She’s Only Seventeen*

Years of marriage, that is.  

I’m happy to say that even when all sorts of awful stuff happened to either of us, Sarah has always been there for me (I can only hope I’m as good to her).  There is no one I’d rather have on my side, and I’ve been greatly blessed since meeting her.  

Scorpions said it best.

Our family has grown since then, and God willing, will continue to grow.  But Sarah is the foundation, and without her, nothing else would matter.

To the next seventeen!

* apologies to Winger.  Seriously, not trying to go all Mike Judge on you.

Venti!

While many of my friends count today as 27 (3 weeks and 6 days for those in base-7), and some others ascribe assorted other significance to today, for me, what today really adds up to is 20.  Yep, עשרים, or in Starbucks’ parlance “extra-awesome-size”.

So why 20?  Because 20 years ago today, I met Sarah for the first time.  I would not have guessed that a college student who was willing to meet a stranger, but insisted on doing so in front of a different dormitory, would turn out to be the one person in the world who is absolutely perfect for me.  

There’s one person who completely shares my sense of humor, who exposes me to new and awesome things, who challenges my assumptions, and who makes me want to be a better person to be good enough to be with her.

And we met by sheer hashgaha pratit (Divine Providence).  If that’s not enough evidence of God’s handiwork in this world, maybe the fact that she’s the best mother I could imagine or want for Roya makes the miraculous unliklihood a little more clear.

So happy anniversary, love, now and forever.

Taking Care of Business (or “Don’t Wait”)

In 24 hours, I’ve been to a bar mitzvah, an engagement party, an unveiling (memorial service where a grave marker is displayed), and sent Roya & Sarah off to visit her family in Memphis (the picture is from the airport).

If this was any more “circle of life”, I’d have swarms of cartoon animals doing elaborate choreography around me.

But this got me thinking a bit on the ephemerality of the moment- we live in the unquantized “now”, and to do otherwise is considered a terrible curse (Deut 28:67). Or do we?

How present are we actually? There is a whole cottage industry right now in bemoaning how modern technology brings us out of the moment, and makes us disconnected from each other (“Look Up” is a good example of that) – although I’ve seen enough pictures of people ignoring each other on trains reading newspapers to know this isn’t truly a modern phenomenon.

But I think the essence of the thing is still true, that each of the moments we have is precious, and how we choose to spend them offers revealing insight into our characters.

So given my postulated superiority of temporal presence, what’s the actual takeaway, other than “be here now”? I think it would be “don’t wait.” Anything worth doing is worth doing now.

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Before there was Sgt Pepper

Nineteen years ago today, my life changed for the best.

I didn’t know it at the time, being a callow youth, but making a phone call at 3AM was about the best possible thing I could have done, because on the other end of that call was Sarah. We wouldn’t have actually met in person otherwise, and I’m reasonably certain we wouldn’t have started dating had we not met at that particular juncture in our lives.

Boy, I sure am glad we met when we did.

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that Roya is glad too.

smile

Now a 3AM call means something a bit different, and this kind of 3AM call, like the kind that started it all, is a worthwhile one – the kind that I’m happy to answer.

Happy anniversary, love; for this nineteen, for the nineteen to come, and the nineteens to come after that.

Survey Says…

Obviously, no baby yet. The results of the highly-not-scientific-at-all poll for when Sarah would give birth are (N=34):

poll_results

Interestingly, not a single person thought that she would deliver on the “due” date. The graph is a little distorted because the 2013 ranges are two days, and the 2014 ranges are four days – if you normalize that, you’d see that it’s top-heavy (which the bottom graph shows better).

percentages_from_poll

I was also surprised to see that more than half of the respondents thought that she would deliver before the stated due date, even though 80% of women deliver after the calculated due date in their first pregnancy. Interesting!

XV (not to be confused with Quinceañera)

I’m exhausted, and very happy. In the last week, I’ve built four pieces of furniture (a shelving unit, two bookcases and a crib) to get our house a little more ready for the birth of our daughter.

It wasn’t long ago that this seemed like a chimerical will-o’-the-wisp, and now it feels quite real indeed.

But none of those dreams would have been more than figments, let alone realities, had not Sarah taken my hand in marriage fifteen years ago. That remains the best thing which has ever happened to me. I will always be grateful for her ability to see beyond who I was then, and her willingness to give me a chance – it would have been very easy to write me off.

I fell in love with Sarah right away, but each day is better than the one preceding. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

For fifteen beautiful, wonderful years, I thank you. And for the years to come, I applaud.

My cup of blessing runs over.

Iron Mom

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Our friend Jacob Warrenfeltz, who also drew the cover for To the Rescue!, agreed to do the coolest thing ever: make a maternity shirt with a foetal “Eddie” from Iron Maiden. Sarah is wearing the shirt in the picture above, taken in a hotel lobby – we ended up having the shirt shipped here in advance of arriving, so we were nervous about whether it would make it)

We’re in Austin to see Iron Maiden with special guest Megadeth (because nothing says “repentance” between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur like awesome heavy metal). Actually, if they do “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, that’s all about repentance, but that’s another story…

And He saw our affliction

And He saw our affliction (Deut 26:7) This refers to the disruption of family life as it states, “And God saw the Jewish people and God knew.”
Passover Haggadah

It is no news that Sarah and I have been going through the amazing suck-fest that is infertility for the last several years.

There’s a lot of moments of trying to hold it together while acquaintances are gushing about the latest {pregnancy | childbirth}, (the friends mostly don’t do that to us) and there’s the pit in the stomach that comes once that gets started – the sense that this is not going to be a good night. There’s the intrusive medical stuff – shots, pokes and prods, testing, monitoring and sampling, the mind-numbing expense of it all, but the worst for me is the question of why God puts this particular barrier in our way – given that the first commandment is to be fruitful and multiply, how is this fair at all?

And then I beat myself up for asking about fairness – because honestly, I’ve had more than my share of blessing in this world, and “fairness” would mean that all I should get is an unmarked grave. Didn’t the patriarchs and matriarchs all face this? Yes, but according to the text they were pissed off too, so maybe that’s okay.

So what’s new in this is that Sarah and I have finally come to believe that IVF is the way we need to go. Sigh.

There’s perfectly valid medical reasons for this, and we’re investigating multiple options for clinics.

Now, this morning, I mentioned this to someone, and s/he told me “you can always adopt”. I presume s/he was trying to offer helpful advice, but s/he was actually being extremely hurtful. I pulled him/her outside and corrected him/her privately, and let the person know why that was such an unhelpful suggestion.

First, neither Sarah nor I are genetic snobs – we both believe that love is thicker than blood. I learned this from my maternal grandparents zt”l (may the memories of the righteous be for a blessing) – our family would routinely pick up “strays” for lack of a better word – family friends, distant cousins, in-laws, out-laws, etc, and then a gathering just wouldn’t be complete without them. This is a characteristic of my grandmother in particular which ranks her as a person whom I want to emulate – she and my grandfather are two of the finest human beings I’ve ever known. Sarah and I have long said that we want to be parents more than we want to be pregnant, so adoption was certainly not ruled out.

That said, adoption does have challenges, and only a fool would ignore that, so we had looked at it as a “second” choice, but preferable to IVF, when we started having miscarriages two years ago. We went to an informational session at a local agency (not linked for their privacy), and what we learned shocked us.

We had always thought that there was this vast number of children waiting in orphanages to be adopted, that there was a need for parents to step up, and that the real challenge was just getting qualified as an acceptable home.

HAH!

We could not have been more wrong.

So it turns out that in truth the number of infants who are adoptable in public adoptions (and by that I mean by non-relatives, via agencies), is a tiny fraction of the number of parents who are waiting in line to do the adopting. That agency we went to was one of the largest in the Mid-Atlantic region, and they placed 40 children in their busiest year recently, with a more typical year being closer to 25.

According to an adoption advocacy group (you have to dig for the number here – it’s table 1, column 7), 22,291 infants in the United States were placed for adoption in unrelated domestic adoptions. (Statistics on adoption are extremely opaque for some reason, and get aggregated in ways which obscure that truth).

By comparison, according to the CDC, the various types of Assistive Reproductive Technology (ART) which includes IVF, IUI, and procedures which happen in an office but does not include fertility injections or pills, 61,610 infants were born as the result of ART in 2011.

So adoption is actually, from a statistical point of view, not a better bet than IVF.

So why was it so bad for him/her to suggest this?

First, it was unsolicited advice, which honestly isn’t welcome on touchy, sensitive subjects. I don’t know how other people who are going through infertility feel, but as for me, I’m mourning the loss of some innocence – that something which I thought would be easy is going to not take climbing a mountain – it’ll take picking up the mountain and walking under it.

Second, the adoption agency said that you have to “market” yourself – you have to “sell” yourself to the birth mother, who will select your family from several families who are presented to her. So you’re competing with other families who all have similar if not the same dream of being parents, and remember what I said about “fair” before? Well, that applies here too – so how can I feel good about competing with other people in a way where if I win, someone else loses their dream? Geez, that’s horrible. That’s zero-sum thinking at it’s worst, and yet I can’t seem to escape it when thinking about how the agency presented how you have to behave. The agency (and everyone we’ve talked to about it) says you basically have to be willing to throw the extremely sharp elbow to be successful – you have to be completely focused and goal-oriented, and willing to be “that guy.” Even if you go the “hire a lawyer to do a “private” adoption, you’re basically outsourcing the problem of moral agency – I’m asking someone else to throw the sharp elbow on my behalf.

I’m not willing to rule it out – I won’t say I wouldn’t adopt, but after that info session, it dropped to the bottom of the pile below IVF.

Third – and this doesn’t, fortunately, apply to us – there are lots of couples where one partner is okay with adoption and one isn’t – the same is true for any other particular technology (egg donor, sperm donor, IUI, IVF, blah blah blah) – so saying “you can always do X” can be twisting a knife into someone who is already experiencing marital strife – and this is a painful, painful issue.

I can’t really explain the depth of feeling to anyone who hasn’t been through it – it’s experiential and awful, and can become consuming.

We’re happy to hear individuals’ experiences regarding their own journey, but suggestions like “have you tried relaxing” and the like are so profoundly not helpful, and in fact are hurtful.

So God willing, we’ll be able to say that we’d have children made with love and science.

¡Uno, Dos, Tres, Catorce!

I am not someone for whom writing about feelings comes easily, so please be patient.

I am grateful for many things: for my Lyme entering remission; for my band resuming from our hiatus; for having a good job I enjoy;  for living in a country where supporting the losing candidate in an election doesn’t mean fearing for my life; for being part of a supportive,and yet challenging, religious community; and for the countless miracles which go unnoticed on a daily basis.

But there is one thing which stands apart in my gratitude list: fourteen years ago today, Sarah was willing to accept a ring from me.  There had been good in my life before that, certainly, but an historian writing my biography would divide my life into the pre-Sarah and post-Sarah periods.  I could not have imagined then how much better life would become by being with her, and I know that were I to time-travel back to meet my former self, the other me would shake his head in complete disbelief at the possibility.

The good times are better in your company; and the bad times you make bearable.  Being with you is like suddenly being able to taste sweetness.
So in gratitude for the past fourteen years, and in wondrous eagerness for the next, I love you, Sarah: happy anniversary!