Follow Your Bliss

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FROZEN: A Story About Fertility

rena-strober-egg-789x526Guest writer Rena Strober on freezing her eggs and starting a conversation

 

[Editor’s note: With Nora Ephron-esque comedic flair, Rena Strober takes heart-wrenching choices and makes them funny! There are many ways to be a mother and various avenues into motherhood. This week, Strober lets us witness her unfolding journey. Enjoy!]

By Rena Strober

Another Mothers’ Day has come and gone. What did I get for this holiday celebrating motherhood? Nothing. It was just another day when I didn’t receive anything from my six frozen eggs, tucked comfortably in a fertility freezer in Encino. I don’t mean to sound needy, but I do check in on them from time to time, and I have made sure they’re sung to sleep to the Frozen soundtrack four times a week. And I do pay their rent! A little gratitude isn’t too much to ask for, is it?

Technically, I’m not a mother of children, but I like to consider myself a mother of other things: I mother my career, I mother a basil plant I recently bought at Trader Joe’s and I mother that spider I didn’t kill in my shower on Tuesday. Instead I let him remain on the empty bottle of body wash where I assume he was reading about the all-natural ingredients. Only a good mother would offer organic body wash. And his life.

But over the past few years, the pang of wanting to mother a child hits me multiple times a week. It hits me as I teach seven-year-old children to sing. It hits me at 4:54 AM when I’m up contemplating all my life’s choices. And it definitely hits me when my niece asks “Auntie Rena, why don’t you have kids?” (Why are kids so honest!?)

Two years ago, I had been sitting in LA traffic when NPR aired a show featuring a book about women in their 30s who were dating the wrong men and rushing motherhood before they were ready. I pulled my car over next to the La Brea Tar Pits and listened intently to every word. I was in my mid-30s; I always knew NPR was for liberals like me, but this time I felt like Terry Gross was talking directly to me.

A girl from my weekly Happy Hour group is the anesthesiologist for a well-known fertility doctor; after three $5 glasses of Chardonnay one night, she told me it was time. The next day I made an appointment with Dr. Boostenfar at HRC Fertility. Mostly because his name made me giggle, but I had also heard amazing things about him.

What’s worse than a first date from JDate? An initial evaluation with a fertility specialist. I bit my nails and picked my polish off because of nerves. What if I found out I can’t have kids, that my eggs are already fried and the only way to enjoy them is in a breakfast burrito? I feared that, although people assume I’m 27, my insides are truer to my real age. Which is, let’s just say, higher.

So I did what I could do: I made sure I looked extra young that day. On my way to the doctor, I listened to the Disney Pandora station and belted out “Part of Your World” (from “The Little Mermaid”) and “Chim Chimminy” (from “Mary Poppins”); I pulled my hair into a pony tail, put on an ironic hip t-shirt from Los Feliz and grabbed pink lip gloss from CVS. Maybe my outsides could trick my insides into looking younger too.

“Wow, you don’t look your age, Rena,” the doctor commented before the exam. “But let’s get in there and see how healthy you are and if you’re a candidate for egg freezing.”

I never thought I’d never find a position more uncomfortable than first date sex but then I had my first ultrasound…without the dinner and drinks. My robe was shapeless and opened in the front, my legs were spread in the most ungraceful position and this “nice doctor” was in no way looking for a “nice Jewish girl.”

After poking around a lot, Dr. B. spoke. “Oh, actually, you look your age on the inside.” What was he doing, counting the rings? Ok, this dose of reality – that although I could act and dress younger, my reproductive organs would tell their own story – shot me into panic mode. “I want to do this, and do this as soon as possible,” I realized. We scheduled my procedure for three weeks later.

The hardest thing to swallow about this whole process was the ”egg-surance” – the extraction and the storage is not cheap, and as an actor in LA, I didn’t have thousands of extra dollars sitting in a savings account. But I did have plenty of chutzpah.

The most expensive part of the process is paying for the medication: $4,000 for the hormones and shots. And so, I turned to the network of women I had collected over the years.

I put together an email telling my personal story of wanting to be a mother but not being in the right place in my life to do it. I spoke of egg freezing and how it has come so far. I then asked that if anyone had leftover fertility medication or knew anyone who had recently been through IVF and that I would trade a personal song and/or latte for whatever drugs they had.

What happened next was nothing short of a Hannukah miracle. The 25 emails turned into 50 which turned into 250, forwarded around the country. All of a sudden I was getting emails from strangers, women who connected to my story and wanted to help.

The next weekend I set out with a Starbucks card and and open heart and made my way around Los Angeles collecting needles, Follistum, Menopur and even alcohol pads. Each door I knocked on led to 20 minutes of honest chat with women about their fertility experiences. Some of these amazing women found success – we talked as a baby sat on the floor next to us. Others never got pregnant but were happy to share their leftover drugs with me. It was a beautiful, deep, feminine bond like none I’ve ever known.

Two weeks later I started with the shots; six days after that, I had six little eggs gently removed from my ovaries and placed in a freezer in Encino.

For the past two Mothers’ Days, as I ordered roses for my own mom, I sat and thought about my eggs– my tiny chances or ”Olafs,” as I like to call them – sitting in a freezer and waiting for the thaw.

Perhaps I’ll use them soon, or maybe they’ll remain frozen forever. But either way, I feel so good about my decision. And beyond my personal experience and because of it, I believe now more than ever that it’s time that fertility and the advances in modern reproductive science become part of our daily conversation. If nothing else, it brings women closer together and for that I am grateful.

This story first appeared at Grok Nation.
MG_7738Rena Strober is a native New Yorker currently living and working in Los Angeles. She made her Broadway debut in Les Miserables and went on to perform on and Off-Broadway for a decade. Some shows included Fiddler on the Roof, Beauty & The Beast, Reefer Madness, Bat Boy and more. She is currently recurring on Disney’s “Liv & Maddie” and has guest starred on “Shameless,” “The Big Bang Theory” and “Adult Swim.” Rena is also well known for her voice work on Disney’s “Penn Zero,” “Ever After High,” “Sailor Moon” and dozens of video games including Fire Emblem Fates, Republique and Zero Escape. When she’s not working as an actor, Rena teaches voice at the Academy of Music for the Blind and is their director of Outreach. Learn more about Rena at: www.renastrober.com. Follow her on Twitter.

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Darrah Singing!

Hi friends! Happy Saturday! I’m enjoying this lazy afternoon, drinking Starbucks Pike Roast and working on a writing assignment. Last Saturday, I was hanging out in bed singing along with one of my fave singer/songwriters, Jewel Kilcher. When she first arrived on the music scene in the middle-90s, with her eternal white tank tops and that mystical feather hanging off her acoustic guitar, I was totally mesmerized. I listened to her debut CD “Pieces of You” so many times I scratched it up! One of the sweetest #1 crush songs on it is called “Near Me Always.” Here I lend my voice to it.

Listen to more of my covers in the SINGING tab.

Enjoy your long Memorial Day weekend! Check back Tuesday for a new post! And be sure to sign up for my e-newsletter DARRAH’S CLUB by entering your email address in the box to the right! —–>
Darrah xoxo


Singing “Near Me Always” by Jewel

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You’re Only As Sick As Your Secrets

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What Is Privacy In This No-Privacy New World?

By Darrah Le Montre

I grew up in a family that said, “I love you,” a lot. Everyday. I love you was a truth, an apology, an afterthought, a team drill and an aside. My idea of love was so skewed for so long. Despite being told I was loved, I was also yelled at, ridiculed, hit, neglected and my voice and needs were diminished.

There are many adages in program that help me. “Easy Does It”, “One Day At A Time,” “This Too Shall Pass,” but the one most reflective of my adolescent life and my years as an addict is this one: You’re Only As Sick As Your Secrets.

I grew up in a family that was hyper-private and there were many secrets. Because of the unhealthiness and addictions, the way our family presented itself to the public versus what was really going on in the inner dynamic were two very different things.

In my recovery from eating disorders and drug addiction, I came to know that we are only as sick as our secrets.

My older sister recently wrote to me out of the blue and asked me to limit what I write about her in my essays on this blog. Unfortunately, I’m only able to do that within the confines of what would put her in danger—as I won’t censor myself. I made that decision a long time ago.

As a result of her request, I have to walk the fine line of trying to make a compassionate decision toward her while also respecting my own needs (which were rarely acknowledged or met in my alcoholic home). I also have to be certain I’m not trying to control her or get back at her for things that happened when we were kids.

I am currently crafting a response back to let her know that part of my healing process is writing about my experience in our home. Now, this is from my point of view, obviously. As we all know, there is our perspective, the other person’s perspective and the truth. I don’t kid myself to think I remember things exactly as they were. Only as I am.

The letter from her got me thinking… while I don’t want her to have anxiety or uneasiness about what I write, I can’t make the promise that she wants. And I don’t feel it’s selfish, I feel it’s evolved. It’s a tough decision on my part.

Part of the reason I feel confidently about telling her ‘no’ is because of my own process of releasing my attachment to how I feel about how other people feel about me. Another slogan in program is “What other people think about you is none of your business.” I’ve intentionally surrendered so much around what I’m OK with people saying or knowing about me. In fact, I’d rather be the one to just lay down the cards and admit “these are the things I’ve done” and thus others don’t have the power over me to reveal seeming secrets. Fearlessness is a powerful tool. Being unafraid of judgment is dynamic.

In an effort to put my money where my mouth is… The two most embarrassing acts I did while in my speed addiction are: I went to the bathroom next to a tree at a public park during the middle of the day in plain view of passersby. 2) I changed my pad in the passenger seat of my then-boyfriend’s truck at a gas station in front of his cousin.

These memories make me feel a mixture of sheer horror and odd reverence. I was so fucked up I just didn’t give AF. I was also in a weird space of irreverence about the world. I was angsty and young (eighteen) and rebellious and pushing the limits on acceptable behavior.

But, I’d rather you hear it from me than an old drug buddy!

In a way, I feel lucky that I grew up in an era predating social media. The lessons my daughter will learn will be steeper in some ways because everything is recorded for a sick kind of humiliating and fraternal posterity now. There are no photos or videos or Snapchat’s of me pissing aside a tree. But, there are memories that grow fecund in the vacuum of our minds, and I suppose, sometimes that’s even more dangerous.

I know that my teenage and early-20s drug addiction and eating disorders were a result, in part, of my formative years and the home I grew up in. For better or for worse, my parent’s choices affected my three siblings and me. So did my choices. My behavior and repeated choice to use drugs and run around with shady people was difficult for my parents. I have compassion for them.

In a way, I wouldn’t mind if my mother wrote about what it was like to have a teenage drug addict living in her home. At least I would feel seen. I would feel she was processing through an important chapter in our shared lives. I would feel like it actually happened. But, she is still in her own addictions. And if she did write something, I fear it would be in spite and I would not be handled with kid gloves.

And, I guess that’s what we all want. To be treated with gentleness. So I will do the best I can with my sister, while still maintaining my boundaries. After all, I’ve learned to treat myself with the softness that I always wanted. And to allow people into my life who will treat me with fragility. Not because I’m weak. Because I’m strong enough to admit that I need love to be a verb and not just something you are told before bedtime.

…Follow Your Bliss xoxo


Did you find this post insightful or interesting? Have your own thoughts on Family, Addiction & Privacy? Leave your comment below. 

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Darrah Le Montre is a writer and journalist and devoted mom. Her work has been published by Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, The Fix and nudie blog SuicideGirls.

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Darrah’s Facebook Fan Page!

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I’m super-excited to share that my Facebook fan page for this blog has reached over 2,200 fans! I’m so blessed to have such a robust & charming readership as you guys! Seriously. Not only do you read my work, but you comment and send love and unique and interesting and thought-provoking ideas my way. I’m very lucky to have ♥YOU!♥

I made a video blog to Thank You for being a part of my Facebook family. If you aren’t yet a member of my fan page, please visit & hit like! Also, sign up for Darrah’s Insider Club in the box to your right. You’ll get an email when I post new blogs! smile

Sending Love!
Darrah xoxo

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Jungle Book Premiere — Red Carpet Pics

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Darrah at the Jungle Book Premiere at the El Capitan Theatre

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Mitchell Lieb, Pres. of Music/Soundtracks for Disney (Far Left), Elizabeth Sherman, Original Jungle Book Songwriter Richard Sherman (Center), Lola Debney (Score Coordinator & wife of Jungle Book composer John Debney), Darrah

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Darrah & Lola Debney

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Jungle Book Red Carpet Photos — El Capitan Theatre

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Darrah Hits Vegas!

Hi My Lovely Readers!

I had lots of fun visiting Las Vegas recently, staying at the Wynn Hotel! I did a li’l video blog to share a bit about my journey! And, below is a pic Richard took on our way to dinner at Mr. Chow. I unearthed that black dress from the recesses of my closet, having forgotten it existed! It’s pretty cute, right? smile The second pic is in this gorgeous topiary exhibit in the Wynn lobby.

Sending Love,

Darrah

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