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7/26/2015

BlogHer '15 and Space for Infertility

Last weekend at this time, BlogHer '15 was wrapping up.  I registered for my non-refundable pass in December, before I had any guarantee that we'd end up pregnant by the time July rolled around.  I didn't appreciate how gusty? illogical? that was until I was at the Hilton, walking around and sitting in on panels.

Since I've been going (2009), the BlogHer conference has always been geared to what used to be "mommy blogs" and what are now usually "parenting blogs."  (That shift is all to the good, by the way.)  So I could hardly feel surprise that sponsors were heavily parent/kid-centric.  There were multiple baby food brands, Medela, Merck for Mothers, pediatric vitamins, the Today Show "Parenting Team," and more.

If anything the panel topics were less parent/kid centric than they used to be.  For instance, this year there was also a marked uptick since 2012 (the last year I went) in panels solely for the business, revenue generation side of online work-life.

But here's what stuck in my mind:

- There was a single panel on disability and blogging.  There was a single panel on mental health/illness and blogging.  These were the closest panels that would've approached anything touching on infertility. 

- The Saturday lunch keynote included a short film and a "fireside chat" with professionals and activists (the head of Merck for Mothers, and Christy Turlington Burns, a doula, and the moderator) discussing maternal mortality in the U.S.  During this panel, someone onstage made sure to appeal to the crowd by reminding us that "most of us" there had experience (or would do) childbirth. 

- The Voices of the Year keynote on Friday almost exclusively featured a heavy contingent of parent voices.  (Including, I should note, an honoree who built her family through adoption.)

- The conference has become, from my privileged perspective at least, consciously inclusive.  The panel speaker groups this year were better balanced than I'd ever seen them, in terms of not being 80% straight white ladies.  But in every panel I saw, no matter the topic, there was a parenting site whose pictures were put up on the projector.  Or there was a moderator breastfeeding her daughter throughout the panel (which is awesome, by the way, where can you do this if not at BlogHer?).  Or there was a Voices of the Year installation featuring a piece on adoption and the piece's picture of an 8-month pregnant belly.

So what stuck, not just in my mind but in my throat, was how completely impossible it could be to attend BlogHer as an infertility blogger.  Whether actively pursuing treatment, waiting out finances or health issues or life issues on the bench, or whether making your way to redefining yourself as child-free not by choice, BlogHer could be just. completely. impossible. 

I can't describe what it's like to be bombarded by pregnancy and parenting while you're not sure you'll ever get to be a part of them.  If you want to participate in something like BlogHer, you either muscle through it, coping moment to moment as best you can, or you don't.  You don't go.  You skip family birthday parties and holidays.  You stay away from places where parenthood and children are bound to come up, or you steel yourself when you can't get out of it. 

You try to explain to people who've never been where you are just what it feels like, and sometimes they get it, and sometimes they don't, and you just have to deal with it.  You live, either temporarily or maybe forever, with the fact that the culture just doesn't include you in this important way.

This is nuts, when you think about it.  1 couple in 8 goes through infertility.  1 in 8!  That's not exactly rare.  There are plenty of blogs chronicling parenthood on the other side of infertility treatment, so this isn't a blanket ignorance thing, which makes it even harder for me to parse the complete lack of safe space IF/CFNBC bloggers might find at a women's blogging conference, run for women, by women. 

Anyway.  If sheknows media sends around a post-conference request for opinions, you can be sure I'll respond.  (They acquired BlogHer early this year, so we'll see how they handle post-conference outreach.)  But in the meantime, do me a favor and think a little about the ways in which we take pains to make spaces safe and welcoming for different histories and experiences, and how one in eight people can relate to this particular experience, the numbers involved in a space like BlogHer, and how those things come together. 

7/06/2015

Super Funtimes With Pregnancy Weight Gain

Pregnancy weight gain.  From what I read, it's not particularly comfortable for a lot of people, eating disorder history or no.  But I think we'd be kidding ourselves if we said that ED history doesn't potentially level up the challenge.

During my first trimester, initially I lost weight (once the free fluid from OHSS finally cleared out) and ended up almost even, maybe a little over baseline.  Now solidly into my second trimester, I seem to have hit a weight gain stride.

So that's been interesting.

It spurs an intimately familiar thought pattern:  "I gained X. At this rate, that means I'm going to gain X+infinity."  Except that's not how it works.  That's never how it works.  But it sounds reminiscent of ED thought patterns.  "They want me to gain X.  I know I'm not going to stop at X.  I'm just going to keep gaining and gaining and it'll be totally out of my control. You'll see.  I can't trust my body.  It has no idea what it's doing. I have to keep it under control."

The concrete difference here is that I have no desire to control in a disordered way.  During my eating disordered years, even when I wasn't engaging in disordered behavior, the fierce pull to do so was always ready to spring.   But now it's not so much as whispering to me.  I mean, thank goodness, don't get me wrong.  But color me surprised.

Anyway.  For now, I'm just rolling along doing what I'm doing.  I passed the early glucose challenge screen (with PCOS you take one around 14-16 weeks, in addition to the normal one, which is next week for me), so, so far so good on that end.  We had two normal anatomy scans at 16 weeks and 22 weeks.  Everything's clearly going okay so far.  (Except the heartburn.  It can fuck right off.)

So really I'm back, in this new strange way, to a very familiar spot:  Trust your body.  It can do this.  You can do this.  Other people have done this! And they did just fine!  The more things change...

6/07/2015

On Caitlyn Jenner, NY Times Linkbait, and HOW IS THIS HARD???

Off topic to pregnancy, eating disorders, weight gain, recovery... but very ON topic to another of my favorite categories, feminism:

What Makes a Woman?
by Elinor Burkett


Oh, NY Times Sunday Review, no.

This strikes me as one of the most mean-spirited op-ed contributions I've read in some time. I mean, good lord.

First off, we're not even going to get into the repeated, incorrect use of the name "Bruce" in this op-ed, and we're not even going to address the horrible analogy between transgenderism and some fictional person transitioning from white to black.  We're not even going to waste the space. (But just quickly:  o_O)

After painting a dismissive picture of Caitlyn Jenner's general entrĂ©e to the world, the piece begins with this assertion: 

People who haven’t lived their whole lives as women, whether Ms. Jenner or Mr. Summers, shouldn’t get to define us.

Sure, Larry Summers of Harvard, I follow for this argument.  Larry Summers was essentially arguing that tiny ladybrains aren't equipped to handle complex maths and sciences, because apparently it's 1950 and colleges are for Mrs. and Early Childhood Education degrees.

But with regard to Caitlyn Jenner, Burkett seems to be deliberately misunderstanding transgenderism.   Jenner's statement to Diane Sawyer about her brain wasn't rooted in science, and Jenner isn't at the head of an internationally lauded research institution, nor is Caitlyn Jenner is not the neuroscientist quoted later in the piece.  Caitlyn Jenner is a celebrity, and a transwoman, and she was speaking to Sawyer about emotion and lived experience, not about the physical structure of neurons and grey matter.

Just for starters, as a delayed amuse-bouche if you will, that feels more worthy of one of XO Jane's embarrassing clickbait entries than it does the NYT (well, maybe not lately, now that I think about it), the author calls Caitlyn Jenner a man:

And as much as I recognize and endorse the right of men to throw off the mantle of maleness, they cannot stake their claim to dignity as transgender people by trampling on mine as a woman.

A transgender woman is not a man.  A cisgender woman is not a man.  A transgender woman is a woman.  A cisgender woman is a woman.  How is this hard?

Moving on from there to more esoteric concerns than questions of socio-linguistic respect (because my pregnancy hormones will make my head pop off if I think any further about how easy it is to get man/woman right in a discussion of transgender people)...

Their truth is not my truth. Their female identities are not my female identity.

Yeah, no kidding.  And my female identity isn't your female identity either.  How is this hard?  (And how did this get space in the NYT Op-Ed page?  This is as bad as when they let Sofia Vergara's ex bully-pulpit her about their cryopreserved embryos.)

Furthermore, Burkett reeeeeeally missed the flashing-lights memo that's everywhere about how demeaning it is to insist on cisnormative beauty/handsomeness standards to qualify as a "successful" trans person.  This is what approximately 65% of her argument is staked on: That it's taken as read that we should reward only traditional standards of appearance, rather than remember that not all transpeople have access to the treatments and procedures that Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox, etc., have availed themselves of.  (A point on which Cox was very concise and poetic recently, to great social media effect; I saw it everywhere. If Burkett had been paying attention to anything trans before picking up Vanity Fair, I suspect she would've seen it, too.)

Look.  I fully acknowledge that I am not a first-wave feminist.  Nor am I really a second-wave feminist.  Having been born in the early '80's, I'm in that weird sandwich generation that wasn't always concerned with intersectionality (assuming you got started on your feminism young, as I did) but also didn't have to scour ads for "help wanted - female." I acknowledge that.  (Because, again, it's not hard: my lived experience is not Burkett's lived experience. Yet somehow we're both women.  How is this hard?)

But that there are ciswomen out there who have gone through the wringer of early feminism does not make transwomen any less women.  And the idea that speaking to one's lived experience as a transwoman somehow "undermine[s] almost a century of hard-fought arguments that the very definition of female is a social construct that has subordinated us," is like saying the strawberries for the shortcake are moldy, so we have to throw the burgers out.  Transgenderism is only possible because the very definition of any gender is a social contract that subordinates people.

You don't even have to agree that "vagina" is an exclusionary term (in the context Burkett discusses, I don't think it is), or think pro-choice groups should omit the word "woman" from their mission statements (I don't think they should), or hold an opinion about whether The Vagina Monologues could stand updating with a transwoman's story or read as a period piece (I vote period piece) to understand that equality and respect are not zero-sum.

As a parting thought:

Many women I know, of all ages and races, speak privately about how insulting we find the language trans activists use to explain themselves.

Ms. Burkett, I think you need to meet some new women, because I know plenty who agree with your cohort, but I know plenty who don't, too.

Someone find me a gif of somebody screaming to the sky, "HOW IS THIS HARD?!"

5/28/2015

Pregnancy Weight Gain, Post-Eating Disorder

Pregnancy weight gain.  From what I hear, it's not particularly comfortable for a lot of people, eating disorder history or no.  But I think we'd be kidding ourselves if we said that ED history doesn't potentially level up the challenge.

During my first trimester, initially I lost weight (once the 10 lbs. of free fluid from OHSS finally cleared out of my abdomen) and ended up almost even, a little over baseline.  Now about four weeks into my second trimester, I seem to have hit a weight gain stride.

So that's been interesting.

It spurs an intimately familiar thought pattern:  "I gained X.  That means I'm going to gain X+infinity."  Except that's not how it works.  That's never how it works.  But it's reminiscent of ED thought patterns.  "They want me to gain X.  I know I'm not going to stop at X.  I'm just going to keep gaining and gaining and it'll be totally out of my control. You'll see.  I can't trust my body.  It has no idea what it's doing. I have to keep it under control."

The concrete difference here is that I have no desire to control in a disordered way.  During my eating disordered years, even when I wasn't engaging in disordered behavior, the trap of wanting to was always ready to spring.   But now it's not so much as lurking underfoot.  I mean, thank goodness, don't get me wrong.  But color me surprised.

Anyway.  For now, I'm just rolling along doing what I'm doing.  I passed the early glucose challenge test (with PCOS you take one around 14-16 weeks, in addition to the normal one later on).  We had a normal anatomy scan a week ago (for some reason my practice does two, the next one at the standard 20-22 weeks).  Everything's clearly going okay so far.  (Except the heartburn.  It can fuck right off.)

So really I'm back, in this new strange way, to a very familiar spot:  Trust your body.  It can do this.  You can do this.  Other people have done this! And they did just fine!  The more things change...

5/06/2015

Onward (and Upward on the Scale)

First and foremost, thanks for the well wishes both here and elsewhere, everyone.  They really mean a lot  ^_^


I appear to have hit that early second trimester phase of "What do you mean I just ate breakfast? No, no, I'm sure it's lunchtime. I'm so very sure." I've also reached the stage where I'm meant to gain on average a pound a week from here on out (weird completely not weird how those coincide).

The eating isn't a problem, pleasantly, maybe because I'm still very much in the phase of "don't eat every two hours? get horribly nauseous."  And the scale number right now isn't so much of a problem.  But if I'm at 15 weeks on Friday, thinking about a pound a week from here on out is daunting, I'm not gonna lie.

It's actually quite comforting to be connected with other women* who have come through the other side of infertility** and have the exact same reaction, with no eating disorder history at all.  Yes, this is hard won for all of us, but yes, it's still an uneasy if joyful adjustment -- in the way it probably is for most pregnant people, and that's comforting all over again.

Having said that, this seems like a time when I would be well served to employ some of those CBT coping skills I have cultivated over years and years and thousands of dollars worth of therapy.


* If you google Then Comes Family you'll find us.  It's far from just infertility-centric.  It's the entire spectrum of family and community, in pretty much every flavor you can think of.  

** "for now," my mind always supplies, "you've come through it for now."  Shut up, asshole.