Eli's Corner


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5 Things I’d Really Like People With Kids To Know

It always feels strange to post when you haven’t for so long, but I just wrote this big long comment on a Huffington Post article entitled “5 Things I’d Really Like People With No Kids To Know” (I know, why – WHY did I even click on it?  I think I genuinely thought it might be something other than it was, but it wasn’t).  It’s an unoriginal “kids are such a pain” rant – directed at people who don’t have kids.  This woman has a massive blind spot.  When I went to submit my comment, I realized that you have to sign over all of your personal information – via Facebook  (and you likely already know my feelings about Facebook) – in order to comment.  So I didn’t.  But now I have this comment that needs to be…commented.  Unfortunately, none of the people who need to see it will see it.  Oh well. Universe, here are my thoughts:

As a woman who has tried and failed for years to bring a child into the world, I’d like to give 5 gentle reminders to people with kids:
1. Every time you look at your child and see something of yourself or your partner, please be overwhelmed.
2. If you ever have the opportunity to go to an ultrasound appointment and hear a heartbeat, please be blown away.
3. I’m sure it’s difficult, but on those nights when your kids are keeping you up, please hold them close, listen to those cries and give thanks that those lungs are healthy, that this child is breathing, and of course, that this phase will pass.
4. I’m sure you miss going out, but let me assure you that while cocktail parties, travel and fine dining are nice, they feel emptier and emptier with each passing year that your arms remain empty.  So please look at those little reasons you can’t go out, and try to imagine life without them.
5. Consider your audience, and please be mindful when complaining about parenting to people who do not have kids that there is a good chance that their hearts have been breaking day after day, year after year to have these problems.  And maybe rein it in a little.

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apart from this, i am

I spend a lot of time on here talking about who I am in the context of infertility, loss, endometriosis, chronic pain, a floundering career and various other issues. I appreciate this space, because I feel like it’s the one place where I can be as honest as I want to be about all of that.

But today, I’m doing something else. I’m taking some time to think about who I am independently of all of those things – as well as past pain and personal hangups –independently of any thing I would call an “issue.”

It’s so easy to identify with the hard things, and sometimes so hard to remember what’s left. So I just sat down and started writing a list, with general, timid terms at first, but they became a bit more confident and specific as the list progressed. Just for kicks, here it is:

So who is Eli, apart from all of this?

She loves to laugh.

She finds people interesting.

She’s compassionate.

She can be thoughtful.

She can be fun.

She’s good with words.

She doesn’t like conflict, but she enjoys a good debate (as long as nobody’s getting hurt or being super obnoxious).

She feels like culture is mostly crazy, and she wants to talk some sense into it.

She longs for truth.

She loves stories.

She loves to sing, mostly in private – although for a couple of years she sang lead in a heavy metal band because some boys at the high school where she worked as an administrator were looking for a lead singer for their band and asked her (possibly as a joke). She shocked them by saying yes. She always wore heels and a grey pantsuit when performing. The band achieved legend status.

She is the friend who will pay full price (even though she’s currently out of a job) to join you, your daughter, your unstable, recently-bereaved mother, and your alcoholic grandmother on a 2-week cruise when you have been ditched at the altar two weeks before the wedding and can’t get a refund on your honeymoon. She will go on that trip and sit in the middle of all that crazy with you.  She will sneak away with you to pound tequila shots.  If you eat 3 desserts, so will she.  She will even sing cruise lounge karaoke when you ask her to.

Frivolous beauty brings her joy. And makes her cry.

Mistreatment of the weak makes her angry. Like mama grizzly angry.

Sometimes she writes letters to celebrities she thinks are screwing up their lives and offers to let them come stay with her for a couple weeks. She thinks she could help. They never write back.

She likes nice things. And she likes to give nice things away.

She likes being around small children. She likes the purity of their interactions with the world, having not yet learned to stifle and mask everything they think and feel. She feels that children and very old people are lucky in that sense. They get to say exactly what they think.

Sometimes, she can be wise.

Sometimes, she can be funny.

Sometimes, she knows exactly what to say or do in a tough situation.

She believes people matter. She feels that especially young girls don’t know that they matter nearly enough.

She will stand in the path of a violent, heavily drugged man on the street (even though she’s very much expecting to be hit) because she doesn’t want to live in a city where people can be brutally attacked by a stranger in broad daylight and have their attacker walk away unencumbered while fifty spectators step aside to let him pass. She, in her heels, slacks and fluffy sweater, will be the one person to calmly stand in his way and tell him that he does not get to run away but must stay here and deal with what he has done. And for some strange reason, he will listen to her.

She’ll buy a homeless woman lunch because she really wants to buy her flowers but thinks it’s a jerk move to give a hungry person flowers and not also lunch.

She has little respect for people she thinks are phony, no matter what position they hold.

She just generally has a pretty low tolerance for BS.

She’s attracted to honesty, even if it’s honesty about unattractive things.

She’s attracted to humility.

She’s always been a sucker for a boy with a guitar, and she eventually married one.

She loves, loves, loves that she gets to see her quiet husband be crazy, goofy, brilliant, irreverent, and just straight up weird in a way that no one else on the planet ever does.

She is reborn every time she feels the warmth of the sun on her skin.

She likes the laugh lines she’s getting, but is not too fond of the sun spots.

Beautiful, clean spaces are balm to her soul.

She roofed houses to pay for college.

Every once in a while, she will embark on a crazy adventure that takes a great deal of courage. She hasn’t done this in a little while, but it’s in her.

She left a good chunk of her heart with a poor family in Argentina who loves her better than most people can probably love anybody.

She can pretty much quote entire Disney cartoons as well as chapters of the Bible.

She does a bang-on southern belle accent.

She thinks she looks good naked, if she’s very honest.

She’s willing to change when she learns she’s been wrong, even if it’s hard.

I kind of like her.

Who are you apart from this? I’d love to know.


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confessional

My sisters, I have a few things to confess to you on this rainy afternoon, the second day of what is approximately my 30th two week wait:

1. I don’t feel like this is going to work.  I try not to admit that to myself, in case the negative thoughts chase the sperm away, or in case I discredit God with my lack of faith, but this is confession, so I’m telling you.

2. I don’t know if I’m as strong as you are.  Some of you have been doing this for ten years.  Some of you have lost many babies. Some of you have done multiple rounds of IVF.  I don’t know how you keep going.  I truly don’t.  I feel like I’m reaching my end here.

3. I’m afraid of IVF.  The doctor has told us this should probably be our last round of IUI.  I was really hoping not to go on to IVF.  I’m afraid of the retrieval process.  I’m afraid of having unused embryos.  I’m afraid of the investment – financial, emotional, and physical.  I’m afraid of taking more drugs.  I’m afraid of getting cancer or having a heart attack because of all the drugs I’ve already been taking.

4.  I’ve come to identify with being infertile.  There’s a sick part of me that feels resistant to let it go.  Not because I like it – I hate every bit of it.  It’s more about other people than me – I feel like if I were to get pregnant now, the agony I’ve been living will be summed up as, “Oh yeah, it took her a couple years to get pregnant.”  Somehow I want my pain to be important enough.  I feel like I want something to show for this which will elicit what I feel to be an appropriate response for how much it continues to end me…which is unfortunate, because the very definition of this is having nothing to show for it.  Getting your pain legitimized in the court of public opinion is, I imagine, a poor substitute for happiness.  But this is confession, and this is one of the slimy things squirreling around in my brain.

5.  I want to complain.  These things aren’t a really big deal, but this is confession, and I want to complain that it took the nurse multiple attempts to get the catheter into my cervix, and I was still hurting a day later.  I want to complain that my tummy is still bruised and sore from all my injections.  I want to complain that the progesterone suppositories make me feel like I hate everybody and everything.  And that they make me feel pregnant.  I want to complain that I have to take a million pills and avoid all kinds of food and drink and duck and weave in conversations all the time to avoid topics that will make me cry.  I want to complain that so much of my hair has fallen out from my thyroid medication that I now self-consciously side-part and fluff it every day.  I want to complain that I’m almost as afraid of being pregnant as I am of not being pregnant.

Enough.  I know you will understand, and I thank you for it.


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the other losses

This whole process puts such an enormous strain on relationships – even the ones you thought were unshakable. In the past month, I’ve gone through this with my two closest friends. It’s brutal. I think these friendships will emerge intact, but they will be changed.

H2 was my maid of honor, and I was hers. She had two miscarriages in the past couple of years, and she was a tremendous support to me in mine. This last pregnancy she had was fraught with difficulty, but her baby made it. He’s been in the NICU for about 3 months, and he’s still not ready to go home, but he’s defied all the odds a baby born at 24 weeks faces and is (in my mind, anyway) a bona fide miracle child.

I know it must be so hard for her to not have him at home, to be able to hold him, feed him, tuck him in at night. I’ve tried my best to support her. I found a place online that sells micro preemie clothes and sent her some. In those early days, I wanted her to have something that was specifically for THIS child, not potentially for some later child who might have better chances. As weeks went by, though, it became less clear how to be supportive, but I made my awkward attempts. We live in different countries, and we communicate mostly by text now, so it’s not like it’s been in years past. Somewhere in there it all blew up. I got a cutting message from her that I was saying the wrong things. I was livid, as I felt like I was giving her the best I could and had been sucking it up forever that she was telling me the wrong things.

At the end of the day, after a few explanatory emails were exchanged, what I think is that we were each giving each other what we ourselves needed…in my case, it was acknowledgement. I was working hard at demonstrating to her that I understood that what she is going through must be so painful. I even felt like acknowledging this was an expression of love to her, a sacrifice on my part, because, despite all of this, she has not one but three living children. And this last little one, who looked for all the world like he wouldn’t pull through, is actually going to make it. I feel like she’s incredibly fortunate, even though this is hard. I’ve never had a living baby out in the world. I don’t know what it’s like. So I tried to imagine what it must be like to have your baby be alive but not with you, and to sympathize. But she was well in touch with the hard part, and she didn’t need to be reminded of it. My efforts were only rubbing in her face what was already so difficult.

She, meanwhile, was giving me what she needed: hope. Looking at the bright side. Focusing on what’s going well. Telling me things are not that bad, that they will get better. But what she doesn’t understand about what I deal with is that I don’t have a baby in the hospital that I can post pictures of. I don’t have a single thing to point to to say “this is why I hurt.” I have an invisible disease, and I have an absence. People don’t relate to those things. They don’t remember them. Or if they do, they just have no idea how to talk about them. So nothing is said and nothing is done, and the world marches on. What I actually don’t need is for people to look in the bright side. I just need someone to sit in the dark with me.

So while my heart is crying out for someone to please acknowledge that what I am experiencing is real, she is making light of it. And while she is desperately needing to look forward to good things, I’m harping on the hard thing. And we’re both busy and exhausted and keeping our heads above water and accidentally hurting each other while we’re trying to help.

We emailed back and forth and settled it at this: We love each other. We’ll sort this out. Later. We’re too maxed out with our respective situations and our life circumstances to sort it out at the moment, but we will sort it out. We’re just putting everything on pause. I don’t have to be her cheerleader at the moment, even though I’m trusting she knows in my heart I’m wishing her and her little boy every good thing. And she doesn’t have to be my confidant, but I’m trusting that when the dust settles, we’ll be able to find each other again. I wish we each had the capacity to be there for each other during what are rough times for both of us, but we just don’t.

Then there’s the other friend, the one I was pregnant with – a year and a half ago, we were incredibly close and had everything in common. We worked together, got pregnant about the same time, even got laid off on the same phone call. Then she had a baby boy, and I lost mine. She’s now a full-time mom, and I work with my husband in a field unrelated to the work we used to do together. If we’re honest, we have little to talk about. We try, but it’s hard. I find it particularly hard. I finally had a clear-the-air talk with her about it – because I felt like she deserved my honesty and not some kind of fake pretendy thing where we all act like nothing’s going on. She told me she understood if I needed distance, and she wouldn’t take it personally, but she wasn’t giving up on this friendship. I appreciated that.

She was also a bastion of hope and positivity, bowling me over with her enthusiasm and certainty that I WILL have children. Part of me feels glad that somebody feels that way, because I certainly don’t feel it anymore, but part of me just wants to say, “Here’s the thing –  just because it worked for you doesn’t mean it must work for me – that the score has to be evened out somehow. We might need to live with this dissonance.”

I didn’t say that though, and then she told me my least favorite story – the one about the friend who went to go adopt a baby and suddenly got pregnant. (EVERYBODY has a friend who has that story…don’t even get me started on that story…) I ended up telling her that sometimes closure is kinder than hope.

I realized while speaking with her that I’m not giving up on hope, but my hope cannot be that I will be able to have a child. Because when it comes down to it, the universe does not owe me a child. Neither does God.  My hope has to be that no matter what happens, I will be able to embrace my life. Whether I have my own kids, somebody else’s kids or no kids, I have to believe – even to swear to myself – that I will be ok.  And even though there’s some bitterness now, I have to believe I will be able to adjust and not live in the shadow of what “should” have been.

This transference of hope is, I think, wise. But I also know there’s an element of self-protection in there. Hope makes everything so much harder. But now as I find myself in my fourth (and quite possibly last) round of IUI, I feel a little like a robot walking through the steps. I’ve promised myself I’d take the holidays off if this doesn’t work, so I’m almost just gritting my teeth and holding my breath until I can get a break for a couple of months. But I’m remembering the innocence of that first IUI attempt, how I was wanting to make my soul and my body a welcoming place to host a new life. And I miss that. I want to engage. But I’m so beat up right now.

And the people who have helped carry me in the past are not able to walk this with me now. I’m finding myself praying more, hoping that God will be able to pick up where they left off. Hoping that this works, hoping that I’ll be ok if it doesn’t. Hoping that of all the things that are lost in this process, I am not one.


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linea negra

Once you come up on a year, suddenly everything is an anniversary of some kind.  We were at the park yesterday for my niece’s second birthday, and I kept remembering her first birthday, playing volleyball and starting to black out every time I exerted myself and eventually having to quit (despite the fact that I was over the moon that people were willing to play volleyball).  Sharing knowing glances with my husband because we had this crazy awesome secret.

Yesterday, we headed to the pool at that same park.  Putting on my swimsuit, I looked in the mirror to see that faint shadow of a line connecting my belly button to my pubic bone.  I was taken right back to the first moment I saw that line.  It was a few days before this party last year, and it was the first indication I had that I was pregnant.  I hadn’t tested yet, but I knew once I saw that line appear on my tummy, that something new was happening, and I was overjoyed.

A year later, that line is still there – a physical mark declaring what I have lost.  Most days I resent it.  I feel like it’s taunting me, refusing to let me put this loss away.  But somehow yesterday, I found myself wishing that someone would notice it.  Maybe just for a moment.  As the world marches on around me, I wished for someone to see that this episode that happened so long ago that nobody talks about was, in fact, real.  And my body still carries it.