Tag Archives: babies everywhere millions of them

The might-have-been

In the morning, I baked a pumpkin pie from a pumpkin I processed a week ago, and an apple/blackbery pie with blackberries I picked this summer and froze, in between diaper changes and efforts to keep grubby fingers out of cabinets.

In the afternoon, the pies were loaded into the car, alongside the carseat. We drove to grandma’s house, stopping along the way to pick up whipping cream. I waited in the car and sang songs while Dan ran into the store, and when we arrived we unloaded the pies and all the things you pack when you bring a baby someplace.

Instead of a glass of wine with the hummus and veggie appetizers, I had a glass of water, because my eight-month-old needed to eat a couple of times. He’s just at a stage where he’s smiley and happy to play with all the adults in his life who love him. He even has his own highchair at grandma’s.

I learned more about my cousin’s trip to Africa and told her about what my 13-month-old could do now that she hadn’t been able to do before my cousin left in July. I showed her the pictures of my sister’s wedding, with Dan holding our daughter in the big family photo.

As we ate, our 16-month-old had his own tray of potatoes and green beans to nosh on. We even gave him a few pieces of grip-sized turkey to practice with. He made a big mess as usual, but the dogs were thrilled to have little bits of people food to clean up off the floor.

Toward the end of the meal, everyone went around the table and mentioned something we’re thankful for. I gave silent thanks that our 18-month-old was healthy and developmentally normal. After dinner, she lurched around like Frankenstein after the dogs and we Skyped with her other grandparents in Colorado. Her favorite part of the meal was the little bit of apple from the slice of apple pie on my plate.

My favorite part of the meal was having a child there to share it with us.

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Weapons of choice

Yesterday was a red-letter day for the annals of human reproduction in this country. First, Mississippi voted on an amendment that would have defined a fertilized egg as a person. On the surface, had it passed, it would have prevented abortion in the state of Mississippi. But digging a little deeper, the measure would have outlawed many forms of contraception, including hormonal birth control and IUDs. It would have severely curtailed fertility treatments, including limiting IVF to harvesting, fertilizing, and transferring only one embryo per round. It would have had the potential to prosecute women who miscarried on their own accord as a form of homicide. Pregnant women with cancer might have been denied chemotherapy by physicians for fear of legal repercussions. Essentially, the personhood amendment (as on the ballot in Mississippi yesterday and on the ballot in other states previously, twice in Colorado) would set out to remove most reproductive and many other types choice for the citizens of Mississippi. Thankfully, the “personhood” amendment was defeated, in part because of social media campaigns conducted over Facebook and twitter to educate the citizens of Mississippi about the potential drawbacks of a “yes” vote.

Also yesterday, the country’s most famous clown car overworked uterus multiparous woman and her husband and family, the Duggars, went on national television to announce that they are expecting baby #20. While I have a lot of personal feelings about the Duggar family and the choices they make, more than anything when I heard the announcement, it made me sad. Primarily, I’m sad because these people already have 19 children, and their four oldest daughters do a fair chunk of the child rearing. Their youngest daughter was born at 25 weeks’ gestation after Mrs. Duggar was hospitalized for pre-eclampsia. Both mom and baby were very ill for quite some time post-birth, and the little girl is not even two years old yet and still in fragile health. And now she’ll take a back burner to the next baby on the way. I’m also sad because I truly wish that everyone who wanted a baby could get pregnant as easily as this couple can. And while I find their choice repugnant, particularly under the circumstances, I still feel that everyone should have the right to make their own choices about the size of their family, how many babies to have (or not have), and how often to have them.

I kind of feel like the Duggars the same way that I feel about the Westboro Baptist Church or the KKK and the first amendment. I may hate the message and 100% disagree with what they say, but I still recognize their right to say it. Because everyone has free speech, or nobody has free speech. And everyone has the right to have 20 babies if that’s what they feel they truly must do, just like everyone has the right to have zero babies, or some number in between.

It’s possible that the reason I feel so strongly about protecting people’s choices is because, as half of an infertile couple, my choices are so limited. I’ll never have the opportunity to have more than one or two children, even if I wanted to, because it’s going to cost thousands of dollars each time we want to try to have one. Malpractice cases like Octomom or independently wealthy people like the Jolie-Pitts aside, IVF as a reproductive strategy is extremely expensive and so most people in our situation don’t have large families. I’ll never have a fun, romantic memory of conceiving a child, because our children will be conceived by other people in a lab, and my part of the process will involve a lot of shots, hormones, and medical procedures, while Dan’s will involve a specimen cup – not exactly the sort of story that will bring fond memories. If I ever post a photo of a pregnancy test, it will be after months of preparation, several uncomfortable weeks of needles, and several days of nail biting and worrying that all the money we’ve spent will have been for nothing – not the casual and hopeful, excited environment I imagine it must be for most people who pee on a stick and see two pink lines.

No, when it comes to fertility, our options are not like those of most people. We can choose to buy a house sometime in the next ten years, or try for a baby. We can choose to travel, or we can try for a baby. We can choose to try to transfer any potential frozen embryos we might get out of an IVF cycle if it doesn’t work the first time. We can choose to donate embryos we decide not to use. And that’s about it. So when I see people’s choices under attack, it gets me pretty riled up, because nature’s already taken away the choices of a whole lot of people who really want babies. How can the people of Mississippi think it’s OK to legislate what a medical professional can do to help infertile or subfertile people have desperately wanted children? Why should a collection of cells that is not even yet implanted in a uterine wall have more rights than an already-born person? and nobody should have to carry an unwanted fetus, period, whether it be because a woman is physically, emotionally, or financially (or some combination of all three) incapable of doing so.

The other choice I have as half of an infertile couple is how to respond to pregnancy and birth announcements by people in my life. As the months and years have passed since we started trying to have a baby, I’ve realized that more and more, I’m far more interested and excited when someone who has struggled is finally able to make that announcement. For example, I cheer every time someone undergoing fertility treatment is successful in achieving pregnancy, and I’m thrilled when I see an announcement on Facebook or a blog post about it. Because when it’s difficult to become pregnant or to stay pregnant, every success story feels like a victory in the ongoing battle we people who want kids and can’t have them without medical intervention are fighting on a daily basis. We’re mostly a silent minority for a variety of reasons, which is understandable, but I think the fertile people in our lives who will never, ever understand what it is like to be in our situation need to hear our voices more often.

Tonight, friends of ours who struggled for years to get pregnant and to stay pregnant met their daughter for the first time. I hadn’t been that excited and happy about someone else’s kid being born in a long time, and I think it’s because all the other babies born to people we know since we started trying were born to people who didn’t struggle to get or stay pregnant. The ability to conceive and gestate easily is something that most of humanity takes for granted (and, in fact, is an unwanted gift some of the time). I wish that more people would realize just how lucky they are to be able to stop using birth control and get pregnant after a cycle or a few cycles of trying. The emotional roller coaster of wanting a baby and hoping for a baby and the excitement or disappointment of success or failure takes its toll after a while. Imagine feeling those same feelings of disappointment when it doesn’t work for years, and even after you know WHY it doesn’t work a tiny part of you still has hope every month that it might, even when the deepest part of you knows that, save an act of deity in which you do not believe or a startling medical breakthrough, it won’t. And then, yet again, you’re proven right, time after time and month after month.

I reserve the right of all infertile couples to have mixed feelings when people in our lives announce pregnancies. We can be happy for them while still wishing we could be so lucky. We can wish them safe, easy pregnancies and healthy babies while still feeling the unfairness of the roller coaster, when each month, each dip, feels a little lower. I reserve the right to wish that everyone who has it easy could understand that the best way to announce a pregnancy is not to make a joke about babies being gross (because we know they’re gross, and we want one anyway, and that doesn’t make it better) or to try to sugar coat it (because nothing will make it better for us but time and achieving pregnancy ourselves), but to just say hey. We’re going to have a baby. We’re excited, and we hope you are too. Because we’ll be excited for you, on our own terms and our own time. We’ll be excited for the multiparous families who seem to get pregnant at the drop of a hat, just as we’re excited for the people more like us, who have to struggle through difficult times before they finally get to where they’d like to be. Many of our choices have been stripped from us, so please don’t take this one. Tell us simply, and let us have time to process. Because we don’t want to be angry or bitter about other people’s babies, other people’s pregnancies.

If I’ve learned nothing else during all this time of wanting and not having, I’ve learned that reproduction is not a zero sum game. Michelle Duggar’s next Jfetus has no bearing on whether or not someone else can have a baby, and so curtailing her reproductive choice would not do anyone else any good. I would hate if we lived in a world where a family could not decide for themselves how many children were too many, whether that be zero or 50. It would be tragic if a woman with cancer was considered less important than the fetus she carried, if a family could not choose to end a wanted pregnancy if a fetus were incompatible with life and waiting to miscarry naturally would bring more complications and potential health risks to the mother. Nobody should have to worry about whether or not they might go to jail if they need a D&C after a missed miscarriage in order to not get an infection. Nobody should have to worry about having more children than they want, or to be unable to choose how to prevent unwanted pregnancies. And people for whom conception and pregnancy are easy should realize that the people in your lives who want kids and don’t yet have them may need time to process before they can congratulate you on your big news.

She was delicious

Sometimes, you meet people in the most unexpected of ways. I’m no stranger to making friends or meeting people through the internet (after all, it’s how I met my husband, the person who married us, and the bride and groom in the Easter wedding I just took part in), but who would have thought that we’d end up becoming friends with people because I wrote about planning our wedding on a message board?

I knew Nicole as an anime character, the handle she chose to write about planning their first-part-of-2008 wedding. She knew me as a variation on this blog name. It was an alternative wedding planning site and message board, something a little different from the traditional and ubiquitous WIC-fueled Kn*t. We were planning from Colorado for a California wine country wedding, and they were planning something relatively local to their home in Sacramento. I first noticed her because she mentioned a semi-pro friend would  be shooting their wedding, and we were looking for affordable Northern California photographer options. She sent me his contact info, and we liked his style, and hired him to shoot our wedding.

It’s funny that we met and spent time with Paul long before Dan and I ever met Nicole and Tom in person; that didn’t happen until March of last year when we planned a trip to the Bay Area around our anniversary  and Nicole said they’d be spending that same weekend in SF in honor of Tom’s birthday. We’d been internet friends for three years at that point, through wedding planning and wedding having and then moving over to the post-planning sister site. I was reading and writing about trying to get pregnant, and Nicole was writing about waiting until the time was right (she didn’t want to saddle a baby with a Christmas birthday). At that point, we’d been trying for many months with no luck, and they were going to be starting the process in another couple of months. I wasn’t sure how things would go, since we knew such intimate details about each other, having shared them online with lots of other strangers, but on that sunny March day in San Francisco Nicole and Tom and Dan and I all hit it off, talking about food and the city and Lost and all manner of things. They were surprisingly small in person (I think Nicole is 4’11?) but that was the only surprising part of the encounter.

We saw them again in May that year, when we flew out for my cousin’s wedding, again had a lovely time, and a week or two later Nicole announced (on the message board) that she was pregnant. I couldn’t help but feel a bit of rage at the universe: here we’d been trying all this time with no luck and they got lucky on the first try. Their first try ended quickly, and then Nicole got pregnant again right away. It was right around that point that I decided I couldn’t read the message board anymore, right around the same time that we got our diagnosis, and Nicole and I kept in touch on Facebook instead of through the message board.

After we moved,  we tried to have them up a couple of times for a weekend visit but nothing worked out for one reason or another. Nicole and Tom invited us to their New Year’s Eve party, where we saw Paulagain,  and stayed the night because it was a 2.5 hour drive home. Tiny Nicole had a big pregnant belly but otherwise seemed her normal self, and we admired their new-ish house, their nerdy collections, and their grumpy cat. In February, when I had my job interview in Sacramento, Nicole was working from home so she was able to meet up with us at a coffee shop for a late lunch. She looked ready to be finished with the pregnancy, despite her due date being 6 weeks away.

Baby Elspeth was born on March 29, our wedding anniversary and Tom’s birthday, the third child in four generations to share the birthday. She was over 8 pounds at birth, which completely explained Nicole’s discomfort the last couple of months of her pregnancy. I’d sent a shower gift and made her a blanket, and  we figured we’d just be looking at photos for several months, but then Nicole sent me a message asking if they’d be welcome for a day trip visit with Elspeth. We were game, and yesterday they brought their beautiful, squirmy, opinionated 6.5-week-old infant two and a half hours northwest to visit us for the day in wine country. I was concerned that the weather wouldn’t work and we’d be stuck inside all day, but it turned out to be rain mixed with sun and puffy clouds. Dan made homemade chicken soup and biscuits for lunch, and then we took them winetasting at a couple of nearby wineries. Ellie mostly cooperated, though she definitely had opinions about various positions and environments, and showed her displeasure by crying, pooping and barfing a lot. Or, maybe that was what she was going to do anyway, since she is not quite 7 weeks old.

Elspeth is ready for her closeup

* * * * *

I wasn’t sure how yesterday was going to go. Elspeth is another special baby, sort of, since her parents got married right around the same time we did, used the same photographer to shoot their wedding, and her mom and I connected over both wedding planning and family planning. That their family came about exactly on the timeline they’d hoped, while ours seems permanently stalled, just goes to show that nothing is fair or balanced when it comes to things like fertility. I didn’t go to the baby shower in January not only because it’s a long drive and gas is expensive, but because I knew I couldn’t handle it, and I just about lost it for a whole day after seeing Nicole’s giant belly in February. It was so hard to be happy for our friends, growing the daughter they’d hoped for with the perfect birthday, while Nicole was pregnant, and I knew I wouldn’t (and won’t) be without months of tests, needles, hormones, and people in white coats. Would I feel weird and jealous and crazy? What would the cats think of a tiny squalling human? Would it break my heart to hold a baby that in some other universe and some other configuration of factors might have been mine?

* * * * * *

Luckily, the baby was charming and gave me gummy smiles and contented signs while I rocked and bounced her into a better mood. She was charming in Dan’s arms, and my heart only broke a little bit watching him hold such a tiny baby that looks so much like a baby we could have might look (dark hair, blue eyes). We had a great time with our friends and they seemed to have the new baby thing pretty well under control. (It doesn’t hurt that she’s a pretty easygoing baby, all things considered, who actually sleeps quite a bit at night. And her toes are mighty tasty.) They drove home, and we sat in our quiet house with two kitties who weren’t quite sure about what THAT was all about. And we’d done it. We’d survived yet another encounter with friends who have a baby. I’d just like to know if it will ever get any easier, or if that won’t happen until we have (please please please, let us someday have) a baby of our own.

A million little pieces

Closed doors, open windows

You know, it’s funny that I don’t seem to be capable of writing here especially often these days. I guess my day-to-day life is so uneventful that the few thoughts that come to mind, the few events that make one day different from another, seem more suited to the 140 characters of twitter than to a longform writing.

I’m taking photos of the spring, and I’m exercising, and I’m working on projects for babies, and I’m job hunting madly, but none of those things seem especially bloggable. Last week I had the most exciting day in months, because a job I applied for back in January, a job that seemed tailor-made for my skills and experience, looked for a brief, shining moment like a job I could be offered. It was the first job interview I’d been on since May of 2004, and I got all in a fluster about what I should wear and how I should prepare. The interview itself went well, I thought, with four people in a tiny windowless room asking me questions about things. Afterward, Dan and I had lunch with a friend who lives in the area where I interviewed, a friend who is now 35 weeks pregnant. It was lovely to see her, but perhaps not the wisest choice, as I was a) very hormonal, and b) stressed out about the job interview. I managed to hold it together until we got home, and then I cried because that nearly baby was conceived on the second try (the first try resulted in a very early miscarriage). She’s due right around our wedding anniversary, and we know these friends because of our wedding (she and I met on indiebride and we found our wedding photographer through them). They own a house and are having their one child and both of them are in established careers.

And where are we? Jobless, living off the largesse of my mother (thank you again, Mom, for letting us live in your house), in a small town. No children, no pregnancies, no house, no careers. Not much to show for the nearly three years we’ve been married when you look at things in a conventional way. I cried when we got home, because my friend will soon have a baby and I will not, and because she was beautiful and very pregnant, and because I hadn’t had the guts to go to her baby shower, instead making excuses about gas money and wear and tear on the car. I told myself it was because I didn’t want to make that long drive for just a baby shower, but I made it without comment for a job interview, and the real reason I didn’t go was because I knew I couldn’t handle a baby shower. I sent a copy of Neil Gaiman’s Blueberry Girl (friends, if you have baby girls, this is a book I will give you) and the blanket for their daughter is about half finished, but I just couldn’t make myself pretend to be happy for someone else’s impending baby that day.

From the initial call to schedule the interview, I knew that they had more first interviews on Tuesday of this week, so I knew not to expect any word about additional interviews or job offers until late Tuesday at the earliest. I spent the weekend alternately excited about my chances, making logistical plans about how to commute, and looking at houses between the east bay and Sacramento on craigslist (I found one both awesome and affordable, in case we needed it.) I didn’t write about it here because I thought, what a story to tell if I ended up being offered the job – first interview, job offer, an excellent, well-paying position doing exciting work for a brand new program. And if I didn’t get the job, then there wouldn’t have to be any follow-up about it.

At around 8:30 PM Tuesday night I got an email thanking me for my time and letting me know I would not be considered for the position.

I felt like a complete idiot, getting myself all excited and worked up. I thought I had an excellent chance for a variety of reasons, but apparently there was someone they liked better for the position, or at least they didn’t like me enough to ask me to come back for a second interview. Poof went the pipe dreams about the house and adding to our savings account and moving closer to family and friends and all that time I would have been commuting on the train. Poof went my (admittedly quite fragile these days) self-esteem. I let myself cry a few times on Tuesday night, and I spent part of Wednesday watching Downton Abbey via netflix in the bed while Dan baked me cookies. I needed to be kind to myself, because clearly the world wasn’t doing me any favors.

Really, the biggest reason why I’m not writing here much these days is that I don’t even know who I am right now. I’m a wife, but I’m not a mom and I’m not an employee. I’m a daughter, but I don’t have a vocation or a passion. I’ve been trying like mad to come up with a name for my wee side business doing wedding flowers I’ve been trying to start up for ages, but every name I like seems to either already be taken or not convey the message I want potential clients to get. I need a name before I can put up a website, which I need to do ASAP because I’ve already got some clients (including a high-profile one) and I want to put myself out there because at least it would be a project to commit myself to and work to do, even if it’s just a little bit here and there.

Late yesterday afternoon, Dan was in the middle of taking the first batch of cookies out of the oven when the placement agency he’s been working with off and on in San Francisco called to offer him a one-day job in the city. He’s on his way home now, having worked (for pay) for seven hours, his first actual job since before Christmas. At least one of us is.

Down with OPC* (yeah you know me)

Just before Thanksgiving, Dan got called for an interview at a creative staffing agency in San Francisco. The day before the interview, we went to Santa Rosa in search of a suit for him to wear. Luckily, they were having a really good sale, and he got two suits plus alterations and 6 pairs of socks for under $300. Score!

A week or so later, we were in Trader Joe’s and he got a call from the staffing agency. They had a job for him, temporary seasonal work at a personalized greeting card company in the city, starting the following Tuesday. YAY! We were both super excited. After a few days of trying to figure out logistics, we decided that Dan should drive our car down to the Bay Area and just stay down there for a few days with a friend to save gas, wear/tear on the car, and a 90-minute each way commute. That left me with several days to myself, sans car, after over two months of us living in each other’s pockets. So many possibilities!

The weekend before Dan started his new position, our weekend plans with friends had fallen through and we were planning a meal of chicken soup and latkes in honor of Hanukkah when Simon called us up and asked if we’d be interested in watching Wombat for the evening, getting to do auntie and uncle things with him and being sleepover babysitters. “Why not?” we thought, and drove to Oakland to see Leah and Simon off to a fancy holiday party while we played with Wombat, changed his diaper (me), and had him asleep by 8:30 PM. The next morning while L and S slept in, Wombat and I explored in the back yard, played with markers, ate an apple and a banana (well, I acquired them and he ate them), and read book after book. When I needed a break, Dan and Wombat read more books. After his parents got up and we were all finished with breakfast, Wombat and I played “Sweep the floor with [Wombat’s real name].” He cried when we left.

Three days later, I was a day into my solitary existence and decided I’d make some Mexican wedding cookies and prepare a surprise tea party for my friend Heather‘s daughters. Heather is in the midst of some pretty ungood health issues again, and she’s off work on long-term disability leave, so after okaying my idea with her, I packed up the fancy glass teapot we got as a wedding gift, and some fruity tea, and the cookies, and I walked to her house to surprise her 8-year-old and 3-year-old. We all had a great time at the tea party; everyone was well-behaved, and we took varying amounts of honey in our tea, and we wore wonder woman rings on our pinky fingers. I gave Heather an hour or so of time to do her own thing and got to hear the latest about Hannah Montana from Natty and how when Paigey climbs the pole she’s a koala bear and about a million other interesting tidbits, schooling me in what it’s like to be a little girl in 2010. Natty had just lost her first baby tooth and received a letter from the Tooth Fairy. Paigey discovered that tea cookies dunked in tea taste delicious. And I got a couple of hours of kid time.

This past weekend, during his 12 hours of non-work time, Dan drove north after work, arriving around 1 AM Saturday morning. After not enough sleep, we got up and got ready and drove south again, Dan going back to work and me and my nonfunctional hands (story to come) to Brian’s house, where I tagged along to a chili cookoff. The reason for the chili-festivity was to allow people to meet Brian’s friend’s one-month-old son. And so I found myself holding and patting a very small baby with lots of dark hair for much longer than I would have expected, since his parents had never met me before. They seemed happy enough to let someone else hold the baby while they ate chili, and I was thrilled to smell his baby head and watch him try to focus on faces and patterns and shadows. He seemed to like me pretty well, and I was only a little bit sad. That night, we went to Simon’s band’s concert and had a great time (except for my hands still being bad), and the next day before Dan had to work again, he and I went to Wombat’s 2nd birthday party.

The party was a lot of fun. There were colorful balloons and tasty food, and I got to meet Helen Jane and her girls. Several other very small people attended, and I removed the hull from about 18 strawberries for Wombat and his friends. One of them had a four-month-old baby sister, and I again found myself holding and patting a baby with lots of dark hair. She was super easy-going and happy to be passed around to any number of party guests, reminding me of my 30th birthday party I had at L&S’s house, when Wombat was three months old, and he got loved on by about 15 people. I held it together pretty well until I started thumbing through a Shutterfly or Blurb book someone had made documenting Wombat’s birth, and then I kind of lost it. Luckily, Dan was right there and he knew exactly why I was sad, and he gave me a big hug.

I watch other people’s children* begin, and grow, and be born, and grow some more, and change and get older and turn into people who talk and want to do things themselves. I’m learning more and more to compartmentalize how I feel about other people’s fecundity from the people (who are my friends) and their children (who I love). I was thrilled to get to meet Sadie this summer (obviously, along with Jive Turkey and HoST). I make blankets for the new small people in my friends’ and family’s lives, and that helps a little. Obviously, it isn’t fair that other people get to have something I want so, so badly and can’t have, at least not for a while yet. But it also isn’t fair for my friends to have to tiptoe around my problems. Recently, a friend who knows about our difficulties conceiving sent me an email to let me know she was pregnant before I found out some other way, and on the one hand I was touched that she was so considerate. But on the other hand, I felt terrible that she might feel constrained about sharing her news with the world out of fear of hurting my feelings.

I don’t want to be the person that people have to tiptoe around, or that people are afraid of telling when they’re pregnant or even if they decide to start trying. When we first broke the news of our infertility to our families, one of our family members wanted to know whether I’d be upset if one of my sisters ends up being pregnant before I do. And the answer to that is: probably, but I’ll still be very happy for her, and thrilled to have a new niece or nephew. I’ve said before that fertility is not a zero sum game, and whether someone else is able to get pregnant and have babies has no bearing on my ability or non-ability to do so. Separating my grief and rage at our situation and my anger at how unfair it is when yet another person we know is pregnant and I’m not has actually gotten easier, believe it or not, since our diagnosis, because we have a (potential) end in sight. And I don’t want to miss out on the amazing things that come with those pregnancies: baby showers, babies, children, because I’m feeling too mean or petty to shut off the bad feelings for a while and just be happy for other people.

I wouldn’t wish wanting children and not being able to have them on anyone, especially around the holidays. Last year was hard, especially with Petra (our first baby) dying, but this year has been incredibly rough. Maybe by next Christmas we’ll be on our way to being parents ourselves and I won’t have to worry about this anymore, and every time I hug Wombat or have tea with Natty and Paigey or hold a brand new infant I can just be in the moment and enjoy it all.

An Explanation

In reading this post by Holly today, and in hearing yet another wave of pregnancy announcements all over the blogosphere over the past couple of weeks, I felt like it was finally time.

I’ve wanted to write about it. I started post after post, but it never felt like the right time; we were always waiting for one reason or another. Because of my blog audience, because we weren’t yet ready to let the world know, because once you write something on the internet it is THERE, son, THERE, and even if you delete it, you can’t take it back. But today…today is the day. The day I will begin the story of how we knew, and what we did, and what happens now.

For much of my life, I was ambivalent about the idea of being a parent. I didn’t know how to feel about the idea of being pregnant, of having babies, of becoming a parent, and luckily my partner didn’t know how he felt, either. About the time that we got engaged, however, my biological clock (for lack of a better term, and I still hate that phrase, but I can’t explain it any better) suddenly flipped from “ambivalence” to “BABIES NOW PLEASE.”

It scared the absolute ever-loving shit out of me.

I had no idea what to do with all of these new feelings that I was having, the sense that my brain was suddenly being controlled by my ovaries. Perhaps it was a bit like what it’s like to be a male, since everyone says that men think with their gonads instead of their brains. (Which, of course, is total BS.) But still – it was a primal urge, an overwhelming sense that I NEEDED TO GET PREGNANT RIGHT NOW NOW NOW and I hated it. I hated feeling like I was suddenly totally not in control of my own wishes, desires, hopes for the future. It was really disorienting, and I spent several months just trying to work it all out. Dan and I talked a lot about it, about whether we’d want to have kids, and how that might work, and when it might happen, and luckily we both ended up agreeing, being on the same page about it, our ideas and our wishes changing together.

There was this one time in the fall of 2007 when I was on a work trip in another state and I’d forgotten to bring my birth control pills with me.  I had to call Kaiser to have them switch the prescription to a local pharmacy so I could start taking the pills on time after the off-week, because I was so afraid that pushing it back by three days would mean I’d end up six months’ pregnant at our wedding. I didn’t want that, and I felt relief when I was able to take that pill I’d taken 3 out of every 4 weeks for pretty much my entire adult life. I thought that maybe a part of me had forgotten the pills on purpose, that baby brain had taken over and would cause us to have an oops, which I so wasn’t ready for. It was scary shit, man. And yet, at the same time, every night when I took a pill, I was sad, because it meant that there wouldn’t be any babies for a while yet.

After a 14-month engagement, we got married in March of 2008. Just a few weeks after our wedding, Leah and Simon announced that they’d be having a wombat. I did the math and realized that if I’d gotten pregnant the week we got married, we’d be due around the same time, and so Leah’s pregnancy and Wombat’s birth and babyhood were really special to me. A huge part of me was super excited and happy for them, and a small, mean part of me was jealous. I was so, so jealous that they were getting to do that thing that I wanted so badly – growing a baby, making a person, becoming parents. We knew the timing wasn’t yet right for us to do the same, but we had a plan. We’d talked and talked about what the right timing might be – we knew we wanted a baby, we wanted to be parents, but we decided to wait until Dan was finished with school and, with luck, both of us would be employed soon thereafter, so we’d have the whole nine months of pregnancy to save money. I started hoarding my vacation time and sick time at work to help prepare for a paid maternity leave. Dan graduated in May of 2009, and he interned all summer at the Denver Art Museum, while looking for a full-time job. We’d also decided that, if possible, we’d move to California. We wanted to be near more family and near many of our friends, our support system being in place for when we became parents, because we knew that would make things easier on us.

In August of 2009, we decided that I’d stop taking birth control pills, and we’d see what happened. I wrote a bunch of blog entries someplace else about how excited we were and couldn’t wait until I could publish them in a more public forum. My period was about a week late that first cycle, and we got really excited about how it might have worked that very first time. And then, we knew it didn’t work.

Petra got sick a month later, and then she died right before Christmas. Still no pregnancy. Each cycle went by, and each time we got our hopes up, just a little, and each time I cried when it hadn’t worked. And it seemed as though everyone we knew got pregnant and had babies – my friend who taught classes at the gym, coworkers, random people I would see in the gym or in my office building. Couple after couple got pregnant the first or second cycle of trying. Everyone around us was fecund, but for us: bupkis.

After a nearly a calendar year and 14 cycles, we knew it was time to get some answers. It hurt more every time another friend or another blogger or another person we knew of announced a pregnancy. Some friends of ours, who had been waiting until there was no possibility of a Christmas baby, got pregnant the first cycle they tried, when we were on cycle 13. They had an early miscarriage, and I was sad for them, but I wasn’t as sad as I felt I should have been, because IT WAS OUR TURN. The small, mean voice in my head said small, mean things, and there wasn’t anything I could do to stop it. We felt powerless; we weren’t moving to California, and we weren’t pregnant. For a whole year, nothing happened except the death of our beloved cat and we didn’t make our once-monthly pilgrimage to the pharmacy at Kaiser to pick up my birth control pills. I started a blog post about trying and failing to get pregnant at least once a month, which became more like once a week, and each time I deleted them, because I didn’t want people we knew to get their hopes up. I felt bad, I felt trapped, I felt stymied, I felt stuck, but I just couldn’t bring myself to be public about something that felt so small and yet so huge.

Finally, we knew that we had to figure out what was going on. Once we made the decision to have some testing done, I started to feel a little better about the situation, because at least we were doing SOMETHING, right? We met with a reproductive endocrinologist who was surprised at how well-researched, how well-informed we were about the issues, about the possibilities, and he suggested some tests that would let us know what might be preventing us from getting pregnant.

We know why we are not getting pregnant.

About a week after we got the test results back, and we began to process the news (crying. mourning. resigned.) the possibility of moving to California came up again, and we decided that something needed to change. So all of that vacation and sick time saved up, rather than being a paid maternity leave, is what is supporting us until we’re employed and back in the world.

I’m not going to write about why we are not getting pregnant. It doesn’t really matter why we are not getting pregnant. What really matters is that our best shot at having a baby together is to undergo IVF. The good news is that we are very good candidates for it. The bad news is that IVF isn’t at all covered by the insurance we’re COBRA-ing until one of us gets a full-time job here in California, and isn’t covered by much insurance at all. It will probably cost us more than ten thousand dollars for a shot (a good shot, but still just a shot) at pregnancy, something that, historically, almost everyone has gotten for free. It still blows my mind, after all of my research and hearing so many stories, both good and bad, that people manage to get pregnant at all, let alone get pregnant accidentally, because there are SO MANY THINGS that have to go exactly right just to get to the point of a developing pregnancy. So when someone tweets about oh, have I had a period recently? or blogs about oops baby number three, it’s all I can do to restrain myself from punching the computer.

I’ve been telling myself for this past year-plus that pregnancy is not a zero-sum game. It doesn’t affect our fertility one iota whether and how someone else manages to grow a person. But it feels personal. It feels like the entire world is able to do something we are not, that everybody else has something that we can’t have (or at least, it is going to cost us a lot of money, and months of hormone treatments, and the loss of the idea of how a pregnancy should happen). Some of the people that I did tell when we first started trying, that it still hadn’t happened, have been saying to me that everything “happens for a reason.” You know what? It doesn’t. There’s no reason that one couple has 19 children and thousands of others can’t have any. There’s no reason that people lose wanted babies at any stage of gestation or age. To hear platitudes like that DON’T HELP. It doesn’t help us get pregnant, that’s for damn sure, and mostly it makes me angry because when someone says that it means they aren’t listening to what I am saying. I don’t believe in “happens for a reason” or “meant to be.” I believe in making things happen, or figuring out why they are not happening, and changing those things if possible. Sometimes it just isn’t possible, and “meant to be” doesn’t help, either.

So here’s the favor I’m going to ask of you, internet. I’m going to welcome comments of all sorts when I write about infertility, and, I assume, as eventually I’m going to write about the experience of undergoing IVF. But if you could just hold off on the platitudes, I’d really appreciate it. We want to be parents. I want to be pregnant. We want to have kids. It is probably going to be a lot more expensive and a lot more difficult for us to get to that point than it is for most people, and we’ll likely never end up pregnant without significant medical intervention. No, we’re not discussing adoption, at least not for the time being, because, believe it or not, that’s even more expensive than IVF. For now, we’re going to focus on being healthy, eating right, exercising, finding jobs, and saving money, because someday, someday that blanket I’m knitting or the drawing Dan is working on will be for our own kid. It may not happen on the schedule we’d originally planned, but you know what? You can’t always plan life that way.

And then we brought it home in a cardboard box

I think I may have mentioned, once or twice, that I’m prone to dreaming. And I don’t mean dreaming like normal people dream. I mean that I have crazy, off-the-wall, way more memorable than most people dreams. There have been periods in my life when I dreaded going to bed because I knew that I would have so many dreams that the quality of my sleep would be affected; meaning, I think during those times I do not get enough non-REM sleep.

The types of dreams I have also go through phases. Sometimes I have more normal-type dreams, like I have to pee and can’t find a useable toilet. Sometimes I have emotion dreams, in which I’m extremely angry or extremely sad. And sometimes I have prophetic-type dreams that seem to come true, hours or years later (it’s where my sense of deja-vu comes from; sometimes I’m someplace or doing something and I get deja vu and then I remember, oh yeah, I had a dream about this x time ago).

My dreams have been even more off-the-wall than usual lately, though I don’t feel as though my sleep is being affected currently (thank goodness). And many of my dreams lately are running along a similar theme: babies. Also, cats. I’m given birth to or breastfed a cat about six times in the last couple of months. But last night, oh, last night. Last night I had a dream that I swear must have lasted hours. I dreamed that I was full-term pregnant and going into labor; that nobody in my family knew about it, and that I was in a weird hippie commune-type place. Several other women in labor were there as well. A birth guru guy had the power to tell us which of us would have our babies first, and decreed the order in which it would happen. Labor didn’t hurt as much as I expected it to, though it lasted for more than a day, and one of the women who had her baby on the first day gave birth to one that was stillborn, so she took it to some sort of sacrificial area. My labor continued while a party with lots of tasty food and drink was going on all around me. Finally, it was time for me to climb into the birthing pod to be alone while I focused, hard, on pushing out the baby. My water broke in a splash, and I felt every last second of the process as I called Dan to open the pod so he could catch the baby.

The baby looked just like I did as a baby, though it was significantly smaller. I didn’t even know for sure whether it was a boy or a girl as I delivered the placenta into the pod, which looked like an alien. Finally, my work was finished, and I climbed out to be informed that it was a boy. He was about six inches long; a perfect newborn in miniature. About two hours later, we left the hippie commune and headed home, with the baby in a cardboard box on the back seat.

Dear brain: I know you want babies. Please, please do me a favor and dial back on the reality bit while I’m sleeping, would you? Thanks ever so.