Eli's Corner


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thank you.

It’s funny the things that stand out in your mind as anniversaries. The markers on this meandering road are different for everyone. For me, Halloween was a marker. It was a marker because last year, I was participating in the Pumpkin Smackdown Challenge hosted by Barren Betty and Fertility Doll. I was reeling between disappointments, still in the throes of the battle, and that simple pumpkin carving contest was seriously a lifeline for me. Feeling connected with other women who were in this with me, getting a chance to poke fun at my disease using the pumpkin as a medium and seeing the creativity and genius of fellow IF bloggers as they transformed simple squash into humorous, often poignant depictions of their frustrations, hopes and disappointments. Then there was the added thrill of winning in my category and having a proper certificate and prize mailed to me from another continent. As pitiful as it sounds, that really meant a lot to me. I didn’t feel like I had an awful lot going for me at that point, and it was wonderful to feel seen, acknowledged, and in a way, looked after by other women in this boat.

I was not in a place where I would dare to dream that this Halloween I’d be trying to find cheeky ways to dress up my bitty bump, but that I’d ultimately come home from work and just zonk out because of pregnancy tiredness and skip the parties and costumes, watching the Corpse Bride as a nod to what day it was and getting myself and my peach-sized baby in bed by 9. I still can’t believe that I get to be here.

Thinking back on last Halloween got me thinking a bit about what this community has meant to me. Like many of you, I came here not expecting to find a community but simply looking for a place to vent. What I found was the one place I could be truly honest about how I was feeling, how much I was hurting, how desperately I wanted this, and how weak I was in the middle of it all. What I never found – not once – was judgement. I did not find unhelpful advice or empty assurances that everything would be fine. I only found understanding. Only space to be where I was.

And I found you and your stories. With parallels to my own – stories and lives I could actually relate to. I found hope in all of you – that even if nothing worked as I hoped or planned, I could still be resilient and strong, still me, still awesome. I could grab life – even if only what was left of it – and make it my bitch. Because I saw you doing it. I saw you go through deep and painful things and get up and try again over and over and over. I saw you hold to your faith, to yourselves. I became involved. I saw you hurting, and I hurt with you. I felt your victories just as strongly.

I found the closest thing I’ve found so far to a silver lining. One likes to try to find meaning – anything redemptive in this process – and hearing from people now and again that my working things out on the page had resonated with or somehow helped them made me feel a little better about being in this shitty process.

Now I’m just going all intense here – but I didn’t grow up in a family that was super good at relationships, and belonging doesn’t come easy to me. But I think I found a little bit of home here. And I just want to thank you for the thousand little ways you’ve helped brighten my path and carry my load the last couple of years here. You are luminous, courageous, vulnerable, strong, and deeply maternal – if justice were the dominant force in the world, none of you would be here, but it has been a mercy to people like me to be here with you.

Much love,

Eli

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aaaaaahhhhhhhgggggggggg

With all the money I’ve spent on therapy, you’d think I’d have a handle on this.  I don’t.  Today I am a relationally inept, sobbing moron.

My shrink’s general take is that my mother was a narcissist, meaning that my needs were never important, so now I have this deep cry to have people see my needs coupled with a crippling inability to make my needs known.  I’m not sure what I think about that first part (I’ve always thought she was more inept than narcissistic…but in this book I’m reading, I’m pretty much the poster child for a narcissist’s progeny.  So there’s that.)  At any rate, whatever the reason, I’ve successfully ensured that I have zero support from pretty much everyone in my life except my husband and my shrink.

Ok…not true.  What I don’t have is the support that I want from the people that I want it from.  That’s more accurate.  And today it’s coming to a head.  For starters, I stayed home from church to avoid being asked why I’m not going to a baby shower for my friend’s “oops” baby.  Background: I MC’d her wedding in August, then she called me afterwards to say she was preggers and keep it on the DL…she literally said, “It was one of those ‘first time’s the charm’ things.”  (No, it wasn’t.  You don’t have to say that. Quite frankly I don’t give a shit whether or not you were having sex before you got married, but fuck you so very much for getting pregnant on accident when you didn’t want to.)  That was my internal monologue.  Externally, I said a lot of nice and supportive things and then hung up the phone and wept for an hour.

I contemplated attending her shower, but my DH talked some sense into me and told me I absolutely did not have to do that.  So I didn’t.  But the shower was immediately after church with a bunch of church ladies, so I skipped church.  This is why I’m sitting at home.

Aaaaaand I get a bunch of emails from my sister.  The anniversary of my Dad’s death was a few days ago, and today she sent me all these sobby emails about how her kids will never know their grandfather.  Granted, that sucks.  But guess what?  She gets the chance to know her kids, so that’s nice.  Also, she knows I’m doing IVF and hasn’t reached out to me about it once.  Not once.  Not a word since I told her about it at Christmas.  She’s my fucking sister.  She sucks.  I’m not sure why she doesn’t make any attempts on this front, but she doesn’t.

Oh, then there’s my potentially-but-we’re-not-sure-yet narcissist mother.  She doesn’t know that I’m on the brink of menopause or that I’m doing IVF.  I had planned on telling her when I was down at Christmas, but there was not a moment of genuine communication between us, and I thought, why?  She is a source of precisely zero support – we’ve spoken about my miscarriage on exactly one occasion…months after the fact…and she offered (by way of comfort, I assume) that she thought she might have had a miscarriage once but she wasn’t sure.  So I figured I’d save the energy of bringing her into the loop on this simply because she gave birth to me.  There’s really no other reason I’d want her to be involved.

Finally, (only nowhere close to finally – I haven’t even started on my in-laws or other friends – but finally for what I’m saying here) my SIL, typically very self-involved, has actually been showing some interest and expressing concern about this, so, feeling a need to connect with someone, I reached out to her today and let her know where I was at in the process and that we’d probably know the # of eggs late next week.  There was some promising back and forth about what the process is actually like, and a little sympathy, which was nice.  Then – POW!  “Then they grow up to be snotty teenagers.  Parenting’s really hard for us right now.  You can be praying about that.”  It was the last straw for me.  I’m sick of taking it up the ass and pretending that people’s myopic comments don’t bug me.  I’m sick of the high road.  It’s painful and lonely.  So I struck back: “Well, you have living children, so that’s a bonus.”  Stupid, but whatever.  She, alarmed that the conversation was turning away from her, wrote back about what their emergency actually was…and she begged me not to tell anyone so I won’t. But seriously. I’m sure it seems big to them, but it’s basically a teenage rite of passage and they need to calm the hell down.  I haven’t written back, because I can only think of dismissive things to say.

I think with this post I’ve officially crossed the line and will now never be able to make this blog public.

I’m angry and sad and lonely and hopped up on a lot of drugs right now.  I’m terrified that it won’t work and terrified that it will.  Work is stressful, life is hectic, and I am barely holding on.  I wish people could understand that without me having to say all of that point blank and begging them to pretend that my shit matters for 10 minutes.  I probably need to work on being vulnerable – but I’m afraid I might actually be surrounded by particularly shitty people.  Of course, children of narcissists tend to think that they’re surrounded by particularly shitty people.  So I probably need to work on being vulnerable.  Some other day.  If I try today, I’m just going to piss everybody off.

****Update*****

My SIL apologized for being insensitive.  Unexpected.  Impressive.  I also apologized for being insensitive, we are now both back to trying to be supportive, and I shall remove her from the List of People I Shall Never Trust Again.  (Can you see what it’s like to live in my head?  Exhausting.)

My mom still totally sucks, though.

Look at that.  I’ve made it through another day.


6 Comments

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.


8 Comments

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.


7 Comments

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.