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Reflections on Mother’s Day: the other side of infertility

This is my first Mother’s Day on “The Other Side”. The other side of infertility, that is.

A few years ago, on Mother’s Day, I was stuck outside this very door.

Moms only

The well meaning church volunteer had been stationed at these doors to make sure non-moms didn’t clog up the mother’s area, eating cupcakes and drinking punch that was reserved for the special women of the hour. “You’re not allowed in, “ he said, “unless you have one of these stickers”. There were 2 brightly coloured stickers that said “Mom” and “Mom to be”. He meant well, they all meant well. They were only trying to celebrate those hard working women who sacrifice so much every day, The Moms!

And you better believe that today, my first official Mother’s Day,  I’ll be enjoying my brunch. But part of me will never forget what it was like being on the other side and all the women who are still there. The women whose babies went straight to heaven without ever getting to hold them. The women who came home from the hospital to an empty baby room. The women who are poked and prodded at the fertility clinic, physically, emotionally and financially exhausted. The almost moms. The want-to- be moms. The bereaved moms.

My dad has bought me flowers is years past on Mother’s Day. “Maybe next year will be the year,” he’d say. He didn’t realize that I had already felt like a mom, even though my motherhood was only evidenced on medical charts. Fleeting blood tests that said my babies were here, even if it was only for a short while. As a Godmother, auntie, volunteer Big Sister and businesswoman, I also felt that I mothered lots of people and things in different ways. There are many women out there who nurture people and projects in ways that just aren’t celebrated. Today, I’ll remember those women too!

I can’t deny that The Other Side is a nice place to be. It’s less awkward here, people understand how to deal with you here. You make sense here. Please note that I’m not telling any moms to feel guilty. Enjoy standing up at church today for the applause. Enjoy the massage or the day out and be proud of the macaroni art so proudly presented to you.

Macaroni art

But in the celebration, reserve a little compassion for the sad hearts out there today. Remember those stuck on the other side of the door. I know I will.

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Posted by on May 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Why Change is Good

Every day I walk to work along this path.

The green grass path
Photo credit: Poppy Marrins

The area probably spans 10,000 square feet of lush green grass and yet I walk on a narrow path of dead yellow grass. If someone is gaining speed behind me, I step off the path to let them past and I get right back on again. I’ve seen others do the exact same thing. Day after day we step in line, we stay in line.

I have taken a bit of a break from writing this blog because I was busy studying and taking exams, getting ready to start a new career. A new career that some people have reminded me is a 180 degree difference from my current field of work.

“That’s a drastic change don’t you think?” some have said. “Why would you give up a secure pay cheque?” “You went to grad school, you won’t even be using your masters anymore.” As though this career change will render all my knowledge or experience automatically useless.

I’ve teetered like a rag doll over this career change. Most people in my life have been supportive, pumping me up and making feel like I’m making a “good move”. But then a nervous Nancy comes along, awakening the nervous Nancy inside myself. Reminding me that change is scary and that taking a risk may mean you’re stepping out on a limb that might snap in two.

Now, I’m not naïve enough to think that risk taking isn’t sometimes accompanied with failure. There are no guarantees in life. Actually, I just thought of a few. You’ll never change anything in your life unless you actually CHANGE something. And one day you’ll die.  People say that life is too short to not do what you love but I think that life is too short to stay in your comfort zone and wonder what if.

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Photo credit: http://www.socialbusinessnews.com/the-five-cs-of-change-management-choice-conviction-commitment-and-compassion/

Change can certainly lead to hardship, struggle and discomfort just to name a few things. But it can also lead to a few other things.

1. Pushing yourself to new limits
Muscles can never grow unless they are pushed. You could go to the gym and lift the same weight for your entire life, but your body would definitely adjust to this new normal and your progress would halt.

2. Personal growth
Changing your job, your city or your life usually means you need to learn new skills, a new language, or a new way of getting around.  You may have to do things you’re scared of doing but I have yet to meet a person who regretted learning new skills.

3. Success.
Nobody ever accomplished anything new or great by saying, “you know what? I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, I hate change”.

If anything, changing yourself is the only thing you can do. Aldous Huxley once said, “I wanted to change the world. But I have found that the only thing one can be sure of changing is oneself”. And he was right. We can always blame a city for having no “scene”, your boss for being a tyrant, or your neighbour for being too noisy but the only thing in life you can truly change is yourself.

Do you have something in your life you want to change or a risk you want to take? If so, what’s holding you back?

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Facebook newsfeed etiquette. Or why I don’t want to see your stitches.

Alright let’s face it people, Facebook is pretty awesome. It’s a way to connect, mobilize, advertise and entertain. But the problem with every good invention is the people who use it. Here are some newsfeed items that drive me up the wall.*

1. Pictures of your wounds
I like to peruse my Facebook newsfeed as much as the next person. I enjoy scrolling and seeing interesting article, cool song, hilarious unlikely animal friendship picture and then <record screech> your gaping, infected wound.

When did it become ok to show people your wounds? You don’t go on the train in the morning and say, “hey guys, you want to see my infected stitches?” Because it’s gross right? So why is it ok to show to me?

I wonder if soldiers injured during WWII thought, “man, this gunshot wound is horrible. I hope it heals. But not before I show it to 500 of my closest friends”.

Simply put, posting your marathon time? Awesome. Posting pictures of your bruised and broken toenail from marathon training? Thumbs down!

2. Pictures of your naked kid
Remember the days when parents would embarrass their son or daughter by showing their new partner some naked baby pictures of them?

In 20 years, the conversation might go more like this.

Mom: Johnny was so cute when he was little. Want to see some pictures of him when he was being toilet trained?
New girlfriend: That’s ok, I already saw them. On the internet.

That’s right parents. Let’s play a little more hard to get.

3. Ultrasound pictures
Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with ultrasound pictures. They’re pretty medically important. I don’t even mind seeing them on your fridge. You know, because we’re actually friends,  I’m in your house opening your fridge after all.

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But when I haven’t seen you in ages and we are just acquaintances, it’s not ok for me to see the inside of your uterus. I know you’re excited and you want to announce to all your “friends” that a human being is growing inside of you. But remember, you are showing us your medical information (located on the top band of the photos). Oh yeah, and you’re also showing us INSIDE YOUR BODY. Is nothing sacred?

4. Your multiple photoshoots
I am so happy that you got married. I might even have been at your wedding, blowing those ridiculous bubbles for you when you walked down the aisle. I even like seeing a few photos from your big day. But do you have to inundate us with the multiple photoshoots?

There was your engagement photoshoot, your wedding photos, your “trash the dress” photoshoot (don’t even get me started on that), your maternity photoshoot, the newborn photoshoot and the newly fashionable “cake smash photoshoot”.

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Yes, I just heard of this one the other day. You hire a professional photographer to take pictures of your baby smashing in a cake on their first birthday. You know we are first world gluttons when we pay someone to take pictures of our kid destroying food. I can only imagine what my relatives overseas would think of this. If they find puppy obedience school insane, I’m sure the cake smash won’t go over very well with them.

I have to wonder, if there was no Facebook would we so obsessively document our milestones? If there was no audience, would we have the desire to share so much?

Let’s narrate this to show what’s really going on.

“I really don’t want my wedding dress to go to waste, so instead of donating it to charity or saving it for my own daughter, I’m going to wreck it by laying in some mud and water. I totally think 100s of people are going to want to see this”.

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“I am 8 months pregnant, I feel like I am the first person who has ever done this before, maybe I’ll even be the last. I just HAVE to have pictures of my husband’s hands on my belly in the forest. After all, if a woman is pregnant in the forest and 100s of people don’t see it, is she even really pregnant?”

I could totally go on but I still want friends after I publish this post.

5. Too many selfies.
It seems that the easier it is to take pictures of ourselves, the more often we do it. Imagine during the 80s, if someone constantly took Polaroid photos of themselves in their bathroom, then carried them around to show people. I think the occasional self portrait is fine, I just don’t want to see you age in real time.

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The moral of the story: just because it’s easier to do now, doesn’t mean it’s less weird.

I’m not sure if these pet peeves of mine will ever change, nor do I think people will ever really stop doing them. Maybe I’ll just petition to Facebook to have 2 separate newsfeeds. Or at least an extra optional ones for the wounds.

* this doesn’t mean I don’t want to be friends with you anymore, it just means that some days you make me throw up a little bit in my mouth.

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Why 30 is the new 20. But not to your ovaries.

* * *
Firstly, I want to thank my readers for all of their support. Just shy of its 3 month birthday, this little blog has been viewed in 65 countries!

I also wanted to congratulate my subscriber Stephanie from Vancouver, British Columbia for winning the subscriber contest. She chose the fantastic sanded and oiled fire roasted birch coasters from the fine artisans of Birch & Grey (http://www.birchandgrey.com/) Check them out, they’re brilliant!
* * *

Now back to the regularly scheduled blog post….

Old eggs
My doctor told me that I’m old.

At first I was stunned. But then he clarified, “your best reproductive years are behind you.” I had only been married a year. I laughed and asked, “when am I supposed to start trying?”

He pointed at his watch and said, “right when you get home.” He then explained that the ideal age to conceive would have been around 18 years old, biologically at least.

At first I was very annoyed. When I was 18, my biggest concerns were midterms and perfecting my eyebrow tweezing technique- having a baby was what “bad girls” did. Plus, sitting in my doctor’s office, I didn’t feel old. I still wear Converse and stay up super late on weekdays, I play bass. In a band. So I left his office and told this story to others, recruiting my friends so we could all call him crazy.

The eggs don’t lie

Ovum

Then I dug deep into the research only to find that my annoying doctor had a point. Times have changed, but our biology hasn’t. Just because in our arrested development 30 has become the new 20, doesn’t mean that your ovaries feel the same way. Before you write to me about your 48 year old pregnant boss or your 39 year old friend who is pregnant with twins, or your 20 year old cousin who is barren as the winter is long, please remember that those are exceptions to the rule and not the norm.

Don’t bring up cases like Dawn Brooke, who in 1997 became the world’s oldest woman to give birth naturally at age 59. I mean, who wants to be that lady?  (That could spark a whole new breastfeeding article– what’s the oldest YOU should be when breastfeeding?) And definitely don’t bring up the twins Mariah Carey had at age 42. For all we know, celebrities can drink a concoction of moondust and horse hormones created by NASA to aid in their fertility. They have different resources available to them than we do. Plus I find it funny that when you mention that a celebrity looks great after having a baby, people quickly respond, “she is rich, she probably has a whole team helping her look like that”… you get my drift.

As I researched I realized that I barely knew anything about fertility. I spent a lot of that unit in high school biology class just cringing or laughing with my friends. The extent of my reproductive knowledge was “don’t get pregnant”. As I looked more into it, I learned that it is as complicated as it is fascinating. While there are MANY contributing factors that affect fertility, age is one of the most basic. As age increases, fertility decreases. Period.

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Now, if you’re single, I understand that you may have your hands tied a bit here. And if you’ve just started a new job and need to secure a maternity leave, or are working to cure a health condition, I’m not really referring to you. I don’t think a few more months will make a huge difference. I’m talking to the women who are consistently avoiding pregnancy because they want to take that one more trip, save up that down-payment or start that post doctoral fellowship. You can do those things of course, but you need to accept that time is your fertility’s worst enemy.

In addition to this, waiting to have children increases the chance that you will become a part of the sandwich generation- those who simultaneously care for their own children and their aging parents. If you’re already in this position, I commend you for your patience and the time you give to others. But if you’re not, I wouldn’t recommend putting yourself there.

The kids are alright
I think the real problem boils down to many people thinking they must fit in everything fun, engaging, academic before they have children. As though children are the dream killers. If we can’t see the overlap of kids with other life goals, we’ll continue to keep them separate and risk not having children at all in the pursuit to accomplish other endeavors. But let’s face it ladies, a PhD is nice, but your supervisor isn’t going to eat Christmas dinner at your house in 30 years.

You may think this is unfair, especially since men don’t have the same biological restrictions. But men constantly produce their “product” while women are born with all of the eggs they will ever have. The feminist movement has changed a lot of things, and your ovaries were sitting in your woman’s studies classes, they just weren’t listening.

I’m not trying to scare you, but I am trying to open your eyes. I also don’t think NASA is going to give you that cocktail any time soon.

Photo credits
1. The Guardian
2. children.gov.on.ca

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Democratic Dazzle. Or Michelle Obama at the Oscars.

I’m always torn about watching awards programs like the Oscars. You see, I LOVE movies, I watched 6 of the 9 nominees for best picture this year. But whenever I watch an event like the Oscars, it does cross my mind that while we are watching shiny people collect shiny statues for entertaining us, millions of  people live on less that $1 per day. It reminds me of the meaninglessness of most of our first world pageantry. You’re not going to see slum dwelling children around the world saying, “OMG, did you see Jennifer Lawrence fall on the stairs at the Oscars?”

But I didn’t mention it at the Oscar party I attended last night because I don’t want to be a party pooper. You know, THAT person.

So I sat back and enjoyed the movie clips and montages and heckling with my friends. After all, taking some time out of my day for some entertainment wouldn’t be a detriment to solving the world’s economic problems, right?

So of course, I was surprised when Michelle Obama, stepped out of a National Governors Association dinner and using a remote satellite feed from the Whitehouse, was able to co-present the award for Best Motion Picture with Jack Nicholson. I’d say she was one of the best presenters of the night. But is that where a political person (and I do consider her that) should be spending her time and/or efforts? Or is she, like us, just taking time out of her day for a little entertainment?

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She’s not the only one to do it
Nixon was on Laugh-In.

Nancy Regan was on DIfferen’t Strokes.

Ronald Regan sent a taped greeting to the Oscars and in 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke over the radio to an Oscar audience.

It’s not the first time a political person has been in popular media. But this morning, the internet was abuzz with opinions on whether or not the First Lady should have presented at the Oscars. Repeatedly noted was that this past week, she danced on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and met with Big Bird in the Whitehouse kitchen to promote her Let’s Move campaign. But was there anything wrong with these public appearances? Isn’t Mrs. Obama just promoting her projects? Morally, I don’t see a problem. But what about the political or social implications of these cameos?

While American’s have insisted on the separation of church and state since their country’s inception, it’s the separation of Hollywood and the state that we don’t seem too concerned about.

Remember those class representative elections and being told that it was just a popularity contest? When was the magical moment where we all crossed over and voted 100% on track record, foreign policy, economic aptitude? I’d say never.

We’d hate to admit it but lots of voting is done on picking the person you’d “like to have a beer with”. Do a quick test, whatever country you’re from or wherever you are on the political spectrum. Think of the last person you voted for. Try and write down their specific policies on the economy, welfare and military funding.

You can probably see where I’m going with this…

So is it safe to assume that a politician being so incredibly likeable and youthful may affect some of our voting decisions, particularly amongst young people? When politicians strive to prove they can relate to the average citizen, does hobnobbing with some of the richest people in society seem hypocritical? If so, does anyone care? And what does it mean when I logged onto Youtube today and two of the featured videos on the home page were this video

and this one.

Does it mean that the Obamas are grasping and tacky or do people value pop culture over public policy? Shame on them or shame on us?

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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The breastfeeding debate Part 2. Or how long is too long?

A former boss of mine told me she was breastfed until she was in kindergarten. She said she would come home from school and ask for breastmilk. I remember being surprised by this and then quickly developing my two rules for how long I thought women should breastfeed.

1) The “Talk Test” rule: If your baby can tell you he/she is hungry, using actual words in a    sentence like, “mom, I’m hungry”, then the kid is too old for breastmilk.

2) The 90 degrees rule: If while lying across your lap, his/her legs can bend at a 90 degree angle and dangle, then the kid is too old for breastmilk.

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But since I published the part 1 of this breastfeeding series, I was approached both off and online a lot about this subject. During my many discussions, I realised that our opinions on breastfeeding are mostly based on personal opinion and personal experience. We’re all coming to the table with a bias. Some of us have two.

I figured I should start with some science.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age and beyond”.1  Another study stated that  “Breastfeeding for less than 6 months compared with 6 months or longer was an independent predictor of mental health problems through childhood and into adolescence”.According to a study by Kramer and Kakuma, exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months has several advantages over only 3-4 months for the following reasons: lower risk for gastrointestinal infection for the infant, more rapid maternal weight loss after birth and delayed return of mentrual periods.3

Ok, so the WHO is behind breastfeeding, at least until the child is 2 years old. But what about beyond that? The studies I found mostly used 6 months as the mark. I was looking for more, what about the type of people who violate my 2 rules? Do they harm their children? Are their 4 year olds as strong as teenagers? Are they the “helicopter moms” who call professors to complain about their 20 year old’s grade?

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I decided to ask a few friends of mine.

Why does prolonged breastfeeding make some of us uncomfortable?

“I suspect that has more to do with arbitrary societal norms than the legitimacy of extended breastfeeding” stated my friend Heather. Why else did the TIME magazine cover cause such an uproar?  

“I have watched both of my nephews nurse well past their third birthday,” she added, “The first was weaned when my sister-in-law became pregnant again. Now nephew #2 is almost four, and he still breastfeeds occasionally. Having seen them grow up this way has seemed totally natural.”

My friend Shannon agreed. When she first found out she was expecting, she assumed she’d breastfeed for 6 months to a year. But her daughter’s first birthday arrived before she knew it. “I started to get asked when I was going to give her cow’s milk, or when I would cut back on our sessions. I started to feel pressure and it was starting to stress me out, and, in turn (stress) her. I didn’t feel either one of us were close to ending that part of our relationship, and I was feeling almost guilty for breastfeeding her around others. Her limbs were getting longer, and it’s not as graceful…. But how can something that clearly is so natural be so wrong?”

Shannon had a compelling point, if it was natural and healthy, what was the problem?

What about boundaries?

But I couldn’t shake the images I’d seen on TV. Look up the “Bitty” sketches from the show Little Britain- about an adult who continues to demand breastmilk from his elderly mother. I remembered an episode of  “Supernanny”  where a mother had to share her bed with her 4 year old daughter who would lift up her shirt frequently throughout the night to feed. The child would yell, “I HATE YOU” if her mother didn’t comply.

My friend Kristie (featured in my previous post) would see her step-brother, who was breastfed until he was a toddler, try to pull his mom’s shirt up in public. She saw no reason to nurse a toddler. Kristie brought up this point in her prenatal class and the teacher Deb, said something that changed Kristie’s tune.

“Actually, the shirt pulling thing has more to do with teaching your toddler manners and boundaries than breastfeeding,” Deb said, “It is known that breast milk adapts to the child’s needs as they age. Do what you are comfortable with, but breast milk has benefits as long as the child continues nursing.”

I have to admit, after talking to my friends, I’m not closer to having a firm opinion, or at least one that doesn’t just sprout from my awkwardness.

Breastmilk is good for babies, no arguments here. But the breast will naturally produce milk as long as there is suckling. So what guides us? Biology? Social norms? The fact that your child is starting kindergarten?

What do you all think? How long is too long?

 

References

  1. http://www.who.int/topics/breastfeeding/en/
  2. Oddy WH, Kendall GE, Li J, et al. The Long-Term Effects of Breastfeeding on Child and Adolescent Mental Health: A Pregnancy Cohort Study Followed for 14 Years. Journal of Pediatrics. 2010; 156: 568-74.
  3. Kramer MS, Kakuma R. Optimal duration of exclusive breastfeeding. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue
 
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Posted by on February 11, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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The Contest! Explained!

So apparently, I’m not a good contest commissioner.  People have been contacting me or talking to me in person saying things like,

I get your emails, which I’m assuming means I’m subscribed
No, this only means that I’m lucky enough to have your email address and then use it to pester you. The only way you can be subscribed is if look at the column on the right that says, “follow blog via email” then put your email address in the box and voila! You will then be a subscriber and I will remove you from my personal mass email list.  If you’ve already followed these steps then you’re already entered.

Why do I have to subscribe if I find your blog on Facebook or when you email it to me with the mass email?
Well then you wouldn’t be entered to win awesome prizes, would you?

Will I get a whole bunch of emails?
Nope, you’ll just get the most recently published blog post a few times a month.

So subscribe subscribe subscribe and be entered to win one of the following prizes! Good luck!

The prizes!
1. Fire roasted birch, poplar and oak coasters from Birch & Grey (http://www.birchandgrey.com/)

Birch&Grey coasters

2. A cowl handmade for you by myself.

Cowl by Poppy Marrins

3. A well written profile of your business/company/charity to be featured on this blog, This free advertising will allow you to reach a whole new audience.

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2013 in Uncategorized

 
 
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