Sitting outside, in the back yard, Jack and Fiona are at Costco with my husband. I have to take a break, reflect on what I wrote this morning. It’s almost spring and flowers are beginning to dominate bare branches, I love winter flowering trees. I love the moist ground, still wet from winter rains, the decaying leaves, the new bugs and spiders, old webs that didn’t get knocked down in the winter winds, and the sun feeling closer than it has in months. I think of fertility and my experience. I wonder why I clung to beauty and that it was the goal for so long. I have judged myself daily, comparing myself to an unrealistic idea of what is beautiful? Fertility is beautiful. Being born into a beautiful new thing. I am so far from that sweet smell newborn babies have. I am so far from that beauty because I was not fertile. The image of healthy, glowing, pregnant woman? Or that sweetness of just having given birth sweet smell of placenta, baby poop, an open vagina, all bloody, sweat, and the image of the beautiful woman and her beautiful baby lying on her chest? I wanted that. I wanted to be that woman, just like a flowering winter tree, bringing new, undamaged life into the world. Natural and unscathed, “it happened so quickly, we barely tried” I would say. After the birth I would be glowing, my picture would get 1000 likes on Facebook. I would have taken the naked pictures when I was pregnant, and I would be allowed to share them on Facebook because I covered just the right spots and a naked pregnant woman is a subliminal message that propels mankind. This post would get 2000 likes. I would be a Goddess. Why are we obsessed about this? About being this? Why was I? Why was I ashamed that I could never be that goddess, my uterus broken, I was up in age, I shouldn’t even be trying to have children, “It’s not fair to the children for women to have IVF at 39, they won’t live a long enough for the child.” I read this once on Face Book. I was so upset by it and it became my truth. I was disgusting.
I’ve always been a loner. I feel comfortable on the hills, the trails, looking out my window at the blue sky. Listening to the hawks on a cold January day. It’s quiet, my dogs by my side. Or sitting writing or painting in my studio. Nowadays to fill most of my social needs I join conversations on Facebook about instapots and menopause. In my radio interview the other day I said that I don’t have friends coming to my house, I live an isolated life as a stay at home mom, an artist, and a writer. I said my friends who I know and don’t know, my readers, the people who interact with my paintings, the collectors, I must communicate with them, with the outside world. I don’t know why. I am. Everything seems like a possibility. The farther I go into my artistic self the more real I become. The Sycamore tree outside is still bare, the sky is greyish blue. There’s not much warm sun to sit under outside or I would be there now. I’m in the house writing. I’ve been working on my manuscript for my new book. It’s all about babies. It’s raw and uncensored. My fertile and unfertile self. A guy at my art talk last week said while I was talking, and he was holding and leafing through one of my gigantic painterly notebooks, that the notebook was like my baby too, another baby I cared for and gave birth too. I realized that all the art I did during my early thirties has been destroyed and was all about fertility and babies and birth and secrets. They were made from wool, and glue, and plaster, and string, and musty old things. Stockings, black sheer and fishnets. Pods, fertility goddess inspired, death and rebirth. But during this time, I didn’t write. I was scared my husband would read my journal and think I was unhappy, or crazy, or just take everything out of context. So, I squeezed and pounded and stitched fabrics and canvas and old garments. I ripped and tore and scratched. I remember once I was in my studio at my old house, the house Alan and I lived in before this one. It was just a room in the house. Alan and the landlord were outside my room, looking at something in the house. I was working on a painting. I was scratching and scraping the paint off with my nails. I knew I should stop but I couldn’t. My nails were getting ground down, soft and black with paint. I knew the land lord was probably worried about what I was doing and that I sounded insane.
“Will I ever have kids?” I sat and wondered under this same December sky I sit under today. Light yellow mustard leaves, lime green, purple sage, blue sky with a low almost winter sun. Shadows in the yard stay damp and cool until summer comes again. Trying to get my kids to spend more time in our yard playing instead of always taking them to parks. I couldn’t imagine that thought, what feels like ages ago, when I would come out here to listen to the bird’s chirp and watch hawks fly overhead. I felt lost, sad, depressed, and confused. Nothing like the way I felt this past weekend, the accomplishment I felt having my first Solo art show and my first beautiful book published. I’ve been through so much, on such a long, hard, journey to get to where I am today, with everything fulfilled, married with two kids and a satisfying creative life. I felt secure and confident at my opening reception on Saturday, like I knew things about myself I have never known before. Like I was open and receptive to everyone who came to my show. I didn’t hide outside or drink too much wine. I don’t know if this change is due to the unknown being known or the anti-depressants! But it feels good to be here.
I never felt that same accomplishment when Jack and Fiona were finally born. I feel accomplishment as a parent, I’m a good mom. I feel a lot of stress as a parent and sometimes I want to have kid free moments, which are hard to come by. But what would my life look like now with out kids? I will never know. My life the ten years it took trying to have kids was a time I would not want to go through again. It was very difficult, but I would like to share my experience with others, I would like to share my journey in a way that I wish had been available for me at the time, something to read, to feel connected and not so alone. I will write this book, I will go back through my experiences and write the story for others to read and hopefully find comfort and not feel alone or hopeless. It takes a lot of work to make things happen, things that are gambles, 50/50’s, expensive. Things that need a person to take a great leap of faith, to take a chance on something that the outcome may not be in their favor. There are no guarantees in life, only that we all die someday. I decided to gamble, take my chances and work harder than ever to make my dreams come true, having a supportive partner really helps! Things have paid off, so I will begin to write my story about how I got where I am today
“Jack, are you O.K.? What did you put in your mouth?” I ask. We’re in Target, drool is trickling down the side of Jacks mouth, his eyes are starting to water. I think he’s choking; until his mouth opens wider and a grey liquid comes spilling out. I recognize chunks of bell pepper, mushrooms, and a greenish color, from the pizza and pesto pasta the night before. He throws up again, this time revealing lunch, pieces of seaweed land on the plastic dump truck, getting stuck inside the cardboard box edges, (We’ll have to buy this one I think) The liquid covers the red plastic cart, splatters on the floor. Fiona looks at Jack in shock. A woman looks at me in shock, as if I could have prevented this from happening. “Oh my god” I say. One lady with a baby offers to give me her baby wipes. “No thank you, I think I’m going to need more than baby wipes” I say. She says “O.K., I’ll stay clear” not wanting to infect her baby. I stand there for a minute, I ask someone in the cell phone sales area, “Do you work here?” They don’t really, but they call for help and get me a plastic bag I ask for to put the throw up clothes in. People pass with a wide berth looking at my situation. One lady says, “I’ve been there”. I stand with a smile on my face just waiting until I can move Jack and Fiona and start cleaning up. I don’t want to dislodge any throw up from where it sits right now. I don’t want throw up on me! A Target employee finally arrives with a large plastic bag, a bunch of paper towels, a spray bottle of blue cleaning solution. I get to work. When the woman first came out she had this look on her face like, “Oh this job really sucks!” But after she realized I was going to handle this, I wasn’t going to make her help me clean it, she softened her stance. I went into taking care of business mode, stripped the clothes off the babies, wiped, scooped, spayed, getting every last bit of throw up off the cart and the floor. “You might need to spray down the straps though” I say. “The throw up gets stuck in them and the stink never goes away” This happened to our high chairs, that smell never did go away even though I washed them many times. I put the babies back in the cart. “Jack are you going to throw up again?” I ask. He says he is O.K., so I decide to take my chances and finish shopping. I feel crazy doing this, but I’m already here and my carts half way full already. This morning I can still feel the moment, the “Oh shit, we all just shared the same water bottle”, wondering if Fiona and I are next.
On the way to Target I was listening to the news, the recent news of Trump and the woman he “Octopus armed” on the airplane. It reminded me of a similar situation I was in, but mine took place on a Greyhound Bus. I was on my way to Wyoming, I had the window seat. A guy sits next to me, (which always happened on the Greyhound). We talk during the day, he’s from Detroit, he tells me about the Car manufacturing business, how it’s all getting shut down. I listen in earnest, something I’ve always done. I like listening to what people have to say, hearing their stories. Sometimes men have misunderstood this quality and take it as me “Being interested”. I got tired of listening to this particular person though, he became boring. As the day turned into night I pretended I was asleep. The guy put a blanket over both of us, slid his hand under the blanket and up my t-shirt and started feeling my boobs. At first I continued to pretend I was sleeping, I figured he would lay off. I figured I could just let him get a feel and he’d leave me alone. He didn’t let up, he got more into it, he tried to kiss me, he had really bad breath. That’s when I finally said “leave me alone”. He was mad, I couldn’t wait till he got off the bus. I was eighteen when this happened. As a kid growing up I had several encounters similar to this, which would be classified more as molestation I guess, since they were grown men and I was a child. One time I was in the back of my dad’s pick-up truck, his friend was with me. We were laying down with a blanket over us because it was illegal for us to be riding in the back like that. The man reached his hand under my shirt and started feeling my under-developed ten-year-old boobs. I never told anyone. Another time my mom left me with one of her friends while she went to her class at Grossmont College. He was teaching me racquetball. I was twelve years old. He stood behind me spread my legs and stuck his hand up my little green terry cloth shorts my mom brought me back from Acapulco. I was paralyzed. Thank god my mom came back soon. I went to the bathroom and found a Band-Aid stuck to my butt, it fell off his finger when he was molesting me. I never told anyone. The stories go on and on for me, men feeling me up, grabbing me, pressuring me to have sex, one of my professors getting me to come over to his house to “help me with my paintings” then asking me to kiss him. He was old and this might be his last chance he told me. He asked if I would sleep with him. I was so disappointed. I looked up to him. Then I found out how many other women students he tried that with. I never told on him though.
My mom was a strong woman. She was a feminist. She didn’t raise me in princess outfits or to think I “needed a man” or that men had any power over me. But until I got married I still lived like men were above me, like they had power over me. Like the things they did were just natural, a natural human drive. I never thought they “crossed a boundary”. If anything it was my fault or I just erased these incidents out of my mind. I didn’t want to think of them. I went along with things I didn’t want to go along with. I wondered why. I wondered why I didn’t have more self-esteem, why I let myself get used.
This week I am seeing things in a different light. I am seeing that sexism is so engrained in our society. I wonder how we are raising our girls, the media, the toys they make for girls. The focus on being pretty for little girls, being sexy for women. It’s everywhere, it makes women powerless, even when our mothers are feminists. We need to change our collective consciousness as women, as mothers. As I turned 45 this year I felt a deep change come over me. I don’t know if it is because of all the shit I’ve been through, the soul searching and craziness I went through with infertility. I don’t know if it’s the experience of being a mother, but I finally don’t give a shit what people think of me. More specifically I don’t feel like I need to wear lipstick all the time or a bra. I don’t care if people think I’m old or ugly or un-feminine. I only wish I could have had this confidence when I was a young girl, when I was a woman in her twenties. I can only hope now to instill this self-confidence and self-esteem in Fiona and to raise Jack to be a feminist.
Naptime. Jack and Fiona sleeping, I just finished my paintings for the day. Was a good session. The opening of SIMPATICO on Friday was a huge success. It was great to be back in the East Bay! I love Oakland. I am surprised that I was able to get right back into things with a passion. Many times after a show, especially one that I work so much for, I take time off, relishing in my accomplishment. But this time I feel like the opening was just more inspiration for my continued work, right now that is predominately painting. I was surprised people didn’t respond to my tiny little paintings I painted last week, I love them. They are dark though, and dark works don’t seem to be very saleable. That doesn’t matter too much though because I must paint what comes out of me regardless of what people like. But I have been consciously changing my palette’s and experimenting with lighter colors. I am pleased with what I came up with today.
Over the weekend I attended a bridal shower. It was really nice, I didn’t know anyone there, except my friend getting married, so I met a lot of people. One of the women and I started a conversation, her sister is pregnant with twins and my friend told them about Jack and Fiona. At one point I asked her if she had kids. She did not. The woman told me about her horrific and painful experience she went through trying to start a family, sometimes saying sorry as if she was telling me too much. She felt like it wasn’t going to happen for her and questioned her age, if she was too old now. She said, “Can I ask you a question?” I said yes. “How old were you when you had your babies?” she asked. Oh my god, I thought. All the time I worried about my age, the ticking clock, calculating “if I get pregnant this month I’ll still be under forty when I have a baby” Month after month, year after year, until there was no more under forty. “I was 42 when Jack and Fiona were born” I told her. “But I tried for ten years and I had to use a gestational carrier and an egg donor to finally have kids.” We talked and talked for a long time. I gave her my number and e-mail address and said I was here for her if she wanted to talk or cry or yell!
I was so concerned with my age, my inability to “make a baby” of my own, in my own body. I read articles with opposing views on age, on how women shouldn’t have kids when they are “Too old”. I read the hateful words of people condemning surrogacy. I worried about what the other moms at the park would think of me. What my kids would think of me. I worried about my skin, my varicose veins, how my body wasn’t smooth and tight like a twenty-five-year-old. Would my kids think I was ugly and old? Once when they were babies someone asked me if I was their grandma. I was distraught. I had to fight hard not to let that get to me. Not to care what other people think of me, my age. Now I am completely comfortable with myself, my age, being a mom. I was so cruel to myself. I read someone said he was sick of women playing the victim, in regards to the Trump pussy thing, the sexism, and Hilary. I don’t think women are playing the victim. We are the victims of sexism and ageism. It’s everywhere, it’s institutionalized just like racism. I am thankful I woke up and saw that my “thinking I was too old” to be a mom had NOTHING with the way I felt physically it had to do with a constant bombard and conditioning to think once we are past our fertile stage we are done. We are no longer young, able to raise babies. As my baby calls me from his room. Naptime is over. Time to be mom. To finish an un-edited rambling post today I’ll just add I’m proud of my 45-year-old self. I am proud of Hilary Clinton and think she’ll be a great president! Pussy’s rule! Older women rise up and don’t take any shit!!!
I’m sitting here at my kitchen table looking out the window at the giant Sycamore tree, full of leaves fluttering in the wind. I’ve been watching this tree grow for eight years. I was training for the Folsom Olympic length triathlon the year the Sycamore was planted. I would ride my bike up the steep hill, seeing the Sycamore as I approached the top. My legs would be weak and my skin salty from sweat. I felt strong that year. It was right before I received the diagnosis of “Infertile” and six months before my mom died. The tree started growing in a five gallon bucket to what it is now, HUGE. Things have changed so much since then. Now it’s late July and within a month the leaves will begin to turn orange. Fall is always an exciting time, it reminds me of my anticipation about a new painting class or about obsessing over projects I want to start. I looked forward to critiques and meeting new artists. I have a collection of work in folders and frames from all the semesters of classes I’ve taken for the past eight years I’ve lived in this house. Many of those semesters I felt I was living a double life, trying to get pregnant and start a family, never talking about it to anyone. Consumed with “next steps” on the road of fertility treatments. When that wasn’t taking over my entire existence I focused on developing my portfolio to get into grad school. Sometimes I would also be training for a 10K. I’ve been working on something, some kind of major project all these years. Last year I didn’t take a class, but felt like I was in school with my six month old twins. I read all the books about development I could and taught the babies everything I was learning. I had to learn all about Fiona’s hearing loss and how to teach her language. I was also busy working on myself, going to therapy, healing from all the trauma I had been through and becoming “Me” again with my new responsibility. Now Jack and Fiona are enjoying spending more time with other kids away from home. In the fall they will be at Early Start three mornings a week. (Fiona’s school for hearing loss, vision loss, and mobility issues) Jack gets to go too, as a sibling. I’m done with therapy for now. I want to take an art class but I looked through every school and art center’s catalogue in my area and found nothing. I am ready to connect with my art life outside these four walls. But maybe it’s not time yet. I will miss that new class feeling this fall and meeting people. I always feel like I need to have a plan, to accomplish something, finish something. Maybe I need restraints and restrictions, somewhere or someone to be accountable to and now that’s me. Life is different today for me than it was when that tree was planted, I’m different now, but I still want to learn and grow. I am learning and growing as a mom though. Jack and Fiona just woke up from their nap. I change their diapers and for now, I will enjoy lunch with my biggest project. We eat quesadillas, three bean salad, raspberries, apples, and chocolate chips. I turn on the wiggles and we sing while we finish our lunch. Next we play, I read Dear Zoo, and later we will take Billy for a walk and continue watching the sycamore tree grow a little bigger and the leaves turn orange.
I am one who had to use an egg donor and surrogate to build my family. I tried myself for many years, tried with my own eggs, IVF, and nothing worked. When I first started trying I said, “I’ll never do IVF” then I said “I’ll never use an egg donor” then I said “I’ll never use a surrogate.” And here we are.
I believe in same sex marriage and believe everyone should be able to “procreate” anyway that works. I don’t think there’s a difference in the pain people feel who want kids and can’t have them naturally. It’s the same emotion, I believe, for men, women, and single people who want children.
I struggled with all my decisions and thought them through carefully. I talked to pshychologists who specialize in the field of Assisted Reproduction. In the article : http://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/no-vote-group-alleges-misleading-of-public-on-child-issues-1.2189504#.VT5efN6lZnw.mailto
A woman talks about finding out she was concieved by her parents using a donor egg and felt a loss of identity. I believe your identity comes from how you are raised. I will tell Jack and Fiona I had to use a donor egg. I don’t think they will “lose thier identity.” I’m sure they will be curious.
Women have been using sperm donors for a long time. Why is that not as controversial?
I plan on doing an informative piece on surrogacy. I would like to interview my surrogate to share her thoughts as well. I feel there is so much mis- information out there and plain hate mongers.
When I was going through all my infertility stuff I made the mistake of reading comments people wrote about IVF and surrogacy. How if we can’t get pregnant, “we should leave it in god’s hands” or it’s not meant to be. It made me feel bad and confused. But those are ignorant people.
The world is moving forward.