Tuesday, 31 May 2016

IVF and a new world order.


Some of you will have watched 4 Corners on Aunty last night. It was an "expose" on the "IVF industry".

Something that was of interest to me.

I am nearly a year down the track from my Miscarriage. My assumption was that, given that I got pregnant quickly and without trying too hard, I would get pregnant quickly without trying too hard again.

Unfortunately this was not to be, and I am heading to the doctor tomorrow to follow through on the conception plan b. It's with a bit of a tail between my legs. I feel a bit like I have failed. I had put quite a lot of stock on getting pregnant the old fashioned way. IVF scares me and it has taken some time to get my head around it - the being pumped full of hormones, the ovaries swelling, the freezing of embryos. A potential for long-term effects to myself and my offspring.

I don't like the idea, really. I want a baby but I am scared of having IVF. I am growing a pair and getting thee to a doc, and I will see what they say, and what happens. I am trying, despite my fears, to keep an open mind and my eyes on the positives.

Back to the program. It was one-sided, and focussed on the negatives associated with IVF. It bought in experts who were instrumental in the development of IVF, who now disassociate themselves from current IVF practices, which they feel are corporatised and focussed on profit rather than using the technology in a prudent manner. They featured a head of an IVF company, who was bumbling. The program suggested that IVF practices were predatory towards vulnerable women, continuing with IVF cycles when the chances of success were infinitesimally small.

It featured Gab Kovacs, who is a prominent IVF doctor. He has been on record previously saying that women need to just settle down, not be so picky, and get pregnant earlier. On the program, he said that "embryos are like mud, you throw enough of them and one will stick". He also said that he could not refuse a woman IVF if she wanted it.

Putting the doctor hat on, I object to that analogy of mud being flung at the wall - it's not nearly as simple as that. IVF is medical treatment, and the law states that people cannot demand medical treatment that is futile or unduly burdensome.

Melinda Tankard Reist was also on, and though I don't like the woman, I agreed with some of the points she made.

There are plenty of very desperate women and couples out there - some of this desperation is being taken advantage of.

The only thing that the program will change for me is that I will go in and ask for an honest appraisal of what my chances are, and how they might dwindle with increasing numbers of  cycles. I would also prefer to see a female IVF specialist. Just because. I have had a good chat with my fella about the issues the show raised.

The program gave me some more general pause for thought. It occurred to me that I could have stayed in my previous marriage, and my chances of having a baby would have been much higher. I don't regret leaving, not for one second. I am happy, in retrospect, to have worn that risk.

There is a lot of pressure on women to "settle", with the "tick tock". Yet, for a professional woman, having a baby is done at a financial cost, mainly to the woman, in terms of career and superannuation. Many women are happy to make that compromise, yet increasing numbers are not. They do not necessarily stay in relationships to have babies, just like me.

These women are demonised as being selfish, and are warned about having sad, lonely, unfulfilling lives, but the research states quite the opposite. The real consequence is to society - birth rates are going down. It will lead to demographic consequences, with fewer future taxpayers being born.

Hence, for all Tony Abbott's gaffes, his one about helping women of calibre have babies has some merit. Unless women are encouraged to have children at a time when it is safest for them and baby (ie under 35) without their finances or career being compromised, birth rates will not increase. In this way, we as women have the power.

I want a baby, I really do. So does my partner. It is, by all accounts, a beautiful experience, perhaps made even more beautiful when your eyes are wide open, and the changes are accepted in advance.

It's also freeing that, if it all proves too hard, and it is not to be, I, and we, will be ok.

Sunday, 29 May 2016


I often work on the weekends - writing PhDs, papers, ethics submissions, et cetera. I still do plenty of other things, and get a sleep - in.

This weekend, I actually went into work! Like actual work where my workwear game must be up to scratch, I must be there at 0800, and I must be able to make sentences which make sense. Both days!

It was something a bit different to what I usually do, and it was fun and challenging, but gosh I am tired after it all, and I have had to nap.

Melbourne has been thrust well and truly into winter, with very chilly mornings and a bit of rain. Winter means boots and stockings and socks, and also Masterchef.

We are getting teasers of my beloved Offspring. I do hope it hasn't jumped the shark. I hope that Leo and Nina are still together, but I get the feeling from the ads that this will not be the case. I would love to see Nina getting settled and maybe getting preggers again, and I can't wait to see Zoe.

It has just struck me how invested I am in the show, like I am talking about my friends. I think that was the case for a lot of people.

In addition to having to work, my exercise at the holy church of crossfit has been a bit waylaid by popping my back out last Monday. I have decided to go and do some clinical Pilates. I have exercise goals which I think will be improved by having a good core. Also, it has worked in the past for staving off back pain, from which I suffer on and off.

How was your weekend?
Anything exciting this week?

Monday, 16 May 2016

Falling into the flow.

I have gone back to work, done loads and loads of washing, gotten back into the timezone and generally back into the swing of things. The acute post-holiday blues have settled. I start my new job tomorrow.

I have a new haircut. I was talking with a female professor of medicine, and out of the blue, she told me that I had a lovely face and that I needed a hairdo that would frame it. Granted my hair was in travel mode (ie lank and greasy) but I was a bit taken aback. I had a love-hate relationship with my long hair - it was always a belief I had, unchallenged, that "curvy girls should have long hair".

Anyway I took the professor's comment in the manner in which it was given; rather than saying "rude bugger" I considered and thought she might have a point. So I did some research with the committee (ie my female facebook friends) and found a good hairdresser, Barberella on Gertrude street. I did the old "do what you like but not this and this and this and this and also please don't make my face look fat". She was very good and attentive and I was very happy with the result, I have a lovely face-framing bob, which is super-feminine and sharp but classic.

This whole theme of taking things in my stride loomed large today. There have been lots of murmurings within one of my workplaces about lack of funds. Today, I had the meeting with the new director and the Prof Emeritus. I actually offered to "quit" for the time being, to concentrate on writing my papers. I figured that, if I had to go, I would go on my terms. Also it would free me from a few pressures and free me up to do more profitable work.

Long story short, the Prof Emeritus would not hear of me stepping aside. He asked me to stay on, but do fewer sessions. I agreed. It still frees me up to do something that pays better, but my role is intact. So essentially I weathered a cull gracefully. It could've been upsetting but it really wasn't. I realised it was great that I have options that few others have, so that this kind of thing isn't a big deal.

It's that working hard at the art of not giving a single fuck. To appreciate the pros and cons of each situation, and embrace whatever happens. At the moment, I am winning at adulting.

In general crossfit news, I can feel the attainment of a box-jump in my waters.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Hells yeah, America. Learnings

Howdy from LAX, the most shit airport in the first world! I am at the end of my trip. Despite it being a conference trip, it has been a great one, relaxing and fun. I had a conference both in Philadelphia (more a research based one) and DC - the American College of Physicians meeting.

It was my second visit to Philly and DC, my first visit being 10 years ago to the month, pretty much. Funnily, I don't remember much from that trip, though I took lots of photos. Hence, rather than taking photos, I took notice. Walking, meandering, people watching. And conferencing.

Philadelphia, or the city of brotherly love (Phile - love, adelphi - sharing the same womb...in Greek), is, according to Wikipedia, the 5th largest city by population in the US. It is a 2 hour train ride North-East of DC. It has a feel which is very similar to Melbourne - though there is a Starbucks everywhere, there are a great deal of independent shops. Also, the weather is very changeable. Like 28 degrees on one day and 11 degrees another. DC is similar.

I did some of the touristy things in Philly, like visiting the Magic Garden, and ascending the Rocky steps to the Philadelphia museum of art. The PMA has a great collection of French Impressionist artwork which is worth a squizz, if you go there. In my spare time, I mainly just meandered, people watched. One of the days I meandered to the tune of 30000 steps; I've just bought a fitbit blaze and am getting use out of it.. There are plenty of murals to look at in the streets.

I was alone in  Philly. I usually travel alone and quite like it. I met my colleagues for the ACP meeting in DC, and was a bit worried that it would be stifling. I need not have worried, they are great people to travel with. They are easygoing, enthusiastic and like many of the same things I do, those being travel, shopping and eating. My boss was one of the people on the trip, and she had organised the trip down to the hour, and arranged us some things to do.

One of these things was a bike riding tour of the national mall. I had seen many of the sites, but not all, in my previous trip. Two of the more moving monuments were those to Martin Luther King and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Being an avid researcher, I looked up these gentlemen on Wikipedia, both great men, and changing the USA for the better. Mostly, it was just great to get a hint of sunshine and bond with my friends/colleagues.

The other great thing we did was go to a show called Capitol Steps. If you go to DC, it is worth a look. They do brilliant Political Satire, and don't spare either end of the political spectrum. Bernie, Trump and Hillary (as well as Barry, Dubya and Vladimir) got a skewering.

We ate and drank like queens, sampling some great American / Soul food, as well as a restaurant which was a fusion of Asian and Peruvian. We ate sparsely and walked liberally during the day, but went hard at night.

A professor once told us "never let your study get in the way of your education". In addition to some great medical facts, I learned, or had reinforced, some of the following - both in conference and general travel aspects:

1. How to show respect to members of the LGBTI community, and manage their medical issues appropriately.

In the ACP meeting, where there were 7000 delegates and hundreds of parallel sessions, there was one on health care for a person from the LGBTI community. It included things like keeping greetings gender neutral (ie instead of "good morning, Sir", just "good morning" is fine). How getting transgender men to have pap smears and breast examinations can be a challenge ("if you have it, check it). The staggeringly high rates of HIV in certain sections - up to 50% in some cultural groups of gay men.

2. No matter what your religious, social or political allegiance is, some things are dear to everybody's heart.

I love a good heart to heart with a person I've just met. I met a few American women of my own age, and had a good chinwag with them. One or two of them were politically conservative, pro military, religious and did not even cringe when Trump's name was mentioned, but we still managed to see eye to eye on a few things. Here was the opportunity to listen and not shoot my mouth off. Always good to practice. Differing views are interesting, if nothing else.

I agreed with them that veterans of past/current wars should be looked after, and certainly not be homeless. But I questioned the need for young men to be sent to more wars in foreign lands. They conceded agreement.

There are issues common to us all. The whole biological clock thing.....plus or minus the finding the appropriate partner to procreate with. And utual admiration of shoes/hair/eye makeup. I have been introduced to the wonders of Chanel Fantasme eyeshadow. Sah sparkly!

3. The USA is trying to find it's place in the new world order.

I went to the museum of American History. I have been there before but needed a refresher on it, as I find history very interesting. America's history is punctuated by wars. I learned about the war of independence/ revolution and the war of 1812 - as the White House was being burned down by the Brits, there came the inspiration for the lyrics of "Star Spangled Banner". Four score and seven years after independence, the civil war. Where the US established itself as a world power was WW1 and 2, particularly the latter. They were reluctant to enter into WW2 but their hand was forced after Pearl Harbor. They produced munitions, sent men and just generally went hard, looking like the hero in the process. Returning soldiers were sent to university and made babies with their wives. Korea was yet another battle. Things started going downhill, I realised, during the Vietnam War. That was politically very dicey, with many opposed to it.

There was the arms race with Russia, which cooled after the fall of the Soviet bloc. 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have put the US under severe pressure for many reasons. They are no longer the hero or the saviour, nor are they the most powerful country in the world, with the rise of the BRICS countries. 

I realised that, with unemployment a major issue in the US, in some parts more than others, the war and the military is a major employer for the US. This is one of the many problems. The middle class is dwindling. The world appreciates that this former superpower cannot employ its people or provide them with healthcare, and judges accordingly. The world questions the US's interests. In my opinion, the US is trying to find it's way in the new world. Hence some of the potential leaders wedging things. 

Anyway enough about that.

4. Doesn't matter how interesting the topic of a conference talk is, the speaker has to be good or nothing will be absorbed. 

This is fairly self-explanatory. 

5. It's good to schmooze

I made a special effort at both conferences, particularly the first more research based conference, to meet people, say hello, state my business. Mostly I met nice people. Sometimes I met important people who gave me good advice. I made myself known, pressed the flesh, collected business cards and email addresses. These will come in handy.

6. I am barking up the right tree, research wise.

It is always a bit of a fangirl moment to meet a researcher whose work you have referenced extensively in your PhD. It's even better when their thoughts on the research topic are similar to yours. Better still when they are doing a pilot study on something you have done and are about to publish (HAAAA I BEAT YOU! I nearly said, but didn't.)

7. Americans are very polite

I had a cold, my first in 18 months, during this trip. I was sneezy as hell. Without fail, every time I sneezed in public, I would get a "bless you". Isn't that charming?

Things bought:
  • pair of new balance casual sneakers, which were featured on my instagram account
  • new handbag. Cole Haan. On sale,  no less. I had thought about buying myself a Balenciaga City handbag as a gift to myself for completing my PhD, but I just cannot bring myself to part with 2K for a handbag. I just cannot. So functional Cole Haan it is.
  • A dress from Anthropologie
  • Rain jacket from Nordstrom Rack. BCBGeneration. Not ugly. 
  • Some unintentional shoes - nice Italian boots. Like 75% off. Very sweet. Cost per wear will be low.
  • Chanel mascara. 
  • Pills, lotions and potions from the chemist.
  • Assorted other small things.
Positively restrained, I feel