Being Enough

We had our first read-through for our Listen to Your Mother show yesterday.  First of all…it is going to ROCK!  We have a wider variety of posts this year thanks to word of mouth, and the show, well, I like to think of it as a diamond with many facets (look at me getting fancy).  Sooo many perspectives of motherhood represented.  I am SO excited about it and love the ladies participating.

Anyway, yesterday a few people mentioned to me that they didn’t know how I did it, managing a full-time job, parenting and Listen to Your Mother. I gave some answer about it being my hobby.

Well, LTYM is a hobby, but the truth is that I don’t feel like a very useful co-producer.  Liisa and Marty are able to handle cast communications and getting sponsors and press. I send a few emails to potential sponsors (who never reply because these are the equivalent of cold calls), handle the web stuff and attend auditions and rehearsals, but the truth is that I feel like dead weight.  I feel like there should be an asterisk by my name as in “sort of” a producer.

And if I’m being truthful, that’s the way I feel about everything. Am I a good employee? wife? parent? My answer would be that I’m fair to middling. I don’t feel like I excel at any of it. Not in the way I’d like to anyway.

The truth is that I don’t know if I have a realistic comprehension of what competence in any of those roles would look like.  Does anyone? Maybe that’s the problem. We have way too many ideals and not enough reality. I know I would welcome a reality check right now.

How do you ever feel like you are doing enough, being enough, simply enough instead of what you think you ought to be or should be?

I’m 36 years old. Shouldn’t I have the answer to those questions by now?

Epi What?

After a few days of glasses & conjunctivitis drops (the term my MD eye doctor insists I use), my left eye looked better. Until it didn’t and suddenly the redness reappeared. And the conjunctivitis meds made my eyes feel dry & raw, so I wasn’t sure if they were hurting or helping.

Finally, today, I went to my MD eye doctor (ophthalmologist and he’s very proud) and he diagnosed me with episcleritis. Basically an eye inflammation, but no one can agree on a cause for it. My doctor glibly told me it was the result of too much stress, which I have along with a billion or two other people. Since I still have conjunctivitis (dare not use “pink eye” in his presence), I suspect that my Head Cold from Hell is the source of both.

The prescription is steroid drops will be alternated with drops for the lingering conjunctivitis for at least another week. That means another week at least of glasses. I can deal with glasses, but I don’t like driving at night in them. I consider my glasses ideal for short assignments. Right now, though, they will be my primary correction source.

February has been a long month. I hesitate to blame all of my woes on Mercury Retrograde, but it seems frighteningly apt.

Oh well. March is around the corner.

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Still Life with Pharmaceuticals

Three cases of pink eye. His & her prescriptions for antibiotics prescribed on the same day. Enough Sudafed to make a meth dealer happy. Robitussin chugged straight from the bottle. And the go-to Alka Seltzer Cold & Cough. It’s been an interesting, painful week. Oh and Daniel, the original Patient Zero? After his initial bout of illness, he was fine after a couple of days. His parents, however, have been the walking dead.

How is your week going?

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Greetings from Hell…I mean Siberia…I mean North Carolina

SnOMG

SnOMG

Greetings from snowy North Carolina. No, you didn’t misread that.  My fair state is having another snow storm and this storm comes packing ice on top of snow.  In my area, we might see 6 inches of snow with a half-inch of ice on top before another couple inches of snow comes through tomorrow.  A half-inch of ice?  That could be catastrophic, to borrow the adjectives the forecasters have been using.  It really could be, though, because that’s the threshold at which branches snap and power lines buckle.  Fun times!

In this area, we have two winter weather events that make us catch our breath and say a prayer: the ice storm of 2002 (we lost power for 5 days) and the ice debacle of 2005 which resembled Atlanta’s situation a few weeks ago.  And we might have enough ice to recall 2002 and current traffic closely resembles 2005.

I’m glad my little family is at home.  We’ve been home all week actually.  Daniel appeared to be getting sick on Sunday but we kept our fingers crossed.  Monday, however, he was pale, lethargic, and warm.  He also threw up at the front door.  Home it was!  Yesterday his eyes started to take on on the tell-tale look of pink eye, so we stayed home and went to the doctor. Yep, pink eye. And Jimmy has it too. It also snowed a little bit yesterday.

This morning I woke up around 3 AM and had a scratchy throat. I currently feel like I’ve been hit over the head with a 2×4. Daniel’s school was closed today (good decision IMO) and it started snowing at 11:30 here. After 4 hours of heavy, big, fluffy flakes, the precipitation has transitioned to a mix of snow/freezing rain. Yay!

Again, we are home, snug and safe. We’ll “weather” whatever comes our way.  Keep your fingers crossed everyone feels better soon and that we don’t lose power. I might lose my mind.

Signing off from the frozen tundra known as North Carolina.

Oh Right. It Snowed.

It’s a recap of SnOMG14 only a little over a week late!  If you aren’t in NC or are in a part of NC that didn’t see much snow, my area was blessed with 4 inches of powdery, fluffy snow a week ago. And then the state shut down for 4 days. Not kidding. The schools in the neighboring county were out for 4 days. Those of you in snowier parts of the world, go ahead and get out your chuckles now. We went to sleep on Tuesday night with light snow falling and woke up to a winter wonderland (cue over-used cliche) on Wednesday.  Daniel was entranced by the snow, and if I had let him, he would have been out in the snow by 7 AM.  I managed to hold him off until 9:30.

The manor house in the snow

The manor house in the snow

This snow was his first decent snow since he was 18 months old, so he had a blast.  The only negative about the snow was that he wanted to build a snowman, but the snow was too powdery for that.  He still managed to fling lots of snow at me.

He really, really loved flinging snow at me

He really, really loved flinging snow at me

He made snow angels.

Little sweet snow angel

He slid down the slide into a snow pile he built from snow brought over from his dump truck.

snow3_2014

snow4_2014

I pulled him on the sled around the yard as he shouted, “Mush! Mush!” (no pictures of this because it is difficult to be a good sled dog and take pictures at the same time).

It was cold, but the sky was clear and the sun was out. We had a great 45 minutes outside….until he suddenly realized he was very, very cold and his hands and feet were very cold, wet and burning. See, we don’t have snow boots or water-proof gloves suitable for snow. This is the South! At his age, he’d likely outgrow anything we bought him before he had a chance to wear them in the snow, so we put on normal gloves and sneakers. I kept asking him if he were cold, but he always answered that he wasn’t. Mom FAIL because Daniel is 4! Did I really expect that he was going to reply, “Why, yes, mother.  I am cold.  These thin gloves and sneakers won’t keep my hands and feet dry and warm, so we should probably run along inside now.” No.  He was going to play until his body screamed at him.

It screamed at him, and he started crying.  We ripped off his clothes and got him in a warm shower, and I felt awful.  His hands were red and he was shivering.  We had stayed outside too long.  Lesson learned. Daniel soon warmed up and was dressed in warm PJs and had hot chocolate and pizza for lunch #MomGuilt.

We stayed out for a shorter period of time the second day.

***

The snow, while beautiful, also had its frustrations.  Jimmy officially works from home now, so he doesn’t get snow days.  That meant that I was 100% on Daniel duty.  It was like Jimmy was there but not there.  I tried to do a few conference calls but found it impossible.  Daniel would be playing by himself in another room, but his keen hearing had him running to me the moment he heard me log in for a conference call.  Then I couldn’t peel him off of me: “Mommy, who are you talking to? Mommy, can you come play with me? Mommy, what’s this? Mommy, can you open this?” Thank goodness for the mute button. On the phone, that is!

Let’s just say we all felt like caged animals in the house for a few days, and I was happy that Daniel’s school had a two-hour delay on Friday.  He wasn’t thrilled to get back to our routine, but I was.  I don’t mean to imply that I didn’t have fun or that I would have rather been at work (the horror!). It was just an adjustment.  We’re all still getting used to Jimmy working from home, and the snow really highlighted how some of our household processes had changed.

I think I’m done with snow for the season, however :-)

"Helping" me on my conference call

“Helping” me on my conference call

What Super Bowl?

The Super Bowl has started, but we aren’t watching. We do actually know the teams in the game and while we aren’t huge football fans, we usually watch the game. You know… For the commercials! This year, though, we’re just “meh” on it. It’s not a big deal to us.

I wouldn’t think anything of our not watching the Super Bowl if it weren’t for the fact that a similar pattern of ennui has infected our other TV watching. Downton Abbey is on. Season 4 of Downton-freaking-Abbey! The post-Matthew season! And we haven’t watched more than an hour of the new season. I don’t think we’re bored with it, but I wonder why a show that made me jump with anticipation the last two seasons garners no more than a “whatever…I’ll catch up on Amazon” reaction.

I think we are hibernating a bit. We spent January catching up on the last few seasons of The Office and the time spent in Scranton was just what we needed. We finished up the last episode last night & deemed it one of the best series finales ever. I remember when I refused to watch The Office because it was too real. Then, a few years ago, we binge watched the first 6 seasons and loved it.

So now we need to decide what we’ll watch next. Downton? House of Cards 2? Game of Thrones 3? We’ll see. I think we want an escape from reality: work is crazy for both of us & will continue to be for a while. I’m also stunned at how quickly time is flying. January, usually my least favorite month, passed quickly. Maybe this speed is our new reality.

So tonight we continue to bury our head in the sand. With the snow last week, it was a weird weekend. Today we made crepes for Candlemas Day and I was thrilled that though Daniel rejected the marmalade filling in his first one (at his request I might add), he loved the nutella filling(!!!!) in his second. We used a family recipe, and it was a sweet moment.

May your team win or whatever is your marker for the night. Maybe we’ll feel more in tune with the world soon.

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The Myth of the Biological Clock?

Last year an article came out supposedly debunking the idea that it is more difficult to conceive after 35.  Women around the world cheered, and jubilant articles were written, applauding how science could finally free women from the pressure to start their families before they were ready and the guilt they might feel if they didn’t. Let’s celebrate ladies: the notion that our bodies are too old to reproduce is just another way the patriarchy has been trying to keep us down and out of the workplace.

Now, the articles and critiques are reappearing upon the publication of Tanya Selvaratnam’s book The Big Lie: Motherhood, Feminism and the Reality of the Biological Clock, which addresses the conflicting information women receive about the reality of their bodies and reproductive capabilities and the media focus on the many celebrities over 35 or even 40 having children seemingly effortlessly.  This morning I read an article in Salon by Mary Elizabeth Williams that criticized Selvaratnam for blaming feminism for never tackling the issue of fertility. My first issue with Williams’ piece was that I didn’t think her examples of previously-written articles did much to debunk Selvaratnam’s thesis. Secondly, this quote:

Can we stop setting up the straw man, as Selvaratnam does, that “Biology does not bend to feminist ideals”? Because I’ve got to tell you, I know a lot of people who’ve been to hell and back trying to become parents but I don’t know a single one who put off motherhood because she was a self-centered pawn of feminism.

Here’s the problem. I don’t think any of the journalists who write pieces like this have ever been to a fertility clinic. I have the dubious honor of having been to three different clinics on our 4-year journey to parenthood and I can assure you that at ages 28-31 (hardly a spring chicken), I was often one of the youngest patients in the waiting room. I joined fertility message boards and read blogs from other going through infertility and again, there is a decent number of women who were over 35 trying to conceive.

It’s kind of funny because when I was in the trenches and would read articles escoriating “those women” in fertility clinics for putting their jobs first and bringing their conception problems on themselves, I wanted to scream that not all women having trouble conceiving were older (age was one of the few things Jimmy and I had going for us). But that was the perception: trouble conceiving = advanced age = selfish bitch who put her career ahead of family.

So my question for Williams and others is just who are those women over 35 in fertility clinics? Why are they there? Was it because they just didn’t meet the right person until later in life? Maybe. But the bottom line is that for many women, they are in the clinic over age 35 because they put off having a baby for whatever reason. Maybe it was their career. Maybe it was because there were other issues. Maybe it was because they wanted to travel, see the world, whatever. It doesn’t really matter WHY; what matters is the fact that they delayed childbearing and then found themselves in a fertility clinic because they were having problems conceiving.

Now it appears the tables have turned and women supposedly have more time to conceive and woe anyone who dares to question that “fact.” Because science.  This change is troubling because, well, SCIENCE.  The fact is that while humans have made incredible gains in longevity, basic biology hasn’t changed. Maybe in a few thousand or hundreds of thousands of years, our reproductive organs will catch up to the fact that we can live longer lives, but the reality is that fertility declines with age, especially for women. And if you do conceive, you have a higher chance of miscarriage or having a child with a disability. I’m not going to cite the facts; you can read many of them here. Yes, yes. I know. We all know women who have conceived on their first month trying at age 40 and gone on to have a healthy baby. And of course, celebrities and their apparently amazing fertility after 40. Those are the outliers. Those are the examples that tempt us to believe we have more time than we do.

Selvaratnam is correct in that frank discussions about fertility are a feminist issue. We cannot change biology and the basic fact that the human body is best suited to reproduce in its 20s when we are busy building careers. Yes, I know that SUCKS, but feminism cannot change that and needs to acknowledge that. You know what feminism could change? Policies that make it career vs family. Policies that make it easier to delay childbearing because it hurts your career and earning potential to have a child. We’ve read the articles that tell us women who have children are often mommy-tracked and lose earning potential. That’s what we need to change. That it’s not career OR family but career AND family. The ability to downshift for a few years when children are young. Affordable, quality daycare. Supportive workplaces and flexible schedules.

At the very least, feminism could lead discussions about basic fertility. Why aren’t we taught more about our bodies beyond ovaries, eggs, fertilization and menstruation in school? Every one should be required to read Taking Charge of Your Fertility. I was amazed by what I learned about what my body could do and tell me (mine wasn’t working so well at the time, so it was mostly theory but still) and shocked that at almost 30, I knew none of that information. Put off having children if you want, but at least make that decision knowing the facts about female biology.

But…wait! What about those treatments in the fertility clinic? They allow women to have babies. It’s cool. I can just saunter into a clinic and have IVF whenever. Maybe even get twins! Fertility treatments let us overcome age and are actually a source of empowerment! Oh dear. Bless your heart. Reproductive technology is awesome, and I salute science for helping me to overcome my fertility issues to have my son. But folks, it is not a panacea. Clomid != baby. IUI !=baby. IVF !=baby. What assisted reproduction does is give you a chance, increase your odds.  The stats surrounding success rates for these treatments are fairly dismal. You may have a 0% or 10% chance on your own; IVF may increase it to 30%.  Yes, those are improved odds but not necessarily ones I’d take to Vegas. If I saw we had a 30% chance of it raining, I’d assume that rain was unlikely.

Age rears its ugly head in fertility treatments too. Over a certain age, you may not produce many eggs and the ones you do may not fertilize or develop.  The doctor may tell you your best bet is to use the eggs from – wait for it – a donor who is 10-15 years younger than you are. The only reproductive organ age doesn’t impact as much or can be overcome more easily is the uterus, which is why you read about 60 year old women carrying their own grandchildren. Part of the problem is that beyond concluding that eggs are old and of diminished quality, doctors really don’t know much more about egg quality and why some IVFs work and some don’t. What they do know is that their success rates decrease dramatically for women using their own eggs over 35. Frankly, successful conception is a crap-shoot for everyone, regardless of age.

Speaking of empowerment, there is little empowering about fertility treatments. I did 6 clomid cycles, one injectable IUI cycle, 2 fresh IVS, and 1 FET. I’ve also had a HSG, 2 laps, and a lot of pain. I have one child. I can think of little that is empowering about the following:

  • Feeling rage, hot flashes and irrational while taking Clomid.
  • Having a doctor tell you that maybe the excruciating pain you feel that makes you seriously contemplate a DIY oophorectomy is normal for you
  • Bleeding daily for months
  • Finally being in a position to afford children only to have to pay exorbitant sums to attempt to have a child (outcome not guaranteed)
  • Feeling depressed and unable to focus at work because you are focused on how you feel less of a woman; you are supposed to be able to do everything – why can’t you have a baby? And why isn’t your career enough for you?
  • Hating your body because it failed you so spectacularly (hardly body acceptance)
  • Accepting that your only path to a biological child is for another woman to carry your child (are you Mom Enough? Apparently not)
  • Looking like a heroin addict thanks to daily blood draws at the clinic
  • Two weeks of painful shots of progesterone-in-oil (PIO) in the butt
  • Becoming comfortable dropping trou and extremely familiar with the “dildo cam”
  • Lack of focus at work because you are in and out for doctor’s appointments and waiting on the daily call on your hormone levels; sobbing uncontrollably when the levels don’t cooperate
  • Having little control over your reproductive outcomes; that control resides in the RE, usually a man, which isn’t necessarily bad, but it does reinforce a power differential
  • Having your clinic break up with you because you are a hopeless case and they don’t want you to ruin their stats.

Those are just a few I can think of based on my own experiences. Others have more examples I’m sure.

The point of this post is not to blame or shame. Do what you want, wait as long as you want, but do so armed with information. Understand that every decision has consequences. Understand that it sucks for women because our biology pits us against other goals we have that don’t involve children.  And it isn’t talked about. Not as much as it should be.  Ann-Marie Slaughter alluded briefly to the fact that she waited until her mid-to-late 30s to have her children and did experience trouble conceiving, but that tidbit was lost in the brouhaha about how she dared to tell women they couldn’t have it all and that they needed to think carefully about their choices.

So maybe feminism didn’t lie overtly to you about putting off having babies, but at the very least, it was a lie of omission. We can do better than that for each other.