Showing posts with label Hope. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hope. Show all posts

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.

May 20, 2011

The Infertile Women of The Torah: Infertility in Biblical Judaism

Marc Chagall (1956):
Hannah prays to the Lord for a son who will be Samuel
My page titled Who Are Hannah and Sarah? consistently gets the second highest number of views on this blog, besides the main page. It makes sense: neither are my name so the page outlines from where the inspiration for my blog title came and in what lens I first approached the news of my own infertility diagnosis. In short, the stories of Hannah and Sarah provide a unique juxtaposition of the issue of barren women in the Torah; for me, these stories serve as a model for infertile women in Judaism.

As I've come to terms with my infertility over the last two years, my faith and my infertility continue to contextualize one another. I'd like to write about some of the key players in my spiritual journey: our ancient infertile mothers - our Jewish Matriarchs and other key women in the Torah. I'd like to start an ongoing series with a few posts a month exploring various aspects of infertility in the Torah.

I hope you'll read along and I'll do my best to explain everything so it's approachable for anyone who reads this blog. I'm not here to push any kind of religious agenda; I'm just trying to explore my faith and see what lessons we can glean from a historical biblical perspective.

Tuesday night I had the privilege to attend a really engaging, deeply meaningful program at Mayyim Hayyim, a progressive mikveh and Jewish education center in Newton. The topic was "Infertility, Matriarchs and Ritual." One of the presenters was a rabbi who offered some truly thought-provoking exploration on the story of Hannah. She noted that three of Judaism's four Matriarchs: Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachel - were each infertile and the prominence of Hannah's story in the Torah as well.

What struck so much with me was what she said next: "And those are just the ones who made it in." Like all holy texts, the Torah was hardly exempt from (patriarchal!) editing through the centuries. In some ways, we are lucky that the story of infertility even made it in the Torah at all. It's a thoughtful inclusion when G-d's first commandment is to Adam and Eve are "be fruitful and multiply."

As long as humankind has been havin' babies, there have always been those who can't. The Torah could have been very unkind to these ancient barren women by casting them in a harsh light or omitting their stories entirely, but their stories have been included to survive thousands of years. To me, that says that infertility is valued as a historical, cultural lesson within Judaism.

Interestingly enough - and this is really important here folks - the Torah never says that their infertility is the result of something they did or G-d's punishment. Think about that for a minute.

There's a really beautiful commentary in the Talmud (a body of ancient rabbinic commentary on the Torah) about how Hannah "spoke in her heart." She prays silently, moving only her lips. The Rabbis in the Talmud give Hannah a strong voice, saying that she "spoke in her heart" the following:
She spoke concerning her heart. She said before Him: Sovereign of the Universe, among all the things that Thou hast created in a woman, Thou hast not created one without a purpose, eyes to see, ears to hear, a nose to smell, a mouth to speak, hands to do work, legs to walk with, breasts to give suck. These breasts that Thou hast put on my heart, are they not to give suck? Give me a son, so that I may suckle with them.
This particular commentary says something very profound about the fundamental nature of infertility: just as G-d created every part of our bodies, G-d too then created infertility. If a part of our bodies does not function in some way, G-d has fashioned that disfunction. Granted, this is a very modern interpretation of this Talmudic tract, as we live in an age where infertility is recognized as a medical issue. I'm not saying that infertility happens for a Divine reason or purpose, but I argue this commentary opens the door to say that infertility is as much of one of G-d's creations as are our limbs, organs, or breath.

I have a lot more to say about Hannah, so I'll leave you with a short homework assignment:

Read about the story of Hannah in the Torah and then come back here and share in the comments what part of her story resonated with you the most. I'll use the discussion and comments to guide the next few posts in my "Infertile Women of the Torah" series. And remember, I'm not just looking for Jewish responses or approaches only - I'm looking for all views, religious or otherwise. Just think of Hannah as an infertility story just like any of ours. What sticks out for you?

May 15, 2011

Senator Gillibrand introduces the Family Act of 2011: An Infertility Tax Credit Bill

Photo by Keiko Zoll, from Advocacy Day.
Exciting news folks: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has officially introduced the Family Act into the Senate (S. 965). The Family Act is a bill that creates a tax credit to reimburse individuals for out of pocket expenses for infertility treatment. While the text of the bill has not yet been released (it should be in the next day or two), it is anticipated that the tax credit will provide a lifetime cap of just over $13,000, renewable up to 5 years, and on a 50/50 cost share between taxpayer and government. The Family Act has been modeled after the very successul federal Adoption Tax Credit.

Here's where your help is vital: we need Senate co-sponsors like whoa. RESOLVE has set up a very easy form for you to contact your Senators right at their website. Send an email to your Senators encouraging them to co-sponsor the Family Act here.

Additionally, if we really want to gain traction on Capitol Hill, we also need a House version of this the Family Act. Please consider contacting your Representatives encouraging them to originate the bill on the House side of Congress. Look up your representatives' contact information here. I've drafted a sample letter to your representatives here, so you can copy, paste, and fill in your appropriate information and send it off to your legislators with ease.

I've already reached out to my Congressman, Representative John Tierney. I sent him a follow up email from Advocacy Day today and then posted a comment asking for his support on his Facebook page - he actually responded to my comment, having read my email! Feel free to get creative and check to see if your Senators and Congressfolk are using social media. I would email them first, then follow up on their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts - it can't hurt!

For more information:
  1. Here's a general overview of the Family Act.
  2. Here's a detailed FAQ about the Family Act. 
  3. The Family Act has been endorsed by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine.
  4. Make sure to Like EMD Serono's Family Act page on Facebook.
  5. And don't forget to write your Senators!

May 11, 2011

Two Videos from Infertility Advocacy Day

Just a quick post to share two videos from Advocacy Day. The first is a short interview with Risa Levine, our keynote speaker and RESOLVE Board of Directors member, and her thoughts on how Advocacy Day went this year.

The second is Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz's inspiring address to the volunteers before we headed out to our appointments. The first video is just over 2 minutes long, the second is about 11 minutes long. Something short or something more, depending on the time you have to view them. Please also feel free to share on your own blogs; you can snag the embed code right from the videos below. Enjoy!

May 2, 2011

Nat'l Infertility Awareness Week 2011 Highlight Reel

It's hard to believe that National Infertility Awareness Week is already over. What an incredible week it was! I got to meet so many new people and be exposed to so many more blogs and resources out there... it was really just a phenomenal experience. I can't believe how much more involved I was this year and I have to say, it felt great to make those connections to and to offer that kind of support to others.

After such a whirlwind week, I wanted to share some of those moments, blog posts, and other goodies around the web that stood out for me this week. I present to you my personal Highlight Reel for NIAW 2011:

The Blogosphere
Other Media

...Now what?
Just because National Infertility Awareness Week is over, it doesn't mean the work is done. The next big thing is Advocacy Day this Thursday. Believe it or not, there is still time to sign up. There are over 100 participants and at least 18 states represented... and there's room for more! Find out how you can participate in Advocacy Day either in DC or in your home state. I'll be going to DC for my very first Advocacy Day; I'm so excited! If you're going, leave me a comment or shoot me an email.

What other awesome things did you come across on the web this week? Share your resources and great NIAW finds in the comments!

April 19, 2011

Surrogacy Lawyer Radio Show Update: MP3 Available Online

If you missed me on last week's The Surrogacy Laywer Radio Program with Evelina Sterling, you can download the show as an mp3 to listen to at your leisure!

Click here to download Premature Ovarian Failure and the NIAW/PETA Debate with Evelina Weidman Sterling and Keiko Zoll.

As the title mentions, Evelina and I talked about all things POF; Evelina spoke to the more clinical aspects of the disease and I shared my personal experiences as a patient. Evelina also shared how it's now referred to as Primary Ovarian Insuffiency. And of course, we saved a few minutes at the end to chat with Theresa about the whole PETA ordeal.

If you have 54 minutes right now, you can listen below:

April 11, 2011

Reflective thoughts on PETA forthcoming - promise!

Hey folks - I've been meaning to post a nice reflective piece on this whole experience. It has been a whirlwind of a week and weekend, but I'm literally running on empty right now between work and some after work commitments (in addition to getting my house cleaned/organized for visitors in a couple of weeks). My schedule, as it always does in April, has blown up.

I'm hoping to have something up by tomorrow night at the latest, but wanted to share a couple of quick, cool things:

1. The NIAW language that still remained on PETA's directing Features page has been removed as of 12pm EST today. Victory complete!

2. We got media coverage in Canada... under "Weird News." Lol, I'll take it.

3. We got an amazing and inspiring summary of events from Rachel Gurevich from How Blogging, Online Petitions, Phone Calls, and Email Writing Really Can Make a Difference

4. I'll be appearing as a guest with Evelina W. Sterling from Rachel's Well on Theresa Erickson's The Surrogacy Lawyer Radio Program THIS THURSDAY at 11AM PST/2PM EST. Tune in online here!

So stay tuned for (what will hopefully be my last) blog post about PETA and this whole experience tonight or tomorrow.

And now, I'll leave you with another picture of my cats, because they are quite frankly - adorbs.

That's right, our cats hold paws. Behold the cute.

March 25, 2011

Infertility and Raising Awareness

We are more than our infertility. 
When we think of infertility, sometimes we think about all the things it has taken away from us: our fertility, our sense of control in our lives and of our bodies, sometimes even our hopes and plans. Infertility can make us weary, stressed, sad, numb, frustrated, jaded, angry, confused, scared, restless... the list goes on. For some, infertility leaves a sense of emptiness inside them. For others, infertility is less a sense of emptiness but more of a constant reminder that shadows them wherever they go.

I have said this on multiple occasions and I'll say it again: we are more than our infertility.

Often, when I speak of my own infertility journey, I start with saying "Infertility has robbed us of the chance to build our family the old-fashioned way." It's true. That chance was in fact stolen from me. Yet it hasn't left me empty, even if at first it felt that way. And I don't feel like infertility is chasing on my heels, a shadow I can't escape, rather, it's colored my vision and the way I look at the world. Infertility has changed me as a person, but I am not defined by my infertility.

I think this is due largely to my involvement with RESOLVE, particularly with advocacy and raising awareness. I've written before that I fit very much the definition of a wounded healer, that from my place of pain I am able to turn around and help others. A lot of this is probably personality but I think a good portion of this is simply part of my healing process. And I won’t lie: it kills the time while we wait to begin our own family building process.

Raising awareness and advocating for infertility treatment, coverage, and research has given me back a lot of the things that felt taken from me. I feel like I’ve regained a sense of control and that I’m engaged in meaningful, purpose-driven work. A couple of weeks ago, I was telling my husband how I was sorry I’m not the same woman he married three years ago. “Infertility has made me a different woman,” I said.

“It’s true. You’ve changed,” he said, without hesitation. I turned to look at him. “But you’re a stronger woman because of it.”

I carried a lot of shame for that first year after my diagnosis. After creating my video for National Infertility Awareness Week last year, it was as if that veil of embarrassment and guilt was lifted from me. I spoke with confidence: “My name is Keiko Zoll, I’m 26 years old, happily married, and living with infertility.” That confidence has only grown and yes, I am a different person – a stronger, more passionate person who’s ready to take on the challenges facing our community and advocate for change.

I know advocacy isn’t for everyone, but I can’t deny how much of a positive impact is has not only made on our journey, but in my life.

There are two ways you can raise awareness and advocate for change coming up in the next two months. One requires very active, direct interactions with legislators while the other can be more passive, from the comfort of your favorite blogging platform.

Less than a month from today, RESOLVE is sponsoring National Infertility Awareness Week 2011, from April 24 – 30th. There are a variety of events happening around the country, and you can host your own event too. Or, if you’d like a more passive approach, check out this year’s Bust a Myth Infertility Blog Challenge. Pick an infertility myth and blog about it – it’s that simple! All entries will then be eligible for RESOLVE Hope Award for Best Blog at their annual Night of Hope Awards.

With all of the misinformation and misunderstanding about infertility out there, this is a perfect opportunity to raise awareness and pave the way for change. You might even use it as an opportunity to “out” yourself to others- daunting and not for everyone, I know – but still a perfect chance to show people how 1 in 8 is not only someone they know, but someone just like you.

If you’re feeling particularly inspired and fired up, you can also participate in RESOLVE’s Advocacy Day on Thursday, May 5th. With RESOLVE’s training and guidance, you can meet with legislators on Capitol Hill to speak about why Congress needs to care about infertility and to legislate wisely when it comes to reproductive healthcare and mandated healthcare coverage. Can’t make it to Washington D.C.? No problem! RESOLVE will help set up appointments for you with legislators in your state and local districts.

I realize how intimidating this might sound, but others just like you have done it (Stirrup Queen, Body Diaries by Lucy, and A Little Pregnant, to name a few) and after the initial jitters, feel exhilarated at having taken such a bold step in infertility advocacy. To quote the ever fabulous Julie over at A Little Pregnant, "I don't really know what to say about Advocacy Day except that I have never had a more empowering moment as an infertile person." How is that not inspiring to get involved?

I’m planning to go to Advocacy Day myself this year for the first time. I can’t make it to D.C., but I can certainly take a day off of work to meet with legislators here in Mass. and thank them for their support and provide them with further education. Honestly, it’s the least I can do for having the privilege to live in state with mandated coverage.

Infertility and raising awareness, advocating for change: it’s good for the soul. It feeds us with passion and purpose. We regain some of that control we’ve lost. We see our infertility less as a limit of who we could have been and more of an opportunity of what we can become and the change we can make in the world. Raising awareness and advocating for change helps to support our infertility brothers and sisters-in-arms.

In the end, we come out stronger because of it.

This post is part of’s Health Channel Fertility Blog Carnival hosted by Rachel Gurevich, author of

March 18, 2011

Redefinition Day: Celebrating Myself Beyond My Infertility

Today I celebrate myself. (Silly hats optional.)
I used to call this day D-Day, for Diagnosis Day. My friend Honeybee has called it my Redefinition Day as I look back at from where I've come in just two years. Two years ago, all I could see was infertility, my life permenently changed and colored by this crushing diagnosis. Last year, I decided to celebrate myself, to move beyond this definition.

I take the time to set aside a whole day to tell myself: "I am more than my infertility." Has it changed me? Yes. It has impacted the ways in which I view the world, myself, and my relationships with others. It has colored my previous notions of what I want to be when I grow up. Does it define me? No. It has nearly beaten me down but I've risen up from its blows as an advocate, a wounded healer, a Warrior Woman.

. . .

One of the things that attracted me to Judaism is the notion of marking time, of sanctifying both the ordinary and extraordinary moments in our lives. There are rituals for births, coming of age, weddings, funerals, but there even the daily ritual of waking up is made holy and sacred. The kashrut sanctifies the very food we put into our bellies, recognizing that even nourishment is a blessing. In Judaism, every moment of life is precious and sacred, and so we mark it accordingly. With the devastation in Japan, there's no greater reminder of just how important it is to cherish each moment of our lives. (Speaking of: want to help the relief effort in Japan? Donate to the Red Cross here.)

It might be easy to paint this now "official" ritual of taking the day off as a way of brooding on something I should move beyond. But when I think about it from a Jewish context, it's almost like a yartzheit. I lost something very dear to me, and so on its anniversary, I choose to remember, reflect, and redefine myself beyond what was lost.

. . .

Last year I took the day off: I got a massage, I did nice things for myself. This year, with all the busy-ness of the last few weeks, I realized I had taken the day off from work but hadn't planned anything in particular. I received a lot of great ideas both in the comments here and on my Facebook page about how I could celebrate myself today.
I'm spending the first half of the day getting my car inspected. The lease is up and we'll be turning it in this weekend for a brand new car... details (with pics!) on Monday, promise. Then I'll grab myself a nice lunch. I'm thinking crepes at Gulu Gulu Cafe.
Then I'm heading to a zero balancing and massage session. Zero balancing is kind of hard to describe; it's an intergrative approach to energy work and massage, but it basically levels you out. I've had it done once about 5 years ago and I think I'm about due for another session. It's good stuff; it's not just stress-relieving, but leaves me feeling balanced and whole again.
After my ZB/massage, I think I'll swing by Cinema Salem to catch a matinee of the Korean film Poetry. The trailer has me hooked, and apparently my local theatre is one of less than ten screens showing it in the country. And then I think I'll get dinner and some drinks with Larry downtown, maybe hit up the Chianti jazz club in Beverly.
It's going to be a fab today. I'm looking forward to just celebrating myself for a whole day, of leaving behind year another year from my diagnosis. I wash my hands of the negativity, the doubt, the fear, the stress and rub my washed hands together and say to myself: "What work will I do this year?"
. . .
That said, even thought I'm sure many of you are at work or have busy lives today, you can help me celebrate too by celebrating yourselves! Even if you have just 10 minutes today, I want you to do something totally for yourself, to celebrate, pamper, and cherish the awesome person you are. Paint your toenails, have a cookie with lunch, go for a walk in your neighborhood, buy yourself a cheap bouquet of flowers, wear your favorite shade of lipstick. Whatever it is, do it for you and tell yourself: "I am effing awesome and I deserve nice things, to be happy, and to take some time for myself today."
Leave a comment telling me what you did for yourself today. I want to come back later tonight and see tons of good things you've all done for yourselves!

February 17, 2011

Compassion, Grace, and Courage

Last week, I gave an interview to my college alumni magazine talking about the work I've been doing for the infertility community, and how my one little video exploded on the internet nearly a year ago. I'm excited to see it come out sometime in April or May, as it will be coming up to the one-year anniversary of my video going live and also (hopefully) smack dab in the middle of National Infertility Awareness Week. As I was talking with the reporter, it dawned on me that it's been almost two years since I was diagnosed. And then I remembered that even those I was still a total IF noob, I outed myself on Facebook just a month and a half after the diagnosis. I quickly deleted it and then reposted it when someone I knew from childhood contacted me privately to say, "Thank you for posting this. I'm going through this, too."

I remember being totally blown away by the revelation that, holy cow- it wasn't just me, and not only that- this is someone I sat with in social studies class in middle school. And then someone else I went to school with contacted me. And then a former coworker. It was one of those moments when I realized just how indiscriminate infertility is and how it's touched a shocking number of people in my lives.

While I was in Atlanta, I received an email from one of those friends that reached out to me nearly two years ago. I'm posting it here with his persmission but have changed their names:

Hi Keiko,

I've been trying to figure out how to write this for weeks. I am going to screw it up and for that I am sorry. I have had this raging internal debate on sending this, for fear of making you feel like I am singling you out or making your day (or even just a brief moment today) unhappy. But as my only IF confidant (besides 1 or 2 VERY close friends) I feel compelled to write you

One of our IUI treatments a few months ago was successful; Bella is at 12 weeks tomorrow. I've been riding a roller coaster of emotions for weeks: joy, fear, guilt among others. The worst has been thinking of my friends in the IF community - and how they would feel knowing that yet another couple is expecting. I wish I had the magic words to make it all right, but as I still haven't found them myself, I don't know what to say... other than thank you: for being a voice, an advocate, and a friend- for doing what you do everyday- for giving all of us hope.

We may be pregnant, but I know I will always be a part of the IF community. I must carry the knowledge everyday that my son/daughter- in spite of all the love and wisdom (ha!) - I plan to give them is ultimately another man's genetic make-up. Ultimately (as we well know) there are burdens in life that we all must bear, and this is one that I happily choose to carry.

We plan to share our news in the very near future with everyone. But I knew that I needed to share this with you before that - and to thank you for being a voice... and perhaps offer you the same hope that you have given me and so many others.

- Edward
You could have knocked me over with a feather after I read that email. I replied and was totally up front with him: I'm so happy for them both, but I know they know that this is also momentarily painful too. I thanked Edward for his compassion, grace, and courage in sharing that with me in such a compassionate, graceful, and courageous way.

It was one of those moments that filled me with hope even through the tears of reading another pregnancy announcement. I hope that one day we do get to experience all of that same joy, and even their fear and guilt too. I feel like it's only natural when IF folks do find out they're pregnant. And I hope we get to experience all of that.

And I hope that if I do, I can show the same level of compassion, grace, and courage to all of you, because I know how hard it will be for some of you to read that. But after reading Edward's email - man, I really hope I do get to share that news with you one day. I was so filled with hope because, unlike the other success stories I read out there - I know Edward. We went to school together, suffered through the same miserable bio class, and while we weren't the best of friends, we got close only recently because we both had such a deeply personal battle in common. And I feel like because I know him, maybe it's totally possible for good things to happen to us, too. His story only makes me more hopeful for our own.

So to Edward and Bella (I couldn't resist): mazel tov on this wonderful blessing, this incredible new chapter in your lives and thank you for being a model of compassionate grace and courage to the rest of us.

Thanks for thinking of us and cheering us on. I'll still be doing the same for you, too.

February 11, 2011

What I learned at the aquarium.

While I was in Atlanta I had a day with some downtime, so I stopped by The World of Coca Cola and the Georgia Aquarium, the largest aquarium in the world. I really thought my weekend would be an IF-free zone but the aquarium had different plans for me.

Of course I'm already setting myself up for failure by heading to an aquarium on a Saturday afternoon: I was surrounded by squealing children and their weary parents everywhere I turned. But I'm just as big of a nerd to tune out a lot of that out, fighting my way past small children to press my nose up against the glass, oohing and aahing at the spectacular array of sea life. I'm a total dork for museums.
The ever curious looking sea dragon.
It was at the sea dragon exhibit that I suddenly felt my breath catch, that lump in my throat. A young father was kneeling in front of the tank, pointing out the creature to his daughter, as she turned her wispy head of ghost-white blonde hair toward the glass. "Can you point to the sea dragon?" he said, and the daughter obliged, pointing. "Yay!" he and his wife cooed, and the girl smiled and giggled, pressing her tiny chubby hands against the glass, mesmerized by the creature.

I want to take my kid to the aquarium with Larry. The thought was as clear as day in my head, followed by that pulling feeling in my chest. I felt corners of my eyes moisten. I quickly stood up (I had been kneeling to get a better view) and made my way over to the next exhibit. Suddenly, all the kids I'd been able to tune out for the last hour seemed as though they had multiplied in number and volume.

I made my way to the main tank viewing area and took a seat, my mouth slightly agape at the sheer size of it. I could have spent hours here, watching the three whale sharks- these beautiful, epic beasts each as big as a bus, the manta rays eerily soaring through the water as if in slow motion, the massive groupers with their slackjawed expressions. I was transfixed - humbled - by this ocean of wonder in front of me. In a lot of ways, it felt like an underwater chapel.

Sitting there, I connected with my infertility in a way I hadn't previously. Seeing that father and daughter, I finally understood a part of this ache within me. I work in education, so it's only natural that I long to teach my children one day. Not homeschooling, rather, how to tie their shoelaces. What to do if they break up with their boyfriend. Why they should read a book- good books. I want to teach them about sea dragons, and Henrietta Lacks and constellations and baking soda volcanoes and all the joys and wonders of science. I want to teach them about truth and integrity and trust and love and responsibility. And everything else.

I only just realized, sitting in front of this massive underwater window, that the grief and pain with infertility isn't just about wanting a baby. It isn't just about baby bumps and showers and revealing your news to your friends and family. It isn't just about nurseries and matching outfits and dolls and mementos emblazoned with "Baby's First."

This ache is about leaving a legacy, leaving a mark on the next generation. Parenting isn't just about answering the alarm on the biological clock: it's about sending a part of yourself into the unknown future ahead of us all. Death and taxes, right? Being able to parent is hoping that one day, one day very long after we're all gone - someone might hear an echo of wisdom, of something we once said and we are remembered.

It's as though infertility robs us of our voice cast ahead into time.

This is what I sat and thought about next to the fishes and the sharks and the rays, creatures with no concept of time, always swimming in this endless ocean. For the half hour or so I sat there, deep in thought, it was as though I was in slow-motion with the fish, the world moving around me at an accelerated pace. Those thoughts, even after only being away for just 24 hours, made me long for home, to be close to my husband.

And yet despite how deeply introspective I became, I sat there wide-eyed, in wonder at the beauty of it all.

January 7, 2011

A little kindness and compassion

...can go a long way.

Photo by Sarah Murray via Flickr.
I sometimes straddle a difficult line with blogging and being public about my identity. Sometimes there are things I am dying to write about here, but I know that even with strategic re-naming of the parties involved, people will recognize themselves and that someone will eventually be hurt by what I write. I practice a high degree of self-censorship in that regard.

But sometimes, when people go out of their way to be so kind and pleasant to you, well, I can't help but write about it. If anything to prove that even though infertile folks have to deal with some of the most asinine but well-intentioned advice, we can also be the recipients of some of the most humbling compassion.

Right before Christmas, my niece began crawling. My sister was so excited and proud of her wee little one- as well she should be! - and wanted to share the good news. On the way home from work, she called me and we were catching up a bit. We would be seeing each other on Christmas Day, so it was more of a "Hi how are ya" conversation. And then my sister got quiet for a minute.

"Everything okay?" I asked.

"Yeah, can I ask you a really stupid, silly question?" she said after a minute.

"Sure. I'll have a stupid, silly answer for you," I teased.

She paused. "How do I know if it's okay to talk about Willow?"

The car was quiet for a minute, the only sound the soft murmur of the highway under my wheels. I thought for a moment. "I suppose you could just ask me, I won't be offended."

My sister went on, "Well it's just that I know you've been in a funk lately and I don't want to babble on about her if you don't want to hear about it. I just don't want to make you upset."

I smiled, deeply touched. "Seriously, you can just ask me. I'll let you know if I don't want to - I'll be honest if it's one of those days."

"Should we have a code word or something?" After a few minutes of debate, we decided that we would refer to Willow in the form of potato products, since her in utero nickname was Spud.

"So... how do you feel about french fries today?" my sister asked.

"Why, they sound delicious! Tell me more," I smiled.

. . .

Not too long after that conversation I was talking with a dear friend, Nicole, online. (PS, totally random shoutout - she is one stellar photographer. Check out her stuff - for seriouses.) Larry and I were heading down to their house for New Year's weekend as part of a very coordinated surprise 30th birthday party for a mutual friend. There were folks coming from all over the country to celebrate our friend's birthday, and sleeping space was at a premium, especially beds. Thankfully we RSVP'd early enough to guarantee a bed of some sort (futon, air mattress, or otherwise) and Nicole was in the lovely position of playing human Tetris trying to figure out where everyone would be sleeping at her house.

Nicole, I should add, is 7½ months pregnant with her second boy. There would also be a recently announced pregnant couple there, as well as another couple with a toddler. We were catching up online when she asked if Larry and I would mind sleeping in the baby's room so the birthday boy (the couple with the toddler) could sleep downstairs in the basement with all of his friends from high school that were coming.

At first I wasn't sure, so I bought myself some time to think about by saying that I'd bring it up with Larry that evening and get back to her. Nicole was very honest, explaining that the baby's room was decorated, painted, and the crib was up, but there was plenty of room for an air mattress on the floor. Given the number of people coming, she had to get creative with the sleeping arrangements.

I thanked her for being so considerate enough to even ask in the first place; it's not that I wouldn't have expected her to ever be so kind, but it was a nice reminder of just how awesome a friend she is to Larry and me. That night I did bring it up with Larry and he said he didn't mind if I didn't. I told him I was on the fence; I was already worried at the potentially baby-centric weekend it could potentially be.

The next morning, a chat window from Nicole popped up. "Problem solved," it said. She had talked it over with our friends coming with the toddler and put them up in the baby's room instead. Larry and I got very lucky and got the quietest, darkest room in the house (our favorite place to sleep when we stay over there). New Year's weekend was a blast, and my "I'm the infertile surrounded by parents and pregnant ladies" fear was overblown. The baby talk was barely non-existent and I had a wonderful time, despite picking up one of the many colds that everyone brought with them.

. .

It's these little moments of compassion that can really go a long way, and that leave me humbled and thankful for the love and support we get. It's nice to feel like sometimes, we're not just floating out on this lonely island throwing bottles of rolled up wishes into the sea: that our friends and family hop into a little canoe, knowing they're headed to an uncomfortable destination but willing to take the ride all the same just to show their support in some way.

What moments of compassion have touched you in your journeys?

December 31, 2010

Cheers to 2011

Photo by Canon in 2D via Flickr.
I couldn't end the year on such a downer of a last post. I'm in a very different place this year: last year, 2010 couldn't come fast enough. Going into 2011, I look back at this year of blessing and abundance. We've been very lucky and have had many triumphs, successes, and joys in our lives, so this year I'm not necessarily rushing into another year. While I'm still basking in the glow of a retrograde Mercury, I do go into the New Year reflective, introspective, contemplative.

With Larry turning 29 last week and seeing my niece crawling around and so big already for six months, it gives me pause. As we head into a new decade, nearly the third decade of my own life, I'm realizing the value of little moments, to savor experiences, and that ultimately, to let the dumb stuff just roll off my shoulders. Life's too damn short to be bogged down.

Infertility still gets me down. This is always a challenge this time of year. It's winter in New England: the days are short - but getting longer and thus, brighter. Another year, another turn of the wheel.

Maybe this will be our year. Maybe not. Whatever happens, we'll roll with it.

. . .

I obsessively try to put together New Year's resolutions, every year. It's kind of a silly tradition. I pump all this hope and good intention and expectation on myself that come January, oh, 15th? they're already forgotten. I even write them down, but hardly glance at them after their writing. In fact, I've begun most of my journals throughout my life* shortly before the New Year, only to write in them for a few months and then leave the rest of the pages blank, memories unsaved and stories untold, off and running to more interesting pursuits than burying my nose in another journal.

*Speaking of these journals... I've recently found ALL of my journals from 7th grade through senior year of high school. I even found my very first diary, from 4th grade. I will be sporadically sharing some of these gems throughout the year.

So instead of making some resolutions, I think I'll just make some... promises to myself? Reminders? Things for which to strive? Hm, I guess that would be resolutions. Whatever.

In 2011, I will:

...become more invested in writing, both here, at a couple of other sites, and damn it, I'm writing a book. Bigger picture: find a little clarity and peace and write about it in the process.
...seriously taking a more active role in keeping up with housecleaning. (Doubling the square footage of living space has been quite the shock to someone who's never really been Lil' Miss Household Chores.)
...keep things in perspective.
...teach myself or learn something new.
...cook more and take some risks in the kitchen (that don't involve breaking the stove... again.)
...get moving (C25 what did you say again?)
..."read" more (or audiobook it up).
...redesign this blog (it's a bit overdue).
. . .

2011 could be our year. Ideally, we'd like to get the ball rolling by late fall/early winter. We have some interesting opportunities on our family-building horizon so who know's what's in store for us this year. I'm keeping things in perspective so if 2011 isn't our year, then it isn't. Won't know until we take each day at a time.

In 2011, I'll take it just like this year: I won't give up.

November 18, 2010

The Infertile's Manifesto

Infertility is... so many, many things, I have learned.

Thank you for such beautiful, moving, thought-provoking responses to yesterday's post, Fill in the Blank. Mum's still the word on where this is headed, but I was so moved last night as I read through all of the responses. Your answers reflect so many stages of the infertility journey: the anguish, the bitterness, the exhaustion.

I was moved and gave pause for the weariness in your words:

"Draining, crushing, the hardest thing I have ever had to go through, hell, suffocating, bullshit, a raw deal, soul sucking, overwhelming, depressing, devastating, a disease that changed my life and perspective forever..."
What stood out for me the most - to be honest, surprised me the most - where the attributions of hope. For all of the pain in these responses, there is hope and even joy to be found. I was so inspired by the subtext of your fighters' spirit throughout the responses. You've written your own manifesto of hope, strength, perserverance.

Photo by Steve Johnson via Flickr.

The Infertile's Manifesto

Infertility is the most devastating natural disaster you'll ever survive.

Infertility is something that is not going to break me.

Infertility is a journey that makes me stronger.

Infertility is not going to get the best of me.

Infertility is not defining me.

Infertility is not the winner.

Infertility is not our fault.

Infertility is not all I am.

Infertility is not the end.

I have to say, it is very humbling and deeply moving to put something like this out there and receive such raw emotion back, because what I have learned is that through it all, there is hope. And even if you don't feel hopeful today, it's still there. It's still just as much a part of our journeys. And when you don't feel hopeful, you're always welcome to come back to the Fill in the Blank list and say so: be angry, be dark, and rage against the cruelty of this indiscriminate beast.

And when you do need a moment of hope, then come back to this list, to the Infertile's Manifesto. Listen the echoes of our hearts. Feel this pulse of hope that beats steadily as we walk this path.

. . .

I realized I have yet to answer my own fill in the blank. So here goes.

Infertility is...

...what has brought me to each of you.

It has allowed me to make deep connections spanning continents, cables, and experiences. It has been a catalyst: I have become a different person, and it's up to me to be happy with myself, to be comfortable in my own skin, to forge a new path for myself and imagine a new story as we build our family. It has been a defining moment, but does not define me.

For all of the pain, the heartbreak, the stress, the fear: I'd never take it back. I'd never wish this on my worst enemy- but I'd never take it back.

Thank you for giving me such hope.

November 10, 2010

Infertility's ethical dilemma.

Tomorrow I have my second opinion appointment. I've filled out all of my pre-appointment paperwork. Larry has filled out all of his pre-appointment paperwork. I have a 1-inch thick file of all of my bloodwork results in the last year and a half, and two handy Excel spreadsheets summarizing my thryoid workups and female hormonal workups. I am ready to go. And well... I'm a little nervous.

Anytime I open myself up to more diagnostics, more testing, I always worry that I'm opening myeslf up for something worse. What if it was never POF all along and instead it was... pancakes? Or dumptrucks? Or... *gasp* Sunday coupons?! (I'm replacing all of the other horrible things a gal could be diagnosed with less severe things as I'm superstitious to ever name actual horrible conditions, like, if I write it here, I'm jinxing myself).

I'm 99% sure I'm going to receive the same diagnosis of POF; my FSH hasn't really dipped below 50 and was at its highest, around 67 I think. I'm not so much looking for a second opinion on the diagnosis as I'm looking for a) a more competent doctor, because as I talked to many folks at the conference this weekend, Dr. G is bad news and b) the slim chance that maybe, just maybe, we could build our family without the use of donor eggs or heading straight to adoption.

Which lead's me to infertility's ethical dilemma... what if I pass on my infertility to my children?

Here's the thing: if I were to do IVF with my own eggs (which, as far as I know based on one opinion, this isn't possible), it would probably save us anywhere from $5-$7K out of pocket (potentially more with agency fees on top of that). I'm lucky because my insurance would cover all my medical costs as well as the donor's medical costs, but I'd still have to pay for all the donor compensation for her time and travel, essentially, the donor fees. Also, insurance (of course) will not pay for legal fees as donor egg use requires the use of a laywer to negotiate the legality of the future child, as in, who's child is this legally. So if I were to use my own eggs, I wouldn't have to worry about paying for anything out of pocket other than office visit and prescription co-pays.

Not only would using my own eggs be cheaper, but I'd get to live that dream of making a baby that's party me, part my husband. But if I do use my own eggs, I could very well pass down my infertility to my potential children.

Would my future child resent me for it later if and when they try to conceive and they ran into issues? I realize that I don't resent my parents for giving me a predisposition for diabetes and heart disease, but if I knew that my parents had a choice in the matter... well, I don't know then. I mean, I'd rather be the person that I am, future potential medical issues or not, rather than not existing at all (as who I am genetically) because my parents used donor gametes. Maybe I'd be able to have a closer relationship with my child, instead of them pushing me away, because Mom and Dad would understand, and we'd be able to share resources with them.

And it's all a gamble anyway... what if we used donor gametes and our future child still had infertility issues later in life? What then?

What if, what if, what if... it's so easy to start formulating endless possibilities and scenarios, like a flowchart of doom branching menacingly into the future. But this is a valid question with which I really struggle: what if I gave this G-d awful, terrible, heartbreaking, tragic disease to my own child?

All just for the sake of being able to say that this child is half-Keiko and half-Larry?

Is it worth it?

. . .

I know there's no answer to that question, and I don't know if any of us could answer that question. But I have to be honest: it doesn't feel rhetorical.

And it doesn't feel ethical. But I suppose, barring genetic testing and selective reduction, there's not a whole lot I can do. And even those options feel icky and just not the best decisions either.

This is infertility's evil Catch-22.

. . .

And this is all on the assumption that I could ever conceive a child with my own eggs. The odds are stacked against me, no matter what doctor I see. So it's all just a waiting game: arming myself with a long list of questions for the doctor tomorrow, and hoping to finally get some encouraging news for once in this journey.

November 6, 2010

RESOLVE of New England Annual Conference Live Blog!

I'm blogging live today from the RESOLVE of New England Annual Conference in Marlborough, MA. Stay tuned for updates throughout the day - make sure to hit F5/Refresh! Newest updates at the top of this post.

5:15pm - Alrighty, we're out. Full recap post tomorrow. Thanks for following along for this live blog!

5:08pm - Wow. What a day. Just waiting for Larry to come back with his Room Monitor Sheet from the For Men Only Ask the Expert Session.

4:27pm - Helping to tally up the Room Monitor sheets... so far, the morning sessions were really well attended! Great to see folks dropping off evals on their way out, but I hope folks are heading to the Ask the Experts sessions! It's nice to sit at the main table and answer questions for folks. Also? If I haven't mentioned this already? Everyone is super friendly- presenters, exhibitors, volunteers, and attendees. A very safe space indeed for folks at every stage of their journey. Hm, probably should have mentioned that at the beginning of the day :)

4:00pm - Talking about known donors: there's not a lot written about it right now, and that's an indicator of how well they work. All in all, this is a really great session. Have to scoot... I'm working as the Room Monitor Captain for the Ask the Experts Panels at 4:20pm!

3:53pm - Amazing analogy that cracked up the group re: explaining conception to young children -  Conception equals three ingredients: ovum, sperm, uterus. PB&J sandwiches equals three ingredients: PB, J, and bread. If you're out of PB, you don't replace it with mustard because it's the same color. So, kids as young as 4 and 5 can begin to understand the basics of using donor gametes in their conception. Fair enough. Now I want a PB&J sandwich.

3:50pm - Nancy raises an excellent point about revealing donor gamete status. We must ask ourselves: "This is my child's information. If I share this information with others, will it help or hurt my child?" Ultimately, it all comes back to your child.

3:48pm - Members of the audience agree: sharing your stories with others is a good thing. The panelists talk about creating A and B teams - who are the people who can truly support you, and you might find that one person can shift from A to B, based on life circumstances. Your best girlfriend who is your strongest A team member becomes pregnant, and now you can't relate on the same way. She moves to the B team, but she's still your support, just in a more removed way. It's nice to hear other people share that when they've opened up to others they've gotten a flood of support.

3:41pm - Best statement of the conference, from the male panelist: "There's a lot of ways you can cope, but the one thing you learn through these opportunities is, you are not alone." Good lord is that true. That folks, is why I'm blogging and advocating and volunteering. We are not alone.

3:34pm - Lynn: The whole process feels very overwhelming at the start and you're just freshmen now, but you'll be sophomores soon. It'll all make sense soon. The first panelist makes a great counterpoint: it's okay if you're not able to get to that stage, or not able to be comfortable about going to that next step. Refreshing viewpoint!

3:28pm - Nancy: "Parenting is really flying by the seat of your pants." Totally rings of Melissa's keynote speech from this morning about "Just wing it."

3:22pm - Amazing statement from the previous panelist's husband: after 2 failed IVFs, they looked at their doctor and asked, "Why should we do this?" Their doctor's response: "Because one of those eggs could be your baby." And one of those eggs became their daughter. He also spoke beautifully about how much he wanted to see his wife pregnant, to spoon in the middle of the night, feel that big round belly and feel the baby move. "There's nothing like that in the world." First of all, totally never expected to hear this from a guy, so well said. Secondly - wow. Just... wow. It's so relieving to hear someone else express the desire to be a part of that pregnancy experience, as either mother or father. Just beautiful and really moving - lots of sniffles behind me in the audience.

3:13pm - Another panelist shares the very painful recollection of when her RE told her that she was not a candidate for IVF because of her age, despite being otherwise healthy. "It was a long process to try to work through that." She discusses weighing adoption vs. egg donation and went through the loss. Ultimately, the decision for egg donor won because experiencing the pregnancy was important to she and her husband, as well as having control over the health of the child as opposed to the lack of control over maternal health via adoption. Man, this is really stirring up some emotions for me. I hate the idea of feeling selfish for wanting to experience pregnancy.

3:08pm - Awesome comment from one of the parent panelists: when she was telling her 11 year old son that she was speaking at the conference today about donor egg and donor sperm, he told her: "You should bring me in as an example, mom!"

3:05pm - Nancy Docktor and Lynn Nichols, both consultants (private practice and BostonIVF respectively) open things up with our panel of parents who have been through donor gametes.

2:59pm - Waiting for Donor Egg & Donor Sperm: Asking the Tough Questions to begin. Interestingly enough, after talking with Larry today... if we had the chance to conceive with my eggs, we'd go for it. This opens up an interesting can of worms for later, but I'll get into that in a separate post.

2:02pm - Taking a break from the sessions to check out the exhibitors. Lots of candy to give away, as well as neat swag (props to Harvard Vanguard for the pillbox keychain!) and of course, tons of great information. Also great to see Joanne from Circle+Bloom. And I had a wonderful conversation with Davina - apparently she LOVES her doc... who just happens to be the person I'm seeing next week for my second opinion. Very comforting to talk with her about her experience, as I'm nervous about the possibilities.

1:07pm - So... I just got a Volunteer Award. Um, seriously not expecting this and TOTALLY flattered and humbled. Thanks RNE ladies! Y'all rock! (And props to Lee Collins, Terri Davidson, Amy Demma, and Sandy O'Keefe for their Volunteer Awards as well!)

12:57pm - RNE Board Member and Advocacy Director Davina Fankhauser is giving out RNE's Advocacy Awards to our corporate sponsors who helped to get the Infertility Mandate updated in MA. Recipients (in alpha order): BostonIVF, Brigham & Women's, Mass General Hospital, Reproductive Science Center (and specifically Dr. Samuel Peng), and Village Pharmacy. Davina has also announced a celebration of Family Building legislation at the MA State House on Wednesday, Dec. 15th from 2-3pm.

12:15pm - Really informative session. Learned a lot about the legality and the ways in which embryo donation programs vary throughout the country. Now, time for lunch! My tummy is a rumblin'.

11:58am - Susan: Virtually all states have statutes regarding sperm donation: children created through donor sperm are the children of the recipient couple. 9 states have statutes expanding this to include both egg and embryo donation. Sadly, MA is not one of these states. Only GA and FL have laws with specific terminology regarding embryo adoption. She recommends a "belt and suspenders" approach just to make sure that your family is protected by the law, and that means approaching a judge in those 41 other states and going through the procedure to adopt your own child. An almost absurd approach, but it's the safest and broadest protection to the legality of your family and ultimately, it's a bunch of paperwork more than it is from the traditional adoption approach.

11:49am - Amy: While it's legally complex, the legality should not be a deterrent if embryo donation is the right path to family building for you. Susan: Even with known donors, get a contract. Sometimes this can even be a screening tool if someone you know isn't willing to do a contract, this might send out a red flag for the eventual legality of your future family.

11:45am - Susan: Many couples who do IVF are willing to check off the "donate my leftover embryos" prior to achieving parenthood but often change their mind after the fact when they realize that there is the potential for their children to have genetically-related siblings out there in the world. A great discussion going on about consent.

11:40am - An overview of the process: 1) Find embryos. 2) Get them screened (look up IVF records, have donors and recipients screened). 3) Homestudy - are you suitable recipients per the standards of the donation agency? And those standards vary greatly across the map. 4) Medical protocol for the transfer itself. From a mental health professional in the audience: how much does the recipient family get to know about the donor? It varies from program to program. All of the donations that Amy has been a part of have been known. The point is raised that the mental health issues that face adoptive parents are nearly the same for embryo donation recipients.

11:33am - To the African-American woman earlier: don't be discouraged as there ARE options- there are donors and embryos to be found, but just requires some digging. Amy has some great resources to refer to her.

11:28am - Just learned about PGD (Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis). Mind. BLOWN. You can take 1 cell from an 8-cell embryo and run it through hundreds of genetic tests and then you can STILL grow a healthy embryo from the remaining 7 cells. WHUT.

11:25am - Interesting screening issue: donor couple needs to be screened, but if the embryo was conceived using donor gametes, then those donors need to be screened. This of course, varies by clinic, but an important point to consider.

11:21am - "The first place you should start looking for embryo donation programs is with your own clinic." - Amy Demma. The list she started with just two years ago has grown extensively. A large portion of programs have been faith-based, but they have been expanding, as Amy's noted in a really fantastic handout packet.

11:13am - Important distinction: embryo donation is the proper term as legally, embryo "adoption" means that you don't have legal ownership of the child you've carried for 9 months until 4 days after its born (in MA, at least). A small distinction, but a legally important one. Terminology, as I've been learning in our IF journey, is vitally important. Other key definition: embryo donation is a frozen egg that has been fertilized. From a personal perspective, it's where adoption and donor egg/sperm meet. Neat.

11:07am - Survey of the room: some MA couples, 2 folks from NY, and 1 couple from NH. Important to know since laws vary from state to state. Speakers are lawyers Susan Cocklin and Amy Demma, both area lawyers specializing in infertility law.

10:57am - Waiting for the Embryo Donation session to start. Looking forward to getting some more information about a subject about which I don't really have much knowledge. Interesting side-conversation overhead: an African-American woman expresses concerns that her clinic does have embryo donation, but no African-American embryos. A point I would have never considered; even though I'm half-Japanese, I have the luxury of being able to "pass" as "white." That's why ladies like Broken Brown Egg are a vital voice in this community: the African-American perspective on infertility is often forgotten about. Whoa, got off topic here. More updates soon with the latest info re: embryo donation.

10:34am - See! I met Melissa. Here's photographic evidence :) Also, what a great conversation - everything from blogging and book writing to "the ribbon cross lady on the plane." Oh, I do hope she blogs about her b/c that was a hysterical story. Time to head off to the volunteer table - first volunteer assignment of the day coming up: being room monitor for the Embryo Donation session.

10:04am - Chatting with Melissa Ford. She is one cool lady! Discussing the virtues of self-hosting my blog.

9:07am - My husband just called me the "Infertility Engadget" with this liveblog. I'm touched and flattered. Also, the conference Twitter hashtag is #RNE10.

9:04am - Q: Is there a clearinghouse of correct information? A: Go with your gut. Case in point? The multiple times Melissa has received advice to rub yam cream on herself. Yam cream?! Wow. She also addresses the Robutussin lore: may not be scientifically backed up, but we hear about it everywhere. Ultimately? Take it back to your doctor.

8:59am - Exciting! We're opening up for question & answers. Q: Are their blogs for men? Sure ARE! (Looking for them? You can check out some of them here under "The Elusive Male Point of View."). Oh, PS? We need more male voices out there.

Q: "Can you blog anonymously?" A: Absolutely - and if you do choose to reveal your identity, great advice - don't name your doctor, don't name your clinic. (Note to self: I'm going to go back and delete some stuff.) Referencing the Justin Long fiasco. You can also "come out" on your own terms, and when you're ready.

8:54am - "Go online and find your virtual tribe." Great point about the ways in which we seek support. "Go home and start a blog." Wow, so true - that's exactly how I got started, and I know so many of you did too! Shoutout for the ALI Blogroll. "And while support won't cure infertility, it will give you refuge."

8:53am - "The only way out of infertility is through infertility."

8:52am - Best advice for life, received from her dear friend Carla when Melissa forgot the notes to her first book reading: "Just wing it." Life doesn't always go according to plan, and that pausing from life isn't an option. Don't stop living - we can't let infertility take away from living our lives. "Just wing it" is the anti-"just relax."

8:48am - "When the losses are that small that they can be hidden, what right do I have to mourn deeply?" Melissa reflects about the loss of Politics and Prose owner, Carla Cohen and ties it back to the journey of infertility. How do you share a silent experience with others?

8:45am - "Infertility: the news never comes at a good time." Um, truth sister. Sing it, Melissa!

8:41am - Lots of conference raffles... exciting! Also, here comes keynote speaker, Melissa Ford!

8:32am - Been here for a few minutes now, finally connected to the hotel WiFi AND I just met the Stirrup Queen herself, Melissa Ford! Exciting. Also, as far as I've heard - we're officially over the number of pre-registered attendees from last year... final numbers at the end of the day once we figure in walk-in attendees. Considering purchasing a 2nd copy of her book for her to sign since we still haven't unpacked our (21) boxes of books yet. Oops. Ahah, here come Rebecca Lubens, Executive Director of RESOLVE of New England and Melissa Ford... and here we go!

6:46am - And we're off! On the road to the Conference. Hope to arrive just past 8am.

October 18, 2010

RESOLVE-ing to make a difference

I'm so excited that the RESOLVE of New England Annual Conference is in just a few weeks from now! It's amazing to me that last year, Larry and I walked in, wide-eyed, overwhelmed, and still trying to make sense of this daunting path known as infertility.

This year, I'm walking in as a volunteer and Board of Directors member, and Larry's walking in right back with me, also as a volunteer. I talk a little more about my experiences at the Annual Conference blog here and why I'm coming back this year.

I'm also officially inviting every single reader of this blog- no matter where you live- to attend this year's Annual Conference on November 6, 2010 in Marlborough, MA. I know the cost can seem like a lot, but scholarships are available. I should know: it was the only way Larry and I could afford to go last year. I'm telling you: it's totally worth it to attend this conference, if not for the vast array of information, resources, and people you'll meet, but for the sense of hope you'll walk away with at the end of the day.

7 Reasons Why You Should Come to the RESOLVE of New England Annual Conference:

1. Our keynote speaker is Melissa Ford, the ever-fabulous and award-winning author of Stirrup Queens. I'm kind of peeing my pants over the opportunity to meet her in person.

2. Plenty of information if you're considering adoption. The Annual Conference features an adoption track of sessions, including an adoptive and birth parent panel.

3. Plenty of information about IVF and donor egg. Again, a track just for donor egg sessions. We found these programs particularly informative and helpful last year.

4. Consumer access to area vendors. Clinics, adoption agencies, donor egg matching services, pharmacies that specialize in fertility drugs... there are a ton of vendors for you to connect with one-on-one. Whether you're a consumer or an industry professional, it's a great chance to network and gather resources.

5. Raffles! Because who doesn't love a good raffle?

6. New: Ask the Experts panels. Whether you've got questions about adoption, donor egg, your wonky ovaries, your wonky husband, we have a whole series of experts lined up ready to answer your questions from Reproductive Endocrinology, Acupuncture, Men's Perspectives, Nutrition, and more!

7. Come meet me! Not that I'm any kind of main attraction, but it would be awesome to meet some of you fabulous readers and followers IRL.


What are you waiting for? Register today. And if you are going, please do let me know in the comments - I'd love to meet up and grab lunch together during the Conference!

October 15, 2010

Remembering Our Losses

Today, October 15th, is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. Recognized in all 50 states, people are asked to light a candle at 7pm tonight for one hour to remember those who left this world far, far too soon.

I have never experienced a loss myself, and it's something that has actually been the driving force behind pursuing adoption. Is IVF truly worth the risk if we lose the pregnancy? I just don't know how I could bear it. IVF/DE isn't totally off the table yet, but the notion of loss is still an ever-present thought in the back of my mind.

While I'm incredibly lucky not to have experienced loss like this, I know many women, both personally and through the blogosphere, that have. And so for them, for their losses: you're in my hearts always, but especially so today.

Pregnancy loss is one of those topics that people aren't really sure with how to deal. How do you have a funeral? Why does this loss get less attention and compassion than the loss of someone who's older? It's all grief, it's all sad, and it doesn't deserve to be diminished in importance for the griever just because it doesn't fit the typical model of loss and death in modern society.

I can't imagine this kind of pain, and for those who have experienced it: I grieve for you and your loss and hope that you find peace, clarity, and hope it its wake.

Below is an incredibly moving and beautiful video with more information about this day of rememberance.

For more information, please visit

September 27, 2010

Gearing Up for Night of Hope

Night of Hope is tomorrow night, sponsored by RESOLVE. I've got the dress. I've got the shoes. And more importantly, I've got the Award (well, at least on paper - no plaque yet).

Then why do I feel so woefully unprepared for tomorrow night? Why am I so nervous?

I've always been a pretty confident public speaker, extemporaneous or prepared. If I need to get up and do a dog and pony show for people, I'm your gal. I make it happen. Hell, I've got a beauty title and a perfomance at Carnegie Hall under my belt - all before the age of 18. In an alternate universe, Keiko Zoll is a world-reknowned opera star. Needless to say, I don't really have a problem getting up in front of people.

For tomorrow night, I've got a minute and a half to say any remarks once I receive my award. I've known since July that I received this award. And yet... I still haven't written an acceptance speech. Why is this so hard? Why am I so petrified about tomorrow night?

There is the chance for celebs to be there, true- Night of Hope is being emcee'd by Fox and Friends Weekend Anchor, Alisyn Camerota amd The View has been awarded The Hope Award for Achievement. Could I be hobnobbing with Barbara Walters? Maybe... I don't know! But the possibility both thrills and terrifies me.

Me, who's performed five times in "The Vagina Monologues," talking about lady bits in front of complete strangers - is nervous about possibly bumping into the ladies of The View.

I'm excited, don't get me wrong. A whirlwind 48 hours staying in a ritzy Manhattan hotel (hooray for Larry's Marriott points!) and spending the day with my mom. Getting all dolled up. And oh, receiving the Hope Award for Best Viral Video. It's been a slow day at work today and I've had a hard time concentrating because I am so excited. And I'm nervous too. It's getting down to the wire and I really need to write my acceptance speech.

But before I say anything tomorrow night:

Thank you - each and every one of you who read my blog, who watched my video, who forwarded it to their friends and colleagues and sisters and daughters and friends, who posted it to Facebook, your blog, Twitter, and all those corners of the internet.

I could have never won a Viral Video Award if it didn't go viral, and I have every single person who hit play to thank for that.

Thank you for watching, reading, advocating, sharing, and above all else:

Thanks for not giving up hope.

I'll be tweeting and prolly twitpic-ing my way through the event tomorrow, so make sure to follow @miriamshope for a little live-tweeting throughout the night. And if I meet any celebs, you better believe there will be pics! You can also check out other live-tweeters by following #nightofhope.

It's going to be a great night and even though I'm nervous, I can't wait. Wish me luck folks.

July 27, 2010

A Belly Full of Fire, Part Four: In a Perfect World

This is the fourth post of my five-part series on infertility advocacy. Catch up on Part One: Advocate or Abdicate, Part Two: The Wounded Healer, and Part Three: Which Direction Do We Swim?.

The lights go on the lights go off
When things don't feel right
I lie down like a tired dog
licking his wounds in the shade.

When I feel alive
I try to imagine a careless life,
a scenic world where the sunsets are all

-Beirut, A Scenic World

A Belly Full of Fire, Part Four: In a Perfect World

This is one of my favorite songs I've been playing over and over again on my iPhone. I only discovered Beirut last year ago and I'm in love. What on earth does this quirky little indie tune have to do with infertility advocacy?

Let's play a game - Imagine. Let's imagine our careless life, our scenic world.

In a perfect world,
what would the fruits of infertility advocacy look like?

In a perfect world, we could all afford infertility treatments.

Better yet, they wouldn't cost a penny out of pocket. But if treatments still cost money, there would be state and federal grant programs for infertile couples; treatments could be counted as deductions on our taxes. And all insurers in all states would be required to cover treatments that fall within the latest medical guidelines. In a perfect world, infertility treatment would be regarded as a proactive health approach as opposed to elective and burdensome.

In a perfect world, it would be okay to talk about infertility openly. Oprah and Ellen and Tyra would have regular programs highlighting both the celebrity journeys of people like Celine Dion and Sarah Jessica Parker and Padma Lakshmi as well as real people from all walks of life.

In a perfect world, the racial disparity gap in healthcare would be closing. Conversations about infertility would transcend cultural and religious lines. Lesbian and gay couples would not be left out of the conversations either, because yes, even same-sex couples face infertility crises too.

In a perfect world, primary care physicians would pursue reproductive issues with an aggressive and proactive stance. Women and men would be taken seriously in their doctor's office. There would be widespread support groups in every community: more counselors and therapists who solely dealt with infertility issues. And couples wouldn't be afraid to be as honest as possible with one another instead of hiding behind quiet femininity or forced machismo.

In a perfect world, men are no longer an afterthought in the infertility community. The longing for fatherhood is just as valid as the desire to experience pregnancy and birth.

In a perfect world, we wouldn't be asked when we're having kids the day we get back from the honeymoon. We could complain about being infertile the way pregnant women complain about being pregnant. And if we do get pregnant, it's okay for us to complain and celebrate and do all of the things that would otherwise annoy the infertile community, because we've earned that right too.

And when we do resolve our infertility, we won't forget about the ones who are left behind. In a perfect world, we will proudly tell our friends and family the miracles it took to conceive our children.

In a perfect world, millions of dollars are devoted to research and clinical trials and comprehensive support networks and resources for women and men diagnosed with infertility. Our children will grow up with even greater access to care than we have now. In a perfect world, there is widespread dialogue about the importance of men's and women's reproductive health from an early age; we wouldn't be afraid to talk about the reality of fertility preservation in the context of sexual health education for teens.

In a perfect world, we will find an explanation for unexplained infertility. A miscarriage at six weeks is treated with no less support than a loss at six months. A stillbirth carries the same weight as the loss of a young child. In a perfect world, we will not forget about or ignore pregnancy loss, and instead elevate all loss with greater care and compassion.

In a perfect world, choosing not to resolve your infertility is not a sign of failure or giving up. Living childfree will not be regarded as lack or less than, but instead valued as a way for couples to redefine richness and fulfillment in their lives, and to bring themselves closure. In a perfect world, we will not be defined by our status as parents or otherwise.

In a perfect world, we will no longer be ashamed of or silenced by our disease. We will stop judging ourselves. We will be confident in who we are and where our journeys take us.

In a perfect world, we will
conquer infertility.

My G-d, our perfect world is beautiful isn't it? Can't you just see it, taste it, feel all that weight and doubt and worry slip right off your shoulders and out of your mind?

And now our game of Imagine is over, for we do not live in a perfect world. That's why our advocacy efforts matter that much more.

Every act of advocacy brings us one step closer to a careless life, a scenic world where the sunsets are all breathtaking. What does your perfect world for infertility look like?
. . . . .

Tomorrow I conclude this series with a post that inspires a committed call to action. Stay tuned Wednesday for the final chapter of A Belly Full of Fire, Part Five: Millions of voices calling for change.