I joined a book club this past year. I have unsuccessfully joined book clubs at least three times, but for this particular book club, I have returned and participated in multiple meetings. Which is a record for me. And it's ironic, because the only link I have to the people in this book club is my next door neighbor, who I don't actually know all that well, and the people in it are all people who have met through working at Xerox. Some still do, many don't anymore, but that is the common thread. On a surface level, I have very little in common with the group, but it works. Most members are older than me by at least 10-15 years, and so most children are either in grade school or even college, and there is very little "New Parent Talk" to be had. Which is lovely.
The other reason why I love this book club is that THEY ACTUALLY READ AND MAKE A POINT TO DISCUSS THE BOOK. At length. They bring questions. They go around the room. The point of the club is not first food and wine and then a little book talk and call it good, it's the book discussion with food and wine as a close second, but definitely a second. It's lovely. I can be as book nerdy as I want and it is welcomed. Plus it makes me read books I wouldn't otherwise pick out myself.
Except that this past choice came at a really bad time.
The last book club was in July, and it was decided we needed to read some nonfiction. Choices were thrown out, and while I really wanted to read the "Who Is Murdering Long Island Call Girls and Why Do So Few People Care" book choice, the consensus landed on In the Garden of Beasts, an Erik Larson book about an American family that moved to Berlin as the ambassador to the US at the time that Hitler was rising to power and people were still turning a blind eye to his atrocities but it was getting harder and harder to ignore what was happening to Jews in particular but also other groups. It is a good book, although an incredibly dense book, not that I finished it. The book club was October 8th, so I could spend both the end of summer and the beginning of the school year reading about Hitler.
Except, when you are trying desperately to conceive a baby through incredibly taxing means, and you are starting a new school year, but mostly you are TRYING TO BREW A BABY, you don't really feel like reading about Hitler's rise to power in 1930s Berlin.
And then, when you fail that cycle, and embryos #19 and 20 flee your supposedly welcoming womb, you want to read about Hitler even less. And you really don't want to discuss it.
Add to that a seriously ailing grandmother and the stresses of going to visit and not being entirely sure which sunken and possibly unresponsive grandma you will be seeing, and the lure of both reading and discussing Hitler has really gone by.
Oh, and October 8th was my consult, where we sat in a new conference room we hadn't ever been in before (new to us, I wondered if it was the "Come To Jesus Meeting" Room), and basically came to the conclusion that these precious 6 2PN embryos we have hanging out in the freezer are likely our last chance before we have to seriously weigh our options on family building and decide where to put our resources where we can, you know, ACTUALLY HAVE A FREAKING FAMILY already, and I REALLY didn't want to go to book club.
Especially because the one member of book club who is my age or possibly even a bit younger was due in October or November, I can't remember which, but she was either going to be a) ginormously hugely pregnant or b) toting a newborn or talking incessantly about pumping and sleeping and the adjustment for her 2 year old son or c) not there because she is either due any second or has just birthed her baby and everyone else would be talking beatifically about how wonderful new motherhood is. I could not handle any of it. Especially since two book clubs ago the pregnancy announcement was a "funny story, I wasn't feeling well but I thought nothing of it and then I had a glass or two of wine and felt horrible so I thought 'hey, maybe I should pee on a stick or something' and it was POSITIVE! I was like 11 weeks pregnant! How weird!" OH HOLY JEEZUM, yes. WEIRD. Because THAT WILL NEVER EVER HAPPEN TO ME. I will never "accidentally" discover that I am nearly through my first trimester. I have no mystery. I will (likely) never be surprised with a sneak attack pregnancy. So, while this woman is incredibly sweet and kind and all of that, I just could not be around a birth story from a whoopsie baby right now.
I have never shared with these people that I am hideously infertile. But when I canceled via email to this time's host, I just said this week had been awful and I couldn't make it. And when she responded "I hope everything is ok," I just couldn't not send a message. It may have read, "Yeah, what with the start of the school year, my grandmother going into a steady decline, and failing my 8th IVF, I just can't bring myself to be social and chat about Hitler. :-)" Too much? It wasn't meant to be mean, just informative. Maybe a bit pithy. I didn't get a response.
So, hopefully I haven't killed my participation in this book club over my honesty. But I can't smile through the conversations anymore. I can't handle anything ANYMORE. Yesterday I was in data-analysis meetings for school to see how I can maybe help my students with disabilities be proficient on these state tests, and they let us out early. I was sitting next to a friend who was excited to go home and clean her house without children in it. I said, "that doesn't sound like fun" but then realized it is much like when my best friend has an unexpected hour or two by herself in her house without her three children, and that even vacuuming in peace is exciting when people are always needing you and touching you and there is no downtime ever. A chaos that I would pretty much give a limb for at this point, but I just don't have and at first cannot understand. Another teacher came over and basically said that she couldn't wait to get home for alone time even if it meant cleaning bathrooms, and my friend said, "Yeah, Jess didn't get why that's so exciting." It was a joke. It was harmless. And this other teacher, who knows NOTHING about my situation, said, "Oh, you really just don't get it, you don't understand then." And I just kept highlighting my math standard strands that my student did not understand on the state math test and said loudly, "NO, I really DON'T. I have NO IDEA." Only I got that I was being very snarky. Well, maybe my friend knew. I WOULD GIVE ANYTHING to know what it feels like to want to go home and clean in peace because my life is full of joyful chaos. Even when kids are screaming and you're covered in vomit, that chaos is joyful because it's full of children. I have a quiet, empty house. Bryce and I have a very cozy little house that is welcoming but SO SO QUIET. We are tired of it. We want the chaos. I want to complain that I just want 15 minutes with no one touching me or yelling "Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? MOMMY?" I am terrified that I may never get to long for that peace and quiet, that I will be forever on the outside looking in on that beautiful, frustrating, chaotic world of parenthood.
So it is probably understandable that I could not handle a book club where it is possible I could have lost it and, with a group of women (and a handful of men) who I don't know all that well enough, it could have been incredibly awkward. Or not. I don't know. Right now is about doing what I need to do to not fall spectacularly apart in public, because I do FABULOUSLY well falling apart in private. All the time. More on that later, aren't you so glad you have that to look forward to? Life goes on. Plans go on. I put on my semi-happy mask of a face and pretend to be ok, even though I am one hundred percent NOT ok. But at least I'm ok enough to know that my reading material at the moment cannot include a detailed historical account of Hitler's rise to power, and I can't participate even at the periphery of conversations about the joys and frustrations of motherhood.