Thursday, June 26, 2008

follow the signs

For as long as I can remember my family commented on my hips. Big, wide, open. I don't think they came with puberty - I feel as though they've been there always. Being as my mother made snide comments about them through some very formative years, my self-consciousness always swelled and hovered around my full hips. Teenage years spent staring in the mirror, wishing for less. At some point, long before I was in a baby making place (long before I even did the deed that makes babies for most people), I decided to shed (most) of my awkwardness about my hips. They weren't big - they were "breeding" hips. And although this label was always said tongue firmly placed in cheek, this new mantra helped. To know that my body was built to do what my heart was born to do. Mother.

During one of my early experiences in the stirrups, in a routine well-woman exam, I finally built up the courage to ask about my excess of "discharge". I thought I was a freak, the amount of goo that sprung forth, and I needed the doctor to assure me that my junk wasn't broken. I thought I was probably the only woman on the planet to deal with the incessant wetness, regardless of arousal. Much like Peggy related in "Waiting for Daisy" I learned that my mucous wasn't a curse but a blessing of fertility. I believe the doctor even used the term "gorgeous". And she assured me I'd have no problem getting pregnant when I wanted to.

I've been lucky in our infertility in that ovulating was never our issue. Bleeding, miscarriage, sparse and stupid sperm, yes, but releasing eggs was something we were good at. Imagine my surprise when (at 28 years old with ideal b/w) I produced a measly 9 follicles with 5 mature eggs during IVF. I'd thought I'd be a freakin' salmon, producing enough roe to fill the rivers of Washington. But I settled for being a chicken, just a few eggs at a time.

I'm spotting now, no doubt the beginning of the end of my second cycle after IVF #1, and the gorgeous mucous that I was assured meant glorious fertility is nowhere to be seen. The same pasty whiteness every single day of this cycle, without a hint of the "eggwhites" I'd come to expect. I haven't temped or pee'd on sticks to look for the O - with MFI like ours it feels like an insult to spend the $30 on OPKs - but I'm beginning to wonder if IVF stole my healthy O in addition to my IF naivety. Or is it just my CM that IVF lead astray? Either way, oh Mistress InVitro, can I please have it back?

Did anyone else find their O or their EWCM go missing after a failed IVF cycle? Help?

Monday, June 23, 2008


This morning I treated myself to breakfast at one of my favorite restaurants. A true hole-in-the-wall kind of joint in an undeniably quirky part of town. A place so tiny that tables are pressed together to make room where they can, resulting in meals that are practically shared with the strangers at your side. I brought a book, as I always do, and settled in for coffee and (truly) freshly squeezed orange juice. Three men were sat at the table next to me - imagine my surprise when they proceeded to discuss nothing but birth plans and baby names for the duration of their (exceptionally long and relaxed) breakfast. I wondered the odds of winding up sharing my meal with the only 3 men on earth who find c-sections to be an appropriate subject for their breakfast conversation? And yet even I, the ever irrational infertile, knew they weren't doing it *to* me. They weren't being rude and careless. They were human, discussing little tiny humans, and how could that be anything but ok?

My stepmother called on Saturday morning. I admit that I've been mostly ignoring her calls for over a year now, but as we'll be staying with her and my dad next week I felt now was the time to pick up. Besides, it was only 10:30 am - she couldn't possibly be drunk yet...or so I thought. Barely a moment passed before talk turned to my fertility (a topic she's been sometimes inappropriately involved in), slurring as she asks how I am. Fine. Ok. Fine. These answers are truthful for now - our treatment plans are all on hold until we find the funds to fund them - but she's determined to get more. In the ramblings of a drunk I discern her desire to dig deeper, into an inner turmoil that is either not there, or not yet unleashed. But she is determined. She proceeds to remind me that all I've ever wanted in life was to be a mother, I was destined to be a mother, I would make a fabulous mother. Words that ring true but sting when being rambled at me by someone who is digging for emotions that I'm not sure exist right now. She asked how I was and I told her I was "fine". And it's true.

On Friday I spent the day with a group who included a very-pregnant friend of the family. She is one of "my three" - part of a list that all infertiles mentally keep (be it one or a hundred names long). The list of people who simply CANNOT get pregnant before they do. I'd told myself a hundred times that I'd be ok, so long as A, B and C didn't get knocked up. But 2 out of 3 of them did. I collapsed in a heap on the floor upon learning this one was pregnant. (No one was there to pick me up, but thankfully that means no one saw me either.) How could she be pregnant - again! - with another oops? A shotgun wedding followed and now, a few months later she caresses her belly and speaks of "when she comes next month". I told myself I'd be ok as long as A, B and C didn't get pregnant before me, but they did. And yet I'm ok anyway.

And then:
I watched Regis and Kelly this morning (and yes, I'm admitting that in public) as they interviewed Chris O'Donnell. He talked about his new film "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl" - one that I don't doubt I would be seeing on opening day if I had a (half) American girl of my own. Blah, blah, blah, yadda, yadda, yadda. The typical press junket questions are asked and answered in a typical press junket way. A clip is introduced; something about a broken typewriter; and I listen half-heartedly as I put on mascara. In the scene our American Girl types slowly on an ancient typewriter, her frustration mounting as the keys repeatedly stick. She screams in irritation at the broken machine as her dad enters the room. "Don't let it beat you" he says. Don't let it beat you. This silly kid's movie (a movie I doubt I'll ever see) gave me pause. Don't let it beat you. That's what it's all about, isn't it? All of our struggles come down to that simple little line. The trick is in defining what it means to be beaten. I won't let infertility beat me. But that doesn't mean I'll keep fighting until I have a child. That doesn't mean I haven't won until a precious baby is nuzzled in my belly, in my bosom. The battle I'm fighting isn't against my uterus, but rather for my own heart - to remain pure and happy and loving. This is one battle I can win if I find the strength.

I've got to remember: don't let it beat you.

Monday, June 16, 2008

On The Radio

I was a terrible babysitter. Have I said this before? Well, I'll say it again, just in case: I was a terrible babysitter.

I hated it. Hated every moment of it. I hated spending every Friday and Saturday on the job. I hated trying to figure out something fun to do that didn't involve leaving the house. I hated watching The Little Mermaid 50 times in a row. I hated making lousy dinners in a strange kitchen. I hated putting screaming kids to bed (but hated even more having screaming kids awake). I hated falling asleep on someone else's couch, waiting hours past their expected arrival time. I hated being woken up at midnight and dragged home. I hated being told OVER and OVER that "I don't have any cash on me, kiddo - I'll pay you next time, ok?" And I hated, since I nearly always babysat for family, that I had to suck it up and take it. (Maybe if I ask my uncle to make good on all those unpaid hours when I see him next month we'll have enough cash for IVF #2.)

And so I constantly ask myself, over and over again, why I think I want kids so badly.

This weekend, while watching my nephews (aged 10 and 2) I asked myself that yet again...but for once, while still in the presence of a snot-faced, whining baby and videogame obsessed preteen, I think I found an answer.

Driving home from the Children's Museum, all of us positively exhausted, I plugged in my iPod and stuck on Regina Spektor. I didn't think my nephews would particuarly like Ms. Spektor's odd phrasing and poignant lyrics, but I didn't think they'd mind her either. What I never predicted was that the elder boy not only liked, but knew the songs. Together we sang along to On The Radio while he drummed the rhythm on his lap.

It was a moment so reminiscent of my own childhood: driving in my dad's Plymouth Reliant as I ask him to see "what's on the rad-i-o, daddy-o" (him always jokingly correcting me: "what's on the radio, day-dee-o"). Or sitting at the dining room table, wearing his enormous green headphones, listening to his copy of Harry Belafonte's "Live at Carnegie Hall", knowing the record so well that the skips became as familiar as the songs themselves. Or standing on the bleachers in the pouring rain, my dad by my side, as we dance to Paul Simon and Ladysmith Black Mambazo at my first ever concert. My dad shared so many enormous things with me. He gave me life, he gave me lodging, he gave me the strength to be who I am. And although his love of music might not be the most precious gift I received from him, it's one I hold so dear to my heart (and ears). It's one of the countless ways he helped make me who I am; imperfect and strange and joyous and loved.

So as my nephew tapped along to that sweet little song, a song his mom had shared with him, I knew in part why I want to be a mother. I want kids so I can repay the debts I owe my own parents. Debts that can only be paid by someday helping to give my own children to themselves.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

how's my hair look?

Although we might not readily admit it, we infertiles probably think about our "naughty hair" more often than most people. (Well, most people, excepting porn stars, professional waxers and merkin makers.) With so many people digging around the area, it's only normal to want to keep things tidy. Usually I am no exception. Recently, however, I made a bold move in terms of a new, um, hairstyle and like so many drastic haircuts I immediately regretted it. And unlike a typical bad hairdo which can be tucked behind the ears, pulled into a ponytail or accessorized with hats and headbands, this haircut is always on my mind for one reason or another. ("Itchy" just wouldn't do it justice.) And so to pay tribute to this most egregious of errors, a list:

3 Moments in Pubic Hair History

1. On a public message board many years ago, a girl found herself unexpectedly (though blissfully) pregnant. She was thrilled with this new development, but terrified upon learning that her doctor wanted to see her right away. She shared with this board that she had recently gotten a brazilian wax and there was nary a hair to be seen. She worried aloud that the doctor would "wonder how she could possibly take care of a baby if she couldn't even be responsible with her pubic hair."

2. It had become quite obvious that my (now) husband and I were moving to *that* point in our relationship. It was clear that we would be naked and intertwined very soon and being that I was respectful of the new relationship I didn't want my paramour to know that I avoided even leg shaving like the plague. "Less Is More" was the latest trend in hair-down-there and not wanting my man to think I wasn't down with the cool kids, I gave her a trim. Nothing too drastic, just your basic landing strip to let him know I was a modern woman with modern grooming habits. Unbeknownst to me, this trend hadn't hit the UK yet and as he was spankin' new to our shores he had yet to witness the landing strip. As he couldn't hide his look of shock he confided rather quickly that he thought "only porn stars did that". Alas, my new man didn't think I was a hipster, he thought I was a perv.

3. Although my life resembles Mama's Family more than it does Sex and the City, I have been known to have an occassional Girl's Night Out. On one such night, the topic turned to grooming habits, the beer causing us all to be more forthcoming than normal. Being the delicate southern women we are we spoke in euphanisms, metaphors. One piping up "I've got a shag rug" while another discussed methods for trimming her "berber". Someone confessed she'd always sported "wall to wall carpeting" and inevitably the talk turned to "hardwoods". One of my friends who had remained silent until then lit up. "I have hardwood floors!" she shouted, glad to finally be a part of the conversation, and loudly expressed her preference for pine over maple. Poor thing - she always was the "Charlotte".

For the record I believe these hairstyles are cyclical, just like any other fashion trend. Everyone's shaving these days, but don't forget a few years ago everyone was wearing ponchos. Mark my words: the Joy of Sex bush will be back. I cringe when I hear someone has made the bold move of permanent hair removal. Imagine your junk being described as "so 2000!"

Monday, June 9, 2008

R&R not R&R

My darling husband and I took a much needed break this weekend. I feel like such a fool when I admit I need a break, considering I currently work *very* part-time at a nearly stress-free job, but alas, sometimes even the most stress-free life gets overwhelming. And besides, the break *was* much needed, and much deserved for the husband, whose job is endlessly demanding, not to mention irritating.

We didn't go far, didn't even get on a plane and only used about a tank of gas, but somehow our little break was so restful and relaxing. R&R indeed. (And for once R&R doesn't stand for RPL and REs!)

I enjoyed the schmancy breakfast that was delivered to our room in a picnic basket each morning (sometimes enjoying his as well - gotta keep up that IF weight somehow!). He slept in. We window-shopped, shop-shopped and had our hands exfoliated. (You should've seen the look on his face when he felt his post-scrub hands. Boys are really missing out when it comes to pampering products.) We hiked and had a picnic by a hidden lake. Granted it would've been nice if said lake wasn't filled with water moccassins, but still pretty darn picturesque. We had sex because we wanted to, not because my mucous said so. (That mucous can be a bossy little son-of-a...) I don't even think I rolled my eyes at him once during the trip, at least not without a playful butt-pinch to follow.

It was wonderful. It was needed. It was deserved. And yet for every receipt signed, every dollar that exchanged hands, I felt guilty. $400 in hotel fees could have helped pay for that HSG I've been meaning to get. $60 in handspun yarn that I found at an artisan shop? That could've been a vial of Menopur. Even the ice cream cones (and there were many) could've been replaced with needles and sharps containers.

This weekend might've bought us a few months of blissful marriage and yet I can't help but think of all it *didn't* buy. But damn. That ice cream was good.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

the energizer vagina... keeps going, and going, and going...

I began bleeding a week ago Saturday. I am still bleeding. My vag has been doin' it's thing for 12 days. If she plays her cards right I might make it to the two week mark - half a month of AF? Is there a Guiness Record for this sort of thing? Could I have an award winning vagina?

No doubt about it, I'm a chronic spotter. I'm so lucky that it's been controlled when I'm on progesterone (although not inevitably - I always get AF before I stop the meds). But how am I supposed to have a miracle spontaneous pregnancy with bleeding like this? Unless my pantiliners start resembling the Virgin Mary, I think I'm out of luck.

Monday, June 2, 2008

you gotta have faith, faith, faith (ah)?

I spent my childhood as a holidays-only Catholic. Every Christmas Eve my mother’s giant family and I would trudge through the Wisconsin snow to St. Joe’s for midnight mass. If we were lucky the snow would’ve melted by the following Easter when we next returned. Other family members were much more devout - my grandmother doing regular readings, my cousins with their first communions - but after years of Catholic schooling at the hands of bitter nuns my mom’s faith was less sturdy, crumbling. (My dad, on the other hand, is a dedicated Scientologist ::insert Tom Cruise jokes here:: so church with him has never been exactly typical.)

One Easter I escaped mass early with a near fainting spell. It was hot, I was tired and impatient for the Peeps fueled sugar buzz I knew lay ahead, and as we’d arrived late (*always* late) our entire family of 20+ was standing. I had complained in church many times before and was never given more than a stern glance, so to be relieved of my holiday duties that morning felt like a very special treat. My favorite uncle and I went out to “get some air” and played tag on the brown church lawn.

(Regardless of my poor attendance, I’ve always been respectful of church traditions. I have never, to this day, taken communion. At every wedding and holiday I sit in the pew as people excuse themselves around me. I recognize that I haven’t earned that right – the bread and wine would mean nothing more to me than food and drink. (And boy, I can use a drink!) So I sit, quietly and alone, and wait for the devout to return to their seats.)

I have had brief periods in my life where I felt some divine presence, but I’ve never clung to any one church, book, strict set of beliefs. In more recent years my thread-thin connection with “god” has virtually disappeared. I don’t want to imply that our struggles (both infertility and otherwise) have caused me to “lose my faith”. I’m not angry with any deity and I haven’t stopped believing in retribution for the difficulties we’ve had. I guess I just never really believed in the first place and as the calendar turns I have less desire to convince myself to believe.

In some ways I envy the infertiles who rely so heavily on god to support them. I can only imagine the burden of loss and longing is easier to bear when their faith tells them “it’s all in His hands”. It must be a relief to know that “everything happens for a reason”. But I could never give up responsibility for my situation and I don’t think there’s a reason. Great good might come out of great struggle, but that doesn’t mean it was fated to happen that way. Sometimes life sucks because it sucks. Plain and simple.

I know there must be other infertiles out there who don’t Believe, but I so rarely hear about them. Maybe because proclaiming a lack of religion is less common than verbalizing your faith? I do wonder, though, how other “reproductively challenged” women handle their situation without their faith to comfort them…