Monthly Archives: August 2011

Pretty Flowers!

I am really sad and tired. But today I got to go to my MIL’s magnificent garden, spruced up for a garden tour. I think I have talked about what an overachiever my MIL is, but this particular event was so huge and important that a motherf-ing bus of TOURISTS (some of them were from FRANCE!) showed up to see her 3/4 acre of paradise on earth.

Here’s some photos from my phone that can barely do it justice.

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Are You Infertile? The New York Times Thinks You are Rich and Whimsical

I want to dedicate this post to my father. Tonight he lies in a hospital bed suffering from complications as a result of a cancer surgery. My father had a long career as an intrepid, truth-seeking journalist, in a golden age of newspaper journalism. I flatter myself that he would like this post.

My dad, with his grandson.

Also, many thanks to Keiko, Mel and Esperanza.

Ah, the Grey Lady. Bastion of objectivity. Lately I have been wondering, though: what is UP with The New York Times and their coverage of infertility?

Let me start by saying that I respect most of the reporting that The New York Times does: we need their investigative journalism here and abroad and no one else can bring that to the table right now.

But The New York Times has consistently published articles that marginalize those who are going through infertility.

Bold statement, I know. Do I think The New York Times is intentionally doing this? I don’t know the answer to that. But here’s what I do know:

One in eight people suffer from infertility. Infertility effects people of all reproduction ages and incomes and those who are in their twenties are increasingly being afflicted. Those going through infertility suffer from similar levels of stress as those suffering from cancer. (For more facts about infertility, go to Resolve.) It is a devastating disease: that’s right, a disease. Yet to criticize and scoff at those who suffer from it is common.

All this most of us in the ALI (Adoption, Loss and Infertility) community know. Mel says we preach to each other and we need to turn the message outward. Keiko says we can only be heard if we keep talking, and talk loud enough in large numbers. I couldn’t agree with them more.

Back to The New York Times: the style/life section often runs stories about people undergoing infertility treatments. I have read hundreds of blogs about infertility. The vast majority of these are written by people who often have to postpone treatments because they can’t afford them, or who are unable to foot the incredible expense of adoption (for those who like to say, “Just Adopt”, know that adoptions often cost more than $30,000) and this is really, really sad.

If you read the articles about infertility in The New York Times, you would think that only the very wealthy (and whimsical, but we’ll get to that later) suffer from the disease. Patients profiled: a 46 year old woman using donor eggs who already has multiple children reducing twins, a woman with multiple homes, pictured with her baby and baby nurse (!), who pursues many treatments and finally settles on surrogacy, a woman has “twiblings” after using two different surrogates and donor eggs.

These are by no means the TYPICAL infertility patients who walk through the doors of hundreds of offices of reproductive endocrinologists each year. But you would not know this from reading The New York Times.

Other stories featured in The New York Times: the high cost of twin pregnancies (warning of the dangers of pre-maturity associated with twins!), multiples lead to dangerous pregnancies, how women should “lower stress” as a way to battle infertility (in other words, just relax!) and articles about “fertility tourism”.

When The New York Times covers infertility, there is almost always either an exotic angle featuring a wealthy person or, choice. Here’s where we get to the controversial issues like reducing twins, what to do with embryos. The subjects considering “choices” are treated as whimsical at best.

“Things would have been different if we were 15 years younger or if we hadn’t had children already or if we were more financially secure,” she said later. (From “The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy”, 8/10/2011)

And:

“It just never felt right,” Mr. Stansel said. “We prayed many nights. A lot of sleepless nights. Originally we thought we might do the reduction. We chose to carry all six and, we believe, let God do what he’s going to do.” (From “Painful Choices With Fertility Treatment That Leads to the Most Dangerous Pregnancies”, 10/12/2009)

Here’s the thing: The New York Times spends almost all of its considerable resources on the extreme edges of infertility, the boundaries of treatments. But for the vast majority of us suffering from the disease, we’re just in the weeds. Suffering from miscarriages. Taking Clomid. Saving for IUIs and IVFs or adoptions. Fighting with insurance companies. Advocating for a tax credit for fertility treatments. We are a significant percentage of the American public and we are not represented or accurately portrayed in The New York Times.

I don’t know how we can change this: maybe the hundreds/thousands of ALI bloggers could retweet this article and ask The New York Times to write an article about Family Act of 2011, S 965, which would offer a tax credit for the out-of-pocket expenses associated with infertility medical treatment? Instead of the next article featuring the wife of a billionaire hellbent on genetically engineering her children, could they focus on Bodega Bliss, who has suffered from her fourth miscarriage and has to seek answers beyond her family doctor? Or Keiko, diagnosed with premature ovarian failure at age 26, who is pondering difficult and expensive choices beyond her means? Or Dresden, who detailed her difficult voyage to become a mother while caregiving for her grandmother? Or Smart One, whose past history with infertility motivated her efforts to be a gestational surrogate? Or why not write about Broken Brown Egg, a group that is become a rising voice advocating for infertility awareness in the African American community. THESE are the heartbreaking and inspiring tales of infertility that are untold. And happen every day, to people you know.

What ideas do YOU have for telling the real story of infertility to the public? Are there other media outlets covering infertility more accurately? Are we doomed to being misunderstood?

Addendum:

I don’t have access to Lexis Nexis, but these are the articles I found about infertility in The New York Times in the last four years. The headlines are indicative enough of the intention of the articles in most cases, I believe.

Lowering Odds of Multiple Births (2/19/2008)
India Nutures Business of Surrogate Motherhood 3/10/2008
A positive article! After Years of Fertility Treatments, Facing Life Without Children 6/10/2008
Her Body, My Baby 11/28/2008
Birth of Octuplets Puts Focus on Fertility Clinics (2/11/2009)
Picture Emerging on Genetic Risks of IVF (2/17/2009)
The Trouble With Twin Births (10/11/2009)
Grievous Choice on Risky Path to Parenthood (10/11/2009)
Payment Offers to Egg Donors Prompts Scrutiny (5/11/2010)
Meet the Twiblings (12/29/2010)
An American Family: Mom, Sperm Donor, Lover, Child (6/19/2011)
The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy (8/10/2011)

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On London, David Gergen and Our Basic Values

I was in London on July 23rd of this year. I lived in London for years. The riots have spread to the areas I lived in: the pubs I frequented, restaurants I ate in, theaters I watched movies at, and stores I shopped at are literally up in smoke. It makes me incredibly sad. My good friends, friends I dined with in the grey and ancient city on July 22nd, have sent me the most disturbing reports today, of teens running down their street in hoods and masks, breaking into local and family-owned businesses to steal puzzling items like Immodium AD as well as big ticket items like plasma TVs. These kids are throwing bricks into private homes, they are burning businesses global and local. MOST FRUSTRATING OF ALL: No one in America is covering this major story, which has wide repercussions globally.

Having lived in London, I think I can speak to a few socioeconomic factors: most of the city, with a few exceptions, is very integrated. What does this mean? In Notting Hill, where I lived, two doors down from multi-millionaires was a public housing block. A Richard Branson look-alike (maybe even the genuine article) would cruise our street in his blue Aston Martin. (In fact, he almost hit me one time and was completely without remorse, driving away and giving me the finger for daring to get in his way.) So, cheek to jowl, there was immense wealth and pretty serious poverty. And middle class earners like myself living in small, overpriced apartments.

Three weeks ago when I was there, I noticed how upmarket, built-up and frankly shiny so many areas of London were. A lot of the grit I remember was gone. I imagine some of that was the money spent on upgrading the city for the upcoming Olympics next year. I noticed on the street where I lived, again half a block from the massive tower of council housing, was parked a Porsche Cayenne, a Lamborghini and a number of Minis and BMWs. There is a lot of money in London, and a lot of no money. Having the two next to each other, in the midst of a serious recession, in the midst of many cutbacks in government services, I imagine, was like having kerosene next to a blazing fire. Am I excusing the rioters? Certainly not. They are stealing goods and services and destroying institutions that help local communities. They are lawless punks, destroying the fabric of society.

But what was their example? The wealthiest Londoners live large, dining in Spitalfields market (much gussied-up since the days of Jack the Ripper), they buy their underwear at Agent Provocateur, they drink the finest Malbec and Sancerres. They buy their fur coats and size 0 jeans at Joseph in the chicly refurbished neighborhood, where the inflated real estate has appreciated but not for the poorest, who still buy their lottery tickets and crisps and cigarettes at the local grocer next door. The rich, even in this economic disaster, maybe especially, in the catastrophe that we are living in daily, are getting richer. Visibly. And not just in London. In America as well. They buy their Range Rovers, join the 11-99 Foundation and pay less taxes than ever. Meanwhile, the average American has gotten poorer. The average American gets taxed more, whether through state trooper tickets, parking tickets, increased local and state taxes. Their homes have lost value. 62% of Americans think that the Debt Ceiling deal profits the richest.

I am not anti-capitalist. I think it is the only system that works. But not the current form of it. The richest .01% of the country should not be getting richer, while everyone else suffers. It’s not good for society as a whole. It’s not historically what we’ve done as a country. We are in deep shit, economically. EVERYONE should pay the price to dig all of us out of it.

“A huge share of the nation’s economic growth over the past 30 years has gone to the top one-hundredth of one percent, who now make an average of $27 million per household. The average income for the bottom 90 percent of us? $31,244.” (University of California, Berkeley)

Let me tell you a story about my in-laws’ recent trip to Manhattan. They are the types who spend their money on expensive dinners when they travel, often staying at budget motels to finance their foodie extravaganzas. They are also very gregarious. They befriended a man and his wife in a fancy restaurant in Midtown. The man, in his 80s, collects watches. Watches are becoming an outdated technology, now that iPhones and the like provide us with the time. But this man had bid $250,000 on a rare watch. He did not obtain it, as it went for over a million in an auction.

DOES THIS SEEM LIKE A GOOD USE OF MONEY TO YOU? Of course it’s this guy’s money to spend as he likes. But this seems to be the choice of the super rich with their money. Buying ostentatious, outdated, useless items that don’t benefit the economy at large.

WHY shouldn’t they be taxed more?

There is a lot that is great about America. I am very proud to be an American. I recently read “Half Broke Horses”: that pioneer spirit of not wanting too much, not getting into debt, using what we have, saving, not being flashy – it’s in our nature. I know we as a people can do this. But we need to put away our selfish interests, like collecting rare watches, fancy cars, and silly material goods. I am just as guilty of this: I have bought ridiculous things. But the truth is: I am never going to be in the top .01% of the country. To buy goods to show others that I am not poor is stupid. Status is silly. And our obsession with it has gotten us into this mess.

During World War II, it was patriotic to be poor. Reusing and being frugal were virtues promoted at large. The richest were taxed at the same rate as the rest of us. We are in a crisis. We are a creative, hard-working people, united by our love of freedom and the belief that we are all equal.

“In 1945, households making a million dollars in non-investment income was 66%. Now, it is 32%.” The Tax Foundation

David Gergen, since you asked. We need to ALL contribute to pulling ourselves out of our debt mess. The richest among us can either pitch in, or move to Monaco in shame, their tails between their legs.

Or am I a foolish idealist? Tell me in the comments.

For more, go here.

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