Friday, June 29, 2012

End of June odds & ends

  • TGIF!! And it is a long weekend here to boot (Canada Day on Sunday, with the Monday off for most of us). 
  • Three-day work week coming up (which, for dh, will be fairly slow, since the U.S. markets have a big impact on his work & they will be slow or closed for most of those three days).
  • Three-day work week, because we are taking next Friday off. It's our 27th (!) wedding anniversary. Still haven't decided what (if anything) we will do to celebrate, although dinner out is a tradition.
  • I feel like I deserve it, all of it. I am exhausted tonight. It is barely 8 o'clock as I type this, & I can hardly keep my eyes open. :p  The last couple of weeks have kicked my butt (which was already (& still is) sore to begin with after my tumble last week, haha). Aside from that little incident and dealing with Aunt Flo and various other life stresses, I had several major projects converging at the office that had me going nonstop. I swear I set a personal record for e-mails sent and received this past week.
  • It's nice to know when your hard work is recognized, though. We have a section of our weekly team meeting for giving kudos to each other -- and my boss thanked me in front of everyone for all my hard work, & acknowledged that I'd been doing some pretty heavy lifting on some major projects lately. That made me feel good. I am not always very good at accepting compliments, but this time, I felt I had earned it.  
  • I had some other nice things happen this week. On Monday, I learned that my Right Where I Am post was featured in the BlogHer Spotlight!
  • My last post got some really lovely comments (thank you!!) and was featured by Stirrup Queen Mel in her Friday Roundup. Being singled out in Mel's Roundup is like winning an Oscar, in my books. One of these days I want to go back & make a list of my posts that have made the Roundup.
  • Congratulations to my American friends for having your right to affordable health care upheld in court.  Frankly, most Canadians do not understand what the fuss is all about. We love our own version of "Obamacare" & wouldn't trade places. I have tried to bite my cybertongue & refrain from posting too much on the subject on Facebook, since I have a lot of American relatives and not all of us see eye to eye politically. However, I could not resist sharing this hilarious item from Buzzfeed.  I mean, seriously??!! (I guess they're in for a surprise, aren't they?)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Self-confidence (and my lack therof)

Mali had a great post this past week about self-confidence, and her lack thereof. In the comments, I told her, "I could have written this," and I could have.

Infertility and pregnancy loss, of course, have had a huge impact on my self-confidence and self-esteem over the past 15 years or so -- but I have never been a very self-confident person. When I was growing up, we moved every three to five years, so I never felt very certain of my place in the world, outside of my family and the world of books. The longest time I ever lived anywhere before I got married & moved into this house was six years. Always being the new kid, being shy, wearing glasses, being bookish and using "big words," and klutzy when everyone around me was mad for sports & lived for phys ed class -- I was an easy target for ridicule (and even if they weren't actively ridiculing me, I certainly wasn't easy for the other kids to warm up to).  Eventually, of course, I WOULD find friends & start to feel at home... but then it would be time to pull up stakes and start all over again.

I got contact lenses when I was heading into my first year of high school, which did wonders for my self-esteem. But I didn't really blossom until I started university. Academically and socially, I had a blast. : ) 

Early on that fall of 1979, I met a tall, blond, good-looking guy with gorgeous blue eyes, who reminded me slightly of the actor Jeff Conaway (who was then pretty well known, both as Kenickie in the movie "Grease" and Bobby in the sitcom "Taxi" -- sadly, he passed away last year after years of substance abuse).  I had a crush on him from the moment I met him, and when we finally got together toward the end of the year, I just could not believe it:  a guy I really, REALLY liked had actually liked me back. It was like all the romantic dreams I had ever had finally coming true all at once. He came to visit me at my parents' house that summer, and accompanied me to my high school reunion (now THAT's a nice guy, right??! lol). (I was only one year out of high school, but it was the 75th anniversary of the school, and an all-school reunion was held to mark the occasion.) I had never had a boyfriend in high school, and when I walked into the dance held for 1970s students that night with this gorgeous guy by my side, I literally saw jaws drop. I still rank it among the most highly satisfying moments of my life. ; )

It didn't last, of course -- he was in a highly demanding program at school and didn't have time for a girlfriend -- particularly a needy one like me. Even after we broke up, vowing that we would stay "friends," I had a hard time letting go of the dream. I'm not proud of the memory of my stalker-ish behaviour -- tearful phone calls, unannounced visits to his apartment ("I just happened to be in the neighbourhood and thought I'd say hi..."), and to the building where he had classes, on the pretext of seeing friends who were in the same program and also had classes there.

Eventually, my unrequited obsession waned (much to his relief, no doubt), and by the fall of third year, I had met dh. : )  After I finished my undergrad degree, I spent a year at journalism school, closer to where he was doing his own graduate studies. On the one hand, I got into the 40-member class out of 120 who applied (I actually got in on a waiting list), which was an ego-booster. On the other hand, I was suddenly one of the younger people in my class (a January baby, I was used to being one of the older ones) and one of the more inexperienced ones when it came to actual journalism experience.

I can remember interviewing for a summer job with two men from a southern Ontario newspaper. One of them fixed me in his gaze and asked me -- little 23-year-old me, primly clad in my official interview suit -- brown skirt & jacket, with cream coloured ruffled blouse and three-inch heels -- whether I thought I was "tough enough" to be a reporter. I knew what HE thought the answer was, and he was probably right. I wasn't tough, certainly not in the stereotypical hard-bitten, hard-drinking reporter sense. I think I said something about how I didn't think "toughness" was a pre-requisite, and that you catch more flies with honey, etc. Needless to say, I didn't get the job.

This took place towards the end of the program -- but even in the early days, I remember doubting myself and my abilities, and wondering what the heck I was doing here. The first several months of the program, we had two main profs teaching us the basics of reporting. Both of them were veterans of the newspaper business and longtime buddies, who initiated us into the mysteries of the newsroom (not to mention the bar at the press club). One was a gruff Lou Grant type (whose bark was far worse than his bite);  the other was somewhat more kindly (but no less hard-drinking).  He and I sat down to review an assignment that fall -- and I will never forget him telling me (with an encouraging smile) that I had "a real nice style," and to keep up the good work, I was going to make a fine reporter. Exactly what I needed to hear at exactly the right moment. 

Coming back for the winter term, I was shocked to read in the local paper that he had passed away over the Christmas holidays. Our class arranged to have a framed photo of him mounted on the wall of the lounge. The accompanying plaque read "Teacher, mentor and friend." 

*** *** ***

I did graduate, and eventually found work in my field.  I worked as a reporter on a small-town weekly for nine momths (where I didn't have to be tough, but did have to endure endless school board and town council meetings). For the past 26 (!!) years,  I've worked for the same corporate communications department in the same company. For a good 15 of those years, I had the same boss and worked with the same core group of people.  We had our ups and downs, but for the most part, I liked my job and I liked the people I worked with.  We all knew each other well and together, we made a pretty good team. We knew each other's abilities, our respective strengths and weaknesses, and worked with and around them.  I can remember my boss's boss once telling me that he had complete confidence in my writing, that he knew he could throw anything at me and I would do a good job on it. Who doesn't love to hear stuff like that?

Eventually, though, our tight little group began to disintegrate. The cracks started showing about 10 years ago, when a senior team leader was suddenly let go. Eight years ago, our long-time assistant retired, followed by my coworker (and office best friend) more than five years ago and my longtime boss two years ago.  Our department's senior officer -- someone I thought would be in that position until HE retired -- suddenly transferred to a completely different department. Denied the promotion he'd been hankering after, my complimentary boss's boss also left suddenly to go work for a competitor.

So suddenly, I was surrounded by new people -- many of them much younger and much more ambitious than I was -- people who didn't know (and, for the most part, didn't care) about what happened in the past. Some of the changes have been good, and were probably necessary. I feel like I am still respected, for my longevity and historical knowledge of the company and the department, if nothing else (it still does come in handy from time to time). But overall, I've never had an easy time with change -- and I don't feel like my work or my abilities are valued and respected in the same way these days. Sometimes, I feel like my superiors don't quite know what to do with me.

Part of it, I will admit, is my own fault. I got too comfortable (some might say in a rut). I've never really WANTED to work anywhere else, and I've never hankered after a more senior position. Partly because I just didn't want the responsibility for people and budgets. (But also probably because I wasn't confident enough to take on the additional challenges.) 

It was always the people I cared most about -- my coworkers -- and the writing.  But the coworkers I cared about have moved on.  And the writing doesn't seem to matter as much these days. It's all about the process now -- intake forms and strategic plans and briefing documents and documenting processes and making sure the right people are cc'd on everything, and meetings, meetings, meetings. I am not as confident as I once was in this suddenly changed environment.

*** *** ***

Last Thursday was a crappy, crappy day for me all round, for many reasons. To name a few: I was having a busy, stressful and frustrating week at work, and Thursday was particularly tough. Added to which, Aunt Flo, with her always impeccable timing, decided this would be the perfect time for a visit.

I wound up staying late. Dh chose to wait for me, and I finally managed to get away and meet him downstairs, telling him all about what a lousy day I had had as we walked to the train station. The weather had been horribly hot and sticky for days, and as our train headed out of the station, we could see black clouds gathering on the horizon. The closer we got to home, the closer and blacker the clouds got. Just as we were pulling into our station, a torrential downpour began. "Be careful," the conductor said over the PA system, "It's nasty out there."

I stepped out of the air-conditioned train and into the deluge, and my glasses actually started fogging up. The rain was coming down so heavily, I could hardly see. I tried to put up my umbrella -- and as I did, some idiot rushing for the shelter of the stairwell ran full tilt into me and knocked me flat on my ass. Right into a puddle, of course. :p  One of my sandals got knocked off & my glasses just about fell off too. My purse was laying on the ground (fortunately, the contents didn't get too wet). I felt like the wind had just been knocked out of me. 

I just SAT there for a minute, stunned, with the rain pouring down on me. I heard people asking if I was all right, but all I could see were feet rushing by me in a blur. "Didn't even stop," one person said. I struggled to my feet -- nobody offered to help me up (!) and there was no sign of dh anywhere. I felt utterly alone -- and completely soaked.

Somehow I made it up the long, long flight of stairs (enclosed, thankfully) that leads to a newly built pedestrian bridge across the highway & over to the mall where (thanks to congestion and construction at the station) we must now park in a parking garage there. Dh was waiting near the top of the stairs with this quizzical "Where the heck have you been?" look on his face. I told him what had happened & he asked if I was all right. "Boy, you really HAVE had a lousy day!" he said. Ummm -- yeah. :p :p :p  Understatement of the year.

So we started walking across the pedestrian bridge -- which is enclosed, but made entirely of concrete, glass and METAL -- while thunder crashed & big bolts of lightning lit up the sky. I kept thinking that of course, this was the logical conclusion to my day:  I was going to get struck by lightning.

Thankfully, we did not. Got to the other side, but the direct bridge connection to the parking garage is still under construction, meaning we have to go down to ground level and walk across the parking lot -- and it was still absolutely pouring outside, so we (& a bunch of other people) just stood there and waited for the rain to let up more. Once it did, we sloshed our way over to the parking garage & up to the car. We keep a couple of those reusable plastic grocery bags in the car, and I had dh get me one to sit on. He said, "It's only a little water, it won't hurt the car." I said, "Yeah, but it probably won't dry before tomorrow & I have to sit there!"

So it's three days later and I still have a very sore tailbone ; ) (although it is gradually getting better).  I only just noticed today that I have a big dark bruise on my left knee that is sore to the touch.  I also have a yellow bruise and sore spot on the inside of my left breast (although that feels much better than it did). I am not sure what happened there -- did I jam the umbrella handle there as I fell? (Not to mention my bruised sense of dignity...)

Friday, en route home, I walked over the very same spot again. It felt strange to be returning to the scene of the crime. I realized I was lucky I wasn't more hurt than I was. It gave me pause to think about how fast it all happened, & how quickly something can go wrong, especially when you're in a crowd of people in a rush. I kept thinking, "What if I had been pregnant?" Obviously, I'm not, but yikes. The incident reawakened a certain feeling of vulnerability in me that felt oddly familiar. 

Aging has something to do with it, I suppose -- the way I felt, post-fall, at work, and generally.  I've written before about feeling a certain invisibility as I get older, the sense that I am fading into the woodwork, as younger, more confident people grab the spotlight and run away with it.

In some ways, age and experience do bring wisdom. But in other ways, I find the older I get, the less confidence I have. Perhaps I've seen & experienced too much to be too certain or confident of anything any more -- least of all myself.

Monday, June 18, 2012

"How I Met Your Mother," redux

Tonight's episode of "How I Met Your Mother" was a rerun of one that aired last December, which I blogged about.

That episode stayed with me for a long time -- and I had actually started a second post on the subject, which eventually began growing dust bunnies in my drafts folder. I dusted it off again tonight.

I found myself noticing lots of little things I hadn't the first time around. I guess I had been sort of stunned by all the twists & turns of the plot and where it wound up going. This time, I was able to laugh a bit more -- over Robin's all-too-accurate predictions of how her friends would react if she told them she couldn't have kids = why she didn't want to tell them the truth (so true!!)... although the "pole vaulting" excuse still had me cringing.

I still think Cobie Smulders, as Robin, did an excellent job playing out the emotional struggle of knowing she really didn't want kids, but being faced with the sad finality of knowing she would never be able to have them -- something entirely different. And I still cried at the end when Ted delivered the killer line,"She was never alone." (Dh once again came over & held my hand while I dried my eyes and blew my nose, and promised that if he goes before I do, he will come back to haunt the nephews if they don't check in on me often enough, lol.)

Back in December, Starfish Kitty Dreams also posted about the show, and my comment to her read (in part):

In a way, it’s a little annoying that they had to turn her into someone who couldn’t [have kids]  — it’s like they had to give her a “better”/more acceptable reason for not having kids than that she simply didn’t want them. Because not everyone DOES have kids, for many, many reasons — and whatever those reasons are, it’s OK. (Or should be.)
Laura Scott, whose book, blog and film focus on couples who are childfree by choice, drew my attention to an article on Slate by Jessica Grose titled Child-free on TV, which mentions both the HIMYM episode and one of "Whitney" -- another childfree female character.

...neither of these characters—Robin (Cobie Smulders) on HIMYM and the titular Whitney (Whitney Cummings, also the show’s creator)—was allowed to fully embrace her desire not to have kids. Though Robin’s conflicted feelings about baby-rearing were treated in a much more enlightened way, it’s telling that on both shows, the characters who don’t want babies are women who like shooting guns and talking dirty, but who are grossed out by feelings. These shows are implicitly saying: Of course only a woman who’s not really feminine wouldn’t want to be a mom.
At the end of the show, we hear about all of the great things that Robin did accomplish with her life -- a brilliant journalism career, world traveller, bullfighter (!).  But another great point raised by commenter Lori (& several others) in response to my original post:

I think what bothers me is the thought that if you are childfree, by choice or not, somehow your life has to be more interesting, your job and achievements more than the average "mom" person who can happily live a simple life being a mom to her kids. I don't have big bull fighting plans or huge career accomplishments I plan to pat myself on the back for, I just want a simple life like everyone else, yet childfree is always have to portrayed as somehow doing more to make up for not being a mom. That's the only part that bothers me.
I actually wrote a post on this subject more than three years ago.

As someone who is trying to make lemonade out of the lemons life has handed me, I (still) struggle with the idea that I "chose" this path. Yes, in way I did, if only by default (since I didn't choose to try IVF, or donor egg, or hire a surrogate, or pursue adoption). But, as I've often said, "some choice."  :p 

I think there are many reasons why people may wind up living without children, and I wish that more people would recognize that in between the black of childfree by choice and the white of parenthood, there are many shades of grey -- which is one reason why I'm glad HIMYM addressed Robin's sadness over infertility, even if, deep down, she knew she didn't really want to be a mother. People need to recognize the emotional impact an infertility diagnosis can carry.

At the same time, I believe that however you came to live without children, you deserve to be supported. Why you don't have kids doesn't really matter in the end -- what you do with your no-kids life does. (And I'm not saying you need to do something extra-special/extraordinary to make up for the lack of children in your life, either -- just that, hopefully, you'll find some other purpose, some thing in your life that will fulfill you & give you some joy.)

And I'm thankful for role models like Robin who remind me of all the good things & advantages a childfree life has to offer. (Even if I would never, ever set foot in a bullfighting ring myself.)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Slate on choosing to be childfree

As I posted last week, Slate has been running essays on choosing to be childfree this week, under the banner "No Kids for Me, Thanks."  While I didn't exactly "choose" to be childFREE (childLESS?)(potay-to, potah-to...) -- dwelling in that ALI Twilight Zone between parenthood & militant childfreedom -- there is still much in these essays -- well, most of them -- that I can relate to (and even if I can't entirely relate, I can respect). Here are the links:

I Don't Enjoy Alien Parasites
I'd Rather Die Alone
I Value My Professional Mobility
I Tied My Tubes at 26
There Never Was One Reason, Just Life 

I was also interested in a related Slate piece:  Where Are They Now:  Do the Child-Free Change Their Minds?  which revisits a New York Times Magazine article from 2000 by Lisa Belkin, Your Kids Are Their Problem.  The NYT piece is definitely worth a read -- although it is more than a decade old, not much has changed, and it still rings very true.
Go to work, watch the news: the sound of institutions competing to be ''family friendly'' can be deafening. ''Let us create a family lobby as powerful as the gun lobby,'' Al Gore says, and every issue, from gun control to tax reform, is now presented as being good for children. The unintended result of all this is that the 13 million childless baby boomers are left bristling because their lives -- whether chosen or the result of circumstance -- don't seem to count. [emphasis mine]
Writing the article was an eye-opener for Belkin, the mother of two:
Just as I didn't realize how often I ate carbohydrates until a nutritionist told me not to, I had no idea how often I talked about my boys until I tried to stop. They are, I admit, one of my favorite subjects, not only when chatting with friends, but also professionally; I think nothing of swapping ''cute kid'' stories during interviews.
But then I spent weeks interviewing childless people, and hearing how sick they've become of parents who chatter endlessly about their children....   
The most sweeping societal clashes, are, at their core, deeply personal -- an accumulation of moments between people who didn't realize they were making assumptions until they collided with others who assumed something else.
The Slate article revisits several of the childfree people interviewed in the article. All have remained childfree;  none say they regret their decision today. 

Even though we are don't have children for different reasons, I found that sort of comforting.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

I shot JR : )

I was in high school when the prime time soap opera "Dallas" made its debut in 1978. I don't remember when I first started watching -- I don't think I watched right from the very start -- but certainly by midway through the second season, I was hooked.
I have fond memories of watching the infamous "Who Shot JR" episode that kicked off the fourth season in November 1980 -- one of the most-watched TV episodes of all time, and one of those "where were you when..." moments that everyone remembers. By then, I was in second-year university and living in a dorm. I had a small black & white TV set in my room, but one of the girls on my floor had that rarity (for a student in those days), a colour TV set, and was kind enough to set it up in the lounge area. Everyone packed in to watch the episode together, & we all cheered as Sue Ellen confronted her scheming sister (who also happened to be her husband's mistress), Kristin (as played by Bing Crosby's daughter!!) with the declaration, "It was YOU, Kristin, who shot JR!"

Like many people, I thought the show went downhill after the infamous scene in which "good" brother Bobby -- dead, buried and mourned for an entire season -- shows up in Pam's shower, revealing the entire preceding season to have been a dream. The convoluted plotlines seemed to be getting more and more ridiculous, and it got more and more difficult to keep track of all the various mistresses, girlfriends, subsequent husbands & wives, & illegitmate sons & daughters. (I recently looked up the show on Wikipedia, which contains a detailed list of characters, a convoluted family tree, & season-ending cliffhanger descriptions -- and oh my heck, what memories that brought back!!)

(And on an ALI note -- I'd forgotten how prominently ALI themes figured in several of the plotlines:  John Ross was born prematurely after a drunken Sue Ellen gets into a car accident. Pam had a miscarriage after she gets into an argument with JR and falls -- or gets pushed? -- from the barn loft.  She & Bobby adopted Christopher, the biological son of Kristin (but not, thank goodness, JR). And Pam got into the car accident that led to her exit from the show while returning from a visit to her doctor and finding out that she could have children after all.)(She was on her car phone with Bobby, telling him the good news, if I recall, when her car struck an oil tanker & went up in flames -- perhaps the earliest depiction on screen of the hazards of talking on a cellphone while driving?)

But I stuck it out to the bitter end -- which wound up with (what else?) a cliffhanger, in which JR, goaded on by a devilish apparation played by Joel Grey, raises a gun to his temple and we hear a shot, which brings Bobby running up the stairs of Southfork & gasping, "Oh my God!" Cue the closing music & credits.

But now, after 21 years -- it's back!!  Starting next Wednesday on TNT in the States and Bravo on Canada, the new series picks up some 20 years later, with JR, Bobby and Sue Ellen (who,rumour has it, is running for governor!!) joined by a new generation of Ewings -- JR & Sue Ellen's son, John Ross, Bobby's son Christopher, and others, battling it out anew for control of Ewing Oil and Southfork, the beloved family ranch.

I can't wait. : )

Were you a "Dallas" fan? Will you be watching? (And if you were in pre-school -- or not even born -- when the original was on -- I don't need to hear it, lol.)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Midlife & midcycle

When I was growing up in the 1970s on the Canadian Prairies, sex education was non-existent. There was one brief unit on the reproductive system (both male & female) in Grade 12 biology, near the end of the year, delivered by a redfaced & clearly uncomfortable male teacher -- far, far too late, I thought, even then.

(The teacher had various rolled up charts at the front of the room, depicting the various systems of the human body -- respiratotry, circulatory, muscular, etc. -- tht he would pull down with a hook-like contraption. During one class on the reproductive system, he pulled down the chart -- which some mischevious student had papered over with a Playboy centrefold. The entire class, including the teacher, exploded in laughter, & the tension was broken somewhat.)(We all noted, giggling afterwards, that the teacher carefully folded up the picture & stashed it in his desk drawer.)

(I don't recall any pregnant girls in school the year I graduated -- but the following year, when my sister was in Grade 12, her graduation photo included two very pregnant classmates. There were also  two girls pregnant in Grade 11 and another two in Grade 10. Planned Parenthood posters suddenly started appearing on the school walls.)(I wonder if they would allow that today??)

(Those two babies of my sister's classmates would now be 32 years old. They probably have babies of their own. In fact, I know that one of them also got pregnant as a teenager, & now has a teenager of her own. Yikes!!)

(Sorry. I digress.)

*** *** ***

I'm an avid reader, & I've always considered myself fairly well informed about my body and how women got pregnant (and, more importantly as a young unmarried woman, how NOT to get pregnant).

But I didn't realize just how much I still had to learn until, determined to get pregnant again as quickly as possible after Katie's stillbirth, I purchased a copy of a book I had seen in the bookstores that came highly recommended by several members of my online support group -- "Taking Charge of Your Fertility" by Toni Weschler (otherwise known on message boards & the like as TCOYF).  I highly recommend this book to all women, whether or not they have fertility issues, and I think every teenaged girl should be handed a copy.

After months & months of charting my cycles (without success) and watching for the signs of impending ovulation detailed in the book by Weschler, followed by almost two years of infertility testing and treatment, I got to know the rhythms of my body pretty well,. And I noticed that, right around the time I was ovulating (or supposed to ovulate), along with the temperature readings and cervical fluid consistency, there were often other things happening with my body -- cramping, lower back pain, gas, heartburn -- sometimes a bit of spotting.

The fact that these symptoms followed a fairly consistent pattern & appeared to be tied to my cycle made me feel better. Still, I was concerned (or at any rate, annoyed) enough that I went to Dr. Ob-gyn and even had an ultrasound done, about 10 years ago --which showed there was nothing wrong with my gynecological parts (that I didn't already know about -- e.g., my bicornuate uterus) -- although I did receive a surprise diagnosis of gallstones, of all things, which did show up on the ultrasound. (I still have them -- never have had them out). (I read on one website that high levels of estrogen can contribute to gallstone formation -- which is one reason why they often show up in pregnancy. My estrogen levels during some of my fertility treatment cycles were sky high at times. Makes me wonder...)

There's actually a medical term for this midcycle pain or discomfort:  mittelschmerz, or middle pain. It's often described as a sharp, brief pain on one side. Sometimes, I could/can feel the discomfort more on one side than the other, but often it's more generalized abdominal discomfort -- and in my case, it often lasts for several days.  Dr. Ob-gyn said there wasn't much he could do for me, aside from putting me back on birth control pills. At the time, we were still ttc, and since then, I haven't particularly wanted to mess my body up with even more hormones than it had already been subjected to. And while it can be uncomfortable & annoying, it's rarely if ever debilitating. Some months are better or worse than others, obviously.

The reason I started thinking about this is that on the Life Without Baby blog's Whiny Wednesday post this past week, one commenter mentioned that she tended to have PMS-like symptoms at midcycle. As it so happened, I was just getting over some similar midcycle symptoms myself. This was one of my "worse" months in awhile. About a week ago Friday, I started feeling crampy, & when I went to the washroom & wiped myself, there was a small pink stain on the toilet paper. It didn't develop into anything more (= it wasn't an early visit from Aunt Flo), and when I checked my calendar, I realized I was right at midcycle.  The cramping continued, along with some horrible bloating, lower backache and heartburn. I started wondering, again, if something was really wrong with me -- but Wednesday afternoon, it was like someone flipped a switch -- I suddenly started feeling a whole lot better, thank goodness.

I don't recall feeling this kind of midcycle discomfort when I was younger.  Of course, I was on the pill for 13 years, from the time I was 21 until I was 34. I suspect perimenopause might also have something to do with it. (On days like I had last week, I keep thinking menopause can’t be much worse than the peri phase. :p )

I do remember a couple of times as a newlywed, in my mid-20s, when I was still on the pill, that I was sideswiped by some mysterious cramps -- a "stitch in my side," a momentary spasm of abdominal pain out of the blue that had me doubling over & gasping -- one time while visiting my parents, once while dh & I were out walking in our neighbourhood. I had to sit down on the curb until the moment passed & I felt able to walk home again. Because it didn't happen very often, came out of the blue & was short-lived, and because I was young (& dumb), I shrugged it off as "one of those things" and never thought to mention it to my dr. Now I wonder... but if I was on the pill, it wouldn't have been ovulation. Would it??

Anyone else suffer from midcycle discomfort & spotting, occasionally or regularly?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A tale of two Olympians

Once upon a time, there were two girls, two years apart in age, growing up in two neighbouring towns on the eastern fringes of the Greater Toronto Area. Both daughters of immigrants. Both showed early promise in track and field athletics, and went on to specialize in hurdles. Both won scholarships & went to study and train at American universities. Both competed for Canada at the Olympics -- one in 2004 and one in 2008. Both are hoping to be at the 2012 Olympics in London next month.

Perdita Felicien was Canada's "it" girl heading into the 2004 Olympics in Athens. She was touted as a sure thing for the gold medal in the 100m hurdles. Unfortunately, she stumbled on the first hurdle & wiped out disastrously. She was injured and did not compete in the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

But Canada still came home with a medal in the women's 100m hurdles that year -- a surprise bronze from Priscilla Lopes-Schliep. I can still picture her, post-race, holding up a Canadian flag behind her, the perfect backdrop.  It was a great, feel-good moment, and the country embraced her as a rising new star.

And then -- after having an ovary removed five years ago & wondering whether she would ever have a family (something I can certainly relate to & sympathize with) -- Lopes-Schliep found herself unexpectedly and very happily pregnant. She gave birth to a baby girl last fall.

As you might expect, the media (at least here in Canada) went ga-ga, both during Lopes-Schliep's pregnancy and since then. Of course, I'm hypersensitive about these things -- but I've read a number of stories about her over the past year or so -- first about her surprise pregnancy, and then about her baby. Even if the story is ostensibly about the latest competition she's been in, somehow, somewhere, there's a reference to the fact that she gave birth within the past year.

In contrast, I don't recall reading or hearing much about Perdita Felicien these days, even heading into the Olympics. Perhaps because she's busy training, perhaps because she's been dealing with injuries and hasn't competed as much over the past several years.

Or maybe -- just maybe -- do you think it might be because she hasn't been sporting a baby bump, and then a baby?

The trigger for this post? This morning, the Toronto Star had (get this) a FOUR PAGE "SPECIAL REPORT" devoted to Lopes-Schliep & how she and her family are juggling her baby and her Olympic ambitions.

By way of apology, perhaps, the story acknowledges:  "As every Olympics draws near, sports fans are typically fed saccharine-laced stories of athletes who overcome incredible odds and disadvantages to represent their country. It can be heart-wrenching stuff."

But then, it goes ahead & dives straight into another saccharine-laced story anyway:  "But, sometimes, the challenges are completely and utterly joyous," the story goes on to say. "Lopes-Schliep is an example."

And, further on: "...while having a baby might have created some doubts about here [sic] athletic future, it has made her more marketable and broadened her public appeal."  (Really??! I never would have guessed...)

It's not so much the story itself that bothers me -- it's a detailed picture of the sacrifices one family is making to help an Olympic dream come true, and what it takes to juggle pregnancy and motherhood with Olympic-level athletics. I guess pregnant/parenting female athletes are (sadly) still rare enough to be a novelty. Fair enough. Having been through infertility myself, I am the last person to begrudge Lopes-Schliep her joy over her baby.  She seems like a nice person and good role model who has worked hard to get where she is (the same could be said for Felicien, I think) -- and the baby IS adorable. As the story itself points out, motherhood is highly marketable these days (Lord knows this isn't the first nor far from the last paen to motherhood featured in the media lately...), & getting to the Olympics is an expensive proposition -- I can't blame her for cashing in on the mommy appeal factor.

I just think that a four-page "special report" on the subject is, shall we say, overkill. The actual story is not that long. In fact, it would probably fit on one page with a reasonable-sized photo, or one page and a bit.

However, the article has been padded with not one, not two or three, but SIX photos and... wait for it... ads. BIG ads. For (just guess) disposable diapers. Just one brand. For those of us in the know about journalism &/or advertising, the whole section screams "advertorial" -- advertising, masquerading as legitimate news content. (Not to mention pronatalism run amok.)

Nowhere in four pages do you see an explicit disclaimer, "Sponsored by (diaper company)." But it's clear someone has paid big bucks for this space. There is a logo in the top right-hand corner of the first page of the section, and strip ad across the bottom of that page. There is an ad that stretches across the full bottom half of the centre two-page spread. And there's a full page ad on the back page of the four-page section. In other words, ads consume more than half the space in the four-page section.

Near the end of the story itself, there is a mention  that "Lopes-Schliep’s sponsors certainly believe she will be there [at the Olympics].... Lopes-Schliep now has corporate connections to Pampers, Coca-Cola, Nike and Cheerios, to name a few. She will soon be featured in Chatelaine and Today’s Parent magazines."

The Canadian Olympic trials are on June 30th. I wish both girls luck.

I also wish that the media would stick to reporting the news, and not go overboard with the cute baby shots. And make a clear distinction between actual news and marketing.

But I know I'm trying to stick my thumb into a leaky dike holding back a sea of pronatalism, with a tidal wave called the Olympics fast approaching.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Slate wants YOU!

Here's a great opportunity for childless/free bloggers of all stripes & circumstances to tell our stories & get them heard by a wider audience! Slate is looking for our stories about how we came to be childless/free and what we appreciate (or have come to appreciate) about it:
Recently, Slate columnist Katie Roiphe raised the possibility that the choice not to have children remains a taboo, that no matter what we say to our childless friends at dinner parties—that we envy them, that we wish we, too, could go out every night and wake up at 11 on Sundays—we “secretly feel sorry for or condescend to or fail to understand women who don’t have children.” Not that the child-free owe us any explanation, but we are asking for one. More like a full and proud defense. Our aim here is to clear the taboo once and for all.
Readers, we invite you to submit your testimonies on why you are child-free and happy to We will choose the best ones and run them on the blog. We want you to write if you knew you would never have children, if you found yourself in that situation by accident but have come to appreciate it, or any other path we haven’t thought of. And we really want to hear from men, too.
Read one childfree-by-choice blogger's story here (headed up by the information above).

I'm looking forward to reading the responses!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Odds & ends

  • Feeling decidedly like a slug lately. Must get out of the office cubicle/off the sofa more often. :p
  • Case in point: Spent three hours this morning watching the Diamond Jubilee celebrations on TV as the Queen floated down the River Thames through the city of London on a beautifully decorated barge, accompanied by other members of the Royal Family and surrounded by a flotilla of 1,000+ boats (including a -- what else? -- canoe from Canada, paddled by a bunch of modern day voyageurs festooned in tuques and sashes). It was quite the spectacle, done up only as the British can do. Too bad it rained, but as one spectactor interviewed pointed out, that only served to make it seem all the more British. Long may she reign! : )
  • On the other hand, I feel like I deserved a lazy weekend. Busy week at work (newly married boss is now on her honeymoon), capped off by a torrentially rainy Friday. I foolishly wore capris & sandals to work. Shortly after lunch, we started hearing that Union Station -- the hub of the city's considerable passenger rail, commuter rail & bus and subway traffic -- was flooding -- and then that the flooding had spread into the concourse level of one of the adjacent office towers we pass through en route to & from work every day. We also heard that some of the flooding appeared to be (gulp) raw sewage. Downtown Toronto is one big construction site right now, including major work being done at Union Station, so it was not unfathomable that something could have gone wrong. Then we heard that nearly all the downtown subway stations had been shut down. Fortunately, the commuter trains continued to run.  Dh & I took an alternate route through the underground PATH that got us almost all the way to Union Station. We did not go inside, but made our way up to our platform from an entrance at street level. By then, the rain had mostly stopped, and while the ground was wet (and the stench in the air confirmed the probability that sewage was involved :p ), at least we were not sloshing through inches of water (& worse), as I had feared. Whew!! We got home at the usual time, but I was exhausted, half asleep on the couch by 8:30, & in bed by 9:30.
  • I was not at the Eaton Centre downtown yesterday, but the news of the shooting there last night was enough to make me feel stressed & tired all over again. One of my online U.S. friends messaged me, "Do you shop at that mall?"  Ummm, yeah, ALL THE TIME. It is a five-minute walk through the PATH from my office, & I often (at least once every week or so) head up there on my lunch hour. The Eaton Centre is not the biggest mall in Canada anymore, but it's still probably the best-known. It's always teeming with mobs of teenagers and tourists. Growing up on the Prairies, we all knew the Toronto Eaton Centre and it was the first place I wanted to go when I finally made it to Toronto in the early 1980s. 
  • Today was the annual memorial butterfly release and picnic (now a "garden party") for the pregnancy loss support group we were involved with for more than 10 years. This year, we did not go. It's only the second time we have missed the picnic, and the first time in many years. I'm not sure any or many of our friends went, either -- one had e-mailed a bunch of us a few weeks ago, asking if anyone was going, & got a lukewarm response. There have been some changes since the upheaval that took place last summer/fall, but I still feel sad about everything that happened.
  • The Globe & Mail had an article in Friday's paper titled "The clock is ticking: Female fertility declines earlier than you think." I thought it was a pretty good article. As usual, however, beware the comments...!