The Daily News

LFCA Latest Issue: Friday, September 25, 2009.

Latest Post on BlogHer: Parenting after Infertility.

My Status: Fed Josh's almonds to the squirrels. They needed them very badly.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

CD3 of the Planner Protocol

CD3 is always my hardest day of the cycle. I know long before Truman Capote comes knocking on my door for the party that my period is imminent. I mourn at the end of the cycle, therefore CD1--even if it comes with cramps and tampons--feels like a fresh start. CD2 is a throwaway day that I barely think about. But CD3 reminds me that last month didn't work so why should I believe that this month will be any different? CD3 is my doubt day. It's my down day.

The third day is always my downfall. I can be gung-ho about a diet the first day and stick to leafy vegetables and tofu. I can tally up my calories and go to bed thinking about how I did a great job. The second day is always a throwaway day that is neither here nor there. But the third day is the "just one cookie" day that sends me backsliding towards my old habits. And usually, by day 4, the diet is over.

I could provide many more examples of my inherent weakness, but instead, I will tell you how I am approaching CD3 of the Planner Protocol--the one where many fuck-its have been prescribed as well as a few get-some-balls-Melissa injections.


I made 29 bagels to restock the freezer.

I know that it's difficult to see how bagels relate to the planner, but it's all part of the whole package of letting things go into disarray. I had good intentions to restock the freezer, but the task kept getting away from me because I never organized myself well. Therefore, in between transferring hundreds of post-its into the new planner, I shaped and boiled and baked the bagels. And since this recipe is certainly of the fuck-it variety (see recipe below), I've included it in this post in case anyone else wants to restock their freezer with bagels.

Yesterday, I met someone new at the library and not only did I call her in the evening to make plans but I transferred her phone number from the little scrap of paper she gave me into my planner. Which means that I will be able to find it tomorrow. Unlike my neighbour P's phone number which still hasn't surfaced as I clean my desk of the scrappage.

But, probably most important, and a thought that I think is directly tied to my new sense of having made it instead of still faking it: when I took my temperature this morning on CD8 of my actual cycle and it was 98.2 (whereas the day before it was 97.7 and the day before that it was 97.4 and I predict that tomorrow it will be either 97.5 or 97.6 and if anyone is the betting kind, I'm taking numbers right now), I didn't set down the thermometer lightly and stare at it for a long time and think about how since I started trying to time this damn progesterone test I have had three abnormal charts. Instead, I rolled back over and tried to go back to sleep, reminding myself that I've decided it's out of my hands. I'm not going to get pregnant on my own. I'm going to rely on doctors. And if it gets me what I want in the end, then fuck it.

On the Fuck-It front, Stephen Colbert had an interesting guest last night. You can see Daniel Gilbert's interview online for the time being (just click on the one for Daniel Gilbert). He wrote the book Stumbling on Happiness--the main premise being that "people can't predict what will make them happy." The author points out that people are terrible at figuring out what will make them happy and how long that happiness will last. Stephen Colbert points out that there are some givens that make people happy--like cash--to which the author answered that cash is meaningful to people who literally have no cash because it transforms their life. But once one is ensconced in the middle class, getting more money doesn't really bring more extended happiness.

I'd like to beg to differ that if someone came up and said they were going to fund my non-covered IVF cycles that I would be eternally happy and eternally grateful.

The two points I found most interesting was (1) the idea of illusion of memory and (2) his thoughts on children. But let's focus on the first one because I currently have the clip paused and I'm watching it again. Gilbert states that, "it turns out, of course, that there are illusions of memory so people do remember that they're happier than they used to be, but they're often misremembring how happy they once were."

In other words, once you're out of the emotion, you remember that you were sad or happy, but you can't remember the shade of sadness or happiness. Therefore, you may be saying that you were in utter despair when you really weren't. Or you may say that it didn't bother you that much when it actually bothered you quite a bit in the moment. I would think for present-sake, you would optimally remember your past as more unpleasant that your present. Because it would make your present seem so much better.

But, of course, I watched this interview and thought about the whole thing in terms of infertility and having children and remembering how I felt before vs. how I feel now. And also, the fact that journaling or writing a blog can bring you back into that moment or back into those feelings. Unless Gilbert states that you can never recapture the true essence of the moment even if you reread your thoughts on it. I should probably read his whole book rather than basing my assumptions on a three minute interview.

His other interesting statement was about children. He claimed that the top two things that consistently make people happy are marriage and religion. When Stephen Colbert points out that children make people happy (damn straight or why the hell am I putting myself through this?), Gilbert states that "we do love our kids...but it turns out that kids have a very small effect of people's happiness and the effect tends to be negative...People with children tend to be a little less happy than people without them and the more children they have, the less happy they turn out to be."

And, of course, I'm viewing this statement through the lens of infertility. I've got to say that I predicted that children would make my happy therefore it was worth jabbing myself in the stomach to have them. I am happier now so I'm glad my prediction was correct. BUT I do also have a friend who went through IVF and conceived her daughter and found out that she wasn't happier. And I guess this is my question for those who are currently parenting after IF/loss: did the wait and the thinking about the process (vs. easily getting pregnant without assistance) and having to make the hard decisions give you the edge to predict your own happiness and were you correct in that assessment (are you happier now)? For those who are putting yourself through hell and back to become parents: what did you think of this statement? Is it just rubbish spoken by an author who became a parent easily (I'm making a lot of assumptions about his sperm quality with this statement) or does he have a case that we can't predict what will make us happy? And therefore, should we just say "fuck it" and take happiness as it comes instead of trying to create it. Can we create happiness?

I must get back to my bagels. Which I predicted would make me feel more on-top-of-things and therefore happier. And by fuck, it did.

Maybe I just have the gift of the third-eye. Or whatever one needs to be able to predict the future.

As promised even though it is making this post waaaaaaay too long:

The Stirrup Queen's Chewy Bagels of Love Recipe

This recipe is my "fuck it" response to the fussiness of traditional bagel recipes. It is very easy and you will not be able to tell that the bagels didn't come from a New York bakery.

Dump all of these ingredients into your Kitchen Aid mixing bowl. Use the dough hook attachment. You may need to add more water depending on the weather in order to make a satiny, smooth dough, but go easy on the water and add only a splash at a time if the dough isn’t becoming smooth.

4 cups bread flour (King Arthur’s)
4 tsp vital wheat gluten
2 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp barley malt syrup
1 ½ tsp instant yeast
1 ¼ cup of water at 80 degrees (if you’re using water from a Brita in your refrigerator, you need to warm the water in the microwave for 50 seconds)

When the dough comes together, divide into 8 pieces and roll into small balls. Leave them on a mat to rest with a damp towel over them. After 10 minutes, shape the bagels by pressing your thumb through the center of the ball and then smoothing out the circle to create the classic “bagel” shape.

Place these bagels on a cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover with plastic wrap. Leave in the refrigerator for 12—18 hours. This step is important. It is part of the rising process and cannot be skipped. I usually make the bagels at 8 a.m. and then bake them at 8 p.m. Or I make the dough in the evening and finish the bagels in the morning.

After 12 hours or so, remove the bagels from the refrigerator and set a timer for 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Once the bagels have warmed (the 20 minutes out of the refrigerator), drop them a few at a time into the water and boil for around 30 seconds total, flipping them over halfway through. Remove and allow them to drain on a rack. At this point, you can add toppings such as dried chopped onions, dried chopped garlic, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, salt, etc. (there is a different recipe for making raisin bagels and other sweet bagels. Write me directly if you want the additional

Once you have boiled all of your bagels, transfer them to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. They will bake in the oven for 14 minutes, but begin checking on them by 12. You want them nicely browned.

Cool and eat.


j said...

You are amazing. If it wasn't so freaking HOT i'd make those in a second.

Baby Blues said...

Oooooh I love bagels! I have them every morning. I'd love to try your recipe.
I was going to post a cake for The Great Cake Day but by the time I remembered, it was already 10 PM. I was even trying to explain to Mr. Kite, "I must get a cake." He just laughed. Then I remembered I didn't have my digicam. So I'll just join the next one.
I love your ideas Mel. Keep them coming.

Rachel said...

My mom used to make bagels, but her recipe takes forever so I have never done it. I am going to try yours. BTW, this is probably a dumb question, but where do you find vital wheat gluten and barley malt syrup? I usually do my shopping at Wal-mart so I doubt they have it. Do I need to go to Wild Oats or will a regular grocery store have it?

Samantha said...

Nice bagel recipe. I made bagels once, but never tried it again.

Interesting thoughts on happiness. Will children make us happier? I'm not a mom, so I can't answer that question, but I'll be interested to read others' responses.

Furrow said...

I have just one question: do you sleep? You seem to always be doing so much. I would think maintaining this blog would take up a large chunk of your time. You have me wanting to make bagels, now.

I skimmed through Gilbert's book, but it was denser and more science-y than I expected, or maybe I was just feeling lazy that day. I was hoping for a Freakonomics or Blink type of breakdown of the subject. Interesting ideas, though. I was reading another blog post yesterday about how the narratives we construct for ourselves about the past influence our perceptions of our happiness or unhappiness. I believe it. I've lately been realizing that my narrative of IF is this: even during the nice moments during the TTC months (e.g., vacations, holidays, etc), there was this tinge of sadness between me and my husband. Everything was beautifully bittersweet because of our struggle. And in my memories of vacations or holidays, I'm always starting my period. I know this couldn't have been true at the time, but I think it does make what we're experiencing now (pregnancy) seem like a fairy tale ending. We'll see if that holds up when we're actually parents.

Starfish said...

I am happier now that I am a parent after infertility (through adoption) as I predicted. However, I may be a tad bit unhappier in other aspects of my life, like say my job, since I am now the breadwinner and the welfare of my new child is pretty much dependent on ME. So maybe it's all just a big shifting - different shades of happy depending on the different circumstances we encounter as we go through life.

Meg said...

Mel - thanks for this recipe - I've been looking for a *chewy* recipe for a loooong time. As they don't get eaten very much in Aust. it's really hard to track any down commercially, and the recipes I've tried have been too much like regular bread shaped in a circle.


Kate said...

I don't know if kids will make me "happier". I would like to think that no matter what, I will be happy. After all of this, though, I think that I will certainly appreciate all of the experiences of motherhood more than I would have.

mandolyn said...

I'm absolutely happier. More than I could have predicted, actually. And I already know that I'll try the process again, whatever hell may be in store.

The author's thoughts dropped my jaw to the floor. I think I'll pick it up and chew on some bagels.

mary said...

Let me preface this by saying that I don't have children YET, but here are my thought on children and happiness. If you are unhappy and think that having children will make you happy, you will not be happy. If you are a generally happy person and think that having children will add to your happiness you will be happier. I thik that happiness has to do more with how you thikn of the world. I am sad that I don't have children and that I have lost so many, but I still am happy with so many things in my life. Kind of like an ice cream sundae... I'm missing the cherry that will complete it, but it's pretty darn good by itself too. (Or at least that's what I have to tell myself so I won't become a bitter old woman.)

KarenO said...

In my opinion it comes down to: Everything has it's price. Having children will not make me happier, but not having them makes me sad. There are so many advantages of being single/living childfree BUT there are also many advantages to having children. Happiness should come from inside of you, not from or because of what you have or don't have. Right now though I'd exchange the advantages of being single in the blink of an eye for the advantages of being a parent!

chicklet said...

First, your general use of the word fuck lately cracks me up - it's good not to be the only one out here cursing up a storm! But the children quote, I don't know what to do with that. Since we started struggling I've been wondering if finally getting a kid won't be all I think it'll be, if I'll be disappointed? I don't think they'll solve all my problems and buy me eternal happiness, but I do worry a little when I hang soooooo much on having them.

I do however think that no matter how miserable they might make me some days, the sound of them laughing, and knowing I was the one who made them laugh - that might be better than anything EVER.

Rachel Inbar said...

First of all, I loved Daniel Gilbert's article about whether fatherhood makes you happy (,9171,1202940,00.html) and I just ordered the book Stumbling on Happiness last week.

I am a mom both to older children (13-1/2, 11, 11) and to small children (2, 1). Does having them make me happier? I can't say this is the easiest time of my life. My free time is very limited, my time with my husband is usually when we're both tired and I really, really hate parent-teacher meetings. On the other hand, the alternative would be to continue yearning to have children, something that would definitely have made me less happy than I am today.

There is a lot of happiness during these years, but I think that the true happiness is when the children are a little older and we develop relationships with them that are based on who they really are, as people (of course remaining parents when they need it). I think my parents are happier now that their children have families of their own, but I don't think that anything makes them happier than meeting up with us, spending time with the grandchildren, etc. Basically, I think it's a little more complicated than yes/no...

But one absolute yes. I did become much happier when I finally became a mom after 4-1/2 years.

Rachel Inbar said...

Ugh, the link didn't come through right. Here it is Does Fatherhood Make You Happy

And about the bagels... I'm with Rachel. I would have no idea where to get vital wheat gluten and malt barley syrup (or whatever it was). I didn't even know they existed... (Then again, I do know where the local bagel place is ;-))

midlife mommy said...

My daughter has made me very happy, but I always knew that she would. She was definitely worth all the shots, blood draws, and ultrasounds. Sometimes, I wonder if I would have appreciated her as much if I hadn't gone through all of that grief.

Stacie said...

It is a harder happiness, because it is tied up in major life changes (no longer working, struggling with loss of adult identity and so on) but, yes, I am without a doubt happier with children. No joy in my life has ever equalled them. Of course, I am not sure anything else has ever driven to the brink quite as much as the early sleeplessness / PPD did. And nothing else has ever been, or will ever be, as terrifying as the possibility of losing them. So, yes, it is a hard happiness. It isn't "Oh, look, lollipops. I like lollipops, they make me happy." It is more of a deep, aching joy. They enrich my life. Maybe he meant the lollipop kind of easy happiness.

How can you bake in this heat? Or is DC not as hot as New England? I love homemade bagels.

Tina said...

Yum, yum, yum. Does FedEx ship perishables???

To answer your question about being happier... Overall, I think I am happier in my life as a mom. Not that I wasn't happy before then, but I never thought I could feel so much love, passion, compassion because of one little set of eyes that look up at me. At the end of the day, no matter how bad it was, that smile that shows only for me when I come home from work melts my heart every time. And, I am forever grateful.

Sure, things are a little harder, like Rachel said, with free-time and husband time. And, like Starfish said, there are areas of my life that are not as happy as they were - like my job (I would MUCH rather be at home!). But, these "set backs" are nothing compared to the joy I have with my son.

My joy was, of course, squashed for a while with my back-to-back miscarriages - but, I am finally back to being happy again. During the time of my miscarriages, it wasn't that I wasn't happy being a mom - Chris is the only thing that was my beacon of light to come out of the mourning and upset - it was I was pissed off, frustrated and upset with myself and my body. And, there were times that Chris' smile was a strong reminder of what was taken from me too soon. But, once I was able to finally mourn and be angry and sad the RIGHT way and get it out, things are finally getting better.

Every day is an adventure raising a child - and, some days are harder (like, when he refuses to use the potty) while some days are easier. But, when you watch him sleeping at night, it never stops amazing me that my body allowed me to at least have THIS child - and that makes me happy.

Inconceivable said...

I always tended to hope i could create happiness. It gets lonely and depressing on the IF road. I always Try to find a happy/medium. His theory interests me

niobe said...

My views on children and happiness: Although you'll probably be happy with and about your children, they put pressure on every other part of your life: your relationship, your job, your free time, your finances. So, it really depends on how you look at things. In particular, with a few shining exceptions in just about every couple I've known, the husband-wife relationship took a huge turn for the worse post-kids.

About happiness: You may not be able to predict what will make you happy, but I think you can predict with a fair degree of certainity what will make you unhappy. Like, uh, just for example: your husband leaving you for a younger woman, your baby dying shortly after birth. You get the picture.

On predicting what will make you happy: Well, you know the old saying: When G-d wants to punish us, He answers our prayers.

Beagle said...

You make your own bagels?? I am impressed! I may just have to give that a try. After I finish South Beach! LOL (Of course that would mean I'd have to start South Beach first, well . . . never mind! Now I'm hungry.

I think the mistake people make is needing the child(ren) to bring the happiness, if you are inherently happy with your life then kids will enhance that happiness. When people are hoping for kids to bring happiness (ie they had a baby to "save" their marriage) that rarely, if not never, works. Kids are a lot of work and require quite a bit of selflessness (from what I hear, what do I know, really) so expecting them to "make" us happy will probably disapoint. Hoping to share your happiness with a child now that may actually be realistic. *may*

Do you suppose that's what he means?

Bean said...

ha ha ha. Loved your description of third day downfalls and dieting. Sounds alot like my many unsuccessful attempts.

Oh, and I'm very impressed that you make your own bagels!

Erin said...

Umm, bagels. I'll have to try your recipe, because I feel stupid buying them all the time.

I finally posted a picture of the cake that DD and I had on Monday--it's on my first post right now. It was wonderful and delicious! We explained it to her family as being for her 40th birthday because they didn't know that we met online through our blogs (except for Mr. DD, who knew the truth). That wouldn't have gone over well.

I am happier as a parent than I was during infertility, and I have no doubt that I'm happier as a parent after infertility than I would have been leading a child-free life after infertility. I actually think I'm happier as a parent after infertility than I would have been if I weren't IF. I think I appreciate it a little more than I might have otherwise, and I was a little more determined to do certain things (like feed P 100% breastmilk for the first 6 months, even though returning to work at 3 months meant I was pumping 5-6 times a day to get what he needed for daycare). I think J and I could have been happy childfree, but I don't know that we'd have been this happy. It gives us something additional around which to build such happy memories. Even the tough times as parents help us strengthen our marriage and solidarity to each other as a couple.

Frank N. Beans said...

Yum, I am not much of a baker, but I love to purchase and consume Asiago bagels at Panera and Brueggers.

Very interesting points regarding happiness. I don't really care for the ranking of "happiness factors," I would assume that contentment is more holistic, but it is fun to think about. FYI, my religion is currently pretty far down the list considering our pursuit of fertility treatments is immoral.

I read a interesting Business Week article about the world’s happiest countries (not sure how to provide the link). Denmark, Switzerland, Finland, Norway, Austria, and Iceland were all in the top 10. I don't think it is a coincidence that they almost all have comprehensive health care (which I assume covers IUI/IVF, etc.).

Michell said...

I am totally impressed that you made bagels.

Lea Bee said...

you know, i've thought about that alot. whether having children will make me "happier." i know i want to do it, but i'm sure once i get there i'll wonder why i wanted it so much. maybe.

Ann said...

Sorry about the tough CD 3. CD 1 was always my worst - or the day before, when I had spotting and so I knew I was out.

I'm absolutely happier now that Zoe has arrived. No question at all. I think it's interesting that people might remember that they were happy or sad, but not the extent of their emotions. I would buy that for most of the time, but there are specific moments when I remember clearly the burst of joy or the gut-wrenching sorrow.

Those bagels look awesome. I want to try to make them. Maybe this weekend.

Bea said...

First, I hope you get into the pre-ovulation happymode soon. That's my favourite part of the cycle, without question.

Second. I've heard that about children and happiness before. I think a year ago I would have bitten your head off for suggesting children wouldn't make me happier (actually, I recall my mum suggesting it and I think I did bite her head off). Nowadays, I still believe anything that puts an end to IVF will make me happier, and at this point I'm still hoping that "thing" is a child, I'm just not quite as convinced it *has* to be.

Children (I've heard) are hard work. There are ups and downs. I believe a parent's moments of happiness are genuine, but I think there's an extent to which parents have to work hard to convince themselves the bad stuff pays off because it's 2am and the "little miracle" won't shut the fuck up. Say anything enough times, you'll start to believe it.

On balance? Like anything, I think different people get different amounts of pleasure out of the job, to make up for their trouble. But I no longer hold any truck with the viewpoint that parenthood is unequivocally worthwhile, to the extent than everyone should be trying to achieve it in any way they can, otherwise their lives will be empty and their happiness incomplete.

In summary: I'm prepared to believe what Mr Gilbert says. But I'm still going to do another IVF cycle...


Elizabeth said...

If the children/(un)happiness thing is a broad generalization, then the applicability to individual instances is negligable, if not irrelevant.

That said, I have seen some teen and adult children cause their parents TREMENDOUS unhappiness, and others cause tremendous joy, so the possibility for either certainly exists.

Ellen K. said...

Speaking not as a mother, but as a woman who is considering resolving without children (childfree after infertility): The lens of infertility can be rather distorting. There is a very high rate of depression among infertility patients, and even for those who are not clinically depressed, infertility can be such an isolating and difficult experience that I think there is a risk of its skewing our perceptions of our lives before, during, and later (after it has been resolved). This sadness has a tendency to wash out other sources of happiness in pre-parenting life. With such an obvious contrast, and with the cultural emphasis on joy in parenting, the majority of people will obviously say that they are happier now, couldn't imagine being childless, etc.