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May 27 2014

Coming Out of the Cancer Closet After 20 Years

By at 4:36 pm

cancer-closet

A few years ago, my mom’s cousin passed away from ovarian cancer. While I live far away and could not attend the funeral or shiva, I wanted to do something and so I wrote a note to each of her children, my cousins, sharing with them personal recollections I had of their mom and hoping that these memories would help bring them comfort. I also made a donation in her memory to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.

Since then, I have been receiving the Fund’s email updates and newsletters on a regular basis, usually a few times a month. They have been sitting in my inbox, or when I think to move them, in a separate folder, all unread. I can’t bring myself to delete them because what if, God forbid, I ever need to glean some tiny but important piece of information from them, and yet, I can’t bring myself to open them, because for the past 20 years I have been trying to move on and live a “normal” life. But the fact remains, I am an ovarian cancer survivor.

During my senior year of college, I was diagnosed with Stage 1 of a very rare but also very chemo-responsive form of ovarian cancer. After betting I could keep up with several friends in the gym and doing 200 sit-ups in one day, I woke up in the middle of the night in excruciating pain and drove myself to the emergency room believing I had appendicitis. (In hindsight, I should not have been driving and should have called 911.) Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 30 2014

If Becoming a Mom Means Losing My Old Identity, I’m OK With That

By at 3:42 pm

woman-driving

I am Iliana’s mom. That is my identity, according to all of her friends.

Am I OK with that? Hell, yeah!

I have heard many times that you lose your identity after having a child, as no one calls you by your given name. You are just “someone’s mom.” But I don’t understand the issue with that. I know who I am and I am not worried that I will lose that knowledge just because a bunch of 4-year-olds call me something else. If anything, it makes me blush. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 18 2014

10 Pros and Cons to Being an Older Mom

By at 11:25 am

40th-birthday-cake

For a long time I was an anomaly among my friends. Most were married in their 20s and started their families then. I watched and waited as I went through my days of being single. I did some more waiting and dating while I held babies and changed diapers. This was never easy for me as all I wanted was a partner in life and to have babies of my own. I did not meet my partner in life until I was almost 32 years old. This felt downright elderly in comparison to my group of friends. Married at 33 and a mom at 35 (after a lot of fertility treatments) and you know what? I would not change it for the world.

When I would go to my OB appointments while pregnant, the words “advanced maternal age” was constant. I would laugh as I certainly did not feel “old.” What was even more interesting was my OB told me that I was on the younger side of her practice and that the average age of women seen was 38 years! That blew my mind! While I understood that more women were waiting for various reasons to have children, in my group of friends, this was not the case.

What have I learned (so far) from being an older married woman and an older mom? I’ll first start with the harder parts: Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 11 2014

When Your Friend is Pregnant, Sometimes it Hurts

By at 2:13 pm

pregnant

“I’ve been reluctant to write this email and I keep putting it off.”

When you are not able to get pregnant and you get an email with that as the opening line, you know exactly what is coming.

“Even though I know you will be happy for us and excited, I know part of you will be sad. So I wanted to give you time to digest this on your own, rather than springing it on you in person. I know you are happy for us. I know that you are happy for so many people. But I also know it’s hard and don’t expect this kind of news to be easy.”

When my friend of 20 years told me she was pregnant, I felt a lot of things, including true happiness for her. But what I felt most was appreciation that she too was navigating her own balancing act. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 5 2014

Genetic Testing of Embryos Raises Big Ethical Questions

By at 1:56 pm

fertilized-eggs

A gut-wrenching story in the New York Times this week details the difficult decisions of Amanda Baxley who, immediately after discovering she was a carrier of a gene which leads to Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker disease, vowed to never have children. Buxley learned that due to the genetic disease, one day between the ages of 30 and 50, without warning, she will begin to “stumble like a drunk,” dementia will set in soon afterward, and within five years she will be dead. Her father, aunt, and several cousins all died from the disease. The day after she found out, her boyfriend proposed.

The story has a bittersweet ending. By using in-vitro fertilization, Baxley and her husband were able to create several embryos, test them in a petri dish, and select ones that were not carriers of the deadly gene. Today they have three healthy children who are not carriers of the disease.

But as genetic testing of embryos becomes increasingly refined, more and more parents are opting for the procedure for a wide range of reasons, opening new ethical questions about “playing God” and deciding which embryos deserve to live. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 4 2014

A Surprising Antidote to My Infertility Frustration

By at 2:42 pm

pregnancy test with calendar

I had been trying to get pregnant for a year. Twelve months of charting my body’s rhythms, of turning sex from an art into a science; twelve times allowing my hopes to soar and then scraping them (and sometimes myself) off the floor.

I felt like I was beginning to lose my mind. Every pregnant woman on the street was a personal affront, every baby shower invitation an assault. When Britney Spears announced her pregnancy, I ranted about it to anyone who would listen. I organized our schedule around my ovulation and measured upcoming events by what month I would be in if we were successful this time around. I stopped sleeping.

The lack of control was maddening for a control freak like me, but even worse was the waiting. I’m task oriented; if I had to wait around for this pregnancy thing to happen, I needed to feel like I was taking concrete steps that would contribute to our eventual success. Give up caffeine? Done. Track my temperature? Daily. Obsessively check for fertile cervical mucous? More often than I care to admit. Though it put us into a new and scary category of “medical problem,” I was actually relieved when the insurance company finally cleared us to begin fertility treatment, because it meant there would be new action to take and new partners helping us in this seemingly intractable process of getting pregnant. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 30 2013

After Years of Failed Fertility Treatments, A New Plan

By at 3:54 pm

embryoWe are adopting. If all goes well, within the next few weeks, I will get pregnant and about eight months later I will give birth. But that baby will be adopted. Mind-blowing, no?

We’ve been trying to have a baby for five years. When we started trying, I had just turned 22 years old. We never dreamed we would have any problems. Even when we got the diagnosis that we would need IVF to have a baby, we still wanted to pursue fertility treatments instead of adoption. We wanted to have OUR baby–a baby that would be a combination of the two of us. His eyes and my hair. His smile and my nose. His stubbornness and my sense of humor.

We were incredibly lucky and our first IVF cycle worked. I got pregnant with twins–a boy and a girl. The perfect instant family. We even had four embryos frozen, waiting for us. Everything was finally working out. But after 22 weeks of a perfect twin pregnancy, disaster struck. Our babies were born too prematurely and died. We tried to get pregnant with the four embryos we had frozen, but none of them worked. We did another IVF cycle and I got pregnant again. I miscarried at 10 weeks. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 9 2013

When My Sister Got Pregnant

By at 12:02 pm

woman doing handstandJennifer Gilmore’s new novel, The Mothers–about a couple’s journey through adoption–is out today! Check it out here.

The call from my sister came in the afternoon. I remember the day: bright robin’s egg blue, early spring.

“What’s wrong?” I said. She and I emailed and texted 30 times a day, but unannounced phone calls indicated alarm.

“I’m just going to tell you. I’m going to be as honest as possible. I’m pregnant,” she said. “It’s early, so I’m not telling anyone else.”

“You’re kidding!” I had been begging my sister to try to have a child–she was already 35–so that she and her husband would not go through any of the heartache my husband and I had endured in our six years of trying to have a baby. By then we were in the grueling and chaotic process of domestic adoption.

“No,” she said.

“Wow. That’s great news,” I said. “I’m glad you let me know.” I wanted to be thrilled for my sister, but instead I felt what was becoming a common emotion: that I had failed. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 18 2013

All My Little Girl Dreams Are Coming True

By at 9:47 am

pink baby booties for twinsThis past week I celebrated my third wedding anniversary. Since I was sick and confined to bed, I had time to think about these last few years, how I got to where I am today, and how unlikely a journey it has been…

Remember when you were little and you dreamed your life would be a fairy tale? I forgot about those dreams until a few years ago. It was Memorial Day weekend in 2009 and after a dry spell with dating, I was on a roll. Great date on Friday night! Great date on Saturday night! Little did I know that Sunday night would change my life forever. Read the rest of this entry →

May 25 2012

Moving Once Again Amidst Madness & Excitement

By at 11:29 am
dora the explorer hot air balloon

Hasta la vista, Texas.

My husband asked me the other day if our lives would ever be sane. I reminded him of a promise I made when we married: marriage would never make our lives boring. What an understatement! Not all of our adventures have been fun, but you could never accuse our married life of being dull or uneventful.

We are about to embark on our fourth move in three years and our second across the country. Things in Texas never jelled. It never felt like home and our attempt to move closer to family ended horribly. So we circled our wagons and are heading back East. A wonderful house rental fell into our laps, and for the first time since we moved out of our parents’ houses we will have a backyard! Read the rest of this entry →

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