Thursday, December 29, 2011

Work, Marriage, Money, and Love

This whole topic is so all-encompassing, I'm not even sure how to begin.  My husband has been on a sabbatical for a few months.  It was not really of our choosing but it was far from a bad thing; he was burned out, the company wasn't making the changes he'd argued for, for his operation.  He was anxious a lot worrying about all the things that could go wrong at work.  It was heartbreaking for me because these were things he could not control.  Acts of God, right?

I just read this article, Instead of Work, Younger Women Go Back to School .  The main example of the story, young woman quits her part-time job at Starbucks to get a graduate degree in communications which will put her in deep debt, was not what was interesting to me.  It was that women are more willing to leave a job (albeit, a low paying one) and go back to school while men will take any job that's available.  Here's a quote from the random "expert":
“There is still this heavy cultural message that men should be out there earning money and supporting themselves, and they feel more distressed by losing their breadwinner role,” said Stephanie Coontz, director of research at the Council on Contemporary Families. “We’ve made much more progress overcoming the ‘feminine mystique’ than this masculine mystique.” 
This is exactly what my husband and I are going through.  He was offered a good job in a community about three hours driving distance from our home.  But it was in the field he's been working in all his life and he's told me many times he doesn't want to do that line of work anymore.  I think his declaration took a lot of courage and I wouldn't ever forgive myself if I dismissed it.  The pressure for men to work at anything that's around is huge.  I'm sure his parents expect him to take the job because Work is King in their minds.  What's been so hard for me and my husband is to stay strong and faithful to God while considering these options.

We (society) talk about how hard life is when we have no choices, but I think it's much more challenging when you have lots of options and it's not very clear what's a better choice.  Option A could be good in the short term but Option B might be better in the long term.  But it's never obvious because, duh, we can't predict the future.  So, lately we've been reminding each other to pray in these times of panic and indecision.

The problems with taking this job were 1) I have a good job which pays well; 2) We'd only be able to see each other on the weekends until I found a job in that area which would have stressed our marriage; 3) We can maintain our lifestyle with my current income, and; 4) He really didn't want to do that work anyway.  There are a lot more factors that go into this but that's really the essence.  And just getting to the point where he could admit to himself that he didn't want to that kind of work, was a long road.  If he really thought that job was good from him and was excited about it, I would definitely support him, but it's just not.

Making the decision to turn the offer down doesn't erase the anxiety.  If fact, I think it increases it.  And it's harder for men maybe, but just people in a different generation.  I feel much more comfortable changing careers (my husband says that's because I'm young but I'm not sure that's it.)  I think this period in our lives is a true adventure and an opportunity to walk the faith rather than just talk about it.

We have a lot of things going for us.  The obvious is not having children.  That's a lot of money we don't have to spend.  We live, I think, pretty simply.  I make my lunches and eat them at work.  We don't buy stuff just to feel good.  We have to need it.  And now the standard is, we have to really need it.  We've always lived far below our means.  We are retirement savings obsessed and enjoy saving money rather than spending it.

I'm not, believe me, trying to toot a horn.  I think it's critical, however especially in the infertile blogosphere to promote awareness that thinking about financial health relative to a desire for a baby is super important.  Everybody has to weigh their own costs versus benefits and everyone's standard for what is acceptable is different.  However, I am beyond grateful that we do not have children right now.  I don't know if that's God's doing or what but I feel very blessed in that regard.

So, we're choosing love over money, togetherness over separation, productive work over working just for prestige or to satisfy our parents' egos.  I'm proud of my husband.  He's taking the road less traveled.  And that's flat out cool!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!

We are about to take off for the in-laws, so I though I'd drop a final note wishing all of you a very merry Christmas.  I'll be checking on the news of Mr. and Mrs. B's imminent arrival from my tablet.  God Bless, M and good luck.  I hear delivering a baby is hard work! :)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas & Site Design

Let's start with site design.  I liked blogger's site designs but it removes the pages and archives (at least it did for me) so I decided to go back to the traditional look.  Since you can now upload your own background photo, I tried to do that with one of my favorite photos I took in Peru, but it didn't turn out right.  If anyone knows how to, or understands how to get 1600x1200 resolution in a 300kb photo, please let me know.  I got the right resolution, but the photo size was just too big.  So, I had to pick a stock background, but I like the book since I kinda consider myself a reader.

This is shaping up to be one of the best Christmas since I entered adulthood sixteen years ago.  I've been doing lots of baking, and really liking it.  I've finally embraced the joy of cooking and baking.  And I let go of the idea that holidays are only fun when little kids are around.  Infertiles have to create their own fun!  This is quite a change from last year when I told my MIL and SIL that I was pretty much depressed all the time.  I've learned my life is how I frame it.  Cliche, yes, but very true.

My husband called me and asked if there was any other gift I'd like at Christmas.  No, I really don't need anything, honey.  Trust me, I've been constantly searching the J.Crew website this week since they've been having 30% off and free shipping offers all week.  I did want a green coat (shown below) but I just didn't need it and couldn't justify the expense.  Besides, I ordered two workout DVDs and if my husband is concerned I won't have enough gifts to open, I told him to wrap each video separately.  It's all good.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I Object

I've got so many ideas swimming in my head, I'm not sure I can write a post that's properly organized but heck, I have to try for my own sanity.  There are several themes going on out there in the infertile blogging community.  I don't presume to know why certain women feel certain things but my brain fires up when I read interpretations of events or feelings that are not theologically sound or rational.  We can't know God, know what He wants, but that doesn't stop many of us, including me, from labeling certain events like pregnancies or adoptions as miracles or explaining some one's infertility as their fault because they weren't a virgin when they got married.  Yes, someone did say this to me.

In fact, a very honest blogger who's now gone private questioned why she wasn't getting pregnant after many years even though she was a virgin at marriage.  She "did everything right" so why no child?  For those who are more virtuous than most, I think the temptation to believe that your gentleness, your kindness, your purity, your faithfulness means God will grant you your every desire.  And I think that's flat out wrong and not in accordance with what's in the Bible.  Anybody remember Job?  And what about David?  That guy screwed up big time and God never gave up on him.

Is it our culture?  I fell victim to this before infertility, which is why I consider infertility as a great lesson in humility, but are we so privileged, so used to getting what we want, we can't accept the fact that life doesn't meet our expectations?  It's easy to sit back as a happily married, young woman and bemoan the lack of a child.  But what about our friends who are single and want to meet the right person to marry?  I guess going on and on about how great your husband is makes a single person happening upon your blog pretty mad.

I think (and people can correct me if this is wrong) I've been a pretty staunch supporter of the newly pregnant.  I feel bad when they have to write the sympathy post.  It goes pretty much like this:
Wow, I've wanted to be pregnant for so long, like two years but that's really not very long because some of you have waited longer and that makes me feel really bad because I feel good and you don't because pregnancy is a game changer and my heart breaks for you because this is so joyous but know that I'm praying for you that your miracle i.e., getting pregnant comes real soon, like next month.
If you are pregnant, I am so happy for you, honestly!  It doesn't take anything away from me in the slightest.  If you are now infertile and get pregnant, you have my permission to not write about sympathising with infertiles.  I want you to celebrate and write about how good you feel.  You deserve it.  I say that because I'm personally comfortable where I left off my treatment and I'm realistic about certain biological facts.  I'm not willing right now to do a follicular ultrasound series and take HCG shots.  It's not worth my time, not worth my trouble.  For those of you doing what I'm doing, and I don't think anyone else is, I'm amazed when you start investigating the advantages of not having children, you'll find some good things.

However, I realize that for lots of women, accepting a child-free life is not an option.  It was never what you envisioned for your life and if you want it and are willing to undergo medical treatments to get it.  God speed!  But, I guess what got my goat recently was a post by a pregnant blogger (I won't link since I'm trying to not pick a fight, seriously) who wrote the obligatory "I'm so sorry you're not pregnant, too" by specifically calling her pregnancy a miracle that she was unworthy of, implying (likely unintentionally) that infertiles must be so incredibly unworthy, like purgatory unworthy because that's why we're not pregnant.

What I really want is those folks that are taking hormones and have had laparoscopic surgery to thank the manufacturer of HCG, your ultrasound tech, and your surgeon for getting your reproductive system to a place where it was possible to get pregnant.  I'm not at all saying that God didn't have His Hand in your conceiving.  I just can't prove that He did or didn't.  But I can say with relative confidence that medical intervention could be a cause.  That's why we have surgery and take drugs instead of spending that time in concentrated prayer for a miracle.

The big thing I objected to in that person's post was talking about how much joy she felt because of the pregnancy and said that the pregnancy had already changed everything (except finances.)  She made several comparisons to how no other joy could compare and pregnancy joy is so transforming that it would be horrible to miss out on.  I like strong statements.  But, I have a problem when a Christian starts classifying levels of joy or saying one joy is better than another or even failing to mention the joy we feel knowing God gave His only son for the salvation of the world.

Not ever having been pregnant, I'll rely on the mothers out there to confirm this but I've felt the joy of faith in Christ. I've experienced euphoria, yes, euphoria grasping the concept in every fiber of my being, that God loves me that much that He would allow His own son to be murdered, tortured for me and you and every other sinner.  To know that Christ on the cross cried out in agony, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" is utterly profound that joy is the only appropriate emotion for that kind of grace.  And the beautiful, really joyous thing about faith in Christ, is that it's open to everybody!  Pregnancy doesn't approach that level of accessibility.

It might read like I'm condemning this blogger's post or position, I sincerely am not.  I don't think she meant to offend or exclude anybody.  But I wanted to offer another side to the argument.  Please don't feel sorry for me that I'm not feeling the particular kind of joy you are.  My life is filled with joyous events and manifestations of faith.  It's not an opinion that's offered up very much especially by women who want children but it is possible to live a full, maybe even fuller life without kids.  You might think that to be heresy but I think it's opening your soul to the fullness of Christ.  Christ changes everything.  Christ is transforming.  Believe it.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My cat companion died

I wrote a year ago about my cat getting sick and showing signs of liver disease.  At that point, she was taking treatments but the constant pills, liquid meds, and bland food were making her an unhappy cat.  So, I decided to discontinue treatment and allow her to live well as long as she could.  During the summer, my cat was losing weight and despite giving her the highest fat and calorie foods we could find, she wouldn't gain weight.  My parents held on to her after we returned from Peru but she declined rapidly over the last few weeks.  

I'm very grateful my cat could spend the last weeks of her life in a warm house since my husband wouldn't let her in our house.  On Saturday, I decided to have her euthanized.  And on Monday, I called and found a vet that did house calls and that made all the difference.  Kitty was able to sit on her blanket on my Mom's lap in the same living room she'd grown accustomed to.  We were all around her, talking to her when she got her final injection.  We then carefully placed her in a box, drove her home, my husband dug a big hole, and we buried her underneath a shade tree.  I placed a wood cross as a marker because Kitty's a Christian, I baptized her myself. :)

I was walking down memory lane last night and it's amazing to think about all the experiences I've had, the life I'd lived for thirteen years, she was with me.  She gave my life meaning, literally when I lived in Washington DC.  When things were bad there, I was so grateful to have a purpose, that I could take care of her.  When we lived together, just the two of us, she would lie next to me in the morning and we'd curl up together. Sure, the fur got everywhere but it was worth it.  

I don't think caring for a sentient being is much different than caring for a person in that responsibility for life remains the same.  I really struggle with the idea that we can decide when an animal and actively make it happen.  For the last several days, I felt guilty knowing that I knew when she was going to die and cheating her out of knowing it, too.  

But, my husband tried hard yesterday and supported me through the experience.  I'm left with wonderful memories.  She was a rockin' cat and a lot of people who met her, said so.  She wasn't perfect and neither was I, and when we were alone yesterday morning, I apologized to her in failing to do the best I could for her.  I'll miss her and always treasure that unique, special relationship.      

Friday, December 16, 2011

Kids and Birthdays

I regard my childhood experience celebrating birthdays as dysfunctional.  No adult could seem to get it right (with the exception of my father's father) by sending cards consistently or dialing me up to wish me a happy birthday.  What my grandfather did right was that he never forgot to send a card and he enclosed cash equal to my age in years.  I always thought this was charming and very useful.  I could always use a little cash and I looked forward to getting one more dollar every year.  I guess I'm not greedy but perhaps self-focused.  But I'm not hypocritical.

My niece's ninth birthday was a couple days ago.  I sent a card with nine dollars in it and still got scolded by my mother because I didn't send a material gift.  When I told her I sent cash she gave me a slight reprieve.  I kept telling myself last weekend that I should call her on the appropriate day but I didn't manage to get there.  I blame myself entirely because really it's lame to forget to pay just a sliver of attention to a sweet child.  So, I called her mother this afternoon and left a message stating my intentions.

Now, when I was a teen and young adult, I really felt like my aunt and grandmother were putting a big guilt trip on me for not reaching out to them.  And that's stupid.  It's an adult's responsibility to initiate a relationship, not a child and would never, ever blame my niece for not wanting a thing to do with me because I get that a kid would never care about a thirty-four year old.  So, now that's she's of an age where she'll remember my lameness, I'm getting myself into gear.  I hope she calls me back.

Friday, December 9, 2011


I had the strangest but coolest nightmare last night.  You know how when you dream about a place, it never looks close to what the reality is, well, I dreamt about my house and the dimensions and number of rooms were the same but it was just a little bit bigger.  So, I look down the hall and my husband has painted the walls a deep red and an obnoxious purple.  In addition, the work was sloppy and the door frames were black!

I was just disturbed beyond measure.  Like all you feel about yourself aesthetically has just been violated by your closest friend.  And you want to run far, far away.  But instead of yelling at my husband, who was wearing the opposite of the horrible colors he painted my house, white cotton pants and a sea foam green cashmere sweater, I walked over to him calmly and said, "Sweetie, how do you feel about repainting the house?"  And the nightmare came to a merciful end by he saying, "No, no I can't do that.  We can't change it."

The reason why I was I had this dream is clear.  One, I've been thinking a lot lately about how much I love the earth tone paint colors in my house.  And I love my house and living in it.  And how I'm ticked that J.Crew sold out of sea foam green skinny corduroy pants in 28S.

As 2011 comes to a close and I'm hoping for a better 2012, I'm not framing "better" as "getting pregnant."  I never thought I would get to the place where I felt we might not ever get pregnant.  And that, that would be OK and sometimes even better than OK.  That life could be more fun and no less meaningful and we could still respond fully to God's calling.

We've started to frame our future life without children.  It's nothing tangible really but we have expectations about retirement and money and it feels good finally to celebrate this natural physical limitation.  I'm OK right now and I am happy and excited about life getting better on my terms.