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.

 

Our Surrogacy: Featured on BlogHer and Elsewhere!

Last week, she published the post and pictures on BabyZone.  Then a few other friends mentioned that they saw me on Yahoo Shine because the article had been cross-posted there (the comments are interesting – maybe the title could have been different, but I think overall they missed the point. And thanks to the people who said I shouldn’t have been included since I didn’t give birth.).

Then, on Tuesday I received an email from BlogHer saying they were going to feature “It Takes a Village,” the post I wrote on the site 2 years ago and the post linked in Tracy’s picture of me in her post!  Did all of that makes sense?  Unfortunately, I have been stuck in meetings, so I’m only now able to post about it.  I appreciate every opportunity to present a positive, non-sensational perspective on surrogacy, so a huge thank you to Tracy and to BlogHer for including me!

A Little Bit of Nonsense

I learned some new facts this week.

First of all, I attended mass with Daniel at his school Thursday morning, and the priest began the service by chastising the congregation for taking down their Christmas trees and decorations, especially their manger scenes. I didn’t expect to hear that, so I paid extra close attention. It turns out that the Catholic church celebrates Christmas until Jesus’ baptism day (the Sunday following epiphany). My thoughts immediately turned to my house in which our Christmas tree still stands proudly, fully decorated and lit every night. It’s not every day that I feel virtuous in a church, so I relished the moment.  So take note: if your Christmas decorations are still up, you are not a slacker; you are devout ;-)

Secondly, I discovered a variety of apple I had never heard of before: Cripps. My first thought was that was a bold way for the gang to make some legitimate money and market itself. Would you have to launder money made from selling branded apples? I can see it now: “Hey, Aiden’s mom packed him a Cripps apple in his lunchbox! Wish my mom were that cool!”  It turns out, though, that Fresh Market (where I spotted the aforementioned apple) was being cheeky because the Cripps apple is better known by its other name of “Pink Lady.” When I tweeted about it yesterday, my tweetstream soon devolved into Grease references and quotes. A Pink Lady to a Cripps is quite a transformation.

Thirdly, I found a new brand of yogurt.

Quark Yogurt

Sounds yummy!

You see, I’ve always liked quarks. I don’t know why. God knows, I’m no scientist and find physics as mysterious and improbable as others would ghosts or magic. Maybe it’s the word and something delightful about the “qu” combination. Maybe there is something “quirky” about “quarks.” Maybe it’s because the names of the 6 flavors of quarks display a whimsy that you don’t often associate with particle physics. I think I need to buy some of that yogurt.

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The three of us are back to work and school and our normal routine this week. Daniel and I are grumpy about it while Jimmy is less so because his “demotion” came through before the holidays, and he now gets to work at home. It’s a good change because we had discovered that some of the household tasks that give us fits – laundry, dishes, etc. – are so much easier when one of us has even a few extra hours at home during the week. While I don’t expect him to become a househusband, it is great knowing that he could do a load of dishes or run to the grocery store every once in a while. We think it will be a huge help although it’s difficult not to be a teensy bit envious as Daniel and I suit up in our school and work clothes while Jimmy gets to stay in his PJs if he wants!

I hope the first full week of 2014 was kind to you!

A Lot of Popcorn and a First Movie

Daniel in the movie theater for Frozen

Waiting for the movie to start

I took Daniel to see Frozen, his first movie in a theater, last weekend.  We had been watching full-length movies weekly for several months, and it occurred to me that maybe it was time to brave the movie theater. Sometimes I forget he’s the mature 4.5 year old he is and not the whirling-dervish 3-year-old who traumatized us for a year. Maybe traumatize isn’t a tad harsh, but I would have laughed in your face last year if you had suggested he would sit through a movie :-)

We had a hard time getting tickets at the theater closest to our house, so we went to the theater at Southpoint in Durham because they had a 10:30 showing.  The movie’s running time is almost 2 hours, and we thought that a later showing would be asking for trouble. Daniel doesn’t nap any longer (sigh), so he can become grumpy as the afternoon goes on.  I bought popcorn for me and M&Ms and chocolate milk for him, and we found seats in the middle of the theater.  I think there were approximately 8 million previews and a Disney animated short before the movie started that left me on edge: don’t they know there are very small children waiting to see this film? Children for whom patience is not a mastered skill yet?

The movie finally started, and it was really good! I might be the only person in the world who feels this way but in general, I’m not a fan of Disney and Pixar movies, so I was worried not only about Daniel’s behavior but also my own LOL. Daniel did beautifully.  He watched attentively and especially loved the snowman.  He even kept himself from eating all of his M&Ms. Actually, he did better than I did because I ate all of my popcorn (I’m a glutton for movie theater popcorn and don’t get me started on how much I love being able to add all the butter I want with the self-serve butter dispensers)!

Daniel said he enjoyed the movie, but it may have meant more to me than it did to him.  Movies were something I shared with my father, and some of my earliest memories are of him taking me to see movies: Bambi, Cujo (my fault – don’t ask), Halloween 3, The Land Before Time, The Goonies…I could keep going. Usually these outings happened on school vacations and were what we would call a “Special Day” with a movie, pizza and bookstore. My father loved popcorn too and having popcorn at a movie was a must.

When I looked forward to having children, continuing this tradition with movies was something I couldn’t wait to do. As Daniel snuggled against me while we watched his first movie in a theater, I was so happy. In a holiday season bound by traditions old and new, it was wonderful to be able to create another wonderful memory and pass along another treasured tradition.

And I got popcorn!

Where’d You Go, 2013???

I’m in my last full week of vacation before returning to work. I have coworkers who will return to work on Thursday. I still have several days left to go but at the same time, my time off has passed in a blur.  Each day filled with a hum of activity, yet a lot of nothing out of the ordinary as well. I’m not even sure I could tell you how we spent each day, mundane though they might have been. It’s just a blur of meals, cooking show reruns, and whatever we had scheduled that day.

And that perfectly describes 2013. Somehow we’ve made it through 365 days and, to put it colloquially, shit happened, but at the same time, it happened so quickly that I barely had time to lift my head up and reflect.

2013 was a roller coaster of work drama (low), Listen to Your Mother (high), and Daniel starting Pre-K at his new school (one of those sickening highs that thrills you and leaves you with your stomach in your throat). We went to the beach twice, which was much needed and some of my favorite memories of the year. And I spent way too much time in meetings, a major low. Overall, though, the pace of the year was so fast that I don’t even know if I could describe it as bad or good. It just was.

So, yeah, this is my obligatory 2013 farewell post only I’m not sure exactly what I’m saying farewell to. I don’t want to make any resolutions because that seems destined to fail. I’d like to set goals but we’ll see. I honestly haven’t had a chance to reflect upon any but hey, I’ll give it a try.

What I’d like for 2014 is calm. I know I cannot control my environment but I can control how I react to it, so this is a personal goal I suppose. I want to figure out how to obtain a more zen-like focus. There’s a lot of shit in my day-to-day life that just. doesn’t. matter. Truly. I need more teflon and less fly paper.

I need meaningful change. I can think of a few areas in which change would be a good thing, and I want to pursue it.

I want more books! I think I read more books this year than I’ve read since Daniel was born. Probably at least 30. I honestly cannot remember. I want to read more in 2014, and I plan to keep track of my “to-read” list as well as my “completed” list here. I’m an eclectic reader, so consider yourself warned ;-)

I want more family activities. Daniel is at a great age, and it’s wonderful to be able to do so many things that were…challenging…when he was younger. We made a good start with Friday Family Fun Night (pizza and a movie), but I want us to to more places and get out of the house. There are so many places and activities that he can appreciate and participate in now. Along with that, Jimmy and I need to leave the house more when we have a child-free night as well as look into babysitters. A few hours apart is good for sanity, no?

2013 wasn’t bad. We have our health, jobs, housing, spoiled kitties and frankly whatever we need or want. There were a few dark nights of the soul related to work, which in some ways is pathetic when you think about it. Shouldn’t existential crises be saved for more important matters?

So 2014, be kind. I’m 36 years old. I’d like to think I have a measure of control over my life, but I know that might be an illusion.  My little boy will start kindergarten in 2014. My little boy. No matter what each year since 2009 has brought, I’m so blessed and grateful to be able to include him in my thoughts and plans for each upcoming year.

So maybe, maybe, 2014, help me make this year be a great one for him. Because then it will be a great one for us.

Happy New Year and Happy 2014. I’ll raise a glass although I seriously doubt it will be anywhere near midnight ;-)

 

Christmas Magic

Santa has been here, and an excited little boy will find gifts waiting for him in the living room in a few short hours. If the cats don’t destroy them, since they apparently find the smell of new rubber from Daniel’s bike tires intoxicating!

I am going to bed with a very full heart. In fact, I almost feel like I need to cry. From happiness. From nostalgia. From excitement. My emotions are a pressure valve that needs release.

We’ve had a great day, and we are confident that our little elf went to bed quivering with excitement about Santa’s impending arrival and beginning to understand a bit about the magic we are trying to impart to him: jingling bells suddenly sounding must mean Santa is approaching! A star for his Advent tree appearing from nowhere! Seeing Daniel take all of this in and peek outside the window to see if he could see Santa was thrilling.

These are the things we dreamed of seeing and experiencing for years and seeing them is so very sweet.

I’ve also been banishing some “shoulds.” Life has been a series of dashes lately, and I’m learning it is better to spend my energy where it matters most. Our Christmas prep & decor were haphazard at best. It took us weeks to have tree ready to decorate and once it was, I had an eager helper who liked to layer ornaments three deep along the bottom third. The external lights are all slightly different colors. I didn’t get around to sending cards. And perhaps most shockingly, we didn’t have a fancy Christmas Eve dinner and won’t have one tomorrow either.

I chafed a bit at not cooking. I felt that having a nice, special dinner on Christmas Eve or Christmas was required. But Jimmy felt like doing something simple, and the more I thought about it, the more I agreed. What did I want my memories of Christmas Eve and Christmas to be? Of a meal I slaved over that tasted great for 20 minutes but took hours to prepare? Or a great day with my guys? I chose the latter.

Today we made reindeer food (enough to feed an army of reindeer). Daniel got to use wrapping paper in his garbage trucks (his dream). Our dinner consisted of pizza eaten in front of the TV, watching old-school Rudolph. Low- key and perfect. I didn’t go into Santa mode feeling exhausted & worn out. We had a great, calm evening. Later I retucked my little boy, telling him how my beloved grandfather used to call and give me Santa updates when I was a little girl (because we didn’t have that newfangled Internet and Santa Trackers!). Generational lines continued.

I could tell myself I half-assed the holidays this year, but that’s untrue. Just who am I trying to impress? What am I trying to prove? My tree and exterior lights aren’t perfect – so what? Who cares? I didn’t make a 3-course meal. So what? My little boy enjoyed his pizza in front of the TV and most importantly, a calm & present mommy.

I love Christmas and its magic. I can’t wait to see Daniel’s face when he sees his gifts. I love making magic for him.

I may half-ass some things, but we make magic like experts.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday!

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