A break.  Not from blogging, but from trying to conceive.  M and I have decided to take a break from trying until sometime in the Spring.  After trying for over two years, I think it will do us both good to (hopefully) relax and not be thinking about trying to get pregnant; and it also makes sense considering my new job (since FMLA leave won’t apply until I’ve been employed for at least a year).  So, we wait. 

I started my new job this week, and so far I love it.  The people are really nice and down to earth.  The women are smart, capable and confident, yet wear comfortable shoes (my kind of gals).  So I’m very optimistic that this will be a good fit for me.  I still can’t believe I got this job.  Sometimes I think I need to pinch myself.

I’m turning to a new goal, now that pregnancy is on the back-burner: I want to get out of debt.  We have a lot, and we spend frivolously to compound the problem.  It would be wonderful if we could get out of debt in 2010.  I actually said that about 2009 too, but I’m not letting that discourage me from really trying to make it happen in the upcoming year.  I’ve taken a major salary cut with the new job, which strangely makes me feel better about our prospects because I think we’ll be watching our money much more closely.  Plus, I did a LOT of “therapy shopping” in my old job.  I would spend so much time working, sitting in front of my computer into the late hours, feeling like I had no life (because I didn’t) that I would just buy things online as a way to make myself feel better about it all.  Not a good habit, but it was a way of trying to justify the sacrifices I was making for the pay.  Now, making a lot less, but getting home at a sufficiently decent hour to have a life, I don’t think that the therapy shopping should be as much of an issue.  But I do still love and regularly stalk Anthropologie.  Don’t you just love this cozy sweater?

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Perhaps it shall be mine when it goes on sale. 

Anyway, I digress.  Bottom line: life is good, and for the next few months we’re going to try to forget about the fact that we can’t seem to get pregnant.

I had a lovely thought last week.  It was about 11:00 in the morning and I decided to go for a long run.  While I was running, I thought to myself what wonderful freedom I have, that I wouldn’t have if we already had a child.  This doesn’t take away from my longing for a child in any way, but it just helps me to be more thankful for the present moment; the gift and beauty that is there now in our current situation.  And in our present circumstances, I can leave the house without telling anyone, and go for an hour-long run without having to worry about someone watching my child.  That’s pretty nice.  I am thankful.  I don’t want it to stay this way, but I want to recognize the bits of grace that are sprinkled through my days as a childless woman.

I think, slowly but surely, I am getting some peace.

This setback is minor.  Really, really minor.  It’s not infertility related.  And it is so minor, in fact, that I’m somewhat embarrassed to discuss it, or even refer to it as  “setback,” but for what it helped me realize about myself.  Today I learned that my start date for my new job is being pushed back a couple of weeks because the paperwork is taking longer than expected.  That’s actually a sugar-coated way for me to say it; the truth is that I took too long getting the paperwork turned around on my end because my last several weeks at my former job were absolutely crazy.  I thought that when I announced that I was leaving, my work might taper off, but in fact what happened was the exact opposite.  I received additional assignments, spent several evenings working late and was continuing to complete tasks up through the afternoon of my last day.  Perhaps the universe believed I needed further confirmation that changing jobs was the right decision (I didn’t). 

Anyway, I had planned to take a few weeks off, and now, I’ll be taking more time off than I planned.  No Big Deal.  Sure, I’ll go without a paycheck for longer than we expected, but we will manage.  Oh, and we won’t have health insurance for another couple of weeks, but again, not a big deal because I can backdate COBRA in the event something catastrophic were to occur (God forbid).  So please tell me why, when I received the call today about my start date being pushed back, I hung up the phone and sobbed like a child.  I called M and sobbed to him as well, saying “I’m so upset about this.  I can’t believe I was so stupid to delay in sending in my paperwork.  I can’t believe this is happening.” 

To put it mildly, my response was not appropriate for the situation I was facing.  In a time like this, when many fantastic and capable people are out of work, I simply had my start date delayed.  By two weeks.  Some attorneys that are lucky enough to have job offers have been delayed for a year or more in this economy. 

I hung up quickly with M, frustrated with him for not being more encouraging.  I wanted him to tell me that this was no big deal; probably because deep down I myself knew this was no big deal, even though it felt like something terrible had happened.  I went for a run, hoping to clear my head.  The thoughts that came to me as I ran I am still sorting through, but they can be summed up as follows:

I am not the person I want to be. 

Not because I’m not yet a mother.  Not because our attempts to become pregnant have failed for over two years.  Not because I’m in debt.  Not because I’m a few pounds heavier than I’d like to be.  Not for any of the many reasons that I am found lacking in a “keeping up with the Joneses” kind of way.

I am thirty years old, a bona fide adult woman, who is so emotionally fragile that when a small plan goes awry, doesn’t have the strength to…well, to act like a mature, wise, adult woman.  Instead I act like a spoiled child who hasn’t gotten her way.  And I’m not entirely sure why this feels especially significant to me now that I am thirty; really this behavior shouldn’t be excused for a woman in her late twenties either.  But thirty.  Three decades.  And when tested, it is fragility, rather than strength that is exposed.  (note: I use the word “tested” lightly here.  Can you imagine how I would handle a true test?  A true challenge?  I shudder to think). 

This wasn’t supposed to be a post beating myself up.  But what happened today was eye-opening for me.  I mean, I just finished reading “The Year of Magical Thinking,” for heaven’s sake.  You would think I would have some perspective. 

A passing thought: what if I’m so sensitive, so emotionally fragile when things don’t go according to plan because of this struggle with infertility?  The big plan not being realized for so long now is making me extra sensitive to little plans not happening?  Frankly, I don’t buy that.  I actually think that this is me — really me — just more exposed because of the infertility and the emotions that always rear their head during this phase of my cycle.  So I’m not willing to write this off to pesky female hormones, even if they are exacerbating the situation a bit.  Nor am I chalking this up to the infertility I’m walking through now — there are women who have been struggling much, much longer and had a much harder time than me, who I know would show more strength and maturity in response to a minor inconvenience.

Anyway, moving on to my thoughts and plans for the future: namely, how to be the type of person I want to be.  Someone who is filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, goodness and temperance.  I need to be grounded.  I need to write more here — about a lot of things other than infertility.  I need to read more scripture, more biographies of people like Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Mother Theresa.  I need to keep some perspective.  I need to think of others before thinking of myself. 

Maybe this two weeks extra will help me get started.

I got a new job.  Amazing.  It’s a position I interviewed for earlier this year, that frankly I had completely given up on.  I heard a few weeks ago that they were still interested, they checked my references, and just like that — new job.  I am taking a few weeks off before I start.  It hasn’t quite hit me yet, but I have moments of bliss when I realize that I am through.  No more billable hour.  Thank God. 

Thanks to any of you who are reading — I know I’ve been absent for awhile now.  On the TTC front, we are pretty much the same, but I’m feeling okay — even good — about the way things are now.  I’m feeling very thankful.  Life is good. 

To be continued.

I’m still here, but have just been too occupied to get my thoughts out here.  I did go on vacation, but outside of that I’ve been working like a dog, and have been fairly overwhelmed with the to-do list each day.  It’s a shame that I’ve neglected this space, because a lot has been happening that I want to record.  So for my own benefit, mostly, a bulletpoint list of things I need to remember, and need to flesh out more once I can.  

— Vacation: beach, reading, no plans, sand, running.  Gained five pounds (but I’m telling myself that it’s mostly bloating/water weight, since my cycle began while we were away, rather than the multiple pina coladas I was drinking each day.  Seems reasonable.)

—  Had a two-hour long conversation about infertility with M while in the car in the parking lot at Whole Foods.  Many tears on both sides.  We were there so long that several people arrived and left while we were still hashing some things out.  I think most people that saw us probably thought we were breaking up.  It is hard, and unfortunately M and I don’t see eye-to-eye on the treatment options we are willing to pursue, but at the same time, I am so grateful to have a partner in this struggle.

— I’m going to change to a different RE.  Had a bloodwork appointment (everything is normal) and, while I’m sure he’s a great doctor, he and I are not on the same page, and due to some complications with mine and M’s views regarding treatments, I think we’re going to need someone a bit more compassionate and willing to work with us where we are right now.  For instance, current RE suggests as our FIRST treatment doing IUI with injectables.  Does this seem a bit extreme to anyone else?  I just find it confusing, particularly since back in October this same doctor told us to wait and see, that we may get pregnant on our own, and reminded us that there is no “minor” infertility treatment.  I had prepared myself to go ahead and start trying Clomid sometime soon, but when he jumped straight to IUI/injectables he lost me.  I’m not ready for that yet.   

— I struggle to pray for a baby.  I pray for a lot of things.  But asking God for a biological child is just…right now not really possible for me.  I’m trying to figure out why.    It just seems shallow, self-absorbed, like treating God like a Santa Claus or something.  I don’t know why I feel this way about this request, rather than other things that I pray for, which are too many to name.  Why is it that I have no problem praying for God to intervene for others or myself, with requests like a healthy pregnancy for someone already pregnant, to be healed of a disease, to be comforted, to have peace, to be safe when traveling, to perform well on a test…but I can’t ask God to make me pregnant, and give me a healthy biological child?  I do not know. 

That’s all, mostly because of what time it is, and because the next two weeks are going to be nuts between work and personal life commitments.  Hopefully by the time I post next my thoughts will be more coherent.  Until then, thanks for bearing with me. 

*I also should add that I am shamefully behind on reading your blogs, but should be catching up slowly but surely.  As always, I am thankful for each of you.

I’ve been realizing a number of things in the past couple of months.  I say “realizing,” present tense, because I’m still coming around to these, still turning them over in my mind.  Some I’ve figured out by talking about them, some by simply thinking.  But I want to get these out, write these down, put them here in this space, so hopefully I can understand better — and figure out what exactly to do with them. 

So for today, realization number one:  I need to find a new job (and the plan to have a baby is what has kept me from searching for a different job for the past two years). 

My current job pays very well but requires brutal hours.  It is high stress, and frequently demands that I cancel my plans, work late, and work weekends.  I have cried countless times over the potential (or actual) cancelling of personal trips or events due to work conflicts.  This work, at this current pace, has never been something I could see myself doing long-term.  But my plan was to continue at my current job at least until I got pregnant, because (1) the maternity leave policy is great and (2) I could potentially work part-time at some point in the future. 

I am very, very thankful for my job.  Particularly in this economy, when excellent lawyers are being laid off right and left, due to no fault of their own.  I am also thankful for the many things that I am able to do because of my salary: have nice meals with M, buy pretty clothes, take fun trips, etc.  But these things, ultimately, are not worth what I’m having to sacrifice in terms of time, stress, and general quality of life. 

Over the past several years, I have gradually turned into a person that I don’t really recognize anymore.  Granted, I know there are a lot of contributing factors — including infertility, stress from my husband’s former job with our church, moving, and just general life.  But still.  The hours that my job demands means that I simply do not have the time for things that really are important to me — much, much more important than anything I am doing at work.  I don’t stay in touch with friends whom I love.  I don’t write letters anymore.  I don’t take pictures.  I don’t read.  I don’t run.  I barely make time to talk to my parents once every couple of weeks.  I struggle to find time to spend with M, to keep the dirty laundry from taking over the house, to keep my bangs trimmed, to exercise.

This is sounding like a whiney post.  I don’t want to be a whiner.  I am not miserable.  But I have a new clarity, and that feels good. 

I want to post more on this, and what led me down this road, but actually have to (ha!) get back to work now.  But all of this is arising from a general sense that I have been putting my life on hold, in the expectation that the next phase of my life — having a child — was not only the natural and logical next phase, but also just around the corner.  As a result, I’ve been in somewhat of a perpetual holding pattern for two years now.  I want this to end, but it’s requiring a great deal of pondering.   I’m having to wrestle with what my life looks like, and how it’s different from what I always imagined.  How the person I am is different than the person I want to be.  Perhaps this is the convergence of our two-year anniversary of trying to conceive, combined with my thirtieth birthday in two weeks.  Or maybe, it’s just me internally reconsidering the question of what I want to be when I grow up, when the answer deep inside myself, though never spoken, has always been simply, “a mother.”

We’re getting settled, and easing into summer here.  Things are good.  I’ve been experiencing a great deal of peace, for which I’m thankful.  I also started yoga and acupuncture, both of which I love, and both of which I believe are contributing to the calm I feel within myself. 

I attended a conference where I met Barbara Brown Taylor, Billy Collins, and Marilynne Robinson.  I would have been thrilled to meet any one of them, but meeting all three was nothing short of a delight, albeit somewhat overwhelming.  I enjoyed the trip immensely, and I’m still processing all of the information and emotions that I took in while there. 

I also think I’m in love with Billy Collins.  But that’s another story.  While we’re on the subject though,  here’s a poem of his that I find particularly poignant for this journey we are walking:

(detail)

It was getting late in the year,
the sky had been low and overcast for days,
and I was drinking tea in a glassy room . 
with a woman without children,
a gate through which no one had entered the world.

She was turning the pages of an expensive book
on a coffee table, even though we were drinking tea,
a book of colorful paintings—
a landscape, a portrait, a still life,
a field, a face, a pear and a knife, all turning on the table.

Men had entered there but no girl or boy
had come out, I was thinking oddly
as she stopped at a page of clouds
aloft in a pale sky, tinged with red and gold.
This one is my favorite, she said,

even though it was only a detail, a corner
of a larger painting which she had never seen.
Nor did she want to see the countryside below
or the portrayal of some myth
in order for the billowing clouds to seem complete.

This was enough, this fraction of the whole,
just as the leafy scene in the windows was enough
now that the light was growing dim,
as was she enough, perfectly by herself
in her place in the enormous mural of the world.

I have more to say here, but it’s hard to say much after that.  What a perfect and beautiful poem.  I love the word he uses, “enough.”  I am enough.  Things as they are, right now, are perfectly enough.

M and I saw UP last weekend.   You may have already heard that it contains a scene depicting infertility and/or pregnancy loss, and for that reason watching it may be difficult for those who are struggling with infertility.  I say this at the outset, so you can prepare yourself if you plan to see it.  (Mel thankfully posted this warning from another blogger at LFCA).   And potential spoiler alert: while I don’t discuss much of the plot in this post, I do describe one particular scene that moved me deeply, that contains some plot details.

UP was an important movie for me to see.  I wept, I laughed out loud, and I have not been able to stop thinking about it since.  I found it to be fairly un-Disney-ish in the sense that it acknowledged (and addressed head-on) that our lives often do not go according to our plans and dreams.  (So much for the Cinderella “no matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true” philosophy that was at the heart of most of the movies I saw as a child.  I can still sing every word to that ridiculous — and false — song.  But I digress.) 

The first fifteen minutes of UP includes a remarkable, four-minute long scene that shows the story of a couple’s life together.  Reminiscent of the first part of Wall-E, the montage contains no dialogue — only music, and short scenes from various stages of their marriage.  (This montage has been praised in other articles, and the director of UP has stated that this scene is one of the things in the film of which he is the most proud.)  In the scene, we see a cute and likable couple, Carl and Ellie, marry and begin their life together.  They purchase a house, take walks together, have picnics, and begin to dream of having children.  They prepare a baby room.  They then appear in a doctor’s office: the doctor is shaking his head, Ellie is weeping with her head in her hands, and Carl, looking stricken, is trying to console her.  We then see Ellie sitting in her backyard, alone.  She appears to be lost in thought, and she has a look of quiet sadness and reflection.  Carl approaches her bearing a special book from her childhood that cheers her up.  They smile at each other.  And they then go on to live together as a childless couple: growing old together, loving each other deeply and planning for future adventures. 

In a later scene, Carl is surprised to learn that Ellie considered her life with him to be the fulfillment of her dreams of adventure.  It wasn’t what she had planned for as a child longing to travel the world, nor what she had hoped for when they were first married and dreaming of children, but it became the realization of her dreams of adventure all the same, in its own unique and beautiful way. 

The film is filled with other examples that emphasize this theme of hopes and dreams failing to come to fruition, and the unexpected joy we can find in the reality that replaces them.  There are some dreams that are never fulfilled due to events outside of our control, and still others that we have to release in order to experience the unanticipated adventures that arise in their place.  The house, suspended between the earth and the heavens by thousands of balloons, is the most dominating metaphor for this theme.

Right now, my life is not going according to my plans and dreams.  M and I desperately want to be parents.  We will celebrate our seventh anniversary this weekend, and we both believed that we would have a child by now.  But even now, our lives are still fulfilling and wonderful in their own right.  And there is something especially beautiful about the unexpected, the unplanned, the undesired, blossoming into the real, the true, and the surprisingly joyful.  Could there be a unique beauty in a life that doesn’t go according to plan? 

I appreciated that UP’s creators chose to include Carl and Ellie’s infertility.  It wasn’t crucial to the plot — we’ve seen lots of characters and couples in movies who are childless, no questions really asked — but it was a very real and moving way of showing how a person’s dreams, however hard they may dream them, might not actually come true.  And (not taking away that this is very sad, and tragic) it’s still okay.  UP does contain resolution, but not in the way you expect — and certainly not in line with the platitudes that often are offered to infertile couples (“just adopt,” “of course you’ll get pregnant,” “this is all happening for a reason,” etc.).

Later, when M and I were discussing the movie, I said, “We’re going to be okay.  This is all going to be okay, even if it’s just you and me.”  Our adventure in this life may not be how we planned it.  But that doesn’t mean it won’t be beautiful, wonderful, and good.

I’ve been in the belly of my law firm for about two weeks now.  My days have consisted of essentially nonstop work, quick turnaround deadlines, meals delivered to the office, little sleep and not much time at home.  Not much time for posting either, though in the midst of this I’ve been having quite a few thoughts about infertility. 

On Saturday night I didn’t get home from the office until around 4:15.*  I still had quite a bit of caffeine in my system, and I had hit my second (or third?) wind and wasn’t really tired by the time I got into bed.  I closed my eyes in the darkness, and lay there for a long time, just thinking.  It is inevitably in moments like this that I pray.  It’s partly out of habit, just from praying as I’m going to sleep each night.  But because I’m a fairly heavy sleeper, and usually fall asleep easily, often my prayers in these moments are quick and forgettable (and possibly incoherent). 

But this time was different.  There I was, in the silence, in the darkness, with an active mind and nothing else to occupy it but the desire to speak to God.  My work for the day was finished.  The brief was submitted to the partner.  I didn’t need to outline the next argument in my mind.  There was nothing for me to do except get the rest that I needed, and the next day I would return to the office to do the next round of edits.  But I couldn’t fall asleep.   In my restless silence, with M already sleeping soundly next to me, I was wide awake, and did not know why. 

I realized that I needed to pray.  To tell God…what exactly?  What did I need to say, to ask?  All I could think was, I just want to be better.  And not just physically better — that whatever it is about my body or M’s body that is keeping us from getting pregnant some how get “fixed” — but more than that, I just don’t want to feel this way anymore.  I am tired of worrying.  I am tired of being jealous.  I am tired of being angry.  This is not the person I want to be. 

That was all I had.  I prayed. 

I am sorry.  Please help me.  I don’t know how to be the way I should be.  I want to be a mom.  I want M to be a dad.  But please God, I want to have peace.  Please give me peace.  Please.  I am sorry that I have not brought this to you, and that I am trying to fix this all myself.  I need you to help me.  I cannot do this myself. 

I can’t.  And I need to stop trying so damn hard. 

………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

*As a disclaimer, this is not typical for me, and something like this probably happens only once a year or so.  The last time I worked like this for such an extended period of time was January 2007.  So thankfully it’s not often that I have the depressing experience of hearing birds singing as I arrive home, making me realize that the next day has already started for them.

M and I have been working on getting a disability insurance policy set up for me.  It’s been one of those things that has been on my list of things to do for some time, but we finally started the process a couple of months ago.  As the sole breadwinner for our household, and considering the (hopeful) possibility that I may get pregnant sometime in the future, we were motivated to seek out a financial counselor and get the ball rolling on this.  But the ball skidded to a stop yesterday.

The potential insurer has informed us that there will be a pregnancy exclusion on the policy–meaning that any complication or disability that arises as a result of a pregnancy will not be covered.  The company claims that this exclusion is based on the fact that I have “evidently gone through some fertility treatments” and “anytime you have these types of treatment, you will get a pregnancy rider.” 

(Trying to calmly write without making my blood pressure rise…)  First off, we haven’t gone through any fertility treatments, unless you count M’s sperm analysis, and my HSG and SSH (saline sonogram).  My understanding is that these are tests, not treatments.  But even aside from that, so what if we had started fertility treatments?  How in the world would that justify excluding me from disability protection were I to have a complication during any future pregnancy? 

This has made me so angry that I can hardly think about anything else.  It feels like another infertility punch in the gut.  And frankly, it strikes me as unfair (if not illegal) discrimination against those with infertility. 

Has anyone ever heard of something like this?  I am so shocked and angry that I haven’t had much time to research the issue.   A quick internet search only gave me information regarding insurance coverage for fertility treatments (as opposed to a disability exclusion for pregnancy resulting from infertility counseling or treatments). 

Of course, I have no intention of entering into a (costly) disability policy that won’t even cover a pregnancy complication.   A potential complication of pregnancy is a main factor driving me to get a disability policy in the first place.  Moreover, pregnancy complications, unexpected operations, etc. happen all the time to women who have no trouble conceiving.  I just don’t see how obtaining fertility treatments in any way justifies such a blanket exclusion. 

If anyone has any experience with this, or knowledge of disability exclusions generally, I would appreciate your input.  As of now, I’m in the process of describing our infertility struggle with my financial counselor (who is also a friend IRL), which is so very fun.  And the whole time I’m explaining that we have not had treatments, I’m incredibly angry and frustrated that such a thing even matters at all.

I love book clubs.  I guess I can’t say book clubs plural, as I’ve only been a part of one book club.  But my one book club is fabulous.  Every month or so, I get together with a group of people, and we talk about a book.  Often only about half of us have even read it, but nonetheless, there’s always a great discussion.   The host cooks dinner, everyone brings a bottle of wine, and it’s a wonderful time that ends up being a highlight of my week. 

When Mel posted the idea about an online book shower for Tertia’s book So Close, I immediately signed up.  What a fantastic idea.  It combines my nerdy love of discussing books with my affection for this very special infertility community we have here in blog land.  So even though I can’t have a glass (or bottle) of wine with all of you, pull up a chair, check out the other shower posts, and then read Tertia’s book. 

I think there’s something of real value in this book for every infertile, regardless of what path you are taking or how your journey or choices may differ from Tertia’s.  I think Tertia and I are pretty different.  But I love this book, and I love her.  I really do.  Her story, and particularly the way she tells it, is so authentically real.  She does not pretty things up.  She is honest.  As different as she and I may be, I saw myself in the pages of this book.   My heart aches for the suffering that she has been through.  Suffering we all go through, in our own way, by falling into the “life is not what we expected” category when it comes to having children.  So while I wish she had never had to go through this struggle, her words about her journey have helped me.  They are still helping me.  I have sections of this book that I’ve flagged to re-read, because they are that good–either because I connect with what she says in such a powerful way, or because they are so informative.  The wealth of information here is even useful for those who aren’t infertile, but love someone who is. 

Mel had a few questions to choose from, and I chose this one:

On page 20, Tertia has a moment where she predicts that her journey to parenthood may be more difficult than she thought even though nothing has happened yet to point in that direction.  Have you ever had a moment of premonition like that and if so, did it come true (this moment of premonition can be about fertility or any other aspect of life)?

Though I had no conscious premonition that we would have difficulty trying to conceive, I wonder if somehow, subconsciously maybe, I knew.  In the months before I threw out the birth control, while I was studying the Fertility Awareness Method in “Taking Charge of Your Fertility,” I came across an infertility blog.  I don’t remember which one it was.  I read it, and then found more infertility blogs, and read some more.  During our first three months of trying to conceive (well before I ever thought we might have “a problem”) I was already reading a fair number of infertility blogs regularly.  I’m not sure why.  Was it a premonition?  Sometimes I actually wonder if I somehow brought about our infertility (or am perpetuating it) by continuing to read infertility blogs so regularly.  Does anyone ever wonder about this, or is it just me? 

Anyway, as far as conscious premonitions go, I’m pretty lousy.  The strongest premonition I ever had was twelve years ago when I met a guy in a sandwich line, spoke with him for ten minutes, and immediately knew that he was the man I would marry.  I had never been so completely sure of anything before.  This certainty and conviction propelled me to pine for and chase after him for years, breaking my heart into multiple pieces and embarrassing myself on several occasions.  I finally came to my senses at around the same time I began seeing M, but the whole ordeal lasted over four years.  That is a story for another day, though. 

This shower post is similar to my book discussion comments–too long, combined with an overshare of personal information.  So I think we can say this is a successful book shower.  I propose a toast to Tertia, and to all of the women in this club that no one wishes to join, who have the strength and talent to write about their experiences to make each of our journeys feel a little less lonely, a little less scary, and a lot more normal.