It’s autumn of 2009, and we’ve been trying to get pregnant, unsuccessfully, for 2 years.
We’re both turned 37 year. My feelings are all mixed up—sometimes dark and confused, but sometimes carefree and relieved. So, as always, as I’ve done for my whole life, I thought maybe if I wrote it down, it would make more sense. Though, sometimes writing it down, shedding light on it, only makes it more confusing. People (usually people with children) usually have lots of well-meaning but annoying words of advice, and it makes me wish my husband had never told anyone we were “trying” for a baby. Now I feel funny, different, flawed, when people know we’ve been trying and not succeeding. Maybe if I write it out I take ownership back and will lose my ugly feelings.
Apparently being a good girl all my life-- losing my virginity at 21 to the man I later married, being of robust good health, with a completely uneventful and calendar-perfect ovulation cycle-- makes me somehow less likely to conceive than:
- Every drunk ass bum that has 5 shoeless kids in a shopping cart at Wal-Mart
- The girl with who didn’t know she was even pregnant until 3 months before her due date.
- A man who used to be a woman, took male hormones for many years, but later successfully was inseminated with a turkey baster. Twice.
It's a mystery how it all works, really! In a book it seems to make sense, how it all works, but the actual practice of it is amazing--The conception of a child is a miracle. People always say that, but I never truly understood it until now. There are so many amazing variables, mixes of different body chemistry, luck of timing-- down to the most microscopic window of perfection. It's amazing to me anyone ever gets born at all. It's truly a miracle.
I wonder what I am doing wrong. Do I eat too much of something I shouldn't? Do I drink too much coffee or beer? Did my magic markers in the 1980s pollute my brain's operating system? Should I not go running as much? Is there something fundamentally amiss that I could never detect on my own, some misstep in my development, something my Mom did/didn't do when I was in the womb? Like those DES Daughters of the 1960s/70s who were born without uteruses? Are my hormones dropping the ball somewhere along the route? So many possibilities. (The main possibility we all know is that I am just too dang old now).
I get angry with my husband because maybe it’s his fault! I see him sitting on the sofa and wonder if every part of him is equally lazy, even the tiniest parts of DNA. Then I get angry with myself for being angry, because that sure ain’t conducive to nothing. Sometimes I think there's nothing wrong with either of us, other than a basic lack of communication--not just in mundane day to day life, chores, bills, what to have for dinner-- but now, evident on the most primordial level. We cannot get our acts together to make a baby.
We don't mix. Our chemistry is wrong.
When I was a kid I was the “pied piper” of youngsters (said my Mom)—all the younger kids flocked to me, and for this I always envisioned I’d be a mom someday—jokingly saying I wanted 9 so I could have “my own baseball team”. I was a camp counselor and there was a time I entertained the idea of going back to school for a teaching degree.
Kids are wonderful, amazing, hard work and full of inspiration. I had a fantastic childhood, so maybe the idea of living through another one with a child of my own, seeing the world again through childlike perspective, is one of the things that drives me towards wanting a baby. Maybe I’m just selfish. I’ve got a lot, and maybe I don’t deserve having more.
I got married young, age 23, to my college sweetheart. It all seemed like a lark because I was too young to know any better. My maternal urge didn’t kick in early, like it does for some. In our 20s we were too busy scrapping for our own survival in the harsh economic climate of our beautiful new state, with barely enough to make ends meet. We lived on love, in small strange places, and did dangerous stunts in the wilderness. No way there was enough time or energy or money for a kid added to the mix.
We also never had any “oops”, which is the way parenthood happens for many. All of my life I’d had a perfectly regular cycle—running so perfectly like clockwork that I quit the pill at age 27, and instead we used natural fertility awareness to avoid getting knocked up. The thought behind it was that when we ready to have a child, it would be a cinch!
I watched family and friends start their families without the tiniest pang of envy. It was great for them, but for me, I was going in the right direction, enjoying what our life was. I remember Chad's brother and his wife struggling with their two young toddlers, as Chad and I got our gear ready to go cross country skiing--I had no interest in trading places with them. We got older, made a little more money, and around age 29, bought a house. "Settling down," but not quite thinking of parenthood yet.
Money concerns still make problems for us, but like a friend told me, “You will always have money worries- don’t wait until your money situation is ‘perfect’- because it never will be.”
Around 35 years old, with both of us on board and in complete agreement with 100% enthusiam about this plan, we started to try for a baby. It would be a lark, a gas, an easy slam dunk! Months passed. Sex, and lots of sex, even when we didn’t wanna, or it was inconvenient. I thought I knew what was what, and when was the ideal timing, but after 6 months of failure, I started writing things down on the calendar, invested in a thermometer, and an ovulation kit. Friends who’d tried for 18 months before having luck told me, “Yeah, been there. Done that. It won’t be until you throw all of that stuff away that you’ll have any progress.” They told us we’d have to “go on vacation” to some strange locale. Strange vacations came and went, and still my monthly visitor arrived right on time, just like she had since age 12. I could not shake her.
Every time my period arrives again, I re-evaluate. I don’t get so upset any more. It’s hard to sustain that level of disappointment and bewilderment for 2 years. People ask me why we don’t get fertility treatments, shots or drugs or medical intervention. There are lots of “procedures”, all very expensive, invasive, and none guaranteed. Every month I think about all of those complicated and slightly creepy tests my doctor mentioned, and every month I forget about them. (Though I do suspect it might alleviate some of my stress to get checked out a little bit more thoroughly).
As far as fertility treatments? I am not for them. Our culture sensationalizes and glorifies that kinda stuff now-- like Jon & Kate Plus 8, and "the OctoMom", and even Brangelina, and the Hollywood people-- churning out all those sets of engineered twins. My Mom apparently had been discussing my “problem” with an aunt, and that was what was she suggested. First off, I hollered at my Mom for talking about this with “people”. It’s not for people to know. It’s for me, and my husband and maybe my immediate family. Or maybe nobody. It’s private. I don’t wanna be the topic of someone’s gossip. Besides that, what if were to go through the whole ordeal, the procedures, the operations, the drugs, the time and money—and create a child who never wanted to exist and wasn’t ever meant to be here?
What if the kid turns out to be an asshole?
I’d rather that kid show up when he or she wants to, naturally—I understand, as we get older, the chance of this decreases.
Why do I want to have a child—is it for the child’s benefit or my own?
Am a selfish dirtbag more concerned with my own feelings than how a child might feel having my husband and me for parents? What if we’d be awful parents and ruin this kids’ life? Or, what if instead of being the best of us, the child is the worst of us? Do I worry no one be around to take care of me in my senior years? Maybe. These things are all possible. Do I feel like I am missing out on “Kids Say the Darndest Things”-style hilarity? Would the world be a better more fun and amazing place if I were sharing it with an offspring? I do not know. Is it my own selfishness to take part in all that life has to offer? Childbirth is a fundamental human experience that I’d like to share in and live through. I think? Maybe I’d be better off seeing the Pyramids and the Great Wall of China, and driving to the tip of South America. These are all fundamental human experiences too, but somehow I’ve been conditioned to think of them as shallow and selfish.
I have friends who are against procreation because they think this world is bad rotten place and they wouldn’t want to bring a child into it. Or they have the type of political beliefs where they don’t eat meat, and they think the world is overpopulated. Me, I am one of those kooky types constantly mesmerized and hypnotized by the beautiful world around me. I have friends and family with young children. I admire them all but do not envy any. I am in admiration of the notion of pregnancy, and admire the women and men who've had the experience.
Each family is not without its own dynamics I’ll never understand, but can completely appreciate. If parenthood is universal it’s not always necessarily in the same language.
My brother and his wife are new parents. Seeing their baby son, at 1 month old, did not inspire more baby lust or maternal urge, as I thought it might. I thought I’d be crazy koo koo bananas for a baby after meeting him. But, in reality, it caused me to backpedal a bit. Thinking, “Wow, this looks like a lot of work. Wow, this kid is taking up all of their time and energy. They’ll have many years of this.”
The baby was a pooping-eating-crying machine. One of my brother’s friends likened his life as a new parent to that of a roadie, cleaning up bodily fluids, and messes, dodging loud noises, moving heavy equipment from place to place.
My brother and his wife both seemed exhausted, but completely happy in a beyond blessed sort of way. Very pleased with this change in their lives, and this new little human sharing their condo. There is now a way their life has forever changed, in a way I cannot share with them, and cannot relate to—only another parent could understand.
We went back home and I thought, “I’m okay with the way life is now, just us, and the dogs and the cat. No crying, no baby gums pinching my breasts, no mustardy colored poop squirting out of diapers, no worries about someone getting chicken pox, or other childhood illnesses. I won’t ever need to help with algebra homework. Sitting on the porch watching the sunset, driving my ancient 2 seater sports coupe, without a worry, without saving for someone’s college fund, just thinking of what might be the next vacation. Oh, it does seem kinda shallow.
But, doesn’t it seem equally shallow to think the world needs to have my genes continuing on into the next 100 years? Maybe the world is done with me, and I should just accept it, and be creative in other ways—in ways I am good at, like making paintings, drawings, photos and stories. Maybe it’s not in the cards for me to have 9 kids like I planned.
I met my nephew when he was a newborn, and far too young focus his eyes more than a couple of feet in front of his face. Before he could smile on purpose. I think if I’d met my nephew when he was a little older, and smiled at me, this would be a completely different story.