Monday, December 15, 2008

Happy Blogiversary! A year in review

Just as I was contemplating my battle with time in the last post, I realized it's been one whole year since I started my blog. Yes, it's my blogiversary! As I created my video "year in review," I see that when and where I began this blog is in some ways exactly the same as now, in that I have no baby, but in other ways completely different. I have more losses behind me. I have endured more disappointment and more fears come true. But I also have come to see myself as courageous. I have started on a new track with surrogacy and I feel that I am on the final road. It's close. Whatever this conclusion is, it's close. I don't kid myself anymore in thinking that the next IVF will work on me. That dangling carrot has been cut and I now seek greener pastures with third party help. Yes, H-E-L-P. Bringing in a gestational carrier and potentially an egg donor or adoption is the last phase of this journey and I believe that one of these will be my answer. 

So I thank all of you who have followed me over this year and continue to support me on this next cycle with my gestational carrier. Whereas last year I bitterly made IVF Christmas cards, [some of my favorites below:]

this year I've been able put aside some bitterness and look forward to 2009. I look forward to it because I know in my heart that this journey is going to end. I won't beat a dead horse. We will move on quickly to the next option if it doesn't work. I am just keeping my eye on the end, the finish line, the credit roll. On that note, I am wishing everyone a joyous and IVF stress free holiday and a blessed new year!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Time Capsule 2018

Time hasn't been a friend to me. Time didn't let me meet my true love and marry until I was 33. Time let me waste at least three years at a job I was unhappy at. Time let me fool myself into believing I could get pregnant in my mid-30s. Time let three years of trying to conceive slip away like greasy slimy eels. Time continues to deceive me on a regular basis, moving at lightening speed - aging me and my eggs - but then hitting the brakes for those ripe moments of waiting for betas to double or decline... waiting for your next IVF cycle... waiting for the heartache to stop... waiting for a god damn baby. So "Father Time" has been a real smart ass with me, playing with the forward and rewind buttons of my life with that "nanny nanny boo boo" taunt also known as "hurry up and wait." 

A couple months ago a friend of mine opened up his 12th grade time capsule. Enclosed he found remnants of his life as a teenager about to embark on the next stage of his life. He enjoyed this unsealing of the past so much that he sent a request to friends encouraging them to create a time capsule for 2008 that would be opened 10 years from now in 2018.

So I decided to play a little game of tag with Father Time. "You're it!" I say and see how fast you can catch me. Will it be 2018 before I know it? Will the ten years be a slow melodic dance or will I just be doing some aerobic hyper-speed-Flashdance-"She's a maniac"-running step the whole time? 

So I started to piece together my time capsule. I had my usual crafty fun making my collaged box to hold these precious elements of my present that will be buried for the future. Wrapped around the box I made a paper seal that I will break in 2018. But now that it's almost the end of the year, I'm having to finalize its contents to prepare for the final sealing. Among many things you are suppose put in this capsule, like letters from friends that you will open 10 years later, you also have to write a letter to yourself. Everything else required to put in the time capsule I can get done, but I've been really sitting on that letter to myself. 

Writing a letter to me, myself and I to be read 10 years from now somehow scares me. I am scared of what I will be in 10 years. I'm afraid to talk to that 47 year old self, imagining her from my current 37 year old miserable childless state. Do I hope, dream, and assume in the letter that by 47 I will be a mother? What words can I say to myself with the expectations that all this pain has made me blossom into a person I actually like at 47. But what if I open the letter at 47 years old and I am not a mother? What if surrogacy fails, donor egg fails, and for some insane reason I can't adopt? I feel like I have to put a footnote in the letter saying, "Well, if your worst fears have come true and you are still not a mother at 47, I guess all I can say is that sucks ass. We tried our best, and boy you must be so incredibly depressed right now reading this letter." The truth is that I am really operating these days like a shell of who I was 3 years ago, so I guess I am not sure what sort of monster I will be in 10 years if none of this pain and effort got me anywhere. But I know, I know, I know, that's so negative and defeatist. So hence, I'm stuck with not being able to write myself a letter. 

I'm hoping I hit a more inspired moment in these last weeks before 2009. I want to tell myself that I believe within 10 years new beginnings can happen. I want to really believe all this waiting will come to something. But there are so many times I feel like giving Father Time the finger for really fucking with my head, so much so that I am now afraid to hope for my 47 year old self. I am trying to convince myself that despite feeling like a stagnant lump through infertility that something has to be changing within me, in fundamental ways, that will someday reveal itself. I read that poem "The Wait" by Russell Kelfer and whether you believe in God or not, it did bring comfort. Especially this paragraph:

You'd never know should your pain quickly flee,
What it means that My grace is sufficient for thee.
Yes, your dearest dreams overnight would come true,
But oh, the loss if I lost what I'm doing in you.

So as I mull over the meaning of my particular wait, I read this poem every once in a while. I listen to "I am waiting" by the Rolling Stones, and I sometimes stare at the dictionary definition of wait. I can see the small nuances, especially in these two that stick out to me: 1. "to remain temporarily neglected or unrealized, (the chores can wait)" or 2. "to be ready and available (slippers waiting by the bed)." Most of the time I feel like #1, but I have to remind myself that at the same time I am #2 - I am ready and available, like slippers waiting by the bed.


On the outside
A container—like a coffee canister, lunch box, or shoe box—decorated to project your image.

On the inside (suggested not required)
Your container will hold the following things.
• a list: list the five words or phrases which you say the most often or which are your favorites.
• a sketch: write a sketch of your personality. (What kind of person are you now?)
• a newspaper or magazine: write your own notes and annotations in the margins.
• a page: finish this thought, "If I could change one thing about myself..." Why?
• a list: make a list of your favorite things and/or things that make you feel good.
• a thing: put something in here that you think will be valuable in the future.
• a confession: write a narrative about something from your past that you are a little ashamed of and that you feel guilty about. Tell how and why you did it. Tell how other people reacted to you and what you did.
• a forecast: predict the future. Describe what you think the world will be like when you open this.
• a story: write a narrative about something that happened to you in the last few years that seems important now.
• a scorecard: make a scorecard listing the goals you have for yourself in the next ten years. Record the date you think that you might accomplish this goal. When you open the time capsule, you can score yourself on how many goals you have reached.
• a code: write a code of beliefs for yourself. What do you believe in?
• a photo: include a photo of yourself now.
• a surprise: explain this project to five of your close friends. Tell them when you plan to open your time capsule. Ask them to write you a message and seal it in an envelope. (Your friends could include other things in the envelope, too, if they wanted.) Include these surprise messages in your time capsule.
• a letter: write a letter to the future you. In this letter give yourself advice from your point of view now.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The power of images

I was elated to get an email forwarded to me about the recent New York Times Magazine article "Her Body, My Baby" by Alex Kuczynski. As I read through her very honest account of infertility and surrogacy, it was in many ways like reading my own story. A rush of satisfaction came over me as I thought about the power of the New York Times to inform and educate those who don't know the struggles of infertility and what it means to be an intended parent working with a gestational carrier. 

Unfortunately, I read this article in an email with no photos and no comments. I made the mistake of clicking on the link later on to see the photos of both the author and her surrogate and the 404 mostly nasty comments. Boy, I wish I had stuck to just the text. What was most striking to me was how different the article came across just as text. When I read it I only focused on the voice of this writer, her very familiar struggles with IVF failures, and her choice to move to surrogacy. Granted she was preaching to the choir when it comes to my views, but I felt it finally put that story out there for people to understand surrogacy as a real and wonderful option. But when I looked at the photos and the slew of violent reactions against this story, it made me remember- "Oh yeah, I live in this world, not the infertility world in my brain." I mean who am I kidding, even without the photos what was I expecting?

Countless times I read the words "disgusting," "spoiled," "consumer," "self-obsessed," "shallowness," "disturbing," among many others in the comment section. I didn't see the hard copy version of the magazine, but the two photos posted online are clearly the main culprit. Why choose photos juxtaposing a surrogate who is barefoot and pregnant and an intended mother posed in front of a beautiful home with a black nurse in uniform standing there waiting for orders? Was this some sort of bait to rile up nasty comments - a trap to bring out the worst in people? Or was this a very very ignorant editor who decided on these shots? Was this something the author overlooked or failed to keep watch of? I don't know, but I do know that as an intended parent it's frustrating to see a very honest article paired with photos that reek of classist and racial stereotypes. This was a chance to really give a more human perspective on the subject of surrogacy and perhaps break the countless assumptions people have about infertility and surrogacy, but instead the message got lost. It got lost in the images, lost in the money, lost in what people already want to believe.

So I am terribly disappointed. I had hoped that having a New York Times reporter bring her experience, my experience, and many other people's experiences to such a huge audience might broaden the world's perspective. Perhaps it did on some fronts, but it is still unbelievable the judgements and hatred that this subject brews up in people. I would have thought the author already knew this. I would have thought she'd take great pains to not give off the same old impression that women seeking fertility treatments (or worse choose surrogacy or egg donor) are selfish, rich, obsessed women that have no perspective on the world's struggles. I'd like to believe that she somehow didn't have a say on the photos, but she posed for them so how could she not know? How could she not see what was being created? It's pretty predictable at this point that the general public is happy to jump all over this issue. The fertiles just get self-righteous waving the flag of disgust over this unnecessary "consumption" or the "why not adopt" cries. People roll their eyes at a woman who feels "entitled" to a child. Even parents who adopt commented on the article taking offense to the idea that she wanted a genetic child of her own and therefore she's somehow looking down on adoption. You can't win.

It's strange to me. It will always be strange to me why people think that other people's reproductive decisions are fair game for everyone to judge. I'm not sure what kind of article will erase that ridiculous tendency. But I certainly don't give a shit what position people have sex to conceive. I don't give a shit if you decide to just have one or hundred children. I don't give a shit if you choose to give birth underwater or in the most prestigious hospital you can find. I don't give a shit if you are having kids with your first husband or your fortieth. I don't give a shit if you choose to have a child when you are 18 or 50. I don't give a shit what your church says. I don't give a shit. 

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A ceasefire during Thanksgiving

As we approach one of America's quintessential holidays, I can't help but reflect on where I was last year. Right about now I was finding out that my 2nd pregnancy was beginning to fail. The beta wasn't doubling and the ultrasound was about to confirm a blighted ovum that would bleed out as I sat with my whole family eating turkey on Thanksgiving day. So in a year from that rather thankless day, am I thankful for anything? 

The whole idea of appreciating what I have verses griping about what I don't have has been an uphill battle. The life that unfolded after that Thanksgiving loss didn't get prettier. The months ahead would bring another pregnancy loss - a 2nd ectopic to pour salt on the wound -and then a blur of a summer to conclude with my 4th pregnancy loss. So round and round it goes, where it stops nobody knows. I feel like I've been my own battleground, spitting fire and declaring injustice at every turn for the losses I've endured, and keeping poised on the defense for infertility's potential attacks. So today I'm trying to quiet my war cries for a brief detente with the enemy. I'm not going to dwell on the thankless moments, I'm going to try to talk about the thankful moments: 

1) I've found wonderful women on bulletin boards, blogs, and in New York City who have provided me the support and comradry I've so desperately needed. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

2) My husband still loves me despite me being a pile of negative whiny bitchiness a lot of the time. Oh yeah, and despite that I'm barren.

3) I'm not going to miscarry while eating Turkey this year.

4) After a drawn out mess with bad plumbers and contractors, my two bathroom showers will finally be fully renovated this week.

5) I live in a great space in a great city.

6) Infertility has made me write again. 

7) I've found a fabulous surrogate and we are reviewing our contract with her now. Hope to have it signed by Thanksgiving - that would truly be something to be thankful for. 

In this time of giving thanks, I can't help but also think about forgiveness. In Chris Rock's recent stand up routine "Kill the Messenger," he has this monologue about how the less shit you have, the more shit you can talk and the more shit you have, you can't talk shit. For example, he says "fat girls" are allowed to bitch and rage at the "skinny girls," but if the "skinny girls" say nasty things about "fat girls" then "That's just mean." He's playing on the permission of those in shittier situations to talk shit about those who have it better. Well, in a prior post I talked some shit about a very close friend who got pregnant at the same time as my first pregnancy loss. Knowing full well that I was recovering from an ectopic pregnancy and agonizing over this tremendous blow, she chose to tell me of her pregnancy with zero acknowledgement of my loss. She went the total "I will pretend nothing is wrong" approach which as you all know failed miserably. 

Even though I was honest with her about this major blunder and I wanted to forgive her at the time, truthfully I never have. She's been trying ever since to get back in touch with me and dancing around in her emails to get some info on where I am. I've basically shut her out and I have come to see that I've been subconsciously trying to punish her. In the end, probably no matter how she told me she was pregnant I would have been pissed, depressed, and angry with her for adding to my pain. I know her well enough to know that it probably kills her that she's hurt me and fears that I hate her. And I've kept the wall up - if you have more shit than me than you don't get to hear the gory details of my much shittier life. What could I really say to her? Here she is with a new baby born the same time I would have had my first baby and she's got all these joyous moments to savor. How can I in good faith ask her about her life when I don't want to hear any of it? So I couldn't risk it. I know that there was a bit of revenge and entitlement in the mix too. I felt like I lost a piece of my heart with that first pregnancy loss. Irrationally, I feel like she was part of stealing that pregnancy away from me with her healthy pregnancy.  So I realize the very vengeful side of me has felt like if I have to endure this horrendous loss then she has to endure losing me. It's an ugly feeling, but every time I have tried to let it go the anger wells up in me again.  

I don't want to be, the highly offensive expression, an "Indian giver." I don't want to give and then take it back. I've been struggling this whole time with wanting to give her my friendship, but then also wanting to take it back when I am feeling miserable, spiteful, and bitchy remembering the pain she caused. She recently emailed again and I finally decided to throw her bone last week and open up a chance for her to express herself. She said how bad she still feels about the way she communicated her pregnancy and hopes I don't hate her. I could have walked away and left her hanging again, but I felt really bad and wrote her today assuring her that I know she didn't want to cause pain and that the devastation of the combined ectopic pregnancy and her pregnancy basically put an inevitable barrier between us. I think it was good to get that out again and to let her know that it will just take time to heal. I'm trying really hard to let go.

So I am thankful that I've been able to look beyond my bitterness. No, I didn't disclose details she been wanting to hear because in the end, those are still private. I still feel like it's a story I need to tell her when it's all over. But it was a reminder that the whole concept of the first Thanksgiving dinner was that Native Americans sat side by side to break bread with Pilgrims, the very people who shed blood on and took over their sacred land. So I think I've made my first step, albeit small, toward forgiveness. Though she's still going have to stay on the sidelines until my nightmare is over, I've given my dear old friend a raincheck that one day we will sit down, side by side, infertile next to fertile, and break bread. 

Monday, November 10, 2008

I'm matched!!!!!!!!!!

Dare I say it? It looks like I've found a partner in crime for this IVF circus. Not to slight my dear hubby, but you know what I mean - I've found my surrogate match!! How do you even describe this feeling? 

So did fireworks go off? Did I start bawling? Did we join hands in a jig together? Not quite. I can only describe it as both surreal and sublime. I was of course terribly nervous, but we had seen their profile and they looked so sweet and nice that I knew it would never be unpleasant. The question was whether that chemistry would be there and could she put me at ease with this insane road we are beginning? Could I imagine this woman carrying my baby and feel open and comfortable working with her for those intense 9 months? Could I see myself wanting to stay in touch afterwards? 

Out of respect for privacy I'll refer to her as "A." and her husband as "L." In such a short span of time so much was accomplished. We went out to Chicago this past week for work, to celebrate our 4 year wedding anniversary, and witness the afterglow of an historic election. Timing was on our side that A. and L. live in Illinois and so the meeting could happen this week. The plan was to meet A. and L. for dinner at 6pm outside of Chicago. I wanted to give us a little over an hour to drive out to the restaurant since Chicago's rush hour would be awful and for once I didn't want to be late to a very important meal (my husband and I are chronically late for everything). But of course to our dismay the traffic was bumper to bumper and my nerves starting to flare up thinking - "Damn, they are going to think we aren't good planners and can't even get to dinner on time." We called and apologized for being delayed and I kept saying to myself, "Relax and drive. Relax and drive." We sped into the restaurant parking lot and walked in a half an hour late. A. and L. were patiently waiting for us at a table and there was immediate warmth. I just could tell this would be a nice night. We talked, laughed, joked around. It was lovely and easy. I can say with certainty that she is fabulous. She's warm, positive, sweet, a hard worker, and funny. She's got 3 beautiful kids and has done surrogacy successfully for two other couples so this would be her third time. I am truly in awe of her. What an amazing person to give this kind of gift. She described it as a true "high" for her to hand the baby over to the intended parents. She joked, "I guess there are worse things to be addicted to!"

So for someone like me who can be quite negative, I feel drunk with a faith in humanity. It's beautiful to think that someone could help me out in this way. I have never more needed an injection of A.'s positive attitude. It's hard after being burned so many times to try to get excited all over again. I thought maybe I would be overwhelmed by meeting A. and just lose it in front of her. But the main feeling was peace and happiness. There's a new hope and a huge step in the right direction. Whatever happens, I know I am a little tiny bit closer to getting my baby.  

So what does this all mean logistically? For starters in order to work with her I have to cycle in Chicago. This means a new clinic and RE for me, but the upside is that Illinois is one of the best states to work in because they are so surrogacy-friendly. Technically we are now entering in the contract phase where our lawyer draws up our surrogacy contract that we hopefully will both agree upon and sign. Once that happens we are officially partnered and ready to go! Except for some medical tests and some other logistics we aren't too bad off in terms of moving forward. If all goes well I could cycle with A. in February 2009! Though that sounds far away it really isn't given how the holiday season will fly by. We can get synched up in January and be ready for a February retrieval and transfer. Holy crap, it's time to get healthy again and start doing some egg calisthenics!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Stumbling upon my metaphor

Just had to do a quick posting since I've been in Chicago this week and stopped by the Art Institute of Chicago today. The first gallery I walk into I see this! For my last blog posting I had just pulled a digital version of this painting from the internet because this tightrope walker really spoke to how I feel these days. So it's funny to stumble upon the real thing. I guess the artwork wanted to speak to me in the real physical world or maybe I am just psychic. Just wish I could tell the future when it comes to my fertility, but more news to come soon!

Tightrope Walker, 1885
Oil on Canvas
Jean-Louis Forain (1852-1931)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Walking the tightrope

Every step gets a little more treacherous. How much am I willing to compromise at each step? All I can think of when trying to keep my balance is "Don't look down." But inevitably I always look down. Your legs shake. The fear starts boiling up, and you feel like you are about to fall to your death. As reckless as it looks, in my mind it make perfect sense to keep walking forward. The logic is clear- there's only two other choices. You either plummet down below (and there is no safety net) or try to walk backwards to get off the rope. Both leave me with nothing. So as I find myself intensely focused on my own feet, trying to walk on this tiny thin rope, I forget who might be watching me. What on earth is my audience thinking?

I got a reminder of that yesterday when a friend said something irritating. Instead of cheering me on, it was liking hearing gasps and cries from the audience which only makes you more nervous. I had just explained how I might have a new surrogate prospect and how sick as a dog I have been the past 2 weeks and how my body just feels so worn out. She said, "Are you sure you want to do this and not adoption?" I felt the irritation well up in me, but I just quickly said "No, it's anyway too late to turn back now." I know she meant well. They always do. I know everyone who is spared the infertility hell always thinks adoption is easier. It is so easy when you are in a position of gain and good luck to think - "I would never do that!" 

For the first time in a long time I started to feel like a freak show. Have I reached sensationalist talk show guest status? In this IVF circus, am I the lady with the special tent with the sign saying "Using a surrogate"? I felt like my friend was secretly shaking her head wishing she could say to me, "Stop." She's watching me walk the tight rope seeing how much I am wobbling, fumbling and crying along the way and for what? - Just to get to the other side. 

This is where it becomes so hard to share with friends your extreme fertility planning. It's one thing to do IVF and get support, but it's a whole other ball game when you let people in on the secrets of more alternative baby-making. I realize that even the closest of my friends might pass judgement on me. I realize that my decisions about disclosure are very important now. I need to be careful about who knows our secret life. I am walking this tight rope and the rope seems to be getting thinner and thinner, more dangerous, more frightening, more death defying. Shouldn't I be getting some respect instead of the "You are crazy" innuendos? 

P.S. I know I am suppose to be creating my own art on this blog, but I am borrowing these days since I've been just too tired to be creative. I hope for a new surge of inspiration soon. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Oh surrogate, surrogate, wherefore art thou surrogate?

I am perched on my balcony looking out into the world hoping for her arrival. It's going to be a love story like no other. Who will you be? Where will you live? When will you appear through the trees bringing your light into this shadowed room? I am waiting again.

In our search for true love, there are always the false starts that are disappointing. We came close. A lovely woman from Iowa seemed like a great possibility but with further research we found out that Iowa would most likely require a step parent adoption. After everything I have been through I just don't think I can deal with the hassle of adopting my own child after I finally have the baby in my arms. Aren't I entitled to an end to this madness once I take a baby home? Do I really need to be subjected to a court hearing and a social worker home visit to allow me to adopt my own child when any maniac out there is allowed to have a kid naturally with no approval system? It's just absurd. So we are waiting to work with a surrogate from a state that our names can be put on the birth certificate without having to do any more legal crap to be officially "mother." 

It's hitting me these days how strange this whole thing is. This is truly online fertility dating. I study profiles of women with my requirements in my head but ultimately it comes down to a connection. Of course we want her to be healthy and fertile and honest, but there also has to be that je ne sais quoi about her that will win my complete trust. Everything can look great on paper but until you meet someone face to face you can't feel that chemistry. So as my mind runs away with dreams of Princess Charming, I know that anything and everything can happen with this new relationship. My heart beats a little faster every time I think that soon I will meet her. 

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Good-Bye Family Tree

As I walked down my apartment hallway last week trying to keep the pain of this recent loss from spilling over my entire body and collapsing, I noticed the walls covered by family photos. One side of the hallway is dedicated to my family history and the opposite wall is a portrait of my husband's family. I had made this collage of family photos so long ago because I had this sense of pride about my family and wanted them all close by me. It's like a gallery of darling candid shots of my nieces and nephews, old pictures of my parents as dashing lovebirds, and me and my siblings as cute toddlers. I particularly love the old photos of my grandparents. I never even met my paternal grandparents but I like to look at that old black and white dusty photo of them and imagine who they were in a country so far away. What were they thinking when they stood there staring blankly at the camera? Did those two fresh faces ever expect to die young and have their children eventually immigrate to America to spawn us spoiled brats stuffing our faces with cheetos and watching Brady Bunch? A rush of sadness came over me as a flash of this family history spun out of control in front of me. It all stops here. My husband and I may not continue this family tree. We could be that branch on the genealogy chart that's the dead end. 

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to have a biological child. I've already given up the idea of carrying a child myself and now I've been trying to rethink what my own family could mean. I've been so locked into my past, my own childhood, and my own blood. To top it off my husband is the last male of his family so if we don't have a child, let alone a son, it's the true end of his family name. We all know that in earlier times I would have already been shown the door and 2nd or 3rd wife would be taking over the procreating. So I know why it pains my husband when I mention adoption. I know he doesn't want to really face that he may not be able to continue his blood lines or his great smile. It pains me too. 

It may seem premature for me to give up hope of a genetic child since maybe the surrogacy road will work for us. But I can't help feel that something is probably wrong with my eggs. I've had 4 pregnancies and none of them survived. They don't really know if it's my uterus or my eggs. But I'm not willing to spend another two years trying with bad eggs. I've thought about if I could really handle donor eggs. At least if our child is part of my husband then can I be happy? I think I can. I need this journey to end. I can't do this much longer. 

I've thought about all these options a billion times through the years. But now they are quite real. They aren't in that space in my brain called "last resort." These are my options now. I know it's pointless to keep asking why bad things are happening to me. Every time I get pregnant and I am faced with the limbo of "it could be good or it could be awful," I manage to find an online buddy whose in the same boat. It's always a brief encounter where we find each other in our moment of desperation with similar threats and then sure enough things go well for her and my pregnancy tanks. These women are just blinks. For a split second we have the same prospects of good things and then we quickly diverge. It's weird. Could I really be that cursed? But when I get into the space of feeling like I am being denied, victimized, and deprived of what others get immediately (or eventually) then I fall into deep down basement darkness.

So take the photos off the walls! Reinvent what your future will be. Give up this notion of what family is suppose to be. I'm not going to have a conventional family, period. I won't be able to get pregnant with IVF and then practically be like everyone else (at least from the outside). I am going to have a baby with either surrogacy, egg donor, or adoption. I'll have a couple extra people in the mix who helped give my child life. I know I have a higher chance now of not having a biological child. I will have to get special books and join support parenting groups to make sure my kid doesn't grow up scarred or emotionally freaked out by their birth story. This is more real to me now than ever. I close my eyes and see a couple cute kids running around the apartment that pretty much look like me and my husband. I am trying to get use to them not being biologically connected to me. I am trying to understand the greater love that goes beyond narcissistic pleasure. 

So I painted the hallway walls a light gray. A true blank slate. 

Friday, September 26, 2008

Under Cover IVF

I thought about keeping this one completely under wraps. Somehow if I told no one then it would cease to exist. But as much as I would like to keep my mouth shut, I decided I should at least acknowledge the try. After all my flip flopping on this blog, I ended up trying a fourth IVF this month. The idea was that while I wait for my surrogate match I could squeeze in one last try and by some miracle I could make this nightmare end with a healthy pregnancy. Sadly, this is not my story.

Today I officially have a chemical pregnancy. The cycle itself was a total bust to begin with. We only got 4 eggs and only 1 fertilized and so we transfered a mediocre 5 cell embryo. The day I transfer my lone embryo I caught a nasty ass cold/flu and ended up sick for my entire two week wait. I was assured this would not effect anything, but I knew it was another sign that this cycle was a dud one. Also, that same week of retrieval and transfer we got a call from our agency saying they had some surrogate candidates for us. The last thing I wanted was all of this to converge the same week. We had to decide in a matter of hours between canceling the cycle or losing our surrogate candidates. But luckily our agency was so understanding and said we could finish out this cycle and then decide. Surrogacy was pushing its way back into my life and I had a feeling it was foreshadowing an IVF failure. But some lessons have to be learned the hard way. The story ends with, against all these odds, a positive beta (albeit very low which we all know means trouble). It all happened so fast. The cycle zoomed by in its own disastrous way just as quickly as my one day of pregnancy slipped by. As much as a chemical pregnancy is no picnic in the park, it beats an ectopic any day. So when you've gone through so much loss, it comes down to what type of loss is less painful and you take what you can get. Isn't there some trophy or ribbon for being "Semi-Pregnant" all the time? Who says "No pain, no gain?"My life is all about "pain and no gain."

So I feel this is like some confessional blog posting as I've been keeping this a secret and finally get to tell the truth. I didn't tell anyone but my sister and parents about this attempt. We all know what it's like living with this secret. I can now admit freely that I caved in and fell victim once again to the lure of IVF. I knew the risks and I still did it. But have I become so jaded that this loss means nothing? I don't feel like crying. I don't really even count this one, so have I lost part of my heart already? I don't know what this means but I find that it's unbearable to think about it any other way besides the-IVF-cycle-that-didn't-really-happen. It's like the bastard child kept in hiding. It was just so bad and pointless that I'd like to pretend I never did it. But as much as I would like to sweep this one under the rug, I feel I should honor this brief and somewhat ridiculously short-lived pregnancy.

So after so much bullshit and IVF fiascos, how can I view the universe without total bitterness and hatred? I don't want to be that dismal person who keeps waving a fist up at the heavens with steam coming out her ears. So throwing myself back into surrogacy is the best way to cope. I have to believe that the universe brought these possible gestational carriers to my attention for a reason and that my path, no matter how much I want to fight it, is going to go down this surrogacy road. Instead of picking out names and preparing for a May due date, I am going through profiles of women who will try to carry my baby. Will this ever end?

Friday, August 29, 2008

When You Care Enough to Send the Very Best

I'm not sure what to think about this. Hallmark has a series called "Cards with real words for real life." If you go on their website one of the options is "Help Cope with trying to get pregnant, having a miscarriage or an aging parent." The above card is Hallmark's answer to showing support for an infertile friend or family member. 

Now on the one hand, I see this as a breakthrough in mainstream media to include a card about infertility. It is getting the topic out of the shame closet and showing how prevalent this problem is and that it's okay to say something to an infertile person instead of running for the hills because you are too uncomfortable with it. So I do applaud this. But my first reaction to the card was a big giggle at how cheesy this seemed. Saying it with a hallmark card has never really been my style anyway, but I tried to think hard and honestly about how I would feel if I got this in the mail from a friend. Would I be really happy that a friend thought of me or would I feel like this was a lame way of avoiding talking with me about it?

I'm probably being too harsh because in the end I have a hard time figuring out what I want from people. I really don't want packaged responses from people about my losses or infertility because it makes me want to strangle them. I despise when I sense a person is so uncomfortable with the topic or feel they are walking on egg shells around me. Sometimes I don't want to feel like a freak and don't want people to talk in a pitied tone to me. But then sometimes I get so angry when people just ignore my losses and pretend nothing bad has happened. So what do I want from people? A hallmark card? In the end my mood plays a huge part in all this. I guess my preferred interaction is when a person can just be real with me. They can frankly say this sucks so bad and is angry along with me that this is happening and doesn't show awkwardness. Maybe I am just asking too much. But the people who haven't been afraid to talk frankly with me about this (hubby, mom, dad, sister and sister in-laws, and 2 close friends) are the people who continue to make me feel the most comfortable sharing my experience. 

So Hallmark is making the right step. But of course it got me thinking of some infertility cards I would like to submit to Hallmark for consideration. If they want to get to real words for real life, I got some doozies in my pocket that I can throw out there. What about some of these?

THE SURROGATE SERIES - When you want to avoid awkward questions, send the very best. 

For Intended Parent to Friend:

For Friend to Intended Parent:

THE NOSEY NEIGHBOR SERIES - When you can't hold your tongue, send the very best.

THE COMPLETELY UNHELPFUL SERIES: When you want to make light of an insanely complicated situation, send the very best.

I kid you not, I actually received this message from a friend in an email (word for word transcription!):

THE DREAM SERIES: When you have real insight into the infertility struggle, send the very best. 

I can dream can't I?

Can you think of any more for Hallmark?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Funny New Yorker Cartoon

From the New Yorker Magazine

"Are you sure you're ovulating now?"

I was flipping through an old New Yorker from June and in the cartoon caption contest they had this line submitted as one of the entries for this cartoon. Pretty hilarious! I wonder if the submitter is going through fertility treatments, but God bless her for a funny line. Unfortunately it didn't win the contest even though in my mind it far beat the others. I suppose most readers (and most New Yorker editors) can't appreciate the great lengths it takes to get pregnant. I don't know about you, but it seems that all business trips, family visits, pre-planned vacations fall at the same time as ovulation. So I know I would love to strap a parachute on my hubby, and on myself for that matter.

Monday, August 18, 2008


Sheeeeeeee's Baaaaack! Yes, dusted off and primped up, Little Miss Positive is out of the closet. Thanks to peesticksandstones for kicking her out of her hiding. There are a lot of reasons right now that Little Miss Positive is needed, but one very obvious reason is that I am scared. I'm scared of a lot of bad things happening and I'm scared because I've made a decision that puts everything at risk again. I've been accepted into a shared risk program at my new clinic and we've decided to try one last time on me as we wait for things to fall into place with a surrogate. So this means I'm on birth control now waiting to see if IVF#4 will actually happen in September. 

In the midst of this scary place, it's good to meet my old friend Little Miss Positive. We've been through a lot together. She was on my shit list for awhile after my recent ectopic disaster, but I've come to forgive and forget. Plus, I really need her now. I can see that fear is strangling me on a regular basis. It's taken hold of my controls and put me on autopilot. I fear I'm not doing my job right. I fear I'm losing my friends because of this isolation. I fear that my husband is going to get so fed up with my negativity. I fear all over again the IVF nightmares of another loss, especially another ectopic. I fear I will never get a surrogate match or worse it will fail in a surrogate. I am not able to stop these thoughts. So clearly I am in need of courage and in my recent search for it I couldn't seem to find that yellow brick road.

But I reached a turning point last week. I had a frenzied crazy hysterical conversation with my husband about my fears. I cornered him for yet another discussion on our next steps. I found myself over and over again trying to beat down his positivity by playing devil's advocate- What if I get another ectopic? What if the pregnancy gets complicated and my life is in danger? What if it's a waste of time? Blah, blah, blah. He got really upset with me and asked why I was trying to take away his hope. As you can imagine, I felt awful at that point. I explained that this is the fear talking and it's taken control of me. He responded with a very simple yet effective answer.

He said, "Courage is a decision."

"Oh..."[ long pause] "You're right," I said. 

Is it really that simple? I think for right now it is that simple. That seemed to burst the fear bubble, perhaps with the idea that even though I can't control outcomes I can control my decisions. I have a choice to go down so many scary roads and yet I have decided to have courage. I have decided to be positive again. I have to decide that I can handle more bad things happening. So that's what I am doing now. Courage isn't going to be handed to me by someone else. I'm the cowardly lion, that's for sure, but I guess I have to look for that Emerald City of Oz somewhere inside me. 

Monday, August 11, 2008

An Outlaw called "Intended Parent"

I never quite thought baby making for me would enter this new terrain of law, morality, and intention. Who knew I would have to add lawyer to my long list of reproductive attendants. Isn't doctor, nurse, IVF coordinator, embryologist, pharmacist, blood technician, early morning cab drivers, fertility yoga instructor, acupuncturist, insurance representative, and surrogacy agency enough?

I, as an "Intended Parent," have every intention of having a baby. Is that so wrong? Did I ever think I'd have to be on the run, like some bandit outlaw? For those who haven't had the pleasure of cracking the shell of surrogacy, every state of our United States has a particular opinion on surrogacy that dictates how and whether it can be done. (Click here to see a breakdown of state surrogacy laws) Unfortunately, my state of New York may accept all sorts of characters within its borders but it does not allow for surrogacy. So the story goes that in July of 1993, the legislature passed Article 8, Section 122 of the Domestic Relations Laws of New York. This law states that surrogate parenting agreements in New York are void, unenforceable and against public policy.

So now that I've been long barred from the natural mommy club, and slowly not qualifying for the IVF-on-my-own body club, I'm not only barred from my own body, I'm now barred from reproducing in my own state. My marginalized status seems to be becoming more and more remote. I'm not sure where I will be at the end of this - Siberia? My days are filled with waiting for a surrogate match and contemplating one last IVF on myself. I've felt lonely these days as I used to be a bulletin board whore - joining every type of buddy group from immune issues, to tubal infertility, to pregnancy loss, to repeat pregnancy loss, to lining issues, to ectopic survivors, and now surrogacy. But I'm not sure where I fit in on the bulletin boards anymore. If there was a group called "outlaws" or "road less traveled" or simply "Siberia" then I might join. 

But in my banishment, I realize this is where "intention" has the most profound meaning. As I feel in so many ways already labeled, I need to get used to my newest title of intended parent. Intention involves stretching, bending of the mind toward a goal, determination, purpose, and design. I'm running with my ball and chain out to sweeter and freer states that will let me put my embryos into another dear lady's uterus. Intent is pretty darn significant in a court of law. So if I face a jury of my fertile peers, they must remember that foresight and recklessness shouldn't be equated with intent. Don't condemn me if I don't have the foresight to see what pain lies ahead of me. Don't handcuff me if my choice to use a surrogate seems reckless. But if my crime is the intention to be a mother, intention to raise a child with love, intention to build a family, then I'm ready for my sentencing. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Scrapbook of Infertility Memories

Most people when they think of scrapbooking think of creative ladies armed with a pair of scissors, a glue stick, and collection of colorful papers, photos and mementos ready to be collaged together. They will gleefully cut and paste the "best of-s" and favorite moments of a lovely vacation trip, a family history, or a precious baby's first year. I, on the other hand, am required by my agency to create a scrapbook to give to a potential surrogate telling her who we are and why we need her help to make a baby. 

So I spent last week collecting photos of me and my husband in our various life activities along with a letter telling our story. Now it's surreal enough to step outside yourself to tell a stranger why we are worthy of her help, but it's also really odd to read "my story." All us bloggers are writing regularly about our stories, but to read a summary story about myself was like being a third person looking at me and my husband and how insane it has been. It wasn't emotional, it was almost like I was reading someone else's story and thinking, "Wow that's damn sad." 

To make things worse, they require FIVE copies of the scrapbook. So once I finished one I became a scrapbook sweatshop and cranked out four more copies. By then, you really feel like you are reading a pre-packaged storybook about a seemingly happy-go-lucky couple whose been really shit on. 

But if I were going to be true to the craft of scrapbooking and didn't have to worry about freaking out someone, my keepsake memories would go well beyond a letter and some photos of me and my husband. Mine would have a title on the cover saying "The Barren Years." I would maybe have a smattering of photos of all the embryos transferred in me with captions, "This one lodged in my right tube," "This was lodged in my left tube," "This one implanted in my uterus but decided not to develop anymore after week 6." And then I do some cut outs from my fertility clinic bills in the shape of flowers and paste them against some pretty pink paper, then maybe a couple syringes to glue on with some ribbons, and for sure a rip out from my progesterone and menopur boxes, and if I could manage it, I would get a hand print from my doctor to show what's been in my uterus through the years. 

What insanely dark things could you put in your scrapbook?

Friday, July 18, 2008

I wish, I wish upon a star. Oh wait, I'm just dreaming

Sing along to the tune of "When you wish upon a star"
When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are
Anything your uterus desires will come to you
If you're sick of IVF dreams, no request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star as infertiles do

Is fate kind? Maybe it can happen naturally?
The sweet fulfillment of our secret longing

Like a bolt out of the blue, your period steps in
and fucks with you
When you wish upon a star, am I a damn fool?

Fuck fuck, I got my god damn period today. How many of you still dream of having a natural pregnancy? As absurd and as impossible as that seems, I am sad to say that I still do. It's pretty laughable that there is even one ounce of hope for this since trying the old fashion way has never amounted to anything. I've only gotten pregnant with IVF. Even though I am suppose to be "on break" waiting for my surrogacy match, I am all too aware of when I am ovulating, when my LH surge is, when I might have implantation, when I feel every cramp in my body - praying it's not my period coming. So much for trying to forget about getting pregnant. I am all too aware of my hopes for somehow getting out of this hell hole sooner than later.

Against my better judgement, there is this little evil voice in me that keeps saying, "This is all bullshit and you are just going to get pregnant on your own." Even though I scoff at all the urban legends of people adopting or using a surrogate and then getting pregnant naturally afterwards or women doing years of IVF and then falling pregnant after quitting, I still have this childlike wish for impossible things. How many of us have heard these stories from people trying to comfort us even though this presumes somehow this is all our fault because we are apparently overly obsessed with our fertility. Most of the time these stories of oops-we-got-pregnant-naturally-after-all end up passing around because they are so unusual, not because they are common. But I find myself buying into that crap sometimes and thinking that this could happen to me. As soon as I get these ridiculous thoughts in my brain, I know I have already cancelled out the chance of this oops-natural-pregnancy just by the fact of being aware of it. My guess is that anyone who actually has one of those never truly expected it or hoped for it every second of their cycle. I've got to get this fantasy out of me. I can't keep feeling sad when I get my period. It's like I've regressed to my early days of trying naturally and feeling that pain every time the first red splotch appears, warning me of the blood flow to come. So I need to stop dreaming and wishing upon a star. There aren't even any stars in my Manhattan sky, just a lot of haze and heat.

Monday, July 7, 2008

A Disease of One's Own

Idiopathic is an adjective used primarily in medicine meaning arising spontaneously or from an obscure or unknown cause. From Greek ἴδιος, idios (one's own) + παθος, pathos (suffering), it means approximately "a disease of its own kind."
A simple word can be quite powerful. All that I needed was a letter from my RE stating my fertility history so my surrogacy agency could have it on record. The agency prefers to have the RE state that he has advised me to pursue surrogacy but since my case is so gray they told me just a fertility history would suffice. So I had told my RE that I just need my fertility history stated in a letter to give to the surrogacy agency. When I received my RE's letter in the mail I expected to see just the review of my three tragic IVFs on paper, typed out before me as another confirmation of my story. But at the end of his recap, my RE stated, "Due to idiopathic uterine defects, it appears that [my name] will not be able to carry a pregnancy to term."

Whoah! At first I felt sort of stunned by this. All I could look at were the words "will not be able to carry." Was he just saying this so the surrogacy agency would work with me? Did he finally have a diagnosis for me and why had I not heard it before? Why was I so hurt by the wording? Why did I even care if I want to do surrogacy anyway? Clearly I was still holding on to some hope that I could carry a pregnancy. All the REs I talked to never made it so permanent by declaring I cannot carry. The uncertainty of my case made all of them assume I still had a chance verses assuming I no longer had a chance. I guess I wanted to feel like I wasn't forced to choose surrogacy, but I was making a choice to spare my body potential pain. It wasn't an issue of "can't" but "won't." 

But then I turned to the word idiopathic. What the hell did that mean? And then I realized how little it really means. It essentially describes my entire experience with baby making. It's been my "own suffering" due to unknown cause. I have my very own special disease. If I were Virgina Woolf, my book would be called "A Disease of One's Own." All this to say that it's the medical world's total cop out term. So unscientific. So obscure. So unanswerable. So lacking cause. It points to that space where all the brains, teaching, higher education, and fancy degrees are meaningless. It's a diagnosis that says nothing. I read online that in the book The Human Body by Isaac Asimov, he comments that the term "idiopathic" is a "A high-flown term to conceal ignorance." I also read that in the television show House, the main character says the word "comes from the Latin, meaning 'we're idiots, because we don't know what's causing it.'"

So yes, due to my idiopathic bad luck, my idiopathic losses, my idiopathic uterus, my idiopathic fallopian tubes, my idiopathic life, I've moved on to surrogacy -- but for me, not for the diagnosis. It's the big unknown whether I could ever carry myself but I am reminded that we are beyond that question now. I realized I still hold out hope that I could carry someday but right now it's just not feeling like the right move. But wouldn't it be great if this word could actually be of some use to me? Could it be loosely thrown around explaining myself to stupid fertile people? For instance:

"Oh, you asked when will we have kids? Due to idiopathic uterine defects we are a little delayed on that front."

"Oh, you want me to come to your baby shower? Due to my idiopathic uterine defects my RSVP is NO."

"Oh, you are pregnant again? Well, I have idiopathic uterine defects so would you mind fucking off?"

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Good plumbing. Why the clogs?

As I wait patiently for my surrogacy agency contracts to arrive in the mail, we had the thought that we could possibly fit one IVF in this summer to freeze our embryos in preparation for the surrogate. We could sign on with this agency now and while we wait for a surrogate match, we could fit in an egg retrieval. This gave me that bizarre satisfaction of not wasting time. This cycle could give us a sense of how this new RE and new protocol work for my egg production. Maybe we could do PGD and see it as a test round? Maybe we can get into their shared risk program? But most of all, maybe this will ensure that once my surrogate is ready we can transfer those embryos immediately. Saving time is my addiction. Gotta have it. Of course there is a small part of me that thinks if we got more than 3 good embryos in this prep round that I would be tempted to just put one in me for the hell of it? If I get a BFP and it fails or BFN then I still have the other embryos on ice for the surrogate? Is this crazy talk?

It all seems comforting to cover all my bases. But it still forces me to think about plumbing. My plumbing. The two clogs I had this year were not to be taken lightly. Since I might be tempted to transfer one in me (if circumstances seem right),  I opted to follow my new REs request to do another HSG exam. I had done one in 2006 with normal results which is why we never imagined ectopics being a problem. But I figured the health of my tubes has probably changed dramatically since the two IVF ectopics and the surgery. 

So naturally when I raced up to the radiology center this morning I was bracing myself for the results of bad rusty pipes - the kind that a plumber would recommend ditching altogether. As I worked out all my insurance and logistical medical mess with the front desk, a woman sitting next to me said, "Did you take any motrin?" This was the secret handshake needed for us to know that we both were infertile. We exchanged horror stories and then she was called in. Then I was called in. As I waited in my blue gown with the bottom half of my birthday suit, the same woman came out shaking. She told me both her tubes were blocked and that she screamed in pain. So then I really got scared - scared of the results and scared of the pain. I had gotten a little cocky since the last HSG was painless and also with all this IVF crap making me feel like you could stick an elephant in there and I will be okay. But suddenly the panic set in. 

Noticing my face falling, she asked again, "Did you take motrin?" 

I told her in a higher pitch than normal, "Yes, but an hour ago so maybe it is wearing off?" 

She quickly grabbed her motrin bottle out of her purse and gave me two tablets. "Take it!" she commanded. 

With no water in sight and my pathetic inability to swallow pills I went into survival mode and just starting chewing up those motrin pills like prey running from its predator. 

As I was called in and briefed by the doctor, he nodded and sighed, presumably concerned over my two ectopics and what pain this exam might cause me. "Not a good sign," I thought. As they lay me on the table and I put my legs on the extremely high stirrups, they strapped my feet in - doubly not a good sign. Clearly people flail around in pain during this. 

But like many suspense dramas, lead up can be way scarier than what we see behind the curtain. The ink went up beautifully into both my tubes with zero pain and the doctor was in and out in less than 5 minutes. They were amazed, as am I, at how good my plumbing is after such trauma. I have scoured the internet to find others like me who have survived two IVF ectopics and still have both tubes. I'm a rare alien breed. It's hard enough to find someone with two IVF ectopics, but even harder to find one whose kept their tubes. Most people I meet online with ectopics I hear that their tube ruptured causing the loss of a tube. Others have elected to take them out because of damage. But me, my blessing was I got away clean. Sure I could do more advanced tests but this is the third time I've been told that my tubes look healthy. So of course this continues the million dollar question of why does my good plumbing get clogs? Will it get more clogs? Will I ultimately have to tear out my good plumbing after continual unexplainable clogs? For god sakes, what makes a perfectly good tube let an embryo get stuck in there? We'll never know clearly, and once again I have that twisted satisfaction/frustration of being "normal" but not really normal. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Start or the End?

I know. Where have I been? I was all revved up for metamorphosis and my butterflying sort of got caught in a lengthy net - a sort of Hamlet moment of  "To use a surrogate, or not use a surrogate: That is the question."

I'll get to how I answered that question a little later. But first, my little craft glue project. I know maybe you were expecting some great mittens and scarves or some crochet throw, but it's been like a bazillion degrees in New York so the thought of such things makes me want to vomit. Sooooo, I went in a different direction. Inspiration can come from all over the place and this time it came from a soon-to-be expired vitamin bottle.

My little craft glue project represents what I title: "The Start or the End?" Now we all know the first tiny little invasive step we take with our bodies when we begin to dream of our beautiful baby is the good old folic acid increase. Some go straight for the rocket ship of prenatals, but I went for a wimpier mix of multi-vitamins and folic acid tablets. I started this regimen in December 2005. I took those damn pills everyday with the few exceptions of bleeding/miscarriage/ectopic times. The folic acid was just the beginning of my hopes for having a baby. I've been off duty since my last IVF disaster and those pills have remained in the pantry untouched. So I've found a better use for them.

Now for all the folic acid pills I have popped, I would expect a baby by now with a brain size of Texas with absolutely no neural tube defects. So my little glue project is here to represent this fantasy of "Folic Acid Woman=Folic Acid Baby." The irony is clear. I have no baby. My folic acid pills are about to reach their end date and so have I expired too? Does this starter vitamin really represent the end of an era, the end of innocence, the end of carrying my own child? 

This brings me to what we've finally come to decide. After much flip flopping, agony, stress, and opinion polls among family and close friends, I think we are going to move forward with a surrogate. The start and end points of infertility get so blurred along the way. You might be ending one kind of treatment and then starting a new treatment. You might be ending IUIs and starting IVF. You might be ending using your own body and starting a better road in another body. We are all starting and ending on a regular basis in life. After being paralyzed by indecision, neither starting nor ending anything, I've forced myself to both start and end with a decision. I'm still not sure we are doing the right thing. But the fact of the matter is, I will never know until something actually works. The REs can make their case for trying another IVF on me and I can certainly make the case that I don't need more losses, more ectopics, ruptured tubes, and endless guesswork about the whys. Like any major decision, you have to look clearly at what you want and what you need. I WANT a baby. I NEED to do this in a safe and healthy way for me and the pregnancy. So now do I really need folic acid anymore?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Craft Therapy: Paper Cutting and Metamorphosis

As I said before, I need to get back to myself. I need to feel like I am creating things even though I am unable to create life. I would say I am certainly needing some kind of metamorphosis. As I face my 37th birthday this Saturday, I need to rejuvenate and reinvent. I've been cocooning myself since my ectopic to self-preserve, but it's lonely in here. When I was in Pingyao, we met a master paper cutter who's the Edward Scissor Hands of my dreams. If only I could cut paper like this and create these magical forms! Wen Tao learned paper cutting at the age of 7 and studied decorating design. She now designs and creates paper-cut works and keeps this art alive. She made these amazing butterflies for me for free and I think the video says it all. 

I chose to actually buy from her a beautiful paper cut work with a pattern of peonies and pomegranates. A pomegranate is suppose to symbolize fertility because of its many seeds. I found that there is so much hope and wishful thinking embedded into all these symbols in China. Good fortune, health, long life, and fertility seem to come up in so many images. A lot of it comes from the way Chinese language is structured. For instance, the word "carp" in Chinese is similar sounding to the word "profit" so it therefore becomes a symbol of good fortune. English really lacks that kind of relationship. The word "luck" can sound like fuck, stuck, muck, suck, yuck, which is pretty accurate to my own special relationship to luck, but certainly doesn't resonate its true intended meaning.

So since being home, the culture of signs, symbols, and superstitions have made me look around for signals of change. Most of my life remains the same as when I left for China so it's been hard to not feel stagnant. Even my two single girl friends who've been struggling to find someone for years are both suddenly happily dating people right now. It's like I am waiting for something, anything, to change in my life for the better instead of for the worse and I'm feeling left out in that department.

In the solitude of my infertility cocoon, I've been trying to understand how to better myself in ways that have nothing to do with my uterus. I've taken up violin again. I'm digging out an old book proposal I never actually sent out to publishers. I'm emailing old friends to reconnect. I'm looking at job listings. Summer is pretty much here and it's strange to have no IVF to plan since I've been going at this non-stop. I realize my entire life structure has been so reliant on IVF that I'm not sure what to do with myself. So I am trying hard to find a sense of change and progress besides menstruation, drug doses, ultrasounds, and egg retrievals so that maybe, just maybe, my "inner butterfly" can be set a flight.

Besides looking for a better a career direction, I've made a pledge to start "Craft Therapy" to hopefully satisfy this need for progress. This means I will be getting back into all my crafting - knitting, embroidery, sewing, silk-screening, and yes I'll even try some paper cutting. I think there is a very deep-seeded therapeutic benefit from making things with your hands and having that object have function, beauty, or symbolism. I think it has a lot to do with setting a goal and making it happen - something that baby making has failed to live up to and causes nothing but utter frustration. I think having projects that I can actually finish will give me, on a smaller scale, that emotional satisfaction that infertility seems to be draining from me. I welcome you all to join in!

Assignment #1: (For myself and any other infertile crafters out there) Create a craft project that either expresses something about this infertility journey or creates a symbol of hope (Remember Little Miss Positive? She misses all of you and hopes to reemerge soon).

Monday, May 12, 2008

Back to Art, Back to Myself

Since being back in Beijing this past week, my schedule has slowed down from non-stop tourist travel to a more lazy wandering mode. When I first arrived, I was nostalgic for the older Beijing I had experienced 10 years ago. I didn't want to see or feel any Western influences. But after two weeks in China, I admit I've come to miss some basic conveniences, like language. I would like to take a taxi, order food, and find my way without a major struggle. Barely knowing any Chinese besides "hi" and "thank you" leaves you quite limited in the smooth flow of life. So without a guide to help me out, I've been reduced to silly hand motions and being at the mercy of taxi drivers who could take me anywhere. I did in fact eat at KFC. I even bought a hot tea at Starbucks. I'd also like to at this point always use a Western toilet. What can I say, I've broken out of my need for historic Beijing and have welcomed getting to know the more modern Beijing.

In this friendship with the newer Beijing, my most enjoyable discovery was the contemporary art scene. In the north-east part of the city there lies the entrance to the 798 Art District. You would think passing it that is was just another compound in the outskirts of Beijing, but inside you'll find the biggest collection of galleries and studios in China. Contemporary art in Beijing has really been blossoming and it was exciting to see what has been brewing with local artists.

As with so many roads in Beijing, workers are constantly ripping up and re-bricking or re-paving. It sort of marks the entire character of China these days of doing away with the old (for better or for worse) and paving a new way. So in this space, built in the 1950's by the East Germans originally as a top-secret weapons factory, there are piles of dirt, rocks, and gravel creating an obstacle course maze leading no longer to military factories but to thriving art galleries.

But the dirt in your shoes is well worth it to see the exciting exhibitions of paintings, sculpture and photography. The gallery spaces themselves were also interesting to see as you discover large scale galleries similar to New York's Chelsea scene, but also little pockets of tiny galleries. Here's some highlights from my gallery crawling:

The streets proved just as interesting with sculpture and graffiti scattered throughout:

So it's been really nice to get back to art and to get back into feeling I want to be creative. Ever since my ectopic and all that ensued, I've been pretty stunted in terms of my infertility art. When I started this blog I had felt such a need to express things visually, but I think the sadness of IVF#3 just stagnated any need for creativity. As I close out my trip to China and I now face returning home, I hope seeing this artistic energy in China rejuvenates that part of me. I've been feeling like one of these Beijing roads that's been chipped away to its dirt origins to be filled in layer by layer to pave a new road. I've been stripped down to the bare minimum of who I am after so much loss, disappointment, and sadness. I know when I return that I will have no choice but to begin re-piecing myself back together.

P.S. Though the earthquake in China today was in Chengdu, tremors were felt here in Beijing. Luckily no damage here, but at lunch when it hit, my husband and his friend said they suddenly felt dizzy and then we all saw the chandeliers swing. They thought it was the beer they were drinking and I was so clued out I didn't even realize what was happening. 

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Aunt's Day

I'm back in Beijing these days, but despite being miles away from home I am still quite aware of Mother's Day. I would much rather not be still in the child's role of sending out good wishes to my own mother and mother-in-law. I certainly at this point in my fertility journey would like to celebrate this day as a mom. But since I can't, I thought I should try to recognize the closest role I play to motherhood, which would be aunthood. Shouldn't there be a day of recognition to thank all the aunts out there who adopt some nurturing roles like good old Aunt Bee from the Andy Griffith Show and all the other aunts who step in sometimes to offer love?

Even though it can be hard to spend time with family when I am childless, I truly believe that I will be a warm memory for all my nieces and nephews someday who will look back on my love with fondness. Thankfully my siblings are done procreating so I don't have to feel the pain of new babies while I have all these fertility problems. I have eleven nieces and nephews between my family and my husband's family. So you could say I am a pro when it comes to being an aunt. Each one is a fun little kid who becomes my pal and feels at ease with me because I am not a parent. I am not a fellow child to them either. I am like some unicorn to them where I fall into some mythical category of neither child nor adult. If you ask my 8 year old niece how old she thinks I am, she'll answer "Thirteen!!" And sometimes that's how I feel when I visit family since I am the only one not a mom.

But I have to admit that my nieces and nephews think I'm the greatest thing since sliced bread. They jump into my arms and their pudgy little hands clasp my neck and I feel connected. I feel unconditional love. I feel like they can't get enough of me. Up until now, the best part of being an aunt was having that bond but never having to take responsibility for them. As soon as they cried or whined or freaked out I could safely say, "Go to your mom." Now I am in a position of wanting that maternal responsibility after years of being relieved I didn't have it.

There is the enduring stereotype of having a crazy single or childless aunt. For me, I have one of these off the beaten track aunts and I am also pretty sure I've become that kind of aunt too. My father's older sister was the renegade that broke all social taboos for her generation of women as well as her culture. She got married twice and divorced twice. She had her share of wild days as a young woman who broke a lot of rules. She was that same unicorn to me as a child. She was the aunt that I could watch movies with all night long. She was a pal and not a parent. Growing up I always knew that she was unable to have her own children but it never occurred to me until now what that meant.

Now at the age of 74 she's a single divorcée who is hip, fashionable, and looks about 40 years old. I've never once in my whole life asked her about how she felt not having her own children. It was never relevant until now. No doubt the pain she felt came out in all sorts of emotional ways as a young woman and we talked frankly about how hard it was in the late 50's and early 60's when she had intense pressure from in-laws, no medical help, and zero support from her friends. She told me how lucky I am to have other options like IVF and that she didn't have any choices. As much as I complain about IVF, I do have to admit that at least I have this option. I keep thinking how cool it would be if my aunt could be my surrogate and experience carrying a child - if only she was not in her 70s. We'd surely be profiled on Oprah.

So talking with her has given me a whole new perspective. She's always been a part of my life. She's been to every Christmas and Thanksgiving at our house. She's bought me a birthday present since the day I was born up until now. She's always been there and been enormously loving. I think about how she might have resented my mother or been jealous of her at times for having us. I think about how she deals with being single and childless at her age now. My appreciation of her love has changed tremendously by my own struggle with infertility. I've come to understand the meaning of an aunt's love, especially the kind from an aunt who has no children. Some might see this as a sad story. Indeed, it has aspects of sadness, just like my story does, but there is nothing sad about what she gave to me and my sister and brother. I know she had no other options to try for her own genetic child and a lot of her love was given to us instead. I have been blessed with living decades later at a time when medicine has advanced so tremendously. I haven't given up hope that I will make that transition from aunthood to motherhood someday, somehow. I know for sure that aunthood has been my greatest training.

P.S. I've been able to get access to my blog to read your comments. Thanks so much for reading while I am away!