NIAW–The missing voice

30 Apr

Welp it’s the end of National Infertility Awareness Week, a week that Resolve (The National Infertility Association) designates each year to raise awareness about the challenges and realities of infertility.


So I started a blog at the beginning of the week and it turned into two, and then Eric posted his blog, and it basically talked about all the things that I had been writing about.  And so I tried to think about how to revise mine and I spent the week watching other people’s posts.  And reading. And talking with Eric.  And thinking.


See I had noticed something about all those posts I read (to be fair…I couldn’t keep up with all of them…so what follows is just my own interpretation of what I did look at, which was any link I saw in my FB feed if I had a spare minute to read someone’s story).  I noticed a missing voice.  The missing voice was the voice of the couples choosing to forego medical treatments and adoption and just live childfree as a resolution to their infertility.  I found it interesting, since Resolve does list childfree living as a resolution.  And yet that voice is missing this week–almost like we don’t want to talk about it OR that it’s a shameful choice OR that it’s the last resort when nothing else works–not really a choice at all.


And so then I tried to think about why that might be.  And at first I was like well that’s just a testament to how good medicine is. Most people get pregnant…most people have their lucky cycle…they get what we all (in the infertility community) want.  Except that many of the stories I’ve read this week are about people who haven’t had any luck yet, but who are continuing treatment–after years of IUIs, IVFs, donor eggs and sperm.  They talk about the years of heartbreak, the costly treatments, the devastation, the pain…and then about the trepidatious hope that maybe, just maybe, something is going to work someday.  There are plenty of people in the infertility community who have clearly not had their lucky cycle yet.


So then I realized it’s probably just because no one wants to hear about the poor “losers” who get “stuck” childfree.  Because we want to encourage hope and one-more-try and perseverance.


And then I got really annoyed.


Because in all the myths about infertility, in all the articles clarifying misconceptions, there is little mention of how bad the odds actually are.  No one ever wants to talk about the fact that IVF doesn’t always work–I think people (who haven’t gone through it) actually believe that if you do IVF, you are guaranteed a baby.  And REALLY no one ever wants to talk about the reality that of the women that will seek treatment for their infertility, only 65% will eventually carry a baby to term. 65%   Those are some really shitty odds.  I wrote YEARS ago about how I feel about gambling, how the choice to seek and continue fertility treatments is ultimately just a gamble.  But I don’t think even then I realized what a gamble it is.


And at some point, you have to start asking when you stop.  Today we were talking about this.  About how I can see how people who have gambling problems get started–because you lose a little money…so you try again…but you lose again…so you put some more money down…and then eventually you are so deep that you feel like you can’t quit, because you’ve already invested so much money that you can’t keep losing.  Your winning hand HAS to be coming soon.  And that’s infertility.  You invest so much time and money and emotion…and you lose…and lose…and lose…and at some point you are in too deep to quit.
And I feel a little bit like that’s where we are now.  We’ve done a lot over the past 7 years and none of it has worked, none of it has even come close to working.  Every time we take a break from treatments, people act like we must not want kids, they tell us to just adopt, to just go do IVF, to relax because it’ll happen eventually.  And every time I think about what we’ve already invested and get sucked back into the whole shitty process again.  But this time, this break, has been different.  I’ve thought about how much longer we can possibly do this…how much longer we WANT to do this roller coaster.  The people saying these things, trying to be encouraging…they just don’t get how hard it is.


So when I’ve mentioned now that I’m not sure we will ever do medical treatments again, people question it.  They say “well if you really wanted kids, you would …xyz…” and “you must never have really wanted it” and “don’t give up hope.” It makes me feel sad and guilty, like we’re being judged unfairly for “quitting” or that we are letting people down by choosing to live my life without fear or doctors or unrealistic hopes.


I have spent years feeling every negative emotion possible.  Things I’d never really felt before–I was a generally happy person.  I suppose I always have been, even during these past 7 years.  But I was also frustrated and sad and angry because everyone else was getting babies.  Everyone except us.  And then I would tell myself to stop being dramatic, that not everyone gets babies. Then I’d think about who we know that wanted a kid that still didn’t have one.  I couldn’t think of any couples who were trying when we started trying who don’t have a kid–many have more than one.  People who didn’t even know each other when we started trying to have kids.  Everyone who wants a baby seems to end up with one.  And that is so exciting and wonderful for them, but it is heartbreakingly, devastatingly sad for us.


So I was angry for a long time. But then I realized we didn’t have to keep going with the same horrible cycles with the doctors.  We didn’t have to keep feeling the frustration of trying so hard for something with absolutely no results ever after 7 years.  I started accepting that it might not happen for us. And I realized, when I thought about it, that while never having kids hurts, that reality, it is also ok.  We are going to be ok, no matter what the outcome of all of this.  And when I just accepted the childfree-ness as a possibility, I felt so much better.


That doesn’t mean I feel good about it.  I don’t think it will never not hurt (yeaaaahhhh double negatives).  We are not totally decided about our future medical treatments.  But even if we decided never to see another doctor for this, I don’t know if it will ever stop hurting.  And it only makes things worse to hear some of the really horrible things people have said to us over the years.  I struggle to get over the people who have said things like “you need to be happy for everyone else and stop being so sad” or “just stay positive because it fucks up your hormones” or “relax and it will happen” or “you just aren’t meant to be a mom there must be another plan for you.”


Listen up!! Stop saying these things.  Staying positive and being happy and relaxing–those things don’t cure infertility, so stop perpetuating the myth that changing your mindset will get you pregnant.  It’s just not true.  Infertility is a medical condition, not a mental one. I have seen a number of doctors and take my medical advice from them.  Stop trying to fix the pain by blathering platitudes about a greater plan that just make me feel worse because I should just accept the plan.  I get that you are uncomfortable and want to try to fix things because then you can get out of being uncomfortable.  But these statements…they don’t make me feel better, fix anything, or make the situation any less uncomfortable for anyone.  We aren’t here to fix each other–we’re here to be there for each other while everyone fixes their own problems.


Listen up! Being childfree is a resolution to infertility.  And it needs to be treated as such.  Some people won’t ever have kids.  They will choose to stop treatments. They will decide that the process, the waiting, the financials of adoption are not a route they wish to pursue. They will be fine. Life will go on.  It will still hurt.  A lot.  All the time.  And the best thing you can do is drop the judge-y one liners and questions, allow room and time to grieve, understand that being around babies and kids can be really fucking hard, even if you have made the choice to be childfree, and just say something like, “I’m sorry you are going through this.”


There seems to be a lack of resources for living childfree not by choice.  Honestly I think it’s because people wrongly think that this reality, this resolution is sad and not hopeful enough. But I personally think it is hopeful–it is far more hopeful to believe that without a baby we will be happy and have fulfilling lives than it is to pine away for another 7 years for something that may never be.  To live in the here and now and not be constantly waiting and trying for something that may or may not be in the future. And that is why this resolution, the one where you stop treatments and waiting and hoping for what could be, it should be talked about more because it’s doing a disservice to the families going through infertility not to give them all of their options.  Choosing childfree should not be the default when nothing else has worked–it should be a real option with lots of resources and discussion like any other choice (adoption, IVF, etc).


So here we are…our 7th NIAW.  To all the people who have been there for us, supported us, tried to figure out the emotions and feel the feels with us…thank you.  We love you.  Your kind words, actions and thoughtfulness mean the world to us.  And we can’t wait to see what the future holds–with or without kids.


Why I won’t say “I would never” anymore…

21 Feb


Hearing plenty of pro-life talk, the common theme seems to always be some variation of women who choose abortion are irresponsible and selfish.  Judge-y adjectives to describe people who could never be “like me.”  Not me, not any of my friends or family.  Those types of adjectives serve one reason–to separate the people using them and make the people using them feel superior. “We would never make that choice.”


And for a time, while I have always been pro-choice, I would even say it–“I would never do it, but if someone else chooses to, that’s her choice.”  Just that statement alone, in some way, casts judgment on a woman who chooses abortion.  I would never…


And man was it easy to say I would never have an abortion when I’d never been in a position to have to make that choice.  I’ve never even been pregnant, via “mistake” or attempt to get pregnant.  So I’ve never had to face that difficult choice.


Until I did have to face it.


In our quest to become parents, there have been plenty of ups and downs, and ultimately no kids, despite years of trying, fertility treatments and even a brief foray into the world of fostering. But wait…what does any of that have to do with abortion??


After years of trying to conceive, we’d exhausted all of the “easy” oral treatment options, and had to move on to the “big guns”–needles and IUI/IVF.  I remember being told that before we could go any further with infertility treatments, we had to attend a class on injectables. I was already heart broken over the previous failures, and there were many. I was tired, depressed, scared, nervous about the prospect of needles and all of the possible side effects of over-stimulating my ovaries. But going to that meeting, we were faced with yet another possible “side effect”–the possibility of “selective reduction.”  And yup.  That’s exactly what it sounds like–in the chance that too many eggs fertilize (with injections/IUI/IVF, the chances of this happening are increased), genetic testing would be conducted and then we would be asked to select embryos to eliminate based on health and gender.  To protect my life, to protect our babies’ lives, to give us the best chances of taking home healthy kid(s).  Selective reduction.  AKA selective abortion.




At first, I was incredulous–I couldn’t help but laugh.  What are the chances that after years of trying to conceive ANY baby, we’d be faced with TOO MANY babies???


And then I sobbed.  What the actual fuck.  We were sitting around the doctor’s waiting room, with 4 other couples we didn’t know (who were in the same baby-making boat as us), having a conversation about aborting babies.  The real possibility of having to make that choice.  And before we could proceed, we had to acknowledge that we understood this possibility and would be ready to make difficult choices as needed.


And so we talked.  We cried.  I cried some more.  I cried a lot back then–when I think about how I was feeling during that time frame, it’s pretty dark.  Infertility is hard.  Maybe the hardest thing I’ve done.


I can’t imagine judging someone for making the decision to have an abortion.  I had always been pro-choice for a million different reasons.  Because I am a feminist.  Because I believe women should have control of their bodies and therefore their lives. Because I KNOW you can’t take that decision away from someone. Because abortion will always be an option–it’s just a matter of whether it’s a safe one or not.  Because I have seen what happens when kids are born to parents who aren’t ready or able to care for them–I’ve worked with many of them through the years, and it’s devastating and heart-breaking.


But being in that moment, having to possibly face that decision, I had an all-new respect for the women (and men) who have to have those difficult conversations and make those decisions.


And so we ultimately decided to go for it.  To cross “that bridge” if and when we came to it.


But then I cried more, agonizing over the fact that “if and when we got to it,” we would be judged by people.  People who would say there’s no reason to have an abortion, no circumstance–my life, our babies’ lives–that could justify it.  People who would tell us that just by pursuing these treatments, we were wrong, we were messing with “god’s plan” and that we needed to leave it alone.  Some people, after all, just aren’t meant to be parents (the number of times I’ve heard this sickens me).


All that judgment shouldn’t have bothered me…maybe it was all the fake hormones…but feeling that, whether real or perceived, was at times paralyzing.  I felt like no matter what decision we made regarding my treatment, someone would be upset with us, someone would feel what we were doing was wrong.


We obviously never became pregnant.  “That bridge” was never crossed.  And for that I am thankful because I can only imagine the heartbreak and sorrow it would cause.


And so one more reason, a much more personal one, was added to the reasons why I will remain staunchly pro-choice. And that I won’t say “I would never” anymore. Critics of this reason will point out that selective reduction makes up for a very small percentage of abortions. But my point will continue to be that abortion, for whatever reason, will always be a deeply personal, deeply emotional decision.  I used to think that the face of abortion was the irresponsible, selfish woman.  Now I know that abortion has many faces.  And some of them look just like me and, yes, even you.

if you’re lucky enough

16 Oct

It seems to me that the past few years have involved an awful lot of “letting go of expectations” and “trusting that things will work out.”

I am not naturally good at either of those things. I like to think that I am a hard worker (except for when it comes to cleaning the house…then I am mostly a failure) and that the result of my hard work is that my expectations match reality and things go well.
But the truth is that there are things in life you can’t control and that’s ok. Even the biggest disasters eventually fade away. Bad choices can be corrected with subsequent choices, and mistakes are very rarely permanent.  So maybe the trials and tribulations of my younger years were all situations out of my control, all put there by some outside force to teach me lessons in letting go.

We bought 123 over 8 years ago. It was going to be our starter house. We planned to have kids there–I had secretly plotted out the nursery and imagined our brood playing in the fenced yard with the cute puppy after eating dinner together in the dining room like the quintessential 60’s family.

And now, years later, countless treatments and years and heartache later, we are leaving 123. No babies. Never did make that nursery. Letting go of the life I had planned.  

And on the one hand, that’s so sad. But on the other, we are about to start another new journey full of who knows what kinds of adventures (hopefully fun water sport ones and not roof caving in ones).  I’m trying not to plan this one out too much…

At final walk through, the other realtor asked if we had kids. There was a time when that stupid question would’ve made me cry. But it’s becoming so easy to just dismissively say no. Don’t get me wrong–it still stings somewhere deep down. But maybe it’s like when you touch a bruise–it hurts and then it’s gone. It doesn’t take much to make a bruise hurt. Sometimes the lightest brush can sting pretty deeply. But then it’s gone again. 

We have had a ton of great memories at 123–chain sawing trees, learning how to make home repairs and improvements, campfires, parties, holidays…8+ years of love and laughter.
I am excited to leave though. To leave behind the expectations of what life was going to be when I was  in my early 20s, barely out of college, newly married, naive in so many ways. 

72 carries with it uncertainty. Everything about this move makes me nervous. But instead of trying to imagine what we will be doing in 2, 5, or even 10 years in the new place, I am trying to remind myself to take it one day at a time, to enjoy life as it comes, and to remember that the bad days always get better. 

And really….if you’re lucky enough to be on the lake, you’re lucky enough.

A slight change in plans

4 Sep

Guys, I can’t run.
No. Not true. But for the past few months, I have not wanted to run, which in some ways is worse. Watching Eric sit on the couch miserable for not being able to run reminds me of that every day. I have been given a gift to be able to run, and I’ve been squandering it. 
I have no idea why. I have a lot of theories. Perhaps the best one is just plain overtraining. For over a year, I’ve been hammering miles…more miles than ever before. In the course of the past year, I’ve raced 2 50 mile races, 2 50k races, and a marathon 6 hour effort. And to run that many distance races, there have been a LOT of training miles. 
And all those miles have been tough but fun, painful but illuminating, challenging but awesome. 
But I think I am just tired. When I reflect on my excuses for skipping runs, at the bottom of all of it, I see a girl who just doesn’t care enough right now to get out of bed early (or when it’s hot, or when there’s a cooler option) to go run. 
And that’s ok. My libra brain tells me balance needs to be restored in my running. 
This summer, the runs that have felt good have been the “different” ones–ones in new places, or workouts on the track, or my run yesterday…the fastest run I’ve had in probably 2 years…and it wasn’t even “that” fast (which is silly to say bc fast is all relative anyway). 
I  registered for a small 50k last spring, thinking I would train hard all summer and go win it. But the truth is that I am not interested in running it, not even “just for fun.” And so I’m going to DNS, a decision I’ve been kicking around and have decided to put into writing in public so that people hold me accountable and so that I can get over feeling like a complete failure for this choice. 
This fall, I’m going to focus on some speed work and shorter stuff. Normally, I hate both of those things–Ive always said I would rather spend 4 hours at a relaxed pace in the woods than 30 minutes on the track wanting to puke. But right now, shorter and faster sounds more doable (and yes that’s what she said haha). This should leave me some time for cool things like cross training (I want to start seriously lifting again and get back on my bike, especially since we are going to be living very close to some new shorter trails!) and also house projects when we move (I will be so glad when all the house drama is done and we can settle back in). 
I’m not done with ultras.  I still love them, I just know that my body has been asking for a break, and I need to start listening rather than trying to force it.  I figure the fast training will be a nice break, I can go into the winter ready to build base (it’s all about that base) and then decide what I want my spring/summer to look like from there. 
It’s weird because over the past year I feel like I’ve let my identity really morph into ultra-runner. So to think I’m going to break from ultras for a bit is a little disconcerting, like I’m having an identity crisis or something. But the truth is that I don’t want to confine myself to just one type of running–I am Shme, and I am a runner. And I am excited for what my running future holds, whether that’s more races, never running another race again, doing lots more ultras or sticking to shorter distances.  Because ultimately it doesn’t matter what I’m running, as long as I’m out there.

running alone

11 Aug

I run alone a lot.  I trained for my first 50 miler almost exclusively by myself–it was HOURS of me time in the woods.  When I first started out trail running, I would never have dreamed of venturing on the trails alone–what if something happens to me out there?  What if the bad guys try to get me?


When I finally got “brave” enough to go it alone, I got questioned by well-meaning people in my life–what if something happens to you out there? What if someone tries to hurt you?


And so I found myself having to defend the solo running.  Having to explain why I feel safer out on a trail alone than I ever would on a road, especially if it’s trails I know well.  That I run with my cell phone on, Eric always knows where I am going/approximate routes. That sometimes I’ll even carry pepper spray and a knife (when I remember, which is admittedly not often).  And I never really stopped to consider what having to defend my running meant–that ultimately it was because of my gender that I had to take extra precautions.


I remember talking a few different times with Eric about things that worried me, concerns that maybe I shouldn’t run alone at this particular place at this particular time, even calling someone on the phone when I was feeling sketched out by someone I’d seen on the trail…hoping that would be a deterrent if the guy really was a creep.  Eric was incredulous that I’d even think that way.  And that was the first time it really dawned on me that men don’t have to think about things the same way that women do.  That for the most part, men don’t worry that someone might hurt them or rape them, that they might not be powerful enough to fend off an attack.  But women…we do…we carry that burden when we go places alone.


Or don’t we??? Do we worry about those things because people ask us to justify doing things like going for a run alone–something that should be so ok.  So safe.  Maybe the fear surrounding “alone” activities comes from cultural expectations that women don’t go places alone, that we want to (need to?) be social, that we are fragile and need to be constantly protected..


This topic has been written about so much by outdoor women all over–runners, hikers, cyclists…so I don’t need to elaborate on why so many women feel so comfortable and confident hitting the trails alone, whether that is a misguided notion or not.  Lots of women do lots of stuff alone, and most of the time, they are perfectly fine.  But when they are not…then we hear about it.


But I think what we always seem to forget in these discussions about safety is WHY we even have to have them in the first place.


A couple of years ago, my car (along with several others in the parking lot) was broken into while I was out for a run. The cop scolded me for leaving a bag out in the open (full of clothes for post-run, a library book and my glasses).  If the thieves hadn’t seen it, they wouldn’t have targeted my car.  And so I found myself feeling bad, like it was partially my fault (and maybe it was) for doing something so stupid as to leave a bag in my locked car. This is a constant issue in the Monroe County Parks…so much so that they spent money to install new signs in all the parking lots, warning patrons to lock up valuables and leave nothing visible and report suspicious activity.


And I was PISSED the first time I saw those signs.


Those signs are the equivalent of the news articles now suggesting women never run alone, or the ones after someone gets raped saying how she was dressed in skanky clothes and got drunk so what did she expect. I just read this article from Runner’s World, and it got me all fired up over this.


The fact is, as a woman, I DO have to be more careful.  And that sucks.  I DO have to put everything away when I leave my locked car.  I DO have to think about which parking lot I use and whether it’s easy to see from the road, making it (and me?) less of a target (hopefully) for douchebags.  I DO have to think about what I wear, how much I drink, and who I am around and whether those three things will combine to create an unfortunate situation for me.


But the fact is ALSO that I SHOULDN’T have to.


If something is not yours, you don’t take it. I shouldn’t need to even lock my car, much less hide things away.  And that goes for my body, too.  It’s not yours. You don’t just get it because you want it. That’s Kindergarten 101.


If you see a woman and think she’s cute, you find an appropriate way to express that…and no, screaming and whistling and making vile suggestions/comments is not appropriate.  If you wouldn’t want someone saying it to/about your mom/sister/daughter/wife, then you probably shouldn’t say it at all.


If you are a man, and you are around other men making vile suggestions/comments that are not appropriate, you call out those men.  Because standing by while it happens makes you part of the problem.


And really….the violence that happens against women starts small–it starts with those small comments that are “jokes”…it normalizes that women are less. That it’s ok for women to be treated as such.  That we are fragile and need protecting (because therefore men have power over us and can wield it for good to protect us, but also for bad to hurt us).  It can lead to worse. Watch this Australian ad.  It’s actually one of the best ads I’ve ever seen.


I don’t even know how to end this rant.  All I know is that I should not have to worry about my sisters the way that I do.  I should not worry about my friends who are heading out for runs to clear their heads.  I should not worry about myself out on a run.  And the solution to the problem lies not with women being smarter and safer, but with men not being creeps and calling out the guys who ARE creeps and raising little boys who will turn into men who aren’t creeps.  So work on that, mkay, guys?  Your women [running] friends will thank you tons!


8 Aug

I’ve always found water to be soothing. The sounds, the smells (most of the time haha), the feeling of swimming…I loved swimming, and was fortunate enough to grow up with a pool in my backyard. 
On weekends, we would head to Lime Lake, where my grandparents owned a cottage. We’d swim, water ski, tube and just relax. I. Loved. It.


one of the first times we ever went there together

After we got married, we started to camp more. We headed to Indian Lake in the Adirondacks and fell in love with the paddle, camp on an island, hike, swim, watch incredible sunsets over the lake lifestyle. This summer is the first in a very long time that we didn’t spend our anniversary there…and man did I miss it.


home is wherever i am with you


and if we love the water, picasso super loves it


seeing if it sinks…then seeing if you can paddle a sinking canoe…


just chilling

We went to Bermuda for our  friends’ wedding. Of all the places I’ve ever been, I think it’s my favorite. Because it’s such a small island, there were beaches and water everywhere. 

a girl could get used to these views


exploring one of many incredible beaches

When training for my road marathons, I planned long runs to cut up to the lake, where I’d run with Lake Ontario to my right and one of many ponds (the size of small lakes) to my left. I would run by the waterfront houses and daydream about living in them. Water made those runs beautiful. They flew by. 

When I switched to trail running, Durand quickly became my favorite–running around all the ponds was the best!


Of my Facebook cover photos, the majority seem to have water (or have been taken while I was very near water). 

So…I love the water. It’s soothing and calming and beautiful. I feel happiest, most centered in places where there is water nearby.  And Eric loves it as much as me.

We have talked about buying a house lake front for a long time. We didn’t know if we could afford it. We started looking,mostly for fun. Nothing serious. We like our little house. It’s served us well. We recently looked and realized there was a house we really liked. It reminded me a little bit of my grandparents’ cottage at Lime Lake. 
We put in an offer..and it was accepted!!!! Holy hell we are thisclose to living ON water…not visiting it, not vacationing to it…actually living there. 
Tonight after we finished the race stuff, we decided to drive up toward the house to see it again. I’ve been telling Eric all weekend to temper his excitement. “Don’t move in yet,” says Oliver, our realtor. We still have a home inspection and selling our home to get through. 
But tonight, watching Eric walk out on our dock (yeah…it’s apparently ours in my mind haha) I got so happy. So peaceful. Content. This could be my view every day.  

I feel so lucky. Like how did I ever even get to this point??? How do u deserve this amazing life??? I don’t know. I just have my fingers crossed all over the place that this works and next summer we’ll be swimming off that dock and enjoying lake front living.

picasso’s morning run

17 Jul

This morning’s run, told through Picasso’s eyes:


Mom and Dad wouldn’t get out of bed today. I was lounging on the couch in the living room when I heard her whisper to dad that she was going to take me…she forgets sometimes that my hearing is incredibly good and whispering doesn’t hide anything from me. I got so excited I paced around the house crying, especially when she took out my harness and leash.  I don’t even like those stupid things, but I like all the places we go when they put them on me. Mom took forever to get ready…stupid humans and their stupid clothes.

We got in the car and I hung my head out the whole way, which was really cool when we went by a deer! We started to run and a mile in I saw a mud puddle I just couldn’t resist. I almost dragged mom in, too, in my mad dash to get there. I thought it was funny. She was much less amused. She let me poke around in the mud for a good long while, which was super cool.


shaky shaky


this stuff smelled so unbelievably good. decaying things and mud. my favorite.

Then we kept running down to the lake because mom said I was gross from being up to my shoulders in mud. So I swam while mom talked to a friend she knew there. Then we kept running.


glad mom got distracted by a friend so I could enjoy some extra water time

After the mud puddle incident, I was on my best behavior and followed all of her commands, even “leave it,” even when all I wanted to do was go meet that big, angry-looking Rottweiler. I think being friends with me would make him want to kill less living things, but mom said no…


running down the bike path, which means getting closer to the lake!

We finished running and went back to the beach. Mom even came in the water with me!!! I swam a bunch, then we got back in the car. It was a very good morning indeed.


doing what I love most (after eating, of course)