Monday, June 29, 2009

Barren Bitches Book Brigade (or: I can read!)

Although I have been a fan of the Stirrup Queens blog for several years now, I have never before participated in the book club. Mainly because the books I read are more likely going to be reviewed on this site. But the arrival of my copy of Navigating the Land of IF by Melissa Ford (yes, the Stirrup Queen herself) coincided with the open invitation to read it with the Barren Bitches Book Brigade, so I decided it would be fun to participate this time. Below you will find my answers to three questions submitted by other barren bitches (or sperm palace jester, as the case may be) regarding this book.

Hop along to another stop on this blog tour by visiting the main list at Stirrup Queens ( You can also sign up for the next book on this online book club: "Moose" by Stephanie Klein.

Mel weaves the navigating theme throughout the book. How have you navigated your own infertility journey? Discuss some of the highs and lows of your personal journey and ways you saw your story as you were reading the book.

I first got my ticket to the Land of IF in the spring of 2006. Our "natural" attempts at conception had met with constant failure, so my OB/GYN prescribed Clomid. From there we experienced the usual tests as ordered by our OB/GYN and later the RE (bloodwork, HSG, semen analysis, Clomid Challenge Test, post-coital test, laparoscopy) with no concrete diagnosis, although suspected female factor. We collaborated with our RE to determine a course of action; I read books and combed message boards for medical information and personal anecdotes. I felt the need to be proactive, it gave me some sense of control in a situation in which I really had little. We endured treatment after treatment, culminating in our fifth IUI (second one with injectibles) that resulted in a successful pregnancy. Now we are back on the island to TTC a second child. I hoped and prayed -- and dared even thought -- that we would be one of the lucky couples who didn't have to struggle again after primary infertility. That was almost the case, as we had a BFP on Christmas Eve, but it quickly revealed itself to be only a chemical pregnancy. Now we are heading back to the RE for more injections and turkey basting... thank you, sir, may I have another?

The highs for me had to be the few times that I had hope a treatment would work, mainly when starting a new protocol. I got worse and worse at the "hope" thing as time wore on, but it would show up sometimes anyway. It made me giddy at the first round of Clomid (This is all we'll need, the doc said!). The first IUI (Wow, all those swimmers put just in the right spot, how could this NOT work!). The first round of injectibles with IUI (This is hard core... I'll probably end up with triplets!). And when each one of those failed, the lowest of the lows. Other than the constant and unstoppable arrival of AF, two particularly difficult times for me were hitting the one-year mark and being told I would need a laparoscopy to check for endometriosis. When we hit 12 months TTC, all of the milestones I created in my head came crashing down around me (e.g. I'll have the cutest baby bump next Christmas, or I'll be holding my baby on my next birthday, etc.) and I realized that this was going to be more trouble than I thought. Not only could I not count on being pregnant by any specific future date, I could not count on being pregnant EVER with complete certainty. I was -- I am -- infertile. And shortly after that unhappy anniversary came the recommendation of scheduling a laparoscopy. I was so terrified of surgery that I left the RE's office absolutely shaking. I missed my turn on the way back to my workplace, tried to turn around in someone's ridiculously steep driveway, got stuck on an ice patch, had to call a tow truck, and missed a meeting I had with a client. I laughed about it with my coworkers (who didn't know about my IF), but it was not exactly a banner day. On the bright side, when the time came, the surgery wasn't nearly as bad as I had feared.

Reading Mel's book took me back to those early days of IF when I was learning about hormones and treatments for the first time. Wondering how far we'd need to go to get pregnant, hoping it wasn't to the next step (whatever that might have been at the time). Being unsure of many things, especially wondering if I was strong enough to survive this. This time I am much more familiar with the process, and as I read, I was nodding along instead of nervously marking down questions like I did with IF books three years ago. And there's one thing I am certain of: I am strong enough to survive this, even though it will hurt like hell for a while. I overcame a needle phobia and stabbed myself in the stomach for a week. I'm pretty certain I could fly if I really needed to.

Navigating the Land of IF covered many different aspects of infertility. What topic do you wish had been added or expanded on?

I think the comprehensive nature of the book is one of its strengths; there is something for everyone, and because you often don't know where the path will take you next, it's great to have all topics available (e.g. male factor diagnoses, IVF, adoption, child-free) whenever you need to reference them. That being said, there wasn't a lot covered on secondary infertility specifically. I think partly because the physical issues are the same as with primary infertility, and the emotional issues greatly overlap as well. I certainly wasn't expecting much on this topic anyway -- I bought the book for a refresher as we head back to the RE -- but I would be very curious to see how a chapter or perhaps an entire book on secondary infertility (especially after primary infertility) might read. I am just starting to navigate this area of the island, so it would be valuable to me to have some idea of what to expect. For example: So far, secondary infertility has been a little bit easier for me than primary. (Although still ridiculously high on the Shitty Scale.) I'm almost holding my breath waiting for the same wave of depression that hit me last time to sneak up and crush me. Although I'm certain it's different for everyone, I'd love to hear what have other women experienced as their journey for subsequent children drags on. Any special emotions or pitfalls I should be keeping an eye out for?

The "From Me to You" section—how did that touch you? Have you ever wished you had a best friend in your pocket to get you through a day? What would you say to your best friend in a note if you thought she was going through the same thing?

The book arrived in my mailbox from the same day we were attending a family potluck held by the moms club I belong to. Admittedly, events like these now are immensely easier than, say, heading to a baby shower while I was experiencing primary infertility. But throughout these sorts of gatherings, even with my son in tow, I have a knot in my stomach watching the other moms wrangle their multiple children, seeing siblings interact and play together, and holding my breath in fear that someone will burst out with a pregnancy announcement as my latest cycle is failing. As we were gathering our food and bag to head out, I impulsively grabbed "Navigating the Land of IF" off the kitchen table and flipped through. My eyes settled on the final page of the "From Me to You" section, where Melissa presents a personal note for the reader to xerox and take to a difficult party, offering moral support and permission to secretly feel crappy until safe at home again once more.

As soon as I read it, my heart sighed in my chest, and tears welled in my eyes. It's what I love about Melissa's blog as well -- she simply gets it. She has had a cry in the bathroom at a baby shower, she has stepped outside for a few minutes to collect herself, she has sneaked into the liquor cabinet for a drink. (I picture her using that gum-like stuff from Mission: Impossible to blow open the lock. Although I guess that wouldn't really be sneaking. Maybe she has a special quiet sort of gum explosive that makes a small blast that no one notices.) I whole-heartedly appreciate the support of all my fertile friends and family, I couldn't survive without them, but the comfort I get from the empathy and encouragement of a fellow IFer is unparalleled for me. And I think that's why the letter immediately spoke to my core. Melissa used her beautiful words, again, to remind me that although IF is major suckage, it's not the lonely island it sometimes appears to be. I closed the book, sniffed, and blinked my eyes so my husband wouldn't see my tears and ask me what was wrong. We packed the car, headed off to the potluck, and my heart was lighter than it had been all day.

I absolutely have wished for a tiny infertile best friend to hide in my pocket to help me get through the day. This imaginary IF BFF would no doubt be saying snarky things about strangers behind their backs, which is of course extremely rude (shame on you, naughty IF BFF!) but she would make me snicker nevertheless.

If I had to write a note to a friend going through the same thing, I would probably say something like:

I am so proud of you for coming to this, even though you'd prefer to stay home in bed with your ice cream and DVRed episodes of Wipeout. (Is there anything funnier than watching people getting knocked on their asses?) You are such a strong woman, even when you don't feel like it, and it is kind of you to attend for the sake of the host. You have my permission to pull yourself away, or ignore a conversation, or daydream about those people getting knocked on their asses when you need a break from the celebration. Even though I am not there now, I am with you in spirit, thinking about how amazing you are and praying the minutes tick by quickly. You can absolutely get through this, and when you do, there's a giant tub of ice cream with your name on it. I hope we'll be celebrating your happy blessing one day very soon, and I'll be the guest with the biggest smile. (And cutest dress.) (But not nearly as cute as yours.)

Lots of love,


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Because it feels good to have a plan

DH and I have agreed on a TTC plan.

1. Max 2 IUIs with Follistim, first cycle in July, ony one IUI per month (not back-to-back). If not pregnant, then...

2. Max one more year "natural" TTC. If not pregnant, then...

3. Discuss option of IVF. Beg DH to agree to IVF. Devise way to steal DH's sperm and undergo IVF without his knowledge. If not pregnant, then...

4. The end. Family vacation! Wally World, anyone?

Okay, so maybe we didn't quite "agree" on #3. But we are making progress. Gotta love any plan that reduces the worst experience of my life (IF) to four deceivingly simple bullet points.

Does it make me sound twisted... if I admit that I can't wait to stab myself in the stomach with that damn Follistim pen?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Why hello uterus, I've missed you

Whew! It's only 2 pm as I'm starting this post, and I feel like I've lived through an entire week since I woke up this morning. Yes, today was The Appointment.

Hoo-ha, meet the new RE. Mr. RE, this is my hoo-ha. A pleasure, I'm sure.

I drove into Seattle with the morning rush. Actually it wasn't so bad. On the way in, I turned up my music REALLY LOUD (which I can't normally do because of my pint-sized passenger) and belted out the lyrics to the Missy Higgins CD that my friend Al had made for me. It was kinda like having her with me for moral support -- thanks Al, I love you! As I drove and sang (using the word "sang" loosely) I could feel my body buzzing with emotion and anticipation. I tried to identify the individual thoughts and feelings, but I really couldn't. I was a giant mess of nerves... leaving Bean home with this babysitter for the first time, wondering how our appointment would go, contemplating whether or not we'd end up with a baby at the end of it all.

The first thing I had to get over was the fact that this clinic is very different than our last one. I loved my RE in St. Louis, and he's the standard by which all others will be judged. I'm sure it's some sort of psychological defense mechanism that I remember only the good things about our last experience with the doctor; the rose-colored glasses of the mind. Going into this office, I was struck by how hard core it seems. Everything from the giant official logo on the building to the super-professional waiting room and fancy offices overlooking the water. This is Serious Business here.

DH met me there and we patiently waited to meet Mr. RE. (Sorry, I have no creative nickname for him like others do for their doctors. If I think of something more amusing I'll be sure to let you know.) Apart from enjoying the comfy chairs and beautiful view, we were assaulted by a constant stream of offensive lite rock ballads from the early 1990s. I sang along with every single song, from Michael Bolton to Whitney Houston, and we pondered what it says about me that I knew all the words. DH and I were both in agreement on that: nothing good. Nothing good whatsoever.

But despite the less-than-happy reason we were there, it's always a nice treat to see DH in the middle of the day. We sat and talked and laughed while we waited... we are truly in this together. As I looked at the other couples, I felt a little guilty knowing that we had a child at home already (although I'm sure some of them did, too). No matter what happens this time, I'll be spending my life with my soulmate, raising our son. God willing, we'll have family vacations and baseball games and high school graduation and grandbabies one day. That blessing wasn't lost on me. Secondary infertility has been very different than primary for me so far... I'm sure I'll have more to say on that subject in subsequent posts.

We finally shook hands with our new hope for the future, Mr. RE. We sat down together, and he rendered useless all the time we spent filling out a huge packet of paperwork by asking us to give our history. He struck me as a very sharp man, he was very "quick" with everything (not like rushing us, more like he was processing things in his head very quickly) as we talked history and treatment planning.

In the middle of our consultation, my cell phone rang. Fearing it was the babysitter, I grabbed it from my purse and looked at my caller ID. It was one of the moms from preschool. I was hoping she was calling because she wanted to get together today, and as I would learn when I listened to her message on the way home, I was right! My insides did a little jig of happiness seeing her name on the small screen... and if you've read this post, you understand why. As stressful as the day was, there were a lot of good things happening too.

How did the meeting go? As good as these sorts of meetings can go, I suppose. We discussed what worked and didn't work in the past. He gave me an ultrasound to check out the old uterus and follies. (Hi ladies! It's been a while!) He saw a small fibroid on the outside of the uterus, which he said was a non-issue at this point, and remarked that otherwise my insides are "beautiful." Spotted one dominant follie on my right ovary... hopefully I'll be popping that baby off next week. Who knows, maybe I'll get pregnant and not need to return to the office. HA HA HA! *snort* Excuse me while I recover from a fit of laughter...

He agreed with me 100% that it may very well be the mild endo that's creating a hostile environment for implantation, despite the assurances from my previous OB/GYN and RE that it was not. His suggestion was that we reduce the amount of Follistim this time (to aim for 1-2 follies instead of the 2-3 I got last time, lessening the chance of multiples) and then proceed with an IUI. He wants to do some CD3 bloodwork when my next AF arrives, but he said that he expects everything to come back normal, and if it is, we can go ahead with treatment that same cycle if we are ready. As in: JULY! NEXT MONTH! Otherwise we can think about it for a while longer and give him the green light at any point in the future.

Regarding the breastfeeding issue... this is what I was most nervous about. He did raise an eyebrow when I mentioned I was still nursing. I shared with him that it's infrequent and quick these days, and I would like to proceed with treatments without weaning. He said "on the record" he would advise me to wean first. Mainly because prolactin, a hormone associated with breastfeeding, can inhibit conception. He said if we are investing so much in a cycle, he wants us to have the best shot possible. Which of course I entirely agree with. However, he is willing to go ahead if that's what I want. He suggested that we do some additional bloodwork to check my prolactin levels, and if they are very low, he doesn't see a problem with the Follistim + IUI protocol. I was satisfied and more than a bit relieved with this answer.

He also recommended doing back-to-back IUIs, when you get to meet Turkey Baster two days in a row at ovulation time instead of once. This of course doubles the cost of that portion of treatment. Our previous RE said that when he reviewed the literature, he saw no increased success with the back-to-back approach, and so why make the cycle more expensive that it already was? With him we only did one IUI each time. This doc did admit that the research in medical journals was split on this issue. But his argument was that (again) you are already investing so much in the cycle, what's another $350 to put twice as many soldiers in position? I could see his point if we were doing IVF, which is a lot more expensive and would require financing for us anyway... but an extra $350 is a lot for an IUI cycle, I think. Still undecided on this.

After the appointment, I kissed DH goodbye, called the babysitter to confirm things were a-okay, and hopped over to where Jen works nearby so we could grab some coffee together. When she suggested this last week, maybe it was because I was sappy from AF hormones, and maybe she just wanted an excuse to take a break from work anyway, but I was really touched! As we ordered, she insisted on treating because of my difficult morning, and it was wonderful to debrief with someone who had not only been-there-done-that with IF, but been-there-done-that at this same clinic.

I am such a lucky girl to have these people in my life.

I'm still a swirl of thoughts and emotions, and unfortunately DH is going to be working late tonight to make up for the huge chunk of time we spent at the doc, so we can't compare notes for a while. But so far, here are my thoughts.

1. I think the appointment went just as well as I could have hoped. Other than finding out I was indeed correct that our new insurance is a bastard and won't cover ultrasounds or bloodwork, so each cycle will be twice as much as they were in St. Louis. But everything in Seattle is twice as much as it was in St. Louis, so really that shouldn't be a shocker.

2. The RE and I were on the exact same page as far as treatment planning goes. I'm pretty sure I could be an RE right now, if I could just get past that whole cutting-up-a-cadaver thing to get a medical license.

3. Seeing as the cost of one (yes ONE) cycle is $1500ish, are we ready to start immediately? The chemical pregnancy in December has given me just enough hope to wonder if we should try longer on our own first. I think 51% of me is ready to give it a go, but the other 49% is pretty convincing too.

4. If we do go ahead, do we do one IUI per cycle or spend the extra $350 to do back-to-back IUIs? I'm leaning towards one, especially if the problem is endo/implantation and not the performance of DH's little men.

5. Am I willing to risk the chance of multiples at this point? If we have twins on top of a two-year-old, with no family within 2200 miles to lend a hand, we will be SKEE-ROOED.

I'd love your thoughts, as always. You are so wise!!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Not me

Early in my graduate studies, which I guess would be 2003/2004, I learned that a classmate of mine was having trouble getting pregnant. I remember one day specifically, we were gathered outside the building during a break. She and the other smokers were taking drags of their cigarettes while the rest of us tried to stand upwind without being obvious.

She smiled brightly and her voice bubbled with excitement: "My doctor said it's just a matter of my eggs not being mature enough when I ovulate. I'm going to take Clomid to help them get there. Then we'll be all set!"

No pregnancy announcement came, no baby bump appeared.

A year and a half later, I was walking down the hall when I saw her leaving a classroom in tears, wrapped in the comforting arms of another woman. A moment later I saw a mutual friend leave the same room, and out of concern I whispered, "Is she okay?"

Our friend frowned. "She did one of those turkey baster things, and she just found out it didn't work."

I sat down in my own class and mulled this over. How unfortunate for her, she and her husband were both generous, compassionate people who would make exceptional parents. They deserved a whole football team of kids if they wanted them. I was sorry they were suffering.

Then followed the thought: I'm so glad I won't have to go through that. When we're ready, it'll happen right away.

Another year or so later, I was sitting in the waiting room at my OB/GYN's office. Although my first Clomid cycle had failed, my doc was entirely certain that those little pills would get me pregnant within three months, and I was all aboard that train. A woman walked through the door with a small child and a hugely pregnant belly.

She handed the receptionist a disposable plastic food container. "I had to use injections to get pregnant with my son, and I have the used needles in this container. I didn't want to throw them out in our garbage in case a child or someone else found them."

The receptionist looked a little disconcerted but took them with the promise to dispose of them properly. The woman pleasantly thanked her and sat down with her son.

I immediately empathized with her struggles, and I looked at her with respect and longing for her happy results.

Then I thought: I'm so glad I won't have to go through that. I'm terrified of needles and wouldn't be able to do it.

Yes, absolutely, most of my response was just plain naivete. Like most women, I had no reason to think I wouldn't get pregnant right away. I had prevented pregnancy for years with such unwavering determination, and I knew all we had to do was pull that goalie and BAM! SCORE!

Parenthood. Just like that.

But I could point to genetics as suggestive evidence of our abundant fertility, too. Between me, DH, and our four collective siblings, at least half of us were "accident" babies.

Clearly we are missing something.

Even now, after having gone through invasive and embarrassing tests, surgery, countless blood draws, pills, injections, IUIs, and lots of head-banging-on-the-wall-WHY-ISN'T-THIS-WORKING to conceive little Bean man...

When I read or hear about other infertile couples TTC their second/third/ninth child for 3 or 4 or more years...

I think: I'm so glad I won't have to go through that.

This time, although there is an aspect of that naivete remaining ("It worked with injectibles+IUI last time, we can go there immediately to get the same results!"), I believe that's much less what it is about.

This time, I am already half-drained before we've begun. I was almost ready to give up on Bean, right before we got our BFP. Many couples do it much, much longer than two years, but I didn't think I had it in me anymore. The treatments were too demanding, my life was on hold, I was hardly breathing as I waited to get pregnant.

I would hate to not give a fair try at producing a sibling for our son. I don't want to be a quitter: "Fine, Universe, you don't want me to get pregnant? I WON'T!"

But I am not starting from scratch here. I am picking up where I left off, bruised and beaten.

Victorious, yes.

But that doesn't mean I can fight forever.

(On a happy note, that classmate of mine did conceive a beautiful daughter on their last-ditch FET cycle, after several failed IVFs. They kept trying faithfully for years and years, and they finally received their precious gift.)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Hope, fear, and the what if's

Following our bout with primary infertility, I was ready to go back to the RE and start TTC a second baby when I was about 6 weeks pregnant with Bean. I looked at his heartbeat on the ultrasound machine screen and thought, "Well, shit, it worked! When can we schedule the next IUI?"

When I was 7 months pregnant, I had a dream that I did actually get pregnant with a second child. I carried them together for two months, delivered only Bean, and then gestated the second child to full term.

At my 38 week appointment with my OB, I asked, "When can I start trying for another baby?" She wisely advised me to wait until after I had delivered Bean. I guess that's why they get paid the big bucks.

I think it's because of the momentum and continuity of my IF experience. I have been in TTC mode for almost four years now, and as painful as it is, I want this phase of my life to be over as. soon. as. possible. Getting pregnant put our IF in remission, but it didn't erase or cure it, and I know I can never fully begin healing from the trauma until we completely close the door on our reproductive years. Which means getting knocked up again ASAP. Ha.

For the past six months, I have been aching to go back to the RE. Longing. Yearning. Because my hope that we can conceive on our own is very, very low. Like Al Green's singing voice or the chance that I won't eat chocolate today. To me, the RE represents the only possibility that we may actually get pregnant again someday.

And now that the appointment is only one week away, I'm terrified.

In the big picture, I do have a small amount of hope that we will have another child. It's a low-grade, general hope, when I don't think about the details of how it will happen. When we sat down and reviewed all the tests and surgery with our last RE, right before we started the IUIs, he offhandedly gave us a 90% chance that we would conceive. Considering that now we have one successful pregnancy behind us, and a chemical pregnancy unassisted, I would imagine that RE would give us at least the same estimate that we will conceive again.

But when I think about TTC on a specific cycle level, I have very little hope. Despite the advice of the IF book I am currently reading, I think I actually fight the hope. I don't want it. Go away. When it creeps in, it can elevate my mood to an almost giddy excitement, but it also augments the heartbreak and tears that come with AF. It's a double standard, because I have hope for others, and I want them to have hope for themselves; but it's just not for me. Like sushi and camping.

Now that I am facing the specifics with the RE because of the appointment, I am feeling scared and strangely... disappointed? Even when I put aside all the logistical annoyances (starting over with a new RE because we moved, and trying to find childcare for constant trips to an extremely inconvenient office location), seeing the doctor is not the relief I thought it would be.

I'm afraid. And that's when the "what if's" creep in.

* What if treatment is too expensive, and we cannot afford enough cycles to get pregnant?
* What if I can't find anyone to watch Bean when I need to go to the doctor?
* What if the doctor wants to spend months redoing all the tests we did 2-3 years ago, including the laparoscopy?
* What if the doctor tells me he won't start treatment until I wean Bean?
* What if my husband and I don't agree on how many/which treatments to pursue?
* What if we do the same protocol several times and don't get pregnant?
* What if we exhaust all of our treatment options and come home without a baby?

If I were still working as a counselor and had myself as a client, I might encourage myself to begin answering those questions to reduce their power.

But I don't feel like it right now.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I'm back (and better than ever)

Okay, maybe not that second part.

But I'm back.

Our vacation was wooooonderful. Last time we traveled to visit our family, the Bean was 8 months old and woke up every 1-2 hours all night long for TWO SOLID WEEKS. Ugh. This time, he usually only woke up once a night for quick milkies and back to sleep. Thank you Jesus! It was hard to leave, but it's always nice to be back in our own bed.

Now it's back to reality.

I am not pregnant.

I called our potential new RE's office again to reschedule an initial consultation. Despite the highly irritating commercials they constantly play on the radio about "part of you" worrying about the mortgage payment but "all of you" wanting a baby. Seriously?

The appointment is on June 25. I was writing it on the calendar and winced when I realized I agreed to drive into downtown Seattle during rush hour traffic. Ouch.

It will also be the first time Bean stays with a babysitter.

Big day.

Friday, June 5, 2009

My ovaries and I need a vacation

So off we go! Today, DH and Bean and I are leaving to go to Michigan to visit our families. DH's sister is finally graduating from high school. Not "finally" because she's like 25 or anything. She's only 17. But "finally" as in his parents have had kids in school since around the time the wheel was invented. Which would make DH and I basically ancient because he's the oldest sibling and we are the same age. ... Yep, that's about right.

The timing is perfect, because I just ovulated on Tuesday night so I will be fully distracted during yet another interminable TWW. The exciting thing is it was CD 17/18, which is much earlier than my previous post-baby O days... could we be back at pre-baby hormone levels? Bean has been sleeping through the night lately and nursing much less. We shall see. The disappointing part, though, was that it's my unlucky left side again. Gotta take the good with the bad, I suppose.

Also, I have decided that when AF comes (can't really hide my lack of hope for this cycle), I am going to call the RE again and make a new appointment. I've been down this ridiculous "maybe it will happen naturally" road before, and I'm just not willing to put myself through it again. Stick a fork in me, 'cuz I'm done.

So anyway I won't be posting here for at least a week and a half, but if you just can't stand being without me for so long, I will probably be putting some vacation pictures on my other blog. I will also be very behind on reading and commenting on your blogs, but I promise to get caught up when I get back. Don't do anything too exciting while I'm gone!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I am so loved!

Imagine how honored I feel at getting an award from Alana last month. Which I totally deserve, of course, but still, it's an honor. ;) Thank you Alana!

The rules of accepting this award are simple: list seven things you love, and pass the award to seven bloggers you love. Here goes!

Seven things I love:

1. Family and friends. I am including this first because I feel obligated love them all very, very much. My husband, my son, my parents, my brother, my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, the whole bunch of in-laws, friends from my hometown, friends from college, friends from grad school, friends from work, etc. etc.... I'm not sure how I got so lucky to have them in my life, but I thank God that I do. I am so inspired and encouraged by such amazing people. And it doesn't mean anything that I keep moving farther and farther away from you all. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Really.

2. The Internet. This is obviously a common entry for others receiving the award, but it's just too important to leave off. Before the Internet, I really don't know how people survived infertility or figured out who starred in that one movie about that little robot guy that came out in the mid 1980s (it was Ally Sheedy and Steve Guttenberg). I have learned valuable tips from the experiences of others and gotten so much support during the hardest time of my life, it is still amazing to me that "virtual" friendships can be just as strong and true as IRL friendships. And speaking of the Internet connecting us to information and people we otherwise wouldn't have had access to: If you remember this Show & Tell post, I wrote about a book signing where I met my favorite historical romance author, Jayne Ann Krentz, aka Amanda Quick. I actually posted a link to it on her blog so she could read my post, and then she wrote a response to me on her blog! (The comment is under the post "Jayne and the Case of the Missing Fern.") I was so excited when I read it that I almost had to change my own diaper. Anyway, I'm sure that like me, you are all glad that Al Gore invented the Internet so you can read about what my wonky ovaries are up to. Fun times.

3. Air conditioning. When we first moved to Seattle, we discovered -- horror of horrors -- that most homes here do NOT have air conditioning. Being from the Midwest, this was absolutely mind-blowing and we almost canceled the relocation. "Oh, don't worry," all the Seattlites assured us. "You won't need it." Who knows, maybe they meant that when you live here long enough, your skin grows a layer of cool gel that protects you from the heat. I mean, sure, the weather here is beautifully mild and I love that we can have the windows open and enjoy fresh air for so much of the year. But today the temperature is 86 degrees, and even if it won't stay that way for long, I am thanking God that the previous owners of our house had the good sense to install AC. It may not be green, but every blast of artificially cool air in my face is like a breath from God. If you think I am exaggerating, you obviously have never lived in a hot climate without air conditioning. Especially with a baby.

4. Mountains. As soon as we got married and DH started searching for his first job out of college, I begged him to find something in Colorado. Ever since I was a young teen and my Dad would take my me and my brother skiing there every year, I have been in absolute *love* with the state. Then when I was Matron of Honor in my friend's wedding in Colorado Springs, I met an awesome group of llamas belonging to another bridesmaid's mom, and I felt the call of the mountains even more. (That makes perfect sense in my mind, by the way.) The bad news is that we overshot this relocation by about 1400 miles. But the good news is... THERE ARE MOUNTAINS HERE! And I love them. Despite my reluctance to agree to this move, I have found myself feeling more at home here than I have anywhere else in years, and I really think the mountains are a big part of that. I'm surprised we haven't caused any car accidents because we are constantly gawking at the Cascades and Mount Rainier. We can already hear the exchange in the car in eight years. DH: "Look! The mountain is out! Can you believe we actually live here?" Me: "No, truly I can't. It's absolutely breathtaking." Bean: "You guys have been saying that since I was born. Please stop." He's ungrateful sometimes.

5. The HOV lane. Speaking of Seattle, another new concept to me is the HOV lane (aka "high occupancy vehicle" or carpool lane). All the highways have them, and they are fabulous. I finally -- after 14 months -- remembered to research how old a child has to be to count as a passenger in the HOV lane. And guess what? It's from BIRTH! Bean and I now rock the HOV lane like it's our job. It's kinda cheating because we are not really the originally intended users, but if people can get away with using blow-up dolls in the passenger seat, I will count my son without shame. I do have one plea to other HOV drivers, though. This wonderful lane is not in existence simply to organize the cars on the highway by how many people are riding in them. They were invented to SPEED UP the flow of traffic. So if you are driving SLOWER than the normal lanes, please do NOT get in the HOV lane. Congratulations on having your wife in the car with you, but you do not need to show off your marital status by riding in this lane. You will receive dirty looks from the rest of us who are trying to use it to get to our destinations in a timely manner. Please and thank you. I'm glad we had this talk.

6. Driving. Speaking of driving, it makes my heart sing. No, not the times that I am stuck in traffic because some dolt is clogging the HOV lane and Bean is screaming his head off. I am talking about road trips, especially ones where I am driving on an open highway all by myself and can belt out the lyrics to an All-American Rejects song without offending any passengers. I don't do much -- well, any -- of this sort of driving anymore, but I think back fondly to my college days, driving home from Chicago or driving across Michigan to see my future DH. In fact, on days when I was particularly dissatisfied with my journalism coursework, I would imagine quitting school and becoming a cross-country truck driver. It's still something I consider now and then, for when Bean is in school and DH insists suggests that I go back to work. Ten four, little lady.

7. Chocolate. There are few things in the world that are as perfect as chocolate. I don't think I need to say much on this topic, because I think you all know what I'm talking about and it's impossible to do it justice with mere words. Let's just say it has saved my life and the lives of those around me during several PMS-induced crazes. I adore chocolate to such an extent that I am naturally suspect of anyone who claims not to like it. In fact, unless you have a great many other positive attributes to overcome this deficiency, you will probably not be my friend.

Seven bloggers I love*:

1. Michelle at TO BABY AND BEYOND because she is a huge Red Wings fan and we are going to totally rock this championship!

2. Eve at Infertility Rocks! because she is going to my old RE (kinda) and I am beyond jealous.

3. Al at The Second Time Around because she's timing a 7-hour drive to Michigan ALONE with both kiddos around our visit so we can kick it.

4. Beautiful Mess at Life Induces Thoughts, Mostly Random because she is an awesome cook and has promised to send me some of her yummy food. (Right?)

5. Liv at The Life of Liv because I recently started reading her and I *heart* her already.

6. Nicky at Grad Ovaries because she's a Smarty McSmarterson like my hubby, I enjoy her intellectual style.

7. And lastly, NOT to Deb at Postcards from the Edge, because like my son, she can sometimes be ungrateful. (Just kiddin' Deb. I know you already have this award anyway. Couldn't resist the tease, though.)

*sorry if you already have this award, just ignore me :)