Showing posts with label Writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Writing. Show all posts

July 27, 2011

Words like seconds on a clock.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 25, 2011

Take a Few Minutes to "Exhale"

"Just relax."

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

Photo by Shelby H. via Flickr.
Inhale - 

We set the stage for inner peace.

Exhale -

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 20, 2011

Tweeting About My Twat: Where Social Media and TMI Awkwardly Collide

I have always been particularly comfortable with all things vagina. I use the word casually, even in conversation with my friends. It's probably because I've performed in The Vagina Monologues five times, so I've built a certain familiarity and comfort with the word others may not have.

Basically, I say "vagina" and talk about my vagina all the time.

In the infertility community, we get to say lots of words that would otherwise make us squirm or giggle. We are forced to become situationally cozy with words like semen, uterus, sperm count, cervical mucus. It's a very romantic lexicon of assisted babymaking.

(That last paragraph should do wonders for my SEO.)

Sure, we can say these words in our private face-to-face conversations with partners, doctors, and close ALI confidantes. Really, this issue is not about these specific words - it's about sharing these formerly  private medical-related conversations in the Virtual Public.

How does sharing some of our most intimate medical details with others play out in the context of social media?

Twitter as Public Conversation
When people ask me to describe Twitter to them, I say it's like a million people all talking at once, 24 hours a day. If you want to hear only what your friends are saying, you have to make an effort to pay attention to them. Maybe you take them aside in their own room to hear them a little better. I then explain that's how third-party clients like TweetDeck and HootSuite work: they're special gathering spots so you can hear only the conversations you want to hear.

When folks ask me about hashtags, I explain that they're another way to distinguish a single conversation topic had by millions. That maybe you create your own room (column-view in a third-party client) of a particular hashtag to hear what everyone has to say about, oh I don't know, #vaginas.

When I'm tweeting about #infertility, I obviously use that hashtag. I want to make sure my voice is heard in that specific topic area. I use hashtags all the time. Sometimes I like to play around with a particular trending topic (like yesterday's #whendiditbecomecool) to promote something for the #infertility community, e.g., my tweet yesterday:


Twitter can be a very loud, fast-paced forum with millions of ideas, thoughts, flashes of brilliance and utterances of drivel all happening at once. It does take a little time to get comfortable with all the shouting and to start sorting out whose voices matter and whether what they're saying is of any worth.

Conversations of Authority and Establishing Trust
The fantastic thing about Twitter and other social media platforms is that we can instantly connect with other patients and health advocates. We can connect with doctors, clinics, agencies, and non-profits. We can also connect with thousands of spammy scammers who will happily hawk their crap at you under the guise of a trusted hashtag. Case in point: just following #infertility brings me hundreds of tweets for Pregnancy Miracle/Get Pregnant Fast infertility "solutions."

In order to have meaningful patient community experiences on Twitter, it's important to take the time to separate the wheat from the chaff, to determine just who in fact are the leading voices of authority -su the credible, reliable sources of information.

We have to then spend time cultivating those relationships that we trust. If we auto-follow every person who follows us, we may inadvertently help feed a spammer. Every time someone follows me on Twitter, I get an email. I click over, I read a little about them, see how many tweets they've made and how many people they follow, maybe check out their website to find out more. If you're a spammer, I report you as such. If you don't have a description, I definitely don't follow back. And clearly, I don't follow everyone who follows me (nothing personal).

I take the time to screen and vet who I follow as much as possible. I do this because I want to make sure any tweets I retweet are from credible sources. I know there are people who follow me for credible, reliable information and I'd be doing a disservice to those who trust me if I didn't extend that same level of care and intention about who I follow and what information I share.

Herein lies the some of the challenges about sharing medical information via Twitter and other forms of social media.

Quacks, Hacks and Lasting Impressions
I love being able to connect with other patients and medical experts on Twitter. I've formed Twitter-only colleague relationships with other health advocates. At face value, Twitter is an amazing arena for the exchange of ideas, research, and innovative thinking about patient care. But when you start to dig deeper, you start to see more tweets like the Pregnancy Miracle ones that drive me batty. But they're not necessarily all spam - they are in fact real people who represent the Not Exactly Voices of Authority, aka, the Quacks.

Look, I'm flattered that you've decided to @ me to tell me there's a natural, safe cure for my infertility, I really am; but unless you're selling me a brand new set of ovaries, no amount of whatever you're trying to sell me is going to magically or "naturally" turn them back on. That's not to say I'm throwing my glove down at the natural, homeopathic, or alternative fertility industries: personally, I think there's a lot of value to be had in mind/body techniques as well as acupuncture and TCM - the caveat being that you're under the care of an expert professional in those fields. But no amount of herbs or relaxation is going to restart my ovary without anything short of divine intervention.

The other challenge to consider is the possibility of account hacks. If you don't have a spiffy set of passwords you rotate often or log in willy-nilly to your favorite websites on free wifi networks - expect to get hacked. And once one account gets hacked (especially if you're using the same password for multiple forms of social media), the rest of your accounts can fall like dominoes, the most devastating of which would be an email hack. Think of any email conversations you might have with your doctors and therapists: if your email account got hacked, any of that otherwise private information could be leaked. Not to mention once your account has been hacked, there can be many virtual hoops to leap through to get your access back and regain control of your account.

The final thing to consider about having private medical conversations in a very public arena is the lasting online legacy you build for yourself. Some of you might not care and honestly, who knows what the internet landscape will even look like in 20 years. But the fact of the matter is that our words in these public spaces become tied to our virtual identities, that may or may not reflect our actual IRL identities, and in the endlessness of the internet, these words will last far longer than us. In fact, every time I tweet, I'm getting archived into the Library of Congress. And so is every other Twitter user, including you.

Consider this: 20 years from now, when someone searches for your name, do you really want your cervix length and your husband's sperm motility coming up in the search results?

To Tweet or Not to Tweet?
So we're left with the question of what's a savvy Twitter user like me supposed to do? Simple answer: it's a matter of personal preference, comfort, and how much you're willing to risk by sharing personal health information online.

Long answer: there are lots of things to consider so weigh the pros and cons of each question below to decide what's best for you.
  1. Why are you using Twitter in the first place? This is an important question people should be asking themselves anytime they sign up for the latest, greatest social media platform. Why are you using it? Are you a casual user, looking to meet folks of similar interest? Do you like to stalk celebrity Twitter accounts? Or are you looking to make solic connectoins with other patients and professionals in the field? Or is it a little bit of everything? Establishing why you use a particular platform is the first step to guiding just what information you choose to share in that arena.
  2. Should you protect your tweets? While this is one way to avoid being archived in the Library of Congress, it does make it slightly more difficult for people to find and follow you. You'll have to manually approve every person who requests to follow you and whether or not they can see your tweets. However, it doesn't protect you from one of your followers from mentioning your name and repeating your personal health info within that tweet.
  3. Should you crowdsource or put on your Dr. Google hat? Sometimes I'm looking for a specific answer and rather than throw my query to the wilds of search engines, I'll ask the question on Twitter. Usually, I get trusted answers pretty quickly rather than having to weed through search-engine optimized results. But you have to be careful about what medical information you request, whether it's in the form of a question to the masses on Twitter or in your Google search field. It all circles back to trust and established, credible sources of authority.

I haven't even framed this post with regards to blogging and there's plenty to consider in that platform, too. I'd love to hear how other people choose or choose not to share their personal health details online.

Do you tweet it all in every intimate detail for the world to see with nary a care? Are you selective about what you post? What precautions do you take? What are some other concerns I may have missed here? How do you decide what personal health information will be shared online - if it even gets shared in the first place?

What do you do?

And... am I the only person who uses the word "vagina" in casual conversation?

July 13, 2011

Do you accept your infertility?

It's a loaded question, for sure.

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

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

All we can do is to live in the moment.

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


Here's an excerpt from the article:

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

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

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

June 28, 2011

"When I Think, I Must Speak."

Do you not know I am a woman? when I think, I must
speak. Sweet, say on.
(As You Like It, III.ii)

"Pardon me, but I have a few things to say on the matter."
I must express a huge thank you to everyone who commented on my post yesterday about sharing controversial opinions. All this time I've been worried about offending people when the consensus seems to be from everyone: this IS my blog and I shouldn't hold myself back. It's all a matter of tact and approach, which given my mood on any given day could be stellar or disastrous ;)

This is all very timely as I mentioned with JJiraffe's recent post about blog comments and today's assignment for SITS31DBBB. For today's activity, we're supposed to spend time commenting on other blogs and exploring why we leave comments in the first place.

I've realized that I leave comments on other blogs because I've connected in some way with what's been written, whether I can relate to the experience and thoughts shared, am responding to a call to action or call for support, or responding to a question. In a niche that has some incredible Good News posts and some truly heartbreaking Very Bad News posts, I at the very least try to keep up and say a quick Mazel Tov or I'm So Sorry, respectively, at the very least.

I also would love to engage more in the conversation happening ON my blog. If Blogger didn't suck so hard*, I would respond to comments directly in-thread. I tried to do that on my last couple of posts but again, since Blogger suuuuucks the most I can do is comment on my own posts with a lil "@So-and-So" mention, I couldn't really keep up with the comments.

*But you know where you can reply in-thread? WordPress! And that's why I'm moving there folks. Mark your calendars: August 1, 2011 - Hannah Wept, Sarah Laughed is moving to WordPress. Props to Mel, after her frank advice about self-hosting + WP when we met last November and hearing it repeated by many other bloggers since. I'm going the self-hosting route with much trepidation and excitement. I will blog about the big move more after July 1st.

Wait, what exactly does commenting have to do with what I post?

In thinking about why I leave comments, it's allowed me to really think about the comments people left yesterday about whether or not they would be offended, comment or not comment on posts that might be otherwise controversial.

So yes, I'm going to man up and write about all of those things I threw out there yesterday. Bear with me though - I need to plug them into my calendar to really set aside the time to shape them into well-thought out, tactful posts.

But before I let this conversation come to a close, I wanted to highlight a couple of comments that stuck out for me from yesterday's post:

From my dear friend Evedelilah:
We as infertiles understand better than most that life is messy. Its not all happy feelings and smiles. And I believe that since the blog is mine, or in this case yours, that you have a right, and an obligation to share all of it. The good and the bad.
She reminded me of the very title of my blog: Hannah wept, Sarah laughed. The good AND the bad and all the messy in between. That's why I started this blog in the first place, as a safe place to just get it all out there.

From TeamBabyCEO:
I am also of the mindset that I respect your right to an opinion different from mine, because I may learn something, or think about something differently than I once did.
This goes right back to the idea of blogging as a dialogue. If we read nothing but things we agreed with all the time, the blogosphere would be pretty damn boring.

From Esperanza:
Your blog is different because while much of your content is just about your life and what you think and feel, you do put up well-researched educational post about infertility and other topics that are important to you. Does this mean that you can't put up what might be controversial opinion pieces too? I don't think it excludes you from doing so but it might make you think twice before you do it.
Esperanza brings up a great point. While the blog was started solely as a personal emotional outlet, since everything exploded with my video, I feel a genuine commitment to give back to this community in responsible ways.

I say that because when I wrote my post about getting a mammogram, I got called out by a physician who said that I was giving the impression this was standard testing for women with POI. In fact, it was just my doc at the time being an overcautious wackadoo. This physician initially wanted me to remove the post because it sounded like I was giving out bad medical advice for women with POI, but I kept it anyway for a variety of reasons.

Esperanza's comment reminds me of the level of social responsibility that has inadvertently become a very key aspect of my blog.

The next three comments gave me insight on how to approach all this controversy.

From Junebug:
As for my philosophy as a blogger: I don't get controversial very often but when I do I discuss my issue with respect and I don't call people names. I do worry about offending people but I work hard to respond the way I would want people to respond to me if I was on the other side.
From Jonelle:
The worst time was when my best friend (who has her own history with IF and pregnancy loss) was pregnant. There were so many emotions going on with me and I didn't have the heart to click 'publish' because I was afraid of hurting her feelings and jepordizing our friendship. It killed me that I couldn't express myself in my blog. I finally did write a post which I expressed my feelings, but it was so lightly glossed over and not remotely the post that showed all my true feelings.
From Whitney:
I, too, blog publicly with my name and my friends and family follow me -- sometimes that limits me as I'm afraid to post certain things. But, I discovered that instead of just making a blanket statement about things that were hurtful, but rather really explaining it in depth worked.
The takeaway message from all three is context and authenticity. I need to be genuine about the way I feel on these subjects, but I also need to write about them in a way that doesn't alienate people in the process.

And then there was this very humbling comment from reader Mirjam, who runs a Children's Rehabilitation Home in the Ukraine:
I am also afraid offending people and I work in a country you need to be wise, how you express your self. In Ukraine we don't have the freedom to express our selfs.
I had no idea anyone from Ukraine read this blog. I have such an American ethnocentric point of view that I'm always amazed even when someone from Canada leaves a comment ;) Mirjam's comment really made me stop and think about the incredible privilege I have of free speech. It just made me appreciate that privilege I have as an American blogger and maybe I shouldn't be complaining about self-censorship in the first place.

Sometimes, I should write what's in my heart if only for the privilege of writing.

So be on the lookout this summer. I'll talk about why I don't want to be a mom to twins and why life without kids can be actually, quite rad. (I already know my "life without kids" post is going to be centered around five days with a little black and yellow Corvette and copious amounts of oysters, butter fat, and wine.)

I'll try to approach the whole posting about your kids on FB posts with some practical advice and honesty and not sugarcoat the reality of how I feel about it.

And if you're lucky, I'll get to cervical mucus and birth control before the autumn.

Thanks for helping me remain in perspective and for keeping this dialogue going.

June 27, 2011

At a Loss for Words...

Or is it more appropriate to say... at a loss for conviction? Allow me to explain.

For today's 31 Days to Build a Better Blog assignment, we've been tasked with writing an opinion post. I've been known to have a couple of opinions every once in a great while. Like last week's post about feminism, for example. Or about a Republican agenda leading the war on women. Or that periods are not gross. Or why mandated infertility coverage is a good thing. Or why I think high school reunions are lame.

Ok... so yeah, I'm an opinionated woman and I'm not shy about putting my opinions out there on the internet.

Via Wikimedia Commons.
And yet - there's a lot about which I don't write. I knew when I stopped writing under a pseudonym and started using my real name and face I would inevitably begin to self-censor. I do it more than I think most people realize. Infertility and my interactions with others in the context of that disease are, rightfully so, some delicate and touchy subjects.

My inner voice coos: Don't offend anyone, Keiko! Oh no, don't write about that today. You're going to hurt someone's feelings. You want everyone to like you, don't you?

Sometimes, I don't really give a flying fuck what people think.

(Case in point: the previous sentence and my use of profanity.) But this is one of those times that I do give a fuck.

In fact, most times I consider at great length how a post will be received and about who's reading it. Sometimes I'm worried about the people I know, like family and close friends: what will my sister think? Would this embarrass my mom if she read this? Will my friends judge me?

Other times I'm thinking about the readers of this blog I interact with online: is she going to stop following me on Twitter if I mention this?

And sometimes I think about the complete strangers who come here from random internet searches, knowing that my opinion is now linked with my name and face and wondering what that legacy could look like in the lasting eternity of the internet.

I struggle with that fine line of how do I talk about X on my blog if I haven't talked with So-and-So about it in person?

The question that I'm actually avoiding in the process is this:

Do I need to run my topics by people in the first place?

Or to boil it down further: why do I care so much?

This is my blog: my space, my rules. I should write about whatever the hell I want, right? People that I care about read these words, people I respect and admire, even potential employers an networking contacts read this blog.  

In the age of blogging and internet permanence, our words carry a much heavier weight and lingering presence. Our blogs shape our online reputations.

So sometimes, yeah - I hesitate before I hit "Publish" and instead hit "Save," casting that opinion into a long queue of never-to-be-published half-written drafts. Because I cave to my inner voice:

You don't want to offend the people you know, dear. You don't want your virtual resume to be dirtied with such unpleasantries. That's a good girl.

While it's easy to me to hide behind the guise of self-censorship, I'm self-aware enough to know what this is really all about:

I have a pretty huge fear of failure.

It's taken me 29 years to realize this, but I've always been the kind of person who found it easier to walk away from an opportunity without having tried than trying and failing. I can pinpoint for you so many different examples of times in my life I've stifled myself because I was so scared of the risk of failing in the process.

I have deliberately held myself back at more times in my life than I would like to admit. And here I am, doing it again.

I'm holding my opinions back because I'm afraid that if I offend people and lose a handful of followers (which has happened after some of my more opinionated posts) it means that I've failed my readers in some way and thus, I'm a failure.

(So in addition to being opinionated, I'm neurotic too. Awesomesauce.)

I could just post all those thoughts in my head and shut off commenting. Or I could delete the comments that make me uncomfortable or disagree with me. But that would be cowardly. That's the wonderful thing about blogging: it's a dialogue between author and reader.

That's why, as JJiraffe points out in a recent post, why a blogger who doesn't respond to comments can upset the balance - and beauty - of the blogging experience. It feels like we're just shouting on a busy street corner, failing to acknowledge the people that stop and reply to what we're saying.

I could keep my opinions bottled up in an endless queue of drafts. But how would that add to the dynamic experience of the blogosphere? How would that enrich the cultural dialogue of blogging?

It wouldn't.

So what's a blogger to do? Risk offending some of you, some of you about whom I care deeply? Or do I throw caution to the wind and post away, consequences and judgments be damned? Is it simply a matter of how I word my opinions and not what my opinions actually are? And isn't that it's own form of self-censorship, a way of making my posts politically/reader-correct?

It seems I have more questions than answers.

Whether you blog anonymously or not, whether your blog is shared with people you know or not - what do you do? What would you do? Do you write it as or do you self-censor, shelf it for another day or never to be published? Is there some nice grey-area middle ground I'm missing? Sound off in the comments.

I realize this post has morphed into a huge tease of "Ooooh... I wonder what she was going to write about in the first place?" Well, I'll tell you. I shelved about 6 ideas for today's opinion post. Briefly, here are the ideas that got canned, without any kind of supporting context:

  • I really don't want to be a mom to twins.
  • Sometimes it's pretty rad not to have kids.
  • People who post obessively about their children on Facebook annoy the shit out of me.
  • Ditto this about previously infertile bloggers who show no sensitivity to their infertile readers when posting about their pregnancy and newborns.
  • Teenaged girls should know what cervical mucus is.
  • While I think the birth control pill is a major advancement in women's rights, I think it's fundamentally against our biological nature. (And yes, I rely on BCP for quality of life.)

If any of these intrigue you and you'd like to hear more, let me know in the comments. If you're super-offended and want to bail, that's okay too. But I'd love to hear how folks handle sensitive topics and how they're received by readers as a way to guide how I'll further elaborate on these topics, if you happen to be interested in hearing about them in the first place.

Am I off base here? Am I overreacting? Let me know - I'm genuinely interested in what other folks are doing or have done when it comes to potentially offending readers with their opinions.


EDIT TO ADD: The conversation continues at my follow-up post here: When I Think, I Must Speak.

June 22, 2011

Feminism is Not a Four-Letter Word

Whether I call myself a women's health advocate or Vagina Warrior, it boils down to this:

I'm a feminist.

(Shocker.)

What a loaded word, right? Images of unshaven armpits, gross looking white-girl dreads, floppy bra-less boobs, a man-hating smirk on my face, my fist raised in the air. Now, granted, if this describes you... um, cool! More power to you. But it's not me. And honestly, that's not what feminism looks like.

Feminism looks like women and men who want to take the world by storm to make the world a safer, better, more empowered place for women and girls. If you want men to stand by your side and advocate with you, feminists can't be man-haters. Are there some feminist man-haters? Sure. But if feminism is going to make any kind of global impact, it's got to be a collaborative effort between both sides.

Why the heck am I talking about feminism? A few reasons, actually. First, to be an advocate for women's health is a pretty fundamental aspect of feminism. It's about leveraging equal access to healthcare. Second. Esperanza at Stumbling Gracefully has a post that asks the question "Do we want too much?" and third, Schmoopy in our Prompt-ly Writing Group posted a link to a Guardian article that asks Why is feminism still so afraid to focus on its flaws?

The two are truly interrelated and it got me thinking about stereotypes that even I've held about what it means to be feminist, who is and is not considered feminist, and what it means to want more than we have.

Me at a campus protest, circle 2003. Photo by Julie K.
I took a few women's and gender studies courses in college. I was both vice-president and then president our of GLBT student alliance. I performed in the Vagina Monologues. As a young empowered woman in my early 20s, I was rockin' the feminist label and damn proud of it.

Like so many things in my early 20s, I wouldn't really appreciate all of it until now, as I approach my (gulp) early 30s. Feminism has become less about the rallies and the petitions and the student activism for me. Feminism for me has now become an active effort to make good in the world for women and girls where I can with the strengths and talents I have to offer. I blog about infertility and women's health. I blog about why we need to care about the cultural norming of misogyny in America. I support and promote the work of the Red Tent Temple Movement. I think very intentionally about the kind of world I want to shape for my niece and hopefully, my own daughter should I be so blessed.

I've been doing the SITS Girls 31 Days to Build a Better Blog (SITS31DBBB). Much like their Bloggy Boot Camp blogging conference I went to in May, I am out of my league here. I'm one of a very small group (as in, you could probably count us all on one hand) of infertility bloggers participating. SITS is a very Mom Blogger focused forum of support. I've stuck with it because I've got a lot still yet to learn about blogging and as I've come to realize from reading both Esperanza's post and the article Schmoopy shared - I've got a lot to learn about feminism too.

Did I turn my nose up at Mom Bloggers? A little, yeah - I'll be honest. Part of it was jealousy - I want what they have. Part of it was being judgemental - how can nothing but reviews and giveaways be good for the blogpsphere? But as I've spent the last 3 weeks interacting and networking with these fabulous ladies, I've realized my stereotypical judgments were wrong. The Mom Blogger niche is just as varied and valuable and has as much to offer as the ALI blogosphere. I'm realizing it's time to stop passing judgment and start taking a closer look at blogs outside of my niche to see what I can learn.

Oh Diane is one of those Mom Bloggers I've met through SITS31DBBB and she posted a fantastic post on why the Mommy Blogger market is so hot right now. What followed in her post comments was a fiery discussion about why Mom Bloggers get all the attention from advertisers while may of us childless folks sit here twiddling our thumbs.

My point is this: Mom Bloggers - and Mom Blogging in general - can be feminist too.

The Guardian article elaborates:
"Women bear the children and, far more often than not, they wish to be the primary carer for those children. At its most strident, feminism can be mistaken for an ideology designed to make women feel they are wrong to want that."

Mom Blogging is not counter-productive or counter-intuitive to feminist ideals. Even when I was in college, I got horrified looks from other college feminists who were shocked - shocked I tell you - that I didn't really care what my degree was in because I eventually just wanted to be a SAHM and pump out babies.

This is the point: it's not about creating an army of empowered career-women. Feminism is about having  equal access to and support for making empowered choices, be it career, motherhood, health or otherwise. Wanting to be a SAHM mom - like my own mom was when me and my sister were kids, a fact that I am so grateful for to this day - doesn't make me any less feminist. The fact that the Mom Blogger market is growing says to me that women's voices in social media and technology are rising, and people (especially advertisers) want to hear what they have to say.

Which brings me to my last point: does feminism want too much? Again, from the Guardian:
Worse, feminism has accidentally promoted the idea that it's pretty easy to work and have children, with the right support in place. On even an average income, it's never easy, even once children are at secondary school (though it's certainly easier then). Your priorities change. Work is no longer the most important thing, for a while anyway. Ambition can dissipate.  
Let me rephrase that: do we want too much? In fact, let's drill that down again:

Do I want too much?

Take a look at what I grew up with: a mom who stayed at home for the most part, picking up seasonal part-time work to pad out Christmas and birthdays. My father still works almost 60 hours a week. He traveled extensively when I was much younger, leaving the brunt of the child-rearing to my mom. I'm stating this as fact, not to pass judgment. This was what worked for my parents and they were in agreement about their roles as caregiver and provider, respectively.

I grew up with a big, two-story house with two cars. My sister and I went to public schools and college. We pretty much got to do just about any lesson or extra-curricular we wanted. We lived in comfortable New Jersey suburbia. For the 18 years I grew up and lived in that house, this is what The American Dream looked like to me.

Is it too much to want the big, single family house? Is it too much to want a husband that brings home the bacon while I stay at home and serve as primary caregiver to our gorgeous genetic children? Is it fair to place that kind of burden on my husband?

Folks, I struggle with this. These are things I want really bad, I can't necessarily have and boy howdy, I don't like taking No for an answer.

But let's step back for a second: in an time of record foreclosures, a flailing economy, and my seriously busted reproductive system, The American Dream I grew up with isn't realistically even possible anymore. 

Esperanza challenges us:
"The reality is, we might not get to be what we want to be, or we might have to sacrifice greatly to get there, and the same can befall our children. If certain lessons are learned; that frequently life brings disappointment, that sometimes their is no just reward for our efforts, that we must be grateful for what we have and stop continuously looking for more, that sometimes we won’t be happy, maybe, just maybe, we will wake up one day knowing how to be satisfied with our life.And maybe some day, if we’re very lucky, we can learn to be truly happy with what we have."
I counter with this:

If the status quo was okay though, we wouldn't need a feminist movement in the first place. And you know what? After all this, after this huge and rambling post, it's not about feminism anymore.

It's about being active participants in shaping a just world.

Feminist labels aside: where do we fit in to shape that world?

Where do you fit in? How are you helping to shape a just world?

June 18, 2011

Blog Tour of Inspired Reading: The Red Tent

Today's post is in conjunction with the Blog-A-Licious Blog Tour: a fantastic blog hop that brings together bloggers of all genres, backgrounds and locations. In today's hop, the blog featured before mine is Karen's But I Digress. The blog featured after me is the captivating Catherine at Idea City. Do stop by and say hello plus some of us are having giveaways and contests. Enjoy!

For this Blog Tour, we were asked to write about the book that inspires us the most. I'm glad I've gotten the  prompt to write about a book that has meant so much to me over the years and has in many ways, shaped the way I view myself as Jewish Woman (yes, with capital J and capital W).

Every woman should read Anita Diamant's The Red Tent. I have often called it Required Reading for Every Woman because it is a remarkable, gorgeous, sensuous work of historical fiction that celebrates both the darkest and most glorious parts of what it means to be Woman.

Seriously? Go read it this weekend.
Very briefly, because I don't want this to feel like a book report - The Red Tent unearths the story of Dinah from the dusts of the Torah, a Biblical figure who receives little more than passing mention in Genesis 34. Jacob is known as one of the great Patriarchs of Judaism with two Matriarchs at his side, Rachel and Leah, and a whole host of a dozen sons who became the Twelve Tribes of Israel. But among his boyish brood exists a lone daughter: Dinah.  Her story is often known as "The Rape of Dinah" as a prince of Shechem "defiles" her, and Dinah's brothers Levi and Simeon avenge her rape by massacring the city of Shechem, leaving no survivors.

And with that, Dinah fades back into the dust of the Torah, never to be mentioned again. This is where Diamant picks up, fleshing out the story of Dinah's youth and relationship to her four mothers: Rachel, Leah, and Jacob's concubines Zilpah and Bilhah, as well has her grandmother, Rebecca. She weaves the tale of Dinah falling in love with the Prince of Shechem and that her brothers' crusade was bent on murderous rage. After the massacre, she flees to Egypt where she gives birth to a son and becomes an devoted and talented midwife.

The Red Tent refers to something we talk about a lot in the infertility community: our menstrual cycles. As happens in many confined living arrangements, the women would often cycle together, in a phenomenon known as menstrual synchrony or the McClintock effect. Ancient tribes of women would gather in a menstrual tent or hut during their blood cycle, often cycling with the moon. Dinah learns of her rich heritage, not just as a third generation of monotheistic Jews, but as a Woman in her place in a Long Line of Women Before Her.

As I've said before, we shouldn't be ashamed or grossed out by our periods, because our menstrual cycles are a vital indicator of women's health. The Red Tent reminds us of this and inspires us to be mindful of the miracle and wonder of our own human forms.

You may have also read posts where I speak of the Red Tent Temple, the women's group I go to every month. The Red Tent Temple movement was born out of Diamant's novel by ALisa Starkweather, a Wise Woman and Women's Empowerment Practitioner. I'm also so pleased to know filmmaker Isadora Leidenfrost who is making a documentary of the Red Tent Temple Movement: Things We Don't Talk About. This one-hour film is slated to be released next year. I have eagerly been awaiting the trailer; hopefully I've made the cut from hundreds of hours of footage that Isadora shot herself at Red Tent Temples all over the country. She's also looking for some more financial support to stay on track with her production and release schedule, so if you know of women-empowered businesses or organizations who'd be willing to help out an empowered woman filmmaker, please head over to her site and drop her a line.

The Red Tent in its modern iteration has become a place of community wisdom and social healing, a sisterhood of empowerment. In reading The Red Tent and participating in the Red Tent Temple in my own community, I've realized that their is indeed power to be had in gathered groups of women. We need more dialogue circles like this, more Red Tents, to share our collective womanhood experiences; there is so much we can learn from one another as women when given the opportunity.

So... have you picked up your copy yet? The Red Tent is an amazingly beautiful, captivating read, and like I said: practically required reader for women everywhere. Now head on over to Catherine's Idea City - she'll tell you about her most inspiring book. Come meet me over there and we can read along together! Want to see what other books are inspiring other bloggers? Follow along on the rest of the Blog Tour this week by stopping by at each of these fabulous blogs for the Blog-a-licious Blog Tour!
  1. Roy: Roy’s Garage Sell and Auction Well
  2. Sulekha: Memoirs
  3. Sora: Peace from Pieces
  4. Shaeeza: My B Words
  5. Mari: Mari Sterling Wilbur Photography
  6. Paula: Hardline Self Help
  7. Karen: ...But I Digress
  8. (You are here) Keiko: Hannah Wept, Sarah Laughed
  9. Catherine: Idea City
  10. Kate and Ashley: Back of the Book Reviews
  11. Desiree: Desiree Holt Tells All
  12. Sonia: Sonia Rumzi.com
  13. DK Levick: Writing in the Woods
  14. Sarcasm Goddess: For the Love of Writing
  15. Tosh: Totsymae.com
  16. Lucy: Life Through Lucylastica's Lense
  17. Leo: Find Peace, Love and God
  18. Dora: Blog-a-licious Blogs

June 15, 2011

What's Shakin?

(Salem Willows Pier, May 2011)
Random update post = random pic.
I've been fishing a bunch lately.
Figured I was overdue for a "What's going on in my life" post. If you're reading my blog in something other than a reader, you may have noticed I've gone a bit... design crazy. I posted a new header a month or so ago, I've been tweaking the background color, and oh, huh, look at that: ads and paid ad space. Right, so... about that. Rather than just making all these changes and hoping no one will notice, I figured it was time to come clean about all the changes happening around here.

So let's see, where to begin? I've been participating in The SITS Girls 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Challenge. We're on day 11 today. So, between now and when this challenge ends sometime mid-July, I'm sure there will be other little tweaks and changes along the way. I'll also be experimenting with post types and content, just to see how I can play with things here a little bit. Whether it's the occasional list post or dabbling in a bit of creative non-fiction, it's the summer. I want to keep things interesting here and spruce up my blog overall.

Right, so the other big thing: ads. Yes, you too can purchase ad space on my blog. You may notice it falls under the creative "Baby Fund" heading. I'm telling it like it is folks: babies ain't cheap and makin' babies with donor eggs ain't any cheaper. Honestly? Every little bit helps. I'm also signing up for Affiliate programs that are a good fit for my blog. I've been running BlogHer Ads for a while now and have been an Amazon Affiliate for ages. I've only recently begun pumping up the Amazon Affiliate profile a little bit. In full disclosure, I'm an affiliate for Circle+Bloom and AttainFertility. And yes, I'm looking to add more and to do so in a way that's a) clear to you as readers and b) not intrusive beyond the sidebar. I realize ads might turn some of you off. If it does, please be honest and lay it on me (in a comment or an email is fine). Your readership is important to me, so if ads are going to send folks away screaming, I want to hear about it.

Let's see, what else... Remember when Blogger died last month? And I was like, hell no I'm not losing two  years' worth of writing? Yeah, about that. I'm moving to self-hosted WordPress sometime this summer. Tentative launch will be August 1st. The big thing you can do to help me? Make sure your bookmarks and reader feeds point to www.hannahweptsarahlaughed.com and not my blogspot URL. That will make the transition easier so you don't lose me in the move.

Other random things...
  • Updated my Resources page. Needed some serious updating and dusting off.
  • Sorted my Blogroll into five categories. I did this for a variety of reasons, but the biggest one being I didn't want any of you to click over to a BFP blog and not know about it and then be totally blindsided. It happened to me a bunch so it was time to clean up my list so it's clear to everyone.
    • Infertility Blogs: General blogs that didn't fit into my other categories
    • TTC Blogs: Folks actively working on makin' babies, typically through some kind of treatment
    • BFP Blogs: Mazel tov ladies on your impending arrivals!
    • Adoption Blogs: Folks who are all about adoption or are in the homestudy/waiting process
    • Parenting After IF Blogs: Folks who may or may not still be dealing with IF but who already have children and thus may have posts or pics that mention their children
  • I accidentally spilled the beans and stupidly posted on Twitter that I'm working on a book. JJiraffe has only helped amplify my super secret news ;) For all intents and purposes, let's just stick to the rumor that it's trashy vampire horror/smut and when I'm ready to reveal, it'll be that much cooler.
  • Linking up to some neat infertility-inspired writing groups online. The first is JJiraffe's Pomegranate Society. Basically it's a small writers' workshop where we pair up with other writers with the intent to get our asses in gear about getting our stuff published. The second is Mel's Prompt-ly group. This is more focused on keeping the inspiration juices flowing, to keep our blog content fresh, and to provide support and share resources. It's already awesome.
  • Twitterview with RESOLVE and blogger Alec Ross of I Want to Be a Daddy for a Fathers' Day Twitter Chat this Friday at 2pm EST. I'll be jumping in and retweeting as it goes on. You can follow the dicussion at #tvFD - best way to follow it is through TweetChat.
  • The Hope Award for Best Book nominations are now openHead over to the fabulous Ladies in Waiting Book Club to cast your nominations. Nominations will be accepted until this Friday, June 17th so go swing by and vote for the nominations listed or add your own. It looks like it's going to be a tight race whoever the Top 5 are, so get your nominations in now!
  • Random: I can't stop listening to Beats Antique. Bellydance music has been blasting out of my car anytime I drive. 

So there you have it. Bunches of random things happening around here and little tweaks along the way. Mostly, I'm hoping it's for the better but if you see something and you're like, "Gosh Keiko, what the hell is with all the pink? I mean seriously - is this an infertility blog or Pretty Pretty Princess Land?" please let me know. You can leave me a comment or shoot me an email. Or hound me on Twitter - I'm all over the place.

Ultimately, here's the thing: I'm making changes because I want to make this a better blog experience for everyone - not just for myself, but for you. So if you don't like something I've done around here, I want to hear about it. I can take it :)

And if you love something, well, I want to hear about that too.

June 8, 2011

Mommy's Garden

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

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


Mommy's Garden

Photo by Stacie via Flickr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Mmhm," Juniper nodded.

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

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

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

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

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


. . .

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

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

. . .

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

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

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

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

"Maybe it got sunburned," Juniper said sadly.

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

"Okay!" Juniper said cheerfully.

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

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

"That was nice of her," she said.

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

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

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

"Yeah."

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

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

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

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

"Did I live in your tummy?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 13, 2011

It's a Fail Whale Kind of Day.


First it was Blogger. Then it was Twitter. I imagine Twitter has been over capacity much of the day because folks took to microblogging their frustrations with Blogger. It's created a ripple effect in the social media realm. And my post from Thursday? With my two videos from Advocacy Day? Still missing. Still in the Blogger ether. Oh, and any comments I've received since Wednesday morning? Gone. Blogger promises they'll be back, but the proof is in the pudding.

I had a truly lovely post to write today, venting some various hormonally-driven frustrations on the baby-makin' (and I do mean makin' when we're talking about IVF) front. Aunt Flo is in town, so I've been feeling particularly rage-tastic today. Oh, and it's Friday the 13th. I can't even promote this post on Twitter right now: it's over capacity, as it has been most of the day today.

It's not all bad, I suppose - but it's been just one of those kinds of days.

I'm super grateful I backed up my blog and downloaded my template on Tuesday. Still, I had done some minor design tweaks- moved around some widgets, added a banner ad for an affiliate program I just joined- and those changes are all gone. It's kind of a pain in the ass. All of this is setting me up to move to WordPress. It's time to self-host and stop milking the freebie blogging.

I imagine in the next month or so, I'll be moving from Blogger to WordPress. What you can do now is make sure your bookmarks and Readers point to http://www.hannahweptsarahlaughed.com/ and not hannahweptsarahlaughed.blogspot.com. It's a simple switch. I will update like a fiend so the transition is as smooth as possible for all involved.

What sucks even more is that there is some really exciting news in terms of advocacy, but I'm reticent to share it here because I don't know if my posts are going to get eaten. I'll save it for Monday.

That said, don't break any mirrors, step on any cracks, or walk under any ladders today. This Friday the 13th has turned out to be a beast.

April 19, 2011

Calling All Health Activist Bloggers

As some of you know, I'm a member of WEGO Health, a community hub for health activists in all areas of health interests, conditions, and diagnoses. It's a pretty nifty community and I highly recommend it if you're in the health industry in any way. I even won their Vlog Contest last year. They have a lot of neat resources for health activists, including a webinar this Thursday that I'll be "at" online.

Here are all the details:

With Health Activist Panel with Lisa E, Erin B, Jenni P, and Amanda D
Thursday April 21st 8-9pm EST
Sign up here and get all the details

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The webinar is for anyone from seasoned bloggers to blog-readers who want to start their own blog. The webinar will cover the basics of blogging and include more advanced tips and tricks for promoting posts, managing your time, and establishing your blog “voice” and how to raise awareness about your condition through blogging. By signing up you’ll also have a chance to ask specific questions for the Health Activist panel that will be answered during the live Q&A portion of the webinar. You’ll also get access to the archived version of the webinar.

I would highly recommend this for both my newest readers who've just started blogging as well as those of you "old pros" reading this out there. From an infertility standpoint, it should be an engaging session to see how we're crafting our own stories to not only benefit ourselves, but hopefully to benefit others who read our blogs, be they friends, family, fellow bloggers, or just the random visitor from a Google search.

And to end in full disclosure: by posting this on my blog, I’m also being entered for a chance to win $100 or a $100 donation to the health charity of my choice. For more information and to find out how you can participate in this blog contest, click here: WEGO Health Blogger Contest.

March 23, 2011

4 Myths Debunked About Mandated Infertility Coverage

As I mentioned last week, Maine could potentially become the sixteenth state to mandate insurers to cover infertility treatments. The bill, LD 720, will be heard before the Joint Committee for Insurance and Financial Services at the Maine State House (room 220) in Augusta at 1pm today. There will be time for brief testimony to be shared with the committee. If you live in Maine and you've got the time- please make it to the State House today. Your support is vital for this bill to gain any continuing momentum in the Maine legislature. Complete details regarding this bill and the public hearing today can be found on RESOLVE of New England's Maine Advocacy Alert page.

Believe me when I say your support is critical; there is already a lot of opposition for this bill. Just ask Anne Beldon, a devoted RNE volunteer up in Maine who sent in an excellent Letter to the Editor of the Bangor Daily News. Some of the reader comments, aside from being quite misinformed, are downright cruel. It is a stark reminder of just how lucky I am to live in Massachusetts, where we lead the nation in mandated coverage.

Some of the biggest complaints from commenters were that they shouldn't have to pay for the lifestyle choices of others and that overpopulation is a global problem, so perhaps infertile people should take the hint. Oh, and have you considered adoption?

*facedesk*

I almost don't know where to begin.

Let's start by addressing four of the myths about mandated infertility coverage we hear all the time (as reflected in the reader comments to Anne's letter) about why infertility treatment shouldn't be covered.

Myth #1: Infertility isn't a disease; it's a lifestyle choice.
Reality: The World Health Organization would beg to differ. The inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term is a medical condition, not a choice.

Myth #:2 I shouldn't have to pay for someone's expensive, elective IVF treatment.
Reality: IVF accounts for less than 3% of all infertility treatment, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. ASRM also states that IVF accounts for 0.07% of U.S. health care costs (Source, ASRM). In fact, infertility is a treatable disease, so it makes sense that insurers provide coverage for its treatment.

Myth #3: Providing infertility coverage will drive up everyone's premiums.
Reality: Employers who provide infertility coverage can see as much as $1 per member per month in premium reductions (Source, American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology). And take a look at what happened in Massachusetts: infertility expenditures made up less than 1% (0.81%, specifically) of all insurance expenditures in 1986, a year before the mandate was made into law. Less than 10 years after the mandate was in place, infertility expenditures as a percentage of total expenditures actually decreased to nearly haf that number, at 0.41% (Source, Fertility and Sterility, 1998).

Myth #4: The world is overpopulated. Why don't you just adopt?
Reality: The first issue is that you attempt to deflect the issue at hand by making "overpopulation" the focus of your rebuttal; this is commonly known as a straw man argument. But I'll bite and turn this question back to the reader. Why don't you just adopt? Why must adoption fall solely in the arms of the infertile? Instead of having your own biological children and thus contributing to overpopulation as you claim, why not adopt yourself?

5 points to remember when responding to the infertility coverage critics out there:
  1. Educate yourself. People will want sources. (I've provided them all here.)
  2. Don't feed the trolls. They're a hungry lot, and it's easy to fall into their traps.
  3. Pick your battles. You can't win over everyone.
  4. Agree to disagree; like the point above, you can't change all hearts and minds.
  5. Don't lose sight of the bigger picture and keep fighting the fight!
That last one is important. It's easy to get bogged down in trying to respond to every thoughtless, ignorant comment, to try and make each of your comments a teachable moment. In reality, the bigger issue at hand - getting mandated infertility coverage - is the goal. You can't lose sight of the forest for the trees.  Stay tuned for my post about Infertility and Raising Awareness, where you can find out more about how to be your own infertility advocate.

What are some of the comments you've come across, either in person on as a response to a blog post or article, and how did you respond?

November 30, 2010

NaBloPoMo: I did it!


So yes, while technically in I'm Grand Cayman right now, I've managed to publish 30 posts in 30 days. I made it through my first NaBloPoMo! I want to give a huge shout out to Suzy from Not a Fertile Myrtle for inspiring me to try this blogging challenge. And a challenge it has been!

The secret, I have found, is to schedule out your topics. I set up a new Google Calendar for myself a couple of months back, just to roughly plan out some posts, apart from the life update kind. For each day in November, I set aside a particular topic. I left a few days open to accomodate random life updates. Those "blank" days didn't exactly go as planned. Some of the posts this month were total fluff: things I'm "reading," one of my favorite recipes right now, a movie review and such.

Despite some of the fluff, I also have a few posts I'm proud of, specifically:

+ The RESOLVE of New England Annual Conference Live Blog.

+ Fill in the Blank: a call to finish the phrase "Infertility is..." (Which, if you haven't already added to the list in the comments, please do.)

+ The Infertile's Manifesto: the response to the Fill in the Blank. Some of your comments were so inspiring I had to capture it in one post as a way of reminding myself (and others!) to remain strong throughout this challenging journey.

+ Writing out what I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving.

+ Remembering the 10-year anniversary of my oopherectomy.

I initially decided to participate in NaBloPoMo because I was too chicken to attempt NaNoWriMo. The idea of 50,000 words in just 30 days intimidated the hell out of me. But I thought I'd do a little research and see how many words I've actually written on this blog in the past month.

Including this entire post, I have written 19,150 words during the month of November. While it's no NaNoWriMo, it's still a pretty decent amount of writing.

So since I'm still technically on the cruise and won't be back home until Sunday, I'll catch y'all sometime next week with plenty of photos and tales from our adventure on the high seas. In the meantime: Happy Hanukkah, happy blogging, and catch y'all on the flipside!

November 29, 2010

A Life of Pleasure

Still on the cruise, still at sea, still having my posts scheduled ahead of time for today and tomorrow.

My dear friend Honeybee shared with me a wonderful activity she had recently done- she wrote down a list of things that give her pleasure. It's not about writing a list of things that turn us on sexually, rather, a list of what fulfills us and makes us just feel damn good.

Photo by Ben Smith via Flickr.
So... here's my list.

Sunbathing at the beach, my cats laying on my lap or curling up with me while I nap, the way my cats rest their heads while they nap, savory dishes like beef bourgogne and just about anything with shallots, vintage prints of birds and plants, hot springs baths in Arima, ice cold unfiltered sake, anything microfleece, the smell of the air after the first few minutes of rain, Milk Duds, the sound of leaves and twigs crunching under my feet when I hike, listening to techno (specifically Wolfgang Gartner's Illamerica) and driving way over the speed limit on windy roads, lighting Shabbos candles, taking artsy photographs, beading, painting, chocolate, reading PostSecret every Sunday, reading Gawker just about every day of the week, leveling up on Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, gazing at the very old cemetery behind our house from my kitchen window while I do the dishes, getting my nails done, cleaning my engagement ring, sleeping in soft cotton t-shirts, taking my shoes off after a long day, running, the sound of clocks, collecting neat looking stamps, fine writing instruments, witnessing beautiful and profound moments in nature, accomplishing something I've worked really hard for, doodling, Dunkin Donuts hot chocolate, writing, Red Tent Temple gatherings, making food with friends, tea, my cardamom and lemongrass body wash, pearls, draught beer, cold crisp winter nights where you can see every star in the sky, not killing bugs other than mosquitos, buying gifts for my husband, spending time with my family, getting massages, napping, caramel.

This is not exactly an exhaustive list, but it's a start.

What gives you pleasure?