Our Dibling Reunion

I know I have spoken about “Diblings” before but I’m going to give you a little recap.  My son, as you know, is donor conceived.  He is however not the only child from this donor.  In fact the family limit at the sperm bank I used is 25 families.  His donor has reached the family limit and we know who 15 of the families are for sure…  we have suspicions on 2 or 3 more but they have chosen not to be a part of our group and we obviously respect their decision.

I was initially unsure whether or not I wanted involvement with other donor siblings but the more I thought about it the more convinced I became that it was a good idea for him to grow up knowing who his half siblings are.  I feel that because he is growing up without a father, he will benefit from the connection he shares with his half siblings.  Furthermore, if he always knows who they are, it will always be normal to him.   

Little Beans in the big Bean

Suffice to say our donor sibling (dibling) group is, on the whole very close.  A small group of us met up in Boston last year – four families.  It was wonderful.  Our meetup broke the ice and this year when we started planning we were lucky enough to have 10 children from 8 families attend. 

This past June my son and I headed first to Chicago where we met with the donor family to whom we are closest.  We had shared a room in Boston the year before and found that we had an easy friendship and similar parenting styles.  We are both equally unfazed by the uglier moments of raising toddlers as our kids take turns to have meltdowns.  

Chicago. OMG.  So Much Fun!!  

What an amazing town for adults and toddlers alike.  The mere fact that the trains can be seen and heard above the streets made the City more appealing than Disneyworld to my son.  The yells of “Look Mama!! Choochoo!” were pretty much constant.  And the mirrored bean and the parks with the statues for the kids to walk and climb upon.  It really couldn’t have been any easier to keep them entertained.

appreciating art

After a couple of days in Chicago we headed to the Wisconsin Dells to meet the rest of the ‘family’ at Great Wolf Lodge.  The Dells is a strange place and the venue would not have been my first choice but we still had fun.

You would think that a vacation with ten children under 4 would be a sh*tshow but it was surprisingly calm.  Four of us had rented a condo so that we could have a central place to congregate and that worked out pretty well.  During the day we chased our small people around and managed to get some quality time together in the pools and around the cabanas.  Some kids napped in our arms, others went back to the room.  We had pizza night, ate at the restaurant and some of us even managed to go out for dinner one evening. 

It’s fascinating to see all the kids interact with each other.  They have an easy affinity with one another.  They share mannerisms.  When one of them cries or laughs, multiple mothers look up thinking that it’s their child.  Yet at the same time, with all their similarities – they all look so much like their Mothers!  We have every shade of hair, eyes, skin.  It’s a beautiful sight to behold and touches us in ways that is hard to explain.

We have already planned our get together for next year.  We have rented a giant house on the Outerbanks.  There are even more families than last year with more renting Airbnb’s nearby.  We figured that we would get so much more out of the vacations if we were all in one central place where we could eat together and congregate in a home.  It’s going to be memorable and I, for one cannot wait!

Guess who’s back?

 

Well. 

I’m kindasorta maybe back.

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I took all the pics and didn’t get pooped on.

It’s been a long time since I wrote so I’m easing back in with a little catch up and a big thank you to all those of you who kept nominating me for follow me Friday and other such twitter appreciation stuff.  I’ve been dropping in and out but too scant to make much of a presence know.

That’s good right?

I’ve been full on parenting and now have a toddler.  It’s true that as toddlers go he really doesn’t do much of the terrible.  As long as I have no desire to have a tidy house or fresh prepared meals he really is the easiest of beings.  When I am finally released from the constant demands of “I need a hug Mumma” I tend to catch up on those things rather than this thing.  I revel in the hugs knowing that there will come a time when he shuns rather than demands them.

In my absence I’ve been kicking along the infertility road.  This time I know it’s my age and I really didn’t expect miracles but miracles are funny things and they have to happen to someone don’t they?  (They did not happen to me.)

I worked 6 days a week.  My poor babysitting Mother nearly lost her mind juggling a toddler and her elderly father at the same time while I made the $$$.  What would I do without her?  You’ll be pleased to hear that I have released her from her duties to spend 10 days in England with her friends to do things that she loves doing but simply cannot do here… leaving me with the very old and the very young for the duration.  I’m keeping them both alive thanks to frozen dinners and their mutual affection for one another.

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My Mummy giving Little a beach hug

We also (as a family) took a 2 week vacation to Mexico.  Merida in the Yucatan to be precise.  It was wonderful and has set my wanderlust on fire once again.  Most of the time it’s merely simmering but right now it’s full on lava mode.

So as I slowly ease my way back into blogging you can expect such gems from me as:

  1. My latest infertility struggles in all the gory detail
  2. The Infertility Hierarchy
  3. Family dynamics
  4. Dreams of escaping
  5. People you meet on vacation
  6. Why the Yucatan is safer than the USA

For now this is all.  A few words whilst a beautiful toddler naps on the couch, lulled by the sounds of my heavy fingers on a forgiving keyboard.

I hope you’re still out there and thanks for listening.

That time I was on my fave Podcast.

Earlier this year, I was listening to one of my favorite Podcasts “The Longest, Shortest Time.” The presenter Andrea Silenzi (who I had listened to on her previous Podcast “Why oh Why”) was clearly wrestling with whether to have a child on her own, whether to preserve her fertility by freezing her eggs, or whether to invest more time in trying to find Mr Right.  She just so happened to be at the same age I was when I started seriously having those thoughts.

artistic-blossom-bright-207962Now I think egg freezing is the biggest scam of the decade so I’d never recommend anyone do that unless they had no other choice (for example, cancer – and even then I’d say make some embryos too.)  Having gone through the rocky path I did to conceive my son, I felt duty bound to reach out to her.  Maybe if I can help just one person make their decision I’ll feel like my mistakes weren’t in vain.

So I wrote an email to the Podcast.

To my surprise I was contacted and asked to talk to Andrea about my experiences.  You can listen to that podcast here.

I had been toying with the idea of starting a blog again for a few months before this.  I had been trying to teach myself some copywriting skills and thought that it would be good practice if nothing else.  Being on the Podcast made me get my backside into gear and buy the domain name I had been kicking around in my mind for a while.

“The Uhoh Diaries”

4k-wallpaper-adorable-blur-1148998I love this name because UhOh is one of the first, most recognizable words out of toddlers mouths and it sticks around through toddlerhood.  As parents we instinctually say it to convey something that isn’t going quite right.  Toddler spills food on the floor “UhOh”, , toddler drops toy off of deck “UhOh”!  (That one used to happen a lot!) Messy hands – “UhOh!”

My life has felt like a series of UhOh’s with a very happy ending.  It certainly hasn’t gone according to the plan I had in my mind when I was in my teens, my twenties or even my thirties.  Now, in my 40’s I finally feel as though I have passed the UhOh torch onto my son.  I hope he only needs it for spilled drinks and wardrobe malfunctions.

Being on a Podcast is nerve wrecking.  I had a lot of trust in the presenters as I have listened to almost every episode.  Its a parenting podcast and always comes at parenting from an interesting perspective.  You don’t have to be a parent to enjoy it.

1That said I was still scared that I would come across badly.  As a Single Mother by Choice, it was really important to me to represent us in a good light.  I also want people to know that fertility can’t be assumed.  That it isn’t always there when we need it.  It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the moment and say to yourself that you’ll have children one day in the distant future.  The harsh reality is that once you hit 30 you need to start thinking about it in a more serious way.  Maybe get your fertility checked by your Obgyn.  It is so so hard to do.  I speak from experience.  I kept thinking that my dream man was right around the corner, kept trying to fit a square peg in a round hole just so that I wouldn’t have to face doing it all alone.

Safely on the other side, having wrestled with becoming a Single Parent by Choice and then infertility I can say that it’s far less scary than I ever imagined.  In fact in so many ways I think it’s been easier for me.  I have a huge Choice Mother community in my area and the Donor Family as well as the original friends who have stuck around!

The Podcast aired right as I launched my website/blog.  I got so many calls from friends and acquaintances who had listened as well as a lot of good feedback from the SMC community!  I am so glad that they feel well represented.  Our voices aren’t heard enough.  Whilst there are so many people who choose this path (and the numbers are growing,) there still isn’t enough positive press about us.

This is why I am trying to play my small part in giving a little exposure and understanding of this beautiful path I have chosen to make a family and live a happy, fulfilled life.

I have never been happier than I am now.

I feel so fortunate for my little corner of happiness.  Happiness is everything.  Do whatever you can to chase it and to find it.  If you jump, trust in the net to catch you.

Our Donor Family.

One of the things that most of us don’t think about when we are selecting a sperm donor is the other women who have chosen that same donor before us.   We tend to focus on health history, appearance, CMV status and often we will look for a donor who has had successful pregnancies.  When you are searching through profiles, these attributes are often just a check box or one word answer.  The only face you look at is that of the donor.

I was one of the people who gave zero thought to the fact that my future child already had half siblings.  Once I was pregnant it hit me in a flash – my son had donor siblings (or diblings as some call them.)  I had this wonderful opportunity to see other children who were half of what my son would be.  Perhaps he would look similar to them?  It was too irresistible to not want to have a peek.

At 9 weeks pregnant I connected with other families who had used the same donor and found myself in a secret Facebook group with a bunch of women who had adorable little people – my sons half siblings.  It was pretty surreal and incredibly cool!

stock-photo-decisions-neon-sign-words-signage-motto-motivation-neon-light-quotes-and-sayings-wild-words-9d80fb9c-9a22-4f13-ac34-e74de28The decision on whether to connect with your donor group is, like everything else in this process very personal.

Some parentss feel that their families are enough and are very uncomfortable with the idea of connecting with their children’s half siblings.  They never look for them  and they never connect with them – they leave the decision 100% up to their child.

Some parents connect with the group but stay very much in the background.  Their main reason for being there is so that they can be aware of any health issues that might come up.  Maybe they also want to make it easier for their children to connect if they should want to in the future.

Then there are the male infertility recipients (heterosexual couples) and I’ve found that they are much less likely to connect and have a higher chance of not telling their children that they used a donor.  Some do tell their offspring but they stay away from the donor groups for the most part.  I know we have at least one couple that used our donor but they have not reached out to us.

choice-2692575_1920When I first connected it was mainly out of curiosity.  I wasn’t sure how much involvement that I wanted.  It was interesting but overwhelming.  We have some strong characters and I wondered whether or not I really needed this many new people in our lives.

Time went on and my son was born.  This group of women had become a cheerleading team of sorts – genuinely excited to welcome a new child into the group.  They were among the first to know that I had given birth and it was so fun to compare my baby’s picture to all of the other newborns!

I gave it some genuine thought.  I considered what I would want and what my future son might want.  I came to the same conclusion for us both:  Honesty and love.

I felt that hiding the donor family from my son could backfire.  He would feel lied to and could even resent me for the missed opportunity of getting to know others who were not only donor conceived – but by the same man who had helped gift life to him.  If I left my child out of gatherings and meet ups, other kids would form bonds and it would be much harder for my son to connect and form the kind of relationships that occur when you have been friends through all the awkward stages of life.

I decided that I would embrace the donor families and I can honestly say that it has been the best decision for us.  We have met multiple families and it has always been a very positive experience.  Some of these women have become very good friends – to the point that I now cannot imagine my life without them!  I am excited for our children to know one another and so glad that I have opened this door for my son so young.  I feel like he will never feel that it’s weird or uncomfortable – it will just be his life and another part of his amazing story.

footstepsAnd if my son decides that he doesn’t want to pursue friendships with these children when he is older, that’s fine.  It will still be his choice.  It will also be my choice to stay connected to the Mothers who have become friends.

We are going on vacation later this month.  It’s our second donor sibling meet up and this time we will have 10 children (7 families total.)  I’ve no doubt it will be absolute chaos but of the sweetest variety.

sea-1337565_1920We plan on doing a meetup for those who want to every year until the kids are old enough to do it on their own and then – who knows, maybe us Mums will just do it on our own.  We’ll pick somewhere exotic and enjoy our cocktails, kid free and full of stories.

Why I don’t read parenting books.

PSA

As always the opinions are my own and I’m not telling you NOT to read parenting books… just that I didn’t for my own little reasons.  I’m just opinionated as I’m sure you’ve figured out by now.  I’m happy to be your friend no matter what books you use as your guide.  Now on with the show.

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When I was 4 years old I was sat on the couch looking at a book.  My Mother asked me what I was doing and I told her:

“I’m reading”

“You can’t read!” my Mother joked

“Yes I can!” said 4 year old me

“Go on then” my Mother urged.  So I did.

I read her the book I was looking at.  She assumed I had memorized it so she got another book and I read that one too.  Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t reading with intonation or speed but I had learned to read.  My Mother couldn’t believe it!

And there began my love of books.  I started with Dr Seuss then Enid Blyton.  I went on to Judy Blume, Nancy Drew, Anne Rice and more.  I devoured books.  I was frequently at the library (particularly as an early teen) and was always the one who my friends came to with their puberty questions.  (Silly in hindsight because I was a late bloomer in that department and most of my knowledge came from teen magazines.)

adult-1867751_1920As I grew older I had less time to read.  However, whenever I went on vacation  I’d buy 2 books to take with me and come home with 6.  I found it hard to part with a loved book when I had someone else in mind who might enjoy it.  I resented the weight of my backpack but still couldn’t part with the books.  Nobody was happier than me when the Kindle was invented.  Finally I could travel as heavy as I liked and add no extra weight to my luggage!

You’d think with this love of reading, I would have been devouring parenting books since the day I decided to have a child on my own.  That has not been the case.

For some reason I’ve always thought parenting books were patronizing.  I don’t believe that one size fits all and I don’t think anyone knows my child better than me.  I have spent enough time on forums to see how much added stress women put on themselves by worrying what their babies should or shouldn’t be doing based upon some book they have read. The one bug bear topic is of course infant sleep.  If you read enough parenting books on this they will eventually all contradict themselves.  Read this article if you want a laugh and you’ll see my point.

Most parenting books are not even slightly scientifically researched.  They are the product of one person or small group of peoples combined observations of children.  And lets face it, they’re going to be using their methods in order to prove them without much care for the personalities of the babies involved.  I would much rather be reading a new Moms blog. 🙂

So I decided that other than a quick glance at the Wonder Weeks app every now and then, I would just wing it.

Instead of reading parenting books I joined a group run by a doula for new Mothers.  There were only 6 of us in the group and if you hadn’t shown up by the second class then the doors were closed and nobody else was allowed to join.  I remember thinking this seemed very strict but then I saw her wisdom.  In keeping this group small and recognizable, trust was built very quickly.  Our group couldn’t have been more different but we had strange similarities too (for instance, we are all dorky crafters!)  By the third session we had set up a private Facebook group and became each others go to for conversations and advice at 3am.  20 months later and our group is still active.  We check in on one another with questions, concerns, funny kid videos and milestones.  There is no greater source of support than women who are going through the same stage of parenting at the same time.  Some of us devour the parenting books and some of us – not so much!

I really feel that having no expectations of my sons behavior was a huge plus.  His sleep has never followed what babies ‘should’ do and nor have his eating habits.  So long as he’s growing and thriving and meeting his milestones and I’m getting enough rest, I’m happy.

Becoming a parent is a huge change and all these books just add pressure to make us feel that there is a normal when it comes to infants/babies/kids.   You just do your best and follow the cues of your baby.  You read a book if you need some suggestions but bear in mind that they might not work.   Some things they tell you to do are just plain mean.

I am sure that as my son becomes more of a toddler and has tantrums about what he wears and which color cup he drinks out of I may well be googling the kindest way to handle his overabundance of emotion but until then we are happy flying by the seat of our pants and embracing the moments – no matter what they bring.

 

For all the Mothers

Let’s get this straight.  I am not a Hallmark Holiday kind of girl.  I’m the girl who tells her boyfriend not to buy her anything for Valentines day and actually means it.  I believe that you should be kind to the people in your lives on a consistent basis and therefore not need a national holiday to remind you to do this.

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Poppies – my Mothers favorite flower

Mothers day…  as it has never been a holiday about me, it’s not one that I have spent my life completely ignoring.  I traditionally bought my Mother a card and a little something to mark the day as I’m sure most of you did also.

I was raised in the UK and they celebrate Mothers day in March.  When I moved to the USA and my Mum was still in England I could never remember the day and the May date just seemed silly to us and thus the expectation dropped and we agreed to stop bothering with it altogether.  That said I feel that there is a twinge of disappointment when I fail to deliver.  I don’t think that she realized that my being allowed to forget it for her enabled me to move past the pain I felt of it not being a celebration for me too.  Selfish I know but infertility can make you feel this way.

Of all the Hallmark Holidays I feel that this can be the most painful for so many people for so many reasons.  Maybe you’ve lost your Mother, never had a Mother or long to be a Mother.  It’s so much easier to let the day slip past without commemoration than to wade through the aisles of cards with their sentimental messages.  I get it.

Now I am on the other side.  I am a Mother (finally!) and I still don’t feel the urge to dash out and purchase the most gigantic floral arrangement that money can buy.  I do however have a huge appreciation for my own Mum and the things that she has done that have allowed me to fulfill my dream of being a Mother.

As a Single Mother by Choice I had to do a lot of planning before taking the leap and having a child on my own.  I work an atypical schedule.  Daycare isn’t an option as I don’t start work until 4pm.  Paying a babysitter would have been more of a strain on my finances than I could have handled.  My Mother said she would gladly watch the baby whilst I worked.  Godsend!

I had done 2 rounds of IVF and experienced a miscarriage when we put my Mothers house on the market and started looking for suitable properties.  My Mother also cares for her elderly Father which added another dimension into our house hunting process.

 

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Finally we found the perfect house.  A place with a separate in-law apartment that could be converted into a 2 bedroom house.  We purchased it, did a huge renovation and 3 months later I was at last pregnant with my son.

 

It had been a huge leap of faith.  I knew that the living arrangement wouldn’t suit me if I were to remain childless.  I was at a point where I didn’t believe I would ever have a child of my own. Before we bought the house, I was maxxed out on loans.  Luckily for me, my debts were all rolled into the new mortgage. This enabled me to take out another loan to pay for that last, final treatment (the one that worked!)

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My Mother with her father and my son. Can you say sandwich generation?

If it weren’t for my Mothers own sacrifices to care for her elderly Father and to offer to care for my (at the time) future child, I don’t know that I would have ever been able to do this on my own.  I say that I would have found a way – but would I?  I guess I’ll never know.

Mothers day has a different meaning now and I’ve started buying cards again, I’m even going to buy flowers and a little gift from my son so my Mum feels truly appreciated.  Without her, there would be no us.

As for me?  I have everything I need.  Smiles and giggles are the perfect gift from my little guy this Mothers day.

So to all of you, especially those of you who are struggling, I send you light and hope and wish you a Happy day.

6 Things nobody tells you that happen to your body after the baby is born.

During pregnancy you’re so focused on giving birth and having a newborn.  You make a birth plan, you decorate the nursery, you have a baby shower.  Your house is inundated with tiny things and new equipment.  You are prepared!

But then you have the baby and holy shit!! WTF is happening to me?  So here’s a little information on what you can expect once you’ve had your baby.  Hopefully it will reassure you that you’re not dying and you can file it in the ‘things people don’t tell you about having a baby’ part of your brain.

  1. You Might feel like you’re going to pass out when your milk comes in.

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    Help! My milk just came in!


    My milk came in quickly – especially considering I’d had a C Section.  I remember it vividly.  It was a Saturday night and all the Lactation Consultants had gone home for the night.  It was about midnight and the baby had been slumbering peacefully on my chest.  A nurse came to do his hearing test and I took the opportunity to use the restroom.  A few seconds after I stood up I experienced the mother of all head rushes and was close to passing out.  I got myself to the toilet and just sat there sweating.  It felt like all the blood in my body had gone to my breasts.  They were suddenly ENORMOUS!!  Yup, my milk had come in and I felt elated and awful at the same time.  Luckily the fever and lightheadedness only lasted an hour or two but it was freaky as I had no idea what was happening to me.

  2. You’ve never known thirst until now!
    If you’re breastfeeding then you’re in for a treat.  Every time your baby latches on it will feel as though the Sahara desert just took up residence in your mouth.  You will feel like a raisin – devoid of moisture.  Your arm will reach out in desperation for a water bottle.  The relief brought from drinking is as close to an orgasm as you’ll want to get at this moment in your life!  I highly recommend putting electrolytes in your water to give you a little extra burst of energy as it can be exhausting.  The sensation lessens eventually but it takes a long time.
  3. Lets talk hunger

    dinner for one

    This may have satisfied my hunger. Maybe


    Ever heard the expression “I’m so hungry, I could eat a horse”?  I’m pretty sure that was coined by a breastfeeding Mother.  In those first few weeks you may well experience a hunger like no other.  I personally had no stop light.  My Mother would cook a Sunday roast and I would go back for seconds, thirds and I’m embarrassed to say fourth’s too.  I simply could  not satisfy my appetite.  That’s the real reason they tell new mothers to keep snacks nearby.  Truth is that a snack won’t be enough so make sure you keep about 5 nearby.

  4. Night Sweats
    My son was born during the summer and we bed shared so for the first day or two I thought that his little body combined with the warm nights was the cause for my nightly sweats.  It wasn’t until my friend asked me if I’d had the sweats that I discovered that this was all part of the joys of Motherhood!  And then they really intensified!  I would wake up and feel like all of the water I’d been frantically hydrating with throughout the day was leaving my body in one huge exodus.  I tried sleeping on a towel but it’s uncomfortable and it felt even worse than sheets once the sweats hit.  It doesn’t last too long – maybe a couple of weeks and is your bodies way of getting rid of all that excess fluid that built up during your pregnancy!
  5. Am I going bald?
    It wasn’t until my hair started falling out that I realized that I hadn’t had to pull hair out of the plug once during my pregnancy.  A few months after having my son I seemed to be doing it after every shower.  During pregnancy your hair often stops doing its natural shedding which is why a lot of women have really great pregnancy hair.  I was one of those!  After my body regulated I started losing it like a normal person – well, a bit more intensely than a normal person but a lot of my friends felt sure that they were going bald!  Don’t worry, you are not going bald – you’re just getting back to normal!
  6. Poops, Poops, Poops
    Your first poop after having a baby will be a terrifying and glorious thing.  Some hospitals like you to have a bowel movement before they’ll let you go home.  Others will just ask that you let them know if you don’t have one within a certain time frame.  You’ll take stool softeners and I recommend you keep taking them until things get back to normal in that department.  You think it’s over once you’ve had that first poop?  Wrong!  My first poop took about 4 days and I naively felt relief.  It took another 5 days before the second one arrived and of course it happened whilst I was breastfeeding.  At that stage you don’t want to disturb the latch!  Picture me, baby on a my breast friend pillow trying to take care of myself one handed!  (actually please don’t picture that!)  After a couple of weeks everything normalized and I became less obsessed with my bowels!

 

A lot of women are going to be given a wild ride with the hormones, crying at commercials, flowers, not being able to find the remote etc.  Thankfully the pregnancy hormones had zero effect on me.  I often wonder if that’s due to my having gotten used to excessive hormones during my many IVF treatments.  Maybe it was just because I was so blissfully happy that my child was finally here that nothing could burst my bubble? Maybe it was due to my getting great sleep which, lets face it, is highly unusual for the mother of a breastfeeding newborn!!  For sure I was one of the lucky ones.   I had a lot of support from my hospital, multiple nurse visits and a doula visit and they would all remark on how chilled out I was for a new Mother.  Had they met me a year before they would not have made those same comments.  I was not mentally chilled when facing infertility no matter how I seemed to the outside world.

So ladies, rest assured that you are normal!  Birth is not the end of pregnancy.  The 4th trimester is real.  Go easy on yourself but also keep an eye on yourself and if something doesn’t seem right always call your doctor.