What We Have Here Is a Failure to Communicate

The other day, I spent about an hour counseling a friend who has just passed the bar and is looking to break into the legal job market.  Of the hour I spent talking to her, only 15 minutes was spent discussing her resume with some ‘move this here’ and ‘change that around’.  The rest was spent trying to get her to stop apologizing for her lack of everything – legal experience, good class rank, etc.  She would never get a job that way.

I thought about this as I was reading the over much-hyped article about infertility in Self magazineResolve has taken up the article as a rallying cry against infertility being ignored. I think this is missing the point.  Being ignored is not the issue here.  Not being able to sell our disease to the public as a crisis and a travesty that needs public support and funding is the issue.

After all, infertility is nothing but fault based, a sort of you-break-it-you-buy-it scenario.   It is our fault that we can’t get pregnant: we waited too long to have children, we were promiscuous in our youths, we drink too much caffeine or alcohol, we were foolish enough not to request a semen analysis before the wedding and married men who shoot blanks, we can’t control our lady parts that have the nerve to grow outside of the uterus, we don’t have a uterus but can’t seem to grow one either, we just happen to be gay and have two of the same parts, our hormones are wonky because, hello, we’re just crazy bitches that way! As if this weren’t enough, infertility isn’t even fatal.

No wonder your average non-infertile person is going to look at infertile people and shake their head in disbelief that we want sympathy and money for treatment.  Or, they offer up one of those famous lines that we should just adopt because there are so many kids out there that need good homes or that we’re being selfish for spending so much money (ours and other people’s) to do something that is supposed to be natural and free.

The thing is for infertility to be taken seriously as a disease that needs to be treated like other diseases with the funding and treatment, we need to change public opinion about infertility.  I think one of the most crucial steps is that we need to stop apologizing for wanting the same experiences as our more fertile brethren.

I will say this again since it bears repeated. We need to stop apologizing.

People who don’t have difficulty conceiving don’t apologize for not having difficulty conceiving (although, frankly, some of them should).  And, on the other end of the spectrum, people with cancer don’t apologize for getting chemo.  So, why do we feel the need to apologize for wanting to have our own kids?  We need to stand up and say, “we have just as much a right to conceive our own children as those who do not have difficulty conceiving .”  We have to answer those who tell us to adopt.  We have to respond when we are accused of being selfish.

Being infertile means never having to say you’re sorry.

Oh, New York, New York

I actually let my subscription to New York magazine expire a few weeks ago.  I just didn’t have time to read it on a weekly basis and there was no point in spending the money to keep it up if I wasn’t going to read it.  This meant that I didn’t see the latest gem of a cover complete with attention-grabbing headline (and the even more groan-worthy subheader “Why Parents Hate Parenting”) until Adele eloquently discussed it through the lens of multiple pregnancy loss.

I dutifully read the article while absently noting that none of the information contained within it was either a) new or b) different than what I have read time and time before.  What is new is the perspective with which I read the article.  Because, you see, I have been on both sides of the equation now – the primary infertility with multiple pregnancy loss side and the healthy baby parenting side.

I’ll get the obvious part over with. The article is right on one point: parenting is hard.  It is fucking hard.  It is so hard sometimes that you want to hide in the closet and cry.  It is joy, it is pain, it is sunshine and rain.  It is wonder and it is drudgery. But, as hard as it is, I don’t hate it.  There have been times when I really don’t like it, but never hate.  In contrast, I can say unequivocally that I hated being infertile and dealing with repeat miscarriages.  I hated that I couldn’t do what every one else seemed to be able to do with a lot less money and effort.

In acknowledging and agreeing (read = complaining) that parenting is hard work, though, I am not saying that I am not grateful.  Sweet Baby Toes, every day I am grateful. I am grateful that we were lucky enough to be able to afford multiple rounds of IVF.  I am grateful that we were able to use our own genetic material.  I am grateful that my body was able to grow this magnificent human being and bring him forth into this world.  I am so grateful sometimes it hurts.

And, I still remember oh so well how hard it was to lose our first two babies.  I literally woke up from my first D&C crying that I had lost my baby.  I remember the bitter sense of unfairness that not only did I have to wait two years and go through multiple procedures to even get pregnant the first time, I lost the baby anyway (and went on to lose a second, after our first IVF).  It seemed doubly cruel to me.  All told it took us almost five years to have Rex.  Five years.  Even lazy college students started and finished school in less time.  I was lapped twice around by at least one friend.

But, it’s hard to be grateful all the time about anything, not just about babies.  As the song goes, I can’t complain, but I will.  I freely grouse about my job, my husband, my parents, my house, the dog, the cats, you name any good thing I have in my life and I will complain about it.  Not constantly, maybe not even regularly, but one of the few things that keeps me sane in this world is being able to complain, to vent, to seek a little understanding of my daily trials so that I don’t feel as if I am the only person in the universe going through whatever bullshit is of the moment.

Understanding. Isn’t that we are all looking for at any given moment?  The feeling that we are not alone in our pain, our confusion, our sorrow, our little annoyances.  Unfortunately, there was little room in this article for understanding the perspective of someone dealing with infertility which is why the blithe complaints just seem like such a smack in the face to so many.  But, I understand.  I understand that the pain of difficult parenting is nothing compared to the pain of infertility and pregnancy loss. Nothing. Not even a pinky finger’s worth of difficulty.

Perhaps the parents in this article ‘hate’ parenting because they haven’t had to deal with the real hateful experiences that are infertility and miscarriage.

The Poster Says It All

Last night was hell.  It was supposed to be, though.  Mondays and Wednesday nights are my Hell Nights, the nights when I am solely responsible for Rex until 7am the next morning when he is whisked on the arms of Mr. X to daycare.

But last night. Oh, my.  It really was hell.

It didn’t seem like it was going to be that way.  He had his nightcap bottle as usual at 7pm and was down by 7:30, all thanks to Mr. X (no need for daggers).  I went to bed asking Mr. X to wake me if he heard the baby and I was still sleeping.

From prior experience, I knew he would wake up anywhere between 11pm (ugh) to 2:30am (not as ugh).  First rousing last night? 11:05pm.  I shuffled down the hall, freed him from his Woombie (one-handed, I might add), snuggled him in my arms in the rocker and commenced the feeding.  Then, I started to hear noises.  G panting and breathing heavily.  Yapping dogs somewhere in the near vicinity with a knack for stopping long enough to let you think that they had given up only to start again. When I am sleep deprived and annoyed, little noises make me even more annoyed. Not a good way to start the night.

Then I realized there was something cold and wet on my shirt just in front on my sternum.  Rex had managed to spit up on my shirt without me even knowing it and it was extremely uncomfortable.  I didn’t have any change of clothes in his room, so I would have to be wet and clammy until I could get him back to sleep.  11:55pm, mission accomplished and I groped in the dark closet for a clean shirt, barefooted my way back to our bedroom  and Mr. X snoring.

Next rousing: 2:30am.  This is not boding well for a two-feeding night.  He usually lasts longer than 2.5 hours on a bottle sleeping.  More feeding, more dogs barking, more G panting and this time, he spits up on himself, not me and I change his outfit which while having a zipper is actually not easier to get on him. 3:15am, stumble back to room and send telepathic signals to Rex to sleep until at least 6:15.

Then, it’s 5:30.  I know that because I looked at the clock when I heard, you guessed it, Rex. Again.  W.T.F.  The child hasn’t had a three-feeding night in at least six weeks.  He drinks about 3.75 ounces, spits up on his second outfit requiring wrestling him into a third outfit (again with a zipper that is not helpful) and is out, gently snoring in my arms.  Dogs are still barking, G this time is nowhere to be found, but the kitties are beginning to prowl around making walking hazardous lest I step on animals.  I put him back in his crib for the third time and stumble back to our room.

It was that last feeding that was just draining.  I hadn’t prepared myself for a three-feeding night.  I had thought, my child is a champion night sleeper, no way he could regress so much so fast!   And, I couldn’t try my hand at sleep training him (read going in, but not getting him up and trying to get him back to sleep) lest he wake up Mr. X.  Most of all, I was annoyed at myself for thinking that we had finally gotten to that magical point where we had a handle on this baby thing.  Who was I kidding? I’m just as bad at this baby thing as I was when we brought him home and I get to it all by myself all of next week since Mr. X is going out of town on business.

And, at that moment, all I wanted was my mommy.  I wanted her to give me a big hug, tell me that it was all right, that Rex is fine, this stage is temporary and that we are doing a great job.  Unfortunately, she’s about 5,000 miles away and will be until Halloween.  I settled for a good cry in the shower instead.