Monday, April 26, 2010

Project If: What if....

This week, April 24-May 1, is National Infertility Awareness Week in the U.S. (In Canada, it's May 16-22, sponsored by the Infertility Awareness Association of Canada, IAAC), and Melissa (AKA the Stirrup Queen) has teamed up with Resolve to bring Project If to the blogosphere. An original, powerful list of almost 400 infertility "what ifs" on Melissa's blog has been narrowed down, & bloggers in the ALI community have been asked to choose a topic & write about one of their personal "what ifs." While I still find it difficult to talk about loss & infertility to my family & friends, I am more than happy to use my blog as a vehicle for enlightenment & change!!

As someone who is pushing 50, 12 years past her one & only (unsuccessful) pregnancy & 9 years past her last treatment cycle/into childless/free living, I found it hard to pick one of the "what ifs" from the list to write about. I'm still trying to deal with some of these "what ifs," to some extent -- but the raw pain has faded. I rarely cry over my infertility & loss these days, except perhaps on special "anniversaries" & days like Mother's Day, or when something comes out of left field to catch me off guard. A certain amount of bone-weariness has set in when it comes to certain situations & topics.

But yes, 9 years later, I still carry some resentment toward women who assume -- usually correctly -- that they will have no problem getting pregnant & for whom positive pee stick = living, healthy baby. Pregnant women still remind me of my own lost pregnancy, especially at this time of year, and I do sometimes feel "less than" (or "invisible," as per my last post) because I am not the mother of a living child.

One of the "what ifs" on the list reads, "What if… I have to learn to live childfree with a smile…forever?" For me, that's not a "what if," that's my reality.

For some reason, I think the "what ifs" that resonate the most for me at this point in my life have less to do with what lies ahead down the road (my journey has had enough twists & turns that I think I have trouble believing I have much control over what will happen anyway…) & more to do with second-guessing the past. I don't dwell on the past obsessively, but there are a few parts of my journey that I sometimes revisit & wonder... what if...

For example, I know some people might think we were foolish to postpone ttc as long as we did, & sometimes "what if we had started ttc earlier?" does pop up in my head. We were married for 10 years & I was almost 35 when I tossed out my birth control pills (after being on them some 13 years) in the summer of 1995. While I never thought I wouldn't be a mother, motherhood was not the only goal I had set for myself. I grew up in the 1970s and absorbed the message that anything was possible for the girls of my generation. I took it for granted that I would go to university and get a good job doing something I loved, and I did. I grew up surrounded by too many cautionary tales of girls who got pregnant before marriage, or right after, & had to abandon their educations for low-paying jobs or rely on their husbands, who struggled to make ends meet & maintain their marriages. I was determined not to be one of them. Children, most definitely, but not until I was good & ready for them, emotionally as well as financially.

I was unemployed for almost a year after we got married (having left my job to move to a new city to be with my dh), & we had absolutely no money. There were months when we struggled to pay the rent on our apartment. We didn't feel we could afford to buy a house until we'd been married five years (& were only able to do so thanks to the generosity of my FIL, who gave us some money for a down payment) -- & then once you have the house, of course, there's that thing called a mortgage hanging over your head. We did talk about "when should we?" after our second nephew was born in 1992, but got cold feet & decided to wait just a little longer.

My answer to myself for that particular "what if?" is that we did what we thought was right for us and for our future family at the time. I'm not sure some additional time would have changed the ultimate outcome. Perhaps it might have given us a little more time to explore our options. We might have felt differently about adoption, for example, if we had exhausted our other family-building options when I was 37 instead of 40.

I do keep thinking about one of the "what ifs" that I added to the original what-if list. I'm not sure which category it falls into. It was My "what if" was comment #124:

What if, instead of staying silent when my family dr reassured me (at 35 & 36) “don’t worry, it will happen,” I had listened to my gut & pressed him for a referral to a fertility specialist for testing then? Would having that extra time to explore options have made a difference in the eventual outcome?

I actually went to my family dr when we decided it was time to start ttc, for what I've since learned is called a "pre-conception appointment." I asked him whether we needed to wait a few months after I stopped taking the pill to let it "clear my system" (he recommended waiting three months, which we did), whether I should be taking any prenatal vitamins (he talked to me about folic acid), etc. He's an older father himself (& I suppose he didn't see any reason why we couldn't become parents at our ages as a result) -- a pretty laconic sort of guy, doesn't show a lot of emotion -- but when I told him why I was there, he gave me a big smile, & as I left, said he hoped I'd be pregnant soon.

When the three months was up, & we finally took the plunge, I expected I would be pregnant, maybe not right away, but certainly within four to six months. I knew I was 35, but -- having obtained just about every other goal I had set for myself -- I really didn't think this was going to be THAT hard. Everyone I knew or read about in my women's magazines who had had problems getting pregnant either had wonky menstrual cycles (not a problem for me, pre-pill) or some kind of sexually transmitted disease or had used an IUD (also not problems).

The first month I went off the pill, my cycle was 53 days long (!). The next three months, it settled into a 35-day pattern (my pre-pill cycles had usually ranged from 32 to 35 days), but the first month we actually started trying, I was late again. I was thrilled. Was I actually going to be one of those people who got pregnant on the very first try??

Nope, AF finally arrived after 49 days. The next cycle was 42 days long & the next was 40. I figured my body might still be adjusting, post-pill, & for many months, my cycles were all over the place. I took several hpts on my own, & whenever my cycle went over 40 days, I'd head to my dr for a blood test, which inevitably turned out negative. At each of these visits, & at my regular checkups, my dr would say to me, "Don't worry, it will happen." As time went on, though, & I passed my 36th & 37th birthdays, it got harder & harder to believe him.

It did eventually happen, in the spring of 1998, when I was 37, and had been trying for 26 cycles, or almost 2 & 1/2 years. Sadly, my pregnancy ended in a stillbirth at 26 weeks.

Ever the optimist, I figured that we had gotten pregnant on our own after trying 2.5 years of doing very little outside of what most people do to get pregnant. Surely we could cut that time considerably with a little more targeted effort on our part. We got our first computer (& Internet access) in 1996, but it hadn't even occurred to me to turn there for help while we were ttc. Looking for answers after our loss, however, I found a whole new world of message boards & information sites. I joined a private e-mail list for women trying again after a loss, bought a copy of Toni Weschler's "Taking Charge of Your Fertility" and a basal thermometer, & began charting.

When another year had passed, & still no baby, I sat my dh down for a talk. I would soon be 39. I could hear the clock ticking. Loudly. Surely we owed it to ourselves to at least have some tests run, find out if there was a simple reason why I wasn't getting pregnant?

And so we started down the slippery slope of infertility testing and treatment. I called up the ob-gyn I saw during my pregnancy & over the next several months, through the fall of 1999, he agreed to run some tests for us, the results of which were inconclusive. When he offered us the choice of a prescription for Clomid or a referral to an RE, I knew the RE was the way to go. Fortunately, he was able to get us an appointment within six weeks with a new RE who was just setting up practice in the spring of 2000. By late spring, I was doing monitored cycles with clomid; by fall, I was injecting myself with Gonal-F & heading for the first of three IUIs I'd cajoled my dh into agreeing to (negotiated after a session with an infertility counsellor).

By the time our journey ended, in the summer of 2001, I was 40, a mental & physical wreck prone to anxiety attacks & popping ativan, & about $10,000 poorer. We took a break for the summer, took stock of the situation & reluctantly came to the decision that we would remain a family of two.

I think we made the right decision in the end, and I try not to dwell on the "what ifs?" But sometimes I wonder: what if, instead of offering platitudes, my dr had offered me a referral to an RE for some tests, given our ages & the amount of time we'd been ttc?

What if, instead of taking my dr's word for it ("it will happen"), I had been more vocal about my concerns, asked earlier for help, for a referral, for some tests to be run?

What if I had asked for help right away after our loss, instead of muddling through another precious year on our own, only starting working with an RE after my 39th birthday?

What if I had not wasted so much precious time? Would the outcome of my ttc story have been any different?

*** *** ***

One other "what if," somewhat related:

When I was a little girl, I remember being sick, & hearing my mother referring to my "kidney problems." When I was about 6 or 7, I spent several days in a big city hospital having various tests run. I was X-rayed, probed. I had a catheter put inside my bladder, had liquid pumped inside & then had drs watch my bladder on screen as it spilled out. I took medication for several years (a lot longer than was probably necessary, I later learned).

I had several hospital stays of several days each over the years, which later evolved into a series of outpatient visits. (Since we lived several hours away from the city, this involved me & my mother staying at my aunt's & navigating the city bus system.) These hospital visits were highly traumatic for a child, as you might imagine. This was in the late 1960s/early 1970s, & my mother was not allowed to stay overnight with me, as parents are today in most children's hospitals. I can remember sobbing myself to sleep as I schemed ways to run away from the hospital. It was years & years before I could go to a hospital, even just to visit someone, without turning green. My best friend's mother, who had just had a complete hysterectomy, once remarked that I looked worse than she did.

Anyway -- I didn't completely understand what was wrong with me then, & I'm still not sure I have a complete or entirely accurate picture -- but my understanding is that one of my ureters -- the tubes which carry urine away from the bladder -- was not properly attached to my bladder. There was a slight "bulge" in it which created a "backwash" and made me susceptible to bladder and kidney infections. We were told this was a very common problem. Surgery was discussed, but they settled on a "watch & wait" approach. My mother was told that many children simply outgrow the problem, & that's apparently what happened with me.

I also did not realize, until I was actually pregnant for the first & only time, that one of my kidneys is smaller than the other. My mother told me to mention this to my ob-gyn, as the drs had told her when I was younger that I might have a "hard time" in pregnancy because of it.

I thought she meant that it would be taxing on my kidneys (as pregnancy is, even with normal kidney function), & that was part of it, of course. But it turned out there was more to it than that, although I didn't realize so until after my daughter's stillbirth.

I spotted all through my first trimester, culminating in a visit to the hospital emergency room when I was about 10 weeks along. An ultrasound was performed, & we heard the baby's heartbeat. All was well, or so we thought. The radiologist asked, "Did you you know you have a bicornuate uterus?" A what? No, I did not know. He explained what it was & drew a diagram. I asked, "Is this going to be a problem?" He assured me not, & told me a story about a woman who hadn't known she had a bicornuate uterus, got pregnant with twins, had a C-section, & one twin was found in one horn and one in the other.

I asked again & again as my pregnancy progressed and my daughter showed signs of IUGR. One u/s tech told me the baby appared to be growing in one horn and the placenta in the other, with the umbilical cord running between the two. There was something on the placenta, which turned out to be a small calcified clot. Did this have anything to do with my uterus? I asked. I kept being reassured, no.

I did some Internet research. Later, after my daughter was stillborn, I found information that indicated there very well could have been a link -- that women with uterine abnormalities experience a higher proportion of miscarriages & stillbirths. Moreover, women who have uterine abnormalities also tend to have a higher incidence of kidney problems.

After our daughter's stillbirth, when we turned to infertility treatments, I asked my ob-gyn & then my RE about my uterus. I had read that the problem could be corrected surgically, although there was some debate about just how effective the procedure could be. My ob-gyn was lukewarm on the subject. My RE didn't seem too concerned about it either. In fact, he finally asked to see the video of my HSG (done more than year earlier by my ob-gyn), & offered to do surgery (without promising too much in the way of results) only AFTER we'd already been through three injectable/IUI cycles & were on the verge of calling it quits. I weighed the prospect of surgery along with all the other factors -- & decided we were done.

So I wonder sometimes: were drs back then (in the late 1960s/early 1970s) aware of the co-relation between uterine abnomalities & kidney problems? Is this something they could have seen in my X-rays and other tests that were run at the time? Are uterine abnormalities detectable in a child? And if they did see something, why wasn't my mother told? Or is this what they meant by telling her that I might have a "hard time" during pregnancy? Did they tell her, & she just didn't understand what the implications were?

I will probably never know, but what if I had known about this problem & its potential implications for my fertility when I was younger? Might I have made different decisions about ttc?

Julie at A Little Pregnant recent posted about one drug company's innovative new campaign to encourage couples to "Increase your chances" & talk to an RE sooner rather than later. Sure, if they consult an RE they will be more likely to wind up using the company's fertility drugs... but the message is still a valuable one.

In its August 2009 report, the Ontario Expert Panel on Infertility and Adoption recommended that not only should the government ensure that all primary care practitioners are educated about fertility and related issues, but also that all primary care practitioners – including naturopathic doctors and doctors of traditional Chinese medicine – should make fertility education/counselling a routine part of care for all patients, beginning in their 20s, including males and females, those in a relationship or single (including those who are not trying to start a family), regardless of sexual orientation.

The panel also set recommended that doctors should offer fertility testing/monitoring to women age 28 and over who have been unable to conceive naturally after one year without using contraception, women age 30 and older, when they want to start a family or have been unable to conceive naturally after six months, and to the male partners of women who are undergoing testing. (Unfortunately, none of the panel's recommendations have been adopted to date.)

It's too late for me. I have moved on with my life (I'm trying to, anyway -- although I suspect that the grief I feel over my infertility & the stillbirth of my daughter will always be with me in some way).

But what if more couples listened to that nagging voice within, & asked for help at an earlier stage? What if doctors took their concerns seriously? What if certain medical problems were red-flagged at an earlier stage, so that young women were made aware that they might have difficulty conceiving?

*** *** ***

To read more bloggers' Project If posts, visit here. All blogs on the list will be considered for Resolve’s Hope Award for Best Blog, presented at the 2010 Night of Hope. Resolve will also be featuring a link to the blog on

To read the original "what if" list, visit :

To gain a basic understanding of infertility, visit .

To learn more about National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW):

Friday, April 23, 2010

Invisible me

Two posts I've read in recent days got me thinking about invisibility -- the visibility of pregnancy versus the invisibility of loss and grief, the visibility of the childed versus the invisibility of the childless, the visibility of the young & beautiful (& presumably fertile) versus the invisibility of the aging (women in particular).(In all three cases, of course, the invisible person being me.)

First, Mrs. Spit wrote a long, moving post about perception -- self-perception and perception by others.

"But I have 31 years of being the shining star in the room, the centre of attention, the vibrant, flamboyant one, and this change in priorities, this change in ethos is a hard habit to break. I am struggling about how to be genuine, I don’t want to be one of those people who is so focused on niceness they miss the ugliness in the world. I am trying to balance being resilient, not optimistic, how to reconcile knowing the very, very bad can and does happen, with knowing the good can and does happen. I’m trying to reconcile the crushing sadness of being still childless with a need to live and enjoy the life I have. I am working very hard to be silent, to allow others to speak, to leave a bit of mystery about myself. I am working on moving past being only Gabriel’s mum."
Then, Angie at Still Life With Circles wrote about the invisibility that a once-pregnant, now-grieving mother feels -- the invisible burden of grief that we carry:

"I have a newborn now. And that is all anyone sees, as though the last year and four months of submerging in grief were a tour in the Nam. I remember being a few months out from Lucy's death, and walking through the market--an invisible depressed person. Two months prior, all people saw was a beautiful 20 month old with crystal blue eyes, and a pregnant mama, and then, Lucy died, and we became mostly invisible. I was one of those quiet, fat, middle-aged women that no one noticed. I didn't smile. I didn't engage in eye contact. I didn't flirt. I didn't make chitchat. I was just another extra in the movie of life. Another grieving person with no scene to fit into.

"Now, I am a new mother, and people offer unsolicited advice as though this is my first child. People approach me beaming, peeking in the car seat, "Let me just see the baby for a second." Pregnant women ask me for car seat recommendations, and about my sling, and his weight now and at birth, and make allusions to how much my hoohah must have hurt. And I search behind their warm, open faces for the women ignoring me, squeezing their husbands hands a little tighter, holding their breath until I pass. Those are my people, even if they want nothing to do with me. I just want to cry with them and stop talking about this nonsense. I want my arm to gesture over Thor and Beezus and say, "This is not my whole story." I have never wanted a "My baby died" t-shirt more than now."

As I wrote in my comments to them, I have been struggling lately with an increasing feeling of invisibility -- that my life and work, as a middle-aged, childless woman, doesn't matter much to anyone, except perhaps within the small circle of my family & close friends.

I am uncomfortable being the centre of attention, knowing that all eyes in the room are on me. Have been for most of my life. I didn't like the visibility and stigma that being "the woman who lost her baby" gave me.

But I don't like being invisible either. I just want to feel like I'm a part of things, that I'm contributing and that people are paying attention & giving fair consideration to what I have to say and what I bring to the table.

Pregnant woman are the antithesis of invisible. After a certain point, it is difficult for most women to hide the fact that they are pregnant. You can't help but notice them, with their bellies sticking out to there (not to mention the loud complaints some of them make about the aches & pains they're going through, or the fawning attention that others pay to them). Years ago, pregnancy was supposed to be concealed, with voluminous dresses and blouses. Even when I was pregnant, just 12 years ago, my maternity outfits draped softly over my tummy, & I made do for quite some time wearing extra-large sizes of my regular brands. Today's pregnant women's maternity tops hug their expanding bellies, practically boasting, "Look at me!"

After my daughter's stillbirth, I remember feeling shell-shocked. For a short, sweet period, I had been pregnant. I had finally joined the exclusive sisterhood I had longed to be part of for so long. I remember saying these words to my support group facilitator, & how she nodded in sympathy. "And then," (as I told Angie in my comment) she said, "you got kicked out of the club." Oh yes.

For a brief time afterward, I felt all too visible -- naked, even -- as the spotlight shone on my husband & me in the aftermath of our daughter's stillbirth. Slowly, however, the spotlight began to fade, and the impact of our loss began to diminish and become less visible -- not for us, of course, but for those around us. I've sat, silent -- invisible -- while other women around me talk to each other, sharing stories about their pregnancies, their labour & delivery, their children and their activities and the funny things they said. Even if they knew I had been pregnant -- and I have met many people in the 12 years since then who have no idea about my reproductive history -- who wants to hear MY labour & delivery story?? I don't have any (living) children, so apparently some people/women find it difficult to relate to me.

As I wrote to Mrs. Spit, since the loss of my pregnancy 12 years ago, at 37, I have felt the invisible cloak of middle age descending upon me. (Has my aging these past 12 years been inevitable, or has it been hastened by my loss? I wonder.) We abandoned infertility treatment in the year I turned 40 -- & I have spent much of my 40s wandering through a haze of unfulfilled expectations, trying to rechart the path of my life, from the life I thought I was going to be leading to -- what?

I know it's not just me, not just infertile/grieving people who find themselves at midlife, questioning the direction their life has been taking (or not taking) to date, wondering, "Where do I go from here?" (And I know this isn't the first time I've rambled on about aging, & direction. Sorry. But it probably won't be the last either. My blog, my whine & cheese party, lol.)

Dh & I were recently talking about a Hollywood actress -- I can't even remember which one now! (hmmm, speaking of aging...) -- & he said, "She kind of disappeared, didn't she?" "She turned 40," I said, making a face.

We went to see a counsellor a few years back during a rough spot we were going through, & she immediately zeroed in on the fact that both of us were going through midlife crises of sorts. We're empty nesters whose nest was never filled, facing some of the same issues that parents face when their children leave home: "So that part of our life is over. Now what??"

Part of my middle-aged angst is work-related. I've never been career-driven, in the sense of trying to climb the corporate ladder, etc., but I (mostly) enjoy my work & the people I work with. This summer, I will have been with my company, & my department, for 24 years. There are a few in my department who have been with the company longer than I have, but I am the longest serving member of the department.

Longevity has its pros & its cons. Sometimes I feel like I'm becoming part of the furniture. I can tell stories to the young'uns about what it was like in our department when I first started (when some of them were still in diapers, no doubt) -- when I was taken aside by one of the older women during my first week on the job & told that "Women don't wear pants here, dear" (this was 1986, not 1946); how we functioned before we got voice mail (missed calls would bounce to the receptionst, who would take messages on little yellow slips of paper & deliver them to your desk later); how the writers still composed on typewriters and had to share two computers located in a common area, saving our stories on big floppy disks; how you would send something out for approval in the interoffice mail, sit back & wait a few days for it to come back again; how there was just one fax machine in the building for the most urgent communications; how people actually used to smoke at their desks (something we were talking about just yesterday).

I can, but I try to resist the impulse (although I sometimes fail). I know I must already seem ancient to some of them; I don't want to belabour the point.

I have not written much about it, but my office has been and is still going through a lot of changes. There are organizational changes, there are personnel changes, & there are demographic changes.

For 10-15 years, I worked with the a core group that included the same four women. We knew each other well, we worked well together. But then, starting about 5-6 years ago, one was let go, and two others retired -- including my office best friend. We knew each other so well, one of us would show up at the other's cubicle, wallet in hand, ready to go for a coffee, just as the other was pulling out HER wallet with the exact same intention. She's now having a blast --travelling, doting on her grandchildren (although biologically childless, she has several stepchildren), taking fitness and yoga and dance classes and tennis lessons.

These days, I go fetch my coffee alone, meeting packs of the office Gen-Yers -- many of them young enough to be my kids -- coming back from their own coffee breaks. They have lunch together, go the bars after work together, & hang out around each other's cubicles, giggling. They check out their BlackBerrys and iPhones (my cellphone is rarely on, and I don't even know how to text message). They talk about bands that I have never even heard of (and make me wince when they reference "Brown Sugar" as "that old song by Aerosmith")(wince = yes, it's old, but also no, it was actually by the Rolling Stones!!). They wear high heels and short, skinny skirts and layered T-shirts that would look ridiculous on me (and yes, I am jealous). I am both awe-struck and annoyed by their self-confidence, and slightly unnerved by the feeling that I am falling farther & farther behind, and won't be able to keep pace much longer.

Now, my boss for most of the past 16 years -- the last remaining person from the old, familiar group I once worked with -- recently announced she, too, will be retiring -- at the end of next week!! Needless to say, the prospect of getting a new boss, after 16 years, added to an organizational review now under way, has me feeling slightly unnerved.

Can I say that I'm also just a little bit envious?? Whenever people ask me about my goals in life these days, about where I want to see myself in 10 years, my response is usually "retired." I say it jokingly, or write it with a wink ; ) -- but I'm not entirely joking. Dh & I have saved where our friends & relatives have spent on big homes, fancy cars & lavish annual sunspot resort vacations. And of course, while we don't have the joys of children, we don't have the expenses of bringing them up or educating them either.

So it's possible that we could both be retired within the next 6 years -- definitely within 12-16 years, & hopefully sooner than later (barring any more big dives in the economy…!)(but hopefully not TOO soon...!). We're both looking forward to finally having lots of free time to pursue our interests -- volunteer work, maybe going back to school, some travel. Tackling the mountains of unread books around the house.

And yet -- it seems sad to me that I have so little else to look forward to in my life right now. Life begins at retirement? Really?? So what do I do between now & then?

I know of so many couples who work hard all their lives, finally reach retirement -- and within a year or so, one of them is gone. My uncle (my aunt's husband) was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just days after my grandmother's funeral & died suddenly in bed just a week later (& was buried the same day as my mother's hysterectomy)(not a good few weeks for my family…!) at age 65, just a year after his retirement. I remember my aunt telling me how glad she was that they had taken a long driving trip to California and a tour of England and Scotland in recent years, that they hadn't waited to do some of the things they had always wanted to do.

My 50th birthday is coming soon. Many of my ancestors, on both sides of my family, lived well into their 80s & 90s -- it's entirely possible that I could live to be 100. (On the other hand, I could get hit by a bus tomorrow.) Even so, it's a reasonable assumption that my life is at least half way over with.

What do I want to do with the years that remain? (And with the years that remain before I retire?) How can I contribute, leave a lasting legacy of some sort (since I won't be leaving a family)?

I don't want to be forgotten. I want people to know that I was here, to feel I made a difference.

I may shy away from the spotlight… but that doesn't mean I want to be invisible.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

It has begun...

The signs and displays are in the store windows.

The ads are on television.

On Facebook last night: someone posted a photo of a Dolce & Gabbana watch -- a hint for Mother's Day, she said. (!)

On a scrapbooking blog I read this morning: Headline: "Moms deserve the best!" Opening line: "It's never too early to start preparing gifts for Holidays or Special Occasions, and I'm sure one of the more important Holidays for many of us must be Mother's Day." Ummm, sure.

Of course I believe that MY mother deserves the best. : )

But it is hard to focus solely on honouring my own mother, as many suggest that those of us who are childless-not-by-choice should do -- first of all, because she's 1,000 miles away, and second, because all the other moms around me will soon begin talking about their plans and what their families are doing for them. And, of course, the hype around Mother's Day and motherhood really lasts all year long, when you live in a highly pronatalist society (as we do).

I actually recall the hype starting earlier in previous years (maybe a year when Easter fell earlier in the year? -- we need to get that over with first…), so I guess I'm lucky. (I guess??)

At least I don't have to attend a baptism this year. :p

Meme: Short & sweet

A fun meme from Calliope. Written during a lull at work ; ) but posted tonight.

Here's the catch:


Not as easy as you might think…

1. Yourself: tired.
2. Your boyfriend/girlfriend (husband): awesome. : )
3. Your hair: short
4. Your mother/stepmother: whirlwind
5. Your dog: none
6. Your favorite item: book
7. Your dream last night: bizarre
8. Your favorite drink: tea
9. Your dream car: convertible
10. The room you are in: office
12. Your fear: illness
13. What you want to be in 10 years: retired ; )
14. Who you hung out with last night: dh
15. What you’re not: assertive
16. Muffin: lemon
17: One of your wish list items: ring
18: Time: scarce
19. The last thing you did: lunch
20. What you are wearing: brown
21. Your favorite weather: sunny
22. Your favorite book: many
23. The last thing you ate: fish
24. Your life: hectic
25. Your mood: mellow
26. Your best friend(S): dh : )
27. What are you thinking about right now? dinner
28. Your car: Toyota (!)
29. What are you doing at the moment?: this
30. Your summer: busy
31. Your relationship status: married
32. What is on your TV?: off
33. What is the weather like?: sunny
34. When is the last time you laughed?: yesterday

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

(Very) belated thanks are in order...

I'm still dealing with the fallout of getting behind on all things blog-related (reading, writing and commenting) during the Olympics. (insert red-faced icon here) During that time, back in mid-February (two months ago now!!), I was honoured with not just one but two awards from two lovely bloggers! And now, I can finally get rid of the yellow Post-It note that's been stuck to my computer by thanking them!

I'm not going to pass these along right now, but I did want to acknowledge receiving them. : ) Feel free to do the memes yourself if the fancy strikes you (& let me know if you do!).

First, many thanks to Emily at Apron Strings for Emily, who gave me this "Beautiful Blogger Award." Emily & her dh recently made the difficult decision to continue living childfree. Within the past year, they also pulled up stakes & moved to a new city. Most recently, Emily completed an awesome triple-header blogging feat: (1) she posted every single day for 64 days, beginning in February and ending at Easter, (2) she performed one random act of kindness every day during Lent, and documented it in her blog, and (3) also during Lent, she wrote about one thing every day that she was thankful for. (She also recently moved to self-hosting her newly redesigned blog!) I am in awe of her accomplishments!!

Here are the rules that go with this award:
  • Thank the per­son who nom­i­nated you for this award. (Done.)
  • Copy the award and place it in your blog. (Done.)
  • Link the per­son who nom­i­nated you for this award. (Done.)
  • Tell us 7 inter­est­ing things about you. (See below.)
  • Nom­i­nate 7 bloggers. (See above.)
  • Post the links to the 7 blog­gers you nominate. (Ditto.)

I've done a few of these types of memes before so I hope I'm not repeating myself too much!! OK, 7 (more) things about me:

1) I am known around the office as the Grammar & Spelling Lady. I even get calls from other departments asking for advice. I don't claim to know it all, but I usually know where to look things up quickly to provide a ruling. (I credit my journalism school profs, who drilled the Canadian Press Stylebook and Caps & Spelling into our heads, & docked us marks for errors)(misspelling a proper name got you an automatic zero on the assignment). My pet peeves are corporate jargon of all kinds (it's an uphill battle...!), the overuse of sports metaphors in business communication, & the trend to using nouns as verbs (e.g., impact, medal, podium).

2) I have a mirror in my desk drawer at work that my mom gave me for Christmas when I was in Grade 8. (I won't tell you how long ago THAT was...!) It has "You're Gorgeous" (!) lettered on it at the bottom in a 70s-style font, lol. I used to keep it in my locker at school for touch-ups. It is falling out of its plastic frame, the little tab that made it stand up has long since broken off, & it's chipped around the edges, but I love having it around. It's a link to my mom, to the young girl I once was and to the life I led back then.

3) I recently got bitten by the spring cleaning bug. We took four garbage bags full of clothing, shoes & purses to the Goodwill dropoff box two weekends ago (some of it was dh's stuff), & last weekend, we just about burned out the paper shredder. We had a huge bag full of shredded paper (old bills, statements, etc.) to set out on recycling day!

4) I love getting dressed up now & then, & wearing pretty dresses -- but there are so few places to wear them these days, with the possible exception of weddings (which are also getting more & more casual, it seems). Well, we do have a couple of weddings coming up, and I found a dress at Winners to wear (see photo). Best of all: the price tag: $39.99!!!

5) We are thinking about a trip to Prince Edward Island &/or Nova Scotia to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary this summer. I was in Halifax on business 13 years ago in November & loved it. I figured I would love it even more in June or September, lol.

6) Sometimes I think about everything that I need &/or want to get accomplished this summer, & it makes my head spin.

7) I've gotten into the habit lately of eating yogurt just about every night as a snack -- Activia fat-free. My favourite flavour is strawberry.

*** *** ***

The second honour I received, right around the same time, came from Dot/Sweet Pea at Hopes and Dreams for Us. Dot has also been trying on childfree living for size (although, excitingly, the "A" word came up in a recent post!) while, at the same time, downsizing herself through a successful weight loss program. She has a positive attitude & resilient spirit that is truly inspirational. Thank you, Dot!

The rules for this award:

List 10 things that make you happy and then pass it along to 10 other blogs!

1) My dh. : )

2) Curling up under a cozy blanket while the rain pounds outside.

3) Seeing the tulips and daffodils coming up outside -- it's (finally!) spring!

4) Likewise -- being able to go outside with just a spring jacket over my clothes. No heavy winter coat, no boots, no hat & scarf weighing me down.

5) The Beatles. A Beatles song never fails to put a smile on my face!

6) Spending time with my family.

7) Our two tall, handsome nephews (& looking at pictures of them when they were adorable little boys -- not that long ago...!!).

8) Going to the movies (& getting a big tub of popcorn to eat -- preferably hot & freshly popped!).

9) Getting together with old friends & feeling like nothing has changed since the last time you saw them, even if it was actually years ago.

10) Piles of brightly coloured T-shirts at the Gap (I always want to buy them all!).

Monday, April 12, 2010

It's (not) my party & I'll cry if I want to

My sister called me last night to discuss some of the details for the party we're hosting for our parents' 50th wedding anniversary this summer. My dad's family, in particular, is very big on celebrating every "milestone" anniversary & birthday, & so we've had parties for my parents' 25th & 40th wedding anniversaries (as well as my dad's 50th & 65th birthdays). The 40th anniversary party, 10 years ago, was a particularly big deal -- catered buffet dinner & dance at the community hall in my parents' town for about 100 people, including a speech from me & a photo slide show organized by my sister -- & we're planning something similar for this summer.

Ten years ago, I was 39 & had been married 15 years. Almost two years had passed since Katie's stillbirth, but I had just finished our first (unsuccessful) IUI using clomid & Puregon, and was looking forward to doing another in the fall. The clock was definitely ticking, but the hope of presenting my parents with a (living) grandchild was still alive & kicking. My sister is childfree by choice, so all my parents' hopes for a grandchild rested solely on dh & me.

But there won't be any adorably dressed grandchildren for the guests to fuss over, or any grandchild photos included in the slide show this time around either -- there never will be. (I suppose the one photo of Mom, dh & me holding Katie in the hospital -- or even one of Mom & me in front of Katie's niche at the cemetery -- would be considered far too morbid & sad for what's supposed to be a happy occasion.)

I had a foreshadowing that this might be difficult last summer, when my Mom attended her 50th high school class reunion. The organizers had everyone fill out a questionnaire about what they'd been doing for the past 50 years. Of course, 98% of her classmates wrote (some at great length) about their grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. That must have been an "ouch!" moment for my mom, although she rarely lets on about these things (at least to me).

If I just focus on the tasks at hand, focus on Mom & Dad, on giving them a great party, on enjoying the presence of the friends and family who will be there, I'm fine.

But whenever I let my mind wander into thoughts of what might have been, should have, could have been… I feel a wave of sadness (and guilt) come over me. The band-aid being ripped off an old wound. Again.

*** *** ***

Complicating my feelings about Mom & Dad's party, this summer is also our (dh & my) 25th wedding anniversary (less than three weeks before theirs). And to be fair to my sister, when we first started talking about this summer, she said, "OK, am I working on a 50th anniversary party, or a combined 50th-25th?" I said firmly, "Let's just keep it simple & focus on Mom & Dad." I still think that was the right decision. Fifty years is a pretty big deal. Mom & Dad deserve their moment in the spotlight, alone, unshared.

As do dh & I, I think. OK, I'll admit it. I feel a little sad (pissed off, even) that nobody is planning any kind of celebration for us. (The weekend after Mom & Dad's party is a major family reunion, so no, I don't think there will be any surprises in store -- two major events in two weekends is MORE than enough for one family to plan, lol.) (Plus, my sister already has tickets to a Bon Jovi concert the weekend we are planning to arrive. And I know where I rate next to Jon, lol.)

On dh's side (here, where we live), I honestly don't think anyone remembers, & even if they do, I'm not sure it would register that a party might be in order. Not many of his relatives have had big parties to celebrate significant wedding anniversaries. We went to 25th anniversary parties for one of his aunts and one of his uncles, and a party for stepMIL's parents 50th -- all in the early years of our marriage -- but none lately. Only two of his cousins have been married longer than we have, & there were no parties held to celebrate their 25ths. (Although we have most certainly been to umpteen engagement parties, bridal showers, stags, weddings, baby showers, first birthday parties (especially first birthday parties), first communions, confirmations, etc., for assorted relatives & their kids over the past 25 years.)

Plus, hosting an anniversary party is generally something that kids do for their parents -- even when the kids are barely in their teens & you know that Mom & Dad are footing the bill & doing most of the organizing (perhaps with a helping hand from some of the aunts & uncles). No kids, no party. (No soup for you!!)

I suppose we could plan our own party. Anything seems to go these days, although I'm sure Miss Manners would frown upon it and just thinking about it makes me feel uncomfortable. But even if it was etiquettely correct, I feel like I have enough on my plate at the moment -- & part of me thinks the money would be better spent on a nice anniversary trip/vacation for the two of us anyway.

No answers (what were the questions?? lol), but thank you for listening to/reading me vent (whine?). Stuff like this is the among the not-so-fun aspects of living childless/free after infertility & loss.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Hitting the bottle

I had to chuckle. The Saturday Globe & Mail had a lengthy feature on -- wait for it -- the use of Robitussin/cough syrup as a fertility aid.

Ahhh, the memories. I can't remember exactly when I started using Robitussin (or when I stopped), but I do remember reading about it on my subsequent pg after a loss e-mail list. Oh, the money I spent on that stuff!! I kept a bottle in my desk at work, as well as at home. I must have drunk gallons & gallons of it before I finally gave up. I can taste it right now as I write. Yuck.

Obviously, it did not work for me. Anyone else use Robitussin -- or some other "word of mouth" fertility aid?

Friday, April 9, 2010

"One of the moms?" Ummm, don't think so...

Dh & I were just settling into our seats on our usual afternoon commuter train, heading home tonight and looking forward to the weekend, when a brown-haired woman who seemed to be in her 30s plunked herself down in the seat beside me.

"Hi!" she said. "I was just wondering, do your kids go to [local name] school?"

I was taken aback. I paused.

I almost said, "Ummm, I don't HAVE any kids."

Instead I just said, "Ummm, no."

"You live in [town]?"


"Oh," she said. "I see you on the train every night, & I said to my friend, 'I know her from somewhere... she must be one of the moms from [school]."

I shook my head in bemusement, & dh said, "Well, not from the school, no." And she smiled & got up & returned to her nearby seat.

When we left the train that night, I said to dh, "So -- do you think I look like a mom from [name] school??"

"I could see you were having a tough time with that," he said.

It WAS a weird feeling. Having to confront not just the question, "Do you have kids?" but the outright assumption that I HAVE kids, AND that they go to a particular local school.

For just a brief second, if only in this woman's mind, I was "one of the moms." I was part of the club, the sisterhood. I was one of them.

And actually, she probably still thinks I am. I'm just not "one of the moms from [name] school."

Very strange.

(P.S. While she's sure she knows me from somewhere, I don't think I've ever seen her before in my life, except maybe on the train.)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Sunday blues

Even when I was a kid, I remember feeling that Sunday was a melancholy sort of day. And even though dh & I are taking the day off work tomorrow, the Sunday blues hit me hard today.

It started when I was watching Bill Moyers Journal on PBS (which, sadly, is down to its last few weeks before going off the air for good) & watching a clip of Martin Luther King's final speech ("I have been to the mountaintop... and I have seen the Promised Land... I may not get there with you..."), which was delivered in Memphis 42 years ago today. For some reason, I found myself reaching for the Kleenex.

After that, we made some lunch & turned on the radio to listen to the Vinyl Cafe on CBC. Today's show was from a small town that I know well -- not a place where I have ever lived, but in the same part of the country. The local references made me homesick. The story in the featured reader's letter was poignant & the story of the day was more wistful than funny -- a story involving a grandfather's funeral. At the end of the story, I completely lost it & started sobbing.

Then we went to the cemetery, & I cried some more.

Maybe I have the Sunday blues today because it's Easter Sunday. I've written before about how I find certain holidays difficult -- perhaps one of the most difficult things about living childless/free after loss & infertility. Christmas isn't so bad, since we are usually at home with my family, but I find I have a harder time with Easter & Thanksgiving. Dh & I often find ourselves at loose ends on these days (my family is 1,000 miles away, FIL is often with stepMIL's family & BIL is with his wife's family). The contrasts between my memories of how we celebrated these holidays when I was growing up, the way I thought I would be celebrating them (carrying on family traditions, with my own children), the way most people seem to be celebrating them (with their families, posting photos & tales of big family dinners & Easter egg hunts with excited children dressed in new pastel-coloured finery) -- & the reality (just the two of us, spending a quiet day at home) is sometimes a little hard to digest.

Maybe because I've been super busy & stressed at work lately, with responsibility for a major project (that finally got submitted on Tuesday) & more changes afoot.

Maybe because the Little Girl Next Door, who is just six months younger than our Katie would have been, celebrated her 11th birthday this week -- had to tell us about it, of course, when we saw her outside a few days ago. She had a gaggle of her girlfriends over on Saturday to celebrate.

Maybe because we've been watching the adorable little blond guy from down the street todding around -- & realized that his mother is hugely pregnant, & there will soon be two of them to watch wistfully from our window.

Maybe because two houses on our street recently went up for sale -- & we realized that it will be 20 years next month since we moved into this house. "I NEVER thought we'd be here for 20 years," dh said. "Me either," I said. "I thought once we had a second child we'd move up to something bigger." We both gazed out at our big, kid-friendly, little-used backyard & hugged each other. Life is funny sometimes....

Maybe because, for the past 10 years or so, I've noticed an uptick in my stress & anxiety levels at this particular time of year. Last year, the problems I was having with what seemed to be food allergies/reactions peaked right around this time. I haven't had any such problems in quite some time (maybe because I haven't had a tomato in a year??), but I did notice some redness today after dinner (I'm suspecting some undercooked carrots & celery), which had me on edge all evening.

Maybe I've found this time of year stressful over the past decade, because March 22nd marked 12 years since I watched, open-mouthed, as two bright blue lines popped into view on the hpt in my hand -- turning my world upside down & changing my life forever.

I guess there are lots of reasons why I might be feeling a little blue this Easter Sunday.

Fortunately, dh talked me through it. And, as I said earlier, we both have tomorrow off & are going to the mall. (When the going gets tough... the tough go SHOPPING! lol)

Easter 2009

Easter 2008