Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Woman of the Year

Slack blogger's preface:
2012 has ended, and I come to you, dear readers, with hat in hand.  It seems that I accidentally, unintentionally, mindlessly forgot to post for two whole months.  (Oops.)  Not quite the way to build up my readership, huh?  To make reparations, I give you two posts in a 48-hour period.  (I hope this will be welcome news.)

To begin with, I should probably explain the reasons behind my silence.  These past couple of months have been challenging and saddening for Danielle and I, and I did not know how to write about them without morphing into Debbie Downer with a keyboard.  I wanted to share our story in case it could provide comfort to other couples also experiencing the monthly grief cycle that is infertility.  Yet, I wanted to avoid self-indulgent navel gazing.  No one wants to read about my forays into self-pity.  (Besides, I can't remember the last time I cleaned my navel.  I could have been headed for some pretty crusty territory.)

In a nutshell, our recent and more aggressive attempts to conceive a child were unsuccessful.  The last try was the most devastating because it seemed so promising.  Danielle was one tough cookie, mixing her hormone doses and giving herself injections each night leading up to the insemination.  She even did one round of injections in the ladies room of a Carrabba's Italian Grill.  (Personally, I think that should be the restaurant's new slogan.  Carrabba's: With bathrooms roomy enough to mix and administer your hormone injections!  It'll catch on.) This cycle, Danielle had five- count 'em- FIVE mature eggs, and the doctor was very concerned about the chance of multiples.  (As opposed to my reaction of, "Cool.  I can quit my job and stay at home with the triplets."  I am partial to any kind of work that does not necessitate my ever leaving the house.)  We made jokes about BOGO babies and how we never do anything in moderation.  When the time came for the insemination, the doctor said our timing was absolutely perfect, neither too soon nor too late.  We somewhat prepared ourselves for the possibility that the try wouldn't be successful, but come on: with odds like that, how could it not work?

While we waited the nerve-wracking two weeks between  insemination and pregnancy testing, we did all the things expectant parents might do- brainstormed how we might tell our family and friends about the pregnancy, reaffirmed our commitment never to make special, alternate dinners for our children (If we are eating broccoli gratin, then they are eating broccoli gratin.  They do not have an inalienable right to chicken nuggets and tater tots.), and discussed baby names.  We prayed, held our breath, and remained cautiously optimistic.

With the good timing and quintuplet eggs in our favor, we were understandably shocked and shaken to the core when we discovered we were not pregnant.  We have grieved over each failed attempt, but this time brought on a whole new kind of mourning.  For days after the news, it took a lot of urging just to get out of bed.  The simple act of lifting my feet from the bed to place them on the hardwood seemed unimaginable.  I have a slight frame, but suddenly my legs were heavy loads of bricks.  Numbness got me through my days, and sobbing carried me through the nights.  While I cannot speak for Danielle, I feel fairly confident her experience was the same but worse.  (See?  I wasn't kidding about the Debbie Downer thing.)

Still, they say time heals all wounds, and while I wouldn't say that we have totally healed, the pain less like an all-consuming, splitting migraine and more like a deep bruise: sore and tender each time it's touched but otherwise fairly benign. These days, that's progress.

Going through such a cripplingly sad time and moving toward the proverbial light at the end of an utterly interminable tunnel was all made easier because of my remarkable wife.  I'm no Time magazine or anything, but she is most definitely Woman of the Year in my book.

Through all of the difficulties of 2012, Danielle has been an absolute marvel to watch.  Even without having children, she has been the consummate mama lion, going straight into battle for her kids.  Her sacrifices range from the simple hardships of giving up caffeine and alcohol to the uncomfortable and inconvenient tasks of subjecting herself to bi-monthly ultrasounds and self-administering powerful hormone injections for several nights in a row.  When the first several inseminations did not produce a pregnancy, she underwent a painful procedure to check to see if her tubes were blocked.  (They were not.)  Upon finding out that eating fresh pineapple might help to promote implantation of a fertilized egg, Danielle faithfully ate the fruit for days on end following each insemination.  I doubt she will crave the taste of pineapple ever again.  She has taken prenatal vitamins for two years straight, practiced yoga and mindfulness for relaxation, and added fertility-friendly foods to her diet.  On top of all this, she has taken on part-time jobs to help offset the cost of each IUI procedure.

All of these ordeals have been an ample challenge, but the struggle has been exacerbated by the absolute baby boom that is happening in our little corner of the world.  It feels as if everyone we know is getting pregnant.  Old friends.  New friends.  Friends of friends.  Facebook friends.  Frenemies.  People who started trying after us.  People who weren't even trying.  Family members.  Friends' family members.  Church friends.  Work friends.  No area of our lives is untouched.  I'm not sure why this phenomenon is occurring at this vulnerable time in our lives.  Are the Shades of Grey books to blame?  Is it because we are in our early 30's and have friends who are also at the family planning phase of their lives?  Does God have British sense of humor that is lost on my little American brain?  Purportedly, there is a reason for everything, but I'm not getting it right now.

Of these pregnancies, Danielle will tell you, "It's all good news."  We want our friends to be happy and are genuinely excited for them.  We are also aware that someone else's pregnancy does not preclude us from being pregnant.  No one stole our baby.  Each person we know who is currently expecting will be a wonderful parent, so these parents and babies are equally lucky.  Yet, we cannot look at other people without holding up a mirror to ourselves.  Why, we wonder, are so many others able to do easily what we still have not achieved despite great effort?  I know life isn't fair, but come on.  Is a little moratorium on pregnancies too much to ask?

It is in the context of all of the aforementioned obstacles and disappointments that Danielle has decided to abandon (for now) her dream of carrying a child in order for us to achieve our greater dream of becoming parents.  This was no casually made decision.  Danielle has been obsessed with pregnancy for as long as I've known her.  I can't tell you how many times I've had to steer her away from the maternity clothes section in Target.  She has dreamed of patting her growing belly, feeling a baby kick inside her body, and nursing an infant.  And yet, selflessly and voluntarily, she chose to stop trying so that I could begin trying to get pregnant.  She put our family ahead of her personal desires, and I admire her so much for the strength and generosity of her decision.

While grieving her loss, Danielle has been a sweet and attentive nursemaid to me as we prepare my body for an insemination a few months from now.  She showed me how to use ovulation predictor kits (My first attempt was an epic FAIL!), makes sure I keep track of my waking temperature each morning, and reminds me to take my prenatal vitamins.  She set up an account for me on www.fertilityfriend.com to track my cycle and patiently answers my 10,000 questions about what to eat, when to pee on a test strip, etc.  Already, she is an involved, hands-on parent.  I cannot wait to raise a family with her.

So, Danielle, here's to you.  In 2012, you have taught me so much about strength, tenacity, and persistence as you did everything in your power to conceive a child.  You taught me about courage as you had the strength to remain hopeful after disappointment upon disappointment.  (Until this year, I didn't realize how terrifying hope can be.)  In your decision to let me try to get pregnant, you have been a model of peaceful acceptance and of a surrender that is neither weak nor yielding.  You have been the very picture of grace under pressure (or at least grace under extenuating circumstances) as you held our three-week-old nephew and spoke sweet nothings to him until he fell asleep in your arms, all this a mere two weeks after you found out you were not pregnant.  And I know you will continue to be just as marvelous in the months to come.  As you hold my hand during doctor appointments.  As you smile encouragingly during the many baby showers we will attend in the upcoming season.  As you answer my next 10,000 questions.  As you work extra hours to keep our family financially afloat.

Of difficult times, songwriter Ron Sexsmith wrote, "Though our troubles seem like moutains/ There's gold in them hills."  If that is the case, you have made of last year's sorrows an absolute treasure trove.  I love you, admire you, and remain profoundly grateful for you.

I wish everyone a happy, prosperous, and joyful 2013. 

But most of all, I wish it for you.


  1. I love you two, you are already such a wonderful family, I have my fingers crossed that this new tactic will prove fruitful for you. And when it does, I will be genuinely happy for you both and will even be excited to rad about your nausea and look at belly shots since I know how much having those things will mean to both of you!

    Fingers crossed for a fruitful 2013 for you two and everyone else struggling to become parents!

  2. You both get the couple of the year award, for being so supportive of one another. Your post brought me to tears, and I hope all the best comes to you in 2013! Miss you both so much...

  3. Thanks to you both for your love and support. If we've learned anything this past year, it's that we have remarkable friends.