Sadface.

(Warning: This might be the most self-pitying post I’ve written to date. If you’re looking for a ray of sunshine, skip this one.)

I woke up this morning at 4:45 with cramps. My period has officially started.

This is miserable. Not that this is news to most of you reading this. You wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t at some point experienced this particular kind of misery. It doesn’t seem to have an end point, just a recurring nightmare replayed every 28 days.

About two years ago, a friend of mine from high school had a stillbirth. It was obviously heartbreaking for her. As if that weren’t bad enough, people have said the most INANE stuff to her, like “You can always have another one,” “God must have needed another angel,” and “Everything happens for a reason.”

Everything happens for a reason. This is complete bullshit. What reason is there behind my friend losing her child? What reason is there behind my brother and his wife’s 4 miscarriages? What reason is there behind my inability to get pregnant? What reason is there for any of the shit we’re going through?

We use this phrase all the time, like when we have lost a job or are going through a divorce. These are things people say to try and put pain in context, to make it bearable. Hell, I’ve even said it to myself. But I don’t believe it anymore. There are no greater powers at work here. And if there are, they really suck at their jobs.

I used to believe in God. Not a hardcore church-goer, but I always believed that something out there “had a plan.” Sure, had a plan, but you’d be surprised how often that plan would get completely screwed up.  So it was nice to think that there was something else that saw the long game when I couldn’t.

To be honest, this whole thing has turned me into an atheist. I’m not being hyperbolic here. I remember very clearly driving down the road with terrible cramps and the sinking realization that this month was another uterine no-show. Just rounding a corner, I thought “There is no God in this.” And like that 34 years of Catholicism was gone, a direct correlation between my consistent infertility and my lose of faith.

I know what I have to do, guys. I really do. I need to pick myself up and move along. But I think I’ll pull the covers over my head a little while longer before I pretty myself up and get to work.

Every month is another shot, right?

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The Year of Very Bad Things

Go Shorty, it’s my birthday.

We gonna party like it’s my birthday

I’m not going to sip Bacardi like it’s my birthday because I’m on my TWW.

(50 Cent never saw that lyric coming…)

 

No, really. It is my birthday.

I’m not terribly excited about it. Normally, I love my birthday. I like to think of it as a day to celebrate me and my general awesomeness. I do whatever it is I want, which in the past has included hiking, literary walking tours (#nerdalert) and unicorn piñatas.

I’m also not one who is afraid of my age. I’m (now) 36, and I’m amazing. I’m in no way ashamed or embarrassed not to be 25 anymore. It’s almost an act of defiance to publicly embrace my age. Take THAT, Patriarchy!

This year, I just want it to go away.

35 sucked. It really did. This time last year, I started experiencing loathsome ovulation pain and became convinced that my uterus was in full-on revolt. Two of my friends’ mothers died. My own mom went into the hospital and has not left. My sister has not one, but two autoimmune diseases. And I’m officially sub-fertile.

That isn’t to say that there haven’t been good things. Like… Let’s see… I’m sure there is something in there that wasn’t actively terrible… My husband remained a beautiful, delightful man. My hair is looking fantastic. My cat is the light of my life. I ate good food. Um… I didn’t lose a limb. That seems like a good end-of-year result.

It isn’t that I’m not grateful for the positive things in my life. I truly am, especially because they are in stark contrast to the not-so-positive things. I just  don’t see much use in pretending that the shit-to-glee ratio is balanced at the moment.  Nope, I’ve got a huge ol’ pile of “Very Bad Things” for 35. There are also no definitive signs that 36 is improving, yet I remain open to the possibility. (WIDE OPEN. Do you hear me, Universe? WIDE OPEN TO IMPROVEMENT.)

This morning, I went for a run. I ran up to the top of a hill, which has a great view of the city skyline. I sat at the top for a few minutes, and mentally compiled this list of “Very Bad Things.” I kicked them around for a little bit, and let them know that I’m pretty much done with them. I have no more room for them.

Goodbye, 35. I’ve never been so happy to see the backside of a year.

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.

WTF, UNIVERSE?!

I have entered the Two Week Wait after round two of Clomid. Much as was the case with Clomid Round One, I am convinced that this is hopeless. Past performance being a indicative of future results, and all that jazz. Of course, it isn’t like I think there is anything else that will work better… Mostly, its something I feel compelled to do so that at least I know I tried. [She says as she collapses on the couch Sarah-Bernhardt style.]

Which sorta brings me to the point of this post. I am a HUGE Debbie Downer these days. Holy bejeezus, I can’t even handle myself at times. It isn’t just this whole infertility thing. Objectively speaking, I’m in a Polar Vortex of Sad Face right now. I shall roughly list them, in no particular order.

1) My mom is still in the hospital, and will likely be there through the end of the year. She is FINALLY being moved from the ICU and can now be spoon fed applesauce. This is an improvement, no doubt. But it also highlights how very deeply she was affected by her medical injuries.

2) This entire sitch in turn lead some of my family members to say and do hurtful things. I don’t trust them right now with my own feelings, because they are not respectful of them. Which sucks, because normally I like my family a lot.

3) My sister, who is perhaps the only person who isn’t annoying the shitballs out of me right now, was recently diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.

4) There has been a significant amount of death around me lately. Mothers of two of my good friends died in the last 8 months. An old friend committed suicide last month.

If there was ever reason for a hearty round of “WTF, UNIVERSE?!” , I think I’ve found them all.

But where am I going with all this? I’m trying to give myself the space to feel genuinely crappy. Not wallowing, but honoring that this stuff stinks and it is okay for it to make me sad. Real sad. Watching-What-Not-To-Wear-Reruns-While-Eating-Nutella-From-A-Jar Sad.

But I’m also trying to make room for things I am grateful for. So, in the interest of equilibrium, I shall now list the things in my sad puddle of a life that bring me joy.

1) My heart, my lungs, and my awesome quads. I run 3-4 times a week, and every morning when I’m running through my neighborhood, I’m so happy and proud that my body is strong.

2) Food. I love eating. This weekend, I had an amazing hamburger. Yesterday, we celebrated my husband’s birthday with cake (which is really just a vehicle for frosting. Everyone knows it.)

3) Middlemarch. When picking what to read next, I intentionally looked for something 600 pages and over because I wanted to get lost for a while. It’s like the thinking woman’s romance novel- no heaving bosoms, just long, furtive glances and ennui.

4) Mr. Ostrich. I like him an awful lot. This weekend, we cuddled on the couch watching Mr. Selfridge. I think I’ll keep him.

 

On Mothers: Mary

Another month, another opportunity to obsessively think about motherhood in the hypothetical. Yes, my period arrived mostly on cue, only accompanied with extremely painful cramps. (Because the Universe is kind.)

Growing up, I had several best friends. The truth is I had friends for all seasons, but there were a handful who really took me in. I would spend DAYS at their house, invite myself over for dinner, and even go on vacation with them. In many ways, I created satellite families that were respites from my own when it all was a bit too much. (Love them though I do, my family is often too much.)

And while I adored all my satellite families, I particularly loved the Larks*. I cannot tell you how dearily I wanted to be a Lark. They “got me.” My best friend was the coolest, and joined me in my early feminist vibe. We devoured The Cinderella Complex, The Woman Warrior, and Tales of the City. We jointly yearned for the time when we’d be free of our southern college town, move to cities, and “start living our lives.”

The Larks were “real Southerners” (unlike mine that came from New Jersey and Puerto Rico.) Mary, my friend’s mother, was born and raised in the South. She would tell me stories about her Aunt Fay who had owned and managed the family’s tobacco farm. It was like she was related to Scarlet O’Hara.

Mary was an editor for a small publisher. She was an intellectual, but didn’t get lost in her mind the way my mother did. She was light, airy, and had an exquisite laugh.

Like my family, the Larks were Catholic. We would see them every week at church, and sometimes I would sit with them instead. I started to notice there were parts of prayers that Mary didn’t say, specifically one part about speaking the word of God. Later I asked her why. “Because I don’t believe in proselytizing. So I refrain from that part of the service, respectfully.”

My mind was blown. Because in my house, we ranted and raved. We declared things wrong, unfair, unjust, and inane all the time. And loudly. The idea of silently refraining from anything was a completely foreign idea.

Mary taught me that a Southern woman could be polite and charming, without giving up her own opinions and convictions. She lived thoughtfully and intentionally.

Last summer, I got word from my dear friend that Mary had had a stroke. 3 weeks later, she died. As I sorted through my own memories of her, I realized how grateful I am to have had Mary in my life. She showed me an alternative, one that was a little kinder, a little softer.

 

*Nope, not their real names. But then you probably already figured that out, smarty pants.