August: Dog Days of Summer

Thursday, November 29, 2012


We took the kids to see the new, not very widely advertised Disney movie, "Wreck it Ralph" last weekend. I'm so glad to see that John Lasseter has learned a lesson from Cars 2, and gone back to a kinder, simpler script formula. Cars 1 and Toy Story 1 were such lovely, heartwarming movies- filled with lots of good wholesome messages- and they were fun for grown-ups, too. Cars 2 and Toy Story 3 all started taking very dark turns. Cars 2, especially, was shockingly violent and so far removed from every "nice" theme in the first movie- what happened to those characters we cared about so much in the first film!? Did they all suddenly go off their med's?
And then there was "Brave." Oy vey with this one. Sophie spent most of this movie with her face buried in my lap, sobbing and terrified. What has Disney been thinking lately? have they forgotten their YOUNG audience in an attempt to keep up with other animation houses, appealing to older audiences? I'm not condoning the "Prince and Princess get married at the end and everyone lives happily ever after" every time scenario, by any means. But seriously, explosions and murder and very frightening killer bears, and deception and lying and betrayal all so profoundly portrayed? Really? Can't my kids just be 5 for a LITTLE while, before they know everything ugly about the world?
I loved that Wreck-it Ralph was endearing without being saccharine. I loved that the other main character, Vanellope Von Shweetz was a "glitch." She was borderline saccharine, but she was supposed to be. She was a flawed computer code. And she could also "glitch" at will- meaning she could manipulate herself to go off-center when she needed to, in order to get what she needed. I loved that about her. I often think I'm a glitch. Maybe my code just wasn't written pristinely, or somehow got shifted along the way. But I can alter myself or my own thoughts enough when I need to, in order to stay in the game and remain sane.
I like to think maybe my infertility is a glitch. Or maybe infertility in general, is a glitch. Somewhere along the way, our genetic code got a slight flaw, or at some point, that code has become tainted- and maybe that taint is spinning out of control as more and more families are struggling with infertility. That "glitch" is starting to become the "norm." This is a frightening thing to me. I'm reminded again of the movie "Children of Men" in which our future society has become completely sterile.
In my book, I want to explore the idea that perhaps infertility has become an environmentally elicited thing. I'm also intrigued by the notion that maybe it's an inherited trait. What I really think, though, is that somewhere along the way, there was a glitch- maybe environmentally caused, that then BECAME an inherited genetic marker. It's a big, huge hypothesis, I know. It's so huge, in fact, I'm not even sure where or how to begin even researching such an idea.  The only place I have been able to start, is with my own family history. The first chapter of my book, begins by talking about the fertility history of my own family, and how it seems to have become altered with immigration and assimilation. Here's an excerpt from that first chapter:

When my great, great, great Grandmother, Bertha, (also called Betsy) and her husband Seligman came to this country in 1848, they had already had 2 daughters: Rachel and Sophia (Sophia was my great-great Grandmother.) Rachel was 4 years old and Sophia was two when they came over from Prague, Czechoslovakia. Seligman had come two years earlier to establish a place in New York for the family, on Delancey Street. Betsy then had another six children: Pauline, born in 1849, (who died), Emanuel born in 1850, Fanny (Jerome Kern’s mother) born in 1853, Julia born in 1859, Moses born in 1861, and Leo born in 1864. Eight children. Sophia married Bernard, in 1863. She was 17. Sophia and Bernard had five children: Jennie, born in 1865, Sidney, born in 1867, Henry (who went on to become a somewhat famous painter) born in 1868, Elsie (my great- Grandmother), born in 1870, and Josephine (Josie) born in 1873. OK. Lots of children, to a family who were immigrants (the “first generation” family), and to a second generation family.
Elsie Levy married Samuel, a dashing gentleman from England, in 1903. Elsie and Sam would then have been the third generation family. Elsie was what Gammie called a “big woman”- she was 5’-7”, and a bit plump. She is who I get my entire body from. (Although I’m short!) Elsie was 33 when they got married: very old for 1903. They tried to have a baby for 6 years before my Grandmother, Sophie Jane (Gammie) was born, in 1909. Elsie was 38 when Gammie was born: that’s even considered an “older” mother today- imagine in 1903, it was unheard of- and her father was 54!  I do not know the circumstances of Elsie’s infertility, nor did Gammie. Elsie died of breast cancer when Gammie was 7 years old. Elsie was 45. Fertility seems to have taken a dive by only the third generation family. By the fourth generation family, there appears to be the start of further fertility and childbearing troubles in the family.
Gammie married Edwin in Chicago in 1927. (They are the fourth generation family.) She was 17. Her father, whom she adored, died the following May from pneumonia which he developed from standing in the rain, at a fight. (This was pre-penicillin.) Two years later, when she 19, Gammie got pregnant. She had a hard time with her first child, Caryl. When Gammie was pregnant, she was young and very na├»ve (having been sent to a convent school by her stepmother). EW (my Grandfather) insisted she see the “old family doctor,” Dr. Schiller. When they discovered that the baby was breech, approaching the delivery date, EW’s half-sister, Lou (who had been like a mother to Gammie), insisted that she go see Dr. Joseph B. Delee- a famous doctor of “modern” obstetrics (he had delivered Gammie herself).  Dr. Delee told her that considering how small she was, she should have a C-section to deliver the baby safely. This scared Gammie. She approached Dr. Schiller about this, and, being an “old school” practitioner, he said no. When she went into labor, Dr. Schiller used forceps to pull the baby out, and he injured the baby’s head, causing severe brain damage. Caryl never could walk. She could eventually crawl, but she was never, as Gammie put it, “quite right.” Caryl died at the age of 19 months from pneumonia, while Gammie and EW were in California for “a rest.” They had to take the train all the way back to Chicago, knowing they were coming home to bury their first child.
Gammie had another pregnancy, but had a very unpleasant miscarriage. When she got pregnant again, she did go to Dr. Delee right away. When she started spotting, he immediately put her on very strict bed rest, “until she feels life.” She was on bed rest for over 3 months. This baby, (my Dad,) was fine and the birth went well for her. She had one more child, my Aunt Sue, four years later.
The women on EW’s side also had lots of children, in the previous generations before he was born. Henry, born in Germany, and his wife Rosa, came to the US @ 1847 or 1848. They had had two children born in Germany; Emanuel and Samuel. After they settled in Maryland, they had another 7 children. Nine children. Their daughter, Caroline, married Isaac, and they moved from Norfolk Virginia, to Chicago. They had 5 children- the youngest was EW’s mother, Florence. Florence married Isaac and had only one child- my Grandfather, EW.  It’s very interesting to me, that on both sides of Gammie’s family, the first generation families who emigrated to the US had a lot of children; the subsequent generations had a bit less, and the generation of Gammie and EW’s parents, had only a single child each, after what seems to have been struggles with infertility. Could it be something in the water, in the newly industrialized United States? It really makes me wonder. I do not know very much about my mother's side of the family, except that her mother, Margaret, had troubled pregnancies and miscarriages between when my Uncle was born and my Mom. Margaret and my Grandfather, Sheldon lived in rural Ohio. Margaret was eventually sent to a specialist in Chicago for treatment and bed rest when was pregnant with my mom. Mom was born very prematurely at a time when these babies typically did not survive. She beat the odds, however and did survive. My mother never had any real problems (at least that she ever told me about) with pregnancies or with getting pregnant. She had a miscarriage between when my brother was born and when I was born, but she never considered it as anything out of the ordinary.   
So when and how did this glitch occur? Has it been gaining speed, like a snowball rolling downhill? Am I simply the glitch? One thing our RE told us in the midst of our journey, was that my daughter could perhaps inherit my infertility trait. I am hoping against all hope that she doesn't. Or at least, that by then, science will have figured a way around or how to fix the glitch. 
Glitch: Fertility Interrupted. 



  1. Hi, found you on PAIL, welcome! What's crazy is I just did my family history with my Dad and going back 5 generations each generation had a woman who inexplicably never had children and one who took 6+ years to have a kid. Seriously intersting stuff!

  2. Thank you! Yes, I find it very interesting how common a trait this is-

  3. Found you through PAIL! What an interesting post! I'm actually certain that I inherited my fertility problems from my mom... She went through menopause early (at 44) which new research suggests puts her kids at risk for early declining fertility (I have low AMH for my age and have been told I will go through menopause early). I have a daughter and worry about whether or not this has been passed along to her. Hopefully IF passes her over!

    1. Christine- My Mother also went through very early menopause (@42!) and I have been told the same thing! I am now 44, and definitely starting the process... something else I plan to write about in my book. I did not know that this was something that could also possibly explain my infertility, but I had suspected as much- interesting! Thanks for the info!

  4. Very interesting post (also stopping by from PAIL)! I've found that you can see a similar extended family history of infertility in my background too, and it seems to me that some of those really big families in generations gone by weren't achieved for 20 years, so even though they got big, it took a long time. My great great grandma had 12 children, but she started at 16 (in the 1860s) and had her last at 42 with 2 sets of twins. Like any other adaptation, maybe the glitch isn't all bad. My grandma's 6 live children span 16 years, which has to be much more pleasant for a family than them spanning 8-10 years, so perhaps infertility was a gift when childbirth meant an early death so often?