In the News

Mad, Mad World

This is the program that funds my job and predictably, because it does a good thing, it is on the chopping block in #45’s budget.

I’m not surprised. We heard practically right after New Year’s that our program was on “the list.” Almost immediately after returning to work after the holidays, I was pulling data and sending it to DC to our lobbyists to show the positive impact our program had in our state.

I was prepared, but I am still upset and sad that my program is on the list. We do good. Our sole purpose is to help manufacturers – small manufacturers – remain competitive and stay in business.  In FY 2016, the work my program did helped manufacturers realize almost $1 billion dollars in economic impact.

I don’t understand how we are supposed to “make america great again” if we shutter the programs that do just that. But I’m thinking logically, which is a no-no right now. Some might call my program corporate welfare.  What’s wrong with that? Corporations benefit in a myriad of ways from the government. Our companies pay for our services, but the fee is lower because of our government funding. Otherwise, they would not be able to afford these services.

Small business is the backbone of this country, and they are the job creators. Small businesses will adde more jobs as they grow than a huge behemoth.

Even though I knew my program was likely to be on the list, I am angry. I am angry because we do the work to help manufacturers succeed that #45 ran on. I’m angry because #45 doesn’t understand manufacturing, doesn’t understand supply chains, doesn’t understand global economic patterns, doesn’t understand anything frankly.

Hopefully, my program will be OK.  We have bipartisan support and other than a brief time in 2003, we have always been fully funded by Congress. I know things are very bizarre right now, but I hope Congress will do the right thing by my program.

It truly is more to me than my job. I believe in what my org does.  I have visited and talked to so many manufacturers, and I feel like I know them. I’ll be OK if my program ends, but my state and the nation will suffer if this program ends.

North Carolina is 5th in the nation and 1st in the Southeast for manufacturing. We have 10,400 manufacturing establishments in the state, and manufacturing is still a major contributor to GDP. Half a million people are employed in manufacturing in NC, and manufacturing has a huge multiplier effect in the local economy.  I could go on and on with statistics, but are they alternative facts?

And let me assure you, I am sickened by the other proposed cuts. Meals on Wheels? PBS? Minority economic development grants? The arts and humanities? Sickened. It all sickens me.

I know (hope?) that most of the proposed cuts will not make it into law, but I am sickened by the intent. And all those voters for #45 who are dismayed have little sympathy from me. You should have known better. The evidence was in front of your face, but you voted for him anyway. How could you be so ridiculous? How could you be so hateful? How could you have allowed yourself to be so deluded?

It is mad world in which we live. I just hope we make it to the other side.

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To Mother

I’ve posted several times about motherhood and what it is like when you don’t have the typical physical experiences of becoming a mother. I read an article recently on trans parents and their experience of motherhood. Titled rather provocatively “Is Motherhood Gendered?”, it brings a new dimension to the ongoing question of what and who is a mother:

is motherhood something innate, as we are so often told – a chemical reaction of love and self-sacrifice tied to the ‘transformative’ process of pregnancy and childbirth? Or, is it something that can be learned? Ultimately, is trans motherhood about emphasising similarities or, perhaps, about learning to embrace differences?

It’s very often a heated, complex topic. Am I less of a woman because I did not physically grow, birth and feed my son? Is a trans woman less of a woman if she does not? I admit that reading that article and its terminology and scenarios had moments of confusion for me: a biological woman transitioning to a man who decided to have a child? Mind blown. I literally do not have a vocabulary for that, yet I hope that if we can figure out how to refer to those familial situations, we can figure out how to refer to other situations in which a mother is the mother but not the biological mother.

In regards to mothering, I like the direction that philosopher Sara Ruddick  is going:

Sara Ruddick promoted the use of the verb ‘mothering’ as gender-neutral; she proposed that rather than being a product of our sex and gender, ‘mothering’ is a practice. In the past, mothering has been associated solely with female work, representing the ‘female’ qualities of gentleness, softness, kindness. But in today’s world – where men can stay at home, women can go to work, and gender can be switched – ‘mothering’ must be expanded to include others too.

Sometimes I wonder if it seems silly that I am hung up on the physical aspects of motherhood when the point is that I was able to become a mother. A genetic mother. The point is that it can be hard to be a woman, a mother, with a less-than-traditional path in this society.  The definition of being a woman is still tied to motherhood, and when you differ from that, it is painful and difficult. Even now, 11 years after we started our TTC journey, I still feel “other.” And age has not helped because I feel like I am entering the span of life in which I am no longer considered to be a legitimate woman. Invisible. Yes, these are my own issues. Yes, many of them are likely silly. If I – a cisgender woman – feel like this, I can imagine how my trans sisters feel. My hope is that we can work together to create a new vocabulary that represents our experiences and realities and expands the definition of what it means to be a woman AND a mother.

Planned Parenthood and the Infertile

It’s late 2015 and Planned Parenthood is again under attack. The ostensible reason is because of doctored videos about selling fetal parts (they are donated but PP is allowed to recoup costs), but the real reason is because there is a group of people in this country, in 2015, who truly believe that reproductive freedom is a moral travesty.

I do not. I support Planned Parenthood and everything it does, even non-federally funded abortions. I am pro choice. I always have been and always will be.

As an infertile, this may seem odd. How can I support an organization that provides a (legal) service that seems to be at odds with what my husband and tried so long to achieve?

First of all, it’s not my business what someone legally (let’s not forget that key fact) chooses to do with her body. Secondly, it isn’t some moral equation: one less abortion means a baby for an infertile. It’s not like the lack of abortion would result in a glut of adoptable infants. That’s a repugnant thought actually, based on what we know and understand about the complexities of adoption- that the lack of reproductive freedom would somehow enable more couples to adopt. And it isn’t the 50s. Forcing women to have their babies would likely result in their parenting the child, perhaps in less than ideal situations. And darn, where is that social safety net again?

I also support Planned Parenthood because abortion and fertility treatments are facing similar attacks. The same people who want to de-fund Planned Parenthood because of abortion also have serious reservations about IVF and the embryos created. Clumps of cells in both cases. 

Consider this: my beloved, much-wanted child is the result of a transferred 8-cell embryo, the only success after 7 other embryos. It isn’t a stretch to me to see that if abortion is outlawed, IVF could be next, which is a bit ironic since it is a family-building tool. One could argue that in its own way, abortion is also a family-building tool.

The bottom line is that I support Planned Parenthood because no other group appears to care about women’s health. No other group provides necessary medical services, the vast majority of which have nothing to do with abortion. I’m also tired of legislators treating women badly and telling us what to do with our bodies, what they think is best for us. 

Stay out of my uterus. Stay out of my family-building decisions. Give me my reproductive freedom.

I stand with Planned Parenthood.

Politics of the Swimsuit

This morning, a 2014 piece by Jessica Turner titled Moms, Put On that Swimsuit, came across my FB feed. 

Turner’s message to mothers is good and necessary: put away your vanity and body issues & play with your kids at the beach or pool.

No quibbles there. 

My issue with the piece came when Turner started to help women – mothers only – accept their less-than-perfect bodies because the “imperfections” like a soft, stretched belly and larger thighs are the leftover evidence of pregnancy and childbirth.

Ouch. I hate articles like that because they fail to acknowledge the experience of women who build their families without the physical acts of pregnancy or childbirth. So even though I am a mother, my extra pounds are just fat? I have no justification for it according to Turner.

I’m probably reading way too much into her piece and allowing my own history to influence my reaction, but it is difficult in a society in which conversations about motherhood are dominated by the physical parts.

And what about non-mothers? The child-free? Are they supposed to have perfect bodies since they weren’t ravaged by pregnancy and childbirth?

How about we change the piece to this:

Dear women, you are beautiful and wonderful the way you are. You wear whatever you want at the beach or pool because you are a human being with dignity and deserve to be at the beach or pool regardless of appearance, parental status, income, marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity. You are a human being and that is what matters.

We are much anticipating leaving for our first beach vacation of the summer next weekend. It’s been a long time since I was a size 6 18-year-old who prided herself on being close to model height and weight. I weigh more than I’d like and dread seeing family and friends who knew me when – and I have no excuse for it other than food and age. But I will be rocking my Land’s End tankini with the skirt bottom and I think I will look pretty damn cute! I’ll still be the palest person on the beach, but that’s OK. I’ll slather on copious amounts of sunscreen and build sandcastles with Daniel and play in the water.

A Few Parenting Articles

I know better than to depend on the Internet for parenting advice or solace, but I came across a few articles and posts this week that were truly wonderful.

First: this post about “that kid” from the teacher’s perspective. Lots of hugs: http://missnightmutters.com/2014/11/dear-parent-about-that-kid.html

And this post from a mother wanting to protect her daughter’s spirit while the world seems intent on crushing it: http://www.schmutzie.com/weblog/outside-voice-the-pain-of-wanting-to-protect-my-daughter

Next: kindergarteners, standardized tests and developmental readiness. It really makes me rethink what I want out of early-education: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/02/06/a-really-scary-headline-about-kindergarteners/

And for fellow boy moms, this post on what this mother has learned parenting boys. All true in my experience as well! http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2014/11/12/5-things-i-learned-about-raising-boys-so-far/

And saving my least favorite for last, this lady is pretty certain we’re parenting small children incorrectly and is out to school us: http://www.salon.com/2014/11/11/10_things_parents_should_never_say_to_their_toddlers_partner/

What is the best or worst thing you read this week?

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.

 

Routine Change

Ready to go!

Ready to go!

This week has been L-O-N-G, primarily because we had a major change in our daily routine this week.  Daniel said goodbye to his classmates at day care last Friday and started Pre-K at a small Catholic school on Wednesday.  We had toured the school in late spring in order to decide if we liked it for Kindergarten in 2014. During the tour, the principal told us that they still had spaces available in their Pre-K class and that attending Pre-K guaranteed a spot in Kindergarten.  We hadn’t planned on Pre-K at this school since Daniel’s day care incorporates Pre-K lessons into the two classrooms for the 4-year-olds (and it’s not like he hadn’t been learning anything in the younger classes).  We really liked the school, though, and Jimmy had attended it through 8th grade, so we decided to go ahead and give Pre-K a try.

We had a lot to do to get ready for the first day, including buying a new full-size backpack, a new lunch box and uniforms.  Uniforms.  Yeah. The school has a strict policy on what is worn when.  Shorts and a short-sleeved shirt for the 1st and 4th 9 weeks.  Pants and a short- or long-sleeved polo for the 2nd and 3rd nine weeks.  There is also a specific uniform for PE.  There are also new routines to learn.  Daniel’s Pre-K teacher requires the parents to provide a fruit or veggie snack for the mornings along with lunch. Since the Pre-K kids are low on the totem pole, they eat lunch at 10:45, so I’m packing less food for lunch than I did for day care, especially since they eat snack at 9.  Whew!

The biggest change in our routine has been the morning routine. School starts at 8, and we can walk them to their class at 7:40.  We need to leave the house at 7 to make sure we can make it in time because traffic can be difficult.  I wake up Daniel at 6:15 so he can eat, get dressed in his uniform (soooo cute!) and play while I finish getting dressed.  That means that I get up at 5-ish to make sure I’m finished washing my face, brushing teeth, putting on make-up and putting in my contacts by the time I need to wake up Daniel. That makes for very busy mornings! You might wonder what the big deal is; after all, don’t I seem to be awake and active on Twitter at that time anyway?  It turns out there is a huge difference between being awake and lounging in my cozy bed and having to be up and active at 5!

Daniel and I are wiped in the evenings.  He’s been asleep by 8, and I’m trying to get to bed no later than 10. I am really looking forward to being able to sleep until the late hour of 7 AM tomorrow!  I’m sure it will get better next week as we adjust, and maybe we won’t have to get up as early once we feel confident about what morning traffic will be like.

Daniel seems to like his new school so far.  He really likes his teachers, and I like that his class is small.  Since I’m getting to work so much earlier, I can leave earlier, and it is such a nice change to be home by 5:30 instead of after 6 like it had been.   His school is close to where Jimmy and I work, and we like knowing we can be there in 10 minutes.

So far, so good! I’ll have more to say about his new school next week.

Other Items of (Possible) Interest