Thursday, March 24, 2011

On Trying Again

"We tell ourselves stories in order to live." -Joan Didion

This was supposed to be a blog about having a baby. About parenting a little boy that arrived here on earth only after so much sweaty, teary-eyed, wing-and-a-prayer effort. But what I've discovered is that infertility remains inextricably part of my experience as a parent, because it's part of who H is -- the daily gratitude I feel for him is also a reminder of every difficult moment conquered to get to him -- and because of the future. Because unlike most parents milling around suburbia, as I say goodbye to each stage, as I put away baby toys and tiny infant clothes, I know I could be slowly moving out of this time and place of parenting a small child. Could be leaving behind the very thing I've wanted since my time began. I may not get to linger here like the others. May not get to give those maternity clothes another spin.

I look at H these days and see a boy. His cheeks still have a little bit of puffy baby to them, but he is taller, sturdier, more sure of himself. He brought a book over to me this morning, and when I asked him if he wanted me to read it to him, he nodded. It was the first time I felt like we had a real conversation. I feel like we've rounded the bend into the second year and I'm gripping the edges of his babyhood for dear life, mentally willing us back to the fall, when toddlerville still seemed so abstract.

Don't get me wrong: I love this place, too. It keeps getting better and better, and I continue to declare each new month "my favorite stage." But I looked at some pictures of H as a newborn last night, and I can't even remember what it felt like to hold him when he was so small. It was like looking at someone else entirely. I don't know how to be better about capturing these moments. I don't know how to file them away in some safe area of my subconscious, where I can find them again and dust them off on some gray day when all of this is really behind me.

Having a second child is a kind of betrayal, to my mind. A first baby remains a baby as long as he is the only one in the house. We tell ourselves we're having another to give the first one a playmate, but really where the child is concerned, we know he would rather be the only one with reign over the toys in the house. Really, it's about giving him a family that will be here long after we've moved on -- about giving him the kind of person who will know exactly what he means when he says, Remember how mom and dad used to... and he won't even have to finish. And really, if you keep searching, more than anything it's about keeping your house filled with sweet baby laughter for as long as possible. It's about wanting to relive baby #1's babyhood, but this time in a more deliberate, less uptight, more enlightened way.

For me, and for all of us who had to work harder than is fair to get our first babies, that drive for a second may be an unfortunate biological wire crossing -- an innate desire gone wrong. I may, in the end, need to find something else to do with my time and energy for this. But I have to try. And, with 35 looming and eggs that can't afford to be any wonkier, that has to be now. I have to push toward it despite the voice asking for more time, reminding me of all that was so complicated about my last pregnancy. I have to tell myself that this one will be different. I have to trick myself into believing that, if it works again, it will be 9.5 months of pickles-and-ice-cream bliss. That I will believe in it this time, I will relish it, I will buy designer maternity jeans because they will not be a waste of money. I will have preggie pedis and have my bump placed on record by a professional photographer. I will be active until my due date. And I can have a VBAC! A two-hour delivery! No traumatic birth experience to cry about this time!

This is what I tell myself. Because I have to try.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Are You There, G-d? It's Me, Egg

I'm having an 8th-grade health class moment. Bear with me.

You all know far too much about my wonky cycle -- how, pre-H, it would never happen on its own. How it suddenly seemed to happen spontaneously after H hatched, and made natural conception a possibility (although a far-fetched one, to my mind). Between January and February, I had a 32-day cycle, so this month I thought there was a very good chance it would be about the same.

So day 32 comes and goes and I have no AF but I do have serious cramping and, even though I know better, I think there is a possibility I could be pregnant. And what I think about that, friends, is shocking. Sit down. Ready? I am not elated. I am horrified.

Seriously. I look at my little H, still -- even though he is full on walking now, and trying to talk up a storm -- just a little baby. And I feel like I've committed an irreversible betrayal, that I've infringed upon his sweet, parental-attention absorbing innocence by possibly welcoming -- nay, creating -- an interloper that will seriously mess with his world, in which all things currently rise and set around him. And I am sort of sick about it.

So I POAS and I see the familiar one line of days past, and I feel relief. And then slight disappointment (I never said I was easily pleased, or that my feelings and thoughts made any sense). But more relief than anything.

I call the nurse at my RE's office the next day, to see what she thinks about no period. Could the surgery have somehow delayed it? Are we dealing with a possible return of scar tissue or PCOS? She says she is not sure but that women often see normal variation of up to a week from cycle to cycle. I realize how clueless I am about normal reproductive operation and hang up feeling ridiculous.

I wait and wait, and then finally AF arrives without fanfare on Monday. So we're talking about a 39-day cycle. Which is better than what I had before (months and months without anything at all), but still makes it a bit of a challenge to think about trying for a baby, although I'm sure my husband, like most husbands, would be very glad to make the attempt on CDs 14-26. Because strangely enough, I'm still interested in trying, even despite the feelings of ambivalence I had when I thought I might actually have gotten pregnant in the first month of trying (ha).

I am left with lots of questions, dear readers, like I'm in puberty, redux:

-How much variation do you see in your cycles?
-And especially for those with wonky ovulation who may have experience with OPKs, how much variation did that cause with your ovulation day?
-When should I use an OPK -- what days? Do they really work for someone with PCOS tendencies?
-Is this all totally pointless? We all know it is probably not going to work.

Please don't harm me for saying this, but IVF suddenly seems quite tidy, predictable and overall not that bad.

Friday, March 11, 2011


I am crazed. And not in a good way. Trying to juggle multiple work projects, keep H in one piece and now also sell our house after our first attempt last summer/early fall was a colossal fail. Since we bought at the height of a real estate market that has since collapsed, even in the tony suburb where our real estate agent pronounced poor behavior as "un-[name of my town]-like," as if we were the standard setters for all things of discriminating taste, we are trying to sell our house ourselves. Clearly this is not my first choice, but since we're already eating it on the price of our house, I refuse to dole out another $15k for the privilege of having someone schedule showing appointments for us.

Anyway, I went out shopping last night to pick up some things for a community service project sponsored by my town's parents group. They are putting together care packages for this amazing organization called Project Night Night. If you don't know this group, check them out. They came up with the brilliant idea of creating these Night Night Packages with a book, a blanket and a stuffed animal, for children that arrive at homeless shelters with no comfort objects to help them feel safe. I first read about them as pregnancy hormones surged through my veins, and need I even say that it brought tears to my eyes. So I was thrilled to learn my parents group was sponsoring the project and enthusiastically signed up to purchase several bags.

So I arrive at the checkout counter with a cart full of baby blankets and books, and an older, grandmotherly type is the checkout lady. I'm sort of relieved, because I'm about to be a little bit of a pain and I wouldn't want someone young and impatient having to deal with me. I'd told some friends in one of my play groups about the project, and they'd generously offered to contribute both items and money for the cause. Pay attention, because what follows is high finance. I had $50 in my wallet from friends for the bags and I wanted to make sure that money went right to the items. I wanted to pay for the rest with my store credit; I didn't want to end up paying for the whole thing with my credit and keeping the cash -- that just seemed weird.

So I handed the lady the cash first, and then wanted to pay for the balance with my credit. Easy enough, right? Except instead of then asking me for the balance, she started taking out money to give me change. I told her actually, I owe you, and then we both stopped and stared at each other. I began to doubt myself -- was I sure I owed her? -- because I was exhausted and could barely think myself. Remember my previous post about mom brain? Well, here is a case in point for you. It was like the blind leading the blind. She was really a sweet lady, but I'm afraid that one day they're going to count up the money in her register and find she's really off, and that will be the end of her retail career.

Anyway, while I was shopping, I really started thinking about these kids, the ones I was shopping for. I looked at blankets and pajamas that had those cutesy sayings that I personally loathe (Mom's Favorite All Star! Daddy's Little Slugger! Cutest Alarm Clock!) embroidered on them. I just thought, this kid might not have a mother. Might not ever know her. She might be a crack addict. Or she might be there, and loving, but plagued with serious problems that these lighthearted messages seemed almost to mock.

I looked at the books they had, particularly for the older kids, and wondered what content would be appropriate. Would it be a good idea, for example, to give a homeless child a book about some kid who has a really lovely home and parents who dote on him 24/7 and has some silly little problem at school? Would that serve as healthy escapism or bring into sharp relief that child's own, far more serious, problems in comparison?

I stood in the store staring at these things and became profoundly sad for these kids. The simple kindness of these bags, the small gesture that might bring some modicum of comfort to a child in distress, touched me but also broke my heart a little bit.

I mean, there but for the grace of God. What separates us from these families? Was it just a few bad financial decisions that spiraled out of control? Wrong place at the wrong time?

On these crazy days, when it's hard to see anything but what I need to accomplish next to finish a project, get us in a new house and keep H on developmental track, this was just a really helpful reminder to stop and look around. And really see.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mom Brain

I may have mentioned this before. In fact, I may have written this exact post already. As I'm about to explain, I have a hard time remembering and keeping details straight these days. Anyway, if this post sounds familiar to you, feel free to close your browser now. Or stick around and suffer through the encore. Your choice.

Before I had a baby, I thought that women who complained about not having time for anything because they had kids were full of, forgive my French, le shit. I thought, how is it possible that I work 45-50 hours a week, participate in a number of extracurricular activities and still keep my ducks in a row -- but because they have kids, it somehow made them busier and their minds more taxed? The whole "pregnancy brain" and "mom brain" thing drove me batty. Especially if the woman in question was a stay-at-home mom.

(The fact that I was also going through infertility and wanted to scream anytime I heard a mother remotely complain about the stress of life with kids may or may not have had something to do with this. But let's just say for the sake of argument that this is an irritating principle to anyone without children.)

Okay, so that was before. And then I got pregnant. And then I had a baby.

The pregnancy wasn't so bad, though I was totally consumed with get this kid out alive, please and had little attention span for anything unrelated to that topic. Then he came out alive and, though a relatively easy baby, he kept us up all hours as newborn babies are wont to do. And my brain cells slowly began leaving for Bora Bora.

I'm sleeping these days, so I'm not sure what my excuse is anymore, but here is what's happened to me: I lose things. Gloves, baby shoes, important papers. Baby nail clippers. I search frantically for such things and then sometimes find them, inexplicably tucked in drawers that make no sense. I "lose" my iPhone at least once a day.

I forget words. They are on the tip of my tongue, but I can't quite bring them home. I'm not talking about fancy words, either. Words for everyday objects. I really have to concentrate to finish a sentence sometimes.

I lose track of my schedule. Some days, I wake up and feel certain that I'm supposed to be somewhere, but I don't know where that is. My calendar, when I can find it (I'm still using a paper planner and dare anyone to try to convince me I should move to an electronic one. I will never give up my paper planner, and until the last real book disappears from this earth I will never use a Kindle.), is not helpful. So far nothing catastrophic has happened but I'm just waiting for the day when a client, H's doctor or an old friend calls me and asks me why on earth I'm not at their meeting/appointment/dinner.

I feel like a granny, or just a really ditzy person. Couple all of the above with the fact that I am no longer reading a national newspaper on a regular basis and I definitely feel a lot dumber these days. The particular angst of all of this has me dreaming my recurring bad dream, the one I've had since college, where it's the end of the semester and I realize I haven't gone to any of the meetings or done the reading for one of my classes, and the final paper is due the next day. I need some serious professional help.

Does this sound familiar to anyone? And do you think it is permanent? I used to be pretty together. I worked with CEOs of household-name companies. This is kind of hard to believe when these days I can't even keep track of a notebook or put something in the mail on time.

It's official: I have become one of those people. I have the thing I thought they made up. I have mom brain.

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