So Here's the Thing

Friday, July 31, 2015

Hi there. Posting has obviously been quite sparse around these parts. Some of that is because it's summer, and in two days, what is effectively my last summer off ever in the history of my life will be over. That means I'll be glued to my school laptop again, only instead of screwing around on the internet, I'll be learning pharmacology, pathology, and all of clinical medicine. (Okay, let's be real, I'm still going to do a fair bit of screwing around on the internet.) So yeah, it makes sense that I wouldn't want to be attached to my laptop all day, every day when I don't have to be, and it's times like these that I'm glad that I don't depend on my blog for any sort of income, as it means that I can leave you alone here for 2 weeks and not starve.

So here's the thing. It's a lot of things.

A lot of my reticence is coming from a place of... fear? Discomfort? A feeling of being unsure and unmoored? I am not really sure. I haven't felt inspired, or funny, or helpful, so I didn't say anything. I was afraid that whatever I did have to say would sound stupid, or useless, or whiny. I felt a weight of needing to write "pin-able content" that was also entertaining and "on brand" (whatever the hell my brand even is is beyond me at this point). My perfectionism was creeping in and stepping all over my writing abilities. And for awhile, I let it.

Two of my favorite bloggers, Janelle and Nicole, both had good things to say about this kind of stuff.

From Janelle, at Saaybe Says:

"Imperfection is interesting. More importantly imperfection is honest. It breaks down walls. When I admit my imperfections I implicitly make it safe for you to admit yours. When people are honest with each other that builds community. And that is why I write on this blog; to create an authentic community. To create real fellowship. I don’t want something shallow. I want the real thing."

And from Nicole, at Just the Elevator Pitch:

"The point of this post is just to remind you to cut yourself some slack. With blogging, with your career, with your bathroom, with life. Don’t stop working hard but if you are working hard, that’s all you can expect from yourself."

Smart women saying smart things is one of my favorite things about the internet. Right up there with cats pictures and videos of baby goats and Amazon Prime.

So partly it was summer, and partly it was perfectionist tendencies, and partly it was too much weird internet pressure, and partly it was because I thought nothing I have to say was helpful or entertaining. 

That last bit? Probably true. I've had a lot going on this summer, mentally and emotionally, almost all exclusively dealing with the fact that I am still not pregnant. I struggle with how much to share of our journey (I hate that term... it's so corny when I use it, I think) to having a baby. A lot of my classmates read this and some of my family reads it. Moreso than that, I worry that you, lovely readers, don't want to hear about it. The medical procedures, the science, the heartbreak, the weird and unspoken knowledge that this is all about my reproductive parts. (Here, internet! Let's talk about my uterus! HURRAH! Yeah, that's weird.) 

But then I remember how people responded to my post about my miscarriage and the grief that followed. I remember how many people reached out to me and said that they felt less alone, or who thanked me for sharing it. And hey, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan just announced that they're expecting a baby girl and talked about how Priscilla suffered 3 miscarriages prior to this. I know for myself, I spend a stupid amount of time scouring the internet for stories that look like mine, looking for that glimmer of hope that someday, I'll also be writing a post about how now that we have a baby, all of the trials were worth it. I know that I am not alone, even when I feel like I am, and I want to believe that maybe someone else out there is looking for my story because it matches theirs. 

Because of all that, I've decided to post intermittent fertility updates, along with what I hope will be semi-educational posts about fertility, trying to conceive, and the medical side of baby-making. The internet is already full of glamorized sex; I'm going to drop some science on you all. (Yikes, did I just say, "Drop some science?" Send help.)

I tell people all the time that trying to get pregnant is a friggin' science project, and I'm only half-kidding. Even if you're doing it the "old-fashioned way" there's a lot more to it than you'd think. It makes you wonder how anyone gets accidentally pregnant at all! I promise this blog isn't going to turn into The Vagina Monologues of The Chronicles of Trying to Make a Baby or anything weird. There's still going to be plenty of other stuff here. But this is my life right now. This is reality.

So, here's to telling perfectionist tendencies to shove it and to giving myself a break. To being real and raw and messy. To being okay with "the thing" being a lot of things. To being okay with fear and trepidation. To science.

And to all of you, who keep coming back here to read my words. Nice to see you all. You're doing a great job and your hair looks really nice. 

Option 3: Be Weird

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Last week on Thursday, I had the amazing experience of listening to Caitlin Moran, author of How to Be a Woman, at the Free Library of Philadelphia. If you haven't read it, and you're a fan of feminism, swearing, sex, and talking about things generally regarded as taboo, I need you to go get it right now. I'll wait.


Okay. Now that we've remedied that situation, I am going to try and describe my unreal Thursday. I met up with my friend Jenn (and ran into someone with whom I went to high school), and we waited anxiously for Caitlin (pronounced Cat-lynn, in case you were wondering) to take the stage. And then she did and interviewed herself about her new novel, How to Build a Girl, as well as many other things about her life. She wanted to talk about a lot of things in the book, but one of the biggest things was how to construct yourself, and she mentioned that our default mode as women tends to be "self-loathing". For me... that is completely true. And it sounds stupid, but I never realized that I could just decide to be the kind of self that I would love. But who would I love?

"I find it really distressing that there's only two options for women, that you can either be ugly, or beautiful. I think we've forgotten there's option three, which is be weird. Being weird is an incredibly important and valid choice for a girl to make." - Caitlin Moran

It was really important for me to hear this, because let's face it, I've always been pretty weird. As a child, I read a ton, had very few friends, was the least athletically inclined person you could find, and if bullying had existed as a social problem that people cared about then, I would have definitely been bullied.

In middle school, I had more friends, but I was still a HUGE nerd. If I felt like putting a photo of 13 year old me on the internet was a good idea, I would totally do it, but I don't, so you'll have to live without it. Let me try and paint a picture for you. I was short, had frizzy hair, huge glasses, braces, and boobs that were bigger than everyone else's (which I hated at the time). I didn't have clothes that were "in," I didn't really wear make-up, and I didn't have my ears pierced. I wasn't on any sports teams, I took a ton of honors classes, and I played with the orchestra and sang in the chorus. In 8th grade, I had my first boyfriend, but he was also one of the biggest nerds, so that didn't help my social status. My low self-esteem combined with the luck of the draw genetics, and the depression and anxiety I live with today began to manifest itself then. It was a bad time.

tl;dr - I was not cute or popular and everyone, including me, knew it.

In high school, things were better. I lost the braces, got smaller glasses/occasionally wore contacts, discovered flat irons, and found more people who were owning their nerdiness. It was good, but still not great. I still had a lot of issues with depression, and spent 10 days in an outpatient program when I was 16. I'm not saying that none of this would have happened if I had known that it was okay to just BE WEIRD, but maybe it wouldn't have been as bad.

Now, I'm 29, twenty days away from starting my second year of med school (WHAT???), and I'm married to a man who, by his own admission, is a big weirdo, who happens to love my weirdness. I still don't think I'm cute or popular. I still have frizzy hair (although I did just get a keratin treatment, so that is less of a problem), big glasses are in, I officially can put on eyeliner, and my clothes are mostly not ridiculous (although I still own a sweater that I got in 5th grade, and yes it still fits, but no, I don't wear it out of the house anymore unless I am shoveling snow because Victoria made me promise I wouldn't). My ears are pierced, but I never wear earrings, I still can barely tell a tennis racket from a soccer cleat, and I play a bunch of musical instruments, which apparently is cool once you're a grown-up.

I still sit firmly in Camp Self-Loathing, (which, by the way, is a terrible camp and I advise you to never send your kids there) on many days. You would think, after reading that paragraph above, that I'd pretty much love myself. I don't. There, I said it. Plenty of other people love me, and sometimes, I think I'm okay, but no, I don't love myself. Caitlin talked about how we all have an ideal self, and you can see who that self is if you look at a teenager's walls. My walls had a giant cat poster, some framed photos of roses, and a calendar, none of which have anything to do with my ideal self... even if being a cat would be amazing. Now, my walls are mostly naked, except for a wedding portrait, which is great, but also doesn't really describe my ideal self.

My ideal self would be intelligent and funny, and self-assured. She would be a doctor, but also a writer. She would be a good entertainer, and be able to decorate. She'd be slender and have a great BMI. She wouldn't do things like leave the eggs in the trunk of her car overnight. Her counter tops would always be clean and she would dust every week. She would be a mom (which means that her counter tops would never be clean, but whatever). She would exercise regularly. She would not be anxious about things over which she has absolutely zero control. She would have no credit card debt, a savings account with something in it, and a retirement fund to which she contributed regularly. She would never forget to call her relatives, and she would always send birthday cards on time. She would know how to blow-dry her hair. She would not be afraid.

There are a million other things, and yes, I guess I already am some of those things, but I'm certainly not all of those things. So, while I'm trying to be all of those things, I'm going to focus on the fact that after the talk, Caitlin Moran signed all three of my books, gave me TWO hugs and a kiss, and when I told her that I wanted to write a book or a memoir someday, she told me to never stop writing and that the world should hear my opinion. And then she said she would be my cool aunt, and basically, now we're BFF's. We also took a selfie:

I don't even care that it's blurry. Our joy could not be contained.
And now, I'm going to leave you with another fabulous quote from Caitlin (we're on a first-name basis now, obviously),

"There is no difference in pretending to be an asshat and actually being an asshat. They're completely the same things, and indeed, we don't need anymore asshats. The world is full of asshats! There's a massive stockpile of asshats, we've got enough to last in the next millenium!" - Caitlin Moran

Don't pretend to be an asshat, because then you are an asshat. Instead, pretend to be what you want to be. (If you want to be an asshat, then I suggest that you rethink that goal.) 

And if weird is who you are, then by God, be weird. I'll be your friend, I promise.

PS: If you'd like to listen to all of Caitlin's talk, go here!

Brave Inventory: May + June

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Hello, internet! I'm currently on vacation in Punta Cana, but right now, I am hiding from the sun because I seem to have broken out in hives. (Thanks, autoimmune disease!) We arrived on Saturday and have been having a fantastic time (minus the hives), and later this afternoon, we're going kayaking. Hopefully, I won't be thrown out of the kayak into the ocean. Ken assures me that we'll be fine; I am skeptical. Then on Friday, we're taking a sailing cruise to the caribbean side of the island to snorkel, swim in a natural pool in the middle of the ocean, and have lunch on a floating restaurant, surrounding by nurse sharks and sting rays!

So yes. Vacation is awesome, and I promise to have loads of new content once I return. (As long as I don't get tossed overboard, eaten by sharks, or burnt to a crisp out in the sun.)

 Now that it's July, I guess I should talk about what I did in May and June. I just pulled up my calendar to look at May. As far as brave activities are concerned, I didn't really accomplish any. June was a little better, so I figured I'd talk about both months simultaneously.

In May, the only "brave" thing that I did was finish my first year of med school! That's just nuts. I was really nervous that I wasn't going to pass my neuroscience course, but fortunately, I did well enough on the final to make-up for my abysmal grade on the midterm. Also, anatomy is OVER and I never have to dissect a cadaver ever again. This is moderately terrifying because the next time I cut something open, it will be an unconscious human in the OR, I'm not going to think about that right now, though. But yes... OMS-I is in the books, and on August 3rd, I'll start my second year of med school (and final year of classroom lectures!) Craziness.

June was a little better for bravery. On June 1st, I started my summer internship, which doesn't sound necessarily brave, but the subject of the program is clinical bioengineering/design, which is not my normal habitat. It's pretty neat, though, as they took 4 undergrad engineers and 4 med students and made teams out of one of each. We spent the first week in June learning about the clinical biodesign process, and then the next 3 weeks, each team was immersed in a clinical unit at one of the bigger hospitals in our area. My teammate, Alyssa, and I were in the NICU, which was really interesting. I first applied for the internship thinking that I wouldn't be able to do it since I knew I'd be on vacation this week (and the 5th week of the program, more lectures, is occurring now), but the director of the program said it was okay and I ended up being accepted! Learning all of this design stuff and learning to "think like an engineer" has been pretty cool, even though it's pretty different from what I have been doing for the past few years of my life. Also, I had to give up the summer research fellowship that I had been awarded, which made me nervous because I was worried about upsetting the PhD with whom I was supposed to work, but that also all worked out. Yay science!

On June 5th, I had my top 2 wisdom teeth out... while awake! Granted, I also had a dental implant placed while awake, so I wasn't super nervous about it. I did take advantage of the nitrous oxide, which made me feel floaty, but I was definitely aware of all the pushing and pulling going on in my mouth. Fortunately, only one was impacted. And now, I'm going to post this terribly unflattering photo of myself on the internet for all to see:

You should see the other guy...
Yes, this is how I showed up to my internship on Monday. First day in the NICU and I look like I got beat up on the streets of Camden on my way in. There was a lot of explaining. The good news is that after a week or so, I looked way less like an abused chipmunk and could even open my mouth a little. Oh, and I didn't get any crazy infections and was able to survive by taking copious ibuprofen during the day and just taking the Vicodin at night. And I never have to have them out again!

The rest of the month was basically spent in the NICU or hanging out at home. Not much bravery going on. We did spend a night in the hospital, which was way less exciting than I expected it to be. After rounding until midnight and talking to the attending until 12:30, we all went to our respective call-rooms and went to bed until 3 am when we got paged to a delivery. Then we slept until 5:30. But hey, overnight in the hospital in Camden!

I guess the other semi-brave thing that occurred while I was working in the NICU is that I got up my nerve to ask even the stupid questions. I also introduced myself to dozens of strangers (mostly nurses and NP's) who weren't sure why we were there and were often bothered by having two more people in their space. I stood up to our program director when she wanted to change our overnight, and when an NP yelled at me for being in the resident call-room, which I wasn't and couldn't locate if you gave me a map, I politely defended myself (and my teammate) and corrected her. Hooray for being ballsy! Politely ballsy!

On the 22nd, I spent the morning in the Philadelphia passport office, praying that someone there could help me because my passport had gotten held up in NH because of some random form. Thankfully, after standing in line for 2 hours (with no appointment, which is frowned upon), I was able to fill out MORE forms and pay a $60 expediting fee and was told that passport would be ready on Wednesday. I nearly kissed the lady who was helping me, but I probably would have been tased by the security guards, so I decided against it. And yes, my passport was ready on Wednesday and we all did a happy dance.

On the 25th, I picked Pam up in Philly and on the 26th, we set off via PATCO (our mostly useless public transportation line between southern NJ and very specific parts of Camden and Philadelphia) to go to the Tall Ships Festival! We were mostly going to see the giant duck:

But as you can see, the duck did not do so well on his journey up the Delaware River. In fact, he sustained a 60 foot gash and was subsequently deflated. It was a sad day for all of us. We did get to explore some really cool ships, though, and I didn't have a panic attack, freak out, or die when surrounded by thousands of people. I did have a brief moment of terror when Pam left to find out where we needed to get tickets for the water taxi and hadn't returned as I was getting closer to th
e front of the line. I was 2 seconds away from standing on a chair and yelling, "PAM!!!!!" as loudly as I could when she jogged up and said that we could just get the tickets on board. I told her that I thought she had fallen in the river or gotten abducted. (Ab-DUCK-ted??? Ha. Ha ha. Someone help me.) Alas, we didn't get to see the giant duck, but we did get to see a slightly less giant duck. Here's a photo collage of our day, courtesy of Pam:

Left: Pam and me with the less-giant duck and the Battleship New Jersey in the background
Top right: Deflated giant duck. Womp womp.
Middle right: Sign at the duck merchandise kiosk
Bottom right: Pam and me with our tiny, consolation ducks from the T-Mobile booth
Then on the 27th, after sleeping for 4 hours and getting up at 4 am to drive to the airport (shoutout to Levi for dropping us off!),  Ken and I got on a plane and flew to a foreign country where neither of us had ever been. Since then, I've practiced my Spanish (I remember a surprising amount from high school!) and tried new foods (I'm usually very picky.) And in an hour, I'm getting into a kayak. ON THE OCEAN! I don't even know who I am anymore.

So yes, there's my brave inventory for May and June. Hopefully I'll update in a timely manner with July's brave inventory. And now, I'm going to go slather myself in sunscreen and bugspray and get back to my vacation. I leave you with this:

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