"There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage."
--Martin Luther

Sunday, 30 March 2014

On How Fertility Issues Feel Like A Trip Back to Middle School

When I was in Grade 8, it seemed like all the “cool” girls were good at basketball. Maybe they had other things in common, like crimped hair (this was 1993 after all), names that started with K, and houses on the same street. Whatever it was that united the cool girls, I didn't have it and I probably never would.

I've always been a pretty determined person. When I wanted to do something or learn a new skill, I pushed myself until I accomplished it. When I felt shyness was holding me back socially, I practiced social skills. I lived in Germany when I was 21, where I chose to attend a class called “Russian for Historians”, which involved translating sentences from Russian (my fourth language) into German (my third). The first class was so difficult for me that afterwards I went into the ladies room and cried... but I didn't drop the class. I'm not trying to brag, just to explain my personality. Sometimes this intensity has been off-putting to others, but it's gotten me where I am.

None of this determination could help when I was 13 years old, an age when popularity seemed almost randomly distributed, and trying too hard was social suicide. I could watch Beverly Hills, 90210 (duh, why wouldn't you? Luke Perry was so dreamy) or beg for new clothes, but that didn't keep me from not being invited from the end of year graduation party. (True story.)

My life has been pretty good since Grade 8, so why rehash these bad memories? In some ways, the journey of trying to conceive has made me think of the Middle School popularity scene. You can try so hard, and get nothing out of it, or you can get lucky on your first month. Sure, there are ways to better your chances, such as eating well, exercising, temperature taking, and using ovulation kits, but the truth is that infertility is kind of a crap shoot. You can do everything right and never get pregnant, while some other woman smokes, drinks heavily, has no idea about her cycle, and has six kids. There's an unfairness to it all, that makes as much sense as me spending years hiding in the bathrooms during recess because my name starts with M and I lack the hand-eye coordination to do a lay-up.

I've also discovered that having no children makes me more and more of an anomaly the further I get into my 30s. This has increased the sense of being left out. I can't hang out at playgrounds to make new friends (at least not without looking like a creep). I can't commiserate on the stresses of finding a daycare or potty training. I see so many blog posts and articles shared online with tag lines like “Parents of kids will get this”. Sometimes reading my Facebook feed feels a bit like when kids in school would tell inside jokes, then say things like, “Oh, you wouldn't get it if you weren't at Kristi's house that time.” I knew a guy all through school who became a night club promoter and posts daily about his obsession with Beyonce Knowles. I read his FB feed when I need to feel like I'm not the only irresponsible non-parent in my age group. That's not to knock my friends who share these things; it's just that being 33 and childless makes me feel more and more like I'm among the stragglers waiting to be picked in gym class, hoping and praying that I won't be chosen last.

The worst part of the equation is the sense of being alone. You know know instinctively when you're being bullied at school that the worst thing you can do is cry. You have to pretend to be strong and not care. Struggling with infertility is a constant walk of pretending to have it together. No one wants to hear about your menstrual cycles and timing issues. You're afraid to share because of the dreaded “advice” that well-meaning people dole out,* and the knowledge that after you've opened your mouth, this person will watch you for signs of pregnancy and you might spend the next months, or possibly years, having to say, “Not yet” again and again.

This is a walk in which it can get hard to see if anyone listens or cares, and even of God is there for you. I'm not saying He's not. I am a Christian and I hold tight to that faith, but there are days when I feel more alone than I've ever felt before. If this is you, please don't suffer alone. You don't have to eat lunch in the girls' room. You don't have to cry alone at night and think no one can hear. If this is you, please email me at mrsdoctordear2 AT gmail.com.  The truth is, I'm not alone either.  I have some fantastic online friends that I've bonded with throughout this process, and who keep me sane on days when I am on the precipice of losing it altogether.

And if you are a parent who has never struggled with this issue, remember your a childless friends and be mindful of this divide. You may not know they are struggling. Post some cat videos online one in a while to give a respite from the baby talk. Let them in on your pregnancy and parenting struggles, but listen to their concerns too. Be there for them. It's a long and lonely road sometimes.

*I have found this article extremely helpful in covering the etiquette around infertility.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Spring TBR List

Another Tuesday, another link-up with Top Ten Tuesday over at The Broke and the Bookish.  This week we're talking about our top ten books to read in spring 2014.  Really, is spring on its way?  It seems hard to imagine that the snow really will melt soon.  This funny skit shows how we Canadians get a bit crazy hoping for nice weather around this time of the year.  I've got a few books that I'm hoping to get through before summer comes.

A while ago, I saw a blog challenge on reading through the TBR books that you own during March.  I never linked up with it, but have been trying on my own to read some of the books that have been sitting on my shelf for eons.  The first two on my list are from there, so hopefully I can finish them in the tail end of March! 

1.  From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming:  I've never read a Bond book, but I found this at our family cottage a few summers ago and for some reason took it home with me.  I'm currently reading Tim Weiner's Legacy of Ashes:  A History of the CIA, so it seems fitting to read this book next.

2.  Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill, also known as The Book of Negroes:  Loads of people have told me it's fantastic, so I'm looking forward to finally picking this up.

3.  The Once and Future King by T.H. White:  I know so little about the Arthurian legends, and this book has been on my list for ages.

4.  Kindred by Octavia E. Butler:  Recommended by a friend.  I'd never heard of the book before, but it involves time travel, so I'm stoked.

5.  Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell:  Since I loved North and South, this book should be one I will enjoy.

6.  The Giver by Lois Lowry:  No idea how I missed this as a kid, but I've been hearing a lot about it lately, so I need to finally give it a go.
7.  Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell:  I've been wanting to read this book since last fall.  I'm currently #52 (out of 257) on the hold list at the library, so fingers crossed it finally comes in before June!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Historical Fiction

I've been off enjoying Punta Cana (yay!), but am now back to link up with another Top Ten Tuesday at the Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is Favourite Books in X Genre, so I chose Historical Fiction.  I majored in History in university, and I still read a lot of history books as well historical fiction.  My qualifications for good historical fiction are:  1)  Well-researched.  Since I know a lot about history, I will be annoyed if key facts are wrong; 2) Good story.  Research isn't enough to make up for a bad or boring story; 3) Able to merge 1 and 2.  If I feel like I'm living through history, I am a happy camper.  There are some time travel books that would count as historical fiction under those categories (such as 11/22/63) but I decided to limit my list to exclude them.

1.  Between Shades of Gray by Ruth Sepetys; set during Soviet Occupation of Latvia, before and during WWII:  I loved this book and how it brought to life a situation that not many people know about:  The detention and deportation of Latvians in the USSR.  So well-written and engaging.

2.  Number the Stars by Lois Lowry; set during WWII in the Denmark:  This was a favourite of mine as a child, and I could read it again and again.  It made me think about history as a young person.

3.  Half-Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan; set in Germany and France during WWII:  This tells the story of a group of jazz musicians in Germany.  The group are a mix of German Jews, Germans, African Americans, and one talented young man who is half-German, half-Black.  An engaging story for sure.

4.  The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje; set in WWII-era Italy and North Africa:  It's been ages since I read this book (time for a re-read?) but it's stayed with me.  The characters come from various strokes of life and are a fascinating mix.  I loved the detail in its description, for example the defusing of a bomb.

5.  Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden; set in pre-WWII and WWII Japan:  A look at the training and life of a geisha.  My mom had this book on the table one time, and I picked it up and couldn't put it down.  Such a fascinating story!

6.  Shanghai Girls by Lisa See; set in WWII in Shanghai and post-war Los Angeles:  I loved this book and what it showed of the life of educated and westernized girls in China and then the immigrant experience in LA.

7.  The Birth House by Ami McKay; set in Nova Scotia in the early 1900s, WWI:  A really interesting book about midwifery in small-town Nova Scotia and the introduction of modern birthing techniques.  I loved the relationships between the women.

8.  Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell; set during and after the US Civil War:  No need to introduce this one really.  I read it at age 16 and probably wouldn't like it as much now, but there's no arguing that it's an epic story and paints a picture of the South.

9.  Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz; set in Rome during the reign of Nero:  It's a love story, and a depiction of the politics of Rome, and a picture of the early church.  I loved this book.

10.  A Voice in the Wind (and the sequels) by Francine Rivers; set in the Roman Empire during the early church era:  When I read Quo Vadis, I wondered if Francine Rivers hadn't been inspired by it to write A Voice in the Wind, as there are similar elements.  I found this an intriguing look at the fall of Jerusalem, the early Christian church, and the debauchery among many of the Roman elite.

There are sooooo many historical fiction that I haven't read yet.  I have yet to read any Philippa Gregory and Margaret George, and I've had Wolf Hall on my list for ages.  What are your favourite historical fiction books?