Tuesday, July 25, 2017

"All the President's Men" by Bob Woodward & Carl Bernstein

I was 11 years old in the summer of 1972 (45 years ago -- yikes!!), when five men wearing suits and carrying photographic and surveillance equipment were arrested after breaking into the Democratic Party National Headquarters in the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. Gradually, over the next two years, the name "Watergate" became a household word, as the story of the break-in, who had authorized it and why unravelled on the nightly news and in Congressional hearings.

Being just 11-13 years old, I didn't pay a lot of attention -- I was mostly annoyed by the whole thing, because the hearings invariably cancelled out my favourite daytime television shows during the summers of 1973 & 1974. (Before Watergate, it was the Apollo space missions to the moon that took over the TV screens -- ho hum. If I'd known then that the Apollo 17 mission of December 1972 was going to be the last one, I might have paid more attention.)

It all climaxed on the night of August 8, 1974, when President Richard "I am not a crook" Nixon announced his resignation, in the face of almost certain impeachment. I was 13 years old by then, and we were all at my grandmother's tiny house in northern Minnesota, gathered in the living room around the TV set (which I think was still a black & white set, and pulled in about 5 or 6 channels with the help of a rotary antenna -- NBC, ABC & PBS, sometimes CBS (depending on the weather, lol), and CBC & CTV from across the Canadian border.)(And the French-language CBC channel, which we never counted.)  I remember being glad to be rid of Nixon (and of Watergate) -- I never liked him -- but the sober faces of the adults in the room brought home the seriousness of the situation, and even then, I realized that I was witnessing history in the making. The next day, we left on a road trip to visit my uncle in Minneapolis, and everywhere we stopped along the way, the newspapers had huge headlines, the likes of which I had maybe only ever seen once before (when the astronauts landed on the moon), "President resigns."  I still have a copy, somewhere in the depths of my parents' basement.

Despite all the media coverage, I didn't really know or understand much about the details of Watergate or how it had led to the president's resignation until a few years later, the spring/summer of 1976. I was now 15, my sister & I went to see a new movie, "All the President's Men," starring Dustin Hoffman & our favourite movie idol of the day, Robert Redford, as Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, the two Washington Post reporters whose stories helped crack the case and won a Pulitzer Prize.

(My sister & I had first seen Redford in "The Sting" with our cousins in Minneapolis a few summers earlier, and fallen madly in love with him -- even though he's older than our father...! (ALI note: in recent years, I learned that Redford's first child, a son named Scott, died of SIDS when he was 10 weeks old in 1959.)  A year or so later, our mother took us to see him in "The Way We Were" with Barbra Streisand, and to the drive-in, ON A SCHOOL NIGHT, so that we could see "The Great Gatsby." (Although we had to suffer through "The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad," the first of a double-header bill, before we got to Gatsby.)  Such was the power of Robert Redford in his prime...!)  

We both LOVED the movie -- NOW all that Watergate stuff we'd lived with for so long was starting to make sense!  (Plus -- Robert Redford.)  There was still a lot we didn't quite "get," though -- because one of our school friends came over & sat with us and talked incessantly throughout the entire movie. :p  So we went back to see it again the next night, to catch the parts we'd missed. ;) Shortly after that, I bought and devoured the paperback version of the 1974 book by Woodward & Bernstein that the movie had been based on (with a photo of Redford & Hoffman on the cover).  I found it just as riveting as the movie had been, and a lot easier to follow, since I could digest the information at my own pace and flip back to the "Cast of Characters" at the front of the book to keep all the names & titles straight. There was a lot of information that hadn't been in the movie, too.

*** *** ***

I've read "All the President's Men" at least once or twice in the years since I first picked it up (as well as other books written by the two, together and separately, including "The Final Days" and "The Bretheren")(and seen the movie many times too) -- but not in many years.  And with the recent events unfolding in Washington, and frequent appearances by Woodward & Bernstein on TV news shows, I decided it was timely to re-read the book again.

Even though I've read the book before -- even though the story is a lot more familiar to me than the first time around -- I still found myself hooked, right from the opening pages. (It took me more than a week to get through "Tribe," which was only 130 or so pages long... I devoured "All the President's Men," a much longer book, in just under a week.)  It's still a gripping read -- and entirely relevant to the present day.

Personal disclaimer: I wanted to be a writer from a young age.  I was thinking "books,"  but it wasn't until around the time I was in junior high that I realized most authors of books didn't make very much money at it. That's when I started thinking of journalism as a career. My family always received a daily newspaper, and I read it (or at least parts of it) almost from the time I learned to read. (The idea of a career in "corporate communications" wasn't even on my radar until I was in journalism school, and I don't think we even called it that back then. "Public relations," maybe.)

So I don't think it was Woodward & Bernstein who inspired me to go to journalism school -- I'm pretty sure I was already thinking along those lines -- but just about anyone who entered the field in the late 1970s & 80s was certainly inspired by their example and looked to them as the gold standard. They were and still are rock stars to me, and I still get a huge kick out of seeing them on TV, individually or (especially) together. When Woodward &/or Bernstein talk about current events, how they compare to Watergate (or not), and why we should pay attention -- I think we should pay attention. These guys know whereof they speak.

Reading the book again, now, reminded me that a lot has changed since 1972. For example:
  • the reporters' calls were sometimes made at payphones and routed through switchboard operators -- no cellphones back then...!, 
  • they wrote their stories on typewriters and made edits with pencils vs on screens with word processing software,
  • their stories were published (& read) in a physical newspaper, not online,
  • television news consisted mostly of a half-hour evening newscast on one of the three networks -- no Internet, no cable TV, no multichannel universe, no CNN, 
  • Woodward & Bernstein spent spending an entire afternoon sorting through box after box of request slips at the Library of Congress (which made for a memorable scene when translated to the movie screen) -- something that no doubt could be done in about five seconds on a computer today
(to name a few things).

Some of the language has changed (one of the Watergate burglars is said to have a "retarded" daughter). And although the Post's publisher was a woman (Katharine Graham -- her memoir, Personal History, is also an excellent read, by the way),  and a female bookkeeper at the Committee to Re-elect the President proves to be a critical source, the vast majority of the main players in the story are (as the title of the book would suggest) MEN -- there were certainly nowhere near as many women in the newsroom or in government and political jobs, 45 years ago.

But while technology has made reporters' jobs easier in many respects, the basics of journalism -- cultivating sources, calling and talking to people (many, many people), asking questions and more questions (and asking them again), taking careful notes & keeping files, researching through piles of dusty books and press clippings (not everything you need is available on the Internet), checking your facts and checking them again, confirming what one person tells you with multiple other sources before publishing your story -- that remains the same. (Another great movie in a more modern setting about reporters unravelling an important story about the abuse of power (by the Catholic church) is "Spotlight,"  which deservedly won the Oscar for Best Picture a couple of years ago.)

And human nature, certainly, remains the same too.

While Woodward & Bernstein were eventually recognized as heroes and inspired an entire generation of journalists, their tactics were sometimes questionable, they didn't always get it right (at one point, they thought they were headed for jail), and they encountered formidable obstacles and opposition along the way.  Early on, they write about how the story was barely mentioned outside of the Washington & New York papers, half the country had (at that point) never heard of or cared about Watergate, and government spokespeople derided the Post for chasing a story that just wasn't there....  I found myself thinking, hmmm, why does this sound familiar...?? (This happened more than once as I read. The White House's disdain for the press, the obsession with leaks -- all familiar territory...!)

Nevertheless -- aided by anonymous sources such as the now-infamous "Deep Throat" -- they continued to ask questions and pursue the story, gradually putting the pieces together into a coherent picture of what went on behind the scenes at the White House and the Committee to Re-elect the President, ultimately leading to the downfall of the president and his men.

If you ever wanted to learn more about Watergate and/or about how journalists really do their jobs, this book is an excellent choice -- a classic.  And if you wanted to understand why so many people are talking about Watergate again lately in the context of current events, read the book. The parallels are eerie and unmistakeable.

This was book #11 that I've read so far in 2017, bringing me to 46% of my 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am currently 2 books behind schedule to meet my goal. :p  ;)  

Monday, July 24, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: "I need something to make me feel better" *

Another musical icon from my youth, gone. :(

If you're not Canadian (or even a Canadian of a certain vintage), the names Kenny Shields & Streetheart might not mean anything to you.  But Streetheart was huge when I was in high school & university in the late 1970s/early 1980s Prairies, starting with their first album "Meanwhile Back in Paris," and they remain a staple of classic rock radio in Canada today.

They were from the Prairies, with roots in Regina and later based in Winnipeg, and Kenny was the charismatic lead singer, with a one-of-a-kind voice. (The original guitarist, Paul Dean, and drummer, Matt Frenette, later went on to even greater success as members of Loverboy.)  I found a 1979 video of their cover of  the Stones' "Under My Thumb" (which I probably heard before the Stones' version), in which he's wearing just one glove, years before Michael Jackson did. My sister (who served him once at the bank branch where she worked in the late 1980s) & I went to see them in concert in Winnipeg in the spring of 1979, and I can tell you to this day exactly what I wore, right down to the shade of blusher I was wearing (Revlon's Tawny Red Frost).

I read the news of his death at age 69 in a Winnipeg hospital on Facebook on Friday morning, just as I was packing to head home to Prairies. Seemed fitting, somehow... Thanks for the music, Kenny!

*  Lyric from "What Kind of Love is This?"

You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

Friday, July 21, 2017

Marilyn was one of us

The scene: Me, at a lovely local spa for the first time. Dim lighting, soft music playing, comfortable reclining pedicure chair, mug of soothing herbal tea within reach. Enjoying a relaxing manicure & pedicure, courtesy of a gift certificate I received. One other 50-something woman in the room, also getting a mani-pedi -- as she explained, for her son's wedding the next day.

Mom (looking up at large framed photo of Marilyn Monroe in her prime, hanging on the wall): That's a great photo of her! How old was she when she died?

Pedicurist: I think she was 36.

Mom: She didn't have any kids, did she? That's SO sad!  (Didn't catch everything she said next, but it seemed to be something along the lines of what else gives life meaning if you don't have kids?)(Or maybe I'm just projecting...??)  She was married two or three times, wasn't she? Of course, at that age... most people in those days had kids really young...

I felt myself tensing up & mentally rolling my eyes. So much for the relaxing mood...!  

But she moved on to another topic -- thank goodness!!

(And also thank goodness, nobody asked me about MY kids while I was there...!)

(For the record, Marilyn was married three times, including to baseball great Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller. And no, she didn't have any children. But she desperately wanted them, struggled to conceive, suffered from endometriosis, and endured several miscarriages, including an ectopic pregnancy.)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

"Tribe" by Sebastian Junger

"Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging" is an expanded version of an article that Sebastian Junger wrote for Vanity Fair -- a short & well-spaced 136 pages (plus source notes).

In this case, less is definitely more: there's a lot packed into this slim volume. It's well written and thought provoking -- a fascinating look at how humans have banded together over time to survive -- and how modern life works against our deep-seated need to belong, and:
"why -- for many people -- war feels better than peace and hardship can turn out to be a great blessing and disasters are sometimes remembered more fondly than weddings or tropical vacations." (p. xxvi)  
Most the reviews I've read focus on what "Tribe" has to say about the military and PTSD -- the main subject of Junger's original article, and something he has often written about before. But we also learn about American Indian tribal life (and its appeal to American frontier settlers), infant sleeping practices, the London Blitz of the Second World War, the Springhill (Nova Scotia) mining disaster of 1958, mass shootings, and so much more.

Near the end of the book, Junger also makes some timely observations about the deep divisions in modern American society. "People who speak with contempt for one another will probably not remain united for long," he says. "The most alarming rhetoric comes out of the dispute between liberals and conservatives, and it’s a dangerous waste of time because they’re both right." (p. 126)

"If you want to make a society work, then you don’t keep underscoring the places where you’re different -- you underscore your shared humanity,” Rachel Yehuda of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City tells him. (p. 127)

Makes sense to me...

*** *** ***

One reason I was interested in reading this book was that both PamelaLisa have referred to it in different forums where I follow them. In the ALI community, we often talk about the importance of"finding our tribe" and the support we give and receive to & from each other -- and I was curious to see how Junger's concept of "Tribe" would relate to the ALI world.  

Junger doesn't address infertility issues here, but it's certainly possibly to extract some lessons/meaning for our own situations from this book. One of its main messages is that people will bond together in times of adversity and when dealing with a common adversary -- and I think that's one of the driving forces behind the growth of online communities such as ours. I wouldn't say the fertile world is an "adversary," of course -- but when you're dealing with infertility & pregnancy loss, there's certainly a feeling of alienation and "other-ness" that the fortunate fertile probably don't realize even exists, let alone respond to in an adequate or satisfying way. That's why we feel such a sense of relief and belonging when we discover others -- online or "in real life" -- who have shared a similar experience, and why we consider them our "tribe."   

Here's another quote from the book that spoke to me:  
“...human beings need three basic things in order to be content: they need to feel competent at what they do; they need to feel authentic in their lives; and they need to feel connected to others.” (p. xxx) 
Hmmm -- let's see. When you can't get or stay pregnant -- which the majority of women do with ease (and often without giving the subject much thought), and which some consider the main purpose of a woman's existence -- you feel anything BUT competent. We are often forced to hide our authentic selves and feelings as we struggle through infertility & loss.  (Infertility & loss, of course, change who we are in profound ways, leaving us to try to figure out who we are now, and who we're going to be, if we're not going to be parents.)  And infertility and loss, and this struggle to find and maintain our authentic selves in the face of adversity, creates barriers between those of us who suffer and those who don't.  At a time when we badly need support from others, we find them shying away from the sadness and messiness of our situations and the rawness of our emotions, and the "bad luck" we represent. No wonder we have such difficulty finding "contentment"!   

“Humans don’t mind hardship, in fact they thrive on it; what they mind is not feeling necessary. Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary. It's time for that to end.”  (p. xxvi) 

Who feels less necessary in a society fixated on families, children and baby bumps than a childless woman? 

And yes, it's time for that to end. 

This was book #10 that I've read so far in 2017, bringing me to 42% of my 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am 3 books behind schedule to meet my goal. :p  ;)  

Monday, July 17, 2017

#MicroblogMondays: Odds & ends

  • The local megabookstore has had an all-Canadian playlist as background music this month, no doubt in honour of Canada 150. I've been enjoying hearing (and struggling not to sing along with, lol) some old favourites ("The Hockey Game" by Stompin' Tom Connors, anyone?? ;)  ), and some I haven't heard in eons (Valdy!). And even a rousing version of "Farewell to Nova Scotia," which I can still sing along to in its entirety -- we sang it ad nauseum in music class in grade school. (Imagine a bunch of Prairie kids, living about as far away from the ocean as it's possible to be, singing, "But a poor simple sailor just like me/Must be tossed and be driven on the dark blue sea..."). 
  • Gallstones have been giving me grief lately. :(  With the possible exception of having my wisdom teeth removed (all four at once!) when I was in my early 30s (is that considered surgery? -- dental surgery, sure...), I have never had surgery -- and I have no desire to start now, but may have to consider it (may not have a choice...) if this continues... :(  
    • I think I've mentioned this before, but I remember reading that there's a co-relation between high estrogen levels and gallstone formation... which is one reason why it's so common among pregnant or post-partum women. And, perhaps, women going through infertility treatment? I remember my RE commenting at one point in my cycle that my estrogen levels were sky high. Infertility, the gift that just keeps on giving... 
    • I do have genetics in my favour/to blame too -- my dad, and apparently all of my aunts & uncles on his side of the family, and some cousins to boot, have had their gallbladders removed.
    • Has anyone else out there had issues with gallstones? Gallbladder removal surgery? 
  • One of dh's cousin's daughters just had a baby early this morning. Her FOURTH!! Beyond jealousy at the ease with which she seems to get & stay pregnant (not to mention regain her slender figure...!), I am beyond awed that anyone has the energy (let alone can afford) to raise four children these days...!!  
  • Looking forward to a much-needed mani-pedi later this week! :)  (Even better, I have a gift certificate for it!)  
  • When did the neighbours across the back fence (across the construction site behind our condo building) paint the brick on their house??  I just noticed this morning. 
  • The neighbours next door to them were having their eavestroughs cleaned this morning. I was watching a guy strolling casually around their rooftop with a hose, spraying them out. (Yes, we are nosy retiree neighbours, lol.)  
You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

Saturday, July 15, 2017

It takes a village

A Facebook friend recently shared this article/blog post, titled "In the absence of a village, build one." My friend added the comment, "We do not have do to it alone. Find your village, love them hard."  

The article is written from a mommy-centric perspective, for an audience of other mommies. (Which seems ironic from an infertility/childless perspective, because from where we sit, motherhood seems like a highly exclusive country club that everyone else gets to join and hang out with -- except us, of course.)(Scroll down to the comment from Jen on July 14th.) But I think that with a little imagination and some rewording, the thoughts shared here could apply to those of us in the adoption/loss/infertity community (or just about anyone, really).  

The author notes, "The time when you need a village the most also happens to be the time when it’s hardest to build one." She's thinking about her kids and their childhood, of course -- but I immediately thought about those awful days, post-loss, during infertility treatment, post-stopping, when I felt so completely alone.  (Maybe not in the immediate days after my loss, of course, when friends & relatives rallied round, called and sent flowers and cards, but in the weeks & months afterwards, when they assumed things were "back to normal" and got on with their lives, assuming I was doing the same thing. I wasn't.)  

*** *** *** 

First, let's look at the barriers to finding your village identified in the article. (Not all might apply to your personal situation.)

Barriers to finding your village   

1. The age of fellow moms in your life—and the ages of their children

The age you're at -- when you're going through infertility/loss, when you have children, or just going through life, period -- can make it harder to find your village. If you're in your 20s & 30s, some of your friends might be having babies, some might still be looking for someone to have babies with. The ones having babies might not understand what you're dealing with, if you're going through infertility & loss -- and even if they do, they're obviously busy with other things;  you and your problems aren't their priority.  If you're trying to get pregnant in your 40s while all your friends have already had their families (some of them even becoming empty nesters...!), you can certainly feel out of sync with them. Even if you eventually do have a baby or adopt a child late in your reproductive life, there might be quite an age gap between your kids and theirs. Your friends may have already found their mommy tribe and feel more comfortable talking about school PTA meetings with the other PTA members, rather than comiserate with you about your lack of sleep. If you never have children, by choice or by chance, you will most likely feel shut out of the loop while your peers build their families. Working (and working & commuting) can make it difficult to find new friendships and maintain old ones. And if you're like me, & retire early, you can sometimes feel isolated if most of your friends are still working.

2. The arrangement of work & life

"For example, mothers who work outside the home may have a hard time connecting with moms who stay home. There are only so many hours in the day…" the article says. And, I might add, both kinds of moms often have a hard time connecting with non-moms, and making room for them in lives that are now laser-focused on all things mommy & baby-related.

A little more about work and the role it plays in finding our village: for some of us, work becomes our village, or a part of it.  I met a lot of great people at work, and I've stayed friends/friendly with some of them. But there are barriers to cultivating friendships at work, too. I know a lot of the younger people in my office liked to go out together after work (especially on a Thursday night, for some reason)  -- I did too, when I was in my 20s and we lived in the city. But when you get older, your priorities change -- even if you don't have kids tying you down. You don't recover from a night out at the bar as quickly ;)  you start to value your sleep, and you have a husband (if not kids) waiting for you at home.

Also, this probably wouldn't be as much of an issue in a smaller community, but the people I worked with commuted to our downtown office from all over a huge metropolitan area. Distance & commuting time -- not to mention the need to adhere to train, subway & bus schedules -- can certainly be barriers to after-work socializing, and forming and maintaining out-of-office friendships. After a long day of work (8.5 hours including lunch, plus another two hours or so commuting, round trip), I often just wanted to go home.  (Especially on a weeknight -- since I had to get up at 5 a.m. the next morning & do it all again...!)

3. The courage it requires to reach out to another woman

Especially "in real life,"  even if that person has also experienced loss &/or infertility. Sometimes, it's easier to reach out to other women in similar situations online.

4. The feeling that the women around you already have a village in place

Thinking of that exclusive mommy club again. ;)  Although feelings don't necessarily equal reality. There are more women out there looking for villages, or new people for their village, than we might think.

5. A fragmented village

I have lots of different people from different parts of my life and places that I've lived, some that I rely on more than others, sometimes for different things. They don't necessarily know or know about each other, or about the different parts of my life beyond the part I shared with them. (This was one reason I was very leery to join Facebook at first -- I wasn't sure I wanted all these different parts of my life coming together in one place. I am sure some of my Facebook friends, have been surprised at some of the things they've learned about me there...!)  

*** *** *** 

6 Tips to help you build your village 

I think these tips from the article can apply to any village-building effort, not just if you're a mom. 

1. First, believe that you don’t have to do motherhood adoption/loss/infertility (or anything else)  on your own. 

There are people who are going through the same thing you are (both in "real life" and certainly online) who are also looking to build their villages and find support... and who are willing to support you, too. Start looking for them.  

2. Next, get comfortable (ironically) with vulnerability. 

"Vulnerability allows us to take friendships to a much more meaningful level, and in turn we find ourselves feeling happier and more comfortable in our own skin because of the authenticity we’ve developed in the safety of close relationships," the article says. 
If anyone knows about vulnerability, I think it's ALIers. :)  Infertility & loss are pretty isolating, lonely, emotion-laden experiences. Our hearts are raw, broken, tender.  If there's one thing that helps us survive, it's giving voice to our truth -- being honest, expressing our feelings fully and honestly (by talking about them, or at least writing them out) -- and to know that others are listening.  Not necessarily that they have answers for us. Sometimes the mere act of voicing what's in our hearts -- and having someone pay attention -- is comfort enough.   

3. Watch for women you can bring in.

"A village gets stronger with numbers. If you already have a support network, keep your eyes open for women... who might need what you can offer. Be a people connector."

We're everywhere -- even if we're not always upfront about it. 

4. Keep working on YOU.

"Your vibe attracts your tribe." 

5. Ask for help, and accept it when it’s offered. 

So often, the people around us don't know we're hurting. It's hard to open ourselves up and admit we need help. Sometimes it leads to more hurt (clueless friends & relatives who don't understand) -- but sometimes it can lead to new understanding & new, stronger connections. 

6. Offer YOUR help. 

"Being willing to help others—to be their village—is the biggest key to creating one."  Share what you've learned, comment on others' posts.  

What do you think?  Did the translation to the ALI world work here? What would you add?

*** *** *** 

Reading the post got me thinking (not for the first time...!)  about my personal "village" and how it applied to my own life, post Katie, post-infertility.    

Immediately after losing Katie (in August 1998), I found myself reading obsessively about pregnancy loss -- why it happens, what I could do to prevent it from happening again, and what I could do to help myself recover from such a horrible blow. Several older women in my life who had lost babies years ago -- dh's aunts, my best friend's mother -- called & told me it had happened to them too. Most of them told me "you'll have another baby,"  which I suppose is what they'd been told (and for them, it did happen, so why wouldn't they believe otherwise?). Most of the women my own age that I knew had not experienced such a loss, it seemed.  I was floored -- and so touched -- when a former coworker now living in the States called me out of the blue (after reading the mass email I'd sent out) and told me about her own miscarriage.  

The package the hospital sent home with me included some information on local support groups. Even in a city as big as Toronto, it was hard to find support: the hospital's own onsite group no longer existed (!), another wanted me to come to their midtown office for an interview (!) & then wait until they had enough people to form a group that would last for a certain number of weeks & then send us on our way.  Finally, the hospital social worker I was dealing with told me about another group where she was a board member.  I went to one meeting by myself;  dh joined me for the next one, and we stayed there for the next 10+ years -- first as clients and then as facilitators. Finding our tribe, real-life people who lived nearby and were going through a similar experience, was a huge part of our healing. 

But the group only met once or twice a month. The time between meetings felt like an eternity sometimes.  That's when I discovered the power of the Internet. We'd bought our first computer two years earlier, in the fall of 1996.  Early on in my pregnancy, one of dh's coworkers had given him the name of a website she thought I'd like to check out. It was Parents Place (now defunct), with week by week pregnancy information & tips, as well as message boards for pregnant women and new mothers. There were, I realized, post-Katie, also message boards for pregnancy loss -- but I was a little hesitant about putting myself out there publicly like that. 

Eventually, I found a private e-mail list that seemed a little "safer" to me than public message boards, and joined that. It proved to be my daily lifeline for the next several years. I would rush home to check my email for the latest digests and emails from my newfound friends, and pour my heart out onscreen, both to the entire list and privately to several members I'd formed cyberfriendships with.  

The list was for women (& men) who had endured pregnancy loss and hoped to try again. As you might imagine, many of them also had infertility issues, and they were a source of invaluable information and encouragement as we ventured down the slippery slope of infertility testing and treatment. But as more & more of them got their "rainbow babies" (and sometimes a second, and a third...) -- and I did not -- my postings to the group began to taper off. It was becoming obvious that the "subsequent pregnancy" part of the title was not going to happen for us.  

I didn't post regularly on any infertility message boards while I was going through treatment (although I did check some out). (Blogs were not yet a "thing" -- that came a few years later.)  But after my final IUI failed early in the summer of 2001, I started hunting for resources for living without children.  There was not much out there -- and a lot of what I did find was for people who never wanted children. But I did find a very few message boards (often attached to infertility websites) devoted to the subject, with a somewhat active membership. In particular, I found a home on the Childless Living message board at iVillage. Sadly, it is long gone now -- but this week it will be 16 years (!) since I introduced myself there. I always consider that date as as the beginning of my childless/free life after infertility & loss. And I am still in touch with several of the women I "met" there (and I have met two of them "in real life") -- on a different private forum we created a few years later, and (later still) on Facebook. 

I don't think I discovered blogs until about 2006, and I started following a few of them regularly. Most of the ones I found in those early days no longer exist. But one in particular still does: Melissa's Stirrup Queens, which has long been a community hub for those of us dealing with adoption, loss & infertility. I think I started tentatively commenting on some of her posts -- particularly the sessions in The Lushary (which hasn't creaked opened its doors in a long time, but which still holds a fond place in my heart...! ;)  ) -- sometime in 2007. Through her blogroll, I discovered Pamela's original Coming2Terms blog, which eventually morphed into Silent Sorority.

And so, with Pamela's example in front of me and Mel's encouragement (and to take part in her Barren B*tches Book Tour -- which was, at the time, getting ready to discuss Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" -- plus ca change...!), I decided to start my own blog. This fall, it will be 10 years (!!) since I hit "publish" on that very first post.  While many of the bloggers I used to follow (sadly) no longer write, I'm so very happy (& proud) that the childless-not-by-choice neighbourhood of our ALI village has grown by leaps & bounds in recent years!  

I know I've told this story before (and I'll probably tell it again & again) -- but I felt compelled to tell it again now... mostly because I'm so grateful to the Internet and to blogging for giving me hope, empathy and friendship at a time in my life when I really, really needed it (and found it hard to come by in my offline life).   
Thank you all for being part of my village!  :)  

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

"Sex & the City"and me

I was recently watching the new CNN series about "The Nineties," which started with a two-hour episode about 1990s TV shows. One of the shows they featured was "Sex & the City."

Somehow, I never became a regular SATC-watcher -- even though many of my friends raved about it and told me I should watch it, and I still, somehow, got to know who all the characters were and some of the plot lines. I did see a couple of episodes in reruns years later (no doubt censored).

Then, on the screen, they showed the date SATC debuted:  June 6, 1998.

Well, that explained it.

The debut of "Sex & the City" coincided with my roller coaster pregnancy with Katie & its aftermath. In early June 1998, I did the triple screen blood test, followed by an ultrasound -- both of which indicated some abnormalities, and led to genetic counselling, amniocentesis and the shadow of a potential termination looming over us, all before the end of the month.

Clearly, I had other stuff on my mind at the time, and while perhaps I could have used something frivolous as a distraction, SATC somehow never quite struck a chord with me, and I never got into the habit of watching it.

I guess there's always Netflix... ;)

Did you ever watch "Sex & the City"?  Did loss &/or infertility interfere with your enjoyment of any TV shows that everyone else was watching & loved?