December 31, 2004

Why This is All a Very, Very Bad Idea

I love my mom, really I do. But we’ve always clashed, and even now as two adults our relationship is often a bit strained.

I’ve come to understand over the years – though I haven’t quite reached the point of acceptance yet – that no matter what I do, I’m never going to make her happy. It’s just not going to happen. She’s always going to find fault with something about me; that’s just her way. Even when it comes to how R and I start our family. Or, more accurately in her mind’s eye, how R and I go about producing her grandchildren.

There’s a 40-year age difference between us. My mom grew up in an age when daughters didn’t move out of their parents’ home when they got married, they just moved to the duplex upstairs. Young ladies didn’t go to college, unless it was for the purpose of finding a mate. And then when they married, it certainly wasn’t their place to go off to work outside the home every day.

So the idea that I would want to go to college to actually (gasp!) get an education and start a career was just something she could not understand. And what my mom does not understand is, in her opinion, fair game for ridicule and criticism.

Mostly I just try to ignore the barbs and put downs, but the ones about how we’re trying to start our family drive me a little nutty lately.

When we first began the infertility rollercoaster, we sat down and explained to her that we were having problems conceiving because we didn’t want to continue dealing with questions about when the grandchildren would be popping out.

I explained that I’d be taking Clomid. She shook her head and said in her most sanctimonious tone (it’s usually the tone that irritates me the most), “Oh, I don’t know about that. I mean, you don’t know what kind of effects a drug like that will have. I don’t think that’s smart.”

We moved on to injectibles, and the tsk-tsking continued. “You’re giving yourself shots? You know, I talked to someone at work and they said those shots will make you have six or seven kids at once and then you’ll die of cancer. She read that someplace. You really should look into that further. You haven’t taken the time to consider this.”

Yes, of course, her one friend who read a single article in some a newsstand magazine is an expert on this! Why didn’t I realize that sooner??

I shouldn’t have spent all those hundreds of hours online researching fertility drugs, treatment options, risks, doctors and clinics. No siree, instead, I should have just turned to the “expert” who spent 10 minutes reading a magazine that probably cited 30-year-old studies and quotes from other “experts” who spout off as if they know everything about infertility even though their own children were conceived faster than most people can blink. (Bonus points to anyone who figures out which magazine I’m referring to.)

Injectibles failed, we got pregnant anyway, we lost the baby. We decided to move on to adoption.

Can anyone guess what could be wrong about this option, as my mother sees it? Come on, surely you can guess one or two – she’s got a long list. There are the usual concerns most couples have when they’re considering adoption – possible drug or alcohol use on the mother’s part, whether the baby is getting prenatal care, the birth parents’ family medical and mental health history.

I can’t really fault her for having those concerns, but what annoys me about them is that she acts as if they’ve never crossed our minds. As if we’re simply rushing into this with a blind eye turned to all those issues. (Because if you know me, you know how often I tend to rush into things without carefully considering the ramifications of all possible courses of action - crazy, impulsive, free spirit that I am…)

But I’ve saved the best for last. My all-time favorite on my mom’s list of “Why Adoption is a Bad Idea and You Should Reconsider It”: The birthmother could have a big gap between her front teeth. Yep, it’s on there. Toward the top of the list, I might add. And no, I’m not making this up.

She said to me recently, “What if you meet a birthmom and you don’t like the way she looks? What if she has a big gap between her front teeth? Can you back out?”

Well, gee, let’s see. What if she does have a big gap between her teeth? I suppose we’ll wait and see if our baby inherits her birthmother’s dental pattern. And if s/he does, we’ll do what my mom did when I inherited hers, complete with a big, toothy gap that was wide enough to accommodate a third tooth.

Can anyone say “braces?”

December 27, 2004

I May Be Nuts...

...but I'm considering the idea of going shopping for a few baby things. And what's even more insane is that I'm thinking about doing it in the next few days, on our wedding anniversary.

Since the beginning of this process, I've insisted that we will absolutely NOT. BUY. ANYTHING. until we're matched, the baby arrives and TPR papers are signed. And maybe not even for a few more days past that point, just for good measure.

I planned on borrowing a car seat from friends to get the baby home from the hospital, and sending out other friends to get the bare necessities if the hospital doesn't send us home with enough to get us through the time until papers are signed. It's not a superstition thing, it's an "I don't want to deal with the pain of knowing we have these things but no baby to use them" thing.

But we had a situation come up last week. It didn’t work out, but it made me realize how unprepared we would be if a situation did arise with a quick placement. I've always been a person who likes to be prepared for things, so the idea of being completely unprepared is a bit bothersome.

At dinner tonight, R and I were discussing it. He's all for getting some things, packing them in a bag and just putting the bag in a closet so that it's not a constant reminder. (We do also have a couple of cribs and other things friends gave us before we began the IF/adoption rollercoaster that are kept behind closed doors.)

Now I'm wavering. We have a tradition with our anniversary that rather than buying each other gifts, we both take the day off work and do something together. One time it was cross-country skiing, a couple of times we've done weekends away, once we shopped for our first house which we were moving into a few weeks after the anniversary.

So I'm thinking of maybe doing the baby shopping thing this time. It definitely would be a sign of faith on my part, which is something I've been struggling with lately.

But on the other hand, I'm afraid next year's anniversary will come around and the bag will still be in the closet and it will be an anniversary in more ways than one...

November 22, 2004

The Waiting Begins

Today is the day I’m counting as the official date we began waiting.

The letters and copies of our profiles that we sent off to adoption attorneys in our state should have landed on their desks sometime last week. But since I don’t have high hopes for being matched through an attorney, I figure the real wait began today, when our profile went live online.

We got a cell phone that we’re dedicating to the adoption process, and a 1-800 number that forwards to the cell phone. So we’re all set.

I figure the profile went live sometime around 2:30 p.m. When R got home from work at 5:45 p.m., he found me sitting on the couch, staring intently at the phone.

“What are you doing?” he asks, although I suspect he already knew the answer.

“It hasn’t rang yet,” I reply. I'm still focused on the phone, as if letting it out of my sight for just a moment will cause it to suddenly sprout little legs. Then it would sneak away to play a game of hide-and-seek with me, prompting me to tear apart the house looking for it before it dawns on me to dial the number and let the ring lead me to its secret hiding place. But I digress. Back to the conversation.

“Noooo,” R responds, his tone implying that I'm being perhaps a wee bit unrealistic.

Then I see the sudden flicker of realization in his eyes, quickly replaced by a look of fear, as it occurs to him that the crazy nut who took up residence in my body when we began infertility treatments hasn’t disappeared after all - she just took a temporary vacation.

Until now.

November 15, 2004

Grape Jelly Handprints

It’s interesting how infertility and childlessness turns parts of you into a different person, making you think and act in ways totally unlike your pre-infertility self.

I’ve never been a superstitious person, not one to worry about walking under ladders or a black cat crossing my path or stepping on a crack in the sidewalk. Yet I find myself inventing superstitions by thinking that if I do this or don’t think that, just maybe we will finally get that one thing I barely even allow myself to acknowledge is possible anymore, much less hope for.

When we were in treatment, after the rosy glow of naiveté wore off, I found myself thinking, “If I ever get another positive test, I’m announcing to the RE and all of the nurses at the clinic that there will be no mention of the other ‘p’ word. There will be no discussion of due dates, because there will be plenty of time for that after we reach the 32nd week and God has signed a contract guaranteeing us that this won’t end badly.”

Most women call their mother or their friends to say, “Guess what! We’re pregnant!”
I envisioned our conversations going more along the lines of:

Me: “Guess what! We got a positive hcg test!”

My mother: “Congratulations, dear! Um, is that a good thing? I mean, you’ve done so many tests, I don’t know anymore when it’s good that it’s positive and when it’s bad that it’s positive.”

Me: “It’s good, Mom. It’s a positive hcg test.” (hoping that what I don’t dare say out loud comes through via mental telepathy)

My mother: “Oh my God, so you’re pr–”

Me: “Don’t SAAAAY it!!! Don’t even THINK it! It’s simply a positive hcg test.”

As if by not acknowledging it, it won’t realize that I know it’s there and therefore it won’t go away.

That’s the way my brain works these days. And now that we’ve moved on to adoption, my brain seems to have taken it even one step further.

Maybe it’s the fact that the door seems to have shut on one of our paths, since treatment is no longer an option for us, at least not for the immediate future. Maybe it’s just that I’d counted for so long on going down both paths at the same time (treatment and adoption), now I feel like we’re floating out at sea, in a boat at least but without a life jacket.

Whatever the reason behind it, I find myself thinking that maybe I don’t want children after all. Maybe this whole child-free life isn’t such a bad thing.

After all, we can take off at a moment’s notice if we want to. We can go on trips, because we have the financial resources to do so. We can sleep in as late as we want, and we don’t have to worry about wiping sticky fingerprints off the refrigerator or coaxing crayon stains out of the carpet or dealing with children fighting in the back seat on the way home after a tiring day at work.

But if that’s true, if that’s really how I feel, why am I sitting here crying and thinking I’d give almost anything in the world to walk into our kitchen right now and see little grape jelly handprints covering our refrigerator?

November 07, 2004

Once a Prude, Always A Prude

Given that I’ve spent more time this past year laying on a table with an ultrasound wand up my vagina than I’ve spent doing my weekly grocery shopping, you’d think I’d have long since gotten over my prudishness.

Not so.

I’ve never been one to dance on the tabletops, and a beach vacation doesn’t inspire me to dash for the nearest bikini sale. I’ve always been a bit of a prude, and two years of infertility doesn’t seem to have changed that much, although I can now use the words “sperm” and “uterus” and “vagina” in a conversation without batting an eyelash.

So, what does this have to do with adoption, you ask? Well, I’ve decided to try to focus on the positives of where I am now, rather than on the negatives that led to me arriving here in the first place. And I’ve decided one of the silver linings that comes with moving on to adoption is that I’ll never have to deal with an attorney asking me intimate questions about my sex life.

Sex was never something that was spoken about in my family as I was growing up. In college, the university I attended offered a class on human sexuality. Most students raced to sign up for this class. I, on the other hand, would have chosen a full schedule of physics, calculus, organic chemistry and macroeconomics in a heartbeat rather than setting foot in that classroom.

So when, during our first appointment with the urologist, he shook our hands, sat down, and said to R, “So, do you feel horny?” I knew this was not going to be a pleasant journey. R, whose shy, conservative nature makes me seem about as prudish as Madonna, stammered out an answer – his first and last. From then on, it was up to me to talk with Dr. Crass.

Fortunately, Dr. Mellow, our RE, tends to stick with more clinical, professional terms, and I can usually pretend we’re discussing something like a broken arm. Except the time I was sitting in his office a couple weeks after the miscarriage, discussing where to go from there.

He asks if we’ve done the deed since the miscarriage. I sit there for a full minute, staring at him, feeling the blush make its ascent and once again wondering, “How the hell did I wind up here?”

I nod, almost unnoticeably.

“You young kids,” he mutters, bringing his hand up in front of his mouth in a fake attempt to muffle the words and hide the smile on his face.

I’m mortified. I know it’s silly. After all, this is a man who takes an intimate tour of my reproductive organs during monthly, and sometimes weekly, appointments. But still, I want to slide under the table and die.

So, I’m thanking God that the days of those kinds of questions are over.

And if an adoption attorney ever uses the words “horny” or “sex life” during a conversation, I’m outta there.

November 06, 2004

In an Unexpected Place

I’m not quite sure how the hell I wound up here.

In this place of perpetual sadness. In this place where pure, unadulterated jealousy makes me want to spit at every pregnant woman I see. In this place where my husband stands there, constantly watching for signs that all the pain and frustration and hopelessness are finally going to make me implode.

R and I started out in that happy place where all couples begin when they’re first trying to start their families. We naively thought this would be easy. We even planned what month we would conceive, when we would make the announcement to our parents that they are grandparents-to-be, what birthstone the baby would have. (Think amethyst - I love purple.)

Of course it would work that way. Why wouldn’t it? After all, that’s just the way the universe revolves, right? And besides, I’d spent eight years on birth control pills, certain that if I forgot to take one tiny little pill, we’d wind up with a house full of kids overnight.

Yeah, well. Three canceled IUIs, one joyous pregnancy followed by a pre-Mother’s Day miscarriage 15 days later, one more canceled IUI, and four completed but failed IUIs later, there we were last week. Ready to move on to IVF.

Then the news came. High percentage of sperm DNA fragmentation = baaaaad, low percentage = good. It’s the one time a sperm-related number being low is good. And R’s sperm showed an extremely high amount of fragmentation, more than double the amount that is considered acceptable.

So now we’re on a doctor-ordered nine month break to see if things can be improved on the sperm front. It’s not our only IF problem, it’s just the latest one.

But I refuse to wait 18 or 20 or 24 more months to become a mom if I can help it. So we’re moving on to adoption.

And now here I stand, in a place that I wouldn’t have expected to find myself even just a week ago. But finally, God willing, it’s a true path to motherhood.