Part I: In Which the Misfit Is Angry with God
If I haven't said this explicitly in a previous post, I know it's between the lines. I realized somewhere in the recent past that I'm really angry with God. I've written about the baby rage - the suppressed anger beneath the in-control surface that takes over like an evil monster on slim provocation. Which means there's a real anger. That's anger with myself - for being defective; and for being unable to accept my situation with humility and grace - and anger with God. I took a demanding job in a law firm (which I've since left for a much better situation) as revenge against God, and against fate, for not being able to get pregnant and start the rest of my Great Plan (in which I would not have been able to work full-time). Outside the revenge, that job was also motivated by the fact that I couldn't stand to care most on earth about something at which I was a failure. I needed to pour out my energy elsewhere, toward something at which I could be a success. (Of course, though I didn't foresee it, this manner of thinking led to me slowly redefining the way I saw myself.)
That was easy enough to figure out. What I also learned was that, though I was really angry in general, more than angry with God, I was hurt. I had trusted Him, and I believed - not in an "I thought about it and came to this conclusion" sort of way, but instinctively, in my heart - that He had betrayed my trust by doing something unnecessary to hurt me. I know a lot of Christians will simply say that it's invalid to believe God is wrong or has betrayed us - it only works the other way. I agree with all the theory behind this conclusion (i.e., he's perfect and omniscient, and wants what's best for me; I don't know what I'm talking about). But, I wasn't hurt as a matter of policy. I was (am?) genuinely, spontaneously, and unaffectedly emotionally wounded. I don't trust a lot of people enough to let them hurt me, and this really hurt.
And I responded in exactly the way that I would with a dear friend who had hurt me - I created distance so He couldn't hurt me again. I just could not bring myself to pray for children. Even right this minute, I can't imagine getting those words out. I've tried to find ways to work around it - things I could ask for instead; like a healthy outcome for testing, or a clear idea of what direction I should take for my life, and an openness to that idea. (That's been my prayer every day during Lent.) Even after I figured this one out - which was kind of an epiphany - I hardly have a ready-made solution.
Part II: In Which the Misfit Realizes What Was Really Taken Away
At some point I realized that the stock way I would frame my reason for being angry or hurt ("God decided I wouldn't get to have children") was not maximally accurate. I know - and in many ways admire - the women I've encountered out here in the IFosphere whose real and powerful desire is for a child - to love, to nurture, to raise and care for. They want a baby. It's easy to think I want a baby too, but I've started of late to get the idea that maybe I don't. I've certainly said as much in some recent posts.
More than to be pregnant or have a child, I want not to be unable to get pregnant. This is almost as silly as it sounds - the only way at this point to know that I can get pregnant/am not infertile (except that I am infertile. Even if I had ten kids, that diagnosis is solid, and it will, as so many have said before me, always be part of who I am) is to be pregnant, and therefore have a child. So it sounds like making an irrelevant distinction, but emotionally, at least, it's accurate. It's not that I'll die without a baby - it's that the weight of the IF feels like it's going to bury me. Make sense? No? Well, moving right along.
I also realized that what God did to hurt me was not, strictly speaking, taking away the babies. It was two things. First, it was taking away any idea of where my energies should go in life. Now, I've miscalculated about my future direction before. Usually, I notice that I'm headed the wrong way when I feel increasingly unsettled. And usually, at the same time, there's information (even if I don't want to see it) about which way I should be heading instead. In this case, I feel as though there's a gaping black hole where my future's supposed to be. Practicing law is not going to be reason enough to get up in the morning every morning for the rest of my life. (Adoption is something I really, really don't want to do - maybe that means it's what I should be doing. Who knows.) So God took away from me something He just plain isn't allowed to take away - a vocation. No one is here without a purpose, and He stole mine and left nothing in its place, and I have no earthly idea what to do with that.
I have also toyed with the notion that maybe why I want babies so much is because my childhood was kind of taken away, and that by raising a loving and loved family, I can restore some of what's missing (not by being "friends" with my kids instead of their parent, but by being part of a loving and functional and life-filled and happy home. Crazy? Maybe...).
Second, God betrayed my whole idea of the framework of the universe because he punished me for being good. Wise and mature Christians know that a just God is not a good thing - because they have fallen short so often and are in need of mercy. Of course, I fall short as much as the next person if not more, and could use plenty of mercy myself. But I'm not inclined to want it. Maybe because of the no-unconditional-love thing, I tend to believe that I should have exactly what I earn, no more, no less. So I want a just God. And I was a very impressive college student and law student. I had a promising career ahead of me. I could have made a lot of money and had a great resume. But all I wanted was to stay employable enough to work part time to save some college money for the babies, stay home, make dinner for my husband, keep my house neat, and take care of my babies. All the selfish things that make it hard to be a mom I intended to give up before I ever even had them. I had good priorities and good values, and while it would have been totally fair to give me challenges - a sick kid; money being tight; whatever - it was absolutely not fair to take away the good thing for which I was willing to sacrifice the empty things. I don't know what to do with an unjust God. Which circles back to Part I above.
All of this does mean, though, that at least I should focus on what I'm mad about. I'm not mad that I don't have kids, and when I yell at God, I shouldn't yell about that. I should yell about the real problem. And it makes it easier not to hate the pregnant and those with kids - I was not-hating them by treating children as a condition affecting only other people, in order to protect myself; but from this perspective I can realize that they're just not hurting me. They don't have anything I want. They have kids; I want a purpose in life. They're not my problem.
Part III: In Which the Misfit Improves, Slightly
You know what, about blogging? The rage has actually subsided a little bit. I used to notice it especially when grocery shopping - if someone cut me off, with a car or a cart, this great slavering demon of rage would suddenly appear from nowhere and it would take all my self control not to yell horrible things at perfect strangers who were merely distracted or dumb, not evil. Now, at least a lot of the time, someone will do something dumb, and I find myself smiling - not through gritted teeth, but patiently and indulgently. I haven't felt that way in a long time. I should note that I am still easily irritated, but that's irritation - not the monster of rage taking the irritation as an excuse to try to go on a killing spree in the grocery store.
In the same vein, I now look at strangers in public places and see human beings, not just aliens who cut me off in traffic. Instead of just hating the outfits of other women in the checkout line, I notice someone agonizing over the same cereal decision I try to make every week, and I smile at them. Not every day, but it's progress. Also, when my previous OB/GYN office was ABSOLUTELY SUPER about IMMEDIATELY sending over my records when I called so that they were there for my Friday appointment, I was on cloud nine. I got the name of the records department gal and sent her a thank-you note, addressed to her work, so they could read what a great person she is. I occasionally think happy thoughts, but they pass quickly, and the dark ones linger. I need to give the happy ones more air time.
Anyway, I attribute this improvement to the blogging. It's gotten me in touch with other people who are suffering with the IF too, and in a way that I can't explain and is almost magical, it has lightened the burden on my heart just enormously. My husband is so good and patient about listening, but at a certain level of negativity, I think he just feels attacked and can't listen; he tries to argue about why my perspective is wrong, and I just want him to listen, and I yell, and it helps neither of us. But the other IFers understand, and have seemingly endless patience for my insanity (or they can just read something else). And also the blogging about it has kept it on my mind, and given me a reminder to work through it steadily, and that's helped me get some of this on the surface.
Part IV: In Which the Misfit Negotiates a Compromise with the Evils of Medicine
Of course, I had my RE appointment on Friday. I was prepared to hate this woman. (An RE, especially a Catholic RE, is the face of the evil IF I have been struggling against - and losing. The poor woman. Also, amusingly - the DH apparently realized that I was prepared to hate her, and, when I said the appointment went fine, deduced that I didn't. Who says they can't read our minds?) But I don't hate her. She's about 55ish, just a smidge younger than my mom, with maybe similar coloring to the women in our family. She was confident. She was competent. She was perceptive. She was upbeat. And she was matter-of-fact about what's wrong with me. So many medical professionals seem like their goal is to alarm me. I am already alarmed, OK? But she's an IF specialist, so, you know, it's all normal to her.
You know what's interesting about that? I sort of felt like it was trusting my mom. I might still have hated a competent 35yo specialist, but this woman is close to my mom's age. I had already noticed that I was getting a sort of maternal vibe from Toni Wechsler and Taking Charge of Your Fertility - not because her tone is maternal (it absolutely isn't), but because I guess some sort of reassurance and wisdom and a feminine voice about IF is something I need from some sort of maternal, er, force, and I don't have that available in the natural realm (mom can't really provide that), and I didn't realize I needed it until I realized I saw it in the book. Weird, huh? It's not judgmental to have an approximately menopausal woman who has been there and done that show you the ropes on a difficult journey she's been through. It doesn't make me a failure; I just need a hand. Do I ever.
She ordered a battery of hormone level tests, plus an HSG (I know it sounds nutty, but I've never had one) and an SA. My homework is to polish them off in six weeks, and make an appointment for the end of that time. I was kind of daunted by them and we've been entertaining all weekend, so I am planning to dig them out tomorrow, put them all on the calendar, and make that appointment (and maybe try to move up the colpo). They're all out-of-pocket, I believe, so I need to ask the lab what the prices are.
Of course, as will be obvious, this will be a lot of information I don't have. I'll know whether the DH is even capable of having kids. I'll know whether my tubes are open - if they're totally closed, I need surgery or nothing else will help. I'll know whether I'm progesterone deficient and maybe I can take something that will normalize my PMS (and maybe lose me five pounds!), and maybe even help with the IF. I'll know whether my FSH has gone from 10 to 30 and it's time to schedule that celebratory hysterectomy. And it's all in a manageable period - I'm not impatient, because I've got a lot to do in six weeks, but there's a date on the horizon when I'll have my bearings a little more.
Oh yes, and also, she managed to make the FSH=10 (er, in 2006) seem much less upsetting. She pointed out that it might be pre-menopause - or not; it strictly means low ovarian reserve, but that could be caused by other things, and it doesn't mean I can't get pregnant. That it might not be a sign of impending menopause hadn't occurred to me. And since I've heard that low reserve means low quantity, not low quality, well, with the endo, my days are numbered anyway. I'm frankly insisting on a rapid treatment period because I am weary of IF, so an ovular expiration date is OK with me.
Part V: In Which the Misfit Makes Friends
Oh, did I mention I sort of stumbled onto more women to spend time with? It's true. I went on a way-fun all-girl hike last weekend that I really enjoyed, and spent today with another married couple and one of the other girls. Great people. The wife in this married couple is the other IFer I mentioned before. Sometimes it's hard for me to talk to her because she seems so serene I almost get angry. Nobody takes everything at face value and is totally unupset by this. Last night she was over at my house and something or other came up, and I mentioned my book and suggested she might like it.
I asked if she'd looked into local Catholic Charities (given the results of my research), and to my surprise, she hadn't. Then she said something that shocked me - that she wasn't really sure she was ready to adopt either (I thought she was planning to the minute she got her diagnostic "no"), and that she, like me, had always thought before IF that she'd just adopt a big family if she couldn't have one, and that she felt completely different now, and nobody could really understand IF until they'd been through it - and that she was exhausted by the burden too. (To which I responded that if I didn't get a definite answer, I could be here almost thirty years [started ttc at 23, average menopausal age 51], and I just wanted my life back.) It meant a lot to hear from someone IRL the same things I've been feeling, that I'm not evil or crazy or just a bad Catholic for struggling with this.
Part VI: In Which the Heavens Smile (Briefly) upon the Misfit
On Saturday morning (this has been a packed weekend), the DH and I attended a retreat thingy. It was pretty much presentations, not like personal prayer time or meditations, and though I probably need the latter more, it was still valuable. I have been sort of keeping an ear out recently for something that sounded like a message for me, just something that struck me. Snippets from the psalms - sometimes about hope, mostly about suffering - have resonated with me, but yesterday, I one of the speakers was particularly engaging. The fellow had a fabulous, natural gift for public speaking - not eloquence necessarily, just clearly at home in the environment, engaging, comfortable, graceful.
He referred to a passage from St. Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica of which I'd never previously heard (I'm not claiming I've read it all, but some decent chunks). It's Question 83, Article II:
...for we do not pray to alter the divine plan, but to obtain what God has arranged to be fulfilled by prayers, "to the end that men by asking may deserve to obtain what God Almighty before all ages has arranged to give them," as Gregory says.(It goes on to explain that sometimes God chooses to delay fulfillment of our prayers to teach us greater trust and patience.) Anyway, I think I had a decent understanding of petitionary prayer (i.e., praying to ask God for things you need) in general, but I didn't have it worked out this clearly in my head. We can't change God's mind by praying...but praying still matters, because there are some things that He won't give us unless we ask. This makes good sense, no?
God gives us many things out of His liberality without our asking; but some things He wills to give us only on condition of our asking; which arrangement works to our advantage, teaching us to have recourse to God with confidence, and to recognize Him for the author of our good.
So that means...that my reaction on discovering in December 2006 that I did not want outlandish treatment, God would get me pregnant if it was His will that I have kids, I would pray a novena for a baby and, absent prompt answer (even a year later - I was pretty patient, for me) to that prayer, I would stop praying altogether, because why ask for something God doesn't want to give me - it will do no good, I'll get madder at God, and it's impious to pray for things we aren't meant to have - well, that may not have been the most sensible reaction, perhaps.
Maybe God does have blessings for me - the desire of my heart, once upon a time - that are waiting, that He is willing to grant me. And I should have the trust to ask him. (I don't resent it, BTW, if God merely saw fit to delay children until the appropriate time. I really wanted kids immediately, but I can see strong arguments for the benefits of waiting in our case. I'm only paralyzed by the idea of no children and family at all.)
So while I still can't quite summon up the gumption to pray for a baby, I can see where it could be a good idea, and I'm open to considering it, and I'm going to tuck that in my back pocket and think on it until I'm ready. Meanwhile, the DH and I have a holy condom* and some semen to collect (maybe not this particular evening, though, it's late)...good night, y'all.
*This is not a technical term, but I've heard other people slip and say it and I think it's hilarious. Because of the Catholic rule about all sex acts being open to life, one can't collect the semen through acts that are, well, not ordered to making a baby. So you use a condom - without spermicide, of course - and you poke a hole in it (or, in this case, the clinic does for you). Still open to life; but you'll get enough sperm for the test. Apparently the labs think it's weird. I can't argue - but the typical method is a whole lot weirder IMO.