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The Waiting Game

Many years ago, there was an advice column where a person needed to buy a new bed.  The question asker was single, and all she currently needed was a twin bed.  But she reasoned that if she got a partner, she would want a queen-sized mattress.  So was it better to spend the money and get the queen bed and be done with it, or buy the twin bed she needed in the moment, which made her feel as if she was resigning herself to being eternally single?

The advice columnist told her to get the twin bed.  It was the bed she needed in this moment — that she could afford in this moment — and she should only make decisions based on what was happening in this moment.  There were billions of what ifs people could use to make purchases, but none were a smart way of making spending decisions.  The columnist promised that if life changed in a few months and she was moving in with someone, they could pool their resources and buy a queen bed and make the twin bed the guest bed.  The right bed would be purchased at the right time.

Personally, I would have splurged on the queen bed.  I hate shopping, and I would have wanted to get it over with once vs. risking having to go to the store twice.

But I digress.

I was thinking about the column because in Curtis Sittenfeld’s American Wife, the main character decides she will buy a house if she’s still unmarried at thirty.  She writes, “Although I told no one, keeping this idea in the back of my mind provided reassurance; it made my life seem less like something I was waiting for and more like something I was planning” (p. 95).

I think everyone reading this understands why that thought resonated with me.  When you’re going through infertility, it feels like life is something you’re waiting for, not planning.  So you look for those places where you can make declarations, you can wrest back some control, you can be the one in the driver’s seat (even if you can’t drive where you really want to go).

I love that she looked for houses.  It’s such a small thing, shifting her focus, but it made me care so deeply about the character.

Because we looked for houses when we couldn’t have a child.  We looked for houses when we were going through treatments.  I think about that when I sit in this space, having no clue whether or not we would ever reach those other goals so going for the one that was within our control.

I guess that’s why I always wanted the question asker in that advice column to buy the queen-sized bed.  She can’t control whether she gets married, but she can control the size of her bed.  I guess I just liked the idea of a person getting the bed their heart really wanted because of what it represented to her.  The idea of taking a break from the waiting game and stretching out across a delicious new mattress.


1 Chickenpig { 03.07.17 at 7:46 am }

I agree. I bought an antique bed that was a double bed because I liked it and it was really inexpensive. Of course, that was just the frame, I had to buy a double mattress, and a special low profile box spring because it wasn’t meant to have one. My daughter sleeps in it now. Why confine yourself to a twin bed? 🙂

2 Beth { 03.07.17 at 8:33 am }

Completely agree. We moved in to a larger, family home when a second child was only a dream. I couldn’t stand the thought of anything else – staying or buying a smaller home would have been, to me, giving up. However I would not furnish the baby room until we not only had her but her birth mother’s rights were terminated. There’s living in optimism and then there’s torturing yourself (because if the adoption had failed that baby room would have broken me).

3 Charlotte { 03.07.17 at 9:15 am }

I would buy the bigger bed. I tend to try and look ahead and see what would be more cost-saving down the road. But, if I only had enough money for the twin bed, I would probably just get the twin bed. There are many things I have to kind of weigh out like that.
When we were going thru our if and losses, I adopted a kitten and 3 puppies. I also bought the totally impractical Mustang, my dream car. Which I got to keep for 5 whole months. My husband asked me recently if I miss that car or am upset about it; I told him no because I really wanted a baby, and it finally happened, so i could care less about ever having a mustang again.

4 a { 03.07.17 at 10:00 am }

I got rid of my convertible in order to buy a more practical, family-sized car. (And also because the roof was starting to leak.) But I got it in the middle of a series of miscarriages, so it felt like wishful thinking at the time. Fortunately, for my state of mind, our version of a more practical car had a much bigger engine and almost 50% more horsepower than my little turbo convertible, so if we hadn’t ever needed the extra space…well, I still had the consolation of being able to drive at over 100 mph. 🙂

I say, buy what’s within your means that suits you now and your plans for the future, even if they never work out. So while you probably don’t need to buy a nursery set that you can’t actually use, no one is going to mind the extra space in bed to stretch out. Or a 4 door car…with 265 hp.

5 Lori Lavender Luz { 03.07.17 at 10:41 am }

I am with you. When I feel powerless about something, I, too, grasp at the things I can control. I reach in the ways I can reach.

I’ll be thinking of this post as I move through my day.

6 Sharon { 03.07.17 at 1:00 pm }

The first bed I bought for myself was a queen-sized bed. Queen really doesn’t cost that much more than twin, and I bought the bigger size solely for my own comfort vs. thinking of someday sharing it with someone. (In fact, I was just getting out of a two-year, “marriage-track” relationship when I bought it and was looking forward to being single for a while.)

I am of two minds on this point. On the one hand, I see the sense in making decision simply based on the current circumstances. On the other hand, though, it may end up causing more inconvenience later if/when the hoped-for event happens. (Example: my husband and I bought our current house right before we married, when we were childless and thought we *might* have one child. We could have afforded a slightly larger house but didn’t buy one because we didn’t need the space or extra bedroom then. Now, 8.5 years later, we have two children–thanks to having twins as a result of needing to use IVF to conceive–and we are finding that our current house is not large enough for our family. Had we simply bought the larger house to begin with, we wouldn’t be in our current position of having to move to get more space.)

7 Working mom of 2 { 03.07.17 at 2:11 pm }

I hated this part of infertility. I leaned more towards the option that made sense without kids so as to lessen my pain if I ended up with none. I waited as long as possible to buy maternity clothes with my first (17 weeks) bc it would have killed me to have to return that stuff or be stuck with it…same with our nursery fiurniture etc. The house we bought isn’t ideal for kids (not horrible, but not ideal). But I was 40 when we bought it and I really couldn’t justify waiting on a perfect house for kids at that point especially since it was a really long shot at that point, 4 yrs 3 IVFs, 4 transfers and one m/c in.

8 Chris { 03.07.17 at 2:18 pm }

Interesting. I also would have bought the bigger bed because it would be more comfortable. I always sleep with at least a pup so I’d want the room. And, it never occurred to me to wait to be married to buy a house. I bought my first house when I was 25. Alone.

9 Amber { 03.07.17 at 4:57 pm }

I’m with you on this one. When I had to buy a new car, we bought it with a family in mind while going through treatments. Never mind that we’d already been trying for 13 years at that point. The car was practical with or without kids, but would definitely have been needed with kids.

10 torthúil { 03.07.17 at 6:13 pm }

I can’t identify with the example of the beds, because I didn’t buy any new furniture until I was married.

I sometimes think about this matter with regards to our house. We have an older, smallish house. It has three bedrooms. One we use, obviously, and now one is used by our daughter and the other has additional clothes are wardrobes and our recycling and what all in it. If we ever do have another child, the house would probably start to feel a bit crowded, though we could certainly make do, and probably would, at least for the first few years (I have zero desire to move).

I was often grateful before we had children, however, that we had a smaller house and the empty bedrooms could be easily repurposed to other things (music room, dressing room). We did not have empty spaces. It would have killed me a little to have spaces that were waiting for children that weren’t there, as there would have been if it had been a bigger house. So in my case (also because I really like our house and neighbourhood) I am glad we bought for the present need, and did not make assumptions about how many people would live in the house in the future. I am also glad we live in a mixed neighbourhood where not every household has kids. It would be salt in the wound to feel like an outsider.
Obviously there’s no right or wrong answer here….it depends on practical matters, finances and one’s outlook on life and what makes you happy. If a material object is going to remind me of what I don’t have, or am prevented from having for some reason, then I don’t really like it in my life. On the other hand the reminder of what could be may help some people to be optimistic. Personally, waiting to see if anyone will be born to fill our extra bedroom, I’m not interested in being too optimistic. I make no effort to see it as anything other than a general all purpose junky room. I don’t want to encourage any sentimental visions.

11 Jamie { 03.08.17 at 3:48 am }

As for beds, I am one who enjoys space to sprawl, so I would go with a queen bed. But if it was not within my means, I think I would get a double bed. It would seem like a sensible compromise. A twin bed just seems to scream single, while the double bed would make space for the dream for a future relationship without being a heavy reminder. Sure, if the person would find themselves in a relationship things may be a bit cozy, but isn’t that the way when you first fall in love. 😉

12 dubliner in deutschland { 03.08.17 at 6:15 am }

Yes that makes sense. Life still goes on. I remember when we were house searching at one stage I wondered whether we should wait until we knew whether we would have kids or not as it was hard to decide whether to look for a house with spare room or not. In the end we decided to buy the house we wanted for now, and use the rooms as we need them.

13 Foxy { 03.10.17 at 11:35 pm }

I am so gd damn sick of living in a world of wait. I am so gd damn sick of not knowing how things are going to play out. I feel sometimes like nothing has ever returned to ‘normal’ since the day we got our infertility diagnosis – it’s just been waiting ever since, impossible to make decisions or plans or know what to expect. Everything is uncertain. I am so gd damn tired. Like SO tired. The exhaustion is overwhelming. I get it that it is ‘just a bed’ or ‘just, just, just’, but they are the most important things in my life and the significance of what they mean for everything else in my life is big. Are we going to use the final embryo? then i shouldn’t increase my hours at work. then I shouldn’t plan that big trip. then I shouldn’t sell everything in the garage. but are we really prepared to handle another loss and deal with the ramifications of that? Is our marriage strong enough to survive a loss? a pregnancy? a child? postpartum mood disorders? how do you begin to un-peel that onion? So instead we just live in stagnant rotting hopelessness. (yeah, thats my crummy mood right now. )

14 loribeth { 03.11.17 at 3:13 pm }

I am with you. About six weeks before we got married, I made a trip to visit dh & his family (in the city where we were going to live) & to go hunting for an apartment and some furniture. We found the apartment, a small one-bedroom, and then went shopping for a mattress. The bedroom was a good size, but we weren’t sure if we should get a double or a queen-sized mattress. We wound up buying a double just to be safe. (And of course, it was also cheaper.) In fact, there was plenty of room for a queen, & we wound up sleeping on a cramped double the entire five years we lived there, wishing we had splurged for the queen. We finally got one when we bought a house with a slightly larger bedroom. (The old double set went into our spare bedroom.) You don’t want to break the bank and buy more mattress (or house or whatever) than you can really afford, but you also want to be comfortable & buy something that will last too.

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