Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Thing

It's time for me to come out of the closet.

My blogging has been light of late; I'm sure you've noticed. There's a reason. And it's pretty personal. I kept thinking I would write a post about it, but haven't had the guts. Sometimes I decide this is not the appropriate place. This blog is supposed to be about teaching. (Originally, it was supposed to be about knitting, too. And I have been knitting. I'm just too darn lazy to get the camera out and show you some of my cool projects.)

Anyway, I'm going to tell you my story. And if it's way more information than you wanted, then you can skip it and pretend like you never saw it. I've contemplated making an entirely seperate blog dealing with this issue, as many have, but frankly I can't even find the time to keep up with this one.'s my story.

Every couple has a Thing, it seems. By Thing, I mean a challenge. For my parents, it was moving across the country at 18 with nothing but a dime in their pockets. For others, it is an affair. Or debt. Or weight gain. I don't know, it just seems like every couple will at some point face a challenge that seems insurmountable. In my mind, I have always called it The Thing.

So, enter my husband. He's perfect. All of my friends agreed from the very beginning. Smart, nice, handsome, funny, he has it all. In fact, when we were engaged I actually got annoyed at the number of people that told me I was "lucky," as if I had nothing to offer in this relationship. At my bachelorette party, gathered in our pajamas, my friends insisted my husband was perfect. I cringed when they used that word. I felt they were jinxing me. I thought he was perfect too, but I worried about what our Thing would be. In my mind, I feared he would cheat on me, mainly because I felt I wasn't worthy of someone so great. I resolved to always keep my guard up.

But that was silly. Because my husband is perfect. I should have known our Thing would be something neither of us could control.

This summer the Thing emerged. It appeared over time. A few doctors visits, a few flukes, and then WHAM! some numbers on paper. It turns out, we can't have children. Not on our own at least. I have moved through the same stages of grief someone goes through when they lose a loved one. At this point, even if we do have children, I have lost my innocence. Pregnancy, for me, won't ever come out of a romantic evening. I will hold my breath for nine months, knowing how hard it will be to start over if things fail.

If you have never been in this position you can't imagine the pain. I walk the long way around the mall just so I don't have to see the maternity store. People constantly ask me if I am going to have kids. It feels like getting kicked in the stomach. Even the few people in my life that know our situation aren't always sensitive or thoughtful in their comments (ie: one friend told me I could borrow her DOG).

One particulaly rough day, curled up in the fetal position on the couch and sobbing, I realized that this was our Thing. This was our challenge. We would have to conquer the physical, emotional, and financial toll of this together.

But this wasn't the Thing.

We made an appointment with the top reprodutive endicrinologist (RE) around. We knew before we arrived what he would say. One of our books (A Few Good Eggs) recommended we sit and talk about what we were willing to do BEFORE the appointment so that we didn't get halfway into the ethics and finances and realize we were in over our head. So we discussed our options and our feelings about those options. We knew that we were perfectly comfortable with IUI (interuterine insemination for those of you that don't spend all day on infertility bulletin boards), which really people have been doing with turkey basters since the 1800's. But what about IVF (in vitro fertilization)? How do you make ethical decisions about a science you don't even understand? Well, we dodged the question. IVF costs $15,000 a cycle. We don't have that kind of money to spend on "attempts". We would adopt before we did IVF, we agreed.

So we entered the RE's office. He was great. He went over our test results, looked up, and in his Chilean accent said "These numbers are no problem. We can get you pregnant. I will tell you how." He went on after this, but I wasn't listening. In my mind, I was naming my child...or children...after all, the risk of twins was high. I imagined myself walking out of this very hospital with a baby or two wrapped in a blanket I had knitted. I stopped daydreaming for a second and realized the dr. was talking about IVF. My heart dropped. I cleared my throat and mentioned something about not being able to afford it.

"You teach in X district right?" he said. "You're covered. You have some of the best coverage there is. It's like you just got a $40,000 raise." He went on to explain that we were covered in the fine print. I checked when I got home, and he was right. So my mind went back to babies. We were really going to be able to do this! Now, this whole cross-country move seemed providential. The trials and tribulations of being 1500 miles away from my family would pay off in a new family of our own. A good doctor, good insurance, and technological advancements were going to give me the children I had always dreamed of having.

As he stepped out of the room for a minute, dh piped up and said something about "ethical reservations."


Oh yeah. Remember how we dodged that question before? Well here it is. The Thing. It isn't infertility. It's what to do about infertility.

In my best moments, I realize dh is right. I agree with him. I can't just go around discarding embryos like they are nothing. They ARE something. They are us. During these moments, I thank God for dh, because he was level-headed when I couldn't be.

In my worst moments, it is not pretty. There are ways around the ethical dilemmas of IVF, but they aren't as successful. If we never have children, will I blame dh and his high-minded morals for the rest of my life? He has said in as many words, that he sees this as his opportunity to practice the pacifist/respect-ALL-life position he has always defended. So I have been made a martyr by someone else without my permission? Not fair.

But those are the worst moments, and with time I find them hanging in my mind less and less.

When I struggle in trying to decide what to do next, when I sit on an exam table trembling because of some whacked-out test I have to have, when I weigh domestic vs. international adoption and find neither satisfactory, when I try to imagine giving myself injections every day and starting my mornings with daily bloodwork and ultrasounds, I remember that some people just do this naturally. And it makes me bitter. And sometimes I think that is the biggest challenge of all -- to come out of all this still believing that God is good, that people are good, and that all of this will somehow work to my benefit.