Beginning Anew: Kindling Bravery


Since I started navigating the labyrinth of fertility, what I’ve mostly learned is that every path is a different path, and every path has some hardship and some joy. But what I’ve also learned is that women are set up to be on teams: the pre-kids team, the child-free team, the trying to conceive team, the infertile team, the pregnant team, and of course, team motherhood. None of this reflects my experience thus far. Identity and experiences are fluid with fuzzy edges, and the best we can do is negotiate our own paths with as much grace as we can muster, pausing to give hugs and share snacks. So this week we’re discussing the fertility journey from many perspectives. Because as Hayley sums up so beautifully in this piece, “What I really want to say is this: there are no perfect decisions, and there are times when you simply have to be brave.” So as we talk about beginnings, here is to letting go of 2012 and kindling bravery, one twig at a time, in 2013.

Beginning Anew: Kindling Bravery | A Practical Wedding

If you had told teenage me that I’d choose to move away from my husband for a career while he waited behind to take care of selling/renting out our house, she would have laughed. That’s what my parents did twice, and after moving around as a teen, I vowed to never leave a place and people I loved if I could help it. And then the recession hit. I got married, made new vows. We bought a house in a city we loved. And then we slowly and painfully discovered we were dealing with infertility. I finished a master’s degree in a field that brings me joy (library science), then no local jobs were to be found for said degree. So I applied for a job several hours away, and got an offer the day after the interview. Actually, to be more precise, I got the job offer while sitting in the parking lot of my reproductive endocrinologist’s office waiting to get started on an IUI (which didn’t work). I tossed that teenage vow about not moving away from places and people I love out the window, and I accepted the job.

So now I’m living in an apartment with one of our two dogs, while my husband tries to rent out our lovely little house we scrabbled and worked to start a family in. This could start to come across as a pity party, but what I really want to say is this: there are no perfect decisions, and there are times when you simply have to be brave. You cannot make new beginnings knowing all of the places you’re going to land on the board. I have no idea if we’re going to be stuck living apart for a few more weeks or a few more months.

I’ve had a lot of reactions along the line of,  ”Wow, I don’t think I could do that,” regarding the whole business. “Yes, you could,” I want to say firmly, kindly, honestly. Because if there’s one thing I’m learning through both this living alone in a new city and simultaneous infertility, it’s that you’re probably more capable of doing painful, hard, tough, brave things than you think you are. The key is taking a breath and just doing it. Accepting that it’s a huge, huge risk, accepting that you’re going to lose a lot, accepting that there will be pain, accepting the idea that you can do something like rip out your heart Indiana-Jones style and survive. Maybe even thrive, eventually.

Of course, this new beginning has other strings attached. We’re not only beginning a new life, we’re actively closing the door on the life we thought we’d have. The one in our city, in our house near family, with the little ones that we envisioned would surely be ours—the ones that we would walk to the free petting zoo down the street. (I mean seriously, how perfect.) That takes a lot of bravery. Bravery you have—I’m not just tooting my own horn. You do. Really. And then, once you make the brave decision, don’t look back. I ended up getting three interview requests in my home city a week or so after moving away, including one job I didn’t even apply for, and I turned them all down. It may sound crazy, but once we made the decision to leave everything and start anew, and when I got here and made myself a little home in this shitty month-to-month apartment, that was it. Like Maya Rudolph says in Bridesmaids, “It’s happening. It happened.” I own this now.

To get myself through this process (because happening and being real and final doesn’t mean it isn’t excruciating sometimes), I find myself turning to the reading we used in our wedding from the Quaker text “Faith and Practice.” (The fact that we chose a reading that references childlessness prior to knowing it would ever be an honest possible reality for us is not lost on me.):

Marriage is to be taken seriously, but not always in grim earnest; its problems take perspective from fun, adventure and fulfillment, and joy and sorrow are mingled together. We rejoice in success, but we must also be glad that we can console each other in failure. “With my body I thee worship” is to many a blessed phrase: but while some find a perfect physical relationship easily, others reach it the hard way, and it is not less precious for that. It is wonderful never to quarrel, but it means missing the dear delight of making it up. Children bring joy and grief; some will have none and will miss both the joy and the grief. For some, there is a monogamy so entire that no other love ever touches it; but others “fall in love” time and time again, and must learn to make riches of their affection without destroying their marriage or their friends. Let us be thankful for what we share, which enables us to understand; and for the infinite variety in which each marriage stands alone.

We are thankful, then, for the pleasures, joys, and triumphs of marriage; for the cups of tea we bring each other, and the seedlings in the garden frame; for the domestic drama of meetings and parties, sickness and recovery; for the grace of occasional extravagance, flowers on birthdays and unexpected presents; for talk at evenings of the events of the day; for the ecstasy of caresses, for gay mockery at each other’s follies; for plans and projects, fun and struggle; praying that we may neither neglect nor undervalue these things, nor be tempted to think of them as self-contained and self-sufficient.

Right now, we don’t have much. Our bravery took some things away. But we’re gaining things too, triumphing in the face of a particularly rough 2012. Take that, shitty year. We cannot share physical cups of tea (or anything physical), but we can talk in the evening over Gchat. We can mail each other cards. We can share gay mockeries over the phone (and cry and comfort each other, too). We are beginning anew, but we are also rooting these simple things so deeply into the soil of our partnership. What our future looks like now is different. But it was already different, and once you accept one major change in your future—in our case, what a family will look like for us—it’s remarkably easy to let other changes in, too. It’s sort of like letting one little twig or kindling catch fire so the whole pile can eventually light. In letting one big change in and accepting it, we allowed ourselves to be open to leaving behind our original ideas of the future as well. To bigger changes, to a whole different life together.

And maybe we’re a little braver because of it. Ultimately, that’s what this beginning has taught me: that I have a well of bravery that my teenage self assumed I didn’t have.

So to anyone thinking about take a big leap that has the potential for both pain and joy: you can do it. Really. Let the big change in. I’m not saying it won’t be hard (teenage me is nodding her head sagely), but it may be right. And it may be okay. And scary. But also okay.

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  • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

    Thanks Hayley, I am right there with you. You are spot-on, once you jump, once you decide to go, the actual-doing part is not that hard. Accepting, deciding that we too would need fertility treatments was very very difficult. I fought it with every cell of my being for a long time. Now that we are going through it, it seems better, even if we don’t know what will happen.

    I want to frame this:
    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………
    “you’re probably more capable of doing painful, hard, tough, brave things than you think you are. The key is taking a breath and just doing it. Accepting that it’s a huge, huge risk, accepting that you’re going to lose a lot, accepting that there will be pain, accepting the idea that you can do something like rip out your heart Indiana-Jones style and survive. Maybe even thrive, eventually.
    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………
    and this:
    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………
    “…We are thankful, then, for the pleasures, joys, and triumphs of marriage; for the cups of tea we bring each other, and the seedlings in the garden frame; for the domestic drama of meetings and parties, sickness and recovery; for the grace of occasional extravagance, flowers on birthdays and unexpected presents; for talk at evenings of the events of the day; for the ecstasy of caresses, for gay mockery at each other’s follies; for plans and projects, fun and struggle; praying that we may neither neglect nor undervalue these things, nor be tempted to think of them as self-contained and self-sufficient.”
    ……………………………………………………………………………………………………….
    I wish you all of the joy, and I hope you will soon be able to see your husband every day again.

    • Another Meg

      I think I may use part of your post for my ceremony. Is that ok? Because it’s spot-on.

      • http://weehermione.blogspot.com OP Hayley

        Absolutely! If it’s the Quaker part, it’s not mine to give away freely anyway. If it’s my words, maybe let me know so I can feel all proud about which ones? :P

  • Manya

    This is one of my favorite posts yet.

    Thank you so much for exposing me to that beautiful Quaker reading, as well as the beautiful reading that is your piece. I completely agree with you: we all have so much bravery in us and it doesn’t usually come with blaring trumpets and Indiana Jones costumes. It’s happening, and you do it. You get in the car and drive away (crying until snot pools in the cup holders), and that’s it, and then it’s happened and you’ve done it. And then its yours, and you find that you are brave after all.

    • One More Sara

      hahah “until the snot pools in the cup holders” I’ve so been there. Usually for me it’s “cry until the entire pillow is soaked with snot and tears, turn it over and keep crying” though.

      • A Single Sarah (for certain values of single)

        When I made my braver than I realized move, I had friends make mixed CDs for my drive. The last song on the “Manic Optimism” cd (companion to “Catharsis”) had me sobbing so hard that I had to pull off at the next exit.
        But then I put it on again and started singing through the tears.

        Thank you, Hayley, for sharing. And for reminding me what necessary bravery looks like.

        • Heather

          That is such an awesome idea. I’m mentally filing it away for when I need to be so brave.

  • Shiri

    Thank you for this stunningly brave post. I also want to frame that Quaker reading and put it above my bed, my desk, my heart. I wish you and your husband so much luck and many cups of tea together.

  • http://laurenmcglynnphotography.com Lauren

    You’re such a badass Hayley, a good writer too.

  • KB

    Great post!! I definitely second the thought of “Wow, I could never do that” and realizing that, yes, I could. I used to think people who did long-distance marriage were crazy, but then I realized that we live in a totally different world now, one where opportunities are scattered everywhere. It takes strength to live apart and pursue those dreams AND to let the person you love do it as well, and I think it can really solidify your bond. My fiance’s parents lived like four states away from each other for a period of time while his dad was getting his PhD years ago and I know, for me, that might be preferable than rooting my entire life and having unintentional resentment about it.

  • http://www.piecesofanna.com/ Anna

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us, Hayley. I hope it will have a happy ending, and will lead to a happy new beginning for you and your family.

  • Claire

    Such a wise and beautifully written post. Thank you for sharing that Quaker reading and for bravely sharing your own experiences and learnings. Best wishes for a more joyful 2013.

  • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

    There are a lot of things I have done in the last three years that I could not have done on my own before. But that’s the difference. Since getting married three years ago I haven’t had to do them on my own, we’ve bravely done them together. And that has made all the difference.

  • Aileen

    Kind of unrelated to your post, but hoorary for library science! I’m getting my masters in it right now.

    • http://weehermione.blogspot.com OP Hayley

      Hoorah! I’ve found it to be wildly fulfilling. :)

  • Adi

    As someone who is coming to the realization that getting pregnant may not be possible for me, this really struck home. That perfect life I had planned–simple but lovely, not much to ask, right?–looks further and further away every time I see that single blue line. I hope I’m as brave as Hayley says I am. Because right now I’m just terrified, but reading sure words from strong women helps. Thank you.

    • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

      Coming to that realization is very, very hard. But, It will be fine.You will be fine. Just keep on searching for the joy in your life every day (like it’s so beautifully said in the second paragraph of the Quaker reading) .
      Remain positive, and hopeful, and love your husband fiercely through this.
      And there are ways, there are always ways, and paths…

      • http://weehermione.blogspot.com OP Hayley

        I just want to echo Amanda: fierce, fierce love is important.

    • http://www.piercedwonderings.com Lynn

      I am there with you. We begin yet another round of drugs in a few short days, and the thought that this may not be our path is painful particularly for my sweet man. The conversations around our infertility are difficult for us, and it’s difficult for family who mean well but don’t help. Without the buffer of my husband who knows how to graciously tell people to butt out, I don’t know what I would do.

      • Adi

        Sending strength for your journey. I hope your path is easier soon.

  • http://nerdycare.blogspot.com SelkieKel

    What an incredible post! Thank you so much for sharing your eloquence and inspiring us with your refusal to be bogged down in the difficulties you face at present. I think you inspired dozens of us today. Here’s to a much better 2013 for you and your hubby!

  • Anonymous

    This post brought me to tears at several points. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. It really hits home with me, as my husband and I just discovered late last year that we, too, are infertile. We are facing a long journey down a road of bravery that will either involve a child only one or neither of us is the biological parent of, or no children at all. That doesn’t really jive with our dream of children with his curls and my eyes. When we first found out, I said to my husband, between sobs, “I don’t think I can have a child that isn’t yours.” But the truth is, I can. We need for me to. I DO have a well of bravery, and I will use it. I love the Quaker text, and the last line of your post was especially poignant, as if you were talking to me directly. Thank you, and good luck to you and your husband on your new path.

    • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

      Hugs to you. May the road to the family of your dreams be very short. As someone who is in the midst of this, I understand you, I wish I had the power to erase infertility from the world, it’s just so awful,.
      But it can make you aware of the things that are really important, it can make you notice happiness…

    • http://weehermione.blogspot.com OP Hayley

      Sending you so much love.

  • http://theengineerswife.wordpress.com jenn

    Wow. Great article. And such a similar situation to me. We have been working through infertility for 3 years, and have finally decided to move away from the small family community that we love, and moved to for our kids. Moving out of our big lovely house with the huge back yard. Moving away from our friends (who ALL have kids). At the end of the month my husband flies to Brunei, and hopefully not TOO many weeks after that, I will join him. It’s exciting, but scary. And just like our infertility journey, I think our Asia journey will bring us closer together, make us stronger, and help us to realise we are braver than we think…

  • http://www.thehousealwayswinsblog.com Rachel Wilkerson

    Thanks for sharing that Quaker reading…I LOVE it! This one might be making it into our ceremony.

    I also really loved “I’ve had a lot of reactions along the line of, ‘Wow, I don’t think I could do that,’ regarding the whole business. ‘Yes, you could,’ I want to say firmly, kindly, honestly.” Because yes, regarding SO many different tough situations.

  • Louise

    I TOTALLY needed to read this today. Thank you! While our choices look different from yours, we have to make a some big ones in the next week or so. We just got a beautiful new apartment, which we started painting and really settling into with the idea that we would live here until we buy (meaning we’d probably start a family here), and we just welcomed a new cat into our home. And then… the job offer. Now, I have a pretty amazing job already, but this one would put my career into a whole new, exciting trajectory… and it would mean moving half way around the world, away from our family and the life we’ve been building. Bravery required, indeed. Maybe I’ve got some after all…

  • Ashley

    Wow, what perfect timing for this. You always know APW!

    I made the scary, scary, scary leap into a better job, but left behind a job that could have eventually been better, and I already knew how everything worked and who everyone was, and I knew how to basically succeed. Times that by a WHOLE LOTTA agnst for leaving the company and the realization that at some places once you don’t work there, they really don’t care, and that no matter how much I tried to explain and extend myself, they were never going to try and understand my view.

    Cue to new job and seeing that it is even more awesome than I thought BUT the future of the company is at risk while my old firm is doing hands over fist compared to the year before. I was beginning to freak out and hate myself for not leaving well enough alone. We JUST got approved for a new apartment on a brownstone street in North Brooklyn with big bay windows, and FINALLY found a venue for the wedding and put down a deposit, and now the future may be murky and mean all over again. I’m consciously avoiding following up with my doctor to see what my current fertility state is-with one ovary left it always feels like the clock is ticking.

    All that said, this post made me feel like I’m not alone in having the fear, and that I won’t be alone in pushing through it. (And remembering that I’ve done this before, and as a bonus I’m not alone- I have a partner, and that really does make all the difference).

    Thank you so much for sharing, Hayley.

  • Cass

    This on so many different levels, hit me in the heart today and left me in tears in lecture this morning. Thank you for your bravery in sharing this wonderful words of wisdom, and best wishes to you and your partner with the challenges coming ahead. This post reminded me of what was important in life, and especially the wedding planning process as things we have already plan for have fallen to pieces in the last week (hello, fire trap of a former venue!). I’ve left scrambling to balance our budget, verus finding a place that is want we want, with the reality of planning a wedding while in school fulltime (insane). I think the thing I got most out of this was that despite all the upcoming challenges, we will be ok.

    • http://weehermione.blogspot.com OP Hayley

      You will be okay, lady. :)

  • Class of 1980

    THIS is one of my favorite posts of all time.

    Leave it to the Quakers to concoct such a reading and an APW reader to embody it.

    • http://weehermione.blogspot.com OP Hayley

      Aw shucks. :) Thank you, Class.

      Also, I’ll just leave this here since a number of people have referenced loving the Quaker quote and it’s a leeeetle hard to locate from the source I got it: http://qfp.quakerweb.org.uk/qfp22-43.html

      (cough librarian urge to cite and help people find hard-to-find stuff coming out here cough!)

  • http://newcomfortfood.wordpress.com JenMcC

    Thank you so much for this wonderful, brave, and inspiring post. And for this line especially:
    “there are no perfect decisions, and there are times when you simply have to be brave. You cannot make new beginnings knowing all of the places you’re going to land on the board.”

    I think I need to cross-stitch this on a pillow and carry it with me everywhere.

  • SarahT

    Thank you so much for sharing this. One of the things I love about APW is the affirmation that you have to embrace the reality of what is actually happening, versus the way you wish things were. I am so much braver than I was even a year ago, and it’s because I keep having to make decisions where I can’t control the outcome. Bravery begets bravery. Thank you for your wise and beautiful words. Wishing you and your husband peace in the midst of it all.

  • Erika

    Loved this! Be bold, be brave! And you are being it all. For those of us who began our relationship in long distance, while it takes it toll and bears some sorrow, there is so much romance in the mystery and distance. Your communication has to be incredible because, well, you don’t see each other. All those love letters and cards you said in person, now get to be mailed. And thank goodness for video chat. You have such an incredibly positive outlook on the whole thing and I wish you both the best.

    Also know that your words apply to another situation in my life (and so many others) so I will be passing them onto a dear friend. Much love for a rockin’ 2013….keep inspiring us! :)

  • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

    I might have to bookmark this post to come back to, because I have far too often recently decided not to do things because I didn’t think I could.

    Then again, we are the opposite of you in a way – I had started to envision life with no children (I had endometriosis and a fear of having kids), and we are expecting a new arrival in March. And after all my tears to DH of “I cant have kids, I would be an awful parent”, I’m having to learn to come to terms with the fact I dont get that option any more. And moving on from the fear has been one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.

  • sandyliz

    This is so beautiful, and you’re brave for living it, and brave for sharing it.

    I’m definitely adding that Quaker text to the list of possible ceremony readings.

    Also, my MIL moved away from her husband and young son to get a Master’s in library science (and a job), and it all worked out beautifully, so clearly it will for you as well :) They followed her 6 months later, and everyone loved the new city.

  • RachelRoo

    As someone currently living 3,000 miles from my fiancé (he moved for the job, I’ll be joining him soon but not soon enough), this post resonates completely with me. Thanks for sharing, it’s given me a renewed sense of resolve and commitment to get through the next few months.

  • Theresa Sea

    Wow, this was really amazing, Hayley. It’s amazing, too, the way that our partners can support us and change with us through difficult times. I know that for some that may not happen, but when it does how wonderful to grow in a new direction as a unit.

    Very, very powerful. Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Leslie

    This is absolutely beautiful. I moved this past weekend to start my dream job 2 hours away from my FH. As I read “there are no perfect decisions, and there are times when you simply have to be brave.” I simply broke down. I feel all warm and fuzzy to know that while alone, I’m not at all alone. In fact, I’m pretty damn lucky.

    Thank you Hayley for this, may you get everything that you need.

  • Brooke

    Thank you so much Hayley, this was a huge help for me to read today. It bowls me over sometimes with the timing when APW hits the mark so precisely with thoughts running through my own head. It is such a privilege to have a space to come and read the thoughts of smart, brave, witty and caring people.

  • Sarah

    This really resonated with me. When I graduated almost 3 years ago now with my bachelors in elementary education, I couldn’t find any jobs near family. Finally found a job (which turned out to be awful) teaching 3rd grade in a city 5 hours away that I’d never heard of. Moved there all on my own a month before I got married, leaving my fiance behind to finish preparations for our wedding. At the end of the school year I wasn’t rehired and this time couldn’t find any teaching positions period, so I ended up accepting a part time position at practically minimum wage in a city seven hours away just so I could continue working in a school building. I moved out on my own and my husband followed me a couple months later. It was hard and whenever I explained how we ended up in Bloomington I felt absolutely crazy, but I wouldn’t change those decisions. So I appreciate this post, because this helps reassure that our decisions weren’t as crazy. And even if they were, that’s okay.

  • Megan

    Thanks for sharing these really powerful and eloquent words, Hayley. Sometimes bravery is something we choose, and sometimes it chooses us. And then we’re along for the ride and it’s all about how you embrace it. And I loved the words of the Quaker text. Beautiful. I want to frame it and hang it in my bedroom.

    This reminds me of one of my very favorite quotes from a series called the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith: “She had no idea where she had found the courage, but it had been there, like the water at the bottom of a disused quarry – unfathomably deep.” – _Tears of the Giraffe_

    Many blessings of joy and peace to you and your husband as your continue on your new adventure, full of bravery and love!

  • LifeSheWrote

    Oh my goodness, best use of that particular quote from Bridesmaids ever! Well done, and way to be brave!

  • Britteny

    I think I knew there was something special about you the first moment we laughed together in BIO to the muted LOTR DVDs. I know you two are strong enough to find a way to thrive, even in the face of such heartbreak.

    This post reminded me today, that perhaps it is time to have my own brave moment and take a risk on life. Thank you for that.

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