Monday, May 4, 2009

Book Shower: "So Close" by Tertia Albertyn

It's an infertile booklover's paradise out there right now, with new books from our very own ALI blogging Den Mother/Stirrup Queen Melissa, as well as Pamela Jeanne, hitting the shelves this month. A little earlier this year, however, another blogger's book finally became available to us in North America -- "So Close" by Tertia Albertyn of South Africa. Mel is hosting a "book shower" for Tertia today on her blog -- and this was one shower that I was happy to attend!

I first encountered Tertia some years ago on an Internet message board for IVF "vets." I mostly lurked there, as (having never done even one IVF), I did not think I met their qualifications to post as a "vet." However, having struggled to become pregnant (naturally), lost a baby to stillbirth, suffered through the indignities of the infertility workup, and endured several rounds of Clomid, followed by three IUIs with injectable drugs before almost cracking under the strain and finally making the difficult decision to live childless/free, I most certainly could relate to their anti-baby-dust mindset and their need to vent at the world from time to time -- particularly their often jaw-dropping tales of mistreatment by the oblivious fertile world.

Tertia was among the most vivid personalities on the board. Her posts -- like her book -- crackled with irreverent humour, blunt honesty, justifiable rage and colourful language. When I first began exploring the world of infertility blogs a couple of year ago, hers was one of the first blogs I discovered & bookmarked. Her descriptions of the ups and downs of fertility treatment are bang on.

I knew that Tertia eventually succeeded in her quest to have a family -- but there was much that I didn't know about how she got there. Suffice to say that Tertia most definitely qualifies for the title of "veteran." You name it, she's probably been through it (& then some) -- including 9 (!!) IVFs & several lost babies before the birth of her twins, Adam & Kate. (If you follow her blog, you'll know that she is currently due any day now with her third baby.) It's an amazing story that deserves to be read, not only by infertiles but by anyone wanting to know why we put ourselves through this, and where the strength to keep on trying comes from.

Mel has asked each of us attending Tertia's shower to answer one question from a list that she circulated. Here's the one I picked:

The title for the book as well as the title of Tertia's blog comes up on page 97 when she explains that she can't give up because she's so close. Um...I actually just wanted to throw this out there in case someone wants to run with the idea of being "so close."

I'll run with it! ; )

Unlike Tertia, I did eventually "give up"... and while my infertility & loss resume is far shorter than hers (the closest I came to parenthood was my one & only, naturally achieved pregnancy, which ended in stillbirth at six months) -- I too had the lingering feeling that I had come so close, so very close, to having the baby I so desperately wanted.

Back in the late 1990s/early 2000s, I was a member of an e-mail forum for women who had lost pregnancies & were contemplating or actively trying for a subsequent pregnancy. That's where I met Julia S., as well as another author (and now blogger), Ann Douglas.

When Ann began writing her book "Trying Again," published in 2000, she asked the members of our forum to be part of her "parent panel" -- which involved answering a series of detailed questionnaires about our experiences with pregnancy loss and trying again. I was happy to participate, & thrilled to recognize myself in the pages of her book. This is one of the quotes Ann selected for her book that came from me (on page 144, in a section dealing with feelings of inadequacy and that your body has betrayed you)(I hadn't looked at it for a long time, & wow, talk about (a) topical for this post & (b) prophetic...!):

"My body betrayed me when it failed to sustain my baby. Now it's failing me again by not giving me another chance at pregnancy. I am very afraid that Katie was my one shot at motherhood and I blew it. What an awful feeling to be so close [emphasis mine here] to something you've wanted for so long, only to have it snatched away, with no reassurances that you'll ever have anything like it again. With every passing month, I feel my hope of having a baby slip further and further from my grasp."

Like Tertia, coming "so close" to holding my baby in my arms drove me onward (as my biological clock ticked ever-louder), first to charting my temperatures, then to infertility testing and treatment. But (as I said in the book) as time went on, I began to realize that I wasn't getting any closer to grabbing the brass ring. Instead, I could feel it slowly slipping from my desperate grasp -- drifting further and further away -- as my eggs aged, my bank account dwindled and, frighteningly, my sanity began slipping away too.

Yes, I was so close -- close, but no cigar, as the old saying goes (and how ironic -- given the old tradition of passing out cigars on the birth of a new baby...!)(Laura Secord actually has (or at least, they used to have) milk chocolate cigars, wrapped in pretty pink or blue foil & sold by the box, that you can distribute in lieu of tobacco. I can't tell you how often I used to eye those cigars in the store, thinking, "Some day... some day...")

I've moved on in a different direction with my life these past eight years -- down a road less travelled. I'm not always sure of where I'm going or how I'm going to get there... although the journey to date has been interesting, to say the least! I've found new interests and new adventures to fill my days.

But that tantalizing feeling of coming "so close" to fulfilling that other dream will probably haunt me for the rest of my time here on this earth.

How close do you/did you feel to achieving your family goals? Do you think there will ever come a time when you decide to stop treatment? If that time has already come, how did you know & what has happened since then?

Now, hop on over to Melissa's blog to find out who else is attending the party -- & then visit their blogs to find out what gifts/insights they've brought!


  1. Oy, I definitely read your post - I wish I could respond, but a few things hit too close to home (one is my anger that I had to stop reading Tertia's blog, since she got pregnant around the time I was, so the reminder is too much for me - I miss the blog, for Tertia is terrific!).

  2. I feel very close, as in, within the next 12 months close. I don't think we'll ever give up, maybe perhaps when the fertility doctor finally calls security to remove us from his office: IF things continue the way they do, though. If there is trauma along the way, I think everything changes. But my biggest 'trauma' has been no BFP EVER so uh, I think I can handle that!

  3. Thanks for sharing - I'll definitely check out her blog.

  4. Wow, what a powerful post, thank you so much for your raw honestly and your amazing words. I am humbled.

  5. I only know the feeling of trying, trying and trying. I can't imagine the feeling of feeling your hopes slip just out of your reach.

    Your post was both beautiful and heartbreaking. I can clearly see why Ann chose to feature your quote in her book.

    I never had a treatment more than medication. The failure of each of those cycles was so devastating, I couldn't imagine failing on an IVF where I had so much time, energy and money invested. But even so, it would be so hard to stop.

  6. I loved your comment on my post, especially the "mileage may vary."

    In a way, I've always thought we were pretty lucky to have a black & white prognosis: it was infinitesimally possible for us to have a pregnancy.

    So we knew when to cut and run from that path fairly early on.

    For me, it would have been awful to be So Close. I liked having clear road signs.

  7. Lori, I am still reading your blog faithfully - just haven't been very good about posting comments recently. This post, like all of yours, has so much wisdom and poignancy. We never came very close at all. In some ways I am grateful for that, because of how heartbreaking it would be to be "so close and yet so far," as the song goes, and because of how difficult it would be to decide whether to keep pursuing treatment or to stop if we had indeed gotten close.

  8. This was really a powerful post. Thanks so much for being so open and sharing so much.

    As for my own family goals, I'm getting closer and closer. It's been a very long and hard 6.5 years and at times it's nearly broken me. I'm incredibly lucky in that my husband and I have always been on the same page with our family goals.

    We learned early on that it would be very hard for us to have a biological child. Then we did get pregnant but it was ectopic. That kind of "so close" was excruciating for us. But it was much harder on my husband because he nearly lost me.

    I'd been an egg donor years ago so that part of moving on was very easy. No one warned me of the devastation of a negative donor cycle, though. That part was just awful. Now we're very happy to be building our family through open adoption.

  9. i actually snorted when i read your comment on my blog about waiting in line. i bet you are right!

    i definitely feel so close right now. at least to achieving pregnancy... i know that art can work for me because it has. it's just a matter of sustaining that pregnancy. i'm not sure how much more struggle i have left, but i do know that i'm not ready to stop yet. i feel like that brass ring is brushing my fingertips... and damn do i want to grab on!

  10. I love your book reviews. Now if I could just find the time to actually read one. Ugh.
    You are right tho, those of us who haven't had to deal with fertility issues, even if we have had the db issues, really have no idea of the struggle or the heartache involved as we really only hear about the successes and often only the gross ones at that(hello Octo mom I am speaking to you).
    I know I am a lot more sympathetic now than I used to be and I feel like an ass for how I was before, ignorant.

  11. I stumbled upon the book shower by chance - or was it serendipity? It's amazing what a bond I feel with all the women I met around the time of my loss (1996) and the moms I interviewed while researching my book - and whose stories I have followed thereafter. As one of the other moms I know who lost her child through stillbirth once said, we all belong to a club that none of us set out to join - or wanted to join. But here we are. And our fellow club members keep us sane. (Or sane-ish.)

  12. I feel very far from close. My husband and I are a few weeks from knowing all we can know to decide how to move forward.

    Great post!

  13. A powerful and moving post, Loribeth. With two living kids I feel a bit unqualified to answer your question, but I will give it a shot.

    I wonder what the hell kept me semi-sane in the two years of trying with primary infertility. I think most of all it was that silly feeling that we were still young. I felt like I had time to try more difficult and less guaranteed things. I turned out to have been right, even if it took a longish amount of time. If I was in the same position at my current age, I think I would've begged for needles. But the other part of that stubborn long way around, I think, was the security of feeling that there were more tricks in the bag. If this didn't work, there were always needles. And there was always adoption. I never excluded that as a family building option.

    After A died, I felt like we did come so very close-- he was 34.5 weeks along. Friends had twins at a bit less than that very gestation something like two weeks earlier, and they are fine. They were fine then, and they are great now. I mostly don't give into that line of thought, but it is still hard for me to see those twins. I also felt like Monkey had come so close to the one thing she wanted to be-- a big sister of the kind one can see and recognize. That part, her grief, her pain, for her brother, but also for being shortchanged, that was heartbreaking to watch.

    Loribeth, I am so sorry, again, about the crappy hand you were dealt. And I am sorry most of all that Katie is not here with you, driving you crazy the way I am told girls eventually do.

  14. I just love these book tours because everyone's posts and the comments are so interesting!

    Another great post, Loribeth.

    Sometimes I feel like we have come close, and sometimes it feels like we could not ever be further from our goal. That we may live childless is certainly on my mind, if that happens, there are many other fulfilling things in life to explore, despite the loss I would feel.

    I don't know if/when we will have to make that decision, I just know it isn't right now.

  15. Loved your thoughts on being close, and then feeling it gradually slip further and further away. I say "loved". I was moved by them, rather than enjoyed them, I'm sure you know what I mean - I mean, thanks for putting it down so clearly.

    I always felt like we were close because most of our cycles were positive, in a fashion. I do think (along with T) that it helped drive us forwards. As for stopping treatment... well, we're not done with it for all time, but we're not ready to return, so I'm not thinking about it just at the moment.