The past season has simultaneously been one of momentous change, as well as one of exasperation at the lack of, and resistance to change. I suppose I could call that balance. Reading back over my last entry, I’d just returned from Europe; I’d published something on the first leg (which was all of four days) of the trip, and have completely dropped the ball on following up with the subsequent fortnight, during which I was lucky enough to sail on my first cruise ship, meet some wonderful people, see the beautiful Greek islands and learn of their history and unique personalities, and travel around the Emerald Isle. Our honeymoon may have been spent with dozens of strangers, but it was filled with sun, sea storms and near shipwrecks, friendship, awe, and adventure.
Returning to Winnipeg, I was excited: I’d been without a job since August, but had a year-long term position lined up to begin right away. It was to be in marketing at a highly reputable educational institution, where the positive shaping of lives was the goal, intelligence was encouraged, and everyone fit in. After a few months, however, the honeymoon began to wear off, and I found myself feeling slightly defeated. I’ve found a bit of a recurring pattern throughout my employment history: I’ll show up at a new place, learn as much as I can about it, and try to integrate myself into its social/community events network, as well as bringing forth creative ideas I truly believe will help improve relations, communications, and morale. Naturally, when I heard there was an upcoming anniversary celebration, I was excited to get involved: I offered ideas, graphic/photography projects, web design ideas and videos that would showcase years of history, merchandise we could develop and offer to commemorate the occasion… Crickets. The same happened when I recently offered suggestions toward another large project. In meetings, I felt like I was wearing an invisibility cloak. I was actually met with and told that in this culture, you don’t just show up and “rock the boat.” You sit quietly and go through things as they are for at least a year, “earn your stripes,” and then think about offering new ways of doing things.
What? Someone actively took the time to sit me down and tell me to stop offering ways to make things better? That innovation was an unwelcome ruffling of feathers? I’m only there for a year; I want to make as much of a positive impact as I can. In previous jobs, I’ve initiated national magazines and newsletters that got different offices talking to and inspiring each other; I hired SFX makeup artists to do unique commercial projects; I used my network to create advertising campaigns that went on billboards across Canada; I interviewed staff members in countless different ways to create “culture books” where everyone could learn about each other on more than a surface level; I developed workshops; I organized team-building activities that people loved; I developed psychometric personality and communication style analysis booklets and presentations to help people learn about each other and work most effectively. I’ve always been met with a bit of resistance, possibly because in the past, I’ve worked in support roles where thinking outside of the box hasn’t been on the agenda; but I’ve always proven myself in the end. (Sadly, one management/director role ended after I fell off a building; the other with the company going bankrupt!) Now, I’m being actively shushed, not to mention talked of and regularly thrown under the bus. It’s so hard to be part of an institution whose mission, vision and values include striving to excel, serving with humility, and leading with integrity, when half that list is actively discouraged with newcomers.
But the bright side of all of this is that it’s a challenge – the most basic of challenges, for anyone who cares about changing things for the better, inclusivity, innovation, and progressiveness. When we have clear values and goals in this world, it is also clear when you have an opportunity to try to change things for the better. It will be like an alarm ringing in your head, a head whose inside may be wallpapered with the scribblings of dreams and frustrations, wishes and analyses, observations and ideas; it will go off loud and clear when something arises that actively tries to prevent you from doing the right thing. The thought of losing my job because I didn’t stick to antiquated traditions of keeping quiet until I’ve done my time is ridiculous to me, and though the exclusion and the discouragement is disheartening, it always comes down to a choice of how to meet it: with blind acceptance, or with resistance and determination. Perhaps this is not the place for me, but I won’t leave at the end of my term not having tried my best to make things better for everyone affiliated. I have skills, creativity, experience, and a heart, and if the time isn’t right to welcome those things yet, perhaps at least I can leave an example of always wanting to make things as awesome as they could be, and perhaps others who remain might be encouraged to speak up in the future. Change isn’t easy at the best of times, but sometimes we have to put our egos aside and welcome new possibilities if they’re coming from a genuinely good place.
That’s something we could all pay attention to within ourselves, and our interpersonal relationships, too. A lesson I’m still learning is that just because I believe my way of doing things is the best way, doesn’t mean that’s the case for someone whose values, personality, and inner wirings aren’t the same as mine. Sometimes, you have to learn how to communicate in the language that’ll resonate with your audience. Keep speaking in a foreign tongue, even if it makes complete sense to you, and you could lose everything you’re fighting for. Life can be such a delicate balance, and one can tire of investing a full heart into a series of soulmates (I don’t necessarily believe a soulmate is someone you need to end up with romantically) only to lose them, but I believe it’s true that you have to keep breaking your heart until it opens, and once it’s open, it can never be closed. Nothing will ever hold back its light again, and every bruise, every scar is both fuel and tribute to its determination. I may not be able to change the world, but, as a costumed pink dinosaur named Smoochy once said, I can make a dent.
Another change, and I suppose a pretty major one lately, has been my journey in pregnancy (currently almost four months) and its effect on the rest of my life, my projects, my relationships, and everyone around me. I felt the need to write something today because though our announcement was met primarily with support and happiness, there have been a few – not necessarily adverse reactions, but ones of surprise and confusion. I have to remind myself that people will always have opinions, and the best you can do is to meet them with grace, but sometimes when you’re in a difficult place, you – just have, I guess, to write an open letter on the Internet.
Yes, to answer any lingering questions – it was planned. This may come as a surprise, because for years I’d believed myself infertile – something which was confirmed medically in 2016 as a result of polycystic ovary syndrome. It’s an endocrine disorder; symptoms including irregular menstrual cycles, periods that can either be few and far between or, as was the case first Europe trip, be heavy and last for several weeks; excess body hair; obesity (think I avoided that one); acne or abnormal skin conditions, and ovarian cysts, which can get in the way of eggs being released and actually prevent ovulation from occurring. It’s never been that much of a bother – the symptoms I had, I could deal with, and I accepted sometime in my late twenties that perhaps I was never going to be able to have a family. So – again, with the spirit of everything coming with a choice of reaction – I dove headfirst into being the best non-mother I could be. I could care for my friends and loved ones. I could create things. I could learn new skills, start a business, record an album, and push myself to follow dreams I’d always been too scared of before. I could start a novel and put some of these dreams and imaginings down on paper; I could travel. I could live a life that was meaningful in other ways. I never spoke of my disappointment that I’d never be able to have children, I think, primarily, because part of my way of dealing with it was to fill my life with distraction and convince myself I wasn’t missing out on anything. I guess people around me picked up on that.
“Was it an accident?” I’ve been asked. “I’m surprised you were trying for kids,” others vocalised. “From what I know of you, it came as very unexpected news.” “Why do you want children?”
Firstly, are someone’s personal reasons for doing anything in life anyone else’s business? Probably not, but I live to know as well as to be known, so that those who remain in my life have the fullest, realest picture of me as they possibly can, and any subsequent relations can be as authentic as possible.
My husband and I decided to try the medical route just before Christmas 2016, both of us being examined to see what the problem was, and if there was anything that could be done about it. Turns out it was me, and there actually was something we could try that wasn’t going to be a $10,000 gamble: Serophene. Hormones, taken at very specific times, that induce ovulation. We decided to try in the new year, and by mid-January, I was looking at a stick with a pink line on it. The next day, I looked at another, as I did for the next few days, after which we had our positive pee tests confirmed by blood by a doctor.
For years, I’ve been on medication for panic and anxiety. I tried going off them a couple of years ago and lasted about six months before going into a full on meltdown, swallowing my pride, and realising that drugs for mental health should have no more stigma or judgment attached to them than drugs for cancer, or some sort of physical affliction. Just because you can’t see what’s happening inside your brain doesn’t mean something can’t be physically (in terms of chemical balance) wrong there, too. I went back onto Citalopram for anxiety, and Clonazepam for panic and insomnia. Naturally, I had to stop any potentially harmful drugs while pregnant, so I came off cold turkey. A) This is not the way to ease into things. B) This will result in severe withdrawal. C) You will likely be so delusional as a result that it won’t even occur to you that your drastic change in thoughts and behaviour could possibly be related, and you will chalk it up to hormones and become terrified of the subsequent nine months.
I was allowed to stay on the Citalopram, but had to come off the Clonazepam completely. I could probably have weaned off, but I’d stopped as soon as I saw that first pink line, and it was at least another week before I actually spoke to a medical professional after that. Hormones + withdrawal + lack of the medication designed to help you function and think properly = an absolute nightmare. I became so afraid of my own thoughts (crying and worrying obsessively every night; mentally reacting to any compliment or positive act from anyone else by immediately convincing myself everyone was lying, and was doing/saying things out of obligation, didn’t actually want me around, and was 100% going to abandon me because of how awful I was) that I ended up in the mental health crisis centre immediately following a breakdown at my first ultrasound appointment (one for the scrapbook!). There, I met with someone who helped me immensely – and turned on the lightbulb that made me realise my extreme delusions were directly a result of me coming off Citalopram for a solid week (ran out, poor planning; doctor away and unable to refill immediately), which I’d completely forgotten about. I went straight back on it, and within a couple of days, started feeling immensely better. I also started approaching the second trimester, when, supposedly, your energy starts coming back, your symptoms start to become less intense, and things generally start looking up. Which is exactly what’s happened! (I’m dealing a bit more with the waves of loneliness that come with the temporary state of pregnancy right now: exclusion from nights out on the town, having to cancel social plans due to exhaustion, which, for someone who thrives by always doing, is extremely frustrating; plans that don’t get made with me any more because, for the time being, I’m tired and not being able to drink makes others uncomfortable… I have to remind myself, if I can’t remind others, that this is a temporary state.)
So, back to the actual reasons. Yes, I may have convinced myself, and others, that mine would be a different path in life, but I don’t think being a parent and following your dreams have to be mutually exclusive. I know many people who’ll be more than happy to tell you your life is over the moment you have kids, but I also know many others who continue their lives, jobs, dinner parties, gigs, and travel the world with an extra little one in tow. I remember waking up at 6:00 in the morning when I was young and coming downstairs to a house full of my parents’ friends still over from the night before, board games scattered across the living room table. I went to a concert recently; a husband and wife duo who told of how they packed up and travelled across the continent with their little ones in a trailer for months, touring their CD. When you decide to bring a person into the world, you also get to decide whether to integrate them into the life you live and love, or give that life up in favour of parenting books and baby talk.
I like to continually be working on goals, and I like to do things with passion and meaning. Just because I’m having a baby doesn’t mean I’m not going to keep writing and recording songs (I’ll still have vocal cords, and a mind, feelings, and imagination). I’m still going to work on my book. I’ll take a break from photography while I’m physically incapable of shooting for a few months, but I already have a handful of weddings I’m excited to shoot next summer, and excited to shoot, learn, and grow over this coming season. I’ve got a list of tattoos I’m excited to get once I can be inked again, and my child will see the world and fall in love with it just as I did when I was young. Who knows – this new life could provide endless, untainted inspiration for brand new stories and songs, or maybe I’ll create something I never would have before. Having a kid doesn’t mean you have to choose between being “mother to baby” and “person who exists in the world and has interests and talents and goals.” It can be both, and I think it can be awesome when you introduce that kid to the latter and show them how awesome life can be.
Why, to answer the questions, do I want to have a child? Because on a planet where our daily headlines are plagued with so many stories of hate, panic, and injustice, I want to build and shape something that will be filled with kindness, awe, a thirst for knowledge and a passion for the universe. Someone that will fall in love with music and art and beautiful language, and strive to share the joy they bring. Someone who knows how to be a good friend, who sincerely appreciates acts of kindness and wants to thrust fistfuls of it upon the world around them. Someone who’s fascinated by science and technological discoveries; whose desire to learn is never quite quenched. Someone who’s moved by stories of suffering and actively wants to do something about it.
Why do I want to have a child? Because, as with most things I try to do in life, I want to create something in the world that will, hopefully, make it a bit better than it was before.