PTSD Doesn’t Discriminate: Anyone Can Develop It

I’ve gotten some smart ass clap backs from people assuming that a middle class person of means cannot and should not develop or have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) so I felt the need to set the record straight. Fifty percent of people in the USA will experience first hand trauma, with women more likely to develop PTSD than men. Combat veterans are notorious sufferers of this condition and many mistakenly assume that this is the only sector of the population that can claim to have it. Anyone can develop PTSD, and 8% of the USA population will experience it. (PTSD stats taken from Google searches.)

From the National Institutes of Health:

Not every traumatized person develops ongoing (chronic) or even short-term (acute) PTSD. Not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous event. Some experiences, like the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one, can also cause PTSD. Symptoms usually begin early, within 3 months of the traumatic incident, but sometimes they begin years afterward. Symptoms must last more than a month and be severe enough to interfere with relationships or work to be considered PTSD. The course of the illness varies. Some people recover within 6 months, while others have symptoms that last much longer. In some people, the condition becomes chronic.

Although I have not been diagnosed with PTSD, there have been many traumatic events in my life that have created trigger points for my anxiety and stress. Certain news, good and bad, result in bouts of depression or panic attacks. I cannot get a call in the middle of the night without wondering if someone has been arrested, is dead or dying. When people yell at me I burst into tears; I assume an admonishment dug deep into my emotional core and decided to take residence there. The one that has taken me a time to get over is waiting for a late menstrual cycle. Due to the miscarriage and subsequent failed attempts at conceiving, staring into a pregnancy test is terrifying especially now that I don’t want children. Having sex is tough cause I do not want to have to go through that harrowing experience ever again.

Because I wouldn’t wish any of my traumas on my worst enemies, certain words, phrases or expectations send me down a path of anxiety, despair and quick emotional distress. I started avoiding weddings, baby showers and any celebration of love because I couldn’t handle the inquest about children. For all I know I can’t have them and I will never be a part of the parenting community. When my friends with kids don’t invite me to things I automatically assume it is because of our status. RSVPing no to our events, usually comes with an excuse about how their kids hinder their participation. The NO fatigue got to us so hard that we stopped planning parties all together. We are a family, just the two of us, and not meeting others’ expectations of marriage has given us enough trauma to last a few lifetimes. 

The next time someone says they have PTSD, even if it sounds ridiculous to you, be kind and don’t refute the person. Unless you have a clinical understanding of the disorder and a record of the person’s experiences and state of mind, abstain from passing judgement. People that appear happy and successful didn’t necessarily go through charmed childhoods or perfect experiences. Their problems are real, regardless of your opinion, and the pressures of life can create situations that were not safe and extremely traumatic for them. Fears are difficult to conquer and reacting subconsciously to triggers is a reality for many people, which cannot just be controlled or ignored.

Hugs!

And Then There Were Two…(and a dog)

When we got married, we thought children would follow quickly. Unfortunately, our first attempt to produce an heir was not successful and the road to figure out if we could become parents naturally was so uphill, and expensive, we decided to take a breather and enjoy the view.

During this stop I decided we needed to reset the countdown clock and start over. We married each other to share our lives together, not to make them harder by depleting our resources chasing after an impossible dream. Surely enough technology will prove me wrong and at some point it will become totally possible but for now, we needed to face our reality and improve it. Once my husband agreed, we decided to buy and customize a brand new home to start anew.

Deciding how to proceed was a source of constant disagreement. We had hosted countless parties the first ten years of our life together that my husband thought we would be disloyal if we didn’t take into account entertaining in the design. Although I agreed that the space needed to be functional for guests, it felt pointless to resume that hosting duty because it didn’t really go with our new perspective. It was hard for both of us to accept that the new living space should be designed for just two people, who happen to entertain on occasion. This required less seating space, more foldable or expandable furniture and much less consideration for children as part of the decor.

In a way we had to change the style of the home to functionally classy from family fun oriented. As adults we will still have fun but we didn’t need to flaunt it. Our collection of knick knacks moved to the newly created library space, and the frames around the first floor gallery held geek ark pieces instead of posters and souvenir pictures from vacations past. We moved the frames that mattered to us upstairs so we can enjoy them daily. The videogames moved to a dedicated audio/visual suite that does not interfere with my sleep, and the front room fits the ping-pong table easily, when it isn’t doubling as the curtain/cover for the new sideyard french doors. It looks more like us now, the grown up versions anyway, but it still screams: “Cool!”.

There are many more things left to settle and decorate but now we know what works for just us and what doesn’t. The dog loves this new space and its humble beginnings. No more tension oozes from the wall. No more ghosts and broken dreams haunt it. The energy in the rooms buzzes and electrifies everything we do, brightening our existence. We know now that by focusing on ourselves the rest will come in time, with no need to rush into action. This is our haven, our piece of heaven, and we have to finish its design selfishly and guilt free.

In the end, we hope it all comes together. If it doesn’t that will work fine too. As Zach, our pit/lab mix, sleeps in the middle of the family room floor, I smile and pat myself in the back for having taken the chance to let go of what did not serve us. The landscaping and interior jobs may not all be completed but we are a step closer to the new us. Let’s chase the bigger dreams now peeps! The best is yet to come!

On The Day of Fathers…

My life was filled with many dads that took up the responsibility of raising and loving me when my own father couldn’t. Every day of my childhood was filled with the support and lessons of my male role models, who ensured I knew the difference between a good, caring, kind and intelligent man vs those who would want to use, abuse and harm me. From train sets to repairing carburetors, my uncle and grandfather made sure I knew how to fix anything and solve problems that I was yet to have. In the periphery, my father worked hard to build on top of the educational foundation these great men had given me to be worthy of the moniker of dad.

My sister’s relationship with my father is strained because the environment had changed by the time she, 8 years younger, came into the world. My mother didn’t need him to be a constant in her life and ended their 16 year partnership. Through her developmental years, my uncle and grandpa were there for her, and as luck would have it my aunt’s boyfriend also became a strong positive presence in her life. She had three dads that would encourage her to reach for the moon and stars, a sentiment she desperately needed to get over her own child development issues. (She was one of the ADHD/anxiety generation, and her life didn’t really get any easier after she graduated high school.) It was their undivided attention and tact what got her through her darkest moments. We were blessed to have such great trainers in our corner teaching us how to jab, cover, and throw in the towel.

Because my dad is usually missing in action or with his first family (we are the second set), Father’s Day is just another commercial holiday. We will answer his calls and seek him throughout the year, but we won’t make a big deal of celebrating him. Unfortunately, my grandpa and Papo (aunt’s BF) passed a few years ago so we celebrate them in spirit. It is hard to remember what we lost when everyone is hanging out with their dads but the pain is worth it. These men went above and beyond the call of duty setting a high bar for what a father and husband should be to their daughters. We were blessed to have had them for as long as we did. May they rest in peace forever.

My uncle is the last surviving male role model left and we make sure we call and text as often as possible to remind him about the good awesome children he helped mold. His own daughter adores the idea of having surrogate sisters, and we make sure we treat her as such. Hehe. She gives him the hugs and kisses we can’t send via mail, and that is good enough repayment for his sacrifice. He was 21 when I was born and didn’t have a need to become someone’s guardian angel. As my godfather, he taught me how to do my pigtails in braids and showed me how to combine colors when dressing up. My favorite dresses were gifts he bestowed upon me when my mom sent him out to get my portraits taken. Pizza, Dunkin Donut holes, M&Ms and Baskin Robbins ice cream will always serve as reminders of his love and dedication to us. Hehe

To all the dads out there in difficult situations, please hang on and don’t give up. Long distance or up close, you can make a difference in your progeny’s life and emotional health. I grew up without my father and managed to “stay off the pole” because of all the effort my own absentee dad put in to help me aspire to a greater life that he could ever give me. Knowing when to step back and let the other men take over was a task he mastered a few years into the arrangement and it must have crushed him to know he wasn’t the only dad I had. He never took it out in us or on our mom, who to this day reminds us to give him the respect he deserves.  It took a village to raise us. We raise a glass to all the villagers out there too.

Happy Father’s Day everyone! Keep up the good work.

Cheers!

“At least you have a house…”

Please. I beg y’all. Don’t confuse my complaints about the “list of items that still need to be taken care of by the builder” with ungratefulness. Telling anyone in my family that “at least you have a home” minimizes the entire ordeal and what is left of it. The fact that all these open items cost money and great inconvenience to our family should not be overlooked.

Yes, we can afford a home when a lot of people are homeless. And yes, maybe you would be bursting at the seams just to have these nuances as your problems but that doesn’t give you permission to “put us in our place” or remind us we should be grateful to your deity of choice. You asked me how the house was coming along. I didn’t volunteer the information to be critiqued or questioned. Sadly the situation is far from perfect and for a hefty investment we are peeved; the next steps left may include suing for damages, an action we rather not pursue. Never a dull moment in this household, especially when the open jobs are being completed slooooowllyyyy.

Maybe society has taught us the wrong quips to give as a reaction to someone’s news. Maybe we aren’t thinking and just blurt out what we think we should comment or state. In the end, I expect more from my peers because I can give them more than the preprogrammed responses. If I can take time from my busy life to consider you perhaps you all can return the favor? Can people stop trying to make me eat humble pie? Your serving of judgement leaves a bad taste in my mouth. 🤔🤔🤔🤔 Inconceivable!

For once I would like to hear my peers congratulate me because I have achieved and persevered, not be passively aggressively handed my ass to me because I aspired to more and it didn’t work out 100%. So what if there are only three of us living in 2600 sq ft of space? My dog and family deserve to be comfortable too. 😉 And while we are at it, don’t assume we need to fill the space with children either. With an upcoming opportunity to go back to school and get matching MBAs for the wall, I can’t imagine making things more complex by getting knocked up and/or having to postpone graduation. Call me selfish but this is not my path, our path, for now. This is our happily ever after. 😎😄

Feel free to do as your heart desires. I promise not to shame you and to support you as you see fit. That’s what friends should be for, anyway…

7 Years Ago…

It has been seven years already since the day I walked into the outpatient clinic at my local hospital for my dilation and curettage, commonly refered to as a D&C. A few days earlier our doctor had delivered the worst news we had ever received as newlyweds; I had miscarried. Known as a blighted ovum back then, now called missed abortion, our baby had not properly developed past week 8 and it had most likely been absorbed by my body after termination. The sonogram looked like an empty sac, the placenta formed and all the hormone levels showing I had in fact been pregnant. It wasn’t made up, just a missed opportunity, a very normal thing that happens when attempting to start a family. About 40% of pregnancies end up in miscarriage or natural abortion. Shouldn’t be a big deal.

It was a huge deal to me. Alone in the pre-op room, I tried to make light of the situation by cracking jokes and chit chatting with the nursing staff. One of them, a kind woman who could have been around my mom’s age, told me how brave I was for keeping my spirits up. In her many years on the job she had not met someone who had such an enlightened grasp of what had occured. God wasn’t punishing me, no reason to take it personal. Being afraid of the anesthesia causing an adverse reaction was more pressing on my mind than the actual procedure going wrong and taking away my ability to have children in the future. I was glad to be alive even though my heart and spirits were broken. We could try again. This too should pass.

What I didn’t realize off the bat was that statistically, and not by design, I had become a part of a very select group of people who had been taught to keep quiet about what happened because they should be ashamed they couldn’t reproduce. I never understood why I should be contrite about something that I couldn’t control nor deserved. Miscarrying isn’t a sin and it isn’t shameful! To be able to get over my pain I needed to share my experience. Staying silent was not an option. I wanted clarity. We could not be the only ones going through it. I felt that this was a good opportunity to educate others about the difficulties and realities of pregnancy; about how women who miscarry haven’t failed as a wife, as a woman or as a human being. There was no need to feel bad about the process. Life had chosen me as the ambassador or a very powerful message.

Boy was I disappointed when people would get all skittish around me and tried to avoid the subject! My peers were taught that a failure of this magnitude should be kept quiet, especially in this area, and didn’t feel they could help me cope. All I needed was a hug, a smile, a joke, any recognition that I was capable of loving and being happy despite my harrowing loss. People didn’t want to listen and many walked away from our discussions. They wanted me to suck it up and move on. They did not want to think it could happen to them. Apparently, I was now a defective product that didn’t have a market share. If it hadn’t been for the friends who had also miscarried and were courageous enough to share their secret pain with me I would have not made it. They too had been shunned at some point because of their misfortune. Expectant moms would come up to me to ask if there was anything they could do avoid ending up like me: childless. My perfect pregnancy results didn’t provide me with answers that would give them any solace. Only those who shared my same fate were able to understand how I had felt and came back years later to gift me with the hugs they had previously withheld.

Truth be told, and in many ways, I saw the experience as a blessing in disguise. My failure made me more relatable, more human and less perfect.  The overachiever had bad luck, finally! (Self deprecating humor helped me get through a few years.) In a way I gained a badge and crossed off an item on my bucket list. For 12 weeks we had been proud expecting parents; I had been someone’s mom, my husband had been a dad. Sadly we didn’t have a healthy baby to show for it, just an empty sonogram that my doctor quickly stapled to our file and stashed deep inside a cabinet full of patient records. I was a bit disheartened obviously but I knew it could be possible to get knocked up again. Sure in 4 months we could start trying again once the body had recovered from the surgery.  Doctor’s orders. Insert all tales of how so and so got pregnant by the grace of their favorite deity here…we’d get our turn soon enough.

Seven years later I can tell you how hard it all was, how it wasn’t meant to be a quick happy fairy tale ending and how much of a devastating blow this simple normal biological event dealt to my relationships. My husband was the first one to lose his composure. He placed the blame squarely on me and his mental state began to unravel. Where I had retained a positive vew of the events he completely lost control over his anger and emotion. How could that have happened to him? Did he choose his wife correctly? By the end of the first year we had been sent to a fertility specialist to try again but he couldn’t even fathom he could be the issue. It didn’t help the case that we both passed the examinations with flying colors. According to the doctor we were in the 2% of the 2% of couples with fertility issues that will never know why we can’t conceive. Mr Enginerd didn’t like that answer. Then my friends started to hide their pregnancies from me to be sensitive and would innocently break the news on facebook or social media thinking that it wouldn’t affect me. Why wouldn’t I be happy for them? It was hard hearing I hadn’t been invited to an event because I didn’t have children. The bitterness stewed for a couple of years. I started to hate anything related to weddings, babies and happiness.

After all this time September is one of the most mentally challenging months for me. Everyone is posting the pictures of their progeny’s first day of school. I get to live again the events leading up to and following the news and I notice we still dream of what could have been. My son would have been 6 now. Wow! Deep down inside my husband knows no one was at fault but the temptation to make me solely responsible for his grief rears its ugly head every so often. We are all conditioned to want a child of our own, to pass on our knowledge and genetic material. It is a very natural desire to want descendants. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be for him to not be able to pass on his name to the next generation. As a man, he has been conditioned to think he has failed. It is a hard notion to overcome and make peace with. I’m sure eventually we will find a new normal.

This is what adulting, and being hitched to someone, is truly about. It is not about the good and the heathy times, it is about the trials and tirbulations, the sickness and the horribly gone wrong. There were reasons why we didn’t try invitro after artificial insemination failed. There were long term effects on both our careers. Having to run to a clinic after peeing on an ovulation stick starts to get to you after a few months let alone after 3 years. Giving up was necessary to keep our sanity. The whole experience taught me to be resilient in ways I would never have imagined I had to learn to bend. I’m more compassionate towards others even when they don’t “deserve” it. Yes, certain things still trigger knee jerk reactions but I am learning to ride those waves and learn the lessons.

In the end, we had to learn to be content with just each other and no other plans but to travel and stay healthy. Many friends won’t understand why we have steered in a new direction that takes us far away from them. The fact that their journeys will take them down a different path than ours is a very real source of discomfort. It opens wounds we need to close permanently before moving on. We are not parents and we may never be, and only people committed 100% to including us in their lives are prepared to make the sacrifices needed to help us heal. It may sound rough but not everyone has the bedside manner to put up with two kids who have such a big chip on their shoulders. Not everyone will want their children to call us aunt and uncle or will allow us to babysit. I’m making my peace with this too. We can only approach this one day at a time.

RIP Little Angel Baby. We will always love the joy you brought into our lives. Until we meet again.

My Beef With Religious Views of Women

I was born a female human. I can’t/don’t want to change this. I can only learn to live with it and the limitations religious views and social/cultural norms yave placed on my gender. Recently, a few conversations with friends have revolved around the second class citizenship of women and how they are viewed worldwide. This goes beyond fat shaming or slut shaming; it is a genuine concern had by our male counterparts who don’t know what is okay to say to or expect of women anymore. My latest exchange via IM inspired me to explore why I think this oppression of women is possible. Here’s the discussion that followed:

Male Friend: I hate the complex world many women live in, the drama moms/religion/media stir up. The fashion stigmas. A male friend once asked me: Why are high heels associated automatically with sin? These shoes are plain evil because they hurt your feet/provide insufficient traction and support, but flat shoes are just as bad, you can slip and fall easily, but they are preferred. Southern Baptist culture shuns heels and promotes flats, which are scales of the same pain and discomfort, yet one shoe is more benign than the other. Why is there are a need for religions to shun female visual appeal? As a man, I think more women should dress up and own their look because frumpy is so drab! As the women in my life age, the get more prudish all in the name of God. Why?

Me: It is all about sex. Heels are associated with sex. Dress codes are about control, purity and chastity. It becomes a competition of who can be more perfect.

Male Friend: There’s a baby competition: what mommy blogs better, looks better and avoids the most food allergens.

Me: You want my opinion?
Male Friend: Duh!
Me: Cracks knuckles (starts typing)…

If we base the analysis on what the holy scriptures preaching religions claim as gospel, the whole female gender theme in their writtings alludes submission, obedience and progeny as the reason for women’s existence. Women are told since day one that they are a tool for God to bring children into this world, that they must love and obey their husbands, and that they must learn to sacrifice themselves for the greater good. Women aren’t told or refered to in these gospels as smart or independent. They aren’t exhalted as providers, just care givers. Women aren’t free and as property belong to their fathers, then their husbands and their children. She must be proper, perfect, pure, and chaste. If asked, she must give herself to her husband on demand. She is not to have feelings, or hopes or dreams. She can’t say no to her elders or protectors. She must oblige. Therefore, we are told how to dress; how to act; how to get used to not being in control; how to smile, nod and be nice; to conform; to fail gracefully; and to look pretty and stay quiet. Only complacent women can raise God fearing adults, and productive members of society. To raise the kind of husbands that can smack their wife is she doesn’t follow protocol because God grants him this right. I am flabbergasted that some men on this planet are still taught by all the women in their lives that this is acceptable. It isn’t.

The sad part is women get to go to school and later college because the government, unholy at its heart mind you, demands it. I’m sure many out there cringe at the notion that women are citizens and as such have unalienable rights that cannot be taken away. They can vote, work and schedule abortions. They can buy contraceptives and enjoy sex. Gasp! Those who believe in a higher power usually make the mistake of telling their female counterparts that their service to God and country is to be barefoot in the kitchen with a baby on her hip. Shut up sweetie, and let the adults talk about adult stuff. Your opinion and voice is automatically discarded because you don’t have a penis. Anything that indicates that you have a personality or independence is deemed a sin. So many women stick to cooking, cleaning, baking and disinfecting for the sake of their family, to not get slapped or beaten because they failed at their duties. They live a provincial life to keep appearances and to make him, the man of the house, look good. (Male friend adds: But not too good…) Because of these expectations women learn to hide who they are and what they think because they don’t want to be shunned. If you make the mistake of showing you are better off without him you get put in your place too. If you are better than him at anything, him being any man, they will berate and chastise you until you quit. Devil creature, be gone!

Somewhere along the line many women broke free. They rebelled, enlisted others in the fight and created their own allies and liberators. The smart ones made their male heirs more human, kinder, and respectful and their female heirs fearless. This gave us women more choices, more champions and better opportunities to win battles and ultimately the war. I think the woman is crap mentality is still prevalent because women propagate it. Many believe they are not worthy of freedom from these stereotypes, tropes and archetypes. They don’t know that they add value and have power; they are scared to realize their whole way of living is a lie. Isn’t it convenient to own a slave that doesn’t suspect its condition or is being controlled? We all like to receive free services. That’s what many single women, wives and mothers provide to their men: free labor. Bet they barely get love and respect, or a thank you. I always worry about the wives that are raped by drunk husbands, beaten by their own kids and chastised by their own kind because they truly believe it is their duty to serve. This is the only thing that motivates me to make sure certain gun rights and laws are retained because I am going to need to own an assault rifle to defend myseld if the redneck Republicans win the election and come after my rights because I am female.

Bottom line: For some groups a woman’s worth is solely reproductive. Nothing else defines her as a woman and because she is a resource aka a baby making machine she must be protected and regulated. That’s why so many folks have issues with men transitioning into women. They have to be questioning internally why anyone would want to exchange their rightful place among the overlords and supreme rulers, anointed and appointed by God himself as superior to all on the planet, to become subordinates. Why would anyone want to give up the power their mighty appendage gives them? Why would anyone denounce being a man, renounce their position at the top of the food chain and live under the control of what they used to be? Sometimes I wish I had been born male so I could rule the world easily, with privilege and no questions asked. I’d like to think being a woman is more than having babies and making sandwiches. I’m sure you do too. But those don’t and think they are damsels to be rescued will continue to enact laws for our own good. We barely have enough Supreme Court Justices that are female to give counsel on women’s rights. In the end, it’s the men that decide our fate and this is 2016.

Male Friend: This is why I think you are amazing. Your analysis is as close to the mentality of the liberated and strong woman my mother taught me. Women who think like you are the ones we should seek out and marry. Too bad even my mom has decided to revert to the misogynistic thought that a woman is of her family and should act accordingly, that my wife complains about other women who are out there owning it. Never change friend.

The End. What do you think?

Babies, babies everywhere!

After a drought of wedding and baby announcements, life is back at it again. (I call it Wave 3.) With a wedding on Sunday July 3rd, one in December and another one in April/May and three pregnancy announcements, my social calendar is filling up with events and a bit of anxiety. However, unlike before, this anxiety comes from a place of apprehension, not loss and grief. Things are changing fast and this time around it is for the best. After Wave’s 2 and 1 of announcements I think the lesson has been very clear: Motherhood is not the cards for me, yet, and I must find something else to fill that void. I am destined for other things.

This experience has taught me that regardless of what society and religion states being a woman is more than being a mom and wife. My gender identity isn’t based on my ability to procreate alone. Being female doesn’t exclude concentrating on what makes me happy instead of caring for everyone else first. My human experience doesn’t depend or hinge on having children. Why do these announcements cause me so much grief then? Because I’ve always wanted to be normal.

From the time I was five years old I knew I was different, that my path went through the roads less traveled. My parents weren’t married, my mom had a career, my sister wasn’t even born until the late 80s so I grew up as an only child, which was a rarity back then. When I was a pre-teen I didn’t care about boys or make up but loved sports and being captain of my school teams. I collected trophies and video games. As a teenager, I recall wishing I had been irresponsible like the people who got drunk at parties and didn’t care about what was going to happen to them because their friends got their back. I was always vigilant, taking care of people and helping them achieve their goals. My idea of a five year plan was to graduate from engineering and get a cool job manufacturing products that changed the future. My heart was always in the sky and space beyond. There was more for me than this provincial life. My lifelong ambition is to rule the world or make millions. He he.

But wait Mrs. Enginerd, wasn’t getting married and having kids part of the plan? You didn’t mention that! Truth be told “it” became a part of the plan out of my husband’s and my necessity to do “the right thing”. As unplanned children born out of wedlock (in his case it resulted in his parents’ shotgun wedding), we wanted to wait until we were married to afford the luxury of our children not being bastards or unplanned, technically speaking. Jon Snow has made the term cool again but we didn’t know then this was going to turn into a cool or acceptable thing. We were raised old school, like many of our friends, which is why we are knee deep in wedding and baby shower invitations. Granted, we won’t be invited to a few of these new showers because the huge group of peers we had here has fragmented into little cells. If we aren’t a part of their immediate crew, we will be passed on which is not a bad thing. It is what it is. 😀

These announcements would have turned me into the Hulk if this was early 2o15. (See Layoff section.) I hated with a passion knowing that every day people were getting happy endings. Little old me over here had to be content with traveling, and rolling her eyes whenever someone made a passive-aggressive comment that I had it easy. I grew tired of replying “we lost a child and can’t have kids naturally without medical intervention” when people asked us about our turn at the baby wheel. The proverbial God knows my husband won’t participate in another baby food tasting challenge again! He was over and done with these events. Proudly I can say retirement wouldn’t be a bad thing, not because we dislike the company but because we have done so many that it isn’t fun any more. It’s not as fulfilling for us to go through an evening of ohh and ahhs over baby gifts. More on baby items advice later…

Weddings didn’t and don’t make us feel any better. Why? I become irate every time the priest or officiant tells the happy couple that their mission in life as a couple is to procreate. Hey, dude, less pressure! If only religion could leave the reproductive decisions and judgement out of their wedding ceremony. Sheesh! You can’t possibly know these days that infertility problems will not happen. Time and time again I feel the loss we endured when I hear this is a commandment or measurement of wedded bliss and marital success. I lost my place in the clans because of this misconception. I’m sure people think I am a bad wife for not wanting to go through the many costly steps to become a mother, be it adoption, invitro or surrogacy. This last year has given me a lot of time to reflect on these things. I’m glad we got enough of a break in invites to regroup and attempt to enjoy these events again. Maybe a year’s respite from all these activities was what we needed to heal. Future me can update you later on this development. Lol

It’s hard to not have some PTSD reaction whenever I get one of these announcements in the mail or on my newsfeed. Even though I have seen every type of wedding and baby announcement imaginable, it is unpredictable to discern which type will set the emotional bombs off. After 7 years recuperating from our miscarriage, we are almost sincere when we congratulate people. It shows some progress.  There’s still an itty bitty sliver of jealousy, bitterness and resentment when we hear the news but that’s not on them. I’ll take it up with our maker, if or when I meet him. You never know with these things.

If you are on the same boat, even if you are single with no prospects or married with no infertility issues, swing by my suite and we can talk. I think we’ve been upgraded to first mate of this choppy ride based on how far and long we have traveled on this cruise. My only solace is that I have become an expert at helping people cope through miscarriages, child loss and the many protocols of fertility treatments. (My husband left that to me to carry alone. I understand.) I can be your resource guide on all things children since the many encounters with moms and Babys R Us catalogues have informed me well and kept me aprised of the trends and expectations. I didn’t want this knowledge or role but life assigned it to me so I will own it to the best of my ability. Sharing is caring, right?

At this stage of my development, maturity wise, I can’t complain about the hand I was dealt. I can only play it well. We may have to bluff through a couple more rounds (waves) but we will have our win. Let’s hope others can recognize we are not fully enjoying it and choose to help us have fun. Grief makes you miss happiness even when it is right there next to you, within reach. Never forget that. Be compassionate and kind even if you can’t be understanding. We don’t need more accusations or baby questions. No one does. All people with fertility issues, or no spouses, need is to see the light at the end of the tunnel and move towards it. Respect our new normal and respect people’s choices. Support,  don’t judge.

By the way, before I forget, congratulations to all of my friends who are reading this and have entered the wedding and child rearing stages! (That includes you too grandparents.) We are still fighting in the underwater levels (the hardest in video game history) and will come up for air to visit once in a while. We continue to figure out how to beat the machine because we refuse to let it beat us. 😉 May our paths continue to intersect, your children grow wiser and our luck begin to turn. Adulting doesn’t get any easier.

Enjoy!

When Our Friends Had Kids Our Lives Changed Too

Never in my wildest dreams did I surmise that my friends having children would impact my life so greatly. After all, they are the ones who experienced the many sleepless nights and countless bottle and diaper changes, not us. However, the arrival of the kid changed the entire dynamic of the relationship we had with the parents. Whether or not they realized it the new arrival sent us all in a new direction. In some cases, the announcement of a pregnancy turned us later into the pallbearers of the pain and sorrow of the miscarriages and fertility treatments our friends went through to have a child. It is foolish to believe that the aftermath of the process didn’t change our perspective on life and parenthood. It happened to us too.

Almost overnight we went from dancing at the club untill the wee hours of the morning to birthday parties at The Little Gym. Our friends and family members with kids morphed into safety advocating, always tired and oftentimes disheveled beings that can’t stop cleaning everything in the path or wake of their child. Those who had steady partners, a supportive family or extended circles fared a bit better, retaining some sort if normalcy because they got good advice and many needed breaks. I made sure to lend a hand to the stay at home moms and those at it alone, especially those who confided in us that they were going crazy because all the hear is Frozen day in and day out. They miss talking to an adult. We miss talking to adults too.

Running after screaming toddlers seems to be the main source of exercise for my pals these days. XD

The conversations with my peers have quickly moved away from work, play and horrible bosses to the best car seat, chewing toy or pre-school. I’ve had to do some research on these subjects to be able to put in a word edgewise. My husband avoids the subjects like the plague. He endures the shopping trip and the subsequent baby shower because on occasion, we are tasked with bringing the booze and the adult talk to the events allowing our friends to turn into themselves for a spell. We are still exhausted from the excitement of all the wedding and baby announcements. We are tired of attending the same type events but we don’t have a choice. It is the new world order and there’s no point fighting it. If we want to see our friends and their kids we have to suck it up and smile for the cameras.

*We are so happy for you!* – Plop

My husband is lucky that the guys seem to bounce out of dad mode around him. He becomes the dealer of sports stats, beer and wine tips and BBQ recipes. Lucky him. I’m stuck with the mommy talks, fixing toys and helping batteries disappear.

For a couple of years now our friends have started to slowly drop in and out of the grid; first because they were newlyweds and later because they were pregnant or recently had a second baby. It was hard to adapt but we pulled through. No one could hang out with us on a day’s notice anymore. The horror! (:P) We had to put a few friendships on ice because they couldn’t fit us in their schedules or were reluctant to bring their children to our gatherings. My husband was upset because the guys disappeared from the game lobbies and many were doomed to never return to gaming because their wives insisted the video games were too violent or time consuming. 😦 It was hard not to resent them but we did our best to comprehend and move on.

Allow me to explain why we say we began to resent people. Our house was, for nearly a decade, a safe haven for all my friends as they moved to the PNW. To accomodate and lessen the NO RSVPs we baby proofed the entire first floor and had a kid area so the parents could let their hair down during our famous sports and Halloween parties. Our entire game plan changed to accomodate all types of guests. We even trained ourselves not to mind the last minute cancellations because they didn’t want to take the baby out in the cold or because their kids were sick especially when moments earlier they had checked in at a “competing” activity on Facebook. We avoided buying into the “they are not your friends if they did or said that” rethoric. Sadly our single friends ditched us because the family atmosphere dampened the mood. The competition between the newly formed circles  was so fierce our party count went from a 1000 get togethers and activities a month to zero. The invitations to activities almost disappeared too.

Imagine our surprise when we started hearing about birthday parties and events we had missed because people asked us why we weren’t there. Turns out we hadn’t been invited! Gasp!  Even our closest friends chose not to invite us to certain activities because they thought we would get bored or that we wouldn’t want to pay a cover charge to a beerless, snot filled fest. Our hearts broke when we realized all the mingling and close knit circles of friends we used to have were still going strong but this time at the daycare center or little league games. People had downsized their core groups, out of habit and necessity, to include those like them. We were out of sight, out of mind.

We had been reclassified to non essential personnel after all those weddings and babyshowers because we didn’t have children. *SMH*

Being put on the back burner forced us to adapt and embrace being the childless couple, a goal very few people set out to accomplish voluntarily. It was a long road fraught with a few disappointments and a lot of soul searching. For a time we thought we were the problem, not the circumstances, and our collective self esteem went down by a few points. We weren’t feeling the love. We didn’t understand their world any more than they understood ours. All that was left was to meet at the crossroads of our journeys and reminisce about our past. For a long time we feared we’d never see them again. That we would be shunned forever…

Little by little we established a new normal. Our single and double income no kids (DINKs) friends served as the light at the end of the tunnel keeping us busy until they had to bow out because they had kids too. It took a while but we have finally made peace with our demotion to the “acquaintances category” and managed to put on a brave face when we were received with questions like “Why are you here?”, “I didn’t know you were still close?” and “Why don’t you have kids?”. To top it off, a sizeable number of our close and long standing friends decided to move away to be closer to their families of origin. Respect! If they hadn’t moved we know we’d be partying to the wee hours of the morning together alongside their kids. If only we weren’t so far away!

Believe it or not we are eternally grateful for the lessons. For the opportunity to have been front and center in the rearing and education of these children if only for a short while.  We wonder why we haven’t been blessed with children of our own and why destiny delt us this hand. The unfair situation has put our faith and relationship through a gauntlet test that gets harder as time passes. Adulting isn’t getting any easier for us either, please accept that too. Don’t assume we have it easy. You are the one that gets the hugs and kisses at the end of the day while we have to be content with watching from afar and through your newsfeed. If we are never given the chance to be parents, our hope is someday those kids we saw grow up and play in our house will come looking for your “old” friends. After all, to us, they are our friends too.

Forgive and Forget: Easier Said Than Done

Cursed are those who were blessed with excellent memories because it makes it more daunting to forgive and forget. The former part may come naturally and can be shaped by values and reason; forgiving is not difficult if we are offered amends. It is the art of forgetting that becomes the issue. We can’t naturally purge the sting of betrayal, the sense of inadequacy, or the pain that are ingrained in the memory of the trespass. Asking the heart to forget is easier than asking the mind to disassociate what occurred with how it made us feel. If you love someone you will be inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt and trust them again. When you over analyze the situation, the  wound will swell and fester.

The word forgiveness comes from the verb forgive. Merriam-Webster defines the verb as follows:

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This definition doesn’t cover forgiveness itself which I found out has many interpretations including the following one:

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In essense, to forgive and grant forgiveness one must meet pardon, exonerate, reprieve and have mercy, which implies that one will not harbor ill will and resentment towards the person asking to be forgiven. That’s the hard part because all of these synonyms require that you leave behind the event and focus on the learning experience, not the feelings stirred during the event. That’s were the forget part comes in handy.

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As you can see, by definition, the most involved part of the process is forgetting. It has many mechanism and definitions which in my experience opens the door for misinterpretation. I can tell you to forget about it but at the same time I am not making a commitment to forget it myself. In order to overlook the offense I will need to actively put the matter to rest, out of mind and cease to think about it or consider it. Having a good memory can hinder this part of the process substantially but if you can genuinely forgive and move on forgetting shouldn’t be as much of a problem as it is, say, for me.

I never forget how someone made me feel both in a good or by way. Their words become ingrained in my neurons, branding them into my subconcious forever. My brain will replay an event over and over again until it culls the emotions and resolves the conflict. It gets classified and sorted, sent to deep storage. This is the main reason why I am careful with my words and I expect others to be as well: I will remember what was said and most importantly, how it made us feel.

Reading someone’s change is demeanor is not difficult if you are paying attention. I can immediately tell if someone was surprised by, offended by or oblivious to the conversation based on the way their body languag reacts to the dialogue. You’d be surprised how people continue to dig themselves into a hole by prolonging a discussion a few arguments in the wrong direction. Humans give good cues when they are getting upset, dejected or riled up. Why we are not trained to identify and react to them baffles me.

Even though many of my friends are very educated, they come from very different upbringings, and this differentiator is key when managing my expectations of how we can successfully relate to each other. I have friends tell me that “You look so nice when you put an effort” without realizing that their passive-aggressive statement could sound insulting to those who don’t share their beauty and grooming standards. It’s not like I go outside in Crocs and sweat pants! 🙂 What was meant as a compliment ended up making me weary and uncomfortable around this individual since it was clear to me thay they were judging my appearance. Slip ups as these are considered micro aggressions. You’d be shocked to know how common back handed compliments are given, leaving people wondering if the comment was in fact sincere. Tone and the delivery of the content make a huge difference and I do my best to assume good intent even if there isn’t.

That’s why even though I understand you may think I mind kids parties because I had a miscarriage and lack a progeny (good intent), I still feel hurt and betrayed. Over time I have realized that I can’t forget how this makes me feel because not being invited for not having kids is something totally out of my control. I’d love to spend time with your kids and serve as aunt or mentor, and I wouldn’t be so upset if i didn’t communicate this fact clearly every time we meet or through social medial. After a while it is just plain rude and cruel to be told I am not a part of the club for no other reason than not having children. I find it despicable and appalling.

When you exclude a person or group from an activity and claim it is for their best interest you are not being friendly or kind; you are depriving them of an opportunity to spend time with you. Considering that friendship can be hierarchical, with one friend holding another in a higher regard, withholding an invitation shows yours is the only best interest being served. Stay away from me, peasant!

This is why we need to reel back our opinions and inspect them. What is important to us may not be important to others and when we open our mouths to communicate our thoughts, we may end up doing more harm than good. Now that bullying is in the spotlight, more and more people are keeping track of what you say, how you say it and how you act. As the title of the article suggests, anything is easier said than done and we must hold each other accountable. It is up to us to define how we want to relate to the world and how to manage our expectations and opinions of others.

In a society that hides behind the anonymity of the internet to opine and ridicule, we must be cautious with our energy and efforts; we must learn to identify and disengage the trolls effectively even if it turns out we are the ones trolling. Always remember we need to learn to forgive and forget ourselves too, dictating our own terms to let go in situations where we won’t get an apology or be extended a fortuitous effort to make amends. Words can cut a person more deeply than a knife which is why the pen will always be mightier than the sword. Use your pen and Liquid Paper(tm) wisely.

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