Monday, June 28, 2004

Up, up and away

Today at noon, I lose my work internet access; on Wednesday at noon, I lose my job.

The company was for many years a small but successful enterprise; it was gobbled up by a hungry and inefficient hippo of a biopharmaceutical company in 2002. We were assured that the company bought us because we were important, special, would bring so much to the table. The reality was that they wanted our successful drug but none of the scientists or infrastructure staff who were working on new compounds. So, a year after paying $2.7 billion dollars for our little company, they unceremoniously fired everyone. I was asked to stay around for a year, along with a skeleton staff, to "transition" the data, equipment, etc. With the abysmal job situation in the Bay Area--especially for IT people--I stayed.

I can't say it was a bad decision; I have been employed through the worst of the recession, the mortgage has been paid, the intermittent nature of my husband's income has been ameliorated and I have a sizable severance plan to see us through for a while. But it has been hard to oversee the demolition of everything I've worked for since 1996, and to see my staff and co-workers faced with unemployment.

So, to pick myself up from this depressing place, we are hitting the road: I-5 North, to be precise, followed by the countless highways in six northwestern states and Canada. I will be without a computer or internet access for the first time in years. And, for the first time in a long, long time, I will also be without a slight twinge of dread as each new Monday aproaches.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Losing wait

The big three-five is swimming toward me faster than Ian Thorpe on crack. Just under three months to go before I'm thrown into the "high risk" pool, arms akimbo, without even a moment to hold my breath.

I never thought of 35 as old. Most of my friends are older and they seem young and vibrant, sexy, fun--not to mention appallingly fertile. But even if I were to get pregnant today (I can't, I'm not ovulating today, but if I could...), in the last gasps of 34, I would be considered by the medical establishment to be an "older mother".

Which is strange to me, because I still feel like a kid. Like I shouldn't be trusted to stay in a hotel by myself, much less sign a jumbo mortgage. I've been married for four years and still giggle at the idea that he's my husband--such a grown-up word!

Sometimes I wonder whether becoming a mother is a prerequisite for feeling, fully and unquestionably, like an adult. Or maybe you need to be confident of your adult-ness before you can conceive? Hmmm, something for me to ponder on the drive home.

At any rate, I feel like my window of opportunity is closing--there's only so much more waiting I can do before the one-way path leads left or right, childless or mother.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Me and my dead bugs

There is a perverse gleam in my yoga teacher's eye on certain Wednesday afternoons. When I see it, I know that I'm in trouble.

"Today we're going to do hip openers," she will blithely proclaim, minutely adjusting her impeccable posture and exuding blatant, shiny good health. Sometimes she'll even look me in the eye, smiling slightly, when she says it, pretending to be oblivious to my plaintive looks and silent begging.

Now, I should start by saying that I am a yoga novice. I've only been doing it for a year, and only once per week. But I have been a devoted attendee, eagerly donning my stretchy pants and workout top; painting my toenails so as not to offend (no socks allowed in yoga, even in the chill of January). However, I do not, in any way, consider myself an expert. I do have a theory, though: If you have a particular, peculiar pain--say, weak ankles or an inflamed sciatic nerve--the yogi will find it, exploit it and use it against you. She will make you pay for your imperfection, and she will take pleasure in your agony.

And so I am faced with the Dead Bug.

In the Dead Bug, you lie on your back, bring your bent knees toward your shoulders, lift your feet up to be parallel with the ground and firmly grasp your insteps. It's a helpless position, reminiscent of a dog waiting to have its belly scratched, or, indeed, a dead fly on a windowsill.

The Dead Bug position sends most people into a nice, comfy meditation; a relaxing interlude between the more strenuous poses. For me, however, it sends a special expedition team, fully outfitted with ice picks and axes, to my right hip joint. The pain is so intense that I have to do pseudo-Lamaze breathing just to hold it for the first thirty seconds. For the remaining three and a half minutes, I simply give myself over to pain, allow my face to contort like a Munch, make small whinging noises and let the tears stream unchecked.

When I groped for a Blog name a few weeks ago, the first image that came to mind was myself in Dead Bug. Certainly not a pretty picture, but vivid. Very vivid.

First, the name itself sang a siren's song to my inner pessimist. I pictured squashed mosquitoes on my windshield, those flies on their backs. And I've been feeling like a sort of bug lately, too; a larva in a thick cocoon, maybe, hoping for the metamorphosis but expecting to get eaten by a peckish scrub jay instead.

Then there's the pose itself: so easy for others, so difficult for me. Those damned lucky others just don't understand why I can't do it. I, of course, am intensely jealous and can't quite imagine what it feels like to have it come so easy. Seemed like a pretty good metaphor for infertility.

Oh, and there's one more reason I should mention. The pose has an alternate name: the Happy Baby.

A little sop to that shard of optimism that likes to lodge itself in my head sometimes.

Just desserts?

As an atheist and a skeptic, I don't generally think in terms of fate, or karma, or god's will, or a higher plan, or even some sort of universal balance between good and bad--and certainly not "evil". I feel sure that my life is governed, for better or worse, by nature, by chance and by my own imperfect will.

Somehow, though, I can't quite seem to wholly divest myself from the idea of fate when it comes to my infertility. I wonder, Why me?, and wait expectantly for an answer. And sometimes, at four in the morning, I think I get one: I just don't deserve a baby.

First off, until recently, I didn't want children and said so, out loud, to anyone who asked. Out loud, for chrissake. If that isn't tempting fate, I don't know what is.

More importantly, I had the opportunity to be a mother and I didn't take it. There were many good reasons--excellent reasons, even, such as being seventeen and living with an abusive, alcoholic, schizophrenic boyfriend--but I had the opportunity nonetheless. And I didn't want any part of it. I wanted it out, out, out and never looked back.

I realize that the whole notion of deserving a baby is patently ridiculous: How could brutal, cruel women get pregnant if fertility were handed out on merit, while so many who are smart, patient and supportive remain unhappily childless?

I know it's true, I know it: I just can't seem to apply it to myself sometimes.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

What to do, what to do? And does it even matter?

J and I leave on July 8th for the vacation of our dreams. Well, the vacation of my dreams and Jeff's occasional nightmares--it's a road trip, and, clearly, J is not the ideal candidate for a road trip. In addition to his neurotic, slow driving, he is a bad, bad passenger, the complicit victim of motion sickness. (I say complicit because I am almost certain he brings it on himself with his melodramatic worrying.)

The dilemma is this: Do we even try for a baby this month? Would I, perhaps, be the one wanting to vomit on the side of some scenic highway if pigs flew and I got pregnant? Would I be tough enough to hike the back-country trails of Yellowstone with sore tits, a hyperactive bladder and the infamous pregnancy lethargy?

It probably won't matter whether we try or not, since trying hasn't worked any of the last ten cycles. Perhaps it's overly optimistic to give it even a moment's concern. I may have to take this to the insightful Barren Mare (http://barrenmare.blogspot.com/) and get her thoughts on taking a month off (perhaps Ms. Mare and I will be raising tequila shots in concert this cycle--the one advantage to knowing you're not pregnant during the two week death march. I mean luteal phase.).

What do you think? Opinions, anyone?

Monday, June 14, 2004

Slime, noise and worry

I'm not sure what proper etiquette is on blogs about infertility, and I hate to be completely insensitive, but I might as well be honest. I didn't want kids at all until last year. At all.

Sometimes, when I'm feeling overwhelmed by my fertility failures, I try to remember why:

1) Small children are disgustingly sticky. Their faces and hands become englued with a vile mixture of slobber, dirt, juice and snot. Their parents don't notice.

2) They don't sit quietly; they demand constant, undiluted attention: they are tiring.

3) They will only eat foods that I won't, such as sauceless pasta, hot dogs and processed cheese food.

4) They break things.

5) Baby poo smells utterly revolting, like an unventilated cheese shop.

6) They don't travel well.

7) They can't entertain themselves with a good book, or even a magazine.

8) Children's television is godawful.

9) As teenagers, they might turn out religious, or republican, or both, and there's nothing I could do about it.

10) They might hate me.

Well. That's a start, anyway. Just wish that made me feel a teensy, tinsy bit better, but it doesn't. For better or worse, it doesn't.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Reminder to self: piss off, cheer up (6/9)

"Sweetness, are you OK?" Ahhhh. Ummm. Lemme think.

No.

I am in the tub, staring at the faucet. I've been here for an hour. I do not answer him. I am not OK.

I am, in fact, awful. I would have thought he'd recognize the signs.

Perhaps I should clarify: I am being awful, not just feeling awful. I am being contrary, unamused. Angry. I am not smiling. My mouth is slack with gravity and I am not blinking. (The resemblance to Gene Hackman is profound.)

I am not sure when this started. Two weeks ago? Three? I am, all at once, six months' pregnant with sullenness and irritation. Why am I showing now, all of a sudden?

J doesn't deserve it, I know. He is full of goodness, good intentions, good ideas, good judgement. A good husband, to be sure.

What he doesn't know yet--and what I just figured out--is that I don't want to be cheered up, given pep talks and good ideas; I don't even want to be held and told that I'm loved, or that we're happy with just each other, aren't we?

I want to be pregnant. I want whatever's broken to be fixed. He can't fix it.

I realize that I need to make some changes; I can't continue to hurl my anger and coldness at him with impunity. He must be shocked; I gave him nothing but wholehearted affection and respect for seven years, and then this? His kindness must have limits, and I don't want to find out what they are.

J's birthday was last week. I didn't get him anything. No card. I didn't make dinner. I didn't come home early. I didn't dress. I tried to smile, to make love, but I was in a snug bubble of sadness--foolish, selfish sadness.

I remember some advice from drama class; perhaps it will come in useful: "Memorize the lines and the feeling will follow." My lines for tonight are bright, cheerful, heartfelt--"Honey, I'm home!" and "I've missed you, love"--and I'll try to give them the appropriate inflection, the appropriate expression. Who knows, it might work. Maybe the oppressive beast that has taken to sitting on my chest will feel unwelcome and move on. If not, I'll have to think of a new plan. Perhaps the very act of planning will make me feel more in control? (Ah, control! Control! A little control might go a long way!)

Mostly, I just need to snap out of it. J's right: We are happy with just each other, there is no gaping hole in our lives: just a small indentation, really.

I love you, now go away (6/4)

My sainted and beloved husband is pissing me off. Blindly grinding my last nerve between his pretty white teeth with every loud, gravelly bite of whole-grain cereal. What the hell is with that horrible crunchy slurp? Is his mouth wetly flapping open while he chews? Has the sports page enraptured him so wholly that he doesn't hear himself? My god, man, just listen to it!

But then, the sum total of J is so surpassingly sweet, so heart-meltingly considerate, that I have never, ever been able to bring it to his attention. His mother likes to say that he was "good as gold," even as an infant. Never bothered anybody, never pouted, never broke anything--even a rule. How is it, then, that tiny, basically meaningless little bits of him can fill me with murderous rage? (Chomp, chomp, slurp.)

There is his driving, for one. Somehow, he didn't feel the need for a license till he was fully twenty years old, having contrived to live within walking distance of his high school and then on campus his first two years at univerity. The only reason he finally broke down and went to the DMV in his junior year was because he inherited his grandmother's VW Squareback and, well, he had to do something with it.

True to his scholarly nature, J figured that he should learn to drive by reading about driving, which seemed much less daunting than going to a parking lot and actually driving some. So. He studied hard and, naturally, aced every question on the written driver's exam. And, miracle of miracles, he passed the road test somehow--one of the great unsolved mysteries of our time, to be sure, right up there with the popularity of Michael Bolton--and ended up with a valid California driver's license.

However, he did not know how to drive. So he came up with his own method: go slowly and never change lanes. As you may imagine, this particular method has its disadvantages: For one, going slowly--say 45 miles an hour on Highway 101--will piss people off. Lots of people. Even elderly people in giant white Oldsmobiles who can't see over their own steering wheels. For another, being unable to change lanes makes it particularly difficult to turn, say, left, if one's in the right lane. 'Nuff said. J therefore designed his schedule around places that were easy to reach.

And then, and then...

When he was a slightly more seasoned driver of 26, J happened upon a Yahoo Personals ad that he really liked. No pictures way back then, just words, but he liked my words enough that he formed his own picture. Well, that picture--overly optimistic as it may have been--was enough to conquer the near-panic that siezed him whenever he got behind the wheel and propel him all the way from his graduate student housing in Santa Barbara to the security door of my ancient apartment in San Francisco--two hours late, after several failures to turn on city streets, but he made it nevertheless. (He may have been emboldened by hopes of romance; more realisitcally, it was probably the lure of Highway 101 being a straight shot between the two cities, minimizing the need for those upsetting turns.)

After a year or two, the Santa Barbara-SF drive became familiar to him, as he decided to visit nearly every weekend, and eventually his overall driving became somewhat calmer. Not confident, certainly, but calm. Like when we pulled up to a stoplight and he closed his eyes, lolled his head and started to snore. When I said, "Honey, the light is green," his earnest reply was, "Shhhh. I'm resting."

But I've digressed long enough. This was about the many things that drive me nuts, the things that make my voice shrill, my eyes roll, my teeth grind, and his driving is just one. A big one, but just one. For instance, there is his inability to sit up straight at my father's dinner table twice a year (elbows forever supporting his slumped torso); his inability to see dust, grime and sticky patches when cleaning; his unreasonable fear of injury to himself (J: "Do you think it's safe for me to carry in the recycling containers at night? What if there's broken glass in the tubs that I can't see?" Me: "Don't rub your hand around in the tub, then, sweetheart.") and others (J: "We can't have the drip hoses set up in the yard when R's preschoolers come to visit: they might trip in the grass and hit their heads!" Me: "Kids' heads are nice and maleable. They're meant to be fallen on. Plus, the grass is not quite as hard as, say, marble, honey."). There are others, of course: his congested snoring; the way he rubs his fungy feet on my legs; his claustrophobia in Trader Joe's; his inability to get rid of clutter; his haphazard "filing method"; his sanctimonious sermon on why I shouldn't dive into a 12-foot pool (too shallow; I'll break my neck); his fascination with minor league baseball statistics.

Oh, and his attitude about having a baby. Just a little thing, really. He just, you know, would worry so much. His response is always, "If you want one, I guess it'll be all right. But what if we're not good at being parents? What if he runs with scissors or plays with matches or isn't a good driver? What if he falls on his head? Hmmmm? What then?"

And then my usual answer: "Go away."

Little Miss Pess (5/24)

I spend much of my time fruitlessly contemplating infertility. Most of my time, actually. It plays a little bass riff in the back of my head, day in and day out, and occasionally--say on 10 DPO, for example--it brings out the guitar and drums for a special, ear-splitting private concert. Strange, since I spent the first two decades of my supposedly fertile years without giving it a single thought. I didn't even hear the occasional warble of a flute. Nothing. In fact, through the advanced age of thirty-two, my only thoughts about fertility were of how little use I had for it.

And then one day when I was thirty-three, my period was late, and I was scared, and I thought, Shit, How did this happen?, and, Shit, what will I do?, and almost immediately I thought, I will be pregnant and have a baby. And I'll like it. And then the next day my period arrived. And I was, somehow, utterly heartbroken.

So I decided to try. Threw out the condoms, gave up my morning coffee and dove right in.

As a dyed-in-the-wool pessimist (as attested by my childhood nickname, "The Pess"), the moment my period arrived after our first TTC attempt, I felt sure I was permanently, incurably infertile. Our subsequent TTC futility has done nothing to assuage me, but that sense of certain failure somehow does not drown out the distracting din, which, I have come to believe, is actually fueled by some un-purgable, uninvited optimism. I wouldn't still be thinking about it all the time if there wasn't some small part of me that keeps on hoping, right? And optimism is part and parcel of hope, isn't it? Sheesh. Me, a closet optimist!

Catching flies with chopsticks (from 5/17)

Right now, I have to pee. Not like a lady: like a racehorse. And I'm thirsty. And I'll feel this way again tomorrow--sip, hold, hold, hold, hold, hold, pee!--and probably the day after that. A very small, if uncomfortable, price to pay to track down that ever-elusive ovulation--one small if crucial piece in the diabolically complex jigsaw puzzle of fertility.

My question, after trying since last August, is not, Why am I not pregnant? My question is, How does anyone ever get pregnant? It seems freakier to me with every passing day.

First, there's all the requisite sex. DH and I are fond of each other, but after seven years, we don't lie around thinking raunchy, hot thoughts and find ourselves going at it like baboons in springtime; we lie around thinking about the invasive iceplant vines we need to pull in the rosebed, the strange thunking noise coming from the washing machine, whether we should start our summer roadtrip by driving to Vancouver or Colorado. Sex, when we get around to it once or twice a week, is something between a treat and a chore, sometimes leaning one way, sometimes another. Regardless, we do make the effort during that purported "fertile window," so that's our first (somewhat grudging) checkmark on the TTC list.

Then there's that damned ovulation. I am fortunate; the OPKs work for me and my temperatures are clear: I ovulate regularly and at nearly the same time every month. We can time sex fairly easily. Another big X on that checklist.

J's sperm, at least according to the pathetic home semen analysis kit, appears to have an adequate count, so that's maybe half an X for the list. (An aside: The home SA kit is called "Baby Start"; the logo is two eggs lined up at attention. I kid you not.)

The rest of the steps seem to be almost entirely out of my control, and this is where it starts to seem like a poorly-plotted action-adventure movie.

To start with, there's that pesky cervix, which I always think of as a too-cool bouncer at an A-list Hollywood nightclub: "Listen, all of you, you can wait here all night but you're not getting in." And the sperms are so disappointed--no celebrity sightings, no phone number from a botoxed beauty--that they simply wander into the street.

That street is hostile--spermicidally acidic, in fact--and my particular alleyway doesn't have any well-lit eggwhite alcoves where those brave sperms might take solace and regroup for another try; instead, it has a wall of mustachioed thugs who beat to death any particularly manly sperms who were not brought low at the outset.

Now, in the highly unlikely event that a specially plucky sperm or two somehow snuck past the too-cool doorman while he was having a smoke, that's still just the beginning of the story, which I envision starring a marginal actor along the lines of Keanu Reeves or Keifer Sutherland. (It's just too implausable for someone like Harrison Ford or Denzel Washington; their agents wouldn't even show them the script.)

For beyond the cervix challenge lies the maddening method by which the few, fortunate sperm--I'll call our lead Keanu; the supporting actors will, of course, die valiantly for the quest--must swim, swim, swim to meet the intimidating, unapproachable egg, then improbably align and attach himself perfectly to her specially constructed surface, like a barefoot parachutist landing on his shoes. And then the egg (Sandra Bullock?), once over the shock, has to accept the invading conqueror; The Body (picture a panel of nine secret judges in black masks) has to approve of the union, and the new unified Keandra must then blindly grope its way to the uterus, wherein their lives (life?) depend upon finding a miraculously unlocked door into which they can retreat, feast, divide and metamorphose into an actual embryo. If they're really, really, really lucky.

I simply don't know if I believe in that kind of luck. I mean, right, would you rent the movie?