Last night my husband mentioned that the decade is drawing to a close. I'd been oblivious to this fact, what with my every neuron being devoted to thoughts of my empty uterus. But now I've started thinking back over the...uh...zeros (have we figured out what to call this decade yet?).
Early in the decade I got the following fortune cookie fortune: perseverance will bring desired results. I still have it, tucked into my filofax. In some ways, this has been the theme of the last 10 years of my life. Perseverance. Achieving desired results.
I'm a university professor. People (e.g., my students, my colleagues) tend to assume I'm an overachiever for whom intellectual pursuits have always been a zone of comfort and success. They think I did well in high school and had a typical college experience, that the obvious signs of my success (I have a tenure track job at a mediocre institution--that's actually pretty hard to achieve) are sufficient to make me feel secure. In short, people tend to think all this shit came easily, and that now I just chill up in my ivory tower feeling smug. Of course, that is how I spend the bulk of my time. BUT it was a tough road getting here. I earned myself a mess of Ds and Fs in high school, and, oddly, no college wanted me. I worked as a grocery clerk. (And by the way, grocery clerks really do notice all the embarrassing things you're buying, and yeah, they judge you.). It didn't take long for me to decide I didn't want to do that for the rest of my life. I had to take a circuitous route to getting into a good college. I also paid for college myself, working a crap job and struggling to make ends meet. It was lonely and hard. But I persevered. I achieved desired results.
At the beginning of this decade I graduated from college and moved across the country to start graduate school at the University of Chicago. Grad student housing hooked me up with a nice little apartment, and I was getting money to study stuff that interested me. I still recall getting my first fellowship check. This money is for me?! To use to study things?! It was awesome.
2001-2006 were not easy years. I'm not brilliant, so had to work my ass off. I'm also a social misfit, so spent all my time alone in my nice little apartment. But I did well, and I was probably as happy as I get. I published a few papers. I met a nice boy. I passed my qualifying exams. I wrote my dissertation. I went on the job market. The academic job marked requires maaaaad perseverance. Amazingly, I got a job. Once more, I figured out what needed to be done, I did it, it worked.
In 2006, I married my nice boy and moved slightly further across the country to begin my new job. The first few years of an academic job are stressful--constant evaluation, steep learning curve, etc. My progress was reasonable, though. My superiors approved of me. All was well. In 2008, we started trying to get pregnant. My husband had been ready for a while, but I wanted to time things so I could deliver at the end of a semester and use my pre-tenure teaching leave to extend my parental leave and it was all going to be so well-planned. I had my ovulation predictor kit. I knew how to get things done, and pregnancy was just another thing.
It will be 2010 soon, and there's little prospect of a pregnancy any time soon. I've never had a positive pregnancy test. We fall into the "unknown factor" category. We've just had our third failed IUI, all well-timed, all with good follicular response, all with lots of vigorous, shapely sperm. I'm scheduling a laparoscopy for January.
My point is not that my life has been super hard and waaaaaahhh poor me and I'm the greatest for overcoming these enormous obstacles. Like many women in my situation, other than the empty womb, my life is pretty good. I'm early in the IF process. I still have hope. My husband is supportive. I'm grateful for all these things. But like many women in my situation, I'm filled with despair. I persevered. I did not achieve desired results. I can persevere fuck out of this bitch, but I can't make it happen. If I achieve desired results, it will be due to the intervention of my doctors. Not to me. Not due to my work ethic, or my excellent organizational abilities, or my smarts. It's not new to say that infertility robs us of our faith in our bodies and our sense of personal efficacy. But boy, am I feeling it this month. 2009 has sucked. This decade, which should have been an unbroken series of satisfying achievements, has taken a heartbreaking turn.
I'm guessing a lot of infertile couples are thinking back over this decade and this year. I hope the next year brings all of us the desperately-longed-for child we all deserve. I'm thinking of making some fortune cookies stuffed with fortunes that say "you will get pregnant." It may not be true, but neither was "perseverance will bring desired results."