Friday, August 8, 2008

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Fresh Eggs, Ten Grand a Dozen

I saw this link on CNN, and it raised some mixed feelings.

I considered selling my eggs, once upon a time. I was fairly desperate for money (trying to get out of a relationship with The Horror) and my buddy W. was constantly going on and on about selling sperm being a terrific part time job. Yes, he said job. He's a darling, but sick in the head.

Unlike the women in this article, I didn't even pretend that it was about Helping People Achieve Their Dreams. I was looking for five thousand dollars. The procedure for the donor involves pain, being so overloaded with hormones that PMS looks like a frolic through a Disney cartoon, and a remote chance of damage to one's own reproductive organs. Five thousand dollars seemed about right.

Now I'm on the job hunt again, only this time I've got a six month old boy. The stakes are higher all the way around. The economy is a mess, and I'm even more of a specialized employee than I was the last time I was looking for work. But I'm much less picky this time around. My son is going to have everything. I don't know how to explain it, because I don't mean "every toy he ever wants" or "every whim indulged," and god knows I don't mean "social success and popularity" because I'm the last person on earth who can show him those tricks. But I want him to have everything, just the same. And being underemployed after two relocations in one calendar year is not a good start.

The stakes are higher in the egg business, too. I am now in possession of proven, defect-free fertility, in an age where diagnosed infertility is on the rise. Fees don't top out at five grand, they top out at ten grand. And although I spent the first six weeks of his life wondering what the hell I'd done to my life, I now look at this sweet boy industriously chomping on his own fat toes and think, my god, what would I be without him? Selling eggs (my rose colored vision does not extend as far as pretending that I'd donate the eggs and be paid for my time) doesn't seem so horrible.

Well, except that I think it is.

I suspect infertility is on the rise because the first generation of people conceived with technological assistance is breeding. Well, trying to breed, and failing, because Darwin and Mother Nature are not flouted with impunity. Evolution does not care about dreams and desire. Either you can pass on your genes (the entire purpose of reproduction), or you can't. The ones who can't die out. Period. Compassion, wishful thinking, and technology postpone the inevitable.

The discussion on this topic invariably gets watered down by a lot of soft hearted people waving wallet sized photos of adorable urchins, accompanied by the shrill cries of "You're saying THIS BABY doesn't deserve to exist!" Um... no. The argument has nothing to do with particular babies, with chuckable chins and dimpled knees. My heart can break for someone who wants a baby at the same time that my head understands why it shouldn't happen.

Of course I know about wanting a baby. It took months to succeed at creating my own particular baby, and I spent those months wondering if there was something wrong. That wondering shook me at a fundamental level. The fear of being defective, broken, an evolutionary dead end is something you cannot possibly understand until you experience it, but let me assure you the fear is total. My husband and I agreed before we started that, should we be unable to conceive naturally, we would accept the judgment of evolution and not fight it. I believe this was the only rational option, and yet there were nights where I thought surely it wouldn't hurt to get some tests done. Identifying the problem wasn't the same thing as using extraordinary means to solve the problem, right? I was well on my way to total rationalization when we found out our son was on the way. Oh, I understand the temptation of seeking treatment all too well.

Despite the question of infertility looming large in my mind, I don't think the answer is to create life in a lab, not yet. We don't know enough about the all the variables, why some embryos live and others die. We don't know why some women bear children as easily as a Pez dispenser pops out candy and others die trying. All we've succeeded in doing is pushing off the reproductive defects onto the next generation, and in so doing, we've done harm to our species.

If I were to sell my eggs for ten grand a dozen, I would be contributing to the problem. I'm an organ donor, says so on my driver's license, but this isn't the same thing. And I think paying ten thousand dollars for eggs (and fifty bucks for sperm) is an ethical disaster. It seems to me reproductive donation should be more like kidney donation if it must be done at all - the donor should be known to the recipient, and there should be no money changing hands at all.

Bearing a child is not a right, and fertility is not a matter of justice.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Book Review: What To Expect When You're Expecting

If you go to a consignment sale of children's items, you will find one billion copies of What To Expect. My private theory suggests that the reason for the abundance is because everyone secretly hates this title. My own antipathy for it began with the insipid cover and only got stronger.

Informational: 5/5
Dad-friendly: 1/5
Hippie stuff: 0/5
Fun: 1/5

Unlike some pregnancy books, where the author's agenda is hanging its ass right out where you can see it, this one seems so innocent. It just wants to help you! It just wants to give you The Facts! It only wants what's BEST for you!

The first clue that something is askew is the section on fathers. It is ten pages long, out of 475. It is condescending. (There's a bit about how sometimes men find that after seeing their child emerge from their wife's vagina, they may be freaked out about putting Mr. Happy in there. This is a real problem for a number of couples. This book's response? "The father begins to realize that the vagina has two functions, equally important and miraculous." Really? How helpful! Not!) It is entitled "Fathers Are Expectant, Too." I love that little "too." It's so petulant sounding. It whines about not getting enough attention. It pats the daddy on the head and gives him a treat.

And when you dig through the rest of this omnibus of all things dreadful (the blogger Matthew Baldwin calls it "the Book of Fears"), you realize it's just as creepy and paternalistic towards the mommy. For instance, according to this book, it's not a good idea to go to a birth center as opposed to a hospital because complications requiring medical intervention occur 20 to 30% of the time.

Between one fifth and one third of all births *require* medical intervention? How did the human race get this far? Please understand, I reviewed the facts and chose a hospital birth myself. But this kind of fear mongering is irresponsible and not backed up by science or data. More on that in a future review.

The diet section alone causes more neuroses than a roomful of spiders. "You've got only nine months of meals and snacks with which to give your baby the best possible start in life... Before you close your mouth on a forkful of food, consider, "Is this the best bite I can give my baby?" If it will benefit your baby, chew away. If [it's for you], put your fork down."

AAAAAACK. Holy guilt train, Batman! What this book doesn't tell you is the margin. If you're 90% likely to have a healthy baby even if you eat nothing but Ring Dings, does this diet take you to 99%? Or is it as I suspect... eating all that chard takes you from 98 to 99? Whoopty doody. Let me tell you, last fall, two thirds of the Perfectly Normal team ate salad and lean protein and didn't even keep chips in the house lest we eat an entire bag in one sitting. We also met once a week and sucked down Arby's as if Arby's would vanish from the earth without our support. Our babies are beautiful, and six months later we're almost back to our prepregnancy sizes and shapes. The other third of Perfectly Normal had TWINS four years ago and if she ate any kale I'd die laughing.

Sixty three pages of this volume are devoted to things that could go wrong. Remember, ten pages for your partner. Y'all, you are a hell of a lot more likely to have a partner in baby making than chorioamnionitis. You are also a hell of a lot more likely to get some kind of infection in the hospital than you are to wind up with any other kind of infection (according to the hard data available), but the book doesn't go into THAT.

And that's my point about the "All Things Horrible" section. A book that is purportedly an overview of pregnancy and delivery, soup to nuts, cannot include everything. The dividing line between the stuff that gets cut and the stuff that gets posted is necessarily the likelihood of the stuff in question. This book has an agenda, and that is to suggest that pregnancy is dangerous and requires the oversight of trained professionals every step of the way. This book does not want you to walk away thinking that it's natural or normal. Only by constant vigilance can you emerge on the other side with a healthy baby and intact dainty bits.

That is just such obvious crap that only someone who has been reading What To Expect could possibly believe it. In fact, that's my problem with the whole book. Simple observation will tell you that this book cannot possibly be telling you the whole truth. But when you're pregnant, and you want to do the right thing because you're already a good mom, it's easy to lose perspective.

Skip this piece of fear mongering guilt laden crap. Better omnibus volumes will be reviewed in this space over the weeks to come.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Patience is its own reward

What? Huh?

That generally was my reaction whenever my mother explained about patience being it's own reward. Patience, she said, was one of the greatest virtues.

When it came to patience, I was not, and still am not, the most virtuous of folk.

The thing is, patience in everyday life is rarely rewarded, thus the saying patience is its own reward.

But what is patience's reward? Well, patience.

Take today for instance.

I decided to be cleverer than normally is good for me.

I would rush into Michael's on the way to picking up the boys from their swim camp at the YMCA. I had 25 minutes to get to Michael's, pick up something I knew EXACTLY where it was, get in the truck, and go get the boys. PLENTY of time.

Of course, you know what happens now.
One cashier. One customer. 300 separate pieces of scrap book paper. A cashier incapable of saying "300X item." Customer using $100 bills to pay.

I exhibited patience the entire time the customer in front of me was doing her thing. After all, she had a right to buy all the stuff she wanted. It wasn't her fault I was in a hurry. I even exhibited patience with the cashier... until...

...she needed someone else to look at the bills. Okay fine.
...she needed keys to get change. Fine.
..."I'll be right back, I need to return these..." Um, not fine. The entire time I've been standing there patiently, her first act, to reward my patience, was to leave.
...Oh, excuse me... as the phone rang... that was her second reward, rather than letting the other non-busy cashier who was faster, and politely ignoring the phone, get it.

So, then of course there was her snarky attitude, her simpering smile because she had seen me glance at the time a few times (well, I had to, didn't I, I was running late and needed to decide if I had time for this, or if I had to drop it and run) and had apparently decided to be snarky. I could have moved to the next register when it opened up, but I mistakenly thought she would understand that she had a 'long customer' and be courteous and fast. Whatever.

What I wanted to say was,

Listen cow, (even though she had no spots and didn't moo once) could you you know, speed it up?

Then I thought:

Wow, if it had been a cold winter's day and a cashier made of molasses rung me up, it'd have been quicker.

Kay, Snarky Molasses Cow, do you REALLY need to return the keys RIGHT THIS MINUTE seeing as I'm the ONLY one here and the other woman is FOUR rows down?

So as I was walking out the door, rushing, really, because now I was running late, I thought, this world just doesn't reward patience.

But patience rewards us with patience.

Because, at the end of the eternally long check-out process with the Molasses Cow, I realized the problem wasn't her, it was me.

I expected her to not BE a molasses cow. Truthfully, nothing I could do or say, short of setting fire to her, could make her move faster. Oh, I could grumble at her, stamp my feet, sigh, huff, puff, and look around for the Speedy Gonzales Cashier, but that's about it.

Anyhow... clearly, all of those behaviors are self-defeating. She's still a cow made of molasses ringing up your order, and arson isn't worth the aggravation.

I was really just mad at myself.
Mad, because I've encountered the Molasses Cow before, and had forgotten about her.
Mad, because I knew I didn't REALLY have time to run into Michael's, and it was my own damn fault.
Mad, because there really isn't anything you can do to a Molasses Cow, even a snarky one. It wasn't her fault (though I could have done without all the efforts to keep me waiting even LONGER just because I looked at my phone a few times) she was a Snarky Molasses Cow (I may be preaching patience, but I'm a bit bitter, so forgive me). She was what she was. I should simply have left for Michael's earlier, or gone after I'd gotten the boys.

The truth is, by the time I got in the truck and realized snarky cows made of molasses are unchangeable, I was no longer mad. I realized the truth. I wouldn't have cared if I had gotten there earlier, or after picking up the boys. By not exhibiting patience, by not leaving early or waiting for later, I was rushed, and it made me cranky. Because the world doesn't reward patient people, or people who are in a rush either. In fact, the world doesn't reward anyone. It doesn't care.

If I were more patient, the entire, above incident wouldn't have happened. Oh sure, she'd still be a snarky molasses cow, but it wouldn't have bothered me. I wouldn't have been in a rush. I'd have been able to chew the cud with her if I wanted.

So I left, with a great deal more patience than when I arrived, and every red light (and trust me, they were ALL red) served as amusing little pointed reminders that I can be as late or impatient as I want, the lights were all going to be red and it'd take as long as it took to pick up the boys. I chose to be patient, and sang to the radio.

Patience's reward is patience.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Roast Your Veggies Peeps

How how how do we ever get our children to eat their vegetables.

We boil em.
Bake em.
Puree em.
Disguise them in dips.
Bribe em.

But, have you tried roasting them?

Take your cookie sheet and dump some chopped potatoes on it, red or white will do. This sounds familiar, right? Usually you dump some rosemary and garlic or some other spices on it.

But have you ever tossed oh, other things in it?

I take a cooke sheet, dump a few chopped potatoes on it, and then toss in whatever vegetable I have on hand. I mix it up, too, so there's usually three or four vegetables in there.

Pour some olive oil on it, just enough to coat, spice however you like, and roast til yummy. The key is to make sure the oven is hot enough, 450 at least.

I've gotten everyone to eat vegetables this way. Things my children eat without questioning now, when using this method?

Well, lets see, I've done:

Green beans

I mean, ANYTHING goes.

Gardening For City Girls

I love making things grow. I'm the coworker with ten million houseplants, the neighbor with an extra two hundred tomatoes, the crazy lady skulking by your curb carting away the spider plants you have so thoughtfully labeled "free to good home."

Unfortunately, having been a workaholic of some degree for the last decade, I'm also strictly a container gardener. The whole of nature is pretty much defined as "stuff I planted" and "stuff I didn't plant there and must therefore be removed."

Here in my northern outpost of hell, I have been trying to come to terms with nature. I have allowed certain things to just stay in my yard to see what happens. Some experiments have gone very well - beautiful pink trumpet shaped flowers erupted from the funny little green weed under a shrub. Some have gone very poorly - my purple thistles did my heart good until I realized that thistles go dramatically to seed. My entire yard is covered in tiny thistle seedlings despite my removing two shopping bags full of the damn things every week.

There is one lovely plant I've been nurturing for months now. It's really very ornamental and I'd been considering digging it up, potting it, and taking it inside.

Over the weekend, I pulled up a Weed Listing ( and started trying to figure out what everything is.

It turns out I have been nurturing a ragweed plant.

Some women aren't cut out for rural living.