Monday, December 31, 2007

11 months blues

Thank you, everyone. Thank you for your words, your kindness, and your warmth. Some of you made me tear up, some made me chuckle or even snort, but all made me feel warm and cared for. It is so strange to be in the house with friends, real, close friends, but friends who don't know, who I don't want to know for now, and to read your words, my real and my liminal friends inside the computer. Good strange, though.

I decided not to go for a blood draw today-- it would've included long conversations with my insurance company to cover an out of state lab, and then driving for 30+ mi to the lab open today, and then waiting for the result until probably Wednesday. I did the qualitative (i.e. POAS) test again, and the line got darker. Still there, then. My attitude is that I am doing everything I can to make sure it sticks, and that has to be enough for now. I think JD is allowing himself more hope, but I can't yet, I have to remain agnostic. And I am scared of breaking his heart again.

The numbness that settled over me on Friday covers a multitude of sins, it seems. I expected 11 months to be gut-wrenchingly hard, but so far it has been muted. By the numbness, I think. The New Year's Eve celebration, which, for those from the Old Country is an elaborate and raucous affair is still ahead of me, so there is still room for a meltdown or three. Still, I didn't go skiing today. I craved solitude and I got my laptop and went to a coffee shop in town I remembered from last year. Yes, the only way I was ever in here was seven months pregnant. And yet, it's ok.

I skied for a few hours the last couple of days. Surprisingly, I can still do it. JD says it's like remembering how to sit in a chair. Maybe, but it took me years to learn to do it well. And I keep telling everyone I am thirty pounds heavier now than I was last time I skied, so there have to be consequences. My knees agreed. So did my thighs and my legs. Yet it was good to feel that I can still do this, that some skills are long-term, that I still have the ability to impress the bunch of the older kiddies that we were skiing with while their fathers were teaching their younger siblings. I had moments of joy as my skies obeyed my muscles, and my muscles obeyed my intentions. I had moments of wonder as nature painted strangest and most amazing landscapes all around us. I had moments of disbelief, yesterday, as gliding along a trail and looking at all the green and white beauty around me, and all the people, flying by or struggling to make the next turn, I realized what day it was.

It feels, though, as if I am allowed emotion about littler things, in the moment stuff, while the big things are covered by the numbness. Most of the time this trip so far I can laugh at jokes, and I can tell them too. I can needle people, and I can offer genuine support. Even the karaoke machine in the living room is ok. Maybe the controlled exposure really did work. Or maybe it's the sedative effect of not seeing more than a day ahead that this new state of mine has brought. But last night I was getting a little uncomfortable, and so I got a little louder, more jokes, more needling. Makes sense, no? Today I withdrew. This is a nice little coffee shop.

Most of the time I keep myself from playing the "what if" game. How old would he be now? What would he be up to? And, strangely, being in the ski house I am not haunted by the visions of my last-year pregnant self. But, in this house, surrounded by all the friends and all the kids, once in a while I catch the glimpse of my missing today. I wonder whether he would have been walking by now. Monkey walked a few days before New Year five years ago. It's not a good game to play, and I squelch it. But in this house, it's harder. There are two little boys missing in the house, A and a three and a half year old whose twin brother is a funny and sharp little boy who enjoys sledding and tried a little skiing this trip. Their mother has her missing today right in front of her eyes every day.

My eyes are watering now, and there is a lump in my throat. Maybe I am not all that numb after all.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Comfortably numb

Eventful day, let's say. I was completely sure last night that the stick would give the snow the run for its money. It follows then that I stared at the weak second line this morning for a while before walking downstairs to show JD. Mad dash to get to my GP for a progesterone script and a stat blood draw order, mad dash to execute both. Mad dash home to pack and leave. Slow crawl through traffic on the highway. A call from the lab-- hCG=59, progesterone=16.3. Today is 12dpo.

I can't see past Monday, when I might try to get a repeat test despite being out of state. I tried to make myself project to a few months out, or even to the possible first ultrasound, but no luck. That's ok for now, though. After the last six months this feels rather surreal, and so I will take this one day at a time. I can't even say, not even in my head, that I am, you know pr... Right. I concede that something is implanted somewhere, and I am more than OK with it continuing to be so. I am, as they say, comfortably numb.

We are at the ski house now, and it is, so far, ok. Not everyone is here yet, and it may get harder as the house gets fuller of people.

Now, everyone, this is very-very important, so pretty please with sprinkles on top, pay attention. Please, don't anybody use the C word. The one that ends with -ations and an exclamation point and implies a celebration, k? We here are firm believers in getupgrrl's* NBHHY (Nothing Bad Has Happened Yet) approach to all things not capable of independent sustainable life. OK?


*Unfortunately, due to some asshats stealing her words, grrl took down her archives shortly before she retired. If you weren't a reader, you missed one of the great good ones. My personal favorite has to be the one about the elevator, a guy dissing his post-partum wife, and grrl's snappy avenging of said wife using her cell phone as a prop.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Science, exact and otherwise

Science, good science, always starts with an observation. If you cross a tall plant and a short plant, a monk once noticed, you get all tall plants. But if you cross those, you start to see short ones again.

Then comes a model. Observed traits are due to interaction of the distinct units of inheritance. Let's call them genes, shall we? Ok. A sexually reproducing organism gets one copy of each gene from mom and one from dad. Different copies of the same gene (let's call them alleles) can encode for differences in the same trait, like short and tall, green and yellow, round and wrinkled (that's pea shapes, you perverts, pea shapes, p-e-a). In each pair one trait can dominate the other, in a good way, of course, if one allele encoding each is present, and then the dominant trait will be observed. But if an offspring of these mixed organisms (called heterozygotes) gets two alleles of the gene encoding for the recessive trait, that trait will be seen again.

Models have to have predictive powers, i.e. you must be able to articulate a hypothesis consistent with your model of what will happen in a situation that was not part of the data set based on which you put together your model. Hypotheses never travel alone, by the way. Where there is hypothesis, there is always a null hypothesis, in short a NOT! to whatever your proposed hypothesis is. So if your proposed hypothesis is that if you cross two types of plants with two differential traits, say tall green and short yellow, you will get only one kind of a plant out, but if you cross these new plants among themselves, the progeny will distribute in a roughly 9:3:3:1 proportion of different possible combinations of observable traits, then your null hypothesis would be that the distribution of traits will not follow this pattern.

Then you conduct experiments to test your hypotheses. Sometimes there is more than then one working and one null hypotheses, and then you should take care to design your experiment to give you as unambiguous an answer to your question as possible. If the outcome of your experiment is consistent with your model, you say yay, do a jiggly dance in the middle of your lab or office, and design a new experiment to test another part of your model. If the results are inconsistent, you adjust your model, and take it from the top. You keep doing that until you feel all aspects of the model are sound. Then you spend weeks or more writing the whole thing up, and you send it to a journal and await the fate of your paper. Easy, right?

Well, that's until you attempt to think in this way about, oh let's say for the sake of argument, your own procreative history. You might suppose, based on the old semen analysis from before you had your daughter that your male factor issues are not necessarily new, although they might have gotten worse lately. You may then observe that the time you conceived your son it was after a twelve day business trip. You may throw into the mix, for good measure, the hypothesis articulated by the urologist that there may be anti-sperm antibodies circulating in the system due to an early adolescence surgical event (the answer to the question of whether or not the antibodies are present is in possession of the clinic, since JD did take the test, but since they are not talking to us, we do not as of yet know what the answer is). And then you may add the part from your time well spent in the exclusive company of PubMed that indicated that said antibodies are most strongly implicated in making it more difficult for the sperm to penetrate the mucous.

So then, in your spare time, you might devise the model that postulates that due to the male factor issues involved, your chances of conception would be increased if you did almost everything in the almost exact opposite way of what is recommended for your average no-known-issues TTC couple. The model would say to save up the goodies as opposed to regularly refresh the collection. It would also suggest that the best time to hit that would be in the exact one day before the egg white cervical mucous makes its glorious ovulation-heralding entrance (or is it exit?).

So imagine then that having constructed this hypothetical model, you start to suspect that your ovulation, having gone AWOL and caused you to seek the services of an RE in the first place, has now returned, slinked back, as it were, under the cover of other stressful life events. Imagine further, if you will, that life conspires in such a way that you end up performing an experiment to the exact specifications of your hypothetical model. And confirming, a few days later, that ovulation did indeed occur at the exact right moment from the point of view of said model.

Right, so... yeah... this is exactly where we are today. On CD24, 11dpo. I bought, yesterday, the C.ostco-sized pack of sticks, and even opened the pack already to facilitate easier access for tomorrow morning's ritual. But here's the thing-- doing actual science with a sample size of one and a trial number of one? Not exactly possible. Either outcome would be consistent with the model. And given that my boobs are not sore and my progesterone level on Monday, 8dpo, was measly 11.8, I think I know what that outcome will be. The year 2007 has one last eff-you in store for me-- CD1 on it's last day. But hey, at least I will be able to send this bastard off on it's way in appropriate fashion-- with copious amounts of alcohol.

P.S. The sticks I bought, 1st res.ponse, tell you to test on the day of the missed period. However, their sensitivity is supposedly the same as all the other tests, including the brand that tells you that you can test up to three days before. Any personal experiences with the different brands out there? Am I completely wasting my money by testing tomorrow, three days before the expected arrival? It's just that we are going to be at the ski house starting tomorrow night, and I would rather have the option to drink if I needed it, if you know what I mean...

Monday, December 24, 2007

The one thing

If you could wave a wand (not that wand, you perverts!) and have those that just don't get it understand one thing, and one thing only, what would it be?

For me, I think, at least today, it would be that things for us will never be normal again. Not like for other people. That if and when we get to our new normal, it will still include permission to break down at whatever it is that trips us up, to feel happy and sad at the same time, and to forever know that we are missing a nontrivial part of our worlds. Is this still all one thing?

And what about you?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

End of the beginning

 

This last week contained the birthday of the now middle son of our good friends. Now middle because his baby brother was born, safely, in April. Last year the actual birthday day fell on a Tuesday, the party was on Saturday, but we were also invited to their house for cake baking and eating on the weekday birth day. Just us, no-one else. We were invited again this year, and when I got that call, a week ago Friday, it shook me. Last year the winter was so mild that it didn't even register with me as such until that birthday, the date of which was unmistakably December. And so this year's invitation heralded, shoved in my face, really, the fast approaching closing of the circle.

New Year is our big, important winter holiday. For a number of years now, we have been renting a house in ski country with a group of friends from the Old Country. The group shifts a little year to year as someone bails to stay home with a baby or to try something else, but overall it's a consistent core. This year the house is the same as last year, and even the room in it where JD and I will be staying is the same. Can you spell dread? The birthday invitation, it made the winter, the New Year, the January coming all too real. And inescapable.

I tried to think, yesterdays morning, about last January, and at first I drew a complete blank. January 2nd, leave the ski house. January 29, last good day. January 30th, the day my son died. I knew there was more in the middle, and after I gave myself a prod, things started to come out of the shadows of my very tired brain. My parents were here for a week, and left six days before A died. My dad painted A's room then. While they were here, Monkey had her first piano recital. The week before that we had a potluck party at our house. We spent a lot of time with the friends who now have three-- we are friends, our older kids are friends, we live reasonably close by, and we were pregnant together.

There is a karaoke machine in the box in my family room now. JD bought some karaoke DVDs last year, and we brought them and a small mike that plugs into the amp from his electric guitar to the ski house. We had so much fun with this very limited set up last year (we did it one more time at that January party at our house, and kids got in on the act that time), that we wanted to do it again, make it a tradition. Hence, the machine. JD opened it yesterday, to test-drive. I had a few moments of levity when the three of us shared the two mikes that come with the machine to sing songs in two languages and many-many styles (for the record, I apparently can't pull off country; a pity, really-- I do much better when I am singing along with the CD in my car). But mostly that machine sitting out in the middle of my house made me very very anxious. The machine is back in the box now, and I feel better. Maybe the controlled exposure will be enough to prevent me from freaking out when it takes up its residence in the living room of the ski house.

A is bound in my mind with Natan by the trick of the calendar-- they both left us in January, even though almost nothing else about their stories is even close. Recently I discovered that their yahrzeits are exactly one Jewish month apart. Connected, again. Natan's yahrzeit has come and gone. A's is less than four weeks away now.

It's coming, the New Year. It will be here in no time at all, and there is no hiding from it and that coldest, longest month it will drag in.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Residuals or a brief excursion into comparative linguistics

The Old Country language is colorful. By which I mean one can artfully swear up a storm and create nothing but admiration in connoisseurs. English off-color vocabulary to the Old Country language off-color vocabulary is as a radio-controlled toy car is to the real thing, or, let's say as your average two-year-old's vocabulary is to that of a literature professor. At Oxford. There are roots, of course, your standard set. But then, this being a grammatically elaborate language, there are prefixes, suffixes, and endings that allow for a much expanded core set with all the key parts of speech represented handily. And then you start with declension and conjugation, and things get really interesting. You can pile story (as in level) upon story of this stuff and tell rather elaborate stories (as in tales), and transmit your meaning perfectly. In fact, if you can't make up a seven story expression without breaking a sweat you are not even trying. If you can do thirteen, you have my respect.

What I am getting at is that JD used to be an accomplished artist of the Old Country language swear word. He has the appreciation, and the skill, and, back in the day, motivation to make the performances entertaining. But utilizing non-standard lexicon to enrich the entertainment value of your narrative is quite a bit different than swearing at people, and he was never much for that. His professional education, too, has developed and nurtured his ability to, when needed, creatively insult people without resorting to vocabulary for which the seven-second delay in live TV broadcast was invented.

Which is why, of course, the accusation made against him by our favorite secretary, that he called her an asshole, was, frankly, laughable. But there was something more, some worm turning in my brain, something that indicated that the particular word choice in the accusation was strictly unbelievable. The other day, Tuesday, to be exact, and yes, I am way behind on writing, and on reading for that matter, but JD had the temerity to leave the country for a long-scheduled business trip, and the logistics of drop off and pick up, and extracurriculars, and snow, oh, dear Lord, snow, well, they are nontrivial. So where was I? Oh, yes, the other day. Tuesday. As I stood in my kitchen making Monkey's school lunch for the next day, I finally figured it out.

When I tell you, you can laugh. And call me dense. It's ok-- my sister already did. My sister! The girl for whom for all intents and purposes English is the first language these days. To be fair, her Old Country language isn't half bad, but her English is much better. But she claims to have had this realization upon first hearing the accusation against JD. She could've told me and spared me a couple of days of uncomfortable worm activity in the cerebral cortex, is all I am saying. Do I have you on the edge of your seat yet? I do enjoy the suspense, you know. Anyway.

So, as my hands were performing the menial task of sandwich making, my mind wandered. Into realizing that I have almost never heard JD use the word asshole, and into considering why that is. Short hop to "the Old Country language doesn't have this particular expression" and an instant recall of the initial wonder as to why this would be considered such a serious insult in English that is a common experience of the immigrants from my corner of the world later, it hit me.

The Old Country language is gendered. And as such, swear words in it are gendered, for the most part, predictably. The slang terms for your standard body parts that are the roots of the basic swear vocabulary have the gender indicated by the sex of the person normally found in possession of one of those (although for complicated and amusing reasons that does not always hold when suffixes and endings are applied to create a derivative word in a different part of speech category), and you do not, do not, ever, I mean ever, use a male-gendered term to characterize a female or vice versa. With one exception-- in certain situations you can call a man a bitch.

You see where I am driving? Asshole is not a word in the Old Country language. But any speaker of the same, when asked what gender the English word is, will tell you that it is undoubtedly male. And you do not use male terms to insult females. You just don't. So even if JD was one of those foul-mouthed rude assholes (ha-ha, get it?) who have nothing better to do with their time than insult office staff, he would have chosen a different word. And, this last detail is entirely unnecessary, but I will tell you anyway, he spent a few formative years of his career in the US working as office staff, so he really wouldn't have done it.

This here was a two for one realization for me, by the way. I have finally figured out why, when IF blogosphere BFFs Tertia and Julie were lovingly calling each other assholes it always, always looked just a little odd to me. It's all in the grammar, baby.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Update, such as it is

I am going to be a broken record and thank you all again for your kindness and your support. When the world goes mad like this it really helps a lot to hear that there are people who are on your side, who see that it's the world that has capsized, not you who lost the remaining marbles.

I am back in my City, after five hours at the airport before getting on the plane yesterday. Well, at least it was the airport this time, not the actual plane, like Thursday.

I am better, but not well. I actually looked up the symptoms of PTSD and related disorders today because of the frequent, profound, and prolonged episodes of anxiety I have been experiencing since Wednesday. I also have some trouble sleeping, mostly towards the morning. I was afraid I would be stuck in this anxious state for the foreseeable future, and that just didn't appeal to me, to put it mildly. I felt a little better through the day thanks to friends in the computer and IRL who also live in the computer, and my OB's nurse (more on that below) and I am now hoping that this is just a severe but localized reaction and that I will be back to functional soonish.

The one time over the weekend when I was mostly OK rather than mostly anxious, was on Friday, when I drove nearly 200 mi each way to see the newest baby on the block and his lovely parents. Driving to them was like heading for a promise. Knowing there was a living baby in the world, in the family that has waited for a long-long time, well, that was bigger than my stuff, and it was hopeful and right. Being with them was so warm and comfortable, as if we have known each other since forever rather than were meeting in person for the first time. The calm didn't last for me, though, and before the day was over, I was again wondering why I was feeling like I remember feeling this past spring. Early spring.

Things that didn't help today: having the nurse admin tell me that she can't answer my question about an aspect of their accounting of our interactions with the office because we will now have to communicate through patient advocacy office; having to explain to patient advocate that although she is used to only filing complaints, I need her to also call and get the answer to that question for me; and finding out in answer to that question that the same secretary now alleges that, on a different occasion, JD called her an a$$hole. Actually, that last one was also strangely liberating. I couldn't make up my mind before whether I thought the woman was doing this for the first and only time because for some reason she wanted to get me in trouble, but was smart enough to realize you can only get away with this kind of accusation once, or whether she snapped and is likely to do this again. I am leaning towards the latter now. I can only hope that the next family this happens to over there will be treated better than we have been treated. The eternal optimist in me would also like to hope that if/when that was to happen we might get an apology. But my realist told the optimist to not hold her breath and to maybe concentrate on hoping for something more likely, like finding sentient extraterrestrial life forms.

Speaking of that optimist. I think I have this feature where I want to believe in the basic goodness of people. And then, in the true manner of an algorithms geek, I think I perform this internal heuristic search for an explanation that maximizes goodness of players. In this case it is blatantly obvious that I have to write the secretary off. But the optimism feature is making me want to believe that everyone else is acting in a misguided and maybe even lazy way, but not purposefully malicious. Except that is hard to reconcile with making me miss a cycle and not coming out and just saying they won't treat me but doing the whole "we want everyone to be comfortable" song and dance. And then firing me the next day.

I spent some time thinking about the doctor, Dr.YoungGun, today. I think he is probably a good doctor, medically speaking, but a rather immature physician. Seriously, who thinks it's ok to say to an infertile patient, as he said to us at our first meeting, that insurance-caused delays in treatment were as frustrating to him as they are to us? And who gets upset when told that I would doubt that. I mean, I wouldn't expect any of my doctors to be as obsessed with my issues as I am. It's ok-- this is their job and my life, and they have a number of patients, and if they took all of our concerns as personally as we take them, what would be left of them for their families? There were other interactions that we had where I felt like I interrupted a script of his, and that upset him.

The things that helped: friends inside the computer, and getting to talk to my OB's nurse, Nurse Kind. I called her on Thursday when I was very upset, and wanted her to tell my OB. I wanted to know that he will still follow me for my next pregnancy, and I was afraid that would be a problem since the IVF and the OB practices are nominally connected. She left me a message while I was stuck on the plane that endlessly flirted with take off, and we finally connected today. Yes, my OB (Dr. B before, henceforth to be known as Dr.Best) will treat me. And then she asked all about how I was doing and whether I had support through this, how Monkey is, and about my new job. We even talked about the crazy parking situation by where I work, since she went to school nearby. That made me feel much better-- simply knowing that someone in that building is not buying the crap, someone who actually got to know me.

The reason for my out of town trip this weekend was that my grandmother turned 80 on Friday, and there was to be a party on Saturday. All three grandkids, with significant others (where relevant) and with Monkey, the only living great-granchild, came into town for it. There was a party, much scaled down from what was being planned even six weeks ago. This is because my grandmother is slipping into dementia, and this might be the last time she recognizes any of us. And this is the thing that is hard, the thing that will take me a long time to process and to deal with-- because of where I was emotionally this weekend, I wasn't all there for either my grandmother or my mother, who is not taking this deterioration well. I know I didn't plan this, and I know there is nothing I could've done to change my state, but this is still a hard thing to realize, that I couldn't do what I would've liked to have done-- sit with my grandmother one on one and try to talk. I may never have another chance.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Whimper

Thank you, all, for your kindness and your righteous indignation. I really needed to hear that all of this is from the realm of unbelievable. I did ask, yesterday, whether she was confusing me with someone else, and they claim that she is adamant it is really me.

I called this morning to try to get my mock transfer. The nurse administrator seemed concerned about the issue of timeliness, and she said she will try to figure things out and call me back. Two hours later I called again. Half an hour more later, she called to say that they won't be able to treat me anymore, but will facilitate my transfer to blah-blah-blah. I pointed out that the day before she spent a decent chunk of time telling me they most certainly weren't trying to run me out, and were just trying to find a solution that is comfortable for everyone. Today, apparently, the vote is that since I was unhappy with multiple things before, they would just not be caring for me any longer.

I am not bawling like I did yesterday, but then I spent four and a half hours on a plane before it ever took off (huge giant snowstorm, ultraquick onset), so I am a bit chewed out. I requested a meeting with Dr. YoungGun. I want him to tell me face to face that he believes this crap. I am, however, pessimistic about the chance of this meeting happening.

Sitting on that plane, I had ample opportunity to contemplate my emotional state. It is a little strange to me that I can't even summon anger, at least not for prolonged periods of time. I keep wondering what set her off, or what is it that she has experienced in life that made her do this? I keep thinking it must've been something huge.

I caught a sight of myself in the mirror. Yesterday, and again today. I remember her. Defeated, broken, hurt to the core. I thought she was gone. The eyes so sad it makes you want to cry. Which is easy, since they are that sad because I am the one holding back tears. How did this happen? Why did this happen?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

That breathing thing

I had thought, as recently as a few hours ago, that perhaps the most vulnerable position one can find herself in with a medical professional is stripped down, on the exam table, with the business end of one's reproductive organs expecting the impending contact with a catheter.

I learned, again, only a few hours ago, that one can be much more vulnerable fully clothed, in a room with two other women. If told, that is, that someone else has accused you of something so abhorrent, so basically inhumane, that you simply burst into tears at the accusation.

I got a message yesterday to call the nurse administrator. I did, and she said that her staff has brought concerns to her regarding my last visit to the place, that being last week, not Monday, and could I make time to see her next time I am coming in. So I made an appointment with her for half an hour before the mock transfer. I spent the next 22.5hrs thinking about what it could possibly be and coming up empty. I was, for a bit so disturbed by this, that I felt on the verge of tears. Thanks to friends, though, who have nothing better to do these days than to hang online, I eventually felt a bit better. I even thought clearly enough to realize, by this morning, that I should've requested a patient advocate to be present, and that I should feel free to stop at any point in that conversation and request to continue it only when one is present.

So I should've been alarmed when one of those showed up for the meeting. Instead, I was impressed, thought how thoughtful, and this can't be all bad then. It turns out, it can. Most certainly, it can. The secretary at my RE's practice accused me of racism so blatant, so outdated that where I live I think it can only be seen in movies. According to her, I asked for a receipt for my co-pay because "you people steal," and then confirmed that I meant African-Americans.

I know that most of you don't know me from Adam, or Eve, as the case may be. But I will tell you what I told the two women in the room today. I really felt like I was accused of one of the crimes of highest (or lowest?) moral turpitude-- rape, murder, racism, and, I thought later, stealing someone else's data or making up the same. Don't even go there-- I know my life and liberty are not in jeopardy as they would be if I was actually accused of rape or murder. But to me this "crime" is of the same moral caliber.

I did find it hard to breathe for a while there. Only shallow breathing was happening here, and it really hurt to try for more. I almost felt like I forgot how. I told the women in the room that I felt more disbelief over this than when they told me A was dead. Silly comparison, but there it is anyway. I thought about this later, and it seems this is because this here includes agency. Another human being has decided to say these weird, unbelievable, horrific things about me. Made a decision and went for it. Lied about me, to be blunt. I haven't cried this hard in months.

The question at play is whether, in their words, everyone can be comfortable post this. I honestly have no idea whether I can be. My first reaction was that I need a witness every time I talk to this woman from here on out. They say it's not realistic. I finally concluded by saying that I need to hear that the doctor, who, btw, called the nurse administrator into this, believes me. If he can't, I have to leave. And it hurts me to contemplate the last eleven weeks have been for nothing.

In the middle of all of this happening, the nurse admin said that it is probably for the best to cancel the appointment today until she could take my side of the story back to that practice. In my complete wipeout I forgot that mock transfer is time of the month sensitive. Once my friend Aite brought it to my attention, I realized that unless this gets fixed tomorrow morning, this woman gets to take from me not just today and the extreme emotion it inspired, but also the one thing I asked of Dr. YoungGun-- to be in the middle of a cycle, to be doing something, by the time my one year anniversary comes around.

I have no good conclusion to this post. I wanted to crawl under a rock and live there for months or years. JD made me a drink and now I feel a little better. I will call in the morning, and see what they want to do with the canceled time-sensitive procedure. Mostly what I want right now is to be woken from this dream.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Book Tour: The Handmaid's Tale

A little while ago, I joined my very first book club. Well, joined is a strong word, since this is a drop in for the books you like affair. And I sort of cheated, since I have been meaning to read the book up for discussion, The Handmaid's Tale, for a while now. I am glad I finally did.

Intrigued by the idea of a book tour and want to read more about The Handmaid's Tale? Hop along to more stops on the Barren Bitches Book Brigade by visiting the master list at http://stirrup-queens.blogspot.com/. Want to come along for the next tour? Sign up begins today for tour #9 (The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler with author participation!) and all are welcome to join along . All you need is a book and blog.

The way the book tour works is that we get a list of questions from other participants (thanks, Mel!), choose three, and answer them. I will, however, start with an observation that has been turning in my head since half-way through the book.

I see the book as suggesting many different themes, a number of them certainly not loosing their relevance to society and individuals in the years since the book was written. I honestly don't know whether I would've paid as much attention to some of the themes in the book if I wasn't where I am today in my life. A clearest example of that is the theme of baby Angela.

When we see her birth through the eyes of the narrator, we are encouraged by that point of view to sympathize with the Handmaidens. The community of them are there for the woman in labor, who, it seems in the act of it, gains her own name back. The narrator, who has known this woman since before they each were assigned to the different Commanders, starts the chapter calling her Ofwarren, the name that indicates nothing but the Commander she belongs to, but gradually replaces it with her given name, Janine. We see Janine struggle through the birth, and we see, as a grotesque caricature, the Wife of Warren, going through a pretend birth, surrounded by other Wifes. The baby is then taken from Janine, and she is surrounded by other Handmaidens, protecting her from having to see her child with the woman who will raise her. We also see the Wifes surround the Wife of Warren, who names the baby-- Angela-- and appears triumphant. This is all we see at the end of that chapter, and the injustice of a Handmaid's life overwhelms, at least it overwhelmed me enough to not notice right away that the only woman bereft of her own name in this triangle is the Wife. She is just the Wife of Warren. The baby girl has a name, and the Handmaid has one. But the Wife is just a Wife.

Sympathy is a funny thing. It can be influenced by how the story is told, or whether it is told. We find out of baby Angela's demise through seeing Janine reassigned to a different Commander. Only then do I find myself desperately wanting to know things I can't know, because the narrator isn't privy to them or because she doesn't choose to talk about them. I want to know what makes a baby a shredder. What was wrong with baby Angela? I want to know how she was taken. Did she die? Or did the doctor declare her an unbaby, and took her, from someone's arms? Whose? I want to know who mourned her. Who cried for her? I want to know, I actually want to believe, that the Wife of Warren mourned and cried. I want to believe that she named that baby so early, contrary to this new custom, we are told (but not until we hear that the baby is gone), not out of vanity, but out of love. I want to believe she waited for that baby, longed for her. Knowing these things won't make things ok, won't make the social order acceptable. It wouldn't even illuminate the feelings of all Wifes. For all we know, the Wife of Warren is unusual in this attachment I have constructed for her, but I want to know nonetheless.

For whose sake do I want to know these things? The characters are made up, so it is probably fair to say that this ultimately is for me. It is me who needs to believe that every baby deserves to be mourned, that everyone who calls herself a mother will mourn. Not all in the same way, but all in our hearts. And I am pretty sure that had I read this book before my son died these wouldn't have been the questions I would've asked or the ones to which I would keep coming back in my mind, over and over.

Q. People very often cope with death or uncomfortable situations by resorting to euphemisms. In The Handmaid's Tale, Atwood quite deliberately chooses instead to refer to infants with disabilities, or infants that have died, through the use of a dysphemism (an unpleasant or derogatory word or expression substituted for a pleasant or inoffensive one) - "shredder." How did this term affect you? Did you even take note of it? Why might Atwood have chosen such a word? How does it reflect or not reflect the contemporary discourse around pregnancy loss, still birth, and infant death as you may have experienced it?

Shredder wasn't the first term she used. It was the gentler "unbaby" first, almost as if easing us into the reality of this world. The unbaby was stark, but a lot easier to take. Shredder evoked the vision of the machine, a gruesome image. And even though the narrator made a point of saying nobody knows what happens to the shredder babies, it is clear that it is nothing good. We also do not know where the line is. Are only the perfect babies, ones who don't need medical care beyond weighing and measuring, keepers? Does a heart murmur make one a shredder? What about asthma?

In my early days of grieving I remember thinking that it must be easier to take the loss of your baby if you knew there was something desperately wrong with them, that the baby wouldn't live. How silly of me. It doesn't matter what the objective truth was. This was still a baby, loved and wanted, dreamed about, the baby that inspired smiles of wistful daydreams, the baby for whom the nursery was painted, or put together, or just planned, or even just imagined. This was still someone's heart, external, in peril. The term shredder implies that this baby wasn't going to make it, so it's ok, back to the recycling bin with the products of conception, off to try again. This is the way for society to harden itself to the overwhelming statistics-- 1 in 4 she tells us, but I couldn't tell whether 1 in 4 survives or is a gonner. Either way, the pain would be all around, but calling these babies shredders dehumanizes them, dictates the attitude towards them and their parents, even dictates the attitude their parents should adopt.

In our own society dead babies are rarely discussed in polite conversation. Many, probably most, parents of dead babies report that at least some people around them expect them to be "over it" already within weeks or months. Certainly a year or two down the road. It is even more true for miscarriages, and only slightly less true for older dead children. I can't speak for others, but this attitude does in fact make me feel like my child was disposable. Because, see, I am still young, and I can always have another. That I love this one, that he has a name, that he is my son, that I miss his presence and all the things I will never know about him, are of no consequence to most people. To them, he is a shredder.

Q. On pg. 112, during the birth day while Ofwarren is in labor, Offred is thinking about the baby that is about to be born. At this time she also talks about the unborn babies and the fact that they had no way of telling until birth what type of baby would be born. She states: There's no telling. They could tell once, with machines, but that is now outlawed. What would be the point of knowing, anyway? You can't have them taken out; whatever it is must be carried to term. While reading this, I found myself thinking back to my first pregnancy where I wound up with conjoined twins. Then and even now, I wonder if I would've been better off not knowing. I miscarried, so I did not have to make a choice, but in light of that, ignorance may very well have been bliss. How do you feel about the abundance of technology when it comes to reproduction and pregnancy? Do you think that sometimes not knowing so much can be a good thing?

I noticed that passage, I noted that in the world of the novel it absolutely has to be that way. But even in the middle of reading that very intense chapter this paragraph made me angry. While I can certainly sympathize with not wanting to know, not wanting to have to make decisions, not living the horror that is carrying a very sick baby or babies, I can't help but remember that there are also conditions of pregnancy that threaten women's lives. Hydrocephalus, for one, would more than likely kill a woman trying to birth that baby vaginally. Pre-eclampsia would absolutely kill a woman who is not delivered early, and in Gilead, nobody will be delivered early. An infection that spreads from inside the sack to the uterus and to the mother while she waits to birth what is now a doomed or dead baby can kill the mother. This dehumanizes women, reduces them to nothing but their reproductive organs. Their lives are worth less than that of a fetus of unknown health status.

But even the babies are not a concern in the world of Gilead, really. Personally, I am not a close your eyes and hope for the best person. I want to make decisions, and take responsibility for them. I know a lot of people are not like that. It doesn't mean I am happy to find myself in any which situation. This is, for example, why I am very adamant to only do a single embryo transfer-- I don't want to be in a situation where there are decisions to be made that I am not comfortable making one way or the other. In Gilead, a baby with special needs is a shredder, so preparing for those special needs as the technology is allowing us to do now is not a concern in that world. In our world, I would want to know what to prepare for. I would want to have specialists in a given condition on standby, to help my baby as soon as that baby is born. Similarly, in Gilead, the mother with pre-eclampsia will die, but so will her baby. She will die for nothing but the idea, a blind obedience to the principle.

Let me go a step further and say that this particular aspect is a very logical conclusion to the policies advocated by a segment of the US political landscape. Banning abortions is a plank of the Republican party platform, but universal health care is not. Neither is affordable child care, universal early education, or even financing successful early intervention programs. Pro-birth, is what these people are. Once born, to them, the babies are either lucky enough to have parents who can afford things they need, or they might as well be shredders.

Q. In chapter 6 (page 33 in my book), Atwood writes a train of thought that runs through the narrator's mind: "I look at the one red smile. The red of the smile is the same as the red of the tulips in Serena Joy's garden, towards the base of the flowers where they are beginning to heal. The red is the same but there is no connection. The tulips are not tulips of blood, the red smiles are not flowers, neither thing makes a comment on the other." The narrator does this to exercise her mind, maintain the distinctions between things and states "I need to be very clear, in my own mind." In times of crises, it is easy to have things melt together--to see connections where you may not have noticed them if you were not paying close attention to every detail. Do you think people in a crisis see more slights, more rudeness, more insensitivity than is actually there (is a statement merely a statement without a commentary on the other person) or do you think these slights, rudeness, and insensitivity exists, but we are too caught up in the good times to care or notice?

The slights are real. Flaunting one's fertility in front of an infertile friend is so common-place it feels trite to even bring it up. Complaining about how hard it is to take care of two young children to a mother whose baby died just a few months earlier is real. It doesn't mean that it is not hard to take care of two young children, but it does suggest that paying attention to the context of the conversation is advisable. To me, this is a question of on whom do we as a society and as individuals place responsibility. Should it be the responsibility of a person dealing with hard times to make sure to not inconvenience the self-absorbed lucky majority, or should we ask the majority to consider what they are doing and saying, and to whom? I personally believe that sensitivity is a learned skill, and that it is a good skill to learn.

People make small talk, and sometimes they do it without thinking. We had friends over a few months back, pregnant with their third child. They moved away to a different city a few years ago, but still are a part of our group of friends and come to visit, or go away with us pretty often. So in this particular moment, our female friend went upstairs to deal with the kids for a few minutes, and her husband was downstairs talking with us. As a closing thought on all the kids he hasn't seen in a while and his own impending arrival, he sort of trailed off in a thoughtless "so many kids, kids, more and more kids, it's horrible-- they keep appearing." By which he, of course, meant that living in a different city the changes are stark. But he shouldn't have said that to us. Being a close enough friend, I called him on it, I said "please think about what you are saying and to whom." And he apologized, sincerely. Another friend of mine actually told me fairly early on that she is sure she will put her foot in her mouth because there will be a lot of triggers even I wouldn't be able to anticipate ahead of time, and she asked me to call her on this when it happens. I have, and she always apologized, and has since minded every one of those particular triggers very carefully.

What I am saying is that it is possible to be a good and mindful friend, a good and mindful person. Sure, it takes more work than just verbalizing whatever pops into your mind. But that's ok-- this is why we are adults.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Surprises

The weekend started off with a frantic race to get to school on time. You see, I had to pick up not just a Monkey, but also a rabbit. Class rabbit, who comes to spend the weekends with the kids. The teacher cleaned the cage, showed me the food and the water, reminded us that the rabbit will only come out on the carpet, not bare floor, that she won't jump from any height, and that she does like to chew on wires, so we should keep the same from her.

After the cage was secured in the back of my car, things got remarkably more calm. A relaxed drive home, and some no-rush prep work in the kitchen while we waited for Monkey's play date and her mom to arrive, and then, while the girls played, and we chatted, waiting for the respective fathers to show. I have to say, it is a weird weird feeling to contemplate that someone with whom you used to spend hours discussing the finer points of dorm character line up is now a high-risk OB. As cliche as it sounds, just by virtue of the number of years it takes to become one of those, having a friend with that kind of a job does tend to underline one's own standing as an adult.

Saturday I was pleasantly surprised to wake up at 10 am and discover, in that exact way, that JD and Monkey let me sleep in. Later, we spent some time figuring out one of Monkey's Hanukkah gifts, inspired by Niobe. And you know what, it's a pretty cool gift for a five year old. The cost was justified, I believe, fully, by the fun involved in getting a good shot of the rabbit. Which she did.
 

She got a bunch of other good shots after. However, and unfortunately, rabbit-related surprises didn't stop there. It turned out that the rabbit likes to leave surprises wherever she goes. Little round ones. Even though the teacher said she would not do that. Oh, well. That's what the vacuum cleaner is for, right?

Biggest surprise of the day for me, though, and this is saying a lot, since, remember, I got to sleep in, was that I managed to talk JD into taking some of the boxes that have been living in our garage from when I moved out of my old work office to my new work office. It was actually kinda fun, but then I wasn't the one doing most of the heavy lifting (but only because I had to keep opening the door to the building). We were surprisingly efficient, and afterwards got some coffee and talked about nothing important. Both of which was very nice.

We had a long pajama morning/afternoon yesterday, and then our very first fondue dinner, with guests. It was nice and yummy, but we broke the cheese pot after we finished the cheese course, so the to-do list now includes finding a replacement part. I have to say that since I never had, let alone made, meat fondue before, I am doubly impressed with how well that part turned out.

I snuck away from the table at 7pm to light our candle. I thought I would just do that quietly, and I did. I was surprised a few minutes later by a strong need to go back to that candle and say some names. So I did that too, and held that candle in its tall glass jar, warm but not hot, and thought of many, and it was a good thing to do.

This morning was the return of hectic, with a vengeance. JD had to go to the hospital for the moved tests, and I had to get Monkey to school, and then self to the same hospital for the long-awaited appointment with genetics. Which, surprisingly, didn't suck. They didn't push PGD. Instead they suggested the full sequencing work up on my CFTR gene copies, just as I was going to ask for, and I happily accepted. In the area of gratuitous thoroughness, they also suggested a test for fragile X, for which there is not really an indication in my history but more the lack of conclusive evidence against, and karyotyping, just for kicks. I agreed to both, since I was already getting blood drawn, and the results shouldn't take any longer. The biggest surprise was that the genetic counselor looked up what I do for work and didn't try to tell us about chromosomes and genes. Somehow, that was very important to me. I think I might think about that some more, and maybe return to it in a different post.

So to conclude this surprisingly boring post, I have a mock transfer on Wednesday. Tell me, is it going to suck? Do I need to take me some pain relievers beforehand?

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Dear fellow heathens

Need some help here.

So I don't generally mind the whole Christmas-centered culture of December in the US. Mostly, I think, because I don't tend to go into the den of consumerism that is the mall (OF DOOM). I don't even mind, on the rare occasion when I do end up interacting with a service sector employee, being wished a Merry Christmas. I just don't view it as something worth getting bothered over. But what, pray tell, am I supposed to answer when asked whether I have done my Christmas shopping yet? Twice in the last week I encountered that particular form of small talk. For starters, I am not sure why a Starbucks barista should care, or what kind of answer was she looking for? But she did seem a little taken aback by my answer of "I don't celebrate Christmas, so no."

So, fellow heathens, is this just me, or is this a common question now? And what am I supposed to say? What do you say?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Oscillations

Many years ago JD made an observation that the City wherein we reside seems thoroughly surprised, anew, by the appearance and/or quantity of the snow falling on its roads and streets every year, despite consistent (last several winters notwithstanding) showing by the stuff over the last several centuries at least. By which he meant that the City never budgets enough for snow removal, that the traffic the day of and after any worthwhile snowstorm is usually not for the weak of heart, and that if you happen to live on a street that requires plowing out, you can, in fact, just sleep in.

I tell you this by way of comparison and explanation, to convey why I was both breathless with panic and not particularly surprised to find, on Tuesday afternoon, just as dusk was settling in and I pulled over to the baby section of the cemetery, that the ground was covered, thoroughly, with a mixture of fallen leaves and remnants of the snow that fell the day before, frozen over courtesy of the rain that became of that snow by morning and the cold air that settled in that afternoon. Apparently the groundskeepers did not have enough time to rake the leaves, at least not everywhere, although they did plant tall wooden stakes on either side of each row to delineate them. And a good thing it is since the flat to the ground bronze grave stones are not by themselves sufficient given any precipitation beyond a dusting of snow.

The panic was because in my quest for the worst deadbabymama of the year award, we still don't have a permanent grave marker installed, just the little plexiglas-encased metal one that the funeral home put there, and I was sure I would never find it now. But I found it, on the first try, just zeroed in on the spot I thought it was in relation to the remaining bushes and the bench at the other side of the section. As I was diving down to dig, I also spotted a bit of yellow-- covering from the pot of flowers my mom left weeks ago. It confirmed that I was in the right general area, but I still dug where I was going to, a bit to the side of the yellow, and was rewarded with a touchdown-- I got the marker right away, on the first dig.

I didn't stay long, after that. I was there pretty late in the day, having dropped Monkey off at gymnastics, the place that happens to be no more than a few scant miles from the cemetery, darkness was encroaching, and I was somewhat genuinely worried about being locked inside the place by the closing of the gates, which, according to the sign, was supposed to have occurred good nine minutes before I drove in. Leaving, I tried not to think of my baby, all of our babies, out in the cold on the day like this. When, later on that evening, as we (and by that I mean I with short bursts of "Mama, let me mix that" thrown in) were making latkes to mark the first night of Hanukkah, I think back to where I've been, and I catch my breath. Such is the life we have nowadays. But even in this life the deep-fried latkes are most delicious, even if every batch after the first sticks to the wire basket a bit more than the one before.

***********************

We had an RE appointment yesterday afternoon. Dr.YoungGun started right away by talking about odds of success for IVF cycles. So even though it was not articulated to us before, as we suspected, JD's numbers put us right into IVF with ICSI category. The good news is they are good at single embryo transfers over there. They have the same live birth rate from single embryo cycles as from two embryo cycles, about 50%, and they have about 50% chance of twins on two embryo cycles (makes sense, no?). All good, since I am all about aiming for a singleton pregnancy this time around. The other good news is that as I deduced, nothing in JD's treatment would change as a result of the tests ordered by the urologist the other day. So the plan is to move forward sooner, rather than later, mostly, it seems, because Dr.YoungGun really heard me when I told him on the phone that I need to be doing something before we get to that one year mark. And for that, I am grateful. In fact, I have a mock transfer scheduled for next Wednesday. Plus, due to this new-found speediness, I was able to reschedule all of JD's additional tests from the urologist for next week. Unfortunately, the follow-up appointment has not been moved so far due to all kinds of craziness induced by December traveling for business and pleasure.

The bad news? They seem very set on doing ICSI for us. They also don't do selection of sperm by these new-fangled experimental methods that have been shown to give nice indicators for success. And fine, they are new-fangled and all, not yet commonly accepted, but they also don't do true rescue ICSI, where one attempts IVF, and if that fails after some hours (i.e. if there are no fertilizations), proceeds to ICSI. I am all for technology, yes I am. ART and me, we are long-lost relatives, I think. But ICSI is scary to me. There is an actual chance of a set of diseases that can be caused by ICSI. These are imprinting disorders, disorders where maternal DNA in the oocyte is not properly unmarked (cleaned from evidence of previous use in a developing organism, i.e. the mother, and prepared for use in the original stem cell that is the fertilized egg) as it normally is during the process of fertilization. This is due to the sperm getting in via a needle rather than a series of molecular events starting with the binding to the surface of the oocyte and initiating a cascade of reactions that eventually take care of the DNA unmarking. There is a higher likelihood of these diseases with ICSI. Granted, the overall number is still minuscule, but it's there, and I don't like it. This feels like a choice, and one I am not very comfortable with. It feels like if we did end up in the unlucky tiny percentage, I would feel guilty about this.

What you need to know is that I don't do parental guilt. I make my decisions, given the best possible evidence I have or should have at the time, and then the decision is not to be regretted, come what may. It has worked very well for me. But this, this is different. I spent some time last night thinking about why that is. Here's what I figured out. We had three documented conceptions before, so I feel that when given a large enough number of oocytes, JD's sperm should fertilize at least some of them. The numbers say we need ICSI, but the numbers are indicative of likelihoods, not certainties. And I want to give us a chance. I am at heart an experimental scientist. I want them to run this experiment. If it fails, I will gladly embrace ICSI, and I won't feel guilty come what may.

This is what I want. In the ideal world this is what I would demand. But in this world we live in, insurance gets to be pissy if a procedure other than what they approve is performed, and I don't yet know how many total cycles I am covered for under my new insurance. If it's the state minimum of three, can we really risk one of them on this experiment? If no eggs fertilize, we are down to two cycles. And I still want to have at least the first transfer that is done to be a single embryo transfer. Risk and reward. It's all about it. I also, in all that excitement yesterday, forgot to ask what their live birth rate was for an ICSI cycle. The literature has it at 20%, which is not great, to put it mildly. So that is my plan-- I need to find out what these two things-- my coverage and their live birth rate. And then I might need to calculate my break even percentage of IVF success-- at what probability of spontaneous fertilization am I equally likely to end up with a live baby from an attempted IVF cycle without ICSI and one with ICSI. And go from there. Can you tell I am their nightmare pain in the ass patient?

And now I need to go home-- my deep fryer, potatoes, and my family are waiting. Anyone wants to stop by for some good latkes?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Confused

I didn't post yesterday because I was a mess. Upset, anxious, wired mess. JD came back from his appointment with some good news (no mechanical issues, no surgical exploration needed), orders for more tests, and no information on what the urologist would recommend for the course of treatment now or as a result of seeing the test results. I was mighty pissed at lack of that last bit of information. More tests, and a follow-up appointment in the new year felt like pushing things off some more. I mean if nothing is going to change in this month of waiting for tests and results, can I start a cycle while we wait? If the tests are just to determine whether he might benefit from a dose of testosterone prior to my producing an egg, than can we please get on with producing an egg while we wait? Not knowing an answer to that is driving me nuts, although I suppose we should get some kind of an answer tomorrow afternoon when we see the RE.

This morning started off pretty badly. Since my medical care is at The Big Hospital (TBH), while I work at The Other Big Hospital (TOBH), and there is a shuttle that runs between them, I figured I would get to work as usual and catch the shuttle to my ultrasound appointment. Getting to work as usual, though, involves parking my car at a garage affiliated with TOBH and taking a shuttle that runs every 15 minutes and takes about 20 to get there. So does anybody see how a shuttle that I was counting on taking to TOBH breaking down instead would throw a wrench into this carefully orchestrated plan? And how it would be equally frustrating to then have the inter-hospital shuttle take extra 10 minutes to get there? So I can probably be forgiven for thinking that by the time I got to TBH they would tell me that I missed my appointment and need to reschedule. I don't know whether it was simply luck or the magic of my hospital ID complete with the sad shuttle story, but the receptionist was extremely nice to me and said they will accommodate me.

And indeed, the tech came out pretty soon, was very nice, and even agreed to leave the screen at an angle where I could see it. The angle wasn't great, so I was not sure I believed what I was seeing until she asked "So you had a cyst on the right ovary?" That's right-- it turns out that I was completely wrong in my prediction that Immanuel would stick around and demand an honor guard for his surgically orchestrated exit. It appears to be gone. I am confused because there is still some pain in that area, but I guess I will just have to accept that I am simply so ginormous now that my organs are starting turf wars for the space as yet unoccupied by adipose tissue. And yes, before you all yell at me, I promise to ask the RE about the pain tomorrow. I suppose it is possible that Immanuel burst around the time I was having the worst of this pain. And I suppose it is possible that my pain threshold is high enough that I only registered it as unpleasant, but not yet worth a call to the doctors.

Well, whether it left with a bang or a whimper (dissolving slowly and quietly), it is still gone, and that is the good news here. It is also CD1 (making the last cycle 27 days, after 39 days, after 72 days-- fun!), which is convenient for the RE appointment purposes, I hope. I am still a little disoriented, not knowing what to expect tomorrow, and not wanting to get my hopes too high up, but still having the distinct feeling that if we leave the appointment without some kind of a date set up for some kind of something or other to start happening, there will be tears.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

December

Somehow, it is already December. Which happens to mean a number of things. First, my month of let's see if I can post every day (known to braver souls who actually signed up as NaBloPoMo) is over, and I actually made it writing a post a day. It was much less scary and much less pointless than I anticipated. Now that it's over I would like to try to keep up posting on most days, but I won't be too upset if I miss a couple here and there.

December also means the Big Week of Appointments is here. Urologist for JD tomorrow, my repeat u/s for Immanuel on Tuesday, and we see the RE on Wednesday. Hopefully, there will be a schedule and a plan. Somehow we made it here, and I am not yet completely insane. But I really don't think I will be very good at handling any additional delays. So let's not have any. OK? OK.

There is snow on the ground. Actual white snow. And it's not melting or anything. It really is December. And it is hard to believe that last weekend we were doing things like these.
Climbing the wall. This is the first day, when I didn't make it all the way up. This is just about how high I made it. Oh, and I am still collecting guesses as to the style I ripped off on the entry that describes the experience. Please feel free to submit your guess. In fact, I would appreciate it if you did.
 

This is a closeup. I am only including it because my ass looks much smaller in this picture than it has gotten to be in real life. Sad, I know.

Can you spot the fish in this one? Hint: it seems to have succeeded in that whole evolutionary adaptation business.


 

This was shortly after I did make it all the way up the wall the next day. I missed taking pictures of the sunset itself, but the sky was still playing with shapes and colors for a good half hour after the sun appeared to have gone into hiding.
 

Friday, November 30, 2007

Ten months, busy thoughts

Today is ten months. One day this month, tomorrow is already December. It seems less like a monthaversary this month. Maybe because there is only one day to mark the death day and the birth day, and so it is all garbled together. It is certainly not oppressively hard like nine months was. I know better than to declare some corner or other turned, as tempting as it would be after last month. I've had good stretches before, I've had monthaversaries that didn't feel heavy, and neither was ever permanent. I learned my lesson-- this is fluid and unpredictable.

I've been anticipating the ten months, thinking about it on and off through the week, wondering how I would feel when it got here. In the end it was a busy day, too busy to really sit with my feelings, and maybe that is why it was easier. It occurred to me today, and feel free to call me dense for only figuring it out now, that next month is going to be hard. New Year's Eve and eleven months. The worst eleven months and one day of my life. Will I be able to enjoy the festivities? To be happy that this most cruel year is over and gone? Or will the ghosts of the last New Year party, in the same house, with almost the same cast of characters, chase me down the twisty passages of memory? We shall see, I guess. We shall see.

The day was busy because Fridays are short days at school, and today I was picking Monkey up together with a classmate, and taking them to our house for a playdate that was to culminate with the other girl's family coming over for Shabbat. As I still hadn't caught up on housework from being gone over the weekend and land sick upon our return, I left for work latish today, and used that morning time to rectify the domestic situation some. Which still left me with the need to stop by a store on the way to the school and then cook once we got home. In the end all of it got done, even if a little slower than I meant it to be. The girls had a great time, including many changes of costume and not a single fight, the meal came out very well, and the company was more than pleasant.

I even had a moment of perspective today. Driving to the school, with a store stopover, I was listening to the local radio program about the shortage of fuel assistance money this winter. With the prices high and budget allocations less than in the 1980s, bad, bad shit is going down. People trying to find extra jobs, second, third jobs, and time in their weeks to work those jobs. Seniors eating every other day to save enough money to pay the bill. They called it heat or eat dilemma. Children showing up in ER with burns from their families trying to keep them warm with light bulbs, heaters, anything. The doctor they had on said she saw one former preemie stop breathing. Can you even imagine that? After weeks or maybe months in NICU to have your child endangered in and by your own home?

And even when less extreme, when not life and death, it still has consequences. Babies and children who don't get enough warmth and nutrition in the cold months are not developing properly, not learning, not playing, limiting their life potential. Limiting children's life potential by cuts in federal heating assistance programs. Yes, I had a moment of personal perspective, most certainly. After all, my biggest immediate problem was what to cook for dinner so that everyone will enjoy it and it wouldn't be too much work to get done.

But then, and this is where I alienate any Republican readers I might have, then I got upset. I got upset that despite promises during the pre-election campaign to increase funding for the fuel assistance program, current administration cut it and is trying to cut it again. I got upset that while no CEO will ever be left behind by this administration, not one but two winters will have to pass before there is any hope for people who are so desperate that they attempt to keep their kids warm with light bulbs. Because let's face it, January 20th, 2009 will still be half way through the next winter, and it's not like this issue will be the first sent for signature to our next president.

This issue is not one that lands itself to individual action. A tank of oil is costing over $700 now, and with thousands of working families and seniors struggling, this is a disaster and it needs a government solution. The government that is currently run by people who don't believe in government as an agent of positive change. It's not a self-fulfilling prophesy, it's a farce. And this is the same party where a former minister running now for its nomination responds to one of those what would Jesus do questions with "Jesus was too smart to ever run for public office, Anderson. That's what Jesus would do." That hypocrisy, of dispatching with ideals they claim to stand for when practicalities of the office weigh on them, while acting like piousness is the proper measure of a person's character, is still making my head hurt.

You know, way off in the future I want Monkey to go to a good college. But I want her to get there because she works hard, not because a large chunk of kids in her cohort got their development curtailed by a cold winter years and years ago.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

All hail the waterproof camera

I have been working on my vacation pictures, hoping for a single photo essay. Turns out it is taking a while, and so I thought I would share a couple of my weird shots with you. All taken on or under the surface of the ocean.

 

I never got around to visiting an ophthalmologist to get a new batch of contacts before we left for the trip. And, admittedly, water acts a bit like a lens, but certainly not well enough for me to deliberately stage a shot like this. In fact, I didn't find it until I started looking at my haul. I must've pressed the button accidentally. Or was it JD? Either way this is found art, I guess. Or maybe accidental art. Yes, I like this designation.
 


 

With this one, I certainly meant to take a picture of the composition. What happened next, with the flash, reflection, and optics I have no idea. But I kinda like the result.

More pictures, including, maybe, me on the wall later on this weekend.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Half Birthday

I realized some time during the day that today is JD's half birthday. Which means I know exactly where we were and what we were doing six months ago. We were having a little birthday celebration in our rented apartment with his two classmates who still reside in the Old City and their families. The food was good, although nothing fancy. The company, though, was outstanding. Unfortunately, the food portion of the event is significantly easier to replicate than the people one. The latter is impossible, actually. What with the visas and the time difference and the extremely short notice.

But hey, any excuse is a good excuse for a little party, so Monkey and I stopped by a store after school and got everything we needed for a close approximation of that birthday meal. I called the three friends who live nearby and have live-in nannies to see whether they would want to come over. Only one couple could make it. But we had tea, and fruity drinks (just back from the ship anyone?), and cake. I even managed to clean up the kitchen and surrounding areas and obliterate most of the evidence of the I don't have it in me after returning from the cruise and being land sick neglect before they showed up. I am not at all tipsy from the fruity drinks, but I am sleepy. Very sleepy. So vacation pictures will have to wait until tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

On grieving and abiding

Tertia started this thing a couple of days ago where she asked a number of bloggers who have experienced loss of some kind to talk about grieving and how to approach a grieving friend. Go read them all, I can wait.

At first I didn't think I could have anything to add. I mean every one of the guests of honor has pointed out exactly why the stupid platitudes are stupid. So why keep wasting electrons? And yet, I felt like there was something in the air, something that the loss bloggers understood instinctively, but did not articulate. Because it is so a part of who we are now, this understanding. In matters of education, concepts that are routinely not articulated because they are so much a part of the foundational understanding of the field that experts often forget that it is possible to not know or understand these concepts are said to fall into an expert blind spot. I guess I am presumptuous enough to think I can illuminate our expert (a dubious flipping distinction if I ever saw one) blind spot. So here goes.

We hear time and again that people say stupid shit because they don't know what to say. That they say stupid shit because they want to help, because they feel badly for us. Um, yes, maybe, sort of. It is my contention that stupid shit is generally about making the situation seem less sucky than it is ("at least you are young-- you can always have another" anyone? Yes, because my children are much like trading cards, and I can surely live without the damaged one). Or making it seem like it had to be this way ("it's all G-d's plan." That G-d of yours is rather a sadist, don't you think?), or that it is better that it is this way. Many other lovely sentiments have been covered by the original group of bloggers in Tertia's circle, so I will leave the recitation alone. I will sum it up by saying that I believe that people say stupid shit to make themselves, and not the grieving person, feel better. About the unfairness of the universe. About this being OK. They want it to be ok. Or they want to "fix it."

But here's the deal, here's the thing that we don't articulate enough because we know it too well. Ready? OK. Grief is what happens when nothing can be fixed. We grieve because it can no longer be fixed. Dead babies, dead husbands, dead parents, dead friends, they don't come back. And even if you have another baby, marry again, or end up with a supportive step-parent or a new close and dear friend, they, each of them, is a different person. Not the one you lost. Not a replacement. Parents of special needs children can't have back what they lost either. They build a new life, learn to set different milestones for achievement, but they can't have their ideal normal back. None of us can. This is why we grieve, because it can't be fixed. It's the forever of it that is so daunting.

So what's a friend to do? Abide with us. (I heard that word before, read it most likely, somewhere in the IF blogosphere. And then Julia Uncommon signed her email to me that way, "abiding with you," and it just summed up all the kind things she said before, helpful, thoughtful things, explained why it was easy to hear her, why it was such a relief to have someone say these things to me.) Just be with us. Don't try to fix it. Don't tell us it is not as bad as it could be. Don't tell us it's ok. It's not. This is why we grieve. And yes, I know it's hard to see us suffer. And you want to do something. Well then, Snickollet has a lovely list. The genius of it is that it doesn't minimize the forever, it is not trying to fix the thing that will never be fixed. It simply is something you can do to help your friend walk this shitty grief road (that happens to run right along the life road-- this is why this practical stuff is so great).

I've talked about this stuff before, about how we don't get into each other's faces about what or how to feel, about how we abide. So if your friends are grieving, abide with them. It's the least, and the most, you can do.

Monday, November 26, 2007

To complete the picture

After we missed the baggage check-in time for our flight by 4 minutes, got bumped to the next flight, found food and coffee, JD noticed a video arcade and suggested to Monkey that they partake of the pleasures of adrenalin for quarters. Monkey, the same girl who only three days before demonstrated such care about proper nutrition for her baby doll, entrusted the same doll to my care with the following words of wisdom.

We are leaving the doll. She will only get in my way. Because holding the doll and shooting is sort of inconvenient.


Vacation pictures coming soon.

P.S. Tried again to get the feeds on the blogs already on my roll, and for most it worked. Seems the reader was being temperamental when I was setting the thing up last week. Will try to add all the other feeds I mean to include sometime this week. There is also that small matter of actually working that I have to pay some heed to.

The short of it

We are home now. This is my entry from yesterday, Sunday, November 25th. Today's entry coming soon.

I made it up the climbing wall on the side other than the one I tried yesterday. Which likely means that it was in fact a geometry issue that foiled me up the first time, and not my own ineptitude. Woo-hoo.

I couldn’t, however, climb the waterpark wall that requires one to haul self out of water onto the holds in the inflatable climbing islands. Ways to go. And a worthy goal for, oh, the next five years or so.

Can’t stop thinking about whether B’s baby has been born. Less than 12 hours now until I can find out. Today's note-- apparently, not yet. Waiting with baited breath, still. Good luck, B and J.

The Wall and the Ocean

This is my entry for Saturday, November 24th. Copied and pasted, at the airport. The connection is uncertain, and we need to head for security. More later, from home.

I braid the top part of my hair. I washed it only yesterday, and this will surely ruin it. But that’s alright, we will be snorkeling later, and I always need to wash it after it’s been in the ocean. I don’t actually think about snorkeling right now. This is a reconstruction, I don’t yet know this is what I will be writing about, and I put it in after. I have a choice of telling you or not, since this is my reconstruction. I decide to tell.
       I braid the hair so the helmet can fit better, easier, more precisely. Precisely and precipice, are these two words related? I think they are. But not then—this too is a reconstruction.

The brochure they put in our room last night said tonight there will be a formal dinner. Coat and tie for gentlemen, cocktail dresses for the ladies. I didn’t bring a cocktail dress. I don’t know that I own one I still fit into. I brought my aunt’s to the first cruise we took, but I have since returned it. As is, I know that the hair will be enough trouble, getting it washed along with everything else we will have to do this afternoon to make it to our dinner time without missing out on the off-ship part of the program will be tight. So they should just lay off with the dress. What are they going to do, I think, not let me into the dinner? I take weird, illicit pleasure in smarting for this fight. Even as I know it will never happen. I could show up in a t-shirt and shorts, and they would probably still let me in, with a disapproving look undoubtedly. Nevertheless I keep imagining how easy it would be to shock their lights out. I don’t have one that fits anymore, I would say. You see, my metabolism has really gone to shit ever since my baby son died. I don’t want to spend the money on a new one. The dress, not the son.
       It really does bother me. They could’ve said “formal attire preferred” or somesuch, something that provides for some freedom, even if the freedom is of a restricted variety. This is our vacation after all, and it is good to have choices. This cocktail dress thing, it’s like a uniform, like there will be some celebrity judge or other at the entrance to the dining room deciding your fate. This is a fetching number. Please, come in, and may I recommend the duck? You, on the other hand. What are you thinking showing up in pants? I do not care that they are petite, and thus fit, or new, or even fancy. I do not see a cocktail dress, but I do know for a fact there is a buffet on the upper deck. Enjoy.
        Relishing this imaginary opportunity to bring them down to size is childish, even ludicrous, unworthy of the story I would tell them. But still, here it is.

I already have my shoes on. Surprisingly, the first pair she offered me fit. They are funny shoes. There is an opening in the material on the top, right where the laces start their ridiculously long march up the foot. There are so many holes, rows of holes for the laces to thread through, absurdly many, many more than on regular sneakers. Maybe figure skates have that many, but it’s been years since I laced up my own and many months since I laced hers. I don’t remember.
       The helmet goes on, and is adjusted, then this black contraption over my middle, then it is clicked in place, twice, and I wait. My head is feeling a lot more substantial with the helmet on. My field of vision is only a little restricted, I will need to be able to see straight, right, left, as far as an arm’s reach. The rest is not as important. I wait. There is a girl of 14, maybe 15 in front of me. Her brother is taking pictures and egging her on. When she lets go and gives up, he makes fun, relentlessly. It’s my turn now.
       Use mostly your legs the man says. Most people overuse their arms, and then they get tired too fast. OK. At first it’s easy. The first several steps are close enough together that I take them in seconds. Then it gets harder. The holds get funky, hard to grab with your hand. And if the grip is uneasy, it’s hard to push off the next step, it’s uncertain. But I grab the next one. Then another one. Hey, I am doing pretty well. Oh, wait. Now what? I need to put my foot where my hand is, and there is no good place to put the hand. Well, there is, if I was about a foot taller, but I don’t have the reach. I try the red stone to the left, even though the yellow ones I have been using are supposed to be all I need, but even the red one is no use. JD is taking pictures. I am sure they will not be kind, they will, instead, show just how much extra weight there is on me. I don’t feel bad about it, or not too bad in any case. The body has its purpose now, the hope for it, trying to mess with it, to ask it to also loose the weight seems greedy. These are reduced circumstances, and one makes do.
       I look around some more, but I can feel my fingers slipping their hold. I let go and grab the rope, just like he told me before. I can’t reach I say, bring me down. He lowers me, gently enough, no need to repel. I made it about two thirds of the way up the climbing wall. Pretty good. Tomorrow, I think, tomorrow I will try the other yellow track, the ones kids are climbing. I should be able to reach there.
       I am surprised to find my arms are jittery, and my hands. It didn’t feel like they were doing too much work up there, but I guess that was deceiving. I had to hold on, tight, so there was tension, and this is that tension, released. I return the shoes, with my still trembling hands. The woman who gave me the shoes said kids have to be six to try this. She is five, and so I did not write her into the form for who else my consent covers. I know she wants to try, badly. I don’t see them checking anything, no computer, no magic link to the central brain that knows all there is to know about us.

On our first cruise, with another company, there was a strict rule about the age cut-offs for the camp. Five, and you are stuck with three year olds. Six, and you are with the big kids. There was no way to jump the group. None. For this cruise, then, JD tried to age her a bit, add on about six months. But he had to give the passport numbers, the real ones. They checked the DOB there, and when we showed, she was listed as five. We told her she might have to go to camp with little kids, and she said ok. But then we showed up for the sign-up, and they said it was ok, she could jump to the older kids group, and as long as she did well there, she could stay. That is where she is right now, at camp, in the bigger kids group.

We pick her up for lunch. She is excited about all of it. The morning at camp, desert with lunch, snorkeling that is next on the agenda, and the pirate parade with camp tonight. We tell her about the wall, about how we will try to sneak her in tomorrow, but it may not work. We talk about the rules. Some are bad rules, they make no sense. And then it’s ok to break them. But kids can’t decide by themselves which rules are bad. If you don’t like a rule and you think it can be broken, come talk to the parents, and we will decide together. It can’t be that you just want to do something that the rule doesn’t permit you to do. You have to explain why this rule is not making sense. No cheating.
       We are off. Off the ship, to wait on the pier for everyone else, who is apparently not as paranoid about the tour leaving without them. Lucky I brought my book. Not lucky, predictable. I bought it at the airport and carry it with me everywhere to read every chance I get. Which I don’t have that many, as it turns out. Or maybe I am just not a very fast reader. I can read faster, but then I skip things. I am reading this one carefully, savoring, hanging on every word. I even go back to check something once.
       The first part of snorkeling goes well, very well. She finally figures out how to work it all, and is excited to see all the fish. She tells me so with the snorkel still in her mouth, so it comes out muffled, but I still get it. She gets cold, and needs to go up for a rest. When I go to get her again, we forget her inflatable west, and that messes us up, she tries to breathe with her nose, gets scarred, wants out. JD takes her on the boat. There is only ten minutes left, so they stay, and I get the camera and go chase the fish.
       I love the colors of the tropical fish. Corals too, their shapes, their colors. As I chase an angel fish, paparazzi style, I catch another one in my lens, a light purple one. Wow, but it’s pretty. And then it occurs to me that things under water are not actually the color we perceive them to be. This here is the original case of who are you going to believe, me or your own lying eyes? There is a conversion table, and you should be able to figure it out from physics. But I don’t remember the table and I don’t remember enough optics to figure it out. Will have to ask JD to see if he does.
       Back on the boat, I dry myself off, pack up, peel an orange. And then I see them, out on the deck, playing the Old Country version of pat-a-cake. I sneak onto the opposite side of the deck and shoot some pictures. I have no place in that moment. It is sweet, and it is for the two of them. I know, too, the futility of trying to capture it on film, or in zeroes and ones, as the case may be. But I try anyway. This is my family, happy. I need as much of that as I can get these days. So even an image, a reflection, a shadow will have to do. Something to hold on to, for later.



Deducing the title of the book I have been reading is left as an exercise to the reader. Any takers?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Before I go

About to leave the hotel room and the internets with it. Before I do that, I wanted to ask you all what do you figure it says about Monkey's upbringing that at one point at breakfast this morning she declared her baby dolly hungry, then promptly pulled down the top of her dress and stuck the dolly's face to her nipple? And then sat, holding the dolly in place with one hand, operating the fork with the other, and chatting non-stop for the next several minutes? What?

Updated: It's not the nursing that was noteworthy-- I've seen that many a time. It was the apparently nonchalant "nursing in public" complete with impressive multitasking that was cracking me up.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Good Housekeeping

We are in a hotel tonight. Getting on a cruise ship tomorrow afternoon, for a quick three day jaunt. Because of this, Thanksgiving was a lunch affair, potluck with my sister, involving a limited number of dishes, since, you know, we had to leave for the airport. We did well, by which I mean that the food was good, we stuffed ourselves as I believe is required by both state and federal law, and yet, except for the bird, there weren't that many leftovers. What was left is my sister's problem, since we, as I believe I mentioned, left.

Also, if you would like to take a plane trip, and have no preference as far as the date of said trip is concerned, may I suggest the fourth Thursday in November? This, this is what travel should be. The airport was a breathe, so much so that I got a 15 minute chair massage at Brookstone that I didn't have to wait for and nobody except Monkey bugged me while I was enjoying it. Monkey, excited as she was by the prospect of the next four! days! of! fun!, thought it was unfair that I got to sit in the chair and is it her turn yet? Although in fairness she was really good for most of the day today while we packed and cooked and did some last minute things.

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So I did pretty well with this unofficial NaBloPoMo deal. I was too chicken to sign up, but up until today did in fact post every day, even if some days I had valiantly fight sleep to accomplish this important goal. The next three days I can't be sure of my connections to the civilized world (read: internets), so I can't be sure I will get to keep up with this. Here's my solution-- since I am not officially signed up, I get to bend the rules. My newly bent rules, then, allow me to write the posts for the next three days off line and to post the whole bunch when I get back. Whatdayathink?

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JD's repeat test was Monday, and we got the results yesterday. They are somewhat improved, although not enough to avoid serious interventions. Some of this might be random fluctuation, and some may be the supplements he started taking after I spent some hours in heart-to-heart conversations with my dear friend PubMed. Hope, that bitch, showed up the moment I started reading the report, and she is still hanging around, whispering all about how we might just get away with IVF only, sans ICSI. We'll see. He has to go give the lab vampires some blood after we get back, and he has an appointment with the urologist after, and then I get my ultrasound and we both see the RE. I am going to try to not think about any of this on the cruise. Although I am not really expecting to succeed with this.

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And finally, I started updating my blog roll and setting up my google reader last night. Got a good way through, but am not nearly finished. I was bummed, though, by the number of blogs I can't get a feed for. On my blog roll I marked them with a *. I certainly understand if you did that on purpose-- there are certainly enough reasons to. And I promise I will still click through. But um... if it wasn't intentional, would you mind setting your feed free? Pretty please?

Oh, and if you don't see your blog on the roll, it is probably because I am not done updating it yet. But feel free to leave a comment to tell me you can't believe yours wasn't the first blog I added on. I can't believe it either. I was actually planning on staying up to add a bunch more tonight, but I am falling asleep, and I think that at this point it would be wise to give in. So the rest of the updates will have to wait till next week. In the meantime I am going to read for a couple of pages and kill the lights.

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Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!