Advanced Maternal Age

biological clockWith a sharp exhale, I dried my hands and put a dampened palm to my sweaty forehead. Blinking at my reflection a few times in the bathroom mirror, I looked at the test again, making sure that I was seeing exactly what it was I thought I was seeing. Had I imagined it? Had I read the instructions correctly? This. Is. Impossible.

I needed another opinion — a pure and unbiased opinion from a pure and unbiased (and not nearly as hormonal) person. So as not to influence my pure, unbiased (and not hormonal) husband , I carefully hid the answer key by partially replacing the torn foil wrapper and summoned him.

“Tell me EXACTLY what you see here. How many lines do you see?” I said in cautious tones, simultaneously standing on my tiptoes and biting my pinky finger, anxiously awaiting his reply.

“I see two lines.” He replied and then looked at me quizzically, his expression asking a thousand and one questions, for which I had no answers. So I removed the wrapper and let him read for himself exactly what the presence of “two lines” indicated on the home pregnancy test. And then I cried. I REALLY cried.

I’d like to tell you that those very first tears after learning we were (shockingly) about to become parents were tears of unbridled joy and expectant bliss. But they weren’t. Those first tears were nothing but sheer, unadulterated fear. Fear that we weren’t ready… Fear that we didn’t have what it takes… Fear that in my 39 years alone on this earth I had grown far too selfish to EVER be equipped to care for an innocent being… And OMG! I AM THIRTY-NINE!

Then the real fear came: The fear that I was too old… Fear that we (but still mostly me) were too old… And fear that my dilapidated-broken-down-ancient-ruin-of-a-nearly-40-year-old body was too old to successfully bear a healthy child. “How is this even possible?!?!” an internal voice screamed. “My eggs are from the FORD ADMINISTRATION!” But apparently it WAS possible, and it IS possible, because it IS happening. And that test (along with the four additional tests I would take soon after) wasn’t lying.

A mother of “advanced maternal age” is what they call you when you find yourself with child over the age of 35, so it’s a pretty safe bet that I am really pushing the envelope here. Apparently, there’s a seemingly endless supply of things that a “woman of a certain age” ought to worry about because of the “advanced maternal age” label, such as: genetic anomalies, high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, low birth weight and premature labor and/or delivery. But here’s the thing… I’m choosing not to spend exorbitant amounts of precious energy worrying about all of that stuff because, you see… I wasn’t supposed to be here. Ever.

Many of you who regularly read this blog already know that I have long held the belief that children were not in the cards for me. I had, for the most part, accepted this and Lee and I were about the business of building a happy, meaningful and productive life together sans children. That is, until right before Christmas, when we got this bit of earth-shattering news.

And I can tell you that the most jaw-dropping bit of all is that there was no magic pill. Years ago I tried the magic pills, the magic shots, and the magic procedures and surgeries performed by the magic doctors — all to no avail. And yet somehow I am here now, against all kinds of odds. I am here now—at a ripe, old, advanced maternal age—terrifyingly, dumb-foundingly, shockingly… miraculously.

The Edge of My Comfort Zone

edgeMy husband finds it extremely puzzling that I enjoy the occasional Lifetime movie. His reasoning is good enough. He thinks I am intelligent, but those movies… not so much. And while I’m appreciative of the reason for his puzzlement, it does not change the way I feel about them.
 
Right around the time I got the ax from my previous place of employment, a movie came out about a woman named Tess who, much like me, had been unexpectedly handed her walking papers. However, this is where the similarities between my life and Tess’s life end. 
 
Reeling from the new reality in which she now finds herself, Tess takes off for a career conference in the hopes of making new connections and netting herself a new gig. Now, the conference, mind you, happens to be taking place in a breathtaking tropical locale. (Of course it does. This IS a Lifetime movie after all)
 
Though, it is at this point that the movie takes an unexpected turn. I know. The mind reels that ANY Lifetime movie plot has the capability to surprise anyone… but this one does. You see, Tess does not find a new job nor does she ever really figure out what it is she wants to be doing. But she does meet a man (obviously) who challenges and ultimately changes her way of thinking. 
 
“Life begins at the edge of one’s comfort zone.” The handsome stranger says after observing her for little more than a day. Watching her come apart over the notion that she has no job and nothing promising on the horizon, he encourages her to take a leap of faith into the great, big unknown. 
 
I won’t tell you how it ends in case you want to see it for yourself, but suffice it to say, I’ve been holding on to that line… “Life begins at the edge of one’s comfort zone” because these days, I believe it to be true. When I first moved to the big city of Columbus, I worked as a freelancer / consultant for over a year before landing a “permanent” job. 
 
Although I met some great people and did some challenging, new work — I had my mind made up that my “life” wouldn’t officially begin until someone invited me into the fold… officially. I worked that entire first year, making the most income that, up until that point, I had ever made. But it wasn’t good enough. I wanted the whole nine yards: full medical / dental coverage, life insurance, disability, vacation, 401k, stock options… you get the idea. Nothing short of that was ever going to make me feel “comfortable.”
 
It did happen. I was eventually offered a permanent job and I slept a little better at night. Knowing where I would be going day after day, week after week and (hopefully) year after year, was extremely comforting to me. I finally had a nice, warm security blanket to wrap myself up in. Or so I thought. I do find it ironic, however, that the circumstance I once deemed to be so completely “secure,” was actually anything but. I waltzed, (quite nonchalantly) through the door on a Wednesday morning, Starbucks in hand, and wound up leaving via escort… carrying all my belongings in a pathetic cardboard box. My point being this: No matter how secure you think you are… You just never know. 
 
Looking back on it now, I realize that I mainly wanted to be employed for the sake of being employed and I never actually got around to asking myself what it was that I really wanted or needed to do with my strengths and abilities. Some of you may not believe this, but I am actually glad that it happened the way that it did because until I was shown the door, I don’t think I would’ve had the courage to walk out of it on my own. I would have wallowed in my comfort zone and I’m convinced I would have wound up staying too long were I actually ever given the choice. 
 
Admittedly, I am a wee bit “uncomfortable” right now in a contract position rather than a “permanent” one… But I guess (according to the handsome stranger in last month’s Lifetime movie) I should be on the lookout since “life” apparently begins at the edge of one’s comfort zone. 

 

Walking Papers

heelsOne week ago I was unceremoniously dismissed from my job. It was done without pageantry or fuss. I was asked to surrender my security badge and handed a white envelope with my name printed on it. The envelope was said to contain, quote: “All of the answers to any questions you might have with regard to what comes next.”

I was then escorted from the building (the same building, mind you) that I had entered hours before with the same security badge I’d just handed over. And as though on cue, like a scene from a movie, it literally started raining on me as I walked across the parking lot. Suffice it to say, that day is not likely to be ranked on the “Best Days of My Life” list.

I’ve been home now for seven days and have thus far stayed busy doing the things that one does when one has been shoved out to sea and set adrift on the churning waters of What Now. So far, I have not been clinging to inspirational quotes, or religiously reciting mantras to help me remain positive. No, instead I’ve been taking it as it comes. And here are a few of the things that I’ve observed.

  1. The middle of the afternoon on a Thursday is an excellent time to visit the grocery store.
  2. Answering the email you sent earlier this morning is not the only thing on the head hunter’s To Do list.
  3. The true horror of daytime television WILL force you to update that resume.
  4. Eventually you realize you’ve begun tailoring your job search around afternoon reruns of Roseanne and King of Queens.
  5. It is a scientific fact that going to the grocery store will, indeed, cause the head hunter to call you.
  6. The afternoon sun peeking through the leaves of the big tree out front is more beautiful than you knew.
  7. The afternoon sun peeking through the leaves of the big tree out front illuminates the thick layer of dust that has accumulated — on everything.
  8. Life doesn’t stop just because you lost your job.
  9. You realize that the thing you loved most about your job was that it was “secure.”
  10. Security is a relative term.

While I was sitting in the conference room, looking out the windows as they told me my position had been “eliminated due to restructuring,” I thought I’d be more upset than I am. In my mind I flashed forward to this time at home, this time right here and now as I type this — and I thought I’d be marinating in self-pity. But I’m not.

Maybe it’s because I’ve got a contract gig on the horizon. Maybe it’s because of the support of my husband. Maybe it’s my age. But I do seem to understand, on a deeper level than before, that there is no such thing as “permanent” or “secure” in a world where the only constant is change. All we have is the here and now.

And right now, that’s enough.

Flying Lessons

When you come to the end of all of the light that you know and step out into the darkness of the Great Unknown… Faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen. Either you will be given something firm to stand on, or you will be taught to fly.

personal-flight-attempt-1

I can’t remember the first time I heard this quote, but I have loved it ever since. It comforts me to be reminded that things always have a way of working out. It may take a while to comprehend what is happening or why, but eventually understanding comes. Hindsight is 20/20, they always say. In the meantime, during those darker times, those murky times, those uncertain times it is important to know that things won’t always stay that way.

Easier said than done. I know.

I personally prefer the first scenario given, that I will be given something firm to stand on. If something I can feel beneath my feet is good, then something solid and immoveable—something firm—is even better. It is the flying part that I have trouble with because it does not come naturally to me. In fact, unless you’re a superhero, it doesn’t come naturally to any of us. But sometimes, flying lessons are the only option we’ll be given. No less. No more. And that can be scary because it not only requires endless patience, but trust as well.

For months now I’ve found myself sulking around in one of those murky places… waiting to see if I’d be graciously given something firm to stand on or shoved headfirst off a cliff and forced to fly. In more specific terms, I was waiting to see if the company I’d been working for (on a contract basis for the last five months) was going to welcome me into the official fold or choose to go in a different direction with another candidate.

I equated getting the job with a great big slab of granite. A vast, strong, solid piece of property to stand on which I could call my very own. I would carve my name in it and decorate it with potted plants and adorable picture frames. Conversely, I equated NOT getting the job with flying… blind… in a hurricane… without a parachute or floatation device. Betcha can’t guess which one I’m doing right now?

Yup. I’m flying. But miraculously, it isn’t the death-defying, teeth-chattering, knee-knocking, goose-bump-inducing terror trip I was expecting. It is so bizarre. Sitting in the conference room, on an ordinary Wednesday, I knew from the look on my boss’s face that I was not about to hear the news I’d been hoping for. And I’ll be honest, I was crushed. Hot, fat tears splashed down the front my favorite periwinkle sweater the entire drive home that afternoon. That evening I cried so hard I gave myself a migraine. In fact, I cried so hard my teeth and gums and eye sockets hurt.

But when the sun came up on Thursday, I was over it. By Friday I was even MORE over it and when I agreed to stay on another week and showed up for work at the very place where my services were no longer desirable, I was completely over it.  No leftover attitude. No residual bitterness. Just peace, calm and contentment. I’m not exactly sure what happened… other than the distinct possibility that although I am flying, it is not without a net. 

You see, while I’ve been wading around in fear and uncertainty, worrying and fretting  about the unknown the last five months — my soon-to-be-husband, family and friends have been weaving a pretty tight mesh beneath me. Making it clear to me that even though there is no giant slab of granite beneath my feet for TOMORROW, being angry or bitter takes too much energy away from the things that I have TODAY.

…and to the Republic for which it stands…

TitleI was driving to work yesterday saying hateful things to my uncooperative hair, getting stopped at every, single red light and growing increasingly impatient as I secretly cursed the slow-moving guy in front of me for consulting his dashboard GPS on his EVERY move because he was clearly LOST… when I looked out my driver’s side window toward the shopping plaza across the street. On the corner I noticed the flag flying at half-staff and thought to myself with a lump suddenly lodged in my throat: “Oh. Yeah. That’s right.” And just like that, I remembered Sandy Hook. Suddenly none of my petty “issues” mattered AT ALL.

I remembered that somewhere, not too far from here… people are deeply hurting. They are grieving instead of baking cookies and shopping and considering what to stuff inside the stockings. On the week before Christmas—a child’s most cherished holiday—parents are burying their babies instead of reading them stories and tucking them in for a brief winter’s nap. I remembered that somewhere, not too far from here… a community is drowning in devastation as they grapple with the largest, most difficult questions anyone will ever ask.

The flag, flapping silently from it’s revised position only half-way up the pole, was a solid slap in the face forcing me to gain the proper perspective about something as minor as slow-moving traffic. Yet it was an even harsher reminder that so much of what I worry about on a regular basis is utterly futile. But there won’t always be a flag flying at half-staff to serve as such a wake-up call. Eventually the flag will be raised again as we attempt to move forward and the evening news will begin to cover something else.

And while we ought not remain mired in the darkness that so often spreads from unspeakable tragedy, it IS worth pausing to remember that whether we see the flag raised high with pride or lowered with respect in mourning… it’s fabric wraps all the way around us… All of usEvery day. And well, if we can remember that we’re collectively covered by the same cloth… maybe we can remember that this life is about so much more than ourselves. And maybe that’s a start.

Averse to Adversity

I had an epiphany the other day. I’m not talking about the kind where I suddenly figured out that my new nightly chocolate ritual was beginning to make my ass fat. But the kind that I honestly believe could be life-changing. Or rather…. it WOULD be if I chose to examine it, learn from it and make some adjustments.

Bet you can’t wait to know what it is? Unless, of course, you read the title or drew some sort of a conclusion from the super adorable picture that I just HAD to use to assist in illustrating my point — in which case, you probably already have your suspicions. Anyhoo, brilliant deductions, sneaking suspicions or not, I’ll fill you in. All of my life I have had trouble with… drumroll pleeeeze… Adversity.

There. I’ve put it out there for all the world to see. Or at least the 200 people (give or take) who regularly read this blog.

Websters defines Adversity as: 1. distress; affliction; hardship and 2. an unfortunate event or incident

I know what you’re thinking… Who doesn’t have “trouble” with distress, affliction or hardship? Right? But honestly… I mean seriously… I. Have. Trouble. With. Resistance. Of any kind. And I think in some cases, there is evidence to support the theory that I may actually MAKE trouble for myself.

<< As an aside for any potential, future employer(s) out there who may be reading this and who may or may NOT be considering me for some form of professional position — let it be known that I do NOT make trouble for other people… I actually play really well with others. You can ask any of my references or teachers. >>

I am purely masochistic about this. I only do it to myself. The primary problem being that I suspect I actually LOOK for it in my life. And this is really quite amazing given that I am someone who runs around all giggly and bubbly claiming to DESIRE happiness and merriment wherever I go and with whomever I choose to spend time.

Hello, my name is Joanna and I am EXPERTLY PROFICIENT at making mountains out of molehills.

All my life I have been told to develop a thicker skin. By everyone. By people I love, by people I never thought much of and (in hindsight) by people I have hated. That in and of itself should’ve shown me something. The sheer VOLUME of people telling me that I needed to grow a thicker skin, get over it, lighten up, stop being so serious all the time and to stop taking everything so damn personally SHOULD have had an effect by now. Shouldn’t it?

Yet, as I contemplate my 37 years on this earth—paying particular attention to the last 20 where I have supposedly been an “adult”—a pattern has begun to emerge. I don’t deal well with “distress, affliction or hardship” when it happens to me. If it is happening in someone else’s life I tend to step up to the plate. But when the trouble finds me… when adversity has knocked on my door… I really do take it personally. And oftentimes, I’m ashamed to admit… I freak out.

When things haven’t gone the way I planned… When someone is rude or addresses me in a harsh tone… When I don’t “click” with a person at the office… Whenever ANYTHING does not turn out the way that I think it shouldwhich, by the way, is nothing SHORT of sunshine and rosesI cave. I fold like a bad poker hand or I wither or melt. Choose your metaphor. There are plenty. And in this case they are all the same.

Who the hell do I think I am that difficulty should avoid me? It’s rather narcississtic when I really think about it. Perhaps if I can truly begin to recognize that I am not special in facing adversity and remember that everyone shoulders some form of hurt or disappointment in this lifetime, then maybe… just maybe I will learn to freak out less. And I will learn to remain on my feet, keeping my collective shit together while standing firm in my new and thicker skin.

Crashing My Pizza Party

The Romeo’s Pizza coupon hung on the bulletin board in the kitchen for months. With it’s piping-hot pledge for a free 1-topping pie whenever I wanted, I knew it was something to be savored and not squandered some random night after a few too many beers.

Thus, when the phone rang at 1 p.m. on an otherwise-quiet Thursday afternoon with a request for an immediate interview THE NEXT DAY with one of the leading, most-coolest, most-coveted employers in Columbus… I felt the time had come to redeem that coupon.

I know, I didn’t HAVE the job yet. I didn’t even have the awesome, knock-their-socks-off-they-will-surely-choose-to-employ-me-the-moment-we-shake-hands interview yet — the small, step-in-the-right-direction victory felt like cause for celebration. It’s either that or I just REALLY had a hankering for some pizza.

I made the call ordering up my FREE pie which would—in a mere 15 minutes—be sitting on my coffee table with an ice-cold beverage. I drove the 5 minutes to pick it up (so as to avoid the delivery charge, making it TRULY FREE) and settled down in front of a chick flick of my choosing.

At first bite, I was blissfully savoring the emotional high of the moment. The company of my man (yes I DID share the pizza), a DE-LI-CI-OUS, saucy pizza, a mediocre Sandra Bullock movie and the knowledge that my newly-organized portfolio and smoothed-over power suit were going to land me a killer J-O-B on the morrow.

With 2 slices down, I decided that it was too good of an occasion NOT to indulge in 2 more. (Don’t judge me… They were small pieces.) So I filled up my plate with 2 more pieces and settled in front of Miss Bullock for the remainder of her luke-warm performance in a so-so movie that could only be described as a romantic thriller.

It was at that moment that the phone rang again. I wonder what this is about? Maybe it’s another interview?! Wow, when it rains it POURS!! Rushing to the phone with bloated confidence and an even more bloated pizza-tummy, I was puzzled to see the same number as earlier in the day. Huh.

  • Job Rep on The Phone: “I’m sorry to inform you Joanna, but the interview for tomorrow has been cancelled. I just received word that the position has been filled.”
  • Me (to myself): “Damn.”
  • Me (to him trying NOT to sound desperately pathetic and crushed): “Oh? That is disappointing news. Any thoughts as to how this happened? … Well, I know you’ll keep trying to get me in front of them. Thank you for calling.”
  • Him (only the fragments I retained): “We will keep trying… This happens… patience… It will happen … stay positive … talk soon.”

After hanging up I looked down at my sad little half-eaten victory meal… then to Sandra Bullock’s frozen face on the screen where I had paused her… and back to my once-lovely slices again. At first I had no desire to finish eating it. I mean, it tasted great and I still wanted it. But somehow it felt wrong to eat it.

A few tears and an encouraging, sympathetic pep talk from my sweetie later I slowly picked up the remains of what was once my celebratory victory pizza and decided it WAS still worthy of consumption. But it’s purpose had changed. It had become comfort food.

Now the coupon is gone. It is—without a doubt—squished into a tiny, yellow and red paper ball, covered with half-eaten slices, greasy napkins and used plastic utensils… and sitting at the bottom of Romeo’s dumpster. Right next to my overly-inflated ego.