Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Lenten

Even though it's after midnight and I broke my fast and polished off the ice cream (I did not give up ice cream for Lent, don't worry), I'm still counting this as Wednesday, for purposes of this post. As one of my coworkers put it, it's National Catholic Dirty Forehead Day.

While I don't endeavor to use my itty corner of the internets to proselytize, I think it is worth noting briefly what Lent is actually all about - Catholics are sufficiently numerous in the US that the outward features of our culture and religious praxis are fairly prominent, but that doesn't tell people why we do all these strange things, and I think the reasons can be interesting to others.

Anyway, Catholics don't give up things for Lent or abstain from meat on Fridays (there are a few other things too, but those are the ones everyone knows about) because they're generally repressed. In brief: Lent is six weeks during which Catholics prepare for Easter - the arrival of the risen Christ. It's a season of preparation and penance - sacrifices are a form of prayer that invoke God's blessings, in this case to help us to be spiritually ready, and fasting also creates room in our hearts to receive something. If this doesn't sound intuitive, well, I guess you have to try it. Having a bit of a feast and singing Alleluias at the top of your lungs after fasting for weeks and not being able to say that celebratory word swells your heart far more than feasting on any ordinary day - your body is ready for expansiveness, so your heart is too.

Oh, last point: the Catholic Church actually encourages three spiritual practices during Lent - prayer, fasting, and almsgiving (giving to the poor). So, carving out room in your heart; recollecting yourself through daily prayer; and giving to those who have nothing.

I won't waste paragraphs noting all the ways in which these ideas say something about infertility - the parallels seem so obvious to me I can't imagine they need to be spelled out. But I was standing in church, this evening, trying to remember not to rub my ashes off by accident, and I was thinking. There's something I'm missing, just at the edge of realizing, that I need to understand - about what all this means, why I'm here, what I need to be doing. Maybe six weeks of fasting and prayer will help me to understand it.

OK, I'll draw one parallel. I with my childless home, I walk around with a barely-under-the-surface sign of my defectiveness, my weakness, my inadequacy, when I want to be healthy and vital and whole. Every day. And one day a year, I walk around with a cross of ash on my forehead. Remember, man, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.

Monday, February 23, 2009

home

I was just reading Phoebe's post about looking for a mommy-mentor, and about the lostness of a woman who wants to be a mommy but never really had a mommy herself.

I know how that feels. My mother isn't just unavailable as a mommy mentor (and I doubt I can one-up Phoebe on this score), she was unavailable as a mommy. I'm not a doctor, but I feel I can get a handle on the sufferings and brokenness of most of the people around me I know at all. You can see the crack, the fissure, when the blow was struck, the vulnerable spot around which the rest of the person twists and splinters. We're most all broken; some more dramatically, or more interestingly, than others. I have just a few friends who I would say are, really, un-broken. They're fascinating in their calm, their self-possession, their selves. Anyway. I have no handle on what's wrong with my mother. They diagnosed her with schizophrenia, recently, and that's not a bad fit; she's not fully in touch with reality. But it isn't a perfect fit, either. Something...you know it's something from her childhood, and there's no way to get an objective view of someone else's childhood; each of her siblings tells the story a different way and though I have an idea how it was, who will ever know how it was in her head? But I don't even have a good working hypothesis. I don't know.

I don't have an ache for a mommy. I should have. People who had loving mommies sometimes who were drunk other times, or in rages other times, I understand they long for a loving mother. My mother was surely in rages sometimes (she didn't drink), and was better other times. She did a lot of things right, in terms of making decisions for raising us. She taught me to read when I was four, and that may have had more of an effect on where the rest of my life would go than anything else since. She made a lot of terrible decisions too. But I don't remember a time - not a split second as far back as my memory goes, and I remember a lot of things before I was five, some even younger - when I felt loved by my mother. And so, I guess I don't know what's there to miss.

It should mean I'm incapable of being a mother, right? I mean, you read that, you worry for my future children. (Fear not - there may be no such children to worry about.) I don't know that that's true. I'm not warm, precisely, or certainly not all the time. But I'm sensible, responsible, disciplined, consistent; I make sacrifices to care for others; I'm loyal and I forgive readily; I'm protective and defensive of the weak. I like babies, I'm kind to them and attentive. I've always taken on the sickest of our animals as my pets; I was maybe ten when I fed the starving kitten out of my small allowance after my mother threatened to drown her (she wouldn't stop crying, because she couldn't eat the dry food and she was so hungry), and the animals loved me devotedly as a result. (My mother got the last laugh there though - she had that cat, a wonderful loving lapdog of a creature who was still a good mouser at fourteen and no trouble to anyone at all, put to sleep rather than looking for a new home for her, because she was moving out of state. She also lied about it to my sister and me; either of us would have taken her in. I know she's mentally ill, but that's not a product of mental illness, and I'm not sure she deserves to be forgiven for it. So I suppose I don't always forgive readily.) I'm no sociopath - though I can see how that would be misconstrued in view of the tone of this post...

I had a point, starting this post. I gave myself away up there, in the title. Heaven knows I ought to, but I've never longed for a mother's love. Maybe I would be closer to the Blessed Mother, if I did; I feel reasonably close to her even so. But I've had one longing for a long time, becoming more clear to me as I grew older - for a home. I fought through the longing eventually, a few years ago I suppose; I'm not sure I noticed it when it faded, but I stopped thinking about it constantly, and maybe the places I've lived recently have made it better; they're not bad places to call home temporarily. The little house we rent now is pretty good, and I've tried very hard to make it look like home. It's not my real home, though. My certain image of what that is has blurred; but I know I'll know it when I see it, and I'm not there yet. Still looking for my home...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

a wonderful friend

So I had to make just a brief mention of this. One of my particularly wonderful friends from college is having a surprise birthday party this weekend that I'm driving up for. She's actually expecting her second, and she's a year younger than I am, so a young mom. She was married in 2006 - and I remember a conversation I had with her before her wedding in which she said she was afraid that she would end up having kids right away, and she wasn't sure she was ready. She was among the first of her family and high school friends to marry and certainly none has children. All I said was that getting pregnant is not always automatic. I wasn't sure what else to say.

It did seem likely she'd have kids soon in, and she did, and she's a wonderful mother, and her little boy is beautiful and so happy. But she still has no friends her age with kids, which makes things a bit lonely sometimes. The opposite situation from mine, and the same effect. It reminds me that there are crosses in this world different from mine.

Anyway, I am writing because I just have to share the birthday present I got. It was something of a challenge, because I wanted to avoid something that said "mommy" - it's her birthday, and I think she should be able to be pampered as a girl, not exclusively a mother - but she's very gracious and refined. So it had to be just the right thing. Maybe I'll find I've struck out, but right now I'm very contented with my choices: a copy of A Platter of Figs, which was so favorably reviewed by a food blogger whose writing I love, and an adorable mini Le Creuset casserole (OK, so it's stoneware, not their iconic enamel-clad cast iron, but a whole casserole would be kind of an excessive present).

Anyway, I hope everyone is planning to get as much joy from their weekends as I am. I just started my period, which is never the best time, but by golly, I am curling my hair.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

houses

Well, I hope nobody steals my undiscovered treasure houses - but here's a little information about them. There are two on the same street (four blocks from a church I like). They were both built in 1907 (I assume by the same builder, since they share an architectural feature or two). They're both two-and-a-half story Victorians, and they each have a two-story octagonal room with a quasi-turret feature on top. One is probably a little larger (4BR 1ba; smaller is 3BR 2ba; I would give the square footage, but different websites have different numbers. I would say the first one is around 1800-2200, and the smaller around 1500-2000, just from my own observation).

Now, here's some features they have in common that can't be explained by having the same builder. They've both been sorely neglected for years. One is missing most of its paint, such that the wood shingles have nearly come off in a few places. The other had asbestos shingle (which I don't like, but can be replaced) put on at some point, so paint isn't as necessary, but the roof is in terrible shape. Also interesting - both of them have been on the market for well over a year. The smaller one has been on the market nearly two years.

Zero effort appears to have been expended to market either of them - the smaller one is full almost to the ceiling with unsorted junk. The other one hasn't (as mentioned) even been painted. Each of them is or was accompanied by adjacent lots, partitioned off a perfectly normal-sized yard and sold as large enough separately for another new-built house. So the homeowners (who are elderly in both cases - and in neither case has the house been bought or sold in the last forty years) are apparently hoping to drive up their profits, but can't be bothered to pay someone to paint or clean. Don't know quite what to make of that. Oh, another thing they didn't do to market them is take any interior photos. There's exactly one photo available of each.

I do, however, think that all of this will accrue to my benefit in negotiating for a decent price - which I'm going to need, if these places need as much repair as it's looking like. Right now, I'd like to pay 60% of what they're asking - depending on repair costs. (I haven't gotten pre-qualified yet.)

Here's a picture of the prettier of the two:

I haven't seen the inside of either of them (even by peeking - I tried). So the next step in my zany little sojourn would be calling a realtor and asking for a visit, but I'm balking. Partly because I don't want to make the sellers think there's interest before I have to. Partly because right now I'm able to feed my obsession without taking that next step, so I should probably wait until I get antsy. Partly because realtors just bother me (I know, realtors don't like lawyers, either. But I hate when people try to SELL me things). Partly because the darling husband is still looking for his next job, so we don't know where the optimal location will be, yet. Partly because I'm afraid that if I become too attached to the house, it will be more materialism of which I need to be mortified, and I won't get to have it. Or, worse, I will get to have it, and it will be a financial disaster.

But, given the flexibility I think (hope!) exists in the price in view of its time on the market, and its location (commutable to my work and in a great community), and its general loveliness, and the impossibility of finding affordable property out here (let alone historic property!), and the fact that there would be room for several babies once I finished the renovations...well, I think it would be a good idea for me to have it.

So here's my plan. I get to keep shopping for the house, because shopping is a hobby. But in order for me to HAVE the house...well, God will have to be in charge of that. He will find me a decent mortgage rate and a good selling price and work locations in the right area, if I'm going to have the house. Oh, and the babies. Of course, I'll put myself in the way of finding all of these things. But he's going to have to help.

P.S. Prayers happily accepted for the husband's big exam, the job he's hoping to get - and, if you have any spare, the house. Don't pray for the IF yet. Don't know yet what I want to pray for.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Charting a new course!


The Chart

For reasons best known to itself, my calendar (a Microsoft Word table) decided to shed several of its column and row divider lines when I transferred it to JPEG so I could post it here. For anyone familiar with NFP, you'll note that I've handily divided the space into a smaller field (top) for writing down temperature and a larger one for other notes - mucous sign, "i" where applicable, and anything else - like whether I'm sick, maybe. We'll see how diligent I am.

I designed it all by myself since I didn't like the calendar templates in Word (where is Microsoft Works when you need it? I never thought such a day would come) and I will happily share it with anyone else who has use for such a thing. It's nifty, eh?

Also, my temperature today is, supposedly, 97.3F. And I'm on CD25 or 27 or something. What's wrong with my body? Other than, well, you know...

The Day's Adventures

Also today, I dealt with the Department of Motor Vehicles. I waited until my out-of-state tags were going to expire so I could get my money's worth out of them. I feared this might backfire and land me with several tickets if at the end I didn't buckle down and take care of it (I procrastinate exceptionally), but instead I was good - a week ago I got my emissions test done, and then today I got myself to the DMV with a great stack of paperwork (I literally brought my birth certificate - and they actually asked for it! I'm a native-born citizen, BTW) and got out of there with a shiny new driver's license, a new vehicle title, a new registration, and two new license plates, in just over an hour.

THEN - and this is just too fantastic for words - I got to go to visit my houses. I shop for houses to the degree of a sort of exuberant obsession - it makes me happy - and I had been growing increasingly sad because in the entire metropolitan area I had found not one example of the item in which I specialize: that which, unloved by others, could be nurtured into realizing its full potential only by me. There are some disastrous fixer-uppers, all right, but they are either (a) in the ghetto, (b) priced at $800,000+, or (c) both. But Monday or Tuesday this past week I found TWO treasures. Abandoned, neglected, unmaintained, magnificent Victorian antiques, priced too high but on the market for well over a YEAR apiece without a discount so perhaps negotiable. Great location. Great street. Great.

I promised myself as a special treat I could go to see them Saturday - the first day I would have free time during daylight. I usually cheat, when I have a treat for myself planned - I usually take it earlier than I'm supposed to and screw up my schedule and that takes a lot of the enjoyment away. But I waited patiently all week AND I waited till after I was done with the DMV. And then when I had been SO good and stood in line and everything, I walked out to my car, keys in hand, a lightness in my step, knowing it was time for my reward. And was it ever a treat. I even found a neighbor to interrogate briefly. And saw everything possible that could have improved the idea in my eyes.

It occurs to me that I may, when I wasn't looking, have learned to do things with discipline that I am not inclined to do in any such fashion. Isn't it nice to find you're growing up?

Anyway, the bottom line is, I want my house. I'm not sure that's realistic just now. But I still want it. What do I do to get myself a house?

Friday, February 13, 2009

I bought me a thermometer

today. It apparently can take the temperature of bathwater or a human (orally or rectally!) in just 20 seconds. And since this is NoVA, it only cost me $5.49 (on sale!), probably three times its fair market value. I think my period is due back very soon, so I am going to get myself in the habit of taking the temperature every morning starting tomorrow. Exciting, what?

Just thought you'd like to know.

P.S. In response to the comments - I love "Joke's on you, I'm barren" - I'm going to use that. You may be pleased to know that the subject did not come up tonight either (maybe they are waiting till they've met me three times). The only near miss I saw was a side conversation I had with one gal - she asked when DH and I got married, so she can do the math - that's going on four years. She didn't ask any follow-up questions, though. She's expecting for the third time and her second was a miscarriage, which obviously affected her deeply, so maybe she's bringing more wisdom to the subject than average.

And, as far as testing - well, I haven't even had an HSG, and with the endo, I know they're going to want to do one (one of my ovaries is scarred nearly into oblivion, which I know from the lap, so since before I was married the question has been whether the other tube is open). So that will be ahead of me, and, I hope, fairly intensive testing of hormone levels so they can figure out what is actually wrong. And I've been preparing DH for the idea of the SA - he's being quiet sporting. He was actually disappointed that the appointment was so far away! He's really amazing. I'm so lucky.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Slow the train down

I procrastinated. You've never done that, right? I know.

Anyway, as I mentioned, I made my appointment for an annual exam with this fertility clinic in my area that apparently offers treatments done the Catholic way, if you will, and it's just an annual exam, but it was my incremental first baby tiny tiptoe-step toward being back In Treatment. But, before you can actually be a fertility patient, they require you to take a class on monitoring your fertility. I did that before I got married, though. So I was going to start keeping a chart again when I got my period again a few weeks ago, and then talk to the doc at my exam and work from there. OK.

Then I heard from a friend that super-special charting classes may be required, so I didn't start charting. I realized I would need to call the clinic and figure out what classes in the area comply with their requirements.

Actually - this is fun - I spent some time with another friend I haven't gotten to see in a while. She's a little swamped, being as she has two under two. I didn't know that they were both surprises (well, I knew the first one was) until I talked to her the other day. She's a nurse, so she didn't take the natural family planning (NFP) class before she got married, because she had already had classes on the theory for nursing. But it turned out she didn't know how to keep a chart in practice. So she and I agreed that we would take the class together (forget the husbands, they're not helpful with the charting anyway), and explain to anyone who asked that although everyone else in the class is engaged couples, we're there because neither of us has ever had a planned pregnancy, so we need the instruction.

Then I called the clinic and started the phone tag. Only a crazy person would know the clinic had called back...and not check her messages. For ten days. So I didn't do that, obviously. I did, however, finally call back today, only to find that they don't require a special class, all I have to do is add my temperature to what I already know how to do. So I need to start keeping my chart when I get my next period.

And then she made me a consultation appointment with the specialist for the beginning of April, like that was a totally normal thing to do.

Um, April is this year. I've never had a diagnosis; they don't know why I'm infertile. Nobody has tested DH's sperm. I did have high FSH levels (but I never pursued that testing any further). I could have POF now. The endo could have taken over everything and my abdominal cavity could be a total loss. I could have uterine cancer.

Or I might get pregnant. And it could all happen in just a few months. What on earth?

P.S. The second girls' night is tomorrow night - round two of heading off The Question approaches. I will happily entertain suggestions. (I've never tried, "Wouldn't you feel terrible if you found out I were infertile?" I might tuck that one in the back pocket.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I owe someone an apology

I think I left the comment during ICLW, when I was just getting to know some (delightful!) new blogs, and I hadn't got everbody's name straight yet. So I don't know whom I owe the apology. But the owing part is pretty clear.

What I said was an attempt at defending this mother of octuplets. My defense was premised on my understanding of the attack - I thought people's point was that you shouldn't have fourteen kids, period. And I think, if you really would like fourteen kids, and you can really take good care of fourteen kids, and God blesses you with fourteen kids (I'm not 100% clear that that God's blessing can be accomplished by implanting eight embryos, but whatever), then good. I mentioned that I hadn't read up on the story.

Anyway, now I've read up on the story. Oh, my. OK, what I missed, among other things, was that (1) these babies have no father to be in their lives; (2) the mother cannot take care of them; and (3) her having babies appears to be sort of compulsive, which tends not to bode well for the kids. I'm kind of concerned. And, of course, late to the party.

I'd also like to point out some unnoticed victims here: her dead children, the five babies apiece who didn't make it when she implanted six embryos at a pop for her six previous pregnancies. This is a lot of casualties for that project. Which I suppose is the lighter side of the octuplets - they all survived. And if, as some have reported, she was not even sub-fertile, why didn't she get her sperm donations the old-fashioned way, as so many have before her? Not that I'm approving this behavior, mind, it just strikes me as more efficient and, well, cost-effective. I recognize that clinic donation has some legal benefits, but I'm not clear that this gal was after that. I guess I just generally don't get her.

Anyway, I jumped, or perhaps un-jumped, to conclusions. And I apologize. I may not follow all the news more diligently from now on (I just can't keep up), but I will try to be less, um, you know. With the commenting.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

I was already here

So I think we all, in our own way, have to negotiate a peace with babies, other people's children, the whole mother-ness thing, while we're stuck here in limbo, not knowing whether the future will bring octuplets or ten foster kids or a life of unanchored travel in foreign lands and trying strange food and dying young of some rare tropical illness.

For my part, I started out single and clamoring to hold babies. Then I got married and for a little while I stayed on the clamoring track, since I figured I would have my own just around the corner and I could say things like, "I can't wait till our kids can play together." So that was fine. Then I realized that we were not so much talking about the next corner and that if I was asking to hold babies it gave people too easy a conversational opening, and anyway, it made me look pathetic and sad. So I stopped. Then after that I realized that my husband was holding all the babies and that looked sort of sadder - look at this poisonous dried-up old goat he married, she hates babies. So I started an actual, conscientious project to hold other people's babies, not to a shrieking and begging degree, but, you know, letting the mom know, "If you decide you'd like to be able to get some dinner or something, I'll take that off your hands."

Anyway. So at this point, though, the position I negotiate with the world over the "motherly" part is that I'm, obviously, not a mother. I don't get to negotiate that. So when I hold very small babies, people say, with evident surprise, "You're really good with children." Because, you know, I don't drop them. I happen to have siblings who were born when I was twenty and twenty-three, so, actually, I can change diapers and everything. Even though I don't have children of my own! So other people are motherly, because they have kids - even those who are not specially maternal. But I'm not. I'm a career woman (they've decided), because I don't have kids, and I'm working. Therefore, that just became my personality.

But the other day I was thinking. That's not actually my natural temperament. You can see this if you go back to the time when everyone was on the same plane - before any of us had kids. When I was in college and everybody was young and single, large numbers of my friends literally called me "the mom." My freshman year, long after everyone had stopped trying to be super-friendly to their neighbors and bond with new people, I knocked on every door, every night, to make sure that nobody would eat dinner alone unless they wanted to. My sophomore year we took a trip to Washington. There were a couple of sophomores and eight freshmen, and the freshmen were just sort of starry-eyed, enjoying everything, and really not keeping track of themselves very well. Since I had signed out the college vans and it had been impressed upon me that I needed to make sure to bring all the students back, I counted them. About every three minutes. Every time I reached ten, I felt better. Some of our friends' mothers whom we encountered remarked bemusedly that I was a "den mother." I was just trying to keep track of them.

I kept doing the family togetherness thing throughout college - trying, on my good days, to keep the misfits included, make sure people got along and everyone had someone to eat their meals with, nagging people who needed to be nagged in order to behave or be nice or make sensible decisions about their studies or whatever it was. It seemed the thing to do. When I scolded people, I used their middle names (I really did). And they really listened. Of course, this all made sense - I'm an oldest child from a badly broken home. I was sort of taking over my mother's role and keeping things together from about age six onward. I was never all that young or frivolous, ever; I'm an old soul. Of course I was mothering my college classmates. I mothered my siblings.

But I'm taking a while to get to my point. Which is this. I've allowed myself in the past few years to be forced into a pigeonhole without even really noticing. I was involved and took care of people and maternal, before I was even twenty, and I became - in other people's eyes first, probably, and eventually in mine - withdrawn and self-focused and career-oriented and tough. People have said - more to my husband than to me - that it's not a big deal that you guys don't have kids, because your wife, she's so smart, she'll do good things with her career. It's fine.

And I won't accept it. I'm not a materialistic career-oriented equality-driven post-modern feminist. I'm not the trendy (hah!) skinny girl who doesn't need to buy maternity suits and shouldn't hold your kid 'cause the little darling might spit up on her scarf. I refuse. I don't want it. Thank you for making excuses for what's happened to me, crafting me new priorities that make the suffering I live with seem like a choice. It isn't. I'm not "better off." And I don't want a dog. I'm not hard-hearted and lonely hoping that a baby will awaken some undiscovered side of my personality. I was a "mommy" before the rest of you people, when that meant helping my siblings to dress themselves or find food to eat or stand up to my parents. And I don't need a baby seat in the car or anybody's permission to be just who I'm supposed to be.