It was a Cruel, Cruel Summer

You know you’ve been in the fertility game too long when a friend tells you they’re pregnant and you look at them with total, utter confusion.

Friend: We’re pregnant!

Me: Oh my God!  But… how?

Friend: What do you mean.

Me: Like, from doing it?

Friend: Yes…

Me: With each other?

Friend: Yep.

Me: That’s all you did.  You just… did it.  And now there’s a baby in there.

Friend: Um…

Me: Wow, that’s just… I had no idea people got pregnant like that anymore.

This past spring BR and I went through another long, painful round of fertility treatment.  Number six.  We’d had pretty crappy luck so far, so this time BR wasn’t taking any chances.  We were going to the best clinic with the best doctor.  We were going to New York.

At first I wasn’t really jazzed about this decision.  I was comfortable at my usual clinic and I didn’t want to start all over again in a strange city away from home.  But BR insisted.

BR: Blondie I’m not giving our idiot doctor any more money.  All this time and he still hasn’t gotten us a baby!

Me: Yeah, but it’s not exactly a guarantee.  I’m not really sure it’s the doctor’s fault… I’m kind of out of eggs.

BR: Of course it is!  That’s why we’re going to another doctor!  A Jewish doctor who knows what he’s doing!  In New York!

So we flew to New York before the cycle began to meet our new doctor and to get some tests done.  We also went to look at some hotels which would be suitable for me to stay in while I was there.

Me: Um, BR?  Why do we keep looking at all these shitty hotels?  I’m starting to get a little nervous.

BR: Blondie, I’ve looked up a bunch of prices and there’s no way you’re staying in a nice hotel while you’re here.

Me: What’s that supposed to mean?

BR: It means you’re going to have to lower your expectations.  I’m not forking out a jillion dollars for you to live it up at the Plaza for three weeks.

Me: First of all BR, I’m not “living it up” during an IVF cycle.  I’m suffering.  Second of all, it wasn’t my idea to come to New York.  So if you want me to stay here you better make sure I’m comfortable.

BR: Blondie!  This baby is costing me a fortune!  Do you know how painful this is for me?

Me: But you have a fortune!  And you’re not the one going through it!  And making me stay in the Bates Fucking Motel isn’t going to help me get pregnant!

BR: Oh really?  You’re lucky I’m not making you stay over there!

Me: In that cardboard box.  With that homeless man.  Oh that’s nice.

BR: It is nice.  Too nice.  You’re getting spoiled.

But after a few days BR finally relented.  I think he was just tired of listening to me cry.  So we booked the room and a month later I was off to New York.  BR came for the first couple of days to help me get settled in.  But then he flew home and I was left to fend for myself in a big city while facing inevitable hormonal delirium.

And for approximately two and a half weeks, the cycle was relatively manageable.  I pumped myself full of hormones, went to my appointments, ordered room service, napped, watched a bunch of trashy television and hid out in my hotel room.  And I was sort of doing ok.  So one night I called BR to wish him a happy birthday.

Me: Happy birthday BR!  What are you doing tonight?

BR: I’m going for dinner with my parents.

Me: Oh that’s nice.  Are they taking you to the strip club after?  Haha.

BR: Ugh, Blondie… I’ve already been there so many times since you’ve been gone, I can’t go back for a while.

Me: Pardon?

BR: I need at least a week off from the strip club.

Me: Are you telling me that the whole time I’ve been in New York enduring fertility torture alone, you’ve been whooping it up at the rippers?

BR: Blondie, I’m helping to support to single moms.

Me: (pause…)

BR: It’s my way of giving back to the community.

Me: How charitable of you.

BR: Exactly.

Was I annoyed by this?  Oh slightly.  He was at home having all sorts of scandalous fun while I was here suffering through yet another agonizing round of IVF.

But then I thought, what would the alternative be?  Would the alternative be having him here to support me through this difficult treatment?

No.

The alternative would be me trapped in a New York hotel room with BR for three weeks while trying to manage exhausting levels of physical, emotional and psychological stress.

The alternative would be having to hear things like, Blondie i’m bored.  Blondie I’m hungry.  Blondie massage my feet.  Blondie stop complaining about the hormones and massage my feet.  Blondie I’m still hungry.  Blondie I don’t want to watch Mad Men.  Blondie change the channel.  Blondie turn the music back up.  Blondie I don’t understand why you don’t want to listen to Rhianna really loud at 7am.  Blondie where’s my Iphone.  Blondie where’s my Ipad.  Blondie.  Blondie.  Blondie.  Blondie!!!

The alternative would be me losing my shit and eventually murdering him.

So that’s fine BR.  If Cinnamon and Destynee are what it takes for you to leave me alone in New York with some well-deserved peace and quiet, then knock yourself out.  “Make it rain” for all I care.

But then… BR came back.  He came back for the egg retrieval and to make his small yet important contribution to the cycle.  He blew in like a hurricane and as the door to the hotel room swung open I realized that my little cocoon of solitude was now ripped to shreds.

Me: BR you have to turn the TV down, it’s really loud.  I can’t think.

BR: Blondie no one’s paying you to think.

Me: If you don’t turn the television down, I am literally going to punch you in the throat.  Please turn it down and come and help me take this shot.

BR: What shot?

Me: The shot that’s supposed to induce ovulation.  I have to take it at exactly 10:30 and I need your help sticking it in my butt.

BR: Are you coming on to me?

Me: NO!  Now turn down the TV, get over here, and please help me with this giant fucking needle! 

BR: Wow, that is a really big needle.  How do you want to do this?

Me: Ok, I’m going to pull my pants down, lie on my stomach, and you’re going to gently stick the needle in my butt and carefully push the plunger.  Ok?

BR: Blondie, I’m basically a surgeon.  I’ve got this.  Now take a deep breath and count to three.

Me: Ok.  One… two… MOTHER OF FUUUCK!  I said gently!  GENTLY!

BR: Oh.  Whoops.  I thought I was supposed to jab it.

Me: Who said anything about jabbing?!  I never said jab!  That really hurt, what’s wrong with you!

BR: Blondie, you’re overreacting.  That was way more stressful for me than it was for you.  I’m tired now.  Come and put me to bed.

Me: BR, you just stabbed me in the ass.  My ass really hurts.  So do my boobs.  So does my head.  And tomorrow I have to go and have my ovaries harvested, which I’m dreading.  So maybe for once you could put me to bed.

BR: Blondie, shhhhh.  Nobody likes a talky-talk.  Now shutty your trappy and come tickle me to sleep.

So I did.  I also contemplated smothering him with a pillow.  Many times.

So after an anxiety-ridden, sleepless night it was time to go to the hospital for the egg retrieval.  I was not looking forward to the procedure but I was looking forward to being heavily drugged.  Now I won’t go into graphic detail about what an egg retrieval entails, but if you feel like barfing, google it.

Anyway, the retrieval sucked as usual but the recovery was no picnic either.  I had a solid week of abdominal pain and swelling.  I was put on progesterone shots which immediately made my boobs ache and my entire face break out.  I couldn’t really move around without moaning like a wounded animal.  I couldn’t really wear pants.  I was only allowed to take Tylenol.  And BR was my nurse.

Kill me.

All this for three piddly little eggs.  Then a few days later it was time to have the embryos transferred.  Miraculously all three eggs fertilized, and all three were put back in.  I should have been happy (or at least hopeful) about this but I was so tired of being poked at like a barn animal that all I could do was quietly sob in the recovery room afterwards.  I was just too exhausted and sore to do anything else.

But I was also mad.  Mad that all of our hopes and efforts to have a family had resulted in… this.  This wasn’t baby making.  This was bullshit.

Then a couple of days later we flew home.  I didn’t have high hopes for this cycle, so I spent the next couple of weeks waiting for my period to come.  But then it didn’t.  So I peed on a stick.  And I was about to chuck it in the garbage when I thought I noticed a very faint, second line appear.  What the… so I peed on another stick.  Same thing.

Holy shit.

A couple of days later our family doctor confirmed it.  We were pregnant.

Once the initial shock and confusion wore off, I was thrilled.  Panicked, but thrilled.  But BR was a little more cautious.  He wouldn’t allow himself to emotionally react to this baby until he knew we were in the clear.  And until then, he took it upon himself to micromanage my every move.

BR: Blondie!  You’re not supposed to be having coffee!  Spit it out.

Me: BR, I’m allowed to have a cup of coffee.  Stop overreacting.

BR: And what are you doing walking around?!  You’re supposed to be lying down!  Lie down!

Me: But our doctor said I can resume normal daily activities.  I don’t think puttering around the house is going to kill me.

BR: Blondie, he obviously doesn’t know what he’s talking about.  He already lost a patient this year.

Me: Your grandmother – may she rest in peace – was 91.  And this is not a high-risk pregnancy.

BR: It’s high-risk to me!  Now put down that coffee and get back to bed!

So aside from BR acting crazier than usual, and having to hear lots of unsolicited advice from family, I was actually doing ok for the first couple of weeks.  Until the nausea kicked in.  And never. Let. Up.

This happened at about the same time we moved up to the cottage for the summer – which should ideally be a relaxing and tranquil place to be.  It isn’t.

The “cottage” is an enormous property that functions more like a small hotel.  We move up there with BR’s family, and there is a revolving door of guests from the moment we arrive until the moment we leave.

Allow me to sum it up for you: I was pregnant, constantly nauseous, and exhausted.  I had a huge ass and raging acne from the progesterone.  I was too sick to stand upright for more than a few minutes, let alone walk around.  I was too hormonal to talk.  And the cottage was full of people.

Now I don’t care how much you love your friends, family and in-laws – I don’t recommend this.

So I basically slept through the summer until it was time for our 12-week ultrasound. We drove back to the city and arrived at the hospital.  BR was nervous, but I wasn’t.  I was actually excited.

A nice, young technician performed the ultrasound and then called in another doctor to take a look.  Neither of them said anything, they just nodded and smiled.  It wasn’t until our own OBGYN came into the room that we were told there was no heartbeat.

No heartbeat.  No baby.

We were devastated.  But then it got slightly worse.

Me: So… what do I do now?  About the pregnancy, I mean.

Doctor: You have two options.  We can give you some medication to take at home which will induce a natural miscarriage, but the results can be a bit unpredictable.  Or we can call you in a few days when there’s an opening and you can come back and have the fetus surgically removed.

Me: Well those both sound awesome.

I chose the latter.  At least I would be knocked out.

So we left the hospital and drove back up to the cottage where we would have to break the news to everyone.  I didn’t feel like speaking during the drive so I just numbly stared out the window… until BR provoked me.

BR: Blondie, don’t be upset.  This will all work out eventually.

Me: I hope so.  I don’t know how many more times I can do this.

BR: Blondie that’s loser talk.  You need to be more positive.

Me: Oh really?  About what exactly.  The weight gain?  The nausea?  The exhaustion?  The explosion of acne all over my face?  The fact that I have to wait around for a phone call so I can go back to the hospital to have our baby removed?  The fact that I have to go through another painful gynaecological procedure?  The fact that once I recover I have to do this ALL OVER AGAIN?!  THE FACT THAT WE HAVE NO BABY?!  No BR.  I think the only “positive” thing here is that I haven’t flung myself off a bridge yet.

BR: Blondie, come on.  You’re not the only woman going through this.  I think you should suck it up.

Me: (blinking and staring)

BR: It’s not like you have cancer.

Me: is that the most… helpful thing you could think of to say right now?

BR: Blondie, it’s not my job to be helpful.  It’s my job to be in charge of getting us a baby.  Damn it, why am I not allowed to just clone myself?  All of this would be solved! 

Me: (blinking and staring)

BR: Seriously, how awesome would it be to have a bunch of Me’s running around.  I’m going to do some more research on this.

Me: Oh look, a liquor store.  You can just… drop me off there.

And then summer was over.  What a shit-show.

We planned for another round of IVF last month, but I cancelled at the last minute.  I just wasn’t ready.  BR was disappointed but I told him that I need a bit more time to recover.  I think he understands.  Or at the very least he hasn’t been pressuring me.  And now I’m looking forward to another winter in Florida with the dogs and lots of visits with family and friends.  I can walk the beach, get some sun, do some yoga and finally feel like myself again.  I can allow myself to feel happy and fortunate for all of the things we do have.

Until the next cycle.  But I’ll worry and blog about that later.

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New Car

Last year in Florida BR decided he would buy me my very own car.  One that I could actually drive (without crying or hyperventilating which is usually what happens when I’m forced to drive one of his fancy sports cars).  How sweet of him!  So I told him I would like something small and cute and – most importantly – easy.  

I also didn’t want anything too flashy or fancy because I really don’t like to draw unnecessary attention to myself when I drive.  My driving gets enough attention.

So BR surprised me one afternoon by taking me to a Mini dealership.  Perfect!  We would look around and BR would let me pick out my very own small, cute, easy-to-operate car.

BR: Now Blondie, this is going to be your car.  Probably for the next 30 years.  So I want you to get something you really like.

Me: Ok.  Well I like the off-white one over there.

BR: No.  That’s a stupid colour.  How about the silver one.  Do you like it in silver?

Me: Well no, not really… I like it in that off-white colour.

BR: Alright Blondie.  I will consider the white one.  But you’ll probably end up getting it in silver.  So I would suggest that you start liking silver.

BR began walking towards the car.

Me: No, not that one – the one over here.  With the extended back.

BR: No Blondie, I disagree.  I think you like the smaller one.

Me: But I can’t fit the dogs in the smaller one!  Don’t you think this one’s more practical?

BR: Now Blondie, I’ve already told you – this is your car.  I want you to love it.  But the smaller one is definitely cooler.  In silver.  Don’t you like it better than the bigger one?  I think you do.

It was becoming painfully obvious that BR was having a “difficult” time letting me pick out my own car.

BR: Oooh Blondie, look over here!  This one has a Union Jack on the roof!  You’re getting that.

Me: I don’t really want that.  Besides, neither one of us is British.

BR: Blondie, the car is British.  That’s why it’s cool.

Me: No, the car is German now.  And you don’t really like Germans.

BR: No, I don’t like Nazis.

Me: Right.  And because of the war, you’ve banned all German cars.  So I’m actually surprised we’re even looking at these, because you’ve repeatedly said that you don’t want either of us driving a “Nazi sleigh.”

BR: That’s true, I don’t want either of us driving a Nazi sleigh.  Which is all the more reason that your car should have a Union Jack on it.

Me: I really don’t want the Union Jack.

BR: Blondie!  It’s not optional!

And that’s how it went for the next hour or so.  I would pick out something I liked and BR would swiftly stomp all over my dreams.  This was going nowhere fast.  And if I did end up getting a car that day – which was starting to seem highly unlikely – I would probably end up running him over with it.

Finally I suggested that maybe we should look at a few other brands.  My heart wasn’t necessarily set on a Mini… with a Union Jack on the roof… and checkered racing stripes… in silver.  So BR took me to look at some Fiat 500’s.

Me: BR, these are super cute, but they’re even smaller than the Mini’s.  I’m definitely not going to be able to fit two standard poodles in here.

BR:  Blondie, the dogs will fit if you squish them in the back together.

Me: I’m not squishing our dogs.

BR: Blondie, don’t be ridiculous.  Just squish them together and they’ll be fine.  Besides, don’t you remember how much fun we had driving one of these around Italy?

Me: No, you had fun.  I almost barfed.

BR: Blondie, it’s not my fault that the Italians make their roads really windy.  Now do you want a Fiat or are you going to keep acting like a selfish, Nazi-loving Christian?

Me: (blinking and staring)

BR: Perhaps you would like me to buy you a great big Mercedes with a licence plate that says Heil Hitler on it.  Maybe a nice swastika bumper sticker!  Is that what you want?!

So we left the dealership.  BR was acting a bit nuts and I was frustrated.  I just wanted to go home.  But then we drove past a Volvo dealership.

Me: Pull in there.

BR: Where?  Volvo?  Are you kidding me?

So we pulled in.  And pulled up right beside a very cute, very practical little hatchback.

Me: I want that one.

BR: Blondie!  Come on!  Volvo’s are for old people and soccer moms!

Me: I don’t care.  They’re very safe and very easy to drive.  I want that one.

BR: Blondie, be reasonable.  You’ve obviously gone bonkers.

Me:  I am being reasonable.  I’ve picked out a reasonably priced car that won’t make me cry and that I can probably parallel park and won’t smash to pieces… probably.

BR:  You’re killing me.

Me: And look, the seats fold down!  I can totally fit our fluffy children in here.

BR: How about a Porsche.  Would you like me to buy you a Porsche?

Me: No, I don’t want a Porsche.  I want a Volvo.

BR: Who doesn’t want a Porsche!  I WILL BUY YOU A FUCKING PORSCHE!

Me: I don’t want a fucking Porsche!  Where am I going to drive it?  I only drive to Target and the grocery store and the FUCKING DOG GROOMERS!

BR: Fine.  I’ll get you a Maserati.  Would you like a Maserati?

Me: I can’t drive a Maserati!  What is wrong with you?  Why won’t you let me have a Volvo?

BR: Because… if I’m going to spend money on a car for you, then I would at least like it to be something cool.  Now do you want a Maserati or not.

Me: BR, we’re in Florida.  Everyone here owns a gun.  I get lost all the time and some neighbourhoods are sketchy.

BR: So?  What does that mean?

Me: It means I don’t want to get a car-jacking on my way to Target!  I just want a normal car!

BR: Fine.  I’ll just get you a bicycle then.

Me: You know I can barely ride a bicycle.

BR: Ok, fine.  A unicycle.  And then all of our neighbours can point and go, oh look there’s Blondie riding her unicycle again.  She must be going to TARGET!

Me: I don’t understand, I thought you’d be happy that I’m picking a Volvo over a Maserati.  I’m saving you like a hundred grand!

BR: No Blondie, you’re costing me a hundred grand.  Because now I have to go out and buy another sports car to compensate for THIS GEEZER-MOBILE YOU’RE MAKING ME BUY!

BR and I were clearly not seeing eye to eye.  In retrospect I shouldn’t have been all that surprised that he wasn’t letting me pick out what I wanted.  He has a difficult time “giving up the reins” so to speak.  Which is a nice way of saying he’s a bossy control-freak.

But after a week or so, he began to change to his mind.

BR: Ok Blondie, I’ve thought about it.  I’ve weighed all the options.  And I’ve concluded that you might be better off with a Volvo instead of a sports car.  I think it will be easier for you to drive, and you can fit the dogs in the back.

Me: Those are excellent points BR.  You’re so smart.

BR: I know.

But the battle wasn’t over yet.  BR had to do his “research” and find the cheapest Volvo on the planet that also had all of the things I wanted.  As it happened, my exact little dream car was sitting at a dealership about 20 minutes away.  So a couple of weeks went by and once BR was convinced that he probably couldn’t find that exact car anywhere else for less, he began his ruthless process of negotiation.

Another week passed.  Apparently this particular car salesman wasn’t as cooperative as BR would have liked.  Then another week passed… still no car.

Me: Um, BR?  How’s my car coming along?  Did you and the salesman agree on a price yet?

BR: Not exactly.

Me: What does that mean?

BR: It means I gave him my final offer and he’s not returning my calls.

Me: Are you kidding me?  How much more does he want?

BR: Never mind.

Me: What do you mean, “never mind.”  You must have really low-balled him.  What does he want, a couple thousand?

BR: Not exactly.

Me: How much are you fighting over.

BR: Blondie…

Me: How much.

BR: Six-hundred dollars.

Me: Six-hundred dollars?!   It’s taken you five years to finally get me a car and finally we agree on one that I like and you’ve lost it over SIX-HUNDRED DOLLARS??  I would have given you six-hundred dollars!  I can’t go through this whole demented process with you again, IT’S EXHAUSTING!

BR: Blondie, that’s not the point.  It’s not the money, it’s the principle.  And that salesman is being a real douchebag.  And I refuse to buy a car from him.

Me: (blinking and staring)

BR:  Apparently he’s also refusing to sell me one.

Now, I know BR has very frugal tendencies.  I know he’s a control-freak.  And I also know it takes him an abnormally long time to pull the trigger on anything – practical that is.  But the thought of having to go car shopping with him all over again was about as appealing as gouging out my own eyeballs with a rusty spoon.

So I started to cry.  Not out of disappointment, but out of sheer psychological frustration.

Another couple of weeks passed and I was starting to accept the fact that a new little car would likely not appear anywhere in the near future.  Then one night BR told me to get dressed to go for dinner.  So I did.  We got in the car and drove for an unusually long time.

Me: Where are we going for dinner?  Miami?

BR: Blondie, do you have any sense of direction?  No.  We are not going to Miami.  Oh look, there’s a Volvo dealership up ahead.  Let’s just pull in and see what they have.

Me: What?  No.  No no no.

BR: Come on Blondie.

Me: BR, please.  I’m starving and I really don’t have the energy to battle it out with you in another dealership right now.  Let’s just go to dinner, we can look at cars another time.

So we pulled in.  We walked inside and a nice salesman approached us.  He told us he may have something I might like.

Well duh, of course he’ll have something I’ll like – I’m not the one who needs convincing.

So we followed him around the corner and there in the middle of the room, wrapped in a giant red bow was… my new car! 

Me: Holy shit!  You actually bought this for me?  In secret?  It’s exactly what I wanted!

BR: Yes Blondie.  Happy birthday.

Me: Awwww, thanks BR!

I jumped up and down a little and then threw my arms around him.

Me: Um, not to ruin the moment or anything, but you know my birthday was like 3 months ago.

BR: What’s your point.

I was so thrilled I couldn’t even be mad at him for having no idea when my birthday was.  He bought me Volvo!

Me: Do I get to drive it home?

BR: Yes.  After we make a quick stop at Best Buy and get you a GPS.  You need one.  You think we’re in Miami.  We’re nowhere close to Miami.

So we went for dinner, picked up a GPS, and I followed him home in my super cute, brand new car just for me.  I was beaming.  I was also singing along loudly – with feeling I might add – to George Jones for most of the drive when I realized I had left my interior lights on.  Embarrassing, but oh well… I’m in a Volvo bitches!

When we got home BR immediately got into bed and grabbed his Ipad.  After a couple of hours I finally asked him what he was doing.

BR: I’m looking at freightliners Blondie.  That’s what I’ll be buying next.

Me: Oh.  Can I ask why?  I mean, where are you going to drive it?

BR: Anywhere and over anything.  That’s the point.  You and your little Volvo better watch out.

Did I roll my eyes or make any comments about him having Napoleon Syndrome?  I did not.  Did I point out the fact that it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever for us to own a freightliner?  Nope.  I just let him browse freightliners until he got really sleepy because I knew how hard it was for him to pull the trigger on a car he didn’t like… a car that wasn’t even for him.

Me: Well if that’s what you want then you should totally get a freightliner.

BR: I will get one.  I’ll show you.  I’ll show everyone…

And then he fell asleep.

Nighty-night BR.  Thanks for the Volvo.

Polo

They say polo is the sport of Kings.  I disagree with this statement.  In my experience, It seems more like the sport of very rich men with big egos, who are willing to spend a fortune to chase a ball around on horseback for an hour.

And I’ve tried – oh, how I’ve tried – but for the life of me, I just don’t get it.

BR: Blondie, did you see how many goals I scored today?

Me: Umm… two?

BR: No.

Me: Three?

BR: Blondie!  Were you even watching my game?

Me: Oh yes, I was watching.  I was totally watching.

I wasn’t watching.  I was taking a nap in the car, reading a trashy gossip magazine, playing Word Warp on my phone… all to try and pass the time because somehow I got suckered into watching yet another of BR’s polo matches.

Now please understand, I have tried to like polo.  I’ve been to a countless number of BR’s matches, fancy professional tournaments with world-class players, polo parties, polo functions, polo fundraisers… but I just don’t like it.

BR even talked me into taking horseback riding lessons for a while, in the hopes that I would gain a little appreciation for his favourite past-time.  Unfortunately I didn’t learn anything about polo, but I did learn that I am definitely afraid of horses.  And you know what?  Horses can sense that.  And then they screw with you.

Allow me to let you in on a little secret about polo:  you don’t actually have to be any good at it to win tournaments and trophies.  In fact, you could be slumped over the saddle, dragging your mallet through the perfectly manicured grass while your horse is running around in circles the entire game – and you could still win.  How is this possible, you ask?  Because polo isn’t so much a game of skill for the super rich – it’s a game of wealth.  In other words, the more money you’re able to spend on well-bred horses and professional players from Argentina who make up the rest of your team, the more you’ll win.

Therefore winning a big tournament isn’t necessarily a show of your athletic prowess – it’s a show of how much your wallet is able to crush your opponents.

And because of this, you are guaranteed to meet some very “interesting characters” who are dedicated to the sport.

I remember the first year BR played polo in Florida – I came out to watch a few of his games.  Nobody knew who we were, which was fine with me.  One day after the game, an older gentleman approached me on horseback and introduced himself.  He asked me where I was from.  So I told him.

Polo player:  Oh really.  Where’s that, exactly.

It’s not like BR and I are from the boonies.  We’re from a well-known, very cosmopolitan city.  So I couldn’t tell if he was joking or being slightly rude.

Me:  Oh, I’m not really sure, haha.  Where are you from?

Polo player:  Isn’t is obvious?  I’m from New York.  More specifically, DUMBO.

Me: Oh… where’s that?

He scoffed a little.

Polo player:  What, you’ve never heard of it?  Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass.

Me:  Oh… that’s nice.  Do you like it?

Polo player:  Like it?  Sweetheart, I developed it!

And then he literally turned around and rode away.  Towards… well nothing really.  Towards the end of the field.  And I was left standing there, dumbfounded (no pun intended).

Later that afternoon we were invited to watch one of the professional tournaments at the fancy International Polo Club of Palm Beach.  BR and I are not members of said club (BR refuses to join anything) but a few of our friends are.  It was my first time going to one of these tournaments, so I was a little nervous to say the least.  Because let me be blunt: it’s not just a game.  It’s a scene.

Now these professional tournaments can be somewhat entertaining – or at the very least they’re a good excuse to get drunk during the day – but they’re part of a pretty bizarre world.  They’re basically very glitzy, booze-fuelled events where wealth and drunken debauchery and an abnormal number of straight men sporting pink pants collide.

Side note: If you’re interested, Laurence Leamer’s book, “Madness Under the Royal Palms”  is all about Palm Beach society and he gives a very accurate description of what the polo scene is really like.  I highly recommend it.

Anyway, that day, this particular friend (we’ll call him “Fred”) gave us tickets to sit in his box.  He wouldn’t be there, but he told us to go ahead and have a good time.  So we arrived a few minutes late (in our inappropriately casual jeans and t-shirts) and guess who was in the box?  The gentleman from DUMBO and his wife, as well as a few of their friends.  Mr. DUMBO gave a slight nod in our direction, but didn’t acknowledge that we’d previously met, or that he had just played a match against BR a few hours earlier.  His wife, on the other hand, looked at us like we were a couple of interlopers who had somehow managed sneak into the game.  She was frowning.

We sat directly behind them.  His wife turned around not once, not twice, but a few times and – still frowning – very blatantly looked us up and down.  Finally she spoke.

Mrs. DUMBO: Um, excuse me, but are you friends of Fred’s?

BR: Yes.

Mrs. DUMBO: Oh.  Oh, I see.

She was still frowning when she turned around and very loudly said to her friends, “I don’t know who these people are and I don’t know what they’re doing here.”

So that was awkward.  Not only because we were sitting directly behind her and could hear everything she said, but also because all her friends turned around and disapprovingly looked us up and down as well.  And did her husband care to mention that he had met us earlier and that BR was a fellow polo player?  No.  He did not.

Ugh.  I wanted to crawl into a hole.  But then I thought, seriously lady?  I know your husband’s a “big deal” and everything, but do you have to be so mean?  This isn’t even your box.

Needless to say I drank my way though the rest of that game.

We’ve been back to the International Polo Club several times since then, and over the years it’s become a little more enjoyable.  I’m still not even remotely interested in the actual polo, but I do enjoy all the vodka that’s being passed around.  And the people watching.  That never gets boring.

BR and I have also been to our share of polo functions.  The last one we attended was a black tie affair, where a friend of ours – a genuinely lovely man – was getting inducted into the Polo Hall of Fame.  Now it’s no secret that I find these events more stressful than enjoyable, but I really like “Tom” and his wife, and was happy to attend.

Lance (BR’s business partner and BFF) and his lovely wife Charlotte were also going be there and I was glad they were sitting at our table.

So I made an immediate b-line for the open bar and I have to admit, the party was pretty fun.  Eventually we were all seated for dinner.  Shortly after, the speeches began.  Now I was a little “tipsy” at this point so I don’t quite remember all the details, but one gentleman got up and began to give a speech about… um… polo.  I think his family had been playing for a few generations… or something. This went on for a while (I wasn’t really listening) and then he began talking about a beloved family horse.  Who was dead.  The next thing I knew, everyone was standing up and applauding this horse.  I thought this was a little weird but, you know, when in Rome…

So we all stood up and then Charlotte, who had maybe one-too-many glasses of chardonnay blurted out, “I can’t believe we’re giving a standing ovation to a horse!  A dead horse!”  Then Lance glanced around the room and very loudly announced, “wow, not a lot of Jews here!  Not a lot of Jews.”

But they were right.  There were not a lot of Jews there.  I think I counted maybe five.  And why were we giving a standing ovation to a dead horse.  Did the horse find a cure for cancer?  No.  It was a horse.

But that’s polo.  And try as I might, I still don’t get it.  Even though BR has invested years of his life, not to mention a small fortune on horses, horse trailers, grooms, pros, a farm and his own private practice field… as well as a few disastrous riding lessons for me.  It’s a huge commitment and his polo schedule literally dictates our lives.

But I’m just not that interested.

BR, however, loves it and I’m glad he has an activity that keeps him so busy.  Otherwise he’d just be at home torturing me.

And I would never have had the pleasure of meeting Mr. and Mrs. DUMBO.

A Parisian Screwing: Part 3

Ahh Paris.  It really is a lovely city.  I fell in love with it immediately.  But it was becoming painfully obvious that I was enchanted with Paris much more than Paris was enchanted with me (refer to A Parisian Screwing: Parts 1 and 2).

So BR and I decided it might be nice to venture outside the city and spend a few days in the countryside.  We would take in the scenery and visit a few local vineyards.  We drove out to the region of Champagne and BR surprised me with a few nights in an absolutely breathtaking chateau.  I mean this place was stunning.  It was a beautiful castle surrounded by manicured gardens like I had never seen.  I almost cried when we pulled up.

We arrived just in time for dinner.  We were shown to our lovely suite and decided to freshen up and change before heading down to the fancy restaurant.

But just as we were heading out the door BR got a business call.  I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Finally he told me to go ahead without him so we wouldn’t miss the last seating.  I was reluctant to go by myself but I went anyway.

Now, I don’t usually enjoy sitting in restaurants alone.  Especially very fancy, Michelin-starred restaurants in a castle.  I get a nervous and start to feel a bit self conscious.  Then I start to think about all the embarrassing things I’ve done in restaurants: I’ve tripped in my heels, fallen into waiters, fallen down stairs, accidentally set my sleeve on fire with the candle, choked on my drink, knocked multiple drinks over, accidentally gotten a straw stuck up my nose because I somehow missed my mouth… the list goes on.

But it’s always easier to endure these social mishaps when you have someone else with you.  At least they can laugh with you afterwards.  When you’re alone, it’s mortifying.

So I went down to the fancy restaurant sans BR.  I waited for a couple of minutes until a waiter approached me and said something to me in French.

I stared at him blankly.

He cleared his throat, repeated himself, and then clasped his hands behind his back as he waited for me to respond.

Me: Ummm… pour deux?

He smirked a little.

Waiter: I see.  Right zhis way please.

He took me to my table which was set far more elaborately than I was used to and asked me if I would care for a glass of champagne.

Now ordinarily I would have said yes – since we were in the region of Champagne and I assumed it was proper etiquette to consume the local beverage – but there was no price list.  This place was super fancy and I didn’t feel comfortable ordering without BR.  So instead I said something which I would soon regret.

Me: Actually, can I please see a wine list?

He smirked again.

Waiter: Huh-huh-huh… but of course.  Un moment s’il vous plait.

He returned not with a wine list but rather a wine encyclopedia.  It was an enormous book.  It probably listed – oh, I don’t know – a million wines.  And it was surprisingly heavy.  So heavy, in fact, that when he placed it in my hands I immediately dropped it onto a side plate and some cutlery which made a big clank and in my nervous rush to pick it up I knocked over a wine glass and a bunch of other cutlery onto the floor.

The restaurant was small, so that little episode caught the attention of all the other patrons, most of whom happened to be elegant Frenchmen in perfectly tailored suits.  They were frowning.  Awesome.  But I couldn’t just give the wine list back after requesting it. No, no, I had to somehow carefully place it back onto the table and then actually attempt to look through it with the self assurance of a seasoned connoisseur.

The waiter raised his eyebrow, smirked again, and very condescendingly said, “take your time.”

OMG, where the F was BR.

So I sheepishly went through the motions of pretending to peruse all one million wines until the waiter eventually came back.

Waiter: Madame, have you made a decision?

Me: Ummm… actually I think I’ll have that glass of champagne after all.

Waiter: Huh-huh-huh… of course you will.

I wanted to chug that glass of champagne.  Actually, I wanted to chug the whole bottle.

Finally BR came and sat down with me.  But before I had a chance to tell him what happened the waiter returned and presented us with a couple of fancy menus.

Now, with the exception of bread, cheese, wine and pastries… and fries… I am not a huge fan of French food.  My unsophisticated North American palate, not to mention my ultra-sensitive GI tract can’t really handle it.  It’s a bit too fussy.  So I was searching the menu for something that I could, A) swallow without gagging, and B) digest.

BR: What are you going to have?

Me: I think I’ll start with scallops and then I’ll have the lobster.

BR: Are you sure you don’t want the chicken?  That looks good.

Me: No, it’s too fussy and full of garlic.  The lobster looks pretty safe, I’ll just have that.

BR: I really think you should have the chicken.

Me: But I don’t want the chicken.  I want the lobster.

BR: Blondie, just order the chicken.

Me: What’s wrong with you.  Why are you being so bossy?

BR: Why are you being such a Diva!

Me: What are you talking about?  I don’t want the chicken because it’s full of garlic and I’m going to get cramps!

BR: So you decide to choose the two most expensive things on the menu?  What, do you think just because you’re in a castle you can order scallops and lobster all willy-nilly?  Ooooh, look at me, I’m in a castle!  Lobsters for everyone!

Me: What do you mean “most expensive?”

BR: What do you mean “what do I mean?”  I’m looking right here on the menu!

Me: Where?  I don’t see any prices!

BR grabbed my menu.  At first he looked a bit confused.  Then he looked irritated.

I guess at super fancy restaurants it’s customary to give the gentleman the menu with prices and the lady the menu without.  Hence the misunderstanding.

Me: Look, I would gladly order the chicken, but the lobster is the only thing on this menu that’s not going to rip my stomach to shreds.  Is it really that expensive?

BR: If it’s a diamond-encrusted lobster then no, it’s not expensive.  Just tell the waiter you want the chicken without the garlic.

Me: I can’t tell him that!  I already embarrassed myself with the stupid wine list and I knocked a bunch of stuff off the table!  He already hates me!

BR let out a long, agonizing sigh.

Me: And besides, I didn’t Know the lobster was more expensive because I don’t have any prices.  I just figured it was all-inclusive or something.

BR: All-inclusive?  All-inclusive?  Where do you think we are, fucking Mexico?!   No.  We’re in a castle.  In France.  In a Michelin-starred restaurant!

Me: Oh.  Right.

BR let out another long, agonizing sigh.

BR: Alright Blondie, you win.  Order the lobster.  But you will not be eating again for the rest of this vacation.

So the waiter came back and I ordered the scallops, then the lobster.  And another martini for BR so he wouldn’t be so cranky.  BR ordered the chicken.

Then my scallops came but there was a slight problem.

Me: Oh no.  I don’t think I can eat these.  They’re raw.

BR: Blondie, I don’t care if those scallops are crying out on the plate and pleading for their lives.  You’re eating them.

Me:  I can’t, I’ll gag!  Please don’t make me eat them.

BR: Blondie!  Those scallops cost more than your mortgage payment!  You’re eating them.  I don’t care if you barf them back up, but you are putting them in your mouth and swallowing them.

Me: BR, please!  I’m begging you, I can’t eat a plate of raw scallops.  Why don’t you eat them, you like sushi!

BR:  Blondie, I’m a Jew.  I don’t eat shellfish because it’s not kosher.  I’m not a selfish Christian like you.  You are eating them.  Now chop-chop.  Down the hatch.

So I took a big swig of champagne and reluctantly put one in my mouth.  I reluctantly began to chew.  Oh my god, oh my god, oh my godsooo grosssooo slimyoh my god I’m gagging…

My eyes were watering and I began chewing as fast as I could while trying not to breath.  I was also grimacing which I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to do in a Michelin-starred restaurant.  It’s kind of like sticking your tongue out at a Picasso.  But finally I swallowed it.  Thank god.  Only several more to go.

And the rest of the dinner went pretty much like that.  What was supposed to be a romantic dinner in the French countryside very quickly turned into the dinner from Hell.  BR was drinking heavily to try and numb the pain of spending a small fortune on a meal that I could barely eat.  I was drinking heavily to try and keep myself from barfing up a plate of raw scallops.  The waiter hated us.  And I’m pretty sure every other patron in the restaurant did as well.

And although we did truly enjoy our trip to Pairs, nearly three weeks there proved to be a bit much for us.  By the end we were exhausted.  We got into one of our first big fights.  I honestly don’t remember what the fight was about, but I do remember that for a good year afterwards BR would refer to Paris as “the city of hate.”

I’m still trying to convince him to take me back there again.

Oh well.  C’est la vie.

The Grinchstein Who Stole Christmas

It’s that time of year again.  Christmas is approaching and the hap-hap-happiest season of all is in full swing.  Lights are lit, trees are trimmed, shops are bustling, and the oh-so-familiar Christmas music is pleasantly and joyously echoing throughout the city.

Except at our house.  Because Christmas is dead.

Now that I’m a Jew, Christmas is a very bitter-sweet – melancholy even – time of year.  It was one of the hardest things to give up.  Actually, it was the hardest thing to give up.

And this year I’m particularly bummed, now that “ugly Christmas sweaters” are all the rage.  I could totally rock one of those.  You know, like with a side ponytail and candy-cane earrings.

BR: Blondie, what are you doing?

Me: Oh, just baking cookies.  You know, for Hanukkah.

BR: Really.  Well that’s interesting, because they oddly resemble Christmas cookies.

Me: No, they’re Hanukkah cookies.  See?

BR: Blondie, there’s no such thing as Hanukkah cookies.  And just because you’ve cut them in the shape of a Star of David and decorated them with blue icing and sprinkles, doesn’t mean you’re not secretly making Christmas cookies and trying to disguise them as something Jewish.

Me: No, they’re very Jewish.  Just try one.

BR: Ok… wow, these are delicious.  I will let this slide.  This time.  But I need to make sure that I’ve successfully wiped the Christmas right out of you. So let’s have a little test, shall we?

Me: (blinking and staring)

BR: As a Jew, what do you want to do when you see a Christmas tree?

Me: Umm… I don’t know.  Quietly admire it from afar?

BR: Blondie!  That is incorrect!  You should want to roundhouse that Christmas tree and kick it over!

Me: What?

BR: Now I’m going to ask you again.  When you see a Christmas tree, do you have the urge to give it a solid roundhouse-ing and kick it over?

Me: Uh, no BR.  I do not have the urge to “roundhouse” a Christmas tree and “kick it over.”  What is wrong with you.

BR: Well you should.  Otherwise I’m going to take you back to the Rabbi so he can dunk you in the Mikvah and drown the Christian right out of you!  Is that what you want?  A good Christian drowning?!

So needless to say, BR is not a fan of Christmas.  He’s more like the Grinchstein who stole Christmas.  Or the Grinchstein who came into your house and kicked over your Christmas tree.

Now I’m sure many of you are wondering, why can’t you celebrate both holidays?  After all, Christmas isn’t necessarily religious.  Why can’t you have Christmas and Hanukkah?  Or “Chrismukkah?”

Well the simple answer is… you just can’t.  Jews don’t work like that.  At least not the ones I’ve shacked up with.  And it took me a little while, but I eventually came to understand that after thousands of years of enduring religious persecution and antisemitism, Christmas doesn’t necessarily give Jews the “warm and fuzzies.”  In fact it often serves as an annual reminder of segregation and persecution.

But that doesn’t mean that I’m still not mourning it.  Every.  Single.  Year.

I loved, loved, loved Christmas.  I loved every single thing about it.  I loved decorating the tree.  I loved our Santa collection.  I loved shopping for presents and wrapping them with glittery paper and bows.  I loved stuffing stockings.  I loved playing Christmas music all month long.  I loved Christmas parties.  I loved playing my favourite Christmas CD in the car and driving around the neighbourhood looking at Christmas lights with my family, while sipping hot chocolate from Starbucks.  I loved watching Christmas Vacation every year with my dad – that was our special little tradition.  I loved turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes with gravy and cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie… and everything else we ate at our dysfunctional family gatherings.  I even loved our dysfunctional family gatherings.  And my Grammie, who I miss dearly.  I had 31 Christmases at her house.

So when you give up Christmas you’re not just giving up one day a year.  You’re giving up an entire lifetime of happy memories, celebrations and traditions.  You’re giving up much loved, very special moments with your family.  Forever.

(Sigh) It’s not easy being a Jew.

So the best way for me to deal with giving up Christmas is to basically cut it off like a limb.  Just hack it off like a dead lump of coal.  This may sound harsh, but you have to understand – it’s very hard to be around Christmas and not want to participate.  You can’t just dip your toe in, get a little sprinkling of Christmas glitter on it, and then walk away like nothing happened.  Or at least I can’t.

So every year BR and I have had the same strategy: we travel.  Because if I’m not home for Christmas, then I won’t have the uncontrollable urge to hang Christmas balls on all the plants and put Santa hats on the dogs.  And for any of you newly-minted Jews are out there – quietly sobbing into your old Christmas stockings that you’ve kept hidden in the closet while shoving bricks of fruitcake into your mouths – I highly recommend this strategy.  Actually, I highly recommend Vegas.  It’s easy to forget about Christmas when there’s all sorts of drinking, gambling, prostitution and general debauchery going on around you 24-7.  Unless, of course, that’s how you like to celebrate Christmas.  Then you better go somewhere else.

But this year is different.  This year we’re home.

Holy Christmas, pass the rum balls.  Blondie’s riding in on a one-horse open sleigh full of glitter with a carton of eggnog in one hand and a bottle of spiced rum in the other.  Ho ho ho, lookout bitches.

And last night I had the ultimate test.  BR is away, and I was invited to my parents house for my sister’s annual gingerbread house party.  Did I go?  Hell yes.  And it was awesome.

I brought along the lady who cooks for us and the dogs.  My cousins were there and my Aunt, and a few close family friends.  My parents go all-out for Christmas.  Their house is so… festive.  As soon as I walked in I was bombarded by all the familiar sights, smells and sounds.  The lights were twinkling, the tree was beaming, stockings were hanging from the fireplace and Christmas music was playing in the background.  As usual they had lots of food and wine out, candles lit, lights dimmed, and an explosion of Christmas decorations everywhere.  I almost cried.  I was so happy to see everyone.

So we mingled for a while and then my sister threw some blankets down and got us all seated on the living room floor.  Then she passed each one of us a gingerbread house kit.  I was so excited.  I wanted to bedazzle the crap out of mine, in a pent-up frenzy of icing and sprinkles and forbidden cookie dough.  I almost started to hyperventilate.

And then I remembered my conversion.  I remembered the commitment I made to BR and to his family.  And to Judaism.  Suddenly the visions of sugarplums dancing in my head were replaced with frowning Rabbis.  And BR’s grandmother scolding me and shouting, “I knew this would happen!”

Ah, good old Jewish guilt.  That’s how you know you’re really a Jew.  So I took a deep breath, unwrapped my kit, and decided to make a gingerbread synagogue.  Or a ginger-gogue.  I put a Star of David on one side and a menorah on the other.  And I put a little yarmulke on the gingerbread man.

There.  See?  I could handle being around Christmas and not be pulled back over to the dark side.  I could sniff some glitter and not become addicted.  I could drink the eggnog and not join the cult.

And just as everyone was taking a step back to admire their gingerbread houses which were spread out around the living room floor, BR’s beloved black poodle came stomping in like Godzilla, and tried to trample and eat every house in her path.  Everyone started screaming.  Christmas was ambushed.

Was this a coincidence?  Maybe.  But I can’t help thinking that somewhere far off in Austria, tucked away in a remote ski village, BR was sipping scotch and slowly rubbing his hands together, laughing that evil laugh of his.  When I texted him what happened, his response was, “Yay. I hope she stomped your ginger-gogue.”

You win again BR.  Happy Hanukkah.

Cellulite, anyone?

So I’m trying to find a bathing suit for our Israel trip, but nothing seems to fit because my ass has exploded.  This is depressing.  I’ve been very tiny my whole life but after two years of being on a wide variety of oh-so-fun fertility hormones, things have changed.  I feel like an animal.

BR: Blondie, why do you keep dressing like a schoolmarm?

Me: Because my ass has exploded and I feel like an animal.

BR: Why don’t you wear those sexy black pants tonight?

Me: Haha, I would love to, but my ass has exploded and I feel like an animal!

You try to explain this to friends and they say, “really?  But you look great!”  Which, by the way, is the CORRECT response.

But then you explain that they don’t have the “misfortune” of having to see you naked.  You disclose that the hormones have made you gain 20 pounds, have given you stretch marks, and have left a permanent explosion of cellulite on your ass and thighs that never used to be there.

And then they say, “well that’s nothing – just wait until you have a baby!”

HA HA HA!  Really person??  That’s so funny because I wish I could!

And that’s when the sad irony hits you.  Your body’s in a perpetual state of growing and shrinking and feeling out of sorts.  You endure big boobs, small boobs, bigger boobs, a swollen abdomen, nausea, a big ass, a bigger ass, big hips, fat pants, fatigue, anxiety, cramps, a muffin top, cellulite… and yet there’s no baby!  Isn’t that funny?

But it’s not their fault.  People who haven’t been through infertility really don’t know what to say.  And usually they say the wrong thing.  It can be hurtful at times, but you just have to remember that they really are trying to be helpful.

Some people (BR included) give you all sorts of unsolicited advice.  They’ll tell you that you should “distract” yourself and take up a class or join a gym or something.  Or be more social.  Or try a different clinic.  Or don’t think about it so much.  Or try and “relax” and think “positive” thoughts.  Or have you considered adoption?  Or stop drinking coffee.  Or stop drinking wine.  The list goes on.

Unfortunately this “advice” is rarely helpful.  In fact, it’s the opposite of helpful.  It reinforces the idea that you’re probably doing something wrong, and that’s why you’re not getting pregnant.  You’re already a bad mother and you’re not even pregnant yet.

And you learn very quickly that you have no control over fertility treatment – it controls you.  Your ovaries are literally holding you hostage.  You’re at the mercy of your cycle, the hormones, the doctor, the clinic, and a medically induced, totally unnatural schedule.  You can’t make plans because you don’t know if you’ll be in the middle of a cycle, possibly pregnant, possibly devastated or drowning in hormonal hell.

So I find the most helpful thing that friends and family can say is actually very simple:  “I’m very sorry you’re going through this, is there anything that I can do for you?”  Or, “can I make you some chicken soup?”

That’s it.  I don’t need “strategies” and “distractions” and “micromanagement” and “medical” advice from the internet, and “organic” cookbooks and all that crap.  Just give me a little bit of sympathy and a hug, and some god-damned soup already.

I wish I could distract myself more though, especially when I’m in the throes of a cycle.  But unfortunately when I’m eyeballs-deep in hormones, I can barely even commit to having dinner with someone.  I end up cancelling a lot.  And it’s not just because I feel like crap and have to use all my brain power to try and form a sentence – it’s also because I don’t want to unleash my hormonal wrath onto innocent members of society.  I just figure it’s “safer” for everyone if I stay home and hide under the covers.

I’ve made the mistake of trying to go out in public a couple of times, but the hormones make me extremely self-conscious.  It doesn’t go very well.

Friend: Oh my God, it’s so great to see you!  How are you?  Wow, everything looks so delicious on this menu, I can’t decide what I want.  Actually I think I’ll have the pasta.  What are you going to have?

Me: I… having… burger.

Followed by: What exactly does the waiter mean, do I want water.

Followed by: No, I will not take off my sunglasses because I can’t look anyone in the eye.

Followed by: How googly are my eyes right now.

Followed by: I… should have (sniff)… ordered (sniff)… the pi-zaa-aaah-aaaaah (sob).

Followed by: No, I don’t know how to get to my house Mr. Cab driver, isn’t that your job?  Asshole??

Now unfortunately, as I mentioned in my last post, our last IVF cycle was a bust.  It was our second attempt at IVF.  Unfortunately the first time was also a bust, and since we only got one little not-quite-developed-embryo out of it, we had to do the egg retrieval all over again.

And since I’m considered a “low responder” to the medication, it was a miracle that we got 6 embryos this time.  We were very optimistic.  We also opted for genetic testing, just as a back-up.

So the day of the embryo transfer came.  We went to the clinic.  I was ushered into the special little waiting room.  I changed into my gown and that stupid-looking blue hairnet, and was anxiously awaiting my turn while trying to ignore my very full bladder.  BR was back there with me.  We were too nervous to speak, but we both had our fingers crossed.

But then the Doctor came in and told us we had a problem.  All of our embryos came back genetically abnormal.  He said he was very sorry, but he couldn’t do the transfer.

I’m sorry, what?  What was that again?  No transfer?  No transfer??  But I’m here and I’m all ready to go!  I’m in my gown and this stupid-looking hat and I’m about to pee my pants and what do you mean abnormal?!

He couldn’t give us an explanation right then, but he assured us that it was nothing that either of us had done.  He just said we should get dressed and go home.  So we did.  We were in shock.

That’s when I told BR that I needed to get away ASAP.  So we went to Chicago.  While we were there we had a phone call with our fertility doctor.  We found out that we have an egg problem.  My spindles – those little things in eggs that zip together pairs of chromosomes from egg and sperm – are, for lack of a better word, wonky.  So instead of “pairs” of chromosomes, in some cases our embryos had 3 or 1 or none – a mistake which kept repeating itself.

And then the big crusher:  Our doctor told us that he would only try IVF with us one more time and if it didn’t work, we’d have to get an egg donor.

what??  But I’m only 35!  And a late bloomer!  And I’m very immature!

Needless to say, I was not happy with that answer.  Neither of us were.

Now theoretically speaking, I believe that you could love any child – I really do.  But when someone actually tells you that you probably won’t be able to have your own baby, it’s pretty crushing.  This baby needs my DNA!  It needs my DNA so it can balance out BR’s crazy robot DNA!  What if the donor egg comes from someone who’s also a techie/evil genius/robot?  What then??  And if it’s not my egg, will the baby even be Jewish?

SO. MANY. QUESTIONS.  I cried the entire day.  Literally.  I literally cried all freaking day.

Which is why we’re now heading to Israel.  For peace of mind I’ve decided not to google anything on the internet, but the technology is supposed to be very advanced over there.  Apparently they can “repair” DNA.

So after a long, horrible day in a Chicago hotel room, full of tears and snotty kleenex and deep-dish pizza crumbs everywhere, BR rubbed my back and said something to try and make me feel better:

BR: Don’t worry Blondie.  If this doesn’t work out I have a plan-B.

Me: (sniff) You do?  What is it?

BR: Two words Blondie: Clone Army.

Shabbat Shalom

One thing BR insisted on if we were going to end up together and maybe one day start a family, was that I convert to Judaism.  I thought about this for a while and tried to imagine what it would be like to give up Christmas, but finally I agreed.  And I took the whole thing quite seriously.  It is, after all, a life changing commitment.

If any of you are considering converting, let me tell you a little bit about what is involved.  Do you remember what Charlotte had to go through on Sex and the City?  That was actually not that far-off from reality.

In a nutshell, it’s about a year long commitment where you have to immerse yourself in Judaism.  You have to go to Jew school, learn Hebrew, attend shul and participate in Jewish holidays.  There is a lot of reading and homework, as well as a couple of exams.  For those of you who are interested, I’ve written in detail about what’s involved at the end of this blog.

Bottom line: it’s intense.

Now, I actually really liked going to Jew school, but I found the Rabbi who taught the class a little… odd.  I could never really put my finger on it.  She was fine speaking in front of us a group, but one-on-one she was kind of awkward.  Like she would never really look you in the eyes.  I just assumed she didn’t like me.  Probably because BR kept sneaking off during the Hebrew lessons to hide in his car.  Or because throughout the rest of the class he would be checking his phone incessantly.  Which would cause me to “whisper-yell” at him.

Me: BR!  Put that away, what’s wrong with you?

BR: Shhhh.  Stop talking and pay attention.

Me:am paying attention!  You’re the one who’s not paying attention!

BR: Blondie, I’m already Jewish.  You’re the one who needs to be paying attention, not me.  So stop being such a selfish Christian and focus on the lesson.

Me: Are you playing a game on your phone?

BR: Shhhh!  You’re disrupting the class.

Anyway, towards the end of the course the Rabbi invited all of us to her home for Shabbat dinner.  She divided the class into three groups.  We were in the first group, along with four other couples.

I was very nervous about this for a couple of reasons.  First, I was sure she didn’t like me.  Second, it was a small group and you were supposed to fully participate.

I really didn’t know what to expect, since all I knew about Shabbat dinner was solely due to what I had experienced with BR’s family.  Which was basically a lot of eating and shouting.  Although we did occasionally say the prayers over the candles, wine and challah.

Then I remembered the first time BR and I tried to do Shabbat dinner together as a couple.

BR: What’s wrong Blondie?

Me: I tried to make matzoh balls but half of them exploded and the other half are hard as rocks!

BR: That’s ok, I’m sure the chicken soup is fine.  Oh… hmm… that’s an interesting colour… You know what?  Let’s just forget about the soup.  Go find some candles and we’ll light them.

Me: All I can find are birthday candles.

BR:  Oh.  Alright, that’s fine.

Me: But where are we going to stick them?  We don’t have any birthday cake!

BR: Don’t panic Blondie, I’ll figure something out… now pass me that knife… ok.  Voila!

Me: You stuck them in a cucumber?

BR: Blondie, it’s fine.  Now light them and say the prayers.  Actually, wait.  I think you’re supposed to cover your face with a handkerchief or something.  Umm… here.  Put this napkin on your head.

Me: Are you sure this is right?

BR: Blondie, I’m a Jew.  Of course it’s right.

It wasn’t.

Anyway, we arrived at the Rabbi’s house, made some awkward small talk, and eventually sat down at the dinner table.  The Rabbi said we were just waiting for her two sons to come and join us.  In the mean time she announced that not only were we the first group in the class to come to her home for Shabbat dinner, but that we were the first group of students ever because this was her first time teaching the course!

Within a few minutes her sons came to the table.  They appeared to be around 18 and 20, a little “hipster-ish” and kind of dishevelled like they had just rolled out of bed.  And the minute they sat down they looked at each other in a way that said, “we’re gonna fuck shit up.”

And they did.

Before we could start eating, the Rabbi had us stand while she passed out some prayer books, as she had selected a number of prayers for us to sing.  Which nobody knew.  So she asked her sons if they would be so kind as to help lead us in the songs.  Now I’m not sure if what they were about to do was planned or purely spontaneous, but either way it was pretty off-side.

So they began to sing (nicely at first) in Hebrew and we all nervously tried to follow along.  It started off pretty quiet and timid until I glanced up and noticed her sons eyeing each other from across the table.  The older one raised his eyebrow and started singing a little louder.  Then the younger one cocked his head and raised his eyebrow and also began to sing a little louder.  Then the older one started singing even louder, and then also a couple of octaves lower like he was performing in a Hebrew opera (if there is such as thing).  The younger one also started singing like he was in a Hebrew opera and was now trying to add a little “harmony” to his brother, as well as some wildly exaggerated hand gestures.  Then the older one started adding crazier hand gestures.  And because I have a tendency to laugh (often uncontrollably) in inappropriate situations, all I could do was put my head down and stare at my prayer book.  I couldn’t even look at BR.

Although I have to admit, they actually had pretty good voices.  But it didn’t take the Rabbi long to notice that this was getting out of control so she quickly wrapped up the singing.  Then we all said the prayers over the candles, wine and bread and sat down.

At first no one was really talking (probably because we were all a little stunned from the singing), so we were just sitting there looking awkwardly at one another.  Finally the Rabbi broke the silence by asking us to go around the table and talk a little bit about our experiences with Judaism so far.  So a few of us shyly took turns speaking and everyone was listening and nodding and being very supportive – until her oldest son decided he was going to “interject” and go on a 20-minute rant about how stupid he thought Judaism was and how we were all a bunch of suckers for getting “scammed” into this.

Then he threw his own Rabbi mother right under the bus:

Rebel son: And my MOM – she’s not even really Jewish!  She was born a Protestant!  She only converted for my dad, and now they’re divorced and he’s shacked up with some Catholic chick!

What the…?  There was an immediate awkward silence and everyone was staring at the Rabbi who was now looking pretty sheepish because she had just been “outed” at the dinner table in front of her students.  Her younger son was laughing.

Now, I can completely understand why someone who was committed to Judaism would choose not to openly disclose that they had converted.  Because even though you’ve converted, some Jews will still never fully accept you as Jewish.

However, when it is your JOB to guide and participate in the conversion of others, it may be extremely beneficial to those who are making this life-long commitment – not to mention struggling with all of the inevitable changes that go along with it – that you openly share with them that you once went through it yourself and everything turned out fine!  You’re a freakin’ Rabbi now!  You can’t get anymore Jewish than that!

But I digress.  Anyway, to break the awkward silence, the Rabbi decided to change the subject entirely and talk about what great musicians her sons were.  Apparently the one who gave the inappropriate rant was very good at playing bass.  At which point he announced that he was going to go upstairs and get his bass so he could play us a few numbers.  He then ran back down to the table with it and proceeded to play emo-rock through the rest of the dinner.  Awesome.

And then dinner was over, and she saw us all out.  And it was like nothing had happened.  Which kind of makes sense because that’s typically how WASPS handle things.  You know, force a smile and pretend there’s no elephant in the room.  A real Jew would have never let that happen.

BR:  I cannot believe that just happened.  I’m shocked.

Me: That was by far the best dinner party I have ever been to!

Is there a moral to this story?  No, not really.  I just hope BR appreciates what I went through to convert for him.  Because at the end of the day it really is, as my own Rabbi puts it, “a selfless act of love” in which there will be many diversions, obstacles, and unsupportive people along the way… maybe even your teaching Rabbi’s own children.

 

Converting to Judaism

If you are considering conversion, the first thing you have to do is find a Rabbi who is willing to sponsor you.  Without this sponsorship you will not be admitted into the Intro to Judaism course that is compulsory.  You will become a member of your sponsoring Rabbi’s synagogue, and he or she will act as a personal mentor to you throughout the entire process, should you have any questions or concerns.

And that thing about being turned away three times before you’re even allowed to begin conversion?  That’s true.  In my case however, our Rabbi was a family friend so he spared me that awkward initiation.  I did however have to go and meet with him for a good hour to discuss my reasons for wanting to convert.

Now keep in mind that I converted to Reform Judaism, which is the most “liberal” form of Judaism (then Conservative, then Orthodox).  But the whole process still took about 11 months to complete.

Once you have your sponsoring Rabbi, you can begin the Intro to Judaism course.  Which means one night a week for three hours in a classroom with a bunch of other blond shiksas and their Jewish significant others.  For the first half of the class we learned Hebrew and for the second half we got a lesson on Judaism.  Eventually you learn about all the holidays, history, culture, traditions, and important Jewish figures. This goes on for 10 months, with a break during the summer.

Now, taking the course itself is not enough.  You have to pass the course.  Which means reading a number of books and answering homework questions, writing a mid-term essay, and passing two final exams: One in reading, writing and translating Hebrew, and one on everything else you learned in the class.  You’re also expected to attend shul regularly and participate in any assigned field trips.

Oh – and you have to be prepared to give up any previous religious beliefs and holidays.  So basically Christmas will be forever dead to you.  And the baby Jesus.  Good luck explaining that to your parents.  Mine only cried a little.

But wait, there’s more!  Once you’ve passed the course you then have to go in front of a Beit Din, which is a panel of Rabbis who ask you a number of personal questions regarding your conversion in order to gage your “sincerity” and level of commitment to Judaism.  Then they send you out of the room and discuss amongst themselves for a few (agonizingly stressful) minutes before they bring you back in and tell you whether or not you will be accepted into the faith.

Then you’re taken over to the mikvah (a sacred pool) where you have to get completely naked in front of a stranger (in my case a female Cantor) who, along with the Rabbi (who was behind the door), will help guide you through the prayers and the ritual, and watch as you fully immerse yourself in the bath 3 times.  When you come out after your third dunk, you are now reborn a Jew.

Mazel Tov!