Sunday, October 15, 2006

some of my favorite people: a series in potentially infinite parts


i've only met cate in real life four times (soon to be five!!). at least i think that's right ... it doesn't seem possible! we don't talk on the phone much at all. but i can't imagine my life without her.

i first "met" cate around eight or nine years ago on the gay and lesbian parenting board at parentsplace -- or was it parentsoup? -- before they were both gobbled up by ivillage. trixie was a baby, and cate and her partner were in the process of thinking about trying to conceive (cate is nothing if not a meticulous researcher!). roughly around the time they actually got started, we were thinking about number two. unfortunately, both our journeys involved infertility, and therefore a lot of anxiety and grief. fortunately, our journeys overlapped. fortunately for me, anyway, because when i look back over those years, i simply don't know how i could have done it without cate. we emailed every day, often multiple times a day. she knew so much about options and treatment possibilities, and had such a gentle, respectful way of sharing those with me without being pushy or making me feel bad when we ultimately made quite different choices than she had. julie called her my infertility doula.

i think for me one of the many difficult aspects of infertility was how isolating it was. it wasn't just that all of my friends were *freakishly* fertile; it's just that infertility is so fundamentally impossible to share. it's not that people are insensitive, or thoughtless -- i suppose some are, but that wasn't my friends, who genuinely grieved with me and were deeply sad about my difficulties -- it's just so deeply private and existential. it was even difficult for julie to know how to be supportive, difficult for her to understand how deeply and in what complicated ways infertility undercut so much of who i thought i was. and of course, each woman experiences infertility in her own way; there were many infertile women whose experience didn't connect with mine at all. but cate, cate was not only there, every step of the way, but she really *got it.* it meant the whole world to me, and she will forever have a huge place in my heart.

cate eventually got -- and stayed! -- pregnant, with her fabulous twins, henry and eleanor (by coincidence, my kids' middle names!). she had a harrowing pregnancy and a pretty damn hard birth, and the first few months (years? decades?) with twins are, well, as cate puts it, "extreme parenting." but even through all that she was so there for me. she continued to celebrate, in such a heart-felt way, our family-building when we turned to adoption. at one point we were feeling very discouraged and limited in our options; cate gently sent me a ton of research she had done about agencies in her area that might offer more options. when i said that our financial resources made those options unlikely, she offered, on the spot, to loan us pretty much anything we would need. to be paid back whenever we could. ("we'll just need it when the kids go to college.") at this point, i think i had met cate, live and in person, all of one or two times. can you imagine? in the end, we didn't need to take her up on her offer, but for a time it made everything feel so much better, knowing that we had that option.

perhaps my favorite way that cate has supported my family is through donating breastmilk when my stash had run out. i never developed a full supply for micah, but i had been pumping for a long time before he joined our family, so between my own supply (two-thirds to three-quarters of what he needed) and my extensive freezer stash (around 1200 ounces), i was able to exclusively breastfeed him until he was six months (i used a devise called a supplemental nursing system, or sns, to supplement him at the breast). around that time, cate went to a conference and fedexed me all the milk she had pumped! and let me tell you, this twin mama made a lot of milk! her donation and another local friend who was pumping for me got us through another month or so before we started supplementing with formula. then a couple of months later, cate offered to meet us at a hotel in new jersey where her partner was staying for a work meeting so that she could give me a cooler full of her freezer stash ("i really don't have any room for it, and the twins aren't drinking breastmilk in their sippies at school anymore.") and then she figured out a way to use some of her partner's frequent hotel user points to get us a free room.

if it weren't enough that cate is thoughtful, kind, generous, a meticulous researcher (she knows more about infertility than lots of medical professionals), and an awesome mom -- there's more! she's also an exquisitely talented fiber artist (addict? ;-). her work is truly inspiring. go check out her blog, mamacate, where you can usually find photos of her latest projects. and her really cute kids. and these days, the fabu addition being built on her house.

in a couple of weeks, cate -- and another friend from our gl parenting board days at parentsplace, sara of saraskates -- are coming to phila for a conference! can i tell you how excited i am??


At October 15, 2006 7:14 PM, Blogger Sara Skates said...

She's totally the best isn't she? Your tribute to her made me smile and yup - even tear up a bit :)

At October 16, 2006 9:01 AM, Anonymous mamacate said...




Sweetie, I'm not sure how it happened over the "system of tubes" like it did, but you're my sister. Sometimes it's like that, you know? I'm not sure why, but you're family and always will be.

I always said I'd never be grateful for infertility, but it did give me some pretty profound things. Your friendship is one of them.

Thank you hon. What a wonderful thing to read this morning. I guess I don't know what I could say that would be an adequate response... except thank you.


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