Thursday, December 15, 2011

Spot the error(s)--a geography lesson

At the pediatrician today, I had to fill out a form about Eggbert. All was fairly routine until I ran into the following question:

"Race/ethnicity. Check ONE box [emphasis in original]:

White/caucasian___ African-American___ Native American___ Hispanic___ Other____"

Now color me sensitive (what, me?), but I think that asking a child to choose to acknowledge only one side of their ethnic heritage is wrong wrong wrong. It's like saying who do you love more, mommy or daddy?

Also, I have to wonder if they teach you about the existence of this place in doctor school. I heard it's kind of big and a lot of people live there, and the last time I checked, it wasn't called "Other."


Eggbert had her 4-year checkup today, and officially measured in at 37 inches! Take that you heightist bastards at I*kea!

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Some part of me always knew this was going to happen one day, but I thought we had a few more years.

Eggbert do I put this kindly...freakishly small for her age. She was under the 3rd percentile for height (well, length, I guess, in a newborn) when she was born, and around the 10th for weight, and she has stayed pretty close to those numbers throughout her life so far, floating between the 3rd and 10th percentiles for height (but mostly sticking closely to the 3rd). Good things come in small packages, right? At age 4, she is just barely over 36 inches (91.5 cm) and 30 pounds (13.6 kg). So, if she were only 3, she'd still be on the small side (the 41-42nd percentile for height and weight), but for a 4-year-old she is tiny. She doesn't seem to have noticed yet that her classmates at preschool tower over her, but I have certainly noticed the other parents and even the teachers sometimes grouping her in with the 3-year-olds, or even the 2-year-olds, when they are talking about ages. The "up" side is that this makes her seem wildly precocious--people often tell me how well she speaks, for example, as if being able to communicate effectively at age 4 is an unusual accomplishment, but the down side is that she is often babied and not challenged to act her age.

Anyway, a few days ago, we went to I*kea. We live in the middle of nowhere, so this is an epic journey for us--over 2 hours each way--but necessary in light of a recent move and the subsequent discovery of how little furniture we actually owned. So off we went. And I'll tell the truth. I was excited. It's not that I*kea is my design ideal, but I just find the bright colors and do-it-yourself attitude enchanting, and the prices are affordable enough that I don't agonize over purchases there like I do over most things. Our plan was to arrive there around lunchtime, have lunch in their cafe (one of rare venues that has something that each of the 3 of us really likes), then take Eggbert to the playroom while Mystery and I shopped.

At first things went off without a hitch. The drive was good. Eggbert was cheery, Mystery and I were happy, and we made good time. Lunch was reasonably enjoyable, and we trotted off to the playroom with eager anticipation (Eggbert), and only mild misgivings (me). There was a queue, so we waited our turn. We watched the staff check in child after child, and then it was Eggbert's turn. We got to the front. The staff member frowned.

"They have to be potty trained!" she said. "

Of course she's potty trained!" I said.

"They can't be wearing a pullup!" she insisted.

"She's not!" I said, beginning to feel annoyed.

"She's too small!"

I took her up to the "children below this height cannot enter" sign and showed the staff member that Eggbert was right at the line.

"Take off her shoes!" she crowed.

We did. She was about 1/4 inch below the line. The woman said "see! we can't take her."

I whined "but she's four!" The woman just shook her head.

A lively conversation ensued among the parents behind us. "She's four? There is no way that child is four! Is she really four? How could she be four?"

We skulked off. Eggbert was crushed about not being able to go to the playroom, although she didn't really understand the reason. I was furious at myself for putting her through that, but also furious at the staff for being so unbending. On one level I get it, they don't want kids of too many different sizes playing together because someone might get hurt, but the upper limit was based on age, not height, so apparently they will let in 6-footers that are 7, but not 3-footers who are 4, so it's not just a size disparity issue. Ultimately, I'm sure they have their reasons, but that knowledge doesn't actually make me feel any better about the fact that my child was excluded based on a physical feature that she has no control over.

Sigh. It probably won't be the last time.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The end of the world as I know it

OK, fess up! Who taught Eggbert to read? I have a bone to pick with that person. How on earth am I supposed to be able to talk right in front of her about topics like "i-c-e-c-r-e-a-m" or "the p-a-r-k" or "s-e-x" without her understanding me if she can spell?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A curve ball

I went to the RE on Sunday (yes Sunday! My RE works on Sundays, or rather, my RE's staff and colleagues work on Sunday), and they ran some tests, including FSH, estradiol, AMH, and an ultrasound with antral follicle count. Since I had to drive 2.5 hours each way for my date with the cooter-cam, I was just pulling into my driveway when the nurse called with the results. She said that the tests of ovarian reserve were all really good, and that the doctor thinks that all options should remain on the table, including cycling again with my own eggs, or even trying injectibles with IUI. I was not expecting this. At 42, I have already grieved the possibility of a genetic connection with my second child, and moved on to being pretty enthusiastic about donor eggs. I don't really know why I agreed to having tests of ovarian reserve at all, given that we were planning on DE. I guess that either my RE is very persuasive (true) or that I was assuming that the results would be bad, thus confirming that DE is the best (and only) option for us (also true). So, I really don't know what to do with this. I do NOT want to do another failed cycle. I am tired of BFN's and want something to work. We can't afford to continue to throw money away on failed treatments, and we don't want too big of a gap between our kids. All of this points to using DE. But... it isn't just about what I want. The one thing that continues to worry me about using DE is that I don't know how any child that may be created will feel about being donor-conceived, especially given that Eggbert is my genetic offspring. Will #2 FEEL like #2? Having the option of putting the donor out of the picture and still maybe possibly perhaps having another child dangled in front of me has really thrown me and I just don't know what to do. Meanwhile, Mystery has come down with a terrible case of Whinging Cough, and has officially declared himself unable to even converse about any topic of seriousness until he feels better or expires, whichever comes first. So, I am counting on you, dear internets, to help me process this. Any thoughts? All advice, sage and otherwise, is welcome.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Still here

I don't know why I haven't posted an update in a while. It wasn't that I didn't have anything to say. In person, I very rarely don't have something to say. I've just lacked inspiration I guess. Or time. I don't know where all 24 hours of each day go, but they sure do go there quickly, wherever it is!

Anyway, all is well with me, Mystery, and Eggbert. We've been busier with usual with activities (dance class! swim class!) and we are in the process of buying a house, which is surprisingly (to first-time homebuyers) time-consuming, but all of it is going well, so no complaints there.

The event that inspired me to post was our return to the RE after a one-year-plus break. We had to drive a few hours for the consultation, which was kind of annoying, but it gave us a chance to go shopping for our house in the "big city" at the same time, which was kind of nice. The RE visit itself was anticlimactic. I told him right off the bat that we were interested in being evaluated as candidates for donor eggs, which I had thought would mean a whole slew of testing, but as it turned out, the only tests that he has ordered so far are tests of my ovarian reserve. Yes, you read that right, MY ovarian reserve. At age 42. He seems to think that I am giving up on my own eggs too easily. This is so not what I expected that I don't know how to process it. Isn't the donor egg speech pretty much standard for infertility patients over 40? Honestly, it's kind of hard for me to imagine paying for another IVF cycle with my own eggs, given the age-specific low odds of success, but unfortunately, Mystery picked up on the doctor's optimism, so if the test results are good, we are going to have to at least discuss the option of trying again with my eggs. How weird is it that I find the thought depressing, rather than inspiring?

The big disappointment of the visit was that as it turns out, my clinic only has a completely anonymous DE program. No photos, no potential for identifying information to be made available to the child at age 18. Nothing. That takes away just about any incentive to cycle there, since the cost would be about twice that of cycling in any of our other target countries. I had been thinking that I was willing to pay substantially more to both cycle closer to home and to have the option of identity release, but without the identity release option, I really don't see any reason to pay twice as much for what is essentially the same service. Of course if I could find my own donor, open donation would be possible, but I really have no idea how to go about finding a donor. So, I think we're now on the path of an overseas DE cycle unless the testing reveals any surprises (and probably even then).

In other news, Eggbert is 3.9 going on 16 these days. She is suddenly competent at a broad variety of tasks that were way beyond her abilities just a few weeks ago (Putting on the seat belt in her car seat! Going to the fridge and making her own snacks! Balancing the checkbook! Well, OK, not that last one, but she can now count to 100 in both English and Mysterious, and occasionally gets simple math problems right, so I think I will be able to put her to work as my accountant soon.) She continues to delight me in a million different ways. I am very lucky.

Friday, May 13, 2011

On a positive note

One of the best things about not (yet) having a second child is that with Eggbert pretty mobile and easygoing, travel is fairly easy and enjoyable. We're about to take off for a trip to Central America, and I can't wait. I'm so excited to show Eggbert a new place and to spend some time in the tropics again. Life is good, despite my reproductive woes.

Speaking of that...

We have tentatively decided to travel overseas to try a DE cycle sometime next spring. I'd like to do it domestically for many reasons, but the pricetag is just outrageous, and I can't really justify spending Eggbert's college fund on only a 60% chance of a sibling. More on that when we get back from our holiday. Until then, have a lovely spring!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Being Eggbert's mom

Before Eggbert was born, Mystery and I played the game that many parents play--talking about whose nose we hoped she'd get, whose eyes, whose hair, etc. I wanted her to look exactly like him; he wanted her to look more like me. As is not uncommon when we disagree, I won. When Eggbert was first born, she looked nothing like me. NOTHING! The nurses at the hospital all commented on it. My family commented on it. Strangers on the street asked me not if I had adopted her but where or how. I didn't mind. She looked exactly like a teeny weeny light-skinned version of Mystery, and I love the way that Mystery looks, so I thought that she was perfect. However, as the days went on, I started to wonder. Was it possible that the embryologist had switched the eggs? I couldn't stop thinking about it. Worrying about it.

The part that worried me wasn't that my eggs might have gone elsewhere. I was worried that they ("they" in this case being the clinic) would figure out that Eggbert hadn't come from my egg (perhaps when some Korean couple delivered a half-white baby) and try to take her away. I spent some time going over this scenario in my mind until I had formulated what struck me as a sensible plan: at the first sign of trouble, take the baby and flee the country.

Clearly, I was delirious with sleeplessness, which fortunately kept me from having the energy to get too worked up about any of this. I did eventually realize that the Egg looked no more like the average Korean woman than she looked like me. I now think that it's noteworthy, though, that my concern wasn't the loss of a genetic connection with Eggbert, or the loss of a hypothetical child from my own genetic material--it was the loss of Eggbert herself, the baby that I gestated, loved, and delivered. This is one of the reasons that I think that DE might be a reasonable choice for me.

As Eggbert has grown, some hint of a resemblance to me has started to develop. She now has a hair color close to mine (her black baby hair fell out and it grew back in a medium brown), her lips are quite a bit like mine, and her Mystery-like features are now arranged on a face that is shaped more like mine. She still looks a lot more like Mystery, but now she doesn't actively NOT look like me anymore. Nobody has asked where I adopted her in over a year. I think that parents that use donor gametes sometimes wonder how they'll feel about having a child that doesn't look like them. Having experienced that, I can say that it felt fine, and in fact, perfectly delightful. The surprise for me as she has started resembling me more is that while it hasn't changed my feelings toward or about her in the slightest, it has changed the way that I look at myself.

You see, my daughter is beautiful. I know, I know. Every mother thinks that their child is beautiful, and I love that. Nature does wonderful things to our brains when children come into our lives that causes us to see them through the rosiest of rose-colored glasses. I'm not saying that my child is more beautiful than anybody else's (in fact, when Eggbert was born, I've noticed that all of the kids in the world immediately became better-looking), but the Egg happens to be my exact cup of tea. And now I look a little bit like her. Therefore, logic dictates that if I look a little bit her and if she is beautiful then I must also be a little bit beautiful. I have always been critical of my appearance despite the knowledge that I actually look perfectly fine, tending to focus on e.g., the slight bump on my nose rather than the unusual and interesting color of my eyes. Now, though, sometimes when I see a feature or expression that I love on my daughter on my own face, it makes me feel a wave of something--sympathy? warmth? compassion? fondness?--for myself that wasn't there before. Put simply, she has made me like myself better.

I have a lot of moles on my arms and legs. I've never liked them (what's to like?), but what can I do? I had come to a place where they only annoyed me when my doctor told me that he wanted to biopsy yet another one to make sure that they hadn't turned cancerous (so far I've had six biopsies--all negative, luckily), but would still have chosen not to have them if that was an option. However, Eggbert likes my moles. There is one on my wrist that I had never given any attention. Its color is only a few shades darker than the rest of my skin, and it's not very big. It is, however, raised just a little bit, which apparently makes it delightful to the three-year-old touch. For the past several months, Eggbert has taken to rubbing my "spot" whenever she can. When I'm in the passenger seat of the car, she asks me to reach back toward her car seat so she can "touch my spot." When she's upset, she calms down immediately when she touches my "spot." If she's in my lap, she will absentmindedly rub my mole. And just like that, I've come to love that thing. It's a small sign of my own uniqueness; a quirk that my daughter uses to sense my presence and feel comforted. I think that's one of the great gifts that children can give to us. Not only the ability to see the world, just for a moment, through a child's eyes, but also to project the tenderness that we feel for them further, until it envelopes other children, other adults, and finally, even ourselves.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Other family history stuff

In response to my previous post about genealogy, Lut very sensibly pointed out that there's a lot more to the connection to one's genetic progenitors than genealogy. Well, yeah. Good point. I think that when I started the post, I meant to get to that, but I never quite made it there. (Of course it's also possible that I wasn't thinking clearly--I can't actually remember what I was thinking, so this actually seems more likely.) Wanting to know whether you're more closely related to Charlemagne or Genghis Khan (for the record, my money is usually on Genghis) is hardly the most serious issue that a donor-conceived child is likely to face when trying to figure out what their conception means for their identity.

I imagine that many donor-conceived people are much more interested in knowing where they got their eyes/hair/funny big toe/love for anchovies/odd sense of humor, if they have other half-siblings that they don't know about, and if there are any dark medical secrets hidden in the missing half (or halves) of their family tree. Not having this information might be painful, but then again, many people who aren't donor-conceived also don't know these things.

Half-siblings? Any of us could have them. Many closed adoptions probably involve family secrets, so children born in the birth families later may have no idea that they have half-siblings, and of course there's always the fact that none of us know for an absolute fact that our genetic father never sowed any wild oats elsewhere. Obviously the odds of having unknown half-siblings are higher for adopted or donor-conceived people, but they aren't zero for any of us.

As for family medical histories, I think that they sound great on paper, and they have their real advantages, but can be overrated in real life. For example, I admit that it's nice to know that my parents have had three cancers between them-- no, scratch that, it's horrible to know that my parents have had three cancers between them, but given that they have, it's nice to know what they were so I can be on alert. However, there have been all kinds of things that they didn't tell me. I have no idea what two out of four of my grandparents died of, for example, although both died of disease, one of which was long-term and degenerative. So whenever I check that there is no family history of disease X, all that I really mean is that I don't know of anything, not that there's nothing there. When at age 37 I told my mother that I had been diagnosed with endometriosis, one of the first things that came out of her mouth was that her doctors had always thought that she had endometriosis as well. Uh, mom, don't you think that it would have been more helpful to share that information with me before I was approaching the END of my fertile years? It might have changed everything to know about the endo before I was well over 2 years into trying to get pregnant, but she never bothered to mention it. In this case, having false info (the belief that I did NOT have a family history of endometriosis) was undoubtedly worse than simply having no information, since endo is highly heritable, so I thought I probably didn't have it. In fact, knowing that my fertility was under direct threat might have changed any number of decisions from my early 20's on. So, that whole family medical history thing? Not so helpful to date. Obviously my results may not be typical, but based on how non-attentive (translation-non-obsessive) most people seem to be about medical issues, I think that they probably are. So, people without family medical information might imagine that they're missing more than they really are. The reminder of one's origins every time one goes to the doctor's office might actually be the main problem here. Don't misunderstand. I'm not saying that donor-conceived people and adopted people don't have a right to feel upset about not having this info if that's how they feel, I'm just saying that if they are upset, they might be overestimating the actual value of that information for most people that have it (or think they do).

I wonder if the issue of resemblance is really at the heart of people's discomfort with donor-conception. Given how much people enjoy talking about family resemblances, there is obviously something really human about wanting to know where your features came from. This is what I worry about most if we use donor eggs. Eggbert looks almost exactly like Mystery, so I can always hope that we'll get lucky that way again. Given the way that genes tend to shake out in biracial children, I'm cautiously optimistic that regardless of who the child actually resembles, strangers will just look and see "white parent--check!; Mysterious parent--check!" and conclude that the child does actually look like me, even if he or she doesn't. I've noticed that in the USA, people seem to always think that biracial kids more closely resemble the darker-skinned parent. Books could be written about THAT and what it means about the state of race in America, but regardless, that might create enough cover for the child to not have to talk about his or her origins unless he or she actually wanted to. Friends and family members will know the truth, so hopefully they will resist the urge to indulge in much in the way of resemblance talk.

I think that by all of this, I'm really trying to wrestle with a) whether I really think it's OK to deliberately conceive a child who won't have much of a relationship with the source of half of his or her DNA (I do, but just need to reaffirm it to myself from time to time), and more importantly b) how far am I willing to go, and at what cost, to protect the child's right to information to the extent possible. Ideally, I think a known donor (a friend, family member, or compassionate acquaintance) would be best for the child. However, all of my close friends and cousins that I am close with are at least 35, and therefore not good candidates to donate, my sister is older than me (yet she has a one-year-old--is that fair?), and I live in a small town where looking around for a donor would not be easy, and would jeopardize the child's (and our family's) right to privacy. The closest RE is a few hours away in a bigger city, so we could look there if we knew how, but at this moment, I don't (any tips about how I might do that would be VERY much appreciated). When I look at RE info, it seems that most of the donors they recruit are anonymous, which doesn't really help. We had originally thought about going overseas for DE-IVF, since the costs are substantially lower, but it seems that most such programs insist on anonymity.

Sigh. It's all so complicated.

Friday, March 18, 2011

An unbroken chain

Many years ago, while I was still in graduate school, pre-Eggbert, pre-Mystery, a friend of mine asked another if he was planning to have children. His response was "my ancestors for the last 4 billion years have all had children--no way I'm going to be the one to break the chain!" That statement stuck with me, long after that friend got married (to a close friend of mine who had claimed she didn't want to have children), had his two kids (an "oops," and then a second conceived on the first month trying), and drifted out of my life, as happens sometimes.

I have another family friend who is obsessed with genealogy. He's a good guy, but I cannot for the life of me understand why he thinks that non-relatives might be interested in hearing how he found his great-aunt's uncle's father's half-cousin's niece twice removed lives in Odessa, but he does, oh he does!

I myself am interested in lots of different kinds of people and places, and generally am more interested in stories that touch, move, shock, terrify, or otherwise impress me than I am in mundane stories about about family members that I don't know. It has never occurred to me to find out the names of my paternal grandmother or grandfather's siblings, and I've never been particularly interested in genealogy. It seems to me that by the time you get past grandparents, you aren't much more closely genetically related to your relatives than you are to randomly chosen strangers anyway. I have a cousin who keeps a book of information about one branch of the family, but it has never occurred to me to ask to see it.

Mystery's family tree is mostly, well, mysterious. He has a gajillion aunts and uncles, who have a quintillion children, but he doesn't even know the names of two of his grandparents, or any of his great-grandparents, and given the poor record-keeping in the Land of Mystery, he never will. So, Eggbert will know exactly where her Mysterious ancestors came from, but nothing else about them, and as for my side of the family, well, she probably won't even get that.

All of this is an introduction to admitting that for no reason that I can explain, a couple of weeks ago, after seeing a TV commercial (oh the shame!) I clicked on one of those on-line genealogy websites. I made it as far as entering my grandparents' info, and then it turned out I'd have to sign up formally (of course) to see what the place had to offer. There was a free trial, though, and I was about to click on that when I realized that I couldn't. Or shouldn't. Or just wouldn't. Because if I choose to go ahead with donor eggs, that may not be an option available to my child. Of course Eggbert wouldn't make it very far on either, but by asking around in the family, we could probably put together enough information to get her started if genealogy turns out to be one of her "things." But for a donor-conceived child, it would be Mystery's rock on one side, and a hard place on the other. Even if we used a known or identity-release donor, that doesn't guarantee the kind of access to information (birthdates, places of birth, etc.), that would allow a future adult to, at age 42, idly type into a computer and start exploring their family history. Really to me, that doesn't seem like much of a loss at all. When I realized what I was doing, I clicked away, and I can't say that it is really bugging me not to know whatever it is that I might learn if I kept clicking. But it does kind of bug me to realize that many people think that this IS important, illogical as that seems to me. (Edited: When I wrote this, I didn't mean that other people's interest in genealogy bothers me. I meant that it bothered me to realize that a future donor-conceived child might think that this is important and be unable to access their information--sorry if that wasn't clear in the original post.) Beyond pointing out that everyone's family tree can't really lead back to Charlemagne, that even if they did, there is something like a 10% rate of extra-pair paternity in most human societies, so some of those "fathers" on most family trees probably aren't really the fathers at all, and that even if you ARE descended from Charlemagne, that doesn't actually make you special, what can one do to help a donor-conceived or adopted child handle the disconnection that comes from not living with genetic relatives?

I've seen lots of different answers proposed--don't create donor-conceived children in the first place (because somehow adoption creates fewer losses?), be very open (at times to the point of pushing being donor-conceived as a central part of a child's identity), or just relax and follow the child's lead. I don't know. And I also don't know whether it's better that I don't care much about genealogy (so I can lead by example in not being too worked up about genetics), or worse (because it will make it that much harder to relate to a future child's sense of disconnection or loss about being donor-conceived.

And that's if we decide to go for it at all. So much to think about...

(PS--I've decided that I'm going to start just typing and publishing rather than rereading and editing my posts in the interest of making them actually happen. If you notice a radical decline in quality--that's why!)

I just re-read this post and can't stand how disjointed it is. I've edited just a bit, and it's definitely back to routine rereading and editing before posting for me in future posts!

Saturday, March 12, 2011


One of the things that I may or may not have shared about myself is that I can be a bit of a stickler about details. I'm that annoying person that corrects her husband's grammar (hey! he's not a native English speaker, so he thinks of it as helpful, not annoying), edits everything compulsively, and notices, and occasionally comments on, word abuse when it occurs. One of my (many) linguistic pet peeves is the misuse of the word "unique." Webster's defines unique as "Radically distinctive and without equal", as in the only one in the universe quite like this. It does not mean unusual (well, once you get to Websters' fourth definition, it does, but it's hard to take the fourth definition seriously). Being one of a kind is a special thing, and it's a thing that does not involve degrees. One isn't "very unique." One simply is unique or isn't, and that's that.

I have been thinking a lot about uniqueness lately, for many reasons. Until fairly recently, I thought, despite an abundance of evidence to the contrary, that infertility had a basically similar footprint wherever it happened to fall. There seemed to be a fairly standard set of responses--a five stages of infertility grief that everybody dealing with infertility went through to some extent. Obviously the actual circumstances vary from case to case--infertility undoubtedly feels different at 22 than it does at 32 or 42, or when you're single vs. coupled, and different diagnoses can send your emotions in very different directions. Still, it seemed that there were a limited number of paths that infertile people chose, and that these corresponded to a fairly standard set of emotional responses. Obviously this isn't actually true, and I've actually blogged about this before. Still, I was really blown away by what I found when I took a few weeks to read my way through the almost 250 blog posts currently up on Mel's "Creme de la creme" of infertility blog posts for 2010. There were a huge number of posts that spoke to my heart, that I could totally relate to, that I got on an emotional level. These posts included both posts that described events that I have experienced, and also those that went to places that I have never been (and in many cases, that I hope to never go). That didn't really surprise me. I expect to relate to infertility blogs, and often do.

The thing that surprised me was the number of posts that I totally couldn't relate to at all. There were a huge number of different ways in which I couldn't relate to some of the posts, in fact. The one I want to focus on today, though, is posts that spoke of the authors' frustration and disappointment specifically about the fact that they might not have the option of conceiving naturally, even though their chances of conception may have been good, or the authors' determination to buck the odds and conceive naturally. There were enough posts on this theme that I really was forced to admit that this feeling is widespread, and to some extent, assumed to be present. I have touched on this idea before, but have never really fully grasped the extent to which conceiving the "old-fashioned way," without chemical or surgical help, is important to some people. And, conversely, the extent to which it is of little or no importance to me. For me, infertility was a problem not because it made "natural" conception impossible, but rather because the treatments that might enable me to overcome this problem were prohibitively expensive, uncomfortable, and came with no guarantee of success. From the moment that I first started to expect that something was wrong, I was terrified that I'd never have a child at all, not that I wouldn't conceive naturally. If in my 12th month of trying to conceive, someone had given me the option of trading in all hope of a natural conception for guaranteed success as many times as I wanted with free IVF cycles, I'm pretty sure I would have leaped at the chance. I am still digesting the fact that this doesn't seem to be true for everyone. It explains a lot, though.

Now I wonder if the fact that some (or is it most?) people place such a high value on "natural" conception is responsible for the amnesia that some infertile people seem to experience following successful treatments. Is it a way of distancing themselves from something that they feel embarrassed about or ashamed of? Is that why the comments after any newspaper or magazine article related to assisted conception are so hateful? Is that why some women dealing with male factor infertility take such care to point out that there is nothing wrong with them that necessitated fertility treatments? Is it why so many people drag their feet about seeking treatment or even diagnosis? Why some people give credit to the moonlight rather than the clomid when they do actually conceive?

If so, I don't get it. What is so special about the process of ejaculation in a vagina at exactly the right moment that somehow makes it intrinsically (as opposed to financially or logistically) more valuable than a little magic in an embryology lab? If conception is a miracle, how much more miraculous a conception that was richly desired and earned with great difficulty?

I'm interested in these questions in part because as I consider using donor eggs, I am trying to identify exactly what losses, if any, Mystery, I, and any child that might result, may feel as a result of our choices. I love it that I conceived Eggbert via IVF. I don't love it that I needed IVF, but I'm proud of the fact that I found a way to make it happen--to make Eggbert happen. It wasn't easy. It wasn't fun. But I did it, and I feel great about that. But if natural conception is widely considered to be better than assisted conception, then what does that mean for Eggbert's feelings, and for the feelings of any other child that may come along? And then when donor conception is added into the mix, what does that mean? Is there any chance that a donor-conceived child might feel an additional element of loss (beyond the loss of a genetic connection with me and the loss of a mother-child relationship with the donor) as a result of being conceived in a non-traditional way? Is there any chance that Eggbert might sad or embarrassed about the circumstances of her conception too? To be honest, these thoughts had never even occurred to me before reading those posts. But forewarned is forearmed. I think I'm going to start adding in the story of Eggbert's conception to her birth story (which I tell her every year on her birthday), so she knows how special the whole story is to me. I hope that some day, she will see it as a special thing too.

An afterthought: I just re-read an earlier post (linked above) that I wrote about processing infertility, and it seems that my feelings have really gone full circle in a way that I hadn't appreciated until I read both posts again. There was a time when I grieved the loss of natural conception, and then I stopped grieving it, and now I can barely even remember ever having felt that way. That must be progress.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

It's different this time

Happy New Year! I can't believe it's 2011 already and I haven't posted since summer. Well, actually, I can believe it. I compose posts in my head, but just haven't had the inspiration to write them down. My life is so different now than it was when I first started blogging. In 2006, I was desperate for a baby, totally fed up with infertility, and so full of wild and passionate thoughts that I felt like I would burst unless I found a way to get them out into the light. Now, I'm, well, mostly fine. I am still unimpressed with my reproductive system, and still have moments of feeling very frustrated at all of the external factors (the delays in my marriage caused by the US immigration system, the delays in my treatment caused by financial constraints) that probably cost me a chance at a relatively easy (if IVF can be considered easy!) path to a second child. But most of the time, I'm happy. I'm good. And happiness on what is basically an infertility blog feels weird. Inappropriate even. I haven't decided yet what to do about that--shut down the blog? start a new one? But I am going to start writing again and just see where it takes me.

One of the things that I've learned in the last six months or so, since I stopped obsessing about the next IVF cycle and just started living, is that there are some up sides to my situation. It feels sacrilegious to point this out, but when I watch my friends and relatives who have had 2-3 children in the time that it took me to have Eggbert, I notice that they aren't actually any happier than I am. Sure, they love their kids, but it sometimes seems like people who have two or more kids very close together in age don't actually have as much opportunity to enjoy their kids as I do. The logistical challenges of life with two or more children under four are undeniable, whereas life with one three-year-old is (if that three-year-old is Eggbert, anyway) actually pretty easy and pleasant. We have plenty of time for cuddles, games, and to just be. She doesn't seem to think that she has to fight for my attention, probably because she almost always has it. I know that not every child is easy, and Eggbert hasn't always been easy, but at this particular moment in time, she's absolutely delightful, and there is a tiny part of me that is almost (almost!) glad of the secondary infertility, not because I don't want another child (oh boy do I), but because as it turns out, I think I needed this special time with just Eggbert.

Having given up on my own eggs (well, more on that later), I don't feel the incessant time pressure that I felt before. That is such a relief. Obviously there is still a time factor. I don't want to have two children so far apart that they don't grow up together, and I also don't want to be elderly by the time my children graduate from high school (Mystery is only 32, so this isn't really an issue for him), but I don't feel like every month lost is a disaster anymore. Now I can seriously think about waiting until Eggbert is four or older before taking further steps without feeling like my head is going to explode at the very thought of it. Giving up was liberating.

Now, have I really given up? Yes and no. I no longer think that I will get pregnant with my own eggs, but I still hope that I will. I don't mean to, but what can I do? Every month, the thought at least flickers across my mind that maybe the 78th time was the charm. I'm surrounded by urban legends, so it's hard to forget that improbable events do sometimes occur. I hadn't realized that Mystery was also still hoping until I suggested that we lend our stroller to a pregnant friend last month, and he kind of flipped out. He denies that it's because of hope, but really what else could it be?

We haven't yet revisited our conversations about what, if anything, comes next. I'll bring it up soon, but again, I don't feel any sense of urgency anymore. We're planning to buy a house in the spring, and I think it makes sense to get that sorted out before committing any more of our financial resources to reproductive attempts. I'm also still experiencing some ambivalence in that area. Adoption or donor eggs? I realized something today (after reading this post, from the creme de la creme list). I've never been able to articulate this before, but I reject the assumption that everybody seems to make, although few actually state it aloud, that adoption is the morally superior choice. I just don't think that's true. I totally agree with the post author that the only good reason to adopt is that you WANT to adopt, which is no more or less selfish than any other family-building decision. Adoption can be a good solution for a family in need of a child and for a child in need of a family, but it's not simple. There are a lot of wrong reasons to adopt, and thinking that it's the right thing to do (or wanting to do it because it will make you feel good about yourself) is high up there on the list. However, as clear as I feel about this point, I still fear how my friends who are adoptive parents will feel if I tell them that we've chosen third-party reproduction, and I don't want to have to hide it. Really, it's the openness issue that's kind of sticking with me. I would want to be very open if we chose DE, but is our community--the community in which the child in question will have to live--ready to hear that particular truth? Can they handle the truth?

Luckily, I don't have to decide right now. I'm thinking more and more that it's important for me and Mystery to take our time in thinking about what, if anything, to do next. We're happy right now, so I think we'll just keep enjoying that for a little while.