Show and TellHey, look! A new Show and Tell logo!

Never did I imagine that when the time came to buy a maternity wardrobe, I would be inundated with so many “funny” options. I’m not the kind of person who wears t-shirts with funny sayings, so I’ve mostly ignored those in my shopping. But, some are hard to ignore.

First, there are those that I find totally offensive. I won’t dignify them with photos or links, but here are some of my “favorites.”

  • Next time I’m adopting.
  • Oops!
  • Oops we did it again!
  • Contraception malfunction.
  • Who’s your daddy?
  • He thinks he’s the father.
  • Real women have twins. (I don’t even know what to make of this, but it reminds me somehow of Julia Roberts on Oprah.)

There are also tees for Dad-to-be to wear alongside his pregnant wife.

  • Look what I did.
  • He shoots, he scores.
  • Sperm donor.
  • Yes, it’s mine.
  • My boys can swim.

I find these objectionable not only because they equate virility with fertility, but because they make inappropriate assumptions for many members of the ALI community. Here are a couple of variations on “My boys can swim” that I created for your viewing pleasure.

icsi

gift

Finally, I found a few shirts that are music to my infertile ears. What a refreshing change to see the experience of 15% of attempted child-bearers honored! I wouldn’t personally wear them because I am trying to avoid awkward conversations with strangers rather than start conversations, but if anyone else is interested, clicking on the photo/link will bring you to the relevant page.

Non-maternity shirts for those currently dealing with infertility:

  • Top five things you never say to a woman going through infertility…
  • Thanks for the assvice.
  • Infertility sucks.
  • “Just relax and it’ll happen?” Yeah. Thanks. Bye now.

FYI, that same store has adult- and child-sized shirts for adoptive families, including:

  • Adoption horror stories: I’ve met my quota of them, thanks.
  • Expecting a child from Vietnam (or China, or India, or Guatemala…)
  • My mom DOES have one of her own: ME!

Last, some maternity shirts for infertiles who have finally gotten pregnant:
finally

survived

science

Turns out that the huge amount of choice available on the internet isn’t all bad.

Go see what the rest of the class brought for Show and Tell.

Thoughtful Thursday

This weekend I sat down at the breakfast table and noticed an article in the newspaper.

I find this extremely fascinating. Of course, I’m interested in modifications to the IVF process from an IF point of view, and I’m pleased to see the process becoming possible for some who were previously unable to use it. Depending on whom you ask, certain sects of Judaism have firm restrictions on reproductive technologies as well as adoption (which the above newspaper article doesn’t address).

I am also especially interested in the article because I know far more observant Jews than the average person does — friends (primarily from DH’s Orthodox upbringing) as well as some members of DH’s family. I even know observant Jews who have dealt (or are currently dealing) with infertility, though I haven’t talked to any of them about the topic.

However, if I did have such discussions, I’m guessing that some of them would say that they’ve made reproductive choices based on prohibitions and mandates that come from their religion.

I, on the other hand, would not let religion (or anything else) limit my quest. We’re not remotely as observant as the people I mentioned (and I’m not actually even Jewish), but we are still fairly observant compared to most people. Over the past 7 years we’ve had enough roadblocks caused by biology, economics, limits of technology… almost more than I have been able to handle, without the added limitations of something like religion. Plus, DH and I are both governed by logic, and we both see a lack of logic in many religious beliefs as they apply to our modern world and our own lives.

Someone from my now-defunct IRL support group was limited in the reproductive technologies she could pursue due to her husband’s (Catholic) religious beliefs. Last I heard, she has been pursing the same low-level intervention for almost a year now, and to be frank, based on my knowledge of her situation, I don’t know if she’ll ever succeed at conceiving without escalating the level of intervention. She doesn’t share his beliefs, but her actions are confined by his beliefs. I hope it’s not the case, but I’m afraid that ultimately his beliefs will prevent her from ever having a child.

Have religious (or other concerns such as ethical or moral) concerns caused you to make certain choices in your reproductive journey? Have concerns for others’ concerns, such as your partner or family members, caused you to pause or change your own mind?

Barren Bitches Book Brigade Welcome to the Barren Bitches Book Brigade, featuring The Red Tent by Anita Diamant.

I have a special place in my heart for Anita Diamant. She wrote The New Jewish Wedding, which I memorized practically word for word when planning my own wedding. Thanks to her book (and the rabbi) I singlehandedly planned my own Jewish wedding, without ever having attended one before. My husband had attended a few Jewish weddings, but he hadn’t been paying much attention and had little to contribute. Having attended a score of Jewish weddings since my own, I can say that mine was much more mindful and thought-out than all but one other that I have attended. My first-timer’s take combined with Diamant’s attention to each detail allowed me to bring a unique focus to elements of the Jewish wedding that usually get glossed over.

Diamant brought that same attention to detail to this novel. Usually-ignored adjectives and bits of verse from Genesis get expanded, elaborated, amplified. I enjoyed this book a lot, but it was hard to draw the line between “fact” and fiction. At many points I was unsure whether something was a fictionalization or whether I just didn’t remember it from the original story. And, of course, the female perspective and focus on menstruation, reproduction, loss, and mothering are a stark departure from the usual story.

“The sight of the baby in Bilhah’s arms, day after day, shattered Rachel’s confidence again. She was only the aunt, the bystander, the barren one.” Did you find the author sympathetic or disparaging of Rachel’s barren state? Did she convincingly relate the experience of being barren?

I found the author very sympathetic to Rachel, and her descriptions of Rachel’s mindset compelling, with one exception – there was a sense, via the other characters, that Rachel was too proud and infertility forced humility on her. She probably was too proud, between her beauty and Jacob’s favoritism toward her, but aren’t we all in our own way?

The family trees shown at the beginning of the book don’t include miscarriages, stillbirths, or children who died before weaning. Given the rate of infant mortality at the time, this was a logical method for “counting” children. Now that it’s much more rare (but still too common) to lose children both before and after birth, at what point do you think children should be added to the official family tree? At what point should they be added to the parents’ personal tally of children?

Just this weekend I was speaking to a family friend about family size. More than once she referred to the number of children in prior generations in her family with the caveat, “but they didn’t all live.” For example, “My great-grandmother had 12 children (they didn’t all live) and only 3 of them were girls.” I don’t know whether this included miscarriages and stillbirths or only children who died young, but it was interesting to hear these deaths remembered in this way – casually, but still part of the permanent record.
Personally I would count stillbirths and infant deaths in the official family tree, but not early miscarriages (as my own two miscarriages were).

Dinah is awaited and welcomed by all of Jacob’s wives. The one daughter, the one to carry all their stories, all their voices. In the context of the book it is a literary device that allows the author to tell us stories of Jacob’s wives from their own perspectives. But what does it speak of to you? In your own life, have you felt, as Dinah does, a carrier of living memory? Do you feel your own voice to be better protected in the age of the blog, or do you see an enduring need for connection across generations?

In some ways I do feel like a carrier of living memory, because I am good at listening and good at remembering. I can recount in great detail stories that older relatives have told me; others who were there with me at the time of the telling have no recollection of the stories whatsoever. But, even more, most people were not there at the time of the telling, because they do not have the patience or interest to sit and listen to the ramblings and reminiscences of an older generation.

My own voice may be protected in the blog age, but the earlier voices require retelling from person to person. Their stories are not mine to blog about, but they are mine to tell to individuals within the family — hopefully my own children soon.

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 on this online book club: Navigating the Land of If by Melissa Ford.

Thoughtful Thursday

(Pregnancy mentioned, but the post is mostly about infertility, so ICLW’ers feel free to dive right in)

I’ve been thinking a lot about incivility and civility lately, for several reasons.

  1. A spate of recent unpleasantness in the blogosphere, involving many people I don’t know at all, some that I know somewhat, and a few that I know well and care about. I’d prefer not to talk about it here, except to quote Mel’s advice to “chill the fuck out”.
  2. Anticipation of making The Big Announcement to our families in a couple of days. Some people will be unequivocally happy, but others will be rude, narcissistic, or intrusive.
  3. Anticipation of people asking nosy questions about twin pregnancy or, later, twins. I’ve already gotten my first, by one of my bosses. “Do twins run in your family, or was it fertility drugs…?” She didn’t ask it in a rude way, just a matter-of-fact no-big-deal way as if she’s familiar with such things, if not through her own experiences than via others. That question was fine, but “Are they natural?” will probably not be fine.
  4. Anticipation of people trying to touch my belly. It hasn’t happened yet, because my larger-than-usual stomach could pass as mere fat. One of DH’s twenty-something male friends looks way more pregnant than I do. But, when it happens, I will freak out, and if my husband is nearby I fear for the safety of the Grabby Gus.

My knee-jerk reaction to questions like, “Are they natural?” would be to respond with sarcasm. Perhaps, “Oh yes, my breasts are real!” Or, “Yes, I had a vaginal birth” (or “no, unfortunately I couldn’t have a vaginal birth”). I’m pretty sure that the word “vaginal” will shut most strangers up pretty quickly. 

If it doesn’t shut them up, I’ll probably hear, “That’s not what I meant.” Of course that’s not what they meant. But, a big part of me believes that if someone cannot properly articulate their question, and instead asks it rudely, they don’t deserve a real answer. I’ve faced the same thing throughout my life because many people can’t put their finger on my ethnic background. I got questions much more as a child than as an adult, which either means that people are less likely to ask about ethnicity now, or that I was more ambiguous-looking as a child, or that as an adult I’ve lived in places where people don’t think about (or care about) ethnicity. Here are the three questions I’ve gotten, with my snarky-but-true answers.

“What’s your nationality?” American.

“Where are you from?” [name of state]

the unimaginably offensive “What are you?” [name of career, or blank stare]

I value precision in language, and if some stranger in the supermarket can’t muster precision, I don’t give them the answer that they’re fishing for. Especially since the only reason for asking about ethnicity is curiosity.

That’s my knee-jerk stance. But, the ALI community has taught me a lot about giving people the benefit of the doubt. What if the person asking about the origins of my twins is asking because of their own troubles trying to conceive? The infertile population includes the articulate and the inarticulate, after all. There are nosy reasons to ask about assisted reproduction, and there are legitimate reasons rooted in pain and confusion. I have decided that my stock answer will be, “Why do you ask?” It leaves the door open, while keeping the door closed to those who don’t have a real reason.

What about the many questions I’ve gotten over the years to the tune of “When are you going to start having kids?” Instead of being straightforward or sarcastic, I’ve usually deflected. Occasionally, I’ve managed a zinger.

I like to think that I’m a straight shooter, but on certain topics I deflect like crazy.
I like to think that I’m a nice person, but sometimes civility is too much to ask.

My husband’s typical tactic (because he is a nicer person than I am) is to Kill ‘Em With Kindness. In his line of work, he is on the receiving end of quite a bit of incivility. He’s not an actor, but let’s pretend that he is. Let’s pretend that he is Kirk Cameron, circa 1986 (before Kirk found Jesus). Instead of fan mail saying, “You are so cute!” “That photo of you in Tiger Beat was so sexy!” and “You are such a good actor. Mike Seaver is so funny”, imagine that the “fan” mail said, “You suck!” “Who did you blow to get this gig?” “You are the worst actor on TV” and “Boner is way better than you.” Then imagine that Kirk wrote a detailed personalized reply to every single letter, including the mean ones. “I agree with you that Josh Andrew Koenig, who portrays Boner, is an outstanding comedic actor. I am privileged to work with him every day. Thanks for watching!” That, in essence, is what my husband does with the haters. Without fail, every one of them responds positively, as if their original sentiment had been completely different. “Thanks so much for writing back to me! No one has ever responded to my letter before. I have been a huge fan ever since your afterschool special ‘Andrea’s Story: A Hitchhiking Tragedy.’ Keep up the fantastic work on Growing Pains, and best wishes with your career. You are amazing!” It’s a pretty neat trick — take away people’s anonymity; fight incivility with civility, and earn a fan for life.

What I’ve said about my husband’s commitment to civility does not apply if someone tries to touch my belly.

How do you respond to incivility? Inappropriate questions? Nosy strangers? Regardless of how you actually respond, how do you wish you responded?

Clarification

May 20, 2009

…to the last post. I fully expect to find my babies’ poo fascinating, to discuss it many times a day with my husband, and to generate tables and graphs detailing consistency, quantity, and timing. What I am not, however, planning to do is to bore other people, especially childless people, with details about poo. Some of them may be infertile and will find baby-focused discussions painful (boring yet painful). Most others will not be infertile but will find such discussions just plain boring. If another parent wants to engage me in a lengthy poo discussion, I will probably talk for a minute then change the subject, because I don’t want to spend the rare opportunity I’ll have conversing with another grown-up talking about poo.

Verdict: Talking about poo = boring. Talking about conversations about poo = apparently fascinating.

14w0d: 2nd Trimester

May 19, 2009

Happy 2nd trimester to me!

It didn’t feel like I’d ever get here.

In one way, I had blind faith that I’d get here (and beyond) eventually. Through 7 years of infertility, even when all signs pointed to No, I still believed that I would get here.

But in another way, as I have checked the toilet paper for blood every time and expected each ultrasound to reveal non-beating hearts, it was hard to trust that I’d ever make it to the “safe” zone.

Safe, ha ha ha. Infertile girls and babyloss mamas know better than to think that a pregnancy is ever “safe.”

But yes, now that we’ve passed this milestone, it’s time to let the cat out of the bag. It’s time to make our announcement to the family members that we’ll see in person this week, and to call the other family members almost-simultaneously with the same announcement.

DH has even thought up an adorable way to tell the in-person relatives. His excitement about everything is so sweet. He doesn’t share the Dead Baby Thoughts, and he only feels the optimism. Must be nice.

I know that everyone will be thrilled, even moreso because these are the first grandchildren on either side. They’ve waited a long time too… albeit without the tears, losses, injections, general anesthesia… But yes, I know they’ve been waiting.

When we make the announcement, I’m concerned about all of the conversations that will follow. I’m not afraid of questions about what took us so long, which I will finally answer without lying. Part of my concern is that by diving excitedly into talk about pregnancy and babies, it’s like pretending the past 7 years haven’t happened. But a bigger part of my concern, which infertiles know all too well, is that talking nonstop about “mommy” topics is flat-out boring.

I don’t want to pretend to be a normal pregnant lady, talking about swollen ankles (they aren’t), too-tight pants (they are), and diaper choices (twins? disposable, of course). Partly because of the charade, and partly because it’s boring.

I have been the only childless woman in far too many conversations where no one has anything interesting to say. Debating methods for pureeing bananas does not qualify as interesting. The consistency of anyone’s poo is not interesting. Know what’s really not interesting? Nipples.

You heard it here first. I will not talk about my nipples. I will continue to talk about work, current events, the weather, popular culture, and my not-quite-as-frequent-but-still-extensive travels. I will talk about the babies sometimes, and sometimes I will talk about other things. If 7 years of infertility has taught me anything, it’s that there are other things going on in the world aside from diaper rash. It’s not that I’m not thrilled to be in the position I’m in — of course I am. But I can’t forget where I came from, and I can’t forget that most people, particularly those without children, not only aren’t interested in burping techniques but may feel deeply saddened by such conversations.

Everyone who wants to talk about pregnancy or babies nonstop can expect to be redirected: “But enough about the babies. Do you think the Minnesota Supreme Court will rule for Franken or Coleman?”

I may be a one-trick pony when it comes to blogging, but I will not turn into Only A Mommy. These babies deserve more, and so do I.

Thoughtful ThursdayTurns out I spoke too soon in my last post when I said that the only time I’ve lost sleep during this pregnancy was the night before the nuchal scan. Monday night, I was up for 3 hours after DH went to bed, filled with Dead Baby Thoughts.

Wednesday night, I was up for 1.5 hours after DH’s bedtime… not from anxiety, but from poo problems. My body apparently refuses to let me sleep until all is well in the digestive tract.

I’d say, though, that 95% of the insomnia I’ve experienced in my life was TTC- or infertility-related. As I wrote a while back:

I used to sleep like a log, all the way through the night no matter what. All my life I slept like a log — too soundly, even; I have slept through major earthquakes, fire alarms, and too many alarm clocks. As soon as I started charting, I kept waking up many times throughout the night, wondering if it was time to temp yet. Never mind the fact that DH would wake me at the proper time. I was so eager — it’s funny to imagine now. I have barely slept through the night in the seven years since then, even though I gave up on charting over 4 years ago.

Aside from the above, I can literally think of three other times, aside from rare occasions when I’ve been kept up by illness, that I’ve been unable to sleep for hours at a time.

  1. The night before the first day of 6th grade. I’m not sure why I was so excited, but it seemed it would be the most thrilling first day of school ever. I don’t think I slept the whole night, and instead I calmed myself with deep breathing techniques far beyond what an 11-year-old should have the wherewithal to do at 4am. In the morning, I had my mom fix my hair in a tidy bun (the only one I ever wore to school in my whole life, though I wore a bun to ballet class) to camouflage my exhaustion.
  2. My wedding day. I went to sleep fine, but I woke up 4 hours before I needed to. I did some last minute tasks, and danced frenetically around the living room to The Monkees.
  3. The night before a job interview four years ago. I had a series of interviews all around the country, but there was only one for which I couldn’t sleep, almost the whole night. It turned out to be the job I ended up with. I spent 2 hours sleeping and 6 hours in my friend’s guest room watching Season 1 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (she had the whole series). I made a pretty good dent in the first season that night, and eventually went on to watch the rest of the series at much more reasonable times of day.

What about you? What causes you to lose sleep? If applicable, what percent of your sleepless nights are the result of infertility?