Top Ten Things that Suck about Delayed Fertility

Now that yet another small flicker of hope for a miracle last-minute natural pregnancy has been extinguished, I’m gonna get this post off my chest, which I’ve been meaning to write for a while. It’s my Top Ten Things that Suck about Delayed Fertility (assuming we do eventually become parents — if not, that’s a whole other list).

These are in order from least bad to worst.

TEN: Disruption of Life

Early mornings. Needles. Hormones. Pills. Supplements. Making sure you take them all at the proper time, in the right order. Ultrasounds, dear god, the endless ultrasounds.

I suppose spending six months in Istanbul wasn’t so bad, but the fact that it involved so much medical intervention and heartbreak didn’t exactly make it feel like a vacation. And now I have to travel to California from Oklahoma multiple times, since that’s the only clinic that offers the treatment we opted for next in an affordable way.

NINE: Invasion of Privacy

I guess you get used to it after a while, but it’s still grating that we have to take something that’s supposed to be natural and beautiful (and private!) and turn it into a sordid technological nightmare with endless spectators. I know intellectually that it’s a miracle, but Good God I wish we could be left alone to get on with it!

EIGHT: Waiting

Waiting… waiting… waiting… Waiting for the next cycle to start. Waiting for your eggs to grow. Waiting for the fertilization report, the growth and survival report, for your lining to grow, for beta results, for a seven-week ultrasound. Waiting to miscarry. Waiting to try again. Waiting to get your saline ultrasound, waiting for your next surgery, waiting for a donor embryo profile…

And I think I’m up to 40 two-week waits by now. Don’t get me started on those.

SEVEN: Fear

So many fears, many of which have already come true: I did need surgery (four times). This did take more than four years. We did lose all of our savings. I did miscarry, twice.

And now: The paralyzing fear that the next round will be a negative; that even if it’s positive, the ultrasound will reveal no heartbeat (I’ve yet to see a heartbeat despite two pregnancies); that this will never work; that we’ll end up deeply in debt and still childless.

SIX: Feeling like a Failure

If you get in a devastating car accident or fall into some other misfortune through no fault of your own, no one thinks less of you as a person, and I’m guessing most people don’t blame themselves, either. But for some reason it’s hard not to feel like a failure when you have trouble reproducing. There’s such expectation around it, such social pressure. Yet at the very same time, it’s thought of as somehow trifling, not a “real” problem. So if you end up spending a lot of money on medical treatments, it’s thought of as “extravagant.” (Thanks, Octomom.)

So it’s very much a double-edged sword: If you don’t have kids, you’re a freak, but if you try too hard to have kids, you’re a profligate weirdo. (And in some liberal circles, you’re practically an ecoterrorist if you want to have kids at all.) I know I shouldn’t care what others think, and I’m learning not to, but it’s kind of “out there.” You can smell it on the wind.

(To be clear, I’m not having kids to satisfy society’s expectations. It’s something I’ve always deeply, personally wanted. Just remarking on our society’s atmosphere in general.)

Meanwhile it’s also hard not to feel like a failure in at least one other way: You try and try and try not to feel ragingly jealous of people who pop out kids like it’s going out of style — sometimes on accident. You try and try to remember that someone else’s gain isn’t your loss. You try to feel happy for them. And most of the time, you succeed.

But there are times when you want to rip the universe’s asshole out through it’s eye. Like when you’re miscarrying and you check Facebook to distract yourself only to find a friend younger than you announcing Number 3.

There doesn’t seem to be much you can do against that.

FIVE: The Endless Unknown

Writ large, about one-third of the time, fertility issues fall mostly on the female side, one-third of the time they fall mostly on the male side, and one-third of the time it’s both or unknown.

We’re in the fuzzy third category, which means there’s no simple fix. The general diagnosis seems to be “bad luck” and the general prescription seems to be “keep trying.”

But that’s not good enough for me. I want to know what’s going on. So I ended up doing enough research in the past four years that I should have at least a Master’s degree in this subject by now. Turns out there are literally hundreds of things that can go wrong, hundreds of interconnected steps and cellular processes, hundreds of points that can stop the whole process in its tracks. Sometimes I’m amazed anyone has ever naturally conceived a child in the history of the world.

And, with the industry booming, there’s no shortage of “miracle cures” and “promising procedures and protocols” that aren’t thoroughly tested but that plenty of people swear by. Of course, most people who keep trying are eventually successful, and it could be a complete coincidence that they were finally successful when they used EmbryoGlue(TM). A part of me wants to throw everything I have at it, and another part feels like I’m being hustled by Ron Popeil.

And with all that, all those countless hours I’ve spent, I still don’t really know what our main issue is or how to fix it. I could spend another five years and $100,000 trying to figure it out. Instead, we’re going for donor embryos, which take 90% of the things that can go wrong and put them on someone else, on healthy young donors. But I still wonder if there’s just one silver bullet that could have saved us all this money and all this time and all this heartache. I probably always will.

I’m kind of a control freak, if it wasn’t clear already. And I’ve never felt such loss of control as I’ve felt through this process.

FOUR: The Stigma

If you get cancer, no one blames you or judges you or gives you unsolicited advice about treatment. Yet when it comes to fertility issues, people want to know what’s wrong with you, what you did to deserve it. Did you eat badly? Keep your cell phone holstered to your ovaries? Are you too uptight? (Just relax!) Did you wait too long?

I think a part of this comes from the old “just world theory” (aka “blaming the victim”). No one likes to think bad things happen to good people for no reason. People like to feel protected from catastrophe, so they distance themselves from people who are going through bad times, whether they are poor, in prison, or a battered member of another race. There’s nothing more terrifying than a story about a vegan non-smoker who got lung cancer. Is no one safe?

No. No one is safe. It can literally happen to anyone.

We started trying when he was 30 and I was 33. Half the people who try IVF are younger than 35. Nearly 15% of couples will take more than a year or two to get pregnant, and a whole lot of those will end up needing an intervention of some kind. Most of it has to do with medical conditions that are no one’s fault. Most of the time, it’s just the luck of the draw. And for those who did meet their perfect partners later in life, who the hell is anyone to judge their desire to be parents?

Yet because there is such a stigma around it, people don’t talk about it, so even though it’s very normal, it’s still not “normalized.” The majority of people do, thankfully, have a pretty easy time with fertility, and they stay in their blissful bubble while we fertility-challeged folk seek each other out because no one else wants to talk about it. Definitely a “red state / blue state” kind of thing.

There’s also a judgment for “taking hormones” and spending tens of thousands of dollars — as if we’re so eager to do it. As if we’d do it at all if we didn’t feel completely backed into a corner.

People tend to say, with just the slightest tinge of polite confusion, as if maybe you’re kind of an idiot, “Didn’t you think about adoption?”

Well, given that you came up with that in 0.2 seconds, do you really think we haven’t thought of it in the past four years?

Yes, adoption is an option, but guess what? It also costs tens of thousands of dollars, and it also comes with endless freighted considerations, not to mention requirements and qualifications, which not everyone can easily meet. It can also take years, and it can also come with unspeakable heartache. It’s a great option for some, but it’s not as simple as going down to the baby store and picking one out. If it were, believe me, we’d have done it already.

It’s a deeply personal decision, one that you very likely cannot understand unless you’ve been faced with it yourself and have been in our particular circumstances. Both extremely unlikely, because anyone who actually has adopted would never throw the idea around so casually.

(But if you have adopted, and you feel like offering insights or advice, I’m all ears!)

Anyway. Because everyone has a judgment or opinion or just avoids the subject after your third or fourth round of bad news (and who can blame them?), you end up avoiding people and avoiding the subject yourself, even though it’s consuming your life, your time, and all your money. You start to feel a bit schizophrenic. And lonely.

To top it all off, there are no narratives/movies/novels of fertility problems. By definition, NOTHING HAPPENS for months or years at a time. It’s boring and depressing. It’s bad storytelling. In the movies and TV shows, people get pregnant so easily, and no one ever miscarries (it drives me NUTS when someone gets a single positive pregnancy test and acts like they’re guaranteed a baby — and of course they are, because the writers control the outcome, not biology), and it’s all fun and funny and cute.

It will never be fun and funny and cute for me. I’ll be a nervous wreck, at least until well into the second trimester, and even then I know far too well how many things can go wrong. The whole thing has turned from a miraculous rite of passage into a grim battle, with (so far) nothing but long stretches of tense waiting punctuated by occasional bursts of deep heartache.

And there’s no social model for that. You’re kind of on your own.

THREE: Pain and Guilt

The pain of all this is bad enough, and it is pretty much indescribable to anyone who hasn’t gone through it. If you either wanted kids and had them easily, or never wanted them in the first place, the experience we’re going through is completely alien to you. It was alien to me before I was in it.

Only now do I know how it feels to have the most important decision of your life taken out of your hands. Only now do I know what it’s like to know precisely what your next step in life is, to feel in your bones exactly what you are supposed to do — something that’s supposed to be simple, the most natural thing in the world, something that will change everything forever — only to have the door slammed in your face over and over and over again, for years.

Only now do I know what it’s like to go from the transcendent joy of a positive pregnancy test to the depths of finding out it was all an illusion that will soon be over. Twice.

Only now do I understand the visceral ache of missing people who don’t exist, but should.

But even worse than the pain is the guilt. Despite what I know in my head, it’s hard not to feel like this is my fault somehow. And to see my husband suffer… It’s the worst thing I’ve ever experienced.

TWO: The Soul-crushing Expense

We could be on our way to buying a lovely house right now. Or we could have taken our children and traveled the world for a year. Or we could have just raised our damn kids and started their college fund, confident to have a nest egg to fall back on.

Instead, we have nothing. We rent our small apartment. We don’t have cable, barely have cheap pay-as-you-go cell phones. We don’t even own our car (though we will in about four years). We’ve trimmed all the fat we can trim. We’re just trying desperately to stay above zero. And we still don’t have a kid and don’t know if (or how) we ever will.

It’s so fucking unfair.

ONE: Time Passing

This is really the hardest one. We’re getting older. Our nieces and nephews (our kids’ cousins) are getting older. Our friend’s kids are getting older. My parents are getting older. (My husband’s parents have already passed away.) Our grandparents are dying one by one before they’ll ever get to spend good time (or time at all) with our kids.

Meanwhile life and people and families pass us by and lap us, sometimes more than once. We can’t even get off the ground.

Sometimes I hyperventilate when I think I’ll be 60 when our kids are in college. And what about our grandkids? Will we even meet them, much less have good time with them? I guess we’ll have to raise our kids as fundamentalist Christians and teach them “abstinence only” so they’ll have kids early… (KIDDING!)

We just can’t plan our life year-to-year because we don’t know when or if we’ll have kids or how much more we’ll have to spend just to get the first one going. God only knows about trying for a sibling — how long it will take or how much it will cost. If we have twins next year, we may be done. Late and broke, but I can live with it. (Not like I have a choice.)

But if we have a single child, I’ll be 39 when we’re trying for our second kid, 40 when I deliver. BEST CASE SCENARIO.

Not what I planned at all.

It’s so fucking unfair.

I really thought I had played it perfectly. I’d lived a lot of life by the time I got married at age 33, and I was still plenty young enough to have two kids and get all my trying-to-conceive over with at the relatively safe age of 35. I was so ready for it in every way. And yet…

It’s like you’re all set and ready to put on a play. You’ve got the props (toys and clothes you saved from your own childhood), you’ve got the audience (friends and family just waiting for your announcement), and even co-stars (ALL of your friends seem to be having babies at the exact same time!!). The music is playing, the house is sold out…

Yet the star of the show remains elusive, hidden behind some cosmic curtain. Even if you get word that he or she is finally on the way, just nine months out, you know he/she can cancel at any point along the way.

It’s an exhausting way to live.

Sorry if this is kind of a downer. I like to unpack things like this so it’s not just a swirling shitstorm in my mind. One by one like this, I can kind of get a handle on the thing.

And I am doing pretty well overall these days. But that doesn’t erase the fact that this is really hard. A uniquely difficult human experience.

How about you? Anything else you’d add to the list?

P.S. Just realized I forgot one: Spending YEARS feeling like your body is not your own. It’s just a means to an end, something you have to coddle with all the right supplements and a healthy diet — no sugar, no alcohol, no dairy, no coffee, blah blah blah — and not too much exercise but not too little, and…

You feel like a hostage to this thing that stubbornly refuses to exist despite your best efforts. And during those endless Two Week Waits (especially the ones that cost thousands of dollars), you feel like you’re made of glass…

That’s exhausting, too.

At least every time you fail, you get to go on a little wine and cookie bender…

I’m not Scared Anymore

This may be a passing feeling, so I’ll grab it while I can. Walking today along the river, a resplendent baby blue, fluffy white, and cotton candy pink sunset splashed across the big sky to my left, I thought about the fear I’d had that my first book wouldn’t be a success, that it wouldn’t lead to an obvious next step, that it wouldn’t cement my status as a Real Successful Adult Worth Taking Seriously. That it would come out, make a splash of one size or another, and then fizzle, leaving me with no clue what to do next.

Well, by some measures, it was a success. It got published by a real publishing house. It got great reviews. It was named a Top Travel Book of Spring by National Geographic and a Top Travel Book of the Year by Publishers Weekly. I did book tours in more than twenty states (dozens of venues, including a handful of Barnes & Nobles) and half a dozen foreign countries. It was published in Turkish and was featured prominently in several Turkish newspapers. I even made an appearance on live Turkish national TV with a host who was sweating through his make-up because he knew his English was totally garbled. (Luckily he went over the questions with me beforehand. And of course, his English was better than my Turkish.) And I still get really nice fan letters from readers.

But did it make me any money? Other than the $15k advance, not really. My book tours mostly broke even or produced so little income vis-a-vis the incredible efforts that went into them, I would have been better off working at McDonalds. I haven’t earned out the advance yet, which means no more money from the publisher until I do. And those royalties will be only about a dollar a book (industry standard).

Did it become a major nationwide bestseller? Were the film rights purchased by a major studio? Did it catapult me into a more lucrative book deal and on to a sterling career? Naw. I killed myself for years trying to get that celebrity endorsement that would take it to the next level. I slogged through snow on my 34th birthday to get my book into Jon Stewart’s hands.

Nothing ever came of it. It sold respectably while I was actively touring, then it fell into the normal obscurity most books fall into that aren’t breakout bestsellers. Neither Oprah nor the New York Times waved their magic wand (as they do with so many mediocre books that go on to sell millions).

The worst part? The book (Fast Times in Palestine) is about a part of the world Americans are desperately undereducated about, one where our policies have a direct and horrific impact. American voters / taxpayers need to know this stuff so that millions of people — some of them dear friends — can stop being oppressed because of ignorance and political expediency. I felt like I had failed them all.

For a long time it bothered me almost to the point of depression. I felt paralyzed, unsure what to do next. I started writing another book, a novel this time, and I’m almost done with it. But it’s been a hard slog, dogged by feelings of, “What’s the point?”

The new book, actually, is about this very subject. What happens when you follow your heart, pursue your passion, do your best to change the world, only to find yourself a broke, middle-aged nobody? What then?

Through writing the novel, I dealt with my own issues, my own disappointment. Obviously this is a first world problem. But it can be a very real one, a very human one. We’re surrounded in this culture by entreaties to “Follow your heart!” mixed with messages that if you’re not a success, you’re a failure. (Especially in the achievement-oriented places where I was educated.)

The overall message seemed to be, “Follow your heart to success!” And if you’re not wildly successful, maybe you were stupid to follow your heart, or maybe you did it wrong, making you a double failure.

What you have to realize is that, at its essence, following your heart is not about “success” in the way our culture defines it. That kind of “success” is extremely fickle, and let’s face it — these days it mostly goes to people who don’t deserve it.

Real success is something more subtle and internally defined. (It’s not something I can adequately summarize here. I needed to write a whole book to get at it.)

You also have to really learn, really take to heart the fact that you can only do so much. Your work ethic, your integrity — these are things you have control over. How it’s received by a public apparently obsessed with the Kardashians? That’s not up to you.

So yeah — through writing a second book, I worked through my hang-ups around the first book. And that’s a kind of success, no? I’ve learned to accept that I’m not a nobody just because I’m not a “somebody” with a big studio deal and a five-figure advance on my next book, or whatever would qualify me as worthy of a magazine profile. I’ve learned to remember that “success” can be a double-edged sword. It comes with risks and constraints: hangers-on, expectations, obligations, and a very real danger of becoming entirely too full of yourself, not to mention various degrees of loss of creative control. (One publisher who rejected my book advised me to make it more angry, divisive, polemical. She said that kind of stuff really sells. I side-eyed her email and never responded. And don’t get me started on how my actual publisher set up my Amazon page and refused to change it. Who knows how many sales that killed?)

My life wouldn’t fundamentally change anyway (other than having an easier time with all these damn medical bills). I might have a bigger house, a nicer car, but that’s the kind of stuff you take for granted in no time. The really good stuff is here already. The sunset by the river is free. So was my silly cat. And I managed to travel the world many times over without ever breaking five figures in my net worth.

As far as the bigger issue — changing history, changing the world — tens of thousands of books have been written that are wiser than mine, more beautiful than mine, more trenchant than mine. Vanishingly few of them make a significant mark on history on their own. (In fact, none of them do on their own — they are all inserted into a particular society, a particular time period, a particular historical milieu composed of billions of interacting factors that determine whether a book soars or just chugs along.) But all the books together make up the vast human library, and it’s an honor to be a part of it.

And while it’s incredibly painful not to see my book measurably changing public opinion it is finding many readers — probably a lot more than the sales numbers show since it’s in libraries, passed to friends and family by readers, and available second-hand on Amazon and other venues. And there’s always a chance the right person will find it at the right time to really make a difference.

In short, I’ve done just about all I can do. The rest is not up to me.

Meanwhile — sigh — I’ve started another project that I haven’t yet found “success” with: starting my family. And that has been even more painful, even more difficult to work through. A big part of what’s tough is feeling like people see me differently. I’m one of “those” people, those unfortunates, those people you kind of avoid when you have your own exciting baby news, those people “going through something I just can’t imagine!”, those people going broke while their life is stuck in stasis as the world moves on around them. Those people who withdraw into themselves every time there’s bad news — and that’s a lot.

I don’t want to be that person. But I am.

I’m always on pins and needles, always stuck on a high wire with no end in sight, always impatient for the next cycle, always waiting, waiting, waiting for the next phase of my life to start.

But after the last miscarriage, after the grief passed through me, I started to realize I don’t actually have to live like that. I can enjoy the wonderful blessings of today and let the next cycle, the future, do whatever it’s going to do. It doesn’t mean I’m giving up. It just means I’m acknowledging there’s only so much I control and learning to live better and more honestly with that fact of life.

It’s a lot like writing a book. There’s only so much you can do, so much effort you can put in. Then you have to let go and let the rest take care of itself. Our next cycle may work or it may not. It’s thrilling to think it might, and I’ll survive if it doesn’t. And people can think whatever they want to think about it. That’s not up to me, either.

Meanwhile I’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other, keep playing soccer and reading and writing and editing novels and going for sunset walks and cooking good food and playing with my nephews and taking ballet classes and enjoying being so free and independent.

It’s not what I would choose if I had a choice, but it’s not bad.

This is as much peace as I’ve felt throughout this whole process.

And that’s a kind of success, too.

.
P.S. I recently read something about Catastrophic Thinking, which means that whatever happens, if it’s not completely ideal, you immediately jump to the worst case scenario and tense yourself up against it. I realized this is something I do. Which makes sense in a way, because it’s been pretty much nothing but worst case scenarios so far. (Well, I take that back — things could have always been much, much worse. But there’s certainly been no happy news that lasted in the past four years.)

I’m entitled to keep doing this, of course, but it doesn’t actually help. Being tensed up against bad news doesn’t make bad news any less bad when you get it. And meanwhile you spent a lot of time that could have been good tensed up for no benefit. And if the news finally ends up being good? You really wasted all that tension.

It was helpful seeing that propensity of mine written down in black and white as a “diagnosis” of sorts — something pretty normal, but not helpful. It has made it easier for me to recognize this behavior and get it in check before it spirals out of control.

Alas…

I still have a mild panic attack every time someone posts on a forum about finding a strong heartbeat or two at seven weeks. Every seven-week ultrasound I’ve ever had (two so far) has been crushing news. One was a malformed sac (after I already lost the first twin as a blighted ovum). The other was a big beautiful sac without the right stuff in it — another blighted ovum.

That’s my entire history of pregnancy over the past four years.

Breathe. Breathe.

Maybe some day it won’t be like that. But God knows one thing I’ll never know in my life is a carefree pregnancy. Even if I ever do see two lines again, I’m going to be a wreck.

Breathe. Breathe.

Feelin’ Groovy

I’m going to buck my usual trend and write when I’m feeling good. The weather is freakishly gorgeous, with the trees all blooming in late February (and a lot of those blooms still hanging on), I’m making a huge Thai chicken salad to take to a friend’s house, and she and her husband have a delightful daughter named Ivy who’s just kind of on my space cadet wavelength — and she has Girl Scout cookies, some of which will soon be mine.

I’m editing a thriller about a war between Israel and Iran and can hardly believe I’m being paid to do it. My husband is loving his new job and bursting with ideas for the future. I’m getting very close to finishing my novel and feeling pretty good about it. The feedback I’ve gotten about it so far has been encouraging.

And I gotta admit, much as I’d rather be growing a baby, I’m pretty stoked to start up the spring soccer season and get to play pickup games in the park and full-field games with my rec team.

Oh, and I’m eating ripe blackberries.

I take a walk along the river almost every night — have ever since we moved to Tulsa three years ago — and there’s always been something bittersweet about it, because I keep thinking, “Next year I’ll be pushing a stroller on this walk.” And every year I’m wrong. I keep thinking, “In three years, my toddler is going to be asking me questions about the birds and the moon.” But that magical date just keeps getting pushed off and pushed off.

I want to share that walk with someone. And not just anyone. Someone innocent, someone who’s family, someone who belongs to me. Not in an ownership kind of way, but in a “We’re joined forever” kind of way.

And it’s hard not to feel impatient when something so incredible seems to recede into the horizon, disappear into smoke, year after year after year.

But I finally just recently started to find a little bit of chill about that. Not in a “giving up” kind of way, but in a “This is my life and my kids will come when they come, probably sooner than later” kind of way. I might not be quite as young and pretty and vital as I hoped I would be when it happens, and we might end up with fewer years together than I would choose, if I had a choice. And that’s something to mourn — and then move on from.

Anyway, somehow I don’t feel quite so beaten by this. For the moment anyway, it’s not quite a constant pain. It’s in the back of my mind. It’s a thing. But life is good, and there’s every reason to hope things may actually be even better if I can just hold out another year or two.

And there is a lot to enjoy in the meantime, if I can just remember, and not spend too much time focusing on what’s missing, even if it is the “main dish” (as my husband put it).

(Of course, I teased him and said, “Hey, I thought I was the main dish.” He started to sputter and backpedal a bit, and I laughed and said, “Just kidding. I know exactly what you mean.”)

So here’s (still, and not quite as miserably) hoping.

P.S. A writer on another blog put it very simply: Some of us just have to work harder to build our families than others.

I commented:

That’s a great way to think of it. Math comes easily to me. This doesn’t. Those are just the breaks. Not everyone can be good at everything. It’s not a judgment or a punishment. It just happens sometimes.

Here’s to laboring toward our children in more ways than one and ending up joined forever to the perfect little beings, whom we will never take for granted for a moment.

Grace

It occurs to me that I mainly tend to write posts here when things are going wrong and I’m feeling low. It’s a coping mechanism that “vomits” out the bad feelings so I can get back to feeling all right a bit quicker. Then when I feel pretty good again, I usually don’t feel like writing anymore, just enjoying life.

So these habits probably end up giving a skewed idea of my average mental state.

For the record, when I’m in a hole, I usually know, deep down, that I will get out of it, one way or another. I’ll scrabble back onto solid ground before too long and keep on truckin’ toward the promised land. Sometimes the hole is deeper than others, and sometimes it takes longer than others, but by now I know it’s a process. I’ve developed all kinds of coping mechanisms, and one of them is throwing little tantrums on the relatively anonymous space of the internet. (I don’t share this blog with almost anyone from my “real” life. Most of those suckas don’t get it — just like I didn’t get it until I was in it — and thank God for them they never will.)

Also for the record, when I’m in a hole and vomiting rage, I usually don’t want advice. I don’t want to be told everything will work out in the end, because no one knows that. And I sure as hell don’t want to be told that I should just calm down, because this is a marathon, not a sprint, and there are no guarantees. (Yeah, someone from a forum that should know better laid that one on me recently.)

Believe me, after four years, I am very well aware that there are no guarantees (and that this ain’t a sprint), and I’ve already been given every kind of advice you can imagine — some asked for, some good, mostly ill-informed and idiotic. Fellow sufferers of this scourge usually give better advice, but it’s rarely news to me.

I know I don’t have any right to demand things from the people who are kind enough to read and comment on my blog. I guess this is more like my own advice (ha) when dealing with anyone who’s in a deep hole, especially someone who’s been in many deep holes before, especially on an ongoing basis for years at a time.

What those people want, in my experience, is to be seen, even for a moment. What they want is for someone — ideally someone who’s gone through something similar, but not necessarily — to sit with them for half a second and acknowledge that what they are going through is really hard, and they aren’t crazy to feel crazy sometimes. The world is crazy sometimes. It’s goddamned mean sometimes. And when you feel deeply wounded, a part of you goes back to a more childlike state, I think. And what do children want when they are hurting? They don’t want advice! They don’t even want a band-aid, at least not right away. They want a hug.

Once that is done, then perhaps a piece of gentle advice, a book of wisdom (someone gave me The Prophet by Khalil Gibran when I was having  a really tough time, and it helped), or a more positive / probable vision of the future than the doom and gloom in someone’s mind might be in order.

But advice without empathy feels like a slap in the face. Like, “Oh, your problem is easy to solve. Next.” Like, “What are you blubbering about? Just fix it!” It’s deeply alienating.

I know that is not intended, and God knows I’ve done it myself in the past. It’s funny that such a natural human response — “If you have a problem, here’s a way to address it” — is so inappropriate sometimes. Hell, if we were more rational creatures, it would be the best response. (Unless the advice is blithe dumbassery, as it often is with this particular issue.) But we are not rational creatures, at least not as much as we like to think we are. We carry scars, wounds, expectations, beliefs, narratives. And when those are poked at or violated, we feel defensive and frightened. We want a warm hand on our back, not (just) words casually thrown into our hole from the cozier world up above.

And honestly, I think most people feel that way when they are really hurting, whatever the cause.

Now, on to the next question: Shouldn’t I have learned a little bit more grace by now? Knowing all of this is a process, knowing there are no guarantees, knowing the future is usually brighter than we imagine in our dark fears, should I still be falling into holes and throwing internet tantrums after all this time?

There are many things to unpack with regard to this question.

First, actually, the future isn’t always brighter than we imagine in our dark fears. I could never have imagined it taking us more than four years and draining every drop of our savings to have our first child. It was the stuff of nightmares. And for all I know, it might take four more years. It might put us deeply into debt. It might never happen.

Meanwhile, everyone in our life is getting older as the years wear on. Some have already died, and more may die and never get to meet our kids. Hell, one of us might die before we ever have kids. These are real possibilities, and every time there’s a setback, these possibilities loom yet larger. How can your heart not quake in the face of that?

(I guess we all have to deal with mortality in general in our own ways. But when it comes to thinking of my children growing up without X or Y, it somehow makes it that much more visceral and sad.)

Their cousins and the children of our friends are also getting older, so our kid(s), even if born right now, are already aged out of what should be their cousin / friend’s kids cohort. The oldest is in college and the youngest is about to start walking. One was born just before our wedding, and she’s almost four now. She and our kid(s) should have been playmates! Now we’ll be lucky if there’s a five-year gap between them.

OK, but that’s just a subset of life being unpredictable and sometimes cruelly random, which is something adults just have to learn to deal with. And who knows, maybe when they are born they’ll be the babies, the darlings, doted on by adoring older cousins. (My youngest cousin was kind of like this, but he also wasn’t as close to us as the rest of us were.) Maybe by being born a bit later, they’ll see more of the world’s story and maybe be present at just the right time in history to make a difference. Maybe whoever end up being their age-mates will be just the right ones.

I guess speculation can go both ways.

But back to the main point: We are adults. We’ve had enough scraped knees by now, heard enough advice, read enough books, been through enough that maybe this shouldn’t be as hard as it is. Part of growing up is learning to have perspective. I’ve lived in Palestine under military occupation. I’ve seen how bad the world can get. And believe me, I count my blessings in a million ways.

But at the same time, I’ve known so many parents who would give up EVERYTHING for their children. Who love their children more than life. Whose well-raised children are such a joy, such a comfort even in times of loss or tragedy. Who risk their lives to get their children out of bad situations. And I feel like I’m perpetually on the ouside looking in at this miraculous and yet totally fundamental human experience. It makes me feel like a huge piece of my heart and soul is missing, all the time. I never could have understood what this felt like until I felt it.

But is raging on the internet really the best way to deal with that? Shouldn’t I sit in quiet contemplation, or do something good for someone else, or drink some wine, or get a hobby?

Well, first of all, I’VE DONE ALL THOSE THINGS. Multiple times. For years. Yet my emotions still sometimes get the better of me.

OK, so when that happens, should I keep it to myself? Maintain at least some level of dignity and decorum?

Here’s the thing: I didn’t get a lot of emotional support growing up. When I was hurting, basically no one cared, or they just didn’t know what to do about it. To be fair, I wasn’t good at communicating my feelings, either. Sometimes I sulked, occasionally I blew up, but mainly I just pretended like nothing was wrong. Swallowed my feelings. Tried to maintain at least some level of dignity and decorum.

So there’s a part of me that revels in the fact that finally, after all these years, when I’m hurting, I finally have a place to spew those feelings, and sometimes even get a comforting hand from people who’ve been through similar things. It’s not pretty, it’s not always dignified, but it’s honest.

And yes, I’m working on not letting myself get into such deep holes in the first place. But that’s a process, too. A meta-process. And I think all my emotion-swallowing when I was younger contributed to how hard things are now. So it’s a whole lifelong thing I’m dealing with, and going through reproductive issues has been a masterclass in learning to deal with hard shit.

And for the most part I’m doing OK. But this shit is hard.

I thank you all for being there for the times when it beats me down a little.

Well, Crap

Turns out it was pointless to get my beta drawn today, because I was just informed the earliest I can possibly transfer will be in May because they are moving the clinic in April from Davis to Sacramento [EDIT: not San Diego, sorry, brain fart!] and they’ve already matched everyone up between now and the move. That would have been nice to know before I wasted my time and money.

So, no 2017 baby for me. And here I had my hopes all up since my cycle started early.

Joke’s on me.

Every year — every damn six months, actually — I think, “This is the rec soccer season when I’ll finally be sitting out, cheering my team from the sidelines, watching my belly grow. This is the spring / fall when I’ll have to give up soccer, but something truly magical will happen.”

And each season, I just end up playing soccer again.

It’s fun.

But it ain’t a baby.

I know one more delay doesn’t seem like it should be that big a deal in the scheme of things. But 2017 was always my “worst case scenario” year. Seventeen is my lucky number, so I always thought, “If this bullshit takes four years — as if that will happen! — at least I’ll give birth in my lucky number year. That’ll be kinda cool.”

And now I’ve even been robbed of that. It just feels like this is never going to end. Seriously, at this point it seems like something magical, something fantastical. People don’t really grow babies in their bellies, do they? It’s just a story they tell, like Santa Claus. I’m chasing a chimera.

It’s like if Charlie Brown finally figured out that Lucy was always going to pull the football out from under him every single time, and yet he had no choice but to keep going for that football.

And I was doing so good there for a while there, too.

Beta Beta Beta, Can I hate ya, hate ya, hate ya?

It’s funny because we’re old… 😛

My BBT was quite low this morning, so I seriously doubt it’s a miracle pregnancy, even though I’ve been having plenty of phantom symptoms. Still, I have to get a beta drawn to make sure it’s under the seemingly arbitrary level of 10 so I can start BCPs and get started on my next cycle. It was 14 on Friday, and the half-life should be around four days, so I should be made in the shade. But my stomach is always in knots before a beta test.

Wish me luck. Will update.

Buying wine on the way home to open when I get the results.

UPDATE: Opening the wine now, because wine. No beta results yet. But I got a new bread knife, which we’ve been needing for two years, ever since our storage unit got robbed while we were in Turkey doing useless rounds of IVF. We can cut bagels again without cursing. Yay.

UPDATE 2: Beta result is 6. Just waiting for CC to call and confirm that I should start BCP today. Onward and upward.