Monday, October 31, 2011

Blogoversary #4

How's this for scary stuff on Halloween? It's my fourth blogoversary today. : )

I started this blog because, even though I was almost 10 years past Katie's stillbirth and six years past stopping infertility treatments & the decision to remain childless/free, loss & infertility were still a big part of my life, and I felt I still had something to say on these topics.

That was four years, 556 posts ago (including this one). That's an average of 12 posts per month or 3 per week. Not bad.

According to my stats tab, I've had more than 68,000 page views for "all time" -- which is actually just since May 2009. That's pretty wild! My readers are overwhelmingly from the U.S., then my own Canada -- followed by UK, Australia, Germany, Russia, France, Israel, Ukraine & Netherlands. I've received more than 4,400 comments. Without doing an exhaustive search, I'm pretty sure that the post that got the most comments ever -- 63 -- was last year's entry about our 25th wedding anniversary (it was also my Creme de la Creme pick for last year, which boosted my comments somewhat).

My all-time most-read post, without question, is my 2009 review of the movie Julie & Julia. It still continues to be at the top of my hit list, most weeks that I check, and I still get comments on that post too (49 to date) -- often from someone who is not necessarily familiar with the ALI blogging community but who saw the movie, was intrigued by Julia's childlessness and Googled something like "Julia Child childless." Six of my all-time top 10 search key words relate to "Julia Child" paired with either the words "children" or "infertility."

Second in terms of all-time hits is a post was my rerun of a 2008 Globe & Mail article called "Canada's U.S. baby boom," about women with high-risk pregnancies in rural communities being sent to the U.S., because of the lack of space in local high-risk units. My interest was the topic of high-risk pregnancy & the lack of a national birthing plan in general. I couldn't figure out why this particular post drew so many hits, particularly throughout 2009 -- until it hit me that the rise in interest coincided with the U.S. debate over "Obamacare" (!!).

In other words, I suspect my post was being read & passed around by anti-Obamacare forces as an example of the supposed inadequacies of the Canadian healthcare system (&, by implication, the superiority of the U.S. system). This was certainly NOT my intention. I know our system is not perfect -- but I daresay there are women in rural communities in the U.S. who likewise have to travel some distance to get the healthcare they need (not to mention women who are denied the care they need because the hospital doesn't accept their health insurance -- NOT a scenario we ever have to worry about in Canada). Sorry to my American readers -- I would never trade!

I'll admit my output this year has slowed a bit. Blogging is like any kind of writing (including what I do for work) -- sometimes I feel like I'm brimming over with inpiration -- stuff I want to say, & how I want to say it -- & the words just tumble out onto my keyboard; other times, I stare & stare at the screen and nothing clicks. Sometimes there's stuff I'd like to say, but life (and work in particular, and particularly at this time of year) intervenes. (How dare it, right?? lol)

But while I may not have had much time to read or write blog posts lately -- and while I'm now 50 years old and 10 years out from fertility treatments -- I don't feel my interest in this community has waned. I still feel like I have things I want to say. I plan to keep on writing. And although, as I've said before, I primarily blog for myself, it's nice to know that you're out there too, reading & commenting. Thank you!! : )

Blogoversary #3 (2010)
Blogoversary #2 (2009)
Blogoversary #1 (2008)
First post

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fall getaway

I don't know where my blogging mojo has been lately. It seems it's all I can do to keep up lately with work, reading the daily newspapers & maybe a daily scan of Facebook & a couple of posts from my Google Reader. :p Sometimes it feels like I'm brimming over with things I want to write about; other times, I draw a blank.

Year end madness has begun -- I had one day where I had back to back to back to back meetings & barely had time to wolf down half a sandwich. I did have an enjoyable time last weekend with a scrapbooking event on Saturday & visiting a friend who is a quilt appraiser and was working at a nearby quilting show on the Sunday. I don't quilt myself, which is not to say I don't appreciate the work of those who do. And I felt priviliged to be there as she examined a vintage quilt with still-vivid colours that had been painstakingly handstitched by the elderly owner's great-grandmother in the 1850s (!!).

Before the year-end madness fully hit, and just after Canadian Thanksgiving, dh & I did manage to take a week's vacation. I had earmarked that time off thinking that my parents might be coming to visit -- and when they didn't, decided to take it anyway. I insisted to dh that we needed to go somewhere to make it special, & not just hang around the house, as we often do. I had it in my head that we should head up north to a resort to enjoy the fall colours for a few days.

And that's what we wound up doing. For various reasons, we didn't go too far. We wound up going to a resort that's only just a little more than an hour's drive north of us, close to the town where one of my great-grandfathers was born, & where my great-great-great grandparents & one of their daughters are buried in the cemetery adjacent to a beautiful (and beautifully preserved) historic stone church from the 1840s. We had stayed at this resort for our 15th wedding anniversay, 11 years ago, & it was still as we remembered -- charming rooms with beautiful views (loyal as I am to the Prairies where I was born & raised, I must admit, fall in Ontario is gorgeous!!), lots of great places to go walking and exploring, excellent food and the added attraction of gorgeous fall colours. The weather was so nice the day we left that dh wore his shorts & I dug my capris back out of the closet where I had previously sent them for winter storage.

While it's a family resort (& there likely would have been children, had we been there on Thanksgiving weekend), the clientele during our stay were strictly adults, & mostly seniors at that (who else has the time & the money to spend at a place like that, especially in the middle of the week?). It was a wonderful break, & we had a lovely time. Once again, we found ourselves wondering why the heck we don't do this more often. After all, having the time & money to do things like this (particularly on short notice) is one of the "perqs" of childless/free living. As dh said, "Umm, I think we can afford to come here more than once every 10 years." ; )

Here are a few fall photos from our stay:

The entrance to the inn, decked out in seasonal splendour.

Likewise, the entrance at a nearby stone church, which dates back to the mid-1800s.

The church has an adjacent cemetery overlooking Lake Simcoe (dh looking out). What a peaceful place to spend eternity!

Dh enjoying the lake view from the private beach across from the resort where we were staying.

Dh on the resort's dock. The weather was turning cloudier & colder by then.

The entrance to (another) churchyard in the area, where my greatx3 grandparents are buried.

A view of the beautiful trees in the cemetery.

Tree outside the resort, with changing leaves.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Controversial article

Has anyone else seen this recent Salon article, "My stillborn child's life after death"? What did you think of it?

OK, I'll admit, the part about taking the baby in a sling for a walk to the park seemed a little bizarre. Not something I would have done. I kept wondering what would have happened if one of the other moms at the playground wanted to take a peek & admire the baby.

But on the whole, I found myself applauding these parents for saying goodbye on their terms, not to mention the funeral director who encouraged them to do so. And maybe just a little bit envious.

I especially liked this line: "This was when I understood: Thor was our baby. He did not belong to the hospital. He did not belong to the funeral home. He was ours." It has taken a long, long time for hospitals and funeral homes to start acting like they understand this. Given the silence that still exists around stillbirth and pregnancy loss, it's something that many bereaved parents don't realize until it is far too late.

It brought back memories of when my grandfather died -- almost exactly 13 years ago this week. I never got to see him again. Before I could arrive for his memorial service, his body was sent away to be cremated. His ashes were returned to us a few days later, after the memorial service had already been held. Returned IN THE MAIL. US Postal Service. (Tell me THAT's not undignified.) I don't remember what the postage was (!) but I can still remember my mom coming into my grandparents' apartment with the parcel under her arm, wiping her eyes. "Here's Grandpa, home for the last time," she sobbed.

My immediate thought? "Oh, and we don't even have his chair here for him!" I said. My grandparents had been living at the seniors care home in town, but we had kept their apartment, partly as a place to stay when we went to visit. Mom had wanted to move Grandpa's easy chair to their room at the home, but he wouldn't hear of it. I think he knew that would mean that he really wasn't going back to the apartment. After he was gone, we took it up there for Grandma to use.

Anyway, it might have seemed weird to some people to give a container of ashes the place of honour in an easy chair. But that's what felt right to me at the time, and I wish we had been able to do it.

Later that afternoon, under gloriously clear & sunny Prairie skies, Mom & I set the container of ashes between us in the front of the car. Together with some other family members, we took Grandpa home, to the site of the farm where he had grown up and, as he had wanted, scattered his ashes on the land that he loved, taking turns reading the service from his mother's Book of Common Prayer. "I love you, Grandpa," I said, as I let a handful of the ashes slide through my fingers. A few generations ago, doing something like that no doubt would have been controversial too.

If you read the article, beware the comments. Some of them are truly awful. It's so obvious that people really don't understand until they have lived through this themselves.

Friday, October 7, 2011

15 years online

I started writing this post a couple of weeks ago. My plan was to have it ready to post on the anniversary date mentioned -- but life intervened, as it too often does. I dusted it off again after hearing about Steve Jobs's death this week. I've never owned anything by Apple (yet?)... but no matter what brand you own, he's essentially the reason why we all have personal computers sitting on our desks or in our laps today.

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The last year seems to be chock full of milestone "annivesaries" of one kind or anothern -- our 25th anniversary & my parents' 50th, my 50th birthday, my 25th anniversary with my company. Here's another one: 15 years ago, on September 21, 1996, we bought our first home computer, & shortly afterward, I went online for the very first time.

But first, let's go back. WAAAYYYY back. ; ) I guess my generation sort of straddles the time between the older folks, who didn't grow up with computers at all, and kids today, who seem to be born with an iPad or Game Boy in their hands.

I have no clear memory of when computers first entered my life in a meaningful way. They were around, although certainly not in the same way they are today. My first memories of computers are associated with my uncle, who got into the mainframe computer industry after graduating from university in the early 1960s. He worked for what was then called Univac, later became Unisys, and was Honeywell by the time he retired several years ago. He used to bring us excess continuous form printer paper to draw on, & would send us posters with images of Snoopy and Linus from Peanuts, fashioned from rows of printed numbers.

The one Christmas my family spent with his, in 1976, my cousins had a newfangled game -- called Pong -- that you played on a television set. A little white dot bouncing back & forth between two white lines on a black screen, like a ping pong game. I'm sure today's kids would find Pong about as exciting as watching paint dry (maybe even less so), but it was pretty fascinating stuff back then.

By the time I was off to university in 1979, games like PacMan & Galaga had replaced pinball machines in the campus bar, and one of my girlfriends was actually studying computer science, which meant spending long hours in the lab with boxes of punch cards, learning new languages called BASIC & COBOL. In the early '80s, my mom bought my dad something called Intellivision, which came with game cartridges for Donkey Kong, poker, hockey, golf, etc. My dad was enchanted and it provided us with endless hours of entertainment on cold winter nights during Christmas and February break.

But nobody, except maybe the very geekiest of the geeks, had their own computers or wrote term papers on them. For me, researching and writing a term paper in those days would mean spending long hours going through the card catalog at the library, taking pages of notes from stacks of books (if I could find them), using roll after roll of nickels to photocopy materials that weren't allowed to be signed out, then spreading all my raw material out on my dorm room bed & floor and starting to write. Longhand. I would revise my draft at least once, perhaps two or three times -- and then I would start typing.

Because I had probably procrastinated, I would often start typing late on the night before my paper was due, type through the night, turn in my paper the next morning, & then go home to sleep. ; ) To muffle the sound in an attempt not to annoy my dorm neighbours, I would put the typewriter on top of a couple of towels. And I woudl use easy-erase paper, which was much easier than trying to correct errors with whiteout. And trying to realign the typewriter carriage with the spot where you had corrected the error -- ARRRGHHHH.

I spent the month of January 1984 as an intern reporter at the London Free Press, before entering my final term of journalism school. This was the first time I ever used a computer, I think. Very basic, primitive stuff, of course. I would type my stories on a black screen with glowing yellow type. Then, after I'd filed it, I would read other stories from the wire services that were coming in, stories that would appear in the paper the next morning. It was intoxicating.

When my internship month ended, I returned to J-school for my final term -- and surprise! We now had computers too. We were the first class in the his­tory of the school to use them. Again, very basic, primitive by today's standards -- black screen, green type, very lit­tle for­mat­ting, & there were 30 of us shar­ing a dot-​​matrix con­tin­u­ous form printer (with a tan­gle of num­bered cables cor­re­spond­ing to our indi­vid­ual com­put­ers, which you had to plug in — & then unplug so some­one else could use it).

But oh, what a thrill!!

When I started working in 1986, I still had a typewriter on my desk, but the secretaries had huge, boxlike computers on their desks, called Wordstars. The rest of us shared two Xerox PCs that sat in a separate cubicle, and had to take turns using them, saving our work onto 5.25" floppy discs. We would compose our stories longhand or on the typewriter, & then input them on the computer.

Eventually, we upgraded to IBM PS/2s (blue screens, white type) with WordPerfect software, & just kept upgrading from that point on. And although I never could have imagined it, I became comfortable with composing onscreen (to the point where I do very little writing longhand these days). It wasn't until 2001, though, that we all got e-mail & Internet access (and we were the communications department!!). We switched to MS Word software in 2006.

*** *** ***

By the mid-90s, I was thinking it would be nice to have a computer at home. I could bring work home, write letters, play solitaire! And there was this newfangled thing called the Internet that I was curious about. The idea of all that knowledge at my fingertips, just waiting to be explored, had me salivating. (But then, I used to read encyclopedias when I was a kid...)

At the IBM store at the mall. I'd seen a newspaper ad offering "back to school" specials, & there was a "Back to School Bundle" deal that looked promising. I still have the ad: an IBM Ambra Achiever, including a 100 mhz Pentium processor, 16 MB RAM, 1.2 GB hard drive, 28.8 K modem, one free year on the Internet, speakers and a colour inkjet printer -- all for $1799 (plus tax, plus the cost of the desk we bought).

I had this computer until the fall of 2003, when I bought a Dell Inspirion 4600. Again, I saw a newspaper ad, but this time I actually ordered it sight unseen over the telephone (!) & had the local Geek Squad guys set it up for me & transfer over my files from my old computer. By last spring, it was giving me increasing grief, & my sister's boyfriend -- who, amazingly, could remotely access my computer from their home 1,000 miles away, run a diagnostic program & make some fixes -- advised me that the hard drive was going. So I bought my first laptop -- a Toshiba Satellite that he recommended.

I can still remember the thrill of going online for the first time. I knew that this was life-changing stuff, a whole new world opening up before me, & of course it was. I wasn't quite sure what to do, but somehow, I figured it out. I think I looked up the URLs of a couple of magazines I subscribed to, and some news sites.

Two years later, during my pregnancy, one of dh's coworkers (who was also pregnant), gave him the URL for a pregnancy website -- Parents Place, part of iVillage -- she thought I might be interested in. I didn't join an expecting board -- I was still very wary of message boards & the like at that time -- or otherwise spend a lot of time there then -- but when Katie was stillborn, I went there again, looking for support. The computer became my lifeline. I obsessively searched for information on stillbirth, bicornuate uteri, IUGR. I ordered books on pregnancy loss from Amazon. I found an e-mail list for grieving mothers, hoping to try again.

I spent less time reading and watching television as my time online increased, and I sometimes regret that (the reading, anyway -- I don't think the TV time has been any great loss!). But I've gained so, so much from being online. New worlds of knowledge, new friends from all over the world, the ability to stay in touch so much better with old friends & family members. I certainly never could have envisioned it all 15 years ago.

But I still sometimes think that I'd like to go back to school someday -- if only to expe­ri­ence the plea­sure of both research­ing AND writ­ing a term paper com­pletely on a com­puter. Kids today have NO idea…!! ; )