You need to read this magazine

My local library branch is small.  The building it’s in is basically a small modular ranch home; when you enter there is a small bedroom-sized space with all the book stacks, fiction and non-fiction.  The main part of the building is open, with four cushy chairs for seating in a circle, four computers for public use, magazine racks, and the circulation desk.  To the far left, with the highest ceiling and widest space, is the children’s section of the library, with a small desk with crayons on one side and a wooden alligator filled with board-books on the other.  What the library doesn’t have in books it makes up for in two important ways: one, the ability to have books from any other regional library delivered to this library when available; two, a great magazine selection.

Consumer Reports, Real Simple, Martha Stewart Living… ah yes, this is what dreams are made of.   Issues available for the loaning for two weeks, all free and within five miles of my home.  It was on one of these days thumbing through Consumer Reports for phone reviews a few years ago when I noticed the magazine placed next to it.  Brain, Child was the name.  The tagline: The magazine for thinking mothers.  I gave a half-smile, thinking, “Oh good, there will be a magazine to keep my brain from turning to mush when I have kids.”  I was still blissfully ignorant of how difficult of a time I would have becoming a mother at the time, and I tucked away the knowledge of a magazine I had never heard of before into that place where I save trivia for a rainy day.

Last summer, several months pregnant, I happily checked out my first issue of Brain, Child for a 12-hour car ride.  And within minutes of opening the pages, I was crushed: this issue was going to be the last.  I thought It figures, the minute I get close to becoming a mother one thing I looked forward to is taken away.  I read the magazine sad with my knowledge.  I guess there isn’t a market for thinking mothers.

Fast-forward to a few weeks ago.  Now that my son is no longer a ball of instinctual and evolutionary responses and is gasp! learning things daily, I am making more of an effort to give him purposeful activities.  This would include Saturday morning story hour at the library.  While waiting for other children to arrive, we wandered over to look at the magazines and lo and behold, Brain, Child was there on the shelf.  I thought they must have been saving the old issues for posterity.  But no, the date said “Summer 2013.”  Wait a minute, I thought.  Was this an episode of baby brain where I had completely missed the message?  I grabbed the oldest magazine there – Winter 2013 – and brought it home.

Turns out the magazine did end, but not long after someone had come along to purchase the magazine and keep it up and going.  The new owner/editor, Marcelle Soviero, was a reader who, like me, couldn’t let the deliciousness of the magazine slip away – and I am so grateful she took the leap to keep it alive.

You need to read this magazine, especially if you are an infertilite, but it’s not going to be easy for you.  Every poem, article, essay, and letter is written by a mother.  But every poem, article, essay, and letter is moving and impactful and considers different perspectives on what it means to be a mother, and what it means to have a family.  The Winter 2013 issue alone hears the voices of women who’ve had miscarriages, who are searching for egg donors, who are foster-cum-adoptive parents, who are infertile.  And I have cried at their stories, able to know exactly what they mean and so grateful they were brutally honest about their thoughts, emotions, experiences.  Brutally honest.  But underneath it all, every story is written by a “mother” in however way that means for her.  Unlike other pregnancy or parenting magazines which focus on what chic stroller you should buy or the latest in teething biscuits, this magazine gets to the root of discovering what it means to be a mother.  The decisions you make on behalf of your children and how you think through those; the emotions of reproductive endocrinologist waiting rooms and their travertine floors; understanding teenage neuroscience…  It’s all peacefully co-existing in the pages of one relatively-ad-free (there are a few) judgement-free magazine.

You won’t find this magazine easy to find.  There are no beautiful cover models.  The cover story of this issue is “Playing God? Do kids really need religion?” and beneath that, “Babies and BMI: How big is too big?”  Those headlines fall below the main water color painting on the issue of two red-brown owls with large magnetic black eyes.  But if you let yourself listen to these women and take the time to hear their stories, you’ll find that not only are you not alone but that there is hope for you too.

Go, now.  http://www.brainchildmag.com or @brainchildmag.

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How Modern Family isn’t modern

I loved Modern Family during the first season.  It was hysterical.  TV critics said it had single-handedly saved the network sitcom, edged out by reality shows and cable television productions.  I watched it, I loved it, I rented the DVD and watched the season again.  As time has gone on I have watched it less, mostly because I don’t have time to make sure that I watch it, but also because it wasn’t as fresh after a while.  And now it is in competition with inspired shows like The New Normal, all of which have (hopefully) begun to change American’s understanding and acceptance of families that look very different from the homes of yesteryear.  Whatever that is.

But for all its breakthrough power, particularly with adoption and same-sex couples, there is a side to Modern Family that makes it seem stuck in the same pattern as the homes of yesteryear.  When I really thought about it, I don’t know why I had been so blind to it before.  Maybe because the stereotype is so commonly used in storylines that I didn’t think to question it.  I didn’t think it was so weird to see on tv.  In fact, I began to question myself and my own choices…. am I the weird one?

So what is it that pervades the lives in the Modern Family?  Divorce?  Same-sex couples?  Three generations happily living within the same school district?  Remarried older man and trophy wife?

Nope, nope, no, and nope.  It’s that each couple has a stay at home parent.  Both Claire and Gloria stay home, even though all the kids up to this point were school age (of course now Gloria has an infant).  And Cam, one half of the gay couple – and the one without a permanent career – stays home.  How is this modern?  Especially when the nation has gone through a recession that puts even more strain on families, even dual-income ones.

Maybe because I work – which means I work with parents who balance family and career daily – I don’t see this side of American life.  I didn’t go through college to start and then give up a career.  And over 60% of college students are women, and have been for the last decade or so.  So are they all dropping out of the workforce once they hit mommyhood?

Don’t get me wrong.  Given the choice, I’d much rather stay home with my little one.  But I do like working, and being useful, and using my brain.  If I were Claire Dunphy I would have hopped back in the workforce saddle the minute Luke went to pre-k.  I know people who have become stay-at-home moms and dads, but mostly because their wages were so low it wouldn’t have made sense for them to go back to work and pay for childcare.  And, most of those stay-at-home parents (both moms and dads that I know) each have some other job on the side, whether it be selling jewelry, an Etsy shop, or DJ business.  Other than Cam’s stints as a clown or drama substitute, I don’t see Gloria or Claire bringing in any kind of extra income for their broods.  So is it modern or realistic that that would be the case for any one of those suburban, middle class (one would argue upper middle class) families on that show?  I find it hard to believe, considering the cars they drive and the houses they live in.  Unless they’re up to their eyes and ears in debt.

I don’t mean to be a hater.  I thought the show was pretty quality stuff.  It just doesn’t represent my family or my choices.  It doesn’t show the heartache of going back to work and being separated from your little guy, entrusting him to the hands of strangers day in and day out.  Spending only a few hours a day with him – an hour in the morning, maybe two or three at night if you’re lucky, and you’re even more lucky if he’s awake for some of those hours.  Packing family time, home maintenance and chores, and errands like shopping into two-day weekends is just as exhausting as having to go to work every day.

But I should also be clear that I know I am fortunate to work as a choice, and not as a necessity.  And while I have moments where I’d like to be a stay-at-home mom, and I thoroughly enjoyed my three months home, I recognize my skill set as a mom.  My son is likely to be an only child.  We don’t live in a neighborhood with younger children.  His next oldest cousin is 5 years old.  I see a huge benefit in having him in day care because he is a wickedly social guy, and he gets to play with toys he doesn’t have at home, go on walks and play outside, and learn to be cared for by someone other than Mommy and Daddy.   I never felt I was missing “adult interaction” by being at home and not being at the office, but it is nice to have a place where I can solve problems, make connections, look at the wonderful students I work with and think, “How do I get my son to be just like them?”  My days home with my son are, to be super cheesy and cliche, chicken soup for my soul; my days at work are chicken soup for my brain.  Without both being cared for and nurtured, I wouldn’t feel like a whole person.  I am thankful I live in a modern enough world that I am able to satisfy both.

Update: Paul Ryan supports gay adoption

In practically the same breath earlier this week, Former Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan upheld his belief that marriage should remain between a man and a woman but admitted that he would support same-sex couples adopting.  So it’s okay for same-sex couples to have children but not be considered a committed couple in the eyes of the law?  <confused>  What am I missing?  If you were so conservatively stuck on marriage being defined by only a man and a woman, is the family unit not so sacred that you’d allow it to be far more liberally defined?

In the run-up to the elections, I brought up how the candidates might have supported or hindered issues relating to infertility.  There wasn’t a lot to go on, since infertility doesn’t exactly have the same lobbying power as, say, gun control.  But there had been questions about Romney and Ryan both having a softer stance toward infertilites than some of their other GOP competitors, and perhaps they had to swing further to the right than they wanted to maintain solid Republican base and Tea Party support.  Without being in the spotlight, maybe now they feel more secure in admitting how they truly would vote…

Or maybe the Republican party is warming up to being less conservative with family values in an effort to win votes…  Sheesh, all they’d have to do is support gay marriage before the Democrats do and the line between Democrat and Republican would have to be redefined entirely.

Either way, I’m all for living in a country that is more inclined to embrace alternative lifestyles, including alternative journeys to parenthood.  Kudos to you, Paul Ryan, in all your P90X glory.

The Adoption Tax Credit

We all know that children, as your dependents, are a tax deduction.  My husband keeps joking with me to have the baby on December 31st since that will grant us a tax deduction almost immediately.  But even if I don’t have the baby on December 31st of this year, I know I still will get the tax deduction for next year.  Parents who are going through the adoption process to grow their families may not be that lucky.

We infertilites know that there is more than one way to have a family.  Welcoming a child through adoption is a completely valid and beautiful option for many who struggle with having children of their own.  And between 1997 and December 31, 2012, parents could claim adoption credit on their taxes for both adopting a child and for expenses related to the adoption (such as court fees and travel expenses).  I’m specific about the end date because that is when the full credit is due to expire, unless Congress acts and renews the credit or decides to make it a permanent part of the tax code.  There are bills in both the House and Senate to accomplish just that – but a do-nothing Congress in the middle of an election season is not quick to move on much, except leaving town for vacations.

Starting January 1, 2013, only $6000 would be available to adoptive parents as a nonrefundable credit for expenses of special needs adoptions only.

Take a minute to find out what US Representatives are about to be on the ballot tomorrow in your state or district.  Are any of them one of the co-sponsors of the Making Adoption Affordable Act?  (Find the list here).  How do your US Senators stand on renewing this tax credit?  Then on Wednesday, November 7th, when we know who will be leading our country, be sure to write to your congressman/woman and senators and let them know it’s an important issue for you that they support these bills.

Don’t ignore the data

  • Mullerian anomalies occur in approximately 2 – 3% of all fertile women; 3% in infertile women.  (Seattle Reproductive Medicine)
  • Unicornuate uterus anomaly seems to occur in 1 of every 4,000 women.  (Wikipedia; yes, I know – I hope this doesn’t discredit me)
  • The term pregnancy rate is 47% in women with unicornuate uterus.  (BabyMed.com)
  • The total fertility rate for women in the US is 2.01 children per woman.  (Wikipedia)
  • Male factor infertility can be a primary source of up to 35% of infertility cases.  (Resolve.org)
  • Up to 50% of cases of infertility respond to treatment (and result in successful pregnancies).  (Resolve.org)
  • Women who have taken fertility medications (such as clomiphene citrate/clomid) have a 3-4% risk of developing ovarian cancer, compared to a 1-2% risk in women who had never taken the medication.  By comparison, the average woman’s chance of developing breast cancer is 12%.  (Georgia Reproductive Specialists)
  • Women who took clomiphene citrate for more than 12 cycles had the highest increase in lifetime risk of developing ovarian cancer; women who achieved pregnancy while taking the hormones did not have as high of an increased risk. (Georgia Reproductive Specialists)
  • There are about 600 reproductive endocrinologists in the US.  (iVillage.com)
  • The first IVF baby was born on July 25, 1978 in the UK.
  • Since 1978, over 45,000 babies have been born in the US with the assistance of IVF; over 70,000 total have been born with some form of assisted reproductive technology.  (Discovery Health)
  • About 2% of the child population in the US are adopted.  (ChildTrendsDataBank)
  • About 3% of American families include adopted children.
  • Adopted children are more likely to be read to every day, told stories to, eat a meal with the family at least six times a week, and participate in organized activities.  (ChildTrendsDataBank)
  • Infertility is a factor in 39% of families choosing to adopt a child from foster care.  (US Dept Health & Human Services)

To learn more about infertility, please visit the Infertility 101 page at Resolve.org.

Click here to learn about National Infertility Awareness Week.