Category Archives: control

Family Photos

With Andy’s immediate family we draw names for Christmas.  Each couple gets another couple to buy gifts for.  The older I get the harder it is to buy Christmas gifts and to put a “wish list” out there for people to buy us stuff.  I am to the point if I need something, we get it.  If I want something, eventually, we get it.  So telling people what I want or need has become more difficult (and the times that I gave the brand of shampoo, toothpaste, conditioner etc it was laughed at as a joke).  Last year we had Andy’s parents as the couple we were buying for.  I think they feel similar because they couldn’t think of anything they wanted or needed for their Christmas wish list.

Part of the problem was that they were in the process of packing boxes and moving and with most things they packed his mom would say something along the lines of why did she had so much “stuff.”  I didn’t want to add to the stuff she needed to pack so we thought extremely hard on what to get them.  We decided to get her a gift card so that she could have family photos done by a professional.  Not just my camera and tri-pod.  They seemed happy with their gift card.  Fast forward to 10 months later and they lined up using the gift.

I don’t like pictures anyways.  We will start there.  But we went into town (I had a dentist appointment too) and got dressed up.  I straightened my hair (which is always an ordeal) and put on mascara and lipstick and we did this picture thing.  The photographer did great and worked fast.  The nieces and nephew seemed to smile for all the pictures.  It worked out nicely as a good gift.

kids

See the kids looked great.

I smiled and hoped it would reach my eyes.  The entire time I was watching our nieces run around with our nephew I couldn’t help but think that Addy should be here with her cousins.  Each time one of Andy’s siblings asked if they should be holding the kids, I couldn’t help but think I want to hold Addy in our pictures.  I couldn’t help but think that she would have fit right in with them.  I couldn’t help but think of how unfair it was that she wasn’t with us.  I couldn’t think too hard because then I would shed the tears that were hiding behind my hopefully real looking, fake, smile.  The photographer would say “family with girls” or “family with the boy” and then “you two.”  To her credit she didn’t say “childless couple” because had she, I would have lost it right there in the park with my mascara running down my face.  She didn’t know where we have been.  It isn’t her fault at all.  But standing there with my in-laws in front of the picture.  To the right of the picture was their oldest child, his wife, and 2 daughters in a tight little clump.  To the left but still middle of the picture was their youngest child, her husband, and their son in a tight little clump.  To the far left was their middle child, and me.  And a heart so full of holes and sorrow.  But that was our clump.  I love Andy with everything I have but there is still that emptiness.  Addy should have been there.  I miss the dreams and answers to prayers that she represented.  I miss the what could have beens.  But mostly I just miss her.

Infertility sucks.  In my story, nothing emphasizes that more than “family” stuff.  Be it holidays, vacations, going out to eat together, or family photos…family stuff is hard – yes still (and sometimes worse than before).  We have been travelling this road far too long.  We are no stranger to sadness and disappointment and loss.  One would think we could “get over it already and be happy.”  But family is hard.  Family reminds me of that family I don’t have.

Holidays are fast approaching and I feel like there will be some moments I sneak out of rooms, or step out onto the porch for fresh air.  There will be times I lock myself in the bathroom for a few minutes just to breathe and give myself permission to be sad and happy.  To give myself the grace and space I need to grieve the could have beens.  To quietly brush a tear off my check.  Yes, I live infertility each and every day, but holidays are a different battle.  All of that to say – forgive me if you turn to ask for a refill on your wine, or to pass the salt and pepper and you are telling my back as I am walking away.

desparation then devastation

there is a time in my life where I need to realize some truths and accept them.  I am working on this – every day.  there is a long list and I don’t feel like this is the time to divulge that list in it’s entirety, but rather just glance at that list.

with the infertility journey and the adoption journey one of the truths that I have learned is that in the grand scheme of things I have no control.  I have no “real” say in my life.  yes I make decisions about what I am going to wear, what I am going to eat, what I am going to do, but this journey has opened my eyes that I can’t control everything, despite my best effort I just can’t.  I can make lists to control the happenings in my life (and the organization of my home), but in reality I don’t have control – just an illusion of control that I cling to with every breath.  if I had control I would have said “listen ovaries – you have one job – it is time to do it” and it would have worked.  if I had control I would have looked at my doctor and said “you have no option but to make this procedure succeed.”  but I don’t have control and I am learning – still – that there is nothing that I could have done differently or additionally to change the course of our journey.

this is where I feel like I should say “in reality we don’t have any control because God should be in control of our lives.”  whereas, yes I agree God should be the center of our lives and our decision making, this isn’t that type of post.

as stated in my last post we have been officially waiting for a year.  we have been passed over numerous times – for an entire year.  with that type of response or in this case lack there of,  I can’t help but think.  that thinking often leads me down a dark and narrow road full of doubt and sadness and longing.

a road that causes my imagination to run wild with “what ifs” and “what is.”

what if we are never placed?  what if I never get to be a mom and andy a dad?  what if I have robbed family of having the experience of us as parents?  what if andy will really one day regret not taking the “out” when he could?  what if he starts to resent me?  what if my life never feels complete?  what if that longing and desire never goes away?  what if I never get to experience all the things that fuel my fears?  what if I sink into misery and allow me not being a mother to destroy my soul?  what is so wrong with us that we haven’t been placed?  what is it that caused people to skip over our profiles?  what is the big picture and can I survive not having the control to understand right now?  what is the reason God gave me this desire to be a mother and paired that with bad ovaries?  what is the point – is there a point?  is this some sort of punishment from above?

that dark road is sometimes dotted with street lamps – glimpses of hope, answers, or things that get me back to the sunshine.  talking with other people that are waiting to be placed and hearing that they have the same fears – that I am truly not alone in some of those thoughts.  when andy tells me that he loves me and doesn’t resent me despite all the reasons that I have given him to feel the other way.  when I know someone looks at our profile and passes us by because they want a family that already has a child.  a beautiful sunset or sunrise over the mountains.  street lamps that brighten up my mind.

but sometimes the things on my road aren’t street lamps, but rather lanterns.  a little light that shines bright enough to tide me over.  not nearly as bright as the lamps, but still light enough to get me through.

these things usually show up right before I have a breakdown full of complete and total doubt and tears.  when I feel like I have come to the end of my road.  when i start to question why we are doing what we are doing.  when I am grasping at straws.  desperation for that normalcy and control.

desperation: a state of despair, typically one that results in rash or extreme behavior

synonyms: hopelessness, anguish, agony, distress

usually my desperation manifests in lists.  lots and lots of lists.  I clean things and organize things.  I constantly am trying to reorganize and make better.  trying to drown my thoughts with lists so that I can’t do anything but focus on what is in front of my face.  I write, take pictures, and create new projects around the house to occupy my mind.  it helps.  in the process of focusing on anything else, those doubts and sadness ebb away.  that longing is still there, but without the doubt it just turns back into “just waiting.”

once I realized that we had been waiting a year and that we had to update a bunch of our paperwork I started to feel overwhelmed and to be honest – sad and a little (ok a lot) mad.

**side “semi relevant” note**

there are times where I start to wonder if God is “doing” this to us because he thinks I would be a terrible mother.  or that other people think I would be a terrible mother so God is like “i agree.”  there was this time that I was with a group of people (and a young baby just a few months old) and everyone, except me, was being called away for just a moment.  the parents were trying to decide who would miss out and stay to give the baby the bottle.  I offered since I was not leaving and both of the parents looked at me like I was crazy.  like if God didn’t trust me with a baby, they weren’t going to either.  the parents exchanged looks and did let me feed their baby the bottle, but their looks and doubts just fueled that thought process.  it is possible that I was over sensitive to the situation and that I misread the looks and the hesitation, but in the moment those looks emphasized that God thought I would be a terrible mother and everyone agreed.

**end semi relevant side note**

so in my sad and a lot mad state I found myself thinking back to those events, of possibly not being trusted to give a baby a bottle, and to the thought process that God thinks  I would be a terrible mother.  my thoughts are fueled by fear of the unknown and once it takes root desperation sets in.  hopelessness overcomes rational thought and where my behavior isn’t always rash or extreme my thoughts tend to become that way.  I found myself on my dark narrow road, running.  running into the darkness looking for a street lamp to ease off the desperation.  I found a lantern.

at dinner saturday night dad told me that he was going back to the farm.  there was a calf down and he was going to have to bottle feed it.  I had been a hermit in my house working on various projects and told him I would be glad to go with him.  andy ended up getting home before we left to go to the farm and he joined in with us.  we loaded up our gear and headed into the muddy abyss.  the calf had gotten stuck in the mud and was weak but drank the bottle (and a little more).  dad made sure that it was in a nice bed of hay and warm and we left.

mudpie

sunday after church, dad, mom, and I gathered our gear and went back to check on the little calf.  as we drove up he was stretched out and his head was semi back  I leaned forward and said – “doesn’t look like good news,”  dad agreed.  as we got a tad closer he blinked.  I was ecstatic – he was alive.  we gave him another bottle and repositioned him to be more comfortable and in more warm hay.  dad decided that the little guy needed to be moved to the barn.  later sunday gene (live in farm hand/manager) was able to take the tractor and get the little calf to the barn; however, his mother was no longer interested in following her baby or the tractor to the barn.  it was left to us humans to nurse him back to health.  after youth on sunday andy and I headed to the farm to check on the little guy.  he was in the stall with his legs tucked under him and he was dry and warm in his bed of hay.  I sat on a bucket and fed him his bottle and he was my little “mud pie.”  cows normally moo but a little cow with pneumonia purrs like a little kitten.  he was given several shots to make him feel better.  I rubbed his fluffy little head and ears and told him that I loved him.  I put my hand under his chin and lifted his head up and made eye contact with him and told him to have a good night and that I would see him Monday.  dad sent me a message Monday morning that he drank his bottle and that he wanted to stand up but was still too weak.  he was still purring a little bit too.

I told andy that mud pie had to live.  he became my desperation.  I didn’t have a list this time, I had mud pie.  he had to live.  he was my way of proving to God and to the rest of the world that I can take care of a living thing.  that I could give a bottle and love.  that I could be passionate and that I could be the role of a mother.

Monday night after work I went to the farm and got there before my dad got back.  I went into the stall and mud pie was in a weird sling that dad and gene strung up to help insure that his legs were getting blood flow.  I grabbed my bucket and sat down in front of him and rubbed his head and said hello.  when I was rubbing his neck he leaned into my hand like a dog would do.  I told him about my day and he listened – he is after all a cow that couldn’t go anywhere even if he wanted to.  I noticed he wasn’t purring as much and was tap dancing with his front legs.  I informed him that he had to get better.  he had to at least try.  he mooed at me.  it was a moo filled with passion and anger and rebellion.  a moo that told me that he was a fighter.  after that I talked to him about my desperation and I rubbed his ears and he semi mooed in understanding.  dad showed up and we gave him his bottle and he drank most of it, but it was too early to let him out of the sling.  so we came back a few hours later and freed him and propped him up in his bed of hay.  I told him good night and we turned the light off bathing the stall in darkness.  my Tuesday morning update was about the same as the morning before.  Tuesday after work we went to check on him and dad said that he had been in his sling but was out for the night.  I walked into the stall and found little mud pie snuggled in his hay.  he tried to stand.  I tucked his feet under him and held his head up and talked to him while he drank his bottle.  we made eye contact and I told him how much I loved him and what a good and handsome boy he was.  we had to go to a meeting and I knew we wouldn’t be back Tuesday night so right before we left I went in and rubbed his head, told him good night and sweet dreams and walked away from my little mud pie.

mud2

Wednesday morning I got my morning update.  the subject of the e mail was mud pie.  I opened my e mail and read “I am sorry!  We tried.”

devastation: severe and overwhelming shock or grief

I sat facing my computer and silent tears escaped the rims of my eyes rolled down my face.  I reminded myself to breathe and stared at the words.  mud pie was gone.  my lantern burned out.  my desperation morphed into devastation.  I was devastated that he was gone and that my attempts failed.  I couldn’t even do right by a cow.  I couldn’t save him.  my thoughts quickly went down the road that maybe God is right, maybe I am not fit to be a mother.

Wednesday night, with those thoughts circling in my head, I curled up in bed and cried.  my eyes filled with tears that rolled down my face and puddled on my pillow, followed by choking sobs.  a soul drenching cry.

I woke up Thursday morning with a throbbing headache – remnant of my tears from the night before.  as we drove to work I watched the clouds play on the tops of the mountains and with no other rational thought – other than it made me smile, I had found my street lamp and was finding my way back to the main road.

it was during this time of desperation that I realized a few things.  one is that I have no control.  I can cling to the illusion as much as I want, but it will always just be an illusion I create for my peace of mind.  another is that this process, from start until present, is just a constant ride of ups and downs: the waiting, the emotions of being rejected, the unknown, the way a person will walk by with a stroller and my heart almost leaps out of my chest, the looks of pity from other people, the hope that we will be the family that we always envisioned.  something that is difficult to explain and difficult for people to understand is that sometimes there are no words to make me feel better about this stressful time of just waiting and of the unknown.  that sometimes even the most rational comments and insight will not sound rational to me.  this time, my little mud pie, taught me that in my times of desperation, stick to the lists.

a frustrating reality…

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” – Ernest Hemingway

today is not a good day…actually the last few weeks have not been too good.  i try to maintain a persona that, yes i have bad moments, but that i am completely ok with everything that has happened and everything that is going on.  i have been hesitant to write anything negative in a while dealing with the adoption or infertility because the fear that i have that my words will be misconstrued or used against me somehow.  when i have my “poor me” and “bitterness” episodes i fear that people (i don’t have a specific person i am looking at – but rather just people in general) will take what i am saying out of context.  that they will say i will be a terrible mom if we are ever placed because I still have insecurities about the hand that was dealt to me.  i fear that someone will take what i am saying and make generalizations that i am unhappy and bitter towards all people who have biological children.  i fear that my words will be mixed up and used to imply that deep down i always feel this way.  i fear that people will look at me and say i deserve everything that has happened.  i fear that people will look at me and say it is all my fault.  i fear i will be considered selfish (again).  i fear that i will become one of “those people” that people won’t feel it is genuine when i have positive things to say about our situation or about theirs.  i fear that people will be nervous around me so that they don’t “upset” me or will constantly be worried that they will make me mad.  i worry that people will walk on egg shells around me just in case i am having a bad day and that they won’t share things about their kids/pregnancies/etc.  i fear that one day my child could use my words and thoughts against me and question my love.  but mostly, i fear that my thoughts make me a horrible monster.

 early on when we were dating we dreamed of being married and having a family.  we had no reason to suspect that when we were married that it would be difficult to have kids so we dreamed of the days that were to come and the excitement and adventure of the milestones that we would get to experience.  after we got married i was living out my fairy tale and day dreaming of the possibilities, waiting on the moment that we decided the time was right.  when the timing was right i was elated at the possibilities (and my day dreams got bigger and my hopes soared).  after several months when panic was starting to set in it wasn’t so fun.  it wasn’t until then that i realized how much hope i had in those milestones.  how much i wished that they would come true.  how my daydreams had pretty much ruined me and finally how my world came crashing down all around me.

after the months of treatments and the time after where we talked about what we wanted to do next, part of me didn’t want to admit anything about the treatments or about the adoption because i felt like i was giving up on my dreams – on what i always wanted.  i was acknowledging that i would miss those milestones and that i lost faith in me and i was giving up on myself.

in my devastation that i wouldn’t be able to expand my family in the way i planned, those milestones flowed through my head like racing hot lava.  a list, constantly growing, formed and circulated around in my thoughts causing my heart to break a little more with each bullet point – when i didn’t even know it could hurt any more.

 i will pause from my pity party to emphasize that we HAVE gained from this experience, but there are times when it is difficult to see the positive and to not dwell on the negative.  this is one of those times.

let me be dramatic.  each mother’s day i feel like a little bit of my soul dies.  i feel like my heart is being shredded from the inside out and the bile rises up and the taste lingers in the back of my throat.  it isn’t that i am not thankful for my mom and all of the women who have been wonderful influences in my life.  it isn’t that i don’t think about all of my friends and family who are mothers or are about to be mothers, because i do.  i give thanks for them and for their children and pray they know how blessed they all are to have each other.  it is the day that constantly reminds me of what i am not able to do.  that i have to rely on someone else to pick me to make my dreams come true.  the reality is that someone has to pick me out of a lineup and read my profile book like they are buying a car and i hope that they do it quickly so we can be done waiting.  it reinstates those negative feelings i have about myself.  i expressed those thoughts with someone and was asked, “don’t you think that will change once you are placed?”  my answer is simple.  it will change but not in the way one would think.  if that day ever comes i will be thrilled (for the biggest understatement of the year) but that day will always be a painful reminder of our struggles.  it will be like a birthday of someone who has passed away or the anniversary of the death of a loved one – it will be bittersweet.  i will relish the homemade gifts and crafts (hint: andy, remember that).  i will act like my over done pancake breakfast in bed is the best thing i have ever eaten.  i will slip my macaroni necklace over my head while tears of joy threaten to overflow.  i will take a huge breath and will look at my child that will call me mom and i will look at my husband who has stuck with me, even when i gave him an out, and will smile.  but later that night i will kiss my baby on the head and will tuck them in bed, andy will be reading a book, who am i kidding, watching something on tv, and i will slip out of the house to sit on our porch swing and take 10 minutes to stare at the stars while the tears roll down my face in memory and silent reflection of all that has been lost.

all of the times i prayed and begged to be pregnant “this” month, all of the treatments and tears, all of the negative pregnancy tests, when the doctors gave up on us.  in all those times and more infertility has robbed us.  it has taken from me so many different milestones that we promised each other.  it took away part of me:

i am hesitant to continue, but writing has been surprisingly therapeutic and why pay someone when you can write?  i feel like when i put my words down in black and white i can look back and see them and there is something tangible that i can hold on to – i can look at them and feel like my feelings and my rampant thoughts are conveyed and together.  it organizes the chaos that is in my mind, somewhat.  i feel that i am too far gone and despite my hesitation here goes…my compiled list (thus far) of how infertility robs us.

i will never know what it is like:

1. to see that plus sign on a pregnancy test and feel the excitement of knowing a tiny human is growing inside me.
2. to use one of the many ways i came up with to educate/reveal to andy that he was going to be a dad.
3. to go to the first doctor’s appt after the positive test and to see that black and white image and hear the heart beat.
4. to grab andy’s hand and cry with him as we listen to the heart beat.
5. to have andy look at me the way expectant husbands look at their wives.

6. to have andy place his hand on my belly and talk to our baby.
7. to have that print out of the ultrasound (and possibly have a fun ultrasound – for once).
8. to use one of the hundred ways we talked about to tell our parents and then our families that we were expecting.
9. to dress in maternity clothing and apparently use maternity pants as buffet pants on down the road post birth.
10. to have weird cravings (and for that to be socially accepted and expected).
11. to take “bump pictures” (even though i hate pictures) and to post them along with updates on “today my baby is the size of an orange”
12. to feel the baby move – which people constantly will say is their favorite thing about being pregnant and people constantly say that is the time when they felt like they “connected to their baby.”
13. to pee all the time (ok with this one it is more of the excuse of the pregnancy to pee all the time – seriously i could drink a ton of water and pee more in a day than any pregnant woman).
14. to pee a little when coughing or sneezing (ok the older i get i think i don’t have to be pregnant…)
15. to use mommy brain as excuse for everything (once people announce they are expecting EVERYTHING becomes “due to mommy brain”)
16. to cry at everything for no reason but to have an excuse that people accept.  people don’t like the crying for no reason because of treatment side effects.
17. to bond with the baby inside me.  to ride down the road in an empty car and to know that i am not alone.
18. to experience the bonding with andy over the pregnancy.
19. to have andy pull me into his arms and thank me for making his dreams come true as well.
20. to take naps “for the baby” (everything becomes “for the baby”)
21. to have people ask me if they can touch my belly or ask me other exciting questions because i am pregnant.
22. to park in the expectant parent reserved spots at the stores.
23. to experience the birthing class with andy.
24. to have weekly doctor appointments where i can “see and hear” my baby.
25. to experience some ice cream or take out tradition after my doctor appointments.
26. to pre admit for the birth and have a tour of the labor and delivery center.
27. to pack the suit case for the hospital and worry that i will forget my pillow.
28. to have baby showers that are normal and where games come directly from being pregnant.  where there isn’t a fear of “giving back” gifts because a mom changed her mind.
29. to participate in pregnancy nesting and having a pre-baby to-do list and crossing things off that list.
30. to have the frantic ride to the hospital if my water broke at home.
31. to have the dull ride to the hospital if being induced.
32. to experience the entire birthing process.  sitting in the hospital bed, getting an iv, being hooked up to fetal monitors, seeing the lines move predicting contractions, holding andy’s hand during bad contractions, watching andy turn various shades of white, having andy tell me that he loves me before things get crazy, getting the epidural and watching andy create an excuse to leave the room to update family, knowing that family is out there or close by waiting, pushing, the nurses and doctors being in the room, the excitement and the rushing.  the end result.
33. to hear the doctor announce boy or girl after months of waiting to find out.
34. for andy to kiss my forehead after that announcement.
35. to hear that first cry.
36. to have the baby put on my chest and to know that immediate love. and to know that one of the first people other than the medical staff holding my baby was me or andy.
37. to have those moments right after everything has calmed to be a family of 3 without the rest of the world in our room, where andy would present to me an awesome push present.
38. to see the face that i have carried for 9 months and know that “we made that”
39. to have family and friends come in so they can be introduced – and to tell everyone their birth story.
40. for andy to go to the waiting room and simply say boy or girl.
41. to experience the post birth shower that everyone claims is the best shower ever and if you never experience it – you haven’t ever really showered…
42. to experience breast-feeding and once again that “connection” that people talk about.
43. to not wonder if it was something that i did wrong years ago and wonder what i could have done differently.
44. to not worry that when we are placed the parents will change their mind and come back for their child.
45. to not worry that one day my child will ask me about their birth story and to possibly have no clue – thus making my child feel different.

46. to not worry that whatever child we are placed with will resent us at some point in time and tell us that they wished they were with their “real” mom and dad and that they hate us.

as i sit here and read back through my words i have mixed feelings.  i have such bitterness that boils up and anger that bubbles to the surface and both of those roll into one ball of irritated, irrational, frustrated, rage.  another part of me has weariness and fear: weariness that we have waited so long to be parents and a fear that we will never be chosen to be parents.  there is a part of me that reads through that list and has a list just as long as the things that we get to do because we are adopting that “normal” expecting couples will never get to experience – and that really is exciting.

i spoke to a friend and to make a long story short she asked how i was.  i will admit it hadn’t been a great day and with the thoughts above running rampant in my head i jumped on my soap box before i even really realized it and felt bad about it.  my words (not directed at her in any possible way) were dripping in annoyance and hurt.  i told her that i was sorry i got up there and she said it was ok that “i think your soapbox was right on point” and “you deserve to be frustrated and have your grief.”  she didn’t call me selfish or overly dramatic or insensitive and those simple words of acceptance and understanding came flying at me during a time i needed my feelings to be validated.  so yes i am still sulking and mulling around all of the ways i have been robbed because of infertility (as i do from time to time) but they are becoming, more and more, just bullet points in a mere chapter of our story.  a story, that like most, has highs and lows.  as the bitterness simmers, and i work my way back to dwelling on the positive i tuck my ever growing list somewhere deep in my mind. 

adoption update

after the decision to adopt, we found an agency and went to an information meeting.  at that meeting we listened to the agency talk about the different types of adoption, what to expect, time lines and next steps.

going in we knew that we wanted to do domestic adoption (adoption in the US) and after that meeting we knew that was still what we wanted to pursue.  a few days after the meeting and after we processed the information we were given, we emailed our caseworker and told him to send us a preliminary application.  i will be honest, i don’t remember a lot about that application.  i know we had to put some of our information down and i think our history (as far as why we want to adopt).  we sent that back in (with a check to cover our informal application) and our caseworker called and set up a meeting.
at that meeting, he gave us our formal application and a book of other paperwork that would have to be completed with our formal application.  all of that paperwork is considered part of our homestudy (screening of our home and us through paperwork, as well as interviews).  once we had our book of paperwork, we started working on it.
 in our paperwork we had a formal application, additional questions, personal statement of faith (which was hard to write despite having direct questions), statement of intent (that we planned on adopting and that if our family status changed we would notify them), fingerprinting instructions, background check information, IRS forms (past 3 years), financial worksheet, credit check release form, driver’s licenses, birth certificates, marriage certificates, health insurance form, employer reference letters (for each of us), family reference letters (one from each family), friend reference letters (total of 3), medical exam report, family history data, self study (SAFE questionnaire – state mandated), family info sheet (non identifying information for the family), letters to birth parents (which was one of the hardest things), openness questionnaire (which i will go into more detail later), discipline policy statement (we can’t spank or anything until the adoption is finalized), triad release form, and our reading requirement checklist (we have to read 3-4 books).
once we got our packet of paperwork, we started going through all of it.  most of it was just simply trying to get documents together and making copies to send in.  we did that first.  then we had to work on answering questions and filling out forms.  we were able to get a lot of it done very quickly and send it in (with a check for our formal application).
this would be a good time to note that no one really knew that we were going to adopt at this time – including our families.  we didn’t want to say anything yet (mostly because of my perceptions at the time and because we wanted to be further along in the process).  one of the things i worried about was that when someone announces that they are pregnant there is a time line (9 months) and then the baby is here.  i feared that if we said something when we first went to that meeting that people would be tired of hearing about it (especially since we didn’t know how long the paperwork process would take and since we have no idea how quickly we will be chosen).  as stupid as it sounds, i didn’t think it was fair to our baby to say anything too soon because i feared that the excitement would be gone because of the longer than 9 month wait time and that by the time we were chosen people would be rolling their eyes saying “about time, thank goodness they can stop talking about it now.”  isn’t that weird?  it wasn’t about us, but more for the baby.  i guess since it will be a different story of how they came to be with us – i wanted them to have some sense of normalcy when we talk about it and tell them that people were excited that they came to the family.
with the letter to the birth parents we had strict rules about what we could and couldn’t put in there.  we couldn’t put anything that would help identify us (like the name of places we work, name of town, our last names, church name, etc).  they gave us ideas of what to include and we wrote our letters.  the weirdest thing to me was writing to someone i have never met and trying to tell them about myself being as vaguely detailed as possible, all the while trying to say what is from my heart about being a mom – hoping that they pick me and that my heart felt comments don’t change their mind to keep their baby.  that is one of the weirdest feelings i have ever had.
openness questionnaire: questionnaire of what we are open to as far as situations and how open we want to be with the birth parents.  in this questionnaire we had 3 answers: yes, no, and willing to consider.  it asked us specific questions like boy or girl?  we said either.  it asked us if we would meet with the expectant parents before placement.  yes.  how open will you be after the baby is placed?  we said willing to consider different options.  it went through several scenarios about the birth parents and their history.  we put willing to consider on a lot of things because if you put a definite ‘no,’ you could be overlooked.  we prayed and decided that we would take each scenario as it comes up and go from there.  we didn’t want to limit ourselves.
we got to a place where one of the only things we lacked were our references.  we realized we would have to ask our references before we just put them down so we asked them (2 family, 3 friend, 2 employer, 1 pastoral) and begged them to keep our secret for a little while longer.
we mailed the paperwork in and waited (story of our lives).  we waited and waited and waited and finally got tired of waiting so we emailed our social worker and asked if we were missing any paperwork.  he said yes. all of it.  so we told him when we mailed it and he finally e mailed stating that he had our paperwork, but that someone put it on the wrong desk so we had been waiting for almost 6 weeks for nothing.  but he went through the paperwork and we had to do a few more things that hadn’t been included, and waited a little more.  about 2 weeks passed and andy e mailed him to make sure everything was still ok.  we got an auto response that he was no longer with the company and gave us the name of our new caseworker.  i emailed her (in a panic) and she responded very quickly, which was great for my nerves.
we mailed our second packet of paperwork while we were at the beach.
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we had a state mandated training that lasted an entire day.  i had to ask off and luckily my boss knew by this point so i didn’t have to fabricate some story with her why i needed a day off.  at that meeting we listened to people who have adopted, a birth mother presenting her story, and two people (16 year old and 50 ish year old) that had been adopted.  we met other people that were in the midst of the adoption process.
after that we had to schedule our interviews.  couples interview was first.  it was stressful.  we met with our local caseworker and had to fill out another SAFE questionnaire (state mandated) and we weren’t allowed to sit near each other or talk while we were doing it.  it had questions on there about personal experiences / family history / our relationship.  we talked to the caseworker about our lives and she asked a lot of questions.  after a while she closed her notebook that she wrote everything down in and told us to call in a few weeks so we can set up the individual interviews.
we set up the individual interviews on the same day as each other so that we could ride together.  i went first because i thought i was going to throw up if i had to wait.  she pulled out the two SAFE questionnaires.  there is some sort of grading scale on those and we had to talk about the ones that were red flags for her .  one of the questions that we talked about was that i put that we witnessed an act of violence.  (it was a domestic violence thing in the neighborhood years ago).  i explained it and she made notes.  another thing she asked me about was i checked that i had alcohol before lunch or during work hours.  i explained that i had a mimosa on a few occasions at bridal showers and weddings.  she wrote things down.  she asked about my family and had me clarify some answers.  she flipped through the rest of the paperwork and asked more questions (that have escaped me) and then it was andy’s turn.  he went into the room and i was just as nervous.  i was nervous that he wouldn’t answer something the way i would/did.  he was in there for what seemed like hours (maybe 40 minutes) and then came out.  we left and compared notes.  it looked like we passed!
next came the home visit (this is not the same thing as the home study – but is part of the home study.  this is where they actually come to the house and look around).  i was nervous about this too.  we cleaned the house from top to bottom.  under beds, in all cabinets, in all closests.  we had to lock some of our cabinets to prove that we wouldn’t let our baby drink bleach.  we had to test all the smoke detectors and had to show that we had a fire extinguisher in the kitchen.  we also had to show that otis wouldn’t eat a child.  the caseworker came out and into our perfectly clean house and we sat at the table and went over our paperwork one last time.  she explained the financial agreement.  she petted otis and he jumped on the couch and went straight to sleep.  we gave her our homestudy fee.  she walked around the house and looked at everything she needed to.  she told us she would write up our home study and would let us know when it was done.
several weeks went by and we got an e mail and a letter in the mail stating that we had been approved and that we were officially a waiting family (family that has been approved but is waiting to be picked by a birth mother). 
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we had to put together a photo book of our family, friends and lives for an expectant parent to look at if we matched their qualities.  it took hours and days of putting it together.  this is basically the thing that the mother will look at to pick us.  we tried to put pictures in there of all our family members so that they could see who we belong to.  we put in there pictures of vacations and things that we have done.  we had a page of otis so they would know we had a beagle.  we put in there a page of farm and cows and a page of the donkeys and horses.  we tried to put together a book that captured who we were so that someone looking at it would have a good idea of if they wanted their child to live with us.  it was very hard.  at the state mandated training we heard stories of how certain pictures led the birth family to pick the adopted family.  for example: one couple was picked because in one of the photos the husband had on a college hat and sweatshirt of the birth father’s favorite team.  another was picked because they included photos of their doberman dogs and the birth mother had two dobermans when she was a child and loved them.  another family was picked because in one of the pictures they had on camouflage and it reminded the birth mother of the times her and her brother went hunting with her dad.  so with each picture we tried to choose pictures that would be interesting but not threatening.  for example: at the farm, we included pictures of us on the outside of the gate (to show how safe we are) and inside the fence (to show that we love the animals and will allow chances to be close to them).  we included otis as a puppy to show how long we have had him and as an adult to show that he is still spoiled.  on the inside of the book we included our birth parent letters.   we had to order 5 books and were so happy with the results.  we turned them in and our books are available for birth mothers to view!
now that we have all of our paperwork in and our books completed there is nothing more to do than to wait and pray.  we go to waiting family meetings (where we learn different things and have a support system).  we pray constantly for our future child, for the other waiting families, and for the family that will be giving us the chance at our own family.
we are still raising money for the adoption.  we have paid 1/3 already up front and are still trying to get the rest.  we have been selling things on bossy donkey company and we made some jelly and sold that.  we have been looking at grants and will be sending applications for those in the next few weeks.  we have to have all of the money up front.  when we go to the hospital to pick up our baby once we are chosen, we have to pay the balance on our account.  since we could have months or only hours notice we are trying to get the financial part taken care of.
now that we have moved, we will have to do an update…but we don’t have to have it done yet so we are holding off for a little while longer.  we have the nursery room picked out and ready to be completed.  we have talked about colors and designs for that room but for now we haven’t done anything – it is a blank slate.  (we have already put some things in the closet – books and stuffed animals and some other things that we have been collecting for a while).  we have talked about names for boys, girls and twins.  we are a family of 3 (including otis) and we have talked about what it will be like to be a family of 4 or 5.  we have talked about getting twins and how that would be.  we have talked about day cares and vacations.  we have dreamed of holding our baby and bringing them home.  right now that is all that we have – the dream that our prayers will be answered.

part 1 of 4: the inconsolable soul – in the beginning

leaning against the cold wall with the taste of bile lingering in my nose and throat, my knees bent with my toes touching the base of the cold porcelain toilet, i knew i had to stop sobbing.  i was beyond the being sick phase and was dry heaving because there was nothing left to come out.  my cheeks were soaked from the shed tears and my head was starting to pound.  i gasped in some deep breaths and closed my eyes trying to pace my breathing – in (pause) and out, in (pause) and out,  swallow down the bile, repeat.  what got me in the floor of the bathroom in the house that i was raised in?  why was i here?  an inconsolable soul.

i offered my husband, a man that i love so incredibly much – an out.  i knew that i could never be the wife that he deserved/needed and with that realization came my deal to him – leave now with no questions asked.

rewind to 10 months earlier

10 months earlier, on a saturday in may (2010), i found myself in the ER.  i was at the church in Monroe getting things set up for the silent auction dinner (while andy was still at school) and i had a massive cramp that took my breath away and knocked me to my knees.  i was able to catch my breath and get up, but the cramp turned into more with each one getting more intense.  each month i get cramps (like most women) but i know my body and i knew that i have never ever in my life experienced pain like this.  it wasn’t much longer that i realized that i was bleeding uncontrollably.  i sucked it up and got through the set up until andy showed up and i eased away and called my doctor.  she said go to the ER.  i went and was told that i had a cyst rupture.  this was causing the cramps that took me to my knees (literally) several times and the bleeding and the clots.  i asked what that meant.  the ER doctor shrugged and told me to follow-up with my regular OB/GYN doctor.  i left the ER with less money, less pain, a cool paper bracelet, a million questions, and a level of fear and uncertainty that i hoped to never experience again.

i made an appointment with my regular doctor and told her what happened and she started doing tests.  she ordered labs and an ultra sound (this would be a good time to note that i was unaware of the different types of ultra sounds).   i went in the room and assumed that it would be the one that was “lift your shirt and put cold jelly on your belly.”  it wasn’t.  it was very uncomfortable – especially since i wasn’t expecting that kind and since i am a little modest to begin with.  if you want to know the details, google the different types of US to look at ovaries (hint – it is a little invasive).

this would be a good time to note that we weren’t “trying” to get pregnant, but we also weren’t “trying to not” get pregnant (i will admit i was very hopeful each month and would have been delighted).  after all the tests, my doctor asked a ton of questions and i told her this. she shifted her eyes down and i could tell she was buying time.  she said, “well alison, i don’t really know what to tell you.  it looks like something is wrong with your ovaries – they aren’t acting like they should.  it could be nothing but then again, i don’t know.”

she gave me 3 months worth of medicines to try and i took them.  nothing happened.  i went back and she told me that she didn’t think there was anything else she could do to help me so she set me up with a specialist.

 by this point in time we were given a shaky idea of what was wrong with my ovaries but nothing real solid.  we researched everything that we could to educate ourselves about our upcoming specialist appt.  we had no idea who we were seeing out of the group and didn’t know what was going to happen when we went, but i filled out 8 pages of new patient paperwork and we went to the appt.

we met our “specialist.” we will call him dr. w (for wildman).  when he walked into the exam room he looked like a cross between a sociopath and mad scientist with crazy hair  or someone who arrived each day at work via jumping out of a plane.  he walked in and i was tempted to walk out.  i thought it was a joke until he opened his mouth and something about his voice and his words calmed me.  it wasn’t that he was saying overly positive things – but that he was talking to me and answering the questions i had before i even asked them.  he was giving it to me straight and there wasn’t an ounce of sugar-coating anything.  he told us his initial thoughts and said that even though it looked like my doctor was doing a fine job he wanted to run his own test.  he told me i would have to come back and have my blood work done, but he wanted to go on and do an US.  he did it and this time at least i knew what to expect.  he made notes and told us (because he wanted to make sure exactly who’s infertility we were dealing with) when to come back for labs and said to follow-up afterwards.

a few days later i had to be at the office at 7am.  (i was instructed to drink as much water as i could because of all of the blood they would need).  when we got there we had to wait in line and my legs were crossed because i already had consumed almost 64 ounces of water.  i signed in and quickly learned that the lab was first come first served.  andy was called for his lab work and i was left sitting in a room wondering how much longer before i could pee.  after several people went, i was called.  i climbed into the vinyl chair and lowered the bar across my lap and rolled up my sleeves.  the lab tech came over and confirmed my name and date of birth.  she looked at my order and said “ok, let’s do this.”  i nodded.  she reached over and started pulling vials that she needed to fill.  she turned and asked if i had been drinking water this morning and i told her yes.  she smiled and said “good, because we have 16 vials to fill.”  i wanted to cry.  she sat down on a rolling stool and asked me which arm i wanted her to try first.  i looked at her and smiled and she laughed.  “you have hard veins don’t you?”  i nodded.  she laughed again and said, “well, here we go.”  in only the second time in my entire life, she stuck me once and got blood!  she filled the first vial and then the second and on and on until she had 16 vials full of bright red blood.  after i signed all of the labels i watched her put the stickers on all of my vials and went back into the waiting room and andy was waiting on me.

i went to work and kept my sleeves rolled down because a huge bruise was forming on my arm and i didn’t want to answer questions about it.  we went back to see dr. w a week later and went into his office (which i remember as being mostly organized, which seemed odd to me because of his hair).  even in our second meeting, it was like the first time we met him and made me think a little bit of jim carrey in ace ventura  when he drives with his head out the window – it made me smirk a little but then the reality of why were there came crashing down and the smirk faded away.  we sat in chairs and prepared ourselves for the results.

this is what we learned.  andy was perfect in every way.  all of his labs and test came back better than what dr. w could have hoped.

me on the other hand – it wasn’t good.  he stated that he thought the issue was with me and my ovaries.  he hesitated, but tossed out possibly pco.  he said he wanted to do one more test before we decided what to do.  he wanted me to have a hysterosalpingogram  (x-ray to see if my fallopian tubes were open).  he said once we had that answer, he would have a game plan for us (if it goes good, he tells us what he thinks we should do, and if it is bad, he gives us a few other options).

i showed up for that appointment at 8am and was humiliated.  the facility where i had to have this x-ray done is the same place people go for a million other tests, as well as radiation and other types of specialized treatments.  to look at the fallopian tubes, you have to go through the uterus.  when they called me back, the nurse escorted me to a door right next to 15 chairs in a waiting room (like a fitting room in a department store).  she reached in a built-in drawer in the closet, handed me a paper gown that opened in the back, told me to undress from the waist down and put the gown on then come on out to the waiting room (luckily she gave me a second gown to put on like a robe to cover my exposed back side).  i was mortified.  the waiting room wasn’t secluded at all.  there was a hallway (that might as well had been a highway full of people) right next to it.  i turned bright red, did what she said, took my plastic bag with over half of my clothes in it and found a seat.  it wasn’t long before i was joined by an elderly man wearing a similar gown and carrying a similar bag.  not long after he sat down, another woman sat down.  none of us would make eye contact.  it was humiliating to sit there and have all these people walk by staring.

they called my name and escorted me down the hall (i was so very grateful for the second gown at this point).  the nurse walked me into the room through a special door and pointed to another door. she told me to empty my bladder.  i did and she told me to sit down in the chair, and i did.  the room had a huge machine in the middle with computers all around.  there was another nurse standing behind a glass wall with more computers and more gadgets.  i didn’t see dr. w and i was a little nervous.  the nurse that had me sit down came over to talk to me.  she asked if i knew what was going to happen and i told her what i knew.  she verified that i was correct and added some details that i didn’t know.  she paused and asked if i had any questions and i did.  “i read online it hurts…is it going to hurt?”  she laughed and said “well, it will either be fine, with no pain or you will be in excruciating pain – that is what i see most.”  silently i am thinking “great, that wasn’t really reassuring.”  she leads me to the table and i climb up.  dr. w walks in.  there is something about his wild hair and sociopath killer look that is so familiar and surprisingly calming to me – i still haven’t figured that out yet.

he comes over where i am sitting on the table and takes both of my hands and asks if i am ready.  i nod.  he smiles and looks at the nurse and nods.  she comes over to him with a mask, x-ray padded vest-type-thing and x-ray thyroid guard.  the nurse is already in this get up.  i lay back and she drapes a padded vest over my chest and neck.  he walks me through the procedure: put your feet here.  this is going to be cold.  breathe. this is what i am doing now.  this is the dye i am about to inject. (about this time i notice that the nurse is right by my head and has been the entire time, but the other nurse, that was behind the glass, is now dressed like an alien with the rest of us and is helping dr. w).  the nurse asks if i am ok.  i barely nod.  dr. w asks if i am ok.  both the nurse and i nod. the nurse touches my arm as dr. w says “here it goes.  don’t forget to breathe, ok alison?”  i can actually feel the dye in me.  it is weird.  i hear the machine make noises and i see a flash of light above my head.  i try to look without moving and dr. w notices this.  he says, “go on, put your head back and look.”  i do and i see my uterus and fallopian tubes on the screen (at least that is what he tells me i am looking at).  he smiles, looks at me and says, “do you see that?  do you see mickey mouse?”  the nurse helping him takes a pointer and points out mickey’s face and ears.  i say yes.  he says “that is mickey and mickey is a good thing.  you have a happy uterus and fallopian tubes, meaning nothing is blocked.”  for the first time in the past 3 months since i was in the er, i was given good, positive news.  dr. w continues to walk me through the process and tells me when he is done.  he helps me to my feet and they send me through, back to the bathroom to finally get dressed. the nurse asks me if i am ok and if it hurt.  i tell her that, surprisingly, it didn’t, and that i am starting to cramp.  she tells me i should go home and take it easy.  i can’t because i have to go to work and act as if nothing is wrong or going on.

since everything was good, i talked to andy and told him the news.  i called shane (one of dr. w’s nurses) and told him to let dr. w know we want to proceed with the plan he laid out earlier since the x-ray was fine.  so i start some different medicines and in two months have my labs repeated (thank goodness they only took 3 vials of blood this time) and we go back to talk to dr. w in his office.  he tells us that my labs look better since i have been on the meds and he thinks we would be wonderful candidates for an IUI (intrauterine insemination).  we agree to go forward, he writes more prescriptions and tells us what to expect in the next month.  he gives us clear instructions, details and a smile.

in his smile i have a sense of hope.  hope in the form of dr. w.  hope in an IUI.  hope in andy, that his labs are perfect.  but the important thing is that, for the very first time in 5 months, i have hope.

based on a lie

so they say that marriages based on truth and communication will last.  i heard that in our marriage counseling classes before we got married and i have heard it from friends that were married before us.  i heard it from people who experienced failed marriages.  trust.  that is the foundation for a happy and healthy marriage.  so in our marriage we have really strived to be honest with each other.  up front with what we are thinking and feeling.  we try not to sugar coat things so that the truth can be accepted as what it is and interpreted as what the other means which prevents trying to decipher if there are hidden meanings.  i feel like we have done a wonderful job with this.  sometimes we say things and they might sting a little bit, but in the end we (i will take this time to speak for andy…hopefully i am right and he feels the same way) take what the other says to heart and after reflecting on it we are able to see that the other person wasn’t trying to be intentionally mean but instead was trying to be clear and honest.  it is something that has worked well in our relationship and marriage and then i found out our marriage was based on a lie…

we were talking and after some wild tangent (i am sure) we started talking about our wedding and that progressed into our colors – black and blue.  i knew for a long time that i wanted our wedding to be simple yet elegant and i wanted that theme to radiate throughout the day.  i knew i wanted to use my favorite colors and that they would play right into it.  blue and black.  i will add here that andy was on board for pretty much whatever.  he was very hands on during the entire process and never really questioned my desire for black and blue.  he was on board.  i remember one of the first things people would ask me about was the colors.  i would tell the person black and blue and would get a funny look and would be asked what shade of blue?!  i guess because there are so many different shades of blue people wanted to know exactly what shade so i started answering black and blue – smurf blue.  that seemed to make people happy.  at some point in time i heard andy tell someone that our colors were black and panther blue.  my thought was that for people who lived around here that was a good description of the color and people would know exactly what shade that was (esp. going into stores looking for that specific shade of ribbon, ties, candles, bags, etc).  it just became part of our wedding planning to toss in panther blue.  it offered clarity to others and eliminated further questions and responses.

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i am now learning (after years of blissful marriage) that andy really thought our wedding colors were black and panther blue (because of the panthers – not because that was the best way to describe that shade of blue).  our marriage started out based on a lie.

are we doomed because our circle of trust and honesty is broken?  was it just a misunderstanding and we will be ok?  will we need therapy to undo what has been done?  does this start the beginning of a battle that will last for years over who interpreted our colors correctly?

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questions questions questions…..

the return of jasper

so a while ago i posted about jasper my cricket (conscience) and how he went to the gas station and work with me.  it has been so funny because i have seen so many crickets since posting that.  some have been on the windshield and some have just been around and they catch my eye.  a day or two after that post andy and i were riding around on the farm (after feeding the animals) and a cricket jumped on the rtv windshield.  i laughed and said look it is jasper (i had to explain who jasper was since andy doesn’t read the blog) and he laughed (i believe it was a curtsy laugh and i believe there was a little bit of eye rolling in there too).  a little bit later (maybe 2 minutes) a stink bug landed on the windshield.

***side note: i am so very over stink bugs they are everywhere and are on my nerves.  i wish they would go away. ***

so andy was like oh you must be mean or are having mean thoughts since your conscience has changed into a stink bug.  i laughed and thought if that were true maybe a rattle snake would be on the windshield….

for the past several weeks i have been seeing jasper everywhere.  he has been on the porch, at the farm, on the sidewalk at work.  it seems like jasper shows us at the most random times but at funny times.  a lot of times if i am thinking something mean i will catch a glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye and there will be jasper just shaking his head at me.  his presence makes me evaluate what i am thinking about (sometimes giving me a change to revoke those mean thoughts and practice patience/compassion/understanding).  i am not going to lie and say that i immediately change my line of thinking or anything like that…but it makes me evaluate it (and sometimes that is a step in the right direction).  sometimes when i am waiting on andy to pick me up at work (standing on the sidewalk like an 8th grader waiting on their mom at the movie theater friday night) one will jump by and i will think of how i am not alone on that sidewalk…i am never alone – i have jasper.

purpose

i am not sure if this was the intended purpose of my blog…but it has shown me how terrible i am at trying to blog and keeping my brain focused.  i have been really evaluating my purpose with this blog.  i look at some of my favorite blogs (friends and unknown people) and i have been trying to figure it all out.  one friend blogs about food and recipes (she is an amazing writer and inserts stories that make her recipes even better).  several are health related (about the illnesses that the different subjects go through).  some are about journeys of bringing home a child from another country (adoption).  some are just about the rants of daily living and updates on life.

so i have been trying to decide what is my purpose?  do i have one?  in the beginning my purpose was shockingly still very fuzzy.  i wanted to have a place to “journal” big things that were happening (if you recall that was when we thought we might be moving to arkansas) and so it was the start of keeping a records for myself on what was going on.  then i started thinking it would be a great place for family and friends to be kept in the loop so if it was a semi generic question they could check the blog and see if they could find an answer.  once i had that great thought and typed an e mail to friends and family to say look at this awesome blog i realized that i didn’t think it was awesome.  i was self conscious about my writing and about my topics and about just everything involved so i deleted that email and decided to hide the blog and go back to just a journal.  when we moved to tn i shared the blog with a few people who i knew wouldn’t make fun of me and went from there.  my confidence built a tad to where i shared with a few more people and even still it hasn’t been shared with some friends and family because i still am so very self conscious.  i feel like things that i am blogging about are pointless and not worthy of anyone to take time out and read (i mean my husband doesn’t even read my blog so if he doesn’t it must be a waste of time right?).

this leads me to my original thought about this post…what is the purpose?  why should i or shouldn’t i blog?  what do people care enough about to want to read?  after weeks of contemplating just letting the idea of blogging go (because let’s be honest i am not the best at remembering to blog or the best at content – at best i am mediocre in everything blog related) i have decided that maybe once in my life something doesn’t really need a purpose.  maybe for once i can not have something so planned out to where i am disappointed if it falls through.

so in conclusion this blog has no purpose.  it is a place where i can get on my soapbox and rant and don’t have to worry about falling off.  a place where i can post random pictures and talk about the farm and anything else.  a place i can wish people (who may or may not ever see this) a happy birthday or a congratulations or get well.  a place that is mine.  a place that i hope to one day – even without a purpose – it will make a difference to someone.

no…i’m so sorry

I am going to jump on my soapbox.  I will try not to stay up here too long for fear that I will fall off and hurt myself.

I have been contemplating the idea of work policies.  this is not a post to bash those policies but to reflect and yes to complain about them.

for the past 7 months I have been working in a surgical office.  it has been a fun experience with fun people to work with.  I am not going to say it has been perfect because Thursday and Friday would fall into the not so perfect days, but it has been a wonderful learning environment and I am blessed to be there.

most of the time it is really “easy.”  I get there and do my job and don’t worry about it when the clock hits 5:00.  for the most part it is low stress and everything works out.  notice I said “most.”

I work front desk and part of my responsibility is to schedule appointments.  it is part of my responsibility to filter people who need to be seen asap and who can wait a week or two.  some of time it is easy to figure out.  routine follow-up (be it breast cancer or colon cancer) patients can wait a few weeks to be seen.  newly diagnosed cancer patients that need a port for chemo need to be seen asap (or yesterday as the nurses say when they call to make the appointments).  this can be slightly stressful when we have no available spots to put these patients in.  it becomes a gamble of which doctor will be the most understanding with the added work load and will they be on time for clinic.  there are so many variables…but it is something we have to do.  it is our work policy to get them in our office in a timely manner.

another work policy is that we take referrals from other doctors office.  meaning that if you think you have a hernia we need your primary care doctor to call us and make the appointment.  this also goes for abdominal pain and a few other ailments.  this line is constantly blurred because if you are an established patient we sometimes can make an appointment for a mole to be removed or (for breast cancer patients) breast pain and lumps without talking to a primary care doctor.  we have our policies of what we can and can’t do…but those lines are a little blurry.

the last one I am going to touch on is the one about insurance and payments.  unlike some doctors in our town all of our doctors will see “self pay” patients which means people with no insurance.  we offer a 35% discount to those patients and we allow them to set up payment plans (unlike some offices that require people to pay it all in a lump sum).

defining both of those policies leads me to this: several months ago when I had only been working there a few months I got a call from a man about his 24 year old son.  his son went to the er for gallbladder symptoms and was uninsured.  they did some tests but determined he wasn’t a candidate for “emergency” (admit to the hospital and do the surgery right them) surgery – his symptoms were bad but not bad enough.  they sent him home with the order to call the surgeons office the next morning when we opened and make an appointment.  his dad called to make an appointment and I told him that I could and made it for several weeks out. (because that is our policy).  the dad started crying because his son was laying in the floor crying in pain and that his son had a drug problem and the er thought he might be seeking drugs and that he didn’t know what to do and the no insurance thing would be bad trying to pay off the hospital bills.  he went on to say that he didn’t understand what he had done wrong and if he had done this and that differently maybe his son wouldn’t have gotten in with the drug crowd.  I told him I was sorry I couldn’t do anything else for him but that was all I could do but if his son was that bad off he needed to take him back to the er and hopefully they would admit him.  it made me incredibly sad because I talked to this gentleman for about 15 minutes assuring him that he wasn’t a bad person and neither was his son and that there is no way to determine if his actions in the past would have impacted what his son was doing now.  I felt awful because I know he wanted his son to be better, I know that it must have been awful to see him crying in the floor but my hands were tied.  there was nothing I could do to get him in any earlier.  my doctors were already overbooked and that was that.  even though my heart went out to him I could do nothing other than offer a few encouraging words and my apologies because that is our policy.

Tuesday of this past week I got a call from a frantic lady asking me what kind of “deals” and financial assistance we offer.  I told her 35% discount and payment plan.  she asked if we did anything else.  I told her no (without hesitation).  she said well can’t you ask someone.  I said I could double-check with my boss but the last time I asked (which wasn’t that long ago) she told me our policies.  the patient said she contacted another office and they “forgave her debt” and wrote her off and that another office was going to do the same and why couldn’t we do that too.  I said I was sorry but that is what we offer that is our policy.  she started crying (and not the sniffling cry but the “ugly” cry where I only caught every other word).  she said she didn’t understand why I couldn’t help her and didn’t I understand what she was going through and told me most of her life story.  all I could offer was “I am so sorry.  I wish it were different but my hands are tied.”  I felt like a mean cold-hearted person when I hung up the phone.

these policies at my office and feeling like those patients must think I am cold-hearted and mean because I am the one that delivered the news made me think about other places with policies that are annoying.

like when I go to a fast food place and they start off by saying “would you like to try…?” or after I am done and they say “would you like a hot apple pie with that?”  I always get so annoyed because I will tell you what I want from the beginning to the end.  no I don’t want your starting suggestions and no I don’t need dessert ideas – if I wanted it I would have included that in my order.  so when I say a number 1 combo and that is all – I wasn’t joking that is really all.  thanks but no, sorry.

or like when I go to walgreens and put my purchases on the counter (right next to the LARGE display of candy on sale – that is so big my items are falling off the counter) and the cashier says “would you like some candy while it is on sale?”   no I don’t.  do you see that in my stack of items I would like to purchase?  I didn’t think so.  thank you but no.

or when I power walk into home depot or lowes and am walking straight to the one thing I need to get and get out of there or if I am arms full walking to the counter and I get within 4 feet of an employee they ask “may I help you find something?”  I am either a. already know what I am after or b. arms full checking out – I think I am good.

or (last one I promise) when I am in a store with a buggy full and I get to the cashier and they say “did you find what you need?”  no I have almost 200 dollars worth of merchandise but nope I didn’t find what I needed!

I know that those are all policies that the workers have to say.  and I think they can all be good things (like when I am strolling in lowes really looking for something it is nice to be reminded there are people that will find it for me!)  but working at the surgical office I am now realizing and trying to mold my brain to be reminded that these people are forced to say these things and to follow the rules because they are their work policies and their hands are tied.  I don’t need to be mad at the person holding me up in walgreens because she is trying to sell me stuff I don’t want…but I need to be mad at the work policies and the people who made them – not the people who have to actually carry them out.  because truth be told I am sure they are wishing they didn’t have to say them.  I am sure they are thinking I am sorry I have to ask you this but do you want an apple pie with that.  I am sure they are tired of people snapping at them when they are just doing their job.

i want to remember not to hold it against them and i hope that one day if they ever call my office and ask me to get them in sooner and i say no…i’m so sorry.  or if they as me to forgive their bills and i have to say no…i’m so sorry.  i hope that they look at me as a person just following my work policies and not a cold-hearted apathetic person.

rambling thoughts: clouds storms and long drives

a smell, sight, touch, or sound can take me down memory lane in a heart beat.  or hearing a phrase that makes me think of things from the past can take me back.  sometimes it is a time of year that sends me tumbling off the trail with former memories.  these certain things put me on a path of wild and random (sometimes incoherent) thinking and i play the what was and what is and what if and what’s to come game.  sometimes my brain feels like a little hamster running on the wheel you think and think but really it gets you no where except stuck in a loop scared to get off and wondering how long have i been at this….

this time of year i think a lot about leslie (i think about her all the time as it is but as we get closer to the heart of summer i find my self thinking more and more about her).  i remember the trips we took and the things we bought.  i remember the last encounters that we had and the conversations that we had and the profound effect that she had on my life and how much impact her family has made still in my life.  something about this time of year makes me miss her more.

i think more and more about old friends and about relationships i have had and the adventures that we have been on.  some thoughts and memories make me incredibly sad and others made me laugh out loud.  i think about all the summers spent playing with will and vicky outside until after dark and our “bat club.”  i think about all the summer camps that i spent with katie and the youth group and making sure that katie and i shared a room and coordinated our outfits and packing list and that when we weren’t at camp we still had to be together.  i think about summer crushes (one that turned into love and marriage).  i think about all of the things i thought i would have done and wished i did and actually did.  i think of the person that i hoped to be and the one that i actually am.    i think….

the other day andy was at a meeting so i decided i would go feed pancake alone since it would be too late when andy got home.  it had been raining (i think we got 3 inches in about an hour – water was rising and roads were flooded).  i loaded the dog up and off we went to feed pancake.  for once i wasn’t punching a clock.  so i drove.  i only know 3 or so ways to get to the farm and as i was driving i kept getting derailed.  i would go as far as i could and have to turn around because of flooding in the roads.  i went all the ways i could to get to pancake but i couldn’t get to him – so i just drove.  it made me think of a time (when i could fill my tank up with gas, take seven dollars into the gas station and walk away with change) when i would just drive around to clear my head.  i used to drive to process thoughts and clear my head a lot.  i blame my dad for that.  (sorry dad).  driving to the farm already made me think of dad and driving around made me think of the times that he would come ask if i wanted to go to dairy queen for a blizzard.  i would think: ice cream?  sure!  we would go and instead of going the direct route we would drive down towards albemarle – typically turning around at the same gas station.  some times we would go just to go…i don’t know the real reason we were driving just that ice cream was involved.  other times we would go because i did something wrong (that was never stated but i knew) – we would get past the point where i could jump out of the car and walk home and dad would talk.  or if he wanted to have my attention to mull something over he would say what he wanted to say and we would ride in quiet processing everything.  once we got to the gas station we would turn around and go get blizzards and everything was forgiven and forgotten and processed.  i thought ice cream healed all…but the older i get the more i think that it was the drive that healed.

when i realized i couldn’t get to pancake because all my options were gone i headed home.  as i was driving home i saw lightning and black skies and i was headed right for it.  i was driving into the storm.  i couldn’t help but think that life was completely like that having to “drive into the storm to go home”.  i couldn’t help but think of the times that i have known about a storm and could see it from the distance and driven straight into it.  confrontations with friends that i knew had the potential to turn out horribly but they had to happen.  conflict with different people at different jobs.  fights with andy or my parents or brother.  situations that the skies were so black and hopeless but i had no choice because i had to get through them to get home and to a resolution.  when we have no choice and we see the lightning and hear the thunder and know that things are going to get messy we have to drive on and we do…we go through the storms and end up at home – sometimes a little battered and bruised and sometimes our homes aren’t as stable or sturdy as they were…but our foundation is strong and we make it.

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when i got home.  i had battled rising waters and thunder and a spectacular display of lightning and a spastic dog.  i dealt with my failure that pancake wasn’t getting treats from me before bed.  i struggled with wrapping up my disjointed racing thoughts about driving and storms, hopes and dreams and failures, memories and life in general.  physically i was exhausted from a long day and mentally from processing so many thoughts and memories in such a short time.  i pulled the shivering dog out of the car and unlocked the door.  before i stepped over the threshold i looked at the sky.  the blackness was breaking up and the clouds were moving on except for one…

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i laughed and thought how fitting that i drove straight into dark weather and made it home through the storm and waiting for me was a cloud with a silver lining…

(some of us are just going through figurative storms but remember those who are dealing with literal storms in moore, ok)