Checking in (barely)

I can’t believe it’s been around 17 months since I last blogged! If there’s ever been a welcome to the reality of motherhood, my absence from writing (aka time to/for myself) speaks volumes.  My gorgeous little man is almost 20 months old now and we are mostly just ordinary and happy. We have rituals and daily rhythms, a healthy amount of chaos, silliness, laughter and singing (so much singing!), proud mama moments (with a little prompting he counted to five tonight in the bathtub!) and of course the inevitable time-outs, that we both need to take on occasion.  These days I mostly just spam Instagram with pictures of my little love, my short-cut version of tributing motherhood.

I hope to get back to writing and reflecting soon.  There’s so much material these days … but after I put Eliot to bed at night, order my house, feed the dog, look through the mail, bla bla bla … the seduction of TV is ooooh so strong.  Lame.

Here’s Eliot now, from our coffee date at Fido this morning, 19 1/2 months old.

Parenting reflections on day 72

I’m exactly 72 days into parenting. 10 weeks and some change. At this particular moment I’m sitting at Whole Foods, large latte and muffin beside me, while a dear friend is with my little prince. I’m rested, showered and happy to be out. And —finally, reflecting on motherhood. Lesson number 1: reflection goes out the window when you’re a new mom. Who has the time to reflect? Life is a daily grind and a constant shuffle of strategic attempts to keep your baby fed, sleeping and dry. Success is momentary: I got the baby to sleep (bonus points if it’s in one of the actual sleeping designations versus in my arms); he seems full, he had a good poop, a good burp, good toots … the fanfare over bodily functions is no small thing! Success also comes in the form of a shower, getting out of the house, a lovely stroller ride where my little one doesn’t scream his head off and a successful stroll around the house or Target with Eliot in the ergo. I don’t even feel reflective enough to say, “it’s the little things” because it IS the little things—they are BIG things, and every triumph is in earnest these days.

That said, today I’m reflecting. I’m reflecting and eating a piece of cake masked as a muffin (german chocolate muffin, seriously Whole Foods?) because really I’m celebrating my most recent success, which is a sleep schedule. For 8 consecutive days I’ve put Baby E down at 8 PM and he’s slept, minus two brief feedings, until 8 AM. I know enough to know not to get too attached to the good or the bad during these changing baby days but still [for now] … if I’m dealing with a good sleeper, this is a game changer. (I can’t help the optimism; it’s in my DNA!) When Eliot (and I would think this goes for ALL babies) gets good naps and good sleep at night, the world is a better place. Cue the chirping birds.

A few words about Eliot: He’s such a delight. He’s giving away smiles in spades these days and mostly just looks at me and the world around him with these big, curious dirt-brown eyes … like he knows something the rest of us don’t. He loves taking baths with me—loves being submerged in the water; he’s pretty chill with most people and often calms down when we go outside—the great equalizer, much like his mama. I can get lost with him most days in the  cocoon of our home, listening to The Wiggles and reciting the nursery rhymes and rhythms I’m learning in baby yoga, provoking smiles and coos. Yesterday at BYOB (bring your own baby) Yoga another mom looked at us both and said, “He’s starting to look so much like you!” I just smiled, thinking of my little adopted embryo doppelgänger. What a little miracle, all of it.

It’s not all baby bliss. I get board. I get lonely. Occasionally I get blue. I’m impatient and cranky on days where the whining doesn’t seem to let up. But the mainstay of my mood has (thankfully) been one of optimism and gratitude. The love is real. And oh so sweet.

I’m heading back to work next week. Leaving my little cabbage with his “manny” (male nanny) starting Monday. His manny, who happens to live across the street, truly loves my little guy, which is the main comfort for a going-back-to-work mama. I’ll be working in three hour increments so in a way I’m dipping my toes into a world outside of baby. Still coming home to nurse. And before I know it he’ll be a quarter of a year old, then a year old, then in high school … make it stop!

If I have any true reflection from the past 72 days it is this: Parenting is a LOT of work. Babies are all need right out of the shoot, and unapologetically so. The crying jags are real; the witching hours (for us 5 PM-7 PM) are real, and the hormonal sways are real. But when I can totally surrender —generally what baby wants, baby gets —and maintain my sense of humor when plans are thwarted or baby makes a sport out of crying, the sweet moments are the sweetest of my life. And tomorrow is always a new day.

That’s all I got. (Literally. My time is up. Have to go relieve my friend and feed the baby!)


Game Time

Well, baby is due tomorrow and I’m officially just biding my time now, until my little guy makes his debut appearance. The sentimentally of being pregnant, the long journey I’ve had to get here and the magnitude of upcoming motherhood has taken a back burner to Project Get Baby Out. I’m sure there will be an emotional deluge once Eliot Michael wiggles his way out of and onto my body. I think about that moment a lot. And I’m so excited to see his little face, his brand new body, his little lips rooting for milk at my breast, to meet him! But for now I’m focused on long walks, spicy food, acupuncture and seeking out professionals that claim to have magic tricks for getting baby’s out of uterus’s. (My masseuse claims percussion on the lowback, along with digital circles around the carpal bones and the ankles has induced labor for some of her new mama’s.) It may all be folklore but there’s the second benefit of magical thinking: it also passes the time, which I have a lot of right now as I’m officially gone on maternity leave for the next 8-12 weeks.

I’ve been so blessed with this big adventure. Even now—as I write, baby E is doing a headstand on my bladder; I really am grateful. About a year ago is when I got the phone call from the doctor: We have an embryo; do you want it?

And here I am; here we are. This little miracle and me, getting ready to make a go of it. Yes!

Keep Calm and Carry On

I’ve been avoiding my blog because I haven’t sorted out how to write about my recent disappointments.  The quick: I’m not pregnant. After five vaginal ultrasounds and anxiety-producing blood draws I got a “trigger shot” which is a shot that goes into the hip to promote ovulation. Then I went in the next day for the IUI.  When the doctor analyzed the sperm he determined that my donor had a low sperm count.  As in get-a-refund-low sperm count. In layman’s terms, only 7% of his little swimmers could swim in a straight line (to presumably meet the egg).  Earlier that day I’d made a quarterback decision to order another vial, same day delivery (aka $1,000) and have my friend E do a 2nd IUI the following morning, at home.  This was before I knew my donor was a dud.   Those 7% didn’t make it either morning.  I’m hoping to get a refund for the vial that was analyzed.  Unfortunately, I have to eat the cost for the other five vials, since the only analysis of those vials were my friends and I … well, looking at them.  I was upset.  Well, truth be told, I got a little crazy.  The doctor had me on nine hormone pills a day post IUI, for the two week wait.  When the nurse called me and told me I wasn’t pregnant and that the doctor was not available for a post-procedure consult, I lost the plot. I turned into an unhinged, desperate lady on the phone, accosting the messenger.

Are you telling me the doctor won’t talk to me?  I just spent #$^%& dollars (shamefully, I went there) at your clinic and now my body is all jacked up, I’m on all these hormones and I just want to talk to the doctor!  I’ll talk to him on the phone, I don’t care.  Doesn’t he OWE ME a follow up?!

I’m so sorry, but he doesn’t really do that.  Would you like to set up an appointment to meet again and talk about trying again?

Will that cost me money?

Well yes, it’ll cost the initial consult fee of $150.

I looked down at my arm, which was still bruised and hurting from the confirmation-you’re-not-pregnant blood draw earlier that day. The nurse had dropped the cotton ball when she was ready to pull the needle out and had me reach across the room to grab another one for her, with the needle in my arm.  It was an accident, but the needle moved in my arm when I moved and created an ache that I hadn’t experienced prior to that particular blood draw.

Are you serious?  He won’t just talk to me and let me know what he suggests now?  I just want to know if my eggs are good.  Was it solely the sperm?  Do I have fertility issues? How long until my body gets back to normal?  What about all these hormones?!  

I’m embarrassed to say that I was almost yelling by this point.  I wasn’t truly yelling, but I wasn’t just talking either.

Well, I uh can talk to the doctor and uh call you back.

I gathered the shred of composure I had left and told the nurse I’d collect myself and get back to her in a few days.

Then I walked into a client session.

The whole scene was not one of my better life moments.

That was a week ago.  Since then I’ve stopped all the extra hormones, decided to see a therapist for a little while and have slowly started to think about the next step.  I’ve decided to take this month off, mostly because of finances, but also for some sanity.  And perspective, as elusive as it is at times.

I’m sure all this sounds terribly dramatic for those of you that haven’t experienced infertility, or trying to have a baby on your own.  I think it would to me. I can hear the judge in my own head: get a grip; it takes a while; you can’t get pregnant if you don’t chill out and relax.  I know, I know.  And still … you know–if you’ve been down any semblance of this road, how crazy sneaks up on you.  It becomes a primal face-off: maternal desire meets unbridled emotion.

Longing and capitulation; then repeat.

Last night I made tapioca pudding, which is what I do when I’m feeling down or stressed.  The rhythmic slowness of stirring the milk, eggs, sugar and tapioca from liquid to pudding soothes me. The transformation of the elements offers perspective. I think, ultimately, this is what most spirituality and therapy boils down to: a reduction. In foodie terms a reduction is the process of thickening and intensifying the flavor …  I’m realizing that as I’m up against the most elemental parts of myself, everything does intensify. I’m being exposed to what I’m fundamentally made of; my relationship with impulse control, tenacity, trusting the process, trusting God, vulnerability, hope and renewal.  It all gets cracked open and exposed, with or without my consent. Recapitulation.  Last night I made pudding, which made me happy.  It was really good too, I might add.

I’m not really desperate or hopeless or unhinged, in the grander sense of the words.  I can pick back up, try again and maybe again, and life will take its course.  Right now I’m a student of my own process, learning what I’m made of and what I can endure.  That’s life-giving and edifying, in it’s own paradoxical way.

Recently I read this line by J.M. Barrie in his book The Little White Bird: Shall we make a new rule in life … always to try to be a little kinder than is necessary?

Kinder than necessary.  What a marvelous line.  Kinder than is necessary.  I love that line, that concept, because it reminds me that we carry with us, as human beings, not just the capacity to be kind, but the very choice of kindness.  Kindness to others, to ourselves, to God and the universe when they serve up the wrong order. In the face of primal rage, there’s the primal counterparts too — love and grace and the simpleness of kindness.

So I grapple with this and other existential truths while I’m researching other sperm banks, more pregnancy options, having drinks with friends, going to NFL games and laughing when things are funny.

Keep Calm and Carry On.  So cliche; so true.

Baby Making part 2

Well, as some of you know, it didn’t work.  I wanted to collect myself before I got all bloggy about it.  I “spotted” last Thursday.  Felt very discouraged.  Nothing Friday or Saturday.  A twinge of could-this-be-implantation-bleeding surfaced.  Full fledged menstrual cycle on Sunday.  Blech.

Its funny, the Internet.  You can find all the data you need to either be A. confounded: (I had three months of periods but just knew I was pregnant and I was!!) or B. thrown into despair: (nobody gets pregnant without IVF after 40.  NOBODY!!)  I knew that statistics weren’t on my side on this first go.  Everyone knows it when they try to get pregnant.  And yet we all hope against the odds.  I guess this is true for most things in life.  And my inseminators were still pretty amazing, we must all admit; I’ll always remember the “first time.”

So I felt sorry for myself for a few days, took a deep breath, got out my credit card and ordered some more sperm.  Because that’s what you do when you are single and wanting a baby without the hassle and headaches that come with going to a bar and trying to sexy-talk a stranger.

On the upswing, lots of fun stuff has been going on in my non-baby-centric life, so that’s good.  And I’m on vacation, actually writing this blog from a hammock.  Things could be much worse.  They always can be.

Lastly, I’ve noticed I talk in fertility-talk these days.  Last week a client was talking about a situation where she was excited, if not nervous, and wondering if she was getting ahead of herself with her life’s current agenda.  I heard this metaphor come out of my mouth:  Well, it’s a bit like wanting to have a baby.  You can have the intention and desire to have one but still have to wait until you ovulate.  And if it doesn’t work, you have to wait some more.  She agreed.  Great analogy, she said.  If she only knew …

Another upswing is that I don’t have baby envy anymore, right now.  A friend recently had a baby and I loved holding him and being with her.  I didn’t want her life or her baby.  I felt very content with my own–and this crazy path I’m on, and that felt nice.

Started Clomid today.  Trying again at the end of next week.  Round two, my friends.  This song comes to mind.  “I know my faith will lead me on.”

Neurosis and butterflies in the city

Yesterday I took a break. A break from all things related to fertility. After spending the past week researching 1001 ways to get pregnant sans sex and signing up for too many fertility calendars, chat groups and donor registration sites to keep track of all the passwords, I was reminded by that small inner voice (well, that and M, my midwife friend) that the key factor to conception is being relaxed. Oh the irony.

In my former I-want-to-have-a-baby-yesterday self I am a pretty laid back person. I typically go with the flow, like to have fun and am up for whateves. Except. Except when I get neurotic and overstimulated by a surge of information about something I’m into and manically gather data in the wide not deep sort of way. Eventually I enter into an analysis paralysis; foiled over and again by the ole’ First World paradox of being immobilized by options.

So. Yesterday I resisted the single mom blogs, the donor sperm baby memoirs, the fertility Q&A’s, the home insemination PDF I downloaded and even my actual donor site, where I often go to peruse all the sweet little childhood faces and profiles of my top 22 favorite donors (how to decide??). I took a bath, splayed myself out on the couch with a cold glass of water, and read an awe-inspiring interview in The Sun magazine with John Elder, entitled The Wild Places Close to Home. Curled up in the womb of my couch on a rainy afternoon, I reveled in one of my other loves: nature.

(I’d like to believe this is exactly what the doctor would’ve ordered, if I had the insurance to actually have a doctor for non-catastrophic life events.)

Elder writes: When Thoreau speaks of “awakening,” he means being present to the moment. In Walden he writes, “only that day dawns to which we are awake.” Wildness is not about millions of roadless acres. Wildness is a quality of awareness that millions of roadless acres may help us to achieve. And if we do achieve it, we’ll be thrilled by those acres. But that awareness can also be cultivated in the middle of the city. In fact, you’d better look for it in your city, and your home, and your office.

This brings me hope. Sometimes my pregnancy plan feels akin to looking for daffodils in a Detroit automotive plant–unnatural and uncommon. And then I read an interview with a naturalist, who speaks of the migratory-bird routes that come down over Staten Island, and the monarch butterflies that migrate down Fifth Avenue in NYC just above the heads of pedestrians. The little wings of grace that pass us by unnoticed, when left to our premeditated trances of how things are.  I’m reminded to let go, look up, breathe slower and take heart.

Fertility (bearing no infertility issues) is really just timing and timing is really just awareness.  And awareness is more spiritual than anything.  It might be bad: I may be infertile.  I may get pregnant next month, it may take six months, I may never get pregnant.  I don’t know.

What I do know (for now, anyway) is that it’s all going to be okay.  That if we live in a world where caterpillars turn into butterflies and then take flight in the busiest city in America, the order of things is indeed wild and often precarious … and there is hope for me on this new path.  Hope and also transformation.