Friday, January 30, 2009

Wings

Gabriel Garcia Marquez's story "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings" has been wandering through my mind lately, probably because his autobiography, Living to Tell the Tale, has been sitting next to my bed. When I go to bed at a decent hour (not that that happens), I read a little bit. It's amazingly written - sounds so much like his fiction that I didn't realize it wasn't a story at first. It did start to occur to me that the narrator's life sounded as if it must have been similar to the author's, and then I read the inside panel, and, sure enough, it wasn't fiction at all.

Anyway, the story is just a little long for a blog post, so I've linked to it above instead of including its text, but it's not too long to read if you have just a few minutes. And it's something special.

I did have a reason for thinking that the story belongs in the IF world. Marquez's special style of writing has been called "magical realism" - you'll see that immediately when you read the story. He's talking about the non-natural but in an extraordinarily matter-of-fact way. I'm not sure it's entirely a "style," though - I'm inclined to think he, as a person, just saw the world differently than other people. And I also think "magical" might be just a tad off. Angels are supernatural, but they're spiritual, not magical.

It seems as though Marquez, with his special sight, saw the invisible spiritual around him so clearly that it just wove into the fabric of his reality, not disturbing, or disturbed by, the fact that the latter was gritty and broken and sometimes sad. And so you have a great creature with enormous wings and miraculous powers and rheumatic lungs and a bit of senility and a bald head.

And that's a little like us, isn't it? Motherhood is elementary nature, and science on which every medical school student is tested, but it's also miraculous and mysterious and strange. And since the miracle part generally happens spontaneously, without heavenly lights and the rending of the earth, or talismans or spells or prayer, people wandering the gritty streets forget that it's miraculous at all. For us, though, it does require prayer, and maybe heavenly lights too; like Marquez, we see what's invisible to others, because our waiting and suffering have opened our eyes. And maybe a little like the angel - not serene and celestial and pristine, with shining eyes and quiet harp-playing; we're broken and battered, maybe a little beyond the ordinary years for our walk of life, and possibly going just a little crazy.

But that doesn't mean we don't have wings; and when the world isn't looking, our feathers will grow in, and someday, perhaps with an unseen, uncomprehending audience, we'll flap lamely away into the distance and across the sea.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

O Magical Day!

So today is not a show and tell day but I am showing, also telling, anyway. So there.

This is what my house looked like this morning as I headed to work.


I had to turn around and get a picture of it (with my camera phone - and not half bad for that) because I was so excited. It had snowed, and it had stuck, and it was snowing, and it is still snowing at 1:24PM as I write this. This is therefore the first real snowfall of the year here in my transplant home south of the Mason-Dixon line, because each previous so-called snowfall lasted no more than ten minutes and left not a single flake on the ground. Whereas this is pure magic. Not deep snow but, as you see, white. My husband is taking a walk with me tonight whether he wants to or not.

Though this may sound counter-intuitive, increasing my enjoyment of the (legitimately) wintry weather is the fact that I have a head cold. Not bad, just enough to make me slightly stuffy, slightly foggy, and perpetually warm and faintly feverish. This is perfect for enjoying the joys of snuggling under blankets and for paying attention to the beautiful snow and little else. Also, last night, I dragged myself off the warm spot on the couch, though I thought I had not the energy to stand, and dragged myself into the kitchen. When I got there, I discovered that I did, in fact, have some energy, enough to strain a great pot of homemade chicken broth, freeze a decent quantity, and cut up the remaining chicken and package it separately so that in my refrigerator I have the easy first steps to a delicious large batch of creamy chicken and wild rice soup, which I will make in a few days. Then I discovered the FURTHER energy to make beef lentil soup from scratch (yes, you read that correctly. I finished just before ten. Thank you, thank you). It was a first try, so my ingredients need a few slight tweaks (more raw garlic; cracked pepper instead of ground; some fresh ginger; no celery seed; more beef, more bacon, no sausage; spinach instead of broccoli). And then, as a reward for my bravery, I made myself a mug of hot cocoa, also from scratch, on the stovetop. I cannot say how much better it tastes if you make it from milk, cocoa, sugar, and real vanilla,* and it makes the whole kitchen smell just delicious. I need to buy one of those whipped-topping-in-a-can-but-made-from-real-cream things and keep it on hand at all times. There could be emergencies.

Unfortunately, after all this exhasting labor, I fell asleep on the couch at about 10:30. I only shaved one comment off my backlog (though I just finished everything for today!), so the deficit now stands at 16. But I am going to clear the whole thing by tomorrow, maybe even make EXTRA comments. You watch me.

Oh yes, and next I am making roast. With asparagus, and acorn squash and cheddar casserole. And apple pie. (That's all tomorrow, don't worry. Tonight is the grocery shopping, the walk, and the comments.)

In case it isn't entirely obvious, I am explaining all this in such excruciating detail because the enormous coziness of my real-winter activities needs to be shared with the world. What could improve upon such pursuits? Actually, apple cider might improve them slightly. I'll look for some of that too. Oh, and, if my near-terminal coziness holds any fascination for others, I will share recipes. But I am not going to bore the (tiny segment of the) world (that reads these remarks) with them without at least some provocation.


*For the hardened of temperament, kahlua, creme de menthe, or orange liqueur are also sound cocoa-fortification options.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Recently

So, I have been very neglectful of my blogging responsibilities. I missed making comments on Thursday AND Saturday AND Sunday (well, I did extra responsive comments already, so I'm only down a total of 17). I will get my comments in today and before bedtime my deficit will be down to six, I swear.

I have a good reason, though. My best girlfriend of fourteen years just moved, so I spent the weekend packing and moving boxes. I got home at a decent hour both nights but I was just so tired. So I'm behind, but I haven't been neglectful in life in general. Also, I got an awesome upper- and lower-body workout. So I ate half a package of double-stuff Oreos...so what? I'm still being virtuous.

Since this is something of an omnibus post, I will also note that I am coming by degrees to the decision that I should do some research on what different cycle patterns and symptoms mean (working just from the little information doctors have the time and patience to give out is less than helpful. I'd like to understand thoroughly what's going on). If anyone knows of a medical textbook or some sort of encyclopedic guide to the hidden secrets of heavy flow, spotting, cycle length change, and all that nonsense, feel free to recommend. Bonus if it's available used on Amazon!

I further note that this is part of my returning-to-treatment phase. I'm starting to realize that a lot of the reason for my rage is because I'm naturally kind of a controlling person and the IF means that one of my highest priorities in life is out of my hands and maybe even out of reach. I feel completely helpless. Thus, even the tiniest threats or inconveniences in my life prompt, well, rage. If I start to learn more deeply what's going on, maybe I can demystify my illness, be less dependent for information on my doctor - possibly even anticipate bad news. And have some feeling that lifestyle changes (diet, exercise, whatever), are rational and take-charge, not just childlike superstition that slavishly obeying apparently crackpot advice has some talismanic, rather than scientific, power to get me a baby. (Or several babies.) That would be better.

Finally, and perhaps most pressingly, I really like Cheetos (the brand isn't important, really, but they have to be crunchy), and I just had a (snack sized!) bag, and I want another. Right now.

Friday, January 23, 2009

What's Your Word?

ButterflyAnla shared this on her blog.

What's Your Word?

Your Word is "Hope"

You see life as an opportunity for learning, growth, and bringing out the best in others. No matter how bad things get, you always have at least a glimmer of optimism. You are accepting and forgiving. You encourage those who have wronged you to turn over a new leaf. And while there is a lot of ugliness in the world, you believe that almost no one is beyond redemption.
I answered all the questions honestly, but really, I don't think that's me. I think it could be...and probably should be...and maybe it will be. Maybe soon.

I have tried recently to make some small improvements. YESTERDAY, I ran into my one IRL friend who's also IF. She's been much more aggressive about pursuing treatment and has already secured an appointment with a specialist who's highly in demand. I've realized that after I stopped getting upset each time I lost the who'll-get-pregnant-first contest, I started getting annoyed if IRL IF folk who'd been TTC longer got into treatment sooner. (Even though I decided I was on a break. Yes, that's crazy.) So it's not easy to listen, but I just asked her as many questions as I could and really listened to the answers. Forging connections with other IF people. Not easy, but maybe worth it.

Another thing I'm going to do is work on listening to others more intently in general. Let them talk; ask follow-up questions; care and inquire sincerely. I've found I'm happier caring more about someone else than desperately competing for an audience myself. But competing for airtime is a hard habit to break.

After I master this, I'm going to stop being a shrew to my husband...no, really. I am.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Welcome ICLW: the OUTFIT CONTEST

So now that I've basically confessed my great devotion to the Manolo websites, I figured I might as well go whole hog and shamelessly plagiarize one of the most entertaining (and, apparently, now extinct) Manolo institutions, the Build-the-Outfit contests. The idea is, he picks an insane pair of shoes. Then, you have to build an outfit to go with said pair of shoes. He picks his favorite. The best iteration of the contest had a price limit, which I'm going to adopt. We'll say someone gave you the shoes as a Christmas present; they're free. You have $200 to spend on the rest of the outfit. After the practice of another manolosphere blog, teeny manolo (but we're not going to discuss that now), I will give a symbolic (not tangible) gift to the winner.

I don't think you can post images in the comments on blogger, so just post links to the images or the pages that host them. They have to be items you find for sale on the internet - items you own do not count. Also, I do understand that part of the fun of the Manolo contest was his position as a fashion critic. Not so moi. I'm afraid there's nothing I can do about that.

One more administrative issue: I know I don't have the following for a full-blown contest. But I want one, so I'm going to hold it anyway. I will hold it open until, let's say, Valentine's Day at midnight, and if there are no contestants by then, I will win (I'll make an entry, just to be fair).

And, without further ado...the shoes! It is the Puma Alto Boot! The suede version comes in several colors - basic tan, ice blue, and even a crazy jewel blue. There may be other colors, but these babies are hard to track down.



There's also a futuristic synthetic version, here in black.






















The "Mostro Alto" was also created, in an ultra-limited edition. Seen on a few starlets, this pair is among only 170 that were sold.



Tuesday, January 20, 2009

100 Things

Got this from Megan at INfertile Myrtle. Feel free to post your own copy of the list (and please let me know in the comments if you do, so I can check yours out!) - you just bold-face the items on the list you've accomplished.

(Possibly coming soon: things I, an infertile misfit, would like to do before I die.)

1. Started your own blog.
2. Slept under the stars.
3. Played in a band.
4. Visited Hawaii.
5. Watched a meteor shower.
6. Given more than you can afford to charity.
7. Been to Disneyland.
8. Climbed a mountain.
9. Held a praying mantis.
10. Sang a solo.
11. Bungee jumped.
12. Visited Paris.
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea.
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch.
15. Adopted a child.
16. Had food poisoning.
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty.
18. Grown your own vegetables.
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France.
20. Slept on an overnight train.
21. Had a pillow fight.
22. Hitch hiked.
23. Taken a sick day when you're not sick.
24. Built a snow fort.
25. Held a lamb.
26. Gone skinny-dipping.
27. Run a marathon.
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice.
29. Seen a total eclipse.
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset.
31. Hit a home run.
32. Been on a cruise.
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person.
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors.
35. Seen and Amish community.
36. Taught yourself a new language.
37. Had enough money to truly be satisfied.
38. Seen the leaning tower of Pisa in person.
39. Gone rock climbing.
40. Seen Michelangelo's David.
41. Sung karaoke.
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt.
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant.
44. Visited Africa.
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight.
46. Been transported in an ambulance.
47. Had your portrait painted.
48. Gone deep sea fishing.
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person.
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling.
52. Kissed in the rain.
53. Played in the mud.
54. Gone to a drive-in theater.
55. Been in a movie.
56. Visited the Great Wall of China.
57. Started a business.
58. Taken a martial arts class.
59. Visited Russia.
60. Served in a soup kitchen.
61. Sold Girl Scout cookies.
62. Gone whale watching.
63. Gotten flowers for no reason.
64. Donated blood, platelets, or plasma.
65. Gone sky diving.
66. Visited a Nazi concentration camp.
67. Bounced a check.
68. Flown in a helicopter.
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy.
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial.
71. Eaten caviar.
72. Pieced a quilt.
73. Stood in Times Square.
74. Toured the Everglades.
75. Been fired from a job.
76. Seen the changing of the guard in London.
77. Broken a bone.
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle.
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person.
80. Published a book.
81. Been to the Vatican.
82. Bought a brand new car.
83. Walked in Jerusalem.
84. Had your picture in the paper.
85. Read the entire Bible.
86. Visited the White House.
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating.
88. Had chicken pox.
89. Saved someone's life.
90. Sat on a jury.
91. Met someone famous.
92. Joined a book club.
93. Lost a loved one.
94. Had a baby.
95. Seen the Alamo in person.
96. Swum in the Great Salt Lake.
97. Been involved in a lawsuit.
98. Owned a cell phone.
99. Been stung by a bee.
100. Read an entire book in one day.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Show and Tell: O Christmas Tree

It's show and tell time! This is my Christmas tree.


You might think that I am showing and/or telling something not current, but you'd be mistaken. (Admittedly, the picture was taken nearer Christmas. I have no idea who those people are, but it's my tree.)

You see, my tree is still up. It looks substantially the same. It's been up for a whole month, and given that it's a store-bought tree, I am amazed at its longevity. Of course, I got it a nice stand. I water it. When it first got settled in, I gave it sugar. I decorated it lovingly with lights and glass ornaments and an angel (that's an awesome angel, no?). And every year - when we remember - my husband and I give each other an ornament for the tree. This year, I got him a set of antique silver blown-glass balls (they're probably colored with mercury, actually*), and he forgot. I think one is visible in the picture. Last year, I forgot, but he got me a beautiful folk art glass ornament handpainted with the Madonna and child.

There's just one problem. I love my tree so. It's my first real tree (I've had an itty-bitty tabletop-sized one before, but that wasn't really big enough to decorate. And by real, I don't mean I had fake ones; I just can't love them, so I've done without in years I couldn't get a live one). And I don't want to let it go. It hasn't shedded much yet (and it's on a hardwood floor, so it's easy to sweep). I know I have to put it on the curb, but I can't bear to.

How do I say goodbye to my tree that I love?

*I don't go in for the "aren't we lucky we can do x we don't have kids" logic with any sincerity pretty much ever, but I admit to one exception: if I had small children, I couldn't have glass ornaments, and certainly not mercury glass. And I really like them.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

IF Silence

I was thinking. From what I can tell, the women in the IF blogosphere have female peers and friends IRL. But they're not infertile friends, not people going through the same thing. And also, the lovely IF ladies obviously have developed strong friendships with other IFers online.

I haven't made any close friends in the blogoworld (though I just got here, and already there are many whose adventures I follow with interest and fellow feeling). But I definitely don't have friends with whom I talk about infertility in my real life. Let's do the inventory.

(1) her husband and mine are friends. She has two kids but struggled very much for both (and definitely wants more). It obviously took a toll on her, but I found out before I was married and I wasn't in the boat yet. She and I would never have been best friends and knew each other only slightly, but I'm still impressed with how open she was with her struggles - in a way that didn't seem strange. Then her family moved. I haven't talked to her since.

(2) one of my profs! She got married after I met her. I know they don't have kids yet and really want them, but we're not friends.

(3) one of my classmates. She had been married three years and never used bc. She opened up to me once (in my first year of marriage - I didn't really know I was IF yet). I found out she'd been married 3 years, no bc, no nfp, and nothing - and had never consulted a doctor, and didn't want to b/c it might stress her husband, who was looking for a job. I entreated her to in case she was really sick. I called her a few times (she lives on the other coast) after I was definitely IF and felt like I'd like someone to share with. I thought she'd feel the same and couldn't tell when she called back. I called again some weeks later. She never returned the call and I haven't called since. Not going to stalk.

(4) another wife of a (very close) friend of DH. Lovely woman, I think she's great. But they've not even been married a year. I know her endo is worse than mine and she's a few years older. But I don't feel like she has a right to be in this "club" yet when I've had to suffer in it for so long (yes, I'm psycho) and the one time I mentioned how so much treatment for motherhood (hello! Second-oldest profession) seemed so unnatural and really bothered me, she said she was a nurse and it didn't bother her. This is reasonable, but zero connection, and I don't need to be condescended to, which is clearly the next step. Never going to discuss this again.

(5) another classmate. She had never had kids in a fourteen-year marriage. A mutual friend had mentioned she and her husband couldn't have kids and wanted to adopt. I brought up once that I was infertile. She never took the bait. Never mind.

(6) another classmate. She's been married 11 years. Can't tell whether she and the husband are waiting on purpose but it sure doesn't seem likely. She's given me (unwanted, medically unsound, but graciously offered) advice on my infertility, but never said a word about her situation. Supposedly, we were very good friends, but she's very reserved. She didn't bring it up, so I never asked.

(7) a small handful of other classmates who graduated with a few years married and no kids. Couldn't tell whether they were waiting on purpose and we've lost frequent contact. No point raising the matter now.

So, I'm no different. If it's really 1/7 of couples, I must know lots of infertile couples - maybe even several of similar age and similar values to mine. But I don't talk about IF with any real-life friends (OK, with the obvious exception of the many non-IF people who ask).

I hardly have a great following, but anyone who is reading, I'd really like to know: is this your experience too? Do you have any insight as to why this is?

Joy

(Yes, I know. Again with the DID.)

I've spent the past few days at a conference, and today I noticed in particular one of the women who was taking care of registration and sign-ins and so forth for those attending. She had an instantaneous and genuine smile for everyone. I think it actually made the room brighter.

There's a picture of me (I still have it somewhere) from when I was in college. I was "tabling" in the student center for a club, distributing literature, and one of my dorm-mates had stopped by. He was not particularly sympathetic to my cause, but made a show of looking over the information we had and promising to give it serious consideration. Somebody snapped a picture of me talking to him. Seeing it later (I hadn't realized it was being taken), I knew that my huge smile was because I was laughing at something he had said. But my face was lit up brilliantly - the whole picture glowed with my happiness. Like the woman at the conference.

Recently, here and there, I've stumbled on a picture of myself from just a few years ago, and I've been struck by what I saw. I'm not saying I've become Mary-Kate Olsen. But in those pictures, I can see that there was something in my face, in my smile, that's missing now. Not youth only - innocence. Lightness. Joy. The woman I met today actually made my day better by her joyfulness.

I think I used to have that, too. And I'm going to get it back.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Rage

If it weren't for shamelessly stealing the ideas of others, I'd have nothing to say at all. So, without further ado, I present my latest theft: this post on "baby rage" by Megan at INfertile Myrtle. You, non-existent person, MUST read it.

Her stages of grieving are apropos, too, except (1) how do you grieve for something that's not gone yet? I know, giving up totally on the idea of having a baby and then being surprised by one (should that occur) would make my life more peaceful, but I'm not sure I could swing sleepwalking through fertility treatments. And I'm not sure I'm prepared to forswear them altogether before I've really tried; and (2) I don't want to go back to depression/sadness. I feel like such a miserable failure already. At least at the anger (ahem, rage) stage I feel tough. Rotten things have happened to me, but I'm not curling up and crying, not me! No, I'm taking on the wretched world. Take that, unfair world!

Except I seem to be taking all the hits in this fight. Well, maybe I'll figure out how to let go and just be miserable again.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

When I Grow Up

My old boss (at a job with a one-year term for which I had not yet found a successor job) used to say that I should let him know when I had decided "what I want to do when I grow up." I found a next job - and then another, and I'm planning to stick with this one for a while - but his larger point was correct.

I have no idea what I want to do when I grow up. In my interview for the job I now have, I was asked, "Where do you see yourself in ten years?" It's not a bad question. I studiously did not explain about the rambling Victorian farmhouse on the outskirts of a quaint village, with a dozen children and a roaring fire and a couple of golden retrievers. Consequently, I had no coherent answer at all. Blessedly, they seemed not to notice how badly I was stumped, and the conversation meandered smoothly along.

But I was inspired by shinejil's post on seizing her dreams and accomplishing some of her life's goals to think more about what I dream for myself if I never have children, or maybe regardless of whether I have children. Because I think part of the destructiveness of the IF is spending so many good years just waiting for something we can't control. Another part is mortgaging so much of our identity to the idea of motherhood. Motherhood is beautiful and wonderful and necessary - not, I hope, to our survival; but intrinsic to womanhood, I think. But it's not the entire story, or every woman's story would be one sentence long and they would all be the same story. They aren't. The IF struggle and misery deserve a chapter, maybe a long one (whether or not the next chapter is "Pregnancy"); but they don't deserve the whole book.

What else am I? And why do I feel in such danger of losing my grip on it?

Show and Tell: The Facts of Life

This is my first time participating in Show and Tell, so I'm probably going to screw up the linking and gadgetry badly. But I think this is highly entertaining, period, so it's still worthwhile.

I think that one of the things that characterizes IF is a wee bit of confusion about the facts of life - both being confronted with other people who don't understand some fairly basic science (how many people have I told that having sex is not necessarily all it takes to get pregnant? Here's me, not pregnant. I know whereof I speak), and with our bodies, which apparently need to take 9th grade health again from scratch.

So here's the introductory lesson - not a picture from my life, maybe, but something I watch over and over again, because I enjoy it so. (Not obscene, and no strong language.)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Today I am a Hero

in the movie of my life. You, my non-existent audience, will surely celebrate with me.

Last night I went to a "girls' night in." [N.B.: The near-universal failure to use the necessary apostrophe drives me crazy - and yet I nearly omitted it myself. What have I become?!] Attendees all between about twenty-two and thirty. I was told to expect some married, some single, some expecting, maybe some engaged. This was basically accurate. There were five married women there. (As you've already guessed, I was the only one who didn't have kids. Two were even expecting!) Our charming hostesses - who really were lovely and charming - are all single girls in their mid-twenties. And as we were all grabbing something to drink and waiting for the pizza to arrive, someone said, "Now we can tell who's expecting" based on whether the other ladies poured a glass of wine or not. She was just being cute. She's about 24 and single. No ill intentions at all, and she was referring to her friends from college (I had just met her). But I could see, as clear as day, where this would end up.

So, with cheerful expression and tone, I briefly interrupted the patter of conversation to note that, before I should be suspected, I'm not expecting - I just don't drink. There were no funny stares or strange expressions. I didn't have to shift around for something to say and want to slither away. It was pretty easy.

Now, I don't know whether it was connected, but not one person asked me why I didn't have children, or when I was planning to come up with some, all night! I didn't even get pointed stares when people were talking about their little ones.

Things like that should be so easy, but they usually seem impossible. So, I am enjoying my theoretical Trophy of Brilliance and Courage. I've earned it.

Spiritual Motherhood

I mentioned in a previous post the idea of spiritual motherhood. The idea is that the virtues that go with being maternal can be exercised by those who don't have children at all, and by women (with or without children) in arenas other than just caring for children. This makes a lot of sense to me. (In case you hadn't gathered, I'm of the firm persuasion that women and men are different. And while many women see that idea as a badge of inferiority, I can't remember a time at any age when I'd have wanted to be a boy. How was it not best to be just what I was?)

I assume I'm not the only one who's observed that women with kids - let's say at the age of 50 - are generally, though not without exception, different from women who don't have kids. I guess, overall, they're just less about themselves. Less self-doubting. Less self-conscious. Less selfish. And there are absolutely exceptions in both directions. But that's something I've seen. And one of the things that scares me about IF is that I might become a fragile, never-quite-grew-up woman if I get to grandmother age (and BTW, I don't mean 50! That's not grandmother age - just ask my mother) and never have kids. It's not that I think the childlessness will outright cause it (although I think the kids would prevent it). But that my bitterness will make me brittle and unhappy and self-obsessed. And then I won't be proud of whom I've become. Is this crazy? I don't know, it seems kind of sane.

Anyway, here's JPII on spiritual motherhood, from his Letter to Women. He says:

Progress usually tends to be measured according to the criteria of science and technology. Nor from this point of view has the contribution of women been negligible. Even so, this is not the only measure of progress, nor in fact is it the principal one. Much more important is the social and ethical dimension, which deals with human relations and spiritual values. In this area, which often develops in an inconspicuous way beginning with the daily relationships between people, especially within the family, society certainly owes much to the "genius of women".

Here I would like to express particular appreciation to those women who are involved in the various areas of education extending well beyond the family: nurseries, schools, universities, social service agencies, parishes, associations and movements. Wherever the work of education is called for, we can note that women are ever ready and willing to give themselves generously to others, especially in serving the weakest and most defenceless. In this work they exhibit a kind of affective, cultural and spiritual motherhood which has inestimable value for the development of individuals and the future of society. At this point how can I fail to mention the witness of so many Catholic women and Religious Congregations of women from every continent who have made education, particularly the education of boys and girls, their principal apostolate? How can I not think with gratitude of all the women who have worked and continue to work in the area of health care, not only in highly organized institutions, but also in very precarious circumstances, in the poorest countries of the world, thus demonstrating a spirit of service which not
infrequently borders on martyrdom?
These ideas draw substantially from Edith Stein's essay "The Ethos of Women's Professions," which also appears in Woman (which I discussed before). Here's a snippet:

Woman naturally seeks to embrace that which is living, personal, and whole. To cherish, guard, protect, nourish and advance growth is her natural, maternal yearning. Lifeless matter, the fact, can hold primary interest for her only insofar as it serves the living and the personal, not ordinarily for its own sake. Relevant to this is another matter: abstraction in every sense is alien to the feminine nature. The living and personal to which her care extends is a concrete whole and is protected and encouraged as a totality; this does not mean that one part is sacrificed to another, not the mind to the body or one spiritual faculty at the expense of the others. She aspires to this totality in herself and in others. Her theoretical and her practical views correspond; her natural line of thought is not so much conceptual and analytical as it is directed intuitively and emotionally to the concrete. This natural endowment enables woman to guard and teach her own children. But this basic attitude is not intended just for them; she should behave in this way also to her husband and to all those in contact with her.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Baby Steps

(Ha, ha.) So I made an appointment for an annual exam (this will be the first OB I've seen in a year). That's pretty low-key, but I think it's my entrance back into being In Treatment for IF. I'm apprehensive already, and the appointment is in March. Between now and then, though, I guess I can just go about trying to live my life.

Also, a digression. Because it seems to give them reason to get up in the morning, I know that at some point a doctor is going to tell me that I need to Change Something (not my medication, but my life) or I will never have a child. I don't smoke or drink, or even drink coffee, so they're going to have to get creative. Actually, I already know what it will be. I'm not overweight, but I've gained 10-15 pounds in the last three years-ish. Before that, my clothes fit better and I just felt better generally. I've lost a few in the past few months, and I'm shooting for ten total - getting more exercise and eating healthier, trying to be in better shape. Now, I know I'm not overweight. I've done the anorexia thing myself, so spare me; (relatively) thin people can try to optimize their fitness and weight without being head cases.

Although a rational person would agree to this statement in the abstract, however, I defy anybody to find me an adult woman who will agree to it in any particular case. Well-meaning fertile women have already suggested that I gain five pounds - it worked like magic for them, they got pregnant right away! I've weighed ten pounds more. I did not get pregnant. And you're not infertile. But thank you for playing.

I concede, nobody has yet denied me treatment unless I gain ten pounds. It's probably too early to be angry about it. But this whole issue makes me angry in general. And I do understand that the culture is far meaner to the overweight. I've gotten a window into a world by reading this blog. I can't generally use the sale suggestions, but I think the writing is just fabulous and I enjoy it heartily. But the ridiculous web of criticism, revision, and lies into which women force other women about their weight is insane. As a culture, we should be institutionalized. What, on earth, is up with that?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Loneliness

So I've been thinking. Generally, when I'm depressed, I'm very depressed indeed, and when I'm busy or distracted, I assume that I'm fine. (And sometimes this is true.) It requires me taking a step back to see what things are really missing in my life. I tend to do this more when I'm depressed, which skews the results a little, but I've always found that unhappiness or unrest is a great goad to self-evaluation.

My conclusion is that two big things are missing in my life.

First, I don't have enough close girlfriends. I love my husband and we're terrifically close and I get to spend a lot of time with him. But all the other people we spend time with are pretty close friends but not very close - and few of them are women and none of those are really "bosom friends," you know. I do have good girlfriends, they're sort of all over the country (and other countries). But none with whom I feel that I share my day-to-day existence. I would benefit from the company of more women.

Second, people are not demanding nearly enough of me. I don't mean that I stare at the wall at work (I don't) or that I am never swamped in social obligations (this happens often, but I feel just as lonely - see above) or that I cannot fill my time. I can always fill my time. I fill it with nonsense, which I generally enjoy. However. I moved here almost six months ago and nobody needs me. When I walk out of church, somebody ought to notice that I'm an adult, married, have my own car, don't have children to look after, and show up there fairly frequently, and am just crying out to be pressed into service to do something, possibly several things, possibly something every night of the week. The rest of it is my fault. Charities at which I might like to volunteer cannot fairly be expected to find me. I need to go looking - I am sure there are many who would love to have some of my time. There are lots of things I'd like to do, from pro bono legal work to helping at a soup kitchen or a shelter. But I got busy with social engagements and work and haven't.

I guess what I mean is that part of what makes the longing for a family so acute is that there's a whole side of my personality with which I'm not doing anything. Because I don't have babies to care for, I've thrown my energy into very different, more self-focused and less nurturing activities. In particular, that means building my career - whether that just happened that way or is some sort of cutting-off-my-nose-to-spite-my-face type revenge against the world or God or someone who is irritating me, I can't entirely say. Maybe both. Probably both.

I'm not suggesting that the hole in my heart where the love for all the little babies should be isn't real, or that it would be filled and smoothed over if I only visited nursing homes and got a dog. It's real, all right, and it's not going away. But, I don't need to wear away at the edges of it until it becomes the Grand Canyon of babylessness.

A Good Day

Carrying on with my theme that I am a closet schizophrenic, I hereby announce that today is a Good Day. I drone on and on (not at huge length here yet, but give me time) about the fact that all I have from which to derive fulfillment is my job, and it's a job, and I want a family. HOWEVER. Today something small happened at said job that so delighted me that I will be walking on air at least the rest of the day, possibly all week (but no promises).

How to explain. Well, see, I've been working on a piece of writing for my boss that will probably be published. It was all his idea, and he has the big name, especially in this field, but I worked really hard on it. And although I understood the contrary when I started, I found out today that he may publish it with me listed as a co-author! I just enjoyed the writing, but getting my name on the by-line would be HUGE. I don't have anything published yet, and I really should, and I think this is a really good piece. I'm SO EXCITED.

Suffused with the resulting glow, I arrived home this evening with the energy to tackle my latest project: attempting to make one of the fabulous soups served at the absolutely best lunch place in the entire world. (It is not worth a trip to downtown Detroit, but it will redeem one that could not otherwise be avoided.) This particular attempt was directed at their Greek Lemon Chicken soup.* (I have already made copies of the African Peanut Chicken - a very good copy if I do say so myself - and the Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice, a decent copy.) It worked beautifully, with some help from my Joy of Cooking, the (amateur) cook's Bible and encyclopedia. I've lost the patience for obedience in cooking (I still largely obey in baking) and largely flit about on sometimes-successful inspiration, but Joy anchors me in good sense and good solid science. With apologies to all deserving parties, here is the recipe:

In large pot, combine:
  • 1 cup uncooked white rice
  • 8 cups water and 4 chicken bouillon cubes
    OR 8 cups tasty chicken stock
  • approx. 1 t cornstarch (optional - makes it thicker)
  • some fun seasonings - I used 1/8 t cracked pepper and 1/4 t dried oregano, or you could do parsley

Cook according to usual rice directions even though you have too much liquid. In other words, with normal rice, bring to boil, then cover and cook 15 minutes on low. Your silly Minute Rice has directions on the back.

Meanwhile, dice approximately one pound of chicken breast fillet and cook it just until done through (i.e. no pink). Mild seasoning optional. (For example, you might start with a tablespoon of butter and add two tablespoons of ranch or other creamy dressing when it's about half done.)

When the time on the rice is up, whisk together:

  • 4 raw eggs
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (or, juice of two lemons; or, one
    plastic lemon full)

Take a few spoonfuls of the hot broth (you know, that the rice is in) and stir it into the egg. Then pour the egg into the broth and rice and stir quickly. Then add the chicken and heat everything on very low heat for maybe five minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

It seems to me that cooking adventures - not cooking in general, but cooking adventures - are properly associated with soldiering through the valleys of life. I cite two pieces of evidence for this proposition: this blog that I shamelessly stole from Stirrup Queen Mel's "favorite blog" link, and this Frasier episode (in three parts). You should watch it. Especially if, like Frasier, you're in mourning.

*This is properly called Avgolemono. ~The Internet

Sunday, January 4, 2009

P.S.

Sorry, cheered-up world. But, this morning my SIL had her fifth. She got married years before I met her little brother, so it's not cheating for her to have a lot of kids. But today when we were talking, my husband slipped and called the baby "my son" instead of "my nephew." And we just heard that his name was the first runner-up for the baby's name. I thought he'd be relieved that he dodged a bullet, but apparently, he wanted to be picked. And he's always been obsessively protective of his nieces and nephews. Sometimes I can't help thinking that things would be different if we had our own...

Whiskers on Kittens

So, I've been in a funk the last couple of days. Possibly, in part, that's because I've started to think seriously about infertility and dealing with treatment again, which is good for me but also makes me want to curl up under a blanket somewhere - with some really nice hot cocoa - and never come out again. Also, partly, the holidays are just over and I am SO EXHAUSTED FROM PEOPLE and I thought I would get a respite, but then everyone got back into town or their families just left and suddenly we have a pile of dinner invitations - seriously, these people all know each other, could we all catch up at once? - and I want to become a hermit. So, this weekend, I did, which was awesome, but now I feel like a lump. Can't win. (However, I AM going to go for a run AND sweep my house before I go to sleep tonight, and then I WILL win. So there.)

Anyway, since I sort of have DID as a hobby (apologies to anyone who actually does suffer from DID. If this makes it any better, and I'm sure it doesn't, I've always thought it was by far the coolest psychiatric disorder, way cooler than the dozen undiagnosed maladies I probably do have), I decided I would follow up my first couple of posts with a Things That Make Me Happy post. So that if anyone ever reads my first few posts in order, my personality will be totally inscrutable.

We'll start with the obvious:



Another thing that always makes the world almost immeasurably better is any reason to be using my teakettle. I probably should have a huge stash of tea, but since I'm the only tea-drinker in the house and there is no such thing as a decent sale on any grocery item in the DC metro area (I can justify buying almost anything if it's on a really good sale), I have a small stash. Teakettles are AWESOME. (It occurs to me that I have been inexplicably drawn to a bright copper kettle - with a few scratches - in my local Goodwill. I never buy it, because I have a perfectly good kettle at home and the copper one hasn't got a lid. But I want it. And now I know why. Julie's got inside my head. I guess there are worse things.)

Another thing that almost always - but not always - makes everything better is chocolate. If I haven't had any chocolate that day, it's virtually a guarantee.

Always good are shoes. Here is a pair of shoes after which I pined for at least a year. I still think about them. I never found a sale on them that would put them within my price range, and my resolve is therefore firm against buying them. But I don't think they're any less lovely than when I first espied them. (Now that's love.)

Another thing that always makes me feel good is chatting with my girlfriends from college. I so rarely get an opportunity to - our lives are so far-flung now! - but my times sharing a cup of coffee (or tea!) or a chat or a movie or lunch, or a sleepover or each other's formal wear, with them are treasured memories. I'll always feel close to them, even if it's been ages since we've gotten to catch up. In fact, I resolve, before I go to bed tonight, to drop a line to at least one of them just to check in.

Of course that's not nearly all. I also love blankets - the larger and fluffier the better. I found a nice goose down comforter for our bed when I was buying things for the new place this summer, and I can't well explain what snuggly delight it has already imparted.

In that same vein, also excellent are flannel pyjamas. What's better than a pair of flannel pyjama pants? Especially ones so worn that they no longer have any nap from the flannel - they're just smooth. (N.B.: There is clearly an exception here. When some charming person has decided to put a long scar on your midsection so s/he can look at your reproductive organs up close and personal, you do not want flannel pyjama pants, as these have an elastic waistband. You want drawstring cotton jersey workout pants that you bought in a size large even though you are [OK, were] a size small because they just seemed to fit better. Just in case you were wondering.) In fact, for this Christmas, I was especially hoping for a pair of adult-sized Dr. Denton's with feet, possibly even with a butt flap, but nobody took me up on my many many hints. But you can't have everything.

And, because I would be a Bad Catholic if I didn't include at least something religious (I can see how people would think Julie Andrews counted, but she wasn't really a nun) (and by the way, has anyone else noticed that there are a great many more people laying claim to the title of Bad Catholic than Good Catholic or Decent Catholic or even just plain Catholic? Why is this, exactly?), the Marian prayers always make me feel better. I also really like her mother, St. Anne. I took St. Anne on as a patroness (lucky St. Anne) while I was deciding whether I should get married or be a nun, and after I got married, I realized that she was a childless woman, too. She conceived Mary when she was quite advanced in years - charmingly, medieval artists depicted Mary as being conceived by a kiss. (Did you hear that, IF community? We are all on the wrong path.)

And for anyone who particularly does need a bit of cheering up right this minute, I think this three-part episode just about sums it up.

Women and Vocation

So, now that I'm done ranting about my infertility-related psychoses, I'm ready to return to my general meditation on the subject of living as an infertile person. Way back when, before I was married, I was thinking seriously about becoming a Catholic nun. I did quite a bit of reading on vocations and the religious life and spirituality (I'm going to have to dig up some of that reading, because it was good stuff). Anyway, one topic I remember being discussed extensively - about women religious, not priests so much - was the idea of "spiritual motherhood." It was mildly interesting to me then; more so now. I've started thinking about it again and over the next days or so I'm going to see if I can sort out some of my thoughts and put them here.

In that vein - last night I was reading some of St. Edith Stein's essays (OK, full disclosure: I finished one. But I'm going to return to that book and read the whole thing) given me by a wonderful friend. She (Edith, that is) was an amazing woman (and the late JPII freely cribbed from her - with attribution, you know - in his writing on women and spirituality. True story). The introductory paragraphs seemed, in my current train of thought, to be written just for me to read. Here they are:


In everyday usage, the hackneyed word "vocation" retains little of its original connotation. When young people are about to graduate, one wonders what occupation they should pursue; the question whether women should enter the professional life or stay at home has been controversial for some time. [misfit notes: the author died in 1942.] Here the term designating vocation does not convey much more than gainful employment. The original meaning of the word survives only in particular allusions, i.e., when one says that a person has missed his vocation or when one speaks of a religious vocation. These idioms signify that a vocation is something to which a person must be called.

Yet, what does to be called mean? A call must have been sent from someone, to someone, for something in a distinct manner. We say that a scholar has been
appointed to a professorial chair. The offer initiates at an institution through the respective school; it goes to a man who is apparently called because of ability and education for that to which he is being called, i.e., to work as scholar and teacher. The offer is made to him by way of an invitation in prescribed or customary linguistic forms. I have most certainly used a peculiar turn of expression here: "he is called to that to which he seems to be called." [misfit: remember this is in translation from the German.] According to that, the appointment by a human institution evidently presupposes another call which these people believe recognized and therefore declared "called through ability and education." He himself and many others worked toward his formation, voluntarily and involuntarily; but it developed on the basis of his ability in the deepest sense of the word [misfit: I suspect the German here was "Faehigkeit," which means something akin to "capability" or "capacity" - more of the being than the having, if you will.] - all the gifts which he inherited. Thus his call, as well as his vocation - i.e., his works and creations to which he is destined - is prescribed in human nature; the course of life fructifies it and renders it recognizable to other people so that they are able to declare the calling in which he might happily find his place in life. But the person's nature and his
life's course are no gift of trick or chance, but - seen with the eyes of faith - the work of God. And thus, finally, it is God Himself who calls. It is He who calls each human being to that to which all humanity is called, it is He who calls each individual to that to which he or she is called personally and, over and above this, He calls man and woman as such to something specific as the title of this address indicates. What man and woman are called to does not appear to be easily recognizable, as it has been a controversial subject for some time. And yet there are any number of ways by which we receive this call; God Himself declares it in the words of the Old and New Testament; it is inscribed in the nature of man and woman; history elucidates this matter for us; finally, the needs of our time declare an urgent message. A diversely fibered texture is presented, but the design is not so complex that we may not isolate a few clear lines within it by viewing it clearly and objectively. So we may thus attempt to answer the question: to what are man and woman called?
From the essay "The Separate Vocations of Man and Woman According to Nature and Grace," which forms the second chapter of her book Woman.

I'd be interested to hear if it's clear to anyone else why this seems to me related to the question of infertility and identity. (If I don't get any comments, I'm going to assume that it's crystal. One of the advantages of being a new blogger!)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Further Reasons to Be Angry

Moving right along. I was still mad about the idea of treatment. But I was also angry about something else, something I really didn't expect to be angry about, and that was adoption. Like all normal people, I said before I was married that I would have a whole bunch of kids, and that if I couldn't have them, I would adopt a whole bunch. Clearly, this was the way Nature and the Invisible Hand of child-distribution worked: the fertile have children. Infertile hopeful parents take up the slack of kids needing homes. Obviously.

What did I know?

I mean, I have learned a few things in the interim that make me leery about adoption. There's the fact that stranger adoption through domestic and many international sources (does not include intrafamily adoption or adoption from foster care or certain other special-needs adoption avenues) is terribly expensive. Maybe $25,000 per child. Who can afford a large family at those prices? And you can't start your family young. Though I didn't realize it for a while, my husband early on concluded that that would be our path. He's been about one million times more rational and mature about this process than I have. So in his head, he's thinking about when we could afford to adopt our first baby, and looking around us at other people who have adopted successfully. Meanwhile, I do not want to adopt. Anyway, the second major concern I had was the sort of transplant rejection rate. Children adopted post-infancy have often suffered seriously before they're lucky enough to be adopted by a loving family. What if my kid grew up to be an ax-murderer? This concerns me.

In some ways, though, though these concerns are both serious, they were both excuses. They were not the issue. The issue was in some part that I believed that if I walked around with a rainbow of adopted kids in tow (I'm unusually colored, and even Caucasian adopted kids would pretty clearly not be mine), I would wear a blinking sign on my back that said "DEFECTIVE" for the rest of my life. But the overarching issue was that I expected to be called by God to raise a child or children. I didn't want to buy them, acquire them, fill out forms in triplicate to apply for them, or shop for them in a catalog. That is how I pick out my shoes. I like shoes, but I view motherhood as more elevated than shoe ownership. If God doesn't handpick them and bestow them on me in some unmistakable and personal way, I do not want them. Sorry.

So, I'm still mad about adoption. Fortunately, it doesn't matter, because I do not have $300,000 lying around for my family of twelve. That's more even than the debt we're carrying!

I'm not as resistant to treatment any more. I had my period of sticking my fingers in my ears and pretending that the infertility wasn't there. I worked at my job and paid my bills and occasionally tried to clean my house and I kept up with my family and friends, at least a little, and then every so often I remembered that I didn't have any children and broke down. But at some point, when I wasn't paying attention, it snuck up on me that I would maybe, maybe, be willing to go to this very Catholic fertility clinic in Nebraska that people just kept mentioning to me. I know (two degrees of separation, mostly) a lot of people who've been. It's got great success rates. It also doesn't do any of the "uncatholic" treatments. So I know people use it for their line in the sand. They go. They get treated. If it doesn't work, they stop with the pursuit of treatment at all. There's something nice about that. I think.

But now I don't want to call them. Partly because it's been a while since my FSH levels were tested and if I have premature ovarian failure at 26 there won't be room in the world for all my anger. I was a good girl. I waited till I was married to have sex. I didn't believe in birth control so I never took the pill at all, not even as treatment for my endo. Instead I spent $300 I didn't have as a student (the pill would have been covered by insurance. Stupid pill. Stupid insurance) and took lupron even though it made me crazy and sick. Obviously I never had an abortion. I don't think people who make mistakes when they're young should be, or in fact are, divinely punished with infertility. But I didn't even do anything to be punished for.

Also, partly, I don't want to become The Patient again. I don't want to go on a special diet, which I hear they recommend. Actually, I'll probably outright refuse. I am a totally non-compliant infertility patient, since I don't believe I've committed any moral failings to get here and therefore I refuse to accept moral discipline as a road to conception. It isn't fair, so I won't do it. I don't care if it's good science. (This is going to be fun for the doctor I get when I do call.) I still hate needles and I still don't want to be tested to death, and I know they will. I still find something more than repellent about suggesting my husband produce some sperm for them to test and I will not agree to such methods.

Also, I don't live in Nebraska, or even sort of nearby. Discussing my menstrual cycle with my straight-laced boss was unacceptable; how do I explain to well-meaning chatty coworkers that I am taking a vacation for a week to Nebraska where I know nobody? I hate lying. I can hear myself now. "Well, I'm not even thirty, but I may never have children. It means everything in the world to me - I don't give a hoot about this job I seem so committed to. All I want is children, so I'm blowing the stack on treatment hundreds of miles away. I'm not even taking my husband. If this doesn't work, I may open one of these windows one day and jump out. So, what are you doing on your vacation?"

I don't know if anyone is reading this. But I know there are lots of women in the infertility community who have been through medical indignities I could not well imagine and smiled through them, because they might lead to a baby. My attitude must be shocking, fairly offensive. Who am I? Well, I guess maybe it's like this: I refuse to accept that I'm a defective. And until I do accept it, I will stay on the road I'm on. I may get treatment soon and I may not, but I will inch each day further from the joyful and selfless college student who tried to spend all her time helping the suffering, toward the cynical, self-absorbed, vain, arrogant, impatient, superficially Christian, short-tempered, materialistic involuntary professional woman who pushes even her husband further and further away because she doesn't want anybody with her in the world she never wanted to be in.

You know, that didn't end on an uplifting note.

You Are the Patient

This is such a good movie. It's highly entertaining, the smarties* in the group won't think it's an idiot movie, and it's clean, so you can watch it with your parents without being embarassed! This is a rare category of movies these days.

I just typed my little footnote. I'm procrastinating. Yesterday I started a blog to tell the internet fearlessly (OK, anonymously, whatever) about infertility, and I do not want to write about something obviously necessary. (I procrastinated for weeks after deciding I would start a blog, though.) Anyway. Anyway. So my timeline is pretty straightforward. Married summer 2005. No bc or anything. Intentionally "trying" to have a baby for maybe the first month or two (we know so many honeymoon babies. Even honeymoon twins). Then trying again after about six months and continuously thereafter - though, I as I think I explain elsewhere, not really thinking about it these days.

I thought I was a candidate for clomid and I was OK with that. (It's pills, right? I can do pills. If I had a vitamin deficiency, I would take pills. Whatever.) My OB said I had to wait six months rather than the usual twelve because I had really bad endo and I was expected to be infertile. This is another story, but I had a rollicking night at the tender age of 22 in which I came into the ER and left about 30 hours later having had a triple-header of surgery: appendectomy, cystectomy for an endometrial cyst the size of an orange, and removal of all the other adhesions they could get. Because I had the most precocious case of endo ever, they couldn't get them all. Anyway, after TTC the first month of marriage and then taking a few months off, we maybe started again in February. So a year after that, I had my regular exam. By then it had been a long time. Next, I did two batches of blood tests for FSH levels. Around 10, so, she said, no clomid for me. When the second test (confirmatory) came back, she referred me to a really successful fertility specialist in the university town we lived in. OK.

The (second) results and the referral were via voicemail. It was a little hard to hear, but not really a shock. As luck would have it, that weekend the local paper happened to do a profile on Mr. Fertility Specialist. And he does everything. IUI (of course), IVF, donors, surrogacy. My OB knows I'm not interested in any of those treatments (there are others, you say? Well, so I've been told), but she said he did other things too that wouldn't cause problems with Catholic social teaching (I'm going to have to go into that more later). But after I read the article I had visions of chimpanzee surrogates (possibly he doesn't actually do that). I did not call Mr. Fertility Specialist and I decided I was mad at my OB and I sulked for...nine months. I did not return her call; finally I got a letter from her office suggesting I schedule an annual exam, so I did that. This post is really about what I was doing in the interim.

I was angry. Obviously, of course, I was angry about being infertile. It wasn't fair. (Still isn't.) But I was mostly angry about the wretched treatments. I view motherhood as a vocation. It's supposed to be spiritual. It was supposed to demand everything of my life. And it was supposed to be natural. Already, with just the pathetic amount I had done, I felt I was at the doctor constantly. And my doctor was 65 miles from my work, so I had to schedule Monday morning or Friday afternoon appointments. And it was my first year at the job and heaven forbid I try to explain any of this to my coworkers, because nobody talks about infertility (yet another future post...). I had visions of marching in to the office of my very cantankerous 60yo boss and explaining, "I'm sorry, I know I owe you a memo on this and you wanted it today. But I have to leave work RIGHT NOW because I just started my period and they have to test my hormone levels." And I was angry. Why did I have to be stuck with needles and dragged in for the superlative indignity of transvaginal ultrasounds at least once a year when I wasn't even pregnant and have my schedule constantly taken over by yet more doctors? Referred to more specialists? Lectured by a moron doctor, who should just be set afloat on an iceberg, about how a disease with no known cause (the story of the endo, again) must, OBVIOUSLY, somehow be my fault? Forced to hear about my cycle and my cervical mucous and my hormone levels and my scarred ovary and my cysts and my adhesions and my elevated FSH levels and my risks of uterine cancer? That's not motherhood. That's some sort of existentialist irony hell version of motherhood (including the part where I don't have a baby). I was really angry.

My poor husband did not understand why I was angry. I told him about having to drop everything like some kind of trained monkey and run whenever doctors could find a moment to test or medicate me for something. He was sympathetic to the inconvenience, but he didn't understand the anger. And I couldn't explain it.

Most of it - maybe all of it, or maybe not - was pretty simple. I was angry with God. I had embraced my faith seriously some time in college. Before that, I was independent. I knew I was brilliant and I was going to make a lot of money and have a totally independent life. Shoes. Travel. A child someday (husband or no husband) if I wanted one as an accessory. A cool home. A dog I liked. A super-exciting job. Over a year or two I let that all go (this is still me in college, remember. I'm not married yet) and realized I had found something bigger: giving myself away entirely to do something generous. (Although the obsession with unattainable babies can turn a lovely woman into a screaming banshee, motherhood at its core is generosity. I believe this.) I wasn't sure it would be marriage and motherhood yet. Later on, I was sure. And I know God thinks being a parent is part of the nature He created, and part of the spiritual wholeness of His creatures. I was willing to have the babies even if I was poor. And I was learning that in order to have the babies, I was going to have to become a human science experiment. I DID NOT WANT TO BE A HUMAN SCIENCE EXPERIMENT. So I was angry.

After that call from my OB/GYN, I decided that if God wanted me to have babies, it was going to be His Problem. This problem was within His competence to fix (especially since nobody seemed to know the cause) and I thought it was morally and spiritually unsound to throw my spiritual vocation at the mercy of science and pursue a gratuitous gift with white-knuckle determination and all the cash and time I had. Clearly, this was a good bargain, one God would take. (I am of the Making Successful Bargains with God strain of religious believer. When I do the bargains right, they work. Email me if this doesn't make sense to you and I will try to explain.) Maybe He did, but I didn't get any babies out of it.

During this period I entered the phase of the Suggestions of the Helpful. (I'm going to do another post on this soon.) The more things I heard - from meddlesome friends and "helpful" acquaintances and sometimes genuinely helpful sources - about treatment centers and options, the more set against them I became. I became immediately and irrationally angry whenever they were even mentioned. Being very straight-laced (I did not say repressed), I managed to smile sweetly through my homicidal tendencies and accept (most) suggestions graciously, especially after I learned that they suggest more forcefully if you show signs of resistance. But my poor husband heard ALL about how angry I was. Usually I targeted the complaint at something totally unrelated and irrelevant. Since he had nothing better to do, of course, he could devote all his time and attention to figuring out why, exactly, I was acting like a lunatic.

OK, this post is pretty long. I think I'm going to do a two-part series on this phenomenon so I can just get it over with and move on to something else. I guess there's a lot to type.

*I think I'm pretty intelligent, but I pretty much do not like intelligent movies. It won five Oscars in 1975? That's nice. Do you have the copy of Airplane 2 I watched four times last week? Awesome. I'll just watch it again.
Unfortunately, my husband likes documentaries. This is a chasm in our marriage that I do not expect ever to bridge. That's OK. He can watch those movies with somebody else.

Is There Life Out There

Well, apparently, there is. Since I'm now all special and blogging, I thought it would behoove me to familiarize myself a little more with what other infertility blogs exist out there. My google search led me right to a treasure: a Best of the Best list of 2008 infertility blog posts. The compiler chose one post from every infertility blog that self-nominated (at least, that's what I'm getting out of the rules explanation), and there are almost 200 - and growing! I'm definitely going to keep coming back to this as a source of good reading.

Last night, scrolling through the list, I clicked on a couple of the "winning" posts. I found my way to the Dear Gherkin blog, and the hilarious post about her post-ovulation drama. And then I read all the posts through the present (spoiler: she gets pregnant on that round of ovulation, and the rest is the hilarious and touching tale of her adventures in pregnancy after miscarriages). Anyway, it's a great blog.

My tentative conclusion, at any rate, is that though all of the blogs are rather personal in their outlook and MANY turn from infertility blogs to baby blogs (that's good, right?), with that sheer volume and variety there is probably something else out there addressing basically the subject I've got here. I'm going to keep reading over the next few weeks and find out. But maybe they don't do it in exactly the same way. So I'm going to keep at my little project. Just thought you'd like to know.

UPDATE: It was late last night when I was doing all my very important blog reading, so I temporarily forgot. There ARE some things I've already stumbled on that attack the same sort of idea (about infertility and identity as opposed to infertility and treatment). This post is about how infertility affects how you approach life even after you have kids. This one is about how infertility does and doesn't affect your identity. Here's one about taking a break from treatment and just "being infertile" for a while. Another about how infertility can take you over and remake the rest of your world. I'm sure I'll find more, maybe I'll add them. But I shall forge on, at least for now.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Early Years

I'm such a veteran of this process that I've already started sorting out being infertile into different stages. (I jest. I'm not so much a veteran, mostly lost, but it does feel like I've been here forever.) I was married almost 3 1/2 years ago. We started "trying" to have kids pretty much right away. (We're Catholic, so we don't do birth control, but we weren't even "NFPing.") So my official diagnosis - one year of trying to conceive unsuccessfully is the medical definition, I believe - came up pretty quickly. I opted out of a lot of the things most people go through in that period. I did have blood tests twice to measure my FSH levels (sorta high - around 10). My doctor concluded because of that that I'd be a bad candidate for clomid (one remedy I had gotten myself used to the idea of trying). But I never did the high-speed drive to the hospital with a beaker of sperm in one hand. And after my second blood test I was supposed to go to a specialist but I just couldn't do it. (I'll probably write more about that later.)

Anyway. During that first year - and for some time thereafter - I did what I'm sure many many other women have done. Every month when I got my period I cried. I wasted my money on lots of pregnancy tests and took them too early for them to be conclusive and they were still resoundingly negative. My husband and I would talk ourselves into all sorts of reasons that this month might be It. If I was feeling nauseous or lightheaded, or my period was a day late, I was sure this time I would be pregnant. Then that slowly transformed into saying every month that this month would not be it. My husband and I both said it to each other. "Don't get your hopes up." But of course I did, even though I put on a brave face, so I kept crying every month. At some point I realized that by wanting it so much, and wanting only that, I had made it so that I was a constant failure by the only measure that mattered to me. I started to get angry. I also stopped keeping a chart of my cycle. I don't remember exactly why I stopped, but it turned out to be a stroke of genius - by having no idea when my period was due, I couldn't tell whether I was late. I didn't have a pattern to look at to think that this month might be just a teensy bit different. I just stopped thinking about it (at least, on the surface). I stopped crying every month. I expected to have my period every month and I absolutely did not expect to be pregnant. (Part of me realized that if it just took an awfully long time but I did eventually get pregnant, this would make it a nice surprise. That hasn't worked out either.)

Then two and a half more years passed like a weekend. Nothing. We're still (by the medical definition) trying to conceive, although we don't really think about it. Well, maybe my husband does sometimes. I don't much; it would only make me upset. But sometimes I'm a little afraid - what does it mean to try for thirty months and not conceive? Is that maybe much worse, more untreatable, than just twelve months?

Greetings and Salutations!

I've looked around on the internet a little bit for blogs and websites about infertility. There are definitely some good ones out there - one of the ones I've read periodically that's really helped me make sense when I really don't know where I am is the Daily Strength support group. Still, I think there's something missing from the discussion - maybe it's my lack of googling skills, but here's what I haven't found. Websites abound that address the struggles of infertile women (or couples) going through the pain of infertility treatments, and there are a few about the difficulties of adoption; and there are stories of infertile women who've adopted or conceived children. (Those stories are wonderful - of course it's always joyful, if sometimes also painful, when a woman has a baby, but I think those of us who are infertile feel a particular joy when someone has a child who has been down this hard road too.)

Anyway. What I think is missing is a blog that talks about what it means to be infertile. I mean, for many of us, this is a place we are traveling through - so many women pour tens of thousands of dollars and tears and suffering after a baby, that many don't stay in this place forever. And of course many adopt. But one wonders what happens to the many-years veterans of this struggle who never do have or adopt children. They don't cross over. They're still infertile and they will be always. That may someday be some of us who are now young (I'm 26). And of course adopting one child - or two - doesn't really make you not infertile. Maybe it makes all the difference that matters (I don't know). I suspect that being an adoptive parent is an adjustment to who you are somewhat like the adjustment of being an infertile woman, but, again, I don't know.

But anyway. What does it mean to be infertile? I'm coming more and more to think that it's some part of who we are - not a reaction to something that's happened, like losing a job, but part of what it means to live our lives. The journey and the experience aren't about the difficulties of IVF or the adoption process (though they may be part of it) but about what it means to be us. Of course, I'm being presumptuous. I can only really say what it means to be me. But I think a diagnosis of infertility is unlike a diagnosis of, I don't know, a sixth finger, or having some sort of illness (oh, let's say endometriosis). At least, it seems that way to me. So that's what I'll be writing about. I hope some other people in the same place will find this and I'll hear some of others' insights and stories. It seems far easier to connect here in the cyber-world than it is to discuss infertility out in the real world.