Tuesday, June 29, 2010

spiritual direction

Like getting an S/A done, this is one of those things that I pull off around the time everyone is despairing of my even remembering that I said I would. What can I say? I march to the beat of my own drummer, and he's been dead for a while now.

So, anyway, as I mentioned at one point, I made several forays into finding a spiritual director, and was stymied in ways that indicated to me that superior forces were refusing to bless my efforts. I took the hint and quit. A few weeks ago, the subject was raised again by none other than my dear husband. You know, the recent religious skeptic/quasi-deist...who said, out of the blue, "I really should have helped with this before. I have a friend who's a priest who would be a great spiritual director, and I got in touch with him and he said he'd be happy to do it. He's insisted on meeting with me [my DH] first, and then I'll introduce you."

I was a bit shocked, and insisted it would only be fair that I meet the fellow before deciding, but it seemed like a good development.

However, my DH is traveling for work again very shortly, and has been very busy finishing things before he goes. And he hadn't raised the matter in a while, so I figured another door had closed. Then, this weekend, he told me that he was having dinner with his friend (hereinafter code named "Father" - heh, heh) on Monday, and might drop by with him afterward so I could meet him. Sometimes, the things I claim to want sneak up on me at a point when I am not emotionally prepared. I was apprehensive, but what was I going to say? No?

Anyway, my DH called last night while I was in the middle of errands, but I was good and came home. His friend the priest was, well...not what I was expecting. You may recall (or share) my concern that most priests would not be able to deal well with the travails of an infertile woman. Certainly, at minimum, I would expect it would require someone a bit older, and Father is around my DH's age (a few years older than I am). I'm not going to try to describe him personally because I'll fail and anyway lose the point. But he kicked my DH out of the living room for a walk (in the horrible heat - my DH is a prince, really) so he could talk to me, which I elected not to protest, and told me my DH had briefed him on the IF and associated issues (we've had some very emotional, but good, talks about this recently), and I should tell him about it.

Though I may not be known for brevity, I guess blogging has helped me organize my thoughts on the matter. I managed to get the last several years of my life, and why I'm so disappointed with where I am, into a paragraph or two - not really brief, but brief for the subject matter. There's other things I could go into besides the IF, but I figured I would stick with that for the time being. And he said some things that rather shocked me.

First of all, since I started planning to seek a spiritual director, my idle mental energy has not infrequently been devoted to playing out arguments in my mind - all the things I'm going to have to convince him of before I can get anywhere with the topic of infertility. The confessor's remark that I'll get pregnant "in God's time" rings in my ears still. Obviously, priests have been given no training on how to deal with this subject or what it really entails. But if that's true, I'm at a loss to explain Father's reaction, unless he just went to a seminary in a different universe, or he has been plagued with a bevy of infertile women as directees (seriously, there will be no Purgatory time for any priest who has that happen) since the moment he was ordained.

For one thing, he never tried even to suggest that the problem would be solved when I got pregnant. Gold star for that. That's not remotely helpful. Instead, he said that it was absolutely not OK that I was infertile, and that it would never be OK. Just like the death of someone you love - you may re-attain a place of peace, and even live a life of happiness and joy, but the fact that that person is gone will never be all right. It will always be grievous, always a loss, this side of heaven. (This makes sense to me on an intellectual level, but it may be important to note here that I have never lost someone really close to me to death.) I can get used to the idea as much as I want, but the fact that I wanted children and am childless will not ever be fine.

This is not something I really wanted to hear; I wanted to hear that I was suffering with it now because I had not processed the grief, and that eventually, I would get to a place where it would be just fine - no more a wound than the difference between having six children and eight. But I believe what he said is true. I've been searching for witnesses in the form of women who've accepted childlessness and moved on with their lives (and have found beautiful and inspiring examples), but it's my feeling that their joy and full lives are not regardless of their infertility and childlessness, but in spite of infertility (which makes them that much more impressive, really). The difference between having a family and not being able to have one is not a matter of indifference, nor a matter merely of having one's subjective preference frustrated. It's intrinsically important and its loss is a serious loss. I believed that already, but was hoping that I was wrong.

He also said that the desire to have a family was both a natural and a right one; it's part of my vocation to marriage and I was right to expect it to be fulfilled. He actually explained something I know he must have been taught - some part of theological anthropology, or psychology, maybe - that some crosses are specially heavy because they are vocational, relational, and physical (thus, we can't work with and improve them, as we could emotional or spiritual afflictions). The archetypal of these is the death of a person. (That's not a cross for the dead person, of course, but for the survivors.) I wanted to ask him what else would belong in that category and more about the theory behind it, but I'll get another chance to do that. On subsequent reflection, I think I've thought of another example, but I'll check with him to see whether I've understood right.

Obviously, he said that infertility belongs to this type of cross. It's not like having a bad time at work; that's not vocational or relational, or physical. It may be a cross, even a heavy one, but it doesn't erode who you are, and it may be passing. I also shared with him my concern that it wasn't just that I don't have children, but that I don't feel I have anything I'm supposed to do with my life; that I've been robbed of a purpose as well as a family. He thought that was valid but stressed (lest you think he was just depressing) that I will eventually find the thing I am supposed to do, and that though the cross won't ever be gone, it can be transformed - that the spiritual element of motherhood that's missing for the infertile woman will eventually be fulfilled in some other aspect of life. Which, he clarified, does not have to mean adoption, or dealing with children at all.

I told him honestly at that point that I would fight the desire to be maternal to anybody (which I have done for a while, but did not do always). I can't bear others' evaluation of my "maternal tendencies" any more, and I can see that they are watching me. I had rather be believed - or be - a heartless sociopath than that poor girl who's trying to mother her friends, strangers, dog, because she hasn't any babies...I know myself that that attitude isn't healthy, but it's how I feel. He didn't endorse that mode of behavior either, for the record, but he was understanding about it :).

I also told him my prayer life was substantially gone, and he said, of course, that I should work on that. So I'm starting on 15 mintes of reflections a day, which I think I can handle (good grief. How could I dispute that? And I remember my last spiritual director, who said that nearly three hours of devotions a day - what I was doing then - would be fine "for now"). He was also firm on the point that if I'm angry with God (yes), I should tell Him so directly. I know, Sew already said that this was important and really helped her. (I should always listen to Sew.) And I've thought about it, but I've been too annoyed with God to give Him the satisfaction of yelling at Him about it. I rant to third parties instead. Apparently, that does not yield the same fruit.

Obviously, I have a lot to work on, and I'm just starting. Even having a spiritual director appear in my life is an incredible blessing of which I am not insensible. I am grateful for my husband, who is a wonderful man (even though I badger him and whine about him). But I thought, perhaps, some of this might be some use to another infertile gal.

Monday, June 28, 2010

how to get pregnant

No, you idiot, not me. But it occurs to me that I should share this, for whatever reason.

I may have mentioned before that my mother is mentally ill. When we were small children and dependent on her, it made her rather a hazard to our well-being. Now that we are independent adults, it makes her extremely entertaining. She's actually aware of this, but she's probably not sure where the line is located between her "serious" ideas and her eccentricities. (I would submit that almost everything is on the same side of that line.)

Anyway, she read some book a few years back that suggested that Americans' global health is being done in by the unhealthy foods they eat that all lead them to the same adverse result: an over-acidic body condition. The key is to eat a diet which causes one's person to become alkaline (or "basic"). I have a large number of scientific criticisms of this theory (though it may have some useful tidbits, for all I know). I pointed out to her that if one were to succeed (for example) in rendering the contents of one's stomach alkaline, in a little while, the food one had eaten would rot in the stomach, causing sepsis, and potentially death. (If left untreated.) You will be shocked to hear she was unmoved by this argument.

Also odd is that several of the elements of the "alkaline diet" are actually very acidic - large quantities of organic raw garlic, for example. (The connection between organic and alkaline, other than that they're both trendy and slightly paranoid, is also something I doubt my college chemistry profs would support. Nevertheless, the diet apparently requires organic vegetables. BUT ALWAYS RAW.)

The main ingredients strike me as a pretty good recipe for kid-friendly interior paint: foul-tasting organic cottage cheese, flax seeds, linseed oil, raw garlic, etc. The reason I know even this much is not, of course, because I read the book (though somewhere, I believe I have a copy that she sent me. More on this later). It's because I saw her prepare this nonsense for a friend (she did not adopt the alkaline diet wholesale herself).

This was a long-time family friend who's a little crazy and kind of a pain in the neck. He was in his seventies at the time, and this was nearly ten years ago. He'd lived a fairly difficult life, by American standards, and had cancer in a pretty advanced stage; but I wouldn't have expected him to live many more years even without the cancer. He'd been given only a few months to live. His other friends in the small town where I grew up were stopping by to spend evenings playing cards and enjoying takeout Italian (he's Italian) and generally have a good time in the last few months of his life. My mother brought the alkaline diet.

I could see, visiting his somewhat chaotic home on a visit home during college, that he had just finished some quantity of unhealthy (but delicious-looking) Italian cooking - not a lot, because he didn't have much of an appetite. He looked sick, but not dying. She went to some trouble to prepare him this inedible mess, and scolded him unmercifully about straying from the diet. When she was out of earshot, I asked him, "Do you believe this will do you any good?" He had already said it tasted terrible. He told me that he didn't have the least expectation of improvement from the diet. "Well, then, why are you eating it?" I asked. He even tried to give her money to help with the cost of the organic produce. "It makes your mother happy," he said. I thought both of them were crazy.

Maybe a year later, talking to her, I realized that she hadn't brought him up in a while. I didn't expect to be able to make the funeral, but I would've liked to know when he died. So I asked what had happened. "Oh, he went to Vegas for a few months with his son," she told me. (His son was about 18 or 20 at the time.) Apparently he was still there at the time I asked. I asked her whether he was still eating the alkaline diet in Vegas, and she admitted he probably wasn't. "But he was supposed to be dead," I persisted. "There's no way he should still be alive - let alone walking around - now. They can predict death from cancer within a few months now." She agreed. What could explain this? Well, what do you think she said? The alkaline diet, of course!

It has been seven or eight years, and as far as I know he is still alive.

Today my sister emailed my brother and me to let us know that she got a Fulbright grant, and to ask whether she was the only one who still checked our hometown obits to see whether the old guy had died. (She is.) I pointed out that his continued existence lends at least some evidence to the theory that my mother has cured cancer. My sister responded, "It's alkalinity in the diet, hasn't she told you? You get on that they'll be babies flying out of you."

My sister knows my mother. It's not so much that she would say that - she already has. In fact, she used rather close to those words. Forget the surgeries and the hormone imbalances and the hydrosalpinx; I've only to increase the pH of my innards, and I will give Michelle Duggar a run for her money. I told my mother how I dislike getting unsolicited medical advice about infertility (which had no effect on her whatsoever), but I will say this for her: first of all, she's the only person who's ever offered me such advice who is actually mentally ill, and second, it's the least crazy and/or dangerous advice I've probably gotten (and that counts the advice of my doctor, now that I think about it).

This is where we get back to the book. As I said, I don't remember where it is, but not long after that conversation, she sent me my own copy - after I specifically requested that she not do so. She can't even remember where she put her glasses from one moment to the next, or whether she's eaten recently, but she remembered to do that. Found my address and got to the post office and everything.

And I know there are infertiles out there who will literally try anything - or at least, anything that's relatively cheap and relatively harmless, and this probably is. Plus I think the diet is pretty low-cal, and summer-friendly, so what the heck. Google "alkaline diet" and buy the book with the crazy guy on the cover (if I recall correctly).

There's a cancer survivor in Nevada right now who might be able to give you some practice tips, too.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

too much?

I was chatting with some IRL infertile friends last night about the difficulties of dealing with fertile friends/relatives who - we'll use my interpretation of facts, which I'm convinced is the objective one - don't give a damn about the lives of their infertiles friends, siblings, whatever, enough even to try to be sensitive. I may whine about people who say dumb things, but there is a difference between stepping in it because you're trying too hard, and standing in it because you're not trying at all.

One of my friends was trying to make the point that these are good people, and can't be faulted for never (my words again) taking ten seconds to think about how their comments might affect others, or what topics would be ideal to talk about around people. I take the point of view that these people may be good in the main - better than I am, without doubt - but that being inconsiderate when you know or should know better is a moral failing, and that that is therefore a bad character trait that detracts from their otherwise consistent goodness. Specifically: if your beloved sister is infertile, and you see her regularly, and never ever ask how she's doing (and you have a lot of kids and she listened when you talked about your struggle with your miscarriage), then as far as that behavior goes (maybe not the rest of your relationship), you're a bad sister. Likewise, if you know a friend - even a distant friend - is infertile, and you choose to discuss your most recent labor in front of her for thirty minutes, you're just a rotten human being.

I know this is true, because, cold-hearted though I may be, I am very conscious about discussing my marriage in front of single friends. Many of them know my DH, so maybe I can tell a story about him they'll enjoy; but I watch them, I see their eyes, and sometimes their eyes are distant, or they're pained. When I see that, I change the subject instantly. I'm not being dramatic or self-aggrandizing. That's what I actually do. And that's me - the infertile b*&$#. If I can do it, the doe-eyed daily communicants in long skirts can pull it off easy.

I shared my perspective on the subject, during that conversation, in perhaps too-severe terms. It was late. But I was telling the truth. The truth is this: before I was married, others' pregnancies were a source of joy. In the first 2-3 years of ttc, others' pregnancies had become a cross - immediately, in fact. But infertiles' pregnancies were still a source of inspiration and hope. I am rapidly nearing five years. It has been well over a year since infertiles' pregnancies were, as a rule, a source of joy for me. I can be happy about any individual pregnancy. There have always been people (particularly among the bloggers) with whose sufferings I identified to the degree that I would literally have wanted them to be pregnant before me. (In most of those cases, that has already happened. Good for them.) Not to say that the rest were less deserving, but there's a certain resonance with some. I can't say why. Some have managed to dissipate entirely my feeling of that resonance shortly after they became pregnant, or by the time they delivered; but such is life.

You see, now, when infertiles get pregnant, I have been left behind twice: once by the fertile world, and a second time by the infertile world. One had only to look at my blogroll (as of yesterday) to see how clearly this is true. I changed it today, after my husband pointed out that it is evident to him that keeping up with blogging is making me really unhappy of late - and that I bring this unhappiness into my life, and our marriage, in many cases for the sake of people I don't even know.

Obviously, the connection that the IF blogosphere shares is hard to convey to people who haven't experienced it. (And I do know several of the blogger gals IRL now!) But he has a point. Some people have said things about their recent pregnancies/motherhood that I found objectively, straight-up offensive (because insensitive) - and things I am 100% positive they would never have said the day before their BFP or adoption came through. That's been a cross, reading those things, and figuring out how to deal with them. But even with those who haven't, the veritable rash of pregnancies happening all at once has been really hard for me to take.

I know - of course - that IF blogs are largely ttc blogs (a blog identity crisis I have worked with but not fully addressed for my own blog), and obviously the goal is that people will succeed. I hope that for the IF bloggers generally, though that doesn't make my reaction to happy announcements unmixed (a subject discussed nearly to death in the blogosphere, and very intelligently, too). But so many at once was more than just several repeats of that same experience. Rather, the mass crossing-over that happened of late meant that my blogroll of IF friends who understood where I was, and vice versa, has turned into a blogroll of pregnancy development announcements to follow. That's hard - and lacking support and camraderie is far harder. Wishing other people's suffering to be prolonged is uncharitable, and that's not really what I want - but I don't know that it's uncharitable, per se, to want not to be abandoned.

Nevertheless, I have an obligation to face reality. I moved the pregnant gals (probably have a few to go) to my "with babies" blogroll and now I have a nice digital line between blogs that will build me up in this journey and those that will be emotionally draining (and if you think that's harsh, you should have heard the phrasing I used last night).

One of the less-shocking things I said is that I wish all the people with kids (not infertiles, everybody) could be put on a separate island away from me. I don't begrudge them their happiness; I just want nothing to do with it. It's an affirmative affliction for me, and I know that not one person (other than my husband and me) has lost sixty seconds' sleep total over my childlessness. Their joy in their families has not been reduced one iota by my suffering. So why should my suffering be multiplied to form a cheering section for the blessings they already know are blessings? For people who don't recognize blessings, who see them as curses, who suffer with them, I have resources of compassion. I can understand suffering that's of a different character from mine. But for those who want to flaunt their riches - go to Hell. I don't need to see that here in my world. I have no patience for it left at all.

And it's funny to me, because I would sooner gouge out an eye than exult about a raise to a friend who has lost a job. I'm cold and heartless and selfish, and I couldn't do that. I'm not capable of it. If I said something about it being nice to have a promotion or a bonus and found out that a friend listening had just lost a job, I wouldn't be able to apologize fast enough. I would nurse the guilt for days and every time I saw the person thereafter. It would rob all the pleasure from my bonus, that it had been the source of pain to someone else. I'd be too ashamed to talk to the person without him approaching me first. And that's me. Why can't all the beautiful and holy people feel a tiny trifle of that compunction at using their unearned gifts as a scourge? What would possess a person to wax eloquent about the joys of parenthood to an infertile woman? I don't think an intoxicant is made that can excuse that kind of obtuseness. I remain convinced that a special place in Hell exists for those who engage in such behavior.

Yes, I'm still angry. I think I have a very extensive reason to be. Part of that is because I have not faithfully excised from my life that which is an optional cross. I have a good poker face, and I can deal with any given trial of this kind; and I refuse ever to show weakness to the heartless; but in the aggregate, this barrage is more than I can take and maintain my peace of mind. I doubt it helps that CD1 is approaching...but this isn't hormones. This is hell - just like Sartre said...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

excitement, adventure, and really wild things

*Almost countless brownie points to anyone who can name the source of the post title. Of course, all right-thinking people SHOULD know...

So it's been an interesting week. I've ranted about communication issues with my RE (so what else is new?), but let me give you a quick recap since, let's say, Saturday. My DH has been back for a couple of weeks, and he proposed that we needed to have a spring cleaning day. So on Saturday, we each took on some of the tougher long-term projects our house has to offer. I cleaned out the under-the-sink area in the kitchen that so frightens me, and used about a gallon of bleach spray to get it actually sanitary before organizing it. (As well as other sundries - a couple of loads of laundry, a load or two of dishes, groceries, cleaning the bathroom sink and spraying the tub, etc.) My DH collected a whole bunch of books to give away, dusted all the surfaces in the living room, polished the wood, burned extra papers, and mowed half the (huge) lawn - and I'm sure I'm forgetting other things. It was actually the nicest day we've spent in a long time, as we both agreed. And we still had a substantial amount to do, so we're planning to do round two this coming Saturday.

Then, Sunday, as previously mentioned, I persuaded a group to go tubing up in Harper's Ferry. It really was the ideal way to spend a super-hot day - relaxing, cool, and fun. The water must have been nearly 80 degrees - it was serenity itself. And I packed a nice cooler and did a good job on the logistics, if I do say so myself - often the first time to a new destination ends up with a lot of wrong turns and wasted time, but it all went very smoothly. And we finished it off with a delicious dinner at an adorable little restaurant in historic Harper's Ferry (which is tiny, antique, in the mountains, and at the intersection of three rivers...as you can imagine, I am already plotting ways I could move there to stay).

Also on Sunday, as I have already mentioned, was the start of the Great Raccoon Adventure. I will concede that there is every likelihood that we have had raccoons for some time. Certainly, we have had the Upstairs Neighbors for months. And they do sound like pretty big creatures. But all my reading reassures me that raccoons chatter constantly. Whereas these have not uttered a peep in all these months - until Sunday morning, when one of them apparently chewed through the wiring to the kitchen light fixture and began making this noise. (In fact, that is the only way I have been able to identify them at all - I had long hoped they were squirrels. But the post-wire-eating noise was unquestionably the "raccoon distress call.")

In the coming days, they suddenly started living up to their reputation: constant vocalizations, from cooing and chirping (they seem a largely contented bunch) to two solid hours of "distress call" after the dumb contractor our landlord called decided to fix the holes they entered through by walling them in. In 90+ degree heat. What did they do? Rip a way out again, of course. (At least they found a way to rip to the outside, instead of, say, into my bedroom. Sigh.) Anyway, I think the exterminator is coming tomorrow. I'm trying to think of some way that their presence reflects on my housekeeping. They have not been down here to look for food; we're not allowed to go into the crawl space; we've never fed them; I didn't notice the holes they used, but they can apparently tear a new one in a day. I should have called an exterminator sooner, but I thought they were squirrels, and lived elsewhere and were just visiting, and I could just deter them...apparently they live in my house. So, in a sense, I do have a houseful of kids. Three or four, I would guess, and only a few months old. They're even mammals. They just aren't human.

Anyway...my DH and I had agreed that on Tuesday, we would have our summit meeting. He agreed to go to an adorable little French place that I discovered nearby - which he hated. (Because he's crazy. It's SO CUTE and the food is AWESOME.) After we got over our testiness about the venue, we actually drove to the cathedral and sat in the car in the parking lot (it was raining) and had most of our summit meeting. We're both horrible with tangents, but we covered a lot of ground.

I don't have a lot of strong goals at this point, but I do need to write that article. My DH wants to get a degree some time in the next few years, and we agreed that we would both look into degree programs for him. I confessed that I'd kind of like to get into academia, though I know it's a really long shot. He said he wanted to look into adoption but not in any hurry, and understood that I have serious reservations about it; and I acknowledged that I might later change my mind, and was willing to look into it more. We actually didn't talk about spiritual direction or therapy (it wasn't on the agenda, it's just occurring to me now). We did talk about how long we expect to stay in this area. Probably five years; possibly ten; with the likelihood dropping after that. We agreed it's reasonable to look for a house if it appears it would be a good financial investment (in a good area, at a good price, you get the idea).

This morning we finally got our S/A done. I know, those are words you never believed you'd read on this blog. I have noooo idea what I'm expecting the results to be, and I am no more enthused with the collection process than I have been (though I benefited enormously from all the wisdom that you all shared last time I ranted bitterly on this subject. And ultimately, my regular hospital and blood lab made the logistics and scheduling SO easy - the polar opposite of the times and procedures available at every other clinic in the area. They're also the most expensive, but apparently, my DH's insurance covers it!). But it's nice to have it done, and maybe that piece of the puzzle will help to understand the overall picture of my/our defective fertility.

Tonight I'll be going to dinner with some girlfriends I haven't seen in a while, which will be nice. My DH has decided not to come (these gals almost never have any male guests, so that was probably a good call), and I'm looking forward to getting into a pretty dress (that he doesn't like) and picking up some berries and chocolate ice cream for the dessert and having a nice long chat with the ladies, since I don't have to work tomorrow. God willing, no one will bring an infant this time...

I've found I really enjoy spending time with single girls. A lot of them have really well-formed identities (don't know whether that correlates specially with singleness) that make them very interesting to talk to. And, I'll admit, with my childless married friends, I refuse to make plans too far into the future. If they say, "Next year we should take our vacation to _____ together!" I respond, "That sounds great [*]!" *if you haven't adopted by then. I can hear the footnotes; I assume nobody else can. So, single girls are good friends: they have lots of interests, they're navigating the working world too, and if I'm going to lose them to marriage and motherhood, I'll have a good long warning. I feel sort of exploitative saying that, but I'm not friends with all single girls just because of their marital status. I enjoy the company of the ones I like.

The weekend sounds as though it will be nice too - dinner Saturday with another girlfriend, round 2 of spring cleaning during the day Saturday, some friends who live abroad visiting and there will be a party where everyone can see them (but I don't have to throw it!). I'm trying not to think about how soon my DH will be leaving again. It's been so nice having him here, though interspersed with periods of stress, anxiety, and rage on my part. I really need to get my temperament under control.

Anyway so...that's what excitement I have here. On the face of it, my life is none too bad. Now, I just need to learn to enjoy it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

erratum: the bronze age

I just received this email from the "patient care supervisor" at Tepeyac and thought it was worth sharing (since I know there are other Tepeyac patients or former patients in the blogging community). I had never been told that I could send questions for the docs to the info@ address - I just tried it in a fit of desperation. So, it's good to know for future reference. Here ya go:
I wanted to take a minute to reply to your most recent email. First of all, I wanted to let you know that we did receive your email dated June 15, 2010. It was printed and was placed with your patient chart on Dr. Cvetkovich’s desk that day. Your chart with your email is still on her desk awaiting her response. I have now printed your latest email and attached it as well. I apologize for the delay in a response, as soon as Dr. Cvetkovich provides me answers to your questions; I will forward the information on to you.

I also wanted to address the issue of emailing. The most efficient way to communicate via email is through the
info@tepeyacfamilycenter.com address. This address is checked constantly through each business day and emails for the doctors are printed daily. All communication between doctors, nurses and patients must be documented in your patient chart. Therefore when you generate an email to us, we print it, pull your patient chart and place both together on the appropriate doctor’s desk. To be honest the doctors are not the best at reading and responding to emails sent directly to their personal account and therefore emailing a doctor directly is not a viable option. I hope that I have adequately explained our office’s email policy to you. Should you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me. I am in the office Tuesday through Friday.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

the stone age

So I had my appointment with Dr. L/C (as I explained previously) and she told me (among other things) that femara is only prescribed for PCOS patients. Then I heard from several bloggers who have been prescribed it but do not have PCOS. Then I found an article explaining its ovulation-stimulating effects, having nothing to do with PCOS. It also sounds like it would have fewer endo-aggravating side effects than tamoxifen or clomid, just based on the mechanism by which it works.

So I sent an email, with a link to the article and questions about femara, as well as another question or two, to the info@ address for Tepeyac (the only address that Tepeyac will publicly admit that it has. But since this isn't the actual stone age and I'm an educated adult, I know that if you have any address that's "@mybusiness.com," you own the domain and an email server, and you probably have email addresses for all of your employees - though they may not be enabled, perhaps. But you could enable them).

I get that doctors don't get paid for time they spend on the phone with you; just time you spend in appointments with them. But, I have two important points to make about that. (1) That means that phone and/or email time is an overhead cost of the time they spend in appointments, and in any non-bankrupt business, overhead costs are built into prices. They can't bill my insurance company for the salary of their receptionist, either - and somehow they manage to work this out within the framework of their billing practices. LIKE EVERY OTHER BUSINESS. (2) If they cannot communicate thoroughly and accurately during appointments - or if, God forbid, they treat people in medical circumstances that require questions be answered sooner than two weeks (or whenever their next appointment opening falls), such as, I don't know, pregnancy or infertility - they need to suck it up and learn another form(s) of communication. I answer my Blackberry at midnight. While I'm not requesting the opportunity to call my doctor at home at midnight, I'd like the option of writing out my concerns in a nice email to which she can respond at her leisure.

But by "at her leisure," I don't mean "before I enter full-blown menopause." I sent that email last Tuesday, with an express request for the records gal (who answers the info@ address, as I have been told by a Tepeyac employee) to let me know if she could forward the email to Dr. L/C, or to let me know if this was not possible, in which case I would work on another form of communication. She has not responded. Not even a snotty "sorry we don't forward emails" response - nothing.

So last Friday I called the nurse's line and left a message inquiring about what had happened to the email and letting them know it contained fairly detailed questions about my medication. And...no response. I just called again. I think I'll also send another email, pointlessly inquiring after the first one...I'm debating whether the email should state that I know of other Tepeyac patients who have switched practices because of the communication issues alone.

I cannot believe a whole group of people can obtain medical degrees and residencies in their specialties and never learn how to use email along the way. Most five-year-olds can use email. What is the problem?

Monday, June 21, 2010

some sort of houses

I just found out that the first-time home buyer tax credit has been extended by three months (I believe that means that you can get your up-to-$8000 if you have a contract by July 31 and close by September 30). Also, yesterday morning as we were about to leave to go tubing on the Shenandoah with friends (which was awesome and the ideal way to spend a 97-degree Sunday), our kitchen light fixture started smoking and immediately there was a loud chattering noise of pain and pique by what were clearly multiple creatures that had been hanging out above the kitchen ceiling. This morning before I left for work, a couple of brave fellows appeared who are going to fix the wiring and identify our upstairs neighbors. (Before this episode, said neighbors had been apparently absent for at least a week - I had been planning to spray the crawl space with some handy-looking vermin repellent when they returned.)

Obviously, these two events are connected in my mind.

Anyway, tragically, I don't have a current house I'm in love with which I can make myself believe will be my house. I love the "castle" I found and its proximity to a fabulous church, but my DH can't deal with the freeway noise and according to the crime maps I found, it gets a bit too much attention from the local underworld (a couple of vehicle smash-and-grabs and even a breaking and entering or two within the last six months, in just a block or two radius. Not ideal). I have some others I'm fond of that I know perfectly well are too far away. And then there's one that qualified for all of my requirements - nice neighborhood, big yard, near the metro, near a cool church that's en route to the metro, affordable, right age, etc. - but it's appreciably smaller than I'd like. Should I let that go? We don't have a house full of kids. And now, it's under contract anyway.

However, forlorn though I may be about the lack even of a real estate daydream (BTW, my DH and I have decided to go out to dinner Tuesday and do our future planning meeting then), and sad though it makes my pointless little searches on craigslist for antique furniture I have nowhere to keep, I still have my appreciation for housing pretties. Such as:

I want this room. As in, if I have a house with this structural setting (most old houses have), I will create it.


And something about this doorway and, more particularly, this particular execution of a coffered ceiling, strikes me as absolute perfection. This would seriously be feasible to do myself, and it could look that good!


And finally, I would never have imagined this particular color scheme and wall treatment, but now that I see it, it seems so obvious. What paint color is that on the wainscoting? I have to know. I have to recreate this bathroom.


I'm going to find my house. I am...

Friday, June 18, 2010

the un-baby

You remember, of un-baby shower fame? Well, she was born yesterday - two weeks early, which is unusual for a first child. I found out as I was leaving work to have dinner with my DH and some friends (one of the friends, and a fellow IFer, is the best girlfriend of the un-baby's un-mama, and a nurse, so she was there for the birth. I only had a chance to ask briefly how she was doing with all that, and she said she was fine, and then the group conversation put an end to that. Maybe she is fine).

I was fine with all of it, and felt for the un-mama about all of it (I know this has been hard for her, and, from her point of view, I think the worst is now over - and I am happy for her that she made it), until my IF friend was listing the huge crew of ladies (the un-grandma, two of the un-mama's four sisters, and two of her closest friends) in the delivery room for the whole show, and I heard my own voice saying, "She had a whole cheering section!" See, the IF me can clearly recall, and convincingly imitate, the pre-IF me - the cute little things she would have said, the sincerely congratulatory attitude she would have had, about Other People's Children.

And in the moment I made that comment, something happened like in that pharma commercial with the high-cholesterol guy or whatever he is, where he splits off into two people - for a hundred sentences of dialogue I had been one person, an IF girl genuinely interested in and happy for her friend, and then during that last phrase, I became two people: the IF girl who thinks that someone who is superhumanly fertile and had a perfectly healthy pregnancy and now a perfectly healthy baby neither needs nor deserves a cheering section; and the girl who won't give her dinner companions the satisfaction of thinking, even unconsciously, that she deserves to be childless because she's mean. So I'll say whatever it is I'm supposed to say.

I wonder how soon I'll be expected to meet the un-baby, and whether I'll be able to pull off some sincere comments of a positive nature, or just be waiting on my opportunity to run screaming from the room.

It's funny how nobody (including fellow and former infertiles), however they know our situation (or should be able to guess), has ever ever said to me, "Would you like to see baby pictures? Would you like to meet the baby? Alternatively, we could do something entirely different." They never ask. They show you. They wait for you to say, "Actually..." whereupon they will launch into the speech they have prepared ("How thoughtless of me!"/"I completely understand!"/"I thought you might feel that way."), establishing their sensitivity and generosity to the invisible cameras.

Whereas, generosity? Is making a lunch date for when the baby is with grandma, and telling me, "I'm so glad we have an opportunity to do lunch - I've been dying to get out to a grown-up place with just the girls!" before I have a chance to say, "What's a good place where you can bring the baby?" Generosity is showing me pictures of your dog, and waiting to see whether I ask, "Do you have any baby pictures?" I don't believe I've asked anyone to see baby pictures in years, and there's a reason for that. And when I don't ask - now you know for next time; you never have to say a word. You do that, and I promise you, you'll have your reward in heaven.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

the fertile octogenarian

When I read Infertile Naomi's charming "your reasons" post at her blog, 999 Reasons to Laugh at Infertility (I have read all the reasons so far. Love that blog), I realized I had never titled a post "the fertile octogenarian." Which seems like a major oversight on my part.

You see, unless you're a lawyer (or, even if you are), you don't need to know anything about the Rule Against Perpetuities (RAP). It's a venerable, leather-bound, cobweb-shrouded, yellowed, Gothic-printed old theory about how people are allowed to determine the chain of succession of land that they grant (give) or devise (leave to others in their wills). Based on that description, you might surmise that I enjoyed this small corner of the law immensely, and you would be right. I may be one of two or three law school graduates in the last century who felt that way.

Oh, so you can form your own opinion - here is the rule itself:

No interest is good unless it must vest, if at all, not later than twenty-one years after some life in being at the creation of the interest.

I could have done 80% of that from memory - maybe the whole thing, given time. :D Also, I know what it means. (Does that mean it doesn't matter that my garden refuses to produce any vegetables? No? Ah, well.)

Anyway, the RAP and its associated lore include a concept called "the fertile octogenarian." As I noted on Naomi's blog, in a traditional legal education, every first-year law student must know the meaning of this concept. Her post's charming reminder of the idea made me realize that it really needed to be a blog post title.

My DH and I still haven't had The Talk about what treatment I'll do (there's currently no rush because I was already into the buildup to peak this cycle by the time I had the appointment, and during my entire next fertile phase, he will be traveling; also, I have sent some questions to Dr. L/C for further information, and heard no response of any kind), nor have we scheduled our SA appointment (we're hoping for next Friday, so we need to get on that). And we haven't had The Talk about our future, though while we have been waiting to do so, we've had several nasty arguments about it. Progress, right? No.

Anyway, in view of the apparent fact that the gods hate me, and that I cannot plan for so much of my future as would allow me to buy a couch, let alone a house, I take comfort in the fact that my chosen avocation gives me at least 60 more years to achieve a pregnancy. I guess I have all the time in the world to try different medications...

Friday, June 11, 2010

I share

Sometimes it's emotionally exhausting to be emotionally exhausting. No doubt I will return to that, since that's the territory I'm wandering around just now. (Sneak preview: I'm reading more books. Some of them may actually prove helpful. And, of all unlikely sources, my DH may have found me a spiritual director. Plus he's been hobnobbing with a lot of Opus Dei while in Europe, and thinks we should get in touch with some in this area. OK...)

Anyway, in this post, I share things with you, that may, or may not, be helpful.

I went to my "what medication shall we use to make the misfit crazier and sicker in pursuit of a fictional pregnancy" appointment. Amusingly, Dr. L/C actually said that I should be concerned about one medicine (I actually forget which) based on the "risk" of producing 6-8 follicles. I tried to explain that I just won't make any treatment decision ever based on a fear of having sextuplets or octuplets. First of all (and yes, I know, high risk of birth defects, not fair to babies), 6-8 kids at once? BRING IT THE HECK ON. Not only do I beat all my contemporaries in the kid tally in one fell swoop - which, admit it, is every Catholic IFer's secret dream - but even if I had to take off a whole year of work to have basically uninterrupted bed rest, I would still be way ahead in terms of lifetime earning potential. One pregnancy, all the kiddos start school at the same time, favorable college financial aid treatment. It's like a bulk rate. And second of all, have you met me? Hello, I'm your patient, the misfit. You performed surgery on my train wreck of a reproductive system in October, and then told me that the next 12 months would be my best chance of getting pregnant, and then I had a 17-day and 12-day menstrual cycle consecutively? Nice to meet you too. We should get to know each other.

So at my request, she laid out what she considers all my treatment options.

(1) Tamoxifen. I can dig up what this regimen entails for anyone who is interested, but I have done tamoxifen before, and I am sticking to my resolution: No More Tamoxifen Ever.

(2) Clomid. This arguably has the same drawbacks as the tamoxifen. It increases the spike in estrogen early in the cycle (which is good, for fertility), so it aggravates the endo; it causes hormonal upset and consequently, in my case, total psychosis; and it will definitely knock out my cervical mucus. I know there's a regimen that's supposed to fix that (amoxicillin, B6, Mucinex), but I am pretty sure I have done those things before and they didn't help. But, what the heck - I can try again and be more diligent.

(2)(a) Low-dose clomid. Standard dose, per Dr. L/C, is 50mg. Wheelbarrowrider suggested 25mg to me - apparently she took it, and didn't have problematic side effects, but it still achieved the desired effect. Dr. L/C said she was willing to try that if I was interested.

(3) Injectables. From the plural, I always assumed that this meant an array of possible drugs, all of which you get via sharp object. Not so, apparently: "injectables" means that you shoot up a synthetic form of FSH (Follistim, GonalF, or some other brand) on CD3-7 once a day. Then they do daily or every other day ultrasound monitoring, and when you have mature follicles, they give you a trigger shot of HCG (because it mimics LH, and will consequently cause the follicles to rupture - i.e., ovulation), or, the more expensive option, synthetic LH. Couple of points about this: first, my FSH from this cycle (b/w CD3, today is CD9) is 11.something. The highest it had ever been was 9.8, so that's not cool with me. But Dr. L/C said it can wander up and down. And that that really wasn't that much different from 9, in her view. Clearly I'm not happy, though. Second point: I have read about other gals taking HCG. In my head, that was the only drug they were taking - not a trigger as a follow-on to a different injection. Also, in my head, people were taking HCG pills daily for maybe 14 days or something. Was I totally out to lunch? Is the protocol Dr. L/C described the same one everyone else has done?

Also, in other matters, my thyroid is better since doubling the dose but actually still high (i.e., hypothyroid) - my TSH is over 3. Either I need a few more weeks for it to stabilize, or I will ultimately be prescribed more. Can't complain about that. But, in my interrogation of the good doctor, did I remember to ask what my other blood test results were? No, of course not. Sigh.

So, yes, and I share other things. In another, tiny, epiphany, I realized something: a lot of my housekeeping failures are because I was actually never trained to do things properly. My home was not kept clean regularly when I was a child. I know how to do obvious things, like laundry, sweeping, and dishes. I was taught a couple of times to mop floors. And I've taught myself just a few things - self-cleaning ovens, for example. (I know, this isn't rocket science. But everything is a skill.)

But nobody ever explained to me, for example, how you're supposed to wash your walls properly. Or how often. Or the proper maintenance of closets so they don't mildew. (Maybe this is not really a common problem...) Or how to insect-proof your kitchen. (I suspect this would be totally different in Virginia anyway.) So, instead of freaking out constantly about my failures, I need to start by learning what I would actually have to be doing to do it right. And then figure out how much extra time I need to set aside to keep up with these things. The things I understand, I do keep up with, or at least, if I've let them slide, I get myself caught up pretty well.

Anyway, google may be able to help here, and I will share what I learn, in case it's helpful to others. So far, my darling blogger friends have told me that "Scrubbing Bubbles" (the spray stuff - I bought the orange kind) would dissolve my soap scum like magic, and it's totally true. The suggestion for Tilex was less magic - it works, but no better than any other bleach cleanser. The grout-mildew refuses to die completely. I will win eventually, though.

Last bits of sharing: I heard this fairly new song on the radio the other day, and it struck a chord (heh) with me. Not because I have this placid relationship that needs to be shaken up (ha!), but because I actually have a fairly high-drama marriage, and you can have too much of that, but I think some of it is what makes our marriage work. Because we're crazy people and we're nuts about each other, and who else would have us? Anyway, super-cute. And the singers are married, BTW. Enjoy:



Oh, yeah, and this is just too fabulous for words:


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

grief

When I went to the library a week or so ago, I was prompted to look, again, for books on dealing with IF. (I know, there's lots of blogs! I was thinking more in terms of psychologically constructive methods - sort of expert advice?) Foolishly, I searched under "infertility" in the card catalog again. Books and books of remedies, treatments, technologies, cures...nothing on just being infertile. This time I had a plan B: finding the Dewey decimal number for the psychology/grief section, I went to peruse that.

I found a couple of titles I figured it couldn't hurt to bring home. One was about helping children deal with grief - yes, this seems cruelly ironic, but in fact, I was thinking that I need to think about how to help a third party deal with grief. They had no books on helping spouses or adult loved ones to heal, so I settled for that. I also grabbed John Welshons's Awakening from Grief. It's subtitled as if it provided actual methods for addressing grief, but this is barely true.

It's basically a smallish book, in optimistic tone, giving a delightful set of stories about how he dealt with grief. The stories do not actually translate into constructive results for the reader, and though he eventually describes a series of techniques, these are a very small portion of the book, and are directed toward working through the grievning process (valuable, obviously), and don't claim to lead to the zen-like quality he claims to have attained himself. But, every book has its limits. (The other limitation is that he is, apparently, an adherent of some sort of Eastern spirituality, and consequently asserts things about the nature of love and of the human person that are untrue and misleading. I have a whole diatribe about this in my head, but that threatens to become a totally engulfing tangent.)

Anyway. I was reading the little chapter on grieving techniques before I fell asleep last night. He talked about grieving for the lost person, or thing (he mentions career/job loss), picturing what he/it was, telling him/it how you feel, etc. These exercises obviously would also have some value in contemplative prayer. I was reading it basically for its teaching value in dealing with IF. I recognize - and many experts have acknowledged - that IF causes grief. But what loss are we mourning, specifically?

I realized reading that I am not mourning the loss of a specific child or children (miscarriage sufferers will presumably have a different take here). I am bitterly grieving the loss of someone, but that person is me. I am mourning, and have long been mourning, the person I believed I would be, and who I was already becoming when infertility put an insuperable barricade across my forward road. Whether reality would otherwise have followed my mental image I don't know (it rarely does); but I'm not grieving the loss of particular maternity clothes or a specific neighborhood or number or character of children.

What I can't bear to have lost is the character and temperament of the person I thought I'd be. And though I'm sure motherhood would have worn me down far more than I expected, and my feeble virtues would have been burdened more than I thought, and buoyed less, by the avocation I expected, nevertheless - I'm convinced my predictions weren't wholly off the mark. In my heart I had already laid the foundation for that person. That foundation has been abandoned. I've just up and gone elsewhere to work on something else.

I know that's what I'm mourning, because that's the image that brings tears to my eyes; not a baby, but a lovely young woman who has the look in her eyes that I used to have, that I can still see, dramatically, in pictures of my younger self. I know this sounds terribly narcissistic, but it's just the truth. And it's not that I was happier; I was often sad. But I had something else - some sort of innocence, some sort of underlying joy. It's not merely time that took that away. Something I had, has died.

I think I've been on the verge of this realization before. And then I had a thought far more jarring than that one. It's not just that the person I wanted so much to become has died; it's that I blame the person I became instead for killing the person I wanted to be. I'm the murderer of a person worth being. I've not become quite the anti-matter opposite, but it's very close. I was a more or less kindhearted traditionalist who didn't care about her appearance, was constantly praying, volunteered for most everything, loved babies, and prized family first. I'm now a career woman who avoids other people's children, is emotionally exhausted by baby pictures, owns way too much clothing, never says daily prayers, goes to Mass only on Sundays, and has become professional, thick-skinned, and jaded. The one pursuit I maintained (until recently, largely by choice) was an active social life, in which I stay up until all hours. I'm the woman that other woman would have sincerely, and rightly, seen as heartless, empty, and evil. I live the life I was hoping to flee.

I'm not sure why this was so hard to see. I hate who I've become. I would vehemently defend a lot of the particular choices I've made, on the basis that no more prudent option existed; it was what was necessary; it happened by itself; or I literally had no other options. Most of those arguments are objectively correct. I literally did do my best on many of these fronts - the consequences are not blameworthy. On some fronts, they are, and I could have done better, though it would have been a really uphill battle. But I see the person I've become as worthless, or, more accurately, as affirmatively bad.

And I structure my life around that - I can see that, now. Though I hardly make extraordinary efforts to be diplomatic, if I need to spend time with people, I work to make my company not objectively objectionable - so that on a rational analysis, I could argue that it does them no more harm to spend time with me than with anyone else. I try to say nice things, demand of them little, make myself useful, support entertaining topics. When I don't care about people's regard, I'm often difficult, of course, but if I'm trying to be good company, I do it rather scientifically. Anybody who is willing to spend time with me is either doing the same superficial analysis - she's no trouble to be around and she can be entertaining - or is motivated by his own charity and generosity only.

It puts an interesting spin on the graduation of others from this purgatory here. While I wish nobody ill - there's nobody I want to see get another BFN, lose another child, endure another failed procedure - the migration of fellow infertiles en masse from these blackened shores carries an additional message: that they weren't worthless, as I am; their suffering was a test of the faithful, an opportunity for them to see yet greater value in their future blessings. My suffering is deserved, and to prove that, this is where I will ever remain. It's funny - I have such strident eloquent arguments against the ignorant and malicious who claim that infertility is earned by infertiles, which they conclude precisely because they don't have to suffer it. But I can argue as loudly as I want to against what others say - and I can be perfectly right; but it doesn't make a bit of difference if I believe I deserve it myself.

I know this is a disaster - I can't see the road back from here and if I keep moving forward I will travel deeper into the forest. Maybe there actually isn't any way out. But, in any case, I can't really understand how I got here. What about just not having children is so horrible that it's driven all the value out of who I am?

And, for what it's worth, I'm not looking for reassurance that my life is more valuable on the whole than not - it's not something, I think, that the ideas of others could fix. Just a belated realization of how I've come to see my life. And worth sharing, I thought, as it was rather an epiphany; but perhaps I'm mistaken. Either way.

Friday, June 4, 2010

victory and CHOCOLATE

Alice Medrich's Chocolate Cheesecake, as it is officially named in the holy book of American home cooks, The Joy of Cooking, has been the bane of my existence for six or so years. I read the recipe, and I could see that it would be good. But I made it, and it was not good. So I made it again. Bad. Again. Worse. Yet again. No improvement.

On Tuesday, I conquered Alice Medrich's Chocolate Cheesecake. I now own this recipe, in the more significant metaphorical sense, and, being generous, I share it with you. (I halved the recipe, then tweaked the proportions.)
  • Get out your 8" diameter, deep, straight-sided pan. (I used a Corningware French white circular glass baking dish, and served it in the pan, 'cause it's pretty, and I loathe springform.)
  • Put the kettle on.
  • Break 5 oz. of baking chocolate (the no-sugar stuff) into the smallest pieces you can. Seriously dark chocolate will substitute if need be. I think you could also use 8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips. (Recipe calls for 8 oz. baker's chocolate; half is 4 oz. But this is not enough chocolate.)
  • Assault one 8-oz. brick cream cheese in medium mixing bowl until creamy.
  • When kettle has boiled, measure 1/6 cup boiling water into the broken chocolate and stir until smooth-ish. Set someplace warm.
  • Mix 1/2 cup sugar into the cream cheese. If you like your cheesecake sweet, use 2/3 cup to 1 cup. (Recipe calls for 2/3; half is 1/3. Even at 1/2 cup, which I used, it's not a sweet dessert.)
  • Mix 1 and 1/2 beaten eggs; 1 tablespoon vanilla extract; and 1 tablespoon cocoa powder into the cream cheese.
  • Mix in 1 cup of sour cream.
  • Add the chocolate to the cream cheese mixture and blend as thoroughly as you can. (I had to switch from a wooden spoon to a whisk here.)
  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • Crust option 1: Take a dozen or two Oreos or chocolate cookies and smash them in a ziplock bag with a blunt instrument until they're small crumbs. Mix with milk until they're the consistency of wet cement. Grease your pan, and then use a flat-bottomed drinking glass to spread them along the bottom, and two inches up the sides.
  • Crust option 2: Take about 1/6 of a package of brownie mix, your extra 1/2 scrambled egg, a generous drizzle of vegetable oil, and a smaller drizzle of water, mix well, and spread them across the bottom of your pan. (I did this and it worked well.)
  • Pour the filling mixture into the pan and smooth the top. Put in the oven for 35 minutes.
  • At 35 minutes, the edges should have puffed; the middle should barely look "dry." (If not there yet, check again in five more minutes.) When this stage is reached, turn the oven off, leaving the pan inside, and prop the oven door slightly open.
  • Catch up on your blog reading for at least an hour. Then test the cheesecake with a toothpick. It need not come out clean, but should not have liquid. If it does - you have a problem. And I do not have a solution.
  • Before bed, put the cake in the microwave (not on) to finish cooling overnight.
  • The next morning, put in the refrigerator to cool entirely.
  • Serve two days after you make it.
My original problems with the cheesecake were the cooking times (it was always raw and it cracked); with the quantity halved, the prescribed time actually works. And it was never chocolate-y enough; I'm now satisfied. And, it was always too sour. Cheesecake is supposed to be aged two days, which makes it sour, and, admittedly, I don't like that traditional cheesecake pungency. But with the smidge more sugar, and more chocolate, this was perfect. A mature cheesecake sourness, but really shadowed by chocolate-y bitterness. I'm a harsh self-critic, cooking-wise, and I tell you honestly that this flavor was artistic. It was profound. It was an appropriate homage to the blessing that is chocolate. And that means something to me.

I didn't this time, but next time I will serve it with hot homemade blackberry sauce.

Also, to the gluten/processed sugar crowd, I'm not totally heartless - it doesn't have chocolate and I haven't tested it, but this recipe looked really good.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

the un-baby shower

I have a friend (we'll call her S). She's much closer to several of the other gals in the group but she's a sweet girl and I like her. In a situation I know she bitterly regrets, she became pregnant several months ago; she stopped dating the father of the child very shortly thereafter, and they have a bad relationship and he is by all accounts a highly objectionable person. She appears to be super-fertile - apparently a trait that runs in her family. She has been robustly healthy throughout her pregnancy. But she has been sad.

It's funny - I don't become bitter about people on the other side of the fertility looking glass when I can see that they have their own crosses to bear. It's the annoyingly (and, most often, the falsely) happy who really provoke my ire. No doubt this is some insidious form of uncharity on my part, but I think it's also philosophical. I respond to others' sufferings that I don't share - and about which they're sensitive - by observing, correctly, that we're all carrying crosses. (This has come up often with friends who are looking for jobs. They want you to understand that it's hard to be out of work, but they don't want you to think them wretched. And I want them to understand that I have a job, but my life isn't perfect. It's what I'd want to hear myself.) We have compassion for each other in our diverse difficulties. At least, so it seems to me.

Anyway, S's sister (married with several children) has planned a celebratory weekend for S. S just closed on a house near her family, so the party was conceived as a combination baby shower/housewarming/help-moving-in event. It was a charming idea. From what I have been able to piece together, S was immediately horrified. She does NOT want a baby shower. The invitation was hastily (and graciously) revised by S's sister to specify that moving assistance would still be appreciated; S does not need baby-related presents, as she has so many hand-me-downs from friends and family (though several of the girls are going in on the last big-ticket item she needs); and S will be inviting her broader acquaintance to a combination housewarming/welcome baby party after the baby is born, when, I gather, she will feel comfortable entertaining. Right now, I think she has been avoiding everyone but her close girlfriends - and, sometimes, them too. The weekend, more or less as originally advertised, will proceed, but with a much smaller group, mostly all-female.

My first reaction is that I am sad that S is sad. I cannot fathom what my reaction would be in her place, but I know it can't be easy. I am sure, if it were me, that I would be in a very unstable place well into the pregnancy, as I adjusted to the idea, and to my increasingly obvious appearance as an unmarried pregnant woman. It's not a position in which she ever thought she'd be.

I had the hopeful notion on her behalf that at some point she would become accustomed to the idea, and just be excited about the nearing arrival of the baby. Clearly, that is not how she feels. And I am sure this has continued to be much harder than I can imagine. I certainly respect her honesty and firmness in turning down the opportunity to be publicly celebrated and fussed over, when that is at odds with how she feels.

I've actually been looking forward to the weekend's un-baby shower (to which I am, apparently, invited). Obviously I have an obsession with all things real estate and home decor related, and I am excited to see the new house, and to lend a hand in painting or any kind of small repairs I'm capable of. And I appreciated the opportunity to demonstrate, to myself at least, that I can be as tactful as I'd like people to be with me in my interestingly different situation. S's sister asked for cards (with well-wishes), so I figured I'd do a card (still haven't figured out what to write) and chip in for the group present, and I bought what I hope is a modest but fun housewarming gift: a pair of glass hurricanes/vases and scented pillar candles in her favorite color.

All of this (well, not necessarily my shopping victories) is interesting enough in its own right. There is a fascinating and not always happy world outside my little IF corner of the universe. For better or for worse, when I'm not succeeding in pursuing a hermit-like existence while my DH travels, I see my friends struggling with a lot of challenges different from mine. (I know, you all thought I sat up in a tree pitching rocks in a ball of hate all weekend, right? Well, I come down once in a while.) After all the years longing for a baby (and, lately, realizing that I might be horrified by a baby. I'm not sure when or how this transition happened, whether it's normal, or whether I should do anything about it), it's rather arresting to see someone who inevitably will have a beautiful and healthy baby, and is just wishing that nobody would make a peep about it. But for reasons I haven't entirely worked out yet, I think it's probably good for me to be exposed to.

In a sort of limping epilogue to all of this, I've realized that today is CD1...probably. (I spotted - bright, pretty red, which I guess is good - for the four days previously. And a little itty bitty streak of red the day before. So, which day is CD1?) If today is CD1, I need to get my CD3 bloodwork done on Saturday. That can't be good. The un-baby shower is many miles away from my blood lab. It would probably mean I have to head down for the festivities Saturday morning, instead of Friday night. I don't really want to miss the blood draw this cycle, with a "what medication should we put you on" appointment coming up right after.

On the other hand, coming late to the un-baby shower might not be a tragedy. Apparently several of the activities - including rafting - are actually occurring Friday afternoon. I couldn't possibly arrive before 7PM (maybe later), since I have a job. The fact that this didn't strike S's sister as a major impediment tells me that the invitees whose names I didn't recognize are all stay-at-home mommies. Notthatthere'sanythingwrongwiththat.

But - lovely people as they may be - they might also be insufferable company, for me, at least. (People will have babies on the brain. And my DH travels all the time, and his absence will be mentioned. And they'll be meeting me, so they'll ask, "How long have you been married?" And then after I answer they'll pause elaborately. And I might - might - have to drown someone with paint. Would that be wrong?) Actually, I imagine that they'll also be insufferable company for S. I see the two of us as unlikely natural allies, but she has shown no signs of seeing that, and these are probably all her close friends. So I will need to, at a minimum, keep my homicidal thoughts to myself.

So now I'm thinking that I should just say I have a last-minute medical appointment (true), and can't come down till Saturday morning (I'll have to go to the blood lab early, so I could arrive as they're all getting up), and then I could make the bachelor birthday party on Friday night - for a good friend, so I was really sorry to have to miss it. Would that be rude?

Why are these things so complicated?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

things to do

So I made a list of the things I can see that I need to do to get my life into balance. I realize that if I fix all the things that are symptomatic and all the things that are probably introducing greater instability into my life than necessary, I could still be depressed and/or have an unbalanced life. So there are still global issues to address, but I can't imagine that moving all these things into the right place won't help.

Below are my charming little lists. I know the to-do list sounds scary-ambitious (maybe - or maybe this is what all of you guys do on a lazy Saturday afternoon), and it's possible to live a good, happy, healthy life without working a full-time job and doing all of these things. But I am not living a good, happy, healthy life. There's no longer any point thinking about how healthy I could be. I actually need to be healthy. However, I also needed to include all the things that, in the past year or so, I've similarly thought I really needed to do to get my life into shape - and then have actually accomplished. While much smaller, I think this list is impressive in its own right.

First, for my little kickoff celebration, I am going to talk about Yesterday Evening. See, after the very quiet day in my weekend (Monday. ALL I did was go shopping. For things I was allowed to buy, though), Tuesday was my only un-booked evening until Sunday; and whatever else I needed to get done before the weekend, I needed to get a serious start on. But when I get home, a powerful magnetron beam (geek!) draws me toward my computer and the tawdry internets. (Not you all. You are not tawdry. But once I catch up on blogs, I look for anything to secure my fickle attention.)

But as I was trolling for some trash TV show to watch on hulu that I'm not even addicted to yet, the phone rang, and I barely found it as it hit the last ring, so I immediately answered without looking, even though it was one of those friends I cannot talk to for less than an hour (plus, usually). And as I answered the phone, I was sort of horrified - there goes my evening, right? EXCEPT THAT I WAS WRONG.

You see, I can't watch hulu and talk on the phone at the same time. But what CAN I do while talking on the phone? Well, I can soak all my DH's polos in oxygen bleach. I can get my depressing sinkful of dishes into the dishwasher. I can put away all the hand-washed dishes I've been ignoring. I can hand-wash all the dishes that don't fit in the washer. I can clean the dead bugs off my countertop (there are so many I just bleached them in place. It's been really traumatic. I don't even know what they are) and bleach the whole thing twice more so I can actually use it.

And I can MAKE AN ENTIRE CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE! Oh yes! Because I'm going to my newlywed friends' for dinner Thursday and I needed to bring dessert and didn't know when I'd have time to make one. This recipe has been the bane of my existence for years - sounds fabulous, turns out rotten - and from all outward appearances, this time I nailed it. (It may be the only cheesecake I've ever made with no cracks in the top. I make excellent non-chocolate cheesecake, but it always cracks.) After I sample it Thursday, if it really is perfect, I will tell the world what I did to alter the evil recipe. Spoiler: LOADED with gluten, dairy, and refined sugar. In fact, there are practically no other ingredients. Well, besides CHOCOLATE.

So, in summary: I made an ambitious baked good that appears to have succeeded. I so rarely cook or bake any more, and this made me happy. AND my kitchen is not a disaster covered in dried chocolate batter - it's CLEANER than before! Almost ACTUALLY clean! Undeniably, a victory. Anyway, on to the lists:

Done
Get substantial exercise regularly
Get my meds to the right place
Get back to a size 6
Pay all bills on time
Figure out how to clean the shower properly
Clean more often
Get to work earlier
Periodically get books out of the library and read for fun
Schedule annual and RE exams
Get new contact prescription
Paint my toenails regularly :)

To Do
Attend daily Mass more often (at least once a week, then work up)
Catch up on late wedding presents :(
Establish daily prayer routine (start small)
Finish friends' adoption paperwork
Catch up on correspondence
Deal with household pests }:<
Mildew remediation
Do mending and finish sewing projects
Go through remaining boxes and throw things out
Buy and plant rest of herbs and vegetables
Floss daily, use mouthwash, and brush twice every day
Make dentist appointment (see above...)
Make physical appointment
Vacuum regularly
Finish some artwork
Write law review article
Fit into last suit (my beloved Tahari one! I'm so close!)
Help DH with job stuff; remind him

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

and sometimes...

In a long and occasionally hostile email exchange regarding most of our future plans, I finally told my DH that I felt as though I had been trying to conceive a child alone for well over a year. I know this pattern was started by me shutting him out. I've realized more and more lately that that's a mistake, and I've worked to take down the barriers I created to our having input into this process together, but I never actually gave him the message that I wanted him to participate. I just figured it was obvious.

So last night I told him that I wanted us to get the SA done, not because it will be likely to make a difference in treatment, but because it has high symbolic value - him getting concretely involved in the process. It would mean something to me for that reason (yes, I know that that's silly). I want him to come to my appointments if he is not at work when they are scheduled. I want to talk to him before and after any RE appointment so that we make decisions about treatment together. I want to have my chart someplace mutually available so that both of us know where I am in my cycle every day. (I know this will result very rapidly in me keeping the chart much more responsibly, because he is guaranteed to point out that his reading it won't accomplish much unless I start writing stuff on it. This rather mundane observation makes clear to me how much more accountability I need in even the smallest things in my life.) And if he doesn't understand what I'm telling him or what my treatment means, I want him to learn.

(Yes, I know that all this is coming from someone who claims to be done with treatment. I am not formally done, of course, though I refuse to go back on tamoxifen, so while I am running out the last few treatment options, I want him to participate. Especially because the decision to quit, when it happens, should be a mutual one. And, frankly, hope is sort of un-killable. I've had so many good effects from the doubled dose of thyroid in just a few weeks. In so many ways, I feel like the person I was five years ago - like a young person. I still have a lot of depression and inertia to slog through, but I'm feeling as though that may even become possible. And this past cycle, I had a CM pattern almost as normal as before my HSG last year. I thought I was back to normal! I then started the world's faintest pink/red spotting at CD21, two days ago, which has not turned into a new cycle - which has never happened to me before. So, it's not perfect, but I can't help thinking that the right medication at this point could really make a difference. I feel tempted to make some inane argument like, "Well, we've been ttc for ages, but it's not like we've really had a chance until now." My doctor would probably agree with this. As an IF veteran, though, I know I should be slapped just for thinking it.)

And a funny thing happened as I was sniffling to myself on my couch typing him a less-hostile email asking him to participate more. He called from Budapest, though he really needed to be asleep, to tell me that he loved me, and we should actually talk about this rather than emailing, and he wanted to get more involved, and would be happy to do all of those things.

Oh, yeah, and he also mentioned that he has several job leads he's working on. And that another degree is probably not practical right now, and he really needs to think about whether he wants one. And that he might genuinely be interested in working as a lawyer, and we should think about it.

Sometimes life is not so horrible.

So, I've decided...obviously he and I need to have a talk when we get home about all of these things, because we'll accomplish more in person. In the meantime, I'm going to pursue professional help for myself. I will try to persuade him to do the same (it sounds like I'm making progress on convincing him), but even if I can't, I want to go for my own purposes. I have put this off for too long. My coping skills are just too fragile. I should be healthier than this. I wanted a spiritual director and that would probably have been preferable in a lot of ways, but I am maybe the least famous or important Catholic in my diocese, and for better or worse, it appears that the time and energy of diocesan priests around here is preferentially allocated in favor of those who have more worldly clout. So, if I have to pay someone by the fifty-minute hour to listen to me, fine.

And in other matters...well, there are several more months until he has more definite information about his next job. There's no reason not to continue shopping for houses throughout that period, but since the tax credit opportunity has been and gone, there's also no reason I need to despair over the fact that this week, I don't see a home that seems ideal for us. After he knows where he'll be situated, I think he'll be a lot more interested in talking about long term plans and where we'd like to live. I am becoming less charmed by our cute little rental and the many creatures who inhabit it with me every day, so I think we'll both be quite ready to move by then. I'd like to have a real guest room before then, but...one thing at a time.

And, for my part, I have some responsibilities regarding what to do with my newfound energy. I need to set real limits on the amount of time I spend on the internet. It's sapping my ability to accomplish anything. I need to get done some of the items that have been hanging over my head - pest extermination (shudder), mending, mold remediation, planting herbs for the summer, going through some more of our boxes and throwing out stuff we've not used in years. And I need to put some actual effort into my planned new hobbies. I have been planning to take up painting again (did some in high school and college) and make some pictures for blank walls in our house, and my office. By the time my DH gets back, I'd like to have a watercolor done. I think that's a manageable goal.

I also need to write that law review article I've been telling myself I'd write for so long. It's the first, and therefore pathologically avoided, step in the path I know I need to take for long-term career purposes. I can't deny that part of the reason I feel lost is because there's only one promising avenue for career development I can think of right now - and I am avoiding it.

Since turning my life back to a healthy and balanced one will actually be a sum of a lot of little changes, I am going to keep a running list here - maybe updated weekly or monthly - of positive things I'm doing, and things I still need to do. Starting tomorrow - this post is long enough!