Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Professor Bunny ina HOOOOOUSE!

Like many of you, I am addicted to reading material in the domain of infertility. And like many of you with online access to journals via a university, I head right for the primary source material. I loves me some Fertility & Sterility, the Official Journal of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine! I get the alerts when a new issue is coming out and everything, so I can make sure to read papers such as Estrogen and progesterone receptors in smooth muscle component of deep infiltrating endometriosis. (Um, yeah, not so much on that one.) But despite my desire to avoid unreliable information, and even with all my training as a social scientist, I find that I am still susceptible to a basic flaw in human cognition: we tend to look for evidence that will confirm whatever it is we want to believe. Psychologists have labeled this the confirmation bias, and suggest it's part of a family of principles in human thinking. These principles are adaptive in the sense that they allow us to reason quickly, and don't lead us to be eaten by tigers all that often. I mean, if you encounter a tiger, it's better to believe that all tigers will eat you than to believe that every tiger you've encountered thus far will eat you, but perhaps this next one won't, and you should really test your hypothesis in a way that might allow you to falsify it. So while these principles may not lead to accurate reasoning, um, humans don't reason accurately. And yet we do pretty well for ourselves.

So lately the confirmation bias has manifested itself in a somewhat...selective...approach to reading on my upcoming surgery. Basically, I'm looking for things that will convince me my fertility will be radically improved. That I'll instantly have a hundred fat, happy babies. There are plenty of papers with small numbers of patients that present encouraging figures (e.g., in the year following the surgery, 40-70% of women conceive, with age being the major factor that improves your prognosis). Buuuut...there almost no studies where the entire participant population consists of infertile women or women with recurrent loss. So there's no causal link between the surgery and improved fertility. (Because women who conceive after the surgery might have conceived anyway--they weren't infertile.) In addition, there are several review papers on the surgery that present a more discouraging picture. These are papers that summarize and evaluate lots of other papers, rather than presenting new research. And they are much more cautious, pointing out that many of the encouraging studies are, to use the scientific term, crap. Anways, guess which ones I like to read? I repeatedly find myself looking at abstracts that end with an encouraging conclusion--those papers I download and read. But the abstracts that end with a discouraging conclusion--those I pass by. 'Cause I don't want to learn. I don't want to know the truth. I want data that will confirm what I want to believe.

Fortunately, in my case it doesn't matter whether the surgery helps or not: I can't have IVF without it.

And at least today I found a paper with COLOR PHOTOS of the procedure! Really cool! It shows the different sutures used for different layers of the uterus and everything! Perfect lunchtime reading.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Frocks and mocks

Frocks. I bought a new spring frock last week in one of those pathetic efforts to feel good about myself. HA! It's super cute, as I'm sure you'll agree, but it did make me wonder: How much longer can I get away with wearing girlish dresses? (Let's just assume for the sake of argument that I currently still CAN.) And, more important, How will I know when my time is up? I like to think I have a pretty good mutton-dressed-as-lamb-o-meter, but presumably all those scary fifty year olds wearing low rise jeans think the same thing. My husband is no help. He's never yet told me that something looks terrible on me (though many things do!), so I'm left trying to discern some gradation in the level of enthusiasm with which he says, You look nice! Nor does it help that I spend my time surrounded by undergraduates, thus have a distorted sense of the age/fashion relationship. Maybe this is one of those things that's mysterious until it happens to you. Like one day I'll wake up and just know in my heart it's time to start buying elastic waist pants.

Mocks. I was searching the interweb for myomectomy success stories (as one does), and stumbled across the following:

hi i had a myo in [year] and now im pregnat wid my 3rd child unexpectedly so it is possible.
Okay. Guess what. You don't deserve to be pregnat wid anything. Sorry to be so judgmental, but seriously, you suck, total stranger who I'm sure is a good and lovely person. You already have kids! Plus, you are capable of becoming unexpectedly pregnant! And most important, you can spell unexpectedly, but not WITH. Or PREGNANT! (This from someone who finds at least one typo in every post the moment after she hits publish, but let's not focus on that.)

Hi, I had the myo in [year]. I am 34 and now a full week late for my period. I hope I'm pregnant, but wanted to know if anyone had any similar experience.
Let me chime in here. No, thus far I have not had the experience of being 34, though I expect to soon. I have also not had the experience of being a full week late, but...TOP TIP: pregnancy test. I have most definitely had the experience of hoping that I'm pregnant. Hope that helps!

I'm so lucky to have found a community of people with not only a mastery of English but also an understanding of how to resolve the question of whether or not they are pregnant. I clasp you to my overly-youthfully-dressed bosom!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Feeling like shit is AWESOME

As a number of you reminded me, surgery is a positive step forward. (We assume. If I end up with a hysterectomy, perhaps we'll change our tune.) After all, lots of you don't ever get to do anything, or have to do the same thing over and over, with decreasing faith that it will lead to a cooing, gurgling baby. So instead of dreading, I'm trying to look forward to the surgery. I'm trying to appreciate the fact that there is an action I can take.

Unfortunately, being appreciative has never been my strong suit. Somehow, the line of thinking that goes I'm so fortunate. I've got my husband, my career, my house etc. just makes me feel like I'm being denied my right to bitch and moan. I think it's lovely when I read about other people having moments where they feel gratitude, or where they can resolve not to let IF take over their lives. I can appreciate those feelings on a logical level. The same is true when it comes to appreciating my fairly good prognosis. I am, at this point, still in the Fairly Lucky IF pool. But instead of being hopeful, I just fixate on the fact that lots of women with my basic profile never cross over to the baby side. Many never know why. It would be hubristic to assume it's just a question of time for me. So taking a positive attitude is very...difficult and uncomfortable.

Also uncomfortable is my ENTIRE BODY. I feel like absolute crap. Of course I know it gets way worse that this if you have endometriosis or are doing an IVF cycle. So I'm going to whine about complaints that are, yes, fine, trivial. (Also, I'm covering BFB's class tonight, which meets in the superfine 5:30-8:15 slot. Great for pregnant women / new mothers who need flexible schedules, not so appealing for people who want to crawl into bed at 7:30. This is making me extra crabby.)

I've gained five pounds since Friday. This does at least explain why my abdomen is so attractively DISTENDED. Sexy. I'm brain dead because of interrupted sleep. I can't tell if it's the hot flashes waking me up, or if I'm just waking up and then by body figures, hey, let's squeeze in one of those hot flashes she likes so much! I've had back pain pretty much my entire adult life, but it's extra bad these days, and I even had a massage on Saturday. (Which was lovely, but won't stop me from complaining.) There's a throbbing pain in my left side that makes me imagine horrible things happening to my ovary. And now my knee hurts. How totally unromantic is that?

In short, these are my reasons for not quite being able to hop on the happy train. (It's hard to hop on a train with a bum knee.) But I am trying! Surgery! YAY! Can't wait! If nothing else, it should put an end to the hot flashes.

Friday, March 26, 2010


Yesterday spring was poised to spring. Daffodils were budding, ready to release their blooms. The few remaining Canadian geese on the lagoon outside my office were looking at each other sheepishly. I don't know guys...should we head out? There seem to be a lot of DUCKS around all of a sudden... All this, in combination with my hot flashes, made it seem like I'd be ditching the winter coat any day. But last night it snowed. Today, walking to work, I felt like my face was going to freeze right off. And, gloriously, my day began with an ice pack to the ass, followed by my second Lupron shot. It feels kinda burny, this time. But maybe that's just my ass thawing. Like the frozen earth. Preparing to bring forth new life. Not like my ass. I hope. That would be bad.

So, now comes the time when I begin to freak out for reals. What if there was some miscommunication and I'm supposed to do another month of Lupron? (Don't tell me I could resolve this fear with a call to the office. I know that. And I just confirmed the plan with the nurse this morning. Yet I continue to worry.) I admit to being quite scared about the surgery itself. What if something goes wrong? What if this decision is something I'll regret all my life? Plus, I'm scared about little things, like the fact that I've never spent a night in a hospital before. What will it be like? And what if the recovery is unbearably painful? Let alone all the fears that will arise once I'm through the worst of it and facing six months timed intercourse and negative tests... And don't tell me I could get pregnant. I don't believe you.

I might be extra distraught and pessimistic because of the couple in the RE's waiting room today. The woman came up to the window and cried out ever so loudly, I HAD TWO POSITIVE TESTS THIS MORNING! The office manager congratulated her...blah blah blah. They plunked down next to me in the empty waiting room and I could feel the excitement pouring out of her, and the happiness...uncontainable. I could feel her efforts to make eye contact, which I refused to indulge, as tears were welling up in my eyes. Every time I go in there, someone is getting a beta blood draw after a positive test. I know that's a good thing. It means my clinic is doing right by its patients. God only knows what this couple had to endure to get to that point. And why should anyone have to be discrete about something so thrilling? Why should anyone have to care about the feelings of others in a moment like that? No one should. But it's still going to be depressing for me.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I appreciate my job, I SWEAR.

Hot flashes seem to be triggered by actual thoughts. Do any of you find that to be the case? Several times I've thought about something embarrassing or upsetting, and HOOOOOOOOT! This morning I was thinking about the way I represent my attitude towards my job in this here online journal. It may seem that I don't value my job, and when I thought about the fact that a few people who drop in regularly are also academics, it occurred to me that this might be the occupational equivalent of those fertile women who complain about pregnancy while rubbing their enormous bellies. HOOOOOOT!

I've got some complex feelings about my job. I've mentioned really not caring about my career anymore, and that's kind of true. But it's also a major source of pride. This weekend my husband and I were spring cleaning the filing cabinet and encountered the file that contains my academic documents. There's my high school transcript, which sports a strange combination of As and Fs. My terrible SAT scores. My crappy-state-university transcripts wherein I show that yes, I can get all As, my transfer to a really wonderful institution of higher learning, my letters of acceptance to graduate schools, my offer letter from Mediocre Institution... And while my job is very hard on me--it involves public speaking and I'm socially phobic, it involves constant criticism, and I'm a delicate flower--I did love it until infertility struck. Then, weirdly, a couple of people said things that resulted in me somehow linking the two. I might have done so anyway, but these offhand remarks really sealed the deal.

1. My father (who then rudely died before I could make him take it back) said: Some people don't get to have everything, and you have a career. Implication: if you didn't have a career, you'd get to have a baby.
2. BFB, when she told me she was going to start trying, and I revealed I was infertile, said: I should get pregnant first because you have a tenure track job. (BFB has been on the job marked multiple times, with no offers.) Implication: her getting pregnant and my getting pregnant are dependent on each other.

As I sit here, writing this instead of combing the NSF website for some source of external funding that will allow me to get tenure, I begin to wonder. Does part of me believe, really believe, that if I abandon all ambition, I'll get pregnant? Is all this apathy I feel actually me sabotaging my career in the hopes that I'll get that baby? Should I quit my job so we can find out?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My it's warm! And I ain't talkin' 'bout the weather.

First, I wanted to thank you all for articulating your thoughts on my last post. There was an awful lot of very beautiful and moving stuff in there and I found it comforting ('cause I'm the one who needs to be comforted, don't you know) and touching. (Twangy's news has since been posted on LFCA--I'm not sure why I felt delicate about outing her yesterday--I mean, how offensive can offers of sympathy really be? Hopefully not too offensive.)

But now I'll try to distract you with some assorted...stuff.

Until today, Lupron had resulted in no menopause-like side effects. Perhaps because the side effects it causes are highly likely to go unnoticed. I mean, mood swings? Like I would even recognize one--my mood has been swinging for at least a year. I suppose if Lupron made me really cheerful I'd notice, hasn't. Anyways, today: hot flashes. I AM SO HOT.'m actually fine. HOT. Fine. HOT. Just like when on Clomid, they started in the dead of night and woke me up so I could enjoy being drenched in sweat. Mmmmm...feels so good.

Yesterday evening I attended the reception for people nominated for the teaching award I told you about. The university president made a speech that brought tears to my eyes. (Or maybe it was the glass of wine and the fact that I somehow ended up SURROUNDED BY PREGNANT WOMEN. Seriously, they were drawn to me like moons to Jupiter. And stood there, rubbing their bellies with glazed looks on their faces.) She asked us to think back to the person who'd made a difference in our lives, maybe set us on the path to academia. The person who inspired us, encouraged us, led us to believe in ourselves. Now you are that person, she said. Weeeep! I guess those are the moments that help me when things seem so dark. The knowledge that just by showing a little enthusiasm at the right moment, you can genuinely make someone's life better. Of course, I'd rather have a baby than make people's lives better.

Another thing that makes me feel better in times of sorrow is...squirrels. I love squirrels. Below is a photo taken from my office window. As you can see, there's a wonderfully tall tree that stretches all the way up to the sixth floor. And it brings the squirrels to me. After posting yesterday, I looked out my window and watched a squirrel sitting on a branch so far above the bustling world, buffeted by wind, just going about its life. The sight brought me a little peace.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Me and God

I just discovered that a well-loved fellow traveler seems to be on the path to miscarriage. The heartbeat is gone at 10 weeks. Amid all the thoughts, this one kept recurring: I'm glad I don't believe in God. If I did, I'd struggle so mightily with understanding how He could subject a good person to this experience. It would seem like such a complete betrayal. I'd feel that He was so unloving.

I hope so much I don't offend anyone by expressing my thoughts on this subject. I know it's a touchy one. I have great respect for people of faith. In fact, I was not always an atheist.

When I was four, my parents divorced and my mother moved us to a tiny town in northern New Mexico. She decided we should become Catholics. She grew up Catholic, though she had morphed into a sort of pagan by the time we were born, so for her it was partly a return to the fold. But I think her main motivation was not a resurgence of her faith but a desire to avoid complete social ostracism. Everyone else in town was Mexican, Spanish speaking, and Catholic. We were the only non-Mexicans within a good 50 mile radius. (In case you object to my use of Mexican rather than Hispanic, this is how they referred to themselves 'cause they traced their lineage from Mexico, not HispaƱola.) To be white and not Catholic would have been too much, I think. So we were baptized. My mother even managed to find me a gay godfather, which is pretty awesome given that the population of the town was about 300.

Church in this town was a remarkable experience. The tiny church was decorated in what asshole academics like myself would refer to as folk art. It was beautiful. Mass was in Spanish. I still remember the prayers and say them to myself sometimes. I particularly love the second half of the Hail Mary: Santa Maria, madre de Dios / Ruega por nosotros, los pecadores / Ahora y en la hora de nuestra muerte, Amen. Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Very goth.

I was a dedicated Catholic. I was always searching for Grace. Apparently I was quite a little martyr, too, always wanting to sacrifice things to show my love for God. But my faith disappeared when I was about 10. I don't know why, but I no longer believed. I remember crying because I realized I'd never see my father in heaven--that once he died, it was over. I don't expect my faith to come back. I am also angry at the Catholic church for many of its teachings. It seems to emphasize shame and guilt so much, rather than love and kindness. But my goal is not to criticize the church, simply to say that I've had the experience of faith, and I've had the experience of no faith.

If you do believe, how do you draw strength from God? I know the standard line: you tell yourself that you are not always able to understand His plan, that you just have to give yourself over to Him. But there must be more to it than that. If you are willing to share your experiences, I would find it helpful to hear them. Maybe it's not something that can be put into words.

And if you are not a person of faith, what do you do in your darkest hours to comfort your soul?

Monday, March 22, 2010

A wonderful day filled with unicorns and flowers. Oh, and a rainbow.

If that title led you to expect a cheerful post, this must be your first visit. Go away. You won't like it here.

At today's department meeting, my colleague with the pregnant wife held forth on the topic of How Terrible His Life Will Be When the New Baby Arrives. Now, I kind of hate this guy already. He's really loud and aggressive and British. The latter feature is not a reason I hate him--in fact, I'm one of those creepy Americans who loves British things. But that way you can imagine a really annoying British guy. He loves to say patronizing things to me, perhaps because he's older, though he's a year behind me tenure-wise. Or maybe just because he's an asshole. Hard to say.*

(I also feel compelled to note that he's just emerged from a terrible cancer scare with one of his two young boys. The child was really dreadfully ill, though seems to be okay now. So I'm a bastard for talking smack about someone who has been through what I can only imagine to be one of the most hellish experiences available to humans. Okay, did my karmic duty, now back to hatin' on him.)

This guy has an enormous house (seriously, it's got multiple WINGS), a wife who doesn't work so is presumably free to do some occasional childcare, plus a nanny, and a housekeeper, and all the other fixin's of life with oodles of cash. So while I know that a new baby is a tiresome object, I can't imagine that he's really going to be all that put out. At least, not compared to the average person. Meanwhile, the moaning and kvetching quickly spread to other people with kids. Oh, yes, how terrible it is to be a parent! Soooooo glad that part of life is over! I wanted to run screaming from the room. Usually I can brush that kind of thing off, but today it really got me. It's so grey and cold and crappy here, and I just feel hopeless. This surgery, which is still a million years away, isn't going to help. IVF won't work. I'll die childless. Hopefully as soon as possible. That kind of day. Plus, just as I was feeling grateful to Lupron for sparing me a period this month, bleedy bleed bleed. This shit is awesome.

So, um, I'm going to go buy four or five candy bars from the vending machine and eat all of them very rapidly.

*I realize it may not be the smartest thing in the world to post rude things about people in my department, but I'm just gonna cross my fingers and hope he never gets wind of it. I mean, my main reason for attempting anonymity (other than to protect my husband, who is not interested in people knowing about our deal) is so I can talk smack about my job and friends, so I can't hold back, can I? I just operate on the I observe your privacy, you observe mine principle. 

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Fuck you, census.

Question 1. How many people were living or staying in this house, apartment, or mobile home on April 1, 2010. Number of people = 02.

Started crying.

Question 2. Were there any additional people staying here April 1, 2010 that you did not include in Question 1?

Box 1: Children, such as newborn babies or foster children.

Full on tempest o' tears.

I mean, I understand the purpose of the census and all, but couldn't you have started with income or education or something that might have made me feel GOOD about myself?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Look at me still talking, when there's SCIENCE to do!

Before his departure, my husband made me a mix CD to keep me company / express his love. I've listened to it pretty much every day, but today one of the songs is making me weep copious tears every time it comes up. Normal people would be like okay, that's a song alright, but it mentions cake, and cake is very important in our household, plus it mentions doing science, which is a phrase in our household as well, usually making fun of things that are not science. (For instance, there's a famous example of research misconduct in which a guy drew some spots on a white mouse with a pen and pretended he'd successfully transplanted skin from a black mouse. Doing science!) So anyway, lines like I've experiments to run / there is research to be done  = WEEEEEEEEEEEEPING! Certainly I've been a bit more socially isolated than usual, but...what the fuck? There is not anything that poignant about the song. Then I realized...It's the end of my cycle! I'm experiencing PMS! I guess I won't necessarily get all bleedy while I'm on Lupron, but I tell you what, all the normal symptoms are here. It's just funny to go from counting the days until I can take a pregnancy test to being like, why am I so emotional?

MEANWHILE: COCKTAIL TIME! Today Fertility Bartender recommends a cucumber-mint gin and tonic. (Which needs a sexier name. Though definitely NOT cu-m-and-tonic, the first thing to come to MY mind!) Muddle two cucumber slices, three sprigs mint, and 1 tsp sugar in shaker. Add 3 oz gin (Hendrick's if you've got it), 4 oz tonic, juice from 1/2 lime, ice. Shake and strain...directly down your throat. Warning: the effect of this beverage is basically, Aaaaah, this spa water is so refreshing...glug glug glug...oh my, I seem to be shit-faced.

And I bet this would be pretty tasty without the gin, if you're incubating a FETUS or something.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The same old whiney whine

I cooked dinner for BFB and Mr. BFB last night. It was a not unpleasant evening, but BFB has a new baby totin' sling that results in lots and lots of warm, snuggly baby cuddled against her ample bosom, and it just KILLS ME. The infant is also positioned perfectly for lots and lots of top-of-the-head kissing from mama, and she (the baby) also makes lots and lots of adorable, contented snuffling noises. A few of you have suggested that, in your experience, actual baby is easier to take than pregnant friend. On the whole I'm finding this to be true, but OH THERE ARE MOMENTS.

On the other hand, Operation Don't be a Complete Slacker has been moderately successful. I have managed to do something from my list of tasks every day this week, both at work and at home. (Pantry = super clean!) Yesterday I felt...I hesitate to say it...busy. This is primarily because I had a bunch of student meetings which nicely filled in the chinks of my day, but I'll take whatever I can get. Plus I realized I can do things like clean my office or work on revamping my lab webpages using Mediocre Institutions hideous new templates if I can't bear to work on more intellectually demanding items. And next week is my second Lupron shot, at which point I'll be halfway done with menopause! drags on.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Hindsight Game

I recently encountered the blog of someone who is just getting started on her awesome IF journey (by the way, if you know anything about endometriosis, would you mind weighing in on her current question?), and it inspired me to write about something that's been in the back of my mind a lot lately, as I sit here on my ass. Doing nothing.

I'd like to invite you to play The Hindsight Game. To play, you must reflect on your IF journey and fantasize about how it could have gone more smoothly or quickly or whatever. This does not require you to wish that you'd actually done something different. I mean, I trust my RE's logic and am not actually sorry about any of the choices I've made along the road. But sometimes I'm flooded with images of alternate worlds in which I already have a baby because my medical practitioners were just super efficient or something. This game is all about total fantasy and may not work for everyone. And it may just piss some people off--those who have actually been screwed by REs or have had horrible things happen to them. So I hope the idea does not cause anyone pain. Anyways, let me illustrate with my own story.

It's early 2008. (To help with your journey back in time, picture everyone wearing those capri trousers that were trendy waaaaay back then.) Bunny goes into her OB/GYN's office and tells the doctor she's really to get pregnant and wants to know how it works. After explaining what happens when two people really love each other, instead of telling Bunny to come back for a referral to an RE in 8 months, the doctor says, you have fibroids that may interfere with conception. Let's get you a referral to an RE now. Bunny meets with her RE who says she can try naturally for a while, do a few cycles of IUI, or do a laparoscopy. Bunny does the lap. A year of Bunny's life is instantly saved. Bunny has a myomectomy, and six months later, she's pregnant! She goes on to deliver a beautiful girl, who is an amazing prodigy. She solves the Birch and Swinnerton-Dyer conjecture at age five. Then she writes some comic rock operas. She is very kind to her mother and several younger siblings, and is never a hateful and bitchy teenager. She has an extremely happy life, as does everyone else. In the world. Where war and famine have been eradicated, and animals never, ever get run over.

And as a prize for reading this far, I invite you to check out a song I found via the excellent Misfit Mrs., entitled Pregnant Women are Smug. I'm sure it's done the rounds of IF blogs before, but it really made me laugh, and I needed a laugh.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

High jinks in same-sex parenting

Today I heard two things from couples of my acquaintance, and they are only possible in the world of same sex parenting,'s a whole big gay theme over here. The first is garden variety kids are so cute. G., the three-year-old adopted daughter of some gay friends, doesn't understand what mommy means. She hears it most often from her small peers when they are upset about things, as in moooommmmyyyyyyy, Bunny stole my crayons! She thinks it is something you say when you're upset, like, I don't know, FUCK! That totally cracked me up. I want to go around saying mommy when I'm pissed. MOMMY! I stubbed my toe!

The second tidbit may convince you there are worse things than being infertile. Like being stupid. A lesbian I knew in grad school contacted me because she's starting a new job and wanted to ask some questions. In the course of conversation, she revealed that she is pregnant with twins. Her partner, pregnant...with twins. I didn't ask how the HELL this came to pass. I can imagine all kinds of scenarios, but the most plausible ones involve someone being unethical somewhere. I mean, it's got to be IUI at the least, right? 'Cause everyone who has twins has them via ART, right? So there's got to be an RE in there somewhere, and what RE would agree to inseminate both members of a couple? What the FUUUUUUCK!!!!*

I swear, my claim that these people are stupid doesn't just stem from envy that this ho bag gets FOUR babies. Because, honestly, four babies + no partner who hasn't just been through childbirth + new job = nothing to be jealous about. Except babies.

Speaking of babies, have I mentioned how much I HATE waiting around to have a shot at conception? This morning I was trying to trick myself into a more positive view by thinking things like, A year from now I'll either be pregnant or be on my second round of IVF. Since I've lived so much of my life thinking about a year from now (a year from now I'll grad school / finished with coursework / defending my dissertation / going on the job market / coming up for tenure...) this does make the time seem shorter. I mean, I'm already planning plenty of things that will take place a year from now. On the other hand, I know from experience that a year from now I could be in some all new hell. I could be without a uterus. I could be having another surgery. I could be dealing with miscarriage. So I don't mean to tempt the fates by pretending I know what the options are. HEAR THAT, FATES? I guess I just mean...MOMMY! Waiting around to have a chance at pregnancy SUCKS!

*Those of you with more generous natures will probably come up with explanations that totally make sense and don't require anyone to be stupid OR unethical. I'm just a jerk.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Recalled to Life

You may recall that in a moment of stump-clearing-fueled optimism, I toyed with the idea of trying to emerge from grief-stricken hibernation, starting this week. Well, the future has arrived and now I must translate the nebulous plan into action. Yesterday, the last day of my slothful wallowing, it all seemed so possible. I was thinking about the fact that my unsuspecting husband will come home on Saturday to a wonderful new life. One in which I cook dinner again, in which we play card games and do art projects together, like we used to. Have exciting sex! Go out to dinner! Work on our house! A glorious montage of images of the two of us enacting some lame romantic comedy flowed through my head. My home life will be so totally awesome now that the new me has risen like a phoenix from the ashes of last year's self! And this morning in the shower, I did the work montage. Great scenes of me...typing really energetically. My job does not lend itself to good montages, it turns out. But still, it was very inspiring. And yet, somehow, sitting at my desk, the slug feeling is strong in this one. Maybe it's the fact that until my minions finish data collection on the current project, the only tasks available to me are really unappealing. I could read my grad student's thesis. Um, yeah, not really interested. I could work on a revision of a grant that has been rejected twice, and will never, ever be funded. Um. I don't know...not feelin' it.

Okay, I understand that I can't go from total slug to amazing powerhouse just by fiat. I should approach my resurrection as though I am an athlete, training for something. Something grueling and extremely unpleasant. (Which is why I'm NOT an athlete, cause who wants to do grueling and unpleasant things all the time?) I managed to do SOME work today, and if I can go home and do SOMETHING other than watching TV, I'll call that progress.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

What is this human emtion called Happiness?

While I've been alternating between despair and apathy, moderately good things have been happening at work. First, I was invited to be a keynote speaker at one of my favorite conferences. Even though it's a small conference, not one with national importance or anything, my academic friends will understand that this is still a good thing career-wise. The best part is seeing my name on the list of invited speakers next to the names of people who are genuinely important and famous (to the extent that academics can be famous).

Second, I was nominated for Mediocre Institution's award for excellence in undergraduate teaching. I put a lot of thought and energy into being a good teacher, but am NOT one of those teachers everyone loves. My classes tend to be on the hard side. My favorite thing to hear from students at the end of the semester is, I've never worked so hard in my life, but I learned so much! I'm not naturally charismatic, either--in fact, I suffer from severe stage fright that is only now becoming tolerable, but half my brain is still occupied with keeping the terror under control during any given class. In short, I never expected to even be nominated for an award...but I've always dreamed that I might win one anyway. There are a lot of nominees for this one and only one award, so I'm not holding out much hope. Also, the next step is for a committee member to sit in on a class and talk to students, and I'm not teaching, so may not even have a shot. BUT, being nominated is great. There's a reception with the university president and everything.

So, if I were normal, I'd be happy. I'd be like, Things are going well at work! I don't need to feel like shit all the time about everything! And yet, while each of these events did result in a brief moment of enthusiasm, they don't actually make me feel good about my life. I think nothing but reaching the second trimester of pregnancy will. Perhaps not even that. In grad school, I read a paper about the way certain life events alter the set-point for life satisfaction. There was an equation for life satisfaction and everything. The basic idea was that your baseline happiness goes down after certain experiences. Your normal happiness level is just lower. Sort of like developing a tolerance to heroin. I think I might be feeling the effects of this phenomenon. I feel like I got a couple of shots of happiness but they just didn't last like they used to, didn't get me as high. I need to figure out where I can score some better shit.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Slightly less morose (or less ose, as we say in my house)

I ended up compromising: no far away garden center, no manure. But I did go to the horrible, horrible Hom.e De.pot and get the necessities for starting my tomatoes. As long as I have brandywine tomatoes, I don't care about starting other things from seed. Then BFB came over and she told me all about the miracle of childbirth while I sat there holding Jane. I definitely choked back tears a couple of times. There's something about the part where the husband tells the wife how great she's doing that really gets me. I don't quite know why. Maybe I just want my husband to be proud of me.

Also, BFB seems to have bonded a bit more or maybe she's just more relaxed, 'cause she was doing a lot more tender lovin' and kissin' on her baby, and that's a bit hard to watch.

So this morning I attacked some stumps in my yard to burn off a little of my non-energy. Stump removal is extremely satisfying. I mean, stumps are such assholes. They sit there looking hideous and contributing nothing, and when you try to get rid of them, they totally fight back. FUCK YOU, STUMPS! Make way for some lilies of the valley!

Under the influence of the warm sun (it's 60 degrees! 60!!) and the adorable fuzzeh chipmunk that sat on a rock and observed me, I even had a brief moment of vitality. I thought, Maybe next week I can start fresh. Get back into the swing of things at work, spend some of my home time on activities I used to enjoy... But alas, I know from experience that plans to be more productive and lively In The Future should be met with suspicion. 'Cause when the future comes, I'll still be a wet dishrag. But hopefully one with delicious tomatoes!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A pile of shit

A year ago today I was on a plane to California, to see my father. He'd just been diagnosed with cancer. I didn't know what to expect. I felt awkward and scared. My father and I had a loving relationship, but he was extremely proud and private. It's hard to be proud and private when you are extremely ill.

Anyway, I am considering celebrating this happy memory by driving a million miles out to the garden center to buy some manure. When life gives you shit, fertilize. On the other hand, the back yard is still covered with snow, and do I really have the energy to lift heavy things? But if I don't start work on the garden soon, I'll miss my window.

I hate this feeling of malaise. I used to be so damn energetic! Now the thought of trying to accomplish the smallest thing makes me want to throw up my hands in exhaustion. I've been told that when depression makes you feel like everything is a chore, you just have to do things anyway. But I don't understand HOW. Any recommendations?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Yesterday I was reduced to tidying the kitchen cupboards. I'm a neat person so there isn't much fodder for satisfying spring cleaning urges. I mean, I'm not going to attempt anything labor-intensive like painting, so I was forced to make do with lining up all the cans of tomatoes so that their labels matched perfectly, and getting rid of those things that accumulate over the years. For example, the cubeb berries purchased by my husband about five years ago. Sorry cubeb berries, your time has come.

In addition to being tidy, I'm also afflicted with an almost pathological fear of having too much stuff. In an ideal world I'd be able to fit all my belongings in a suitcase (like Cordelia Grey, the PD James character). And not that long ago I could--I once moved house via a trip on the city bus. Good times. Not so possible anymore, what with the multiple sofas. This fear makes me freak out occasionally, and I think I'm having an episode now. Makes sense--there is a definite scent of spring in the air. And I keep thinking about BFB moving across the country and how great a cross-country move is for shedding excess crap. Plus it's been a year since my life started to really suck, and that realization is making me want a fresh start. I yearn for everything to be clean and new and orderly. I wish I could just empty the entire house and scrub everything. I want to return to those blissful days when instead of having a lovely house that is slowly filling up with detritus, we just had a lovely house. I feel Oppressed by my Belongings.

Okay, I know this is not really about belongings. It's about trying to exert control and to recover a sense of hope and energy like the one I had when we moved here. It's about ridding myself of the Cobwebs of Grief, the Dust of Despair, the Cubeb Berries of Thwarted Dreams. I know that if I tear my entire house apart I'll just end up overwhelmed. And my husband would not actually be psyched to come home and discover me sleeping on a nest of torn up newspaper shreds in an empty house. So I'm trying not to let these impulses have their way with me. MUST STAY CALM. MUST NOT GO CRAZY. Perhaps I will alphabetize the cleaning products tonight.

Monday, March 8, 2010

A little journey through time

On Friday my husband left for a two week trip to Vietnam. This week is going to be unpleasant, for reasons I have detailed before. I fear that I will be a genuine crazy person by the time he gets back. You know, hearing voices and carrying a bag of rice around pretending it's my baby. SHHHHHHHH! DON'T WAKE THE BABY! So be prepared to stage an internet intervention if you notice me going off the rails.

My husband's trip is part of a two-year MBA he is almost done with. I can still remember the day he decided to do this program. He'd been accepted and was figuring out whether he actually wanted to do it. He needed to make his mind up as we were about to leave for a conference in England and it would be a pain to send the paperwork in from abroad. It was our first month of trying to get pregnant. He was worried I'd think it was selfish of him or just plain unwise to embark on this plan when we were going to have a baby. We'll work it out, I told him. He ran across the street and dropped his materials in the mailbox. A week later my conference was over and we were doing a bit of traveling. We were in Oxford having dinner after a day of being appalled at the number of tourists clogging the streets ('cause of course we were not mere tourists clogging the streets ourselves) and I was apologizing for being cranky all day. It's just that I can tell I'm not pregnant and I'm weirdly disappointed, I whispered, trying not to horrify the nice couple at the next table. He murmured something comforting that did not comfort me at all. Little did I know how often that scene would be repeated.

A year later, Mr. Bunny suggested that I avoid getting pregnant for a month, because if I did, he wouldn't be able to go on this trip he just departed for. I laughed. If he thought I was going to waste any opportunity to try to get pregnant, he was crazy. And for us, I assured him, perfectly timed intercourse would produce the same result as avoiding getting pregnant. The following month I had my chemical pregnancy and learned that BFB was a few weeks in. Now the trip and BFB's baby have both arrived.

Having bothered to articulate all that, I am now wondering what the point was. Milestones. They suck. This is not news. I guess the following things are emerging from my ruminations:
1) For those of you who have been at this for longer, I'm so sorry. I can't imagine enduring the misery of everything I've been through in my year-and-a-half multiplied by any number at all. Uh, except 1. That I can imagine.
2) I'm still a little stunned that I have to go through this. I think I tend to revisit these events as a way of convincing myself that this is really happening to me. And maybe as a way of explaining to myself why it is that I am SO FUCKING UNHAPPY ALL THE TIME.

Gotta go--Basmati just woke up from her nap.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Tempting fate?

I met my psuedo-niece on Thursday, and it wasn't so bad. I was really nervous about it--I guess I was afraid I'd fall apart completely in some humiliating fashion. But no. BFB (that's Best Friend with Baby--PBF's new title) was very much her normal self, not transformed into some disturbing mommy creature. She was also surprisingly chipper. I guess there's a period very early on where things are pretty easy because the infant sleeps all the time, and then things get a lot worse for a while. Jane was a miraculous little object. When she was sleeping peacefully in my arms her face looked just like BFB's. Then she would wrinkle it up in distress and look just like Mr. BFB. She really is a fairly attractive baby, with a perfect rosebud mouth. BFB got a little teary eyed at the sight of me holding her child. I got a little teary eyed at a variety of things. The hardest part, though, was looking at Mr. Bunny, who had a stricken look of poorly-disguised despair on his face. I think he gets all the hard parts of the experience with little of the happiness. It made me feel extra shitty that my defective system has put him through this. He deserves to be a father.

Meanwhile, I have a piece of baby clothing in my house that I am considering keeping for a child of my own. I know this is a terrible thing to do, and if I am foolish enough to go down this path, I am dooming myself to childlessness. But it's so CUTE! My department had a customized onsie made for BFB with Mediocre Institution's logo and our department name on it. Being in charge of the order, I got two. We've got a colleague whose wife is pregnant, so that was *supposedly* what I had in mind when I decided to throw in an extra. But now I'm thinking of keeping it. I keep having these dreams of photos of BFB's baby in her onesie and my baby in its onesie and how adorable it would all be and...This is a mistake, right? I have to get rid of the thing, don't I? I have to go put it in the copy room to wait for some other baby, don't I?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A rant and a recipe

Here's how I found out about that my best friend had safely delivered her child. E-mail from my husband at 5 o'clock yesterday: How was your day. Me: Okay. Anxiously waiting to hear from PBF. Him: Did you not hear they had their baby?  DID YOU NOT HEAR THEY HAD THEIR BABY? No, I did NOT hear. Turns out that after a mere FOUR hours of labor Jane was born early Tuesday morning, and no-one bothered to tell me. I spent all of Tuesday worried about PBF! My husband knew well before I did (because Mr. PBF posted the news on a site I don't have access to). Okay, I totally get that telling me is a low priority. I mean, who am I going to be mad at? PBF, who spent the entire day asleep? Mr. PBF, in the early hours of fatherhood? Uh, no. But LORDY LORD did this exacerbate my fears that I will be excluded from her life and that I don't matter any more. (In addition, I'd asked PBF not to send photos because I was afraid they'd break my heart, but my stupid husband sent one, and I couldn't resist looking. Heart = broken.) So that fucking sucked and I cried my eyes out. But later I exchanged a few e-mails with PBF that made me feel a lot better. I was reminded that she's still the same person, and while things will be different and I'll have to be patient and not a selfish asshole (a major challenge for me), she's not going to abandon me. I just need to repeat that to myself every fifteen minutes. She's not going to abandon me.

So after all the weeping I was like, I NEED A DRINK. I happened to have a grapefruit in the house so I attempted to recreate a drink my husband had while we were in New York (and that I had only a tiny sip of, to protect the nothing-at-all in my empty uterus). The drink is called an Ear.l Greyho.und, and consists of earl grey infused vodka and grapefruit juice. I tried 2 parts grapefruit and 1.5 parts earl grey infused vodka (that is, about three oz vodka with a couple of tablespoons of loose leaf earl grey, left to sit for a few hours) plus a splash of simple syrup. The result was delicious, though it may not accurately reflect the original. So if you can drink, I recommend it. Drinking in general, but also the recipe.

Finally, thank you for all your kind words yesterday. It was a tough day, and it somehow helped to have people telling me that I will be a mother someday. I don't BELIEVE YOU, but I was nonetheless comforted.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

This is HARD

I've commented on the links between birth and death before, but here's a new one. Getting the news that my best friend had gone into labor was oddly reminiscent of the night my father died. As on that night, my husband was out of town and I was feeling wildly emotional. I was looking through my photo albums and reliving all the things PBF and I have been through together. I have one whole album devoted to our trips to the goth clubs of San Francisco. And because our fields overlap, we've traveled together to conferences many times--Canada, Spain, Poland, Italy, various places in the US... I met my husband at her wedding. (The photo below is from the wedding--there happened to be a black and white photo booth in the place where she got married. I figure it's overexposed enough that no one could possibly recognize her [on the left], but if you happen to know her, um...don't rat me out.) A few years later, her husband was the officiant at my wedding.

So there I was, thinking about how it's totally Bunny + PBF 4 evah, and I got her text. Just like the night I got the phone call telling me my father had died, I was absolutely overwhelmed with the most complicated brew of emotion. Just like that night, the most noticeable component was grief. I feel like it has two distinct flavors, though. The first stems from my situation, my fear that I'll never have this experience. The sense of being left behind because she's gone somewhere I may never be able to follow. The misery of watching life pass by while I stand still. But the second stems from the loss of our friendship as it was. I know I have a big reaction to major transitions both in my own life and the lives of those around me, so it's partly just that I don't like change and get quite upset when it happens. But I also had an acute sense that while I may fantasize about hanging out with them and being part of their lives, they are now a family in an all new way, and I am an outsider in an all new way.

When my father died, I also felt happiness. He'd been suffering, and I was able to feel joy in the thought of his release, and in the recollection of his amazing life. I bet there's a lot of joy to come if I can accept this change and adapt to my new role. I'm just a bit broken at the moment.