We had watched the first two seasons of the series as it aired a few years ago, and this was back during our first posting to Gagetown. It was a weird time to watch it: I had just moved across the country to be with Dan, and I was officially off the hamster wheel that all my university friends (and the characters on the show) were still on. You know, the one where you depend on your parents for rent, cell phone bills, booze money, and your interminable trips to Europe. Hard pass y’all. Watching a part of my life replay on TV was surreal, and some of the similarities made me super uncomfortable (like with Black Mirror). After season 2 ended I just passed on it for a while.
After watching the show this spring though, I realized that what I need is female friendships with depth and backstory. I rely heavily on my friends to be my stand-in family because we are so far from ours. Not all of my friends want the same from me though, and managing those expectations is tricky. I find myself lonelier than ever, and I’m still not sure how to go about fixing that. Female friendships with substance take time, shared shenanigans, and a somewhat equal desire to be in each others’ lives. As people’s familial and geographic situations change, I find it harder to parse the ones worth investing my time in. I also probably don’t make it easy on others. I work 7 days a week (doing something I LOVE), but I am almost always working or thinking about it. I can be hard to connect with me in that sense, since no one around me is doing what I do. I try to address this by being more open when I’m available, but it’s overwhelming for some, and turns others off.
Flash forward to a month ago, and I’m sitting in the living room crying as I read Lena Dunham’s personal essay in Vogue about why she got a hysterectomy. I don’t have endometriosis, but I do have PCOS and we’re going on year two of infertility. I’m on a continuously rotating wave of hormones and emotions, I fucking hate all of it, and feel the loneliness of the situation even more because I have few friends, and even fewer who can relate.
My hormone and reproductive situation has been complicated since I hit puberty, so I always knew this stage of life would be complex, but that has always been a problem for Future Ariel to deal with. Well Bitch, the time is now.
During our 3 years in Quebec I never once got access to a health care professional for permanent care. I spent the entire time on a waitlist for a GP, and since I only ever saw walk-in clinic doctors for symptomatic ailments, no one saw the patterns (files aren’t kept the same way). This is a problem all military families face, but when the problems aren’t obvious, we get left behind. 6 months after moving to NB, things weren’t any better. In fact, they got worse. I finally broke down crying in the ER walk-in after a male doctor told me it was normal to not have my period for 6 months and not be pregnant. *Sidebar – That’s not how that works.
A doctor took pity on me after overhearing me say how I would drive up to 2hrs to see a doctor if it meant I could get into the system. Now I drive 45mins each way to go see a doctor in a small logging town north of Fredericton, where there’s a line-up of retirees waiting to get their diabetes tests each morning. The team there has been so nice and welcoming – I can’t thank my lucky stars enough for being able to see a doctor. Life as a military spouse places me in a very vulnerable series of situations, and healthcare is just one of them.
Flash forward to now. I have a doctor and an OBGYN. I also finally have a PCOS diagnosis. Last fall a technician told me bluntly that I had it, but then ushered me out of her office and back to the waiting room where I spent an hour googling it. When I got the real diagnosis this fall (a year later), I had a good long cry about it. My chances of having a kid are infinitely shittier, add to all of this the fact that I have a condition which causes blood clots.
When I finally cycled after taking the correct cocktail of hormones, I thought I was going f*cking crazy. I was overly emotional, felt unstable, and was not prepared to feel all the feels. Turns out one of the hormones I take can have this effect in a small percentage of patients, and I am that percentage. It’s easier to manage now that I know what to expect, but it is awful and always takes me by surprise.
Through all of this, Dan has been my rock. He tries his best to understand what I’m going through, and always listens to my insane ramblings. He has even come to a walk-ins with me (when he can) to wait 5hrs to deal with unfortunate complications from whatever I’m taking. He can’t always be with me because of work, but when he can, I am grateful for the company. Who else is going to judge the ringtones and shoe choices of people in the waiting room with me?
“life is so determined to display its full complexity right now,” and boy does that make things interesting.
I’m into year 2 of running my own business, and now have a work space with an overhead, and commitments. I’m growing, and hitting all my targets, but If I stop now I don’t think I could bounce back (or even continue to be self employed after the fact). And that terrifies me. One of the other vulnerabilities of military spouse life, is that I have no “guaranteed” job or career. It’s really hard to invest in a career, or even a particular industry, because I often find myself living near more livestock than Starbucks. I absolutely signed-up for this lifestyle, and I manage it like a champ, but complications really f*ck with my flow. At least we’re not facing city rent prices.
Part of my OBGYN’s recommendations is that we try every month. I hate that approach. I have no control, and can’t plan for anything conveniently. Her witty reply when I brought this up was “you know what’s financially inconvenient and hard to plan for? IVF” Point taken. The truth is, I’m not secure enough in my income yet, or at the point where I could responsibly plan for a child, let alone save for a maternity leave. While I’m sure I could make it work – and maybe even come out on top – I don’t want to just survive. I want to thrive. We would be 100% fine on just Dan’s income, but I could not lead the life I do now in a very basic way. No more crafting or DIYing. No more trips for business, no more eating out, no more purchases just to style the perfect photo. Just frugality and saving. GOD does that sound awful. I have worked too hard to go back to that.
Sure – we could just adopt and call it a day. I could get off the crazy train of emotions, do menopause, and plan for something. Aside from all the issues with THAT process as a military family, I don’t know if I want that for us just yet. To pull another quote from Lena’s essay “Adoption is a thrilling truth I’ll pursue with all my might. But I want[ed] that stomach. I want[ed] to know what nine months of complete togetherness could feel like.” So while we wait to cross that bridge (if we ever do) I continue with the pills that have given me chest hair (not kidding).
Many of my friends are pregnant. It seems that everyone is expecting, sharing pictures of their sonograms, embracing the experience, and planning for the future. With two years of this, I’ve grown bitter. With each happy announcement I think unkind things, and then eventually realize that their good news is not my bad news – even though it kinda is – and I embrace their happiness. I think about how exciting it will be to meet all these new people, watch them grow, and be in their lives in some way. And that’s when I start looking at what to get them on their registry.
To add one more layer of complication onto this, I don’t want a child 9 months from today. I don’t even want one 9 months from tomorrow. I want the option to have one on my own terms when I’m ready, but my PCOS means I can’t. Instead, we have to keep crossing-off items from a list of causes, and trying to find the solution. Very soon my remaining fertility will drastically decline and leave me with fewer options than the ones I have now. I feel shitty and petty for my jealousy when other people get pregnant, but fearful and anxious about the prospect of having my own 9 months from tomorrow. I’m being asked to chose between so few options, and it has started to feel like a series of choiceless decisions.
I blame a lot of my current situation on the precarious medical position I am in as a military spouse. Had I seen a doctor 5, or even 3 years ago, I could have planned better. But now, hurdling towards 30, there are fewer and fewer options on the table.
And so, I sit here: unloading my feelings, still technically infertile, and anxious about all the unknown.
*Spoiler Alert* when I watched Hannah’s pregnancy through Season 6 of the show, I felt all of the emotions. Emotions for Lena who herself will never get to experience what her character does. Emotions because Hannah (the character) made it work, albeit in a very real and complicated way. Emotions because she found herself in a somewhat similar friendship situation to the one I do now. Emotions because I feel guilty for not wanting one within the next 9 months, but mostly because I don’t know if I could, even if I tried. Emotions.
So hang tight with me folks. There may never be cute nursery content on this site, and there may never be adorable child decor. But I will always try to share my truth, and live my life to the fullest with Dan at my side.