January 31, 2009
For this week’s Show and Tell, I will present some artwork that I recently bought. Then, I will announce the winner of this week’s Dirty Laundry contest and her prize, which is related to the artwork.
During the unpleasantness of the 2WW during IVF #2 earlier this month, I did a lot of web-surfing. One of the sites I came across was Wall Blank. I really like the idea of this website: every day, they post one piece of artwork. It is available for purchase for one week, unless it sells out first. Editions seem to run in the range of 50 to 200 prints — small enough that you won’t see the same print at someone else’s house. If by some chance you do, you will be delighted that you both share the same good taste and belong to such an exclusive club. Maybe you’ll then develop a secret handshake.
Some of the art is photography; some are prints of paintings, drawings, mixed media, etc. Prices are extremely affordable for limited edition artwork. Really, extremely affordable — I have paid more than twice as much for photo prints that were 1/4 the size.
Offering a new piece every day brings a fun sense of anticipation and variety; one of my favorite Google Reader clicks every day is the new Wall Blank print. The one-week deadline creates an interesting sense of urgency. One day between IVF #2 transfer and beta day, I was smitten with a photograph. Each day, I would consider whether to buy it. During moments of optimism: art for the baby’s room! During moments of pessimism: art that will remind me of the failed cycle. During moments of realism: art that will simultaneously connect me to the past and the future. Finally, I decided to make the purchase a couple of days before the one-week window closed. Not knowing the outcome of the 2WW, I didn’t know whether optimism, pessimism, or realism would turn out to be correct. I did know that if I failed to seize the opportunity, I would regret it later.
Here is the photo that I purchased (the image is from the Wall Blank website; the print looks even better in person, but I haven’t framed it yet so I can’t show you what it looks like on my wall). The visuals are striking, but the title and description sealed the deal.
Dreaming Makes Life Colourful. Description from Wall Blank:
This photo was taken in Seoul during the Buddha’s birthday celebrations. This was taken at Jogyesa, which is one of the temples in central Seoul.
In the Buddhist religion Buddha’s birthday is the equivalent of Christmas for Christians. At this time of year Buddhists can make a wish in the form of a message attached to a lantern. Those wishes are often peoples’ dreams and can include desires for world peace, good health for a loved one, or success in something they’re doing that year. I feel those who are striving to achieve dreams are living life to the full, and as such lead a life full of colour and joy. Every dream has it’s own colour and uniqueness, so hold onto your dreams.
By Simon Bond. An archival pigment print. Includes a signed & numbered certificate of authenticity.
As someone who is in the midst of trying very hard to achieve a long-time dream, this description spoke to me. The British spelling of colourful was icing on the cake.
The one-week deadline has long since expired, so none of you can buy this particular print (sorry!) unless it makes a surprise reappearance someday, but something new appears each weekday. I’ve seen several other offerings that would make nice metaphors for infertility, and many that were aesthetically wonderful.
This brings us to the Dirty Laundry contest winner. Earlier this week I posted ten items of dirty laundry, anonymous bits of honesty about people in my life. I asked readers to guess how many my husband would correctly identify.
He correctly identified most of them instantly. Amusingly, the one that I said would be pretty easy for him actually required extra thought. The one that stumped him the most was ironic: it’s about one of his relatives, and it’s more his complaint than mine — which says something about his attunement to my emotions as well as his own ability to move quickly past things that bother him (an ability that I don’t share). But, after some thought, he got all ten of them correct.
Anita’s prize is any artwork of her choice from Wall Blank. She can choose something that’s currently for sale, or she can wait until something catches her fancy.
I was all set to pay for the artwork myself, as I have done with my other contests, but in the course of emailing customer service to ask a logistic question about the gift certificate, Wall Blank’s founder Shawn generously offered to provide the print for the contest. Thanks very much, Shawn!
Anita’s IVF cycle was canceled yesterday. I hope that winning this contest will be a pleasant distraction for her, and that she’ll be able to pick a piece of artwork that helps her look to the future, as mine does for me. Congratulations, Anita; I wish you the best with your surgery and the next cycle.
More optimism, pessimism, and realism at Show and Tell.
January 29, 2009
For last week’s Thoughtful Thursday, we explored the topic of luck — specifically, whether you can improve your luck. In the comments, some people thought that you can change your luck through lucky charms, positive thoughts, actions, etc. Many other commenters agreed with me that lucky charms don’t actually work, but it’s still nice to try to believe. A couple of commenters have come to abandon luck, since no lucky charm has ever helped to bring the good fortune of children.
This week, we’ll explore the flip side: bad luck, also known as jinxes.
In her comment last week, N from Two Hot Mamas said:
It’s funny, because I don’t believe in luck, but I’m still superstitious. I guess I believe in bad luck, if it’s possible only to believe in that.
It’s human nature when bad things happen to look at the preceding events and work backwards, trying to figure out possible causes. In the future, we then avoid whatever we think might have made the difference last time. Those of us who have experienced infertility or loss often make concerted efforts to avoid jinxing pregnancies (potential or actual). In some cases, it’s a concrete action — for example, in the case of one person I know, an airplane flight closely preceded a stillbirth; this has led to her refusal to fly at all during subsequent pregnancies, even though the doctors don’t think that flying would make a difference. At other times, we can’t pinpoint what we’re avoiding. In An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, after her first pregnancy ended in stillbirth, Elizabeth McCracken describes deliberately doing everything exactly the opposite with her second pregnancy.
Some cultures have fashioned entire lifestyles around avoiding bad luck. For example, many cultures fear the “evil eye.” In her comment for last week’s Thoughtful Thursday on luck, Mel mentioned her hamsa, a common charm in both Judaism and Islam. The purpose of a hamsa, though, is not to bring good luck… but to fend off bad luck. Many hamsas actually have an eye on them, representing the evil eye that they hope to ward off.
Here is one of the hamsas in my house. Like all hamsas, it is shaped like a hand — supposedly the “hand of G-d.” This one does not have the eye in the middle. I display it prominently in my house because it is pretty and because it belonged to DH’s late grandmother. I do not believe that it wards off bad luck; I just like to have it around.
There are numerous cultural traditions associated with avoiding jinxes for pregnancies and babies. For example, some cultures, including stricter sects of Judaism, prefer not to have a baby shower or buy anything before a baby is born. Many cultures have specific rules about when pregnancies should be announced, often with much fanfare and ceremony.
In North America, not announcing a pregnancy until a certain point (often, the end of the first trimester) is common practice among all women, not only those who have experienced infertility or loss. There are plenty of women who blab to everyone before the pee has dried on the stick, but most people are more cautious. But I would argue that the true purpose is less about avoiding a jinx, and more about not wanting to untell the news if something bad does happen.
Other than people following specific cultural customs, it seems very rare in North America to put off purchases and arrangements until after the baby is born. At minimum, almost everyone obtains a car seat so that the baby can come home from the hospital. In actuality, most people buy (or receive as gifts) everything they could possibly need in advance, expecting that shopping will become near-impossible with a newborn as well as satisfying the nesting instinct. But for those who do observe the custom of waiting to make most purchases and refusing a baby shower (which in my own life I’ve seen in people of Jewish and Indian backgrounds, but I know there are other cultures that do this), I again wonder about the true purpose. The cultural explanations are focused on tempting fate. But many of us who have dealt with infertility and loss also hold off on preparations — not because of jinxing, but because we are afraid of ending up with a nursery that’s fully furnished but is missing the baby. We are afraid of the Babies R Us equivalent of untelling, of getting stuck between not being able to get rid of the baby items but not bearing to see them around the house.
Let’s change gears for a moment and talk about baseball (maybe it will bring in some male readers!). In baseball, when a pitcher is several innings into a no-hitter, people start to realize what’s going on, but they’re not supposed to say anything. Anyone who mentions the burgeoning no-hitter is immediately shushed by friends and strangers alike. My husband is unflinchingly logical, yet he joins this superstition. His explanation is that he doesn’t actually believe in jinxing the no-hitter, but he enjoys participating in the tradition, and it’s fun for a stadium full of people to collectively cheer the pitcher on.
How does this baseball analogy relate to infertility and loss? Like my husband does with no-hitters, I have seen pregnant women go through the motions of respecting the tradition. They acknowledge that they’re not supposed to tell people too early, then in the same breath they do it anyway. Through the acknowledgment, they evoke the don’t-tell tradition enough to avoid the jinx, and they also invoke a collective wish for the pregnancy to go well. Usually, “I’m not supposed to tell anyone this early, but I just can’t keep it a secret anymore!” is answered with, “Oh, I’m sure everything will be fine, you have nothing to worry about.” In its own way, those reassurances are a form of avoiding the jinx, as if saying everything will be fine can make it so.
Personally, I have toyed with the idea of refusing a baby shower when the time comes, to be consistent with observant Jewish practice (for new readers, I am not Jewish but in our home we practice many elements of Judaism consistent with my husband’s Orthodox upbringing). Instead of the charade of being a normal oblivious pregnant woman, which I don’t know that I could pull off at a baby shower or anywhere else, I would instead don the persona of being anxious, superstitious, and culturally respectful.
Let’s get real. The Real Me wishes that I could have lived a life where obliviousness at my own baby shower was possible. The Real Me anticipates that when the time comes, nobody will throw me a shower — definitely not in the city where I live now, and probably not in any of the cities where I used to live; the only possibility for a shower is in one city where many of DH’s friends and family cluster. But if that hypothetical baby shower does happen, the Real Me doesn’t want to field questions like “What took you so long?” or tolerate innuendo about the sex that created the baby. In addition to giving the impression of religious observance, refusing a shower would be a defense against the anxiety that none of my friends care enough to hold a shower and an avoidance of “normal” bullshit. Refusing a shower would also be a passive-aggressive act to withhold my joy from the people in my life: I haven’t deemed most of them worthy to share in all of the pain that it will have taken to get to that point, so maybe they don’t get the good stuff either. Would I really let them off so easy, letting them eat sheet cake without ever having fielded a sobbing phone call about a BFN? Would I give them the satisfaction of letting them coo at onesies when they never earned it by sending a miscarriage condolence card? Yes, refusing a baby shower would have its purposes, but for me none of them having anything to do with avoiding a jinx.
And so, as you must have guessed by now, I do not believe in jinxes. I go through the motions of avoiding jinxes, not to hedge my bets in case they do exist (as I do for good luck charms), but because the jinx traditions have real functions. I will insist on waiting longer than usual to announce a pregnancy, having made the opposite mistake with my first miscarriage and told too many people too early. The bad “luck” I am avoiding is not some nebulous evil eye, spirit, or will of G-d, but the pain of sharing my past and potential future heartache with others. I am also avoiding the bad “luck” of most people behaving in a way that is totally unhelpful if something bad does happen. Similarly, with purchases, I will probably put off pregnancy and baby purchases longer than most. The dozens of children’s books and toys in my house already raise eyebrows; when people have to trip over a stroller to get past your foyer, fake explanations become progressively more difficult. What is this jinx that we imagine we are avoiding by refraining from making purchases? Part of it, I think, comes from doing anything we can not to make a potential loss even more real, even more painful. I know that there are people who truly believe in bad luck, in tempting fate, in drawing the anger of the gods (and I’d love to hear from you in the comments); for me, the jinxes I’m trying to avoid are the ones in my head.
Your Thoughtful Thursday question for today:
Do you believe that you can do or say things to jinx an outcome?
January 28, 2009
A few days ago Jamie from Sticky Feet aired some dirty laundry: things you’d like to say but never do, rendered harmless thanks to anonymity. I wanna play! And, since nobody IRL except my husband reads this blog, none of the targets will ever read it!
It’s well-known that I love to hold contests, so let’s play a game. I will list 10 articles of dirty laundry about people in my life. How many do you think my husband can identify? Fundamentally this is a “pick a number between 0 and 10″ contest, so please play along. Yes, there will be a prize. (Note to DH: some people will make more than one appearance on the list. I don’t think I can come up with dirty laundry about 10 separate people.)
While you read, you can listen to Don Henley sing “Dirty Laundry.”
- We are sick of your “motherly” advice. We don’t listen to our own mothers (and never have), so why would we listen to you?
- You are the laziest person I’ve ever met. It is outrageous that you would allow your laziness to negatively impact your child’s health and development.
- I honestly laugh every time you send me a preachy email forward — especially those that insist on archaic authoritarian methods of child-rearing. If those tactics actually worked, the children you raised wouldn’t refuse to speak to you.
- It is so hurtful that you would be insensitive about our childlessness given that you went through infertility and miscarriages yourself.
- For someone who constantly demands gifts, I have never met anyone who accepts gifts less graciously. The only gift you’re getting from now on are narcissus flowers, you ungrateful narcissist.
- You were never infertile, just impatient — you even lied to the doctors about having tried for 6 months before seeking treatment. Plus, you wanted twins, and you knew that fertility treatments would increase your chances. You don’t actually understand what I’m going through.
- It makes me genuinely sad that my children will share 25% of your DNA. (Okay, this one should be pretty easy for DH, since there are a limited number of possible targets.)
- Sometimes I think your comedic in-your-face shtick is just an excuse to act like an asshole.
- I was a true friend to you. You were a mend all along.
- I’m going to start carrying a tiny violin in my purse for the next time you complain that Obama’s tax plan is bad for you because you make over $250K per year.
How many will my husband correctly identify? How well does he know me?
Step right up, folks. Pick a number, win a prize. I’ll reveal the winner at Show and Tell this Saturday.
January 26, 2009
I’ve mentioned before that we’ve had boy and girl baby names picked out for years. Both are fairly unusual — one hasn’t been in the top 500 most popular baby names since before I was born, and the other has never cracked the top 500. I’ve never known anybody with either name. But both are reasonably spelled, easily pronounceable, and not unfamiliar to the ear. My real name violates all of those principles, and DH’s name violates most of them; we have chosen not to subject our future children to the same inconveniences. We’re going with distinctive but not esoteric… we still have enough work to do, correcting the spellings and pronunciations of our own names every day. (Note: One of our names shouldn’t be hard to pronounce, but people are dumb.)
This weekend, I found it a bit unnerving when I started watching a new TV show and one of the main characters had one of the names. Not only that, but people specifically use the character’s name every few sentences. My first reaction was that I don’t want to keep watching and hear my beloved name over and over (“that’s my baby’s name, don’t wear it out”). The show isn’t good enough for me to deal with my ears pricking up 50 times per episode.
Then I thought to check for other TV characters with that name. According to my old friend IMDB, between first and last names, that name has appeared in well over 1000 movies or episodes of TV shows — including a character on one of my all-time favorite TV shows (but I’d forgotten because that character was almost always called by his last name instead of my baby name). It would appear that I’ve come across the name hundreds of times, and my ears didn’t prick up — or at least, not enough for me to register it and remember. So maybe it’s not such a big deal after all.
I still haven’t decided whether to keep watching this new show, but I will make the decision on the basis of the show’s merits, not my unfulfilled infertile fantasies.
This is an instance of refusing to let myself get bogged down by infertility, and I think that qualifies as growth.
Weebles Wobblog is all about personal growth, as well as Perfect Moments.
January 25, 2009
ER update: Angela Bassett’s character had her egg retrieval! Spoiler alert: didn’t go well. Several aspects of the depiction were nothing like I’ve ever experienced (ultrasound to count the number of follicles the day of retrieval, husband in the operating room, private room for post-op recovery) but I suppose since the doctor on the show is an OB/GYN instead of an RE, anything goes. On the upside, the extensive talk about follicles and high-grade embryos was a triumph for infertility awareness. It also served to debunk the myth that IVF is a guarantee for older women (or anyone).
And now, Show and Tell. Years ago, I wasn’t yet a potter. Instead, I was a knitter. I was a very slow knitter, but I made a few lovely pieces — mostly scarves gifted to family members. I particularly enjoyed working with complex stitch patterns. Because I was so slow, I quickly figured out that I should only use very high-quality yarn — it was impossible to rack up a high yarn bill when it took me two months to make one scarf, and it’s much more pleasant to work with cashmere, silk, and merino wool than acrylic.
The last piece that I was working on before a computer-based repetitive stress injury ended my knitting career was a baby blanket — for the baby I was expecting to have in the near future. Periwinkle, because it’s gender-neutral. Cotton, because at the time we lived in a warm climate.
I actually learned to crochet just so that I could make the border of this blanket. I was almost finished with the border when I realized that the last ball of yarn I’d used for the main body was from a different dye lot than the rest. This means that there’s a few inches at the end that are a slightly different color. The border is a different color on purpose for contrast, but the different color within the body just looks strange. A perfectionist by nature, I realized that I would need to rip out the border and then unravel the section of the blanket with the wrong yarn. Around the time of that realization, I also realized that my repetitive stress injury was being aggravated by knitting… and then I had my first miscarriage, and I didn’t have the heart to keep working on the blanket.
And so, for five years this blanket has sat in a plastic bin in the closet, with a half-finished border and a discolored strip. I’ve figured that whenever I do finally
get stay pregnant, I would fix the mismatch problem once and for all. Hasn’t happened yet, but whenever it does, I’ll bring it back out of the closet and finish what I started so long ago.
What caused me to bring the blanket out of the closet after all of these years?
In a blog comment on one of Cara’s blogs, I made an offhand remark about knitting. She responded by emailing me to ask me if I still knitted, and if so, would I be willing to make a few buntings in which to bury babies. I sadly told her that I no longer knit, but I kept thinking about the tiny babies and their grieving parents, and the knitting that I used to do.
Last week I invited people to cost me some money by commenting ($1) or delurking ($2 for first-time commenters), which I would then donate to charity. My secret idea was that I could make up for my lack of knitting by subsidizing others’ knitting. For the four posts since I announced that plan, you’ve cost me $97: 26 new commenters, and 45 returning commenters.
I am donating the money to Share Southern Vermont. Some will be earmarked to cover the cost of yarn for some knitters in Cara’s area who are donating their knitting skills to make buntings, and the rest will be used for the general startup fund. If you’d like to help bring Share Southern Vermont closer to their goal, head to Building Heavenly Bridges or Share Southern Vermont to make a donation (and enter the scrapbook raffle). And if you happen to knit, I’m sure Cara would welcome a bunting. Unfortunately, the demand never stops.
Join Miss Lollipop and the rest of the class at Show and Tell.
January 22, 2009
Thoughtful Thursday plus IComLeavWe? This convergence calls for a celebration, in the form of a new icon. Everything’s more fun with an icon. Clicking the Thoughtful Thursday icon to the left or the one in the sidebar to the right will take you to the Thoughtful Thursday archives — feel free to be retrospectively thoughtful, if the mood strikes you.
A few days ago I showed you some lucky fertility-oriented jade talismans that I bought at a Jade Market. I also mentioned that I don’t actually believe in lucky charms. Which brings us to this week’s Thoughtful Thursday topic: luck.
Sometimes (often, when it comes to fertility), we don’t know why things happen (or don’t happen). If the odds of something are 1 in 4, why you and not the other three people? Statisticians might call this randomness (typically random error, but occasionally another term depending on the statistical context). Physicists might call it chaos. Believers call it Providence, or G-d’s will. The superstitious call it luck.
I believe in randomness (and, as I have illustrated before, I obviously believe in statistics). I believe in chaos. I do not believe in Providence/G-d’s will (which perhaps is a topic for another Thoughtful Thursday, though it’s one of the greatest philosophical/theological questions of all time so maybe not).
And luck? I believe in luck inasmuch as it’s the same thing as randomness and chaos (and when I wish people Good Luck, as I often do when commenting on ALI blogs, what I really mean is “I hope that randomness works in your favor”). But I don’t believe in a luck that we control with rabbits’ feet or avoiding the undersides of ladders. Plenty of people do, I know, including some of you. That’s fine, and I look forward to hearing all about it in your comments. But I don’t. In fact, DH and I frequently mock friends and relatives who exhibit irrational superstitions, just as he mocks me when I throw salt over my shoulder.
dragged brought my husband to that Jade Market, I hadn’t told him of my plans to find specific fertility talismans. As far as he knew, I was just seeking jewelry. When I floated like a butterfly (but didn’t stung like a bee) from stand to stand to stand, asking for very specific designs, he became puzzled. Once I had everything in hand, I explained my purposes. He said, “That’s funny. Normally you aren’t superstitious at all. Normally you are entirely rational.” And I had to explain, “Oh, I don’t believe in them. I just want them.”
I don’t believe that these little carved pieces of jade have any impact on any aspect of my life. But I bought them anyway. I don’t believe in the feng shui that says that we should put one on each nightstand for balance. But I keep them in their designated spots anyway.
Seven years of infertility can turn you into a walking bundle of contradictions. Baby-crazed yet avoid most babies? Check. Can’t stand teenage mothers but hungry for paparazzi photos of Jamie Lynn Spears? Check. Sort of superstitious but not really? Apparently so.
Here’s what I do believe. I believe in the power of placebo. Remember Dumbo and his feather? He could fly because he thought he could, thanks to his magic feather. And so, sometimes if someone believes that something will improve their luck, they might take specific actions that direct their “fate.”
And where does that leave me? I’m already taking the actions that would have the biggest impact on my outcomes, particularly IVF. And still, I hedge my bets — just in case.
As rational as I try to be, I am also open-minded. I’m not so arrogant to think that the Science on which I rely and in which I ultimately believe (even as it has failed me so far in my quest for a baby) has all the answers.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
–Hamlet, Act 1 Scene V
The Mojo Socks do seem to have brought some mojo to Miss Conception, or at least she believes that they have, which is good enough for me. In her case, I entertain the notion that the redemption I sought in giving that gift made the socks different from regular socks you’d just buy at the store. It may well be that the socks had nothing to do with anything, and she would have successfully gotten pregnant with these babies regardless. But something that I know that the socks accomplished was to introduce me to a stranger that I now consider to be one of my best bloggy friends. That qualifies as luck, right?
If I truly believed in luck, I would have run right out after Miss Conception’s BFP and bought a pair of those socks for my IVF #2 (or would new socks not have worked because they wouldn’t be infused with the spirit of all of my demolished pottery?). If I definitely did not believe in luck, I would get rid of the jade talismans, or at the very least put them away. I seem to be somewhere in between — I don’t think it will work, but it can’t hurt to try. Very much the same line of thinking as when I have sex with my husband around ovulation outside of a treatment cycle, or when I drink wheatgrass, or do any of the other dozens of things that I’ve tried — on the off chance that something might actually make enough of a difference to get me where I’m trying to go.
So, what do you think?
Do you believe that lucky charms truly have an impact on the outcomes that you seek? Do you believe that you can change your luck?
Hop along to another stop on this blog tour by visiting the main list at Stirrup Queens. You can also sign up for the next book in this online book club: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.
We’re supposed to answer three questions, but I appear to be incapable of limiting myself to three questions. Five seems to be my norm. The only time I’ve stuck to three was the BBBB when I was the only member who read the book and had to write all the questions myself.
Five is the new three, at least around here.
On pages 79-80, McCracken speaks of losing a friend after Pudding’s death. I was struck by the way she wrote this passage because it clearly expresses her feelings about the conflict and about her former friend, replacing the silence that she used to break off the friendship (I suspect the friend in question has read the book by now). Have you lost friends during or after your infertility/loss/adoption? If so, how much of the blame for the loss do you place on communication and/or miscommunication? Does your former friend know how you feel about him or her and the loss of his or her friendship?
I have drifted away (either partly or entirely) from several friends because it has been too painful to be around people with children, and these particular friendships were not worth overcoming the feelings (though several others have been worth it). Since I no longer live near any of them, it’s hard to know if we would have drifted apart anyway. It didn’t help that many of them, since having children, have become immensely boring.
I have also drifted away from a couple of friends because they have not handled my infertility in a way that has been helpful to me. But again, I think that the infertility was just a catalyst, and the friendships would have been doomed anyway. I think they have been mends all along.
I found myself constantly comparing her memoir to loss blogs I have read. In a very real way, blogs in general and loss blogs in particular are memoirs of that specific time. What are your favorite loss blogs and why? (Is it their writing style, etc.) Did you find yourself comparing her book to some of those blogs?
I have not known anyone IRL who lost a child during the time I knew them, but I have known several families that experienced a stillbirth far in the past. Each of them treated the lost baby somewhat differently. At one end of the reaction spectrum, acknowledging the child openly, within and outside the family. At the other end, keeping the child’s existence a secret until the other children became adults and only found out about their lost sibling in the context of gathering information for their own family-building. I’m sure there are others for whom most people have no idea that a loss occurred, sometimes even including their living children.
Cara from Building Heavenly Bridges has completely changed the way I think about losing a child. Initially, I was quite surprised to see the extent to which she incorporates Emma in the family’s daily life. Her daughters consider Emma to be their third sister, who just happens to live in Heaven. Cara has taught them to love their sister in Heaven actively, just as they love their sister on Earth, and everyone in the family works to keep Emma present in their lives. Cara also does amazing work online and locally to help grieving families, but it is her everyday actions within her own family that amaze me the most.
Most people outside of the ALI community seem to distinguish between pregnancy loss in each trimester. When I was reading this book I kept running through my head about my miscarriage, how I felt quite similar to what Elizabeth McCracken described often enough. It still reached me, even though I lost my little one so much earlier in the pregnancy. If you have had a miscarriage, rather than a stillbirth, did this book still resonate with you? Or could you not relate at all to the loss that she experiences?
I’ve had two early miscarriages, 23 DPO and 21 DPO. In some ways I imagine that a much later miscarriage or a stillbirth would be harder than an early miscarriage, but I really don’t know if any loss could affect me more than my first miscarriage. I do know that I was sideswiped in the same way that most people are, whatever the point at which their first loss occurs, since few people imagine anything bad or at least think that they won’t be one of the “few” unlucky ones.
The loss elements of the book resonated tremendously, but of course the parts about having a living child do not. I was quite surprised to learn in my Googling about McCracken that she gave birth to a daughter last month. Clearly, despite her original concerns about fertility issues due to her age, her fertility is outstanding. This aspect of her life makes me feel less connected to her story, because it has taken me seven years to get to zero babies. Not that losing any child is easy in any way, but it must prolong the pain when the next child takes years — even moreso when the next child never comes. The pacing of the grieving and healing process is completely different. But I really don’t know if the pain itself is different, since I haven’t lived all of those different lives. I also think that having a living child reduces the pain of loss for some people but not others.
Going back to the original question, I must point out that one of the things I appreciate most about the ALI community is that different losses are honored equally, which sadly is untrue everywhere else that I’ve seen, in which:
Early miscarriage < Late miscarriage < Stillbirth < Loss of living child.
I was so moved by the writing and emotion in this book, and I wanted to pass it along to many people just because it’s a great book, but I realized that a dead baby book is an awkward and probably inappropriate gift for most people. While reading, was there anybody that you wanted to give the book to? Why? Did you pass it along to anyone? If not, what held you back? Is it more appropriate for a woman who has lost a baby to give out a loss book than a woman who has not? What about a woman who has lost a baby, but the loss is unknown to the recipient — does the gift expose her secret? Would you give the book to a woman that you know has lost a child?
I wrote this question, and I am so curious to hear what other people think, because I’m really stumped. I wanted to pass it along to several people, but it would be outing my fertility/loss status and it would raise discussion topics that I don’t want to address with those people.
I also wouldn’t feel comfortable giving the book to a woman who has experienced a stillbirth or infant death, because I am lower on the loss hierarchy (see previous question).
I feel like I definitely can’t give it to pregnant women, even the ones that I think are too complacent, for fear of freaking them out — or is it better if they’re prepared for the full range of possibilities? Is it a blessing for them to realize how fortunate they are if they make it all the way through to a healthy child? Maybe, but I’m sure they wouldn’t think so.
The author talks about “out-traveling sadness” on page 132. It brought to mind all of the trips we took to forget about IF and how they never worked. What are others experiences/thoughts? Does it work for anyone?
I travel, a lot. In addition to the trips to Europe and Asia last year that I’ve already blogged about, I took several other international trips in 2008, and we visited even more countries the year before. I think it works out to 20 countries in just over two years (with repeat visits to a couple). The fact that I’ve lost count is a pretty good indication of how much we travel.
It seems that most other people dealing with infertility, especially those who are paying for their own treatments as we have been, are trying to save their money and use little or none of it for travel. Some of my trips have been paid for by work, and most others have been at least tax-deductible (and therefore, combined with the career benefits, easy to justify the expense). A few have been pure leisure, either incredible bargains or can’t-miss-it opportunities. Regardless of how we paid for them or why we went, all have been necessary. At this point in our lives, with whatever disposable income we have left after paying the RE, we need to travel. Speaking for both of us, we need to explore as much of the world as possible while we have the time, money, and freedom. Speaking only for myself, I need us to be the people whose lives are full of adventure, whose emails and postcards the fertiles read wistfully. I need to envied instead of pitied.
After last year’s hectic travel schedule, I was actually a little burned out on international trips for a while. Then, last week, the wanderlust returned. I decided that I’d like to spend a few days in a warm Mediterranean country before IVF #3 starts. After December and early January, with relentless winter and the restrictive feeling of being stuck in one place during an IVF cycle, I am feeling compelled to take advantage of this upcoming travel window. DH is thrilled and chomping at the bit to book the trip, but I’m insisting that we get the Trick Up My Sleeve health insurance settled first. If the Trick doesn’t work out, I will be prudent and save all of our money for IVF #3 (and beyond, for as many as we can manage — which, at $14k a pop, is getting harder and harder even as DH and I both take on more and more work). If the Trick does work, I will use a tiny bit of the money that would have gone to IVF and go far away, just for a little while. (We’re still trying to decide among a few candidate destinations — one of the best possible problems to have.)
It’s not about outrunning sadness, though, because the sadness has a tendency to come along for the ride. It’s about living the kind of life that we want to live. Our first choice would be a life with a child, but in the interim, frequent international trips to fabulous places are a pretty good fallback lifestyle.
January 19, 2009
Working on the trick up my sleeve to try to get the next IVF covered, we had to consult our attorney. One of our attorneys, actually. I don’t know where other people find professionals, but DH finds real estate agents at the poker table and dentists at the golf course.
This pattern holds true for our attorneys. We have three attorneys that we consult for different purposes (all DH’s business purposes; I have never before needed an attorney for anything).
- Former roommate of a buddy that goes to Vegas with DH sometimes (contract stuff)
- Guy that went to high school with this other guy we know (corporate stuff)
- Dude that used to play basketball with DH (tax stuff)
I asked DH to contact Basketball/Tax Dude to get clarification about some Trick Up My Sleeve issues. DH received some answers via email, then forwarded the email to me. It only contained partial answers, and I knew that DH would have to go back to Basketball/Tax Dude and get further clarification. As I scrolled to the bottom of the email, I saw a query from Basketball/Tax Dude.
So when are all the little DHs and Cassandras going to start popping out?
Generally that kind of question pisses me off, but this time it amused me. The irony — embedded in an email in which we are consulting him about the Trick Up My Sleeve that may pay for the next IVF(s)!
So then, DH calls Basketball/Tax Dude to get the clarification we need. After some back and forth about business details that I won’t bore you with, Basketball/Tax Dude says, “The only reason you’d need to do that would be if you were doing In Vitro Fertilization or something.”
DH: Yeah, well, actually, that’s exactly it.
Basketball/Tax Dude: Oh. Okay. Then that is the right course of action.
DH: Great, thanks. And, um, we’re not telling people about IVF or anything, so I’d appreciate it if you don’t say anything to anyone.
Basketball/Tax Dude: Dude, attorney-client privilege!
It’s official. I am not going to make any new friends unless they are attorneys, physicians, therapists, or priests.
Know what? Weebles Wobblog also keeps some tricks up her sleeve, along with a bunch of Perfect Moments.
January 19, 2009
Three orders of business.
#1. The Meds Fairy! I have most of a 900 IU pen of Gonal-F (probably about 700 IU worth) left over from IVF #2 that just ended. I won’t be starting the next IVF for a couple of months, and the pen is supposed to be used within a month of being opened. Since I paid out of pocket for all of my meds they are extra precious, and I don’t want them to go to waste. It would be even better if I could save another self-payer a few hundred dollars. Please, if you can use some Gonal-F in the next couple of weeks (or know someone else who can), leave a comment or email me.
#2. Update on the IVF storyline on ER: the first time I can remember seeing subcutaneous FSH injections incorporated into daily life on television. This episode also illustrated the way that the meds make you a complete maniac, alternately bitchy then fragile — something most of us know all too well. Good stuff.
#3. Show and Tell! During my trip to Asia in the fall, I insisted on a detour to a Jade Market. Not for jewelry (okay, I did also buy some jewelry), but for fertility talismans. Also because I thought it would be cool to go to a Jade Market.
There were several dozen stands. A few were simply a table covered with a sheet (often an amusing sheet like Snoopy rather than a tasteful plain sheet); untold riches lay under the sheet, but you had to get a special sit-down. Most stands had hundreds of items on display. Some had particular specialties, but others had a wide range of jade offerings. Here’s an example of a typical jewelry-oriented stand.
Ahead of time, I’d done my research and determined that traditional fertility symbols included dragons, bunnies, and double fish. Dragons allegedly benefit male fertility, and are recommended regardless of whether problems are male factor or female factor (the ancient Chinese seemed be more cognizant of potential problems in either partner than many other cultures).The rabbit is a fertility symbol for obvious reasons — even though we all know that more sex does not necessarily mean more babies. Fish represent fertility because they have hundreds of babies.
Dragons were plentiful. I chose a red one for maximum power. He now lives on my husband’s nightstand.
Rabbits were also plentiful at the Jade Market, since they (along with dragons) are among the twelve Chinese zodiac signs. I chose purple because, uh, I like purple. This little bunny lives on my nightstand, to achieve feng shui balance — since there’s a dragon on his side of the bed, I needed something on my side too.
Finally, I had to find the double fish. This was quite a challenge. Most stands didn’t have any; a few had double fish that were quite ugly, with giant open fishy mouths. One was very nice but was a couple hundred dollars — a bargain, actually, considering that it was several hundred years old, but not what I was looking for.
At last, I found this little necklace. I wear it occasionally, always hidden under my shirt, but the day of my egg retrieval for IVF #2, I kept it close at hand. While driving to the retrieval, I had the cord wrapped around my hand while driving. Then, during the retrieval, because I would be wearing only a hospital gown and my striped socks, I made DH keep the fish necklace in his pocket until everything was over.
Here are all of them together, accompanied by our old pal Wonder Woman Pez, for scale.
The funny part is that I don’t actually believe in good luck charms — we’ll talk more about that on Thoughtful Thursday. But I sought these out for two reasons:
- I thought it would be a great blog entry.
- Although I don’t believe in them, they can’t hurt. Seriously, I can use all the luck I can find.
In honor of Delurking Week, I’m going to donate money to a specific charity (more on that next week) for each comment. Regular comments from beloved existing readers get $1; comments from soon-to-be-beloved delurkers get $2. C’mon, spend my money! To make commenting extra easy, you can answer the following question:
Do you have a good luck charm (either in general, or specific to fertility)?
Go see what the rest of the class brought to Show and Tell.
January 15, 2009
Hooray! It’s Thursday! Last week’s Thoughtful Thursday was so fabulous. There were more than a score of diverse, carefully considered comments, and that was amazing. But, the stats say that there were many more people who read the post yet didn’t comment. C’mon, delurk! (There will be an official call to observe Delurking Week this weekend, but feel free to delurk more than once.)
Let’s keep the thinky fun going with a topic that was first brought to mind in my IRL support group last month, and then raised by one of the comments in last week’s TT.
One of the IRL support group members (the same person who said both “I would never do IVF. It’s not natural.” and “At least I’m not 40!”) declared her hope that injectables will bring her twins. Girl-girl twins, specifically. Because then she’d “be done” with infertility treatments forever and also because she doesn’t really want to have a son.
The other members and I quickly rushed to explain all of the risks associated with multiples, and that twins aren’t simply a convenient two-for-one. We all left the boy-hating alone. In my mind, my immediate reaction was:
Honey, you obviously haven’t been infertile long enough if you’re trying to dictate what kinds of babies you get. Beggars can’t be choosers, sweetheart.
And yes, I do call people “honey” and “sweetheart” condescendingly in my head. Not out loud, usually.
Krysta mentioned a similar person and her own reaction, almost identical to my line of thinking, in her answer to last week’s Thoughtful Thursday question, “Does it change your impression of someone to find out they’re infertile?”
Great topic! Yes, it does change my impression of people when I learn that they are one of “us”. I feel for them and I have a bond with them, so it draws me to be friends with them more than I would if I didn’t know that about them. Except for this one person I know. They tried for about a year to get pregnant and did some treatments, not sure what, but ended up getting pregnant naturally with a baby girl. So now that child is around 2 years old and they learn that they are pregnant again. When she found out that she was having a boy, she was depressed and didn’t want to leave her house for days. She wanted a girl so bad, that she was actually depressed when hearing it was a boy! She obviously isn’t one of “us” after all……
Krysta and I share the sentiment that a “real” infertile would be happy to have any baby, period. A real infertile wouldn’t dare to try to tell the stork which babies to bring.
But there are “real” infertiles with sex preferences. How else could so many REs offer “sex selection for family balancing?” Sex-based selection on the basis of disease (such as an X-linked disease that only manifests in boys) aside, some people just want a certain combination, and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis makes that possible. If you’re doing IVF, especially if you’re doing PGD anyway, sex selection is barely an extra step. Personally that’s not something that either DH or I would do — the word “cherry-picking” has been used in our house — but ultimately we wouldn’t sex-select because we each would be happy with a boy or a girl.
DH, in fact, so ardently does not have a sex preference that he will not even entertain the question. He will admit to sex preferences for specific breeds of dogs, but not for human children. An equal opportunity daddy.
Personally, I have not had any sex preferences for as long as I’ve been TTC. As a kid, though, I only wanted to have daughters. I remember the moment when that changed: at 16 years old, I was sitting in the car, waiting for my mom to come out of a store, and I saw a mother and her 4-year-old boy in a crosswalk. As they crossed, she joyfully twirled him around in circles. It was an epiphany for me that having a son could be a wonderful experience. I guess I didn’t think much of the little boys I knew up to that point, or at least I didn’t think much of their relationships with their parents.
I have had perfect boy and girl names picked out for a long time (the girl’s name for 14 years, the boy’s for 10 years). Because I love the names, I’ve hoped that I would be able to use them both by having one of each sex. But over the years, as it has taken soooo long to have even one child, ending up with one child of each sex has become less and less important. As long as I get to use either of the names and finally have a child, any child, I am satisfied. Because I am an only child, I would strongly prefer that my child have a brother or sister eventually, but at this point, having taken 7 years to get to zero, let’s work our way up to one and see what happens.
This week’s Thoughtful Thursday query:
Did you start out with a set idea of how many boys and girls you wanted to have? How has infertility changed your sex preference?