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.