An infertile woman’s pet peeves…

I’ve received enough comments throughout October to warrant this reminder to good-hearted, well-meaning folks–if you haven’t been on this side of infertility, please tread lightly when comforting or sharing your news with someone whose sorrow is profound, at times, hidden or downplayed, and rarely acknowledged. No one is to blame. We just need to be reminded.

When comforting an infertile woman, please don’t say too much, period. “I’m so sorry,” works wonders. Otherwise, shut up. Just be there, hold, and listen. Most of us do, but sometimes we screw up and find ourselves contorted in bitter-tasting small talk.

When sharing good or bad news, this may seem like common sense to most of you, but, humor me, and please refrain from telling an infertile woman–

how relieved you are at not being pregnant,

about the birth of your baby while still groggy from labor,

that you’re going to terminate a pregnancy, or

shit, I can’t believe it! I’m pregnant again.

Any others?

November is National Adoption Month!

It’s perfect timing for the New York Times’, Room for Debate discussion on the adoption tax credit renewal, because November is National Adoption Month.  

For the next twenty-eight days we can voice our opinion, share our stories, and hopefully folks in the pre/present/post adoption process may find a kernel of comfort. Like I said in my post a few of days ago, “Trust me, we’re not in it for the money.”

So, while the talk continues, there are several inspiring folks out there willing to help–one that caught my eye recently is Helpusadopt.org. They provide grants up to $15K to qualified folks wishing to adopt. Check them out.

A big thank you to these lovely human beings!

An infertile woman’s Día de los muertos–Day of the Dead

I grew up coming home from school, in late October, to a fragrant pot of green pumpkin slices bubbling in brown sugar on the stove and to find the kitchen sink and our bath tub overtaken by a riot of flowers in preparation for Día de los muertos.

On November 1st, we’d pile into our turbo-charged station wagon along with metal tubs full of flowers and head to the family cemetery plots on both sides of the border to sweep up fallen leaves and debris around the headstone, arrange fresh flowers, and to pray the rosary. If we were lucky, my mother would buy us a bright red candied apple as we left the main cemetery in Nogales, Sonora.

My grandmothers each had, I thought, elaborate altars. Nachu, my maternal grandmother had her very own little stucco chapel where she’d find solace among her beloved saints and flickering votive candles. Nana Herminia’s took up one entire wall in her bedroom complete with pious looking saints and Jesus on the cross, but it also camouflaged my grandmother’s safe where she stashed her important documents, collection of gold coins, jewelry, and piles of cash.

My experiences didn’t prepare me for the Día de los muertos we spent in Oaxaca after losing our daughter, Sofia.

Chapter IV – January 1994 to May 1995

“On November 1st, we toured the city from dawn to dusk, taking in everyone’s uniquely glorious altars and stories. We asked for permission to take photographs and the gracious folks of Oaxaca were honored. Since then, I’ve created our own altar and still show off the photographs, every year during Día de los muertos, and have lovingly named the slide show Altarcation.

At nightfall we joined a procession of noisy costumed merrymakers taunting the Grim Reaper as they wound through town and spilled into the main cemetery lit by hundreds if not thousands of candles where families gathered around tombstones to pay their respects in a bittersweet tradition accompanied by food, prayer, and music. Out of respect, Marty and I sat on the cemetery wall, keeping our distance, mesmerized by the open display of sorrow and suffering. I wept with them. My eyes landed on a row of tiny mounds of dirt, each punctuated with a small white cross, all flanked by a huddled family. A sliver of hope, like a jagged piece of broken coral, ascended and pushed against the tidal wave of anger and despair. At least Sofia was alive.”

The other side of an infertile woman…

I’ve introduced you to my steadfast matriarchs who continue, in spirit, to circle my wagon, but I’m not complete without you meeting my father. Peter M. Raptis II. He was Junior to his parents, Pete to my mother, and Papá to my siblings. He was bigger than life to me. There wasn’t a word to define or describe him. Think a swashbuckling Errol Flynn with a megawatt smile and infectious laugh.

And I wanted to grow up to be just like him. I don’t ever remember wanting to grow up to replicate my mother’s life, running a chaotic household and raising a rambunctious brood of demanding, and challenging kids, but I do remember approaching his office and wanting to be a part of that. I still do.

Chapter I – December 27, 1991

“In almost every family photograph from my tenth year on, I’m proudly holding a drooling baby boy. After a perfect son and three civilized daughters, my mother unleashed four sons in rapid succession into our neighborhood, where they terrorized prized rose bushes, cats, and mailmen. The bundles of steaming tamales and platters of homemade cookies my mother sent along with apologetic note cards and hefty checks helped keep the police and lawsuits away, but really it was the fact she was a widow, a young green-eyed beauty of a widow with too many children, that kept our neighbors from running us out of town.

My larger than life, successful, handsome, prankster of a father died in a car accident, two blocks from our home, when I was eleven and my mother was seven months pregnant. He was plucked out of our lives, just as we were beginning to get to know one another. Some things I’d preferred not knowing about him, but there were many more that made me feel grand and, most of all, feel safe. We’d lost our treasured, paternal Greek grandfather two years earlier, but when my father torpedoed to his death, it crippled us. As a family, we never recovered and have walked through life with a limp in our hearts.”