Posts by ckginter

I am 28 years old, I've recently discovered a love of hockey (Go Jets!), and I am making 2018 the year of big, scary things.

Conversion

Well, I converted this past Sunday.

I’m not going to lie – I was super nervous in the hours leading up to my appointment. Not because I had doubts (I didn’t), but because I wasn’t 100% convinced I was going to be “accepted”. Allowed in. In hindsight, it was a pretty irrational fear. But hindsight is 20/20.

So, beyond the class that I started in September (which ended about two weeks ago), I had to prepare an essay, go before the Beit Din, and then go to the Mikvah if both those other things went okay.

My essay could be as long, or as short, as I needed it to be, and mine ended up going on for 12 pages because I’m wordy and don’t know when to stop writing. XD I was given a list of suggested topics to cover, and I tried to touch on most of them although I couldn’t go too into detail on any of them. I submitted that on the last day of my class, and writing it was hard. I agonized over it for a long time. I had known for over a year that an essay would be required, but I’d sort of put off writing it because I just couldn’t get it right. So when I finally had to force myself to put words on paper as a result of a looming deadline, it wasn’t great. At least, I didn’t think so.

Then on Sunday had I had my appointment with the Beit Din. The Beit Din is a council made up of three rabbis; my Beit Din had the rabbi who had been teaching the class, the other rabbi at the synagogue I attend, and someone who isn’t “officially” a rabbi, but is more along the lines of a lay clergyman. He’s a rabbi but not a rabbi, if that makes sense. They asked me all sorts of questions about me and the essay that I wrote.

In the essay I had written, somewhat offhandedly I think, that I would likely be starting a family on my own. (In answering the question about how I would raise my children Jewish, if I had children.) They really sort of narrowed in on that comment near the end of our meeting. They asked me some questions, tried to determine why I had written what I had.

I won’t go into lengthy detail about the conversation. What I will say is that they asked me if I was open to a relationship/a more traditional family. I said that I was, but that I wasn’t willing to sacrifice the having kids should I not find a husband. They said they wanted to see me able to have both, and that there are lots of single Jewish men in the community who want what I want – to settle down, have a family. It’s a little difficult to explain what exactly that conversation sounded like (I think from the way I’m writing it, it sounds a little like religious men trying to push me towards me being a more traditional woman and it wasn’t that at all) but I will say this… I can’t recall a time I have ever felt so profoundly, genuinely, cared about by people who aren’t family. And by that I mean, I was sitting there facing three rabbis, and I could have so easily felt ganged up on, or judged, or dismissed. Instead, I could tell that these questions and comments were coming from this incredible place of genuine care and concern.

I had already decided to take a bit of a break from trying after cycle four was a bust, so I haven’t made any attempt in May to get pregnant.

But I think, after the conversation on Sunday, I may put the plan on hold for a couple more months. Not forever, not even indefinitely.

But maybe there’s a reason that relationships haven’t worked out for me before now. Maybe there’s a reason that I miscarried in February. Maybe the timing just wasn’t right. Maybe now that I’m part of this new community, I’m going to meet the people I’m supposed to meet and have the opportunities I’m supposed to have.

And if not, and it’s all a bust and I don’t meet anyone or I don’t meet anyone I could see myself being with, then I start trying again to conceive on my own. Whatever is supposed to happen will happen. And it only seems fair to give myself another chance to take the more “traditional” route, now that I’m going to be interacting with new people, and participating in a new community. I mean, in all honesty, that would be my preference. If nothing else, all the stress of trying to get pregnant sucks. It sucks doing it on my own, and suffering disappointments and loss on my own. Being with someone would certainly be easier.

On one hand, I don’t love the idea of putting everything on hold even longer. But on the other, wouldn’t it be nice to have both? The husband, and the baby?

Anyway, so that conversation has definitely affected me and I’m feeling conflicted. Until I’m no longer feeling conflicted, the baby attempts are getting put on hold. I don’t want to jump into this, unsure.

So after the Beit Din was the Mikvah, but I think I’m going to write about that in another post because this one is already far too long. XD

I’m so excited that I’ve finally converted, and looking forward to what that means for the future. I’ll try to fill in some of the gaps here later – I had almost no posts about the process between when I started the class and when I converted almost a year later, so I definitely want to get everything else filled in too as I have time.

 

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Choosing a Donor

(I apologize in advance if there are any typos/if something is unclear. I’ll tidy this up later. I’m writing it before running out to my conversion class, but I wanted to get this posted because I’d meant to write it on Friday and got sidetracked!)

So my last blog post was about where and how to find a donor. This post is about the process (at least my process), of choosing one. (And my next post will return to the topic of conversion for a bit!)

I’ll preface this by saying there is no right way, and no wrong way, to choose a donor. This is an intensely personal decision, and this is a process during which you must be honest with yourself about what you want.

On Known Donor Registry (KDR), you have a couple of options for donation method. Those are the first things to consider. Do you want to do AI (Artificial Insemination) or NI (“Natural Insemination” – sex)? Yes, for some people that is a legitimate question – there are plenty of donors on KDR who offer NI, and plenty of recipients who take them up on it. To be fair, NI is more conducive to conception, but it also requires a woman to literally have sex with a stranger. (Never mind the potential conflicts when it comes to custody and child support – you can have a contract that both parties sign, but if a child is conceived through sex, the courts can, and have, tossed the contracts aside to either grant joint-custody or enforce child support. Yikes, big risk!)

I was not into the idea of hooking up with someone just to get pregnant, but no judgement here. To each their own. It just wasn’t the right way to go for me.

So then I had to make another decision – did I want to find someone local, or did I want to broaden my options and find someone willing to ship? In the end, that decision was more or less made for me due to the fact that there was only one local donor active on the site, and we didn’t really want the same things. (He wanted to co-parent, and while he agreed to just donate and not get into a co-parent relationship, I had the feeling he might change his mind down the road and try to fight for joint custody.) Which meant I had to look for someone who lived elsewhere, but was willing to ship.

It wasn’t just a matter of finding someone willing to ship, but someone who had done it before so I was confident that everything would go smoothly. There are so many possibilities for problems, and the donation has to be shipped overnight and used as soon as it arrives, or it isn’t any good. (Cycle 4’s shipping was particular stressful – and a little funny in a cringeworthy way – which I’ll write about later.)

So knowing that I wanted to go with AI, and that I would be finding someone who was willing to ship, I had to figure out my non-negotiables.

They were: he had to have recent clean STD tests**, he had to be intelligent, he had to be at least moderately attractive, he had to have a clean criminal record (which I could search myself on the Court of the Queen’s Bench site if he was Canadian), he had to have had previous successful donations (specifically, from when he’d shipped, so I could know his donation was strong enough to survive transport), he had to be open to communication with the child (if they want it) at least once they turn 18 (one of the benefits of a known donor), and I had to just… get a good vibe from him. I had to feel like in the real world, maybe we’d be friends, or we’d at least get along. I had to feel comfortable talking to him.

So, armed with my list of non-negotiables, I started to search the site. At first I wasn’t limiting my search to Canadians (I should have; I’d really recommend anyone limit their search to people within their own country, because shipping costs are insane otherwise.). The site is really easy to navigate, by the way. When I found a few profiles that looked promising, I started sending hello messages.

Also something to keep in mind: these guys are doing this for any number of reasons, but they aren’t machines. Don’t send them a message that says “hey, can you ship me some sperm?”. They’re people, who are potentially going to provide you with the one thing you’re missing to create a child. They deserve a whole lot more respect than a lot of people give them. Not everyone has altruistic motives, true. And there may be creepers you will have to wade through. (I didn’t connect with anyone truly creepy, but I’ve read some awful stories.)

I ended up selecting a donor in the USA, but that relationship ended up falling through before any shipments were sent. I’m actually happy it did, though, because I went back to the site, started talking to people again, and found an incredible donor who was equally as determined to make sure his recipients are good people as I was to make sure my donor was a decent human being. We messaged, and then emailed back and forth for a few weeks. We got on a Skype chat. Now we’re Facebook friends. This kind of arrangement has the potential to be awkward, or uncomfortable – but I’ve lucked out; my donor is so professional, and just plan kind. He doesn’t make me uncomfortable, at all, and makes me feel so supported throughout this whole process.

I’m currently in the first half of yet another two week wait as I write this. We did two inseminations this cycle, in the hopes that might give me the edge I need to be successful this month. But if not, we’ll try again. I’m so blessed to have found the donor I did.

I’m glad I’m recording all this finally, and I’m looking forward to getting it all down. Hopefully someone might stumble across this one day, and find it helps them a little – even just knowing they aren’t alone in this process. If you’re reading this and you’re considering this as an option for you, I’d be happy to talk. Feel free to comment below and I’ll get in contact with you. 🙂

** KDR is just a platform, kind of like Facebook. They don’t require donors submit anything to post a profile. It is 100% up to the recipient to make sure they are getting information (like STD test results, etc.) from their donor, and ensuring that it is legitimate. However, KDR will remove members (be they donors or recipients) for lying, if it’s discovered they have an STD, for harassing, for asking for money for donations, for pushing for NI when the recipient is only looking for AI, if someone reports the offending user.

How in the world does one find a donor, anyway?

I get asked this a lot. Seriously. People are curious – how (and where) does one find a sperm donor?

The answer is, well, it depends. It depends on if you’re going through a fertility clinic/the medical system, or if you’re going it alone. If you’re going through a clinic, they’ll provide you with the necessary information. They’ll help you find a donor. I think there are catalogues, and profiles, and all that fun stuff. You’re also looking at roughly $400-$800 per vial of sperm. (Fun fact – in Canada, it is illegal to pay a sperm donor for their, uh, donation. In the USA, it is not. For this reason, there’s a real shortage of Canadian sperm donors, at least if you’re going through a fertility clinic. Most of a clinic’s supply is imported in from the USA, where donors are paid anyway.)

But I’m not going through a fertility clinic. And I really couldn’t afford the $400+ per vial, knowing I’d need at least one vial (but they recommend 3) per cycle, and knowing it often takes several cycles for a healthy woman to get pregnant (no matter how well you time everything).

So, I googled it. Surely there were other people in the same situation.

Did you know there are a whole bunch of sites for finding donors? Like, a lot. (Okay, maybe not really a lot, but a lot more than I expected to find.)

I signed up on a few of them before realizing they were paid subscription sites. You could look at people’s profiles, they could message you, but you couldn’t message any of them back without subscribing. I didn’t inherently have a problem with subscribing, but I knew the cost would be a barrier to some — which meant that the donor options might be limited. I also hoped (and maybe it was wishful thinking) that I would find a donor quickly… which meant I wouldn’t need some 3+ month subscription.

And then I found Known Donor Registry. For lack of a better way of describing it, it’s essentially a mash of up Facebook and a dating site, for prospective donors and recipients. You sign up, create a profile, post pictures, friend people, find donors based on certain criteria, etc. It’s a free site, which is great. It also requires that everyone signed up as a donor does not charge for their donations.

They also have all sorts of articles, resources and information which I found incredibly useful.

Okay, you might be thinking. Is any of this regulated in any way? Do donors have to submit test results, or answer questionnaires, or get screened in any way?

No; anyone can post on the site. Anyone can sign up as a sperm/egg donor, and anyone can sign up as a recipient. The responsibility is entirely on the recipient to make sure they get the information they need from the donor… and on the donor to make sure they’re donating to someone they think might be a good parent. (I, for the record, have a contract with my donor, I saw all his STD tests (clean), and got other information from him that I deemed important.)

A lot of people don’t realize this is an option. They automatically assume that going through the medical system is their only option and they can’t afford it. (Although I live in Canada and healthcare is free, fertility treatments aren’t considered necessary care and so they are at the individual’s expense.) But it’s not; there are definitely other options out there if you want to get pregnant.

I really want to chronicle all this, because when I was starting out I wish I’d come across a blog where someone else talked about this whole process. So maybe one day this will be helpful to someone.

My next post is going to be about how I found someone on Known Donor Registry, and next week I’m going to be going back to writing about my conversion as well. I have so much to write about there, as well!

Here’s to making the best of life! Happy Wednesday!

The thing that’s been on my mind for months.

Back in October, when I last posted (has it really been 6 months?), I said there was some stuff going on in my life that I wasn’t really ready to write about publicly. I’d talked to friends and family about it, but I wasn’t ready to put it out there, on the internet.

But I think this is a pretty safe place to write about it. It’s not connected to my Facebook and I don’t know of anyone in my circle who is following this page. And at this point, enough people know that even if someone who knows me did stumble across this blog, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if they read what I’m about to write.

Last April, my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. Again. The last two times she’d had it (many, many years ago), she’d been given a few weeks/months to live, but she’d kicked ass and beat it. This time, it was in her brain, along with other places, and although she started off strong and fiercely positive, it quickly took away her willpower. We had no idea there was cancer spreading through her brain when we got together for our birthdays (hers, April 3rd, mine, April 10th) mid-April 2017. By May 27th 2017, she was gone. I sat next to her for 8 hours before she died, and was there with my mom, my grandpa and my aunts when she took her last breath.

It was my first time losing someone close to me. It was my first time being with someone as they passed. It reminded me, as death often reminds people, of how uncertain life is. How fragile. And how awful it would be to be facing the end alone.

I’m not dating anyone. I haven’t dated anyone in years. I live alone (with my two adorable cats). My best friends live in the United States and I don’t have a lot of friends here. My mom and I are close, but her family either doesn’t care much for us, or lives too far away to be much help/support. And as close as my mom and I are, due to the fact that she is, obviously, older than I, there’s a good chance she’ll die before I do. (Hopefully not for many, many years.)

Basically, I am alone. And while I’m happy enough being independent — paying my bills, on my own, doing my own thing, going/doing what I want, etc. — I don’t want to die alone, with no family there. No one to mourn me. No one to remember me when I’m gone.

I’d already been thinking for a while that maybe, just maybe, I’d want to consider going the route of having kids on my own. It’s not entirely unheard of — there’s this  organization called Single Mothers by Choice that has chapters all over the world. I’ve looked into them, and they seem pretty great. For a while I just figured I’d adopt, but that I’d do it when I was 30 if I hadn’t had any kids yet. (Most Single Mothers by Choice are in their 30s and up.)

But… I’ve always wanted kids. I used to think I’d have three or four by the time I was 30, not be just starting out. I dreamed of being a mother far more than I dreamed of finding a prince charming and having some fairy-tale wedding. (Honestly, I don’t know that I ever fantasized about what my future wedding would look like.) Every birthday I’ve had so far in my adult life has just made me sad — the start of another year in which I was childless and alone.

For the record — I want kids because I want kids. Not because I feel like I should have them by now. Not due to any external pressures – societal or otherwise. I legit just want to have kids and always have.

So when my grandma passed away, I decided to hell with it. Life is short, why wait for some magical milestone (why is 30 this age where it’s “okay” to “settle” and start looking into doing this, by the way?)? At that point I had just turned 27, I knew the process wasn’t going to be a quick one, and I thought, I’m going to do this.

So I found a donor, and here I am, on my fourth cycle attempting to get pregnant. (I’ll write about how and where I found a donor later — I didn’t go the “normal” route. I’ll also write – in super general, non-TMI/non-specific terms – about how I’m going about this. Hint – there are no doctors/medical professionals involved.)

It’s already been a long road (except not really… some women try a year + to get pregnant). I’ve had one super early miscarriage/loss (cycle #2), which sucked.

But having kids is a non-negotiable for me. And if this is the way I have to go about it, so be it.

This is my life, by choice. And it’s going to be amazing. ❤

PS. I’m long overdue posting about my conversion. I’m going to backtrack, and write a whole bunch of posts about that as well. My conversion is coming up on May 27th, 2018. (And I’m starting an introductory Hebrew class this week Wednesday.) It’s been a whirlwind, and I can’t wait to share it with all of you.

Mini Update

I’ve neglected this blog as of late, largely in part because the biggest thing on my mind right now isn’t something I’m really ready to post publicly yet. Although I’ve wanted to write about it, and probably will write about it, the timing isn’t right.

As an update, however, I will say this – I’ve started my Choosing Judaism course and I’m really enjoying it. I’ve had two classes thus far and I’ve already learned a great deal. We’ve discussed Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur—two major Jewish holidays that have just happened recently. I love the format of the class; we discuss Jewish ethics, phrases, and holidays… a little bit of everything!

I’ve also begun teaching myself Hebrew. Well, not literally teaching myself—I’ve found a great resource with online podcasts and lessons for a work-at-your-own pace kind of learning experience. I’m familiar with the names, sounds and pronunciations of approximately the first half of the Hebrew alphabet which is a start. Learning a language, especially one with a few sounds we don’t really have in English, is definitely a trying endeavour. I’m determined, although it’s a little tricky, but I would really like to have a basic understanding of Hebrew before I complete my course in May. (Which means I have some time!)

I’ll update more later when I’m not so exhausted—physically, and emotionally.

The Voice of Dorothy Arnold

How do you tell the story of someone whose voice has been effectively lost from history?

That’s the problem I’m grappling with right now as I work on my first big non-fiction project, In the Land of Missing Girls. It will be the first full analysis of the still-unsolved disappearance of Dorothy Arnold, Edwardian-Era Manhattan socialite.

When Dorothy disappeared, her family destroyed virtually everything – her journals, letters, photos she’d taken with friends, etc. On one hand they argued they wanted to find her, on the other they were not just evasive with the police and press but frequently caught in bold lies.

There are thousands of newspaper articles chronicling Dorothy’s disappearance. There are hundreds of opinions about her, her family, and the case in general. But her voice is unreachable and I think that is even sadder than the fact that she disappeared.

My First Shabbat Service

Before the Service

I’m writing this in the hour or so before I have to catch the bus to attend my first Shabbat service. I have all the standard worries – what do I wear? Where will I sit? What if I sit in the wrong place? What if I look stupid when I can’t follow the prayers or the music? Ultimately, I may well say or do something wrong. And I probably will look stupid. It’s inevitable, I think, considering I’m walking into an environment that is 100% unfamiliar to me, on my own, with no one to guide me along. But that’s okay (I think!). It’s all part of the learning process. I’m not sure if I want to sort of show up, hide in the background/go unnoticed, observe and slip out… or introduce myself, talk to people, put myself out there. I’ll probably figure it out while I’m there.

Honestly, I’m not as nervous this morning as I have been throughout this past week. I’m not sure why that nervousness is gone, but I’m glad. (That said, it’ll probably hit me full force when I get there. I have a decent dose of social anxiety; new situations, new people, can be very hard for me.)

I wonder how different it’ll feel, if it’ll feel different at all, attending a Shabbat service over, say, a Christian service. I attended a private Christian school from grade 7 to 12, and it was… well, it was awful. It completely changed my perspective of Christianity (and not in a good way). I haven’t been able to attend a Christian service without extreme anxiety in years. The last time I even tried I ended up leaving part way through the music at the beginning to sit in my mom’s car and wait for the service to finish. I’m desperately hoping that this is different. I think it will be, though.

Well, here goes nothing.

After the Service

I’m home now from the service and I know, technically using my laptop on Shabbat is a no-go. However, I’m phasing myself into the Shabbat thing slowly, and I really wanted to get my thoughts down before I forgot about them. By the time I start the classes in September I’m hoping I’ll be fully-Shabbat observant. Or at least much closer than I am now.

First impression when I walked in the door – people were very friendly. And while no one came over to me immediately, despite how lost I must have looked, when I went to ask the greeter where I was supposed to go as it was my first time there he was so quick to grab a passing member who was friendly and more than happy to guide me upstairs, find me a place to sit, and later come over to make sure I didn’t have any questions/knew I was welcome. I’m glad I asked for help – my overall impression of the synagogue might have been different if I hadn’t.

So I went up to sanctuary (is that what it’s called? I don’t know…) and got settled in. By the time the service started the place was pretty packed, and people continued to steam in as it went on.

I love the sound of Hebrew, and I love all the singing. The Rabbi was warm and engaging, cracking jokes and smiling often. I didn’t know what was going on, but at least he called out pages so that unfamiliar people like me could follow along. Not that I could read the Hebrew, or even the phonetics. But still, it was nice to have something to follow.

I’ve always been so impressed with the reverence that the Jewish people have for the Torah. When it was pulled out and walked around the congregation people reached out to touch it with their prayer shawls and then kissed the fabric that had touched the holy text. It was pretty spectacular to watch. The other thing I loved about the service was that it was so full of life. That’s something that, according to the reading I’ve done, is so important to the Jews. Life, and joy. Despite all the awful things that have happened to them, their religious ceremonies are inherently joyful. There was singing, and clapping, and laughing.

The most difficult part for me was having this longing to be part of them, and knowing I’m not. Yet. Sitting there almost felt like pretending to be something I wasn’t, but something that I wanted to be. They were doing a luncheon type of thing afterwards, and I was invited to stay, but staying felt wrong somehow. Like I hadn’t earned that yet. I was an outside among those who have historically (and even today) been the outsiders. But that’s okay, because I will be one of them some day. It’s kind of difficult to explain that feeling any better than this, and maybe it doesn’t make sense, but it’s a sort of stream-of-consciousness reflection. I may come in and tidy it up later, or not.

At any rate, I’ll be going back next week, and hopefully by the time the class begins in September I’ll be familiar enough with the rhythm of the service to be able to maybe even participate.

P.S. Despite my fear that I would feel the same thing at this service that I did at Christian ones (crippling anxiety, to the point of having to leave), I did not, and I was fine. It was a wonderful experience over all.