About Alex

I love fashion, bright red lipstick and coffee.

The Special Olympics of Conception

I’m still waiting for my voice to come back (literally) but, at least for the time being, my nose seems to have stopped emulating a faucet. I’ve spent so much time in bed or on the couch that, to my eye, there’s a cannon-ball-shaped indentation where I kept hurling myself into the same spot filled with cushy pillows, downy blankets and a big, warm bathrobe. When I’m sick, I crave the familiar – so, much like a nesting hen perhaps, I carve out a spot that’s just so and basically hibernate until I no longer expel ectoplasm.

I’d really rather read, but concentration hasn’t been on my side in the past week – so I resort to the lowest of entertainment to wile away my time until I can finally sleep for more than half an hour at a time without dripping. It seems that, lately, all I see on tv are reruns of once (and, apparently, still) popular shows that I vaguely remember at a time when my life was far more interesting than a dose of channel-surfing to distract me.

Remember that episode of Sex in the City where Miranda gets pregnant from a single, solitary mercy f***? Rather apropos, she laments the likelihood about a single instance of unprotected sex between a woman with a lazy ovary and a man missing a gonad leading to pregnancy:

“He has one ball, and I have a lazy ovary! In what twisted world does that create a baby? It’s like the Special Olympics of conception!”

It’s the urban myth we, as IFers, cling to for dear life: it only takes one. It becomes a mantra – and I can just imagine hoardes of women across the nation with mental ticker tape running laps in their heads: it only takes one it only takes one it only takes one it only takes one IT ONLY TAKES ONE.

The truth, however, is that when you’re struggling with infertility (and I mean the Real McCoy – no previous child(ren) and none of that “Oh it’s been three weeks since we got married and I’m not pregnant, I have infertility! Waaaah!” Let me go see if I can dust off a pacifier for you.) anything even remotely related to the lofty ideal of “conception” involves, by necessity, a form of “Special Olympics”. What should be the product of an act of love becomes a science experiment gone awry. Whether it’s just the sheer volume of medications, injections, treatments, exams, excavations, poking and prodding you have to endure (and consequently almost turning into a roid rager, sans roids – though you’d be open to that if it meant inching up your chances), or the added insult your test results slap you in the face with by saying “oh hi there – you’re ancient, your uterus is a wasteland and…yeaaaah, good luck trying to grow anything resembling a human in there”.

For women my age – reproductive octogenarians – the statistics are so incredibly disheartening that I’m torn between just ignoring it all (ignorance is bliss) and taking it on board to temper my expectations and hopes (forewarned is forearmed). Live birth rates are appallingly low. I looked at a few clinics this month and the overall take-home baby rate is somewhere around 13-19%. Which means that, for somewhere between 81-87% of women my age shelling out a small fortune in the hopes that, for them too, it only takes one, the end result is pretty much the same as taking a pile of money and lighting it on fire.

And yet, of course, you have to go through the same rigmarole as your younger counterparts – except with so much less of a chance to see a light at the end of the tunnel. What makes all of this so much worse is that reproductive endocrinology is a subspecialty and is somewhat unregulated. So you might be wasting precious time on what is more or less an unqualified hack – or you can just roll the dice, pack your suitcase, and pay top dollar for the cream of the fertility treatments in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, going bankrupt will seem like less of a folly when you finally have a child of your own. I try not to let statistics get the better of me, but I’ve already passed several “gates” to hell in the march to the demise of any hopes that could carry me through.

Just the other day, I read a tiny little paragraph that stated how, by age 37, a woman only has 25,000 eggs left. 25,000, on the face of the number itself, sounds like a lot. 25,000 dollars is about 5 grand below what a single cycle of IVF – including ICSI – costs at a top fertility clinic like CCRM (and even they aren’t magicians, let’s face it). 25,000 dollars is the bottom figure for most domestic infant adoptions. I made less than half that much in a year at my first job.

But 25,000 eggs – compared to the roughly half a million we had at puberty – seems ridiculously low. It almost makes me laugh – you know, that insane, desperate kind of laugh right before your descent into hysteria – because it seems like a rather ridiculous proposition that your ovarian reserve is highest in utero. I mean, really? I sat back, somewhat shell-shocked, and thought – 25,000 at age 37 is probably the best case scenario. It goes downhill from there – both in quantity and quality. Where does that leave me? Do I have even half that many left?

At that point I thought about how absolutely appalled I was the first time someone mentioned egg donors or – rather incongruously to us, at the time – embryo donation. How I felt like someone had literally spat in my face and said, you don’t cut the mustard so you’re going to have to take someone else’s genetic material because, lady, yours ain’t worth squat. Let me tell you: nothing makes you realize the importance of biological offspring as much as someone telling you in no uncertain terms that it may very well not be in the cards for you. EVER.

Of course there are plenty of people who are all too willing to assuage your worst fears and nightmares with promises of “The Cure”. Whether it’s a website peddling a particular combo of placebos supplements or someone extolling the virtues of a particular diet (buy my book), everywhere you look, someone is promising that the answer to all your hopes and prayers is just a click away. Especially insidious are those little popups for adoption agencies and the siren song of “adoption is easier than you think” (which is really a gross misrepresentation because it’s missing the other half of the sentence: “if money is no object”).  Either way, you pretty much find yourself in a maelstrom of misinformation, statistics and outright illusions.

But let me go back to fictional Miranda and her Olympian conception for a moment. Needless to mention, I’ve seen this particular episode probably about three hundred times since I’ve rounded the corner of Infertility Hell – and, invariably, it requires a big spoon and a pint of ice cream without which, I’ve found, I either feel an especially fervent need to impale the tv with an assortment of blunt and/or sharp objects (hence the need for both of my hands to be otherwise occupied) or just dissolve into hot, bitter, angry tears. How dare they torment me with accidental pregnancy and talk of abortion? Don’t they KNOW how horrible this is for us? (Sidebar: I’m with Aiden, though – if you’re going to get accidentally pregnant and don’t really want to keep the child, why can’t you just give it to your bestie who’s struggling to conceive? I mean, really? No one’s saying that a child is like a sweater but…ugh.)

When Miranda blurts out her news – which, rather unhappily, coincides with Charlotte’s period – you are privvy to what real girlfriends are supposed to do. Charlotte, with salty tears stinging her eyes (oh yes, we can all commiserate with that), exclaims “how could you do that to me??” – which seems completely unfair to everyone…except an IFer. Oh how we understand exactly how Charlotte feels, what propels this seemingly selfish and totally irrational outburst. Whether we’ve actually said this to someone or not, we’ve all thought it. Somehow, they all rally though, in the end – true to fiction – and the others try to explain to both Miranda and Charlotte why each has a valid grievance with the situation at hand. At least Miranda – though fictional – has the good sense to tell Charlotte that she’s sorry and that she feels pretty $hitty about it.

I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that I’m not the only one who feels, if not entirely consoled, at least somewhat mollified by this display of concern for someone else’s feelings. Even though it’s obviously not the fault of the Fertile Myrtles around us – whether family members, BFFs or just acquaintances – who are just not as encumbered in the reproductive department as we are. But, again, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who’s wanted to throw a temper tantrum when faced with another woman’s completely callous announcement of unplanned, unintended pregnancy – sans any concern or even so much as a modicum of understanding for the gamut of emotions that run through an IFer’s mind in such a situation.

In the Special Olympics for Conception, there are no second places; no honorary mentions. There’s only one goal – which you either accomplish successful after however many attempts you are allotted by fortune or obstinate persistence; or which forever becomes unattainable as you slink into obscurity to lick your wounds and consider your few remaining “options”.

I want to believe that, no matter how this all turns out for me specifically, I’ll be able to cope – somehow. I’m trying hard not to be angry that we live in some kind of backwater town with no access to suitable care for our situation. I’m trying to strengthen my resolve to model my behavior after that of so many other IFers: whatever it takes. We’ve already lost so much of ourselves in the years leading up to this one – drawing nary a full breath because we’re stuck in the maudlin fog of sorrow and despair.

Sometimes I find myself wondering why I even bother writing this blog at all. I feel like I’m stewing in the same cesspool of doubt, anger and fear that has frozen me in place for a ridiculously long time. Along the way, the casualties are mounting: untouched make-up, once-beloved shoes, accessories, clothes…all nestled in corners like forgotten ghosts of another lifetime. Books are gathering dust. Things I once used to look forward to and love are viewed with skepticism and trepidation.

I had this crazy idea a few weeks ago: I would call around to all the top fertility clinics and line up appointments over the next few months. I would pack my cutest travel bags full of the neglected wardrobe and take a road trip; hopefully meeting some of my fellow IFers in person for a long overdue coffee, scone, and probably a bit of a rant. I imagined hugs, commiserations, soaking in the cultural offerings of a big city somewhere, etc. But then, invariable, self-doubt sinks in and starts gnawing at what seemed like such a promising idea for a moment. Yeah, you’re really going to drive across the country by yourself. Are you crazy? Maybe you need more than your uterus and Fallopian tubes examined. And how exactly do you plan to bankroll your Thelma and Louise adventure? What makes you think anyone else has the time or desire to meet you in St. Louis Chicago New York Denver some city you know nothing about or no one in? 

The word “hare-brained” came to mind.”Numb-skull” and “crazy” may have made an appearance. I know that much of this day-dreaming is propelled by my long-term isolation; by feeling so lonely despite knowing that I’m far from the only one struggling like this; by a deep-rooted desire and need to stop wasting time and act, now! 

Instead, I figured that as soon as I feel well enough to actually leave the house, I’m going to just DO something and break these chains of morose torpidity! Even if it’s not really or directly related to fertility treatments. I’m just going to have to stop feeling sorry for myself and stop making excuses. Who cares if my body and I aren’t BFFs? Because, whatever else happens, wherever this road takes us and ends, I can’t keep watching reruns of someone else’s fictional life.

My Body, My Frenemy

Confession: my body and I aren’t exactly what you’d call BFFs. In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say there’s not much love lost between us. 

I wish I could say this was a recent development; that struggling with infertility had soured me on the one steadfast companion we’re all stuck with throughout our lives. Alas, that’s not the case. My body and I, we’re more war than peace – and it’s only recently, as I’ve been subjected to all the ignominy of a rather nasty and still-ongoing cold (and the ensuing dripping, sneezing, coughing, snorting etc) that I’ve really thought about all this in more detail.

Specifically, it dawned on me somewhere between the umptienth crumpled tissue, refilled hot water bottle and yet another dose of something that promises to deliver me back to a semblance of human rather than zombie, that I’m not sure I can even grasp the idea of motherhood at this point. Or, at least, as it applies to me, personally.

Let me try to explain what I’m so clumsily trying to get across. (And if I fail to make any sense, let’s just say a combination of sleep deprivation, epic sinus congestion that makes the mere attempt of drinking a sip of water a battle of the wills – as in, will I be able to swallow before the air in my lungs expires since I can’t actually breathe through my nose at this point in time – and a candy assortment of OTCs, perhaps, are not the most conducive recipe for a well-written blog post. Sigh.)

As I’ve probably mentioned elsewhere, I wasn’t one of those girls who dreamed of weddings and babies. No, sirree! I don’t know if this was more due to my lofty ambitions towards what I perceived to be greater and more significant goals; or whether it was chiefly due to an unerring, unwavering belief that marriage and motherhood would come, naturally, when it was time.

It never occurred to me that I should’ve had my plumbing checked before I made such assumptions.

Maybe it has something to do with a distinct lack of awareness – a lifelong discomfort with my own body. My first memory of being consciously aware of my body was when I was found wanting, faulty, somewhere around age 9. Since then, I’ve continually abused my body – my “success” measured in abstracts such as size, form, likeness – and denigrated it to where I am ashamed to say that, even at this point in my life, I can only remember rare glimpses of fleeting moments when I didn’t hate what I saw in the mirror. There was always something to criticize. I was taller than the other girls, long before the boys caught up. I developed a little later – but when I did, it was as though someone had decided that I had to catch up, post-haste, and threw the whole shebang at me in one fell swoop. I was awkward, uncomfortable, meandering – and never quite sure how I was supposed to act. My body, it seemed, and I were not of one mind.

So it should come as no surprise that the whole reproductive portion of my body was purposefully ignored by yours truly – mostly it was just a huge, painful inconvenience. And since motherhood wasn’t something I ever questioned or envisioned as having to set as a goal, those two aspects of my truancy in regards to most (if not all) matters relating to my body’s ability – or, perhaps more apropos, inability – to reproduce resulted in me basically having another reason to ignore the body that had already been deemed sub-par early on in my life. 

In hindsight, all of this makes me angry. Looking back, someone should’ve taken me to a doctor – because when a teenager has such ridiculously bad periods that she has to keep running to the bathroom in between classes, has to miss school, has to be picked up halfway through the day etc, you would think that someone would’ve thought this might have been worth checking out. You know, just in case. Instead, it was not really mentioned, not talked about, just tolerated as the monthly abuse one had to subject oneself to as the “weaker” sex – in this case, clearly, weakened from the monthly dispensation of what, to me, always felt like being drained of every ounce of energy. (Dare I mention, at this point, that it probably would’ve been a good idea also to check for any mineral deficiencies when someone is prone to – ahem – iron depletion?)

Of course there’s no point in crying over spilled milk. And I didn’t I say I was going to try to avoid being negative all the time – which really isn’t the point I’m trying to make here at all anyway. What I’m trying to say – and struggling to find the appropriate words – is that I feel like I’ve gotten to a point where I’ve become so disillusioned that I can’t actually picture myself becoming a mother. It’s not that I’m giving in or giving up – but I suddenly thought to myself, how many women are on the wrong side of their (late) thirties and have never gotten pregnant – like me? I convince myself that I must be the exception; that anyone my age who struggles with infertility is either a secondary IFer or dealing with recurrent pregnancy loss. Either way, I end up feeling like an alien.

In dealing with IF, I think we all – to a lesser or greater extent – play the “what’s worse” game. Whether we’re honest, unabashed or secretive about it, we stack ourselves – and our black-on-white stats – up against other IFers. Oh, she’s younger – she’s got way more time left. Ah, she’s gotten pregnant naturally in the past – so they can probably fix whatever her problem is. Her AMH is higher than mine, lucky girl. Mmm, sure wish I lived in that state with IVF coverage. Wow, she has a nice RE – wish I could find one like that without having to hop across a time zone or three. 

Inevitably, it all comes back to the veracity of what Theodore Roosevelt stated so succinctly:

COMPARISON IS THE THIEF OF JOY.

Hah, I can imagine I’m not the only one snorting derisively here. Joy? What joy could there be when you’re struggling with infertility for any significant amount of time? Joy because you dissolved all your financial assets to scrape together enough for a single cycle of IVF – knowing that the statistics aren’t just not in your favor, they’re basically telling you that cycles 1 and 2 are just a “trial run” for most? Joy because you finally found an RE, finally got an appointment, finally got a BFP – none of which you can actually enjoy because, deep down, you’re freaking out because you know just how many of your fellow IFers went down that road and ultimately ended up in tears.

I want to be hopeful, I really do. But I feel so incredibly old. I’m already much older than I ever thought I’d be without ever having gotten pregnant even once. It doesn’t help that I feel so self-conscious about all these issues that I can’t even be honest or upfront about it outside of the IF community – because it feels embarrassing.

And then, the other day, somewhere in the middle of a coughing fit and trying not to blow my brains into the tissues right along with whatever crappy bacteria is currently staging an occupation in my sinuses, I got angry at my husband. You know, the same guy who gave me whatever virus has been making me miserable; who suffered before me and still went to work, still managed to bring home an amazing bouquet of flowers for Valentine’s Day even though I was in no condition to enjoy them. The same guy who drove half and hour just to get me some ice cream because my throat was so sore I couldn’t swallow anything solid.

But, sometimes, I feel like my husband just doesn’t get it – like he wants to just “get it over and done with”, choose the path of least resistance. Because he seems resigned to the idea that we have to do IVF, that there’s no point in trying to do anything homeopathic, eastern medicine etc. Which made me absolutely furious because I thought, well, easy for you – YOU are not the one who has to be subjected to (and, literally, injected with) the ensuing treatments. YOU are not the one who has to continually be poked and prodded, who has to try desperately not to freak out and worry about how anything you do, say, eat, see, drink or whatever could jeopardize that oh-so-expensive treatment that no one is giving you a damn guarantee (or refund) for. YOU are not the one who’s going to be in physical pain, battered and bruised emotionally and trying to figure out, desperately, how to get the necessary nutrients, sleep, etc. while wishing you could just click your heels and go home.

When a cycle fails, the perception always seems to be that it’s the woman’s fault – I mean, after all, once the stuff is all inside you it’s YOUR job to make it work, right?? (Yes, I realize this is a gross oversimplification and not at all a correct perspective, it just kind of seems that way. My view of this might be colored by the horrible treatment received at the hands of Dr. McGreedy, who basically made me feel like I was an embalmed mummy asking for a miracle.)

What makes the situation even more difficult – from a purely logistic point of view – is that my husband has an extremely demanding job. It makes international adoption completely impossible because of the travel requirements; it makes even trying to find an RE out of state and make an appointment a complete nightmare because he basically works nonstop. Ok, so obviously that’s a mild exaggeration – but let’s just say that his boss doesn’t exactly brook him taking time off well. So I keep sitting there thinking, how is this supposed work? Am I supposed to just travel to a different state where I don’t know a soul, all by myself, and deal with the rigors of all these issues by myself? Never mind if I ended up with another Dr. McGreedy like the one we’ve already dealt with in the past – only this time, by my lonesome self? Unthinkable.

And don’t even get me started on the abysmal stats for IVF cycles in the over 35 category. I mean, the average live birth rate I’ve seen is below 20% – or, in laymen’s terms, time to start drinking, NOW.

Inevitably, I end up blaming myself: for being too stupid or too arrogant to realize, to think, that I could have problems conceiving when no one else in our extended family (on both sides) ever had; for not treating my body better and feeling like IF is what I deserve for not “playing nice”; for waiting too long, doing this, that and the other wrong wrong wrong WRONG. Everything is just WRONG.

I can’t change yesterday. I can’t just decide to wake up a different person, with no issues. But I figure that maybe, just maybe, this can be one of those times when admitting that you have a problem is the first step towards…well, I’m not sure what exactly. Maybe declaring a truce? Maybe deciding that the peaceniks were right and that we really should make love, not war?

And maybe, just maybe, I can stop viewing my body as the enemy – the enemy who’s holding my unconceived child(ren) hostage, the enemy who won’t fit into the size I want or look the polished, photoshopped way I’m supposed to think “real” women my age actually look like thanks to an arsenal of cosmetic enhancements (you know, unless you’re actually Christie Brinkley – because, I mean let’s face it, 60 has never looked that good before). Maybe if I stop “abusing” myself and subjecting my body to feelings of inadequacy – most predominantly the constant IF guilt trip – I can learn to embrace Coco Chanel’s enduring words of wisdom:

“Nature gives you the face you have at twenty; it is up to you to merit the face you have at fifty.”

Because I sure don’t want to keep trudging through life with a grumpy face…

Here’s hoping that the end of this dastardly cold is nigh, and that with it a renewed sense of purpose will drive me forward, upward, onward…towards acceptance of whatever comes my way this year, and resilience to keep afloat in the storm.

 

All Is Fair In Sickness and Health…

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The past week has been a bit of a muddle in our household. First, my husband got sick – and when I say sick, I mean he couldn’t breathe properly, had a fever and all that good stuff. Of course, given today’s corporate culture, it’s not like he could stay home – like he should have – to cure whatever was ailing him.

So, instead, he passed it onto me.

For the past few days it seemed like I was just having more restless nights due to his labored breathing. But today, as soon as I got up, it was like there was an anvil sitting on my chest; my throat hurt, my head hurt, even my teeth hurt.

In short, everything hurts. 

And as much as I really hate to admit it, at times like these I’m actually both glad and thankful that we don’t have children yet. Just dealing with the dogs is almost like asking too much – and if there was anyone I could call, I probably would’ve just to get them out of the house for a while. When I feel this crummy, I’m glad I don’t have to worry about making meals for little ones, about getting them to and from school, about listening to questions, whining, or even just talking. Aside from migraines, I really don’t get sick that often – but when I get a cold, it’s pretty bad. It’s like all the germs and yuck have been saved up all year to congregate and attack me all at once. 

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Didn’t I get a flu shot? The answer is no – I never have, and unless it’s a life and death situation, I never will. If my grandparents aren’t getting a flu shot, I sure as hell won’t. Which, of course, means that I have to suffer through it with the requisite guzzling of fluids (three huge cups of tea and honey, tons of water, a glass of OJ – and counting).

As miserable as I feel right now, I’m grateful. I’m grateful that it’s not a migraine. I’m grateful that I only have to look after myself – which, in my current state, is quite a feat. I’m grateful that my dogs spend most of the day sleeping peacefully, which means that I don’t have to think about them, or worry about them, or deal with them beyond letting them out every few hours. I’m grateful that I can just ride the couch with my drippy nose and sore throat like a character from a sitcom while being a “good” girl and not seriously thinking about drowning my misery (and hopefully germs, bacteria etc) in alcohol in a vain attempt to sleep it off and avoid dripping ick onto my keyboard.

Maybe the teachable lesson here is that feeling like crap reminds you of just how thankful you should be for every single day where you don’t feel like death warmed over. 

See you on the other side of sickness!

The War on Negativity

I’ve decided to issue a moratorium on bitterness, resentment and fear.

I know I’m far from alone in having been subjected to these terrorizing emotions for so long, it seems they’ve taken over every waking second of our lives. I know we’ve been struggling, grappling, trying to make sense of it all and desperate to regain some sense of our former, happier, selves. Like a wounded animal, we retreat to solitary confinement as it feels like our hearts become blacker and shrink with every month, every year, that goes by without our most fervent dream becoming reality: motherhood.

I feel like I keep slipping and sliding around in the muck that my emotional, mental and physical “well-being” has become – a misnomer, at this point, because I obviously DON’T feel well. I haven’t felt well in a really long time. I don’t sleep well, I don’t eat well, I’m angry all the time. I’m jealous, bitter, resentful, sad, scared – all the time. I don’t do anything I used to enjoy doing. I don’t go anywhere. I avoid people. I avoid leaving the confines of my little cocoon of self-imposed isolation because it’s too scary “out there”. I feel trapped in a prison of my own making.

And I’m so sick and tired of feeling this way.

It’s easy for me to blame it on my circumstances, on infertility, on my ensuing isolation, on the words and actions (or lack thereof) of others. I’ve been stewing in a sense of failure, of self-loathing, for so long that I apparently stopped fighting back. At some point, it felt like everything got to be too much; my world caved in and I got buried under all the rubble. I lost my sense of self, I lost the belief that I have skills, talents, and that I’m a good person. I let the actions and words of others define who I was, who I became, because I felt like I was fighting a war on so many fronts that I just got too damn tired to swim against the stream. We have no support, no one to turn to – so I convinced myself that it was all our fault: our fault that we couldn’t get pregnant; our fault that people we put our trust in deceived us; our fault that we’re hurting, angry, sad and alone.

The truth is that I’m at a crossroads, and I have a choice to make. I can keep feeling like crap, I can keep beating myself up, I can let my inner critic convince me that it’s my fault we don’t have any children yet, it’s my fault that we might not be able to, it’s my fault this, that and the other. I can get angry at the world, angry at everyone else’s fecundity, IVF coverage, supportive relationships. I can throw in the towel and just exist in a vacuum of misery that will become a never-ending pity party. I can wait for my marriage to disintegrate because I can’t snap out of it, I can drag my husband down with me as every ounce of love is drained from my heart because everything is dark, angry and bitter – and watch him blame himself for not being able to help me, to make me feel better. I can keep beating myself up about my shortcomings and comparing myself to others with the end result that I feel bad. I can let things I have no control over make me feel like I’m weak. I can despair to the point where I stop getting out of bed altogether.

OR…

I can stop fighting with myself. I can stop pretending. I can stop lying to myself. I can stop comparing myself to others, berating myself for the choices I’ve made. I can stop thinking, and feeling, like not being perfect or not having the same way of doing something as someone else makes me worthless. I can stop hating myself for the fact that my life isn’t exactly the way I thought it would turn out. I can stop judging others just because they’re not having to walk a mile or three million in my shoes, because they haven’t had the same experiences, because they don’t care, because they don’t get it, because they’re doing/saying things that hurt me.  I can stop blaming myself for the things others say and do because, really, it’s not my fault and it’s not something I can change. At the end of the day:

“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die.”

Some days, I feel like I’m dying – both emotionally and physically. I feel raw, I feel beaten down to the point that I don’t even want to try to get up anymore. I just want to tap out. I know those feelings won’t just go away. I know I’m not suddenly going to wake up tomorrow, a reformed pessimist suddenly chipper like I’ve had a lobotomy or a Walt Disney makeover. But I realized, with strange clarity, that I’ve been playing the victim – instead of actually remembering that I’m not weak; I’m not pathetic; I’m not hopeless, hapless, stupid, or a failure.

I’m human.

A few days ago, I got really worked up about a site that I felt had a bunch of posts by women who’ve clearly never had their reproductive abilities called into question. I was so angry at what I felt was a set of completely insensitive, selfish posts that showed absolutely ZERO consideration for women who struggle to conceive. But then I thought – hold on a minute. Why am I getting so angry? This site is clearly run by women who don’t have these problems. Why should they think about infertility when it obviously hasn’t touched their lives? I mean, you don’t see me writing posts about Asperger’s, to throw out some random medical condition. It’s my choice whether or not I read these types of things – so getting angry about something that, technically, I’m not the target audience for is just plain ridiculous. It’s also pointless, because the end result is inevitably detrimental to ME.

I feel like having a family should be considered an inalienable, constitutional right – and that, consequently, all 50 states should be required to carry mandatory IVF insurance. However, the fact that this isn’t actually the case and that the current state of affairs makes me angry does absolutely nothing to change MY situation. I don’t live in a state that has IVF insurance, nor is IVF covered by our medical insurance – not even a portion of it, no cap, nada. But this doesn’t make my situation unique at all – I know there are many others who are in exactly the same boat. It also doesn’t mean that I should get angry at other IFers who do have IVF coverage – it’s not their fault that, apparently, our society considers it more important for a guy to be able to have a boner than for a woman to be able to get pregnant. 

I realized, these past couple of days, that I am so incredibly lucky to have had some wonderful experiences in my life, to have choices and freedoms, to have a roof over my head. I have a husband who loves me to the end of the earth. My life is far from perfect, and I myself am definitely a work in progress. But I know I’m not alone – even if it feels like it. I know that there’s hope, somewhere, out there, for all of us. We can’t know which bend in the road will lead to the next chapter in our lives, but I’m tired of feeling consumed with negativity. I’m tired of getting worked up, seething silently and letting all this crap fester as it chips away at my very soul.

So I’m just going to keep working on ME and try to change my perception of the world around me. I’m going to try to remind myself that I have a choice of how I’m going to receive information and how I’m going to deal with it. Instead of focusing on all the things that make me unhappy, I’m going to focus on the things that make me happy – and work on finding more positive ways to deal with the things I struggle with. Because, at the end of the day, I don’t want to end up being a mother who can’t find the good in small things, the sunshine in spite of the rain, the proverbial silver lining.

Carpe Diem, my friends!!

PS: It goes without saying that reserve the right to occasionally think that someone is a total a$$hat and deserves to be poked in the eye with a really hot french fry rolled in ghost peppers. I’m not bucking for sainthood.

Craving Contentedness

I’ve had one of those days that doesn’t exactly leave me brimming with happiness, but I feel content as I sit down to write this post. 

Nothing special happened today – in fact, I actually spent most of the morning with a headache that required self-medication (which I hate, of course). But I did quite a few typically housewifey things:

  • left the house early to get groceries (and tried not to bawl when I passed the three million assorted schools and the ubiquitous yellow school buses on the way there)
  • had some really yummy coffee at home, which was great because I saved both the gas and surcharge that a coffee house concoction would’ve required (and tried not to worry too much about whether or not this indulgence keeps me from getting pregnant – I’m pretty sure it’s not but the guilt is still there); 
  • did several loads of laundry (and tried to ignore that there’s still no maternity or baby clothes in the hamper)
  • made the usual meals throughout the day (and tried not to think about what I might be doing if we had kids – such as PBJs with the crust cut off, or a fresh smoothie because soda is just a no-no in our house)
  • took out the trash (and tried not to notice that there are no broken-down diaper boxes in our recycling)

Yep, all glamour and glory for me! 

Still…I tried not to let myself get too sad and upset today. The old adage that idle hands are the devil’s workshop seems very apropos to me lately, as staying busy obviously gives me something to think about that’s not the constant whine of WHERE THE HELL ARE MY BABIES? 

Ahem.

At different points throughout the day, I thought about how incredibly lucky I am. I have so much to be thankful and grateful for. I have freedom. 

Of course even staying busy can’t quite keep those thoughts completely silent. When I made myself a sandwich at lunch, my hands moved as if guided by automation as my thoughts traveled to the inevitable. What would I be doing, right this minute, if we had children? In my mind, I heard a little voice calling “mooooooom!” – and I flinched a little, because it’s just in my head. I imagined a child that came into the kitchen, hugging me, maybe looking for something or hungry. Of course – I’m a mom-in-waiting. I’m a SAHM* – I’m just missing “my” kids. Are the back-ordered? Out of stock? I don’t know, no one is telling me anything. I know I ordered them; I even checked with my husband. He’s just as mystified as I am. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be a complaints department; no 1-800 number we can call to check on the status of our missing children. We’re supposed to keep throwing money at the problem, but no one can tell us if and when our missing children will come home. 

Sigh.

Still, today has been a pretty decent day. I decided that I’m going to make truffles next week to give to my Valentine (let’s face it, he deserves some laborious chocolates that were lovingly prepared by his wife in an attempt not to think about babies every second of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year). I’ve never made any before – they always seemed like such a messy hassle and, how can I say this? I’m not that good at following directions. <chuckles> 

We never go out on Valentine’s Day. I know my husband would if I really wanted to. He’d put on a suit and take me out to a fancy restaurant – well, if there were any around here (which there aren’t – not unless you reaaaaaally stretch you’re definition of “fine dining”, and even then the closest “real” restaurant is at least an hour away). We’ve actually never gone out on Valentine’s Day. It’s not that we have some kind of objection to it – we write each other cards, there’s usually a box of decent chocolates (no Walmart cheapos for me, thank you very much!) and flowers. Unless it happens to be on a weekend, he has to work that day anyway – so we just cuddle up after dinner and I force him to watch a cheezy chick flick with me (totally evil, I know). 

This year, however, I’ve decided that I want to do something special for him. He’s been such a rock for me – these past few years especially – and I think he really deserves a special effort. Even if it means that I might be smeared in chocolate, cocoa, dusted with confectioner’s sugar and wearing coconut flakes in my hair.

I flipped through the different culinary tomes in our house to find a recipe and make a list of things I need to get. One of my absolute favorite books is one called Crave – literally all about chocolate. I’ve only made one dessert from it so far because it’s a pretty big, heavy hardcover book, which makes it a little cumbersome to use. Last year, my husband actually made me a birthday cake from one of my Barefoot Contessa cookbooks (I’m sure I don’t even need to mention how totally jealous I am of her life in the Hamptons – all that amazing, fresh, local organic produce…and the cheeses! Oh, for the love of God!) – and let’s just say that I was not only impressed but I haven’t forgotten that he made such a loving effort for me.

So I figured, who doesn’t love truffles? I think that I’ll probably keep it simple and not too decadent for my first foray into the art of making chocolates – though it’s something that I could probably learn to enjoy. Incidentally, that’s one many, many, many of the reasons I kind of wish we lived in or near a big city (that and having a choice of REs. Yeah, that would really help right about now) – that way I could just take a bunch of classes and become a culinary genius, pottery expert, cheese connaisseur etc. You know: if I’m going to throw money at a problem, why not for something that’ll endure no matter where this winding road takes us?

(Sidebar: I also like watching the Pioneer Woman sometimes – but omg, I really just could NOT live in the middle of nowhere like that, I’d go bat$hit crazy. And while I’m on the subject of PW, what’s with the driving to a different building to cook? Also, how much, exactly, is “a good amount”? Mmmmm? Because I don’t have any measuring cups or spoons that measure in good or bad amounts. But aside from that, I think she should have another show for child-rearing advice – her kids seem really well-behaved and well-rounded. Of course that might have something to do that they’re probably too doggone tired at the end of the day to cause much of a fuss.)

Anyway.

Of course this is yet another occasion where I lament my fossilized social life. I mean, how totally fun would it be to get a bunch of girls together around my big farm table, with lots of laughs, and make an assortment of truffles for our hubbies together? It’s times like these that I miss having girlfriends the most – well, you know, aside from those times when I have a meltdown because my babies are still MIA. (I know, I know – stating the obvious again.) But the truth is that, more than just craving the sort of basic contentedness I miss so much in my somewhat self-imposed isolation, what I want most is to be around other women who struggle with primary infertility. I want to be able to dole out support and encouragement, get advice – and, most importantly perhaps, feel understood. Where is THAT reality tv show??

Sometimes I read about these women who met as teens or in college – and decades later, they’re not only still friends, but the actually make the time and effort to get together regularly even if they all live in different states. I totally envy that – but the truth that’s never discussed in those articles is what kind of resources that takes. I mean, you need to have some disposable income to begin with – and enough to pay for things like airfare, hotel etc. You know, unless you want to cram half a dozen people into a single room and pretend it’s a sleepover LOL Somehow, I just don’t think sleepovers are quite as exciting in your 30s and beyond as they were when you were a tween/teen.

Well, either way, I’m calling today a winner: I didn’t feel like screaming at anyone; I didn’t bawl; I didn’t feel like putting a fist through the tv (which, btw, would be completely out of character for me – I don’t believe in or condone violence – even against inanimate objects that totally have it coming); I didn’t hyperventilate or have a panic attack. I wish I had more days like today, so here’s hoping that tomorrow will be at least this good. 🙂

 

* SAHM = stay at home mom. Can’t remember where I read that – must’ve been in another lifetime. It all seems so unreal to me these days…

I’m really starting to hate the internet…

It’s been a fairly boring, banal day for me. I’ve gotten a few things off my plate but not quite enough for my own liking. 

I wasn’t really going to post today because I have nothing much to share – until I stumbled onto this little “nugget” of outrage:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/06/texas-teenager-affluenza-escapes-jail-second-time

I’m not sure which I find more offensive: the fact that a teen who’s been drinking and driving – in itself violating more than just one law, obviously – and whose actions killed 4 people basically walked away with a slap on the wrist; or that the defense was how it’s not his fault, it’s because he’s suffering from “affluenza”. The fact that people who have a lot of money (or who grow up with a lot of money) think they’re above the law is hardly news-worthy in and of itself – but leave it to a judge in Texas to render such a grossly unjust and entirely idiotic verdict. Honestly, I don’t even understand how this line of argument was even allowed as a defense. I’m so sorry that you’re so filthy rich that, apparently, you don’t think you should be subject to the same laws as everyone else – but you killed 4 people. As far as I’m concerned, that kid should be thrown in jail – because I really don’t think he’s going to feel any remorse or learn anything of value when “his lawyers recommended his parents pay for him to seek therapy at a $450,000-a-year rehabilitation facility in California”. 

I think the best “therapy” for this ridiculous notion of the “stress” caused by excessive consumption is to prevent said party from being further “subjected” to these perceived stresses. Let that little $hit go work off some penance in a gulag somewhere. 

UNREAL.

Sleepless Insanity

Aside

Sleep eludes me once again.

Every night, it seems, it’s the same thing. I want to start getting ready for bed around 8pm – because that gives me enough time to do a few things like finish up anything that’s lying around, and be under the covers no later than 8.45-9pm. This means I have a solid hour to read or do whatever and still get plenty of shut-eye before getting up somewhere between 5.30-6am.

In an ideal world, that is.

I hate sleeping late – even on weekends, we’re usually up by 7am, 7.30 at the latest. If I sleep any later than 8am – regardless of when I actually fell asleep – I inevitably end up with a headache, general grogginess and a feeling like I’m wasting the day. I like to be up early because it means that, by the time 10am rolls around, I’ve already done a bunch of stuff.

In an ideal world, that is.

Lately, my sleep “schedule” – picture me snorting derisively here – has been so erratic that you’d think I was on uppers AND downers. I hope it goes without saying that I’m not on either – though, honestly, I’d kind of be grateful for some potent pharmaceutical help lately. My brain is constantly on overdrive – and, somehow, never seems to be the bearer of good, happy thoughts these days. If hope is elusive, happiness has become a rare commodity that has almost reached mythical status. I feel like my heart has taken so many beatings that the overarching emotion these days is resignation.

Ironically, resignation is sometimes the (slightly) better of two evils – the other side being crippling anxiety and fear. Fear of a life without children. (Did I say fear? I meant abject terror.) Fear of things that used to not even cross my mind or that I gave little importance to. Fear of…life. Of being lonely. Of having lost any spark, any social skills, of even losing my few remaining brain cells that haven’t yet succumbed to the doldrums from being beaten into submission by the incessant chatter about All The Things That Are Wrong With Me And My Life.

Lately, I’ve noticed that I have more and more trouble concentrating. I’ve become more forgetful – not just in the sense of going somewhere and forgetting why, or of looking for something only to forget what or where it was last seen; no, more frighteningly, I feel like I’m forgetting words. I’ll be in the middle of a train of thought, and a word eludes me – not because I don’t know it or because I’m trying to think of some unsual, complicated word. No, rather, a word or turn of phrase I use or am, at least, very familiar with, suddenly disappears. I feel like a bat, trying to sound it out – but hitting a wall. (This, btw, may be entirely unfair to bats – if memory serves more than a passing diversion and receptacle for pain and trauma, I think I actually heard somewhere recently that, contrary to popular perception, bats actually can see, just not very well. Fascinating, I know.)

You see…I’m not an unusually proud or vain person – never have been. There are a handful of things that I felt were attributes – qualities worthy of time, effort and – I daresay – praise. I’m sure you won’t be the least bit surprised when I tell you that I feel like most if not all of these qualities seem to have vanished in the quicksand of IF. I used to be funny. I used to laugh all the time. I used to have a social life. I used to enjoy being around other people. I was witty! I was vivacious – effervescent, even!

Now, I just feel like a sack of potatoes – dull, drab and lethargic. I have a closet full of beautiful clothes I never wear because I don’t have the energy desire interest in putting together an outfit anymore. I occasionally open the door and peek inside – but I feel nothing. The clothes aren’t calling to me because I feel like they don’t even belong to me – they belong to someone who’s happy and full of life, someone who has friends, someone who knows how to have a good time and get the most out of life. They certainly don’t belong to the sad, hapless shadow of a woman hovering in the doorway, tentatively reaching out to run her fingers over a silky summer dress or a bold floral tunic. She’s not the one who’s going to be wearing the expensive penny loafers that were bought many years ago for a special occasion; or the elegant high heels. No, Ms. Frumpy has no business in this closet.

In our master bathroom, there’s a drawer with makeup. I think it’s mine – but whenever I open the drawer, I just find myself staring at its contents. I keep thinking I should just throw it away. Clearly, I’m not using it – but it seems so incredibly wasteful to just throw away brand new, unused products. I keep thinking, maybe I’ll come back to them. Maybe the fun girl who bought them is still hiding somewhere beneath the rubble. But I feel like I’m lying to myself. I think that girl has run off to a tropical island where she can actually have some fun.

For some reason, all of this is making me think of that movie You’ve Got Mail – the part where Kathleen Kelly’s book store is starting to go down and one of her employees says: “This place is a tomb – I’m going to the nut shop where it’s fun!”. I’m sitting here kind of chuckling to myself because this is so incredibly apropos, on so many levels. I feel like I’m a shell of myself – hollow and lifeless – and then the idea of going to a nut shop where it’s fun makes me think of being medicated into a state of blissful oblivion. I don’t know why that’s amusing to me – maybe just because I like the idea that, somehow, my mind can still run off on a tangent rather than being completely stagnant.

I know that my story, my feelings, aren’t all that unique. I’ve read countless posts and stories from other IFers who echo many of the same sentiments – the feeling of hopelessness and of living inside a stranger. You look in the mirror and it’s sort of the person you know…yet you don’t really recognize her anymore. Her hair is matted and her complexion is dull. But the worst part is how her eyes look sad – so incredibly sad. You search for a glimmer of hope. You might even give her a pep talk – just like you would for a close friend, a beloved sibling. Yet the words sound fake to your own ears. You know you have to keep going, somehow, by any means possible – but it’s getting harder and harder not to feel like throwing in the towel.

No matter what your personal experience is, or what the particulars of your situation are – infertility sucks. It’s unfair. It drains the very life and soul out of you. It keeps you from living a full life, from smiling and laughing unreservedly like you used to.

I’m at a loss as to how I can turn the worst part of it around: the loneliness that seeps into my bones like the icy hand of a blizzard; making you feel frozen to the core. I don’t know how to get back to how my life used to be; how to meet people and make new friends. It’s pathetic, I know – but I feel completely inept in this. Me, of all people! It’s ridiculous. I’m so battle-scarred and bruised at this point, so overly sensitive about anything and everything connected to our struggle to create a family – and all the crap we’ve endured at the hands of people who we should’ve been able to count on for support – that I’m scared.

There you have it – I’m scared.

If we lived in a major city, I would just find creative ways to “put myself out there” and stay busy – you know, the ubiquitous museum visits, cooking classes, etc. But the truth is that I don’t even know how to act around other people anymore because I feel so incredibly uncomfortable and awkward in my own skin. I feel like I’m branded – like the mere fact of leaving the house without a child or five in tow is immediately a signal to Everyone that I AM NOT ONE OF THEM. I’m not a mommy. I’m not a Fertile Myrtle. I’m a Wannabe.

I know it’s totally in my head – people constantly assume that I have children. Of course they would – at my age, the only way you wouldn’t make such an assumption is if I looked like I’d just come from a board meeting and was ready to crush some unsuspecting barista with my stiletto heel. But since I no longer even put on makeup – yes, pathetic as well (you see why I’m feeling so crap) – it’s only “logical” for people to assume that I have children. Clearly – since I obviously must’ve been kept awake by a baby or harried in preparing to send off the apples of my eyes to school to look so worn out.

I’m torn between wanting to sell all my worldly possessions – and thinking that if I start selling all my beloved clothes, it’s like saying that I’m going to be this sad, lonely person for the rest of my life. So the truth is that, sometimes, when I open the door to my closet, it’s because I need to see the life I had, the life force that is still – hopefully – hiding somewhere beneath the detritus of my shattered dreams. I need to feel like I still have something to hold onto – that I don’t need to or shouldn’t give up…Not yet, not ever. Because no matter where this road leads to or where it ends, I need to stop wasting away like a rotting banana peel.