september 2013 monthly theme – why we blog

When I started my blog, it was a place to post pictures and hilarious anecdotes about my kid because I had quit Facebook.  I had been secretly reading IF blogs when I was pregnant with him, hoping to find someone mirroring the difficult emotions I was feeling not only being pregnant after experiencing infertility and miscarriages, but also how to cope when you are pregnant and your infertile friend is not. I found a few people that today I call my friends. These people saved my life.

And then… then I starting to write about my journey on my very public, very NOT anonymous blog. I needed to get some of that agonizing weight off my chest. I needed the people in my life to see it. I needed to be recognized. I needed to come out of the shadows. When the PAIL blogroll was first started, I added the button so quickly you would think my life had depended on it. Which honestly, at the time, it did. Even through all of the difficulty in getting this niche space together, I felt very strongly that this space had VALUE. I still do. I always will.

Each of us here at PAIL has a different interpretation of our mission statement. Mine has always been “Just keep talking.” Just keep talking. Or don’t. Or just listen. Or close up shop and move on in a different way. Every path to resolution is valid, as is every path we take with our blogs. You need to do what you need to do to process, to move forward, to heal from this. When I say “just keep talking” I suppose what I mean is that I think it is a disservice to the community as a whole to not talk about what it feels like, IS like, when the baby comes home.  We need to be able to find people further down the path to follow, to lead us through the tough spots, to hold our hands, to cheer us on, to understand.

I am not one to blog about blogging. To be honest, I usually skip posts about it. Ah, but then I entered Blog Identity Crisis #187346 and started to really, genuinely think about my space and what I want to do with it now that I am (99%) sure that family building is behind me. It’s a tricky place to be in, when you feel resolved in your heart, but you aren’t sure how to let go. But I’ll write more about that on my own blog in my submission for this month’s theme.

Suggested Writing Prompts

  • Did you start blogging before, during, or after your journey though infertility/loss/adoption? 
  • Why did you start blogging? What has kept you blogging?
  • When you became a parent did you transition your blog or start a new space? What were your reasons for doing so? How do you feel about your decision now?
  • Have you ever felt pressure to blog about certain things and not others? What influences your writing, if anything?
  • What did you hope to achieve by blogging? Do you feel that you have done this?
  • Why is blogging important to you NOW?
  • What value do you see in blogging the “after”? 

As always, these questions are just a guide. Please feel free to write anything and everything you would like to on this topic in whichever way suits you best. If you have previously written on this topic, feel free to link away in your post, or submit any previous post on the topic as you see fit. And of course, if you do not have a blog of your own, we are happy to hear your thoughts in the comments and will link to your comment in the full post list for all to read.

Entries for this month’s theme are due Thursday, September 26th at midnight, EST. The full list of links will go live on Friday, September 27th.

Please submit your posts using this form:

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guest post: sexual assault and infertility

I’d like to preface this article by saying that some may find it triggering.

Take care of yourselves, Mamas!

*****

Thirteen years ago, I was at my church youth group.  When I left the room to go to the bathroom, I was followed and violently attacked by knife point.  The gift I had hoped to give my husband was stolen from me, and I was left alone by the church with a Pastor who immediately asked “Well, why were you outside the youth room?”

Eight years later, I meet the man of my dreams.  He is normal, calm, a gentleman… and dealt with all my quirks.  He had to be in my line of sight to make sandwiches with knives, he couldn’t walk behind me, and he dealt with debilitating flashbacks and nightmares until a magical combination of medication and counseling finally created the woman I am proud to be today.  This entry is not a woe-is-me post… but rather a story about how sexual assault can complicate infertility treatments and birth.

We tried for so long with Ethan. Sex is (was) triggering, and more of a chore than anything else. So many people telling me to “Just Relax” was triggering.  It was laughable, the journey to becoming the very person I wanted to be (a mama) was made traumatic by my past.  And then came the internal ultrasounds; again, things were taken out of my control and placed into the hands of someone else.  Though I was aware of these ultrasounds, I traveled outside of myself frequently, just wishing to get pregnant so every month I didn’t feel violated again and again.  My RE was understanding, at least to the point someone could go who had not been through what I had.  She was informative and empowering by allowing me to set the pace and telling me everything she was doing.  Though I had that power, it was still the hardest three years I’ve ever gone through.

And then we got pregnant.  We were over the moon, and finally I felt like I could have 9 months of blissful lack of vaginal disruption.  I got passed from my RE to an OB/GYN.  I met with this OB a few weeks later, where she had me undress.  I talked with the nurse, and requested to be informed about everything prior to the OB doing anything.  She made sure to tell me that the message would be passed along.

It wasn’t.  The OB came in, and proceeded to examine me in ways that I didn’t feel I consented to, and it was one of the most shameful and triggering experiences.  When I told her to stop, she told me that it was necessary to examine me to make sure I was in good shape for the pregnancy and continued on.  She left and I cried.

After that visit, I made a complaint to the medical board.  They wrote back and told me that what she did wasn’t out of the scope of her practice and they would not be passing along my complaints.  I was flabbergasted.

This infuriated me, but also was the turning point for my care during my pregnancy.

I found a midwife.  I needed to feel more in control, and to feel like I had an advocate.  I finally felt I had a voice.  I started saying “No.”  I required everything that was being done for me and to me to be authorized BY me.   Suddenly, my birth was empowering instead of frightening and triggering.  I took back my own body in a new way.

I write this post as I am starting my own journey towards my Doula certification and reading a book described as the birth for sexual assault survivors bible.  I hope that I can help empower other women to find their own voice; their own power in birth.

I write this post  to empower you to tell yours.  When there are as many blogs on this blogroll as there are, statistically, there are at least 33% of us who have gone through some sort of sexual abuse.

You are not alone.

*****

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Julia, formerly a molder of young minds, has briefly stepped away from that task to manufacture a child of her own. Along with the standard baby accessories such as hands and lips, she is planning on installing chrome side-pipes, rollbars, and a bitchin’ spoiler. She is fending off accusations that Jesse James is the true father.

news item: DNA repair gene BRCA1 helps keep egg cells young

New research is showing a link between the BRCA1 gene (the “breast cancer” gene) and infertility. An article published by http://www.medicaldaily.com reports researchers from a NIH funded institute found that the BRCA1 gene, in its functional form, aided in the repair of female egg cells, keeping them from self-destruction.

As female eggs age, DNA damage occurs. The body has mechanisms to help repair these eggs, but eventually those mechanisms wear out as we age, and our eggs are no longer able to be repaired and they self-destruct. Enter menopause. However, for some women menopause occurs much earlier than anticipated and/or they are told they have relatively low egg reserve at a very young age. What causes this to occur?

Researchers looked at the role the BRCA1 gene plays in DNA repair for eggs of lab mice. In this study researchers turned off the genes, including the BRCA1 gene, associated with repairing damaged egg cells:

The research confirmed that a fully functional BRCA1 gene is extremely important to women’s health. Mice with non-functional BRCA1 genes were less fertile, had fewer oocytes, and had more double-stranded DNA breaks.

What does this mean for infertility? Will testing for BRCA1 defects become part of a standard infertility workup? Will women with a history of breast cancer in their families be encouraged to have some infertility testing done sooner rather than later, say checking egg reserve in their mid twenties?

We hope you will read “DNA Repair Gene BRCA1 Helps Keep Egg Cells Young” and let us know what you think.

*****

Have you been tested for BRCA1 defects? 

Should women with low ovarian reserve be tested for the BRCA1 defects?

Conversely, should women with history of breast cancer be encouraged at a young age to undergo infertility testing along with BRCA1 testing?

*****

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PAIL headshotChandra is a Mom and Foster Mom. She holds a Master’s degree in Theology and is particularly interested in the theology of infertility. Chandra grew up in the Northeast but she and her husband are raising their daughter in the middle-of-nowhere Indiana. She has 3 chickens that drive her crazy, a huge garden, and a penchant for bacon. She occasionally attempts to make sense of all those things, and more, over at her blog, MetholicBlog. She also shares embarrassing stories about her husband and unicorns.

news item: savory and sweet a taste for infertility

The headline and brief blurb of the article are what pulled me in to read it: “taste cells found in testicles” and I knew I had to click the link and read more. What does that say about my reading interests? Well, never-you-mind.

What kept me reading was that this article was talking about the worldwide decline in male fertility and some new research that found a link between,

Some of the same genes that allow us to sense sweet and umami flavors are also active in a man’s testes and sperm. According to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Tuesday, suppressing these genes may affect not only his ability to taste but also his ability to reproduce.

Scientists engineered the specific human genes  that control taste receptors and the proteins that relay those tastes to our brain into mice. They then deactivated them to see what would happen. Surprise of all surprises, the male mice became completely, 100%, sterile.

This is another link in figuring out the puzzle that is the decline of male fertility. Recently, at a gathering of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, the topic of a potential “sperm crisis[1]” was the subject of an entire day of this annual meeting.

Geneticist Bedrich Monsinger, who lead the team in this research, says “there is a worldwide decline in male fertility…We speculate that there is something in the environment causing this.”

Monsinger references specifically prescription drugs that have known side effects of blocking the gene controlling our taste receptors and also some commonly used herbicides.

This article, and the one referenced in the footnote below, are interesting to me as they bring to the forefront an often forgotten or ignored aspect of the fertility equation, and that is male infertility,  male subfertility, and the impact of ‘environmental factors’ on all aspects of fertility.

Check out Savory and Sweet: A Taste For Infertility, and also the Wall Street Journal article referenced in the footnote. Tell us what you think, what you found interesting, or any related news or blog this reminds you of. Below are some suggested prompts, but please don’t restrain your comments to just these questions.

*****

At the end of the news article, the author spins the story away from issues of male fertility and talks about the research’s possible application to rodent birth control. Does this diminish the story for you? Does it do a disservice to those trying to remove the stigma of male infertility from our culture?

Research has shown clinical proof of environmental factors affecting sperm counts and function. Has this changed your lifestyle in any way? 

Were you offered a semen analysis as part of your initial fertility workup?

*****

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PAIL headshotChandra is a Mom and Foster Mom. She holds a Master’s degree in Theology and is particularly interested in the theology of infertility. Chandra grew up in the Northeast but she and her husband are raising their daughter in the middle-of-nowhere Indiana. She has 3 chickens that drive her crazy, a huge garden, and a penchant for bacon. She occasionally attempts to make sense of all those things, and more, over at her blog, MetholicBlog. She also shares embarrassing stories about her husband and unicorns.


[1]“The Decline in Male Fertility”, by Shirley S. Wang, The Wall Street Journal. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323394504578607641775723354.html

It takes balls…

This is part two of our two-part feature on male factor infertility issues. Yesterday I shared an article about what it’s like for men dealing with infertility. (Click here to catch up.) Today, my husband is guest posting to give us his personal take on it. We hope you’ll enjoy and share your thoughts with us.

They are THE symbol of virility. And, for the man who really wants to make a “statement” about his manhood, he can even hang a pair from his truck bumper. Regardless of what that statement might be (that’s a blog post for another board/time), as a man who has struggled with male-factor infertility (MFI), I find the truck nut statement, regardless of what it might be, confusing. Do the balls really make the man? If so, what does that mean for a man who may be struggling to “do his part” in conceiving a child? What I’ve learned on my journey with MFI is that it’s not the circumference of one’s testicles that makes the man, but the size of his… I’m getting ahead of myself.

First, a little about my story.

It was December of 2010, Chandra and I had been married for two and a half years when we miscarried. Yes, “we.” We miscarried after months of preparations, procedures and counseling with a fertility specialist. We. Nothing can prepare you to “be a man” in the midst of a miscarriage. I’ll never forget that night: running to Walgreen’s and buying multiple pregnancy tests to “make sure” that it wasn’t a misreading; sitting in the hall as Chandra took the tests; barging in when she started bawling; and, holding her as we cried in each other’s arms on the bathroom floor.

I wish I could wax eloquently about the emotions that led to my decision to get tested. The fact of the matter is that I couldn’t bear to see my wife so heartbroken again. I had to do something. And, that something was making sure I was “doing my part.” After several “complete” examinations (and I mean complete—in 21 years when I turn 50, I’ll know exactly what to expect), it was determined that I had varicoceles that were overheating “the boys.” Surgery was the only option: a same-day surgery with a small incision just below the belt line. February of 2011 I had the surgery. I had to be horizontal for a week and no “heavy-lifting” for a week after that. Since I work in a very public setting, and I was out for two weeks, news quickly spread about me being “laid up.” And, though this was a private matter, the rumors became very public. People were spreading unflattering rumors about my balls. Seriously, I’m a pastor not a porn star. It was strange that otherwise great people felt it their responsibility to provide commentary on something they knew nothing about. The rumors were embarrassing and spread quickly. Nevertheless, I stayed quiet and let the rumors circulate and run their course without saying much of anything. But, I shouldn’t have. I should have said something then, but I didn’t. So, I’m going to say it now…

Male factor infertility doesn’t make you less of a man.

Manhood is not defined by the circumference (or the productivity) of the testicles hanging between your legs (or from the bumper of your truck!). The true measure of a man is his ability to see the truth of a situation and do something about it.

Male factor infertility is a real issue that we (especially men) can’t ignore. According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine:

“about one-third of infertility can be attributed to male alone factors.”[i]

It’s a common issue. By saying and doing nothing, we are diminishing our manhood. Denying the truth of a situation doesn’t help anyone. Let me be clear: being open about and dealing with male factor infertility will “take a lot of balls.” It takes courage to talk about, find answers to, and go through treatments (if there are any) for MFI; but, in the end, it’ll make us all better men.

Male factor infertility isn’t easy to talk about. I know that. This is really the first time in three years that I’ve written or spoken so openly about it. I know, statistically, I’m not alone on this journey, but there aren’t many other men who are willing to talk about male factor infertility. “It takes balls” to tell your story. I’ve found and shared mine. Will you?

What’s your story?


Has male-factor infertility affected or influenced the way you understand manhood?

*****

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*****

daddy unicornChandra is a Mom and Foster Mom. She holds a Master’s degree in Theology and is particularly interested in the theology of infertility. Chandra’s husband has *balls* and she is so crazy in love with him it’s not even funny. She occasionally attempts to make sense of all those things, and more, over at her blog, MetholicBlog. She also shares embarrassing stories about her husband and unicorns, because yeah, he’s so manly he plays toy unicorns with his daughter, Stella, and they have magical adventures together.


[i] “Men’s Health: Male Factor Infertility” at OSU.edu <http://medicalcenter.osu.edu/patientcare/healthcare_services/mens_health/male_factor_infertility/Pages/index.aspx> Accessed June 19, 2013.

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