Little Do I Know

A few years ago, when we were well into the infertility and miscarriage slog, but Rex was no where in sight, I happened to look out my window at home and see a touching family portrait: mom walking her little girl in a stroller while sporting an obvious baby bump.  As usual, my blood boiled and I mentally cursed the universe for subjecting me to this scene at such a low point in our lives.  I didn’t know the neighbor, they had moved in a few months before. All I knew was that they had one kid and were on the way to having another and that was more than I had or could even imagine having.

That second child was born in October of that year, right around the time of both of my prior due dates.  Mr. X and I happened to be taking a walk one afternoon, shortly after the new baby came home and we met him, being borne around in the arms of his proud papa.  I made all of the right congratulatory noises even though I was still just as pissed inside.

If I had known then what I know now:

That their first child was the product of IVF.  That the second child was an oops only 8 months after the first one since they didn’t think they had a chance of conceiving naturally.

I found this out from their next door neighbors (really, in our neighborhood, there is no such thing as a secret, depending upon who you talk to).  Their daughter also dealt with infertility and just had a baby through a surrogate, using IVF.

I could have learned this information much sooner if I had been more outgoing during our struggles.  But, I didn’t want to talk to anyone, least of all mothers of small children.  They would be just like all the rest of the fertile population – blissfully unaware of the difficulties of life and telling me that having kids has been the greatest thing they could have ever done with their life, blah, blah, blah.

Oh, how we are own greatest enemies.  I could have found additional support from these ladies (well, maybe not the lady with the grown daughter.  She was a bit …. much).  I could have seen that the world isn’t nearly as black and white as I had made it out to be – and me being a lawyer, too, for shame!

But, that time is gone and I’m glad that I do know, even if it’s a little late.  I was able to share with this neighbor our struggle to have Rex and how we too benefited from IVF.  She got it, even though we both have the families that we wanted, she still got it.

And I learned that it’s never too late to reach out.

image: Steve Took It

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.

Let There Be Light

I cannot begin to express my thanks to all of you who took the time to comment on my last post – all of you helped me see that I am not alone, crazy or ungrateful because of these thoughts that I’ve been having.  Once again, the IF community has been a source of get comfort and support. Thank you, thank you.

Since Rex* was born, I have been seeing my therapist and taking Zoloft, since it is approved for nursing mothers.  But, the sadness, the feelings, all of it was still there.  So, I dug a little deeper after I made that post.  I began to read accounts of other women who have suffered PPD and found myself nodding vigorously at the thoughts that other women were having.  It felt so good to hear other women vocalizing what I had been thinking and to know that those thoughts are classic manifestations of PPD.  I finally realized the extent to which I having problems and I began to look for ways to help myself feel better.

One of the first things I did was wean myself off of pumping.  Rex has been having formula from day one, but I was also breastfeeding.  Once it became clear that he was a grazer and I would likely spend up to 12 hours a day with him attached to my boob (2, 3, even 4 would be fine, but not 12 – that would really send me off the edge), I switched to pumping so that he could still get all of the benefits but I would be tethered to a machine for 20 minutes and not to a baby for hours on end.  I realized that one of the big factors that was causing me problems was the feeling that my body still wasn’t mine – it belonged to Rex since I found out I was pregnant and it was still his even after he was born.  Stopping pumping let me get control of my body again letting me eat, drink, etc. whatever I wanted and it felt so good.  Rex got a good four weeks straight of breast milk which under the circumstances was the best I could do.

I also have talked with my OB and she has turned out to be a great resource for help and support.  I had my 5-week post-partum visit with her last Wednesday and she prescribed me progesterone cream to help and ordered blood work to test my thyroid and Vitamin D levels.  Both could be a potential aggravating factor.  The results should be in next week.

Perhaps the greatest help she gave me, though, was to tell me that I needed to go back to work sooner than I had planned.  And she is absolutely right.  I need that intellectual pursuit right now to help me feel more normal – because that is what is most difficult for me about this whole process. I don’t feel like myself yet.  But, getting back into things I did and enjoyed before I had Rex has really been helping me get back to that feeling of normal.  I really think that going back to work will help move this along. Rex will head into daycare at a wonderful facility on site at Mr. X’s office.  He will be well taken care of and I will be able to have the time and distraction that I need to be a better mother to him.

I don’t know when I will be free of my PPD, but I’m taking it one day at a time.  Still.

* Rex is the name I have chosen for our little one on this blog.  He truly is king in our household.

Rage. Rinse. Repeat.

Recently, I developed a new, rather alarming reaction to seeing couples who appear to be in the same age range as Mr. X and I, one of whom is carrying the tell-tale ubiquitous baby tote while the other brings up the rear with the large stroller/carrier contraption:

Abject rage.

I Like

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s a bit of an overreaction.  I mean really, rage? Aren’t there things that are really more rage-worthy than seeing some former frat boy carrying a car seat like its a bucket of water?  Absolutely, but I see more than just some guy and a baby.  I see where I am supposed to be and I am not.  Enter rage.

Part of the problem is that we see so many of them on a typical trip to a restaurant or a market.  We must live in the fertile crescent of the United States, because it’s like no aisle at Lowe’s is free from the strollerati.   So, rather than seethe silently or begin avoiding just about every public place, I decided to get down to the bottom of why I felt so effing pissed off.

I should mention that it’s not hormonal.  My hormonal rages are usually directed at thoroughly useless, baseless and stupid shit that is not even worthy mentioning here (“Bitch, did you not see that stop sign?!”).  And, I haven’t been on the drugs long enough to elicit such a response. 

No, it’s a complex rage made up of several different emotions.  It’s anger that we have been treading water for four years waiting to move on to the next phase of our life and it’s to the point that we’re beginning to wonder if we are going to take that next step.  It’s fear that we might not have a conventional life and our rhyme might just end at “then comes marriage”.   Most of all, it’s being reminded again of what we have tried to achieve and failed to do, repeatedly.  It’s feeling like we are being held back, asked to repeat a grade, over and over again while our same-age peers move on to the next appointed step.  We’ve got the marriage, where’s the goddamn baby carriage? 

And, damn it all to hell, it still freaking hurts. 

So, yeah, when I see some girl who is my age with the husband and the infant carrier, I get pissed.  Pissed that we are in the situation we are, pissed that I’m still upset about it, pissed that I don’t think I can share my feelings on the subject with Mr. X, and generally pissed that I’m letting a couple of strangers piss me off.

It’s a pisser.

image: I Like

Panic! At the Bunco

Monthly Bunco has been a relatively safe outlet for me. I can meet up with lots of women, enjoy girly conversation and not be worried about surprise pregnancy announcements or bulging bellies since all of the women are the parents of at least teenagers and are much more interested in discussing what the people down the street are doing (or not doing) to their lawn.  Monday night, I presented myself on the steps at the appointed hour for our monthly get together and greeted friends right and left. It was shaping up to be a typical low-key Bunco affair.

I made my way to the kitchen and commenced dishing with my neighbor down the street about something really trivial and stuffing some awesome cheese into my mouth.  I was simultaneously eyeing up the bar and debating if I wanted a red-wine hangover the next morning. 

This train of thought came to a screeching halt when something waded into my peripheral vision, that looked an awful lot like a large, swollen beachball of a belly.  It broke the waves ahead of its owner.  It had that slow movement favored by people carrying a lot of weight in the front.  Sure enough, it was a pregnant lady. At my bunco. WTF?!

If you could have taken a picture of me, the imge would be me with very wide eyes, with hand bearing cheese on cracker frozen in place on trajectory to meet open mouth that is now open for another reason.  In other words, I looked like a freaking deer in her very ample headlights.

I unfroze, ate the delicious cheese, and headed out to the other room away from this paragon of fertility.  I debated for about 20 seconds if I could excuse myself from the festivities.  But, I decided that this was a good challenge: could I stick it out, have a good time and manage to avoid her?  I was going to find out. I decided right then and there that neither this interloper nor her giant stomach were not going to run me out of my bunco night!

But, she kept following me, being introduced by the Judas of a neighbor who brought her along to meet the girls.  I developed a sudden interest in the backyard, answered the door when the doorbell rang and tried to get the hell away from her.  I got trapped in the kitchen , though, with her and some of the ladies where the first question asked of her was, “So, when you are due?!” Ugh. Preggo declares herself to be 7 months along but, “huge” – her words, not mine.   This started the ladies who had popped babies previously to chime in with their stories of being huge and ending up with twins.  Preggo dispels any notions that she is carrying two – “We only saw one heartbeat!”  Double ugh with knife stabbing. 

Not a moment too soon, it was time to go to the tables. Mental notations of where Preggo was heading were made and I went into the exact opposite direction.  I proceeded to eat too much chocolate while beginning what would turn out to be a spectacular losing streak (10 out 12). 

Losing on the fourth game at a given table means that you have to move to another table. Winners get to stay.  Needless to say, I lost the fourth game and headed to my second table where I breathed a huge sigh that Preggo was at the other table, at least for the next four games. 

Luck, that bitch, ran out on me again, and I lost the fourth game meaning I had to go to the third table where, you guessed it, she was sitting, enthroned.  This was easily one of the hardest things I have had to do in a long time.  I sat at the table and actually conversed with a very pregnant lady who I am pretty certain got that way the way most people do.  And you know what?

It wasn’t that bad.  We had a decent conversation. She made a few gratuitous preggo references, but all in all, it wasn’t terrible.  I am at that point in my infertility journey that I have a very visceral, usually negative reaction to visibly pregnant women, but sitting there with her, I was able to see her as someone I could relate to, even if she is pregnant and I am not. I was so proud of myself that I stayed there, I talked with her and was able to forget that she had what I did not.

And, I realized, walking home that night, that it hurt to be near her, but it was a self-inflicted hurt. No one else was involved.  She did not come to Bunco to flaunt her luck in my face. Even my neighbor who invited her (and knows some of our IF history) didn’t invite her to make me feel like shit.  And I felt such relief at this realization.  The power of the Preggo on me is only that which I give her.  And, I didn’t give her more than a centimeter.

I enjoyed my evening and I enjoyed meeting her.  I enjoyed deciding that my evening was not going to be ruined by her and I was going to have a good time even if she was there.  And I did.  I was a winner after all.