Adventures in making and raising our test-tube babies

Friday, May 30, 2008

A Quilted Nod to the "Wear to Make Aware" Movement





You go, girls.

Infertility's Common Thread

You'll notice a new icon on the left of this blog. It's a red string twisted like a memorial ribbon. Below is a prepared statement to explain the movement it represents. For more information, click on the icon. And don't be surprised when you see me with a red thread on my wrist.

For anyone who has ever had a miscarriage, struggled with pregnancy, and all things infertile...there is a movement upon us that you might want to join. It's rather simple actually: a discreet ribbon on your right wrist to signal to others that they are not alone in their struggles.

As someone who has had 5 m/c but am currently 5 months pregnant (YEAH), I wonder who looks at my big belly with sadness because they are in the month-to-month struggle. I mentioned to a friend that I wished there was some secret nod or international sign as if to say, this belly was hardwon. Well, she posted this quandary on her blog (http://www.stirrup-queens.blogspot.com/) and the response has been quite overwhelming...and a movement has been born!

The pomegranate-colored thread holds a two-fold purpose: to identify and create community between those experiencing infertility as well as create a starting point for a conversation. Women pregnant through any means, natural or A.R.T., families created through adoption or surrogacy, or couples trying to conceive during infertility or secondary infertility can wear the thread, identifying themselves to others in this silent community. At the same time, the string serves as a gateway to conversations about infertility when people inquire about its purpose. These conversations are imperative if we are ever to remove the social stigma attached to infertility.

Tie on the thread because you’re not alone. Wear to make aware. Join us in starting this conversation about infertility by purchasingthis pomegranate-coloured thread (#814 by DMC) at any craft, knitting, or variety store such as Walmart or Target. Tie it on your right wrist. Notice it on others. Just thought I would pass the word along!

Horrormonal

I have always avoided calling myself "hormonal" at certain moody times of the month, simply because we humans have hormones coursing through our veins all the time. I was about to say that I might as well call myself "bloody," in that I always have blood in my veins too. But come to think of it, certain times of the month are bloodier than others. So disregard that. In fact, please disregard this entire paragraph.

I feel fully qualified to call myself hormonal now, and by that I mean, I have been injecting extra hormones into myself for a week now that make me act weird.

On the plane last weekend, on the way back from Texas, I had invested a dollar in the special Continental headphones. But I couldn't watch the movie ("P.S. I Love You") because within ten minutes I was sobbing so hard at the plot that I couldn't go on. I was trying to cry silently and daub my leaking eyes surreptitiously with my diet coke napkin. But there I was, the crying girl in Row 23. Yeah, right in front of Ted Koppell in Row 24. Who wanted a blanket, as you recall. Maybe he's going through IVF.

Because,

Last night, I too wanted a blanket. I awoke at 4:00 a.m. to the most horriffic bone-chilling cold I have ever felt. I slammed myself against James's back to try to stay alive. The hypothermia had come on suddenly and was threatening to destroy my teeth, which were crashing together in the most violent of shivers.

All this was due to a hot flash. Yes, a hot. flash. I had kicked the sheets off myself and, in the early summer air conditioning, I was drenched in liters of my own sweat. The hotness of the flash was long gone, and now I was turning blue. After verbalizing the teeth chattering (br! rr! rr! rr! rr! rr! rr! rr! rr!) loudly into my sleeping spouse's shoulders with my whole body under the quilt, I eventually realized that I wasn't cold any more. And I calmed the hell down.

This, my friends, is the beginning. This was the week of supression drugs. The "real" hormones start on Saturday. They're the ones that will grow my eggs to Grade A status. So stay tuned and keep your hand on the thermostat.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Baby-making in the Blogosphere

My dear friend "Bzzgrrl," whom I know by another more vowelly name in real life, has begun musing on her blog (www.citymousecountry.blogspot.com) about privacy and chronicling one's life on the Internet. Her thoughts and my web-surfing have made me think a lot about what I'm putting out here, and why.

When you start looking, the Internet is full of people sharing their stories about wanting babies. I can't imagine how many blogs and websites there must be out there overall, because the number on this topic alone is staggering. My friend Ashley inspired me with her own blog, www.planetdavila.blogspot.com, which was designed to both update her friends and family on their treatment status, and to address the things that people did and didn't know about infertility. The benefit of the blog format is that you can aim your comments at individuals, but couch them in a "for everyone's information" tone.

Ashley encouraged me to create a blog of my own, and it has been tremendously therapeutic for me. It has both brought me out of my isolation, and allowed me to share the interesting details with people I love. I have really come to think of this as a fascinating trip, with amazing pieces and counterintuitivities that I think anyone would like to know. Treating the topic as "fascinating" or even just funny lets me not think of it as a cross to bear.

The public aspect of the blogosphere is a nice addition to the idea of just communicating with people I already know and love. I find myself writing for people that I don't know, just as much as I write for my intimates. When you open yourself up to dialogue with strangers, you tap into a wonderful world. Putting links on blogs makes that happen very easily. One can follow the links of these chains and find like-minded (and dislike-minded) people one would never find in real life. That has opened my eyes to the very broad spectrum of infertility and reproductive technology more than I ever expected.

When I got several comments from a woman who calls herself "Laughing4Heir," I Google-searched her and found her new blog: www.outfromunder.wordpress.com. Her story deals with miscarriages and makes me realize that my goal, conceiving a baby, is just the start. Another woman writes on her website, the Fortune Cookie Follies, at the address http://LuckBeABaby.wordpress.com. Do you recognize "Luck be a Baby"? A play on a "Guys and Dolls" song. MY GOD: she combines a show tune AND a pun (!) and unfortunately, the you-wouldn't-have-thought-it difficulties she's been going through as she tries to adopt. A blog at http://maybebaby.ctwfeatures.com/ has -- gasp -- a man's perspective! Meanwhile, www.waitingwomb.blogspot.com has a very long list of links to infertility blogs. To my delight, the author has categorized them by which of their authors have now become pregnant, which have their much-awaited babies now, and which are still waiting.

So what do we have there? We have a lot of information about infertility in general, and how one deals with different aspects of it. These blogs are intensely personal in that they splay the authors' hearts across the screen. They allow others to learn and empathize and put their own problems in perspective. Sometimes they lead to actual connections between actual people. Sometimes they just lead to a sense of community, which I can tell you is very valuable.

Granted, most people don't use their real names on their blogs, but some do. I do, you'll notice. I had already set myself up with a blogging account for my business (www.fiberofherbeing.com and www.fiberofherbeing.blogspot.com), and those used my real name. I guess I didn't create a separate anonymous account because I wasn't shy enough. To date, I haven't put anything online here that I wouldn't say at a conference of a thousand people. (In fact, if you know of any speaking gigs, you know I'd love that!) Maybe that's one reason I am not concerned about the privacy aspect of putting this stuff online. If someone wants to egg my house, well, that would be too bad. (And to the moms out there, remember that our address is unlisted). But if someone wants to talk to me about the ethics of IVF, even in person, don't you know I'd go bounding up to them like a golden retriever, panting with anticipation of making another connection.

I discussed this with my co-worker yesterday and wondered aloud why I wasn't worried about Internet/real life privacy. She said, "Maybe it's because you haven't written anything you're ashamed of." Huh. What do you know. Me? Shameless?

Tee hee.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Patient on the Move




There are pros and cons of being a fancy jet-setter. See if you can sort them out as I tell you the following story.



Friday was the first morning I was to take my Lupron shot for this cycle. It was also the day that I was flying with Mom on the 6:00 a.m. flight to my grandmother's house in Texas. We were going to visit for Mamaw's 95th birthday. I marked the occasion by giving myself my first shot in the air.



At 8:00 a.m. it was time. I had considered filling the syringe and administering the shot at my seat, but I was in a middle seat and did not have access to my elbows, much less any privacy. I took my little case of needles, baby ice packs, and the vial into the tiny little bathroom. I sat down on the toilet seat, as it was the only piece of furniture available, and set up shop. I cleaned the vial top with the alcohol wipe, drew out 20 units of medicine, and wiped off a target spot on my belly. I turned to the left to get rid of the alcohol wipe and its wrapper, but it was not clear which of the little doors led to the trash can.



And that's when I made my first mistake. I pushed a big blue piece of plastic featuring a downward arrow, but it turned out to be the flush button. A booming vacuum pulled me down and threatened to suck my butt down into the belly of the plane. I was reminded of the Mythbusters episode where they disprove the urban myth that a fat woman could get vacuum-sealed to the toilet if this happened. In the moment I was glad to know it was a myth because, if the middle seat was any indication, my rear end was exceptionally large.



Once I survived that, the actual shot was very uneventful. I returned to my sliver of a seat feeling like a mosquito had bitten me by the belly button.



Once Mom and I got to the Houston airport, my baby ice packs had softened to a nice luke-warm gel, so I had the very bad idea to make my own ice pack. I took the zip-top baggie that Mom had carried her half-an-apple in, and filled it up with some ice that the food court burrito place gave me for free.



The little puddle-jumper plane that took us the second leg of our journey was one of the kind that reminded me of a mosquito. Tiny and unpleasant. When it picked us up in Houston, it had filled itself with the ambient, muggy air, which was about 90 degrees. The twenty-minute flight only got hotter; the air conditioning started to kick in when we touched down. And it was a bumpy 20 minutes. So what does a makeshift ice pack do when heated and jostled? Melt. Then leak.

By the end of the flight, my face was damp with sweat and the contents of my purse were soaking with "ice." But I didn't notice that until much later. Too much later.

The next morning I understood the magnitude of the leak. My pills, carefully distributed according to the IVF protocol into daily pill boxes, had melted together. On a whim I'd substituted my regular pre-natal vitamins for a sample of some prescription ones -- in the form of dark purple gel-caps. Those gave a nice black moldy hue to the rest of the medicine trapped by their side as all the pills settled together. Since I didn't have any extra medicine with me, I had to embibe what was there. I took out a sharp knife, scraped the nasty paste onto its blade, got my caffeine-free Diet Coke ready, and chugged. I wished I were a dog, so I wouldn't know it was coming, and so it would be disguised in some lunch meat or cheese.


I did this on two consecutive mornings. Taking shots paled in comparison to the nastiness of it. It was gag-worthy. I followed that show with a hypodermic party trick for my mom and Aunt Sara. Sara's only comment was that I was more gentle than she would have been. But I'd like to see her jab a needle into her belly. It wasn't so much gentleness as psyching myself up.

As far as IVF went, the shots and the pill-paste were the only intrusions into my weekend. Otherwise, my trip to my grandmother's house gave me lots of occasions to contemplate life and death. My delightful grandmother, who has 100% of her spunk even at the age of 95, pronounced that she hoped she didn't make it to 96. But when I asked her if she was going to die before I saw her next, she responded that she didn't plan on it. So I asked her to see what she could do about holding out. I want to be able to make her another great-grandchild, and that will take some time.

In the meantime, my visiting dad and I rebuilt her swinging patio bench and painted it green (see the photo). My mom and aunts powerwashed her patio and bought her new plastic chairs. I painted my great-grandmother's outdoor table a new shade of white, and a little turtle sat in the yard and watched the festivities.

A good time was had by all. And on the plane back I sat one row in front of someone who wasn't Ted Koppell. He's another similarly famous newsman, whose name I can't quite place. He wanted a blanket.

For the last two days I've been finding mosquito bites on my legs that I must have gotten when I was working on Mamaw's patio. I scratch them and smile.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sharing Risks

This is a post about money. Specifically, it's a post about the Shared Risk programs that some fertility clinics offer.

The essence of the shared risk programs is that you can pay for a package instead of individual treatments. For a lump sum, you can buy up to 4 or 6 (it varies) IVF cycles. You can use as many of those cycles as you need to get pregnant (or in the case of our clinic, bring a live baby home from the hospital). If at the end of the program you don't get the defined results, you get some or all of your money back. You can use that to start adoption proceedings -- also an expensive proposition.

Here are some reasons why the programs are controversial. First, the American Medical Association generally holds that it's unethical for doctors to charge for their services based on the medical outcome they get. That would do wacky things to the medical industry. Also, the programs imply a guarantee that the couple will get a certain result. Guaranteeing medical results is also tricky. And if the couple happens to get lucky on the first or second try, then they will have overpaid for the services that they actually end up using. Finally, the programs are only open to people with a good enough prognosis to ensure fairly quick pregnancy. The more it looks like you're actually going to need all the cycles, the less open the clinic will be to accepting you.

The reasons I advocate the programs are based on financial practicality and emotion. First, the lump sum we pay for the shared risk programs is an enormous amount of money. But for some couples who actually need the six cycles to have a baby, its the only way they would have been able to pay for that much care. I know of a sweet 3-month old baby named Charlie who would never have been conceived were it not for a full six-cycle shared risk program. I have good friends who don't live near any clinics that offer a shared risk plan, and as the number of cycles they need grows, it is getting near impossible to pay for any more. When money runs out, treatment runs out. No baby. If they could do shared risk, they would get more tries at success, or at least they'd get a guaranteed lump of money back to pay for an adoption or other options. Otherwise, there is no money left over to pursue other routes once they reach the end of the IVF line.

Another huge benefit is that the shared risk program takes finances out of the family planning decision-making. The first time we did IVF, we paid for the one treatment. That was foolish, in retrospect, because our chances of success were less than 50%. We just hadn't been able to bear paying more money than we needed to, because it was so exhorbitant, and we really couldn't afford even one treatment on its own, much less lots. When the cycle failed, we took a long time to decide whether and when to do another cycle, because we had to figure out the source of yet another astronomical payment. When we decided to move forward, we told our doctor that we'd like to enroll in the shared risk program this time around, now that we really appreciated how iffy this all was. He told us we were no longer candidates because we had "flunked" the first time. Yes, he said "flunked."

So we went to a different clinic that would still let us into the program. We paid a lot of money to them, did an IVF cycle, and it failed too. And you know what? As soon as that happened, we DIDN'T HAVE TO THINK ABOUT MONEY! We knew we were going to try again right away, and just keep trying until it worked. We spared ourselves the terrible exercise of balancing money on one side with fear of declining egg quality and lower chances of success on the other side. Ugh. Just do it. We could just do it. Thank God! Thank GOD!

Perhaps just as importantly, as a benefit that kicks in even if you get pregnant the first time, the shared risk program offers peace of mind as soon as you write the check. It comes from knowing that there are more chances waiting for you. Because on its own, IVF is really stressful and scary. It also invokes fears of never having a baby, your eggs getting too old, being left out of a new generation of parents... it's all so hard. It comes to everything riding on a small number of cells in the middle of your body. You obsess. You worry. You think about them all the time and will them -- with closed eyes and gritted teeth, oops, and then long relaxing loving deep breaths, and then a furrowed brow, no a relaxed brow, deep breath -- to survive. But if you know that this is not the last chance, that your whole life doesn't depend on this attempt, it's so much better. Much more relaxing, to say the least. Maybe it's even more conducive to being successful. Just eliminating that pressure is worth all the money in the world. And fortunately, you don't have to pay all the money in the world.

And that is why I think the shared risk programs are a really great deal. Because nobody can afford one IVF cycle, much less six. So if you can't afford one cycle, then you also can't afford to enroll in a shared risk program. At that point, what the hell is the difference. That's what credit cards, home equity loans, rich uncles are for: mortgaging your soul for stuff you want. Capital One, you're welcome. Shady Grove Fertility Shared Risk Program, thank you.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Silence is Golden, and Duct Tape is Silver


I owe this title to the daughter of a friend of mine. My friend is, well, loquacious. And her pre-teen daughter is clever, and she is not above duct taping her mom's mouth shut.

So this brings me to a thought I've had recently: to blog or not to blog. Also could be put: to blab or to shut up. As always, I choose to blab, but not without thinking about it.

It used to be that adoption was a very secret thing. Many decades ago, my grandfather's law office once handled an adoption of one woman's baby, by the woman's sister. Neither sister knew about this. That is, Sister 1 didn't tell anyone she was having a baby and giving it up for adoption, and Sister 2 didn't tell anyone she was adopting. So even the sisters didn't know that the baby was staying in the family. Obviously the need to transfer care of a human is really distressing to all involved, but wouldn't the sisters have found some comfort in knowing the baby was (still) biological family?

Once on TV I saw a show that mentioned that infertility used to be so taboo that people wouldn't admit to it. Women who planned to adopt prepared the way for their new baby socially by putting pillows in their clothes until the baby showed up.

And though I think that talking is usually better than not talking, I can appreciate the problems that stem from telling people your business. A recent commentator on the Adoption post really touched me. She said that she had been adopted, and that bullies had taunted her about it on the playground. They told her that her biological parents had thrown her away. It broke my heart to hear that. Better to keep a secret, no?

Of course, there are good reasons to tell people that you're adopting, and to tell children that they're adopted. The adopting parents need support. The kid's family medical history will come from a different set of people than the ones who raise them. And that's not to mention all the various questions about identity, transparency, ethnicity, etc. that might also come up.

Now apply this to children conceived through Artificial Reproductive Technology. Assuming both the egg and the sperm come from the same parents who will be raising the children: then what? Do you tell the children they were Test Tube Babies? Do you alert them to watch for physical anomalies that they'll discover some day were due to certain fertility procedures? (Not that we know of any, but this is a new technology and there aren't any IVF babies over 40). And maybe more importantly, what will the bullies say about them on the playground?

I had never thought about this. Or rather, I thought what my chiropractor told me: that her daughter's baby book was better than other baby books because she had pictures of her little girl when she was just a few cells. Wow! Neato.

But are our babies going to be teased? Are they going to be treated differently? Because if we conceive and bear children, the World Knows now that it's from IVF.

James told me the other day that he loves this blog, and appreciates my need to get things out into the world. But overall he is reluctant to tell people that we're doing IVF, because he doesn't want our babies to be labeled as "different" once they're born. He thinks that their conceptions are their own, and nobody else's business. I can get behind that. He thinks back to how strange "Test Tube Babies" sounded when we were growing up. How space age. How alien.

It's true that by the time we have children running around school playgrounds, they will be in very good company. The scads of twins and triplets they'll be going to school with are just the obvious ones. The "singletons" (that's a single baby) will look just like everybody else. What will they think of it all? What will the mean people think? Does it matter?

Will people be mean to them?

I'm writing this blog to help me process all the things that I'm going through. It is also to teach people about infertility -- precisely because it hasn't been talked about much before.

So how will this impact our children?

Thoughts?

Monday, May 19, 2008

If At First You Don't Conceive

Try, try again.

And that's what we're doing. The shots start this week, and it will be another two month process. But third time's the charm, and that's what we're counting on.

We really appreciate all the support and help you've given us in the last months, and we thank Mom in advance for her offer of frozen-casserole-and-weekend-laundry duty.

And now, as the chorus in Disney's Beauty and the Beast sang in surprising unison for an angry and spontaneously-ocurring mob:

"Sally forth! Tally ho! Grab your sword! Grab your bow! Praise the Lord and here we go!"

Love,
Kay

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bargain Shoppers

Last night in the grocery store we saw a very pretty little baby girl. But we didn't take her.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Our Mess

This week James and I discovered the chink in our "flood-proof basement" armor. Sunday's rains left a mote outside our house, and that seeped in inside through the brick walls and became a wading pool in our basement.

Yesterday Mom lent us a shop vac that has a place where you can put a hose. The hose takes the swamp water and channels it into your sink. But nobody knows how to make that feature work. So last night I found myself toe-deep in cold water, bailing out the 16-gallon vacuum chamber with a coffee pot, so I could start again and vacuum 16 more gallons of flood water into the chamber, and then bail those out.

While I was bailing, James came down to see what he could do to help. As we stood in the water, the top of the vacuum fell from its perch on top of the dryer, upside down, into the flood water. When it landed on its top, it turned itself on, and started vacuuming up water and spraying it at me. James was frozen with a worried look on his face. I was frozen and I think my face looked a little more annoyed. I was pretty sure I was starring in a sit-com.

By the end of the episode, we were wet and dirty, with pulled muscles and a relatively dry floor. I said to James, "What a mess!"

He said, "Yes, but it's OUR mess."

And he was right. This weekend was the one-year anniversary of our becoming homeowners, and this was the biggest challenge we'd had so far.

I think we've crossed a threshhold.

I think we're ready for diapers.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mother's Day


Sunday was Mother's Day, and started with a phone call from a stranger. He had the wrong number, but before he hung up he said, "Happy Mother's Day anyway." Now what kind of kizmet is that? Cruel kizmet.

Many of you know that our pregnancy test was negative. I tried to keep that a secret, but I can't do it. As our story continues, and I continue to write about it, I can't omit that part.

This weekend James and I went away for a pottery weekend. The Blue Ridge Pottery studio is run by a father (used to be an architect), and his daughters run a B&B, some cabins, and maybe a ranch house that you can rent. Guests can buy a package so they get the accommodation and pottery classes. We went a few months ago and made some bowls and cups and other pieces. We went back this weekend to glaze them.

On Sunday morning we had glazed our pottery and I'd gotten my Mother's Day phone call, and I was ready to go home. But when we went to tell the pottery teacher that we were heading out, he gave us another option. He said he had noticed how great a relationship we had. We were so loving and considerate, and it was a pleasure to be around us and see it. The day before, when he'd asked if we had children, and I said no but trying, he had picked up on the infertility thing. He and his wife had tried for five years before they had their first daughter. So Sunday morning, for Mother's Day, he thought we should do a "process piece" together. It would be a narrative wall-hanging to symbolize our relationship, our life together, and the joint life we were seeking to bring into the world. He thought it would be a great exercise at the intersection of emotion, visual art, and (pro)creation. He gave us suggestions throughout the day, and we had a great time with it.

James and I talked about what we wanted the piece to be about. We wanted it to symbolize our life together. We started thinking about what that would entail. It would have reference to cooking and chemistry on James's side, languages and travel and sewing on my side. And of course our cat. The backdrop would be our house that we bought together a year ago this week. And in the front would be the walkway that we bought, the first do-it-yourself project we did for our new home. That's a good metaphor. So Alun points to the center and says, "So where is your baby? Where is what you want to create?" For that, we made a spiral in the middle of the piece, radiating outward.

When Alun saw the spiral, he got excited because the spiral is such a powerful symbol in ancient ruins. It has everything to do with life, the universe, and everything. He gave us an archeology and mythology lesson about it, and asked where we got it. I said, "I made it up. It must have come from my DNA." He beamed. James and I had liked the spiral because it radiates outward, starting with something small and becoming wider and more encompassing, like an embryo becoming a baby. At the same time, the spiral starts with the whole universe and pulls it all in, all of our influences and histories, into James and me together into one home, one family, and maybe one new life.

We love Alun. And we think he's an amazing businessman. Because you know we're going to have to come back for another weekend to glaze our new piece.

By the way, we highly recommend his establishment: http://blueridgepottery.com/ The first time we went, we stayed at the B&B and loved it. This time we were in one of the cabins, and from our windows we saw an unequalled mountain panorama, some bunnies, and two beavers playing around by the log-cabin shed. Seriously!

On another note, I like to steal everything my friend Ashley puts on her blog. She had a link to this story about "Secret Mother's Day" from an Austin newspaper. It's a really nice story about infertile women on Mother's Day: http://www.statesman.com/life/content/life/stories/other/05/10/0510raisingaustin.html

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Adopting a New Perspective

Adoption is a toughie. But I thought I'd explore it a little, for all of our sakes.

There are two big issues with adoption: 1) deciding it's the way you will have a kid, and 2) procuring said human.

1. Making the Decision

To an infertile couple, hearing the words, "you could always adopt" makes them cringe and cry. So why is the suggestion always made? And why does it elicit such a response? Here is what I think.

I think that when loved ones hear that a couple is having a hard time conceiving, they feel bad that the couple can't have kids. They want the couple to have kids. They think logically that if the kids aren't showing up in the couple's uterus, the couple could get existing kids from somewhere. It makes total sense. God knows there are a lot of children who need parents (or better parents, but that's another story). Voila. Insta-family, sadness eradicated.

The adoption argument makes even more sense when one considers the people we know who were adopted into their current families. I know a couple amazing little girls who have been adopted recently, and several adult women who were adopted long ago. I'd be so glad and grateful to count all of them among my family members. I mean, if my loved ones could adopt a baby who would turn out as wonderfully as H.S.P. or L.B.S., oh my God, I'd lash them to my car and drive them to the adoption agency myself.

But here's why the adoption suggestion is hard for infertile couples to hear. Most individual members of our species are programmed to think that their DNA is best, and to look for a partner whose DNA would be best. That makes for stronger and more successful (read: alive to procreate) progeny. It's the epitome of natural. I do know some people who have always liked the idea of adoption, but most of us just assume our children will be genetic combinations of ourselves and our spouses. It's hardwired in. To look to adoption feels like admitting that we are defective humans who cannot procreate. Most infertile couples treat adoption as a last resort. I have heard that the first question they hear at the adoption agency is not, "Why do you want adopt?" but, "Have you grieved your lack of biological children yet?"

All this makes for the following scenario:

Helpful person: "Have you looked into adoption?" (Thinking, "I want you to be able to get what you want, a child, as soon as possible, and with less heartache than you're currently enduring.")

Infertile couple: "No, we're not quite ready for that yet." (Thinking, "Woe is us. Is it obvious how defective we are? Why have our loved ones already given up on our dream to have our own children, when we're still trying?")

It's just a misunderstanding. But it's so laden with emotions, what can you do? Besides explore both sides in a blog, I mean.

2) Procuring a Human Child

I'll start with the caveat that we really haven't looked into adoption formally at all. But I've picked up a few things in the milieu, which I'll share now.

First, until recently, international adoptions were all the rage. They were easy and everybody was doing it. China, in particular, was a country where lots of little girls needed new homes, because of China's historical population-control policies that favored families with one boy child only. Someone told me that adopting a Chinese child would present fewer problems for the adopted child later, because she could more easily grasp -- and take less personally -- the reason her biological parents gave her up for adoption.

Besides China, I know lots of babies were adopted into the United States from Kazakhstan and Guatemala, among other countries.

But in the last couple of years, this wave of international adoptions has crested and crashed. For political reasons, China has adopted policies that make the process far more bureaucratic and slower. One couple I know has been waiting for years for a Chinese baby. I hear the average wait is now three to five years from the time the adoptive parents are approved and the paperwork is done. Three to five years? The whole time being nervous that it might not ever happen, that some bureaucratic thing will come up, that the country will close itself off with your money trapped inside? That's actually what has happened to my friends. They can't start over with another agency in another country because they've already paid an exhorbitant sum to the agency working inside China.

As for domestic adoption, it's not automatic. It's a lot harder than people assume. I think that international adoption caught on years ago because it was so difficult to adopt babies in the United States. There were long, long waiting lists. The more "newborn" young and the more Arian you wanted your new baby to be and to look, the more years you waited. For people looking for babies these days, you almost never hear about standard domestic adoption. I think it's regarded as next to impossible.

So an alternative has developed. The current trend for U.S. adoptions is called "open adoption." Instead of hanging out on a waiting list somewhere, waiting for an anonymous baby, a couple finds and gets to know a pregnant woman who wants them to adopt her child. The couple and the birth mother develop a relationship as the pregnancy goes on (and I believe that some states vigorously regulate the money and other benefits the couple can bestow on the women during that time so nobody gets scammed). The birth mother retains her parental rights after the baby is born, so for a certain period of time she has the chance to back out if she decides she wants to keep her baby after all. You can imagine how devastating that could be to the would-be adoptive parents. If she decides to go through with the plan, the baby goes to live with the adoptive couple, and the birth mother stays in touch like a family friend. The child grows up knowing the adoptive parents and the birth mother both. This is supposed to be easier on the child and the mother giving up her baby. But you see that it doesn't make for a normal nuclear family for the adopting parents. Far from it. They have to adopt both a child AND a baby mama.

Another impediment to adoption is the cost. I've heard that it averages $35,000 to adopt a child from another country. The money filters to agencies on both sides, plus government entities, etc. I don't know, but I believe that domestic adoption is just as expensive, maybe sans travel expenses. Some IVF clinics offer money-back guarantees that give you a portion of your money back if you never get pregnant yourself, so that you can begin to afford adoption. But through IVF or adoption, getting a baby any way other than the "old fashioned way" is just ridiculously expensive. Well, and rightfully so. To make or to acquire a person? Come on!

And that is about all I know about adoption these days. Maybe we'll be looking into it later, but right now, we're not ready for it.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Following the Link

I followed a link today and found a very cynical set of made-up Hallmark cards dealing with infertility.

http://www.alittlepregnant.com/photos/cards/index.html

These are likely to seem very depressing to the fertile set, but for the rest of us, it's a little bit of sardonic vindication.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Good Breeding

Familiarity may breed contempt, but family breeds more family. And that is a good thing. It's the way it should be.

I've always loved big families and wanted to be at the center of one. My goal for when I'm 95 is to be like my maternal grandmother, matriarch to a zillion, with a ton of pictures from decades and decades of children on the bulletin board in the hall.

In the last ten days, I have held and fed a relative's new baby, heard about the birth of another relative's baby, and learned that another relative is newly pregnant. And within a few weeks, I'll have another baby relative, of the family-friend variety. And I'm glad. I can't give my children all the cousins -- first, second, once-removed, twice-removed, step, in-law, and honorary -- that they deserve unless the rest of you keep procreating.

So keep doing what you're doing, you little bunnies, and thank you for treating me with kid (sigh) gloves.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Worth the Weight?


I hear that pregnant women strive to get through their whole pregnancy without getting stretch marks. If and when I am pregnant, I will already have lost the battle. Why? I already have fresh stretch marks on my hips.


Nobody likes talking about weight, except maybe skinny people, but this, well, weighs on my mind. I have gained a lot of weight in the two years we have been trying to conceive. I think it's about 30 pounds. Granted, 30 pounds stretched over almost 6 feet of body is not horrible, but it is reminiscent of, well, baby fat. And it bothers me.


I. Reasons for Gaining Weight


A. Real Reasons

1. I'm lazy and haven't been exercising.

2. I started "eating for two" in June of 2006 and haven't stopped, except for the two IVF cycles when I got two embryos put in and started "eating for three."

3. For most of that time I was working from home as an artist and didn't have to fit into my professional clothes.

4. As the process goes on, I've been more depressed, and eating for emotional comfort.


B. Contributing Reasons (at least 40% Rationalization)

1. Two years ago a study came out saying that women who ate ice cream were more likely to get pregnant. Researchers hypothesized that it might be due to milk fat, or might just be due to the fact that these women weren't dieting. Either way, I avoided "dieting," which also meant I apparently avoided any sort of portion control.

2. Studies show that women who lose a lot of weight immediately before trying to conceive have a lower rate of success. When I have tried to lose weight before, I have done it quickly just by beginning to exercise. And I didn't want to do anything drastic.

3. Part of the IVF instructions are to avoid exercise between the egg retrieval and the pregnancy test. Superstitiously, or overcautiously, I want to be as still as possible to keep my babies alive and well. During the other parts of the IVF cycle, I'm too tired to stand up.


II. Reasons It's Bad to Be Overweight


A. Physiological Reasons

1. Women who are overweight have a lower chance of conceiving.

2. Being overweight is unhealthy for all the reasons you already know.


B. Emotional Reasons

1. I already hate my body enough for putting me through this. Feeling unattractive widens the gulf between my angered mind and my offending body.

2. Maybe the saddest: I think I already look pregnant. When I get super-puffy during the IVF and can only fit into maternity clothes, it is heart-wrenching to know that I'm cheating my way into the maternity clothes. It absolutely breaks my heart to think I look pregnant.


So okay, I'm going back to aerobics. If and when I have children, I might as well like their mother.