Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A No-Good, Terrible-Horrible Day Turns Absolutely Fabulous

Yesterday was a very interesting day. It started ok--I had grand plans of cleaning the house, using our fancy new Dyson animal hair vacuum (which is AWESOME and could suck you right into another dimension I think), doing laundry, going to the grocery, weeding, visiting my Grandma. I started with a lovely 4.7 mile walk, a sweaty walk despite the temps in the lower 60s. I felt great, despite a blister the size of Mars budding off the ball of my left foot. Methinks my feet are trying to tell me that I need new sneakers, conveniently in the middle of Time Rich Money Poor summertime. Anyway, I got back from my walk, I stretched in the backyard, had a lovely conversation with my best friend who visited this weekend because her kids were in camp and her youngest was watching her 20 minute allowance of TV show, and then I took a shower and decided to make myself a little lunch.

That's when it happened. I looked out the back window over the kitchen sink and saw it. The Havahart trap we've had out for days was finally full of groundhog.

We occasionally get groundhogs, because we live in the woods. If you've seen the pictures of my backyard gardens, you see the ravine behind us that is chock full of all sorts of wildlife--the screech owl that sounds like a deranged monkey, the fox that shrieks like a psychotic lunatic when looking to get lucky, about 50 kinds of woodpeckers that come to our suet feeder when the blue jays and sparrows don't take over (I hate to be a bird fascist, but I put the suet out for the pretty birds, not the one-step-up from pigeon birds, but I guess if you feed the birds you have to be accepting of all who arrive), about a zillion chipmunks that would be cute if not for the fact that they are decimating my cherry tomato crop and leaving their half-eaten refuse on the driveway and patio to taunt me, sometimes a rogue wild turkey or two, the lame-legged deer that births fawns EVERY SINGLE YEAR and this year has twins (although someone told me deer always have twins? Is that true?), an opossum nest in the ravine behind our house below the drainage pipe in a creepy cinder block foundation that looks like where someone would hide their abducted teenage girls, and lastly those pesky groundhogs. Despite the fact that I just made it sound like a haunted insane asylum, it's actually quite pretty and I feel very lucky to live in such a beautiful area where I am surrounded by nature--the beautiful and the unattractive alike.
Just as a reminder, here is Bryce's shed in the winter, and a
deer brazenly eating the holly that is SUPPOSED TO BE DEER
RESISTANT. We fixed the fence after this, so no more deer
IN the backyard, just outside the fence plotting another way
to get in and eat more of my tasty plants. Adorable bastards.

But, the groundhogs. They dig giant holes under the Shed That Bryce Built. Then more chipmunks move in and make themselves at home. And, the groundhogs like to eat plants and nibble them down to nubs. They didn't attack my garden now that it is monstrous, but early in the season a groundhog ate all my tomatoes down to sticks and all my cilantro down to the ground. I was pissed. But, maybe it's like a forest fire or something, because they came back huge and Audrey II -esque, to the point where I am afraid they are making a break for the house. So I forgave the groundhog, who was apparently caught in a Havahart trap across the way and then dispatched to our town's Animal Control office, who, according to our neighbors, euthanize the little buggers. Unlike the town whose borders cross through our backyard and we missed by two houses, who apparently just release them around the corner in the county park and then they come waddling back to wreak havoc in your yard again. (This other town also has brush and leaf pickup though, which is a nice perk that we don't get. Whoever designed a dead end street to be two towns, with one town "owning" the end of the street, was a complete idiot. Make the street all one town!)

Unfortunately, last week I saw two little groundhogs go running from the shed into the ravine when I went to take the trash out. So my fears, that the big groundhog had dug a nest practically halfway to China in order to pop out some groundhoglets, seemed a bit substantiated. They were definitely smaller. So we borrowed the Havahart trap and set it up in the backyard. We heard strawberries did it for our neighbor, who caught another giant groundhog two weeks ago. Kale had definitely lost its luster, as the groundhogs couldn't give a shit about the kale we kept supplying at the recommendation of our neighbor, so we got strawberries. Bryce originally went to give the trap the strawberries in the fridge, and I was like, WE ARE NOT GIVING THE GROUNDHOGS ORGANIC STRAWBERRIES!!! I went to Wegmans to get poisonous pesticide-y strawberries just for the groundhogs. Except apparently chipmunks are lithe enough to run in, get the strawberry, run out with it, and eat it without setting off the trap. I actually saw a chipmunk get a strawberry through the wire mesh and eat it with his little arms through the bars of the (empty) cage. Argh.

But, yesterday, I looked out the window and saw that a little guy had been trapped. Oh. I guess I forgot, that being the Off For The Summer Teacher, I would be the one home to deal with the trap once it had actually worked. I'll be honest, I was hoping it wouldn't. I hated the groundhogs for being destructive, but how can you hate this face?
Pardon my finger. I was too distraught for better photo. 
What happened next I am going to blame at least 50% on Lupron. See, Lupron in conjunction with the Levoquin has been particularly cruel to me this time, physically. The dizziness, the exhaustion, the headaches. Emotionally I have been ok for the most part, a bit touchy, a little short-fused, but when called out (nicely of course, usually with laughter and "you're being a bit ridiculous right now, don't you think?" from Bryce) I usually laugh it off. This time, this poor, defenseless, obviously juvenile groundhog sent me into a completely irrational spiral of despair.

I thought about how I'd have to be the one to place the call to Animal Control, and that I'd basically be sending this little guy to his death. I had texted Bryce to tell him the trap was successful, but he hadn't gotten back to me, and I then realized I couldn't very well go all Free Willy on the rodent and let it go, because a) I had visions of letting it go and it attacking me like every ridiculous stuffed-animal bit on TV or movies, and b) Bryce really didn't want this thing living under the shed and he wanted it gone and now he knew the trap worked and he was probably really happy about it. So I did the next logical thing.

I cried. I couldn't finish my almond-butter-and-blueberry-spread sandwich because I'd made it all soggy from crying while eating (which is challenging to execute and the risks of choking are high). I went to visit him to see if he was ok.

"Hi little guy...I'm so sorry you're going off to a death camp. I'm so sorry your free range days are over." And then I cried some more. The poor thing was so scared it shit all over the cage, on the lettuce put in there the day before, and the flies were buzzing all around and it didn't seem to care that it was in a shitcage. From the window I could see that it was chewing on the bars and trying to get out. It was horrible. My heart was breaking into tiny little pieces for this poor, trapped, desperate varmint.

I decided he deserved a delicious Last Supper. I decided he deserved more strawberries while he waited to be put down. I cried as I shoved them through the wire mesh, trying to avoid the fly-covered piles of shit that made the little guy just slightly less sympathetic.

I left an insane message for Bryce, where I sobbed and was incoherent through most of it, crying that I couldn't do it, I couldn't call in the death brigade to come get him, that it was making me really sad, that he was just a BABY, I couldn't stay in the house like this, please call me back and make the call.

I fed him more strawberries and tried to talk in a soothing voice, but the little guy was shaking in the corner and eyeing me suspiciously (but ate the strawberries once I walked away). And then, since sometimes he's in meetings all day and I was afraid that day was one of those busy nonstop affairs, I decided it was far more cruel to leave the groundhog in a trap all day waiting for Bryce to take care of it, that I had to put my big girl panties on and grow a set of ovaries and take care of it myself.

The Animal Control office went straight to voicemail and I had to leave a message detailing the issue, trying to sound calm and in control. I did ask if I could leave it in the backyard instead of carrying it to the front yard, because that sounded very scary to me. And so it was done. I had made the Death Call.

Then Bryce called. He hadn't listened to his message, so he had no idea what he was in for. I sobbed and re-hystericalled myself, and he couldn't help but laugh through the whole thing. "Do you want to let it go?" he asked. "I CAAAAAAN'T!" I wailed. "I already called in the Death Call!" and I devolved into hysterical sobbing again. Bryce apologized for laughing, "You're just so cute," he said. "You'd make a terrible farmer's wife." "Well GOOD THING I'm NOT!" I sobbed again, like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally when she is crying about being single and her ex getting married and turning 40 "someday." Then I got call waiting from the Animal Control Unit.

There is a happy ending here. The officer was very kind and answered my insane, cry-hitched voiced questions nicely. No, they do not euthanize unless they absolutely have to, like if the animal is sick or injured in a serious way. "We are a voice for the animals without a voice," he said, and sounded actually quite upset that they were being mischaracterized as animal killers, even if people were happy about that. He sounded tired and apparently had had a long day of extracting snakes, groundhogs, and racoons, and so he did ask if I could put the cage in the front. He said it would chatter its teeth at me and ram its head into the cage, but that they were really not smart and wouldn't harm me in any way and the worst that would happen would be a split nose that was no big deal. Then he would come in the afternoon and take it, test it, and rerelease it into a wild space elsewhere in our town, like the Thousand Acre Swamp (doesn't that sound like something out of Winnie the Pooh?).

Instantly I felt much better. I called Bryce back and gave him the happy news, found a winter glove, and set out to move the groundhog. He was pretty calm and when he did ram the cage once I just put him down and tried to calm him down (?) and then moved him into a shady spot in the front yard. I chatted with him, and then I waited for Animal Control on the front steps so I could keep an eye on him, read my book, and keep him company if I felt he was lonely. Yes, I do realize how insane this sounds. I love animals, even long-nailed, digging machines like this little groundhog, and I hate the idea of anything in pain. Lupron totally fueled some of this though I'm sure, because it was all very amplified and the amount of tears given to a rodent pest was, um, disproportionate. Especially, ESPECIALLY because when the Animal Control Officer came to get him and confirmed that he was just a baby, I got teary eyed, and then I cried after he left. Like he was my little furry friend or something. GOD HELP ME when I actually do get pregnant--there had better be no strays or pests or anything like that nearby or I will end up with a petting zoo. I will turn into a crazed Mrs. Doolittle. I am also very glad that I second guessed my decision to give him a third serving of strawberries before getting picked up, in case he was hungry, because the timing would have been right as the Animal Control truck pulled in and that would have looked very, very strange.

It was exhausting. I was spent. It was 3:30 by the time the truck came, so I couldn't go visit my Grandma. I was dehydrated from the groundhoggy tears. My head hurt and I needed a snack and a nap. I laid down and read my book and zoned out, just wrung out and ready for the day to be over.

Bryce felt sufficiently awful about the turn the day took that he picked me up and whisked me away to The Revelry, a local fancypants restaurant that we went to for my birthday that has delicious craft cocktails, delicious duck tacos, delicious everything, really. He did give me a heads up so I could do up my face a bit and erase the effects of groundhog angst and mourning, which was nice.

At dinner, I thought about where we are right now. How this one thing is so incredibly difficult, more difficult than I ever could have imagined. But, that if you take that one thing out of the equation, we are SO VERY LUCKY. We are genuinely happy together. Despite the Lupron, despite my hating the body Bryce loves so much, despite the specter of loss and emptiness in our home, we are HAPPY. We have a beautiful friendship and love and partnership. Our marriage is built on mutual respect and we both contribute beautifully to our relationship -- we appreciate what each of us brings to the table and work seamlessly as a team. We are both successful in our careers and very good at what we do (not to toot our horns, but it's true). We are passionate about our work. We are passionate about our causes. We are passionate about food, and wine, and music, and books, and nature. We DO things together. We have built a gorgeous home. Ok, the home was built in the 1930s and it was originally bought with his ex-wife, but we have made this home OUR home. There are no ghosts in it. It is nothing but happiness and Bryce's woodworking (and some shrines to our lost babylings and some hoodoo items that may not immediately be recognizable as such). While frustrated that we are stuck, we are in a very good place financially and are incredibly fortunate that that is not an overwhelming consideration for treatment. We have built a life together that will only be enhanced by the very special baby/babies that are meant for us, that will come to us in whatever way they decide (but, uh, decide already, ok? We get how special you are. We just want you here.). We are kind with each other (minus some human slips) and argue well and make up well. We enjoy each others' company. We find each other ridiculously attractive. We appreciate each other's sense of humor. We appreciate each other, PERIOD.

We have SO MUCH. And, I mean, who wouldn't love this hot hunk of man?
Deciding what delicious items to eat and drink and just looking so fine.
Over dinner, we attempted to not talk fertility (although of course there was a hugely pregnant woman sitting next to me who was enjoying a glass of wine...I know in your third trimester technically you can have a glass of wine, but COME ON.), we just had a good time. We ate fun and delicious foods, like these funky and oh-so-tasty Beet Deviled Eggs:
And we drank delicious cocktails, despite the antibiotic, because sometimes you just have to let go. I am but a preheating oven. I do not have to worry about egg quality this time because we have four beautiful frozen embryos ready to load back on the Mother Ship, two at a time. So while it's not ideal to have cocktails on the heavy duty antibiotic, it also felt a little freeing to it. Enjoy. Pretend this dark shadow doesn't hang over us all the freaking time. Live a little. Here is the absolutely beautiful Mr. Mule cocktail (Polish Vodka, strawberry-and-thai-basil shrub, ginger beer):
And, I tried an after-dinner drink that apparently was a Hemingway favorite, Death in the Afternoon. Champagne and Absinthe (which I'm sure has changed since its earlier iterations that were psychedelic and freaky, as I didn't see any green fairies). It was a beautiful chartreuse color, but a little anise-y for my tastes. It was in its own mysterious way delicious, although I (criminally) couldn't finish it because everything kicked in and unfortunately I had to go home and shoot up the dreaded Lupron and it was a little later than I thought and so I tried not to end the night on a panicked note. Which I didn't, for the most part.

Even though the day was oddly emotionally draining DUE TO A RODENT, it also ended on a surprisingly high note. A beautiful dinner when my plan was leftovers, a surprise date with my amazing husband, a reminder that all is not dark clouds and woe-is-me. Sometimes you need that, you know? A little reminder that there ARE silver linings, as much as in the depths of despair you don't want to acknowledge them because the clouds are just so roiling, dark, and destructive. I am proud of the family of two that we have built so far. We have a lot to be grateful for and we are happy. So in case you were waiting for the "right time," babies, now is it. We could not be more ready. We could not have more love. We have everything you could possibly want. Your mama cries over groundhogs because she is just filled with SO MUCH LOVE (and Lupron). It really ought to go to you. So feel free to come on over, make yourselves known, add your beautiful souls to our family.

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Visit From My Best Friend -- Opposite Lives, Intertwined

I have been friends with my best friend since we were four and went to the same nursery school, at Church in the Highlands. Ok, maybe it's more fair to say that we have known each other since we were four -- we were friendly in elementary school but not super close, and when I moved into a house where our backyards touched in the corners, two houses kitty corner from each other in a neighborhood where if you sneezed eight different households yelled "Godblessyou!," we were destined to become better friends. Even though at first she and her sister were vewy vewy qwiet in their backyard so I wouldn't hear them playing and hop the fence to come join them. I was a somewhat whiny and annoying child so I get it, but it probably wasn't necessary to keep a giant plastic lobster in the blowup kiddie pool and throw it at me to try to scare me away. Really.

We became best friends when we were 15. So while we've known each other for far longer, the deep connection and lasting best friendship that we share really started when we were 15, going on our first "solo date" to a movie in Greenburgh, and then I think to dinner at Pizza & Brew. I could have the order wrong. I have no idea what movie we saw, and I could probably look it up in the box of journals I have that date back to age five, but no doubt it was some kind of romantic comedy, possibly starring John Cusack, as it was around 1990 or so. We hit it off, discovered that being best friends AND neighbors was a total boon, and have been completely intertwined in each others' lives ever since.

And when I say intertwined, I really mean it, because after a difficult childhood and adolescence plagued with late stage Lyme Disease, an insidious foe that stole so many experiences from my best friend, she went to my graduation party from college and met her now-husband, now-father-of-her-children, my good friend from college. And now there is this very strange melding of worlds where my friend who taught me how to drive in exchange for early cooking efforts my senior year, my friend whose band I supported at bars in Geneseo (doing covers of Moxy Fruvous and They Might Be Giants), my friend who insisted that the world HAD to end in five years or less, that humanity was headed down a very dark path, is now married to my best friend. Very strange. Three little humans exist because of this connection, which blows my mind.

Our lives have never really been in sync. I went off to college, as far away to as good a school as I could within the state university system, and she went away and promptly came back after her illness thwarted her efforts to live a typical young adult life. I had my first serious boyfriend, she worked steadily toward her goal of an elementary education certification while she lived at home. Summers we would meet up and do all the same things -- parties at various houses when parents were away, badminton in the street at odd hours and late night canasta on the porch with the boys we once had huge crushes on and were now fun friends. (We were wild, man, WILD.) Then I met Voldemort, and things got a little complicated. She knew far before I was willing to realize that this was not a good thing, that this man was very bad for me, that I was entering into something damaging. Despite the pretty sheltered existence that she had thus far led, she was far more savvy about what made a good relationship than I was. Throughout that whole mess she tried to help me see that I deserved better, and our biggest (and really, only) fight came during my wedding planning, where admittedly I was incredibly self-absorbed (probably because focusing on the planning was far more enjoyable than focusing on what I had agreed to and my day to day life of insults and cut-downs and fear and self-loathing for accepting all this). It was horrible, it was the only time we screamed and cried and truly fought with each other and I was terrified I would lose this friendship that meant everything to me. I apologized, I accepted the quota of wedding-talk per conversation, I vowed to be a better listener. She was in the midst of building a healthy relationship with her new boyfriend while I was patently self-destructing on that end. I went directly from my parents' house to an apartment shared with He Who Must Not Be Named, and she set up an adorable apartment several miles from home, a tiny attic space that she decorated beautifully but that was wholly, entirely HERS. She had independence and a teaching job she loved and a boyfriend in medical school and space of her own, and I suffocated in my inability to trust myself to do anything alone.

We stayed friends through my long marriage, the one where people cried not out of joy (but disguised it that way) at the wedding, where my father gave me a marriage counseling book for a wedding present, where I ended up moving 7 hours away and in-person visits became fewer and fewer with my best friend and phone conversations were carefully timed to be when Voldemort wasn't home, because by this time he was openly vile as of course I deserved to be spoken to like an idiot and anyone close to me would surely know this too. When the shit hit the fan and I knew I needed to get a divorce, my best friend did not hide her excitement that I could finally be free of this hideous situation, and also did not hide her fear that I wouldn't actually leave. I did, though, and so a year after she married her boyfriend, my college friend who was now far more significant to my best friend, I got a divorce.

Then she started having babies. I met Bryce as she began making her beautiful family. When she tried for her first, I jokingly called her Babyzilla as she was as obsessed with pregnancy and babymaking as I had been with wedding planning, although there was no sad, denial-ridden subtext to her joyous planning. And sure enough, she got pregnant after a few months or so and had a gorgeous pregnancy with her first son. I hosted the baby shower at my mom's house, still kitty-corner from her mom's house, and I was so happy to do it. I was newly divorced and 30 and dating a man who actually treated me with respect and love and friendship, and the specter of "will this be me someday?" was definitely in the room, but not in a way that interfered with my joy at hanging out with my very pregnant friend and hearing her baby's heartbeat on the doppler.

Then the babies kept coming. She became pregnant with her second son quickly (and not so much with the planning) following her first, and the weekend I came to visit her when her new baby was still fresh and smelling like milk and happiness and I'd been dating Bryce for three years, and he'd already shared with me that babymaking would be difficult given his past experience with low sperm counts, and I suspected I would be problematic in that arena too, and I was already stealthily reading my first book on infertility to acquaint myself with the process, Conception Chronicles, a funny and not-too-overwhelming start to the infertility library I would later acquire. I decided, late at night after a day of snorting fresh baby smell and playing with her 18 month old first son, to draft the letter that would be my proposal to Bryce. A treatise on marriage to convince the engineer who had been so badly burnt in the past. I wanted to be married, I wanted to start our babymaking gauntlet, I really, really wanted what my best friend had in that moment. I was jealous. Not in an ugly way (that would come later, fleetingly) but in a motivational way. I'd always wanted what she had in that arena, and now that I could witness it first hand (hold it, smell it...) I wanted it.

Life has made it difficult for us to see each other since all these changes took place. She lives further downstate in the Hudson Valley, 5 hours away from me up here in Rochester. She now has three children. She cried when she called me to tell me she was pregnant a third time, because at this point I was horribly unsuccessful in the infertility arena and she was afraid it would cause a problem, which it didn't in any lasting way, other than a silence after she complained about having to get a minivan and I had to say quietly, "I think maybe you should complain about that to someone else," because I just can't commiserate on having to buy a different car because of an overabundance of children, and quite frankly I would LOVE to have to buy a minivan. I am still trying incredibly hard to make ONE, just ONE baby materialize. Her ability to get pregnant easily, now TOO easily, was in direct opposition to my complete inability to get pregnant.We decided after last year, when we had our first visit in 2 1/2 years, that we couldn't let more than six months go without seeing each other, and we've held pretty well to that agreement, despite sick children and horrid cycles gone wrong and further complications from opposite ends of the family spectrum. January and July, not exactly six months but close enough. We always aim for once a season but between her busy schedule balancing three children 7 and under, my busy schedule of balancing teaching and infertility treatment, that's hard to manage.

She just came for a visit this past weekend, and it was wonderful. We walked a lot, ate a lot, laughed a lot, talked a lot. Her coming to visit me is like a mini vacation, although when she visits me she's only here for 24 hours because it's too hard to be away from the babies, we have a lot of uninterrupted time. My house is very, very quiet in comparison to hers. She can read a book at night and in the morning without any children hopping out of bed or waking her up or needing, needing, needing. We can talk interrupted and not in spurts of "escaping." She loves the quiet. She loves the lack of chaos.

Conversely, when I visit her, I love the chaos. I don't mind playing plasma cars in the basement (even as my heels are run over time and time again and my exaggerated reaction just encourages more reckless rear-ending of my Achilles tendon with higher pitched giggles from the offending drivers...), I don't mind having a pileup of children on me as we watch a movie, I don't mind that the movie is animated and there is popcorn EVERYWHERE. I don't mind that a certain two (now three)-year-old girl talks to me through the space between the door and the floor the ENTIRE time I shower, begging me to let her in and shoving potato-people drawings under the door for me because she must be in there, somehow, someway, even just on paper. It's crazy, and there's always someone touching or pinching or flinging something gross somewhere. Someone's always not feeling well, things get broken, tears are inevitable. There is never any silence, until maybe 11:00 and then it just feels WEIRD in contrast to the high level of activity earlier in the day. When I came to visit last time, in January, she said, "Does it make you want to have children a little less to be here with all this?" and I started to cry. "No," I said, "It makes me want kids even more. The activity, the love, the hugs, the wiping away of tears, it's all just such beautiful chaos, and I want it. Although," I laughed through my tears, "I don't think I want three. One or two sounds just fine to me!" Ha, ha... but it's true. Three is a little too much activity for me. There is just so much difference between our two households.

Last time my best friend visited me up here, I was getting ready to do the donor egg cycle. I was happy and trepidatious all at once. We talked about fears and hopes, and I started to cry as she was saying goodbye, because I let it slip, "You have to come back soon, for my baby shower!" I was crying because I hoped desperately it would happen, and I was terrified it wouldn't, and I was so devastated by the losses we'd endured so far between the constant negative and then the short lived moments of hope that were stolen from us at an early stage. This time, I was full of gallows humor about it all, even though I have more hope in the donor sperm transfer than anything we've done before but it is still tempered by this feeling of hopelessness. She was also disturbed by my increase in negative talk about my body, because she's used to me dancing around with my belly exposed and patting it and chuckling about my big belly in a loving way. I tried to explain, tried to make it clear it's double-edged, that my belly is more giant than ever (although she swears she doesn't think it's clear that I'm bigger, and she doesn't bullshit, so maybe that's true?), but also my body sucks on many levels and so I'm angry about it, AT it, period. She has hope for me, and scolded me that I can't get in this negative body-talk habit because when I do have babies, not if but when, I can't talk that way around them.

It was hard to say goodbye, but I know we'll see each other if not in the fall (difficult with school starting and I'm really, REALLY hoping to be in my first trimester in the fall), then January. I didn't cry. I didn't make any baby shower comments, because I can't bring myself to do it. I can barely see that anymore. I waved goodbye as she made her way back to her beautiful chaos, her home that is as opposite to mine as you can possibly get, well-rested from the childless silence and peace our home has to offer.

I am seriously looking forward to the day when she comes for my baby shower, when she and I are both mommies, when turning 40 means the same thing to both of us instead of just another birthday to her and a scary further complication to my babymaking efforts for me. I am looking forward to both of us parenting at the same time, although her children will be older, some significantly so. We have proved that you don't have to be in the same place in life to be best best friends, that if you can listen and be compassionate and understand when phone calls are tough due to children yelling in the background or an inability to stop sobbing, you can be all over the spectrum of life and still have a great connection. It takes effort and planning and a sense of humor, but it's possible.

Here we are! Together again...although I tricked her into holding the camera so my head didn't look ginormously bigger than hers...

A hideously unflattering photo of me, but I am eating her head in this picture and it just shows the silliness that is inherent in our friendship. 
Last day! We are about to walk almost five and a half miles after this picture. We would be really proud of ourselves if not for the big plate of blueberry pancakes and bacon right before this picture. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Failing at Fertility Flub-Fighting

Oh, the fertility weight paradox. Being at a healthy weight supposedly increases your chances of success, but being (especially a frequent-flier) in infertility treatment pretty much makes being at a healthy weight impossible. Well, ok, there are those insanely inhuman ladies who can manage to make it through multiple rounds of IVF AND stay slender, but I feel like that's not the norm. Especially if you are plagued with PCOS.

PCOS by itself makes the battle of the bulge difficult. Your body is predisposed to put on poundage, especially in the midsection. Which is where I am constantly fighting my battles -- I have nice legs, I have decent arms, and I appreciate my boobles quite a bit. I don't even mind my butt so much. But the spare tires are killing me slowly.

It's incredibly frustrating to witness this slow creep, probably now also in part due to advancing age and the march towards 40 when it seems your metabolism slows exponentially each MONTH. I have to work so much harder to make the scale budge, or make my pants looser, since sometimes the scale doesn't budge as much as I'd like but my body does seem to get slimmer.

It's even more frustrating to know that I am being sabotaged at every turn by infertility. I did SO WELL earlier this year, when we were on our break before our cycle in April, with eating well and exercising well and dropping some poundage. I lost 12 whole pounds, but better than that, I felt good about my body. All I want is to feel good in my clothes and feel healthy and strong. My belly isn't going to disappear entirely, it's been with me since puberty (thanks, PCOS), no matter how little I weighed (120 lbs? running a zillion miles a week on the track/cross country teams? hello, belly). But it would be nice if it wasn't so...voluminous right now. But, with the fertility ride in full swing, that is a virtually impossible task. Case in point:

- After incredible happiness-producing return to a decent weight, cancelled cycle sends estrogen soaring, ovaries to bursting, exercise is near impossible for weeks.
- Due to disappointment and disgust in body's inability to perform reasonably at this task that's supposed to be instinctual, perhaps eat more chocolate and/or french fries than is necessary.
- Once exercising is back on the table, try for nice long sweaty walks after school instead of a nap because school is exhausting. Tried running, between my evil knees and the still-angry PIO injection sites/nerve damage, too painful to reap any benefits.
- Promptly sprain ankle. BY WALKING.
- Exercise off table, but try to eat reasonably. Problem: I love good food. Other problem: husband enjoys curvy me, so it's not like I'm getting encouragement on that end since womanly curves are apparently like oysters and rhino horn powder in my house.
- Ankle slowly becomes less ouchy, resume walking and some 20-minute yoga thanks to Rodney Yee and Muriel Hemingway.
- Hysteroscopy. Ban on exercise for two weeks after.
- Oh look at that, now stimming begins. Walking is on the table, but quickly becomes more of an old-lady shuffle as my ovaries swell up with eggles again (although more reasonably this time).
- Stimming lasts nearly two weeks. Other than 1 mile shuffles and some downward-dogging in the privacy of my home, not much happening on the exercise front. I am however having wheatgrass and lots of veggies and lower sugar intake which has to count for something.
- Post-retrieval--exercise ban for two weeks. Abdomen swollen and painful, even old-lady shuffle is too much. Told that "my shape has changed" at school, with the added caveat of a chuckled, "But whose hasn't at this point in our lives?" and I die a little inside.
- Negative test -- I am devastated, despite so many negative tests that should sort of "train" me for accepting such news with more grace, less ugly crying/staring morosely at the wall for an hour/howling at the unfairness of it all. Feed devastation with ice cream, pulled pork, and booze, in no apparent order. Although, this time I have a reasonable two glasses of wine on Negative Day, and a reasonable number of margaritas on Friday, (instead of...more) and I applaud myself for my personal growth.
- Several days after negative test -- pull my shit together. At Friday's margarita-and-guacamole-feasting (a weekly thing for us as we LOVE our Mexican restaurant, the food, the people, the booze), our friend/server mentions she has a Zumba class Mondays and Wednesdays at 8 am. Sure, it's 35 minutes away from me, but it's free the first time and $5 after that, and no signup or commitment, and a friendly face, and I'll probably never see any of the other ladies anywhere so if I make a massive idiot of myself... who cares? I say I'll try it and then commit to doing a yoga/yoga-and-pilates/yoga-pilates-weight training/yoga-dance DVD every day until I can't exercise again.
- Totally keep up on the DVD thing, but 7:15 comes too early on Monday to go to Zumba.
- Wednesday-- go to Zumba. Holy guacamole, it is high-impact and sends me into an anaerobic state. But I love it. I am smiling. I am sore almost instantly. It's a Zumba Toning class, so half is traditional dancing (or my approximation of dancing since sometimes I have rhythm and sometimes I just stop and stare and laugh because my body is not capable of moving that way), and half is similar moves but with dumbbells (I am actually good at this part). Asthma rears its ugly head on the car ride back and I sound like I smoke five packs a day for the rest of the day, but it felt gooood.
- Continue the dvds, miss Monday's Zumba again, go Wednesday but have to wear my ankle brace because my joints are angry with me. Getting older sucks.
- No asthma! Still sore but I made it through without ever mentally screaming WHEN WILL THIS BE OVER? FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, STOP JUMPING!!! I love this Zumba nonsense! I will be slimmer and buff in no time!
- In the days after second Zumba class, my knees swell up and climbing stairs hurts. We are going to Maine on Friday, so I have to take it easy or there will be issues with the hiking/ocean rock scrambling/walking pretty beach-rose-lined coastal streets. I am frustrated that my body is uncooperative even in this arena. You can't even EXERCISE right, bitch! I unkindly yell at myself.
- Feel badly about hating my body for being so inept. Continue berating my reflection in the mirror, though.
- Enjoy lots of walking on vacation. Don't do any yoga or pilates toning moves, but scramble rocks and walk something like 20 miles total while on Vinalhaven and swim/tread water in the pool in Damariscotta and feel pretty good, actually.
- Until I start Lupron. I was already on the Levoquin, but the combination of the two has me feeling like the ground shifts beneath me and I am tired, headachy, dizzy, and do not feel so great. Luckily this is at the tail end of things and doesn't kick in fully until we get home.
- Now I am in a haze of migraine, exhaustion for no apparent reason, hot flashes, dizziness, and general "I feel like shit"-ness. And I'm on Lupron for a total of 30 days. Luckily the Levoquin stops on August 1st, which I think will make a difference. My pharmacy prints coupons on the backsides of the printouts. I received 10 sets of coupons this time because there are so many side effects and warnings about this antibiotic. Including the dizziness, including the photo-sensitivity (oops), including a possibility of tendon swelling. Goodbye, Zumba.

See how impossible this is? See how the siren song of takeout would call pretty darn strongly after feeling so shitty all day? See how come all my photos from Maine are from the shoulders up? (Except for one incredibly unflattering photo that my MIL posted on Facebook and thankfully did not tag me in and I refused to like or comment on it, because we were sitting on a bench in the Botanical Gardens and HOLY JABBA. You could play a fun game of "count the rolls." Horrifying, but I hope just a really bad angle and that that's not what things look like all the time.)

I want to love my body. I want to not insult it every time I catch an unflattering angle in a mirror, or a car window (actually, NEVER judge yourself against a car window reflection, they are the fun-house WORST), any reflective surface at all. I want to not have getting dressed an exercise in "what fits today?" and not feel like I need to invest in a bunch of muumuus. I know I'm being hard on myself. I am size 12, and a size 12 is not ginormous. But I am at the high end of 12 right now, and I feel lumpy, and I am proud to say I am down from my cycle weight which was the HIGHEST IT'S EVER BEEN, but it's this sliding scale of what makes me happy. When I started this, I weighed in the upper 150s. Then I crept up to 160s, and really, low 160s is perfectly healthy for me. I swear my boobs weigh 20 pounds alone, so that's fine, because much lower than that and I look a bit comical. But then I kept creeping into the 170s. And, during the cycles, I crept into the 180s, a set of numbers I NEVER EVER EVER wanted to see. I am just shy of 5'6", and 180s is too much for my frame. Plus, vainly, should I become pregnant I do not, DO NOT want to see 200s. I mean, if it happens it happens, but I don't want it. I would be happy to hit 172 by the time I go for transfer. 160s feel like a dream in the mist, something once attainable and now just impossible. You saw my timeline. How am I supposed to accomplish this when I have these 2-4 week bursts when I can truly exercise regularly? Especially when I am whispering abuse to my body all the time?

Then, I had an online experience that made me feel even more badly about myself. I visited facebook and saw one of a zillion "Be a great mommy" posts that flood my feed. I read them because somewhere in this swamp of sadness I really do believe that I will be a mommy sooner than later, and why not read up on what's facing mommies today? But this one, about wearing your bathing suit proudly and playing with your kids despite being unhappy with your body and how it looks in said swimsuit, killed me on the inside. Because the argument is, YOU SHOULD LOVE YOUR BODY. IT GAVE LIFE. THESE LUMPS AND SAGS AND STRETCH MARKS ARE A BADGE OF HONOR, FOR CREATING AND SUSTAINING LIFE. THESE VEINS ARE PURPLE AND POKY BECAUSE OF THE AMAZING LIFE-GIVING ABILITIES OF YOUR BODY. Well, fuck. All I can think is, my body has all those problems (minus the sag, miraculously my boobies, while bodacious DDs, are fairly perky, something I know won't last but nyah nyah it's all I got), the lumps, the stretch marks, the newly forming varicose veins, and I CAN'T MAKE LIFE. I get to have the post-baby body without the motherflipping baby. I get to feel bad about myself AND have no kids to frolic in the pool with. My body's aesthetic failings are not a badge of honor, they feel kind of like a dishonorable discharge. I have no upside. I mean, other than my husband's obvious appreciation of my wobbly bits. Which is a big plus, although it is awfully hard to hear "You look so beautiful" and not translate it into "You look fat to the rest of the general public." It makes me sad. Really, really sad.

The cycle goes thusly: Work Out/Eat Great in prep for a cycle ---> during cycle unable to exercise, drugs make you feel crappy, take solace in ice cream ----> negative test, drown sorrows in food and/or booze, feel frustration at body's failings of every kind ---->start over with new cycle. How do you NOT gain weight? Even with the yoga and the pilates, difficult work that is great for toning, I feel my metabolism needs more aerobic stuff to burn that stubborn fat. And on the drugs that just isn't happening.

Sigh. And all this, so that I can HAPPILY gain weight and watch my flubby belly turn hard and fill up with the amazing growing baby that eludes us at every turn. If I was flubby because of baby weight lingering, I think I could be happier about it. There'd be a purpose, a payout. But right now, it's just further physical evidence of failure. Logically I know I'm doing the best I can. I know that I need to be kinder to myself. But it's kind of hard when you know you look heavier, and when, for instance, your family used to say "You look great!" when you came to see them and now that is notably absent. Like secretly they're thinking, "wow, you've put on some pounds!" and know they can't say it. This could be shallow and vain on my part, but it would be really great if people still said "you look great" even when you're obviously struggling with pudge and it is an incredibly uphill battle not likely to change. I don't know why I care so much if other people say that, but I didn't notice it until there was a palpable absence of it, which feels kind of stabby. I know I'm heavier, even though my pants size is the same (because I absolutely refuse to have to get 14s... although at some point that may not be possible to avoid any longer). It's a daily reminder of my body's inability to get anything right.

Well, boo hoo hoo, this turned into a bit of a sad sappy post, and I really didn't intend it to be. I just want my body to cooperate. I want it not to reject rigorous exercise with swollen creaky knees, I want it to not plague me with migraines as I go through the Lupron Mini-Menopause prior to the frozen. I am trying not to dread the PIO. Which historically puts me up at least 7 pounds without even trying. I do have some time when I'm on estrogen and Lupron (and then just estrogen) where I can hopefully feel better and get more exercise in, maybe even one last Zumba class. I am trying for a DVD every other day, giving myself permission for a break when the Lupron/Levoquin cocktail has me feeling like maybe I should be praying to the porcelain god although I can't really have any alcohol right now. So unfair to have the feeling of a bad hangover without the good time the night before. If anyone has any kind of mantra or anything that could help me try to love my body even though I am apparently so very angry and disappointed in it at all possible levels, I would love it if you'd share. I could focus on the parts that are strong and make me happy and try to overlook the failings of, say, my midsection, my intestinal tract (ugh celiac), my lungs (ugh asthma), my reproductive system (fail fail fail)... I could repeat, "I love my legs. My strong, long, muscular legs. I love my arms. My decently strong, somewhat muscular arms. I love my upper back, my strong, strong upper back. I love my butt -- my round, narrow, bubbly butt. I love my heart, my strong, pumping, life-giving heart. I love my brain--my excellent, smart, tricky brain." There. I feel a little better already.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Maine Vacation -- Balm for the Soul

Ahhhhhh, vacation. A real, summer, ocean-y vacation in Maine. Lobster, sea, rocks, fog, ferries, wildflowers, harbors, pine trees... you really can't ask for more. We NEEDED this vacation. I really, REALLY needed this vacation.

The days leading up to our vacation were hard. I dipped down pretty low into a feeling of interminable sadness. A pit of "what if this never happens?" and feelings that my body is a wasteland, fears of further precious embryos disappearing into the void of my uterus, hating my body for being so flubby and so unable to execute this ONE THING, hating myself for hating my body, dreading the start of meds on vacation, feeling like my capacity to do this over and over again is waning. It wasn't pretty. It went into our visit to Bryce's parents prior to leaving on a ferry to Vinalhaven Island. I looked sad. I felt sad. I was on the verge of tears ALL THE TIME. I cried so hard one night as we stayed in Bryce's parents' camping trailer that my eyes were swollen most of the next day. I felt so hopeless. I felt so lost. It didn't help that on our first day we went to a celebration of life ceremony for a very close friend of Bryce's parents who died a horribly early death from cancer. It was a beautiful send off, on the property on a river behind the market he and his wife built and nurtured into a wine/gypsy jazz/gourmet food empire, with photos everywhere and a large gypsy jazz band and so many people that loved this man. It was amazing to see what a good, full life he had. But horribly horribly sad to see it end so soon, at 59, leaving a wife and two children in their early twenties behind. And all the friends and people that he had known throughout his life. It was incredibly sobering, and made a body realize how important it is to really live your life and cling to what's important -- family, friends, following your dreams. It was sad in general, and then a family member talked to us about how her house is just filled with chaos because she has so many grandkids and the poor widow did not have that kind of constant mess and noise and it would be so quiet here. I felt like a crazy person, but it felt like this woman was rubbing in how she had so many grandchildren and here my mother in law has none, and how crazy all the mess and noise and activity makes her, and I said, "It sounds full of life" and I think it was missed that I was like HOW LUCKY YOU ARE TO HAVE ALL THAT and then I felt like a horrible failure unable to give that to our own parents, and how we are so focused on having children that the fact of our late parenting start possibly robbing us of grandchildren experiences didn't so much occur to me. Until that moment.

But, the next day we went out on a boat. My stepfather-in-law's boat out on Great Pond. It was so, so, so much fun. I forgot everything. I forgot to be sad, I forgot to wallow, I forgot to do anything but laugh maniacally with every bump of wake, every spray of cool Maine lake water. It was a beautiful day, and I tried not to be sad when Bryce laughed at how happy I was and said, "It's just so nice to see you so genuinely happy, it's been a really long time since I've seen this joy in you." Ouch. I guess I have been a little sappy sadpants lately. But, it really and truly was a blast and so beautiful:

The following day we took off for Vinalhaven Island. The ferry ride was beautiful--as we got further from Rockland it got foggier and foggier, and then these beautiful islands would pop up out of nowhere. It made us feel like we were so far from the mainland (when in actuality, on the non-foggy ride back, we realized you can actually see all the little White Islands and even Vinalhaven from Rockland). Both ways we rode up top on the ferry, which probably is the source of most of my vacation color. I am an SPF 50+ gal all the way, but I still burnt up a bit on the sunny ferry. (Foggy sun is the worst because those little water droplets magnify the sun or something... my red thighs were a testament to that.)
Happy heading out to vacation
Seriously, only Maine can have this kind of beauty.
White Islands off Vinalhaven's coast.
Once in Vinalhaven, we realized a few things. 1) We were in for two days of serious rain and fog; 2) That meant the puffin boat was canceled and I shook my fist at the Puffin Gods for I have no idea why they keep their "parrots of the sea" from me...; 3) there is some seriously beautiful stuff on this island; 4) LIES to keep your car back in Rockland, total and complete LIES -- the majority of other guests totally brought their cars, and the parking back in the Rockland Ferry Terminal was $40 for our stay and to rent a car was $55/day, and while they said we could rent bikes for free and get around most of the island, 5) The people living on the island drove giant pickup trucks at maniacal speeds and there were no sidewalks through most of the area, so between the thick fog and the fear of ending up a hood ornament, we couldn't get very far. BUT, we did manage to visit the Lane Island Preserve, a beautiful piece of Maine beauty sponsored by the Nature Conservancy. We visited it three times because we could walk to it and still have the wherewithal to walk trails and scramble on rocks to enjoy ocean views and coastal rocks and stuff. The town park was a complete mystery--we went everywhere looking for it but the maps seemed to have a bit of a Bermuda Triangle thing going on. Nothing had signs. The maps were missing the side street names. We walked one day to try to get to another nature preserve out on Granite Island, and apparently passed the trailhead without knowing it because LITERALLY NOTHING IS LABELED. But all was not lost because it was a seriously beautiful walk despite the rain and fog, and we got a good 12 miles or so of walking in that day between the island preserve and heading out on Old Harbor Road to see something different. When the fog lifted on our ferry ride back, we discovered there were tons of little islands just off the coast of where we were walking that we could not see. Beautiful. I don't have pictures of Booth Quarry, Bryce has those on the camera and I don't know how to unleash them, but that was pretty neat, too. That was a mile and a half walk one way with about a mile of sidewalkless fast-truckness, but when we finally found it it was an old granite quarry filled with water that you could swim in. Very eerie, very beautiful, and I stuck my toes in so I could say I did. I was kind of glad it was rainy and in the 60s because swimming in deep water like that, even not in the ocean, freaks me out. I like to know what's beneath me. Also, walking around the piney edges I couldn't help but be nervous that maybe some maniac hid in the woods to push unsuspecting tourists into the granite-y depths, since there were a lot of places where I imagine kids run and jump into water that's probably 65 feet deep from the edge. My mind has some issues.

Here are pictures of Vinalhaven:
Our room view at low tide, when the water rushed out into the harbor.
It made a terrific noise, but then at high tide it would be
dead silent, which was a little disconcerting.
Lane Island Preserve entrance low tide

Lane Island Preserve entrance high tide
Lane Family Cemetery, what a view

Lane Island Preserve in less fog, low tide

Lane Island Preserve in more fog, high tide

Bryce visiting the ocean (my shoes were inappropriate as we were
just walking around town since it was so foggy but then we heard
the waves and had to see it, so I ended up hiking it barefoot but
didn't dare scramble down to the sea that way).
On the walk out Old Harbor Road in the fog 
Another cemetery, looking over the pond. Love old New England cemeteries.
We tried not to take it personally that the fog lifted on the day we left.
It was a lot of fun walking around the little smidge of the island we could get to, stressful, but fun and full of gorgeous sights. 

Then, on to Damariscotta, where we kind of wished we had spent more time, splitting the nights more evenly (we spent three nights on Vinalhaven, one in Damariscotta). We stayed in a bed and breakfast on the Damariscotta river, a beautiful old white house on rolling grounds with river views everywhere. We drove into town for dinner, but we could have walked (and we did for breakfast in the morning and some Maine Coast Bookstore shopping). It was gorgeous. The innkeeper, Martha, was incredibly personable and had impeccable detail in the rooms--everything was very clean, the views were spectacular, the chairs were cozy, the bed was cozy, the privacy was high. We loved our short stay there. There was, however, a somewhat overgrown orchard to one side of the house with a covered square well. Which creeped me out immensely, because old houses that used to be nursery schools with a river and an orchard seem to me the stuff of horror movies. I could just see a little girl crawling out of that well. It didn't help that our room had a kitchen and a bathroom but down a hall that was semi-underground, with a triple-bolted door leading to the side where the orchard/wellfromhell lived, and to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night you needed to go down this dark, windowless "this once was a coal chute" feeling hallway. Why did the door need so many locks??? I was scared to open the door to the hallway and see a little girl in an old fashioned nightdress crouched in the far corner. Maybe facing the wall. AGAIN, what the hell is up with my mind? I can thank the Japanese film industry for making me forever afraid of creepy little girls (thanks, The Ring). BUT, no such thing existed, and the well was just a well and the hallway was just a hallway, super clean with nary a spider anywhere and a super clean bathroom. The bathroom on Vinalhaven had one spider, a cave spider I named Cavey and felt fine with as long as I knew where he was. Those spindly things don't scare me, but on my face unexpectedly might be a different story. Anyway, Damariscotta was such a peaceful setting and so relaxing that it was a perfect end to our private vacation. AND, the inn had a pool, which although it was only in the 70s, hot sweaty boathouse ping pong prepared us to jump in and enjoy. No pictures of that, though. We really took advantage of everything this place had to offer and will definitely be back for more in the future. 
Private entrance to our rooms, you can see the wall of window
that allowed us beautiful views of the river

Said beautiful view of the river from the grounds
Bryce in the orchard, the well would be to the left of him.
He is such a handsome, handsome fella.
Damariscotta river at sunset
The happy, relaxed, slightly sunburned faces of vacation toward the end.
In the town of Damariscotta, on the river.
When we left, we spent the afternoon in the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens with Bryce's parents. It was a great end to the day, and a gorgeous tour of different Maine ecosystems, from woods to hillside shade to full sun. 

By the end of the vacation, even though I was fully on Lupron and the Levoquin antibiotic that's part of my "implantation failure" protocol, I felt more rested and happy than anything else. I felt more at peace, and so grateful for the life we share together as it is in this moment. Did I see crying babies and have that twist in my chest and painful awareness of the hollowness of my womb? Sure. Did it stick with me all day? No. How can you continue to feel sad when you are surrounded by such peace, such beauty? Impossible. We had so much fun, and because it was all new, we couldn't feel sad that last year we were here and had hoped this year we'd bring a baby. That's the drawback of going to the same places over and over -- it becomes apparent that you are stuck. Here, we were just another couple, having a wonderful holiday together where we ate too much food, drank too much wine, walked until our legs were sore, and took tons of pictures of sea and rocks and fog and pine trees and wildflowers. 

I'd say it was a success, for sure. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Dreaming for the Future

It is amazing how quickly I can dream and hope for a day when all this is over and we've been successful, even on the tails of disappointment and continuous bad news. I have a hope cycle of sorts -- it rises and rises the closer I get to a cycle, then rises and falls during said cycle as I hope for the best and fear for the worst (and usually get worst, that balance really should be shifting at some point here), then after a failed cycle plummets through the floor into THIS IS NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN OH GOD WHAT IF WE NEVER HAVE CHILDREN WHAT IF THIS DOESN'T WORK OUT AND THEN ADOPTION DOESN'T WORK OUT AND WE BECOME CAT PEOPLE AND I STUFF MY CAT IN A BABY BJORN OR RIDE THEM AROUND IN A BIKE SCREENED-IN THING? I spiral downward into worst case scenarios and find myself crying, or worse, numbly staring into space while I vaguely think about what it would be like to accept a reality without children.

But then, I snap out of it. I slowly regain my hope (key to this is having another cycle in the works, even breaks don't help because then I resort to spiraling down more often). And then... I engage in my Moments Of Hope And Dreaming activities.

The somewhat dusty vision board that we abandoned.
Good idea in theory, but in practice not so much.
These are things that should probably cause me immense sadness since we have been unsuccessful for so long, but when I am on a Hope Upswing, they actually bolster me up. They make me feel like this is possible, and it's in our future to have children in our house, and one day all of this will end not in heartbreak but in joy. I will note, though, that most of these activities are things that remain hidden and come out during a hopeful period, because if they were in my face all the time they might become more sad than happy. And a vision board is not among them. We did one of those once, and I wrote a blog about it in early 2011. It seemed like a great idea, and while it was a great exercise for a time, it now lives in the back back office, in the space behind my teaching books bookshelf. After several cycles of hopeful reflection and carefully snipped and pinned additions to this solid physical representation of our hopes and dreams, it became less a symbol of hope and more a symbol of the inner-voice wailing, But we visualized success!!! I would feel more and more frustrated and even tricked when yet another set of embryo pictures was taken down from the "We Love You And Welcome You" orange frame on the vision board. Fortune cookie slips seemed to lie viciously -- "You are about to embark on a most delightful journey!" and "The maze you have been traveling is coming to an end," messages that seemed so meaningful when received and pinned up on the board became no more substantial or prophetic than "Eat more Chinese food." The smiling faces of the pregnant people reveling in their new rounder bodies (or in my case, hopefully rounder with purpose), the couples kissing a baby with the words "Happiness is a journey" or "Believe Conceive" over their heads... they all started to sour and feel more like mocking than a hopeful representation of where we would be shortly with the right attitude and belief in success. And so it got relegated further and further from the kitchen wall, where we could see it everyday, until it reached its current hiding place. IT DID NOT WORK FOR US ANYMORE. Maybe, maybe if we had been successful during the Time of the Vision Board, I would be a lot more positive about it now. I could be like, "we visualized success, we put positive thoughts and intentions into the Universe, and IT WORKED!" But it didn't work, and after a while its prominent position caused us more depression and stress than what was intended, so away it went.

I learned a lesson from that--have things that make you feel hopeful, but have them in places where you don't have to look at them every day. When the Hope Cycle turns sour, it is helpful not to have your Moments of Hope and Dreaming activities sour along with the cycle. So I keep them hidden.

I still have my Baby Binder, evidence of crazy preplanning that has existed now for about four years and is getting to the point where I need to create two binders -- a Baby Binder and a Parenting Binder...
What's this?
Oh, just my drawer of parenting magazines,
chilling in the coffee table.

...because I still have a subscription to Parents magazine, which initially I got for $1 and ordered while newly
pregnant and hopeful and since then haven't had the heart to discontinue. They have good ideas. They have good recipes. I like their philosophy on things for the most part. So what, I've been receiving a parenting magazine for two years without actually being a parent? Don't people buy bridal magazines well before they become a bride? House and Garden magazines to dream of a home you WILL have one day, not the one you currently reside within? Sometimes the magazine makes me feel like I am sad and crazy, but it's just hopeful dreaming. And they hide in a drawer until I'm ready to read them. As does the Baby Binder.

I recently joined Pinterest, which I originally had no desire to be a part of because I thought it would be a huge time suck, but it's actually a lot of fun. And I can somewhat control what I see, and I can make my boards fit my needs (unlike Facebook, where the onslaught of happy families and pregnant people and congratulations messages for new babies can be somewhat taxing). And so I extended my Hope and Dreaming activities to Pinterest, and created a board called, Someday Our Dream Will Come ...until then I plan obsessively. It's a collection of activities to do with future children, nursery ideas, organization/storage ideas, etc. I have stayed away from pregnancy stuff, because I have plenty of time to add that in and quite frankly I don't want to go there. It's fun to add to and I do it when I feel like it and I can ignore it when I don't. I toyed with making it a Secret Board, but then I didn't. Why not semi-publicly plan for the happy ending we so hope for? As of yet it doesn't make me feel foolish.

Lastly, there's the Thought Activities. Things done in private with no visual proof or representation. Basically, times when I allow myself to think ahead to moments in a future we're not 100% sure are coming. Things like mulling over whether or not we will find out the sex of our baby (that's so happening if the baby is cooperative) and pros and cons of both sides; how to prepare for birth and how much expectation I will have for that culminating moment of all this strife (Birth plan? Not so sure...I think at this point the plan is whatever will keep me and the baby safe through the process, I don't yet have strong opinions on things like drugs or no drugs, epidural or not, but I can tell you that this very special baby, should he/she decide to arrive by way of my uterus, will be coming in a hospital). Bryce and I had a conversation about doulas the other day (in part due to an article in Parents, that I was reading just for kicks, and also because of a conversation I had with a friend who has beautiful children from IVF). I didn't even know what a doula was until a few years ago, and it's not really crucial that we have these conversations now, but it is fun to talk about and discuss and pretend like maybe this is in our future. The thinking about the birth end of things is new -- Bryce mentioned to me that he thought it was interesting that I never talked about that aspect of all this. I guess it's just so far away in our minds that all I can think about is the possibility of being pregnant, and of nesting, but not of the beautiful-yet-really-kind-of-violent entrance to the world that this baby will have. Maybe it's not what he intended, but as a result of that conversation I was like, "Yeah, sure--let's talk birth and labor and doulas and hospitals and stuff like that. Why not?"

Why not to all of it -- if I'm in the right frame of mind it doesn't make me sad. It's the strategic placement of these things, in places where they can easily hide away should I not be able to handle them anymore or at that moment in time, that is so key. It's also that all the activities I now have are not centered on my having some kind of control over the outcome here. That was initially a nice idea with the Vision Board, but ultimately less than healthy because really, NO CONTROL. If only it were as simple as physically visualizing the success and joy of reaching our goal. So no, instead these activities are more just hoping and dreaming and allowing space in our minds to believe that maybe, maybe this might happen.