Thursday, July 31, 2008

Red Thread

I first learned of the red thread last month at my IF drop-in support group. Apparently, people wear a red thread around their wrists (and not just any red thread, a pomegranate-colored thread, #814 by DMC, to be exact). It's a lovely idea, really. For more info, read here.

So, anyhow, I purchased my thread immediately after learning of it, and I intend to wear it. First, I want to decorate it with cute beads and such, but once I do slip it on, one of two things are likely to happen:

a. People will think I'm into Kabbalah, which is fine, but I'm not.
b. People will ask me what it's for (as I know my shoddy craftsmanship will give away that this is a statement rather than an actual piece of jewelry).

So, what should I say? Seeing as how I'm still 'in the closet', I need to come up with something witty, while being minimally evasive. Any ideas?

I'll make sure to post pictures of my final 'creation'.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Coming Out of the Closet

I am a closeted infertile. Sort of. Actually, there are a lot of people in our worlds who know: parents, co-workers, and a select-few friends. In moments of necessity or weakness (and sometimes drunkenness), I let the 'dirty' little secret slip, and in most cases, I regret telling. I can intellectualize this and know that I should never be ashamed of the cards dealt to us by fate of which neither of us had any part in choosing (we have both male and female factor). But the simple fact is, I have felt shame, deeply, and have long had the impulse to go to great lengths to conceal it. In fact, to illustrate, this is an anonymous blog. My 'real' blog is floating around friend's and family's screens, a litany of innocuous subjects that tell nothing of what my real life has become. It is more for them now than for me.

Less than a month ago, I attended a drop-in support group for infertility. It was the first time I had ever spoken to other infertiles and this topic came up. They actually referred to it as 'coming out of the closet'. That parallel is spot on. For four years, I have swallowed the biggest focus of my life when I am around others. This swallowing is fueled by a number of dysfunctional self-statements that I figure will be revealed if I spill the beans, the least of which are:

  • My body does not work as it should, therefore, I am different. Perhaps even less than every other person around me.
  • Somehow, God must've thought me unworthy of parenthood.
  • Perhaps I am not actually female after all. Sure, I have the plumbing, body parts, and the overzealous love of the color pink that a female has, but if I can't reproduce, then I must not actually be truly female. So, then, what am I?
I know. Messed up. But these are the echoing, uncensored thoughts of someone tortured by infertility. 'Tortured' might seem a bit melodramatic, but believe me, it's quite fitting. And I considered myself to have fairly stable self-confidence on most days, but I can't deny that it's been chipping away on a daily basis. However disconcerting my own thoughts are, I've namely kept 'in the closet' to avoid the stupid shit I hear from others. Here are some that really take the cake:

  • Upon hearing about my many appointments, a secretary said, "You work in Special Education. Maybe God is trying to tell you something. You don't want to have one of the kids we work with." Yes, this was one of the most disgusting comments I've received, and no, I didn't reply. I was just too stunned.
  • After receiving flowers the Friday before Mother's Day from my husband, the principal at one of my schools (who knew of my IF) kept puzzling over why I received them. She finally said, "Well, I know you couldn't be pregnant." This was also one of the offenders who earlier suggested that maybe I should 'just' adopt (with a big emphasis on the 'just'), as if this were a consolation prize.
  • A friend (who is completely unaware of my IF) posted a long, ranting entry on his blog against IF treatment because of the possibility of multiples and subjecting them to medical issues. This man, who is bright, educated, and very fertile (but clearly lacking a shred of empathy) said, "If you can't have children on your own, then clearly God thinks you don't deserve them." While not religious, he made it a point to state that conception is a miracle that should not be toyed with. I wonder if he would have that idea if he hadn't had two healthy children, both after a month of trying.
So, for now, I am in the closet. I'm aware that I'm not at the point in my journey where I could speak eloquently for the IF cause, although I know how badly we need voices. At any mention of it, I burst into tears and have nothing enlightening to share. The comments that I've heard are met with my concealing raw emotion rather than dispersing information. Right now, I'm more of a poster child of the pain, not of the wisdom that I know will come in time. But one day I will come completely out of the closet. I'll shout it from the rooftops for the women and men who don't yet have the voices to do so. And I'm so grateful for those who have been speaking on my behalf, out loud. I'll have the strength to join them, one day.


I have a schedule that makes most others salivate with envy. I'm a School Psychologist with a teacher's 6 1/2 hour work day (although this is in theory, as my day is always much longer than that) and summers off. Yes, I'm in my pajamas as I'm typing this. But before you jump into the crowded pool of folks who would gladly give their right pinkie toe to trade spaces with me (at least for the summer), I implore you, don't. Please save yourself a funny limp. In fact, let me instead give my left pinkie toe to enter your workplace for some sort of distraction. I don't care what you do for a living. I'll take what I can get and I'll pay a high price for it.

The last day of work before vacation was in the middle of June, the day before my ultrasound. After four years of fertility issues and treatment, I was pregnant and bordering on simultaneously being deliriously happy and sickeningly anxious. It's a funny line to tread, but believe me, it is possible. My 30th birthday party was scheduled for the day after the ultrasound and seeing as how my not consuming Margaritas to usher me into the next decade would be highly suspect to friends, we decided to announce the pregnancy there. After all, I would have been almost 11 weeks along and we had already heard the strong, beautiful heartbeat early on, so it made sense. It was to be a grand celebration, months in the making. But it never came.

The ultrasound, which fell on Friday the 13th (I am slightly superstitious, especially now), confirmed what I knew in my heart to be true. The strong, beautiful heartbeat had disappeared. Before that day, there were no physical signs or symptoms of the event, just the incessant feeling of foreboding that finally became reality as I stared up at the almost-blank ultrasound screen. I left the office in a tearful daze, hand-in-hand with my husband, who drove us home and called friends and family to cancel the party. There was no way I could rally the energy or even the care to go through with it. I spent the weekend dreading the D&C to be performed that Monday, but filling my days to the point of exhaustion so I wouldn't be consumed by it. At the time, I was so thankful that I had the summer off to recover, but now I'm not so sure.

The days are long. Quiet. No matter how much I do, it's still there: the grief, which seems to be deepening over time. My brain is a busy one, that frequently over-analyzes and picks apart, especially when there is time. Summer gifts this to me. And while I believe that one should form insight, there is a point at which something has been over-analyzed and picked apart too much. I think I've reached that point and it needs to stop. So, I try to fill my days, but there is only so much a person can do.

Even after four years, I still had hope, still looked forward, and now I seem to be losing that. I need it back again. I've heard it too many times to count: "Well now you know you can at least get pregnant." At least? Pregnancy is not my final goal. Motherhood is. I need to know, to feel that it will happen. So, I spend the whole of my energy trying to hold onto hope, trying to make my life now more than just a distraction.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Value of the Chase

When I was four, my Mother caught me standing in front of the microwave, staring fixedly in at the popcorn as it began to jump around. She said, tongue-in-cheek,

"If you stare long enough, you won't be able to have a baby one day."

I heard the laughter in her voice, the light-hearted playfulness that was not to be taken seriously, yet something in her statement registered paranoia in me. What if she's right? From then on, I threw my TV dinners and popcorn in quickly and rushed out of the room, only to return long after the 'ding' had gone off. Even then I knew I deeply wanted children someday and even then, something inside me whispered that when the time came, it wouldn't come easily.

Boy was this an understatement.

For four years now, I have been surrounded by friends and family who likely never worried about the microwave. Most (if not all) have never thrown out birth control for two years, only to come to the conclusion that the whispers they heard long ago was actually their intuition screaming. Most have never taken five rounds of Clomid and had four intrauterine inseminations. A dozen needles, ultrasounds, leave time from work. Endless. And after four years, thousands of dollars, and so much heartache and time, most have never had their dream finally come true by watching and listening to a tiny heartbeat on the ultrasound screen, only to lose that heartbeat at just past 10 weeks. Most people that I am surrounded with had a very, very different story.

Accidental pregnancies. Trying for two weeks, with success. Picking out names and announcing to the world the second they find out without an ounce of trepidation. This is what I am surrounded with. Stories that seem not to mirror mine. This is why I'm here.

I know my story isn't unique, but in my world it is. This makes it so incredibly easy to feel alone in the biggest fight of my life. There is one thing that gives me hope, though. When whoever is destined to arrive does, I know all this will be worth it in the end.