Category Archives: Friends

The Unintended Age Gap

One of the unexpected bonuses of moving back to Canada was ending up in the same city as friends from our graduate school days. They are, like Q. and I, a couple who met while pursuing graduate degrees. They are, like Q. and I, a mixed-nationality couple (she’s Canadian, he’s Irish). Their children, like E. and P., have dual citizenship and think nothing of travelling overseas; it’s just what you do to go visit one half of your family.

We really like them.

We almost never see them, even though they live relatively close by (if anyone can be said to be “close by” in this city if you have to drive to see them).

Partly this is because of their schedules- both parents work full-time in high pressure jobs. Someone is often away on a business trip. They’re not great at returning emails.

Partly this is because they are more Q.’s friends than mine and he’s not great at organizing social engagements. I usually take care of that side of the calendar but I’ve been dropping the ball when it comes to seeing our friends for, let’s face it, close to two years now. All I tried to do in 2016 was survive and then 2017 has been equally busy (if less stressful and filled with less sorrow) with kids and work and life.

We used to do better at getting together three or four times a year but in the last few years it’s really dropped off (case in point: we’ve seen them once since P. was born, and when we sent out an email announcing her arrival they were extra surprised and excited because they hadn’t known I was pregnant).

When we do get together, we always have a great time. We value their friendship. It’s a rare thing to have that length of history with someone when you’ve moved around as much as we have.

The sticking point is our kids.

Their two boys are ten and eight.

They have extracurricular activities, interests, friends of their own.

It was easy to make the time to get together when they were little and we didn’t have any children of our own yet.

It was still relatively easy to get together when E. was a baby because their boys weren’t yet in full-time school.

It’s much harder now.

I think intentions are good on both sides, but their kids have their own lives, and our kids are too young to be interesting on their own merit.

It’s one of the hidden costs of infertility nobody like to talk about because you look ungrateful if you voice any kind of regret after you’ve been able to build your family: you end up out of sync with your friends.

I don’t want to trade my family (I hope that goes without saying).

But there is no denying that if E. had been our second child (as he could have been if we’d been able to get and stay pregnant when we first started trying), our kids would fit more easily in with theirs. The same would be true of another set of good friends (who are relatively close by but not in the same city). Their kids are ten, nine, and six, and I know they spend a lot of time with another family with three kids similar in age to theirs. That family lives in the same city we do, so it’s not a question of geographic proximity.

It makes sense that this happens, but it’s still hard.

I have lots of women I talk to when I’m dropping E. off at school, who all obviously have children the same age as E. since they’re in his grade, but, despite my best efforts, I still haven’t managed to turn any of them into actual friends. We’re stuck at friendly.

My actual friends had their children before I did.

The oldest of those children will graduate from elementary school the same year P. starts.

It’s hard to catch up.

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Filed under 21st Century Parenting Politics, Blink and you'll miss it, Friends

Outbreak?

Last Saturday we spent a delightful day with labmonkey, Pea, Spud, and three-fifths of another family (whose parents I’ve been friends with for longer than I’ve known Q.)

The reason only three-fifths of the family were in attendance was on Friday the Dad emailed to say that everyone was feeling unwell and they weren’t sure whether or not they should come, given the littlies.

I wrote back saying that, while I couldn’t speak for labmonkey, I took the view that since E. was in school, he and P. were exposed to pretty much every germ out there. Colds and other minor illnesses really didn’t bother me.

The Mum and the middle child opted not to come, but the others did. There was pulled pork for lunch and pizza for dinner. The adults tested out a boardgame Q. has invented (needs some tweaking but shows great promise) while the bigger kids built marble runs and LEGO creations. The littlies napped (but not at the same time). All the kids trashed the living room, which by the end of the day looked like a tornado had visited. After dinner the adults and big kids played Codenames Pictures while P. and Spud pushed buttons and pulled levers on the exersaucer while also staring at each other suspiciously.

We had a great day.

Monday morning labmonkey messaged me to say she was afraid Spud had Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. On Saturday he’d had only one suspect spot, not enough to set off any alarm bells. By Monday it was a different story. A doctor confirmed the diagnosis Monday evening.

It’s possible E. had a very very mild case of HFMD in kindergarten as I can remember him having a few odd spots around his mouth and then learning later from another mother that HFMD was going through the class.

I’m not at all certain that’s what it was.

And I’m absolutely certain P.’s never had it.

The incubation period is 3-6 days. If we can get to this weekend without either of them being sick, we should be in the clear.

Q. is convinced our kids have super immune systems since they almost never get sick, even with E. (no doubt) bringing home all kinds of surprises from school.

Fingers crossed he’s right.

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Filed under Family, Friends, The Sick

Absence

I don’t have any friends.

This isn’t, of course, exactly true, but it’s how I’ve been feeling for the last few months.

I have two sisters who are my best friends and who (finally) both live relatively nearby.

I have good friends from high school who don’t live in the same city.

I have some very close girl friends who would be my besties if they lived in the same city, but they don’t (and a couple of them aren’t even in the same country).

I have friends who do live in the city but not in our neighbourhood. They all have kids too and getting together requires scheduling and planning and many emails.

I have online friends, including one group of ladies who’ve been together since 2008. We all struggled with infertility and now we are all trying to navigate our way through parenting, work/life balance, etc. I’ve met them all in person, but no one lives in my city.

I have lots of people I talk to at school pick up and drop off.

I rarely walk anywhere in my neighbourhood without seeing someone I know well enough to stop and chat with.

What I don’t have, however, are good girl friends who live in my neighbourhood, whose kids go to the same school as E.

And this year I’ve really felt that absence.

I’ve been in this neighbourhood for long enough- this September it will be nine years since we moved into our house. Some of the mums at school whom I would most like to be friends with are newer arrivals.

But I feel like I’ve missed the friendship boat. The mums I would most like to be friends with already have other mum friends. They are friendly to me, but they already have someone to talk to when things are tough.

Most of them have been friends since they were on maternity leave.

I was on maternity leave then too.

I didn’t make mum friends in my neighbourhood. I had a group of mum friends from prenatal yoga and we hung out all the time in that wild first year, but two of them moved away and the ones who are still in the city are not in my neighbourhood.

I’m kicking myself now for not trying to find mum friends right where I lived, but the mums whom I would most want to be friends with all had January or February babies.

Four or five months doesn’t make a difference now that they’re all six, but in that first year it would have been huge.

We made some friends when E. was at nursery school, but their kids haven’t been in the same class as E. for two years now, and they have other friends too, so it’s hard to maintain a connection.

E. is not good at making friends. It’s been extremely hard for him, which makes it that much harder for me, because my best chance to make friends with these mums is when our kids are playing together. And if E. doesn’t want to stay after school to play in the playground, if getting him to agree to a playdate is like pulling teeth, if he doesn’t connect with the kids of the mums whom I like, then how can I forge a connection?

We’re all parenting one (or more) kids. Almost everyone is working. No one has much free time, so of course they’re going to want to spend the time that they do have with their established friends. And P. has certainly complicated things on my end.

The truth is, I am not good at making friends either.

I am introverted and anxious.

It is hard for me to reach out.

But I’m realizing that I’m also really lonely.

There’s been a lot going on with E. this year, on top of everything that happened to my family last year, and I’ve realized I just don’t know who I can talk to about it. It’s too much to just hand over to someone I don’t know all that well. It’s too big.

And so I smile and wave and chat with the other mums.

I talk and talk.

I never really say anything.

 

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Friends

Inadequate gratitude

I have not done well over the last couple of months with responding to, or even acknowledging, comments. It seems to be all I can manage to get the words out. But I wanted to say just how much I have appreciated every comment and message of support and offer of further support via email. I do know I am not alone.

I am still trying to get assigned to a counselor with the reproductive mental health program I’m now registered with. But I have a second appointment with the psychiatrist on Monday. I know I need help. I know I cannot carry this alone. I am reaching out and asking for the help I need.

But in the meantime, I am so very glad I can come here, spill out my heart, and know that you are reading.

Thank you.

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Filed under Blogging, Friends, Grief, Loss

Thankful

Microblog_MondaysIt is Thanksgiving here.

We spent it with friends, at a cottage.

There was good food and good conversation.

The weather was beautiful.

The leaves were spectacular.

It was a glorious weekend.

I am so grateful.

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This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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Filed under Friends, Microblog Mondays

Welcome to mid-life?

I had a birthday recently.

Not a milestone one, at least not officially, but one that very firmly set me closer to 40 than 30.

Q. is going to be 39 in January.

E. is starting school next month.

Two of the houses on our part of the street sold this summer and the new people have moved in. They’re couples in their late twenties or early thirties. They don’t have kids (yet?). They remind me of Q. and I when we bought our house, seven years ago this autumn.

I feel like we are entering a new stage in our lives. Most of our friends are sending their kids to school as well. We’re done with babies and diapers. We’re losing the flexibility to travel whenever Q. isn’t teaching. Now our movements will be ruled by the school calendar (and that has been a bitter pill to swallow).

This summer, within a week of each other, two of my friends’ mothers had strokes. One died. The other survived, but the stroke added complications to her terminal liver cancer diagnosis. She’s still hanging on, but there isn’t a lot of time left.

Here’s the thing that really struck me: we are creeping into that age where it’s no longer shocking or surprising that our friends are losing their parents.

Q. lost his father in 2003. His father was demonstrably “too young” to die. Q. and his siblings were demonstrably “too young” to lose a parent.

But some of my friends, who are a little bit older than we are, and the youngest in their families, now have parents who are in their late seventies or early eighties. And when they die, although it is still a terribly sad thing and everyone wishes we could have more time with our loved ones, their lives cannot really be said to have been cut short in the way people said it of Q.’s father.

It is that, more than anything else, that makes me feel like Q. and I are entering mid-life.

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Filed under Blink and you'll miss it, E.- the fifth year, Family, Friends, Loss

Let it go

At the end of January, E. and I ran into one of our neighbours on the streetcar.

She was heavily pregnant, and I remembered that her first was still pretty young (under 18 months), so I spontaneously blurted out, “This might be a completely random question, but do you need a second crib?”

She was confused at first. I don’t think she quite remembered who I was or where I lived (three houses down).

Eventually she explained that they had moved their daughter out of her crib and that seemed to be working out, so she thought they’d be ok.

A couple of weeks ago I saw her out walking with her husband, her daughter and her brand new, teeny tiny son.

I said congratulations, admired the baby, asked how everyone was doing (“Great!” she said, “Except we’re getting absolutely no sleep”), and then continued on to the library with E.

She turned up on my doorstep yesterday afternoon.

“Do you still have that crib?” she asked.

She looked exhausted.

Apparently the baby is up for three hours at a time and the toddler is up for three hours at a time and no one is getting any sleep and she and her husband are both going crazy.

I gave her the crib, the mattress, the crib sheets, the instructions, everything.

She wanted to pay me.

I told her I just wanted to know that the crib would be used again.

It was too lovely to sit gathering dust.

It felt so GOOD to give it to her.

It wasn’t bittersweet at all. It was a relief.

The house feels lighter now.

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Filed under Friends, Second Thoughts, Three's Company

Support shout-out

Goodness, it has been a while since I posted. E. and I just got back from a lovely week-long visit with the grandparents- we travelled by train and it was just delightful.

But in lieu of a proper post from me, please go and send some love to a trio of special ladies:

Marianne just did a ‘last chance’ round of IVF while living in the middle east and now finds herself pregnant with twins!

My very dear labmonkey is about to have her egg retrieval for her first (and hopefully last) round of IVF.

And Egg has survived the first anniversary of the devastating second trimester loss of her second son.

They are special to me, and all of these things are hard for different reasons. Please go and sit with them for a while.

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Filed under Blogging, Friends

It’s the most miserable time of the year

I’m depressed.

Not clinically, at least, not yet. But I’m definitely in a major slump. I’m crying a lot and sleeping a lot and I feel tired all the time. Everything exhausts me.

Part of it is weather-related, because this time of year is always so dark and cold, and even though it’s not all that cold right now, it is so dark for so long.

Part of it is lack of exercise because I stopped running during the tww in our last FET and then didn’t start up again because (see above) it was cold and dark in the mornings and E. started waking up unpredictably early.

Part of it is Christmas burnout. This is the first year I have really, really not wanted to be buying presents. It’s just felt overwhelming. Q. and I have decided to do “presence, not presents”, so we’re each in charge of organizing six dates over the the course of 2015, which I’m excited about. I’m also in discussions with my family to stop gift exchanging (other than for E. of course). Anything we really want/need we can afford to buy ourselves, and I’m so tired of buying stuff to give to people because they’re going to buy stuff to give to us. We have so much. Too much, really.

Part of it is trying to engage with the end of treatments. Today I packed up a duffel bag of clothes and three bags of books and toys for the son of a very dear friend from high school (we’re going to see them over the holidays). I felt both happy and relieved to be able to give them these things and heart-broken that we were able to give them away because we were never going to need them ourselves.

Part of it, a big part, is missing the little person who was supposed to be here but isn’t.

And part of it is finishing the PhD. I didn’t think this was going to affect me as much as it has- I handed in the final draft of the dissertation in early October and I didn’t touch it again until December, so I thought I’d had a break from it. But I was clearly still focusing on it, even unconsciously, because ever since the defence (and the celebratory party the day afterwards), I’ve been out of sorts.

I haven’t googled it, but I would bet money that feeling depressed after finishing a PhD is completely normal and probably expected. After all, I’ve spent the past six years working on it.  It’s not helped by the fact that I’m not starting a new job immediately afterwards. I’m still figuring out what I want to do and what will work with our family. So there’s a lot of uncertainty and not a lot of answers right now. I know that will change, but the here and now is a challenge.

I’ve been trying to push everything down until after Christmas, but it’s not really working. So, as of today, I’m trying something new: acknowledging that this probably won’t be my best Christmas, but there will be other years ahead when I won’t feel this way. I’m giving myself permission to grieve, to mourn, to feel adrift. It is a year of endings, after all.

And now that I’ve dumped out how I’m feeling, I’m going to turn off the computer and go for a run while the sun is still shining.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Friends, Grief, Life after the PhD, Loss, Mirror, Mirror (Body Image), My addled brain, PhD, Running, Second Thoughts, Sleep, Three's Company

Last Womb Standing

I keep a list in the back of my head.

It’s composed of the names of women, friends and acquaintances and colleagues, who have one child within a year or two of E. and no others.

One of them e-mailed me the other day.

The subject was “News”.

I didn’t even need to open it to know what it said.

She’s pregnant.

Due in April.

Finally able to get excited about it because she can tell people now.

She wanted to tell me in person, but did it over e-mail instead because the next time I’m going to see her is at our Christmas party and she didn’t want to surprise me.

It was a very kind and thoughtful gesture on her part, and I appreciated that I wasn’t going to get blindsided at my own party.

She was the second one that week.

Two years ago, I wasn’t even keeping that list.

A year ago it was still plenty long.

Now it’s almost empty.

I don’t begrudge these women their second children.

Far from it.

I am happy for them.

Many of them have struggled, even if they didn’t the first time around, like my friend who discovered her pregnancy was ectopic the same week I lost our baby, or my friend who lost a baby very late in the second trimester to a fatal genetic disorder, or my friend who had four chemical pregnancies before one stuck.

Of the two last week, one had been ready to add to her family for a long time, and the second was on her very last IUI before walking away from treatments forever with an only child.

E. is getting old enough now that if my friends were going to have had a second child easily, it would have either already happened or it would be on the way.

So an announcement these days is often a little victory.

It still hurts.

Every name I take off my list is a reminder of what we tried and failed to do.

I have never been more grateful for this community. Here, on my blog, I do not feel alone.

In my ‘real’ life, I’m so terribly lonely.

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Filed under Baby Olympics, Friends, Grief, Loss, Three's Company