Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Thank you

I am so moved by all your support, practical and otherwise. Thank you. Thank you.

Big Boy/ Little Boy

A couple of months ago, very shortly after he began speaking in sentences, Turtle became interested in the idea of privacy. Where he learned the term I'm not sure, as his Dad and I seldom if ever use the word. It may be that his babysitter is more modest than we are. In any event, his conception of privacy delightfully betrayed the two-year old's basic belief that there is no division between mommy and me. "Go away, daddy," he'd order, "I need privacy with Mommy."

Tonight, for the first time, he asked for privacy for himself. I was giving him a bath and he began to splash. "Stop that," I said, firmly but calmly. "Sorry, Mommy!" he yelped almost before I could get the words out. We had just made it through a block-throwing incident, and he knew, I thought, that he'd better not push things. But we'd hardly resumed our boat race when he began to splash again. "I know it's fun to splash," I said, "but it's only fun for the one in the tub, the one who's already wet. Mommy's wearing clothes and she wants to stay dry." "Sorry, Mommy," he said. Then he thought for a moment.

"Mommy, I want privacy," he said. "Really?" I asked, shocked at this new development. "Mommy go away," he clarified. "OK," I said, looking for a compromise that would not involve leaving him unattended in a good 6 or 8 inches of water, "I'll turn around and I won't look again until you say I can." The boat race resumed along with the splashing.

And in that instant, I saw all the other separations he'll demand over the years, the privacy he'll want for illicit pleasures so much more dangerous than a simple splash in the bath. How will I protect him from himself, and from me, from my demands for perfection? "I can hear you splashing," I told him.

Later, on the way to bed, in his uncanny two-year-old way, he began to take stock of his own maturation. "Mommy, I no have a crib," he announced. "That's right I said. Can you tell me who has it now?" Not to be distracted, he repeated, "Daddy took da crib." We'd given it away as a hand-me-down fully four months ago and I was surprised to have him bring it up. "That's right," I said, "and now a new little baby sleeps in it, right? It was too small for you." I felt good about teaching him empathy, the importance of giving to others. "I climb out and Daddy took it away," he insisted with unflinching accuracy. In fact, Daddy did confiscate the crib for good one day about a month after the big-boy-bed had been introduced, a day when the nap-time stall tactic of requesting transfer from bed to crib devolved into the nap-strike tactic of climbing out of the crib.

"Well," I said, opting for perfect honesty with this small exacting boy, "it is true that Daddy took the crib away when you climbed out of it. That was a dangerous thing to do and you could have gotten hurt. But it was time to give the crib away anyway. We didn't give it away because you climbed out. We gave it away because it was too small for you. You were so big you had to scrunch your legs up inside it. You didn't need it any more and until we gave it to the new little baby, he had no place at all to sleep." I nattered on about all the space for playing we'd opened up in his room. He launched into a scientific catalog of all the changes in his room since his infancy. "No changing table, Mommy. That's a dresser." "Man brought the bed." "Daddy took my shelf." Wow, such loss, such longing, such nostalgia and such clear memories at two.

I wanted to comfort him in the face of all this change. I said, "let's get Freddie." You've had Freddie since you were a tiny little baby," I said as he nuzzled his favorite stuffed dog. "You've always loved Freddie." But he was on to me. "Mommy, Freddie no bark," he said. "Freddie no make a noise," he said pressing futilely at the electronic insert that used to making a barking sound when pressed. "Wow," I said, "Freddie did used to bark, and you have a really good memory. You remember what he sounded like when he barked, right?" "Yes," he said, sounding miserable, already learning the lesson that you can't go home again, not even when you're two and rocking in your mother's arms.

"Well, and you have blankie, right?" I asked, suddenly grateful for the continued presence of the disgraceful unraveling rag I used to swaddle him in. "Do you remember how I used to wrap you up in blankie?" I asked him. By the end I had taken to wrapping him loosely toga-style around his chest, just to give him the suggestion of a swaddle. He tensed and didn't answer me. "Should we wrap you up in blankie, tonight?" I asked him. "No!" he declared. "OK," I said, and we finished our book. Then I lay him down on his big-boy bed and wrapped him toga-style in his blankie. The silly phrases I used to repeat like a mantra and haven't used in a year came back to me: "I'm gonna wrap you up in blankie, in blankie, blankie, blankie. Blankie makes you feel totally safe, totally, secure. I love you son, oh yes I do, I love you to bitsy bitsy bits." He greeted the old game with gales of giggles. And then, with more rocking and singing, he slowly drifted into sleep.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I am one of the youngest looking 35-year olds you'll ever see, five feet tall with a cute round face and big baby eyes. I see the signs of my own aging clearly in my face, the ever deepening under-eye shadows that are the curse of the sallow-skinned, the frown-lined brow calling out for Botox. But apparently what everyone else sees when they look at me me is a totally exhausted and very grumpy sixteen-year old inexplicably decked out in Eileen Fisher.

I was carded last week. When I laughed and told the waiter I was old enough to be highly flattered, he shrugged only half apologetically and said, "listen we have to card anyone under 30." When I told him I'll be 36 next month, he looked genuinely flabbergasted.

As a working woman, I have mostly found my exaggerated youthfulness to be a serious annoyance. Whatever one may say about the cult of youth in this country, the fact remains that age equates with experience and competence for most people. Look young and they may proposition you at the corner bar, but they won't promote you to the corner office.

With an outer appearance that makes everyone assume I'm much younger than I am, I was totally unprepared to be given news so terrible it has taken my breath away. Flattened me bodily. I appear to have entered perimenopause at the age of 35.

From the beginning of my fertility struggles, back in 2003 at the tender age of 30, I have always had one thing on my side. "Don't worry, you're still so young," everyone told me. And so my secret fear has been losing the one straight arrow in my quiver, the ability to conceive with relative ease and to produce genetically sound embryos. As an archer, I've been working with a broken bow, a body almost unable to shoot straight and send a baby out into the world. Four dead embryos. Four missed miscarriages. One live birth. Hitting the target that one lucky time meant everything, of course. It meant a child. And it meant that if I could only manage the strength of arm, if I could only muster the will to try again, I could seize another arrow from the quiver and I might, just might, score the pot shot that would bring another child. Now I have only broken sticks and shreds of feathers, dreams in dust.

When I didn't conceive last month, I went to Dr. Cookie Pie and said: "Let's do day three blood work." She said, "Are you kidding me? You're absolutely fine." I said, "I'm an information junkie. I'm about to turn 36. Let's just do it and see where we stand." I'd had a couple, that is two, episodes of night sweats over the last 4 months, and it had given me a little nagging worry. I wanted to reassure myself. And I thought that if my FSH had edged over 9, it might be time to think about IVF, to freeze some embryos from 35-year-old eggs, to give myself a fighting chance to carry to term with a viable embryo.

To my utter shock and grief, my FSH cam back at 15.5. Cookie Pie, always the optimist observed that my LH was 4.5 (when it would typically also be elevated with elevated FSH) and insisted that it must be a lab error. They ran it again and the numbers came back 16.5 and 5. They ran them yet again, and they came back 17.8 and 6. Cookie Pie will not believe it and says we'll try again next month with a different lab. Maybe it is a false alarm. But I feel devastated. These are the numbers of premature ovarian failure, numbers so bad no IVF clinic would even touch me.

The first thing I did, after hanging up the phone with Dr. Cookie Pie, was consult Dr. Google about premature menopause, whence I quickly discovered that it's associated with, you guessed it, hypothyroidism. And that information makes me feel enraged. Because no one, no one, not one person ever mentioned this fact to me. No one ever said, you had better try to conceive again the very instant you give birth cause your days are numbered. On the contrary, everyone spouted platitudes about primed pumps. Somehow, in all my googling on Hashimoto's, I never came across that little factoid. Or maybe I believed the hype about how I'm actually 16.

I am soo sad I am moving through my days in an utter fog. Tears come unbidden whenever I let my mind wander, and so I mostly try to pretend this is happening to someone else. I've told no one but my husband and my mother, but I have the oddest sensation walking down the street that everyone can sense I'm barren, that I'm a walking black hole.

Only here, in the safe virtual world of my fellow infertiles on the internet, can I stand to take this news out and run my fingers lightly over it. Thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your comments last week. It means so much to know I am not utterly alone at a time when I feel so forsaken.

Further Surprise of Hashimoto's.
Fantastically Shitty Hormones.
Failed Second-child Hopes.
Fucking Sorry History.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Insult to Injury

When I was a primary infertile, a big part of my pain stemmed from a feeling of arrested development, that there was a key life stage that I was ready, willing, but inexplicably unable to enter. Watching all the fertile folk rolling by me as I trudged the path to parenthood was so dispiriting.

I always thought that the pain of secondary infertility could be no where near as severe. And in the beginning, it really wasn't. But, as the months go by and Turtle grows bigger and bigger while the cradle stays empty, the pain begins to deepen. And what I mostly feel is that I am so worn down and weary now.

It's like the first time you go for a run and you really overdo it and come home sore, you think--wow that was tough. But actually, you don't know the half of it. Because the moment you're really going to face a world of pain is on day two, when you hit the trail again with muscles already worn down from the first run. Oh, at first you'll think, this is great. It feels *soo* good to get moving again, to stretch out all the muscles that tightened over night. But a few miles out you'll realize that you've pushed yourself beyond endurance. It's then that you want to curl up on the side of the trail and die a peaceful death under a drift of brown leaves. And if, somehow, you will yourself to live, you then have to face the fact that only putting one foot in front of the other can ever bring you home again.

Right now, a summer chemical pregnancy (Maria and the Girls both scored, as it turned out...) followed by two months of disappointing negatives has me clutching my side and kicking at leaves...