My Give A Damn’s Busted

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WARNING: ANGRY KITTY.

I’ve been tinkering with the draft of this post for a while. I kept thinking that maybe it would come across as too abrasive – but after getting yet another slap in the face by someone who clearly has NO concept of how their actions affect my already haphazard emotional well-being, I thought – you know what? No more Mrs. Nice Girl. 

I have a bone to pick with someone – actually, several someones.

In the last couple of months, I’ve been trying to read more differently blogs, websites and posts from others to see how they are dealing with IF. Turns out that, for the most part, the answer is a resounding “not so great”. (Shocking, I’m sure.)

However, in doing so I’ve come across some things that are irritating and annoying – enough so, clearly, that I felt the need to draw up a little manifesto about things that make up my biggest peeves in relation to IF. Please note that this is not designed to personally offend anyone, obviously – but if you’re terribly offended because you actually do one or more of these things then, really, you’ve already offended me and I’m thinking? We’re even.

10 THINGS I HATE TO READ ABOUT INFERTILITY

(1) Claiming that you’re struggling with IF because you haven’t gotten pregnant after 3 months of actively trying at the ripe age of 23 – I don’t know how to put this nicely and without throwing a smelly gym shoe at you, but you are not struggling with infertility unless or until you have been actively trying to conceive for ONE YEAR until you’re at least 30. Now quit whining and go back to your coloring book.

(2) People who refer to themselves or others struggling with IF as “infertiles” (using the word “infertile” as a noun). I’m sorry if you feel that you want to accord something you had absolutely no say and/or control over so much heft that you have now decided your entire person is defined by IF. My opinion on this: I DON’T THINK SO. I am struggling with IF and, if we look at IF as a medical condition (hint hint, insurance companies!), I have infertility. It’s not what defines me as a person.

(3) Posting pregnancy questions on an infertility community forum – meaning not the ubiquitous questions about which supplements people recommend etc. to achieve this highly desirable outcome but rather things that involve questions in relation to your current gestation (read: pregnancy – fait accompli). We’re all very happy for you – but we’re also jealous. So can you please stop rubbing salt into open wounds and post your questions in a more appropriate forum – say, a pregnancy or mommy-to-be community? Thanks!

(4) Continuously posting and reposting THE SAME tragic events of your life in every. single. comment. you. make. EVER. Regardless of whether it’s actually relevant. And just in case we haven’t memorized it yet after reading it three hundred times, also including a tag line with all your many, many issues, problems, ailments etc. I’m really sorry for everything that’s ever happened to you – believe me, I’m very sympathetic and empathetic to the pain of others – but after a while, your posts just end up coming across like spam.

(5) Excessive profanity*. Listen, I get it – when I get really, really angry, I swear like a drunken sailor who just lost his entire paycheck in a poker game. But I do so in the privacy of my own home – and the very rare time that I feel something necessitates a profane comment on a website, I at least have the good sense to warn people about what’s coming. When your entire post is so peppered with F-bomb this and the many siblings/cousins of F, I get so distracted from whatever your (possibly valid) point may have been that I’m going to stop reading before I use your favorite word on YOU.

* (The exception would be someone using the word a$$hat because, really? That’s just genius. Thank you Jen Lancaster for introducing me to this gem of an appropriate description!)

(6) Lack of gratitude. I totally get that you want more children, and that an unsuccessful IVF cycle is a huge disappointment – but when you already have one or more children and/or IVF coverage, which enabled you to go through 10 cycles of IVF that most of us who live in one of the 38 states that don’t have IVF coverage (that’s right – read it and weep!) can’t even wrap our minds around because, you know, we’re still saving for our first cycle or trying to dig ourselves out of debt from 1-3 cycles we had to pay for ourselves, I want to send Miss Profanity to your house with a candygram. (And guess what? I’m keeping the candy! That’s right.)

(7) People who go through IVF – or, better yet, don’t even need to – and yet are online making headlines because they’re complaining about how they didn’t get what they “ordered” (twins, girl, boy – apparently having healthy baby isn’t enough for some people). Newsflash: this is real life, not Gattaca. And if you’re going to go around whining like a petulant toddler in the throes of a “terrible twos” tantrum, then maybe you shouldn’t have (a) decided to have a 4th baby, (b) gone through several types of ARTs and then complain, in public, about how annoyed, angry and resentful you are about the fact that you and your wife are pregnant with twins (unreal!). Because not only am I sending Miss Profanity to your house with an extra-large candy-less candygram, but I’m sending her with a social worker who will be more than happy to relocate your unwanted offspring to one of thousands of couples currently jockeying for position on adoption websites. Who, unlike you pathetic excuse for a human being, would be overjoyed to welcome a healthy baby into their lives. So when people complain about something as obtuse as “oh, not the right gender” – I kind of want to slap them. Repeatedly. (Did I say slap? I meant punch.)

(8) The supposed “friends” – or, worse yet, family members – who seem to think your IF is all about them. I’m so, so sorry that my inability to reproduce at whim is inconveniencing YOU – and that, due to your self-absorbed, ego-centric selfishness, you seem to think that while facing an uncertain future that may very well lead to no biological babies at all, we should just continue to smile pleasantly for photo ops, family dinners, baby showers and other social events. The same people who use your faith against you or offer you incessantly vapid platitudes instead of comforting you, who tell you to “just” adopt as if you had a money tree growing in your backyard. The people to whom the nightmare of having to give up on biological children means nothing because it didn’t happen to them, and it doesn’t affect them. There’s a place in hell for people like that – and a place card with your name on it.

(9) People on infertility communities/forums who have once struggled like the rest of us empty-wombed, sad faced, tissue crumpling, inconsolable women – and now think nothing of posting baby pics as their profile pics. Which then *conveniently* come up next to their comments. On infertility issues. From women without babies. Do I really need to spell this out for you? I’m going to assume that whatever brains you may or may not have started out with either died on the operating table and/or were transferred in utero to your baby – because CLEARLY you lack any sense of compassion, empathy or…what’s that word I’m looking for…oh yeah, TACT. It’s kind of like when your best friend is going on a diet and you sit in front of her chomping on a big, gooey brownie. EVIL!

(10) Last but not least – and this isn’t strictly related to IF but one of my biggest peeves in general – people who can’t distinguish fact from opinion and who, just to make their ignorance more verbosely proactive, then proceed to “screaming” at you – through a computer screen – like they’re ready to hang you from the rafters by your toenails. All because (a) they apparently don’t understand that an opinion is just that – not fact – and that, thanks to a little something called the First Amendment, they’re not the only ones entitled to one; (b) they also have apparently never heard the expression “agree to disagree” – and prefer to demonstrate their discontent through the vehicle of hate. To which I say: have at it, dear, but the joke is on you – because your opinion just stopped being of any consequence to me. In this case I’ll refer you to the wise words of one Master Chief John Urgayle (aka Viggo Mortensen): “If I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you.”

(Also – what’s up with people totally oversharing? I mean, there’s TMI, and then there’s OMG I WANT TO GOUGE OUT MY EYES WHY DID YOU WRITE THIS WHY ON EARTH WOULD YOU THINK THIS IS SOMETHING THAT NEEDS TO BE SHARED WITH THE WORLD AT LARGE??? People! Some things? Should be kept private. I’m not even going to tell you what prompted me to say this because, omg, I think I can taste v-o-m-i-t.)

Feel free to disagree with me – I’m cool with that. Nod your head in secret if you don’t want anyone to know that you actually agree with me but just don’t want to come right out and say so. I’m ok with that too. Because – just to throw out yet another well-placed movie reference – frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.

Honestly? It’s not that my give a damn’s busted, it’s that I’m really, really tired of people not having any common sense, basic civility and compassion, empathy or the ability to even consider what it would be like to walk a mile in these shoes. I mean, I’ll be the first to admit that, despite a lot of ups and downs in my life – of which IF is only the more pervasive and recent – I’ve got it pretty darn good compared to a lot of other people. I know this. So I really try to keep things in perspective. I get annoyed, frustrated, irate – and then I sit down and think to myself, hmmm, could this be fixed with a cup of tea? Or does this require a bubble bath?

Because, let’s face it, if you or a loved one are not dealing with a potentially/actually fatal disease, or living in a town/country where your daily life entails gun shots, cholera and or lack of basic sanitation, running water and electricity, I’m thinking? Nothing is really that tragic. (Please note that this is IN NOW way directed at anyone who has dealt with m/c or s/b.) So I really, REALLY try to keep my own stuff in check – I whine, moan, groan, cry etc…but I still remember that it could be SO MUCH WORSE. I get up every day thinking about how lucky I still am in the grand scheme of things. I have really bad, dark days – I’ve been struggling with depression for two decades – so sometimes finding the silver lining is really hard work. But I do, even if it sometimes takes me a while.

In the meantime, I’m going to stop apologizing for how I feel and who I am – which, ironically, is advice I’m constantly doling out to other IFers. Because, really? It’s about time for me stop worrying about things that don’t matter and do my best to get back to living

And to end this rant on a positive note, let’s hug it out 🙂

Fostering an Idea: The Sign

Anyone who was a teenager in the 90s will be very familiar with this song – and it’s the first thing that popped into my head after what just happened.

But let me back-track for a moment so you can understand – once I get to the point (eventually) – why this moved me to write a second blog post today.

It may surprise you to learn that my husband and I were not the kind of people who talked about babies before we got married. Or as newlyweds even. I mention this only in passing because I recently read a story somewhere about someone who basically started her TTC journey either on her honeymoon or as soon as they got back – and I honestly couldn’t have imagined doing that, even in hindsight. In my family, we don’t marry early, and we don’t procreate early – everything is done in stages, none of which is even contemplated before you graduate from college. Alternative choices are not an option – and, quite frankly, it would never have occurred to me to choose a different path.

Of course I had no idea that, apparently, somewhere along the lines my connect-the-dots was missing some very crucial ink blots…

Ahem.

When people ask me how long we’ve been trying, I find myself laughing mirthlessly (confession: it’s out of a combination of panic and embarrassment because I don’t have a good answer) since I can’t really pinpoint when we really started – and we haven’t done so consistently. The reasons are many – peppered with family strife, death, moves, etc – so that if our “attempts to conceive” were mapped on a graph, they’d probably look a lot like someone who’s having some minor heart problems. Erratic may be a slight understatement.

But here’s what I can tell you: I’ve been ready to become a mother for almost 8 years now. I always assumed – stupidly, naively – that like for everyone else around me, things would just sort of “happen”. I mean, we did everything “right” – neither one of us is a raging alcoholic, we don’t smoke, gamble or use intravenous drugs; we’re upstanding, tax-paying people with a nice house. In other words? We’re parents without babies. SIGH.

If I had a dime for the many, many times that I’ve drive down a road and caught myself listening to music, thinking – what would it be like to have children in the backseat? Would they sing along? Would be laugh, would they fight like siblings do, would my heart swell each time I caught a glimpse in the rear view mirror? I’d be halfway to paying for a cycle of IVF.

I try to quell those thoughts because, well. You know – it’s painful. It feels like you keep picking at a scab, not letting it heal. And while we’ve still not made any progress with really making a decision in regards to IVF – partly because finding a new RE will involve going out of town, and the logistics of coordinating that are daunting to say the least – I’ve also told my husband that I wanted to make time to sit down and talk about alternative family building options. (Of course, finding the time to actually sit down and have an in-depth conversation with him is kind of hard when he works all the time – and I how can I give him a hard time about it when the truth is that I love him for being a diligent, hard-working man that I adore and respect?)

When I was younger, I always thought I’d want to adopt. Now, I feel bruised and battered – partly because, as someone dealing with DOR and facing the very real possibility that biological children may not even be an option for us (and I can’t even put into words the raw pain that this is causing me on a daily basis), it suddenly feels like it’s not a choice, not an option – but something you’re forced to consider because you may not be able to have a child any other way. Unsurprisingly, I have a hard time coming to terms with my conflicting emotions on this subject.

Worse, though, is I know now that adoption isn’t as straight-forward as I’d believed in the past. If, as I’d naively assumed long before we got to this point, it was just a matter of saying “yes, please!” and being open to adoption – I’d have no problems with it. As long as I can have a healthy baby, I could cope with one that’s not biologically ours – regardless of gender or race. But I was in for a rude awakening. Adoption can be far more expensive than IVF – which, in itself, boggles the mind – and seems poised as a sort of popularity contest of sorts, almost like a cattle auction. The other day I was reading a brief paragraph about how domestic infant adoptions usually run between $20-40K (yes, thousand – as in, five figures) – but can be even more expensive. I’ve seen numbers quoted that were closer to $50,000 – which is more than both of our cars, brand new fridge, washer & dryer etc. cost when we bought them. It’s years worth of mortgage payments – money that is then no longer available for college tuition or other more immediate family concerns.

(Did I mention that this is for domestic adoption? As in, right here in the good old US of A? We’re not even talking about international adoptions, at which point you obviously have to factor in travel and accommodation – so that, at least, I understand why the bottom line would be augmented by things that aren’t strictly related to the adoption itself.)

At the risk of putting my foot in it, I think that’s preposterous. I don’t agree with it, and I think there’s absolutely no justification for it whatsoever when you’re dealing with domestic adoptions. I know some people are willing to do whatever it takes to get a baby, any baby, by any means necessary – but for me, that’s just not something I don’t think I’m even willing to consider, especially in this day and age when you see adoption agencies vying for prospective birth mothers by promising them free iPads and/or iPhones (unreal!) – unsurprising, really, when you think about how much money they (the agencies) are making off of the whole transaction.

But I don’t want to get into that too much because I’m so angry that, in dealing with IF, you’re constantly penalized for a medical condition (that isn’t even recognized as such – which is why only 12 out of the 50 states even have IVF coverage, and most insurance companies also don’t cover ARTs) for which you are not responsible. Suffice it to say that, unless we magically find someone who wants to give us their baby, this avenue is closed to us – because we definitely will NOT be going through an agency and mortgaging ourselves up to our eyeballs for this.

The alternative, then, is to adopt from foster care. Which, if you’ve ever watched anything on tv at all or read anything online, you’ll probably know two things (a) there are far too many kids in foster care, which is nothing short of tragic; (b) adopting from foster care can be extremely difficult and traumatic for both the child and the adoptive parents. Again, I don’t really want to get into details here – mostly because I’m not an expert and I don’t know much of anything about it – but it’s something that’s been on my mind lately. I thought about whether I could see myself adopting a child that wasn’t a baby, perhaps not even a toddler. Could I see myself “mothering” an 8 year-old? What about a 10-year old? Because the reality is, of course, that everyone who is forced to consider adoption wants a baby – so the sad reality is that the children who remain in foster care the longest are always the ones who are already older. It’s heartbreaking – but I struggle between what I think about the situation and asking myself what I can realistically take on. And, of course, what my husband is willing and able to deal with.

So two nights ago, I started doing a little bit of reading online – wondering whether maybe we should at least talk to someone about the whole process so we can find out exactly what’s involved and so on. I figured that since the likelihood of getting a match even by being amendable to adopt through foster care within less than a year (and most probably 2 years or more) is slim to none, we might as well “hedge our bets” even before we start IVF.

What prompted this whole blog post is a pamphlet that came in the mail yesterday – not 24 hours after all these issues weighed heavily on my mind. We’re not even supposed to get it – it’s a residual from the previous owners of our house from a local hospital that I assume they were patients at. Normally I just put it in the recycling bin because there’s nothing relevant for us – but I decided to flip through it…and on the second page, there was a story about foster care in relation, specifically, to teenagers. If I were religious, I might ascribe this to a whack on the head from a higher power – but even without ascribing to such a philosophy, I still thought…coincidence? Or a sign? Not a sign that I should open my home to a teenager – which I honestly don’t think either one of us would be prepared to do as first-time “parents” – but I thought, what a coincidence that this showed up in mailbox the very day after I was just looking into this subject.

I’d be lying if I said that this was something I can just gloss over and say – sure, no problem. I’ll do it! I know that part of the reason I’m reading up on these things is because, deep down, I’m steeling myself against the fact that I don’t actually know what’s going on with my body – and that, a year after my last AMH test, I’m not even sure if I’m still dealing with DOR or if it’s already much worse…I shudder to think of all the people who completely fail to grasp how the mere thought of not being able to have biological children is absolutely devastating; and how, consequently, the reality would – and is – so horrific that just contemplating it makes me feel like I’m going to throw up.

Sometimes I tell myself – this isn’t the end of our story. We’re not meant to be childless. We’re such loving people, we’re caring, we’re funny, we’re empathetic and compassionate. We have so much to offer. Sometimes I imagine having a conversation with someone who is giving up her child for adoption. I imagine what I would say to her – but part of me always wonders how difficult it would be to “sell” yourself while trying to remain calm and not freak out at the possibility that this person who has what you want most in life can just change her mind at a whim. But when I can disregard the scary bits, I imagine what I would say about us – to a birth mother or to a child we’d consider adopting. I would talk about our travels, our love of music, our pets and our belief in bringing out the best in each other. Would it be enough?

Sometimes I think I could – I want to – give a child what I’m good at. I’m the person who blends into other families as the aunt – the one who helps with homework, chimes in (when appropriate and obviously never overstepping the parents’ authority/boundaries), helps you navigate through the minefield of tween and teen conversations around emotionally charged but important issues. So I think to myself, if we can provide a safe, loving home for a child that hasn’t had one – a child who deserves to be loved, cherished, helped to grow into whoever they’re meant to become…how can I not consider that?

But of course I know that I’m idealizing the situation. Even with as little as I know, I’m aware of how much emotional baggage children in foster care come with. As time goes by and I ask more questions, I find out things that make an already daunting prospect even scarier – conditions like RAD (reactive attachment disorder). I wonder if I can deal with trying my hardest to love a child…and accepting that, sometimes, no amount of effort and love is going to turn the tide. I think my biggest fear would be dealing with a “psychotic” child – and by that I mean seriously deranged to the point of being homicidal etc. – or a child that lies, steals or has serious aggression problems. Because dealing with a child that really, genuinely WANTS to be loved – a child that wants to have a home, a family, wants to learn, wants to have a good life? THAT is something I can give – even if I know, of course, that it would be a journey filled with many, many lessons and a need to learn how to deal with things I’ve never had to deal with before. But I know it’s just not that easy.

I’m still scared – of all of it. Mostly, I’m scared of the mere thought of being – or, rather, remaining – childless. I admire people who choose to be childless because I think it’s so much better to make that choice than to have children if you don’t really, really want them. But that’s just not for us – at least not at this point. I can’t imagine a life without children. So I have to continue to believe that somewhere, at some point, our child will find us – whether through assisted reproduction or adoption. All I can say is that, whenever he or she comes into our lives, our arms will be wide open…

When Life Gives You Lemons (repeatedly)…

…it’s the universe’s way of telling you to quit your job and become a full-time alcoholic. I say, it’s five o’clock somewhere – and that tequila left over from your Cinco de Mayo party isn’t going to drink itself, you know.

Ok, so I’m not REALLY advocating flagrant alcoholism in retaliation to life’s ups and downs. In my defense, however, that’s probably because I’m less inclined to imbibe than I am to inhale – full-fat ice cream, perhaps.

*Ahem.*

I like to think I have a sense of humor. Or at least what’s left of what I used to have – the rest of it seems to have disappeared somewhere along several moves, dissippated between family strife, death of loved ones, losing too much sleep and overcompensating with drinking even more coffee.

I know the old adage is that when life gives you lemons, you’re supposed to make lemonade. But you know what? I’m not your waitress – get your own damn lemonade! I have a much more appropriate “Happy Bunny” card from about 10 years ago that says “When life gives you lemons, squeeze juice in your enemy’s eyes.” (There may or may not have been snorting and an evil cackle involved when I first saw it. Shut up, I can still find that funny even if it’s mean and targeted at a tween audience.)

However, my enemy isn’t a person. It’s not tangible. So even if I were prepared to engage in a full-on, no holds barred Citrus War (which I would SO totally win with all my Lilly Pulitzer paraphernalia), I wouldn’t get very far with it. You see…I’m suffering from IF-induced Tourette’s.

There. I’ve said it. Enemy – thy name is INFERTILITY!

OMG! Gasp! Shudder! EEEEEK! 

That’s right. I’m one of them. Go ahead, take a long, pregnant pause (pun intended) as you contemplate your own blessings despite the fact that, just this morning, you found yourself wondering “What if, instead of having children, I’d just gotten a cat?” when you realized that there was no coffee left in the house.

No children yet?

You’ll be happy to know that, contrary to what is the apparently popular misconception of, oh let me see, EVERYONE who has not dealt with infertility, it’s not contagious. No, you can’t get it from sitting next to me. No, I promise it won’t “get on you” if you happen to look at me directly. And, no – again – I can almost guarantee that you also won’t suddenly be struck by “infertility by association” if you should happen to befriend me – honestly, I could really use a friend (or ten) right about now. Because you know what? Dealing with infertility really BITES.

So those lemons? You can have them back.Image