Archive for May, 2009

We are preparing to move back East in a few weeks.  I grew up largely outside Boston, but moved to California when I was 17 to go to college.  I return to New England annually to visit my family, but I didn’t have aspirations to return to live.  I’ve become a California girl and have found home and community in the Bay Area.  It’s quite difficult for me to leave.

We’re moving to New Hampshire, where my family moved after I graduated college, to help my parents retire from their small business.  My father is 73 and needs to retire.  There is no one else, really, whom they trust to help them make this transition, which would require reorganization of their business in preparation for selling it.  Hubby is the one who suggested we go back to help my parents.  We’re being good filial offspring.

It was never really part of my life plan to return to New England to help my parents with their company, a business in which I have little personal interest or ambition.  Still, we are motivated by helping my parents retire and it has become clear that they need help in doing so.  Hubby is encouraging in that this is the right thing to do.  We are capable and available.  Why not?  

I am a little anxious about living so close to my parents and how this will affect our relationship.  Being so far away in distance has allowed me freedom and independence, such that I could not imagine had I spent my early adult years closer to my parents.  I needed that freedom to become an adult, to become my own person.  Some would criticize me for wanting to live so far away from my family, but I needed to find own voice apart from the high expectations piled on my shoulders from a very young age, and the weight of disappointment that buried me whenever I failed.  

This burden is not uncommon for immigrant families.  My parents did leave behind everything in Taiwan to come to the U.S. and I do fully recognize their sacrifice for me.  But carrying the hope of another generation is a very difficult cross to bear.  

Hubby doesn’t have my baggage with my family, which makes him a good son-in-law.  He’s an American.  He is free to make his own destiny and he is volunteering to help my family for a time, postponing his own dream of living and working overseas to do so.  It will be good to be around family when the baby comes, he says.  And he’s right.  But I don’t think I could make this move without him.   My American husband is a good Chinese son.

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Packing Books

My friend Zoe came over yesterday afternoon and helped me pack some of my books.  We got through only my fiction collection, but that’s significant.  Still to go: poetry, anthologies (both fiction & poetry), art books, cookbooks, general non-fiction, and Hubby’s geek books.

There are so many books on my shelf that I have yet to read and that I pack with me from place to place.  Perhaps I should face the probability that I will never read them and just give them away.  But it feels comforting somehow to have these books in my collection.  Irrational, perhaps, but comforting.

Most of my books will be in boxes for the next 2-3 months, but I did pull a stack of books from my “to-read” shelf to be more accessible during this hiatus from my personal library.  These books include some favorites or talismans: Alice Munro’s Open Secrets, Jane Kenyon’s Otherwise, Pablo Neruda’s Selected Odes.  And then there are the books I intend to read during this time: Wendell Berry’s Three Short Novels, Jeffrey Eugenides Middlesex, Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and Marilynne Robinson’s Home.  

I will be lucky to finish one of these books during this move and transition, but still, I am comforted by having them available.  You never know what may strike your fancy.

Currently, I am reading Dave Eggers’ What is the What, in honor of Hubby’s Sudan sojourn.  It’s my way of being there with him in spirit.

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Sudan and Solitude

Hubby is in Sudan this week.  He’s with a group of folks hoping to build a school in the village of Jalle, in Southern Sudan, an area devastated by a long civil war which only recently reached a tenuous peace agreement in 2005.  Hubby is volunteering for a group called Rebuild Sudan, founded by one of the Lost Boys of Sudan.  (If you’re not familiar with the Lost Boys, it’s a pretty incredible and tragic history of this region.)  This trip is a short reconnaissance trip to scope out the region and get some preliminary ideas of how to build the school.

It’s Hubby’s first trip to Africa and he’s having a blast.  The electricity and internet access is spotty, so I don’t hear from him everyday, but he keeps me updated as he can to let me know he’s safe.  We were thinking we would spend 6 months to a year in Sudan helping to build the Jalle school, but now that we’re pregnant, those plans have been put on hold.  I was originally suppose to join Hubby on this reconnaissance trip, but now I’m stuck at home packing.  

Actually, I’m procrastinating packing, but the time to myself has been nice.  I’m reading and blogging, I’m seeing friends everyday and people have been buying me lunch (since we’re leaving town in a few weeks) and I get to eat all the foods that Hubby doesn’t like.  Right now, I’m having a peanut butter & banana sandwich and it’s yummy.

In some ways, I’m sad that I can’t be in Sudan alongside Hubby and share this experience together.  In other ways, I really appreciate the separation.  This works well for our marriage.

At our wedding, we had this passage read from Rilke’s On Love and Other Difficulties:

“The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust.  A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development.  But once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.”

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Nesting Pigeons

There are a pair of pigeons nesting on our tiny balcony.  I tried chasing them away when they first started hanging around a few days ago.  We’re moving in a few weeks and we’ll need to clean out the balcony.  If we were sticking around, I wouldn’t mind having pigeons on the balcony, but since we’re leaving, would it be fair to dump a pair of nesting pigeons on the new tenant?

Still, I’m having a hard time chasing the pigeons off.  They’ve made themselves comfortable in our old tomato plant pot and I rather like their cooing in the mornings.  Maybe it’s my maternal instinct kicking in, but I’m sympathetic to Mommy Pigeon.  If I chase her off, where else will she nest?  Where will she raise her young?  It’s safe on my balcony, but only for a few more weeks, and I don’t think they can nest, hatch, and raise their young in the remaining time we have in the city.  Sad, isn’t it?

And then there are those who think of pigeons as rats with wings.

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Preggers, finally.

I am presently 12 weeks and 5 days pregnant.  The first trimester has been mostly nausea-free, though I do feel exhausted often and feel like this baby is sucking the marrow out of my bones.  So I nap a lot.  And I pee a lot too.  

Baby Bean in utero, 12 weeks, 5 days

Baby Bean in utero, 12 weeks, 5 days

I’m 40 years old.  My darling hubby and I conceived naturally, after 18 months of trying.  We had to switch OB/GYNs once (the first one was pretty clueless and wanted to shove me off to IVF immediately because of my age).  My current OB diagnosed me with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) after an ultrasound examination and put me on metformin to regulate my blood sugar.  I then went through 4 cycles of Clomid, 3 cycles were monitored, and we still failed to conceive.  

At this point, we were referred to a fertility specialist, who recommended we try IVF with ICSI (that’s when they inject the sperm directly into the egg), because hubby was having some issues too.  They would pump me full of drugs, harvest my eggs, inject them with hubby’s sperm, implant 2 or 3 embryos in my uterus and hope that one of them stuck.  They gave us a 25-30% chance of success, given my age.  The procedure would cost us $13,000.  

This was all very discouraging, of course. The entire process was completely devoid of soul.  I felt very uncomfortable with it.  The fertility clinic, while warm and friendly, was treating my body like a machine.  It’s a business to make babies, and big business.  To me, this just felt wrong.  We were talking about bringing a child into the world, not a widget.  

I told hubby I wanted to take a break from the fertility clinic.  I wanted to take a step back and evaluate the process, consider my infertility issues and my health as a whole.  We would have to face the possibility that we could not conceive and have a biological child.

The main thing about “Advanced Maternal Age” (which is over 35) is the question of egg quality.  The older you are, the older your eggs, the more exhausted your egg reserve.  It makes you feel mortal, which I suppose isn’t a bad thing, but it was greatly disappointing to face the possibility that we couldn’t have a biological child.  We had always talked about adoption (and still hope to adopt!), but the inability to conceive was a loss we would have to grieve.

Around this time, I started to see an acupuncturist and do my own research about infertility.  I came across The Fertility Diet, published by Harvard Medical School, which addressed diet issues regarding PCOS.  Basically, the research encourages a low-glycemic diet to help control blood sugar issues.  I also read a book called Fertility Wisdom, which outlines the role of traditional Chinese medicine (chi, blood flow) in conception.  This latter book was a little woo-woo, but I liked the more wholistic and spiritual approach it took towards conception.  The philosophy was that we could not control whether we got pregnant or not, we could only prepare my body to invite a child into our lives. 

I definitely needed to lose weight; I had gained about 20 pounds thanks to the stress of my previous job as the executive director of a non-profit.  I put myself and hubby on the fertility diet and exercised more.  I lost 18 pounds.  Hubby lost 20.  I was ovulating naturally, without the aid of drugs, for the first time in years.

Three months after starting acupuncture, diet and exercise adjustments, we conceived.  40-year-old eggs.  Miracle baby.

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I’ll admit some apprehension about blogging and the prospect of putting my words out there for public scrutiny.  My tendency is to craft a piece of writing until I’m satisfied and then send it out into the world.  Recently, I’ve been finding that I’m never satisfied with my writing, and so I never send it out into the world, and so I never write.  What good are all these thoughts bottled up in my head?

I am inspired by my friend Marianne Villanueva, who keeps a daily blog (http://anthropologist.wordpress.com) in which she chronicles anything that interests her.  The writing is chatty, amusing, and immediate, and she doesn’t seem to care if it’s deep or profound.  Sometime it is; sometimes it isn’t.  But writing produces more writing, and that’s why Marianne does it, even if it occasionally gets her in trouble.

Lots of big changes coming up in my life, so let’s try this again.

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