Thursday, October 24, 2013

the great and powerful oz

As bloggers, we've all experienced it: that dreaded moment when you get a comment from "Anonymous" on your blog. And, as is the case with most nameless replies, it's hurtful and negative.

I'm approaching my 5th year as a blogger, and I've had no shortage of offensive (and downright mean) comments. It shouldn't phase me anymore, but occasionally it does. You build up thick skin to a point, but then someone manages to find a soft spot and tear right through. We're humans putting words onto the web, not machines. It's bound to happen. This is something every blogger should know and be prepared for when they begin writing. I say it to others all the time: when you put yourself out there on the Internet, you're opening yourself up for public scrutiny -- both good and bad. Just as you are practicing your First Amendment right to freedom of speech, so are your commenters.

That said, it's not the negativity that bothers me. I truly do believe that it's your prerogative to disagree with me or my writing. It's the fact that you choose to remain anonymous. It's the fact that, whoever thought those words, didn't have the guts to tag their name to the end of them.

Yes, that's your right to be nameless. But it doesn't mean that I respect your choice to do it. I don't. I can't respect someone who sits behind his or her keyboard and bullies others because they know they can hide behind the privacy of the Internet. I can't respect someone who uses the power of words to belittle bloggers who put their names and their stories out there, all while under the protection of "Anonymous." I would respect someone much more who could admit who he or she is in the process of contradicting of whatever it is I've written.

Anonymous commenters remind me a lot of the Great and Powerful Oz. They get to hide behind their curtain and say whatever they want into the microphone in an attempt to scare people -- until, eventually, someone with enough guts (or a pair of ruby red slippers) pulls back the curtain and discovers that they're not so great and powerful after all. Because it's easy to exert your control when you feel like you're invincible to the world. It's not so easy once you've been exposed to those around you.

And take it from this guy. You are never truly invincible. Or anonymous.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

sperm talk

There was an interesting article in The Atlantic yesterday about male infertility. I always love when publications highlight male infertility, because I think it's such an understated topic among experts in the field. This piece highlights some of the changes that we need to see when it comes to discussing male infertility and its stigmas.

We suffered from both male and female infertility, but I did find that the doctors had a tendency to focus on my "issues" rather than my husband's. None of our doctors made recommendations on how we might be able to change the outcomes of Joey's tests. In fact, any changes we made -- diet, supplements, etc. -- were a result of our own research: Dr. Google. We were willing to try nearly anything, yet the doctors never offered options. Perhaps it was because they thought I had the bigger "issues." Or maybe it was because they didn't know what to recommend.

I thought this part, in particular, rang true:

"Male infertility may need a high profile advocate and a public health campaign, Barnes says. After all, erectile dysfunction had Bob Dole. Testicular cancer had Lance Armstrong. But male fertility lacks a celebrity to raise awareness that infertility is a 'normal' medical condition that 'manly men' deal with too."

To me, it was/is just as frustrating to hear about male celebrities in their 60s and 70s who are getting their partners pregnant as it was/is hearing about women who are in their 40s getting pregnant. And yes, there are several high-profile male celebrities who have spoken out about infertility (Hugh Jackman, Jimmy Fallon, Bill Rancic). Their emotional perspective is starting to shed some light on how our partners cope with this disease. But it's still "taboo" to talk about the biological aspects. You don't hear men talking about their lack of sperm or other potential barriers to conception.

I'm curious to hear from some of you who've battled with male infertility (either you personally or your partner, since I realize I have far more female readers than male) and get your thoughts on this article. Do you think there should be more awareness drawn toward male infertility? Did you feel your doctor or clinic was equipped to handle you or your partner's infertility?

Friday, October 18, 2013

contamination zone

If there's an illness within a ten-mile radius, my daughter will catch it. I realized this was inevitable last year. She's has everything working against her. 1) She's in school. 2) She was born prematurely. 3) She was born with a compromised immune system. 4) Kids are just germ-y.

The good news is that, since she had tubes put in her ears back in June, she's bounced back from her illnesses much faster than she did last year. A few weeks ago, she caught a mysterious virus at daycare, and she was fever-free within 24 hours. Then, earlier this week, we discovered that she caught strep (also from daycare; I know, it's shocking) and she was back at school within a day and a half.

The bad news is that this is only the beginning of the "sick" season, and I still haven't managed to find a baby HazMat suit to protect her yet.

(Kidding. Sort of.)

Aside from the minor bumps when it comes to daycare germs, she's doing incredibly well health-wise. She's still barely on the charts at 29.5 inches tall and 19 lbs. 4 oz., with a head circumference of 44 cm, but she's hitting every single one of her milestones and then some. Her personality is as sassy as ever. I have a feeling "talking" is right around the corner.

Our house is still for sale. We've had some interest, but no offers yet. So, we're lowering the price again today in hopes of generating more traffic, especially as the holidays approach. It's hard to believe that this year is almost over, and that this is our second holiday season with a child. Surreal.

That's what's going on in our neck of the woods. How about you?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

a day of remembrance

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss. That's an astonishing number. It's a statistic that no one wants to be a part of, yet so many -- particularly in this community -- are burdened with. It's a topic that is often swept under the rug because people are unsure of how to address it. But, as I've said so many times before, silence cannot and should not be the response to those in pain.

Take a moment and break that silence today. Learn more about infant loss and how you can help families who are suffering at Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope. (You can find additional links on the "Resources" tab above, under "Pregnancy Loss & Stillbirth.") Then, tonight, from 7 to 8 pm in your time zone, please light a candle for those babies who were taken far too soon and for their families -- who live each day with the pain left behind by their absence.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

why i've grown to hate october

As many of my longtime readers know, October is a special month for me. It's both breast cancer awareness month and it's the month of my mom's birthday. Confused about why I'm grouping these two events together?

Let me explain.

13 years ago, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She went through a lumpectomy and six months of grueling chemotherapy before going into complete remission. She has been cancer free since. October became not just the month that we could raise our voices about her disease and how others could help, but it became an appropriate way to celebrate her new lease on life. I loved October. It served as a symbol of hope and strength for our family.

Except for now, I hate October.

Don't get me wrong. I still love my mom's birthday and I still participate in raising awareness and funds for breast cancer/cancer research. It's what everyone else does that makes me hate this month. The pink washing. The Facebook statuses. All of the ridiculous things that people do in order to "raise awareness" for this disease. You can't go anywhere without the color of Pepto Bismol being shoved in your face in the name of finding a cure.

But here's the truth: none of that stuff raises awareness. None of it helps find a cure.

People know that breast cancer exists. They know that mammograms and self exams can help prevent it. Only that's not what breast cancer is all about. That's just scratching the surface of how we can (and should) be talking about this disease.

We need to change the mentality of "it won't happen to me." "I'm too young." Or, "I'm a man." Or, "no one in my family has it." We need to encourage those who say they don't have time to get checked or help those who need financial assistance in making it to the doctor or paying for that mammogram or getting tested for the BRCA gene mutation. We need to do a better job teaching women (and men) to do self exams. We need to educate the public on rare forms of breast cancer - types of breast cancer that have different signs and symptoms. Companies needs to stop hawking products, shelve their pink packaging, and dedicate that money, time, and energy directly to the non-profit organizations they partner with.

And we especially need to get off of Facebook and start taking meaningful action. As I wrote on my blog page last night, fake pregnancy announcements are disrespectful to the thousands of men and women left infertile each year because of cancer and/or cancer treatments, and Facebook statuses don't raise awareness or help the cause.

But the people behind those Facebook statuses can.

Each of us has the power to do something that can truly help. It could be a monetary donation to your favorite cancer charity (please don't forget your local organizations!). It could be volunteering to drive a patient to and from a chemo or radiation session. It could be learning how to do a self exam. Whatever direct action you choose to take this month, big or small, I can promise you this:

It will make a far bigger impact than sitting behind your computer and updating your Facebook status.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

dear congress

Dear Congress (or, you know, the few of you who don't want to play nicely):

Please, do the American people a favor and kindly remove your heads from your asses. Once you've done so, take a look around you and enjoy the view of what I'd like to call the "real world."

What does the real world consist of?

For starters, it consists of adults who go to work and actually do their jobs in order to earn a paycheck. (Unless they are furloughed government employees, of course. Then, they work for free.) What none of these people do is throw temper tantrums until their bosses or their coworkers cave and submit to their childish behaviors. They realize that there is a process. There are "laws" and "rules" by which they have to abide. Do you know what happens to "real" people when they don't do their jobs? They get voted off the island. I wish we could vote some of YOU off the island. Now.

It consists of men and women without health insurance because they've lost their jobs or they have preexisting conditions that prevent(ed) them from receiving healthcare. So, in order to get medical coverage and to ensure they maintained other rights afforded to them by the United States government, they went to the polls on November 6, 2012, and they voted -- overwhelmingly so -- for leaders who would keep the Affordable Care Act in place. I'm sorry if you don't like it. Next time, earn more votes.

It consists of senior citizens who need government programs like Social Security and Medicare to survive. Veterans who deserve everything they've earned, and more, for fighting for our country. Children who need to be clothed and fed. People who do not have second jobs or large bank accounts to fall back on when they are out of work or without a paycheck. Those who've come across hard times. Those who need a little bit of help brushing the dirt off and getting up again. Those who worked tirelessly to try to better their situations and they can't seem to catch a break.

But, most importantly, it consists of citizens who truly believe that our country cannot be the land of opportunity unless we, as citizens, support one another -- especially those that need help standing. While some of you are busy trying to push your own agenda, there are many Americans who are stepping up to the plate to bat in your absence: from the couple who donated millions to fund Head Start during the shutdown to the ordinary, everyday men and women who are donating food, clothing, and baby items to local shelters.

So, soak it in. Enjoy the fresh, shit-free air. And then do us all a favor: vote on a clean bill to fund our government.

Sincerely,

Me

Friday, October 4, 2013

1236

This week, I witnessed several friends go through some sort of crisis or face unpleasant situations. In a couple of cases, the situations were awkward and delicate, and I had to decide whether speaking out and offering my support was going to help or make things more uncomfortable for that person.

It made me think back to my days in the trenches of infertility. From start to finish, from diagnosis to holding my baby in my arms, I spent 1236 days as a childless infertile. Over three years, not counting the months we tried to conceive on our own, before our diagnosis. 1236 lonely, heart-wrenching days of carrying around this shameful disease. 1236 days of pain, both physical and mental. It was not easy. It still isn't. Regardless, I spoke out from the very beginning about it, which resulted in many friends and family members stepping forward and offering their support. Sometimes, their words weren't helpful. At all. In fact, sometimes their words were downright inconsiderate. But do you know what I remember more than the ignorant remarks?

I remember the silence.

I remember all of the people who never stepped up to the plate. I remember every friend and family member whose lips remained glued shut over those 1236 days, saying nothing. Maybe they were afraid to speak up. Maybe they didn't know what to say. Maybe they thought that they were going to make things more uncomfortable for me. They certainly did with their silence.

There's a common saying, "forgive but don't forget." This is what I've done in the months since I've had my daughter in my arms. I've forgiven those who never spoke up. I've made peace with their choices, but I certainly don't forget who they are or how their silence made me feel. That deafening silence also taught me a valuable lesson, one that I was reminded of this week. Speaking out wasn't going to make the other person, the person going through the motions of whatever hardship they were experiencing, feel uncomfortable. No. It was going to make me feel uncomfortable.

Keep it generic. Offer support, but not unsolicited advice. Don't offer pity; offer empathy. It's okay to say, "This sucks." These are the thoughts that ran through my mind as I typed my words into messages to more than one friend this week. These are the words that I always wanted to hear. These are the words that comforted me during the most difficult of those 1236 days. Most importantly, they were words from someone who just wanted me to know that he or she cared.

They were much easier to hear than the sounds of silence.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

15 months

It's hard to believe that there are only three months left in 2013. It feels like just yesterday we were celebrating Christmas and New Years. Now, both holidays are rapidly approaching again.

K turns 15 months old today. I'm happy to report that she's moving around a lot more on her feet than she is via crawling. I think it just took her a few weeks to gain a bit of confidence in her steps. She has a doctor's appointment next week, but recent trips to the office (for a 24-hour virus and a bad diaper rash) have shown us that she's slowly but surely nearing the 20 lb. mark. I think at last check she was 19 lbs. 8 oz. with clothes on.

She's also becoming more vocal. She's said "dada" for quite a while now, but she's expanded her vocabulary in recent weeks to include "dog," "bye," "yay," and - at long last - "mama." She's also trying to mimic words that I say. The other night, she had a cow in her hand from her farm set, and I said, "Cows go moo." She then tried several times to say "moo." I'm looking forward to the coming months as she learns new words and phrases, mostly because it's become difficult to determine what she wants. She'll sometimes point and babble at things, and I'm not sure what she's saying or asking! I think this is one of the ways we could have benefitted from more baby sign language, but that's okay. She does know "more," which she uses regularly at meal times.

Sleep is hit or miss. For the most part, she does well - averaging around 12 hours at night, sometimes longer, with one two-hour nap during the day. Then, there are some nights where she tosses and turns. I think part of it is teeth (she has 11 now, with several more on the way), but the rest may be growth/development related.

It's no surprise that she has quite a bit of spunk to her. We call her "the diva" or "the drama queen," and she lives up to these standards. She's stubborn, demanding, and independent. She wants things HER way and on HER time. We've already witnessed a few tantrums, and I'm sure there are more in our future. (I swear, this is karma for all of the times that I had an attitude with my mother as a child.) But despite the occasional meltdown, she is loads of fun. Her laughter is infectious, and I love watching her and Danica play together each night. She's also incredibly loving. She gives us so many kisses and cuddles, and it melts my heart each and every time she does it.

Parenthood isn't always easy; however, it's more than worth every single obstacle we endured along the way. It's amazing to watch her grow every day, and we love her to pieces.