Monday, September 22, 2014

#MicroblogMondays - Sleep Regression

So very late to this party of a fabulous idea. Thank you Mel!

You read about it. Hear horror stories. 4 months, 9 months and again at 12 months. So far we've been lucky, with the sleepless nights being linked with illness, only lasting a few days. But the past two weeks of no sleep coupled with babies who insist on midnight bottles are a clear indication we've been in the thick of it.

Please, please, pretty please, my sweet and adorable Beats. Please sleep through the night.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Those moments

Fall has come to the Pacific Northwest. Despite promises of 85 degree F weather this weekend, the grey overcast that has settled and the shortening days are warning everyone of the rains to come.

The weather change has been effecting me differently this year. In years past, the transition to autumn brought with it a sense of sadness, as carefree evenings playing in the outdoors were coming to an end. During our time in the trenches, the school buses and backpacks were a reminder of what was missing. This year is different, though. Though the sadness still exists, I find I'm having difficulty pinning down the reason for it. That and the fact that it's not continual, but instead surfaces like waves crashing against the shore.

One moment from today has really stuck with me. Next week classes start at a new institution I will be lecturing at. In preparation, I made the drive up to campus in order to orient myself to my new setting and tour the classroom to familiarize myself with where I would be lecturing. A newer institution that is rapidly growing, I decided to take some time touring the other buildings. As I walked through the halls, poking my head into the new lecture halls and laboratory spaces, I also noticed a few other students doing the same thing, mapping out where their courses would be held so as to prepare for the first day. And as I followed behind some of them, holding the door so they could pass by me, I caught sight of my hand and noticed the beginnings of what I assume will be liver spots. And immediately an emotional wave hit the shore.

One of the hardest parts about infertility and loss was watching so many around me move on to the milestone that was parenting. Not only my peers but also those who were so much younger than me. At the time I felt stuck in limbo, feeling very much left behind. With the help of David and Dee, I began moving out of that limbo and began embracing life again. But what I didn't anticipate was the fact that though emotionally I felt stuck, I actually wasn't. That instead I was on a detour that so few talk about, navigating my way back to this supposed "land of the living."

Seeing my hand was solid evidence that I am not longer a young woman. And with that, the first thought that popped into my head was "where did all the time ago?" After all, the years between 2009-2014 seem like nothing short of a blur. Where the sadness comes is when I pause and remember all that happened during that period. The pain, though now dull, is still palatable and easily remembered.

Despite it all, I know I would not change my journey. Those years in the trenches have shaped me more as a person than any other experience in my life. All for the better. Yet there are still the moments. The moments where the sadness comes back. The moments I remember the should-have-beens and when hope was lost. It is with these waves comes the knowledge of how hard this period truly was. How minimizing and isolating it felt to be walking a path most refuse to acknowledge. And how it didn't have to be that way.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The arrival of Lilah and Olivia Rapp

My heart is filled with joy this morning as I have been given permission to share this long awaited news. But first, a bit of background for those of you who don't know Toni.

I met Toni back in the winter of 2011 as I was preparing for IVF #1 during ICLW. Right away, it was apparent what a warm and loving woman Toni was, supporting everyone she met during this journey regardless of whether they were in the trench, pregnant or resolved. Through the first fertility sock exchange, a personal connection was formed. And over the years that connection has transformed into a friendship that I hold close to my heart.

I won't go into Toni's TTC journey with this post. For those interested, you can read about it here. What I will say is that when she announced that she was pregnant in March, I practically did a backflip from the excitement.

This pregnancy has been a tough one for Toni. Early on, she suffered from continual bleeding due to a SCH. I remember the fear she experienced, living daily with the idea that she was miscarrying. Not long after, she began suffering from hypertension and shortness of breath. Later she learned she had Gestational Diabetes. The final zinger was her being admitted to the hospital at 28w5d for preterm labor. Despite all of this, Toni has chosen to find the positive in this experience, choosing to embrace this pregnancy and fighting for her daughters. A hard thing to do in any situation that is scary.

Yesterday September 10, 2014, at 30w1d, Lilah and Olivia Rapp were born. Lilah weighed 3 lbs and Olivia weighed 3 lbs 5 oz. Both girls are currently in NICU and are on CPAP. Toni was kind enough to send me some photos of the girls and both are breathtakingly beautiful.

Please take a moment today to go to Toni's blog and offer her congratulations and support. Though incredibly excited and in love with her long-awaited daughters, she's also stealing herself for the road ahead. As I can personally attest, the NICU experience is its own rollercoaster and I can't begin to explain how much the support I received during my time there helped. So please, regardless of where you are on your family building journey, reach out.

Welcome to the world Olivia and Lilah Rapp. You bring with you so much joy and hope.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Singleton moments

Last Thursday She-Beat had her second evaluation. Per usual, Grey and I packed the Beats into the car and did our commute downtown to daycare. As these babies have aged, they've become familiar with the route we take, so when they see certain buildings they both become incredibly excited and will begin issuing shrieks of delight as they know they are going to school. So imagine She-Beat's reaction when we arrived and her brother was promptly released from his carseat but she remained strapped in. The look of confusion and worry is one that caused both Grey and I to stop and offer reassurances that she would be back at school later in the day.

The thing is that because we have twins, usually the Beats do everything together. From sleeping to eating to playing. Even diaper changes tend to be coordinated. For a couple of weeks in daycare, they were separated as He-Beat was transitioned to the toddler room first. But otherwise they come as a package. This pattern is due to Grey and me, as we needed it in order to survive. Separate schedules (or no schedule) would have resulted in zero sleep and pure mayhem, so when the NICU nurses established their initial schedule we stuck to it. And their daycare has found it to be very useful as it allows for things to run smoother.

The consequence of this, though, is that it's rare we get one-on-one time with each baby. Normally we don't think too much of it as it doesn't seem to bother the Beats. But Thursday was a good reminder for why we need to start prioritizing this.

Following dropping Grey and He-Beat off (Grey's work is a 10 min walk from their daycare), I drove with She-Beat to the neighborhood were the PR clinic is located. As we had an hour to kill, I decided to stop at a popular bakery with her to get her some breakfast. Pulling her out of her carseat, it was clear she was very confused. Where was her brother? Her teachers? What was this strange place???

Acting casually, I pointed out the different items in the display case and allowed her to select a raspberry scone for breakfast, which I naively assumed we would split, then ordered some jam, milk and juice to complete our meal. Once our order was complete, I found us a table that faced towards the room and pulled up a highchair for her to sit in. The whole time a very quiet little girl was looking around and taking in the scene.

As soon as her scone was placed in front of her, that changed. A huge grin spread across her face when she saw her breakfast and she began happily munching on her food, breaking to drink her milk from her sippy cup or to look at the other patrons who stopped to say "Hi." As breakfast went on (and it became comically clear I wasn't going to get a bite of that scone), I reflected on the fact that this scene was so foreign to me. Instead of splitting my attention between two babies, I could focus solely on She-Beat, talking with her and observing her interact with the world around her. And as the hour went by, I noticed that she seemed to be enjoying this one-on-one time too.

After breakfast, She-Beat and I went to her appointment. Again, instead of worrying about navigating a double-stroller, I was able to wrap her in a Moby and carry her into the clinic. We read a story in the waiting room and spent some time watching the activity in a fish tank. During the appointment, when she became overwhelmed with all the strangers, I found it easy to comfort her and calm her so that they could continue the assessment. Though they noted that she has low muscle tone that would benefit from physical therapy, the PT also noted that she was very bright-eyed and aware. And because it was just the two of us, she had the time to show me some exercises we could work on while waiting for the weekly PT sessions to begin.

Later that night, Grey and I talked about the morning. He noticed a similar response from He-Beat that morning while dropping him off at school. And thinking back to a few sick days with He-Beat where he was home with me, I remembered him having a similar response to our one-on-one time. It dawned on us in that moment the one-on-one time is incredibly important. That even though the Beats do enjoy one another's company, it is likely they also need moments without the other. Hence we need to start scheduling "singleton" time. That instead of constantly keeping the Beats together, we needed to make an extra effort.

The question is, how do we do this? There are obvious things we can do, such as Grey taking one baby with him while I take the other while running errands. Or making sure to spend some one-on-one time with each at home in the evenings. But beyond that, we're looking for ideas.

For those who find themselves in a similar situation (either parenting multiples or more than one child, or finding yourself in a situation where you're trying to carve out one-on-one time), what activities or special things do you do in order to the child in your life this special attention?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

For Tomo

Brief update on She-Beat: she had her assessment today and though it is clear she is behind on gross motor skills, the good news is it doesn't look like a neurological issue. The physical therapist really believes it's just a muscle tone issue and a matter of doing some weekly work with her. We'll know more in the days to come as she will be seen by another provider for this work, but all of it is promising. I'll write more about this soon.

Music is a major aspect of my life. From an early age, I learned to tinker with piano and I am fortunate to have some ability to sing. Though I don't consider myself a musician, I have always found myself drawn to others who spend there free time creating and crafting musically and I find that my choices in music are highly reflective of different phases of my life.

One major benefit of living in Seattle is the music scene. Though many know about the legendary bands/artists that called this city home, from Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Deathcab for Cutie to Jimmy Hendrix, Heart and Quincy Jones, its the indie scene that has gained local recognition, with bands like Sunny Day Real Estate, Rosie Thomas and even the Postal Service changing the music world. Over the past 10 yrs, I've had the privilege to explore this music scene, attending shows at Neumos, the Tractor Tavern and Chop Suey as well as attend some of the local music festivals. All the while this exploration fueled by listening to KEXP. Living here has truly been an education.

In addition to this, though, I've had the rare privilege to live with a musician who helped introduce me to the local music scene and introduced me to a number of budding musicians. I've written before about Jen Wood and how I use to fall asleep to her practicing. What I haven't talked about though is the others I met through her. The souls that have followed their hearts and made great sacrifices to practice their craft.

It was through Jen that I met Tomo Nakayama. A quiet and reserved fellow, one would initially not think too much of Tomo as he could easily blend into the background if he chooses. Through talking with him, you learn first hand what a kind and giving individual he is, greeting all he meets with a warm smile and a general warmth that is unfortunately rare. Soft-spoken and gentle is how I've always thought of Tomo.

All that changed the first time I heard him perform with Grand Hallway. Having heard some of the demos for this first album Yes is the answer, Grey and I happily attended a performance at the Mars Bar one evening to hear them perform. And we were not disappointed. Particularly impressive is Tomo singing, where this otherwise soft-spoken man fills an entire room with his voice leaving all speechless with his music. In moments where I need to smile, cry, felt like screaming or needed peace, I've listened to Grand Hallway tracks. They always heal the soul.

Two days ago, I ran into Tomo after not seeing him for a couple of years. The last time we met, I was deep in the middle of fertility treatments and the grief of my second miscarriage. At the time, though we spoke of his upcoming wedding, I knew he was aware that things weren't right in the world for me. Hence the treat of getting to see him again and sharing photos of the Beats with him. Though we only had a moment to chat, I asked him about his music and how his projects were coming. He smiled quietly and quickly wrote out his website on a post-it note. "Check it out" he told me, mentioning that he would be touring Japan soon.

Yesterday, while the Beats napped, I did. And over the course of 30 minutes I got caught up on all the amazing things this man has been up to over the past 4 yrs. Including the pending release of his first solo album Fog on the Lens on November 4, 2014. After the Beats woke up, I knew it was time to introduce them to his music and I watched with delight as they danced to these melodies while also being drawn to the computer to get a glimpse of his performance.


It was his performance of Horses that caused us all to quiet and simply take in the sound Tomo created. Wide-eyed, both babies seemed mesmerized by Tomo's performance and it took a lot to keep the tears at bay as his voice filled my living room.

This past weekend, Tomo performed at Bumbershoot, performing one of his newer songs Fallen CedarA song that certainly warms my heart.

Though so much has changed and Tomo is no longer a budding musician, he still isn't widely known. Hence why word of mouth is so important as Tomo is still not able to fully support himself doing what he loves.

But that can change. Simply by taking a moment to listen and spread the word. You can find Tomo's music here and find more information about him here. More information about Grand Hallway can be found here.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Living without peanut butter

This a general call for advice and sage thoughts from anyone who has/ lives with someone who has a peanut allergy. My questions will be below, but first let me share with you our fun Saturday.

Being 11 months old age adjusted, the Beats are still in the middle of exploring new foods. To date, we have been surprisingly lucky with how this process has gone. Not only have both Beats been willing to try everything that is put in front of them (something I really credit their daycare for as the kids eat all there meals at a common table in community dinner fashion), but we've also been lucky that they've had zero allergic reactions. Reading stories in the blogosphere about kids being intolerant of diary, eggs, wheat and various types of fruits and vegetables as well as hearing stories about Lucas's kids (they believe his youngest has a corn allergy, which is a nightmare as corn syrup is in so many foods and meant resulted in the whole family having to modify their diet to prevent reactions), I've been cautious with what is introduced and how. Somehow we've been lucky. And with luck comes complacency.

So on Saturday, after doing some reading about when it is appropriate to introduce peanut better, Grey and I decided it was time to introduce the Beats to a childhood staple of ours: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. At this point, the Beats had been eating soynut butter at school and both really enjoyed the jam we had been feeding them. In addition, though we had heard stories, neither of us knew anyone who had a peanut allergy. So though I knew that I needed to watch the babies, I didn't know what signs or symptoms to be on the lookout for.

He-Beat had zero issues. He happily eat his bites of sandwich, washing it down with the milk in his sippy cup. She-Beat was another story. After a few bites, she started to fussy, rubbing her face and eyes which blowing raspberries, a sign that she was irritated or not feeling well. After a couple of minutes, I noticed her left eye was turning red. I removed her from her high chair and took her upstairs to have Grey take a look at her. Initially he didn't think much of it, and then he noticed the rash on her neck. And a minute later that the whole left side of her face was swelling.

I've made calls to after hours nurse in the past. Usually for high fevers and babies who have suspected ear infections. Most times, the person answering the call will take your information and triage you, calling you back when the next nurse is available. This time, the mere mention of a peanut allergy immediately brought a nurse to the phone. And when they learned we did not have any infant Benadryl in the house, despite the fact that She-Beat was able to breathe without problem, they immediately put us through to 911, which resulted in 3 firemen and 2 paramedics in my condo in less than 5 minutes. And with that, She-Beat got her first ride in an ambulance to the local children's hospital.

I won't bore you with the details of the 2 hours that followed, only to say that He-Beat was a total awesome brother, being so patient in the ER when it was clear the poor kid was beyond bored. But we did learn a few things. First, She-Beat luckily only had an allergic reaction, which was readily controlled and reversed thanks to Benadryl (which we now stock). If she had anaphylaxis, which would have resulted in her throat swelling, potentially inhibiting her ability to breathe, as well as potential heart failure, nausea and a severe rash, they were prepared to inject her with steroids. Because she didn't display any of these symptoms and because she responded so well to the Benadryl, they sent us home after a couple of hours of observation without an EpiPen. That said, they did warn us about what to watch for and told us we need to follow up with her pediatrician this week for further preventative care.

As of yesterday, we are now a peanut-free household. Grey had been stocking peanut butter for our food stores, but returned most of it yesterday. In addition, we are now scrutinizing food labels, inspecting everything that is packaged for any trace of peanut products.

The question is, though, how careful do we need to be? To our knowledge, this is She-Beat's first exposure, but we know that peanut products are in other foods. In addition, we've had peanut butter in the house since she was born, with me consuming it without thinking during my pregnancy. Do we need to treat any peanut product like biohazardous material for the time being or is it just a matter of not allowing her to come into contact with it? The final thing is we've been told that it is likely she will outgrow this. When (if ever) do we try again? One year; 5 years, after I'm dead?

On the way home, Grey and I talked and talked (and talked) about all of this. And we've been reading. All of this is new to us and we're learning as we go. But we also talked about the fact that the doctors in the ER actually made a point to talk with us about the fact that how we had been introducing new foods was completely correct and they encouraged us to continue as the likelihood of food allergies is LESS in kids that have allergic foods introduced as younger ages. So as scary as all of this was, they wanted us to continue with these introductions. Looking at She-Beat in her hospital gown, which clearly showed how far her rash had spread, I wasn't (and still remain) not so sure. Hence my final question: for those with kids who have food allergies, what have you been told?

In the meantime, Grey wants to introduce shrimp in a few months (they've already had fish and did fine). My head hurts just thinking about it.  

Friday, August 29, 2014

Infertiles in Babeland

The past few weeks have been strange ones for Grey and me. Between another viral upper-respiratory disease that hit the whole family and landed both Beats in the ER for ear infections (thankfully not pneumonia, though), a cold virus that caused me to lose my voice and finally a round of rotovirus that solely hit the parents at our daycare (Beats were completely unaffected due to their vaccinations . . . thank the universe), we've been home a lot more lately trying to recover and not pass any of this on to our coworkers. Because of this, there's been more run-ins with Fleur and having to watch her mental health deteriorate due to the impending "lockout" that is coming in the next couple of weeks. All of it so depressing to watch.

One evening, while speaking with a neighbor about all of this, the conversation turned quickly to what results in these types of situations: stories of elderly abandoned in nursing homes with no one ever visiting them to those who live in severely impoverished situations. Sighing, this neighbor looked at me sadly and made a concluding statement that immediately caused to me to audibly protest: "she wouldn't be in this situation if she had children." It didn't take long to correct her, pointing out so many examples for why this assumption was completely false. Yet, even after that, just knowing that myth exists still plagued me.

The idea of having children as a way of securing caregivers for aging parents isn't a new one. In many cultures, multigenerational families exist under one roof in order to ensure that this practice occurs and even in cultures where families don't reside together, the topics of aging parents is a common one. Hence the myth flourishes that to guarantee that you will be cared for as you age, who need to have children. At all costs.

In June 2013, a month before the Beats made their dramatic entrance into the world, Grey and I made a point of touring labor & delivery at the university. I remember wandering through the L&D rooms, being greatly amazed at their size, marveling at the options available for the patients and even impressed with the postpartum support. During the tour, one of the topics that came up was security. Our tour guide explained that each parent would be given a bracelet linking them to their baby and that security was of the utmost priority. She then went on to explain that the reason for all of this was because there are sadly some people who will go to great lengths to get a baby. That they feel such a need that they will even resort to stealing someone else's child. Never mind the fact that most kidnappings of this nature are done by a family member or someone close to the family (i.e. a baby daddy left out of the loop or a disgruntled family member). No, what was implied instead was that crazy infertile would sneak in and, if you weren't careful, make off with your child.

The thing is, most people don't openly talk about dealing with aging abusive parents and the long term negative affects this decision can have for generations. When we hear about elderly abandoned in nursing homes, the judgement is always that the children are selfish and uncaring. Never mind the fact that there very likely is a reason these people are alone.

The flip is this assumption that those who are childless have no interest in children or building/fostering family. That somehow because they are not parenting, they don't have the same interest in building community and seeing the next generation flourish. During my time in the ALI community, I've had the opportunity to meet women who are not parenting after infertility who actively counter this taboo daily. As they write about their families, their communities and the children in their lives, it be plainly clear how the love the share and foster is better the world around them.

After the Beats arrived, I found even more examples of this in my daily life. There were the NICU nurses who were living with infertility who I watched love and care for my fragile Beats, helping them grow and thrive. In the moments I found myself breaking in the NICU, they wrapped me in love and helped shoulder some of the burden so I could be with my babies. There was the neonatologist who we met who was undergoing her final round of IVF. I remember the day she learned all her embryos had died and that her only chance for pregnancy would involve donor egg. She came into the NICU that day and specifically to work with a family whose newborn daughter was struggling to eat and was very dehydrated. I watched that doctor who was grieving the loss of her biological children pour love and support into a family who clearly would never understand.

Even now, I see those examples. I see them at our daycare, with the teachers and directors who do not have children who pour themselves into each child that pass through their doorway. I see them in the older couple who offers to babysit for their neighbors who are new parents. I see it in my community when an older gentleman helps a child reach for a book at the library or when a younger couple offers their seats on the bus to a single mom and her kids. And I see it with my mentors and advisors, women who are not mothers, who still support me during this period as my career has taken a backseat. They remind me that they still believe in me.

The honest, hard truth so many in this world struggle with is that having a child will not ensure your happiness or well-being. Placing that burden on the next generation is not only unfair, it's just plain selfish. Yes, having a child will change your outlook on life and for many will open their hearts in ways it wasn't open before. But having a child does not lift one to a higher calling. There are terrible people who procreate without issue. Similarly, there are amazingly loving people who will never parent. Yet, in the end, those who are awful and abusive will be alone while those who chose to love and build will always have family by their side.

Watching Fleur lurk the grounds like a zombie has been hard to witness. A younger and more naive version of me would have been sucked in long ago, allowing her to drain what energy I have due to pity. Watching neighbors avoid her, it's clear how she's chosen to live. As sad is it is, there's a lesson to be learned through her. A lesson similar to the one learned during infertility: happiness and wholeness needs to come from within.
 
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