Sunday, November 30, 2008

Back in the Closet with Facebook

So I just joined Facebook, along with what appears like a tidal wave of people my age. It’s been fun—touching base with people I haven’t talked to in years, checking out their photos and friends.

And of course, checking out their kids. Because pretty much every one of the people I knew in high school and college now has kids.

I could be all mopey and say that it’s really hurting me, but right now it isn’t. I guess I’m past the point where I surprised to be the last one of my peers to have children. And I really have come closer to the “acceptance” point with regard to my infertility. So seeing pictures of people I used to know playing in the snow with their adorable pink-cheeked toddlers doesn’t hurt all that much.

But it is awkward. Because while I’m pretty much out of the infertility closet with my close friends, it isn’t really something you chat about in an open forum with used-to-be-friends. My infertility is a big part about why I haven’t reached out to old friends in the past few years. I mean, what is there to say? They tell me about their kids, their new career path, etc., and then they ask, “so what’s going on with you?” And the truth is, the only thing that is going on with me is my fertility treatment. It is in my mind all the time, it’s what drives me, it’s this huge part of who I am. But it’s a conversation killer, a true dud. Nothing stops a conversation like: “What’s up with me? Oh, nothing really. Spent the last three and a half years trying to get knocked up. Had a few miscarriages, major surgery, and took out a second mortgage. We’re considering using someone else’s sperm. So what kind of investment banking did you say you were getting into?”

I actually tested this theory with my oldest friend, my BFF from high school. She found me via e-mail a few months ago. After a few nice e-mails, I came right out and told her about what we’d been through. I didn’t lay it on too thick or anything, and I prefaced it with an explanation that, based on our long history, it felt weird not to tell her. I didn’t hear anything for a few days. Then I got an e-mail saying she hadn’t forgotten me, but didn’t have time to write a meaningful response. Then nothing. I’m sure she feels awkward now that it’s been so long. (And I really do need to write to her again and let her off the hook, tell her that no one ever knows what to say about this shit.) But this certainly told me that what I suspected all along is true: infertility is a crap topic of conversation.

So while I’m enjoying Facebook, I’m back in the closet. And it sucks. I want to be who I am, and I feel kind of pathetic. I mean, if I’m still childless after 12 years of marriage, I should at least live some kind of awesome, jet-setter lifestyle, right? Or be some big hot-shot in my career? Instead I just feel lame.

And I’m developing an annoying habit of self-narrating my life in my head. “[Babychaser] is drinking her coffee while she checks her blog.” “[Babychaser] is putting up Christmas lights.” “[Babychaser] is doing her laundry.” “[Babychaser] is driving herself nuts thinking of herself in the third person.”

But what I want to write is “[Babychaser] is still infertile.” “[Babychaser] is wondering if she’ll ever have a pink-cheeked toddler to romp in the snow with.” “[Babychaser] is taking a nap, because she doesn’t have anything more urgent to do on a Sunday afternoon, because unlike you fertile assholes, she has no children.”

And I’m already fantasizing, rolling the words over and over again in my head like a mantra, what I really want to write: “[Babychaser] is pregnant.”

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Freaking Out: Will the Economy and the World Leave Me Childless?

A few days ago, after yet another economist went on TV holding the proverbial The-End-Is-Near sign, I confessed to J (and to myself) that the state of the economy is really starting to freak me out. (I actually heard an economist on NPR talking about the problems the US would face even “if” we came through this crisis. If!?,” I hollered at my radio, “did you just say ‘if’?!?”)

J and I are in such a tenuous position right now. We had to take out a second mortgage to pay for our shared-risk IVF plan, and we still have to come up with about $5,000 a cycle in incidentals (more, obviously, if we switch to donor sperm).

Even scarier, what if IVF doesn’t work? Our next step is to adopt, and I was counting on our ability to borrow more (and not go bankrupt) if needed. If only I safely had a child in my home, I could live with having to do some penny-pinching, belt-tightening, etc; you pick the metaphor, I can handle it. But for the economy to crash while I’m in the most expensive phase of my life, trying desperately to just get my hands on a baby, any baby—it’s terrifying.

J did nothing to assuage my fears, instead reminding me that he has virtually no work lined up for the next year. Mid-sized theatres are closing their doors all over the country, and those that are staying open are likely to pay even less for their designers. My job, as a government defense attorney, is about as secure as a job can be, but J’s job––risky in the best of times––rises and falls with the goodwill of theatre sponsors.

Sometimes I feel like the world is plotting against me. Why now? Why couldn’t the economy fail a year or two from now, when we’re more settled? Or years ago, when we had nothing to lose? What if, at the end of years and years of searching and trying for a child, I discover the world’s final answer is “no”?

To make matters worse, J e-mailed me an article yesterday that had us both freaked out. For the last two years, we have soothed our souls with the knowledge that, if all else fails, we will adopt a baby from Ethiopia. Ethiopia is (relatively) fast, (relatively) affordable, and you can get a (relatively) young child. No other countries work for us. (For those of you who’ve researched international adoption, you know what I’m talking about. Out of hundreds of countries in the world, adoption is available in maybe 8 of them.) We don’t want to adopt a toddler (goodbye Russia, Ukraine, and half of Latin America); we can’t afford to go live in the country for three months (goodbye Columbia); we don’t qualify for the Asian countries due to various limitations on mental health (goodbye China) and weight (goodbye Korea); and we don’t want to wait 4+ years after we are on the list (goodbye anyone else, not that anyone else was left at that point). And domestic adoption is out of the question for us. We can’t take the idea of competing with others for a baby, especially given that most birth mothers probably would reject us due to our atheism. And J, open minded about most things, can’t cope with open adoption or the risks associated with having a birth parent try to reclaim the child.

So Ethiopia it is. At first, we were freaked out about the hostility we might encounter adopting a black baby (there is a fading-but-not-gone notion in the black community, at least around DC, that it’s wrong for whites to adopt blacks), but we’ve come to terms with that, even gotten excited about such a future.

Then J e-mails me this, an article describing the state of international adoption right now, as compared to just a year ago. International adoption is WAAAY down, and not due to a lack of people wanting to adopt. The top three countries are all shutting down: China and Korea are now taking 4-5 years to process, and Guatemala is virtually closed. As a result, Ethiopia has become the new hot spot to go for a baby. A year ago, I felt like Ethiopia was our own best-kept secret, our safe haven in the storm whirling around us. Now I’m completely freaked out. If the trends from other countries are repeated, by the time we get to Ethiopia (and we’re at least 8 months from starting the adoption process) it will be much harder to adopt from there. It probably will be even more expensive, almost certainly will take longer, and almost certainly will mean adopting an older baby.

None of this is surprising to me. When the US finally passed its Hague Convention protocols last year, I knew Guatemala was going to close. That alone was likely to send desperate couples running to Ethiopia.

It was a year ago, almost exactly, that we went to our first meeting on international adoption, and it was a year ago that we decided that, despite the risk that Ethiopia might become more popular, we weren’t ready to give up trying for a bio-kid. So I had the surgery, and we pressed on. But now I wonder if we made the right choice. Had we jumped into adoption a year ago, we might be making travel plans right now—our baby would already have been born, just be waiting for us to bring him/her home. Yet here we are, waiting and hoping, while Ethiopia becomes more and more popular, and likely less and less appealing as a result.

Can a country run out of babies? Because that’s what I feel is going to happen. Is it possible that I could end up childless, after all my promises to myself that I would never let that happen?

What happens now?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

No Escape from Childlessness

Last night I had a dream. Of course, any story that starts like that is bound to be disturbing or lame or both. And I’m particularly bad about talking about my dreams because I can never remember how they start. Talking about my dream is like watching an old Dali movie, where the picture just fades into an eerie tableau that makes no sense. So that’s where I’ll begin:

I’m sitting on one of several hard plastic chairs lined up along the wall of large grey room, about the size of a small gymnasium. Other people are with me, waiting for their turn to try out the new “flying” equipment––a series of cables strung from the wall and ceiling. (Is it exercise equipment, performance art, some sort of therapy? Who can say?) The person hooked into the equipment right now is doing some pretty cool stuff; as the instructor urges him on, he is letting go of his fears, flipping around and over and zipping about.

Then it’s my turn, and I’m both nervous and excited. I think back fondly of when I was younger––I was stronger then and a bit of a daredevil. But after a couple of minutes I’m loosening up and making some pretty awesome moves of my own. While not like the “flying” I’ve experienced in other dreams, where I’m truly free, it’s really fun and I feel healthy and giddy and full of joy.

I finally lower myself to the floor, laughing and exhausted, and the instructor comes up to me and says in amazement, kind of sympathetically:

“Wow. You still think you’re going to have a baby girl someday.”

I woke up a moment later, but not before the dream-me sank down into a chair––stunned that the flying device had somehow let this nice man peer into my soul––and started to sob. Even after I pulled myself awake, my chest continued to ache.

Seriously, what the fuck? I can’t even have a simple, stupid, fun little dream without being smacked down by reality? It isn’t hard enough to be hurting when I’m awake, now I have to hurt while I’m asleep?

Truthfully, I wasn’t that surprised. If there is anything I’ve learned in the last few months it is that there is no escape from the pain of childlessness. I had hoped that my forced vacation from cycling, while frustrating, would be a bit of a relief. But in some ways it’s much, much worse. I am consumed by jealousy, not so much of people with little babies, but of people with actual honest-to-god kids, people with families. I babysat my 6-year-old nephew last weekend, and it was lovely, but after I had put him to bed I just wanted to scream and yell it isn’t fair! He was 2 ½ years old when I started TTC. I had thought he would play with my kids (note the bitterly ironic use of the plural), not babysit them!

(By the way, he informed me that he would “think about” liking my child, but only after it was four years old. I love that kid.)

I think that being “on a break” is making cycling seem so distant and foreign that I can’t believe I’m going to be back in it next year. I told someone recently about how long I’ve been trying, and about what I’ve done so far, and it sounded seriously deranged. This was what I saw in my dream—a stranger’s pity at my continued belief that I might actually have a baby someday. Am I crazy to think this still might happen?

When I woke up from that dream, I realized that the thing that had bothered me the most was the invasion of my privacy. It wasn’t that this guy saw my desire to have a child, it was his knowing that I always pictured myself having a girl. Of course, now that I’m awake it seems odd to be mad at my subconscious for knowing what I think about. It’s hard to be mad at yourself for violating your own privacy. But none of this makes sense, anyway.


Your Bad Bloggy Friend, the Babychaser

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Beautiful World, Beautiful Day

I have a deadline looming right now, so I don’t have time to say all the things I want to say. Which is probably a good thing, as I am struggling to find the words that capture the mix of thoughts and emotions swirling around.

So I’ll leave it at this: Last night was a beautiful moment in history, and the sun came up this morning on a shiny new America. It’s a beautiful day, and I feel lucky and excited, and a little awed, to be a part of it.

Love you all,


Sunday, November 2, 2008


You know how the campy opening credits for the Colbert Report include a string of words––adjectives, I guess––running down the side of the screen while the camera swoops around Colbert’s condescending pose? The words run by fast, and you can’t usually make them all out, but the last one stays on for a good second or two. This last word has changed over the years; some of my favorites have been “Truthiness” and “Lincolnish” and “Gutly”. This last week, though, the final word has been “Vote.” And maybe it’s the big, sappy, idealistic dork in me, but the first time I saw it I got goosebumps.

“Vote.” Such a simple little word. But every four years it takes on a whole new meaning (every two years if you’re politics junkies like me and J). The word represents a civic right, it truly is “power to the people.” And in the context used by Colbert (this election) and Eminem (in his “Mosh” video last election) and countless others, it’s a noun and a verb and a sentence all in its own. “Vote.” The word is more than an idea––it’s a directive, a mandate.

I love voting. I love going to the little church in my neighborhood and standing in line with people I don’t know and seeing the pollworker check my name off a list. I love standing at the machine (though not nearly as much as I loved the honest-to-god booths we used to have in Massachusetts, with the old-fashioned voting machines where you pushed down the levers and pulled the bar across the bottom to finish your vote) and knowing that I am a tiny little piece of history, that I am playing my part in a process created by men (no women, unfortunately) who probably had never imagined an automobile, let alone a i-phone. What can I say? I’m a dreamer, and voting never fails to make me happy.

So it was with mixed feelings this year when I decided to let go of my sweet little fantasy of going to the polls first thing in the morning with J (our little tradition), waiting in a long line with other excited Obama supporters (I live in a blue blue blue state) and making my (sadly, electronic) mark for the first black man to make a bona fide run for the oval office. Instead, last week I took a deep breath and voted absentee, so that I could spend E-day in Virginia as a vote protector. (My consolation: even thought I don’t get to actually go to my polls, at least I got to cast a paper ballot! Have I mentioned how much I hate electronic voting machines?)

You know those news stories about the “army” of lawyers going to battleground states to defend voting rights? I’m one of them. (Note: as far as I can tell from my training last week, this army of “lawyers” is about 80% law students. Not that it makes a difference for what we’re doing––which definitely isn’t practicing law––but let’s be fair about the facts.)

I’m a little freaked out about this, because I have no idea what to expect. When I signed up I had some romanticized view about sitting alongside poll workers in the polling place, going toe-to-toe with election officials, fighting for the disenfranchised. The reality is that, because I’m not a VA voter, I’m going to be stuck outside, 40 feet from the entrance to the polls, trying my best to spot problems before they happen or get people to try again if they’ve been turned away. If my poll workers are strict about the rules, I won’t even get near them to talk to them if there are problems. I’ve been assigned to a precinct in a heavily Republican district outside of Richmond. I’ve been told that the poll workers could be pretty hostile, and we might have trouble making any kind of an impact. Thirteen hours outside (god, I hope it’s not raining!), presumably trying to get people to stay in line and not give up. And I guess it’s also important to be there so we can call in to the “boiler room” if there are serious problems. Not glamorous, and maybe seriously boring, but at least I’ll know I tried. And I don’t mean to sound self-righteous by telling you all about this, but this is where my heart is right now, and part of the reason I’ve been so absent from blog-world.

It’s two days to E-day. The stakes couldn’t be higher. So, at the risk of being preachy and heavy-handed, I have one word for you, for your friends, for everyone you see on the streets. It’s a noun; it’s a verb. It’s a right, and it’s a mandate. And as we learned in grade school, it’s your civic duty: VOTE.