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

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!

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.

How to announce you’re pregnant via a sperm donor.

I spent three years deciding whether or not to become a Mother on my own.  During that time I worried a lot about how I would tell people that I had gotten knocked up by a sperm donor.  The words stalled in my brain.  I worried what people would think and what they might say.  Worse still, I worried what my child might think of me.

Anyone who knows me would be surprised to hear this.  I’m generally a person who doesn’t much care what other people think.  It was so alien to me to be spending time on these thoughts.  Normally I’d be a ‘do it now, worry later’ kind of gal.  This was too big for that kind of impulsivity.  I also work in a restaurant and as such have a lot of people that I’d have to explain a pregnancy to.  That’s a lot of reactions to worry about!

In the end I turned my thinking around.  How would I feel if I was never a Mother?  If I didn’t do this would it be my biggest regret?  Would I become a miserable spirit in the afterlife, hovering around babies cribs??!!

I wasn’t sure how I’d field the questions but I was sure that I needed to be a Mother.  Nobody wants to haunt babies!  I stopped worrying and started trying.

And as you know, it took a long time to get pregnant.  During that time I sincerely wished I hadn’t spent so long worrying about other people.  I was so mad at myself for doubting my path.  I was terrified that I had blown my chance at being a Mother by spending too long thinking about whether or not to do it.  Thankfully it finally worked out and by then I was so happy to be pregnant that my original fears no longer mattered.

At 16 weeks pregnant, my wardrobe options were running out.  I’d gone from wearing figure hugging clothes to baby doll dresses.  It was time to tell work (and the general public!)

I told my work colleagues first.  I was so nervous.  I’d gotten very fond of my giant secret.  I got my co workers in a room and told them together.  The response was amazing!  I received hugs, congratulations and so much love. I was very honest about having conceived on my own and the struggles I’d been through.

“I’m having a baby on my own.  I used a donor and conceived via IVF. I am so ecstatic, it took a long time to get here and I can’t wait to be a Mother!”

I put the tight clothes back on and started telling my customers.  Some people asked genuine questions and all said they thought it was great.  A lot of women said they wished they had done the same thing.

The one demographic that I sometimes got a defensive vibe from was older men.  They would ask questions about the donor (which I would decline to answer as they were often too personal.)  I wondered whether their egos were slightly bruised at the thought of a woman not needing a man in her life to get pregnant.

After 3 years of thinking and researching I felt that the sooner I became comfortable with my story, the better it would be for my child.  It felt super awkward the first few times I told people I don’t know so well that I’m a single mother by choice who used a sperm donor.  It quickly became easier and these days I quite enjoy telling people (when appropriate.)

That said, it’s amazing how infrequently I’m now asked about the other parent.  Once your child is born nobody really cares how they got here.  Our society is so used to broken homes and single Mothers that we just blend into the crowd.IMG_8170

I have however already started telling my son where he came from.  As soon as he was born I made him a book that explains his story to him.  It has a lot of pictures of us and our family.  We read it together about once a week.  Right now the words mean nothing to him but before too long they will begin to make sense to him and become a starting point for his questions.

These days I’m so proud of our story.  I can’t imagine it being any other way.