Too Much Information: a Conception Story

 Babies' First Photo Our twins as three-day-old embryos.

Babies’ First Photo:
Our twins as three-day-old embryos.

“So what is your birth story?”  

Have you ever shared with someone the story of how your children came into the world?  I remember a friend of mine and I doing just that on one of the rare occasions we could sit and catch up.  It was an enlightening personal experience, one I would never think to initiate and was glad she took the first step.  The actual birthing experience may be a small fraction of life experience but it ends in the first time we lay eyes on our children, so it’s a story we as parents hold especially dear.  Some of us record the event on tape.  Some of us write it down.  Some of us share it over coffee.

But rarely do any of us share conception stories.  Most of us agree that sharing those tales crosses a line!  And recently, even though the story of our twins’ conception involves a cryochamber and a petri dish, I think that between the cold, scientific facts there is “too much information.”

Because years ago, in a cathartic funk, I wrote an angry, self-indulgent diatribe about my inability to become pregnant.  Composing an essay was my way of dealing with a stressful, all-consuming situation.  I edited and tweaked over many hours (and countless lattes and amazing blueberry scones…the only thing I miss about infertility.) until I decided I “had something:”  something brilliant and poignant enough to be fit for print.  But years later I reviewed my “masterpiece” and realized something:  it so is NOT.  I cringed, for example, at details of my “uterine visualization” following an embryo transfer, willing the little guys to grab ahold.   Yup, too much info.  I felt embarrassed and I was the one who wrote about it.   Of course, at that time I was painfully running myself through the paces of in vitro fertilization and now I am in a much, much different place (running myself, luckily, through the paces of homework and after-school activities).  Time, three kids and a busy schedule have taken the edge off and found me musing about those difficult four years from a different perspective.  Yes, it was a horribly difficult time.  But after rereading that essay, I found that experience to be injected (pun intended) with irony and humor.  I’m a firm believer that if we can’t laugh, we can’t heal and we certainly can’t cope.  So instead of a detailed conception story, I’ve decided to marry the pain of infertility with the rare bits humor and give what I hope is a readable, more inspired, spin to an otherwise downtrodden journey.  And with any luck I hope I help others dealing with infertility to cope and heal.

And I know you don’t want every detail.  It would bore you to death.  So for the next two weeks I’ll be posting new and improved installments of “Infertility Unplugged” (not the six-page-long travesty collecting dust in my desk).   I promise you the detailed status of my gluteal muscles has been omitted.

Don’t get me wrong.  That first “final” draft is a keeper.  For me, and likely me alone.  It’s important personal history that can’t, shouldn’t  be edited away forever.

 

Hooray for Super Bowl Commercials…But Should Our Kids Watch Them?

Super Bowl 50 is just around the corner, which only means one thing.  Well, two.  The first being if your adoptive home is Colorado, and your son’s new favorite team is the Denver Broncos, then you are thrilled.  And the second is all those original, entertaining commercials, which for many (myself included) are the reason to tune into the game.  So anticipated are these ads, they seem to get at least as much post-game chatter as the game itself.

Which is interesting because apparently my generation (X) is a pretty jaded bunch.  As in, more resistant to the influence of advertisements than other generations.  Who hasn’t said, “I love that commercial where…but I don’t remember what it was for!” We X-er’s were some of the first to realize how “junky” those proof-of-purchase prizes from our favorite cereals were, and that sending away for something doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get it.  (I never got those “Picture Pages” advertised on Captain Kangaroo or that autographed Dukes of Hazzard photo…).

But how do commercials affect our own kids? Continue reading

Ladies, a Mammogram Update

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Back in May 2015 I wrote a post entitled Moms, Get Your Mammograms.   I gave some (hopefully!) clear advice about when to obtain a first (baseline) mammogram and when to get clinical and self breast exams, because the information out there is confusing.  It’s conflicting.  Even the medical community grapples repeatedly with the when-and-how-often of screening.  And they have done it again:  in October of 2015, the American Cancer Society (ACS) released an updated set of guidelines regarding breast cancer screening.   So I’d like to share with you some of the new recommendations, focusing on the information we women approaching, and already into, our 40’s need to know. Continue reading

The Happiness Project

Forget your troubles, come on get happy
You better chase all your cares away
Shout Hallelujah, come on get happy

~from the song Get Happy by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler, performed by Judy Garland in Summer Stock (1950)

If you smile, you will feel happy.  There are some pretty fun studies out there to help support this.  Just try it yourself.  Smile, and you start to feel exactly what the upturned corners of your mouth show.

But is feeling happy the same as being happy? Continue reading

Calling All Family and Friends of In Vitro Fertilization Kids

My babies as babies (!), a great book (details below) and my boys as 3-day-old embryos.

My babies as babies (!), a great book (details below) and my boys as 3-day-old embryos.  (Paper cranes courtesy of my older son.)

I have never made it a secret that my twin boys are the product of science…I’ve “put it out there” since my husband and I shared the good news that we were finally expecting.  And we’ve talked to our boys about their beginning, showing them pictures and telling them about the special doctor who helped us become pregnant with them. We found a wonderful age-appropriate book to read to all three of our kids (our daughter, conceived the “old-fashioned way” finds it especially interesting), back when they were in Kindergarten.  Since then, I’ve looked for a book that is directed at the pre- to early-pubescent age group and have come up empty.  As someone who enjoys writing and hopes to author a book someday…well, I think I’ve found my niche.

Tweens are at the stage where their bodies are about to transform or have begun to already, and the talk about where-babies-come-from, the real discussion, that is, is just around the corner.  And it is also a time when insecurities and questions about identity start to emerge.  So I envision my book for in vitro fertilization (IVF) kids on the verge of adolescence giving not only specifics about the procedure itself but also addressing their reactions to having a different start from (most) everyone else. Continue reading

To Write a Thank-You or Phone it in?

What I suddenly understood was that a thank-you note isn’t the price you pay for receiving a gift, as so many children think it is, a kind of minimum tribute or toll, but an opportunity to count your blessings.  And gratitude isn’t what you give in exchange for something; it’s what you feel when you are blessed–blessed to have family and friends who care about you, and who want to see you happy.  Hence the joy from thanking.

~Will Schwalbe, in The End of Your Life Book Club

I felt a twinge of hope when Mr. Schwalbe shared his epiphany about (and perhaps a bit of fondness for?) the writing of thank you notes…given he described that, as a child, his mother insisted he and his siblings write all their thank you’s for Christmas gifts on Christmas.  Kids generally think of writing thank you’s as a monumental task, akin to doing homework, and particularly, homework on Christmas.  And here Will Schwalbe has lived to tell about it, and embrace the process as well.  Probably because he has the writer gene. Continue reading

Nosebleeds: What to Do, When to Seek Help

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Tis the season for decking the halls, baking cookies, writing wish lists…

and nosebleeds.

As the popular holiday song goes,

the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful…

and our kids get nosebleeds.

I remember one particular occasion, while staying in a hotel, my husband and I were sitting in the cramped bathroom with our son.  We were unravelling rolls (yes, rolls) of toilet paper and emptying the kleenex dispenser trying to stop a terrible nosebleed.  I was ready to throw in the towel, grab an actual towel, and take our son to the nearest urgent care when, finally, the bleeding stopped.  The aftermath looked like a crime scene, but it always does when your child’s blood is involved.  He seemed unfazed by the mess, but devastated when I wouldn’t allow him in the hotel swimming pool afterwards, lest his love of the cannonball caused his nose to bleed again.

Nosebleeds in children are rarely a medical emergency, and most can be treated easily at home.  But it’s a good idea to know the ins-and-outs of epistaxis (the medical term for nosebleeds) so we can treat the condition effectively, and also know when to seek outside help. Continue reading

The Giving of Thanks. Anytime. Everyday.

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I love seeing friends on Facebook posting their daily gratitudes.  Whether they post for 30 or 100 days, what a great way to embrace (or make) little moments and focus on the good things in life, every day.  My husband takes our family along a similar journey every evening before mealtime and even though the exercise produces some of the same gratitudes night after night (“legos,” “tacos,” and “Sophia, my doll”) it gets us thinking about how there is a gift within each day.

I need this exercise because I am a worrier.  I do “sweat the small stuff.”  For some twisted reason, I think it’s productive to turn the handle on the worry mill and ruminate, ruminate, ruminate.  Admittedly, it’s one of my worst faults and a terrible waste of energy.  Have you ever seen those gift shop-style wooden signs that proclaim, “It really IS the small stuff”?  That statement, I am convinced, is why I worry.

But on the other hand, there’s some pretty awesome “small stuff.” Continue reading

To Ski or Not to Ski (Silly Question?)

The modern day "Pink Ladies" are ready to tear it up! (My daughter and me)

The modern day “Pink Ladies” are ready to shred it! (My daughter and me)

There’s snow up in the mountains, the annual ski swap is the “happening” hot spot and ski school is booked (don’t tell my kids…for some unknown reason they want to ski with Dad and Mom).  Everyone in our southwestern Colorado town is counting down the days until the official start of (downhill) ski season.  That is, unless you are one of those hard core individuals who enjoys the relatively insane sport of backcountry skiing, then you have been schussing for a few weeks now. Continue reading

Depression in Kids

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A few days after the death of comedian Robin Williams I happened to view the classic  Woody Allen movie, Annie Hall.  A good art film but the scene that struck me most happened only two minutes in.  This introduction had Woody Allen’s character, Alvy Singer, offering a soliloquy which ends with his stating that “I’m not a depressive character…I was a reasonably happy kid, I guess.”  Cut to young Alvy, with his impatient mother, in the doctor’s office.  He is depressed, says his mother, and she complains he won’t do anything; he won’t do his homework.  Alvy explains to his doctor, “What’s the point?”  And he asks this because he read the universe is expanding, and eventually it will expand to the point it breaks apart and that will be the end of the world.  Mom finds this ridiculous, and bellows:

“What has the universe got to do with it? You’re here in Brooklyn (where they live)…Brooklyn is not expanding!!!”

The doctor offers shallow reassurances and laughs, effectively blowing off young Alvy and validating his mother.

Given the timing, this scene struck a particular chord.  Robin Williams had being coping with depression for some time prior and up to the time of his suicide (recently his widow stated in a interview that he was also suffering from Lewy Body dementia).  What if at some point, whether as an adult or even as a child (like Alvy), his feelings had been blown off? Continue reading