Sperm Have Tools and I Might Steal Your Kid

For some of you, seventeen months might be a way that you would describe the age of your child. You know, another way of saying almost a year and a half. For me, it’s the way I describe the length of time my husband and I have been trying to get pregnant. Unsuccessfully.

Now before I go on, don’t get all huffy thinking this is another blog post complaining about my empty womb. This is just my way of expressing all the shit that piles up inside and needs to be let out. It will be honest and raw and probably sarcastic. It’s just what I need to do. (Side note: If you don’t want to read about sperm and babies and sex, you may not want to continue reading. You’ve been warned.)

Okay, first. How many years did I try not to get pregnant? Answer: A lot. All those years of health class and sex ed make you believe that it is so figgin’ easy to get pregnant. Like if you even think about a boy, his sperm will magically jump inside your uterus, hunt down your egg, and fertilize it.

Or the time my high school boyfriend’s mother told us this horrifying story that she swore up and down was true: after fooling around, this guy splooged on this girl’s leg, and instead of cleaning it up, she let it trickle down her leg toward her vagina and she ended up pregnant without ever having sex. (In retrospect, I’m not sure if this was a story she heard or the story of how she ended up pregnant herself.) Anyway, growing up, adults all over the place would have you believe that sperm have these special tools to break into your uterus and attack your helpless egg, knocking you up and leaving you to live as a single mother.

Well, I call bullshit. Never in my life did I think I’d be trying so damn hard to get pregnant. Do you know how many times my husband and I have had unprotected sex since we’ve been trying to conceive? Answer: Hundreds. Do you know how many perfectly good sperm, with tools intact, have been released inside me? Answer: Probably buckets full. Still, Aunt Flo comes knocking every 28-30 days, smiling and bearing flowers that I just want to bash her over the head with.

Also, I just have to vent about all the people who accidentally get pregnant. I can’t even. I know I’m not supposed to compare my journey to anyone else’s, but come on. This is just ridiculous. People who are not physically or emotionally healthy, they somehow make babies.

Or, and I preface this by saying I really am happy for you, the people who have been trying for less time than my husband and I. Again, I’m not supposed to compare. But it’s happening so get over it. There’s a very irrational part of me that thinks, wait a minute, we were in line ahead of you, we’ve been waiting for longer, how come you get to go first? That’s not fair.

And that’s when anger shows up. I expected the sadness and frustration, and even the hope and despair. The tears and the ‘I’m not going to cry again’. But anger, that surprised me. I find myself getting angry for all sorts of reasons. I get angry at people who are pregnant, who have been pregnant, who talk about their pregnancy in positive or negative terms. I get angry at people who have kids, who talk about their kids, and especially at people who talk to me about not having kids. I get angry at my body for failing me. Basically, there’s no possible way you can win. It’s irrational and it’s no one’s fault. Anger is an irrational emotion, and it comes from a place of hurt. I know that. (Another side note: I feel the need to say that I don’t hate pregnant women or mothers at all. Go ahead and talk to me about your children, because they’re beautiful. It just gets hard sometimes, you know?)

And then crazy creeps in. There are times when I think I might just, you know, take someone else’s kid and call him/her my own. That would work, right? I’m not talking about adoption. I’m talking about stalking the cutest kid at a public place, waiting for the moment that his/her parent is preoccupied with something else, and go in for the grab. Oh, wouldn’t my husband be surprised to come home and find me trying to soothe our new child (who would no doubt be terrified and traumatized). Obviously, I’m kidding. You don’t have to keep a close eye on me around your children, I promise.

All I’m saying is, this whole trying to conceive thing is hard. And it brings out the ugly. It’s one of those hot button issues that no matter what your beliefs or what you say, you will somehow be wrong. Each person and each couple experiences it differently. I can’t give you advice on how to be sensitive to someone you know who’s struggling to get pregnant. What I can do is be honest and say that there are days when I’m really, really ugly about the whole thing. It’s not rational and it’s not cute. But it’s part of the deal.

I don’t have a rainbows and sunshine way to end this. It’s another day, another try, and another load of sperm.

Such is life.

Take up space

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been trying not to take up space. At least not too much space. I don’t even think I knew that I was doing this. But it was real. And it’s wrong.

Do you remember the first time you were noticed for your size? Either for being big or small?

I don’t. But I do have many, many memories of all sorts of people placing value judgments about me based on how much space I took up. For most women, and let’s be fair, many men too, we receive so much input about our size and whether or not it’s acceptable. These experiences get filed away in our subconscious and we react to them, all the time.

My experiences with size judgement occurred in all kinds of ways. Sometimes it was a positive comment, which told my subconscious that my size was okay, acceptable, perfect. Other times it was a harmful comparison or just a downright negative comment, which told my subconscious that my size was not okay, unacceptable, shameful. My subconscious is stockpiled with these comments, looks, comparisons, judgments, and emotions.

Every time I was told to “sit here” or “stand there” or “go through here” because I could “fit,” my subconscious got sent a message that my size was acceptable. That I was regarded highly or liked enough because of how much space my body did and didn’t take up.

Every time I was called “tiny” or “too skinny” or “rail-thin” with eyes showing jealousy or disgust, my subconscious took some hits of shame and began to feel like maybe my body didn’t take up enough space.

Every time I was laughed at because of how certain clothes fit my body, my subconscious was jolted with pain, anger, and even more shame.

Every time I was told that my body needed to lose an inch, or firm up, or be something that it wasn’t, my subconscious took notes on the need for exercise and portion control.

Every time I was compared to a friend or a sister or a stranger, my subconscious became abuzz with resentment, because when body comparisons are made, someone always gets hurt.

Every time I was excluded from fun things because my friends didn’t want to be in bathing suits around me or were worried that I’d get the most attention from guys, my subconscious stored sadness and pain that would overstay its welcome.

Every time I was told I don’t eat enough, or I eat too much, or labeled anorexic, or told I had gained weight, my subconscious began to close her doors and retreat inward, because she knew there was no way to win this fight.

It wasn’t until I began exploring yoga that my idea and ideals for body size took a different path. I remember doing a particular yoga video in which the instructor was giving directions for body placement on the mat. And she specifically said, “Spread out. Take up space.”

There was a part of me that recoiled from her words, and immediately felt shame at the thought of “taking up space.” The messages from my subconscious came into view and reminded me that society says that I, as a female, should be small and tiny and barely there. How dare I take up space, as if I could use up too much space that there wouldn’t be enough left over for anyone else.

Well, how dare I let society, or anyone, dictate how I feel about my own body! After all, it is my body. And finally, there was a shift. Not only could I laugh at this ignorant notion, but as I spread out on my yoga mat, I felt something different. I felt pride. In my shape, in my body, in my person. I am a person, and I will take up as much space as I need because I matter.

Here’s me, taking up space and being proud of it. 🙂

Yoga

I’ve been alive for 29 years

It’s my birthday today which means I get to do what I want. So while my husband runs to the grocery store to pick up a small birthday cake, I’m blogging.

As my birthday approached this year, I thought about the number. Twenty-nine. There’s nothing too special about it, except that it’s a year closer to the “big 3-0.” For some people, launching into the next decade is scary – thirties, forties, fifties, and so on.

Not for me. For some reason, I can’t wait to be older. Maybe it’s because I’ve always felt older than I am chronologically. Not in the my-body-is-decrepit sort of way. The whole “old soul” thing. That’s me. My age is trying to catch up with my soul.

But I will say that my 29th year is bringing with it some questions, big and small.

The smaller ones being things like:

Will I really get back into yoga and stick with it? (Maybe it’s an excuse to buy more yoga pants and wear them every. single. day.)

Will I let my hair grow long and not cut it off? (I hope so.)

Will I find a way to shave my legs so that they stay smooth for longer than a day? (Not likely.)

And then the bigger ones which I don’t have easy answers to:

Will I be able to find a “just right” job again?

Will I ever again feel comfort and confidence in my career?

Am I old enough yet for this meme to apply?

getting old

And then this one:

Will 29 be the year that I become a mom?

(Pause for a moment of silence.)

Well, on that note, my old soul is about to enjoy some birthday cake.

🙂

Is thinking this much normal?

Don’t answer that. I don’t want to know. I’m a thinker, a questioner, a ponderer, a does-this-make-sense, and a is-this-the-right-thing kind of person. I think it goes hand-in-hand with being an introvert. Generally, I’ve accepted it as who I am and I’m okay with it.

Until I start thinking (see what I mean?) about what I would do with all the extra time I would have if I didn’t think so much. Would I have time for a new hobby? A second job? Would I talk to people more if I wasn’t so in my head all the time?

I don’t know. Maybe it’s normal. Maybe it’s not. Today, I got to thinking about all the thinking I do, which I know is basically the definition of metacognition (an awareness and understanding about one’s own thought processes). But, it just seems to be getting a little out of hand….

Like when I get a new sticker that tells me when my jeep is due for another oil change, and I start to think about how different my life will be three months from now. Because obviously my life is SO wild that it’ll be noticeably different in just three months time….yeah right. But it doesn’t stop me from thinking about it.

Or when I hear an old song on the radio and I think about what I was up to when I used to hear it all the time. I know lots of people do this, but why can’t it just be a song and not make me contemplate life?

Or when I’m writing a text, or worse yet, an email, and I think about what I’m saying and if the person/people reading it will hear it the same way I’m saying it. I have to think about each word, where it goes, which punctuation mark is around it, delete, move it over, delete again, and on and on. It’s quite the process.

Or when I have conversations with myself in my head and they feel so real that I swear I’ve had the conversation with another human. I’ll continue the conversation with my husband sometimes, thinking he was there for part one, but I’ll see his what-the-f-look and then I’ll remember, “ohhh yeah, that wasn’t you.”

And oh, aren’t decisions fun! Should I, shouldn’t I? When should I? What if I don’t? Thinking through  e v e r y  detail, and no doubt consulting myself on the issue. And what if the decision turns out not to be the best one? Then I develop trust issues with myself. Fun doesn’t cover it.

And how my thinking is random and doesn’t even make sense sometimes. When I start with the shirt I picked out to wear tomorrow and what was happening in my life the last time I wore it, and that will somehow remind me we need more dog food, which somehow leads me to think about my college days. It’s bizarre but I’ll spend hours doing it.

I feel like it’s coming down to this….will I be able to make your party, or come visit, or make plans for the summer? I don’t know. Let me check my schedule. I may have too much thinking to do.

Normal or not, at least now it’s documented.

(Great. Now I have to think about THAT.)

Gotta go.

We don’t need to hear it

We have been trying and trying. We have been patient and poised. We have been hopeful and cheerful. We have been relaxed and we have been stressed. We have listened to a lot of sympathy, advice, and stories from people who are trying to help. We need you to please realize, this is our journey. And it’s delicate, and it’s hard, and it’s OURS.

Perhaps my words may help you understand someone in your life who is struggling with the same thing, or perhaps it will help you. Either way, I need to say this.

We don’t need to hear about your friend who spent four years trying to conceive before she did so successfully. This is not helpful. It only causes added anxiety about how long we may struggle ourselves.

We don’t need to hear that God has a plan for us. We respectfully request that you keep your beliefs to yourself. Pray if it helps you but we will decide when and if we want to accept any sort of religion as part of our journey.

We don’t need to hear you say that it will happen for us when the time is right. For us, the time has been right since we started trying.

We don’t need to hear your advice about what we should say to our doctor or which tests we should have done. If we want your advice, we will ask you for it.

We don’t need to hear that trying is the fun part. This comment is completely insensitive and untrue. Anyone who has struggled with infertility knows that trying, unsuccessfully over and over again, is not fun.

We don’t need to hear that your pregnant friend only wants a boy, or only wants a girl. What the actual fuck?!?! And while I’m on the subject, do not ask us what we want to have. WE WANT TO HAVE A BABY! That’s what we want. Gender is meaningless to us.

We don’t need to hear you say “just wait until you have kids” while we are in the presence of children. We ARE waiting to have kids because that is all we can do. This isn’t going to scare us out of wanting to have children. Also, our kids will be different because they will be ours (I know all future parents say this, but it’s true).

We don’t need to hear you complain about how your body is changing during pregnancy, or morning sickness, or difficulty sleeping, or just wanting it to be over. Please know that some women would give anything to experience these “problems” and some men would be glad to help their partners through it.

We don’t need to hear your repeated sympathies. Once is enough. And please, for the love of all that is holy, do not give us anything baby related. This is incredibly hurtful.

What do we need to hear? Nothing. If we want to talk about it with you, we will. If we want to share a part of our journey with you, be glad and just listen. Be respectful of our boundaries and keep what we tell you private. It is not your journey and it is not your information to share.

It is our journey.

We know you are trying to help us feel better about all of it, but please realize, this is a sad and frustrating thing and we need to be allowed to feel sad and frustrated. It’s part of the process. We know you care and we know you are thinking about us. We appreciate your love and your quiet support.

We don’t need to hear it. We can feel it. And that’s enough.

Ready or not, here comes change

This has been a weird week. So many things have happened that I feel like I’m being pulled along with a giant knotted rope, and I’m skidding by all kinds of life changes, just trying to hang on and not fall flat on my face.

There were the little things. Like finally donating some old and “I never wear this” clothing to make room in my closet. And having to use a new brand of all-purpose cleaner (when I find one I like, I’m sad when it’s over). And experiencing the embarrassing split-in-your-pants sound when you kneel down (luckily, this happened at home, but it was my favorite pair of jeans and I’ve had them, for like, ever).

There were also the big things.

Like deciding, after a lot of pros and cons list making, and crying, to accept a new job. I’m still uncertain and scared, because, whoa, it’s a huge change.

And, for the first time in the year that we’ve been trying, thinking that I may actually be pregnant. That my husband and I may actually not have anything wrong with us and we might actually get what we want. And then, after the excitement of a positive pregnancy test, the plunge downward when we found out it was a lie. It was like a slap in the face, a titty twister, and a gut punch all at the same time.

And then, perhaps the biggest change of all, my sister welcomed her first baby into the world, making me an auntie. Knowing that it was coming soon doesn’t take away the excitement and surprise of hearing the news that he was born, healthy and happy, ready to change my entire family’s lives, forever. And most importantly, changing my relationship with my sister because she’s not just my sister anymore; she’s a mother to the most amazing little boy, my nephew.

I slept for almost twelve hours last night. All the changes caught up with me. This week has been a roller coaster of some low lows and very high highs.

But here’s the thing. Change is scary, yes. But it’s also inevitable. It happens whether you want it to or not. Some changes happen to you and others happen because of you. This week has had a little of each, and it has forced me into letting go of the things I cannot change, which is perhaps the hardest of all.

Ready or not, here comes change. Make way.

We’re already parents

It was a clerk at Rite-Aid who was the first person who got me to admit that I was actually trying to get pregnant. The interaction was short but emotionally charged. And so, I remember it well.

It was three months ago. On my way home from work, I stopped at Rite-Aid to pick up two things – a box of tampons and a bottle of prenatal vitamins. The vitamins were my first purchase towards trying to conceive.

As I approached the counter, my stomach was fluttering from nerves. As the clerk bagged my items, she suddenly stopped and with a confused look she said, “Wait…tampons and prenatal vitamins?!”

I almost died right there in the store. Did I really have to explain my story to this stranger? No, I decided I didn’t. So I smirked and said, “Yup!” Her confusion cleared and she said excitedly, “Ohhh, you’re trying?!” Again, I almost died. Instead, I practically started crying while I choked out a “Yes.” She smiled wide as she said “Good luck!” I ran out of the store and threw my bag in the back of my jeep. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

That was three months ago, after almost seven months of trying to conceive.

Anyone who knows me probably knows that I’ve said many times that I don’t want to have children. This was true. Was. I honestly didn’t think I’d ever become a mother. I never felt that urge or desire to be a mom. I knew others who did, but I wasn’t one of them. And so, I never became one.

I used to see parents out in public with their children and think oh, I’m so glad that isn’t me! Slowly, as I grew older, this thought changed to oh, what if that were me?

I used to look at my husband and only see a husband. This, too, has changed to seeing him as a father. I see all the good in him and think how amazing it would be to pass on his positive qualities.

My husband and I have grown, independently and together, since we married four years ago. A lot. The way we decided to stop trying not to get pregnant and start trying to get pregnant happened rather suddenly. Still, it started as, we’ll see what happens!

As time passed by and nothing changed, we started paying closer attention to all the numbers, signs, symptoms, etc. that go along with conception.

We kept trying.

For ten months.

Ten months of buying tampons rather than home pregnancy tests.

Ten months of the “two week wait” between ovulation and period.

Ten months that lead us to seek advice from our doctor; a painful and somewhat humiliating conversation.

Ten months of seeing babies and baby bumps pop up everywhere. Everywhere.

Ten months of fielding the overly asked yet still inappropriate question, “So when are you two going to have a baby?”

Ten months of hope, disappointment, sadness, frustration, and anger.

Ten months.

We don’t know if it’ll ever be for us. We don’t know what we’ll do if it doesn’t work.

What we know is that in our hearts, we’re already parents. We’re already naming our baby, building the nursery, and thinking of how we’ll handle various parenting decisions. We’re already thinking about how we can raise a kind and courageous child, and how we’ll be strong to enforce consequences and accountability. We’re already thinking about our baby, with a little of both of us, growing and amazing us each and every day.

We’re already parents. Empty arms. Full hearts.

What they don’t tell you about being a veteran’s spouse

I am a veteran’s spouse, although I wasn’t married to him while he was in the military. In fact, I didn’t even know him then, when he went away at age 18 just after finishing high school. I also didn’t know him when he returned from overseas, scarred in ways I can’t even imagine. And I didn’t know him when he went through the transition period back into civilian life.

I didn’t meet him until college. And I didn’t really know him until grad school. That’s the person I got to know. But I know there are parts to my veteran that I don’t know; parts he doesn’t want me to know and parts he scared to show me.

Here’s what they don’t tell you about being a veteran’s spouse….

They don’t tell you that your veteran is divided. Always. All the time. He is a civilian now but he has been a soldier. Being a soldier isn’t something that goes away. The uniform, the tags, and the weapon might, but the mentality doesn’t. This was how your veteran survived in times of war and it cannot be erased.

They don’t tell you that your veteran was part of a brotherhood so strong that it cannot be replicated in any other relationship. Soldiers’ lives depend on each other. They are connected beyond friendship, beyond family, beyond love. When your soldier becomes a civilian again and those connections fade, this will cause a void in your veteran so deep, one that you cannot fill. No matter how strong your own relationship is, the void will always be there.

They don’t tell you that your veteran is a little lost in civilian life. As a soldier, they were given orders and missions and did what they were told because their life depended on it. They were rewarded for their hard work with food and a place to sleep. Civilian life doesn’t work that way. Your veteran might be struggling to find his place and his purpose.

They don’t tell you that as a veteran’s spouse, you will know when your veteran is hurting. Not because he will tell you, but because you know him and you can sense his pain. As a veteran’s spouse, you learn to offer care even if he doesn’t accept it. And you will do this repeatedly, because someday, he might.

They don’t tell you that as a veteran’s spouse, you will see an unrelenting restlessness in your veteran that fades and sparks as time goes on. And you will be witness to many, many attempts at settling the restlessness and it may be hard for you to understand or to accept.

They don’t tell you that as a veteran’s spouse, you are accepting a third party into your marriage when you say ‘I do.’ The third party is your veteran’s experience as a soldier, and the memories, triggers, and scars that come along with it.

They don’t tell you that as a veteran’s spouse, you will feel a pain inside your own heart as you watch your veteran hurting. You will ache to soothe their hurts and know that you can’t. You will long to take away their pain and know that you can’t.

And finally, they don’t tell you that as a veteran’s spouse, you will feel a sense of honor and patriotism to your country that you didn’t even know you had inside of you. You will feel strongly about defending your country because your veteran has already given a piece of himself that he can never get back. Veteran and spouse

I love my veteran. All of him.

To all veterans and their spouses and families, because you have served too, thank you.

10 tiny tidbits to myself 10 years ago

I’m taking part in responding to prompts to fuel my writing. Since I turned 28 this year, I found the “Letter to yourself 10 years ago” the most intriguing, since 10 years ago, I was barely 18. And although I’m still considered “just a babe” at 28, a lot has changed for me in the last 10 years.

Thank freaking goodness!!

Well, here are 10 tiny tidbits of advice for myself at 18. If some of them don’t make sense to you, that’s because this is written for me.

Lettertomyself10yearsagoimage1. High school is over and college will be different. You’ve been ready for this since about your sophomore year. Don’t let anyone hold you back.

2. You should probably never have your hair done in tiny cornrows ever again. That was a one time mistake that should stay in that sketchy dark alley of the Bahamas.

3. When you wear a dress, keep your legs together. Flashing a packed auditorium once is enough for a lifetime.

4. Your college roommate, while annoying as all get out, is just trying to find her place here too. Be kind. And invest in ear plugs, because there are some songs that will be forever ruined.

5. That sleazeball who only lasted one semester and never learned what the word no means? Elbow him in the balls even harder. You’ll be doing every other girl on earth a favor.

6. The guy with the dimple and the loud laugh who covered other peoples’ cars in mud is not really a fucking asshole. He’s one of the good guys. Give him a chance.

7. Grad school is the right step after college, even if it feels scary. It will give you the distance you need to separate from the things and the people you’ve outgrown.

8. Halloween is a great day to get married. And to celebrate anniversaries. Say yes.

9. Marriage is really, really hard. When you’re mad, put on your big girl pants and talk about it. It will work out.

10. Others with whom you were once very close will take different paths in life than you. Let it happen. You know what you want and what you need. Don’t ever feel guilty for choosing happiness.

Well, there’s my list. My 28-year-old self is very happy with it and I think my 18-year-old self would have been too (although, my 18-year-old self was pretty stubborn, so I’m not sure she would have listened).

What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?

Kayla’s Quirks: Succulent Bush – August 16th

I have an office with a total of zero windows and a million sterile cinder blocks for walls. For these reasons, I wanted to invest in some fake plants to make myself believe that I don’t in fact work in a musty, old closet.

Mission accomplished! I found two very interesting looking plants to add amongst the families of daddy longlegs who I share my office with.

One of the plants I picked is named “Succulent Bush.” I’m not even kidding. Andy and I had this conversation while shopping for plants.

Me: “I love this one. It’s so interesting looking. All the kids are going to want to touch it.”

Andy: “I bet you’re right.”

Me: “I’ll have to train them that the area is for adult’s only and tell them they aren’t allowed to touch my succulent bush.”

Andy: (laughing)

Me: “Wait, I probably shouldn’t say that at school.”

Andy: “You shouldn’t say that in public either.”

Here’s a picture of my succulent bush:

succulent bush

Made in China. Shocker!