stirrup queens

#MicroblogMondays: the Grocery Store

Today Daniel and I went to the grocery store for the third time in 4 days. Sometimes we don’t have our shit together in our house. Other times I channel the Grateful Dead and mutter, “what a long, strange trip it has been.” In the checkout line, a lady wheeled her cart behind ours and said, “Hi, neighbor.” I greeted her & made small talk. She looked vaguely familiar & referenced Bunco, but I couldn’t place her. Finally, on the way to the car, it hit me. She hosted the last neighborhood Bunco game I attended in January, which was also the first time I met her. She remembered me, but I didn’t remember her. Granted, she had on no makeup, hair pulled back & workout clothes, but she had remembered ME. It turns out the cashier lives in my neighborhood too. It was a little mortifying and I couldn’t help but think, “this is why you have no friends.”

this is part of Mel’s new MicroblogMondays series.

Healing Salon: Let’s Talk

French salon

Bienvenue!  If this were a genuine salon, I would be reclining on a daybed while you all sat around me (rather kinky!), making a salon a very intimate exchange of ideas and debate.  In that spirit, I welcome you to my virtual room, the “room” in which I share my thoughts and musings, ridiculous and profane and even mundane.    I’m excited to be your hostess and salonniere as part of the Healing Salon suggested by Mel as a way to heal the issues from last week (see this post for a summary).  Please let me introduce myself.  I am KeAnne.  I’m 34 and since we started TTC in 2005, I have experienced many of the stops along the ALI road.  In 2007, I was diagnosed with stage 4 endo and a uterine anomaly and told that our options were IVF, surrogacy or adoption.  In addition to our pointless prior Clomid and injectible/IUI cycles, we tried one IVF and one FET, both negative.  As we were weighing our options in late 2007, Jimmy suggested surrogacy while I was ready to move to adoption.  We agreed to give surrogacy a try first, and I met our gestational carrier practically days after our agreement.  We cycled in September of 2008 and had our first positive beta ever.   At our first u/s at 9 weeks, we saw two sacs and two fetuses but only one had a heartbeat. The other fetus had stopped developing about a week before.   The rest of the pregnancy progressed uneventfully (wow!), and our son was born on June 2, 2009.

Yes, I am parenting after infertility, but it might be more accurate to say that I am parenting despite infertility because I am still infertile.  I still have endometriosis and the uterine anomaly.  I’ve always found those couples who “forget” their infertility after having a baby to be disingenuous at best and traitors at worst.

I write all of this to say that I get it.  Obviously I identify with other infertiles who now have children, but I still understand and can easily access the pain and fear and anger and sadness at finding yourself unable to do what so many seem to do without little or any thought.   I volunteered to host one of the salons because I believe that we can find a way to repair last week’s hurts (cue up “Love Can Build a Bridge”).

My role is to facilitate our conversation.  I ask only that you be respectful but honest in your responses.  It will do no good if we can’t have a genuine conversation.  So let’s begin.

Here are my questions:

  1. Is the ALI community that has been collected and organized by Mel able to encompass the entire ALI journey or can it only represent those still in the trenches?  Why or why not?
  2. While we all have the collective goal of moving to the other side, be that side parenting or living child free, why do so many bloggers who have moved on feel excluded from support and even despised? How can the community help them feel supported and included?
  3. Why do you blog about ALI? What is your primary motivation for doing so?
  4. Within the ALI community as curated by Mel, who should be responsible for community building  and innovation, creating new blogrolls, etc?  Should it be top-down or is there room for grass-root movements?
  5. What was the most frustrating aspect about last week’s brouhaha to you?
  6. If you have children now, what one thing would you want those in the trenches to know?  Conversely, if you are still in the trenches, what one thing would you want those parenting to know?
  7. You are Empress of the Internet for one day.  How would you fix the division and hurt feelings from last week? Or, is it fixable?
  8. Anything else?  Feel free to ask your own questions, say what you are thinking.

I look forward to having this conversation with you!

Beyond the PAIL

The phrase “beyond the Pale” refers to the part of Ireland under English control during the Middle Ages.  Pale came to mean boundary; therefore, if you move beyond it, you are outside of the boundary and laws don’t apply.  The phrase implies that you’ve gone too far and are alone.

That concept is fitting given the controversy roiling in the ALI (Adoption/Loss/Infertility community over the creation of the PAIL (Parenting/Pregnancy After Infertility and/or Loss) community.  Quick recap:  the PAIL community was created by Elphaba (we do love our nom-de-plumes) to help those who feel between worlds once they achieve pregnancy or parenthood.   Unfortunately, the creation of the community was done without discussing it with the ALI community’s godmother, the amazing woman who has worked tirelessly over many years to build a space in which everyone felt included and supported, and she feels hurt and that her ideas are being used to build something exclusive instead of inclusive.

There has been a lot of nastiness in the comments accusing PAIL members of using the community to rub their success in the faces of those who are still trying to achieve parenthood and even some resurrection of everyone’s favorite game: the pain Olympics.

What the members of PAIL keep trying to explain and what continues to be ignored is the very real need for support for those parenting after infertility.

The ALI community is an inclusive, supportive place when you are wondering why you don’t ovulate.  When you are having vial after vial of blood drawn.  When you move to HSGs, clomid, IUIs and IVF.  When you lose a baby too soon.  When you agonize over the importance of biological ties. When you need to consider the ethics of domestic or international adoption.  When you are outraged over a surrogacy attorney’s crimes. When you need to vent about callous friends and family members who don’t understand your pain. The community celebrates your highs and mourns with you during your lows.

Sadly, as many of us have discovered, that support ends when you receive a positive pregnancy test and/or finally achieve that take-home baby.  Blog readers drop off.  When you participate in the community, you are ignored.   Your new status is everyone’s goal, yet you are almost ostracized once you reach it. The solution, as some of the commenters on Stirrup Queen’s post suggested, is for us to expand our readership into the general mom blogosphere.

Ignoring the fact that the solution is a bit condescending, the real problem is that we don’t feel like we belong completely in the broader parenting community.  I don’t feel like I belong completely.  I am a mother, but I still feel “other.”

There are some tangible reasons someone parenting after infertility might feel different from mothers who took a more conventional route to their children.  They might be parenting a child of another race or in an open adoption and dealing with the issues that surround those situations.  They might not have carried their child themselves.   They might have to include complicated factors such as donor sperm, eggs or embryos into their child’s origin story. They might be dealing with mountains of debt and scarred veins from IVF treatments needed to achieve that child.

They might be parenting multiples and fielding knowing glances from strangers insinuating that they know your children must be the result of infertility treatment and feeling free to inquire after the regimen and using terms like “natural” (with the implication that your children are unnatural). Parenting after infertility causes many of us to redefine our definition of what a mother is.  What a family is.

Though I have my much-loved sweet boy, I still can’t participate in some of the experiences and situations mothers use to bond with other mothers.  Baby showers no longer cause me pain, yet when conversation turns to swapping war stories on birth options, labor experiences and breast feeding, I literally have nothing to say.   I notice the other preschool moms in my son’s (former) class are all either pregnant or have recently given birth to their second child, and my mind goes to our 5 embryos in storage and the tens of thousands of dollars we will need to make a second child a reality.   I observe the heated discussions over breast feeding vs formula feeding, natural birth vs pain medication vs c-sections, and they don’t mean anything to me (which is probably a good thing).  I have no stretch marks to display (not from pregnancy anyway), no frustration over shedding baby weight.  These concerns may sound frivolous, but they are the very real conversation of mothers around the often primal nature of motherhood.

I find myself questioning myself as a mother all the time.  Am I giving Daniel everything he needs?  Am I being the best mother I can for him?  Is there something in me that prevents me from being a good mother? Because I faced the real fear of never having a child, I now feel fear all the time.  Fear that I won’t be deserving of this incredible miracle that we were handed.

Some of this otherness and doubt may stem from the fact that our membership in the ALI community is based on the fact that we are abnormal at procreating in some way; that acknowledgement of not being “normal” doesn’t go away once you have a child.  And that you needed to use medical treatment to subvert your body, while amazing and miraculous, sometimes makes me wonder whether I achieved motherhood fraudulently.  Was I supposed to be a mother?

Maybe that’s the crux of my otherness: a nasty, deep-down suspicion that I don’t belong because I wasn’t supposed to be there.

I don’t write this post to be dramatic and fuel the fire on the inferno of PAIL.  I love my son.  I would have done nothing differently to have him.  I can swap stories about sleeping and feeding when he was an infant, commiserate over picky eating habits as a toddler and what it’s like being a working mother.  I do feel like I am a parent and share the same trials and tribulations others feel.

It’s just that how we got there never goes away.

Maybe I’m making too much of my experience.  I remember in philosophy class that one theory said that as individuals, we are all alone and can never really know anyone but ourselves.  We are all “other.”  I thought that theory was very sad and depressing, and I think that we as humans are so desperate to build community and to escape that existential loneliness.  We don’t want to be other; we want to find others like us who have shared the same experiences.

Please talk to me:  if you are parenting after infertility or after a conventional path, do you fully feel like a mother?  Do you ever feel like you don’t belong or are “other?”

Free Advice: Cat Fur

A lot of sites are going black today in order to protest SOPA.  Mel at Stirrup Queens came up with an alternative way to protest, suggesting that we offer advice today in order to demonstrate the kind of information and discourse that could disappear if SOPA passes.  I liked her idea because I think it’s an interesting way to frame the issue.

Don’t get me wrong.  SOPA is scary, and I obviously don’t support online piracy.  However, as usual, lawmakers have gotten it all wrong and haven’t considered the unintended consequences of the bill.  You know who will suffer most if it passes?  You and me.  Our voices.  Our experiences.  In this case, we truly are the 99%, so  yes, let’s pass a draconian law intended to address the 1% who are the problem (and likely won’t stop them anyway) and punish the rest of us.

So here’s my advice: Cat fur – sweep it up.

We have three cats.  Two have long fur, so it is almost impossible to keep up with the cat fur.  No matter how often we clean, it seems there is a tumbleweed of fur taunting us at it rolls across the floor.

But try.


Carpet beetles. Our house somehow has them, and they love cat fur.  They also love natural fibers like wool, silk, cotton and cashmere, fibers which we happen to have some of in our closet.   We’ve had to throw out several well-loved, expensive pieces because the damn carpet beetles got into our closets and drawers and thought, “yummy!”

We are having our house treated on Friday.  We’re in the process of taking our entire wardrobe to the cleaners because only dry cleaning or high heat will kill the eggs.  This situation is especially painful because we replaced almost all of our carpet with hardwoods before Daniel was born, so the infestation of a pest with “carpet” in its name is especially infuriating.

So please, please, please stay on top of cat fur or make sure everything you own is polyester.  You decide which is more tolerable 🙂


Getting Over My Fear of the Internet Shut-Up

Mel at Stirrup Queens had a great post on what she calls the “Internet Shut-Up,” a comment on a post, status update or Tweet whose sole purpose is to tell you that you have no right to feel the way you are feeling and please stop writing about it and wonders how those comments contribute to how we express ourselves.

I’ve never received an Internet Shut-Up though I have sort of received a gentle  Twitter “be quiet” and a Facebook “I see your status update and raise you mine b/c my life is harder.”   Mel’s post really resonated with me because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my blogging identity – maybe my social media identity in general.   I haven’t gotten to the point of needing to worry about receiving an actual Internet Shut-Up, but I’m afraid of a passive Internet Shut-Up in that no one wants to know what I have to say or think period.

I love blogging even though I haven’t been very consistent with it.  I’ve always been a diarist in some way or shape and needed to write to clear my brain and figure out things. My life the last 5 years has been pretty hectic thanks to grad school, working full time, infertility diagnosis and treatment, new parenthood and now I feel like I have a tiny bit of free time since I have graduated (though I’m still waiting on my diploma, UNC!) and now that Daniel is older.

So now I’m coming out of a cave and looking around and wondering where I go and who I am and what I write about.  I am infertile.  I had a child via surrogacy.  I still feel very connected to the IF community and feel like I belong (despite having a child, I am still very much infertile), but that’s not all I am.    I am a mommy, but when I try to read other mom bloggers, I don’t feel like I fit in. I feel like a fraud despite being a mother too.  I follow a lot of NC bloggers but in comparison to what they are doing, I feel like such a newbie.  I  used to have a book blog, but I still don’t have much time to read.

I think what I’m trying to say is that I’m afraid of the Internet Shut-Up.  I’m afraid.  I worry about whether I’m posting too much on surrogacy or boring posts about my son that are of no interest to anyone but our family.  I worry about the need to think and write something profound; as a result, I seem to be constantly editing myself.

I think part of my self-censoring is that when I started blogging in 2007, I was blogging under a pseudonym b/c I was blogging about our infertility, and my blog was a place for me to rant and say all the dark, bitter thoughts I had.  I had no desire to be public, and I think as a rule, IF bloggers tend to use more pseudonyms or nom de plumes because when your body or your partner’s body is broken, that isn’t something you necessarily want your coworkers to know about from your blog.  Things have changed in the blogosphere since 2007, and I’m struggling with putting back together all those pieces of myself that I sliced off before. 

On the other hand, I’ve always worried about what others thought.  Too much most likely.  It’s gotten better as I’ve gotten older, but that anxiety likely carries over to my social media interactions.

I don’t want to edit myself.  This is my blog, my space.  I need to stop fearing the Internet Shut-Up and post what I want whether I have 1 reader or thousands.  My thoughts and feelings are valid, and I have every right to express them.  If you don’t like what I say, then I guess it’s up to you whether you want to continue reading or move on. 

And that’s ok. Really.