Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Gift

I'm watching G run around the backyard, excitingly fix balls atop his t-ball stand. He's asking Jesse if she's also having fun. She replies, in his voice, "this is great fun!" and suggests a few things they can try, which he agrees on. He encourages Jesse, telling her she's doing a great job. It's a seamless back-and-forth of good friends, only one of them is a real little boy and the other merely exists in the little boy's mind. You wouldn't know, unless you heard that a solitary voice made up the entirety of the conversation, that Jesse is my son G's imaginary friend.

G has had an imaginary friend in one form or another since his early twos. Now, at three-and-a-half, his imaginary world has only become more vivid and intricate, his longings for someone else to be around grow by the day.  He wants to be surrounded by children constantly and although he has outside activities (including preschool) that allow regular contact with other kids, for him, it just isn't enough. He frequently begs for other kids to be around him and yet, after Jesse and G's enthusiastic exchange, he walks back into a house where there lingers only a few adults, and into a quiet room filled with toys that only his hands have grazed over today.

My only way to fully satisfy G's constant need for companionship is to have another kid living in the house full time. For most, that's called a sibling and you better believe he hasn't stopped asking for one. "I'm working on it, buddy" is all I can say.  Thank you, infertility.

Despite what I wrote above, I'm totally aware of the following: that the presence of an imaginary friend is not necessarily directly related to wanting a sibling or other kids around (and may very well just be a very active imagination) and that a sibling will not necessarily fulfill the longing for social contact, especially given that said sibling would be at least 4 1/2 years his junior at this point, if we're lucky. From what I've heard, that presence is considered more of an annoyance for many until several years later.

Perhaps I am projecting my desires onto my kid. Perhaps all the kid really needs is a few extra play dates.  Still, I can't help but think that the imaginary friends and the pleadings for wanting other kids around (sometimes specifically a baby, along with the promises to help take good care of it) are expressions of wanting a sibling. Why do I think this? Because once upon a time, I was an only child who did the same and I remember exactly why. I desperately wanted another person under 18 in my household. My childhood fantasies of what that would look like compared to what might have been would've probably been very different, but I remember the longing was so strong that I made my parents add an extra setting to the table for my 'sister'.  It's kind of nuts to see G do the same. When cousins would come over, I relished in the time and pretended they were my brothers or sisters, even when we were at odds.  It didn't matter if we didn't always get along. All that mattered was that I was not alone.

Being an only child was and still is a lonely experience for me. This has often translated into negative, and I see the potential of that in my son now, especially given that both sides of the family are incredibly small.  It's not like he has or will ever have a ton of close cousins to make up for what he doesn't have in his immediate family. However, I also see that in so many ways, his life is different than mine was as a child and perhaps that will balance the positive end of things. He's in a far more stable situation. By the time I was his age, my parents had already split up twice and we had moved a number of times because of it.  As a child, I wanted someone else to shoulder the burden and share in those experiences. Even in adulthood there have been a number of things that have happened during which I longed for a sibling, not the least of which was experiencing my parent's passings alone.  At this point, I can't imagine leaving that kind of loneliness for him.

Quite honestly, I don't need to read into my son's behavior to justify why I want a second. I've already written about my own reasons for why I want another that are separate from him, but still these reminders he seems to give me on a daily basis only intensify this need.  At this point, I look forward to adding to our family one day not just as an opportunity to parent again, but as a gift to my son.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Today, May 23rd, was once upon a time my due date. Maybe it always will be, but it's a date that is linked with a wish stopped short, rather than a wish fulfilled. Had our pregnancy continued, my life would've looked very different. But for now, it remains as it was on October 9th. There is no new life to welcome. The only tangible evidence I have that this due date ever existed is a pair of socks from surgery and some pamphlets on miscarriage. The 'almost' rather than the 'will be' is as close to my dream as we'll get for now.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


Hello IF sisters (and possibly a solitary bro out there?)! Welcome! You see, I think my luck is turning. I was just jonesing for chocolate and was convinced that I had nothing in the house. I'll admit I was getting a little desperate. And then, a quick reach in the back of my pantry revealed a well preserved and terrifically delicious chocolate bar. That has to be a sign of things to come, no?

OK. Probably not. Even I'm not delusional enough to think that chocolate can somehow be prophetic. But damn it's good. And so what if I won't be able to button my pants up tomorrow morning? I'm happy now.

Actually, that's how things have been going recently. After many years, one IVF baby, two miscarriages and a diagnosis of diminished ovarian reserve at 34, we decided to go the donor egg route in March, but have been stalled due to finances. For a long while, I was mourning my new diagnosis (which I'm sure I still am) and felt trapped from moving forward, luring me into a wildly bitchy, hate the world place, but in the past week or so, I felt very distinctly that I had made a metric-sized shift in my attitude. I decided to worry about today, to live now and figure out tomorrow's challenges when I was in a better space to do so (kinda like the eat chocolate now, figure out clothing that fits later, which is actually both metaphorical and literal for me).

Active treatment? What's that? I'd love to know, but for now, I'm not there yet. And I will be...someday. And I don't know when the day will be or what that day will look like, but right now, I'm just learning how to be OK with that. And to be better about keeping my house stocked with chocolate.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Mother's Day, Bittersweet

This past Mother's Day marked my 2nd as a Motherless Mother. It was filled with endless activity which kept my mind busy from the the bittersweet that it seems this holiday will always be tinged with. I need that, I know now. Because last Mother's day, just two short months after my Mother's death, my thoughtful husband booked an entire day of quiet indulgence.  Neither of us could have anticipated what that day would turn out to be, except that now I know what it's like to:

Cry on a massage table
Feel deeply envious of a hairdresser (and this time it wasn't baby-related, but mother-related)
Be pitied openly by an esthetician
Get flowers for my mother only to have nowhere to bring them
Pray for an end to the day

Just a month before Mother died, my in-laws proposed going camping on Mother's Day weekend. My Mom didn't want me to go because she thought it might be her last one and wanted to spend it with me. We were both so confident that that date would come to pass. How I wished that were the case and not that we had already spent our last Mother's Day together almost a year before.

There were so many years spent in longing to celebrate this day as a Mother but I never anticipated the mark that losing my own Mother would forever have on it. Like I said, bittersweet.  The gift of one, the loss of another.

Every Mother's Day, I buy a plant for her and pray that my black-thumb doesn't kill it before the season is over. This is the meyer lemon tree I got this Mother's Day because she loved eating lemons (as does G). Happy Mother's Day, Mom.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Financial Infertility

*Update Below

Do you know what the true force that determines whether you will ultimately be successful in this family building business really is? It's not clear fallopian tubes or sperm counts. It's money. A big old truckload of greenbacks just waiting to be dumped into either the clinic's or agency's pockets can almost certainly open up your possibilities and, in many cases, guarantee that at some point, you will become a parent. It might not be in the way you had originally intended, but the reality of a child ending up in your arms is tenfold when you are blessed with the income (or, more rarely, insurance coverage). Because if you're especially infertile and don't have money, well then, you may very well be stopped on a dime...literally.

Pretty crappy way to determine who gets to be a parent, no? But then, we all know this life in IF land was never built on what's fair.

When we thought we were headed for a 'plain' own egg IVF several months ago, even that was a financial stretch for us. But when we were slapped in the face with my brand-spanking, shiny new DOR diagnosis and decided to go the egg donation route (rather than throw away 20K using my crusty ovaries), that's when we found the stopping point of our dime. Our forward momentum is now at a full stand still until we can magically come up with several thousand dollars (in the midst of the constants of life, like car repairs, house repairs, etc.). We will get there, though, but it won't be any time soon. I know that much.  At least the ticking time bomb that once sat squarely in my ovaries is no longer an issue.

And yet, we're still one of the lucky ones. There are so very many people who will never see a F.ollistim pen or wake up from an egg retrieval because that will always be out of their reach. It's funny to think that anyone would consider going through that a privilege, but I do. Access to medically necessary treatment like IVF could very well be the one thing that separates you from your child.  And despite what it seems, not everyone gets that opportunity.

My best friend from middle and high school (who is now more of an acquaintance, though I still love her dearly) is infertile. I've always known she was infertile, even when we were kids. Her periods were so wonky and she ended up with a 16 pound cyst that had to be removed when she was 18. You don't need a specialization in reproduction to know that there's going to be some baby making issues later on.  I don't know all of the details of her story currently, but the last time we spoke in depth over three years ago, she shared that she had a wicked case of PCOS (which I guessed) and since then, I know she's been going through treatment and has had a few miscarriages. She recently shared on Facebook that the doctors tell her it's time to move on to IVF, but she can't. She simply does not have the money and that's heartbreaking to see.

This is only one example of a family that might never grow unless there's some magical good Samaritan that shows up with wads of cash or a change in insurance. I know there are more like her, especially in these economic times.  For any number of people who have stretched themselves thin by taking out loans to finance treatment, there are probably far more who can't even get a loan because they foreclosed on their house or because they kept going over the limit on their credit cards when they lost their job. 

I don't know if my friend has considered foster adoption, but maybe that's not an option for whatever reason. Because we don't have a lot of contact, this is all speculation, but I use her as an example of what I'm guessing to be a huge subsection of the IF community that we don't often hear from. The blogs/forums I read are more frequently by people either actively in treatment and/or parenting following successful treatment/placement. It is rare to see someone sit on a blog or forum for years on end with little to no intervention. Sure, there's quite a lot of failed cycles out there, but are there many people writing who rarely ever see a doctor because they simply can't afford it? Not that I've seen, but I know they're out there and they're probably plentiful.

I would imagine that watching your fellow bloggers/forum buddies move forward with treatment (and often with success) when you are standing still against your will breeds a whole new level of pain to the infertility equation.  No one wants to conceive their children by way of catheter and/or petri dish, but what if you never even got the opportunity to do that? I've been touched by this. I want nothing more than to get started with a clinic, pick a donor and move on with our journey, but I can't. I sit here and daydream about the moment when I show up to an RE's office and finally say, "I'm ready." I actually look forward to treatment, regardless the outcome (although, obviously I'd like an actual take-home baby from it). But the truth is, we just don't have 32K lying in our back pockets. Who does? Well, some, but I doubt that makes up the majority of us.

**UPDATE: Aaryn brought up a great point and I want to clarify, just in case it didn't come across. I in no way believe that money=baby. What I wanted to convey was that in many cases no money=absolutely no baby. I know most understood (including Aaryn) that this was not the intention behind my message, but just in case there was any idea that it was (which, I could see how someone could come to that conclusion), I wanted to make it clear.

OK. That's all. Carry on...

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

When Being Open About Infertility is Not a Good Thing

I remember it so well. I was newly pregnant and our ultrasound showing the heartbeat had been just a few days before, so I was walking around on a cloud of euphoria. I was working for my previous district and when I was called to the office for a delivery at my elementary school the Friday before Mother's Day 2008, there they were, a dozen long-stemmed roses.  When I walked in, a few people were wondering out loud who they were for and, assuming that it was a Mother's Day gift, the principal (who knew of my infertility), turned to me with spite and snarled,

"Well, I know they're not for you."

I kid you not.  I am quoting her word-for-word.

The flowers were for me from my lovely husband and the words inside spoke of our perfect secret, but her words almost knocked me off the cloud I had been riding and were proof to me that I still needed to keep my mouth closed. That my infertility (on top of already preventing me from building my family) could be used against me was the final blow. No, strike that. The fact that I lost that baby a month later was.

For a long time now, however, I have been very open about my infertility, almost to the point where I'm quite certain I've been Facebook blocked about a dozen times thanks to my zest for posting IF literature for a group who is largely fertile. (I can hear it now: "OK, OK, we get it! We won't tell you guys to relax anymore! Geez!") A lot has changed since that Mother's Day, obviously. I initially 'came out' at my baby shower, but I'm going to be the first to admit that this didn't take nearly as much courage as it should have. I chose a time when infertility was (at least at that very moment) behind me. I was, by all appearances, successful, so I was speaking in past tense and too wrapped up in impending Mommyhood to really feel the full sting of infertility as I had when that principal shot her venom at me.  It's far easier to speak about something traumatic after you've conquered it. It was a precisely-timed 'outing', so my hats off to anyone who is speaking while still in treatment/waiting.

 Recently there's been this message in our community, especially in light of 'joining the movement', to talk about infertility. It goes something like this:

 Just talk! Don't be silenced! If we are to move forward and remove the stigma from infertility, then we need YOU to tell your story!! Do it, and do it, now! Don't delay! Our community needs you to speak-and speak loudly!  In fact, shout it from the rooftops!

Now, I LOVE this message-LOVE it! Obviously I subscribe to it and have blogged about needing more IF awareness recently, but that's because I'm in a place where being vocal will not wound me. When I told my employers all those years ago, however, I was.  It was only after I realized that I needed to start becoming transparent to explain my ongoing absences at work that I finally approached them. Because of Bay Area traffic, what should have been a 20 minute appointment (pick up sample, stuff in bra, drive like mad, lay on table for 5 minutes, then done!) often turned into 2 hour stretches. In the course of an 8 hour work day, that's a huge chunk of time. And it was my first year with the district, so it made it even more imperative to explain why I was dropping off the face of the earth several times a month. So, I was forced to tell my boss and that ridiculous principal. While I don't regret explaining my absences, I do regret going into any sort of detail and opening myself up in the way that I did.

These confessions were long before I had processed any of my infertility. In fact, most family and friends were none the wiser and here were these two people who held this extremely private information and had no motivation to keep it private or treat it respectfully. I had not yet found my way to a support group meeting nor did I even realize the ALI community existed, so I therefore assumed that I was an oddity, having no idea that any of my experiences and feelings were remotely normal. And because of this, I was so tender about the topic of infertility that the mere mention sent me into tears. I still regret showing my tears to that principal when I told her. She didn't deserve that piece of me, but she got it and eventually abused it. So, should I have shouted about my infertility from the rooftops? least not at that moment.

For those who have yet to 'come out', I would caution them with this: think carefully before you do. I'm not telling anyone to remain silent-no, but I think that we should find a way to balance self preservation and supporting our community. Being open about infertility is not meant to be comfortable. Whatever situation you're in, it should take courage, but it shouldn't be done at the expense of yourself, otherwise it could end up doing more harm than good.

Take for instance someone who lives in a small, rural conservative community. Although I live in a pretty liberal place, the stigma still exists here, so I can only begin to imagine what is being said in some places about those 'people who do IVF'.  There are quite a few groups who feel it to be a moral obligation to prevent treatment from happening (take personhood bills, for example), so mean spirits could potentially slip their way in and disrupt your life. And even if you're not worried about the community, if you're not quite prepared to start fielding unsolicited ass-vice, ignorant comments or better yet, very pointed questions about current treatment, then maybe it might also be wise to wait awhile. Being open about infertility educates, which is what we want, but it also has the potential to change the relationships, and thus, the life around you and sometimes not always in a positive way.  We need voices, but at what cost? For some, the cost is just too high.

And then again, some people never even tell at all. And I want to say, I get it. I really do, and I don't hold it against them. Does this silence in our community make for more of an uphill battle for the rest of us? You bet it does. But do I think that the members of our community need to participate if it yields more personal pain? No. Not now. Maybe later. So, if an 'outing' can take place at any point in time in someone's journey, we need that added voice desperately, but learn from my mistakes: choose your audience carefully and make sure that you're ready because sometimes the world of being open is amidst rough waters.