Saturday, January 27, 2007

Chum Pile

Last night I went to a Clothing Exchange. It was an annual event: a group of women, most of whom I was meeting for the first time, a table load of snacks, most of which I couldn't eat (I'll explain why next time I write), lots of laughter, and many many plastic bags full of clothes, which we presented in turn, one person and one item at a time, sometimes with stories, sometimes with caveats, everyone grabbing whatever appealed to them from the growing "chum pile."

"This is a very boob-y shirt," K~ warned, holding up a slinky ice-blue top, "I couldn't pull it off." She chucked it into the pile.

"I had a big day-at-the-beach fantasy with these, but it never happened. I was supposed to be all tan and glowing..." C~ said, waving her hand in dismissal and tossing a pair of white drawstring pants into the ring.

N~ held up an orange and white palm-frond-print smock. "My mother thought I would like this," she declared, cocking her head at the bead-encrusted neckline, her expression somewhere between curiosity and alarm.

"This dress is very hard for me to part with," another woman said, "but I never wear it anymore. It belonged to R~." The room filled with reverent sighing. R~ was a beloved member of this little community. She died of breast cancer several years ago. It felt too sad to throw her dress in with the unclaimed clothing. We all slowed down a moment, taking care that this item found a loving home.

When my turn came around, I gave away two grocery bags full of clothes, including a few things I'd held onto as potential maternity clothes, and several items I bought in the boggle-minded days of abrupt divorce and sudden weight loss. "I almost got arrested in this shirt," I said, holding up a blue striped tank top. Of course, everyone wanted the story, so I told them an extremely condensed version of what I'm about to tell you.

Two summers ago, well into the many torturous infertile months after my first miscarriage, the thing I dreaded more than anything happened: I was invited to a baby shower. It was for my cousin, it was nearby, and I was determined to show up, wearing a brave face. If I hadn't miscarried, my baby would be due any minute. But life does, in its sometimes gentle, sometimes harsh wisdom, go on.

The brave face proved to be a challenge.

I went to Babies-R-us, picked a gift from the registry, and burst into tears. At home, wrapping my gift in my most meticulous quirky-artsy way, I burst into tears again. And on the appointed Saturday, an hour before the shower, I locked my keys, wallet, and cell phone in the car in the grocery store parking lot. My then-husband was at work, thirty miles away. So I ran half of the five miles home (in sandals) and took a bus the rest of the way (luckily I had some change in my pocket). I figured I could wash up, dress, hop on my bike, and arrive a little sweaty, a little late, but none the wiser.

My landlord, it turned out, was headed in the same direction, so she offered a ride to the little American Legion Hall where the event was taking place. I really did not know my way around that town, and Mapquest, it turned out, didn't either, so my landlord was a godsend. I thanked her at the curb, she sped off, and I walked into a baby shower in progress, carrying my gift, and wearing my bravest smile.

The first thing I saw was a cake that said "Welcome Baby," then the plates of half-eaten food (I was hungry), and then the faces of the women chatting noisily at tables, none of whom I recognized. My smile began to fade.

As it turned out, the baby shower I had stumbled into was not my cousin's. No one had heard of my cousin. The shower guests regarded me and my quirky-artsy gift wrap with suspicion. I asked to use a phone. I was asked to leave.

That did it.

My brave face was gone. I begged to use a phone, explaining that I was miles from home without a car or dime or even a sense of direction. Someone offered a cell phone, but hovered over me in the open vestibule of the bathroom, where I went in search of privacy and quiet. Someone in the background said, "get her out of here," and a man with his chest puffed out bouncer-style came to set things right.

This is when I really started to worry. I was stranded, a crowd was forming and everyone was looking at me like I was a psychopath. A tearful, distraught psychopath, blowing her nose into a paper towel and trying desperately to reach someone, anyone, on the phone. I had finally gotten through to my husband, but the bouncer-guy was bearing down, and several nervous angry women were behind him. I could see through the tears enough to know that if I didn't get out of there soon, the police would be called. So I handed the phone off and fled.

Luckily, the one and only apparently sane woman of the bunch followed me out and asked what she could do to help. I explained my circumstances and she gave me directions to a bus stop and some money (I insisted she give me her address so I could repay her, which I did, and promptly).

Cutting to the chase: As it turned out, I had the date wrong. My cousin's shower was the following day.

"And this is the shirt I wore to the baby shower, take 2," I told my Clothing Exchange audience. And then I moved on to the next item in my bag.

And that was it. I sat down and the next woman got up. The chum pile was huge. It's amazing how much we accumulate, how much we outgrow. Life does, really and truly, in all its harsh and gentle wisdom, go on.

Looking around the room, I saw a range of body types, ages, personalities, everyone talking and laughing and enjoying themselves. Most had children; some had two or even three. Two were pregnant. I can't say for sure, but I assume some of the older women did not have kids, would never have kids. One woman, about my age, held a bright-eyed newborn. Maybe that will be me, next year. I thought.

Or maybe not.

I regarded the older, probably childless women, imagined myself among their ranks. It seemed okay; a little sad, on one hand; a bit decadent, on the other, to never have to go through all the sacrifice child-rearing demands. Mostly, it seemed a relief to have the question finally answered and put to rest.

In the meantime, I'll hold my place in the circle, as step-mother and ambivalent wannabe. It's a surprisingly comfortable outfit, now that I've broken it in. And for now, anyway, it still fits.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

No News is...

I spent the past week basically tethered to the couch, and to the tissue box (actually, to a series of hankies, so as not to waste trees) sick and miserable but at least enjoying episode after episode of Sex and the City, season three and four, on my laptop. I also had my period, so when the headache and the coughing subsided, there were the cramps to keep me prostrate and pitiful. I did manage, however, to get it up enough to help J~ get it up for the big semen analysis. He delivered his sample to the lab still warm (little cup tucked in his armpit, doctor's orders) on his way to work Thursday.

So now we're waiting for results. Sometimes no news is... no news.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


I had a dream two nights ago that a paper airplane hit our bedroom window, and rather than fall away, it continued to nose up against the glass. It took a while before it got my attention, but finally I opened the window, unfolded the paper, and revealed a child's crayon drawing and a happy-silly-rhyming poem about what our family life will be like with a baby. It dawned on me that I might be pregnant, so I did a test, and lo and behold: positive. J~ and I laughed and cried and hugged and marveled at the news.

Then I woke up.

It was Saturday morning and still a few days shy of this month's testing day. I wondered if this was a sign. I did feel crampy, after all, which was one of the most memorable and earliest symptoms in my past short-lived pregnancies. I told J~ about the dream right away, but not until late in the day did I admit that my hopes were up, in spite of my every effort to keep them at bay. He grinned and hugged me. "It's exciting," he said, and admitted that his hopes shot up, too, when I told him about the dream. "I don't think that's a bad thing," he added.

I wasn't so sure, but it was undeniably fun to be excited together.

We got caught up in burrito-making and our arriving dinner guests, and a popcorn-and-peanuts screening of Al Gore's must-see, very sobering and sometimes funny movie, An Inconvenient Truth. (Which, by the way, if you haven't seen, please do. It's important.)

Throughout the evening, the idea that maybe I was pregnant colored my thoughts. I felt extra in-love with J~, extra happy with my life. I took long, deep breaths. I smiled involuntarily. J~ told me later that he felt the same way.

But this morning, my temperature had dropped to its usual pre-menstrual low, and my hopes dropped correspondingly. "But I'm not depressed about it," I told J~.

It's true. I'm not.

My dream still feels like a good sign. Allowing my hopes to rise seems suddenly not foolish, but necessary. How else to shake ambivalence but to embrace desire? How else to move toward a dream except by entertaining unreasonable hope?

I do believe this can happen for us.

As embarrassed and potentially naive as I feel to say so, I do believe it's going to happen.

I'll even go so far as to boldly state that it will happen.

It is happening.

Maybe I'm not pregnant yet, but I'm getting ready for it. We're getting ready for it. We are taking the leap. We are going to have a baby.


And if, for some reason, it doesn't happen, we'll have at least sucked all the juices out of the delicious possibility that it could have happened, and that we truly wanted it to happen, and that we went through it together, loving each other all the way.

Speaking of which, I owe you some updates: J~'s appointment yielded no sample, no new information (yet); only a plastic cup and instructions on which lab to take it to once he had it filled. We plan to do the deed Wednesday morning.

My counseling appointment was moderately successful. I got something out of it, in spite of the fact that the counselor did a great deal more talking than I did. I'll probably see her again, but I'm also looking elsewhere for a better match.

More to come, more to come.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Withholding No More

It's not fair. I should have told you this earlier. I'm a bad blogger. Bad. I left you completely out of the discussion that led to today's important turn of events:

J~ is going to the doctor this afternoon to get his sperm checked. Why assume it's just my body that's not cooperating?

"You could meet me there," he said, but I told him I feel a little uncomfortable about going along. After all, they're going to put him in a little room to fill a cup. I don't think they'll let me in with him, and how strange is that to flip through magazines while your husband is jerking off in the next room?

But then this morning I woke up with a change of heart. I asked, "Do you want me to come with you?"

After some deliberation where we clarified the word 'want" as opposed to "need", he said yes, so there you have it, I'm going. House and Garden, here I come.

One other thing you should know: after my last blog entry, I thought, obviously, I'm not over this yet. So tomorrow, I'm going for my first appointment with a counselor (a professional health-insurance-taking counselor, that is) since the few I had right after the ex left. I haven't met this one yet, so we'll see how it goes.

And I promise to let you know.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New Year, New Life

Before I talk about anything else, there's something I need to get off my chest.

An Open Letter to Last Year's Husband:

In the days leading up to Christmas, it occurred to me that last year at this time, you were having an affair. Whether or not anything "happened" while you shared a bed with her on that business trip is not the point. The fact that you had done it and kept it a secret from me is enough. The fact that you patted me on the back making pity noises when I admitted, repeatedly, that I couldn't shake my paranoia, is disgusting. The fact that you denied it to my face is incredibly disgusting. You were looking forward to seeing her again. You were excited about a potential relationship with her. Even the sexual energy that you brought to bed with me at the time, I now understand, was full of the tension building between you and her, and that makes me downright sick. The fact that I'm in a much better place now does not absolve you. The words "I'm sorry" do not absolve you. Even my forgiveness, which I realize now I offered artificially (wishfully) and prematurely, does not absolve you. I'm still pissed. I'm still hurt. And as much as I'd like to be above this kind of emotion, I sort of hate you.

Also, make no mistake about it, I divorced you because of your adultery.
This was not a benevolent decision made together based on mutual drifting apart. This was a decision forced upon me by your unwillingness to choose between me and your mistress. Never once did you say you wanted to do the work to repair our marriage. Never once did you say you would choose me over her. If my choice was to either except that or kick you out, as far as I'm concerned, I had no choice. In fact, when it came right down to it, you chose her over me. I was not part of the decision at all. You left me for another woman, simple as that. Let me be very clear: I only agreed to call it "irreconcilable differences" so that I could get divorced from you as quickly and cheaply as possible. If I could do it over, I would, because I realize now that forcing you to face facts would have been worth every minute and every penny. You got off easy and you still make me sick.

Okay, dear readers, now that I have that out of my system, I can tell you about the part of my holidays that did not involve nauseating flashbacks to last year:

To make a long story short, we spent Christmas with my family and it was lovely, hanging out at my brother's house twenty minutes up the road, and at our smaller place with various configurations of family members before and after the big day.

With B~ tucked away at his mother's, J~ and I went to New York for New Year's weekend, making good time from our place in rural CT to my dad's in the city Friday evening, sleeping comfortably on an air mattress on the living room floor. We walked all day for two days in lower Manhattan, back and forth over the Brooklyn Bridge, from Battery Park City through Chinatown and Little Italy, the East Village, the Garment District, galleries in Chelsea, all the way up to Columbus Circle. On Saturday, we ate a late lunch at Spice Market, and on Sunday, brunch at Prune. We hit the MoMA close enough to closing to get in for free but not too close to miss the Brice Marden retrospective. As for New Year's Eve, we skipped Time Square hoopla in favor of the pleasantly crowded dance floor at Irving Plaza and our new favorite band, Brazilian Girls. Balloons and confetti fell on our heads at midnight, and we kissed and danced and proclaimed this, such a difficult year, the best of our lives.

We didn't get our wish for a positive pregnancy test on Christmas day, but we're both working on improving our general and reproductive health, and, as always, continuing to enjoy the effort. Who knows what 2007 will bring. I have no doubt, at least, that the reflection on the previous year's holiday season will be much more favorable.