Showing posts with label Coping and Emotions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Coping and Emotions. Show all posts

July 27, 2011

Words like seconds on a clock.

When I read Phoebe Potts' Good Eggs a few weeks ago, I was so moved as I turned the last page. Their story was unresolved on that last page and it resonated so strongly for me. I realized that Potts' creation speaks so much to what I do here on this blog.

I've said this before: what I can't create in biology, I create in words instead.

Writing and creating seek to fill this void, this very visceral, physical void within my womb. What initially served as emotional outpouring has now turned inward toward fulfillment. Before I was writing to dump all the horrendous emotional clutter elbow-shoving my brain for control of my mind.

Now my writing has become uniquely self-serving even though the focus of my blog has become more as an outward resource for others. It's very strange to watch the ways in which my blog as Container has morphed and my writing as Content has changed in purpose. It's like this weird hybrid blob stretching and swelling, pulsating between motivations.

I ache to be pregnant. I ache to fulfill my procreative instinct. I gasp for a breath of relief and assurance that everything is going to work out in the end and I'm left choking in an oxygen-devoid room empty of comfort.

So I write. And I invest my time and brainspace into designing my new blog at WordPress (move is happening on August 1st folks). I tweak and I perfect and I revise and I sculpt the visual and written because it's the only measure of control I have right now.

I feel so horribly inadequate as a biological female - not as Woman - there's a distinct difference there. I'm a Strong Woman, a Good Woman, but I've got some broken parts.

So in my inability to create life, I've realized that my blog has become a way of creating a written legacy for myself.

Remember - Darwin said my genes didn't make the cut.

So these words will have to carry on past my dust and ashes.

And so I churn out words and designs and tweets and Facebook messages, this endless stream of creation from my Mind when I cannot create from my Womb.

The words ticking away the minutes, the seconds, in every moment of waiting and hoping.

July 25, 2011

Take a Few Minutes to "Exhale"

"Just relax."

Quite possibly my least favorite sentence in the English language. That said, there is something to be said for the power of controlling our breathing, of quieting our mind, of letting all the mental clutter and constant running inner monologue flow out of our minds through our breath.

Photo by Shelby H. via Flickr.
Inhale - 

We set the stage for inner peace.

Exhale -

We invite that peace and stillness into our heart and mind.

I recently discovered Exhale Magazine, an entirely volunteer-run online literary magazine for the ALI community. From their About Page:

Exhale is a unique quarterly literary magazine written for and by ordinary people who have faced extraordinary obstacles to getting (or staying)  knocked up, or who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death.Founded in 2008 by Monica LeMoine, Exhale has become a space for creative expression. We seek out the gritty humor and complexities of discovering that producing a child isn’t as easy as our society would have us believe. Without succumbing to the belief that a person’s self-worth and happiness are defined by reproductive achievement, we recognize and validate the vast array of perspectives and emotions associated with pregnancy/infant loss and infertility issues.

I had the unique privilege of being interviewed by their editors for their Summer 2011 issue whose theme focuses on time: Time as the Enemy. Time as the Friend. The essays and prose are just stunning. As they speak to this theme of time, especially with my thoughts lingering on my post from Saturday about fate and chance - I find the poems particularly haunting.

Especially this one, Veil: what it lacks in length it makes up for in an emotional sucker punch.

And then there's the essay, When Time Stands Still, whose narrative reads like a heartbeat, a steady breathing. It is a moving essay, one that gets caught up in your thoughts but is strangely calming.

You should also most definitely read Kathy's review of Inconceivable. While I've reviewed it before, she provides a unique glimpse into the Savages' story as she actually knows Carolyn Savage; it's fascinating to read about their story from someone who actually knows them.

Here's an excerpt from my interview, on my dawning realization that I was meant for infertility advocacy:

I’ve struggled with the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” my entire life. Part of it stems from a short attention span and an ability to not only quickly master a given subject but become just as easily bored by it. I don’t say that to be haughty, it’s just fact: I go through hobbies and interests like most people go through shoes.

In the year plus since my video, I finally know (now that I’m approaching 30) what I need to do with my life. Dreams of parenting aside: I need – no I have to do everything I can for this community.

You can read the rest of the interview and Exhale Magazine's Summer 2011 issue here.

July 19, 2011

Living with Infertility: Take Two

Sometimes it's hard to believe I've been living with infertility for over two years. The anniversary date of my diagnosis holds some prominence for me each year; it's the rest of the days in between that feel like a blur, emotions from either of the extreme ends of joy and sadness coloring each day a different shade on this spectrum of coping.

As we inch closer to the next steps in our journey, I find myself looking back at some of my first posts, looking to see the ways in which I've grown and changed in these last two years.

I was drawn to this post: Things I Wish I Could Tell People About Grieving My Infertility, first posted in April 2009. I had reposted this list from World of Winks, a former ALI blogger and now special-needs parent. I had written this post just a few weeks after I was diagnosed.

I had posted 10 items from her list and added my own commentary of where I was at that emotional stage as a newly diagnosed infertility patient. I think it's time I circle the wagons back and take a second go at it, this time making it more of my own in the process.

Instead of just wishing I could tell people about just my grieving process this time, now I'm simply just going to tell people what my experience is like with just over 2 years under my belt. Rather than just a broad, generalized list of things, this is now very personal to where I am at this moment in our journey.

Things I Want You to Know About How I Live with Infertility
(version 2.0)

1. You can talk to me about my infertility and how I'm doing. It doesn't matter whether you're a friend, family member, new reader or random internet stranger - stop by, introduce yourself, say hello. Ask me your questions. Understand that I have a right to bristle if your questions or comments are insensitive but I'll do my best to tell you why they might have been inadvertently hurtful.

2. Infertility is now a major part of who I am, but I am not defined by my infertility. I recognize that I live with infertility like any other disease. I'm on hormonal treatment for the lasting health effects of POI and plan to seek treatment to address the fertility effects. I seek fulfillment in my life through a variety of other avenues: volunteering with RESOLVE, writing, the Red Tent Temple, fishing, and a host of other hobbies and interests. In all these things, I am just as much infertile as I am woman, wife, sister, daughter, etc.

3. I'm still grieving. I may not be overt; just because I'm not having daily crying jags doesn't mean that I'm not sad about being infertile sometimes. As I've mentioned in previous posts, getting ready to begin the donor egg process has stirred up some emotions I thought I had put to rest but haven't. Coping with loss is a recurrent emotional process in the infertility experience.

4. Pregnancy and birth announcements are still painful, but not in a lingering, crippling way anymore. I still cry when I get the news that so-and-so is pregnant or that so-and-so just gave birth. I am of course joyful but also insanely - but instantly - jealous. The weight doesn't last for days now; it's a momentary near-Pavlovian response. I cry for a minute or two, I wipe my tears, and I share my congratulations. That said, if you can tell me in an email or leave me a voicemail, I find it better to cope and process later.

5. Just because I talk about infertility all the time, I'm not contagious, I'm not bad luck, and I'm not a downer. I'm just infertile. Has infertility opened my eyes to a level of skepticism and pragmatism I've never encountered before? Absolutely. But just because I "like" (relative term here) to talk about infertility, I'm trying to give voice to a rather silenced disease. Raising awareness about infertility helps me to cope and heal because I know that I'm helping others cope and heal in the process. Ironically enough, it has been that through this experience I have found my life's work.

Homework assignment time.

Head back to some of your first posts on your blog. If you blog about infertility, what stuck out for you? What did you find yourself writing about the most? What's changed since then and how have you grown? Share an old post that's stuck out for you in the comments below and tell us why it resonates with you now.

July 18, 2011

Are You Ready for Baby Season?

It's that time of year again: the babies are coming.

Photo by Michael Francis McCarthy via Flickr.

Statistically speaking, more babies are born during July, August, and September than any other months of the year. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, not only are more babies born in August than other other month of the year (hello December/Christmas baby-makin'), they are more likely to be born on a Tuesday over any other day of the week (source). The slowest month is February (really - no June sex for folks?) and the day with the least amount of births is Sunday.

If the birth announcements haven't yet begun to clog up your Facebook feeds, watch out: they're coming, according to U.S. birth statistics.

So what does this mean for us who are still on the other side, waiting to make our own Facebook birth announcements one day? If you already feel like you're swimming in a sea of pregnant friends, you know that their birth announcements are just around the corner most likely.

Infertility is never easy when it comes to social media. It's like we're constantly dodging random assaults out of left field, blindsiding us in the process and leaving us calling up all of our emotional reserves. Knowing that Baby Season is just around the corner, we can take a few steps to make this time of year a little easier for ourselves emotionally.

Prepare yourself for the onslaught of Baby Season with the following tips:

It's okay if birth announcements make you joyous and sad.
It's hard having the reminder that someone gets to experience something for which you long, something for which you're working so hard that may have come so easily to them. It's perfectly reasonable to have a moment of jealousy, sadness, and frustration. Give yourself that moment of emotion - and you define how long that moment is. Just don't let that moment stretch into days and weeks; birth is still a joyous occasion and there's still a brand new human being who needs to be welcomed into the world. Allow yourself the permission to get sad and then make that phone call or text to offer your congratulations - because in your heart of hearts, you know you mean that too.

Consider making use of the "Hide" feature on Facebook.
You don't have to de-friend them. Just preemptively hide them and ask them to Facebook message or email you any pertinent news updates (if they can) so you're not left completely out of the loop. This will save you the random "100+ Pictures of Our New Baby!" photo album cropping up in your Facebook feed.

Talk to your pregnant friend and arrange a plan for how you want to be told about the birth.
It might seem very demanding, but it will say a lot about how compassionate your friend can be. Instead of texting you a picture of Jimmy Jr., have them send you an email instead. At the very least, by sending you an email as opposed to a text, you won't be caught off guard in a situation where you might not have the ability to run off and have a quick cry if you need to. Honestly, it takes no more time that composing a text message and allows you to confront the news on your own time with little more effort on the part of the new parents.

Take a break from Facebook for awhile.
If you're not symbiotically connected to the internet like I am, consider just unplugging entirely from your social media life, if you can afford to. I know some of you use social media for your business and that's not possible, but for the more casual users out there, go on a Facebook vacation until you know it's "safe."

Find out if you can make a visit privately at their home instead of at hospital.
For me, it's not the baby that upsets me, it's all the fawning over the new parents. I'm happy to hold babies and coo and touch their little noses. When I'm crowded into a tiny hospital room with a dozen other people all oohing and aahing, I get nervous, arming myself for the inevitable: "So when will you be having one of your own?" Talk to your friend and see if you can swing by one night after they've gotten home from the hospital and offer to bring them some takeout. That way you can visit the new little one in a more secure environment on your own terms.

What are some other ways that you've coped with a flurry of birth and pregnancy announcements? Share your experiences and suggestions in the comments.

July 13, 2011

Do you accept your infertility?

It's a loaded question, for sure.

Here's another: if you could go back in time and wave a magic wand, would you take away your diagnosis? What if you could wave a magic wand right now and just like that, your infertility was gone?

Of course, we can't wave a magic wand or travel back in time.

All we can do is to live in the moment.

Today I've written about this idea of accepting my infertility at Identity Magazine, "an online magazine that empowers women to accept, appreciate, achieve."

Here's an excerpt from the article:

While infertility has wrought havoc on both my body and spirit, it hasn’t broken me. I’ve come close; I was brought to the ugliest corners of myself that frightened me in their visceral rawness. It was through this dark journey that allowed me to confront some of my worst fears and come out renewed and strengthened.

No matter how difficult this road has been or how challenging it may be as we begin treatment, I wouldn’t take my infertility back for a second.

You can read the rest of my article, Accepting Infertility and My New Identity, at Identity Magazine.

July 7, 2011

Unnatural Act, Unspeakable Crime

To kill your own child: it's literally a crime against nature. Granted, some biologists might argue that it's perfectly in line with nature, as there are several species that kill and even eat their own offspring. But this is one of those times that for all of our animal instincts, I'd like to think that humans have risen above this in our evolutionary progress.

I had not planned on writing about Casey Anthony, I really hadn't. I remember the hearing about this horrific crime and horrible tragedy of Caylee's death a few years ago; back then, I still had network and cable TV. A pretty young (and white) mom and her adorable toddler, their faces splashed all over the news. It was a disturbing story.

I hadn't really given it any thought since then until I started noticing it trending in on my Twitter home feed, among many of you, in the last few weeks. Since we only have internet TV at home, I didn't have a steady stream of news coverage waiting for me. Since I get most of my news on my commute to and from work, I didn't really get much more as NPR didn't have much to say about the trial. So I gleaned little bits and pieces from Twitter. I didn't even bother to read about it further online.

After the verdict was read on Tuesday, Twitter basically exploded. And even with my very limited knowledge of the case and trial proceedings, I was saddened and disturbed.

And that's where my commentary on the whole mess ends. It's a sad and disturbing story - that's it. I don't fault the jurors - they were fulfilling their civic duty. If anything, the fault lies with the prosecution; they failed to meet the burden of proof. It mirrors in many ways the very disturbing "Rape Cops" court case that wrapped up last month in New York.

Was justice served in either case? Perhaps not. But the judicial process was honored. (Danielle at Kitten a Go-Go has some rather excellent commentary on this thought, in her post The Casey Anthony Verdict: One Lawyer's Perspective.)

And... that's it. End of story.

Or is it?

Jjiraffe at Too Many Fish to Fry has an excellent post on her thoughts about the Casey Anthony trial. I particularly appreciated her viewpoint as she, like me, hadn't really followed the trial at all. On the other hand, Katie of from IF to when was my complete opposite. She was obsessed with the Casey Anthony trial, she admits. When the verdict was read, she was stunned.

Both are ALI community bloggers and we all shared the same thought, no matter how much or how little we were invested in this case:

It's not fair. It's just not fucking fair. She (said with judgment, disdain, and disgust) got to have a child but we don't??

For me, as I noted in my comment on Jjiraffe's post, it's not so much the unfairness as it is trying to process a very disturbing truth: how can a mother kill her own child?

This is not an isolated narrative, either. In fact, it just played out here in the New England region just two months ago. A mother from Texas drove to Maine and killed her 6-year-old son. Six. Years. Old. I just can't wrap my brain around it. But there have been many Casey Anthonys. We just used to call them Susan Smiths before this latest trial.

Or La Llorona.

Or Medea.

It's unnatural - a literal crime against nature. It's sick. It's an archetypal narrative that rocks us to the core that makes for salacious storytelling when it's in fictional form and horrifies us when we see it actually play out in real life.

That's why the Casey Anthony trial has sparked the outrage that it has: because this unnatural crime deserves justice - this forsaken mother must pay for her crimes.

Except this time, the American judicial system got in the way.

. . .

I thought my commentary was over, but it's not. I have one more thing to add. As Twitter blew up, so did my Facebook feed. I need to give my friend Jessa some recognition too, because her Facebook status was one of the most well-said:

While I'm thankful the onus of official judgment didn't rest on my shoulders, I have to say I'm disappointed by the verdict. Any mother who doesn't report her child missing for 31 days and the child is subsequently found dead should at the very least be found guilty of manslaughter.

No matter how the evidence was shown at this trial, this is the one fact about the whole Casey Anthony case that disturbs me as equally as the idea of a mother killing her own child. It's the one fact that's been nagging at me.

Verdict aside, not reporting your two year-old child missing for a month is tantamount to child abuse.

I think what many of us have forgotten in our outrage over Casey Anthony's trial is the fact that a child is dead.

Nearly five children die every day in America from abuse and neglect. In 2009, an estimated 1,770 children died from abuse in the United States (source). We can let Caylee become another statistic or we can educate ourselves and channel our outrage into advocacy.  

Take a minute to check out Childhelp, a national non-profit focused on providing support and resources for victims of child abuse and neglect. Find out what you can do to help.

How are you processing all of this after the verdict in the Casey Anthony trial?

July 4, 2011

Sometimes life without kids is awesome.

Infertility sucks, I admit that. But sometimes, life without children isn't necessarily always a bad thing. I figured it's a long holiday weekend for most for the 4th, so it seemed appropriate to share a vacation story to illustrate my point.

Let me tell you about the Corvette.

Back in January 2009, Larry and I took a road trip from San Francisco to San Diego. Our airfare was paid for with credit card points - roundtrip. We had friends in the major cities along the way so we didn't have to worry about hotel costs. And we even had a discount on our rental car. We we hoping to snag a Nissan 350z convertible. When we arrived at SFO, the rental car company had totally screwed up our reservation and informed us there were no convertibles on the lot.

Well... no convertibles except for the premium tier Corvettes.

This really should be the preferred mode of transport for all California road trips.

To which we said, "Um- yesplease." And because the rental car company had screwed up, we got it at the same price as what we would have paid for the 350z.

When Larry put the key in the ignition for the first time and it roared - literally roared - to life, we started laughing hysterically at the absurdity of the situation. It was a hard top convertible and our luggage (two carry-ons packed to the gills) just barely fit in the trunk when packed down with the hard top. And lucky for us, the weather forecast was glorious for the next five days.

That car was a beast. We tore up the freeways and the Pacific Coast Highway was both terrifying and beautiful at the same time, as we whipped around hairpin turns at upwards of 40 mph with hundred foot drops into the Pacific Ocean just inches from our tires. When I wasn't having height-related panic attacks, it was pretty damn incredible.

The Pacific Coast Highway, just north of Big Sur.

We took this trip just a few months before I was diagnosed. At any rate, I vividly remember turning to Larry at one point, the sun beating down on us, my hair in tangles as it caught in the wind and saying:

"I know I've been baby crazy lately, but there's no way in hell we could strap a car seat to the back of this monster." I mean, it was physically impossible: there was no back seat.

"Yeah, this is nice," Larry agreed.

While life without children can be frustrating and sad, there are other times that Larry and I really take advantage of our childless status.

Take eating, for example. We don't have to scramble to find a babysitter or load up Team Zoll #3 into the car anytime we randomly decide to go out to eat. Many of the places we go aren't exactly baby-friendly either: Marliave, Les Zygomates, B&G Oysters, Highland Kitchen, the Lyceum here in Salem... Right now we're looking forward to our reservation at Menton to celebrate Larry's new job. We rescheduled our reservation from our wedding anniversary and we've been talking about it for months.

Our insane multi-course kaiseki meal in Arima, Japan.

While it's totally possible to be a foodie at home, we love to go out to eat. Without children, not only do we have the freedom and flexibility to do so, but the extra money, to be quite honest.

Traveling is certainly easier. I can't imagine 13 days in Japan with a small child, at least not with our itinerary. We're planning another overseas trip sometime in the early fall, hopefully to the Bretagne region of France. Again - much easier to plan and do without children. (To be very honest: I have no idea how you even get a passport for an infant.)

And then there's the random things: fishing for a few hours at a stretch in Rockport or Gloucester, like I did this weekend (and got the worst sunburn of my life). Now, if we had children, it's very likely one of us would have to stay home with the little one while the other one gets to sit out overlooking the Atlantic with a bucket of bait and hours to kill.

The first fish I ever caught off Burton Island in Lake Champlain.

Or the spontaneous movie night decision, like when we saw The Trip last week (food porn galore, witty banter, but oh G-d, depressing as hell ending). If it wasn't for our need for dinner immediately following the movie, we would have stayed to see the Conan O'Brien documentary playing right after, rolling home close to midnight.

For as painful as infertility can be sometimes, it's just nice to have that freedom and flexibility as a family of two right now. That's part of how we make this journey easier for ourselves too; we take advantage of that freedom because we know things will be very different once we have children.

A lot of that freedom will be lost so we'll have to get creative to still maintain at least a smidgen of our current lifestyle. Maybe we don't get out to Marliave so much and we end up cooking a little more gourmet at home. Maybe we don't get out to the movies as much but that's what Netflix is for. And traveling with small children is more than possible, but we'll need a little time to figure it all out.

But until then, we're going to enjoy our time as us, because sometimes life without kids is awesome.

See? No room for a car seat behind us... and that's okay for now.

July 1, 2011

5 Infertility Books for Great Summer Reads: Good Eggs

Welcome back to my Infertility Summer Reading review series! Tune in every other Friday this summer for a new review. Check out the schedule of reviews below. You can even grab your own copy of the books reviewed by clicking the book covers under the Infertility Summer Reading List to the right. Feel free to start reading ahead or wait until after the review goes up. Either way, do join along and share your thoughts in the comment section!

Infertility Summer Reading Series Featured Books
  1. Conquering Infertility by Dr. Ali Domar - (Read the review from June 3)
  2. Inconceivable by Carolyn and Sean Savage - (Read the review from June 17)
  3. Good Eggs: A Memoir by Phoebe Potts (Today's Review: July 1)
  4. Silent Sorority by Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos (July 29)
  5. Navigating the Land of If by Melissa Ford (August 12)

Good Eggs: A Memoir by Phoebe Potts

Recommended to me by: Mayyim Hayyim

The Review: It seems like such an unlikely medium for an infertility story, but Good Eggs weaves the story of Phoebe Potts' life in such a unique fashion it's hard not to resist the urge to pick up a copy. I had heard excellent things about this book and when I was at a class on infertility and ritual in the Jewish tradition at Mayyim Hayyim, a progressive mikveh center in Newton, single page prints of her book were on display in a featured art exhibition. They had out copies to peruse and as I waited for the class to begin, I read the first third of the book. I finally bought my own copy and finished it this week in anticipation of today's review.

It's hard to describe this book: yes, it's an infertility story, but it's much more than that. Potts describes her life growing up, her tumultuous and at times strained relationship wit her mother, and her lifelong struggles with debilitating clinical depression. We see very tender and poignant snippets of her courtship and marriage to her husband Jeff as well as a wandering narrative about her brief year in Mexico. Throughout all of this is their quest to conceive.

Potts illustrates the painful reality of unexplained infertility. By all accounts, she and her husband are perfectly normal. Yet after timed intercourse, several failed IUIs and IVF cycles, they still don't have any luck. The uniqueness of the graphic novel format allows us to literally see her thought bubbles in the very moment of each scene. As readers, we become witness to a continous running inner monologue in a way that traditional autobiographic narrative fails to provide.

Good Eggs is a much a resource for those coping with mental illness as it is for those dealing with infertility. Potts' frank portrayal of The Voice - her monstrous, self-deprecating inner monologue - is perhaps one of the most vivid and honestly accurate depictions of what it's like to live with depression.

Potts also shares the way in which her Jewish faith has been impacted by her infertility, as both a conflict of faith as she sits during High Holiday services and listens to the story of Hannah, and as inspiration as she considers becoming a rabbi. I was left feeling like the word "exploration" was the theme of her story as she seeks to discover herself and what fulfills and sustains her.

While I try not to post spoilers, I will say this: the book does not end with a nice, neat ribbon on it, all tied together in a "another infertile couple success story" bow. Potts's journey remains unresolved. However, she leaves the door open for what the possibilities for parenthood could be. This ending really resonated with me because it's a narrative ending you don't often see - that lingering, unresolved ending that leaves you deeply investing and thinking about Phoebe and Jeff well after you finish the book.

Potts' illustrations are quirky and even whimsical at some points, with much detail crammed into each panel. I found it interesting that I most quickly identified characters by their hair, as Potts draws their hairstyles with such distinct detail. Good Eggs is rife with a rich story and characters but at times the narrative feels wandering and clumsy. While flashbacks in the storyline were generally introduced, we are suddenly snapped back to the present storyline in an abrupt and sometimes very confusing fashion.

I would have also appreciated just a smidgen larger book size. While 9x6 is a pretty standard book size, Potts' illustrations are so detailed that sometimes it's hard to spot the little hidden gems in each panel, such as witty puns (a box of tissues labeled Tish B'av, a Jewish holiday of mourning) or running gags (her cat's appearance in many panels included a running commentary of its thoughts). And with little visual footnotes and descriptions tightly packed into each frame, the size of the book made them difficult to read at times.

Quotable Moment: After multiple failed IUIs, Phoebe begins to confront the possibility that things may not work out. In a full page panel, Phoebe sobs in her husband's arms as he holds her and says, "Oh, sweetie. It's going to be OK. We're going to have a baby." Woven throughout the panel is the following:
"It's in Jeff's job description to say the things I need to hear even if they are not true when the alternative is just too hard to take."

Rating: (out of a possible 5 tasty pomegranates)
Good Eggs presents the infertility experience in a truly unique medium, giving very literal insight and emotion to very intimate moments along their journey. Despite an awkward narrative and panels almost over-drawn in their detail, Good Eggs makes the brave choice to tell an unfinished story and in the process, still leaves the reader feeling hopeful.

Food for Further Thought: Last year, Potts and I were featured together in an article for Tablet Mag, an online Jewish magazine. (Read Breeding Ground here.) We both spoke about how we channeled our infertility struggles into artistic creations: Potts with her graphic novel, me with my What IF video.

Graphic novels have been fighting their way onto the literary scene as early as the 1980s with Alan Moore's Watchmen. In fact, much controversy surrounded Watchmen when it was awarded the Hugo Award in 1988; sci-fi authors critics were up in arms that a "comic book" won perhaps one of the highest honors in the sci-fi genre. Other graphic novels like Art Spiegelman's Maus: A Survivor's Tale, depicting his father's life as a Holocaust survivor, have gone on to win the Pulitizer Prize. Then there is Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical work, Persepolis, which went on to be made into an Oscar-nominated animated film.

Good Eggs has been nominated as Best Book for RESOLVE's Hope Awards this year. Given it's non-traditional medium, do you think it deserves recognition as best "book?" Do you think graphic novels should rank up there with the classics, modern and old? And do you think a graphic novel is an effective way to tell the infertility story?

Have you read Good Eggs? Krissi over at Stress Free Infertility has and just reviewed it this week too. What did you think?

Have you voted for Good Eggs as RESOLVE's Best Book? And have you voted for Best Blog yet?  

Sound off in the comments and have a fantastic holiday weekend for those of you celebrating the 4th in the States. Be safe folks!

June 21, 2011

Post-Fathers' Day Confessional

Hey love.

I had a wonderful Fathers' Day with you and your parents. I'm so grateful they don't feel like in-laws, just extended family. I totally admit I was kind of bitchy all day Sunday. You thought it was because I didn't sleep well Saturday night and wore (as usual) inappropriate footwear to romp around the city all day or that I was annoyed at the huge mass of people in Mike's Pastry while trying to order a damn cannoli.

In truth, I was grumpy about it being Fathers' Day and my inability to make you a father of your own this year. I want nothing more than to make you a Dad.

I wish my ovary hadn't conspired against us. I wish I could go back in time and catch this at the pass. I wish we had it easier.

But then again, I suppose that wouldn't be any fun, would it?

I know you've assured me that you're not disappointed in me, that you love me no less, that it's okay because there's always next year. You're a phenomenal husband like that.

It still stung this year. It hasn't in years past, but just like Mothers' Day this year, I felt that little tug in my chest, the hesitation in my breathing.

That pause -

- of knowing how this all was supposed to be. We fell in love at fifteen, for Pete's sake! We had a swooning, epic, teenaged love affair with a dramatic break-up, only to be followed by a "this may as well have come straight from a rom-com screenplay" reunion, and then seven years of an amazing relationship, followed by a (very long) engagement and one helluva wedding.

Next stop: kids.

Let me clarify. Next stop: genetic kids. Little half-you half-me babies, crawling around with their luscious black hair, their pale, soft skin, and their giant noses.

This was the way it was supposed to be.

Like I said in my tear-soaked semi-meltdown Friday afternoon: those children will never exist. We have to live with ourselves knowing that Those Children we dreamed of one day will not exist.

I know it doesn't necessarily upset you; I know you're just happy to raise a family with me, no matter how we build it together. But it hurts me to know that I will never meet Those Children.

I put on my big girl pants and my brave face all the time but I think as we really start to get closer to treatment, all the feelings I've pushed aside in the name of advocacy have begun rearing their ugly heads. Mothers' Day was just a warning shot really. Fathers' Day has all but confirmed this for me.

I love you so fucking much. And even though I want nothing more than to be able to create what I consider one of the most ultimate expressions of mutual love with you - I can't.

And it kills me to know that I can't do that for you.

For us.

I could give you everything else you've ever wanted, but I can't give you That Child, our half-you half-me baby. I would give my life for you and yet I can't give you Children of Our Own.

So it wasn't that I was too sun-kissed or that my allergies were a nightmare on Sunday. I was a beast all weekend because I'm struggling again with self-esteem issues in the wake of some otherwise very confident happenings in my life. Because I feel like a failure in the face of so much accomplishment.

And no matter how strong and beautiful and loved I may be, I carry this on my heart. It's a heavy burden.

And I'm so grateful to have you carry this burden with me, to lighten my load and gladden my heart.

When we broke the wishbone leftover from Passover on Friday, I'll tell you my wish, since I didn't break off the bigger end:

I wished with all my heart this was the last Fathers' Day we celebrate without a child.

---Yours always.

June 14, 2011

A Fathers' Day Twitterview with RESOLVE & "I Want to Be a Daddy"

As I mentioned yesterday, even though it's Men's Health Week, we don't often hear the male side of the infertility journey. With Fathers' Day just around the corner, this is especially timely. There are a few elusive male voices out there (emphasis on the few). But the guys who are out there really help to shed some light on what is so often a woman-centric subject.

Take for example, Brittanie's husband Ben, over at Fertilize This! He busted a myth for NIAW about his experience as a man with male-factor infertility. Or Rain's husband at Weathering the Storm - she interviewed him about his experience with male-factor infertility and how it affects their marriage.And then there are awesome guys like my husband, Larry, who wrote a guest post of his perspective of being married to someone with female-factor infertility.

And then there's Alec, over at I Want to Be a Daddy. Are you reading him? You aren't? Well, you should. Alec has become a rising voice in the infertility community from the ever-elusive male perspective. He spells it out exactly right in his blog's description:
My wife JK and I went through a 2 1/2 year odyssey of infertility. It was a painful time. The emotional toll was as real for me as it was for JK. Friends who had survived infertility helped me to cope, and thus I hope that our story will help others.

Now this is the kind of voice we need to hear out there! This Friday, there's a unique opportunity to engage with Alec and RESOLVE, as they host a Twitterview with Alec at 2pm EST. From
On June 17th, leading up to this coming Father’s Day, RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and will honor this shared struggle through a personal and informative Twitterview with Alec Ross, blogger at I Want to Be a Daddy and regular contributor at FertilityAuthority. Alec will help to shed light on the all too silent male side of infertility in this one-hour Twitter exchange with executive director of RESOLVE, Barb Collura. He will speak to the two-and-a-half year infertility battle he and his wife faced, and the ups and downs that they continue to face today.

Wait, what's a Twitterview?
It's kind of like a public conversation, but since it's Twitter, it's like having that public conversation in a sea of a million voices. The conversation stands out by using a dedicated hashtag to differentiate this conversation's tweets from all the others. In this case, the dedicated hashtag for the Twitterview is #tvFD (for Father’s Day TwitterView).

How do I follow along?

When is this Twitterview again?
This Friday, June 17th, at 2pm EST. Join in or follow along to hear about the impact that infertility plays on Fathers' Day and the male experience with infertility. I know it's going to be an informative, engaging and emotional conversation. I'm really looking forward to it.

Hope to see folks tweeting and retweeting away on Friday!

June 10, 2011

Infertile Women of the Torah: Resourceful Hannah

The Infertile Women of the Torah is an occasional series here at Hannah Wept, Sarah Laughed that examines the role of infertility in the Torah (Old Testament).

Engraving by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1851).
In my last post, I introduced the idea that infertility is of cultural and religious importance within Judaism. I asked folks to read the story of Hannah, perhaps one of the most prominent stories of infertility in the Torah as Hannah's emotions are depicted with such heartbreak and longing. I asked folks to reflect on her story, as so many parts of it speak to our own infertility journeys thousands of years later.

Like many of us, she is devastated after years and years of trying to produce a child with her husband Elkinah, but to no avail. She is bereft with grief and depression: "...she wept and would not eat (Samuel I 1:7)." Weeping and not eating? Sounds like classic signs of depression to me, don't you think?
Reader Gail agrees:
Hannah is depicted as a strong woman who is depressed. She cries and is "bitter in spirit" and she is haunted by her rival, her husband's other wife, who has been able to have children and makes her feel bad. In that way, I can totally relate (expect that my husband does not have 2 wives - only me). I see other women with babies and am jealous and angry and depressed.
Judaism has taught me that there's more than one side to any given story and that we must question all sides. Cue: the Talmud. In a nutshell, the Talmud is a body of complementary interpretation of the Torah. It's kind of like an ancient VH1 Behind the Music but written by ancient scholars and sages. Male scholars and sages, obviously - but this is important, especially when writing and commenting about prominent female figures in the Torah.

In the Torah, the basic story is this: Hannah's super sad she can't have children, she prays like a fiend, BAM! miracle baby - a nice, neat Bible story package with a little bow on it. The Talmud, however, drills down pretty deeply into Hannah's story and I'm amazed that ancient (male) sages spoke so acutely of Hannah's resourcefulness.

So in Samuel I 1:15, Eli the temple priest confronts her in her sorrowful prayer and calls her a drunk, telling her to leave the temple. She pleads with him saying that she is not drunk, but so consumed with prayer for her heart's greatest desire - she never mentions what that desire is. The Talmud explores this much further, and draws on some nifty, lesser known Jewish mysticism in the process. The Talmud asserts that she doesn't just plead with Eli, but lashes out at him and questions the very authority of his priesthood.

The Vilna Gaon, an ancient rabbinic scholar, asserts that Eli didn't properly read his Urim V'Turim, whereas Hannah correctly interpreted it. What's this Urim V'Turim thingie? This is where it gets... mystical. Eli wore a breastplate of 12 jewel stones, each representing a tribe of Israel. To communicate with G-d, Eli would ask his question and G-d would answer by lighting up the stones to form Hebrew characters, spelling out the answer. (Think of the Urim V'Turim like a Divine Lite-Brite.)

Still with me? Good. I know it got weird for a minute there.

When Eli asks G-d, "Hey, Adonai? Who's this crazy lady here praying silently but whose lips are moving?" his breastplate lights up and spells out four characters: shin (ש), resh (ר), kaf (כ), hei (ה). Spelled thusly, they spell out shikorah - meaning drunken woman.

Hannah saw Eli's breastplate light up and recognized the characters for what they truly spelled, when arranged in the following order - כשרה. Read in this order, they spell out k'Sarah: Hebrew for "like Sarah."

Sarah, the original Barren Mother. Chills, right?

Hannah decries Eli's priesthood by saying, "Look putz, I'm prayin' my heart out to G-d over here, and you can't even read the messages G-d is sending you right now! How dare you cast me out of my temple as a drunkard! It is my right to be here and to pray for my heart's deepest desire!"*

*I'm paraphrasing from the Talmud here.

Another example of Hannah's resourcefulness and wisdom: the Talmud asserts that she tried to force G-d's hand that in her silent prayers, she told G-d that she would make G-d answer her prayers. She threatened to go into a private room with a man who was not her husband and confess this act to her husband, Elkinah. Now, Hannah didn't plan on actually doing anything with this man, but the implication as she tells her husband is that she's slept with another man. Elkinah would then take her to the temple so she must drink sotah waters as her punishment/confession of her "sin" (remember, she doesn't actually sleep with the dude, but since they were in a private room together, there's no way to Elkinah to know for sure.)

The sotah waters were a heinous concoction of ashes and water (and who knows what else) that suspected adulterous women were forced to drink. The ashes were from a sheet of paper wherein the accused woman writes her confession and is then burned and mixed into the water. If a woman strayed, the sotah waters would make her violently ill or even kill her; thus, her adultery was proven. The deck is not exactly stacked in the woman's favor here. However, if she was virtuous, then the sotah waters would not make her sick...

The woman would conceive instead.

It's almost like a modern anecdote: a woman can't conceive naturally on her own, so she forces G-d's hand by using another of G-d's creations to aid in her conception. What a resourceful woman she was, that Hannah! It's almost like the idea of using modern science to assist our own reproductive efforts. When we can't make a miracle, we turn to science. But if you believe in the ever-present creative power of G-d, then you have to admit that G-d made that science possible too.

Still, we circle back to the key overaching theme of Hannah's story: if you pray hard enough, a baby will come. Some of you took issue with this as well.

Justine writes:
But the story also sort of raises false hope; "the Lord had shut up her womb," and yet she goes on to conceive? What of the women who can't, who don't ever? Do they simply not pray hard enough?

Elana expands on this with this interpretation:
I used to think that my prayers weren't being listened to, even though I was praying with my whole heart. Now I know that G-d was answering me but saying "Not yet" rather than "No."

For me, I found the most powerful comment to again come from Gail:
Last night, we had our organizational planning meeting and I found out that the last night of VBS is centered on the story of Hannah. And, the moral of the story that the kids are supposed to learn is that "God gives you what you ask for." I just don't know how I'm going to teach this to a bunch of kids when I don't believe it myself.
There is no easy answer or explanation for this. We're working with ancient texts and in a simpler time, simpler answers sufficed. No baby? Pray to G-d. Tada! Baby. Another simpler explanation in that simpler time would also have been, "Well, if there's no baby, then you're being punished."

This is a modern myth that many women still struggle with in their own faith. It was the first time I'd ever truly experienced a crisis of faith when I was diagnosed. I asked myself - and G-d - "Why am I being punished? What have I done?" while simultaneously praying: "And what must I do to regain Your Favor?"

So this is what I would say to Gail - teach whatever your curriculum imposes you must teach your VBS kids. But in your heart, it's okay to know that sometimes G-d doesn't answer our prayers. We have been given the free will to decide how we live our lives in the wake of unanswered prayers.

Look, I know it's not that simple of an answer, and I'm trying to boil down vast amounts of theological philosophy into a conveniently bite-sized blog post. It's this thought, however, that pulled me out of my own crisis of faith. If G-d doesn't answer my prayers, that doesn't mean that G-d isn't in my life; I pray for the strength to make the best decisions to live the best life I know how.

These posts always get so heavy! But they give me a chance to really think about the ways in which my spiritual path has been affected by my infertility.

I would love to hear how these two areas meet for you too. How has infertility affected your relationship with G-d? How do you reconcile the two? Remember, looking for all perspectives, not just Judeo-Christian. I'd also love to hear from the areligious too. Sound off in the comments!

June 8, 2011

Mommy's Garden

A colleague of mine, a parent through adoption, shared a beautiful story of a friend of hers who decided to tell their child they were conceived using donor gametes. I want to share this with you for two reasons: 1) it's such an original way of disclosing to children about their donor origins and 2) I want to save it somewhere for posterity so that someday I can pull this up and reference it when Larry and I blessed enough to have to tell our own children their origin story.

My friend told me this story a while ago, so my memory is hazy on the details. The main points have stuck with me though, so I'm retelling it now as a short work of creative non-fiction. Names are totally made up; I never knew the names of the folks in the original story as it was told to me.

Mommy's Garden

Photo by Stacie via Flickr.

Rose knew it was time to start telling her young daughter about from where she came and the story of her conception. Rose's daughter, Juniper, was a bright-eyed chatty 4-year-old, curious about the world around her. Juniper wasn't like most other 4-year-olds her age; Juniper was conceived with the help of donor egg. Rose and her husband Sam had struggled for years with infertility; their daughter was their little IVF miracle, with the help of an egg donor. Rose wanted to open the door gently to this deep idea with her daughter, so she decided to tell her about Mommy's Garden.

"Juniper, would you like to plant a garden with Mommy?" Rose asked her daughter one warm spring afternoon.

"Sure!" Juniper replied, her eyes lighting up with excitement. She followed her mother into the kitchen.

Sitting on the table was an empty egg carton, a small pot of soil, a spoon, a cup of water, and a small seed packet. Juniper ran up to the table, her fingers pressed on the edge as she stood on tiptoes to see. "We're going to plant a garden in the kitchen?" she asked, incredulously.

Rose sat down and picked up her daughter, holding her in her lap. "Yup, in fact we're going to plant a whole tiny garden in this egg carton!" She reached for the seeds and handed the packet to Juniper. "If we're going to make a garden, we're going to need some seeds."

"What are seeds?" Juniper asked, examining the picture on the seed packet.

"Seeds are very special," Rose said. "They're like little eggs, but instead of hatching a chicken, they'll grow into plants. These are flower seeds." Rose took the packet and opened it, spilling a few seeds into Juniper's outstretched hand.

Juniper looked down at her hand and then back at her mother with astonishment. "There are flowers inside these?"

Rose smiled at her daughter's inquisitiveness. "Inside everyone one of those little tiny seeds is a beautiful flower. The seed is like a special shell, like an eggshell even. If they're going to grow into big flowers, we'll have to take care of them just right. They need food from the soil and plenty of water to make them grow. Oh, and sunlight; flowers need a little sun too."

"Won't they get a sunburn?" Juniper asked, a note of concern in her voice.

Rose chuckled. "No, they won't get a sunburn but you don't want to give them too much sun. It's a balancing act of making sure they have enough to eat and drink. Let's start by feeding our little seeds." She reached for the empty carton and soil and handed Juniper the spoon.

Juniper began delicately spooning the soil into each cup in the carton. While Juniper was diligently filling each cup, Rose began speaking, softly and gently, almost as if wondering aloud:

"Do you remember how I said the seeds are like little eggs?"

"Mmhm," Juniper nodded.

"Well, you came from a little egg too. Mommies have little eggs inside them and then Daddies have to take special care of them so those little eggs can grow into little girls and boys."

"Mmhm," Juniper said again, distractedly. She began pushing her fingers into the soil, making little divots. Rose began placing seeds one by one in the soil, Juniper quick the cover them with the soil.

"These seeds look thirsty. Let's give them just a little sip of water," Rose said, reaching for the cup. Juniper began gingerly spooning the water over the soil. They were making a delightful mess on the kitchen table.

"Now what?" Juniper said, looking up at her mother with a big smile.

"Now we wait," Rose said as she wrapped up her daughter in a big hug. She placed the egg carton on the windowsill over the kitchen sink.

. . .

Rose checked one more time to make sure Juniper was asleep for her nap. She slept curled up in a tight ball, her breaths slow and even. "Out like a light," she thought.

She walked into the kitchen and took the egg carton from the windowsill. The soil still damp, Rose dug her fingers into one of the small seedling cups. She fished around in the soil, her fingers pinching on the newly planted seed. Still pinching the seed between her fingers, she turned on the tap and rinsed the soil from her hand. With a plink, she dropped the seed down the garbage disposal and placed the carton back on the sill.

. . .

The seeds had begun to sprout in just a few days, Juniper dutifully asking her mother if it was okay to give them something to drink nearly every few hours it seemed. Rose was grateful once they began sprouting that they hadn't drowned them.

On this afternoon, Juniper asked to water the seedlings yet again. When she brought the egg carton to the table, Juniper frowned. "Mommy, I think that seed is broken," she said, pointing to the lone still-barren seedling cup.

Rose felt her breathing quicken and a clenching in her throat. "It's now or never," she thought to herself.

"Huh, look at that. I wonder what happened?" she said calmly, trying not to betray her nervousness.

"Maybe it got sunburned," Juniper said sadly.

"Don't be sad, honey," Rose said reassuringly. "Sometimes seeds don't grow. We can get a new seed though and plant that one instead."

"Okay!" Juniper said cheerfully.

Rose wento to the counter and picked up another packet of seeds. "We don't have any more of the old seeds left from when we planted them. But we have a new packet. And these seeds are special - a very kind woman gave me this packet of seeds."

"A farmer?" Juniper quizzed. "I can't believe how bright she is sometimes," Rose thought. "No, not a farmer. Just a very nice lady who let me have her packet of seeds." She handed the packet to her daughter. Juniper turned the packet over and over in her little hands, studying it carefully.

"That was nice of her," she said.

Rose could feel the air catch in her throat. "Yes, it was very nice of her."

As Juniper began making room for the new seed, Rose began speaking in that same soft voice as before.

"Remember how I said that Mommies have special seeds like little eggs too?"


"Well, Mommy didn't have very good eggs. And your Daddy took very good care of them but they just wouldn't grow or hatch or become little boys or girls." She paused. Juniper was gently patting the soil with her fingers, listening intently.

"So a very nice lady gave Mommy some of her eggs," she continued, feeling the tears brim at the corners of her eyes. "This very nice lady gave your Mommy some eggs so you could hatch into a beautiful little girl." she paused when Juniper didn't respond. "Do you understand?"

Juniper's brow furrowed, the wheels spinning in her young brain, putting the pieces together. "I think so. I came from a very nice lady's eggs?"

Rose nodded and smiled, unable to speak as she tried to regain composure.

"Did I live in your tummy?"

"You sure did!" Rose said finally, chuckling. "You wouldn't hold still for a second. Mommy barely got to sleep while we waited for you to come out. But you understand that you didn't come from Mommy's eggs, right?"

"Yeah," she said quietly, the notion still clearly processing. "She must have been a really nice lady to give you her eggs. I'm glad she was so nice to you."

Rose scooped her daughter up into a tight hug, the tears flowing freely as she stroked Juniper's head. "She was a very nice lady and it was a really nice thing that she did."

Juniper wriggled back, puzzled by her mother's tears. "Mommy, why are you sad?"

Rose smiled. "I'm not sad honey. Sometimes Mommy cries happy tears. I'm just so happy to have you as my little flower."

Rose hugged her daughter again, tighter this time, knowing there would be many questions in the days and weeks and years to come... but that it was going to be alright.

June 6, 2011

Thoughts On Choosing the Donor Egg Path

Photo by Frank Monnerjahn via Flickr
IVF with donor egg is a tough concept to wrap your brain around; I certainly struggled with it initially. We've certainly flip-flopped around in our family building plans in the two years since I was diagnosed: donor egg, adoption, then back to donor egg. I have RESOLVE of New England to thank for that; we went to the 2009 Annual Family Building Options Conference and came out thinking donor egg. Then we went to their Adoption Decision-Making Seminar and came out thinking adoption. After volunteering at last year's Annual Conference, we're back on the path to donor egg. Like I've mentioned in our latest snapshot of our infertility journey, the only thing holding us up is getting our finances saved up for the adventure.

Despite all the flip-flopping on the mechanics of building our family, Saturday certainly solidified the decision for us and for the first time, saving up the money be damned, I'm actually really excited about the prospect of donor egg. On Saturday, RNE hosted their Donor Egg Decision-Making Seminar; since I'm on the Board, I got to host the event: set up the room, make sure the presenters are set, sign in and register attendees. Did I deliberately volunteer to host one of our programs that just so happens to be right up my interest alley? Why, I don't know what you're talking about!

I brought my laptop with me and tweeted a lot of the key points and information throughout the day. (You can see the summary of all the #RNEDESeminar tweets here.) It was a nice way to be able to not only jot down notes for myself, but to share them with folks as they were around on Twitter Saturday. Despite all of the research Larry and I have done regarding donor egg, there's always something new to learn, and I certainly picked up a few interesting facts, such as...

Did you know different sects of the same religion have different views on donor egg? For example, if you're a Sunni Muslim, donor egg is forbidden; if you're a Shiite Muslim, it is permitted. Of course my ears perked up when the presenter talked about Judaism: the halacha is a bit fuzzy on the whole issue of donor egg, so really, it's whatever your Rabbi says. Ha! Like I have a Rabbi right now; we still need to find a shul to call our own. (PS: live in MA? Know of a nice Reconstructionist Temple w/in the Boston/North Shore area? Email me.)

That said, I learned a lot and was thrilled to connect with the other attendees; we had 14 total (7 couples) and it was refreshing to connect and talk with folks in person. I'm actually seriously considering starting my own peer-led support group in the North Shore region; meeting other people who really understand the infertility experience is so therapeutic. I'm hardly a healed woman myself; I've come a long way, yes, but I still need the support on a regular basis. I was also shocked that 2 other women there had POF diagnoses, as well as one of the panelist speakers at the end of the day. We're such a small lot that I was glad I could meet other POF-ers in person. ("Glad" of course is a relative term: no woman should ever have to go through POF.)

I wanted to share just a few highlights from the day. The Donor Egg Seminar was structured into five sessions throughout the entire day and I'll just share a few gems from each one:

From Preparing the Way for Egg Donation
Dr. John Petrozza, Chief, Reproductive Medicine and IVF, and Joan Eilers, RN, MGH Fertility Center
  • IVF with donor egg has around a 55% success rate nationally which is slightly higher than "regular" IVF (that is, trying to use your own eggs). While success rates vary by clinic, select a clinic that feels like the right fit for you: consider doctor/patient dynamic, nurse and office staff, timeliness of response, etc.
  • The ASRM guidelines for donor compensation suggest a minimum donor fee of $5,000 but anything above that should be justified (which is a debatable term right now). The ASRM considers a donor compensation fee above $10,000 to be exorbitant. 
  • Donor egg recipients have it a lot easier than normal IVF patients. The prep is in telling the ovaries "Hey! Don't do anything!" and that's typically accomplished with birth control pills. Some recipients may complete a mock cycle: it's a dry run just to see how the recipient responds to meds; this is typically reserved for patients who have never completed IVF before and is usually done concurrently while the donor get screened, to save time.

From Legal Issues and Contracts
Amy Demma, Esq, Law Office of Amy Demma
  • Reproductive lawyers are a small, niche group in this country but are extremely well-versed in the intricacies of navigating the legality and ethics of assisted reproductive technology. It's in your best interest to seek out a specialist this this area of law rather than say, your real estate lawyer.
  • Did you know about the Donor Sibling Registry? When working with a lawyer, you can include this in your contract with the donor requiring her to register. It's a valuable tool and resource for intended parents and donors.
  • While not required, it's good practice to have your lawyer review your Service Agreement with your chosen donor agency. When in doubt, just remember: it's for your benefit and legal protection to have that set of expert eyes looking over any contracts before you sign.

From Finding a Donor
Sheryl Steinberg, Senior Case Manager, Fertility Source Companies: The Donor SOURCE
  • Donors are typically young women in their early to mid-twenties. They come from all races, religious backgrounds, marital status, and may or may not have already had children.
  • While you can't obtain full medical records of potential donors, they are expected to complete a detailed medical history and comprehensive diagnostic screening.

From Psychosocial Issues
Laura Lubetsky, LICSW, Brigham and Women's Hospital Center for Infertility and Reproductive Surgery
  • Selecting your donor: looking through profiles and their pictures - is a weird experience, like you're going through It's perfectly normal to feel weird about the whole thing; it's also perfectly normal for there to be feelings of guilt, anger, and grief.
  • If you're using a known donor, particularly a family member like a sister, consider the Thanksgiving Dinner scenario. What will the dynamic be like with you, your sister, and your donor egg conceived child at the table? How will define your roles? How weird will it feel? Will it feel weird at all?
  • While disclosure is almost always a good practice, it really is nobody's business how you got pregnant.
  • The idea of how to tell your children they were conceived with donor egg can seem particularly daunting  to intended parents. Typically, after you have your child and once you're parenting, the idea doesn't seem so foreign and there are a variety of resources out there to help you begin that dialogue with your child.

From A Group Discussion About the Issues—Recipient Parents Speak
Annie Geoghegan, LICSW, Brigham and Women's Hospital Center for Infertility and Reproductive Surgery
  • One couple on the panel talked about the very broad way of how they plan to tell their daughter she was conceived by donor egg: "You weren't an oops baby. In fact, your daddy and I couldn't have wanted you more."
  • "Everyone comes to the moment they pick their donor differently, but when you do, something just clicks. Selecting a donor can become a very philosophical process."
  • "Your emotions can change so much during the whole donor egg process. Just try to take it a day at a time."
  • "The moment that baby is in your arms, all those concerns about using donor egg totally shift. You have to stomach this weird process to get to this wonderful end."

On a very personal note, this was perhaps the most emotional and valuable session of the entire day. I left feeling so filled with hope to hear success stories from parents via donor egg. I think the one piece of information that stuck with me, as I drove on a long quiet drive by myself back home afterward. Right now, even though donor egg and IVF and clinics and costs and how are we ever going to tell our children are so ever present on our minds, things totally change and all this worry-filled head space starts to feel more and more distant. The moderator for the panel discussion put it best: if you successfully resolve with donor egg, it stops being the headline. It becomes a badge you wear instead.

I like that. A headline implies that the whole world is looking at you with a judgmental lens; a badge is something we've worked hard to earn and is something of which we can be proud.

I can't wait and I hope I'm lucky enough to earn mine soon.

June 3, 2011

5 Infertility Books for Great Summer Reads

Welcome to the first of a 5-part* series of infertility book reviews to be published every other Friday this summer! While there are many books about infertility out there, I wanted to highlight a handful of some newer titles and some old classics. These books aren’t exactly beach reads - I imagine folks might look at you funny if you’re reading say, Toni Weschler’s Taking Charge of Your Fertility while sunning in your finest bikini - but they’re quick enough reads packed with great information that you can pick up casually over the summer.

If you’re interested in the full list of infertility books sitting on my shelves at home, head over to my Resources page. *There might be a lil bonus book thrown in there, if you notice the big gap in July below :)

Infertility Summer Reading Series Featured Books
  1. Conquering Infertility by Dr. Ali Domar - (Read the review from June 3)
  2. Inconceivable by Carolyn and Sean Savage - (Read the review from June 17)
  3. Good Eggs: A Memoir by Phoebe Potts (Read the review from July 1)
  4. Silent Sorority by Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos (July 29)
  5. Navigating the Land of If by Melissa Ford (August 12)

Feel free to start reading ahead or wait until after the review goes up. All I ask is that comments stay on topic to the book reviewed that week. So, let's dive right into the first book of the Infertility Summer Reading Series!

Conquering Infertility: Dr. Alice Domar's Mind/Body Guide to Enhancing Fertility and Coping with Infertility by Dr. Alice Domar

Recommended to me by: Melissa Ford, Stirrup Queens

The Review: Read the introduction. I know that sounds totally boring, but trust me: the introduction is totally the book's hook. As I read each line, I starting ticking off notes in the margins, nodding along with all of Dr. Domar's statements about the emotions I have felt in my infertility journey. I started looking around the room for the hidden camera because honestly, it was like I was reading my own journey in someone else's book. And what a book it is.

Conquering Infertility explores the vast spectrum of infertility's impact in our lives, from our marriage to our relationships with our friends and family and even G-d, to our careers and our own dark thoughts. Throughout her exploration, Dr. Domar offers practical tips for surviving the largest and smallest crises along our journey. The focus of these coping skills is centered on the mind/body technique. It's not that we can think and positively wish our problems away (a la The Secret), rather, we can physically induce our bodies into a state of physiological relaxation where our breathing and heart rate have slowed. The belief is then that by reducing our mental stress, we also reduce the physiological stress we place on our bodies. Thus, we live healthier lives.

Dr. Domar leaps fully into this in Chapter 2: A Toolbox Full of Coping Skills. This is by far one of the most valuable chapters of the book. Offering a variety of relaxation methods: from guided imagery to mindfulness techniques - this chapter gives the reader a set of very practical skills they can carry with them for just about any stage of the infertility journey. I especially was fond of the "minis" - little 1-2 minute simple relaxation exercises that have practical application from hearing bad news from the doctor to when someone cuts you off in traffic (which, if you live in MA like I do, is all but normal here). The minis are a must for everyone!

Conquering Infertility also examines the notion of cognitive restructuring: recognizing and acknowledging the bevy of negative thoughts and emotions that cross through our minds, and then taking them apart and examining them for what they are. We might tell ourselves the myth that we are failures or broken, but when you really take that thought apart, you can see that it's nothing more than a myth, that our value as a woman is not determined by our (in)ability to bear children. Dr. Domar weaves the idea of cognitive restructuring throughout the book as we address the thoughts we have as we relate to our spouses, our friends and family, coworkers- even G-d.

I was particularly engaged in the section about Infertility and Your Career. Whether it was the simple advice of making sure to know where the most private bathroom at work is located (so should Aunt Flo arrive, you can cry in comfort) to deciding whether or not to tell your boss, I was rather invested in this section as I prepare to navigate treatment within the next six months. I did feel the section ended with a broader message of "if you can quit your job, do it" - and that didn't sit well with me. It feeds into the larger stereotype that infertility is a rich white woman's problem and well, some of us just don't have the financial luxury to become full-time infertility patients.

The Appendices offer some quick hits on everything from caffeine and herbs to exercise and body weight. They provide readers with a good foundation to encourage further research on those topics that pique their interest. The second appendix lists various resources; while the resources themselves are valuable, their contact information is outdated as the book was last printed in 2004 (e.g., RESOLVE is no longer based in Somerville, MA). I would search for the resources by name on Google first before trying to call any of the phone numbers or sending emails to those listed in the appendices.

Quotable Moment: Wonderfully wise words from Dr. Domar on the value of relaxation (emphasis mine):
“Try to do it every day, but if you miss one day, don’t judge yourself; simply try to do it the next day. Before you begin to develop a relaxation ritual, you must accept on a deep level that you deserve to take twenty minutes out of your day for mental and psychological relaxation. You need it, you have a right to it, and it will benefit your health. Don’t feel guilty about telling your husband or others that you need this time for yourself - after all, it will indirectly benefit those around you.”
Rating:  (out of a possible 5 tasty pomegranates) Conquering Infertility is a really powerful read and still very relevant nearly 10 years after its first publication. To have received 5 tasty pomegranates, I would like to see an updated edition with including updated research and resources since its second printing in 2004. Conquering Infertility is a quick but thorough read with the the acute quality to pick it up and be inspired when you need it at all the stages of your infertility journey.

Food for Further Thought: While Dr. Domar wrote her book in 2002, there's been much research addressing the possible link between stress and infertility. As she notes, infertility breeds a vicious cycle: we're stressed that we can't get pregnant, stress impedes our fertility, we seek treatment, we get stressed about treatment before and afterward, and so on. However, a recent major meta-study just a few months ago claims there is in fact no link between stress and fertility. It's a pendulum game like so may other medical studies: we hear that red wine is good for us one day and bad the next. Cell phones are fine and then the next week, WHO announces they could actually give us cancer. So goes the pendulum for the link between infertility and stress. At the end of the day though, we know that stress does a number of crazy things to the human body, so whether mind/body techniques can help get you pregnant or not, is it all worth it to give you a better quality of (stress-relieved or stress-free) life?

Have you read Conquering Infertility? And what about conflicting recent research on stress and its possible link to infertility - what do you think? Don't forget to come back in two weeks when I review the new memoir, Inconceivable. And if you pick up Conquering Infertility and give it a read, circle back here and share your thoughts on the book!