There’s a monkey on my back… have you seen him? Maybe you have one too? He’s not always there…sometimes he’s gone for a few days, sometimes he goes on an extended vacation…but whether I like it or not he has made my back his home. I tried to evict him multiple times but he likes to ignore authoritative messages. Lately, I thought he moved out… and I celebrated thinking he was gone for good…but then out of nowhere he’s back again.
You see, in the early days he used to be around a lot. At the first sign of a pregnancy announcement or the innocent question, “do you have kids?” He would be sitting on my back with two cymbals in his hand and he would eagerly clap them together with my head in between. Sometimes he liked to hang out down by my kidneys and give little kicks or climb over to my front side and punch my gut. On occasion he would whisper in my ear, “EVERYONE is pregnant but you.”
For the longest time I tried to ignore him, but over time I began to realize that he was a permanent figure in my infertile life. His manifesto is to remind me every chance he gets that I am a little bit different than the majority of women and that it hurts to be the odd woman out. You see it isn’t bad enough that the proactive approach to dealing with infertility involves crazy hormone therapy or invasive, painful procedures. There’s the emotional pains – the monkey on my back – that most don’t know about.
I dealt with his dumb-ass antics regularly for years while we tried every treatment known to science. When we started pursuing adoption and put the idea of our own pregnancy behind us, I rejoiced “the monkey’s gone!” And he was…at least for a bit.We were busy with work and getting our home study together. Every now and then I would remember how he made me feel and I would check in to see if he was home, but there was no answer so it really felt like he was gone….now I think he was just catching up on some sleep or went out for a carton of cigarettes.
Maybe it’s a coincidence, but the moment the embryo donation stuff got a little more real for us…I have noticed how he likes to tag along when I go out. There was the other night when we went to the sporting event…he was sleeping before we left…but the minute the two women told us we were so lucky to not have kids…it woke him up. That evening he gave me a little kick to the gut, sat on my spirits and whispered in my ear, “Yup, everyone has kids but you.”
Last week, he showed up unexpectedly at my lunch time spin class. Spin is hard enough, but it was even harder when he sat on my chest and started calculating how much we have spent on treatments and adoption. He also politely reminded me how the industry I work in is super unstable at the moment and that it was unlikely I would see a raise anytime soon. He even laughed when he told me we couldn’t afford a very long leave when we did get a baby because we have no savings left. If all this sideline commentary wasn’t bad enough, the darn thing put his hands over my eyes and wrapped his little fingers around my throat and gave a damn good squeeze. As my legs kept spinning on the bike, I panicked and started to hyperventilate and the tears started to well-up. Eventually I got so sweaty that he slid off my back…and I was able to give myself a mini pep talk – we will find a way to make it work…don’t worry about it ALL right this moment.
Of course he disappeared after the spin class incident…then last Saturday he showed up unexpectedly at a house party. I thought he stayed back at our house, but the minute I walked into the kitchen of people…I realized he was there. FYI – my infertile monkey friend has insane pregnancy radar. He zeroed in on one girl and whispered incessant comments into my ear:
“Hey, she looks a bit different…maybe gained a few pounds…didn’t she get married a few months ago?”
“…Oh, she’s all in black and is wearing tights with a big baggy sweater…that’s the early pregnancy uniform, isn’t it?”
“What’s she drinking? Is that water or maybe gingerale…”
“Did you hear? She gave up smoking…”
“Hey! Hey! Hey! Did you see, the host just started making a pot of decaf coffee for her.”
Needless to say, the commentary didn’t stop and it was like the spotlight was transfixed over this girl’s head all night. That monkey didn’t miss a single beat and with each comment my heart sank a little bit more. Eventually the news was confirmed; I overheard her husband tell my husband that they were pregnant. My husband gave his friend a big congrats and patted him on the back and said, “way to go buddy.” My husband sounded genuinely excited for their news…as for me – I just wanted to avoid it – not another one!
As we walked out to our cars with the expecting couple, I took a moment and told that damn monkey to get off my shoulders and sent him packing to the basement. I then took a deep breath and croaked out to the new mother-to-be a “Congrats!” and quickly got into our car before there was time for anymore pregnancy talk. There, it was over…I had acknowledged their happy news…I wouldn’t have to do it again.
Today my infertile monkey friend appears to be MIA again. I am feeling good and optimistic about the future…the embryo donation plans continue to move forward. I am even happy for our friends. Unfortunately, I can still hear the monkey murmuring something from the basement and I dread the next outing or pregnancy announcement moment. There is nothing I can really do… he can come upstairs at any time. I just need to learn how to tell him to f*** off a little more often…one day I hope to even put a lock on his bedroom door.