Saturday, November 22, 2008

Bump This!

I feel like I'm in some strange D-list movie from the 60s - something along the lines of "Valley of Bumps". Everywhere I look, there they are: distended bellies pointing out, to no one in particular, that they belong to someone who is completely oblivious to my personal hell.

Of course that's probably not entirely true of ALL of them. I'm sure that, thrown in with the colorful mix of Fertile Myrtles proudly pushing their Peg Peregos - or, the more glamorous ones, Silver Cross prams that I am embarrassed to say are, in my humble opinion, the motherhood equivalent of the iconic quilted Chanel bag - there is one or the other who is still cautiously optimistic after the trials and tribulations of Trying To Conceive (which, btw, is now a common acronym among many - something that makes me, quite frankly, just want to THROW UP).

Lately, I've barely managed to keep the crescendo of cascading panic attacks at bay. I can count on one hand how many years I have left until I'm going to be my MOTHER's age when she had me - and she had me quite late for her generation. And then there's this nagging feeling in the back of my head - you know, that dusty attic room you keep under lock and key because it houses your most unpleasant superstitions and insecurities - that maybe I jinxed myself.

Confession: I have been "planning" for motherhood quite a while before I actually felt physically and mentally READY. With every single one of my friends toting around at least one child - and me, in tow, happily running along to children's boutiques and little shoppes - it was just a matter of time before I found something irresistably cute.

See, I thought I was being smart. Get a little blanket there, maybe a silver feeding spoon - and stash it all away like a chipmunk with a healthy harvest of nuts. Needless to mention, this is quite easily one of my most embarrassing little foibles. Because, really? It's kind of like the line in that movie The Wedding Planner: "Those who can't do, plan." (or something to that effect). I guess that, on some level, I thought that if I was prepared, then things would go smoothly. I wouldn't have an unplanned pregnancy and have to scramble to find cute things for my bundle of joy. But - and I hate to sound like a total snob - the biggest part of it, I guess, was seeing what a lot of other people did with their kids. Entire meals plastered across pill-tastic faded Walmart t-shirts. Infants glued to television sets. Little girls in Mini-Whore-Me outfits. It was enough to make me want to gouge out my eyes sometimes. So, I thought: well, we may not be hobnobbing with the rich and famous, but that doesn't mean my kids have to look like they came straight from the favelas either.
Enter a whole new world of shopping. Within less than a year, I was semi-fluent in the high-brow fashion world of baby boutiques. Smocked dresses, christening gowns, embroidered cardigans...Before I knew it, I was kitted out for the next two babies which, as it turned out, never did show up.

And there I was, with all these hopes pinned to my booty, so to speak - and suddenly I felt like a big fat loser. What had I been thinking? How ridiculous! Who shops for unborn, unplanned and not-at-all-in-the-making babies??? So I sold some, donated others, and went to a lot of baby showers. Pretended that the gift I brought wasn't something that I would've put on MY CHILD. The one that, as it now looked, I might never have anyway.

After a while, I started remembering something my mother had once told me a long time ago - some superstition or old wives' tale, if you will: you should never make up the crib before you bring your baby home safe and sound. And then, the other day, I either heard or read something that extended this "belief" to cover any and all child-related accoutrements. Suddenly I had a moment of uncertainty - in a way, you could say that padlocked door to The Unmentionables in my head flew wide open - and I thought: did I put the cart before the horse and somehow jinx us???

From a rational point of view, that's all a bunch of nonsense, of course. But maybe that's the point all of this has made abundantly clear: none of this makes any sense, and there's neither logic nor reason involved in what we go through when dealing with infertility. I have moments of lucidity when I think, hey it can still happen or we can adopt; or maybe we can just have a lot of pets or something. There are days when I meet up with someone and their kid turns out to be a little, grouchy, miserable mini-tyrant - and I think to myself, PHEW, thank God I don't have that problem (incidentally, this frame of mind is particularly evident when I hear tales of Exorcist-like vomiting etc).

Lately, I've been feeling a lot more panicked - not just about the whole baby issue, but about life in general. I always believed that there was a natural progression to life: you're born, your parents give you a set of values and a code of ethics to guide you in life, you live and learn - and eventually find someone you love and get married. Everything else, I thought - foolishly, I now realize at the 11th hour - would just "happen". It never occurred to me that having children would be something I would have to "work" at. For the better part of my life, I didn't give either marriage OR babies ANY thought whatsoever - watching my parents, I just thought, this is the way the story goes. It never entired my mind, for a split second, that I might not meet someone and get married or that, even if I managed to find that, I would still be denied what one could argue is a basic right of being a woman. I mean - sometimes it really gets to me: the sheer indignity of getting periods - the ONLY reason for which is procreation - and still not be able to bear children. I mean, it's like as if you won a competition and then they told you, hey by the way, you know that $10,000 prize you were competing for? We just made that up! HAHAHA!

Well, I'm not laughing. I'm not crying either. I feel like I'm hovering in this state of constant anxiety. This infertility issue is suddenly making me feel OLD and it keeps reminding me of my own mortality. Maybe that's partly because, all of a sudden, that dream life filled with laughter and joy, with little babies and family holidays - that all went up in smoke before I could say WHAT?

Sometimes I think, so what. I can do without it. I can learn to live without having kids. I can get a tropical bird or something. I can play with someone else's kid - and hand it back when it starts revisting with lunch. But I know that, deep down, all that's just big talk from someone in pain and in denial. Because, really? It's all out of my hands. It's not like, say, if I were single. I could tell myself - do I want to raise a child by myself if I don't find someone I want to marry? I don't know. I just feel like someone tied a noose around my neck and hung a great big boulder around it - every which way I move, the noose just gets tighter and tighter.


So here we are, coming up on the holidays again. I love this time of the year. I love the changing of the leaves and I love when it starts to get cold. I love bundling up with big sweaters, scarves and hats. I love dashing into a warm, cozy coffee shop to meet a friend over steaming hot coffees. I love decorating the house for Christmas.

But this year, it all seems a little harder; my heart a little heavier. Everywhere I go, it's Bump City. The other day, at the post office, I saw this petite, thin woman with a bump so big, it made me wonder how she managed not to fall forward all the time. And it's in all the magazines - ads for strollers, for kids stores, advice for safe-guarding kids against flu season etc etc etc. I'm starting to get sick of it. I feel like saying, guess what, WE DON'T ALL HAVE KIDS!!!

It's also a trying season for me as I'm seeing more and more people with newborns or infants - and many women who barely gave birth a couple of months ago and are back at work, eager to resume their careers. It makes me wonder: why would you want to have a baby only to leave it in the care of strangers for the better part of its formative years? Sometimes, I indulge myself in the heart-wrenching fantasies of what I would do if I had a little baby: how I would bundle it up with ear muffs and warm snuggly blankets, talk and sing, delight in every little smile, in the grasp of those tiny little fingers that magically form through this most amazing of all miracles. And every time that I come back home, these days, I feel like a big sigh is just sort of making me slump a little more.

The truth is that I'm tired. I'm tired of this membership I didn't ask for to a club no one wants to belong to - and that still seems so fraught with lack of consideration. People ask and say the craziest things to you, sometimes - and I wonder, how would they feel if they were in your situation? These days, everytime someone asks me whether I have children, I feel like I have to put on this brave front - almost indignant, like I don't LIKE children. Like, somehow, in saying that I don't, all my most private misgivings, fears and heartache actually are written on my face like on a billboard.

So what do we do? Where do we go from here? Sometimes I think it would be so much easier to have people to talk to about all this. But then I feel that so many women approach this situation in an entirely different way than I do. I don't feel like I could EVER proclaim to the world at large, face to face, the exact amount of time that we haven't been using birth control, or how often we have sex, or my personal feelings on this issue. I somehow feel that so many women I've met immediately throw their entire marital relationship at you like some sort of Cliff notes - even if you didn't ask. I am privy to a ridiculous amoung of superfluous information - some of it extremely personal - about people I hardly know. One woman went so far as to describe in some detail the extent of the sexual dysfunction in her marriage - making me want to start flailing my arms wildly and scream T-M-FUCKING-I!!!!

So here I am. I don't have any answers - just a lot of questions, a lot of worries, a lot of sadness in my heart. I don't have any comfort to share or give, because I don't know what you can say to someone in these shoes. Nobody wants to wear them because they hurt, but you don't get to choose whether or not you do - so what do you say? Tough break? It'll be ok? Because, really? I don't know that. I don't KNOW that it's going to be ok - for me, for you, for any one of us who deal with infertility. Is it ever going to be ok if you can never, ever get pregnant? Can you ever REALLY come to terms with being denied like that?

I know that other people may find comfort in their faith. They may say to themselves, it's all in God's plan (or, as the case may be, not so much). I take a less religious approach and tell myself that things happen for a reason. But then that just begs the question: what's the reason? WHY NOT ME??? What did I do that was so terribly that I shouldn't be able to have a child? And how come there are all these other people who couldn't possibly be WORSE examples: crack addicts, teenagers, people in abusive relationships or people who just have kids because they either don't know about birth control or don't care. All these people who have kids that they don't care about, don't take care of, don't give the love and affection to that so many who can't have kids would. Where's the fairness in all that? Where's the grand master plan in all that?

I am just...not happy with any of this, and I don't know how to make it better...

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