Monday, August 31, 2015

But I do not know yet what that can be

          When he had finished, Alice would say, "When I grow up, I too will go to faraway places, and when I grow old, I too will live beside the sea."
         "That is all very well, little Alice," said her grandfather, "but there is a third thing you must do." 
         "What is that?" asked Alice. 
         "You must do something to make the world more beautiful," said her grandfather.
         "All right," said Alice.  But she did not know what that could be.
                                                        --Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney 

Not long after my early August post, I got my period and we decided to get serious about trying for number two.  I sort of started charting (I say "sort of" because I periodically forget to take my temperature in the morning - it's just not habit yet.), used some OPKs, and I even went back to acupuncture.  Things went pretty well, I ovulated, we timed things right.  And then last week we were on vacation and I didn't take my temperature at all.  

I wondered if we could possibly be so lucky to get pregnant on the first try this time.  I could see that Jeeves was feeling a little hopeful when he asked when I'm supposed to get my period.  Yesterday was our first full day back from vacation and even though it was a Sunday, Jeeves had to go to work.  I was feeling depressed, but quite energetic and not tired at all thanks to some extra sleep.  I wondered if my depression was cause-based or maybe PMS?  Or maybe pregnancy hormones?  But I knew I wasn't pregnant.  I just knew. The lack of tiredness was a dead giveaway. That night I wondered again if maybe it had worked?  I decided to take my temperature before I went to sleep, just as a baseline.  It was 97.6.  My temp was never that low when awake while pregnant with Max.  So there was my answer.

This morning it was 97.3.  Definitely not pregnant.  A couple of hours later, my period came, a day early.  Jeeves and I were both a little bummed.  It's silly, really.  Most fertiles don't get pregnant the first month they try, so what's the likelihood that an infertile couple like us would?  I knew that these couple of months of trying are just to cover the bases before going back to the doctor and the logical part of my brain knew that we would be going back to a doctor.  But another part hoped we'd be that urban legend (not so much a legend - aside from the fact that I personally know 6 women who got pregnant naturally after IVF, I read a study recently that suggested up to 20% of previously diagnosed infertile women experienced spontaneous conception after live birth of a child conceived through ART).  

My mind raced ahead to the doctor and what would happen if our tests this time indicated we were worse off than 3 years ago when we were originally tested.  A friend of mine from my infertile moms group did IVF and now has a son a couple of weeks older than Max.  They had a diagnosis of male factor.  When they were testing years ago, he had low count - usually around 2 million.  They had a frozen sample but decided to destroy it because frozen isn't usually recommended.  A few weeks ago they went back for testing and he now has zero sperm.  Zero.  In typical Megs fashion, my mind can't help but think of that story.  Sure, my numbers were good 3 years ago.  But I'm 37 now.  What if my eggs have gone to shit?  What if they tell me that IVF isn't even recommended because my numbers are so bad?  What if Jeeves goes from 1% morphology to 0%?  

Well, the answers to those "what ifs" are that we will probably walk away if a doctor tells us that treatment is unlikely to work for us.  I know families who have used donor egg or sperm or have adopted when a second child can't happen with their own gametes.  Or some couples who decide they want to foster or adopt for a second child anyway.  And while all of those possibilities would have been considered if we had been unable to have Max, now that we have Max we are more limited in how far we're prepared to go.  And I personally feel that I cannot dedicate years of my life to this endeavor again.  So even though I think it is usually very silly to draw a line in the sand when it comes to family-building, for now I need to draw a line in the sand and say if a doctor tells us we are unlikely to have a child through ART, we will stop.  We will move on with our lives.

The thought of being told that we are done makes me sad.  And I do realize that I have jumped way, way ahead of myself.  But I think back to the first month we tried before we knew what was coming, and I just need to make this leap right now.  I needed to scratch that itch.

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, it is probably apparent to you that I am a planner and I need contingency plans.  

It was a hazy and very humid day in Brooklyn today and I decided to take Max down to the swings by the water.  It's a good stretch of the legs.  As we were walking, my mind went to that place wherein a doctor tells us that medical intervention is unlikely to give us another child.  And after feeling sad, I started wondering what I would do after we decide that we're done trying.  I didn't know.  I remembered a children's book called Miss Rumphius.

My friend Meg gave me a copy of Miss Rumphius for my birthday at some point in my 20s.  Miss Rumphius tells the story of Alice, who as a child listens to her grandfather's stories of his life.  And, as the quote above explains, she decides to do three things in life: travel to faraway places, grow old by the sea, and do something to make the world more beautiful.  Alice grows up, becomes a librarian, and becomes known as Miss Rumphius.  She's able to accomplish her first two goals with ease, but struggles to figure out how to make the world more beautiful. (Spoiler alert - she figures it out, and passes along her words of wisdom to her great-niece).  It's a really wonderful story - I highly recommend it.

At each point in her story, Miss Rumphius doesn't map out and plan every little thing she is going to do.  She has a general idea of the goals in her life and when the time feels right, she works on a goal.  

I do not know yet what I want my life to be if we are done building our family.  I think I want to go work in a library.  And I want to resume traveling to faraway places, something that will be easier as Max gets older.  And I want to do something to make the world more beautiful, though I do not yet know what that can be.  And that is okay.  When the time comes, I will move forward, I hope with enthusiasm and alacrity, but I'll settle for grace.  And I will accept that right now I am working towards one goal.  I'll try not to leap too far ahead or make up contingency plans if we are ultimately unable to have a baby.  I'll let myself feel whatever I am going to feel about it.  Today, I felt a little disappointed that this cycle didn't work out.  I felt a little sad to remember the taste of that disappointment when my temperature drops, and to realize I may have many more cycles of that ahead.  I will remember there are many good things ahead too, not the least of which was my son's giggles as I pushed him on the swing.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Constantly remember more and more

Why hello!  Look at me, blogging twice in one month!

Based on the comments I got last time, I thought I'd talk about some books I've read this year that I loved, my experience with weaning, and I'd finish up with a couple of thoughts about life in general, in particular my parents.

Books!  My absolute favorite book that I've read this year is Uprooted by Naomi Novik.  I wrote a long and involved review of it to my BFF, Kate, so I'm just going to cut and paste what I said about it:  Ahhhh-mazing.  I am so fucking tired this week because I have been staying up till 1am to read it.  I'm actually somewhat resentful of my child for keeping me from it.  I'm not going to send you any of the (glowing) reviews because there are too many spoilers in them.  The short version of the plot (and this happens in the first, like, 5 pages so it doesn't ruin it to tell you).  Agnieska lives in the Valley in a country called Polnya.  Her village is not far from The Wood, a place of dark magic that periodically threatens the villagers.  Anyone who enters the Wood is inevitably corrupted by its evil.  The lord of the valley, The Dragon, is a wizard who holds The Wood at bay.  Every ten years, as fealty, the citizens of the Valley must allow The Dragon to take one girl, who becomes his servant.  No one knows what goes on in his tower, except that after the ten years are up, the girls never want to return to live in the valley - they go off and live somewhere else.  The Dragon always chooses a girl who is super special - either the most beautiful, or the best musician, or whatever.  Everyone knows that this year the Dragon is going take Kasia, Agnieska's very best friend.  Kasia is beautiful, smart, fun, humble, a good cook.  Agnieska is a disaster, always grubby and climbing trees and getting into trouble.  Then the Dragon takes Agnieska instead of Kasia, though he seems pretty grouchy about it.  Of course, we realize why he took her, but it takes her a few pages to figure it out.  It's like if a combination of Neville Longbottom and Hermione Granger had to go live with Snape.
This book scratched my Harry Potter itch that has not remotely abated since book 7 came out.  I loved its treatment of magic.  Loved it.  It heavily featured a strong, beautiful female friendship.  A terrifying villain.  A flawed, relatable, brave heroine.  Folklore.  A kickass magical duo.  It's such a great feminist work - I wish there were more fantasy novels like this.  As much as I love Name of the Wind and others of its ilk, they are usually focused on a man with a woman or women playing back up.  And then sometimes if we're lucky we get stories like Graceling, but characters like Katsa are lone wolves, beyond tough, damaged by their childhoods.  One of the things I loved about this book is that it highlights how Nieska is different, but still very powerful.  It doesn't feel the need to make her stereotypically masculine, and it doesn't feel the need to give her a little sister to explain her motivations.  Nieska can be steely, but she can also be vulnerable and those traits don't feel remotely incongruous.  In other words, she gets to be a whole person.

Right after that, I read Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, and it was completely delightful.  Very funny.  I also loved Station Eleven by Emily St. James Mandel, which came out last year.  Interestingly, it's a post-apocalypse book that takes placed 20 years after a plague that kills off most of the population, and the primary characters are members of a traveling theater/symphony.  It also jumps around in time to observe what happened to a variety of connected characters at the time of the plague.  Riveting.

Weaning.  I knew that I didn't especially feel like nursing for much after Max's first birthday.  I was eager to sleep on my stomach again (something I couldn't do while nursing because I was plagued with plugged ducts from about 5 months onward) and I was really, really sick of pumping.  And the plugged ducts - I was ready to be done with them.  For several months, Max had only been nursing 4 times per day, and his nursing time had gotten quite short.  So I felt like he would be okay with weaning.

I weaned very slowly - over the course of 6 weeks.  I wanted to try and prevent any sort of engorgement and plugged ducts for me and I wanted Max to have plenty of time to adjust.  I dropped the afternoon nurse first, which he never cried for and never seemed to care about - I was just picking him up at a certain time and sticking him on the boob.  He handled it well.  I didn't replace the afternoon nurse with milk or anything like that.  He pretty quickly started eating more at dinner.  About 10 days later I dropped the late morning nurse.  Again, he handled it very well.  When I weaned him from the evening nurse, which was part of our bedtime ritual, I replaced it with a bottle of either pumped breast milk (until I didn't have any left) or formula (he wasn't a year old yet).  A bottle instead of a boob was no big deal to him.  When he hit a year, I put whole cow's milk in the bottle instead and he took that just fine.  I know some babies struggle with constipation when they switch over to cow's milk - we did not have that issue.  Max also didn't seem to mind that the milk was cold.  After a few days, I started putting the milk in a straw cup (and also offering him milk late morning and mid-afternoon).  He's been drinking water out of a straw cup since he was about 10 months, but he did struggle a little with the transition at this point.  Still, it went pretty well.  The only difference I observed was that for about 3 days after I dropped the late morning nurse and the evening nurse, he was maybe a little more cuddly, trying to make up for the physical closeness we had during nursing.  

The toughest was dropping the morning nurse.  Our morning routine up to this point: Max would wake up and we'd hear him over the monitor, anywhere from 6:30-7:30 a.m.  Jeeves would get him, change his diaper, and would bring him in to nurse.  I used to do side-lying, but he eventually stopped willingly nursing on both sides, which I really needed (he'd get so distracted, for some reason), so I started sitting up for nursing, and he'd nurse both sides.  Then we'd all hang out in bed for awhile.  Sometimes Max would fall asleep while nursing - that was the best.  Extra sleep!  When we dropped the morning feed, I started giving him a bottle in bed.  He wasn't a big fan.  He wouldn't ask to nurse (don't think I would have refused him), but he just wasn't interested in milk.  He wanted to play!  We ultimately switched him over to a straw cup and he started crying, hard, in the morning.  It turned out that with the change in our routine, Max decided he didn't want to hang in bed - he wanted to go straight to the living room for playing, and slowly sipping on his milk.  No more snoozing in bed for Mom and Dad.  One of us gets up, hangs out with him while he plays, and he drinks his milk in a leisurely fashion for about 45 minutes, at which time he crawls to the kitchen and demands his breakfast.

The last time I nursed was when he was very sick over 4th of July weekend.  He now has a cup of milk in the morning before breakfast, sometimes a little milk late morning, a cup of milk mid-afternoon with his snack, and a little milk before bedtime.  I still miss those sleepy mornings in bed with him, but I try to look at it as just another part of his development that he's happy to now putter around the living room, chatting at me and playing with his toys.

I should add that in order to prevent plugged ducts, I pumped when I dropped the evening and the morning feeds - 10 minutes, then 9, then 8, etc., until I got down to 4 minutes.  This definitely helped alleviate engorgement and plugged ducts.  I was getting very little milk from it.  Perhaps three times during the process, I became very painfully engorged (usually only on one side at time) or I got a plugged duct.  On those occasions, I would pop Max on and have him nurse (the pump has never, not once, cleared a plugged duct for me) - he usually only nursed for 5-8 minutes, and it was tremendously helpful each time.  

June was the one year anniversary of my dad's death.  I still miss him a lot, but it's manageable, and in many ways my experience of his loss has been more manageable than when I lost my mother. That's not a commentary on my relationship with either of them.  I was very close to both of them. I'm not sure if it was because of my age at the time of their deaths, the fact that my dad's death was expected while my mother's was a shock, or that I had just become a mother when my dad died and a squalling newborn is pretty distracting.  It was probably a combo of all three.

Anyway, a few years ago I found a quote from a letter that the French writer Marcel Proust had written to a friend on the occasion of his [the friend's] mother's death.  Proust knew a little something about the topic, having lost his beloved mother years before:
Now there is one thing I can tell you: you will enjoy certain pleasures you would not fathom now. When you still had your mother you often thought of the days when you would have her no longer. Now you will often think of days past when you had her. When you are used to this horrible thing that they will forever be cast into the past, then you will gently feel her revive, returning to take her place, her entire place, beside you. At the present time, this is not yet possible. Let yourself be inert, wait till the incomprehensible power . . . that has broken you restores you a little, I say a little, for henceforth you will always keep something broken about you. Tell yourself this, too, for it is a kind of pleasure to know that you will never love less, that you will never be consoled, that you will constantly remember more and more.
I love this quote because a) it's beautifully written; and b) YES.  YES, THIS IS JUST HOW I FEEL.  When I originally read the quote, it was the first time I had read something about the death of my mother that perfectly encompassed how I felt as time passed.  It's been true for my father as well.  In particular, I have been thinking about the "you will constantly remember more and more" part.  I have at times, many times, lamented the things that I never asked my parents about - their childhoods, their years before I was born.  Things I never asked them about what parenting me was like, how they handled certain situations.  I regret that.  But I also find small, lovely memories popping in my mind, from nowhere, and they are cherished.  

Jeeves, Max, and I are on vacation in the Hudson Valley this week.  While rushing around to pack, I had this silly memory of how much my father used to love watching sitcom repeats on Fox when he would come home from work - he watched the entirety of The Nanny, Home Improvement, and Third Rock from the Sun that way.  And there was this commercial for the clothing store Mandy that used to always play and he would sing it at random times and do a little dance.  I don't know what made me think of it, but I love it.

And then yesterday, at the rental house we have been grilling a lot after Max goes to bed.  I had brought some eggplant from our CSA and I was obsessed with grilling it a certain way, with garlic powder and Italian seasoning, and olive oil.  Jeeves wanted to bail on the Italian seasoning, but I was insistent.  That night while feasting on eggplant, which tasted like my youth, Jeeves remarked on how great it had turned out and I remembered - "It was my mom.  My mom taught me to make it this way every summer."  And I remembered so many other kitchen tips that I had used in the last few days that she had taught me.

We're getting close to distributing the rest of my dad's estate, but I have work to do.  My sister has been kind of crummy about it - asking repeatedly when she's getting her money.  I have felt stressed and sad and alone about it.  I was having a hard time letting go of it yesterday and even though I am a non-believer and thoughts of an afterlife are questionable, I sometimes talk to my parents in my head.  I asked them to help me, please please help me, tell me if I'm doing the right thing and just... help me.  This morning I took a nap when Jeeves woke up (we trade off with Max in the mornings on weekends and vacations) and when I came downstairs I found a ladybug on my laptop.  I don't believe in signs.  But I sure do love ladybugs.  And she was a beaut.  I promptly escorted her outside with Jeeves' help.  And I thought of my parents.  Even though I don't believe in signs.

This week would have been my dad's 80th birthday and my mom's 77th.  They would have liked the place we're vacationing.  Quiet, with a view.  And some wine.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Sorry I dropped off the face of the earth

I was texting with Adi from The Second Bedroom the other day and she asked "so are you ever going to post again?"  I've been really bad about blogging, as you can clearly see.  I have a variety of excuses, but it basically comes down to prioritizing other things over blogging.  Mostly reading.  Sometimes television.  Sometimes cooking or sleeping.  And of course there's Max!  So here's an update on where things are.
Max!  Max turned 1!  I can't believe it.  He's a little person, not a tiny baby anymore.  He's such a happy kid.  He says Mama (though it sounds more like Mummum), Dada, Yes, and Buff (we have no idea what "buff" means, but he says it when he's busy or happy).  Sometimes he says "yummm" when he's eating.  He's not walking yet, but he uses the furniture to cruise around.  He weighs a bit over 20lbs now, so he's still small for his age, but he's average for height.  After rocking the purees for awhile, he started wanting real solid food.  He's a little pickier than I'd like, but I'm working really hard on being patient and not freaking out about food with him.  I struggle with this a lot.  It should probably be its own blog post.  It's the first time in my life that I have worked hard at cooking a nice nutritious meal for someone and he occasionally rejects it without a bite, OR takes a bite and then rejects it.  Of course this is totally normal.  It's just hard for me to not get upset about it and to keep giving him a variety of food without resorting to just giving him stuff I know he likes over and over again.
We weaned around the one year mark.  I simultaneously miss it and don't.  I miss the cuddles and the closeness and the feeling that no matter what, I can soothe him.  But I don't miss the plugged ducts or the pumping or the not fitting in most of my pre-pregnancy shirts and dresses.  My boobs did shrink, but wound up a larger size than I was pre-pregnancy.
In April, I started working out with a trainer.  It has made a huge difference for me both in my overall strength and ability to keep up with Max and how I feel about my post-baby body.  I still struggle with my body image a bit.  I gained some weight after weaning, and when I shop for clothing, I can get kind of down on myself.  I'm working on it, trying to focus on the fact that I'm in much better shape than I was before I had a baby, even if that's not reflected on the scale yet.
I am tired a lot.  I daydream about sleep.  I'm trying to go to bed earlier, but it's hard.  There's a lot to do between Max's bedtime and my bedtime, but damn, that kid wakes up early!  He was sleeping till 7-7:30 (so civilized!) for a long time, but lately it's been pushed to 6-6:30.  No likey. 
I've been reading a lot.  I even joined a book club.  It's no where like when I read 52 books in a year, but I'm hoping I might hit 25.  That would be a huge accomplishment for me. 
Work is work.  It's fine.  No complaints.  We finally got raises (after 4+ years without a raise) so that was exciting.  On the two days I am at work, E continues to take care of Max and she continues to be an amazing gift for us.
Max went on his first flight back in May.  He did really well.  We were super nervous, but he was a champ.
We're at the point where we are planning on a second child.  We had a talk and agreed we'd like another (most days.... on days where I am especially tired and Max is crabby or sick, I'm not so sure).  In typical infertile fashion, this required a lot of planning and mapping.  Do you know what I'd really like?  I'd like to wait till Max is 2 or 3 and then maybe start trying.  Do you want to know the reality?  I am 37 years old and before Max we had to do IUI and I had two miscarriages.  I actually know about a half dozen women in real life who had to do IVF and got pregnant with their second kid by accident.  I know it really does happen.  But I feel like there is no effing way we will be that "lucky." [I'm using snarky quotes there because I don't like saying that it's lucky that you didn't have to go through IVF to have a second kid].  Anyhoo.  My point is that we don't have the luxury of waiting a few years to have another kid.  We aren't being serious about it now.  We're not preventing, but I'm not charting or peeing on OPKs or anything.  I'm enjoying way too much iced coffee and rose wine for that right now.  But soon we'll get serious and if it doesn't happen within a couple of months, we'll go back to the doctor and see what they say.  We're uncertain how far we're willing to go for another child.  IUI again?  Sure.  We're not sure about whether we'll try IVF.  Most of the time, I would be game for trying IVF.  But I don't want to plan that far ahead just yet.  Max is a wonderful child and if he is our only child, we will be a happy, fulfilled family of 3.

It's funny to think about how much had changed in one year.  When I look back on myself one year ago from now, I remember a woman who cried every day and who ached and struggled with breastfeeding and felt like she was in over her head.  I love looking at pictures of Max when he was so tiny and needed me so much.  But I'm glad that time has passed too.  

I'm really hoping to write a bit more soon.  Fingers crossed.  Here's a picture of my cutie to thank you all for reading.