Friday, February 27, 2009

Documentary: "Bio-Dad"

Last night, I watched a riveting two-hour documentary on the CBC. "Bio-Dad" covered the journey (over several years) of Barry Stevens, a Toronto man conceived in the early 1950s through donor sperm, to learn the identity of his biological father. His journey involved many ups & downs & surprises -- including the discovery that he has a biological daughter himself. Along the way, he visits other children born of donors, a single gay dad & some lesbian mothers who have used donor gametes and/or surrogates to conceive their children. He also explores the ethics, implications and future direction that ARTs might take (for better & for worse). Stevens did an earlier documentary on the same subject (which I have not seen), called "Offspring."

I was dead tired (dh was long asleep by the time I made it up to bed at 10), but I was glad I stayed awake to watch the whole thing. Although donor gametes were not part of my infertility journey, I am nevertheless fascinated by the subject, and by the enduring tug of the biological tie. (Also, as I have written before, I am a sucker for a great reunion story of just about any kind.) I thought he struck a nice balance between the need for a fuller knowledge of one's biological identity and yet sympathy for those, like his parents -- and his bio-dad -- who desire secrecy and anonymity.

There is a link on the CBC's "Bio-Dad" site to the film, so you can actually watch it on your computer! (And it's only about 90 minutes without the commercials!). Lots of interesting links expanding on the story on the right-hand side of the page too.

Allergic reaction? or...

Last summer, I started having some weird reactions to food. Since writing about that first incident, I've had several others, including two in the last week. I've turned hot & red while attending crops at the scrapbook store three times now (much to the dismay of the poor owners -- still, they haven't banned me yet...!), and couple times at work too. Most of these episodes seem to begin when I'm eating -- which is why it seems reasonable to assume that I'm having an allergic reaction of some kind -- but weirdly, it has also happened a few times when I haven't been eating.

I went to see an allergist in July (the same one I saw 20 years ago) & had all the skin scratch tests done. It showed sensitivity to tomatos, carrots, chocolate (!!), apples & oats -- all foods I eat regularly without incident (although twice the reactions did occur when I was eating a pasta dish with tomato sauce). Each time it's happened, I've taken a Benadryl or two, & the symptoms generally subside within 45 minutes to an hour -- although the Benadryl always leaves me feeling horribly groggy & dehydrated. Once I went to a walk-in clinic in the office tower across the street; another time dh took me to emergency. Both times, I was much less red & starting to feel better by the time I saw a dr, although my blood pressure was elevated (but not surprisingly, considering (a) the stress & (b) the Benadryl).

Yesterday I was sitting at my desk, eating my lunch (oriental glazed chicken with rice and mixed vegetables from the company cafeteria, which I've had many times before) & suddenly, without warning, it was happening again. I started feeling hot, my heart started pounding. I grabbed a mirror, & sure enough, a red flush was beginning to spread from my chin, down my neck. I checked a few minutes later, & it had spread all over my neck, up to my face and my ears.

I thought, "Oh, great..." Rummaged in my purse for Benadryl & took one (didn't want to get too groggy at work, & figured I could take a second one if the symptoms persisted). I was SO pissed off because I've had this to eat many, many times (& I like it!!) & suddenly I'm getting a reaction??

Then it hit me. Could this be, not an allergic reaction, but -- a hot flash??

I did some Googling, & what I was experiencing fit the bill -- sudden flush of heat that usually begins in the face or upper body & spreads -- check. A flushed appearance with red, blotchy skin on your face, neck and upper chest -- check. A rapid heartbeat -- check. Perspiration, sweating profusely -- ? -- Ummm, no. I do get hot & sweaty sometimes under the covers, but not in this scenario. But then, everyone's experiences are different, right?

(My mom isn't accessible right now, so I e-mailed an older, former coworker to ask about her experiences with hot flashes. She said she never had hot flashes, but generally felt warmer than most people around her most of the time -- she always wore short sleeves all through winter. We both remember our former boss constantly fanning herself & mopping her face with a Kleenex, though.)

I read that hot flashes can be triggered by food. Or stress.

The redness lasted for 30-45 minutes & gradually went away. My throat felt a little funny for awhile -- but it was mostly after the redness had reached its peak & after I took the Benadryl -- so I'm wondering if that was a side effect of the pill?

I do find myself getting hot & red sometimes, if I'm under stress, or working intently on something (under deadline), or even just listening to someone talk in our support group meeting. But it tends to be more gradual -- what I've been experiencing lately seems to come on very suddenly, & often (but not always) when I'm eating.

I'm not saying ALL these episodes I've been having have been hot flashes instead of allergic reactions -- but maybe at least some of them have been? (Especially since it has happened once or twice when I haven't even eaten anything in hours.)

I'm seeing my dr next week for a blood pressure check & I'm going to mention it to him then. And maybe call the allergist I saw last summer. I'm seeing my gyn for my annual checkup next month too & will ask him then.

I know I'm a few years older than some of you -- I'm 48 (so it's not unrealistic for me to be having hot flashes...!) -- but if you've had hot flashes, does this sound like it could be one to you? What's the experience been like for you?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

This says it all...

I love "Zits" -- Jeremy reminds me of our teenaged nephews!

[Image removed -- but the kicker line was "I'm so over February,"  lol.] 

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Childless living, 20 years later...

While doing some Googling earlier today, I stumbled on this 2006 article from the journal Human Reproduction. The authors interviewed 14 Swedish women who remained childless, 20 years after infertility treatment.

Fourteen women is not a very large sample -- and if the study was carried out in the early part of this decade, the women would have gone through treatment in the early 1980s -- when there were far fewer options & lower success rates than there are today. I wonder what sort of results a similar study would find, 20 years from now?

Nevertheless, there were some interesting findings (some heartening, some depressing). Eleven of the 14 said they had eventually accepted their childlessness and adapted their lives accordingly. Most said they had found meaning in life by caring for others -- nieces & nephews, friends' children, pets, aging parents. Work, education, travel and hobbies were other activities they engaged in to "make the best of things."

Three of the women, however, said they had never come to terms with their childlessness. Many of the 14 said the feelings of social isolation that they felt while going through treatment had persisted over the years, and were in fact resurfacing in a new way as their friends and relatives became grandparents (!). Many said their sex life had suffered as a result of their infertility, and half had separated from their spouses (in all these cases, the men had left their wives).

I was particularly struck by this observation:

For the transition and adaptation to parenthood, every society has many rituals provided by kin, clan, state and even commercial interests. But there are no rituals to help with the transition and adaptation to none-parenthood. On the contrary, many women in this study described how private and silent their story was. The role-identity of not being able to become a parent, being a ‘none-parent’, is a state made possible only through the crushing of anticipations and dreams.


Proud auntie : )

Permit me a proud auntie post! We just found out tonight that our oldest nephew (dh's only brother's oldest son) got accepted into community college! He applied last fall for a general media studies program (to start this fall).

He is 20 & has been working since he graduated from high school (when he was still just 17) -- currently on the night shift at a warehouse for $11 an hour. He's not especially academic minded, but neither is he interested in learning a trade (much to his blue-collar father's dismay). He is actually quite artistically talented, & says he wants to be a film director (!). This was the first real interest that he's shown in going to school (for anything), so we were all hoping & praying he would make the cut.

Dh & I figure that, if he has his heart set on a film career, at least this is a step in the right direction -- & maybe it will open his eyes & his mind to other possibilities. At the very least, he will have some new experiences and meet some new people.

We are planning to help him with his expenses, & will do the same for his younger brother when he finishes high school. They're the only two nephews we have, & nothing would give us greater pleasure than helping them get a good start in their adult life. Obviously, we would likely not be in a position to do so if we had our own children's education to budget for. I consider it another silver lining in the cloud of childless/free living...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

More odds & ends...

I realize I haven't been posting much lately, & I owe some of you questions (and Irish Girl some answers). I've been coping with a severe case of the February blahs combined with the busy-at-work blues, & while I've been trying to keep up with my blog reading, I haven't been doing much writing or commenting lately. My company's annual meeting is next week, & I do a lot of work related to that -- so things have been hectic, but hopefully they will calm down a bit after that's over.

Re: the February blahs: It's still friggin' cold outside… but the days are slowly getting longer, & the added hours of daylight are a welcome sign that February (my absolute least favourite month of the year) is ALMOST over…!

The bright light in my week thus far was staying up late to watch the Oscars on Monday night (even though I was soooo tired the next morning). As I wrote last year around this time, I am an Oscarphile from way, way back. The icing on my Oscar cake (and a definite day-brightener) was winning the office Oscar pool! -- I got 17 out of 24 categories correct. (Two of them that I missed, I went with who I thought would win vs who I thought should win -- and I should have listened to my gut!). I even got to give an "acceptance speech" via e-mail. ; ) It's not an Oscar but it was $57 and a lot of fun. I'll take it. ; )

I haven't written about "Octomom" yet (so many other bloggers are saying it so much better than I can…!) but I did find this column by Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal last week that I thought had an interesting perspective to share on the situation (within the context of the overall mood of anxiety that's gripping not only America but so much of the world these days). Although Noonan's politics are more conservative than mine, I find her to be a thoughtful & well-spoken writer and commentator, and I enjoy hearing her perspective on various political talk shows. As a sometime speechwriter, I absolutely loved her 1990 memoir of working as a speechwriter for both Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr., What I Saw at the Revolution.

This is the part about Octomom that I liked (you can read the entire column here):

And there's something else, not only in Manhattan but throughout the country. A major reason people are blue about the future is not the stores, not the Treasury secretary, not everyone digging in. It is those things, but it's more than that, and deeper.
It's Sully and Suleman, the pilot and "Octomom," the two great stories that are twinned with the era. Sully, the airline captain who saved 155 lives by landing that plane just right—level wings, nose up, tail down, plant that baby, get everyone out, get them counted, and then, at night, wonder what you could have done better. You know the reaction of the people of our country to Chesley B. Sullenberger III: They shake their heads, and tears come to their eyes. He is cool, modest, competent, tough in the good way. He's the only one who doesn't applaud Sully. He was just doing his job.
This is why people are so moved: We're still making Sullys. We're still making those mythic Americans, those steely-eyed rocket men. Like Alan Shepard in the Mercury
rocket: "Come on and light this candle."
But Sully, 58, Air Force Academy '73, was shaped and formed by the old America, and educated in an ethos in which a certain style of manhood—of personhood—was held high. What we fear we're making more of these days is Nadya Suleman. The dizzy, selfish, self-dramatizing 33-year-old mother who had six small children and then a week ago eight more because, well, she always wanted a big family. "Suley" doubletalks with the best of them, she doubletalks with profound ease. She is like Blago without the charm. She had needs and took proactive steps to meet them, and those who don't approve are limited, which must be sad for them. She leaves anchorwomen slack-jawed: How do you rough up a woman who's still lactating? She seems aware of their predicament.
Any great nation would worry at closed-up shops and a professional governing class that doesn't have a clue what to do. But a great nation that fears, deep down, that it may be becoming more Suley than Sully—that nation will enter a true depression.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Odds & ends

The Q&A session with Mrs. Spit was fun. : ) Those of you who wanted to be interviewed by me, I will try to come up with some questions sometime in the next few days.

The last week or two have been a goldmine for media coverage of infertility issues (thanks -- or maybe no thanks -- to the octuplets & the 60-something Calgary woman who delivered twins). I had a pile of clippings I was thinking I would post links for & blog about, but it was a busy week, & I started to feel overwhelmed & gave up after awhile. Not sure how much more I could add to what's already been said within our community. I just hate all the misinformation & the bad image that "outsiders" may be getting about infertility -- although there has been some surprisingly thorough & thoughtful reporting & commentary in some corners as well.

Today is our Family Day holiday in Ontario (and Alberta and Saskatchewan -- as well as Louis Riel Day in Manitoba, and Presidents Day in the U.S.), again. Last year was the first year Ontario got a February long weekend. (I blogged about it then, here.) This year, being the second, there's much less to-do in the press about the holiday, its meaning & the appropriateness of its name. The name & all it implies still makes me wince -- but hey, it's a long weekend. In February. I'll take it.

Dh & I went yesterday to see "Slumdog Millionaire," which I thought was brilliant, if somewhat hard to watch at times. Anyone else see it? The young actors were very, very good. Makes me realize (once again) just how very, very lucky we who live in North America (and women most especially) truly are.

We have now seen three of the five movies nominated for Best Picture Oscars (the other two being "Milk" & "Frost/Nixon," both also very good). I doubt I will be able to drag dh to see "Benjamin Button," but we still have next weekend to see "The Reader"...! ; )

My parents called me last night as they embarked on a driving trip to points south. They won't be back home again until the end of March. They e-mailed my sister & I a rough itinerary, outlining where they expect to be when, hotel reservations & phone numbers, etc. They did this two years ago as well, & it's kind of a strange feeling not knowing exactly where they are for days on end. I'm thinking this must be kind of what it's like for parents of adult children when they go off to college, lol.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Questions from Mrs. Spit

Mrs. Spit was recently asked to answer five questions on her blog. Having answered them (in her usual thoughtful way), she then asked who wanted to be "interviewed" by her. I was one of the ones who signed up, and here are her questions to me (and my answers).

1. You work in banking, which is traditionally a man's world. How have you coped with this? Is it easier for younger women now?

I consider myself a writer (who happens to work for a bank), not so much a banker, per se. I work in the bank's public affairs/corporate communications department. I tell people that I really don't know a lot about any one part of the bank -- but I can probably tell you a little bit about a lot of different aspects of the business, and who you could contact to find out more.

My father was a branch banker for 30 years (with two different Canadian banks)(before switching to selling real estate at the age of 50), and I worked as a teller at a credit union one summer when I was in university (albeit in a pre-computer age when I had to handwrite pink debit & white credit slips for each transaction) -- so banks are places that I grew up around & feel comfortable with. You kind of absorb the atmosphere, like osmosis. ; )

My sister also worked for a bank for something like 17 years before they closed her unit & moved all the operations to Alberta, putting her & about 120 of her coworkers out of work. She now works for a credit union too. When we were growing up, we had to move every 3-5 years because of our dad's job, which we hated, & we swore up & down that we would never marry bankers. We now like to joke that, to paraphrase Gloria Steinem, we have become the men we didn't want to marry. : )

Traditionally, communications/PR has been a pink-collar environment, and my department has always been female-dominated -- although men have always held most of the senior positions, & there are more men working here generally than there once were. Most of my immediate coworkers were women for many years. Only in the last couple of years have I had male colleagues that I work with closely. (At one point, a few years back, I did notice that three of the most senior positions in my department at the time were held by men, all of whom had at least three children each & a stay-at-home wife. Hmmm. Kind of gave me pause. We've come a long way, but there's still a long way to go.)

But yes -- although women make up more than 70% of the employees, have made great strides in breaking into the executive ranks, and while Canadian banks are some of the more women-friendly employers around in terms of benefits, etc., it is stilll an industry where men tend to hold most of the power. When I first started working for the bank, almost 23 years ago, there were very few female executives. I think there was one, maybe two at the senior vice-president level, & that was it; that was as high as they went. Today, 7 out of the 21 members of the executive team (executive vice-president level & up) are women, several of whom have children. (It wasn't all that long ago, maybe 10 years ago, that I saw my very first pregnant female vice-president -- & I remember realizing that was a "first" and getting a little thrill out of it. ) But there are still areas of the bank that are very male dominated & testosterone-laden.

I can think of a few examples of sexism that I encountered, particularly early on in my career. Never anything too blatant, but stuff that makes the younger girls go "Oh my God..." whenever I tell the stories to them. For example -- I showed up for work one of those first few weeks wearing pants, & one of the older women took me aside & told me, "We don't wear pants here, dear. What if the Chairman saw you?" Well, what if he did?? This was 1986, not 1926. Still, I knuckled under & went shopping. (The same woman told me that, back in the 1960s, the most senior woman in the Personnel Department used to go around with a ruler & measure the girls' skirts. Anything too short & you got sent home to change.) Around the same time that I was pregnant, 11 years ago, the dress codes began to relax and "business casual" became acceptable. Aside from occasional hot, humid summer days when I will wear a dress or skirt (sans pantihose), I don't think I've been out of pants since then. Much nicer in our cold Canadian winters!! (not to mention more comfortable)

I was at a banquet once, in those early years, & speaking with one of the older senior executives. He said to another older male executive, as I stood there, "This little girl here..." I think I was 26 at the time. I smiled sweetly through clenched teeth. I decided that since he was almost old enough to be my grandfather, I would forgive him, but if anyone younger than my father ever referred to me as a "little girl," I would speak up. Fortunately, that has not happened.

And I remember being at a meeting (not that many years ago) where I made an observation, & nobody said anything. About 20 minutes later, a guy said almost exactly the same thing -- & everyone laughed & thought he was brilliant. I practically had to pick my jaw up off the table -- it was something straight out of a textbook on sexism in the workplace.

I have never been hugely ambitious -- so it's not like I have had to cope with jealous rages watching men advance into more senior positions that I was lusting after. I'm ambitious in the sense that I like my job, want to keep it : ) and want to do good work. But I never aspired to be a vice-president, or anything like that. Particularly when I knew I wanted a family -- and even since I abandoned that dream. I like working for myself; I have never wanted to be responsible for other people (besides which, I am a lousy delegator). I suppose some people without children throw themselves into their jobs, but I like having a life. I don't think I'm lazy, but I just don't want to have to put in the kinds of hours that are expected of someone in a more senior position than mine. It's not worth it to me. But I am happy to see women who ARE ambitious and DO want to advance up the ladder do so, and get credit where credit is due.

Well, that's a long & rambling answer. Did I actually answer the question?

2. You have written so eloquently about how you struggle that there will be no one left to remember you when you die, as Katie is already gone. Have you ever thought of ways to leave your mark on the world?

Wow, this is a tough one, and yes, it's something that I struggle with. I believe we leave our mark on the world through the people we touch, particularly our extended families. Nobody will know or remember you better than your own child, of course, but I have many relatives in our extended family that I remember with love, & I like to think that I will remembered in the same way by others as well.

I hope that our two nephews will remember dh & me fondly when we're gone (they'd better, since they're probably going to inherit everything, lol) -- although I often feel that they are closer to dh than they are to me. They have the scrapbooks I have made for them (& I plan to make more) . I'm going to do one of me & dh and someday I'd like to write a memoir of sorts, just to tell my own story for anyone who might be interested.

Dh & I have also often said that if we ever win the lottery, or accumulate any good sum of money, we would like to establish a memorial fund in Katie's name, & through that, give money to organizations that support bereaved parents & do research into the causes of pregnancy loss & infertility. That would be a great legacy to leave.

3. You have been such a kind and welcoming person to all Dead Baby Mum's. What is the hardest part about welcoming new dead baby mum's?

It's always hard to welcome a new person to the "club" -- a club that none of us asked to join. Sometimes when I listen to their stories, the rawness & freshness of their grief is overwhelming. It both transports me back in time & makes me realize how far I've come in my own journey. Probably the hardest part is knowing there's really not much that I (or anyone else) can do to help them, except listen. We each must find our own way on this new path we've been thrust upon.

It's also hard seeing the parents get younger & younger -- a sign that time is passing on, & I'm getting older. I'm starting to feel that age gap a little more often lately. We had a very young (barely out of high school) unmarried couple come to group once (young enough that they realistically could have been MY kids) who had had a miscarriage and were keen to try again. Their parents were not in favour of the idea. I didn't/couldn't say anything, of course, but privately, I agreed with the mother!!

Dh & I have actually been talking about winding down our facilitating role later this year. We've been doing it for almost 10 years now & we're thinking that maybe it's time to let someone else take over. I've enjoyed it (not sure that's quite the right word...!), and it's only two nights a month (plus a few phone calls before each meeting), but it does take a lot out of you. And perhaps it's time for some new perspectives -- for the group and for us.

4. What is your idea day.

Do you mean my "ideal" day? Money no object? Well, I wouldn't be at work. ; ) I would sleep in. Go to the spa & get pampered. Have lunch or maybe afternoon tea with a girlfriend at a nice restaurant & then spend the afternoon shopping. Meet dh for dinner, & then a movie or maybe a play afterwards. Ahhhh....

Of course, an ideal day could also involve sitting on the couch all afternoon with a cup of tea & a good book or stack of magazines. : ) I'm pretty easy to please.

5. You've talked about worshipping at an Anglican Church in times past, and how it was too painful to stay. If you could change how the church responded to you, and to Katie's death, what would you change?

Actually, the church responded very nicely to us after Katie's death. The assistant curate who conducted the funeral service was absolutely wonderful. The minister was away at a conference in England at the time but came to visit us at home after he returned.

The pain came from witnessing the typical, everyday (well, every Sunday) moments that would seem perfectly normal & acceptable to anyone else, like watching the children return to the service from Sunday School, witnessing baptisms, seeing parents all around us with young children, seeing women who had been pregnant at the same time as me come to church with their new babies... and then get pregnant again... and again... I'm not sure how you could change or control that.

To be completely honest, pain over babies was not the only reason we gradually stopped attending church. For one thing, let's say that we didn't entirely see eye to eye with our minister on certain matters, & weren't entirely comfortable with the direction he was taking the congregation in. I tend to lean to the traditional (which in the Anglican church has usually meant a middle-of-the-road, "live & let live" attitude), & often found myself checking to see that yes, we really were in an Anglican church.

For another -- we started attending church regularly in anticipation of starting a family. We'd had a little difficulty finding an Anglican minister to marry us -- my parents had just moved & the local Anglican minister was not keen to marry a couple that (a) he didn't know well (b) didn't regularly attend church (c) wouldn't be a regular member of his congregation after the wedding (which ticked off my mother, who is about as faithful an Anglican as they make them & had already been pitching in to help out at the church from the time she & Dad moved there). (We wound up getting married by the (female!) Anglican chaplain in the chapel at the university where we met.)

I knew I wanted my children to be baptized -- & I knew that most ministers would not baptize your child unless you had attended their church for awhile. And I wanted my children to go to Sunday School, to know something about God and get a basic knowledge of the Bible and its stories. (Religious considerations entirely aside, Biblical literacy is so important to a deeper understanding & appreciation of so much of our literature.) And I liked the idea of continuing the Anglican/Episcopal tradition in my family for yet another generation.

So we started attending church regularly. And we enjoyed it, & got a lot out of it. I enjoyed the liturgy, the old familiar hymns, the connection to my own childhood memories. I still do, anytime that I do go to church.

But when the baby was gone -- and as it became more apparent that there weren't going to be more babies -- that particular reason for attending church became moot. Suddenly, it didn't seem quite so vitally important anymore. And, as described above, it was sometimes painful to be there.

Plus -- I'll admit it -- we are lazy. : ) Weekdays we're up at 5 & into the office at 8, Saturdays we clean & run errands. Sunday is often the one day of the week we get to sleep in & laze around the house, watching the Sunday morning talk shows, reading the Sunday papers & having a big mug of tea.

It's easy to make an effort -- to will yourself to get up early on a Sunday morning, get dressed up & go to church when it's "for the kids." When it's just for yourself, it's easier to make excuses & let things slide.

*** *** ***

This has been fun. Anybody else have any questions for me? Post them here in the comments & I will answer them in a future post.

And (a la Mrs. Spit) would anyone like to answer some questions FROM me?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

It's Feb. 8th again...

The anniversary cycle begins anew.

Looking at my last year's post, I notice that Feb. 8, 1998, was a Sunday, as is today. And Feb. 13, then & now, falls on a Friday.

Somehow, though, 11 years doesn't sound quite as momentous as 10, even though it's a whole year more. I don't think this year will be quite as difficult as last (which is not to say there won't be difficult moments, nevertheless...).

We went to the cemetery today, as we do most Sundays. After the bitter cold last week, it was much warmer today -- above zero (Celsius), & the huge piles of snow melting fast.

As I've written before, February is my absolute least favourite month of the year -- but today, there was just a hint of spring in the air. : ) And Friday the 13th this year kicks off a long weekend!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Honest Scrap Award

A big thank you to Busted for tagging me with this award. It's especially nice since it came on a day that I'm holed up at home with AF for company. :p I got up, took a shower & felt so crappy that I called in sick & went back to bed for another three hours. I've had cycles where I've felt much worse -- but there have been too many days that I've soldiered on & wound up in the office bathroom in agony, or with my head down on my desk because I felt so lousy. (Plus, my coworker is in St. Lucia for his sister's wedding this week, & *I* am stuck doing all his work!!) I have been doing nothing all day & it feels good. ; )


The rules of the award:

1) Choose a minimum of 7 blogs that you find brilliant in content or design.

2) Show the 7 winners names and links on your blog, and leave a comment informing them that they were prized with "Honest Scrap." Well, there's no prize, but they can keep the nifty icon.

3) List at least 10 honest things about yourself.

10 honest things about me:

1) I like to think I am a very laid back person, but in truth I am a worrywart & a micromanager.

2) My face is like an open book, so I find it very difficult to lie (or at least lie & get away with it).

3) At the same time, I hate conflict & will do anything to avoid making a scene.

4) Even though I feel like crap today, I still feel guilty for not being at work. I was never one to skip school, and I did not try drugs (although I will admit to abusing my share of alcohol, lol) -- in good part because I was certain that *I* would be the one who wound up getting caught while others got off scott-free.

5) I wore padded bras all through high school & lived in terror that someone would find out. (How's that for honesty, lol.)

6) I am guilty (though far from alone, I know...!) of sneaking purchases into the house when dh isn't around so I won't have to explain them.

7) I have a weakness for expensive skin care products & makeup -- Estee Lauder, Clinique & Prescriptives are my favourites. (I have heard Creme de la Mer is divine, but I refuse to try it in case I like it, because it is sooooo much money!!)

8) I am cheap/thrifty in other aspects of my life (which drives dh nuts sometimes). E.g., he wants a new flat bigscreen TV. We can afford one, but I just can't bring myself to buy a new TV when we have a five-year old 32" set that works perfectly well (which replaced a 20-year-old 19" set that was also working perfectly well & is now in the basement).

9) I mostly enjoy my job -- but I buy lottery tickets every week and dream of an early retirement. : )

10) I attend Weight Watchers at Work meetings... but I keep a stash of chocolate in my office desk drawer.

I found it hard to pick just 7 people to pass this on to, when there are so many fabulous bloggers & brilliant blogs out there. I was also trying to pick ones that I haven't tagged before (although I may not have succeeded at that!). So -- Annacyclopedia, CLC, Luna, Pamela Jeanne, Tash, Emily and Mrs. X -- you've been tagged!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Oh, puhleeeze!! Part 2/The baby they forgot to mention

I should have known. 

She may not have started the Michelle Obama pregnancy rumours, but Bonnie Fuller -- the Toronto-born celebrity editor who brought the hideous term "baby bump" into prominence on the covers of magazines like US and Star -- is gleefully fanning the flames in the Huffington Post, in a recent article titled "Michelle Obama pregnant? Why the nation needs her bundle of joy." 

" about harkening back to an earlier era of inspiration," Fuller chirps. "The last time there was a baby birth, Jackie and John F. Kennedy were the parents. The photos and antics of Caroline and John John cavorting at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, captivated the American public in the '60s." 

And what, pray tell, would be even better than one Obama bundle of joy? 

"Twins!" Fuller speculates giddily. "Can you imagine the level of public hysteria — in a good way — if the Obamas were also cooking up a pair! …the Obama baby would no doubt blow Brad and Angie's twins off the top-selling covers list… And best of all, we'd finally get a break from the dreary economic news. Instead, we can look forward to the new front page headlines: Michelle: Breast or Bottle?; The Childbirth: Epidural or Natural?; First Lady Balancing Act: Can Michelle Do It All?" 

Needless to say, I think I'd rather have the "dreary economic news" headlines (and frankly, isn't that what people really NEED to be focusing on right now??). I get MORE than enough of those other kinds of headlines blaring from the gossip rags already as it is, thankyouverymuch -- and NO thanks to you, Ms. Fuller, for starting THAT whole avalanche in the first place!! 

"An Obama baby could be our generation's Seabiscuit," Fuller goes on to say, pointing out that Seabiscuit was an inspiring and welcome distraction from the grim reality of the Great Depression in the 1930s. Seabiscuit?!?? OK, I get the parallel she was trying to create, in terms of the effect a White House baby might have on the national morale -- but to compare a BABY to a racehorse?!?? 

Frankly, I find the whole thing tremendously... insulting. Here we have this incredibly accomplished woman -- an Ivy League graduate, a working mother and successful executive who actually earned more money than her husband -- a trailblazing First Lady in so many respects (not even taking the colour of her skin into consideration) who has so, so much to offer as a role model for women and girls across the United States, here in Canada and around the world -- and THIS is the best we can do when we think and write about her?? 

Not to mention that she is 45 years old, already has two children, has not expressed an interest in having any more, has just moved halfway across the country to accommodate her husband's new job -- which is probably the most demanding job in the free world on a good day, with a pretty nasty set of problems to deal with at the moment -- and is publicly committed to adding a puppy to the household sometime in the near future… I'd say she has her hands pretty full already at the moment, wouldn't you? 

I am glad to see so many of the comments I read calling Fuller to task -- although sadly, there were a fair number who also either echoed the calls for a baby, or speculated about a possible pregnancy. The comments that irked me the most were those along the lines of Perez Hilton's "Hopefully it's a boy!" -- e.g., "Sasha & Malia would love to play with a baby brother!" (First -- how do you know?? And second -- why a baby BROTHER?) 

Plus -- maybe I'm old-fashioned -- I realize that times have changed in many ways -- but it makes me cringe to hear anyone talk so flippantly about women getting "knocked up" and putting "a bun in the oven" -- let alone when that woman is the President's wife. I'm not saying we have to genuflect in front of people in positions of authority (it always irritated me to hear my American relatives make breathless excuses for supporting George W. Bush, just because he was the President)(you don't tend to see that kind of automatic deference to the prime minister in Canada), but I do think just a little respect & restraint, especially when it comes to speculating about the most private parts of people's lives, would be nice. 

*** *** *** 

Fuller is right when she says the Kennedys were the last parents of a baby born at the White House -- but she's also slightly misleading when, in the next sentence, she blathers on about Caroline (born in November 1957) & John Jr. John Jr. was born November 1960 (after a difficult pregnancy), just days after his father won the election -- technically, he wasn't president yet. 

Unmentioned by Fuller (because it would have been such a DOWNER, dontcha know??) is the story of the Kennedy baby who WAS born -- and died -- while JFK was in the White House. 

His name was Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, and he was born six weeks premature by emergency C-section after a difficult pregnancy, on August 7, 1963 (35 years to the day before my Katie was delivered). He died two days later on August 9, as his heartbroken father held his tiny hand. (Thanks to Julia S. for reminding me about Patrick in her comment on my previous post.) 

While many people remember the sad story of baby Patrick, it's less well known that Jacqueline Kennedy also had a miscarriage in 1955 & a baby girl who was stillborn on August 23, 1956, when Jackie was seven months pregnant. Officially nameless (although I've read that Jackie wanted to call her "Arabella"), this baby girl is buried in Arlington Cemetery, along with her father, brother Patrick & uncle Robert, with a marker that simply reads "Daughter." 

I've had a lifelong fascination with the Kennedys, from both a political and personal perspective. And after my own struggles with infertility & pregnancy loss, I gained a new empathy for Jackie after learning more about her reproductive history. Imagine being Jackie, struggling through each tenuous pregnancy and painful loss while your husband is in the national limelight (first as a high-profile Senator and then as President) -- while at the same time, your sister-in-law (Ethel, wife of Robert) effortlessly pops out 11 (!!!) kids in 18 years, one after another. 

Jackie also had to deal with her losses and difficult pregnancies without much support from her husband (at least initially). He continued to cruise the Mediterranean after Jackie delivered their stillborn daughter in 1956, leaving it to his brother Robert to break the news to Jackie and arrange for the baby's burial. However, many of the books I've read do write movingly of the President's grief after Patrick's death, and of a new closeness that developed between him and Jackie in the months afterward, before they flew together to Dallas on the morning of November 22. 

Back then, of course, the press was far more respectful of public figures' personal lives (a good thing in some respects, not so good in others), and there was much less openness than there is today about pregnancy and pregnancy loss. (Yes, I know, it's still far from open enough!!). 

Sorry to rain on your parade, Bonnie. Unfortunately, as too many of us know, not all pregnancies -- not even those of First Ladies or Hollywood stars -- have a happily ever after ending.

"The day the music died"

It was 50 years ago today that a small plane took off from the airport in Mason City, Iowa, then crashed shortly afterward in a field near Clear Lake, killing all four passengers -- the pilot, Roger Peterson, and three rock & roll singers who had just played a concert at the Surf Ballroom hours before -- Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens & J.P. Richardson (the Big Bopper). The event was immortalized some years later as "The Day the Music Died" by Don McLean in his song "American Pie."

Of course, as a newspaper article I read today pointed out, the music didn't die, and the legacy -- Holly's especially -- lives on.

We drove right past the Mason City airport, and Clear Lake, on the return trip from a family reunion in eastern Iowa in July 2006. I was dying to ask my dad (who was driving) if we could make a side trip & find the Surf Ballroom. But we'd already been on the road for a few hours, & were eager to get to my uncle's in Minneapolis, a few more hours away. So I stayed quiet, but I looked out the window & tried to imagine how it looked on a cold winter's night so many years earlier.

(You knew I'd find a pregnancy loss/infertility angle to this story.) Did you know (I didn't, until just a few years ago) that Holly's widow, Maria Elena, was newly pregnant when her husband died, but had a miscarriage a short time later?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

"It exists..."

Having grown up on the Prairies, I (unlike many Torontonians or southern Ontarians generally) will admit to a certain amount of patriotic affection for & interest in the Canadian Football League, particularly its annual championship game (also known fondly as "The Grand National Drunk"), the Grey Cup. I could care less about the NFL or the Super Bowl. But dh & I will be watching the halftime show tonight because of Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band. 

 I had heard vaguely of Bruce -- "Prove it all Night" was one of my favourite songs in the summer of 1978 -- before I met dh, who was a huge fan. The nickname on the back of his university residence floor T-shirt was "Bruuuuce." We don't remember exactly when or how we met, but it was the fall of 1981. I was a third-year arts student and he was doing a pre-master's year in immunology (which he later abandoned for MBA studies). I lived in an all-girls dorm, he lived on a guys floor in the co-ed residence next door, and our two floors partied together a lot that year. They were a great bunch of guys, & my friends & I used to go over there often just to hang out with whoever had their door open & a few cold beers in their fridge. 

I can remember standing in the doorway of his room & asking him, "Who's the good-looking guy on your wall?" (poster) & him saying, with a mixture of patience & "duh," "Bruce Springsteen." Oh -- figures. After we fell madly in love & then had to split up for the summer, I bought all of Bruce's albums to date & played them endlessly. Over the years, Bruce has remained a constant in our lives. After a few tense moments yesterday morning, as I was getting ready to head out fo the day, we put his greatest hits CD on in the car, & our petty argument melted away as we reached for each other's hand & sang along. 

Anyway -- I was reading an interview with the Boss in today's New York Times, & there was a quote that gave me the chills (in a good way), & I wanted to share:

He continued: “A lot of the core of our songs is the American idea: What is it? What does it mean? ‘Promised Land,’ ‘Badlands,’ I’ve seen people singing those songs back to me all over the world. I’d seen that country on a grass-roots level through the ’80s, since I was a teenager. And I met people who were always working toward the country being that kind of place. But on a national level it always seemed very far away.

“And so on election night it showed its face, for maybe, probably, one of the first times in my adult life,” he said. “I sat there on the couch, and my jaw dropped, and I went, ‘Oh my God, it exists.’ Not just dreaming it. It exists, it’s there, and if this much of it is there, the rest of it’s there. Let’s go get that. Let’s go get it. Just that is enough to keep you going for the rest of your life. All the songs you wrote are a little truer today than they were a month or two ago.”

He said something similar in the cover story of this week's Rolling Stone

Have fun tonight, Bruce! -- I know dh & I sure will. And thanks for all the memories.

Scrapbook THIS...

Where: scrapbook store

What: scrapbooking & chatting for 12 straight hours : )

When: yesterday

Who: me and six other women, including my retired coworker friend, the two store owners and a starry-eyed, thirtysomething newly engaged bride-to-be, who expressed her intention to ttc right away ("the clock is ticking!").

One of the women was working on a heritage album & had a late 19th/early 20th century funeral picture of a dead toddler in a casket. This prompted a conversation about the "bizarre" practice of funeral photography, of photos of dead family members propped up in group shots with the living, of family members gathered around caskets.

I surprised myself by speaking up: "But you know, they are starting to do things like that again. There was a documentary on CBC before Christmas about families whose children are at Sick Kids Hospital and not likely to survive. There's an organization called Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep that sends volunteer photographers to hospitals to take pictures of these children and their families. They take photos of stillborn babies, too. Beautiful, Anne Geddes-type photos. And it's all free to the families."

Several of the women: "Oh, I don't think I'd want that" & other similar comments.

Bride to Be: "My uncle has MS, & I'm not going to take any more pictures of him now. I want to remember him the way he was."

Me: "But what if these were the only photographs you were ever going to have of that person?"

Silence, & looks that showed this thought had never occurred to these people. I guess I made my point. The conversation moved on.

My friend & the two store owners know about my loss. Another friend (from my pg loss support group) & I approached the store owners about donations for the Sick Kids scrapbooking program. Word has spread, & one of the owners (who has personal reasons to visit Sick Kids every few months) takes a box full of donations from the store and its customers when she goes to the hospital to our contact, the NICU bereavement coordinator, who was featured in the CBC documentary. (What sort of photos do they think these parents are taking & scrapbooking at the hospital, & why? Do they think that every one of those families gets to take their kids home with them?)

I was the first to leave that evening & am wondering whether they mentioned anything after I left. Or (more likely) whether the conversation had already been forgotten.

*** *** ***

Coincidentally, this week's issue of Newsweek includes a story about stillbirth and Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, including a web-extra story about NILM. Thanks to CLC for pointing this out on her blog.