Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Unsure, Unsettled, Undecided

From Unsure, Unsettled, Undecided:
The pendulum of my SMC decision-making has most recently swung toward NO WAY!! How could anyone ever do this? How could I ever do this? NO, NO, NO!!! I had been more positive about choosing to be an SMC, but I haven’t been able to shake this place I am now in. I could use some feedback about the different stages you have gone through as well as some of your thoughts and feelings about how one can do something seemingly so emotionally, physically, and financially difficult as having and raising a child alone. At the moment, only the model of two parents together works for me, no matter how I turn it around. I would like to get back to a more open place about it.

Dear Unsure:
First of all, you don’t have to do this and that’s okay. Second of all, why do you think it’s so hard? Your fellow SMCs aren’t superwomen. We’re bright, committed, and fairly independent, but we’re not the CEOs who run the world or Mother Teresas or anything like that. All kinds of women do it and do it well enough. Maybe you should hang out with some moms and their kids of various ages to get a sense of what it’s like.

Has something recently happened that may have caused your thinking to take a turn? Maybe a comment from your family or a sudden realization that something you had not previously thought of may be unmanageable? We’ve all woken in the middle of the night thinking “What will I do in the middle of winter when I have to shovel the snow and get the car warmed up in time to go to work? Who will watch the baby? How can I possibly manage this!”

Then, we joined SMC and started reading and participating in our local groups and on the email groups. We read the "Single Mothers by Choice" book and raided the library and checked out every book on marriage, single parenthood, breast pumping at work, etc. We started discussing our fears with friends who helped come up with solutions.

This is it is a process. Don’t dig into anything you’re not yet ready to handle. If you are informed as much as possible, you’ll be in the best place to make the decision that is right for you. In the meantime, when that wave of terror hits you, be aware, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Many of us have been through it and come out the other side.

Realize that you are on the horns of a dilemma. To be brutally honest, if you are in your late-30s or early 40s, it is unlikely you will find a partner in time to conceive a biological child from a fertility/biological clock perspective. Are you willing to forgo a biological child? You could potentially achieve pregnancy using a donor egg and your partner’s sperm. Or are you willing to become a parent through adoption. Try to pinpoint what bothers you most about being an SMC and focus on that. Find a good therapist to help you think this through. You need to be at peace with whatever decision you make.

Perhaps you might take six months and think about bring an SMC every day, every minute, in every situation—sick, on a date, happy, crazy busy with work. Whatever is going on in your life, think and ask, “How would this be different as a mom? How would I handle this situation?” Some things may appear to be major challenges, but would they make you walk away from the idea forever?

One day a friend who the mom of six kids said something that has stuck with us. We were talking about the Thinking stage and all the doubts, convictions, worries, and so on. She said, “That’s great to be aware and go into it with your eyes open, but the thing that is missing for you as you consider all of these situations is that you are not a mother yet, so you don’t have access to that strange wealth of strength and patience—resources you only know about and tap into once you are a mom. And, of course, you can't possibly ever imagine the incredible love you will have for your child, and which will help you find those resources."

Being a parent can be MUCH harder than you ever prepare for, but we’re also often amazed at the things we can do, tolerate, and roll with—things we never knew we could do until we became a mom. Good luck to you in your decision-making.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Shift in the Tears

The green folder from SMC arrived in the mail and I was excited to receive it. I made dinner and sat down at my table to read the literature that was inside. I was flipping through the various pages in the packet, reading absolutely everything. Then I got to the last page and the words that jumped off the page at me completely caught me off guard. The last page of the welcome packet was entitled “Last Call for Motherhood” and right under it said “Calm your panic. You don’t have to decide today.” From somewhere in the depths of my soul came this horribly painful, primal and unrecognizable half gasp, half cry. I immediately covered my mouth with my hand almost in disbelief that the sound had come from inside of me and the tears started to flow.

I was shocked at how hard these words had apparently hit something inside of me so deeply that I, without thought and warning had cried out. Those words said to me yes, if I wanted to become a parent, I better get moving as I may not ever have a partner to start a family with. So indeed, the route of becoming a SMC may be my last call for motherhood. How ironic that just a few years ago ‘last call’ meant something very different than this last call.

I now find myself two months after receiving the welcome folder from SMC with tears in my eyes again. But the tears are definitely different than the ones that came just a short while ago when I saw ‘last call for motherhood’ for the first time. The tears are different because they are not tears of sadness, now the tears are hopeful tears as I read the responses
to my laundry list of questions from other SMC’s on the adoption email list. They are tears of absolute joy and hopefulness that so many other women have pursued this journey. They’ve pursued adoption both domestically and internationally and they have these wonderfully rich stories of their journeys and of their children, each unique, none without a few bumps in the road, but that’s parenthood.

I believe that I have always known in my heart that I couldn’t imagine myself not being a mom, but now I’m starting to believe that I will be a mom, that I can make this happen if I want it to.

Yes there will be sacrifices and compromises and lots of changes in order to make this happen, but if I find I really do want to do this, I can. I realize that becoming a part of this community, taking the time to read as much as I can about this process means that this may in fact be my “last call for motherhood’ but the emphasis in my mind is no longer on the sudden sadness I felt relating to the words ‘last call’ but instead I can now relate to the joy and invitation of the ‘call to motherhood’ that I now believe is possible.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

From a Mom of a Little One though Anonymous Donor IVF:

Hooray for the new SMC blog! It's time some of our stories were told BY us -- not by a trend-spotting reporter looking to stereotype late-in-life, child-hungry career women for the quick-hit of reader responses and page views. In the popular media, single mothering by choice is always about these crazy women who go looking for sperm donors like they're ordering pizza toppings -- Tall? Check. Good SAT scores? Check. Mushrooms? Check.

In reality, it's not about the sperm. It's not about the donor. It's not about the turkey baster or the petri dish. It's about the milky smell of a newborn, the little fingers that clutch mine when we cross the street, the worries about paying for college and whether the plastics and the scented baby shampoo will poison my toddler. It's about motherhood, not hatred of men. So that's why I'm leaping to add my voice to this blog. I want people to understand why so many of us are doing this. I've always known I was a mother, I just needed a little help to get there. And I thank God -- thank God thank God thank God -- that I'm here.

My journey started earlier than some. It was about 2004, maybe 2005, and I was watching The West Wing. CJ Craig, the smart, funny, aging press secretary talked about it possibly being "too late" for her, about how her wonderful career was wonderful, but perhaps all she would get. No husband, no kids. I was a Washington-based reporter, having a great career, very happy, 32 years old. And boy, did CJ's musings hit home. After the episode ended, I called my mom in Canada, knowing that she, too, had watched. And I said "So when do you think I should start trying to have kids?" And she said she thought I could start anytime. It was an acknowledgment of what we both knew: that I was unlikely to get married, that time was ticking, that I was meant to be a mom. I really was. I was that child, that teenager, that woman who monopolized other people's babies at family get-togethers and public events. I babysat -- not just as a teenager, but as an adult. I'd meet new colleagues, find out they had kids, and offer to babysit for them. I doted on my nephew and niece.

As I got older, and rarely dated, I got more and more terrified that I would never get to be a mother. And terror is the word. I could not imagine being 45 and single and childless, STILL doing the same things, decades of movies, dinners out, drinks with the girls, great career, world travel, books, long hikes on the Appalachian Trail on the weekend with my hiking club. And then 55, no kid in college, no grandchildren on the way, and then 65, alone, 75, with my six cats ... you get the idea. A wonderful life at 30 is a lonely life at 40, 50, 60, 70.

Of course it was not just a TV character who spurred my decision. When I was younger, in my 20s, I read a biography of a Canadian journalist who'd adopted two girls from China. She was single, and successful, and this was her family. And I stored away that story as a possible option for me. I knew then that I dated much less that others, I'd had no long-term relationships, I didn't seem to fit that mold. I'd found a few good guys, but never love. When other people were making semi-joking pledges with platonic friends that if neither of them had met their life partner by age 35, they'd marry each other, I was making a pledge to myself that if I hadn't met my children's father by 35, I'd do it myself.

My final decision to go ahead was made the Christmas I was 32. I'd gone home to my parents' house in Canada to spend the holidays (the perpetual child, returning home as if from college, because I didn't have my OWN family yet) and we'd had a big get-together for the extended family, all of the uncles and aunts and cousins. At some point in the evening, as my niece and nephew and all my cousins' kids tore around the house, I realized I was the only one there over the age of 11 who was NOT a parent. Everyone else, all of my aunts and uncles and cousins, had bred. Everyone in the room had children. My cousins were busy dishing out plates of food for their kids, and my mom and aunt were taking care of my grandmother -- generations helping each other in both directions. And I had no one to care for. The maiden aunt at 32. When I got back to Washington after the holiday, I wrote in my journal that this was the year I would start looking for my child.

I'd always sort of assumed I would become a mom through adoption. But as I looked into a few things, and read the Single Mothers by Choice book by Jane Mattes, my thinking started to change. As a Canadian living in America as a non-permanent resident alien, I could not bring a child home through international adoption. One adopting parent had to be a U.S. citizen. Going the adoption route would mean quitting or transferring with my job back to Canada, and starting over from there. Surprisingly enough, getting pregnant with the help of an anonymous donor seemed like it might be an easier route.

I made my appointment with my doctor -- a reproductive endocrinologist -- shortly thereafter. At my first visit, we sat in his office to discuss my path. He said at 32 there was no rush, a year this way or that way did not matter. We settled on a course of treatment to prepare. I went off the Pill. Testing began. I'd had endometriosis and there were various complications with my cycle. During the year that I waited for my cycle to regulate and the tests to be completed, I joined the international group called Single Mothers by Choice and started attending a few meetings of like-minded "thinkers" and "tryers" -- those on the road to becoming moms, but not yet there. I also lost weight and tried hard, one last time, to meet someone. I did speed-dating. I wore more make-up, dressed more stylishly, batted my eyes, tried not to intimidate men with my career and intelligence. The few matches I tried included men who still lived with their parents, who hated their jobs, were depressed, were infantile, were married and dating on the sly (ugh). I stayed single.

When I was 33, I did my first insemination with sperm from an anonymous donor that my best friend had helped me choose. All of my close girlfriends knew I was going down this path, and my parents knew as well. They were nervous, but supportive.

Once you start down the fertility treatment path, it sucks you in pretty quickly, and with each negative pregnancy test I got more and more worried. I worried it would never happen. I might not get to be a mom. I considered whether I could cope with that -- certainly my career would have to get even more important. Perhaps I could be a war correspondent? Something really exciting and time-consuming. A White House correspondent? There's a job for childless people! After six failed insemination attempts, my doctor started talking about IVF. It would really boost my chances, he said. And while when I first started down the path I thought I'd never do IVF (too radical, too desperate, too much), by then I was ready to make the leap. Easily. I was committed, and I wanted a child more than ever. IVF it was.

That was three years ago. Today I'm the mom to a 2-year-old girl named after my mom, who was with me for the labor and birth. I've moved back to Canada after nine years abroad, and I am happier than I could ever imagine. My evenings are full of visits to playgrounds and libraries, and on the weekend you'll find us at the zoo, or the wading pool, or in the backyard with all of our very large plastic toys. I am embarrassingly thrilled to be part of the club of moms. I am one of those who care too much about children and parenting and have too little interest in life outside the world of toddlers. I haven't seen a movie since my daughter was born. The only hikes I take are ones with my daughter in the backpack, eating her goldfish from a snack cup, no longer than an hour or there will be trouble. And I love it. I was done with movies and dining out and self-absorption (I don't mean that judgmentally of others, simply that I'd grown bored of a life that was all about me). I still read books, just don't ask me the titles or authors. My career is still important -- because it pays the bills. I do worry a bit that I won't ever advance up the career ladder like I once might have, but mostly I worry about how I don't care about it anymore. My dirty secret is motherhood really does make me a less committed employee, at least for now.

While becoming a single mom once seemed like Plan B -- after finding a man didn't work -- I now realize this was my path all along. I was meant to be a single mom. I'm type A, I like having all the control. I like making all the decisions. I like getting up when she cries at night. I like being the one to read all the bedtime books and give all the kisses. I drink up her unconditional love and admit I am amazed, touched, stunned, that anyone could love me as much as she loves me (okay, therapy required for that one). My married friends with babies admit to me they don't love their husbands as much as their babies, it doesn't even come close. Their early baby days are full of resentments and struggles to balance the marriage and the baby. Mine have not been. They've been blissfully about just me and her. All-consuming and fantastic.

And because I'm aware my daughter deserves more than the glare of her mother's constant love and attention, and because I would like nothing more than a house full of kids, more kisses, more cuddles, more shrieks and giggles and yes, even more tears and more worries and more work, I did IVF again last year and am expecting baby #2 in just a few weeks.

I have no regrets. I'm glad I pursued a great career and had lots of fun doing it. I'm glad I traveled and dated in my 20s and early 30s. And I'm glad I live in a time when becoming an SMC is not only possible, but relatively easy. I've been blessed by decent fertility, a stable income, and supportive family and friends. I am so grateful to be a single mother by choice.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Train is Leaving the Station

It's 6 am on a Sunday, and I get up to do the obligatory pregnancy test thinking to myself, the sooner I get the bad news, the sooner I can bury myself in my bed for the day and wallow in the fact that my 7th time trying to get pregnant failed. Failed just like I failed to get my promotion because of this stupid economy, failed just like every dating relationship I have been in. Failed, failed, failed.

It didn't work. I know it didn't. I don't feel any different; I have none of the symptoms that you read about on-line. Just Google "when did you have your first pregnancy symptoms" and all kinds of posts from annoying women come up saying things like, I knew 5 days after I ovulated. I had a twinge in my uterus, I had inexplicable burps, my breasts were incredibly sore" etc. etc. Here I was 14 days post ovulation and nothing. Nada!

So, I did the pee test. In months past, I would anxiously wait, barely breathing for 4 agonizing minutes. Then when I would get a negative, I would pacify myself by thinking that perhaps it was too early, I hadn't held my pee long enough for a proper reading, the test was defective, etc. etc. Next came the crying, ignoring the calls from my mother and sister because I couldn't bear to tell them that, yet again, nothing was going right in my life. Then I would pick myself up, call my reproductive endocrinologists office to hear the sympathetic "I'm sorry. I really thought this might be the month for you!"

I thought of how I would tell my biggest supporters that it hadn't worked again! For years, (15 to be exact), they hung in there with me while I persistently searched for Mr. Right. On the rare occasion that I met someone promising, they shared in my excitement, then when he turned out to be a dud, they encouraged me, "I know he is out there! You just haven't met him yet!" Multiply this by approximately 40 blind dates, too many e-mail introductions to even count... 200? 500?, multiple fix-ups by well meaning friends, hopeful conversations with men in bars ending in an exchange of phone numbers only to wait and wait for the call that would never come.

Finally, I had enough. I was seriously done looking, waiting, hoping for Mr. Right. The limbo, the feeling of helplessness was more than I could bear. At 37.5 years of age, I decided to move forward with my dream to become a mom --- without a man. Now, a full year later, I sit awaiting another negative pregnancy test. Glancing over at the test, I see what appears to be a pink line. I pick it up for a closer look, "Holy Shit. That is a real line!" I go back to bed and tell myself I won't be excited until I get another positive. It's finally time to bust out the expensive "Pregnant" /"Not Pregnant" tests that I have been saving for such an occasion. I wait an hour and pee again. Oh, my god...PREGNANT!

I call my sister and wake her up, "We have a REAL line!" You see, there had been a couple of months where I stared so hard at the pee stick that I convinced myself there was a shadow of a line, where none existed. "It's REAL, a really REAL line!"

I am now 21 weeks pregnant with a girl who will be named "Emma" after my Granny who I have no doubt helped me from up above to make this miracle happen. I feel happier and more content in my life than I have ever felt. I finally am out of limbo and while it's terrifying, it's the most liberating feeling I have ever had. I carry my baby bump with pride and gladly tell anyone who will listen that I am doing this on my own.

The comments that I love the most are from those women who say, "Oh my god, I could NEVER do this without my husband!" I think to myself, I am sure you are right. You couldn't. But I can, I will and I am! This train is leaving the station and I am in the conductor's seat! Whoo, Whoo!

Erin, 39

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

My Circuitous Route to Adoption

As I sit here writing, my house is filled with baby items from friends and freecycle. All I need is a baby. At least now I have hope—I’m on an adoption waiting list. But what a long journey it has been…

I became a thinker and joined SMC at age 39. People encouraged me to move forward, but I was stuck. I wanted a husband, then kids—the traditional family. At 40, I met someone I hoped could be Mr. Right, who turned out to be Mr. Autonomy Issues. At 41, I broke it off. I was devastated. I went into a depression, sought counseling and was stuck—I wanted biological kids, but I also wanted a traditional family. I kept thinking.

Looking back, I see how uneducated I was about fertility for women in their 40s. Despite the many women in the news having children well into their 40s, I didn’t know these women used donor eggs—not their own. So, with my eggs growing older by the day, I continued thinking.

Finally at 42 (and 10 months), I made what I thought was the most difficult decision of my life—to try to conceive on my own. I passed fertility tests with flying colors, but after seven tries—IUIs and IVFs—I had low egg quantity/quality. I had another difficult decision to make: Should I keep trying with my eggs? I had to think about finances, my age (43 and a half) and my desire to be a mom—how would I feel if I found myself six months later, age 44, still not pregnant?

I went to the counselor and grieved and grieved. All my dreams down the drain—my desire for a husband with three biological kids. All those years of envisioning my children, who they would take after—my mom, my sister, my brother? My connection to my heritage. It was one of my darkest hours.

But my desire to be a mom pushed me forward. I weighed donor egg vs. adoption. Donor egg seemed like an easier route. I picked a donor and did my first cycle at 44. Cut to me a year and a half later—three miscarriages and an inability to carry to term due to an immune issue. The first two miscarriages were devastating. By the third, I’d selected an adoption agency and knew if the pregnancy didn’t take, I’d immediately move on.

Last July, after learning my final pregnancy wasn’t viable, but before the actual miscarriage, I contact the adoption agency. They were enthusiastic at a time I needed enthusiasm. I was exhausted—2.5 years of fertility treatments, disappointments, miscarriages, poking/prodding and money out the door—all for nothing.

I did my home study and got on the waiting list in September 2009. I’m excited about adopting. With adoption I will be a mom. With fertility treatments, it was a crapshoot. Moving to adoption was a relief—no more needles, doctor appointments, miscarriages, disappointments, hormones. I could live my life more normally while I waited, although I have moments of grief that sneak up on me.

I try not to be bitter. Everyone has her own journey. I just never thought I’d have such a long road to motherhood. I believe God has a plan for me, even if I can’t see it. I date, trying to find someone to share my life with and be a father to my children. I keep busy while I wait for my match. I’m now 46 and, although I sometimes can’t believe it, this circuitous route to motherhood is my story.

Leslie C

Sunday, June 6, 2010

What is an SMC?

An SMC is a single mother by choice. As I ventured deeper into this world I discovered there were thousands of women like me here in the US and around the world. We shared similar stories, similar hopes and dreams, and yet could also be very different in our backgrounds and values. I interact with SMCs every day, and in hearing their stories, realized how unremarkable my own journey is.

Single moms certainly are not unusual, but the basic difference is that most SMCs identify themselves quite strongly as women who have made a decision not to wait for marriage, and who have carefully considered the social, emotional, financial, and legal issues before proceeding to become mothers on their own.

Occasionally I toss out the terms SMC or choice mom in conversation, perhaps because I hope it becomes less of an unusual idea. Sometimes I'm surprised to find that others have an intimate connection with SMCs. My friend N, for example, a 30-ish grad student and mom to a 2 year old, had an aunt who had a child through donor insemination over twenty years ago. When I brought up my own thoughts about becoming an SMC, there was nothing surprising about it to her, which was nice.

In truth, my efforts to promote awareness of SMCs have been half-hearted. Not everyone approves, of course, often blaming the moms for being selfish in bringing a child into the world without a father, going against the natural order of things, or using a child to satisfy their own emotional needs. I figure the people who are not going to approve are not going to approve, and their judgment of me doesn't really matter. However, I would hesitate to bring this up with someone unless I felt they were going to treat it with respect, empathy, and compassion. I certainly did not need a lot of negative energy and judgmental thoughts (I can manage those on my own, thank you very much) while carefully thinking through my decision and plan of action.

As for the child not having a father, I believe that my child will have a father, even if he or she does not have one at birth. I am convinced that I will meet someone who will be my husband, life partner, lover, and friend. However, I am not so sure that this will happen during my child-bearing years. I've done my share of trying to meet someone, and men on online dating sites who want to form families don't always look at women over the age of 36. I expect that being an SMC takes the pressure off of dating and relationships, and that once I have a child, I can date without the pressure of finding someone in time to have a baby. SMCs who have gotten married after having their child say that their relationships are much better at this point in their life, when the pressure from the biological clock is off.

Perhaps all it takes is someone with J-Lo's celebrity status to make the masses more aware, and perhaps less disapproving, of choice motherhood. In the movie "The Back-up Plan", J-Lo plays a young woman who goes through artifical insemination to have a baby, only to then meet the man of her dreams. (Yes, I'm sure this happens to all SMCs -- not!)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

"Good Lord"

And Baby Makes 2

“Good lord”, said my therapist
when I told her I was trying to have another baby with my husband.
“You haven’t even recovered from your other 2 baby losses. And all you do with your husband is fight. You don’t even seem to like him.”

“Good lord”, said my therapist
when I told her about all the infertility things I was now going through again, for a third time. The mood changing Clomid, every diet known to increase fertility, 2x a week acupuncture, awful tasting tea made by a Chinese only Chinese pharmacy in Chinatown, and lots of lots of awful, awful timed sex, timed with the very best in $299 ovulation predictor kits. “Are you sure you want to put yourself through this now? I think you should SLOW DOWN you’re not even 35 yet. And you and your husband are not getting along.”

“Good lord”, said my therapist
when I told her I told her I was preg yet again.
And, “good luck,” she added. “I think we should increase the amount of time we see each other to 3 days a week”.

“Good lord”, said my therapist
when I called her, hysterically crying. I had had yet another miscarriage.

“Good lord”, said my therapist
when I called her, hysterically crying that my husband was being a complete ass in couples therapy and was refusing to try to have another baby with me even though it was now 3 months later, we had agreed to try again, and here it was that exact time on the calendar we should be trying and I wanted that baby more than anything and he knew it.

“Maybe it’s a good idea he won’t?” she ventured. “I think you should concentrate on your marriage before tying again. A baby won’t fix everything and it might only make things worse. Imagine, if you have a baby with him, you’ll be stuck fighting for custody until the child is 18 at least if you can’t make things work. Imagine his mother, [my words: the chain smoking, mean, Tom-Brokaw loving, rambling, passive-aggressive, jealous, possessive, borderline alcoholic], watching your child”.

“Good lord”, said my therapist
When I told her I was going to get divorced and I was going to have a baby by myself. I had already chosen who/what/where and everything. “You’re moving too fast. You should SLOW DOWN!!”

“I’m so happy for you”, said my therapist
when I told her I had done all I said I would and that now I was pregnant.
What more was there for her to say?
She said yay throughout my pregnancy and yay when the baby was born. Yay to my taking care of her and yay for what I was doing.

“Good lord”, said my therapist
when I told her my father died suddenly and I was moving from NYC back to Miami Beach to be closer to my remaining family.
“Do you really think it’s a good idea for you to live with your mother?”
I’m not sure I said, but it’s the best option I have.

“Good lord”, said my therapist
when I told her how I was balancing a hectic job as an advertising writer with a 1 hour drive to work from where I live, living with my mother, getting annoyed at my mother, rushing home everyday to be with my daughter for as long as I could, caring for one noisy cat, freelancing, trying to get caught up on getting manuscripts to my agent, comparing myself to my seemingly perfect stay-at-home mom sister with 2 kids who married a doctor and my other work-at-home sister who just had a baby and 2 months later looks like she was never pregnant at all, and living in a city where the people I was meeting in the park couldn’t fathom the possibility of happiness and hope in the single mom thing. They think I’m either going to try and steal their husbands or the fate of being single/divorced with baby will rub off, like a disease.

“Good lord”, said my therapist
when I told her I was doing JDate.
“You really should STOP, REFLECT and WAIT until you adjust before embarking
on a relationship.”

“Good lord”, said my therapist
when I told her I now had a boyfriend I actually liked.
“SLOW DOWN!!! You don’t want to rush into things.”
I told her I wasn’t. I was enjoying myself.

“Good lord”, said my therapist
make sure you use birth control.

“Good lord,” I said.
“I can’t believe I’d get pregnant that easy, not after all I’d gone through to
get the one I have!”

And, here I am. Not pregnant at the writing of this!

Aimee Heller