Thursday, May 30, 2013

Questioning my feelings

As I have been going through the last three-plus years, I have stayed away from books about infertility.  I haven't browsed or joined any chat rooms devoted to the subject.  I haven't joined a support group or made any other major attempt at reaching out to anyone else going through this.  I have asked a trio of friends who have gone through infertility a couple of specific questions about their process, but they were usually technical in nature and once the questions were answered they respected my need to discontinue the conversation.  As a result, I have really no frame of reference of what other women have gone through when they have faced infertility and I sometimes wonder if what I'm feeling is normal.  Not enough that I care to ask anyone, but I still wonder.

One of the things that has been eating at me lately is how to determine what emotions are "real" and which emotions are simply highly evolved coping mechanisms, developed over years of unsuccessful treatments.  I was going to say I'm not sure which of my feelings are "genuine" but I believe that all of my emotions are genuine.  I just don't know if I'm protecting myself or if I've really changed how I feel.  Here is a concrete example to illustrate my ramblings . . .

At this point in my life, I am no longer certain whether I want to have to children, or if I simply want to prove to myself (and others) that I'm not broken.  It's like when a child begs and pleads for a toy insistently and when the parent finally relents the child realizes that they really have no interest in the toy.  They thought they wanted it, and having it withheld from them increased it's allure and desirability, but in the end they didn't really want the toy.  In truth, they just didn't like being told no.  In some ways that's how I feel about having a baby now.  I'm not certain that I really want one, or if I simply don't like being told no.

There was a time in my life where I was certain that I wanted children.  I looked forward to the challenges, victories and defeats of child rearing.  But over the last six months or so, maybe even year, I feel like a tide is turning.  I've been reading lots of articles about the challenges of work-life balance for parents, but mothers in particular and I think about how much I'm looking forward to developing my career when Zac retires.  A couple of weeks ago, as I read up on how much it costs to raise a child, I could feel myself dreading cutting back on contributing to my retirement account in order to fund diapers and college funds.  I was getting ready for bed the other night and sadly recognized that if I had a child, my sleep patterns would not be my own, possibly for a long, long time.  I was on a terribly turbulent flight last week and I thought to myself, "This would utterly suck if I had a kid in tow."  (The feeling was reinforced when I was running down an airport hallway trying to make the third leg of a flight, exhausted from hours of traveling and weighted down by a heavy backpack.)

I was surrounded by kids last week at Zac's cousin's wedding.  Almost a dozen kids belonging to Zac's various cousins - infants up to 10 years old.  And while I enjoyed the kids, at no point did I have any sort of yearning to have one.  I felt no sense of loss.  No feeling of missing something.  Instead I was grateful that Zac and I were able to stay later into the evening, free from a responsibility of getting kids back to the hotel to get to bed at a somewhat normal time.

I find myself more and more happy that I don't have a child, and dreading the idea of having one.  However, I can not for the life of me figure out if 1). It's because I really, truly, no longer want to have children, or 2.) I've developed such a strong defense mechanism against the disappointment that I've convinced myself that I feel this way.  Am I continuing with fertility treatments because I am that petulant child that hates to be told no?  Or do I really still want to have kids?  

I don't have the luxury of time to take a break for a couple of years to reexamine what I truly want.  I'll be 36 soon, and perhaps the one and only thing that I am certain of is that I do not want to be 40 and having a child.  If we get pregnant, I am sure I'll come around to the idea of being a mother.  I just hope that's what I want.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Proud that MN is my home

As I have moved around to different parts of the United States, I am frequently reminded of how much I miss Minnesota and how proud I am to have been raised there.  Today was another one of those days where I burst with Minnesota pride.

For those that don't know, Minnesota's Senate passed a bill today that will legalize gay marriage.  Our House passed it last week.  Now it is on to Gov. Dayton's office where he says he will sign it into law, maybe as early as Thursday.  

I have friends who are gay.  Dear, dear friends whom I love with all of my heart.  Some of them have been in committed relationships twice as long as I have been with my husband.  Some of them have children. And now they will have the opportunity to enjoy the legal protections that Zac and I share.  They will be able to celebrate in front of their families and friends and have an officiant say, "By the power invested in me by the State of Minnesota" and know that our state does, indeed, recognize them - their relationship, their family, their commitment, their love.

One of my friends, who has been in a committed relationship with her partner for more than a decade, posted this exchange she had with her eight-year-old son the other day:

Son: "What's the American dream mom?"
Mom: "Well, it means different things to different people but usually to have a home and a good job and be happy."
Son: "Seriously, it should be to have a great family like ours. Not to have money or anything. That way you can be rich with love."

That sums it up pretty well.

Congratulations, Minnesota.  I am so proud of you.  

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Location matters

Once upon a time I worked at Barnes & Noble.  I was assigned to Department 3 and Juvie (a.k.a. the kids' section).  Our "departments" were arbitrary divisions of the books and merchandise that roughly matched the layout of the carpet and shelving fixtures in the store.  I became most familiar with the books that were housed in Department 3 and Juvie, as that is where I'd spend most of my hours helping customers, shelving and organizing.  [I loved that job.  *sigh*]

The Juvie area of responsibility didn't only include books for children.  It also included books for adult customers on pregnancy, baby names, parenting and education.  The fertility books, however, were kept in Department 3, about 60 feet away in the middle of the Health section surrounded by books on other afflictions and diseases like asthma, heart disease, AIDS, diabetes, etc.  The miscarriage books were kept there too.  The label on the shelf even read "Infertility/Miscarriage".

On a number of occasions I would find a female customer standing in the pregnancy aisle, with a sad, defeated look on her face.  I would approach her and ask brightly, in my best customer-service voice, "May I help you find something?" even though based on her body language and expression I had a good guess what her answer would be.  Usually there was a pause, they would look at the carpet, they would look up, almost embarrassed and ask quietly, "Where are the books on miscarriage?"  Sometimes the answer was, "I can't find any books here on infertility."  I would give them an empathetic nod (though knowing what I know now, it should have been sympathetic) and lead them back to the Health section.  I can understand why their first inclination was to look in the pregnancy section for books on fertility and miscarriage.  After all, you can't have a pregnancy (or a miscarriage) without being fertile first.  

As I would leave them to browse the titles and continue with my workday I would briefly think about how difficult those few minutes must have been for those customers.  Standing in front of all of those pregnancy and parenting books with happy babies and children and bright colors plastered all over the covers.  Searching for answers to their own struggle while being bombarded by hundreds of books that reminded them of what they were striving for or had lost.  Part of me didn't like the idea of putting the fertility/miscarriage books in with the other disease topics.  I don't think that heart disease and diabetes carry the same complicated mix of grief, shame and anger that infertility and miscarriage do.  To catalog them the same way seems cruel.  But it was still a better choice than to locate those books with pregnancy and parenting.  That would have been cruelest of all.

I thought about those customers, and the location of those books, the other day while I was visiting the fertility clinic.  About four months ago the fertility clinic moved and it is now located in the large Naval hospital here in San Diego.  It is on the same floor and in the same wing as the Fetal Assessment Unit (FAU), the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and Labor and Delivery (L&D).  More specifically, the infertility clinic now shares the same space as the FAU.  It's an odd choice for cohabitation - pregnant women and others who hope to be.  The waiting room usually contains women who are visibly pregnant, often times with their doting spouse, and a handful of us infertile women, alone.  I don't blame our spouses for not coming with us - after all, there isn't much for them to do or see and our appointments only last 10-15 minutes.  

The cohabitation of infertility and FAU doesn't bother me, though I often wonder if the pregnant patients are as aware of us as we are of them. I don't begrudge or resent the presence of the women who are expecting, but then again I've come to a certain peace with my infertility.  I have to imagine, however, that that isn't the case for all of the infertile women who come through that office.  I know that there are infertility patients that are in the throws of despair and depression, grief and confusion, hurt and bitterness.  To be sitting there, facing all of those happy soon-to-be mommies, must be incredibly hard for them.  

My guess is the hospital didn't think much of the emotional impact of locating the infertility clinic with the FAU.  Instead, I wager the powers-that-be wanted to have all of the sonogram and ultrasound machines in one area in the interest of convenience and efficiency.  It's too bad.  I think the infertility clinic should have been put in Department 3.