Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Paranoid, Insecure, and Socially Inept

I have had the strangest week. Ever since the inauguration last week I’ve been a mess, swinging wildly from anger to frustration to paranoia. As often happens when depression rears its ugly head, I also feel socially insecure. This doesn’t mean that I become shy or anything (perish the thought!). What happens is almost worse—I find myself constantly replaying conversations with friends and colleagues, wincing at my words, my tone, wondering whether I was being fun and witty or awkward and perhaps rude. This leaves me feeling constantly unsettled, paranoid even.

Let’s add to this that I’ve totally blown ICLW week (which is kind of like “ATM machine” or “PIN number,” both pet peeves of mine). When I signed up I thought I’d be cycling again, ready to write and read and give support. Instead I just bitterly wait. I can almost feel my eggs aging as I sit here.

I hate being moody. My husband is the proverbial rock; his moods consist of teasing (good mood) or quiet (which could mean stressed, frustrated, sad, tired, or just mellow). But I spend a lot of my time fighting my Inner Crazy. I also have to remain ever-vigilant against my Inner Truly Crazy, the surface of which I have grazed only a couple of times, but which I know lurks in my genetic makeup. (I used to worry I was going to end up crazy like my mom. I can remember having conversations with J about this early in our relationship, wondering if he really wanted a long-term commitment with someone who had that possible future. But if there’s one thing the past few years have taught me, it’s that I’m a lot stronger that my mom—and both of her parents. I’m grounded enough to handle a lot more than she can, and I now know I’m not going to end up like her. Thanks, IF, for teaching me how much I can take.)

I had an odd conversation about my IF treatment plans last week. My chiropractor, Dr. K, and I have become pretty chummy during the past two months. He’s only a year older than me, and he’s a nice guy who has really gone out of his way to help me. Last week, he mentioned that he thought my chiropractic treatment would help me get pregnant.

“It would help more if our problems weren’t primarily male-factor,” I said.

Dr. K started telling me about a doctor he knows in New York who’s had luck improving sperm count with some new treatment. I cut him off. “We’re mostly done with all that,” I told him. “If J’s hormone treatment doesn’t work, we’re going to go with donor sperm, and if that doesn’t work in a couple of cycles we’re going to stop.”

“It sounds like you’ve already given up,” he said, sounding upset.

I should have been mad. Instead I just felt tired. “It’s been three and a half years,” was all I said. “At some point we just have to stop.”

The strangest thing about this conversation was its stark contrast to ones I’ve had with my friends and my sister, several of whom were pushing for me to give up and start the adoption process more than a year ago (solicited advice). I couldn’t stop wondering why Dr. K was in such a different place than my friends. Then I realized that it was just about being there. Dr. K has only known me for a couple of months, months that I haven’t been cycling. The years I’ve suffered with IF are just an abstraction to him—the time isn’t real. For him, it’s measured in terms of his life, time which raced by while his kids grow older, learn to read, to ride a bike. Time that flew past while he built his practice. Time in which he lived his life.

For me, time has stopped. I don’t see time in seasons and years anymore. Instead I see it as daily frustration, constant anger, a persistent underlying dread and fear, empty weekends with nothing to do in my cold, quiet house. I see my life through the hours spent watching TV and movies, reading books, not quite finding the escape I’m seeking. I see my life through the four vacations I’ve taken, each one thought to be the “last chance” at a break before we had to give our time to a pregnancy and a new baby. I see it through the meaningless holidays, the baby showers I’ve skipped. I see my life through the growth of my nephew.

My close friends have been with me, day by day. They’ve seen the hope for each new cycle, for each new type of treatment. They’ve read my one-word, end-of-cycle e-mails: “negative,” or “miscarriage.” One of my best friends told me that she has had to harden her heart (just like I try to) every time I go into a new cycle, just so she won’t get so upset when it doesn’t work out. Unlike Dr. K, my friends understand that what I’m doing is insane—beating my head against the wall again and again, refusing to stop because there’s always a new treatment, a new approach. Anyone who’s been with me for the past three years would never suggest: (a) that I’ve given up, or (b) that it would be a bad thing if I did.

And that’s why I couldn’t be mad at Dr. K. He just didn’t get it. He doesn’t know.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Inauguration Day 2009

I was there. It was a pain in the ass, physically brutal, and not entirely fun, but I was there. When the tide turned, when America took that great leap forward, when we once again became a model for other countries to follow, rather than a subject of derision and disgust. I was there.

They say that two million people were on the mall yesterday. I don’t think I ever contemplated how big a number that was until I saw it firsthand. It was exciting, and overwhelming, and a bit scary. It was Historic.

The Trip

I got up at 5:30 Tuesday morning, but I had been awake since 3:00. I was sure I was getting a stomach flu, but in retrospect I think it was just been nerves. I had been planning on a more leisurely morning, but as soon as I turned on the news I started freaking out. “Holy shit,” was how I greeted J when he stumbled out of bed at 6:00 (having driven home from Philly the night before), “we’ve got to get the fuck out of here.” The crowds bobbing in the dark on the TV screen were eerie, and I was babbling with nervous excitement. We had a big breakfast, piled on the layers, and headed out.

The train was surprisingly uncrowded when we got on, but by the time we got downtown there was barely room to breathe.

Around the corner of my office building is the onramp to I-395, which runs under Pennsylvania Avenue (about 1 block in front of the Capitol). As Pennsylvania Ave is the parade route, the only way to get to the Mall from the Red Line was either to walk around the Capitol (probably a mile or more) or take the 3rd Street Tunnel.

This was the entrance to the tunnel. To the far right is the line to get into one of the ticketed areas. The crowd to the middle and left are all heading down to the interstate, which was shut down to all vehicular traffic.

By the time we got to the tunnel entrance the crowd was even thicker behind us.

I took a lot of photos of the tunnel. I thought it was awesome, and apparently I wasn’t alone in this sentiment. Hundreds of people were taking pictures, and there were random moments when everyone in the tunnel would just start cheering, or chanting “Obama.”

Once we got out of the tunnel we walked. And walked. And walked some more. Mind you, it wasn’t that far to the Mall from the other side, but the crowd kept getting shuttled further down, so we were walking parallel to the Mall. every time we wanted to turn toward the Mall we were told that area was closed. “It’s too full,” they would tell us.

In some places, we would hit a complete bottleneck. But the mood was celebratory, not scary at all. Everyone was pumped.

The Mall

Finally, we broke away from most of the crowd and turned toward the mall. (It was strange to ignore the cops, but what were they going to do?) The Mall was surrounded by Jersey barriers, followed by a chest-high fence; the only way we could get on the Mall was to go over. I climbed on top of a barrier and paused, stunned by the sight before me. Here is what I saw:

When I dropped to the ground on the other side of the fence, I felt a surge of energy. We had made it. We were on the Mall.

We didn’t go far from there—there wasn’t anywhere to go. I thought I was going to amuse myself for a few hours on the mall by taking a million photos. But although the sight was amazing, there weren’t many pictures to take. There was only a neverending, neverchanging sea of people, all facing the same direction, standing quietly, patiently, freezing, waiting.

I could see the “jumbo”-tron from where I stood, if I leaned a certain way or stood on my tiptoes. 

We stood there for two hours. We didn’t move. I’d brought food and water, but I didn’t dare eat or drink. My bladder had been complaining since long before we hit the Mall, and I knew there was no chance I’d make it to one of the five thousand port-a-potties lining the mall. It wasn’t even the question of how long the line-to-pee was; I couldn’t imagine even getting to the line, or distinguishing the line from the rest of the crowd once I got there.

At first there was some movement where we were standing. One person would try to pass in front of us, then everyone “with” that person would squeeze through, followed by an endless stream of people, all muttering “excuse me” and trying to squeeze in front of us. It was annoying as hell, because there was nowhere for them to go. So finally, after everything had settled down and this 20-something guy behind me nudged his shoulder in between me and J with an “excuse me,” I simply said “no.”

He was pissed. He stood there behind me, radiating rage, then said loudly, “Americans are such assholes.” I couldn’t help it. I cracked up. I mean, where did this guy think he was? And why was he here? He added, “If this were Europe it would be handled so much better.” Right, I thought silently, like Europe’s ever seen anything like this.”

Eventually J let him pass, commenting to me that he “didn’t need any of his negative energy.” The funny thing was, that was the only nasty moment I had with anyone the entire day.

A big guy standing right behind us then declared our area “closed”: “I don’t care where you think you’re going, or who you’re trying to meet. You’re not gonna find your friends, and you’re not getting through.” We were all in agreement.

The crowd was mostly quiet. Did I mention it was cold? You’d think that having that many people around you would keep you warm, but the wind was blowing hard and after awhile it wore us down. I had planned entertainment. I was going to take pictures, but after taking about 5 shots of the monument crowd I was done. Besides, taking pictures meant taking off my gloves. I was going to make phone calls, but there was no cell service. We had brought i-pod entertainment, but it seemed odd and kind of rude (and maybe unsafe) to tune out the world with so many people pressed so close around us.

They kept the road in front of the monument open for the parade buses. Every 15 minutes or so a caravan of 20 buses would come by, filled with high school or college kids in their band uniforms or cheerleading outfits, openly gawking at us. Thousands of us would wave at the bus while they took pictures.

The Ceremony

It’s hard to find the right words to describe the ceremony. Like much of that day, it was surreal. There on the big screen was this formal event, full of pomp and protocol. It was an event that was about “Washington,” but the masses were watching from “the District.” It’s a good metaphor for DC. Washington politics largely ignore the city in which they’re housed, even going to far as to deny its citizens a vote in Congress. But this was a vivid reminder of the disconnect between the federal government and the general population. Two million of us were out there on the Mall, freezing our asses off, wishing our feet would give up and go blessedly numb, wondering if we would ever get to pee again, worrying about how we were going to make it home. At the same time, on a big screen in front of us was this fancy procession of dignitaries—most of whom we’ve never heard of—playing politics to this small audience of well-rested, ticketed, seated visitors. It was just … strange.

When familiar faces started to show up on the Jumbotron, the crowd started to stir. There was a healthy chorus of boos when George H.W. appeared on the scene, a cheer for Jimmy Carter, and a wild frenzy for Beloved Bill. The crowd started buzzing, waiting for the moment Obama would arrive.

Then we saw George W. I wonder what it’s like to be booed so loudly by two million people? Has that ever happened before in the course of human history? Did we set a new world record? All around us the crowd erupted with a spontaneous song: “Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye.” (Apparently this was happening all over the Mall, according to friends who watched from other areas.) One guy waved his shoe in his air, much to our delight.

(By the way, NBC censored the booing. They cut the crowd mikes for both the introduction of HW and W. Is that acceptable journalism?)

And then they introduced the man we all came to see. And the crowd went wild. There wasn’t much flag-waving where we were standing (I felt like it would be rude to pull out the flags I brought and wave them around, because we were standing so tight and I didn’t want to cut out anyone’s view), but the noise was awesome.

Most of the pre-swearing-in part of the ceremony was just a matter of endurance. Our feet hurt, our faces were frozen, and even Aretha and Yo Yo Ma weren’t going to help. There was only one thing we had come to see.

I thought I would cry when Obama was sworn in, like I did the night they called the election. But my reaction—and the reaction of the crowd—was much more subtle than that. I had thought we were coming out to the Mall to celebrate, to welcome Obama, to revel in our jubilation. And yes, that was a part of it. But when the ceremony started I realized that our real purpose was deeper, more profound: we were there to stand as witnesses to the moment.

The crowd cheered like crazy when Obama became President (though some would argue that technically occurred while Yo Yo Ma was playing). And then they fell silent again. Two million people stood still and sober while Obama addressed the world. It wasn’t a rally speech with soaring rhetoric, but a serious message about what we are facing and what we must do to survive. I think much of the crowd would have liked to cheer at some points in the speech, and there were some sporadic moments like that, but there seemed to be a silent agreement among the crowd that it was more important to hear the speech than to make our own noise.

And then the speech was over, and I turned with the crowd to start the long trek home. But before I had gone two feet J spun me around and kissed me, hard. We kissed for a long time, and that’s when I cried, just a little. Surrounded by thousands of strangers, and sitting in the lap of history itself, there was a moment where it was just the two of us. Live hasn’t given us everything we’ve wanted, and god knows we’ve had it hard the last few years. But we are a unit, a team. And like everything important in life, this was something we witnessed together. As I told him in a very cheesy e-mail the next day (he had to drive back to Philly Tuesday night), I’ll remember that kiss till the day I die.

Getting Home

Getting out of the Mall was a nightmare. Those Jersey barriers (and the fence lining them on the inside) were blocking everyone’s way out. By the time we got to the fences there had to be a hundred thousand people pushing from behind. All along the wall stronger guys were hauling kids and older people over.

We headed for L’Enfant Plaza, the only Metro station on that side of the Mall. And that’s where things got hairy. We got caught up in the worst human gridlock I have ever seen. At one point as we were squeezing our way past an FBI agent, I heard him say that L’Enfant was closed down entirely, due to the crowd. Which doesn’t make much sense to me.

So we decided to head back to the 3rd Street tunnel, the way we came in. But we couldn’t get out of the crowd, no matter which way we tried to go. We just couldn’t move. It took us a half hour to cross a street—that’s how bad it was. At one point the entire crowd just stopped moving, stopped pushing, stopped talking. We just stood there, for at least a minute, doing nothing. No one knew what to do. And there wasn’t a cop in sight. All we needed was someone with authority to stand on a car with a bullhorn and tell us what to do. I knew objectively that it was scary while it was happening, but it wasn’t until later that I acknowledged to myself how dangerous it really was.

Eventually we got free of the crowd and hiked back to my office building, where the security guard (forever an angel in my mind) let us come in and pee. Then we headed back out to fight our way onto a train.

But there was no fighting, no crowd on the Red Line. It wasn’t even as busy as rush hour. Basically, the entire crowd got stuck on the other side of the Mall, and we got off easy.

It’s a terrible way to end the story, isn’t it? It’s like the story just drops off a cliff; it’s a total let-down. Oddly, that’s how it felt at the time, too. We were all geared up for battle. Bladders freshly emptied, we were prepared to act like the city-dwellers and experienced Metro-riders we are, fighting and clawing our way onto a train after hours of effort, victorious in our arrival home after a long struggle. Instead, we walked out of my building, hopped on a train, and were at the McDonalds drive-through near our house less than 20 minutes later. It was like the ending of No Country for Old Men, where you find yourself sitting in a half-lit theatre with the credits rolling saying “What? It’s over? That’s it?”

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I started writing a post about I-day, but the post has gotten really long and I'm not going to finish it tonight.  So here's a teaser.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Searching for a Metaphor

I’m sitting here, searching for a metaphor to describe my ongoing effort to chase down a child. Do I go with a sports metaphor, like how the goalposts keep moving? Do I try to liken it to catching an accelerating car (maybe, if I want to be whimsical, an ice cream truck), where the faster I run the further it gets away? Or maybe I call up Forrest Gump, and say it’s like catching a feather swept away by the wind.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to bury the lead, and I’m firmly anti-tortured-metaphor. So here’s the skinny: J and I are now extending our “break” until April (making it the longest break we’ve been on since we started TTC three and a half years ago, and that’s including the break for my surgery).

He’s had some indicators that his hormone therapy will improve his sperm count, but it still needs a lot of time. I suppose this is good news, but we still don’t know much.

And I’m not ready either. I’ve been in intensive chiropractic treatment (three times a week) for three months now, and it looks like it’s going to be a few more months before I get better. Apparently, I’m one of those super-rare people who respond to treatment by getting incredibly sore (described by my doc as a nerve “flare-up”). Just like I was one of those super-rare people who don’t get “cured” by acutane (the acne came back after 6 months). And one of those super-rare people who aren’t eventually cured by allergy shots after 7 years (I’ve been on them 15 years and counting). And one of those super-rare people that, despite being able to conceive a baby once on her own (with help of man, of course), can’t seem to make it happen via IVF. You’d think I’d stop being surprised when my body disappoints me. Actually, I wasn’t surprised. I was just mad.

You know what? I don’t even want to write about my back—it’s just too upsetting. And I do think it’s going to get better. I even think I might come out of this a lot healthier. Maybe. But it’s taking a lot of patience and faith. And it might not work. And it’s not covered by insurance. Sound familiar?

I started blogging to find other women out there like me. I didn’t start blogging during my IUI, because I was sure it would work. And I didn’t start blogging during my first two IVF cycles, because I was sure my sadness was just a temporary thing, soon to be cured by a nice, fat, uncomfortable pregnancy. I started blogging when it seemed I might really end up without a baby. I started blogging because I wanted an online support group.

What I didn’t count on was feeling like, even among my support group, I’m getting left in the dusk. Is that a horrible thing to say? I’m feeling really bitter right now. But I just realized that I’m going to have to re-organize my blogroll into segments, because half of the people on there now have babies (or are very close to it). And I’m going to have to make some new blog friends because almost everyone out there that I’ve gotten close to is already pregnant or matched or parenting even now. And they’re all so happy. I feel like a real shit for being upset about that. It’s not that I begrudge anyone their joy. I just feel so left out. Like I’m the only one left who just can’t seem to get this thing figured out.

Wow. I had no idea I was going to get so upset tonight. Sometimes I just sit down and write and see what comes out, and I guess what’re coming out are hot, angry tears.

So let me back off from my self-pity and tell you about my amazing weekend, and my amazing mood. DC is going Obama-mad right now; it’s so exciting to be here and be a part of it. I’ve spent the bulk of the weekend getting ready for our wild adventure downtown on Tuesday, a journey which we’re determined to make in spite of everyone saying we shouldn’t. So I’ve been out buying wool socks and hand warmers and warm gloves and stuff like that. (It doesn’t really get that cold that long here, so we tend not to have as many warm clothes around as we did when we lived in Boston.) I wanted to buy J some long underwear (I already have some), but apparently the entire state has sold out of long underwear, at least in the cheaper stores. (I’m not making this up. Today I checked Target, Marshall’s, and Ross, and all I found were empty racks marked “long underwear.”) And everywhere I shop, everyone’s talking about the concert today, and the inauguration, and the parade, and the balls. And every five minutes or so I’ll see something (such as the concert today) that will make me well up with tears. I’m such a sap.

This town has been drowning in Obama-swag-crap for a month, and the crap-pile is just getting deeper. And I have been very good about not buying any of it. It’s not a collector’s item, I tell myself as I walk by the tables and racks and carts, it’s a cheap piece of crap.

So with two days to go and my no-Obama-crap streak running strong, I stop off at the grocery store to get supplies for the upcoming trek downtown. And what do I see? A rack of t-shirts, with “Obama 44” on them, the word and number laid out like a basketball jersey or something. Just too damn adorable. I’m a total sucker, so I grab a shirt. (And then, of course, I buy us some little American flags to take down to the mall with us. And then I buy J some Obama socks, because I can’t leave him out, can I?)

The kid at the cash register rings me up, and I’m all chatty, talking about the end of my swag-less streak. I couldn’t understand a lot of what he was saying (heavy accent), but I did get that this was the first time he had voted.

“That’s awesome,” I said, adding, “the first president I voted for was Bill Clinton.”

He paused and stared at me. Then stared deeper, seemingly perplexed. Finally, he said, “But, but that was, like, in the 90’s, right?”

Did I mention I just got my hair cut and colored yesterday? Oh yeah, that cut-and-color just paid for itself.

For those of you who stuck around to the very end, congratulations on witnessing yet another Babychaser mood swing. Unfortunately, I’m not cycling or pregnant, so there’s not much I can blame it on. This is just me.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

You Can't Be Too Careful

While I was bending over the sink this morning to wash my face, I saw this warning on the back of my PRENATAL VITAMINS:  


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Scare Tactics

I just heard a media announcement that had me laughing my ass off.  (And since my IVF break is now extended until April—obviously a topic for another post—I have nothing IFey to write about.)

The media, the Federal government, and the District of Columbia are all involved in a calculated effort to convince everyone that, if they even think about attending the inauguration, they will die.*  Not that they’ve been so obvious about it (yet), but every day the Washington Post has a new article about why no one in the DC area should even set foot outside the house on I-Day, let alone try to come downtown.

So today, I was not surprised to hear the most recent public service announcement (on both NPR and music radio).  This one warned that people should seriously think about whether they are healthy enough to handle the physical rigors of attending inauguration.  It said that “those who attend should be prepared to walk as much as two miles and below-zero temperatures.”

Below zero temperatures?  Really?  I’m not saying DC has never seen below-zero temperatures in the middle of the day, but it would be serious news around here.   And, you know, they do have this amazing ability to predict the weather nowadays––at least with some accuracy––even more than a week in advance.   (It’s going to be in the mid-30s and partly sunny, BTW.)

I loved the transparency of this.  I don't know why, but it tickles me.  I like the idea of some advance team sitting in a conference room trying to figure out what to put in the next press release.  What would be the most believable, but still effectively subdue those DC natives and pushy MD and VA types from coming?  Terrorist attack?  Sorry, that tune's been played.  Epidemic?  Mmm, it might cause a wave of hypochondria in the emergency rooms.  Snowstorm?  Definitely not--local networks start freaking out if there's even a hint of snow.  No one would ever believe it.

But the threat of sub-zero temperatures?  It's brilliant.  So simple.  So pure.  And it has been really cold the last couple of days.

And yeah, it will scare the locals.

(By the way, while I was writing this, Fox came on with its nightly news teaser.  Guess what?  No one will be able to get into the District on the Metro on Inauguration Day!  Not a single person!  Shocking.)

* Honestly, I think these scare tactics are probably a good idea.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Optimism, or Just a Really Big Cup of Coffee?

I thought I’d grab a moment (when I really should be prepping for oral argument) to write a quick post, because I’m feeling good this morning. Don't panic. There is nothing wrong with your computer and you have not been re-routed to a different “Babychaser” blog. It's really me. God only knows how long it will last, but the Babychaser you know and (hopefully) adore beyond reason actually is feeling okay about herself, okay about her age, and okay about life.

Maybe it’s because my back isn’t hurting as bad today, and I finally think I’m on the right track with a chiropractor and PT for an actual, honest-to-god cure that will allow me to once again be the agile, active, strong person I thought I was supposed to be.

Maybe it’s because the holidays are over and I’m back at my job and at least my job is one place where I’m really talented and can feel good about myself.

Maybe it’s because the sun is finally shining again on DC, after days of dreary cold rain.

Maybe it’s because I took a percocet and a xanax last night for a massive period-induced headache.

Or maybe it’s just because I had a huge cup of coffee this morning.

Whatever. Who cares? It just feels good to feel okay, even if for a brief moment.