Happy Father’s Day (?)

Ellie made us a Father’s Day card at daycare. The part that she made (little footprints) is actually really cute. The text of the card is truly barf worthy (some stuff about how her dad is the first man in her life), and the fact that we got a card at all is troublesome.

The text of the card bothers me because it calls to mind those creepy purity balls, “rules for dating my daughter,” promise rings, and other shining examples of American Patriarchal Society With A Dash Of Heteronormativity Just For Fun, circa 2014.

And I’m bummed that the daycare director approved this activity for the kids. Look, I’m not trying to be a giant killjoy and say kids shouldn’t be allowed to make Father’s Day cards. And I’m sure that when Mother’s Day rolls around again I’ll be thrilled to get a card for that occasion.

But would it be so hard for the daycare to modify the lesson plan to accommodate different kinds of families?  We are not the only LGBT family in this day care center. And what about the single moms, or children being raised by people other than their parents?

It doesn’t matter so much now; Ellie has no idea what’s going on. But I don’t want her to feel strange, growing up, when a teacher asks her to make a card for someone who doesn’t exist.

So we have to bring this up with the daycare director. I’m totally confrontation averse, and I’ve already had to exchange emails with the director about draping blankets over the side of the crib while Ellie naps (!!) so I’m already “that parent.”

Wise people of the internet, advise me on how to do this in a low key, I’m-actually-totally-chill-no-really way, but still getting the point across that this is decidedly not cool.

Thoughts?

Baby Catching – Part II

Friends, has it really been a month since I wrote last? Time has become elastic, pulling and snapping and bending into shapes unrecognizable. I’ve fallen behind on reading your updates, and completely neglected commenting. Someday soon (I hope) I’ll get back on the bandwagon and become more active on here. In the meantime, know that I have managed to read posts here and there, and have cheered from afar when things have gone well, and cried with you when they haven’t.

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photo

Ellie lay on my chest for what felt like seconds and hours at the same time, but all too quickly she was whisked away. All I heard was “baby isn’t crying,” and then she was gone, lifted up and away. I told Tammy to stay with Ellie, so she followed her across the room as the nurses poked and suctioned Ellie until she started to scream…and scream…and scream, which she would do nonstop for the next three hours.

Looking back, I think I was in shock. I didn’t feel high, but I did feel detached, like I was watching this happen to someone else. I simultaneously felt like I was floating and pressed heavily into the bed. Physically, I had just undergone an extreme trauma, and emotionally I had just experienced one of the most important moments I’d ever experience.

Meanwhile, I delivered the placenta in one big schloop and I remarked to the doctor that I wished delivering the baby was as easy. The doctor kept up a running teaching commentary to the med student (something about a compound cord, and second degree tearing).

When Ellie was finally brought back to me, I tried to nurse for the first time, completely unsuccessfully. Ellie was too busy screaming, and before I could object, she was whisked away again. We were on our third shift of nurses at this point, and unfortunately the nurse assigned to our room was our least favorite. Her name was Edith, an older lady with bad breath. She kept muttering to herself about Ellie’s screaming, and my weakly stated opinion that “babies cry” was ignored outright.

She took Ellie across the room to stick her heel for a glucose test (way to make her scream more, genius) when a new nurse came into the room. Tammy and I had never seen this nurse before, but she walked right up to Edith and Ellie and asked Edith if she could pray over Ellie. Edith immediately said yes, and the new nurse began. Walking with the Lord was mentioned, the blood of Jesus was mentioned, and Tammy and I sat there with identical expressions of shock and horror. During the prayer, we looked at each other, shaking our heads furiously, mouths moving soundlessly, until Tammy finally found her voice and turned to the nurses and said, “please don’t do that.” The nurse completely nonchalantly, said “oh, ok” and turned and left. We never saw her again.

Eventually I was allowed up and attempted to use the bathroom (also unsuccessfully) and we were transferred from the L&D room to the postpartum room. The L&D room had been spacious and airy, but unfortunately the postpartum room was tiny, and stiflingly hot with a broken thermostat.

I tried to nurse a few more times, again unsuccessfully, but I was totally not concerned about the lack of success. For some reason, I thought she wouldn’t need to eat for a few days (?? No idea what I was thinking there but I’m guessing I was still in shock) so it was not a big deal that she wouldn’t latch on. The nurses eventually dissuaded me of that idea, when she lost close to 10% of her birth weight and didn’t have a wet diaper in the first 24 hours. We ended up supplementing with formula until I got my hands on a nipple shield, which saved our breastfeeding relationship. (I have a whole other post percolating on breastfeeding, so more on the nipple shield later.)

Physically, I was in a lot of pain. I managed to last 24 hours on ibuprofen, until I got a doctor to write me a prescription for Percocet (now Percocet is something I would pray to). I had stitches in my perineum, as well as my vaginal wall. I walked around in an old lady shuffle, something I would keep up for days, and sat on ice packs. My stomach was truly, truly horrifying to look at – people say you still look pregnant after birth, which is sort of true, but only if you were pregnant with a giant bowl of jello.

We stayed three days in the hospital. The world shrank for me during those days – only the hospital room existed. When we left the hospital, the hallways seemed enormous, bright, and threatening.

Part III (on coming home, breastfeeding, and recovery) coming soon.

Baby Catching – Part I

Ellie is a good baby. A sweet baby. She doesn’t cry unless she needs something (for now at least, I know this could change). She nuzzles my neck with her little fuzzy head, makes little cooing “eh-eh-eh” noises, and has expressions that make us laugh with delight. I spend my days drinking in the smell of her, kissing her satiny cheeks, and staring into her blue eyes in wonder and joy. She looks back at me as if to say “what took you so long, mom? I’ve been waiting here this whole time.” My daughter. My daughter. Holding her in my arms feels like a reunion, like a long lost traveller has finally come home.

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Baby Catching – Part I

Friday morning (January 31st) I woke up to a labor pain. I’d been having contractions for weeks, but this one HURT. I thought I knew what a painful contraction was. I did not. I was so, so naive.

I had a scheduled OB appointment that morning, and I was desperately hoping they would tell me I had dilated beyond the paltry 1 centimeter I had been for two weeks.

At the appointment I complained to the Nurse Practitioner about my PUPPPs, and while she was sympathetic, she told me it was probably not a good enough reason to induce. I was still only 1 centimeter dilated (goddamnittalltohell), and I wasn’t so overdue that it was medically necessary to get the baby out. Tammy and I reconciled ourselves to the sad state of my cervix (what is the holdup, cervix) while she went to check with a doctor about a steroid cream for my belly. But instead of coming back with some cream, she came back with an offer to induce. The doctor had told her the steroid cream isn’t really very effective, and that only delivery would provide me with some relief. Since I was past 40 weeks, I could be induced any time.

We hadn’t really prepared to have that offer thrown at us, and I think the panic of making an important decision like that showed on our faces. The NP offered us some time to think about it while we went off to our scheduled Non Stress Test (NST, something they had me doing for the past few weeks – another post about that another time), and told us to stop by on our way back with a decisions. The NST was absolutely fine – baby’s heartbeat was healthy, I was having contractions that showed up on the monitor, but as my cervix had just been checked and showed minimal dilation, they weren’t too concerned I might go into imminent labor.

Tammy and I agonized over the induction decision on the slow, painful (still contracting!) walk between the OB’s office and the office where they did the NST. We went back and forth on pros and cons, but ultimately decided to give my body a few more days to do it’s thing without medical intervention, which would hopefully avoid a C-section. We asked the NP if we could get an induction set for Sunday night, both to give my body more time to “ripen” (like a damn peach or something) and because our doctor, whom we love, was on call at the hospital on Mondays. She called us later to let us know they didn’t have any slots available for Sunday night, but they did have one for Monday morning at 8AM, so we booked it. Tammy was relieved that we wouldn’t be having the baby until Monday – she was glad to have the weekend to do final preparations, notify work, etc. Poor Tammy. Wish not granted.

Meanwhile, I was still having painful contractions. They were 10 minutes apart in the morning, but by the time we got back from the doctor’s office around 1PM they were 7-8 minutes apart. And they fucking hurt. I was starting to think I was in labor, but we’d had so many false alarms before – contractions getting closer together, only to space out and piss me the hell off disappoint – so I kept my inkling to myself. Around 4:30, Tammy asked me if we could order Chinese for dinner. She had been timing the contractions, which were a solid 6-7 minutes apart at this point, and she didn’t want to have the hassle of cooking something while she was also trying to time my contractions and hold my hand while I had them. I had absolutely zero interest in food, but I told her Chinese was fine. Looking back, this was another indication that I was in labor – All I’d eaten that day was a slice of toast for breakfast and half a bag of popcorn for lunch but I could hardly bear to think about dinner.

By the time the food came, the contractions were so painful all I could do during them was moan or wail and grip Tammy’s hand with all my might. They were also 5-6 minutes apart. I looked at her after a particularly painful one and said, “I want to go to the hospital and I want an epidural.” Me saying that flipped a switch with her. She absolutely LEAPED into action, grabbing the last of the items for the baby bag, throwing dishes into the dishwasher, feeding the cat, all while running back to me every 3-4 minutes now to hold my hand during a contraction. Poor thing only got to have a few bites of dinner.

The car ride to the hospital was awful. Every bump in the road was magnified, and each contraction felt like my body was being ripped into pieces.

They way our hospital is set up meant we had to check in at the ER desk and would then be admitted to Labor and Delivery. Tammy pulled up out front and walked me in (I was totally incapable of walking on my own), and the second we got inside a bad contraction hit. I had found the most comforting position during contractions was to bend at the (non existent) waist, clutch Tammy’s midsection, bury my face into her stomach or back, and moan. The admissions desk took one look at us standing there and called for a wheelchair to take me up to L&D (I wonder how they could tell I was in labor?). Somehow I climbed in and was whisked off to the fifth floor while Tammy went and parked.

(A note here about the pain: It’s hard to describe what labor felt like, except to say it was so, SO much worse than I could ever have imagine. I think my mom, as much as I love her, set me up badly because she told me her labor pains just felt like “pressure”. And sure, we could call labor pains pressure, if by “pressure” you mean a wild animal ripping apart my belly with its teeth.)

When I got up to L&D the disgustingly chipper orderly made me get up out of the wheelchair and the nurses made me check in. I was leaning over the desk panting and wailing while they asked me questions like “how far along are you?” and, “is this your first baby?” I’m not sure how I restrained myself from telling them to go fuck themselves. All I could think about was making the pain stop. I could barely remember my own name.

Somehow I ended up sitting alone in a chair by the check in desk. Tammy came running in (she had run all the way from the parking garage with our gigantic hospital bag (we totally overpacked)) and found me there, huddled and shaking and whimpering to myself. I’m sure I looked pathetic, but what they say is true: when you are in labor you truly, truly do not care what you look like. I could have been butt naked in front of my boss and I would not have cared in the slightest.

We got into our room and I was told to put on a hospital gown and provide them with a urine sample. A motherfucking urine sample, y’all. Sitting down on the toilet was the most painful position yet (in retrospect I’m sure it had something to do with the baby bearing down on my cervix) and I was shaking so badly I could barely hold the cup between my legs. I ended up handing a pee soaked cup to Tammy to label and hand off to the nurse.

(A note here about Tammy: she was a rockstar. An absolute rockstar. She kept it together when I’m sure I would have been panicking, validated my every whim, every choice, every decision and did her best to keep me calm. She never left my side. I would have been absolutely lost without her.)

At this point I was begging every nurse, tech, and doctor (really, anyone I thought had a remote chance of working at the hospital – I would have asked a janitor) for an epidural. I had started throwing up from the pain (half digested popcorn looks disgusting as vomit, FYI) and I had to endure a painful cervix check during a contraction. I was 4 centimeters dilated and 100% effaced. I’d gone from 1cm and 0% effaced at 10:30am to 4cm and 100% effaced at 7:30pm.

Finally, finally, after I got the requisite amount of IV fluid in my system, I was given an epidural. Oh my GOD you guys. The needle hurt a tiny bit, but nothing worse than a pinch and it was only for a moment. Maybe I would feel differently about epidurals if I’d had a some of those bad side effects you hear about (itching skin, for example, or bad headaches) but I had no adverse reaction whatsoever. I thought I might be disappointed that I opted for an epidural rather than the non-medicated labor I had planned on, but I wasn’t disappointed then and I’m not now, not in the slightest. They told me it might take up to 15 minutes for the epidural to kick in, but within two minutes I was no longer in pain. The relief I felt was so immense, so overwhelming, that I cried in gratitude. Tammy hadn’t been allowed to stay with me while the inserted the epidural, but when she came back in the room she told me later that one look at my face made her a believer in epidurals.

(A note here about medicated vs. non-medicated births: I’m so uninterested in this debate, if one is better than the other, what it says about you if you have an epidural vs. go without, blah blah. For me, I’m grateful I had the option. I’m grateful I had the opportunity to labor at home, grateful we went to the hospital when we did, grateful I asked for the epidural, and grateful I received it. I’m also grateful that women who want a labor free from medicated pain relief have that option. I’m all about options, and I’m most of all grateful that we have them.)

An hour and a half after I received the epidural, my cervix was checked again. At 10pm I was 8 centimeters dilated. The nurse cheerfully told us to start placing bets on a delivery before or after midnight. Unfortunately, they checked me at midnight and I was still 8cm, and the baby hadn’t moved down at all. They broke my water, hoping that would put the baby’s head closer to my cervix, thus applying more pressure and dilating me further. It didn’t work though, and the baby’s heart rate started showing signs of distress. They made me stay lying on my right side because being on my left or on my back made her heart rate slow to unacceptable speeds. I had to wear an oxygen mask for the rest of the night in hopes that it would help.

Sometime in the early morning the doctor started discussing c-sections with me. She told me she wasn’t sure why I was stuck at 8 centimeters, but it could be that the baby’s head was too big to properly engage (and therefore couldn’t put the required pressure on my cervix), it could be that the baby’s head was at an odd angle in my pelvis (and therefore couldn’t put the required pressure on my cervix). Before they recommended a c-section however, they wanted to try me on a low dose of pitocin, to see if contractions of increased strength did the trick.

Half an hour on the lowest possible dose of pitocin and I was 10 centimeters and ready to push. I was so relieved to avoid a c-section and really excited to push. The epidural had worn off enough that I could feel contractions coming on, but they mainly felt like a tightness and pressure, similar to braxton-hix, rather than the searing pain of real contractions.

The doctor had me do a few practice pushes (“pretend you’re constipated and pushing out a great big poop”) and then called the team in (because I delivered at a teaching hospital, there was the doctor, a resident, a med student and a handful of nurses all there at various points in the pushing process).  After the first few pushes, the doctor asked if I wanted to watch myself push, and I said yes. Watching myself, splayed open, pooping, bleeding, and stretching open was both awesome and horrifying. I didn’t enjoy watching myself poop (truly bizarre) but seeing this small dark oval get larger, ever so slowly larger made was worth every view of the gore and poop.

I was pretty cheerful for the first hour of pushing. I felt strong and confident and was filled with adrenaline and excitement. Halfway through the second hour my strength began to fade, and I got more and more tired. I felt like I’d been pushing forever, and started to get weepy.

Pushing hadn’t really hurt up to the point of her crowning – just the pressure and tightness from the (epidurally reduced) contractions. By the time she was crowning, however, everything burned. I was so tightly stretched, and the doctor kept pouring oil over me, then running her finger along the edge of Ellie’s head and my skin to try to stretch me further. I kept telling her that it hurt (because it fucking did) and she kept telling me that the baby was almost here. At one point she had me reach down and feel Ellie’s head, and it was such a strange, exhilarating, rejuvenating feeling.

Just a few minutes before I hit two hours of pushing there was suddenly a lot of activity in the room. All of the various people who had drifted in and out of the room during my pushing process all came back in. Everyone put on these blue paper gowns over their scrubs, and the bottom of the hospital bed was removed. Stirrups were pulled up.

I can’t remember how many more times I pushed. I do remember the final push though – the push that birthed her head. The delivery team was chanting and cheering, and the doctor was saying, “just a little bit more, just a little bit more!” I pushed and screamed and felt my back rise up off the bed. I felt myself tearing – it was like I was being split open. And then, all of a sudden, it was over.

“Stop pushing! Stop pushing, Sarah, for just a second!” The doctor said. “Now one more big push! Push! You can do it!” I pushed again, and felt a tremendous release as her body slipped, all in a rush, into the world.

“Now reach down, Sarah. Reach down and catch your baby!”

And I reached down, and caught my baby, and pulled her up onto me. I was sobbing and shaking. I held my baby girl in my arms and told her it was her birthday, that I loved her, that I was her mommy. I looked at my crying Tammy and said “this is our baby.”

Finally. Finally. Welcome home, Ellie.

Fully Cooked

Ding! Today is my due date. The turkey is officially done, but apparently this turkey wants to be little crispy or something.

The best part about being due today is people asking “when are you due?” and watching their reaction when I say “today.”

I was enjoying this yesterday as well, although obviously saying “tomorrow,” instead of “today.”  One woman shrieked, one man literally ran away from me (was he afraid of my placenta exploding on him or something?), another woman gasped and asked what I would do if my water broke (um, go home?). I had multiple people ask me what I was still doing at work.

And (so far) I’ve been able to respond politely to all of these comments and questions, including the “what are you still doing at work” question, even though it is highly irritating. It’s irritating in part because I would love to be home right now. I’m in a considerable amount of pelvic/pubic pain, which makes walking extremely awful, I’ve developed PUPPP, which is driving me absolutely batshit insane (I’m sitting here at my desk with my shirt pulled up, cool wet paper towels draped over my belly), I have a chronic bloody nose (damn winter), etc. etc. etc.

It’s also irritating because I would like to respond with something along the lines of “if I got more paid maternity leave I would absolutely be home right now.” The company I work for does offer some paid leave – 20 days – which I know is more than most people get in this country. And I’ve been able to save a month’s worth of vacation so all together I have about 3 fully paid months that I’ll be taking once the baby is born. And I’m grateful for that, truly I am. But I find the maternity leave policies (or lack thereof) in this country so offensive I can hardly talk about it. Three months is not enough. It just is not. To add insult to injury, if I were farther up the food chain in my company I would get 6 months of paid maternity leave, with the option to go on partial pay for additional time off.

(Another annoying thing that the higher-ups at my company keep doing is offering advice along the lines of “hire a night nurse – we did and it saved our lives”. SURE. Because night nurses are so inexpensive! And you pay me such an enormous salary! That’s totally affordable for me!)

Anyway, that’s about it. Most thrilling blog post ever. Here’s the tl;dr version: I’m due today. People are dumb. Maternity leave in this country is pathetic.

Full Termish, and Thoughts Thereof

I’m full term today! Maybe! Depending on who you ask! Apparently, 38 weeks is the new 37 weeks, according to some or other doctors association. Oddly enough for me (it is me, after all) I’m not stressing about it.

You know what I am stressing about? Having this baby already. I’m scared of labor, don’t get me wrong. The only thing that scares me more than labor is being pregnant for one iota longer than I need to be.

*****

I had a prenatal massage on Sunday. I went into it thinking how relaxing it was going to be, and was unreasonably excited about the pop out belly section that would allow me to lay on my stomach. O happy day in the morning, they had one and I settled into it with glee. But y’all, that was the last ounce of glee I experienced during the massage. The massage hurt. Like a mother. I literally have bruises on my ass from her pressing into me, an ass that she accessed by tucking the sheet that covered me into my ass crack. It was about as dignified as you can imagine, and felt like the biggest wedgie you’ve ever experienced. To her credit, she warned me that was she was doing would be painful during and for a day after, but I would feel “wonderful” 48 hours later. I’m calling bullshit on “wonderful,” as I’m 37 weeks pregnant and I don’t think “wonderful” is remotely possible but I do feel looser in my hips. I’ll take looser, but I’m not sure it was worth the burning, intense pain it took to get there.

can report victory that the damn Lamaze class was good for something – I used it on my left side beat down after nearly crawling off the massage table while she pummeled my right. It didn’t make the pain go away, but it somehow made it more manageable, and because I was relaxed she was able to finish faster. Who knew breathing could help that much?

*****

I’m at the point of weekly OB appointments now that I’m in my 9th month. At my last one (January 3rd) I had a cervical check. I had worked this whole fantasy up in my mind that I was going to be 3 or 4 centimeters dilated and 75% effaced.  They were going to be hugely impressed with my silent strength, and assure me that my labor, once officially started, would be quick. They would also tell me to keep my hospital bag packed because labor would start “any time”.

Hahahaha!! Zero inches dilated, zero percent effaced. She did say that my cervix had moved into a good position (I…wasn’t aware the cervix moved positions, but OK) and that she could feel the baby’s head through my cervix (I resisted the urge to shout “watch out for her eye!!!” mostly because she had what felt like her entire forearm up my vagina, and should you ever find yourself in that happy circumstances, you don’t want to make said practitioner jump).

I have another appointment tomorrow and the fantasy has firmly reestablished itself in my mind. Only now I’m 3-4 centimeters dilated and 90% effaced.

*****

I’ve reached the stage where people at work keep making suuuuuper clever remarks like “you haven’t had that baby yet?” No, idiot. I haven’t. Thanks for reminding me. I’d totally forgotten I’m scheduled for this big event at the end of the month. My response thus far has been to kind of weakly smile and say “no, not yet….” and trail off. I’m quickly reaching a point where I’m going to start responding with a “obviously not”. The “dumbass” at the end of that sentence will be implied, unless I go over my due date, in which case all bets are off.

*****

I’m on Constant Alert for anything that could signal the start of labor. I’m back to doing toilet paper checks, to look for a bloody show, and I’m texting Tammy updates throughout the day about contractions (which I have, but super sporadically and often related to the status of my bowels – you’re welcome for that information!) and discharge (or is it amniotic fluid? Or did I just pee myself?). Lord are our conversations sexy.

*****

Did you know there are no dates on the calendar after January 30th? I looked. It drops into a black void of nothingness.

*****

The nursery is 99% ready. The hospital bag is packed. The car seat is installed. My mind is fully blown that I’m fairly certain to come home with a…baby one of these days.

mind_blown

Year in Review – 2013

Oh, Christmas. Always such a delightful pull and tug of thank-you-JESUS-I’m-on-vacation and holy-mother-of-god-I’m-going-to-kill-my-family. Some highlights for me this year include Tammy’s mother disowning her children (really); my sister and I spending the entire week squabbling over seriously stupid shit; and me, at almost 9 months pregnant making Christmas dinner from scratch for 6 adults (and thinking the whole time, this is bullshit, this is bullshit). The best part about Christmas this year was that it wasn’t last year. Reading that post makes me sad. I was so depressed and so angry and so deep in my own shit I could barely breath.

Since the post from 2012 was so damn depressing for me to read, let’s dive into the 2013 Year in Review, shall we?

1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before? The sustained pregnancy, obviously. Is that boring and obvious? Sorry. That’s basically my year. You can stop reading now! Phew!
2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I actually didn’t do TOO badly on my first one from last year.  I did really well making homemade meals, at least until the first trimester barfs set in. I fell off that wagon hardcore and never made it back on. Oh well. I most certainly did NOT get back into yoga. I also did not take time to do things for myself. Resolution for this year: let go. You do not have to be in control all the damn time. Does it really matter if your mother puts the dishes away differently than you would? No, no it does not. Does it really matter if Tammy doesn’t pass that car when you would have? No, no it does not. Repeat ad infinitum.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Yes. I had a few close friends have babies this year. Plus my sister in law had a baby in November.
4. Did anyone close to you die? No. Quick, knock on wood and light some candles!! (Not that I’m superstitious at all.)
5. What places did you visit? [pause] Damn, did we not do anything this year? We went to the beach this summer with my family like we always do. We went to visit Tammy’s family a few times. But no, we really didn’t do anything this year. Wow.
6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013? A happy, healthy baby. A job that doesn’t require me to be available 24/7, and ideally I could work from home sometimes and (even better) be part time.
7. What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? All of the IVF stuff and then the pregnancy stuff. I still can’t fucking believe it worked.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? See above.
9. What was your biggest failure? Trying to control everything.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury? I’m sick right now with a cold. Nothing super seriously in terms of illness this year, thank goodness!
11. What was the best thing you bought? IVF. Hands down, best money ever spent.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration? Tammy’s always. That girl is good.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? How much time do you have? I don’t know that my own behavior was “appalling” or anything, although I certainly wish I had done any number of things differently. Tammy’s mother’s behavior appalled me, and it certainly depressed me. I would say certain politicians appalled me, but eh, it’s kind of their job to be obnoxious, right?
14. Where did most of your money go? IVF. Even though it was the best money ever spent, it was damn expensive. Why must it be so expensive??
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Being pregnant. Duh. Right now I’m really, really, really excited about the fact that soon I will no longer be pregnant, and I will have a baby in my arms.
16. What song will always remind you of 2013? Hmm. I don’t really have a song in mind. Maybe this one?
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? happier.
b) thinner or fatter? fatter. Couch-to-5k, I’m coming for you in 2014.
c) richer or poorer? Financially poorer, richer in everything else.
18. What do you wish you’d done more of? I wish I’d done more to make Tammy happy. I wish I’d done more for my health and fitness. I wish I’d carpe’d more diem.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of? I wish I’d been less selfish and controlling. I wish I had worried less. I wish I’d spent less time stressing about work.
20. How did you spend Christmas in 2013? We always split the holidays between my family and Tammy’s – we go to her sister’s house for Thanksgiving and spend time with my family for Christmas. In the past we’ve gone to my parent’s house, but this year we made people come to us. Despite having to make Christmas dinner for everyone (which turned out to be pretty damn good, thankyouverymuch, it was a pretty good time.
21. Did you fall in love in 2013? Fell in love with the baby. Continued to fall for Tammy.
22. What was your favorite TV program? We’re making our way through past seasons of Sons of Anarchy right now. I also started watching Scandal, which is so bad that it’s good.
23. What did you do for your birthday in 2013? Not too much. I was gearing up for egg retrieval and was too sore and anxious to want to do anything. I think we went out to dinner.
24. What was the best book you read? My mom got me into a mystery series about a Chief Inspector in Quebec. I realize reading mystery novels makes me about 90 years old, but whatever. I wouldn’t say these were the best books I read though – that prize goes to The Goldfinch. I’ve been waiting for Donna Tartt to come out with a new book for effing ever and she did not disappoint. An absolutely haunting and magnificent novel.
25. What did you want and get? Pregnant.
26. What did you want and not get? The house to get much closer to done. The number one rule of home owning – everything takes longer than you think it will.
27. What was your favorite film of this year? No idea. We kind of stopped going to movies because after paying for the IVF things were a leeeetle tight around our household.
28. Did you make some new friends this year? Nope. How are you supposed to make friends as an introverted adult? How??
29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? See above about what I wish I’d done more of and less of. This question is kind of dumb.
30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012? Revolving around the 3 or 4 maternity outfits I own. I dare anyone to say anything to me. Go ahead. I dare you.
31. What kept you sane? Tammy. Always.
32. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Eh? No one?
33. What political issue stirred you the most? Gay marriage is pretty high on the list again. Raising the minimum wage would be awesome. Providing paid maternity leave would be awesome.
34. Who did you miss? I miss my grandparents. They’ve gone over the deep end into dementia. I miss who I was before I started trying to have a baby. There’s an innocence and a happiness there I’ll never get back.
35. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013. I haven’t “learned” this; I don’t think I ever will. I’ll have to continue to learn it, over and over for the rest of my life.

Gratitude

I’ve been pretty unhappy lately with the various physical realities of being pregnant. I’m super uncomfortable almost constantly; my back hurts, my hips hurt, I can’t breathe, I can’t sleep, I’ve gained too much weight, I have terrible heartburn, blah blah blah. But then I remember how I felt last year at this time. I had experienced my miscarriage  a few weeks prior and it was one of the worst Thanksgivings I can remember. I kept having to run outside at my sister in law’s house or camp out in the bathroom to cry, deep, soul ripping sobs. I felt sick, both in my body and in my heart.

And now look where I am. How privileged am I, that I have the opportunity to complain that I can’t take a full breath…because I have a baby inside me! How wild, and terrifying, and astonishing and dream-come-true.

You know that super sappy thing people do on Thanksgiving, where they go around the table and everyone says what they’re thankful for? Here’s what I said:

“I’m thankful to this family [meaning, Tammy’s family], for welcoming me and loving me. I’m thankful for my Tammy; she makes me happy every single day. I’m thankful for our baby. I’m thankful that we have the means and opportunity to grow our family.”

And now that I’m here, on my blog, I have to add that I’m thankful for all of you. Thank you for welcoming me into your community. Thank you for the support and advice. Thank you for sharing your stories with me, and allowing me to be a part of your journeys.

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving.

Whole and Half Adoption: My Thoughts

I read all of your comments on my last post with great interest. Thank you, very much, for your insight and compassion into a contentious topic.

I wanted to first clear up what I consider to be poor writing on my part, for which I apologize. I was trying to be all vague and mysterious about where we live and it ended up coming across as just…muddled. Tammy will be listed on our child’s birth certificate as her other parent, and we will be given a temporary custody order until the adoption is processed, some six months after the birth. If we were never planning to go anywhere for the rest of our child’s life, this would be enough, legally, to ensure that both of us would be treated as our daughter’s legal parents. However, because there are many places in the United States that would not automatically assign Tammy parental rights (if not outright ban them), we have to go through with the adoption to protect our family in those states.

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Please note that everything that follows is a collection of my personal opinions, colored by interactions and discussions with friends and family members. I am not adopted myself, so I do not have first hand experience. If I offend anyone with what I say, please know that it is not my intent to do so, and be kind to me in explaining why you feel as you do.

Adoption is not a black and white issue for me. I, personally, do not like it when people (many Catholic and Evangelical groups, for instance) paint it as The Solution to an unwanted pregnancy (as opposed to abortion). I also do not think it is fair to say it’s always a Bad Thing, like my friend, and some in the adoption rights community say it is. It’s like life: complicated, and with trade offs (life is complicated you say? How shocking).

Encouraging biological family members to stay together is much more complicated than just providing free prenatal care, as some “crisis pregnancy centers” imply. (Gentle hint STRONG SUGGESTION: do not EVER go to a crisis pregnancy center. They are con artists.) You cannot have a discussion about adoption without discussing sex education for children and teens, education in general, access to contraception and abortion, the roles of religion and culture, social services to support lower socio-economic status women and children, social stigmas of welfare queens and teen moms, “anchor babies”, the role of biological fathers, cycles of poverty, the foster care industry, the for profit adoption industry, international adoption, parental rights, pregnant women’s rights, the “personhood” movement, and on and on. All of these things are, in my opinion, intrinsically linked. But phew! Who has time to discuss all that? And what legislation could possibly address all these things in a meaningful way?

In a perfect world, there would be no unwanted babies, and there would be no families who wanted babies but couldn’t have them. Obviously, this is not a perfect world (again, it’s truly shocking). I think we should do what we can to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, and assist in achieving pregnancy for those that desire it, but we have to acknowledge that there will never be a perfect balance.

So what to do about those babies that, for whatever reason, are being placed for adoption? If a family member is willing to take them, I think they should be given first dibs. If a family member is not readily available, I do not believe they should be coerced into taking in a child they cannot adequately care for.

If no family member is available or appropriate, then I think a child should be placed for adoption to the greater community, in whatever form the birth mother (and father, if applicable) are comfortable with: open, semi-open, closed, etc.

Ideally, a child will have access to a basic medical history of both sides of his or her family (obviously, this is not always possible or practical). I do not think that adoption records should be destroyed, unless the birth mother specifically requests, after a certain period of time, that they be. If an adopted child wants to have contact upon reaching adulthood with their biological family, a court appointed independent third party should be assigned as a liaison to coordinate that contact, i.e. contacting the birth parents and asking their consent to provide the offspring with their name(s) and contact information. If the birth parent(s) do not want to provide contact, then the process stops there.

That may seem harsh to children desperately searching for information about their genetic history. I do not, however, believe that we are entitled, as a human right, to extensive genetic information. I also do not believe that once a child is born, their right to know trump the right to privacy of the person who gestated them.

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As far as my own child goes, we did a lot of thinking, obviously, about the role of biology, nature/nurture, the role of fathers, gambling with genetics, and fate before we settled on our donors. All three of our donors were chosen from a pool of willing to be known (WTBK) men, rather than the totally anonymous men.

We do have basic medical information about the donor, as well as some family medical history. We have a short recording of his voice, and pictures of him as a baby, a child, and an adult. We have the option of signing up with the donor sibling registry (DSR) to find other children created in part by the same donor.

We chose not to go with an anonymous donor because we do feel that genetics and biology are important, but to what degree we do not know. And we don’t know how important our child will view them. As the lovely blogger over at Bionic Mamas says:

“The biggest reason we chose a willing-to-be-known donor is that we wanted to be able to say to the Bean that even before he was a bean, we were thinking of him as his own person, whose thoughts and desires might well be different from our own.”

Isn’t that fabulous? You should go read the whole post. Also follow the blog.

Do I resent the fact that Tammy and I cannot combine our genes to create a child? Yes. Selfishly, deep down in my reptilian heart, I’m damn angry that we cannot have a child that is created out of our deep love for each other. I’m angry that our child will not look like both of us. I’m angry that all of the little quirks that combine to make Tammy the lovable, exasperating, funny, and gloriously wonderful human being she is will not be reflected in our child.

I also resent the fact that some people (again, like my friend in the adoption rights community) will consider the donor our daughter’s father. Parenting is so much more than providing DNA. It’s more than giving birth. And I resent the hell out of the idea that there are some people who will always consider a one time DNA donation a permanent admittance card to the parenting club.

But I cannot afford to go too far down that road my friends, because that way bitterness lies.

And a child is more than the sum of their genetic parts. Genes do absolutely play an important role, but how can that role be quantified against all the daily mundane slog and earth shattering crisis that make up a life lived?

In the end, our child will be her own person. She may turn out different from how she would have if she were raised by a biological mother and a father. But we make millions of conscious and unconscious choices in our lifetime that change who we are and who we could become. There are also things that we have no control over that influence the sum of our parts.

Ultimately, Tammy and I are just one of them, for better or for worse.

Adoption by Another Mother

Tammy will have to adopt her daughter.

We live in an area that allows gay adoption (similar to straight adoption but more fabulous), but because there are so many shitty parts of this country that do not allow gay couples to adopt and we can’t risk being in such a place if/when an emergency happens, we have to spend thousands of dollars on a lawyer to draw up the necessary paperwork, spend a couple of months in limbo, go before a judge, be deemed fit, and then go back to living our lives exactly as they were before, but more…legal.

Insert jazz hands. Legalistic jazz hands.

I’m torn about the whole thing, to be honest. Part of me is insulted that gay couples have to go through this. If a straight couple has to use a third-party to reproduce (i.e. donor gametes), they don’t have to go through all this once they finally achieve their longed for pregnancy. It’s automatically assumed that whatever the mother gives birth to is automatically genetically related to the couple that is assumed to have created it.

But on the other hand, I’m certainly not gambling with my child. Our family will not be the test case family. Sorry. Too precious, too scary. Too much to lose.

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While we’re on the general subject of adoption, can I throw a few (virtual) thoughts at you? Keep in mind that my thoughts are colored by my own interactions with people who were adopted or gave up a child for adoption, and my future experience of what we lovingly refer to as a half adopted child.

I have three cousins that were adopted. One of my adopted cousins has passed away so I have no way of knowing what he would have wanted to do, but the other two had different reactions to wanting to find out about their roots. One has reconnected with her birth mother (with the support of her adoptive parents), has gone to visit her and they are friends on Facebook. My other cousin started to investigate his birth parents (again, with the support of his adoptive parents) but after not much effort decided to stop looking. There could definitely be more to his story (maybe he found out something he didn’t want to know? Maybe he got overwhelmed?) but for now, he’s just living with the information he has. Neither of my living adopted cousins wish they had stayed with their birth families, or that they hadn’t been adopted.

My SIL gave up a child because she got pregnant as a teenager, and her family shamed her into it. That’s the long and short of the situation. She recently found the girl online.  My SIL wrote her a letter asking to meet up with her, but the girl, now a woman, declined, for reasons unknown to me.

I also have a friend who is adopted, and I’ve had a lot of long talks with him recently about his experience. It’s a long and complicated story, and while he loves his adoptive family, he feels like adoption is a traumatic, brutal and cruel thing, and every human being has the right to know where they come from. He’s gotten very involved in the adoption rights community.

Obviously, our child’s situation will be different from those I briefly sketched out above. She will know half of her genetic heritage, and we chose a donor specifically because he had agreed to be contacted when any offspring turn 18, should they want to know more about that side of their genetics

Our child will grow up knowing a kind man, called a donor, gave a small bit of himself to help Mama and Mommy make her. Parts from Mommy and parts from the donor made her who she is. She will know that Mama and Mommy are her parents, and that families come in all shapes and sizes. I’m a firm believer that genetics are only a part of who you are…but it’s easy for me to say that, as a person who knows all about her family.

I worry that our child will at some point start to romanticize the donor, or think of him as her dad. Will she wish that she was growing up with him and not us? Probably at some point she will. She will probably say something along those lines to us when she is angry at us. But as much as I try to prepare myself for that moment (or those moments) I know that hearing it will be like a knife in my heart. What happens if our daughter feels like we robbed her of something? What if she resents us? What if her life is less than, because she didn’t grow up knowing what Tammy and I both knew about our families?

What are your thoughts, dear readers? Do you support adoption? Do you think, like my friend does, that adoption should be an absolute last resort? Or do you think it is a beautiful way to build a family? Or is it somewhere in between? What about people using donor gametes?

What rights do children have to know about their genetic history?

The Measure of a Woman

I never really knew my grandmother. She died when I was a kid, but I don’t remember a time when she wasn’t sick. She had Alzheimer’s.

GrandmaGrandma, going fishing, probably around 1935.

My only real memory of her revolves around this antique doll she kept at her house. My sister and I were playing with it once, when I was about 6. She saw us playing with the doll and came running into the living room. “Stop that!” she shrieked. “That’s MY doll!” She snatched the doll out of my hands and whacked me aside with it. She thought she was a little girl again, and some other kid was stealing her best toy.

My other memories of her are a hodgepodge of her laying in the hospice/elder care home we moved her to when my Grandad could no longer take care of her. Her Alzheimer’s was in a fairly advanced state at this point, and she no longer talked or walked. My mom would bring my sister and me to see her once a week, and we would shuffle in, awkward and unsure. We’d say a few things to her, prodded by our mother, but Grandma never looked at us or responded. I was always relieved to get out of that room. I felt like I had escaped some looming terror.

She died of pneumonia following a stroke when I was ten years old.

The grandma that I didn’t know was a study in contradictions. Born on a tobacco plantation in southern Maryland, she was raised to be a southern lady and was bewildered by the changes that the 1960s and her hippie children brought. She was shy and gentle, to the point of running from cameras and never standing up for herself when her husband bullied her. But she also left home before she was married, and lived on her own during World War II. She moved to Baltimore and ran a steel mill and played the drums in an all women band. She later married a divorced man (my Grandad, who converted from Catholicism after his first marriage so he could re-marry) and became a military wife. She never worked outside of the home again. I wonder if she used up the last of her will to rebel before she married, or if it slowly leaked out of her like a deflating balloon as the weight of life bore down on her shoulders.

Grandma & Grandad

My grandparents, sometime in the 1940s, before they married.

My mom says the one and only time she remembers her mother yelling at her as a child was this: It was the mid 1950s, and my Grandma was trying to vacuum the stairs. My mom was very young at this point, probably 4 or 5, and she was trying to help my Grandma, but was of course mostly in the way. My Grandma was probably frustrated and tired and worn out from caring for three small children while moving from military base to military base all over Europe. She apparently turned to my mom and snapped something like “S___ will you quit?! You’re in the way!” My mom’s eyes filled with tears, and she told my grandma that she was “trying to help.” My grandma turned off the vacuum, sat down on the stairs, and pulled my mom onto her lap. “Oh S___, I’m sorry. You’re right, you were helping and I’m sorry I yelled at you. Thank you for being my helper, and I love you.” She never yelled at any of her children again.

Grandma & Grandad w Grandaughters

My grandparents with my sister, me, and two of my cousins, sitting on the porch steps to my Grandma’s family plantation home in the 1980s.

But contrast that gentle love with the same woman who believed the sharecroppers that worked her family’s land were a different species, some kind of sub-human that should not have any kind of meaningful interaction with “her kind,” and was never able to reconcile her racist beliefs with the ’60s race revolution.

A woman who, along with my Grandad, paid off three different girls who got “in trouble” by my uncle in high school to “deal with the problem”. What exactly that means (adoption, abortion, etc) was never made clear.

A woman who donated so much blood during World War II that she became sick and weak, and her health never really recovered. She would remain fragile for the rest of her life.

And she was also a woman who had at least one miscarriage, and then a surprise baby at age 44. A woman wouldn’t let anyone tell my aunt that she was a “mistake,” and laughed and smiled as my mom, 11 years old, danced her baby sister around the living room, calling her “blondie angel,” and “my first baby.”

Grandma w Kids

My mom and her siblings with my Grandma in the early 1960s.

She was also the woman who never, ever said a word when my Grandad would say, at every meal “C____, get up and get me another drink!” despite the fact that to get the milk out of the fridge, he wouldn’t even have to get out of his chair. Every single meal, for years, my grandma hopped up without complaint, until my mom and her siblings started to talk back for her. “Get it yourself, Dad!” they would exclaim.

My grandma would have been 97 this month. I miss a woman who I never knew, someone who I never will know.

Happy Birthday, Grandma.