat a little food, take a small walk around the ward. I just really wanted to be home so I could rest. My doctors visited and filled in some of the blanks for me. The doctor who performed my surgery, that I had never met before, said it was one of the worst ectopic pregnancy ruptures he had seen and he didn’t know how I held out so long. My original doctor who missed all the action (she’s 38 weeks pregnant) sat with me while I cried and talked me through what’s next. It doesn’t look hopeful for us to conceive and carry our own child. I’m down one fallopian tube. I have an increased risk of another ectopic. I have a 12 cm fibroid on my uterus that needs removing and that surgery could jeopardize the uterus plus set us back more months for recovery. If we did attempt pregnancy, they’d suggest having the egg fertilized and directly put into the uterus so as to avoid the risk of another ectopic. By the time I recover from this surgery, have the fibroid surgery, recover from that, I’d be nearing my 41st birthday. Can my body take all of this? Even if we were to get pregnant, could my cervix hold? It’d be a very difficult pregnancy.

Right now I’m sore from 3 abdominal incisions and from barely being able to get around on my own (I’m stuck laying on my back a lot of the time). The medicine for the pain doesn’t give me restful sleep. I have no appetite but I’m forced to eat when I take the pills. I’m emotionally all over the place- circling around anger and sadness over and over again. I’ve got left over pregnancy hormones coursing through my body while my uterus sheds- constant reminders of the baby that didn’t make it and the big unknowns of what’s next for us on our journey to become parents.

I wanted to write about this even if I’m unable to be eloquent about it because I feel myself needing to hide away. It’s very hard to process this and it’s going to take a lot of time. We’re doing our best to lean on each other and are very grateful to the outpouring of kindness from everyone. A year ago we were facing my cervical cancer. I never thought something worse could strike us down but it has. It’s all just too much to comprehend honestly.

Remembering/Forgetting

I have six jars of curry, five deodorants, three bottles of Dove liquid soap, and two cans of unsweetened cocoa. I do not need any of these in bulk. It’s just that there are things I can’t seem to remember.

I have to write stuff down if I don’t want to forget.

I can vaguely conjure the memory of the deep sound of my father’s voice, the way his hands were tanned and bony and smelled always faintly of cigarettes. I have to count backward to remember what year I graduated college, traveled to England, chipped my tooth while eating broccoli, or had my first kiss. I couldn’t tell you what I got for Christmas when I was ten, how I learned to tie a shoe, what my GPA was in high school or what I scored on the SATs, when I started liking avocados, or the last names of many of the guys I’ve slept with.

I can vividly recall though the smell of the perfume my mom wore when I was a kid, sitting on little stools in the kitchen pantry with my sister pretending we were “scientists” and mixing spices and sauces with names I couldn’t yet read to create secret concoctions, the way our backyard looked in summer and how it felt to dive into our pool on a hot day, the way the birch trees out front our house rustled in the gentle wind as I lay on my bed reading. I remember my first kiss and how nervous I was and how squishy it felt (he had very big lips), the first time I got pulled over by a cop while driving, and walking across the stage when I graduated college.

I worry I am forgetting the little moments that make up my life. I want to get back to writing, or rather, to collecting my stories for prosperity so that later when I say I can’t remember, I can be reminded.

Sunshine Celebrating

I spent the weekend in California, soaking up the sun and the company of old friends. There’s nothing like spending time with people who have known you for years, who you fall easily into conversation with as if no time has passed, who you can fight and make up with like siblings, who you can be completely yourself around. What better way to kick off my birthday week celebration than that?

It was great to see RaeRae and RunRun who graciously hosted me in their lovely Oakland apartment, to finally get to dine at my friend’s very popular and deliciously successful restaurant, State Bird Provisions, to meet up with Supple in Napa, and to enjoy a sunny brunch with James Dean, Natalie Wood, and Bird.

I could have tacked on a bunch of meet ups with other friends but I made the hard choice to keep this trip simple instead of shoving people into slots of time, running from cafe to bar to restaurant in an attempt to make everyone feel included. I always end up exhausted and I hate rushed visits with people I care about. I will be back in August for a family wedding and reunion so hopefully I can fit in get togethers with folks I didn’t get to see this time around.

Two days until I turn 40. . . I think I’m feeling okay about it.

“Enough”

I read some of my old journals the other day. You know, the kind where you use a pen and write words on paper. (I believe that’s considered retro now, that’s how old I have  become.) Entry after entry I talked about how I needed to lose weight. The pages were filled with body hatred and self-loathing, interspersed with boy drama. But the idea that I didn’t deserve love because I wasn’t thin, the notion that if I couldn’t get to a certain weight, nothing in my life would ever work out, was ever-present. It made me so sad to read. Because essentially I’ve spent my entire life feeling bad about my body.

I’m a week away from 40 and still haven’t figured out how to fully accept my size. I have wasted so much time and energy on this. I’ve been on every diet. I’ve been fatter; I’ve been thinner. I’ve gone to therapy. I’ve tried everything except self-acceptance. I would go out on a limb and say that one of the biggest regrets of my life is that I’ve never been able to look in the mirror and say, “I’m beautiful.”

The biggest bullshit lie I’ve ever swallowed is that thin equals beautiful. I’ve spent a lifetime unable to love myself or feel worthy of being loved because I am not thin “enough.” This message is delivered to us pretty much everywhere we look. I’ve found it reinforced in the media ad nauseum and in my relationships, particularly with some of the men I mistakenly chose to give my heart to. The guys who said I’d be “really hot” if I lost weight (but they’d still have sex with me) or who claimed they didn’t know what they’d say if a friend of theirs commented on my size (no one ever had) or who casually mentioned over dinner that his friends looked down on him because he dated me (because of my body) (I never met these friends and assume they were imaginary). I could go on but I don’t really want to fall into a shame spiral this early in the morning.

When I turned 30, I quit smoking. I was an “occasional smoker” I’d say, but then I was smoking on breaks at work and on my drive home and at parties and after dinner and well, I was a smoker. But on my 30th birthday I gave it up, finally, after many failed attempts. I thought about how I wanted to become a mom and be around for as long as I could for my kid I’d someday have and so I quit.

For my 40th birthday I’m giving myself another gift: I’m quitting body hatred. I’m not going to stop working out or eating vegetables or taking care of my health. I’m just going to drop the ridiculous guilt and shame cloud that I’ve lived my entire life under. My problem hasn’t been not knowing what to eat or how much to work out. Rather, I’ve been stuck in my body loathing, operating from a place of hate and embarrassment rather than self-love. It’s just that, you guys, I’m tired of feeling less than because I weigh more than someone told me I should. I’m fed up with it defining my worth. I’m over the bullshit and done living out the lie.

Happy birthday to me.

Almost 40: A Retrospective

It’s funny to think that as a teenager the thought of turning 40 sounded so old and yet here I am, weeks away from it, and I only feel slightly old. I’m reminded of my age at work sometimes as I eat lunch with friends who are in their 20’s who don’t get my pop culture references and me, theirs. As I hear about their late night adventures or group trips with pals, I nostalgically recall the time in my life when that was my reality. They share their dating stories and I’ll chime in with one of my old tales, “I once went on a date with a guy who unhinged his jaw as we ate sushi.” There’s entertainment in having lived a life. I’ve got the stories to prove it.

I can look in the mirror now and see what time has done to age my face. I can feel the creakiness in my knees and my hips as I take the stairs. After a few cocktails, I wake up with a slight headache and severely dehydrated after a night of fitful sleep. I prefer to go to bed at 10 because I will inevitably wake up before 7am whether I want to or not and I somehow need 8+ hours of sleep now to function. I don’t want to go to a concert if the main act starts at 10pm or if I am forced to stand in a crowded room of drunk people vying for a good position to see the performer. I don’t want to wait an hour for a table at a popular restaurant. I don’t care about having a lot of friends but rather, a small crew of A List friends suits me just fine. I live in suburbia and prefer it. I have a husband, a house, a career, a 403b, and a savings account.  I’m kind of a grown up even though I often feel like it’s still the 90’s and I’m still in my 20’s.

My teens were tumultuous: Alcoholic dad in a dysfunctional home. All girls Catholic high school education. Driving around in cars with friends with nothing to do but hang out, sing along to the radio, and dream. Delaying a four-year college for a two-year to stay closer to home. And then on the cusp of turning 20, my dad passing away.

My 20’s were marked by grief. I was angry and wrote a lot of mediocre poetry. I spent my free time in thrift and record stores, palling around with Jenny Two Times and Tomato and other friends, hanging out around the pool at my mom’s house, drinking wine coolers and sneaking smokes of clove cigarettes. I’d wear thrifted housecoats with Converse or mailman pants with bowling shoes. We were called “alternative” just like the music we listened to.  I lost a bunch of weight and spent a few years that way then gained it all back. I moved to Santa Cruz and eventually graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in Women’s Studies & a minor in Literature. I went there with the intention of studying creative writing but the most I’ve ever done with that dream is become a blogger. I dated a series of guys who taught me a lot about love and heartbreak- they are a post or two unto themselves. I made friends and lost friends and smoked a bunch of weed. I became a women’s self-defense instructor which was probably one of the most pivotal experiences in my life. I worked a bunch of jobs: Michael’s Arts & Crafts, a pottery painting place, housing and admissions offices at UCSC, read books aloud for a blind girl, office administrator for a group home, volunteer coordinator for a youth empowerment organization, community educator for a sexual assault/domestic violence non-profit, and a development director for an AIDS organization. I had roommates, good and bad, and for the first time in my life, lived all alone.

In my 30’s I felt dissatisfied. Wasn’t I supposed to know what the fuck I was doing with my life already? I moved to Seattle and in doing so, everything changed. I learned to be an urbanite and a Pacific Northwesterner. I got lost a lot but now I know my way around pretty well. I came here with no job, just enough savings to get me through 5 weeks. I went on many interviews and turned down a bunch of jobs until I was offered the one I still have, almost 7 years later. I dated some guys, some good, some bad, and even had a few boyfriends. I lived in apartment for the first time in my life. I became an apartment manager which taught me a lot and helped me pay off my debt and save money for the first time ever. I met Mr. Darcy and our first seven hour date turned into moving into together, to getting married, to where we are today. I got through cervical cancer. I paid off my student loan debt and my car. I did a lot of grown up things, some of which sucked. My adorable nephew whose impending birth was the impetus for my big move, is going on 7. He likes to play Mario Brothers, and soccer, and have nerf gun fights, and would live on cheese and nut crackers if he could. I am forever indebted to him for being born and giving me the gumption to change my entire life. Seattle has been good to me and my 30’s allowed me to finally settle into myself. It’s where I found home, and love, and ultimately, the life I dreamed of.

What will my 40’s bring? I’m hopeful it will just keep getting better.