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

July 26, 2010

A Belly Full of Fire, Part Three: Which Direction Do We Swim?

This is the third post of my five-part series on infertility advocacy. Catch up on Part One: Advocate or Abdicate and Part Two: The Wounded Healer.

Allow me to tell you a story.

A village by the river is thrown into crisis as babies suddenly fill the river, crying and gasping against the strong current. Being such a small, closely-knit community, the village instantly comes together into action. The villagers run to the banks, using nets and rope to try and pull the babies from the water. Some men cast off their shoes and shirts and dive right into the frigid waters, grabbing as many babies as they can as dozens rush by them. The villagers are only so many in number, and the babies keep coming. They cannot possibly rescue them all.

Some villagers suggest heading upstream to see what is causing all of the babies to be sent down the river. But other villagers shout above the chaos: "No! We must stay here and save the babies we can!" And other weary villagers climb up and collapse on the riverbanks, soaked to the bone and exhausted from trying to save so many babies. "What's the point?" they pant, "We can't save all the babies."

A party heads up the river. Others continue to dive in. Some are simply too exhausted to go on. The party returns from upstream, looking haunted and their faces ashen. "There is an evil king directing his army to throw his kingdom's babies into the river. We could overthrow his tyranny if we get enough of you to join us." The villagers argue about what to do next.

All the while, the babies continue to flow down the river helplessly, some scooped up, others unable to be saved. The villagers keep arguing. The babies keep coming.

A Belly Full of Fire, Part Three: Which Direction Do We Swim?

The above is a common allegory often used in upstream/downstream engagement models for active citizenship, philanthropy, development, social justice and activism. Is it an absolutely inappropriate analogy for infertility advocacy? Absolutely. But there's a wealth of insight to be found in this story.

The moral of the story is simple: action is necessary. The conundrum is also apparent: what action is most appropriate? Aye, there's the rub.

Let's break the villagers down into their various roles.

There are the villagers on the shore who dive right in and start scooping up babies. In the context of advocacy, these would be your social workers, your counselors. In the infertility community, these may be support group leaders or hotline operators. In the online world, it might be every single person who comments on news posted on the LFCA. This downstream approach suits best those people who feel compelled to respond immediately to the situation happening right in front of them.

Then there is the party that heads up the river and finds the terrible king. To solve this end of the crisis, they require a lot more manpower to fight the king and his army. In terms of advocacy, the upstream approach seeks to work towards solving the root of the problem. And the root of the problem is never an easy one to fix, because you're mostly dealing with cultural biases, social constructs, and institutionalized oppression.

Heavy, right? It's no easy task and should be pretty obvious as to why the upstream approach needs more than just one person to make any kind of noticeable change.

So how do we address the conundrum of which approach is truly the best?

Answer: you need both downstream and upstream approaches to advocacy to make systemic change. Thus, by default, you need one motivated person and then followers and compatriots to join with them. By spreading out your efforts to solve the immediate crises downstream and also sending efforts upstream to investigate and take aim at the root of the crises, you cast the widest net possible for solutions for change at both levels.

Are you more of a downstream advocate, doing what you can on the local, community levels, or are your more of an upstream advocate, fighting for change on a grander scale? It's not always that clear-cut of an answer, and you may be surprised to see how you can transform from one into the other. Take the story of Risa Levine, as featured in the SELF Magazine article I mentioned Thursday:

When patients do take up the cause, it can make a difference. Risa Levine, a 48-year-old attorney in New York City, endured 10 IVF cycles and four miscarriages, yet remains childless... Instead of withdrawing, she began making calls: Several years ago, outraged at the dearth of funding and research for infertility, Levine approached then Senator Hillary Clinton (D–N.Y.), who went to the CDC. As a result, in 2008 the agency issued a white paper that outlined the very need that Levine and other advocates want fulfilled: more money for more research... The CDC report paved the way for the federal government to develop a National Action Plan for infertility, says Maurizio Macaluso, M.D., chief of the women's health and fertility branch of the division of reproductive health at the CDC... After learning firsthand that the average cost of one round of IVF is $12,400, Levine lobbied her congressman, Anthony Weiner (D–N.Y.), who reintroduced the Family Building Act, a bill that calls for federally mandated insurance coverage for infertility... Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D–N.Y.) has introduced the Family Building Act to the Senate. "One person's passion matters," she says about Levine. (Source.)

Ms. Levine addressed a downstream need in her own journey. But as she advocated on a greater scale, her efforts swam further upstream, requiring the assistance of larger and higher levels of support. It's no surprise then that Ms. Levine has been awarded a Hope Award for Advocacy by RESOLVE for their Night of Hope Gala in September.

Another way to picture this, to take our minds off of babies rushing down a river, is to watch this short video of Derek Sivers' TED Talk on how to start a movement in under three minutes:

Key points from the video:

+ "The first follower is what transforms the lone nut into a leader."

+ "A movement must be public. It's important to show not just the leader, but the followers because you find that new followers emulate the followers, not the leader."

+ "Notice that as more people join in it's less risky, so those that were sitting on the fence before now have no reason not to."

+ "If you really care about starting a movement, have the courage to follow and show others how to follow."

+ "And when you find a lone nut doing something great, be the first one to have the guts to stand up and join in."

. . . . .

So now that you have an idea of what styles of advocacy exist, you can get a better of idea of at what level you're comfortable participating in advocacy efforts. Tomorrow I'll talk about what would be ideal outcomes for all of the hard work advocating for infertility awareness.

Stay tuned on Tuesday for A Belly Full of Fire, Part Four: In a Perfect World.

Photo by Jennifer Gensch via Flickr.

July 23, 2010

A Belly Full of Fire, Part Two: The Wounded Healer

This is the second post of my five-part series on infertility advocacy. Catch up on Part One: Advocate or Abdicate.

Before I get started, I need to 'fess up about something kind of embarrassing. I thought I was being wicked creative with the title of this series, A Belly Full of Fire. Turns out, as I've gone through some of my research, this title isn't nearly as original as I thought it was. I need to fully credit Karima Hijane, Carly Heyman, Maureen Bell, and Mary Beth Busby's 2008 article from the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, "From Fire in the Belly to a Boiling Heart: Fuel for Participatory Research." When I went to start working on this post and leafed through my research, I felt like a putz when I saw their article title. But I like it, it fits what I'm writing about, so I'm keeping it.

"Some women... turn their pain into a passion to help others in similar circumstances. They become what has been referred to as 'wounded healers,' who can help others heal, and help heal themselves in the process."
Source: Amber R. Cooper, A.R., Baker, V.L., Sterling, E.W., Ryan, M.E., Woodruff, T.K., and Nelson, L.M., The time is now for a new approach to primary ovarian insufficiency, Fertility and Sterility (2010), DOI:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2010.01.016.

A Belly Full of Fire, Part Two: The Wounded Healer

I felt robbed. Cheated. Empty.

I would revisit the email from my doctor: "[The results], if they are to be believed, indicate that premature ovarian failure is the problem, not PCOS dysfunction/follicular maturation arrest as you, I and your previous caregivers had presumed." I thought that perhaps, maybe this time when I read it, the words would miraculously transform into "Nothing's wrong."

I started this blog as a way to channel these emotions, to fill some of the void that had been etched into my psyche. I found myself compelled to educate others as I started sharing research and informational posts. I wrestled with G-d for a little while, fighting battles between the lines, wielding my typed words as weapons and my faith as a shield. And before I knew it, the end of April had arrived, bringing with it my first National Infertility Awareness Week. I had all of this pent up frustration, anger, and anxiety, its kinetic energy boring holes into my spirit. Why not channel this energy, I thought.

The first thing I did was out myself on Facebook. The message stayed up there for about three hours before I chickened out and removed it. But in those three hours, I got three messages from friends of mine I hadn't talked to in years, each saying "I understand your journey because I'm going through it too." It was reassuring in ways that my blogging had not been. So then I reposted it with a sense of purposeful confidence. This was the first time I felt oddly positive about my infertility, in that I realized it could be channeled as an educational tool for activism.

I even wrote last April:

The ol' college activist in me is feeling inspired. I think it's because by involving myself in some kind of advocacy role, I reestablish a sense of control.

I keep pinpointing my video and this year's NIAW that launched my advocacy, but looking back through my older entries, I realize it started a year prior. My repurposed energy has refueled my spirit and sustained me through the darker times.

What I've only come to understand recently is that advocacy has helped to heal me. It's not like the emotional compartmentalizing, the escapist video game sojourns, the instant gratification of buying crap I don't need, or the diversional half-assed attempts to "find a hobby" or get in shape - advocacy has been like a bowl of chicken soup. It doesn't make the cold go away, but it fulfills you, helps you get better, and it's a welcome treat anytime you get sick.

I've had the privilege of being in touch with Dr. Lawrence Nelson at the NICHD, undoubtedly the leading researcher of POF/POI in the nation. He sent me the article containing the above quote and the words "wounded healer" resonated so strongly within me. Wounded healer is such an apt description for patient activists. If you take a look at even just a handful of executive directors of major infertility organizations and companies, they each have some deeply personal connection to infertility. With the silence that surrounds infertility, it only makes sense that former patients rise up to become leaders within the field.

Whether we are lobbying on Capitol Hill or connecting with other bloggers, we are each in our own way wounded healers.

The online ALI community has truly rallied around this concept, even if we don't formally call ourselves wounded healers. Things like the LFCA, blog hops, blog awards, online forums: we celebrate and support one another, we share tips and tricks and recommend books and websites. A friend comes to us and says, "A coworker of mine just told me she's about to do her first IVF cycle. Do you mind if I give her your information?" In helping to heal others, as Cooper, et al. notes, we heal ourselves.

It's about repurposing energy. Advocacy becomes a way of transforming pain into positive action. Suddenly you're finding little victories everywhere: your parents help you out at a volunteer telethon and send your organization a check for $250 (thank you Mom and Papa!). You get asked to guest blog or become a contributor. A senator to whom you sent a semi-form letter actually writes back and responds to your concerns, or their staffer calls you back when you leave a message to let you know that yes, your concerns will be passed on to the senator. An letter-writing campaign that you were a part of produces desired outcomes. These little victories add fuel to your reserves.

Are they an equivalent check and balance for a loss or a negative beta? Of course not. But at least you're not running on empty. And you use up that fuel to propel you forward, to keep you going.

I'll speak plainly: advocacy has saved my life. I don't walk around feeling so effing empty. I sat myself down and told myself if I can't create life, I can at least create purposeful living.

. . . . .

Today I wrote about advocacy as a way of personal healing. Take this weekend and invest in a little healing of your own. Come back Monday when I'll talk about how you can figure out what advocacy style best suits you.

Stay tuned for A Belly Full of Fire, Part Three: Which Direction Do We Swim?.

Photo by Clay Junell via Flickr.

June 17, 2010

And sometimes, the Universe looks out for you.

Moving to Massachusetts was one of the hardest transitions in my life. In the first six months, I did not adjust well. I was bitter, angry and resentful I had been uprooted from the relative comfort and familiarity of our three years together in Maryland. I wasn't finding a good career fit in a field that I had finally cracked into without my master's (student affairs/residence life) and was becoming a bit disillusioned with the whole experience. Living in student housing became less of that well-rounded res life professional experience and more of a necessary evil. I've shed a lot of tears, had many late night arguments, and plenty of panic attacks just related to my work situations over the last three years.

Yesterday, I finally felt like I've gotten some payoff for the three years of strife that have seemed to follow me wherever I go.

I've been promoted at work!
And not just a monetary promotion - but a promotion that took into account my vision for what I can really do for my department, my university, and ultimately the 3,400 students that live in housing here. My feeling of stifled creativity for the past year is gone: I've been presented with the opportunities along the horizon and the freedom to run toward it and blaze a trail. I feel like my work is actually being valued for the first time in three years and being rewarded appropriately.

I've held out and held out and held out, waiting for the right opportunity to come along. I still hope that I can find something full-time in infertility advocacy. I still intend to write voraciously and hopefully finish my book before the year is out and get it in front of agents and publishers. I'm still committed to this blog, my readers, and my advocacy. But for 40 hours a week, love it or hate it, I get paid to work in a very different field. 40 hours a week is a lot of time to be stuck doing something with which you may not be thrilled, so when your boss says that yes, you have been doing a good job and that your vision is valued and we are excited for the possibilities of what you can do with this program - well, it feels damn good for once.

And yes, having a paycheck that reflects that value too is a nice bonus too. This couldn't have been more perfectly timed.

I've known for almost two months that job restructuring was going to happen for me, but I haven't had much news about what exactly was happening. So much was up in the air that I didn't want to post about it for fear that it would all fall through. I did know that come the end of this summer, we would be moving, whether it was to a different apartment on campus or moving off campus entirely. Yesterday I got confirmation that the position has been written as full-time, live OFF - hallelujah!

...Which finally explains this whole house hunting thing I've been promising to post about.

After looking at our finances, buying a house makes a lot more sense than pissing away our money on rent. Larry and I had a very long conversation recently about whether or not we can really afford to do this. Based on my salary as of that conversation, we could do it, but it would be really tight; we wouldn't be able to save like we have been these past three years. This new salary would help us out immensely at being able to save more faster, and thus, start the adoption ball rolling much sooner. The only downside? We need to bid, close, and move in in the next two months, b/c my current housing will be occupied by two students come the first weekend in September.

I'm so grateful and feeling really blessed right now. And after quite possibly the shittiest year on Team Zoll record (I'm lookin' at you, 2009) it would seem that the Universe is finally starting to smile on us.

It's about damn time.

Photo by Irish_Eyes via

May 23, 2010

The LOST Finale & Infertility

How can I NOT talk about it? Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Locke, Sayid, Hurley, Desmond, Jin and Sun, hell, even Ben - they've been like family for the last six years. I'll say it now: spoilers abound, so if you haven't seen the finale yet, stop reading now. You've had your warning.

Why on earth would I talk about LOST here though, besides being a totally obsessed fan? Well, the commentary on fertility, life, death, and rebirth has always been a recurring element in the show. Ss someone who is now infertile and learning of this after half the show had aired - well, it's added an interesting element to my viewing. LOST definitely has had some Mommy issues. Women who conceive on the island die. Claire's baby Aaron has to be raised by Kate when Claire cannot escape the island. Jacob, the Man in Black, and Allison Janney as the most terrifying OB/GYN ever as we learn their backstory: birth and fertility have always been woven throughout the show.

...So I cheated and wrote those first three paragraphs a week ago in preparation for ICLW. I have now finished watching the finale, and since this is first I've been able to stop crying hysterically since the credits rolled, I'll try and write something cohesive. All infertility connections aside, this was a beautiful, moving, well-crafted ending to a moving, beautiful, well-crafted story. I'm still sitting here, stunned and a bit haunted by the final scenes.

Did I mention spoilers abound? Seriously, stop reading right now if you haven't seen it.

When Juliet appeared (which I knew was coming when Elizabeth Mitchell's credit popped up in the opening and I may have squee-ed a bit) and performed Sun's ultrasound, I think that was the first time I started crying in the episode. Jin and Sun suddenly remember their island past, and it was just so powerful. Of course, as someone who may never even get to experience this kind of ultrasound, well, it hit home. Same thing for Claire's birth scene in Sideways world, as Kate remembers her island past as she helps to deliver Aaron (again).

In the last half hour of the finale, Kate convinces Claire to leave the island with them. Claire refuses to leave, saying, "This island's made me crazy, I can't be a mother to Aaron like this. I don't even know how to be a mother!"

Kate responds: "No one does, Claire- at least not at first. You're not alone."

Larry chuckled at my abundance of tears, thinking this was all just my reaction to the show, but again, like so many other scenes related to birth and fertility in this show, these words rang deeply within me. Through tears, I explained this to Larry, whose face softened and said, "That's sweet, then honey. It's good to know you're not alone."

Cue: more tears.

While I'm still trying to process the relative ambiguity of the final scene in the church, I'm still left with some of the greater concepts that the show left us with: family (however we define that), faith, love. The underlying message is of course is that what matters most is our experiences, our connections with one another, and the lives we build and craft for us. Like my existential musings last week, it felt like LOST was really speaking directly to my philosophical ponderings.

It's rare that I connect with a show like I have with LOST. Battlestar Galactica was a close second, but I never watched it while it aired. I ended up watching the whole show over 2 months on DVD (and I'm sorry, their finale BOMBED in terms of writing and closure compared to LOST). I think part of it was because that yes, the fertility elements of did resonate so strongly for me that it made the character experience that more human, that more real for me.

This post is a bit rambly since I'm still processing the last two and a half hours I just watched, but I wonder: are their shows or movies that have resonated strongly or differently for you given your journeys in infertility? What are they? How have they impacted you?

May 12, 2010

Eggs-istentially Speaking

"Do you find your Judaism is influenced by existentialism?"

My mind was racing to remember the definition of existentialism. I had a vague idea, so I blurted out: "Probably. I've always had grand ideas about life, death, God, and human existence."

. . .

This is an excerpt of just one of many interesting conversations I've had in the last two weeks since my video went live. I was speaking with Dr. Lawrence Nelson, Principle Investigator on premature ovarian insufficiency with the National Institutes of Health. For a brief update on where this is going: he'd like to bring me on board with his POI Recovery Team, a group of endocrinologists, pyschologists, nutritionists, and spirtual advisors for women who are coping with POI. My video intrigued him, and we got into a very deep conversation about how I've managed to not only cope so well with my diagnosis, but in such a short time compared to other women with the diagnosis. He brought up this idea of existentialism, so I decided to refresh my memory on the subject.

The simplest definition I found was on a Jack London glossary page. Existentialism is "the belief that one shapes one's basic nature through the direction of life one chooses to live." Our suffering is a result of not being able to create meaning in our lives. The wikipedia article on existentialism provides a good summary as well, going into concepts such as Despair, Angst, Freedom, and Authenticity, all results of our struggle to define and create meaning.

You know, I've never thought of it this way so concretely, but I suppose I am an existentialist Jew. And in a lot of ways, the two complement each other. Judaism is so focused on the marking of time, of creating significance through life cycle events and daily ritual. As Jews, we are taught to craft meaning and our relationship to G-d through these ritual acts. How is that not existential?

. . .

But back to my witty post title.

I've been thinking about existentialism in the context of my infertility. I'm redefining myself, mother, family, etc. I'm crafting new meaning in my life. I'm carving out a path for myself, and while I'm not entirely sure where it's going, I'm confident in the value and fulfillment it will bring.

There are lots of times that I step back and look at my life from a distance, seeing from where I've come and at where I am now. I'm only 2 years away from turning 30, but there are moments when I feel like I've blinked and suddenly I'm about to turn 28, and other moments, like all of 2009, that felt like an eternity. This weekend was both my sister's baby shower and Mother's Day- talk about timing! (Also- both were amazing. The closeness I feel for my mom, my sister, my mom-in-law... it's overwhelming, as is their love and support for Larry and me.) And it was another one of those moments of reflection, of crafting meaning. And today, when I read about the heartbreaking passing of a member of the ALI community- Vee's husband Alex (link goes to a beautiful tribute by Gil, a good friend of their's)- and thinking of my own paranoid terror surrounding death... well, it makes you think. It makes you think that life is effing short, and you've got to make the most of it, right? Carpe diem and all that?

I realized it's about crafting that meaning and fulfillment. I've been saying that the Universe has been talking to me, and it's time I listen. I've decided I'm fully in a job search now for something in the health advocacy sector, and that it's time to leave higher ed. With virtually no direct experience but highly transferrable skills, this is not going to be easy. I've realized this is what I'm meant to do, and I'm only meant to do it because I made that meaning. Not the Universe or G-d. Just me. I think those Outside Influences helped guide me to my conclusion rather than handing me the answer.

I am reminded of another part of my conversation with Dr. Nelson last week. We were talking about Rachel, who in the Bible, was Jacob's most beloved wife and yet she could bear no children. She wept and prayed and fought with her sister and handmaids vying for favor in Jacobs eyes as they each bore him many children. Finally, her prayers were answered and she conceived and bore Joseph and then later Benjamin, Jacob's youngest son. But her prayer came at a price, and she died in childbirth with Benjamin. Infertility and maternal mortality, the two ends, two extremes of the spectrum, bookends, as Dr. Nelson put it, on the experience of human reproduction. The reminder that for beginnings there are endings. In life: death.

And all the rest in between is what we make of it.

A heavy post indeed this week, but I wanted to wrap my brain around some of these bigger thoughts brewing in my head for the last week.

April 28, 2010

ICLW May Be Over, But NIAW is in Full Swing!

I did it. 170 blogs (3 went down since the list went up). 170 comments in 7 days. I made my first Iron Commenter! I have found so many new blogs to follow- check my right sidebar to who I've added. I've found a ton of adoption blogs- check out my left sidebar just to see all the adoption bloggers I'm following. But most of all, I've met and made connections with so many people. The experience of making these connections is just amazing. Iron Commenter is indeed not for the faint of heart, but it is worth it, so worth it.

Like the post title says, ICLW may be over at midnight tonight, but that doesn't mean the comments have to stop. This has definitely kicked my butt into being a better active partipant in the ALI blogosphere. The sheer value in the connections I've made will only last if I keep up my end: reading, commenting, sharing stories.

Just because ICLW is over doesn't mean that NIAW is even close to being done! There's a lot happening on Capitol Hill right now. Melissa Ford of Stirrup Queens has posted her remarks she gave this morning at the infertility briefing on the Hill. They are powerful and inspiring. They remind me of why it is that I'm out and outspoken about my IF: because we need the government to act! She's there today with the executive leadership of RESOLVE. I hope they're making waves.

What else can you do to raise awareness? You can tweet about it, Facebook it, blog about it... make sure you Stumbleupon and Kirtsy and Digg and Reddit your links too! You can be out and outspoken about your infertility. Like Iron Commenter, it's not for the faint of heart, but damn if it doesn't feel good. "But what IF I'm too nervous about outing myself?" you ask? Well, here, let me do it for you. Use me as your stand-in, and share my What IF? A Portrait of Infertility video. Just spread it with words like "Because 1 in 8 is someone you know. This video is about a very important cause." And then leave it at that. *wipes hands* See? Infertility activism and advocacy is easy.

Other ways to raise awareness? Check out all of the blogs participating in #ProjectIF. Retweet @resolveorg or follow them on Twitter. Use hashtag #infertility in your tweets. Link to other bloggers on your blog, or even better yet- on your Facebook.

There's still 4 days left, including today, to raise awareness for National Infertility Awareness Week. Take just a few minutes each day and keep the awareness going!

April 19, 2010

A sea of questions about adoption.

It's Patriot's Day here in Massachusetts, quite possibly my favorite random statewide holiday (aka, freebie day off). Happy start of the American Revolution! It's also the running of the Boston Marathon. I can totally see a relevant metaphor between marathons and adoption, but seeing as I know next to nothing about running culture, I'll just let that metaphor pass me by...

Anywho, we've dived deep into adoption literature and websites, talking more with our families this weekend. Ari needed an eye checkup (his father is an eye doctor), so we spent the weekend with our families; I had the chance to do some serious baby shower shopping for my sister. Our parents are so excited for us. It's wonderful to have their support, and I feel constantly blessed with the amount of support we have in our lives. And I wasn't a blubbering mess picking out shower decorations- in fact, I am freakin' PUMPED to be an aunt in just a couple of months. I think now that since we're solid on our decision to adopt, so much of the uncertainty and doubt about having kids has been washed away. I've moved from pain to excitement.

You may have noticed the large new column of adoption-themed blogs to the left. Thanks to everyone and their suggestions in my last post: I found so many great resources and stories out there. With this influx of information, Ari and I are trying to stay afloat, treading uncertain and overwhelming waters. We have so many questions. Just when we think we have an answer... more questions! It's a lot to digest at once. We've been doing so much of our own soul searching, asking questions of each other and having conversations we never thought we'd have.

Here's just a small snippet of what's running through our heads:

  • Race. Wow, this has been an amazing, confusing, refreshing conversation at any given point. It gets interesting because I'm half-Japanese, half-Irish(ish), so I have perhaps a more open attitude toward race. At the end of the day, our preferences are our business, but it's a mind-blowing conversation to be having just the same.
  • Religion. Not knocking any Christian organizations out there, but there's a TON of support for Christian couples... haven't seen so much for Jewish couples. Obviously, we'd need to disclose our religion and in what faith our adopted child would be raised. I worry that this is actually going to limit the kind of reception we'll get from birthparents. 
  • Cost. Sweet jiminy crickets. Since IF treatment is mandated in Massachusetts, the cost of treating our infertility was a lot more doable than the cost of coping with childlessness (an important distinction). Thankfully, Ari's new job is allowing us to save for the first time in a year, but we still have a lot more to go. I've been researching grants, and sadly, neither of our employers provide any adoption assistance benefits. I've also been toying with the idea of setting up an Etsy shop for some of my crafts, and of course, monetizing this blog. Our parents have also volunteered to help... I wonder is it tacky to ask our friends and family fundraiser-style? Is a PayPal "Donate Here" button on this blog too far? This arena of etiquette is completely foreign to me.
  • How open? "Open" adoption can mean a lot of things. Are we a "Come over for lunch on Tuesdays" kind of family or pictures every birthday or are we just "please let us know about any medical issues as they arise for you and your family" when it comes to openness? How open is too open? How will this limit our chances to be picked by birthparents?
  • Blogging. Don't worry, I'm not planning on closing this blog any time soon, but as I've browsed other adoption blogs, there are pictures of the adoptive couple, full names, contact information, detailed personal profiles with sidebar badges like "Considering adoption? Consider us!" I wonder if I'm ready to do that when the time comes, or perhaps I just create a separate blog entirely. Do I really want to share all of this with our future agency, birthparents, or even future child? I also wonder if a sidebar request like that isn't also in violation of Massachusetts law (no private advertising may be done by the couple, as independent adoptions are illegal in the state). 
  • Stuff. Um, do adoptive parents get baby showers? Do we need to buy a crib before we have a home study? How does one- better yet, WHEN does one get the future child all the stuff they need?
  • Cost. Did I mention we're still scrambling to figure out how we're going to afford this?
We're trying not to get too overwhelmed, but all these questions just keep coming. I'm hoping to tread water just long enough to get us to the RESOLVE of the Bay State's Adoption Conference in June. Until then, anyone have some answers or thoughts to our questions?

April 12, 2010

The Big Decision: Building Our Family

I call it the "Tofu Baby Revelation." As you may remember, I had a really bizarre dream last week about my sweet dream baby turning into a block of burning tofu on the stove. Freud, eat your heart out. While it's not exactly Moses and the burning bush, after a few days of stewing it over I think I got it (with a little help from WiseGuy)...

Nursing the baby and having liquid gold instead of breastmilk represents a Golden Ideal, all I could have hoped for and more. The block of tofu could represent a lot of things. In Freemasonry (my husband's a Mason) a carved block of stone represents moral perfection (as opposed to a rough, uncut rock).  In Taoism, perhaps the tofu is representative of the Uncarved Block- the potential for creation, discovery, growth. I walked away with this interpretation: in my dream, the tofu was *still* my baby, but obviously in a very different form. The distress and grief upon realizing this transformation was not only warranted, but vital. Essentially, Ari and I will have our baby- just not in any way that we could have ever imagined, and mourning that change was necessary. 

In the days following this dream, as I rolled around interpretations in my head, my decision just hit me- it was like I just knew this was the path we would take all along. I say my decision because Ari was on board for anything, and it's been up to me for about the last 4 months.

Over the past week, I've been becoming more and more comfortable with the idea of how we plan to build our family. We've teased it out to our families and one friend: everyone is supportive and excited for us.  And in reaching this decision, I feel like a HUGE weight has lifted off my shoulders. For once in this crazy journey, things feel like they're in focus and with clarity comes relief and excitement.

Oh, but I am being coy, aren't I? ^_^

So... we've decided we're going to adopt!

*happy dance*

This is not at all how I would have imagined building a family. And I'm okay with that; this past year has been highly instrospective and I'm at a place of peace when it comes to grieving my infertility. From darkness, light: from despair- hope, commitment, action.

Like any family planning decision, especially one frought with the context of IF, there are a lot of reasons why we've chosen adoption. As much as I'd desperately like to experience pregnancy and childbirth, I've come to terms with this fact that I've got the deck stacked against me. While donor egg/IVF could potentially be successful, my Hashimoto's puts me at greater risk for miscarriage. Ari raised an excellent point, even as far back as the RESOLVE Conference we went to in November: could I really survive the mental trauma of a loss after interfility treatments?  Survive yes, but I could be irrevocably damaged in some way. I'm not saying this is the standard, I'm just saying in my experience with my own mental health, I don't think I could cope well with a loss.

And honestly? After the hormonal roller coaster I have been on for the last year, and literally seeing a balanced thryoid issue just resting on the horizon- I just don't know if I'm up for the hormonal challenge that is DE/IVF cycling. It scares me, it intimidates me, and I just don't feel connected to the idea of it anymore. Adoption is by no means any easier- but there's a whole medical element that is removed from the situation with which I am infinitely more comfortable. That being said, for those of you who are planning to or have cycled using ART: I am humbled by your courage and grace.

Adoption is for us, a guarantee. Yes, we'll have to wait. Yes, we've heard some of the horror stories. But at the end of the day, we get to come home with a child. DE/IVF was just too much of a financial and emotional gamble for us. Ari and I are poker players. Since we haven't put any money into the pot, we're not pot committed, so it's okay if we fold our hand on ART. Adoption has always been our ace in the hole. Adopting a child is also really attractive to us in that we get to help someone out. We get to add such a unique dynamic to our family story.

We still have TONS of details to figure out. Like, yanno... how the heck we actually do this!  We also need to sort out a timeline and start looking into financial planning. I think we'll probably start the ball rolling by next year, if not early 2011. Everytime I think about it, I get excited; I get this big grin to myself. Talking about it with Ari just gets me more excited.

I never once in my dreams imagined I'd adopt. And now the idea is the most exciting notion to me- I cannot wait for the adventure ahead of us.

April 5, 2010

Baubo, The Belly Laugh, and Spring Awakenings

It's been officially spring for a couple of weeks and I've been loving this warm weather across much of MA this week. It's been nearly three years since Ari and I moved to Boston, and these New England winters have made me appreciate the first signs of spring that much more so. I've been doing a lot of reading and a lot of thinking lately... I've felt as though I'm poised on the edge of decision-making with regards to family building, and I think I'm just about there. In these last couple of days of Passover, I've also been drawn closer to my faith. It's a holy season for everyone, really. Whether it's the pull of faith or perhaps the buzzing of the birds and the bees this time of year, there is certainly this feeling of energy, this vibrational hum pulsing just beneath the surface of things. Perhaps it's merely our skin delighting in all that sunshine, turning light into some much needed vitamin D.

I just finished Ellen Frankel's The Five Books of Miriam. This is a must-read for any Jewish woman (just short of Anita Diamant's The Red Tent- in fact, I call that required reading for every woman, Jewish or otherwise). It bills itself as a woman's commentary on the Torah. With it's highly conversational structure not unlike you might find in the margins of Torah midrashim, it is both feminist and traditional, forging new patterns of thought and interpretation while contextualizing the Torah into a feminist modernity from the lenses of our daughters, mothers, bubbes, and the women prophets and stars of the Bible itself. It is an incredibly empowering read for any Jewish woman coping with infertility, as it speaks so beautifully and painfully honest from the perspectives of so many barren Matriarchs.

In this rather empowered mindset, as I tap into that spring hum that seems to be buzzing all around me, I am reminded of a story that my dear friend Honeybee shared at one of the Red Tent Temples from a few months back. It's the legend of Baubo, a little known tale in the greater story of Demetre and her daughter Persephone's dark descent into Hades.

Demetre, the Greek goddess of the harvest and fertility of the soil, had a daughter, Persephone, who was wickedly abducted by Hades, the Lord of the Underworld. He tricks Persephone into eating the seeds of a pomegranate, and by consuming any food or drink while in the Underworld, she has sealed her fate for eternity: she may never leave. Demetre is understandably distraught, in fact, so much so, her grief plunges her into a dark, cold despair. She retreats from the World: the earth cannot bear crops, the land stricken with barrenness as she grieves the loss of her precious Persephone.

So much of Demetre's pain resonates within the ALI community.

Enter Baubo: descriptions vary from a woman with voluminous skirts to a talking vulva. Baubo sits in front of Demetre and lifts her skirts before her, telling raucous, bawdy jokes, inspiring a fountain of joy in the form of the deepest belly laugh, from our solar plexus and radiating outward. Baubo is the only one who ends Demetre's grieving, whose tears dry and face contorts into laughter. Through her bawdy jokes and brazen presentation, Baubo encourages Demetre to return to the World and to once again bear fertile fields. Baubo gives Demetre the courage to recover, to move on, to find joy and laughter in life again. And with that, the World awakens from the darkest Winter into the first Spring.

What can we in the ALI community learn from the legend of Baubo?

That after darkness, after pain, after loss: there is joy again. That we must encourage ourselves to laugh fully and completely, to laugh from the bottoms of our bellies, and by laughing we truly live in the moment. Even in our journeys to parenthood frought with worries, needles, tests, inconsiderate remarks and daily reminders of our struggles: there is still laughter to be found- there will always be a Spring to follow the Winter.

I have been feeling my own Spring Awakening as our path to family building comes into focus, and I wanted to share this energy, this inspiration: to laugh, to give ourselves permission to laugh, to feel joy, and to live in the moment. Here are some places I'd like to point folks in their IF journey, to take a moment to pause and laugh a deep belly laugh with Baubo herself:

Infertile Naomi is finding 999 Reasons to Laugh at Infertility. In addition to her blog, she has a Facebook page of the same name. Always hilarious, painfully honest - she is worth a read when you need to laugh at the absurdity of IF.

In the same vein as Infertile Naomi's blog, there's the YouTube video "Aunt Jane Knows More Than My RE."

WiseGuy over at Woman Anyone? is now on CD2 after "Agendy Fugnimimi" showed up. Always an interesting read, WiseGuy has a myriad of names she calls our dear Aunt Flo. Her post reminded me of a site I stumbled upon with a list of international phrases for good ol' AF - I make no vouchers if these are in fact true colloquialisms, but they are hilarious just the same.

And I always recommend People of Walmart when you need to feel better about yourself. Ok, so maybe it's not exactly politically correct to laugh at others' expense to feel better about yourself, but at least click over and check out the hilarity. Other photo blogs good for a laugh: This is Why You're Fat, LATFH (nsfw), Awkward Family Photos, Cake Wrecks, and Lamebook (occasionally nsfw). Honorable mention, for all you LOST fans: Never Seen Lost, a blog recapping each episode of Season 6 by someone who's never watched a second of the show prior to this season.

The moral of today's post: take a moment to pause and laugh, to laugh so hard and so deep from within your belly and womb that your tears are out of joy, of being fully in the moment. Let Spring awaken within each of you.

"At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities." 

March 18, 2010

One year ago today...

...everything as I imagined it, changed. The way I thought my life would go, that traditional path- these no longer became realistic options. One year ago today, I read, dumbstruck, this email from my doctor:

"[The results], if they are to be believed, indicate that premature ovarian failure is the problem, not PCOS dysfunction/follicular maturation arrest as you, I and your previous caregivers had presumed."

It was literally my worst nightmare come true. I felt robbed. I knew something was wrong with my body, but I hadn't prepared myself for the worst case scenario. I still remember when I read that email at work, I literally felt like all the air had been sucked out from my lungs, from the room, the volume turning down and heard a high pitched ringing in my ears. I was, quite simply, shell-shocked.

And, I can say confidently, after a year of soul-searching, introspection, therapy, crying, blogging, laughing, talking and talking and talking and talking and talking with my husband, my family, my friends - I'm okay with that change. I'm not thrilled, I'm not throwin' a party for myself- but I'm okay with it all. It is what it is, and we adjust accordingly.

Almost exactly this time last year, I was sobbing in my apartment, on the phone with my husband, who had received news that same day, nearly a few hours before, that he might be losing his job in the next week, crying and terrified and trying to make sense of it all. This year, the apartment is spring-cleaned, the windows are open, and Ari was on his way out the door to meet with a client. I've only got a few hours' sleep to my name, but I'm feeling refreshed, invigorated, and soaking up the gentle spring breezes and sunshine. I made it a point to sweep and dust and clean and just general say, "Out with you, you wretched year!"

I picked up my husband from the airport. I had one of my favorite salads for lunch (Whole Foods' Cranberry Pecan Feta with Balsamic over Mesclun Mix). I bought myself a lovely bouquet of tulips. I'm wearing one of my absolutely favorite shirts (I bought it for a quarter from a thrift store in college; it's some 7-year old's little league shirt, complete with their last name and number on the back). I'm wearing a bracelet I've had since 7th grade but haven't worn because it broke years and years ago- so I fixed it last week with my new jewelry making habit and brought new life to it. I'm wearing the kickass handmade watch I bought in Kyoto. I've got a massage lined up at 3:30pm, and I'm buying us a new teapot, since ours literally fell apart this morning while cleaning. I'm also buying a little Wet Jet cleaner because a) I've always wanted one and b) I really need to mop, and our mop sucks.

Last year I was dreading Passover because I was having a crisis of faith. This year, I need to get my ass in gear and get a menu together b/c we're hosting our first seder at our place. Last year, I stumbled blindly through this day. This year, I'm blinded only by the sunshine every time I keep looking up at this expanse of pale blue. I don't know if it's the estrogen or the weather, but I'm feeling the best I've felt in a year.

I've come to a place of peace, a point of recognition, and the moment to start taking action. I've mourned and I've grieved and I'm sure I still have plenty of tears left. But I'm done spiraling down. I do what I've always done: I get back up, brush off my bum, hope too many people didn't see me fall flat on my ass and if they did fuck 'em, and I keep going. Did I scrape myself when I fell down? Of course, and that immediate stinging pain of skin on pavement hurt like hell. Now I've got an interesting little scar with its own story. I've learned that I need to be careful where I walk and pay attention to the road. I've learned that bandaids and ointments will treat the wound, but that I will always remember the moment I fell and carry with me the pain. I've learned to ask those around me to help me back up.

Premature ovarian failure. What a helluva name, right? Even premature ovarian insufficiency isn't necessarily a kinder form of nomenclature. Nobody wants to be thought of as a failure or insufficient. I'm not a failure, I'm just infertile. And I think today, I'm going to stop whipping out my diagnosis like it's my fucking title on my business card. I've always had to clarify: "I have premature ovarian failure..." Fuck it. It's just a busted organ (I have two actually- it's just a matter of time before the thyroid stops working entirely).

It's not cancer, I'm still able-bodied: it's about putting it in perspective. Should I still live a long and full life? Absolutely. Will we still be able to build a family? Of course, just not in the way we planned... and that's okay. Like a good scar, I'll have an interesting story to tell.

An interesting story to tell our children, and their children, and their childrens' children.

March 17, 2010

You like me... you really like me!

So, I went into a bit of hibernation and, like the awakening season around me, I am slowly coming out of it. I need to catch up on most of blogs I follow, and am slowly marking a return to posting regularly. In coming out of hibernation, I vanity searched this blog title on Google, and boy howdy, people have been talking about it!

I've been awarded another blog award by Sonja over at The Mud and the Lotus. Thanks Sonja! Not like I'm only almost 2 months late realizing I've received this award or anything :) Seriously though, thanks bunches. Award post to follow in a few days.

I've also been named one of the 101 Best ALI (Adoption, Loss, and Infertility) Blogs over at Grown in My Heart, an online adoption network. This blog is only one of 10 listed in the specific Infertility category- I've been named alongside some biggies like Melissa over at Stirrup Queens and Pamela at Silent Sorority. I'm totally flattered, honored, and humbled.

I was also inspired to write this post b/c I've been approached by a website called Wellsphere to become one of their Featured Health Bloggers. I've never heard of Wellsphere before, and I'm hesitant to do so without knowing much about them. Anyone out there work with them or signed up to be one of their featured bloggers?

I guess I'm just always surprised when people like a) my writing or b) anything I do (graphic design, vocal music, crafts, photography, etc.). I've never taken compliments well - I put my heart into stuff because I like to do it, not because I'm fishing for praise, so when I do, I always get real bashful, real fast. But I've had a lot of people tell me I apparently write quite well, and I'm left to wonder if I shouldn't be working on something more formal, like a book, or a more dedicated website. I dunno. It's tempting, to say the least.

So I'll wrap this up by saying a huge thank you to my readers and followers - my blog's popularity is only increased by your praise and spreading my name out there. I started this blog because I was simply overwhelmed with emotion: it began as a cathartic- if public yet anonymous- means of coping. I have remained anonymous mostly out of consideration for my husband; he's got a pretty big online presence and I don't want to compete, let alone have this somehow attached to his already established professional presence- and I'm totally okay with that. I continue to exist because I know that there are people who really do care about what I have to say, who are invested in the crazy ups and downs of our journey through infertility. And ultimately, I keep on writing because I hope I can help someone else out there, even just one person- to put the information out there that I wished was there when I entered the Land of IF just a year ago tomorrow.

Thanks readers, for giving me strength, hope, and the courage to keep on writing about what's important.

"I feel so much spring."

I feel so much spring within me
Blow, winds, blow, spring has just begun.
And something's taken wing within me,
What was dark so long had felt like winter,
Finally there's sun.
And so I sing...
That I feel so much Spring.
- from the musical, "A New Brain"

It is simply glorious out today. Tree branches are dotted with little red possibilities of leaves. The air smells fresher, full of vigor. The cloudless robin's egg blue sky is only occasionally streaked by planes leaving their soundless white wakes. The warmth in the air brings a blush to my cheeks, makes my blood hum in the veins just beneath my skin.

I am remarkably okay with tomorrow being tomorrow. Ari comes home at 11:30am, and I've got a massage lined up at 3:30pm. Tomorrow, I do for me. Tomorrow, I'm reclaiming a little bit of of the femininity I felt I've lost over the last year. This means makeup, doing my hair for the first time in forever, hell, maybe even a skirt. I am going to thoroughly enjoy my day off tomorrow, and soak up this lovely pre-Equinox weather.

While I don't necessarily want to end such a truly relaxed post with a downer, I've started my epic birth control- I call it epic, b/c I'm supposed to take it for 3 months straight. Anywho, it's been almost 10 years since I first started taking birth control, and over year since I've had this much estrogen dumped into my system. Um, it's knocking me off my ass with nausea. I actually had the dry heaves this morning when I woke up and then proceeded to throw up at work once I got there. Not fun. I had the same thing happen when I was 18, and the nausea was on and off for about a solid month - I'm hoping I acclimate a little faster. But I'm not going to let a lil queasiness stop me from enjoying today's beautiful weather.

Tonight, it's time to get some spring cleaning on. I've left the windows open all day to air out the apartment, and now that it smells all fresh and springy in here, I should probably start that deep clean that is always so desperately needed after a long winter of clutter.

Happy St. Patrick's Day. And yes, I get to wear green and drink Guinness (well, not with the way my tummy is feeling) too - b/c in addition to being a half-Japanese Jew-by-choice, I'm also half-Irish :-D The more you know, right?

*raises a pint* To spring, to beginnings, to moving on: Sláinte!

December 9, 2009

Cross-Pollination Post: Decisions, Decisions...

I'm Cross-Pollinating today! For one day, bloggers in the ALI community swap posts without revealing who their guest blogger is as a part of Xpol. We sign up, we get matched, and agree to post the other blogger's post in our own blog without revealing their name/blog. To see all the other busy bees cross-pollinating today, click on the image above. The guest post follows below- I'm so happy to share my blogspace with someone who has such a great story to tell. Leave a comment and see if you can guess who my guest blogger is (and thus where my blog post is hiding today)!

"Decisions, Decisions..."

When Miriam and I were getting to know each other in that bloggy way – exploring each other’s sites and comparing the similarities and differences in our journeys, she suggested that I write about how hubby and I chose adoption and international adoption to be specific.

I think her request was brave. I know some people who have ALWAYS known that they wanted to adopt. It has nothing to do, for them, with any lack of fertility but with a dedication to help the children of the world. I’d love to say that I was that altruistic. I’d love to BE that altruistic. But the truth is that we only turned our thoughts towards adoption once our attempts to procreate had failed. Which doesn’t mean that we’ll love an adopted child any less than we would a biological one. But for a number of reasons – not the least is being the last of my line on my father’s side – it was very important to me that we at least TRY to genetically carry on our family lines.

Although I remember my frantic visit to Planned Parenthood for a pregnancy test after my first unprotected sexual experience (not sure why I was stupid enough to let that happen but the irony of that fear is certainly not lost on me!), by the time I reached my mid-20’s I think I KNEW that I wouldn’t get pregnant. And whether it was some genetic knowledge or a self-fulfilling prophecy, it turned out to be correct.

And with that knowledge, I had a plan. I was going to use a sperm donor if I was single and not yet a mother at 38 (coincidentally that is the age when my mother died. I’m not sure if I chose it for that reason or because I thought that would give me time to get pregnant before I turned 40 – because of COURSE it was going to work the first time. I never considered otherwise).

As it turned out, I wasn’t single at 38. But neither was I a mother, although numerous doctors had already said that they didn’t know why. But for a slew of reasons, we weren’t ready to dive into the wonderful world of IF treatments. And when we did, we met with a litany of chemical pregnancies, an early miscarriage, and a number of pointless cycles.

By the time we stopped trying this past January, I was 43. And adoption was already on the table as a concept. Unlike many couples I know, that ones who did copious amounts of research before deciding whether to pursue domestic (open? closed?) or international (what country?) we fell into our decision easily.

I think I spent all of two days looking into domestic foster-to-adoption. But two days is a lot if all you’re hearing are horror stories of children being returned to biological parents who are ill-equipped to care for them.

Domestic adoption probably got a week’s worth of attention (I have to say here though that when I research something, that something is WELL researched). The current vogue is to adopt openly. And I admit that there is a part of me that appreciates that in concept – the child is loved not only by their adoptive family but by their birth family who is active in their lives and of course, a child can never have too much love. And I applaud the decision that birth parents make when they decide that they must sacrifice their child to give them the best life possible.

But hubby and I both agree (him a little harsher than me) that giving up a child doesn’t mean getting all of the benefits with none of the work. Hubby and I will, more than likely, only have one child. We have (thankfully similar) pretty strict ideas on childrearing which mostly involve letting children BE children and not having to grow up too soon, etc. I think we’ll be stellar and very, very, fun parents who each have unique and different things to bring to our roles. We won’t be having a biological child but I still want a child who is, as much as any child can be, “ours.” Is that selfish? Perhaps. But I also truly believe that it’s less confusing for the child.

It might surprise you to know that I would actively support my one-day child’s search for their birth parents. But it won’t happen when that child is four or five. It will need to be their choice and something that they want to and are ready to undertake.

All of which made international adoption the clear choice for us. And as often happen for us, we fell easily into the choice of adoption for Bulgaria. When I began looking through the countries (as the designated family researcher), the Eastern Bloc countries were looking grim – expensive and demanding of a lot of in-country time - Guatemala and Ethiopia were mired allegations of children sold by their families or outright stolen from them. We were too old for other countries we looked at and my Jewishness was a strike in others.

Bulgaria jumped off the page at us for a few reasons. First off all, we’ve been there. Hubby is from the UK and I lived there with him for 4 years after we were married. Our first real vacation was to Bulgaria – someplace I never even thought of visiting. And we had a great time. The children who are put up for adoption there are typically Roma (more derogatorily referred to as Gypsy) with dark hair and eyes mirroring our own. For better or worse, the country’s adoption system which had come almost to a halt under an administration that preferred to see children living in orphanages than adopted to loving families oversees was being completely overhauled. The pricing is in the mid-range for international adoption and the in-country requirements are completely reasonable.

Was it the right choice? As I write this, we’re waiting for various bit and pieces of government approval so that we can submit our dossier and get on the waiting list. Adoptions are certainly moving faster than they were through last year under the old administration (in 2008 there were only 5 adoptions from the US as opposed to 298 in 2001) but there have been no referrals of “healthy” kids that anyone is aware of (that being said, what is considered unhealthy isn’t always as big an issue for those of us in countries with access to quality healthcare as it is for those in other countries).

Certainly only time will tell. At least all of those two week waits taught me some amount of patience. I’d like to say that we sweated this decision – that we poured over articles and called references and such. But while I’m ever-grateful to the internet and all of the information, and the few people on a listserv that I DID reach out to, we made this decision because in the end it just felt right. And I almost like to think that it found us and much as we found it.

Make your guess in the comments below, and feel free to share your thoughts on her story... after you make a guess, click here to be taken to their blog!

November 10, 2009

The hardest letter to write.

This post my submission to the Creme de la Creme 2009 list maintainted by Stirrup Queens. This was also published in the Spring 2010 issue of the RESOLVE of New England newsletter.


Well, this leaves me at an impasse. I'm writing a letter to someone I have never met, never named.

Let's try this again, shall we?

. . .

I began this letter as an exercise in grief, in letting go. The goal was simple: write a letter to the genetic child I'll never have - a textbook psychotherapy homework assignment. Each time I would craft some eloquent opening in my head, rolling it around on my tongue without committing to speak it aloud or put it to paper. I would have these passing thoughts like express trains, blurring past the local stops leaving a windy wake and the knowledge that a thought had passed through this station without stopping, intent on the same ultimate destination.

Each time I thought of crafting this letter, I would be a few sentences in when I realized I would jump right into the body of the letter and neglect the greeting. I was addressing a letter to an unnamed child, always resulting in an awkward two-sentence false start. Before I could commit to anything more than those two sentences, I went on happy tangential daydreams thinking of names. I think this is exactly what they mean when folks mention "that twinkle in your mother's eye." That twinkle is possibility, and what drives us is giving that possibility a name. It's like putting a lasso around the unknown: "I don't know what my child will look like, but I've got a name for them."

Infertility aside, I have no idea what my child will look like. Even if we could make a baby the old fashioned way, there's no way to predict the way mine and my husband's genetics would combine visually. After our vacation in Japan, I ached for an adorable little Japanese baby with their rubbed-the-wrong-way static electric hair. I am genuinely curious to see what a quarter-Japanese child would look like, rather, wanting to know what my quarter-Japanese baby would look like. Would he have big ears like his daddy? Would she have soft skin like her mommy? In the end, I don't know and for the first time on this crazy ride, I'm okay with not knowing.

Genetically, I've got some real beasts I'd potentially pass down: thyroid problems, obesity, a history of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer in my extended family, not to mention my own infertility issues. How cruel would it be to pass on my infertility to my daughter? It's just not ethical. But my thick dark hair, my rich brown eyes, and my high cheekbones: these are lost. My seemingly petite mouth and almond shaped eyes that can portray a myriad of exaggerated facial expressions at a given moment: those unique faces that are genetically passed down with the same facial muscle structuring ("oh he looks just like his mother when he laughs" or "she has her mommy's smile") - this legacy of visual expression is lost. I grieve for this face that should have been.

I grieve for this now lost moment when I look in my child's face and see myself, really see my genes and my visual characteristics. I grieve knowing that from an evolutionary standpoint, I didn't make the cut. I deeply grieve the loss of a child that is part me, part my husband, from their very fundamental genetic makeup. I grieve for the misplaced miracle in utero, where the very essence of me and my soulmate are joined by cosmic biology, a Darwinian leap of faith.

I hold this image of you tight in my arms: I smell your hair and stroke your cheek and smile back at the smile that looks just like mine. I cradle your face in my hands as you balance on tiptoes to reach up to me. I kiss you on the forehead, and release you like so many cells and dust and stars into the cosmos.

. . .

But you are still out there.

. . .

When your father and I met, we recognized something in one another. I saw a part of myself in him and he in me, that recognition of an old soul long separated into many pieces, as if to say, "Hello, at last. I have found the part of my soul that has been missing all these years." When we found each other, we fit our missing pieces together and found completion.

Or so we thought.

Let's not kid ourselves: we were only fifteen at the time. We had a little growing up to do.

. . .

After a heaping tablespoon of the real world, we could maturely interpret and internalize just what it means to be soulmates. We wanted everyone to know and share in our joy with each other. We wanted to shout it to the rooftops and we did - we were surrounded by our loving family and so many dear friends as we told the world: "Here! Here is my heart, my joy, my breath! I have found the one in whom my soul delights." We danced and danced and danced and as we each clung to a corner of a red napkin, hoisted high on the shoulders of those that love us, we were truly a reconnected old soul, laughing with joy and contentment.

The stars laughed with us that night.

. . .

What I have realized is that you are still out there. You are that little piece that has been missing from our souls and while it might take me a little time to find you, I know you're out there. You may not look the way I thought you would, but I will love and welcome and cherish you just the same. And when your father sees you, he'll remember you too and say smiling, "Hello at last, little one! We've been looking for you. Come, tell us of your travels! We have so much to share with you."

I will look into your eyes and I will recognize you from so long ago, thankful that we've found you after all this time.

. . .

In the clear night sky, the stars hang hopeful.

November 9, 2009

A truly restorative weekend.

The RESOLVE of the Bay State Annual Conference on Saturday was just amazing. I'm so glad Ari and I went - we did some seriously deep soul-searching, some crying (well, I did the crying), and engaged in some very cathartic dialogue with people who get it - who really understand what this crazy world of IF is all about. It was so empowering to feel that we weren't alone, and that in some ways, we were lucky (I never thought I'd use that word in this context) that I was Dx'd so young with POF. Ari and I were easily the youngest couple there; it seemed like the average age was in the mid-30s, but there were a large number of women and couples in their early-40s. There was a pretty large turnout- at least 200 people.

The keynote speaker was Dr. Ali Domar. Her address really resonated with us; she spoke to all of the textbook points about how infertility and stress go hand in hand in a vicious cycle. While I've read this myself, there's something different about a) hearing it from a leading professional in the field and b) seeing nods of validation and experience around the room. It was also reasurring to hear as IF referred to as a crisis, and how for many couples, this is their first major crisis that they've ever had to handle together. Dr. Domar supported her statements with a variety of research studies confirming the link b/t IF and stress and how they each impact each other. One particularly striking study revealed that the levels of depression and stress felt by women coping with IF is matched equally with women who are being treated for cancer. I felt like all of the mental time I've devoted to our situation is not not entirely for naught, in the sense that it's completly normal. It feels all-encompassing b/c it is all-encompassing.

For our first session, we headed to Dr. Domar's more topic focused workshop on the Mind/Body approach to treating IF. Ari and I have both been experiencing increased levels of anxiety and stress recently, and this session really provided some insight on how reigning in the stress could greatly improve our chances later on down the line once we're pursuing IVF. She presented enough compelling research that I'm seriously considering doing one of her 10-week Mind/Body programs in the near future.

Our second session was a panel discussion on Donor Egg v. Adoption. What an eye-opener! I went in very pro DE and Ari very much for adoption. By the end of it, our horizons had been broadened significantly and we've flip-flopped on our stances. For me, adoption is a 100% guarantee of coming home with a child. For Ari, DE is almost half the cost of adoption given the clinical coverage provided by MA insurance companies. It certainly got us talking.

At lunch, we met two other couples, both in their mid-30s. One couple was even from our town, and the wife seemed very on-guard. You could just tell this has been a particularly hard journey; she implied they had already completed several failed procedures. The other couple seemed relatively new to IF as well, and were researching everything about IVF. While it was nice to feel validated, lunch was awkward. In those moments of silence where all of a sudden that pasta I'm eating is just SO interesting, my head was reeling: just what IS the social etiquette of the IF face-to-face community? Is asking about diagnoses rude? Are the number of procedures none of my business? Can I ask how old you are? It was simply fascinating from a sociological/communication standpoint.

After lunch, we skipped out on the next session- we wanted to go to an Adoption Overview: Domestic v. International b/c it was one area I haven't poured tons of research into, so it would be helpful to get more info. We were just so overloaded with information we kind of needed a break. We were also torn over a silent auction item: a full donor agency package- agency fee, escrow services, legal fees (worth about $7500) for a minimum bid of $1500. All the bidder would have to pay would be the donor fee (~$8000). It would cut a DE cycle practically in half, and we thought, we can swing a bid of up to $2K if we had to. We had this very excited conversation about all of the possibilities of DE, but when we went to leave our bid, they had added that the package must be activated within 6 months. We were crushed - we're just not in a place to start anything within a year or more, much less 6 months. It spiraled into a huge conversation about Ari's new business, my present work situation - it got heavy. I felt like the whole day had been ruined.

We were redeemed in our last session, about Dealing with the Outside World. A panel of two support group leaders and a life coach led a guided conversation about coping. One woman spoke about the sense of a loss of control, which I was completely relating to in that moment after the whole silent auction debacle. One panelist recommended about taking a step back, living in the moment and being present, then waiting one month or six months and re-evaluating, but not to let that sense of lost control pull you away from life, from living in the moment.

While I didn't necessarily get the specific gem of info I was looking for, it was so cathartic to simply speak freely within a group who gets it. I got very emotional at one point while speaking, and I caught myself - it's social conformity- and the life coach and several other women were like, "Let yourself cry- it's ok! This is the safe space to do it." Afterward, such relief. While I do like my therapist, I will be seriously investigating support groups after this. Speaking of my therapist, I ran into her at the Conference at the end of the day, and got to introduce her to Ari. I was amused that she said, "It's nice to meet you, I've heard so much about you!" I'm not sure that's something anyone wants to hear from their partner's therapist ^__^

In all, it was a fantastic experience full of valuable information. It's a lot to digest at once, but I think we've come out richer and more knowledgeable on the other side. For the first time in several months, I've come out with a genuine sense of hope.