I have tattoos.

3, in mostly places you can’t see but I know they are there. I got them in the 90’s, when I was really coming into my adulthood. At the time, I thought it was important that I marked these major events in my life. Permanently.

The first one was an act of rebellion in a marriage where I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Where his violence, alcoholism and judgment, that is to say, him judging me to not be smart enough, well read enough, educated enough, pretty enough or good enough consumed me.

The second represented my divorce, and the forced independence I tried to face alone. I was so scared. It marked forever, the ending of my naivety, my blind faith, and of my trust in, there are so many words I could put here, but lets just leave it at people.

The third was about me finding myself, my voice, my path in life. Which at 27 I still hadn’t found. Looking back, I have to smile at my arrogance. I had no idea where I was going or who I wanted to grow up to be.

All these years later, I don’t think about them much, except to think that I’d be happier if they weren’t there. I wonder, if they weren’t there, that the painful memories of these events would have quietly slipped into the recesses of my mind.

At some point, after the third tattoo I realized that I have enough scars. Some you can see and some you can’t, but that I didn’t need to mark events of my life on my body. In my early 30’s I started to have them removed. But the process was so blisteringly painful that I stopped. You can remove them, but not cleanly, and not without more scarring.

Given the opportunity to do it again, I wouldn’t. I don’t regret them exactly but I’d prefer to be unmarked. The scars on the inside can be hidden, the ones on the outside, especially ones you gave yourself, can’t be. I’d prefer to go through the remainder of my life with a clean slate, a clean skin.

But that will probably never be.

I want to state for the record that I hate the word “step daughter/son”. It offends me. But I use it because my stepdaughter has 2 functional and loving parents. I am not one of them. I am secondary. I do not discipline, I do not judge. That is her parents job. I get to be the “aunt” she has fun with, who taught her to use chopsticks, to ride a bike, who plans birthday parties with her. I get to be the one who taught her to drive. Who helps her with her iTouch, who suggests songs and apps she might like.

I don’t count as much. I step aside a lot so her mother doesn’t feel like she has to share or is trod upon. I do my best to never make my stepdaughter feel like she has to choose. Because I know her loyalty lies with her mother. I understand that, it’s as it should be. This child never asked for the chaos of divorce. So it’s all of our jobs as parents to make sure she isn’t raised in chaos.

Should I ever be lucky enough to have my own child, I want him or her to grow up like my stepdaughter has. She is confident, smart, clever, optimistic, secure in the knowledge that she has a family and extended family that love her, she knows she will be well looked after, that she’s pretty, she is poised and graceful and kind. She loves animals, and school, plays the piano and looks forward to college.

J.K. Rowlings said “I’ve got two daughters who will have to make their way in this skinny-obsessed world, and it worries me, because I don’t want them to be empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones; I’d rather they were independent, interesting, idealistic, kind, opinionated, original, funny – a thousand things, before ‘thin’. And frankly, I’d rather they didn’t give a gust of stinking chihuahua flatulence whether the woman standing next to them has fleshier knees than they do. Let my girls be Hermiones, rather than Pansy Parkinsons. Let them never be Stupid Girls.”

Boy or girl, let them grow up as unmarked as possible.

The Monitoring Carousel

Yesterday was  the beginning of  my 4th month of “monitoring” which means on day 2 or 3 of your  menstrual cycle you go in for blood-work where they check your E2, and your FSH.  And an ultrasound. A vaginal ultrasound. That’s right, inside, while you are bleeding. No one buys you lunch or dinner before it either.

Here’s where we lose the pants. Lets be honest, you spend a good deal of time not wearing pants during this process. All you get is a thin little paper sheet to cover your bits. “Now scooch your butt down to the end of the table, all the way to the end. Open your knees please.. all the way open”

If you’re lucky it will just be you and the woman who does the ultrasound, if you’re not lucky the (male) Dr will walk in and watch. They will check your uterine lining and will see if there are any follicles in either ovary. Assuming they can see them both. My right one has a history of wandering off for a walk, like those live paintings in the Harry Potter movies, when they are trying to see it. They will also know if you’ve drunk enough water and will show you how your bladder has bursts of urine flowing into it. Are you wincing? Because you should be. Once they have checked everything, the remove the probe and leave the room so you can clean up the crime scene and put your clothes back on.

Usually you will be given whatever your protocol/meds are with instructions, and you will schedule an appointment to do it again on day 8. Not 8 days later, day 8 of your cycle. Just enough time to almost forget how embarrassing the last appointment was, but not quite. And in all likelihood, you will never again be able to look that poor ultrasound woman in the eye.

In my case, because my last cycle was a FET or (Frozen Embryo Transfer) which failed, my period is painful, which makes the vaginal probe even more of an adventure.

You will have at least 2 monitoring appointments in 10 days, sometimes 3, meanwhile you do what is termed as “stimming” or stimulating your ovaries into making more follicles from which come the eggs you need to then retrieve. Well, not you. a Dr/RE does it.

“Stimming” sounds like drugs right? It is, drugs i mean, but not the fun kind. You don’t get sleepy or feel dizzy or out of it. You get moody, cranky, PMSish, emotional, your logic sometimes abandons you while you are standing there watching it leave. Like a bad boyfriend.

It’s not just pills either, it can be injections, in your stomach, in your butt. Often large and painful injections. In my case my husband took one look at the kit I was given by the Dr.  and said “I will throw up if I have to do that to you” and walked out of the room. See, sometimes the man’s logic just gets up and walks away too. Like a bad boyfriend.

Yesterday, the new “surprise” was that during my day 2 appointment there were no follicles. Zero. Which could be something, or it could be a complete fluke. My e2 and FSH were in the normal range but higher than usual so a little alarming. Either way, it was new, terrifying and anxiety inducing.  My options were to continue to monitor on day 8, and possibly come up with nothing or cancel the cycle completely. My first instinct was the cancel the cycle. And it’s what I told them I wanted to do, but now, after sleeping on it, or not really sleeping in my case, for peace of mind, I think I will go back on day 8 to see if anything has happened.