June 30, 2009
I have always found my husband adorable. But on this Perfect Moment Monday, he was adorable for being an infertility veteran.
We were watching the Daily Show interview with Mike Huckabee that occurred a week and a half ago (I fell behind on my viewing when I was out of town). Throughout the interview, we had to pause the TiVo at least a dozen times to make points to each other (and at one point, high-five each other). We are even more bizarre behind closed doors than people imagine.
Anyway… Jon asked Huckabee his opinion of IVF — fascinating and bloggable in its own right — and Huckabee clearly had no idea what he was talking about and repeatedly tried to cram the question into something that would fit his talking points. Jon started explaining about infertility and IVF, saying that sperm and egg are combined outside the body, then the embryo is implanted…
“Transferred!” my husband yelled at the television.
I have been in love with this man for a decade and a half, yet he still finds ways to blow me away with his fabulousness.
June 28, 2009
Welcome to the Barren Bitches Book Brigade, featuring Navigating the Land of If by Melissa Ford (a.k.a. Lollipop Goldstein, the Stirrup Queen!).
I wish I’d had this book years ago. Unlike my collection of pregnancy books, which was vast and exhaustive even before I started trying to conceive, I never bought infertility books and instead relied on the internet and information from health professionals — most books seemed either too medical or too mushy. As a result, I don’t have much basis of comparison, but considering the quality of the information on Mel’s blog compared to information from other sources, it’s safe to say that this book should become the definitive resource for anyone dealing with any aspect of infertility, loss, or adoption, as well as those who love them (basically everyone).
Probably the greatest strength of this book is the way that it integrates all aspects of the journey toward having children. There are infertility books, and loss books, and adoption books, but someone dealing with more than one of these (as so many of us do) doesn’t have a comprehensive way to integrate them. Mel created a similarly comprehensive resource for children in the form of a music video about family-building, and now it’s the grown-ups’ turn.
One feature that was simultaneously helpful and strange was the Decision List in Chapter 3. It asks for your priorities, and compares those to the different family-building methods. It’s a very rational way to consider and choose different options, but I don’t know that it’s realistic. Donor gametes and surrogacy are presented as equal choices to the others, but it seems very unlikely that someone would choose those options without having tried and failed on their own first. If you went to a doctor and asked for donor eggs without ever having done treatments (lower-intervention treatments like drugs or higher-intervention treatments like IVF), would the doctor comply? Would a surrogate agree to work with a couple who’d never tried any treatments and maybe didn’t have a diagnosis yet? What about the medical mandate to start with the least invasive treatments? It seems like there’s an order of operations that most people follow, and that the order exists for good reasons. But, that being said, I appreciate how the Decision Plan puts all of the options on the table — because most of them seem out of the question for most of us when we’re starting out. I also appreciate the attempt to bring rational decision-making to an irrational process.
The book also contains a healthy dose of Mel’s narrative voice — particularly humor, kindness, and quirky metaphors. What other infertility/adoption/loss book is going to give you a recipe for banana cake?
If you don’t already have your copy, get it! Get it now!
One of the funniest parts of the book is the Q&A section about how to respond to inappropriate questions. Mel addressed several of the most common questions, but there are plenty more! Give an example of a rude, ignorant, annoying or inappropriate question you’ve been asked during your IF experience, that wasn’t already in the book, and write your own gentle, firm and free-for-all responses to the question.
The question that we’ve gotten the most is, “When are you going to have kids?” I guess being together for 15 years and being married for almost a dozen of those will have that effect on people.
Kind: When G-d decides that it’s time.
Firm: Not everyone has the luxury of deciding the timing of such things.
Free-For-All (recycled from a post I wrote almost a year ago), family version: Having seen all of the horrible parent-child relationships in this family, we’ve decided not to reproduce.
Free-For-All, non-family version: Actually, we already had a baby, but I had to give it to this guy named Rumpelstiltskin.
Chapters four and five cover the issues of telling others about your IF struggles and handling the comments if you do. What approach (proactive, reactive, evasive, or lying) have you used with your close friends and family? If you have told, have you gotten any surprising reactions, and how have you handled those? If you haven’t told, has this omission created any friction as people make assumptions or comments about your lack of pregnancy?
With family and most friends, evasive and lying. With a few close friends, reactive or occasionally proactive. Since getting pregnant, we’ve told a couple more people, but currently have a reactive stance — if they ask us, we’ll tell them, but we won’t volunteer information about IF until they ask. Given how some of our family members have been dealing with the pregnancy, offering intrusive suggestions and “help” almost daily, I couldn’t be happier that we kept quiet all these years. There have been a few incidents of friction, many of which I’ve blogged about periodically, but mostly it’s been much better this way than it would have been if we’d been honest. Some families are made for honesty, but not ours.
Did you read the book from front to back, or did you turn immediately to a certain chapter? If so, which chapter? Are there any chapters that you purposely avoided?
I turned immediately to my own current neighborhood, Pregnancy After Infertility. Next I read all of the chapters that have at any point applied to me, and then the chapters that have never applied to me but which apply to my bloggy friends (such as the chapters on adoption and third-party reproduction). I stayed far, far away from Pregnancy Loss — not in a place to read that right now, though I would have read it before becoming pregnant and will probably go back and read it after this pregnancy is done.
Hop along to another stop on this blog tour by visiting the main list at Stirrup Queens (http://stirrup-queens.blogspot.com). You can also sign up for the next book on this online book club: Moose by Stephanie Klein.
June 25, 2009
On a related but different topic from last week’s Thoughtful Thursday about my husband’s interest in going ultra-public with our infertility, in which I crowd-sourced to solve a dilemma (still undecided, by the way)…
Oompa loompa doopity doo, I’ve got another puzzle for you. I’ve been thinking a lot about whether and how to make my children’s identities (faces and names) public on the Internet. This is something that varies incredibly widely in the ALI blogosphere, as well as in the rest of the Internet.
At one end are people like Lavender Luz and Lollipop Goldstein. They have both posted photos of themselves and their husbands on their blogs, but have purposely kept their children’s names and faces off. Both of them have written about limiting identifying information to protect the children’s privacy. They also both have discussed setting limits about revealing certain kinds of information about their children, such as stories that the kids might not want having been told when they get older and look back through blog archives. Finally, they draw lines between telling their own stories as mothers and telling things that should be the children’s stories to tell if they so choose. When I met with them in person (Lavender a few months ago and Lollipop just this evening! what a lucky girl I am!), we talked about these issues extensively, and it’s clear that they’ve both given a lot of thought to the issue.
Other people throughout the internet (as well as non-bloggers such as talking heads on TV talk shows) have expressed concern that sickos might misuse the photos of children, for their own sicko purposes or to track down and hurt the children.
I have a friend who writes the equivalent of a blog with weekly stories and photos of his child, but he sends it out as an email to friends and family. His career happens to involve working with sickos, and it’s not at all paranoid to keep his kid safe from the hundreds of sexual predators that know his name and sometimes get mad at him. But what about those of us who don’t spend our days with sickos? Is everyone else being paranoid or sensible?
At the other end of the spectrum are millions of people, including many ALI bloggers, who post information freely. One that always comes to mind is Dooce, who made history by disclosing too much on her blog (and getting fired for it) but now blogs constantly about her daughter (plus the new baby born last week) including photos and real names. She has written, video-blogged, and even talked on the Today Show about her openness with her daughter’s name and likeness — check out the Momversation on this topic; it’s very thought-provoking. It’s clear that Dooce has also given a lot of thought to this issue but has come to a different conclusion from my friends Lavender, Lollipop, and Sicko Guy. She blogs about parenting because she values the messages that parenting can be difficult and that parenting is important. Through blogging she has validated the experiences of others and helped many people (especially through her openness about being hospitalized for depression after her first daughter’s birth). In terms of privacy, she argues that the internet isn’t really any more exposed than taking her daughter out in public, and that someone who is intent on doing harm will find a way. In terms of embarrassing or revealing too much, she has said that she would stop as soon her daughter asked her to stop.
Many other people (most of whom don’t make a living blogging about their kids like Dooce does) seem to post their kids’ photos and names because they are pleased to show them to the world, and because they want to communicate about their children to loved ones and sometimes to the broader world. Most of them don’t think it’s a big deal.
Posting children’s information can take many forms, all with or without real names:
- blogging regularly about the children, including stories and photos
- including stories or photos occasionally on a blog that’s mostly about something else
- blogging stories but omitting photos
- posting photos on a photo website
- posting photos on Facebook etc.
- and so on
I know very few people who post their own photos on Facebook but refuse to post their children’s photos — almost everyone with kids includes kid pictures on Facebook. Many people even have photos of their kids as their Facebook profile photo. No big deal — until your family photo shows up on a billboard in a foreign country.
What’s a not-quite-mommy to do? And what does this have to do with infertility?
For many of the 7 years I dealt with infertility, I made grandiose plans to glorify my children’s likenesses online. For years before I considered blogging, I envisioned fabulous photo essays, interactive timelines, all sorts of cool stuff. Once blogging arrived in my consciousness, I planned elaborate blogs with stories, photos, and videos. The first blog I ever set up was actually a practice blog created during the sleepless nights of a treatment cycle. I wanted to learn the blogging software so that I’d be ready when I got pregnant, because of course the cycle would work. (That was a couple of IUIs and a couple of IVFs before the one that worked.) Because our families are spread far and wide (and nowhere near us), I thought it was important to document my children’s lives in a more systematic way than the bunches of photos every few months that many of my friends send out. Grandparents and other relatives could hear immediately about each milestone, laugh at each anecdote, and watch the kids grow.
Then I started this blog, and I kept not getting closer to becoming a mother, and that blog became a distant memory. Writing here for almost a year has also changed the way I think about blogging — interacting with readers, fostering relationships, combining style and substance.
Now that I am pregnant, after all this time, I’m not sure what to do.
On this blog, I feel like I owe it to all of you to show you the babies when they arrive, at least once. But, I won’t include their names, because they’ll be too Google-able (especially in combination with each other) and would reveal my true identity. And because this is an infertility blog instead of a pregnancy blog or future parenting blog, I don’t plan to keep including photos or anecdotes, unless they pertain directly to infertility (or maybe not at all?).
What about Facebook? Unlike every other person in my generation, I’m not actually on Facebook! Partly because I haven’t wanted to hear constant updates about the pregnancies and children of acquaintances, and partly because I have limited time and energy (and I’d rather focus on the ALI community than the dude who sat next to me in geometry class). Unlike me, my husband is on Facebook, and I’m torn between keeping the photos off my husband’s profile and letting him include some kid photos like everyone else has. Is it even possible to keep their photos off Facebook entirely? One of their aunts posts all of her photos on Facebook, and unless I expressly forbid her (and everyone else who ever meets my kids and takes some snapshots), I guarantee that she’ll post their photos including tags with their names.
As for photos and names on a blog that includes my real identity, I’m torn. I do want to provide our families with photos and information, but I could do that with a password-protected blog. But other people in our lives will want to see photos too — where do I draw the line with the password? Separate passwords for each viewer, or one password that may be given out without my knowledge by proud grandparents?
Then sometimes I think I should create a real-name blog that anyone could access (but most likely, only a few people probably would). Maybe I will make such a contribution to the world of babyblogging that random people will flock to read it. It would not be linked to this blog, because it would include all of our real names and likenesses. It would not be a “mommyblog” — it would be about my children, not about my struggles as a parent. One big argument in favor of a public blog is that it would serve as an electronic baby book, including details about development, photos, and videos. I could even turn the prose and photos into a keepsake book way more detailed (and interesting) than the standard baby books. If the baby blog were private, I know that I would put far less effort into it than if it were public — I don’t want to shortchange my children on recording their early lives, but I also want to keep them safe in every way imaginable. Once again, as with last week, I truly have no idea what to do, and so I turn to you once again for help and perspective.
Do you post your children’s names and photos online (or, if you don’t have children, what have you imagined you would do)? If so, on what internet platforms do you disclose and on what platforms are you secretive? Why? Has your ALI blog made a difference in your decision?
June 22, 2009
Just yesterday, at 18w5d pregnant, I finally updated the speed dial entries on my cell phone.
Old speed dial:
#3 Ernie, situationally infertile
#5 DH’s cell phone
#6 Mom, suspected infertile
#7 best friend from grad school, parent through IUI
#8 one of DH’s best friends who happens to be an alternative health care provider who has given me IF treatments many times
#9 Dr. Full Steam Ahead (RE)
Yup, that’s clearly the speed dial of an infertile woman.
Yesterday’s changes to speed dial:
#2 Women’s clinic at hospital, which is the back-up emergency number for the OB (instead of acupuncturist)
#8 Maternal Fetal Medicine clinic (instead of DH’s friend)
#9 OB (instead of Dr. Full Steam Ahead)
Hey, that’s the speed dial of a pregnant lady!
It took me a long time to accept the switch from infertile woman’s phone to pregnant woman’s phone, but the time has come. I didn’t delete the acupuncturist and RE from the phone, of course (and I also know both numbers by heart) — I’m not that cured.
Does your phone’s contact list advertise that you are dealing (or used to deal) with infertility/adoption/loss?
Oh, and a couple of things I forgot to mention in yesterday’s post about my curious abdominal sensations:
- I would be more worried if I hadn’t been to the OB on Friday, 36 hours before this all started. Everything was fine then.
- I would be less worried if the “few placental cells close to the cervix that we need to keep an eye on” mentioned at the Level II ultrasound last week hadn’t been reinterpreted by the OB as “placenta previa in need of total pelvic rest, because any sexual stimulation could cause your cervix to open.” The irony does not escape me that after so many years of sex being a futile baby-making chore, now that I enjoy it more than I have in my entire life, I’m not allowed to do it.
Current status: Weird feelings aren’t totally gone, but have reduced in frequency. I’m 98% sure that I overreacted. Thanks for all of the suggestions and support.
June 21, 2009
Welcome ICLW visitors! This post is about pregnancy after infertility. If you aren’t in a mindframe to read about pregnancy or you prefer to comment on a post that asks a question, head to the most recent Thoughtful Thursday, possibly the least consensus for any Thoughtful Thursday ever. Join the disagreement fun!
Regular readers know the following:
- I’m not a complainer. Even after receiving permission from my readers to address the bad parts of pregnancy, I’ve been quite silent on the topic of pregnancy symptoms. I’ve had several regular readers email me at different points saying, “How’s the pregnancy going? You never blog about it.”
- This is not a pregnancy blog. This is an infertility blog written by someone who happens to be pregnant right now. Pregnancy topics are addressed through the lens of infertility.
- I have my moments, but generally I am exceedingly calm and rational. I once had a friend tell me that if she were in a plane crash, I’m the person she’d want next to her. She got her wish when we were later on a plane together that appeared to be crashing. (I don’t think the pilots ever thought we were going to crash, but many passengers did. We were at a 90 degree angle from the direction that planes are supposed to be oriented, for a very alarming minute or so.) Yes, I was calm.
Up until last night, I have been in a bubble of pregnant bliss. I have taken symptoms and difficulties in stride, and I have smiled lots. Whenever I pass a mirror (or window with a reflection), I admire my changing shape. I rub my belly for long stretches of time (but never in public, because I know that infertiles don’t want to see that — I certainly never liked watching other women rub their bellies before I had my own round belly to rub). I have nested and organized baby clothes and planned like you wouldn’t believe.
Then, last night, in preparation for today’s business trip, I had to do more heavy lifting than usual (and more than I’m supposed to). My husband is on a business trip of his own, and wheeled suitcases don’t wheel themselves down the stairs.
Then, the feelings started. Weird abdominal feelings, mostly in the vicinity of my uterus, unlike anything I’ve had so far. Not cramping exactly (I know what cramping feels like thanks to IVF retrievals, hysteroscopy, HSG…). Not sharp shooting pains (which I’ve gotten in my side and chest occasionally during pregnancy, but which resolve when I change position and which the OB has cleared as not a problem). Not the magical fluttering I’ve been watching for every day now that I’m supposed to start feeling the babies move. No, just weird feelings, at different spots.
And then I freaked the fuck out.
I consulted my most medically oriented pregnancy books. They were no help, because “weird feelings in the vicinity of my uterus” isn’t in the index. I packed the most minimal luggage of my life (and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t check luggage, even when going to other continents for two weeks), because I wanted to carry as light a load as possible. I spent time calming myself down so that I could get 4 hours of sleep before leaving for the airport.
As I lay in bed not sleeping, I begged the babies to be okay.
This morning, I worked hard not to lift anything heavy, mostly involving multiple trips up and down stairs. The feelings persisted, on and off. I realized I’d misjudged time and would probably miss my flight. I decided that I’d stop freaking out, and I wouldn’t hurry, and I’d get there when I got there and just take the next flight.
As I drove over an hour to the airport, I mentally debated calling the OB, but like the books, felt that my inability to pinpoint the symptoms would hinder a diagnosis.
As I waited in the airport security line I paused and seriously considered turning around and going home. The ID checking agent chastised me for not being friendly to her.
As I stood in the jetway I ran through the signs of preterm labor that the woman from my insurance company’s high risk pregnancy program made me memorize. Fluid? No. Blood? No. Cramping? I don’t think so. A feeling that something isn’t right? That is the dumbest and least diagnostic criterion ever. Infertiles imagine that something isn’t right on a daily basis.
As the plane took off I calculated how long it would take my husband to drive from the location of his business trip to mine.
As I rode in a cab from the airport to my hotel, I ransacked my knowledge of the city trying to determine the nearest hospital.
These mysterious pains are probably one of the following:
- Feeling the babies move for the first time. That would be lovely, if I knew that’s what it actually was.
- Normal random pains of pregnancy. I’ve had plenty of these all over my abdomen at different points, and again, that would be fine, if I knew that’s what it was.
- Bowel pain. Despite gaining encyclopedic knowledge of the female reproductive system thanks to infertility, it can be hard to distinguish uterine pains from intestinal pains. There has been some weird stuff in that department today, so maybe that’s it.
- Problematic uterine contractions, possibly heralding pre-term labor.
It’ s that last one that’s been freaking me out. I really don’t think that’s what it is, but what if… You can fill in the blank, I’m sure.
So I’m waiting to see what happens with these strange abdominal feelings while I quash my strange emotional feelings. The abdominal feelings have mostly gone away, but, like the airports, we’re at Orange Alert Level. I’ll update you tomorrow.
The blissful journey of pregnancy after infertility turns out to be a little bumpy.
June 18, 2009
On the heels of my previous post about revealing my infertility to a crowd of people, let’s think about revealing on a bigger scale — because it’s come up in my own life.
Remember the Thoughtful Thursday a few weeks ago when, to illustrate my husband’s penchant for civility, I described his professional behavior. I happened to use a metaphor that my husband was actually Kirk Cameron circa 1986. Continuing the metaphor, let’s pretend that Kirk has proposed a Very Special Episode of Growing Pains all about infertility, closing with Kirk talking directly to the camera: “Infertility affects millions of people, including me. My wife and I have spent the past 7 years dealing with fertility treatments, miscarriage, and heartache. To learn more about infertility, visit your local library.”
My husband is not actually Kirk Cameron, but he does have a job in the public eye. He would like to use his platform to discuss infertility publicly, using our experiences as an illustration. Part of his motivation is that so many people are so secretive, especially us, and he wants to bring this too-common experience into the spotlight. He also thinks it would be nice to make some money off of something that has eaten all of our disposable income and most of our savings. My husband is particularly enthusiastic about this project, and it seems to mean a lot to him.
So far, I have said that he can look into the feasibility of a project and see if it’s something that might actually happen, but I have reserved my actual approval until a later date.
To be honest, the idea makes me quite uncomfortable.
Part of the problem is my blog. I’ve minimized identifying information, but I’ve given all sorts of specific details about infertility because no one in real life knows these details. If the details (such as conceiving on Perfunctory IUI #7) are highlighted on the Very Special Episode of Growing Pains, it might become too easy for people IRL to find my blog. Will I have to redact information from past blog posts? Or perhaps password protect a bunch of posts? I wouldn’t take down this blog completely; it’s too important to me, and there’s got to be a way around things. But, I think that my blog would have to change in some way after the Very Special Episode.
We realize that the project would “out” us to all of our families and friends, and we’re both okay with that but know that it will cause some conflicts.
Probably the biggest problem? The assholes. Articles like the New York Times piece on Pamela Jeanne tend to get all sorts of negative reactions in addition to the neutral and positive reactions. Announcements such as celebrities expecting via surrogate lead to accusations that they just didn’t want to mess up their bodies. I just can’t see myself finding the energy to deal with ignorance and vitriol — from anonymous strangers and loved ones alike.
Many people in the blogosphere use real names, and some have gone even more public than that, appearing as the subject of newspaper articles or television programs, or even writing their own books. Others don’t use real names, usually for a reason. Whatever your current status, what would you do if someone wanted to make you famous for being infertile? What if the person trying to publicize your story was the person you love most in the world?
June 16, 2009
This weekend I attended a social event with lots of people that I used to know but haven’t seen in many, many years. It had huge potential for disaster, but went quite well. I didn’t mention being pregnant unless people asked outright — and for once, I had an easy and socially appealing answer to “Do you have kids yet?” Despite the fact that my belly is now bigger than my chest, which I never imagined would be possible, people didn’t guess that I am pregnant just by looking at me. It was more like:
Them: You look great! Do you have kids yet?
Me: We’re expecting in the fall.
Them: Wow! I didn’t even notice. Boy or girl?
Me: One of each.
Them: Wow! Twins! In that case you really look fantastic.
A far cry from the kinds of party conversations I used to imagine in my head:
Them: Do you have kids yet?
Them: Why not? What’s taking you so long?
Them: Do you have kids yet?
Them: Oh, I thought you might be pregnant because of that bulge in your belly.
Me: No, it’s from all of the failed cycles of IUI with injectible medications and IVFs, but thanks for noticing.
I did have one conversation which looked like it might become a nightmare, but instead went fine. A key component to my party nightmare scenario is a group of people crowded around me, staring at me. That’s exactly how it started.
[half a dozen people asking me all sorts of questions about my life and twin pregnancy]
One woman that used to be unpleasant but on this night was very nice: So were the twins created totally naturally?
Me, very nonchalant: No.
Same woman, with a no-big-deal expression: That’s totally fine. You’re going to have so much fun…
I faced a crowd of people staring at me while I answered a question about infertility, and I lived to tell the tale.
Telling family would be another story, but a crowd of acquaintances and former friends is a start.
June 11, 2009
Last week we talked about etiquette for dealing with infertiles. Most people prefer to be treated with extra consideration, but some people don’t like being singled out. This week, I’d like to examine the issue from the other side: the signals we send that cause people to treat us in certain ways.
Let’s examine emails I have received from two close friends. One is my best friend from college, and one is my best friend from graduate school.
My college friend knew what was going on with IF, but during the period in the past 7 years when we have been in closest contact, I was in my TTC break after Miscarriage #1. When she’d bring up the issue of IF, I usually didn’t want to talk about it. Not that I didn’t want to talk to her, but I didn’t want to deal with the issue at all at that point. I didn’t want to talk, I didn’t want to try, I didn’t want to risk losing another baby, and I certainly didn’t want to deal with treatments. Given how much I have talked about IF more recently, especially since I started blogging, it’s pretty funny to think that there was a time when I didn’t want to deal with IF at all — but at that point that’s where I was emotionally.
When she and I don’t live in the same city, our communication is intermittent — we don’t tend to talk on the phone, and she is notoriously bad about returning emails. Literally a year can go by between my initial email and her reply. I hadn’t heard from her in a year and a half when I received the following email last fall:
[chitchat about work]
Okay, now the hard update: Let me preface this section by saying it’s the hard stuff, because we haven’t talked about this subject in a very long time, and the last time we did, it was very painful to you. If you start reading this and change your mind, just delete the message. The topic is babies.
She then went on to talk about how she’d dealt with infertility and started treatments and now was pregnant.
She tried so hard to be sensitive to my feelings that she had “spared” me from commiserating, sharing knowledge, supporting each other. I had never given her the message that I was now okay talking about my own infertility, and so she assumed that I still didn’t want to talk about it. She has a perception that I’m more emotionally fragile than I am, which certainly added to the situation, but ultimately she was respecting the signals that I’d sent.
Compare that to my best friend from graduate school. She was present throughout my initial TTC efforts, then treatments, then M/C #1, then the hiatus, then back to trying again. During that time, she went from being single to meeting a guy, marrying him, experiencing infertility, doing treatments, succeeding, having a baby, trying again, and having another baby. Damn, I’ve been at this a long time. During her initial IF, I tried to be helpful with information and support, but she was much more eager to get the show on the road and escalate to treatments than I ever was, so she didn’t find the situation as troubling as most of the rest of us seem to.
Her email to me, not long after IVF #2:
How are you, BabySmiling? Are you okay? I know you have been swamped plus dealing with IVF hell. I think of you all the time and I hope you are keeping your head above water. I know you are BabySmiling, but still, it is a lot.
This is a perfect email. Checking in, expressing care, praising my usual coping, and acknowledging that it may be harder than I’m letting on. The signals that I was sending to her were that I was facing a lot but trying to deal. I like that version of myself much better than the version with her fingers in her ears saying “la la la la”, and I like the response that this capable version elicited much better too. Strangely, my false front is super-capable, but so is my real self… most of the time.
What signals have you sent out about how people should treat you? Did other people’s responses fit the signals you were sending? You can talk about infertility, or pick some other issue.
June 10, 2009
Yesterday was my Level II ultrasound. Babies and cervix were as they should be. Wonderfully reassuring, and at times miraculous. It’s amazing that fetuses have all of the body parts that they do, and it’s amazing to be able to see them. After all, most of us haven’t even seen our own cerebellum or watched our own hearts beating.
Leading up to the scan, I experienced a flurry of emotions. As with the nuchal scan, sleeplessness thanks to a combination of Dead Baby Thoughts and excitement. Eagerness to see the babies again and hopefully learn the sexes. And… a bit of sadness at the prospect of finally knowing the sexes.
Let’s step back first. Remember when you were a kid, and you imagined what your life partner might look like, act like, be? Tall, average, short? Brown hair, blond hair, black hair, red hair? (Bald probably wasn’t on the list for most of us.) Maybe he would be royalty, and you’d become a princess. Maybe he would be the funniest person ever, and you would laugh all day every day. Maybe he’d be a musician, serenading you by day and singing you to sleep by night. Maybe you would climb mountains together, or debate philosophy, or attend glamorous A-list parties. The possibilities were infinite, and most of us only imagined wonderful possibilities.
Then, when you finally met someone who you thought might be your life partner, you were so swept away by the reality of the person that the fact that the possibilities had just narrowed probably didn’t enter your mind.
With babies, it’s much the same thing — except that it’s quite different. Babies are also infinite possibility — within the realm of genetic reality. Two short parents are unlikely to produce a tall genetic child, for example. Still, the almost-infinite possibilities abound. My children could have any hair colors: brown most likely, possibly blond or black hair (my husband was a blond child, whereas my hair was as close to black as brown hair can get), not impossible but probably not red (though there are gingers in my family). Eye colors are up in the air, though my dominant brown eye genes will probably overtake their father’s blue eye genes. Small butt like me, or bodacious butt like their father? Skinny like their father, or not-skinny like me? Angel babies like I was, or colicky handfuls like their father? Math nerds like me, or math geeks like their father? Sticklers for precision in language like me, or sticklers… apparently some possibilities are not so infinite after all. My children could choose almost any profession in the world — except that they’ll be too tall to be jockeys, too unathletic to be most other types of professional athlete, too cynical to run for public office — though that last one is more nurture than nature, it’s just as inevitable.
The less-than-wonderful possibilities exist too. Will they inherit ADHD, depression, substance dependence from my side? Life-threatening allergies, anxiety disorders, diabetes from his side? Will my daughter be mortified to hit puberty before most of her friends? Will my son be humiliated to learn that he was not conceived the old-fashioned way and that he is not a “natural” twin? Will my children grow up to be infertile?
Every person who has not yet met their child has a broad set of possibilities they imagine for that child. One thing that happens with infertility is that the time for imagining is longer than it is for most — many of my fertile friends had less than a year from pulling the goalie to holding a baby in their arms, and my knocked-up cousins didn’t even get the lead time to think about pulling the goalie. I had two and a half decades to fantasize about my potential someday children, then seven years to imagine my “when they hell are they going to get here?” children. During those seven years, my imagination covered every possibility — good and bad. Mostly good long-term possibilities, but plenty of bad pregnancy and infant possibilities thanks to the shattering of my rose-colored glasses by infertility.
And so, as much as I have wanted to know the sexes of these babies, as the time approached I also realized that the information would constrain my world of possibilities forever. Two boys would mean that I might never get to experience parenting a daughter. Two girls would mean that the first and middle names we selected years ago in honor of my husband’s grandfathers could forever go unused. One boy and one girl would mean that my twins might not enjoy the same closeness that I’ve witnessed in many same-sex twins — and that this would probably be my last (and only successful) pregnancy (knock on wood), because with one of each we would probably never try to conceive again.
Yes, I know, cry me a river. I realize that these are not actual problems. But possibility is sometimes the only thing an infertile can cling to, and contrary to what I imagined would happen for all of those years, setting aside possibility to embrace reality can be a difficult leap to make.
Those were my thoughts leading up to the scan, anyway. And once I learned the reality? Ecstatic. Unequivocally beaming. Anticipation is a mindfuck, but the reality was as exciting as I’d imagined. Unlike my husband, who adamantly has no gender preference, once I learned one sex I was totally rooting that the next baby would be the opposite sex. I know that rooting doesn’t change the DNA that was put into motion over 100 days ago, but in my head I was rooting. Rooting like a cheerleader. A nauseous cheerleader with her belly hanging out and covered with goo.
Oh, you want to know the sexes? See the photos? Okay, since you’ve come this far.
Baby A, my…
…son! The ultrasound technician and MFM doctor both had full confidence. The circle on his chest is Baby B’s head, but they’re not actually crammed together, yet.
Baby B, my…
…probably daughter! 90% sure. She was a little modest and wouldn’t spread-eagle like her brother, but after staring at her crotch extensively and patiently waiting for her to shift, everyone thinks she is very likely a girl. It’s sure enough that I can start decorating the nursery, but uncertain enough that we have ammunition to try to persuade my mother-in-law to put off scouring the garage sales for any more baby items that I didn’t want in the first place. Unfortunately I think we’ve already lost that battle. We can look forward to her bursting into tears many more times over our rejection of the
junktreasure she has unearthed, but between learning the babies’ sexes and starting pottery, today I am in too good a mood to care.
June 8, 2009
It has literally been almost a year since I’ve properly worked in the pottery studio, partly because work obligations have precluded attending my usual class and partly because the Great Pottery Catastrophe of 2008 took the wind out of my sails. I did take one class in a very different technique, but I haven’t sat down at the wheel in far too long. I’d been toying with the idea of building a studio in my home, but once I learned that I was finally pregnant, I decided that it should wait (high startup costs + toxic chemicals + 2000 degree heat = not great with curious little ones running around). My pottery pursuit was put on indefinite hiatus.
Last week I got an email about a summer pottery class with a new teacher (one who was not implicated in the Great Catastrophe). I wanted very much to take the class, but I decided that I shouldn’t because it’s not a good idea to do pottery while I’m pregnant. It’s a great hobby for infertiles, but not as good for pregnant women, between the chemicals used in the glaze and the physical strain of certain tasks. Plenty of women are able to continue pottery throughout pregnancy, but since twin pregnancy is higher-risk than most, I thought that it would be prudent for me to opt out. This sensible decision made me sad, because I miss pottery a lot, but I’ll do anything to keep these babies safe.
I mentioned this to my husband. He said, “You should take the class! You can stay away from the chemicals and modify things to take it easy. It will be a long time before you can do it again. For once, we won’t be traveling much so you’ll actually be in town for most of the classes. Pottery makes you happy.”
His optimistic clarity was one perfect moment; I foresee many more perfect moments to come — starting with my first class tomorrow!