children

Lazy Fall Weekend

This weekend was really nice.  I don’t mean to sound so surprised by it, but I’m used to weekend feeling like they are 5 minutes long and Sundays to feel like a sprint to the finish line as we try to cram in laundry, dinner, baths, stories, bedtime, lunch-making, and a smidgen of relaxation before Jimmy and I collapse, unready to face another work week.

Story time with Daddy

This weekend’s pace has felt much slower.  Lethargic, even, and it’s been great.  It may help that after spending three grueling days in class last week, I felt unable to do anything but go slowly this weekend.  We did most of our running around  yesterday, meeting Jimmy’s mother, grandfather, stepfather and brother at IHOP for brunch.

Grandma and Daniel at IHOP. Daniel’s drinking creamer.

Normally I greet Sundays warily due to the fact it is the last day of the weekend AND it is filled with so much to be done from the time I get out of bed until the time I fall back into it.  Today, though, I greeted Sunday wearily.  I woke up bone tired.  I was tired like I had done some sort of strenuous or extremely taxing mental activity yesterday.  I lumbered out of bed this morning, unable to pick up speed.

Daniel was energetic, but he seemed content to play in the kitchen.  The day was gray and cool, the first time it really felt like Autumn.  Instead of finding it grim, I thought it was beautiful.  It added extra weight to our fatigue and the three of us seemed to agree without discussion that it was a perfect day to stay in our pajamas and do very little.   If we were very cunning or flexible, we might not even need to leave the house.

Fireman

Where’s the fire?

And for once, on a Sunday, I felt relaxed.  Calm.  Go-with-the-flow.  Daniel wants to watch 4 Thomas DVDs?  I’m ok with that.  The dishes still aren’t washed?  It’s ok.  The floors aren’t swept? Whatever. We did several loads of laundry (mostly Daniel’s because I bought his Fall wardrobe on Friday).  We placed a few orders online.  Daniel, Jimmy and I played with his cars and trains.  We all cuddled.  I even took a shower and used up all the hot water (that’s not as grand as it sounds; we are having hot water heater issues), something I always intend to do on Sundays but never get to.

Freshly-washed hair and my go-to Fall flannel shirt

I even got to read a lot of NurtureShock this weekend while Jimmy napped.  Daniel himself surprised us by falling asleep late afternoon, just as I was getting ready to get him out of his room from “rest time.”

Daniel’s late afternoon nap may spell trouble for tonight.  Or maybe it won’t.  Maybe some of the peace I’m feeling is the delay in our Sunday routine due to the fact that Daniel’s day care is closed tomorrow, so some of the typical Sunday pressures are absent.  It sort of feels like a semi-holiday for us too.

Or maybe our bodies and psyches needed a quiet day, a day to recharge.  The next several weeks will likely be filled with activities and who knows when we may have a quiet weekend like this again.

***Two Hours Later***

I still didn’t plant the mums, but I did take out my Halloween village.  And Daniel woke up happy and rested after an hour nap.

It’s been a really great day and great weekend. Hopefully the feelings and memories from it will sustain me until we can do it again.

How was your weekend?

Ice cream! And Sprinkles! And Whipped Cream! Sugar High!!!!!

I Wish I Could Hit Rewind

Sometimes I wish life had a rewind button.

Sunday I was feeling somewhat human again, so I took Daniel to the bounce house down the road while Jimmy took more medicine and tamed the paperwork covering our dining room table.   There were several other families there also trying to burn off their children’s excess energy on the rainy day, but it wasn’t too crowded.  As I took a breather from the umpteenth trip with Daniel down the slide (I’m not sure who is more tired when we leave), I started chatting with the lady next to me.  We exchanged our sons’ ages and swapped stories about how energetic our boys are.  Her son was 3.5, and I started to think that maybe we should swap phone numbers for a play date.  And then she told me that the little boy was her foster son.  We talked a bit about his situation and how long he had been with her.  I told her that I thought she was a special person for being able to do what she was doing.  Daniel grabbed my hand and asked to go on the “purple slide” again, so our conversation ended.  She and her son left while Daniel and I were deep in the climbing structure.

I didn’t get her number, and it was a calculated decision.  I decided not to pursue a play date with them because I was worried about how long the little boy might be with his foster family and whether I wanted to pursue building a relationship with someone who might not be there much longer.

Later that night while we were giving Daniel a bath, I looked at his sweet, innocent face carefully putting bubbles all over his bath toys and then washing them off, and I thought of that other little boy, and I was so ashamed that I had dismissed him as a potential playmate.  The topic of bruises had come up while we were talking about the boys’ energy.  I told her that our pediatrician had said that she worried if she didn’t see bruises on a child, meaning they weren’t being active enough.  She agreed and then commented that due to her foster son’s history, bruises take on an entirely different meaning for him.  She hinted that he had been through entirely too much in his short life.

That little boy had had a wonderful time at the bounce house, his face all smiles.  And it was clear that he had a wonderful bond with his foster mom. I would never have known about the scars and bruises — real or psychic — he carried if she hadn’t told me.

Two boys. My little boy, prayed for, longed for, loved and adored, with bruises from jumping and running and climbing. That little boy, on his second foster placement at 3.5, with bruises inflicted by unloving hands.  Maybe they don’t need or want our friendship.  Maybe he has plenty of playmates.  All I know is that thinking of what that child has gone through at the hands of people who were supposed to put his health and welfare above their own infuriates me, and my impulse is to do anything that will keep him smiling, to help him feel like a normal little boy from a normal, loving home.

I wish I’d asked for her number.  If I see her again, it will be the first thing I ask for.

Healing Salon: Let’s Talk

French salon

Bienvenue!  If this were a genuine salon, I would be reclining on a daybed while you all sat around me (rather kinky!), making a salon a very intimate exchange of ideas and debate.  In that spirit, I welcome you to my virtual room, the “room” in which I share my thoughts and musings, ridiculous and profane and even mundane.    I’m excited to be your hostess and salonniere as part of the Healing Salon suggested by Mel as a way to heal the issues from last week (see this post for a summary).  Please let me introduce myself.  I am KeAnne.  I’m 34 and since we started TTC in 2005, I have experienced many of the stops along the ALI road.  In 2007, I was diagnosed with stage 4 endo and a uterine anomaly and told that our options were IVF, surrogacy or adoption.  In addition to our pointless prior Clomid and injectible/IUI cycles, we tried one IVF and one FET, both negative.  As we were weighing our options in late 2007, Jimmy suggested surrogacy while I was ready to move to adoption.  We agreed to give surrogacy a try first, and I met our gestational carrier practically days after our agreement.  We cycled in September of 2008 and had our first positive beta ever.   At our first u/s at 9 weeks, we saw two sacs and two fetuses but only one had a heartbeat. The other fetus had stopped developing about a week before.   The rest of the pregnancy progressed uneventfully (wow!), and our son was born on June 2, 2009.

Yes, I am parenting after infertility, but it might be more accurate to say that I am parenting despite infertility because I am still infertile.  I still have endometriosis and the uterine anomaly.  I’ve always found those couples who “forget” their infertility after having a baby to be disingenuous at best and traitors at worst.

I write all of this to say that I get it.  Obviously I identify with other infertiles who now have children, but I still understand and can easily access the pain and fear and anger and sadness at finding yourself unable to do what so many seem to do without little or any thought.   I volunteered to host one of the salons because I believe that we can find a way to repair last week’s hurts (cue up “Love Can Build a Bridge”).

My role is to facilitate our conversation.  I ask only that you be respectful but honest in your responses.  It will do no good if we can’t have a genuine conversation.  So let’s begin.

Here are my questions:

  1. Is the ALI community that has been collected and organized by Mel able to encompass the entire ALI journey or can it only represent those still in the trenches?  Why or why not?
  2. While we all have the collective goal of moving to the other side, be that side parenting or living child free, why do so many bloggers who have moved on feel excluded from support and even despised? How can the community help them feel supported and included?
  3. Why do you blog about ALI? What is your primary motivation for doing so?
  4. Within the ALI community as curated by Mel, who should be responsible for community building  and innovation, creating new blogrolls, etc?  Should it be top-down or is there room for grass-root movements?
  5. What was the most frustrating aspect about last week’s brouhaha to you?
  6. If you have children now, what one thing would you want those in the trenches to know?  Conversely, if you are still in the trenches, what one thing would you want those parenting to know?
  7. You are Empress of the Internet for one day.  How would you fix the division and hurt feelings from last week? Or, is it fixable?
  8. Anything else?  Feel free to ask your own questions, say what you are thinking.

I look forward to having this conversation with you!

Beyond the PAIL

The phrase “beyond the Pale” refers to the part of Ireland under English control during the Middle Ages.  Pale came to mean boundary; therefore, if you move beyond it, you are outside of the boundary and laws don’t apply.  The phrase implies that you’ve gone too far and are alone.

That concept is fitting given the controversy roiling in the ALI (Adoption/Loss/Infertility community over the creation of the PAIL (Parenting/Pregnancy After Infertility and/or Loss) community.  Quick recap:  the PAIL community was created by Elphaba (we do love our nom-de-plumes) to help those who feel between worlds once they achieve pregnancy or parenthood.   Unfortunately, the creation of the community was done without discussing it with the ALI community’s godmother, the amazing woman who has worked tirelessly over many years to build a space in which everyone felt included and supported, and she feels hurt and that her ideas are being used to build something exclusive instead of inclusive.

There has been a lot of nastiness in the comments accusing PAIL members of using the community to rub their success in the faces of those who are still trying to achieve parenthood and even some resurrection of everyone’s favorite game: the pain Olympics.

What the members of PAIL keep trying to explain and what continues to be ignored is the very real need for support for those parenting after infertility.

The ALI community is an inclusive, supportive place when you are wondering why you don’t ovulate.  When you are having vial after vial of blood drawn.  When you move to HSGs, clomid, IUIs and IVF.  When you lose a baby too soon.  When you agonize over the importance of biological ties. When you need to consider the ethics of domestic or international adoption.  When you are outraged over a surrogacy attorney’s crimes. When you need to vent about callous friends and family members who don’t understand your pain. The community celebrates your highs and mourns with you during your lows.

Sadly, as many of us have discovered, that support ends when you receive a positive pregnancy test and/or finally achieve that take-home baby.  Blog readers drop off.  When you participate in the community, you are ignored.   Your new status is everyone’s goal, yet you are almost ostracized once you reach it. The solution, as some of the commenters on Stirrup Queen’s post suggested, is for us to expand our readership into the general mom blogosphere.

Ignoring the fact that the solution is a bit condescending, the real problem is that we don’t feel like we belong completely in the broader parenting community.  I don’t feel like I belong completely.  I am a mother, but I still feel “other.”

There are some tangible reasons someone parenting after infertility might feel different from mothers who took a more conventional route to their children.  They might be parenting a child of another race or in an open adoption and dealing with the issues that surround those situations.  They might not have carried their child themselves.   They might have to include complicated factors such as donor sperm, eggs or embryos into their child’s origin story. They might be dealing with mountains of debt and scarred veins from IVF treatments needed to achieve that child.

They might be parenting multiples and fielding knowing glances from strangers insinuating that they know your children must be the result of infertility treatment and feeling free to inquire after the regimen and using terms like “natural” (with the implication that your children are unnatural). Parenting after infertility causes many of us to redefine our definition of what a mother is.  What a family is.

Though I have my much-loved sweet boy, I still can’t participate in some of the experiences and situations mothers use to bond with other mothers.  Baby showers no longer cause me pain, yet when conversation turns to swapping war stories on birth options, labor experiences and breast feeding, I literally have nothing to say.   I notice the other preschool moms in my son’s (former) class are all either pregnant or have recently given birth to their second child, and my mind goes to our 5 embryos in storage and the tens of thousands of dollars we will need to make a second child a reality.   I observe the heated discussions over breast feeding vs formula feeding, natural birth vs pain medication vs c-sections, and they don’t mean anything to me (which is probably a good thing).  I have no stretch marks to display (not from pregnancy anyway), no frustration over shedding baby weight.  These concerns may sound frivolous, but they are the very real conversation of mothers around the often primal nature of motherhood.

I find myself questioning myself as a mother all the time.  Am I giving Daniel everything he needs?  Am I being the best mother I can for him?  Is there something in me that prevents me from being a good mother? Because I faced the real fear of never having a child, I now feel fear all the time.  Fear that I won’t be deserving of this incredible miracle that we were handed.

Some of this otherness and doubt may stem from the fact that our membership in the ALI community is based on the fact that we are abnormal at procreating in some way; that acknowledgement of not being “normal” doesn’t go away once you have a child.  And that you needed to use medical treatment to subvert your body, while amazing and miraculous, sometimes makes me wonder whether I achieved motherhood fraudulently.  Was I supposed to be a mother?

Maybe that’s the crux of my otherness: a nasty, deep-down suspicion that I don’t belong because I wasn’t supposed to be there.

I don’t write this post to be dramatic and fuel the fire on the inferno of PAIL.  I love my son.  I would have done nothing differently to have him.  I can swap stories about sleeping and feeding when he was an infant, commiserate over picky eating habits as a toddler and what it’s like being a working mother.  I do feel like I am a parent and share the same trials and tribulations others feel.

It’s just that how we got there never goes away.

Maybe I’m making too much of my experience.  I remember in philosophy class that one theory said that as individuals, we are all alone and can never really know anyone but ourselves.  We are all “other.”  I thought that theory was very sad and depressing, and I think that we as humans are so desperate to build community and to escape that existential loneliness.  We don’t want to be other; we want to find others like us who have shared the same experiences.

Please talk to me:  if you are parenting after infertility or after a conventional path, do you fully feel like a mother?  Do you ever feel like you don’t belong or are “other?”

Seasonal Reads: Fall and Halloween Books

I’ve mentioned several times how much I love Halloween and how much J and I love Fall, and I hope to instill that love in Daniel as well.  This year I went a little crazy and bought him several books to introduce him to the season – hey, no child was ever spoiled by having too many books, right?  Here are a few thoughts on them:

Apples and Pumpkins (Anne Rockwell) is about a family’s visit to a farm, and the little girl’s experience picking apples and choosing the perfect pumpkin for Halloween.  It’s a very simple book with a sentence on each page, and the illustrations are beautiful. Daniel loves this book and grabs it out of my hands to turn the pages himself when we read it.  It is an older book that has been re-issued, but it doesn’t feel dated at all. The only downside to this book is that it’s not a board book, so the pages can be difficult for toddler fingers to manage.

Plumply, Dumply Pumpkin (Mary Serfozo) is about a young tiger named Peter’s search for the most perfect pumpkin to carve (with the assistance of his father) into a jack-o-lantern. The book is darling, the story sweet and the illustrations excellent, but I don’t like it as much as the others.  I wanted to like it a lot since we are cat people (not this  kind of cat people), but I don’t because of the writing.   It rhymes, awkwardly, and it makes the story difficult to read.  I can’t get the words to flow when I read it as if I were stumbling.  Daniel likes the book, though.

Ghosts in the House! (Kazuno Kohara) is about a little girl and her cat (notice a trend?) who discover that their new house is haunted.   The story is very simple and easy to read, but it’s the illustrations that make the book stand out.  The pages are a bold dark orange, while the little girl and her cat are black and the ghosts white.  The characters leap from the page and while the book has a modern feel, its message is simple and old-fashioned.  It is definitely not your typical Halloween book. This is another book that Daniel grabs from my hands and tries to turn the pages himself.

Mouse’s First Fall (Lauren Thompson) is about a little mouse and her sister’s enjoyment of a beautiful fall day.  They study leaves, noting their color and shape, pile them up, jump in them and play hide and seek.  This book is completely about the season with no mention of Halloween.  It’s illustrated in bright, beautiful fall colors and while the story is very simple, it’s a great book to use to point out the different shapes of leaves and work on colors.

Corduroy’s Halloween (Don Freeman). Who doesn’t love Corduroy?  This Lift-A-Flap book takes Corduroy and his assorted friends through typical fall activities such as raking leaves and visiting a pumpkin patch to getting ready for Halloween.  Daniel loves this book because of the interactivity with the flaps, and it was a great book to use to introduce him to Halloween without any worries of it scaring him.  I also like that it’s a book with which he can interact on his own and doesn’t require me to read it to him for him to enjoy it.

For older readers looking for a novel Halloween treat, I suggest my friend Katie’s spooky three-part series “Buyer’s Remorse“: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

What are your favorite fall or Halloween reads?

Telling Him How He Came to Be

I’m not shy when it comes to talking about surrogacy and our experience, the ins and outs, etc. as two of my coworkers could attest after a recent trip.  It’s not like I have “We used a surrogate” tattooed across my forehead or anything, but I don’t see any reason not to talk about it if asked or it comes up.  It’s a part of my family’s history.

We’ve been asked a few times if we will tell Daniel and what we will tell him about how he came to be.  Earlier this week, Amy Blumenfeld wrote about this very thing in the New York Times’ Motherlode blog: Whose Belly Did I Come From.

I really liked her analogy of baking and faulty ovens.  I haven’t given much thought to what we will tell Daniel when he’s old enough, but we will tell him.  He doesn’t know yet, and at 2, I don’t think he’s ready to know.  We don’t show him pictures of F and tell him who she is and that he didn’t grow in my tummy.  But at what age should we tell him?  I don’t want it to be some After School Special or Very Special Episode experience.  I want our explanation of it to be natural and not a big deal.

But maybe we should be talking about it now so that it is something he has always known before he even realizes what it means. How old is too old to prevent shock and possibly fear on his part? 5?

While I would never keep this information from him, I don’t have the option of not telling him.  There are no pictures of me pregnant.  I didn’t fake pregnancy.  Too many people know we used surrogacy for it not to be a risk that he would hear it from someone else.

For those of you who used fertility drugs, IUI or IVF to have children, will you tell your children how they came to be?  We talk a lot in the IF community about speaking up; does that include our children?