The Comeback Kid

After my last tirade diatribe blog post, I was so infuriated that I couldn’t think straight. I felt so churlish, and I hated both the issues that had prompted the post in the first place – and that I’d lost my temper that much. You’d think that, on the downslope to 40, I’d have harnessed my feelings into a calm and composed demeanor by now.

You’d be mistaken.

Then again, I could argue that the last few years haven’t exactly been a stroll in the park – and that, as an adult, I really don’t have any inclination to pretend that I have sunshine coming out of my you-know-what* all day. I’ve lost the majority of my family to death or estrangement, so that IF is just one more thing on my “let’s see how she responds to adverse conditions”  life stress test. And then, a few months ago, not one but two people I thought I was close to and could count on basically did such unforgivably horrible, evil, conniving, mean and backstabbing things that I had to end those relationships too.

So if I appear caustic at times, let’s just say that I’ve been making A LOT of mouth-puckering lemonade lately.

For the last couple of months, I kept thinking about whether I should just tuck my proverbial tail between my legs and slink back to virtual obscurity after deleting my blog. At times, as I lay awake in bed and listened to three parties snoring in concert (one human, two canine), I composed my comeback post. But somehow I just couldn’t seem to snap out of it – and as the holidays drew closer I realized that I was not only no closer to motherhood, I was now a year older than when we first went to see the RE we both hated. Or, in the most disparaging terms, a year closer to my body completely closing up shop in terms of any viability for reproduction (impaired as it has been).

Most of December was a bit of a mind fog. I tried hard not to think about the people who are no longer in our lives. I tried even harder to ignore comments from people about how they hadn’t expected or planned their very evident pregnancy (and tried, even harder, to resist the temptation to say how glad I’d be to take their unplanned/unexpected miracle home with me). I tried to muster every ounce of happiness I could feel for others as their lives lit up like our Christmas tree: new home in time for the baby; new addition to the family; travels across the country for a family Christmas. All things we would not have, yet again. 

And then more bad news came in. Home repairs came a callin’ – and of course not the kind that could easily be fixed with a DIY job. Strangers came into our home, traipsing through our bedroom with street shoes as I tried to bite my lip hard enough not to have a total hissy fit that would’ve made Teresa Giudice blanch. Our tv kept having problems; and then our internet seemed to be having a premature midlife crisis. More people came to the house. Equipment was repaired, swapped out, repaired again. I stopped counting the amount of “service people” that had dragged an entire quarry worth of invisible ick through my house. (Sidebar: as of this moment, I’ve decided that if someone comes to my house and doesn’t take off their shoes or put on those blue hospital footies, I will buy a guillotine. Or, failing that, a cattle prod. Because if I have to deal with one more person stepping all over my crisp white bath rugs – the same ones I stand on with bare feet – I. am. going. to. lose. it.)

As if that’s not bad enough, DH’s company is downsizing and he has no idea whether or not he’s going to make the cut. He might be ok. He might be ok for a little while. He might have to find a new job. Oh, and our insurance is going up! Peaches and cream, aren’t we just so lucky???

The cherry on top? I spent the entire week of Christmas sick as a dog.

It’s amazing how resilient you become through struggling with IF, though. You learn how to roll with the punches because you’ve already figured out that life isn’t fair. Good things don’t always happen to good people. Sometimes, bad things happen to good people. You almost manage not to throw up or dissolve into a puddle of tears after the gazillionth person tells you about their “happy news” (and remind yourself that an ingrate who can’t understand how grateful she should be for her blessing isn’t worth committing a felony – even if you feel like throttling her). You try not to think about how they can marvel at the life that is growing inside them even though they only just learned of it a minute ago and are still holding the plastic test stick. You almost convince yourself that you have so much to be happy for that you have no right to be so upset that something isn’t going your way. You almost forget that you weren’t always this angry, resentful, bitter, desperate, sad, lonely, pathetic shadow of a person.

Almost. 

Until, one day, you think about the day you hope and pray for with every fiber of your being – the day that you hope will happen sooner rather than later. And you realize that, unlike your fertile counterparts who can think of a million and one ways to tell their husbands the happy news, your “happy news” will be a qualified revelation. It will involve days and weeks of tension. It will be preceded by hours of jumping out of your skin every time the phone rings, every time your stomach growls, every time you feel anything at all.

In that moment, you realize that you will never have the quiet happiness; the elation that “normal” women feel. You will never be able to just be excited about getting pregnant – because, for you, it will have involved countless tests, a battery of invasive exams and medical procedures. While other women can think about how they’re going to outfit their baby’s nursery, you’ll be wondering what more you can sell of your personal possessions to buy the necessities for the baby you’ve dreamed of for so long – because all the resources and assets you had have long since disappeared in the ether.

I don’t dream about the day that I will find out I’m pregnant (and I’m still, infuriatingly still, trying desperately to replace “if” with “when” – yet another sign of all the things you do, irrationally, for fear of jinxing yourself). I don’t dream of being pregnant. Because I know all that stuff will be painful, scary and expensive. I know that, from the moment I get pregnant, I’ll be terrified of doing something wrong to jeopardize the pregnancy. I’ll be anxious to fight my increasing anxiety; worried that the wrong move, the wrong drink or food, the wrong activity (or even thought) will make my baby leave me.

So what I’m dreaming of isn’t the process of getting there; it’s putting all that behind me – not of conceiving but of having a baby. Because if I’ve learned anything from my fellow sisters-in-arms, it’s that the coveted BFP is only the first of many hurdles for us IFers. So you won’t see or hear me screaming from the roof tops when it happens; but you might see an agnostic clamor to any semblance of spirituality in a desperate attempt to barter for something, anything, to allow her to carry her baby to term.

And while, given our predicament, the only thing I truly care about is having a healthy child with all limbs and organs intact and fully functional, there’s a part deep inside me that continues to dream of having a girl. Ever since DH and I got married, I always pictured a little girl with his eyes and hair. I don’t know why I didn’t picture a mini-me – maybe because, somehow, I wanted so badly to create another life with my husband that was almost like a gift, a homage, to the man I love. Silly me.

What I dream of isn’t the moment I find out I’m pregnant; or the moment where enough time has passed to believe that the pregnancy is viable enough to consider sharing the news with what little is left of our families. What I dream of is the moment that a nurse places our baby in my arms; the moment I’ll dissolve into tears of happiness instead of sadness and frustration; the moment I’ll feel whole again.

I hope that this day will come for me. And even though I want three children, I’ll be the happiest woman alive even if this blessed event graces our lives only once. Just once – that’s all I ask if it’s meant to be that way. Because without even that one time, I don’t know what I’m doing on this earth…

 

*

*

* My New Year’s Resolutions may or may not have included swearing less. However, it’s early days yet – and the bottom line is that if you’re acting like an a$$hat, I’m probably going to tell you that ya kinda are in my best David Spade/Russel Dunbar impression. Just calling a spade a spade.

A Car is NOT a Baby

Is it me or has everyone jumped on the bandwagon and is using babies, kids and mommies as their running theme to push advertise new products? Evidently, no one needs a new deodorant more than a heavily pregnant woman inexplicably sporting high heels (something that I still think defies logic) or a new checking account. I had no idea that pregnancy makes you especially stinky or that some women experience cravings not for food but for a new financial institution – I guess you learn something new every day! And if those seemingly benign ads haven’t already made your stomach turn, then there’s always the ones with the soft, sweet music playing to black and white vignettes of mommy and baby – or some version thereof. Johnson & Johnson, of course, reign supreme in the ram-a-pitchfork-through-my-achy-breaky-heart niche.

It seems that we, of the infertility world, are not the only ones obsessed with babies.

Did I say obsessed? I mean, interested in. Yeah. That’s what I meant. Enthusiastic! About! BABIES!!

(I’m trying not to grit my teeth right now).

So it’s not bad enough that you can’t go to the grocery store without an onslaught of celebrity and pseudo-celebrity “baby bump watch” gossip rag covers assaulting your senses – no, instead, now your damn tv is also in on it! And it’s not just the obvious tv ads – it’s also the sudden infusion of All Things Pregnancy in what seems like EVERY. DAMN. SHOW. ON. EARTH. Because apparently it makes perfect sense to develop a plot line where life is created by combining the genetic material of a werewolf and a vampire (The Vampire Diairies/The Originals). Or derailing a plot line by giving some teeny boppers who haven’t even made it to college yet the enormous responsibility of parenthood, then killing the “dad” which causes the “mom” to have a miscarriage (Revenge). And even when you reach into the past to watch something on DVD, you run into the forgotten episodes involving Andrea Zuckerman of the original Beverly Hills 90120 exclaiming that pregnancy is not at all blissful because morning sickness sucks. Which, in my humble opinion, is why you should wait to have babies until you’re no longer such a baby yourself – but that’s besides the point.

And even though I know all of this stuff is not real life but fiction in so far as none of the aforementioned are “reality tv” (which is also anything but real but falls into a different category of “fiction”), I found myself getting annoyed, for a split second and thinking – wth, I can’t have a baby and they’re trying to sell me on the Immaculate Conception involving something that’s supposed to be DEAD? SERIOUSLY?? Or the fact that, apparently, after losing your bf/baby daddy AND your baby, you still manage to get a flawless blowout and strut around in your best designer duds spouting venom on command. The only thing that I’ve realized from all this is (a) some fiction is BAD fiction; (b) some people really don’t deserve to have babies. Even if they’re fictitious.

But let’s get back to my original point about commercials that variously make me bawl or want to reach through the tv screen like a Poltergeist/Freddie Krueger and strangle whoever is constantly assaulting my raw, wounded heart by reminding me NON-STOP of how, apparently, everyone in the world – including the fictional and, oh yeah, technically dead – can make a baby and I can’t.

My favorite one – and I mean this with a heavy sense of sarcasm – has to be the most recent commercial by insurance company Nationwide. It starts out with a larger-than-life baby sitting in a driveway, being hosed down by a guy…I’ll let you check this out for yourself in case you haven’t seen it already:

Admittedly, if I hadn’t been so taken in my this GINORMOUS (and, fyi, super cute) baby filling my entire screen, I might have clued into the fact that maybe, just maybe, this wasn’t about an actual baby at all. But all I could see was the baby – I felt like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights. Something inside of me cried because I just wanted to take it and hold it (you know, after I dried it off and flicked the guy with the water hose back to whatever rock he crawled out from under). The physical enormity of the baby suddenly represented, in the most painful way, years of hoping – and feeling my dreams crushed as I lost a little more of my soul with each passing year. The proportion of the baby vs the guy is how I feel about motherhood and infertility at this point – and how something that should’ve been a normal development in our lives, our marriage, has become the biggest “bundle”. Not of joy, but of pain.

Needless to mention, it’s a metaphor: it’s about how this guy’s car is HIS baby – and how Nationwide is going to give him the best deal/protection/peace of mind in case of the inevitable snafu. But I was – I was totally blind-sighted. I actually thought, ok this is about how a baby is a huge responsibility, how it’s part of every living breathing moment of your life, and how you’re going to want the best of everything to protect your little bundle of joy. At the end of the commercial, I was torn between rolling my eyes and wanting to send Russel Dunbar to whoever came up with this to tell them “Someone thinks you’re an a$$face – and ya kinda are.”

Sorry, Nationwide – a car is NOT a baby.

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