Sunday, May 5, 2013

Happy Birthday? Why, Yes, Happy Birthday!

It's not a secret that most people, the older they get, don't relish birthdays quite the way they used to. The thrill of balloons and birthday cake and a pile of colorful presents is overshadowed by the extra gray hair, the sun spots you keep telling yourself are just overzealous freckles, and those fine lines that used to only show up when you smile and are now increasingly ever-present, no matter what you slather on your face. There's the fact that your metabolism seems to screech to a complete and total halt sometime after 35 or 36 and you have to work harder to stay in your fat pants, much less get into skinny ones. A feat not helped by fertility drugs and the general malaise that comes with struggling with infertility for an inordinate period of time.

I have grown to detest my birthday. Not because of the obvious signs of aging on my face and my waistline, which actually chronicle many years of happy moments that I wouldn't want to erase, but because time marches on and certain things stay stagnant in our happy, fine-lined lives. My birthday is a reminder that another year has gone by and we are still, STILL not parents despite valiant efforts and a couple of somewhat encouraging but mostly heartbreaking close calls. I am now 37. THIRTY SEVEN. I am in an ambiguous place between mid-thirties and late-thirties. I am marching fast towards 40. And there is no stroller in the trunk of my car. How did this happen?

Now, to be fair, I shouldn't be so upset about marching towards forty. While forty has always been this mythical end point that women fear, the whole "Fertility Ends at Forty" armageddon sign thought pattern, I am not really worried about that. Mostly because who the hell knows when my fertility dead end happened but it was well, WELL before forty--was it programmed into my genetic code at birth? was it slowly building up as I lived a child in the 80s, when plastic and microwaving and the combination of the two were prevalent and we didn't yet know how harmful so many chemicals were, particularly BPA? was I incredibly fertile in my adolescent years where absolutely no sexual activity took place, or, because my cycles were already all messed up from the time they began thanks to undiagnosed PCOS, did I never really have a chance? was my "dead end" at 28 when I went back to school to become a teacher, at 30 when my divorce was being finalized, or at 33 when I was dabbling in IUI? Who knows? Does it matter? Not really. Besides, I have supposedly stopped the biological clock thanks to egg donation. I may be thirty seven, but I have the nubile eggs of a twenty-seven-year-old (just not in my body or retrieved yet). HaHAhaha. But, that whole egg business and the horrifying "expiration date" that all women face at some point or another is NOT why my age has bothered me.

My age bothers me because while we are still within the average for people having babies, most people I know who are my age and definitely want to have children...have them. Regardless of whether they live in a major city or not. If we are successful with this DE IVF cycle, I will be dropping my child(ren) off at kindergarten when I am 43. Not ridiculous, but not the norm, either. Plenty of people tell me how they waited or they know people who waited to have children and how it's perfectly fine. But you know what? It's not really all that fine for me. Because I didn't make this choice. This is not what I wanted. I wanted to be a younger mom, something I was worried was bygone even when I thought I had a shot at having my kids at 34 when we were happily remarried. That did not happen. I know you can make plans and none of it can happen, but this one really gets me because while I will play the hand I'm dealt, obviously, and I will still be a kickass, energetic, wacky mom in my forties, this was not how I envisioned things. And it's something I mourn. Usually by feeling pretty low on my birthday.

HOWEVER--lest you think this is a boo-hoo, woe-is-me, come-join-my-pity-party-I-have-margaritas post, it is NOT! This year I was really depressed about my birthday. Here we are, in a situation where my level of control over things is NADA (perceived control I guess) and we are in a way different place than I could have ever imagined and we are STILL CHILDLESS AND NOT BY CHOICE, one year later. Another year of no lasting positive pee stick, no baby bump, no baby. Last year my birthday came on the heels of a failed IVF cycle and I was definitely not in a good place. This year I anticipated not being in a good place and so I begged Bryce, "Please take me away." I wanted to go somewhere, where we could control what we did and I could basically ferret myself away and pretend it wasn't even my birthday. I didn't want brou-ha-ha. I didn't want nothing, but I just wanted to be distracted from the fact that this birthday business was happening, that time marched on and we were still here, clutching our Bordeaux but no baby carriage. So plans went afoot.

And it was AMAZING.

Mmmm... delicious miniature
birthday kickoff champagne.
We went away, but locally, to a spa and hotel on the Erie Canal. We pretended it took us a long time to get there and we got lost. We were able to park the car and then not use it again because everything is walkable and there is a restaurant right in the hotel, so we could pretend we were at a resort. We had champagne for the room when we got there, because this is sort of a new tradition (if you can call something a tradition that you've done once before) starting with our Christmas Grafton VT trip. Of course, we had to wait to drink it because we wanted to go swim and be generally childish and stupid in the tiny indoor pool, and the pool rules said very clearly "DO NOT DRINK ALCOHOL AND SWIM" since there's no lifeguard. So we didn't until we came up, exhausted and stinking of chlorine, and I realized that I haven't gone swimming since my skin has changed to the drier side and HOLY HELL DID I JUST ADD 10 YEARS TO MY SKIN? I felt like one of those people in horror movies where you age decades in seconds. After showering and moisturizing and putting eye drops in so it didn't look like we'd been hanging out with Snoop Lion, we enjoyed our champagne and then went for a walk along the canal and through "this quaint town that seems quite nice." (We are such dorks, since we walk in this village pretty much twice a month and know it like the back of our hands.) Then, dinner at the newly renovated and redone restaurant, The Erie Grill. Which was delicious. We got dressed up and brought our bottle of Vosne Romanee burgundy, which was lovely and dusty from the cellar (have I mentioned we like our wine?) and went incredibly well with my roasted duck. Man, I am a sucker for good duck. It did NOT go well with the completely ridiculous "Salty Potato Chips with Onion Dip," which were a reasonable $3 and COMPLETELY DELICIOUS. If you go here, you must eat these. Bryce got the 
And...delicious dusty birthday burgundy.
Rabbit Sausage with Orechiette (with fried sage leaves and red wine drizzle), which also went incredibly well with the wine. Dinner was awesome, and then we still had the very romantic Champagne and Strawberries to look forward to in our room, a lovely surprise orchestrated by Bryce and blown by the very formal check-in-guy, who asked upon registration "And when would you like your amenity?" and Bryce, trying to figure out what the heck an "amenity" is (I kept thinking, you have to schedule when they put the chocolate mint on your pillow? Weird!), said, "Hmmmm, when would you suggest?" The guy had no clue what to do with that so he said "Anytime between 4 and 11 is customary" leaving Bryce no choice but to 'fess up, "I have NO IDEA what this amenity is that you speak of." And so, the birthday champagne and strawberries were announced. And very much appreciated. I have to note that the champagne bottles were both halves, and so we weren't total crazy revelers. Hilariously (and not totally inappropriately) the room service person who delivered the goods wished us "A happy Honeymoon to you!" despite the littered "Happy Birthday" wrapping paper all over the bed.

On a pretty walk in the village.
The stay was lovely, the dinner was lovely, the breakfast was lovely, and after I got over my initial crankiness of wearing my new bathing suit from last year for the first time and having it be a bit snugger than I remembered, I was generally pleasant and not all sad/angry/moody over the whole birthday thing. It was a gorgeous day, both days. We went for a walk several times and enjoyed the new leaves and flowers and flowering trees and general reconstituting of everything for Spring. It was awesome, and reiterated again to me how special my husband is to go to such lengths to help me have a nice birthday when birthdays are so hard lately. I am in a better place, since now we have our donor and we have our plan and I have dates and concrete things to hold onto. But it is still hard to see the little munchkins by the water oohing over ducks (not the same kind I ate) and wonder if we'll ever have our chance to go walking along the canal with our own little ones. We are more hopeful than ever, but nothing is a certainty. I can be positive but I can't 100% trust in anything anymore.

I do, however, have a really, really good feeling that my next birthday will be extra special (I have had these feelings before to no avail, but I really think this is different). That the world will keep spinning and we'll finally be moving forward, too, instead of being stuck in this dreadful holding pattern. That would be the best birthday present ever, but this birthday, this weekend of celebration and helping me to enjoy the day instead of curse it, is a damn close second. Thank you SO much, future father of my children, for making this day not morose at all but magical.


  1. This sounds like the best birthday ever! Magical seems to be the perfect word for it. Happy birthday, friend!

    1. Thank you! It really was magical. I am a lucky, lucky girl. Or, as I tell my husband, "We are the luckiest unlucky people ever." :)

  2. Happy birthday!! It sounds like you had a great weekend! 37 is going to be your year!

    1. Thank you! I sure hope so... We've got our best shot ever so it should be good!

    2. PS--your dogs are BEAUTIFUL!

  3. Happy Birthday my dear! May birthdays are the best (mine is coming up this weekend). :) So glad you got away and enjoy some time together.

    1. Thank you! I hope that you have a lovely birthday as well! I agree--May is a good birthday time. Not too hot, not too chilly (usually).