Sunday, February 27, 2011

Still seeking stork

Yesterday I was visiting with my BFF since he had custody of his kids this weekend. He has a 4 year old daughter & a 2 year old son (my godson) so there's lots of Disney stuff in his house. His kids popped "Dumbo" into the DVD player while I was over; it's easily been 20 years since I last saw it. Here's the opening scene:

As a child it never crossed my mind the heartache Dumbo's mom felt in the opening scene as all the other circus animals were visited by the stork, leaving her without a baby of her own. Now, as an infertile adult, I totally feel for her, even if she is just a cartoon elephant.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

I want to register too, dammit!

Planning has begun for my super awesome little sister's bridal shower. She's begun registering for the usual stuff, which I never got to do since my wedding shower was planned for when I was visiting my parents' place as I lived in the Midwest @ the time. My lovely friends & family got us plenty of gift cards (which was awesome) so I wouldn't have to haul back a U-Haul full of stuff. Of course, 1 week before my shower Vid got unexpectedly laid off & we ended up moving back to New England. I was kind of sad I never got to register for our wedding but figured I'd more than make up for it when we registered for a baby shower.

Well, several years & numerous dates with the transvaginal ultrasound wand later, I realize that may also not happen. Which gave me an idea: why the hell I can't I register for IVF? If Aunt So-and-so is buying her a Kichen Aid mixer, why can't I get some Lupron out of the deal too?

Don't get me wrong; I'm well aware of how fortunate I am to have 80% coverage for infertility. But consider that IVF can cost between $10-20,000 per attempt (yes, attempt; as in "not guaranteed to work") & my co-pay works out to $2,000 at the bare minimum. And we are not made of money by any means: we rent our duplex (since what money we tried to save for a house has gone to infertility treatments), Vid drives my old car (14 years & well over 100k miles on it) & I drive a small Hyundai with 3 years of payments left on it. $2000 is just about my take home pay for a month after taxes. Scary.

Maybe I'll just slip these into my sister's invites (tee hee!):

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Well, that won't be us either.

From the lovely folks @ CNN:

11-11-11: How to get the coolest birthday for your baby

And the worst part?

Knowing some stupid fertile will decide her kid like totally needs to have a super cute birthday, have sex once & get exactly what she wants.

I don't care what birthday my future kid gets; I'll take anything!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Having an unhappy period

Aunt Flo showed up on Friday 2 days early. Thankfully I have a stash of tampons in my desk @ work so I was able to stave off bleeding through my jeans. Unfortunately my undies did not fair so well. Since I wasn't expecting AF for 2 days I wasn't wearing my "meh" underwear: you know, the pairs that are well worn & on their way out anyways that you specifically wear when AF is in town so you don't ruin a new pair.

If that wasn't sucky enough I find out that cousin who got married in May & is due at the end of the month had her baby in the afternoon when I stopped @ my parents' house on the way home from work to pick up something. She apparently went into labor that morning & had the kid not even 8 hours later. I give myself props for @ least being able to hold in my tears until I got home.

And to top it all off, my other cousin who is also due @ the end of the month (the day before the cousin who had her baby on Friday) is being induced tomorrow because her OB/GYN is going on vacation when she is due & she needs him (her? I don't know if the doc is male or female) to deliver her as she is on state medical insurance & the other docs @ the practice aren't. Don't even get me started on knowingly getting knocked up with baby #2 (@ least she's married) when you can't afford to deliver on your own dime, but inducing someone because you're going on vacation is just ridiculous.

All of this is not helping my diet to get off the last bit of weight to be able to do IVF, of course. Tonight I start my BCPs meaning there will be no 2011 baby for us, just as there was no 2009 or 2010 baby. I'll be on them for 2 months since Vid has to travel for work next month (it's a great opportunity & I'm completely fine with putting off our cycle for a few weeks) but they're ultra low dose (Apri) so I shouldn't oversupress my ovaries. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact this is what getting pregnant has come to for us.

Thankfully I have therapy after work on Tuesday; I really need it this week.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Cross cultural infertility

Besides having a real, live child of my own, another thing I often dream about is travel. And by travel, I don't mean 5-star, all-inclusive resorts. I much prefer places where I am crammed into a 15-passenger mini-bus with 20 people, their luggage, several chickens pecking @ my feet & an angry baby camel strapped to the roof bleating for 5 hours pretty much nonstop. And yes, all of that actually happened in a magical place called Burkina Faso. :)

Vid & I have often talked about living abroad in the future. I've lived in several African locales for extended periods of time & he's been living abroad as an Indian in the US for almost a decade now. But right now packing up & leaving is not an option so instead I check in on some of the International Nesties every so often.

One of the ladies I lovingly stalk is Melaina @ Transatlantic Blonde as she & I started on a TTC board around the same time. She lives in Glasgow with her Scottish hubby & 1/2 Scottish baby (LOL). She recently had another international lady do a guest post on her blog which really hit home for me. Sandy @ How Beautiful Are The Feet lives in Namibia with her husband (both Americans) as a church planter.

Sandy's guest post was on her own experience with infertility & that of a friend in Namibia who lives a traditional lifestyle. I've copies it below to share it with my followers as I think it's spectacular & felt like expounding on it a bit. It's nice to actually get to use that not-quite-PhD in anthropology for something even if it is just on a blog post! Here's Sandy's post:

I usually write about life in Namibia and what is going on in the lives of the students that my husband and I work with. Not many people know about our struggle to get pregnant, and it is not something I have discussed on my blog. When Blondie presented the opportunity to write a guest spot for her I thought it would be a great way to share some of the things I have noticed in dealing with IF in a foreign country.

In 2002, when I lived in Namibia, I met a lady who could not have children. Her name is Watjantja, she lives in Swartbooisdrif, one of the most remote villages in Namibia. There are no medical doctors there; in fact, there are no fertility specialists in the entire country of Namibia. In the Himba culture (recently showed in the movie “Babies”) children are life. Without children you are doomed to be forgotten. Her husband did what almost any Himba husband in that situation would do, he took a second wife who bore him many children without any problem. At the time I was sad for her, but I could never grasp the full force of the devastation behind her expression as she told us all of this.

Fast forward to 2009, my husband and I are about to finish college and we are finally ready to begin our family. I remember that day like it was yesterday, we sat in a restaurant and decided that it was finally time to start trying. The absolute possibilities of what that decision meant for our future made both of us cry. Now here I sit at the beginning of 2011, it has been almost two years and we are no closer to having our family than we were that day in the restaurant. In the last two years I have had several diagnoses thrown at me from doctors thousands of miles apart. (Including PCOS, Endometriosis and Anovulation “here have some Clomid!!!”) Who knew that trying to have a baby included so many needles and an absolute stripping down of one’s dignity?

In 2010 we returned to Swartbooisdrif, Watjantja’s village. She was still there, as barren as ever. When she saw me her eyes lit up, then she looked down at my arms searching for a child. When our eyes met again she read me like a book, her expression said : “You are like me aren’t you?” In an instant she recognized the pain, the emptiness, the hopelessness, and the loneliness in my eyes and in my empty arms. Watjantja can speak no English and through a translator she said “Don’t be like me!” To this day it is one of the hardest and most comforting things I have experienced on this road of infertility.

The one lesson I have learned in dealing with IF and traveling across the world is that women of every culture language color and economic standing share the same feeling of emptiness and heartache when it comes to IF. Anywhere on earth you will be able to find someone who has been touched by this relentless pain and someone who, without having to say anything, can understand the hurt that you are feeling.

After reading her post I must admit I teared up a bit; it really hit home on so many levels. Once I regained my composure, I headed to my basement where the walls are lined with bookshelves as I felt moved to revisit the long abandoned anthropology texts dealing with reproduction. I find it ironic that even before I had issues with getting pregnant the whole process of baby making was fascinating to me, but I digress.

Anthropology as a discipline is usually divided into 4 sub-disciplines: biological, socio-cultural, linguistic & archaeology. The boundaries of these areas are very fluid & it is common for an anthropologist to jump between them. I concentrated on socio-cultural & biological, the combo of which is sometimes thought of as "medical anthropology". I was & still am infatuated with the intersection between cultural beliefs & medical diagnoses/treatments. Hence, infertility in non-Western cultures is both an academic & personal pursuit of mine, as I am married to someone from another culture & country than mine.

Within these 4 sub-disciplines, infertility can be seen through a different lens. In socio-cultural, we can look @ cultural attitudes towards infertility as a disease & those who suffer from infertility. Biologically we can explore reasons for said infertility & possible treatments. Linguistically we can learn about the special language of infertility with acronyms galore (PCOS, IVF, etc.). And we can even learn from the past about historic infertiles via archaeology: think about all the infertile women in the Bible, for example.

Thinking about how the experience of infertility really is a shared feeling of hurt & longing, I remembered 1 book right off the bat: Baba of Karo most likely because it's essentially an oral history in written form of a Hausa woman, a language which I used to speak "dha kyau" (very well) for an "ansara" (white lady).

Like many well off Hausa women, her marriage was polygynous as her husband could afford more than 1 wife; up to 4 are allowed under Islamic law. Women who live in such a setting don't commonly distinguish between their biological kids & any others in the household; in fact, it is quite common for them to nurse children they did not actually bear. But Baba could never nurse these other children as she herself had never been pregnant.

What's interesting is that in the book infertility is everywhere but not there @ the same time. By that I mean Baba's childlessness makes her an "other" (to give a nod to Edward Said's "Orientalism") in her own country. Even now, the Hausa of Niger have among the highest fertility rates in the world, averaging over 8 children per woman, which doesn't even take into account the numerous miscarriages & stillbirths many women in Africa deal with due to a lack of prenatal care. And even as an "other" in her own culture, it's interesting (suspicious?) that the author didn't write about Baba's thoughts and feelings on her infertility or that Baba never mentioned it to the author. Perhaps it was because of the time in which the book was written & published (1950s/60s)? I dunno.

She was married 4 times total; all of her co-wives had born children yet she never was able to. But in her 4 divorces not 1 seems to be directly related to her infertility; rather, it was (and in some Hausa subcultures, is) acceptable for people to marry & remarry @ will. This of course flies in the face of the widely hold Western notion that Muslim women have no free will of their own. Think about it: even with an inability to reproduce she still had a high worth as a member of society & was well respected by co-wives & others in the community.

Even if she couldn't give birth herself, she could still be an excellent mother in many ways. She taught her co-wives' children the ways of their culture & taught the girls of her compound how to be a good wife (and maybe mother) some day too.

It was common until recently for Hausa families to give extra children to infertile friends or relatives to be raised as their own. In Baba's case, she adopted her son, a young freed male slave, of a family member. Even though everyone knew he was adopted, "Malam gave Usuman to be my son, just as if I had borne him". Although I'm not a huge Oprah fan, I do love her quote that "Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother"; this is especially true in Baba's case.

So here I sit, a Catholic American, married once, post-graduate educated, sharing my infertility with a Muslim Hausa, 4-times divorced, illiterate woman who's been dead for over half a century. It's amazing what a blog post can conjure up. And very profound as well.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Blog Awards

Several readers have been kind enough to give this blog awards in the past few weeks. I've been meaning to acknowledge them but haven't been online much lately since the new semester has started & I've been busy with classes when I'm not working. So here we go!

Shout out/thank you for awarding me to:

Emily @ Em&M, plain or peanut?
Her story of success after infertility gives me hope. And her son is so cute!

Kerrik @ Uncommon Nonsense.
A fellow PCOSer with a great sense of humor!

ADSchill @ MissConception.
I don't think there's a topic she hasn't covered; a truly all-encompassing blog!

And now I'm supposed to share 7 things about myself. If you've read this blog for any length of time you already know I'm not a shrinking violet so this will be no problem for me...

My 7 things:
1. I love Dunkin Donuts coffee with all my heart. One of the major reasons I hated living in the Midwest for grad school was there were no Dunkin Donuts for several hours form where I lived. I often thought about opening one near campus for all the other East Coasters who also missed the Nectar of the Gods.
2. I only shave during warm weather, meaning both legs and pits. My ladygarden is always neatly trimmed but I've never waxed it off; I don't want to look like I'm 5. If people wouldn't look @ me weird during bathing suit season for not shaving I'd probably never shave @ all.
3. I lived for 3 months in Niger without running water as a grad student. I was fine with this, but it was still slightly disturbing to finally take a shower after all that time (I'd been taking "bucket baths") & discover how my awesome tan was really just a lot of sand & dirt from the Sahara.
4. I'm Irish, Portuguese & Hawaiian. My husband is Tamil. I cannot wait to see what our kids will look like if we ever get to have biological children. We could end up with every color of the rainbow!
5. My hair is very long (about 3 inches above my butt crack) & has been for most of my life. I fully plan on being a little old lady with gorgeous long silver hair even if it is a PITA to brush.
6. I don't get circumcision AT ALL. Why would one cut off a perfectly healthy & functional body part? As an American, I know this makes me kind of weird, since most of the men in my generation (born in the 70's) are circumcised. But cut penises have always looked weird (butchered?) to me. I don't know if it was an accident that I married a Hindu (a religion that does not circumcise) or not but I am so glad I'm not going to have to battle Vid about leaving our son's foreskin alone if we ever have a boy.
7. Even though I know @ this point I have a better chance of winning the lottery than actually getting pregnant on my own & having it stick, I still play phantom due date every cycle: I look up what interesting events have taken place or what famous people were born on my potential due date.

And now for the awards:

1. Jill @ Already a Family.

2. Chrissy @ Trying to Get a Bun in My Oven.

3. Katie @ The Life I Have Imagined.

4. Heather @ Some Womb Thoughts.

5. Papps @ Our Arduous Journey.

If you're new to any of the above blogs, check them out!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

3 years ago today...

I married the sweetest, kindest, cutest & most annoying man on earth. And arguably the nerdiest as well. Need proof? He marked our anniversary this morning by sending me this: