Tuesday, October 16, 2012

adventures in baking and barrenness

First of all, I appreciate your comments on my stool dilemma.  The discomfort-factor was also my DH's objection to the 24" stepladders (I am still miffed), and I am mulling the matter over.  I am not concerned about the stools being especially comfortable, given that I am not considering stools with backs (they wouldn't fit all the way under the table, which is one of my goals) or any cushions (wouldn't go with the industrial style). 

Since I have a tiny kitchen, I am really fitting it to be useful for cooking; hanging out is a secondary-to-nonexistent consideration.  (People already sit in there even if there are no seats, so I hardly need to entice them to stay.  Better yet, they should go sit on the couch.)  For cooking, even an uncomfortable stool would be a nice occasional alternative to standing. 

I am now entering on an entirely new dilemma (still related to the table, which is further from done than it was last week), and I may seek your advice on that matter too.  If I were able to convey the possible color combinations in an intelligible way. 

Meanwhile, I share a small* story of adventure in the American Southwest. 

My DH decided to surprise his only sister (who lives in Phoenix) with a visit.  (Her husband was, of course, in on the plotting.)  She also has six kids, whom (of course) we didn't tell either.  The second part of the surprise was that he got tickets to the Cardinals-Bills game (he roots for the Bills, and the kids, of course, root for the Cardinals).  We had a lovely weekend - the kids are very sweet and are always delighted to have family visiting, and we hung out and visited the park and chatted with their parents and generally had a low-key weekend. 

It was eventually worked out that the two eldest kids would be up for a long day of tailgating and football-watching in the heat, and the youngest four would stay home.  Since I have a clear policy in this regard (I Do Not Watch Football), I volunteered to stay home with the kids.  My brother-in-law was highly skeptical about the likelihood of my survival, and almost made the oldest stay home with me to help.  (The third-oldest was offered a ticket, but elected to stay home with me.  Mwahahahaha.) 

I am pleased to report that I survived just fine.  We carved four pumpkins (I consulted with the baby on the design of the fourth one.  I didn't realize he didn't need his own when I bought them, but if I had, I might have bought one for myself anyway.  I love carving pumpkins).  With their mother's permission, I gave everyone but the ten-month-old a knife (even the three-year-old - not kidding), and no one drew a drop of blood.  We did get pumpkin guts all over the patio, of course.  We went through the costume closet and sorted out who would wear what for Hallowe'en.  They made decorations to hang in the front window.  We made seven dozen chocolate chip cookies (milk chocolate for the kids and semi-sweet for the adults, of course).  They swam while I fed the baby.  Then I set them up with a Hallowe'en-related show, and was able to clean the pumpkin mess, wash the dishes, sweep the floor, put the baby through three bottles, two diaper changes, and a two-hour nap, and make dinner (chicken nuggets for the kids, roast beef and roasted vegetables for the adults, and homemade French fries for everyone).  The roast was half-done when the football-watching folks arrived home, so I ran out of time to make an apple pie from scratch - the only item I missed. 

My SIL seems to think this feat was somehow extraordinary.  I think the trick is (1) they are not my children and (2) I got nine hours of sleep the night before. 

I also realized something very clearly which has only slowly been permeating my consciousness. 

When I was in college, a friend who was discerning a vocation to the priesthood (I was at his ordination this summer) had a conversation with a visiting mendicant friar.  The friar had spent the day with some students, the Catholic chaplain, and the (non-ordained) chaplain's little girls.  He was a huge hit.  My friend asked him at the end of the day whether spending time with someone else's family made him regret not having a family of his own.  His response?  "Three words: confirmation of vocation." 

And now, I think I know what he meant. 

I love my nieces and nephews.  They're good kids.  And my SIL and BIL do a wonderful job with them.  But spending several days even at the periphery of the large-family dynamic, I came to realize that I probably only thought that's what I wanted.  The image I can never get out of my head is of a stampede of excited small children (all in red pyjamas, obviously) running down the stairs on Christmas morning.  That's ten minutes a year - ten minutes I keenly miss, but which, I must remember, are gone in the blink of an eye.  Judging by the behavior of six good kids over several days, I think at least 300,000 of the other 459,890 minutes are spent complaining. 

I have a keen sense of justice, and the idea of restoring order for a living obviously contributed in some way to my selection of a career.  But the continual airing of grievances - in that special childhood grievance-airing tone - might be enough to get me to have my tubes tied, if they weren't already blocked.  I appreciate having conversations with people who are (at least occasionally) listening instead of talking.  Who ask you questions out of regard, and rarely motivated by a spirit of skeptical interrogation.  Who have never whined in my hearing.  Who have witty, insightful things to say; things that are of potential relevance to humans who do not live in their bedrooms.  Who would be only too happy to lend a skirt or a headband, and wait their turn for the TV and the computer without ever raising their voices. 

I also enjoy the fact that if I want to have a cookie, I can have a cookie, without making a declaration on the implications of cookie-distribution justice for others.  If I am at the grocery store and I am worn out, I can promise myself a KitKat at the checkout line, and no treaty need be negotiated as a result.  I don't have popsicles in the freezer or goldfish in the pantry (though that is because I will eat any available unit of goldfish in one sitting), but I do have the fixings for chai (with whipped cream) on hand at all times.  If I want to go and grab a cup of coffee (or, in my case, non-coffee beverage that will support whipped cream) with a girlfriend, I can just go. 

These are the luxuries of the working childless adult, I know.  And, given that I will be a working childless adult for the rest of my life, I am pleased to say that I really appreciate them.  I am aware that many of them are materialistic - some are, quite simply, selfish. 

Although I will proclaim this virtue for selfishness: it's nice to be an adult and realize that there is no categorical imperative for snacks.  If my husband is hungry, and finishes the last of the ice cream, he always offers me some; but if I'm not in the room at the time and the ice cream is gone, he will get ice cream and I won't.  If I'm hungry and I fix myself a snack, I might offer to make him one, but then again I might not.  There will not be an argument.  No whining.  No screaming.  No tears.  Neither of us will feel ourselves the victim of an injustice, however minor.  No recriminations will be conveyed; no reparations demanded or paid.  Nobody complains about the food I'm eating, not because adults (sans children) are selfish, but because the perceptions of children are defective in such matters, and there are no such defectively-minded people living in my house to complain that I had 51% of the potato chips. 

If I had been fertile, I would have gotten pregnant with my first child during the first year of our marriage (2005-2006).  I wanted a big family, but in the interest of being able to take care of one, I probably would have made some effort to space births; I might have tried to have a child only every other year.  By that math, I would now have four children.  I am only thirty.  Probably I would have gone on to have seven or eight total children. 

Never, in that process, would I have had an opportunity to undertake the reflections I am making now.  I would have adjusted to a world in which (even assuming no financial hardship) I would have had to forego almost all the small indulgences I would otherwise enjoy to avoid provoking a nuclear holocaust.  I would do an ungodly amount of laundry, and it would never all be clean and folded at once.  I would sweep my kitchen floor and pick up my living room and dining room every day, and yet they would never be clean.  I would do all my cooking for people who complain about any meal other than pizza and fish sticks, and would never hear expressions of delight over my brilliant cooking; indeed, I wouldn't do any brilliant cooking.  I would have a life that regularly included ketchup and broken crayons, two of the things I hate most in the world, and I would accept it.  I would have concluded that I was blessed, because I would have made all these sacrifices on behalf of people I would have been called to love and care for; and many of the sacrifices would have chafed not at all, because I would accept them as universal, and not even realize that anyone else lived any other way. 

But that's not how it happened. 

I don't subscribe to the belief that God wills infertility any more than I believe He wills cancer or car accidents or bear attacks or sin.  But I do believe that He has in mind a possibility (or so) for each of our lives that includes the pursuit of holiness, and the contribution of something precious to the human community.  (In my head, I believe this.  But infertility has challenged a lot of my unthinking convictions of the benevolence of God.  Believing it in my heart may be the work of a lifetime.)  And I believe that His plan for us - one that we can follow or not follow, according to our free will - takes account of all the circumstances we'll encounter, even the ones He didn't specifically will, because He does not will evil or disorder; but He is aware of them. 

In other words, God's plan for me accounts for the fact that I can't have children.  He didn't envision for me one single path for sanctity, reliant on me not having endometriosis.  Whatever contributions I can make, they don't demand virtues I would have built only through motherhood.  Whatever earthly joy I will have, will be a product of spiritual joys, and the more material blessings around me - blessings of family and friends, career, adult conversation.  Chai.  KitKats.  No children. 

I don't believe He willed that I would fail to appreciate intelligent conversation, quiet evenings, floors that stay clean (well, minus the Bailey fur), quality time with my husband, and adult food.  I don't believe that He willed that I would spend every day of the rest of my life insensible of every blessing I have, eager - no, desperate - to change them all in an instant for a horde of whining, jelly-stained small people (with all their attendant virtues). 

If the depo clears up my endo, and my DH gets on some supplements that improve things on that end, I will consider resuming HCG shots in 2013 (until I go back to being in pain every day, at which point I will go right back on the depo).  I understand that for now, there's a possibility I will have children (although in not too long, that door will go from basically closed to slammed shut, locked, and bricked over).  I promised to "accept them lovingly from God," and I will keep that promise. 

But I can't say I don't like my life. 

*By which, of course, I mean interminable. 


  1. Whoa. For a second there, until I read past the first sentence in this post, I thought you'd posted about bowel problems (stool?) Good to read it was just about furniture. :) And YEAH!, an infertility reflection post. I love those from you and you speak so eloquently about our similar predicament of childlessness. I, too dreamed of charming little creatures being excited over life's wonders, laughing and rolling around on the carpet with them, dancing together to my favorite 80s freestyle music. Mom was going to be so cool.

    It is easy to forget about all the complaining that would occur and how I'm sure a kid of mine would end up hitting another little kid on the playground. And that would make me very sad and worried. Worry that I don't currently live with and don't ever expect to.

    So, for me as a married woman living alone, I see rare life bright spots. I control everything about my off-time. I decide what I will eat, when I will clean (and the house is less dirty without him), what movies I'll screen on Netflix. It's a charmed life. I am grateful, not for childlessness, but for getting to a place where I embrace and accept my situation. That I got past the pain.

    I wish you complete blessings in 2013 if you decide to get back on the TTC track. Right now, I'm grateful to have a long-distance buddy who gets IT with faith and intelligence. Bless you sweetheart!!!!

  2. I enjoy some of the freedoms being childless allows me...like sleeping in...undisrupted nights....going out whenever and not having to find a babysitter. It's the life God has given to me...so I'll enjoy the fruits of it. I work hard all day (with 30+ at-risk prek children) so I deserve my quiet home. Nothing wrong with seeing how not having children changed my life.

    Wow...I was pretty amazed at what you accomplished while watching those children. Whew.

  3. I'm only a handful of weeks on the "other side" of infertility but even in the midst of all my joy over Alina's healthy birth, I dare say I can see why you're finding the silver lining. There's still a mourning process going on for all I've lost (which you so aptly described).