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Abortion Gang at CLPP 2014

14 Apr

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Bloggers from Abortion Gang recently spent 3 days at the radical glory that is the CLPP conference, and we tweeted up a storm! You can find the tweets by searching #CLPP2014 on Twitter.

Check out Abortion Gang bloggers @chaneldubofsky, @annapopinchalk, and at @PProvide, as well as @graceishuman,@OpinionessWorld, @AbortionChat,  @RBraceySherman@poonam_pai ,

@SisterSong_WOC@LeahDoolittle@KimberlyInezDC@aimeett and others.

 

Stay tuned to Abortion Gang for more blog posts on CLPP!

 

 

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The Round Up

28 Mar

Here’s what some of us at Abortion Gang have been paying attention to lately:

Anna:

Most of my reading has been for classes but this week we are talking about conscientious objection and with the Supreme Court cases coming up this has been one of my favorite break downs of what’s at stake in this decision: http://kff.org/womens-health-policy/issue-brief/all-eyes-on-the-supreme-court-more-than-birth-control-at-stake/

Kaiser does a great job of outlining how this case isn’t only about contraceptive coverage and religious freedom, but also whether corporations should be considered people and the implications this case could have on corporate law.

 

Megan:

I’m reading my friend Tiffany’s post on why she’s fasting to support immigration reform: http://365breakfasts.wordpress.com/2014/03/23/fasting-for-families/

Steph and Chanel’s piece  on abortion stigma and culture change at Cosmo: http://www.cosmopolitan.com/celebrity/news/these-women-want-to-change-the-way-you-think-about-abortion

Latest Hyde blog post from Andrew Jenkins at Choice USA: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/healthcare/200991-abortion-hyde-and-the-presidents-2015-budget

Taja Lindley on RH Reality Check about queer women & sexual health: http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2014/03/18/exam-rooms-bedrooms-navigating-queer-sexual-health/

 

Sara:

I’ve been reading about abortion access in Latin America using resources at the Guttmacher Institute and an article from RH Reality Check called The Politics of Abortion in Latin America.

I’ve been watching the hysteria from the anti-abortion zealots over the coathanger necklaces from the DC Abortion Fund , and am giddy at the thought of how much DCAF has been able to capitalize on the negative publicity to help women in need. Looking forward to being able to spot fellow supporters on the street and be able to match up our necklaces like a secret handshake. This is my personal favorite blog post I’ve seen.

I’ve been reading up on the Hobby Lobby birth control case, and am looking forward to standing outside of the Supreme Court in DC on Tuesday with other women’s healthcare supporters as oral arguments are heard.

In NC, we had a hell of a year in 2014 with a Motorcycle Vagina law that threatened to close every clinic but one, a wonderful clinic in the furthest corner of our state called Femcare (if you have a short memory or live under a rock, catch up on Motorcycle Vagina here and here.)  With the 2014 session starting in less than two months and NC feminists waiting at the doors to find out how our general assembly will continue their path of destruction, Femcare’s owner has decided to retire and put the clinic up for sale. Planned Parenthood has announced plans to open a health center providing abortions in the same town and we await further developments.  There is a lot of uncertainty and some genuine concern about making sure one of our most dedicated NC providers is treated well.

 

 

“She was on the side of the Lord”- Anti Choice Rhetoric, Religion, and Ownership

19 Feb

This is a guest post by Leigh Sanders. 

One thing volunteering as an escort at a reproductive health clinic has taught me is anti-choice protesters have an exorbitant amount of time to oversee the reproductive lives of their neighbors. Since they believe they are acting on religious orders to participate in this sort of secular voyeurism, they have been willing to physically and emotionally harm those that get in the way of their mission. Therefore, we are trained as clinic escorts to never engage with protesters. I am limited in my intervention to meeting patients at their vehicles and offering to shield them with my big rainbow umbrella from the unholy provocation that loudly follows us to the door. Throughout history women and girls have been subjected to this sort of harassment when they exercise self-determination.

I made the mistake of walking up to a car with two anti-choice  folks this morning and one of the women got out and righteously proclaimed she was “not one of us, because she was on the side of the Lord.” I had to wonder whether the Lord would actually claim her. I mean technically, she is saying the Lord is the kind of guy who would spend his down time shouting, criticizing and frightening the hell out of people. It would seem that the Lord would be busy on the other side of those women’s choices, the side that ensures children never go hungry, employment is plentiful, housing choices affordable and sexual violence eradicated.

So here is what working on the side of the Lord looks like to people who protest at abortion clinics. They stop cars from parking by acting official, as if they might be working for the clinic. When the unsuspecting person rolls down the window, propaganda, void of scientific fact, is shoved inside their car. For instance, the pamphlet uses the picture of a stillborn baby to depict an abortion despite the reality that nearly every single abortion in this country occurs on or before the 8th week. The clinic escort must intercede so the patient can arrive promptly for their scheduled appointment because the protester’s aim is to make them miss their allotted time.

Once the patients proceed to the front door, the protesters start yelling at them about the psychological “trauma” they will suffer afterwards, their impending status as a “baby-killer” and the many “resources” available to them that they are not utilizing. Today, one woman yelled back “Resources? What resources? You mean welfare?”  The male protesters explained they meant the resources that come from “loving Jesus.” There is a less aggressive group of protesters that arrange pictures of Jesus to face the clinic and while holding rosaries sing hymns about hell and damnation. They are the “good” ones because they do not seem motivated to physically harm anyone. Then there are the ones like the woman who specifically addressed her allegiance with the Lord; they greet the incoming cars as if in a funeral procession holding signs that presumptuously proclaim “Your Mother Kept You.”  The protesters surround the clinic until the last patient arrives and then their work is done. It is not known whether Jesus is proud of them for their stamina to harass or disappointed with them for their failure to shame. Either way they will return on Monday, ever seeking the Holy Grail of religious intolerance.

The police do not get called because the protesters are not breaking any laws. Of course, neither are the girls and women who are entering the clinic. Yet, their rights are at the mercy of fanatics who use deception, violence, judgment, intolerance and moral superiority to scar the lives of people they have never met. Because the one thing an anti-women’s health terrorist abhors more than abortion, it is a society that grants women sovereignty over their own bodies.

 

What’s new in contraceptive technology?

19 Jun

Lots of great new contraceptive options are coming your way soon if you’re in the United States.  You may have already heard about Skyla, but do you know about Twirla and Cyclofem?  Read on and learn.

Skyla

Skyla (or the levonorgestrel 14 mcg IUD, or LNG-14) recently was approved by the FDA and has received a fair amount of attention.  It is now available from some providers and may be an excellent choice for some women.  The LNG-14 has three claims to fame: its smaller size (and, as a result, smaller inserter), its lower dose of progesterone, and its official approval for use by women who have never been pregnant.

First off, the smaller size: in the grand scheme of things, we’re talking about only a very tiny difference (the IUD itself is 1.1 by 1.2 inches, compared with Mirena’s 1.3 by 1.3 inches, while the inserter is 0.04 inches smaller than Mirena’s; see this great article for more details).  However, that very small difference may in fact make insertion of the device less painful for some women, particularly women who have never been pregnant and may be more likely to have a tighter cervix.  Since the data have yet to be published, I can’t tell you for sure if insertion is indeed less uncomfortable than insertion of other IUDs; however, preliminary presentations of the data (such as here) have indicated that, for women who have never been pregnant, those who underwent insertion of Skyla had less discomfort than those who were assigned to Mirena. 

Skyla releases less progesterone than the Mirena (without losing any of its contraceptive efficacy) which for some women is a good thing, but for others might not be.  One of the features of Mirena that is most appreciated by some users is that almost everyone experiences lighter periods over time, and many women no longer have periods at all.  For some women, that’s fabulous, while others would rather keep seeing their period.  Women using Skyla will mostly have lighter periods, but fewer of them will have no period (though some will, and there is no way to know ahead of time what any individual’s reaction will be).  Although Mirena exposes users to a very low systemic dose of progesterone (a dose low enough that most don’t notice it), for women who are extremely sensitive to artificial hormones it can still be too much.  If you’re in this category but there are reasons why a progesterone-releasing IUD is a good option for you (such as heavy periods), Skyla may be an excellent option.

Finally, on Skyla’s approval for women who have never been pregnant.  This is great news, but really, it’s not news; women who have never been pregnant can safely use any IUD, regardless of what is on the packaging.  We’ve known this for years, and doctors use products and medicines off-label all the time.  There’s nothing wrong with off-label use as long as there is good evidence to show that your practice is safe.  Fortunately, we have decades of data that prove that women who have never been pregnant can safely use any kind of IUD they want.  So the labeling for women who’ve never been pregnant may be generating a lot of buzz, but it’s nothing new.  However, if there are pesky insurance companies out there that won’t pay for IUDs for women who’ve never been pregnant because the label says it’s not OK, this might help push them along, so it can’t be bad.

There’s a lot to love about Skyla.  The smaller size might make it easier and more comfortable to insert for some women, and the lower hormone dose might be beneficial in some cases.  Unfortunately, Skyla only lasts for 3 years (as opposed to 5 for Mirena and 12 or more for the copper-IUD).  For some women who don’t like the idea of something lasting a long time this may a good thing, but for many having to get a new one placed after 3 years could be a drag, as it means another doctor’s visit and potentially more costs.

Twirla

Twirla (also known as AG 200-15) is a new contraceptive patch that uses a combination of progesterone and estrogen, similar to Ortho-Evra.  This method is not yet FDA approved but will likely be approved in the next year.  Twirla has a few claims to fame: its lower estrogen dose and its novel adhesive.  As for the lower estrogen dose, as only a few papers have been published on Twirla thus far, I don’t know for sure if the lower estrogen dose in this patch compared with Ortho-Evra leads to fewer side effects, but it is quite likely it does, and we know that this patch is just as effective as Ortho-Evra.  

So if you’re very sensitive to hormones and want to use a patch, Twirla may turn out to be a great option, especially if the side effects you experience on birth control are related to estrogen (such as nausea, bloating, or headaches) and you have reasons to want to continue using an estrogen-containing method, such as maintaining regular periods or to improve acne.  The novel adhesive may be good news for loyal patch fans who are annoyed by the little bits of adhesive residue that sometimes seep out next to where the patch is applied, or for women who want to use the patch but are among the minority of women for whom it just won’t stay on for the whole week.

Cyclofem

Cyclofem (also known as depot medroxyprogesterone acetate 15 mg/estradiol cypionate 5 mg) is not actually a new contraceptive; rather, it’s a method that’s been around for a while and has never really taken off, either in the US or abroad.  Cyclofem is an injectable contraceptive that was briefly marketed in the US as Lunelle about a decade ago, but has not been available recently.  It is used in some other countries around the world.  It has a lower dose of the progesterone that is used in Depo-Provera, the three-monthly injectable, and unlike Depo-provera also has estrogen.  Cyclofem’s claims to fame: the only combined hormonal injectable method available; convenience of once-monthly dosing.

Although Depo-Provera, or DMPA, is not one of the most popular methods in the U.S., it has loyal followers.  Some of the pros of DMPA are that injections are required only every three months, with a very forgiving window period allowing you to get your shot a few weeks early (in case you’re heading off for vacation) or a few weeks late (up to 15 weeks since the prior injection – considering the busy lives many of us lead, the more likely scenario), and that most women stop having periods within 6 to 12 months of starting the method.  DMPA only includes progesterone; for women who want an injectable that also has an estrogen, Cyclofem could be useful.  Women using Cyclofem generally continue to have regular periods, but the big drawback is that injections have to occur every month.  There are some situations where Cyclofem could be extremely useful; for instance, someone who wants to use a combined hormonal method but can’t swallow pills or someone who requires absolute privacy regarding her use of contraceptives.

Unlike the other new methods I’ve described, it’s hard for me to believe this method will take off in the US context outside of some specialized settings, as the majority of women who can’t take pills will probably be well-served with either a contraceptive patch or ring, and women who need to use an “invisible” method will in most cases do very well with an IUD or a contraceptive implant.  Monthly visits to the doctor for injections are just not practical for most women in a US context.  Despite my pessimism, I do hope that Cyclofem finds its niche; more choices are always better, and there will always be women who find that a given method works very well for them.

What about plans for the next five and ten years?  There are lots of great products in the works, from a much lower-cost generic version of the Mirena IUD being developed by Medicines360 (this could really be a game changer for women in many low-income countries; not only is the levonorgestrel IUD a great contraceptive method, but it also is a first-line treatment for many other gynecological conditions that are currently treated with surgery in settings where it is unavailable) to a contraceptive vaginal ring that can be used for a whole year.  A new female condom that may be easier to use and more comfortable is also in the works.

Acknowledgments: This post was inspired by a great webinar from the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals.

Mint-flavored Testosterone Coating (Yum!)

28 May

When the NY Times says there is a drug which may be as revolutionary for women as the introduction of the Pill back in the 60s, I read it.  I also assume there is more to the story than a Viagra rebranding to propagate the myth of the frigid woman and make some money for pharmaceuticals.  However, after conferring with my fellow Gangsters I believe this may in fact be exactly what we’re dealing with.

The frigid woman, if you are unfamiliar, is a concept that stems from our societal myth of women coming in two varieties hypersexual and non-sexual.  The photos in the article do a really good job of demonstrating this dichotomy, there is the grumpy, sad woman and the woman in ecstasy, with nothing in between. The frigid woman has no passion, is clearly in denial of her need for intercourse, and will probably die alone.   Many of the women depicted in this article seem to be embodying this myth.  They are broken because they no longer desire their partners the way they once did, and feel obligated to “fix” themselves for their partners.

Desire is a very tricky thing. To the journalist’s credit, he does write- off evolutionary psychology as nonsense, and admits that we don’t really know how physical attraction and lust change over time, because no one has studied it longitudinally.  What we do know is that women’s desire generally peaks around 30, about a decade after men’s.  We also know that desire often dissipates over shorter periods of time, but again this too is understudied.  The problem is, that’s not how the article framed it. It was framed as women’s diminishing desire specifically, what about men’s?

Men are completely missing from the conversation here.  Men too potentially have waning desire stemming from considerations outside their partner like jobs, and kids, and whatever else.  Why don’t they need a pill to fix their lust?  Viagra used by men, as it is discussed here, simply creates a physical response in the penis. It doesn’t affect desire.  The sweet, sweet irony being that what they are marketing as a new innovative drug for fostering women’s lust is essentially Viagra, with a mint coating.

So why sell drugs to women by convincing them their desire needs to be fixed?  Because women are clearly all crazy and recognize themselves to be.  Duh.  I mean, the man behind the drug cites his inspiration as being dumped in his 20s and wanting to spend the rest of his life studying the depths of the (crazy how could anyone ever dump me) female mind.  A man scorn hath no fury…or logic.

Perhaps, and heaven forbid I bring this up and try to be credible, not all people are happy being monogamous.  Maybe some people just get bored, male, female, or otherwise.  Maybe there are some people who can be really happy and monogamous for decades while there are other who cannot be for six months.  Sound like anybody you know?  The fact of the matter is the evidence to support any of these suppositions is just not there.  We don’t know.  Maybe in fact we are just like trumpeter swans and there is a reason people keep coming back to the idea of “happily ever after,” or perhaps it is a very cruel trick.  We just don’t know.  And how could we?  People barely have the space to choose their partners and create the relationships they want, with equality and trust.  But maybe there’s a pill for that?

May 5 is International Day of the Midwife! Thank a midwife today

6 May

While some people celebrate May 5th with tequila and nachos, the International Coalition of Midwives wants to remind us that midwives save lives by designating it the International Day of the Midwife. Although what they can do varies significantly by country, midwives provide comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care, including contraception, preventive care like pap smears, prenatal care, and normal deliveries, and also know when their patients require care from a physician. In North America and Western Europe, midwives are preferred over physicians by many women for their traditionally more holistic approach to pregnancy and childbirth. In low- and middle-income countries with severe health worker shortages, midwives are literally saving lives by providing maternal and newborn care, contraceptives, and safe abortion care.

When properly trained and supported, midwives can deliver babies, administer treatment for potentially deadly complications of pregnancy such as pre-eclampsia and post-partum hemorrhage, and provide newborn care. Although physicians will always be needed, much of their work can be shared with midwives. Most low- and middle-income countries need to double, triple, or quadruple their midwife workforce to fully meet their needs. Fortunately, midwives can be trained more rapidly than physicians and may be more likely to stay in rural and underserved areas than doctors. As countries develop, inequality between the rich and poor, and between urban and rural populations increases; training more midwives is a key strategy to ensure that women who are poor or live in rural areas are not left behind.

Countries that have focused on increasing the number of midwives and strengthening the quality of care they provide have seen dramatic decreases in maternal mortality. On this International Day of the Midwife, let’s not forget that reducing maternal mortality is not only about having a skilled birth attendant present at the time of birth; equally important are access to contraception for those who do not wish to be pregnant, and access to safe abortion care for those who are already pregnant and do not want to be. Midwives can insert IUDs and contraceptive implants and perform first trimester medical and surgical abortions as well as physicians and should be empowered to do so. Despite evidence that midwives can safely provide abortions, they are allowed to do so only in a minority of states in the US and countries worldwide. These restrictions are due to ideological objections in some cases, and due to lobbying from physicians in others. Neither objection is based in evidence.

Take a moment to thank your favorite midwife today, and as you advocate for increased access to reproductive health services, don’t forget how much midwives already contribute, and how much more they could contribute if politics weren’t in the way!

My family doctor should know about my reproductive health options

18 Apr

I assume when I go into my doctor’s office that my primary care physician has the skills and knowledge to be able to help me make basic health care decisions, including information about birth control and what my options are. I deserve to make my own, informed decisions about my reproductive health based on what works best for me. If my doctor can’t give me accurate information or counsel me about my options, where would I go for help?

It seems ridiculous to think that in 2013 doctors could not be trained to provide birth control or abortion, but that could be a reality. The Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), the group that sets the standards for medical education and curricula in the US, has removed contraception and options counseling from the requirements, meaning that a family doctor could graduate a program with a medical degree and not know anything about birth control.

The requirements also don’t include IUD insertion, implant insertions, or abortion, services that people need and may have to travel long distances to obtain if their family doctor is unable or unwilling to provide them. As restrictive laws continue to make reproductive health care less and less available at the local and state level, it is more critical than ever that we press for comprehensive care, including abortion, to be included in primary care settings.

Lisa Maldonado, Executive Director at the Reproductive Health Access Project (RHAP), an organization working to expand comprehensive reproductive health services in primary care settings, says:

“Family physicians are more likely than any other clinical specialty to work in rural areas and with underserved populations. Ensuring that family physicians get proper training in contraception, prenatal, miscarriage and abortion care will expand access for everyone. But, if residency programs aren’t required to provide training, then they probably won’t, especially religiously affiliated programs. And, if no one is trained, no one can provide and no one has access, even if its legal and covered by insurance. Too many women already have to travel long distances, cross picket lines and deal with unnecessary restrictions to get basic women’s health care as it is. Family physicians need to have the best possible training in family planning and women’s health.”

No person deserves to be denied information or basic health care because their doctor attended a religiously-affiliated medical school, and we can’t let that happen. I want to get reproductive health care from my doctor, the person who I feel comfortable with and who knows me. I deserve that, and you do too.

We have until April 25 to let the ACGME know what we think and to voice support for reproductive health and family planning counseling in primary care settings. I hope you will join me and stand up for your rights by signing the RHAP petition here.

Egg Donation, Round Two: Becoming a better advocate for myself

1 Mar

Egg donation number two was FAR less fun than egg donation number one, if “fun” is even an appropriate word to use here. My body responded a bajillion times better to the hormones (though my mind did not, and I’ll get there), and I developed eggs much faster that were larger (more inconsistent in size), but nearly all were considered large enough for use.

This meant that my largest egg in my right ovary was .3mm, sharing space with 12 other eggs, all hovering around or above .2mm. My left ovary was more reasonable in size, though not in number. There were 15 eggs and they ranged in size from .14mm-.21mm. A total of 28 eggs were produced between the two, taking up nearly 5mm of ovary space… considering that the normal ovulation cycle produces 1 ovum to ovulate at an average of .2mm… it sucked. Like more than I could have ever anticipated. I was bloated to the point of looking pregnant (5 months pregnant, according to my formerly pregnant – now mothers – friends), and I could not do normal activities. Even walking was just terrible. And, this was right before Christmas, so much celebrating and being around people was inevitable.

Boy, was I miserable to be around. Just ask my boyfriend. He thought I was going to break up with him, and to be frank, so did I. Everything he did was annoying to me, not just because I was in pain (and I was in pain nearly constantly for the last week of shots), but because it seemed that my patience had been reduced to nothing for whatever reason. Poor kid. I still feel bad about how I treated him during that time.

Anyway, how does this relate to advocating for myself? So, like the 5th day of shots, I asked the doctor if it was normal to begin feeling my ovaries inside my body, because it had taken at least 2 days longer for me to notice them the first time. They assured me that this was fine. But like 3 days later, they had begun to hurt enough to interfere with my life. I SHOULD have asked for more frequent ultrasounds, and I should have advocated for having my surgery a day earlier than I had it. I literally felt like my ovary was going to burst, which is not a cool feeling. I should have told them I wanted an ultrasound every day after that 5th day… but I didn’t, and I paid the price. My recovery was much longer this time (10 days as opposed to 7), and overall it was just a miserable experience.

IF I choose to donate again (a big “if” at the moment), I will not allow my doctors to ignore unusual and more dramatic pain. I will not allow them to keep me to a schedule that puts me at greater risk with an enlarged organ. And I will ask more questions than ever before.

Can We Get Some #RealTalk on Pregnancy?

6 Feb

We don’t just consume media every minute of every day, we are force-fed media. Media is unavoidable. It’s on the computer, where many of us do a lot of work. It’s on the TV, where we sometimes go to relax. Here in NYC, it’s on every single street. You can’t leave your apartment without being assaulted by socializing images and ideas. So until I was 23 and my best friend had a baby, almost everything I knew about pregnancy came from media – television shows, movies, and magazines. I could hardly remember my mother’s two pregnancies after my birth, so I didn’t have much, as it were, up-close-and-personal experience.

But even if I did, it wouldn’t have mattered, because here’s the thing about pregnancy: everyone lies about it.

Lies! So many lies. And so much lying by omission; so much just not-telling about the truth of pregnancy. Media has a nicely packaged version of pregnancy that is meant to make it look difficult, but funny, and ultimately completely worthwhile. This is understandable, since most media is run by people who can never, ever actually get pregnant. I have a theory about the lying and lying-by-omission done by people who have understand pregnancy on more intimate terms, too. I think that people who know the truth about pregnancy lie about it because if we knew the truth about pregnancy, almost no one would ever consent to being pregnant.

I always thought there was a secret mommy-club I wasn’t part of, where women (in the time and place where I grew up, pregnancy, parenting, and everything else were highly gendered) sat around in little sewing-type circles, drinking tea and lightly sharing what I viewed as some of the most mysterious secrets of the universe. And I was right. There is a secret mommy club. When my first close friend got pregnant, I was inducted as an honorary member and given a special pass, which I still keep on a lanyard for when I need it. The mommy club pulled back the curtain for me, and what I saw behind it scared the ever-loving shit out of me.

I have been exposed to more images of fake baby-bumps that I have been exposed to actual people’s real, pregnant bodies. As a result, I thought pregnant bodies had sort of big, round, firm bellies, like a safe case for the baby – like a guitar in a guitar case. THIS IS NOT TRUE. A pregnant belly is a lot more like a sac that an alien is growing in, and it’s freaky. Babies move in-utero and sit on your spine, on your vital organs – one friend, while in-utero, sent her mother to bed for several months because she just loved to lie on a major artery and she CUT OFF HER MOTHER’S BLOOD SUPPLY. Once, my friend’s baby reached it’s little hand out, from the womb, to high-five me. I could see a hand trying to reach through my friend’s stomach, from the inside. Guys, pregnancy is horror-movie-level WEIRD, and that is no joke.

Morning sickness? That ain’t some cute shit you see in the movies where you throw up once or twice and then the truth slowly dawns all over your face and then you run to the drug store, pick up a test, and flash-cut to you sitting on a toilet holding a stick with a plus sign and then it fades away so you can hurry up to the setting-up-the-crib montage. Morning sickness often doesn’t fade away. Morning sickness is crippling. For some pregnant people, morning sickness is code for “7 months of constantly having the flu, running a slight fever, vomiting several times a day.” You should read the whole post I just linked to. It’s by a young woman who’s pregnant and it mostly details sitting on or near the toilet literally all day, every day.

My friend is breastfeeding. Her hair is falling out. Her dentist told her she’s losing so much calcium to the adorable, beloved parasite (this is the cutest parasite in history, you have no idea) that she may need dental surgery.

Mood swings? Hollywood loves to make mood swings the funny center of a relationship up-and-down that starts with yelling and ends with The Woman sitting on the couch, crying, admitting that she feels fat and powerless, and The Man sitting down, the weight of everything she’s doing for him suddenly settling upon him, vowing to do better, Exeunt Stage Right, Consumed By Bliss. Except that mood swings for several of my friends more closely resembled crippling depression. They were unable to get out of bed. They felt powerless because pregnancy had actually rendered them powerless; they couldn’t go to work, or go to the grocery store, or do really fucking basic things for themselves, and it felt awful. And their partners felt despair, because they too were powerless, because they could go to the grocery store and pick up flowers and say nice things but they couldn’t make it better.

There came a time in my life where people started being honest about pregnancy and I started listening, but many people I know got pregnant before anyone had explained to them seriously what being pregnant might mean. When I describe immobility, helplessness, depression, severe physical discomfort, daily vomiting, and hair loss, I am not describing pregnancy worst-case-scenarios: I am describing common side effects of pregnancy.

And that’s just pregnancy. That’s not even getting in to childbirth itself. Do you know what a vaginal tear is? If you think you may ever give birth, it’s a fairly common phenomenon you may want to familiarize yourself with.

I may get pregnant someday; I may decide to have kids someday. But in the meantime, I interrogate pregnant friends and family members, in their most vulnerable, defenseless, pregnant state, like it’s my job. If I am ever going to do this thing, I want to know, as much as I possibly ever can, exactly what I have gone and gotten myself into. And I want my partner to know as well. I want both of us to be aware of what carrying a child will mean for my body, and what those changes, and frankly, that damage, will mean for our life together. I want a shared honesty about what could essentially be termed a temporary insanity brought on pregnancy and what that would mean for our home.

I see The Truth About Pregnancy being shared more and more, but still mostly in female-dominated spaces, like “mommy blogs” and Pinterest. I’d love to see young people move towards a complete honesty of what this experience means to them, or meant for them, and what elements of that experience seem unique or commonly shared.

In other words, “Sit down, honey. We need to talk about vaginal tears.”

What do I want for my “eggs?”

30 Nov

Yesterday, I attended a luncheon held by the New York Times on Women in Leadership. It was a great opportunity to sit down with women who are leaders in their fields, and who have great stories to tell, and to learn from them. One presenter, in particular, spoke extensively about her research on the lives of women who were pioneers in their field; what were their lives like as children, how did their families interact, when they went to college, who encouraged them to pursue their dreams?

When I speak with friends and family members who are new to the idea of egg donation, they all say the same thing: “You’re going to have a child running around somewhere! Doesn’t it bug you?” And, first of all, not my kid. I just don’t have the same connection to my DNA that other people do. But second, even if I had that connection to my genes, it wouldn’t bug me. I’m happy to have given this gift to another family. We’ve spoken extensively on the blog about adoption, and I think this is similar. I’m happy to help others have a family.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t want good things for my eggs. Of course I’m curious about the type of family that they’re going to. The screening process is entirely unfair in that I don’t get to see THEIR family profile. They know almost everything about me; my height, weight, eye color, but more than that, they know my hobbies and my skills and my passions. But I know nothing about where my little eggies are going.

But I can hope. And I hope that they go to families that will support them in whatever they want to do. I want a family that will challenge them, argue with them, and make them critically think about why they do what they do. I want them to be loved, of course, but I don’t want it to be a love that limits them by overprotecting them. I want them to have the freedom to make their own choices, and parents who are responsible enough to make them own the consequences, good or bad, and who will help them learn and grow. I want purposeful parents who encourage creativity and who find joy in their successes, but who can find the silver lining in their child’s failures. I want a father who invests in his children, especially his daughters, and who allows them their voice. And I want a strong mother who encourages her babies to find balance and joy.

I’d love atheist parents, but if my eggs aren’t raised that way, I want a family that is ok with the idea that religion doesn’t define life, but it can complement it. I want parents who will teach and encourage compassion and kindness and humanity.

Basically, I want parents who are like me. But I’m so grateful that it’s not me having and raising these eggs. They’re not my children, despite our DNA connection, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t and don’t hope for wonderful things for them.