Monday, April 27, 2015

#Microblog Mondays: First Dream

Last week it happened -- I had my first adoption dream.

I'd had lots of birth dreams, pregnancy dreams, even IVF dreams, but until that night I'd never had an adoption I see this as a kind of milestone. (It was also strange to realize that I haven't dreamt that I was pregnant or birthing in a really long time, so I guess my subconscious is on par with our decision-making.)

I dreamed that even though we were at this point in the homestudy process, where our paperwork isn't fully in and our classes are coming up but not complete, and we haven't had a social worker set foot in our home, they called and told us that they had twin baby girls, ready for us.

It didn't make sense whatsoever, and even in the dream I was like, "but how can we be matched when we're not even approved or eligible?"

That moment of logic was immediately swallowed by conflicting emotions of joy (our babies are here!) to fear (what if this is a mistake? what if this doesn't work out? what if we get there and they don't like us?) to acceptance that while unconventional in terms of timing, this was our path and we were to pack for the hospital.

I woke up before we got there or met the babies or anything like that, but I suspect that the emotions surrounding that call were pretty accurate. It wasn't a nightmare, it wasn't a unicorns-and-puppies kind of dream, but it was the first of what I hope are many dreams that are my subconscious exploring all the feels when it comes to these next steps I really know very little about.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!

Friday, April 24, 2015

You Are Not Alone (But It Sure Can Feel That Way)

There is nothing so lonely as being denied what should be a basic human function. Life is full of images and celebrations of parenthood, and so when that eludes you, it feels so incredibly isolating. It helps, at first, that struggling to conceive is an experience that one in eight couples will endure. You're not alone in the general struggle of infertility. But within your own experience? You can absolutely feel completely isolated.

For me, it was very comforting to join an infertility support group when my first IVF failed. I could bond with a small group of women who were also facing difficulty conceiving, even with the help of medical technology. It was wonderful to feel such a sense of BELONGING, of "we're-all-in-this-together."

Until we weren't.

One of the most insidious things about persistent and pervasive infertility is that you are left feeling isolated, even if you have a community. Because eventually, a large number of your friends in your support network become successful, and move on to experience pregnancy after infertility. This can also be an isolating experience. I will never forget the warning I received from other Yoga For Fertility group members who went on to Prenatal Yoga: "It's different out there... you think that Prenatal Yoga will be full of people from Infertility Yoga, but it's not. You end up alone in a sea of women who did not struggle to conceive, and it can be lonely as a pregnant infertile person."

I had to take their word for it. I never got to graduate to Prenatal Yoga. I ended up a constant on the couch in pre- Infertility Yoga support, waving hello and goodbye to all of the people who got pregnant and moved on, wave after wave after wave.

This continued for years, until I realized that I was in a room of infertile people, people who were supposed to be traveling the same path as me, making me feel supported and part of a sisterhood, and instead I felt completely and utterly alone.

So I went to the blogosphere, where I could find other bloggers who were in similar circumstances as me. I could share my sad, fruitless story without leaving my butt imprint on a couch to prove my stationary status; I could feel less alone because there were others like me--people who struggled and fought and hoped but never seemed to catch a break. People who had been trying for years and weren't yet successful, people who were also trying donor egg and/or donor sperm, people who were continuing on and on and on in hopes of a miracle. I had a new sense of belonging.

Until the cycle happened again, but virtually this time. One by one my bloggy friends became successful -- ultrasound and bump pictures filling my blogroll as my story continued on, one of a shrinking cohort without a happy ending.

There's a Buddhist quote that I love: "No one saves us but ourselves...We ourselves must walk the path." I think it really captures the idea that you can have similar situations with other people, but we all walk our own path and only our own strength can ultimately save us. A common experience only goes so far.

I realized that one reason why I felt isolated was because I was comparing my experience to everyone else's. And my path was singular, as all infertility journeys are in the end. If I was looking to find an infertility clone, someone who was suffering exactly as I was suffering, I was going to be disappointed. Because no two people ever walk the same exact path, even if there are a lot of similarities.

Instead, I found camaraderie in the GENERAL experience of infertility. In those little moments that remain the same. In the feeling that another pregnancy announcement may drive you over the edge into despair, thinking  that that will never be for you. In feeling suckerpunched by infertility subplots in movies or TV shows or books that you sought for escape, not for real-life connections to your own personal tragedy. In feeling isolated in family events where you are alone in not making your parents into grandparents. In avoiding situations that may make you feel hopeless or too sad to truly celebrate with others, and worrying that you are isolating yourself from friends and family in the process. In attempting that delicate balance of participating in life and protecting your fragile, broken heart. In being completely and utterly misunderstood in the process of walking that ephemeral filament of a line.

I stopped needing to friend and follow and read and support only people who were in my exact place in the coping-with-infertility process -- because that place never stayed the same, for everyone else at least. I decided to follow people who had made peace with or had chosen living child-free, people who were just starting out with timed intercourse or IUI, people who were parenting after IVF, people who were completing their first IVF, people who were pregnant after IUI, or IVF, or a chance moment of stars aligning despite odds tremendously against an assistance-free conception, people who were adopting or had adopted. And it was freeing.

Also freeing was finally making the decision to adopt, and to no longer live in the limbo that was waiting for a medical professional to tell us to stop treatment: a situation in which I found I was not alone. With great technological advances comes great hope, and with great hope comes a reluctance to be the one to pull the plug, so to speak. I have never felt so alone as when I was in the middle of making this very difficult decision with my husband to end the quest for pregnancy and begin a quest for parenthood that would have nothing to do with my body. That in-between time was hard, as I felt not quite a gung-ho infertility patient and also not quite ready to fully embrace adoption, and I wasn't sure where I belonged. I felt let down by the fact that IVF did not work for me, and I felt a little pressure from all the support group people who became pregnant on that LAST TRY, but having done 13 IVF cycles (three of which were canceled in the last year), I just wasn't willing to make any more LAST TRIES in hopes that the miracle could happen to me. When we finally decided that IVF was not going to be our path to a baby, and we decided that we were going to pursue adoption and that this was absolutely the best and most hopeful way for us to expand our family, I once again felt connected to others and not alone in my indecision, in our weighing of options and making of choices that had been our lot since being diagnosed with infertility five and a half years ago.

And so now I find solace in a community of women online, who have adopted, are adopting, are not sure if IVF or adoption will bring them their baby, who have been successful with IVF, who are suffering losses, who were successful with IUI, who are just starting out, who determined that living child-free was the best option for them (whether or not that was truly a choice). I find community in the struggles of finding a good OB/GYN, in maintaining normalcy in your marriage when unable to have a baby the way others do, in keeping friendships when life moves on everywhere but in your slice of the world, in managing the insane amount of paperwork that accompanies adopting a baby, in how the infertility journey has affected who you are as a person for better or worse.

Our paths through infertility are all different, but at the same time...similar. It can seem like you are bumping around in a sea of bubbles -- everyone together in your state of soapy floatiness, but each encased in your own particular bubble, all alone. But it helps to realize we're all in bubbles. We may not have the same size bubble, or be going in quite the same direction, but the fact is... we're all encased in a sphere of soap. So it is possible to have a common thread with others, but still feel alone. It's a hard journey to travel, no matter how you come to it, travel on it, and come through it.

And so, you are not truly alone, even if in the bubble of your own experience it feels that way. But only you can walk your path. It just helps to realize that there are others floating about near you, if not exactly with you.

To find out more about the disease of infertility and how RESOLVE can help, visit these links:

Want to read more NIAW Bloggers Unite posts? Go here and enjoy. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

#Microblog Mondays: The Big Sigh

I went for my first regular OB/GYN appointment with my new (old) practice today, the first appointment where I am not a person trying to conceive.

I dutifully filled out all of my history paperwork and the dastardly Patient Portal interrogation that seemed to never end.

I put in all of my many procedures, my two pregnancies, and my zero live births.

And then I sat there, in the room wearing my open-to-the-front gown and my crinkly paper lap blanket for the modesty I've really pretty much lost along this journey, and waited for the doctor to come in.

I could hear him flipping through my paperwork in his office next door. And I could hear the exact moment where he came across my infertility memorial, my list of casualties, my war wounds.

I heard a big sigh, and then a quiet "oh, god."

It was strangely validating to have a medical professional be stricken by my medical history in this arena.

The first words he said to me after the usual pleasantries were, "I am so sorry for the hell you've been through."

It felt so good to have that pain acknowledged, to have that history discussed as atypical for its depth and breadth and sheer bad luck, to hear from someone outside of the fertility world that "you really couldn't have tried any harder," to be enthusiastically congratulated on the decision to adopt, and to have my wonky cycles thoroughly problem-solved for regularity with minimal medication now that conceiving isn't on the priority (or, really, possibility) list. A+ for sensitivity and thoroughness, new OB/GYN.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Crazy Busy, Under Pressure

What a whirlwind past few weeks! I feel like I haven't had much time to breathe, and I'm missing my outlet here. We are notorious for doing everything-all-at-once, and this spring has been no exception.

Yes, let's do the following:

- Renovate the kitchen completely
- Travel to Texas for Spring Break to visit Bryce's dad and stepmother, right before kitchen renovation and so necessitating all weekends leading up to kitchen renovation spent emptying kitchen and setting up temporary kitchen elsewhere in the house
- Travel to NYC for a weekend to visit my dad for 9 hours while he's in town for a trade show
- Complete the adoption paperwork in time for May home study classes so we can get on the social worker schedule ASAP after the classes are done, knowing that it can take weeks to get an appointment
- Completely forget how disruptive a home renovation is and that all temporary kitchen things will be COVERED IN DRYWALL DUST every single day
- Realize that cooking in the midst of this chaos takes about 5 times as long as normal, because nothing is where it belongs, everything involves eight billion trips to other rooms and wiping down surfaces frequently, and all dishes are washed in the bathtub (after thorough swiping down into the trash can because I don't want my feet communing with chicken bits in the shower)
- Do all this in the midst of IEP meetings and my teacher evaluation review cycle
- Do all this in the midst of state testing and crazy days with 30 minute periods and stir-crazy kids that lead to me being quite cranky when I get home and can finally unwind...except for all the stuff listed above
- Try to enjoy the new warm weather, which means first cleaning up the disaster that is the garden after a looooooooong winter

I'm exhausted. We're exhausted. Everything is wonderful, there's nothing on this list (except state tests maybe, har har) that is too horribly painful. I realize that I am very lucky to be able to travel and see family and renovate a kitchen while going through the adoption process. It's just A LOT to do all at once.

I'm feeling like we did a great job hauling ass on the adoption paperwork right out of the gate, and now we have just a few forms left to fill out and we are dragging our feet. I haven't done anything in weeks.

The major piece of paperwork left is the Autobiographical Statements. Which take a really, really long time to put together and are less of a statement and more of an essay. Basically, the agency states that the autobiography won't be graded and won't be seen by prospective birth parents, but is there to provide extensive background to your home study social worker so that there aren't redundant questions...but even with that statement of "hey, no worries, keep it casual," it causes a tremendous feeling of pressure, because HOW TO SUM UP YOUR LIFE AND DO IT JUSTICE IN JUST A FEW PAGES? I am trying to think it through in my head ahead of time so that when I sit down to write it I have ideas already. But my goodness, it's a little scary.

Here's a list of the things that should be included in the autobiography, in case you're curious:

- Who reared you? How did they rear you? What was their style?
- How many brothers/sisters do you have, and where are you in the birth order?
- Were you close to your parents and siblings when you were a child; are you close now; how much contact do you have with them?
- What are some successes or failures you have had?
- What educational level have you reached; do you plan to further your education; are you satisfied with your educational attainments; what do you think about education for a child?
-What is your employment status; your employment history; do you have plans to change employment; do you like your current job?
- If you are married, how did you meet your spouse? How long did you date before marriage, how long have you been married, what attracted you to each other?
- What are your spouses strengths and weaknesses, what issues do you tend to agree/disagree on?
- Why do you want to adopt? What kind of child do you feel you can best parent and why?

So, uh, should be no big deal, right?

Pressure. And finesse, because we need to show that resiliency is the name of our game since we have both had to work through adversity in our lives at various points, without making us sound like sad saps or like we have excess baggage. I kind of feel like this would be good for any couple to do, period, either in general or if they are thinking of having children. Reflecting on how you were parented and how that has an influence on how you yourself may parent is a challenging but ultimately worthy enterprise. It's just not something you can knock off in a rainy afternoon, you know? Especially when you didn't grow up all Leave It to Beaver (although, to be fair, who did?).

So that's the big task for April (A for April, A for Autobiography). Along with the kitchen renovation and the Financial Form and garden clean-up/rejuvenation and recovering from a lot of travel. Travel where we saw family, but travel is always something you need to recover from. Those nine hours with my dad were particularly sweet, since it's been nearly six years since I've seen him last. That's probably going to go over well in the autobiography... (To be fair to us both, he lives in L.A. and has a less than typical career in the movie industry, which makes it difficult to finagle travel plans even before you figure in five years of difficulty flying thanks to IVF -- balancing those schedules together and the financial demands of air travel was pretty impossible.) I think we saved the toughest piece of the paperwork for last, but it will get us ready for delving into all our scrutinizable parts when we have our home study visits.

We're looking forward to May. When the kitchen is feasibly done, when the home study classes are scheduled and our paperwork is in (minus the profile books and the social worker's report), when school craziness is coming to a close, when the weather is reliably lovely, when we can have some time that maybe isn't so frenetic. And then... after May... it's all going to get pretty real pretty fast and this waiting to wait business will turn into just... waiting. An activity we've become very accustomed to in the infertility treatment side of things, and that we will continue to try to do with grace throughout the adoption process.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

I'm Expecting, Too

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to school... my busy stressful season is coming to a close. It has been a rough, rough spring with all the Annual Reviews (IEP meetings with students and parents and administrators and fellow teachers to discuss this year and the plan for next year, super labor intensive) and then the teacher evaluation stuff (evaluation is tomorrow! Portfolio is in! I can almost breathe again!). This week in particular has been exhausting.

The teacher that I work with for my self-contained classes, who is the case manager for the kids I see for ELA, is pregnant. She is due in early June, and is very noticeably preggers. I am super happy for her in general, but also because she had a rough go of it with her first pregnancy (she had twins at 28 weeks and spent a long, long time in the NICU and was terrified that this pregnancy could also be tenuous). She has also been very supportive of all my situations over the past few years and is a super cheerleader for our adoption process.

Having a close working relationship with her has been great, and now it will be weird because she's going out on maternity leave at the end of this year and coming back at some point next year or maybe not until the following year, depending on a variety of factors. What's also weird is that I am also potentially going out on maternity leave at some point next year. Maybe, maybe not, it's all such a mystery.

She knows when her maternity is happening, but not how long it will be, and I know that I may be going out on maternity leave next year but don't have the slightest clue of when that might be.

This week we had our own IEP meetings, but we also had the meetings for the incoming students, who are in 7th grade this year and will be ours next year. Or rather, mine, since she had to tell people that she wouldn't be starting the year since she was having a baby. I had decided not to say anything about my adoption plans until next September, since we won't be home study certified until this summer, and it may be scary for parents to hear the possibility of both teachers in the program being out at the same time. (Our poor TA is really nervous about that!)

But, today, our school psychologist started to say, "And Jess may be out, too." I explained quietly that I wasn't sharing that with parents just yet since it's out in the future a bit still, but then felt bad that it seemed like I was saying DON'T TALK ABOUT MY ADOPTION PLANS! In actuality, I was incredibly touched. No one else has acknowledged my somewhat impending parenthood publicly like that. I sit there, next to my pregnant coworker, knowing that I may also have an infant next year sometime, but knowing also that it is unpredictable, and I don't at all LOOK like I'm expecting. I could keep it totally secret. But I don't want to...because while it may open me up for "what's happening NOW?" questions, I want people to know that I am joyfully expecting. I didn't want to tell parents yet because I'm not TRULY expecting until we are eligible for profiling, sometime this late summer we assume.

Later, after the meetings, I got kind of teary thinking on how the school psychologist didn't differentiate me from the pregnant teacher. Our situations are similar to her. I appreciated it so much I called her to thank her, and she kind of pshawed it away and said I shouldn't be thanking her for her genuine joy in anticipating my motherhood. Which made me cry all over again.

It's a tricky balance being in my portion of the adoption process, because we have committed to the process and are excited, but aren't eligible yet to adopt and so it can be confusing to people. They may think it's possible that we could be matched by September. That would be lovely, but I am realistic. I know it may not even be next school year. But I kind of feel like keeping it all close inside is stealing joy from myself and the others who have been there for us through our infertility journey. It's hiding the hope we feel. It's protecting us, to some degree, as I have to keep reiterating that we aren't yet waiting to be matched, we're still in paperwork mode, but I think if I am comfortable with talking about it and putting my adoption plans out there it will normalize things for everyone else. And maybe they will feel as comfortable with my state of expectancy as they are for those with bellies protruding outward, giving their secret away for them.

It reminds me of a discussion with my reading class a few weeks ago that led to me telling them that I was in the process of adopting a baby. I certainly didn't mean to spill those beans so early, but the conversation led itself in that direction. It was my husband's birthday, and my students wanted to know how old he was. I told them he was 41, and it started a conversation on how old I am. One student guessed dead on, using some impressive logic to deduce my 38-turning-39-shortly status. Of course, this started a waterfall of exclamations of how I'm the same age or older (!) than my students' parents. Which made me feel just fantastic. I think the student with the oldest parents had parents in their mid-forties.

"Yikes, let's move on to something else, because I don't even have kids yet and assuming I have them by the time I'm 40, my kids will be in their 8th grade classroom saying that Mom and Dad are 54/56!"

One of my students said, "Well, what are you waiting for?" Ah, middle schooler honesty.

I said matter-of-factly, "Sometimes it's not up to you."

Which then sparked some understanding from some kids and some confusion with others, and so I took a deep breath and said,
"WELL, I wasn't going to share this yet, but my husband and I are planning to adopt a baby."

Which felt SO GOOD to say out loud. I explained that the other teacher was having a baby, and she looked like she was having a baby. The difference was that I wouldn't ever look like her, but I was also expecting a baby -- I just don't know when. They really seemed to get that. They asked really great questions. It was a terrific educational opportunity to bust some myths about adoption, although I have to say that a lot of students were pretty well informed!

Except that same student from before said, "But don't you want a birth-baby?" (interesting term, birth-baby...)

I inhaled sharply and said (so proud I didn't get teary eyed or anything), "I'll put it plainly. I can't. That's why I was out so much in the first half of the year... I was working with doctors to try to have a baby, and I can't. BUT, we are so excited that we are still going to be parents, and that we will have a baby that will be so very special to us and so very wanted."

Believe it or not, this student still wanted more details on how exactly I can't (Sample questions that poured from his mouth in quick succession: "So, do they die or something? Can you not get pregnant, or something goes wrong like in Out of the Dust?" I guess I have to be happy that he was making a literature connection, but holy cannoli!).

Another student piped up before I had the chance and said, "Hey, this is personal. Let it alone." Which I appreciated very much and we went on with our business.

Overall, I was really happy to share that I was also having a baby, if in a completely different way than the other teacher in the program. The students were super excited for me. I thought the conversation went well, and one student actually talked to me in the hall about how her cousin had "the same problem as you" and went on to adopt two babies and she's very happy now. My goodness I love my job. My kids can be very challenging, but they have such good hearts.

It will be interesting to see how the rest of this year unfolds as we get closer to being home study certified. Our classes are in mid-May, and after those are done we will be able to schedule our home study visits and start our profile books. It's possible that we could be profile-ready by the end of the school year, but with scheduling and timeframes for the report I'd suspect it could be July or August. I really, really want to announce that I'm adopting at the faculty meeting in June, but I'd really like to be actually done with the homestudy (if not holding the report in my hot little hands) first. However, since that could happen over the summer, I kind of feel like I'd like to be like any of those other pregnant people who have announced in faculty meetings that they are expecting, and share that joy with all my colleagues, not just the ones who know through working with me. These past couple experiences with the parallels between me and my pregnant colleague have been good litmus tests for how that might go!

It feels so good to think to myself and know it's true, if not in the way I originally thought it would be:

"I'm expecting."

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Three in a Row: Infertility Sneak Attack!

Reading is my number one escape. An ideal vacation for me would be one measured in how many books I read. Which is hard to do politely if you're visiting other people. Bryce and I love to take quiet vacations where we spend our days hiking or snowshoeing and our evenings/afternoons curled up with a good book and a glass of wine. We often take books with us in case there is a nice quiet place to sit and read. Man, we are exciting people.

What is less than relaxing, though, is when you're reading a book that you didn't know had an infertility subplot and BAM! there it is, smacking you in the face. I don't know how I feel about trigger warnings, but I am usually pretty good at knowing when there is a book I can read at a moment in time and when there's not, when it's mentioned in the cover copy or reviews. But when an infertility subplot is not mentioned AT ALL in the copy and is nestled deep in the book? Kind of a suckerpunch.

Once upon a time, I might not finish a book because of this. Case in point, I loved A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. So I was REALLY REALLY excited when the second book came out a few years ago, Shadow of Night. I was really happy with it at first, until (I don't think this is a spoiler because it's so early in the book and I guess pretty integral to the plotline and conflict)... she turns out to be six weeks pregnant. And time-travels to Elizabethan England ANYWAY. I had just had a miscarriage at about six weeks, the first time I was pregnant in my actual uterus (not that it mattered), and I tried so hard to keep reading but just...couldn't. It hit too close to home. I was too irritated that someone would take risks with a pregnancy like that, and then irritated that it seemed (to the point where I stopped anyway) to work out just fine. I realize, yes, this is FICTION, and these people and their problems aren't actually real, but it was real for me and so I put it up. Maybe one day I'll read it again.

Lately, though, infertility subplots bother me a little less, especially if they're done well. Although I have to say I was really disappointed when my favorite, The Mindy Project, turned out to have her opening a fertility clinic and then she got pregnant. It made it a little harder to watch.

These past few weeks have found me faced with not one, not two, but THREE books that had infertility subplots that were hidden within the book, not mentioned in the cover copy at all. I did finish them all, and they were all really good books, but I thought they deserved a bit of a warning.

The first was my book club selection. I had already decided that I was going to choose The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, a twisty unreliably-narrated thriller. It looked really fun and messed up, and messed-up is something I love in a book. From what I could gather, it was about a woman who saw a couple from the windows of her commuter train every day and fantasized about their lives until one day the wife goes missing and she kind of oversteps her boundaries in thinking how well she knew her and how much she may or may not actually know. Except she's a blackout drunk, so very little of what she sees or knows is at all reliable, especially to her. Sounds great, right? Then I had lunch with a booky friend of mine, who usually lets me know when things have a subplot that may be hard to swallow. "I was going to lend you this book, but maybe you'd rather read it a little later--"The Girl on the Train?" She then explained that the REASON why the main character, Rachel, drinks to blackout is because she was infertile, could only afford one IVF cycle, and then her husband left her and immediately impregnated the woman he was cheating on her with. Ouch. I stuck with my choice. Partly because, as my friend said, "I thought she did a really good job with infertility--a lot of what she said sounded like things you've said about how you've felt in different situations."

So I kept it for sure, and started reading it a couple weeks before book club.  And she was right -- it was very skillfully done. To the point where I was nearly in tears, because it is so rare that someone GETS IT RIGHT in books, TV, or movies. (Case in point for getting it wrong -- Still Alice, where Kate Bosworth informs her mother that thank goodness they hadn't started their latest round of IUI because the doctors could test the embryos for the Alzheimer's gene, which had me batty with inaccuracy, and then followed it up with knowing you're pregnant with twins and announcing it to your family at, wait for it...FIVE WEEKS along. ARRRRGGGGHHHHH.)

I could relate to wanting to blot out your feelings after suffering through the losses of infertility and the sense things being your fault. I am not a blackout drunk, or a drunk, but I can see how you could become one if you didn't have compassion and support surrounding you. Especially if you only had one shot at IVF and it failed. I could relate to how the author described the feelings of infertility, as quoted here:

"I'm better now, about the children thing; I've got better, since I've been on my own. I've had to. I've read books and articles, I've realized that I must come to terms with it. There are strategies, there is hope. If I straightened myself out and sobered up, there's a possibility that I could adopt. And I'm not thirty-four yet--it isn't over. I'm better than I was a few years ago, when I used to abandon my trolley and leave the supermarket if the place was packed with mums and kids; I wouldn't have been able to come to a park like this, to sit near the playground and watch chubby toddlers rolling down the slide. There were times, at my lowest, when the hunger was at its worst, when I thought I was going to lose my mind." (pgs 79-80)

I have had that exact feeling. I have sped my way out of Wegman's to avoid what seemed like an onslaught of babies, especially fresh ones, that had my heart racing and my eyes burning with tears I refused to spill in the frozen aisle. I have agreed to meet friends at their houses instead of at parks when there were more than one set of small children, because the thought of being the one without children at a child-a-palooza was just too much. I have felt all these feels. There's more in there, so it's worth reading, but also worth a warning. And it was messed-up, in the best possible way.

Next I read a book in the Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer, Fairest. These are young adult novels, starting with Cinder, then Scarlet, then Cress. We're waiting until fall for Winter, but in the meantime a short novel that explains the evil Queen Levana's backstory came out to try to settle the restless readers. If you haven't enjoyed these, give them a shot. You sound completely insane trying to explain them -- it's fairy tale storylines fit into a futuristic setting where the moon has become home to Lunars, who have the ability to glamour people into doing what they want or seeing what they want them to see and there is brewing war between the Lunars and the Earthens and a horrible plague, letumosis, is killing off a zillion people on Earth and, um, Cinderella is a cyborg. Yup, insanity. But so much fun! Scarlet adds in a Red Riding Hood type character and genetically engineered wolfman soldiers that the Lunars have cooked up, and Cress features a Rapunzel-like person whose tower is a...satellite. Like I said, you sound nuts trying to explain them and they sound tacky/campy, but they really are phenomenal.

I started up Fairest, which gives you insight into Queen Levana of the Lunars, and how she got so horribly evil, shortly before school break. It's a fast read. And guess what? Being infertile doesn't just make you possibly a blackout drunk. It also can add to the hurts that lead you to evil queenship. YUP, THAT'S RIGHT, QUEEN EFFING LEVANA IS INFERTILE. I don't think this is a spoiler, but it's not mentioned WHATSOEVER in any copy I've seen, so it kind of sucker punched me a bit.

But, I have to say, again the author did a good job of it. The experience of infertility wasn't mangled. And, Levana is super young, so it breaks the stereotype of the "waited too long" infertility (ugh to that). Here's a quote that made me feel less annoyed about this subplot infiltrating my sci-fi YA escape:

"Dr. Eliot was largely unhelpful. She went on and on about how it could take time, and they would look into further treatment when Levana got a bit older, if they still had not had any success. The woman even had the nerve to tell Levana to relax, to not worry about it so much. It would happen when it was meant to happen.

Levana was tempted to make the infuriating woman jab a scalpel into her own eye." (pg 122)

I'd share more, but can't because of spoilers. Needless to say, it was handled well. And I guess I'd rather end up an evil queen than a blackout drunk, so it's nice to know that infertile fictional characters have options.

The third and last of my run of sneak-attack infertility subplots in my escapist reading material was What Alice Forgot, by Liane Moriarity. She's the one behind The Husband's Secret and Big Little Lies, both nice and twisty and without an infertility subplot (that I can remember, anyway...nothing bigger than a passing mention). This one seemed less thriller-y, whodunit, and more light escapist, romantic-comedy-friendly fare. A woman hits her head in spin class, and wakes up thinking it's 10 years earlier, in 1998. In 1998 she was 29, happily married, pregnant with her first child, and adorable. In 2008, she's in the middle of a divorce, stay at home mother of three children, and kind of a bitch, actually. So of course all kinds of mayhem ensues and she gets to examine where she was headed and where she ended up and you know eventually she'll get her memory back and THEN what will happen? The book was engrossing, touching, and funny, and got me through a day on airplanes and in airports on our way to the Houston area to visit Bryce's dad and his wife.


Except in NO PLACE in the copy did it mention that Alice, the amnesiac who's lost ten years, has a sister who suffers recurrent miscarriages and has done 8 rounds of IVF over the past 8 years, without a take-home baby. Her sister's grief and the transformation that probably took place gradually but Alice is seeing in one fell swoop thanks to her amnesia that has her inexplicably sadder, chubbier, and more bitter is slowly revealed. I don't think this is a spoiler, because if you have suffered infertility you will IMMEDIATELY know what's up with Elizabeth. IMMEDIATELY. And if you have suffered infertility, Elizabeth's situation will make you cry. I won't tell you how it all ends, but I will tell you that struggling with the options of continuing treatment, choosing to live child-free, or choosing to attempt parenting through adoption is on the table in this book. It is handled fairly sensitively and I must say that Liane Moriarty just has to have suffered infertility herself or has a very close friend who has. Because she is dead on. I can't share quotes because of spoilers, but she does beautifully with:
- Feeling sadness at mourning children that never were but you feel their loss tremendously
- Feeling paralyzed by the silence of your home (HOLY HELL, Liane Moriarty, you were IN MY HEAD on that one)
- Feeling completely hopeless and needing to just sit somewhere in a state of numbness for a while
- Feeling ingracious about your bitterness over a success story's exuberant gushing that her kids were from IVF and that there is hope, which at times can feel worse because you know you should be happy at the hopefulness of someone else's success but really you just want to scream, "HOW NICE THAT YOU ARE SUCCESSFUL! THAT IN NO WAY PREDICTS MY OWN SUCCESS! You don't know how I feel ANYMORE!"
- Feeling insanely angry at other people's meddling, even if it is well-intended
- Enjoying the bitterness of fellow infertile friends who "get it" and don't encourage you to be positive all the time, because sometimes you just want to wallow in the negativity and/or be super bitchy about the Fertiles
- Not being able to trust a positive pee stick, or hopeful twinges, whatsoever

The list goes on and on and on and on. It was fantastic. BUT, it needed a freaking trigger warning, because this is one book that if I was in a different place, a struggling-through-IVF place, I would be throwing against the freaking wall. And as it was, I sobbed quietly through the resolution of Elizabeth's struggles. It was a little too real not to.

There you have it. Three books IN A ROW that had unadvertised infertility plotlines. I survived them, and actually appreciated the sensitivity involved with all of them, which is rare (but maybe is becoming more prevalent?). They didn't ruin my escape 100%, but I feel I have done a public service by letting you know what lurks within these excellent books, waiting to sneak attack the next unsuspecting infertile to open their pages.

And now, off to decide whether or not I should become an evil queen.