The police are not here to create disorder; They are here to preserve disorder.
Richard J. Daley
I started taking Estridol. This is the stuff prescribed to some menopausal women and to men and women with certain cancers. And apparently, to women getting ready for a round of invitro fertilization using frozen eggs. (Or someone else's eggs, I imagine.)
This stuff thrills me to no end. Mostly I am thrilled not to be giving myself shots this time around. The pills are tiny, which makes me love them more. They are so tiny I can take my daily dose without water. (Why are prenatal vitamins so huge? Why can't they just make them half as big and make the dosage two?)
In a few weeks I will get shots, at least for a few days. When a woman gets pregnant on her own, the body produces a good bit of progesterone in the first trimester. To tell my body it is pregnant, I'll pump progesterone into it. I took it last time, and somehow never got around to asking my doctors why taking it as an injection is superior to getting it in some other form. I have an appointment in a week or so, and I really need to remember to ask. I'll still take the injections when it is time, but it would help me to know why I am doing it this way.
The injections themselves are not so fun. The progesterone is in suspension in oil. To get the oil into the muscle (of my butt, thanks for asking) takes a good sized needle. If I'm lucky, and one of the embryos attaches to my uterus, I'll be getting shots for a while. If things do not work out with this round, I can stop the shots sooner. (Small consolation, but it is something I guess.) Since I won't start the injections for a while, right now I'll focus on the estradol (did I mention how much I love that it is in pill form?).
Karen was telling me about a book she'd read recently called Stumbling on Happiness. (In her defense, I want to note that Karen is not a big reader of self-help or touchy-feely books. Apparently there was a copy of this book in the apartment she was until recently sharing with several other people.) One of the big themes in the book is that people are terrible judges of what will make them happy. People think "when I get a raise I will be happy", "when we buy a house I'll be happy", "When we have a baby I'll be happy." And then they are wrong. The raise itself doesn't change things in a person's daily life, the house comes with added responsibilities or means that money once spent on entertainment now goes to update, paint and furnish the home. And a child? Children are a lot of work. They are a pain in the ass. A joy, sure, but not really something that makes everyone happy in the day-to-day. (Karen mentioned that the surveys about how happy people think kids will make them correlates with how happy people remember being with kids, but not with how happy people with children actually report being.)
The thing is, I don't think that having another child will make me happy. When I think about what it will be like to have a second child, I imagine being tired, frustrated, stressed. Having Ada is in many ways fantastic, but on a day to day basis she is just as likely to drive me to frustrated tears as she is to make me weep with joy. A second child will be an additional set of difficulties and annoyances. (Ada can barely stand for me to be on the telephone, so I can only imagine her reaction to an infant sibling.) And then there is the new child, with the attendant joys of a child's first year of life. Even if we don't have another colicky infant, we'll be sleepless and overstretched. Taking time off work means being financially pressed as well. So no, I don't think having a baby will make me happy.
And yet, I still want to do it. It makes me wonder what is wrong with me. During Ada's nap I biked over to the plant store. Heading back to my bike with my packages of cover crop seeds, I started to cry. I have been so on edge lately, so stressed out by life in general that I am having a hard time taking joy in the numerous wonderful things about my life. I have been stressed enough that for the past several weeks I've had an eye twitch that won't go away.
I know that having a baby will add to my stress level, but I still want to do it. Not in a "I feel like I should do it" way; I really want to. I'm not normally a glutton for punishment. I can't think of another reason why I'd intentionally put myself into a situation I knew would make me unhappy. (Ok, that isn't entirely true. I have taken jobs I knew were going to drive me crazy, but for the most part I avoid doing things that I know will annoy me.)
By blog post convention, this is where I'm supposed to bust out with a revelation, a "but this is why I want to do it", some kind of beauty-of-life take away message. Except I don't have one of those.
I've got nothing other than an understanding of the strength of this desire. Always a bit chagrined to admit how much biological urges influence me, I have been thinking about this strong urge the past couple of days. A few days ago I read a post from the woman who runs found clothing. She posted an argument for remaining childless, on an environmental basis. While I see her point, I also wanted to write to her. I wanted to say: maybe you'll never feel what I've felt, but my desire to bear a child was so strong that I worried it could crush me when I thought we couldn't have a baby. I didn't always feel that way. In my 20s, I believed that IVF was a foolish thing. I remember saying that if people could not have children without intervention, they should adopt. It seemed really simple. IVF is expensive and there are lots of children who need good homes. But it isn't so simple now. What I want is not simple. There might not be a good reason for it, but I do want it. Lucky for me, Chris wants it too, and is willing to tough it out with me during the coming months and years, whether or not those years include a second child.
I am an unobservant Jew. Maybe secular Jew is better. Unobservant makes it sound like I don't notice things. In any case, I am not so lapsed that I am not aware that the Jewish new year is upon us. Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Jews are supposed to repent for their failings and mis-steps of the past year, to seek forgiveness before the words written in the book of life are made permanent. Rosh Hashanah (which was yesterday) is a day that is meant for prayer and reflection. No work should be performed. I do not belong to a synagogue, and it feels wrong to me to take off work and not participate in ceremonies. (I have really enjoyed Rosh Hashanah services when I have gone, but as I often do, I waited too long before thinking about whether I might find someplace to go this year. For Jews this is the toughest ticket of the year.)
So in lieu of a day of prayer and reflection, I offer some of the things I wish I had done differently this year:
When I wrote about whether one should talk (or write) publicly about trying to get pregnant, Chris and I weren't trying yet. Technically, we still aren't. We are planning, not by timing sex or considering names, but by visiting the fertility docs. Last month we went in for our mandatory $300-and-no-insurance-will-cover-it consultation. It went a lot more smoothly than last time.
Last time, I started crying the moment we sat down in the doctor's office. I remember looking at the photographs of his wife and children and resenting his success. Every time I looked at him I thought: "stop being so cheerful, you don't know what I am going through, you person with children."
This time I sat in the consultation room, cheerfully discussing our last round of invitro fertilization three years ago, secretly thrilling when the doctor spoke glowingly of our high quality fertilized eggs. The meeting took longer than I thought it would, as the doctor and resident kindly asked about my pregnancy and labor, things that technically don't have much to do with whether the IVF itself is considered successful.
I have been wanting to write about moving toward a second round of IVF. Last time I wrote about it secretly, only making my words public after I started this blog, more than a year after the pain and fear of the process were behind me. I am finally moved to write about it after reading the words of other people discussing their own struggles. That and the fact that I am thinking about this a lot lately, and it feels like I am hiding something if I don't write about it here.
I've written this before, but during the months and years of trying to get me pregnant, and then of testing for possible reasons for our infertility, I felt alone. I felt we were the only ones with this problem. I was so completely wrong, something that I became aware of once I started talking to other people about our efforts. I heard other couples' stories and those of friends' sisters, cousins, uncles, friends. The research I have read suggests as many as ten percent of reproductive age couples deal with infertility, but it doesn't actually matter to me exactly how common this is. I know we are not alone.
Going through IVF the first time was scary, uncomfortable, expensive and emotionally draining. This time it will likely be significantly less intense on all fronts. We've gone through this before, and successfully. Last time I knew that if we could never have a child, I would feel devastated. If we can not have another, I will be sad, but I will not be crushed. Ada is fantastic and Chris and I will be fine if our family never grows past three.
On some days, I like the idea of keeping our family small. Like many parents of a single child, I wonder why we should not leave well enough alone. I love Ada and know that the first year of life with a second child will be hard on her as well as us. But I also love my sister, and I want Ada to have a sibling. I can't guarantee Ada will be as close to her sibling as I am to mine, but writing on a day when talking to Karen was once again better than therapy, I want to give Ada a chance for that kind of relationship.
So I will be writing about what we are going through this time around, letting you know that I've had a trial transfer and started acupuncture. This means that when we have the eggs implanted, writing about whether the process worked. This means discussing the pregnancy early, much earlier than I did last time, when I held superstitiously to the rule "do not talk about pregnancy until the second trimester." I know that this means that I may be writing about failed IVF, or about a miscarriage, or about the top of my head falling off when I find out I'm carrying twins. All these things scare me, but it is because they scare me that I want to write. If anything bad happens, I will need to write about it. With all that, you might as well know where we're heading, right? And hopefully I will just get to write about fear, and love, and nausea. Of explaining my expanding belly to Ada and wondering when to tell my office.
The thing I know this time is that I am not alone. You are here with me, so close I can practically feel your hand on my elbow. You have told me your secrets, shared your hopes and fears. Now it is my turn. I am scared, but I am not alone.
At the end of August, my family rented a beach house for a week. My parents instigated the vacation, hoping to spend some time with their daughters, sons-in-law, and of course Ada. This is the first real stretch of time we have all spent together, the seven of us. My sister and I shared some trepidation about an unstructured week with my parents in a semi-remote location. We both love our parents, but like any parents they have the (mostly unwitting) ability to crawl under their children's skin in an not entirely pleasant way. Despite some fears, and a lingering stress-induced blue mood on my part, the week was pretty fantastic.
Ada had some firsts, like her first taste of chocolate milk:
I know every parent who employs an in-home child care provider fears that they'll lose him or (more often) her, to another job, to burn out, to the proverbial "bigger and better things". We hear the stories. The caregiver who leaves to have her own child. The nanny who calls an hour before she is supposed to arrive for duty, to belatedly say she is not coming today, or any day. (This recently happened to a friend in Chicago.) We fear these things, and know they happen to the best of us.
But no one fears losing their child care provider more than I do. Why? Is it JP's loving care of my daughter? Her adoration and loving attention, her willingness to hear and tell "cute Ada" stories? To sing Ada to sleep when she balks at nap time? To cook her delicious lunches and second breakfasts? Yes, but... Is it that she's introduced my daughter to her family, making them Ada's extended family by proxy? Is it that JP's mom gives Ada gifts, including some awesome thrifted kid plates featuring Pooh and cavorting bunnies? Is it that her sister joins JP and Ada at least weekly for a picnic in the park, lunch at the local cafe, or other neighborhood excursion? That's a nice bonus, as is the psychic link that caused all three of them to wear the same outfit a couple of weeks ago.
But one day last week, on a (for Portland) blisteringly hot 91 degree afternoon, I took a break from working at home to bike down to the post office. Returning home, I collapsed (slightly sweaty) onto the couch. Just then I hear Ada and JP talking outside. The front door opened, and JP popped in. She'd taken a detour from her store-to-park route with Ada to drop by and offer me an ice cream. A delicious, minty, chocolate covered Haagen Dazs.
What would I ever do without her?