Monday, April 30, 2012

Saying Thank You and Goodbye

Today, Ian and I went to Mommy and Me yoga.  The class is held in the upper floor of the building where my fertility clinic resides.  I took Ian downstairs, after class, during the office's lunch time, to show him to all of the men and women who were so instrumental in getting him into my arms.  I loved it and hated it at the same time.

You see, when I walked into the fertility center doors, I realized immediately that there are still many painful memories haunting me there.  There was one woman sitting in the waiting room when I walked through the lobby and I could read the pain and frustration in her face.  I wanted to say to her..."I know.  It does get better.  I promise."  But that's not a promise I can make...and a woman holding a baby is probably the last person she wants offering her advice right now.  I can only pray that the glimpse she caught of my infant carrier didn't make her day any harder.

When I saw the doctor and nurses, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude.  I ended up chattering like a middle school girl talking to the boy she's been crushing on.  I was trying to be impressive and struggling to find something witty to say.  I kept randomly saying "Thank you" in the middle of conversations because I couldn't keep the words in my mouth.  The gratitude I feel towards those people is overwhelming.  Having Ian sitting there, in the midst of the clinic just made the "homecoming" all the more intense.  And although I know there is a remote possibility that we will be back there someday, trying again with one of our frosties...it felt like goodbye today.  A real goodbye.  Not the surreal experience I had on the day I was discharged from the clinic.  This visit brought a sense of closure.  And with that closure... I experienced sadness for what I lost in the past, peace about where I am at in the present, and hope for where I will be in the future.  I cried on the way home from the visit with the clinic, but I'm not crying anymore.  I am able to move forward, with gratitude in my heart.

Friday, April 27, 2012

I'm "That" Mom.

I'm that mom who...

1) ...called the pediatrician twice in the last two days.  The first time because one of Ian's cheeks seemed "too red" to me.  The second time because he had cried all day and wasn't drinking as much as usual.  The "cheek" issue resolved before I was even off the phone with the doctor (apparently teething can cause redness in the baby's cheeks).  The second call resulted in my giving Ian Tylenol...which resolved what turned out to be just another teething issue in 15 minutes.  The pediatrician must LOVE me.

2) ...shows everyone pictures of her baby.  I mean EVERYONE!  Receptionists, people in elevators, doctors, nurses, grocery store clerks.  I, of all people, should know better.  You never know what that person is going through and if looking at your baby is going to ruin their day.  But I can't help myself.  I waited so long to have a baby to show off...I just can't seem to stop.

3) ...posts pictures of my baby on Facebook everyday (or almost every day).  I have read IF post after IF post about the daft, inconsiderate women who think their stupid babies are so magical and so amazing that they shove pictures and updates about their babies down everyone's throats.  Guilty as charged.  I am now daft and inconsiderate.  And I do think that everything Ian does is adorable and worthy of being shared with the world.  I know that's stupid...I don't care.  Love makes you do stupid things.

4) ...can't stand the idea of my son going to daycare in a couple of months and yet... I start counting down the hours (and minutes) until his bedtime before I've even had breakfast some days.  I adore spending my days with Ian.  But all day, every day, for almost five months, is starting to be a bit much.  And the feeling is mutual.  There are times that Ian gives me a look in the morning as if to say "Ugh!  Not you again."  I think I will need to try to find a babysitter so that I can have a couple of hours here and there to myself during the week.

5) ...still thinks about IF almost everyday.  Isn't that strange?  Some days it is because people tell me that Ian looks just like me.  Some days it is because I will feel a pang in my remaining ovary.  Some days it is because I am talking to or thinking about my best friends...almost all of whom I met in my IF support group.  I guess when you spend years defining yourself by a condition that you have been forced to endure...it isn't easy to drop that label and forget about what you've been through.

6) ...sings songs about EVERYTHING to amuse the baby.  We have a "Poopy in the Pants" song, a "First We Do the Diapey Change And Then We Get a Baa" song, and...my personal favorite... a "We Don't Bite The Booby" song.  If anyone bugged my house, I would likely be committed.

7) ...talk to my baby in the car...while I'm driving.  The people next to me must think I'm a crazy person as I talk, sing, make faces and do all kinds of other things to try to ease the crankiness of a baby that can't even see me...because he's facing the back of the car and I am looking out the windshield.

8) ...takes my son for hour long rides in the car just to get him to stop crying.  Not a great option given gas prices...but some days it's just necessary.  He LOVES going for rides and will fall asleep within 30 seconds of hitting the highway.  Gas could cost $10 a gallon...and it would still be worth every penny on his "bad" days.

9) ...cringes when my mother or mother-in-law gives me antiquated parenting advice.  I'm mouthy by nature and it is really difficult for me to bite my tongue and not just blurt out "That's wrong...research showed it was wrong a decade ago!"  So far, I've behaved and focused on the love behind the advice.

10)...loves my life.  Changing poopy diapers (and poopy clothes) five times a day.  Wearing puke-caked shirts (and pants and hair) more often than not.  Sleeping less than I did when I was pregnant (which I didn't think was possible when I was pregnant).  I love it all because it means I have Ian.  It means I'm a mom...even if I am "that" mom.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Thank you

I just wanted to send a quick thank you to all of you who commented on my last post.  I had chest pains last night and this morning because I was so stressed out about the situation with my family.  Every few hours, another email would pop up and it was more words of encouragement from all of you.  Slowly, I felt more at peace with the choices I made and I felt so much better.  I really can't thank you enough for being the family that my "real" family just can't seem to be for me.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Too Mad to Come Up With A Title

I received a call at 9:00 p.m. tonight from my mother.  Naturally, I assumed someone was hurt or dying because why else would she call me when she knows for sure that Ian is sleeping?  She opened the conversation with "I need a loan of $20 or more from you.  There's a family health issue and the person with the family health issue asked me for the money.  I don't have it, so I need to borrow it from you.  It will be my loan though."  I said "Let's cut the crap.  What is wrong with [my sister] now?"  Then my mom launched into a huge story about how my sister (who is 26 years old, mind you) took my 6 year old niece to the hospital and found out she has bilateral ear infections.  My sister supposedly needs $14 to get my niece's medication.  My mom wanted me to wire transfer her $20 (which costs $5-$7 to do) and she would then use $5 of that money to wire the remaining $15 to my sister.  My mom told me that not helping would mean my niece could lose her hearing in both ears.

I explained to my mom that Medicaid would cover my niece's prescription costs.  Apparently, my sister doesn't have Medicaid for my niece because they wanted her to take two classes before getting Medicaid, and the classes would interfere with her (20 hour a week fast food) work schedule.  I told my mom that there are loads of free clinics in the city where my sister lives.  My mom said that my sister told her there wasn't and my sister had already been to the hospital and no one would help get the prescriptions.  At that point...I called BULLSHIT.  No hospital is going to send an uninsured child home without medications that she desperately needs.  Hospitals have pharmacies and frequently provide prescriptions to children late on a Saturday night, when normal pharmacies might not be open.  Even if everything my mother was saying was true, there are dozens of charitable organizations that could provide an emergency "gift" for the cost of the prescriptions.  In fact, one such charitable organization just bought my sister a refrigerator and stove last month because child welfare workers had found out that my sister didn't have any appliances and my niece had no home cooked meals, milk, fruits or vegetables, etc. for months (except for the meals provided at school).  (Every time I think child protective services is finally going to step in and do something for my niece, they find a new way to bandage the bullet hole...giving my sister time to find new ways to F-up as a parent and giving my niece more time to learn that madness is normal....GRRRRR!)

My mother got furious with me and said that she couldn't believe I could be so heartless.  She kept repeating that if I refused to help, I would be responsible for my niece's suffering.  Finally, I said "You know that [my sister] is on drugs.  She's admitted it to you.  There are clearly ways for [my niece] to get her medicine without $14.  Do you truly believe that this money is for a prescription?  And even if it is...do you really think you are helping [my sister], by enabling her to not avail herself of the resources she has available to her?  Is that really what is best for [my niece] in the long run?  And did it occur to you that the reason she doesn't call me directly to ask for the money is because she knows I'll call her out on the fact that her story doesn't add up, while you are so eager for her love and approval that you will ignore the obvious?"  (I know...not my finest hour, but my family can push my buttons in a way that no one else can).

My mother told me that my sister wouldn't ask me directly because I had told my sister the last time she borrowed money from me that she was never getting another F'ing cent from me.

In fairness, that's not exactly what I said.    Almost exactly a year ago, my sister called me crying, begging me for $50.  She explained that her electricity had been turned off and they had no food in the house, so she and my niece would starve for two days, until she could get to the food pantry, if I didn't wire money to them.  (This was the 100th call of its type over the last few years).  I told my sister that, at 25, she needed to get her shit together.  She was a mother...and she needed to act like it.  Her husband was getting deported so she had a real chance at a fresh start.  I explained to her that she was welcome to move closer to us (as she lives over 4 hours away) or even move in with us, so we could help her out.  But I was not going to continue to enable her to live her life the way she was living it by sending her small amounts of money over and over and over.  There was a lot of crying, and she was clearly not happy with me, but I wired the money and she never overtly asked me for money after that.  She didn't get her shit together either, but at least I could sleep knowing that I wasn't actually making things worse.  Apparently that wasn't exactly how my sister remembers that conversation.

Anyhow...back to tonight's conversation with my mom.  She kept repeating how I should send the money to her.  I said "No.  I'm not spending $5 to send $20 to you."  She said "Well how the hell are you going to get the money to her?"  I said, "I'm not."  She said "What do you mean your not?  You have to.  It is for [your niece].  Don't you love her at all?"  I said "I sure do.  And..no.  I'm not sending the money."  I was promptly hung up on.

I started crying at that point and haven't fully stopped yet.  I'm so angry.  Angry for being put in this position by my family.  Angry that my niece is being used this way.  Angry that she might actually have bilateral ear infections that aren't being treated because my sister can't even be bothered to get herself on welfare!  Angry that my mother thinks it's okay to make me feel like shit so that she can keep enabling my sister to act like an idiot. 

Oh...and I almost forgot to add...My sister also needed money to go to court next week because her landlord is attempting to evict her.  My mom told me my sister needs $244 to pay late rent.  Here's the problem with that.  First...I know how much her rent is each month and $244 doesn't make any sense.  No one pays $106 of rent when they don't have the rest.  Second...you don't get taken to housing court after one month of missed rent.  It takes about three months from the first missed rent date to the time of the court date, assuming the landlord immediately instituted eviction proceedings (which almost never happens in the type of establishment you can rent for $350 a month).  So she hasn't paid her rent for at least three months.  Third...this is the eighth eviction my sister has gone through in the last 6 years...that I know about.  I'm not counting the homeless shelters she and my niece have lived in, as those places never actually kicked her out. (Can you sense my sarcasm there?)  So I'm angry that my sister is a habitual liar and can pay for pot and other drugs, but can't be bothered to keep a roof over my niece's head.

I'm just so pissed!!!  I keep waiting for my sister to hit "rock bottom" so she can start to rise up.  I want to believe that one of these days she is going to wake up and realize that she's got to change.  I'm pissed that I might be wrong...this may just be who she is...forever.

And then...there's the other emotions.  My heart is breaking for my niece.  There's not much I can do for her.  Child protective is already involved.  I'm not going to go into full out war with my sister to try to take custody of my niece away from her (a VERY hard thing to do in NY).  Sometimes I just wish I could forget that I have a sister or a niece.  How awful is that?  My poor helpless niece...and I'm trying to forget she's there because it hurts too much to think about how she is being forced to live.  And adding to that hurt...my old friend Guilt.

I feel guilty for making my mother mad.  Guilty that my niece may be sleeping (or not sleeping) with terrible ear pain and illness, and I'm not sending money to help her.  Guilty that I am having to force myself to love my sister (and mother) at this point.  Guilty that I can't fix their problems.  Guilty that I spend more on two weeks worth of Ian's fancy diapers than what I am being asked to send to my sister...and I still won't send it.  Guilty that Ian probably has more clothes and toys at 4 months old than my niece has at 6 years old.  Guilty that, even though we take my niece out to the store to get her clothes, shoes, toys and school supplies when we visit, we only visit once a year.  Guilty because my family truly sees me as the selfish brat in this situation.  In their minds I have more money than I know what to do with and I am too selfish to help them with their basic necessities.  It's not that simple...but I understand why it looks that way to them.  And for that, I feel guilty.

My husband says I need to let this go.  He says I can't fix the problem and I did the right thing, so I need to just get some sleep and focus on the fact that I am being a good mom to Ian...screw the rest of my family.  It's easier said than done.  My head is pretty sure I did the right thing.  My heart isn't.  That's why this is bothering me so much.  That's why I'm venting onto my blog.  That's why I'm still crying.

Friday, April 20, 2012

My Blog Has a Sister

I struggled a lot with the idea of how to deal with making this blog stay true to its purpose, while not forcing myself to avoid writing about a big part of my life right now (my weight loss efforts).  I thought I would just find a way to incorporate the weight loss discussions and updates into this blog...but it just never felt right.  So, I've officially started a "sister" blog to this one.  You can find it at http://cannotweighttolose.blogspot.com/.  That blog will deal with all of my "weighty issues" while this one can remain my place for reflection on infertility, motherhood, etc.  It isn't easy for me putting my dirty obesity laundry out there for the world to see, but it needed to be done.  I'm tired of hiding from the obesity issue...just as I was tired of hiding from my feelings about infertility a year ago.  Blogging was my life saver during my IF journey.  I'm hoping it can play the same role in my weight loss journey.  Please don't feel obligated to go check it out.  I'm still going to be writing on here, and I'm guessing that reading my weight loss blog would be on the same excitement level as watching paint dry.  But, if you do decide to check it out and even comment, I only ask that you not reference this blog.  I feel like my friends and followers on this blog "get it."  I would hate for anyone just stumbling across this blog because of a cross-reference from my other one to make me lose the safety, security and support I feel from this blog.  Thanks, Ladies.

P.S.  I just have to say, as I am writing this Ian is picking his nose in his sleep...and it's cute!   I swear to God, having a child makes your brain turn to mush.  I better go before he wakes himself up or, worse, hurts himself.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Random Reflections




Let’s see…where was I at a year ago today?  I was fattening up my uterine lining to prepare for my donor egg cycle.  I was fantasizing day and night about what my donor was like.  I was picking out a gift and writing a letter to the donor, to show my appreciation for the wonderful gift she was giving to The Prince and me.  I was stalking the donor coordinator at my infertility clinic, nervously anticipating that something was going to go wrong with the donor’s cycle…because my history of IF had taught me to expect the worst.  I was worrying about potential future repercussions of referencing my infertility struggles on Facebook.

It’s really strange to look back at where I was at a year ago, knowing what I know now.  Knowing that the donor’s cycle would go perfectly and we would get more beautiful eggs to work with than we ever could have hoped for.  Knowing that my uterus would plump up and form a lovely little home that embryo Ian would nestle into for an entire pregnancy.  Knowing that I would finally experience a Mother’s Day that didn’t completely suck.  Knowing that no one would ever put me down or ask awkward questions about my IF “coming out.”  Knowing that many friends and family were suffering from IF in silence, and were inspired to reach out for some support once they knew they weren’t alone.

The only thing that hasn’t changed is that I still wonder about the egg donor and think about her sometimes…though it no longer takes up much of my time.  When people say that Ian looks like me, I always think of her for a second.  I’m not sure if that will ever change.  But it is always a positive thought.  I’ve realized in the last year that the fantasy I had built about who the donor was is not realistic.  I’ve also realized that I don’t want to try to find out who she is.  There was a time when I did.  I was so curious I couldn’t stand the idea of not knowing more about her.  But now I just feel a profound respect for her…and her privacy.  I would not be pleased if she decided to look me up, and I am going to afford her the same courtesy I expect.  The Parents Via Egg Donation Organization  blog recently asked about privacy boundaries between donors and recipients and it got me thinking about how much my thoughts and expectations have changed in the last year. 

There’s a part of me that wishes I knew then what I know now.  I could have saved myself from a lot of stress and anxiety.  But there’s another part of me that is happy that I went through those experiences…just as I needed to…as a process and a period of personal growth. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Got Milk? The Link Between Breastfeeding Difficulties and Infertility



Let me start out by saying, breastfeeding is not easy. In fact, let me take that statement a step further and say that it is downright hard. I liken it to trying to learn a complicated waltz with a partner you’ve never met before, when you yourself have never danced before. Initially things are clumsy and frustrating…even painful at times. But slowly, both partners start to get the hang of it and it becomes easier and more rewarding. Before you know it, though it is still work, you find that you're enjoying yourselves. For Ian and I, it took us about three months to really get our “dance steps” down. I know lactation consultants tell people that it can take two weeks to get the hang of breastfeeding (BF), but I think that's an optimistic estimate.

Because Ian was born prematurely, he wasn't able to really latch and suck for a long time. I started pumping within hours of his birth and had such an amazing supply, we actually discussed the possibility of me donating breast milk. Then I took Ian home and, over time, his appetite increased. The problem was, the more he ate, the less I produced. Slowly, the frozen stockpile I had accumulated while he was in the NICU dwindled down to a single vial of 2.5 ounces of milk...that's half of one meal for Ian. I felt like a failure. I worked with the doula, increased my water intake, drank disgusting mother's milk tea, ate oatmeal until I wanted to puke, and meditated while pumping. Nothing worked. I can’t tell you how many tears I shed, or the number of hours I spent awake in bed worrying because there was only one bottle of milk in the fridge for Ian.

I decided to look into what research, if any, had been performed on women having trouble with milk supply, so that I could “fix” the problem. While asking Dr. Google my questions, I stumbled across references to research showing that women who used ART to achieve pregnancy were more likely to have breastfeeding problems. One of my close IF friends had also mentioned to me that she was having milk supply issues and that she had been told that there could be a hormonal connection between IF and decreased milk supply. At that point, my interest was piqued and I started focusing on the IF-BF connection.

My online research turned up some speculation from the medical community that the same hormone problems that cause female-factor infertility can also cause difficulty with lactation (specifically, there appears to be a link between problems with breast milk supply and PCOS, possibly attributable to increased adrogen or estrogen levels). But I could find no actual study defining such a link. It makes sense to me that there could be a physical link and I hope that the issue will be researched further by those far smarter than I.

The only “actual” study I could find addressed the emotional/mental causes of lactation problems after ART. That study, a 150 subject Australian study, showed that there is a link between difficulties with BF and women who have undergone infertility treatments. Specifically, that study found that the link seemed to be explained by psychological factors. The researchers found that women who conceive through ART often have less confidence in their ability to care for their newborns and have greater levels of anxiety when compared to women who conceive naturally. The researchers found that the lack of confidence in mothering skills, anxiety and feelings of guilt bleed over into breastfeeding. The study showed that women who undergo IF treatments are less likely to try, or continue, to breastfeed. And those who do try are more likely to report milk supply problems.

It makes sense in a way. Anyone who has ever breastfed, or tried to breastfeed, will tell you that there is a definite mental/emotional component to breastfeeding. For me personally, I have to close my eyes, take a deep breath and think about my milk flowing down in order to get “let down.” If I'm stressed or upset about something, Ian will get frustrated because I just can't get the milk to him. So, I have no doubt that emotional and mental perceptions effect BF.

I also know from experience that IF has a significant impact on confidence. Prior to writing this post, I though that I had not experienced a lack of confidence in my mothering skills (I happen to think I'm a really good mother...so far)...but I forgot about how I felt when I was struggling with my milk supply. When my supply started to dwindle, I absolutely panicked and overreacted to the situation. Ian was not going to die if my milk supply stayed sucky. We just would have had to supplement with formula. Not my ideal, but not the end of the world. If I truly am honest with myself, I think my extreme level of stress and anxiety when my supply started to go down was a result of my residual fear that my body will fail me (and Ian). I learned to stop trusting my body during IF. Perhaps I haven't been able to build that trust back up. At the first sign of my body faltering, I jumped right to the conclusion that I was heading for a catastrophic failure. And I'm betting I'm not alone in that feeling. Once that ball starts rolling, the usual suspects follow...frustration, guilt, anger. All of the emotions that will further inhibit BF creep in and before you know it, you are in a vicious cycle of milk supply decreasing due to stress, which causes more stress, which causes more supply problems, etc. etc. etc.

Please understand, I am NOT saying that if you have used ART to get pregnant, you are going to have breastfeeding problems. I don't even think the researchers mentioned above would argue that is the case. Lots of women report that they have problems with BF after their doctor tells them they will have problems breastfeeding. It's a self-fulfilling negative prophecy of sorts. So to be clear...I am not saying any of you will definitely have BF issues. I don't think IF or ART is a direct cause of BF problems across the board. Rather, I think the baggage that us former IF'ers sometimes pick up during our journey (and never put down) CAN cause breastfeeding problems...and that's worth acknowledging and examining. So for those of you out there struggling with your supply, please know that you are not alone and it is not your fault that you are having a tough time. There's a bunch of us in this together and I am sure we will all be there to support one another through this obstacle, just as we supported each other through IF.

(P.S. For anyone who is interested, I wanted to let you know that I have really improved my milk supply by taking the prescription Reglan. It is an acid reflux medication that, for some reason, has the side effect of causing increased lactation. My OB said it doesn't always work for everyone, but it has worked extremely well for me. It has no known negative effects on the baby, so if you get to the point where you are really desperate...it might be worth asking your doctor about that option).

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Four Months

video
Video of Ian "swimming"...his new favorite activity since he learned to splash.

Four months.  That's how long it has been since my little miracle entered this world.  My blog renovations aren't quite complete yet, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to provide a proud IF mommy update.

Ian went to his four month baby wellness appointment with the pediatrician today.  He is 16 pounds and 4 ounces, putting him somewhere between the 75th and 90th percentile for weight.   And that's on the full term baby growth chart...Ian grew out of the premie growth chart (that they told me he would always be judged on) months ago.  His height on the other hand...let's just say my guy is a "Little Teapot"...as in "Short and Stout."  He is 24 inches today.  I was 22 inches when I was BORN!  His doctor isn't worried about his height in the slightest, so I'm not going to let myself be upset about it, either.  He is ahead of the curve developmentally and healthy as a horse.  That's all that matters.

He is officially wearing size 6 to 9 month clothing.  He was in size 3 to 6 month clothing for all of three weeks.  Lots of people told me to leave the tags on clothes until he actually was ready to wear the clothes, so I could take back what he never wore.  I didn't listen...washing everything out of excitement every time he moved up a size.  I REALLY should have listened.  We could start a college fund for him with the value of all of the clothes that I washed and he never even got to wear once.  Even though he needs to move up to the size 6 to 9 month clothing so that it will fit around his rotund belly, all of his pants are about four inches too long for him.  I suppose I should learn to sew so that I can hem the pants.  But, realistically, my poor guy is probably just going to have to wear rolled-up pant legs until he's old enough to protest about it (or until one of his buddies tells him it is uncool).

Speaking of buddies, Ian has recently started attending get-togethers with other IF babies.  He's still a bit too young to actually play, but he likes to watch the other babies and it won't be long before he's drooling on toys with the rest of them.  It is really amazing to see the joy of the IF mommies that I spent years in the trenches with, as they watch over and love their little miracles.  None of us wanted or deserved to be part of the IF club, but as we move forward in our journeys together, it is so wonderful to watch as one at a time dreams come true and amazing parents are born.  We are all so appreciative, so full of awe, and so acutely aware of how blessed we are, in a way that I think is rare to find outside of the IF survivor community.

I've had four months to bask in the joy and gratitude of finally being a mom, worried that those feelings would fade when the "newness" of having a baby wore off.  I'm happy to say that those feelings haven't faded yet.  My love just grows by leaps and bounds each day.  One year ago today, we were just getting started on the meds for my donor egg cycle...the one that would lead to my pregnancy.  So, for those of you out there who are still in the trenches and struggling to hold onto hope, please know that miracles happen and when they do...it is all worth it.  Every needle stick, every broken heart, every tear, every sleepless night, every fight with your spouse, every negative pregnancy test...all worth it when you finally get to feel the love of being a mom.