Monday, June 9, 2014


I went to yoga for the first time in a while yesterday. I expected a good physical workout, but I didn't imagine the emotional butt kicking I would get. 

It started out like any other class. I was sweating through each pose, glad to be stretching and twisting after a few weeks of trying to take it easy while doing my first IVF cycle. At the end of class, my teacher, Verred, reminded us to have gratitude in our lives and specifically to have "gratitude for our bodies." 

This struck a chord with me. I was sitting with my hands in prayer at my heart, and I had to fight back tears. It wasn't until that very moment that I realized I'd been hating my body rather than appreciating it.

My body and I have a troubled and complicated relationship. I spent most of my childhood and adolescent years significantly overweight. I always felt like my body was holding me back from greatness. I literally felt weighed down by self-loathing, self-doubt, and fear and imagined that if I could just shake my body off like a snake's skin, my true self would emerge.

Even after I lost weight, my body remained a barometer of my self-worth. I fought with my body each day to stay thin, and then it became this hungry bag of bones trying to ruin me with food.

Slowly, I changed my relationship with my body; slowly I came to see my body as valuable and worthy of care and respect.

But it wasn't until I got pregnant that I really began to love my body. Each day I watched my belly grow, and with it my wonder at how miraculous the body is. I was so proud of what my body could do and loved watching it transform over those nine months.

After that, I thought my days of hating my body were over, and, yet, there I was, sitting on my mat, realizing that I am so angry with my body for betraying me once more, for refusing to do the one thing that I am biologically programmed to do, one thing I thought my body was actually good at.

I hadn't realized this, or, at least, I hadn't put it into words until Verred said "gratitude," and as I drove home, I thought about it more and more. There are so many blessings in my life, and it has become a daily ritual to remind myself of them each day, but not once had I placed my body on the list of blessings. This body which has carried me through 33 years without a broken bone or serious illness, this body that birthed a child with no medication, this body that ran two 5Ks this year, this body that I have often mistreated and disrespected, comes back each day like a faithful dog.

And I realized that my body is not trying to hurt me. Each day it pumps with blood, fills with breath, stretches, runs, thinks, cries, and laughs. It does its very best for me every minute of every day, and for that I am grateful.

 I guess I just needed a reminder.

Thanks for that, Verred.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Fairy Tales

I don't know why I'm still so incredulous. I was shocked two years ago when I didn't get pregnant the first month we started trying, shocked that another year passed with no luck, and shocked that all three IUIs failed last summer. You'd think the surprise and disbelief at my own infertility would have worn off by now. And yet, there I was, staring at my email message from the embryologist telling me that none of my measly three eggs had fertilized.

What?! None of them? You literally placed a sperm inside each egg and nothing happened? What are they, two seventh graders forced to play seven minutes in Heaven who don't know their asses from their elbows? It seemed to defy the laws of nature that an egg and a sperm placed next to each other wouldn't just do what they were placed on this earth to do. Disbelief is an understatement.

I knew that the IVF process could likely be filled with disappointment. I just didn't expect that disappointment to come so early. I never expected that I would only produce three eggs, and I certainly never expected to cancel my transfer because none of them fertilized.

And yet, I've been trying unsuccessfully to have a baby for two years. So, yeah, it makes sense that this wouldn't work. It makes sense that there might actually be something wrong. So why was I still so surprised? I think this is partly the fault of secondary infertility. I have had a child naturally, so everyone (including me) assumes that I will simply be able to have another baby, but what if my instant pregnancy with Ella was just a fluke? Perhaps infertility is my norm, and she was just an incredible miracle.

Who knows? Apparently no one because my doctor, one of the leading fertility specialists in New England, has been just as surprised as me.

I was discussing this incredulity with my girlfriend Christina this afternoon. It was right after our discussion of the latest episode of Game of Thrones, and she said, "Being surprised about your infertility is kind of like being surprised that a main character in Game of Thrones was killed."

I realized that this is a perfect analogy. Right at the beginning of the series they killed Ned Stark, the beloved hero, followed by his son and wife, two of the main characters. In episode after episode, horrible things happen to characters I adore, and still, every time it happens, I am shocked. Sunday night's episode was no exception. We were all rooting for the charismatic Oberyn Martell to avenge his sister's death by killing the monstrously evil Gregor Clegane (better known as The Mountain) and to also win the fight to save the wrongly imprisoned Tyrion from execution.
Before the episode began, my husband reminded me that this isn't an ordinary show. It is very possible that Oberyn will die and that Tyrion will die, and that every single person we love will die because George R. R. Martin is a sociopathic plot writer. And still, there I was watching breathlessly as Oberyn pierced The Mountain through the chest, bringing him to the floor. "He won!" I thought. "He did it!" and then, of course, The Mountain grabbed Oberyn by the leg, pulled him to the ground, and well... I'll spare you the details.

So there I was, shocked and angry once more. How could Oberyn die? This was supposed to be his Inigo Montoya moment! After the difficult news of my failed transfer, I felt as wronged as Oberyn Martell. He'd been waiting years for this moment, and he was so close to victory! I wanted to defeat infertility as much as he wanted to defeat The Mountain. He deserves it! We both do! And that's when I realized what the incredulity is all about. The real reason I continue to be shocked by  Martin's plot lines is because I still believe that just because you deserve something, you will get it. I want the heroes to win, and I guess I am the hero of this story. But your mother has been telling you for years that life isn't always fair. Just because you deserve something doesn't mean you'll get it. Sometimes the good guy loses.

This is a sad story, and it makes me wonder why we continue to place ourselves in the path of disappointment, over and over again. Why don't I simply stop watching Game of Thrones? For the same reason I'm going to the doctor tomorrow to discuss my next round of IVF.

Because no matter how naive it sounds, part of me still believes in fairy tales and that maybe, just maybe, the good guy will win this time.