It never goes away (never, ever)

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Lately feeling a perpetual state of anxiety as spring arrives and everything is in flux.

My back has not returned to 100% since the injury 15 months ago which means I had to beg for a refund from my long-awaited blacksmithing class as I knew there was no way I could be on my feet for 6 hours, much less hunched over any tools or in a classroom seated environment. It put me into the great big ugly cry because there are so many things I’ve had to just say no to because of my back – the excruciating trip to the movie theater which lost us $22 on the two tickets (can you believe that’s how much it cost to go to the movies now…and that was the matinee price!), pretty much saying no to any type of class that lasts more than an hour, walking around any store with concrete floors for more than 15 minutes (sorry, Powell’s), or any kind of hiking that last more than 45 minutes. Tuesday was so beautiful that we decided to return to the Sandy River Delta for a hike, which we chose number one because the paths are dirt instead of paved so it’s less intense on my back, number two because it’s flat and hills still bother my back, and number three because it’s now been 4 months since we lost our Ruby and it’s the first time we’ve been able to go there without her without getting teary-eyed (for non-Portlanders, it’s this massive 1,000+ acre forested park along the Sandy River that is totally dog-friendly so it’s really the happiest place on Earth for pups and about a half an hour out of the city). We took it slow but after 45 minutes I knew the rest of my day would be shot. And sure enough, by the time we drove home not only was my back and misery but my plantar fasciitis was making it hard to even put any pressure on that right heel.

The frustration I feel as that when my plantar fasciitis has hurt in the past all I do is get on my bike because I’m not putting any pressure on the heel and still being able to get my heart rate up. But because being on the stationary bike has turned out to amplify the inflammation as it puts pressure on my sciatica, I’ve had to put that trainer back in the box and on hold for the time being which was heartbreaking. Will I leave my hometown without one last ride? No, I can’t allow it…but I can’t allow this pain to continue either.

So that all happened these past couple weeks…and then I got a new client whose income will allow us to not only pay off the past adoption fees charged to our credit card, but also put at least half of the cash away that we need for it when a match is finally made (for those unfamiliar with domestic infant adoption, overall costs are around $30-35K, depending on the birth mother’s medical costs, legal fees, etc…if you’ve already emptied out your savings and stopped contributing to your 401(k) because you spent $60K+ on 6 rounds of DEIVF and a failed international adoption, you’ll see why this is a doozy), did the happy dance, and thought OK dammit, good things are afloat.

Then yesterday, as I was puttering about the house tidying up the dining room, packing a few more things away to stow in the garage, I looked out the window across the street at our neighbor’s house. These nice rich folks (not judging, I just know their house cost half a mil and they drive a Range Rover and BMW, so they can’t be too hard off financially) have also struggled with infertility, but rather than go down the road of IVF after their IUIs failed, they went straight to adoption. I realized that when I last spoke to them about it, it was in Spring of last year, just a couple of weeks before our 6th and final round (8th & 9th blastocyst), just before we found out Ethiopia had closed their doors to foreign adoptions (including those 2 years in progress, sitting on their desks waiting for a match with a child in one of their many orphanages, which was our situation). They had just started taking the required classes, and I thought, well, we will DEFINITELY have a child before them, right? After all, when Round 6 failed, a month and a half later we had gotten all the paperwork completed for domestic adoption.

That was ten months ago we’d done that paperwork and nearly 70 birth mothers who have reviewed our profile book and chosen another. So when yesterday, three and a half years after plunging headfirst into family-making efforts, I saw this couple walking down their front steps with a little boy, watching him totter over to their Range Rover with his teensy weensy backpack, and see our neighbor pick him up and put him in his carseat?

I fucking fell apart.

Now I see people and their kids all the time – the neighborhood is filled with them. While I avert my gaze and take a deep breath when I see pregnant bellies, and can only bite my tongue when someone texts me a photo of them with their neighbor’s baby conceived via IVF, or another tells me that a mutual acquaintance and his transgender (living as a male, kept the female parts) partner are pregnant after “trying (naturally) for a while”, or I meet someone who tells me she is not only fertile but chose adoption because her husband didn’t want to reverse his vasectomy and when they applied to adopt, they were literally matched with a baby ONE DAY after turning in their profile book…it’s a whole different thing to look out your window and see it right there. Unavoidable. Like my own emotional car crash that I could not look away from but could not bear to see.

Now, to say I fucking fell apart was really an understatement. I first started out with a quiet sob and tried to put on my headphones and go for a walk, get out of the house, away from the window (even though they had since driven away, I couldn’t stop staring at their house). And two blocks into it, I couldn’t catch my breath. I raced home, dropped the keys on the floor, and fell onto the sofa, wailing. Hyperventilating in grief. The ugly cry. It went on for so long that I only could hope no one knocked at the door to ask what the sounds were coming from our home.

The rest of the day was shot, as I walked around in a haze. My husband called and I could barely speak, and when he got home he told me that his afternoon was similar. We know the irrationality of our anger – we are not upset at the neighbors for getting their wish, and if anything we are thrilled because they are going through the foster care system to adopt a toddler who has gone through so much more than a newborn will have. It’s that here we are, years later, with nothing to show for our efforts besides my fucked up back and a fat belly and 12 months of post-op treatment for my vitrectomy that can only be explained by stress since the doctors don’t know why my retina detached…and one year after ending treatment finally getting my credit card paid off for the second adoption agency fees paid last year.

And the loop that keeps going on in my head was what many of us infertiles who never ended up with a baby say:

But I did everything they told me to do.
The shots. The diets. The needles. The counseling. The ERAs.
And I still have nothing.

And while I’ve been pretty good at compartmentalizing this trauma recently, seeing the neighbors with their new son reminded me that this pain never goes away. I will never put my hand on my belly and not remember the summer of 2016 when, for one brief chapter, we had a little one growing in there and my husband would kiss it every morning and every evening.

Hell, even when I wept about the last male white rhino who died last week, and read that they had saved his sperm so that they could try to revive the species with the 2 female rhinos left through IVF? I was cynical.

But you know what? I never have regretted not trying earlier. Really – was I going to get pregnant with my lying alcoholic ex-husband while supporting both of us on my $35K income during those years we spent in SoCal? Or was I going to get off the pill and get knocked up by the farmer in Eastern Washington who was fucking a woman with the same name as me rather than consider coming to comfort me as I watched my father lay dying in a hospital in Central Oregon? Because here’s the deal: not only did we have other things going on then, when you’re in my situation, you do not KNOW if it would have even WORKED back then, 15 or 20 years ago, when you were supposedly the most fertile. For all I know, my eggs were always fucked. Would it have done me any good to know that then? When my doctor asked me at 31, fresh out of my divorce and living in my uncle’s attic with my dog, temping and all my stuff in storage, if I wanted to freeze my eggs (not something that is free, y’all…), I couldn’t stop laughing. Not just because of the money, but because in that mental state, I could not imagine trying to start a family. And hell, I was one of those cases where the friends around me were all getting pregnant in their 30s and early 40s, no problem…and by the way, did that doctor tell me about how my odds would tank in the coming years? Nope. Just the egg question. So do I regret not having kids earlier? No. What I do regret is that no one educated me, and that the clinics and agencies I went to deceived and at times outright lied to me to get my money. And with that, I think of this blog post I just read that says it all, even as I get over the trauma of yesterday being rehashed…

“So, in one of those hypothetical “If you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?” situations, I would tell myself: don’t count on IVF or adoption. I would encourage myself to live my life just the same. Work hard, be nice, have fun, volunteer. Make all of the same mistakes and choices. All is and will be well.”
~ from Infertile Phoenix

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