Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bittersweet Graduation

I have had a lot of graduation days in my life...high school, undergrad, grad, etc. and of course the one all of us dealing with IF strive for: the graduation from my RE (well, I've had that twice but this time I didn't need to go back and re-do all of the coursework). Most of my graduation days have managed to be bittersweet, marking the end of an era and the beginning of another. Today was no different. I went to my OB for the last time as an 'OB' patient. Next time I'll call him my OB/GYN, with emphasis on the GYN part.

6 weeks postpartum I am moving on...from fertility treatments for now (YAY) and from pregnancy and all of the looking forward and anticipation that goes with that (YAY and BOO). You see, while it's easier said than done, I have a bit of assvice for all of you IFers currently pregnant or who will become pregnant. I know, you didn't ask for it, but I'm going to give it to you anyway, regardless of how difficult it is to follow:

Cherish this time.

Above all else, try not to let the terror of what might or might not be dominate you or your happiness. Try not to let guilt or fatigue rob you of the moment when you see that first heart beat or feel that perfect creature move inside you. Infertility might threaten to take away these moments, leaving you with more pause than celebration, but please don't let it. Pretend, as often as possible, that you are like any other pregnant woman and that you will undoubtedly come out of this unscathed and happy and most importantly, a mother.

I'm not suggesting that you'll return to a state of blissful naivete based on my assvice alone. You have been marked by the great big IF, never to return back. But if only I would have heeded my own words. While I never fully blogged about this (as I didn't want to give it anymore power than it already had), I was dominated by the what ifs while pregnant. When I bought that first piece of baby clothing, my immediate thought was not what he would look like in it but in wondering what crevice of my garage I would stuff it in should I lose him. Even at 31 weeks, I thought long and hard on how I would return all of my baby shower gifts in that same event. After I bought our minivan at 26 weeks, for weeks I questioned what it would be like to drive this same 8 passenger van empty while remembering my dead child. I can't begin to count the nightmares and the hours envisioning the worst on his 'quiet' days. I don't wish that on any expectant mother, least of all those who have been through what many of us have to even get there.

But he's here and he's safe and now, I regret these thoughts more than ever. I know they robbed me of moments that I could have been enjoying. And regardless of whether it turned out the way it did or not, I should have been honoring that time with him every second he was inside me. I'll never get it back. But as I said, that's easier said than done. Nevertheless, I can still say that despite this, my pregnancy with Baby G was the happiest time of my life. While I lived in a state of anxiety, the bliss was powerful enough to counteract that. This is where the bitter in bittersweet resides. On some days, I actually miss being pregnant and look at pictures of my pregnant belly and it feels surreal and a thousand miles away. But then I see where the sweet in this moving on comes from when I look at my quickly growing little baby, when I realize what this graduation day truly represents. I am standing in a place I never thought possible. I am so, so thankful for where I have been, but moreover, where I am going.

Monday, December 28, 2009

2009 in Retrospect

If you have read my blog longer than a year, you may recall my 'real' Christmas letter last year. In that letter my ultimate goal was to have the seething sarcasm shine through like a diamond as it mocked the Christmas letters I so loathe. However in writing it, what I didn't plan for was how much it did allow me to reflect. Given all that had gone wrong in 2008, I needed that reflection or rather debriefing, because in many ways I felt as if I were leaving a war zone. So, in that same spirit, I bring to you the same type of reflection of 2009, but less with the post war zone trauma. Ok, I'm a little late for the Christmas thing, but we'll settle for the New Years letter, m'kay?

2009: The Real Story

Hello friends and family!

After the crap fest that was 2008 (see last year's letter), I began 2009 looking for some serious redemption. I mean, the powers that be owed me and they owed me big, but of course as any infertile will tell you, it doesn't work that way. Deserve all you want, but don't be surprised if after donating all your earthly possessions to charity and serving a Peace Corps mission in Sub-Saharan Africa that your entire family dies in a car crash. Sorry, that easy morbidity is the bitter infertile in me talking. Anyhow, I rang in the New Year with the hubby and a few friends having just completed my 7th and final IUI. While sitting there not drinking and pretending that it might have actually worked I guess I knew better and alas, I was right. It was time to take that final leap.

So two weeks into January not only am I met with a BFN for that 7th and final IUI, but my beloved dog falls suddenly ill and we were forced to make the immediate decision to say goodbye.

Happy freakin' New Years to me. This whole 2009 redemption thing didn't look too promising at this point.

As a result of our failed attempt, just a handful of days later, I officially popped the cherry on my IVF virginity- $27,000 worth to be exact (or a loaded mid-sized sedan). You might recall mention of these plans in the last letter. If you have any familiarity at all with the cost of fertility treatment, you might be surprised by our price, but I assure you it is a steal considering we purchased a package of 3. Yes, a steal as in 'take out a loan you'll be paying off for the rest of your natural born life'.

To assist in paying for it, I interviewed for an additional part-time job two days after Kyra passed away and the day after I started birth control pills for the IVF (yes, IVFers sometimes take birth control pills for IVF-I'll explain later). Needless to say I am completely nauseous for the interview but somehow manage to snag the job and the impossible task of actually fitting it into my schedule just a few weeks before the IVF. Also on the agenda for that month:

Jury duty, food poisoning, unfulfilled due date, in-laws staying over, multiple daily meetings, headaches, out-of-town conventions, friends coming in from out-of-state, birthday parties, dinner parties, giving myself injections in dark alleyways, etc.

So, I somehow manage to survive the process of IVF, a new job and the death of my dog without streaking down the street naked like a madwoman with a garbage bag flung over my head, which is a miracle in and of itself, but to be honest, I am not hopeful. It is too much of a feat after 4 1/2 years of infertility to maintain any semblance of hope for me and I am proven correct when I get what appears to be my period (I know, TMI for a family letter, but remember, this is the 'real' story). But...

I was wrong.

I learn that in the beginning of March, I am...(wait for it)...pregnant.

But as you might recall from last year's letter, I have been pregnant before and yet when my due date arrived, there was no baby to be seen. In fact, the day after getting the most recent news I went for a massage and confessed tentatively that I was 'sort-of' pregnant. Most of you who have had vanilla pregnancies might not get this and might think me Crazy with a capital 'c', especially when I tell you that I somehow managed to score an ultrasound almost every week until my second trimester, all the while spending my time in between each in heart pounding terror. And maybe you're reading this and thinking that having babies is the way life goes for most people and is not that big of a deal, but I somehow managed to have a vanilla pregnancy as well and this is beyond my WILDEST dreams.

And the fact that I delivered a healthy, full-term baby boy in November and that nothing during any of the months and years before this even matters (so I won't even bother covering any of it) is beyond my WILDEST dreams, as in, 'you just won the freakin' lottery, what are you going to do with your gazillion dollars?' dreams. Yes, babies are born everyday and you yourself probably had babies, but believe me when I say that I KNEW I would NEVER have a biological child of my own and yet, I did. I am simply stunned. Bravo 2009.

So, friends and family, redemption? More than redemption. In fact, every shitty thing before and after doesn't seem to matter.

So, 2009, you've outdone yourself and for once, I cannot wait for your follow-up act in 2010.

Happy New Year to everyone. I really hope the best for all of you as we all start anew again.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Breastfeeding Dropout

Shortly before Baby G was born, I stocked up on various breastfeeding supplies like nipple cream, breast milk storage bags and breast pads. Today, I packed all of it away into a bag to bring to my friend as I no longer have any need for them. No longer is a misnomer. I never had any need for them and as you might have read earlier, I desperately wanted to.

I have always considered myself fairly aware of the messages society sends to me and as such, I've tried hard not to be dominated by them or to let them rule the way I feel about myself. However, in this case 'breast is best' haunts me and somehow not being able to breastfeed has made me feel like less of a mother. I am painfully aware of it every time I put a bottle to his mouth and I think I subconsciously liken formula feeding to mashing up McDonald's french fries and shoving them down his gullet. TOTALLY irrational, I know, and despite all of the examples of bright, thriving formula fed children in this world (Mr. S being one of them), I can't help but shake off this incredible guilt.

It all began just hours after his birth. While G latched on right away and nursed for 30 solid minutes after birth, his latch became tentative after that. Then he was diagnosed with jaundice and prescribed formula supplementation every 2 hours to help rid his body of the toxins more quickly. I wasn't a fan of the plan, but I was of course more devoted to his health and well being than my need to breastfeed. After he began his foray with bottles, his latch deteriorated from there and every time I went to breast feed him, he not only didn't latch properly, but became angry after a minute or two when it was clear that the breast was not giving at the rate of the bottle. Add onto that the myriad of nurses who came in, all with different techniques. As their shifts rotated throughout the few days, G and I became increasingly frustrated. Every time a new nurse started a shift, they had me 'demonstrate' for them. I swear I had my top down the entire hospital stay, whether in pumping or demonstration for yet another stranger walking through the door.

We were eventually visited by two different lactation consultants before we left the hospital. While their approaches were more similar, in combination with all of the nurses, my head was spinning. I decided that in the very least I would pump and provide him with breast milk that way, so before we left the hospital, we rented a hospital pump for the next month. However, I wasn't quite ready to give up the idea of breastfeeding.

Desperate, I made a one hour appointment with another lactation consultant after we were discharged. When we came into her office, the look on her face as I showed her how upset G got when we attempted to breastfeed said one thing to me: we were a lost cause. She prescribed a nipple shield (it's a plastic cover for the nipple and I'm assuming it works on baby's like G with nipple confusion and poor latch) and while he took to that much more readily, I was told that it was not a replacement and that I needed to continue trying to breastfeed without it and pumping after each feeding, which I did. Every time he fed, I tried breastfeeding first and every time I did this, G got upset. Then I tried the nipple shield and eventually, he got upset with this as well. It was disheartening to see this over and over again. Pumping, for those not familiar, is often a 15-20 minute process during which little interaction can occur with the baby given the equipment attached to your front side. And if used after each feeding, we're talking up to 200 minutes a day not spent interacting with your baby (and not spent sleeping!). This level of devotion is nearly impossible, but nevertheless I tried.

And then my Mom was hospitalized. Up to that point, I had been able to provide at least half of G's meals by breast milk thanks to pumping and my supply was steadily increasing. After 2 weeks of getting one, maybe two pumps in at best as I was taking care of my parent's errands, visiting her in the hospital, and living out of someone else's house, my supply just one day essentially stopped. It was bizarre. If I were to pump today, I might get 5% of his meal at best. So, I've given up pumping and will hand the rental in this week.

It makes me sad as my body reminds me of what it should do. Often when he cries and especially when he roots, I still get a small let down. The simple fact is, like most parents, I want only the best for G and I somehow feel as if formula feeding has failed him. I think infertility (as always) plays a large role in this. First, I wonder, is it yet another failure of my body? I also wanted that closeness and of course all of the nutritional and immune benefits so often described. On top of all of this, G has had some reflux and gas issues and although he seemed to have these even when he was taking in breast milk, part of me wonders whether formula is the culprit given that it is more difficult to digest.

So this is the end of the line. I'm officially a breastfeeding dropout (sung to the tune of Beauty School Dropout from Grease).

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Love Letter to my Belated Baby

Dear G,

I've been told that you'll never fully understand love until you have a child. Perhaps this is true for most, but I must have had a good idea before you arrived for the years spent seeking you were fueled by a motivation I can only describe as pure love, the type that leaves you without a second thought as you are plunging that syringe into your belly for someone whose face you've not yet even seen. I never once looked back as I knew that somewhere in that turmoil I would find you. As you now lay perfectly molded into my lap, I can easily say that I would turn back and take a million more syringes, spend a million more nights in heartache for you and somehow, I always knew it would be worth it. Your arrival has confirmed what I knew in my heart all along to be true.

What I didn't know and could have never planned for was how amazing you are. Today you're a month old and in that time, I've already learned so much about you. As you were entering this world, the nurse touched your head and noticed that your heart rate stabilized when she did this. You've loved to be touched since your birth, and when caressing your forehead, cheeks and head, your beautiful blue eyes begin to flutter to a close. You love music and especially to be sung to. As we dance around the living room together, your eyes lock on mine, unwavering as I sing along and for such a new creature, you already have so much depth behind those eyes and your gaze is already so intense and trusting.

You love nothing more than to be in just your diaper (or better yet, nothing, but we rarely brave that!) and despite your previous mood, as soon as your clothes are off, you are so instantly full of joy, earning you the nickname 'Dipey' (baby talk for diaper). Perhaps we have a budding nudist on our hands? At your happiest, you reward us with gentle coos and hints of social smiles. You make the sweetest squeaks in your sleep and have somehow in your short life managed to imitate every animal found at the zoo, including a baby elephant! I am so excited everyday to learn more, especially as you grow so quickly.

Almost as miraculous as you are is how you've managed to change your Dad and I overnight. We never could have imagined that we would be so comfortable incorporating baby talk into our regular vocabulary and find ourselves using it in public far too often. We somehow enjoy owning a minivan now and think an exciting night out on the town is a trip around the mall with your stroller. We have redefined our life in mere weeks and have done so happily. For you, I am certain, we would do anything and without a moment's pause.

This last month has seen me incredulous that such a perfect little man is now a part of my life. What did I do to deserve such a gift in life? Yes, we endured a lot to see you here, but the effort pales in comparison to the reward. So, my baby love, I want to thank you. Thank you for giving me this incredible experience of parenting you. It is already the most miraculous experience of my life, one that I would have easily waited the rest of my days for.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Not What I Had Pictured...

There's a danger in idealizing the future. All of us who have fought IF know this well. Long ago we might have pictured what it would look like one day to surprise our significant other with a positive pee stick, yet for those of us lucky enough to get a BFP, there was a lot less surprise in something that took thousands of dollars and lab labor to concoct, especially when it was accompanied by a perfectly timed blood test instead. I've found the same to be true in childbirth and parenting. One may formulate a lovely version of what is to become, but the best laid plans are usually forsaken for a different path.

Take for instance arriving home from the hospital. I envisioned Baby G's first trip home like a Kodak moment. In fact, I already knew what the pictures would look like: me smiling wearily with G in my arms as I am wheeled out, Mr. S and I walking through the front door side-by-side with G in my arms. Perhaps there would be balloons or a sign awaiting us. But this wasn't meant to be. There were no pictures, no balloons. After Mr. S became very ill, he was forced to come home in another car, only to be separated from us for three days. Our trip home was a muted celebration. As Baby G, the child Mr. S had waited 5 years for, became acquainted with his new home, all Mr. S had to document this was by cell phone photos I sent him over the days. It was hard, but we understood it to be a temporary set back. I knew we had the remainder of his paternity and my maternity leave to make more Kodak moments and I was already forming those visions in my head. Once again, I was wrong to do so.

Several days later I got a call from my Mom. She had gotten sick at the hospital during G's birth, but her respiratory problems have been longstanding. While my Mother NEVER asks for anything, in this instance she was asking me to bring her to the hospital the next day. This is when I knew something was very wrong. Mr. S and I immediately packed little G up and drove the hour and 15 minutes to her house where I found her in no shape to be waiting overnight for medical intervention. Despite her resistance, I insisted on going to the hospital that night and as her breathing progressively worsened, it was clear that an ambulance was needed immediately. This resulted in almost a week of her being hospitalized and Mr. S, G and I camping out at my in-laws' house where our family alone time instead turned into everyone and their grandmother (literally) passing Baby G around. Once again, not ideal. The quiet alone I had idealized and planned for to get to know my child was not in the cards.

Ok, so after her discharge I figured that the previous few weeks were not exactly what I was hoping for, but we would make up for this. Kodak moments were still possible, right? Except that the day after her discharge, shortly after being up all night and an ER visit with G that resulted in a diagnosis of colic, I discovered that her condition had instead worsened, I'm sure due in large part to the fact that upon her discharge she went home and chain smoked like a chimney. A battle over her going to the hospital once again ensued, I once again called an ambulance, and once again, we camped out at Mr. S's parents' for the greater part of a week while it was discovered that in addition to emphysema and asthma, she was diagnosed with heart arrythmia and tachycardia. She was just discharged today and Mr. S is set to return to work tomorrow.

So that was the entirety of his paternity leave and 1/3 of my maternity leave.

I guess I shouldn't complain. I mean, I got my dream come true and even when parenting a newborn usurps every last shred of patience and sleep I possess, G himself never fails to be the greatest joy I have ever known, easily making up for any other hardships. But I can't help but feel deeply disappointed and resentful. This was our time, the time we had worked 5 years for and it feels like it was robbed. I know we have many years ahead of us, but I really wanted this. I guess I naively figured that after everything to get here the universe owed me the simple request of letting us be at least briefly.

I also never realized how much I idealized breastfeeding. This too did not happen in the way I had pictured. After G was diagnosed with jaundice and required formula feeding every 2 hours in the hospital to help get rid of it, he's not returned to latching on. Despite meeting with 2 lactation consultants in the hospital and one for an hour long appointment at our local womens' health center, he never did latch on again. He's quite fond of the bottle and through all of the upheaval of my Mom's hospitalization, I couldn't pump regularly and now my supply is pretty much gone. I never, ever fathomed how deeply upset this would make me or how much I wanted to breastfeed and while I know that he is healthy and getting what he needs, I am so incredibly disappointed that it brings tears to my eyes on a regular basis.

Although this post is negative and makes it look like I've had no happiness in the past several weeks, this couldn't be farther from the truth. After coming back from visiting my Mother in the hospital, watching her functioning deteriorate before my eyes (to the point where I question her ability to live independently with my Father who is equally disabled), all I had to do was return to Baby G, hold him against me, watch his big blue eyes track mine and everything was right in the world for that moment. I could easily find a smile for him, even when it seemed impossible just moments earlier. I miss him, even when he's in the next room and despite my exhaustion, I sometimes wake him up just to interact with him (which is a death wish with a newborn!). Although the past few weeks were not what I had imagined, Baby G is more than I could have imagined and that makes everything ok.