Wednesday, December 30, 2009

hail the new, ye lads and lasses (but mostly lasses)

So I mentioned (for the zero people who keep minute track of all the things I say in blog posts, and are keeping score between my multiple personalities) that I was going to do a list of things, resolutions or something of that general nature, for the New Year. To make my life better so I'm happier and can deal with life with IF.

(By the way, a post on the kitchen is coming. Also, we're going to go see the house in the daylight on Thursday morning. This could actually happen!)

Oh also, you need to read this. OK, so here goes:

(1) At least once a week, I'm going to walk to morning Mass in English (7AM, 1.09 miles from my house). I hope to work that up to daily eventually.
(2) I'm not going to stay up past 1AM on a work night ever, and I will try to be in bed by 11:30.
(3) At least once a month, I will make an hour of Adoration. I hope to work that up to weekly.
(4) Every day I will say at least one very brief prayer to my saint for 2010, who is Catherine Laboure. I've never known much about her, so this will be a good opportunity to learn. (Apparently I have been very unfair the blogger who kindly drew saints of the year, as several commenters, more diligent than I, have explained. I should have known that I would be the one who screwed up.)
(5) I will give up on getting Fr. Paul to call me back about a spiritual director. I will contact a different pastor, by email, and ask where to get a spiritual director. If that doesn't bear fruit, I will give up entirely.
(6) I will go on a retreat with my husband in the first half of the year.
(7) I will eat more protein, cut way down on workplace candy, and stop bingeing on food. I will be conscientious about discerning what foods mess up my stomach, and I won't eat them.
(7.5) I will drink a lot more water.
(8) I will go to the gym three days every work week. I will increase my weights and times. At least once a week, I'll run three miles on the treadmill.
(9) I will run at least one 5k and one 10k with my husband.
(10) I will get all my dental work done in 2010. And I will have a doctor look at the rest of my moles and do any biopsies before the new health care bill goes into effect.
(11) I will find someplace in the area to do some sort of charity work for the poor or needy, at least once a month.
(12) I will read a non-law-related book for fun at least once a month.
(13) I will pack my lunch for work. If I fail to pack my lunch, I will not eat lunch.

I may have to come back and edit this with things I left off.

I'm also going to do something else, which I think will really help. I have a constant sense of apathy and failure about my life. I know that with projects, studying, whatever I've had to do, I am motivated by accomplishment - if I see I'm doing well, I work harder and feel better. So I'm going to make a big poster with blocks for each week. I'll designate star or smiley-face stickers for each goal that's periodic, and I'll mark the weeks and months in which I've accomplished them. Maybe I'll even find a way to do a virtual version of this, too.

P.S. I'm going to do a year retrospective, but I'm going to wait a few more days until my year blogoversary on January 2!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

tales from 1928

So I mentioned that I spent much of Christmas at a monastery. (My husband's brother and uncle are monks.)

We always meet the most lovely people when we stay at the monastery, a wide assortment from every generation and part of the country (and other countries), who are visiting for every sort of reason. So on one afternoon I was having a chat with my father-in-law (who is highly opinionated) and another woman around his age named Joe Therese (Joe for Josephine). He made a remark about Italians to get a rise out of her, assuming (based on her name) that she was Italian. She turned out to be Irish, but she explained the origin of her name.

Her mother and father, she said, had been praying and praying for a kid - but no kid showed up. They had seen every doctor, and were losing hope; it had been five years. Now, I was surprised when my 60yo aunt said that she took clomid to conceive my 32yo cousin - I had assumed clomid was a new thing. But this woman was not talking about 32 years ago. What "every doctor" was there? What nonsense did the medical profession offer infertiles in generations past? I hope her poor mother didn't have to suffer through an HSG.

Anyway, she explained, her parents went to St. Therese's shrine in Chicago, and promised that if they had a baby, they would name her Therese. And Joe Therese came along not long after.

It was all I could do to restrain myself from asking exactly how old she was. I was dying to know. (I also wanted to know whether they later had any other kids.) But the next day, when the conversation surrounded my FIL's 72nd birthday, it came out that she's 81. More than 81 years ago, an infertile Catholic couple in Chicago had been ttc for five years. They'd seen "all the doctors," who could offer them no help, and they turned to St. Therese for a miracle.

I know Abraham and Sarah went through this rather longer ago than that, but the connection to a world I think of as mine only (well, you know, and yours too) was still a bit of a revelation to me. I don't suppose the St. Therese angle is going to help anyone - I don't know of any Catholic infertiles who haven't already prayed a novena or twenty for a baby. (And those poor kids...Gerard Gianna Anne Therese John Paul Joseph Jude is going to rue the day his parents saw two pink lines.)

But I thought I would share this small, strange gem, from her world to mine, and from mine to yours.

Friday, December 25, 2009


"Those who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone."

I love Christmas Mass at midnight, especially in Polish, especially with koledy. (And I've never seen a Polish church in the US yet that isn't magnificent.)

Christmas is, of course, for everyone, and the first Christmas for those awaiting the Messiah; but I can't help thinking that those words were written especially for us infertiles.

I thought about Mary and her one (divine) child, when other Jewish women had so many. And about the point another blogger just made - that at the circumcision, she knew she would have to GIVE HIM BACK. I used to think about that all the time, in discernment for the religious life. (I had forgotten.) I had blessings that I might have to relinquish. When I got married I stopped thinking about it. That was silly. Sometimes the blessing you most anticipate is the one you have to return.

At Christmas Mass, I told God that if His will was that I should never have children, then I could carry that cross; and I really meant it. He'll have to fix everything else I need - and the list is long - but I can carry that.

In news of far smaller import, the tamoxifen appears to have fixed my cycle completely - it's totally normal. Looks like today or tomorrow will be peak day. My husband has decided that he doesn't want to hope for a baby at all (or even think of anything as a "fertile" phase), but I managed to convince him to give today a shot.

I won't hope in two weeks to miss anything. I won't be surprised or even displeased when I get my period (unless the cycle is messed up - again). I don't consider us cycling or ttc; I'm checking off treatment obligations until I get to retire permanently. But today, TODAY I thought fondly about the idea of conceiving something. (And about how amusing it would be to conceive a child on Christmas day at a monastery...)

I know that hope on peak day and fatalism later is not quite the standard infertile thought pattern. And they say the definition of insanity is being able to hold two contradictory ideas in your head at the same time. But that's OK. I don't think I'm undermining my conviction that I'll never switch teams; and living childless in the fertile world will still mean negotiating a delicate peace. I'm mostly ready for resignation, but not dealing with fertiles well full time.

But today, I can think, it's whatever God wants. He has secrets He's not telling. And today, I'm OK with that.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


I know I like to project as pretty tough about infertility. It's the approach I prefer - that I'm stronger than this bull$%&#. And maybe most of the time I am. But every once in a while, something comes along to remind me that I am, in Alanis Morisette's words - well, you know. Not entirely brave.

I got a very unexpected phone call the other day - unexpected like after the caller introduced himself, I still thought he was someone else, and tried to pass off the call to my husband. It was a dear friend from college. He and I dated for eight months; we broke up when we were both in discernment for the religious life. I ultimately went to a very Catholic law school. He ultimately went to a very very strict religious order. He's taken his final vows. (So have I!) He'll start major seminary soon - it's been years and he's been doing lots of stuff, but he hasn't been ordained yet. Anyway, I rarely ever see him. Six months after he entered, and I started law school, I did see him at the March for Life. He was happier than I had ever seen him and I was so happy to see that he had finally found home.

When I say strict, anyway, I don't just mean that they don't have internet, cell phones, or even a land line. I mean that even the order doesn't have any possessions. So they don't own any land. Or buildings. Or even food. They beg for their food. They live where people will let them stay. Or outside. If they need to go somewhere (say, 1500 miles), they walk. People do give them rides, but if not - then they walk. So you see, it's not like he texts or sends gchat messages. That's the first phone call I've gotten from him in well over six years. (He sends letters, and I, on an extremely delinquent schedule of which I am ashamed, send letters back.) Anyway, he found out through mutual friends that my husband and I (with my husband's family) and he (with his order) will be within 30 miles over Christmas - and another friend from college, along with his wife and their two kids (yes, of course, they got married after we did. You had to ask?). So we should get together.

OK, so, my husband and my friend have never met, so that will be interesting, and I admit to the odd bit of nerves in case there is a genuinely serious case of not getting along. I love my husband, but easygoing is only sometimes his thing. And my friend is (was?) a handful too. Actually, they have more in common with each other than either of them has with me. Of course, this is also true of my husband and my father, and that went so well that my father literally (and I use this word in its dictionary sense) did not speak to me (with one two-minute exception) for three years after we got engaged. Have I mentioned that? Yeah, it's true. My nineteen-year-old brother gave me away at my wedding. I didn't meet my smallest baby brother until he was two. Anywho...

But since that conversation, I've been jumping out of my skin with nerves. When I think about seeing these people, I want to puke. Who is this? This isn't me. What do I have to prove? And to whom? What's wrong with me?

And I've thought about it. I am trying to figure out what on earth is driving me crazy, why I would rather my car explode in fiery inferno en route to New England than see a bunch of really wonderful priests I have always loved. I'm not sure I have it all sorted out. But I have some ideas.

First of all, my friend's wife (Irish girl from Boston. No doubt the genuine article. Probably gorgeous. And thinner than I am. With a baby on the hip. And I bet she DOESN'T HAVE ENDO!), I have never met. I hate This girl is probably an angel. (Not so yours truly...arguably I was in college...) I have run through all sorts of horrible conversations with her in my mind, in which she says something hateful and dismissive about infertiles, and I tell her that she's ungrateful for her blessings from God and her children will consequently go to Hell, or something. I get quite passionate about these imagined conversations. I was almost crying in the Trader Joe's. (Sanity check: still missing and unaccounted for.)

But this girl I have never met, who must be the eleventy millionth Catholic mother of two I know of who was married after me and seriously what do I even care any more, is obviously not the problem. What's the problem?

Well, I guess my friend is the omega point of all the values I used to have (and, um, several that I never had). If I had a beautiful family and were a long-skirt-wearing doe-eyed Catholic girl in childlike awe of all the religious - this is what I expected to become, mind you - I would be fine. I wouldn't be intimidated, I would be looking forward to meeting this girl and introducing our kids, and the idea of getting special blessings for my babies from some friars would probably be foremost on my mind.

But by my own standards - by my hopes and dreams for my life - I have failed. Not just because I don't have the babies. (They would help - they would help with most things.) But because of all that that's engendered. By the end of law school I had stopped saying three Rosaries a day. Then I stopped saying any. In the last year I finally stopped going to daily Mass. For a while I was reading the Magnificat, but I stopped caring. The prayers started to be annoying rather than speaking to me. I intend to start going to daily Mass again, but I need an angle on that that will work, first, and I don't have one. I'm bitter, still, if getting better. I'm angry with God, still, if growing merely distant. I'm not passionate about my job and I would have a hard time explaining that I'm really doing God's work. My husband, whom I love, periodically claims not to believe in God. (I know it isn't true, but he does say it. And he's not much of a spiritual leader of the household right now. I could really, really use that, but it's not available.) I don't know where I'm going in my life. My sister is doing well, my brother is doing well materially, and everyone else in my family is a complete ruin and arguably getting worse, rather than better.

You know, I don't feel as though my life is a disaster. I actually feel reasonably good - you know, for me. But I can't think of a single question he could ask me (he is unlikely to ask, "Where did you get that scarf?") for which I could offer an answer that wouldn't cause him to make a face I'd want to hit.

I DON'T feel like my marriage is a failure. I love my husband. He's a good man, and he loves me and takes care of me. My marriage, while not perfect, is one of the few obvious and consistent blessings in my life. My devotional life is absolute crap, but I am trying. I feel like I am doing my best. I don't have holy serenity about my infertility, but for heaven's sake. There are quite literally women out there with PTSD symptoms when they hear children crying. I am a survivor. That's my biggest achievement - life pounds on me an awful lot, and I just keep getting back up. That right there is an olympic accomplishment. So why can't I think of anything good to say about my entire life? Why do I feel as though everything I've ever done has been entirely wasted?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

the library

It's time. By the way, did I mention that the tan house just went back on the market - no longer under contract? I told you so. Of course, that means we have to move faster, but after Christmas is, I think, time enough to start getting quotes for mortgage rates and so forth. (It may be hard to get the sellers to take a reasonable price, so we could still lose it, but we plan to try.)

So, here's the current family room in the tan house (my future library):

On the left you see what appears to be a bar. So you'd expect that there'd be shelves and so forth on the other side of it (which you can't see in the picture), but I didn't see any in person. Having a bar sounds nice-ish, but I'd probably rather just buy an antique dry sink and not take up so much floor space with this one (especially since we don't drink). But it turns out that the bar (if that's what it is) is actually there to conceal the rather odd feature behind it:

Best guess is that there were Bilco doors to the basement. When they built the addition (the family room is a one-story addition) they put it over where the doors were so...they just used an interior door, horizontally, in that space. Slightly insane. I'd still be inclined to remove that bar thing, and just put some ordinary stair-rail along the edge of the door. That would be more normal, and still take up less floor space. (We might even be able to fit a dry sink between the stair-door and the wall!)

Other than that oddity, the basic features of the room are straightforward. There's a working wood stove (very excited about that). There are several (large) windows, and there's a large, mostly-glass exterior door, which limits the amount of wall space for bookshelves (but I think there's still enough!). Oh, and coat hooks are useful, but these are going somewhere else - bookshelves come first.

There's wood crown molding and wood lattice-work on the ceiling. They're not as pretty as they might be, but they're sort of dry wood, and I think with some varnish, and a real warm ivory on the ceiling, it might look a lot nicer. So that's an easy fix.

Now for the first tricky part: the walls. It's not easy to tell, but that's not your standard shiny grooved knotty-pine paneling. Indeed, those are individual boards, with decent-sized gaps between them (I'm not actually that keen on that part), and they're not only unfinished, but also un-planed. If you run your hands down them, you could get a splinter, or twenty. So to get them to look like an ordinary wall, it would require heavy sanding, or removing them, planing them, and replacing them - and then using wood filler between, priming, and painting them (so they look like plaster walls).

But I'm not keen on that much sanding or planing, and the room has a certain rustic quality that I think ought to be preserved. (Doesn't mean I want wood trim, wood floors, and wood walls, all in different wood tones.) So I was looking into an old-fashioned technique called lime wash, traditional in Europe, which is used for plaster (not drywall) and raw wood. It's apparently easier than any of the new-fangled techniques - and it's not a "faux finish," it's the real thing. Plus really safe. Anyway, plain lime wash is transluscent white, and comes out like this:

You can also add pigment to lime wash, and that's one of the places I was stumped. I definitely want color (something light). Green? Blue? Maybe a gray-blue like this (obviously this is ordinary opaque paint, not transluscent):

But I'm not sure. What's the best way to go about this? I like the crown molding, ceiling, and floors (with a little spiffing-up here and there), but I really want to do something with the walls. Suggestions??

Now for the rest of the decor. We have a red-brown leather, reasonably traditionally-styled sectional that is a few years old (we got it off craigslist) but maybe the comfiest couch ever. I think it should go in there. I also think that room would be a good place for a decent-sized desk. I've run some different pictures by my dh. (I'd like to note here that while I never give him a decor decision to make from scratch, I compile a substantial cast of style options that would work within our budget and other things, and I make him give me his opinion. So I don't make these decisions unilaterally.) Rolltops seem to be the most practical and popular. Here are a couple on craigslist in our area (little pricey, but we have time):

(This cherry one above is the favorite, but it's selling for $600! My dh - typically - said, "Well, maybe that's worth it.")

Then there's always the traditional oak roll-top look.

I also think I've come up with a solution to my household's ever-green desk chair debate. My dh likes the comfy contemporary black leather desk chairs. I would rather something that looked old fashioned even if it's not as comfy. Last house we had an ugly black vinyl one. Now we have a petite wood one he doesn't like. But I think we could have both! Something like this (with a nice fluffy pillow):

Or (likely even more popular) something like this (I found a slightly less ornate one that's a real antique on craigslist recently, but it's already gone):

I think that would be good because it could be moved away from the desk when we have people over and be used as extra seating. And we could have some nice leather chairs on either side of the fireplace. Perhaps like these:

Here's the other difficult question: what about bookshelves? I mean, there have to be quite a few. In my head, the ideal library should have floor-to-ceiling built-ins, maybe even some that require a library ladder! As below. (No library ladder in the tan house, though, because the ceiling in this room is not that high.)

There are a few impediments to putting these sort of shelves in this room, however. First, one wall is taken up by two windows and a wood stove. The wall to the right of that has a very big picture window and a door; it could have one set of shelves or maybe two, and above-the window shelves. The wall with the doorway into the kitchen has room for at least one set of shelves (where those coat hooks now are). Most of the shelves would go on the fourth wall. Keeping in mind dark wood trim (shinier after I varnish it) and lime-washed walls (color still undecided), do I go for stained wood shelves (like the ones above), or white-painted wood? Like so, perhaps:

I like the idea of built-in bookshelves creating a nook for a window seat. This room certainly has enough windows for that. But I can't decide what bookshelf solution would look best for this room. I need your help. (Oh, also useful to know is that a friend of ours has a fellow who's a master carpenter who's a recent immigrant and has done some work for him at crazy-good rates - and I've seen the stuff he did, it's perfect. This fellow could definitely build me some bookshelves if I wanted anything that wasn't easy enough for me to do.)

The other thing that occurred to me is that I could fill the room with a collection of antique bookshelves, and do something to unify the look. One thing that designers often do is to whitewash a series of mistmatched antique items (such as dining room chairs). I do have two wooden Ikea bookshelves that I wouldn't mind painting white to blend in with some antiques, but other than that, I would feel bad painting lovely hardwood. What do you think? Could I make this idea work?

I did stumble across one possible angle this morning. I love barrister bookcases. I could do a collection of those. Even completely unrelated examples seem like they would go together pretty well:

(These are both for sale on craigslist here, now.) Barrister bookcases are also modular - the shelves come apart, and the tops and bases are separate, too. So we could put short stacks under some of the windows, or I guess mount one or two over the windows, or vary the heights if we liked that effect; and we could collect them over time. Here's the trouble, though. Although I'd love to have one barrister bookcase, I hadn't envisioned having a collection of them - because they're very expensive. Best price on a full (4- or 5-shelf) set I've seen is around $500. I'm not sure I could justify a room full of them at those prices.

Oh, also, the room will need a rug. I like this one a lot (I like that it's muted):

So I have some general ideas of how I want it to look, and things I want to do with the room (fire, bookshelves, desk for stationery and to hide laptops in, comfy place for guests to sit around), but I'm still not exactly sure how to get there. I'm sure nobody has anything else to do five days before Christmas and during a massive snowstorm, so you all can help me with your brilliant ideas.

Merry Christmas, infertiles. May you be blessed with all the grace sufficient to your situation - and plenty of extra, too.

Friday, December 18, 2009

in response

(The library/family room post is STILL coming - maybe tonight - but I wanted to respond to questions/comments to my last post.)

First of all, I didn't get all the comments before I went to bed on CD3, and I figured I had to make a decision by then. I decided to take the tamoxifen. I figured (1) if I had so much as one hour of cramping of the type I had had on it pre-surgery, I would just stop taking the pills (I don't care if I'm supposed to take them for five days, it's not like they're making me fertile anyway!). This didn't happen; I've felt fine. I'll take the third pill tonight (CD5). And (2) I only had one bottle of pills, so I could only take them for one cycle - no big commitment. Then I opened the bottle and realized that for whatever reason, the pharmacy gave me ten pills - two cycles. Perhaps this is a sign.

Why did I do this? Well, although emotionally I've given up on having my own kids, and I am 99% truly let go (well, sometimes a slightly lower percentage, depending on the day - but I am really working toward completely moving on), I feel as though I'm somehow morally obliged to fulfill some quota of treatment thoroughness. I don't know whether it's because I'm afraid that later on, I'll wonder whether I could have had kids if I'd only given it a more serious effort, or because I feel that I have some affirmative obligation to try really hard to bear my own children, or because I feel like I'll be a really bad sport if I quit after surgery and not even any clomid or tamoxifen when all the other gals are doing injectibles and multi-drug regimens and ultrasound monitoring (haven't even had that. For aught I know I could have LUFS. Doctor doesn't seem interested. Also haven't had the p3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13 b/w, so she doesn't really know what my LP looks like. Doesn't seem to care about that either).

Don't get me wrong - I'm not going to put myself through really punishing treatments out of some sort of compulsion. I would probably even refuse to do the ultrasound monitoring because I just won't take the time off from work to do the drive. (Telling my boss that I have to miss half a day of work however many days in a row so someone can view my follicles is plain not acceptable to me. That's on a long list of things I do not think God intended people to have to go through to have a family, and I am a lady and a properly raised one, and I do not discuss my reproductive organs in the workplace or otherwise in mixed company unless that mixed company is a doctor, only - and not then, if I can avoid it.)

So part of me figures that (1) if my cycles aren't even in the extreme range of normal, I can't claim to myself that we're really ttc in this post-surgery year, which I said I was going to do, as the least reasonable effort I could put in. And if the tamoxifen can right the cycles without making me sick, well, then I should give it a shot. (2) My husband will be home for an unusually long time in the next few weeks, and I'll be off work for a while, during what would be my fertile phase, if I were back to normal. Giving the tamoxifen even a small chance to help things along seems only sporting.

I know this seems inconsistent with my will-never-be-pregnant decision. I don't feel that it is, though. I don't expect or hope that we'll conceive. I just don't know anything - anything - about my real fertility (well, I know it's really poor), so my no-babies decision is more a psychological one than a medical one drawn from available facts. There are almost no available facts. Some facts I could gather require efforts I will not take. I'm sort of doing a Shroedinger's cat deal here. I am confident that that damn cat is dead, but since I oppose cruelty to animals, I believe the right thing to do is toss some kibble in every now and again. I feel as though I can dole out monthly allotments of kibble without holding some over-romantic hope that kitty will emerge meowing on some sunny day. When the day comes to open the box, I will throw out the kibble and bury the cat. I'm pretty prepared for that.

Finally, I want to address the actual questions. With regard to Dr. L/C prescribing tamoxifen - yes, it's a breast cancer drug, and yes, infertility is an off-label use. But there are lots of legit off-label uses for drugs - part of the march of progress, you know. That part doesn't bother me. I also know she's not the only one who uses it. I believe a friend of mine with Hilgers was prescribed it after she did her surgery (he would not prescribe it before as he thought it was pointless).

Which brings me to another question that was posed. My understanding is that after surgery has taken out the adhesions, the risk of tamoxifen exacerbating endo is much reduced. Doctors may say there's no risk, but as AYWH's experience makes clear, that's nonsense. But if the ueber-conservative Hilgers prescribes it post-surgery, it must at least be safER then.

Yes, Dr. L/C prescribes it, apparently, to everybody. I believe she views it as a milder (and fewer side effects) version of clomid. So that's a conservative approach. It does mean that it's the Catholic version of the over-prescription of clomid, but I think she doesn't prescribe it if people's bloodwork indicates it will have no application. It really does balance estrogen and progesterone - it did for me before surgery, and, like clomid, it appears to have for other people. I do think a more tailored approach would be worthwhile, though, and this scattershot treatment for people whose fertility is so weak is not comforting. At all.

I think this question of whether it makes endo so much worse for everyone is really important, though. I will pay close attention and report faithfully if I feel any pelvic (as opposed to digestive) pain on this and I will share.

Another question I was asked was how the endo could cause hydrosalpinx. My (limited) understanding is that the adhesions can form on the ends of the tubes, causing blockage, backup of the fluid, and swelling. I may misunderstand all this, though. I think I was told that my right tube was ruined by the scarring (it has hydrosalpinx, apparently has for years). Dr. L/C was of the opinion that the surgery could have fixed the left one (I interpret that to mean that she tried to remove the scarring and adhesions in that area). But the tubes are very small, and I thought that surgery to repair hydrosalpinx is never a guarantee. So I don't know - and she didn't profess to know - whether that would be successful.

I hope I didn't forget to address anything. I'm upset with the tamoxifen and with my doctor. I feel like I screwed up by not getting my hormone levels checked before I took more drugs post-surgery (the hope was that the surgery would balance things on its own). On the other hand, my recent cycles seem to indicate all by themselves that my hormones were off. I hope I did the right thing. I sure don't intend to stay on this stuff for life just to menstruate normally. (I am sticking with my resolution: if health is not an option, I want to STOP MENSTRUATING.) But we'll see.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


So this morning I was searching for my Blackberry (it was piled in the blankets - where else?), and noticed the unused bottle of tamoxifen in my drawer. (I filled the prescription just before I realized how much I hated tamoxifen and how sick I was of being in pain, and refused to take any more, and scheduled surgery.) I called and left a message for the RE formerly known as Dr. L on the way to work, letting her know why she hadn't seen any bloodwork from me (because when the heck is peak day lately? Seriously!) and asking whether I should take the tamoxifen. Since today is CD3.

Her nurse called back and said yes. (So this poll doesn't have to be, "Should I take medicine contrary to/in the absence of medical advice?")

I have been practically hemorrhaging all day today. I won't go into further detail, but it has been dramatic. Last cycle was very light, but the one before that was similarly insanely dramatic. (I know your infertile brains. You're thinking, "Last cycle wasn't a cycle at all. You didn't menstruate because you're pregnant, and now you're miscarrying! And that explains your short cycles too!" Well, ha ha on you. I saw this madness coming, and after last cycle started (counting such that it would have been more than 28 days since the previous cycle started), I took an HPT for the first time in years. The resounding no was kind of a comfort - like I knew that I might be tempted to second-guess later, and I was restoring my faith in my lifetime utter lack of pregnancy.)

And I have had enough hemorrhaging, and this with the shortening cycles, it has to stop. (Unless they do actually cease altogether, which would be fine.) The tamoxifen might fix that, if it's a hormone problem.

On the other hand, I have a bone to pick with the tamoxifen. Dr. L told me before I took it that it would make my endo worse and I would probably be in pain. She did not say it could cause hydrosalpinx in my one good tube. (The other already had - you guessed it - hydrosalpinx, caused by the endo.) Maybe this should have been obvious to me. I can be dense. But I am not a doctor. And I am sure she didn't say it, because if she had, I would have told her where she could put her tamoxifen. A girl only gets issued so many fallopian tubes.

By the way, the left tube was lovely and clear during my HSG in March/April or whenever. And, sure enough, during surgery - hydrosalpinx in the left tube. Probably due to the tamoxifen, she said. (You tell me this now...) It might get better after surgery, she said. And I might grow pink fluffy wings! So (and do not ask me why I have not mentioned this before, it's sort of relevant), I think I'm permanently dead in the water, fertility-wise. I guess we don't need an SA any more :). My husband is sort of relieved - about the possibility of total infertility, not avoiding the SA. I think it will bring both of us peace, although I think my doctor might be an idiot. (If you're reading this, sometimes I vent, and use excessive language. This - is not one of those times.)

Anyway, the tamoxifen might make my cycles normal. Or it might start taking out other tubular organs, like my intestines. (Oh - too late!) My blood vessels. Maybe my spinal cord. Also, I'm angry with the tamoxifen, and might prefer not to take any ever again, just as revenge.

What do you think? (Especially you, TCIE, since you are apparently a medium to my reproductive organs.)

I promise, the interactive family room/library post, complete with many pictures and very little discussion of menstrual bleeding, is coming.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

continued post-surgical improvement

(wee bit of sarcasm there)

I know you know that it's time for a post about the decoration of the tan house's family room (as it is now known; AKA my future library). To pique your interest, I will mention that that post is going to be interactive - at least as many questions as answers, as there are a lot of unanswered questions in my head about how the room could/should look.

For now, however (and this gives you some breathing room to recover from the approximately 40 pages of text in my last 2-3 posts), I note merely the following:

Today is CD2, counting yesterday (spotting or VL?) as CD1. That's means that my fertile phase (insofar as I had one) was CD5-7 (!!!!), and I had a SEVENTEEN-day cycle. After my 22-day previous cycle (compare with 27 days for the cycle during which I had surgery, and 24-27 days on average for several years), I am in a contest with myself for the shortest menstrual cycle. And this just in - I'M WINNING!

I console myself with the notion that, at the going rate, by January 4 there will actually be a NEGATIVE number of days in my cycle (length is dropping by 5 days per cycle - you can check my math).

So for my first New Year's resolution on how to improve my quality of life and embrace my infertility:


I'm sure you can all get behind that.

(N.B.: I'm not trying to take lightly the plight of those who have really long cycles and few chances to ttc. I don't know if it makes it better or worse to know that I have 13-14 cycles a year and appear to ovulate in each of them, and it hasn't done me the least bit of good.)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

itsy bitsy teeny weeny bits of clarity

Since my dh is traveling and I had Friday off, I'm up in New England visiting my siblings. Going to a play, running a 5k, going shopping with my sister, seeing my brother's new place, walking around Manhattan all decorated for Christmas, and meeting my friends' new baby (for whatever reason these friends, who are so incredibly gracious, are not hard to deal with with their two kiddos - though after the announcement of her first, I guess it was a little hard to talk to her. Maybe the problem is that my coping mechanism - putting all those with children into the Other People to Whom Things Happen that Do not Happen to Me category - is shaky on the transition inot that category) is a lot better than sitting around my house eating brownie mix from the box (it's really good mixed with just water) and playing on the internet until 3am. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

On the way up, usually, I listen to music on the radio, louder and faster as I get more tired. This time, though, I decided to have a chat with myself (aloud, naturally), about why I am still angry with God, what exactly I am angry about, and what I am really expecting. As is often the case with such exercises, I feel I made some headway, but not the headway I was planning to make.

I think I saw, for the first time, a vision of my childless future (maybe not the one I will have, but one that I could have) that I could imagine as happy. In order to enjoy that picture, though, I have to finish letting go of a few things. One of those is the bitterness. I can see myself being a sort of mommy to all the other folk around - singles, couples, whoever is around. Once they have enough kids they retreat off into their own lives, but there will always be other people we love who could use a social event planner and someone to feed them and keep them out and about.

My dh and I already do a decent job of throwing parties and planning excursions, but my successes in that area so far have been limited by my lack of ambition. That is, I don't see it as my job to plan the excursions - I just do what I perceive as my fair share (and then very few other people do "their" share). If I accepted that this was a good thing for me to be doing a lot, I could do much more. And if I stopped focusing on how my family of two has been robbed of the opportunity to become a biological family of fourteen, I could start seeing myself as part of a much larger non-biological family; and stop looking inward and mourning, and instead spend my energy really really caring how everyone else is doing, why so-and-so hasn't been around lately, just how lonely the loners feel, who needs a coffee break with a girlfriend, which newly married gals are looking like they might join the IF club (and need someone to talk to who is no longer a complete and total mess), and all sorts of other things that I'm actually good at but have been too wrapped up in my own loss to do for, well, years.

I think I want my (relatively) big house in a town that will be beautiful at Christmas - and not just because it would have room for a few kids if I ever have them. Even if it's a bit of a drive for friends, the ones who need a community too much to go to the bar down the road will still come. My insane, dysfunctional family, which currently contains no generation with both the material and psychological resources to host a simple Christmas dinner, actually needs one household that has some spare rooms and a decent grocery budget a lot more than it needs a fertile couple making a lot of Catholic babies.

And for the first time since I was married and started ttc, with respect to this kids thing, I actually do feel like I'm young and I've got time. Because I thought about it, and I thought - well, one of the things I've considered is being a foster mom (not foster-to-adopt, just foster). Adoption we couldn't start only because we didn't have the money; and now won't start, because we've learned more about the process and decided that being open to adoption makes sense for us, but not dealing with an agency. Bearing children we couldn't start because our bodies wouldn't cooperate. But fostering we actually could start any year now, or five years from now, and no rush. Whenever we figure out what we want to do next, and God, who has been rather coyly quiet on any vocation to parenthood, actually decides to get His act together and send us some messages we can understand.

This momentary clarity and serenity worry me because I know they are so fragile. I don't know how to keep them, other than to work really hard to start trying to take better care of the people around me (which I know will make me happier all by itself). And, I'm going to start a comprehensive list of New Year's resolutions - things to do daily, weekly, monthly, and in total, to attack my sadness and exhaustion and loneliness head-on and turn my life, by force of will, into the life that I want and am going to have, by golly! I'm already working on it in my head. I will post it soon. Y'all are welcome to play along: what small habits could you build - realistic ones - that would make a big difference?

The other thing about unexpected forms of clarity is, well, they're only what they are. I've received one blessing - a picture of a life I never expected, but one that I can make work. But the question I was asking myself was, why exactly am I so angry with God? Why don't I trust Him? Why can't I shake the conviction that He would do rotten things to me just to prove that He could? I'm not sure, and I'm still working on it. I feel as though lately, I've been inching along in progress dealing with IF, but no progress dealing with God - my relationship with Whom has been ruptured in large part by the IF. Well, all good things, they say, with time.

Finally, in my continuing pursuit of models of childless womanhood, I stumbled (my dh pointed this out) on the fact that Alice and Dietrich von Hildebrand were childless! I mean, uh, I knew that. Nobody in the Catholic community would claim that their lives or marriage were wasted; everyone looks to them and their writing as spiritually wise. And no kids! I need to start reading some of her stuff.

Oh, lastly - bear with me, because this actually ties in. One of the things I've mourned about not being a mother was the fact that I always thought I could tell the difference between women (45+, you know) who had had children and those who hadn't - the childless seemed less selfless, more brittle, less mature. I don't want to be that. So, anyway, I was watching Reba McEntire videos on youtube the other day. (What I wouldn't give to look like her at her age! Or NOW!) You all know she sings that duet with Kelly Clarkson, "Because of You" (which Kelly wrote or whatever, but they each recorded). Well, at one concert appearance, they sang together a song they had not both recorded, "Since You've Been Gone" - it's just Kelly's.

Now Reba, I believe, has children. But she's also had a rocky marriage(s), and she's in show business. Not a life calculated to make a person selfless, exactly.

So they do the song. And I think it was Reba's concert. But she lets Kelly sing most of it, she only does one verse. Reba is, of course, some thirty years older than Kelly - she's been singing hits for decades, and she's old enough literally to be Kelly's mother. And she's there dancing and having fun; she gets the crowd clapping for Kelly; she makes a big deal of her. Never tries to steal the limelight.

You can also tell that Kelly is a little nervous - what is Reba going to do with her song, when it's Reba's turn to sing some? And when Reba sings "I just wanna be with you," in her signature twang, with a little more melody and less rock than Kelly uses, Kelly doubles over laughing. Reba just doesn't bother to pretend to be something she isn't.

Not sure why, but something in the video leaps out at me. Not to be jealous of the up-and-coming star, not changing yourself to fit into a new genre, not stealing the center of attention when you know you could (not even by wearing something Kelly couldn't get away with). Just happy for someone else. She's really something.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

things that make you go "hm" come in threes

In Mass on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, I stared at the Gospel reading, thinking about Mary, and how she promised her virginity to God. Which meant, contrary to the unexcepted practice of faithful Jews, she wasn't going to have a big family. (There were no celibate nuns then - female religious now follow her example. She was the first.) That would qualify as a bigger sacrifice than me living childless, given that I don't also have a celibate marriage.

Would I have been willing to do that? It wouldn't have been easy, that's for sure. If I had done so, would I be so angry and unhappy now? I don't think so. Because Mary made a joyful sacrifice of something she was otherwise entitled to do (certainly it was morally acceptable), to honor God. Sacrifices are costly, but they're also joyful, because what is sacrificed is a gift. And I thought to myself, I didn't get to choose. That really hurts. I can't tell myself or anyone else that I offered up my children to honor God. I didn't. There was no generosity and no offer. Instead, the ordinary joyful family life was taken away.

Moreover, as TCIE pointed out in her very thoughtful post, since I don't know for sure whether I'm to have children or not, I have spent (and may still spend) years hoping for the thing that (had it been voluntary) I would simply have given up, and even pursuing medical and legal options to become a mother. All that pursuit is perfectly legitimate - we should strive against obstacles, to fulfill our vocation - but if motherhood is not our calling, the loss is not a joyful gift, but a wound made more severe by every pill, doctor's visit, surgery, diagnostic procedure, diet change, pregnancy test, item of adoption paperwork, vial of blood taken, and prayer for a child we will never have. Not choosing is totally and completely different. (Which is not to say that Mary wouldn't have done a far better job with this life. Her mother did, after all.)

Then, on the way to work yesterday, I was musing about possible items to add to the kitty I'd brought for our holiday door decorating contest. (We won, by the way!) I was thinking about printing a Christmas legend on parchment to work into the background. So I found the Christmas story of the three trees. I've read it before, but still, as I scrolled through it on the bus, I blinked as fast as I could, to keep from crying over my Blackberry like a loon in front of a bunch of strangers. If you haven't read it, here is the story:

Once upon a time on a mountain top, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up. The first little tree looked up at the stars and said: "I want to hold treasure. I want to be covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I'll be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world!"

The second little tree looked out at the small stream trickling by on its way to the ocean. "I want to be traveling mighty waters and carrying powerful kings. I'll be the strongest ship in the world!"

The third little tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and women worked in a busy town. "I don't want to leave the mountain top at all. I want to grow so tall that when people stop to look at me, they'll raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world."

Years passed. The rain came, the sun shone, and the little trees grew tall. One day three woodcutters climbed the mountain.

The first woodcutter looked at the first tree and said, "This tree is beautiful. It is perfect for me." With a swoop of his shining axe, the first tree fell.
"Now I shall be made into a beautiful chest, I shall hold wonderful treasure!" The first tree said.

The second woodcutter looked at the second tree and said, "This tree is strong. It is perfect for me." With a swoop of his shining axe, the second tree fell.

"Now I shall sail mighty waters!" thought the second tree. "I shall be a strong ship for mighty kings!"

The third tree felt her heart sink when the last woodcutter looked her way. She stood straight and tall and pointed bravely to heaven.

But the woodcutter never even looked up. "Any kind of tree will do for me." He muttered. With a swoop of his shining axe, the third tree fell.

The first tree rejoiced when the woodcutter brought her to a carpenter's shop. But the carpenter fashioned the tree into a feedbox for animals. The once beautiful tree was not covered with gold, with treasure. She was coated with saw dust and filled with hay for hungry farm animals.

The second tree smiled when the woodcutter took her to a shipyard, but no mighty sailing ship was made that day. Instead the once strong tree was hammered and sawed into a simple fishing boat. She was too small and too weak to sail to an ocean, or even a river; instead she was taken to a little lake.

The third tree was confused when the woodcutter cut her into strong beams and left her in a lumberyard.

"What happened?" the once tall tree wondered. "All I ever wanted was to stay on the mountain top and point to God..."

Many, many days and nights passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams. But one night, golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feedbox.

"I wish I could make a cradle for him." her husband whispered. The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the starlight shone on the sturdy wood. "This manger is beautiful." she said. And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world.

One evening a tired traveler and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveler feel asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake.

Soon a thundering and thrashing storm arose. The little tree shuddered. She knew she did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through with the wind and the rain.

The tired man awakened. He stood up, stretched out his hand, and said, "Peace." The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun. And suddenly the second tree knew he was carrying the king of heaven and earth.

One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the forgotten woodpile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man's hands to her. She felt ugly and harsh and cruel.

But on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the earth trembled with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God's love had changed everything. It had made the third tree strong.

And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God's love. That was better than being the tallest tree in the world.

IFers are the third tree, right? We wanted to be a joyful proclamation of God's love with our beautiful families, and instead we're the sign of suffering and loss. And we didn't have a choice about it. The third tree certainly has a better attitude about that than I do. On the other hand, it's a tree. How do I translate having a good tree-attitude into living a joyful life in the world, as a human being? No idea.

And finally, last night, I chatted with my husband (who is traveling for work). At the Abbey where his brother lives (he's a monk - great guy), a family is currently staying. They have a pregnant 17yo daughter. My dh's brother and sister have already discussed, with each other and then him, whether they should run this matter by us. He wanted to run it by me.

I told him that if she hadn't mentioned wanting to give the baby up, then broaching the subject of adoption was inappropriate. (If she were considering killing it, that would be different, of course.) If she wants to raise it herself, she should. If she does raise the subject, it would be well to find out what the baby's father will say. But if she's discussing it seriously, then as far as I am concerned my BIL is welcome to mention that he could find a Catholic family who would be happy to give a home to a baby. I would take in a child who needed a home. Obviously, I also know lots of other wonderful Catholic couples, who are waiting to adopt!

My husband didn't know whether the girl had ever uttered the word "adoption." I have no impression that this baby will be ours, or even given up by its mother. I'm not even daydreaming that it will :), but I know I would be open if we were asked. After being wrenched emotionally back and forth by infertility treatments, I feel absolutely serene about this conversation. I know I said the right thing.

So, I am not suggesting that any great Christmas gift is about to occur here. And I don't want to get anyone's hopes up, because that would be mean, and unjustified. But if anybody wanted to email me about any couples waiting to adopt (I imagine the family would want to give the baby to a Catholic family, but I don't know for sure) who live in New England, that would be good to know.

And, please pray for this girl. I've been childless for more than four years, but I've never been pregnant and unmarried at 17. I know it will be hard for her whatever she chooses, and she'll need a lot of grace to do right by her child.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I warned you

It's time for the dining room. Here it is:

Obviously, it comes with wainscoting, although it's some odd bead-board-like wainscoting (maybe closer to paneling, the grooves are several inches apart and unevenly spaced). So it's not a very formal look like some wainscoting. And since it's already painted white, going with natural dark wood is probably not an option. We're going to stick with white.

And while we're looking at this shot, a word needs to be said about the flooring. You can't tell super-well from this photo, but that flooring is light wood, low quality, and definitely recent. It extends into the kitchen, where it's warped from water exposure. It will all have to come out. I would try to match the flooring from the living room (the other adjacent room), which is darker and which appears to be original; or at least convincingly old.

Now, as for the wallpaper, I spent hours on (the prudent thing to do is mentally decorate this entire home while it is under contract to someone else. You understand that, right?) and this one just stuck with me as the right one. See if you agree with me as I go through the other things in the room we'll need to match - oh, and keep in mind that I am determined that this is much more dark yellow than tan:

There are a couple of relevant architectural features in the dining room. First of all, the back of the chimney from the living room fireplace:

I mentioned this with the living room: that brick is not original. As with the living room, I'm inclined to paint it, but with all the wainscoting and all, I'm not inclined to bright white. I was thinking either a "brick" color, like this one,

or maybe that aged-whitewashed-brick effect that you see on the exteriors of old houses sometimes, like so:

I thought that would still give the exposed brick look, but dress up the more contemporary color variations in the brick so they don't stand out so much.

Another fixed detail in the room is this rather charmingly rustic built-in. I am afraid that for all white looks so chic in design photos, throughout this home, the white-painted woodwork just gave me a run-down, grubby feel. It might be because it was actually dirty, but I thought that for this piece, we might be wise to sand it (take out some of the unevenness from the underlying layers of paint) and then paint it low-gloss black. It goes without saying that the back would not be pink - white, cream, light yellow, maybe the dark yellow of the wallpaper, but not pink:

I also think a dark paint color could work well because in the opposite corner (near the exposed brick), I would want to put my mother's corner cabinet, which I will go and fetch from storage when I buy a house. It's kind of a light orange-y wood (German antique I think) that doesn't really go with anything. I was thinking some wax with a darker color could take it a few shades darker (without tampering with its design), and go well with the black.

As for the rest of the items in the room, I have four high-backed dark carved wood chairs (not as ornate as that makes them sound) that were my grandmother's. She claims to have two more, but she's in California, so getting them to the East Coast would be a chore. My mother also has two similar ones that are much lighter wood (living in storage with that corner cabinet), and my memory is a little more fuzzy here, but I believe she has a large (eight-person?) dark wood dining room table, and I think the dining room is an adequate size for that.

Generally, I prefer buffets/sideboards to hutches/china cabinets, but since there's already a tall built-in cupboard and my mom has that tall corner cabinet, I think there's neither room nor need for storage in the form of a buffet.

For the overall feel of the room, in my mind, it comes off reminiscent of this:

Less formal, obviously (just compare the chandeliers!). But I do think I could find space to squeeze in a nice grandfather clock if I really had to.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Reading through blogs. Always, always lots of food for thought. There's the simple joy of reading some mundane observation by a stranger of a part of your everyday reality that you thought nobody else had ever experienced or understood (I think it was Megan at Bottoms off and on the Table who wrote, back whenever it was, about hiding her underwear under her clothes when getting changed at the doctor's office, and I thought, "Other people do that too?" Why would I assume it was only me? Why does my brain create isolation for me in this insane world, when my dysfunctional body has caused isolation enough? And her comment about bringing a black lace thong - that she had not worn - to display proudly on the top of her stack of clothes was one of those moments when I uncontrollably laughed out loud reading blogs).

And there's the deeper reward of reading some turn of phrase that ties up in a perhaps imperfectly-neat package some part of the absurdity of the IF experience you had never before found words to comprehend. In the last day or two, I've read two blog posts with lines that leapt out at me, for reasons perhaps unrelated to each other and probably not obvious to anyone but me. My brain is weird; clearly, weird things will resonate with me. But I offer them for such edification as they may provide.

One was from the blogger who wrote the wordpress blog "What to Expect When You're Not Expecting" - I know there were several such blogs, this is by a gal who lives in Israel. When I searched for the title, google kindly gave me the blogger version far earlier in my search results (shocking). It ended in mid-December of 2007; I read her last posts before following the link to the new wordpress blog. Her last blogger posts were about how she had been living her life "two weeks at a time" - unable to invest in long-term plans or anything that might be incompatible with having a baby. And she had been doing so for four years.

And she wrote, "As all of you know, infertility is where dreams go to die." I mean - bitter, yes; cynical, yes. (Obviously, I can work with that.) But in addition to having just the right amount of bile to describe this highly unpleasant process, it's poetically and otherwise true. Fertility is the fruitfulness of love and generosity, the bearing of the next generation, our hopes for good and humanity enfleshed by the young. Infertility doesn't strike those who have no dreams; it takes them away from those who do. I sensed a kindred spirit, someone whose perspective - balanced, by the way, not entirely black - would be a welcome companion on this road. I clicked through to her wordpress blog and found it had been closed down, rendered to archives, and her readers directed to some sort of mommy blog. Well, it's been two years. Fair enough. But then I saw the birth announcement - September 2008. I frowned. I did the math. I went through the archives from the IF wordpress blog to the latter half of December 2007. She got her BFP within a week of writing that post. She must have been pregnant at the time. Laden with irony, of course, and to be sure wonderful news. But I feel I've lost a friend, you know?

The other quote was from Megan as well. It's her blogoversary, and she changed her header to a picture of her dog. In her post, she said, "Imagine how annoying I would be if I had a real kid." That's funny. (Obviously.) Also, not about her specifically, but isn't it true? Maybe IF makes us deeper people. Maybe looking deeply into suffering gives us perspective. I haven't really lost interest in my IRL friends who've had children (though anyone who can talk only about onesies I spend little time talking to. Seriously, God gave you a brain for a reason, and that is not it). But as for bloggers, well, there are a few (though treasured) examples of those whose ideas still interest me post-baby. I don't think this is entirely prompted by resentment on my part, either. I have listed some pet peeves before - listen, lady, it's no more of a chore to read a post about your life than before you had the little bundle of joy. I don't need to be "rewarded" for my perseverance by six pictures of him/her/it. But if that's how you're going to write posts from now on, I don't need to keep reading.

I harbor no special concerns that Megan will become dull after she has a baby, and I feel reasonably prepared to read the announcement any cycle now. But I have found it generally to be true, at least a significant portion of the time, that many IF bloggers who have babies lose (at least the appearance of) their unique perspective. That kindred spirit, that second sight that made them so precious to read, isn't discernible; and what I find instead is questions about bottles and diapers, the most prosaic of the prose of new motherhood. If I have to endure conversations in which I am at best an active listener, better I should save the stamina to do so for existing friendships I need to keep up. Because I only have so much energy for that sort of thing before I am emotionally exhausted.

And so, I suppose, my reflection on Megan's interesting turn of phrase: inside each of us IFers, is there a terminally tedious mother just waiting to escape and bore the rest of the world beyond endurance? Indeed, absent my (in my view) incurable fertility problems - and, God forbid, even if I should ultimately conceive - would I just have become some other doe-eyed Catholic girl in flowered skirts holding a baby, prattling on about God's blessings on little John Paul and how we have the sweetest white crucifix from his baptism hanging over his bed and I wrote "JMJ" in Sharpie onto the tags of his onesies and it's given me a new closeness to the Blessed Mother and he particularly likes the First Joyful Mystery?

Because if God gave me the scourge of infertility to kill that young woman, you know, I might be OK with that. But I would have thought it was sinful to think so - before I was infertile!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

next order of business

I think that for the rest of the Advent season I will be alternating between sets of attractive home decor pictures and maudlin spiritually-oriented rantings, a combination sure to induce, or at least document, certifiable insanity.

With respect to the house we last visited (with the realtors we like): it had previously been under contract (from August to October). The contingency was that the buyer should sell his current home, and, as I half-predicted, he was unable to. The same buyer has asked for an extension on said contingency and (after some delay) been granted one by the sellers, this time until January 29. That's a good bit of time (a little shorter than the last contingency, though), but I still entertain hopes that the house will return to the market again. After all, it's still a tricky market, and December and January are far worse months for a sale than August, September, and October. Moreover, between now and the end of January, nobody else will be able to buy it. We only have to wait out this one guy (admittedly, who has already had an offer accepted), and if it returns to the market then, it will finally be a good time for us to act. You know, visit it a couple more times, take measurements, have some home repair expert-y folk take a look at it, that sort of thing. Also, in the meantime, I can try to eke out those 10 more points on my credit, and my dh can try to get that random judgment against the other fellow with his name off his credit report at last (we're working on that now). And I can shop for a good mortgage rate. I think March/April would be a good time for us to buy a house.

I admit I haven't thought enough about what I will do when my commute is actually longer, I still don't have children, and I am suddenly no longer centrally located between all our single friends. But my activities when my husband is away incline me to think that I would actually be happy with a lot less social time. I enjoy it, but I never do my mending and there is no real quiet in my life. More could even be nice. I guess we'll see. Maybe it won't become our house at all.

Anyway, I've been tinkering a bit with house pictures. Here is the living room:

I am absolutely convinced that that fireplace brick is not original. The colors are even more varied up-close than they appear in this shot. It looks more 1950s to me, fifty years older than the house. The contrast sort of bothers my eyes. Plus, though I love exposed brick, if it's not original, then I don't have to preserve it...the right thing to do might be to paint it white. Right??? It would go with my idea of a color scheme for the living room - I'm planning to copycat the paint colors in this nice design photo here.

Since the front door is in the middle of one wall, there are two window areas (one on either side of the door) that are set back. I figured the one that's at the bottom of the stairs, below, would be perfect for a nice window seat.

This sort of general window-seat-y idea, maybe, though of course smaller and in a much less fancy room - and with no bay window (maybe I'm overshooting a little):

There's an identical recessed window area on the other side of the front door:

Since there are no stairs to work around there, I thought it would be a nice space for (OK, so this is sort of obvious) a PIANO. I particularly like the Chickering square grand - there's one selling in my area for a mere $1800 (which actually isn't a bad price for a piano, especially an antique. Do you think my husband would notice if this were occupying the entire living room when he got home? And missing from our savings?).

Next up: the dining room.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

from the dead letter office

Dear God,

You don't have to say anything - I know you've been reading my blog. So I figured this was as good a way as any to get this message to you.

Sew has mentioned, very wisely, her spiritual director's advice about saying all the nasty things I'm thinking TO You rather than about You, to other people. I suppose I kind of knew this - I mean, I shouldn't say things about You behind Your back, especially if You know...

I don't know whether I have the energy left to complain that You took my vocation away. I guess I don't feel like I have one at all any more. Maybe like I don't deserve one; vocations are for other people. (Like children.) I know that not having the energy even really to be angry with You any more is my fault. I let myself get further and further away from You. (I don't even really feel like You're paying attention to this. I just looked over at the picture of Your face, streaked with blood from the crown of thorns, that I put on the wall. I thought it was so beautiful when I bought it. But You look so remote and severe. I don't believe any more that You're here with me, walking next to me. You had a cross, I have a cross, but what do they really have in common? What do You care that I'm infertile?) But what can I do? If You loved me, You wouldn't do this to me. I don't know how to believe otherwise.

I don't believe that if You loved me, You'd just give me twelve children, and a big house and hips that would fit into all the clothes I can't wear. I'm not really that shallow. But I do believe that if You really loved me, You wouldn't let me be unhappy like this. What if my sadness and lethargy - that have so taxed my ability to get exercise, devote time to prayer, or develop hobbies that could fill the void where my missing children are - are for hormonal reasons? That would mean You're just vicious, because my doctors don't know what the problem is or really even acknowledge the probem. I don't have a lot of real treatment options, other than becoming so obsessed with changing my diet, and finding alternative treatments, that I'd become a single-minded freak. Is that what You want from me??? Why would You give me the options of becoming unhealthily obsessed, or just unhealthy? What kind of witness is my life if I'm unhappy all the time, and my best efforts aren't enough to shake it? What does that do for Your kingdom? There aren't a lot of people who even want to be witnesses. I'd like to try, and look what I have to work with! But maybe the problem is me. Maybe if I tried harder, or did something I'm not willing to do, I would be a perfect witness. I would live just the life You want.

But I don't believe that this is that life. I know I'm screwing it up. I know if I went to daily Mass like I'm supposed to, and prayed the Rosary, and got more sleep and more exercise, it would be better. But it costs me dear to do those things. And I don't do them in part because I don't believe I would be much, if any, happier. Would that be better, if people saw me living a superficially good life, and I was still miserable? Who would want to have a faith like that?

I guess that's not even really the point. I can't claim really to care emotionally whether I'm a good witness or not, although of course I know I should care. What I'm angry with You about is that I think I have a rotten life. I'm not ungrateful for the real blessings I have. Well, actually, I am. I am ungrateful. I know I have a lot of blessings. I acknowledge them. I'd be more upset if I didn't have them. But I don't feel grateful for anything really. I feel unhappy all the time. It doesn't matter where I am in my cycle, so it isn't that. I feel distant from my husband even when I'm talking to him. I feel distant from everyone. Obviously I feel distant from You. I just feel completely alone, like I'm stuck inside several miles of foam batting that keep me from the rest of reality. And what I want from You is a solution.

I am angry with You because I don't think it's fair that I should just be unhappy. I know all Your people would say that if I reinvigorated my prayer life and took on more moral disciplines that the problem would be solved, but You and I know that that's a lie and I cannot, cannot stand to hear that from You. You know it isn't true! If I do something faith-related that I'm "supposed" to do, then I don't feel guilty about not doing it, but I don't feel good. I know I'm not supposed to practice my faith for the warm fuzzy feelings, and in fact I don't (didn't), as You know. I'm not saying that I should feel all happy when I pray the Rosary or whatever. I'm saying that there should be something I can do so that I'm not just always unhappy. What did You do to my life?

I know it's my fault that I put up all these defenses and push people away so that I never have to be wretched in front of anyone. And I know that I'm a rotten sinner and have no right to be so proud. But I would rather be angry with everyone on the planet preemptively than give anyone the chance to feel sorry for me. I'm so, so angry that I feel like a failure - because even though I'm not really in contact with that emotion, it must be why I'm so very angry. I developed these impressive coping mechanisms so that I don't cry when people say stupid insensitive things. I smile. I let people say things that are honest and don't take them personally, and I accept that pregnancies and babies are for other people and, with rare exceptions, I don't get jealous. I've sealed myself from all the things in life that I wanted.

But that's all Your fault. You gave me the community and the discernment process and the spiritual reading and the moral challenges to decide to give up everything else I could have to be a mother, and I stepped up, and You didn't. You took everything I wanted away. And You have a right to. You're God, and I can't argue with You. I have nothing to say that could ever establish that I know better. You can sit up in heaven and just be God, and have a reason You won't share, that I know nothing about, that makes it fair for me to have to find my way without any guidance and without the dream - a GOOD dream! - that was moving me forward. You took my life away, and You can do whatever You want, but if You were decent and fair - if You were good! - You would have given me something better in its place. That's how it's supposed to work. Not something easier or more fun, but something better. It could be harder - much harder - or more challenging, or unpopular in the eyes of the world. That would be fair, even though I might complain. But nothing in place of a good thing is not fair. Not fair. Not fair. And I have a right to expect You to be fair. I don't want something I don't deserve. Don't give me a baby. I don't want to be pious and grateful because I'm spoiled. Don't treat me like a baby. But be fair. If I'm supposed to be here, give me a good reason. If I'm supposed to be in this middling job, show me what's so important about it, that I should be there. If I'm supposed to find another one, TELL ME! Tell me so I can understand. I have doubts sometimes, but I have no other ideas, and if You want me to quit my job in a bad economy just to prove that I trust You, well, I don't. I did nothing on infertility treatments for TWO YEARS and didn't even really complain because You are the author of life, and You could do more for our marriage and family than any doctor. You did NOTHING. I waited for You, and I got sicker. A lot sicker. I did the right thing, and You didn't. Or so it seems to me, and I don't know how it should look different. I could do the vaporous spiritual things I did in college, I guess. But those two years will probably be the last such thing that I ever do, unless You give me some reason to believe that You didn't just let me down when I did that. I have bills to pay, credit to maintain, and a security clearance to keep up. I can't just go taking leaps of faith, if You're not going to back me up. And You and I both know that You haven't.

So what do You want from me? I'm not good with Scripture like the Protestants, but I don't think Your word even has an example of a holy childless woman to follow. And You know that barren women who later conceive don't count. Because You're not promising me a baby (unless it's a secret promise that I don't know about, and THAT DOESN'T COUNT EITHER).

I know lots of people have faith and understand how this whole wait was worth it and have grown through grief and all sorts of other things, and don't You tell me it's not BECAUSE they have their babies now, and I think that's cheap. I don't want a baby so I can claim I've reached some zen with Your will, because it won't be true, I'll just have been bought off. Anyway, I know You're not going to give me a baby. Of course You have the power to go back on that, too. But I'm not going to waste time and heartbreak hoping for that any more. I don't expect to have a baby. And even though I don't know what my future holds, I KNOW that there are women who never do. So I want You to make it really OK for me to live the rest of my life without a child, so I don't have to hate You for ruining my life. Give the babies to someone else. That's what I want from You.

Yours truly,

the misfit

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

mania - a play in three acts

There are a lot of things wrong with me. And, while I can understand the confusion, I am not talking about my uterus or ovaries, or even, except in a general way, my hormones.

I have been thinking about this off and on, but with focus, in the past few weeks. I have had a few smaller "ah-ha" moments, maybe even some medium-sized ones.

Revelation 1: Depression and Anxiety

It all started when I decided that, my TSH levels having normalized or whatever (see here and here), but me still being fatigued, unable to get up in the morning no matter how much sleep I get, and faintly depressed most of the time, it might be time to admit that I actually am depressed. I didn't have a specially good reason - I swear I'm dealing better lately with the challenges that life throws at me - but I suppose I may have been depressed for a year or more and just ready to admit it now.

So, as part of my big concession, I figured I would start with looking up the symptoms of depression and confirming my self-diagnosis, and then starting in on whatever things I can do to improve the problem (supplements? changes in diet? particular exercise program? little self-imposed life assignments?), since I am still holding down a job and a marriage and don't quite feel ready for therapy, around all the other things I have to schedule medically. (No, I have not called Fr. P back about the spiritual director thing, yet. I will. Tomorrow.) The symptoms I found:

-difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
-fatigue and decreased energy
-feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
-feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
-insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
-irritability, restlessness
-loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
-overeating or appetite loss
-persistent aches or pains,
headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
-persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings
-thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

But I don't have those symptoms. Some of them, of course; but no sleep trouble, suicidal ideation, or loss of interest in favorite hobbies. (I probably would pursue a larger number of hobbies if I had more energy, though.) No difficulty making decisions, and while I forget things occasionally, I think that's normal, right? I don't know that I feel specially guilty, worthless, hopeless, helpless, or pessimistic. (I'm pretty negative about the IF, but seriously.) No aches or pains that can't be explained medically (they're all digestive, they're all endo-related, and they all vary depending on what I eat). I was temporarily stymied, but, while I wasn't looking, my brain worked out the flaw in my conclusion: I diagnosed depression when I should have diagnosed anxiety. (My brain is clever, no?) So I looked up the symptoms of anxiety, of course, and here is what I found:

  • Are you constantly tense, worried, or on edge?
  • Does your anxiety interfere with your work, school, or family responsibilities?
  • Are you plagued by fears that you know are irrational, but can’t shake?
  • Do you believe that something bad will happen if certain things aren’t done a certain way?
  • Do you avoid everyday situations or activities because they make you anxious?
  • Do you experience sudden, unexpected attacks of heart-pounding panic?
  • Do you feel like danger and catastrophe are around every corner?

  • Answers: not constantly; not really; no; no; no; I don't think so; and no. I may be anxious by temperament, perhaps, but that doesn't sound like an anxiety disorder.

    OK. So here are the symptoms for which I need a diagnosis:
    • Constant mild fatigue (irrespective of the amount of sleep I get). But no trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, and I don't sleep fifteen hours unless I am already sleep-deprived.
    • Some trouble concentrating, but nothing I can't manage - I think that's just laziness. But I feel as though I have no initiative, and I am used to having some, and often a lot.
    • Still have that physical fatigue with exercise. Not like it's hurting my body, but like I just desperately want a nap, while jogging.
    • Semi-compulsive (i.e., I don't stop though I know I should; but I could stop if I had to) self-destructive behavior. (This is actually the one that made me ready to admit I'm not OK.) If my husband is not around to watch me, I will keep myself awake until 2, 3, 4AM when I know I need to be up by 7:30 for work the next day - just reading garbage on the internet. I'll know I'm tired, know I'm going to be exhausted, and actually look for other nonsense to read because I don't want to go to bed. And even when I know that some food or other will make me sick, I eat it. In fact, I keep eating even when I'm not hungry, even after I'm uncomfortably full. I feel like the long-ago anorexic demons have returned in mutant form: I overeat because I feel as though someone, somewhere, is depriving me of food, when I have thoughts like "I'm full now. I can have more later," and I have to fight back by eating myself sick. (Nevertheless, there are things I can easily eat in moderation. The bag of Lindt dark chocolate truffles lasted about two weeks, and that didn't even take effort, although I love them. Oh, and I shared them.)
    • General mild depression. I can be quite upbeat when I'm distracted by something and even exuberant (with fun people or enough caffeine), but take away the stimulus, and I'm down. However, I don't have trouble getting myself motivated to attend social activities. I'm happy to go.
    • Irritable (but that could be anything, so I'm not sure it counts).
    • Also, I swear I am still steadily gaining weight and not in rational response to the amount I am eating, but I haven't actually counted all my calories, so I could be wrong here.
    That's pretty weak, huh? I mean, if I had this for a week, I would think "PMS!" or "Hormones!" or "Lousy week." Except maybe for the weird compulsive behavior. But I feel like this all the time. And I could just be sort of a weirdo/downer as a person; I mean, I would expect some 70yos to feel like this. But this isn't me. I'm not usually like this. But I'm not sure...there's really anything wrong with me? Maybe I'm just crazy. Who knows.

    Also, though I am very excited about the impending arrival of my new thyroid meds (erfa. Heck, I've never even researched what this stuff is, or does. But I'm going to take it anyway!), using that as an excuse is sort of thin too. My sister just told me yesterday that her TSH just came back high. 8.3. Mine was 7.04. Different titration methods, perhaps, but got to be at least comparable, if not worse - and this girl runs marathons. (As she noted, though, "I do sleep an awful lot." She really does. I miss being a student.) So I imagine I could be doing something different and exercising and losing weight, rather than turning into a mindless, motivation-less blob with no muscle tone.

    Revelation 2: Mothering

    Then last night, several things I've sort of been thinking idly (that don't answer the above questions) sort of fell into place together. I've complained about not belonging to a parish - that nobody seems to need me to do anything, and I'm accustomed to interacting with a parish in that way. And nobody really seems to need me in the community either. (At Mass a few weeks ago, they even had a volunteering fair, and I was good - I signed up to make food at the homeless shelter or halfway house or whatever. Have they called me? NO.)

    Last night it occurred to me that part of the reason I feel so untethered from daily Mass is because I don't feel like I belong there either. While having to deal with the readings and homily in a very foreign language that I seem unable to absorb is alienating and annoying, I realized that being the only white person in a church where everyone else looks like they're related to each other (well, I'm sure they don't see it that way) makes me a permanent outsider. They don't need me to be there. I will always be a guest. At other parishes where I've attended daily Mass, I've rapidly become a regular (even, in some cases, in city parishes). It makes me feel as though I'm part of something, and it's valuable to the community that I continue to attend. I'm not attending so that people will think I'm pious (I hope), but (in part) because it will make them happier if I am there.

    Actually, in my iconic Catholicism-practicing experience, I was sort of a mom figure for a bunch of other Catholic college students. They really needed me to be places (if anyone ever did) because I was the old reliable, and I was often the person who had invited them to come the very first time. People needed the regulars to be there.

    And that's when I realized, as I was falling asleep last night, that what I really need is to mother somebody or something, and I have been doing that at least since I was 17 (arguably with my siblings since I was maybe 6), and that ironically, now that I'm of childbearing age, at least, it's the first time in my life I haven't had someone to mother. The only people in my life who need to be fed and mothered just a wee tiny bit are the people I invite to parties, and, indeed, my husband I throw pretty good (relatively low-key) parties, and we throw more of them than any of our other friends, I think. So I've turned from attending daily Mass to partying not because I love drinking and fooling around (I do neither) - but because I am lonely and want to fill my desire to be a mother. Absolutely freaking ridiculous. But like all accurate personal revelations (in my experience), it has the feeling of truth. I think it is true. I think it's what I did. It's why I'm nuts over the matchmaking. I want people to help and take care of. That means I need help, I guess.

    Revelation 3: Madness

    And finally, I was reading the delightful big girl blog, and Plumcake recommended some particular model of "Ovation boots." Did you just read that as "Ovulation boots," too? I did. So clearly that even when I realized that was very odd and looked again, I still saw "Ovulation." And I thought, why would they name a boot that? Who would buy a boot with that name? I would buy that boot. Wait, what? I would buy that? Because I wanted to tell people about my ovulation obsession, or as my little secret, or would I be charmed that they had been marketed to me, but not want people to know the name? Oh, I get it. I think I'm losing my mind.

    And the big question - is this caused by the infertility?