Monday, April 30, 2012

Ballerinas make me feel better

I woke up Saturday morning with visions of dancers in my head. Later that day I was planning on seeing three of nieces perform in their dance recital. My sister and her daughter, and my dad and his girlfriend were on their way to town for the recital and I hunkered down with a book to wait for their arrival. Then I got the text that spoiled my uplifted mood -  a friend of mine (Friend 1) texted to warn me that a mutual friend (Friend 2) had just discovered she was pregnant. Friend 1 was well aware that Friend 2 would be unable to hide her excitement and the news would soon hit Facebook. Friend 2 had recently gotten married. Her new husband had a vasectomy a few years ago but decided to reverse it so he and his new bride could create little ones of their own. Friend 2 was very excited about the prospect of becoming a new mommy – so excited that she let her Facebook friends know when her husband was going in for his reversal surgery. That was on April 11th. On April 28th she did a HPT and found out she was pregnant. 

Whoa, that was quick!

Of course I’m excited for her, but I am devastated for myself. I feel so inadequate. I have tried for three years to create another life and have so far been met only with failure and heartache. She tries for two weeks and BAM!, it’s done.

My good mood was dashed after receiving that news. I curled into a little ball and cried my eyes out.  I looked at the clock and realized my family would arrive soon, so I hopped in the shower to clear my head. Instead, I ended up sobbing as the water rushed over me and my broken body. 

I got dressed, my family arrived, and we headed to the theater to see our lovely girls perform. I tried hard to concentrate on my nieces and ignore all the gloomy thoughts in my head. The theater was full of families with young kids, the stage was full of cute little ballerinas. I tried not to think about how my daughter would look in a tutu, or how my little son would look in tap shoes. Instead, I looked for my nieces and marveled in how much they had grown. The oldest was now dancing elegantly on pointe shoes, the youngest suddenly looked so tall. They were beautiful on stage, these young ladies that share my DNA. Gone were the babies that I cared for. In their place were young, talented women.

Watching them perform filled me with such pride that I momentarily forgot my troubles. My family and I went out for a nice dinner after the recital and my sister and I stayed up late, talking and giggling about nothing in particular. My family to the rescue once again - my spirits were lifted and I went to bed with a much lighter heart.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

BFP Fantasies

It gets really discouraging to see a negative pregnancy test every month, but I have lots of fantasies about what it will be like to finally see that elusive second line. In my head, I take the test on a Saturday or Sunday morning, when my husband and I are both home. I take the test, expecting to receive the usual negative reading, but am flabbergasted when a second line appears. I will probably be speechless for a moment or two and then will start calling for my husband - we don't get overly excited about many things so he will run to the bathroom, thinking that something is wrong because my voice will probably be slightly hysterical. I will hold up the test for him to see, utter an incoherent phrase about us becoming parents and then cry tears of joy. This scene replays a lot in my mind as I suffer through a two week wait.

I also fantasize about who we will tell first. I think it's only fair that we tell his parents first since this will be their first grandchild. I imagine presenting them with a little gift bag of baby toys and saying that they will be needing these items in their home very soon. The ultimate would be giving my mother-in-law a Mother's Day card that says "Congrats! You're going to be a grandma!" (Or doing the same for my father-in-law for Father's Day). I can't wait to see the look on their faces when we tell them.

Next up we'll have to tell my family. Ideally, we will all be together for a holiday or birthday party and I can make an announcement to a room full of people. If no family get-togethers are imminent I may just have to spill the beans to my sister beforehand. She has been incredibly supportive during my TTC journey. Plus, we've gotten really close since our mom's death. I'm really looking forward to her reaction. My sister-in-laws will probably also provide very entertaining reactions. The guys in my family aren't very expressive so I'm not anticipating much there. Although, I could be wrong - my dad surprised me at my wedding. I had never seen him cry before, at any time in my life, and he sobbed through the ceremony. 

It's dangerous spending so much time thinking about his, but also so deliciously fun to imagine everyone's joy. I'm sure I'm not the only one who fantasizes about this. How do you ladies plan to tell the important people in your lives?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Don't Ignore Yourself

This week RESOLVE (The National Infertility Association) is promoting National Infertility Awareness week. Their theme this year is "Don't Ignore Infertility." They have asked bloggers to write about this theme and explain their own opinion on what shouldn't be ignored regarding infertility.

Where to begin? There's so much I would like the general public to know about infertility, but I also feel it's important for infertility warriors to remember themselves as they fight this battle. It’s a road that no one thinks they will ever have to travel. We are taught from an early age that conceiving a child is an easy business. It’s how the fairy tale goes – find the right person, get married, have babies. We’ve all watched countless friends, family members, neighbors and coworkers do it. Then your own time comes. Simple, right? Wrong.

The months tick by and… nothing. You watch other people your age get pregnant after trying for a short time. You endure numerous negative home pregnancy tests. You obsessively research fertility tips online. Then one day you give in and decide to consult your doctor. They run various fertility tests, trying to find a solution to your problem. As each possibility is negated you feel a mixture of hope and despair - hope because you don’t want there to be a problem and despair because you know there is a problem and you need to find the culprit so you’ll know how to fight it.

Meanwhile, your emotions are on a constant rollercoaster ride. Every month there’s a possibility that you will conceive. You are filled with hope and determination – this will be the month! You track your cycle, figure out the best days to conceive and give it your best shot. Then you wait. The dreaded two week wait has begun (the time between ovulation and the end of your cycle). You overanalyze every single twinge that your body makes. Could this be an early pregnancy symptom? What about this? You consult Google on a daily basis (at least). You remain hopeful right up until the very last second. Those can’t be menstrual cramps, they have to be a pregnancy symptom. When your period comes you are devastated. You drown your sorrows in anything you can get your hands on – chocolate, a sappy movie, wine, bitching to your husband, reading infertility blogs. You feel empty…hollow…defeated.  And the messed up part is this – you will do it all over again the next month. The hope, the determination, the anxiousness, the despair.

And while you are riding this wave of emotions you continue to live in a world of fertileness. Your coworker gets pregnant after two months of trying - you feign happiness for her. Every woman your age at the grocery store is either pregnant or has a baby in tow. You hear news stories about crazed mothers murdering their children and wonder about the unfairness of it all. Everywhere you turn it seems that you are reminded of your childless status. You are full to the brim with motherly instincts, but have no child in your arms.

It seems like infertility is your life. You think about it when you wake up, while you drive to work, during work, while you make dinner and as you drift off to sleep. You are constantly researching, taking new drugs, calling your doctor’s office, scheduling procreation time with your husband (sex has lost all sense of spontaneity in your marriage. It is a job, a necessary evil).  The goal of pregnancy supersedes all else and you begin to lose track of yourself. You can’t remember a day where you didn’t feel like crying, where you were genuinely happy about your status in life.

This is where infertility gets really scary. It’s hard to pull yourself from this abyss and learn to make time for you, the old you - the one who didn’t worry about whether it was ovulation time or not, the one who had a million interests that kept her happy. You have to rediscover that person and make time for her. She’s still in there, somewhere, waiting for you to invite her out to play.

Don't forget about her! She's the heart of your personality, the part of you that makes you you. Don't forget that you are much more than an infertile - you are a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend. You have interests outside of reproduction, don't forget about them! Set aside time for yourself that is totally unrelated to infertility - see a movie, go for a walk with a friend, plan a fancy date with your husband, get lost in a good book. 

Let's face it - infertility sucks. It is a very private issue that many people unfortunately struggle with. This struggle can oftentimes become all consuming, bringing a couple to despair. Don't ignore yourself as you travel this road - a little "you time" will help you feel more grounded and give you the strength you need to continue fighting. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Communicating with mom

I’ve been thinking about my mom a lot lately as Mother’s Day and the fourth anniversary of her death approach. Last night I had a pity party for myself as I pondered why I have to be motherless and childless. Shouldn’t it be enough to just have to deal with one struggle? I either want my mom back or I want a child. Since I know one option is impossible I have to put all my hopes on the other. I wish the big guy upstairs, or whoever is in charge of these kinds of things, would please send me a child. I even started talking to my mom last night, asking her to put in a good word for me.

I don’t know if I really believe in signs from beyond the grave, but every once in a while I experience something that I choose to take comfort in. I stopped at my parent’s house the other day to pack up old stuffed animals and school books that I have been meaning to remove from my old room for years. (I think it’s about time that I do so since we’ve set our sights on cleaning out the entire house.) I took a break and walked around the quiet house, shrouding myself in memories. I found myself on the screen porch so I sat down on the swing, one of my favorite spots in the house. I surveyed the weed infested yard, which made me sad. My mom loved gardening and the yard used to be full of flowers and beautiful things. Suddenly, I noticed a single flash of yellow – one daffodil was poking up through the madness, the only thing in bloom in the entire yard. I walked outside to get a better look. Next to it, my mom’s peonies were beginning to pop out of the ground (my mom really loved peonies). It made me happy to know that something she cared for is still living. Part of me really wanted to believe that my mom made sure this single daffodil would be in bloom when I was there to see it – her way of saying hello.

Mom's "hello"

Another otherworldly experience occurred yesterday. My cousin emailed to tell us about a dream she had. In her dream it was her mother’s birthday and she and her siblings each stood up to say something nice about their mother in front of all the party guests. My cousin turned around and my mom was standing there. My mom gave her a hug and told her that their speeches reminded her of when her own kids spoke at her funeral. My siblings and I had indeed all said something special during the funeral service. If this was actually my mom visiting my cousin in her dream I believe that she wanted to let us know how proud she is of all of us. She knew that my cousin would share this dream with all of us, because she’s shared dream stories about deceased relatives with us before. It was a surefire way to pass a message.

Perhaps I make this all up in my head but it’s reassuring to think of these instances as signs of my mom’s continued presence in my life.


If you can hear me – message received. I love you too.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Trying to relax

An infertile friend (who I mentioned in a previous post) recently crossed over into the realm of pregnant friend. After years of heartache and one failed IVF cycle she managed to get pregnant naturally. Her advice to me was this – just relax. Yes, I know… when fertile people utter this phrase I normally have to bite my tongue, but I was able to take it in stride since it came from a fellow IF warrior. She said she concentrated on just having fun, instead of obsessing over whether she was or was not pregnant.

Well, I certainly took her advice on Friday night. I had a fabulous night out with friends and paid for it a million times over on Saturday. It was the hangover from hell and I was rendered utterly useless for a whole day. I silently chastised myself as I lay there in agony. What the hell, Ann? You’re a 29 year old woman, you should know better! I’ve been TTC for so long that my alcohol tolerance is practically nonexistent. My 29 year old self cannot drink nearly as much as my 25 year old self - at least not without severe consequences.

Apparently, I took my friend’s advice far too literally. Ugh, never again. I’ll have to find another way to relax, something much more befitting of my 29 year old TTC status. I think I’ll try a nice walk in the woods later. At least that will only have healthy side effects.  

I joined some friends on a seven mile trek on some nearby trails last night. It was lovely, albeit a little longer than we expected. We returned to the parking lot soon after the sun had dipped behind the trees and the night air had begun to chill. The weather had been so deceptively beautiful during the day that we forgot how chilly the April nights still are in the Midwest. Oh well, we'll be back at it again on Wednesday evening. They're training for a walking marathon and I'm training for my own well being. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A gift for her

Infertility not only torments the couple immediately affected, it also reaches its ugly arms to those who love them. These loved ones watch the couple suffer and mourn their own loss as their hope for a grandchild, niece, nephew or cousin dwindles.

My mother-in-law underwent a heart procedure yesterday. Everything went well and she is recuperating nicely, but it's moments like this that cause me to reflect on the fragility of life… and the lack of new life in our family. My mother-in-law is a remarkable woman and has been a great comfort to me since my mom's passing. I fervently wish I could give her the gift of a grandchild, especially while she is still relatively young and able to enjoy the experience. My own grandmothers were elderly when I was born, and while I know they loved me very much, they didn’t always have the energy to spend time with me.

I know my mother-in-law will be a wonderful grandma someday and I wish she didn't have to wait so long to become one. It will happen someday - if we never have children I'm sure her other son will eventually procreate - but I wish it had already happened. I hear her wistfully talking about other people's grandchildren, and see her cuddling her grand-dog and grand-kitty and my heart breaks. Pets are a wonderful comfort but all the pets in the world cannot replace the breathtaking smile of a baby. She's done so much for me... I wish I could give her the offspring of her oldest son.

I may not be able to tell her today that she’s about to be a grandma, but I hope I can relay that message someday soon. My own desires keep me going, but it’s the hopes of all those that surround me that really drive me. What can I say – I’m a giver by nature. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Question

All infertiles are familiar with The Question, but it doesn't make it any easier to deal with it. My husband and I went to a concert this weekend. As we joined the line in the lobby a middle aged couple stepped in behind us. Immediately, it was 20 Questions. My husband is tall so we're used to the comments - Did you play basketball in high school? It's not hard to pick you out in a crowd, is it? *Insert annoying chuckle.*

Soon after the "What do you do?" question the wife launched into, "So, do you have kids?" I should be used to this question by now but I'm always caught off guard. Perhaps because it's such a deep-seeded issue for me and my lack of children gnaws away at me every day. I glanced at my husband and we exchanged a 10 second glance of "Are you freakin' kidding me?" before he answered, "No", perhaps a little too brightly. Annoying wife picked up on our hesitation and asked, "Not yet, huh?". Was she digging for our dark secret so she could pick it apart and draw some pleasure from our pain? Or maybe she was trying to be empathetic. Or perhaps she was familiar with infertility herself (although, I highly doubt it, because any self-respecting infertile would not ask that question), and she wanted to offer us some sage advice. I didn't know and I didn't care. My hackles were up and I wanted to get away from this nosy woman.

Then the next logical comment came that totally pierced a whole through my heart. "Your kids will probably be really tall." *Insert hearty guffaw from her husband.* Yeah, I know they'll probably be tall. I also think they'll have dark hair and I wonder if they'll have my darker hazel eyes, or my husband's light-greenish hazel eyes. Or will they have my dad's blue eyes? Maybe they'll inherit my grandma's unruly hair, or maybe they'll have my mother-in-law's straight hair. I wonder if they'll be musical like me or if they'll love the outdoors like their dad. The list of possibilities goes on and on and I didn't need her to remind me of my fantasies, thankyouverymuch.

Fortunately, the line started to move and we were soon admitted into the theater. We quickly darted into the rest of the crowd so we wouldn't be stuck sitting next to them. I breathed a sigh of relief and sympathetically watched as I saw her grilling a new couple who were unlucky enough to choose seats next to them.

Why can't nosy people keep their questions to themselves? I enjoy making small-talk with strangers, but I don't need to grill them about their college careers, occupations and family life to do so. Get a clue, nosy lady!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

In the fertile's den

I'm in a book club... a very fertile book club. Almost all of the ladies have children and two of them are currently pregnant. I find it hard to walk past a pregnant lady, let alone sit next to one for a couple hours, their protruding stomach staring me in the face. The mommies in the group always find ways to relate the books we read to their children, their parenting experiences or their pregnancies. I suppose it's only natural that they do this, but it makes it hard for me to chime in. 

Mommy book club member: <Insert child tantrum story here.> 
Me: Oh yeah, the other day my dog got really bored and chewed a hole in my dirty underwear...

I outed myself a couple months ago as an infertile. It led to a really nice discussion and they were all supportive, but it's still hard to go there every month and be surrounded by their fertileness. However, I like to read, these ladies are pretty cool, and I'm kind of a glutton for punishment, so I keep going. 

At last night's meeting one of the ladies privately handed me a paper bag. Inside were two fertility statues. She said they worked for her and her husband four times over (she is currently preggo with #4). Hmmm... well, I am intrigued and ready to give it a shot. I know she's probably just naturally super fertile and these little statues have nothing to do with her good fortune, but the superstitious part of me says we should give it a go.

Our new little visitors are now sitting on our nightstands, ready to watch over us while we do the baby-making deed. We've already got the doctor involved in our sex life, why not add a couple more "experts" to the bedroom?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Feeling as fragile as an egg

What a whirlwind weekend full of music, family and LOTS of food. I'm not a particularly religious person but I love to sing so I get asked to sing at plenty of religious engagements. I sang a duet on Good Friday that I know my mom would have loved (Andrew Lloyd Weber's "Pie Jesu", for those who may be familiar with it). I almost teared up in the middle of my performance because she was in the forefront of my mind. 

She was there for most of the weekend as I prepared to host Easter Brunch for the first time. I remembered so many holidays that she meticulously planned, right down to matching Easter outfits for her seven grandchildren and elaborate Easter baskets for the whole family. I didn't get as elaborate as she used to but I kept certain traditions alive, such as an Easter egg hunt for the kids and serving her special egg bake. It's a bittersweet sensation, having to readjust our family traditions to fit our new motherless family. It's comforting to keep certain traditions alive, but also exciting to discover new possibilities. 

On Saturday my brothers, sister and I did a walk-through of our parents house. We pointed out items that we would like to disperse among the family, items to be taken to our dad's new home and items that we can't wait to get rid of (Anyone want a large collection of National Geographics? Or a 1979 set of encyclopedias?) Once again, I was caught between the comfort of being with my siblings in our childhood home, and the desire to prepare the house for a new family. I've always got one foot stuck in the past and another in the present... and yet another foot in the future (when my children will be born). I don't have enough feet to express all I feel when I think about where my life is currently at. I'm caught between savoring my memories, treading water in the present and dreaming of the future. 

I was such a mess of emotions by the end of the weekend that I almost started crying during my choir rehearsal last night. We were in the middle of singing a particularly beautiful song and I was so moved by the sound we were creating and the underlying sadness I had been suppressing all weekend. I poured so much of myself into that song that I felt ready to break down. I managed to hold it together somehow, and I'm still holding it together. I haven't really had a moment to myself in days and I'm one of those people who would rather keep her emotional outbursts to herself. So tonight I am determined to make time for myself so that I can process everything I've been feeling.  I want to really savor the emotions and let the tears fall freely. This private soul needs a moment to unleash!

I hope you've all given yourselves a chance to unleash lately, because Lord knows we could all use a good cry every now and again.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Childless marriage isn't all bad

Last night my husband and I went out for ice cream at a popular local place. The line was long so we had plenty of time to people-watch while we waited. We observed that the family in front of us had five kids. FIVE?! I hope those fertiles realize how lucky they are. At this point I would do about anything just to have ONE. 

We also noticed the couple who spoke at our pre-marriage class (a requirement of our Catholic marriage) about using the rhythm method to plan their family. Well, apparently they wanted to be blessed with many children (that or they didn't quite understand how to chart her cycles) because they were surrounded by kids. Ah, the irony of it. I obsessively chart my cycles every month in order to get pregnant and we can't seem to make it happen. Yet they, who supposedly did not want that many kids, are given a plethora. If they remembered us from that long-ago marriage class they would probably pity us. Almost seven years of marriage and no herd of kids to accompany us. 

I pity us too, but not too much. I have a pretty good life. We've traveled, bought a house, bought a dog, traveled some more and adopted a stray kitty. We have the freedom to go out for drinks whenever we want, take a random weekend get-away, and spend a whole sleepy Sunday in bed. I've gotten very involved in community theater and I don't think I could commit to so many rehearsals if I knew my hubby was stuck at home with the kids. I've been able to spend years of my adult life concentrating on my marriage (thus making it stronger) and myself (thus keeping me sane and well-balanced). I'd like to think that all of these experiences will make me a better mom. So, to our much anticipated firstborn, please come soon and join the family! We're ready for you!! In the meantime, I'll try to be patient and enjoy the extra time I have with your daddy...and I'll try not to glare (too much) at every large brood I see. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Sorting through the past

Growing up sucks. My siblings and I have never really understood our dad and it's been hard learning how to relate to him since our mom's death. He doesn't respond well to change and losing his wife nearly broke him. He's doing much better now - he's dating a very nice widow and he's spending almost all of us time at his vacation property. He says he likes the small town atmosphere and he seems really happy. That's all well and good except for the fact that his primary house stands empty and neglected, a quasi-shrine to my mom. My sister and I tried to go through her things a couple years ago, with our dad's blessing. We pulled everything out of her dresser and were in the midst of sorting through the pile when our dad walked in. His face crumpled when he saw the empty drawers and he convinced us to put a few things back in the dresser. We knew that he wasn't ready yet so we stopped pressing the issue. And time has kept ticking by with the house growing more and more neglected. 

My parents built the house about 40 years ago and my dad did a lot of the finishing work himself. He is incredibly attached to the place but I don't think he's comfortable there any longer. I think he keeps imaging the night he found my mom's lifeless body in their bedroom and the subsequent horror of the paramedics trying to revive her. I can't say that I blame him. I think the rest of us feel the same way. The house used to feel like home to me, but now it feels like an empty shell of a house. I realize now that my mom was the one who made it feel like home. The house is just a house and I don't need it any longer. I can visit my memories any time I would like.

My brother knows a family that might be interested in renting the house and I think my dad is ready to allow that. So, it appears that our summer project will be cleaning 40 years worth of memories from that house. I don't think my dad will be much help since he's pretty much checked out of all of his responsibilities in the community that he called home for over 60 years. He used to be very involved in our home town, but now he seems to only care about his new, adopted community. Perhaps it's easier to leave behind the ghost of our mom, but it really sucks for those of us who are left behind to deal with it.