Wednesday, February 20, 2008

In which a miserable lunch comes to represent my struggle with infertility

Thanks everyone for your good advice on whether or not to share my blog with my family and friends. Since the feedback I got was all pretty much unanimous, I've decided to not share it with anybody. I think the reason I had the urge to tell my family about it was that it's bringing me so much happiness right now, and it's always nice to share happy news for a change. Hopefully I'll get my turn soon once I actually get some sperm in me.

*This story has swearing. In case you are a delicate flower.*

Sunday, Manny and I went out for lunch with a group of friends. We had been out at someone's cabin, snowshoeing and skiing all morning, and it was cold out. One of the group suggested going for lunch in a little town on the way back home - everybody there knows about my crazy food restrictions, but I'll outline them for you here (pity and sympathy always welcome - I definitely spend lots of my time wallowing already). I can't eat:
  • wheat in any form
  • potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant
  • eggs
  • dairy
  • peanuts
  • oranges

None of my sensitivities are life-threatening - I don't have anaphylactic reactions to any of these foods. But they don't support my overall health (how I found this out is a long story that I will leave for another time) and I do react to some extent when I eat them.

Back to my little parable. So everybody knows I can't eat those things, but they do want us all to go for lunch, because they're hungry and besides it will just be such a charming way to cap off a nice weekend together, so they say things like, "There will be something for you to eat, right?" Take a look at the list, and imagine what I can eat in a restaurant known for its amazing burgers and tasty wraps? That's right, salad! Mmmm, just the thing I feel like eating after I've been tromping around in the snow all morning and it's -20 outside with the wind! (Sorry American readers, I'm a metric baby and have no idea what that is in Farenheit.)

So we go to the restaurant, and as we're coming in, I can see into the kitchen, where plates of amazing home-cut fries and cheeseburgers are piling up. Bowls of steaming, creamy soup. It smells amazing and everything looks so good. And I'm getting angrier and angrier that we're there, cause I know a freezing cold salad is in my immediate future and I won't even get to enjoy perusing the menu and having a choice about what I eat, which in my opinion is half the fun of eating out anyway. I know what my choices are going to be - salad or salad, and if I'm lucky they'll have a plain, unbreaded piece of chicken they can put on it.

And of course, just as I predicted, I get to chow down on a $10 salad, which is woefully small and unfilling, even with the chicken, as all around me, the table falls silent while my friends stuff themselves with potato soup, fries, clubhouse sandwiches, and burgers. Hot, filling food that makes them feel like going back home and having a nap on this Sunday afternoon. Food that makes them feel satisfied and happy. Food that feels like a treat.

In the middle of all of this, Manny, who has been eyeing the drinks menu up on a blackboard behind the counter, asks me if I like carrot juice. I deduce that they must have fresh juices here, and he's suggesting I get one to round out my meal, which everyone at the table can easily see is completely pitiful, and also because he cares for me and wants me to have something I like. And you know what? I don't mind carrot juice. It's ok. But one thing is so fucking obvious that it's all I can do not to lunge across the table at him brandishing my fork - CARROT JUICE DOES NOT EQUAL A PLATE OF FRIES!!!! And that's what I want. I most certainly do not want a fucking carrot juice, nor will it bring me any kind of joy or relief in this situation. And I know he, and everybody there, means well when they point out options for me, but the fact is they don't have a clue what I feel like. Not a sniff. They are just enjoying themselves, looking forward to the restaurant, going over the whole menu looking for the exact thing they want right now, and getting to enjoy that exact thing in the company of people who are doing the same thing. They might be wondering why I'm looking like I want to simultaneously burst into tears and kick all of them in the shins, but probably not. Probably they think I'm having just as good a time as they are.

In the car on the way home, in between waves of my seething rage, I started to understand that part of why I was so angry was that the lunch was just another way for me to feel isolated, and that the isolation of our infertility was so very similar to what I had just experienced. When I started to tell my family and friends about our infertility, they were able to listen and be compassionate for a while. But then, because they want to help, they start thinking of the solution. "Well, this isn't so bad. There are ways for you to get a baby, right?" Sure there are, it's just that those ways involve a lot of sacrifice and grief and will change me forever, but I guess you'd rather not discuss that. You just want to think about when you get to throw me a baby shower, and all the cute onesies you'll get to pick out, and how much you're a good person because you're going to love this grandchild/niece/nephew/baby no matter what, even if it is the spawn of some guy who needs the money somewhere in another country. So things move along, and I share updates, like my HSG was good, and so was my bloodwork, and we've got an appointment with the doctor in town that performs DI, and things are really moving along, finally, and that's really good. It is good, I am grateful, I do have hope. But I also have so much damn grief, and fear, and anger. And while I struggle everyday to keep it together, and not let my anger swallow me up, and work so hard on trying to accept that DI (hopefully) is how my baby will come to me, you are completely oblivious. You might even say something like, "Have you thought about adoption?" as though it's such a simple and comforting option that is just there for the ordering, much like a glass of carrot juice. And I have thought about adoption, and I think it's a beautiful way to build a family. But it's not what I really want. My heart's desire is to experience pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding. And for me, right now, there's just no substitute for that. And I feel like I've given up enough, thank you.

So I go on, feeling broken, walking around the world and interacting with all you people in my life. Trying to forgive you for what you don't understand.

Thanks in advance, friends, for hearing me.


Io said...

You are oh so right. Carrot juice, while good in its own way, is not a plate of fries. This explains the wheat free vegan maple brownies we're going to eat.
And I totally was like - this is JUST like infertility! right before you were like - this is just like infertility!
Obviously we were meant to be friends. Or maybe you're just really good at writing and foreshadowing.

I am really not happy that you live in Saskatchewan. That is nowhere near Indiana. It is totally fun to say though.
(And -20 C is -4 F. Cold, however you say it.)

Io said...

OK, I just looked up Saskatchewan, because the only thing I know is the Saskatchewan Pirate song. If you live in Moose Jaw, I am coming to visit on vacation, because that is the coolest name for a city EVER.

Io said...

Since you're a comment whore and all...
My sister was a fan of the Arrogant Worms and sent me some of their music which reminds me - Carrot Juice is Murder! Bwah hahaha. I am so ready for our Moose Jaw adventures.

orodemniades said...

Wow, a salad in -20C weather? Yech. You'd think they could at least have rounded it out and added lots of good stuff to it.

I hear you on the food sensitivities thing, though. The deadly nightshade family is of no good to me too (and being part Polish and Sicilian, I can't tell you how much it kills me to not eat tomatoes or eggplant on a regular basis)(potatoes, not so much). Again, none it's likely to kill me, but like you, they'll all affect me in various ways.

Infertility, the gift that never stops giving...

orodemniades said...

Hey, greetings from a fellow dancer! I'm a bellydancer, but I love watching Flamenco, too. Woot!

the Babychaser: said...

Oh my Christ, that really was a fucking parable! And a profound one, at that. I'm totally blown away.

Boy, you really nailed it with regard to why IF is so isolating. Even people who are helpful have no concept of what we've given up already. Even if we eventually get "fed," we're still robbed.

And the people who are wonderful and helpful and care about you? Well, they still get sick of it. And it's almost hard to blame them, because I'm sick of it too. I just can't escape my life. I don't get to leave my own life and go home to theirs, where there already is a goofy kid running around in Spiderman pajamas, needing a night-night story. Or even to go home to my childless friends' lives, where their kids are still a bright spark of hope and promise for the future. Every night I go home to my own life, in my own empty house, with the empty room that has been waiting to be converted into a nursery for three years now. Three years. I don't want a salad. I want a goddamned potato smothered in cheese.

Glad you started posting with Io. Glad I found you.

Anonymous said...

I am a delicate flower, but I didn't mind the swaring.

The food thing really is a great metaphor for IF. It really does amaze me that fertile people are so quick to suggest adoption. Like, DUH!

Thanks for commenting on my blog, so far you definately do seem like you are cut from the same cloth!