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, November 30, 2006

The Wishing Tree

Obviously, wishes have been on my mind as of late.

At the same time, the kids have recently become obsessed with the Shel Silverstein book, The Giving Tree. Reading it reminds me of a tree back at camp called the Wishing Tree. The camp legend went that when lightning struck the tree, it split it down the middle and imbued it with the power to grant each child one wish every summer. You ran down the path, jumped through the tree, and kissed the air while you were traveling over the split trunk. All the while thinking about your wish.

When I was eight-years-old, I fell in love with a boy at camp. He was older--12--and he played trumpet. We were in the camp play together. I was a tree. A non-speaking role. He was the ecologist. He saved my life when the Queen's men wanted to chop down the trees. We went on a camping trip together. We were an hour late leaving for the trip because the boy had to have his trumpet lesson. My sister told me that this made him a loser. She was pissed that the bus had to wait for him and that we had to wait on the hot steps until he finished his lesson. I used my wish on him anyway.

At the end of the summer, I wished that when I grew up, the boy would kiss me. After I made my wish, my friends and I were hanging out on the steps and someone took a photograph. We were talking about what we wished for that summer. When I told them that I had wished that the boy would kiss me, my friends all told me that I had wasted my wish. He was 12 and I was 8. A 12-year-old would never pay attention to an 8-year old. I still have that photograph of myself with my friends, looking a little sad as I processed that they were probably right. I should have used my wish on something else.

I continued to go to this camp for four more years because you could go to this camp until you were 12. I returned when I was 15 to be a CIT (counselor in training). I was stuck helping out in woodworking. No one wanted to work in woodworking because the counselor was a 50-something year old man who loved carpentry a little too much. And hated kids a little too much. In a strange twist of fate, this man would arrive to teach science at the same school where I taught a few years ago. The woodworking man pops up in my life at the strangest times--all unrelated.

My second summer, the headmistress of the camp decided I paid my dues in woodworking and moved me to the music and drama unit--which was considered the best unit. There was a new counselor there named Eric. He was very cute and he went to Oberlin, which was where I wanted to go to college. We hung out the first two days of camp getting the room ready for the campers and attending meetings. On the third day, he asked me if I wanted to go for a walk. We went down to the stream and jumped stones across until we were sitting in the center of the stream with the water passing around us.

When we were walking down to the stream, he referred to a patch of land as the alligator swamp. It was a nickname only campers around my age knew. When we sat down on the rock, I asked him how he knew it. He told me that he had been a camper at the camp. We played a long game of " you remember..." and he asked me if I remembered this camp play that Dan, the counselor, had written. I told him I had been in the play and I asked him which part he played. He told me he was the ecologist. I told him I had been one of the trees that he saved. He leaned over at that moment and kissed me.

Up until that moment, I didn't know that he was the same little boy who had played the trumpet and made us late for the camping trip.

My wish came true albeit eight years later. We dated that summer and through the fall. After we broke up, we remained friends for years and worked together for many more summers. We still keep in touch from time to time. He lives in California and he composes music and teaches music lessons. But that's not really the point of the story.

It doesn't matter that many of my other wishes didn't come true. The way I reason away some of those wishes is that fate KNEW that those wishes sucked. The tree knew that if I got what I wanted, I would actually be miserable. I just didn't know it at the time. So the tree didn't grant those wishes. He just let out a tree-like sigh and thought, "better luck with your wish next year, sweetie." And I walked out of the woods none-the-wiser, thinking my wish may come true just like it did with Eric.

But you get the freakin' power of this tree: eight years and the tree brought me together with this fantastic person that I still believe I was meant to know at that time in order to bring me to my current life. And it stands to reason that if it granted me one of my many wishes, it may grant me another.

Which means it's time for a little trespassing.

I mean, if you lived only ten miles or so from this tree, wouldn't you sneak onto the campus one weekend and go running through the split tree and kiss the air? Wouldn't you go and wish for the ultimate wish--the one you know the tree would grant you because it's a damn good wish? Would you risk having to explain to a security guard why you're running around on a private campus and tell them the story about the wishing tree? Knowing, full well, that only a cruel security guard would hear this tale about delayed love (in so many forms. Truly. So. Many. Forms. Of. Delayed. Love) and not tell you to run, jump into the air, blow a kiss. And wish.

Marching With the Barren Bitches Book Brigade--Tour One

I'm being optimistic and calling this tour one...

Book: The Ultimate Insider's Guide to Adoption
Author: Elizabeth Swire Falker
Post Date: January 10th
End Date: January 15th

The Barren Bitches Book Brigade List
(click on any of the links below on January 10th to take you to a stop on this book tour. Jump from post to post to read a plethora of opinions and thoughts on Falker's new book. I will keep adding to this list until 11 p.m. on January 9th. The list is currently open)

Stirrup Queens and Sperm Palace Jesters (Mel)
Serenity Now! (Serenity)
Are We There Yet? (TeamWinks)
Waiting for a Miracle (GLouise)
Baggage That Goes With Mine (Baggage)
Sticky Feet (Jamie)
Round is Funny (M)
My Reality (My Reality)
Still Passing Open Windows (Carlynn)

Not on the list and want to join? Drop me an email at You can add yourself up until 11 p.m. on January 9th.

How the book tour works:

(1) let me know you want to participate by emailing me at I will add your blog to this list so other people know to head over there on January 10th.

(2) read Falker's Ultimate Insider's Guide to Adoption.

(3) write a review for the book--your reactions, your feelings, what you learned, etc.

(4) post it on your blog on January 10th (that gives you 6 weeks to read and write over the holidays). People can find your review via a link from this list.

(5) read everyone else's post on their blog (oh--and this is why you can't post before the 10th. I don't want people influenced by what other people write. It should be your own reaction).

(6) Falker will read the reviews and answer comments and questions in an additional post that I'll put up on my blog on January 15th. I'll go all Barbara Walters and interview her, but without the crying. Since, you know, making people cry isn't really my thing.

What? You're reading this after January 15th and you missed the book tour? Weigh in with ideas for the next big book tour. If this one goes well, we'll start another one soon.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Barren Bitches Book Brigade

So, I stole this idea from the great Ann Douglas. For her new sleep book, she invited people to read the book and then everyone posted a review on the same day. Get it--an online book tour! She could then post comments under the review to respond to points or questions and she posted about the book tour on her own blog. Serenity and I totally want to do this for Elizabeth Swire Falker's new adoption book so I wrote her and proposed the idea and she said yes.

As you all know, I think her first book--the Infertility Survival Handbook--is just about the best all-inclusive, getting-you-started-with-infertility-information book out there. Great tone, great information, great writing. Falker has been through practically every test and procedure so her writing comes from her own experience. She also adopted her son, which leads us to her new book: The Ultimate Insider's Guide to Adoption.

It's subtitle is "everything you need to know about domestic and international adoption." It begins with helping you decide which type of adoption you want to pursue and then walks you through every step of the process. And the best part? Not only is Falker an adoptive parent herself, but she's an adoption lawyer. So she knows the whole system.

So who would benefit from reading this book right now and participating? Anyone who has considered adoption but wants more information, anyone who has adopted and can talk about their experience, and anyone who wants to be more informed about adoption to support their fellow stirrup queens and sperm palace jesters. Think about how nice it would be if you were doing treatments and an outsider took the time to read a book about infertility so they could read your blog with that background knowledge. And this is one last way you could get involved for National Adoption Awareness Month (November). Read a book, write a review, and comprehend adoption blogs on an entirely new level.

How the online book tour works: (1) let me know you want to participate by posting a comment on this post or emailing me at I will create a list of everyone who is participating so people will know to go over to your blog on the review day and read your review. (2) read Falker's Ultimate Insider's Guide to Adoption. (3) write a review for the book--your reactions, your feelings, what you learned, etc. (4) post it on your blog on January 10th (that gives you 6 weeks to read and write over the holidays). People can find your review via a link from the big book tour list post on my blog. (5) read everyone else's post on their blog (oh--and this is why you can't post before the 10th. I don't want people influenced by what other people write. It should be your own reaction). (6) Falker will read the reviews and answer comments and questions in an additional post that I'll put up on January 15th. I'll go all Barbara Walters and interview her, but without the crying. Since, you know, making people cry isn't really my thing.

So it's sort of like a big, bloggity book club from the comfort of your own living room. With the author dropping in to answer questions and respond. And if this works, we can even work backwards and choose books from the book list that people love and try to set up something more regular that we do every other month or so.

Let me know if you're interested in joining and I'll create a book tour list of blogs where the reviews will appear.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Childless or Child-Free--A Twist of Revealing Words (Children Mentioned)

I received an email from RESOLVE in September giving links to a study that is examining "general social attitudes among individuals who consider themselves childless and individuals who consider themselves childfree after infertility" for a doctoral dissertation. At first glance, I took the two words this way: childless meant that you were still searching for a child but were currently unsuccessful in that pursuit and child-free meant that you had consciously decided to exit infertility by not pursuing a child.

But this article* in the Washington Post today opened a new idea: child-free can also mean that it was a choice prior to any factor (infertility, family building when single, et al) and childless can mean that it is a loss of parenthood due to an extenuating factor.

Your thoughts on what these two words mean to you (as well as the article in general...)

Recently, I was speaking with an older woman who had never had children once she was diagnosed with infertility. She admitted that one of the side effects of living child-free after infertility was that she missed out on the strong female friendships that come hand-in-hand with motherhood.

And it was an interesting thought because I don't necessarily feel close friendships with women due to motherhood (and I also thought, fan-fucking-tastic, yet another thing that I'm doing wrong in regards to things seemingly connected to my uterus). Beyond the fact that I had strong female friendships long before I even started tryign to conceive, my best friend is not yet a mother (nor is she currently trying). And I don't feel very connected to the other random women on the playground who all seem to chat easily with one another while they push their kids on the swings. Perhaps it's just because I have twins that my concentration is solely focused on the two children who are trying to run in opposite directions and I don't have time to strike up a conversation about Huggies vs. Pampers. But I don't think that's quite the case either.

I do have many friends who are mothers just due to the simple fact that many women in their thirties are mothers. I often feel closest with those who have been through infertility and pursued a path similar to mine that resulted in a child whether it was through straightforward treatments, third-party reproduction, or adoption. I also feel close with mothers of twins, but, again, it is usually women who have twins due to fertility drugs more than women who have naturally-occurring multiples. BUT I also have many friends who don't have children at all. Either because they're still pursuing treatments or because they haven't started trying.

At the end of the day, I think there is definitely a line drawn in the sand--and I say sand because I think it is something that is shifting and impermanent; something that sometimes seems to be washed away and then reappears again--between those with children and those who do not. And perhaps it becomes even stronger later in life when those who are going to have children have had children and it is clear who will not be directly parenting a child in this life time. But truly, is motherhood the key to strong female friendships? Or reaping the support of the community by consciously living child-free? What happens to the women who don't align themselves with any community and choose instead to simply live life without looking back on the roads not taken? Is this woman correct--are the bonds of female friendship loosened to slack until they fall away completely?

Her story gave me a lot to think about. About how we go about forming friendships: whether we look for people similar to ourselves, whether it's just random circumstance, whether it's other factors: socio-economic similarities, education similarities, marital similarities. And what are my strongest friendships--and why.

* Warning about the article--the author is child-free after the stillbirth of her daughter. I wanted those who have lost a child to know this before being confronted with the information inside the article.

Monday, November 27, 2006

For the Love of Google

The same google search keeps showing up on my sitemeter: is IVF selfish? I wish there was a way to respond to those people directly--just send them a quick note to set the record straight.

An Open Note to People Who Search About the Selfishness of IVF:

Hey, my name is Melissa, and I just wanted to let you know that IVF isn't selfish. Why? Um...because at the end of the day, you're doing it entirely for another person. Yes, you get to be a parent, but being a parent can go in many different directions. You can become someone's mother and they can grow up and move away and never speak to you again. Motherhood does not guarantee that a child is going to remain with you forever. So...yes, IVF isn't selfish because the person who benefits the most is the child. Who is being born. Instead of being just another unfertilized egg or a school of sperm.

What? That's not good enough? You think that it's selfish to ask other people to help you while you put your body through hell so you can have this child? Do you think people who go through cancer are selfish? Or people who lose a limb in an accident? They go through a period of time when they need help. That's the beauty of the human race--we can reach out to one another and ease each other's journey by working together. And infertility is a disease that cannot be cured--it can only be treated. And while it may not be "life threatening" in the same way that cancer is life threatening, it is certainly life-style threatening. And it causes depression. And beyond all that, at a most basic level: it's okay to need help. There, I said it. And the people who help you will in turn rely on you one day--they just don't know it yet. But that's what happens: things happen that you can't predict. So take the help. And give it back later. It will all come full circle.

What? Are you kidding? You're still not convinced? Well...IVF isn't selfish because you're not wasting money. You're spending it to (1) treat a disease and (2) raise a child. It's just that the cost of your child is sky-high before the child is even born. So just consider it an additional child-related expense. It's the only way to rationalize it or you'll go crazy thinking about the cost.

IVF isn't selfish if your partner doesn't want to try it and you do. It's not selfish to want to be a mother (or, if you're male, to be a father). And IVF isn't selfish if you're male and you want to do it, but your wife is drawing the line at needles. It isn't selfish to want to be a father. And it isn't selfish of her to want to try other routes to parenthood. You both need to be on the same page to get through IVF. Because it is hard. Emotionally and physically. But at the end of the day, it all goes back to your original question: selfishness. And none of these things are selfish--either doing IVF or choosing not to do IVF.

Listen, in a perfect world, you two would go into the bedroom and have some sex and be cuddling a newborn nine months later. But that's not the way it's going to go for you and it's not the way it's going for me. And you deal. Using some form of ART isn't selfish--it's just the path you have to take in order to get what everyone else gets easily.

At the end of the day, no one else is going to be able to convince you. I have a feeling that you know this. But you're googling it because someone has scattered some seeds of self doubt in your mind. And that's really crappy of them. And I'm sorry that you're going through that. But IVF isn't selfish. It's actually one of (because there are a bunch of equally unselfish and highly wonderful paths you could take) the ultimate gifts a mother can give: life. And going through hell to give that life. That takes a bold woman. And a strong woman. And a kick-ass woman. Not a selfish woman. There are no selfish women in the infertility world.

So ignore anything that people are telling you and get yourself in the stirrups. You can head over to my side bar and read a bunch of write ups about IVF and how to give yourself a sub-cue or an IM injection. And stop searching the Web for proof to back-up an idiot's words (choose the correct apology: (1) oh...the idiot was your husband? I'm sorry. All due respect. (2) oh...the idiot was your wife? I'm sorry. All due respect. (3) you're the idiot who is questioning whether it is selfish? I'm sorry. Maybe go back to the top and read again?). You need to save your strength for the cycle.

Good luck!

Check back and let us know how it goes!


Friday, November 24, 2006

Lost Stars of the Blogosphere

In lieu of the Friday Blog Roundup, I thought I'd look backwards for one week instead of current...

It's fun to look back through my favourites folders in Internet Explorer and see what I thought was worth bookmarking for constant reference. I have a folder called "babies" and it reads as a guide to the journey of the infertile. The first few links are cute baby sites like Babycenter and 101 Early Signs of Pregnancy. The list continues into the slightly confused Basal Body Temperature (what factors can affect your BBT) and Trying to Conceive Success Stories. And then spirals down into a now-defunct list of infertility-friendly employers (new job would equal new insurance which would hopefully equal IVF coverage) and RESOLVE's website.

Tucked into the list are a few parenting blogs--those early journals that they posted on Babycenter. My favourite was Bringing Up Ben which became Bringing Up Ben and Birdy when her second child was born (and has since moved to blogspot). I liked her because she was the first blog I ever read and she was from Amherst near where I used to live.

I read them because I was always looking for the secret. What did they know that I didn't know? How did they get pregnant so relatively easily? In the beginning, I really thought that there must be one piece to the puzzle that I didn't know, that someone forgot to tell me. And I'd discover it if I asked the right questions. Reading blogs seemed like the this covert way to get the information. Access to someone's diary. And weren't they certain to record how they went about creating life?

And there was one I found during one of my frantic google searches (which were usually about early pregnancy symptoms). It was called Kate's Oven and it was a young woman--I believe in Australia--trying to conceive. When I started reading her, she was pregnant and she was so excited that I became excited for her. I checked back every few days, watching her pregnancy progress and reading her entries about food aversions.

And then she lost the baby.

And I sat crying in my empty classroom during my grading period.

I was so sad for Kate and the little bun.

She wrote for a while after the miscarriage, but she finally closed down her blog and stopped writing about trying to conceive. I always wondered what happened to her. You read the intimate thoughts and details about another person's life and they become so entangled in your own that you start talking about them with your husband as if you really know this person. And then you see the broken link to their old blog in your favourites folder and the thoughts pop up again like suddenly realizing what song comes next on a mix tape you haven't heard in twelve years.

I want to know what happened to Kate. Did she go on to conceive again? Did she end up going through more losses? Did she choose a different path to parenthood or is she living child-free? Does she think about her pregnancy loss as much as I think about her pregnancy loss since I don't know her through any other means except her loss?

Did anyone ever read Kate's Oven? And who do you miss from the Blogosphere (or the bulletin boards)?

And who did you show up too late to read and you're now kicking yourself for not starting sooner? On my list is Chez Miscarriage and Baby Hungry Man.

This post is dedicated to Cancer Baby who I was thinking about yesterday because she had a wonderful post last Thanksgiving about her husband and how he went without his beloved green bean casserole last year. And when she died this summer, all I could think about was how that was the last Thanksgiving they had spent together.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Being Thankful

What is Thanksgiving without a requisite post about being thankful?

We're told in grade school that the Pilgrims who arrived on the Mayflower had a crap winter. They arrived in December and by the end of the first year, almost half the original group had died. The ones who survived did so with the help of the Native Americans. The fall harvest was plentiful, and they sat down together--Pilgrims and Native Americans--for a giant feast to celebrate and offer thanks for getting through their first year on American soil.

At our Thanksgiving dinner, we go around the table and everyone says something for which they are thankful. And you have to be pretty much the coldest person in the world not to be able to state something for which you're fortunate. I don't need a holiday mandated by the American government in order to look at my life and know that even on my worst days, I'm still doing a hell of a lot better than a large swath of fellow Americans. I have many reasons to be thankful and it goes as basic as that I love everyone that I am eating dinner with this Thursday. And having that many people in your life that you love makes one drop down on their knees in gratitude.

But being thankful wasn't really what I wanted to talk about.

Family holidays can suck when you're infertile. You're being told to focus on what you have, when what you don't have keeps popping back into your head like a massive white elephant trundling through your mental rooms no matter how hard you try to leave it behind for the day. And you have to endure the questions. And you have to watch your relatives fawn over a sibling's child. And at the same time, you're beating yourself up because you are supposed to be feeling GRATEFUL damnit--and the best you can muster is that you feel grateful that your insurance covers three IUIs when there are poor Stirrup Queens out there who have to pay out-of-pocket for every damn insemination. And even when you're happy and sitting around with people you love and savouring that slice of pie, there's a piece of your heart that is missing. And it all just feels off. Because you are desperately missing someone who should be there.

I think I love the myth of Thanksgiving because it mirrors so much the infertile experience. The Pilgrims arrive in winter, dumbfounded to discover that life was not going to go as they thought. And they endured a lot. And they had to reach out to others for help when they thought they wouldn't need to ask for help. And in the fall, they are just grateful because they made it to the other side. They're not grateful because they conquered the world. Their accomplishment is simple--survival. But it's so much more than that because of what they endured to reach that meal.

And I don't see that meal as the time that you're holding your child necessarily. I see that time as the moment when you make it through the cold winter and the hot summer and the loss and the heartache and the confusion and the doubt. And you're on the other side. You're at peace. And that peace can come at any point in the process. You may be living child-free or you're starting the adoption process or you're hand is on the swelling stomach of your surrogate or you're bringing your child home from the hospital. And none of it was how you thought it would go. But you don't hate the journey. You embrace it and thank the people who helped you get to the other side.

And in that perfect peace, you just feel grateful. You accomplished something that is, on one hand, so simple and on the other, this amazing feat. And in a journey marked by so much doubt and darkness, it is the moment when you can finally breathe. When you're standing back in the light.

Enjoy the meal tomorrow even if you're still toiling through the winter and summer. It's okay to still be in those seasons because it's all part of the journey that you need to go through in order to get to the fall. You don't need to hurry through them to make a point or because anyone else is telling you that you should be grateful. You'll get there when you're ready.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Wishing Stone Challenge

Since winter is the season for magical thinking and we all need a little hope. And since I have complete faith in my palm pilot's Magic 8 Ball and its ability to decide whether a stone is capable of granting a wish (every cycle, when I asked if I was pregnant, it replied: "my reply is no." And sure enough, I was never pregnant. So I have full faith in the Magic 8 Ball and I asked it if this was a real magic wish stone capable of granting one wish a day and it replied, "it is decidedly so." That's sound enough for me), I wanted to invite everyone to prove the power of magical thinking with the wishing stone challenge.

Every day, touch the picture of the stone on the screen and make a wish that can be verified that day. It has to be a realistic wish and it has to be one that is able to be verified (therefore, you can't, unfortunately, wish for world peace. You also can't wish that your office mate will read your mind and bring you a vanilla latte from her Starbucks run unless this is something that has a small likelihood of happening. You can wish for things like success for your embryos pre-transfer or low FSH at your day 3 blood draw).

Write down your wish every day after you make it and keep track of which ones come true. Do this for 10 days and get a percentage of how many times the wish came true. I think if it even has a 25% collective success rate, it is worth keeping on the side bar for everyone's future cycles (and sometimes you just need to wish that you'll be waived from jury duty or that you'll get a job. And these are all reasonable requests for a wishing stone).

So weigh in and let me know if you're up for the challenge with a reply in the comments section. It begins tomorrow on November 21st and it runs until the night of November 30th. On December 1st, send in your percentage (for instance, if three of your ten wishes were granted, you had a 30% success rate). And by December 2nd, we should know whether or not the wishing stone has any worth at all (though, come on, it already made KE's E2 levels go down and it kept her cycle from being cancelled!). If you are reading this and it is after November 21st and you want to join the challenge, do it anyway and send in your percentage late. I'll keep recalculating.

And add your cool wish success stories to the original post with the wishing stone so people can read them since that's the entry linked to my side bar.

Have a Wish on Me

Josh bought me a wishing stone this weekend at a store called Mud and Metal. I verified its powers as a wishing stone by checking with my palm pilot's Magic 8 ball prior to the purchase. I am happy to report that according to the Magic 8 ball, this is a true and working wish stone.

So I'm granting everyone a wish. Just touch the screen and make the wish. And let me know if it comes true.

According to the questions I asked the Magic 8 ball, the stone should be able to grant one wish a day. Therefore, I'm also putting a link in the side bar for easy access if people should need wishes in the future.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The "B" in Plan B Is For Better

Because while Plan A's always sound nice in theory and you get very attached to them, it's usually what happens in the Plan B that you appreciate and enjoy more.

Once upon a time, Plan A for our five year anniversary was returning to St. Lucia where we went on our honeymoon. Plan A included a beach front room, fruity drinks, and some snorkeling. Plan A was very expensive and not very feasible. Plan A was never brought up again once the reality of life kicked in.

The problem was that we didn't come up with a Plan B. We kicked around a few ideas--hiking in West Virginia. Going to a semi-local beach off-season. But in a completely non-Melissa-like fashion, there was no plan in place beyond the fact that we had babysitting from Saturday morning until late Sunday afternoon. Seriously--I think not making a decision on the Lovenox is rubbing off on the rest of my life. It's almost as if I can't make plans anymore. I used to plan the next cycle before the current cycle had even happened. And now I'm sitting on information and looking around in confusion. Plan? How do you make a plan again?

The epiphany happened at 10 p.m. on Friday night. We got married in Baltimore, about one hour away. Neither of us knew Baltimore well so we decided to pick a random neighbourhood and walk around for the afternoon. Go back to the scene of the wedding. We went online and googled bookstores in Baltimore. We got married in a library, and it seemed fitting to center our trip on a bookstore. Hence how we ended up with Atomic Books and the Hampden neighbourhood.

It was a really cute street. Lots of small boutiques and fun restaurants. But the best, by far and away, was a place that I knew was created solely for Manuela. It was called Ma Petite Shoe and it was...wait for it...a SHOE and CHOCOLATE store. The front of the store was designer shoes (get it--shoe/chou) and the back was unusual chocolates. I fell in love with about twenty different pairs of shoes and bought none since I was wearing my new furry boots and felt like two pairs of shoes in one week was a bit much. We did buy some tea-flavoured chocolates (I got chai and Josh got ginger) and ate them while we walked, pretending to be Rachael Ray from $40 a day.

Josh as Rachael Ray: "Here's a tip. You can get a small piece of chocolate for only $2 at Ma Petite Shoe. It was just what I needed in the middle of my shopping trip. Delish! And my little pick me up only set me back two bucks. How great is that?"

On the second day of our at-home vacation, we went to do all the things we used to love to do that we don't do anymore. We ate lunch at Nam Viet (I know, Spark! It is seriously the best Vietnamese in the area) and read at Politics and Prose. We went shopping for kitchen stuff.

It wasn't a flashy vacation and it wasn't a spectacularly over-the-top send-off to five years of marriage. But it was cozy and warm. And it was familiar and happy. And it was sweet and sentimental. And it was all the things I love about my husband. And I love that we can just be ourselves and we don't need to do something big since we're happy just doing it heartfelt. And that we hold the same things as important. And that he can hold my hand across the table while we read and I know that even though we're deep into different books, we're still on the same page.

It was a perfect five year anniversary celebration. And it just reminded me that it doesn't need to be a huge change to jolt you out of your rut. It can be as small as getting in the car and exploring a neighbourhood in a town an hour away. And it can be equally as special as a beach vacation.

And on a beach vacation, you can't wear you new furry boots.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Friday Blog Roundup

Thank you for all the anniversary well wishes this week. We will be partying all weekend--drinking mojitos, eating Vietnamese ( didn't know? We're going to Nam Viet this weekend...), and blowing the rest of D.C. away with our stylish moves on the dance floor. Or we'll be curled up in bed for the entire weekend catching up on two years worth of missed sleep. Either/or. Perhaps we'll just have mojitos in bed.

I thought I'd focus on adoption entries this week in honour of National Adoption Awareness Month. So, come, join me on the side bar as we peruse some kick-ass blogs.

There were a flurry of families coming together this week:

Barely Sane at Infertility Licks! is currently with the birthmother and her maybe baby. She got the call this week and high-tailed it from her home in Canada to Ohio. In a few days, she may be going home with her daughter. She held her and fed her on Wednesday. It's an amazing world. When you read an entry like this, you realize the connections that adoption creates where moments earlier, there was just an open space. I wish you perfect peace and that all pieces settle into place.

Also, Art-Sweet at Artificially Sweetened received her referral call on Tuesday for her "Guatebaby." The woman from the agency immediately emailed her photographs of her son (and scroll down the blog to take in all of his deliciousness). I had my first goosebumps when I read about how she called her partner to tell her and she said, "I want you to come home and see pictures of your son." I had my second round of goosebumps when she closed off the story with "She came home, and pronounced him beautiful, over and over again. I fell in love with her even more, watching her fall in love with him. We called GAL and accepted the referral." They still have more paperwork and waiting ahead, but they'll hopefully be bringing home their son next spring!

Starfish at Hell and High Water has an amazing post about coming out of infertility and no longer defining herself as infertile. She describes the change like this: "Once we finally stopped treatment, I stopped being defined by my infertility. I went back to being a wife, a daughter, a sister, a boss, a friend. Not at first of course, it took time to remember how to be happy and hopeful again. I could liken it to a hibernation of sorts...I came out of the dark cave disoriented and squinting from the bright sun, and needed to slowly get used to the real world again. It's no small thing. People who haven't been through it don't get it, and maybe I didn't realize myself how bad I was until now, when I can see how changed I am. I've wasted so much time being miserable that it is such a relief to again find joy in the smallest things." This peace spills over into her adoption process, keeping her at peace as she sees the big picture while she waits for her call. For anyone who has ever questioned whether they want to continue on the road of treatments or leave it for another path, visit this blog and speak to the wise and kind Starfish (that last part sounded like it's from a fable--the wise and kind Starfish...).

Evil Mommy (who is really quite kind and not evil in the least--so she can stop thinking that even on her bad days) has a post this week about "Adoption Day" and whether people celebrate it with their child. The comments are equally as interesting. One person says: "I was adopted, and I would have been mortified at having my “adoption day” publicized. Just another way of being different. No, thanks." But another counters that with her own take on her own adoption: "We celebrate it every year. I was adopted and I would have loved to celebrate it when I was a kid. We just never thought of it."

Go pick another blog or two off the blogroll and read about different adoption journeys this weekend. While I sip mojitos.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Adopt a Child or a Road--You Pick

There are many things out there to adopt. A quick google search of "adopt a" reveals programs to adopt a pet, minefield, platoon, manatee, classroom, greyhound, chick, and...somewhat more mysterious in how you go about the adoption process...a demon. And this is just on the first page.

It isn't until the last entry on page 2 that you actually get to adopting a child. You first need to read about adopting a native elder, highway, and even a "useless blob." Sure makes the children of this world feel special.

The brilliant and lovely Jane at Plain Jane Mom has a fantastic post about this issue on her blog. How does one explain to their child the intense love created through adoption when one can also adopt "a filthy highway or a zoo animal?"

Adoption has replaced the idea of sponsorship in our language. Usually, when one "adopts" a road or minefield, they are agreeing to either throw money at the situation or spend a few hours a week cleaning up a mess. And while I love pets as much as the next person, there is something profoundly strange about using the same word to describe the process of bringing home a dog from a shelter vs. a human from an orphanage. Perhaps it is this twist in linguistics that makes people believe that you can always "just adopt."

Jane's post about the misuse of the word "adoption" goes hand-in-hand with the move towards positive adoption language and the idea that the words we use reveal our thoughts on the subject at hand. Phrases such as real mother, own child, or abandon say more about the thoughts of the speaker than they do about the situation. Are people who are cavalierly tossing around the word adoption simply not aware of the larger implications this has for adoptive parents and adopted children? Are people who ask "is she your own child?" not aware of how this makes the child and the parent feel?

So this is what it comes down to in the end: can anyone truly be verbally sensitive to every group or person out there? Do we only become sensitive on the subjects that affect us emotionally? In the comments section, other readers pointed out their own linguistic pet peeves including the term "starving" (thanks, Melanie). How does speaking in hyperbole about your hunger affect those suffering from true starvation?

It's a question I ask because I try to be sensitive but often wonder if by default, I (like everyone else) fall flat. And you know I always like a good reason to beat myself up. I'm realistic that no one is perfect, but are even people who attempt to be sensitive and thoughtful from point one really no more successful than people who give no thought to their words? Jane's post opened my eyes and made me see those adopt-a-highway signs in an entirely new light--one which I hadn't considered when I read her post even though adoption is in the forefront of my mind. Is it humanly possible to reduce the amount of time you offend? Can one person's affront be another person's kindness--and how do you speak neutrally without going insane?

It's a fair question because part of my book is about what not to say. It's more difficult to discuss what will be helpful for everyone. But there has been some general consensus as to what is hurtful and unhelpful. And if it's truly not possible to speak sensitively in the broadest sense of the word, then why should I ever be upset with someone when they say something that hurts me? I'm basing this book on the idea that people want to learn. They want to get along with other people and they don't want to offend. So, obviously, I would like the answer to this question to be, "yes, Melissa, we can become sensitive if people give us the right guidance."

Does it just come down this: there is obviously a difference between those who use words without knowing and those who use words after being elucidated in terms of the offensiveness factor. If this is true, if I used the word adopt in terms of a highway yesterday, is it understandable? But is it only now offensive if I keep using this word every time I write to Jane knowing how she feels about the subject? And then where do we draw the line--are there things that are offensive before the educating begins? Or do we forgive all words that come before a person has been told otherwise?

Being a human is difficult. Being a communicating human is even harder.

Hardest still is wrapping your mind around the line between giving people a break and feeling offended.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Colbert's Duderus

Colbert's Word segment last night was a ridiculous take on the first uterine transplant.

I'm thankful that he decided to not go the infertility route but instead mocked right-to-lifers and suggested that all male politicians who voted against stem cell research and wanted to save donated embryos could have a uterus transplanted into their body (with the obvious joke of the Republican party being that there's no exit strategy...).
Is it just me or is there something extremely creepy--as in Children of the Corn creepy--about the term "snowflake babies." I had forgotten about this term until he said it last night. Embryo donation--beautiful. Creating children as a political statement--not so much so.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Irony--Alanis Morrisette Style

About eight minutes after posting my write up about my luteal phase defect for Operation Heads Up, I get my period (otherwise known as my TC). On the 21st day of my cycle. Which marks another lovely 7 day luteal phase (since I ovulated around day 14). I mean...come on. 7 days? That's all I get, corpus luteum? You suck.

The only silver lining (not for having such a messed up cycle but for getting my period today rather than later in the week) is that it's my five-year anniversary this weekend. Which you all know...the wood anniversary. So I'm looking forward to a little wood. Like...a mahagony desk or a...wooden crate. Or other things associated with wood. Achemmmmm.

(clears throat. Looks down at the ground. Hopes her mother isn't reading this entry).

Time, Time, Time Without the Hazy Shade of Winter

My friend, Mary-Katherine, has one of those stories that add to the completely annoying adoption myth. You know the one--if you "just" adopt, you'll get pregnant in the drop of a hat. I love it when people reduce adoption to a means toward fertility.

She did get pregnant while she was in the process of adopting. But that is because she was still having sex without birth control. Because who in their right mind wastes money on birth control when you have already determined that you can't get pregnant after multiple attempts at IVF? And the reality is that every once in a while, even women who produce eggs of poor-quality, let a perfect egg rip from their ovaries. And if you're literally having sex around ovulation every single month, your body will take advantage of this single perfect egg and you'll catch the brass ring. It's as simple as statistics. It's as simple as a blind pig finding an acorn, or however that saying goes. It can sometimes happen if you give yourself enough tries. You may be waiting 10 years, but it can happen.

The pregnancy was bittersweet because in gaining this new child, she was losing the child she was meant to adopt (the adoption was postponed and they will adopt in the future). It reminded me of a student I had whose mother gave birth to twins, losing one the day before what should have been a double bris. The girl wrote an essay about burying one baby and then coming back to the house for shiva and the bris of the other twin. It was the happiest and saddest day for that family.

This child came after a long road of infertility, one that Mary-Kath rode as if she were stuck on a Disney ride rather than taking a stroll with her own two legs. You know that Disney ride that I'm talking about--the one that you know rationally you could get off of if you had a panic attack (think Haunted Mansion rather than Space Mountain), but feel at the same time as if you're committed to seeing the ride to its end. Even though you know you can get off, you're not exactly sure how one goes about stopping the ride and walking off without feeling a plethora of emotions. So you just keep sitting in that black buggy, watching the ghosts shake the doors.

Mary-Kath calls it infertility with blinders--that mindset you can enter where you are just making decisions because it's easier to keep going than to take the reins and slow down the ride. Like me, she never took a break. Cycle after cycle, she would get to the end and start over with the only thought being, "maybe this time it will work." Every time the RE dangled a new possibility in front of her, she grabbed it. Because why not try everything--even if it doesn't point towards a solution to your problem? If you throw enough things at infertility, something is bound to work.

She was accepted into the shared-risk program for IVF because she seemed like a sure thing. She was only in her twenties and she looked fine, hormone-wise. But attempt after attempt ended in failure without explanation. She tried PGD (even though they hadn't had documented proof that PGD would help them with their problem)--and they called a PGD specialist who came out from the west coast twice a year to work with their "hard to impregnate" cases. Even though she was in the shared risk program, she spent a fortune.

It wasn't until they were looking at the literature and considering donor egg that she looked at her husband and said, "what are we doing?" While she wanted the experience of pregnancy, she wasn't tied to the idea that the child be biological. And since she had already determined that treatments were an uphill battle rather than a sure thing (it wasn't a problem, per se, with her eggs--it was an unidentified problem), it made more sense financially to go with adoption that had a real child at its end rather than donor egg, which may or may not work.

And of course, as the myth goes, she was deep in the adoption process and looking forward to her future child. And she discovered she was pregnant.

It's not that she regrets the fact that she tried treatments--she just wasn't happy with the way she did them. She made her decisions with blinders on--never seeing the bigger picture (would she be happier on a different path to parenthood? Would she rather try another straightforward IVF cycle rather than paying for PGD?). She contrasted that with her friend who paused between every cycle. Her friend would sit with the results and contemplate them. And she would go to her priest (she was Catholic) and discuss her feelings and discuss the decisions she had to make. Between every failed cycle, there was a pause. She used the time to reflect and gather her thoughts and move forward. She didn't come to parenthood any easier than Mary-Kath. But she came to it less stressed-out, frazzled, emotionally spent.

Treatments are hard. It's emotionally hard and it's physically hard. And it's financially as hard as hell. And when I say "emotionally hard" I mean that it's hard on so many different levels: the loss of your vision of conception, the failed cycles, the waiting, the talking yourself into injections. And it makes sense to take those pauses and recharge and discuss and make decisions with your head rather than your heart.

I just don't know how to do it.

I definitely felt the tick of time--even if I was in my twenties when I began. If I wasn't getting pregnant in my twenties, why should I believe that my fertility would get better in my thirties? I rationalized that my chances would be even lower the more I aged. Plus there was the fact that we wanted more than one child. So I started doing the math. If I had my first at 30, then we'd need to start treatments immediately so I could have my second around 32. And then we'd have to begin immediately again so I could have my third by 35. And I wasn't prepared to breathe or slow down until all three babies had popped out of my womb.

I never sat out a cycle unless my RE made me sit out a cycle or I was anovulatory for a month. And when we were sitting on the sidelines, I wasn't discussing decisions or regrouping. I was taking time for myself or recharging. I was half-standing, half-sitting, posed to race into the game at the first signal.

I'm not very good with sitting still in general.

It's such an interesting idea--the benefit of the pause. I'm not sure if this is a Catholic thing or just Mary-Kath's friend's thing. Is there anyone else out there who self-enforces a pause? And how do you use the time? How do you make yourself recharge and regroup? Or--if you don't pause like Mary-Kath and myself, what do you think of this idea and do you think you could ever put it into effect?

When Mary-Kath was telling me this story, the only thing I could think of was the beginning of that Simon and Garfunkel song, "Hazy Shade of Winter": Time, time, time / see what's become of me / while I looked around / for my possibilities. And later: Hang on to your hopes, my friend / That's an easy thing to say / but if your hopes should pass away / Simply pretend / That you can build them again.

It's a song cautioning about waiting. About not seizing the day, or the cycle. But what about when seizing the cycle leads you to make decisions wildly rather than sensibly? Especially when those decisions concern your health and your wallet? We have such a now, now, now mentality. It's drilled into us at an early age. Don't stand on the sidelines; get into the game. But is this the best way to approach treatments? I really don't know.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Prematurity Awareness Month (Children Mentioned)

On the topic of awareness months, November is also Prematurity Awareness Month and tomorrow, November 14th, is Prematurity Awareness Day. Prematurity is on-topic for an infertility blog because there is a higher rate of premature babies born to infertile parents due to a number of reasons--multiple births from fertility treatments, clotting factors that lead to IUGR or preeclampsia, or weakened cervixes (I truly, truly, truly hate the term "incompetent cervix"). The same problems that can keep you from becoming pregnant can also keep you from carrying to term.

Over half a million babies will be born prematurely in America this year and the same organization--the March of Dimes--that funded the cure for Polio has now taken on preventing prematurity since preterm birth is now the number one killer of newborns. They have set up a page on their website to help you participate in taking action for Prematurity Awareness Month.
They have letters you can send to editors of local papers and an email that can be forwarded to friends and family to promote awareness. They have set up coin centers around America and you can find a coin center in your town and donate your change. All around America, people will be dressed in pink and blue (including my twins--I've already placed the outfits on the top of their dresser) tomorrow in order to show visible support for the March of Dimes.

Why this cause is so close to my heart: my twins were born prematurely at almost 34 weeks (33 weeks and 6 days, but I feel like rounding up). At 32 weeks, my OB became concerned because the twins were suddenly measuring smaller on the sonogram. He decided to repeat the sonogram a few weeks later to check whether or not the sonographer was off in her measurements or there was cause for concern.

The day before the sonogram, Josh was in a car accident (which is why we both no longer use our cell phones in the car). The car was totalled, but Josh thankfully walked away with mostly cuts and brusises and what they thought was a detached retina. I was on partial bed rest, so after a quick trip to the emergency room to check on him, I was sent home and my parents spent the day with him at the hospital. Can you imagine the day my brother had trying to babysit me? Many curse words and crying were his thanks for keeping me company.

The next morning, I went to the sonographer with my mother while Josh attended more doctor appointments with his parents. The sonographer was very quiet and finally said, "has your doctor ever spoken to you about IUGR?" He had never used that term before, though I had seen it on a write up between the sonographer and the OB from the prior appointment. He sent me off to the OB where I was promptly told not to get undressed or even give my urine sample. I was to go straight to the hospital because the babies needed to come out. Today.

Josh and his parents met us at the hospital and they ran one last sonogram to determine whether the babies had stopped growing. This sonographer estimated them each to be a healthy 5 pounds. The high-risk OB on duty at the hospital bit her lip for a while, trying to decide what to do about these two conflicting sonograms and the information from my OB. She finally decided to do an internal exam to check on the status of things and exclaimed, "Melissa! Didn't you know that you're in active labour?"

Well, no. I didn't. Because apparently my body does nothing by the book. Morning sickness and vomiting continued until the day I delivered. I never had breast changes. And, apparently, my contractions were never regular. Though I had been having contractions--sometimes 8 or 10 an hour--for two days, I didn't think it was labour because they weren't evenly spaced. I could go an hour or two with only one contraction and then have several hours where they came every few minutes.

And my doctor told me to call him when they were regular.

And I think my mind was in other places the day before, right?

Every labour is an emotional labour. But I couldn't stop crying because I wasn't ready to not have them with me anymore. I'm going to be honest--I'm a selfish person. And for all those months, the babies were entirely mine. I felt them and I had them with me wherever I went. And once they were out of my body, they were not only going to be shared with many people, but they were going to start walking down a road that contained things like independence. And self-determination.

But as much as I wanted to keep them right beneath my heart forever, they had to come out. I delivered my twins nine minutes apart. My daughter came out first and they held her up for a moment before they let Josh cut the cord. She was raced out of the room and I called out her name for the first time ever for all the doctors and nurses to hear.

My son was born nine minutes later and I didn't even get a chance to peek at him beyond a quick sighting of his screaming, wriggling body being given to one of the NICU nurses. They took him away without letting Josh cut the cord.

And then we were alone.

I still get emotional when I see those early pictures. They were tiny. My son was 2 pounds 15 ounces. Unlike most babies, he only dropped a few ounces during his NICU stay. There was no weight to lose! My daughter was 4 pounds 2 ounces, but she dropped down 3 pounds and a few ounces over the course of the first week. At first they were fed by IV, but they graduated to an ng tube and finally learned how to suck on a bottle. Feeds in the beginning took around 45 minutes to give them one ounce.

Their brains were immature, so they sometimes "forgot" to breathe. Their apnea episodes led to bradycardia where their hearts would slow down. They both came home on heart monitors that were a blessing and a curse. On one hand, we had a machine that would alert us if they ever stopped breathing or their heart stopped beating. On the other hand, we had sweaty, drool-encrusted children who set off false alarms on the monitor every time the leads became damp. The monitors were also the weight of a newborn child so when I had to pick up both babies and sling the monitors over my shoulders, it was like carrying four children at once. My arms got such a work out. I was riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiipped.

The twins are now two-years-old and doing much better. I am eternally grateful to the NICU and the excellent care they received during their stay. But I'm also grateful to the March of Dimes who fund the research that create the advances that save the children who are born too soon. So when you go to your grocery store this week and you drop your change in that March of Dimes box, know that you're helping people like my children. Who are their sassaholic and delicious selves due to the good work of the March of Dimes and those NICU neonatologists and nurses.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

National Adoption Awareness Month

We're in the middle of November and I feel remiss that I have yet to mention that it's National Adoption Awareness Month. It's interesting--it feels like all awareness concerning infertility, paths to parenthood, and prematurity are crammed into the fall. I'm trying to figure out if there is a reason behind this: did they place all these awareness days, weeks, and months together so organizations could cross-promote each other's programs? Is fall an undesirable or a desirable time to have an awareness day?

Regardless, we are currently in the middle of National Adoption Awareness Month and even if it is not the path to parenthood that you have chosen, you can still jump in there and celebrate. Not everyone who adopts has experienced infertility, but it is one of the paths out of infertility.

So what can you do to promote awareness about adoption during National Adoption Awareness Month?

Educate yourself

  • choose a few blogs off the blogroll and begin reading first-hand accounts of domestic or international adoption.
  • Start collecting materials or attend a lecture in order to decide whether adoption is the right path for your family.
  • Write one of the peer counselors of the Peer Infertility Counselor list and ask a few questions.
  • Read NACAC's Education Guide along with their larger publication to raise awareness during National Adoption Awareness Month.

Educate others

  • take the words "just adopt" out of someone's mouth and replace it with factual information about domestic or international adoption.
  • Suggest a book for your book club dealing with the theme of adoption in order to bring up a larger discussion in a more relaxed setting.
  • If you have children, introduce the concept of adoption by choosing picture books that broach the topic.

Weigh in with other ideas of how people can get involved with National Adoption Awareness Month.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Catch That Train (Children Mentioned)

We just had the most rockin' time EVER at the Dan Zanes concert. For those of you who don't know Dan Zanes, he is a children's musician who was formerly one of the Del Fuegos. He sings both standard classics like "Erie Canal" and "Over the Rainbow" as well as original songs like "Thrift Shop" and "Smile." And I have been known to listen to Dan even when there are no children around. It's just good stuff. And I love his voice.

And now I love Dan because he ended the concert by walking out through the audience and into the back lobby. So as you were leaving the show, he was standing in the front lobby with his entire band, continuing the last song. And it just made me love him even more. Oh--and because he warned everyone when it was the last song and he told them that they should get up and dance because he didn't want them to go home with regrets that they hadn't done something that they wanted to do. He's like, "too many times, you get home and you're kicking yourself because you just wish you had gotten up and danced. So I'm saving you that regret by telling you that you should just get up and do it. And you'll go home feeling at peace."

And that just seemed like sound advice. To jump into things you want to do without regard to how it looks or what other people think. We, of course, had danced through every song anyway (and I had deep regrets about wearing such a heavy shirt to the concert). But if I hadn't, I would have hauled myself out of my seat. Because he's right--there are too many times that I didn't dance because I was more worried about whether or not I was a "good enough" dancer to move in public rather than just focusing on having a good time.

Today, I just had a good time.

P.S. You can go on his website and listen to clips of songs. May I suggest Hop Up Ladies, Smile, Thrift Shop, Brown Girl In the Ring, and Mingulay Boat Song. Just click on the link that says "song sample" on each page.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Friday Blog Roundup

Guess what came out on newsstands? The latest issue of Playboy, complete with nude photos of Cindy Margolis, "posing for a purpose." The purpose being to promote infertility awareness. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the magazine are earmarked to go to RESOLVE, so get out there and purchase your porn today.

We mused last night whether sending our two-year-old son up to the counter with the magazine and having him exclaim: "I want this!" at Barnes and Noble was funny or just poor parenting. Don't worry, mum--Josh deterred me from that one...

The blogs...

I loved Josefina's post this week at My English Blog about the incredulousness she felt when the Clearblue Easy Monitor told her that her peak fertility days are day 13 and 14 of her cycle. It was a case of if-I'm-so-freakin'-regular-then-why-am-I-still-not-pregnant? It's not that you want something to be wrong, but wrongness can at least be an explanation. And having sex on the wrong day of your cycle is something that you can at least do something about. If anyone knows anything about fertility monitors, head over to Josefina's blog and help answer her questions. She also ended with an interesting question: how does one count how long they've been "trying?" For instance, if you have to sit out a month or two due to a cyst, do you count that time? What if you miss ovulation due to a business trip? It was an interesting thought. I personally count the time from the first month we consciously began trying. I also cycle so frequently that I get more than 12 tries per year. So in 18 months, I may cycle 24 times. How does one count that? Your thoughts on the idea of counting time?

Mary Scarlet at Mary Scarlet came up with a brilliant idea. Rather than switch paths to parenthood or try something more drastic, she is simply switching REs. Getting a new pair of eyes on the case with new ideas about protocol. It was a such a simple idea and such a brilliant idea--and perhaps someone else is reading this and feels like they're at the end of the line. Well, this is one more step that you may not have considered. Head over to Mary Scarlet and read more...

On the same topic of perspective, Piccinigirl over at Kir's Corner has a fantastic post this week about where she's "at." She has a beautiful way of describing how infertility affects her life: "Infertility is where I am right now. It's my path and many days, it obstructs the way I view others and the world. It is always at the edge of my consciousness, waking with me in the morning and tucking me in at night. It is the 'thing' I see all the time and it is the 'thing' that I view the world through. I say this because there is much more to me than infertility (well at least I hope there is) but for the past three years it is the spectrum that I see everything through including just everyday life, never mind things like holidays and other family gatherings." She illustrates the point by telling a story of looking through a catalog that her mother thought she would like. In it, she finds onesies that say things like "No More Silent Nights" as well as other cute baby paraphernalia. She begins crying and her mother says, "where were those things when I looked through that catalog? I didn't see any of those things, but they were [obviously] there." The point being that sometimes we miss seeing things because they're just not in our frame of reference. And other times, things loom large because of the emotions that come into play. She finishes the post with a gorgeous sentiment that she found within that same catalog: "Impossible is not a's a dare."

Lastly, through a slip-of-the-fingers, the Anonymous Infertile at Random Ramblings has coined a new term: infertiority. It's that feeling of inferiority one (irrationally) feels when they consider other women's ripe, plump ovaries. And gorgeously formed uterus. And baby-making hormone levels. My new campaign will be to get this one in the OED by 2008.

Laughed So Hard I Almost Peed

I'm posting the Friday Blog Roundup later this afternoon, but this post absolutely couldn't wait. Jessica over at Getting Pregnant the High-Tech Way has pretty much the best IVF conversation in history written out on her blog. You need to go read it and laugh hysterically. And then come back here and tell me the best thing you've ever heard someone say about IVF*.

*And by "best," I mean "funny." I'm not talking about those conversations where the person tells you that you're going to hell or you're going to end up with 17 babies. I'm talking about little-baby-faces-pressed-up-against-the-side-of-the-test-tube stories. And it can be any form of ART--not just IVF.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Waters of March (Children Mentioned)

When the twins turned one, Josh made a video montage from their first year and set it to the song "Waters of March" by Antonio Carlos Jobim. It's a favourite song that we played many times during our first round of trying to conceive and summed up my feelings on infertility after we finally became pregnant and carried (mostly) to term. A few weeks before the children were born, I made a wall-hanging to give Josh for Father's Day and the picture now hangs in their room.

Because the song was originally written in Portuguese, there have been many liberties taken with the translation. The version we like is sung by Susannah McCorkle (you can hear a clip by clicking on her name and then choosing the first song on the list). I have bolded the phrases that spoke to me the first time I heard the song and the day Josh played it for me towards the end of the first trimester when he promised that we were going to carry the twins to term.

A stick, a stone, it's the end of the road;
It's feeling alone, it's the weight of your load;
It's a sliver of glass, it's life, it's the sun;
It's night, it's death, it's a knife, it's a gun;
A flower that blooms, a fox in the brush;
A knot in the wood, the song of a thrush;
The mystery of life, the steps in the hall;
The sound of the wind, and the waterfall.
It's the moon floating free, it's the curve of the slope;
It's an end, it's a bee, it's a reason for hope;
And the river bank sings of the waters of March;
It's the promise of spring, the joy in your heart.
A spear, a spike, a stake, a nail;
It's a drip, it's a drop, it's the end of the tale;
The dew on the leaf in the morning light,
The shot of a gun in the dead of the night;
A mile, a must, a thrust, a bump,
It's the will to survive, it's a jolt, it's a jump;
Blueprint of a house, a body in bed;
Car stuck in the mud, it's the mud, it's the mud;
A fish, a flash, a wish, a wing;
It's a hawk, it's a dove, it's the promise of spring;
And the river bank sings of the waters of March;
It's the end of despair, the joy in your heart.
A stick, a stone, it's the end of the road;
The stump of a tree, it's a frog, it's a toad;
A sigh, a breath, a walk, a run;
A life, a death, a rain, a sun;
And the river bank sings of the waters of March;
It's the promise of life, it's the joy in your heart.

The twins like to watch the video montage each night before they go to bed. I have to admit that it's still hard to watch the first part of the video where they are so tiny, with IVs and ng tubes and heart monitors (though I love when we get to a photo of the monitors on the floor with the words "monitors returned" at the top of the screen and the kids call out, "bye monitors returned!"). They think it's funny that they once had tubes down their nose. Watching it with them and seeing their faces light up at photographs of themselves makes seeing the early photos much easier.

My son loves the song "Waters of March" and tries to sing along with Susannah McCorkle as she warbles in the background. Last night, I googled the song to try to find the lyrics and discovered that I had misunderstood the words this entire time. I had read it to be a song about hope and birth. What I hadn't known was that the composer was Brazilian. And McCorkle had taken great liberties with the translation. March in Brazil is the end of fall and marks the beginning of winter. The song isn't about birth but instead about death. It's the movement of time as it progresses towards death.
All these details swirling around the central metaphor of "the waters of March" give the impression of the the passing of daily life and its continual, inevitable progression towards death, just as the rains of March mark the end of summer and the beginning of the colder season (Wikipedia).

A closer translation of the Portuguese would have the refrain read: "And the river bank talks/ of the waters of March/ It's the end of the strain/ The joy in your heart."

It's the joy that comes from the final release on life--that Judeo-Christian concept that there is a better life after this one on earth.

It's hard for me to see the song this way, since you can obviously tell from the picture that I made that I saw the words with bright colours and happy roundness. It was like a pregnant belly after infertility--it was finally going to be spring. And there were bumps and deaths along the way (including family members who we wish had gotten to see our kids born). And sometimes the weight of our load made us feel alone. But it was also the will to survive, a bee, and a reason for hope. I've always told the twins that they were the end of our despair and the joy in our hearts.

Not really letting Wikipedia or the inverse of seasons in the southern hemisphere take that away from me.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

New Categories Abound

Carolyn, who--by the way--rocks the IF world, came up with a brilliant idea to create a new category giving information on the various common diagnoses for infertility. She tweaked the format a bit. The new four categories:

1. What ________ means and its impact on fertility (eg. what luteal phase defect means and its impact on fertility)

2. Diagnostic process

3. Treatment options

4. Personal experience

Carolyn wrote the first one for infertility caused by scar tissue from PID. I'm writing one for a luteal phase defect. Anyone else up for writing about your diagnosis? Fibroids? Uterine anomalies? Male factor? Anovulatory? Clotting factor? Diminished ovarian reserves? PCOS? Endo? Thyroid? The list is endless.

The other new category was created by the divine Ms. C. She posted the list of questions she asked the RE during the first appointment. What other lists of questions need to be made? First visit to the OB when you become pregnant? First visit to the OB after a loss? Questions to ask prior to a delivery when you're high-risk? Tell me your ideas or any lists you can post that could help other stirrup queens and sperm palace jesters know the right questions to ask.

The Story Continues

The thing I hated about teaching (beyond the grading and parent-teacher conferences. Oh, and the communication with tutors and the paperwork. And actually everything EXCEPT the lesson plans, teaching, and the kids) was that at the end of the year, my students graduated and left. Poof. We spent around eight hours a day together, nurturing their young minds. And then...nothing.

I taught eighth grade for six years (as well as a year of high school and two years of college). Some left after eighth grade and went to a different school for high school. Some kids stayed at the school and moved into the upper school. I knew what happened to those kids because they either swung by my room and informed me or I knew from speaking to their new teachers in the lounge. What I mean is that I knew what happened to them for the next four years because once they graduated and moved onto college, I only heard about them if they had a younger sibling at the school.

And that's the worst part about teaching. You commit so much of your energy to a person. You spend more waking hours with them than their parents. You listen to them moan about their crushes. Sometimes you help them through a huge life crisis such as the loss of a parent or childhood cancer. You go to their soccer games and basketball games and school plays. You teach them everything you know. And then they leave and you never know the rest of the story. Did they get into college? Did they like it once they were there? Did they go on to get married or have kids or a satisfying career?

Because that's the advantage to being the parent. You get to know the whole story. Or you get a chance to know that whole story (some parents botch this by not actually connecting with their child and knowing their life). Being a teacher is like checking out a really good book from the library and having to return it when you're halfway through the tenth chapter. You're completely invested in the characters but you'll never know how the story ends.

Being an infertile teacher is hard because you recognize this fact every year. You may spend more time with the child than their parents, but you're not the parent. You have to give the kids back at the end of the day. And while they may remember me and tell stories about my classroom to their friends once they're in college, I will sail out of the orbit of their life. And they'll sail out of mine. There are many more students that I've forgotten than ones that I remember.

Which is why it rocked so hard when I heard a small, tentative voice ask, "Melissa?" while I was drinking my white chocolate mocha at Starbucks. It was my student, J, who is now a senior in high school. He told me that he's going to culinary school next year in New York and he came out of the closet this year. He was doing well and working in a restaurant. And I told him about the twins and he thankfully didn't notice the fact that I had Trying Again by Ann Douglas open on the table because...well...that would have opened a conversation that I wasn't exactly prepared to have with a former student.

And it was just so nice. To have an extra chapter of the story. Even if the book is back at the library again.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

More of What We Talk About When We Talk About Blood

This is the problem with googling when you get home from a doctor's appointment. It just leaves you with more questions. Therefore, I'm stepping away from the computer.

I went to the hematologist today to find out the results from my blood work. I wasn't extremely worried because I spoke to his nurse the day before and she interpreted most of my blood test results for me over the phone and told me that everything looked okay.

The only thing they found was that I tested positive for the MTHFR mutation--a clotting disorder that is treated with folic acid. Because I had been taking 800 mcg of folic acid for the last four years because we were trying to get pregnant, I had unknowingly brought down my homocystine level. The only solid advice that he had was that I should never stop taking the 800 mcg of folic acid, even after we're finished having children.

The hematologist believed he would find a clotting disorder based on the fact that my children were IUGR and my fertility history. But in the end, we are left in this foggy grey zone where there aren't clear-cut answers.

There is nothing to treat. Therefore, there is no better chance this time around of getting pregnant without treatments.

It wasn't that I wanted something to be wrong. I mean, who in their right mind would want to do injections of Lovenox throughout their pregnancy? But you know exactly what I'm thinking right now--a diagnosis in the hand feels like a cure on some level. There is a clear-cut thing you can do to increase your chances of conceiving and carrying to term. Without a diagnosis, you're still just shooting in the dark.

And the reality is that we have a diagnosis. We're female factor with high FSH and low progesterone. But that diagnosis requires treatments to circumvent the problem. And a clotting disorder meant that we could bypass all of that and at least try on our own for a bit to see if I could get pregnant and hold onto the pregnancy without help. With just the daily injections making this pregnancy anything out of the ordinary. It's a weird trade-off to wish: no treatments but daily injections vs. treatments with some prometrium for a few months. I'm not even sure anymore which one seems more desirable. But a clotting disorder would have explained so much and right now, the only thing the hematologist can say for certain is that we've certainly had a run of bad luck.

This is where he left it: the ball is in our court. He believes we probably do have a clotting disorder, but science hasn't caught up with the body and there are possibly 1000 other things in the blood that they just don't have the tests yet to find. Thirty years from now, I may have a new flurry of tests that reveal the reason for the implantation issues and IUGR. But will I even bother to get those tests? My whole reason for doing this now was to increase my chances of having a healthy baby with the greatest ease.

He told me to think about it and gave me two scenarios where I may want to do the Lovenox anyway. Either I become pregnant on my own and want to be certain that I'm going to carry to term. Or we go for IVF and we use the Lovenox injections as an insurance policy to protect a $10,000 investment. Either way, the Lovenox injections are used widely and have few drawbacks overall. It may be worth trying just for the sake of trying if it gives us peace-of-mind. Though that's a mighty painful peace-of-mind for a chickie who is scared of needles. But it's his offer since we're stuck in this grey zone with an obvious problem on our hands and no way to diagnosis it.

I had the blood work done because I wanted to be thorough and follow the advice of the OB after my children were born IUGR. And because we need to make some hard decisions that are entirely based on finances that weren't there the first time around. If you could only do IVF or adoption, which would you choose? It seems like a no-brainer: you'd choose adoption because adoption has a real baby at the end of the journey. And IVF could have a real baby or we could have no baby and a bunch of bills. But then I started thinking all sorts of selfish thoughts that led me towards the siren song of the catheter (almost as powerful as the pee stick) and the fertility clinic. We want to do IVF if there is a good chance that IVF will work on the first try--and by "work" we mean embryo implants, hangs on for 9 months, and the baby comes out at full term at an average weight. The decision gets muddled when you take into account that we've already had an IUGR baby and your chance of it occurring again increases.

And the way I'm dealing with this muddled decision beyond playing google med student for a few minutes tonight? But not making any decision. By folding up the blood work results and stuffing them into the lower drawer of my nighttable. And not thinking about it for the months we said we'd try on our own anyway. Because there doesn't seem to be a good reason to think about it now that there isn't a clear decision to make.

How is that for pulling an ostrich?

Monday, November 06, 2006

From Snapshots to Instant Motherhood

Of course, since I wrote about it, I had that dream again last night. This time, I was pregnant with triplets and I wasn't showing at all. In real life, I have a pretty small frame and therefore would show relatively early. But in my dream, I was close to delivery and my stomach looked exactly the same. And I couldn't sift through my feelings to understand if I was happy or sad to discover that I missed my entire pregnancy and was about to deliver triplets.

In college, I had a friend named Fred who always carried a backpack full of junk. A bandaid dispenser, extra pens, a change of clothes. We loved making fun of him and going through his bag o' crap until one day when he witnessed a car accident. He pulled over to help and discovered that one of the passengers needed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. The person who was about to administer the rescue breaths was paused over the man's mouth, staring at the blood around the man's lips and weighing the possibility of a blood borne illness. Fred to the rescue with the handy mouth-guard that he kept in his bag for such an occasion. You never know when you're going to have to give mouth-to-bloody-mouth in the era of HIV.

As much as I made fun of Fred, I too like being prepared. And why not be prepared? Why not carry the damn mouth-guard in your backpack if you don't care how much stuff you carry on your back? There is no harm that comes from being prepared as long as you don't place your anxieties about being prepared for everything before actually living life.

Which takes us back to this idea of instant motherhood and my dream. As excited as I would be to instantly gain a child in my family, I think I would feel a great deal of unease over not having that preparation time. Even if there isn't something that needs to get done (baby items can be purchased at most food stores so it wouldn't even require a trip to a baby mega store in order to become prepared instantaneously), I think I need that mental time to become a mother. I think I need the daydreaming and the what ifs that come during a pregnancy or during the adoption process. If I was actively trying to become a mother, I could certainly be ready in a heartbeat to raise a child. But if I was merely making a sandwich in my kitchen and then had a child handed to me?--well...I think I would flip out somewhat. I'd raise that child and love that child, but I'd probably feel more than a little off-kilter for an extended period of time.

My other reoccurring dream involves leaving for a vacation and realizing that I forgot to pack my camera. I'm not a photographer in the artistic sense of the word, but I love taking pictures. I feel this overwhelming need to record everything in my life. This is sort of the other end of the instant motherhood telescope--that burning desire to be able to look back at an experience and hold onto memories from an experience. And if you had instant motherhood, you'd miss out on all of those mental snapshots of yourself preparing for your imminent child. And I'm not just talking about painting the bedroom or buying clothing. I'm talking about those mental images that come back into play once you're parenting and you think back to how you imagined the experience. And the sense of peace that comes from having those mental images align. You dreamed about walking your child in the stroller and suddenly, you look down and realize that you're walking your child in a stroller. And there's peace. There's closure. It's like looking back at vacation photos.

Even freakier than having that dream last night was watching the Desperate Housewives episode a few minutes after posting my entry. If you haven't seen the episode, stop reading now. That's okay. I'll wait. Just shut down your browser or move onto the next blog.

In the episode, Lynette gains instant motherhood when a mother dies and she is given immediate custody of the child (to explain, Lynette's husband had a child with another woman prior to marriage. This child's mother died in the episode. Therefore, the father--Lynette's husband--will gain sole custody and by default, Lynette just became the mother). She was in the process of trying to gain custody, therefore it doesn't completely fit my hypothetical situation. But still, she never thought the mother would be killed and that would be how she would come to take care of this child. I think it will be interesting to see how this storyline unfolds. Is there any sense of regret over the suddenness of it all? Or are they only focused on Lynette's guilt?

Inquiring minds want to know...

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Instant Motherhood

Yesterday, I was looking out the kitchen window while I made lunch and I noticed a bundle of fabric on the grass next to my car. If I was a normal person, I would have thought it was a discarded sweatshirt or a rag. But since I'm not a normal person, my first thought was that someone had finally left a child on my doorstep. Okay, so next to my doorstep. Okay, so next to my car. But, nonetheless, a child, who we'd ultimately adopt.

I used to have these fantasies before we had the twins. The fantasy always included a few dilemmas--how would I drive the baby to the police station if I didn't have a car seat? And how would I keep the baby in the house without any baby supplies on hand until Josh could come home and help me? Especially since I wouldn't be able to get to the store for diapers's back to not having a car seat.

Yesterday, the fantasy included twenty new layers that had nothing to do with me becoming a mother and everything to do with how this child would feel later in life. How would this child process how he/she came into our family? Would everyone get along? What would life look like twenty years from now with the twins and this new baby?

It was a moot point. I discovered the reality of the fabric bundle a few hours later when I went to look for my coat prior to leaving the house. It wasn't in the front hall where I usually hang it (read: drape it over the small table). A trip out to the car wiped out all chance of instant motherhood that day: the bundle was my coat. My damp coat. Which my husband pointed out later in the evening was not a baby--it was a polartec pullover from L L Bean that was probably currently soaked with deer urine.

I continued thinking about instant motherhood the rest of the day because I began a new tutoring job. Tutoring jobs--that one-on-one work--are maternal jobs. You're imparting information, building self-esteem, creating independence. It takes a freakin' village to make a child and then it takes another freakin' village to raise him.

Back when I was a teacher (way back...oh...two years ago), I got a taste of instant motherhood every September when a new group of kids filed into my classroom. For all intents and purposes, I was their "parent" for the eight hours that they were on campus. I nurtured them, I taught them, I listened to their stories where they questioned their self-worth and celebrated with them when they earned an "A" on a paper.

Of course, then they went home to their real parents and I went home to my Follistim injection. It really sucked to be an infertile teacher. It really sucks, in general, to work in any field with children when you're trying desperately to have a child. Perhaps it's more a testament to my lack of coping skills, but I found it very difficult to grow attached to these children over the course of the year and then never see them again. But more on that later since I ran into two former students this week.

Instant motherhood is such a strange fantasy. On one hand, it's completely understandable. You're in such emotional pain (and sometimes physical pain) that having someone hand you a child feels like a panacea for infertility. But at the same time, it's this crazy idea that your life would--without warning--be turned on its head and you would be given this ultimate responsiblity not just to care for but to raise this child.

There was a Kevin Kline film called Grand Canyon that contained this storyline. The couple had a sixteen-year-old son who is off at camp. One day, the mother is jogging and hears a baby crying. She finds a child in the woods and brings the baby home. And instantly falls in love. And wants to raise her (him? I think it was a girl. Which probably brought up another layer of a mother wanting a daughter, but I missed that point if it was there because I last saw this movie over ten years ago). Of course, the husband struggles with this idea of becoming a parent--instantly--to this baby girl. But the story unfolds and they end up adopting this child and raising her. The movie is about the connections we make with one another--the random meetings and how we become entangled in each other's lives.

I don't think you can get much more entangled than that.

I have a reoccurring dream where I am delivering a child and I didn't even know that I was pregnant. It's a complete shock and everyone is completely calm. Except for me. I am freaking out. I've never really understood those stories where a woman goes into an emergency room and discovers she is in labour. And she never knew she was pregnant. She just thought she was putting on weight. She just thought she was having some stomach pain. I'm certain that there must be women where this is true--they really didn't know. I'm certain that if I don't put that sentence in, I'll receive a comment or two from someone who either had this happen to them or who knew someone who delivered a baby without being aware of the pregnancy. But at the same time, I don't really understand how that can happen. Is the person just out of touch with their body? Is the person just heavily into denial?

Perhaps I was just acutely aware of the sensations of pregnancy because I was searching for signs of pregnancy.

But back to the dream.

In the dream, I'm instantly becoming a mother and I'm terrified. I don't want this baby. I don't want this huge change. And in the dream, everyone stares at me incredulously. But, Melissa, they say. You wanted this. You wanted to bypass all the pain of infertility. You wanted to just become a mother instantly.

I did?

Once, my husband and I tried to try without trying. You know exactly what I'm talking about. It sounds like a great idea--let's just have sex without consulting a calendar. And if it happens, it happens. And we're pregnant. And if it doesn't happen, then we weren't really trying so there isn't this pressure or sense of failure.

Except that our one attempt as casual trying didn't work at all. Once someone tells you not to think about your cycle, you instantly start thinking about your cycle. And then I spent the two weeks where I wasn't supposed to be stressed feeling incredibly stressed.

And was it because I wasn't ready to try? Or was it because I wasn't ready to try in that way? Is there a part of me that likes knowing--even if the knowing causes tremendous emotional pain and a loss of self-esteem (damn, I sound like a real winner)? A part that feels like it's the one ounce of control that I have in my pocket? A part that wanted to know the first second I could possibly know--who didn't want to miss out on the first few days of pregnancy because I was too busy scratching my head and thinking, "wait, is my period late?"

I started unpacking all of these thoughts just because my jacket got caught on a bag my husband brought to the car. And it transformed itself from a simple pullover into a possibly life-changing bundle.

And it made me wonder: if someone handed you a child tomorrow when you weren't in the midst of trying to adopt or you found yourself in a delivery room, giving birth to a child without ever being aware of the pregnancy--would you be happy? Would you feel like you were missing something irreplaceable in that situation? Or would you just be relieved to have the path to parenthood complete and instant motherhood?