Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Power of a Number

So many things in life and our identity is tied to a number. What's your age? Height? Weight? $ in your bank account? How long have you lived here?

I've never really given much thought to all the numbers in my life (sans money... I worry about that pretty much every day) with the exception of the ones that make me super happy/proud.

11: The number of years I've been teaching
85: The number of pounds I've lost and kept off
12: The number of years I've kept that weight off
4 and 7: The ages of my best friends kids who I love so much there just aren't words

Today I was surprisingly blindsided by the simplest number there is: 1.

I've been attending a 4 day conference and an activity we did today in discussion of some math implementation had everyone collecting various data. One of the questions was "How many people live in your home?"

As we started collecting the data and I saw a majority of 3's, 4's and 5's, I found myself silently willing another person to have responded 1. But as the data collection finished, I returned to my spot trying to fight back tears.

1.

Just me.

The only one not married or living with a boyfriend/girlfriend. The only one without kids.

In that moment I felt about 3 inches tall. I felt myself curl inward as to protect the bleeding heart that it felt like everyone now saw. My insecurities came rushing out with that bleeding.

"Look at that loser! I wonder what an ice queen she must be to be her age and alone! No kids either? Man. What a pathetic life she must have."

My practice lately has been to force myself to sit with my feelings rather than push them aside so that hopefully I can gain some more insight on this whole SMC journey. So in the midst of misty eyes and trying to follow along with the speaker, I probed the awful thoughts spewing out of my momentarily shredded heart.

"Why is this hurting now? It isn't any different today than it was yesterday that it's just you at home. You were 1 then, too. Why the tears?"

And I got a little glimpse of a little beacon I have desperately been looking for to keep me on the path towards one day soon being an SMC. It hurts because I don't want it to be just me. I want to share my life and love with a child. I want to wake up every morning and be so in love that the first thing I think of is them.

I want that.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Clarity

Clarity is one of the things that has been very fleeting throughout this whole experience of prepping for motherhood via the SMC route. I would imagine a lot of it is because I am still keeping this plan close to the vest; only directly sharing with my mom, cousin and counselor (V) and indirectly discussing once in a passing conversation with my best friends (a married couple). I am almost ready to discuss this with them.

Logically I know they will love me no matter what I decide (they are basically more like my brother and sister than just best friends) but I was overwhelmed with the fear that they would judge me or wouldn't understand why I was making this choice. It has prevented me from saying anything to them which I know has stunted my growth in so many ways. They are amazing parents. They have already taught me so much in the last 7 years as I have silently witnessed them parent and raise these two unbelievable boys whom I love so much. But in silently observing all this, I know I've missed out on so many conversations and lessons that I will never be able to tap into specifically again. I know that once I share this with them I will grow so much with such a simple step.

The biggest benefit that is going to come with shedding a layer of secrecy, and with it, shame, is that I will start to combat the thing that I've struggled with consistently since this whole idea started forming in my mind years ago: Am I worthy of this?

I've sat the last 3 or so years with this question and very little to counter the fear that I was headed down this path for the wrong reason. The fear quickly became "Am I doing this because I really want it or because I don't want to be alone?" I struggled with feeling selfish as a result and the shame combined with having no one to talk to about it just compounded the notion. But in talking with V today, she provided me with a table turner: "Why does it have to be one or the other? Can it not be a little bit of both? Married couples choose to have children because they want to build a family. We are human. It is our natural instinct to be with people, around people and love people. That doesn't change for you because you are single. You can really want this and not want to be alone at the same time."

So simple. So clear. AND SO FREEING.

And it is with this newfound clarity that I continue moving forward in this journey to see where it takes me next.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Hamster Wheel

Lately my mind has been a little rabid hamster running in the wheel until it smokes and bursts into flames.

For reasons unknown to me at the moment, I have stepped farther back from being a single mom in the "traditional" way (as traditional as sperm donors get! HA!) and more towards fostering.

Currently I have 4 friends who foster to varying degrees: one has 4 currently under the age of 4 with plans to adopt 2, one went in knowing she was going to adopt 2 older boys, one who fostered but has been on a break for a year but is going to start up next year and one has 3 bio kids and fosters temporarily when there is a need. I also have one friend who works at a summer camp for foster kids who got certified and planned to adopt a teenager before a family member stepped up for her. What can I say? Us teachers are a compassionate bunch and I have amazing friends.

When I first started making plans to be a mom, fostering was always my worst case scenario/plan C/only as a last resort means to an end. It never really was something I considered because I just figured I would do the whole pregnancy thing and have a bio child. But as all huge decisions should, I'm taking time to map out all options I've swung to the far opposite spectrum (whereas maybe a year ago I was 100% sperm donor/pregnancy) and am now considering all benefits to this path.


  • No pregnancy -- as amazing as the creation and birth of life is, the idea of giving up my body and having permanent change as a result is a bit daunting. Gain 60 lbs? Pee when you sneeze? Not to mention morning sickness, swollen ankles and mood swings. 
  • No hospital bills -- create life? Cool. Now we're gonna charge you $20,000 for making a human. Have I mentioned my insurance sucks?
  • No fertility treatments -- no selecting sperm donors, monitoring cycles, procedures, sonograms, HSGs, bloodwork every few days
  • No "never" -- the system is full (and unfortunately always will be) of children who can't live with their bio parents. It may not be the first phone call, but there is a child out there somewhere that could be mine. Fertility treatments could possibly end with nothing no matter how hard you try or how long you wait.
  • State support -- while I would foster to eventually adopt, there is financial support here. The money I have spent years saving could be used to LIVE a life as a family not just try not to drown. That support would eventually go away but even 18 mo-2 yrs of daycare support would be a huge gift.
  • SAVE A LIFE -- a couple months ago there was this absolutely sickening story of a child who lost their life at the hand of their parent and how the system allowed her to fall through the cracks. Multiple safety nets failed and now she's dead. That has stuck with  me and has been a lot of the fuel with this most recent swing.


But like with everything in my life, the worries always creep in...

  • Will I be able to love a child I know is not mine the same way I would love a child that was? 
  • Will my family and friends be able to?
  • What if the child ends up allergic to my pets? I cannot look my friends in the eye if it came down to me having to get rid of them (I have a rescue group and have spent the last 5 years of my life condemning this!)
  • What if I do this and I find out it's not for me? 
  • Am I willing to handle the ups and downs of this side of motherhood? I could open up my heart to a child and then have them taken away... 
  • Do I follow my heart (at it's current moment, check back in 6 months) and go down this path, possibly eating up viable fertile time in my 30's just to possibly end up over 35 and wishing I hadn't?

See. Sparks. Flames. Hamster is out of control in that wheel up there!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Do What You Love

Not even sure how long it's been since my last post. No clue if anyone even reads this but right now it's not any sort of cliffhanging material so I can't blame people for not hanging on my every word. Just living life, waiting for the right time.

It's crazy how almost everything now is looked at through the lens of future motherhood. Many decisions I make now involve any unforeseen or previously unimportant aspects being reviewed to make sure I am still keeping myself on track for motherhood. When? No clue. My original plan was next summer but now that this summer is already almost here I am a bit freaked by that!

Not why I'm writing today though. Yesterday my friend and co-worker asked me to stop by her classroom before I left for the day. Her husband works for a big financial company that works with insurance companies and he had a job opening that made him think of me. I love numbers, spreadsheets and math in general (hence the math teacher thing, but I digress...) Anyway, I had vented some frustrations to her last year when we had a huge upheaval in our department and I was miserable. I jokingly told her to tell her husband to keep me in mind for any jobs that would fit well with my background. Well she remembered and her husband wants to me to interview. The job starts at the salary I've taken 10 years in my current job to get to with a much greater chance of raises and bonuses, better benefits, etc. Teaching tends to increase my pay $100/paycheck each new school year (PAAAAARTAAY!) and my benefits are just god awful.She told me there was no pressure but then told me I really should think about it and if it fits with my long-term plans. She talked about advancement, having better pay and benefits support and eventual retirement not having any idea that single motherhood is actually the biggest thing that fuels my decisions these days.

So naturally I called my mom and talked it out. I texted a friend and talked it out. Both are the most level headed and non-impulsive people I trust with things like this. Both had pretty much the same message (my mom being the only one who currently knows about my motherhood plan): follow your gut.

My gut immediately reacted after I left yesterday. I would HATE an office job. I need stimulation. I need a structured day. I need awkward, hormonal and immature teenagers cutting jokes and making me laugh on a daily basis. I cannot fathom doing a job that doesn't bring me joy. I understand that it's not important for some people that work is a fulfilling thing in their lives but for me, it is. I LOVE my job. I make a difference in my job. No way would I be doing that if I decided to take this job. I almost started crying as I walked back to my room to grab my purse. The idea of leaving the classroom pained me. Teaching is who I am. It is my calling.

And yet I still feel compelled to justify my own decision/life's purpose to myself because the financial aspect of this opportunity is the "smarter" decision given my path to SMC. Money is the biggest limiter and aspect of SMC that offers me little to no control currently. Having a baby will put a huge strain on my finances. A higher paying job would fix a lot of the things that are preventing me from jumping in now and a lot of stress in the future. I'm having to be much more methodical with my expenses and save as much as I can each month to create a "fund" for myself once that time comes. It's hard when that one thing that you had no control over now suddenly becomes something that could not be an issue.

But today as I was driving home I asked myself "Would I tell my child to not do something they love because they could make more money doing something they don't?" And the answer was no. I don't want to ever be able to say I chose money over purpose. The plan always was to make this work on a teacher's salary anyway, so why all of a sudden do I need a different job for this plan to work?

I don't.


Sunday, January 3, 2016

New Year, Next Year

I love the change a new year brings. The idea of a fresh start and new perspective is something that I would imagine appeals to many people.

Because I'm a teacher, I get two weeks off for break. It is normally spent traveling to visit my dad or if I stay here, then ping-ponging back and forth to parties, gift exchanges, numerous lunches, dinners, movie nights, etc. These last two weeks have had just the right amount of family, friends, fun and relaxation.

I did some grown up stuff like buy a new water heater and replace my back door. Thanks to a very unexpected Christmas gift from my dad, I was able to do both and still have over $1200 to put into savings. Like most things in life, neither were an easy fix and ended up creating some additional problems that of course cost more money but it's done now and I feel much better knowing I don't have a back door that is rotting due to a bad install of a dog door and a water heater that is going to last me for the next 8-10 years.

Oddly enough, the water heater got me thinking. 8-10 years? I could have a kid the next time I have to shell out the money to replace this water heater.

And 2016? When the year made its switch all of a sudden my "in the somewhat distant future" plan became acknowledgable as next year. Next year I plan to start trying. Next year I could be pregnant. NEXT YEAR.

Something about that shift has lit a fire under me in really the only way I can do anything about right now.

Back story - In my late teens/early 20's I weighed almost 260 lbs. Woke up one morning during my junior year of college and just decided I was done with that. Lost almost 100 lbs by the time graduation rolled around. I've kept it off for almost 10 years now, happily fluctuating between 165-180. For my height I knew I needed to lose about 20-25 more and had I been in college a little longer I could have done that but my first year of teaching was stressful (to say the least) and I was lucky to get out having only gained 5 lbs. Schools are landmines for food. There is SO MUCH ALL THE TIME. Parents baking treats, sending in donuts, Starbucks. Front office catering bagels, donuts, lunch. PTA doing potlucks and cookie exchanges. It's so hard to always say no!

Anyway, I always knew that one of the things I wanted to do for myself before trying was lose the rest of the weight. Aside from the fact that any extra weight could have negative effects on my fertility, but I promised myself I would never get above 200 again. It's completely possible that at my current weight of 172 that I may not, but I don't want to risk it. But one of the biggest reasons I want to lose the rest of the weight is for the pregnancy itself. I never had a body I was proud of, even when I wasn't obese. I am proud of myself for losing weight but my body is still somewhat of a wreck because of it. Most of my leftover weight is in my stomach and my hips and I don't want anything standing in the way of me being proud of my pregnant body. I want to have that belly I can show off and take pics of. I don't want to spend any time hating a single moment or thing about pregnancy and given my current body, I know I would.

So after I made the discovery (can it be classified as a discovery for something so obvious?!) that next year is my year, I kicked myself back into weight loss mode. It has now been a week and I've started a yoga regimen to focus on toning and strengthening my core as well as cardio and I have started logging all my food. Down from 1800-2000 cals/day to 1400. It has been a while since I have actively tried to lose weight but I know my body can do it. I just hope my age/metabolism haven't changed things too much.

I have a good 18 months to lose 20-25 lbs. Even if I only lose 2 lbs a month I am still well over my goal. I hope to lose it a bit faster than that so I can enjoy being skinny for a bit. I've never been skinny before!

I've been reading blogs like a mad woman these last two weeks and have found a few that have been so inspiring to me! God bless this blogosphere and the things it does for everyone!