On the Chopping Block

Ah, the best of intentions.

I made myself so many promises of delayed gratification – if I could just make it through the in-between period, I could have made it to the promised land, the land where all my dreams came true. I could have been proud of myself for sticking it out, for making it through the inevitable rough patches.  I could have held my accomplishment aloft for the impressed gazing of others.

But, today, I quit. 

Obviously, I am speaking of this foolish pledge upon the auspicious celebration of my birth:

silly resolutionCan you guess which one it is?

Need a hint?

It’s not No. 27. Silly people. The quilt is almost finished and I’ve already contacted a lovely organization that will take it.

Nope, it is No. 28 – officially on the chopping block as of today.  I can’t stand it anymore, which may be inversely related to the increase in the temperature as we hurl our way out of May into hell that is June.  The thing that makes this so funny is that I knew myself when I made that pledge. I knew I would reach that point where I would want to chop it off and I made the pledge to push through. So, what changed my mind?

Two words: hair drying.  It has become a PAIN.  And, as the hair grows, so will the pain of drying it because I have uber thick tresses that require a maximum blast of hot air multiple times over to dry.  The time to get ready in the morning which is already inching upwards will continue to inch, and I will begin to resent the locks that I so lovingly dreamt about.  I will also get very annoyed when I am drying said hair in an already humid bathroom on an already humid morning and will be sweating while drying my hair when I haven’t even finished drying off from the shower.

I gave it the college try and feel no guilt about jettisoning this particular pledge.  Quitters may never win, but at least I’ll look damn good with my new short do.

The Word: Knee-Jerk

I never understood the purpose of the medical exercise of tapping one’s knees with a rubber hammer in just the right spot to make the lower leg involuntarily swing.  All I remember is that it made me giggle and seemed to be a very Marcus Welby, country doctor kind of exercise. This is just one of many reasons why I am  not in the medical profession.

Jeff Youngstrom

The exercise, though, is useful in one respect, namely that it reminds us that there are many stimuli out there that make us have that knee-jerk reflex.  For me, the stimuli is the gratuitous mention in thoroughly inappropriate places or situations or completely unrelated discussions, articles, etc., that someone is either expecting or has children, or – worse – grandchildren.  The knee-jerk reflex that is produced by this stimuli sounds much like the childish game where you add “in bed” to the end of every sentence except my phrase is, “and you don’t” or “you aren’t” or “you never will be”.  I think an illustration would be helpful at this point.

I was at a professional conference today listening to talks by learned professionals in my field.  It is a wonderful respite from the world of reproduction since the topics that are discussed do not in any way have anything to do with the reproductive luck of the speakers.  In fact, there is an unwritten rule that it is rather tacky to mention one’s family in one’s biography that accompanies one’s talk.  So, when I was reading the biography of the upcoming speaker, I skimmed the mind-numbing recitation of honors, awards and other blather and skipped to end where I actually look to see if the person is tacky enough to break the unwritten rule and mention that on top of all of these wonderful professional accomplishments, they have managed to procreate. 

This guy did not disappoint.  Not only did he plug that he has two children, but they were ‘well-adjusted’ children (which apparently is not the norm in our profession – news to me!) and, he is a first time grandfather to twins, for whom he also thoughtfully provided their birthdate. OMFG. It was the motherlode of stimuli. My synapses were firing, my head was hurting, my inner reader was adding “and you don’t” to the end of every nauseating sentence.  And, inevitably, I was feeling worse and worse because I was making myself feel like I was less of a person because I didn’t have these things that were so obviously important to this guy.

I didn’t use to be like this.  With some things, I am still not like this.  I am still confident in the choices that I have made and happy and satisfied with them, ups, downs and all.  It is only when there is that statement of obvious pride at the sheer act of procreation or the gratuitous mention of one’s reproductive status which is obviously placed for no other purpose than to elicit the “ooh congratulations” response, that my knee jerks right out of its socket.  They say, “I’m a proud mother of two!” and I hear, “And you aren’t!” Because, to me, it’s as if the person knows that I have not been able to do something that was so obviously simple to them and they are rubbing my face in it that they can do this one seemingly simple thing. I know that’s not what it is, but that’s what it feels like.

I know that this guy at the conference doesn’t know me. I know that he didn’t include this information because he woke up this morning and decided, “It’s a beautiful day to remind Mrs. X that she is infertile and barren, ha ha!” I know that he just wrote it because he wanted to let others in the profession know of his pride at having raised well-adjusted kids despite his profession and has been rewarded with twin grandchildren. I know in my head that he didn’t put this blurb in there because he wanted to hurt me. But, that doesn’t stop me from hurting at the reminder.

I am not advocating that people suddenly stop bragging about their children around me or decide not to sneak into conversation that they are expecting because they have every right to be happy and proud (and geez, what else would people talk about with each other?). I know that this is my problem, not the world’s.  I know that I am generally happy with who I am and where I am even if I haven’t been able to achieve everything that I want. I know that the measure of my success in life is my own yardstick and not someone else’s.  I know that I can turn off the knee-jerk reaction because even though I may not have that one thing, I have a full life and I don’t need to focus on what I don’t have to see what I do.  But, my knees are twitchy things and it will take some time to reprogram the system.

image: Jeff Youngstrom

The 300

According to WordPress, this is my 300th post on this here blog.


justmakeitWho knew I would still be going at 300?  You would have thought that I c0uld have pretty much said it all by now.  Apparently not. 

Am I sorry that there is more to say, that I haven’t reached that point in my journey where I can stop writing about infertility? Not really.  I have a feeling that if Ididn’t write about infertility, I would bitch about something else.  So, why not write about something that’s really important rather than moan about the more trivial aspects of my life?  Wait, I do that, too.  Oh well. It’s my blog, right?

Who knows how many more posts there will be on this here blog.  With my current rate of luck, I suspect there will be plenty more. But, most importantly, I want to thank everyone who has read just one or all 300 of these posts.  I can only imagine how tedious it has been and for that, you deserve 300 toothpicks.

image: justmakeit

A Sunday, Not Unlike Any Other Sunday

Being infertile with no living children on Mother’s Day in the United States can be a real bummer. 

For me, as an infertile with no living children, it was actually an okay day.  I sent my mom a thoroughly free and hilarious Wrong Card which she very much enjoyed. And, I even got an adorable email signature from her: “Love (you’re the reason I’m a) Mom.”  How sweet is that?

I reflected on how lucky I am to have her as my mom and how I love the friendship that we have developed as I have become an adult.  I’m looking forward to taking a trip with her later this year, just the two of us.

I recognized that my own feelings of being excluded from the general party were my own reaction rather than any one reminding me outright that I am not a mom, in the traditional sense of the word.  I spent not an insignificant time telling myself to get the f*ck over myself and just enjoy the lazy Sunday. 

I asked my furry children if they had gotten me anything for Mother’s Day and received blank stares indicating that they were not in fact aware of the auspicious nature of the day.  They all then proceeded to act the same way they do everyday, a cross between adorable and maddening.

Most of all, though, I decided that for me, Mother’s Day would not be about exclusion, but a celebration of the fact that all of us are mothers in some way or another, even if we haven’t give birth, and/or raised a child. And, under that definition, I am most definitely a mother. And, so are you.  Happy Mother’s Day to us all.

The Hurt in My Heart

My heart has been hurting today. A lot.

It started in the morning as the twinge in the nose and progressed to a dull thud behind the breastbone by this afternoon.  As usual, the hurt was internal.  No one came at me with a dagger or intentionally tried to bruise me.  My heart was just overwhelmed with seemingly innocuous things that really turned out to be little poisonous darts, each a minor annoyance, but collectively fatal:  Mother’s Day ads.  More Mother’s Day ads.  Participating in the dangerous game of comparing oneself to other infertiles, and pretty much everytime coming up short (meaning, still not pregnant).  Reading email from best friend with a near one-year old and trying to decipher whether we have entered into the game of one upsmanship.   Receiving drugs for the next cycle and being reminded – again – at what I must do to get pregnant that many others do not.  Remembering the joy of those moments when I was pregnant and genuinely believed that it was going to work, that we had finally defeated the monster.  

In other words, it was a bad day.

So, I took my hurting heart and went to the most peaceful place that I know of, my backporch, and stretched out on a chair.  I listened to the birds and the wind. I tried pleading with my heart to stop hurting, telling it that we are so lucky to have what we do. But, my heart was being churlish and refused to stop hurting.  “I don’t hurt less because everything else in life is rosy,” it said.

I knew I needed something or someone more compelling. I decided to summon Mr. X.  Never mind that he’s working and doesn’t know that I am summoning him in my mind. I closed my eyes and called across the miles to him. The door to the porch closed, I stretched out my hand and there he was sitting next to me, holding my hand.

“What’s the matter, my love?”, he said.

“My heart hurts, ” I said.

“Why does it hurt?”, he asked.

“Because it is afraid that it will never have that special joy of knowing that your dreams are finally coming true.  It sees others finding this joy and it wants to know when it will be its turn.”

“Ah, I understand why that would hurt. Can I have your heart for a moment?”

I reached inside and gave him my poor, shriveled damaged little heart. I watched as he cupped it in his hands like water and began to speak to it: “There is no reason to hurt, little one. This joy that you seek is not the only joy in the world. You can still seek this joy, but this can’t be the only joy that you seek or you will continue to hurt. You know this. I love you, little heart. No matter what happens or doesn’t happen, I love you and will love you.”

My hurt began to ease as I felt his love and as I realized that I can be happy without this joy, even if I still seek it.  I took my heart back and tucked it safely away.  I promised to take better care of it, to be kind to it and to try to shield it from those things that hurts it the most.  

And for now, my heart has stopped hurting.

Four Long Miserable, Wonderful Years

One of the many longstanding jokes in my family revolves around anniversaries of the wedding variety.  My parents had friends many years ago who were celebrating one of the anniversaries in the 30-range.  Someone asked the husband how many years they had been married.  His response was priceless:

“Thirty-six long, miserable years.”

What made this priceless was that he said it in front of his wife.  I don’t think she talked to him for several days after that.  It was also priceless because we’re pretty certain he was kidding, but we weren’t sure. 

I have an anniversary of sorts today.  It was four years ago at the beginning of May that the mister and I chucked the pills and began planning for whether I would work after our child was born.  We all know how that went.

In that honeymoon phase, I was looking forward to a brief fling with conception before moving on to the solid relationship of parenting.  But, as the months dragged on, conception played hard to get and stopped returning my calls. Eventually, my number found its way to the red-headed stepchild, infertility.  IF and I have now been together for quite some time, and, in fact, I learned later that we were together from the beginning of my journey to junior(ette).  We’re joined at the hip (or more precisely, the pelvic area), inseparable, two peas in a pod, bound but hopefully to be put asunder by at least one man, if not more.

And, when people ask us how long we’ve been together, I will answer, “four long, miserable, wonderful years.”  I don’t think I need to explain “long” or “miserable”. But wonderful?

I’ll be the first to admit that my usual feelings about IF are not that it is wonderful or even palatable.  Usually, my feelings begin with a four letter word.  But, on this, our fourth anniversary, I feel compelled to say something nice about my constant companion. So, I will say thank you.

(warning: statements below have not been approved by the FDA and are solely the rather saccharine opinion of Mrs. X. Individual results may vary.)

Thank you for helping me exercise my sense of humor.

Thank you for making me a better writer.

Thank you for making me more empathetic.

Thank you for forcing me to find new hobbies and interests.

Thank you for pushing me to be more social and find more friends.

Thank you for showing me that bad things happen whether I deserve it or not and they are not a statement about my worth as a person.

Thank you for teaching me that life can suck and in ways that are unimagineable, and I can make it through and still be happy.

Please forgive me, though, if I actively work on getting a divorce from you.  I don’t want to grow old with you and I don’t want to have you as my companion on the porch of a retirement home.  I don’t want any more anniversaries.