The Stink Eye
When we first got our kitty, Willow, Luke, our rat dog, was obsessed with her. I'm talking Single White Female obsessed, or maybe even Kathy Bates in Misery obsessed. Our poor little Willow was a scared, itty bitty kitty, and Luke would just not leave her alone. In Luke's defense (even typing those words left a bad taste in my mouth. This was the dog that would eat light bulbs, CD's, and a whole fallen hamburger in a single bite) all he wanted to do was just sniff her, but we just wanted to give Willow a chance to adjust to her new surroundings.
Remember the scene from Jurassic Park where the Velocoraptors would cock their head from side to side to show the audience that they were learning? Luke gave that exact same look when he'd figure out a way around a new obstacle we put in his path in order to separate the two. Just like the movies, the camera zoomed in on us, and I fearfully whispered "He's Learning!" Eventually, I sprayed him with a water bottle every time he approached Willow. It didn't take long for him to associate Willow with getting sprayed in the face. So much so that long since then he would take these long, carefully plotted arches around her just to get where he was going, giving her the stink eye the whole time.
What does this have to do with IF? EVERYTHING!
Much like Luke and the spray bottle, Infertility also conditions us. We take these long and round about paths to reach what should be a simple thing that comes naturally to so many people. We're still in the middle of our long dance, but even then, IF has conditioned us. We've learned a new vocabulary, new medical procedures, and creative ways to pay for things and deal with the stress. We've also learned that it can change every part of life, relationships, and even simple moments.
Almost Perfect, isn't
Shelby and I go to this Mexican food restaurant that serves the best margaritas. Ever. I know you're about to ask if I've ever tried the margaritas at your favorite restaurant, but don't bother. The only thing that make yours better would be if they were delivered by non-English speaking buxom vixens where the only language they knew was of the non-verbal variety, and if that were the case, I doubt my last blog post would have existed because there'd be a porno about it. (Never mind the fact that the cheap SOB wouldn't have picked it out anyway, but I digress.)
Things are almost perfect at this moment. We're sitting on barstools that have been used so much that their golden varnish has faded to white, and the tables are beginning to match. It would be a crime to replace them, they just fit. We're enjoying our second round of margaritas, and enjoying each other's company. (Ok, I admit it, it was my second, and I already lapped Shelby).
We're enjoying our drinks, chips and salsa, but there is a heavy air around us. Infertility is an interesting and cruel animal. All its victims are cursed with its eye of providence. It's all seeing, almost omnipotent. Things should be perfect right now. I'm drinking too many margaritas with the love of my life and we're enjoying each other's company, but the curse of IF reminds us that not all is right in the world. It's unfair. I'm angry that I have to say "almost perfect" and not "perfect." It dominates all aspects of life. How are we going to afford it? When do we stop? What if our IVF doesn't work? What if it does!? These are questions that only have answers when you're forced to answer them. I'll be happy to answer the last question, others, not so much. I worry about these questions as I take another gulp of margarita. Maybe the stars aligned, or maybe the drink is just strong, but it's cool, sweet, and salty taste made me realize something. While IF is always there, there are times where things aren't heavy, depressing or stressful. There are these rare and unexpected moments when IF grants us a reprieve.
AF, BFN, CD, DH, DPO, OMG, WTF!!!
It must be our unconscious mind helping us find ways to cope. Because there are these times where you just have to laugh, try to be light hearted and enjoy each other's company while talking about how ridiculous this path we've been conditioned to walk really is. I'm thankful for these moments. No matter how hard another negative test is, or swiping my credit card for expensive medication, I am reminded that I have power in this too. IF is not killing us, it's making us stronger. Our relationship is transforming into an even stronger bond, and sometimes, just sometimes, instead of focusing on the worries, pains, and trials, we talk about the ridiculous, almost funny parts of our journey. It's only a discussion that people who suffer this road know.
As we sit in this crowded Mexican restaurant, drinking margaritas, our conversation turns lighthearted. We start trying to stump the other person with the abbreviations that are common in this world. I impress Shelby with my IF vocabulary. I notice a few glances from people around us wondering what the hell we're talking about, but we go on. As lighthearted as it is, it is still unfair. I shouldn't have to know what AF stands for, I shouldn't have to know BFN, and I shouldn't have to be drinking margaritas because of ANOTHER BFN. As unfair as it is, IF doesn't win this time and drag us down. It doesn't sour my mood, or cause the many concerns over money, stress, and pain to bring us down. My mood is still light and the laughter of my wife as she's trying to get me to remember what "DPO" stands for is like a drug. IF does condition us to walk a long path, but it's still our legs that carry us through it. We've seemed to exhaust our knowledge of abbreviations around the same time Shelby sips her last bit of margarita. I fear that the lull in conversation will bring the heavy IF clouds, but we still have a reprieve. With IF terms being exhausted, I begin to recount the other things that I've learned in this world of infertility.
Salsa Seems Less Appealing When Discussing AF
There are things that I shouldn't have to know, and then there are things that I didn't WANT to know. I liken it to dating. When you first meet someone, you do everything in your power to woo the other person. You talk on the phone until 1 AM, you see each other every chance you get, you buy flowers, you hope to first base. Eventually, the formal "dates" taper off, the flowers are less frequent, and first base is just means to a home run (hehe). You can't point out where the transition took place, and soon there is no such thing as first base stopping at first base. The line between shouldn't and didn't is like that. IF has taught me many things, and most are things I shouldn't have had to learn, or know.
· … have to bang on the reproductive clinics door at 7:30 in the morning in order to be let in so I can watch bad porn and try to produce
· … want to correct my last blog post and state that the Asian porno was actually called "Slanted Eyed Honeys"
· … have to tell a doctor that I had sex yesterday and my count may be low today
· … it's really true that women who hang out together eventually get similar cycles
· …the dates of said women's cycles and that they are only a few days different from Shelby's
· …that there are ramifications to taking progesterone and that they can last up to two days after stopping.
· … AF's flow and consistency vary every month
· …and, in detail, what this month is like
· …and more importantly, it's not very appetizing to dip a chip into salsa while discussing it
I also know that there are so many more things that Shelby goes though that I cannot fathom. It's hard on me, but I can't comprehend how hard it is on her. What I do know, however, is that we're strong and even stronger together. We're using every opportunity to become closer, more in love, more connected to each other. We're conditioned, but we're also conditioning ourselves to become better.
Infertility conditions us; it's the spray bottle with an unlimited water source. We've been conditioned to walk this long arching path around every aspect of our lives. Our relationships, behaviors, and even, at times, our self esteem is forced to take these long and careful paths around our dream. It's unfair that I resent my cousin's newborn baby because, oops, they weren't even trying and got pregnant. It's cruel that I know the look on a doctor's face when you find out your baby has died. It's vicious that my wife hurts so badly and I can't make it better. How can I compete with that?
Luke was obsessed with Willow because she was so close but out of reach. He just wanted to introduce himself and get a good sniff in. That's all I want too. The scent of a newborn was once so close, but is still out of reach. We've been sprayed in the face so many times; you almost forget what you wanted in the first place. Disappointments, BFN's, changed relationships, it's just become the norm.
All I can say is to remind you that each of us has a spray bottle too and it is stronger than infertility. I know that infertility will never conquer the love I have with my wife. I know that as long as we have that, we have power too.
We'll find ways to forget the constant beat downs;
We'll find ways to come up with money;
We'll find ways to keep trying.
Infertility does not wield all the power. It will never be stronger than my relationship with Shelby. It may have conditioned us to walk this long arching path, but there have been rewards given to me regardless of why we're down this road. It's making me a better husband, stronger person, and if we're lucky, a much stronger father than I would have been without these trials.