Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My Failed Family

"See how time makes all grief decay.
- Adelaide Proctor

This time last year I was in limbo between a crappy visit to my home state of Ohio and the death of my mother. I had commented in a blog posts that maybe one day I would write my feelings about all of this but maybe not. It's been a year and I think I'm finally ready. I'm ready to say "Good bye" to certain parts of my extended family that either floated away unceremoniously or came to a fiery end.

A few months after my mom died my grandmother, heartbroken - literally, died too. Death exposes vulnerability in the living and man oh man, sometimes there are some strong reactions. Facebook is a great forum for inappropriate and thoughtless criticisms,  and email is a convenient format for impersonal rebuttal. The result was the severance of a relationship with a cousin. A few months later his mother, my aunt, passively refused to come not but a few miles down the road see me after I traveled across the country to be in Ohio. She's never met Ada and probably never will. Things are no better with my two other cousins on my moms side. One came to San Francisco a few months ago and didn't bother to even make contact.


I didn't see this coming. When I was 8 years old there was nothing you could have said that would lead me to believe that the safety net that I believed without question would always be there to catch me would absolutely vanish into thin air. Gone are the days of masses of people crowded around the table at Thanksgiving or passing out in front of a football game on Christmas day or taking turns kneading the babka for Easter. This big, close family I grew up with who were always just around has disintegrated.
All I have left is an aunt on my mom's side and my a cousin on my dad's side. I don't mean it to sound like they aren't enough, it's just a depressingly whittled down version of what I grew up with. (you're not in this head count, dad. You're kind of stuck with me whether you like it or not.)


I'm sad.

I am mostly sad for Ada who will miss out on all the security and drama of an extended family. She will have Tim's family and they are rowdy and extended and have warmly welcomed me. It's just different for me, though. I can't tell her stories about the crazy things I did with these people when we were kids.


Some good has come of this. While I have craved familial stability since my parents split up I am even more determined than ever to create it within my own little nucleus of a family. I am hell-bent on growing our family to include at least one more baby. Tradition and connectedness are always driving forces behind the decisions I make for my daughter and my family. There are so many questions I would love to ask my mom but I'll never have those answers. That won't happen to my daughter. Leaving a trail for Ada in the form of letters, picture books and this blog are something I'm dedicated to. She will have piles of evidence to prove my devotion and love for her in case I'm not around to do it in person.

Even with these ideals more finely honed, what a disappointment that my established family fell apart when people started dying. We are also failing at growing our own family (pretty sure this cycle is a bust). My failed family. 

Edit to add: seems to be a lot of confusion so I guess I wasn't clear. I do not think that my family in its present form is a failure. Rather, our attempts at adding another baby are failing. It is confirmed - this medicated cycle was not successful.


What about you? Do you have a family? Does your family make you crazy? Do you miss them?  Lay on me...they'll never read this.
Pourin' it out with Shell today.

Monday, August 29, 2011

10 Places I Love

I've been reading finallyMom's listicles for weeks now and thinking I might participate one of these days. When I saw the topic for today I thought "piece of cake". So here is my list based on the order in which they occurred to me.

1. Home - Where my husband and daughter are is my most favorite place of all. Period.

2. My Bed - When we moved to San Francisco our bed was the first thing we bought. I knew exactly what I wanted and I wasn't screwing around. Now, it's where we sleep, read, rest, dream, and cuddle our daughter. So many beautiful hours spent there.

3. New Mexico - This was, hands down, one of the best vacations we ever took. We were so broke and in grad school but we flew to Albuquerque, collected our camping gear, rented a car, and drove all over the whole state. Every corner of that place is more beautiful and ethereal than the last.

4. St. John - It's where we took our belated honeymoon. I loved everything about it. We talk about doing a live-aboard next time we go tho the Virgin Islands.

5. Hawaii - I find myself dreaming of going back. I've been only to Maui but can't imagine there is an island I wouldn't like.

6. Portland - Ever been there? Quirky, fun, and the people are actually nice. When we visited I asked Tim if he could transfer residency programs that day. He couldn't. Bummer.

7. Middle Keys - Key West seems like a test of your consumption - food, alcohol, stuff. The upper keys are where mid-westerners go to vacation or retire. Being a mid-westerner by birth, this sort of messes me up. The middle keys are just my speed - lots of ocean life, water sports, great food, and the best: peace and quiet. I do love it there.

8. Local Playgrounds - Tim and I were talking about this the other day: how much we like taking Ada to the playground. In this city, the possibilities are limitless and mothers speak of playgrounds the way foodies speak of restaurants. We will drive across town to go to a good one (plus, usually Kathi and Sarah are there).

9. Puerto Rico - Right after graduation from vet school but before I started working I went here with my friends for Diana's wedding. It was one of the most care-free, amazing times of my entire life. We swam naked in the bath-water warm ocean every night. We drank beer on the beach in the day. We sang and danced and held hands. It was an amazing time.

10. Zazie - This local restaurant is the first place Tim and I ate together before we moved to San Francisco. It was the place we ate breakfast the morning I went into labor. We have taken visitors. I sat on the front sidewalk with Katie and cried openly about my mom dying. It was the first restaurant we went to with Ada after she was born. The owner brought dinner, already plated, and champagne to our house for Tim's birthday last year when the nanny couldn't make it.

(P.S. None of these pictures were taken by me. I found them all on Google images.)

Check it out for more lists...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cough, cough...pass the Robitussin, por favor.

Why is it that when I'm sick everything comes to a grinding halt? I'm headed into week three of a nagging, annoying cough. It would be a mistake to think I got this from my child - it's the other way around. She got it from me. Today, after 3 hours of work and a mad scramble to find someone to cover my appointments, I came home sick. I'm in bed trying desperately to stifle my coughs while listening to the "ocean" + humidifier sounds from Ada's room.

Although there has been much coughing and little sleeping in the night we are happy.

A tree in my neighborhood. Lovelife. OK, I will. 

Although Tim's laptop was stolen from his desk at work we still had a perfect day on Friday. It was my mother's birthday. I'm not going to call it anything but I will say that on that day we caught all the lights green, we got just what we needed when we needed it, the wind chimes sang quietly with Glen Millers Orchestra on Pandora, and everything I cooked tasted pretty good! In between all of this was a sick girl hugging her sick mom.

The wind chimes I hung outside our dining room window. Love the sound.

Although pregnancies are beginning and ending all around me I am at peace during this 2 week wait. Tim and I made a wish on a wish bone - the same wish. I hope it comes true and that 37 weeks from now I am holding a healthy baby in my arms. In case not, I'm ready to give it a rest for a cycle or two if this one doesn't result in a viable pregnancy. I'm just focused on loving the one I've got.


Although August in San Francisco has got to be about the most gray time of the year we are still enjoying afternoons at the playground.


Although time outside is good for all of us it means feeling the crud rattle around in my airways as I push the stroller (or worse, carrying Ada AND pushing the stroller) back up our hill. I reward myself with a warm beverage on the way to the park in anticipation of the pain on the way home.


Throwing leaves into a puddle. New form of entertainment.

Although Tim was on call for my birthday it worked out well: we have celebrated it a few different times.  One was dinner with friends at a Greek restaurant called Kokkari. I asked if someone would read my fortune in my Turkish coffee grounds. After some wavering, a tall, bald man came over to our table. He clandestinely picked up my cup, rotated it in his hand once, wrinkled his brow and asked, "Are you having a conflict?" To which I replied yes. Apparently that nasty conflict will end "sooner than you think and in your favor." Well, Amen. I hope that's true. He added, "When you leave the conflict, don't look back." Double Amen. Dude, don't worry. It may take a few months to begin to recover but leave it in the rear view mirror I will do.


Edit to add: In a Robitussin-induced haze (or maybe it was the sleep deprivation) I pushed "publish post" with no recollection of it. Perhaps that is why this post just ends. No final thoughts or anything to wrap it all up. Nope just me falling asleep and publishing the endless post. So sorry.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Go Slow: The 40th Year

"I'm beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all." 
- Laura Ingalls Wilder


When I entered my thirties I was so excited. That was the decade of life when everything was going to come together. All the uncertainty and instability of my twenties would be left in the dust while I crossed the threshold into a more confident and assured stage of life. The perfect combination had been struck between making long strides forward while still being physically young enough to thoroughly enjoy them.

The promise of the 4th decade of life played out beautifully in many ways. I finished a PhD, survived a heinous graduate experience and fulfilled my dream of becoming a veterinarian. I married my very best friend, survived the death of my mother and dove headfirst into the uncharted (by me) waters of motherhood. I moved to a new city, started a new chapter and built friendships that have sustained me. The part where I would feel confident and sure has been partially true - I suspect that I will always struggle to some degree with insecurity but it has been better.


What a powerful decade it has far! Yesterday I turned 39 years old. Looking back at every wonderful thing that has happened over the past 9 years makes me more determined to finish off this decade well. In the coming year I hope to become a mother again, my husband will finish training and we will move again to create a life in the place where our children will grow up. The place they will forever refer to as 'home'.

Just as I have enjoyed this empowering decade, I have also accepted that it's OK to slow down a bit and savor it. I am no longer motivated by a deep need to be the biggest, fanciest fish in the pond except when it comes to my personal relationships.  Rather, loving my family and friends, doing right by my clients and patients, and being a generally good person is just fine to me. That is my current definition of success.


Where my thirties played out to be more-or-less what they were promised to be, I suspect that so will my forties. It would seem that as my 40th year of life begins I have a decision to make:
1. Embrace the mental programming has led us to believe that after 40 we are 'over -the-hill'.
2. Go with the newer vision which claims that the forties are the new thirties!

I don't buy it that once I hit 40 the downward spiral is set in motion. So I'm imagining what the next 10 years will look like. Luckily, I have a whole year to cook up something good. For others who have been here or who are here, I'd love to hear your thoughts. What do you imagine for the next 10 years? What do you want to do before you turn 30 or 40 or 60?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


This post might make my brothers-in-law and dad uncomfortable. Sorry, guys: Turn back now.

I have a kid so I'm not technically 'infertile' but one could say that I am fertility-challenged. I have a pituitary tumor that secretes prolactin, shutting down my reproductive system. Plus, I'm old (39 on Sunday ~ Hurrah!). I came to the online community, including blogging, through my efforts to have a baby. I met some women that should be mothers. Amazing, loving women with so much to offer that it only makes me shake my head harder when I see women smoking near their newborn or yelling at their kids in the soda aisle of Safeway to "shut the fuck up" and following it up with a smack on the shoulder just to show she means it. Yes, in some situations the offense is so egregious that I judge openly and harshly even though I often fall short of the mother I want to be.

What I've learned is that infertility is just one unjust way that dreams are slowly dismantled so that a deep sense of hopelessness can settle in to its new home. There is a lot of discussion and debate "out there" about infertility and more specifically how women handle it.  It's complex. I can't touch on it all. I can't explain it all. And I don't, by any means, intend to speak for all infertiles everywhere. But I do want to mention a few things from my heart.


Oh, the eternal-ness of it. It's beautiful and pathetic. I remember writing once about how it takes so very little to shake it, to challenge it but it takes a tremendous something to extinguish it for good. Cycle after cycle you hop on the roller coaster with great anticipation that this might be The One! You climb the hill and expect that slow crawl to be rewarded by exhilaration and screams of excitement when you finally race down the hill. Then your temperature drops, you get your period or, if you were really hopeful, you peed on a stick early and got a negative pregnancy test. Crushed, you get back in line to do it all over again because 28 days from now your dream might come true.

Hope is the only reason I let someone put needles in my skin every week. It's also the reason I roll over and put a thermometer in my mouth every morning. Hope is the only reason I have sunk hundreds of dollars into sticks that I pee on and then throw away. 


First of all, when you do get pregnant and have a healthy baby you get to feel like shit about all the women who supported you but still aren't pregnant. Survivor's guilt blows. Nobody imposes it on you so it's theoretically all under your control, which only makes it worse when you realize that a teensy bit of your happiness is sapped by it.
For a Catholic it might be a little worse even. I've bargained with God. Things like, "dear God, if you will give Christina/Dip/Maria Luisa a baby I will happily sit out this cycle." I don't know if it works but I want it to and frankly, sometimes it's all I have left to offer even if it is totally silent.

Finally, who's the infertile partner? In my case, it's all me. So I'm the jerk who feels like she wasted her chance at doing this like normal people do and screwed it up for her husband too. "Babe, could you ejaculate in this cup again? Yeah, sorry my ovaries only spit out the ghost of a poof of dust that used to be a viable egg." But if the other person is the 'problem' well, then you risk resentment. Is he doing everything to keep the swimmers healthy? When you see his laptop on his lap you cringe a little bit. Maybe you get pissed off and pout if he skipped his 1 ounce of wheatgrass juice that day.


So they offer unsolicited advice like "Relax" and tell you stories about how their neighbors cousin conceived on her own when she tried fill-in-the-blank.
When thousands of dollars have been spent on a failed implantation - or worse a positive test result that ends in miscarriage then people really don't know what to say. It's tough. So when it doubt just don't say anything. Make her hot chocolate, stroke her hair when she cries and give her a hug.

Last weekend I tossed and turned through sleepless nights that were highlighted by Clomid hot flashes. Today I had a date with the 'Dildo cam' again. 

Transvaginal ultrasound. Super-duper fun times. It's OK to be a little bit jealous that I spent my lunch hour rushing off to do this. 

I have a 21 mm follice on my left ovary and a 9 mm uterine lining to show for my insomnia. My reward for now is that tonight I get to inject myself with the Ovidrel I paid too much for because nobody at my insurance mentioned in any of our recent conversations that injectable medications require separate pre-authorization through a separate branch of HealthNet. 


Then in a couple of days I get to put progesterone supplements in my you-know-what (or maybe you don't). Maybe, just maybe if I'm really super fucking lucky I might get to hold someone like tiny, perfect her again:

Ada 6 days
Ada at 6 days old. 

So, Infertility, you can kiss my ass. Do you have anything to add? Sing out loud!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Green Acres

I grew up in Ohio where everyone had a garden in the backyard.  It was part of my upbringing to see how the food my family ate came from a seed. Since moving away I've dabbled in gardening and still do. However, on top of our hill it's foggy and a hundred-year-old cypress chokes out all sunlight after 2:30. We can grow lettuce but little else. Still, we garden what we can because we feel it is important for Ada to understand from a very early age that good food is a precious resource. I hope she learns that although we are lucky enough to have more food than we can eat sometimes, that is no reason to be wasteful. A farmer worked very hard to grow the food we nourish our bodies with while some families have very little at all.


Since we are limited in what we can grow, we decided to participate in a local vegetable and fruit delivery. It's the best thing we have done since living here! They host farm tours and harvest celebrations from time-to-time and I've always wanted to go. I just don't know when Ada's first memory will form (any time now) and I want it to be a good, meaningful one.


I had this vision of us on the farm: having a delightful picnic under the shade of a tree wearing cotton sundresses and hats.


We would smile and laugh and snack on peaches.

We had the pleasure of being joined by Sophia and her dad, Lucas.

Then we would go see the chickens.


We would pick ripe black mission figs, still warm and soft from the sun.


We would go look in amazement at the huge ripe tomatoes hanging heavy from the vine.


Then, after a brief, understandable explanation about tubers, we would hop on the tractor and go pull carrots out of the ground .


What really happened is that the drive turned into 2 hours with me hacking (chest cold, I don't smoke) the whole way. We got there and it was hot. Like, back in Florida hot. There was no place for our picnic blanket so we set it on top of brambles and foxtails. The girls ran like maniacs. I fumbled with my camera struggling to get a handle on exposure, aperture...I'm learning.

Then they headed toward the grove of fig trees. Ooh! Here's my opportunity to show them how figs grow. We skipped of into the trees and that's where it turned. I felt my left foot sink deep, deep into the mud. That kind of mud that sucks your shoe off when you pull your foot out. Ada wanted to run for it, I caught her, turned her around and in a tantrum she sat her diapered bottom right down into a bushel of rough grasses.

At the edge of the mud - her brand new shoes (size 8!!) ruined.

We went back with mud and grasses caked to our shoes. By now, Lucas had sprayed both girls with sunscreen a total of 8 times with a clever , "Tchsss Tchsss" to make it fun. They both insisted on holding his hand. We got on the tractor and rode past the chickens and tomatoes.


We pulled some carrots as fast as we could then herded the girls back to the tractor without anyone falling into the aqueduct. We hopped on the back, Ada kicked my back leaving footprints on my cotton shirt, and her sun hat landed on the dirt road with a puff of dust puffing up around it. "Bye bye hat!"


A standing diaper change later, we were loaded into the cars and headed back to the mild cool of our city. After a shower for the whole family the whole experience was much clearer.


Even though it wasn't the picture-perfect wholesome learning experience I imagined, I'm really glad we went. These adventures - I'll continue to create them because she will remember them one day.  They are worth the mud, the pink cheeks, the scratches, the drive in traffic.... all worth it to see her running in a wide open field with her friend, to see her poke the dirt with her finger, to watch her bare feet on the grocery store floor when we stopped for snacks and water. We may go again in October when the weather is cooler to carve pumpkins. Well, really we'll go to make memories.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ten on 10

I really, really dig this photo project.

The concept is to take one picture an hour for ten hours on the 10th of the month. Simple, right? Surely once an hour you can find something beautiful enough to take a picture, right?

When I see that the 10th lands on a day I'm home I feel relieved - between my daughter and the outdoors there is so much beauty. When I see it lands on a day I work? Ugh. My florescent lighting pictures pale in comparison even if mine are full of puppies and kittens!

Today I worked so I just took pictures when I wasn't seeing appointments (morning) or doing shelter medicine (afternoon). Many gaps....when I work, I work. Just how it is.

One (about 7:00 AM)
Counting down. 

Two. About 8 AM
The view as I ascend the stairs to work. The city skyline? In reality it's about 10 blocks away. See all the camper vans? Homeless people call those home. They all smell like urine. Living in the city is super glamorous sometimes. 

Three (about 9 AM)
Co-workres desk. She is from Singapore and she really is a tiny ninja with many cats.

Four (about 12 PM)
It's easier to check the weather by going online than to physically walk to find a window. If I get a glimpse of the sky at all during the day, I am lucky. 

Five (about 1 PM)
I wish I still had roller skates. Actually, I don't. This hallway reminds me of the shining. It is an accessory hallway behind all the offices and the main part of the hospital. It really does have that beige cast in real life, although I have yet to learn how to correct my white balance.

Six (about 6 PM)
The white curtains were fluttering in the breeze. So peaceful.

Seven (nearing 7 PM)
These are not clouds. Nope, that's fog rolling in to blanket the city for the night.

Eight (about 8 pm)
You have to look carefully but there are six needles. My acupuncturist puts a red warming lamp on my bare feet to keep them warm. Yes, I have strong calves, so what? I didn't try to make them be like this, they are just that way. Just like my Ukranian women ancestors. So shut up.

Nine (about 9 PM)
My reward for  a long day: the nanny put Ada to bed, Tim was on call, and I was here on my computer with a glass of wine and the smell of Aveda in the air.
I bought the picture of the cranes at Renegade a few weeks ago. As soon as I saw it I knew it was mine. The poem on the paper reads.

even grace must rest
it's wings and quiet
the sounds of trumpeting
as it lands in the fields
catching light
and wind.

Ten (about 10 PM)
I remember that my ninja office-mate gave me a black and white cat toy. She and her husband are making them to sell. I got to test it out on my cats. Paka and Puppet LOVED it. 

ten on ten button small