How We Got Here, Vol. 2

How We Got Here, Vol. 2

Buckle up, because this is a long one!

So, as discussed in Vol. 1, Matt and I decided we wanted to have a baby. It was such a delicious secret, deciding that we’d surprise everyone we know with the shocking news: We’re pregnant! No one would see this coming. I immediately got to work, researching the steps I needed to take to successfully get myself knocked up.

Yes, I know, of course, the basics of how these things happen. No one who’s ever seen 16 and Pregnant can claim that getting pregnant is an advanced science, in most cases. But my knowledge of the logistics of ovulation was severely lacking, my friends. I was honestly a little embarrassed as I learned about how to time everything, how eggs get where they need to go, and what happens to them from that point. How could all of this be stuff I didn’t know anything about? One day, I was explaining some concept to Matt, probably something gross about cervical mucous, and he said, “It’s really embarrassing that I don’t know about any of this.” I felt blissful relief, and said, “Well, you should really be ashamed of yourself.”

I didn’t pay much attention in health class, but I’m pretty sure this is how it all starts
I was one of those teenagers who had miserable cycles every month. I won’t get into the gory details, but we’re talking incredible pain and side effects. My mom took me to the OBGYN when I was fifteen and I’ve been on some type of birth control pill or device, on and off, ever since. So it had been years since I truly experienced the curse as the gods intended me to suffer through it. I knew it would be a painful couple of months, as we tried for a baby.

Armed with knowledge, we got busy, and kept our baby-making a secret. No success in months one, two, or three. No big deal! I knew from my obsessive internet scouring that this was perfectly normal. Then, no success in months four, five, or six. By that point, a few close friends knew of our plan to have a baby (mostly because I am the worst at keeping my own secrets). Most of our friends acted as an amazing support system, cheering for us and letting us vent when we needed to, without constantly asking how everything was going. I had a couple of friends who would always say things like, “You just have to relax and it will happen when you least expect it!” Let me let you in on a little secret… when you’re exerting this much effort in careful planning and timing, there is no tricking yourself out of expecting it.

Maybe I need to interrupt myself here and remind you, gentle readers, that I am not a “hey, let’s kick back and see what happens” kind of girl. I’d love to be that girl, but I’m more the “hey, so I am following all the rules, and this isn’t working, and oh god what’s wrong with me and I can’t stand this for much longer” type of girl. (Matt is soooo lucky.) But seriously, this whole process was immensely frustrating. It felt like a cruel joke. We’d taken forever to decide we wanted this thing to be a part of our lives, and now it seemed like we might not ever get it.

After eight or nine months, I talked in-depth with my OBGYN about my fears. She had such a great attitude about all my stress. She said, “I know all the books tell you to try for a full year before you seek any fertility treatment, but I think you should have some tests if it’s stressing you out. And by the way, the people who keep telling you to ‘just relax’ are full of it. Science doesn’t work that way.”

Matt then provided a specimen (I love that word. So needlessly mysterious) for testing. The specimen, ladies and gents, was a modern day marvel. Matt’s swimmers were not only athletic and healthy, there were so damn many of them. As in, he had millions more of those little suckers than most men his age have. The doctor literally giggled as she told me the results. Needless to say, this became an instant source of jokes for Matt. (Me: “We need to leave in an hour, okay?” Matt: “Oh, don’t you worry, I’ll be ready. Great swimmers.”) I’m expecting him to get tired of these jokes any day now. Aaaany day now.

What Matt’s swimmers probably look like inside my fallopian tubes
So, we knew Matt most likely wasn’t the problem. Something was going on with me. We were incredibly fortunate to have an amazing fertility clinic ten minutes’ drive from our house, so we made an appointment and met Dr. Katz. After looking (and raising his eyebrows) at the numbers from Matt’s specimen, he suggested that we try a couple of non-invasive approaches involving fertility drugs and careful timing.

After a few months of this, Dr. Katz told me that he suspected I had endometriosis, due to my continued lack of pregnancy, my history of painful periods, and the normal test results from both Matt and myself (meaning they were able to rule out several common culprits of infertility). Endometriosis is a crazy condition involving uterine tissue that grows outside of the uterus, and oh by the way, nobody knows for sure why it happens. Dr. Katz believed that I had mild endometriosis that was turning my uterus into a hostile chamber of death for any of Matt’s Michael Phelpses who dared to enter. (Honestly, I was not surprised at this theory. Of course I would have a uterus that’s in a terrible mood for no reason, and visitors would want to leave as soon as possible.)

And so, I had my first ever surgery a few weeks later, for Dr. Katz to stick a little camera through my belly button (I know… yikes) and poke around to see if there was any evidence of endometriosis. He said that if he came across any scar tissue, he’d go ahead and try to remove it. This would hopefully render my uterus slightly less disagreeable, and more prone to growing a baby. He warned us that there was a chance he would find nothing wrong in there, which would mean we’d keep exploring other causes of infertility, and he also warned us that there was a chance he’d find some seriously scary endometriosis he couldn’t do much to fix, which would make me an instant candidate for in-vitro fertilization (IVF).

Lucky for us, he just found some scar tissue, and he treated it. Endometriosis is (for some reason… they seriously know so little about this whole thing) kept at bay when you’re pregnant or on birth control, but it will come back after a few months of normal, unmedicated, non-pregnant cycles. So we didn’t waste much time before going right to an intrauterine insemination (IUI). Which is basically a nurse coming at you with a fancy turkey baster.

Remember how I wrote about that whole ankle surgery nightmare, a few months back? Well. Just a couple of weeks after Matt had his surgery, I woke him up at 6:00 AM, demanded that he give me another of his prized specimens in a cup, asked him to carry the cup in his pocket to keep it safe and warm, and then drove him over to the fertility clinic where he had to hobble in on crutches, and sign a bunch of papers promising that the sample was in fact his own. It was seriously an impressive feat. The staff at the clinic then took a couple of hours to wash the specimen, weed out any of the slackers (“as if any of them are slackers.” – Matt), and then I went back in to have the swimmers inserted directly into my uterus by way of a small plastic tube. Once all the nurses had taken the time to express their amazement at my husband’s latest specimen, of course (seriously happened).

So in doing the IUI, we bypassed a lot of potential pitfalls in ensuring that plenty of good, strong Olympian sperm got into my uterus. After the procedure, the nurse told me to stay on my back and relax for a few minutes, and then cheerfully reminded me that “this has a 20% chance of working. Good luck!”

Selfie I took from the exam room during IUI
I’d been through so many of the dreaded two week waits (TWWs) by this time. The TWW is the time between when you go through the motions of trying to conceive (either naturally or á la turkey basting) and the time when you expect to get your period. It’s basically two straight weeks of trying to learn how to be “kick back and see what happens” girl. But this TWW was by far the most agonizing. I reminded myself that while 20% was not a great statistic, it was certainly the best chance at getting pregnant that I’d had so far. And that was something.

At 11 days post ovulation, rather than the prescribed 14 (way too early to be sure anything would show up, but potentially early enough that something could show up), I took a pregnancy test. And for just a moment, before tears blurred my eyes too much for me to be able to see anything, I saw a shadow of a second pink line. Having seen dozens of pregnancy tests with just the one glaring, definitive pink line, I knew the second one was there right away. I ran into Matt’s office and brandished the test in front of his face. He very reasonably took it out of his face, since it was in essence a piece of plastic covered in urine, and squinted skeptically at it before gently saying, “Honey, I’m not sure there’s anything there.” But I knew there was a second line.

IMG_2418 2
Matt still can’t see the second line.

Two days later, I triumphantly presented Matt with a digital test I’d just taken. And with a completely straight face, just to make me laugh, he pretended to squint questioningly at the bold “PREGNANT” that had appeared on the screen.

A lot had to happen after we decided we wanted to create a tiny human of our very own, in order for me to look down tonight and find myself 23 weeks pregnant with a feisty little girl kicking the hell out of me. That 16 month process was unbelievably stressful, and yet I know that many couples have a far longer, rougher road than we did. If you’re on a similar road right now, please consider making use of these three pieces of free advice from me:

1) Each month when you get your period, and you realize another month is shot to hell, make “shot” the theme of the night. I recommend vodka. Allow yourself the pity party, and then get back to work.

2) Don’t wait the recommended year to seek fertility treatment. Give it the ol’ college try, and once it starts to get to you, go talk to someone.

3) Consider sharing your struggles with close friends or family members. Sure, it’s awesome to surprise everyone with pregnancy news, but it’s also awesome when people know what you’re going through. And if they try to tell you to “just relax,” be patient with them. They really just have no idea how you feel.

Well, friends, that’s about it. That’s how we got here. It’s been a wild ride so far. Stay tuned… More pregnancy shenanigans coming your way soon. ❤

How We Got Here, Vol. 1

How We Got Here, Vol. 1

As I sit and stare, glassy-eyed, at a detailed listing for a pair of gently used baby sandals on the moms’ consignment group I’ve recently joined on Facebook, I wonder how I got to this place.

Three years ago or so, anyone who knew me would be able to tell you that I never wanted kids. I don’t particularly care for most children. They always seem to be very sticky and unpredictable, characteristics I prefer to experience in things like ice cream cones. In fact, when I started dating my husband Matt, I was pleased to set his mind at ease when I learned he did not want kids. “Oh, don’t you worry about me! I don’t want any either! Gross!” For years, I was annoyed when anyone who heard about my decision gave me a knowing look and cajoled me with, “Just wait. You’ll change your mind!” And lots of people did this. I’d show them! I’d have dogs, and cats, and I’d travel, and I’d enjoy date nights with Matt every night of the week, and I’d live happily ever after.

And I did! For a while.

This child looks like it might try to touch me

One ordinary night, a couple of years ago, Matt took an Ambien and settled in for a peaceful eight hours of rest. Because that’s the typical result of his taking Ambien, maybe nine times out of ten. But occasionally, before he falls asleep, he gets… weird. The Ambien kicks in, and rather than drifting off to dream of guitars and Squidbillies, he wants to talk about weird things for several minutes before he passes out. He never remembers anything he’s said, the following day. (Side note: This is why I never have to worry about Matt having an affair. Or really being deceptive in any imaginable way. I have access to inexpensive and effective truth serum, around three times each month.) His transition from total lucidity to being completely out of his senses can be quite subtle. He will usually say something vaguely nonsensical, which tips me off. Examples of things he might say: 

1. “I need to search for flights to Japan.”

2. “Can you explain how electricity works, but better than the way I already know?

3. “I know you think my feet are weird but I’m just so used to them. So is my mom.”

On this particular night, Matt explained to me that he wanted us to have a baby as soon as possible. Then, he calmly informed me that he’d be happy to “go in and rip that IUD right out of there.” Then he fell asleep, practically mid-sentence. I sat there, mouth agape, my usual pre-bedtime game of Candy Crush instantly abandoned. Sure, I recognized the telltale signs of an Ambien kick, but I was still floored.

The next day at work, I felt a little out of sorts. I tried to remind myself that Matt had no idea what he was saying. I finally got so agitated that I called Matt and told him I was coming by his office at lunchtime to talk. When I arrived, I solemnly recounted everything that he’d said the night before. “Do you secretly want a baby and you’re not telling me?!” I demanded. Matt just laughed. “No! Listen! Everything is fine! It’s just baby fever!” Oh…. was that all this was? What a relief! That was a close one. I decided to immediately put it out of my mind.

Matt would occasionally contract what he called baby fever, a temporary malady causing him to wish he had a baby of his very own for a period of time ranging from one hour to several weeks in duration. The baby fever would eventually break, returning him to a comfortably anti-baby stance and leaving him with little memory of his baby-craving delirium. Luckily, I had always seemed to be immune to this virus, preferring to hold babies for no more than five minutes at a time (and that only happened when the mother of the creature looked at me expectantly, as though I’d obviously want to hold it, which I didn’t, but then of course I felt like I had to). 

Baby fever
Baby fever at its worst. This person is screaming violently into her hankie because she is so sad about wanting a baby

Inexplicably, once the Ambien incident happened, despite my intentions to ignore it all, I started to get baby fever too. All the classic symptoms. I started to think a little about what that Matt/Courtney person might be like. Some things would be almost a given… High forehead. Sensitive. Sarcastic. But would he be musical like Matt? Would she enjoy Buffy the Vampire Slayer like me? Would her feet be weird like Matt’s? Could I teach him to love all felines, big and small? And I began to wish I could get to know that little being. I realized that, for the first time, I had so much love for another person, Matt, that I was curious to experience the full depths of what our life together could become. Yes, I know it sounds very dramatic and vaguely churchy and makes you want to roll your eyes. But it’s what happened. Suddenly, I felt fine with the prospect of hanging out with this particular nonexistent child, even knowing he or she would definitely get sticky frequently. 

We eventually decided to go for it (more on that in Vol. 2). Over time, Matt and I talked about other reasons we might want a kid. Our families would be elated, we had good stable jobs, and so forth. But I’m proud to say that my future child was ultimately the product of her father’s drug-addled ramblings. We’re off to a great start. 😍

Using Keanu Reeves for Marriage Equality

Using Keanu Reeves for Marriage Equality

I have been woefully neglectful of this blog, which was my favorite project for several weeks earlier in the year. I was struggling to decide on source material for the longest time in recent weeks, but finally I decided, hey, calm yourself down already. When there’s something worth writing about, you’ll write about it. Oh, and plus I have been busy secretly growing a human baby for months now. I mean, that is if you consider constant nausea, exhaustion, and crying jags “busy,” and I do. More about the human baby in a later post. Tonight, I need to address something far more pressing. I need to talk about marriage equality.

My husband Matt is rarely annoyed with or upset at me. I know. It’s really astounding  that I can hardly annoy him at all. He takes great joy in finding ways to annoy and upset me, though, because it is really easy to do. I’m a naturally high-strung and emotional person, and, despite years of trying to project a demeanor of general calm and hoping that one day my friends will start to consistently say, “Courtney? Oh man, that girl is so laid back. I have never met anyone who goes with the flow as well as she does,” it’s who I am. I’m just what they call easily rattled. Matt takes great joy in seeking out the things that I’m sensitive about and exploiting them for his own amusement, but I don’t get to return the favor very often. Ruffling his feathers is my Mount Everest. I am determined to succeed. But I’m not very athletic.

Actual footage of me trying to make my husband hate me

So when I find things that get under Matt’s skin, I like to really latch on and make the most of them. Inevitably, being a more emotionally stable and less reactive person, he figures out ways to avoid being irritated by whatever The Thing is. Therefore, when I strike gold, I try to enjoy it while it lasts. For example, for a while The Thing was that I thought Bruno Mars was overrated. I hated that stupid grenade song, and the one about how he should have brought her flowers and held her hand and all those other dumb things he says. I just didn’t like the music, and Matt refused to allow this opinion. Bruno Mars was a fantastic pop singer and I was wrong and he couldn’t bear to hear me talk about this, and so I talked about it a lot.*

Then, more recently, it was that I thought one of his current favorite bands, Big Wreck, sounded like Christian rock music.** As a former devout Baptist growing up in the 90’s and early 2000’s, I felt qualified to make this declaration. As a guitarist and student of music for his entire life, Matt thought I was way off-base and lost his mind anytime I mentioned Big Wreck praising their lord and savior. Now, I’m sad to say, making up fake Jesus lyrics to Big Wreck’s songs no longer has the same effect. Just this very minute, I asked him which of Big Wreck’s songs he thinks is the most “Jesusy” so I could link to it in my blog, to see if he would get upset, and he gritted his teeth and then he gave me suggestions. It’s like he just stopped caring what I think, like some kind of emotionally intelligent wizard.**

Luckily, I have found something new.

I have always known who Keanu Reeves is, in general. That guy from The Matrix and some other stuff. In my late teens, I went to the movies to see the rom-com Something’s Gotta Give, with Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, and that guy from The Matrix. And even in my youthful state, lacking in critical thinking abilities and general life skills, I could see that the guy’s acting sucked. He was stiff, overly articulate, and generally unpleasant to watch. To be fair, I never really had a strong opinion about him either way, or at least not until I learned how much Matt likes him.

I mean, you can’t just put a guy in a black turtleneck, sit him next to a powerhouse actor, and expect him to be interesting

The other night we were trying to decide what to watch and we stumbled upon The Lake House with Keanu and Sandra Bullock. Matt loves a rom-com, and I was game since I immediately sniffed out his vulnerability to Keanu-related remarks. All it took was one comment about how that guy sucks, and I knew I was on to something. So I worked hard to comment on poor Keanu’s sub-par acting chops as often as possible, throughout the movie. Matt was enraged! Success. He tried to counteract my attack with his own comments, but he was no match for me because I think he also secretly knows Keanu sucks. We had several exchanges like this:

Me: Oh here we go. That guy from The Matrix is trying to muster up emotion again. I wish Sandy would show up and put me out of my misery.

Matt: What?! Look at that guy. What an actor. Look at those quality tears.

Me: They had to hire a guy to stand right nearby with eye drops. Or there’s some person hiding under that table plucking his leg hairs.

You probably missed him because he’s so boring and lame, but Keanu’s over there, to the right.

At a certain point in the movie, Matt announced that we would watch Speed next, so I could see Keanu at “his finest.” When The Lake House finally ended an eternity later, and Speed started, I pretended not to see Keanu in the first few scenes he was in, which had the desired effect:

Matt: Look at that guy! He’s ready to fight! How can you not like Keanu?! Seriously!

Me: Who? Oh, he’s there? Which one is he again?

Friends, it was a glorious night. The moral of this story is not how much Keanu Reeves blows. It is to encourage you all to seek out that which makes your marriage irritation equitable, and hold on to your power for as long as is humanly possible, until its last dying breath. Stay the course. Don’t get discouraged if you try several different ways to irritate and you fail. You will find The Thing. And don’t forget to resurrect the most successful irritations weeks, months, and even years later when your partner least expects to have to deal with your annoying ass.

*I’ll admit that since Uptown Funk and 24k Magic I can no longer say “Bruno Mars is overrated” and sleep at night. That guy is amazing.

**I still don’t like Big Wreck. And I sleep really well feeling this way.

Ten Steps to Success: How to Suck at Cat Integration

Ten Steps to Success: How to Suck at Cat Integration

Once upon a time, I moved in with my boyfriend, who is now lucky enough to call himself my husband. I’ve given it a lot of thought, and to protect his privacy, I will call him Ryan Gosling, from this point forward.*

On moving day, I brought with me many useful household contributions, including an impressive amount of knitting gear, several cardigan/skirt combinations, and my two cats. Ryan Gosling had a cat, as well. Author’s note: I do not care about protecting the privacy of these cats; it’s just that their names are irrelevant. And for the record, I wouldn’t care about their privacy even if they asked because they’re all jerks.

Some of the really nice stuff I brought into Ryan Gosling’s house

In the days prior to my moving in with Matt Ryan Gosling, I researched things like “cat integration” and “blending pet families” and “how to reduce cat stress” on the internet. I felt like a real hero to the pet community. How many people would take the time to so carefully consider the feelings of their cats, in this situation? Well, I’ve learned a lot since that fateful day when I unpacked my cardigans and embraced my future. Here are some tips to help you suck at cat integration as much as I did.

  1. Exude confidence in your ability to understand cats, and announce to your boyfriend that he must not meddle in your carefully-researched Cat Integration Plan. Say, “Seriously, you’ll mess it up. Let me handle it” as often as possible.
  2. Live in his house basically all the time for months before you officially move in, to ensure that all cats will be extremely territorial and genuinely confused as to why the other party is in the house.
  3. Go ahead and think things are going well with the gradual integration process, and skip ahead to face-to-face time.
  4. After the cats are finished screaming and spraying rage pee as they bolt through every room of the house, separate them again. Use a very heavy object like a cinderblock to prop the divider door open just a crack, to allow the cats to “hang out,” because everyone knows cats can’t possibly fit through a 1-inch gap.
  5. Be sure to carry out this cinderblock plan at night. This way, once enemy lines have been crossed via the 1-inch gap (I mean, how…?), all three cats will wake you by racing across your unsuspecting sleeping body and gash open your legs while spraying more pee (they will have generated a super fresh batch in the span of a few hours). Pro-tip: Cleaning up is more effective and more fun if your boyfriend has taken Ambien.

    GTFO my house
  6. Embrace a new tactic. Carefully block the open doorway between the cats with several stacked baby gates to facilitate sniffing and encourage visual acclimation, because obviously cats can’t climb baby gates in ten seconds like freaking spider monkeys.
  7. As your boyfriend laughs at your attempt at the baby gate tactic, revisit Step 1. Then prop the several useless baby gates in a corner and eventually throw them away after months of tripping over them. Buy several new baby gates for a house guest who brings her dachshund along. Get annoyed when Amazon suggests that you Subscribe & Save to baby gates.
  8. Spend an entire Saturday constructing a transparent plexiglass door, complete with holes for sniffing, and use industrial-strength Velcro to attach it to the door frame because surely this will work better than the baby gate approach.
  9. Throw away plexiglass door when the cats learn how to open it.
  10. Eventually decide it can’t get much worse than it has been, and choose to “see how they do on their own.” Purchase Nature’s Miracle to clean your leather couch when they spray rage pee all over it. Agree with Amazon’s suggestion to Subscribe & Save to Nature’s Miracle.
  11. BONUS STEP: Wait a couple of years and repeat Step 1.

*If the real Ryan Gosling is reading this…. Ryan, please give me a call. I’d really like you to teach me how to tap dance. And by that I mean “tap dance.”