Birth story – better late than never!

There have been so many changes in life. A new baby, a new home (tbd) in a new country and I’m in the beginning stages of starting a new business. It’s on!

But let’s start with the baby, because that’s where we left off.

Oh pregnancy. Never have I been so equally happy and miserable. I was constantly queasy and exhausted for 14 weeks. Then I just felt rough and in pain. Except for a brief period.

Taken 36 hours before my daughters birth.

It was during this brief period of energy that I went to the UK for a “baby moon” for 3 weeks with my son. On the final week my belly doubled, I was exhausted and my son became a homesick demon! It was not the best time. I returned back to the USA and spent the rest of my pregnancy feeling like I was trying not to give birth. I stopped work on summer solstice. It was indeed the longest day.

This is where it gets crazy. I wanted to take my son to his dibling reunion – in spite of being almost 36 weeks pregnant. I checked with the doctors and all said I should be fine and gave me permission to go. My worst symptom at that point was hemorrhoids (ouch those hurt!)

14 hours on a train later I arrived in Virginia. 3 hours into the train ride I began spotting. Midwife said not to worry too much but keep an eye on it. 3 days later I began having contractions during a thunderstorm. (What a cliche!) and shortly after went to hospital where I was told to get home ASAP.

My knight in shining armor drove 600 miles to my rescue. He had enough time to go for a swim and load up the car then he turned around and drove us home. We drove for 2 days and arrived back on 4th July. Time enough to eat a big meal and pass out. I was so glad to be home.

11 hours later (after my 6th pee of the night, maybe less, maybe more.) I felt the sensation of peeing again. This time different from the others.

You’ve never seen a pregnant woman move quicker! I got out of bed just in time for my waters to rupture all over the floor. I sat on the toilet for a full 40 minutes while it drained out of me. I would never have believed that it could take that long if it hadn’t happened to me.

Wearing a male adult diaper I packed my hospital bag and 2 hours later arrived at the ER which was locked (because that’s what always seems to happen in these stories.)

Once I got in, it became clear that something was off. I was only 36+1 pregnant but there was meconium in the water along with old blood. Nobody understood why.

I was told I was still a good candidate for a VBAC if I wanted to try. Unfortunately my contractions were far apart, I was only a fingertip dilated and they wanted to give me pitocin.

It was then that my inner voice started screaming at me to get the baby out. No matter how much I’d wanted to experience a vaginal birth I felt that something was wrong. I felt inexplicable fear. I asked for a c section, put away my disappointment and focused on the end goal – a healthy baby and Mama.

30 mins later my daughter entered the world. The c section was rough. Much tougher than the first. To the point of being traumatizing for both my mother and I. I had to get treated for pain in my shoulders weeks later from the violence of it.

Sweet baby E, fresh out of the oven and not too pleased about it!

I noticed, when they handed me my daughter that she smelled weird. The surgeon said that this was because I had an infection in my uterus. She said this was why my water had ruptured. I later discovered that this could have been very dangerous for the baby and my gut instinct to get her out had probably saved her from becoming very very sick. Even the midwives congratulated me on the decision I’d made!

In spite of my fears, thankfully baby seemed pretty much ok. She did have low glucose though and that was touch and go for a while. They had to give her a couple of packets of the sugary gel to get that up to par. NICU was threatened a lot. It didn’t happen. She was dosed with a LOT of antibiotics which was 100% necessary to insure her safety from the infection. I too was given them to help kill it.

Lastly she spent 24 hours under the blue light. Jaundice. It was the least of the bad things that could have happened so I accepted it and took the time she was in there to rest.

Under the blue light. I think she liked it in there.

Her levels dropped so rapidly that they were amazed.

I never realized how many hurdles a slightly premature baby would have to jump through. How much more attention they get. How many more fears are instilled in us.

Next time I’ll talk about nursing and my experience second time around. About advocating for yourself and trusting your gut!

For now I just want to end by saying how grateful I am that I got to take home my tiny baby who was 5lb 6oz when she left the hospital. She was small but mighty and by some miracle – healthy!

My perfect little family has been completed.

The beautiful chaos of my new life. I wouldn’t change a thing

The Gift of Life

When my friends announce their pregnancies I often find myself thinking how strange it must be to get pregnant from having sex. I cannot fathom what conception without needles and penis shaped wands must be like. How very unscientific it must be. How utterly painless and stress free. Does pregnancy feel the same when it happens so effortlessly?

As I sunk yet another needle into my black, blue and yellow stomach I knew one thing for sure. I was done trying. I had subjected my body to three rounds of IVF and it wasn’t working. I was no longer envisioning the end result. Instead I was cursing and vowing this was it. I was done. I could see all of the perks of having an only child and I tried to forget about the negatives.

When that final attempt failed my RE suggested trying another round with a different protocol. She reminded me it would be covered by my health insurance. It would not however be covered by my mental health.

I could not have said NO any quicker.

So I went about my life resigned to be the parent of an only child.

Then we went to our dibling reunion. We had an amazing time.

On the last day the mother with whom I am closest brought up my recent struggles. She offered to donate me her remaining embryos.

If anyone has done IVF and found themselves with leftover embryos then I’m sure you can relate to how hard it is to know what to do with them. It is hard not to imagine the little people they could become. To compare them to your existing child and wonder how alike they might have been. But we don’t all have the resources to keep on having children until we empty the freezer so what to do?

You have a few options.

  • You can pay to keep them frozen in time forever.
  • You can destroy them
  • You can donate them to science
  • You can donate them anonymously
  • You can donate them to someone you know

Of course this isn’t something one enters into without a lot of thought. This wasn’t the first time she had mentioned it although prior to this it had been half in jest. We talked at length about the ramifications, about how this would make us feel long-term. So we both went to therapists. She talked to her family/friends and the people who knew her best. Once they gave her the encouragement that she needed her heart was set and her mind was made up.

I am beyond lucky that this amazing woman decided that she would like to donate to me. What a gift. There are no words to convey it.

We spoke to lawyers and drafted up an agreement. She went for extra testing (at the request of my clinic!) We did a ton of paperwork and finally, after a month or two we shipped two PGD tested embryos across the country to my clinic.

Once again, I cannot fully put into words what it means to me. It feels belittling to call it a gift. It feels surreal and other worldly. I sometimes feel guilty that I didn’t struggle enough for this child. I know this is irrational but it’s a feeling that, at times is hard to shake.

On the other hand I felt an enormous sense of peace. I was scared of my own genetics. I was scared of my age, of my family history of strife between siblings and of what treatments were doing to my body. This option was perfect. Tested embryos from a woman I know, admire and trust. A woman who will be happy to connect with my child and answer any questions she has about her heritage when she becomes curious about such things. I love that we will see her Maternal donor at least once a year. Most of all I love that we had a pre-existing friendship which has only become stronger since embarking on this unusual, but beautiful journey.

At the end of August I transferred an embryo. I was full of optimism and excited about a May baby. I was on vacation with a group of SMC’s on the day I knew I would get a Positive Home Pregnancy Test if it were to be so. I thought it was the perfect crowd to be surrounded by and celebrate with.

The test was negative.

I was surprised by how crestfallen I was. I had let my hopes rise. I was so sure that I finally had a foolproof plan. I also felt as though I had let my friend down. Maybe I had done something wrong and that’s why it hadn’t worked. I didn’t want to waste all of her hard work!!

I took off a couple of months. I went to see my amazing Mayan Abdominal Massage therapist. I took a 2 week vacation to Mexico and drank Michelada’s whilst popping estrace pills twice daily. I got back into a good headspace.

Upon my return I transferred my last perfect embryo. I didn’t tell anyone, except for my Mother that it was transfer day. It was an uneventful transfer (unlike my sons which had been pretty traumatic!)

5 days later I woke up feeling as though I’d been hit by a bus. I felt so sick! I could barely function. I awoke the next day feeling much the same. I peed on a stick and this time I was 99% sure of the outcome.

A few minutes later a little pink line appeared.

PREGNANT

21 weeks. So amazing!

I sent a picture of the test to the Maternal donor… and then, for the first time in a long time I felt true excitement.

In future posts I will talk about giving up on your own DNA and what that felt like for me. I have a lot of posts up my sleeve -they’ll emerge slowly but surely over the coming weeks and months. Until then, thank you so much for following our story.

The Big Reveal aka Infertility part 2

There’s a myriad of reasons for why I have been unable to write much of anything lately. There’s plenty in my head but nothing was ready to find it’s way out and onto the page.

What I haven’t shared much about is that I have been trying to conceive a second child since before I even began this blog. A sibling for my sweet son. Another child to love.

I knew before I even began that a second child wouldn’t come easily to me. I had faced the beast that is infertility once before. My expectations were low. Realistic. I entered with grace and profound appreciation for the existence of my son. I am a mother. My goal has been achieved. I will not be greedy. But maybe, if I tried, just maybe it would be my turn for a miracle.

There is a hierarchy surrounding infertility whether we like it or not. Those of us who are trying desperately to become Mothers cannot understand the pain of those who are devastated when they fail to conceive their second (or third… or forth?) children.

I’m well aware that we can’t live another persons pain. That our own experiences are unique and we all have a right to our emotions.

I shared with some of my SMC community and my ever supportive Mother. I preferred to go through it alone this time.

Some good news…

An amazing development had occurred since the first time I tried to have a child. Infertility is finally covered for single women in my state and I more than qualified! Knowing that trying for a second wouldn’t put me into crippling debt really helped alleviate some of the stress that fertility treatments put you through. And so I embarked on Infertility round 2.

I did a couple of IUI (due to my age it’s just about the same odds of conception as IVF). I thought why not??

They failed.

I decided to try a round of IVF.

I produced 2 follicles. I cancelled the round myself.

I tried again.

I got all the way to retrieval this time. They got 5 eggs!! I was grateful and dare I say a little hopeful?

None of the eggs fertilized.

I tried for a third time. Another round of IVF.

This time I knew it would be my last attempt. I was so done with being a pin cushion. I couldn’t stop thinking about all of the things that can go wrong with a baby born from old eggs.

More shots in the stomach.

Another surgery.

I went to retrieval.

I got 3 eggs.

1 fertilized via ICSI. I had no other option than to do a day 3 transfer.

It didn’t work.

I was done.

I resolved that we would be a Mum & kid family and that would be that. I was surprised by how at peace I felt. I was so grateful for my son.

Spoiler Alert…

I am currently entering the second trimester. I’m carrying a beautiful gift of a baby girl.

How I got here is a story for another blog post.

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.

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.