11 October 2016

How I Meal Plan

Meal planners come in all shapes and sizes. Some believe in planning a month at a time, doing one huge monthly grocery haul, and freezing everything. Me? I plan/shop one week at a time, always on Sundays, with food prep as soon as I get home. How you do it is totally up to what works best for you, your family, and your schedule. I'm not an expert; I'm just a home cook who loves to make plans and lists and has honed my process over literally hundreds of attempts. Here is how I do it.

Step 1: Know What Your Week Looks Like

Before I begin planning, I check my calendar. Nothing will affect your meal plan like all your other plans, so be aware of when you have more time to cook vs when you have very little time and need to run out the door. It seems obvious, but it bears mentioning: don’t plan a meal that takes 90 minutes to make when you will only have 30 minutes to spare. Also, differing family member schedules don’t have to be a problem; that’s what a fridge is for. For example, every Tuesday night, I have to be at rehearsal before my husband gets home from work. So I make meals that can be easily refrigerated for him to grab and reheat when he gets home.

Next, I check the weather forecast. This might seem unnecessary to some, but it’s just how I think. On hot summer nights, I plan meals that utilize the outdoor grill and include refreshing dishes, like salads. On exceptionally stormy winter nights, I plan hearty comfort foods.

Step 2: Easy weekly set up

I find it helps to start with the protein of the main dish. My weeks usually contains 1 red meat meal, 1-2 seafood meals, and 2-3 poultry meals. Then, I think in terms of ethnicities/cuisines, and I just mix and match. 1 Asian, 1 Mexican/Hispanic, 1 Italian, 1 comfort food, 1 Breakfast-for-Dinner, etc. For sanity sake, I allow myself one splurge night to either go out to a restaurant or order takeout. It's also smart to plan one leftovers night, the night before your grocery trip, to clean out everything in your fridge.

This results in a week that typically looks like this:
Mon: Poultry meal
Tues: Seafood meal
Wed: Red meat meal
Thurs: Poultry meal
Fri: Seafood meal
Sat: Leftovers night
Sun: Splurge night

Step 3: Set up your plate

Thinking in terms of what your dinner plate looks like will help break down what you need to put on it. This is where dietary restrictions and belief systems about food come in. Because of my family's needs, I aim to build every plate to contain one-half protein, one-half fruit/veggies, with an occasional carby splurge. Other families prefer to do one-third protein, one-third carb, one-third fruit/veggies at every meal. Whatever your personal choices, be aware of your own preferences so you can plan the entire meal appropriately.

Also, when choosing sides, remember to consider the prep required for the main entree you're already making. For example, if you only own one slow cooker and you're using it for your main entree, don't choose a side that requires that same, now unavailable, slow cooker.

Step 4: Choose the food

To make the process faster and easier, I keep a master list of all of our most common, favorite meals, organized by dish type. Most of the time, simply scanning this list is all I need; my appetite chooses whatever sounds good and basically does the planning for me.

As a home cook, I also challenge myself to try at least one new recipe a week, if I have the time. Sometimes, I'm sick of the same old meals all the time. And sometimes, I'm just straight-up craving something specific. My primary inspiration for new ideas and recipes is Pinterest. I keep my own Pinterest recipe boards organized by dish type to find new meals as easy as possible. Feel free to use them, if you want.

Step 5: Make your grocery list

Now that you’ve chosen what food you’re eating, you need to know what ingredients you already own vs what you still need to buy. For this, I created a master shopping list that already lists my most commonly purchased ingredients. It is organized by which stores at which I shop. I read through all the recipes of my planned meals and note how many TOTAL of everything I will need. For example, one of the items on my master shopping list is onions. Every time I see an onion will be needed in a recipe, I make a mark next to “Onion”. By the time I’ve read through all the recipes, I can see I will need a total of 5 onions this week.

Once my master list is done based on the recipes from my meal plan, I head into the kitchen to see what I already have. If I need 5 onions for the week, but I already have 3, I only need to buy 2. Adjust the amount on your list; do the same to all needed ingredients. Et voila, you have your grocery shopping list!

Step 6: Be efficient and price conscious

Like most people, I love saving money, but I don't have the time to clip coupons. So I do what I can to save as much money as possible by utilizing club cards/programs. I also keep track of what items are priced best at which store. For example, I'd never buy toiletries at a grocery store; that's Target territory. I also try to pay attention to the per unit price at club stores; a surprising number of things are actually cheaper per unit at smaller stores, especially for smaller families like mine that won't use bulk amounts before they go bad.

That said, time is money to me. I want to go on one large, efficient shopping trip and be done with it. So if the convenience of a purchase is worth spending a little bit more money, within reason, I'll do it. It really is up to what matters most to you. For this reason, my shopping list is organized by store, which I highly recommend.

Once you get home with your groceries, it's time for food prep to save even more time and sanity in the long run. Stay tuned for that post later...

04 August 2015

In defense of homemaking, even without kids

I originally left the workplace to see if our unexplained infertility could be fixed by eliminating stress.  Now we know that’s not the case, and we aren’t ever going to be parents.  So, logic dictates it’s time for me to go back to work.  To continue my contribution to the GNP.  To be an adult.  Right?

This is where I make my scary confession: I don’t want to return to the workplace.  Like, ever.

Until a couple weeks ago, I felt tremendously guilty over that sentiment. I felt pressure from society to get back out there, be “independent”, to not "waste my life", as if the only way I could possibly contribute to our world was by punching a time clock.  I felt like I wasn’t allowed to admit I was happy being a homemaker. Like, really genuinely happy.

The topic of homemaking seems to be polarizing.  On one side, you have those who believe every human being should become and remain self-sufficient, even within marriage, you know, “just in case”.  Being dependent on someone else’s paycheck, especially as a woman, is a four-letter word in this camp.  On the other side, you have the extreme traditionalists, whose reasoning seems to be comprised of nothing more than recited Bible scriptures and could easily justify the need to stay home solely on the size of their large family.

Once again, I’m stuck in the middle and can see valid points on both sides.  I believe everyone should take the time to find themselves and know they can be self-sufficient if the need arises.  I don’t have any kids, either.  I also believe strongly in traditional family values. I don’t agree with going into a marriage with a “just in case” plan.

As a teen, I lobbied hard against early marriage and parenthood in order to finish college, see the world, “find myself”.  I worked my butt off in the workplace for 15 years, including 4am bakery shifts, soul-sucking retail Black Fridays, awkward temp jobs, and downright demeaning internships. I crammed homework into lunch hours in order to pay my own college tuition and expenses.  I learned a lot of skills out there, as well as a lot about myself, and I believe those years were vital to who I am today.

However, I also learned that I have strong interests and skills in domestic areas, though I wasn’t able to pursue them very much while working.  There are only so many hours in a day, only so much reserve energy when you’re living within the constraints of a typical work week.  I felt torn and began to weigh which of these worlds would bring me the most personal satisfaction.  Much to my surprise after all that effort, the workplace did not win that battle.  While my husband loved his job so much, he'd go even if they weren't paying him, I was downright miserable in mine.

And then, the day came that my husband hit a pay level in which his paycheck covered all our bills and then some.  We no longer needed two incomes.  I was actually grateful to infertility for giving me a valid reason to escape the grind.  And even though staying home and taking on all the domestic tasks felt like a breath of fresh air, I expected I’d have to return to the workplace eventually.  This setup was too good to be true; I wasn’t allowed to be this content.  I also expected I’d eventually get bored.  That’s what everyone says, right?

Oh, what everyone says…

Stay-at-home-moms (SAHMs) deal with a lot of flak from working individuals about how they could possibly be satisfied in life.  And yet, even many SAHMs sometimes dish out that same flak to stay-at-home-wives (SAHWs), those of us that choose to stay home despite not even having a family to raise.  Once Hubs and I realized we were never going to have children, the pressure I felt to return to the workplace became overwhelming, despite the fact that we still didn’t financially need me to do so, nor did I actually want to.

And then, I was introduced to the world of Career Homemakers.  People just like me, who proudly have cleaning schedules, meal plans, and Christmas binders.  And I’m learning that there is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing - and loving - this life, as long as we can financially manage it and it genuinely makes me happy.  Which is does.  Wholeheartedly.

And yet, I still have to deal with rabid judgment.  “What do you do all day?  I’d get SO bored!”  “I would have such a huge problem not contributing to the world at large. Don’t you feel useless, like your intelligence and your skills are being wasted on laundry and dishes?”  “I could never be entirely dependent on my spouse’s money.”  “If you don’t have a career outside the home, you don’t have an identity.”

If your career brings you genuine satisfaction, that’s awesome.  Own that proudly.  You deserve to be happy, and the world needs people just like you.  But I’m realizing the world needs people like me, too.  The idea of meetings, annual reviews, and punching a time clock gives me the same anxiety as you feel about doing nothing more than laundry, cooking, and running errands all day.  Being a career homemaker is freedom to me, and I love doing it.  Some of my fondest childhood memories involve making an “apartment” in the woods behind our daycare.  I was so proud of that tiny plot of dirt then, and I love keeping a home now.  Sure, there are days it’s akin to being a maid, but there are also days when I get to be a chef, an interior designer, a gardener, a professional shopper, an artist.  I’m not stuck behind a desk, I make my own schedule, and I’m my own boss.

“What do you do all day? I would get so bored!”

First of all, let's destroy the stereotype: the words homemaker and lazy are not synonymous.  I'm not watching TV and napping on the sofa all day.  I may sneak a YouTube video now and then, but the TV doesn't come on during the day at all.  Ever.  Instead, my alarm goes off every single morning, and I maintain a strict schedule throughout each day.  In fact, the time it took to type this post was a scheduling splurge.  Also, when your home is your job, you're always "in the office".  I don't get to collapse at 5pm and relax all evening like other careers; if something needs doing at 10pm, it's my accepted responsibility to get it done. Just like a SAHM, I accept that I am always on call.

I’m never bored.  When I worked full-time, I only did the bare minimum around the house just to get through the week, but that's not the case anymore. You'd be surprised how many projects present themselves when you finally have the time to do them.  There is always another improvement, errand, idea, or chore to undertake.  I consider myself the CEO of a very efficient household, but it takes a lot of behind-the-scenes work to make things seem effortless.

I accomplish far more in a single day of being a homemaker than I ever did behind a desk.  Not only do I no longer have to deal with wasting loads of valuable time on red tape and typical workplace redundancies, my efforts affect me directly and immediately. As a result, my sense of accomplishment is much more tangible than it ever was in the workplace.  I finally feel like my efforts matter.

Furthermore, I love this kind of work.  Putting a home together - a clean, organized, stable refuge for myself and my loved ones - makes me downright giddy.  Sure, there are days when dishes and laundry seem endless, but working on projects like a well-organized closet, a properly prepared meal, or a well-hosted party gives me a unmatched sense of satisfaction.  I'm sincerely happy doing this on a daily basis. (Except vacuuming stairs. That task can be banished to Hell for all eternity, as far as I'm concerned.)

“I would have such a huge problem not contributing to the world at large. Don’t you feel useless, like your intelligence and skills are being wasted on laundry and dishes?”

No, I don’t.  In fact, I feel like I finally am making a difference; it’s just secondhand.

I see my career as a homemaker as my vital contribution to our family dynamic and financial situation.  I'm in direct support to my husband, the one bringing home the actual paycheck from a rewarding, yet exceptionally challenging, career. I've willingly taken on the important responsibility to keep him going at home so he can keep going at work.  It's a balanced system that works well and has actually made an enormous difference in both our lives.  I love knowing I’m able to provide a place of peace and rest when he returns home from working all kinds of odd hours in a stressful environment.  That alone has improved our quality of life and our relationship.  We’re healthier and more relaxed now.  We eat better, we sleep better, we get to spend quality time together, instead of just trying to cram chores into the few spare hours we have at home between workdays.  Everything just runs better.

Many of my other friends and family are also in positions of direct contribution to the improvement of society: moms, teachers, police officers, heads of non-profits.  They are on the front lines of positive change in our world today, pouring their lives into their work and left with very little time or energy to take care of themselves.  That’s where I come in.  I’ve never been comfortable in a front line position in society, but I'm an excellent number two, and I absolutely thrive supporting others.  I now have the energy and resources to help take care of them so they take care of everyone else.  I can make them meals, watch their kids, help with projects, surprise them with escapes.  Things they don't have the time or energy for, and things I never could've managed when I worked full-time.  This is my ideal way to give back, and I love it.

Furthermore, I feel this freedom has only increased my intelligence and creativity.  When I worked, I learned a lot about expense accounts, shipping routes, data processing, customer service, and other things I, frankly, couldn’t care less about.  And whenever I sat down to pursue knowledge of my own choosing, I’d fall asleep from sheer exhaustion.  There was no room in my life for what I wanted, because it was too cluttered with what I didn’t.  Now, I have the time and energy to research interests and learn skills I actually care about and can be applied directly to my life, including volunteering with organizations that I sincerely believe in. My intelligence and ability to give back has only grown since leaving the workplace.

“I could never be entirely dependent on my spouse’s money.” 

Yes, we have traditional values and I consider my husband the head of our household, but a huge part of that is a relationship built on trust.  I have to laugh when “enlightened” people think being a homemaker means I’m at my husband’s mercy, as if I’m on my knees begging for a fiver for a latte or something.  It’s actually the complete opposite.  I control the workings of our entire household, including all our bank accounts and financial holdings.  We make major decisions together, but when it comes to the day-to-day minutia of running the house, I’m pretty much judge and jury around here.  Translation: my husband trusts me enough to hand me his entire paycheck and walk away in complete confidence.  I know he'll provide for me, and he knows I'll provide for him.  Neither of us are at each other’s mercy; we rely on each other, and I'm actually very proud of that. To me, it's a symbol of our commitment to and faith in each other.

And to anyone who views homemaking as negating woman's rights, I'd have to argue the exact opposite.  Should woman be forced to stay at home, hidden away and uneducated solely because of their gender?  No.  But giving women the option to make their own life choices should include the option to stay at home, if so desired.  Denying us that right under the guise of equality, thereby forcing us into the workplace unwillingly, is actually its own form of oppression.  Those of us happy to stay at home are not resigning ourselves to this lifestyle; we want it.

I also feel to specify that when I say these things are my responsibility, this is not a reflection of an authoritarian husband with a grading sheet.  That couldn't be further from the truth.  My laid-back husband wouldn't even notice if I let things slide.  Instead, my new boss is me; my tasks, responsibilities, and expectations are self-chosen.  And believe me, you are the toughest boss you'll ever have.

“If you don’t have a career outside the home, you don’t have an identity.” 

This is the one statement I’ve really struggled with, a challenge I believe many SAHMs can also relate to, because it's so ingrained in our society nowadays.  But it’s one I’m learning simply isn’t true, because being a homemaker is just as valid as any other identifier.  We all have homes we return to at the end of the day, and when they run better, we run better.  If we as a society would start paying due respect to our home lives and those of us that maintain them, the rest the world might just run a little smoother.  Life might be a little easier.  My “job” matters, and the belittling belief that it doesn’t is society’s problem, not mine.

So, world, consider this my official announcement: as long as we can responsibly afford it, I’m remaining an entirely contented Career Homemaker.

Since deciding to own this position and its validity, my world has exploded a little.  My hobby room has seven new piles of projects I've thrown myself into, and my computer currently has four Excel windows crammed with home management spreadsheets.  I've unabashedly become Martha Stewart and Ina Garten on a steady drip of caffeine, finally giving myself permission to be good at this, to be who I think I always was, and it feels really good.  I've even ordered contact cards to carry in my purse, just like everyone else’s business cards.  Why?  Because this is me, and I’m just as valid as everyone else.  I’m proud to be a homemaker; we’re the backbone of everything else, and we matter very much.

*** This post would be amiss if I didn't acknowledge our fortune to even have this option to consider in the first place.  I hit my knees and thank God, my wonderfully supportive and hard-working husband, and our generous friends and family every night for the freedom to live this life.  It hasn't been without blood, sweat, tears. We've endured anxiety over many carefully-planned decisions and one major life-altering circumstance to build our life together. But we're no better than anyone else. We're just grateful and blessed, and if circumstances ever called for it again, I'd return to work immediately. I just really hope I don't have to answer phones ever again...

03 March 2015

When a friend goes through infertility

First of all...

If you realize you've said/done any of these things to me as you're reading, please don't worry that I'm writing this about you.  I'm not.  This is not chastisement to anyone specific.  It's actually inspired by watching friends want to help me and not knowing how, while finding other "What Not To Do" websites either incomplete or way too cynical.  I also realize this is my opinion; other people who've gone through infertility might have a totally different take.  But hopefully, learning about IF from someone in the middle of IF will help you understand it a little better.  Let's get to the most important point first:

You are not expected to say “The Right Thing”

Here’s the deal: we actually know how much it sucks to watch us go through this irrational, unfair crap and have absolutely no idea how to help.  We totally get how awkward and uncomfortable this is, because we don’t know what to do or say either.  Infertility is completely random, illogical, and unfair.  But here’s the thing: we don’t expect you to fix it. We don’t even expect you to know what to say.  In fact, sometimes the ones who admit they don’t know are the most supportive.  Two of the most powerful recent moments I can recall were great examples of this:

  • A friend with six kids, whose wife had zero complications and easy labors: “I don’t know what to say. Sorry seems empty and cruel. But if we had gone through that even once, I don’t know if I would’ve had the courage to try again.”
  • A friend who has a lot of trouble expressing her feelings left us a card.  All it said was, “This card is filled with words I don’t know how to say.”

Take the time to educate yourself

Educating yourself on your friends' specific situation is probably the most helpful thing you can do.  Not only does this show much appreciated validation and support, but it will help you understand what not to say and why.  The most common hurtful, flippant comments are simply based in ignorance of what infertility actually is.  Here are a few of the biggies, and why they’re not correct:

  • “Just relax; it’ll happen.”  Yes, we all know quite a few couples that got pregnant after their trip to Hawaii or as soon as they stopped trying.  We’re entirely aware that it happens; in fact, we’ve already tried it.  Several times.  But there are also very real medical reasons for infertility: heart-shaped uteruses, tilted pelvises, blocked tubes, low hormones, Rh blood types, polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, low sperm count, low sperm motility, low sperm mobility, problems with blood clotting properly, the list goes on and on.  These are legitimate medical issues; we’re not just stressing out.  Telling us to relax is invalidating.  It feels like a veiled insult, and only serves to fuel our anxiety.
  • “Maybe parenthood just isn’t in God’s plan for your life.”  First of all, this is the singular crisis-of-self we haven’t just considered, but scares us to death every minute of every day.  Infertility makes you reassess plans you’ve had for your life for decades, ever since you were six years old, carrying your doll around everywhere you went.  The idea that we have to find another life path doesn't just inspire insecurity, it absolutely terrifies us.  We realize you mean this statement in an easy-going “You’ll be okay anyway” sort of way, but after you’ve said it, you get to just walk away.  We, on the other hand, have to figure out who we are without this theoretical family we've planned on for as long as we can remember.  All you’re doing is justifying our fears.  Secondly, watching yourself not get what you’re asking so desperately for is a big enough challenge to faith on its own.  The last thing we need you to do is mentally pit God against us.  This is a lesson of trusting God despite the circumstances while grieving the loss of something we can’t achieve.  This statement isn’t a Band-Aid to put on a bleeding wound; it makes the wound bigger.  Please understand how our infertility relates to our faith isn’t any of your business.
  • “Maybe God knows you just wouldn’t be a good parent.”  Yes, this has been said to me, but I don't think this one doesn’t need an explanation.  If you’ve said this to someone, apologize.  Right now.  We’re insecure enough about this being true as it is; it’s one of the biggest irrational fears we carry.  You should be ashamed for your short-sighted words.  And can we please be frank about Psalms 127:3? "Children are a gift from God, a reward from Him. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them..."  I know you're fulfilled by being a parent, and I know you're proud of your kids, and I believe you have every right to be.  But please realize that scripture feels like a knife in our backs every time we read it.  All the sudden, my husband and I become the slow kids who didn't finish the race and don't get a ribbon because we're not good enough. I realize it's likely not what you intended at all, but you have to know that is how it comes across.  Please be sensitive to that.

Understand adoption

One of the most common responses to fertility problems is "Why don't you just adopt?"  It's one thing to support the idea of adoption; it's a whole different ballgame to consider actually doing it. Adoption is a very real and major decision to make.  We personally are very pro-adoption; it is still on the table for us.  However, we're still considering if it is the right choice for us.  Please know that there is nothing “just” about adoption.
  • I personally am not one who is simply trying to become a mom, to get my hands on any baby.  Instead, I’m aching to meet the little person that is an extension of my relationship with my husband, the baby I saw in my mind when I realized I was looking at the father of my children. Getting to the point of adoption means grieving the loss of that biological child we’ll never get to meet, and that takes time to process.
  • Adoption comes with its own tumultuous emotional toll.  It takes a very special kind of person to deal with the unique emotional needs and struggles of an adopted child. I am in awe of adoptive parents; they're incredible people. Are we right for this?  Can we be that selfless?
  • It can - and likely will - take years. Your life is invasively dissected to determine if you, your spouse, your home, your job, your finances, your life plans, and your mental state are “worthy” of a child.  And then you wait for someone to choose you.  It is psychologically exhausting in a situation that has already depleted you of resources.
  • The cost; oh, the cost. Even considering tax breaks and comparisons to fertility treatments, adoption requires a lot of money up front. Having to empty your savings and go into debt simply to bring a child home means you no longer have the resources you originally saved to provide that child with the life you wanted for it. Thinking about money seems cold and callous when it comes to human life, but these are details must be considered responsibly.
  • If you're fortunate enough to be chosen for a child after jumping through all the hoops, you could still lose that child, as well as all the money you've spent to get to that point. It's actually common for biological parents to change their mind at the last second, and every time that happens, you return to the drawing board. Some adoptive parents have found themselves in unexpected lawsuits and still lost their adopted children years after signing the papers. I can't even fathom that kind of heartbreak.

Realize you don’t get it

If you’ve never experienced infertility, please realize that you don’t totally get it, and if you’re lucky, you never will.  Studies have proven going through infertility is as physically stressful and psychologically depressing as those facing cancer, hypertension, or a heart attack.  Infertility - especially multiple miscarriages - changes your entire perspective on life.  Those of us in this fight will forever be affected by different things in different ways for different reasons than those who can't relate.  Insisting that you understand when you've never faced it is astoundingly belittling.  Have respect for the enormity of what we're going through.

Don't expect us to relate

It’s okay if you can’t relate to us, but don’t expect us to relate to you, either. Are you an exhausted parent who would love the “freedom” of being childfree?  Are you someone who has never understood wanting biological children?  Are you someone who had absolutely zero problems getting pregnant?  Are you in the middle of an unwanted pregnancy?  Are you someone who struggled until one day, it “just happened”? Are you absolutely terrified at the prospect of becoming a parent someday? Okay. That’s you; that’s where you are in life.  And all of that is valid...for you. Telling us, even jokingly, that you'd love to trade places with us is incredibly insensitive.  Imposing your experiences and your viewpoints on us as if you know better than we do doesn't help anyone.  We don't need you to relate, but we do need you to validate.

Validate our childfree life

One of the hardest things to deal with is parents who treat us as if our childless status makes us less valuable contributors to the world at large. It's a very "You don't have kids?! What even are you???" mindset. We realize we're not currently sculpting young lives, but that doesn't make us inferior to you. Remember, we already feel we've lost all our friends to the chasm of diapers, bottles, and nap time that now separates us. It is important for us to find healthy ways to continue to grow in the midst of this journey. We can either sit around and feel sorry for ourselves, or we can celebrate ourselves, pursuing personal interests such as travel or continued education, and relishing our freedom to do things like last minute date nights or sleeping in. We are not better than you, and you are not better than us. Our personal journey is as real to us as yours is to you, and we can both leave an impacting legacy in one way or another.

Don't compare us to others

If there is one thing we’ve learned, it’s that there is absolutely no rhyme or reason to infertility.  It's very important not to play the “Why them and not us?” game.  We’ve mucked through a lot of emotional garbage to get to a place where we finally realize this isn’t personal, so please don’t make it personal by saying things like, “So-and-so is a horrible mom. Why can’t you have her kids?” We realize you’re likely joking and trying to be supportive.  But not only does it open us up to the philosophical Why? questions that no one has answers to, it establishes a judgemental comparison between us and others, and that only feeds the feelings of failure.

Tread lightly when recommending your experience

This one is tougher to explain, because personal recommendations from friends and family can (and have been) priceless in this journey.  The doctors I’ve chosen have solely been recommendations from others.  However, please understand that when you’re going through infertility, everyone and their mother is recommending their doctor, their experience, their choices.  If you feel moved to do this, do so in a way that you’re passing along the information, and then LEAVE IT ALONE.  Some people insist we go to their doctor only, they don’t drop it, become pushy, and it becomes awkward.  It’d be a full-time job if we had to follow up with every tip/trick we’ve been offered.  But know we’re grateful for your suggestions and support, even if we don’t use your recommendation.

Ditch the Pity Look

We know this one is hard for the feelers, those who wear their emotions on their sleeves.  We know you want to fix it.  We know you’re indignant that we have to face this.  We know it comes from a good place inside of you.  But when everyone approaches you with a look of absolute pity - including the doctors at the hospital - it feeds the self-pity we’re trying so hard not to allow, because if we do, it’ll destroy us.  Concern, yes.  Indignation, sure.  Support, absolutely.  Pity, please no.

Sometimes hope hurts more

I realize this one sounds really cynical, but hear me out.  The fact is no one can guarantee this is gonna result in us having a family.  We might need to learn to be That Cool Childless Couple.  And if that’s God’s plan, then okay; I trust God.  But to get there in a healthy way, we’re going to have to go through a very real grieving process.  People who insist we should never give up hope can actually be blocking us from moving forward, doing more harm than good.  It makes your acceptance of us conditional. I’ve had experiences when I was finally in a strong, positive mental place of acceptance and understanding, only to have someone who had a dream about me with a baby or a comment about “never giving up” just suck me back into a dark place of depression.  It is more supportive to know you’ll be there for us no matter what.

Separate us from our infertility

I can't say this loud enough: infertility doesn’t define us.  Think of it as you would cancer.  That cancer patient doesn't want to be thought of as The Person with Cancer, nor do we want to be The Infertile Couple ((insert Pity Look here)).  Making this struggle the focus of the way you view us only makes us feel more like freaks and failures.  We are a lot more than our infertility; we are just facing this challenge.

Let us come to you

Yes, we’ve distanced ourselves from you, and I can't apologize for that. Thanks to social media, unrealized dreams like infertility have become a daily torment to those of us facing them. You have a beautiful family that you deserve to celebrate, but I can’t take that from everyone all the time.  Truth is, most of my closest friends are blocked from my Facebook feed.  I adore their kids and would do anything for them, but I just can't take the photos and updates day in and day out.  Furthermore, I hope knowing I'm not watching gives them the freedom to live without worrying if they're hurting me.  There are days this forced separation breaks my heart and makes me angry, but taking in their healthy, happy babies is just easier when I’m mentally prepared.  Let us come to you about that stuff. (This extends to many more personal situations than infertility; by the way.)

Celebrate your post IF successes

If you have experienced infertility and you have a child now, by God, celebrate it.  Cross that line; join that club.  You’ve earned every single milestone.  I've only briefly considered how hard it is to announce a pregnancy to someone still struggling with IF, to intimately know the pain your joy brings.  But remember we understand you’re not the cause of the pain.  We know you deserve the joy.  And if we ever find ourselves in your shoes, we also deserve to relish every single moment. Besides, somehow it’s easier to be happier for the success of a fellow IF fighter. We might not be loud and we might be coping, but we’re cheering you on.

Remember, we're learning to navigate this, too

There will be days when we need support, and then there will be days when we don't even want to be reminded of it.  There will be days when we get snarky, when we just shut down, when we snap at you, when we push you away.  There will be days you're doing everything you know to do, and it still feels like you're not doing anything right.  There are going be days when, without warning, we're just done.  Days when we’re not just sick of talking about it, we’re sick of thinking about it. Days when it seems everyone is pregnant or parents except us.  Days we feel exceptionally alone; days we feel completely smothered. This mess is just going to happen.  This issue is contradictory and emotional, dealing primarily in hormones and failure.  Don’t take any of it personally, and please don't be scared of us. We already feel like freaks.  Being friends with someone going through infertility requires balls, and it's gonna get messy.  But we're incredibly grateful to you for standing beside us in our mess, and we need you more than we know how to say.  We still love you very much and we know you're trying. And remember: you're not expected to fix it.

If you can relate...

If you have been there, if you're in the middle of a fight with IF and you do get it, if you can relate to these points in an incredibly personal way, by all means, stand and be heard.  Men and women.  Do not feel you have to hide.  People can't understand this topic unless we educate them.  It might make some uncomfortable, but the loneliness will eat you alive. There is nothing wrong with you. If nothing else, I am here and willing to listen.  You do not have to go through this alone.

27 February 2015

Ectopic, an update

It's 9am on Friday, and I'm sitting in my living room alone. This wouldn't typically be a big deal, but it is this week. This marks the first time in four days I've been left on my own. The first time in four days there is no one looking at me like a grenade whose pin has been pulled.

It was Monday at 5pm that my favorite nurse, Joy, called. "Your numbers are not going down. The only thing liability will allow me to tell you is to go to the emergency room.  NOW."

It made no sense at all; I had absolutely no acute symptoms whatsoever. Besides, this is the ER-happy nurse who had given me the same lip service before anyone had done a single test.  No one would let me talk to an actual doctor, and further questions got me nowhere.  This seemed like panic, not prudence.  So after a lot of discussion with my husband and several other people, including an L&D nurse and her trusted OB, we decided we were okay to get a second opinion the next day.

The following afternoon, our new - and wonderful - doctor got us in immediately.  We had more blood tests and an ultrasound.  For the first time in three years, we got to talk to the actual OB.  The experience was going really well...until she returned with the official diagnosis: ironically, it was ectopic.

That's when things got serious.

You see, an ectopic pregnancy isn't about the baby.  At this point in reproductive science, we can't save an ectopic baby.  The pregnancy is gone.  Instead, priority becomes about the mom. About me. I was already bleeding internally.  Now, the fears were rupture, sepsis, death.  We didn't have time to process the loss of another baby.  "Your life is in danger right now."  In one week, this had gone from a possible joy to another loss to actual mortal danger.

As she discussed our options, I remember hearing the words surgery, anesthesia, "remove the entire tube..."  But since we'd caught it so early, my symptoms were almost non-existent, and I had pretty much no pain, methotrexate should work. We've made you an appointment at the Infusion Center. Go to the hospital now.

Methotrexate is primarily used in chemotherapy.  The sobering list of warnings and side effects was enough to make me burst into tears.  Basically, it locates and destroys any quickly-multiplying cells, killing things like non-viable pregnancies and cancer.  But it also taxes the healthy parts of your body, too.  It compromises your immune system.  It stresses your liver.  It makes you sick.  The Infusion Center is filled with very ill people receiving very serious treatments.  It's not where you go when you thought you were having a baby. In fact, it's the exact opposite: it's where you go when you're fighting not to die.

Methotrexate is toxic.  Officially, post-ectopic fallopian tubes can handle another pregnancy after 3 months.  But patients are told not to get pregnant for at least 6 months after methotrexate, because this stuff is dangerous.  It sticks around in your cells so long, it could damage a new fetus.  One of the nurses that helped us couldn't even administer the dose; she was breastfeeding, and this stuff was too toxic for her to be around.

And it was going directly into my body.

One of the reasons this was so tough for me is that I have very little experience as a medical patient.  Sure, I've been vaccinated.  I've had check ups and preventative appointments.  Recent chemical pregnancies required blood samples. But for the most part, the only thing I'd ever gotten at a doctor's office was a lollypop, a Band-Aid, maybe a prescription for cough syrup.  I'd never been in real danger.  I'd never broken a bone.  I'd never even worn a hospital band until Tuesday night. This entire experience was all very new to me, arms covered in bruises from repeated blood draws, experiencing a transvaginal ultrasound and two chemo injections in a single day.

I was so scared, I broke out in hives.

But the weirdest part is I didn't feel any different.  I'd been told my body had betrayed me, but I had very little pain, very little discomfort.  Just a lot of people looking at me with enormous concern.  It was incredibly disconcerting, like I couldn't even trust my own instincts.

Methotrexate has to be administered by two nurses simultaneously.  Doses of this unnaturally bright yellow fluid are too strong to take in a single syringe.  It requires two that go into your butt at the same time by nurses wearing a lot of protective gear.  It feels like a bad sci-fi movie.  I was so terrified, my forearms and hands had gone numb. Everyone kept reminding me to breathe.

God bless one of those nurses, though.  She'd been a patient through this before.  She knew the roller coaster we were both on, especially me.  She took several moments to grab me by the shoulders, look me directly in the eye, and tell me, "You're going to be okay. I know how much today sucks, but do not give up. This isn't the end of your story."  I started to cry; she started to cry.  She got it.  She was a Godsend.

We took Tuesday an hour at a time. Find the Infusion Center. Get checked in. Receive the shots. Walk to the car. Try a small meal. Take a pain pill. Try to sleep. Keep breathing.

As more and more hours passed, I started to realize I was lucky (and also being prayed for by approximately 900,000 people).  Truth is, I've had very little side effects.  I haven't needed the nausea medication, and I'm able to go an hour or two between pain pill doses without too much difficulty.  The scary part about that, however, is wondering if the dose was high enough.  Is it working?  Because until we know it's working, until my numbers drop significantly, my life is still in danger.  If this didn't work, best case scenario means I have to do it again next week, and that time, it'll be two compounded doses with compounded side effects.  However, it's still better than worst case scenario: a ruptured tube and being rushed into emergency surgery.

This experience has revealed the depth of love and support we have rallied around us.  My sister is a force to be reckoned with on her own.  My immediate family just appeared in the Infusion Center that night to support us.  Gifts keep showing up on the doorstep and in the mail.  People I haven't seen in years have been sending texts, emails, and Facebook messages.  One of my friends is bringing us dinner and home-baked cookies this weekend. Another friend has started an infertility related Pinterest board, searching for ways to support us.  Everyone is telling me they love me.  (Though that actually becomes disconcerting, as well.  When a couple people do it, it's sweet.  When everyone does it, it starts to feel like a goodbye.  I promise, people, I have no intention of leaving!)

I have never, in my entire life, been more grateful for my husband as I have been this week. His EMT training and rock-steady nerves have been my saving grace.  When the whole world went fuzzy, he took over.  I could not have done this without him.  It's a Catch-22, though. That first Monday night, my Michael took a back seat, and the emergency responder took over.  I haven't seen my laughing, carefree husband in four days.  Instead, he's all business.  I am his patient, and come hell or high water, nothing is going to happen on his watch.

I can also see that he's scared, and that man is never scared.  He won't admit it, but I can see it when he looks at me.  Brings me more water.  Watches my breathing patterns while I nap on the sofa. Checks my temperature in the middle of the night.  Asks about my pain level, my bowel movements, my hunger. Checks me for anemia. He also keeps reaching out for me, all the time. Sitting right next to me.  Holding my hand while we watch TV, drive to the doctor, even while he falls sleep. He doesn't let go. Sometimes, it's just to make some kind of physical contact, like his hand on my arm. It's like he's making sure I'm still here.

He's actually scared, and that's the scariest part of all.

So now, it's 10am.  I just got back from yet another blood draw. The doctor said my betas could spike before coming down, but that they need to be lower by Monday.  At a certain point, Hubs and I will have to face what this means for our future, how ridiculously high-risk we've now become.  But that's for later.  Today, we wait.  For yet another lab worker to count my betas, to see if this awful stuff is working.  To see if any acute symptoms start to appear.  To finally feel like we're out of the woods.  There are four different people on stand by, texting for status updates every hour, in case I start feeling like I need to be rushed back to the hospital.  But in the meantime, I wait. And yes, I wait alone, but I actually like that, because it's the closest thing to normalcy I've had all week.

23 February 2015

Falling through the cracks

I'm in awe of people who practice medicine for a living.  It amazes me.  And I'm definitely not one to disrespect a doctor or claim to know more than someone who has gone through specialized training.  But the system is so broken.  It has enormous cracks.  And I should know; Hubs and I fall right through one of them.  My fourth miscarriage started yesterday morning, and this post is the ugly truth about it that no one ever talks about.

I have no children, but I have been pregnant four times. I've spent a total of 16 weeks dealing with the early stages of pregnancy.  That's longer than a healthy pregnancy's entire first trimester.  But I've never had a real OB-GYN appointment.  Not ever.  I've only ever even talked to a real doctor once, and that was about 3 years ago.  Because in the world of pregnancy, OB-GYNs, their nurses, and their staff are only interested in seeing you if you have one of the following: 8 weeks of healthy pregnancy or 3 clinical miscarriages.  Note the word "clinical".

You see, our pregnancies are chemical.  Due to "chromosomal abnormalities", we only carry to about 6 weeks before we lose our baby...errr, non-viable embryo.  And apparently, these simply aren't worthy of real doctor's appointments.  Even when they happen 4 times in as many years, they don't count, and we've been made to realize that repeatedly.  I occasionally manage to reach a nurse on the phone; I chat briefly with the lab person who draws my blood every 48 hours.  But those are the only people who ever talk to me.  Everything else, we have to figure out for ourselves.  I understand why medically, but that doesn't change the fact that it's emotionally overwhelming. Every single time. We shouldn't have to do this alone.

I have to wait in the same waiting room, though.  Healthy pregnant women everywhere.  Newborns in carriers, crying and nursing.  Signs all over the walls saying, "Congratulations on your miracle!"  All the while, I sit in the chair, clinging to my husband's hand, enduring painful cramping and contractions that remind me that we were foolish to have gotten our hopes up again.  On the days you don't go to the OB-GYN's office, you're sent to the hospital lab, located directly across from the Birth Center.  Women walking around while they labor.  Newborns crying.  And you, miscarrying....again.  You fight the overwhelming thoughts that you will never have this.  THIS WILL NEVER BE YOU.

I realize this probably isn't the case with infertility specialists.  At least I hope it isn't.  And yes, we could pay the extra money to go there instead.  In fact, we will after this last loss.  But specialists can't do much for our specific problem.  The chance of success for our genetic-related issue is less than 4%, even with expensive specialist intervention.  And when specialists tell you you'd be wasting your money, you know your chances are slim.

I know what you're thinking now: faith.  Miracles, Lisa; they happen!  And it's not that I don't believe that is true.  But even when you believe in a higher power, four miscarriages puts your feet on the ground and makes you a realist.  I still believe God is in control, but simply asking God for something doesn't guarantee it.  It never has.  Yes, there is a reason God is allowing all this. Maybe I'll get to know what that reason is someday; maybe I won't.  But we have to learn to be happy no matter what happens, because we have no guarantees.  God's plan for our lives might not include children, and that doesn't make us inferior.  And people chastising or invalidating us for faith-related reasons doesn't help. At all. (And stop quoting Psalms 127:3. Seriously. Share it amongst yourselves all you want, but it is sincerely one of the most insensitive things you can say to someone struggling with infertility.)

Okay, now for the unpopular opinion. While experiencing a miscarriage gives some women unique insight to this situation - and I give them full credit and appreciation for that empathy - it changes the minute they successfully have a child.  Sorry, guys, but even you don't get it any longer.  I realize you understand how much it hurts to lose a child, but you no longer relate to the absolute crisis of self to have never succeeded.  It's a completely different ball game.  I struggle with anger when moms tell me they relate to me because of their inability to have their 2nd, 3rd, or 4th child.  Are you kidding me???  You have a little hand to hold.  You've shared that moment with your spouse.  You've met that little person that is a merging of you and your spouse.  You are acknowledged on Mother's Day.  You've been given that gift.  You're a mom.

The two lines on the pregnancy test will never mean joy to us.  Not ever again.  Instead, it's anxiety, pain, anger.  That's what miscarriages do; they steal your joy and turn it to dread.  I've learned to dig my heels in when I see those two lines.  Telling my husband comes with tears, not of joy but of fear.  It's happening again.  Don't you dare get your hopes up. Stay logical, rational. And for goodness sake, make the nurse listen to you.  Once you get her to call you back, that is.  Yes, I'm pregnant again.  Yes, you monitored my hcG last time.  No, I've never seen the doctor.  No, this is not an ectopic.  Oh, the E word.  That's the one thing they're paranoid about.  It could always be ectopic.  You'll struggle to get them to call you back at all...until they think it might be ectopic.  In a single week, I've been told "You need to go to the ER immediately" twice.  No, I don't.  You're not listening to me.  WHY WON'T ANYONE LISTEN TO ME?

I never thought I'd lose four babies.  I never thought I'd be terrified that number could climb even higher.  I never thought I'd be the person who knows a failed implantation simply by the way it feels.  I never thought I'd hate a positive pregnancy test result.  I never thought I'd resent friends who have no idea what this feels like.  I never thought I'd second guess nurses.  I never thought I'd see my tiny embryo on a piece of toilet paper, and certainly not more than once.

This is what infertility is really all about.  Aside from the loss and the lack of the thing you're fighting so hard to achieve, the system is set up to constantly remind you of your failures.  You will be made to feel unbelievably inconsequential, and you have to fight to be heard.  It's not a safe place.  It will never be a safe place.

A paranoid nurse woke me up this morning, the 4th nurse I've spoken to over the last week.  They wouldn't even call me back last week; now, they're concerned.  But now, it's too late.  Now, I just want to be left alone.  Instead, I had to talk her down from rushing to the ER.  I also talked her down from rushing to a transvaginal ultrasound.  We compromised; I will go back to the lab today, my 3rd visit in less than a week.  I'll sit with the pregnant women, grinning from ear to ear. I will have more blood drawn from an arm that's already bruised and green from all the other blood draws.  I will not see a doctor; instead, I'll make small talk with the lab person and be sent home to wait for my results.  When they finally call, it will probably be a 5th and brand new nurse.  She'll tell me they realize I was right, this is not ectopic, just another chemical.  My file will return to its usual spot at the back of the drawer.  We're sorry, but there's nothing we can do.  Have a nice day.

This week, I will stay under my heating pad, breathing through the pain as I silently miscarry my 4th baby.  I will swallow back tears and anger, my helpless husband grabbing my hand silently every once and awhile to remind me that while there's not much he can do, he's here.  I'll silently fight the overwhelming waves of failure and pain as I hide all my friends on Facebook once again, the photos of their healthy pregnancies and happy children just too much to process repeatedly.  I will once again hide while I try to put myself back together, because this topic makes people uncomfortable.  Because it's shameful.  Because again, we don't matter.  And the next time I see two lines on a pregnancy test, this entire process will start all over again.

The world needs to realize: this is what infertility is really all about.  WE MATTER.  Please listen.

05 December 2014

I can't be quiet any longer

The man I married challenges me every single day to be a better person.  He doesn't even try; it's just in his nature.  He is the most patient, level-headed person I've ever known.  He grew up reading a lot of comics.  In his mid-thirties, he still loves Superman.  I'm pretty sure he wishes he could be Superman.  But since he isn't from the planet Krypton, he settles for his only option to be a hero: being a police officer.

The transition from civilian family to law enforcement family was a hard one, learning with every call just how awful people could be to each other.  Knowing what humans are capable of leaves absolutely no room for ignorance.  He would come home and silently hug me after working truly heinous crimes as our naivety slowly faded away.  We realized we'd need to grow tough skin, or we'd never make it.  But as his wife, I took comfort in knowing that, when trouble arose, I was married to the man who went running toward the danger to help, to fix it, to keep people safe and stop the people who were trying to hurt or steal.  I have always taken an insane amount of pride in that, to the point that it was worth the possible threat to his life someday.

However, that is no longer the hardest part of this life.  Watching people break laws and hurt each other has actually become the easy part; even the criminals understand the reasons for the law and the repercussions when they break it.  It's logical, and it makes sense.  Instead, nowadays, it's everyone else who seems to have abandoned logic.  And no matter how much I try to wrap my head around it, I can't understand what is going on.

One day, soon after M was accepted to the academy, I stood in the living room of an old friend and shared the great news of his new job.  M was going to be trained to serve and protect.  To keep people safe.  To be his own version of Superman.  I was enormously proud to share this news, both because I was proud of him and because she was an old friend.

Her entire demeanor changed immediately.  Her face twisted, her body cocked to one side.  "Oh, he must be an asshole."

That was it.  She was done.  With those six words, she'd made up her mind on someone she'd never met, never mind the fact that he mattered very much to me.  The respect I had earned in decades of friendship didn't matter.  Giving this person the opportunity to earn his own respect wasn't even an option for her.  She'd already decided.  My entire life changed standing in that living room listening to an old friend slander my husband with zero provocation.  I would've been more livid if I wasn't so completely confused.

Little did I know, however, this discriminating mindset would become my new reality.  To look at my husband, a man I admire over all other men on this planet, and hear thousands of people accuse him of horrible things he wouldn't even consider.  To see it presented on the news, as if it's fact.  To watch people share memes and clips; to see them actually believe it.  It never gets easier.  In fact, every time these skewed accusations rise to the surface, it's harder than the last.

I know my husband.  I know his partner.  I know their squad mates.  I know their spouses, held their children.  I know their training.  I know the reasons behind their training.  I know their morning briefings.  I know their daily interactions.  I've watched them maintain steady control while facing frightening odds.  I know the laws.  I know how the justice system works, and I know the reasons why.  This is my life.  I live and breathe this stuff.  And I have absolutely 100% faith in these people.

And yet, my husband, who chose to protect and serve, is forced to stand in a line receiving heinous insults and untrue accusations for hours on end, bricks and large rocks thrown at his head. Legally, he could arrest these people; they are breaking laws.  But he's been told not to.  Instead, just stand there and take it.  Don't offend anyone.  Seattle civilians got a tiny taste of it at our annual Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony last week, when the officers were ordered to stand down and allow the group of demonstrators to rush the stage and frighten the children's choir singing carols.

That was 5 measly minutes.  This is been my and my husband's 24/7 reality now.  Destructive "rallies" are scheduled before evidence is revealed, before the courts announce verdicts.  Do facts and law and logic even matter anymore?  Or do people just care about whatever they're told to care about through their televisions, newspapers, and the internet? Because the news media and politicians only care about one thing: ratings.

I'm not even trying to tell people what to think.  My request is simple: stop listening to shock media and simply repeating what you've heard. Get your hands on actual depositions and court documents. Go on a ride-along with your local department. Learn the history and influences. Get the facts, understand. Do proper, thorough research; think critically.  That is how confident I am that the truth speaks for itself.

But so many people don't do any of that.  Instead they continue watching, spouting speculation and conjecture. They make judgment calls before any facts have been presented whatsoever. Things that have been proven to be downright lies are being touted as truths.  Even high ranking politicians are more interested in the people's approval than actual facts.  In the meantime, my husband crawls home, exhausted and dejected, every morning around 2am.  He leaves again at 9am for another 16 hour day of the same, knowing today might be the day he might have to choose to be executed in the street or executed by the media.  There is nothing in between anymore.

His demeanor is changing.  He's slowly deflating.  The man I admire more than anyone I've ever known is slowly having the life beaten out of him by the people he has sworn to protect.  By the people he willingly chose to put his life on the line for.  They spit, they insult, they attack, they accuse of horrible and downright false things, they shove phones in his face, hoping to catch him doing something awful that they can post to YouTube, which they never do. Forget the fact that his goal was to keep 300 armed people from storming onto Interstate 5, a major 6-lane freeway, endangering the lives of thousands of unsuspecting drivers.  300 angry people with weapons against 30 officers backed up against a freeway on-ramp.  One of the few times my husband was actually scared on the job.  But the news-watchers didn't see that; all they saw was the fact that the officers were wearing riot gear, and that made them uncomfortable, and somehow, that was the end of the conversation.

It breaks my heart and makes me angry.  They're there to keep us safe; we're not only making their jobs impossible, we're allowing them - and subsequently everyone else - to be put in even more danger.  Legally, police are not allowed to be victimized, but I am.  And I am.  Ethically, this behavior isn't just disgusting; it's dangerous.  Not only have he and his partners done nothing to deserve this, but these are the people we need more of in this world, not less.

The concept that blatant disrespect for law enforcement is even a viable option literally scares me.  My husband carries firearms every day because he has a target on his back.  All officers do.  They're doing it to protect you.  To serve you.  Your spouse, your children, your loved ones.  They're willingly standing between you and people who would hurt you.  They have established training so that they can maintain order in a world without order.  However, the moment civilians start to think they can interfere or question that authority is the moment everyone's lives are in danger.  Civilians, criminals, bystanders, and especially the officers.  Interfering in police business puts actual human lives in jeopardy.

There are established and approved Facebook groups that support and celebrate murdering officers.  They post graphic images of officers killed in the line of duty, and followers celebrate it.  People chant and threaten to rape and murder me simply because I'm an officer's wife on a daily basis.  Is the general public even aware of that?  And if so, where is the outrage for that disrespect?  How are my friends and family not disgusted by that?  No death or attack should be celebrated.  Ever.  Isn't that exactly the same behavior they're accusing the officers of?  Seeing nothing more than the uniform and operating in some kind of homicidal fervor, solely in their skewed perception of what that means?

I know very intimately the oath my husband has taken, exactly what it means, exactly what standard he is held to.  I also know what incredible weight that responsibility adds to his shoulders every single day.  I know the load those accused officers are likely feeling right now, completely aside from all the additional drama.  I know how much these officers don't want to shoot their firearms or engage in force each and every single day.  I hear the accusations ignorant people hurl, the ones who preach that the police are what is wrong with society. I look at my husband and his coworkers, and they don't line up at all. These people are wrong. THEY'RE WRONG.

If it is laws people don't agree with, I have good news: we live in a democracy.  By all means, exercise your rights, obtain the paperwork, sign petitions, take the proper steps to try to change that law.  God knows there are laws I don't agree with.  But never lash out and destroy other people's property because you're angry.  And furthermore, I challenge you to ask yourself why that law exists in the first place. The most recent cop hater I've dealt with has decided all cops are jerks because he always get speeding tickets.  So I asked him: Are you speeding?  Does it even occur to you that a particular speed limit might have been established after a child was killed by a speeding car?  Or that an out of control vehicle broke through the barrier and plunged down the embankment, killing the driver?  And that officer issuing that citation was the one who held that person as they took their last breath?  Because this is their reality, guys.  They see the stuff we pretend exists only in the periphery, and they see it every single day.

Finally, officers don't have any more influence in making the laws than you or me. Their only job is to enforce the laws we have all voted into power. They're not even allowed to be personally offended by a law; it's in their oath. In many cases, they're forced to protect a law they don't agree with, and they do it because they honor the concept of democracy and order.  The amount of restraint my husband displays on a daily basis astounds me; I know I couldn't do it.  And yet, people have ignorantly decided to continually remind both of us that he is nothing more than a power hungry, racist asshole.

I am not excusing racism.  I am not giving police free reign.  Far from that, actually.  I'm trying to point out that, statistically, police are the ones that can and should be trusted.  The majority of law enforcement are racially diverse people who became officers because they respect law and order and want to help others. Do they intimidate you?  Do you think them unapproachable?  Consider what kind of danger and mistrust these men and women encounter hundreds of times a day, especially with the current media climate. If they have their badge on, they will have their guard up.  They will be hyper-vigilant. This does not make them bad people with a bad attitude.  It keeps them alive, it keeps you alive, it keeps your children and loved ones alive, because if you are a law-abiding citizen, they consider your life and safety their personal responsibility.  And if you approach them with respect for that responsibility and weighted position, you'll quickly find how open and helpful they are and want to be.

Finally, and I can't say this loud enough: on the rare occasions that an officer is acting out of conduct, no one wants to catch and stop them more than all the other officers out there.  Upholding the honor of their profession is a solemn issue to them.  This is the truth; this is the majority of these men and women in blue. Officer profiling is just as discriminating and unjust as racial, sexual, or gender profiling, prejudging based solely on a minority stereotype.  However, we as civilians cannot even begin to comprehend the intricacies of the situations they are faced with.  They are judged by a jury of their peers for a reason; their reality is very different from ours.  We must realize we can't relate, because unless we've worn a badge and felt the weight of that Kevlar vest, we simply can't.

You do not want a world without police officers, nor do you want a police officer whose hands are completely tied.  And if you think you do, you don't understand.  I'm not talking about no more speeding tickets or jaywalking warnings.  I'm talking about execution-style murder in the middle of the night over $50.  I'm talking about someone molesting your child.  I'm talking about bomb threats at libraries.  I'm talking about a man tripping on acid with a loaded firearm.  I'm talking about being pushed in front of a train to steal your purse or getting shivved for a single smart phone.  I'm talking about convincing your friend on the roof line not to jump.  I'm talking about your children kidnapped for sex trafficking.  I'm talking about hiding outside in a bush after being raped, naked and terrified, not knowing where you are. I'm talking about a baby lying in a pool of his mother's blood after she was killed by her lover with a barbeque fork. I'm talking about very real situations my husband has personally faced in his career. Very possible, very terrifying things that these men and women in uniform will drop everything to rescue you from or throw themselves in front of for you and those you love.  This isn't just my husband's 9-to-5; this is his oath to you.

Officers are people.  Real people.  With heartbeats and families and dreams and hurts and lives, just like you.  Just like the people you think you're defending.  An officer dies in the line of duty every other day, and I guarantee the majority of those deaths were entirely unjust and unnecessary.  Does my heart break for the families of those civilians who've recently died?  Of course it does.  But these lives are over because they made poor choices and broke the law.  This was not forced upon them (and if you don't agree, I once again challenge you to read the court documents).  Yet,  despite being proven innocent every single time, the lives of those officers are over, as well.  They were thrown into a situation by someone else's poor choices, and now their honor, their livelihoods, and their families are done.  Their lives are literally threatened now; they have to go into hiding as if they should be ashamed.  And the very same could happen to my well-intended husband and therefore to me.  Today, tomorrow, any day.  And not because of the law or logic, but because of people's complete disregard of it.  Because of this overwhelming mob mentality that everyone has subscribed to.  Despite making the best choices we know to make, our lives could be ruined at any moment by people who don't care to understand, and all because my husband chose to make a career of helping others.  It doesn't make sense.

I have never known judgment and hate like I've known it as a police wife; never. And the more I attempt to defend myself and my husband, the more illogical, seething hatred is dumped upon me.  So I bite my tongue, trying not to let it make me bitter and hateful.  Attempt to ignore the wall of uninformed anger pointed at me and my spouse, even though we've done absolutely nothing to deserve it. To try to deflect the ignorant vitriol that tries to seep into my life everywhere I turn, especially online. To take a deep breath when I read someone post a warning to be suspicious of me and my husband, simply because of his work uniform. To silently remind myself that just because the respect we've earned isn't recognized by certain people doesn't mean it isn't valid to those that care to look for it.

Every night, despite everything he faces on a daily basis, my husband prays for peace and comfort for the families of those who've died recently.  For an end to this anger.  He leaves a shockingly unbalanced atmosphere of rage, blame, and destruction, and he still prays for them.  It astounds me.  He is still inspiring me to be a better person every single day.  This, dear world, is a police officer.