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Thursday, July 22, 2004

Traction

A few weeks ago Zahava and I were out for a walk with Yonah (and of course Jordan the wonder dog) on a Shabbat afternoon. Since I was pushing the stroller at the time, I saw something that I had never noticed before. Where the curb is ramped to allow access to wheelchairs and strollers, there was a deep pattern pressed into the concrete to provide traction. What I had failed to notice before were the words that made up the central part of the traction pattern:

motherbaby

For those who don’t read Hebrew, the words in the concrete translate as: “For mother and baby”.

At the time I thought this was a funny bit of chauvinism, and joked with Zahava that I was going to sue the town in order to have the word ‘father’ added to all the ramps.

The next morning, I jotted down a breezy little blog entry about the irony of something meant to provide traction actually acting to hasten the slide of feminism back towards the ‘50s. The reason you never saw that post is that I filed it with a bunch of other odds & ends that I keep for a rainy day… you know, just in case my muse should decide to take an extended vacation.

Awhile back, Allison over at 'An Unsealed Room', wrote about a woman calling herself ‘Getupgrrl’ whose blog, Chez Miscarriage, (about her struggles with fertility issues) was brilliantly written and funny beyond belief. Both my wife and I became semi-regular readers of this strong, confident woman, and followed with interest her personal struggles to realize her dream of having a baby.

Well, yesterday’s news over at Chez Miscarriage just tore my heart out. The strong façade… the self-deprecating humor… the hysterical descriptions of the humiliating medical procedures… all came crashing down. In addition to my amazement that Getupgrrl had the strength left to write about her latest set-back, for some reason I kept seeing that damned concrete stroller ramp in my mind’s eye. And in that context, it wasn’t so funny anymore.

How many stumbling blocks disguised as baby carriage ramps, glowingly pregnant women, and large happy families does a woman like Getupgrrl face every day? How is she able to leave the house knowing that a world filled with babies, children and stroller ramps, waits to silently mock her at every step.

Last night I snuck around the house and gave my sleeping children an extra kiss. They don’t lack for kisses, mind you… but I am slowly realizing the obvious: That there are people in the world who lack for children to kiss.

We rarely think about our amazing luck. A couple of years after we got married Zahava and I had 'the talk' about having kids. A few weeks later we were looking at an EPT with a + rather than a , and 39 weeks later we were walking out of the hospital feeling like the most ill-equipped parents on the planet.

Each time we wanted another child, G-d, or fate, or science (or whatever combination of these things you believe in), said, “Oh, OK…here have another one… I have plenty to give! While your asking... do you want a Gmail invite???"

It was always just that easy! So, is it any wonder that people who are fertile take the miracle of children for granted? Just as people who are musical or artistic can’t imagine what it’s like being tone deaf or colorblind… fertile parents can’t imagine the pain endured by those who are not blessed with the ability to share in the miracle of creation.

In an age where many people use abortion clinics as their primary form of contraception, and women routinely hit the snooze button on their biological clocks well into their 30s and 40s… We sometimes need a reminder of how lucky we are, and how our public jokes about the aggravation of parenthood can be a knife in the heart of people who would give anything for such aggravation.

Don’t get me wrong. I feel strongly that there are legitimate reasons for having abortions… and it often makes sense for a woman to get her career off the ground before starting a family. All I’m saying is that perhaps we are just a tad too comfortable with our ‘options’. I say this mostly because there are so many people in the world that were never offered a choice.

In retrospect, I’m glad I never got around to posting that breezy little journal entry about the chauvinistic words in the concrete stroller ramp. As funny as it might have been at the time, the humor would have rung hollow in the ears of people like Getupgrrl who expend every ounce of their being trying to gain enough traction to make headway in a world filled with other people’s children.

Posted by David Bogner on July 22, 2004 | Permalink

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I know-- we've discussed getupgrrl before and I felt a sense of emptiness in my stomach when i read her post. she and i have written each other, and she will be such a great mom. i feel so petty for moaning and groaning about my little problems.

Posted by: Noa | Jul 22, 2004 3:10:14 PM

David, got your comment over at my blog.

The reason I actually decided to post about Amy Richards was because I had read Getupgrrl's post. I'd never seen her blog, but someone else had linked to it.

I was, suffice it to say, crushed for her. I cannot imagine wanting something so much, so deeply, and being denied so forcefully by nature and chance.

And then I pondered the NYT article about Richards, and I just thought "I have to write about this."

As always, a great post.

Posted by: Lachlan | Jul 22, 2004 6:04:01 PM

I was very moved by what you wrote. I have just stumbled into this world of blog and the blog of Getupgrrl's upon which your are commenting was the first of hers that I have read.

I have only had a brush with infertility issues, but I remember the strollers parked outside of shul(synagogue) reducing me to a blubbering mess after my miscarriages.

Just a small point to add to what you wrote about the words on the pavement. Men suffer from the pain of infertility as well as women, and I feel there is not the same support for them. Women have the comuunity of other women but men don't seem to share in the same way. People always ask after the woman, and we have to remember to check in on the man as well.

thanks for the oppurtunity to connect.

Posted by: Marjorie | Jul 22, 2004 6:23:31 PM

David:

It was truly a heartbreaking post and, as you said. should cause us all to ponder our great good fortune.

Marjorie, I have a related thought. B'H, we are blessed with four beautiful children but my wife also suffered two miscarriages. Long after I stopped thinking about them, she ALWAYS thinks about them and about the neshamas that she was carrying. She still feels something missing. Try as I might, I cannot really understand the depth of her feelings.

Posted by: MO Chassid | Jul 23, 2004 12:43:31 AM

David,

I will scurry over to Getupgrrl after this comment, because, well...I have been on both sides of the issue.

While Chuck and I are incredibly blessed (OK, i generally hate that depiction, but in this case it applies) with Zoe, we suffer from secondary infertility. Boiled down to the bare bones, this means you get one, no more. Both Chuck and I wrote extensively about the process of trying again in our old journals. To this day I can't read those entries without feeling profoundly sad.

And even if you've got the greatest kid on the planet, if you want more and can't have them, for whatever reason, the strollers, babies, and the rest break your heart too.

Even sometimes when you realize you don't really even want another one anymore because you're too old and your "baby" is in the 4th grade.

Posted by: beth | Jul 23, 2004 2:58:40 AM

Noa... That was exactly my thought. The things that completely up-end our worlds are such trivial things when put in the proper perspective.

Lachlan... the article from the NY Times that you discussed yesterday was the perfect juxtaposition of facts (and, as always, you bright the issue to life with your writing). Moral of the story: People who have the choice don't always use it wisely.

Marjorie... Welcome aboard! Glad you have discovered the world of bloggers/journalers. Be warned, you can waste a good portion of your life living vicariously through others... but if you are careful, you can really learn a lot. Take a look at some of the folks on my 'Good Readin' list if you are looking for a good starting point for your journey.

Mo... That's why they came with the standard equipment for having kids and we came with the standard equipment for... um... lifting stuff. No matter what people may argue, I feel that mothers have a connection to their children that Fathers can never approach or duplicate.

Beth... I am hesitant to pass along links to other blogs because taste is such a relative thing. But knowing a little about your background, sense of humor and now your fertility issues... I think you may spend a lot of time reading through Getup Grrl's archives. Bring a box of tissues... but don't be surprised if you cry tears of laughter.

Posted by: David | Jul 23, 2004 8:29:21 AM

As an IFer myself, I thought it's appropriate to comment. David, this is the second time that I've noticed you writing about infertility on your blog, having an appreciation for what we DO have, and recognizing that there are those who not blessed in this way, and being sensitive to it.

As someone who is fairly active on several online IF communities, I cannot tell you how many times I've heard of insensitive comments that have been said to myself or my husband, or to other friends who suffer from IF. There are some unbelievably insensitive people out there, who (may or may not) mean well, but say incredibly cruel/stupid/innapropriate things to people experiencing infertility - it would make you angry! Ranging from comments like "Are you waiting?" (we reply "I'm waiting for God to answer my prayers") to shidduch-related questions when a married sibling suffers from infertility(!). It boggles the mind.

My point, though, is that, thank God, you are NOT one of these insensitive clods, and I appreciate it! The more indivuals become aware of the importance of sensitivity to those who are dealing with this challange (along with any other difficulty, whether it be a divorce, a death in the family, a sick parent or child, and probably things I can't event imagine and thank God I don't have to!), the better people we ALL will be.

Posted by: Chavi | Jul 23, 2004 8:05:55 PM

Chavi... I had sort of assumed that you and your hubby might be struggling with this issue, but there are some subjects that one doesn't broach without some sort of overture. I had also assumed that you might have spoke to Zahava about the issue, but there is some girl/friendship stuff that is so personal that she doesn't even share them with me.

I wish I could be as sensitive as I sound here on my blog... but I am all-too-guilty of the behavior you described. More on that Tomorrow.

Thanks for writing.

Posted by: David | Jul 24, 2004 10:09:14 PM

Nerdstar and I decided we'd start trying to have kids a couple of years ago. I decided to try to get pregnant first because I'm four years older than her - and a little more willing to actually go thru pregnancy than she was at the time. At the job I had then 90% of my coworkers were women, and I think there were four babies in one year and at least two in the next.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get pregnant, nothing serious was the cause, but still...

Literally two months before Nerdstar was called up to active duty we decided she would finally try to get pregnant. So the one thing I resent more than any other about her current deployment is it sucking a year and a half out of our trying to get pregnant.

Sometimes it is hard to not resent straight couples who have a very easy time getting pregnant and having kids. Ever since we started this process I've said that if straight people had to go thru half the trouble we do there'd be a lot less kids in the world - and very few unwanted ones.

So here's to a happy, healthy pregnancy for Nerdstar in '05!!

Posted by: Beth | Jul 26, 2004 1:25:11 AM

When your beautiful, gifted, children are running around your house (and around your heart) you won't feel the loss of this time at all.

Kids force you to live in the present.

Good luck!

Posted by: David | Jul 26, 2004 1:35:12 PM

Yup, David, Zahava and I have spoken about it on several occasions. Hubby and I stopped being afraid to talk about IF a while ago. The interesting thing about dealing with infertility, is that even though it's a "private" matter between the couple, in the Jewish community, especially in the frum circles, where there is much preasure to have kids soon and often, it is hard NOT to notice when a couple has been married for a number of years and doesn't have kids. So what is really a private issue becomes very public. Therefore, my attitude about IF is "why should I be afraid to talk about it?"

However, this is my attitude alone. Many couples are more private about these issues and don't feel comfortable talking about it in public. Also, there are degrees of openness - I may feel comfortable about speaking about dealing with IF in general, the emotional aspects, etc, but I may or may not be comfortable discussing in detail our diagnosis, treatments, etc. (often, this depends on with whom I am discussing it with.)

Even though you may not talk about it with me, I do appreciate your support. Thanks.

Posted by: Chavi | Jul 26, 2004 5:32:55 PM

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