Thoughtful Thursday: Resolve

December 31, 2009

Thoughtful ThursdayHappy New Year!

Mel recently posted about her own New Year’s Resolutions, and she invited everyone else to share theirs.

I didn’t play along, because I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions. Huge, sweeping changes are almost impossible to maintain. Don’t take my word for it; it’s a scientific fact.

Instead, I believe in slow, steady, incremental changes. New Year’s is as good a time as any to begin changing your life, but every other day of the year is fine too.

Ultimately, when we make resolutions, there’s a certain kind of person we’re aiming to be, one that we aren’t living up to yet. Resolve to exercise? Perhaps you’re aiming to be healthier, or more active, or thinner, or the kind of person who doesn’t join a gym on January 1 and then never visit again.

So my question to you is not what do you resolve to change, but who are you trying to become?

I’m working on making breastmilk for my babies (yes, still). I’m working on working more than an hour a week. Therefore, this means that I’m trying to be a mother whose body reflects the devotion she already has in mind and spirit, and I’m trying to stay afloat in the career which has always been so important to me — and which continues to be a high priority despite my inability to do much in the past many months. Basically, I’m trying to become a slightly better version of myself.

Who are you trying to become?

Thoughtful Thursday: Wish

December 24, 2009

Thoughtful ThursdayYesterday I had a stray eyelash in my eye. Once I’d removed it, I stared at the eyelash perched on the tip of my finger.

As I’ve written before, I’m a one-trick pony when it comes to wishes. For seven years, every eyelash, every birthday candle, every star, every coin in a fountain, and every 11:11 has had the wish of a pregnancy/baby. Once I was pregnant, I wished for the babies to have a healthy outcome.

Now, I have my healthy babies. Staring at the eyelash, I was stumped.

What do you wish for when you have your heart’s desire?

I ended up wishing good things for their health and development.

Make a wish.

It can be a wish for something under your Christmas tree, or something in the New Year, or something right now, or anything you like.

I have no powers to grant any wishes, but it can’t hurt to put it out there to the universe.


December 21, 2009

The phone rings. I recognize the RE’s number on caller ID. My husband answers, and I can hear him in the other room talking. Now that the due date has passed, they’ve called to ask about our babies.

A bit later, DH comes into the room where I’m sitting, which is within earshot of the room where his dad is feeding Tamale. In his usual boisterous voice he exclaims:

Oh, before I forget, we got a call from the fertility clinic–

I gesture wildly and make urgent facial expressions, but it’s too late.

I guess our secret is out.

I don’t think I really mind.

Thoughtful Thursday

The recent case of a surrogate reclaiming the twins she’d carried from the intended parents, wonderfully summarized and analyzed by Kym at I’m A Smart One and Mel at Stirrup Queens, raises an issue that applies to all of us.

Should there be qualifications to become a parent?

Fertiles have no screening process; their only qualification is having heterosexual sex. Almost half of pregnancies are unplanned, and a fair number of those are unwanted. It’s not that the bar is set low for the average person in becoming a parent; there is no bar.

In contrast, the bar is set very high for adoptive parents. Most adoptions require an extensive screening process detailing of every aspect of their lives. Of course there are good and bad adoptive parents, as with anything, but the amount of effort, time, and thought required weeds plenty of people out (and sometimes, people are weeded out who shouldn’t be).

Intended parents through surrogacy, as we have learned recently, have an inconsistent vetting process. Many, but not all, must undergo evaluations similar to those in the adoption process.

The screening process for infertiles varies. For those early in the infertility process, getting a prescription from a gynecologist for Clomid is often no more involved than obtaining birth control. As people move up the ladder of interventions, there is a self-selection process in terms of finances and drive. Some clinics require psychological evaluations for IVF or donor gametes, but many don’t — I never had an evaluation or counseling of any kind for IVF. Ultimately, for those who don’t achieve pregnancy quickly, it’s the process itself that does the true weeding: anyone who isn’t fully committed to parenting just isn’t going to stick it out for years of treatments. Of course, being motivated to parent doesn’t guarantee quality of parenting, but I’d bet money that the average infertile becomes a better parent than the average fertile. We have time to mature as individuals, time to think about what we want to do as parents, time to back out if we change our minds about becoming parents.

Reproduction is generally considered a basic human right. Even if you’ll be a terrible parent, you have a right to have a baby and become a terrible parent, as long as you can do it on your own without help. It makes perfect sense to me that processes like adoption, donor gametes, and surrogacy, which bring complications in dealing with the other adults involved as well as eventually with the child, should involve some screening, or at least education. It does not make sense to me that conditions like treatable mental illness or chronic physical illness should disqualify a person from parenting only when they employ alternative family-building methods and not for the rest of the population.

As for the financial side, I’ve heard the criticism (always from highly fertile people, undoubtedly) that people who can’t afford the adoption process or ART don’t have the money to parent. This is nuts. How many people become parents because they can’t afford condoms or The Pill? How many babies are conceived because two young people can’t afford to go see a movie so they spend the evening doin’ it? Personally, we have limited money to parent now specifically because we spent so much to get pregnant.

It wouldn’t be a bad thing if everyone had better educations about parenting before having children, if all prospective parents had to evaluate their own readiness, or if all babies were conceived only after the parents mindfully decided to bring that child into the world. We don’t live in that world. Instead, we live in a world where loving parents jump through years of hoops and many years’ salary to have children, only to have those children snatched away because of laws that don’t approve of their choices; where same-sex couples in some states aren’t allowed to adopt and the children they might have adopted spend their entire childhoods in the foster system; where people end up with higher-order multiples because they needed to maximize their chance of conceiving on each self-pay cycle; where the adoption process can take so long that a couple in their 30s becomes a couple in their 40s and therefore ineligible to adopt from that agency; where anonymous internet commenters, New York Times reporters, and nosy nellies in the supermarket see fit to judge others’ methods of family building.

We live in a world where there are no qualifications for a teenager to get knocked up and give birth to her baby at the prom and leave it in a dumpster, but it requires tens of thousands of dollars, years, and evaluation by a team of professionals for loving adults to try to adopt that baby — and even then, they might not be judged to be qualified.

Should there be qualifications to become a parent?

Thoughtful Thursday: Far

December 10, 2009

Thoughtful ThursdayHow far would you go?

My husband doesn’t like What If questions. He finds it pointless to dwell on the hypothetical and instead prefers to deal with actual situations as they arise.

Separately, he really really likes tigers. Whenever we hear about the slaughter of tigers for purposes like creating alleged aphrodisiacs with their penises, he gets terribly angry.

So, you can imagine his frustration when I asked him last year:

If you had to kill a tiger for us to have a child, would you do it?

Oh, he did not like that hypothetical question about slaughtering a tiger at all, not for its penis nor any other part. Eventually he grudgingly acknowledged that if there were absolutely no other way, conquering infertility would trump his love of an endangered species.

Thankfully, it never came to that. Also, tiger penis doesn’t really cure infertility.

We did, however, resort to other avenues that we didn’t envision when we started out. Injecting myself with hormones derived from hamsters and from human urine. Draining our savings, then waiting a few years and draining our savings again. Spending the equivalent of a part-time job, for many years, on treatments and on tears. So many other things that, when I started out, I never thought I’d do.

Because really, I would have done nearly anything for a baby. No amount of money, no number of years, no measure of pain would have been too much. Some people are more sensible and less obsessive, and they know their limits. I wouldn’t have hurt any people (or endangered species), but there’s not much else I wouldn’t have done. I honestly don’t know whether that’s good or bad.

How far would you go (or would you have gone) to have a child?

Continuing the discussion of wacky health insurance…

When I was in the hospital after giving birth to Burrito and Tamale, I had a hospital-grade breast pump in my room. After I was discharged, there was a pump in their suite in the NICU for my exclusive use. But, I knew that I’d need my own pump when the babies went home. The twin books instructed me to check with the insurance company because they often cover pump rental for preemies.

Here is what we learned when we called, after over half an hour of being shuttled around to different people in the phone tree.

  • The pump is covered for babies born prior to 32 weeks. Burrito and Tamale were born at 33w4d, no good.
  • The pump is covered for babies with a documented feeding problem such as use of an NG tube. They qualified based on this criterion, if we were to get a letter from the neonatologist.
  • If we were approved for the pump, it would be covered for two months of rental.
  • There is a deductible of $120.

The hospital charges $68 per month for the pump rental. Doing the math, this meant that after we’d gone to the trouble of getting a letter from the neonatologist and filing the insurance claim, insurance might cover $16 of the $136 rental fee for the first two months, then nothing after that. Or, they might reject the claim.

It was not worth our time to file the claim for the (not guaranteed) possibility of that $16. I’m sure that’s exactly what the insurance company had in mind.

$16. Maybe.

Thoughtful Thursday: Know

December 3, 2009

Thoughtful ThursdayHappy December! Time for the Intelligentsia (people who have commented on every Thoughtful Thursday post for the month of November).

Wiseguy from Woman Anyone? comes through yet again with an unprecedented 11 Intelligentsia appearances.

Ernessa from Fierce and Nerdy, and author of the upcoming book 32 Candles, is back for the 9th time.

Kristen from Dragondreamer’s Lair is back for #8.

Photogrl from Not the Path I Chose returns for lucky #7.

Jill from All Aboard the Pity Boat makes her sixth appearance.

Lost In Translation from We Say IVF, They Say FIV is back for #5.

Mel from Stirrup Queens three-peats.

A from Are You Kidding Me? makes her first Intelligentsia appearance.

Thoughtful Thursday(Note: Birth and children mentioned. The question is couched within the context of my birth experience, but it could apply to all sorts of situations.)

People who have read my birth story know that it ended well, but that it got pretty dodgy for a while. Until recently, I thought I knew everything there was to know about that dodginess.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a close friend of DH’s, who is also my close friend, about the whole birth experience. He said something about the babies having been in danger.

Me: They were never in danger. I was the only one in danger. They were always fine.
Friend: That’s not what DH said.
Me: Huh?!?
Friend: He said the doctors pulled him aside and said that he could lose you and the babies. They didn’t want to upset you so they only told him.
Me: I have no idea what you’re talking about. I don’t think that’s true.
Friend: Oh. I guess you weren’t supposed to know. Don’t tell him I said anything.


When I finally asked DH about it, he said the friend was totally mistaken, and that nothing like that happened. My memory accurately reflected the events of the birth. Phew.

This game of broken telephone raised a question in my mind. If we had all been in danger, would I have wanted to know?

I’ve had general anesthesia three times in my life: when my wisdom teeth were removed, IVF #1, and IVF #2. When you’re unconscious, you have no idea what is going on until everything is over. Good or bad, you are oblivious.

With the spinal anesthesia during my C-section, I was completely awake and alert. I couldn’t see what they were doing, but I could hear — and feel! — plenty. Before the “we need to talk” conversation, I could sense that something was going on. But, never having had a C-section before, who was I to say what was normal. Anyway, I was quite distracted trying to catch glimpses of my babies. By the time I sensed a shift in the tone of the room, Burrito and Tamale were out of my body and reportedly doing fine.

Until I saw the babies and was told they were healthy, I didn’t fully believe that I’d end up with two real live babies. I was prepared for all sorts of contingencies, but I never anticipated a scenario in which information could be withheld from me.

Given how I dealt with the “we need to do a hysterectomy to stop your hemorrhaging” talk, I think I would have handled any negative information about the babies reasonably well. I am certainly the kind of person who wants to know everything that’s going on. Presumably there are times when it seems medically indicated to withhold information: for example, if raising your blood pressure would compromise your health at that moment. Otherwise, personally I’d rather know everything that’s going on. False alarm? No problem. True alarm? I certainly don’t want to be the last to know.

What about you?

Would you rather know that something bad might possibly happen, or would you rather get information only when there’s certainty of a good or bad outcome?

Fertility Massage

December 2, 2009

Wait, what? Is that title right? Yes it is!

A recent post from Gracie in Brooklyn about uterine massage reminded me that I never blogged about the fertility massages I used to get. Gracie’s post is the first blog I’ve ever seen talk about it. I was always surprised that no one in the entire IF blogosphere ever mentioned it.

I had no idea that fertility massage existed until I saw it offered at my acupuncture clinic. So, as a public service, I’ll tell you what I experienced, and you can decide whether to see if you can find a practitioner in your area. There aren’t many, unfortunately. I suppose that if you have a massage therapist that you already like and trust, you could ask him/her to incorporate some of the techniques.

The “fertility” part combined several massage techniques:

  • uterine massage, in which the uterus is massaged very deeply — strangely pleasant, as Gracie describes
  • femoral massage, which fans of Randine Lewis’s book The Infertility Cure may recall, in which the circulation in the femoral artery is temporarily blocked to pool the blood in the uterus
  • reflexology on points specific to the reproductive organs
  • lymphatic drainage, which I’ve never fully understood so can’t really explain to you

These techniques are primarily focused on increasing blood flow to the uterus. Some women do have fertility problems caused by restricted uterine blood flow, and for them, fertility massage would be perfect. Because my fertility problems are unexplained, it’s not clear whether increasing blood flow would do anything, and I can’t say whether fertility massage actually did anything to help me conceive. I can say that I enjoyed fertility massage even more than acupuncture, and infinitely more than anything that involved my RE.

As someone with chronic back problems, it was wonderful to be able to justify spending money on frequent massages. By my skewed logic, I rarely spend money for my own well-being, but with anything that involved TTC, I spent money hand over fist.

Postscript (mentions pregnancy and babies): I had so many fertility massages that the massage therapist and I became friends. I continued to see the same woman for prenatal massage. When I was hospitalized, she drove almost an hour to visit me in the hospital and to massage me for free. I have seen her for massage a couple of times since giving birth, and in addition to the usual, she has been massaging the site of my C-section to reduce scar tissue (which never would have occurred to me; I thought I’d just have a lumpy scar forever). We also brought Burrito and Tamale for a class she taught in infant massage.  At the class I saw a woman from my old infertility support group. Her baby is a month older than B & T, and we traded parenting tricks and massaged our babies. Full circle.