Wednesday, June 24, 2009


My eggplant are eccentric.

After the first two rounds completely died off, I bought another packet of seeds ("black beauty" this time, rather than the unnecessary artisan mix I started with), used real potting soil and deeper starter pots, and started again. My results really did improve; they sprouted earlier, more numerously, and taller. Disturbingly tall, in fact. Their itty-bitty scrawny stems grew almost four inches tall, with the two original sprout leaves perched at the top, slowly growing larger.

Unfortunately, all they ever did was grow taller - and then, at some mysterious point, something awful happened, and each of them, in sequence, would keel over; and slowly, in that position, they would wither completely and die. When the first few started doing this, I researched the source of eggplant blight, and discovered that they need to be really warm. I promptly put all the pots on the windowsill, and sure enough, substantially more sprouted within just two days. Unfortunately, however numerous they are, their ultimate end is in no real doubt.

My goal this whole time has been to see just one eggplant sprout move on to the next stage of development, and manifest some growth other than just those two initial leaves. Then, I figure, it will be reasonable to plant outside. I had my highest hopes for the oldest, largest, and tallest (surely it would move on first?). The day before yesterday, I saw a tiny notch-looking thing at the bottom of its stem. Yesterday, it flopped itself over, and its stem went from opaque green to whitish transluscent. I propped it up with dirt, but I recognize the beginning of its slow suicide ritual. It will never recover.

So, yesterday, at the Home Depot, I bought their very last potted eggplant. The pot is broken and the plant even looks a bit the worse for wear, and it cost as much as four or five eggplant fruits. But it is at least alive. (Why didn't they have these when I was there weeks ago?!) I also bought another basil plant (I killed the last two in a single week) and a rosemary plant (since my last round never sprouted at all) - they didn't have rosemary when I was there last, either. Hopefully, all three of these plants will grow majestically.

The misbehavior of my produce is evocative of other of life's mysteries. For several days this week already, I've had teaser cramps - faint twinges, there and gone, which I'm used to experiencing only a few hours before the real thing sets in, bringing with it CD1. It has concerned me mildly each time, because based on my previous luteal phases, CD1 should be Friday or Saturday (and I've scheduled my CD1-3 consult appointment on that assumption). The tamoxifen shortening my luteal phase would be something of an annoyance. But all other evidence indicates that CD1 would not be that day - today, yesterday, or the day before. No pink tinges, and my temperature is still high.

Of course, the first incidence of this tease phenomenon was within hours of an idiotic thought, one of those that one thinks in spite of oneself: I could go for my consult on Monday and my OB/GYN could laugh at me, because I could be pregnant after all. Sure I could. With octuplets. Kittens. No normal CM, and the tamoxifen was intended to treat low progesterone, which I turn out not to have (does it treat low estrogen? Does hypothyroidism mean that once I take thyroid medication, my FSH will go righ through the roof?). Sure, this is the cycle. So the teaser cramps wander in and out, mocking me, deriding my stupidity, heartlessly scoffing at my pregnancy pipe dream.

It's not happy to admit, but since the dismal SA episode, for reasons that I can't entirely explain, whatever habit of prayer I had has fallen off a cliff. I practically never read my daily prayers in my once-treasured Magnificat, and going to daily Mass seems pointless. I missed an entire week of daily Masses (went only on consecutive Sundays) for the first time in almost nine years. Lots of different things have happened in that time, but that's always been important to me.

And it would be hard for me to say why this has made the difference. Or why, given that I have so unbelievably little hope of getting pregnant, given that (although I am, albeit forgetfully, praying along with GIMH's St. Anne novena) I feel it's wrong to ask God for a child when I feel I am just flouting His will (why would I want a child if it isn't foreordained that I have one? What if I get a three-headed baby for my troubles, or a serial killer, or get to be pregnant just long enough to watch the child die, when I was intended to be spared that? What do I think I will accomplish? I can't phrase the intention strictly enough to get a happy, healthy family of seven or twelve with no hideous disaster sufficient to make it better they had never lived), why my interest in prayer would change with some minor if grotesque IF treatment setback. What does any of that change? God was ignoring my prayers and He still is; I was responsible to work out the morality and prudence of treatment on my own with no heavenly guidance, and I still am; I was angry with God over my barrenness, rather than embracing whatever His plan is, and that is still true.

I don't know. I don't. But today, I forgot the Blackberry en route to work, so I forced myself to dig the Magnificat out of the handbag. The words of the prayers seemed as dead as I had been expecting, though the hymn was to the tune of On Jordan's Bank, an Advent song I love, and that made me smile; and today is the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. Not a bad day for an infertile girl to return to her prayers, if in fact I stay returned. I thought for a moment about whether I see that as a sign that I, like Elizabeth, she who was called barren, will see the joy of the birth of a child. In a more innocent day, I used to see feast days and prayers and scripture as portentous for all the significant things in my life. They made me hopeful, and more prayerful, and a deeper thinker, I think.

Without any effort to convince myself either way, I don't see that now. There are feast days for martyrs and nuns and bishops and kings, and I'm not those things; and today is the feast of someone's birth, and that won't happen to me either. It's just a day, not a sign. But I did, at least, feel like smiling with St. Elizabeth, considered a failure as a wife and mother by her generation, giving birth in her advanced age (unbeknownst to her skeptical neighbors) to one of the greatest saints who has ever lived.


  1. Well I hope you're preggers and it's just implantation cramps.

    Make sure you prop up your plant stalks! We tie ours to sticks!

  2. I too was reflecting on Elizabeth and John the Baptist today. Today is our anniversary and I hope and pray this is our year to conceive!

    Sending prayers your way. Looking forward to meeting up one of these days! We'll be back from vacation after July 5th.

  3. I've never tried to grow anything and I'm thinking if I did, they'd just die. I do not have a green thumb. lol Hopefully your plants grow big and strong. =)

    In a way, I've sort of stopped praying. It's like I'll pray for other things, but nothing that has to do with getting pregnant. I hate when I get my hopes up about being pregnant. Sometimes I just can't help it. I start thinking about how I think I may react and then my dreams just come crushed with CD1.


  4. I struggle so much with this very issue. Did I flout God's will by doing IVF? I don't know.

    I like how you structured this post, incidentally - it feels very parable-ish.

    Anyway, as always, I'm wishing you the best outcome.

  5. Remember that Elizabeth wasn't the only woman who prayed to God for a child. When we learned we would not be able to have biological children, we prayed about it and realized we've always had a knack (with dogs anyway) to "save" a life from a horrible situation (both of our dogs come from abusive/neglective pasts), and that only God could give us such strong desires to be parents but that for us it meant to accept children who aren't biologically ours but love them perhaps more than they would have gotten, and hopefully give them a glimpse of their heavenly Father for however long God lets them stay with us. Praying that He shows you what He wants you to do.

  6. I feel that way more often than not these days. Only yesterday I thought that God made me human. What does he expect from me when I deal with failure every 23 - 28 days and my faith fails right along with it? You can only take so much before you begin to question (another part of being human). God can do anything. He can help us get pregnant right this very moment if He wants. He can do miracles, but evidently, He chooses not to for me. I don't relish my infertility. I don't treasure it. I don't welcome it in any way.

    And yet, I continue to pray about for a child month after month. Do I believe it will do any good? No, I don't see any such miracle coming my way. I'm disappointed and mad. I know I'll get through this in the end with my faith intact, but I can't help thinking I didn't need to take this journey to know that. All I want is a child.

    Long story short, I understand where you're coming from, and I'm sorry. The fact that you pulled out your Magnificat shows you still have hope and faith, minimal as it may be just now, even if you didn't get anything out of the words.

    About the eggplant seedlings, they could be suffering from root rot. When it's too damp, the roots die and the plant follow suit. I had that problem with my cucumbers, half of my marigolds, my basil, and my cilantro. I think the plants need moist but not wet soil after they sprout. To that end, maybe letting the very surface of the soil dry out before the next watering could help.

  7. Wow, crazy eggplant behavior!

    I think I would have also been tempted at the thought about the significance of returning to the Magnificat on the feast day- and like you, in a fargone innocent day, I would not have given a second thought that it was truly a sign. But, I don't "go there" as much anymore and have just resigned myself to treating each day as it comes and nothing much more. I sure hope you're pregnant and Elizabeth is smiling on you more than you know!!

  8. I'm chiming in to agree with One Hit Wonder... this definitely does have the feel/impact of a parable rather than just a mere blog post!

    About the withering eggplant: Yeah, I have no clue. I've never attempted eggplant, but I've found that the internet is a wonderful place to learn all the "what not to do's." Once I figured out what planting zone I'm located in, it was much easier to find info specific to our climate/area. Do you know what zone you are?

    And about the withering prayerlife: This is coming from a girl who, until recently, had sworn off all things religious. This may or may not resonate with you, but here goes -- I think that God recognizes our prayerful thoughts just as He does our "formal" prayers. He hears our heart's cry, whether we're actually praying or not. I just recently realized that the bad things in my life (my mother's death, our infertility) are not punishments that I've brought on myself... rather, they are results of living in a flawed world. Once I was able to stop blaming myself for whatever I had done to deserve this pain, I've been feeling indescribably more peaceful (although not more pregnant, unfortunately).

    Just my ramblings... feel free to ignore/delete/mock at will! :)