Sunday, June 27, 2010

What's your adversity quotient?

Shawangunks, New York

When I was writing in the heat of despair, the words just flowed. I was on a mission to vent. There was of course much to vent about. The need to express what was happening in my life through words, graphics, video pressed all my creative buttons. It's funny how pain can be so inspiring. It was like I would implode if I didn't get it out somehow.

Now that life has become semi-normal again I have a feeling my posts may not be of much interest as comments are dropping off and more and more Chinese spam coming in. The support I got from cyberworld was immeasurable. Not only was it such a comfort having people write me kind words about my struggle, it also felt supremely good that someone was enjoying my writing. I feel like my infertility awoke the writer in me that has long been asleep. My younger more bright-eyed self had once thought I would win the Pulitzer for journalism. I would then go on to write my novel or memoir. As the years went by, and more and more insecurity set in, I lost the will to write. So in some ways I have to thank my infertility for forcing me to write regularly.

When visiting family last month, there was a book on the table called Adversity Quotient: Turning Obstacles into Opportunities. The author is a climber, a rock climber. Being married to rock climber who pushed me to climb a 3 pitch mountain in the Shawangunks, I can take this to heart as a metaphor for life. The idea is that you are either a climber, a camper or a quitter. Those who quit are always thinking "It's too hard," "I am not good enough," or "why bother if I am going to fail." The campers are those who might climb until it's "just enough." They play it safe. They are content with plateauing.

The climbers are those who keep climbing in the face of adversity. They strive to reach their goals no matter how hard it might seem. They manage fear and make it through. These are people who don't look at adversity negatively. I am a negative person overall. I tend to see my adversities as unfair, burdensome, and down right infuriating. So needless to say I am more a camper than a climber. But when it came to my infertility, I was clearly a climber. I didn't stop. I didn't say, "This is good enough."I faced prospects of more and more loss but I didn't quit.

Anyone going through or finished with IVF can safely say that their adversity quotient is high. The past 3 years has made me look at painful experiences not as a set back. It's easy to say this in hindsight, but it actually sets you ahead. I used to be very  jealous of a friend who's life seems to be adversity free. I can't even think of one thing that hasn't gone as planned for her. I use to think that was success. But now I know that a camper's life is comfortable but not necessarily that full. I can see that climbing gave me creativity, passion, spirituality, empathy, gumption, tenacity, perceptiveness, humor, compassion, expression, maturity, and of course, my baby.

I don't have the fuel of infertility these days, though the fire hasn't been put out. I still grow angry when I hear of people getting pregnant with their second child. I assumed now that all of my friends are turning 40 next year that all their eggs would also be crap, but apparently not. I still get jealous when I hear someone's IVF worked. It still hurts. It still burns that I had to choose a different path. But what's different is that I am learning to let adversity push me to design my life so I don't settle for the campground.

The book said that climbers aren't climbing all the time. They take breaks at the campground to refuel and then set sights on a new climb. So I see myself right now taking a break at the campground. I just finished the baby mountain which certainly gives me the right to rest. I would say that my experience with surrogacy and donor egg might be likened to reaching the peak of a mountain and then being asked to skydive off of it. So I am due for some singing by the campfire. But I just have to make sure I don't settle into a nice sleeping bag and sleep my life away. Ultimately, as I venture into my 40s next year, I would like to think that there is more to climb. I like to believe that staying persistent with something will make it blossom. So as I contemplate finding work this fall and think about possibly trying for baby #2, I know I have to apply the same adversity quotient. It's the highest quotient so far in my life and so I know it's strength. It's really the hidden pistol in our pockets. Just remember that as you look at campers who get pregnant at the drop of a hat, or gush about their pregnancy, or pity you.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A mention of surrogacy

A little mention can go a long way. Just a short blip about surrogacy in Sex and the City 2 was kind of satisfying. Sarah Jessica Parker's character is talking with a fan who claims she has lived the exact same life as her [Carrie Bradshaw]. The woman announces she is pregnant via a surrogate and can give her the name of an agency. Carrie politely declines saying children are not for her. The woman is disappointed and slightly judgy (which I didn't like but beggars can't be choosers). In that one short conversation you see the stage set between the women who design their lives to be childless and the woman who design their lives to be mothers. She is juxtaposed against a mother via surrogacy. My guess is that Sarah Jessica Parker's real life surrogacy story is behind that script choice. I suppose choosing to not have kids and choosing to use a surrogate are sort of similar alternative camps - just on the opposite sides of the spectrum. But this conversation begins Carrie's journey in the film navigating her confusing expectations of a satisfying childless life.

What I like about the brief highlight of surrogacy is that perhaps it can plant the seeds in audiences that a woman can define her life however she wants. If she wants to use a surrogate to have a baby, so be it. If she wants to live her life just with her loving husband, more power to her. It's just two different paths. Sex and the City 2 reaches many many women. I hope that short exchange between the two women just reinforced that reproductive choices are exactly that- choices.

I know there is much criticism and poo pooing of the movie as a whole for other reasons. But expecting it to have some sort of cultural sensitivity or depth I think is a bit far fetched. You have to take it for what it is, which is candy. I totally was entertained. It was pure girl porn. The shoes, the clothes, the drama, the objectification of male bodies - I don't think you can expect more. But I give a nod to Sarah Jessica Parker as a fellow mother via surrogacy that at least she put it out there.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Lazy days of summer

As the oppressive humidity of New York City seems to be imminent, I have fallen into a summer slumber of mommy time. We have the feedings going every 5 hours. We are sleep training. Neck and legs are strengthening. Tummy time is our middle name. I danced around like a fool in my first baby development class. Our baby at 4 months is a linebacker. Rolls and rolls of fat have puffed out like a cheese soufflé making her a pudgy delectable treat.

I seem to be getting the hang of this. It's almost, dare I say, as if I can forget a little bit about the dark past. But every once in a while I am reminded of my unusual closeted infertile self. Just recently a sales lady asked, "How long was your labor?" Faced with this question for the first time I was a deer caught in headlights. I looked helplessly at my sister-in-law for help as I kept thinking in a panic, "How long did it take A. to deliver? Why am I blanking!!" I looked up into the air for a moment and say, "Ugh, about 8, or maybe 12 or, um...yeah 12 hours." My hope is that maybe women sometimes block out this very trying physical feat of labor so that my perplexing behavior might be assumed to be an aftershock? But what do I really care. So the sales lady thinks I am crazy, whatever.

But just like the questions about the pregnancy use to catch me off guard, eventually my scripted answers regarding labor/delivery melt off my tongue like second nature. I have mastered dodging questions like a high speed cheetah. But if they arise, it's best to keep it simple. A woman asked me on an airplane "How was the pregnancy?" I shrug, "Great." A woman says, "Wow, you just had a baby. You look great." I say,"Thanks." Someone says, "How did you manage to delivery that big baby!?" I say, "I managed."

It's the straight forward nature of life right now that I am thoroughly enjoying. Life used to be all about maybes, what ifs, and gray zones. But these lazy summer days feel very absolute. It's very freeing. I go from one day to the next learning more and more about my baby. It's amazing to me how much I know of her tiniest moods and needs. I know the pitch of her squeal when she is getting tired. I know the drool is a sign she wants her pacifier. I know how to get her into a bath without it being a three ring circus. I've figure out all her skin rashes - finally! I know that her concerned pissed off look means she is pooping. Again, just keeping it simple these days.