Many Miles Later: Culture, Medicine and Us

In my ‘gentle yoga’ class the instructor began the weekly session as she always does. She asked us to close our eyes and turn inward to focus on our breathing. In a soft voice she encouraged us to explore any places in our body that felt stuck and to direct our breath to those areas. While I engaged in my physical inventory, breathing into those stuck places, my mind also gently skipped across a series of conversations, written exchanges and snippets of ideas that had been haphazardly parked.  This blog post is an attempt to dislodge some of them and open up some new thinking in our culture. No firm conclusions at this point just some preliminary observation and questions. Welcome your thoughts.

The ideas began stacking up in mid-December. First, there was an email that contained this sentence:

 I am a scholar of cultural rhetorics at Michigan State University working on an article on stereotypes of and stigma regarding infertile people…

Cultural Rhetorics.  The phrase is a bit lofty sounding, isn’t it? Time for a search online. One university definition: “the language that defines Culture Rhetoric study involves making sense out of practices and customs, usually, items that are associated with a particular culture especially through their way of life.”

If you’re like me, your next reaction would be: go on, I’m intrigued

The initial email led to a fascinating hour-long phone call just before the holidays.  I hope to share the article once it’s complete.

Truth in Medicine. I’ve long wondered why ob/gyn’s didn’t have a greater share of voice in our culture when it comes to the reality of biology and the various ‘fertility’ procedures peddled so boldly.

Earlier this month I had an exchange with a UK ob/gyn and professor of complex obstetrics who wrote, “There is undoubtedly too much market hype about EVERYTHING to do with assisted reproductive technologies! And there is a kind of stigmatisation/ shaming of women who ‘fail’ or give up or… whatever… I too am very angry about how exploitative my own profession can be.”

There is too much market hype about EVERYTHING to do with assisted reproductive technologies! Click To Tweet

The professor was kind enough to read my ebook, Finally Heard and shared this:

“I think this ebook was really interesting.  I’m appalled by how all university students I meet seem to think egg freezing is standard/ safe and effective. We do need to get to them young! And change the world so that trying for a family earlier is easier, and so fertility treatments are cheaper (and part of universal healthcare) and accompanied by mental health support and realism.  As you so rightly point out, we also need to calm down the nastiness and competitiveness of  ‘the way to be a woman.’  Oh dear – and I was so hoping the world would be a better place for women nowadays than when I was protesting in 1970s.”

Me, too. More education and work to be done, yes?

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Ripple Effect. My last blog post made some waves around the Internet and led to some additional observations. There was this piece written in Italian, which prompted a blog pingback. (Seems the author saw my blog post also referenced in this posting from the Center for Bioethics and Culture.) Tonight, I saw this piece, Does Persistence Really Pay Off with IVF?, written by Amy Klein.

The Sisterhood. I’ve been a member of various forums, message boards and online/blog communities over the years. As many blog readers know, it’s not easy to stay on top of each as they morph and evolve with each new tech/app iteration.  In my inbox this morning was an alert concerning a thread started some time ago that had gone dormant. It was restarted by a women with the alias ManyMiles. She pinged the community to see who was still out there with this:

hi everyone. I know there hasn’t been much activity here for a while. I’ve often thought about this discussion and those who have contributed here and wondered if anyone was still around…
I remember when this topic was started almost 2 years ago, towards the end of the time I still actively read and participated in this site. I lurked here for a while, continuing treatments…hoping I didn’t have to admit to myself that I belonged here, in this child free space. I was so optimistic when starting down this journey so many years ago. It’s interesting to think of the person I was back then, so impatient to finally resolve this little problem so I could move on with my life. Naive enough to assume that of course I’d be one of the lucky, allowed to move on if I could just remain determined and positive. I’m still here. Belonging as much as I ever did and more. Its extremely humbling. I feel like I’m stuck on a loop. The longer I stay on it the harder it will be to ever break away from its well worn path. Not sure if I have the courage jump off.

Well Lit PathI shared a few thoughts and blog pointers directly on the restarted thread, but another thought struck me as I lay on my yoga mat.  Each day there are those like ManyMiles just now entering the dark arena I first stumbled into nearly a decade ago.  Perhaps the best way to help is to simply to say, “we’re here and you’re not alone.”  Hence the image I chose of lanterns lighting the path.

As the yoga-led breathing opened up new spaces and released knots along my neck and shoulders, I had another idea. Why not breathe new life into some of the older posts or now-offline conversations? (Thankfully, I saved a few through the Internet archive Way Back Machine). Will pick those that best illuminate and resurface with some new thoughts in the coming weeks. No better way to mark my imminent nine year (!!) blogoversary.  Until then, blog readers, the floor is yours…

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