Getting Pregnant is the Fun Part?

“You did what?” people often ask me when they found out how we got pregnant. It’s usually such a surprise to them, the believers of old-fashioned is best-fashioned, but we did what we had to do. No, it wasn’t fun to conceive, and all those people who joke about conception have no idea. They say that getting pregnant is the fun part, but for us that was quite far from the truth. It was difficult, and the two of us weren’t the only people involved. Hold up. Don’t worry. Monogamy rules here, but modern medicine had quite a big say in how we reproduced and had our miracle children.

When we found out we couldn’t have children the “natural” way, it was devastating to say the least. While children weren’t high on my list in my younger days, as I got a little older, and found the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, I realized my views had changed. Then, when the doctor said it probably wasn’t going to happen, and explained to us how small the odds were, and how it was because of me, it was hard not to feel guilty, though my wife has never once blamed me for the not-so-simple fact. And, of course, his pronouncement made me all the more adamant. I wanted children, but how were we to go about it?

“it’s not just movie stars who have these procedures…”

That’s when we discovered IVF (in-vitro fertilization). See, it’s not just movie stars who have these procedures. But, the path to a viable pregnancy was still long and hard with IVF, for both of us. I actually still sometimes have nightmares about those days, weeks, and months, all the waiting, and all the procedures, and all the worrying. It was really about the worrying. Odds are not great with IVF, the same as with most other procedures of its type, but our odds were nil without it, so we wholeheartedly agreed to it. It helped that we had one of the foremost doctors in the field from this area who was willing to work with us through it all.

But it was hard work. My wife will tell you (well, maybe she won’t), that taking hormones to aid in egg production, and the procedures to extract the eggs, not fun times. Yet, those were only the first invasive issues with her part of IVF. Having to stab herself with needles every day, and me having to stab her with even larger needles every night, not enjoyable in the least. In fact, some nights I was so distraught over having to do that to my wife, who was obviously hurting even with numbing agent, I just wanted to stop. But the only thing that kept us both going throughout was the thought that eventually, we might have the chance to have a child of our own. We spent over $7000 on the process as well in the hopes that we would be successful despite the odds.

On my end, it was difficult as well. Not only did I have to stab my wife nightly with the longest needle I have ever seen that wasn’t being used on horses, but I had to also go through several procedures myself, for sperm extraction and biopsies, and needle aspirations (yeah, I learned and became proficient with all of those medical terms) in order to fertilize those eggs. Then, very few of them actually fertilized and became embryos that it was ultimately frustrating to both of us when we found out. However, the doctor was always positive throughout the process. He held our hands and prayed with us, telling us that god works in mysterious ways, right before he injected those fertilized eggs back into my wife. We did pray, and we wished, and we hoped, and we pleaded for god to give us that miracle we wanted.

Then July came, and with it a pregnancy test, probably one of the earliest ones you could possibly take, and it was hospital administered. We had to drive many miles to get to the clinic, and the return trip was interminable. They had told us they would have the results back within a couple of hours, and we got back home with time to spare. Then we waited. And waited. And waited. Finally we got that call and found out that we were one of the lucky ones. On our very first try with IVF, and $7000 dollars later, we were pregnant. But the begging and pleading continued, because we weren’t out of the woods yet. Many people who go through IVF miscarry before the 12-week period is up, so it was more of a waiting game. We stressed, and we worried, but in the end it was all worth it. In nine months time a beautiful baby girl was delivered to us.

And when she smiled up at me in the hospital, I knew she was our miracle. And now they both are. Definitely worth all the trials and tribulations we went through to have them. Even though it wasn’t fun conceiving, I’m glad we did.

Sam

On Parenting and Parenthood

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Naming the Unnameable: An Exercise in Poetry

I recall the first poem I ever wrote, I believe I was 12 at the time, and how I thought it was incredibly hard, the hardest enterprise I had ever undertaken up to that point. And I guess it was, trying to craft words into some semblance of order on a page that didn’t seem able to hold them all adequately. Add to that trying to put some sort of elementary rhyme scheme together, and it was quite an arduous task, especially for a 12-year old, especially under the type of pressure I was in to just get it done. You see, I was in charge of writing the eighth grade class poem to be recited at our eighth grade graduation, which was only a month away at the time.

I also remember the most recent poem I wrote (one I haven’t shared in this blog — I know. I’m so mean), and it was highlighted by a lack of rhyme scheme, but with a definite rhythm, and a sense of purpose I didn’t know I possessed. In fact, these days poetry is relatively fluid for me. And don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying it’s easy. Far from it. But when it comes to me like it has lately (I have to be in a certain “place”) it becomes almost an extension of my soul that I tap into. I’m sure other poets out there can understand where I’m coming from with that assessment.

A poem is a series of words, emotions, and ideas, tightly crafted and put together in an order that complements those words, emotions, and ideas, but also leaves room for multiple interpretations, all of which are correct. That’s the glory of poetry (and most writing, actually), that it lends itself to many interpretations depending on the history of each and every reader. I love to read reactions to my poetry, and plumb the depths of the myriad definitions that surround each one from each individual reader. In fact, poetry writing to me becomes a dance between me and each person who reads my poems. I can almost hear the conversation as I’m writing, and that makes me smile.

Throughout my 24 years of writing poetry, I’ve developed a certain code that each of my poems fit, without even realizing it. So, recently, I decided to break down the code, which is kind of a blueprint for writing something a genre that really doesn’t have a blueprint. And I wanted to share it with you, whether you’re an aspiring poet, a poet now, or you just appreciate the poetic form…

** Poems have to convey emotion. If they’re just telling a story, plain and dry, that’s what they end up being, plain and dry. They aren’t just stories, even though many of them do tell stories in their construction.

** Poems do not require a rhyme scheme. Of course, there are so many poets out there who labor over words, rhyming couplets, classic poetry formats, and beats per line, but you don’t have to be Shakespeare. In fact, confining your poetry to those forms constricts the emotion that you’re trying to convey.

** The words you choose are important. This is paramount, and what I spend the most time focusing on when I’m writing my poems. You don’t have to be a wordsmith, or a virtuoso, but you have to convey exactly what you mean, so don’t use vague words. Be spot-on with your word choice because you don’t have unlimited words in a poem, and even if you did, why waste time on words that don’t mean what you’re trying to say?

** A poem decides when it is finished. Some poems I have written are two lines in length. They told their story, they bled their emotion, and they were finished. Other poems have been 30+ lines, but when they were done, I knew it. Trying to stretch a poem to reach epic status when it’s not an epic poem, or trying to cut a poem down to fit onto a page when it fights against you to remain wild is a detriment to both you and to the poem.

** Titles are important, but save them until last. I always do this with everything I write. The poem itself will tell you what it should be called when you’re done. The act of naming the poem first constricts it just as much as trying to force it into a rhyme scheme. Either you will try to maneuver the poem into the constraints of its title, or you will spend forever coming up with the perfect title and not have anything left to actually write the poem.

** If you’re not in the mood to write a poem, don’t do it. Sometimes our minds need to stretch, and while I consider myself a poet, I am not just a poet, and neither are you. Journaling is a good way to get out thoughts and emotions without feeling like you have to make too many decisions that you might have to make if you were writing poetry, or if you were writing for an audience. I, of course, do my journaling here, in the public eye, but you don’t have to do that. You can get a small book and journal privately, even if your journal entries are scattered. That’s the point. Some of my best poems have sprung forth from the ashes of journal bits and bobs.

** If you don’t like it, save it anyway. Never throw out anything you’ve written. You never know when inspiration might strike based on something you thought was worthless before. Even if you take just one thing from it, it was worth it to keep.

Just remember that poetry is as much an art form as painting or sculpture, so treat it as such. Embrace your words, emotions, and ideas. And remember, you only need share if you feel the urge. It’s okay to be a closet poet. It’s all about you anyway.

Sam

From the Vault: Angel Wings (A Poem from 7/22/03)

Angel wings, freshly painted in shades of white

Characteristically flawed and sitting in the corner

He places them at right angles in his tortuous sleep

As their shadows fly away

She whispers in his ear when morning comes

Backlit scene of a red bordello shining in her eyes

When he awakes she always disappears

The angel wings never speak

A painting hangs on the far wall, shrouded in darkness

Except when she is present and I am not

He created it in watercolor, a testament to brevity

The painting is of me

Dark brown ringlets framing a hollow-cheeked face

Eyes always on the angel wings in the other corner

A quiet soul captured in a brief moment of repose

Before the end of love

She takes the wings and places them on her back

As he screams silently in his fractured consciousness

Three steps and she is airborne and circling

Then she takes to the sky

And I am left in the shadows.

Sam

When It Rains…

You know the old saying, “When it rains, it pours”? Well, that’s not always true, and I’ve found that out so often in my life. Sometimes when it rains it just mists, that light stuff that you don’t even recognize as rain until it has effectively soaked you in an hour’s worth of being outside. Other times it sprinkles, steady enough for you to notice it and want to extract your umbrella from your car but not enough that you feel you will catch pneumonia if you continue to stand there without an umbrella. Then there’s the abbreviated rain, the kind that keeps starting and stopping. A few days ago I drove through this type of rain and it’s exasperating because I get to a point where I can finally turn off the windshield wipers and four minutes later I have to turn them on again. This process gets to be so tedious, but, as I said before, that may not be pouring, but it’s without a doubt still raining.

Ben Franklin did many experiments with weather, some of which were incredibly dangerous, in the hopes of gaining some new knowledge of the world in which he lived. Meteorologists today do something similar by studying maps and charts, comparing that data to conditions just like those conditions and what happened as a result. It’s still a guessing game, though, and rain is a tricky enough devil to keep them, and us, guessing. Ask me tonight if I think it will rain tomorrow and I can give you all kinds of possible answers. Ask me tomorrow morning if it will rain by afternoon and I will be nearly just as clueless. It’s this uncertainty that drives me mad, and all the percentages in the world won’t save me that frustration. Whether it’s 30% or 90% chance of rain, I still have to suffer through the time before the rain, when I am confused and bothered. Some anticipation is just anxiety, plain and simple.

So why do we spend so much time trying to figure out the weather? Why is it the #5 conversation topic in the world? That one’s easy to answer, and that’s because weather is universal. We may have earthquakes in the Midwest but they also have earthquakes in Japan, and Australia, and Papua, New Guinea. There may be hurricanes out West but there are also hurricanes in Mexico, Argentina, and Siberia. Weather, while it drives us crazy, is also something we all share. Whether we love it or hate it, chart it or just let it happen to us, weather affects everyone, everywhere.

Of course you’re probably wondering what I’m talking about since the phrase, “When it rains, it pours” isn’t truly talking about rain, after all. What it really means is that when things are bad, they just get worse, and this could apply to anything in life. Is this statement as true as it sounds, or is it just as misleading as if we took it literally, as I did above? Sometimes the devastating things in life happen and they’re done. It’s not always a given that one horrible thing will follow another, or the rule of “three,” that deaths come in threes. That’s all superstition, even if it does seem to happen that way on occasion. That’s no way to live, though, always being anxious about something that will come to top whatever monstrosity or horror that has just befallen you. It’s true that sometimes it mists in life, that it can be a steady light rain that soaks you through by the end of the day, but it never knocked you off your feet. You’re still fighting. It’s also true that sometimes the sprinkling rain comes that soaks you much sooner, that makes you want to grab for that lifeline. Grab that lifeline, talk to your friends, get that comfort you need. This too shall pass. It’s even more so true that sometimes life can seem like a steady downpour, but always remember that the rain does let up eventually. Even if it rains for a week, it will stop raining.

Learn to appreciate the dry times, but never wish the rainy times away, because it’s through how you deal with the rainy times that reveals your inner strength. Just have an umbrella handy and you’ll be fine.

Sam

7 Rap Albums You Must Add to Your Collection

I know as well as anyone that rap music isn’t for everyone, but if you happen to be into rap music (and you don’t mind a little swearing every now and then — okay, who am I kidding, sometimes a LOT of swearing) then check out the upcoming 7 masterpieces. Just so you know, there are tons more rap artists that are amazing, like Da Brat, Beastie Boys, Dr. Dre, MC Lyte, Jay-Z, and many more, but these 7 move me most often. They are listed in no particular order.

1. Nas – StillmaticStillmatic [Explicit]

There’s something to be said for revisiting previous album material, and Nas does it better than just about anyone else this side of David Bowie. Stillmatic finds him plumbing the depths of his psyche, battling his inner demons, and recalling tiffs with others from Queensbridge (where he’s from). It is not so much an homage as it is a snapshot taken from a slightly different angle than his also-superb Illmatic. Song with the most memorable chorus: Destroy & Rebuild.

2. The Game – LAXLAX [Explicit]

If the art of storytelling was passed down from Grandmaster Flash and Kool Moe Dee, then The Game would be the next generation, keeping the tradition alive. Unlike other rap artists of this age, he remains true to his roots while also exploring the pitfalls of fame at such a young age, in a genre like rap. LAX finds him in present-day mode, telling the story of his city (Compton), and what he feels is the biggest issue facing people with stardom today (money). Song you’ll be bopping your head to: Bulletproof Diaries.

3. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted FantasyMy Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy [Explicit]

I really tried hard not to like Kanye West. His delivery is often so dry and stilted, almost as if he is trying too hard to sound… hardcore. What grabs me and drags me in, though, is the rhythm and the lyrical content. His flow is second to none, at least in this modern rap game. His rhymes are consistently good, even when he’s guesting on other people’s records, which also sets him apart from most of his other rap “peers.” My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy explores everything, from the pressures of the industry, to his critique of politics, to his love of power. And throughout it all, he sounds like a regular street hustler, not easy to pull off for someone so rich. Song that approaches anthem status: Monster.

4. Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince – Code RedCode Red

So, this one is a really personal selection because, well, it’s a Philly thing, and it’s a high school thing. This album came out when I was in high school, when I felt left out with no friends or hope of friends. I needed something to hang on to, and this was it. I bought the CD when it first came out and wore it out. So, it’s about memories, but even more than that, it’s mostly old school rap, but it’s fun. No one would accuse Big Will and Jazzy J. of being gangster, and that’s good. They revel in it, and Code Red is a feel good record through and through. Song that brings back the glory of the stutter: Boom! Shake the Room!

5. 2Pac – Me Against the WorldMe Against The World [Explicit]

What 2Pac had that cannot be copied is a certain swagger that knew no bounds, and no more is it evident than here on his 1994 album. You can skip right over the treacly sweet (yeah, I said it) “Dear Mama,” and the rest of the record is a challenge to every other rapper out there. Whatever the whole East Coast/West Coast rivalry was (and still is, to an extent) it was embodied in 2Pac, and especially on this record. Song with the most swagger: If I Die 2Nite.

6. A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight MaraudersMidnight Marauders

My sister had this record, and I stole it from her room one day, wanting to hear what all the fuss was about. I found out pretty quickly right from the start. It’s just a different kind of rap style than any I had ever heard before because of the trading off of raps between the three major rappers that made up Tribe. Q-Tip is the unquestioned leader, but Phife Dog often steals the show with his deep vibe. This album is one of the best rap albums of all time, hands down, in terms of lyrical quality and delivery. Song that makes me want to dance: Electric Relaxation.

7. LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You OutMama Said Knock You Out [Explicit]

Don’t call it a comeback, because he was never really gone. I have always maintained that LL Cool J is one of the most misunderstood rappers around. People think he’s either too soft or too hard, and I think he’s just right. From the start, through this period of time, to the music he’s producing right now. LL gives you just what he’s always given, smooth flava that keeps giving back. His flow is impressive, even when he is talking about ludicrous subjects (see: “Mr. Good Bar”). Mama Said Knock You Out is one of those albums that, while not perfect, makes you believe it is, just because of that flow. From the first beat to the final line, LL brought it correct for this one. Song that makes me want to hit repeat: Milky Cereal.

Sam

7 Albums Archive

The Friend Relevance

“If you wish to truly know someone, do not ask him about himself. Instead, ask his friends about him. You are sure to get a much clearer picture that way.” -Theodicus

Have you noticed that when there’s a serial killer who has recently been exposed, the news goes to his neighborhood and speaks to the neighbors, who all talk about how they had no idea, how he seemed like such a normal guy? Of course they say this, because serial killers know something a lot of us forget. If you have a lot of acquaintances, you can make yourself invisible among them, but if you have even a few true friends, you are never invisible. These neighbors only have contact with the serial killer in the light of day, when they can shrug off any suspicious behavior because they have too much going on in their own lives to take a moment to notice. This is why the serial killer has the “serial” prefix to his name. He was too smart for too long, not letting anyone in. Because friends, true friends, they know you better than you know yourself.

We often delude ourselves with what we wish we had done, what we hope to be, and what we strive for in this life, instead of recognizing ourselves for who we actually are. This makes us readily susceptible to making the wrong decisions, and to trusting the wrong conclusions. It is a slippery slope that leads us nowhere good if we don’t have a solid core of friends to keep us honest. These are the people who have seen us laugh, been with us when we cried, kept us out of trouble, and shared our pain. And we have done the same for them, which creates a bond that is thicker than ink. If we do something out of character or something that could be a mistake, they are there to help us reconsider, to save us from ourselves.

I remember when I was 19 and I had a group of friends I met through my college job. We worked together, ate together, drank together, hung out together, spent more time with each other than we did with our own families. We stuck with each other despite knowing each other. One of my friends had a drinking problem, and we worked through it as a group. The same was true of another who had issues with smoking pot. And I was the classic rebel partier, the one who had really no boundaries, the one who rebelled due to a sheltered childhood, and who could have really gone to a place of no return if not for them. We helped each other through difficulty after difficulty, which made us stronger individually and as a group. It may sound cliche, but it’s very true. I knew they had my back because they had seen me at my worst and still cared for me.

The problem is finding friends like that, because there are too many people out there who are fair-weather friends. You find out who your real friends are when you go through those difficult times. If they’re there for you and they don’t run the other way, or find convenient ways to avoid you, they’re not people you can count on. That’s why bad times are important to go through and get past. They give you a good gauge of who your true friends are, and they also weed out the poseurs. I think TLC said it best when they sang, “Goodbye goodbye, to all the fake people in my life. I never wanted you around me so be on your way now.”

Also, don’t forget to talk to your friends. Don’t be so insular that you become little more than a shadow. Take advantage of times to get together with your friends. They honestly can keep you sane. But don’t just use your time with friends as “bitch” sessions. While they’re good listeners, if they’re always listening to you complain, what do they get out of the friendship? You need to listen to them too, to share both the good and the bad in both of your lives.

After all, if you create that firm network of friends, it also protects you from becoming a serial killer. And that’s good enough for me.

Sam

The Friendship Archive

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