Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Once more unto the breach

We have an appointment with Dr. L tomorrow to discuss a Frozen Embryo Transfer (hereafter, FET).

(Previously, on The Xpat Files: We have a diagnosis of male factor infertility. Small Boy was born after an IVF cycle which left us with ten frozen embryos - affectionately known as The Hockey Team - to use in any future attempts to get me pregnant.)

In light of my current I'm a horrible role model for my child self indulgent pity party, and oh by the way Small Boy has decided that 5 am is a super duper wake-up time and I drink 5 or 6 cups of real coffee a day just to survive, the timing seems a bit, shall we say, imperfect. The thing about infertility, however, is that - on top of everything else - the luxury of family planning and child spacing is stolen from you. If you work under the assumption that the treatment will fail (and FET only has about a 15% to 20% success rate, so this is the assumption you have to work under), you have to jump into treatment earlier than perhaps, in a perfect world, you'd like. If you work under the assumption that the treatment will succeed on the first attempt, well then you, my friend, live in a world far more optimistic than the one I inhabit. It must be nice there. Say you wait until the timing is perfect and the treatment fails, and so does the next one, and so does the next one. Then what? No, in the world of the imperfect, starting too early beats starting too late in my book.

There is no right timing with infertility. There is certainly no perfect.

There is a child, or there is not.

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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Cycling update: SCANDAL

Blood-doping is as icky a concept as I can think of; but as long as it's your own blood, it remains undetectable to UCI drug testers so it appears to be making a comeback. If it ever went away. Personally, I hate reading about stuff like this. I prefer to remain in my blissfully, willfully ignorant world in which hurculean feats are acheived by hurculean effort. And sadly, this is nothing but bad news for Alexandre Vinokourov, who I admire tremendously as a cyclist, and who left Telkom - sorry, T-Mobile - for Liberty to have a crack at being the team leader, because only the team leader has a crack at the Tour de France. Now Ullrich is looking shaky over at T-Mobile and Liberty has pulled their sponsorship out from under Vino's feet.

I'm all for open windows, but some days ignorance is bliss.


Friday, May 26, 2006

In which I open some windows

I know how she feels.

My parents were alcoholics. My father stopped drinking when I was in the fourth grade, but my mother continued to drink until her death. Strictly speaking, my mother continued to drink herself to her death. I’m not just saying that as some overwrought child of an alcoholic; her death certificate actually lists her cause of death as “alcoholism with alcohol induced liver disease.” My father got sober, but against all reason stayed in the marriage with a raging alcoholic – I can’t even begin in this post to go into that dynamic – until he died of lung cancer. (Healthy family I have, no? Is there any way I’ve avoiding bequeathing these things to my wee Small Boy? The things we’ve handed down, indeed.)

Kids learn early when something is not right even if they can’t name it. My parents were alcoholics, and although they never pulled me aside and told me that this is a Deep Dark Secret we don’t share with the neighbors, I knew perfectly well that it was a Deep Dark Secret and I had best keep it. I almost never brought friends home from school, to the extent that I had school friends. I do remember in the eighth grade inviting two friends to come over after school one afternoon; I spent the whole day before trying to make my room look right. Did it look normal? Did it look like a cool kid’s room? Were satin pillows still in? I even changed the station on my clock radio – even back then I was a geeky public radio head and I used to fall asleep listening to a mystery radio broadcast. I remember sitting on the floor turning the dial and turning the dial until I heard popular music, music a normal kid would listen to (I had to spin the dial because I didn’t even know the call numbers, though I remember them now: B96). I don’t remember what we did when they came over, if we had fun, if we played inside or out, if I passed the test. But I remember vividly to this day freaking out about their impending arrival.

Like Phantom, I feel like an awkward hostess, though I’ve gotten better at it over the years by virtue of watching some of the most generous people I know share their homes and lives: my friend J, in particular, is a spectacular host. Back in DC, his apartment was the center of our social world, a place where there was always a cup of good Cuban coffee to be had, a home away from home for people who couldn’t make it back to childhood homes over Thanksgiving. That’s a role R and I have recently taken up here in Switzerland, hosting the expats’ Thanksgiving (except for last year, when we took Small Boy to meet my brother, and I greatly missed the motley expat crew that gathered at M’s place instead). I don’t do it nearly as well as J, but I learned a lot by watching him. But I lack a certain natural ease. I don't quite know how to do it, sort of like somebody sitting down at a table with the full array of silverware for the first time and doesn't know when to use which fork. I don't quite know how to do a social gathering, let alone lead one. I didn’t grow up at a full table, with a loud living room and an open door policy. Quite the opposite. I grew up in a house of low ceilings and many closed doors. Window shades stood perpetually at half-mast, curtains were drawn. Today I live in an apartment with floor to ceiling windows and I never draw the blinds; this is, if only symbolically, a great step for me. Our neighbors can look in my windows; I don’t care. I like the light and the openness. It’s hard to even articulate what this means to a child of secrets.

My parents were alcoholics; I spent my childhood hiding this and hiding from this. I’ve spent the better part of my adult life trying to recover from it, and I’ve spent some part of every moment of motherhood praying to whatever god there might be that my son – my beautiful, friendly, lovely son – doesn’t turn out like me. There are so many things about me I hope never to see in him, and I can trace all of them back to growing up in that family. Introverted, shy to the extreme; afraid of taking chances; afraid of failure – anything, even quitting repeatedly, is better than failing publicly; slow to make friends; awkward in large gatherings; terrified of going to a party where I know not a single soul. All the things I don’t want for Small Boy. All the exact things I don’t want for Small Boy.

How does a stay at home parent with primary responsibility for child care manage to raise her child to be not like her? Is that even possible? Is it enough that I take him to a play group; that he sees me lunching with my Lunch Ladies; that his Grossmutti is the most outgoing person in the world; that he’s got R for a father, R who moves so confidently through the world? There is one thing, One Thing, I want for Small Boy above all others, I’ve said it before: that he be his true self bravely in the world. How can a mother who is such a coward, who has run from her true self at every turn, raise such a son?

The windows are open, though. At least there’s that.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Cycling update: Giro d'Italia has one of those days

It was cold. It rained. At elevation, it snowed. The riders were rerouted around the Passo Delle Erbe, made unsafe by the weather. The finish line atop the Plan de Corones was shrouded in clouds; wet, heavy snow hit the ground. Down below, it rained on the riders, who raced in their winter gear. It rained on them in Caldaro, it rained on them in Bressanone, it rained on them in Longega. Race organizers lopped off the final 5.2 kilometers - the 5.2 kilometers everybody had come to see - to move the finish below the snow line. But it rained still. Oh how it rained. Every year, it seems, the Giro d'Italia has one of those days. Yesterday was that day.

Leonardo Piepoli won his second stage of the Giro but remains over 18 minutes behind the man in pink. Paolo Savoldelli got into trouble. Jan Ullrich has a long way to go to find his Tour de France form. Gilberto Simoni's best days appear to be behind him. Ivan Basso's best days appear to stretch endlessly before him to the horizon.

And the mountains reminded us that they are mountains, not to be trifled with.

Just another day at the Giro d'Italia.


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Cycling update: Giro d'Italia

Basso twists the knife.

Today's stage 17 is the one I want to see: "more than 3,000 meters of ascent before a summit finish on the Plan de Corones, a new site in the Giro. The final 17-kilometer climb has a grade averaging 5.25 percent, with the last 5.2 kilometers including a section that mounts 24 percent. To make it more difficult, those last 5.2 kilometers were to have been on a dirt road. As of last week, it was being paved after complaints by the riders." (Samuel Abt in the IHT)


Monday, May 22, 2006

Given the alternatives, this is actually a pretty good outcome

You Are Jan Brady

Brainy and a little introverted, you tend to think life is a lot worse than it actually is.
And while you may think you're a little goofy looking, most people consider you to be a major babe.

As seen at Phantom Scribbler.


Friday, May 19, 2006

The new dad

A new boy joined Small Boy's playgroup class this morning, accompanied by his father. His Californian father. After the class was over we chatted for a bit about this and that; I forget how much I miss (US-)American men, how much I miss having male friends. That much about my life has changed dramatically since moving to Switzerland. All my friends are women. Oh, I'm friendly with some of their husbands, but they're not my friends the way RandB are, the way K was. They're not my friends in their own right, they're my girlfriends' husbands. (Though I think A and I could go out for drinks and get into a good political arguement and have a good time.) I hardly even have male acquaintances; some people in our building I say hello to, Sophie's father when we're down watching over the kids at play at the same time. But really, just hello, good morning, how are you, good night.

It sounded like he would be back next week, that he will be the regular parent at playgroup. This could be very fun having a daddy acquaintance.

Cycling Update: Giro d'Italia Individual Time Trial

Now that's the kind of thing I expect from Jan Ullrich. Meanwhile Basso used the time trial to put some distance between himself and his main rivals. He looks good in pink, Basso does.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

My city-meine Stadt-mi ciudad-ma ville

The playgroup: A boy walks over to Small Boy and takes his ball. His mother comes over, scolds him seriously in Japanese, gives Small Boy the ball back, and says sorry to me in English.

The busride: Two women across the aisle from me are chattering animatedly in Spanish. A little girl asks her mother "Was rede sie?" (what are they speaking?) in Dialekt. The mother answers her in French.

Our backyard: Our apartment building has a little play area in the back. There is a sandbox; there are rocks, oh, yes, there are rocks; and there is some strange orange sculpture thing whose purpose we have yet to identify but the kids seem to have found many uses for it including jumping up and down on it, jumping off of it, and throwing rocks onto it and listening to them rattle. Yesterday I brought Small Boy down to play. Sophie, Alison, and Fabienne, three girls in our building from three different families, were down there playing being lightly watched by Sophie's father G. G and I say hello, how are you in German, but not much else. I always speak to Small Boy in English, even when there are others around, like Grossmutti, who can't understand it. It may be rude, or just anti-social, but as I've said before, I am Small Boy's link to the English speaking world and English it shall be. So I'm now and then saying things to Small Boy in English, then Alison, who's about five, speaks to me in Dialekt. Alison is the daughter of Swiss-American guy, so I find this an interesting choice and probably driven by the presence of her Swiss speaking friends. I find the Dialekt of small children particularly difficult to understand, but I try a little conversation, responding in High German. After a bit Alison's mom (whose name, appallingly for Switzerland, I cannot remember) comes out with Maya, who's about 20 months old. She speaks French with Maya, G. switches over to French to have a coversation with her, and then she chats with me in English.

These are the times when I feel so lucky to be raising Small Boy here. Not just here in Switzerland, but here in the city, in this busy little neighborhood near the university where Mama is just one of many Ausländerinnen. He will learn English and Dialekt at home, German and French in the schools. He'll hear Japanese, Russian. He won't hear them enough to learn them, but he'll hear them, he'll be used to this strange fluid polyglot world. I like to think it will make him open to and curious about the world, that he'll take it in stride to meet people for whom English - or Dialket - is not a first language. I know it doesn't have to work that way - you can find plenty of tri-lingual Swiss who are not exactly the most open people in the world, after all - but I like to think it anyway. I know it will give him advantages - to move between languages and cultures - that I never had. But what I want him to get out of it is not being able to put "I'm trilingual" on his CV. (Well, yes, okay, if it gives him a leg up in a competative world more power to him.) What I hope is that it will allow him to meet the world with a curious heart.

I have but three wishes for the Small Boy. That he always be his true self bravely in the world. That he goes out into the world with an open and generous heart. And that he knows love.

We've got that last one covered. Die andere zwei, wir schaffen daran.


Monday, May 15, 2006

Cycling Update: Giro d'Italia

D'oh! My coach used to tell us repeatedly to race five meters through the finish line. This is why.

Basso wears pink. I know his ultimate goal is to become the first cyclist since Marco Pantani to win the Giro and the Tour in the same season. Can he possibly be thinking this season?

And in non-Giro news, because he is my new favorite Swissy, Cancellara takes the first stage of the Volta à Catalunya.


It's more than a spring blogging lull

I'm not sure what it is, but it's more than a lull, and it's more than just blogging. For the week or ten days following PukeFest '06, I blamed it on renewed exhaustion - once again waking in the middle of the night, once again nursing six times a day, once again trying to dig myself out of the hole of sleep deprivation. But Small Boy got sick over Easter Weekend, and if my calendar is right that was a month ago. He's sleeping through the night again. We're not nursing a million times a day. Things have settled back nicely into their more or less regular rhythm, and yet I still seem to be back there in April unable to focus on getting anywhere. From the outside, things have returned to normal. Wake, write, play with the boy, lunch, go outside somewhere, back to the apartment, dinner, bed. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Perhaps that is in fact the problem. I say rhythm, you say rut. Rhythm, rut, potato, potahto. I don't know. I'm feeling still and low. Maybe it is the stillness of a cyclist about to start a time trial, or maybe it is the stillness of a cyclist who has stopped riding. I don't know. I don't know where I am and I don't know why I'm here. But I can't seem to shift gears - I'm stuck here in my big chain ring grinding through the high gears when I'd rather be spinning. The chain won't engage.

In the meantime I'm hiding out, still and low. Maybe this is a starting gate and I just don't recognize it. Maybe I'm just resting. Maybe I'm just biding my time, like Jan Ullrich, just hanging in there waiting for my Tour de France to begin. I don't know. I hate this feeling, like wandering around in the mist waiting for a road to magically appear before me.

I've lost contact with the pack, and I'm losing ground. But I'm still out here on the road.

I think.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

How Swiss are you?

You all know Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has Swiss roots, right? Right? Check out this cool website to find out about all things Swiss-American, and maybe even find out if you're a bit Swiss, too.

And by the way, if Ben Roethlisberger becomes an honorary Swiss citizen before I do, somebody over at the Bundesamt für Migration is going to be hearing from me!


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Kein Mensch ist illegal

I'm an immigrant. That's the flip side of being an expat, isn't it? One man's expat is another man's immigrant; it all depends on who's applying the label. From my own perspective, looking inward at myself, I’m an expat. Never, by the way, an emigrant. Emigrant has a ring of finality to it that I’m not willing to accept yet. From Switzerland’s perspective, looking outward at me, I’m an immigrant. "Expat" may be my self-selected social identity, but immigrant is my legal identity. I’m here legally; all my papers are in order, and I’m a privileged sort of immigrant: married to a citizen, the mother of a minor child who is also a citizen, they’d be hard pressed to deport me even if I ever did give them cause. Besides, they don’t want to deport me; I’m a “good immigrant.” You know: white, North American. When Europeans talk about their immigration problem, they’re not talking about me; they’re talking about those other people. I speak and read German and could pass a language competency test without breaking a sweat. I follow the Swiss news; I can name all seven members of the Bundesrat and, if you give me enough time, all 26 of the Kantons. I can place the five major political parties, and about five of the minor ones, on the political spectrum and I know better than to be fooled by the name Swiss Democrats. When Roger Federer plays Andy Roddick, I root for Roger. (But on the ski slopes my heart belongs to Bode.) But under the law I’m an immigrant, an Auslanderin, a fact of which I am constantly aware. I’m at the mercy of Swiss immigration policy. And because immigrant is my legal identity, it is my political identity as well. When certain political parties (links in German, French only) propose toughening immigration and refugee policy, my thoughts do not turn to my fellow privileged expats, they turn to the migrants, the immigrants, the refugees, the papierlos. As they go, sooner or later, so go I.

If were in DC, I’d be here.

Because I’m in Switzerland, I can say only this: Kein Mensch ist illegal (link in German).

No person is illegal.


Cycling update: Tour de Romandie

On the strength of his final day time trial, Cadel Evans won the six-day Tour de Romandie on Sunday, denying Alejandro Valverde another victory this spring. Jan Ullrich finished 115th out of 120 riders; he's typically off his form in the early season, and he's been fighting a knee injury, but that can't be a reassuring result. He's confirmed for the Giro d'Italia, so that should help whip him into shape. But right now I have to say Ivan Basso is looking like a much better candidate for the yellow jersey than Ullrich. Floyd Landis is looking tough too.