Tag Archives: parenting after infertility

“Bringing Up Bebe”: Book Review, Part Two

Stumbling Gracefully is hosting a book club and the book we are currently reviewing is “Bringing Up Bebe,” by Pamela Druckerman.

In Part One, I revealed my own roots as a Francophile and my connections to France.

So, Part Deux: The Review

Pamela Druckerman is an ex-pat who lives in Paris and, like many writers before her, she finds fruitful writing ground in cross-cultural differences. Specifically, she finds her own child-rearing techniques lacking compared to the French parents she meets. She notices that French children behave well in restaurants, sleep through the nights early on and seem to have a politeness and belief in the authority of their parents that her own children and the American children she knows do not. So she sets out to find “the secret” to the way the French raise their children.

In light of the Time Magazine “Mom Enough” controversy and the very real “Mom Wars” currently raging in the US, I’m tempted to say that there IS a secret and that is: there doesn’t seem to be any debate in France at all about how to raise children.

But, let me move on to what Druckerman observes. She first notices that culturally, childbirth is different in France:

“French moms often ask me where I plan to deliver, but never how. They don’t seem to care. In France, the way you give birth doesn’t situate you within a value system or define the sort of parents you will be.”

The national health system there covers Druckerman’s hospital stay for six days. There is not the strong focus on breastfeeding in France either. Most women don’t breastfeed there.

This is explained partially by the state-covered childcare, which Druckerman extols in terms of its quality and availability. With such a system in place, the vast majority of French women return to the workplace: there isn’t the same agonizing of whether to stay home. Staying at home seems to not even interest the vast majority of French parents Druckerman knows.

Druckerman also notices that most French infants begin “doing their nights,” or sleeping through the night, very early: usually beginning at six weeks. Druckerman figures out, after interviewing French parenting authorities and parents alike, that French parents use a method she calls “the pause.” “The pause” essentially means that when a baby cries the parent will “pause” and wait to see if the child can self-soothe and fall asleep quickly on its own before picking the child up.

And with “the pause” begins perhaps the central tenet in French parenting, as Druckerman describes it. “The pause” is an introduction to the key French concept of delaying gratification. They teach children to wait before eating dessert, to wait before rejecting food they haven’t tried and to wait for their parents to finish talking before they chime in. That’s not to say they are not tuned in to their children: part of what Druckerman observes is that French parents are very attuned and listen to what their children say. They just don’t necessarily give in to what their children want.

Also key: the sense of “cadre,” or parental authority. The authority of the parents is pretty absolute. What seems different to Druckerman is that French parents seem quite confident in laying down the law. There seems to be no hesitation or guilt when parents tell their children “no.” And the word “no” is apparently not used sparingly.

The relationship between the parents is apparently treated as sacrosanct. Ayelet Waldman’s infamous New York Times article would probably have been totally ignored over there. Says Virginie, a French parent:

“The couple is the most important. It’s the only thing you chose in life. You didn’t choose your children. You chose your husband. So, you’re going to have to make your life with him. So you have an interest in whether in it going well. Especially when the children leave, you want to get along with him. For me, it’s the prioritaire.”

I could go on and on about the two major influences of French parenting authority (Rousseau, who my dad pointed out abandoned his own children at an orphanage, and a pioneering woman in the 60s named Francoise Dolto) and the advantages of the creche (daycare) where delicious three course meals are served to children.

But here’s where I note my impressions of Pamela Druckerman. She is a charming writer, and an insecure woman amongst a population of beautifully dressed women who seemly maintain it all: their looks, their weight, their jobs and their love lives with their husbands. I mean, I get it. Sub in Lulemon yoga outfits for skinny jeans and boots and impossibly fit physiques and Pamela is me: feeling like a fish out of water.

I tend to take a more skeptical look at things than Druckerman, however. I have to admit that I gave the book the side-eye a few times. Druckerman would repeatedly tell the same story: she would think she wouldn’t like a certain parenting technique then she tries it and BOOM! It works! Eyeroll.

Mainly though it raised the question: why? Why do we Americans constantly feel so insecure and unsure about how to raise our children? Why are we so defensive about what choices we make? Why ARE there so many choices on how to parent?

Here’s where I decide: I’m going with what my parents taught me. I’ll never be the amazingly nurturing personality my mom is, but I’ll do my best. I agree with my dad that education, politeness and teaching your children to question are the defining virtues of parenting.

And, I will do my best to not compare that and contrast it with what’s out there. Because I’m doing my best. That will be enough.

Final cultural note from my in-laws who just spent a month living in Paris: they went out to dinner with friends with children and the children did NOT sit during dinner, they were LOUD and they didn’t particularly listen to their parents EITHER.

So, there’s that.

And here’s a photo of my children and myself in the latest styles of Paris, as procured by MIL. Because I’m shallow and what I love most about France is the fashion and the food 😉

To read more reviews, click here.



Filed under Bringing Up Bebe Book Club, writing

Sneetches, PAIL and What Now?

“Now, the Star-Bell Sneetches had bellies with stars.
The Plain-Belly Sneetches had none upon thars.
Those stars weren’t so big. They were really so small.
You might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all.

But, because they had stars, all the Star-Belly Sneetches
Would brag, ‘We’re the best kind of Sneetch on the beaches.’
With their snoots in the air, they would sniff and they’d snort
‘We’ll have nothing to do with the Plain-Belly sort!’
And, whenever they met some, when they were out walking,
They’d hike right on past them without even talking.”

The Sneetches, Dr. Seuss

In the epic, divisive and frankly disturbing conversation in the comments over at Stirrup Queens, it’s clear that there is a lot of trouble brewing in ALI-land. The trigger is PAIL.

This is worth saying many times: Mel has put her heart and soul into building an incredibly inclusive and powerful community. She created a place for anyone in the Adoption/Loss/Infertility community to gather and make their voice heard. Not enough is said about her technical skills: LFCA is a very cool application that is incredibly easy to use. She built a huge blogroll from scratch and maintains it. She created and hosts a monthly event, International Comment Leaving Week, that is incredibly popular. She creates the buttons and the banners for all of these things. She hosts a yearly event, the Creme de la Creme awards, where bloggers pull their best posts of the year out. Finally is the Blog Round-up, hosted every week and curated by Mel, in which the best posts as picked by readers and Mel.

In addition to all that, she reads thousands of ALI blogs. And runs Prompt(ly), a blogging prompt service for our community. Plus, she also is an editor at BlogHer, manages NaBloPoMo for them and writes bestselling novels. She’s also an exemplary mother to twins and does much volunteer work. And she blogs so, so well, daily.

Writing all that down makes me feel like I waste a lot of time 😉

She has also been a good friend to me. She worked tirelessly to help me get my blog back up. Mel is one of the kindest people on the planet. I admire her tremendously. I wish I could BE her. Seriously.

Mel mentioned “Sneetches” in her post, and I had to look it up because my experience with Dr. Seuss is limited to “The Cat in the Hat” and “Green Eggs and Ham.” She worried that the formation of PAIL is a “Sneetches” moment.

“When the Star-Belly children went out to play ball,
Could a Plain Belly get in the game? Not at all.
You only could play if your bellies had stars
And the Plain-Belly children had none upon thars.

When the Star Belly Sneetches had frankfurter roasts
Or picnics or parties or marshmallow toasts,
They never invited the Plain-Belly Sneetches
They left them out cold, in the dark of the beaches.
They kept them away. Never let them come near.
And that’s how they treated them year after year.”

Elphaba and I are also friends. I admire her a lot: one of her posts, about the Facebook meme, went viral amongst the world at large, and gained her a general audience. Outside influence is a big key to educating the world at large about ALI. Because we know the mainstream media sure as hell isn’t doing that, right MacLeans?!? Elphaba has also been a tremendous source of support for her ALI friends both publicly and privately. Seeing such negative remarks about her in the comments of Mel’s post is hurtful to me.

Here’s where it gets super complicated. It was maybe this post which caused Elphaba to really get motivated to form PAIL.

In it, I tried to answer the question, brought up by MoJo Working, is there an expiration date on an ALI blog? And what the heck is my blog? My passion is “Faces of ALI”: my next post is being written, and I apologize it’s taking so long. I hope that I bring a journalistic slant to the table, and I try to educate people about ALI so we don’t have to all feel so misunderstood.

“Then ONE day, it seems while the Plain-Belly Sneetches
Were moping and doping alone on the beaches,
Just sitting there wishing their bellies had stars,
A stranger zipped up in the strangest of cars!

‘My friends’, he announced in a voice clear and clean,
‘My name is Sylvester McMonkey McBean.
And I’ve heard of Your troubles. I’ve heard you’re unhappy.
But I can fix that, I’m the Fix-It-Up Chappie.’ “

Elphaba’s response reminded me that deep down, I do want to talk about parenting after IF, sometimes. The challenges of it. The feeling of parenting under a cliff that may fall on you at any time, because you have known and seen loss and, frankly, you are traumatized by the time you spent in the trenches trying to get pregnant. The use of wartime analogies is, according to a therapist I saw, appropriate. We have seen the “war” of infertility and loss. A lot of us have PTSD, from the NICU, from our miscarriages and losses. I would love to see a support group for us to navigate our way through this uncertain land. And that’s what I thought PAIL ultimately was: an additional tool in the ALI community. A robust group that would help me when I need it, just like LFCA and ICLW help me when I need it. I was thinking that I would pop in and out of discussion there, and title any posts “PAIL” so people could skip those posts if they chose.

To be honest, I thought of PAIL as a group similar to the “Open Adoption Roundtables” I often see written about on some blogs I read.

I assumed it was cool with everyone. I was wrong. Mel was very upset and hurt. And this is painful to see. Stirrup Queens is the hub of ALI land, the Grand Central Station, if you will. I don’t want that to change. I didn’t expect that to change. I assumed that would never change.

Mel is upset because she thinks PAIL used her ideas to create a universe where some members of ALI are excluded. She called it a “Sneetches moment”, because she already had created a blogroll of parenting after IF blogs. And she doesn’t want anyone to be excluded.

“Changing their stars every minute or two. They kept paying money.
They kept running through until the Plain nor the Star-Bellies knew
Whether this one was that one or that one was this one. Or which one
Was what one or what one was who.

Then, when every last cent of their money was spent,
The Fix-It-Up Chappie packed up. And he went.
And he laughed as he drove In his car up the beach,
‘They never will learn. No. You can’t Teach a Sneetch!’

But McBean was quite wrong. I’m quite happy to say.
That the Sneetches got really quite smart on that day.
The day they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches.
And no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches.
That day, all the Sneetches forgot about stars and whether
They had one, or not, upon thars.”

What’s become clear is that those in the parenting after IF community FEEL excluded. People are afraid of losing readers by talking about parenting, or else they say they have lost members because they talk about parenting.

My own personal take is I don’t want to have to trade in my ALI citizenship. I really don’t. I’d like to be able to visit PAIL, though: a community where I can talk about parenting. I might not reside there all the time or even most of the time, but it would really, really hurt to have to choose. I am a Sneetch after all.

What do you think?


UPDATED: I feel the need to add that so many of us (me included) are worried about Mel being upset. But the truth is we are ALL upset: somehow this has triggered feelings of exclusion amongst almost every group on the ALI spectrum. These feelings must have been below the surface, waiting for something to blow. I feel like that is what is ultimately being expressed in the comments: people are worried of what their place is: whether it’s TTC, whether you are single, married, gay, TTC after parenting, adopting, parenting after infertility, going through cycles, going through loss, living childless/childfree after loss and or infertility, or surrogacy. I’m sure I’m leaving someone out and that’s the point: Mel includes everyone, at the hub. The problem is: how do we convince others that while we may need additional help from time to time among peers we would NEVER exclude anyone? That seems VERY clear: from even the harshest comments on there, NO ONE wants to exclude anyone. We are all Sneetches. So how can this be resolved? I have no fucking clue. Please. If you have any ideas, jot them down below.

All excerpts from The Sneetches copyrighted by Dr. Seuss.


Filed under Infertility, Parenting After IF

Is There An Expiration Date On An Infertility Blog?

I have often worried about the fact that I write about Adoption/Infertility/Loss and yet…I’m a parent.

How annoying must I be to those who have not yet won the “Golden Ticket”? Or those who have chosen to live without children, after infertility?

I came to blogging late: I struggled to get pregnant for two and a half years, but I didn’t blog during that time. I know that two and a half years is nothing to many. I have two children. So do I need to shut the fuck up?

I’ve tried to do investigative journalism, such as it is with no resources at my disposal other than the internet and interviews, to shine a spotlight on the unfair coverage that goes on in the mainstream media of the ALI community.

I know that when I was on the list for various ICLWs, probably many other participants saw that I was “parenting after infertility” and listed “twins parenting” and I’m sure they rolled their eyes and said: “NAAAAHHHH, won’t be checking THAT blog out.”

I don’t blame anyone for doing that AT ALL. I remember how I didn’t want to be around anyone parenting when I was in the midst of cycling or being told I had premature ovarian failure.

So I write about Faces of ALI and about the New York Times’ crappy coverage of infertility but I also write from the distinctly privileged point of view of someone who has crossed the finish line.

I think this post is a must-read for ALL ALI bloggers.

It brings up the point that no one is an ALI blogger forever. We all go on to either adopt or have a successful treatment or…we don’t.

All blogs evolve.

Dooce went from writing about living single in L.A. to getting married, having kids, going through bad PPD and now she’s separated from her husband. (Which totally makes me sad. I really want them to work it out. Unless, you know, they can’t.)

In the ALI world, the big bloggers take different paths.

Mel writes about the ALI community and does a tremendous amount of invaluable community-building. She’s a parent to twins, like me, and writes about lots of things.
Lori covers Open Adoption with a wonderfully open heart, and is writing a book about the topic.
Pamela Tsigdinos has written a book about women without children after infertility, called Silent Sorority, which has been widely acclaimed.
Keiko raises hell as the advocate we all know and need.
Elphaba, whose witty and persuasive writing about infertility actually gained notice outside of our community (a rare feat, indeed), has settled into being a mommy blogger after the birth of her daughter
Mommy Odyssey, in the midst of a difficult pregnancy, is taking a break from blogging.

So you see, there are many paths.

I won’t always be an ALI blogger. I guess. I mean, the chances of me ever being pregnant again are slim to none, so this won’t be a pregnancy blog. I don’t like writing about parenting much, either.

The truth is, my heart belongs with my fellow sisters in the ALI community. Even if they don’t want me. I can’t really explain why this is, and it perplexes a lot of people in my life who would prefer I rejoin the shinny happy parenting crowd. Where I briefly stayed and felt like a tourist.

What do you think? Is there an expiration date for all ALI blogs? Do you want me to separate my journalism from my memoir-ish musings when they include parenting? Am I a tourist here in this community, too? Do we all need to stick together? Or are we better off in our quadrants? And I really am asking this with an open mind. I want to know what you think. Even if you think it might hurt people’s feelings.


Filed under Faces of ALI, ICLW, Infertility, Parenting After IF

SATC2: I Watch it So You Don’t Have To

Sarah Jessica Parker on the set of "Sex and the City II"

Photo credit: By ChrisGampat [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

“Sex and the City”: I don’t really need to go into my complicated relationship with it, do I?   OK, fine.  To sum up, I think that show (and especially the first movie) may have done more to lead to the economic collapse than sub-prime mortgages did.   In the world of selfish, annoying Carrie Bradshaw, feminism = consumerism.

I had heard that the sequel was as filled with poop as PETA.  But, after a morning of fresh hell yesterday, I needed some sort of escapism during the kids’ nap.  And it was free, so I started to watch it.

Here are my thoughts:

1. If the first movie was a factor in the economy collapsing, is this movie responsible for the turmoil in the Middle East?
2. None of the actors’ faces MOVE.  At all.  I couldn’t tell if they were smiling or crying, unless I saw actual tears.
3. Liza Minelli sings “All the Single Ladies.”  I am not joking.
4. The four ladies sing “I am Woman.”  I am not joking.
5. Carrie dares to compare herself to Coco Chanel.  Um, never mention yourself in the same sentence with her again.  Ever.

Mostly it was a self-indulgent affair by the director-writer-producer Michael Patrick King.  I’ve seen him interviewed, and whenever he speaks about his contributions to SATC, it’s like he’s some god, graciously taking credit for the creation of a masterpiece of world culture.  Modesty is not in the guy’s repertoire.  It seems the studio gave him FULL creative control, and he wrote the script imagining that at the end of each piece of dialogue, there would be wild applause.  So characters say things like, “Lawrence of my labia!” and then there’s a long, awkward pause where the character looks out of the screen into the audience, waiting for your crazed laughter.  Which won’t come, unless maybe you’re someone who thought “Mamma’s Family” was cutting-edge comedy.

HOWEVER, I did enjoy one exchange between Charlotte and Miranda.  Charlotte is having a difficult time with her daughters, as one is experiencing the terrible twos and won’t stop crying.  But Charlotte, the infertility vet, won’t admit to anyone that she is having any problems. Because she wanted her children SO MUCH.  So she feels guilty admitting any ambivalent feelings about being a mother.  It’s the first time I’ve seen this experience portrayed in the media, and I appreciated it because it’s been true for me.

Of course, she has a full-time nanny, so, you know.  Mo’ money, less problems.


Filed under Parenting After IF