women's health

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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My 5K Chocolate Truffle Run

It's my husband's fault. He gave me this huge luscious box of candy on Valentine's Day. Chocolate truffles no less. The impulse when you get such a thing is to daintily slip off the ribbon that's holding the chocolates hostage and then, when no one's looking, quietly take the box into the bedroom, go under the blanket, and snort up the entire contents without your hands ever even touching the candy: Like a steam cleaner sucking up the delectable morsels. Or, if you'd rather: A Venus fly trap going after its prey. The obvious problem is: I usually find the chocolate scale to be very reliable: 10 pounds of chocolate equals 10 pounds of body fat. It takes 12 minutes to eat and 1200 miles of running over a 2 1/2 year period to get it off. Still worth it I think. (Theys was some good truffles.)

So in response to my conundrum, my husband, (the same husband who's my truffle-pusher), introduced me to a nutrition app. Now it owns me. I had been going along my merry way eating more or less the same for at least a decade: Eating healthy foods during the week and then whatever I wanted on the week ends... and sometimes Friday nights...and sometimes Friday all day starting immediately after I'd woken up and run into the bathroom to weigh myself.

I always kept mental calculations in my head and tried to stay under 2000 calories daily. Well the app will have none of that. Apparently if I go over 1630 calories, a hand will come out of my phone and slap me across the face. I don't dare risk it. And since I've found that consuming fewer than 1630 calories per day is not only improbable but inhumane, the only way around that stinking nemesis app is to barter myself more calories via exercise.

I've always been one of those nuts who likes to exercise but now running has become what sex was during fertility treatments: An unpleasantry I have to trudge through so I can get what I really want. In that case, it was a family. In this case it's the remainder of my Valentine's candy.

So every day, you'll see me out there in front of my house, doing the 5K Truffle Run up and down my 1-block-long subdivision. I keep a few chocolates in my mailbox at the end of the driveway. Every time I do a lap, I reach in and take the bite that I earned and then go around again to run it off. I notice I run faster these days. I'm also breathing heavier and sweating more: Not like when you're an athlete pushing the limits of your physical capabilities. More like when you're excited to see your new love.

If may be just my imagination, but as I round the cul-de-sac, I can swear that I can smell those chocolates inside the closed metal mailbox. Maybe when I hit my goal weight, I'll get a job at the airport sniffing around the baggage carousels. If someone's smuggling in Hershey bars from Pennsylvania, I'd be the first to know.

Believe me, you don't have to say it. I know that I'm on the brink of being out of control. You know when I'll be totally out of control? Next week when I start stashing chocolates in my neighbors' mailboxes along my 1 block route.

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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

*************************************************

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.

*************************************************

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 4

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.

Lori Holden's Adoption/Loss/Infertility Blog: http://lavenderluz.com

Her book:

Lori Holden's bookcover - open adoptionThe Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole.

 

 

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 2

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? Well if you want to catch up and/or get on my good side again, here's the link: http://laughingisconceivable.com/?p=5915

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.

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.

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.

#MicroblogMondays "Oh Why Do I Even Bother?"

You probably know there was a snowstorm the other day. It wasn't here but it may as well have been. My sister, my older sister, called me with that frantic, frenetic tone in her voice that I know oh so well. It's the voice she's used for the last forty years to convey: "I'm really concerned for you whether you want me to be or not." "I heard the weather's really bad there." She said.

"Just a dusting of snow. Maybe a little freezing rain."

She said: "No I'm not kidding. It's all over the news. It's really bad there."

I said: "No I'm not kidding. It may be all over the news but it's not all over my driveway or my car or my lawn or my neighbor's lawn. There's nothing here."

"Will you just look at the news?!"

"Why do I have to look at the news? I'm looking out my window."

"Your governor's just declared a state of emergency."

"I didn't vote for him. The day he took office this place became a State of emergency."

"They showed over-turned tractor trailers and power lines down all over the place. The news guy is thigh deep in a snow drift."

"The cute guy from channel 2? Does he look like he's stuck there? What are the cross streets? I just have to grab my coat and my lipstick!"

"Listen to me!! Have you gone shopping? Are you prepared?"

"Yeah, I went shopping yesterday. I got yogurt, raisins, and coconut water... I'm prepared to lose 8 pounds... even if it kills me."

#MicroblogMondays "I Am Woman... Hear Me Roar"

My sixth grade teacher was Ms. Martin. Not "Miss" Martin or "Mrs." Martin. She happily corrected people frequently. I've never been too OCD about people referring to me as "chick" or "broad" or calling me "Sweetie". But lately... Is it just me or is the world separating women from men more? Or maybe I'm watching too much TV. I was watching ABC news the other night. David Muir said: "Female jewel thief"... He couldn't have just said: "jewel thief"? I think when we saw the video that followed, since the crook was wearing what looked more like a tank top than a hunting jacket, and she looked directly into the video surveillance cameras without her face or hair being covered, most people would have figured out she was a she. It's also always irked me that On Jeopardy! there's that pesky: "Notable Women" category... Are we such a novelty? Like: "Notable Reptiles" I don't remember ever seeing a "Notable Men" category. And then, to add insult to injury in the "Notable Women" category, the answers are always the same: "Who is... Florence Nightingale? Who is... Harriet Tubman? Who is...Amelia Earhart?" There are only five questions in the category. You can't come up with five new ones every time you have the category? Like someone... anyone we didn't read a biography and do a report on in third grade? I know some African American people who aren't too happy with the "Notable Blacks or African American" categories. (What do you do with Condoleezza Rice? She works for two categories.)  I know I wouldn't be happy with: "Famous Jews". We're not so few and far between. You could fill most of the category with just actors from The Big Bang Theory.

What I Know About Technology: Well I Can Spell It

I hate to walk myself right into a stereotype. The one in question: Women and technology. The truth is: Technology freaks me out. I was always pretty good at following directions (building things... not at work... I just felt compelled to clear that up) but tech support can't win with me. If they start off by being condescending and talking to me like they're reading me a Dr. Seuss book, I get indignant: "Good Afternoon, my name's Warren. Mrs. Fox, do you see that box? Left-click on that box, Mrs. Fox. Did you find that box, Mrs. Fox?"

The repartee usually continues cordially:

"Yes, I found the box." said Mrs. Fox. "I'm not a total moron" She said to Warren.

But the fact is: I need them to talk to me like I'm a moron. Because I am a technology moron.

If I have a major issue like my website is down, I call Julia. I hate to tell people she's like a "virtual assistant" because it sounds like she's imaginary. What she is is this incredibly helpful, supportive person who takes pity on my neurotic soul. I'm in the U.S. and she's in Canada. When the wind is swirling off the Atlantic Ocean, you can hear my shrill cries up and down the Eastern seaboard: "Juuuuuuliaaaa!"  (It's a higher pitched version of Fred Flintstone banging on his front door: "Wiiiiilmaaaa!") Who knows how many professional hockey games I've disrupted along the route. And that says a lot. Do you have any idea how hard it is to hear anything at a pro hockey game?

Part of my difficulty, is that when I have a problem, my go-to thing is to freak out first and ask questions later.

I'm fine when everything goes smoothly. I know how to get onto all of my favorite websites and maneuver around my blog with confidence but heaven forbid something goes awry. It takes the littlest thing to throw me. I go from my version of normal to Tasmania in mere seconds. "My password to get into my online banking isn't working. Oh my gosh. I know it's the right password. I use it all the time. I wrote it down somewhere. Where did I write it? I thought it was smart not to have the computer remember my banking password. But now I don't remember it either. How can I have all of my other passwords written down and not that one? It makes no sense! Is this it? I can't read my handwriting. Oh my gosh is it an "l" or a "1"? I hate when they make me use weird numbers and symbols that I never use... I usually just type it automatically and it works. Let me just try not to think and start typing. This can't be happening! Now I'll never be able to open my account. Who do I call? I don't even know who to call. Maybe my login's wrong... I don't get it. Did they lock me out for some reason? Did they close my account? Great, now I'm going to have to go there. The branch over here's only open until three. I'm not even dressed. I don't have any clean pants. So now I have to dig out some pants from the laundry. I'll have to go to the branch all the way down there. What if I have to wait and I'm not back in time for the Deepak Chopra online meditation I signed up for? What if they tell me somebody hacked my account and now I can't use it? How am I going to pay for anything? I need my ATM card to work. I'll tell them they'll just have to reactivate my account. I can't live without a bank account while they take months to investigate who stole my identity. I have to prove to them that I'm me. I'd better bring my social security card, my driver's license, my marriage license, my birth certificate, and a recent bill. Why is it all on me? Why doesn't the other person have to prove they're me? By now, she probably has a fake ID with my name on it, and is driving around Malaysia in a Ferrari with six Gucci purses filled with the eighty-two dollars she got out of my bank account. It'll take me years to ... Oh... I had the caps lock on. Oh, okay, there it goes. I'm in."

#MicroblogMondays The Penalty for Being Lazy is... A Reward Apparently

I think if I was in elementary school right now, I'd be the most misbehaved kid: The rewards are phenomenal! My niece told me the other day: "Emmanuel in my class wouldn't stop talking so the teacher made him sit by himself and read a book."

What? What can I do to someone or something that I'll be sentenced to sitting by myself and reading a book? All I read are murder mysteries. And I've been reading the same 250 page one for four months. Every time I get a chance to read a chapter, it's been so long, I spend the whole time going back over the last two chapters to remind myself who's related to whom and how they got there. Even still, I usually get to the last few pages, hold my breath in suspense for the murderer to be named and end up saying: "Crap. I never suspected her. I don't even know who that is."

Another punishment at the school is: "She didn't do her homework. Now she has to run a lap at recess."

So, I guess I'm too old for elementary school but I hear the prisons let you sit and read all day and give you an hour a day to exercise. All I usually have time for is to go outside and run up and down my development. It's not a very big development: 70 times around equals a mile.

However, not everything's a punishment at the public schools. If your class collects the most toys during the toy drive for kids living in poverty, you get candy plus either a pizza party or an ice cream party. (Maybe the kids living in poverty do a healthy-food drive for kids living with childhood obesity. The class that collects the most leafy greens gets a field trip to a tanning salon.)

It's not just the schools, of course. The last place I worked was no better. They have a monthly raffle. The prize is the coveted closest parking space to the employee's entrance. So, here you've got a bunch of people who are sitting all day at either their desks, in the cafeteria, or in a bathroom stall. The only exercise most of them ever get is to walk to and from their car. So let's encourage them not to do that. Ironically, I worked at the Health Department.

 

The Great Wedding of 2016

This New Year's Eve, my husband and I stumbled upon a pop-up wedding chapel. I've avoided marking holidays with romantic milestones my whole life figuring that if the romance ever goes bye-bye, I'll have to dread that holiday for the rest of my life. And I would undoubtedly carry it too far. "I knew I shouldn't have gotten engaged on Arbor Day! Now I can't walk in the park in April anymore! There are trees everywhere!!" (And yes, I did just look up when Arbor Day was... or if it even still was.) So, there, in the middle of the New Year's Eve festivities was this pop-up chapel. Immediately I said to my husband: "Wanna do it?" To which he responded: "Wanna?" I knew I'd better seize the moment, the second I saw it. If I'd waited for him to suggest it, we would have already strolled a mile down the road and had to walk back. We signed in and waited our turn on line behind a dozen other couples. I was disappointed to see there weren't any same-sex couples in front of us. I was dying to see if someone in the audience would be so steadfast in their beliefs, they'd even walk out of a fake wedding. The woman working there handed out gum machine rings from a baggie to everyone on the line for us to use and keep. I thought: "Wow, this would've been great for my real wedding: One-stop bridal shopping: They lent me a veil, a bouquet, and they have a jeweler on the premises." (Though the veil did make me a little nervous. As one blushing bride finished with it, they swiftly transferred it from her head to the next one's and so on down the line. I had visions of the local newspaper's first headline of the year: "New Year's Eve Brings Love and Lice".) So there I was looking lovely in jeans and my NY Mets bridal sweatshirt that I'd spilled fruit punch on earlier because that's what I typically do... And, oh, did I mention that we had been walking through intermittent showers for the better part of the day? So, what really brought all of us to this indoor pop-up wedding chapel? True love or inclement weather?

I held my groom's hand as we waited our turn. His palms were sweaty. His eyes were shifting up and down, left and right... You know when you go for an eye exam and the doctor tells you to follow his finger? Like that. I'm thinking: "Great... Things are worse than I thought. He's considering bolting out of here. What could be more depressing than being left at the altar of a mock wedding on New Year's Eve?... You're right: Being left at the altar of a real wedding on New Year's Eve.

It actually was a very nice ceremony. At least the vows were in English. The last one we had, they were in Hebrew. I haven't a clue what I agreed to. At the end of the New Year's Eve one, we even got a marriage license with our names and the date and everything. Granted, it looks less like a marriage license and more like something you get for participating in the spelling bee... like a certificate of achievement. But you know what? We've been married twelve years. Damn it, we deserve a certificate of achievement.