Friday, June 12, 2009

The big goodbye

It's time to say goodbye.

No, not to the blog, dear reader. And also not to my dreams of another baby. But as of next week, Mystery, Eggbert and I will be leaving Korea permanently. I'm feeling a bit strange about it all.

The strangeness comes in waves. Sometimes I feel like it's not really happening. Then I realize that it is, and I just don't know what to do with that information. Am I happy? Am I sad? I'm not sure. For the past several weeks, I've been so focused on the details that I haven't had much time to think about what the move means for me.

There are some things about leaving that are bittersweet. I do feel sad to say goodbye to the city where Eggbert was conceived, born, and lived her first 19 months. It makes me sad that she won't remember our lives in Korea. I'm also worried that she might feel dislocated by the move. She's leaving the only home that she has ever known, going to a place where everybody looks different, the language is different, the food is different, EVERYTHING is different. Mystery, her toys and clothes, and I will be the only familiar things that make the trip. For me, moving back to the USA is a homecoming, but for Eggbert, it's a whole new world. On the other hand, the fact that we're leaving WITH Eggbert is just amazing. We came here a family of two, and are going "home" a family of three. So, in some ways, taking Eggbert to the US feels like a huge triumph.

There are also things about leaving that are just plain sad. I will miss my friends here terribly, as well as my wonderful colleagues. The job that I've been doing way was in many ways one of the best jobs that I could ever hope to have. While it has been challenging in many ways, it has also been an absolute dream in terms of flexibility and everyday working conditions. That is something that I will really miss. I will also miss Korean food, having everyday access to the few amazing palaces and monuments here in Seoul that survived the Japanese occupation, the Korean war, and the frantic wave of modernization that is still sweeping away much of the "old Korea." I'll miss the parks, the Han river, and the funny quirky things about Koreans that make me laugh while at the same time constantly making me question my own expectations and judgments about human behavior. I'll miss feeling safe and secure despite the fact that I live in a metropolitan area with a population of ~20 million.

I won't miss never knowing what on earth is going on. I won't miss the pushing and shoving. I won't miss the fact that strangers almost never smile or make eye contact (unless I'm with Eggbert, in which case everyone is suddenly Miss Congeniality). I won't miss the noise. The smells. The motorcycles driving on the sidewalks and nearly mowing me down. The raw aggression of the drivers. Feeling invisible yet completely exposed at the same time. Squid.

One thing that I do know is that it's time. I may not know how I feel about leaving, but I am ready to go. There are still a few boxes to pack, people to say goodbye to, and details to sort out (many, many details to sort out, alas), but barring major changes between now and then, when the appointed date comes, and we get on that plane, I may feel a bit wistful, but I won't look back.

Friday, May 15, 2009

New beginnings

Well, it's official. The beta was negative. I told the doctor that I wasn't pregnant before the beta, and once I described the bleeding to my doctor, she started shaking her head and said "I don't think you're pregnant either." Sometimes I hate being right.

My doctor knows that I'm leaving Korea next month, but I asked her whether based on my response this time she thought it would be worth it for me to try again in the USA, and she didn't even hesitate before saying "yes, definitely." She said that while my age is "not good," (you've got to love the directness, I am very fond of my doctor) my response and embryo quality were quite good for someone of my age, and that she definitely thinks there's a good chance of success if we persist.

That is food for thought, but realistically, we can't even think about cycling again for several months. The town that we're moving to is two hours driving from the nearest RE (who, weirdly enough, is also my old pre-Korea RE--he moved too). So, it would be hard to visit the RE without taking at least 1/2 day off, and of course IVF involves many many visits. Given that I'm starting a new job, and really can't be systematically shirking my duties like that in the first few months, I can't even imagine how I could cycle again before the December holidays (I will have two weeks or so off then.) Meanwhile, my ovaries will just be getting older and older.

Sigh. I'm not at all sure that we'll do it. We'll really have to think about our priorities carefully. We already are lucky enough to have an amazing Eggbert, and it might make sense to spend our time, energy, and money on the wonderful child and life that we have, rather than focusing on the child that we don't have.

Mystery is much less sad than I am. He is mainly sad because I'm sad, not so much because of the failed cycle. He is quite content with one child, although he agrees that it would be nice for her to have a sibling. Given that I'm the one that is old, and therefore the reason that we're under such time pressure, it is comforting for me to know that while my body may have failed me, it hasn't failed him. I just wish that I could convince myself that it hasn't failed Eggbert too.

Now would be a very good time to share the reasons that you enjoyed being an only child, or wished that you were an only child, or have decided to have only a single child, or really anything else positive that you might have to say about only children.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Enter the fat lady

I started bleeding heavily today (like a period). I hadn't been planning to do a hpt before Friday (the day of the beta), but given this new development, I thought it was best to start facing facts now. It was negative, of course, a vast expanse of blank white unsullied by even the faintest hint of a line.

I know that things could change between now and Friday, but I am confident that they won't. I just don't feel pregnant at all, and I had no bleeding at all with Eggbert. I think this cycle is over.

Not sure how I feel about it yet. So far, I'm not as upset as I would have imagined. We'll see if that comes later.

Edited to add--it's now even heavier than a normal period. I don't think there is any question anymore.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

There goes my cool again

I was going to write a post today about cosleeping and the safety issues concerning it, but then I lost my ability to focus, so you, dear reader, are going to have to make do with a status report instead. I'll try to get back to our regularly scheduled programming once my brain returns to normal functioning, whenever that happens.

I was doing OK until yesterday. Really I was. Going about my normal business, and only thinking about the contents of my uterus or lack thereof every few minutes. I had in mind that I would find out on Friday, and was doing OK with that. Then yesterday, I woke up with something that was not quite a headache, but also not quite NOT a headache, if that makes any sense. Then I remembered the hideous migraine that signaled the failure of my first IVF cycle. Then I realized that it was 7 days past the 3-day transfer, and that if it's bad news, it could arrive any second now. On my first cycle, I had the telltale migraine on day 8, and the spotting started on day 9. The more I thought about it, the more the evidence seemed to accumulate that the cycle had failed. I had an almost-headache. I didn't FEEL pregnant. I had cramps. Oh wait, the cramps went away when I farted (sorry, tmi), so they were probably intestinal in nature, and therefore don't count. Regardless, not looking good.

Then today I woke up with a clear head, and still no signs of spotting. Back to square one, but rather the worse for emotional wear. Unfortunately, trying to "read the signs" is a genie that doesn't want to go back into the bottle, so about 60% of my mind has spent the whole day analyzing every signal from every nerve ending in my entire, not insubstantial, body, which is exhausting. So far, though, the magic 8-ball continues to say "too soon to tell."

Beta is Friday. I hope I can keep at least the other 40% of my mind engaged in my day-to-day life until then.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Defensive much?

My IVF clinic is a nice, but no-frills operation. The staff are very caring and professional, the facilities are clean, beautifully designed, and state-of-the-art, but wait times are long, privacy is minimal, and at times you feel like you are being herded (I have described it in more detail here). On the whole, I quite like it.

The up side of the absence of frills? This whole cycle cost $2000, including meds. Of course the weak Korean won helped, but the main reasons for the low prices are much lower doctor salaries and the fact that they are able to serve so many more patients in so much less time.

Being less concerned with appearances, the clinic doesn't phone every day with updates on my embryos. There is no "fert report." I just normally get a phone call the day before transfer to tell me when to come in. The first time, my doctor phoned me personally (after I hounded her), and gave me the details over the phone. The second time, a nurse phoned and just told me when to show up. This time, though, I just got an SMS with the transfer time (probably because nobody was brave enough to attempt a phone call with me, given the language difficulties). I didn't even see the doctor until I was already in the stirrups. So, I knew that at least one embryo had fertilized and made it to day 2, but otherwise had no information.

Transfer was yesterday. I was on the table and looked up to the monitor and saw two little blobs. I knew from earlier experience that they would transfer everything that survived, so I figured that was it. My first reaction was disappointment. Out of six, only two made it? Then the perspective on the monitor changed, and I saw two more little blobs. The doctor told me that four had fertilized (two naturally, two with ICSI, but I'm not sure if it was rescue ICSI or if they did ICSI right away--it all happened very quickly.) Within a few more seconds, they had transferred one "good" embryo, one "so-so" embryo, and two "less good" embryos. So, a total of four.

While I didn't technically make the decision to transfer four, and it sounds like a LOT, I'm fine with it. It's within the guidelines of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine for a woman aged 40 (although I suppose that technically I'm in a "more favorable" treatment class, since I have a history of successful IVF), and after all, I've been here before (on my first cycle--they transferred four then too, none of which stuck). Still, in light of recent events, I'm feeling a little defensive. I've noticed that when I tell my friends, I tend to preface the news with a bunch of statistics about the very poor per-embryo implantation rates in 40-year-olds to try to head off quadruplet jokes. It's frustrating to feel like I have to defend myself. I suppose that I could just point out that the doctor made the decision, not me, which is true, but kind of a cop out, since I suspected that she'd transfer four if four survived, and I didn't try to stop it. I don't know what she would have done if five or all six made it, but that didn't seem like a scenario that was even worth thinking about. Similarly, I know that technically I could end up with twins or more, but that doesn't seem like a scenario worth worrying about either, given the overwhelming odds against it.

It frustrates me that on top of the misery of infertility and the misery of IVF, I've now also become completely paranoid about being criticized for every decision that I make. I suppose that's the fate of any infertile that ever reads a newspaper (as Marie-Baguette pointed out in the comments on my last post), watches television, or talks to people, though. Sigh.

Edited to add--An additional factor here is geography. If I had transferred three, what to do with the fourth? Put it in a freezer in Korea? I'm leaving Korea in June. Would I really ever fly back to Korea to transfer a single not-that-great embryo, assuming that it even survived the freeze and thaw? Or should I have just thrown one away? Really? One out of four of my chances to have a child? There really weren't any good solutions. I'm a huge fan of elective single embryo transfer, and if I were five years younger, I absolutely would have chosen it, but at my age, it just doesn't make sense.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The five stages of infertility

First things first: Retrieval was yesterday. I was expecting it to be horrible, but actually everything went fairly smoothly. I was on time (which is kind of a feat, considering that Mystery insists on making his "contribution" at home, which is totally understandable, but adds an unfortunate element of unpredictability to the proceedings), they called me in fairly quickly, and it was much less painful than usual. I was conscious, but the stabbing felt more like sharp prodding, which was a vast improvement. I don't know if the anaesthetic just worked better this time (there was a longer delay between the injection and the procedure, so it's possible that it just had more time to work), or if pregnancy has rearranged my parts, making my ovaries more accessible, but either way, I'll take it. It was also remarkably quick. The yield was six eggs. Not spectacular, but not dreadful either. In my first-ever IVF cycle, they retrieved 9 eggs (negative, nothing to freeze). The second time, only 2 eggs were retrieved (one of which ended up becoming Eggbert). So, I have learned that it's not all about quantity. I'm just hoping that one of those eggs turns out to be "The One." I guess time will tell.

The night before retrieval, I had trouble sleeping. Part of it was straight-up cowardice about the anticipation of pain. For some reason, I can remember the feeling of my first two retrievals in sharp technicolor, whereas the pain of labor (which I know was MUCH worse) is something that I can remember in theory, but I can't actually imagine the feeling itself. I guess that my body somehow instinctively knows that the pain of childbirth is "good" pain, whereas being stabbed is generally something to be avoided, so it sends the signals to the conscious mind accordingly.

The other issue on my mind, the huge possibility that this cycle will not yield a child, was probably the greater problem, though. I found myself endlessly crunching numbers in my brain--"If I get 8 eggs, and half fertilize, and all of those make it to transfer..."--and searching for the magic number that would allow me to relax. Of course that number is one. One more healthy baby, that is, not one egg. After several hours of fruitless effort to put these thoughts out of my mind, I realized what I was doing. I was "bargaining," the third stage of grief. This got me to thinking about infertility and grief in general.

I can clearly see that I have been through all five stages (although not necessarily in that order, and often moving forward and backward between stages) regarding my infertility in general. And I think that I have reached some level acceptance, and that I stay there most of the time. So, it surprised me to find myself at bargaining again. Then I looked back and realized that I have made very recent visits to denial and anger. I guess I'm not as far along in accepting my reality than I had thought.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A date with Mr. Stabby

Today's scan showed 7-8 follicles (it looked like 8 to me, but that may have been just wishful thinking), all close to the same size. I trigger tomorrow, and retrieval is Friday.

Part of my brain remembers clearly that retrievals really hurt (my clinic doesn't give you a general anaesthetic for retrieval, just light sedation). I remember being quite surprised both times about how much being stabbed with a big giant needle really hurt. The other part of my brain, though, is looking forward to it. It's partly curiosity. I want to know how many eggs the old ovaries can produce. I have a bad feeling that there may also be little bits of hope around the edges too, though. I wish there weren't. BFN's are hard enough without coming by surprise.

Friday, April 24, 2009

So far so good

Scan yesterday showed at least seven follicles, all about the same size. And my ovaries also ache, which I'm taking as a good sign that something is going on. Now I just have to hope that it's something good. Next scan is Tuesday.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


I have been in such denial about this IVF cycle that even though I've got a belly full of needle tracks, I hadn't really thought about it much beyond the logistics until today, when I realized that if my ovaries have given up in the last two years, I'll probably find that out tomorrow at the first scan. I remember being incredibly nervous before each scan the first time around, and much less worked up about the scans the second time (it's hard to get worked up about scans with a failed cycle under your belt--I had learned the hard way that there isn't any easy equation that converts x follicles to y babies), but I realized just today that it's all totally different this time, because, well, I'm 40 now. I mean I knew that the odds weren't great, but I hadn't thought through the fact that in one of possible bad scenarios, my ovaries don't respond to the meds at all, and that if that's going on, I'll find out tomorrow.

I guess I'm starting to feel a little invested. I suppose it was inevitable. Sigh.

To distract myself, I thought I'd tell you about our recent trip to the land of Mystery.

In a nutshell, it was a bit of a debacle. We have taken Mystery to her other homeland before, and she had a great time, but during that trip, we stayed at Mystery's brother's houses the whole time, except when we were in hotels (of our choosing). Mystery's brothers live in very nice villages near major urban areas, so we had short drives and relatively easy access to consumer goods and medical care. Not that we needed them. On that trip, the Egg was still breastfeeding almost exclusively, and anything worked as a toy, so she was pretty much all set as long as she had me.

This trip was different. Mystery was aching to take her to his parents' house (she did see her grandparents last year, but they had traveled to his brother's house for the occasion). I was reluctant, both because there is malaria in the area (not much, but more than none), and because it's a much longer drive, which makes a short trip far less pleasant. Oh, and then there's the no electricity thing. It's never been a problem for me, but it does make things a bit more complicated with a toddler.

But off we went. It seemed only fair. Or something like that. Anyway, we went. And within three days, Eggbert had developed a horrible case of diarrhea, had the worst heat rash ever, and had been bitten by some mystery insect that left a welt the width of her entire (not insubstantial) thigh. She had also gone on a hunger strike, accepting only water as sustenance. She wouldn't even drink milk! (Admittedly, this might have been due in part to the fact that only powdered milk or milk in those little UHT boxes was available, and Mysterious milk in boxes tends to have strange flavors added to it, for no reason that I can discern).

That was all just background, though. The real source of stress for me was that Eggbert's grandparents' house is a the exact opposite of childproof. (What on earth would the word for that be? Child-eating?) I spent every moment trying to keep her from running out the door into the busy street, to keep her out of the woodburning stove, to keep her away from the collection of knives and machetes, to keep her from knocking over the flimsy rack on the floor on which all of the (glass) dishes were carefully stacked, and to keep her out of the big jugs of cooking oil, motor oil, and other various and sundry forms of oil that were stored in corners of the house for no good reason that I could discern. There were also human hazards. Neighborhood "aunties" repeatedly came over to meet her, and then tried to take her home for a while, presumably to show her to their friends and families in the comfort of their own home. They were surprisingly hard to dissuade. Mystery once told one of them that Eggbert couldn't go out because she hadn't had her breakfast, and the auntie said "no problem, I can feed her!" By the time Eggbert got her first ever mystery fever (39 degrees C in her armpit, so probably about 39.5 orally), and I realized that the baby ibuprofin had spilled in our luggage and we had only one dose left, and were a three-hour drive from the nearest pharmacy (luckily, the baby tylenol hadn't spilled), I nearly lost my mind.

It was hard, dear reader. It was hard. We all made it home alive, and none the worse for wear, but I definitely have some new frown lines to show for the trip.

I realized after we got back to Korea (once I had stopped kissing the ground) that the reason that I found it so hard related in part to a difference in philosophy about the role of children. In the USA, and in Korea, adults shape their spaces and their habits around their children. We childproof, we clean, we plan our days around naptimes, etc. In the Land of Mystery, children live in the same world as adults. They learn to avoid hazards by experiencing them from very early in life. Nothing is hidden or sugar-coated for kids. They are cherished and adored, but adults don't reorganize their lives around kids. I can see the merits of living like that in theory, but in practice, I couldn't hack it. I am so glad to be "home."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Eggbert has been learning to talk for a while now, but over the last few weeks, the new words have been coming fast and furious. We planned all along to raise her bilingual, so Mystery only (usually) speaks to her in Mysterious, and I only (usually) speak to her in English. We do have linguistic "accidents" from time to time, because some words just sound or feel so much better in one language or the other that it's hard not to slip them into a sentence of the other language, but we are working on it, and get things right at least 95% of the time. The one place where we're not terribly consistent is in our conversations with each other in front of her. We tend not to pay attention, and to either mix languages, change languages in midstream, or each speak in our "own" language in the same conversation (i.e., Mystery asks a question in Mysterious, I answer him in English, he asks a follow-up question in Mysterious, and so on.) We were really curious to see what would happen when the Egg started to talk.

Her first word was the Mysterious equivalent to "uh-oh", and her second, as I have discussed elsewhere, was "boobie." Since that time, it has been about 50/50, although some weeks are more English, and others more Mysterious. One thing that we noticed with interest was that she seemed to only learn each word in one language. So, for example, things are cold in English, but can only be hot in Mysterious. She had never given any sign that she knew which language "belonged" to which parent until yesterday, when for the first time, she added a word in English that she already knew in Mysterious. She has been saying "kiss" in Mysterious for a couple of months now. Last night, though, at bedtime, she was stalling about going to sleep (as is typical). She sat up in bed (we cosleep), crawled over to me, kissed me on the cheek, and said, very clearly "kiss" (in English). When I smiled, she did it again. And again. And again. Thus delaying bedtime by at least ten minutes, and making her mommy very very happy.

Monday, April 20, 2009

So little time

I have so much to blog about, but can't seem to find the time to write a proper post. Therefore, in lieu of such a post, I'm just here to give a quick update so y'all will at least know that I'm still alive.

For the first two weeks in April, we were visiting Mystery's family in the Land Of. It was a long, hard, thought-provoking trip. There's definitely a post about that coming up, so I'll just leave that topic for now. Just mentioning it now, because that's the reason for the long silence (well, other than the whole no-time issue).

Yesterday my period finally arrived, so today I trudged off to the RE, despite the Worst Migraine Ever. Had to wait for three hours because she had a series of emergencies (I could see that was true, since she kept getting called out of her office and running to various parts of the clinic). Luckily, I had already phoned in sick to work, due to the WME, so I just sat there in the clinic with one eye shut and fingers pressed hard into my temples, and tried not to vomit or die. Doc was apologetic and kind, which I appreciated, and has changed my protocol from last time. Even less suppression now (only three days of Suprefact, which is great news to me, since the injections tend to cause an itchy rash), and a dose of stims big enough for an elderly horse. Hopefully if there's any life left in my ovaries, this will cause them to spring to attention. Next scan is on Friday.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The die is cast

After yet another cycle in which I managed to foolishly get my hopes up (or at least not to assume that there was no hope, which is pretty much the same thing these days) that I might just get pregnant without intervention (I know, I know), my period arrived yesterday, a full three days ahead of schedule.

So, today I trundled off dutifully to the RE. I hadn't actually seen her in person since Eggbert was born, and it was surprisingly nice to get the chance to thank her in person for the incredible gift that she helped to give Mystery and me.

After conferring frantically with the calendar, she confirmed what I had suspected--that I will only have time to do one IVF cycle before leaving Korea in June. If my period had arrived three days ago, we could have squeezed in a second, but now it is truly out of the question. So, that's where I stand. One chance. I really don't know yet how I feel about that. On the one hand, Eggbert took two tries, and I was two years younger then, so obviously the odds are not on my side. On the other hand, the odds wouldn't be on my side in two cycles either, or even three. We will have to call it quits sometime, so at least this draws a pretty sharp line in the sand for us. Once we are back in the US, I will have infertility coverage, but with a lifetime maximum of $5000, which means that the out-of-pocket costs would be about $10,000 for one more cycle, and with odds of success of only about 20%, that is not a terribly appealing proposition. I guess we'll see how we feel if/when it comes to that, but right now, it's looking like this will be my last IVF cycle.

I'll start BCP tomorrow for one month, and then the fun will begin.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Baby steps

This isn't a confession that I am proud to make, but before I started trying to get pregnant, there was a part of me that was dreading the first few weeks of my baby's life. I figured that spewing forth a live human being from my loins (or a big old incision, if it turned out that way), and then being subjected to an intense sleep-deprivation experience all while bleeding from my chewed-on nipples and having a hormone-storm the size of Katrina raging in my body would be fairly unpleasant. It seemed that this was just something that I'd have to endure to get to the good part, which would come later.

As my pregnancy progressed, and it eventually became clear that an actual baby was likely, I realized that I was already not sleeping, and somehow had remained alive, so I thought that if I survived the whole huge head meets small vagina event, all that I really had to fear was post-partum depression. After the great long depression that was infertility, I expected that PPD would happen, and thought that the only real question was how bad it would be.

Boy was I wrong. Birthing was indeed as painful as I had imagined, and it's true that I didn't sleep for more than three hours in a row for the next ten months or so, but Eggbert's first days were absolutely glorious for me. I remember in the days, weeks, and months after her birth wondering if there was such a thing as hormone-induced post-partum Euphoria, and praying that if that's what I had, I would never be cured.

A lot of things were hard in her first year, but they were a good kind of hard. The kind of hard that made me feel strong and empowered and even perhaps a bit proud. She was a needy little things, but as it turned out, her wish was not only my command, but also my wish. There was nothing that made me happier than meeting her needs. And her needs were fairly simple--food, warmth, comfort, and about a gajillion diaper changes/day. Not necessarily easy, but at least straightforward.

As she's grown older, I have struggled a lot more with the whole meeting her needs thing, because sometimes it is very unclear what she actually needs. Despite her fairly limited vocabulary, she is fantastic at communicating her wants, but since her wants include things like chewing on her shoes, jumping on the bed, playing in traffic, and eating only corn and animal crackers, I have found her guidance to be increasingly unhelpful in allowing me to identify her actual needs.

Up until recently, I had never questioned my belief that we are lucky that Mystery is a stay-at-home dad. I love it that they have this time together, that they have such a special relationship, and that I can go to work knowing that my child is being taken care of someone who loves her more than anything else in the world. I know that not everybody has the option of having a stay-at-home parent, and I do think that we're lucky. However, lately when I watch my own little Egg and compare what I see other people's children doing, I kind of wonder what she is missing out on by not being in day care. In my most insecure moments, I wonder if somehow we're cheating her out of the chance to learn from child care professionals, rather than just her goofy parents, and even if we're somehow causing her lasting harm.

The thing is, while Mystery and I are both patient, involved, and interested parents, we both find it very hard to teach little Miss Egghead anything. She has always marched to the beat of her own drummer, and while her development is on average right on track, it's always been wildly uneven--she was walking very early, but at almost 16 months she still has no interest in using a spoon or fork, and I gave up in despair at patty-cake months ago after she left me hanging one too many times. She is curious about the world, but seems absolutely determined to do things her own way. I am 99% proud of this, but there is 1% of me that worries when I see other mommies and babies playing out scenes right from parenting books, and realize that not only has Eggo not read the book, but she likes to rip the pages out and eat them. She has been talking for about three months now, but to this day, she only says what she wants when she wants to, and no amount of questioning will elicit words on cue (although bribery does work if animal crackers are involved). She won't follow instructions to make animal sounds, or point to things, or really to do anything at all that she didn't already mean to do (although we have made some headway in stopping her from doing things that we don't want her to do). I see other moms and toddlers walking along in public, hand in hand, or even just side by side, while the very thought of unleashing a free Eggbert on the public makes me shake and sweat. When we take her to the park, the only place that she's allowed to walk outside, given her tendency to bolt, she starts sprinting the second that her feet hit the dirt. Nothing that we can do, short of picking her up and turning her around, has any effect on her trajectory. We can scream and shout, or sing and dance, or offer her all of the tea in China if she will just for the love of God STOP RUNNING TOWARD THE CLIFF/PIT/RABID DOG! but she will ignore us completely and do her own thing. I end up running along behind her holding onto the back of her jacket just to keep her from running off of the edge of the world.

Lately, I've noticed that my apparent inability to lead, guide, or discipline the Egg effectively has been getting me down. It's not her behavior that bothering me, but rather my concern that her behavior means that I'm doing something wrong. I can't really put my finger on it, but she's just so different from other people's kids that even though I am for the most part delighted by the differences that make her her own unique and special person, they also make me worry.

Last Sunday we had kind of a bad morning. I had spent days searching through all of the wrong stores to find some crayons so she could start to learn to draw. Finally I found them, and we had the big "reveal" on Sunday. I let her hold all of the different colors, showed her how to use them, scribbled a little myself, just to show her that it was fun, and then she poked the crayon into the paper three times, looked disconcerted, sat there for a minute doing nothing, and then bit the end off of the crayon. After which she picked up the paper and started shredding it while I fished waxy bits out of her mouth. Not quite the tableau that I had envisioned. Then I tried to do a puzzle with her and she just wanted to throw the pieces, and I tried reading a book and she walked away, and I put on some music so we could dance and she wanted no part of that either, yet when I decided to let her play alone, she got upset about that too, and spent the rest of the morning whining. Nothing was wrong, but we were just obviously not on the same wavelength. That had never happened before, and it really took me by surprise. For the first time, my recent worry about her made the leap from the category of "things that I occasionally think about idly in moments when my brain is otherwise unoccupied" to "the sick feeling that something might be really really wrong." I started thinking things like ADD and autism and attachment disorders and leprosy and things that go bump in the night. You know, the usual suspects.

That afternoon, I popped the Egg in the baby carrier and took her to the park, even though it was kind of cold. As usual, when I put her down she was off like a shot. She ran straight to the muddy ditch, then to the rusty grate that looked like it had been infused with some kind of special military-grade vaccination-cracking tetanus spores, then to the big pile of cigarette butts. Every time I redirected her by physically picking her up and moving her to another region, she found something more dangerous and filthier to race for. I kept trying to interest her in pinecones, trees, birds and other pretty and nice things that she could look at, while she kept her head down and her legs spinning as she searched for some kind of dirt-encrusted toddler holy grail. Within a few minutes, she looked rather a lot like Pigpen. Eventually, we made our way over to an area with a lot of trees, each surrounded by its own individual mound of dirt about 1 meter high. Upon spotting the mounds, she immediately stopped her aimless running and spent the next several minutes walking straight up to a mound, falling down when the grade got too steep or the ground too loose, getting up, marching right back up the hill, falling down, getting up, falling down, getting up, etc. At first I tried to stop her, but then I realized that the ground was soft, she was well-padded in a winter coat and hat, and she was having a good time, so I just let her be. After many failed attempts on a big mound, she looked around, chose a smaller mound, and started working on that one. Within 10 minutes she was running up and down the small mound, after which she moved back to the big mound. A few minutes later, she was standing at the top beaming. Then she came down, ran right over to me, and hugged me. I picked her up and started talking about something-or-other, and she somehow picked out the word "tree," (which she hadn't used before) and started saying "twee?" "dwee?" I pointed at a tree, and said "tree", and she then pointed to every tree on the landscape, saying "dwee! dwee!" Then just to make sure I got the point, she wiggled until I put her down, ran over to a tree, patted the trunk, and said "dwee!" Then I showed her a pinecone, and she held and patted it and carried it around for several minutes before giving it back to me, I assume for safekeeping.

The whole way home, she beamed out at all of the passers-by, and the second that someone so much as looked at her, she started waving cheerily at them. Our walk home was punctuated by a trail of "awwwww's."

I think my little girl is going to do just fine, as long as her mama can just relax and let her be herself. I'm working on it.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The best-laid plans

My RE doesn't take appointments (except for retrievals and transfers), she just has office hours, and the patients show up and are seen in the order of arrival. It may sound inefficient, but in fact, the waits to see her aren't any worse than they were to see my last RE in the US, even though she sees about 10 times as many patients. My RE usually likes to see patients on CD2 at the start of a cycle, so I thought I'd go on CD2 this time, in anticipation of starting an IVF cycle in March, so she could do any tests that she might want to run in the mean time (like bloodwork or whatever). However, my body had other plans.

About two weeks ago, I started a new self-improvement plan. Since the Egg was born, I haven't been getting nearly as much exercise as I should. I do walk a lot (about 25 minutes each way to work every day, up a huge hill, plus recreational walks with the Egg whenever I get the chance), so I'm not a total couch potato, but I really wanted to start doing something that raises my heart rate a bit more. So, I decided to start running. Truth be told, I hate running. However, it has two features that make it very appealing at the moment: it's free, and it's outdoors. Living in a huge, densely-packed city, the last thing that I want to do is to spend more time in stuffy buildings, so joining a gym doesn't particularly appeal, and I kind of hate the idea of paying to exercise. So, I found a gentle running program on the internet that guaranteed it would get me comfortably running a decent distance in 8-9 weeks without doing me any damage along the way. Sounded good, so off I went. The first two runs went well. A local university campus near my home has some nice paths for running, so it was actually quite pleasant, and astonishingly easy, given that I hadn't run in almost two years. So, for the third run, I decided to add some interest by adding some hillier paths (while still sticking to the recommended distances and times). By that night (when I posted last), my knees were throbbing, and by the next morning, I could barely walk. I did manage to hobble to work that day, and by evening, both knees and one ankle were hot, swollen, and very, very sore. Luckily, I had some work I could do at home, so I stayed home the next day. Then it was the weekend. After a couple of days off, I tried walking to work again on Monday. HUGE mistake. I ended up having to take the next day "off" also and work at home. I tried taking a taxi on Wednesday, but couldn't get a taxi home due to the odd location of my office, so I once again had to limp home. Thursday was the day that I should have gone to the RE. However, going to the RE would have required, at the very least, walking from my apartment to a cab, and from a cab to the doctor's office, which was about 100% further than was possible, given my condition. I finally took my knees to the doctor the next day (tendonitis: rest, ice, and ibuprofin, which was what I had been doing all along), but still haven't made it to the RE.

As a result of this incident, I have learned two things: First, running on hills is really bad for your joints. Don't do it. Second, icing your knees right after you hurt yourself really does make a difference. How can I tell that it was the ice that helped? Easy! I did a home science experiment and only iced one knee. They both hurt the same amount, but I iced the right and not the left, and now look! The right is tons better, but I can still barely walk on the left.

When I realized that my experiment had successfully answered my research question, I was filled with the righteous glow of scientific discovery. It lasted about five seconds. Then I realized that if only I had just iced both knees right away like Dr. Google said, I wouldn't be in pain anymore. Doh!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Infertile days

As an infertile mom, mostly I feel like an ordinary mom. My life is too busy and full with Eggbert, Mystery, work, and, well, life, to think too much about my own infertility. But there are days when it all does come crashing back.

Today was one of those days. I was already having a frustrating day, because I have somehow managed to injure both of my knees, making me hobble around in a piteous manner, and forcing me to work from home (since work is at the other end of a big steep hill that I just can't navigate in my current condition), and then my computer decided that it was time that I be taught a lesson, so I spent the whole day trying (unsuccessfully) to accomplish one fairly simple task. Then my period arrived.

It shouldn't have been a big deal. Eggbert is only 15 months old. My arms and heart are full. But it was a big deal. I admit it, I cried.

Before my next period arrives, I will turn 40. In just a few months after that, we will leave Korea, the land of cheap IVF, forever. Clearly, if I am serious about wanting another child, then it's time to start gearing up for an IVF cycle ASAP.

I don't want to do IVF. I don't want the needles, the expense, the mood swings, the risk of crushing failure. I don't want any of it.

But I do want another child. Just one more.

Once again, I am angry to be in this situation. I know that I'm one of the lucky ones. And when I look at Eggbert, I do feel incredibly fortunate, but it still does kind of grate on me that 85% of couples can just plan their family and have their kids, without ever having to face these kinds of days.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Becoming a Repatriate

Knowing that I'm leaving has changed my relationship with Korea. Things about Seoul that I found annoying before now provoke only amused sighs. Things that I always liked shine a bit brighter. My friends here seem smarter, kinder, and more interesting. OK, not really the last one. They were always pretty interesting, actually. But you know what I mean. Once we stopped trying Korea on for size, both Mystery and I have both been able to relax and admit that it's not perfect, but it's an interesting place, and we've had a nice life here.

While moving to another continent is a pretty daunting endeavor, we've done it together twice already, and I had already done it a few times before I met Mystery, so we pretty much know the drill. Luckily, we didn't bring too many possessions to Korea when we came, and haven't acquired much here (other than tons of baby stuff, most of which we'll just give away). We're also not moving until June, so we have plenty of time to figure out the details. So, while our lives will be upheaved for a while, I'm not particularly stressed about it. And just to make things even better, we have already managed to arrange the rental of a gorgeous house for our first six months back in the US from a family that will be overseas themselves. So, we don't have to look for housing right away, and can look around a bit and see what neighborhood we'd like to live in and what kind of a home we want.

So, on a logistical level, everything seems to be going well. The one thing about this move that has me a little disconcerted is my own emotional reaction to moving back to my own country. I'm mostly feeling good about it, from a practical perspective, but I am feeling a bit wistful. I'm not sure how I feel about not being an expat anymore.

Many years ago, in a former life, I had a friend who went to Japan after graduating from college to teach English. After a couple of years in Japan, she returned to the US. I asked her how it was going, and she said that she was having an identity crisis. When she had been living in Japan, and people in the US asked what she was doing (meaning what was her job), she responded that she was living in Japan, teaching English. The living in Japan part came first. The teaching English was an afterthought. Living in Japan was, for her, the daily accomplishment from which she derived her sense of accomplishment and self-worth. Once back in the US, she went back to being one of millions of relatively new college graduates without much in the way of marketable job skills. She eventually found her way, but for a while there, she felt really lost.

I'm in a different situation, obviously. I am established in my career (which does not involve teaching English), have a husband and child, and have made quite a number of trips around the sun already, so I have a fairly secure sense of who I am. Moving back to the US won't, for me, result in a psychological demotion in the workplace, and I'm moving back with a job in hand. However, I admit that I am feeling a little strange about giving up the perceived glamor (for lack of a better word) of living "overseas". Of course, living in Korea isn't actually any more glamorous than living anywhere else (although the man-purses that I see in huge numbers every time I go out in public do make a compelling argument that Seoul is more self-consciously fashionable than most places). My life here is fairly ordinary on the surface. I go to work. Come home, have dinner. Sometimes get together with friends, etc. But, there is an automatic special something about living in a country that isn't your place of origin, at least for me. The fact that the sights that I see, the sounds that I hear, the smells in the air, and the tastes of the food are different from those that I think of as "ordinary" puts an extra little sparkle on my day on most days. After over two years, I am used to living here, and some of that sparkle has faded into the clear light of day, but there are still moments every day when I take a deep breath and just appreciate the incredible luck that I've had that allowed me the experience of living here.

And soon it will be over. There will be new joys, new sparkles, and new adventures. I'll be able to put down some tentative new roots without any immediate expectation of pulling them up again down the road. I'll be closer to my family, most of my friends, places that sell the foods that I have been missing for so long. These things are huge, and I'm excited about them. But I don't know when, or if, I'll get the chance to live "overseas" again, which makes me a little sad. And I wonder if, when I get back to the US, having seen what I've seen, learned what I've learned, lived where I've lived, I'll fit in.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Year of the Ox

This weekend a four-day holiday starts, celebrating the end of the Year of the Rat and the beginning of the Year of the Ox. The stores are now stocked with beautifully packaged gift baskets, as gift-giving is a part of the tradition. Lovely boxes containing carefully-chosen, individually packaged fruits can sell for exorbitant prices, as can other foodstuffs, like fragrant oils, honeys, and such. A few days ago, though, I saw a gift box that absolutely blew my mind. In a nice yellow box, swaddled in tissue, lay four parallel rows of shiny, clean, cans of...

wait for it...

Spam. Yes. Good old-fashioned spam. Apparently nothing says Happy New Year like processed pig parts.

Happy Lunar New Year!

(P.S. I took the job. It's now official. USA here we come.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I'm still here. Just having trouble organizing my thoughts. The last couple of months have been pretty intense in a lot of ways. Not bad, just intense.

The big gap in blog posts was originally precipitated by a trip to the US. We were there for almost a month, visiting friends and taking care of some life details. The trip was non-optional for us if Mystery wanted to keep his green card, since staying outside of the USA for too long will get it canceled, and his re-entry permit (basically a permit to stay out for two years) expired, so he needed to get himself firmly planted back on US soil before the expiration date. It was a pretty welcome trip for other reasons as well, though. I have a new nephew that I hadn't met, several of my dearest friends had new kids too, and of course I'm pretty fond of lots of adults in the US too (and previously existing kids), so it was fantastic to get to meet the new people, and reconnect with the "old" ones.

Eggbert had a fantastic time, other than the jet lag which she decidedly did NOT enjoy. (I didn't enjoy getting up for the day with her at 3 am for what seemed like weeks either, but I guess that's the price you pay for switching sides of the Pacific.) It turns out that she loves other kids, even if she doesn't quite know how to play with them yet. It was quite sweet to watch. And of course, the time that we spent with my parents spoiled her rotten--she LOVED having a staff of four, rather than just the usual two. I think that returning to Korea was a bit disappointing for her.

Arguably the most eventful event of the trip was a job interview for me. As I posted some time ago, Mystery and I have come to the conclusion that it just doesn't make sense for us to continue to plant roots in Korea, so we've been working on an exit strategy. Well, that strategy now seems close to fruition. Nothing is finalized yet, but it looks like we'll be moving back to the US in about six months.

I'm really happy and relieved that in this economy, I have managed to find a decent position, but I'm also having some anxiety about leaving Korea. I never quite felt at home here, whatever that means, but it has grown on me, and I know I'll miss it. In the mean time, my mind is neither here nor there. I think it'll be easier to cope once the final decision is made, and it's all official.