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…

Gratitude

In light of today’s date, I thought this was an appropriate topic. I know that I will never forget where I was when I first found out about the events of 9/11 – shocked to the core, silent in disbelief as images unfolded on the screen before my eyes and I took them in as though it was a movie. Because it couldn’t be reality, could it?

So before I got any further, I just want to say how grateful I am, every single day and night, that I can go about my days – hard as they may be for me sometimes – because of the people who selflessly serve in our Armed Forces, leaving behind their loved ones when it is deemed necessary. Thank you for doing a difficult job that not all of us could do because we don’t have the resilience, the strength or the courage they require – and thank you for doing it despite the fact that we don’t always show you enough appreciation.

Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.
John Milton

But the subject of gratitude has been on my mind for a few days now. During the weekend, I kept trying to zero in on a subject for a new blog post. I wrote, saved drafts, started from scratch, saved more drafts – but nothing really felt right. In case you haven’t noticed yet, I’m definitely a right-brain kind of person. I was beginning to get frustrated when I came across something on one of the infertility sites I frequent (wow…did I just have a flash of just how much my life has changed compared to 15 years ago), which was essentially a call for contributions to a virtual gratitude journal. It wasn’t a big to-do, nothing formal, not involving a competition, prizes, deadlines or anything crazy like that – just a simple question and reminder to, perhaps, put things into perspective.

And boy did THAT come at the perfect time for me.

I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes I lose sight of my many blessings – mainly, of course, because sometimes I wallow in self-pity because I haven’t (yet) been blessed with our little miracle and sometimes get a little too wound up about the fact that it seems everyone else in the world is able to pop out babies like there’s a race to be won. Which is really kind of unfair since I was never good at running anyway, and how do you compete with the baby-making equivalent of a popcorn machine? Pop! Look there’s another one. Pop! Pop! POP! What do you know – in the last half hour, 228 babies have been born in the continental US.

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.
William Arthur Ward

Sometimes it’s hard to see beyond the heartache. The longing to have a child with my husband becomes such searing pain that, sometimes, crying actually seems to relieve it – if only temporarily – because there’s just so much build-up. And because I’m not, say, 22 anymore, I also spend a lot of time thinking about everything that could go wrong even if (when!) I do eventually accomplish the seemingly impossible (pregnancy); all the things I have to then worry about even if (when! when!) the impossible has led to the desired miracle outcome (healthy baby); and before you know it I’m reading an article about cyber-bullying or sexting, and I start freaking out about what, oh what, are you supposed to do to keep your tween/teen safe?? (Ok so “a lot of time” may have been an understatement. But as I’ve told my husband a million times whenever he tells me to “relaaaax“: I come from a long line of overreactors – and the way I see it, if I freak out ahead of time then maybe it won’t be so scary when I’m actually in the situation. Or something less crazy-sounding. Ahem. Moving along swiftly…)

In all seriousness: sometimes it’s hard not to be sad all the time. I wake up sad because, you guessed it, I obviously can’t fail to realize or remember that the pooch I wish would disappear has nothing to do with the joy of impending motherhood. I shuffle through the day with yet more pockets of sadness as I either (a) leave my house to run errands or go about my day and try desperately not to fall apart every time I see a pregnant woman or someone cradling a teeny tiny swaddled baby in the crook of their arm, or (b) avoid leaving the house altogether for fear of the afore-mentioned and realize, once again, how ridiculously different my life is not just in comparison to what it used to be what feels like light years ago but also how I thought it would turn out.Yes, MY life is just a bowl of cherries!

But then, I’ll read about someone else’s IF journey or just a comment/response to something a third person may have posted on a community board. And some of those stories make everything I’ve been through and am going through sound like child’s play – even though I can honestly say that I wouldn’t want anyone to have to walk in my shoes, either. Both DH and I come from small families, scattered all over the place – and at this point we’ve basically lost most of them either to death or estrangement. Consequently, our “support system” is the equivalent of a ratty no-wire bra with a worn-out elastic.

When I saw this simple reminder the other day and found myself reflecting on what happened on this very day 12 years ago, I felt like a bit of a heel (surprisingly common these days). I thought to myself – wow. I really need to stop being so self-absorbed and whiny (especially considering how much that annoys me in other people) and get back to eating the humble pie I was in the middle of. Because, you know, sometimes? I may forget that being reproductively challenged isn’t actually the worst thing in the world – not nearly.

So, let me start out by saying that I’m grateful for a necessary reminder to be grateful – all the more so since it’s so very apropos at the beginning of fall and heading into the holiday season. More specifically and off the top of my head, I’m grateful for:

(1) My husband. Always, first and foremost, my husband. Don’t get me wrong – we have our ups and downs like any other normal married couple. But I still adore him, he still loves me in spite of moments that involve verbal diarrhea, reliving teen angst, and a whole new can of forms full of anxiety and panic when someone mentions the terms “egg donor” or “child free”. He’s hard-working, honest, loyal and the kind of stand-up guy who will turn down a free offer when a service call gets totally botched up because he’s not looking for a handout. The man deserves an award – although on most days, his wife is a pretty good runner-up.

(2) Our pups. They are so amazing, loving, loyal and patient. They come running to the door, they wag their tails eagerly in the morning – and they forgive bad days filled with balled-up tissues, going so far as to cuddle up with you even if you ignored them for hours because you were so busy crying your eyes out that the best you could do for them was remember to change their water and let them out occasionally. They love you even when you’re having a bad hair day, or just a bad day, full stop. We spoil them not just because we want to but because they deserve it.

(3) Freedom. This one I DO actually think about every day – and I’m grateful, every day, not just that I live in a country that still believes in the freedom of speech (despite some people’s apparent desire to limit the applicability of the First Amendment for their own purposes and “philosophy”) but also for the brave men and women who risk their lives even as I write, and while I sleep, to do what their leaders deem necessary to keep the rest of us safe. I mean, how can you not be grateful for that? How can you not be humbled when the closest you’ve ever been to a combat zone is through the pages of a book or the screen of your tv? They all deserve a lot more appreciation than we can ever show them…

(4) The infertility community. While there are always people you’re not going to agree with or who make statements, comments, posts etc. that will either make you want to gouge out your eyes or slap them for various infractions ranging from bad spelling through repetitiveness, right to insolence and idiocy – the vast majority of women you find there are heroines in my book. They are women who are not afraid to, you know, do the proverbial gross thing into the wind – because they’ve already endured so, so much worse. They’ve been poked, prodded, examined and excavated from here to eternity and back again. Many have had multiple miscarriages; some have experienced the worst possible trauma for a mother-to-be: stillbirth. I am always in awe at the resilience, the refusal to give up, the endurance and willingness to trudge on against seemingly insurmountable odds or financial nightmares that keep these women going. And you know what’s even more amazing? That despite all the crap they’ve already been through themselves, they’re still willing to give support, sympathy and a virtual shoulder to cry on to perfect strangers they’ve never come face to face with. That? Is AMAZING – and to be part of a community like that is both humbling and a privilege despite the fact that none of us chose to have to struggle with IF.

(5) My brain. I don’t give my brain nearly enough props because there’s a cantankerous little nay-sayer somewhere in the recesses that keeps arguing with any praise I may direct at my cerebrum. I constantly lament my seeming inability to overcome procrastination and actually do something more constructive with my brain before it gets totally fed up with being under-utilized and under-stimulated, packs its valise and has me committed to a vegetative state without so much as a “GOOD LUCK performing basic bodily functions without me!!”. (In case it wasn’t obvious here: brain activity is very important to me. Not just for the obvious necessity of full-functioning body commands but because lower brain function scares me intensely. More than being childless. YES it’s that scary to me. Please don’t leave me, brain!!) But beyond that, there are moments where I am just in awe at the vast amount of multi-tasking my brain is responsible for – and the tasks it’s able to accomplish when given the chance. 

(6) The fact that my body hasn’t divorced me yet – despite years of both physical and verbal abuse. I’d like to think that my brain – which is clearly the boss of the whole meshugganah operation – would’ve jumped ship if I had ever been in a relationship with another human being that was as unsupportive. And despite the fact that I’ve definitely had some scary warning signs of my comeuppance in the last 3 years – proof that even intelligent people can be extremely obtuse – my body is definitely something I should be grateful for (despite the whole, you know, failure to reproduce and all) and treat better. A LOT better.

(7) Modern conveniences. It seems like a doozie, but how lucky am I to be living a life where I don’t have to worry about electricity and running water – or choose between them? How lucky am I that air conditioning is something I can take for granted – because, honestly? You don’t want to see or talk to me if I have to deal with a summer in any part of the entire nation without air conditioning. It’ll give a whole new meaning to “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” – because, seriously, hell hath no fury like a woman parched, scorched and without air conditioning.

But there are other, less obvious things I’m also grateful for. I’m grateful for forgiveness – and the fact that my husband and I are both willing and able to practice it frequently. I’m grateful for laughter, which I used to take for granted because it was such a predominant part of my life that it never occurred to me that a life without laughter – or a very tiny amount of it – was possible or worth living. Yet, here I am – living a life where laughter, far from the previously ubiquitous commodity, has become a rare and welcome treat. I realized this the other day when we shared a good laugh that was almost followed by tears as it dawned on me that I couldn’t remember the last time I had laughed so freely and heartily.

To some extent, I’m also grateful that this journey is having an unexpected byproduct: perspective. I’m kind of obstinate. Ok, sometimes not just kind of but very obstinate. It’s on my list of things I’m not especially proud of because, even though it can pay off when I’m trying to get something done, it can also be a hindrance.Sometimes I think that being too obstinate borders on stupidity because if you’re not the least bit flexible, you can’t learn – and that’s just dumb. So while I’m definitely a slow learner when it comes to putting things in perspective, I’m learning – and, more importantly, I’m not giving up. Because in a world where there are so many people who are dealing with much greater adversity than I am, I have absolutely no right to complain – and to give up on myself, my husband, and my dream of motherhood would be like saying that struggling with IF is harder than struggling with the obstacles and hardship that others have overcome or are working hard, every day, to overcome. And that’s just not ok.

I know that I’m always going to have dark days – days when the sadness, frustration, resentment and anger threaten to swallow me whole. But lately, I feel like I’m finally starting to get more perspective, and reflecting more on the good rather than the bad. As I think about how lucky I am to have a husband who loves me and to live at a time and in a place where I can express all my feelings anytime, I realize not only that I have much to be grateful for, but also that I alone am responsible for making the changes in my life, my thoughts, my day-to-day routine, that will make me happy. Because no matter what happens, I am grateful to be here.

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.

John F. Kennedy