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Sisterhood of the Traveling Hormones

women laughing 1There are all types of sisterhoods. Infertility certainly has a huge one. When I was doing stand-up comedy, I was part of a great sisterhood. Back then, female comics rarely worked together. In the NYC clubs, yes. But on the road...never. We were considered a novelty act. Ventriloquists, Magicians, Women. Nobody would book more than one novelty act in a show.

"We can't have her on that night, we already have a juggler."

So every time you'd run into a fellow female comic it was like a grand reunion.

Every sisterhood joins women together in what they have in common. For comedians it's: "Hey, will you give us a break? We're just trying to make people laugh and maybe eek out a living here." With infertility it's:

"Hey, will you give us a break? We all have this sucky hell-hole of a disease/ condition/ major fricken annoyance.  We're just trying to get through it and maybe eek out a baby here."

We all involuntarily joined this infertility sisterhood. What you do with your membership card is totally up to you.

I'll be honest, I didn't appreciate the sisterhood of the traveling hormones during my infertility days.

When I was going through infertility, I never went to any support groups. I never logged onto any online support forums. I never socialized with any other infertility patients...for several reasons--All of which I'm sure any good psychologist worth her $125 for 45 minutes would find troubling:

1) Denial

I think I'll simply go to my doctor appointments in the early mornings and do my belly shots at night and just go on with my life the rest of the day and pretend neither ever happened. Yeah, that's what I'll do. If I don't ever talk about infertility, then I must not be infertile. Doesn't that make total sense?

See, that's why I couldn't join any support groups-- online or otherwise. if you're talking to me about your infertility: Your blood tests, drugs, and procedures, and I know exactly what you're talking about, I must either be a Reproductive Endocrinologist or, like you, I'm a patient.

Let's see, I think I'd remember if I'd gone to medical school... No, I don't remember doing that.

It's the same sound theory that kept me from dating short guys--back when I was single, of course. Even though I'm short by any reasonable person's standards... how could I ever date a teeny man? If he's standing next to me and we're the same height...and people start saying: "Awww... They're so cute." My ego-denial just couldn't compute.

(I really need to move to a country where the average height is five feet tall. For once in my life, I want to tower over someone over ten... and maybe even duck through a few doorways.)

2) My Unhealthy Competitive Nature

During my bout with infertility, I'd momentarily forget I was trying to get pregnant and just try to make strangers in the waiting room jealous.

"So I have thirty good size follicles. One is 60 mm's. All of the nurses, doctors... everyone joked that maybe there was an ostrich egg in there. Isn't that hilarious?! Nobody had ever seen one that size before. They had to invent a special test just for me." Or:

"Oh, they transferred three embryos back into you? Well, I'm going to have my doctor put in nine." (I stopped just short of sticking out my tongue and saying: "Naaaa!")

3) "Self-Absorption"

Now, I think I have a little more compassion for women on the infertility chat forums. Back then, I would have been like: "Oh, yeah, yeah, that's terrible too...not to interrupt, but, anyway, like I was saying..."

I think that nowadays, I'm much better equipped to be part of the sisterhood from my current perspective: As someone who's gone through infertility and treatments and made it out alive. I think back then, I would have been one of those sisters you actually create a family reunion around: You plan it for a date when you know she can't make it.

(Want more laughs at infertility's expense? Please do click my eBook icon- reviews, chapter previews-- to the left over there. This eBook has been downloaded by thousands of infertility sufferers, their partners, families, & medical teams. http://amazon.com/dp/B007G9X19A -also on Nook & Kobo.)

That First Waiting Room is the Most Special

IM000281.JPG Most of us know that there are a myriad of reasons a woman could need to see a fertility doctor: Things wrong with her parts. Things wrong with his parts. Things wrong with both their parts. Things wrong with nobody knows whose parts. Since I was 38 3/4 years old when I met my husband, 39 1/2 when I got married, and 39 1/2 and 4 hours when I first tried to get pregnant, everybody assumed my age was what sent me kicking and screaming into a fertility clinic at the over ripe old age of 41. Nobody ever came right out and said that that was the diagnosis but the writing was on the wall (not to mention on the outside of my chart when I finally did get pregnant. Since I'm not a physician, I could only assume that "AMA" in bright red letters (so much for Hippa) meant: "Advanced Maternal Age" not "American Medical Association".)

I remember that first day at the fertility clinic well. Particularly the waiting room. Every woman in the room appeared to be young-- extremely young. For a second I thought it was a Girl Scout troop. Apparently panic attacks can cause hallucinations. I blinked hard like I was Jeannie. (I just gave my age away again, didn’t I? Come on, Nick-at-Nite, reruns, yeah, yeah, that’s where I’ve seen it.)

I surveyed the room again. I felt like I was a contestant among other contestants in a Miss America pageant and someone was about to mistake me for Miss South Dakota’s aunt. I tried to engross myself in a magazine. There was Madonna on the cover. Great. Had her first child at sixty. Still looking fab at seventy-two. I turned it over in disgust leaving it for the next old infertile masochist.

I turned my attention to the forms I was given to fill out with a pen that was chained to my clipboard. I looked at the women around me and their pens and clipboards. Mine seemed to have an unusually short chain.

It was a conspiracy. Clearly the staff didn’t want me there. And as for the other women…Here was a group of ladies, all of whom were like me- Potentially suffering some reproductive malfunctions- and I still hated their guts. I think the true definition of low self-esteem is when you can look at a group of people who have the same afflictions as you, and envy them….

Why couldn’t I have had fertility problems at twenty-eight like that girl over there? If I have to have fertility problems why couldn’t I at least have perfect skin like that girl? Or that girl’s bracelet? Or that girl’s husband? He has nicer hair than mine does. Or that girl’s cell phone?

Then my hallucinations started again. This time they were of the mean, nasty, catty and, oddly enough, therapeutic, variety. I decided that the “twenty-eight” year old, was named Staceeé (spelled with three “e”’s and an accent aigu. I figured she may as well be cutesy, pretentious, and idiotic). Upon further analysis, I determined that she was not quite so young after all. In fact her fertility issues, according to my diagnosis, were caused by complications from her Alzheimer’s medications. I had never heard of that happening before but there you are.

The girl with the hairy husband was evidently not so young either. It seems Penelope had been married for thirty years, divorced when her husband discovered she had gone back to being a sixties cover band groupie and was now trying to have a baby with her eighteen year old second husband, Gustav, who may or may not have a secret family in Sweden. I haven't made up my mind yet. I put my hallucinational arm around Penelope. We bonded immediately.

By the time my husband came back from answering a call on his cell phone in the hallway, not only did I have everyone in the waiting area neatly named and demoralized, I had the median age of the room set at sixty-three. It would have been higher had I not figured myself into the math.

The loving fantasy support group came to an abrupt end when the nurse called my name... and then asked my husband if he needed help bringing me into the office eight feet away.

(Please check-out my eBook, Laughing IS Conceivable: One Woman's Extremely Funny Peek into the Extremely Unfunny World of Infertility by clicking the book cover icon to the left or by visiting Amazon:  http://amazon.com/dp/B007G9X19A. Also available on Kobo and Nook.)

If Only Men Had Kvetch Forums

guy on computer- funnyFor the past two weeks, my goal for this here Laughing IS Conceivable blog has been to get us to help take the sting out of this impending Father's Day thing for the loving husbands/partners/spouses involuntarily turned antiseptic sperm donors in our lives. I'm not implying that they were forced into doing fertility treatments but let's face it: None of us got involved with treatments because we thought it would be a fun adventure. What kind of a lunatic would have IVF on their bucket list between "see the pyramids" and "climb Mount Everest"?

But, to be honest, I sometimes feel men are a little neglected emotionally in this process. Maybe not by us in our own homes... but on blogs and social media. It's nobody's fault. Men, whether they're the support person or the patient, don't blog about it nearly as much as women and they certainly don't go on Facebook or elsewhere to engage in ongoing kvetch and helpfests. And the main reason they don't, is because nobody in their wildest nightmares can picture this ever happening:

Hi I'm Dave. I'm new to the group. Thanks for letting me join. I really appreciate it. So, thanks. I hope it's okay if I post here. Would someone please let me know if it's not okay??? I've been so upset this whole morning. I just had to tell someone. I hope it's okay if I post here. My DW has been great but she really doesn't understand. We've been trying to have a baby for 4  years. I was diagnosed with LSC and PM (low sperm count and poor motility.) This weekend, we're invited to a neighborhood pool party. It's not really a Father's Day party but it is on Father's Day weekend (even though it's the day before) so you know everyone is going to be talking about how they'll be celebrating Father's Day and then you know there are going to be people who look at me and wink and elbow me and smirk and say: "So, what about you?" And to make matters worse, the pool is heated and the doctor said I shouldn't be in hot water. Should I not go to the party and tell my DW to go without me? How will she explain why I'm not there? Should neither of us go? I can't tell them we're going away this weekend. They'll see the car in the driveway. Should we make plans and really go away? Can anyone suggest a place to go where nobody will be celebrating Father's Day? Or should I go to the party and just not swim? Should I tell my DW not to go in the pool either so I won't be sitting out all by myself? I feel like that would be selfish because she loves to swim. And what if the neighbors ask why we're not going in the water? I don't want the neighbors to think we hate their pool. Should I take the husband aside before the party and ask him to lower the water temperature?  If I just dive in the water and get right out, will I be okay? Does anyone know if there's anything I can wear inside my bathing trunks to keep the water temperature from affecting my testicles? Should I wear my waterproof watch so I can time exactly how long I'm in the pool? What if I'm in the middle of a conversation with a neighbor when the alarm goes off? What excuse will I make for suddenly jumping out? Has this ever happened to anyone?.... I feel so much better!!! I love you guys!! Thanks!!!

So, let's give the guys a little extra love and support this coming weekend because, well... Can anyone  imagine that ever happening on an infertility support forum? Yeah...me neither.

Laughing IS Conceivable: One Woman's Extremely Funny Peek into the Extremely Unfunny World of Infertility. http://amazon.com/dp/B007G9X19A (amazon/kobo/nook)

The "Other" Memorial Day

If you're not in the U.S., you may not know about Memorial Day that we just celebrated yesterday. I hate to say "celebrated". It's really a day of remembrance for all of the soldiers who lost their lives while serving in our military over the centuries. There are typically moving events in most regions of the Country to commemorate the day. Then there's the "other" Memorial Day: A three day weekend of this: Soldiers died... so people could add "started drinking at 10 am" to their normal "texting and driving" repertoire.

Soldiers died... so people could eat their body weight in grilled meat.

Soldiers died... so thousands of people could all decide that Friday at 4 pm was the perfect time to take the five hour drive to the beach that's 45 minutes away.

Soldiers died... so beer guzzlers could become fireworks experts.

Soldiers died... so thousands of people could all decide that Monday at 4 pm was the perfect time to take the five hour drive home from the beach that's 45 minutes away.

Soldiers died... so thousands of others could do a three day walk-a-thon, schlepping their luggage through rope lines at the airport.

And last but very least:

Soldiers died... so I could get my bras "buy one get one free." And when they're on back order, the bra company graciously sends me a postcard...a postcard... stating: "Your 34D bra is on its way!"

Very last but even more least...

Soldiers died... so my mailman could know my bra size. It may have been Memorial Day weekend, but there you go, buddy. There's your Christmas tip.

Dedicated to all of you in the military or with spouses or other family members in the military or who have been lost while serving... Thanks...   Microblog_Mondays

Am I the Only One Stressed Out By Coupons?

option-2 (1)Maybe it's a reaction to something in my past life. I don't mean when I might have been a peasant in 18th century Ireland. I mean when I was sixteen and worked as a supermarket cashier and somebody would come on my line with fifty items and fifty-three coupons: A third of which were legit, a third of which were expired, a third of which were for products not sold in that state, let alone the store. Whatever the cause... I'm just not a coupon person. I know... A lot of you must be thinking: "How lucky that you never needed to use coupons." No, no... Don't get me wrong. (Or like they say on Maury: "Don't get me twisted"): I never said I didn't need to use coupons. In fact, that's how I knew I really hated coupons. When you're flat broke and the free local paper is laying there on your driveway and you pick it up and see it's packed with coupons and you still say:

"Na, I can't be bothered."

That's how you really know you hate coupons. Whenever I've ever taken one to the store, I can't think of anything else. As I'm parking the car, getting out of the car, walking into the store, getting the shopping cart, I keep repeating my angst-filled mantra:

"Don't forget to use the coupon. Don't forget to use the coupon. Don't forget to use the coupon."

When I finally get to the aisle where the item is, I'm already sweating and breathing heavily like I'm having a totally unnatural reaction to the stubbly guy with the dolly and the fuzzy butt crack who's stocking the shelf.

Then I have to take out the coupon to read it. Then I look at the item. Read the coupon again and look at the item in my hand again: "Nabisco" "Nabisco" "12 ounces" "12 ounces" "Any Fruit Variety" "Mixed Fruit". I'm still so paranoid I'm taking the wrong item, I need validation:

"Excuse me Sir, 'Mixed Fruit' counts as 'Any Fruit Variety' doesn't it? I mean: 'Mixed Fruit isn't technically a fruit, but it's a mix of fruits that are all fruits. Right? Or maybe I should just take 'Strawberry' to be sure, even though I'd really rather have 'Mixed Fruit.'"

He doesn't work for the store. He doesn't even work for Nabisco. So he ignores me and keeps stocking bread on the bottom shelf and now I'm not only stressed out over the coupon but I'm dying to yell: "And pull up your Gd damn pants!" And run out of the aisle.

So at about 63% sure that I took the correct item, I continue along my merry way to finish my shopping, checking the coupon another three or four times to re-confirm and re-re-confirm that: 1) It didn't expire 2) It wasn't void in my state 3) I didn't have to buy two to use the coupon 4) I didn't drop it somewhere in the store as a result of taking it in and out of my purse so many times. (Once or twice I actually have had to retrace my steps to retrieve it from the floor of an earlier aisle.)

Finally, I'm at the check out and almost home free. (If you're familiar with the Brady Bunch, at this point I'm feeling like the boys did when they were trying to get rid of the bad luck idol in Hawaii)...

And here comes the biggest challenge of all for me: I have to remember to give the cashier the coupon. Having cleared that hurdle, I hold my breath while they scrutinize it. Whew. It seems to have passed inspection. So, I saw the cashier pick it up at the beginning of my check-out experience, now I exhale and then hold my breath again, hoping they remember to pick it up again and actually take it off my bill at the end of my check-out experience. And what if it doesn't scan because there's too much of my hand sweat on the bar code? And what if they can't manually enter in the numbers? And what if the manager finally comes over and they can't do it either and what if... oh, it scanned on the first try... okay, good.

Once I forgot to hand it to the cashier until she was done with the order and she said cheerily: "That's okay. Use it next time." I looked at her like she'd lost her mind.

"Next time?! I can't go through all this again! I just...... can't."

I will say, not to pat myself on the back, but I have come a long way in the coupon world: I no longer freak out when people pronounce "coupon" wrong. I won't even boast by telling you which way is wrong. It must be a sign of maturity.

Please check-out my New l'il Humor eBook: Laughing IS Conceivable: From End of School to Back-to-School @ http://amazon.com/dp/B007G9X19Aoption-2 (1)Microblog_Mondays

 

I Proclaim Today as: "Give Yourself a Cookie" Day

So how'd your mother's day go? Guess what? No matter how it went, you survived. It's over. And damn am I proud of you. If you cried. If you hid under the table. If you never got out of bed. If you blew off family festivities because you were too depressed. For you, I hereby proclaim today as: "Give Yourself a Cookie Day!"

For you who sat through your mother-in-law telling you how proud she is of all of her grandchildren (even the imbeciles among them) and wishes she had more... Give yourself a cookie!

For you who spent time at a family gathering watching your nieces and nephews run around as you secretly hoped they would throw up on one of their parents just to bring a little joy into your day... Give yourself a cookie!

For you who bit the bullet while your mother cornered you in the kitchen and reminded you of how much younger you're not getting...

Give yourself a cookie!

For you who endured cousins showing pictures of their kids on their iphone, while the damn kids were right in front of you... Give yourself a cookie!

For you who listened to your siblings complain to each other about how hard it is being a parent and how they never have enough time for themselves... And if you only knew how lucky you were...

Give yourself a cookie!

For you who went out with the extended family to some family-style BS restaurant and had to stand there while everyone counted six times how many high chairs and how many booster seats were needed... Give yourself a cookie!

For you who just couldn't deal with the holiday at all and stayed home and bitched to your spouse... Give yourself a cookie! (Even you who yesterday gave yourself a case of cookies and washed it down with a gallon of ice cream.)

And for you who got so fed up, you told a relative who gave unsolicited advice, or made a thoughtless remark to "Screw-Off"... Give yourself one of those giant bakery cookies. (Preferably one with a huge smiley face looking up at you.)

And for you who did nothing, avoided everyone, went nowhere, turned off the lights and pulled the blankets over your head...You survived the day...and that's plenty... So..."Give yourself a cookie!"

Microblog_Mondays

Are 1/2 Anniversaries 1/2 the Fun or Just Dumb?

So tomorrow marks my 12 1/2 year wedding anniversary. I know it's corny and stupid. Even my husband thinks so. So it's not like we're one of those adorably nauseating couples that are so fricken cutesy you can't stand to be around them. It's just me. I celebrate the day we met. I celebrate the day we got engaged. I celebrate our 1/2 anniversary. I celebrate our actual anniversary. You'd think I was an alcoholic just looking for any excuse to celebrate. We met on the 7th so every month on the 7th, I'd bring it up: "We've been together for four months today!"

Then when we got engaged on the 5th, I switched everything over to the 5th.

"We've been engaged two months today!"

Then, we got married on the 26th and that's where we stand. So tomorrow, as I'm sure my husband is fully aware, I'll turn to him in bed first thing in the morning and say:

"Good morning Honey, do you know what today is?" And he'll reply as lovingly as always:

"Oh geez, are you still doing that?"

Microblog_Mondays

Why Do People Insist on Interviewing ME?

This week marks a special anniversary of sorts for me. This week, for the 1200th time in my life, my big mouth has gotten me into huge trouble. A couple of months ago, a woman had posted about a guest she was having on her blog radio talk radio blog show radio (I never remember what the hell they're really called). Her weekly show is about love and laughter. So the guest that week was going to be talking about how humor is therapeutic, so I tuned in. I was going along fine listening until the interviewee said something that arrived in my ear canal as: "And when I'm talking about humor, I don't mean 'jokes'. Jokes don't mean much. You just hear them and then a minute or two later you just forget about them." Well, needless to say: To a humor writer and former stand-up comic, thems are some fightin' words.

So I said to myself: "Lori, it's a live show. You're going to get yourself up, go up to that studio and give that interviewee a piece of your mind!" And if the studio hadn't been a thousand miles away in a different country and the show had been 24 hours long instead of an hour long, I might have. Instead I sent a hate-infused email.

Dear Maia Aziz,

How DARE YOU... I repeat: How DAAAARE YOOOU have on this person who mocks jokes?! Jokes are my life!! Jokes keep people from being angry!!! Jokes are funny!!! FUNNY I Say!! We would all be a society of nut jobs if it wasn't for JOKES!!

with love

Lori Shandle-Fox, Proud Humor Writer

Well, this Maia person answered me back. She sure did.

Dear Lori,

"Thank you for listening to my radio blog talk blog radio talk show talk. I think you would make an excellent guest. Would you like to be on my show?"

What? What just happened? Is she responding to the wrong email? Lori who? I just cyber got out of my car and squeezed my face into this woman's cracked open cyber window so I could curse her out for taking my cyber parking spot and she just asked me out for tea?

It could be a trap. It could be an ambush. She could have a dozen of her humor therapist friends lying in wait to group mock me live on the air. But publicity's publicity so I bit.

And if you'd like to hear me yammer on about Humor & Infertility with Maia Aziz on her weekly show: "Morning Moments with Maia: Conversations of Love and Laughter", please click on. I promise I occasionally let her get in a word edgewise. blogtalkradio.com/maiaaziz

Microblog_Mondaysmaia aziz's blog talk logo

All Roads (& Dark Alleys) Lead to Infertility

Do you know what the problem with infertility is? I mean besides the stress, the anxiety, the depression, the frustration, the roller coaster ride, the social stigma, the tests, the doctors' appointments, the drugs, the hormones, the needles, (big breath) the anger, the finger-pointing, hating yourself, hating your spouse, hating your spouse's family (nothing to do with infertility- just thought I'd throw it in), disrupting your work schedule, the financial devastation... Well this is the problem with infertility: It monopolizes your entire life. You can barely have one solid thought, idea or conversation that doesn't lead your mind back to the dreaded infertility problem. Every conversation, thought or idea we ever have ends up in a game of Word Association gone terribly wrong down a dark, lonely, alley... All roads (and dark alleys) lead to infertility. Tree: "Look at that beautiful tree. It's a pine tree." Do we think of Christmas trees? Don't be absurd.

"Pine tree. Pine trees have needles... Oh right. Time for another hormone injection."

Ballet: "Ballet... Dance. It's like yesterday when that woman I work with asked me why I came to work late and I danced around the issue. I couldn't possibly tell her that I had an appointment at my reproductive endocrinologist's."

Potato: "Potato...Idaho. I wonder if there are good fertility doctors there... No no, I was thinking about potatoes... Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head. They were married for years without children but now they have kids on a potato chip commercial. I wonder if Mr. or Mrs. had the fertility issue... and if those spuds are biologically theirs."

Table: "I guess that one over there would look good in the dining room. As long as I don't have to lie on it with my feet in the air, I really don't care."

Oranges: "Are those Navel? I hate when my gynecologist presses down on mine while she's 'exploring'. Or are they Bloods? That reminds me: I have to get mine drawn in the morning."

Pancakes: "Pancakes...Oh, have you ever had them with chocolate chips? I have a poly-cystic ovary. It kind of looks like that."

Toothpaste: "Toothpaste... Comes in a tube... Yeah, one of mine is blocked."

Whore: "Whore... I don't sleep around. So why is she allowed to have eight kids and I have none? Anyway, I'd rather call her a trollop. 'Whore' sounds like 'hormones'.

Jenga: "Jenga...Milton Bradley... MB...embies...embryos"

Grass: "Grass...grass grows. Apparently I can't grow anything. I'm infertile."

Job: "Job...Steve Jobs had kids. No fair."

Tourist: "Tourist...Tour bus... Sounds like 'Uterus' (obviously)."

Taco Bell: "Taco Bell... Incompetent, dumb kids working at the drive-thru. My cervix is incompetent. That's why I can't have dumb kids of my own working at Taco Bell."

Gold Fish: "Gold Fish... Fish...Sperm... My husband's are lazy.

Basketball: "Basketball...Nice shot!...Oh crap, time for the Follistim again."

Door Knob: "Door Knob... The door to my fertility doctor's office has one."

(If you can stand me a minute longer, take a look at my l'il humor ebook over there to the left... & consider subscribing to this here humor blog also.)

Author Anne-Marie Scully Talks to Me of All People

When I was going through fertility treatments, I'll be honest: I read nothing. I joined nowhere. I didn't want the melodic sound of my own whining drowned out by the chaotic whining from a crowd of strangers. 
So this month, karma came and kicked me in my heavily IVF injected ass when I personally hand-picked Anne-Marie Scully's 2013 book: Motherhoodwinked: An Infertility Memoir for the IVF Journey Support Group Book Club on FaceBook. motherhoodwinked coverhttp://www.amazon.com//dp/B00BCLCYGO (https://www.facebook.com/groups/theivfjourney) Every agony, every heartache, every frustration Anne-Marie's gone through while trying to get pregnant, she puts out there so that others will not only see and feel but know that it's not "just them". And, thankfully, Anne-Marie was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.  
 
ed89166a2f439c05d52ea39738b4f7f5 (2)LSF:  You leave nothing much out of Motherhoodwinked. We're all of us, I would say, at our worst emotionally during our infertility struggle and you didn't hold back on any of it: The ridiculous expectations we have, the crazy things we try, the depressing rituals. It's the stuff diaries are made of.  Why put all of the raw, very personal insanity out there?
anne-marie scullyAnne-Marie: I found the journey so incredibly lonely, isolating and at times very very frightening. I shared my story simply because I didn't want anyone else to feel that depth of loneliness and pain. I wanted to connect with other women going through it and let them know how they were feeling was actually normal for someone in their situation. I had found great comfort in reading similar stories myself.
ed89166a2f439c05d52ea39738b4f7f5 (2)LSF: Having been older when I first tried to get pregnant, after trying the old-fashioned way for a while, I never even considered doing anything but going straight to a fertility specialist, but you tried everything... And I mean... everything...from the common sense to the bizarre and a lot in between. The short list: A nutritionist, Reiki, acupuncture, Vitamin D, Food Allergist, stopped eating egg whites, brewer's yeast & cow's milk, B6, Folic Acid, Omega 3, Royal Jelly, Evening Primrose, Chlorella, Spirulina, sweet potatoes and drank... Billy Goat Plum, Bottle Brush, & Old Man Banksia (which sound like pieces in a board game to me)... and a fortune teller which even in the book you admit probably wasn't such a great idea. Do you look back at this massive list now and think: "What in the world was I thinking?" and If somebody could magically promise you now that the answer to your infertility was in that list somewhere... would you try them all, all over again?
anne-marie scullyAMS: I guess because I was younger I felt it made sense to try as many of the non-interventionist methods as possible before moving to fertility treatment, but "yes" looking back I do feel ridiculous over some of them and I think I probably knew deep down they were pointless. I was just so desperate, I was willing to try anything and I had this need to constantly be trying something. I found it hard to be patient and just do nothing. The second part of your question is harder for me to answer as I feel I did in the end get to the root of why I wasn't getting pregnant and the solution isn't in that list. 
ed89166a2f439c05d52ea39738b4f7f5 (2)LSF: The whole first half of the book, you were running around a mile a minute trying everything to get pregnant, working twice as hard at your job (you're thinking you want to get the career work done before you leave to have a baby and they just think you're a fantastic employee and keep throwing promotions at you)... Then you decide to prove that baby showers don't bother you so you volunteer to organize everybody else's baby showers... And this crazy schedule went on for a long time! To be honest, I kept thinking you were going to have a heart attack or nervous breakdown. I felt stressed out just reading about it. Do you remember what it felt like living through it?
anne-marie scullyAMS: Yes it's very vivid still. I remember how frantic it all was and how utterly confusing. I also remember feeling like I was grieving. I felt a huge sense of loss and sadness for a life that I had imagined, that I didn't know was ever going to happen. That feeling which I guess can best be compared to grief was just so overwhelming. I didn't know how I was going to ever escape it. Being busy helped I guess even though it was probably contributing. 
 
ed89166a2f439c05d52ea39738b4f7f5 (2)LSF: There was a lot of frustration and despair in this book, but to me, there was a partial happy ending: I realized when I read in those last pages about you and your husband getting closer and more loving toward each other that throughout the whole book not only was I rooting for you to have a healthy baby, but that your relationship would survive. You two took on so much so early in the marriage, did you ever think during those first few years that he might say one day: "I just can't take this anymore. This wasn't what I signed up for. Bye."? .    
anne-marie scullyAMS: Yes I worried about it and it affected our marriage hugely. I guess we were both so incredibly open with each other even about the darkest emotions we had. There were no secrets, everything was laid bare. I think that level of communication even though at times it was hard for each of us to hear helped us to survive it. Hiding anything I feel causes issues in a marriage so the best advice I can give is to communicate even if you feel like a sad broken record. 
ed89166a2f439c05d52ea39738b4f7f5 (2)LSF: Motherhoodwinked was published in 2013, soon I think after your miscarriage, after having done IVF for the second time, and you were going to take time to let your body heal and consider your next move. We'd love an update if you're okay with it. 
anne-marie scullyAMS:  Later that year we did a 3rd round of IVF and I did get pregnant again. We had a daughter born in Feb 2014. When our daughter was 10 months old I fell pregnant again naturally. We had a son born in Oct 2015. I had heard stories like this but I never ever imagined it would happen to me. I'm still finding it hard to believe that after everything, we conceived naturally in the end. Before I did that 3rd round of IVF I had another laparoscopy and immediately went on the pill while waiting for treatment. The doctors at my new clinic advised this protocol so that the endometriosis would not have an opportunity to grow again after the lap. During pregnancy, endometriosis doesn't grow as the hormones that cause it to are not present. Then when my daughter was born, I was breastfeeding for 8 months and didn't have a period so again those hormones were not present. So that was a total of about 18 months where my system had a chance to heal. I believe it was the endometriosis that was causing me not to get pregnant initially but I guess I will never know for sure and that is the frustrating thing about all of this. I do believe we would never have conceived at all though without having done IVF first.
I hope you enjoyed our interview and apologize for Anne-Marie being so damn pretty. I try to interview women who are less physically beautiful than I, but ran out of potentials about three years ago. We can only hope that Anne-Marie doesn't really look like that and that she bought a stock photo somewhere or like mine, her photo's 20 years old... but she's only in her thirties now... so I doubt it.

 

Her book can be purchased on Amazon at the address above. Mine can be purchased to the left over there... Just saying.

 

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Infertility is Like a Trail... & the State Fair

If you're embarking on the infertility trail, (don't worry, you'll know it when you're on it: Dirt road, bumpy, rocky, big holes you can't see before you tumble head-first into them, quick sand, no street signs telling you which way to go... ) one thing you will find: It's a crowded son-of-a trail. You may not know what you're doing, where you're headed, or how long this stinking trail goes on for... but you're never alone on it. At any given moment, there are literally millions of others around your town, your state, your Country and many other places on planet Earth plodding along the same miserable miles. Or if you don't like my "dusty trail" image, think of infertility like the State Fair: Millions of people waiting willingly but anxiously, voluntarily but reluctantly, to take the same roller coaster ride. The adrenaline's pumping: Are they scared or excited? It's hard to tell. Probably a lot of both.

Although there are some big differences:

  1. Fertility treatment weight gain can't possibly compete with State Fair weight gain. Somehow the math never works out at the Fair where we convince ourselves that we've walked off the 12,000 calories we ate in the first half hour.
  2. Going through infertility with millions of others, my husband never once said: "That's why I never wanted to do this. You know I hate being around people!" or (in his best stage whisper):
  3. "These people in front of us are walking so slowly I've almost tripped over them five times. Go around them already!"  Both of which he says at the State Fair every fifteen minutes like clockwork. Some people set their watch by the sun. If I wore one, I'd set mine by my husband's complaints.
  4. The other millions of people probably won't be in the same waiting room of the same fertility doctor at the same time as you... Unlike the State Fair, where everybody who lives within a 200 mile radius and their first, second and third cousins decides that Saturday afternoon would be the best time to go... especially if they all plan to saunter next to each other in one long impassable horizontal row that looks more like a protest march than a day at the fair.

The point is this: You can join online infertility support groups or not... You can join local infertility support groups or not... You can tell your family & friends your infertility business... or not. But whatever you choose...no matter what: In those dark, exhaustion & hormone-induced teary-eyed moments in the middle of the night, no matter how much you may want to be alone or think you're alone... you're not alone. Out there, at that very same moment, if you listen closely, you can hear a symphony of sniffling, mucous-filled, whining, rambling messes all playing the same tune at the same moment.

(Please click my humor book icon over there to the left for reviews from fertility patients & top fertility professionals & while you're over there, please consider subscribing to this blog)  Microblog_Mondays

Oh Yeah, We're Good with Change

I don't get my fellow U.S. citizens. Everything during this election year is yelling: "We want change!" and then here we are, our lives turned completely upside down this weekend when we turned the clocks ahead one hour... Sixty measly minutes. It will take some of us weeks to recover. We'll be in a state of utter mental and emotional turmoil. And, therefore, we won't stop kvetching about the disruption to our lives to anyone who will listen and feel (or at least feign that they feel) our pain. This could go on clear until Fall when we change the clocks back... when the uproar will start all over counter clockwise.

"I'm so tired. Now I'll be groggy all week."

"I always take this week off from work. I just feel so out of it."

"I always get screwed up. Is it six o'clock or seven o'clock? Is it fall forward and spring back or fall back and spring board? Wait. Did I just get that from that article on the Olympics?"

"It's so dark when I get up now. It's like I'm brushing my teeth in the middle of the night."

"I'm so rattled. I try to live in the moment, but now I don't know which moment this is: A moment before seven o'clock or a moment before eight o'clock."

"Now I can't call my sister in Arizona. They don't change their clocks. Is she two hours behind us or three hours? She'll kill me if I call her during one of her shows."

"So are we on EST now or EDT?"

On top of the emotional angst of the whole "clock changing" idea, people also get overwhelmed about the literal "clock changing" chore.

"I never remember how to change the clock in the car. Great. Now I have to get the manual out of the glove compartment."

Like it's such a big inconvenience:

"It wouldn't be so bad if I didn't have nine clocks! I have one on my phone, and one on the cable box, and one on the computer, and one on the tablet, and one on the laptop, and one on my security system, and one by the bed, and one on the stove and one in the car... Of course the first six change themselves automatically..."

There is definitely a bright side to all this madness: That Monday after we change the clocks in March is the one-day pass for every single person living or working in a participating location to be late to work and school. "Sorry, I'm late." (All together now) "I forgot to change my clock."

I look at it as a rite of Spring: The early stages of slack-offishness which typically accompany the blooming flowers, romance, and warmer weather.

Of course people still try to stretch Monday's "clock changing" excuse use straight through Thursday:

"I overslept. My body hasn't caught up yet to the time change." Or:

"I forgot to change my alarm" which of course makes no sense whatsoever.

I had a roommate years ago who was a flight attendant. (The ideal roommate if you have to have one.) Not only did she fly through different time zones all day every day, but when her mother got sick, she commuted back and forth for months between New York and Austria.

So, keeping my old roommate Herta in mind, all I can say about daylight savings is: It's one, single, solitary, lousy hour. Now that we've all physically changed our clocks, what do you say we just look at the time, accept it as the truth, and move on with our lives?Microblog_Mondays

The "Self-Service" Check-Out isn't Really

Personally, I love the "self-service" check-out at the supermarkets. It's great if you don't have any produce, or coupons, or alcohol, or your own bags, or anywhere to go in the next half hour. I worked in many a supermarket way before they were "super"markets. I even worked in one pre-scanners. We had to memorize codes for everything. (Scallions: 2410-- Sure but ask me what pants I'm wearing while my eyes are looking straight ahead at the computer screen.)

In my estimation, the day supermarket employees started working twice as hard coincides exactly with the day self-service registers were installed.

Every time my husband buys beer, the employee has to get out of her seat, walk around his graying, balding head and past his middle age belly to officially confirm to the register that he's over 21. At least this affords me the opportunity of saying, each and every time without fail:

"Aren't you going to check his ID?" Or even better: "He's over 21... 2 1/2 times."

Then, as the cashier heads back to her seat at the podium, I call again:

"Wait, I have a coupon."

This register has trust issues. Not only doesn't it believe my husband's over 21 (which is absurd in itself. He looks great for his age but nobody who's graduated high school in 2012 is going to come up to him at the mall and say: "Hey, weren't you in my English class?")

The register apparently also has absolutely no faith in me depositing my coupons into the slot as promised. It politely asks me if I have any coupons and if I answer in the affirmative, it turns on me. It starts yelling songs from The Preacher's Wife: "Hold on! Help is on the Way!" Things start beeping and the cashier has to come over with a card, a key, and six codes. You know somewhere way back at the beginning of these self-service machines, some supermarket somewhere got burned big time. Someone must have scanned thousands of dollars in coupons, pocketed them and put a tissue in the slot.

Then, I panic because sometimes I can't find the codes to scan and have to turn the package over six times like a Rubik's Cube.

Then, I panic when I buy fruits and vegetables. Do I scan the little label? Is it this label or this label? Do I weigh this? Do I use the code? Is this the code? Where exactly is the scale?

Then I panic because I never know where to look. The receipt comes out on the top, but I have to swipe over there, but the change comes out on the bottom, but the store coupons come out on the top but not the same top as the receipt.

Then I panic because the automated cashier accuses me of not putting the item in the bag when I did.

Then I panic because I can hear the impatience in the automated cashier's automated voice when I'm not getting the item in the bag fast enough.

"Please put item in the bag."

"Put scanned item in the bag."

"Bitch, put it in the bag before I cut you." (My supermarket's in a bad neighborhood.)

I'm sure my days of playing supermarket checker are numbered anyway. I saw it in an employee's eyes a few weeks ago when I was having produce issues. She came over and smiled and said: "Here, let me help you" but I could see deep in her pupils that by the time I'd turned that avocado over on the scanner for the fourth time, she wanted to yank it from my grasp: "Oh, just let me do it already!"

I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the next time I approach the self check-out, a flash mob bullfight breaks out. Cashiers suddenly cut their breaks short, race to their registers, flick on their number lights and beckon me, urge me, cajole me to come over in an attempt to distract me from their fellow employees who are frantically scurrying around, chaining off all the self-service lanes.

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#Microblogmondays Peri-Meno-Brain-Pause

I've never really noticed before, but I'm willing to bet that the least represented group on Jeopardy! is women ages 45-52. And for good reason. As I have determined this week, we have no business being on national television showing off our intelligence in that seven year span. More precisely, we have no business showing off our ability to make speedy withdrawals from our memory banks during that time-frame of our lives.  When I was in my thirties, I used to feel sorry for contestants who were women in that age group who would stand there staring into space until two and a half categories were already gone from the first round before they rang in. I thought they weren't quick enough on the buzzer. I thought maybe they felt intimidated by the younger contestants. Now I get it: It was neither of those. It took them that long to remember the answer to the very first question asked in the round and they were too stubborn to mentally move on until they'd remembered that answer that had been on the tips of their tongues for the first eight minutes of the show including when they were talking to Alex Trebek at the interview segment. (Externally they were chatting to him about how they'd met their spouse but internally they were agonizing: "I can see the woman's face. She was married to that man who was Catholic. His name started with a 'G'... I'm pretty sure.")  So, this epiphany of what these women go through on the program came to me the other night while I was actually watching the program. One of the clues mentioned the play Peer Gynt. Nobody asked for the name of the playwright but I was determined to come up with it anyway. I had to prove I could remember something. And this wasn't short-term memory  stuff. This was high school stuff so it should be a cinch. I kept snapping my fingers and repeating to my husband: "He was Swedish" even after the answer to the question was revealed to be: "What is Norway?" Then I rattled off everything I knew about this playwright trying to jog my memory. It was like on soap operas when they show old family albums to amnesia victims. "He wrote A Doll's House and then he wrote..." Then I got sidetracked for a while because I knew it wasn't Nathaniel Hawthorne but I couldn't get his name out of my head anyway. Then I had to interrupt the racking of my brain every minute and a half to admonish my husband: "Don't tell me! I want to get it myself!" To which he replied every time: "I wasn't going to tell you. I never heard of Peer whatever. I have no idea who wrote it."

"Yeah but you were about to ask your phone!"

About 10:30 pm EST, three hours after the Jeopardy! final credits rolled, I murmured: "Henrik Ibsen" not entirely convinced that I wasn't confusing his first name with the New York Rangers' goalie's. Either way, I felt very self-satisfied: Not like when you're in third grade and you win the spelling bee. More like when you finally triumph over a four-day bout with constipation.

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Open Adoption Expert Lori Holden Talks to me of all people (Entire Interview)

(This is my entire week-long interview with Lori Holden. Individual segments can be found to the left under "Recent Posts" / "Archives". And please consider doing that quick subscriber sign-up to the left to get monthly newsletters from me.) ed89166a2f439c05d52ea39738b4f7f5

I have here today with me Lori Holden--That's her in that picture down there. I'm the one to the left who looks like she's up to something. (And no, I didn’t decide to interview her just because her name is also Lori and she spells it right, although I am that shallow.)

Lori Holden aka Lori Lavender LuzLori is a nationally recognized expert on open adoption, an ALI blogger (Adoption/Loss/Infertility),  and the author of The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole.Lori Holden's bookcover - open adoption

I’ll admit I hesitated having her on my blog because her book has five stars on Amazon which is half a star more than mine. Although I, myself, was already hooked by her fab title. If I’d come up with that title, I would have been like: “Wow, I think I just earned me an extended ice cream break. I’ll write the rest of the book later.” Anyway...

LSF: Lori, thanks for being here. It’s a really nice change for this blog to give people some useful information. Before you and I started talking about doing this interview, I didn’t know a thing about open adoptions. I mean I was pretty sure it wasn’t like an open marriage where you leave the front door open and see what walks through it with tight clothes and a bottle of wine.  Please enlighten those of us who know so little.

LH: Thanks for having me, Lori-spelled-correctly. Well, I guess open adoption IS a little like open marriage, now that you mention it, in the sense that “it’s OK to have more than one.” Except with adoption, “more than one” refers to sets of parents. Openness means not just contact [between the birth mother and the adoptive parents] , but also the way in which the grownups in the adoption constellation comport themselves. We are open to co-creating a relationship together. We are open to being clear and honest with ourselves so that we can be clear and honest with others in our adoption relationships. We are open to having tough conversations as our child grows and develops cognitively. We are open and vulnerable and authentic, for it is from this openness that we can best give our child the space to wonder, to develop, and to integrate his identity that come from all of his parts.

LSF: It sounds so logical when you say it. Everybody involved should obviously want what’s best for the child but when did this all happen? Years ago, who ever heard of open adoption? The typical scenario was: Parents struggled with how and when to tell their child that they were adopted and many kids felt disconnected, sometimes even tortured, for decades fantasizing about and trying to piece together the “life they’d left behind.” (Not to mention the other family’s medical history) How, when, and why did open adoption come about?

LH: The similarities are mounting! Again, this IS a little like “open marriage” in that people think it’s a new thing, but really, there were dudes in the Bible having tons of wives and concubines waaaay back when.

LSF: Hey wait… Are you making jokes? This woman’s trying to take my gig…

LH: Anyway... People are often surprised to find out that adoptions have historically been open. It wasn’t until after WWII that we decided that the shame of being “illegitimate” needed to be hidden. We began to act as if the child were born to the adopting parents, as if there were a biological connection, as if a secret birth had never happened. To cover all this up, we even had state-sanctioned lies on vital records, a practice that still goes on in many states today.

LSF: Wow. I didn’t know that and yet I can almost guarantee that the state I live in is one of them... You do discuss in the book that there are all levels of openness in open adoption... And I'd love to discuss it... but this is my bus stop. So if everybody (Wait! I'm getting off!) would please join us here the same time tomorrow... (Will you people let me through? I said I'm getting off!!)

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Welcome back! (All except you over there... I told you never to come back.) So, if you were here yesterday, you know that all this week I have the privilege of interviewing open adoption expert, Lori Holden. Her Adoption/Loss/Infertility Blog: http://lavenderluz.com. Her Book: The Open-Lori Holden's bookcover - open adoptionHearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole.

And if you weren't here yesterday, why the hell not?

ed89166a2f439c05d52ea39738b4f7f5LSF: So yesterday Lori, we were just starting to discuss what really makes an open adoption open. I think people who are new to the whole idea will find comfort in knowing that there are a million options between: “Here’s the baby. Now go away.” and “So tomorrow we can all have lunch at my house and dinner at yours and then the next day we’ll switch.” Could you elaborate on various degrees of openness you’ve seen work?

Lori Holden aka Lori Lavender LuzLH: Some do see contact as a spectrum. But I encourage people to think of contact and openness as being two different measures. Contact may or not be possible, due to birth parent availability (they may live elsewhere) and willingness (some birth parents choose not to remain in contact). And don’t forget in some international and foster adoptions, contact may not be possible or wise.

But openness, the second measure, is about how willing and able you are over the years to deal with What Is, with What Actually Happened, with What Comes Up.

  • Have you healed your own infertility wounds? Or might you get triggered the first time your daughter says, “You’re not my real mom!” to you?
  • If your son asks for information on his birth parents, are you open to telling him?
  • Does your teen feel as if he can come to you with anything identity-related? Or might he think that to wonder aloud about his birth parents might come across as disloyal to you?

These are all bits of openness, of dealing with adoption-related things that come up over time. Openness is about so much more than just contact. I prefer thinking of open adoption as a grid rather than as a spectrum. No matter what degree of contact you have, or which set of parents is hosting lunch, parents should build trust continually with their child by remaining truthful and open.

LSF: Have you ever seen jealousies arise? It’s wonderful to have all of this communal love and sharing and communication between the adoptive mother and the birth parents but what happens if the birth mother learns to love the child so much through this open adoption process, she totally regrets putting them up for adoption?

LH: Oh, yeah. In the early years of an adoption, especially. I have heard many tales from birth moms that it’s so difficult to hear their child call another woman “Mama.”

LSF: It's difficult for me to hear anyone say "Mama". I'm from the North. We're strictly "Mom" and "Mommy" people.

LH: Okay anyway.... Likewise, it’s common to hear from adoptive moms that it can be downright painful to see the resemblances between their child and her birth parents, knowing it’s a connection you don’t have. Cultivating such emotionally-charged relationships takes a lot of self-awareness, excellent communication skills, and the setting of healthy boundaries.

LSF: And that’s something I definitely want to talk about: This birth mother person... Well, this seems like as a good place as any to bring this interview to a screeching halt. Please join us tomorrow for Part 3 of our interview... All except you over there who I told not to come back. I'm warning you. I find the prospect of making a scene... intriguing.

 

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Thanks for checking back with us today. I've been sitting here with open adoption expert Lori Holden for the past three days. I'm getting a little hungry and the upper outer quadrants of both sides of my butt fell asleep 18 hours ago but other than that...

ed89166a2f439c05d52ea39738b4f7f5LSF: Hi Lori... Thanks again for being here. I admit, two days ago I didn't really like that shirt but now it's growing on me. (It's probably growing on you too by now... literally.) I'm sure I'll adore it by Friday... So we left off talking about the birth mother. To be honest, when I first read that your daughter’s birth mother was not only consistently in her life but a major contributor to your book, my first thought was: “Yeah like some day maybe I’ll write a book about infidelity. Hey, maybe I can call my husband's girlfriend. Maybe if she’s not too busy, she’d like to write a few chapters about her side of the story.” (I’m just making the “girlfriend” thing up. I mean I’m pretty sure I am. Does anyone happen to know anything I should know about?)

But it really seems like your daughter's birth mother, Crystal, and you and your husband, Roger, have created an incredibly comfortable environment for your daughter. Is it all about a meeting of the minds between the birth mother and the adoptive parent(s) at the time of adoption? Have you had any moments along the way where you’ve said to her: “I think you’re over-stepping your role here” or in my own vernacular: “Yo back up Bitch. You’re like all up in my turf”?

Lori Holden aka Lori Lavender LuzLH: Too funny! But no. And your analogy helps me make this point. In the closed adoption era, we came from an Either/Or mindset. Either SHE’s the real mother, or she is (check out the recent Kohl’s commercial for more on this). For one to be legitimate, we have to deny or negate the other. Let me tell you, the child feels this, not just the negated grownup. Adoption creates a split in a person between his biology and his biography, and openness helps heal the split. Closedness allows the adoptee to embrace only half his identity (either that of biology or that of biography) and forces him to deny the other half.

Why would we split the baby? -- especially when we can do better?

The alternative is to embrace instead a Both/And heartset. “Your birth parents are obviously very important to you and to our family story. Therefore, treating them with love and respect is a way of treating YOU with love and respect. And it keeps you from splitting. It helps keep you whole.”

Besides, as adoptees have pointed out to me, we fully expect parents to love more than one child. Why can’t we also see that a child can love more than one set of parents? Love doesn’t divide, it multiplies.

Now in the case of your husband’s infidelity (hypothetical, of course)...

LSF: Do you know something? We’ll talk later...Is there any sort of written agreement of what each of you expects from the other over the years? (I watch a lot of Judge Judy. She reminds me of my mother. I almost had a date with her son once. But that’s for another blog post.)

LH: That would have been an interesting date!

I share in my book arguments both for and against codifying an open adoption agreement. Some states require PACAs -- Post Adoption Contact Agreements, which create legally bound commitments. Even in the absence of legal teeth, some adoptive/birth parents like to write things down to clarify expectations. Others prefer not to codify the relationship. Some feel this enables them to live more in the “spirit of the law” than by the letter of the law.

LSF: What happens if there is a change of heart along the way? What if the birth mother, for example, gets into a new relationship and starts a family with that person and decides to “move on” and not include the child?... Oh, look at the time! Gotta go... I think I did that more gracefully today, don't you? I must be finally getting the hang of this "interviewing" thing.

Join us tomorrow for Part 4 of my interview with Lori Holden. In the meantime, check out her blog: http://lavenderluz.com

And her book: The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up WholeLori Holden's bookcover - open adoption

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So thanks for joining us again for Day 4 of our interview. (If you need to catch up, click on the link under "Recent Posts".) Once again I bring to you open adoption expert, author, adoption/loss/infertility blogger, Lori Holden.

ed89166a2f439c05d52ea39738b4f7f5LSF: Welcome Lori. You don't actually say all that when you introduce yourself to people do you? I screw people up just having my name hyphenated. Yeah you laugh. Try picking up a prescription. So yesterday when you abruptly got up and walked out (Okay, she didn't really. That was Cam Newton.) I was asking what happens if the birth mother agrees to an open adoption and everything's fine, then one day she's in a new relationship and starting a new family and she's having second thoughts about continuing this open relationship.

Lori Holden aka Lori Lavender LuzLH: Here’s where having a vibrant relationship comes in handy, for when you’re already in a relationship, you can call on the other when you need to. In this situation, I suppose the adoptive parents would make their case with the birth mother, reminding her that being around is a healthy thing for the child she loves. And assuring her that she will always be welcome in the family, and pitching “the more the merrier” arrangement -- “we’ll include your new family, as well!” She doesn’t need to stay in an Either/Or mindset. She can have both her old and her new lives (and my experience with birth mothers suggests that her love for her placed child would not be so flimsy).

LSF: One of the things I think you’ve done so masterfully in this book is demystify and truthfully-- de-stigmatize-- the birth mother. I think for years, she was just some nameless, faceless person whom people either judged and sentenced in their own minds or forgot about altogether: Someone who just dropped off this kid somewhere and went on with her life. Then here you come with Crystal and turn birth mothers into, of all things, people! She has thoughts and plans. And imagine that... she sounds intelligent and educated and worst of all... extremely nice! That can't be right! Tell us about her... Dish on the real Crystal.

LH: She is super nice! Yes, I got a daughter but I also got a friend.

I think a lot of people come to adoption with stereotypes about the kind of woman who would “give up a baby.” And then they actually get to know that kind of woman and end up thinking: “There but for the grace of God -- and effective birth control -- go I.!” Over the years I’ve gotten to know hundreds of women who placed, and I would say they are loving, conscientious people who want to make the best of a really difficult situation. That makes them not much different than anyone else... I’m sorry, Lori. I’m not going to talk further about Crystal out of respect to both her and my daughter.

LSF: I totally respect that...but just tell me: Have you ever all been together and your daughter introduced you as her two mothers and then you had to explain that you and Crystal never actually dated?... I'll take that piercing look as a "no". Okay then...And moving on...

Even writing this, I keep wanting to put Crystal’s name in quotation marks like I do when I'm mocking someone in my family in my blog and I tell them it's not them even though I was too lazy to even change their name.  But Crystal Hass is really Crystal Hass. There’s the birth mother putting her name right on the cover of a book about adoption. Wow! It’s almost like a symbol of how open she really is about this open adoption. Your daughter’s a teenager now. How has the relationship between you and Crystal evolved over the years? Do you consider her family? Do you guys have cute matching T-shirts for when you go out together: “No, I’m the mother!”?

LH: What a fantastic Mother’s Day gift idea!

LSF: "Hello? Shark Tank?"

LH: You are right that this openness movement has done a lot to dissolve the shame in adoption, and she felt compelled to put her name and face on the book. We do consider her -- and the other three birth parents of our children -- as extended family members. An adoption professional I met uses the model of a kaleidoscope to show these ongoing relationships: Images coming in and out of view, moving around, receding and becoming more prominent and receding again. Over time, this is how our open adoption relationships feel with these four special people. There is a strong connection, but that doesn’t mean we talk every week, or even every month.

LSF: One thing you don’t hear much about during adoptions is the birth father... and you won't hear it here either. At least not today... Please stop by tomorrow as Lori Holden and I wind-up our interview with info about birth fathers as well as things I forgot to mention and more questions I had no business asking in the first place.

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Thanks for coming back for this final chat this week with Open Adoption Expert Lori Holden.  I really hope you've enjoyed hearing someone else's voice just above my own usual white noise for a change. (It's funny. I didn't become that annoying disruptive kid in the class until I was, like, forty.) After years of doing this buffoonery-filled blog, I decided I probably should occasionally provide useful information delivered to you by someone who knows what they're talking about. I'll be back to my buffoonery next week. Not like I was exactly Diane Sawyer this week. 

ed89166a2f439c05d52ea39738b4f7f5LSF: So Lori, we left off yesterday talking about the birth father. Who ever hears anything about him? Is the birth father ever involved in the open adoption process? How often? Have you seen instances where only the birth father is involved? (Sorry... It's a New Yorker thing & a Jewish thing... It's not about them answering your questions. It's about hearing yourself ask them. I'll bet Barbara Walters has fought it every day of her life.)

Lori Holden aka Lori Lavender LuzLH: Sometimes the birth father's involved from the very beginning, helping to choose the adoptive family, and sometimes he comes in later. I have not seen a birth father-only placement, but surely they exist on rare occasion. For all the reasons having openness with a birth mother is important, so is having openness with the birth father. Access to him can be very important as the child builds his identity, which typically happens in the tween/teen years. In the absence of contact, being able to talk about his birth father with his parents can be helpful.

LSF: So let me back up out of the way now. Lori H. has some other things that she wants to tell you about open adoption that I wasn't swift enough to mention. (My words not hers. I know my limitations.) She will also explain why her book is far superior to others. (That's why I'm here. Have you bought mine yet?)

Lori Holden's bookcover - open adoptionLH: 1) While it’s largely understood why open adoption serves well the people living in it, this book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole also tells how to create and sustain one over the years as a child grows. It covers common open-adoption situations and how real families have navigated typical issues successfully.  Like all useful parenting books, it provides the tools for parents (both adoptive and birth) to come to answers on their own, and it addresses challenges that might arise one day.

2) Our book was written for people involved in infant adoption, in international adoption, in foster adoption and even in donor sperm/egg/embryo situations — in any circumstance in which the result is a person whose biology and biography come from different sets of parents. Adoption professionals may also be interested in having this book available as a resource for clients, as it covers not just the initial stages of an adoption, but also the parenting stages we face over the long haul.

3) If we acknowledge that adoption creates a split between a person’s biology and his biography, we can then consciously choose ways to help our child heal that split through our own open-heartedness.

Lori Holden will present a free webinar for the Snowflake Embryo Adoption Awareness Program in March, and a workshop at the American Adoption Congress annual conference in Denver in April. Find her regularly at LavenderLuz.com. Lori does yoga and drinks red wine in Denver while raising her two now-teens with her husband.

#MicroblogMondays: It's a Small Small World

If the title of this post brings back nice childhood memories of going to Disney, you're most welcome. If it traps that song between your conscious and sub-conscious and plays it over and over, relentlessly, for the next 24 hours in several languages, I apologize. I recently, surprising even to me, especially to me, became in charge of a Book Club at the wonderfully supportive group: The IVF Journey on Facebook. (Anyone can join the book club... so please do.) https://www.facebook.com/groups/theivfjourney

The point is: I thought this first month, in "honor" of Valentine's Day, the theme could be:

"Being Lovey-Dovey When Romance has become Sticking a Needle in My Butt".

I asked around and perused various websites for book suggestions and came up with:

"What He Can Expect When She's Not Expecting" thinking a guy's rare perspective about the whole IVF thing could be a good twist and couples could maybe even read it together. Then I noticed who the author was: Marc Sedaka. What? It couldn't be. So I checked out his website. Yep, there was his face. It sure was.

Thirty years ago, I was in my junior year at NYU living in the dorm. Down the hall was this freshman guy I became friendly acquaintances with. Every weekend, this guy used to leave the dorm in Greenwich Village and go stay at the apartment where he lived on the Upper East Side with his family. So one day... thirty years ago... I get a knock at my door. It's this guy. He indicates his dorm room around the corner from mine: "They're having a party in there. Can I sleep in here?"

"It's the weekend. Why didn't you go home?" I asked. To which he replied as any of us would:

"Paloma Picasso overflowed her hot tub in her apartment above us and it flooded out my bedroom. Can I sleep on your floor?"

As compassionate as I am now I was then:

"There are 18 rooms in your apartment. You couldn't find another one to sleep in?"

And so, that author of that book... 30 years ago... slept on the floor of my 9 x 12 dorm room that I shared with two other girls.

Now that he and I are both famous authors, I think maybe I should campaign for room 409 in Rubin Hall to become a National Landmark and put up a plaque: "Lori Shandle-Fox and Marc Sedaka slept here together... but not 'together'."

(Please consider subscribing to this here Laughing IS Conceivable blog to receive my monthly newsletters. It's just over there to the left. It's 3 easy fields. Only 1 is mandatory.)

Open Adoption Expert Lori Holden Talks to me of all people: Part 3

Thanks for checking back with us today. I've been sitting here with open adoption expert Lori Holden for the past three days. I'm getting a little hungry and the upper outer quadrants of both sides of my butt fell asleep 18 hours ago but other than that... (Parts 1 & 2 of the interview are here respectively: http://laughingisconceivable.com/?p=5915 & http://laughingisconceivable.com/?p=5880) ed89166a2f439c05d52ea39738b4f7f5LSF: Hi Lori... Thanks again for being here. I admit, two days ago I didn't really like that shirt but now it's growing on me. (It's probably growing on you too by now... literally.) I'm sure I'll adore it by Friday... So we left off talking about the birth mother. To be honest, when I first read that your daughter’s birth mother was not only consistently in her life but a major contributor to your book, my first thought was: “Yeah like some day maybe I’ll write a book about infidelity. Hey, maybe I can call my husband's girlfriend. Maybe if she’s not too busy, she’d like to write a few chapters about her side of the story.” (I’m just making the “girlfriend” thing up. I mean I’m pretty sure I am. Does anyone happen to know anything I should know about?)

But it really seems like your daughter's birth mother, Crystal, and you and your husband, Roger, have created an incredibly comfortable environment for your daughter. Is it all about a meeting of the minds between the birth mother and the adoptive parent(s) at the time of adoption? Have you had any moments along the way where you’ve said to her: “I think you’re over-stepping your role here” or in my own vernacular: “Yo back up Bitch. You’re like all up in my turf”?

Lori Holden aka Lori Lavender LuzLH: Too funny! But no. And your analogy helps me make this point. In the closed adoption era, we came from an Either/Or mindset. Either SHE’s the real mother, or she is (check out the recent Kohl’s commercial for more on this). For one to be legitimate, we have to deny or negate the other. Let me tell you, the child feels this, not just the negated grownup. Adoption creates a split in a person between his biology and his biography, and openness helps heal the split. Closedness allows the adoptee to embrace only half his identity (either that of biology or that of biography) and forces him to deny the other half.

Why would we split the baby? -- especially when we can do better?

The alternative is to embrace instead a Both/And heartset. “Your birth parents are obviously very important to you and to our family story. Therefore, treating them with love and respect is a way of treating YOU with love and respect. And it keeps you from splitting. It helps keep you whole.”

Besides, as adoptees have pointed out to me, we fully expect parents to love more than one child. Why can’t we also see that a child can love more than one set of parents? Love doesn’t divide, it multiplies.

Now in the case of your husband’s infidelity (hypothetical, of course)...

LSF: Do you know something? We’ll talk later...Is there any sort of written agreement of what each of you expects from the other over the years? (I watch a lot of Judge Judy. She reminds me of my mother. I almost had a date with her son once. But that’s for another blog post.)

LH: That would have been an interesting date!

I share in my book arguments both for and against codifying an open adoption agreement. Some states require PACAs -- Post Adoption Contact Agreements, which create legally bound commitments. Even in the absence of legal teeth, some adoptive/birth parents like to write things down to clarify expectations. Others prefer not to codify the relationship. Some feel this enables them to live more in the “spirit of the law” than by the letter of the law.

LSF: What happens if there is a change of heart along the way? What if the birth mother, for example, gets into a new relationship and starts a family with that person and decides to “move on” and not include the child?... Oh, look at the time! Gotta go... I think I did that more gracefully today, don't you? I must be finally getting the hang of this "interviewing" thing.

Join us tomorrow for Part 4 of my interview with Lori Holden. In the meantime, check out her blog: http://lavenderluz.com

And her book: The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up WholeLori Holden's bookcover - open adoption

Open Adoption Expert Lori Holden Talks to me of all people: Part 1

ed89166a2f439c05d52ea39738b4f7f5All this week I'm featuring an interview that I know you'll like. Please join us. It's all great info about open adoption by someone who's living it. But there will still be some nuttiness. I mean, you know... I'm still me.  Lori Holden aka Lori Lavender Luz I have here today with me Lori Holden--That's her in that picture right there. I'm the one above who looks like she's up to something. (And no, I didn’t pick her just because her name is also Lori and she spells it right, although I am that shallow.)

Lori is a nationally recognized expert on open adoption, an ALI blogger (Adoption/Loss/Infertility),  and the author of The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole.Lori Holden's bookcover - open adoption

I’ll admit I hesitated having her on my blog because her book has five stars on Amazon which is half a star more than mine. Although I, myself, was already hooked by her fab title. If I’d come up with that title, I would have been like: “Wow, I think I just earned me an extended ice cream break. I’ll write the rest of the book later.” Anyway...

LSF: Lori, thanks for being here. It’s a really nice change for this blog to give people some useful information. Before you and I started talking about doing this interview, I didn’t know a thing about open adoptions. I mean I was pretty sure it wasn’t like an open marriage where you leave the front door open and see what walks through it with tight clothes and a bottle of wine.  Please enlighten those of us who know so little.

LH: Thanks for having me, Lori-spelled-correctly. Well, I guess open adoption IS a little like open marriage, now that you mention it, in the sense that “it’s OK to have more than one.” Except with adoption, “more than one” refers to sets of parents. Openness means not just contact [between the birth mother and the adoptive parents] , but also the way in which the grownups in the adoption constellation comport themselves. We are open to co-creating a relationship together. We are open to being clear and honest with ourselves so that we can be clear and honest with others in our adoption relationships. We are open to having tough conversations as our child grows and develops cognitively. We are open and vulnerable and authentic, for it is from this openness that we can best give our child the space to wonder, to develop, and to integrate his identity that come from all of his parts.

LSF: It sounds so logical when you say it. Everybody involved should obviously want what’s best for the child but when did this all happen? Years ago, who ever heard of open adoption? The typical scenario was: Parents struggled with how and when to tell their child that they were adopted and many kids felt disconnected, sometimes even tortured, for decades fantasizing about and trying to piece together the “life they’d left behind.” (Not to mention the other family’s medical history) How, when, and why did open adoption come about?

LH: The similarities are mounting! Again, this IS a little like “open marriage” in that people think it’s a new thing, but really, there were dudes in the Bible having tons of wives and concubines waaaay back when.

LSF: Hey wait… Are you making jokes? This woman’s trying to take my gig…

LH: Anyway... People are often surprised to find out that adoptions have historically been open. It wasn’t until after WWII that we decided that the shame of being “illegitimate” needed to be hidden. We began to act as if the child were born to the adopting parents, as if there were a biological connection, as if a secret birth had never happened. To cover all this up, we even had state-sanctioned lies on vital records, a practice that still goes on in many states today.

LSF: Wow. I didn’t know that and yet I can almost guarantee that the state I live in is one of them... You do discuss in the book that there are all levels of openness in open adoption... And I'd love to discuss it... but this is my bus stop. So if everybody (Wait! I'm getting off!) would please join us here the same time tomorrow... (Will you people let me through? I said I'm getting off!!)

#MicroblogMondays 'Goings-On Around Here'

So you know when you have one of those weeks when you're just minding your own business, trying to peddle your little, fun infertility book to people and then the next thing you know you're doing an interview with a renowned expert on open adoption and you don't even know what open adoption is or does and then she sets you straight that it's not the least bit like open marriage like you thought and then this infertility support group on Facebook that you just joined like a week ago asks you if you could run a book club for them and then suddenly you're in charge of it and you're inviting every Facebook support group even remotely related to infertility or adoption or surrogacy or open adoption (which apparently is totally not the same thing as open marriage) to be a part of this gigantic book club so that these people can get to know about a lot of really good books on the subject and the authors who write good books can sell a lot of them and the whole Facebook infertility support community can come together to have fun and talk about infertility without having to post just about their infertility unless they want to? Well, I just had one of those weeks. (Our friend Lori Holden, the Open Adoption expert in question, whom I met via Mel's great Stirrup-Queens Micro Blog Mondays page has been kind enough to do a whole interview series this week with me. Please come take a look at today's post: "Lori Holden Talks Open Adoption with me of all people- Part 1" http://laughingisconceivable.com

Also: If anyone is a member or administrator of an infertility support group on FB or elsewhere (virtual or actual) and would be interested in joining the book club please let me know. It's simple and very low maintenance, I assure you. If you're an author with a book that you'd like us to consider, also, please let me know.

Message me on FB or email: lshandle@aol.com or lshandlefox@gmail.com

#microblogmondays - "It was a Dark & Eery Night..."

So the other night our lights went out. My husband ran to the front door to see if there was a storm coming or if there were other lights on in the neighborhood. I ran in the opposite direction to the calendar magnet on the refrigerator, mumbling all the way: "It's not the seventeenth yet is it? It better not be. I only have until the seventeenth." My husband-turned-meteorologist, using his high-tech meteorological system (squinting up into the sky and down the block) confirmed that there was no apparent storm coming and that the neighborhood was indeed... to use his technical term... dark.  I'm probably the only one in the development to breathe a deep sigh of relief. It wasn't a non-payment issue. This outage was legit. The problem apparently was... and I'm relying solely on good old-fashioned rumor and innuendo because nobody ever tells you anything... ice on the power lines. There was snow a few days before so then it froze and the weight of the ice brought down the power lines... or... some schmuck got up on a ladder drunk and instead of cutting a branch in his front lawn, he cut off the heat for twenty thousand people... either way. Where we used to live, all the power lines were underground so we never had this debacle but here they're above ground so we always have this debacle. My theory is: The power lines have been here since the ancient Greeks ruled North Carolina and needed to light up the coliseum for the Rolling Stones concerts. From then on, the power lines have held landmark status and it is forbidden by law for them to be removed or altered in any way. You'd think going to sleep would be the easiest thing in these situations because it's so dark. For me, it's the worst part. I always lie there and think about Rhoda who was in this situation on an episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show. She told Mary: "I was lying there in bed and I was all nice and warm and then I remembered that that's exactly how you feel right before you freeze to death."

And it was cold. This is what I have my mother's fur coat for. I'm not comfortable wearing a fur coat, but I'm not comfortable giving away my mother's coat, so I compromise: I save it for this one special occasion: Every time the lights go out, I throw it over my blanket at night.

As usual, as I shivered, my husband lying next to me gallantly suggested a place where I could put my hands to keep them warm. I politely declined. I've noticed that when it's freezing, while a woman's tendency is to throw more layers of clothes on our bodies, men feel nudity, as usual, is the answer. I'm buried under sweaters, coats, cloth napkins... looking like I got drunk at a party and passed out in the cloak room... and he's there next to me trying to peel me out of the rubble. Through his chattering teeth, my husband, who got his physics degree from watching The Big Bang Theory waxed poetic about friction, body heat, and "I guarantee you, the warmest place in this whole house is... right... there... no, a little lower. "

I decided to unembalm my lifeless body from the wreckage and venture into the living room en route to the kitchen carrying the only thing with working batteries: A Darth Vader lantern meant for trick-or-treating. I'm glad it was dark. Nobody was able to peer into the window and see me doing my version of a low budget horror movie: Little House on the Prairie meets the Blair Witch Project.

I was on a mission. True, ice cream could probably last pretty long in the freezer, but I couldn't take that chance. True, cottage cheese in the warm refrigerator probably has a much higher mortality rate. True, eating ice cream would only make me colder, but we all have to make sacrifices in these situations. I had images of them finding my frozen carcass three days later, sitting up in bed, eyes wide open, an eager look on my face and my rigamortised hand still wrapped around the spoon. At first, they might think I was covered in blood but with closer inspection realized it was just chocolate syrup poorly aimed in the dark.