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.

Still Small Voices Are Usually Right

Today, I had to rise and shine at an ungodly hour to get myself down to the hospital breast cancer center for a lovely, early-morning diagnostic mammogram. Just the way every woman wants to start her day, eh?  (Rest assured, all I have are a few benign-looking cysts – this post, thankfully, is not about that.)

There, within the tastefully-appointed inner sanctum of the “no men allowed” waiting room, I sat in anticipation of my tests. The cotton examination cape that I’d be given to wear draped softly around me. It felt like a bed sheet. The image of being back in bed relaxed me temporarily enough for a small, quiet voice inside me to say, “You’re angry.”

I sat up a little straighter in an effort to shake it off. I didn’t feel angry. In fact, I felt incredibly calm given the circumstances.

Later, when the radiologist had determined that what they found on the mammogram justified an ultrasound, I found myself on my side on an examination table watching blobs on a screen. This, of course, brought back memories of the handful of ultrasounds I had during my second pregnancy, and the joy Hubs and I felt seeing that small flickering light.  That flicker indicated a strong heartbeat.  That flicker gave us a false sense of security that the pregnancy would go well and everything would be o.k. This morning’s ultrasound also brought back the pain I felt the day that light was no longer present.  As I pushed back the memory and willed myself into an equally unpleasant present, the voice returned, “You’re angry.”

“Fine,” I thought, “I’ll concede, but at the moment there are other fish to fry.” The appointment continued, doctors were consulted and everyone was all smiles. “Nothing to worry about,” they said. “But come back in six months, so we can keep an eye on you.” So, you know, I have that to look forward to.

After being squished, mushed, poked, prodded, and gelled, I was back in my car and headed to work.  Grateful for the positive news, but still not feeling quite relieved.  The voice came back to remind me of unfinished business, “You’re angry.”

Now I was really annoyed, especially because the little voice was right. I am angry. I’m angry I did not get the life I imagined, the motherhood I crave.  I’m angry because the closest relationship I’ll ever have to motherhood is one that is so totally lopsided at the moment that it hurts me almost daily. I’m angry at others who get to have what they want easily. I’m angry because there are others like me who struggle and don’t get their happy endings.  What is so wrong with wanting to be a mother?  Why should it be denied to anyone? Nothing is clear. Nothing makes sense.  So yes, little voice, I am angry, but what do you suggest I do about it?

“Allow yourself to be angry,” the voice replied.

I don’t think I ever considered that before. In fact, I don’t think I’d ever felt entitled to be. Whenever I would begin to get angry, there was always someone there to remind me that others were hurting too, that it wasn’t quite the time or place, or that it was being directed at the wrong person or thing. Maybe it is time to be angry.

The question is “How?” Obviously I can’t walk around pissed off at the World and lashing out at everyone in it.  There’s got to be a constructive way to get it out, to channel it.

Maybe if I listen closely enough, my inner voice will offer more insight. Hopefully, it’ll happen before six months from now.

“Meditate Perfectly”

Over the past few months I’ve been grappling with the possibility that I might never have a child of my own. It’s a harsh reality to face, and I don’t think that a day has gone by without tears.

I might cry in the shower or while I style my hair. I may cry in the car on the way to or coming back from work. If I’m REALLY lucky, my tears will sneak up on me in public, like at work, church or the gym. If I’m EXTREMELY lucky the tears will come to me throughout the day. Some days they are just a small welling; others a full-on bawl. It may not be like clockwork, but the tears are a constant, and often unwelcome, companion.

I cry because I’m grieving my babies. I cry because I’m angry that I haven’t been able to successfully conceive again. I cry because I struggle with the decision on whether I should keep trying. I cry because my dreams have been shattered. I cry because I haven’t found new dreams to take their place.

To be honest, it’s getting exhausting. Pushing it to the back of my mind in order to function takes effort, especially when I can’t go through the day without reminders of others who have succeeded where I have failed. Whether it’s celebrity after celebrity in the media, a friend, a relative, or the exercise instructor at the gym, there’s always something there that forces the topic to the front of my mind.

I’m at the point where I wish I could fast forward through the process and go directly to peace. Do not pass “Go.” Just get me to the end game. Like a gift, the show “30 Rock” tapped into just this fantasy for me when during the story arc of a recent episode, executive powerhouse Jack Donaghy, played perfectly by Alec Baldwin, is pressed for time and without a ground-breaking idea to present his boss with decides to take Liz Lemon’s suggestion to mediate. Being highly efficient and self-possessed, he wills himself into transcendence by ordering himself to “meditate perfectly.” Within minutes, he reaches enlightment and gets the idea that impresses the boss. Bing. Bang. Boom. Simple. Wouldn’t it be great if it were that easy?

Unfortunately, the grief that comes with child loss and childlessness is not so easily overcome. It’s cyclical. Just when you think you’re past it, it greets you elsewhere down the line. A contributor to the WordPress blog, Life Without Baby, explains it beautifully in this post.

So I’ll continue to press on. I know that there are possibilities out there, and a life that I need to fulfill. I’ll do the work. I’ll struggle. Eventually, I’ll get there. But wouldn’t it be nice If we could all just “meditate perfectly” just once?

Watch Jack Acheive Perfect Meditation Through Sheer Will

Late in Life Babies are a Rich Woman’s Game

God, I hate going to the OB/GYN. 

After my last miscarriage in 2010, I avoided going just because I couldn’t bear to be in the same room with a bunch of pregnant women.  There they sit: all glowing, cooing, comparing notes and blissfully unaware of the storm of emotions welling up inside that quiet 40-something woman sitting along with them fighting back her tears and mourning her losses.  Then, of course, there was the inevitable face off with the clueless medical assistant who didn’t think to look at my medical records to see that I was there for a post miscarriage visit who asked “have you ever been pregnant?” 

Today, I got back in the game and went to a new office and a new doctor in hopes of a fresh start.  Once again, I was sitting in the lobby with pregnant women and their husbands with the choice of Baby or Parenting magazine to occupy my time. ( I think I am going to found and create Childless Mother magazine, just so people like me have something to read at the OB/GYN!  Think of stories I could write: Why You’re Not Good Enough to Bear Children – Take Our Fun Quiz!; She May Be Pregnant, But You Can Have a Margarita: 10 Ways to Console Yourself… the possibilities are endless.)  Other than fueling my sick, self-depreciating sense of humor, I made it through this part.

Then came the part where I had to tell my sad, pathetic story to the doctor. ( I just love crying in front of people I’ve just met. Don’t you?)  I must say I am glad that she was extremely sympathetic and, thankfully, frank with me.  After reviewing my medical records, she said what I expected to hear.  At my age, healthy pregnancies are not impossible, but not common.  Chromosomal abnormalities are extremely likely making miscarriage risk high.  I can conceive. I show no other signs of being unable to carry.  I present no other risk factors.  My eggs are just, well, old.

She told me the surer bet is egg donation, which – much like adoption – is a $30 to $40k investment.  Money I do not have either way you look at it.  

In communicating with Hubs, we both realized that this is one of life’s crueler games.  Men have the capacity produce healthy sperm in their more mature years, but the woman’s contribution to the party is finite.  The eggs have a shelf life. 

I hate to be negative here, but starting that magazine is looking very attractive to me now.   Perhaps the advertising revenues for it will buy me a baby.  Then I could be on the cover (just like Oprah) beaming proudly holding my baby with the headline, “Crossing Over: Our Final Issue.”

I really wish I could end this on a more positive note.  I’ve actually felt much more at peace lately, but today is emotionally messy.  I am brokenhearted and confused.  Where do I go from here?  How do you move on when the sure bet turns into a long shot?  I’ve dreamed, hoped, and planned on being a mom throughout my life.  I never counted on the alternative.   I always had hope, but now I’m not sure.

I think I need a margarita.