Perfect Moment
Over a year ago, I wrote about a woman I know solely because of infertility, and I wondered whether I should pursue a friendship. Following that post we continued to talk when we happened to see each other, but I didn’t end up specifically pursuing that friendship. After many failed IVFs, she is no longer pursuing treatments. Because of that, it felt like we were in different places in the process, and it just didn’t feel right to talk to her about my continuing treatments (whether more failures or, hopefully, an eventual success) while she had no possibility of conception. When I became pregnant, she was genuinely happy for me, but I felt awkward about having left her behind.

I haven’t seen her since early summer. Between bedrest and having newborns at home, I have barely left the house/hospital at all since mid-summer. Last week, during a rare outing, I ran into her. She has been pursuing international adoption, and since the last time I saw her, she has been matched with a child. In a couple of months she will have the baby in her arms. I am absolutely thrilled for her.

The Perfect Moment came when I realized that her baby is just two months older than Burrito and Tamale — close enough that they might become buddies. Somehow, in less than a year, we went from two nearly-hopeless infertiles, weary from years of failed treatments, to two mommies on the brink of planning playdates. It really can happen.

Find more Perfect Moments at Weebles Wobblog.

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Thoughtful Thursday: Role

November 27, 2009

Thoughtful ThursdayIn honor of many of you who have just sat through an awkward holiday meal with extended family…

People in families end up with roles. Among children, there’s often The Smart One, The Athletic One, The Pretty One, The Fuck-Up, etc.

As children grow, roles change into adult versions. The Successful One, The Unemployed One, The Dutiful One, The Drunk One, The One Who Never Grows Up, The One Who Ages Too Fast, The Fuck-Up, etc.

Family-building also seems to play a part in forming the roles. A friend of mine comes from a blue-collar family. He is the only person in his family ever to have gone to college, and he went on to obtain two advanced degrees. Formerly The Smart One, he grew to become The Successful One. His siblings all had children at a young age and all work at make-ends-meet jobs. For a while, it seemed like my friend would focus on his career and might never get married or have children. When he met his now-wife and announced that they were getting married, his parents panicked. They were afraid that The Successful One, on whom all of the family hopes had been pinned, would give it all up and become “just” a family man. Their fears were unfounded, and he now has children and a successful career. He doesn’t make his siblings look very good by comparison, but the roles remain intact.

In DH’s family, several of his younger siblings are too young to have fallen into adult roles yet. The oldest sister, about whom I’ve blogged extensively both before and after she got pregnant, has taken on the role of The One Who Can’t Make Up Her Mind. By age 30, she’d had several careers and gotten several degrees in different fields. But, even before getting pregnant, she made it clear that her real intention was to become The Stay-at-Home Mother. This is not the role that the family would have selected for her (including her future husband, actually), but it is the role that she has chosen for herself. This explains some of her overzealous rush to get pregnant: you can’t be a SAHM without a kid.

In my immediate family, since I have no siblings, I am the conduit for all expectations and holder of all roles. Among my extended family, as I’ve mentioned before, there is a split between breeders and achievers.

The cousins who have not been successful (poor or no job prospects, little education, debilitating mental illness, serious substance abuse) all have children, and all are divorced. Those of us who have gotten educations and pursued big-shot careers are all currently childless (actually, now that I think of it, all of them are divorced too except for me – my family doesn’t do marriage very well). In my family, my job is to be educated to an unprecedented level, and extremely successful, and well-traveled to places that others can only dream of, and fabulously happy in my marriage.

(Don’t get me wrong. My “unsuccessful” cousins are mostly really good people, and by no means are their problems related to having had children, and in fact I think most of them are better at parenting than they are at the rest of their lives. My “successful” cousins are even better people, some of the very kindest people that I’ve ever met in my whole life, in addition to being smart and ambitious and athletic and unbelievably attractive and humble… the kind of people that you would hate except that you absolutely can’t because they exude goodness yet are also wonderfully sarcastic.)

In the time since I wrote that over a year ago, my role has now been expanded to Mother of Twins, an over-achiever variation on breeder. Can you call someone a breeder if they are married more than a decade before having children in their mid-30s? If they endure 7 years of infertility? Perhaps not. So, apparently, my role is Achiever Who Achieves Career Success and Just Barely Achieved One Successful Pregnancy and Now Gives the Impression of Juggling Everything Better Than She Actually Is.

What is your role in your family? How does family-building (or lack thereof) affect your role?

Keeping in mind that I have what is considered to be excellent health insurance, for which I pay almost $1000 per month for myself and the babies, not counting my husband’s coverage…

Because the Burrito and the Tamale were born prematurely, they are at higher risk of problems from RSV. There is a drug which prevents RSV for one month at a time, Synagis. It costs about $1000 per child per dose. The full course would be about 5 doses for the entire RSV season, totaling $10K.

The neonatologist and the pediatrician each applied for Synagis for both babies. Both doctors felt that the insurance company would approve a maximum of 1 or 2 doses, because of the high cost and because the babies are only at moderately high risk.

The insurance company has approved 0 doses.

In the rejection letter, the insurance company states that for babies born at this gestational age, approval would require two additional risk factors (the American Academy of Pediatrics sets the bar lower at one additional risk factor). Risk factors include having a sibling under 5 at home (each baby has his/her twin, which counts); attending daycare; and having a smoker in the home.

If I decide to take up smoking, the insurance company would pay for the drug.

I understand how the actuarial system works, but c’mon. Talk about penny-wise pound-foolish.

Stay tuned for Part 2. It gets more absurd.

Edited to add: We can’t afford to pay for the drug ourselves. The neonatologist says no one pays for it themselves. So, we’ll take as many precautions to shield the babies from RSV as possible, but ultimately we just have to hope for the best. RSV is the #1 cause of re-hospitalization for preemies; one day of hospitalization costs more than the drug would have cost the insurance company. They’re rolling the dice, and so must we.

Thoughtful Thursday: Search

November 19, 2009

Thoughtful ThursdayMany bloggers seem to be sensitive to the types of web searches that will bring people to their blog. Some make their blog unsearchable or password-protected. Many make their blog searchable in general, but use tricks to hide specific words from search terms. A common one is to add a period in the middle of a word, such as Lu.pron or Fac.ebook. Occasionally a blogger will use a lookalike character, such as 1VF, or leave a letter out, like Cl*mid. I’ve also seen people use an image of words instead of the words in text.

Personally, I haven’t done any of these. If I don’t want a word to appear in a search, I just don’t use it. For example, our real names. Or my profession. Or where I live. It would be too easy for either me or my commenters to slip up — which I see all the time on blogs that use the above tricks.

Aside from the words that I purposely omit, I’m happy to have web searches point to my blog when appropriate. Sometimes people stumble onto my blog via strange off-topic searches like “13 years baby bitches” or “back seat trash containers.” But for the most part, Google brings people here because they’re looking for information about infertility. If the details of my IVF protocol or my emotional reflections on infertility can help someone, that’s wonderful. I’ll put out the welcome mat.

There aren’t many places to see literal or imagined infertility Christmas cards, nor a cookie shaped like a uterus. Those searchers have come to the right place.

If someone comes here because they want to know about the infertility storyline on Mad Men or Angela Bassett or the Clayby, I’m happy to have them hear my take on media portrayals of infertility — maybe it will balance out the rampant misinformation in the mainstream media and blogosphere (Octomom, anyone?).

Heck, Googlers are even welcome if they get here through a totally random search for cherimoyas or nursing with large breasts or even, like a search that landed someone here earlier this week, just “large breasts.” Well, maybe not the last one so much. My point is that I don’t care who comes to read, because many of those searchers will get something out of it (I guess even the breast ones will get something out of it, just not what I intended). But, many bloggers do mind showing up in certain searches, for whatever reason. What about you?

For what web searches do you want your blog to be found? For what searches do you want to hide? Why?


Perfect Moment
When the Burrito had his bris, the moyle gave DH a list of supplies we needed to help him recover. With a house full of guests, DH came running to me and declared urgently, “I need to go to the drugstore before it closes.”

He didn’t need to go to the drugstore.

Baby Tylenol? I already had it stocked.

Petroleum jelly? I have Aquaphor, which is supposed to be superior to Vaseline for babies.

Gauze pads? No way we had gauze pads, right? Wrong! I had them tucked away in a bag in the bottom of my closet, along with a sharps container, alcohol swabs, and over a hundred syringes and needles. Leftovers from IVF #2 and Perfunctory IUI #7 (the one that produced the Burrito and the Tamale).

Repurposed

It was tremendously gratifying to be able to help the Burrito with the vestiges of old pains.

Who would have thought that infertility would ever come in handy!

See some other Perfect Moments at Weebles Wobblog.

Thoughtful Thursday

(Note: Pregnancy and babies discussed.)

In addition to breastfeeding difficulties, the other big component of the hard time I’ve been having is some sort of hormonal baby blues. Much of the time I’m fine, but every few days for a few hours I’m not fine at all.

Right after giving birth it was more obviously hormonal, and I’d burst into tears at the slightest provocation. For example, almost any song. Or a particularly nostalgic Sesame Street clip on YouTube. (Seriously, when that happened, I knew I’d totally lost my mind.)

After the first week, there has been less crying. Instead, I either feel fine, or I feel desperate and forlorn. Thankfully, much more of the former than the latter. The main things that have been setting me off have been:

  • Breastfeeding difficulties
  • Being overwhelmed, generally by my inability to manage more than an hour of work per week or by dealing with two screaming babies on my own (which rarely happens — the alone part and the both screaming part — but oh boy, when it does…)
  • And, shockingly, thoughts of pregnancy

Before becoming pregnant, I wanted to have biological children but pregnancy itself wasn’t that important to me. When I was finally pregnant, I was so thrilled that I cherished every moment I could; even the difficulties like debilitating fatigue and hospitalization were special in their own way. Both before and during pregnancy, I reserved the right to consider additional children later.

Now, simultaneously I want nothing to do with future pregnancies or children and I also burst into tears mourning the absence of those pregnancies and children. Pregnancy kicked my ass, birth almost killed me, and I can’t even manage the two children I have. I have no business trying for or having more children — if I could even get pregnant again, which is almost impossible without treatments, which we’ve sworn never to do again. I’ve shed more than my share of tears over BFNs. TTC turned my life upside down for 7 years. Yet…

The yearning hits me at random times. Tidying up papers and finding an ultrasound photo, and realizing that I’ll never have a 3D ultrasound image of any baby because the Burrito and the Tamale were never in the right positions in the womb. Watching one of them move their legs now, thinking about how the kick would feel if they were still inside, and realizing that I’ll never feel another fetus kick. Jiggling the jelly that is my new abdomen, and remembering my beautiful pregnant belly. Looking at my now full-term babies (39 weeks gestation!), and wondering how it would have been to carry a baby anywhere close to full term, to hold that baby right away instead of touching it for a minute through a window in an incubator, and to go home with that baby instead of spending weeks in the NICU.

I think what gets to me most isn’t that I won’t experience these things again (or for the first time).

What gets to me is that I don’t have the option.

Most of the time now I couldn’t be happier, but sometimes I couldn’t be sadder. Who knew.

How important was/is the experience of pregnancy, as opposed to the baby itself, to you?

Thoughtful Thursday: Quitter

November 6, 2009

Thoughtful ThursdayWelcome to November. Wow, what an October I had. Anyway, here are the Intelligentsia (people who have commented on every Thoughtful Thursday post for the month of October).

Wiseguy from Woman Anyone? still holds the record with 10 out of 10 Intelligentsia appearances.

Close behind is Ernessa from Fierce and Nerdy, back for the 7th time.

Photogrl from Not the Path I Chose makes her 6th appearance.

Jules from Just Multiply by 2 and Lost In Translation from We Say IVF, They Say FIV are both four-peating.

Two-timers include Elana from Elana’s Musings, Mel from Stirrup Queens, and Stacie from Heeeeere Storkey Storkey.

Thoughtful Thursday(Discussion of infertility as well as baby issues ahead.)

I’m a big advocate of cutting losses. People tend to stick too long with things that just aren’t serving them well. For example, spending more on car repairs than the car is worth, or staying in a bad relationship because of all the years you’ve already invested. You started eating a cookie and you don’t like it? Throw the rest away!

Simultaneously, I refuse to be a quitter. Sometimes I take on challenges that are beyond me, then I have to keep going until I’ve seen them through. Household repairs, for example — I don’t even enjoy them, and in the four hours it took me to do that plumbing repair, I could have earned enough to pay a plumber to do it in half an hour.

Or, to use another example, infertility. I never got close to that point, but I think that if treatments hadn’t succeeded when they did, I would have kept going with IVF cycles until I ran completely out of money, the physical ability to continue, or time.

Now I am faced with a similar situation. A few days ago I alluded to having had a hard time lately [and many people were kind enough to comment or email with support, thank you]. There’s a lot of things contributing to it, but probably the biggest one is breastfeeding.

Put simply, breastfeeding is not going well.

Right after birth, I couldn’t nurse for quite a long time because the babies weren’t able to feed by mouth. Then, once they could start practicing, their level of prematurity meant that nursing did not come naturally to either of them. Tamale has nursing down quite well now, but for a long time her little cheeks got tuckered out very quickly. Burrito’s problems have improved but still continue even now that he’s in the full-term range. I love that little guy with all of my heart, but nursing him is not my favorite time together: biting, blocking his mouth with his tongue, and flailing his arms for several minutes each time before he can nurse properly really pushes me over the edge sometimes.

The biggest problem, however, is my milk supply. The culprit, apparently, is losing almost half of my blood volume during delivery. Plus, who knows if I ever would have had a full supply — many women can’t make enough for two babies, and some women’s bodies never make enough milk for even one baby. Sometimes I do everything right and pump every 2-3 hours. Sometimes I get frustrated and pump just a few times in a day. Either way, the amount of milk doesn’t seem to vary. I’ve seen many lactation consultants. I’ve tried fenugreek, which doubled my supply — but 2 times a tiny number is a slightly less tiny number. I’ve tried power pumping, which doesn’t seem to trick my body into making more milk the way it should. Nursing the babies directly doesn’t seem to make a difference, so at this point almost all of their feeds are by bottle, either formula or, once a day, pumped breastmilk. I produce enough for about 5% of their total intake. The only possibility left is to try to increase supply using strong drugs, but my emotional functioning is already so tenuous that I’m afraid I couldn’t handle the side effects.

I believe strongly in breastfeeding, for all sorts of reasons. I always envisioned that I would nurse for a long time (and that it would be idyllic, like people say). I’ve long ago given up on the hope of exclusive breastfeeding, and I’ve accepted that it’s not always fun, but pumping nonstop to yield only 5% is really frustrating. Several people have suggested that I give up, reclaim those many hours a day, and spare myself the heartache.

But, right now, I can’t. My body took so many years to create them, and my body couldn’t gestate them as long as I wanted, can’t my body at least feed them? Plus, I’m too wedded to not being a quitter. I should know better. I should be willing to cut my losses. Right now, I am stuck. My head and my heart both want to continue, but my head and my heart also both know that I should move on.

At some point, perseverance becomes stubbornness.

What are the limits of your perseverance — with family-building or with other realms of life? How much do you value not being a “quitter”?