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The Burning Pain of Infertility

April 1, 2013 | By: | Filed under: Deadly Silence, Faith and Infertility, I'm Just Another Angry Infertile Woman, Personal Musings, The Journey to Parenthood, Thinking Out Loud, Uncategorized, visualization

Infertility brings with it many kinds of pain.  The pain of an empty uterus could be used as the catch-all category for the pain we infertile folk feel, but really it can and should be broken down into more palatable and discussable categories. I don’t know about you, but I find that whole empty uterus thing to be a bit patronizing (although true).  So let’s explore the burning pains of infertility, those that are momentary and those that haunt us sometimes years after we ended treatment, those that come and go along with our menstrual cycle, and those that blindside us when we have failed to read The Infertility Survival Handbook and obtain a first hand account of whatever procedure you are undergoing.  I mean let’s face, I have been THERE, and I have done THAT.  All of THAT.  And I get the pain.  Even now.

There is the pain of daily injections (momentary) and from transvaginal ultrasound wands (slightly longer than momentary but nonetheless uncomfortable when one’s ovaries are the size of large oranges and someone is poking at them). There is the unbearable pain of a hysterosalpinogram when you have blocked fallopian tubes (or a sadistic doctor who tries to open your fallopian tubes without advance warning — and for what it’s worth the advance warning just would have made it worse).  And the devastating pain which follows a miscarriage.

There is pain, before, during and after fertility treatment and there is no getting around it.  There is no getting around the pain of a miscarriage, but the lessons we learn from it can make the pain more bearable.  (And for what its worth I think “the lessons we learn from it” also is a bit patronizing.  My apologies but I couldn’t find another way of describing what I want to talk about).

Even in the early days of trying to conceive — the pre-IVF days — there is pain.  The pain in the arse of taking your temperature every dang morning (thankfully the pain isn’t actually in your arse now that they have these wonderful digital thermometers which can help chart your basal body temperature).  And of course there is the pain of toilet paper.

What say you?  The pain of toilet paper?  Indeed my friend.  The pain from toilet paper burn, or TPB for short.  TPB is brought on by the obsessive compulsive mentality that we sometimes wander into when our period is due and we are trying to make a baby.  Any color on that toilet paper might be a telltale sign of our impending motherhood so you don’t want to miss it.  There might even be diagnostic value to the color which would help your doctor determine if there is something going on, or going wrong with your menstrual cycle.  So, for those of us who tend to wander into OCD territory (who me??), TPB can become a real hazard.  And as I recently discovered, it can become a hazard even when you aren’t trying to make a baby.

Now, the average woman going to the bathroom does not wipe obsessively, nor does she pay much attention to the process, technique or results involved in use of TP.  Such is not the case for a woman going through infertility treatment.  There is a significant amount of attention paid to the process, there are several different techniques for wiping (all of which are designed to reassure the crazed woman in the loo that she is not getting her period), and the results are quite obviously, critical.  Many a woman has called a friend or perhaps even a nurse to discuss the details of a particular swipe of TP and the medical analysis or conclusion that should be drawn therefrom.  Stop laughing or rolling your eyes.  This is serious.  When you have lost all control over your reproductive capabilities and you are going through emotionally and physically challenging medical procedures, the littlest sign that something has gone wrong (or perhaps gone right if it’s implantation spotting) has tremendous potential impact on your life.  In the absence of HPT’s, TP becomes a valid and useful substitute for self-monitoring during the post ovulatory or post embryo transfer phase of a cycle.

Why are we discussing TPB as one of the many representations of the pain of infertility? Well recently I had the displeasure of being reminded about it, but not under the circumstances you might think.  Rather, I experienced TPB out of fear that I was going into menopause.  Now let’s be clear.  I am not in menopause, nor am I perimenopausal (well I suppose Dr. C might argue otherwise simply by virtue of my advanced maternal age).  But as the window begins to close on my access to fertility treatments, and as I continue to wrestle with thoughts of going back for one last try, the thought of menopause is, well, frightening.  It’s one thing to have lost the ability to independently reproduce and/or carry to term due to infertility (i.e. without Dr. C).  It’s another thing to have my entire reproductive system close up shop and move to Miami.

Now the rational part of my brain understands that the last several months of my personal life have been subject to profound and extreme stress.  I have always prided myself on the fact that my menstrual cycle is regular to a fault.  The only time I have ever been late, I was pregnant.   But there is always a first time for everything, and so a couple of months ago I missed a month.  Then another month.  I didn’t need to take an HPT because I knew I hadn’t ovulated (let’s just say that after TTC for 7 years some habits die hard, especially if you are a fan of Toni Weschler).  My sane brain was telling me that the reason I hadn’t ovulated was from stress.  My OCD, however, kicked-in into high gear and I was rapidly becoming obsessed by the fear that my days being of “reproductive age” were dwindling. And the longer I went without a visit from Aunt Flow, the more the OCD took over.  How ironic. TPB brought on not by the fear that I wasn’t pregnant (and the hope that I was) but rather that I was in menopause.  Despite repeated attempts at convincing myself I was overreacting, I kept making trips to the loo and quite quickly (haven forgotten good TP technique) I had a significant case of TPB.

I finally decided I needed to decompress and meditate.  So I did. I meditated, I did yoga, I slept, and I paid more attention to eating things other than Snicker’s bars.  And I ovulated.  Or so I thought.  Going by the fertility bible written by Toni Weschler the signs were clear.  But I wasn’t 100% sure.  And so, 11 days after my suspected ovulation I was back rolling through TP, making extra trips to CVS to buy an emergency six pack of TP, and this time relearning my TP technique.  And yet I still felt the burn.  And finally, when I could stand the TPB no more, she arrived.  Precisely 14 days after the day that I thought I had ovulated (and let me extend my never ending thanks to Toni Weschler for teaching me so much about my ovulatory cycle).

I write this neither because this experience with TPB has led me to once again revisit the status of my own family building and a continued longing for another child, nor because I am working through my fears of the inevitability of menopause and that one day my reproductive years will come to a close (although technically the fact that the NOvary has put a “closed-gone fishin’ sign” on the front door does not mean I wouldn’t be able to get pregnant with some medical assistance), but because I was so struck by the way infertility and the quirky little habits and tricks we use to cope with it — TPB — endure.  TPB also is symbolic of the loss of control and fear that we live with when we are infertile.

In the end, I am grateful for that recent opportunity to experience TPB.  It is helping me work through those last remaining “what-if” thoughts which linger after you move on, after you stop treatment without a baby in your belly.  But it also reminded me of how many women are out there running the race to the loo and counting the days until they can take an HPT or get their blood drawn for their beta.  I am glad I had my little TPB encounter because it has once again helped me connect with my clients and understand what they are going through.

For everything unwanted (a negative pregnancy test), there is something wanted (a positive pregnancy test).  For every swipe of TP that remains spotless we need to remember to focus on the spotlessness in front of us and even glory in it, be excited by it, by the expectation of it; and not give in to the fear of the appearance of a spot on another swipe of TP and/or the end of a dream whether for that month or longer.  In the face of a spotted or soaked piece of TP we need to try and remind ourselves to stay focused on the day when we find out we will go months without worrying about TPB or better yet, no longer care.  My somewhat random fear of menopause has served to remind me that all of this, including menopause, is meaningless. Instead of looking at the burning pains of infertility as a negative, at TPB as a negative, I am instead looking for all the positives they reveal.  Without all those trips to the loo, I wouldn’t be here today, with the career I have, the family I have, and without the intense sense of inner peace that my recent bought of TPB has brought to my my life.  Yes the pain of infertility burns.  But through the ashes left behind after the burning subsides, there is birth, or in my case, a rebirth.

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When Infertility Professionals Get it Wrong.

September 18, 2012 | By: | Filed under: adoption, Current Affairs, Deadly Silence, Egg Donation, Faith and Infertility, I'm Just Another Angry Infertile Woman, In the News, infertility in the media, IVF, Personal Musings, The Journey to Parenthood, Thinking Out Loud, Thoughts on Choosing an Egg Donor, Thoughts on Donor Egg Recruitment

You know it’s not that often that I see glaringly offensive comments or information from professionals in the infertility world.  Most of us know to be very careful with the language we use so that we don’t inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings.  Today I was surfing Facebook and someone to whom I was connected (I am no longer “friends” with her) posted a comment about egg donation, adoption, and infertility.  I thought at first she was referring to a blog and was hoping she was quoting someone else.  Alas, I was very wrong and the link she posted was to an egg donation agency based outside of the United States (thank goodness for that — didn’t want to be running into her at any upcoming conferences lest I let her have it to her face) and the post was pretty much designed to bring attention to her agency.  I am not a big believer in the old adage that any attention is good attention or that negative publicity is still publicity.  In this industry, offending people is the kiss of death and well let’s just say I’ve been kissed.

I really don’t like the word “barren”.  It’s an ancient reference to women who were unable to conceive and it dates back to a time period when women had no rights and would sometimes be replaced by another woman if she was unable to conceive a child.  The Sixteenth Century this is not and I would have hoped that in the Twenty-First Century we would be a little bit more aware of appropriate terminology.  I guess not because this FB poster (who shall remain nameless even upon kiss of death) seemed to think that all women who are having difficulty conceiving should be considered BARREN.

I don’t think so.  Having difficulty conceiving does not mean we are barren.  The word barren actually has many definitions (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/barren ) including “lacking inspiration” or “lacking charm”.  For the record, I don’t consider any of my infertile clients, and certainly not my own bod, to be lacking in charm.  Some of my clients are downright amazingly gorgeous women with incredible resumes and great personalities.  In this case they are hardly barren are they?  They also usually go on to become mothers which would seem to indicate that they are in fact capable of producing offspring (please note Miriam-Webster dictionary says nothing about those offspring needing to be biological children — at least its editors “get it”).  But the word was used nonetheless in this FB post.  The fact that the post tried to be “neutral” and present all sides of debates as they pertain to third-party assisted reproduction was totally lost on me by virtue of the selection of this word to describe me.  Because that is who she is describing, me.  The last time I checked I am still considered to be infertile.

The other problem was that this poster and her choice of words — and barren was by far the least offensive of them — revealed her own underlying belief that women who have difficulty conceiving, women like me who are infertile, are somehow lacking, less than other women, and are desperate.  While she notes that “an element of respect” should be offered to these women, in and of itself that remark too is offensive.  I am only entitled to “an element of respect”.  7 IVF Cycles, 9+ miscarriages (I stopped counting but there were more), three adoptions, and I am only entitled to “an element of respect”.  Seriously?

Additional comments were made about whether decisions to use an egg donor were interfering with the “divine plan” for that woman’s life; and that what transpired to finally bring this barren woman to the point of actually considering using another’s genetic material could only be understood by the woman herself.  Here I do agree with the post.  However, I would prefer that she had not characterized the decision to choose egg donation as an act of finality, desperation, or somehow jumping off of the cliff of normalcy.  Families are built in countless ways and all of them are normal.  

Egg donors also were attacked for their decision to share themselves with other people.  Let’s be clear that egg donation does not involve any kind of “sharing”.  Egg donation agreements are clear that when a woman donates her eggs she relinquishes all rights to the resulting embryos and/or children.  Egg donors do not share in the day-to-day life of the intended parents’ pregnancy, or their life as they raise their child.  And let’s place the emphasis where it belongs, on “their” child, not the egg donor’s child.  If this woman is counseling egg donors — and I fear she may be — then she is sending the wrong message to these selfless and generous women who donate their genetic material, their ova, to an infertile couple.  They ain’t sharing those eggs or themselves with anyone.

Let’s not even discuss the offensive descriptions attributed to adoption.  I will have a stroke.

I understand that this woman was trying to raise a debate, trying to draw attention to her business and what she does.  But the choice of words she used as a professional in this industry was astonishingly rude and clearly revealed her own underlying biases.  She is entitled to those biases.  But as a professional she had a responsibility to keep them private and not mislead egg donors or intended parents.  I also think it was a poor decision to use such inflammatory language if she was trying to promote her business.  In all likelihood she sent potential clients running in the opposite direction.

I hope that the other people who read this post are wearing running shoes; they need to run as fast as possible.  Most likely the very charming, inspirational women who read this post pulled their flats or sneaks out of their gym bag and took off their Jimmy Choo’s, and headed in the direction of a more sensitive egg donation/surrogacy agency, a therapist (I may need a session), shopping (in which case maybe they should leave on the Jimmy Choo’s), or a glass of wine and some Oreos.  

For all those who read that post and felt in any way diminished as a human being because of their infertility, let’s get one thing straight:  anyone who can get through this stuff is one tough, rockin’ mama.  Emphasis on the word “mama” because that is what you will one day be called.

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Sentencing of attorneys who plead guilty to baby selling. Is it Enough?

January 27, 2012 | By: | Filed under: I'm Just Another Angry Infertile Woman, In the News, infertility in the media, Infertility on Television, IVF, Parentage Orders, Personal Musings, The Journey to Parenthood, Thinking Out Loud, Uncategorized

I have been following the cases against my former colleagues Theresa Erickson and Hilary Neiman for some time.  I had known for awhile about the investigation but was still stunned when the plea agreements became available to the public and I began discussing the details with colleagues and officials in the Justice Department.  I know stuff like this probably happens more often than any of us care to admit.  It always has and it always will.  What is that expression about there always being thieves and crooks among us??

But my blog today — which is very different than that which I typically post — has more to do with whether the penalty fit the crime than whether what transpired under the direction of TE and with the assistance of HN was right or wrong, or for that matter my level of shock and horror at all of it.  I had at one point read something on the internet that suggested that HN had been sentenced, or was going to be sentenced to 13 years in prison.  I remember discussing the article I read with the women in my office.  I asked them whether they thought 13 years were too few or too many.  It turns out there was no factual basis to the article I was reading, as HN will be serving less than a year in a federal penitentiary and additional time under house arrest.  That is quite a difference from 13 years wouldn’t you say?

I had never made a decision myself about whether 13 years was “just” punishment for the crimes alleged and to which she plead guilty.  Some part of me felt that it wasn’t enough time and some part of me felt it was too much time.  So I let it go, as I was more intrigued by the fact that there were still matters under investigation.

But I have no doubt when I say that less than a year in “Club Fed” is not enough time.  As the Judge Battaglia pointed out (for more see an article in the  http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/former_lawyer_gets_1-year_sentence_in_international_baby_selling_scam/ ), HN doesn’t even appear to understand that what she has done was wrong.  Under the circumstances, then doesn’t it make sense to give someone slightly harsher a penalty to help them internalize that which they have done?  Club Fed is rumored not to be such a bad place.  If I recall, Martha Stewart enjoyed learning how to knit while she served her time.  Given that we are talking about the intentional creation and sale of human life, do we really want to send a message to society that less than a year in jail is sufficient punishment for such atrocious conduct?  I recognize that Judge Battaglia was restricted by sentencing guidelines, but even so, he still had the ability to provide for a more severe consequence for this crime.  House arrest is pretty much of a joke isn’t it?  There are days that actually sounds like a pretty sweet deal if you ask me.  I suppose taking the option out of it may make it different.  It is one thing to imagine what its like and another thing to actually live with an ankle bracelet every day.  Query, if you have a pool in your backyard, are you allowed to sunbathe next to it?  Or is that a violation of house arrest? Let’s be clear, however, we can make brownies, watch TV, read books, surf Face Book, and shop on the internet while under house arrest, things we cannot do at Club Fed.

I am not sure, and will most certainly be giving this more thought, but my gut reaction is that I really think this punishment didn’t fit the crime.  As we await the sentencing of the co-conspirators, I am really curious to see if this notion of minimum and maximum sentences, house arrest, and the reality that people like me (albeit me 11 years ago) — desperate to have a child, unknowing (even as an attorney) of the true bounds of the law with respect to things like surrogacy and egg donation — were intentionally preyed upon.  Babies were intentionally created to be sold to people like me.  It’s gross and inhuman.  And I object to the fact that the people who perpetrated these acts get to make brownies in the comfort of their own home, surf Face Book, and shop on Amazon, and perhaps even luxuriate by the pool in their backyard (seriously, is that okay with the ankle bracelet?  Martha was allowed to garden wasn’t she??).  Isn’t house arrest pretty much the same thing as sending your child to their room for a “time out”?

So I am going to make a pledge to devote more of my time to educating people so they don’t fall prey to schemes like these.  And while I do so, I hope that somewhere a fair justice system will prevail in what remains of these cases.

 

These are the personal thoughts and opinions of this author.

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More media coverage that doesn’t get it! What’s up with Self Magazine?

February 10, 2011 | By: | Filed under: Age and Infertility, Check This Out, Current Affairs, I'm Just Another Angry Infertile Woman, In the News, Thinking Out Loud

There is an article in a recent issue of Self magazine that addresses fertility and fertility preservation from a What You Need to Know at What Age perspective.  It really pissed me off.  The statistics were wrong, and the entire article seemed to ignore the fact that infertility is a serious illness affecting millions of Americans.  Among the many things that irritated me was a statistic that made it sound like its really easy to get pregnant after 40.  The only thing that they got right in my opinion was to point out that your risk of miscarriage increases to 50% per pregnancy over the age of 40.  Anyway, RESOLVE was a bit irritated by the article too, as were many other industry professionals.  I don’t know if you saw it and what you thought but if you had a reaction similar to mine, you might want to Take The Pledge.  I am tired of people not knowing what their risks are and not being educated so that if they choose to wait to parent until later in life they at least know that the NOvary™ may be waiting!

Find out more at RESOLVE.org or watch this:

Take the Pledge!



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Is the movie Eggsploitation, exploiting itself?

January 14, 2011 | By: | Filed under: Announcements, Check This Out, Current Affairs, Egg Donation, I'm Just Another Angry Infertile Woman, In the News, Infertility In The Movies etc., IVF, Personal Musings, Thinking Out Loud, Third-Party Assisted Reproduction

I know I haven’t been blogging very much and I know I keep promising that I will.  Honestly, I have been trying to determine what type of “voice” I want my blog to have.  Do I want to be a voice of comfort, reassurance and peace of mind, do I want to discuss topics that are highly relevant and even personal to me with respect to infertility as I am an infertility warrior, or do I want to speak as an expert in my field and educate people.  I suppose I could find a way to do all three and I haven’t yet found the right “pitch” (just continuing the voice metaphor here folks) to launch some knew blogs.  And I think I found it.

I try and stay out of highly controversial discussions in my industry and to avoid taking sides unless I feel passionately about the issue.  Sometimes blogging backfires (ala Sarah Palin’s recent “hit list” and the resulting death of 15 people).  But I have come across another of those issues that MUST be discussed, so I am hereby entering into the foray and it’s along the lines of my “what was Brooke Shields thinking” blogs.

Let’s get real for a moment and turn to a movie reel about egg donation.

I today learned that the “documentary” Eggsploitation was announced to have been nominated as best documentary.  When I read this on FaceBook this morning I almost vomitted.  For those of you who haven’t seen it . . . and please don’t see it if you are considering either becoming an egg donor or using an egg donor to build a family . . . it is highly inaccurate and inflammatory.  Please understand that I am trying to be nice.

The movie is an attempt by right wing, pro-life. Christian conservatives to reveal the “real world of egg donation”.  And Honey, it doesn’t.  It serves one purpose only, to promote an anti-IVF anti-egg donation agenda.  And in my mind it isn’t a documentary unless you are basing your documentary on something with a substantial amount of truth or accuracy.  A documentary by one definition is the “creative treatment of actuality”.  I will agree to the creative part with respect to this film, but not the actuality part (with one caveat, I will agree that egg donation exists as a means to build a family).  Another definition says that a documentary presents the facts with little or no additions.  Isn’t it a failure to present the facts if you only present one side, or one statistically insignificant, rare and otherwise atypical aspect of something, i.e. ONE fact when there are many facts to be discussed?

This film is based on untruths, inaccuracies, mythical stories, and an agenda. It veils itself as a documentary in order to lend some false sense of “truth” to the movie’s topic, the exploitation of egg donors and recipient families all to the benefit of the massive money generating industry of reproductive medicine.

The reproductive industry has responded many times in opposition to the film, as have many of my colleagues (for example, here is another blog on the topic http://weblog.prospectivefamilies.com/2011/01/13/what-more-is-there-to-say-about-eggsploitation/ ).  I think it’s pretty much a universal sentiment in my world, both professional and personal, that this movie has nothing to do with reality and is serving to mislead the general public about a viable and very successful means of family building, egg donation.

I really think it has gotten to the point that the movie is now exploiting itself for its own financial benefit.   They are now twisting all the negative media attention into an argument that if they weren’t so “right” about the industry that there wouldn’t be so many defensive and anti-Eggsploitation blogs/articles/reviews.  It’s kind of like the old saying “you know you’ve done something right if they’re shooting at you!”  And they are using that to drive more people into movie theaters.

Well I don’t think they’ve done anything right, I am disgusted by the MOVIE, and I am disgusted that anyone would think it was worthy of the title “best” in anything.  I haven’t spoken out before because I didn’t want to further publicize this movie and thus encourage people to watch it — even if it is to see how wrong it is.

And for the love of all that is sacred about the word FAMILY, I respectfully request that the movie industry get a grip and get real.  Don’t endorse this movie.  Many a Hollywood family has been created through the gift of egg donation.  Do you really want to slap your egg donor in the face like that?  By promoting, endorsing, and casting something that she did to help you have a baby and a family, in such a negative, illicit and patronizing light?

I’m not saying the world of reproductive medicine is perfect.  I have some bones to pick with things that happen in the world in which work.  And I will cut the producers of this movie and Hollywood some slack and say that if you are going to focus on the very creative aspects of the use of truth to create a dialog (albeit the wrong dialog) then okay maybe this is a documentary.  But it’s a documentary that I refuse to endorse on any level.

Someone can, and should, do a better job at looking at the gifts that third party assisted reproduction are giving to infertile families.

Blech Blech Blech.



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