Wednesday, December 23, 2009

lord of the flies

This has never happened to me before.

We put up the Christmas tree fairly early this year, for us - about December 4th. I'm usually more of a second-weekend-of-December kind of tree-putter-upper, but this year we had a party to get ready for, and the tree went up shortly after Thanksgiving.

It's a gorgeous tree. Probably one of the best we've ever had, apart from the weird left-leaning branch on top which makes the angel look like she's about to take off into the wall above the fireplace. Otherwise, it's perfect: lovely shape, nice green branches, very little needle loss, drinks water like a champ.

And chock full o' flies.

Has this ever happened to you? Because it's DISGUSTING. It started a few days after we put the tree up, when I found a strange number of flies in the living room. "Huh," I thought. "They must have come in while the door was open when we were getting the tree in here." I killed them with a flyswatter.

Then, the next day, there were about 10 flies in the front window. "Huh," I thought. "I didn't think the door was open that long." I killed them with a flyswatter, and then I had to clean the window because it looked like Fly Killing Field. Not very Christmas-y.

Then, the next day, there were easily 15 flies in the living room. "WHAT THE HELL?" I wondered, as I abandoned the flyswatter and went for the vacuum cleaner instead. I felt guilty about sucking them into the hose. I even turned off the vacuum cleaner and put my ear up to the bag, wondering if they were buzzing around in there. My mom taught me that, if you are going to kill a bug, you have to kill it DEAD so it's not suffering. I have a bit of a complex about this.

But I got over said complex within the next week, while I sucked about 50 flies into the vacuum cleaner. I kid you not.

Remember, we were having a party. "Festive holiday gathering," my ass. "Festering," more like it. A house full of flies does not exactly inspire confidence in the cleaning abilities of the host(ess). Which irritates me, because I actually have a ridiculously clean house.

Last night, my husband and I were chasing flies in the kitchen with the flyswatter and the vacuum. Oddly entertaining, actually. He sat all evening in his recliner with the flyswatter at the ready. We must have rid the world of at least 10 more flies last night.

Usually, I'm sad to take down the tree. This year, it will be a relief.

Happy holidays to you. Hope they are fly-free.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

grab your bags: it's on.

All kinds of good things today:
  • The Shared Risk people called - we're in! Woo hoo! (As an aside, they and the mail-order pharmacy I work with are all East Coast people, and I love their accents. It's like getting phone calls from the Sopranos. Only less scary.)
  • I talked with my nurse, and we set the dates - the calendar arrived via email this afternoon, and Day One? It's on my birthday. Sweet. Hopefully the beginning of the best birthday present ever. (Edited to add: I'm doing the Luteal Antagonist Protocol. Anyone have experience with this? Please share!)
  • The Kin.kos lady relented and figured out how to print my chosen hymn verse on the green cards I had bought. Apparently this is much more complicated than I thought. But it was nice of her to figure it out. Now, of course, this means I actually have to assemble these Christmas cards and send them out, which sounded like a GREAT idea about two months ago.
  • Also, there was no traffic on the way to said Kin.kos today, which is unusual.
  • And I have no evening meetings tonight, which means I may actually get to have a decent conversation with my husband before we both fall asleep at, oh, about 8:00pm. Because evidently, we are in the third grade.
  • My husband's not-so-good basketball team (he coaches the 7th graders at his school) actually beat their generally-much-better cross-town rivals last night. In overtime.
  • Good day all around, really. Hope you had a good one too.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

pieces of a week

Because I'm up to my eyeballs in writing at the moment, a bulleted list will have to do here:

  • After hearing nothing from the Shared Risk program for two weeks (as opposed to last time, when they emailed me within 48 hours), I called my clinic to discover that, oops! They forgot to submit the application. Not a big deal, really. They faxed it in yesterday and we should hear back in 3-5 business days. I'm trying to remain zen about this, as we have two more tries funded either way. It would take some of the pressure off, though.
  • Last Tuesday night I went downtown to the kids' hospital to visit a family whose 3-month old foster daughter was having surgery. Keeping the details confidential, it wasn't a life-threatening situation, by any means, but surgery for your child is scary no matter how low the risk level is. I heard the parents' story: how long they tried to have children, how many surgeries the mom had for endometriosis, how they took home one foster child only to have her removed by the state a few weeks later, and then how they received their older foster daughter, now thirteen months old, a short time later. And then how, ten months later, the state contacted them to say that the biological mom had another child (small aside: can you imagine? Giving birth to 2 children, 10 months apart? My hoo-ha hurts just thinking about it) - and that, if they weren't willing to take this second child, the first might be removed in favor of a home which would house both children. So, naturally, they said yes, and now they have 2 foster daughters whom they are in the process of adopting, and who are only 10 months apart. I thought about the biological mom, who is homeless. And I didn't think about how unfair it is that some people can have more children than they want: I thought about how profoundly complicated fertility is, both on the in-fertile and the over-fertile sides. "Too many" unwanted children is just as tragic as the ones you want desperately but can't have. And I thanked God for foster families.
  • That was not really a short bullet, was it?
  • But this one will be even longer. I also spent some hours this week with a couple in the midst of their second stillbirth. There are no words for this, except to say that it was a very holy encounter. They lost a child several years ago at 20 weeks, and this one at nearly the same time - and although they have a lovely, healthy, and delightful daughter, we all know that nothing can fix the grief of these deaths. I asked them how it felt this time, and the mom said quickly that it was easier for her, this second time, and when I asked why, she said plainly, "Because this time I know that it won't actually kill me," which opened a huge window into the depth of her pain at the first loss. I thought about the phone call from the nurse to tell me that my beta number was not as it should be, and I remember thinking, "maybe my heart will stop in the middle of her talking and I won't have to stand up and live through this." We talked a long time about prayer and God, and whether anyone is really listening to us, and they both said that the only thing anyone can really say now is something like, "this sucks, and I'm sorry," and that there just isn't much more that makes any sense. And I thought about how, when I posted the news of our bad beta, the only thing I could stand to read in the comments was, "I'm sorry," and absolutely nothing more, and how when people said, "I know how you feel," I wanted to reach through the computer and rip out their throats. I said almost nothing for an hour, because sometimes there isn't much to say. I would not have really known that two years ago.
  • On Sunday morning, a mom asked me why we had mentioned the couple above in the prayers, and I shared their news, which they had given permission for us to do. She shook her head and tears welled up in her eyes, and within a few seconds, she had said something which most people might not recognize, but which tweaked my infertility radar - and when I said, "I know what that is like," we realized that we are on a similar road. I would not have said that a year ago.
  • Sometimes, oddly enough, I am grateful for infertility. Because, in spite of all its attendant shitty-ness, it has broken my heart open enough to listen more carefully to the losses experienced by other people.
  • I wish there had been another way to learn that.

Friday, December 4, 2009

13 days away

Today I realized that, if our pregnancy had been viable, my due date would be 13 days away.

Sometimes I forget that I was actually pregnant.

Both of these things seem unbearably strange to me.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

adoption heartbreak

If you are a regular reader of Stirrup Queens, and especially of the LFCA, you may have seen this news today - that i can haz bebe, who was adopting a baby boy, had a terrible loss. The biological mother changed her mind at the last minute, and now the to-be-adoptive-parents are heartbroken.

Comments are turned off at the blog itself, but you can go to the LFCA post for today and leave a word of support. Please, no tidy cliches, no cheap promises, and no false hopes today - just a word to let her know that they are not alone, that even strangers out here in blogland are thinking of them.

Loss comes in so many forms. Too many forms. Too much loss.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

sucker punch

This is a thing I learned about grief when I was taking counseling classes: that it sneaks up on you, so that you think you're doing fine and then you hear a certain voice, or a certain word, or you smell a certain scent, or you pass a certain intersection, and the grief comes sneaking up on you like a knife in the back. And there you are, flat on the ground (metaphorically, anyway). Breathless. Again.

This is a thing I have learned about grief the hard way: that the paragraph above is really, really true and really, really inadequate. And that experience hurts more than can be described.

Today I had an office hysteroscopy, which is a fancy phrase for sticking a camera into your uterus. (I'm not sure why they need to add 'office' to this description. Where the hell else would you do this? It's not like there's a 'home' hysteroscopy, or 'workplace' hysteroscopy. Or 'shopping mall' hysteroscopy either, which would be, like, the worst Black Friday marketing ploy ever.)

Anyway - it went just fine. It's one of the last few tests I need updated so that I can apply for the shared risk program at my RE's office - the whole, 'buy two, get one free' IVF program. I had my bloodwork updated last week. My husband will be - you know, getting analyzed - tomorrow. It's all nice and neatly checked off my list of things to do, albeit a rather strange list for this time of year. "Christmas presents? Check. Turkey purchased? Check. Camera up hoo-ha and Male Donation to Small Plastic Cup? Check."

I felt good today. I felt like we're making progress again, like we're really heading someplace this time. I don't feel scared anymore of all the tests and the hoo-ha cameras and the needle pricks; we've done it before, and we can do it again. I was even getting excited.

You know where this is going, don't you? Right. So I got home and there was a card from my brother, the one who just told us a few months ago that they had been trying to get pregnant for a year. I love my brother. And his wife. Here is part of what they wrote:

"A few weeks ago we found out some amazing news. S is pregnant and will be 8 weeks on Thanksgiving...we know that you are completely happy for us and we also know that you both might have other feelings too and we wanted to give you a chance to process those before we see you on Sunday."

Sucker punch. Right to the gut.

Let me say, on the off chance that they ever find this blog (and for the sake of truth even if they don't) that I really, really appreciate the card. It really does help to have time to process. It was tremendously thoughtful of them and indeed, by the time I see them on Sunday, I will have worked through the following immediate reaction:


Sorry about the yelling there.

I thought I was past this, this visceral hatred of hearing about other people's pregnancies. It's such a random thing: I can go months without having this reaction, hearing numerous pregnancy announcements and barely blinking an eye. I might succumb to the occasional inward eye-roll - another one bites the dust - but I'm fine. Most of the time. Really.

And then...I don't know what happens. Because I do love them. And I absolutely adore my niece, my other brother's child, and I know I will adore this child as well. Eventually.

I think maybe it's the - I don't know, the pretense that my sister-in-law was so angry and frustrated about their so-called 'infertility.' Let me say this: I get how hard it is not to be pregnant. I remember how frustrated I was that first year. In some ways, it was the hardest year, because I really did have hope every month, and so the crash each time was much, much more painful than it is now.

But we sort of bonded when they told us, over semen analysis tests and RE appointments and basal body temperature thermometers, and all the hysteria over getting your period again, and now I feel like that was just a cruel joke. Like I told all my secrets to someone who turned out to be a spy for the other side. An enemy, just pretending to be like me, just acting like they knew my pain, and then darting over the border to safety, leaving me behind.

I started out the day being hopeful that maybe, just maybe, we would really have a baby this time. And now I feel like I used to long ago - that it will never happen, that we'll be left behind in the dust of other people's strollers. Like we're alone. Again.

I hate this. I hate being here. I hate the fact that I hate my brother right now. I hate the fact that I have to lead a Thanksgiving Eve worship service tomorrow night, when 'thankful' is about the last fucking emotion I have right now.

"Things you can't learn in a counseling class? Check."

Friday, November 20, 2009

'tis the season

This weekend I'm taking 15 junior high kids and 5 adults on a retreat. (Good times.) We're visiting other faith communities: worshipping at a local synagogue and talking with the cantor tonight, visiting a mosque tomorrow and then Catholic mass in the evening, and wrapping it up at a Greek Orthodox church on Sunday morning. This is a WHOLE LOTTA church for junior high kids, so we'll see how it goes.

I've been getting ready for some teaching time on Saturday morning - the world's briefest (and probably least accurate) introduction to four major religions. Which meant I had to type up an introduction sheet to Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. I did okay on Islam and Judaism. I was more familiar with Buddhism than I thought. But let me tell you what: I sucked at knowing anything reasonably detailed about Hinduism. Which, by the way, is fascinating but esoteric enough that it's going to be hard to explain to a group of 13-year olds (although, when you think about it, the idea that some guy from Nazareth who lived 2000 years ago and was executed by the state was, in fact, the incarnation of the God of the universe is not terribly plausible either).

In my quick research, I found a reminder of something I'd read about a few years ago: that both Buddhism and Hinduism teach about mindfulness - the idea of paying close attention to your life, and to the world, as it is now. This is also something at which, let's face it, I suck.

Part of me wants to blame this on eons of Christian theology which has, for the most part, taught its followers to focus less on the world as it is now and more on the world as God wants it to be, or perhaps on the heaven you're waiting for when you die. I don't put much stock in that particular theology, but it's hard to get away from if you read theology for a living. Sadly, this kind of mindset has allowed Christians to excuse really bad environmental policies, slavery, and all kinds of other evils under the assumption that "it will all work out when God comes again, and this world will be destroyed at that point anyhow, so why does it really matter? Bring on the Arctic Oil Drills!"

Of course, some of that it's-all-about-heaven mindset came from the people who were being oppressed by Christians in the first place. If you were a slave, for instance, you might not want to spend a lot of time on mindfulness about your current life; you might really find hope and healing in the promise that life after death was going to be much, much better than the suffering you were enduring right now. We got a lot of really amazing spirituals this way, songs about the life to come, about God taking us out of the trouble we've seen, or giving us real life in the by-and-by.

But let's face it: I'm not being oppressed by anyone, except perhaps by the Demon of Chocolate, which doesn't really count. There's no need for me to look away from my life as it is now, or from the world as it is now. But that's what I do, a lot of, much of the time. Especially this time of year. Especially about our infertility.

The days from Thanksgiving to Christmas are, for me, the hardest time of the year to be infertile. Yes, you can be smacked in the face with other people's pregnancy announcements any day of the year, and you can find yourself tearing up when you see a baby in the shopping cart at Target no matter what day it is, but there's no time more kid-focused than the month of December. You hear it everywhere: Christmas is all about children, they say.

This year is the fifth Thanksgiving, the fifth Christmas, the fifth Advent season for us without the child we hoped for when we started trying to conceive. You'd think we would be better at coping; doesn't practice make perfect?

In some ways, we do handle it better. I don't tear up at every commercial showing a cute boy in footie pajamas running down the stairs to open his presents from Santa. I don't nearly have a meltdown every time I have to walk through the toy section. I (usually) don't cry when I get yet another Shiny Happy Family photo card in the mail.

On the other hand...five years. We'd have a preschooler by now.

One way to deal with this season is to put my fingers in my ears, shut my eyes, and spin through it as quickly as possible, pretending it's not happening and wishing as hard as possible for January to get here with merciful speed. Just get it over with. I've done this. It doesn't help.

Maybe it's because we're heading into another IVF cycle that I don't feel as anxious this year about facing the holidays. Maybe it's because we've done this so many times that it's not as terrifying as it used to be. Maybe you just can't sustain that level of grief for five years without losing your mind.

I'm not sure what mindfulness would look like for me this month. All I know is that avoidance doesn't work either. Maybe I can live someplace inbetween.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

back in the saddle...or, stirrups, again

This is the time of year where you feel like you blink twice, and pow! It's Christmas. At least for me.

Which means that, after our few months on Baby Break, it's time to get back in the stirrups again. Literally. I called today to make appointments for the bloodwork I need to apply for the "pay for two, get one" program at my clinic. Naturally, some of my previous tests are now too old, so I get to do some Extra Fun Stirrup Time - looking forward to that, as you can tell. I think my hoo-ha has been lulled into a false sense of security from the lack of Hoo-Ha Wanding appointments in the last few months; I feel like I should buy it dinner to break the bad news.

"We have to talk."

"What? Things are going fine! I'm fine! What are you talking about?"

"Remember last spring, when we kept going in for those appointments, the kind with..."

"THE WAND? AGAIN? I knew this detante was too good to last. Pass me the wine."

Apart from the rather disturbing imagery there, I'm really looking forward to getting started again. Lupron? Bring it on. Injections? No problem. Menopur? IT'S ON.

Here we go, people.

Friday, November 6, 2009

cranky? who said i'm cranky? YOU? YOU TALKING TO ME?

Well, I finally did it. I snapped while watching Private Practice. I'm cranky. I blame the jet lag.

Said jet lag means I'm waking up at 5am and then completely wiped out by 8:30 at night, so I just finished watching last night's episode. (Yay, DVR!) In which a couple comes in wanting to get pregnant, and seeking a particular characteristic for their child, which leads to what I'm sure was supposed to be a REALLY CUTTING EDGE show involving genetic tomfoolery and designer babies and - hey, look! a guy in a wheelchair! and he's a brilliant doctor! you people are CRAZY! - except that I couldn't focus on any of this deeply meaningful plot, because the "fertility doctors" on the show kept repeatedly saying that they were going to implant the embryos. I mean, over and and over again: "I object to this implantation!" "We are doing this implantation!" "This implantation is a slippery slope!"

I'm not sure why this pisses me off so much. Because it does, and I mean a LOT. An inordinate, illogical amount, really. I think it's because all the publicity out there regarding fertility treatments seems to be stories about people who end up pregnant with 1.) the wrong baby, or 2.) nineteen babies, or 3.) babies born early who cost so much money to keep in the hospital, thus proving that all of us seeking help for infertility are raging, selfish bitches who should be forced to adopt (I'm talking to you, New York Times and subsequent commenters). (Who undoubtedly do not read the blogs of said infertile bitches, so whatever.)

But really. If you are promoting a show about a fertility practice but can't get a simple piece of fertility treatment straight, who are you kidding? I realize this show is basically a glorified soap opera, but I need some brain candy on Thursday nights. I have Grey's, of course, but I need something even dumber before I fall asleep. I would like this show to be it, but now I watch it and get all frustrated and angry and then I come to bed muttering things about "how these idiots don't even know the word 'transfer,'" and this is not great for my poor husband, who is just trying to get some sleep.

So I went online and found that this show has a "Medical Researcher blog," which I assume is written by the intern who runs to the drugstore to get bandaids, given that there seems to be a total void of actual research on this show. But it did give a forum to vent my little frustration , which I enjoyed.

That link is my public service for the day: go forth, friends, and explain to the "researcher" over there at ABC how it really works. Unless you are smarter than me and have stopped watching this show.

Meanwhile, I'm off to take a little nap.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Woke up at 4am in Berlin.

Flew through Amsterdam to home.

Have now been home for about 6 hours.

Up for 24 hours. Maybe more. Or less. Math skills very bad when tired.

So, so tired.

But determined to stay up until 8pm because everyone says you have to stay up until bedtime or the jet lag will be worse. I may fall asleep as I type thissdlkfjoginowreoijeworan...sorry. Napped on the keyboard for a moment.

Great trip. So wonderful.

Must. Stay. Awake. For 90 more minutes.

Stories later.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

get out

If something really important happens to you in the next few weeks, blog-friends, and I don't get over to your place to comment - don't take it personally. I'm going on a trip!

After many, MANY months of planning, we're heading to Europe this Saturday, and coming back November 3rd. We're going with a group from my church, so I'm technically the leader (though we'll have a local guide, mercifully, since my language skills are rusty at best) - and all the preparations means there's been not much time for blogging lately. And who knows what internet connectivity will be like where we are, so I may be missing for awhile.

But we're really excited, and I'll give you a full report when we get back. If you're the praying sort, send up a few for our travels: I really hate flying, and ten hours in a plane is a LONG DAMN TIME for me, but on the other hand, it's ten hours away from the phone and email and any demands on me, so that's sounding better and better.

See you in a few weeks. Ciao!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

start seeing motorcycles

You know how, when you're single and wanting to meet someone, every single freaking thing around you is all about marriage? It's as if the D.avid's people have some kind of radar to track down the homes of single women and show bridal-gown-sale commercials every twenty-five seconds, just for the sheer torture value.

And then how, when you're trying to get pregnant, every single freaking thing is about pregnancy? Everybody's having a baby, every single celebrity on the face of the earth is on the cover of Pe.ople magazine with their smiling child, saying how they "thought that life was all about work, and then I had this baby, and now I know the whole purpose of my life, why doesn't everyone do this, it's so amazing"?

(Is it possible that the above paragraphs are really more about my perception than actual reality? No. Certainly not.)

Anyway. Lately, everything around me is about infertility. And this is unusual, though it does have its good points. I wrote just a little while ago about my lunch with a parishioner, during which we both confided our fertility struggles. A grandmother in my congregation told me about her granddaughter, pregnant by IVF with twins (very, very sadly, she lost the pregnancy and both children shortly afterward).

Then there was that article in Sunday's New York Times, which made want to run screaming out of the room (WARNING: DO NOT, under any circumstances, read the comments, because you will lose your faith in humanity). And that Padma Laskmi lady from the Fo.od Netw.ork who talked publicly about her endometriosis (I think I spelled your name incorrectly, Padma. My bad.). There was even in a hint in a story about healthcare reform that the's might have had some fertility problems themselves.

And then, on Sunday night, someone else confided in me about a year-long struggle to get pregnant, culminating in a really bad semen analysis and now the fight that lies ahead.

My brother.

There are three of us in my family: older sister and two younger brothers. My middle brother got married first. He and his wife tried for nearly six years to have a child - my sister-in-law, like me, has severe endo (though she knew it beforehand). We all know my story. And now, the trifecta: my youngest brother has joined our sad little club. Three kids, three separate reasons, three infertility battles. (It took my parents five months to conceive me, my mom told me when I first told her about our struggles. My brothers: both on month 1. My mother is the sort of fertility story I now hate. Ironic, no?)

The other day, I was driving down the road and noticed a bumper sticker on the car next to me: "Start seeing motorcycles." "Huh," I thought to myself, "I was unaware that I was not seeing motorcycles."

You know what happens after you see that bumper sticker? You see motorcycles everywhere. They're on TV, they're parked next to you at the grocery store, they're on the freeway, they're cutting you off downtown, they're waiting next to you at the light. THEY'RE EVERYWHERE. I suppose that's the point, really; that some motorcyclist who felt like nobody was really seeing him (or her) decided to remind us all that there are other vehicles on the road.

I feel like getting a bumper sticker that says, "start seeing infertility." Because one thing I have learned over the past four years is that this struggle is a lot more pervasive than I ever imagined.

This is what I tried to tell myself while I was reading the hateful comments on that Times story: that, right now, I see infertility everywhere. It's shot through my family like a virus. It's in my congregation. It's on TV and in the newspaper and in the lives of friends - but not everyone sees it. Lots of people push it away, cut it off in traffic, drive right past it on the side of the road, because it's not their problem - they drive cars, not motorcycles, why should they care? - and so they feel free to say horrible, cruel things, because they just don't see.

I used to get so fed up about that. I used to write comments back on news stories, letters to editors, blog posts of righteous anger - and now, for better or worse, I don't have the energy for it anymore. They just don't see us. And I can't make them.

Instead, I'm trying to ask myself who it is that I don't see. Who's sitting by the side of the road, trying to pick themselves up from an accident, with traffic flying by and nobody even taking a second look - who is it that I can try harder to see, really see, even if their great heartache is one I'll never know myself?

Maybe I'll get myself a motorcycle. We'll see.

Friday, October 9, 2009

bad plan.

Note to self:

Even though, when lovely sister-in-law invites self to "Girls Night Out" drinks and swears that said Girls will not, absolutely not, just talk about their children, remind self that said Girls met at a Parents' group and so "swear we will not talk about our kids" will probably last, oh, about two minutes. If self is lucky.

However, luckily, have drinks. So this is good.

Now will look for Infertile Girls to have night out with. Might be better than Cheerful Moms with Constant Cute, Well-Meaning, but Tiresome Anecdotes of Darling Children.

Sangria was yummy, though.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

show and tell: hey, at least I can knit cute things for other people's children.

You'd think that the last thing an infertile girl would want to do is knit baby clothes. But you would be wrong. At least in this case. Because, despite any other emotional baggage they might carry with them, baby clothes have one distinct advantage: they're small. I can actually finish them. This is a huge bonus point in my world, where I have been working on two sweaters for myself for the past, oh, two years, but where I have managed to complete a number of baby items in the meantime.

So my niece, the official Cutest Baby in the World, is turning one in a few weeks. And the world's cutest baby needs a cute sweater, no? Seems about right to me. Thus, in spite of my normal dislike of showing off (I can hear my mother's voice now: "It's rude!" Damn Scandinavians.), I think it's cute enough for a little show and tell.

Witness, my victorious and extra cute baby sweater:

Yay, me!

On the not-so-good-news front, I think I might need a root canal. Which, to be erudite about it, sucks. Big time. I do however, promise not to create a show and tell opportunity out of that.

Now, I'm headed back to the Show and Tell class to see what other people have been up to. Go and check it out!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

fertility crone

I have reached a new stage in my infertility life: fertility crone.

I remember the first time I went onto a "trouble conceiving" message board, stepping carefully into a world of completely unfamiliar acronyms and words and a whole lot of, "wow, I would never do that." What the heck is RE? BFN? HSG? They do WHAT to your uterus? Endo? FOUR YEARS? Sperm can be the wrong SHAPE? WHAT THE HELL KIND OF WORLD IS THIS?

Fast forward to yesterday, when I had lunch with a woman from church who had a miscarriage a few months ago. She had told me, at the time, that she just couldn't talk about it yet, so I told her to give me a call when she was ready. She called a few weeks ago.

Normally I don't share a lot about myself when I'm talking to a parishioner, because the point is for them to get support from me, not the other way around. Also, I really hate it when you're trying to tell your painful story to someone and all they do is top every comment you make with an even worse one of their own. "Oh, you had an ectopic? I had two." "Oh, I had that surgery too but I was allergic to the pain meds and it was just horrible." "Wow, you got hit by a bus? I got hit by a bus last week, and then I got run over by a train and two cars AND one of Santa's reindeer!" (Okay, that last one has never happened. But it's been close.)

So my intent was to giver her support - and, before I knew it, the conversation had turned into a mutual consolation society. She has had two pregnancies, both of which turned out to be a blighted ovum. She had her first IUI that very morning.

It was as if we were two ex-pats, having been separated from our home country for years, who happened upon each other in a strange city and started speaking English to each other after speaking only a foreign language for what seemed like forever. "I can't tell you what a relief it is not to have to explain all this stuff," she said at one point, and I completely understood what she meant.

(As an aside, "I completely understand" is not one of my favorite phrases, because people use it all the damn time, and most of that time, it's not truthful at all. Maybe we can never say that we "completely" understand anybody, actually. But when you do connect with someone who really, really gets your situation, at a very deep level - it's pretty great. It feels as "complete" as understanding ever gets.)

She and her husband have been trying to get pregnant for not quite two years, while we're coming up on anniversary four. And after all this time, it occurred to me after lunch that now I'm the one who knows all the lingo, all the acronyms - I'm the one doing things I never imagined doing, spending money I swore I'd never spend, becoming someone I occasionally don't recognize anymore. How is this my life? we both asked. How did I get here?

We both confessed how much blogland means to us now. And how we always assumed we were the sort of people who would be completely, totally open to adoption - and how it still baffles us, even in the midst of it, that this pull toward biological parenthood is so unbelievably strong. How bizarre it is to lay on a cold, vinyl table while your husband is at work miles away, waiting for a nurse with a catheter to knock you up (you hope). How you always imagined lying in bed after sex, cuddling with your spouse and thinking about whether your act of love just conceived a child, and instead you're spread-eagled on a doctor's table waiting for the little timer with the sperm on the ticker to 'ding' so you can GO TO THE FREAKING BATHROOM, MY GOD I HAVE TO PEE.

It's a weird world we live in, the world of the infertile. I've become one of its crones, I fear - the person who has watched a hundred thousand other sisters come in to our little society and then leave, while I wait here and hope it will be my turn someday. Every once in awhile I speak our language to someone who looks like she might understand. Sometimes I get a blank look, or bad advice.

But sometimes you get a fellow traveler, and you have enough time to stop for lunch and laugh through your tears at the sperm timer, and at the very least, you know you're not alone.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

why I have a small bruise on my forehead

Monday is my day off. I may be the only person in the world who LOVES Mondays. On the top of my list of things-I-love-about-Mondays is the fact that I get to sleep in, because I am not, in any sense of the phrase, a morning person. I have decided that this is one of the things that is built into you somewhere really, really deep, like in your DNA, along with eye color and your height and the length of your fingers. I have blue-y eyes, I have long fingers, I am 5'7", and I am a morning person. Ain't nothing I can do to change that. I've tried. It doesn't work.

So it was pretty unusual that I leapt out of bed at 7:00am yesterday morning. Here's why.

My husband, who leaves for work about 7:00am, came running into the bedroom yesterday morning and woke me up with a running commentary, the kind you have to say REALLY FAST because you were supposed to be in the car ten minutes ago, "Hey, there's something on the Today Show about IVF and I don't have time to watch it but I thought maybe you would want to get up and see what it is. I have to go. Bye!"

I figured it was probably bad news, because nothing fertility-related gets on the national media's attention radar unless it's some kind of disaster (OctoMom, anyone?), but, in spite of Morning Girl's natural aversion to pre-7:00am rising on her day off, I did indeed get up to watch said story.

Problem number one: it was not on until 8:00am. Stupid Today Show.

Problem number two: it was about a couple who received the wrong embryo. And now is about to give birth to someone else's child.

Okay. I have friends in journalism. I get the whole, "if it bleeds, it leads" mentality. The rarity of this particular circumstance and the enormity of the consequences probably does, indeed, warrant some national attention.

But I could feel every infertile woman in America do what I did: lower her head to the table (desk, steering wheel, whatever solid surface you could find when you heard this story) and bang it several times. (Hence the small bruise on my forehead.)

I had a whole tirade about the fact that all the media EVER FREAKING DOES is spread half-truths, misinformation, and salacious stories about fertility treatment and how, if Dr. Oz can do a whole FREAKING SHOW ON BOWEL MOVEMENTS FOR THE LOVE OF GOD (I was home a few afternoons ago and I caught part of it and I think it was the topic of the whole show, but I could be wrong) - how come said media can't be bothered to understand that not all fertility treatments result in "Jon & Kate plus Eight Embroys and, By the Way, Sorry About The Whole Wrong Womb Thing" situations?

But then I read this post by Mel and it said what I wanted to say in much better words, so you should go read it. If you haven't already.

I'll be over here putting ice on my forehead. (And saying prayers for the couples involved who, despite the frustrating news coverage, are in a heartbreaking situation.)

Friday, September 11, 2009

mastering the art of infertility

I am the very worst sort of bandwagon-hopper, because I am the kind of person who will completely hop on a bandwagon but will then do everything in my power to hide the fact that I succumbed to popular influence.

This is how it works. I go to a movie, which is based on a book I might have wanted to read, or have read but don't own, or maybe have never heard of...whatever the case, it turns out that I really like the movie. Which makes me want to read the book. Except that I refuse to buy the no doubt newly-released version of said book prominently featuring the stars of the movie on the cover, because somehow this would make it look like I am the sort of person who only reads books as recommended by movies, which is a bad thing. In my tiny, crazed, snobby mind.

So, I went to see Julie and Julia. Which I loved. And I decided, snobbery be damned, that I would order her cookbook - because, for one thing, I am now bound and determined to make Boeuf Bourguignon. I fancy myself a decent cook, but I learned some things in this movie: I learned that I should pat my meat dry before browning it, for one thing, which will certainly pay off when I finally get around to the recipe-trying.

But I learned something else, too. I've never known much about Julia Child, to be honest, except that I think she once appeared on Sesame Street. I vaguely remember this from my childhood. (Or was it the Muppet Show? My childhood is basically a blurring of those two.) There were a hundred great moments in the movie: Julie trying to cook the lobsters, Julia and her fierce determination to CHOP ONIONS LIKE A MAN, Julia's sister falling in love with a short, rather dumpy guy who turns out to be her heart's desire.

But two moments meant more to me than all the cooking tips in the world. Early on, when Julia and Paul have first moved to Paris, they come across a family with children. And Julia and Paul exchange a glance which my husband and I have shared with one another a million times over. I'm betting most movie-goers didn't entirely know what that moment meant, but I did. Maybe you did too. That one glance tells you more than a file of medical procedures, more than a thousand nights of tears shed, more than ten boxes of pregnancy tests thrown away - that quick glance contains the heartbreak of an infertile couple, who look at other people's children as if they were the oasis in a desert. You don't need words.

So after Julia's sister gets married - Julia's long-single, equally-tall-and-gangly-yet-totally-charming sister - when she gets married quite sudddenly, I knew what was coming. A scene where Julia, sitting in her kitchen, gets a letter from a friend. And the friend tells her that Julia's dear sister, whom she loves deeply, who has been married for all of ten freaking minutes, is - you guessed it - pregnant.

My husband reached over and took my hand in that scene, and squeezed it, and because there's no way to describe the moment in words, we'll just stop there. For the countless amazing roles Meryl Streep has played in her career, I'm grateful - but for none more so than that 10-second scene which, among other things, bound me to Julia Child for life. I have no idea if Julia herself tells more of that piece of her life in My Life in France (which, because I can't take too much change at one time, I ordered in the old version rather than the one with Meryl and Amy Adams on the cover). Maybe so - maybe not. It doesn't matter, really. That scene was enough. It was enough to say to thousands of men and women who have replayed that very moment in their own lives, you are not alone. You can still go forth and make fantastic Boeuf Bourguignon and you can blame your tears on all the onion-chopping, at least for awhile.

Up got a lot of attention from the infertile community about its delicate and heartfelt handling of infertility. I haven't seen it yet, though I will. Which means we have two movies in one summer which both, in kind and real-life ways, acknowledge that infertility is real. And that it hurts. And that there is not always a standard happy ending.

But which also remind me that there can be joy nonetheless. I'll drink to that, Julia. Thanks for the reminder.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

back in the saddle again

Whew - vacation over, which means I've spent the last three days meaning to update this blog, but have instead been sorting my way out of the pile o' emails and other mail which arrived while I was on my 3-week break. YOWZA. Not a lot of extra time lately.

I have quite a few blogworthy (we hope) moments simmering away, but not nearly enough time - quite yet - to compose them, so I've made a list and hope I can manage to remember what ON EARTH I meant by these frenetic scribblings when the crazy time finally comes to an end. Which should be, I believe, sometime next week. Maybe.

For now, just a quick doctor-related update. I saw my RE last week and asked him for some advice about the timeline for IVF #2. For a variety of reasons - including some overseas travel this fall and a tax benefit for my generous parents who are giving us money to proceed- we'd rather wait until January to start treatments again. However, being a fully logical and cool-headed infertile woman, my desire to wait is accompanied by nightly visions of my ovaries drying up completely on December 31. Because, although I realize that fertility tapers off gradually as one ages, the idea that OH MY GOD I AM 36 AND THAT IS OLD AND WE HAD BETTER GET MOVING RIGHT DAMN NOW OR IT'S ALL OVER GIVE ME THE LUPRON TODAY is still pretty powerful.

My delightfully calm and kind doctor assured me that January would be fine. By which, I take it to mean that he was saying, "a few months more won't hurt you," not, "oh, you're screwed anyway, so who cares if you wait for the IRS?"

Also, I have this post brewing in me about Julie and Julia, but wow - I really have to get back to work. How terribly inconvenient. Thanks for hanging in there while I ignore my blog - I promise to get better. Really. I swear.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

on-the-road update

I am not dead. Or boycotting my own blog.

Just on vacation, mostly away from internet service (except for now - a brief techno-interlude at the in-laws). We spent a week in a fantastic National Park and now we're at the hubby's family cabin. Loving the time away.

Not much to report, except that I have an appointment with my RE on September 1. Otherwise, life is good - and I'll get back to blogging when we get home next week.

For now, viva la vacation!

(Clearly, I am Spanish-illiterate. My apologies.)

Monday, August 10, 2009


If you're the praying sort, please say a few for my friend A, who is enduring the pain of a non-viable pregnancy. Either a miscarriage or an ectopic - heartbreaking either way.

When she called today, I thought about a book I read not long ago, in which the author, a well-known theologian, wrote about the nine-year struggle he and his wife had to bring children into the world. After adopting two boys, he thought back on those years. "Since [infertility] gave me what I now can't imagine living without, poison was transmuted into a gift, God's strange gift. The pain of it remains, of course. But the poison is gone."

I am nowhere near saying the pain of our infertility is gone. It's not. Not even close. But today, when this friend called with her own story of reproductive grief, I caught a glimpse of how pain can sometimes open a space for connecting deeply with someone else. I am not glad for our struggle, but I am glad I shared it with her, because she had someone to call in her own pain.

Maybe someday the poison will be gone too. For both of us. For all of us.

Friday, August 7, 2009

feeling tense

Warning: English major nerd post ahead. (And disclaimer: this post is so, so NOT about anyone who comments regularly on this blog. At all.)

I’ve been thinking lately about the grammar of infertility. We all started, the Stirrup Queen Sisterhood, way back someplace where we realized that infertility might be in our future. We started saying things like, “I think I might be infertile.” “I think I might have a fertility problem.” “I’m worried that I might not be able to get pregnant.” “Might,” we said, carefully, or, “maybe,” as we worried about what lay ahead.

And then infertility became present tense. “I’m getting tested,” “I have endo,” “We have sperm problems,” “I’m starting Lupron,” “I’m waiting for my beta results.” I am infertile, we finally had to say. It’s a short sentence, but it took me nearly two years to say it out loud. Infertility moved out of the realm of possibility, out of the future tense, and it became the now. The present. A reality. A hard, painful reality.

And there we stay. For months, some of us for years. Sometimes we think we have put it in our past, and then it comes back again: a miscarriage, an ectopic pregnancy, a stillbirth, and we’re back to the painful present again.

Here’s my struggle: what happens when infertility becomes past-tense? Specifically, what happens when the past-tense and the present-tense collide? I’ve read a few comments on blogs lately wherein someone who has a child (past-tense infertility) says something like, “I completely understand” to a woman who is still present-tense infertility, and although I really hope you don’t hate me for saying this, I’m going to say it anyway:

comments like that really piss me off.

There’s a sisterhood among the tenses, of course. Those worried about future infertility can learn a lot from those who are enduring it now, and from those who have come through it. I know I did, when I was still a future-tense girl. And those in the present-tense can offer support to the future-ones, and can take great hope and gain great wisdom from the past-tensers.

But somehow, no matter how hard I try, I cannot erase the resentment I feel when someone with a child says they still consider themselves present-tense when it comes to infertility. I read this every once in awhile, and although it’s not my intent to offend anyone who feels that way, I do want to be honest about my perspective: that, no matter how hard we try, there is a gap between these tenses. And perhaps it is better to be honest about that than to try to pretend they don’t exist.

I, for example, don’t really understand what it’s like to be a parent. And although I remember the early days of struggling with infertility, the four years of that struggle have permanently altered the way I view those early days. I look back at myself, 6 months into the game, and I laugh gently at how I cried when my period came, all the money I spent on ovulation tests and pregnancy tests, how I stopped buying tampons at Cos.tco because certainly I would get pregnant this month, and then what would I do with the super-sized box of Ta.mpax?

I pity that future-tense girl, which means that I don’t really understand her anymore. I have forgotten her pain – or, perhaps the pain which came along the way has swallowed hers up, and I don’t see it accurately anymore. I think she was a fool, and she wasn’t – not really. She was hopeful. She was a bit in denial. And I can’t get back to her with all these years in the way.

I can’t get myself to the past-tense either. I’m stuck here in the present. And although I believe that surviving infertility does change you forever, does bond you with others who survived it too, there is still a gap between us. I know you thought you would never get there. I know you were me, once, perhaps not long ago. You endured the same treatments and tests and heartache and despondency. You cried the same tears and you felt the same despair and you resented the people on the other side, the parent side, who said that they “completely understood.”

If infertility has ever been a part of your life – past, present, or future – then we have more in common than that which separates us. But we are not the same. And, for myself, it’s better to acknowledge those separations than to ignore them. Because if infertility is in your past, then – like it or not – your claim to “completely understand” me falls pretty flat. It’s as if a bride, in her lovely white dress, says to her single bridesmaids right as she leaves for her honeymoon, “I’m still single! I’m still totally like you!” Which is much, much worse than the hideous dresses they agreed to wear for the day.

It’s just how I feel. You don’t have to feel the same. And if you’re on the other side, if infertility is in your past, then know this: I’m delighted for you, and any envy I feel is outweighed by gratitude that you still care, you still want to connect, and that you want to share your experiences with those of us in infertility-future-and-present. The gaps between us are real, and sometimes our words fall through them. But all we want – the thing we all want more than almost anything else – is for every single one of us to get to the other side. So forgive me if my words have fallen into the cracks and landed on a sore spot. It happens. I hope you can put it in your past.

I'm just feeling a little [present] tense today.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


First and foremost, the most important update for today:


It's forecasted to be 101 here, which would be no big deal for those of you in the Southwest, but up here in the Pacific Northwest, it is like entering the 9th circle of hell, given that almost no one has air conditioning. (Last night on the local news, a helpful policeman suggested that people go to air conditioned places, "like churches," he said, which made me laugh out loud because, DUDE, SERIOUSLY, churches are about the least likely places to be air conditioned in this here normally moderate climate. DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH IT COSTS TO DO THAT? Can you guess that I work in a non-air-conditioned church?)

(One caveat: we do have a/c at home. Which we thought had gone defunct yesterday, until we realized that the filter was clogged. So hopefully it will be back up today.)

So. It is hot. But this pales in comparison to the fact that I spent the last few days in Baby Central, and (insert drum roll here) - had a fantastic time. After a family wedding on Saturday, we headed with my brother and his wife and The Cutest Niece in the World to a beach house for a few days. Where, unbeknownst to us, we also ended up staying with my cousin and his wife and their 10-month old son; my sister-in-law's cousin and his wife and their 4-week-old son; and my sister-in-law's sister, her 3-month-old, and her 2-year old daughters.

Let's tally that up, shall we?

1 infertile woman +
1 4-week old baby boy +
1 3-month old baby girl +
1 9-month old baby girl +
1 10-month old baby boy +
1 2-year old girl+
1 relatively small beach house
1 very bitter and pissed-off infertile woman

Under normal circumstances over the past six months, this would have been the equation. So I don't really know why that wasn't the case. Everybody slept pretty well, which helps enormously. And maybe the sea air cleared my head. Because, apart from a few frustrating moments here and there, we had a blast. We hung out with babies all day long; it was like being thrown into a language immersion class when you've been unsuccessful trying to learn the language for years, so you expect to be all irritated by the experience, but you end up having a fantastic time. Who knew?

So we're heading into the next phase of the Baby Quest in a better frame of mind, for which I am very grateful. I have an appointment with my doctor in a few weeks, and we'll see what happens from there. Probably more on this later, but the most amazing development of the past few weeks is that my parents would like to give us the money for the Shared Risk program (buy-2-IVF-cycles, get one free). So we're probably heading in that direction.

But for now, I think my fingers are about to swell right off, so perhaps I should stop typing. There haven't been many days like this, but as the thermometer soars today, I have to admit: I'm not terribly unhappy, right now, that I'm not pregnant. Don't get me wrong; I would suffer through gladly, but I'll take the silver lining of Summer Infertility and drink up another margarita while I lay on the bed in my underwear.

Because, in case you had forgotten, it. is. HOT.

Friday, July 17, 2009

nerd alert

Apropos of nothing...

9 hours, 50 minutes and counting until I get to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

And 1 hour, 40 minutes until the 163 kids go home and Vacation Bible School comes to an end for the year. It's been great, the kids are wonderful, the volunteers are amazing; and I. am. wiped. out.

Happy weekend!

Monday, July 13, 2009

forbidden fruit

(Some context: this week is Vacation Bible School at my congregation, which means we have 163 little rug rats running around the building all week long. The nursery is right across from my office, which doesn't impact me much during a normal week, but it will be full all this week with happy, smiley children and their parents, who see me singing songs with them and say helpful things like, "you're so good with children - you should have some of your own!")

I've been trying to get through my Pile O' Books I Ordered All Year and Now Need to Read, which, by summertime, is always quite a large portion of my desk. In the middle of one of said books, in a discussion about the meaning of the garden of Eden story, I found this passage:

We all have something in the midst of our lives that is beyond our created reach. This is something we cannot freely take, something that reminds us that we are not gods who have it all. It may be a dream that will never be fulfilled, a desired relationship that remains only a desire, or a thorn in the flesh that's never removed. What the forbidden tree represents in a person's life is not as important as the realization that we humans were not created with the capacity to take whatever we desire. There can be 999 trees in our garden to which we can freely go and enjoy their fruit, but where do we pitch our tent? Under the one tree we cannot have.*

So. Here I am, surrounded all week by children in every nook and cranny of my workplace. I can shut my door and avoid seeing them, if I choose, but even then, I will hear them screaming and laughing and running through the halls. I'm considering this as I read my last two blog posts, which reflected a deep frustration and growing bitterness about infertility, and I wonder: what does it mean for my life that I cannot make a pregnancy happen for myself, no matter how hard I try? What am I doing here, sitting under the one tree in my garden which won't (pun intended) bear fruit?

I've read numerous confessions from infertile women who say something like, "we live in a society that tells you that you can be and do anything you want if you work hard enough, and so when you realize that you just can't get pregnant on your own, no matter how hard you try, you feel like a complete failure: both because you can't manage to do what so many women do by accident; and because you are failing at the American notion that hard work will always bring results." And I have certainly felt this way. This fertility thing is the first big, major, life-changing, hardcore thing I have EVER failed at in my life. I've had minor failures along the way, but this one - as the high schoolers in youth group would put it - is, "dude, epic fail." Epic is a very good word. This is indeed, dudes, an epic fail. And dude, it sucks.

I've said before, and I'll say it again for good measure, that I absolutely do not believe God is actively making me infertile to teach me some lesson. I have decided to call that sort of thing - the sort of theology which makes you believe that all the shit in your life is being handed to you directly from God as if you had made a really bad order at the drive-thru of life - that sort of thing is now called Monkey Underwear Theology, in honor of brilliant comic-strip-guy Stephan Pastis:(I'm not sure if I'm allowed to reprint this stuff, but to try and make up for it, let me just put in a plug: if you have access to it, you should read Stephan's comic strip, Pearls Before Swine. It is the best thing since The Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes went kaput.)

Anyway. While avoiding Monkey Underwear Theology, I do continue to struggle with the meaning of infertility, this unchangeable thing in my life. When I see parents with children, in the grocery store, maybe, or elsewhere in public - when I see them and notice that the parents are not being particularly kind or compassionate to their children, I think (yes, with an edge of judgmentalism), "don't they know that being a parent is a privilege?" Our culture tells us to think of nearly everything in life as a right: you have the right to happiness, or to bear arms, or to make lots of money, or to get married, or to have children. And if you don't currently have the right to a few of those things, then you have the right to protest until you get them. Which, for the most part, I heartily believe in. (I'm not big on the whole 'bearing arms' thing, but that's a post for a different day.)

But being a parent is not a right. And part of my problem, I think, is that I insist on forgetting this. How dare the universe interrupt my personal pregnancy plans? How dare it be that 16-year olds can get pregnant from some awkward fumbling in a backseat, whilst I - a masters' degree'ed, house-owning, tax-paying responsible citizen - can't, even with the most sophisticated science at my side?

The bare truth is, I do not have the right to be a parent. No one really does. And if I insist on sitting under the only tree in my garden which is not bearing fruit, then I am choosing to spend a whole lot of my life on something which may never happen. This is not good news. But it is the truth, and after several years of denying that very thing ("well, I haven't gotten pregnant in 18 months, but surely that's not a problem!"), I can't do it anymore.

I need to start actively making peace with this truth, or it is going to eat me alive. Surrounded by children all day every day this week, many of them with pregnant moms, will otherwise drive me off the ledge.

The hard truth is, I believe there is no purpose behind my infertility. And I may not be able to change it, no matter how hard I try. I do believe that God can help create some meaning and purpose even in this situation, but that is going to be some seriously hard work for both of us: for God, who is going to have to work overtime to convince me of this, and for me, who will have to find some way to listen.

But if I don't do this work, then we have two possibilities in front of us.

The first: that I will never get pregnant, and will spend the rest of my life being frustrated and angry about it, missing much of the other gifted-ness of my life in the meantime.

The second: that I will get pregnant, have a child (or two), and then will realize that long-cherished, worked-for dream is not everything I built it up to be. Kids are hard work. Parenthood is not inherently romantic. And if I dream about cute nurseries and the smell of baby powder all day long, I am not dreaming about the real thing. I am dreaming about Disney Parenthood, which is along the same lines as Disney Marriage - where the movie ends at the wedding, or the birth, and never deals with the reality that follows.

Everybody hits this truth at some point in life: that we are limited, we humans, and the only real joy we are ever going to find is living well within those limits. I'm making an appointment with my RE next month, but even as I look forward to another cycle, the truth remains: I need to learn to live within my limits too. Easier said than done.

*Quote is from The Pastor as Minor Poet, by M. Craig Barnes, page 94.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

what if

Today I went to a farewell lunch for a colleague. He's leaving his congregation after 18 years, but leaving under not-so-great circumstances. Honestly, he probably should have retired awhile ago, and when you couple that with a pretty unhealthy congregation which has been trying to get him to leave by treating him like complete's not good. So it wasn't the most uplifting experience.

He's bitter and angry, and he puts a very thin veneer of sarcastic humor over that as an attempted cover-up, which only serves to highlight the bitterness and anger underneath. I don't entirely blame him - he feels underappreciated and forced out, and both of those are true. Although he's a good guy and he means well, I don't think he has too many skills for the pastoral work, so I also have some sympathy for his congregation: essentially, he's been marking time there for years, just trying to get to retirement, and that can't be fun for anybody. Again: not an uplifting equation when you put it all together.

But for today, the thing I couldn't stop thinking about wasn't his work, or whether he's good at it, or whether his congregation has been mean to him. He and his wife never had children. I have absolutely no idea why: for all I know, it could have been an intentional decision on their part, and I could be wasting my empathy over a completely-imagined infertility situation. I really don't know this guy that well, so I have no intention of asking him about it.

But the thing is, I don't think he's just bitter and angry about his job situation. He seems to have a lot of regrets about life, and I wonder if childlessness is one of them. He and his wife are so timid and afraid of risk, worried about taking any chances, waiting for the ax to fall - and all I could think of, the whole lunch, was this sentence, running like a refrain in my head:

I don't want to be like that. Please, let me not be like that.

I've been thinking about childlessness lately. I'm not ready to go down that path, don't get me wrong, but my big thing right now is this: if I don't have kids, then I do not want to spend my whole life wishing for a life I never had. I do not want to get to the end of my life and look back and realize that I missed all the good because I couldn't move through the disappointment of not having kids.

I plan to go see Up as soon as I can get a free evening to go to the movies, and it's possible that reading all the reviews of it from fellow Stirrup Queens has planted this "what if?" in my head. What if we don't have kids? Would it be the end of the world? Would our lives be worth living? Would we be haunted by regrets forever?

I don't know what will happen if we get to that reality. All I know is, if I don't ask the question now, if I am too afraid to even let it inside my head, then I am giving it too much power. I am letting the what if take over my life. And if we decide to live childless, then I do not want to be bitter and angry about it. I do not want people to look at my life and wonder, "what on earth happened to her that she's so unhappy?" And most of all, I do not want to look at my own life and realize I wasted it regretting something I simply couldn't change.

I'm just living with the "what if?" for awhile. It's getting less scary.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

the book in question

The book which served as inspiration for the previous post is, in fact, my new favorite. It's amazing, and hard, and beautiful, and painful - as any writing about infertility and reproductive loss should be. It is also, in my four years of this journey, the only decent book about faith and infertility I have found.

It's called "Hope Deferred," and it's written by several theologians who experienced reproductive loss (infertility, miscarriage, or stillbirth) themselves.

Naturally, it's out of print, but I still got a copy from our friends at If you're a secret (or public) theologian, I heartily recommend it.

Feel free to leave Casino Royale (or the James Bond movie of your choice) on while you read it.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


No, I cannot turn the tv off
while I read this book
because if I do,
I will hear the words in all their fullness.
Words like
reproductive loss
hope deferred
broken future.
If I listen to these words
without the numbing action movie soundtrack running,
without the hero crashing through walls,
without bombs exploding 
and That Evil One looking sinister
while the rain falls and the airplane roars,
then the woman screaming 
will not be the damsel in distress on the screen.
It will be me, in my easy chair,
reading this too-hard book
about someone else's terrible, heart-rending loss
which turned out to be my own.
Sometimes the soundtrack of your own life
is too hard to hear
so I will let this movie play instead
and maybe if it does,
my heart will not shatter into a million pieces
like the concrete wall bursting under the weight of James Bond's truck
and go floating into the world,
pieces of me I am afraid 
will never return.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

what would have been

This weekend we're traveling to our niece's high school graduation. We're so enormously proud of her, and looking forward to time with the husband's family. Good stuff.

Except that this is the weekend we would have passed into the second trimester. When we got the positive test, I (naturally) googled my potential due date, and saw that the big It's Probably Safe To Tell People Now date was this weekend. I remember thinking what perfect timing it was, that we could tell Husband's family in person when we saw them at the graduation.

Sometimes I forget I was pregnant. Or, sort of pregnant. The nurse called back about my "why don't I want to have sex?" inquiry, and told me to take it easy on myself, that my body had been through a lot. "You had all the hormones we gave you," she said, "and then pregnancy hormones," and I almost interrupted her until I realized - hey, yeah, that's right, I WAS pregnant for awhile, wasn't I?

You'd think this would be a hard thing to forget. It's like a dream sometimes. Or a nightmare, I suppose.

Anyway. It'll be a good weekend. I'm looking forward to it. But I'm also bringing one of those travel-sized kleenex packs with me. Just in case.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

let's not get it on

Being on a break from fertility treatments does not lead to a lot of material for your fertility blog, I can tell you that. I am deeply enjoying regular glasses of wine. I went on a caffeine bender there for awhile, until I decided that, since I am going to have to nip that in the bud eventually, I should start cutting back again before I set myself up for a giant withdrawal problem. And (insert drum roll here) - I have no idea when my period should be coming this month. No freaking clue. And I don't really care.

So these are all good things, and the idea of having a summer off from ovulation-predicting, day-counting, hormone-injecting, blood-drawing, hoo-ha-wanding, and the like is truly a wonderful thing.


I've been doing much better emotionally over the past few weeks. I realized the other day that it took nearly three weeks to end the pregnancy I found out about on Good Friday, and those three weeks were draining in every sense of the word. Blood drawn every three days or so; tears cried all the time. Frustration and anger and bitterness and grief and sheer shock - those emotions overwhelmed that period of time. It's certainly no surprise, and I would have expected nothing different from myself, or from anyone else.

But after the whole episode finally reached its conclusion, at the beginning of May, I turned a corner. The doctor has given us good reason to hope, and the freedom to take this much-needed break. I feel energetic and happy and reasonably hopeful again. I'm not in a huge hurry to get back to the doctor's office, but I know I'll be ready when it's time. I am not the same person I was a few months ago, but I do feel almost-whole again.

But I have absolutely no desire to have sex. None. Zip. Zero. Nada.

I will understand completely if you want to stop reading this post right now. I do feel a little weird writing about this, but I'm really puzzled by it and am struggling to know what to do, and hey - you people have read about almost every other bodily function I have (and I just used the word hoo-ha here, so this is not exactly a biology-free zone).

Don't get me wrong: I don't expect myself to be climbing up the walls for it this shortly after an ended pregnancy, but's odd. My husband, who is living proof that the whole guys-reach-their-sexual-peak-at-18 thing is a CROCK, has been very patient, but considering that we really haven't had much of a sex life since we started the IVF cycle at the beginning of March, it really has been awhile.

Mostly, I'm dumbfounded at the complete disappearance of any sexual inclination on my part. I love my husband, I think he's absolutely wonderful, he's got a seriously hot ass, and yet - if we never had sex again, I'd be fine. Why do I think that? I mean, come on - that can't be good.

So today I called my nurse and left a message, asking her to call back so that I can confess this embarrassing fact about myself and see if there's something I can do about it. Are my hormones out of whack? Am I still stuck in grief and in complete denial about it? Will this desire come back? Is this normal?

What do you think?


Infertility: even better than reality television for ending any illusions you had about privacy.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

note to self

It's been a whirlwind few weeks, although not particularly exciting - just a LOT of work, and crammed-full weekends, and it's not ending anytime terribly soon. So, therefore, not much time to blog, and not much of substance to write about anyway.

But, this weekend, at our oldest niece's college graduation, I did come up with the following note to myself, should we ever actually be in the position of choosing names for our children - and all ye who may be doing the same, perhaps keep this in mind:

Yea, though there are myriad people and concerns to be kept in mind whilst choosing the name of one's beloved child, try to think ahead to the day when - one hopes - some poor college administrator will be trying to pronounce your child's name as he/she walks happily across the stage to accept a diploma.

Have some mercy on said administrator, would you? 500 names is a lot.

Okay. Back to work.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Jon & Kate + pain

I first started watching Jon & Kate Plus 8 this past winter, when I was living with my parents (insert snort of disbelief here) for a short time. (Explanation: I moved to a new city to start my new job, husband stayed behind 300 miles away to sell house and finish his job, I lived with my parents because, you know, it's free.) Anyway. It's possible that I got hooked on the show because, as previously stated, I was living with my parents. Whom I love, and all that, but at age 35, it's not the easiest transition in life.

I loved the first few seasons, and then I started getting a little tired of it. That probably says more about my attention span, or lack thereof, than it does about the show. The show was fine. Yeah, I thought Kate was a little bossy. And Jon was a little lazy. And Mady drove me nuts. But, if nothing else, I know that editing can create whole new realities, so I cut them some slack.

I make no secret about my love affair with People's website. It's kind of a love-hate affair, actually, because there is no greater Proclaimer of All Things Celebrity Baby-Related than People, but it's my brain candy. Since last week, however, I've been increasingly horrified at the level of Jon-and-Kate-is-he-cheating-or-is-she-cheating-are-they-staying-together coverage, which was capped off today by an actual poll asking people to vote on whether or not they should end their marriage.

I mean, come on. I know these people agreed to subject themselves to media coverage and all that, but a poll on whether they should stay married or not? Have we really stooped this low? I'm all about the brain candy, but I'll limit my voting to the hideousness of celebrity fashion.

Which all begs the question of why people agree to be featured on reality television in the first place. I watched Elizabeth Edwards' interview on Oprah this week (I really do work, I promise) and wondered about the same thing. Is this necessary? On the one hand, I welcome openness in discussing deep human problems. We connect with each other by sharing our stories, and shutting up about them in an effort to stay polite and well-mannered does not make for good community.

But then again, there is something to be said for circumspection, especially where children are involved. I think Ms. Edwards is pretty damn amazing, actually. And she was fiercely correct about saying that women should have more respect for other women than to move in on one another's husbands. I almost gave her a standing ovation in my living room for that. But do her 10-year old twins really need this interview out there? It's her story, and she has the right to tell it, but is there a time to refrain because the collateral damage is just too much?

What especially interests me is the rush to condemn Jon and Kate (especially Kate, which brings up some interesting questions about our expectations of women) for putting themselves in the limelight. Is my desire to write a blog, even anonymously, even if it's only read by a small audience - is that so different from being on reality TV? There are some important distinctions, sure. But is the instinct so different? I want to share my story. I want my story to mean something. And I want to connect with others who have the same or similar story. It will be a cold day in hell before I put myself on television, but I probably ought to be careful about condemning too quickly those who do.

But here's the thing: no matter what your story, no matter how much you believe you're in the right, no matter how much you want your version in the public and not someone else's, ask yourself whether your kids need this following them for the rest of their lives. Nothing dies on the internet, people. This shit will live forever. It will outlive you.

There is a time for every season under heaven. And there is a time to shut up. I think it's time. People magazine, I'm talking to you. Enough already.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

chugging along

I keep thinking I should write an update, but after all the ups and downs of the IVF cycle and the ensuing "what the hell is going on?" saga, it feels very, very anticlimatic around here at the moment.  And I am okay with that.  A few things, in no particular order:

1. The methotrex.ate shot was effective, and my beta number was down to 10 last Thursday.  Hopefully one more test will show a zero level.  And then I will be delighted to stop getting my blood drawn every other damn day.  However, my nurses are stunningly good at it; not a single bruise, and they've only missed once in...well, I've lost count of the tries.  Well done, ladies.

2. If you ever have an ectopic pregnancy, prepare yourself for the WORST CRAMPS EVER when your period finally comes.  Seriously.  I thought I was dying last Friday night; thankfully, it turned out to be a whopper of a blood clot and not my imminent demise.  I was going to give you a "TMI" warning on this one, but then I thought, "Hey!  I wrote a post about how I'm so comfortable in stirrups that I practically strip my pants off at the dentist's, so they've heard everything anyway."

3. Our follow-up appointment with the doctor was great.  "It doesn't make it okay," he said, "but the silver lining is that your chances of a successful pregnancy are actually better now than they were before."  Apparently women who have an ectopic-IVF pregnancy have higher success rates in subsequent cycles.  I'm all about any kind of silver lining at this point, so I'll take it.

4. Speaking of more-than-you-wanted-to-know-about-me stuff, my husband and I actually had sex last night.  For the first time since before the embryo retrieval, which was, um, March 26th.  Wowza.  Funny how this particular method of baby-making really does not lead to a decent sex life.  At all.  We'll be working on that.

5. I qualified for the Shared Risk program, which means we now have the right to hand over $27,000 of our hard-earned savings (do we have that in hand?  no.  will figure that out later) for a 6-attempt package.  Three fresh; three frozen cycles.  I'm not sure we'll go that route, but it's good to know that it's an option.  Honestly, I'm not sure I have six tries left in me.  That's a lot of needles.

6. We recently saw the Ind.igo Girls in concert.  They.  Rock.  I love them.  It was awesome.

7. I did not kill any parishioners on Mother's Day.  I came close twice, once with an older woman who shook my hand and said, "you're not a mother," (thanks for the update, lady), and again with a mom who kept asking, "do you have kids?  do you want kids?  when are you going to have them?  anytime soon?"  These people do not know how lucky they were to escape unscathed.  Next year, should we still be baby-less, I will be taking Mother's Day off.  

I think that's it for now.  I have been enjoying my glasses of wine and slightly-increased caffeine intake, I must admit.  The doctor strongly suggested we take a few months off for physical and emotional healing, and I think he's completely right.  

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

out loud

So. Sunday. Mother's Day. Again.

Sundays are big days for me. The whole "pastor" thing pretty much guarantees that you work on Sundays, for one thing, and on most major holidays as well. This is my fourth Damn-It-I'm-Still-Not-A-Mother Mother's Day (preceded by four equally titled Thanksgiving, Christmases, and Easters, so it's not new territory).

Some years, going to church on Mother's Day is like being the only Jewish person at a fundamentalist Christian revival. (I have no idea what that feels like, of course, so I could be wrong.) It's a distinct feeling, a voice in my head repeating its evil little mantra all day long: I don't belong here. Smile, say 'thanks' when people tell you you'd be a great mother, try not to kill them, remember that whole 'don't kill people' commandment, smile again, you're a BIG FRAUD and a failure and IF THEY DON'T SHUT UP ABOUT ME BEING A GREAT MOTHER I WILL BE THE FIRST PASTOR TO KILL A PARISHIONER IN THE ACTUAL SANCTUARY WHERE THEIR FUNERAL WILL BE HELD LATER.

I've never been a big fan of Mother's (or, for that matter, Father's) Day. I love my mom, and my dad. I love to celebrate them and give thanks for them. But as a single person for all of my twenties into my early thirties, and then as an infertile person, I get really sick of our society's obsession with family. [Ironically, there may be no organization within our society more obsessed with family than the church. I should totally work there! Awesome!]

My particular denomination is less family-focused than many others. Yes, we use the word a lot, but we try to define it more widely than mom-dad-two-kids-and-a-dog. The congregation in which I am serving is part of the "Reconciling in Christ" movement, which means that we openly and gladly welcome gay and lesbian men and women. Several of our members are gay and lesbian couples, at least one of which has children. Lots of people in this congregation have adopted children. When we talk about "family ministries," we try hard to make sure we are casting as wide a vision as possible.

Mother's Day is not a liturgical day. It has no official place in the church calendar. Neither do the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving (it's national, not church-related), Memorial Day, Veteran's Day, or Father's Day. But just try to ignore Mother's Day. Seriously. I dare you. Try to get through a whole worship service without saying something to the women who are sitting there with chrysanthemum corsages the size of their heads, their freshly-scrubbed and often slightly surly children sitting next to them because it is Mother's Day and we are going to church so get upstairs and get in the shower and I don't want to hear any complaining about it, do you hear me? Those women deserve a shout-out. They really do.

But so do the women sitting out there who never got married and didn't have kids and who dragged themselves to worship even though they know it is hard as hell to sit next to people who will say things like, "oh, you're lucky not to have children, they're just so much work. Did I tell you about how this one...". And the women who are making it through their first Mother's Day after a miscarriage, hoping they don't burst into tears during the hymn of the day. And the women who are pregnant again, with a child they honestly don't want, but they don't know how to say that out loud, so they are keeping it hidden as deeply as possible. And the women who have never, ever heard the word "infertility" said within the walls of the church, so they are pretty sure no one in the church knows anything about what it's like to survive Mother's Day when you're convinced that you'll never have a child of your own. And the women whose child died this year, who are probably not in the pews because that might actually kill them, living through a public Mother's Day without the child who gave them dandelions twenty years ago as a Mother's Day gift.

Here is the sermon I never, ever want to hear again on Mother's Day (and which I solemnly swear to you I will never, ever preach, no matter how senile I get): "God's love is like a mother's love, surrounding us with joy and encouraging us every day." I. Hate. That. Sermon.

Also, it is almost always preached by a man with six kids.

I am convinced that one of the things the church can offer people is to say things out loud. I'm not preaching this Sunday (thank God), so my out-loud chance will come during the public prayers. During which yes, I plan to thank God for mothers. But I also plan to pray for those who wanted to be mothers and couldn't, or didn't. For mothers who are grieving the loss of a child. For those enduring infertility. For those waiting in the adoption process. For those whose moms were abusive, or missing, or otherwise not something you really want to spend a whole day celebrating.

The list won't be exhaustive, of course. I'll miss something. But we'll give it a shot. And then I'll go home and host a brunch for my mom, and for my sister-in-law, who is celebrating her first Mother's Day. In all honesty, I'm really looking forward to it. Which is a good feeling.

To my sisters-in-being-interrupted, baby-wise: Peace to you on Sunday. I'll be thinking of you.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Tertia's book shower

My new job is situated directly across the road from the fertility clinic.  I take that as a good sign.  I look for good signs everywhere.  Where I can't find them, I make them up. (So Close, page 51)

I loved this book.  I devoured it in two nights, laying in bed reading as my husband rolled over murmuring, "when are you going to turn the light off?" and I kept saying, "after this last chapter," which then turned into nine chapters later, and I'm still reading.  

I was reading it in the stim-drug phase of my first IVF cycle.  I admit that I wondered if it was a good idea to read about someone who failed eight times at IVF while undergoing the treatment myself.  I think I was literally wondering if that was a bad sign when I read the sentence above: "I look for good signs everywhere.  Where I can't find them, I make them up."

Tertia, you are my sister.  I am a professional sign-reader/maker-up-of-signs (even though I know this is a bad idea and it is certainly very questionable theology most of the time).  

It's as if I can't help myself.  I desperately want something to hang onto, something to lead me in any direction.  I kept telling myself it was a good sign that I was responding without side effects to the stim drugs.  That it was a good sign everytime I got a parking spot close to the doctor's office, or that traffic was light when I had an appointment all the way across town.  For the first time in a long time, during that IVF cycle, I felt like it was a good thing to see pregnant women; maybe their baby mojo would rub off on  me.  Maybe I was finally going to be one of them!  

I kid you not: if there was a good sign to be had during that IVF cycle, I found it.  And yes, when I couldn't find them, I made them up.

And then the cycle crashed and burned in a spectacular manner.  (If you're new to this blog, quick summary: initial positive test, followed by 'abnormally rising betas' for two weeks = ectopic pregnancy.)

Then I looked back at all the bad signs I must have missed which surely would have given me a warning that we were headed for disaster.  And I found those too.

I loved Tertia's brutal honesty, and her unique brand of eternal-optimist-mixed-with-pissed-off-at-reality writing.  I can relate.  Our diagnoses are different.  I admit that I hope our journeys will be too: I know, at this point, that I do not have nine IVF tries in me (and neither does my checkbook).  

My personal mantra is to try as hard as possible to avoid sign-looking when we start treatments again.  I don't think it's good for me.  I know I will not entirely succeed at this, but it's something to work on.  

Reading this book, however, is nothing but a good sign.  Go get one for yourself.  I'll make it easy for you: go here.

Oh - and my book shower game?  You guessed it: are you a sign-reader?  Do you search for them everywhere, or do you think people like me are nutcases?  (Both of those might be true, by the way.)  What's the craziest sign you've ever seen?  Do you think reading signs is a good idea, or a recipe for disaster?

Now I'm off to the rest of the shower.  Enjoy!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dear Private Practice

Continuing with this week's "open letter" theme...

Dear Private Practice, a show on ABC I watch only because it's right after Grey's Anatomy and I am too lazy to change the channel,

I'll keep this short.

If you keep using rabidly inaccurate medical terminology in your fertility segments, I will quit watching.

As in tonight, when the so-called "expert" on the show referred repeatedly to "implanting" embryos (and, by the way, let me add how SUPER HELPFUL it is to create a storyline about mixing up the embryos of two women, because there is already SO MUCH accurate, timely, thoughtful information out there about assisted reproductive technology that I just LOVE IT that you decided to give people EVEN MORE REASONS to have NO IDEA what the whole thing is about).

You do not "implant" embryos, dumbasses.  You "transfer" them.  If you are damn, damn lucky, they implant.  (In the right place.) 

Actually, if you keep using this verb, I will most likely "implant" my remote in the television, resulting in a.) much damage to my TV and b.) a very pissed-off husband.

Do.  Your.  Research.  You can bet that every fertility patient watching sure as hell has.



Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dear Sarah Jessica Parker

Dear Sarah Jessica Parker,

Last night, during my fairly regular nighttime routine of checking out celebrity news on People's website, I read that you and Matthew Broderick are expecting twin girls via a surrogate. Pardon me for writing to you about this, since I realize you don't know me and I really don't know you either, although I do own the pink-velvet-boxed edition of The Complete Sex and the City series, and I did force my husband to traipse through the neighborhood of New York which contained your apartment on the show, even though it was a bloody hot day. (On the off chance that you were around that day, by the way, I just want to apologize for the tennis shoes. I was horrified to be wearing glaring white clodhoppers while visiting Carrie Bradshaw's apartment, but I don't think I have the same ankle strength you do. Sorry.)

Anyway. I'm not a stalker, I swear. I did read some of the comments on the People story, however, and I wanted to tell you to be sure to stay the hell away from that site. My heart hurt for you when I read "it's called adoption, egomaniacs." I hope that you know there are men and women out there who understand the torment of infertility and the pull toward biological parenthood, even when that seems illogical to others.

And then there were a bunch of comments about how you must have chosen surrogacy because you didn't want to "wreck your body" with a pregnancy, and someone who said, "maybe if you can't have kids, it's the universe telling you that you shouldn't, so why wouldn't you pay attention to that?" I'm not sure why on earth people feel the need to write this stuff on a public website, but I hope you don't read it. I mean, I can't imagine that you sit around your Manhattan apartment reading comments on the People website, but I suppose it's possible. It's even more possible that people have said these sorts of things to you in real life, probably without knowing the heartache you were enduring.

I'm hoping that you might be willing to talk a little bit about living through infertility. I don't know if you've noticed, but your profession seems to be full of women in their 40's who miraculously have twins and swear up and down that they never had fertility treatments. Which means that either a.) professional acting confers on one extraordinary fertility status and I ought to get myself into said profession pronto; or b.) they are lying. In the spirit of Carrie Bradshaw, I can't help but wonder if they know how much damage that does. There's nothing shameful about getting screwed over by your own body. It just happens. It's enormously difficult no matter what form it takes, but it's not your fault.

And to all those people who say, "well you shouldn't have waited so long, you're too old anyway," (yes, actual comment on the website) - well, there are things I could say to them. But I won't. Fertility declines with age; we all know this. But I'm eight years younger than you, and I started trying almost four years ago, and my body would have put these same obstacles in my way even if I had started trying when I was 21. Age isn't everything.

So don't read the People website. (Probably good advice for me too.) Pay no attention to the cruelty in the world. I'm delighted for you. I hope you might have the courage to speak about infertility and give it some kind of decent, intelligent, real-life voice in this world. I wish you all the best.


P.S. Have you ever called Matthew "Ferris" by accident? Like, if you can't find him in your apartment, have you ever gone around the house saying, "Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?" in a Ben-Stein kind of voice? No. I'm sure not. Clearly I am a child of the '80's.

P.P.S. If you have any extra Manolos in a freakishly-too-large-for-you size (like, say, size 8 1/2), I would totally take those off your hands. Okay. That's it.