Graduation Day: A Celebration And Sad Reminder

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Beverly Hills High School, Graduation Day 2015

If you’re someone like me who tried to have kids and couldn’t, there are times in life that can be sad reminders. For most child-free women, it’s probably Mother’s Day: an emotionally tough day for those of us who will never have children of our own to celebrate us.

I can get through Mother’s Day because I still have my mom to celebrate. The brunches and lunches, activities and outings, keep my mind off anything remotely self-pitying. Since I’m her only child, I make sure the day is filled with love and distractions galore.

No, the day that absolutely kills me is Graduation Day. That’s the day I really feel my childlessness.

For several years, I’ve lived within walking distance to my high school, which means for several years I’ve also been within earshot of graduation rehearsal and ceremonies. Every June the entire neighborhood is treated to the sounds of a booming P.A. system, soaring music, lofty commencement speeches, and the long reading of student graduate names.

It’s lovely and joyful, and depressing as hell. So much so that I have to hide out at the local Starbucks until it’s over.

You see, every time I hear the strains of Pomp and Circumstance coming from the front lawn of my high school, my heartstrings pull, and I’m painfully reminded of the kids I forgot to have. Well, maybe not “forgot,” more like waited too long to have. Those opening notes aren’t music to my ears; they’re tones of regret and shame for not taking my biological clock more seriously.

I spoke about this several months ago in a blog post entitled “Oh My God, I Forgot To Have A Baby!” If you missed it, here’s a recap of what I went through to get pregnant:

Six IUIs with donor sperm, three rounds of IVF, two embryo transfers using donor eggs, and lots of timed intercourse with a boyfriend who tried, but couldn’t knock me up. I got started at 43, and ended my quest four years later with no money, eggs, or time left on the clock. Game over.

But once the post game pity party was over, I started healing. Onwards! I said to myself. Even though I was single, I still had other worthy pursuits to keep my life full: a busy career, an active social life, and good friends and family. Then, three years after saying goodbye to motherhood, I said hello to marriage. Getting married for the first time at 50 not only gave my life unexpected dimension and purpose, it helped me ease the pain.

I continue to work hard to make peace with my past, and bring closure to that chapter of my life. It’s not easy sometimes, but I do my best to take the long view; to gracefully accept what was, and appreciate what is now.

It’s true what they say about one door closing and another one opening: you find opportunity. It may not look like what you planned or wanted, but hey, it’s an open door, so why not walk through it?

Not long after the baby door closed, the volunteering door swung wide open. I walked through it, and guess what? I found opportunity – to give of myself and be of service to others.

Last year, I joined my husband Robby as a Special Olympics coach (he’s been coaching for 30 years); and after a several year hiatus, I rejoined the Fulfillment Fund mentoring organization to become a mentor to a 14-year-old girl named Melissa.

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Global Education Academy, Graduation Day 2015

Already, my mentee Melissa and I have established a unique relationship. We talk, we bond, we teach each other things and learn about the world together. I like to think we both have a bright future ahead of us.

You want unexpected dimension and purpose to your life? Try volunteering. It’s THE greatest thing you can do, especially if you don’t have kids of your own.

Last week, I attended Melissa’s eighth grade graduation from Global Education Academy, a bilingual school located in South Central Los Angeles. It had everything you’d expect in a graduation: a booming P.A. system, soaring music, lofty commencement speeches, and a long reading of student graduates.

Come to think of it, it was just like a Beverly High graduation, but much better.

Because when I heard the strains of Pomp and Circumstance, and saw the processional of young students in their cap and gowns, it pulled at my heartstrings in a lovely and joyful way that didn’t have me running to the nearest Starbucks.

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Melissa the graduate with her proud mentor.

Graduation Day is no longer a sad reminder of my past, but a celebration of everything yet to come.

Oh My God! I Forgot To Have A Baby!

UnknownI didn’t exactly forget, I just lost track of time.

My mind was on other things: like figuring out my career path and deciding what I wanted in life. I always dreamed of being a wife and mother, and always operated on the assumption it would happen when it was supposed to, in its own time – whenever that was.

I also thought my fertility would last forever, so what was the rush?

I breezed through my 30s, and cruised into my 40s without hearing a single tick-tock of my biological clock. I continued to date, and work, and live life like the independent single woman that I was. And despite the fact that pretty much all of my friends were married with kids, I felt no pressure to join the club.

No one talked about fertility. No one tapped their watch and said: “Treva, you better get a move on if you want to have babies.” I just kept going, without a care in the world, or a thought to my egg supply.

That is, until I had a scare.

That morning when I saw what looked like mid-cycle spotting (a sure sign of menopause) my bio-clock finally went off, and the maternal urge kicked in.

I ran to my gynecologist. With my feet in the stirrups, he confirmed the worst: I was 43-years-old with diminishing hormone levels, and a fertility window about to shut. If I wanted to get pregnant, I’d have to take immediate action – if it wasn’t already too late.

How was this possible? I was in good shape. I was a personal trainer. Certainly my ovaries were in shape too, no?

“You gotta get on the stick,” he said to me urgently.

But whose stick? I had no husband, no boyfriend, no future prospects lined up. Was my doctor really telling me to go knock myself up? Yes he was.

My situation was officially screwed, and the only way to get out of it was to screw. I wanted a baby that bad, by any means necessary. Forget about romance, courtship, and candle light dinners – there was no time for that. What I needed was to get my hands on some sperm, and fast.

I called old friends, old boyfriends, donors of all kinds, anyone who would lend me some spluge, no strings attached. Some stepped up, some said no, and some just wanted to help me “practice.”

I bought boxes of ovulation sticks, pregnancy tests, macha powder and other exotic supplements to improve my fertility. I bought books on single motherhood (my favorite, “Knock Yourself Up” by Louise Sloan) and joined a Single Mothers By Choice group. I had a lot of sex. Oh, and I prayed a lot too – especially on the toilet while peeing on pregnancy test sticks.

As I liked to say back then: “Keep your fingers crossed and your legs open.”

About a year into my baby quest, I met a guy a few years younger than me who would become my boyfriend and partner on my journey. He was supportive, encouraging, and just as enthusiastic about making a baby as I was (we’re still friends today). We tried and tried, but to no avail. At the rate I was going, even Michael Phelps’ swimmers couldn’t get me pregnant.

It was a fucking hell. Literally.

When that failed, I brought in the big guns: assisted reproductive technology. But after three years, many inseminations, several IVFs, a few embryo transfers, and thousands of dollars later, I finally shot my wad. I ran out of time, money and eggs, and had to give up.

The truth is, I was also tired of trying. And hoping. And praying. The roller coaster of ups and downs, highs and lows left me thoroughly devastated, not to mention broke. “If it’s meant to be, it will be,” I kept telling myself. It’s trite, but somehow it helped bring me closure.

Speaking of closure, my fertility window finally did shut, and as sad as it was, it was also a relief. Trying to hold on to your fertility is like trying to hold on to every last shred of your youth – an ultimately depressing and self-defeating experience.

Looking back, I moved mountains and went to the ends of the earth to get pregnant (hey, you do crazy shit when you’re desperate). Unfortunately, it didn’t yield a kid, but it did give me a great story to tell.

Now I have a new story. At age 51 I met and married a wonderful man (who coincidentally never had children either). Together, we’re starting a new chapter, which has all kinds of options: we can adopt, we can foster a child, or we can rescue a dog.

Or, we can just be. And that’s all right with me.

 

Photo credit: Salon.com

Still Single? Throw Yourself A Wedding!

Group Karaoke

Single? Married? Divorced? Who cares? Let’s party!

When I took the stage at Boardwalk 11 Karaoke Bar at my 50th birthday party last February, I was triumphant. Victorious. I felt proud of who I was, and what I had accomplished – getting to 50 as an independent, self-reliant woman.

That wasn’t exactly the picture a few months before though. In the run-up to my birthday, I was the perfect storm of despair: I was going through a break-up, my career was stagnating, my window of fertility had officially closed, I was still not married, and I was turning 50 – a number that probably would’ve been a lot less daunting and depressing if I had a husband and kids.

From November to January, I was totally numb. Nothing felt good, nothing tasted good, music didn’t sound good, not even the cutest guy looked good. It appeared that after multiple times at bat, and many attempts at love, I had officially struck out. On top of it, I was about to leave my 40s and enter midlife, a milestone that was ceremoniously marked when I received my first AARP card in the mail.

The holidays and New Year’s were a blur. I remember going to bed just before midnight on New Year’s eve thinking to myself: “Please let me wake up and have it be six months from now so the pain will be gone and my heart will be healed.” The next day I woke up, and the next, and the next day after that. Slowly, life resumed. I hit reset, I recalibrated, and I got reacquainted with my self-worth, which I seemed to have lost along the way.

By mid-January, I made a decision that would be life-changing: I decided to let go and surrender to my singleness. I detached from the outcome, stopped fighting the power, and submitted to being single. As I mentioned in my very first blog post, it was the most liberating and empowering move I could’ve ever made.

I made another decision in mid-January: To celebrate. So what if I wasn’t married? Who cared if I was still single? Did it really matter that my life didn’t exactly go as planned? There were so many other things to be happy about, so much to be grateful for, so many other blessings to count. I thought why have a pity party when I can have a real party? So I threw myself a huge 50th birthday bash and called it the wedding I was never going to have.

When I stepped on to the stage to sing last February, with my friends and family cheering me on, I knew I had made the right choice:  to revel in the thrill of victory instead of dwelling in the agony of defeat.

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Look what I found and I wasn’t even looking.

The minute I stepped off the stage, I spotted Robby Scharf at the bar. I initially met Robby months earlier on Facebook when he contacted me out of concern for a mutual friend. It wasn’t a Facebook hook-up; he really was a good guy with good intentions. I thought he had a nice face, and had heard he was in a band (maybe he could sing karaoke?) So on a whim, I invited him to my party and he showed up! Except for our mutual Facebook friends, Robby and I were practically strangers. But there he was at my birthday, Mr. Right, standing right before my eyes, with a big smile and a warmth I felt the minute I hugged him hello.

I wasn’t looking, I wasn’t expecting it, and I had all but given up, but something magical happened that night at Boardwalk 11 Karaoke Bar. And now here I am, exactly one year later, engaged to be married and singing a much different tune.