I have been somehow fortunate enough this year to not have received any of those annoying ‘year in review’ Christmas letters from the few families I am still in contact with. You know, the ones detailing their many vacations and achievements and decorated with pictures of smiling happy kids on beaches, at dance recitals and holding soccer trophies? You know, the ones that silently mock, “haha, this is not you, yet again”? I have long considered sending out one of my own to rail against the unspoken practice that these letters are reserved only for families with kids. But then I realized that:
1. I am way too cynical to do something like that and not have my bitterness come screaming across the letter and
2. What would I say? "Oh, yeah, and in June we lost the baby we had been trying for for 4 years and now we’re going into debt for IVF"? That’s the real story, right?
Really, even with those smiling happy families, Christmas letters are scrubbed clean of strife, but because so much of my year has been composed of this, any attempt at a letter would read nothing like a fairytale (unless Grimm was involved) or rather, would read like pure fiction. So, I’ve been wondering, what would the unedited, façade-free version of my letter look like? Well, I would guess, something like this:
2008: The Real Story
Hello friends and family! Wow, what a year 2008 was for us! You see, it kind of sucked. No, it really sucked! Sure it was punctuated with some saving graces, but generally speaking, the highs were breathtakingly high and the lows were digging through the dumpsters, crying on a nightly basis low. I guess bipolar would be a word used to describe it. After riding the roller coaster of 2008, I’m frankly glad to see it come to an end. What an understatement!
Just after ushering in New Years 2008 surrounded by wonderful friends and the love of my life, I was struck with a deep foreboding about the year that lay before me (please ignore the smiling faces). Now, don’t get me wrong, friends, I am not psychic, nor do I really believe in most supernatural occurrences, but I knew that especially in the middle of a celebration, one shouldn’t feel so unsettled about their future, but I was. Don’t let the picture fool you. Around the same time, Mr. S. was spending many sleepless nights, grey hairs, and 3 weeks out of each month traveling for a job he despised. Our start to 2008 was shaky at best.
Shortly after the New Year, we were given the news that our landlord was going into foreclosure and we had 6 weeks to vacate before the bank took over the property. Good times! In the middle of packing, a move that would signify the 7th in as many years, we went through yet another ‘procedure’, which was a miracle considering Mr. S’s traveling schedule.
Now, as you might have noticed, after 8 years of marriage, we are still without kids. It might not come as a surprise to you then that we are animal-collecting infertiles who actually spend all of our energy and money on achieving something that comes naturally to most couples. January brought yet another failed attempt at a life that I know of only through your Christmas letters and gray stirrups in a doctor's office.
Meanwhile, we were hit with more real estate news: the house we own in Idaho that was supposed to have renters in it until mid-March was vacated early and the renters defaulted on their last month's rent. So, we sent the case to small claims court, put the house on the plummeting market and waited. And waited. Meanwhile, Mr. S. quit his job in disgust and somehow by God’s grace, found another. And then, we moved. Mind you, all of this happened by the end of February.
And then, something entirely miraculous happened in April. File this under a breathtakingly high moment, a true saving grace. We found out that our 4th procedure of this sort was successful…we are pregnant! But unlike others who happily announce the news at birthday parties, we are quiet and cautious, especially given that our first week of pregnancy is spent on ‘miscarriage watch’ because of our low progesterone levels and our 3rd week is spent wondering whether I was exposed to Chicken Pox (I was not and am miraculously immune although I don't recall having it). However, our little bean pulls through and we are able to see a strong heartbeat. I am completely unfazed by the fact that our house in Idaho still sits empty, collecting dust and hemorrhaging money, because I am happy in the little secret that I am pregnant after all these years. But come Friday, June 13th, a day before my long-anticipated 30th birthday party, and 10 weeks into our little one’s short existence, that heartbeat disappears. File this under the lowest of the lows. It’s likely you were invited to that party, which was eventually canceled, and yes, this was the back-story. I am now terrified that this is the closest I will come to a birth announcement in a letter of this sort.
While your family was busy barbecuing and watching fireworks, I was sitting at home on my couch just a few weeks shy of watching my dream die, alone and numbed, eating too much and having also been rejected from the 4th of July party I was looking forward to whose invitation it took enormous courage to accept to begin with. At that moment, I had never felt more alone, so I made a choice and found Open Path where I met my very first 'infertiles', live and in person. And guess what? They're REALLY normal! Actually, they’re amazing! No horns, no green, scaly skin. I know that’s hard to imagine as a fertile person, but it’s true! I started an infertility blog soon thereafter. After connecting with several women traveling similar paths through these routes, I found unlikely and amazing friendships.
And after figuring that I'll never be able to have a baby, I gave my SUV to my Mom (who needed a car) and bought a completely impractical 2 door convertible that symbolizes my total lack of hope for a child at this point and is probably more expensive than what we should have gotten, but by then, I didn't give a shit about anything. In fact, Mr. S. and I got our first tattoos together to signify our loss, our hope, and our united front.
July also brought a trip to Vegas where we were able to forget about our grief for almost 2 seconds- a 2 second time period that was likely fueled by yard-long Margaritas. And yes, I did double-fist 99 cent margaritas as well. I don’t remember much of the trip for this reason. It was great! In August, I got a new job, scaling my previous commute from an hour to 6 minutes. Oh, and I conveniently forgot to mention that over the course of a few months, I managed to gain 10+ pounds.
In both October and November we were visited by two more failed attempts at your Christmas letter life and attempted to host Thanksgiving at our house with disastrous results. We should just stop pretending that we’re normal already, right? Our small claims court case against our former renters was finally settled, but once again, they defaulted, this time with the court. Our property manager is now after their wages, we took the house off the market and rented it out again, at a loss. Awesome.
Finally, we’re in December, a place I must say that because of my steady distancing from people as a result of our failed pursuits for a full family, I am visited by very few happy smiling families on the Christmas cards in my mailbox. Thank you for that. It is only more reinforcement for me to hide away. As I force myself to listen to Christmas music and decorate our tree, I am reminded that I will soon be borrowing a huge hunk of money to increase our efforts to build our family. I am both excited and terrified by this pursuit. I wonder to myself what it will be like to pay that bill each month if we are unsuccessful, but try to step into the new year with bravery and hope. Despite all that has happened, both good and bad, Mr. S. and I still have each other and in the face of such loss, our union is strong. Despite everything, I am more than ready to move on to a New Year and hope the next one will bring us all better fortune.