news item: “Child-Blessed vs. Child-Less”

I live in Portland.  Yes.  Portlandia Portland.  And yes, it’s pretty much spot on.

Here in Portland there are two types of adults (at least the two most vocal types.)

  • The Child Free- OMG don’t you bring your child near me, I hate them, and you are ruining the world by over-populating it with selfish brats (which all children are.)
  • The Crunchy Mamas- OMG don’t bring up the idea of vaccinations, fluoride in the water or disposable diapers. I will feed my children all natural vegan foods, unless the eggs come from our free range backyard chicken and butter from our hormone free pet cow.  No. Seriously.  (I may have exaggerated about the cow, but the chicken is totally accurate.)

When I was younger, I vowed to not be that parent… the one who loses touch with all their child-free friends.  Then I looked at my collection of Facebook friends (because obviously that is the best way to evaluate your real friends… right? /sarcasm.)  Now, I’m surrounded by couples whose child is the center of the universe, or people who just “don’t get” why anyone would have a child.

Somewhere along the line of evolution, women have been led to believe they haven’t achieved their full life’s potential without becoming a mother. We are made to breed, society says. This leads to the clash of beliefs here in Portland, because the strong, independent women think children will diminish their value – or keep them from fulfilling their goals.  Women are asked to balance work and family and to do both amazingly well. An article Josey sent me titled “Childless people are full of sadness and regret’ is something that people that have children say” sang words of truth to me.

Did you hear that, ladies? If you’re really ambitious, you should have a career and children, and a successful life will mean mastering both! And if you don’t have children, well, you can expect that your Mommy friends will bail on you, and you’ll feel totally left out of the riveting conversations about lunch strategies, daycare, how to deal with sick children, and poop!

… Childlessness is a source of sadness and regret. Most of those 43 per cent will have gone through fertility hell, or never met the right guy, or left it too late, or have any number of unhappy stories.

Few would say: ‘I don’t want, and never wanted, children.’

The NYT posted an Article entitled “Can Parents Stay Friends with the Child-Free?”  says:

With fertility treatment widely available, not to mention adoption, even clinically infertile women have more options than ever to become mothers, which increases the possibility that any woman who doesn’t will be judged for her choice.

Which brings me to my question: Do we, as women who are also mothers, judge women who are not? And if we do, do we do it overtly or subconsciously — or just by excluding and including people in our lives based on proximity and similarity without realizing that the path of least resistance is one that, for a parent like me, includes mainly friends who are piloting similar family boats?

If by judgment you mean choosing who to hang out with at a cocktail party, then maybe we, or at least I, do judge. I have child-free friends, but I’m forced to admit that since being a parent became my primary non-work activity, more and more of the friends I’ve made have been parents as well — to the point that I can’t, at the moment, point to a real friend I’ve made within the last five years who doesn’t have children.

Among my friends is one solitary married girl who does not ever plan to have children.  Though she be young, and still might, I’ve never had an issue… nor questioned her desire not to, but she immediately started to explain why… with an extensive list.  When I asked her why she felt she needed to explain, she said “Most people, especially women, just don’t get why I wouldn’t want to.  I just… don’t want kids.”

One day I was at a friend’s daughter’s birthday party.  A single 20-something gal was chatting with some mutual friends.  I over heard her say “I just don’t get it.  It’s SO annoying when people put up so many photos on Facebook of their kids.  Usually it’s 10 photos of the kid doing the same thing, with a slightly different expression.  It’s obnoxious.”  (She then went into a lengthy diatribe about shoes and manicures, which I’m sure I found equally obnoxious.)  And though I promised never to talk about any fluids from my child’s body, nor share nude-y pictures of my son… I hate to admit it, but it’s true. Interestingly enough, a couple months later she became an aunt and posted OHSOMANY photos.  I overheard her later talking about and sharing multiple photos of her nephew… doing the same things, with slightly different expressions.  I may have smirked.  Just a little.

The NYT article goes on to say:

As a parent myself, I don’t read my tendency to gravitate toward fellow mothers as judgment — I read it as practical. Fellow parents are more likely to understand if I bail on dinner because of a sudden teacher conference, and their eyes are less likely to glaze over if my preoccupation at that dinner is more temper tantrums than, say, the right way to temper chocolate (which might once have held my interest for hours). In fact, I’d argue that it’s win-win.

As a full time SAHM (who works outside the house in the evenings) I have little to talk about other than my son, so it’s way easier to have complex conversations of interest with other parents.  They are more than happy to entertain my thoughts of toddler beds vs cribs… or hear my latest rant about nap-time roulette.

The author suspects that the “child-blessed” judge the “childless” about their choices. My response would be that those who are childless *by choice* are having far too much fun running around unencumbered by the demands of children that they hardly care if they’re excluded from “cultural conversation” about the choice they’ve made.

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What do you think?  Do YOU have a lot of child-less friends? Does infertility factor into any of your thoughts on this issue?

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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: my effort to CTFD

Throughout my life, I’ve had a penchant to CONTROL ALL THE THINGS!!

This focus reared it’s ugly head when my birth plan of a pretty, quiet, candlelit water-birth went all to hell, and I found myself getting a C-Section.  It was a HUGE awakening which led to me starting to embrace the unpredictability of life with children.

I joined a mom and me group and realized there was a whole new realm to wound parenting.

  • Suddenly, I was surrounded by other first-time parents who avoided disposable diapers like they would personally cause the demise of all landfill controls. (THE TREES, Julia, THINK OF THE TREES, THE TRUFULLA TREES!! Do you hate rainbows?)
  • People shunned television like it boiled your brains, while I was hooked on the latest trial airing on HLN. (It’s wrong to watch Grey’s Anatomy with your toddler?  It’s EDUCATIONAL!  Don’t go out with McSteamy!!!!!!)
  • They read no less than 39485749 parenting books, and I was uneducated because I hadn’t. (CIO CAUSES DETACHMENT AND SERIAL KILLERS!!)
  • Formula was the devil, causing cancer, 6 toes and deformed eyeballs, while I broke out my Kirkland brand bottle.  (YOU DON’T BUY DONOR BREASTMILK????)
  • I gave my son cheerios, but ZOMG IT ISN’T ORGANIC!!!! (And not PRE-CHEWED????)
  • They avoiding giving their children finger paint because the WHITE ONESIES WILL BE RUINED. (Not to mention SKIN CANCER!)
  • “My child is the only kid not sitting up yet, she will be the only kid in college in a bumbo!!!” (Direct mommy quote from group.  Thankfully, 90% in jest.)

Suddenly moms were super worried because their 1 year old wasn’t walking, or saying two word sentences… or able to finish a simple calculus problem.  They had their kids in six different enrichment classes but worried that perhaps it isn’t to early to start Latin.  I bring up these points as a sort of irony.  These were the things I rolled my eyes at when I was a “young parent.”

Then I realized that my need for C’ing the FD was less apparent, a quiet and isolating one.

  • I was nervous to take my son out (What if he misses his nap window?)
  • I was concerned that he wasn’t saying any actual words at one (SPEECH THERAPY MUST BE NEEDED?!?!)
  • I didn’t want anyone to come babysit, because my dog is kind of a jerk and likes to jump in the fountain.
  • I hated having my mother up, because I felt I had to manage her, and also my son.  (And good god, when will I have time to clean the guest bathroom?)

This lead to a life of solitude for a long while. I didn’t want to go out… I didn’t want people over…  I found that my ability to form complex sentences (read; more than 2 words long) was severely diminished. My wit, developed from a couple decades of interactions with creative and fun people… died.

One day my husband sat down and told me “Julia, I don’t feel like I can invite my friends over, because I know how anxious you get… and it makes me sad.”

*BLINK*

That was a light bulb moment for me.  We sat down and had a very long talk about why I was so anxious in all areas of my life.  It boiled down to one thought:

“Things could go Terribly, Horribly Wrong.” 

This thought dominated so many parts of my life, and until I put a name to it, I just had no idea how much control it had over me.  Anxiety runs through my family, and I didn’t even realize I was anxious.  Anxiousness was a state of being, one that I didn’t know there was a way out of.

Relationships are messy.  Parenting is messy.

I needed to Calm the F*ck Down.

This mantra has been a turning point in my life.  My husband says that I have become a brand new person… One whom can acknowledge when things are going to be crazy, and embrace it.

I’m a mom who knows that at any point, Things Could Go Terribly, Horribly Wrong.  Chances are, nothing I do (or don’t do) will scar my toddler for life.  However, the absence of a moderately sane mom could cost me thousands in therapy bills.

*****

In what areas do you need to “CTFD?” 

What things do you worry about going “terribly horribly wrong?”

What are some of the silly things you worried about early on?  

What are some of the silly things you worry about now?

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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.

guest post: “New Chapters”

Julia‘s post “New Chapters” was originally posted on her personal blog, 3 Bed, 2 Bath, 1 Baby. It is being re-posted in its entirety here today with her permission. She had originally submitted an article to us regarding “The 5 Stages of Infertility Grief,” and we asked her to do the write up on it. Enjoy!

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I’ve been absent from the blog for a while.  And though I thoroughly enjoy the Toddler Town Updates (fear not, another is coming) I have something more serious to talk about today.  The state of the Uterus Address is back.

We’ve been trying since the new year for our second child.  We’ve kept it fairly quiet, as the pressure from family and friends of “Are you pregnant yet” took a VERY big toll on me emotionally and physically when we were trying for Ethan.  So, we’ve quietly been plugging along, hoping to have a second child.  My heart has been aching every 40 days as we learned yet again I wasn’t expecting, and I’d have to go through yet ANOTHER round of hoping and disappointment. It seemed like everyone in my moms group was expecting again, and I just felt… so left behind.

We put a limit of trying for one year for baby #2.  Neither of us wanted to go down the road of cascading infertility interventions, and NOBODY wants to see me on Clomid again.  My poor husband lived with an overheated girl in the middle of winter.  Snow was on the ground, and I had to keep the windows open.  But we both felt like we “should” try for another.

We kept it secret, except for a very small group of friends and family… because I didn’t want to pressure of “you’re drinking water… IS THERE SOMETHING YOU WANT TO TELL US?”  “Well you’ve had one, so the second will be easy!”  “You’re SO YOUNG.”  (Can we all have a collective sigh here?  *SIGH.*)  A co-worker even said “Well, you can just adopt! And plus you’ve had one, so the second will be easier!!”  I wanted to cry.  But instead, I smiled and said something like “Yeah, that’s not how it works. But thanks.”  She went off to teach her class, and I sat and cried.

When I originally read this article, we were in the midst of trying.  I related with so many of the stages of grief listed in relation to IF that it hurt.  Since then, the course of our lives has changed.

DENIAL: 6 cycles passed with us trying. Obviously, HPT #50 is wrong, I must pee on another “non-faulty” stick!!!!  I’m sure that’s just spotting from implantation, right?  Those crampy feelings must be that too.  And the sick feelings? Definitely NOT from overeating sushi.  Nope.

ANGER: The highs and lows of hopes going up and being dashed again and again started to take their toll.  As a sexual assault survivor, trying for a baby is triggering, and the idea of intervention again was also triggering… and then one day, we both just sat down, and the topic of baby #2 came up.  We waffled between trying and not trying for so long, I’m sure my friends in my mom group were sick of the “yes we are-no we aren’t” game… so I loathed to change again… but something happened.
We both sat down and said simultaneously  “I don’t think we should have another.”  We went through all the reasons why Ethan was enough to complete our family.

And this time it was so… easy to make the choice.

BARGAINING:  When we decided to try for baby #2, we went through many reasons in our mind as to why it was a fantastic idea.  “Ethan will have a brother!  We LOVE kids!  Won’t it be cool when it’s Christmas and we hear two sets of pattering feet?  Permanent playmates are awesome!  Only children are spoiled and lonelyyyyyyyy!*”   (*I was silly to buy into this one, I’m an only and neither lonely nor spoiled.)

But this time it was so… easy to make the choice.

DEPRESSION: Perhaps the guilt of it being so hard to have Ethan got me thinking that I HAD to try for another.  All that work, and stopping only at one?  You are supposed to have a brood to make up for all the medication, the trials, the ultrasounds, the surgery, the miscarriages… YOU MUST YOU MUST. YOU SHOULD YOU SHOULD.

But, it was so… easy.

ACCEPTANCE: For the past two years, I had been interested in being a Doula.  The “maybe” of #2 was keeping this dream on the back-burner.  Things just kept popping up, as if the Universe was saying “Julia, you CAN stop.  It’s okay.”

– Moms in my moms group started talking about wanting me as their Doula… I could get my practicum birth requirements completed.
-A Doula friend of mine had potential room to include me in her Doula business, giving me immediate access to clients, a friend in the business, a mentor, a partner…
-My birthday money would be almost to the penny what I’d need to get the required workshops paid for.
-A mom friend wanted to give me her library of birthing books.

It went on and on.

Nothing my husband and I have ever done has been the battle that baby #2 was. Nothing that has ever worked out for us  was this struggle and back and forth we endured.  We strongly both feel that the Universe gives us the path, and sometimes we just have to surrender to it instead of battling it. Though I spent a while mourning the loss of the baby that would never be, it was different.  More of an acknowledgement of my feelings, and excitement about the next phase in my life.

And it was so… easy.

I can’t tell you enough about the peace I now feel.  Knowing that at least for the next few years, but possibly forever, the pressure of tracking every cycle, scrutinizing every feeling I had, is over.  I look at Ethan in a new way.  In a “this is the only time I will have a child this age.”  I don’t believe in the Carpe Diem motto of parenting (because I don’t want to carpe today’s diem of him grabbing his diaper, pulling it above his head and smearing poop on his face… can you blame me?) However, I have a new focus on him.  I’m no longer planning for the baby that might not be, I’ve refocused on the one I have. Our family is complete, and I finally realized it.

It is a page I’ve turned.

And it was the best thing I’ve ever done.

*****

Where are you at in the 5 stages mentioned above?

Have you found yourself moving back and forth through the stages during different times in your ALI journey?

*****

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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.

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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: Latest IVF Scare: ICSI and Intellectual Disabilities

The news was full of dramatic headlines about the results of the latest IVF study last week. This study, the first to compare IVF treatments and the risk of neurodevelopmental disorders in children, found that ICSI was associated with an increased risk of intellectual disability and autism in children.

Researchers analyzed over 2.5 million Swedish birth records and compared those born via IVF with those conceived naturally. Here’s the data:

  • 1.2% or 30,959 children were born via IVF
  • Of the 6959 children diagnosed with autism, 103 were born via IVF
  • Of the 15,830 with intellectual disability, 180 were born via IVF

The Good News

While there does not appear to be an increased risk for autism for children born from IVF, there is a small increased risk of intellectual disability for children born from IVF: about 47 in 100,000 infants born from IVF compared to 40 in 100,000 for those conceived naturally. Unsurprisingly, this increase disappeared when researchers factored in multiple births.

The Bad News

More concerning, however, was what the researchers found when they compared outcomes by IVF procedures: fresh embryos, frozen embryos, ICSI, and if ICSI was used, how the sperm was obtained (surgically or ejaculated).  The researchers found that children born from IVF utilizing ICSI (regardless of fresh or frozen embryos) were at a 51% increased risk of intellectual disability (62 to 93 births out of 100,000). Even when the researchers adjusted for pre-term and multiple births, IVF using ICSI and fresh embryos was still associated with an increased risk of intellectual disability.

The news outlets are interpreting these findings as a much-needed reminder that male-factor infertility exists and could have ramifications for couples to consider since ICSI began as a treatment for male infertility.  What many of the articles ignore is that clinical usage of ICSI has expanded beyond male-factor infertility to be used for many patients undergoing IVF. My husband does not have male-factor infertility, but our eggs were fertilized using ICSI during both of our fresh IVF cycles because, as this article notes, ICSI works.

The problem is that injecting the sperm into the egg bypasses the “survival of the fittest” process most sperm have to go through to fertilize an egg. I’m speculating here, but it’s likely that the line of though most embryologists and clinics take is that if the sperm is bad, the egg won’t develop or the embryo will arrest before transfer or freezing or will result in an early miscarriage. Nature’s safeguards will still prevail.

I’m concerned that this study and the emphasis it places on male-factor infertility will confirm the general public’s tendency to believe that ART is playing God and that interventions such as IVF and ICSI allow couples who possibly should not be able to reproduce to do so.  I also worry about the despair it could cause couples suffering from male-factor infertility and/or relying on ICSI as part of their treatment arsenal: they really are genetically inferior.

It’s important to remember that the outcome of intellectual disability after ICSI is still very rare and that ICSI remains a safe option for the overwhelming majority of couples using it.  These types of articles frustrate me because they tend to overstate the results of these studies almost gleefully: of course IVF is unsafe. We told you so!  The bottom line is that having children, having healthy children, is a crap shoot that every couple faces regardless of whether they use ART or conceive naturally. And reproductive science continues to advance all the time. On the heels of the sensational IVF/intellectual disability headlines came the news about Connor Levy, a baby born after his parents had cells from their IVF embryos sent to Oxford for scientists to analyze for genetic abnormalities. The results of the analysis enabled the Levys’ doctors to transfer the best embryo; the screening process is being hailed as revolutionizing IVF and potentially reducing the number of multiple births.  Maybe in a few years, we’ll regard the study’s findings about ICSI as a quaint example of IVF’s earlier days.

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What do you think of the results of the survey? Did you use ICSI? Would it change your usage of ICSI?

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Keanne of Family Building With a Twist in her own words: I’m KeAnne (like LeeAnne w/ a “K”). Mommy to 1. Wife to someone who knows how my mind works. Scary (you should see what goes on in my mind). Owned by 3 cats. I work full time and don’t craft or DIY (you’re welcome). I like books, conspiracy theories, Downton Abbey and cooking. I dislike chocolate, zinfandel, carpet beetles and experts. Expect over-thinking, the occasional rant, strong opinions and the occasional (OK, often) piece of useless knowledge.

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