We received my drug protocol the other day and last night we both signed the consents. They’re on their way back to the clinic. It’s getting more real every day. Nervous nervous nervous.

Oh, and my period is late. Okay, not a whole lot late, like weeks, but a little late. We know that a few days doesn’t count, because they just don’t cut it, do they? We know that it’s a trick of nature or of our aging bodies or just plain wishful thinking. There is that little ping of hope that maybe, just maybe, from the good graces of the universe, we can defy all logic, all reality, all past experience, and be able to conceive naturally.

What do you do about hope? Should you hope? Should you give in to the negativity? Should you try to remain neutral? Can you truly be neutral? I’ve rarely been able to distract myself so much that I forget about it entirely. Some people believe in prayer and there have been studies that show people in tough circumstances have managed to survive due to prayer. But this is not a question of survival, it’s a question of how to emotionally approach this time of month and this circumstance. How do you frame your thinking about something that is out of your control?

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November 3

Okay, I’m not pregnant. This time I’m half relieved, half wistful. Maybe the husband’s constant pestering is getting to me. He has started asking me The Question. “Did you get your period?” It’s so awful when I have to look into his expectant face and tell him yes. His eyes get sort of sad-looking. I’m not sure how many months I can put up with it.

November 19

Last night we had our annual gala and I wore the sexiest slinky slacks and outrageously high and expensive stilettos. I loved that sexy, powerful look. If I get pregnant, will I ever be able to fit into those pants again? Not that I want to wear those same pants exactly, but shrinking back to the same size would be nice.

I refuse to buy into the crunchy granola aesthetic that says it’s okay for a woman to give up her figure, her beauty, her style, in sacrifice to children. Until recently, prevailing logic had it that child-bearing was a beautiful, natural event and that women should settle into it comfortably and without complaint. Women are doing  a goddess-like service to the human race and should embrace their distended bodies and ensuing flabbiness. Interestingly, popular culture (or the Me Generation?) has refuted that line of thought and brought maternity into the modern age. Instead of celebrating the motherhood part, we’re now celebrating the pregnancy part: fitness and style have graduated. There are exercise classes, new sexy maternity wear, magazines, all for moms-to-be. I don’t care whether this is strictly a money grab on the part of savvy trend observers; I think it’s marvellous.

I decide that if I am going to blow up like a balloon, I’d better be fit enough to deflate quickly. A gym membership seems to be the answer. So after checking out a few gyms, I walk into one on the Upper East Side and plunked down my credit card. It’s a beautiful place that caters to the new trend in lifestyle, with the right music, a spa,and the sleek accoutrements to make a person feel she will be beautiful if she belongs here. As soon as the gorgeous wannabe-actor-but-currently-a-gym-membership-sales-associate finishes with my registration I schedule a consultation with a personal trainer.

The next week I meet with Mimi, as cute as her name. She is adorable and lithe, like a dancer. In fact, I find out that she indeed is a dancer so I pump her for all exercises that can give me those sleek dancer legs. I tell her I don’t just want to tone, I want to get fit for pregnancy. Wow, I’m admitting it in public. Am I on the road to acceptance? “Well, that’s very proactive of you,” she says. Indeed.

November 27

I’m rushing to get back to the office after my noontime Pilates class. Not that there is anything pressing, but there is an office baby shower that I should show up for. I really, really hate office parties, in particular wedding and baby showers. The truth is, no one particularly likes the gifts they get at these parties and co-workers are forced to second-guess what an appropriate gift is. For this particular colleague, I went to one of the French baby stores on Madison — only for their convenience — I explain to the husband, whose eyes widen in disbelief over where I shop for people I hardly call friends. A generic gift in beautiful wrapping from a high-end store is always the way to go in these instances. It makes people feel special and at some point, one can always call on that goodwill.

As I walk into the conference room, our mamma-to-be is being festooned with a ridiculous paper hat with coloured bows, tendrils of curled ribbon hanging over her face. Note to self: take early maternity leave so I don’t have to go through this humiliation.

I remember way back then, in the midst of my story, a friend’s wedding was coming up and she was being coy about TTC. But I dragged it out of her.

“I mean, why wait?” she says sheepishly. Then she gets down to business. “The clock is ticking. I can’t afford to wait. I’ve already got the fiance booked for a motility test and I’ve got my exam the same week. Actually, I lied to my doctor’s nurse and said we’d been trying for six months.”

Is the whole world having babies all of a sudden, or am I suddenly in tune with another plane of this universe — the one where wannabe moms convene? We can sniff each other out and offer all sorts of useless information and advice, no matter how personal.

“Well, you’re not wasting any time.”

“Nope. We’re not. But I figured you guys would be ready to start trying by now too. We should have kids around the same time so they can play together.”

“But we live in different countries!” This is ridiculous — I’m getting pressure and it’s not even from my mother-in-law. “Have you been talking to my husband,” I ask suspiciously.

“No, of course not. Listen if you’re trying, you need to start with folic acid. You should have about three months’ worth in your system beforehand. And, I’ve been reading that drinking coffee and alcohol reduces your chances…”

I cut her off. “That’s nice. Look, que sera, sera. I’ve gotta get back to work.” As soon as I hang up on her, I lean back in my chair and exhale deeply.

I really can’t help how I felt back then. In retrospect, maybe I should’ve picked up on her urgency. But with unexplained infertility, there is no telling what would’ve happened back then anyway. By writing this down, I am reliving it, but I am also expiating. It’s important, I think, to not have regrets, to remember everything good, and learn and go forward.

On another note, here’s a recent situation with the shoe on the other foot.

I am having lunch with a good friend that is also 41. I used to buy into all that crap about 40 being the new 30 — yeah, well tell that to my ovaries! But she is still buying into that crap and I am not going to lecture her. I can, however, offer what I have learned over the past six or seven years.

She is still TTC after about eight months. Appallingly, her doctor told her last week that she just needs to try more often, from day 8 to 20, every day. I raise an eyebrow. Yet I know exactly how she feels. I was there (as you’ll read in upcoming posts). No one wants to think he or she could have a fertility problem. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, I caution my inner instinct to pounce with warnings and dire statistics. So I tell her about cycle monitoring.

Up here in the cold north, cycle monitoring is covered by provincial health insurance. It’s probably covered by loads of insurers in the US. It is also cheap. And some of the least invasive help you can get when you’re TTC. My friend had no idea about it. Her doctor hadn’t told her. My opinion is that everybody — but everybody — trying to conceive should be told about cycle monitoring. Those of us in the DE boat already know that at 41, you should only cycle monitor for about three months before you try something more drastic.

Why is it that doctors are so ill-informed? I actually think her doctor is doing her a huge disservice by not fully informing her of the various options out there. Never mind the frequency of sex, they should tell you that you can only get pregnant about two days out of 30. How about those numbers? That’s 24 days out of 365. That’s 15 per cent. You’d think the way we were indoctrinated in grade school about original sin, that so much as a smear of semen would impregnate you no matter what point your cycle (and right now, I’m wishing it were so!). My friend has never had an in-depth conversation or consultation about fertility with her doctor. She’s getting all her information from me. Me, of all people! It’s always the women that have to pass it on. Have we not moved forward the last couple of thousand years?

End of October, late one evening, my Civil Disobedience ends

Okay, I give up! I need sex. Now. Tonight.

“You win,” I proclaim to my husband.

“Win what?” he says absently.

“Let’s have sex. Now.”

“But we just ate.”

So I invoke the magic words, “I might be fertile, you know.”

And that’s that. Am I really fertile? I honestly don’t know, which as we all know can be a teeny little problem when you’re TTC.

~~~

At work, I surf the Internet (c’mon, we all do it!). Here’s what I find:

  • Pre-conception is now its own industry: stress relief, yoga, ovulation predictor kits, naturopathic herb, acupuncture and more are being hocked to women who don’t know why they’re not knocked up.
  • There are a lot of desperate women out there who want to be knocked up.
  • The desperate women’s chat rooms are whiny and depressing. How on earth could G’s friends have found any comfort in that?
  • There is a lot of unsubstantiated information on conception advice, apart from timing. Hardly anywhere do I find tough, hard, medical facts to support “helpful” advice from friends that got pregnant. Every article is presaged by “there is no definite medical evidence to suggest…” This is where people get crazy ideas about no longer colouring their hair or cutting out coffee.

Clearly the Internet is a waste of time and I get back to work, which is a good thing as that day I have to finish a presentation to the Board.

~~~

A few weeks later, 10 am at work

Fuck. My period is late. What if IT happens this month? I am sitting on the toilet, disappointed that it’s just drippy mucous and not blood. I know a lot about mucous now. According to the pregnancy sites and chat rooms, a woman’s cervix releases mucous at various stages of consistency throughout the month, and this consistency is to be analyzed to determine what stage of fertility one is at. It seems like a lot of work. Just remembering which stage is which is hard enough. I think if it’s clear and filmy, you’re fertile; when it’s dry and white, it’s over, baby. Or is it the other way around?

Whatever the stage, this detection method is entirely useless, since when you’re in a particular stage, it’s too late already! You have to catch it just before it changes. That’s why I didn’t pay too much attention to the articles. It’s pointless. The preconception writers (who are they, anyway?) counsel women to check their mucous every day, record it and after a few months, infer a timeline of fertility. I can’t imagine doing that. In fact, I will never do that. I mean, who has the time? I don’t know if the husband has been reading about this; he’d probably think it’s some kinky fertility sex thing. Well, I’m not sharing.

10:05 am

But what if I were pregnant? Would it be so bad? Apparently nothing shows for about four months and that’s almost halfway through. Hmmm. Would I want a girl or a boy? Definitely a girl. Easier. Cuter. More fun to dress. I can imagine a girl listening to me; but a boy just might defy me and stretch me to the limits of my (non-existent) patience. Everyone says you acquire oodles of patience when it’s your own kid, but you know what? I don’t believe them. Look at the number of babies that are shaken to death by their parents. Of course, they’re to blame, but clearly patience is not everyone’s main strength.

Alright, I’m not thinking about this anymore. There is nothing I can do at this point except get back to work.

Late October

I’m having a tête-à-tête with G-. She and her husband are restoring a house in a picturesque little town in a good school district. G- has two charming and vibrant kids and she’s the coolest mom I know. She’s got the whole punk chic thing going on and she’s about five years younger than me, which probably makes her at least ten years younger than the rest of the moms in her town. G- has a new piercing. She is always tweaking her look and I don’t think she is doing it just for the aesthetic. I think part of her wants to mollify the Pottery Barn set. She is a fount of wisdom and not at all judgmental.

“Hey listen,” she says, “My husband was afraid to so much as speak to me when we were trying to conceive. I was mom-zilla.”

“Really?” I want to hear more. I am desperately fishing for her horror stories to make myself feel better.

“Oh sure, he’ll tell you himself.” She’s not biting. “You should check out some of the pregnancy web sites. They’ve got great forums and some of my friends have found a lot of support there. Oh, and why don’t you take a vacation?”

“If it was about vacations, we’d have a dozen kids by now.”

“Well, you’ve got to take it at the right time. Listen, take a trip, get pregnant, have the baby then go right back on the Pill,” she advises. “Best thing I did.”

While some women I know fret endlessly about the merits and demerits about the Pill, G- and I joyously embrace its efficacy. We marvel at the fact that powerful mood-altering hormones can be zipped up in a perfect little white spherical package. Over many a glass of wine we’ve discussed how every day millions of women are liberated by a pill. It’s amazing, really, when you think about it. The incredible control it gives a woman is remarkable. Truly a girl’s best friend. The reason I had a hard time stopping it is probably because it fits my control-freak streak.

But funny things happen when a woman stops taking the Pill.

Dr. S- told me that it’ll take about three months for my body to ‘normalize’. I’d been on the Pill for 15 years. Without me noticing until they were gone, my little white pill mitigated all the side effects of the monthly period. In fact, I had completely forgotten the randomness of periods B.P. — Before the Pill; the pain, the times I overmedicated on Midol only to find the pain still there but that I was high; the bloating, the swelling. At this point, my cycle was down to a perfectly scripted monthly act, never varying in the slightest. So it was no surprise that I took my first cycle A.P. for early pregnancy symptoms. Okay, so that was silly. But seriously, you don’t realize how great you have it until the Pill exits stage left.

Rage

I’m trying to be open to change and to be patient but I’m always surprised by a side-effect of my new A.P. life. I’ve realized that hormone control is the key to a happy life. A lot has been written about menopause; even with the recent refutation of HRT many women continue to choose hormones over going crazy. I’m not exaggerating: I lived through my mother’s onset of menopause. What strikes me as remarkable is the similarity between my mother’s uncontrollable fits of rage to my own irritable behaviour now. In fact, it’s a little disconcerting to think that without hormones — before and after baby-bearing years — women would be walking nightmares. Is the female sex truly more aggressive and domineering than popular myth makes us out to be?

I try out this question on E- one afternoon as we peruse the stalls at an arts and crafts fair. “Hey, do you think women are oppressed by hormone replacement? I mean, wouldn’t we be the lionesses — the predators — of the urban jungle if we had all that raging hormonal anger in us all the time, instead of regulating it?”

“What? Are you nuts?,” she asks. “Anyway, I’m not on the Pill and I’m not a predator.”

I bring up her treatment of the artistic director at her office but she shoes the idea aside. I’m not convinced so I tell her about my altercation with an older swimmer at the gym who had swum into my kicking legs. After first being nice (okay, through my teeth) said swimmer continued to think I intended to kick her (huh?) so my anger boiled over and although I kept it in, I was just seething, wishing I could kick what must be cataracts out of her head. I admit I do have a quick temper but lately I feel it’s out of control.

The husband would agree with that analysis. He has been the object of my delirious rants for the past two months. It’s a testament to him that we remain together despite episodes of what I call Unexplained Phenomena.

Despair

For instance, just before our Hallowe’en party, I was in the depths of despair. For about five days, I wallowed in melancholy. He was trying to make all sorts of decisions, but my answer to everything was a meek, Who cares? At work, I was on deadline but just couldn’t get the energy to give my undivided attention. I simply didn’t care — what did it matter anyway, I thought. In bed every night I brooded about my depression — it simply could not be explained. I had a husband that loved me, a good job, great friends — absolutely nothing was wrong. Which made me feel even worse.

On the fifth night, as I lay in bed, I offered the husband my diagnosis: “I think I’m clinically depressed.”

“You’re being melodramatic.” Cue my tears here. “Besides that would mean you’d be depressed for months and this is only a week.

“Everything makes me sad.” Tears are streaming down my face. “And I feel disconnected to everyone and everything. I’m starting to freak out about it. I can’t go on like this for another day,” I wail. “I know what severely depressed people feel like now. No wonder they  commit suicide! It’s unbearable.”

“Hooooold on a minute!” yells my husband. “What time of month is it?”

Ohmigod, I realize he’s probably right. Oddly enough, the next day I wake up with a spring in my step and a smile on my face. Crazy, no? Later on, I note that this pattern repeats itself monthly. Really, it’s getting to be a bore.

Complexion SOS

Am I back in high school, or what? This is the third unexplained phenomenon. I just cannot believe that my sebaceous glands cannot control themselves without help from a little white pill. It’s mindboggling. In fact, it’s unacceptable in a 30-something year old woman! In my minds eye, I am stomping out those little oil producing glands, but anger is not going to help. I need to chill; the glands need to chill.

I’ve visited my dermatologist who must be the most laid back person on earth as he does not give a whit about my complaints. During a lunch hour, I scour the shelves at Duane Reade for some topical cream that might help. I load up on various brands of zit-zappers. On the way home, I stop at Sephora and consider new face washes. I’ve become a regular after-work fixture at this store. I think I’ve tried almost every line they carry.  Still trying.

The  husband jokes that I just need to get pregnant; that it will clear up my complexion fast. I’ll be glowing. Harrumph.

Etiquette for Parents

September 25, 2009

Just found this in my diary and I still feel the same way. Some parents need to know two things: babies are not an accessory and not everyone cares as much about your baby as you do.

At our Halloween party way back in …. was it 2002? …. the one thing that annoyed me was the appearance of friends who dropped by with their baby. We had not seen them since well before the birth so they decided it was a good occasion to bring the baby. Well, all right, they stopped by earlier than other guests and left before it was really packed, but it shocked me. I was unprepared to deal with a child while I put last minute touches on food and prepped the bar. I will never understand parents that bring their kids everywhere, including inappropriate venues meant for adults only. Don’t they want to get away from their kids for a while?

In my opinion there is proper parent/baby etiquette and every parent should get a rules book when they leave the hospital. Or someone like Peggy Post or Kate Spade should publish a charmingly witty little handbook and it should be a mandatory gift at every baby shower. Here are some things I’d include:

  1. Your baby may be the center of your world, but it is not and should not be the center of everyone else’s world. So don’t foist him or her on unsuspecting friends.
  2. Friends without babies still want to be your friends, but it would be nicer if you hire a sitter and make time to do adult things with your adult friends.
  3. Babies are are not appropriate accessories at adult parties where loud music, drinking and dancing are involved. They’re not welcome at sophisticated cocktail parties or dinner parties either. If a guest isn’t old enough to have a cocktail, that guest doesn’t belong. Again, get a sitter.
  4. Don’t bring your baby to expensive restaurants at which your friends had to painfully reserve a month in advance.
  5. Do hold a “welcome our baby to the world” party if you want to show him or her off to your friends — at your place.
  6. Don’t invite your friends for dinner before you put your kid to bed, and then spend the first hour trying to get the kid to sleep. Otherwise, you might notice your friends arriving an hour late on subsequent invites.
  7. Lastly, don’t walk your SUV stroller side by side with another of your mommy-friends-with-SUV-stroller. That’s just plain arrogance.

We are not going to be these kinds of parents, the husband and I agree.

Well, that was then. This is now and I still believe in these maxims but I wonder just what kind of mommy I will be. Will I be simply oblivious to others and deliriously happy after such a long journey (that is, if it works)?

October: Month 2 of TTC

Now that the initial fright of pregnancy has passed, I feel relieved but serious concern is creeping into the back of my mind. I am partaking in this mission – this quest to have a baby – but apparently my heart isn’t completely in it. Is this normal? I feel terribly guilty and I am not about to admit it to the husband. At times I feel absolutely horrible – either I’ll have to get with the program or I’ll have to get a divorce. It would be the only fair thing to do … free the husband so he can find someone else to have a baby with. The thought of that just about suffocates me. I don’t want a divorce! I can’t imagine my life without him. Am I being a ‘bad wife’ for harbouring doubts, fear and possible sabotage?

No, I cannot be a bad wife, I reason. After all, I have taken the first step. Okay, so I took it after about a year of discussion, but we’ve only been married for three and a half years and I still feel that the marriage should be allowed more time to gel. The husband convinced me that it might take a year to get pregnant, then it will be nine months until there is a baby, so we essentially have two more years to go. I succumbed meekly, but in my mind I know the potential horrors awaiting us as we embark on this journey.

For instance: bad sex. I remember an acquaintance of my mother telling me about ten years ago, “Don’t underestimate the important of sex in a marriage.” Now, at the time, I wasn’t even near marriage and I don’t recall how we got on the topic. But I do remember that I was in a group of older women at a bridal shower and I think too much champagne was consumed. The comment caused riots of laughter from the other women; I nearly fell off my chair. It was not a discussion I wanted to have with them. Nevertheless, the advice has stayed with me and you know what? She was right.

Now, how about no sex in your marriage? It’s now October. I have been off the pill for more than a month and I am completely paranoid. Mostly I refuse to let the husband touch me. The other day, I ran around the apartment squealing and screaming, “Don’t touch me! No, this is NOT a joke! Under absolutely no condition will I have sex with you. I am NOT ready to get pregnant!” Poor dear, he has to put up with this behaviour. But he does take it rather well. Not surprising, as he has boundless patience. Also, he says I won’t last long on this abstemious plan. He’s probably right. At some point, desire will kick in, but as long as I’ve got self-restraint, I’ll use it.

Like the classic frigid wife, I have a list of excuses:

  • I have a headache (old standby)
  • We just ate – I’m too full; or in reverse:
  • I’m starving and cannot wait another minute for food
  • I’m exhausted
  • I’ve got cramps
  • I don’t think I’m fertile right now
  • if all else fails, I feign sleep

One of the things holding me back, says my husband, is the fact that we have lots of younger friends that are not on the same timeline as us. Therefore, it’s hard for me to visualize my life differently. How is it that the grass is always greener on the other side?

New Theory: Friends Encourage Friends to Have Babies

…but no one is encouraging us.

Case in point: on a beautiful, crisp day this month, the leaves are turning and E- and I take a stroll in the park on a lazy weekend afternoon. I’m complaining, again.

“I’m going to have to get a divorce,” I moan.

“Oh, you’re so funny,” she says. “You guys are my model couple!”

“That’s very sweet.” I’m genuinely touched. “But listen, this could split us up. I’m not ready to get pregnant and for some reason I agreed to stop taking the Pill.”

“Just talk to him. I’m sure he’ll understand that you need an adjustment period. Don’t worry; he loves you!”

“I can’t have another full-blown discussion; it might turn into a war. I need time to see how I really feel.”

“So take the time, sweetie.” She links her arm in mine. “How about me? I’m not even married with zero prospects on the horizon. And I want to have kids.”

“Oh, no, take it from me, you don’t! Marriage is hard work. It’s constant negotiation. It’s exhausting. It’s always the singletons that romanticize it,” I groan.

“Yes I do! Yes I do! You’ve got to help me find a man,” she insists.

“Okay then! This city is full of eligible men.”

“It’s not that I don’t meet men, I’m just not interested in most of them.”

Aha! I think. She’s picky. Well, wait a second, I was picky too.

“You know, most of these men have such issues. And they’re just not attractive to me. Listen, it’s not as easy as you think, meeting the right guy.”

“Of course I know that! That’s why I didn’t get married until I was 30. In my parents’ generation I would’ve been an old maid.”

Most of my friends are single, as a matter of fact. There is only one couple I know that lives down the street who recently had a baby. Oh wait, there is G- from upstate with two kids, but she married very, very young.

Maybe cohorts travel through life doing the same thing at the same time and we keep shifting to a younger and younger cohort. As a matter of fact, a friend actually asked me to wait on having a baby so that we can have kids at the same time… but first of course, I’ll have to wait until she finds a man and gets married.

We hardly ever see the couples with kids. This is not only my doing: the husband is vociferous about not wanting to spend time with other people’s kidlets. Not that I can blame my attitude problems on him, but as you see, I am not wholly responsible.