Adventures in making and raising our test-tube babies

Friday, August 29, 2008

We're Pregnant With Twins!

My dear, dear friends,

It is our pleasure to inform you that we are pregnant with twins. By one account (they vary) I'm 14 weeks along, and everyone is doing fine. We've got two little babies below my belly button, about the size of gerbils, with feet and fingernails and the beginnings of all the bodily systems they'll need to be working humans. We could not be happier.

I'll feed you more information as we go along, but in the meantime, let these ultrasound shots give you a concise 4,000 words.

We haven't -- nor will we ever -- forget the long, hard battle with infertility. And we won't forget our friends who are still fighting. But for the moment, let's celebrate one -- no, TWO -- successes, keep vigilant over the next six months, and get ready to welcome these little babies into the world on March 2, 2009.


Kay and James

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tag: I'm "It"

I’ve been invited (actually “tagged;” see the rules below) to tell six random things about myself. And who am I to decline an invitation to expound on my favorite subject?

So here they are: six historical moments or characteristics in the “not important but influential” category from my life:

I have a fake belly button. It’s a reasonable facsimile but you can tell it’s fake if you look at it. Instead of looking like the knot of a balloon, it looks like a small tuck with stitch marks along the vertical seam. I got this modification when I was three months old and had a hernia operation. My dear twin brother, David, also has this feature, but don’t think he’ll let you look at it if you ask. Me, I’ll show you. It’s my favorite party trick.

I speak Portuguese. I learned it because a college advisor said that no Latin Americanist should stop at just knowing Spanish. I lived in Brazil for six months, got a scholarship for a free Master’s just for studying Portuguese further, and now am saddled with a huge burden. That is, I was familiar with the Brazilian fruit (and related fruit juice and ginger ale-like soda) guaranĂ¡ before it became the rage in U.S. energy drinks. Now my biggest pet peeve is hearing it referred to as /gwa RAH nuh/ instead of the Portuguese /gwah rah NAH/. Poor James has to hear me rant every time it’s mispronounced on TV.

I think that education is the most important thing there is. I don’t know why I’m not a teacher, except that I’m already a Latin Americanist/democratization specialist, lawyer, and artist. I hope to be a mother next, but after that I’ll need a fifth career. In the meantime, I serve on the board of a new NGO called the Washington Collaborative for Education. It’s an organization run by two amazing DC public school teachers, and provides summer programs for DC teenagers, to get them ready (and encourage them) to go to college. We just applied for 501(c)3 status from the IRS, so watch out! I may be hitting you up for a tax-deductible donation.

When David and I were born, we had an older sibling: John Wayne, the hound dog. When Mom and Dad laid us on a blanket on the floor, John Wayne would run around the house, carefully jumping over us when he got to where we were. When we were about five or six, John Wayne “ran away.” We had just gotten a free Purina red-checked plastic dog bowl, having sent away for it with coupons from the dog food bag. When John Wayne never came back (because he was dead, duh), we used the dog food bowl as a salad bowl.

Twenty-five years and two weeks ago, I had the mind-boggling good fortune of becoming a child star in my small home town. By “singing loud[ly] and smiling,” as per my mother’s instructions, I wowed the judges with my enthusiasm and won the lead role in our community production of “Annie.” It wasn’t so much that I was talented as that I was a ham onstage. I loved every minute of it. I loved the theater itself, the costumes, the dance rehearsals, the “drama majors,” and yes, the fame. The experience changed my life, giving me a deep – and useful – sense of self-confidence. At my wedding (when, yes, I gave in to the “demands” and sang “Tomorrow”), my sweet cousin Ashley told me that she admired how unselfconscious I was. I just plowed into every situation with gusto, without fear that people would think I was weird or wrong. I was very touched. I attribute this fearlessness to having had my enthusiasm rewarded at an impressionable age. And hell no, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Everyone should be a child star.

The love of my life, James, has blue eyes. I enlarged a photo of the two of us from our honeymoon and turned it into fabric art a couple years ago. James’s blue eyes now look at me from two fabric strips hanging on a curtain rod, on the wall across from our bed. I chose a beautiful deep blue paint color for our bedroom walls, to match James’s eyes. The walls cannot begin to hold the depth and tenderness that those eyes reveal, but they provide a good backdrop for the smile he starts every morning with. When we first realized we were having trouble conceiving a child, James’s mom’s reaction was not to worry: “God wouldn’t let those blue eyes die out.” I admit I didn’t think that was very convincing when she said it, but you know. Maybe she’ll be right.

Here are the rules of this tagging game:

1. Link to the person who tagged you:

Ashley at

2. Post the rules to your blog
3. Write 6 random things about myself
4. Tag 6 people at the end of your post and link to them

(tagging only the four bloggers I can think of: L*** at, B*** at, Polka Dot Creations at, and L**** at

5. Let each person you have tagged know by leaving a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is posted.

Feeding the Fertility Gods

My dear friend Ashley has called me back from my summer vacation from infertility. While it’s been a nice respite, I have certainly not been wanting for thoughts on the subject.

Half my life ago, I was starting my academic career in Latin American studies in the Big Apple. Completely unaware that anyone ever had trouble having babies, I thought of fertility as a concept associated with agriculture and anthropology. I learned about the Aztec gods of the earth, rain, and corn. Although they seemed to always have plenty of people, I thought agrarian pre-Columbians were generally more concerned about the food supply. I know that in contemporary Mexico City people leave shots of tequila for Tlaloc, the god of rain, at his statue at the National Museum of Anthropology. No rain, no crops. (Apparently the tequila works frequently enough that people keep doing it).

We know that tequila can facilitate human conception in a lot of instances, but it never worked for us. So when all else fails in the baby-making business, one can always tackle the fertility thing by planting a garden. Even without any alcohol. That’s what James did this summer.

Gardening is a focus that the father characters in “The Fantasticks” musical strongly endorse over parenting. According to those two, each struggling with difficult teenagers, vegetables are dependable and fulfilling. They say, for example,

Plant a turnip.
Get a turnip.
Maybe you’ll get two.
That’s why I love vegetables;
You know that they’ll come through!

That’s in stark contrast to “children, [with whom] it’s bewilderin’.” So following the dads’ philosophy, this garden business should make James ecstatic. “A man who plants a garden is a very happy man.”

But it’s not so easy. When is fertility easy?

James planted his vegetable garden in June. Last year when he used that schedule, we got vegetables in July. This year we had to wait until August. And even then, they were slow and really not that promising.

The one golden boy of the garden was a huge tomato that hung out, green, on the vine for a long, long time. We would go out and admire it and wonder if it would ever turn red. Finally, its apple green took on a sunny twinge. It morphed to orange, and promised to be red any day.

In the meantime, the garden was providing James the only solace he had in his life. He worked hard at the office and brought his stress home all the time, but he loved the potential and promise of his garden. I’d find him in the back yard in the evenings, briefcase in one hand and water hose in the other, before he ever came in the house. The tomato was his baby, and he was just waiting to see it reach maturity.

One night, after a particularly hard day, James seemed beaten down. It wasn’t until we’d watched our share of SciFi channel shows on TV that James finally admitted what straw had broken his back.

“They got Big Red.”

It was the most unforgiveable, un-get-overable tragedy there could ever be.

Who “they” was was a mystery. It could be the chipmunk that James had “had his eye on,” or birds, or bunnies, or bugs, or squirrels. It didn’t matter. They’d taken it. Big Red the Tomato lived its last few hours, finally at the perfect shade of tomato red, on the ground in the garden, with its belly splayed open and half its mass missing. Ants trailed onto and throughout its remaining body. So sad.

In the month since that first tomato’s demise, we’ve taken prophylactic measures. We put up a big wire fence that keeps out not only the bunnies and maybe chipmunks, but also anyone who might want to weed the garden. When that proved insufficient (we’d forgotten about bugs), James bought an organic, non-toxic bug repellent. When that proved insufficient (we’d forgotten about birds), we draped a net over the top of the fence. When that proved insufficient (we’d forgotten about those squirrels), we secured that net every 12 inches with clothes pins. That seemed to work. The garden started to bear fruit.

We also learned a few tricks. Get the tomatoes out as soon as they turn orange. Vine ripening is a luxury we don’t have. Get the eggplants before they touch the ground. Get the green peppers before... well, don’t worry about the green peppers because we’re the only ones who seem to like them.

In the end, mid-August, you know what we had? We had vegetable babies. And we ate them.

Two nights ago I made a kind-of eggplant parmesan with three of our eggplants and one green pepper. That went hand-in-hand with lentil and rice salad, which also featured our basil and another green pepper. The tomatoes were so good that we ate them whole, with our hands, like donuts.

The meal tasted good, like victory. It was a feast the gods would have loved.

Next stop, we hope: growing a family.

We won’t eat the babies. We swear.