Out of Control

Having given up on getting pregnant, MJ and I turn to trying to fix my own health, which has nosedived precariously in our blind pursuit of parenthood. It is no secret that the best way to avoid the pain of endometriosis as well as its worsening is to no longer be cycling, so at thirty-five I can be found at the pharmacy filing a prescription for birth control. It could be projection, but I sense a smirk from the pharmacist as she looks at the bottle and asks me to confirm my birth date for the second time. I could be one of those women whose unbridled fertility and incomparable sex life has resulted in a brood of children her husband and her love but are still drowning among. “We simply can’t afford another mouth to feed,” I can imagine MJ saying in a sad but pragmatic voice. We would consider abstinence, but our passions would be too great to deny and he with his plentiful sperm and me with my hearty eggs would realize we simply had no choice but to just shut things down until the “change” finally came to me, most likely some time in my late seventies when I finally stopped being a pinnacle of woman’s reproductive health. But the pharmacist who has also filled my prescriptions for clomid, and letrizole and progesterone and a host of vitamins, and supplements probably does not consider that. I get the distinct impression as she asks if I have any questions that she just thinks I’m a disaster. Since she’s already there, I add some Ben and Jerry’s pints to the bill and let all self-esteem float away down the aisles of Walgreens.

I find it particularly cruel and of poor humor that the side-effects of starting birth control mirror almost exactly those early first trimester signs of pregnancy which I searched for so relentlessly over the past three years. I am nauseated on a regular basis. I feel queasy in the mornings, I feel queasy in the afternoons, and god help me if I have not had anything to eat in awhile. On more than one occasion I find myself in the bathroom, hunched over our toilet anxiously heaving up whatever I managed to eat that day, and wondering in what universe is it fair to give an infertile woman morning sickness.

But even that is not comparable to my breasts which have transformed over the past three weeks into mounds of heavy bloated flesh, as if a heartier version of me had flung large bags of flour over my shoulders in an effort to carry them the day’s walk from the feed store back to the ranch two towns over. They are larger too. I notice one day looking up from a book and catching myself in the mirror that out of the neckline of a dress I’ve worn for years without issue has spilled enough cleavage to frighten pastors and small children. It is far too indecent even for being at home, completely alone, with no intention of seeing anyone the rest of the day. I quickly change clothes and attempt to push the wayward beasts into a more restrictive bra, which later that evening, when it is removed, will feel much like releasing the Hoover Dam.

The birth control pills come in this idiot proof packaging, where they have not only lined the pills up by week but labeled each day so that you know exactly when to take them, in case the general instruction on the label “take one daily” was too unclear. When I read through the lengthy small print of the instructional packet, I find that the largest section by far, more than side-effects or studies done, is the Instructions for Use, which includes at least eight different suggestions for ways to remind yourself to take the pill each day, and at least four repetitions of the same information on what to do when you do, inevitably, miss one. I find it initially offensive, and condescending, but then I think about all my pregnant seventeen year old clients, and all of the people I know who have accidentally gotten pregnant while on the pill (including my own mother) and realize that I have literally aged out of the birth control target audience.

At thirty-five this will mark the fourth time in my life that I have actively been on birth control. Quite humorously and counter to Conservative nit-wits, only one such time was for the actual purpose of having sex. Having never been a pinnacle of reproductive health, I was first put on birth control in eighth grade in an effort to fix a host of cycle problems I’d developed. I like to tell people I started birth control at twelve without adding any of the medical background just to get a reaction. Sometimes I say it matter of factly, like didn’t you? Didn’t everyone? Other times I like to imply how advanced I was in my sexuality and independence, but no one buys that for long. You only have to look at me to understand that I was not losing my virginity at an early age, or even really a middle age. Whether it’s the cardigan sweaters or tickets to GenCon that give it away, I’m not sure, but no one ever gasps or accepts the idea of me having sexual moxie. Most just pause for a second, then tilt their heads and smile sadly asking if it was a tumor or some other problem. Even MJ when we first met was pretty sure I was frigid and sexually repressed.

A week before I broke down and asked our doctor for the prescription while declaring through tears that we had decided to stop trying, I found myself in the ER with intense abdominal pain. A scan reveled a mass on top of my ovary. I don’t blame the ER, but they were far too free with their descriptions: “unknown mass” they kept saying. “Radiology can’t decipher it,” and “you need to follow up soon.” I drove myself home, the morphine wearing off already, the scripts for pain and nausea meds in my hand, and tried not to panic. A few days later, my own doctor declared the mass gone, attributing it and the constant pain since to a ruptured cyst of some sort. I have yet to get better. Nearly a month later I still ache with abdominal and stomach pain, I have trouble eating, and even more trouble getting around. I see other doctors, I schedule appointments, get tests done, but no one can figure out why I am getting worse. Why I can’t move or eat or live a normal pain-free life. I schedule a consult with a surgeon and on Monday I tearily submit FMLA paperwork to my boss.

I cry daily, but that swing of emotions I cannot blame on the birth control, though their change of hormones could no doubt create that other similar early pregnancy sign. I cry because I am in pain. Not just pain from endometriosis, a new pain, something more central, higher up, something wreaking havoc, but not something that has been identified yet. My mother agrees to come out for a week to help out and go to appointments with me. MJ feels distant, working late night after night, exhausted with having to carry my load at home and much of it at work as well. I panic about finances, my student loans looming over me as no new paycheck enters my bank account. For three years I have dealt with constant pain. I have risked my job and my health and my relationships in the hope of someday being a mom. And now that hope is loss, now that it has been sent out the window, tossed into the recycling bin, hidden in the dirt of the backyard, now things are only getting worse.

I try to get through the day as best I can. I call doctors and make appointments, I try to not overly rely on the pain medications which I know can equally damage my stomach. I try to put my health first for once. And at night when I try to get comfortable before bed I take that birth control pill with water and think about how much I hate it. How I hate that tiny white pill and all it represents in my life, and how despite that, I am terrified I waited too long to start taking it.

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Three Years, One Night, Two Smiles

The passage of time is difficult to understand. I feel I am moving slower than the world, as if caught in a bubble, a pocket of suspended physics where a month is only a day and a year not so much more than that. I feel often like slowed down character in some poignant movie scene, where the world is sped up around their still form – people whizzing past, clock hands circling rapidly, life being lived. In the Courthouse I practice, there is a baby explosion. My co-workers, the District Attorney’s Office, Court Reporters, children of Judges, friends of friends, all of them expecting. I hear the initial announcement; I recognize the first noticeable signs of a pregnant belly. I see it enlarge. And then there is the birth. And yet, it feels like no time has passed at all. I find myself staring in confusion at the picture of the newest newborn and I try to remember how long it takes to have a baby. Was that really nine months?

I say “three years” a lot in an exasperated, tired way. I like to throw my arms down helplessly, spreading them out at the elbow to show the great expanse of time three years are. You can get a law degree in three years. You can meet someone, fall in love, and get married. You can lease a car and then return it lease completed. You can finish an entire contract with a sports team, near the end of your presidential term, gotten old enough to go to school, and have already been re-elected to your congressional seat. You can watch all of the Lord of the Rings movies the day they are released and still be done in three years, and already working through the same equation for The Hobbit. When I throw my arms out and let my face sag and say with exhaustion “three years,” I am trying very hard to convey just how long that is to be doing something over and over again with no result.

But if you asked me day to day, or month to month, I would not know where the time went. I would not know how it passed the way it did. I would not know the actual day probably (only the day of my cycle) and I would be both surprised and confused as to how you got married, got pregnant and already have a child, though none of those things had happened back three years ago when MJ and I first started trying to conceive. When did the time pass? How did it add up so quickly? Doesn’t your clock also reset every month?

When our latest co-worker gave birth it hit me particularly hard. My jealousy and consternation mingled together into a frustrated depression with life. I can still remember the night we agreed to start trying. I can still remember being at one of our favorite Asian restaurants, sitting at a table for two against the window, waiting for our food to come. I remember toying with the small tea pot that housed the soy sauce; it was earthenware with a blue glaze and was tiny enough to fit neatly into the palms of my hands when I folded them over it, which I did over and over in an effort to avoid eye contact. I remember being nervous talking about it (we had not been together as long as I think either of us would have liked, but we knew then that time and my health were already issues), and I remember this look MJ had on his face when it was agreed, cause it was this smile that reached his eyes but somehow remained subtle and subdued. There are times when MJ smiles just for me, and times when he smiles for himself. This was the later. And I am not always great at remembering things, but I have never forgotten that face.

“I can’t believe she’s a mother,” I told MJ the day we learned the news, after we are home and in private. I meant it for a lot of reasons, but what I meant most of all is: I can’t believe it’s not us. I can’t believe it’s been all this time and it’s not us. “We should have a two year old by now,” I admitted out loud. “We should be past all this.” What I am really thinking, in a pouty foot stomping way, is “We started this! We were first! It should be us.” And I might exhale an even pettier “copycats!” as I wind down my internal tirade. To be clear, the passage of time does not result in the accrual of any rationality or common sense.

Tonight is Friday, exactly one week since our IUI failed.  I’d like to write that we really put all our eggs in one basket, but its way too on the nose and cheesy.  I’d rather just say, hey, this was our shot, and it failed (and ignore the double meaning of shot).  One week later and we have yet to talk about things.  I have put it off continually.  When MJ asks for a third time on Thursday if we should talk, I say, “I need to wait till Friday.  I need to wait till we can talk without having to wake up and go to work tomorrow.”  Because I don’t know what conclusions we will reach, and I no longer even know which ones I am rooting for.

It is a beautiful day, full of sunshine and blue skies, and though our sleepy Midwest town seems to finally have admitted it is Spring, there is still a cool breeze coming off the lake and when it touches my skin it feels like heaven, like those places you are always talking about wanting to live in, where the weather is not too hot and not too cold and Goldilocks perfect all year round. 

I plan a whole thing for the night.  Our small but quaint stretch of downtown, with its art galleries and boutiques stays open late one day each month, and the shops all open their doors and put out refreshments and sweets and invites the town in. When it gets warm, it’s a wonderful sight.  The sidewalks get filled with people, all of us eager to get outdoors after the long winters, happy to support the local economy.  Families walk together, some bring their dogs, artists play the guitar or other instruments outside shops, a popcorn vendor walks up and down filling the air with salt and butter.  And all you need at any given time is to turn and look east to watch the sun set over the lake.  It’s a small picturesque moment in an others sluggish small city.  I’ve been looking forward to it all week. 

I call one of our favorite restaurants, located across the street from the one we ate at three years ago, for reservations.  I plan in my head our walk downtown.  We’ll wander around the stores, then to the art museum (which offers free admission these nights) where a Chihuly piece has arrived that I want to see.  Then we’ll walk to dinner, passing the new bookstore to confirm sadly that is in fact a Christian bookstore and not a mecca to all things literary as we had hoped when it first opened a few months ago.  After dinner, we’ll head back stopping at the one bar downtown that carries MJ’s favorite beer, which he cannot find anywhere else.  Then back along the shops to the very end before the parking garage, where, if we still have room in our stomachs, we’ll stop at the gelato café and eat a scoop or two while the themed café plays opera and Dean Martin songs. And all the while we are going to discuss our future, be it to keep trying to conceive or to put this all behind us.

MJ things this is a bad idea.  I can tell as he listens to me recite the key parts of the night (I leave the beer out as a surprise).  He agrees to everything with a half-hearted smile, but I can tell in  his eyes he is already picturing me having broken down on a street corner crying loudly in despair and depression.  I try to explain that I think it will be good for me to discuss this out and about, so that I don’t just give into being sad, cry and then walk away – which he would admit I have a tendency to do at home when things just get to be too much. 

What I don’t explain to him cause I’m not sure how, is that it’s more than just building in safety mechanisms to force me to face reality.  It’s about an entire feeling I want to have.  The night we went downtown and walked around and ate dinner and decided to try and get pregnant was one of my favorites, no matter how much sadness has come since then.  And though I am devastated to not have children, though I don’t think I’ve even remotely worked through or even accepted the sadness and loss this brings, I feel this need to make t tonight special too.

I keep thinking, that if everything is perfect.  If we have a good time, and a nice walk, and good food and are happy together, then maybe, after all is said and done, and all the crying is over and all the loss is accepted, we will remember this not as time we gave up on the life we thought we’d have, but as the time we decided to create a new life together, a happy, loving, equally fulfilling life. And I’m hoping when we do that, when we get to the end of the night, it will make MJ smile just the way he did three long (or was it short?) years ago.

 

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After A Day

I have always thought of myself as a secret romantic. Perhaps not so secret as I mean to be. Perhaps not really secret at all. I was always torn between the great push to be a tough, independent woman and the deep desire to be swept up into an epic love affair complete with jealousy and protection and declarations of undying devotion. I liked to blame it cool on the outside, no matter what I hoped for inside. I was the girlfriend who denounced flowers (“They’re just going to die,”) and found Valentine’s Day un-noteworthy. I was fine hanging out with your friends all the time, and insisted all of our nights out were dutch, nights we never even referred to as actual dates. I wanted so, for so long, to not care about romance. I wanted so to be casual with my emotions, flippant with formality, secure in a love that need not be displayed. I lied a lot. To you, but mostly to myself. What I really wanted was to be loved beyond reason and with every thing you did.

I blame film mostly for these idealistic images of romance. I blame Casablanca, and Gone With the Wind, His Girl Friday and It Happened One Night. And I blame Audrey Hepburn. For everything she ever did, but for Sabrina most of all, which has been my go-to film in sad times for as long as I can remember. I blame scenes where people run in the rain to reach other, and soliloquies expressing unending devotion. I blame the misuse of romantic hyperbole, of dying declarations, and axiomatic edicts to love and cherish forever and ever with the same unbridled passion tomorrow as today. I blame swelling soundtracks and tear-stained eyes, and did I mention Audrey Hepburn?

But if I could, to be honest, dispense with pretension and my efforts to be secretively romantic, or just plain cooler than I am, I must confess that few movies of my time have captured my romantic delusions better than Before Sunrise. I am reminded of this one day, home in bed as MJ sits beside me reading, when I stumble over an article announcing that a final third film is coming out: Before Midnight. I sit up straighter when I see it. I feel a rise of excitement in my stomach, goosebumps forming on my arms, a smile spreading wide across my face. Even dealing with one of the hardest times in my life, I am lifted up by not just the new film, but the memory of the old.

I remember seeing Before Sunrise alone. It was 1996 and my first semester in college, and I had rented it and watched it on the small TV/VCR my parents had bought me for my dorm room. My roommate was away at a softball tournament. I had walked from campus to the nearby shopping center. On the corner across from the grocery store was a small strip mall that housed a surprisingly good Italian restaurant, a dry cleaner’s and a video store. I have long ago forgotten the name of the video store, except to tell you clearly that it was not Blockbuster or Hollywood video or any of those chains that wiped out the independent stores before being ironically wiped out themselves by the likes of Netflix. The video store was a favorite of college kids, primarily for the long standing deal that was written on large posters covering the entirety of the front windows: 5 movies, 5 days, 5 dollars.

For whatever reason I had avoided my friends and opted for a night in, knowing I would have the place to myself for once. I had picked up Thai food from the place across the street and I had picked out my five movies. I don’t remember the other four. I only remember Before Sunrise, which had intrigued me as I fancied myself an indie film connoisseur (a personality type that would later get renamed as “hipster”) and had already seen Richard Linklater’s Slacker. And okay fine, Ethan Hawke on the cover didn’t hurt – he who had stared in the other movie which so greatly influenced my ideas of romance and love: Reality Bites.

I am not going to try and tell you that Before Sunrise is a great film on par with Casablanca or It Happened One Night. It is a good film, it’s incredibly well done. But it’s not the kind of storytelling you probably except. I’m not even going to try and tell you that you will be floored by it’s romance. It’s a very particular kind of romance, I think. A particular notion of human interaction. But it was my notion, before I even knew I had one. It was all about these two people, about connecting and just talking and talking – learning about each other, thinking out loud about life, wondering about issues, and in between flirting and teasing and asking the silly questions, the hypotheticals, the ones you want answers to but may feel cool too ask. And I loved it. It felt real, and it felt like exactly how I hoped love would (I had no personal concept of it at the time). Even as I write this, thinking about the movie, those moments between them, the way it made me feel then, the way it makes me feel even now, I am back to that warm excitement in my stomach, that ache in my heart, those tell tale signs of falling in love, or at least, wanting to.

By the time Before Sunset, the follow up, was realized in 2004 I had my own apartment and a much larger TV complete with DVD player. I had been in and out of love. I’d had my heart broken, and I’d come to enjoy living on my own. I had no longer excepted I would end up in love and I had let go of most romantic notions. And I saw it in the theaters, because I was pretty anxious. The last scene of that movie is forever etched into my mind. Nina Simone sings huskily one of my favorite songs, the lyrics taking over the screen. Just in time. You found me just in time. It restored all of my original teenage desire to be loved in an epic and passionate way.

Since the IUI failed nearly a week ago, I’ve become fixated on romance again. It is hard to explain why, but the sight of the movie poster for the final sequel of this epic love story only ignites my desire more. With MJ I long ago gave up many of my illusions. I welcome the tulips he gets me every year for Valentine’s Days. I plan events for our anniversary and I call even the slightest nights out dates. I keep posted it notes he wrote me years ago taped to my work computer. But though I have given up on hiding my secret romantic side from him, it is hard to express my current state of mind. The one that wants to go to the movies right away to see the new film, and the one that wants to spend all night on the couch watching the old ones with him while making out like teenagers.

I think at first blush it’s about wanting to get back to us, after three years of focusing on getting pregnant, after three years of really mechanical sexual interactions and calendering, and doctor visits and lots of disappointment. That makes sense. But I sense there is more to it. If I’m being really honest, and dispensing with pretension, I think the real reason is this: I feel unlovable. I feel vulnerable. I feel like, here at the end of it, I’ve proved I’m a failure, that I can’t create life, can’t nurture it into existence, can’t give MJ what he wants, can’t be a real woman. And I feel so very much in need of rewriting my story, of being part of something other tale, some other legacy. Something I can succeed at. Something that reminds me of my own value to love and to be loved, not just even if, but especially if it is only the two of us forever and ever.

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Slouching Towards Reality

Tuesday morning I get out of bed despite significant pain still lingering throughout my abdomen and despite swollen eyes, red and itchy from late night bouts of crying into the duvet so I don’t wake MJ. It is a struggle, and while getting to work to get things done and be productive sounds surprisingly exciting to me, I dread the unfortunate consequence of such an action: namely having to leave the comfort of my bedroom and interact with the world.

When we started last cycle’s IUI, I made the decision to wean myself off my anti-depressants in hope that I would be pregnant and thus not able to be on them anyway (I made a similar decision about coffee three painful years ago). This was, for the record, a really horrible idea, and I must admit that I knew it was even as I did it. For one, I didn’t consult my doctor. I didn’t consult my doctor because my doctor has annoying hours only right in the middle of the day and works thirty minutes from my work office and I simply could not afford the time off required to get out there. For another, going off your medications while trying to do an IUI is an incredible mind fuck. All those potentially happy pregnant symptoms like headaches and being light-headed or dizzy, they are also the annoying side-effects of stopping anti-depressants. So not only did I convince myself of a false hope through bad evidence, I did it all while not on mood stabilizers. Guess who you don’t want at your party right now.

Two weeks ago while MJ was shooting a needle full of HCG into my ass, one of our co-workers was giving birth to her “accidentally got pregnant” baby. This week marks the return of another co-worker who gave birth to her planned and conceived right away baby two months ago. Down the hall is our co-worker due in October. Behind my office is our co-worker who just became a grandfather. Sometimes, work feels like the Fire Swamp from the Princess Bride. I tread carefully avoiding my own plumes of fiery anger over life’s unfairness, my own snow sand of depression pulling me down, or even those nasty emotions of unusual sizes which broadside me during an otherwise innocuous lunch or court hearing.

People at work know my business. While my frequent absences and even one period of full FMLA long ago convinced me that others had a right to know about the illnesses that kept me out of the office (often then resulting in more work for them), it was not long nor a far cry for everyone to learn of the infertility as well, even if I never actually told them or spoke to them about myself. It is generally a good office with a good group of people, but even the best person has a hard time hiding pity. And I can spot their pity a mile away, or at least down the hallway to where my office is. A hallway I must now try to navigate while heartbroken, physically broken, and mentally unstable. I spend all morning getting ready just dreading the moment someone actually sees me, or particularly kind of co-workers approach me to ask how I am doing.

To prepare I navigate the twenty minute commute by driving along the lake shore and blaring music. I start with my iPod on shuffle, avoiding all Elliot Smith songs, until giving up entirely and putting in an old Beastie Boy album, enjoying the distraction it brings. A messy office is another welcome sight, able to consume the morning time I have before court actually starts and from there it’s off to the Courthouse for hearings all morning. If only they weren’t so far apart in timing. If only I didn’t have these small chunks of time in between – twenty minutes here, fifteen there; not enough to go back to the office to work, not enough to just catch my breath and then move on, but exactly enough to have my mind slow down, even stop thinking about work for a second and remember the reality of my life right now.

Never have children, echoes in my brain like the sad refrain to an indie drama film. Something in black and white with lots of skewed angles and long, painful cuts of people ad-libbing for a more “realist” approach. I get consumed with the DA opposite me for most of the morning, who keeps her cellphone, the case of which is covered in pictures of her newborn on the top of her desk, and then fiddles with it between each hearing so the multiple photos get flashed by me every time. I get consumed with the fear of running into any of my co-workers who might ask me something as simple as how I am today. I get consumed in general by the frenetic nature of my own mind currently. In a rare moment of clarity I think again that it was really a bad idea to go off my medications right now.

Though I try to fill each second with work, my thoughts consistently betray me, and sadness seeps in like a bad cut under a poor quality band-aid. By the middle of the day I can be found driving to a lunch meeting with the windows up and The Beastie Boys tossed aside for the full Best of the The Smiths collection, now playing very very loudly. My personal rendition of “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” is particularly well done and a bit harrowing, if I do say so myself.

I don’t know yet if this is really the start of moving on; of saying, “that’s it, we are never going to have kids, so let’s start living some other life.” There is still a lot MJ and I have to discuss and decide. There is still a 150 dose of Follistim burning a hole in my medicine drawer. There is still some hope, isn’t there?

What I do know is that my mind is pushing me towards being done. It may be a self-defense mechanism, a wall going up saying I can’t take it anymore. Or it may be some realism finally kicking in, finally realizing there was never really any hope. But it is also likely it’s the upside down way my clinically depressed brain often processes things – the irrational, angry, sour grapey part of my mind that is stomping around – a child in ill fitting chunky shores who is ready to feel sorry for themselves and expects the world to join in now or else. Or else she’ll get angry. Or else she’ll break down in tears.

When my pregnant co-worker, who I also like very much, brings me my favorite chai out of the blue I thank her and then break down and cry in the back of an auditorium where we are forced to spend our lunch for mandatory training, which includes a presentation on employee resources for stress and mental health issues. I ironically cry through the entire power point and leave with no interest in contacting the presenter or anyone involved in her program. When a second co-worker and good friend stops in briefly and asks how I’m holding up, I bite back tears and explain that I am either too sad to go on, or am furious beyond reason, it just depends on when you catch me. Since furious seems more productive, I swap ipods with MJ and listen to lots of Rage Against the Machine until the work day is over.

On the way home, with the windows down and The Smiths back on, Morrissey sadly crooning over the realities of the world, I let myself cry freely, no longer concerned about getting through the day anymore, or about being productive, or about who is going to see me. I look forward to getting home and I look forward to my bedroom where I can lay in peace, snuggle with my fur babies and wait for MJ to come home and join me. I sing “Ask” twice because it has always been a favorite of mine, and I get choked up both times at the line “nature is a language, can’t you read?” I sing “You Just Haven’t Earned Yet Baby,” cause I can only handle it once and cause it is almost too bitter, even for me. But I linger, as the car drives past the lake with the sun still bright, shinning against the water, on the sad complacency of “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now.” And I think, be it anger or sadness, maybe just learning to accept one of them; to accept anything, maybe that’s what I really need.

I think to myself, that if I’m going to cry, then I’m going to cry. And if I’m going to be angry, I’m going to be angry. And telling myself one or both is wrong, or trying to be one when I fell the other, or none when I feel both, doesn’t make anything better. It doesn’t make it easier. It doesn’t count as dealing. I might want to be done. I may want to move on. I may wish to hid in my bedroom forever, but that’s not life. I have a lot to deal with, a long way to go, and a lot of setbacks ahead of me. I’d rather accept all of that now, then to oscillate wildly from here on out.

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Ask Not For Whom the Sour Grapes Fall… They Fall For You

If it is going to remembered for all time as the period which solidified my future as unable to have children, I would be grateful if my current aunt Flo would shorten up her stay and take off. I resent her existence, if you must know. And I find it too difficult to concentrate on anything which her intensely dramatic pain – an all too common reminder that maybe it wouldn’t be horrible to put this baby thing aside and have a surgery which might let me lead a normal pain free life. But if I am being honest, I mostly just want to have sex. I want to have lots of non-baby related sex. With MJ, of course.

There is a handful of friends who know that we had tried our final effort IUI, and the Sunday we return from being out of time, while bed-ridden with endometriosis pain and emotional exhaustion I text them. It’s not the classiest way to share bad news, but I do not want to speak to them in person about it. I know I won’t be able to handle talking about it in public, and though I do not have much dignity left from the last three years of trying to conceive, I’d like to at least start restocking. I don’t suppose there is a good response to hearing my news. Certainly my mother learned this when I snapped out at her after she asked if I was okay. Okay? Okay? What kind of foreign concept is that and how could you possibly think I would fall under it? Still, it irritates me even less than the person who texted back that adoption will work because MJ and I were meant to be parents.

Here is the one childhood fable that most sticks in my mind and of which I think of on a pretty regular basis: The Fox and the Grapes. Maybe it is because, at 5 feet nothing, I am so sympathetic to not being able to reach things, or because I have always found grapes tasty – particularly large red seedless grapes, even though I know seedless is a kind of cheating too. But mostly I think it’s because it just really hit me as being accurate, even as a child, I felt I could see this all around me, including, sadly, myself. Sour grapes. They invade your thoughts, and not in a tasty way.

I think there is a fine line between being a quitter and accepting reality, but I am not sure where my head is in relation to that line. I only know her text irritates me. Obviously, I think with disdain, I am not meant to be a parent. Obviously if that was part of some cosmic or divine plan, someone royally fucked up. Was it me? I don’t think so. I just spent three years of my life in constant pain, on the brink of losing my job, and in emotional dire straights all while taking pill after pill, ultrasound after ultrasound, blood draw after blood draw all in a failed effort to conceive. Was it MJ? No. For one, I know all his medical stuff checked out. For another he had to deal with me dealing with all of the above and that was probably even more difficult.

But mostly what I think looking at her text, which I do not end up responding to, I think, no. No, I want to be done. I don’t want to go through this again with adoption. If I’m not going to be a parent then I need to learn to live with that. I need to deal with and rethink my life and who I am. And I do not want to be reminded in the process that I would have been a good mom, or should have had kids after all. It sounds very reasonably and emotionally mature when I write it like that. But I guess what I really mean is “fine, then I don’t wanna be a parent anyway.” Humph.

And this is where the sex comes in. In the moments when I can actually feel myself accepting the end of our trying to conceive, or imaging a future where we are never parents, I let my mind wander and imagine what avenues this opens up to us and what our new lives would look like. In my mind our new life is adventurous and free-spirited, and we replace our lack of children with a really epic love affair with each other. Which is probably something that would get written into a soap opera storyline because it is both cheesy and unrealistic, but I like the sound of it. Three years of infertility is a lot of strain on a relationship, and I can’t remember the last time we just enjoyed being together (sex or no sex).

I imagine being in Paris, sitting at an outdoor cafe reading books and drinking coffee -yes coffee, cause if I get the hysterectomy you can bet I’m going back to that. Or I picture us in Greece walking around the Parthenon – yes walking cause I might actually be able to move freely and walk for more than five minutes without erupting in pain. Or I picture us in Vienna, me dressed in an olive green chiffon gown and MJ in a tuxedo, going to the see The Magic Flute at the Wiener Staatsoper. The images are beyond wonderful, and serve as the few moments where I consider our new life as realistic and not just my own sour grapes response to permanent infertility.

I don’t respond to my friend’s text. I actually don’t respond to any of them. And I don’t want to talk to my parents, and I don’t call anyone on the phone and since I am in paralyzing pain from this period after so many high dosage fertility injections, I stay home from work on Monday thus avoiding anyone and everyone except for MJ. I don’t know what I want to hear, and I don’t know what I want to say. The truth is that “devastation” is not a word that can even capture the depth of my emotions, the raw pain and overwhelming sadness filled inside me. And so I just want to find moments of the day to turn them off. Moments where I try to find a silver lining, or if that’s not visible, where I just settle for a sour grape.

I want to get feel something different, get lost in some other emotion. And I only want to do it with MJ. I only want to talk to him, work things through with him, discuss what should have or could have been and then ignore it all for what we are really going to do. I only want to crawl into bed with him, forget about everything and just be with him, without concern for anything other than making each other feel good. And I’d like to do it soon and I’d like to do it often, and I’d like it very much if this death toll of a period would stop ringing for us.

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At the End of the Road… Turns Out There’s Just a Lot of Anger and Sadness (sorry Shel Silverstein)

My mind is on fire. I lay in bed, my head on the foreign pillow, my pajamas clinging to my skin which has started to sweat in the stuffy room and I feel anger coarse through every vein. In the dark, I roll from my side to my back and try to think of something else. I can hear MJ’s voice on the other side of the door, out in the living room of his parent’s house which we arrived out a handful of hours earlier for a weekend visit. I can’t make out who he is talking to, his dad or his brother perhaps. I only hear his voice, and an occasional laugh. The laugh quells my anger for a second, switching it over to pure sadness and my cheeks start to ache from the strain of keeping my mouth shut so no cries or gasps escape. When his laugh dies down so does my sadness. The anger returns instead.

Years ago when the housing market was collapsing and Bernie Madoff was being hauled off to jail, and the country was in a heated debate over the bailout, I remember reading a small article in Bust magazine about a woman in New York who’d filled a fascinating niche with a store for smashing things. You could go to her store, pick a white soundproof room, don some safety goggles and gloves, and for a price you could smash things. Plates, cups, saucers, pottery, ceramic figurines, glasses -whatever you felt like, though I doubt it was so much about the thing itself as it was the feeling. Unless perhaps you had a particularly sordid relationship with tea cups or salad plates.

I fantasize about throwing my phone as hard as I can against the bedroom wall, mostly because it is the only thing I have on me that might shatter, and even then I am not sure it will. When I first read the article I thought it was a strange idea. A “break things here” store. I understood the need to get out anger and even aggression, but the overhead and cleanup seemed monumental. The liability insurance alone seemed daunting. I mentioned it once to MJ and he made a face of disapproval. Throwing things and slamming doors are particularly unacceptable to him when a person is angry. I have never thrown anything in anger or slammed a door intentionally, but I understand the impulse. Often when angry I feel as if there is a small girl inside me, standing on the dome of my brain, screaming at the top of her lungs and tossing everything she can find in anger at the sky.

I lay in bed without moving or making a sound, but my mouth opens wide on several occasions, just like that small girl. And when she shouts out loud, I bare my teeth and silently mimic her. I still hear Matt talking and I think about everyone else asleep in the house – his mother, his nieces and nephews, his family. The one we have just learned today we will never contribute to.

There was never really much hope but we had forgotten, or perhaps ignored that. There was just too much wrong with me – how FSH, low AMH, poor progesterone readings, endometriosis, only one ovary. A laundry list of defects, only one of which is sufficient to cause infertility. And so we decided, with our very limited finances to try one time. To try the most we could afford and the most the doctor’s could do. A fully monitored IUI with injectibles at the highest dose our doctor could recommend.

If either of us in old age ever gets diabetes, we will be well equipped in administering shots, and using an epee-pen. We will also already have an excess of needles and alcohol swabs, which now are just taking up empty space in our medicine drawer. We will be absolutely used to shoving needles into each other, or, in my end, having them shoved into me. And this will be good, because we won’t have any children or grandchildren to do it for us.

Since the morning, this Friday morning, I have been slowly realizing the IUI failed. Brown spots can be deceptive, but as the streaks turn red through the day it is hard to deny. In bed I am thinking in anger of the recent trip to the bathroom and the full on period flow that greeted me. We spent the day interacting with his family: catching up, engaging in small talk, but mostly watching the kids as they run around excited to have so much attention, and presents from the family, and fun with Munchkin and his parent’s dog, who follow after them like happy puppies. We interacted and all the while MJ and I were accepting that we are not going to have children. That we had our shot and it is over.

So by bedtime, I am angry. I am a lot of things. I am the cycle of grief jumbled up into an old game of Press Your Luck, each emotion whizzing past in record speed, some coming back and back and then gone and when I press too hard on my buzzer one emotion sticks, the bells and whistles go off and wham! I am angry beyond reason, or sad beyond reconciliation, or bargaining so hard that I’ve already traded in everything about my life and my health for a chance to be a mother. “No whammies, no whammies,” I could chant, but it’s pointless. Every single emotion right now is a whammy.

I lay in bed and think, what if we could do it again? Save up the money, see if a higher dose is possible? I think, what if we really start looking into adoption? I think of all the options. But I also think, what if I just stop? What if I start putting our money into traveling the world? What if we move somewhere more interesting and no longer concern ourselves with what kind of neighborhood this is and what the school system is like? What if I chose to have a hysterectomy and can actually start to live a life without pain? Every new question raises a new possible life, but every new possible life is tarnished by the other lives it precludes.

We haven’t talked yet, MJ and I. About this, about where we go next, about our options or lack there of. We are hear visiting, and this trip isn’t about us, and doesn’t leave us much time to really get into things. I’m trying to cut back on crying in front of others, and he would greatly appreciate not airing our baggage and drama. So I will spend tomorrow as I did today, catching up, making small talk, paying attention to the children. And when the day is over I will lay in the guest bedroom, my head missing it’s own pillow, and I will wait and see which emotion will take over and set my whole self on fire again.

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What Dreams May Come

I have a dream that leaves me restless, woken up in the morning with a shaken sadness, and it follows me through the day like lose hair that sticks to a sweater, or nagging doubts that poke at your memory.  I am pregnant in the dream, largely so and in the hospital to give birth, and yet though I am there in a hospital gown, my feet spread apart to manage the wide girth of my swollen belly my dream self is still suspicious that this isn’t real, that I’m not actually pregnant.  I give birth anyway, in what is unusually fast and yet somehow understood in the dream to have been difficult, long and touch and go.  I give birth and the doctors leave and I am alone waiting to hear about the baby.  For some reason this does not trouble me, but I am still worried that the birth wasn’t real.

I am handed a written note on yellow paper like the stacks of post-it notes I grab for each day at work, and on the note is the name of a girl and some numbers I can’t read which must correspond to weight or a date of time.  “Is this real?” I ask looking up to find a doctor there. 

He is not a pleasant doctor.  He does not appear happy for me.  “I think you know that,” he says and then he motions with his hand and says “C’mon,” as if I am the one holding back.

I am able to get up without any trouble and I follow him into another room with a long table and chairs throughout and there on the table in a very small clear glass box that I assume is an incubator is a small red angry object that looks like a baby but which is clearly not anything that can sustain life.  “You had a baby,” he says in a disappointed patronizing voice, “but all of the medications were too much.  It can’t live.”  He talks to me like I should have known better, like I had pushed so hard to get something  I wanted that I pushed beyond the limits of human decency, or reasoning or the acceptable rules of science; as if I chose to play god and damn me for it.  And to be sure I haven’t misunderstood him, he adds bitterly, “This is your fault.”

I have had dreams before about babies and pregnancy – my infertility dreams, I call them.  I have dreamt about being pregnant.  I have dreamt about having children.  I have dreamt about not being pregnant, of tests coming back negative or feeling sick and needing more surgery that might forever eradicate the ability to have children.  But I have never had a dream like this.  It is so rich, so vivid and graphic that the image of that red, dying child does not leave my mind.  It shows up periodically throughout the day, without thought or intention, as if I was flipping channels in my mind and stopped there on accident.  Whenever it appears something in me breaks.  On more than one occasion in court I have to hold back tears.  Twice I am mid-conversation with someone when it happens and I grow suddenly cold and teary-eyed.

But it is the final words of the dream that haunt me the most, and by late afternoon I have worked myself into such a mess that every ailment in my body has flared up.  I sit in my office in pain, try to take some medications and feel like my stomach may rupture when all I do is drink some water.  I am nauseated, and more than once sneak off to the bathroom thinking I will be sick.  I’m the third time I go.  I think at least it will bring relief, but instead I return still sick to my stomach, still hurting.  I eat a chocolate mint and have a client meeting during which I rush him along for fear of being sick in front of him.

I don’t know how it is that a dream, that something we know is not real, can have such a tangible impact on us, how it can affect us back in the real world, and do it so extensively.  I’ve always been someone who remembers their dreams in detail.  I’ve also always been someone interested in what they might mean.  But I am not interested in what this dream means as it appears to be on the obvious to the point of disturbing side. I think of it through the day not to wonder about it or analyze it, but rather because it just won’t go away. 

I don’t have a horrible day.  In between the bouts of feeling sad or sick to my stomach, I get my work done, have a nice lunch with a co-worker, joke with a funny client, talk with MJ, check in with my parents as they visit my brother and his family, continue my obsession to Google information on Munchkin’s cancer.  It is a normal day, I try to treat it as such.  It was just a dream, and I try to treat it as such too.  I also try not to crawl back into my collegiate brain and remember what Freud or Jung wrote about dreams.

It’s just that when we say “dream,” we think instantly of something happy, uplifting, or just fanciful.  A kind of world where whimsy and imagination triumph over reality and the laws of physics. Dreams (and sleep) are things to look forward to, not to cower from. And I could use the word “nightmare” but it sounds so dramatic, and really those are just subsets of dreams too. And if I’m being honest, sometimes it’s those infertility dreams with the successful conception and the happy baby that fill me with the most joy and hope. Sometimes those are the dreams that I carry with me because they just make me happy.

I am disturbed and upset by this dream on so many levels.  I worry about what my mind is trying to tell me.  I am floored by the possibilities of such loss.  I am scared about accepting that things may not work out.  I am concerned it could come true.  But at the same time, and at least in one way I know is absolutely true, I think that I am so upset because this nightmare invaded the one spot, the one time in my life where my dreams come true.

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