Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Re-post: "The Art of Waiting" by Belle Boggs

This Orion article is unbearably beautiful and haunting:

I wonder if I'd have felt a little different about everything had I known Virginia Woolf was infertile as well...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Blastocysts On Board!

Well friends, we made it through our first, full IVF cycle yesterday when we transferred two previously-frozen-now-thawed blastocysts into my cushy uterus. According to the embryologist, nurse and doctor "everything went beautifully" and the blastocysts looked "wonderful." So, that's about the best we can hope for at this point. I've spent the last 24-hours bed-resting and have another 24 hours of lounge-time ahead of me, at least. To be conservative, I'm even supposed to be wheeled to my flight back to L.A. on Sunday! I'm going to need a sticker (or maybe a forehead tattoo?) that says,"Blastocysts On Board!" that I can wear at all times between now and D-Day, Sept. 23rd. After that, let's hope I can graduate to the usual "Baby On Board" nonsense. :)

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Last Saturday, I went to hear the Vietnamese-born Buddhist monk, teacher, author, and peace and social justice activist who helped originate the "Engaged Buddhism" movement., Thich Nhat Hanh, speak in Pasadena. TNH is turning 85 soon and he looked like a jolly, little Yoda when he sits on a small cushion to teach us. For three hours, he and his entourage of monks and nuns engaged the audience in mindfulness meditation, chanting, and contemplation. Just being in the presence of someone so peaceful and wise was a healing balm for me, but beyond that, TNH's message of compassion and understanding enveloped my heart with a warmth that I haven't been feeling much of lately. The untrained voices of the monks and nuns lifted a chant to the bodhisattva associated with compassion, and I realized how much I need more compassion in my life--for my friends and coworkers whom I reject because they get pregnant so easily, for Ivan, whom I pounce on for little things even though he does all the big things so right and so loyally, and for myself.

THN then spoke of a lotus flower--its beauty, serenity, delicacy and joyful presence. He brought the flower to life in my mind and then, very gently, he pointed out that every lotus flower is made of "non-lotus elements," by which he means sunlight, water and mud. So, every time you look at a lotus admiringly, you should realize that it took these other, "non-lotus elements" to create that beauty. Of course, the metaphor is a simple one: the beauty and joy in every person's life must inevitably contain "non-lotus elements"--especially, MUD. This metaphor struck me so profoundly--but why? Perhaps it was the gentle, knowing quality of TNH's voice, or the way he addressed the audience as "Beloved Friends" that made me soften and open my heart. Or, perhaps it was just that his message felt so right for where I am in my life: stuck in the mud.

All along this two-year infertility journey, I have tried hard to remember the "glowing sunshine and refreshing water" that make up so much of who I am and what I have in my life. But I must not be very good at counting my blessings because many times, those beautiful elements of my life pale in comparison to the "mud of infertility" that has glopped nastily all over my mind, my heart, my sex life, my marriage, my body, my soul. Most of the time, I think I'm just made of mud now--that this sorrow and loss and anger and jealousy are my only "elements" and that I'll never be a flower again. I imagine that, even if we eventually adopt a baby and finally become a family, I'll never be happy because I was unable to live this dream of pregnancy, the dream of giving the gift of life.

But strangely, TNH, the unmarried monk with no children, was able to convince me--if only briefly--that all this "mud" is not only a necessary part of who I am now, but it's an essential aspect of the lotus flower that I can be. He also reminded me that everybody is part "mud" and that I need to have more compassion for the suffering in each person's life. We are all made of "non-lotus elements"--even my friends and colleagues who get pregnant just by standing next to their partner have suffered, or continue to suffer, on their journey to motherhood. I should try to appreciate that we have that in common, even when I feel so far away from them now.

After the talk last weekend, I searched out some of TNH's writings and found this quote. It's my latest talisman, the lotus in my back pocket. It reminds me that yes, I am the sticky, staining mud, but I am also the warming sunlight and the clear, cold Colorado mountain water. I hope that Thich Nhat Hanh's wisdom makes you smile:

"Suffering is not enough. Life is both dreadful and wonderful...How can I smile when I am filled with so much sorrow? It is natural--you need to smile to your sorrow because you are more than your sorrow."

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The F-Word

Oh, "what a long, strange trip it's been" since I last blogged! I spent August mostly on my back, with men sticking things in me and sucking things out of me--and no, I was not having hot sex. Instead, we experienced our first IVF cycle: a frenzy of syringes, every-other-day vaginal ultrasounds, piles of scary release forms and bills, and a bathroom scale with ever-climbing numbers. As the hormonal cocktail worked its magic, I produced 26 eggs and bloated out like Humpty Dumpty. When I finally "fell off the wall" and into the surgery to collect my eggs, they cracked open my shell (entering my ovaries with a vacuum-syringe) and sucked out 21 viable eggs. Of these, 14 fertilized and 8 grew to the desired blastocyst stage (at 5-6 days old, when they are ready for implantation into the uterus' lining). Sadly, I was in no shape for the planned embryo transfer due to being overstimulated by the meds, so we were told we'd have to come back for "the fun part" (i.e. the procedure that actually means you could get pregnant) in September. All that work growing eggs, and no chance to even get pregnant that time around. :-(

So, we returned home to L.A. and I lolled about praying that the tidal surge that was my giant, bloated belly would recede and those nine pounds of non-baby weight would drain away, leaving me something like myelf again. Two weeks after the IVF storm, I do feel somewhat normal, although I am still strewn with the inevitable post-storm debris in the form of bruises all over my stomach from the hormone shots I took and the blood-thinning shots I'm still taking, as well as a few extra, non-water-weight pounds from the lack of exercise and the doctor's explicit advice to "eat lots of salt: chips, Gatorade, popcorn, etc." At least that was a perk!

But here I am with 8 great-looking, frozen embryos chilling (pardon the pun) in a lab in Colorado--anyone in the IVF would would call that number of healthy embryos a success--and I still feel like a failure. I can't seem to get my hopes up anymore, because every time I do that someone I know gets pregnant on accident/easily and reminds me what a loser I am for going through all this BS and spending $30,000+ and still not being pregnant. Okay, I know they're not getting pregnant just to spite me, but I'm the kind of bad person who takes it personally and feels like every announcement is a slap in the face, no matter how gently it's conveyed. And, yes, I know it's true that we haven't actually finished the IVF process since they wouldn't transfer the embryos when I was hyper-stimulated last month, so I should at least get through the whole process before I give up, but I honestly can't get myself to believe it will work. I'm so used to failure now that it seems inevitable.

What a bad way to go into the process of nurturing the life that's going to be put inside me! I need to reclaim the f-word: to get "failure" out of my head and heart and to get "fuck" back in there:
Fuck whining about how unfair this all is!
Fuck feeling jealous!
Fuck imagining yet another lonely blue line on a failed pregnancy test!
Fuck not being allowed to fuck my husband during treatment cycles!
Fuck failure.

If I'm ever going to be a mom, I need to stop whining and start fucking--well, you know what I mean. I need to find my inner bulldog-in-lipstick or mama bear or whatever that archetype is that allows women to lift cars off their squashed children. But how?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Book Review of A Few Good Eggs: Two Chicks Dish on Overcoming the Insanity of Infertility

I wish I’d had this book about six months ago, right when I began to A) really freak out from the stress of infertility, and B) embark upon my own ART journey after 18 months of trying to get pregnant naturally. I wish I’d had this book because it is an encouraging, informative and—though it’s hard to believe—funny and lighthearted take on infertility. A Few Good Eggs: Two Chicks Dish on Overcoming the Insanity of Infertility is intended as an “insider’s guide” to infertility and, as such, it centers on the two authors’ personal experiences with infertility, miscarriage, secondary infertility, and ART treatments; both authors now have children. The authors want to “break the silence surrounding infertility by providing information for everything from the logistics of actually getting pregnant…to facing infertility…[to] what goes on in the mind as well as in the body” (xvi). One of the things I love about this book is that it really does devote as much time and space to what’s happening to infertility patients emotionally as it does to all the physical, medical, financial and practical nonsense that this, and most books in the genre, address.

As a hybrid informational guide and memoir, A Few Good Eggs is written in an informal style and organized into seven Parts that span the arc of the infertility journey—from initial disbelief/denial, through treatment, to some kind of resolution whether it’s a family or child-free living. Within each Part are chapters with wacky titles, such as “Who to Kill…Your Doctor or your Husband?” Each chapter starts with personal stories from the two authors that usually humorously relate their lived experiences to the topic at hand. Throughout each chapter, the authors continue to weigh in on the main narrative with more “asides” presented in blue boxes; while I enjoyed the stories, I found that these inserts tended to distract me from the main text, especially when both authors commented multiple times in a given chapter. Also, there are also numerous “real life” stories from other women and couples woven throughout each section of the book and the authors comment on the anecdotes; there is even a long interview with an egg donor, which is unique and helpful. One criticism I have of these stories, however, is that they are almost exclusively from the perspective of older women suffering from infertility; as someone who started having infertility problems in my late twenties, I found it frustrating that the book focused so much on older women’s struggles.

In A Few Good Eggs, the authors’ point of view in is that women should educate themselves thoroughly so that they can feel more empowered as they work to build their families. The opening and closing paragraphs of the book coach readers to believe that they can become parents; the authors state, “We went through hell to build our family units, but most importantly, we did it. So can you,” (1) and, “In the darkest moments of your infertility, you must always remember that you will emerge a winner in this game. Take charge…Keep thinking of this ordeal as a game—one you will win, just maybe not the way you had always planned” (376). However, Vargo and Regan do get rather negative at certain points, especially when they repeatedly chastise women who wait to try to get pregnant until later in life. There’s a whole section called “The Real Glass Ceiling” in which they argue that “we women [are] responsible for some of our own problems” (36) because we waited for Mr. Right, focused on our careers exclusively, slept around and got STDs that impacted our fertility, etc. While I appreciate the point they’re trying to make about taking responsibility for one’s choices, I have to assume that most women reading this book are already suffering from infertility and don’t really need someone telling them all the ways it might be their fault—most of us feel guilty about it on some level already! This whole section seems self-righteous and out of step with the rest of the book, which is so encouraging and upbeat.

Another section with mixed results is the one in which the authors invite their male partners to share the other side of the story in the chapter called, “The Man Show.” The men’s tales are funny and poignant and the “Ten Things Not to Expect from Your Partner” and “Ten Things You Can Expect from Your Partner” lists are quite clever. However, the authors’ subsequent commentary over-simplifies men’s capacities when they say things like, “In the baby-making process you can count on him to be there with one thing—the sperm…Of course, you’ll probably have to tell him where to be at what time and call repeatedly to make sure he actually gets to the right place with his sample cup. But outside of that, don’t expect any more. Then, anything you do get in the way of involvement or compassion is icing on the cake” (265). This perspective is not only out-dated but it also is potentially offensive to many readers—including my husband, who agrees with me that both partners have the right to expect reciprocal “involvement [and] compassion” throughout this difficult process. Maybe our feeling is due to the fact that we’re in our early 30’s instead of our mid-40’s/early-50’s like the authors, but we just don’t appreciate this kind of commentary that reinforces gender stereotypes and roles.

In the end, I’d give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars because I like the humor, candor and personal approach it takes to this dreadful infertility experience. However, the sometimes-confusing structure, older point of view, and critical/stereotypical commentary was frustrating at moments. Also, I wish the authors had spent more time actually describing the details of the medications they took and the procedures they endured (besides harping on the weight gain that is “inevitable”), like they do with the various ART options, for which they give succinct descriptions and cost estimates. When Vargo and Regan tell it like it is, with humor and compassion, this book is incredibly refreshing and encouraging.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Message from an avocado

After my last blog about how all my positive intentions may actually have no bearing on whether or not I finally get pregnant, I now have a confession to make: I still believe in psychics. Maybe this does not surprise you about me; maybe it does! I have a feeling it doesn't. :-) In any case, I like to think of psychics as people who can tap into the wisdom of the collective unconscious, more so than commune with spirits or anything along those lines. At this point in my pregnancy process, I'm looking for some kind of wisdom--any kind--that will help me to understand my experiences and have more faith that this nonsense is, perhaps, "happening for a reason." Soooo, I turn to psychics because religion and psychology and yoga and acupuncture have yet to convince me of any method behind this madness.

My favorite psychic--the only one I actually follow regularly--is a woman I met when I worked at the Omega Institute, name Elizabeth Harper. She calls herself an "intuitive" rather than a psychic, and she is especially attuned to colors and their meanings/messages. (BTW, can you imagine going through life with every color you see sending you messages from beyond? Exhausting!) Elizabeth has done one very interesting and astute reading for me in the past, when I was trying to decide which grad school to attend (that's another story), and she also made me a personalized fertility meditation which I use all the time to *relax.* One of the other cool things she does, however, is to host a video blog each Monday with your Colorscope for the week! It's so fun--first, you have to "intuit" to which of the week's colors you are most attracted: AVOCADO GREEN, TOMATO RED OR MOZZARELLA WHITE.... (choose the one for Aug. 1, 2001)

Now, maybe you don't feel like watching Elizabeth's video, so let me sum up what her message was for the color I chose: AVOCADO GREEN (of course): "Avocados are a lime green color, and lime is the color of things that are fresh and new...So you are going through some changes, green is often about a new identity...Taking layers off, then going to get to hard place, something you may have had to tackle before, something that needs to be changed...once you get inside that hard place, there is a seed, something new that you can plant, it will be fertilized and it will grow, it will be be nurtured, it may take year or longer, but there's a sense of you getting down to nitty gritty...and green is heart color, something stuck in heart for long time...jelly bean is brown: there is fertile ground waiting for you."

Yahoo! Just the kind of thing you want to hear--"Fertile ground is waiting for you..."--while you await your IVF cycle. But what about this "hard place" inside me that needs to be addressed? What is this little seed at the core of who I am that needs to grow and evolve in order to help my dream come true? That's a lot of responsibility to feel right now--that I have to figure out this seed's problem and fix it before doing IVF. But it also feels hopeful--like if I can work on myself in the next few weeks, really peel off some layers and spoon out the mush and scrape off the seed, I might finally get to the planting and growing stage. I like the image of a fresh, little sprout popping up from a big, hard seed. More green...

Saturday, July 30, 2011


Just when I think that I'm coming to terms with the strangeness of life, I see this video:

Is this humanly possible? I understand that denial "ain't just a river in Egypt," but it's hard to comprehend how an adult woman who has HAD a child wouldn't be aware of what's happening to her body. Yes, inexperienced and under-educated high school girls sometimes surprisedly give birth in bathrooms--but grown women? C'mon.

For better or for worse, this snappy little news clip makes me question everything I believe about how my intentions and attitude contribute to my ability to conceive. Is my yoga, acupuncture, Arvigo massage and nightly meditations to relax my body and invite my potential child into my womb a total load of BS? I mean, if this lady can not only GET pregnant but GESTATE FOR NINE MONTHS a healthy baby without ever knowing it, then maybe positive intentions and welcoming energy mean absolutely nothing! Does this woman's lack of awareness finally give me permission to be the pessimistic, anxious, cynical person that I try to fight being because I'm afraid these feelings make me less likely to conceive? Or should I just express and embrace those feelings, because they're real and, by my logic above, probably have no bearing on my ability to get pregnant?

One the one hand, it's thrilling to have an excuse to just be sad, since I always feel so guilty about my negativity, like it's to blame that we haven't had success. On the other hand, while it's exhausting trying to "be positive" all the frickin' time, I will admit that I probably do feel better when I force myself to be less pessimistic and to have internal hope and faith. But what about that saying "to thine own self be true"? What if that self is really angry and sad at this point? Isn't it a self-betrayal to hide your real feelings and pretend to be someone that you're not?

How do I find the balance between being real (i.e. cynical and negative) and being fake (i.e. trying to be positive despite myself), but ultimately--and I kind of hate to admit this--less depressed? One of my favorite books is Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh. Somewhere in there, the Buddhist monk basically encourages readers to smile as much as possible and to "fake it until you make it," which is to say keep smiling, until you really feel like smiling. By his logic, the fake smiling will eventually help you to smile authentically. I should probably start reading that book again. :-)