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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Be My Valentine

Happy Valentine's Day.

I don't actually celebrate Valentine's Day, but if I did and if there wasn't a layer of ice on the road preventing me from getting to the nearest CVS, I would be eating conversation hearts and cutting out paper hearts. I'm actually pretty big into holiday celebrations. But not Valentine's Day, for whatever reason.

I think Valentine's Day is sort of like New Year's Eve--you can never make plans that are good enough to fit your expectations of a perfect holiday. And I've had a bunch of crappy boyfriends in my past, therefore, it doesn't matter if I am currently happily married. Those boyfriends sort of spoiled the holiday by being their crappy selves on February 14th. So somewhere during grad school, I dropped all pretense of celebrating the holiday. Josh and I exchange cards, but I'm anti-flower, anti-boxes of chocolates.

Let's talk about those sucky ex-boyfriends for a moment, shall we? And I promise, I can relate this to infertility. Because, my G-d, have you noticed how I can always bring it back to my uterus?

I was thinking about an ex-boyfriend last night as I drove home. I had a memory surface that I had forgotten about for years. There was a car that had pulled over to the side of the road and it had its lights shining on the snow. Other cars were slowly driving past it and it suddenly made me remember a snow storm many years ago.

I was going back to college after a break at home. I had a flight to Chicago and another that would take me to Madison. But when I landed in Chicago, I learned that the connecting flight was cancelled due to a snow storm and there wouldn't be another flight out until the next morning at the earliest. I panicked because I had never been stranded before and I didn't have the money for a hotel room.

And a stupider reason: my current boyfriend was living in Mexico and we had a standing weekly phone call scheduled for that evening. If I missed the phone call, I wouldn't be able to talk to him for a week and it wasn't possible to get a message to him saying that I wasn't going to be able to make it to a phone that night.

I admitted that it was a stupid reason.

A woman who was standing nearby told me that she and her husband were going to rent a car and drive to Madison. And I was welcome to join them. And since I really wanted to make that phone call and since I didn't want to be stuck in Chicago overnight, I went along with them even though getting in a car with strangers goes against every impulse in my extremely cautious personality. Also in the car was a fellow student from Kansas who had been in one of my introductory English classes three years earlier and a businessman who had flown out to Chicago for a meeting, discovered it was cancelled and then couldn't get a flight back out of the city. How much does that suck?

It took 6 hours for the five of us to drive what is normally around a 2 or 2 1/2 hour trip. This was due to the storm--the one that aeroplanes couldn't get through. The highways were icy and snow-covered. Other people pulled over and we passed cars giving up at rest stops or trucks pausing on the side of the highway. But we kept moving along in this little-car-that-could. We did stop at a rest stop for coffee and at the woman's suggestion, we each inserted a quarter into a prize machine and gave each other a small tangible gift to remember our stupidity that evening. I wish I still had that plastic toy--I don't even remember anymore what it was--because it would fit perfectly into the Bad Boyfriend Box (but more on that in a moment).

I got back to Madison in one piece and we all marvelled at the miracle of it. The little-car-that-could somehow got us through the snow where other trucks and cars had failed and had to pull over. It had been a rockin' adventure. And I never saw those five people again.

I got in the apartment, called out a hello to my roommate and dove for the phone. I was about a 1/2 hour late. And that is all the boyfriend focused on when we finally spoke. He wasn't impressed that I drove 6 hours and walked home with a suitcase through snow up to my knees (and that I was still standing in my wet jeans since I had called him before I could change). Or that I had placed that phone call--and in actuality, him--before everything else. It was one of the straws that broke the camel's back. Along with a host of other, similar straws.

When we broke up, I took most reminders of our relationship and threw them in the trash. But I took a few and put them in this big, blue, plastic box. I worked backwards and added a stuffed animal from an early boyfriend and set of fake dog tags from another and pictures and cards. Everything I had left over from past boyfriends was culled out from their hiding places and placed inside this box. It became known as the Bad Boyfriend Box.

Throughout grad school, I added to the box. Not everyone I dated ended up in the box--only those who were either particularly shitty or who showed a foible in my own decision-making process or who served as a turning point or a life-lesson. A memento of each went into the Bad Boyfriend Box.

That box is currently in the basement and this is why I keep it even though I will never add to it again. It wasn't for me. I thought it was for me at first--I thought I was keeping it because I needed to remind myself of bad decisions. I needed to remember my history and make better choices. But somewhere along the way, I realized that I wasn't saving all of that crap for me.

Kris at Baby Proof wrote this week about her own box (read her gorgeous post by clicking here) and I commented on my Bad Boyfriend Box over there, which is what brought about this post in the first place.

It hit me why I was keeping the box early on during grad school. I had just broken up with a boyfriend and I got on a bus and went down to New York to meet my father who was there for a business trip. And when I got off the bus, I saw my dad waiting for me and I started crying and I told him, "a boy hurt me very badly." And he comforted me by telling me his own dating stories. And somehow he found his way to my mother and I would one day find my way to my own husband.

I keep the box for the day that my daughter comes home and tells me that someone has hurt her very badly. I will take out the box and she will see all the stumbles and falls and twists and turns that brought me to her father. That I made mistakes. And I chose the wrong people. And I had my heart broken. And time went by and now I'm in a different space. I want her to remember that there will be good spaces in the future when she's in a bad place. We always seem to be aware that there is the possibility of a bad space in the future when we're currently experiencing something good (how many stirrup queens have become ill with worry during a coveted pregnancy because they spent the nine months worrying they would lose the baby?), but the opposite doesn't hold true.

She needs to remember that one day, there will be a right turn that will bring her to someone who will love her intensely. I won't be able to tell her when that will be, but it will most likely happen if that is where she wants to dedicate her energy. It's not a guarantee, but it's a strong possibility. And when she meets that person, she will create the next generation. She'll have her own daughter--either gestationally or through adoption--and she will also create her own box. And that box will show her daughter the bigger picture just as she got to see the bigger picture and the map of the journey through my box.

What I said to Kris about her Baby Box and the pain it is causing her now and why she keeps it (and perhaps even why she keeps it semi-hidden): I think you keep the box because you know that one day you will have a child. And that child will be having a crap day and will say something like "I wish I had never been born" or "I wish you had never adopted me" or any combination thereof. And you will take down the box and you will show that child how desperately DESPERATELY that child was wanted. And all the wrong turns and stumbles that brought you to that child. And that child will learn something huge that day. And that child will carry that love forward to another generation.

Because that's what I believe this Valentine's Day. That our kids--and by our kids, I mean the collective generation of children raised by stirrup queens and sperm palace jesters--will know how much they were wanted. They will know that their parents waited a long time to be brought to them and their parents went through twists and turns and stumbles and falls to find them. That it wasn't an easy choice--it was a deliberate choice. There may have been loss along the way, but their parents kept trying to find them. And that they are so loved. They are so wanted. They are unique and special and wonderful. And they will bring all of that love forward to the next generation--hopefully not with a Baby Box; hopefully it will be easy for them. But they'll know what it's like to be so wanted and they'll know how to show that to another person in the future.

Those are just my thoughts because I think there are more than two of us who have these types of boxes...


katd said...

I'm very obviously too emotional today because I cried and laughed all through your post :) I so often have feelings just like what you wrote about knowing that my children will one day know how intensely they were wanted and searched for. We're working on our adoption lifebook for our someday baby, and I wondered if I should put things in there about our recent failed match. But, like you said, I think showing our children someday how hard our road to parenthood was and how much we wanted them is invaluable.

I'm also with you on Valentine's Day. Truly, the only reason I like it is for the candy hearts. I plan on rotting my teeth with a huge box of them tonight. How romantic. :)

Elizabeth said...

So true... I had a bad boyfriend box that I buried under an apple tree at my grandma's house... I regret that now, but at the time it seemed like a good idea! (I did try to find it a few years later with no luck. I never marked the spot).

Worst valentine ever: a last-minute potted cactus (what?!?!) delivered to my door at 11:45 pm, after I had delivered a gift-wrapped book of poems earlier in the day. Don't you think a cactus says "don't touch!"?

Anonymous Infertile said...

I could have written this post myself. I too think Valentine's Day and NYE will never live up to their hype. I do not have a bad boyfriend box, but wish I did. I tended to burn things - creating small fires in the sinks of my college bathrooms. I actually found out on a Valentine's Day that a boy friend of mine (long distance in college) was cheating on me because he had bought another girl flowers and I heard about it through the grapevine.

Once I started dating my husband I threw away all the pics that I had not burned but wish I had them somewhere. It would be nice to share those 'bad' memories with my children as a way of letting them know that you can get through these things and move on.

Susan said...

In college, my friends and I had a sort of collective bad boyfriend box. Actually it was more of a list. We would write the guy's name, then rank him from "Biggest Tool Ever" down to "Your Basic Idiot". The guys switched ranks depending on what they had done, and how recently the offense had occurred. It was quite a long list by the time we graduated.

Thank you for this post. It has made me appreciate V-Day a little more.

S said...

Wow, I thought that I was the only one who had a Box. I've saved everything since we've started this journey almost 5 years ago, from pictures of embryos to the cards and a toy we got when we finally got pregnant (and later miscarried). It's all locked away in my hope chest at the foot of my bed.

I keep it for exactly the reasons you said to Kris-that one day, when I have children, I can show them exactly how special they are, and how much they are loved and wanted because of the struggle it took to get them here. And, also, to show them that if you want something badly, you have to fight for it.

Hopefully I will get to say those words, one way or another.

aah0424 said...

Mel, this is one of your finest! I am sitting here trying to keep it together because your words are beautiful.

I posted a long time ago about a song that I listen to when I'm feeling particulary crappy about my IF called The Day Before You. When I listen I usually cry, but they are tears of joy because I know that one day I will be able to put my child on my lap, play that song for them and explain to them how much they were wanted and how much we went through to find them.

I don't have reminders to place in a box yet other then some things I've written, but I fully intend on putting together something that will remind me of this struggle and that I can show my kids one day to express how greatful I am to have them.

Thank you for such a wonderful Valentine's Day post! Plus, I love the story about your trip back home with the 5 strangers!

ms. c said...

Just: WOW. You amaze me.

I agree with you on New Year's and Valentine's Day. To me it is important to tell my husband I love him everyday. Everyday with him is special, and I don't need a holiday to celebrate that.

But this POST. If I had a Bad Boyfriend Box, oh the stories it would tell. I'm somewhat glad that I don't but I totally understand your reasons for keeping yours. It's a beautiful thought.

When I started my IF treatment (with my laughable 5 pills of 50mg of Clomid-laughable for me, certainly not laughable for those who acheive pregnancy with this done) it took me so long to throw out the pill container. I kept it on my bedside table along with my Provera bottles, and my subsequent 100mg perscription. Then I had my Femara bottle from my first Femara/Injectable cycle. And the BCP packs, wow! Being the packrat that I am, I felt I was gathering quite the little collection.

And then sometime after my last negative I got angry and threw it all out.

But the collection had started again. The bottle of Femara from this current cycle is still on my nightstand. And the Puregon vials are still in the fridge though there is not enough to make a dose of their left-over bits.

This time I think that I will keep it all. I am now sorry that I trashed the previous stuff-I wish I had just put it in a box well out of sight. For me, this empty containers, blister packs, and vials are the tangible proof of my trials and efforts of this journey. Then perhaps I won't feel that I have noting to show for my failed cycles.

Though, of course, I hope that I won't have to add to it after this cycle...

decemberbaby said...

Elizabeth ~ a cactus doesn't say "don't touch". It says "hey baby, I want to poke you".

I've been putting off doing anything with my hpt's and u/s pictures from my first pregnancy (they're still in the drawer beside my bed), but up until now I wasn't sure what the point of a box would be. Thanks for reminding me that it's a worthwhile thing to do.

Beagle said...

My box is just a mental one but maybe having an actual physical box would be therapeutic. Hmmmm . . .

I agree that many of these Hallmark Holidays are overrated. I was kind of planning to skip over this V-Day but my husband woke me with kind words, roses and a small wrapped box. All I have for him is a card. Now I feel shitty in a the opposite way that I used to feel when I didn't get the flowers from some crummy boyfriend. Today I feel like the crummy wife!

(I think I'll bake brownies.)

Dianne/Flutter said...

I don't have a box, but I have a blog. The blog started out for me, and still is. But, I have hopes and dreams of giving it to my child someday.

Telling them, "see I told you I loved you before you existed :)."

And maybe it'll help them understand a little bit more about me, them, and everything else in between.

Sunny said...

I got rid of my exboyfriend box when I got married and replaced it with my husband box. I miss my exboyfriend box sometimes. I felt like I was getting rid of a part of my life when I trashed it. Now I can't get it back. :(

I have a hope chest full of my infertility woes. I have my Lupron box where the needle was. I have my arm band from my d&c hospital visit. Congrats cards and sympathy cards from my miscarriage. The list goes on and on. I don't want to ever forget one moment of this part of my life.

The Town Criers said...

At one point, I started collecting empty vials and perscription bottles and such and stacking them up. I was going to make a big pyramid to remind me of the journey. Then I decided that space needed to be kept for toys and books and all the things that come I dumped them a little while ago. The journal is what I'm going to pass along when they pop out with a statement that leads to the "this is how much you were wanted" discussion. But some of those photos of the ex-boyfriends spoke volumes :-) So that got the storage space while the fertility drug reminders did not. If only we could build another storage room for all of my grand future ideas...

mandolyn said...

I have a Baby Box, too. It has congratulatory cards and notes that we got when we had our first successful cycle, a stuffed dog that was to be a gift from my nephew to his cousin, a few things I wrote as I was still raw from learning that I would miscarry, a sweater I knitted for my lost baby, my hospital bracelets and a would-be birthday letter from me. I've got several things that haven't made it into the box yet, but still haven't been tossed (the pharmacy gave me an extra round of clomid one cycle, so I kept it. I don't really know why, but I'm unable to let go of it). I sometimes wished I'd kept a few neg. pee sticks and the positive one as well, but I think they've all been shattered in various fits of rage. When I first made my box, I thought it would make me depressed. I haven't been able to stash it away as of yet- it sits on the dresser in my bedroom (with the stuffed dog on top, for now). It has actually given me the courage to hang onto hope. It reminds me that all of this has a reason. I plan to drop a penny in it every year on that baby's due date.

Glad I'm not the only one!

TeamWinks said...

You are right. I love this post. So wonderfully stated!

sarah said...

You totally made me cry today. I don't have one box with all the stuff but I do have things stashed away. All the baby thing we bought when we thought we'd get pg any day (ah to be so naive) are in a trunk in the garage. All the hpts i used when I finally did get pregnant are in a drawer in my dresser. And the two things we bought after we found out but before it all went to shit, are hidden in a basket in my closet. It doesn't seem right to mix the stuff from all the different stages somehow.

Damn, I'm still teary. Thanks! ;)

Carol said...

ok Mel - you win the prize. For the first blogging post to ever make me cry. Your last two paragraphs - about why you think Kris keeps her baby box - just really struck something emotional in me. I think it's a beautiful reason for Kris to keep that box, and I hope that your answer gave her some peace. thanks.

InfertileMadWoman said...

Beautiful as usual!!! I have 3 boxes, the Boyfriend/Ex-Husband box, the Baby Box, and the IF box... what I really want though is to start a Box for all my babies memories.......

Karaoke Diva said...

I'm not much into boxes. I have a ex-boyfriend box, but it's for the good ones too.

However, I do want to create a nice scrapbook page for the Bean. This is my first pregnancy loss and I want to commemorate it in a special way.

I plan to use the u/s pictures of him/her and also the letter I posted in my blog on the morning of the D&C. I don't think I'll be able to look at that page very often once I finish it, but I want it there for those days when I do want to remember.

Ella said...

I'm still crying reading this post. You've made me realize that instead if being angry looking at my trinkets that are reminiscent of my loss (old u/s photos, etc.) i should tuck them away and give them a new special meaning. Maybe one day they can represent hope, and remind my children where they came from in an emotional sense. I agree with you on the lame-ness of Valentines Day - stupid Hallmark holiday that was more fun when I was single and went out on the prowl. But maybe tonight I'll do a little role reversal and buy my hubby flowers on my way home from work - to thank him for being my rock through this whole fertility journey.

Tiffany said...

just think, if i were with my ex-boyfriend right now, i'd actually be having SEX! but since i am with my husband, who won't even share the remote control, let alone his penis, with me this Valentine's Day, i have nothing left to do but put on my patsy cline cd's and drink myself into an oblivion. and we wonder why we don't like to celebrate valentine's day. (sigh)

serenity said...

Interesting perspective. I never kept the bad stuff with my boyfriends- throwing it away was so freeing for me. Mostly because I cope by denial. :)

In general, I have a personal issue with commercial holidays like Valentine's Day. Because I would rather get a bunch of flowers on a day where J was just thinking about me than on a day because everyone else gets them.

Celeste said...

I can tI can tell I'm going to love this post, but I haven't had time to read the whole thing yet. BUT, this really struck me:

"I think Valentine's Day is sort of like New Year's Eve--you can never make plans that are good enough to fit your expectations of a perfect holiday."

YES, YES, YES! I had a totally crappy Valentine's Day, and my expectations are already very low for my non-American dh.

Reproductive Jeans said...

What a great blog! I was directed to you by From Here to Maternity--we are newbies on the block-add us to the male factor infertility side. Please stop in when you can! Thanks for all the great info!

Bea said...

I love this post. What a great... well, not "great" from some perspectives, but it's definitely a story and a half.