LDS, mental health, psychology

Please don’t smile when you say that…

You know that old cowboy movie saying, “Smile when you say that”? It’s an idiom meaning that you’d better be joking. If you said something shitty and actually meant it, you’re due for a beatdown of some sort. At the very least, if you’re not joking, the other person is going to be very angry or offended by what you dared to say with a straight face. Today, I want to explore the opposite of that saying. Some things aren’t really laughing matters.

Trigger warning– this post is going to be about suicidal ideation.

Recently, I had a rather unsettling experience while witnessing a video call with someone. I wasn’t actually the primary conversant on that call; I just happened to be in the room when it was happening. Bill was talking to his daughter, who was talking about some pretty personal stuff. As she was revealing some painful things about her past, she was laughing and smiling.

At one point, the topic of suicide came up, and she was giggling as she talked about it. There she was, talking about being so aggrieved at more than one point during her childhood that she wanted to meet Jesus. She felt Jesus was the only one who loved or cared about her, and had actually taken steps to make the meeting happen. And as she talked about this painful memory, she was smiling and giggling… which I’m sure she did because she needed Bill to know about this, but didn’t want to upset him. Or maybe it was just too painful and surreal a subject to talk about with a straight face.

Days later, Bill is still a bit apprehensive about that conversation. It didn’t escape either of us that it seems like it would be unexpected for a person to laugh while talking about suicidal ideation. Bill is understandably concerned. So am I. In fact, I wish he could have had this conversation with her in person, preferably in private. Ordinarily, he would have been talking to her with headphones and in a different room. But her call came late and Bill was thinking it wasn’t going to happen, so he didn’t have his laptop handy. He talked to her on his iPad, and was sitting at the table with me when she Skyped. I suppose he could have Skyped her back and spoken to her privately, but he chose not to… and most of the call was mundane, anyway. It was about the usual stuff. But then that topic came up, and it got a bit awkward.

My theory is that many people in Bill’s family, to include Bill himself, have this innate tendency to put others before themselves. They will sacrifice their own needs to make someone else happy or more comfortable. I’ve seen Bill do it many times. I’ve seen his mother do it, too. And now, I think I saw Bill’s daughter doing it, needing to talk about this very deep and painful memory, but not wanting to upset us or herself. Or, it could have been that she was embarrassed about or ashamed of this trauma and wanted to make it seem less serious than it clearly is. I think the laughter could have even been a form of self-protection… a tension breaker of some sort.

I see from reading Psychology Today that laughing about psychological pain is actually not an uncommon phenomenon. In fact, it’s possible that she didn’t even realize what she was doing. This was a very scary, traumatizing, and triggering memory for her, but talking about it with laughter was a way to minimize it somehow. I told Bill that, to me, it seemed like she needed to talk about this, but maybe she was afraid to bring it up because it might traumatize us. That would mean she was at least partially focused on someone’s needs other than her own, although I will say that overall, she’s proven to be very resilient and self-reliant. She couldn’t bear living with her mentally ill mother, so she did what she had to do to escape that environment. But before that happened, she obviously learned to put others before herself, likely to prevent more pain. I also think she comes by that naturally, to some extent. As I mentioned before, I’ve seen that tendency in Bill and his mom. But I also think younger daughter’s mother exploited that tendency and reinforced it. Her older sister reportedly has the same tendency, which is probably why she’s still living with her mom at age 30, taking care of her severely autistic brother.

I heard younger daughter explaining how her mother was “deep down a good person”, as she also talked about how her mom did things like deny her access to her family, force her to take out student loans and give her mom the excess, compel her to change her last name and call her stepfather “dad”, send her off to college and on a church mission with no support whatsoever, deny her medical care, and use money and empty promises as a means of controlling her. I can understand why she does this. It’s not easy to accept that a close family member is not a good person, especially when that person is a parent. When a parent turns out to be a “monster”, the person wonders if that tendency to be monstrous is hereditary. They may try to overcorrect by being overly considerate and kind.

I don’t think younger daughter needs to worry that she’s “monstrous”, like her mother is. I take comfort in knowing that the more younger daughter gets reacquainted with Bill, the more she realizes that she has a lot of him in her… she has a lot of his goodness, kindness, and empathy. But she also has a mother who is truly a selfish, cruel, and abusive person. Her mother didn’t take care of her, and she didn’t have access to her real father. So she’s had to learn to take care of herself by denying herself some basic needs and not speaking up when she urgently needs attention or assistance.

I am pissed at Ex for not taking care of her children properly. It makes me very angry that these things were going on, and Ex apparently knew, and she didn’t speak to Bill about them. She also didn’t do fuck all to help her child. In fact, she even denied her healthcare, even though Bill’s daughters had full access to health insurance through Tricare. Meanwhile, she was telling Bill what a terrible parent he is, and labeling me a homewrecking whore. But this isn’t a surprise. I don’t think Ex is a good person, and I’ve felt that way for many years. I don’t have a connection to her, other than being the wife of her ex husband, so I can safely have these feelings. But her children don’t have that luxury, because she’s their mom, and she’s the only mom they will ever have.

Although people can and do disconnect with their parents, it’s actually a very hard thing to do– to completely cut them off and go no contact. Even if a person dies, as long as any thought of them is in a person’s conscience, the relationship continues on some level. Hell… even many adopted children with excellent adoptive parents wonder about their birth parents. A lot of them do what they can to seek out their birth parents because they want to know their origins. They want to know why their birth parents– particularly their birth mother– didn’t raise them.

Sometimes, the stories adopted children unearth about their birth parents are comforting and reassuring. Birth mom desperately wanted to keep the child, but couldn’t because she was too poor or too young and it was just impossible. But sometimes the stories are painful. Ex was adopted. We heard in Ex’s case that her birth mom was married and had been having an affair with another man. She chose her marriage over keeping and raising Ex. Making matters worse was the fact that Ex’s adoptive parents were abusive, neglectful, and treated her like a second class citizen compared to their natural children. Or, perhaps the adopted child finds her birth parents and neither wants anything to do with him or her. Younger daughter wasn’t adopted. She knows her mom, as well as the truth about her. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t wish it weren’t like that, and have some hope that somehow, someday, her mother will change into a different kind of person.

Younger daughter was told many falsehoods when she was growing up. She was told some outrageous lies about Bill and me, and the nature of how we met. Meanwhile, Ex gaslit her into not seeing what she was seeing with her own eyes. As Ex labeled Bill a philanderer and me a whore, she was shacking up with her now husband while still married to Bill. And they were having a sexual relationship, even though they weren’t married and she was supposedly a devout Mormon. The church teaches that premarital sex, particularly if one is still married and “sealed” to someone else, is morally wrong. The church was used to break up Bill’s relationship with his daughters– Bill was no longer “living the standards”, so he needed to be discarded. But Ex was also not living the standards, and somehow that was okay. The cognitive dissonance was probably incredible for the kids.

Incidentally, younger daughter is still LDS, and the LDS church is good at guilt, too. People are expected to “endure to the end.” I have heard countless stories about people who have wanted to do something for themselves– say stepping down from a church calling or tithing less money– and they were guilted and shamed for that. I suspect that the church has also, in some way, reinforced that tendency to deny problems and minimize or discount them. It’s easier for others when we’re “strong”… at least until it gets so bad that the strength gives out and the strong person finally collapses. And since younger daughter is now a mom herself, she can’t really afford to fall apart.

Is it any wonder Bill’s daughter is so traumatized? Is it any wonder that she laughs and smiles and giggles when she talks about something as serious as suicide, suicidal ideation, or other traumas? I suspect she fears being too “heavy” and turning off her dad, who has been wanting to have a relationship with her for so long. I also suspect that she was trained not to bring any problems to her mom or her stepdad. In fact, I’ll bet Ex’s reactions to her daughter’s pain included anger, derision, or even laughter.

My heart goes out to younger daughter. When I was younger, I had similar thoughts about self-destruction. I didn’t think I was ever going to be able to launch. I didn’t think I had anything to offer the world and I didn’t think anyone cared about me, even though there were obviously people who did love me. Adolescence is hard, though… biological processes during that time can be pure hell. Childhood is hard, too. You have no control over anything, and adults are telling you to be quiet… “shut up before I give you something to cry about”. Being a young adult is hard– trying to find one’s way in the world and make enough money to support oneself. I think the phase I’m in now may be the easiest for me so far, but I am about to be menopausal. We’ll see how that goes.

Sometimes I still feel shitty about myself and want it all to end. Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure that when I admitted having these feelings to my own therapist years ago, I probably laughed too. It’s just not easy to talk about it, and laughter somehow makes the task easier, especially when you don’t know how the other person will react. My therapist was a doctoral level psychologist with many years of experience. He was in the prime of his career when I saw him. But he’s still a flawed human being with feelings and thoughts. Despite the fact that I was paying him to counsel me, I wasn’t sure what his human reaction would be to my comments. Fortunately, he was a professional and talked me through the pain.

I do remember telling my mom, at one point, that I felt suicidal. I don’t think I put it that way, but I did express to her the desire I had for ending it all. Her response was to get angry and say, “I know you won’t do anything ‘stupid’.” It was absolutely the WRONG thing to say. She basically discounted my pain and practically dared me to make an attempt. I have never forgotten that she said that to me. If I’m honest, it kind of lowered my opinion of her, although I do love my mom and I don’t think she meant it. I look back at that time and realize that she was under a lot of stress. So I forgive her for saying that, although I haven’t forgotten that she said it. I can’t forget it because it’s shocking to hear your mom say something like that, even if you kind of know why she said it.

I don’t know what Ex said in that situation… but I suspect it was a lot worse than what my mom said to me. My mom is not a narcissist, nor is she mentally ill. My mom has compassion. Ex has compassion only when it makes her look good to other people. And I truly believe that she sees her children and grandchildren as extensions of herself– objects to be manipulated and owned, rather than nurtured, loved, and cherished. I’m sure if younger daughter had succeeded, Ex would have simply felt abandoned. She would have been angry at the imposition and the inconvenience. And she never would have thought to tell her daughter’s other parent, a loving father who would have done whatever he could to help her and ease her pain. Ex was much too “prideful” and vengeful for that.

I really think that younger daughter’s tendency to “laugh” at trauma is a combination of a few things. One is that she’s been conditioned to minimize her own pain, either because no one would comfort her anyway, or because she would be shamed for it. Another is that talking about these feelings is embarrassing for her. Another is not wanting Bill or me to think there’s something “wrong” with her (which we definitely don’t). And then there’s the need to reduce the tension that comes from talking about trauma and pain. Laughter is good for that. It’s close to crying, but crying is kind of “taboo”– many people see crying as “weakness”. So we laugh and that kind of breaks the tension, even if we really just want to break down in sobs and tears and have someone hug us and tell us it will all be okay.

I know my husband well… and I know that if he was in a room with his daughter and she was talking about this subject, he would give her a hug and stroke her hair. He would encourage her to lean on him and cry as much as she wanted. I know he would comfort her for as long as she needed it. I know this, because this is how he treats me. It’s an absolute tragedy that his children were denied this love and compassion that he’s been waiting to give them freely– without any strings attached.

The good news is that she has him now. She’s out of her mother’s house and can heal. No one can tell her what to do anymore unless she gives them permission.

On the other hand, right now Noyzi is telling me to get off the computer and walk him and Arran. So I guess I’d better wrap this up before he has a conniption. I’ll have to give this some more thought. For now, I told Bill that I think he should tell his daughter that he’s here for her and if she needs to talk to him, she can depend on him. He’ll hear what she has to say and won’t laugh at her, judge her, rage at her, minimize or discount her feelings, or treat her like she owes him… or he owns her. I hope that will help so she won’t have to laugh at her own pain anymore when she speaks to him.

A good video for people who have had a narcissistic mother.

book reviews, true crime

Repost of my review of A Mother’s Trial, by Nancy Wright.

I originally posted this review on I reposted it on the original blog on May 13, 2015. I am reposting it again, as is. This is a fascinating story.

A person who has Munchausen syndrome deliberately makes themselves ill so that he or she is forced into a doctor’s care.  People who suffer from Munchausen syndrome by proxy don’t make themselves sick; instead, they deliberately make their child sick.  It’s said that both forms of Munchausen syndrome arise when a person has a bizarre need for attention from medical professionals.     

It’s hard to imagine a loving parent intentionally hurting their child.  It’s even harder to imagine such a parent working as a trusted social worker.  And yet, Nancy Wright’s book A Mother’s Trial is about such a parent.  In the mid to late 1970s, Priscilla Phillips was convicted of second degree murder for the death of her adopted Korean daughter, Tia.  She was found guilty of deliberately making Tia sick by poisoning her with sodium which eventually led to the child’s death.  She was also found guilty of endangering the life of a second adopted daughter, Mindy.

The story

Priscilla Phillips met her husband, Steve, in the mid 1960s, when she was a student at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina.  She planned to earn a bachelor’s degree in social work and then go on for her master’s degree in social work from the University of California at Berkeley.  The Phillipses were able to meet Priscilla’s goals; after she finished her bachelor’s degree, they moved west.  Steve got a job at a juvenile detention center and Priscilla earned her master’s degree and became a social worker. 

The couple had two sons, Erik and Jason, but a medical issue required Priscilla to have a hysterectomy.  Feeling that their family was still incomplete, Steve and Priscilla decided to adopt a baby girl.  Tia was born in 1975 and at the time, there were a lot of Asian babies being adopted and brought to the United States.  The aftermath of the Vietnam War made it especially popular for childless couples to adopt Vietnamese babies sired by American G.I.s.  Steve and Priscilla had originally planned to do just that.  But fate led them to Tia, a tiny Korean girl.  As he held the baby just moments after her arrival from Korea, Steve Phillips was sure his family was complete.   

But then Tia got sick.  She had a fever and multiple infections that had plagued her since her arrival in the United States.  She was vomiting and had explosive diarrhea.  Priscilla took her to see a pediatrician and eventually Tia was admitted to Kaiser Permanente-San Rafael.  The child suffered for months until she finally died, wasted by dehydration caused by diarrhea. 

Suspicions arose when Steve and Priscilla Phillips adopted a second Korean infant, a daughter they named Mindy, in 1977.  Mindy was not biologically related to Tia, yet she soon developed the same troubling and unusual symptoms and landed in the same hospital ward her older adopted sister had.  By all accounts, Priscilla Phillips was a loving and devoted mother who was helpful to the staff taking care of her daughters… until she fell under suspicion for poisoning them.   

My thoughts

Nancy Wright has done a pretty good job relating the complicated tale of a woman who had seemed so good doing the unthinkable.  Wright, who has worked as an English teacher and a screenwriter, keeps this book conversational with dialogue and a writing style that sort of conveys an earthiness, especially on the part of Steve Phillips, whom she makes out to be a very simple, blue collar type of guy.  She includes information on the court case that eventually put Priscilla Phillips behind bars, though there are no photos included in the Kindle edition of this book.

A Mother’s Trial was originally published in 1984, but was recently offered on the Kindle in a 2012 edition.  As far as I can tell, A Mother’s Trial was not updated for the Kindle, except to clear up the educational details of one of the prosecutors.  I was a little taken aback by how old this case was; I guess I didn’t read the book description very carefully before I downloaded it.  Nevertheless, this is a pretty interesting case, since books about Munchausen syndrome and Munchausen syndrome by proxy tend to be somewhat rare.   

Most of the time, true crime writers tend to take a decided tone against people who commit crime.  Wright’s tone seemed almost sympathetic toward Priscilla.  Indeed, even as I was finishing this book, I wondered if it was going to turn out that Priscilla had been wrongly accused.  It wasn’t until she was sent away to prison that I realized she had been convicted, though I’m still not sure if she actually committed the crime.  I realize this may be a turn off for some readers.  Also, Wright has not updated the book with information about what happened to Priscilla.  It’s been over three decades since her conviction.  I wonder if she’s still in prison (ETA: I just discovered from a news article that she served four years).


I’ve read better true crime, but I do think A Mother’s Trial is interesting reading for those who want to learn more about Munchausen syndrome by proxy.  I do wish Wright had updated this book, though, and would have appreciated some photos.  For that reason, I give it three stars and my recommendation.

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condescending twatbags

Repost: American woman has uterus transplant that fails. The Internet goes berserk.

This post appeared on my original Overeducated Housewife blog on March 10, 2016. I am reposting it because it relates to today’s post.

Last night, just before closing my eyes for the day, I ran across this article from The New York Times. It’s about a 26 year old woman from Texas named Lindsey who longed to have a baby naturally.  Born without a uterus, Lindsey had known since she was a teenager that she would never be able to carry a baby.  The news was clearly devastating.  Still, she grew up, got married to a man named Blake, and adopted three sons.

Lindsey is the first American woman to undergo a uterus transplant.  The transplant was done on February 24th in a nine hour operation at the Cleveland Clinic’s hospital in Weston, Florida.  At first, the surgery was deemed a success.  Lindsey had received a uterus from a woman in her 30s who had died suddenly.  She was pictured sitting in a wheelchair, smiling… looking very hopeful, surrounded by benevolent looking doctors.  Though uterus implants are cutting edge medicine and are just now being explored in the United States, they have been done successfully before.  Swedish doctors have done the transplants on nine women resulting in five births.  Lindsey and her medical team had every reason to hope that she too would be successful.

Then, the day after that photo was taken, there were complications and the transplant failed.  Lindsey was suddenly back in the news.  The New York Times promptly reported the setback in a second article. 

I will admit that the second article is the one I saw first.  I noticed the first one when it was first published, but never got around to reading it.  That first article included the information that Lindsey and Blake had already adopted/fostered three boys.  Still, the idea that she should adopt first never crossed my mind.  I figure everyone has the right to make their own family planning decisions, as long as those decisions don’t harm other people.  Moreover, medical research has the potential to help many.  As long as patients are informed about the experimental nature of a new treatment and understand the risks, I can’t help but admire the ones brave enough to be first.

I probably shouldn’t have read the comments on the news article, though they did inspire me to read more about Lindsey and her brave decision to be a part of medical history.  So many people were saying that Lindsey should “just adopt”, not realizing that she had already done that.  Even when they were made aware that Lindsey is already a mother and had adopted three kids who needed homes, a lot of them stubbornly derided her decision to try for the transplant.  Others suggested hiring a surrogate, which is another avenue that can be fraught with challenges.

I’ll admit that it often pisses me off when people suggest adoption to people struggling with infertility, as if they’ve never considered it.  They make it sound like it’s the easiest, cheapest, most perfect decision.  It’s like they could just go to a child rescue and choose a kid whose picture “speaks to them”, go home, and raise the child happily ever after.  It’s not that simple.  Adoption is a big decision and comes with its own set of challenges.  Moreover, Lindsey had already adopted and wanted to try for a pregnancy.  She’s an adult, living in a country that supposedly embraces personal freedom.  It’s her body and presumably her money.   

A lot of people were saying that uterus transplants are somehow selfish and frivolous.  What I don’t think they understand is that this kind of research could also be beneficial to other people.  Every time healthcare professionals are able to explore the human body, it helps them to learn about how it works.  Maybe the uterus transplant surgeries could help doctors understand even more about how transplants work and what causes failures and promotes successes.  Maybe more knowledge garnered during a uterus transplant surgery could lead to better understanding of heart transplants or lung transplants… you know, surgeries involving vital organs that support life.  Of course, a uterus also supports life; a life separate from its owner’s. 

I also noticed that many of the comments were being made by men.  So many flippant males, people who never expected to give birth themselves and don’t understand that, to many women, having babies is a part of being female, felt the need to opine about Lindsey’s family planning choices.  It’s true that a lot of women never give birth and choose not to.  Quite a few women also only give birth once, because the experience of being pregnant is unpleasant for them.  But, for so many other women, being pregnant and having babies is a deep desire.  It’s something that so many women can do with ease.  When you can’t do it, for whatever reason, it hurts.  I wanted kids and presumably could have had them had I wanted to seek medical help (or a man who hadn’t had a vasectomy reversal).  For me, the desire to be a mom was not that strong.  For other women, it’s a very compelling drive.  I can’t judge them for that. 

I have a friend who endured many miscarriages.  She kept trying to get pregnant and would end up heartbroken time after time until doctors discovered that she had a hormonal imbalance.  She and her husband now have three beautiful sons.  It took years, lots of money, and plenty of patience, but they were able to achieve that dream and have that part of their lives fulfilled.  I wouldn’t be surprised if some compassion challenged jackass said to them, “Jesus Christ!  Why not just adopt?  Look at all the kids who need homes!  The world is overpopulated!”  It’s as if they’re saying, “Sorry lady.  Fate made you unable to have a baby, so you should just suck it up and deal with it.  To hell with your own plans and desires; God has spoken and you’re defective.”

My question is, who the fuck are these people to make these kinds of tone deaf comments to strangers?  Better yet, who are they to mention them to friends and family?  Why is it anyone else’s business how an adult plans their family?  Even though I am no fan of the way the Duggars live their lives, I still maintain that it’s their right to determine how large their family should be.  I would hope they wouldn’t choose to adopt, mainly because I think an adopted child in that family would suffer.  But even if I personally disagreed with adoption in their case, I still think people should have the basic right to make family planning choices that work best for them.  What works for one person doesn’t always work as well for someone else.

I, for one, applaud Lindsey’s bravery.  I’m sure the doctors who worked on her learned new things and honed their skills.  I’m sure this setback is devastating enough for all of them without idiots on the Internet belittling them for trying to advance medical science.  I wish the best for Lindsey and all the other women who are struggling with infertility, a problem that hits close to home for me. 

condescending twatbags

Adopting a child is not like rescuing a puppy…

Four years ago, on the original Overeducated Housewife blog, I wrote a rant about people who were upset about the advancement of uterine transplants. In that post from March 2016, I wrote the story of a 26 year old woman named Lindsey who had always longed to experience pregnancy with a baby of her own. But Lindsey had known since she was a teenager that it was not meant to be, because she was born without a uterus.

In February 2016, Lindsey underwent an experimental operation at the Cleveland Clinic in Weston, Florida. She was one of the first women in the world to have a cadaver’s uterus surgically implanted into her body, and was the very first woman in the United States to have the procedure done. Doctors had hoped she would be able to try to get pregnant two years after the surgery. Unfortunately, Lindsey’s uterine transplant quickly failed, and by the next month, she was undergoing another surgery to remove the transplanted uterus.

I read about Lindsey’s case in The New York Times, and then read some of the comments. To me, transplant medicine is fascinating and amazing. And yet, plenty of people were posting awful comments about Lindsey and how “selfish” she was for wanting to have a baby of her own instead of adopting one. Even when it came to light that Lindsey already has THREE adopted sons, many people were quick to criticize her, wondering why those three boys “weren’t enough” for her and speculating that they would feel “bad” because their mother wanted to experience pregnancy. I was pretty agitated by the stupidity of the comments about Lindsey’s case, so I wrote a rant. I will repost my first rant about this subject, since it’s relevant to today’s follow up rant.

Yesterday, I read the exciting news that another uterine transplant patient in the United States has successfully given birth at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The child, son of 33 year old Jennifer Gobrecht and her husband, Drew, is the second baby born in the United States after a successful uterine transplant. Jennifer Gobrecht, who was born with a congenital condition called Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome, had believed she would never be able to experience pregnancy, since she was born with ovaries, but no uterus. Thanks to the dedication of skilled researchers, surgeons, and nurses, and her own bravery and willingness to be part of an experimental medical procedure, she’s received her miracle in the form of her baby boy, Benjamin. And yet… people are criticizing her.

I read comment after comment about this story on The New York Times’ Facebook page. So many people asked why she didn’t simply adopt a child. After I read an especially snarky comment from a woman who wondered why the Gobrechts didn’t simply adopt, I asked “How many children have you adopted?”

The commenter wrote a rude response indicating that she had never wanted children and didn’t see how my question was relevant. But a whole lot of women– probably women like me, who for whatever reason, have faced infertility themselves– liked my comment and totally saw where I was going with it. The commenter wondered why I would ask her how many children she’d adopted, implying that it was irrelevant and none of my business (which it isn’t). And yet, she wondered why Ms. Gobrecht and her husband chose to make the family planning choices they had! I guess it was lost on her that the Gobrechts’ decision to go ahead with the experimental uterine transplant was none of her business, either.

The commenter then wrote that Ms. Gobrecht’s decision to give birth to her own baby was essentially the same as adopting someone else’s baby. I guess she missed the part in the article in which it was explained that Ms. Gobrecht possesses ovaries, which means she has her own eggs. She was lacking a uterus, which is simply where the fetus develops and has no bearing on its genetics. So no, it’s not the same as adoption, because this baby shares DNA with his mother. And even if it was a case of a woman who got pregnant using donated eggs, it would still not be the same as adoption. For instance, there would be no risk of a birth mother deciding at the last minute that she wanted to keep the baby, a heartbreaking situation that many prospective adoptive parents face. And she would be able to experience the joy of seeing ultrasounds and feeling the baby’s kicks. Of course, she’d also experience the less pleasant aspects of pregnancy, but if that’s what she wants to do, more power to her. Who is anyone else to question her choice, if it’s available and legal?

Another commenter posted to my query that she’d adopted one child– then wrote “thanks”, as if she’d burned me good by proving that she’d put her money where her mouth is. To that commenter, I would (and did) say something along the lines of… “Good for you that you adopted a child! Here’s a cookie. But that doesn’t make your opinions about other people’s family planning decisions any more relevant.”

I think it’s awesome that some people want to adopt. It was never anything I was interested in doing myself, although I would have liked to have had a baby with Bill. As I have mentioned many times before, but will repeat for the new folks, my husband was talked into having a vasectomy when he was married to his ex wife. He has two grown daughters who, until very recently, were completely estranged from him. One of his daughters reconnected about three years ago, and Bill now Skypes with her and has gotten to see his two grandchildren via the miracles of modern technology. Because he loves me, and wanted me to have a chance to experience pregnancy, he underwent a vasectomy reversal. It was technically successful, although the procedure and recovery were definitely much more complicated than the initial “snip”. He was fortunate enough to have that procedure done free of charge, thanks to the Army and its doctors who need to maintain their skills. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, I never got pregnant. Ex, on the other hand, went on to have two more children with her third husband.

Back then, we didn’t have the money to pursue other methods of infertility treatment, so we eventually let go of the dream. At this point, I’m fine with that decision. I was ecstatic that my husband would even consider undergoing an invasive elective surgery on the most private part of his body so that I might be a mother. It felt to both of us like he was taking back a bad decision. In the end, that was enough for us, although we would have loved to have had a baby of our own.

Many women yearn to be mothers. Some of them are fine with adoption if they can’t get pregnant. Even people who can have their own babies may want to adopt, for whatever reason. It’s simply something they feel “led” to do. Then there are some people, like me, would rather not adopt. They have their reasons for feeling the way they do. Maybe you think their reasons are invalid, selfish, or even stupid, but your opinion doesn’t count when it comes to someone else’s family planning choices.

Adopting a child isn’t like picking out a puppy on a dog rescue Web site. You can’t just trot down to the local orphanage and pick one up after proving that your landlord approves and you have a pediatrician lined up. Adoption usually costs money and involves having other people check you out thoroughly– everything from home visits to financial inquiries. It can take time, too– sometimes years, even, although there are children in foster care who can be adopted with less hassle.

I’m quite sure most people would be offended if some stranger demanded to know why they chose to have children of their own instead of adopting. If you wouldn’t ask a fertile person that question, how could you dare ask that of someone who has struggled with infertility? It really is an insensitive and obnoxiously inquisitive question that is likely to put you in potentially awkward social situation.

Besides, while many people have been adopted and everything has worked out beautifully, sometimes adoptions can lead to heartbreak and misery. I won’t get into that now, since I have at least one more point to make before I close this post. Suffice to say, adoption has its pitfalls. It’s not for everyone. While I would never discourage anyone from choosing adoption, it’s a decision that needs to be carefully considered by people who are prepared.

The uterine transplant procedure is not even very likely to prevent most people who would otherwise consider adoption from adopting a child. It is simply one more tool in the arsenal against infertility. It will help the small cohort of women who, for whatever reason, lack a uterus. In other words, it’s not a huge crowd of people who would opt for a major, risky, invasive and expensive surgery in order to become a parent. It’s doubtful medical insurance will ever pay for the procedure, at least not in my lifetime, so the vast majority of people who might be candidates will probably not be able to afford it, anyway. I think the pro-adoption crowd can relax their sphincters now.

The final point I want to make is that I think uterine transplants are a good thing, not just because they give people like Lindsey and Jennifer Gobrecht the opportunity to experience pregnancy and give birth to their own babies, but because exploring any groundbreaking transplant procedure furthers the development of transplant medicine as a whole. You can bet that uterine transplants are being done right now because hearts, lungs, kidneys, corneas, and livers have been successfully transplanted. Now that uterine transplants are a thing, other parts of the body might follow. And with every new advancement and innovation in medical research, mankind is helped to understand the human body more.

Aside from that, uterine transplants have been done successfully in other countries, such as Brazil and Sweden. If the United States wants to be on the cutting edge of medical research, American medical researchers have to keep pushing into new frontiers. To do that successfully, people like Jennifer Gobrecht have to be willing to be part of the exploration. I, for one, am delighted that she was brave enough to come forward and was ultimately rewarded with a beautiful son named Benjamin. It really is a miracle. People should be applauding her for being a part of medical history instead of lecturing her about the wonders of adoption.


Spirit animals… could it be time for a new dog?

I don’t know about you, but whenever I lose a pet, they always seem to “visit” from the great beyond occasionally. Eventually, after time has passed, they visit less often.

I understand the rational explanation for this phenomenon. I’m not an idiot– although some people seem to think I am. I know it’s probably all in my mind. I still find it interesting when I get a visit from one of my long lost animals. My pony, Rusty, died in 1993, but I still get visits from him sometimes, mostly in my dreams. In fact, most of my pets visit in dreams, although sometime their spirits seem to jump into my other pets.

Lately, I’ve been getting visits from Zane, who died on August 31st of this year. Zane’s death was different from those of the three dogs who predeceased him. For one thing, his last week wasn’t absolutely horrible. Zane had lymphoma, which seemed to just make him very tired before a tumor in his spleen apparently burst and caused internal bleeding. He had a pretty decent last week, though, lounging in the sun and eating to his heart’s content. Even his last day wasn’t absolutely awful, although the vet told us it was good that we’d brought him in because he probably wouldn’t have survived the night.

All three of our previous rescues– CuCullain (CC), Flea, and MacGregor, all had devastating diseases that were very painful for them. CC had a rare mycobacterial infection that caused abscesses. What made his passing worse was that most vets never encounter Mycobacterium Avian in dogs, and they don’t really know how to treat it. Most dogs are innately immune to that organism, and the ones who do get it almost universally die quickly of the disease. It’s related to tuberculosis and causes painful abscesses, as well as a host of other horrible symptoms. Consequently, CC’s death was particularly bad. We’d even had him on a Fentanyl patch for his last hours, which were spent in a specialty hospital with a vet who acted like he’d wanted to keep him around for research purposes.

Our beagle, Flea, had prostate cancer that slowly destroyed him over four months. He’d been determined to live, so his disease had progressed a lot before he finally made it clear that it was time to let him go. Even then, he hadn’t wanted to die and seemed to fight being euthanized. He was emaciated and, the night before he passed, had lost the ability to walk.

MacGregor had a spinal tumor that was misdiagnosed. The tumor caused incredible pain, but two vets were convinced he’d actually had disc disease. We had him get a MRI at N.C. State University to find out what was wrong with him. The tumor was invading his spinal column. When the vet told me that, I told her we would be letting him go that evening, even though she said we could wait. MacGregor was in a lot of pain and definitely ready, unlike his predecessor.

After their deaths, all three of these dogs seemed to send us signs that they were okay… or, maybe it was just us kidding ourselves. When Flea died, Bill saw a rare shooting star in the early morning the next day. When CC died, he heard an ethereal version of “Fields of Gold” while on hold with the state vet’s office, waiting for the results of CC’s PCR test (to find out what organism had killed him). Immediately after MacGregor died, we heard a lovely, comforting song by Rhonda Vincent called “I Will See You Again”. I was so freaked out by MacGregor’s death that I even read a book about spiritual signs from dogs after they die. Yes… it’s a lot of woo, but reading about the signs and knowing that others have experienced when they’ve lost animals they loved was very comforting.

Besides the immediate signs we got from stars or special songs, the dogs “visited” a lot in our thoughts and dreams, and even seemed to send us new dogs to help ease the pain of losing them. When we got Arran in January 2013, he did some things that were very “MacGregorish”, prompting tears in Bill. MacGregor had been more Bill’s dog than mine. For months after MacGregor died, Arran would do things that were uncannily like MacGregor. It was like he instinctively knew what we were missing. But then he became more of his own dog and we saw less MacGregor in him.

When Zane died, I didn’t get so many signs at first. It took a couple of weeks before he visited my dreams, although he did seem to “show up” when we got a visit from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s only been lately that he’s been lurking a lot. He showed up in a vivid dream the other day. I was sure it was him, but then when I got closer to the dog, I realized that it wasn’t Zane. I woke up just as I was about to pet the “imposter”.

A couple of days ago, Bill came out of the bathroom with a strange look on his face. I’m sure it was unrelated to the massive dump he’d just unloaded. He said, “I’m a little bit freaked out right now.”

“Why?” I asked.

“You know how Zane used to like to come into the bathroom and nap? I just had the sense he was in there with me.” Bill explained.

There have also been a few times when I could have sworn that I heard Zane’s whine… a familiar sound when he wanted or needed something. Over almost ten years with us, he had become adept at telling us his needs. All of our dogs have done this, although they’ve each had different ways. MacGregor, for instance, was really good at words and would get excited if you mentioned the one he was looking for. If he wanted to go outside and we said “outside”, he’d jump up enthusiastically, his eyes bright. If we mentioned “cookie” or “chewy”, and that was what he wanted (which was almost always), he would reward us with happy barks and a victory dance.

Zane was less like that. He would whine, like a needy old man. It was especially like that in his last year. I’d often find him at the bottom of the steps, waiting for an escort to bed. In earlier years, he’d come up behind me and whine when he wanted to jump into my lap for snuggle time.

Flea, on the other hand, would simply squeak plaintively or bark demands. I still remember when we lived in our first German house, he’d wake up in the mornings and announce himself before coming downstairs. We always got up before he did. He was like a little despot, and he demanded to be waited on like the regal beagle he was. Every day at ten in the morning, rain or shine, he would demand a walk by whining and squeaking plaintively– much more insistently than Zane ever did. Incidentally, I was initially attracted to Zane because he sort of resembled Flea. But then when I saw him in person, he didn’t look so much like Flea. There were times when he behaved like him, though… especially when he demanded food by barking at us.

Well… it’s happening again. Arran is starting to take on some of Zane’s traits. Zane was the king of “dog spreading”. He would get up on our king sized bed and stretch out until Bill and I were pushed to the edges of the mattress. Zane also loved to burrow under the covers, snuggling up to me until he got too hot. He was also very good about going potty outside, and would tell us when it was necessary. He liked lying on the fuzzy blue blanket at the foot of the bed… that was also one of MacGregor’s habits.

Arran was trying his hardest to give us both lots of attention last night. He was especially insistent on getting time with Bill. Bill is Arran’s favorite human.

Arran, by contrast, has always liked snuggling between Bill and me at the head of the bed. He has always curled up into a tight doughnut, above the covers. Last night, he burrowed. Not all the way, like Zane always did, but about halfway. He’s also discovered dog spreading. One positive thing that’s happened is that Arran, who has never been as reliable about house training, has almost completely stopped having accidents. He tells us when he wants to go out and rarely makes mistakes anymore. I noticed when he would make a mistake, it was usually when Zane was sleeping with us. During the last year of Zane’s life, he and Arran mostly took turns sleeping with Bill and me.

Zane and Arran had been friends when we first got Arran, but neither was alpha enough to maintain leadership, so Arran would challenge Zane a lot. Zane wasn’t a fighter, but he would defend himself against Arran and, as long as he was feeling okay, would often win the battles. I think that because of the scraps they’d get into during the latter part of Zane’s life, they weren’t close friends at the end. Arran was always trying to take advantage of peace loving Zane, and Zane just wanted to be left alone. Zane got along better with MacGregor, who was a lot older and didn’t care about who was in charge. In fact, that was what had made MacGregor such a perfect buddy for Flea, who was extremely alpha and would challenge any dog, regardless of its size. Flea needed to be the leader by all means. I think Flea was our biggest challenge, too, while so far, Zane has been the easiest dog.

Usually, by now, we would have found another dog… not to replace the one departed, but to give another dog a home and enjoy another family member. We’ve held off this time, but it’s been difficult. I often feel drawn to certain animals, and there’s been at least one that has “spoken” to me. She’s very young, not a beagle, and bigger than what I’m used to. I worry about how Arran will behave with another dog in the house. He’s loving the attention he’s getting as the only dog, but he’s also getting older himself. I also think that the frequent visits from Zane are reminders that there are other dogs out there who need a home.

Practically speaking, it would probably be better if we waited until we leave Germany before we get another dog. But I don’t know how long we’re going to be here. We could be gone next year, in two years, or in five years or more. I keep thinking that after Christmas, we’ll start thinking seriously about getting another dog for me… not so much for Arran, who would probably just as soon stay the only dog. It still seems like Zane is trying to tell us something, though. He’s still with us in spirit and in our hearts. I know he’d want us to share what we have with another dog. I also think that when the right one comes along, we’ll know. He’ll probably tell us.

By the way… I don’t remember ever getting signs from human loved ones who have passed on. I know people do get “visits” from parents, grandparents, or children they’ve lost. Not me… I only hear from the pets. I guess that says something about the bond I have with my animals.

This was the book I read after we lost MacGregor. I don’t remember what I thought about it, since I posted a review on Epinions and Epinions is long gone. If you choose to buy it through this site, I’d get a small commission. Frankly, though, I’m just posting this for those who are curious. I was so freaked out by MacGregor’s “signs” that I felt compelled to read about them… Maybe it’s time to reread this book, since Zane keeps visiting.