The Not Parenting Life

Ever since my dad’s ill-timed ode to parenting, I’ve thought a lot about how to enjoy the life I have. If I’m not going to experience “the best thing EVER” as far as he is concerned, what can I experience in my non-parenting state that is pretty awesome?

So last night I went to a music festival in the middle of the city. I danced. I sang loudly. I drank just a wee bit too much. During one set, a mosh pit spontaneously appeared at my feet and I pushed other people in. (No, I did not join. I’m too old for that shit, and might break a hip.) Turns out, living the life I have is pretty glorious. Shocking.

As one does, I had an epiphany in my general tipsiness. Part of the reason I’m super angsty is that I’m not creating anything anymore. I use the term “create” loosely to include everything from knitting to baking to freelance copywriting. I did all of these things and more regularly. There is satisfaction in seeing your efforts become something, anything (even if that is a burnt Bundt cake.) The truth is that over the past two years, I have cleared the path to create life, but alas that is not quite working out as planned.

No one asked me. I did this willingly a little bit over time. It’s really hard to commit to a project when in the back of your head you keep thinking “Well, I may be pregnant by then…” As I have discovered, this is a poor method of living a whole life.

It isn’t just the creating part- I’ve made a number of decisions based on the assumption that I would be having a baby soon. Everything from apartments to jobs… I kept picking the best option, not just for me and Mr. Ostrich, but for a mythical party of three.

Now comes the scary part: I’m not entirely sure what I want any more if having a family is off the table. No fricking clue.

This is weird for me. I always had a direction before. No, seriously. ALWAYS. At 10, I decided I wanted to be president. So I planned out how to get into a good college, law school, and where I would run for Senate before my presidential bid. In highschool, I ditched that idea and decided to become an editor. Plan B commenced. I became an editor after college. (I hated it, but that is another story.)

What I’m getting at here is that I’ve developed an ability to shift gears, to pick a new goal, and then go get it. Infertility makes that a bit difficult. “Going and getting it” is proving a little bit less linear than I had hoped. And I don’t really want another goal. This is “the one.”

But in the meantime, I know I can’t just sit here. Yeah, that doesn’t work either.

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Infertility, Exposed

I got my period today. Great.

It is amazing to me how I can mentally prepare myself for this disappointment, but nothing really softens the blow. Every single month.

Given that my doctor is recommending I see a reproductive specialist, I figured it was about time to actually tell my family about this. Though for no apparent reason, I am officially “not fertile.” And if I’m going to head down the road to IUI, IVF, ritual sage burning, or whatever else this stupid journey has in store… well, I figure they should probably know about something this big happening in my life.

I had been putting it off for a few reasons– my mother’s health, my sister’s health, and plain old avoidance. This is simply a conversation you don’t ever want to have, let alone with family members who have proven themselves to be emotionally deaf as of late.

In order to minimize the horror show, I planned this out carefully. 1) I told them about a week before my period was scheduled to arrive.  I’m one sad bird just before, what with the magical combination of raging PMS and the dawning realization that I am still not pregnant. I did not want to add painful conversations to that list.  2) I picked my methods of communication: email for my siblings, a phone call for my dad. Why email? It may seem impersonal, but I didn’t think I could handle having this conversation 3 times. My dad would require a personal touch, fine. Even if he is batty these days, he is still my dad. My brother and sister can just lump it.

Much to my surprise, everyone was totally decent about it. (Aside: Maybe I’m not giving them enough credit? Discuss.)

My sister offered me her eggs. I actually thought this was a little bit funny. Don’t get me wrong- it’s a nice gesture. It’s just very much what my sister does. She plays surrogate parent, swoops in, and tries to solve the problem.

My brother wrote back almost immediately saying how sorry he was. He and his wife had 4 miscarriages when trying to have their second child. I knew this, but what I didn’t know is that this was also for “mysterious reasons” i.e. no doctor could figure out why. I wouldn’t say that this was “nice” to hear- that’s just weird. But I appreciate that he knows what a complete shit time this is. (Only worse. Because I can’t imagine actually getting pregnant, only to miscarry. FOUR TIMES.)

Then came the call I was dreading… telling my dad. I just didn’t know how he would take it. Lately when something goes wrong, he has been lumping it into the massive pile of misery brought on by my mother’s injuries. My nephew isn’t doing well in school? He is obviously distressed over my mom. My sister gets diagnosed with autoimmune diseases? They are worsened by stress, and it must be my mom’s medical problems that brought them on.

It’s a wonderful way to minimize the suffering of others, isn’t it?

Any way, I was almost curious to see how he was going to bring this back to my mom. But nope, not once. He just said that he was sorry, and that he would support me and Mr. Ostrich any way he can.

(The other shoe is about to drop. Wait for it…. wait…)

Then he went on to talk about how parenting was one of the best experiences of his life. Of all the things he has done, seen, or accomplished, being a parent was the thing that gave him the most joy. For real, Dad. I’ve just told you I may not be able to have kids, and you tell me that was the best thing you ever did? You couldn’t just humor me and say “Jet skiing. That was the best thing ever. Do that, and you can die happy?” Sometimes you really need to think before opening your mouth. Sigh…

Interestingly, I learned that his parents tried for 3 years before he was born. They thought that it was a fluke that they got pregnant in the first place, and were doubly surprised when they had twins about two years later. I’m not sure this makes me feel better, but it is sort of amazing how many people I know have experienced some kind of wonky fertility.

So now I’m totally exposed. I don’t feel any better. Honestly, what makes any of this feel better? I’ve been trying to find ways to enjoy the life I have, but that only lasts a while. Then I’m back to the tidal pool of sad face where I spend most of my time these days.

Next up: Arguing with insurance and medical professionals. My two favorite things.

My Own Private Hell = a 10 Minute Ferry Ride

I’m on my last round of Clomid, and I’m pretty sure it didn’t work. I’m still a few days out from my period, but I’m not feeling it. I don’t know. I can just TELL, okay?

Last week I was in San Francisco on vacation. In an attempt to wrap up all the loose ends before I went, I decided to call my doctor to see what the next steps are in case Clomid doesn’t work. Weird, but I felt like knowing what Plan C was would allow me to relax and enjoy my time off. Lo! He wasn’t in until Tuesday, so I left him a message. I packed myself up, and hopped on the next plane to SFO.

Fast forward: It is Tuesday, I’m on vacation. Specifically, I’m touring Alcatraz. I saw an “unknown” number pop up, and I know it’s my doctor. So I did what any other person does when they are on vacation and expecting news from their doctor… I picked up the phone regardless of how inappropriate the surroundings. After hearing that these rounds of Clomid haven’t worked (but I have been ovulating) he told me that I should see a reproductive specialist to discuss IVF. Though not surprising, not exactly the news I was hoping for either.

There I was, standing in Alcatraz surrounded by sweaty European tourists. I was on an island known as “the last stop,” as a place of hopelessness. I was trapped metaphorically and physically. And then I died.

Actually, I mostly kept my shit together. Mostly, that is, until the ferry ride back. 1) I could no longer distract myself with tales of dangerous prisoners and fatal escape plans. 2) On this very crowded ferry, I am seated next to a very pregnant women with a disgustingly adorable 2 year old.

I could have punched myself in the face.

Instead, I cried. The slow, leaky kind. The “I’m going to hide behind my exceptionally large sunglasses and hope people think I’m just sweating from my eyeballs” kind. Luckily, I went mostly unnoticed. Except by that frigging 2 year old who wanted nothing more than to get into my lap.

I could have punched that baby in the face.

I know what you’re thinking. Said 2 year old had no idea that I was in the middle of an existential crisis, deciding whether or not it is worth continuing to live. (I never said I wasn’t dramatic.) And this impressively pregnant woman had no idea that her rotundness wasn’t something I was about to coo at. In fact, it’s appearance in the seat next to me turned me into an emotional faucet.

No, I don’t expect the two humans to have any idea what’s going on in my head. But GOD DAMNIT, UNIVERSE… Could you do me a solid? Do you really have to put this LITERALLY in my lap? YELLING! ALL THE YELLING!

Mental picture: Me in a floppy sun hat and massive Jackie O sunglasses, tears running down my face. One 2 year old, desperately trying to crawl into my scrawny, vacant lap.  And one pregnant mother who is too busy enjoying air conditioning to notice that I am in no way interested in hanging out with her offspring.

There are no winners here.

When we last left our heroine

Yes, it has been a while. I’ve been preoccupied with stuff. Nothing terribly exciting, just stuff.

Lies- I did go on vacation which was exciting. But first things first…

My visit with my family was good. I’m still a bit surprised, if I am to be honest. You may recall that my dad was not on his best behavior. So I laid down an ultimatum: if he couldn’t commit to not being an emotional steamroller, I would stay in a hotel. He said okay, then proceeded to actually keep his word. I know- I had my doubts too. But he was in pretty good form.

This was in large part because my mom was doing EXCELLENTLY. While I was there, she got off of the respirator, and they removed her trach. She could talk. And she can still talk. In fact, she has done nothing but improve since, which is very welcome news. After about 6 months, she really need some good. We all did.

Now the next step is for a small surgery to repair two holes in her intestines, and mend the hole in her abdomen. Then she’ll finally go to rehab.

This is all good news. Which has allowed me to stop worrying about this and focus more exclusively on myself. Yay.

Last week in therapy, I completely broke down. Now that I have stopped feeling so acutely upset about my mom’s condition, the full wave of what’s happening to me on the non-baby front hit me like an emotional tsunami of tears, snot, and chest-heaving. To be honest, it felt amazing. I let out so much.

Last summer, Mr. Ostrich and I were at one of our favorite spots along the harbor. We’ve been going to this spot for years to watch the boats or the sunset. At this point, I was convinced that something was “wrong” but my doctor wouldn’t send me to a specialist because we “hadn’t been trying long enough.” So Mr. Ostrich and I started talking about the scary what if’s. What if something was in fact wrong? What if we couldn’t have kids?

“Then you would be enough for me. My life with you is enough.”

It was the most beautiful thing Mr. Ostrich ever said to me. And it sorta made me hate myself.

Because I’m not sure that I can say the same thing. Please don’t misunderstand me. I adore him with my whole heart. I do not want to go through this shitfest called my life with anyone else. But if we can’t have kids, I will always be sad. Always.

Up until last week, I had never told this to anyone. Let’s be honest- I do not come out well in this little story. It shows that a) my husband loves me in a deep, profound way, b) I am a tool bag because I genuinely can’t meet him there, and c) I don’t like myself for it.

When I told Dr. Macaw about this, I cried like crazy and it felt so good. Sometimes just naming something, saying it out loud makes it easier to bear.

And now I cry all the time. Like when I stood in front of a Redwood grove last week. Or now in a coffee shop. Why? Because I don’t really feel like holding my shit together any more.  (Though I do like the implication that I was doing a good job of it before- Ha!) I will now emotionally puke on EVERYONE!

There is more to tell, like this vacation I went on. Maybe there is something to taking a break, but I was struck by many a profound moment. It made me realize that I am on my own path. This is my craptastic journey, and I can’t change that by insisting that things should be fairer.

But more on that later…