Still Standing

Since the decision to stop chasing the dream of pregnancy and motherhood in my close to mid-forties, I’ve done a whole lot of…  Well, I have not done much of anything really. 

The weekend that I made my decision, I did what any well-adjusted, mature adult would do:  I drank. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t get fall down, stumble drunk or submerge myself into a month of lost weekends, but I have been enjoying beer, wine and other spirits a little more often instead of yielding to moderation in deference to my dwindling fertility. I’ve also been eating.  I’ve enjoyed pastries, fried food, and chocolate… all the fun stuff that I have normally shied away from while trying to keep my body in prime baby shape. Then, of course, I’ve been partaking in more than my fair share of caffeine. I have to say that Hubs has been enjoying my little dalliance into the land of things once forbidden, but tighter fitting pants are telling it’s time to stop.  I’ve had my hoorah; it’s not going to fill the baby-sized holes in my heart.  I must go back to moderation and self-care, only this time without the baby in mind.  Now it’s just for me.

M-day weekend was actually quite relaxing. It was just Hubs, my in-laws, and me.  We went out to dinner on Saturday night and sat around Sunday playing cards and talking.  It was all very low key, which was just fine with me. I did make the mistake of pulling out some old photographs of Hubs and Skid. I had an idea for a project for a relative and was looking for some very specific photographs. They were photographs I knew well.  I’d been through them before. Studying every line of Skid’s adorable little face as an infant, a toddler, and so on, yearning for some connection to memories that have absolutely nothing to do with me.  These were taken long before I came into the picture, so they often leave me feeling like I’m on the outside looking in.

Pulling out shot after adorable shot got me feeling sadder and sadder with each view. Finally, I came across one picture of a toddler Skid crouched down next to Hubs feeding some ducks.  The look on Hubs face in this picture reduced me to tears. He looked like a quintessential dad: loving and gentle, yet protective. A little voice inside of me said, “I really wanted a child with this man.”  In one quick second, any questions I might of have had about my mad, mad rush to get pregnant one more time evaporated.  It was not because I was selfish. It wasn’t because I wanted something I couldn’t have just because others could.  I truly wanted a child with my husband.  It was all at once reassuring and heartbreaking.   

Which leaves me to my current status of doing little to not much, instead I’ve been paying attention to the signs around me, the pain I feel, and when and where I’m at peace. I’m noting where work needs to be done and the expectations that I had for my life, myself, and my family that need to be released. I’m not ready to dive headlong into any self-improvement projects, nor do I feel the need to go rushing in and try to “fix” the aches and pains of my stepfamily. Tackling what seems logical at this point may not be right in the long run. I don’t want to chase any red herrings. For now, I’m content to just observe and feel – as painful as the feelings may be. 

I did something similar to this just before my first husband “K” and I got married. About a month or so after our engagement, K asked me to accompany him an annual visit to his cardiologist.  Since the appointment was on a Monday in Boston, he decided we’d make a long weekend of it.  We stayed at a hotel, attended a concert, and ate one of our favorite restaurants, all in all a very fun weekend.  When Monday rolled around I thought nothing of this “routine” appointment.  The day was a lot of “hurry up and wait.”  By the time we got into the exam room, I was ready to go home. For my benefit the doctor provided a lot more supporting detail in this visit than I suspect that he normally would have.  He stated the current size of the K’s aortic tear and where the “trigger point” would be for when it was time for him to get it repaired.  At that visit he was looking good, and it would not be for a while, but for good measure he went over the potential risks of undergoing such a surgery.  I don’t recall what all of them were, but words like “death” and “permanent paralysis” stuck out in my mind.   

When we left the office, the narrow corridors felt like they were closing in on me.  I sped down the hall to get to the much airier space of the building that held the banks of elevators.  I could not get enough air into my lungs.  When K caught up to me, he took me by the shoulders and found a space of wall that I could lean against.  “I know that was hard,” he told me, “but you need to know what might happen.  I want you to understand what you’re getting into.”   K was always a wise one.  He knew he had to show me, not just tell me the hard truth. It was the only way for it to sink in.

I spent the next day puttering around our duplex apartment.  I was in between jobs, so I had the luxury of time. I could absorb the news from the day before without any distractions. I carried a notebook and a pen with me all day, and wrote down anything that came to my mind that would help me prepare for whatever my future was to bring me. Some were practical things as simple as compiling a list of local hotels and restaurants near the hospital to creating a phone tree for friends and family to keep updated on during the surgery and recovery. I made list of things we would need to bring to the hospital should the time come. Things to keep me occupied. Things to keep K’s spirits up. I listed who I would need around me for support. Other notes were reminders that took into account my shortcomings during times of stress, “Remember, it’s not just you.  Focus on others.”  The notes went on throughout the day. In the six years before we got the trigger point, the list was added to here and there.  But the original list from that day is what I referred to most when the time came for the surgery.  It kept me focused and sane during one of the most stressful times of my life.  It allowed me to have reserves of strength I would not have had otherwise.  Reserves I called upon after he died. I don’t think I would have gotten through if I had not taken the time for myself to really think things through.

I feel like this newest chapter in my life requires the same approach. This is not something to go lightly into. I don’t feel that I need to reassure myself with reasons why it is better not have a child, because frankly many of the standard reasons either don’t exist or don’t outweigh my heart’s desire at the moment (and I’m not sure if they ever will). I won’t throw myself into hobbies or classes or make plans for long, luxurious trips because neither the money nor time is just not there, but I am earmarking possibilities for the future. Right now is just for being still and letting life speak to me. Like the song says, “After you done all you can, you just stand.”

The Fork in Road Has Egg on It

Two weeks before my forty-(garble) birthday, Hubs and I had dinner with another couple, visiting relatives from out of town. The discussion led to family, which unavoidably veered into the subject of my BIL and his wife’s pregnancy and that crashed head-on into, “When are the two of you going to have kids of your own?”  I quietly explained our situation and mentioned our pregnancy losses.  I tried to make light of it to avoid bringing the party down.  “Old eggs,” I lamely joked.

A look of confusion crossed the face of one of our dinner companions. “You’re not old,” she replied, “You are my age, right?”  (She is in her mid-30s, so bless her.)  When I told her my age, she said, “Well, you certainly don’t look like it.”   While the thank-you was the first thing that sprang from my lips, my mind mused, “If I were your age, I’d have younger eggs.”

Last week, I found myself bristling at the onslaught of “29 again?” jokes that each birthday inevitably brings.  Every time I heard one, there was a groan deep down inside of me saying, “I wish. Twenty-nine year-old eggs would work.” 

What’s with all the egg on the brain?   Two months ago, I got the news that egg donation is the recommend course of action for me if I want to have baby. It is an option I cannot afford.  (Chalk that one down next to adoption.) 

 Every month I find myself standing at the same fork in the road.  My choices:

  • Persistence  –  Pray that there is a good egg left in there
  • Acceptance – Move on and try to find fulfillment elsewhere

Each month I’ve chosen persistence, but at the same time contemplated preparing myself for the alternative.  Like someone who is trying to quit a bad habit, I keep telling myself, “Just one more. This is the last month.  If nothing happens, we’ll stop.”  Then, I run into the same fork and am forced to make the same choice. 

However this month, my fevered, egg-obsessed mind has been searching for signs.  I am sad to say I’ve found them in the form of statistics. At my age, I have a 1-3% chance of concieving naturally. Around same odds as winning the lottery, and I imagine about the same odds of finding anything that I’m looking for in my purse on the first try. (Among those who beat the odds, one in 33 will have a fetus with a chormosomal disorder  and one in 49 will have a child with Downs syndrome.)  It’s sobering.  It’s sad.  I’m standing here – feeling bereft and broken, contemplating fairness and faith.

I always told myself that the final true road was yet to be determined; that it would either take an act of nature or an act of will, but deep, deep down I held a glimmer of hope that my persistence would be rewarded. That hopefulness has got me feeling a little foolish now.  [Insert the “egg on your face” pun here.]

Would I like a miracle to happen?  Who wouldn’t?  It is likely to?  They don’t call them miracles for nothing.  I think it’s time to head down the other path.  The road ahead is long and difficult, and the destination is not quite as concrete as the other road.  For now I’ll rest here and spend a little time with my dream.  It’s  an old friend, so I won’t rush our goodbyes.

I probably should also take this opportunity to clean out my purse.

Riding It Out

When I was growing up I LOVED amusement park rides. You know the ones that Krusty the Klown from The Simpsons would deem an “upsy, downsy, spinsy roundsy, teen-operated thrill ride”?  Yeah those.  I loved ’em.  I especially took great pride in being able to ride these crazy death contraptions consecutive times in a row. When the rest of girls were getting off the ride, I hung in with the boys.  I was tough. I was fearless. I could handle it.  Boo-yah!

Cut to me at age 21: sitting on a rock at the edge of the carnival parking lot gasping for clean air in order to stave off nausea… all after one ride on the Spider. What happened?  My tolerance for the turbulent motion of those rides seemed to dissipate with age.  I just couldn’t do it anymore.  Boo. Yeah.

Now at forty-(garble) going on forty-(garble-even-louder), I’m still riding the ride called trying to conceive (or TTC in weblog speak).  It is quite possibly to most insane ride ever.  If you don’t believe me, here’s a list of fun facts to consider:

  • With the number of ovulation and pregnancy tests under my belt, I’ve become incredibly adept at peeing on sticks, so much so that I’m considering listing it as a skill on my resume.
  • I no longer think of time in terms of months, but instead in terms cycles
  • If you want to get a drink or sushi with me, you need contact me one month in advance, so I can schedule it at the appropriate time.
  • I would have never thought it, but after detailing out a month-to-month… I mean cycle-to-cycle view of my life, it appears my tolerance for crazy is pretty damn high.

My “Cycle-to-Cycle” Life

7 days into my cycle

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take pre-natal vitamins and pray like mad!

  • Stop any alcohol consumption
  • Taper down caffeine consumption to ½ cup per day (only if necessary – who am I kidding?)
  • Put the more challenging cardio workouts into my routine
  • Begin using ovulation strips 
During the “window of ovulation”
  • Stop caffeine entirely
  • Um… “it” obviously
Week one of two-week wait
  • Maintain exercise schedule
  • Try to keep my mind on other things
  • Cut out soft cheeses, shellfish, deli meats, sushi and other fun stuff from my diet
Week two of two-week wait
  • Modify exercise schedule to lighter cardio, ideally  machines that allow me to monitor heart rate
  • Over-analyze every twinge, cramp, tenderness, headache, etc.
3 days before period is due
  • Start thinking that every twinge, cramp, tenderness, headache means what I want it to mean, and simultaneously freak out and get excited
  • Resist the urge to run out and buy pregnancy test OR resist the urge to use the second test that was in the first test kit that I broke down and bought last cycle
First day of my period
  • Open a bottle of wine
  • Cry 

Honestly, what kind of life is this?  Am I insane?  I know eventually this ride is going to come to an end some way, somehow.  But I’m starting the question the way I’m limiting myself.  In the last six months, I know of four different opportunties I’ve shied away from because I wasn’t sure if I’d be pregnant or at least into the two-week wait at the time of the event. Yet on the flip side, I still yearn for motherhood so badly that I am clinging blindly to faith.  How long will my tolerance hold out?

So my newest challenge is figuring out how I’ll ride the rest of this out.  I want my decisions to be whole-hearted and fearless, yet wise and balanced. I can’t put everything on hold for something that may never be, but I want to do what’s possible (within the realm of reason and our resources) to create the conditions in which, by some miracle, it could happen. I need to get this resolved, because that last thing I want is to find myself once again gasping for air wondering what the hell happened.

My life should be more, “Weee!” and less, “Stop this thing. I want to get off!”