"Embryo Culture: Making Babies in the Twenty-First Century" by Beth Kohl

I would recommend this book to anyone interesting in childbirth. Kohl is a funny, witty, intelligent writer. The book is written both from her own excruciating experiences with IVF, as well as a more impartial voice of facts and statistics.

I learned a LOT reading this book. For example, there were several pages devoted to Jewish views on ART (artificial reproduction technology). If a Jewish mom and a Jewish dad have their embryos implanted in a surrogate, the baby born will need to be baptized Jewish because religion is a matrilineal process, and technically the surrogate is the actual mother. Also, some Jews are anti-sperm/egg donation because it could result in, brain fart: what is that word for sex with a sibling? To my credit, it's not one I use very often! It could result in that if the kids end up marrying each other, which is clearly anti-Jewish law.

Other stuff I learned: one reason Catholics are generally anti-IVF is because of the strain it puts on a couple's marriage. There are other reasons, like the belief that "the marriage act" is the only legitimate way to conceive, and also that the way men usually give semen samples (masturbation) is immoral. I didn't know this was the Catholic take on things.

I also learned some extremely frightening things about China and abortions, but I don't even want to go there.

Mostly, I appreciated Kohl's personal transformation. She was very open about how her opinions about life changed through her years and years of IVF. She comes from a Jewish background faithwise, and is liberal politic-wise. (I google searched her name after reading the book because I was curious to see if she ended up using the last frozen embryos to have another baby, but the only places I could find her were on lists of contributors to liberal democrat politicians. She donated something like $25,000 to President Obama's campaign!). And even though her "transformation" leads her to opinions that are still far more liberal than my own, I sincerely appreciate her honesty. Whereas she had participated in the pro-choice side of an abortion rally earlier in her life, she realizes the absurdity and messed-upness of her spending tens of thousands of dollars, hours, and emotional energy units (whatever those are) in the infertility clinic, while millions of others willingly destroy the life she so covets.

I especially like her final conclusion about embryo donation, which I find to be the most honest thing in the whole book. She says she totally endorses embryo donation, after all, it is the scientific research and advances in technology that allowed for her to have her children at all. She willingly supports it, just not with her and her husbands' own frozen embryos. She's unable to part with something with such great potential. I really appreciate her understanding of the sanctity of life, not because it parallels my own beliefs very closely, but because she is a liberal who looked at the world with logic and came to much more "conservative" conclusions. It's pretty rare to hear the perspective of people humble enough to admit they were ever wrong about something, especially something as big as that.

The book is serious, though. It's not a light-hearted fluffy read. It will get you thinking, a lot. There were some graphic passages I skipped. In the end, the book really instills a deep respect and sympathy for people who do IVF. It sounds so hard. But Kohl unequivocally expresses how glad she is to have done it, and that she has her three daughters because of it.

"The Mr. Roger's Parenting Book: Helping to Understand and Encourage your Child" by Fred Rogers

The reason I got this book from the library is because Mr. Roger's is my mom's hero. She loves him. We watched his show all the time. I think my mom was very sad when he died. She has several "Mr. Rogers" books around her house.

(Snopes disproved this urban legend, but I still chuckle to imagine Rogers as a WWII Sniper with hundreds of tattoos on his arms and chest).

I appreciated this book. Its chapters are divided by topics like, "Toys and Playtime," and "Bedtime." Some of the chapters were more interesting than others. Actually, I was a little bummed to read some first-person stuff in some of the chapters that clearly was not from Rogers, but from a different female author. I flipped to the preface where I learned that there were several female M.D. moms who collaborated in the book. And when I mentioned this to my mom, she basically said that there are many things with the "Mr. Rogers" label on them that don't necessarily come from the Fred Rogers. That kind of made me sad, like somehow the information lost some of its authenticity. I mean, I would willingly believe nearly anything that this guy says! I watched him take off his shoes and put on a cardigan for years and years. But somebody who he endorses? It seems like a cop-out.

Anyway, the chapter I appreciated the most was the one about "Toys and Playtime." He talks about what kinds of toys are the best for children and why. He doesn't use scientific data, but just common sense. Children's "work" is play. Playing helps children learn. It helps them understand the world around them. Therefore, the kinds of toys that help children to learn the best are the open-ended ones that allow for an extensive use of imagination, toys like dolls, blocks, legos - anything that can be adapted to be used in different games. He specifically warns against too many electronic toys. You can only play video games one way. You can't change the rules or setting.

This holds true for what toys I enjoyed the most. Growing up, we had hundreds of stuffed animals, legos, blocks, plastic animals, cars, but most importantly: dress-ups. And playing dress-up (well that's not what we called it. If it was medieval it was 'Castle', if it was fae it was 'fairies', if it was Colonial New England 'Ms. Robin's Class' - hey, Felicity was my American Girl Doll!) was a central part of my childhood.

Rogers doesn't like toy guns, or other violence-promoting toys. But he also is realistic, which is something that I've noticed lots of anti-gun parents aren't, in that children can and will use anything, including bananas and sticks, to be a gun. But Rogers argues that children using sticks to play at "bang bang, you're dead" is different because he is not endorsing the game. He advocates talking about it with your children.

Danny is pretty skeptical of an anti-toy-gun rule. After all, he grew up with toy guns, and he's normal, relatively ;) We talked for a while about it. I mean, if Mr. Rogers says to do something, it's hard to argue that he's wrong. But on the other hand, I agree with Danny that not all toy guns are created equal, like there's a huge difference between a supersoaker water gun and a realistic pistol cap gun. I always thought that toy swords and light sabers were more fun than toy guns, personally, since you could actually whack someone with them. I'm pretttttty sure that our kids are going to grow up playing with supersoakers, but that cap guns are just too realistic/scary.

As for real guns, Danny wouldn't mind having them in the house, but I say absolutely no way while we have kids under the age of 18. He protests that it's important to learn gun safety, and I say it is to be done elsewhere, like scout camp. But I may acquiesce if we move to say, Montana. Here in the sprawling urban suburb of Katy, Texas, it's just not really necessary. Maybe his parents could justify it on their new 14-acre property in the mountains of Colorado...but I digress.

The most interesting part of the chapter was his analysis on why children play certain kinds of games. Peek-a-boo and other hide-and-find games might stem from a child wanting to understand about a parent leaving. Often times games are just extensions of children trying to make sense of the world around them. I bet there are some pretty interesting books written on this subject.

"I wear the Maternity Pants in this Family" by Susan Konig

This was yet another collection of short stories from the life of a mom. Is this some kind of new genre?

The back cover has the same picture, without the kids coming out of her pants. Danny asked, "So, which one do you think is more insulting?" That was a funny question.

I enjoyed this book, especially because not all of the stories were self/husband-deprecating. Some of them were, as seems to be the trend in this genre. But there were actually several stories with happy "endings" - obviously, real life doesn't translate into opening-conflict-resolution-conclusion format.

The book starts out with the most hilarious story ever. Konig is dropping her daughter off at kindergarten, and she thinks, "Ahhhh peace! Finally! I can have the time to all those things I haven't been able - " and then she promptly feels nauseous. Not just any nauseous, pregnancy nauseous. Her all-my-kids-are-finally-in-grade-school momming lasted about 6 minutes.

I think my mother in law would really, really like this book, or at least be able to relate to it in some ways. Both women had an unplanned, unexpected baby in their later years. Both of them were happy to have the baby, even if it meant some new life complications. Konig's writing is fun to read; she sounds a lot like my mom or mother in law. I enjoyed this; it's a quick read, doesn't require lots of deep thinking, which is kind of nice sometimes.

Maybe this is TMI, but I got in the habit while Jane was nursing to stash my library books at various places in the house, so no matter when Jane needed to stop and nurse, I would have something to read. I still do this, even though she is weaned. The nooks include our family room coffee table, the kitchen counter, my nightstand, a basket in Jane's room, and the upstairs bathroom. Where I put the books seems to be a subconscious reflection of what kind of book it is. This one? A leisurely bathroom reader. Hey, I'm in there ten billion times per day peeing 1/2 a teaspoon; the least I can get out of it is a few chuckles from a good book, right?


"Two Fast? Having A Second Baby Within Three Years of the First" by Martha White Crise

This was my second book to ever get out from Inter Library Loan! I think it came from Salt Lake City or Georgia. I like seeing where the books come from. It's interesting; the people there, well at least the librarians, must be interested in those subjects.

I don't remember a whole lot about this book because I read it extremely fast. She did not claim to go all out and do huge studies about "having a second baby within three years of the first." Instead, she just shared some of her experiences, and a few of her friends'. But mostly, she shared her own experiences.

The main thing she kept repeating was that moms of two under three don't get very much sleep. She said this about a hundred times. She also brought up how her toddler would sometimes scratch or bite the newborn. It finally got to the point where she didn't know what else to do - she had literally tried EVERY other option - and she just bit the toddler back. It worked, he stopped. She said she wished she had a discipline plan ready before baby2 was born.

This story freaked me out because I don't want to bite or scratch a toddler, my Jane! But I can see that this may happen at some point. And I haven't really thought that much about discipline, except that my parents seemed to do a pretty good job with one-two-three. This book inspired me to look for child discipline books, which while I say it inspired me to do it, I mean that inspiration is still on hold because I haven't ACTUALLY done it yet. But Danny and I did talk a little bit about discipline, our opinions on spanking, etc. We had already talked about it before. I think the main difference between Danny's idea of being a good parent and my idea of being a good parent is when to yell. In Danny's opinion, you should only yell in very specific circumstances, like when the kid is running into the street, or something like that. I grew up in a very, very loud house. If I wasn't winning an argument, I would just repeat the same thing, louder. Haha. We're trying to go with Danny's philosophy for this issue. Yelling kind of sucks. Wow, that was a tangent, and there are about ten books to go! Yikes!

"Stop Dressing your Six Year Old Like a Skank: And other words of delicate southern wisdom" by Celia Rivenbark

On to less controversial topics...here are some of the latest books that I have been procrastinating reviewing.

This was a hilarious book of scenarios from this mom's life, and her opinions. It was hilarious because she wrote in such an informal, chatty style, and added lots of funny details. It was a bit caricature-esque, but I especially liked the very, very, very snide chapter about childrens' toys and how ridiculous it was that she couldn't even find a toy gun in the local Toys 'R Us because they have become so "offensive" and anti-PC, and also her commentary on what Barbie, Ken, and Midge's relationships might actually mean. Super funny.

She's not LDS, so some of her humor is a bit...well I think I ended up skipping or skimming a chapter or two. Or three. The one about sex, or marital problems. I don't need to be reading about that.

Honestly, it read like the Jenny McCarthy book, "Baby Laughs." It will put you in a good mood, but you may feel discouraged about the intelligence of mom writers.


Gross and Painful things on my mind

Grossest thing that happened yesterday by far:
I was washing the dishes and a 2 inch cockroach stuck his head, nay, his whole body, out from the drain. The water was running, and it was struggling to live. Needless to say, his appearance was so shocking at first I screamed in horror and then in utter disgust, blasted on the water, and ran the food disposal for about 2 minutes. So gross.

The other gross thing from yesterday: I was putting roundup on our unruly weeds, and there was a large, disgusting snail lying in my path. I didn't have anything else on hand, so I just sprayed it with roundup. It is just as effective as salt, btw, in making the nasty buggers shrivel and die, except this guy also had the effect of turning into green slime.

Somebody recently asked me if the reason I use salt on the slugs and snails is because I want to go organic. HA! No, it's because it's way handier to just grab the salt shaker and dump it on these nasty excuses for living organisms than to find the slugicide or whatever it's called that's in the garage. I stocked up on salt from the dollar store, so I am pretty liberal with my use. Organic shmorganic.

Just thinking about slugs and snails makes me want to puke. They look exactly like boogers except if I ever had a booger the size of a small snail...well I don't even want to go there.

But Danny and I have a debate on which is worse: cockroaches or mosquitoes. Danny has lovingly spent hours and hours cleaning the disgusting algae out of the pool (algae is not as nasty as slugs and cockroaches, not even close), getting attacked mercilessly by hoards of mosquitoes every time. I get bitten, too, during the 5 minutes I am outside each day. Danny's poor poor ankles are bumpy with bites. He even has some on his fingers, ohhh! But despite my lover's injuries, I shall persist in defending the cockroach argument. Danny: "But they don't bite, they don't sting, they don't really do anything except look gross, unless you let them take over and then they can literally drive you out of your home..." Me: "Okay, let's change the subject." :::shudder::::

This doesn't count as gross per se, but it feels gross, nay painful. Pregnancy heartburn. I had heartburn before I was pregnant. It was crappy. But it's way worse when I'm pregnant, and maybe I just forgot how crappy it was last time, but I really think it's worse this time. I had just gotten up at 2:10 am to get the antacid tablets, when Danny started saying to me, "Hey, I found out what causes heartburn today! Your sphincter muscle letting acid into your esophagus." How interesting. For him. I could have told him that, minus a few big words. All I know is that when I eat pizza when I'm NOT pregnant, I usually get heartburn. And usually it's way worse when it's homemade because the sauce is so deliciously tomato-ey, I think. But reading up on it just now, online (dangerous thing to do with health topics! If I weren't pregnant I'd be worried about having heart disease probably), I learned that some of the worst foods for heartburn in general are: tomatoes, onions, and cheese. Well that's about half the ingredients in my pizza. Also, if you eat a lot in one sitting. So maybe the moral of the story is not to eat half the pizza in one sitting if you want to be able to sleep the next night. But it was sooooooo gooooooooood and I wasn't even FULL after! Well, I was full, and felt great, but definitely not stuffed and moaning. NEVER AGAIN!

But I will probably end up doing dishes again, despite the cockroach nest that may or may not live down the disposal.


"Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll

(gosh, it's really hard to find the cover to a book that has a billion editions and has never been out of print!)

Danny and I read this book together after seeing the movie at the dollar theatre.

I had read it when I was about 14. I enjoyed it better this time. But I agree with Danny. I said, "Well, I'm not really sure exactly why this book is a Classic in English Literature." He said, "Yeah, well we probably 'get' about 10% of the jokes." This is almost definitely true. He also thinks the reason it's a "classic" is because little kids really like it, and adults like trying to find meaning in it, even if it's just not there. We both think the ending is such a lame, cop-out, deus-ex-machina type ending, but Danny said, "Well, maybe nobody else had done the it-was-all-just-a-dream ending before." Possible.

Reading this book takes me back to the old Disney Animated Classic, which frankly always scared me. But I think it's actually more a combination of "Alice" and "Through the Looking Glass". Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee aren't even in this book. Therefore, neither is "The Walrus and the Carpenter."

I think the most noticeable difference between reading it this time and last time was what I thought about "You Are Old, Father William." As a younger girl, ten years ago, I didn't get it and didn't think it was funny. But reading it with Danny was hilarious. Especially the part about how his wife has kept him from going deaf or something because she nags him all the time. Haha.

Danny and I noticed that any time Alice asks something that is a little bit reasonable, the characters change the subject. I thought the Mad Hatter was nice in the book, but Danny thought he was the snidest of them all. Like, he calls Alice a moron. Probably the nicest character is really the Cheshire Cat. They're all kind of weird and creepy. I guess opium will do that to you.

"Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men" by Leonard Sax, M.D., Ph.D.

I picked this book to read because my favorite teacher in college was adamant about the typical American classroom being ill-fitted to the needs of adolescent males, and I saw that one of his five factors was "Teaching Methods". Here are all the factors that he goes into:

- Video Games
- Teaching Methods
- Prescription Drugs
- Endocrine Disruptors
- Devaluation of Masculinity

When I first got the book home, I read part of the intro out loud to Danny, who found the whole thing very interesting. He immediately agreed with all of them, except the "endocrine disruptors" factor, mainly because neither of us could quite figure out what it actually meant.

We basically read the chapter on video games together, which was super interesting to talk about. Danny plays video games and is a guy. I basically do not and I definitely am not. This book introduced whole new worlds of understanding about what playing video games actually means to males, which Danny understood, though probably had never before analyzed. One of the huge, HUGE differences between girls and guys is that guys are wired with the "will to power", some much more than others. That is why a video game that gives the guy ultimate power can be so addicting. Competition is much more important to guys, too. It's a way to bond. Dr. Sax gives lots of thought-provoking examples in this book, one of which was how if you put girls on a team to compete against each other in the classroom, they will usually not to very well because to them the relationships with the other girls, possibly those on the opposing team, are more important to them than winning. But with guys, competition can and usually does strengthen inter-guy relationships. This was fascinating to me. I used competition on a daily basis in my classroom, and I was okay with putting girls on teams based on their friends, but until now I didn't really have a rationale for why I did it; it just "felt right."

The main things I got from the video games section were: There will never be a copy of Grand Theft Auto (or any other such games that reward violence and immorality) anywhere within a 10 foot radius of my house, video games can be good in moderation and with parental awareness and involvement in their use, and a good way to wean a video game addict is to let/force them do something "will-to-power"-ey in the real world, like sports.

The next section was the teaching methods section. Every single point which Dr. Sax made I agreed with. It fascinated me to read. I want to read a book just about this subject. It's late, so I will not be going too much into depth about it. But the main things I got from this section were: If possible, and depending on circumstances, it is probably a good idea to wait until your son is 6 until he starts kindergarten (which is actually more of "first grade"). It will be an advantage to him in many ways. Also, if the boy is not thriving in his school, probably it has more to do with the school than the boy; one option is to send him to an all-boys school. Motivation dynamics are vastly different when boys are surrounded with boys instead of a mix of boys and girls. Finally, teachers should allow more competition and less sitting still in rigid chairs during their classes. This made me feel great; often in my classroom, we would go outside to do something.

The section on "prescription drugs" was mainly an analysis on the over diagnosis of ADHD in elementary school boys, and its effects later in life. This was interesting to me because this is what happened to my brother. According to Dr. Sax, Tom Sawyer probably had ADHD. The reason why Tom Sawyer wasn't "disordered" and my brother "was" has to do way more with their environmental expectations than their actual condition. Boys who are expected to sit still for too long have hard times paying attention. The main things I got from this chapter were: it is not a good idea for the Doctor to prescribe powerful meds like ritalin and adderal to "see if it will work" because they can seriously damage a section of the brain that has to do with motivation, perhaps permanently. Also, many boys are incorrectly diagnosed with ADHD; you don't have it if you never showed symptoms of it before you were an adolescent. Finally, the best way to treat problems with ADHD is to change the environment, not the child. Changing the school is more effective, healthier, and usually reaches the root of the problem.

Perhaps I would have been more skeptical of the idea that you should change the kid's school, if I hadn't been a teacher and worked in a school and seen first hand how vastly different school environments can be one from another. Also, my parents did this with my brother, and it worked. Instead of sending him (and all of us) to public school, they did lots of research and sent him to the best private school they could. It was a place where his (and all of our) intelligence was valued. Totally different goals and requirements (you had to do sports every semester) than public school. Joe went off drugs when he was a freshman, and has never used them since. He told me that they killed his motivation, just like Dr. Sax said they do. It impresses me that Joe was so sensitive to their effects on him. I'm glad he doesn't use them anymore even if he still has ADHD (which I am not to say whether he does or not, and frankly I don't care much because it's not going to affect the way I see him at all!), because I know that those drugs also affect his creativity and drive, which are both immense.

So the chapter on endocrine disruptors was basically about how different hormones in plastic have emasculating effects on animals, and possibly humans. It was terrifying to read about. You know what? We don't drink bottled water because it's too expensive. But my baby does drink from a plastic bottle. And the next one will, and the next, etc. To us, it is a factor of reasonableness. There is no way that we can avoid all plastic. The chapter also does not convince me that eating organic is the way to go; genetically modified foods are not necessarily those over-treated with pesticides (he didn't really go into this, but I've been thinking about it a lot). I think that scientists changing the genes of a plant is far less harmful than overspraying it with pesticides, but then again my husband is a bioinformatician, into genetics.

Bottom line: in my opinion, this chapter had the weakest arguments to support his theories, and it relied too much on a "shock and awe" method to impress his readers into believing him. Probably there is truth to what he says in this chapter, but he offers no viable alternatives so I can either cower in my house, fearful of all the different ways that plastic surrounds me, or I can just say, "Well, that sucks, better not think about it too much." If he wanted a call-to-action effect, he very much failed here, for me at least.

The final chapter was fascinating, but also felt doomsday-ish. He gives example after example of how men and masculinity are devalued in American society. I love that he did it in a way that was not devaluing to women. He was very careful about that, actually. I agreed with everything he said here.

By the end, I was worried that the book would offer no solutions to the problems. The final few chapters were excellent; they lead me to really, really like Dr. Sax as a person because he is so reasonable. I think the main reason he wrote this book was because, in his vantage point as a physician, he could see a growing epidemic of unmotivatedness in young men, and he really wanted to figure out why. I think the main point of the book is, "This is a problem, here are some reasons why, and here's a few things I think we might do but I don't claim to hold all the answers about what we should do so after reading this you need to go out and take action yourself." I like that he didn't claim to have all the answers. I really like how clear and honest he is. He is a reasonable, intelligent author and I really liked what he had to say.

I especially liked his definition of masculinity: "using strength in the service of others." What a powerful, strong, uplifting message. I also agree with him that in order for boys to become men, they need to be around men, because this shift is all about imitation. It is the same for girls, but the fact is that in our society boys have far fewer opportunities to be surrounded by good male role-models.

As I finished the book, I had a strong, clear impression that one reason scouting is so important in my church is to provide the boys with good male role-models. It's so important that boys get this. I am really glad that this program is emphasized and promoted in the church. Growing up, I was always jealous that they got to go camping and shoot guns and tie knots and stuff. Danny thinks a similar organization does not really exist for girls in the church because those are not things that adult women are really interested in doing (which is true; I'd way, WAY rather spend my weekend reading or swimming or sewing or cooking or basically doing anything else besides sleeping on the hard ground in a tent without air conditioning, running water, or sewers). I'm not making a statement on girls' needs here when I say that I think it's critically important for guys to be involved with an organization like scouts where they can be around middle-aged men. Boys need this, and it's great that my church has this, and emphasizes it so much (especially here in Texas, holy shmoly).

I would recommend this book. It's interesting. Don't get bogged down by the depressing middle. The end is good, but don't expect him to have all the answers. I'm really glad he doesn't; he allows you to devise your own, with the new knowledge you have. Dr. Sax is a great writer because he uses tons of examples and his own voice. He speaks for himself, not all M.D.s and Ph.Ds. I think my parents would really enjoy reading this book together.


"Waiting for Daisy" by Peggy Orenstein

This was not an uplifting book. I would not recommend it. It was the kind of book that I read in two sittings: half in one day, half the next. And it was interesting. But the more I read the book, the less I liked the author/protagonist, and the more I felt like this book damages the kind of women who want nothing more than to have children, but can't yet. Peggy does not fall into that category.

The main problem was that I didn't like the author. Danny has this issue with books, too: if he doesn't somehow sympathize or understand the protagonist, it's hard for him to read the book. Actually, those are not his most important qualifiers: he has to like the protagonist. Maybe he would not do the same things, maybe he doesn't agree with his reasoning etc. But he has to like him or her. If he doesn't, it's hard to enjoy the book.

I hadn't really thought of it that way before, but I think he's totally right. I enjoy books where I like the protagonist. Books where I don't are difficult to enjoy. Usually books that High School English teachers force upon you have crummy unlikable protagonists, which is one reason it's so hard to get "into" High School English books.

Lots and lots of people will disagree with us as to the validity of this criterion. That's fine. I am totally okay with you reading books with protagonists you don't like. If I read one, I reserve the right to turn the last page with the final feeling of, "Well, that was kind of a waste of time." Which is how I feel about this book, and why I ultimately would not recommend it.

I think the reason I finished it was because Peggy does an excellent job of storytelling; I wanted to find out what happened to her, even though I didn't like her. But by the end, I really didn't like her. The ending was a let down because she doesn't really end up changing very much.

First, here's what I liked about her: she came across as extremely honest and self-introspective. It must have taken some serious chutzpa to write this book. Some of the things she went through on her infertility journey were really terrible and sad. I liked that she had the guts to express her true feelings, unmasked.

Here's what I dislike about her: She is a feminist hypocrite, who claims that women should be able to choose to be or do whatever they want, unless it's motherhood because who would choose to give up their individuality and freedom and careers and life, willingly? She is annoyed that it is something that we would never consider asking our husbands to do, using that as rationale for demeaning and making fun of homemakers (which she does early on in the book - even by her own reckoning!). It's pretty annoying that a seemingly intelligent woman could be so blind to the hypocrisy of this worldview. "You can be anything you want to be, except if it interferes with my social agenda." Right.

Also, I'm a bit torn between my appreciation for her candor and my general view that writing about explicit marital problems is Too Much Information. I think I generally lean towards the TMI side. The other books in this genre of infertility-journey-memoirs that I have read (only two others, granted) gave their spouses barely any page-time, which I realize is also absurd, and I also criticized. But it's not really a good thing to pen down arguments with your husband for millions of readers to examine, at least in my opinion. I mean, there is no way I would do that to Danny. I don't even write down our disagreements in my journal. It's not worth preserving. Yet she does this.

What else do I not like? As a character, Peggy is extremely wishy-washy and indecisive, all the while trying to convince herself that she is not. I'm not even sure at the end of the book if she realizes how wishy-washy she had been through her whole journey. When I say "wishy-washy", I mean, she claims she wants a baby, but then she doesn't, then she does, then she doesn't, then she does - then she claims she wants to be a mother, but the same thing: a long circle of doubt. Sure, it's honest to dissect these feelings, but it doesn't make me like her. In fact, it mostly led me to view her as a sad, lost, Godless person who tries to be honest with herself, but ultimately fails because clinging to her "feminist ideals" is somehow more important.

One poignant part of the book was when she goes to visit an old friend who has become an extreme ultra-orthodox Jew. His family now has 15 kids.

[SIDE NOTE: Danny and I discussed how incredibly weird this whole scene was. This was an ex-boyfriend from High School who, now married with 15 kids, invited her to spend a few days visiting. We both totally balked at the idea of doing that ourselves. For one, I would never, ever, EVER keep up my relationship with an ex-boyfriend decades into my marriage, such that a visit would even be an option! I think that both me and my ex High School boyfriend feel supremely awkward whenever there is any type of contact, even as distant as posting something on each others' facebook walls will get me nervous. I always save those posts or chats or whatever, even though I can count the number we've had on one hand, so that Danny can read them when he gets home. I feel supremely uncomfortable being in the same room with him. I consciously try to talk only to his wife, and avoid eye contact with him. When my brother graduated and had a party and he couldn't be there, I was super relieved. When we went to his wedding reception, even though I was pregnant and he was newly married, I felt really weird and awkward, and said maybe 2 words to him. Danny says even if Peggy and this guy kept up a totally platonic relationship through the years, and even though she was always chaperoned by his wife, were he Peggy's husband, there's no WAY he would ever let her go without him! And I agree! We are both intensely jealous of any interaction the other has with the opposite sex, and I like it that way. This is the secret to Mormon libido, i.e. total abstinence before marriage, total fidelity after, perhaps to the point of possessiveness. Maybe we're the weirdos and other Mormons would have been okay with letting their spouse go on vacation to visit an ex High School boyfriend and their family for a few days, alone. I can't imagine it. But I digress.]

She describes becoming overwhelmed being around so many people, so much that she has to leave and just sit by herself in the bathroom for a while. She later explains these feelings away, never really coming to terms with her inner desire to be a mother, because she has grown up thinking that that feeling is repressive and wrong. Obviously this is just my own personal interpretation of the scene, but I think that reaction had a lot more to do with her being extremely sad and jealous of what she has missed out on, having put her career in front of a natural God-given drive to be a mother until she was in her mid/late-thirties. I think she was just kidding herself when she wrote off this family's' choices as being crazy and way too absurd for her to handle. I think it was a coping mechanism, so she wouldn't have to blame herself and deal with the fact that in many ways, her choice to shun motherhood and view it as a burden and somehow "anti-women" had actually left her feeling empty and alone.

The point is, she never admits that she made the wrong choice, or that she would do things differently. To have gone through such an insane journey and not wish she would have chosen differently makes no sense to me.

I learned some interesting things from reading this book: some things about Japanese culture and history, lots of things about IVF, and some deplorable things about the difficulty of the international adoption process. Really, though, I feel bummed that this lady didn't change more in the end.

Danny and I were talking about it, and he said, "Really, I don't understand how anybody, but especially men, could not want to have a family. Like, there wouldn't be any point without you and Jane. Why would I have tried hard to get good grades and graduate from college? Why would I get up early and go to work all day? None of it would matter if it weren't for my family." It's just incomprehensible to both of us how somebody would not want to be married, and a parent. Obviously there are HUGE obstacles, and by making that statement I am not begrudging people who aren't those things yet. But how can you not want to be married? How can you not want to be a mom or a dad? How can a person actively choose not to have a family? That's so weird, and so beyond my LDS paradigm that it hurts my head to imagine. I've always wanted to be married, and I've always wanted to be a mom. Sure, I wanted other things too, but the drive to matrimony and parenthood has always been there, more important than any of my other fleeting career dreams. The point is, I can't relate to women who don't want kids. It's even a bit hard to relate to women who don't want kids "now", although this I can and obviously must accept; people have their own personal reasons for the family planning they choose, and I certainly know this is a personal decision between you, your spouse, and God. I'm glad it's that way. Yet it's hard to understand married people who have been married for years, sometimes decades, who don't yet want children. Why would you not want children?

This is why I didn't like Peggy as a protagonist: I am a 23 year old who just barely graduated from BYU, and she is a 40-something year old with a degree and a successful writing/journalism career; shouldn't she be wiser and smarter than me? Yet I felt like she was just so completely unwise and ignorant, reading how she actively didn't want children, how she still clung to her hypocritical feminist ideals even at the end of a long, terrible, six-year journey through infertility hell. I mean, just the fact that I know that I want children, while she struggled, no WRESTLED with even admitting this about herself, made it very hard for me to respect her, let alone like her. Maybe I'm the shallow, unwise, ignorant woman who believes that somewhere inside all women is a God-given desire to be a mother. Mostly, it was frustrating that she couldn't even really admit this desire to herself, when clearly it's what she wanted. She wouldn't have gone through the misery she endured (including 3 miscarriages!) without that desire. But she couldn't admit it.

I do like at the end that she says that she likes being a mom. One sentence, quickly followed with a bitter resentment towards how women seem to have to add, "it's the best job ever," in order to justify its worth. Stupid lady. It is the best job. People don't just say that. Like my friend Cindy said, "You're telling me that a job as a manager at blockbuster (her job for several years) is supposed to be more worthwhile than being a stay home mom?!?" But probably Peggy puts her kid in daycare, since she still actively pursues her career ambitions. It would be an annoying ending, if she went through all that just to choose to let somebody else spend most of the day raising the kid.

Sigh. I'm back to judging other peoples' choices. Maybe this is not such a great genre to read, if I want to become a compassionate, caring person.

I know why I'm drawn to books in this genre of infertility-memoirs, and it's totally selfish and probably offensive to some of you, but here's the truth: these books are a clear reminder to me of how desirable it is to be pregnant, and how happy I should be that I am. I used to think it was just because I'm interested in birth in general, but I don't think I would read these kinds of books as much if I weren't expecting. The women who write these books look to pregnancy as their goal, which is something I have achieved. Personally, I think it's better than wallowing in misery about how sick and tired and moody pregnancy makes me, but it's also a sick kind of voyeurism; sneaking a peak at others' lonely and sad experiences somehow makes mine much more bearable, by contrast. I bet this is offensive, and I'm quite sure it's immature.

I think that if I'm going to continue reading books in this genre, I will try to find something that is written by a younger, non-Jew (not that that really had much to do with the reason I disliked Peggy, although she admits her heritage has a lot to do with her kvetching-filled attitudes) who actually wants to be a mother. I mean, who really knows that is what she wants from day one. Someone who fully values motherhood and the desire to be a mother, without caveats and exceptions, or worries that doing so will somehow taint the "holy" feminist doctrines. If there even is such a book. Sheesh.

Another main grumble I have about this book is the effect it could have on women who actually yearn to be a mom. Whether or not her age and wishy-washyness actually played a major factor in her infertility, this book perpetuates the total myth that it only effects older women. She also never admits that she was wrong to wait. And it doesn't seem she would advise others to do differently than she did, either. It probably already sucks enough to deal with infertility without having all of this horrible stigma (you brought it on yourself by waiting, etc.) even more permanently attached, which is something that this book could do. Mostly, it does more to alienate and isolate those few women who yearn for an at-present unattainable motherhood. If they don't agree with Peggy (and other authors in this genre), their feelings are somehow invalid or less valued or whatever...and that is hogwash.

"Adventures in Tandem Nursing: Breastfeeding During Pregnancy and Beyond" by Hilary Flower

To be honest, I only read the first few chapters of this book. Like maybe the first two chapters. I wish I had read it months ago. I will probably buy it and have it in my home library, and I will probably reread those chapters (and more) the next time I am pregnant. And the next, etc.

One thing: I know that breastfeeding is not a sexual act and that breasts are way oversexualized in our country etc. etc. But I would not flip through the pages of the book if I were a guy because there are some pictures I would be way uncomfortable seeing. It was less uncomfortable to me since I am (was?) a nursing mom, but I don't like pictures of other peoples' breasts, personally, with or without babies attached. I understand all the arguments about pro-show of breastfeeding breasts. It's just something I personally don't do, and don't want to see. That said, I think it's more than okay for a mom to take a baby and nurse him/her under a blanket or in a discreet sling ANYWHERE. Which I have done.

Anyway, by the time this inter-library loan book finally came, Jane was nursing for about 5 minutes/day. Of her own choice. She was only 10 months old. I was worried because I read somewhere else that kids under a year rarely self-wean. So I felt guilty about the fact she was nursing so little. Besides, nursing is nice, and I enjoy it. I didn't at first, but Jane and I got into a routine and it was comforting. I didn't want to stop. All the recommendations from the National Pediatric type associations say "12 months! 12 months!" It was almost as if I would have been a failure if I hadn't kept nursing her, even though she was no longer interested. My mom nursed me until I was a year old. I felt guilty and confused about what to do. Until I read this book.

This book explained the hormonal changes going on in my body during pregnancy and how they effect my milk. Apparently when you are pregnant, milk changes to be saltier and less fatty. Some people call it "weaning milk". This was probably why Jane stopped nursing for nutrition; she was probably only holding on to that last nursing because it comforted her.

But she's eating a TON of table food, and drinks some bottles of half-milk, half-formula. Actually, now it's more like 2/3 milk, 1/3 formula because the formula is so freaking expensive and she gets her iron from other places. I am positive that the reason she made the switch from my milk to the formula/cow's milk bottles is because suddenly my milk didn't taste as good to her, not because the bottle was more abundant or easy to drink or whatever. She was good at getting satisfied from nursing before, and I nursed her much more "on-demand" than I give her bottles; it's just that during pregnancy, the hormones in my body change the consistency of my milk. Just knowing this makes me feel okay about weaning. Jane choosing to wean is different than me imposing bottles on her, mainly because the choice came from her, not me. Because, well, there's not a lot I can do about the fact that I am pregnant and my milk isn't yummy to her anymore. Whereas, if I had been like, "I'm sick of nursing! Screw this, take a bottle," that would have been all my choice.

I don't want to offend other people who make that choice. I know lots of people who have. Or they go back to work and can't nurse, or for whatever other reason they wean earlier than a year. I can't judge other people, for many reasons, including because I have no idea what their true motivation for weaning is. For me, the only reason I had in my mind why I could wean Jane before a year was a "because-I-feel-like-it" type reason. She didn't bite, I didn't have other obligations like work, and she was a great nurser. If I had been the one to initiate weaning, it would have been "because-I-feel-like-it." I didn't want that to be my motivation for weaning her because I feel like that's selfish. And the truth is, I didn't "feel-like-it" at all! So it's a moot point anyway.

While I do think breastfeeding is great, I am not about to go around telling other women what is best for their babies. I have enough to worry about with my own, thanks very much!

Also, clearly, I am not completely pro-National Pediatric type organizations' breastfeeding doctrine because my own baby's nursing habits did not fall into their category of recommendations (because of my prego milk!). I do not think women are bad moms if they don't nurse the baby for a year. What I mean by explaining my thought process about weaning is to tell you how much pressure I felt to nurse my baby for a year, so I could do the doctor-imposed "what's best for her."

You can imagine my relief when intelligent, scientific data in this book explained to me that changes in my milk while pregnant could and often do result in the baby weaning themselves. Basically the main message of the book is, "Listen to your baby, listen to your own body, and do what you think is "what's best for both of you", and remember that this is something that nobody else, not even this book, can define." What a positive, uplifting message! I wish more parenting books were like that.

Technically, the changed milk is called colostrum. It's test-drive milk for the new baby. Don't worry, as soon as the placenta is delivered, that will trigger a hormonal reaction for more colostrum and the "yellow gold" stuff that newborns need. Jane can't steal the next baby's milk. And if I were to tandem nurse them, there would be enough milk for both and then some. I know that some women have problems with supply, but most don't, including me most likely. Also, the way things are, I don't think tandem nursing is in the immediate future anyway. Jane is pretty happy with table food.

(Did you know that newborn babies 0-3 months drink like a quart of milk per day?!? That's so much. Interesting.)

Judging by the fact that she's got lots of poopy diapers and is generally happy, I think she's doing okay. I just have to make sure she gets enough iron, but that's something I need to worry about for myself as well, being pregnant. So I end up cooking iron-rich foods that end up on the table (and the surrounding floor) of Jane's high chair. The reason she's so skinny has nothing to do with her not eating enough and everything to do with my husband's family's genes (sure didn't come from my Czech side!).

The main thing this book did was let me wean Jane completely without feeling guilty. I mean, she had already mostly weaned herself. But I kept stubbornly nursing her a little bit each day, even though she wasn't that interested. I actually kept on doing it, until one day she just literally turned away. And then it was like, "Oh, okay, you're done nursing now." The book reminded me that everybody is different, and that since nursing is so intensely personal, only my baby and I can decide what is the best way or when to wean.

So she is totally weaned now. I haven't nursed her for about 2 1/2 weeks. And that's okay.

It's hard to put in words how much pressure there is, external and internal, to nurse your baby. This book was great because it helped me to realize that it's okay to wean.

Actually, it is the ONLY resource out there that I have been able to read about weaning. NONE of the other breastfeeding books I read had anything about weaning. Maybe this is because many American women barely breastfeed at all and don't need much help getting convinced to stop, so organizations like La Leche League campaign aggressively for pro-breastfeeding messages? This was the only book that recognized weaning as a natural part of nursing, and explained the chemistry and science behind it, as well as validating the emotional aspect of it. So while the book's style was wayyyyy too "pc" for my taste (they never say "husband" - they say "partner", and every time I read about my "partner" I flinched, especially imagining how Danny would react to that word!), the actual content was highly educational, interesting, and useful. The same friend who recommended "Taking Charge of Your Fertility" recommended this one to me, both of which are fantastically informative reads. I highly recommend you read it as soon as you find out you are pregnant, if you are also nursing.