Sunday 31 March 2013

ART education

Happy Easter Sunday.  Spring is here: Rabbits, eggs, renewal, birdsong and hope make their appearance. I hope everyone can catch a little bit of magic.

So, today we have one of our semi-regular family gatherings.  We don't have huge ritual gatherings of extended family (outside of weddings and funerals). We don't have much extended family in town, either. A "big" gathering might consist of me and Mr. Turtle, father-in-law and stepmother-in-law, brother and sister-in-law (engaged), my mom and dad, my brother (single) who lives in town, and my stepmother-in-law's friend (single), who is always invited and is kind of like one of our cousins. No kids. (THANK YOU THANK YOU God/Fate/contemporary social trends whatever. Is it wrong to be grateful nobody has kids yet? Cuz I so am.) So, about 10 adults, give or take. Today there is supposed to be 11, and I've been trying to do the math to figure out how we get to11, but I can't quite make it work. Maybe there will be some surprises. Anyway.

Mainly I've been thinking about how to provide dessert for this gathering, which is what Mr. Turtle and I were asked to do. I  decided to make two kinds of  mini-pies, apple and berry, roughly following these recipes:

Mini Apple Pies
Mini Berry Pies  (We're going to do 2 crusts per pie, however)

I think it will be just awesome for everyone to have their own pie for dessert, and to be able to pick a flavour, too. And mini-pies are soooo cute.


The other thing that hangs around the back (sometimes the forefront) of my mind on these occasions  is, What if the Baby question comes up? As it often does. Sometimes it's more in the abstract: our parents talk about when we were children, the younger people (us) talk about babies / children in a cheerful, theoretical kind of way to demonstrate that we are not entirely terrified by the concept.  Sometimes it's more personal "Are you thinking of...?" "Do you want....?" "When are you....?" Now, to give my family credit (and I truly do love and like them all) the more personal questions do NOT usually get asked around the dinner table. But it might be brought up in a teasing way (nudge nudge wink wink), which honestly I find harder to deal with than a straightforward question, because it assumes I'm in on some kind of joke and at this point, well, the joke isn't very funny.

Now, I've maybe been a bit of a coward about IF disclosure. Mr. Turtle has told his mom  (who doesn't live in town) and his dad (who probably told my stepmother in law, but I don't know for sure.) Mr. Turtle's mom is a health professional so we are both comfortable with her knowing everything. I shared with my mom at Christmas time that Mr. Turtle and I are trying to have a baby, but not for how long we had been trying. She was very excited to hear that we were Trying, anyway. And even gave some advice. And told me that I was an an Accident. Eep. A week or so later we learned about the MFI. I haven't said anything to my mom or dad or anyone else about that. Partly it's because I haven't seen my mom in a  private setting since Christmas, and IF isn't really a great topic to bring up at a social family gathering. ("And in our news...") Also disclosing via email doesn't seem that appropriate. The other piece is that everything is so vague at this point. We believe we will be doing IVF but it's not confirmed and we don't know when. All we know is that it's next to impossible to conceive naturally.

On one hand, I don't think anyone should feel obligated to tell-all about their private parts and what they can and can't do.  On the other hand, I would like my immediate family to be informed (and calm. and supportive.) whenever we do start IVF. I'm also strongly against Secrets and Shame: I believe in community building. On the other-other hand, I long ago developed a habit of  not telling my parents a lot of things because it made life easier. They are worriers and they can be Dramatic. I'm not ashamed  of  what's going on in my life, but I disclose on a Need to Know basis. So maybe there's a  bit of a double standard there. However, the disclosure has to happen sometime in  the next few months, in the right kind of way, hopefully without causing too much embarrassment or distress to our family members.

I've been thinking that when we do Disclose (and I still don't have a clear idea of how or when it will happen) I would like to give family a Reading List. There's a ton of info online, and  they all know how to educate themselves; however, I think it might be good to give them somewhere to start and then I also have some reassurance they are not reading nonsense and/or terrifying themselves. They might also need some sex ed 201 (as opposed to sex ed 101: sperm meets egg = baby). Prior to TTC I knew very little about hormones, embryos, implantation, sperm counts, reproductive disorders, and all that stuff. I think it's safe to say that most people think it is much more straightforward than it really is.

Sex Ed 201
Female Reproductive System from WebMd
Male Reprodutive System from WebMd
Female Reproductive System and the Roles of Hormones (more scientific)
Endowment for Human Development: Conception and Step-By-Step Development of an Embryo

Male Factor Infertility from Stirrup Queens
What is Lymphedema?
Male Genital Lymphedema

Assisted Reproductive Technologies 101
Good Ol' Wikipedia on ART

IVF specific
IVF / ICSI process described in detail by Regional Fertility Program
After IVF? interviews with families

For Family and Friends

I've been trying to find a good article on the emotional effects of IF, that would give family members some idea of how it feels to be a person in this situation (and might be a conversation opener). I want something that is realistic but not too scary/negative. I don't want people assuming that we're going to  become depressed and anxious on account of IF, because I don't want to cause additional worry. I'm also a positive, goal oriented person for the most part, so I want to take that tone overall. On the other hand I want people to know that overcoming IF is not going to be easy  for us, and I think  it's fair to ask them put themselves in our shoes, if only for as long as it takes to read an article or have a conversation.

Mel's Infertility Manifesto
I thought this one is OK (haven't read it in depth): The Worst Thing about Infertility

Blog visitors: Any other suggestions for articles that help to inform people about IF and/or treatments?

The Turtle

Update: No questions about babies or fertility at family dinner. Hurrah! Grateful for family that easily talks about Other Things. The mini pies were a hit. Here are 2 that were left. We made 12 of these.

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Finding Meaning Questions - take 1

As I poke around I'm finding some resources on IF that I think stand out from the crowd. I'm going to start making note of them.

I liked this article on "Finding Meaning On Your Fertility Journey" because half or more of the article is questions.

Finding Meaning On Your Fertility Journey  by Sue Dumais. According to her blurb Ms. Dumais is "a founder of Family Passages Mind Body Studio in Vancouver, British Columbia. She is the author of "A Strong Core for Life," and "Yoga for Fertility Handbook."

I don't know if there's any point to this, but I thought I'd answer the questions now, and then it might be interesting to try to answer the questions again at some point in the future (perhaps during one of the interminable periods of waiting that accompany IF/IF treatments) and compare.

Step 1: Creating Awareness 

1.                  What is your biggest fear regarding your fertility?

Here they are in approximate order of scariness to me (most scary on top, less scary down below)
I ranked some as less scary mostly because I am less worried about them happening, relatively speaking. In other words, I am less scared because I consider that outcome less likely.

a) that the fertility issues are more  complicated than we currently know; that a bunch of additional issues (with me or Mr. Turtle) will emerge as we do more testing.

b) Treatments will fail

c) high risk pregnancy - either higher order multiples or just complicated. Maybe leading to baby loss.

d) that IF will affect our relationship negatively

e) that we won't be able to have a genetically related child

f) that other people in our extended family will have children easily in the next  few years, and IF will affect our feelings/relationship with that family if we can't conceive a child.

g) that the struggle to have a child will leave us so depleted we will have a hard time being parents to that child when he/she does come

Hmm, before I started to list them, I didn't think I had that many fears.

2.                  What part of your fertility experience feels most out of your control?

Not knowing the timeline or what will happen when.  Wondering if I can cope with the physical/emotional fallout of ART. Wondering how this will all fit (or not fit) into the rest of my life (professional and personal).

3.                  Do you blame yourself or others for your fertility challenges?

No, I don't.  I know Mr. Turtle has and is doing everything he can to be in the best of health. He didn't choose his condition. I accept that both intellectually and emotionally.

4.                  If you were to guess why this is happening to you, what is your best guess?

I don't think there's any cosmic reason why this is happening to me (us). The only reason I can think of is that bodies aren't perfect.  Sometimes things don't work the way they are supposed to.

Step 2: Practicing Acceptance

1.  Do you believe that everything you have experienced in your life so far has influenced who you are today?

Yes. I have always looked for and found meaning in my life.

2.   Have you experienced moments of hindsight that helped you find meaning to a situation from your past?

3.    To what extent can you make peace with your past?
I am at peace with my past.

4.    To what extent can you accept your fertility journey?

 So far, I can accept it most of the time. But I also haven't gone through that much, relatively speaking. I can accept that this is  my reality, that I won't have children without following a  certain path, which is not the path I would have chosen if I had my 'druthers.

Step 3: Be Curious

1.    When you reflect on your fertility journey what is one thing that you learned about yourself or your life that you wouldn’t have otherwise learned?

Hmmm. I don't know if I've really learned anything new, but it's reinforced that you really can't take anything for granted. Everything that one person considers "normal" is something that another person spends years or a lifetime trying to achieve.

2.     What is one thing you are grateful for? This question can be difficult at first but take your time. For example, I am grateful for my husband and the unconditional love and support he continues to give me. 

Oh gosh, I'm grateful for so many things. For a loving husband who can share the good things of life with me, and the tough ones. That we have been responsible with our money and can cope with the cost of ART. That technology exists that can potentially help us. For good health.

3.      If you were to look back and discover a “gem” that came from your fertility journey, what would that be?

I don't know about gems, but it's been eye-opening to discovering all the stories and support online.

The next section, Step 4, Holding FAITH is not questions but a series of statements. Ms. Dumais says:
How do you hold FAITH regardless of what happens around you? To me FAITH stands for Finding Answers In The Heart. Most people are capable of answering questions from both the head and the heart. Answers from the head are based on logic and reason. They are highly influenced by what others think along with your own thoughts and beliefs. When you answer from your heart you tap into your emotions and intuition. The heart is the place within you that knows without thinking. This is where you will find wisdom and guidance that will help you on your path. FAITH can guide you in making decisions and help you hold onto your vision no matter what happens around you.
Here are some affirmations that may help. Choose the ones that resonate deep within your heart and repeat them as often as you can. It helps to put up reminders such as sticky notes or wear a bracelet. For an affirmation to be effective you need to connect to the emotions behind the words. 
I copied them here and then thought I'd make a note on how each doesn't or doesn't speak to me right now.

1.       Even though I don’t understand I know in my heart that one way or another, I will be a Mother/Father.

I still have my doubts, I admit. I try to think of myself as a mother, and as Mr. Turtle as a father, to keep that space in my heart open. But it doesn't feel real yet.  I think that I assumed I would start to feel like a  mother when I fell pregnant, and now that we have to jump hurdles for that to (hopefully) happen, I'm not sure what's going to make me feel like a mother.

2.       I am open and curious. I am willing to see this situation in a new light.

Yes, I am a pretty open and  curious person. I am able to see myself and Mr. Turtle as characters in an unfolding plot, with choices to make and points of view to express, and things to learn. I've certainly learned a  lot about reproduction, and it's fascinating.

3.       Even though my path is different than I thought it would be, I hold faith that my dream is possible.

Yeah, I think so. I haven't gone through much shit yet, so I don't know how strong this faith REALLY is. But so far, feeling OK.

4.       I make peace with my fertility and I am grateful for the gems it has brought to my life.

I accept that I have to follow a certain path. The path still scares me and the things that can hypothetically go wrong scare me. However I have confidence that we can handle ART. I don't think I've gotten any gems of experience yet. Just weariness and suspense. And some education.

5.       I trust that everything is happening for a reason. I am open to discover meaning and peace.

I don't think things happen for reason. I think things happen, and it's our choice how we make meaning out of them. I don't believe in a cosmic plan. But in our minds, we can find reasons for things.

6.       I invite my baby into my heart and into my life.  I know my baby will come when it is meant to be.

I hope so. Like I said before, I don't believe in a cosmic plan. I hope that there's a  bigger chance the baby will come than that the baby won't, but that also depends on a lot of factors that we just aren't aware of right now. Maybe we will never understand it all.  I believe we have the knowledge and resources to maximize our chances of having a child and choose/change to the path that will give us the best chance.

7.       All is well. I hold my vision of Motherhood/Fatherhood no matter what.

I don't like this one because "no matter what" is just scary.  I can think of too many "no matter what's." Not really comforting.

8.        It is possible! My dream is possible and I hold FAITH no matter what.

I would rather say, I will  hold faith as long as it makes sense, and in a way that makes sense. Faith is good but at some point faith and reality need to have a heavy date and get nakedly honest with each other.

9.        I trust that everything is happening with divine timing.

As previously stated, I don't believe in a cosmic plan, nor that God personally directs our lives (I think He/She takes interest in our choices) so this one is not overly useful to me.

Signing off, Turtle

Saturday 23 March 2013

Can we have it all? Well, we can have a big fat blog entry at least.

Fallopian Groove decided to take on this question:
Can women – or men, for that matter – have it all? 
Well, here we go. As a hope-to-one-day-be-a-working-mom, I’m wading into this Internet debate. I just can’t help myself. Aside from my firm conviction that “having it all” is an objectionable phrase that should have been retired almost as soon as it came into fashion, I also find this ongoing conversation to be, well, how can I put this: silly. Not because there’s not a problem here – there is – but because the “solutions” proposed by the parade of working-mothers in glossy magazines are inadequate and incomplete.
Please read her full blog post here.

 I don't think we will ever reach anything close to a consensus on this one. There is just too much variation in people's lives and attitudes and abilities. And that's the way it should be.

"You can have it all!" It sounds so positive and empowering. Whatever is there to question or wonder about??

Here's my position (which I like to think is based on some self-evident truths about the human condition,  but is also affected by my personality and values and experiences)

Everything in life involves some kind of sacrifice or compromise. Even if  (best case scenario) you are choosing between two equally good alternatives, there is always sacrifice involved. For example, marriage involves sacrificing some of the freedom of being single. You (hopefully) love your partner and are thrilled to be marrying them, but everybody gives something up to do that. In my case, I'm much less likely to go off to Europe by myself (for example) because I'm weighing the time/expense/purpose of such an action based not just on my needs, but my husband's and those of our future children, although they are not yet born or conceived. I wouldn't have to do that if I was single and planned on staying that way.

If there's anything dangerous about the "you can have it all" concept for women AND men AND children, it's with the implication that "You can have it all WITHOUT sacrifice." No, you can't. Something is going to have to give. If you can't identify what sacrifice you are making, it only means you haven't thought about your choices long or hard enough (or at all).  We all live with limitations, no matter how talented, fabulous, energetic, omniscient we think we are (and people often exaggerate what they are capable of).

So what do I think is the key to "having it all"? Or at least, "having enough"? (How many people do you hear complaining about not having enough?) The key is to make the sacrifice without BITTERNESS. That is, as much as possible, you live without resenting the sacrifice, and without treating self/others with resentment. Acknowledge the sacrifice, honour it, and then get on with the life path that you chose.  It's not a question about what you have or what you don't have. Nobody has a right to come up with a definition of a happy family or a happy person and then force it on everybody else. It's a question of knowing why you made certain decisions, what the situation was, what you gave up, and what you gained. And also remembering that while there is a limit on our range of choices (depending on our personal position, some things are realistically not attainable), there is NO LIMIT on the number of choices a person can make in their lifetime. Just because I made X choice at one point in time, doesn't mean that I have to make it over and over.

With regards to career and family, I am really only entitled to explain  my position, not to tell anyone else what to do.

1) Yes I expect to make career sacrifices because of children. Children take time, energy, commitment, education, emotional energy, money....uh, am I missing something? Probably about a hundred other things. I'm one small human. I don't have endless reserves of ANY of those capacities. That means I will be taking from some other aspect of my life, such as work. Do I have a problem with that? No, I don't. (see above).

2) I don't expect I will be completely giving up my career. I will take at least one year of maternity leave from teaching. After that? I'll have to see. I don't feel like I can say with certainty what I will or will not do from this perspective. I don't know what kind of a child I'll have or what kind of a mother I'll be. But I do know that the child will be the priority, and that my health and sanity will also need to be a priority, because I'm not going to be a  good mother without them. And let's be honest, I don't even like me when I'm losing my mind with stress. Do I like to think my employer and/or culture will support what I think is the right decision? Yeah, I'd like to think so. Am I counting on, not necessarily. It's up to me to make the right decision for me, not somebody else.

3) I imagine, like any undertaking worth doing, that children will not just take away from my life but will add to it. They  will take energy to raise but will also introduce a loving energy INTO my life that I do not currently have. So who knows, I might feel like I can do MORE when I'm a mother, not less. Also, it's likely I will find myself much more interested in the state of society and world, being as I've brought the next generation into it, than I currently am.  So I may well want to be MORE involved in the larger world, not less. This would entirely fit with what I know about myself. Having attained something resembling The American Dream at this point in life  (The Canadian dream?) complacency is currently an option for Mr. Turtle and I. But as parents? We may have to give up that complacency for being agents of active, passionate change in the world we want for our children.  On the other hand....maybe we will just be one super chilled out family. Hopefully a bit of both, actually.

4)Feminism? Feminists fought the good fight to make sure there weren't (aren't?) INSTITUTIONALIZED barriers to woman making choices about family and career. I know there is still controversy on whether women are "equal" to men in contemporary society. Some of this discussion is valid, some of it is misguided IMO. Personally I have never felt inhibited or discriminated against in any way. No do I see evidence of such in  the lives of the women around me, at the very least.  I have no inferiority complex. Maybe I just somehow missed out on all the discrimination, I don't know. Still, I have to trust my own observations and at this point, I do not accept the blanket statement that women in contemporary Western cultures are systemically discriminated against and have limited opportunities.  Other women may disagree. If you disagree, feel free to give detailed evidence of how and why and I will consider your position. If you quote statistics, give a detailed breakdown of what they mean and who was in the survey  sample.

Now, just an aside. There is one thing about the "Can woman have it all?" debate that makes me NAUSEOUS.  Every now and then, some article is written with this basic thesis: "Feminists told women they can have both career and family (or career instead of family). Women believed this. Now women (well, some women, but these kind of articles don't often bother to make that distinction) are unhappy because they wish they had rather focused on family. Therefore feminism (and by extension, women's choice) is bad for women." Another variation focuses on the "career woman" who chose to be a stay at home mom, and is so happy about her decision. Or the educated women who choose to stay at home. All well and good, but then the argument follows that it's somehow a waste of time for women to be educated or have careers because guess what, they are all  happier at home taking care of kids anyway. WTF? Two short replies to this incredibly stupid and sexist argument:

1) Feminism aimed to give women the same opportunities for choice as men. It did NOT (and should not) promise that they will make the RIGHT choices all the time. Of course some women will make poor choices and neglect family for career. Do some MEN make neglect their families for their careers? (or whatever else) Of course they do! But nobody ever suggests that we made a big mistake by allowing men to go to work. OMFG.

2) There is a HUGE difference between a "career woman" who chooses to stay at home, and a 18 year old (or younger) who becomes a stay at home mom because she thinks that is the only thing she can do.  The two decisions (and their impact on the respective women's lives as well as their children) are COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. Enough said.

How do I feel about (more) maternity leaves/paternity leaves/ "family friendly" policies? Well, they all sound good in theory. Maternity leaves are pretty much a requirement in the education field because so many teachers are young women who want babies.  Maternity leaves create short term job openings for new teachers, because then schools have to hire a replacement. In general it does seem like there is a moral imperative for employers to work with families rather than against them. Still. You don't get something for nothing.  Does family friendly legislation mean higher taxes? Does it mean that it is much harder for Jane Average to get one of those privileged, benefit-heavy positions while she is still in her child bearing years? Does it lead to women taking advantage of the system, collecting high salaries while taking months or years off their job to raise children? Is that fair to people without children who are actually getting the work done at the company?  I don't have all these answers, and I'd love to hear of practical solutions people have.

Just as an aside. I have two older brothers, both (probably) confirmed bachelors. We have always gotten along great. They have done very well in their careers. Some of their opinions:

Older Brother 1 (information technology, big energy company) There is nothing worse than a woman supervisor with kids, because she has no time to take care of herself and she is stressed to the point of being almost impossible to work with.

Older Brother 2 (aeronautical engineering, government) Women in the office simply don't work as hard as the men. In general, women get the same or better pay and privileges for less work.

Not saying they are right or wrong, just saying that there are other perspectives on this.

Housework? Mr. Turtle and I share well. I have higher standards of cleanliness/organization than he does, true. I knew this when I married him.  It sometimes means I do more around the house than he does. On the other hand, I'm glad Mr. Turtle is more relaxed about order and cleanliness because it balances  out my occasionally  neurotic tendencies. His refusal to prioritize that kind of activity helps me to put it into perspective and just chill out sometimes. Do we envision ourselves both as involved parents? Absolutely. Do we totally understand how that will look right now? No. Are we happy after 3 years of marriage. Absolutely. I tease him about the clothes on the floor. Do I want a life without Mr. Turtle and his pile of clothes on the floor? No. I would never never choose that. My heart would fragment into a million tiny painful shards.

Bottom line on the "war between the sexes" / war over housework, whatever? We choose who we marry. We choose how we treat each other. People are adults and have to figure this out.  You  find what you look for. Women who think men are lazy slobs will find lazy slobs. Men who think women are selfish primping bitches will find selfish primping bitches.  Maybe we're crazy, but Mr. Turtle and I have better things to do that fling venom and shit at each other. Like cook dinner together, cuddle, clean the house (sometimes), work, talk about work, sleep, make love, love our family and friends, and oh yeah, get ready for IVF. Heh.

So how have I done at resolving the question of Can You Have It All? Still unresolved? OOOOh-kay. I kind of thought that's how it would be.  Feel free to leave your opinions.  Thanks again Fallopian Groove for making virtual room for this discussion.

Update: A friend posted this article to her Facebook page. While not about men or women specifically, it makes some good points. How To Do Less and Live More

Signing off, the Turtle.

Monday 18 March 2013

The little things that make my day

I was away this past weekend in Banff , a famous tourist destination in the Rocky Mountains.  Banff is a pretty cool place even if it is famous.  There are mountains,  lakes and rivers there, which means skiing in the winter, hiking in the summer, and shopping and aimless walking in any season (which is one of my favourite activities).  There are museums where you  can learn about the eccentric rich people who helped create Banff in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  If you had a nice legacy or trust fund in the 1920s, you could ride the train to Banff and build yourself a log cabin, then cart in your grand piano and oak furniture and heirloom china to add to the decor. Then you could do fun stuff like learn hunting and fishing from the Native people and take up watercolour painting. Hey, everybody's got to make a life.

Although I've lived about 90 minutes away for most of my life, I don't actually know Banff that well. Growing up my parents pooh-poohed Banff because you had to pay a park fee to get in there and because in their view it was full of shallow people who just wanted to shop and party. We always went to Kananaskis, which is also in the mountains, does  not cost money and is not commercialized other than a couple of  ski hills and conference centre. However, as a grown up I've been learning to appreciate Banff a bit more. For one thing, there are so many tourists and foreign workers there, it's a bit like traveling to another country without leaving Canada. I almost question if I belong there because I don't have a European or Australian accent. At any popular tourist destination, the license plates read like a geography lesson in Canadian provinces and American states. (The overseas tourists drive rental cars. Very slowly.)

Anyway, this past weekend I was in Banff with Mr. Turtle (and offline). Mr. Turtle was playing in a curling bonspiel. He had a good time and an especially good day on  Saturday when his team won both their games. As for me, I wandered aimlessly, did a little shopping (=raiding the sales racks) and on Sunday treated myself to a morning at the spa at Banff Springs Hotel. I had not been to a spa before. I booked myself for a stress relief massage with aromatherapy.  In addition there were 6 different kinds of pools: a mineral bath, three waterfall pools at different temperatures, an outdoor hot tub, a jacuzzi, and a steam room and sauna too. I had a little tour and explanatory lesson before going in, which included this  line: "If you have a heart condition or are pregnant, the only safe pool is the mineral pool." Of  course I was like "BOILING HOT HOT TUB, HERE I FREAKIN' COME!!!"

Seriously, I have to admit that taking a break the past couple of months from TTC/timed intercourse is kind of awesome.  Sometimes I feel guilty about all those egg cells going to waste (one a month!!), or I miss fantasizing about babies during the two week wait. But mostly I'm glad to be off the crazy train for a little while. Especially since soon I will be back on it with bells on, heading full speed one way down a torn up track. The only other time at the spa I thought about IF and felt weird was when I saw a young (honeymooning?) couple. The woman looked unnervingly like Kate Middleton (officially known as the Duchess of Cambridge). I went through a spell of hating on/being jealous of Kate for a while after her pregnancy was announced (I know, under awful conditions but still, she was pregnant and I wasn't). My jealousy was ridiculous and pathetic and totally unreasonable and I'm pretty sure I'm over it now. But seeing her doppelganger was unnerving. I couldn't help but imagine the tabloid stories: The Duchess is spotted at Banff Springs Hotel, having an extramarital affair! The Duchess was seen going in the outdoor hot tub while pregnant with the heir of the British Empire OMG!! (The woman I saw did not look at all pregnant, btw.)

It was a great weekend. And what a nice surprise to come home, finally log back into the computer, and so many new comments on my last entry! I wasn't expecting that at all and I'm touched that people took the time to read the blog and leave a note with their thoughts and perspectives. I feel like I left Torthúil as an island and rediscovered it as an archipelago. I look forward to exploring the blogs of everybody who left a footprint and getting to know their story. I hope I will happen to write again  about something relevant.  Thank you  Mel for the shout-out in the round-up, and to everyone who's not afraid to reach out to another blogger. I often am afraid to reach out. I'm working on getting over it.

Wednesday 6 March 2013

Next year will not be a good year to....

At work this time of year, we are asked to fill out a survey about planning for next year: i.e. what classes we might like to teach, ways we'll contribute to the school, and so on. Our former principal always sent out a very short survey that barely required a complete sentence to answer any question.  So I never spent much thought or time on it.  However, we have a new principal  this year and his survey had a lot more questions in it requiring deeper thought: for example, what we saw as strengths and growth areas of the school, what aspects of the timetable we would keep or change, and if we have training in any areas that we are not currently using that we would like to use. As it happens my professional experiences over the past two years have led me to be a lot more opinionated about certain things, so I had very detailed answers for most of the questions.

The hardest questions to answer were the ones that asked if I wanted to teach at a different job or school, and if I was interested in pursuing leadership opportunities and/or training. I have considered doing some or all of these things in the past two years, although I haven't seriously investigated any options. I've been at my current position for five years, and at the school for five and a half. Last year our former principal told me that I should consider changing jobs and/or schools soon if I wanted to continue to develop my career. Now, this was someone I didn't see eye to eye with on a lot of things. However, I do agree with him, more or less, on that particular matter (I've heard similar opinions from others, along the line that it is not a good  idea to get stuck in one job or school).  I wasn't in a position last year to invest time or mental energy in job searching. I care about my work at my current school a lot and several issues had developed that needed my energy, effort and knowledge to resolve. I wasn't comfortable walking away from the situation: it wouldn't have sat right with me. However, I did at the time decide to treat this year as my last year at my school. I wasn't committed to leaving, but I wanted to challenge myself to think of it as the last year, to get mentally ready for a change.

After getting the news about the IF diagnosis in January, that plan no longer looks so good. The thought of using ART (timeline unknown, but I assume we will commence treatments in the next 12 months) and trying to learn a new job at the same time scares me too much. My current job is no walk in the park, but at least I have a general idea of  how the year goes and what is required. I also am part of a great, supportive team. I no longer feel comfortable giving that up. Even if I was laid off this year, I might hesitate before seeking another full time contract.  I am almost certain that the stress of ART combined with the stress of a new  teaching job would simply put me over the edge of sanity.

Here's the thing though: I feel hesitant and strange about admitting to people that I want to stay in my current job for personal reasons, not strictly professional ones. I know that it's important to prioritize and care about myself  and all that. (Well, I sort of know.) But deep down I still feel that I have to offer a pound of flesh to the school community to really be worthy of my work.  If I can be doing something, then I feel like I should be doing it, and if I'm not doing it I'm just making excuses. I also see myself as an efficient, capable, effective person (with my share of flaws of course) and I don't like admitting there might be limits to that.

I want to be a parent and I'm willing to take on ART and its risks, and whatever else the journey might bring. I'm not going to change my mind about that. But still, when it comes down to actually saying that my professional life is no longer priority number one, I feel some discord.

I hesitated a long time over the questions about what I want to do in  the furture. Saying parenthood is a priority didn't seem appropriate, and writing about infertility was definitely TMI, especially since I still don't know all the details of what we are dealing with and what the timeline is. Once we have a treatment plan, things will be different: I plan to make some disclosure at least to the people I immediately work with. But right now I just don't know what I will be dealing with, except that it will probably be hard to deal with sometimes or all the time. I could have everything from a healthy, low-risk pregnancy, to a difficult pregnancy, to several failed treatments, to miscarriages and baby loss, to a multiple pregnancy. I'd like to think the first or second IVF treatment will work and I'll have an happy healthy pregnancy and a baby at the end, but I'm not counting on it.  I don't want to get all paranoid and pessimistic, but loading my life up with extra stress next year seems like a very bad idea, whichever I look at it. But how do you say that to an employer? I finally settled for "Next year would not be a  good time to look for a new job or pursue leadership training." I figure if that's not enough information they can always ask for more.

It seems like such a small thing, and yet it's got me thinking of all the ways this diagnosis is changing my plans and assumptions, in subtle but huge ways....

The Turtle