Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy Holidays!


I was reluctant to put a pregnancy ticker on my blog, but in all this holiday cheer I decided to not be a grinch and worry about jinxes and dark clouds and caution, but instead put out some baby holiday cheer. We are 8 weeks and still going strong. A. is feeling very tired but powering ahead as always and I am beginning to envision life ahead with two kids. I still can't quite believe I will be one of those woman I've seen banging around the city with those God awful double strollers. I use to look at them struggling to get down the street or into a taxi and think, "Wow, I'm glad that's not me," and lo and behold, now that will indeed be me. But a friend of mine who has two daughters explained that if you can look at that life of baby frenzy as temporary, you will survive. I had more confidence in myself last year with my daughter that I could handle anything after infertility, but I am somehow doubting myself more when it comes to managing two so close in age. But in life there always needs to be a next challenge and I am taking a deep breath getting ready for 2011. Peace and good health to all of you dear readers.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How do I HEART thee? Let me count the ways.

The things I never got to do when I used my own body - 1) Feel pure, unadulterated, naive, confident joy finding out I was pregnant ; 2) Have the doctor say, just come back in 6 weeks ; 3) Feel my boobs and tummy swell with life ; 4) See a heartbeat on an ultrasound that was actually in my own uterus.

Today, for baby #2, we saw, via iphone, the round blob on the ultrasound with the heart beating strong. Up until now "the sibling project" has only been an abstract idea that seemed to "make sense" as the next step. It was almost something to be put on a spread sheet to layout all the steps as dryly and as rationally as possible. But seeing that it's for real and just may grow into a healthy baby is finally sinking in.

In many ways, going through this conjures up all the same old feelings of failure and loss my own body suffered over the years. It squelches any irrational hope that a mythical "oops" baby following adoption, donor egg, or surrogacy might arrive at my doorstep. I will never have a biological baby. This is how I have babies. These wonderful women are an extension of my own womb and eggs, and this is just how I make babies. I had one this way, I will have two this way, and I will have no other baby any other way. So does this leave me crushed? Not really. It makes me think about all these aspects of myself again, but I have managed to put that person so deeply hurt by that failure in a memory box that I don't feel is me.

A lot of people have commented that I have courage to go through surrogacy again, but I don't feel very courageous. I think I felt more courageous when trying with my own body knowing how much loss there could be, knowing I would have to live in constant limbo. For this second surrogacy journey, I feel like I know it worked well before and so it's not taking my entire soul to muster up enough courage to do it again. It's a different kind of launch pad. With surrogacy #1 it was still in testing mode with all the same potential disaster as using my own body. I know I am not free from tragedy and loss, but there is a feeling that my reproductive team at this point has become a well-oiled machine. Now I feel like the real courage I must find is to not let myself become the Tin man and not feel anything at all. I want to make sure that this seemingly disconnected way of having a baby still remains connected to my own heart.

Monday, November 29, 2010

BFP!




I am a bit in shock, but looks like my daughter will be a big sister next year. To our surprise, A. did an early beta right before Thanksgiving so we could know the good news as we stuffed our faces with turkey. Could she be more awesome? Beta is more than doubling and we'll see how the first ultrasound goes next week. So the journey begins again. Stay tuned.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The thaw

I am amazed by the technology. I mean, these cells are frozen Han Solo style and then poof, they melt into growing embryos. Needless to say, I am happy to report that two "totscicles" thawed beautifully and we transferred to A. with amazing speed and ease. We felt like we were in line for an amusement park ride. They led us through and then suddenly we were in the transfer room and it was like "okay, buckle your seat belts" and then it was over.

The best part about it was of course seeing A. again. It was so fun to have her see how much bigger our daughter is and how happy she is. I am still amazed she wants to take this journey again with us. I made sure when we walked into the clinic with our stroller to loudly pronounce to reception- "She was made here!" This was out of pride but also out of remembrance for all those sitting in the waiting room. I remember being a bit perturbed by people bringing their bouncing babies into a fertility clinic. But I wanted to give some hope and I wanted to make it clear - Don't scorn me, I went through hell to have this baby! The cool thing was there were two other couples in the waiting room who were also using surrogates so it seemed to be surrogate day at the clinic. In the end, our daughter charmed everyone. She was smiling and waving at anyone who passed by. Perhaps she knew we brought her back to her humble lab beginnings.

So the wait is on. But I feel no stress. Partly because this whole cycle was so quick and the decision still seems so abstract. But also it doesn't feel like life or death the way it was the first time. It's like after eating a delicious piece of cake and waiting to see if they will serve me an extra one. Either way I win.

Beta is November 29th. Let's see if we'll be thanking our lucky stars this thanksgiving holiday. Everyone out there reading, thanks for the support and have a fabulous Turkey Day.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Top Secret Mission

I've been avoiding this post because I am in complete denial. But we have decided to try for a sibling project with A. With much trepidation, I relaunch into outer space again heading for planet IVF. I never thought I would do this again but circumstances worked out to be able to travel this road again with A. This time with our frozen embryos.

My hesitation stems from so many levels of emotions. On the most positive end we want to expand our family and my husband and I finally figured out the way we can successfully make babies. It takes an orchestral effort, but we know it can be done. On the most negative end, we open up old wounds - running from deep emotional pain of losing the ability to have a biological kid, to deep anxiety of experiencing more loss, to deep financial pains, to deep worries of having to explain surrogacy, to deep fears it's too soon to have another baby, to deep insecurities that we are being greedy. I mean one is enough, two would be icing.

But despite all these scary thoughts, we are moving ahead. We are blessed to work with wonderful A. again and I have opened myself to whatever is meant to be. Just like the first time around, I have all these unknowns that create anxiety but until you take the leap you just don't know what fears will come true. So full speed ahead, we have our transfer this weekend.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Really?

Now, it's not easy to write a children's book about third party reproduction. I understand the need to be cutesy or accessible, but when looking around for books and coming upon this one, I just got turned off. It's trying to explain the different recipes for making a baby. But I mean, the sperm looks a little creepy to me. The donated egg looks like a cabbage patch doll. The donor sperm in the book is even worse in that they just added a mustache to this guy. The adoption sperm and egg are badly drawn "Asian" faces which is just plain lame.

Not to rip on this author and illustrator. I am a visual snob, I admit. I know their intention is wonderful and I just wish I liked the book better. My daughter loves when I read books to her so I thought I might as well start up on some of these donor egg and surrogacy picture books, but I don't see a lot of choice. It's hard enough to figure out how to tell this story to your kid and I just wish there were better tools out there. I have an unusual case of having to explain both surrogacy and donor egg to her so I know there is no magic pill. If anyone has any suggestions of good storybooks, let me know. Maybe I will just have to write my own.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I'm back, and with a cup of coffee


I am remembering the days when I religiously took vitamins, did my meditations tapes, acupuncture, and yes, whole heartedly cut out caffeine. Well, all of that has been replaced with one big cup of coffee. Mind you, I was an avid tea drinker before the baby. I never touched coffee. But alas, even I couldn't resist the dark side. I have a cup of joe every morning now.

My last post is from August and I suppose life got so crazed that the energy to write takes a back seat to sleep, eating, and catching some good TV. I've had the urge to write, but my body just screams- SLEEP- every time my daughter naps. But I want to revive it. I want to keep the ritual of writing going, however sporadic if may become.

I feel like most of the blogs I was reading regularly have moved on with life or I can't seem to find them. I promise to find the time to read more and support new people embarking on this journey. Funny how when I actually was going through the zillion IVFs I had no friends (in the non-online world) who were going through infertility. Now that I have my daughter and life seems a bit more normal, I have three friends going through IVF. Where were these people when I was feeling so isolated and on the edge of despair? Now, instead of feeling like the one who is fucked, I am the one trying to be supportive and optimistic for others around me. I find myself a little jealous that they all are trying with their eggs at our age and have a good chance of it working. I can't help but feel like I am the only one who had to do the crazy stuff and everyone else will get pregnant the good old fashion IVF way.

But pity party aside, parenting has become the new focus and comes with its own frustrations. Though I've mastered the daily needs of my daughter, I am sometimes overwhelmed by the sleep training, the constant stream of energy towards her, balancing my career, and my husband's sometimes clued out behavior. Even though he tries to help out, it's still mommy that she wants. So there are times I am snippy and snappy at him, probably out of sheer resentment that he gets to maintain certain things about his life that I can't anymore. Battling my exhaustion, there are days where little things all go wrong and you want to just cry. Then there are days that it all gels - the universe lets the day unfold smoothly and with ease. Of course the joys and highs of parenting are sublime, but lately I am just cranky. I sometimes feel frazzled and old. Other times I can't believe how good I've become at soothing my baby. So that's a snapshot of life right now. I teeter between awe of my child growing so fast and astonishment of how far I have to run on an empty tank. I like to think it's the vast personal growth I've achieved that gets me through the tough days, but perhaps it's just the coffee.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Made with love

One of my fondest memories of my own mother was all the crafting she did to make me lovable things. She made me pajamas, toys, and blankets that not only came straight from her old clothes but more importantly came straight from her heart. So now it's my turn. Finally.

First, I made my daughter this sac dress from an old skirt of mine. It's about the easiest thing you could possibly sew for a little girl. You literally just need a rectangle of fabric and some ribbon.

1) Just sew the sides of the rectangle together up until the sleeve area and then finish the seams of the sleeve openings.

2) Sew the top of the rectangle leaving room to thread a ribbon through.

3) Scrunch up the fabric to make the neckline and then sew the edges to hold tight. Then hem.

This is so easy my daughter will be wearing these until college, or until I get through all the scraps of fabric I have lying around.

Next came one of my all time favorites- the yarn octopus. My mother made me a purple one with blue button eyes that I fondly called "Oscar." I cherished that little thing for a long time over all of the other toys and their bells and whistles. Again, such a simple toy but so full of love. So here is the one I made for my daughter. Not the best thing for her teething period but it sits atop her window sill harkening to my 70s childhood.

1) Lay several strands of yarn on top of each other. Use a styrofoam ball as a base for the head.

2) Place ball in center of your pile of yarn strands. Wrap around ball and tie at base of ball after spreading our yarn around the sides of the ball.

3) Split up the yarn strands below the ball and braid into 8 legs.

Finally, Harry the Dirty Dog is one of my favorite kids books. I have been reading this to my daughter since birth and she seems to have the same enthusiasm for this little rascal dog. She can't stop cracking up when she sees the book cover and so I had to make a little pillow for her to grab on to. Instead of trying to shove the book in her mouth, she can now at least cuddle with the pillow.

1) Get some iron on paper. Scan your kid's favorite character and iron in fabric.

2) Sew around the pillow and stuff.

Of course, this warms my heart more than my daughter's right now as she is still too young to know that I made these, but the hope is that she will cherish these things someday. It feels good to just be a mom. I am taking a break from the labels of surrogacy and donor egg and just being me. All the drama of biology, genes, blood, heredity, fertility, uterus, womb, blah blah blah. These days I am just seeing how much of myself I am already giving.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Oh my, the irony.

Your baby's first exersaucer means so many things. It means they want more stimulation. It means they want to stand and jump. It means you finally can have free hands once in a while. In my case, while visiting her grandparents, our little girl was elated to get her first plastic micro-world of fun. However, she was a little too short for her feet to reach the ground. After searching around for just the right size foot boost, my mother came back with the perfect size book - My dad's old "Atlas of Pelvic Operations."

"Are you kidding me?" I thought to myself. But it was indeed, the perfect height. Having a father as an OBGYN is already ironic enough. Having grown up playing with a plastic uterus wreaks with irony that I, in the end, got a shoddy uterus. Now as I finally have my own baby, how peculiar to watch her jump happily on top of a book of pelvic operations. So what did I do? I of course looked up my own pelvic operations.

There, as I suspected, on page 81, was the description and diagram of my ectopic surgery. I studied the old fashion medical drawings. I looked carefully at how they rummaged around my ovaries and cut into my fallopian tube. It looked like a foreign world, a world that defeated me. It was my internal self laid out before my very eyes. Where, in these weird sausage-like organs was I? I didn't really know whether to laugh or cry. How could my body cause me so much pain? How could this fine-tuned reproductive system have gone so wrong?

I poured over them, examining the diagrams as if they were a treasure map. I wanted to find the golden key to unlock the mystery. My eyes traveled through the tissues and vessels and ligaments. With each sketchy line, I dove deeper into the emptiness of my loss.

I could only imagined the many embryos stuck inside that threadlike tubal space. I could only see these ovaries pumping out crappy eggs. I could only see this space continuing to bleed out every month failing to grow anything. These so-called nurturing life-giving organs very easily looked to me monstrous, alien, aggressive. This couldn't possible be inside of me.

As I caught myself falling down a dark hole of regret and sadness, I tried to focus on the dancing feet on top of this book. I could look at this strange visual juxtaposition of my baby and my past horrors in several ways. For one, it could be a reminder that sometimes great pain and loss gives birth to great and unexpected joy. It could be a reminder that despite my failing reproductive system, a baby symbolically grew out of me. But my most devilish side likes to see this as a big fuck you to infertility. Just as a person might dance on an enemy's grave - outliving them and celebrating their demise, my daughter was doing a dance on my infertility with the exact same sentiment.

Monday, July 12, 2010

I hope my kids are all right

I loved this film. I went in with apprehension. The story line of a donor coming into a family's life gave me the jitters. Did I really want to see a potential nightmare of mine on the big screen? But I was truly engaged and entertained by this film of a lesbian couple whose children seek out their sperm donor. Granted there had to be drama or else why make a film, but it was good to see more stories about alternative families. Although I highly doubt my egg donor will come into our lives and wreak havoc on my family, there is a tiny tiny minuscule ball of fear in me that my decision could come back to haunt me.

Like most donor parents, the idea of your donor somehow being considered more the parent is horrifying. If you choose to disclose, then you know there is potential of the day your child wants to meet their donor. I try to imagine my daughter at 18 years of age and feeling curious about this side of herself. I try to imagine myself being the cool and "on it" parent that calmly supports her finding the donor and welcoming her into our lives. But it's a long shot. No matter how much I can try to prepare, I think I will be devastated.

On some level, all parents face potential explosions. It all depends on who the child becomes. I do try to convince myself that there is no sense in stressing now when this day may never come. My daughter might not feel any need to find out more. But I can't help but feel that she might have a sense of loss not knowing her other genetic half. Will my family and their history be enough?

Of course, taking on this alternative family building, I have to believe that nurture is tremendously strong. But there are days I really wish I didn't have to feel this fear.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

What's your adversity quotient?

Shawangunks, New York

When I was writing in the heat of despair, the words just flowed. I was on a mission to vent. There was of course much to vent about. The need to express what was happening in my life through words, graphics, video pressed all my creative buttons. It's funny how pain can be so inspiring. It was like I would implode if I didn't get it out somehow.

Now that life has become semi-normal again I have a feeling my posts may not be of much interest as comments are dropping off and more and more Chinese spam coming in. The support I got from cyberworld was immeasurable. Not only was it such a comfort having people write me kind words about my struggle, it also felt supremely good that someone was enjoying my writing. I feel like my infertility awoke the writer in me that has long been asleep. My younger more bright-eyed self had once thought I would win the Pulitzer for journalism. I would then go on to write my novel or memoir. As the years went by, and more and more insecurity set in, I lost the will to write. So in some ways I have to thank my infertility for forcing me to write regularly.

When visiting family last month, there was a book on the table called Adversity Quotient: Turning Obstacles into Opportunities. The author is a climber, a rock climber. Being married to rock climber who pushed me to climb a 3 pitch mountain in the Shawangunks, I can take this to heart as a metaphor for life. The idea is that you are either a climber, a camper or a quitter. Those who quit are always thinking "It's too hard," "I am not good enough," or "why bother if I am going to fail." The campers are those who might climb until it's "just enough." They play it safe. They are content with plateauing.

The climbers are those who keep climbing in the face of adversity. They strive to reach their goals no matter how hard it might seem. They manage fear and make it through. These are people who don't look at adversity negatively. I am a negative person overall. I tend to see my adversities as unfair, burdensome, and down right infuriating. So needless to say I am more a camper than a climber. But when it came to my infertility, I was clearly a climber. I didn't stop. I didn't say, "This is good enough."I faced prospects of more and more loss but I didn't quit.

Anyone going through or finished with IVF can safely say that their adversity quotient is high. The past 3 years has made me look at painful experiences not as a set back. It's easy to say this in hindsight, but it actually sets you ahead. I used to be very  jealous of a friend who's life seems to be adversity free. I can't even think of one thing that hasn't gone as planned for her. I use to think that was success. But now I know that a camper's life is comfortable but not necessarily that full. I can see that climbing gave me creativity, passion, spirituality, empathy, gumption, tenacity, perceptiveness, humor, compassion, expression, maturity, and of course, my baby.

I don't have the fuel of infertility these days, though the fire hasn't been put out. I still grow angry when I hear of people getting pregnant with their second child. I assumed now that all of my friends are turning 40 next year that all their eggs would also be crap, but apparently not. I still get jealous when I hear someone's IVF worked. It still hurts. It still burns that I had to choose a different path. But what's different is that I am learning to let adversity push me to design my life so I don't settle for the campground.

The book said that climbers aren't climbing all the time. They take breaks at the campground to refuel and then set sights on a new climb. So I see myself right now taking a break at the campground. I just finished the baby mountain which certainly gives me the right to rest. I would say that my experience with surrogacy and donor egg might be likened to reaching the peak of a mountain and then being asked to skydive off of it. So I am due for some singing by the campfire. But I just have to make sure I don't settle into a nice sleeping bag and sleep my life away. Ultimately, as I venture into my 40s next year, I would like to think that there is more to climb. I like to believe that staying persistent with something will make it blossom. So as I contemplate finding work this fall and think about possibly trying for baby #2, I know I have to apply the same adversity quotient. It's the highest quotient so far in my life and so I know it's strength. It's really the hidden pistol in our pockets. Just remember that as you look at campers who get pregnant at the drop of a hat, or gush about their pregnancy, or pity you.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A mention of surrogacy

A little mention can go a long way. Just a short blip about surrogacy in Sex and the City 2 was kind of satisfying. Sarah Jessica Parker's character is talking with a fan who claims she has lived the exact same life as her [Carrie Bradshaw]. The woman announces she is pregnant via a surrogate and can give her the name of an agency. Carrie politely declines saying children are not for her. The woman is disappointed and slightly judgy (which I didn't like but beggars can't be choosers). In that one short conversation you see the stage set between the women who design their lives to be childless and the woman who design their lives to be mothers. She is juxtaposed against a mother via surrogacy. My guess is that Sarah Jessica Parker's real life surrogacy story is behind that script choice. I suppose choosing to not have kids and choosing to use a surrogate are sort of similar alternative camps - just on the opposite sides of the spectrum. But this conversation begins Carrie's journey in the film navigating her confusing expectations of a satisfying childless life.

What I like about the brief highlight of surrogacy is that perhaps it can plant the seeds in audiences that a woman can define her life however she wants. If she wants to use a surrogate to have a baby, so be it. If she wants to live her life just with her loving husband, more power to her. It's just two different paths. Sex and the City 2 reaches many many women. I hope that short exchange between the two women just reinforced that reproductive choices are exactly that- choices.

I know there is much criticism and poo pooing of the movie as a whole for other reasons. But expecting it to have some sort of cultural sensitivity or depth I think is a bit far fetched. You have to take it for what it is, which is candy. I totally was entertained. It was pure girl porn. The shoes, the clothes, the drama, the objectification of male bodies - I don't think you can expect more. But I give a nod to Sarah Jessica Parker as a fellow mother via surrogacy that at least she put it out there.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Lazy days of summer

As the oppressive humidity of New York City seems to be imminent, I have fallen into a summer slumber of mommy time. We have the feedings going every 5 hours. We are sleep training. Neck and legs are strengthening. Tummy time is our middle name. I danced around like a fool in my first baby development class. Our baby at 4 months is a linebacker. Rolls and rolls of fat have puffed out like a cheese soufflé making her a pudgy delectable treat.

I seem to be getting the hang of this. It's almost, dare I say, as if I can forget a little bit about the dark past. But every once in a while I am reminded of my unusual closeted infertile self. Just recently a sales lady asked, "How long was your labor?" Faced with this question for the first time I was a deer caught in headlights. I looked helplessly at my sister-in-law for help as I kept thinking in a panic, "How long did it take A. to deliver? Why am I blanking!!" I looked up into the air for a moment and say, "Ugh, about 8, or maybe 12 or, um...yeah 12 hours." My hope is that maybe women sometimes block out this very trying physical feat of labor so that my perplexing behavior might be assumed to be an aftershock? But what do I really care. So the sales lady thinks I am crazy, whatever.

But just like the questions about the pregnancy use to catch me off guard, eventually my scripted answers regarding labor/delivery melt off my tongue like second nature. I have mastered dodging questions like a high speed cheetah. But if they arise, it's best to keep it simple. A woman asked me on an airplane "How was the pregnancy?" I shrug, "Great." A woman says, "Wow, you just had a baby. You look great." I say,"Thanks." Someone says, "How did you manage to delivery that big baby!?" I say, "I managed."

It's the straight forward nature of life right now that I am thoroughly enjoying. Life used to be all about maybes, what ifs, and gray zones. But these lazy summer days feel very absolute. It's very freeing. I go from one day to the next learning more and more about my baby. It's amazing to me how much I know of her tiniest moods and needs. I know the pitch of her squeal when she is getting tired. I know the drool is a sign she wants her pacifier. I know how to get her into a bath without it being a three ring circus. I've figure out all her skin rashes - finally! I know that her concerned pissed off look means she is pooping. Again, just keeping it simple these days.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A mother on Mother's Day

My very first Mother's Day card came to me that blissful Sunday morning after my husband gave me a morning to sleep in. We spent the weekend at my parent's house for various family events and almost forgot it was a day to celebrate my own motherhood and not just my own mother, as per usual. For my whole life up until now Mother's Day was about my mother and nothing else. But what an amazing shift to share the day with her.

For the past three years I have been so focused on clawing my way to motherhood, I hadn't set my mind to what kind of mom I wanted to be. It is interesting these days to look at my own mother finally with a shared perspective. At my best, I hope to do her work justice. If I can be a mom like her, I will have reached my hopes for Mommydom. The amount of love and attention she gave me as a child and as an adult is immeasurable.

As she grows old and now in her 70s, I see how frail she is getting. I still rely on her help, her love, her support, and her wisdom even as a 38 year old. I see that she strains now to prepare meals for all of us when we visit, but forces herself to feed us as she always has done. I see how tired she is after a family event where she has organized and prepared and worried about the details. I see how tired she is taking care of my father. I see how excited she is to see Mira but that her stamina is slowing.

All this makes me quite sad and worried that as I become a mother that my own mother is waning. Her years devoted to us as kids is catching up with her. No one wants to think of that inevitable day when we lose a parent, but more and more as my parents face ailments I can't help but want to cherish every moment with them. I am torn between the child I am to my mother and the mother I am to my child. I find myself still needing to be both even though in some ways I should be graduating from my mother's care as I care for my own child.

It's hard to see my mother weakening when she is the one person I always can count on. I know that she put every cell of her body into raising us kids and I can only hope that someday when I am a little old lady Mira will feel the same way about me. The years ahead that I will devote to her will certainly drain me, but I know from my own mother that her drive remains intact. It completes your heart. I know my mother is tired these days but her love never gets tired. So I hope someday when I am a veteran of many Mother's Days my daughter will see that my tired old body still has a beating heart ripe with joy and love for her.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Life through stroller eyes

Never before walking the streets of my beloved city did I notice the frenzy. I always felt invigorated and stimulated by the hustle and bustle and rush of energy out on the streets. The noises, tastes, smells and people are the life blood of Manhattan.

Now strolling around with a baby you notice a whole new world of dangers. Will we make it over those pot holes and cracks? Does everyone really need to smoke on the streets? Do you really have to scream on your cell phone? Can you not blast your horn right next to me?

Perhaps a little over protective of my 2 month old, but I am navigating the world with this tiny baby that I have to keep alive and not damage. I am sure my heightened ear capacity has something to do with my over sensitized brain right now. I hear every peep, cry, eek, gurgle this baby makes, even when I am deep in slumber. But that's what seems to be happening as you become a unit with your kid. They are an extension of you.They go everywhere you go. They are your side kick until they don't want to be anymore. I am certainly a test study that genetics have nothing to do with this.

So I have become that mother with the stroller who is stopping up traffic on the sidewalk, bumping through chairs and tables at restaurants, crowding a bathroom to change a diaper, and scowling at those predators who threaten her young. This was a person I once despised. The amount of rage I had seeing a stroller is immeasurable. As I might have suspected, have I joined "the club?" I now smile knowingly at other parents. I chuckle at other crying babies and rambunctious toddlers. I exchange ages, names, and stroller preference with women in bathrooms. Jesus.

When I think about what I can write these days, it's precisely things I was never interested in reading. So my apologies to fellow infertiles still in the trenches trying. I hope you still visit me. For other mothers, I hope that we learn to love our mothering experience despite all our infertility baggage. It's a challenge but I try to remember I had to dig really deep into my soul to invite this baby into my life. My choices were hard and I still sometimes yearn for the biological child I tried so hard to have. But this doesn't make me less of a mother. Already my world is changing in the most subtle of ways, even down to how I walk the streets of my home.

Friday, March 19, 2010

To work or not to work.



I have heard it all before. Can you have it all? The age old dilemma for women after having children is that internal debate to either stay at home or be out in the work force. Sometimes you don't have a choice. Sometimes you do. But either way, it's not easy.

For years infertility stole any impulse for my career. I would turn down jobs because of IVF. I would take a project but wished I didn't have to work and could just have a family. I put off taking a heavy stressful full-time job thinking I can't get maternity leave after just starting a new job. In the midst of all the shots, doctor appointments, and pregnancy losses, I lost sight of what my career was going to be. It wasn't my priority.

Now after 2 weeks of working on a freelance project, I am beginning to think about how I can balance motherhood and work. I keep hearing how there is this divide among mothers - those who work and those who do not. There are judgements and insecurities about both decisions. I hear complaints about women who can't imagine not staying at home and providing made-from-scratch everything for their child. Others take offense to working mothers who condescend to stay-at-home-moms.

I have decided to remain Switzerland on this subject. I have yet to enter into the larger mommy world because we are still staying at my parent's house and our baby is so young for it to be relevant. Isn't it just important to do what makes you happy? Maybe there is too much gray in that idea, which is ultimately why maybe women never quite feel satisfied with these options. It's not just about my happiness now, it's about my daughter and my husband too. Before it was expected that women stay at home. Then it was expected that you work too. Now it seems really up to you which way to go. The judgements and subtle jabs that women give each other only really come from a feeling of not being able to do it all. When you are at home all the time you might feel like your career is slipping away. When you are working you might feel you are missing precious moments with your baby. No win situation.

My plan is to find as many cool parents who are chilled out and open-minded. There are parents who judge or compete or preach or brag or compare children. These types of people just make you feel bad, so I plan to stay away from these parents as best I can. The last thing I want is to question myself, especially with all my infertility baggage. With so many levels of concerns about your baby - a) keeping them alive b) making sure they develop healthy and strong c) nurturing them for the person they will grow to become, you just have to do what feels right to you.

So my newest challenge is riding the roller coaster of making decisions about my career while trying to be the best mom I can. Again, better than the roller coaster ride of IVF. Luckily, part of what infertility has taught me is to tune out the noise. It has taught me well that the definition of motherhood is an infinite amount of things.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My tribe is all around me

Like I have said before, I wish there was a secret handshake for infertiles. Just some way of knowing we belong to the same tribe. But funnily, as I dawn the cap of donor egg mother via gestational carrier (quite a mouthful), I have unexpectedly run into tribe members all around me.

The day that A. had her final OBGYN checkup that sparked her delivery, one of the nurses in the office came up to me and said, "I was a surrogate for twins." We shared experiences and she wished us luck.

At the hospital where we delivered, the nurse who checked me in and did all the administrative paper work welcomed me and immediately told me she had done several IVFs and then adopted. It was an immediate comfort zone in the midst of this crazy anticipation for delivery. An angel in disguise, she stayed with me, shared her story, showed me a picture of her son, and even the next day brought Mira a present. She said to me, "I know how long this journey is and what this means so I wanted to give you a present." Unbelievable kindness.

When we took Mira to her first pediatrician appointment, the nurse who took all her vitals and did the PKU test told me she used traditional surrogacy for both of her children. "I am the adopted mother and the birth mother is called 'Poo.'" Once again, blown away that someone so random could understand our experience.

Finally, a last minute work project came up and I needed to get a baby sitter quick. We found a great young woman who just graduated from college. As I sat with her one day, she out of no where told me she was adopted and her parents brought her home when she was 5 days old. I shared with her that our baby was carried by a surrogate.

So maybe there is some crazy energy we all put out there that draws us together. Our tribe is unknown most of the time, often criticized and judged, sometimes pitied, all of which makes us very private. But I love, despite all that, that we find each other.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

One month of motherhood

Today Mira is one month old and I see now why everyone says it's all a blur in the beginning. In some ways it seems like eons since she was born and other ways it feels like it just happened last week. Time is moving in its usual stealth way. I suppose that's what it's always going to be like as we watch our kids grow.

The one thing I can say for sure is all the horror stories of infant care are just "horror" in the fictional sense. As I suspected, infertility is way more of a horror show than any crying, pooping, and lack of sleep. Not to say this is all so easy but in no way is it as bad or as crazy as I was warned. Perhaps I will feel differently in a few months, but for now I keep feeling like the luckiest person.

When I think of how many steps and how many people it took to make our baby, I feel more certain that she should be very proud of her birth story. When your child is born via surrogacy or donor, we as parents ponder a lot about if, when, and how we will tell them. I have had my share of panic attacks about how am I going to tell her. How many "nice ladies" do I have to explain to her for Christ's sake? But as I see her thriving and growing, I think more than ever that her birth story will instill strength, not shame or alienation. I hope as a young adult and eventually as a grown woman she will carry that with her. We can truly tell her she was a miracle and that sometimes the more complicated the recipe the more delicious the result.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The promised land

I've been looking for a time to sit down quietly to ponder and write about this amazing ride, but as one would expect, a baby takes up a lot of time. How do I even begin?

I suppose I should start by doing a little rewind to 2 weeks ago. When I last posted, I was resigned that A. would not deliver for a while. I settled in with a new knitting project, bought a paint by numbers set, ready to wait another week for our baby to arrive. However, at A.'s next OBGYN appointment, the doc decided to stretch her cervix. Boom, that did it. Suddenly those two weeks of preparing and twiddling my thumbs went out the window. We were told to meet her at the hospital in an hour. In a nutshell, the delivery went incredibly well. A. was amazingly strong and calm and collected. I, on the other hand, felt light headed and was terrified I was going to faint at the sight of blood. I imagined what a complete embarrassment it would be if I passed out before seeing our baby born. My husband had already warned me to repeat our mantra, "K.I.T.!!-- KEEP IT TOGETHER!"

Nothing could have prepared me for the melt down I would have watching our baby born. It was truly incredible. The flow of tears came relentless down my face as I couldn't believe what A. had done for us. I couldn't believe this baby was mine. There are really no words to describe this.  

Now fast forward to day 2 after delivery and the adrenalin and shock finally were subsiding.  I can honestly say that there was a clash of intense emotions. When you have a baby via donor egg, you prepare and prepare and stress and stress over how you are going to feel when you see your baby. I can only describe it for me as a really strange mix of total bliss and deep loss. On the one hand you are gaining this amazing new life, and on the other hand you keep searching for yourself in the baby and know you won't find it. Granted, understand that this is all purely physical. When a baby is born there is not much else you can see about the person besides her physical attributes. So I found myself feeling sad I couldn't find anything physical of myself in her.

Soon this emotional tug of war was interrupted by pure logistics. When doing surrogacy out of state, the baby being born is just the first step in this orchestral feat. Next we have to get the baby home. In this case, my parent's house where we planned to stay for a couple weeks while our apartment gets renovated. As word came in that a huge historic snow storm was about to hit our destination, we had to pull it all together to jump on a plane and get there before we were snowed in. For all the years of fuck-ups, this was pay back time. It all went beautifully smooth -rescheduling the tickets, getting the birth certificate, getting to the airport, flying on the plane, and driving to my parents. We beat the storm, for once. Finally the universe is cooperating.

Now fast forward to today. Our baby girl is two weeks old, and that clash of emotions has been fading. It is so true that once you take care of your child that you begin to see her as her, not all the baggage you have been carrying through years of infertility. I am sure there will be many more bumps in the road because of the fertility choices we've made, but that's the name of the game.

It got me thinking about what this blog will be moving forward. There are plenty of good parenting blogs out there so have to think a little harder about what I want to continue to write about. But there is time. Let's just take it moment by moment. As she naps beside me, I can only think of how exciting it will be to watch her grow. I have reached the promised land.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

She's here!

Introducing Mira, born February 2, 2010 - 8lbs 8oz! We are all doing great and just been too crazy to post. Will hopefully be able to post more later this week when I am less in shock! For privacy reasons I am just posting her little foot, but she's 100% cute. Thank you all for waiting so patiently with me. She's finally here.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Day One


Tomorrow is our official due date, but as I said, I think we are going to go past that. The saga continues. If by next week A. has not delivered then her doctor wants to induce. So either way we hopefully will be seeing our baby soon. This will be my last post before the long awaited announcement of the birth of our child. I won't bore you with the uncertain amount of days ahead of me. Just check back for the "baby is born" posting.

But doing this countdown has really let me think carefully about my identity as an infertile and what I can pass on to those just beginning this journey. This whole experience has really changed my life. It's given me a perspective and a certain understanding of myself that I am thankful for. Ultimately, the ability to set yourself free as an infertile person comes down to YOU. That's right, numero uno. Here is my number one all time top way to practice the art of being infertile.

TOP TEN WAYS TO PRACTICE THE ART OF BEING INFERTILE:

10. Arm Yourself with Information, But Accept the Unanswerable.
9. Find Other Infertiles.
8. Tune out the noise.
7. It's okay to be angry.
6. Keep Trying.
5. Fulfill Another Dream.
4. Limbo is your middle name.
3. Remember Love.
2. Protect Yourself.
1. Forgive Yourself.
When I think about how important it is for me, after years of pain, to be the strongest person I can for this little baby, I can say without a doubt that I must forgive myself. As an infertile, we experience a sense of failure like no other. We are brought up believing that as a woman our body's innate role in life is to conceive and bear children. We are suppose to be on autopilot when it comes to this. Even for me, as a woman who firmly believes that our femininity is so much more beyond fertility, I feel a sense of betrayal that I was unable to accomplish this biological role. We try and try and try and we fail and fail and fail. At it's core, we battle feeling like this is all our fault.

But of course this imprisons us, puts a weight on our shoulders that is too heavy to carry for the rest of our lives. This whole top ten list has really culminated to an entire program of reorienting yourself. Not only do we have to keep re-strategizing on how to build our family, we also have to re-strategize how we see ourselves.

It's become clearest to me as I approach actually being a mother. When life extends to another life, whether you biologically created it or sought help to create it, this new life is now your responsibility. One becomes two. Now all the regrets and all this anger and all the self-deprication has to take a step aside for this new person who needs you.

Forgive yourself for the miscarriages. Forgive yourself for the Big Fat Negatives. Forgive yourself for putting your career first. Forgive yourself for getting married later in life. Forgive yourself for not trying earlier. Forgive your uterus. Forgive your fallopian tubes. Forgive your eggs.

Forgive yourself.

Peace out ladies.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Day Two



I wish I had news to tell. We are getting close. Friday will be day zero - blast off - but I have this feeling that this January baby might end up being a February baby. A. is having some more contractions but no alarm bells yet. She usually delivers right on her due date or later. So I am settling in to watch the second season of Mad Men because this could still be a while.

TOP TEN WAYS TO PRACTICE THE ART OF BEING INFERTILE:

10. Arm Yourself with Information, But Accept the Unanswerable.
9. Find Other Infertiles.
8. Tune out the noise.
7. It's okay to be angry.
6. Keep Trying.
5. Fulfill Another Dream.
4. Limbo is your middle name.
3. Remember Love.
2. Protect Yourself.
If the public likes to portray fertility treatments and third party parenting as the wild wild west of baby-making, well then I say, be ready for a showdown. I tend to be pretty hardcore about this because I feel it should be our number one priority to protect ourselves - not only from the obvious assholes, not only from the well-meaning unintentional boobs, but also from the POTENTIAL pain that people could inflict. I am a strong believer in pre-emptive strikes. This is not to say you must be afraid all the time, it means you must know yourself.

I knew that certain social engagements were not going to be good for me and I stayed clear of them. I knew certain people were going to have kids before me and I mentally prepared myself for that pain. I knew certain people were not capably of handling tragic situations so I avoided them. Frankly, I put my needs before everyone else because in the end, it's not going to kill people if I don't go to their baby shower, or I don't hang out with them during the 9 months of their pregnancy, or I don't listen to their parenting talk. They will survive. On the other hand, if I forced myself to do these things out of guilt or obligation, I would be intensifying my pain 100 fold. Why do it? My sanity is more important to me. Cancel the dinners. Make nice excuses. I have even honestly explained to pregnant friends that I need space because I value our friendship too much. In my most extreme protective state, my logic is that for the people who I love but who could potentially hurt me, the last thing I want is to hate them. If they were to say or do something to hurt me that hate could become very real. My defense is that I am protecting myself but I am also protecting them.

Don't feel guilty. Everyone has their own level of tolerance. I understand the logic that we shouldn't hold grudges or be jealous or not support our pregnant friends. I agree with this theoretically. In practice, we are all human, so know your limits.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Day Three



As I sit in our hotel room trying to occupy myself, I smile as I look at my husband with his headphones on doing a conference call for work. Originally the plan was going to be that I would travel here first before my husband so he could save as many days possible to take off for paternity leave. He was going to fly out closer to the due date. When planning this all, I sort of cringed at the idea of sitting in a hotel room by myself trying not to go mad with boredom. My husband knows me well. He was able to work it out so he could work remotely up until delivery, hence, keeping me company in these final days. Granted, I might have done some whining that compelled him to work out this situation, but I know he also feels better being here. I look at him working so hard and trying to finish up everything so he can really enjoy our baby and I think to myself, "I got lucky. He's a good one."

TOP TEN WAYS TO PRACTICE THE ART OF BEING INFERTILE:

10. Arm Yourself with Information, But Accept the Unanswerable.
9. Find Other Infertiles.
8. Tune out the noise.
7. It's okay to be angry.
6. Keep Trying.
5. Fulfill Another Dream.
4. Limbo is your middle name.
3. Remember Love.
It's cliché, but it's true, all you need is love. In the robotic and sterile nature of doing IVF, it's easy to forget the emotion motivating this all. You and your partner love each other and want to create a family out of that love. Though this experience could easily tear couples apart, I do think that my husband and I have grown stronger in our love through this craziness. There is nothing that tests a relationship more than surviving an insanely difficult life experience together. I find it incredibly frustrating when there is criticism of fertility treatments claiming selfishness or vanity as a driving factor. The media and general public seem to always forget that infertility stories are in fact love stories.

As much as I tend to focus on my own heartbreak from infertility, I try to remember that this is both me and my husband's journey. He lost the pregnancies too. He got his hopes up with every BFP too. He watched me suffer through all the shots and surgeries. He held me tight as I cried and cried and cried. He stayed positive in the midst of my complete despair. He didn't toss me aside for a younger more fertile woman. He still sees our baby as "ours" despite that she's not my egg. He still loves me. Infertility plagues both men and women, whoever medically is diagnosed as "infertile." I try to remember that as much as I can when I get into the "me, me, me" mode. I could not have made it through this without the love we have for each other.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Day Four



I have had to be patient for 3 years. You would think that this would be torture right now waiting out these last days before delivery. But it's not. I've grown so accustom to waiting and not knowing. I have this weird calm in my heart. I don't feel anxious. I trust that the baby will make it here okay. A. has started more contractions and she seems more tired. It could be any day now. Thanks, dear readers, for sticking it out with me.


TOP TEN WAYS TO PRACTICE THE ART OF BEING INFERTILE:

10. Arm Yourself with Information, But Accept the Unanswerable.
9. Find Other Infertiles.
8. Tune out the noise.
7. It's okay to be angry.
6. Keep Trying.
5. Fulfill Another Dream.
4. Limbo is your middle name.
One thing you have to get use to when being infertile is living in limbo. Living with the absence of control is one of the main skills to learn. It's also, I believe, one of the main culprits for making infertiles feel crazy. Everything about this infertile existence makes you live in grayness, not knowing if, when, why, how it will ever work to get pregnant. All the waiting, all the unknowns, the inability to plan, certainly made me pull hair out, cry, kick and scream. But we all know that if there is an art to being infertile, we can't go around foaming at the mouth or else we will get put away. So after my many tantrums, I had to dig pretty damn deep into myself. How do you remain sane in a world where 1 + 1 doesn't equal 2? I believe this is where inner strength, inner spirituality, and inner depth come into play. This world is full of horrible things. Having faith in something seems so foolish when your experience has shown you that it's impossible to trust anything. But what's the alternative? The darkness I faced was intense and poisonous.

Sometimes life forces us to relinquish control. From that, we have to somehow "just be." It's a state of mind that is hard to reach when there is so much pain, but if you can find spiritual moments like this, it will help. It's about survival. I am not a buddhist, but I know that one of it's principles is that life is about suffering. We crave certain state of affairs to not exist. Suffering ends when craving ends. This would be a state of enlightenment. I can't say I have the answer to getting there, but I do know that without a larger perspective on life, infertility will lead to deep depression and hopelessness that can be dangerous. The limbo won't go away, so if you are feeling the darkness, get professional help, find support groups, pray, meditate, dig deep.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Day Five



So we are at the halfway mark until due date, but no labor yet. We see A.'s OBGYN tomorrow so we'll have a better sense of how she is doing. It's time to get A. some spicy food and do some major walking around!

TOP TEN WAYS TO PRACTICE THE ART OF BEING INFERTILE:

10. Arm Yourself with Information, But Accept the Unanswerable.
9. Find Other Infertiles.
8. Tune out the noise.
7. It's okay to be angry.
6. Keep Trying.
5. Fulfill Another Dream.
When you are so focused on the dream of a baby, it's hard to remember that there are other parts of your life that you held dreams for. As an infertile, it's easy to become one-dimensional and lose other parts of yourself. It's hard to battle the tunnel vision of baby-making, but we can be infertile and still continue to grow in other ways. I was forced to put so many things on hold while doing IVF - career decisions and vacations, to name a few. But for me, in 2009 I made a decision to stop feeling stagnant. I travelled to Prague and Hawaii, two places I always dreamed of going to. I've dreamt of playing in a band, writing a book, learning to swim with confidence, going on a safari, editing a great film, mastering fluency in French, being a good debater, owning a lake house, and much much more. Hopefully some of these I'll be able to achieve as well someday. Life is full of dreaming and when you are in the pit of despair and failure it's the perfect time to go fulfill something else on the list. No matter how small that dream might be, try to remember something else besides a baby you always wanted to do. Then do it.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Day Six



It's funny the power of suggestion. When marathon runners hit a wall, I know the cheers and screams of encouragement from the crowds help them get through the barrier. It is hard to know when to quit and when to keep pushing your body. I always wished a doctor would just say, "Stop. It's not going to work," to let me off the hook. But of course part of me would die if I heard those words too. My heart seemed to say never stop fighting to have your family, whatever means you decide to build it. I know that those who love me felt the same. I am evidence of someone on paper who looked like a complete failure but still figured out a way to make it happen.

TOP TEN WAYS TO PRACTICE THE ART OF BEING INFERTILE:

10. Arm Yourself with Information, But Accept the Unanswerable.
9. Find Other Infertiles.
8. Tune out the noise.
7. It's okay to be angry.
6. Keep Trying.
It may seem obvious, but part of being infertile is about "trying to conceive." Trying is the operative word. Failure after failure doesn't give us much motivation to keep going, but I think if you want to have a family, you will find your way. I don't mean to say that you should push yourself to a point where this battle becomes truly dysfunctional or dangerously toxic to your life. We all know how addictive this is and I think it's a very personal decision when to stop or when to change gears and try some alternative family building. You will know when you reach that point, and there are of course plenty of people who chose not to have kids at all in the end.

If you had asked me 3 years ago if I thought I could handle 5 IVFs or using donor egg or surrogacy, my heart would have sank, my eyes would glaze over, and I would be completely overwhelmed by the prospects. I am not sure I would have had the strength to embark on this journey knowing how hard it would be. I hit so many road blocks, each making we give up a little more of myself, a little more of my dreams, a little more of my heart. I am surprised I kept trying. I kept re-strategizing and reorienting myself to what family means. I made compromises and I gave up preset notions of how this is all suppose to work. But you never forget the blood, sweat, and tears. Even when you ultimately conceive, carry, and give birth to a healthy genetic child, you don't generally abandon the infertility camp. We all remember how much hard work it took.

Like any great challenge, cheerleaders are always appreciated. It's always good to have people reassuring us that we are not masochistic fools that have some sort of death wish. Sadly, no fertile person in my life actually ever said the words "Keep Trying." I think they felt like maybe that was condescending or giving false hope. But for me, it's powerful to hear the words - "YOU WILL HAVE YOUR FAMILY." It's a very simple statement and I think it means the world to hear this when you feel hopeless, distraught, and exhausted.

Just remember, by definition the word infertile may mean "unsuccessful in achieving pregnancy," but there is no mention whatsoever in the definition of not having a family.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Day Seven


It's already Friday. We are officially 39 weeks! We saw A. last night and she is looking beautiful as always. She's so calm and collected. Everything is progressing well and she simply said, "The baby will come when she's ready to come." It's almost absurd how lucky we are to have her. Even more so after hearing this week from two good friends about their recent losses after a long struggle to conceive. Even though we are about to have our baby, it still reminds me of all my losses. I can still so easily taste that devastation. Those wounds have been healing but they don't ever disappear.

TOP TEN WAYS TO PRACTICE THE ART OF BEING INFERTILE:


10. Arm Yourself with Information, But Accept the Unanswerable.
9. Find Other Infertiles.
8. Tune out the noise.
7. It's okay to be angry.
Theoretically, in the face of all the anguish and loss of infertility, you are suppose to "stay positive." I tried and tried with all my might to think "positive" and to not let myself get engulfed with bitterness. But ultimately I think it's really asking the impossible of infertiles to not be pissed off. I mean, we go through hell emotionally and physically only to get screwed over countless times? We have to watch everyone around us get what we want so easily and without effort? I really think we can all give ourselves permission to be angry. Let the inner inferno out. How do you get it out? Go see a therapist, vent to fellow infertiles, write a blog, get a punching bag, scream at the top of your lungs, close your eyes and blast some music and give the finger to all who have pissed you off.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Day Eight



Instead of waking up this morning ready to enjoy another day of waiting, I woke up to a broken tooth. I had a root canal a couple weeks ago and my stupid temporary tooth broke. In a mad rush, I found a dentist here and was able to get it fixed but he told me I really should get the permanent crown put on right away. According to his schedule, he wants me to be in his dental chair on my due date! What a perfect way to miss the delivery of my baby. Now if I were pregnant, I could easily say, "Dude, I am going to have a baby, I can't do this right now." But once again, I had to make a choice - Do I explain myself to this random dentist in a city I don't live in, or do I just walk away? So I walked away.


TEN WAYS TO PRACTICE THE ART OF BEING INFERTILE:

10. Arm Yourself with Information, But Accept the Unanswerable.
9. Find Other Infertiles.
8. Tune out the noise.
When you are dealing with infertility treatments, there is a plethora of chatter, uproar and judgments among your friends, family, and the general public. First, people will offer you idiotic advise or tell you that you just need to relax. Then when you still don't get pregnant, they might start to look at you awkwardly or with pity and say even more stupid things. Then, to add insult to injury, we, as infertiles, are part of a larger public debate that lets total ignorant strangers think they can tell you what to do with your body. Though there are certainly times we need to fight back, to talk back, to try to educate, there are also times to IGNORE. Most of the time the noise around us about infertility just exacerbates the situation. Know who in your life are the noisy ones and who are the ones that can be of true support.