Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Try, Try, and Try Again

  1. To make an effort to do or accomplish (something); attempt: tried to ski.
  2. To taste, sample, or otherwise test in order to determine strength, effect, worth, or desirability: Try this casserole. Try the door.
  3. Law
    1. To examine or hear (evidence or a case) by judicial process.
    2. To put (an accused person) on trial.
  4. To subject to great strain or hardship; tax: The last steep ascent tried my every muscle.
  5. To melt (lard, for example) to separate out impurities; render.
  6. To smooth, fit, or align accurately.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Two Months Ago...

This is my most current writing...


Because most couples (70–80%) get pregnant within a year of going off birth-control, doctors, especially fertility experts, don’t want to see you until you’ve passed that 12 month milestone. Not getting pregnant in the first year of “trying” doesn’t necessarily mean that anything is wrong. It is really just an average time based on statistics, and individual couples can fall within or out of those numbers and still successfully achieve pregnancy. But for those of us who are taking longer than average to conceive, that year mark dangles out in front of you like the proverbial carrot. It signifies the date when we can finally figure out if there is something wrong or our timing just hasn’t been quite right. I don’t know about other women, but for me, the race to get to that carrot seems like the longest journey I’ve ever taken. But my OB/GYN is very busy and “highly recommends” waiting the full year before she will see us for a consultation. In the meantime, I find myself in an interesting limbo land of “trying”—not yet pregnant, not yet infertile, trying to achieve something I greatly desire and am not yet sure I am capable of. I’m a wanna-be.

When I was in middle school, a wanna-be was someone who had some of the characteristics and desire to fit within a certain social circle, but didn’t quite satisfy all the requirements for full membership. My friend Jack was a wanna-be skater then. He had the clothes, the wedge haircut, and the skateboard. He even hung out with a few other skaters. But he lacked the “bad” attitude, the dare devil antics, and irreverence toward authority. His overall studiousness, quiet demeanor, and subscription to conservative, Republican ideals would eventually lead him away from sidewalk surfing and toward a future in computer engineering. But for two years in junior high, Jack walked the line between wanting to be a badass skater and succumbing to his inherent conservative nature.

As an adult, I’m finding that women of a certain age fall into three categories: non-breeders, breeders, and the grown-up version of the wanna-be, wanna-breeders. The non-breeders have decided (or have always known) they do not want to have children, and, barring any accidents, take measures to insure that they do not procreate. The breeders, obviously, either have children already or are pregnant and about to give birth. Then, there are the wanna-breeders. These women can range from those who definitely want to have children sometime in the future (they’re not ready yet) to those who are actively trying to get pregnant. The wanna-breeders who are trying to conceive are walking a path between their emotions and desires to have a baby and their body’s ability or non-ability to achieve that. For some, it is easy to go from wanna-breeder to breeder. For others, their desire to be a mom might not be enough to overcome the realities of their (or their partner’s) reproductive systems.

Well into our 11th month of “trying,” I have many of the characteristics of an expectant mother. I have the maternity books. I know what to eat and not eat. I’ve cut back on caffeine and started taking folic acid. I have a maternity leave and return plan at work. I know where I would like to give birth. We have several names in mind and a pile of baby clothes (supplied by my wonderful sister-in-law, who is very anxious for her children to have cousins to play with). I’ve even thought about how to introduce our two cats to a new member of the family. However, the one crucial requirement I am missing for my membership into motherhood is a baby. So, we continue to “try” and work our way slowly toward that looming year mark when we can finally find out whether we are capable of meeting the final requirement in our quest for parenthood or whether we will need to seek membership in a different club.

Three Months Ago...

I wrote this about three months ago. Again, still a work in progress.

Everything you ever wanted to know about sex, but were never told.

Over the past ten months, I’ve come to a surprising conclusion—Everything I was told about getting pregnant was a total lie. Okay, I know it wasn’t REALLY a lie, but I definitely feel duped.

I was a good student. I paid attention in sex-ed class. I took the messages to heart. It was clear to me, that unless you used protection, sex equals pregnancy. End of story. But, after ten months of unprotected sex and no pregnancy, I am learning that it really isn’t that simple.

Turns out that the time, environmental conditions, position, temperature, and other cosmic forces have to be just so before one of my husband’s little swimmers can make it to my seemingly hermit-like eggs. In essence, all the stars and moons have to be perfectly aligned for conception to even take place.

I almost feel like we needed a new form of sex-ed, a “how to get pregnant” course, if you will. After our first few months of “trying,” I turned to numerous books and Web sites for more information on the whole process. What I learned is that conception is a complicated dance where timing and rhythm (so to speak) are crucial.

Sperm are resilient little guys. They can survive within a woman’s system for up to six days. But they have to be “deposited” at least 12 hours before ovulation takes place. But even if you time things perfectly and all the conditions are optimal, there is only a 33% chance that the little swimmers and egg will meet, shake hands, start the conception dance, and then build a comfortable home and begin growing.

Now, I am inclined to suspect that if we had nothing else to do but lie around waiting for the perfect moment to conceive our child, we would have gotten pregnant right away. However, I know this isn’t true, and besides, we have lives to live as well. We both work full-time. There are chores to do. Family crises develop. Friends come to visit. There are many everyday things that can get in the way of us hitting our target on time. The sources tell you to figure out when you are ovulating, and have sex everyday during your most fertile period. That is anywhere from four to seven days. Who has the time or energy to have sex everyday for seven days?!?! Maybe when we first met and our “I can’t be without you for one second” hormones were raging we could have accomplished such a love-making feat, but now in our comfortable “been together for four years, I’m tired, let’s just cuddle” routine the idea seems astounding.

Our difficulty conceiving comes as an even bigger shock to us when it seems like nearly everyone we know got pregnant with little or no difficulty or completely by accident. (We do know a few couples that either needed medical help or decided not to seek further treatment, but somehow they seem like the extreme exception to the rule in our circle of friends and family.) One couple we know got pregnant on a drunken night when they forgot to use a condom for the first time ever. Another got pregnant just by missing one day of her birth-control pills. And yet another (actually trying to get pregnant), who hadn’t had sex in over six months, timed everything so perfectly that she got pregnant with her second child with one try. Most others took only a handful of months once going off birth control.

We are fast approaching that “been trying for a year” mark when you officially cross the border from fertile to infertile and the doctors will finally see you to determine if there is something wrong or if you just aren’t doing it right and need a Sex Ed refresher course. Right now, I’m hoping for the latter. Until then, I hope every month that the stars are aligned, the swimming conditions are optimal, my cycles are regular, and we’ve crossed all our t’s and dotted all our i’s.

Seven Months Ago...

I wrote this after about five months of "trying." It is still a work in progress.

Getting Pregnant in the Blogosphere: When is information TMI?

When my husband and I decided to start trying for our first child I was fairly confident I knew the basics of the birds and the bees. In fact, during graduate school, I worked as a file clerk in a fertility clinic, so I knew I was even a little bit ahead of the game when it came to understanding my cycles and other forces of nature. Never did I imagine there was so much I didn’t know.

Here is where I must admit that I “heart” Google. I do a lot of research for the exhibit design firm I work for and Google always comes in handy when I need to find information about a particular topic we are working on. I also pride myself in being a big know-it-all. I take great satisfaction in knowing oodles of facts and figures that most people could care less about. If the Internet had existed when I was ten years old, I can only imagine HOW more precocious and obnoxious I would have been.

Google is amazing, no doubt about it. Any question I have about any topic can be answered in seconds just by typing it into the search box. My co-worker couldn’t remember the words to the Muppet Show theme song. Google it. Up pops hundreds of sites dedicated to those “most sensational, inspirational, celebration, Muppetational” furry icons of our youth. Want to convert inches into centimeters? Google it. Need a quote by Hippocrates? Google it. Want to get pregnant? Google it.

It was a pretty subconscious act. I guess Google has become second nature to me. “Ok, we’re trying to get pregnant. Let’s Google it and see what comes up.” I started innocently enough. I Googled information about ovulation during my lunch break. A lot of the sites just verified my existing knowledge on the subject—cycles, phases, eggs, and sperm. The more I read, the more I Googled. On one site, I read about charting your cervical mucus. Cervical mucus? Google it. More than I ever needed to know about a part of my body I never see. The different colors, the different consistencies, the secret hidden meanings behind each variant. On several other sites, I read about the Robitussin Method. Huh? Apparently, the active ingredient in this distasteful cough syrup from my childhood, which loosens the mucus in a congested chest, also has the power to create the ideal swimming environment for my husband’s little guys. Who knew? Now if I ever see a woman in line at the grocery store with Robitussin, a bottle of wine, and a tube of KY, I’ll know better.

All of this initial, more factual information, while overwhelming in its volume, left me feeling empowered more than anything else. I started an ovulation calendar and began to monitor my cycles in increasing detail. I even learned to speak TTC (a secret language of acronyms for those “Trying to Conceive”). With this newfound body of knowledge, we were sure to get pregnant instantly and be on our way to happy family in no time.

After the first few months with no BFPs (Big Fat Positive) on my HPTs (Home Pregnancy Test), my Googling began to go deeper and deeper. I wasn’t exactly worried that there might be something wrong. I’d read on countless sites that it can take the average fertile couple up to a year to get pregnant. We weren’t in any hurry either. But, with so much information available at the click of my mouse, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared for all the possibilities, right? I’m just curious, I justified. Knowledge is power. And, like a good Girl Scout, I am always prepared.

That’s when I entered the Blogosphere.

Of course, I’ve heard of this mystical sphere in the Internet ether-world before. The word got so overused in the 2006 mid-term elections I thought I was going to strangle the next right-wing conservative pundit who used it. And of course, I have read blogs, bulletins, and postings before. I read “Pink is the new Blog,” “Awful Plastic Surgery” and “Perez Hilton” for the latest and greatest in celebrity gossip. My friend Jodi blogs her exploits as the ultimate indie-band groupie on her Myspace page, and my husband visits his man crush, Morrissey’s, blog nearly every day. But this was different somehow. Suddenly I was reading blogs about the harrowing trials and tribulations of countless women across the world seemingly desperate to procreate. Tales of years of fruitless attempts. Detailed recordings of each month’s cycle days and BBT (Basal Body Temperature). Counting the DPO (Days Past Ovulation) in hope. Confessions from POAS (Pee on a Stick) addicts. Anguishing stories of miscarriage, defunct ovaries, endometriosis, and even more painful cases of unexplained infertility. There were success stories too, but, like most things in life and the Blogoshphere, they seemed few and far between and less dramatic than the others. Even in the area of fertility we are drawn to sensationalism and voyeurism.

Sites about trying to get pregnant turned into sites about being pregnant. Is that what it feels like? OMG! Does that happen to everyone? Maybe I do want drugs? Before I knew it, I was reading about co-sleeping, nighttime feedings, and how to use a breast pump discretely in the workplace. I wasn’t even pregnant yet and I was already forming opinions on the best ways to potty train and how to keep my sex life alive on only two hours of sleep.

My obsession was driving my DH (Darling Husband) crazy. Everyday I would confront him with half a dozen new facts he had absolutely no interest in knowing. Believe me when I tell you, your husband DOES NOT want to hear about any kind of mucus, let alone the kind that your cervix is producing. He told me in no uncertain terms that I was beginning to take all the fun out of trying, one of the only things about pregnancy that involved him and something he enjoyed greatly.

I was beginning to take all the fun out of trying for myself too. My empowerment had quickly turned into severe anxiety. I found myself feeling relieved when AF (Aunt Flo) paid her monthly visit. That made me stop and think. Just six months ago I could barely contain my hormonal urges to produce progeny. Every time a baby entered the room, my uterus did a little dance of joy. Now I was consumed with the details of raising a baby I didn’t even have yet. I had completely forgotten the reasons I wanted to have a baby in the first place. Mind you, I was never disillusioned into thinking that having a child would be a walk in the park. I have girlfriends with small children. I know it is hard. I’ve seen my friend Claire’s face after being up for 48 hours straight with her sick baby. I have witnessed my girlfriend Julie literally juggle two kids in her arms. I knew when we started it would be difficult—that it would take every ounce of strength I had to be a good parent. But the idea of OUR baby always made the struggle seem worth it, and I had expected to encounter parenthood as it happened, not BEFORE it happened.

I didn’t need to live out every possible situation of the next 18 years before the kid was even conceived, which is what the Blogosphere of parenting offered me—every possible scenario for every possible person in every possible place in the world. Knowledge is power, but too much information can make you CRAZY.

Recently, I’ve tried to keep myself out of the parenting Blogosphere. It’s hard. I have good days and bad days. I work in front of a computer all day with instant access to the World Wide Web held in my right hand. It is so simple to do a quick Google on childhood immunizations (a hot topic among my friends with kids) while I’m waiting for my emails to send. But, I am trying to be strong. I’ve stopped charting my cycles and filling out ovulation calendars, and much to my husband’s joy I’ve stopped describing cervical positioning over dinner (although, I am keeping that Robitussin tip filed in the back of my brain, just in case). We’re back to just going with the flow (so to speak) and hoping for the best. When there is a reason to worry, we’ll worry then. The way millions of parents have done it for thousands of years.

I think I’ll stick to using the Blogosphere for the reasons I KNOW it was invented—instant access to up-to-the minute celebrity gossip and terrifying photos of plastic surgery gone wrong.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

This last year...

This week marks one year of trying to create a family. During this time I've been writing down many of my feelings and frustrations about this deeply personal process. It still amazes me that something so seemingly simple and straightforward can be simultaneously so difficult and complicated. Anyway, this is our journey as we travel toward creating our modern family.