Finding Inner Peas: My Sometimes-Hilarious Story of Infertility, High-Risk Pregnancy, and Finding out That I Control Absolutely Nothing.

Finding Inner Peas: My Sometimes-Hilarious Story of Infertility, High-Risk Pregnancy, and Finding out That I Control Absolutely Nothing.

by Erin Salem


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The reproductive endocrinologist giggled that my cervix looked like a smiley face (and offered to let my husband see how cute it was). Feet in the stirrups, I suddenly realized that the book Id been searching for would have to be one I wrote myself.

The day an adorably pregnant gynecologist sighs about the summer heat in one breath and then suggests you might need help getting pregnant in the next, the road to having your baby suddenly stretches out before you, cartoon-style. The camera zooms in on your stunned face while your periphery goes blurry and you finally answer, Wait. Are you talking to me?

With hilarious relatability and a bit of irreverence, Finding Inner Peas tells one story of the emotional journey that more than 20 percent of women take every year. Erin Salem covers everything from deciding to try for a baby, to infertility treatments, to googling everything during a high-risk pregnancy (and earning a Google Medical degree, all while crying on the floor). A witty, honest, and engaging account of infertility and high-risk pregnancy with an ending full of hope, Finding Inner Peas is the book so many women need.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781982207564
Publisher: Balboa Press
Publication date: 08/17/2018
Pages: 232
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.53(d)

Read an Excerpt


Becoming an Adult

Moving to LA when you're twenty-three is kind of a big deal. When coworkers and friends in Iowa learned I was moving there, their eyes widened, and they breathed, "Where!"

I'd lean back casually. "Oh, to LA. You know. Whatevs." Then I'd dart my eyes to theirs so I wouldn't miss the jealous twinkle. This was incredibly satisfying for my ego. And that about sums up my twenties.

I'd moved to Iowa from Florida after college for a job, and my first address in Los Angeles was in North Hollywood, which automatically made friends and family assume I lived in Hollywood and not a semi-disgusting suburb of the valley that smelled like unkempt farm and transmission fluid. Truth is, I lived across the street from a KFC and a Goodyear tire store — a street with a couch in the alley on which random people were always sleeping and/or vomiting. The adult video store on the corner with the giant yellow "We have Paris Hilton" sign really classed it up though.

I had moved there to be with Phillip.

We met when I was nineteen, a sophomore at Rollins College in our home state of Florida. My boyfriend, Marcus, had just dumped me.

I was going to marry Marcus. And he dumped me.

That seemed like a terrible way to start our life together.

So, I did what any nineteen-year-old woman does. I cried and ate a lot ice cream. And when a cute, popular boy told me that his cute, popular roommate liked me and wanted to take me out to eat more ice cream, I eagerly obliged. Two cute, popular boys and ice cream? Okey dokey.

Tom was funny, with dreamy blue eyes, and was waaaaay cooler than I. I felt as though I had to impress him with my eyeliner and bad language. Tom asked me back to his place for some Jacuzzi tub fun. "Probably," I replied coolly, because I was awesome and not desperate.

So I bubbled in the hot tub along with cute popular boy, Tom, and another girl, drinking flavored alcoholic drinks out of bottles. Tom kept playing footsy with me. I giggled. It was obvious he was into me. This would go down in history as our "first date." Tom and I would become Mr. and Mrs. Tom. It was a really good night.

Until Tom got out of the hot tub and I was still playing footsy with — someone.

That was the first big surprise of our relationship. Because, as it turns out, I was playing footsy with cute popular boy, whose name you now know is Phillip.

* * *

After Phillip and I married in 2007, we felt as though it was time to turn the corner and start a phase of life that was more grown up, more goal oriented. (This was a stupid idea in hindsight, but whatever.) We were, after all, entering our late twenties, which meant our thirties were right around the corner, and no dignified thirty-year-old worked in a restaurant or as a teacher's assistant.

So we both got real jobs.

Phillip started working as a production assistant, and I got a job at a wealthy, hoity-toity private elementary school as a teacher. Meanwhile, I also went back to school and pursued a graduate degree in school psychology. You know why? Because it seemed like something I could do. I didn't actually want to be a school psychologist. But it was very impressive when my mom told people I was in grad school. I liked doing something I already knew I could do and it impressed people.

We packed lunches and adopted a dog, Charlie, who was a boxer from the rescue foundation up the street. Charlie immediately decided he trusted us and no one else, and he attempted to bite the hands and feet off anyone who came too close without permission (which we loved). We did our laundry at regular intervals and grocery shopped on Sunday mornings. We made our bed and designated an area within our apartment — not on the couch — for eating meals. Are you getting a sense of how grown up we were?

After a year of this, my husband called me at my fancy job and offered me the deal of a lifetime. He explained that his family had offered to move us to his hometown in Jacksonville, Florida, and help us get jobs, buy a house, and start a family. Our neighborhood would have sidewalks that weren't tagged with gang signs or phrases starting with the "F word."

This sounded way more grown up.

On our last night in LA, a friend invited us to a coffee house in the valley for a "final good-bye." When Phillip and I walked in, we saw twenty or thirty people we knew sitting at tables facing a stage meant for the local talent. I laughed as I greeted everyone, confused but happy to see them.

A crazy song came on, and my husband and I watched the words, "Phillip and Erin. This. Is. Your. ROAST." fly across a projector screen. Out of nowhere, one friend flung me over his shoulder and hoisted me onto the stage. Another taped cardboard flames to the back of my chair, and the coffeehouse roared with excitement to see the two of us completely flabbergasted and laughing our heads off, about to get our butts handed to us by the people we loved the most.

When the roasting was over, we went dancing in a bar so small, so hole-in-the-wall, it didn't even have a front door. It was the perfect ending to a perfect time in life. And it suddenly seemed viscerally wrong to drive away from it all.

In our empty kitchen, we both stared in opposing directions, mutual feelings of sadness floating around our bodies, until we eventually wandered off to our bedroom, which was now just a room because the bed was on the moving truck.

Our movers gave us a ten-day window to get to Florida (remember that the next time you're angry when the cable guy gives you a four-hour window), so we decided to take our sweet time as we drove from one end of the country to the other. We filled the hours by listening to comedy CDs — old Mitch Hedberg and Dane Cook — books on tape, and music. There wasn't as much talking as one would expect, and when we did talk we kept it light because, if we didn't, the weight of what was actually happening might encourage us turn the car around. During this drive to Florida in Phillip's sporty little Audi A3, we were in limbo. Home wasn't behind us, and home wasn't in front of us.

Our first stop was Grand Junction, Colorado. It was January, but there wasn't any snow on the ground, which was fine by me. A rearview mirror "Jesus is my Homeboy" car freshener danced as we took the sharp turns through the mountains to get to the hotel I'd booked online. I chose hotels that allowed pets so Charlie would feel comfortable. I even knew where the closest animal hospital and veterinary clinic were in each city in case he got sick. I had each stop mapped with weather information and local food options, all highlighted and dog eared.

I know. It's a gift.

But the trip was cut short during our visit with one of my closest friends, Amy, in Iowa. The movers called to tell us they'd already arrived in Florida. They were five days ahead of schedule. "How does that even happen?" I shouted from the shower when Phillip told me.

We had to get home as soon as we could. And truth be told, we were five days into a ten-day trip, and we were already fairly sick of each other: "I'm pretty sure you missed the turn." I zoomed in on the map on my phone.

"No, I can go this way."

"Really? Because I'm physically looking at a map that says you cannot go this way."

"I can loop around."

"This map says you cannot do that."

"Well, that map doesn't know everything, Erin!"

"About mapping stuff it does!"

We stayed our last and sixth night in Nashville, and we hated each other that night. Our conversations were full of phrases starting with, "Well ..." split into three syllables that went up an octave at the end, and, "Maybe you should just ..." It was best to keep our mouths shut, which we finally decided to do around ten o'clock when all the divorce lawyers were probably sleeping. By morning, we would only have seven hours left to drive.

We pulled into Jacksonville around five in the evening and drove straight to my sister-in-law's house so we could sleep in a bed and start unpacking fresh the next day.

My sister-in-law Sharon was newly pregnant. A woman with properly coifed hair, enormous brown eyes with lashes curling up under her eyebrows, and the sweetest little southern button nose you've ever seen, Sharon is very practical. She doesn't use a whole lot of emotion, but she will open up her life and home to you at the drop of a hat if you need it.

I knew Sharon only as a family vacation acquaintance. She always called me on my birthdays, but we hadn't yet forged a true friendship.

The night we arrived, it was business as usual. Sharon fed her husband and kids dinner and walked around spraying air freshener to try to extinguish the dinner smell, which was, of course, bothering her pregnant sensibilities. Phillip and I slid right in to the goings-on in her house without feeling like a bother, and that was about the greatest thing I could ask for. I hated feeling like a bother.

She gave us the entire upstairs loft so we could spread out and feel secluded. The trip didn't yet feel over. I wasn't "home," so I didn't allow myself to have the your-entire-life-officially-changes-when-you-unpack-that-first-box feeling.

* * *

Moving into our house, which my in-laws had helped us buy, felt as grown up as I expected. It was a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom craftsman-style home with a porch and a huge modern kitchen. We had found it months before on a visit home and bought it via email and phone calls. It had stairs and a second floor! This house was massive in comparison to our LA apartments, and our mortgage was the same as our rent!

When the movers were finished, we had a small kitchen table, an old, smooshy couch, a king-sized mattress, a few dressers, and a coffee table. It became very clear to me that we'd been living in a thousand-square-foot apartment for many years. Phil stood, forcibly happy, and took a deep audible breath with a big "Haaaa" at the end to convince me and himself that everything was all right.

For the first few weeks, our bedroom was empty, save for the mattress and the TV, which was propped up on a moving box. Phil usually fell asleep around ten. I, on the other hand, morphed into some sort of barn owl after we moved. I stayed up until all hours of the night, unable to go to sleep. Really there was nothing to wake up for.

At eleven thirty every night, Will and Grace came on. The show was so funny, and it became my solace. If I allowed myself to feel sad about being in a new place, it was because I knew that Jack would make me laugh soon. If I wanted to feel joy, I could just chuckle at the way Karen made Grace look stupid. At least I have Will and Grace. At least I have this.

To make matters worse, I didn't realize that the house was situated less than a mile from a railroad and that trains rolled through town about every hour at night. I lay in the dark listening to that train go by. If you've ever missed someone or someplace, then you know that the sound of a train whistle blowing through a darkened city is one of the most somber sounds the world can produce. It feeds sadness like a big old plate of fried chicken. It was a reminder that we had bought this house. We owned it.

I'd had a purpose in Los Angeles. Here, I just owned a house.


Finding My Purpose

I now lived in the same city with a mother-in-law, a father-in-law, two sisters-in-law, their husbands, and four nieces and nephews. They'd lived there nearly all their lives by the time we joined them. I assumed I would immediately fit into my new extended in-law family. I figured, If we're family, then family dinners and birthdays and holidays will feel like family. Like home.

My in-laws were very welcoming, very kind, but the truth was, we simply didn't know each other. We'd never lived near each other, so holidays had been our only time together for the past seven years. My expectations were set to family mode, and my in-laws were busy accepting a virtual stranger at their dinner table.

To be fair, I was difficult.

I had weird eating habits they tried to accommodate. (First I was a vegan. After that, all I ate was meat.) I didn't drink sweet tea or soda. I wasn't a fan of college sports or politics.

My sisters-in-law offered me wine when I walked through the door at Phillip's parents' house because they knew I liked it. Then they'd get to work because they knew where everything was in the kitchen and exactly how to cook what their mom was working on. I felt uncomfortable not offering to help, but I didn't even know what to offer. When I did try to slide into the mix — chop carrots or dice a cucumber — I second guessed everything I did. I didn't know how they liked the salad to look. I didn't know if someone didn't want onions. So, usually, someone politely told me to set out the chips and salsa so I would have something to do. I would do that and sit back down again.

The half hour after dinner was worse. Everyone went right to work, sliding past each other and continuing the conversation as they set their plates in the kitchen, the leftovers on the kitchen table, and their glasses to the left of the sink. My sisters-in-law washed and dried and loaded the dishwasher in a practiced way while my mother-in-law enjoyed conversation with the men at the table. I was always on the verge of asking "How can I help?" while at the same time pushing myself to just do something. I was uber self-conscious. These weren't the creature comforts of home — or the family I'd grown over the years in LA, which would start a conga line through the kitchen to wash plates or simply get too drunk to do the dishes and leave them until morning.

"I know we're all going to get to know each other. I'm just worried it will never feel like family," I told Phillip on the way home one night. My eyes felt a little stingy, and I turned to look at the neat houses and the square yards rolling past us.

"Yeah. Family's tough, man. I have to get to know them all over again too," he replied. "I've been gone for ten years."

I decided I needed to find a job to give myself a sense of purpose.

All my contacts were in Los Angeles, so I was starting from scratch. I remember calling one school and starting my spiel with, "Hey, I'm Erin Salem, and my friend over at Empire High School recommended I call you! I'm new to —"

Before I even finished that first sentence, she interrupted, "I'm not hiring anyone. I'm not looking to hire anyone for a very long time."

I thought, Oh really? Not for a very long time? You must be really good at your job and an incredible boss if you don't plan on needing any new staff members for a very long time. And when you do need new staff members because you are so rude to your current ones that they all quit, I will already have a job, so suck it! But I just said, "Oh. Okay. Thank you."

Phillip was already working for his dad, so to try to find some normalcy in my routine, I did the laundry and watched a lot of the Food Network and made dinners. I searched desperately for my daily rhythm. Cooking became a survival mechanism, a complex activity I started at four o'clock in the afternoon just so I could focus on something I enjoyed that would take up time.

After about three months, when no one was interested in paying me to do anything with my fancy degree, I decided that cooking and managing the house and Phillip's life would be my new purpose. My life equation was not filling itself in, so I had to rush to fill it myself.


Excerpted from "Finding Inner Peas"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Erin Salem.
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements, vii,
Disclaimer, ix,
Introduction, xi,
PART 1, 1,
Chapter 1 Becoming an Adult, 3,
Chapter 2 Finding My Purpose, 9,
Chapter 3 Not So Easy Peasy, 15,
Chapter 4 Peanuts? Yes Peas, 27,
Chapter 5 The Kind of Mom I Can Be, 32,
Chapter 6 On Not Being Okay, 39,
Chapter 7 Interceptions and Injectables, 50,
Chapter 8 Pasta and Orgasms — My Long-Lost Friends, 62,
Chapter 9 The Negative, 68,
Chapter 10 Things I Started to Hate, 73,
Chapter 11 Cancel the Appointment, 81,
PART 2, 95,
Chapter 12 You're Pregnant, 97,
Chapter 13 What-If Monsters, 100,
Chapter 14 Am I Losing It?, 106,
Chapter 15 Meeting my Midwife, 112,
Chapter 16 The Highs and the Lows, 117,
Chapter 17 I Just Want to Feel Normal, 124,
Chapter 18 Getting my Mom Card, 131,
Chapter 19 The Big Reveal, 136,
Chapter 20 Halfway There, 142,
Chapter 21 The Mom Groove, 149,
Chapter 22 Bigger, 158,
Chapter 23 Drinking Sugar (For My Health), 160,
Chapter 24 Bonnie and Clyde, 165,
Chapter 25 How You "Should" Prepare, 170,
Chapter 26 Listening to My (Big) Gut, 176,
Chapter 27 Listening to My (Big) Gut Even Harder, 182,
Chapter 28 Labor Is Easy, 187,
Chapter 29 The Home Stretch, 192,
Chapter 30 The Feeling of Failing, 198,
Chapter 31 The Labor I Needed, 205,
Epilogue — 2018, 215,

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