When are you due?

July 31, 2008

A coworker recently mentioned that although she has never been pregnant, more than once she has heard the question, “When are you due?” It’s completely rude to say that to anyone, but this coworker happens to be on the slim side of normal. In her case, in addition to being rude, the question is just strange.

Today, I saw someone whose name I’ve heard but whom I’ve never met or seen in person before. She looks about eight months pregnant. She is also overweight. I have no idea if she is pregnant or if she always has a large abdomen. She doesn’t walk like a pregnant woman, but if I’m misjudging the pregnancy’s timing (if indeed there is a pregnancy to time), it could just be too early for the pregnancy waddle. I may be very curious, but I would never ever ever ask her if she was pregnant.

I don’t diet and I never have. However, since I started injectibles this spring I have been watching my weight to avoid weight gain. During that first cycle, I felt like I gained 15 pounds. The scale didn’t say that I’d gained any weight, but there was decidedly more fat on the part of my abdomen that happens to be directly over my uterus. That area normally has relatively less fat than other parts of my stomach. I didn’t enjoy that puffiness, but at least it wasn’t bump-shaped.

My vigilance to avoid weight gain comes out of two places: my concern that if I do become pregnant, I don’t want to show too early in case of miscarriage; and my concern that someone will ask me if I am pregnant when I am not. Often I am teetering on the brink of emotional stability, and a question like that is enough to push me over the edge.

It has to be even worse for people in the public eye. Eva Longoria, for example, is constantly the object of pregnancy rumors whenever she gains a couple of pounds. She keeps having to deny the rumors, explaining that she has been gaining weight because she’s not starving herself like she usually does. If she’s not TTC, the speculations are merely insulting. If she is TTC and has been unsuccessful, the speculations would be heart-wrenching.

A message to the jerks of the world: Hey, jerks, you can wonder and speculate to yourselves all you want, but stop asking us if we are pregnant (or writing articles about your speculations). No woman needs to have her expanding abdomen pointed out. Rather than asking, just wait a couple of months and see if we announce any news, or wait 9 months and see if any babies pop out.

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Mad Men (and Women)

July 30, 2008

The much-hyped second season of Mad Men just started. I was one of the few people who watched the first season — there weren’t many regular viewers, but apparently all of the media critics and industry insiders have been watching religiously. The first season Mad Men won the Golden Globe for Best Drama and Best Actor, and now it has been nominated for 16 Emmy awards.

I won’t get into describing the whole show, but I will briefly say that it’s an interesting and unusually-paced period piece about advertising executives (and their secretaries, wives, mistresses, etc.) in the early 1960s. Two of the actors had prominent roles on Joss Whedon shows: the charismatic Christina Hendricks, Saffron from Firefly, and the less charismatic (but maybe on purpose?) Vincent Kartheiser, who played Connor on Angel. His character just got involved in an infertility storyline.

Kartheiser plays Pete Campbell, a recently married (less than a year, I think) guy in his mid-20s. When he comes home from work on Valentine’s Day, requisite box of candy in hand, his wife informs him about the pregnancy announcement of his co-worker’s wife, and then she starts to cry. She then disdainfully tells him about a pregnant woman with two small children that she saw on the street. She describes her feeling that there is a club that she can’t join. Frankly, she comes across as a little whiny. Pete reassures her without reassuring her, and it is clear that he does not currently share her desire for a child.

Meanwhile, a woman in Campbell’s office has recently given birth to an illegitimate child that Campbell fathered, making it clear that male factor issues are not the problem.

This episode made me think about infertile couples in which one (usually the woman) has a stronger desire than the other for a child, and how much more difficult the experience would be without a like-minded partner. Even though DH doesn’t talk about it as much as I do, I know that he wants a child just as much as I do. With IVF #1, he was more disappointed than I was. IF is never easy, but without DH’s support, partnership, and shared goals, it would be so much worse.

I would be watching season 2 of Mad Men regardless of the new IF angle, but I am excited to see where the storyline goes from here. I’m not sure if Campbell’s wife will become less whiny and more sympathetic, or if his perspective that he isn’t ready for children will be the focus. I am sure that disclosure of the love child will be prominent. I’m also pretty sure that the wife won’t get pregnant anytime soon, because ongoing infertility is much more dramatic.

IComLeavWe

July 27, 2008

What fun this week has been! Comments given, comments received, comments returned, blogs added to my RSS feed, caring and friendliness and well-wishes all around.
 
I am not sure how others go about moving through the IComLeavWe list, but I thought that, to commemorate the last day of official comments until next month, I might share my method.
 
Rather than starting at the beginning or the end (which would unfairly penalize either the procrastinators like myself or the early birds, respectively), I decided to move systematically through the list by 10’s. I started with my own number, #128, and moved backwards to all of the numbers ending in 8 (118, 108, 98, 88…). Then, the 7’s (127, 117, 107… to 7), and the 6’s, and so on through the whole list.
 
I recorded the comments I had left (including whether regular comments or returned comments) on a spreadsheet. Spreadsheets already have numbers for each row, so it really was easy — just had to add the date that I commented, and an extra note to indicate returned comments.
 
Once I had finished the by-tens method (around Wednesday), I looked at the list and tried to fill in big blank spots. For example, if I did not leave any comments between #100 and #120, I would try to fill in something around #110 or so.
 
After that, I started going one by one through the list, starting at #1. Early birds get the wormy comment this time.
 
I also had a separate system for returning comments. I usually returned multiple comments per day, especially to those commenters who seemed to have particularly responded to my post (whether intellectually, emotionally, etc.). I generally did not return de facto comments in which the commenter just said a few words for the sake of commenting — nothing personal, but there were so many commenters that left long posts with a lot of emotional content that I felt like I should respond to those first.
 
For my first pass by 10’s, I only went to blogs that addressed infertility but did not mention children in the description — sometimes, I’m not in the mood to read about other people’s children, as happy as I may be that they are able to have them. I also skipped blogs on non-infertility topics for the first pass.
 
When returning comments, I did read blogs that mentioned children or weren’t about IF.
 
Then, when I went through the list systematically, I looked at every blog, including non-IF and those that mentioned children. I was probably still less likely to comment on those than on IF blogs, but I did comment sometimes.
 
At one point, I was a little IF’d out, and I started looking specifically for the non-IF (but non-parenting) blogs. That only lasted one day, and then I was okay with every topic, even parenting.
 
Because I will be busy all day on Sunday, I tried to accumulate some extra comments on other days.
 
I only commented when I actually had something substantive (and preferably insightful) to say about any of the most recent posts. No de facto comments from me.
 
Based on the small number of commenters on my blog who said that they were returning a post, I get the feeling that I do a lot more returning than most people. I have been averaging almost 7 total comments per day (not counting multiple comments to the same blog), of which more than 2 per day are returned comments. I guess 2 doesn’t sound like that much after all, but it’s double the normal ICLW quota. I think next month I’ll up the number of returned comments even more. Maybe one month when I have more time, I’ll shoot for Iron Commenter status.
 
How have you been approaching ICLW?

Grandmother

July 26, 2008

In my post about my mother, I mentioned a beloved grandmother. She died a few years ago, but I think of her often. She actually was my husband’s paternal grandmother, not mine, but I was very close to her — closer than I am to my own grandparents. My husband was even closer to her, of course, much closer to her than to his own mother. Frankly, his grandmother did a lot more to raise him than his mother. Also frankly, I am very glad he takes after his grandmother (and his father and grandfather and other grandparents and the dog) more than his mother.

[The benefit of a secret anonymous blog is that you can tell the truth about your mother-in-law.]

Thinking about his grandmother is one of the saddest parts about infertility. With all of my heart, I wish that I could have had a baby years ago. Not just because infertility has been awful, but because I wish that his grandmother could have been alive to meet the baby. Just imagining the warmth in her smile, her eyes dancing, with the baby in her arms, makes me cry. I have photos of her with my husband as a baby, and she always looks like her heart is going to burst with love for him. I know it would have been just the same for my baby, maybe even moreso, because her beloved grandson would have a baby of his own, and she would have loved us all, so so much.

A few months before she died, she and I had a quiet, intimate conversation. I asked her permission, if we ever had a son, to name the child after her late husband. She said, so gently, “I have thought about that, many times. That would make me very happy.” I cannot convey to you the warmth of her smile when she said that.

A month before she died, she and I had a long conversation about family. We talked about a cousin I had just seen, whom I hadn’t seen since we were little kids. She asked me if I planned to keep in contact with the cousin. I didn’t. She urged me to maintain contact. “You know that for me, family is the most important thing.” I said, “I know,” but that I was selective about which family I stay in contact with, that this cousin and I had never been close and didn’t have much in common. She said, “To me, none of that matters. They are all your family.”

DH and I have had baby names picked out for years, even before TTC. A girl’s name that we’ve loved from the beginning, and a boy’s middle name after his late maternal grandfather. After his late paternal grandfather died, we figured out a first name for a boy that derives from that grandfather’s name. But, because his grandmothers both outlived his grandfathers (the other grandmother is still alive, and very spunky for a woman in her late 90’s), and DH’s cultural tradition is not to name a child after a living person, we hadn’t picked out any names to honor his grandmother. But the more I keep thinking about it, the more I know that we have to name a baby girl, if we have one, after his grandmother. We haven’t settled on a name yet, and until I’m finally pregnant for more than a couple of weeks I don’t think we’ll break out the baby name books to start narrowing it down. But we’ll find something lovely.

His grandmother was one of the gentlest, yet strongest, people I have ever known. She survived the WWII concentration camps and the loss of her entire family. She lived with a chronic illness for 60 years that resulted from her time in the camps. She escaped her home country with her husband and little boy in the midst of a violent revolution. When her husband died, she learned to be independent, learning to do basic tasks like use the ATM. She held so strongly to her faith, trying to teach by example but never telling her children or grandchildren how to live their lives. She loved animals, and over 50 years later still cried about the dog that she’d had to leave behind when she fled her homeland. She accepted and loved her granddaughter-in-law from a different background, even though her culture said she shouldn’t. She never let us come over without eating “just a little piece of fruit,” and she never let us leave her house without some candy. She knew the score, but unlike every other person in the family she never said a bad word about anyone.

When you name a child after someone, you are trying to honor that person. When you name a child after yourself, well frankly I don’t know what you’re doing because I would never do that, so I really have no idea what the motivations are. But when you name a child after someone else, someone that you love and respect, often you hope that the child will take after that person in some way, that you will draw some of that person’s qualities to the child.

My future daughter, if I have one, will never get a chance to meet her great-grandmother, but her middle name will always remind her of how much this incredible woman loved her, even before she existed. Her middle name will remind her of all that her great-grandparents sacrificed for her grandfather, for her father, for her. I would love for my little girl to be gentle yet strong, brave, kind to animals, and never say a bad word about anyone. My daughter couldn’t possibly have a better namesake.

It’s not a race.

July 25, 2008

I’ll try to make this post shorter than yesterday’s…

I realize that having children is not a race, but I have been getting lapped. When we started TTC, none of our friends around our age had children yet. I thought we would be the first. The only people we knew who were having children were at least several years older.

Since that time, most of our same-age friends have gotten married, and almost every married friend has had at least one child, sometimes two or three. Even the younger friends have had children.

The proportion of our friends who are parents went from Just A Few to Basically Everyone quite suddenly. I became aware of this transition when we heard two announcements in one week.

  • My uncle (whose kids are my age) and his new wife (who is also my age).
  • A very good friend of my husband (who has been strangely paternal since he was a teenager, and who obviously would be a wonderful father) and his bitch of a wife (the least maternal person of all time, who loves no one but herself).

The latter couple, Mr. Dad and Anti-Mom, have been married almost as long as we have. As long as they didn’t have kids, we weren’t really behind the pack. But then they were pregnant, and suddenly it seemed like we were the only people without kids. Learning about their pregnancy at the same time as my uncle and Aunt Chickie put me into the worst few-week funk I’ve had in years.

A few weeks ago, I finally met the 8-month-old baby of Mr. Dad and Anti-Mom. It occurred during my extremely brief period of pregnancy following IVF #1. Also attending the get-together were the kids of another mutual friend and his wife (who got married soon after we started TTC and then got pregnant within 2 months). Because I was pregnant at the time, it was bearable. Even when Mr. Dad’s mother (Mrs. Grandma?) pointed to the baby and said to me in a sing-song voice, “You could make one of these too…” When the whole encounter was done, DH commented to me, “If you weren’t pregnant, this would have been really depressing.”

When I stopped being pregnant, I am happy to say that the get-together did not become depressing in retrospect. It is still bearable. If nothing else, that brief pregancy got me through the get-together. (Thanks, little blastocyst.)

A few years into IF, I was bothered a lot by pregnancy announcements from couples who hadn’t even met when we started TTC. Now, at every wedding, I start counting down until the announcement. 

The only childless friends in our cohort who’ve been together as long as we’ve been TTC (6.5 years) are the one childless-by-choice couple and the other infertiles. I have given up racing against our infertile friends. Now, the race has become a relay. We can all help each other reach the finish line.

Mother

July 24, 2008

Not the mother that I’m trying to become, but the mother I already have.

My mom and I talk on the phone every day, but I can’t say we’re close. Or rather, it’s fair to say that she is close to me but I am not close to her. I love her very much, and she’s a kind person full of good intentions, but she doesn’t make it easy.

We talk every day, yet I tell her almost nothing about myself. When I do tell her something, she usually drives me nuts about it. For example, if I tell her that I have a cold, she will usually insist repeatedly that I not go to work. She will also call my husband repeatedly and ask about my health, instruct him to provide me with various remedies, and tell him to prevent me from going to work. If it were up to her, I would never work, even when I am healthy. “Do you have to go to work tomorrow?” Yes, of course. “Oh, I’m sorry.” So usually, I don’t tell her that I am sick until I can’t possibly hide the symptoms on the phone.

I do tell her if we are going out of town, so that she knows not to call. A few times I have forgotten to tell her, and then she keeps calling and leaving messages. Her personal record is nine messages in one weekend.

I try not to tell her about going out of town too far in advance, though, because she will ask me about it every single day until I leave. “You’re leaving on the 23rd? And you’re coming back on the 29th? So can I call you on the 29th or do I have to wait until the 30th?” Every day. If I tell her a month in advance, every day, for a month.

Almost every day: “Is your husband coming with you?” If yes, “Good. He’d better.” If not, “Tell him he should come. It’s not safe for you to go alone.”

Before I was born my mother travelled very extensively and lived on many continents, but her comments on my destinations sound like someone who has only seen postcards. Postcards from 1964.

You’re going to Denmark? They have the Little Mermaid statue.
In Paris you can go to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
Isn’t Czechoslovakia a communist country?

Despite talking about the departure nonstop, once I get back she barely mentions the trip and launches into the minutae of her life. For example, a play-by-play account of how she lost her keys and looked for 3 hours and finally called AAA then found them when the tow truck driver was pulling into the driveway and he charged her anyway. Or, a long story about how while I was gone, the dry cleaner lost a pair of pants. More than once I have called her on it.

Me: I have been out of the country for over two weeks. Would you really rather talk about the dry cleaner than anything I’ve done?
Mom: Oh sorry. Did you go on a gondola ride in Venice?
Me: I wasn’t in Venice, I was in Rome.
Mom: Oh, Rome is nice too. So anyway, the dry cleaner claimed that I already picked my pants up on Thursday…

You may wonder what we talk about every day for 15 to 45 minutes. The weather, check. What’s on TV tonight, check. Every interaction she has had so far in the day, from the grocery store to her friends to my father to the gardener, check. Her ever-changing feelings about Rachael Ray (“not as cute as her husband” or “why does she spend so much time cooking?”), Kelly Ripa (“not very smart” or “she always has really cute shoes”), and Judge Judy (“mean” or “always telling people what to do”), check. Her friends’ ungrateful children and how I’m so much better, check. What kind of drink she had today at Starbucks, check.

Our conversations have been like this since I moved out of the house, but in the past couple of years she has been showing a lot of signs of cognitive decline. Many days we talk about the same thing as we did the day before, or even the same thing from half an hour ago because she doesn’t remember that she told me.

What do we never ever ever talk about? Babies, TTC, anything having to do with fertility problems or interventions. When I first got married, I told her that I wouldn’t be having children for a long time so that I could focus on my education and my career. She has always been incredibly respectful of this decree I made over a decade ago. More than anyone else in our families, she has never made any offhand comments or asked any questions about having children. In fact, unlike our other parents who are all clamoring to be grandparents, she’s in no hurry. When people ask her why she doesn’t have grandchildren yet, she tells them that she is too young (not true) and I am too young (also not true) and it’s none of their business (that part is definitely true).

I can’t even imagine what it would be like if she knew what I have been going through for the past 6 1/2 years. Last month when she called me on the day of my egg retrieval, I was still woozy from the anesthesia. I said that I was tired because I hadn’t slept well, which was also true. What if she had known?

Mom: How did your surgery go?
Me: Okay, I guess. I won’t really know the results for a few days.
Mom: Did they tell you not to eat or drink anything for 12 hours before?
Me: Yes.
Mom: I hate that. They always make me do that before my cholesterol tests. Are you going to work tomorrow?
Me: No, I’m not allowed.
Mom: Good. You shouldn’t go back to work for at least a month.

Or, every single day:

Your pregnancy test is next Tuesday? What time can I call you to find out the results?

Or,

There was a couple who had IVF and then they got divorced and now they are fighting over the frozen embryos. I saw it on Judge Judy. She was very rude to them.

We haven’t told anyone in our families anything about IF. If we told some of them we would have to tell all of them, both out of fairness and because no one can keep a secret. In most cases, we don’t want to deal with their shit. However, there have been times when I would have liked to tell certain relatives, particularly a beloved grandmother who subsequently passed away and who would have so loved to be a great-grandmother. But the idea that I would tell my mother anything is laughable.

When I was pregnant and then M/C for the first time, during the brief period that I was actually pregnant, I told my friend who had started TTC at the same time and at that point had a toddler. Her reaction: “Oh my god, that’s fantastic! Congratulations! Have you told your mother?” What? My mother is the last person I would tell. This friend obviously didn’t know me that well.

So my questions to you, dear IComLeavWe readers who may need inspiration for your comment, are these:

  • Does your mother know about your TTC and/or IF issues?
  • Does your mother know about your blog?
  • Does your mother read your blog?

My answer to all three questions, as you can guess from everything I’ve said, is a resounding no.

Car Trouble

July 23, 2008

My car completely died this weekend, exactly 30 seconds after my husband drove away in his car. I was on my way to pottery, and instead of spending a glorious 5 hours in the studio, I had to wait for my husband to get back with his car, and I ended up with only 2 hours. It wasn’t enough time to really get into the pottery the way I wanted to, so I ended up doing some housekeeping tasks in the studio (not literal housekeeping, but the kind of tasks that you have to do in order to prepare to do the actual work). As you might guess from the name, housekeeping tasks are no fun.

The car is fixed now, but it raises a larger issue in my mind. I bought this car just before I started TTC. It was one of the things on my To-Do-Before-We-Are-Ready-To-Have-Children list. That list wasn’t very long, and aside from a couple of other small purchases designed to comfort and support my future pregnant body, the list mostly focused on the car. Our only car at the time was a two-door sports car, which to me seems bad for taking babies in and out of car seats — not that I would know first-hand. I also thought that sharing one car was not going to be tenable when we had a child, what with day care and gymboree and, I don’t know, let’s say infant horseback riding lessons. So, we bought this car. Because we hadn’t even started TTC, but I was an Eager Beaver, I started researching car seats to fit the new LATCH technology that our car was equipped with, which wasn’t yet standard on new cars but now has been standard for years and years. (Baby Smiling in Back Seat foreshadowing???) At least I wasn’t so eager that I actually bought a car seat.

Only recently, when I started having more and more car trouble, have I started thinking of my car as a benchmark for TTC. Sometimes, when I forget exactly how long we’ve been TTC, I only need to think about the model year of my car — 2002, but we bought it late in 2001 — and then I have my date.

Certain things on the car were defective from the beginning, so I never associated them with the fact that I’ve been TTC for soooooo long. But recently one thing after another has started to need replacement. This weekend, when I sat in a car that wouldn’t start, pissed because I couldn’t get to the pottery studio for hours, it dawned on me that my infertility might outlast my car.

That was an important sentence, so I’ll repeat it. My infertility might outlast my car. Are you as horrified as I am?

Maybe I should have bought a more reliable car. Or maybe… I can’t think of any Shoulds with TTC, because I did everything I could possibly do at each point in time. Instead of blaming Fate for IF, which I do all the time, today Fate gets a day off. Today, Volkswagen gets the blame.