I often tell people that infertility is all-consuming.
Nothing else in my life has ever sucked up my thoughts nearly every waking moment the way infertility does. A few months ago, I had my most embarrassing moment to date in all this. I thought I would die of humiliation.
I didn’t die. But this is a great example of how difficult it is to turn it off, even when you’re miles away from home.
Here’s how it all went down.
My mother’s side is a large farming family, and when I go back for a visit, I’m surrounded by a big group of the midwest’s best kind of people — hard workers who put family first and give it to you straight. When I’m there, it’s nice to not think about things like email, databases, infertility, work… but some stressful things tend to follow me to rural America.
A few months ago during a visit to Grandma’s, we were wrapping up a boisterous 32-person dinner (in southern Iowa, ‘dinner’ refers to a sit-down noon meal; lunch is the noon meal if you eat on the go; the night meal is supper).
Now, one thing you need to know is that my Aunt Janet is famous for the most unbelievable deviled eggs. (Her trick: no mustard.) I inhale her deviled eggs like they’re going out of style, and so over the years, it’s become a given: no matter what everyone else whips up, Aunt Janet is bringing the deviled eggs.
The after-dinner food coma was kicking in as aunt Janet, sitting next to me at The Big Kids table, turned to me and asked, “How are the eggs?”
Clearly, given the surroundings, my mind should have registered that she was talking about FOOD.
But partially because I can’t think about anything else lately, and partially because of the carb coma I was slipping into, my infertility-addled brain went directly to the most recent “egg” reference it could find: oocytes. Baby eggs. Ovulation eggs.
I looked at Janet with surprise, but then assumed she must be reading my blog or getting updates from Grandma. I gave her a quick synopsis on where we were in our infertility mission (at that time I think we were just starting IVF). When I finished, the entire table had gone silent—about 10 people.
Janet looked a little uncomfortable for a second. “Well, that’s good to hear, but I was talking about the deviled eggs.”
Cue the humiliation.
I felt like a huuuuuuge dumbass.
The table full of people laughed as my face burned.
I had forgotten something I’ve known since birth: rural Midwesterners don’t pry. They’ll never come right out and ask about what’s going wrong in your life. They wait for you to bring up your problems and then ask a few questions, show concern… but they’ll leave you to cope on your own unless you ask for help.
Luckily, Janet recovered nicely and asked me a few more questions about the baby-making process (with the rest of the table now listening attentively, to my horror). As soon as I could, I excused myself to start the dishes, my face still red.
Eggs, Lydia. EGGS.
It was bad timing, and an unfortunate intersection of terminology.
But the inability to get baby-making off your mind, particularly if you’re going through infertility treatments, is a common malady. It’s easy to get mired in it and let it consume your thoughts.
I wish I had the ability to selectively remove memories, just like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I’d take that humiliating egg-event right out of the collection.
When I return to Grandma’s this week for Turkey Day, I must remember: check your infertility at the door. When my farmer family talks about eggs, they’re referring to chickens. Because that’s what farmers do.