Sunday, July 27, 2014

One

Dear H and E,

Today is your 365th day of life. One year ago, amid the fog of magnesium, the wires, the tubes, the IVs and the plastic, is you both entered the world. Though that time is still a blur and you both certainly had a rougher start than most children, I do remember very well the moment I first held each of you. The surreal, dream-like moment that will forever be etched into my heart.

So much has happened and you've both changed so much since that first day. You have both grown so much in so many ways. I marvel now at how easily you both finish full bottles as I remember clearly you both learning how to even feed from one. At how strong you each are when I remember clearly how small and fragile you seemed. Watching you interact with the world around you, you both inspire me daily.

H, my little man, I still smile as I remember you taking your first steps using the push toy this week. You are a gutsy little boy, fearless about trying new things. Through you, I'm learning how to more brave during moments of uncertainty and be less afraid of failing. Your curiosity about the world around you has turned you into quite an explorer and your bombastic nature draws so many to you. Not a day goes by were I don't hear a story about your shenanigans and I know you have already touched so many during your short time on this planet.

E, my sweet and thoughtful little girl, you remind me how important patience is in this life. Just a few days ago, you stood up on your own and I still smile when I remember how proud you were in that moment. During moments where I've worried so much about whether you were okay, you always showed me that it was needless and wasteful. Through you, I am learning that the prescribed milestones we all face can don't need to be met in one way and that patience is truly a virtue. I am in awe of your attention to details and your patience with seemingly small things. And my heart lights up when I see you smile, especially in moments when you reach those milestones, are snuggling with your daddy and even when Jaxson and Daisy walk into the room. Your love for those two furry ones is unbridled and without boundaries and I hope that all of you have many more years to grow more in love with one another.

Today, as I reflect back on this first year with you in our lives I reflect also on all that has happened to bring you here. I know that though our stories are intertwined, my journey through infertility and loss is not yours. You will each have your own challenges in life; traumas that you will face. All I can do is do my best to teach you about the world around you, hoping that these lessons will provide the foundation for you to thrive in this world. But I can promise you this: no matter what those traumas and hurts may be, your father and I will be there for you. To support you and love you unconditionally, especially in the moments where you feel like this world is against you.

Happy first birthday, my sweet miracle rainbow babies. Looking forward to so many more.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Silenced

I remember the first troll that left me a comment. It was about 3 years ago, when I had just started blogging and there was someone trolling the ALI blogosphere leaving anonymous nasty comments that were meant to tear down the authors. As I had set my comments to moderation and remove Captcha, this author wrote three different versions, each more angry than the last as they were assuming that Blogger was eating them. But the goal was laughably clear: to hit with hatred in order to silence. To spread bitterness to a group of women who were pouring their hearts out online as this individual wanted to make others feel the way they felt about themselves.

Thought policing isn’t a new concept. The idea that people need to be monitored and corrected for expressing ideas or feelings that are undesirable has been around since before the written word. There’s something desirable about this concept, with establishing rules and guidelines for a community in order to serve the greater whole. Be sensitive, support those in kind, don’t complain needlessly or compare pain, etc, etc. After all, there are narcissists and incredibly selfish people who would otherwise suck a community dry with the black hole that is their self-centeredness and inability to empathize. But thought policing can also be dangerous, with a minority quickly shutting down anyone who shares thoughts or emotions that they deem unacceptable. In a way, it is a form of fascism, with a blood-lust that can develop for attacking anyone who deviates even in reasonable ways.

Recently Josey wrote this post where she talked about this vocal minority and how damaging they can be.

In the Infertility community in particular, it becomes an issue when the vocal minority shuts down long awaited joys, tough conversations and legitimate feelings with cliché statements and judgmental tirades.
Just be grateful…
I’d never complain if *I* had a kid…
Can you believe she posted a picture of her [pee stick, belly picture, ultrasound pic, etc]?
The problem comes when the quiet majority ends up sitting by on the sidelines feeling afraid to share everything from jubilant thoughts to frustrated feelings, simply out of a fear of facing loud criticisms and hurt feelings from the vocal minority.”
Reading this post brought up some mixed feelings and emotions. On the one hand, I have encountered blogs where the author seems to be so incredibly unhappy with life, even after finding themselves pregnant or parenting. In these cases, I’ve found myself so annoyed that continuing to read, let alone comment, was a form of self-punishment thus unfollowing was a far better option. But the flip is that there have been and continue to be bloggers I follow who have the posts that ALWAYS start with them apologizing, then writing carefully about difficulties they are facing either with their pregnancy or while parenting. All the while peppering their posts with the required statements that they are grateful for their children and their current situation and ending their posts with some self-deprecating statement. Even then, there are moments where the thought police descend, ripping into the author for being so insensitive and thoughtless as it’s clear she just can’t appreciate what she has or that somehow she is defective as a human being for daring to think or feel that way.
The reality is, every person in this community will find themselves at the end of their TTC journey one day. Biologically, it’s impossible not to. In addition, most here will resolve (though there will be the few that never will). Because of this fact and because of the fact that we live in a diverse world, there needs to be a general understanding that the next steps aren’t always filled with moments of sunshine. There will be moments of fear and uncertainty, pain and despair. Reality, as it usually does, will find fun new ways to smack you in the face. That’s part of life and is true in all aspects.
During my pregnancy with the Beats, I found myself growing more and more silent as time went on. There’s no doubt that I was over the moon to final find myself carrying two rainbow babies after all our losses and uncertainty how to even resolve. But the truth was that pregnancy was very high-risk and scary. While my babies were growing and doing well, my body was crashing with the Beats being delivered early due to me going into both liver and kidney failure. After that, there were 4 weeks of NICU, were I went to bed nightly praying that they would be alive in the morning. I cried daily for a month. Though I know we were lucky and that there were others who were in a far worse situation, with me having to watch parents lose their children as a reminder. But a year later, all of this still haunts me.
Yet I felt like I couldn’t talk about any of this. That by doing so, I believed others would see me as ungrateful. I even had people tell me that I was lucky to have my babies come when they did because I actually got to hold them and no longer worry about having to be pregnant. Never mind the fact that it was general knowledge that they needed more time in the womb and that without the technology we have today they probably wouldn’t have survived. Instead it felt like I needed to be unilaterally grateful because I knew others who weren’t holding their children or would never have the chance to experience half the joy I did.
There’s a problem that emerges when one is silenced. For most humans, voicing worries and frustrations is a way to process what is happening. A form of problem-solving. By being heard one feels less isolated. By putting it out there, we give the experience/trauma recognition and allow for it to be addressed, which, in turn, allows for processing and healing. In some cases, simple acknowledgement is enough, bringing peace to even the most vocal complainer. Silencing takes all of that away, leaving the person instead involved with a growing shapeless form that tortures and torments. It also instills a sense of shame and guilt, all the while destroying.
I struggle with in all of this because there is a need for sensitivity in this community. My experience with individuals like Angie taught me that boundaries need to be established as otherwise there will be a free-for-all will otherwise allow for the leeches to take over and suck everything dry. In addition, we all need our safe havens. We need those places where we won’t be blindsided when we are our most fragile. Hence the need for general understandings and rules to ensure that community stays in tack.

But on the other end is that silencing someone when we feel they’ve overstepped when they really haven’t. Making it so that once someone goes past point X, they are no longer allowed to speak freely because a random person might take offense. There will always be people who eavesdrop, but that doesn’t this mean that we need to apologize every step of the way.
The thing is, how does one address this? For me, I find that in the cases where I have said something, it's usually because I've developed a relationship with the person. But even then, I do so privately and try to express concern gently. I find calling people out in a public way to be far more telling about the person bringing the issue to light, especially since we are usually only getting one person's version. Sure, there are times for debate and conversation, but when it devolves into a screaming match I rarely find it useful. There are also times where I've defaulted with silence when I see someone venting in a way I don't agree with. I respect their right to speak and use their space, but I also know that I can exercise my right not to read.  All that said, I also know that many don't agree with me as blogging is seen as an ongoing conversation. So the question is, how would you handle it? Is there ever a right time to silence someone?

Monday, June 30, 2014

HFMD

Looking for advice on this post. Like so many, we've been hit with hand, foot & mouth disease. Also known as "my G_d! what are you doing to that child?!?!" disease. Both Beats have sores in the back of their mouths, resulting in nursing strikes, increased fussiness and whining and general disdain for their current situation. And then there's the rash, with blisters and lesions that make even the most unsympathetic person grimace and ask "does it hurt?" Apparently they don't, but still.

So, for those who have survived HFMD, here are my questions.

1) How does one get over a nursing strike after HFMD? They both scream at the sight of exposed boob, so I'm not even trying anymore till we know they're in the clear. But is there hope or are my breastfeeding days over?

2) For the rash, any suggestions on creams or ointments to help with healing?

3) How long did it take for everything to clear up? I've heard anywhere from 6-10 days, but please share your experience.

4) For those who had baby eczema, did you find that the rash was worse? Also, what about heat? Just taking them to the doctor seems to have made things worse.

5) Any other tidbits? Suggestions? Sage words of advice? We're currently rocking both babies to sleep at night, with He-Beat especially being inconsolable and wanting to snuggle. Normally falling asleep isn't an issue for him (that's She-Beat's area), so it's clear he's been hurting.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Body image

When I was 11 yrs old, my mother told me about a nightmare she had. We were on a family vacation, eating breakfast at one of the restaurants. Looking right at me, she told me about how in her dream I was older and overweight (I think the number she gave was 250 lbs). In her dream she was crying and she asked me how I could allow myself to degenerate in that manner. My supposed response? "But Mom, I'm eating healthy. See? I'm eating a banana."

For as long as I can remember, I've hated how I've looked. I remember as a young girl thinking I was ugly, with all the girls at school being so much prettier than me. Looking back, a lot of this had to do with feelings of rejection from my parents and being unlovable. Hence it wasn't a surprise that I was overweight as a teenager. Both my parents were very critical of my weight and what I ate, to the point that my parents purchased a lockbox to control consumption of sweets. Yet, just like anything is life, the more I stressed about my weight and appearance, the heavier I became. And the heavier I became, the more unlovable and ugly I felt to all the world.

A lot of that changed when I left home. Specifically when I moved to Seattle and into the Mint House. One day I came home to find all my roommates staring at my side of the cupboards. "Why are you eating that stuff?" they asked, referring all the low-cal and processed foods. Within a few weeks, I found my eating habits had changed, with me ditching the diet foods and instead embracing butter, eggs and full fat but less-processed foods. In addition, we ate as a community, cooking for one another and sharing what we made. It was also around this time that I met Grey and he included me with his roommate as they explored cooking.

Wouldn't you know, with the pressure off of calorie counting and limiting food, I found myself not obsessing. And with that, the weight dropped. Later on, as my dabbling into rock climbing became more consistent and I found myself focusing less on how I looked and more on developing my core so that I could climb the harder routes, I found also that how I viewed my body changed. The hatred melted away and, dare I say it, I got to a point that I actually liked how strong I felt and what it could do.

And then Grey and I decided to start a family.

Like many, infertility made me doubt my body. Where as before I had a trust in its basic function, I found myself soul disconnected with the flesh and bone cage that was continually failing me and Grey. With this disconnect grew hatred and criticism. A shattered body image where I found myself torturing this vessel in hopes that somehow it would behave. Even after I became pregnant, I continued with the pain, gladly administering shots of PIO and Lovenox to keep my body at bay from harming the Beats. All the while hating it for threatening my babies. Holding it at bay for as long as I could.

11 months later, this dysfunctional relationship still exists. In a way, breastfeeding has actually exacerbated this as I struggle to make sure I'm not only producing enough milk for the Beats, but also because I've actually gained weight. At my heaviest in December, I weighed 190 lbs, which on my 5ft 6 inch frame was quite a bit and made it not only difficult to move but also made me ache. Starting back at work helped with this, as I've shed a number of pounds because I'm focusing on pumping and getting work done. Still, I'm not back at a weight that I want to be at. Add in the sagging boobs, the fact my stomach is still pudgy and the wider butt, and I'm far from where I'd like to be body wise.

So, like many, I've been trying to rectify this. Grey bought me a Fitbit and has been so supportive of me getting in my daily quota of steps. He's also been amazing with being the family cook and providing healthy meals. But I've been finding that the old dialogue I abandoned so long ago has been running through my head. That when I see myself in the mirror, I've been focusing on the fat that has accumulated and how distorted my body is. That the self-hatred has been coming back.

Frankly, it's fucking exhausting.

Two weeks ago, I decided I had it. Taking a mental health day, I enlisted a friend to accompany me to a local Korean spa where we spent a couple of hours in the saunas and heated baths. For the first time in a long time, I allowed myself to stop with the negative dialogue and just be with myself. And it was so nice. Nice not to criticize or be comparing. Nice to finally just be one with myself. An additional moment of clarity came with the Fremont Solstice Parade this past weekend, where the Solstice Cyclists reminded me that people indeed do come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Not only is that okay, but it's something that should be celebrated.

So here's the deal. I've decided that its time to stop warring with my body. To stop the criticism and hatred that manifested itself over the past 4 yrs. It doesn't mean that I'm throwing out all my good habits and resigning myself to being unhealthy. Actually it's quite the opposite. But the current dialogue needs to end, not only for myself but also because I don't want to teach the Beats to view themselves this way. Thing is, I need help. And I'm asking for it.

Here's my current situation: I currently weigh 168 lbs.  For being 5'6" that's still too much (and I do feel it as I don't move as fast and smoothly as I would like). But I also need to acknowledge that 11 months ago I gave birth to twins. In addition, a lot of this weight is due to fertility treatments (I started this pregnancy at 163 lbs) and the emotional turmoil. Though there are a few cases of people losing weight after injecting themselves with hormones and managing all the stress, the overwhelming trend is usually the opposite.

The other thing is that I need to reset my definition of body image. That contrary to what society would like everyone to believe, bouncing back doesn't happen magically, if ever. It's very likely that my boobs will forever be saggy, my belly slightly pudgy. That my hips will stay wider and my arms more flappy than what I care for. But these same boobs are also currently feeding my babies. They also have this magical ability to calm a screaming Beat and even a stressed out Grey. That pudgy stomach once held two babies and now functions as a great landing pad for a bouncing infant. My hips may be wide, but they also afford me the stability to carry two infants up a flight of stairs (or two). And though there are many pockets of cellulite and scars, there's also stories behind all of it.

In short, this body has been more than a cage for my soul. In many moments, it's been a vehicle for life. And remembering that, celebrating that is the key that will help me lose those 30 lbs. Not the self-deprivation, negative talk and criticism.

Now I need help remembering it. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Decade

Nine years ago, Grey and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary by taking a trip to the Oregon coast. After sleeping in naked, we spent the morning drinking coffee, collecting sand dollars and racing along the beach. Later that afternoon, I would attempt to hug a sequoia and then we would stop the first of many tasting rooms to sample the wine. There was the experience of making love in the room of a B&B that looked like it had been decorated by one of our grandmothers (lots of giggling involved with that one), watching Puffins dance on the Haystack and even hikes along broken trails.

But the part of the trip that still stands out is the last winery we stopped at before we made our way home. The tasting room was large and grand, but the winery was quiet. Upon meeting the winemaker, we found ourselves trying to back out of the room as fast as possible without appearing rude as he told us the story about his recent divorce and pined after his lost love. But as we were backing out, we found ourselves reading the posting, news clippings and reviews on the walls about the pinot noir this man was generating. Being brave, we ventured back in. And as the conversation shifted to wine, we learned that having a degree in biochemistry makes for one hell of a winemaker. What initially was a strange first impression became an afternoon filled with amazing stories, good cheese and one of the best pinots that has ever crossed my lips.

Two weeks ago, in celebration of Father's Day, I raided our "liquor" cabinet to find a bit of scotch to celebrate. Ignoring Grey's protests, I found myself confused to discover a number of bottles that were hidden in the back. Huffing at me, Grey told me to turn them around and it was then I saw the labels from that same winery. A wonderful anniversary gift.

Ten years I walked down the aisle to meet a smiling Grey. Looking back, on the good and the bad, the moments of abundance and despair, I realize that I wouldn't trade one second of it. Because it would mean one second without a man who I find myself falling more in love with every day. My best friend, my partner in crime. My soulmate.

Happy anniversary, Grey. Thank you for walking beside me for the last decade. I look forward to many more.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Milestone anxiety

*Despite the transition of this blog, I plan to continue the usual warning about Beat-related posts (Sorry Mali). For anyone reading, if you are currently NOT in a good space for baby-related posts, particularly ones that involve airy worries, concerns and frustrations, please skip this one. Instead, you can read about this beautiful agave that is blooming!
Taken 6/3/2014

Taken 6/19/2014

Today the Beats are 11 months old (9 months age adjusted). If you read about gross and fine motor skills that are expected in this age group, you'll find that crawling and standing supported are commonly cited, with some cases you'll hear about babies taking their first steps. Eating solids is also talked about, particularly the development of the pincher-grasp, which allows them to pick up smaller objects like peas and cereal. The list goes on and I don't care to go through each of the details, but the point is that this period is ripe for anxiety for any parent as there is this constant pressure to compare where your child(ren) are at compared to every other kid. And when one hits bumps along the way, whether they be big or small, it's enough to cause one to feel very isolated.

Since the day the Beats were born, I've worried about their development. Starting with the fact that they were born before they had developed the ability to suck and swallow, a lot of time was spent in NICU helping them grow and training them to feed from a bottle. I remember very clearly how He-Beat took to the bottle, sucking greedily to take milk. Problem was, he would fail to pause and breathe, so feeding him required making him stop so he could breathe as otherwise his heart rate would drop. In the meantime, She-Beat was taking her time. Far less interested in eating, she would instead spend her time cuddling and wanting her feeds via the NG tube. As He-Beat plowed forward, we were warned there was a very good chance he would go home before her, leaving her alone in the NICU while we adjusted to him being home.

I remember crying from this news. Fearing that leaving my baby girl alone in NICU would cause her to deteriorate. We didn't have help, so while other families have relied on relatives to help split time, we instead were looking at having her go days without anyone there. There was so much fear and anxiety surrounding her not eating and I remember praying while I would hold her, hoping for a miracle so I could bring both babies home.

Four days before they came home, She-Beat decided she was ready to eat from a bottle. And unlike her brother, she was awesome at pacing. So good, actually, that she actually was discharged from the hospital one whole day before her brother. And with that, she set the stage for how she would reach her milestones: in her time and doing them as close to perfection as possible.

Knowing this history should have impressed on me that I need to stop worrying about how the Beats are developing, particularly when He-Beat is charging forward. The trouble is, I constantly have the teachers at daycare watching and giving feedback on what skills need to be accomplished for them to transition to the next stage when they reach 12 months of age (age adjusted). With He-Beat, there is zero worry. This kid is currently standing unsupported and is cruising around the daycare through a series of scoots, pulling and rolling (rolling when he wants to get somewhere fast). With each accomplishment, he smiles the biggest smile as he is so proud of what he's doing. And he has She-Beat cheering him on, clapping and giggling as he makes it over to the toy bins to turn them over.

She-Beat, on the other hand, is currently showing zero interest in crawling or standing. She hates being on her tummy with a passion and will quickly roll off of it when placed on or will meltdown. Though she loves being in the jump chair, she really has no desire to put weight on her feet. Initially the teachers were concerned that this was reflective of an issue with gross motor skills, but considering they both decided to sit unsupported prior to rolling over, that whole theory has gone out the window. Add in the fact that she is doing very well with other aspects of her development (she excels at fine motor as she is very interested in her hands), and it's a bit of a perplexing issue.

HRF's recent post about the difficulties she's facing with her son's eating really hit home. Particularly the point where she talked about how isolated she felt with all of this. A big part of me knows that babies develop at their own rates and that pushing various aspects is not only counter-productive but can also be down right detrimental. But the thing is I also want to make sure that if there is an issue we address it. That we help She-Beat meet these different milestones as not doing so will negatively impact her. The problem comes with distinguishing whether there is truly an issue. Some teachers are completely convinced its just a matter of her watching her brother and deciding that she wants to do what he's doing. She's a perfectionist, after all. Still there's also the warnings about not seeing things and how we may need to hold her back. 

The long and the short of all of this is there's been stress. Stress that I feel ashamed to even talk about. On the one hand, I know how amazingly lucky I am to have these two and they are both so much more than I could ever imagine. I also worry that my anxiety will affect them, planting the seeds for low self-esteem and self-worth. I'm still suffering from those seeds that were planted when I was young and I truly don't want to pass these demons on. 

So I'll pose the same question HRF did yesterday: Am I creating a monster over this issue? Or is this a real problem? Has anyone else dealt with something like this? 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Finding my footing

So, yesterday. The responses were amazing and made me realize I need to shift my thinking. Specifically my thinking towards me and this space.

You see, the way I've always approached this space was as a way for me to process my journey through infertility. Like so many before me, I started this blog in a moment of crisis. With those first few posts, I began to process all the failure from our IUIs, the emotional bomb that was losing my family and the shock that IVF was looming. I knew at the time I needed an outlet. And so I dipped my toe into the waters that are this community. Convinced that all would be cured once I found the silver lining in the form of a baby to the trauma I had faced to to that moment

What happened over the past 260 posts I never expected. What happened instead of finding that one silver-lined cloud was a journey I never imagined myself on. A journey where this space became a place of solace from the storm that was ripping through my life. There were moments I was sure I would lose myself. Sure that nothing but darkness existed anymore. And in those moments, so many here became the rocks I needed in order to find firm footing. You all became the support that was needed for Grey and me when everyone else in our lives seemed to turn away. There are no words to begin expressing what that meant. How that love saved me from the darkness.

So when the unexpected happened, the miracle that I had given up on, I froze. I remember all too well how the transition that is pregnancy can divide as it can be a source of pain. Hence I became guarded, minding what I wrote out of fear of causing pain to those I had grown to love who were still in the trenches. I also found myself being silent as there were those around me who were battling their own fears regarding their pregnancies. But the truth is I was so scared. So incredibly terrified that I would lose the Beats. That the miracle that was growing inside of me would be ripped from me. Hence I remained quiet, steeling myself through the first 24 weeks and even beyond, monitoring my body for any potential sign of preterm labor and praying with my whole being for my babies to hold on.

It really hasn't been until the past couple of months that the fear from the last year has finally subsided and I've actually allowed myself to embrace the title of "Mom." Before then there was surviving NICU and all that came with it. Being mindful that we were so incredibly lucky to not only make it to 32 weeks but also that the Beats were thriving despite an early arrival. Even when they came home, there was the long adjustment to having our lives completely turned upside down. The full reality of caring for two premies is only starting to sink in now after we've gotten through the worst adjustments and scares.

Still, I felt I couldn't write about any of this. Others could (and I continue to be supportive of them), but with me I wouldn't allow myself. After all, I should be beyond grateful for what I have, right? That complaining and sharing otherwise suggests I don't deserve this. That somehow I am failing these two beautiful beings by admitting there are moments were it truly was too much.

Unfortunately, there was a couple of instances where this idea was enforced. Where I felt silenced after some negative interaction. But most of it was truly due to my own inner demons. The programing that had been placed in my head from a very young age.

The responses yesterday completely countered all that dialogue. And it also made me reflect more and more on the past 5 years. The idea that has been formulating as I've read and reread each response is that life isn't about finding that one and only silver lining. There are many along the path. And in a way, finding them isn't the end of a story. No, it's more like another launch point. Chapters end, things change, but with each nugget of wisdom we find along the way, the more we grow.

Hence I've been naive. Naive to think that this space would solely be about this one chapter and that would be the end.

I guess what I'm trying to say is first, thank you. Thank you for all the love and support and swift kicks in the ass. And, second, this story isn't over. But like the beginning of this blog, I need to find my footing again as I proceed down the trail that is parenting after infertility. Hell, it's more than parenting, it about being resolved after infertility. Taking each and every lesson learned during that chapter and applying it to the next one.

I hope you'll be patient with me as I find my balance.
 
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