Tag Archives: secondary infertility

Existentialism Meets Special Needs Parenting

15 Oct

I don’t know when it was, exactly, that I first fell in love with philosophy, but I do remember how. I picked up a book called “Sophie’s World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy” by Jostein Gaarder. It must have been my junior year of high school, but maybe my senior year? Again, I don’t remember the ‘when’, just the ‘how.’ I devoured that book. The further into it I got, the less I understood, but I managed to digest a lot of the concepts, which served me well later in life. (Mostly college. I ended up helping teach my Intro to Philosophy course. Thanks, Sophie.)

Anyway, I know I had already finished the book by the time my senior year Theology class had “Existentialism Day,” because I know I was already familiar with the fundamentals of Kierkegaard (Hey fellow Dane!! Sorry about your broken engagement!) and Sartre. And I remember that some of the other students struggled with a concept that, intuitively, made sense to me. Even if I hadn’t read any philosophy at all, I completely understood what Jean-Paul meant when he said that by not choosing, he was making a choice. I remember my friend struggling with it. “But you’re not choosing, so you’re not making a choice!” “No,” I replied, “Your choice is not to choose.” I didn’t know how to make it any simpler or break it down any further – it just made sense to me. (We also really liked the “Hell is other people” quote, and we wrote that in each other’s yearbooks.)

And now I am paralyzed by Sartre’s truth- by not choosing, what choice am I making?

A couple of months ago, I went for a second opinion on the infertility. The doctor was actually very optimistic. He gave a variety of options, a variety of choices we could make, things we could do differently this time. I took the folder home to talk it over with Ken, and they recommended calling when my next period started so we could do another round of IVF. Our fourth.

And the folder has sat there since then. And, with each subsequent period, no phone calls have been made. I am not choosing to go forward with a fourth round, but I haven’t chosen not to. I have chosen not to choose. But is that narrowing our window? Is it diminishing our chances? Is not choosing the right choice? This is what I have been struggling with. On the one hand, this is our last, best hope for a child. Given the recent hospitalizations for depression, I don’t think adoption is a valid option anymore. Trying on our own has had no success after five years. If we’re going to have a baby, it’s going to have to be IVF. But am I prepared, emotionally, for a fourth failure? For the door closing for good?

So the folder continues to sit. I have chosen, for now, not to choose. But I worry what the consequences will be.

To be fair, some other things have also kept us busy in the meantime. I have one good update, and one not so good.

Good update: Gloria has transitioned to an assisted living facility solely dedicated to patients that need memory care. It’s a fabulous place. She is doing really well there, participating in the activities, helping the other residents, and the staff adore her. Thanks to my part-time schedule, I have been able to go out and visit her every week and bring her little presents. Last week I brought her a Hello Kitty doll dressed up for Halloween as a ballerina and she carried it all around the facility with her and snuggled with it as I tucked her in for a nap. I’m also really enjoying getting to know the other residents – Laughing Betty, who has a huge belly laugh for everything!, Singing Betty, who still knows all the words to Sinatra songs, and Mrs. McLeod, originally from Scotland and still has a thick brogue and is just sweet as can be. It didn’t really occur to me that I would enjoy going out there, but I do. And it’s even better when I bring Daniel – the residents follow him around like groupies! He is so sweet and patient with them and it warms my heart to see my child treat them with love and respect.

She may not look happy, but she's actually saying 'Cheeeeeese'

She may not look happy, but she’s actually saying ‘Cheeeeeese’

Which leads me to the not so good update. Daniel is still really struggling in school. On the recommendation of … I don’t remember who now…. I took him to a local facility that does evaluations for occupational and speech therapy. I don’t have the full results yet, but the occupational therapy evaluation showed significant delays. I was and wasn’t surprised. I knew Daniel had problems, but I was surprised as to the extent of them. The full report should give a better picture, but in the meantime, I’m beating myself up for not bringing him in sooner, for not noticing, for not doing everything I could right away from the beginning. But I kept telling myself things were fine, that he would outgrow his difficulties. But I have to face the reality – Daniel has special needs, Daniel has delays, and Daniel needs extra help.

And now I have to make another choice – do we keep him at the Catholic school he loves, with a teacher who understands him, a principal who adores him, and the friends he’s made, or do we switch him to the public school, where he can get an IEP and more resources and be closer to our house? I can only choose to not make a choice for so long. I have to figure out what’s best for my little guy, and Sartre and Kierkegaard are pretty silent on that subject.

I am focusing on the positives – he is thriving on the swim team, especially with his back stroke. He went to his first overnight Scout camp and got to fire a rifle (!), catch a fish, ride a horse, and play flashlight tag. He spent a recent day off from school snuggling in bed with me, reading my anniversary present – the complete Calvin and Hobbes collection. (I’m a little afraid he’s going to see it as an instruction manual.)

Hell is not other people. Hell is being responsible for another person and being paralyzed by choices for that person. It worked out well for Gloria. I have to have faith that it will for Daniel, too.

Our little Otter

Our little Otter

This kid and his ribs...

This kid and his ribs…


Just can’t seem to get it right today*

18 Aug

*Or, more specifically, these past three days. Today, Monday, makes the third failure in three days. Doubled up with two on Saturday, had none Sunday, and had a face-slapping one today. As I’ve said before, if I didn’t have bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all.

Failure #1: Don’t Trust Mental Patients

The back story for this one goes back quite a while. About 8 weeks ago, to be precise. In the second, better hospital. I was talking with one of the fellow patients one evening, and telling her about our infertility struggles and how they really deepen my depression. Somehow the conversation led to her telling me not to worry, that I would get pregnant. She gave an exact date, too – six weeks from my release. I filed it away at the time as “Ok, that was weird,” especially since I didn’t know when I would be getting out. Once I was sprung, on a whim, I looked up the dates. Six weeks from that day would be two weeks from my next expected period. Sure enough, that period came right on time, and so two weeks later, we put some John Legend on and lit some candles. Just in case.

About a week later, I started feeling really, really sick. I was constantly dizzy and light headed. The thought of food disgusted me. If I did eat, the nausea would become so overpowering I would have to lie down. Either that or gag fruitlessly in the toilet. Not wanting to get our hopes up too much, we started referring to it as “the prophecy.” It was easier to make light of it that way, but that candle of hope started burning really, really brightly. Smells started bothering me. My lower belly felt full, but not cramping. I started really believing the prophecy and started getting really excited.

And then the fullness feeling stopped. The constant nausea and dizziness continued, but the bad cramping started up. And I knew that the “prophecy” was just cruelly and futilely getting my hopes up, but I held onto it.

Until Saturday morning, when my period came. Lesson learned: don’t trust fellow mental patients and their prophecies. 

Failure #2: I Am Not An Athlete, and Sunscreen Is Important.

For some reason, I have this delusion that I am a fairly decent athlete. So when the younger kids came around and asked people to sign up for the office softball tournament, I joined. I somehow had it in my head that I would be an asset to the team. This despite the fact that the last real softball game I played was an intramural game in college where my friend Mark was completely drunk but managed to hit the ball – and promptly ran straight to 3rd base. I conveniently forgot all the times I was chosen dead last in softball tournaments as a child. I overlooked the fact that I am horribly accident prone.

And I completely forgot about wearing sunscreen.

So I looked like this.

So I looked like this.

I was assigned to second base and could only stop the ball with my legs, resulting in a huge bruise on my right shin. My batting average was dismal, helped by the rule that if you walked a guy, the next girl in the batting lineup automatically got to walk. I did get one base hit. But other than that, I was terrible. I kept apologizing to my teammates, but they took it in stride. They even let Daniel play left field. So, despite being a technical failure, we still managed to have a good time.

World's Cutest Little Left Fielder

World’s Cutest Little Left Fielder

My (very patient) team

My (very patient) team

And now, today, Failure #3: Always Double Check Your Groupons.

About a month ago, I booked a Groupon for a storytelling class. I was really excited about it, and wrote down the date on my monthly calendar and put a reminder in my phone. August 18th, I can remember that. I can do that. I am really excited about that.

It was August 11th.

And Groupon won’t refund my money or even give me credit for another Groupon. To be fair, this is completely my own fault. But I was really looking forward to going tonight and now I’m super bummed.

The good news after all this? I’ve always been told that bad things come in threes. So I’m due for some really awesome stuff to happen. Overdue, even. Send suggestions on how to cheer myself up, and also some aloe because my arms really hurt from this damn sunburn.

On the nature of miracles

10 Aug

How many miracles can one person reasonably expect in their lifetime? Maybe we only get a certain allotment and once it’s done, that’s it. Maybe that’s the problem – maybe I burned through my miracle allowance without even realizing it.

Every month is awful when you have secondary infertility. Because as soon as your period is one minute late, a match of hope is struck in your darkest heart. You know the match will burn itself out, but you stare at it, willing it to keep burning with the force of your stubbornness alone. As 29 days turn into 30, and 30 into 31, the match turns into a candle. By Day 34, the candle is a torch and you’re thinking of baby names. Reason is screaming at you, throwing buckets on the flames. ‘You’re going to burn this place down!” it shouts. You ignore it, bolstered by the symptoms you’re now convinced are happening, conveniently forgetting that they’re the same as PMS symptoms.

The flame sustains itself on the oxygen of your belief in miracles. Don’t you, after all this pain and suffering, deserve one by now? Look at all these parents. Look at all these babies. They got their miracles, where’s yours?

And when the flame dies out, as it always does, you can’t get out of bed for a day. It’s just not fair.

Eventually, you drag yourself out of bed. You might even go for a run in a vain attempt to get rid of at least some of the excess fat from your three failed miracles.

And that’s where I was this morning, running around the pond and grumbling. Not fair, not fair, crap I’m fat, owwww charley horse, not fair.

The song ‘Everyday is a Winding Road’ comes on. I’m not sure what I was thinking, putting that in the playlist. That song has a very specific memory attached to it, and it’s not a good one.

The breeze increases as I increase my pace, as if I can run away from the memory. (Maybe that’s why I put it on there?) But that makes it worse. It’s May, 1997. My sister is driving the two of us home from high school. It must have been a Thursday, because we got out early. Sheryl Crow told us about the vending machine repairman and his daughter Easter as I dangled my hand out the passenger side window, catching the wind currents.

When we got home, we found out our oldest sister had given birth, but something went very, horribly wrong. The baby – a girl – was brain dead. My mother cautioned us not to get attached as we headed to the hospital.

I prayed like I’d never prayed before. I knew, I believed, that god could work miracles. Didn’t we deserve one? Couldn’t God work a miracle here and restore her brain function? I bargained – I would do anything and everything God asked – if he would grant us this.

Instead, my sister got worse. She turned yellow. They choppered her to another, better hospital. We almost lost her. It was touch and go for longer than I’d still care to admit. She pulled through, the baby did not.

Today, I sat on my porch, guzzling water and rubbing my aching calf, and thought about all this. About praying for one miracle and not realizing until years later that we got another one entirely.

It’s still not fair – I don’t think it should be a quid pro quo situation, I don’t think there should be a lifetime limit. But I do need to stop and remember – just because you didn’t get the specific miracle you asked for doesn’t mean you didn’t get any.

According to the doctors, I should have never been able to get pregnant at all. Ever. According to Daniel’s biological father, I should have never been able to find anyone else to love me, let alone marry me. And I was walking out of the pet shelter, no dog at all, when Benny caught the corner of my eye.

Maybe I’m being greedy for wanting just one more. But, until I figure out how to get it, I’ll remember to thank whatever powers that be for the ones I have.


Just Keep Swimming…

3 Apr

I feel like I’m drowning. There aren’t enough hours in the day, or days in the week, for me to stay on top of things. I am drowning in housework, work work, and other work. The laundry has become Sisyphus’ boulder. The two jobs are eating at me, taking chunks of energy and free time. I’m starting to forget what my husband looks like.

And I’m drowning in babies. Facebook, work, friends…. pregnant women are everywhere. I know, rationally, that their successes are not tied, directly or indirectly, to my failures. But, now that we have no more options, the failure hurts even more. Before, I could lie to myself, saying “One day that will be me.” I can’t do that anymore. It would cost a minimum of 12000 to continue with IVF. Surrogacy or adoption would be even more. We just don’t have that kind of money, and I’m starting to think we never will.

I’m trying to keep my eye on the Australia prize. I’m trying to keep my head above water. I’m trying to at least draw a deep breath.

But I still feel like I’m drowning,

The only break I get right now, and it’s a huge one, is Danny. I still worry all the time that I’m not a good enough mother. But, every night, we read a chapter in a chapter book. We sit on my bed, an island in the sea of laundry threatening to overtake the room, and we read. We finished Dr Doolittle and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, and we’re now working our way through Superfudge. It is the best feeling, having him snuggled up beside me, and hearing his Danny-giggle.

I have to remember what Danny told me. He solemnly informed me the other day that, when you’re caught in a current, don’t swim against it. Swim parallel to shore, and eventually you’ll make it.

Or, as Dory says, Just keep swimming…. Just keep swimming…

We’ll get there, kiddo. Now learn how to do your own laundry before Mama has an aneurysm.


Mr Sassy Pose, on Easter

Secondary Infertility: Fun For No One

5 Sep

This morning, as I was getting my little slowpoke ready for school, he told me all about the dream he had last night, which involved him getting a second mother, and several siblings. Two brothers and a sister, to be precise. He described them in detail throughout our morning preparations, including the drive to school.

I finally jumped in and said, “Danny, you’re not getting another mommy. I’m it.”

He immediately countered with his best friend, who has two mommies.

I explained that her mommy and daddy were divorced, and her daddy got married again. And that daddy and I are not getting divorced.

“Great,” he said, and started crying. “I’ll never get a brother or sister.”


It’s really, really hard to not feel guilty at times like this. I know, rationally, that it’s not my fault, that Danny probably likes the idea of a sibling much more than he would the reality, that he’ll be fine.

But reason only gets you so far. The rest of me is crying on the inside with him. I’m one of four, Ken is one of five. I love my siblings fiercely. My sister is my best friend. My brother is my role model. And my oldest sister is my hero, the bravest person I know. I can’t imagine life without any of them.

I want to give Daniel that. And it hurts, it hurts so bad, that I can’t.

The one thing that makes me feel better, at times like these, is my cousin Jim. My aunt raised him on her own, and did a fantastic job. She empathizes with my situation, and says she always wanted more kids. She said she talked about it with Jim one time. He said, “Are you kidding? I love being an only child.” My aunt worked really hard to provide for him, and the two of them have traveled just about everywhere. I think they’ve been to every major league ballpark. It works, and they’re happy.

So I’m going to try to not feel guilty. Instead of a sibling, I’m going to give Danny a passport. I will focus on the things we do have, instead of the things we don’t. He may not have brothers and sisters, but he has cousins and friends.

I can’t promise it will be easy, I can’t promise it won’t suck sometimes, but, we will make it work.

I like this better than Danny’s solution, which was, “Well, when are you and Daddy going to get divorced?” Nice try, kiddo.

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