Enter to win a free, signed Advanced Reading Copy of The Good Shufu!

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“A heartfelt and moving tale coupling insights into two remarkably different cultures”Kirkus Reviews

So very excited that  The Good Shufu‘s bound galleys, or Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs) as they are known in lit-world parlance, have arrived at our house on the outskirts of Tokyo!

GalleysEven more excited that Putnam has given me permission to do a series of drawings to give some away free, which I’ll sign with whatever personalized messages winners want and send them from Tokyo to anywhere in the world the Japan Postal Service reaches.

Enter by accessing the signup form here anytime between now and May 1, when I’ll do a blind drawing of two winners. Then I’ll contact the winners by email to get a postal mailing address and send along your very own signed, personalized copy.

Getting Through to Getting Pregnant at 45

I started this blog because of my forthcoming book, but I’ve noticed that the #1 search that leads people here involves pregnancy at or past 45. The last chapter of the memoir narrates the time in my life when I managed to get lucky enough to get knocked up naturally at 45, after 4+ years of infertility treatments (in a language I barely speak) and 2 pregnancy losses. But since the book isn’t out yet, and infertility isn’t the main focus of it anyway, I wanted to write something for all of you who come here searching now for more information on the topic.

I remember sharply the sadness and disorientation of not being able to get (or stay) pregnant, the incredible endless-seeming limbo of it. So although of course I don’t know most of you personally, I’m keeping you all in my thoughts, and I hope you know how brave you must be to be wading through the pain of being not-pregnant.

I’ve written before about some of the myths of getting pregnant that my own pregnancy seemed to contradict. I’d be lying if I told you now that I know how I got pregnant naturally and delivered a healthy baby girl after I turned 46. And, no offense to anyone, but I’d guess that most people are lying–or at least are wrong–when they say they know the key to getting pregnant at an advanced age.

But I do know what helped me get through my years of infertility and losses, and get through it with my marriage enough intact that my husband and I were still happy to keep trying naturally after my 45th birthday. In the hopes that some of these things may help or at least give solace to some of you, here they are:

  1. The number one thing that helped the most was actually something my dear friend Jenna said, which was roughly something like, “The most important thing to remember is that you have basically no control. Your body is just going to do its thing, and there is not much you can do to affect that one way or the other.” When she first said it, it sounded harsh and maybe even a little hopeless, but then when I thought about it, I realized both how true and also how freeing it was to accept that, for the most part, there was very little I could do to control–and thus very little I could do to ruin my chances of–getting pregnant. This may not be true for people who have structural impediments to conceiving or carrying a baby, but for many of us, whether or not our body produces a healthy egg and releases it at the right time and nurtures it the right way is something we cannot master. As I’ve mentioned, my doctors had so many reasons why I couldn’t produce or release or implant an egg normally without shots, pills, weeks of medical preparation, or another woman’s eggs, but in the end, my daughter’s first little cells formed, released, and took hold all by themselves. I didn’t even know about it until she was 7 weeks past conception.
  2. I could never deal with the “positive thinking” movement–something else I write about a bit in my memoir.  First of all, unbridled optimism just isn’t my thing. But even more than that, it felt crushing to me to force myself to think happy thoughts about how an embryo was implanting or how I’d be pushing my baby in a carriage soon, and then every month to not get pregnant again. But I was able to find a resource that helped me combat negative thinking, which in turn helped keep me grounded in a space that balanced honesty with the tough odds I was facing, with solace and assurance that I was doing everything I could to stay healthy–and that I could feel good about that. I used podcasts by Belleruth Naparstek (especially the ones on fertility, anxiety, and general well-being). I liked these because they didn’t force false hope down my throat but enabled me to focus on staying healthy, but I think you could use anything meditative and it would help.
  3. Related to this, I did yoga almost daily. I’m not saying that helped me get pregnant physically–or emotionally, for that matter. Plenty of people do yoga and still don’t get pregnant, and arguments about doing certain kinds of exercise (or diets, or thinking regimens) in order to get pregnant are specious at best, I believe, and dishonest at worst. But the yoga helped keep me strong and as relaxed as possible (which of course wasn’t very relaxed at all, especially not during treatment), and when I turned 45 and started to try to accept that my odds of getting pregnant with my own eggs had statistically dwindled to zero, the yoga really helped provide solace while I mourned. It also left me feeling like I hadn’t completely lost 4+ years of my life to infertility, because one thing the experience had given me was the ability to do so many more yoga moves than I’d even been able to do before. That, of course, wasn’t nearly equal to the pain of thinking we’d never be able to meet our baby, but it was something I was still grateful for, and finding anything I could be grateful for, at that point, helped.
  4. Keeping my focus on the love in my marriage, and on how lucky I was to have found my husband–child or no–also really helped me. I’ve written about this in the past too, for the New York Times online, but even after I wrote that article, and even after my husband and I gave up trying medically, remembering my love for my husband enabled me to know that we would be OK, that I would be OK, even if we never got to meet our baby. This was hugely helpful especially as I started to mourn the idea of having a child, when I turned 45 and we stopped all medical treatments and I thought my chances were basically nil. And if I hadn’t been able to get through all this with our partnership intact, then essentially I would never have been able to have my baby girl, because we wouldn’t have still been trying naturally.

If I think of other things that helped me get through infertility, I’ll post them. In the meantime, I am wishing each and every person who reads this post the same good luck that somehow the universe delivered to me when I delivered my healthy baby girl at 4 months past my 46th birthday.

The book-launch party is in the works!

logoI know it’s early, but if you’re in Boston, please save the date for a very special Four Stories/Good Shufu book-launch party on FRIDAY, JUNE 26th at the Middlesex Lounge in Cambridge.

I’ll be reading from the book and am crazy thrilled that Julia Glass, Michael Lowenthal​, and Alysia Abbot will be reading with me!

SHUFUJacketFinal3.20.15As usual, there will be nothing for sale, but there will be free drinks, funny questions, and, if guest host Steven Lee Beeber​ gets drunk enough, random moments of karaoke.

More info coming soon…

Among mixed marriages in Japan, US husbands outnumber US wives 6 to 1

Nippon.com and the Japan Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare report, in 2013 there were 21,488 international marriages in Japan (1 in 30 of all marriages). Of those, 6,046 were between Japanese women and foreign men, and of these, 19.2%, or about 1,161, involved American men marrying Japanese women.

On the other side, 15,442 marriages involved Japanese men, out of which 1.2%, or about 185, involved an American wife.

So in Japan, marriages between American men and Japanese women outweigh those between Japanese men and American women by a rate of 600%.

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(Graphic from “Vital Statistics in JAPAN -The latest trends,” by the Japan Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare.)

No wonder the shogun and I sometimes attract stares when I try to give him a kiss in public!

Hand soup at the latest Tokyo-area Dean & Deluca

Imagine my delight when I learned that Dean & Deluca was opening a location at the posh mall in the suburb just outside of Tokyo where we live. I’ve had visions of spending afternoons over cappuccino, feeling like I’m squarely back in the US.

Today, the mini spent a rare afternoon at hoikuen, Japanese daycare, and I finally had a chance to bring my laptop and get some work done over pastry and coffee. If I squinted my eyes so I couldn’t really see the Japanese writing on the menu and the line of straight-haired customers, and let the sound of the espresso machine in the background wash over me, I really did feel like I was back in the American urban cafe culture I love.

That is, until I got up to wash my hands and saw this:

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The Cover Arrives!

So excited that the book cover has arrived–and so thankful to the wonderful design team at Putnam and to my editor for making it so great.

When I first saw it, I had a moment of pause, thinking: Oh, the disheveled hair! The drooping waistline!

Now, after two+ weeks of the mini not sleeping, not eating, and not sitting still for a moment, I realize: Swap the kimono for some frayed yoga clothes, and it’s the spitting image of me–on a good day.

But seriously, I’m thrilled with how seamlessly Putnam has captured both the Japan theme and the fish-out-of-water sensibility of the book.

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Thank you Putnam; Sara, my editor; and Rachel, my agent, for all your help and guidance during the design process! Feeling proud to have my name on such a lovely cover.

The Older New Parent’s 3 Main Food Groups: Caffeine, Ibuprofen, & Wine

I know we got insanely lucky with the mini, lucky I was able to conceive naturally after my 45th birthday, lucky she was born totally healthy and amazing. So god knows I’m not complaining here. But let me complain for a second.

It seems she’s hitting her terrible two’s a year early. I suppose I could be grateful for her advanced development, like some parents are when their kids walk early. (“She’s only one! And she’s already in her terrible two’s!”) Instead, I feel like my head has been blown off and I’m walking around with shards on top of my neck.

Two weeks past her 1st birthday, and she’s terrorizing us. In Japan, they use the term “house-[something]” for a family phenomenon, like “the house-dog” (“uchi no enu”) where we would say “the family dog,” and it’s clear that the mini has suddenly become…the house terrorist.

She was sick last week, and while thankfully she is no longer ill, she has held fast to a little peccadillo she developed when she had a fever: insisting on being rocked to sleep between the hours of 2-5am. And then being rocked while she’s asleep, too. So she wakes up and cries around 2, and then after I rock her and her breathing slows and that peaceful half-smile of slumber has stolen across her face, I start to bend over the crib to put her down. And she immediately tenses her entire little body, limbs stretched in rigid protest even though she is seemingly still asleep, and the minute she touches down on the soft mattress of the crib, she is up and wailing the saddest–and loudest–song of woe. So that’s how we spend our nights now. Like a Mobius strip of rocking and refusal.

This has gone on for a week, and this morning we were out walking to do errands and I looked down at my torso and I realized I had become one of those mothers I always swore I’d never be: the kind who walks around with some kind of unidentified–but clearly bio-hazardous–substance strewn across her shirt. What bothered me even more is that I couldn’t muster the energy even to care. I just shifted the lining of my coat to cover it for a second and then left it there all day.

It’s now late afternoon and the mini has finally gone down for one of the naps she has also been refusing to take all week. I’m coughing and sneezing and exhausted and so tired I couldn’t eat today, once again fueled mainly by my new three food groups: caffeine; ibuprofen; and, once dinner-time hits, wine. I’m craving sleep and a nap, and my knees and back and my right hip are killing me from the baby carrier. But I’m also 47 and my baby is just past 1, and I want to be around for her when she gets older. I want to be on the other end of the phone line for her when she is in her 40s and she has a child who has momentarily derailed her. So instead of sleeping, I’ll wipe the bio-hazard off my shirt, roll out my yoga mat, and try to keep my aging body as young as possible. All while keeping my eye on the monitor, of course, and praying with all I have that the house terrorist doesn’t wake up from her nap.