Sunday, May 20, 2007

Urban Myths and Old Wives' Tales

Any one who has gone through infertility has heard them. They range from pure legend to people's personal anecdotes. I'm not talking about the usual assvice we Infertiles could recite in our sleep--(say it with me ladies!): "Just Relax!/You just need a vacation!/Just get drunk and go for it!/As soon as you stop thinking about it it will happen!" No, I'm talking about the even more sinister stories that friends and families tell you, that early on in your infertility struggles might have given you hope, but now, just make you want to slice your ears off. They fall into a few different categories:

On Trying to Conceive you might have heard this one: "Oh, I had a friend who tried for yeeeaars to get pregnant. She and her husband went to doctors, they couldn't find anything wrong, but still, no baby. Finally, they tried IVF, still it didn't work. Finally, one day, they decided to quit trying. They said, 'I guess God does not want us to be parents.' They made plans to (fill in the blank: go back to school for a Masters, travel, move to Siberia, whatever) and then, BOOM! they found out they were pregnant that same month."

This is a hard one for us Infertiles, for many reasons. One, because we're so damned JEALOUS of whomever that friend of yours is, we want to scream. Two, because we fear it WON'T happen for us, and three, because we hope it WILL. I am particularly tetchy to this one because this type of urban legend has roots in my very own family. My mother, no less. With me. Go figure. After marrying my father at the tender age of 20, my mother discovered she was pregnant right away, with my sister, Katie. Katie was the light of their lives, and they wanted more children. Sadly, they struggled for many years, and my mother suffered two miscarriages. Finally, well into her thirties, with my sister a senior in high school, my mother started making alternate plans for the rest of her life: She had let go the very idea of having any more children, and was looking forward to the freedom she was about to have with my sister off to college. My mother decided she would go back to work as a teacher, and maybe even go back to school. She spent some time abroad teaching, and was really enjoying it. Though still married to my father, the marriage was shaky, and my mother was trying to sort out what to do next. During a hiatus from her teaching position, and home with my father and my sister, she and my dad must have found some common ground, because, well, I came along 9 months later. And my mother's plans for the next several years were put back on the back burner. At 38, my mother had no idea, thought, hope, or incling that she would become pregnant. But, she did. So, I'm glad, I suppose, cuz, hey--I'm here. But, it's kind of awful. I think my mother still believes, despite my explanation of my bad ovaries and sickly eggs, that I, too, will have a miracle 'surprise' pregnancy any day now. She believes, like it happened for her, it will happen for me. I have to keep reminding her that it very likely will not, and I have to keep convincing myself it won't, either. Because the hope is too painful.

On Miscarriage one might hear this one: (The following is an actual story told to me by a {pregnant at the time-ugh!} friend): "I'm so sorry you had a miscarriage, but, my sister-in-law had a miscarriage several months ago, and had to have a D&C. Several weeks later, she was feeling really tired and sickly, and she was convinced that somehow they had botched the surgery and she had some sort of infection that was making her sick. She called the doctor's office and read them the riot act--sure that they had not taken good care with her. They doctor told her to come in for an examination. Well, turns out, SHE WAS PREGNANT! The doctor scolded her for having sex too soon after her surgery (but hey, she and her husband 'just got drunk one night and went for it') but it didn't matter--she was already 3 weeks along. Now she's due any day, and, guess what? She's having twins!!!!"

I heard this one, along with many similar stories, right after my miscarriage. I heard so many of these tales that I truly believed I would become pregnant again immediately. Well, over a year later, I have not gotten pregnant. Not even close. So much for that one.

And, on Infertility and Adoption, you might hear something that sounds like: "I know this couple. They tried for yeeeeaars to have kids, with no luck. So, finally, they decided to adopt. Wouldn't you know it, less than one month after bringing their son home, they found out they were pregnant! Now they have a (adopted) nine-month-old and are expecting their second child any day now! Boy, are they going to have their hands full, ha, ha."

Okay, so this one hits especially close to home as well. This urban legend is at the core of my husband's family lore. Absolutely true story. My mother and father-in-law were trying to get pregnant for years with no luck. The doctors couldn't find anything wrong (and of course this was in the late 60's/early 70's so there weren't really any infertility treatments as we now know them). So, they decided to adopt. Well, they were lucky enough to adopt Mister, my husband (hey, I'm biased). And of course, (you know how the rest of the story goes) my mother-in-law discovered a few weeks later that she was pregnant. So, Mister and his brother are 10 months apart. A couple of years later my mother and father-in-law welcomed a third child, my sister-in-law. My mother-in-law jokingly says all the time, "Oh, our first child (meaning Mister) was so eeeeasy. If M~~~ (their bio son) had been our first, we probably would not have had any more children, ha ha ha."

This is so hard. First of all, because the decision to adopt should NOT be because you hope it will help you get pregnant. That is just twisted. It's totally unfair to the innocent child you will be adopting. I have actually had very (normally) sensitive friends say to me, "Why don't you just adopt--then you will get pregnant!?" COME ON!!

In a way, I feel like I am sinking under the weight of these home-grown family legends. Both my mother's and Mister's mother's. I wonder if everyone is just sitting around waiting for me to fulfill some sort of pregnancy prophecy. Or, maybe I'm just paranoid. But, either way: We've had baby boy for 2 months, and I'm not running off to the store to buy any pregnancy tests or anything. (Of course, we're not even TRYING at this point, but that's another post).

I know people mean well when they whip out these stories. Somehow they feel like the power of the stories will (I don't know?) 1. give us hope. 2. ease our pain. 3. come true. In a way, it's sweet: They want these myths to become our truths. I know our friends and family hurt to see us hurting. They mean well. They just don't understand how hard it is to have these stories and anecdotes circulating and creaking around in an Infertile brain. For me, every year closer I get to the age my mother was when she had me, the more I lose what little hope I'm still holding on to that it might happen for me, too. Each month that passed after my miscarriage without another pregnancy made me more and more furious. We are so desperate for anything to give us hope (or at least I was) that we cling to these stories (even while dismissing them outwardly). It's true. We can't help it. (Or at least I can't help it. I guess I should just speak for myself, here.)

I guess I'm myth-proof. If an urban legend regarding pregnancy exists, it is sure not to come true with me.

Stay tuned for Part Two of this post, titled: The Stupid Things People Say to You When You Adopt.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


Today is the day that infertile women meet with some (or a lot of) dread. Even though, officially, I am celebrating my first Mother's Day, I am acutely aware of all my infertile friends out there (those whom I know personally, and those I don't know) who are not celebrating so much. I remember last Mother's Day, which was one short month after my miscarriage, and how incredibly hard it was. And, how, even now, one year later, the memory stings. And, though I know I should be celebrating--(and I am)--there is a part of me that still feels a blush of sadness.

There is a part of me that can't help feeling a little bit like an "impostor". I jokingly (and sort of not jokingly) said to Mister earlier today, that I'm really not a "mother" yet--that actually, I am still (as far as the laws of this state are concerned) baby boy's "legal guardian." So, is there a Legal Guardian's Day? (The adoption won't be officially official until we complete our 4 post-placement visits with our social worker, and the courts have processed all the remaining paperwork and issue us baby boy's "new" birth certificate. But, let's not split hairs. I am his mother, and it is amazing. And surreal.

So, I am thinking of all my infertile sisters out there who so desperately want to become mothers, and who are working very hard, and enduring so much to make it happen. To them, I want to say this. You are Mothers. Though you are not yet holding your baby in your arms, you know with every cell in your body that there is a soul waiting to become your child. And you love that child so much already, that you are doing everything in your power (IF treatments, the maze of international or domestic adoption, and/or the always fun "natural" path: acupuncture, herbs, special diets, standing on your head, etc.,-- or all of the above) along with lots and lots of prayer/creative visualization/voodoo, to bring your baby into your life. You are already mothers to your children, doing what a mother does: fighting for your children; caring, loving and wanting them. And, one way or another, we will all meet our children one day. My son lies a few feet away from me--and I am gearing up to start fighting for his little brother or sister, whom I know wants to join our family.

So please, my dear Mothers-in-Waiting. Love yourselves today. Though it hurts to feel like you're not included in today's celebration, please find a way, something small, something personal, to celebrate. Even if it feels stupid. Celebrate the love and dedication in your hearts to the children who will be so lucky to one day meet you and call you Mother.

Big hugs everyone.

p.s. I am sorry--I started this blog yesterday--but was interrupted (ironically) by the frequent phone calls from friends and family, who wanted to wish me a "Happy Mother's Day." Wow.

Monday, May 7, 2007


I don't know how many of you out there are 'cat people'. I've always loved cats, but I have NEVER had a cat as cool as my cat, Max. I have had him (and his sister, Molly) for 13 years. These cats have been with me through so much: one bad marriage + divorce, about 50 moves, living in my flower shop when I couldn't find a place to live that I could afford that would accept pets (it was the Dot-Com boom, people, and this was in Marin County), and so many other things. Not only have they dutifully put up with all my ups and downs over the last 13 years--they have been a never ending source of love, acceptance and affection. And, they're just awesome cats! Max will come when you call him (I think he thinks he's a dog). And he speaks. He's just got such a great "personality". Ok, I'll stop. You get the picture. I love this damned cat.

On Tuesday, after being cooped up in the house for 2 days in a row with baby boy, I asked Mister if we could go out to dinner at one of our fine local chain restaurants. Max, who was sleeping peacefully on the couch, was scooped up and tossed outside. Well, I totally regret that moment in time. I wish we would have stayed home. Because, when we got back, we found out from our neighbor that something "bad" had happened to our cat. She thought he had been hit by a car. She found him in the neighbor's yard next to her. But now, no one knew where Max was. Luckily, I found him, bleeding and barely breathing in the hydrangea bushes. AGHHHH!!

We rushed him to the emergency pet hospital. No, he was not hit by a car. He was mauled by a dog. I suspect my neighbor's dog. The one who "found" him, supposedly, in another yard. Hmmm. Oh, did I mention she has a pit bull? Kay.

They were able to stabilize Max at the emergency place. The next day we picked him up and took him to our regular vet. He went through 4 hours of surgery, with two vets working on him. 2 broken ribs, broken sternum, pierced abdominal and chest cavities, bruised liver, lots of tissue and muscle damage. Apparently, the dog took a hold of him, and SHOOK.

Well, call my cat the 6-million-dollar-cat. (Almost). But they did rebuild him. It looks like he will survive. We were finally able to bring him home on Saturday. We have to keep him confined in a large crate, and keep him sedated. I am giving him meds twice a day, and syringe feeding him to make sure he is getting enough nutrients.

I think that might have been his 9th life. So, for now, he will be an indoor-only cat.

I have just been so sick and distraught over this. It's been a rough week.

Pray for Max!!