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Last night in our church small group, somehow (don’t ask) the topic of family planning came up. One of the couples said, “our friends got pregnant using “natural family planning” and the doctor said, “do you know what we call couples who use that method? PARENTS.”

Everyone laughed.

But it bugged me.

I feel fairly strongly about the following:

a) Everyone should be able to do their own research about how to have safe sex and/or avoid/plan to get pregnant.

b) Women who want to take the Pill should be able to take the Pill. Those who do not want to take the Pill SHOULD NOT HAVE TO TAKE THE PILL.

c) Aside from the Pill – taken here to mean an estrogen-containing oral contraceptive – there are other family planning methods available that are effective (or not effective) for family planning. These include the following:

1) Progesterone-only Pill – aka the “minipill”, or “POP”. Does not contain estrogen. Very prone to failure, as it is a tiny dose of progesterone that must be taken at the *exact* time every day. (Estrogen pills should be taken at the exact time every day, but they are *slightly* more forgiving of slight discrepancies in the time one takes them.)

2) IUDs. There is the copper IUD and the Mirena IUD. The copper IUD has no hormones. The Mirena IUD has progesterone which is released “locally” (although really, everything *does* circulate, but it is said to release a very very low concentration of progesterone). Both are extremely effective. The copper IUD tends not to affect periods/blood flow and the Mirena IUD tends to lighten or eliminate periods.

Once they are removed, they convey no protection against pregnancy.

I had a Mirena for almost 2 years. It was good. It stopped my periods, which was the goal. Unlike a lot of women who have it, I really had no other side effects and I thought it was fine.

3) Barrier methods: condoms, female condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps. All of which have varying rates of efficacy (the diaphragm and cervical cap being among the worst because they can slip, and the woman has no idea that it has slipped, followed closely by the female condom). (I don’t know why the female condom sucks. I’ve never used one, and they are very expensive compared to male condoms. According to this article, they are difficult to place, which probably means they aren’t used properly in practice.)

The male and female condoms are the only birth control methods that can protect against sexually transmitted diseases.

4) Abstinence. I love how this is mentioned in every birth control efficacy chart. Of COURSE this is 100% effective…until it is no longer the game plan. Remember that line from Anchorman? “They’ve done studies, you know. 60% of the time, it works all the time.”

Ha. I crack myself up.

5) Other hormone-containing things, like the Patch or the Ring.

I tried the Ring. I hated it. It fell out constantly. But it has its enthusiastic fans, too.

6) More hormone-containing things, like the Shot (Depo-Provera). Has only progesterone, given by injection every three months.

This freaks me out because it is something circulating in the body for 3 months. What if you hate it? You can’t clear it out of your system, and you have to wait for 3 months! However, it is a good option for people who can’t remember to take the Pill, or people who can’t take estrogen.

7) Natural family planning methods. AKA: Non-hormonal, non-invasive methods.

And here we get on a soap box.

The options:

1. The pull-out-and-pray method (aka coitus interruptus). Does this require further explanation? Issue: Sometimes there are spermies in the pre-ejaculate. The part that escapes prior to the guy knowing to pull out.

2. Rhythm/calendar method: Where a woman starts counting her cycle days from the first day of menstruation, to day 14, when she assumes she ovulates, avoids around that time, and assumes she is safe the rest of the month.

This just doesn’t make sense.  All women are different.  Their cycle lengths are different, their bodies are different, and very few women actually ovulate on the 14th day of their not-likely-to-be-28-day cycle.

3. Natural family planning (NFP)/Fertility Awareness Method (FAM). (Yes, I am lumping the two together for purposes of this post. I’m sorry to anyone I offend.) Differentiated by the fact that FAM users employ backup methods, like condoms, during fertile phases of the woman’s cycle. NFP traditionally employs abstinence during these times.

Birth control method charts make this method of family planning look foolish, which only contributes to the types of jokes circulating in doctor’s offices. The number of health-care professionals I have had to explain this method to is appalling…friends of mine who use the calendar method, the pull-and-pray method, who think that we are insane for planning the way we did for the time that we did it. So here I go: my plug.

It is my opinion that every woman on this planet should have access to this information.

It is NOT my opinion that every woman/couple on this planet should employ this method of birth control for a billion reasons:

1) It takes planning, awareness, preparation, and, at times, restraint. The fertile phases of a women’s cycle also tend to be the most sexually arousing. Couples prone to spontaneous unprotected sex would be very, very poor matches for this method of birth control.

2) It requires that the woman read a lengthy book and understand what is going on in her body.

3) It requires that the woman consistently check her temperature and interact with her body in ways that may be uncomfortable for her.

4) It requires that the couple be on the same page in terms of protecting/avoiding during fertile periods (if avoiding). This is *not* always the case in many relationships. It is the sad reality that many sexual relationships are not characterized by negotiation, understanding, and love, and in those relationships, where the woman cannot guarantee that she will always be able to avoid/protect during fertile periods, this method is not appropriate.

That being said, this method is extremely effective when used appropriately and correctly.

It takes into account temperature charting (basal body temperature – temperature first thing in the morning), cervical mucus, and cervical position. Those three signs, combined with a commitment to using condoms or abstaining during the fertile period, constitute a form of birth control that is more effective than almost any other method (other than abstinence entirely, IUDs, or permanent sterilization).

We used this method exclusively for two years of avoiding. We didn’t get pregnant during those two years, but I wasn’t sure if it was because I was infertile or because the method was effective. (Then I had the Mirena IUD placed to reduce my menstrual flow because I was getting too anemic.) When we started trying, we achieved pregnancy on the first full cycle of trying.

That is not to say that everyone using this method will find that it works well when TTC. But it *will* help a woman determine the length of her luteal phase (a critical factor in a successful pregnancy), whether she is ovulating, or whether there might be some other underlying factor in the inability to conceive. It will help a fertility specialist in trying to help a couple who seek to become pregnant.

I will also say that DB and I practice this method in the *most* conservative way: we use a condom/avoid on the days that I know I am fertile and/or THINK that I MIGHT be fertile. I think this has contributed to our success for those two years and again in the last 4 months, when avoiding pregnancy has been critical (due to the type of pregnancy loss we had).

This book changed our (my husband and I) lives for the better:

And apparently, 1000 women agree with me (see reviews for the book on Amazon!).

It is long, and it is comprehensive, but it is absolutely the best book on women’s bodies, fertility, and practicing reliable birth control without pills or implants or medical intervention. It is also a great book for learning about conception. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I believe that *everyone* should have a copy, even if the Pill is the best option for them.

So here is my point:

If you look at that article I linked to, above, and look at the efficacy rates of any of these methods, they all seem scary, with the exception of the permanent/fixture-type (IUD) methods.

However, this method is different in that its efficacy rate is based upon reading natural signs/symptoms of the body, understanding them, and acting accordingly. Which means that efficacy rates will take into account all of the issues noted above (women unable/unwilling to chart effectively, unable to negotiate terms with partner, unable to abstain/protect at fertile times).

Which means that the data – as is the data with almost any BC method (ie, the columns for “perfect” versus “typical” use) is skewed. Couples using a condom every time but the one time she is fertile screw up the statistics. Couples who are on the Pill except for the two days she forgets it screw up the statistics.

In short, they are all prone to failure. And they are all prone to not-failure. It depends on the user’s level of commitment to the method.

And, a word on God and His will for people getting pregnant:

We all know of the couple that got pregnant using this method. Our friends did. Our friends friends did. No question, it happens.

But if you ask them, honestly, if they knew the possibility existed when they conceived that child? I would guess that the vast majority would say yes (although you’d have to be a close friend to ask!!) Our friends said that they were pretty sure they wanted a child, and they just “kind of stopped paying attention”.

OF COURSE one runs the risk of getting pregnant with this method if they “stop paying attention”!

And this also means – if you get pregnant, it is not because “God wanted you to have a baby!” No. With the number of infertile couples out there, I do not believe that God has any personal desire for one couple to easily get pregnant and another couple to struggle for years. I’ve talked about this (probably ad nauseum) before.

No, God created women’s bodies to be able to carry a child and God created men’s bodies to be able to father a child. But God wants us to be smart about what we know, too. Getting pregnant because the couple was not paying attention is not necessarily God’s will for their family’s growth. That is people having sex at the appropriate point in the woman’s cycle, resulting in a fertilization event that will ultimately become a baby.

But can we say that it is God’s will that adoptive mothers relinquish their child? That it is God’s will that a child suffer abuse, or trauma, the family they were born into? That it is God’s will that a pregnancy ends tragically in a loss?


Stepping off of soapbox now…


One of the blogs I lurk on read has a post about this horrific organization, the Westboro Baptist Church, which has a theology that is, in summary, stomach-wrenching and unthinkable, with abhorrent practices to match.

They are protesting in NYC today – at a synagogue – and will be in your neighborhood soon, too, and the synagogue where they are hatemongering is launching a campaign to raise money for the causes that are apparently worthy of such hatred.

Please, consider contributing to this effort. Reading their (the hate-monger) website is sickening.

If you cannot contribute, please pray. Our God is one of grace, love, righteous anger, and righteous judgement, but it is His prerogative, not ours, to deign what is abhorrent and not. Certainly the protests here – with signs like, “God hates you”, “God hates the USA”, and others that pronounce who, not what, the Lord “hates” – are not only horrifying, but not Biblical. In the slightest.

God is sovereign. Full stop. Period. And any attempt we make to usurp that is simply an abomination.

I am really not supposed to be blogging right now, but usually if I blog, I am able to focus on what I am supposed to be doing shortly thereafter.  So here it goes.

My thoughts on God right now.

(If you are looking for articulate, holy thoughts on God during extreme pain and loss, I would forward you, immediately, to Angie Smith’s blog, Bring the Rain.  I have been reading Angie’s blog for months, prior to ever even becoming pregnant.  You will be blessed by reading her blog.  She is an incredible writer and an incredible believer and if I could write the way she writes about my own walk and faith, I would be, like, ecstatic.)

(I am saying that because you are probably going to be undewhelmed by what I am about to write.)

This is not very honorable, or admirable, but it is going to be honest.

I shared with you all our path to becoming pregnant.  I meant to password it on Wednesday, March 4th, but then I decided, once we learned our baby had died, that perhaps it would help you understand why this loss was just so painful for us.

I mean, if you read that far back, of course.

I am now going to share a little bit more.

I am embarrassed to say that when I hit the 12-week-pregnant mark, I began to get comfortable.  I posted things about baby names and such.  I even bought a maternity shirt (actually, 2) – because my stomach really could not accommodate anything I owned (starting at 10 weeks, but I resisted until 12).

Until that point, I held off getting too close to the baby (even though I was attached, despite my best efforts to keep my emotions in check) because I *knew* the risks.  I *knew* we had a risk of miscarrying.

But then, at 12 weeks, I settled in.

Because in my head, God and I had a deal.  (I told you I would not be impressive here.)  I mean, I wrote things about the possibility that the baby might not be okay – but in my head – my stupid, stupid, head, God and I – we had struck a deal.

I know, I know, who the hell am I to make a deal with God?

But we had a deal.  In my head, I had prayed and prayed – for two years! I had prayed – and I realize that two years is really not that long to God, but it is a long time to measly little me – “God, we really want to build our family.  Please please open the doors you want open, and close the doors you want to close”.

So when my hematocrit was high, I didn’t have multiple sclerosis or CNS lupus, we were facing a pay raise for DB in March, and everything – EVERYTHING – was falling into place, we decided God was opening a door.

And then, as I said in that post, we prayed for a baby if God wanted to grant us a biological child.

As I said in that post, we told God that we were open to HOWEVER it was that He wanted us to grow our family.  If God showed us a purple two-headed child, we would have adopted that child and advocated for that child and raised him/her to the very best of our weak, human abilities.

And, as I said in that post, God (miraculously) answered us.  We got pregnant.

And oh, my goodness, how we rejoiced.  Finally – a door open.  Finally – an answered prayer.

And, as I said in that post, I have no idea why God chooses to answer some prayers “yes”, some prayers, “no”, and some prayers, “later”.

I have no idea why He answered our prayer, “Here is a child, but s/he is only yours for 13 weeks.”

I have asked Him this every. single. day.  I do not understand.

See, I felt like we had a deal.  We were open to anything he wanted to throw at us.  In return, he should close some doors, or open others, or whatEVer – but to open a door, then slam it shut?  And take my blood along with it?


So I have really, really, really been struggling with God.  I know He knows what it is like to lose a child.  Obviously He knows.  I know He knows our pain.  I know He is crying with us.  I know He is all-powerful and He created mountains and He created the world (I mean this in an scientific way – sorry, but I do not believe He did it in 7 days…maybe He did it in the equivalent of 7 God-days, but anyway) – He is GOD.  He is, like, the AUTHOR and PERFECTOR and EVERYTHING of our world.  Our UNIVERSE.

But why, why, why, WHY did He have to answer our prayer in this way?!?

I don’t know.

And I told DB that I am really struggling with this.  I mean, my faith in God has sustained me through a lot.  God hasn’t always answered my prayers in the way I’d like Him to.  (I think, on a very cerebral level, that if God always answers our prayers and gives us everything we want, in exactly the way we want it, and our faith never wavers, it must not be a very real faith.)  I have struggled, and I’ve cried, but I’ve never come to *this* depth in my relationship with Him.  And in “depth”, I mean, “this much questioning and this much doubting”.

Anyway, so I said to DB, “I just don’t understand why [get ready to roll your eyes] God DIDN’T HOLD UP HIS END OF THE BARGAIN.”

If there is ever a more prideful, sinful question than that, I would like to hear it.  Please.

And thankfully, I have a husband who does not look at me in horror when I ask things like that.

He said, “Isn’t it great that God doesn’t say that to us?”

And I teared up.

I mean, think about it.

If God acted like me, He would probably have thrown His hands in the air and say to His people, “I give up!  I gave you my SON, and you start wars, and you commit sin…after sin…after sin.  You throw it back in my face!”

“I”m through with you!”

But He doesn’t.

I don’t know much, but I know that.

I know how weird this might sound to you if you are not a believer.  I did not grow up Christian – I grew up (for the most part) Jewish.  (If you’d like to hear me babble about that, you are welcome to email me.)  And I am one of the most pathetic speakers of “Christianese” that I know.  You know, that kind of language that flows freely about God’s grace, and His love, and His power. Other people are really good at it.  I can forward some links if you’d like to read them.

But what I do know – and this is not Christianese – is that God is present in our lives, and God is still speaking, and although I am LOST – totally LOST – and grasping at strings, and praying for peace, and praying for direction, and wondering, really, WHAT this really means – that God still cares.

And even though I probably hardly ever hold up *my* end of the bargain, God is bigger than any “bargain” I could have thought I made with Him.

I am not that great at explaining my faith to other people.  I know a lot of you reading this are probably either thinking that I am insane (which, probably I am), or that I am a crappy Christian (see previous parenthetical expression) or that I am hurting (I definitely am).  But this – here – is where I am, spiritually.

I am pretty sure that God is still out there, crying with us.  And I really pray that He is not totally horrified that I thought *we* had a deal.

And I know that he is being the very best Father our child could ever have, to a child we love so very, very, very much.

“Be still, and know that I am God” – Psalm 46:10

P.S.  I do not know why I have two categories for this type of topic:  “God” and “Faith”.  What is the difference?

I have a confession. Hopefully I will not regret this.

Last spring, one of our assignments for a statistics class was to do this implicit association test. (Go ahead, try it! It is interesting! There is a new poll out for the 2008 Election!) We were analyzing an article on facial features, and the professor wanted us to learn a little bit more about our own implicit associations. I went to the website and took some of the tests, not really knowing what to expect: we plan to adopt children from other countries who do not look like us; I spend a LOT of time researching anti-racist parenting practices, experiences of discrimination and racism, and my own personal beliefs.

I did not realize how much I’d learn about my own implicit associations.

I took several of the tests. As I had expected (and, frankly, hoped) I did not have any huge hangups on race or gender (phew). But I did have one major preference: I strongly preferred Democrats over Republicans.

Like apparently, I cannot stand Republicans. Really. I could be rated as having a “slight”, “moderate”, or “strong” preference for Democrats; I had a “strong” preference. Which is a little disconcerting for me.

I’ve mulled this over at various points in the last several months. I think part of the issue is my sincere belief, as a Christian, that George Bush is a horrible president who cavalierly risked American and Iraqi lives in a gratuitous and unnecessary war, and to say that this upsets me is a gross minimization. The IAT used pictures of Donald Rumsfeld (architect of the war), George Bush (moron who agreed to war, whether he really played a huge role in the plans or not), Dick Cheney (who is the spawn of Satan), and Colin Powell (who I really loved prior to his speech at the UN, and I had some hurt feelings over his role in this war, too). I think the fact that the test used *these* specific individuals probably skewed my personal results dramatically.

And, in fact, it’s funny – I worked for the Republican party in 1995-1996, when Newt Gingrich was the Speaker leading the “Republican Revolution“. I was a House page (yes, like the famed Foley targets), and I certainly, gleefully, excitedly drank that Kool-Aid…I cursed the evil President Clinton and I fervently believed that it was the Republicans that drove home a balanced budget. (In fact, our checkbook is still encased in a “Balance the Budget” plastic thingy that I saved from that era. Oh, oh, oh, how times have changed). But perhaps that is what is driving my recent hatred of conservatives in general: they say they are pro-Iraq war, yet their platform (until recently) rallied against “nation-building”. It is under a Republican president that our deficit reaches unprecedented levels after a period of surplus. And I took the test a while back, so this wasn’t relevant then, but it is now: It was Reagan who first came up with the EITC (the only way to make more money on taxes than you actually pay – aka a redistributive program – aka sharing the wealth), and there is nothing more socialist than $700 billion in taxes invested in private banks.

In short: hypocrisy, anyone?

But at the same time, I am a little uncomfortable with this…this disgust with any group of people. I’m not prejudiced – I have lots of friends who are Republican! However, I find myself getting really, really, really mad at those who support Republicans in this race! And (this is so terrible – really, it is, and I am praying that this part of me goes away) – I find myself challenging the Christianity of those single-issue voters* (*not the ones who are anti-death penalty, pro-social services, and support life from conception to death – those are not included in this list) – whose pro-life views I see as being limited to one’s life between one’s conception and birth – without regard for the lives that struggle in the period of time after birth. If we care so much about life, why don’t we try to take care of the youngest citizens we do have? What does it say about our society when our foster care system is in shambles? That we have millions of kids going to bed hungry every night? That we fail to provide health care for breast-feeding mothers after three months post-partum? Where is the pro-life in that?!? And, what’s more: What would Jesus say about that?


And as an update:

–We are betting on Obama breaking 340 electoral votes. If I win, I get two Grey’s Anatomy viewings with DB WIDE AWAKE and dinner out at a non-chain restaurant. If he wins, he gets to eat at Chilis with margaritas and as many tortilla chips as he wants without me complaining about how he is eating too much.

I know you’re jealous – oh, the exciting life we lead.

–AND…my internet fights. So Crazy Woman wrote back yesterday: at first, she sent out a hodgepodge of thoughtless commentary (peppered with the occasional “Are you INSANE?” and “Are you NUTS?” – yes, definitely directed to me), and it was quite the entertaining (if unnerving) read. Then she sent out an “oops, didn’t mean to send out my rough draft! Stay tuned for the final!” email, to which I quickly shot off a personal reply – “no need to send the final – I think we all got the picture. May God bless you, and thank Him that we live in a country with free speech, huh?”

Then we got the final draft – a slightly more coherent ramble, complete with some personal attacks on me and copious Republican (and, stunningly, Bush defense) propaganda.

I’m now sitting on a few responses. My poor mother (who lives in the neighborhood with these folks – really, I do not know why I received this, since I have never actually lived in this neighborhood…EVER…unless you count Christmas holidays) would have preferred me to never get into this debate, and is hoping that I do not respond at all. However, the level of personal attack was such that I feel like I should say SOMEthing….right?

I’ve been meaning to write this post. On the hypocrisy of Christian conservatives and single-issue (or even multi-issue) voting. I’ve been meaning to write it, over and over and over, and things just get in the way. As a summary, in the Christian debate of Christian Coalition/Pat Robertson v. God’s Politics/Jim Wallis, I’d be on Team Jim, every day of the week and twice on Sunday. And I think you should, too. 🙂

Well, Nicki’s husband Tony at Stepping on Legos just wrote a guest post on the topic, and because I am procrastinating VERY effectively, I responded. Multiple times. If you are remotely interested in reading what I would have written (eventually – I seem to be better at responding to other people’s brilliance than generating original ideas), go check it out. His post is great and the follow-up comments are fascinating (and will become more fascinating, I’m sure, as time goes on).

(Hey, did anyone see Jon Stewart the other night? When John Hodgeman mocks him? I sound like Stewart – fascinating!)

Also, I love this article.  Please read it for more information, or food for thought on voting that is consistent with biblical Christian beliefs.  I know some people do not like Jim Wallis, but I think his message is right on.  For so long, the Christian community has been unilaterally represented (at least politically) by the Right, and the best thing Jim Wallis has done for America is restate the obvious:  God does not belong to a political party. You know how George Bush won in 2000 when evangelicals turned out in droves to support him? Remember in 2004 when Christians were told that they’d be hellbound if they voted for Kerry? You know how Christians are seen as a voting block?  Yeah, I love Sojourners for the fact that it challenges all of those assumptions and beliefs.

And NOW, I am really going to study. No time like the present. Exam on Monday.

(And yes, I am posting this because I think it’s funny that I wrote long comments about my political beliefs as a Christian and the main topic on my blog is…mice. Hee!)

In church today (yes, we went. It was a good day) the pastor preached on this passage. I was going to write about my (oh-so-deep) thoughts on it, but I thought it would just be better to post it as is.

The pastor talked a lot about fasting – the literal interpretation of this. But I guess I found my mind wander to the parts that I highlighted below. I thought a lot about how this affects our politics, and what it means to let our votes demonstrate our spiritual beliefs. And, in fact, the pastor did briefly address poverty as a political concern at the end of his sermon (he referenced coming weeks, so I assume it will come up again.)

What do you all think?

P.S.  I do realize that this is probably extremely foreign to 95% of those who read this blog.  It is a predecessor of something that I am going to write eventually.  Regardless of personal beliefs, I think it is interesting to consider.

Zachariah, chapter 7:

1 In the fourth year of King Darius, the word of the LORD came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month, the month of Kislev. 2 The people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-Melech, together with their men, to entreat the LORD 3 by asking the priests of the house of the LORD Almighty and the prophets, “Should I mourn and fast in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?”

4 Then the word of the LORD Almighty came to me: 5 “Ask all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted? 6 And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves? 7 Are these not the words the LORD proclaimed through the earlier prophets when Jerusalem and its surrounding towns were at rest and prosperous, and the Negev and the western foothills were settled?’ ”

8 And the word of the LORD came again to Zechariah: 9 “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.’

11But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears. 12 They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the LORD Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the LORD Almighty was very angry.

13 ” ‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the LORD Almighty. 14 ‘I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations, where they were strangers. The land was left so desolate behind them that no one could come or go. This is how they made the pleasant land desolate.’ “

I know you’ve all been waiting with baited breath. All…three of you.

I have made a decision (that link is in case you want to refresh yourself on the oh-so-important topic in question. Although there really aren’t all that many of you, I keep opening my big mouth about this election all over the internet, so maybe there are new people reading out there. Hi!)

FYI: This is a really, really, really, REALLY LONG post. I should break it up, and maybe I will do that later, but I’m just going to publish it like this. Feel free to skip it if you want. I’m not going to be offended. I just wanted to document it here in one place so that when I re-think the decision, I will be able to return to my thinking here.

I actually made the decision last Wednesday, but I wanted to sleep on it. A lot. And then yesterday morning, I got majorly cold feet. I sweated. I almost puked. I basically had a panic attack, which I have pretty much never had, and maybe I will regret posting this on the internet when we want to adopt internationally but you know what? It is situation-specific, so not pathological. Moving on…

After months and months and months and months of talking about all of the reasons I did not like my program – months of coming up with very rational, solid reasons for moving away from the program – I suddenly couldn’t bring myself to go to the school to declare my plans. I sat, frozen on the couch, wracking my brain to think of one good reason to leave the program. I couldn’t. Considering that I have bitched my way to this point, I found that amazing (I could remember complaining. I just couldn’t remember why I complained).

I’m not sure what inspired this temporary period of amnesia. Maybe it was because I unintentionally declared my plans by failing to show up for a Very Critical Seminar where it was painfully apparent that I was absent. We arrived back home at 2:00 am, the cat had peed all over the floor (not because of you, L), I cleaned it up, collapsed into bed, and then when I checked the class schedule at 9:00 am, I realized that the class started on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:30am. And THAT, folks, was not how I was going to make my exit. I am not a passive-aggressive person, and that is about the most passive aggressive way to depart – by blowing off the course taught by the faculty in charge of the doctoral program.

So I sat.

And sat.

And sat.

(And watched CNN, because as I said, man, watching Palin news is like crack for me.)

After a few hours, I dragged myself out the door, drove to school, parked a ways away, and walked…slowly to the building, trying to think of what I would tell my (truly awesome and rock star of an) advisor. And then I went to the hospital next door to get some blood work done, because I just could not bring myself to walk into that building.

I went to class today, and then I talked to my (awesome) advisor. And when it was done, and I signed some forms and talked to some more people, I felt more excited and secure about my decision than at any point in the last 3 months. And that, my friends, is peace that can only come from God.

So here are the reasons that I am leaving the doctoral program:

1) It is NOT FUNDED. It is the only doctoral program that I know of that is NOT FUNDED. My school thinks it is so awesome that it does not need to fund students to have them come rushing through its doors. And, unfortunately, it is right. It makes me feel sick to my stomach to think that I have fueled their self-perceptions by paying them tuition myself, too.

My history with this program is long, and I will try to make this short.

I applied to this program straight out of my master’s degree. I worked with a faculty member at Michigan (there you go – a place name!) who really encouraged me to pursue a Ph.D., and I chose public health because I wanted to prevent things. I loved the notion of public health as a field designed to protect and promote population health, and so I applied to doctoral programs all over the country.

When I applied to these programs, DB and I were just friends.

When I got into these programs, DB was on his way to the Academy.

When I learned about the funding at these programs, DB and I were engaged.

And so it goes.

I was offered full funding plus a sizeable stipend at some very competitive schools across the nation. I am not bragging – I am very self-deprecating – but I was pleasantly surprised at the response I received from all of these different schools, save one (that I will call Majorly Sucky School, or MSS for short).

At the same time, DB found out that he would be assigned to the city that we currently live in, aka the location of MSS. So I accepted their offer with the prayer that they would at least ATTEMPT to match the other offers financially and went off to work in Vietnam for the summer. When I returned, the financial situation had no more changed than I had grown another foot, so I took one class (to secure health insurance, since I was also unemployed at that time and had health concerns that required group health insurance – I can’t just buy a health insurance plan on the internet). Then I took a few (sequential) leave of absences. Then I took another class. In the meantime, I worked full-time in various research positions, and when one of them lost its funding for a full-time position, and DB was making enough money that I could work part-time and we wouldn’t starve, I decided that maybe I could stomach the thought of the doctorate. I was getting older, I wanted to start a family, and the timing was pretty good.

There was a lot of drama that surrounded my return to the program, but the upshot of it was that I changed advisors to my awesome current advisor, and I started the program last fall with a fairly awesome cohort of people…but no funding. And I thought I was okay with the no funding, until I wasn’t…because seriously. What does it say about my program that everyone there is getting a degree because they are sitting on a trust fund or have a spouse that can pay their way for them? This is a RESEARCH DEGREE, not a law or medicine degree that has the potential to be profitable at the end.

And I realized: for the rest of my life, I will always be chasing money. That’s what research means. Chasing money.

And I also realized: I should not be chasing money to fund my doctoral coursework, before my qualifying exam. Students often chase money (apply for grants) to fund their research for their dissertations – that’s why so many grants stipulate that they are for “ABD students [all but dissertation]”, or “post-coursework” students. Basically: no grant program wants to pay for classes.

So my school thinks it can just charge tuition. No big deal.

Except it is a Very Big Deal.

And I also realized: this program – solely because of the funding – makes me feel very, very, very, very, very unintelligent.

Some students are (partially) funded, and some are not. Some students are rich because they married rich lawyers, and some are destitute and working three+ jobs (I have two, and I picked up the second mid-term when I realized we needed more money. But I make more than a research assistant because of the autism gig, which was a saving grace, because I need more than the 2-3 hours of sleep I’d be getting with multiple jobs that pay $10/hour). I don’t know anyone who hasn’t taken on at least SOME debt in this process.

Compare that to a program of similar caliber that offered me full tuition and a $25,000 stipend.

And then I was talking to a friend who is on faculty at a nearby university, and he was complaining because HIS doctoral students were bartending (bartending! How could they not be working in HIS lab 24/7?!?) and I said, “you mean most students DON’T rely on bartending?”

It’s only money, but it’s money. And it’s money we could be spending on adoption. It’s money I don’t want to pay in the future. It’s tuition money for a degree I’m not sure I want.

And if I want that degree in the future, we’ll be living somewhere else, and I will go to another university and obtain that degree and be perfectly happy because it will be funded. Because THAT is the way a research degree is supposed to be.

2) Career. This ties into money.

I have said many, many times on this blog that I am not interested in a life solely devoted to research. I appreciate research. I actually love reading research. I reserve the right to engage in research.

But in our classes, do you know who comes to talk to us about their research?

Do you know the qualifications of 4 out of my last 5 supervisors?

All MDs. Not Ph.Ds, who arguably are better-qualified to direct research, but MDs. Clinicians who have an interest in a particular topic.

Ph.Ds, with many exceptions, engage in research with no clinical work. MDs engage in clinical work that directs their research, and they do both.

And I am a strong, strong, staunch supporter of practice-directed research. What good is research if it is not practical and based in reality? What effect will it have on policy? It is great that we find out things like this or this, and it is totally fascinating, but there are other research findings that are incorporated into policy initiatives, and these are the kind of studies that we need to promote as practice-oriented and grounded in reality.

There are other degrees that offer more flexibility (and, I will submit, more pain and agony) than the path I am on, and they will offer very similar options when I am done. AND, more importantly, I believe I’ll be more effective at doing whatever I’m doing at the end of an alternative path.

3) Career. Where can I work?

My husband could be ordered to work anywhere in the country, including places that I might not choose to live (aka the Deep South, or the Middle of Nowhere, or…). While I do not have anything against these places, per se, I have to say that they are not places I look forward to potentially living.

We want to move overseas. In the FBI, if we move overseas, we must start with a place that is less desirable (think hazard pay and one of us – maybe even me – must learn how to actually cook from non-frozen foods. Actually, there are a lot of other things we’d be more concerned with thinking about, but those are the effects I’m comfortable sharing on this blog. Email me directly for more information) and work up the global ladder of desirable locations that way. No one starts out by moving to Paris.

I’m okay with that (actually, I am really psyched about it) but I want to have a job wherever we live. I want a career that is instantly useful wherever we go – not a career where the local expat community feels it has to create a job for me somewhere. A doctorate is not that kind of useful.

I cannot wait to grow my career in ways that will serve others and glorify God. And while I have no doubt that there are a TON OF RESEARCHERS out there that do EXACTLY that, and that my pursuit of a doctorate in no way precludes that from happening, I feel at this point in time that the best thing I can do is my current plan. That’s just the right decision for ME, right now.

4) Kids.

Our goals right now are to be the best potential parents we can be. We don’t have a kid yet, but we are working on it, and frankly, I have done more research on adoption, child development, attachment, and parenting than anyone I know in real life (and, from reading lots of adoption blogs, more than a lot of adoptive parents. I tend to only read the ones that candidly share their experiences and have clearly done a lot of research, but like anything, there are quite a range of parenting practices out there.)

I care deeply about our future children. I pray for them. I pray for the biological mother of our adopted children, should we be fortunate to have them. I pray for the health of our biological children, should we be fortunate to have them.

I have spent a really, really, really long time thinking about how I want to raise our kids and what my role will be in this process.

I think that’s why I’m so shocked by Sarah Palin (and in this I am talking about her parenting practices, not her policy platforms, which are laughable and scary and are beyond the scope of this post): I’ve always said that it doesn’t matter what kind of job I have or if I’m presented with the job of my dreams. If my kids or my husband need me, I will drop that job – that path – in a heartbeat. Jobs are jobs. Family, on the other hand: we are covenant-bound by God to care for each other. DB feels the same way. We do our best to manage concomittent family and career identities, but if life presents us with something we did not plan for, we alter our plans.

We have a significant risk, as I’ve stated umpteen times before, of having a child with special needs. That’s not complaining; that’s just fact. And I’ve said to DB several times in this process – way, way, way before Sarah Palin’s name ever became a household word – that the moment we learn that our child has a special need, I will quit my job or put my academic career on hold. I have the background to help our child at home, and I will never forgive myself if my child did not realize his true God-given potential because his mother was too busy working.

Of COURSE DB could play that role. But my background is in working with kids with special needs. His isn’t. And his job is a career without the option to take a leave of absence, and once he leaves, that’s it – no returning. So which one of us is going to be the primary caregiver? It sure isn’t going to be someone NOT us unless we decide that’s what’s best for our CHILD.

All of that to say that I haven’t decided fully about medical school. What I have decided, however, is that a research degree – THIS research degree – is not for me. I am taking one more class to fulfill the master’s degree requirements and leaving the program skipping and jumping. I am going to fulfill the prereq requirements for medical school and for a genetic counselor program, because really, my passions and heart are in that field, too. But right now, my efforts are going to be in doing well in school and pursuing the expansion of our family, cause WOW are we in need of a little human.

And bashing the GOP, which is a role I so very much love. (And I used to WORK FOR THE GOP, albeit in high school, but I was one of those little people wearing blue suits and I did it for a whole year, so I think that gives me a little bit more credibility. Does it?)

**My next post will be shorter and will be about scripture and my views on reproductive health. I am sure it will be foreign to 98% of you. However, I think it might help to understand Christianity a little bit, and I’m sorry it wasn’t what I wrote or published tonight. I’d encourage you to read it, if only to realize where you can critique the Christian Right using something other than science or emotion.

And if you’re part of the Christian Right, I’d also encourage you to read it, only because you can comment and tell me how I’m wrong! 🙂 (Nicely, of course!)

(I just vomited a little in my mouth.)

D-day is rapidly approaching. Decision day. And I am really, really, really conflicted.

So I’m not sure how much I can share with the internet. Most of this will probably have to be password-protected, because a lot of my debate is location-specific, and I just. don’t. know. Aagh.

But on the first pass, sans password…

If you have been reading my blog a little bit, you will probably have noticed (because for 3 months, it was all I could write about) that I took a few hard-science classes this summer: gen chem 2 (which was, frankly, the most hellacious class ever) and organic chem (the whole year). I managed to fit them both in roughly sequentially by taking them at different universities.

In general, there are very few reasons for an old person (me, and yes, 29 is old in this arena) to take these classes: either s/he is crazy, or s/he wants to become a vet/dentist/physician. Hopefully, I’d fall into this last category (not crazy) who wants to become a physician.

However, last fall, I finally started – after a three-year hiatus doing various types of clinical research, including research on autism (as you will see from some of my opinions previously – really, my whole resume is in the categories on the left <—-) a doctorate. A research doctorate. At a fairly prestigious university, although if you ask me IRL, I will do anything in my power to avoid identifying the school that I attend because I feel as though it’s not only prestigious, it’s pretentious. I realize if I stay there I need to get over myself, because I’m there, I’m getting a degree there, and I am spending a whole lot of time there. But that’s another discussion.

So with that background, here are my three options:

1) Stay with my program and pretend that the undergrads were all a really, really, really long, bad, dream inspired by my husband’s foray into a war zone;

2) Ditch my program (get a master’s degree), cling to the hope that is medical school, and complete the rest of my prereq requirements (bio and physics – no, seriously, I did not take a single science class in undergrad, unless you could “physics for athletes” (not what it’s called, but I certainly got to know the entire football team that way) or oceanography, aka the world’s second worst class (behind this gen chem class this summer)). Have a baby (by “have”, I mean either birth or adopt. The world of international adoption gets increasingly concerning, international governments are increasingly less excited about adopting to parents with chronic illness – no matter how minor – and although we are warming up to domestic adoption, we just….do not…know. But attempting to conceive is a source of stress all unto its own). Pursue medical school admission next fall, and attempt to matriculate at the ripe old age of 31.


3) Ditch all higher education and – gasp – get a job. Actually, I will get a job this fall with either routes 2 or 3. The grants that fund my other jobs are drying up, which is probably good for my decision-making.

OK, so here are all the things I think about:

1) Kids. We want kids. We want kids bad. We are old (DB – mid-30s, I’ve mentioned my own far too many times at this point). We went to a pet store the other day, just because I haven’t seen a pet store that actually SELLS ANIMALS in the longest time (and I was appalled!) and there was a little mini schnauzer in there. He was SO CUTE! And I have never seen DB so smitten by a living thing before.

This, to highlight that we really. want. another. dependent. Preferably one with two legs, versus four (it can have four temporarily).

(We didn’t get the puppy. We would never do that. Pet stores = SO BAD!)

2) Kids, but I wanted a new bullet point.

Trying to conceive and staying in my program would be a major challenge with the impending written exam in May…given my health issues and the potential for things that would preclude my ability to sit for that exam on THOSE DATES (and if I miss THOSE DATES, I need to wait another year!) Adopting – well, I guess with adopting the biggest concern is the finances. We want to be able to afford adoption and with DB’s current salary and option 1 (staying in my program), it will be really, really tough. Plus, we would probably adopt a child with some special needs, which would increase the expected cost of caring for the child (plus, let’s face it – kids are crazy expensive).

Kids, part 3: caring for them.

We run the significant chance (I won’t say risk) of having a special needs child, either a biological child on the autism spectrum or a child with other needs by adoption (and as someone who strongly believes in attachment parenting, we expect even a “typical” child who joins our family through adoption have some adjustment.  Adoption is a loss, and we understand that…so while that seems not relevant, actually, it is).  I want us to be able to provide for our children’s needs, both financially (in terms of services and care) and emotionally – and if that requires me to stay home with them, so be it. I’ll be honest: I’d rather work at this point than stay home with our children – I’d rather have that balance – but if we have a child with special needs, I do not know that I’d trust another caregiver to deal with meltdowns and picky eating.  I am a little bit of a control freak.

3) Money. Oh, money. So here are the facts with money:

a) Until I take that written exam, I cannot get more money for my degree. So delaying it by a year has incredible impact, beyond what it would be in any other doctoral degree program.
b) DB cannot take a second job because the FBI prohibits him from working a second job. I will not get started on this particular rant here, but let’s suffice it to say that the federal government does not pay that well BUT the burden of making enough to do things like adopt (which is admittedly expensive) lies with me, his intrepid and hardworking spouse with two part-time jobs and full-time school. (Just saying.)
c) Med school is a LOT CHEAPER than this degree.
d) Oh how nice it would be to have a salary for the next two years! (Option 2 and 3)
e) (In little font) I would make more money as a physician than a researcher. (Emphasize little font!)

4) Jobs:

a) I have been doing research for the last 5 years in three different topics and with 3 different functions. I have designed studies, created protocols, written assessments, administered assessments, and analyzed data. Oh, yeah, and I’ve written grants.

I would rather eat worms than commit to research for my entire life.

I have a clinical degree! It is not one that inspires a lot of confidence in my abilities, but I have one! And I never pictured myself doing research for my life’s work. Yet – somehow – I am getting a research degree. (Does that make you think? It makes me think to write that.

b) I COULD use my Ph.D. to do consulting or policy work. However, my policy professor told me that I should leave the program and pursue a degree that is more likely to make change in the world – law or medicine. I respect this professor immensely and I don’t think that she would want to know that this is how I’m interpreting her thoughts – but at the same time, it gives me pause for thought.

c) I love clinical work. If I had to commit to one or another – analysis or clinical work – it would be clinical work, hands down. But I could do clinical stuff now without another degree at all.

d) I would like a job that allows me to do clinical work AND research if I choose (that would be medicine, or option 3, and probably less so option 1, because once you have this degree you are pretty much pigeon-holed).

5) The Bureau: Yes, it gets its own bullet. Because it has its own effects on my (yes, my) career choices.

We are required to move anywhere they want us to. Which could really be an issue for, oh, say, RESIDENCY.

DB and I want to live together for our marriage.

I cannot pursue a tenure-track position because what’s the point? -if we move. Plus, um, I just vomited a little in my mouth again. So now we know what I think about that.

I need to make enough money to support our needs in conjunction with what they pay DB. This means I would like a career where I can move anywhere and become instantly useful. There aren’t many of those careers around. (FWIW, I always tell DB that the best job for me would be a preschool teacher or a nurse. If only I liked preschoolers more…but nursing has not been eliminated yet.)

We want to live overseas. We can do this with the Bureau but requires some strategic moves by us (now).

6) What I really want: A job that contributes to the greater good of society, pays well, allows me to take time off to parent, expects a lot of me (has high expectations of me), allows me to grow as a person, lets me continue to learn. A job that (ok, nonChristians, avert your eyes) glorifies God. (A few years ago Wheaten College – which is a fairly conservative Christian college – was looking for coaches for the sport I used to do, and stated, “looking for those who ______ for the glory of God.” I thought that was the most hokey thing I’d ever seen.)

That’s all. So now that I’ve written all of that out, I am not one bit closer to making a decision. I wish I had more time, but somehow I do not think that more time would help me much.

Thoughts? I know a lot of you have significant others in medicine, or are in medicine yourselves…or do research…anyone? Or want to recommend a really inspiring movie that will help me get motivated to make a decision?

The other thing is….I read my musings from oh, say, May, when I was finishing up the second semester of the doctorate, and realize what I need to do. I just need to have the stomach to do it. So hopefully this long, boring post will serve the same function when I flunk physics and start wondering, “what, oh what, did I DO?!?”

Blech, that vomit taste. Going to wash the dog now. Woot!