Wednesday, July 27, 2011

the matrix

I know I've written before about my pregnant friend. She's the one who got married in 2010; I predicted she and her husband would be expecting within six months of the wedding and I was accurate almost to the day; she and her husband, and I and mine, and another couple (infertile) spent a lot of time together, and I knew those days were numbered as soon as they got married. Of course they wouldn't be infertile. Because I have the Gift, like many of you. And she's also the gal who wrote the very kind and sensitive email after her mother invited me to her baby shower.

Anyway, her due date is July 24. Er, was July 24. She was having contractions already a week earlier than that, and her doctor had predicted she'd go within a few days and she had made it a week when I saw her last. She was obviously uncomfortable but behaving with her typical grace; after a few days at home she had cleaned every inch of the place twice and felt useless, so she went back to work. We haven't heard from them in a few days, so it's possible they've delivered already. Or, it's possible they'll be really late; this is her first child, after all.

But of course when I think, "Oh, has DH gotten a text message from her husband that he hasn't mentioned to me?" I always think, has the baby not yet been born and I have a few more days of limbo, in which I don't have to worry about how I'll react - or has the baby already been born, and I am behind, other people already know, their time in the hospital and settling in at home is already wearing down, and soon I will be required to behave in some socially normal way, and I'm not even preparing mentally? And the other day I realized that I never think - never - "Oh, dear, has she had the baby yet? What if something goes wrong? She's huge, the child is obviously full term, but what if he doesn't make it?"

This is because of the Matrix. You and I are a tiny minority, living within a world of people totally unlike us. They're all plugged into their reality, and assume that we are too; they have no idea that we're visitors from another plane of understanding, who realize that life is truly sinister, that death is lurking around every corner. Our attention is finely tuned to things they would consider tiny, things they would ignore; but we see these small things and know that danger lurks around the next corner. We walk between them as they go about their business and fight an evil they don't even know exists. They may even meet it face-to-face on rare occasions, but they probably won't recognize it if they do; and if they do get a nasty, shocking glimpse of it, it's rapidly erased from their memories. For them to remain viscerally aware of our reality would be much too dangerous. It would threaten their existence in their world, and that can't happen.

And though there's an apparent interaction between our world and theirs, in many ways, there's really no connection at all. For those in our world, pregnancies do happen; some of those even end in live births. They never get there easily or peacefully; there is always fear, and the fear is usually well-founded, because there is almost always real danger. And no live birth is a promise of another pregnancy, let alone a promise that no future pregnancy will end in death. Life can happen here; but death is never really banished. It's always hovering just around the corner. Their world is not like that. If I hear no word late in the pregnancy of a fellow infertile and I haven't myself been absent from blogdom, I worry. But I'm not worried about my friend, and I have absolutely no reason to be. The possibility of a miscarriage in her corner of the matrix is as remote as her being infertile in the first place. It just won't be that way.

That's partly because of the Gift, of course. I guess it's sort of a corollary to the Matrix. It works like this: to my knowledge (and I don't know everything but I do pay careful attention, so I would probably notice), I have never met anyone who later turned out to be infertile. Every infertile woman I know either was eligible for an infertility diagnosis before I met her, or knew perfectly well she was headed for one (got married and already had Stage IV endometriosis, for example). As a result of the gift, no one to whom I ever say something like, "Well, you may not have to worry about getting pregnant right after you get married," or, "Yes, I know you know the facts of life, but that's actually not all there is to it" will ever have occasion to see any meaning in what I say. I don't need to say any of those things, ever. I can just say, "Of course you'll have a honeymoon baby, silly!" I'm not going to jinx anyone. Because I have the Gift, they have babies.

I have really mixed feelings on the Gift.

Anyway, I'm not dead, still here, better on some scores, same on others. How are you all? By the way, I am reading, but have commented somewhat less because I find myself uncharacteristically at a loss for words lately. Gotta work on that.

Monday, July 4, 2011

IF: still annoying, after all these years

For those of you who are somehow still keeping track of my treatment schedule around my various other IF-related crusades (this group doesn't even include my husband, FTR), this past cycle was my first with HCG shots. My DH turns out to be an extremely competent administerer of intramuscular injections, so that part went off without a hitch, despite my lingering fear of needles. Of course, as those of you who've taken HCG (as well as those with any sort of reasoning ability) know, there is a downside.

Peak day this cycle was perfectly timed at CD14 (any earlier and I couldn't have started the HCG in time). Dr. L/C's nurse really pulled through for me and called the insurance company the day I needed her to so that it would be covered (saving me about $200). I usually have a 10- or 11-day luteal phase, but this was a real winner - a 15-day luteal phase, making for a 29-day cycle; my usual is 24 or 25. And until day 15 I was really being good - I knew that shots as late as p+9 could hardly help but lengthen my cycle; I knew that one of the things the HCG is supposed to do is improve my hormone levels, and that one of the negative side effects of my screwy hormone levels is the short luteal phase; and I knew that there was no point testing early because HCG shots are the only force on earth capable of giving me a positive pregnancy test, but in a way that would do me no good. I decided to wait till Sunday (p+16) to test, but I needn't have worried - it didn't turn out to be p+16, but rather CD1. Well, now I know what to expect next time.

But as others have wisely said, that CD1 (or BFP, for those who march bravely into the breach) hurts that much more if you have to wait long enough that you actually get your hopes up. That's just no good.

Of course, in the continuing evolution of my screwed up approach to IF, I wouldn't exactly call my response hopeful. I woke up early on Saturday morning (CD15 - and still no spotting. I have to admit to being very impressed with this HCG so far. Not only a healthy [albeit irritating] LP length, but I skipped the days and days of premenstrual spotting!) and probably needed a few more hours of sleep - but I couldn't get back to sleep. All I could think of was the possibility of a BFP the next day, and I was horrified. I went over and over all the implications. Probably we would still buy the house, but it would be irresponsible to buy any new furniture. No wallpaper, I could only paint. What if I were pregnant when the house deal went through, and therefore still working - would it be fair game to remodel the kitchen if we could afford it then? Or would I be obliged to save that money? Even if the kitchen would be even more awkward in which to cook for more people? We could survive on my DH's salary alone (I know we are fortunate in this respect), but losing my salary would be a HUGE hit. If we had multiple children, how would we pay for their college? If we had only one, I could go back to work in a few years when the child was in school - but what if I couldn't find anyone to hire me then? I could try to go part-time, but what if my employer wouldn't allow it? And who would I find to watch the baby on those days? Buying a house (especially an inexpensive one, as this is) would be smart, but it's further than we live now from most of the SAHMs I know. It might be hard to find someone I know to watch the baby. Would I feel bad about leaving the baby with someone else, even if it were just a few days a week? I could pursue a career track that would make me more flexible, and teaching would be perfect - but although I'm trying to pave the way in that direction, it's going to take a while to get there. No way I could pull it off in nine months. And what if we actually had a large family? The little house we're buying (we hope) isn't big enough for that. And it's not like we can just "buy a bigger one later" - with a baby (let alone babies), our buying power will be slashed, not improved. And we'd need to start saving more and spending less right away, but no way I could convince my husband, before the baby even arrived, that we didn't need to go out to eat so much, or that we don't need to spend a week or two in Europe this year. (I'm afraid that trip will cost thousands, and he already seems totally closed to my suggestions that we spend just a week, or pick a hotel in a less expensive location, rather than eight different B&Bs. Instead of looking forward to it, I'm dreading it. I know I shouldn't always be uptight about money, but if he indicated that he wanted to have a good time but also not break the bank, I wouldn't worry so much. People have nice getaways all the time without spending a fortune!) And of course my DH in general is an issue. I can tell myself that if we'd had a family in the normal time, he'd be heathier and happier, not miserable about his job and convinced that he needed an extravagant price tag in frequent getaways just to preserve his sanity; that he wouldn't think he needed things to "look forward to" just to get through the days, and could just enjoy our daily life. (That's my goal - to have my source of peace and joy be the circumstances of my everyday life. I'll let you know if I ever succeed at that.) But that didn't happen and this is where we are, and the things he insists are necessary to preserve his sanity (I can't say for sure that he's wrong) are not cheap. That's merely irritating given we're both working; if I weren't working, it would be financially ruinous. How would I go about fixing that problem? And what if our marriage does fall apart? Most days it doesn't seem like that's an immediate risk, but children are stressful - having a baby could make things worse, rather than better. In that case, I'd have to go back to work - but the baby would have divorced parents and a working mother. And no siblings. How unfair is that! And I thought about how I would think it was unfair that all my recreational shopping would be ended; in Michigan, even when we were broke, I could go to the Salvation Army and spend $5 on a few shirts as my little outlet. But here, at the Goodwill, the cheapest item usually costs more than $5. (If the second-hand clothes are noticeably more expensive, you know you're living in an obnoxious area.) And I've been waiting to replace my car until the house and our final mortgage approval go through; but if I were pregnant, would it be irresponsible to buy another car? I was planning to buy a cheaper used one, as I always do, but would even that be an unjustifiable extravagance? Obviously, the things I'm attached to instead are not as valuable intrinsically as having a baby, and I should be ashamed that it would bother me to lose them.


It's been a long time. When I was single, and when I was first married, like every other Catholic girl, I clamored to hold other women's babies, and gushed over how beautiful they were, and how I couldn't wait to have one of my own. I imagined the joy of sacrificing everything for some tiny little person who meant the entire universe. I thought about that being all of who I was - being someone who could tell the hungry cry from the angry cry; who kept a lovely tidy home and had a hot meal on the table for my husband every night when he came home, all while keeping the baby happy, loved, and clean; who volunteered in the parish, started every morning with Mass with the baby, helped at the local crisis pregnancy center, and knelt beside my child's bed every night to say prayers with him; who had the angelic temperament and patient disposition that I was then cultivating, or trying to; who brought casseroles to new mothers and raised my children in a community of other children from loving and faithful families; and who was a mother, first and foremost, as a definition of who I was and what was important.

None of that happened. None of that will ever happen. Even if I should get pregnant, which also will not happen, most of those things are no longer possible; some because the logistics have passed me by, and some because I've changed too much. I think somewhere inside, the girl may still be there who could look at another woman's baby with shining eyes and see there the hope of the bundle of precious joy that I'm looking to hold in a few months myself. I don't inquire too deeply, because it doesn't matter. If I could kill that girl, I would definitely do it. Barring that, she will remain in the securest of prisons for the rest of my days. I can't afford to let her out, not even for a moment. Every stupid thing every unthinking person says, every beautiful baby who belongs to someone else, all seventy-plus months of loss of her opportunity to be the person she dreamed of being, would kill that girl, and me with her. Because she's weak. She doesn't have the skills that I have, to have pity (not to say contempt) for the stupidity of people who make asinine comments about parenthood because their hearts are invulnerable to the harm; she doesn't have the wisdom to push the self-absorbed (that is to say, most of the) mothers and their children away, so they can't disturb her fragile peace of mind; she doesn't have the cynicism and the bitterness and the anger to laugh off another CD1, another failed treatment, because what do you know, they don't make effective treatments for people like me; and she doesn't have the toughness to take on directly the appalling comments of people who have figured out that my childlessness is my fault, who are so smart they know just where I should seek treatment and just where I've gone wrong, or, even better, who know exactly why God is clearly indicating that it's not part of His plan that I have a child right now. I wanted to be that girl, not this girl; but that girl wasn't made for this circumstance, and I've had to adapt. If it is God's opinion that that girl is morally preferable, the type of follower He's looking for, then He's screwed up royally, because I've done what this mortal coil allows to cope with the garbage He's allowed I should have to contend with, and what's become of me is His fault. I hope He's happy with His work.

And in the meantime, while for several years I had my life arranged so that at any moment, I could take up all the pieces of it and rearrange them, like so many legos, into a life perfectly fitted for a baby, and ready to shift again promptly to accommodate another, I eventually let that go. What with two of us working, there was a difference between what we could have afforded if the second income was just a quick opportunity for savings before the baby comes, and what we could afford, in terms of recreation or early retirement or anything, if this is how it's going to stay. And since my DH always sees the current ten seconds as how it's always been and how it always will be and I am the saver in the marriage anyway, I lost the energy for fighting him over every nickel and dime. And why bother? Why not enjoy it if it's all I have? People who say it's OK you don't have kids, you get to enjoy sleeping in Saturday mornings are really stupid, but if you can't have kids, why not enjoy sleeping in on Saturday morning? And spending the afternoon shopping? And grabbing dinner with friends? If those little consolations are what you have, is it wrong to enjoy them? If you don't have a nursery to decorate and little ones with whom to enjoy Christmas morning and Hallowe'en costumes and the fall leaves and fireflies and popsicles, what's wrong with enjoying decorating your house so you have a place to welcome the loved ones you do have? And if you put all your eggs in that basket because it's the only one you've got that doesn't kill off at least one egg a month, why is it wrong to be sad if those things are taken away?

This is longer than I was planning to devote to the downside of HCG. I think you get the idea.

In other quasi-amusing IF news: for one thing, my preg-dar is awesome, even for an infertile. Just this weekend, let me tell you, I successfully translated a friend's "yeah, she's fine" into "my wife got pregnant on our honeymoon." I don't need to tell you that this was 100% accurate. I certainly don't need to add that the friends whom I console because they are still single, and who do not in fact get married until their 40s (18 years older than I was, for those keeping score), will lap me like a wheelchair patient falling from a Medivac onto the tracks at the summer Olympics as the pistol is fired. I know you all have this talent too; I just wanted to say, you know, I've still got some serious fertility-related skills. Just not any actual fertility.

Finally, my mother-in-law, who is 77 and absolutely adorable and exactly the sort of no-nonsense Catholic lady I hope to be in a few decades, told my husband on the phone the other day, "I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong. I keep praying novenas for you, and your sister keeps getting pregnant." God bless her for not telling us she was praying that novena, first of all. Second, she's done this more than once? My SIL really has a legitimate complaint about that, I would say. I believe she and her husband thought they were good and done at 5 kids; she's almost 40, is stretched about as thin as it gets with the five she has (they're a handful - runs in the family - and one or two have health issues), and her husband lost his job last year and had to take another one that doesn't pay as well, and they're living on a shoestring budget as it is. She's pretty freaked out - she hasn't complained to me about being pregnant, fortunately, but I expect she has to other people. And I would too if I were her. In summary: my MIL is hilarious.