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.

 

C Section – a birth story.

I am sorry to say that I was one of those people who thought that a C Section birth was not a ‘real’ birth or a ‘natural’ birth.  I remember rolling my eyes at women who were ‘too posh to push’.

Not to say that I didn’t have respect for the existence of C Section as a practice.  Of course I realized that it was a necessary and life saving procedure.  I just didn’t feel like it should be the ‘go to’ for so many people.

There are so many things that I have sat in judgement of merely because I hadn’t experienced them and therefore didn’t truly understand.  Infertility is an equalizer and an educator.  It really does make you think about things in ways that you didn’t realize you were capable of thinking.  It has also made me a better, less judgmental person in all aspects of life.

As I have mentioned before, I was diagnosed with having a Unicornuate Uterus and therefore I spent a lot of my pregnancy concerned that I was going to run out of space and go into labor prematurely.  I joined a wonderful Facebook group and soon saw that the success rate of carrying to term was very good.  It made me feel a lot better but didn’t change the fact that once my LO reached a certain size the chance of his being able to go head down went to virtually zero.

Sure enough my son lounged in my uterus with his feet in his face and his bottom on my bladder for almost all of my pregnancy.  A very stubborn  breach baby!

Scheduled C Section it was.  And I did feel cheated out of the birth experience I had dreamed of.  I wanted the water birth, the doula and the self hypnosis, not the blue cloth, surgeons knife and spinal block.  Knowing that birth doesn’t often go according to plan, I resigned myself to my fate, learned a lesson about my prior judgey self and set about making an alternate birth plan.

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Day before C section with my first baby.

There is nothing more surreal than going to bed knowing that the next day you will be a Mother.  After all the pain, the procedures, the heartbreak and the longing, I was going to be a Mum!!  Of course I barely got a wink of sleep.

 

I remember the car journey to the hospital at 5.30am vividly.  It was a hot summer day and the sun was rising.  I was terrified of the surgery but so joyful that I would meet my son in a few short hours.

Prep for a C Section is intense.  Showers with disinfecting soap, IV line (which they couldn’t get in due to my tiny veins – ouch!), ultrasound to check baby was still breach then off to the OR where they did the Spinal.  Nobody is allowed in the room with you until after the spinal so that was scary for me.  The anesthesiologist was amazing and talked me through everything.  My surgeon (whom I had hand selected based on his reputation for being a perfectionist) was also wonderful and talked me through what was about to happen.  He even sang me a song!

Once the spinal was done my Mother was brought in.  The sensation of losing your legs is horrible.  I’m not gonna lie… I found the whole thing terrifying.  The tugging and pulling, each second felt like 5 minutes.  I had no idea how much sensation there would be.  There was no pain but I felt like a corpse.  My Mother talked me down and my anesthesiologist talked me through it.  Finally after what felt like 3 hours my son emerged and his high pitched screams filled the room!  He had what is known as a ‘gentle c section’ which means that he had pushed himself out of the incision rather than being tugged.  The cord clamping was slightly delayed too and my placenta was saved for me and encapsulated later that day.

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My Newborn Son, a few minutes old. Cutest Squish!

Unfortunately both of our temperatures had dropped significantly during the birth and he had to be placed under the heat lamp for a few minutes whilst we were both warmed up.  They held him up for a moment so I could see him under the heat lamp but I didn’t see his face again for an hour.  Once they put him on me, under blankets, I wasn’t allowed to look at him as we had to be kept warm.  I didn’t mind.  My son was on my chest and I could feel his little movements from the outside.  He was so familiar to me.  I was filled with endorphins and overwhelming, completing love.

It took a while to stitch me up, I went through the shakes (before my son was brought to me) but it was finally over and I left the OR one blissfully happy Mother!

 

On the craziness that is pregnancy

When you are trying to get pregnant and are in the dreaded two week wait it’s impossible not to symptom spot:  Are my boobs more sore than usual?  Am I feeling extra tired?  Is that an implantation cramp that I just felt?  And then of course you google pregnancy symptoms as though the internet may hold the key to giving you a positive result before any pee stick stands a chance.

On the two occasions that I turned out to be pregnant the biggest symptom that I had was a complete lack of symptoms.  I felt totally and utterly normal.  It felt like my period was just around the corner.  I felt slightly crampy and my boobs felt exactly the same as they always do – indifferent to the prods they were receiving.

And that’s when I started to realize that pregnancy is different for everyone and that I was one of those oddities who would get more of the bizarre symptoms and none of the ones you hear about all the time.

I never had morning sickness!

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About 7.5 months pregnant before my foot got too fat.


When you’ve invested so much in having a baby you expect to feel sick.  I never did and whilst I was grateful I was also a little disappointed that I didn’t experience it!  The only thing remotely similar to this was my myriad of food aversions.  If it weren’t for Jarlsberg cheese and Granny Smith apples, I don’t know how I would have survived!

I work in a restaurant and it smelled like a sewage farm to me when I was in my first trimester.  It didn’t make me feel sick, just repulsed.  It was hard to be chirpy when the horror that people could actually eat there was constantly lurking!!

I wasn’t tired.
My energy levels didn’t shift at all during my first trimester.  Maybe I was running on the adrenaline of finally being pregnant… who knows.  I kept waiting for the waves of fatigue to overcome me but it didn’t happen until the last 6 weeks or so and I blame that more on the searing heat of our Summer that year.

Pregnancy Rhinitis.
Imagine having a cold for 6 months with post nasal drip constantly.  That was me.  It was gross.  I was so horrified in myself as I became a secret spitter.  It was the only way to expel the copious excess fluids rolling around in my sinuses.

Photosensitivity
Ever been sunburned at the beginning of April?  I ate my lunch outside on a beautiful (rare) sunny day.  I was out there maybe 30 minutes.  I got so sunburned!!!  I was peeling a week later.  Under normal circumstances this would never have happened.  Lesson learned – I stayed in the shade for the rest of my pregnancy.

Goddess.

2 weeks before birth. Guilded in gold and feeling like a Greek goddess!

I didn’t love feeling the baby move
I was one of those anomalies who felt their babies super early.  In fact I first felt him move at 11 weeks.  I felt crazy so didn’t tell anyone but I can remember it vividly.  I was having my flu shot when I felt an intense tickly sensation down my side in two movements.  It wasn’t until 3 weeks later when that sensation became constant that I realized it had been my baby.

There is something wonderfully reassuring when you feel the life you’ve created moving around inside of you.  I also found it scary.  Plus I’m very ticklish so I didn’t love it.  When he was really active I would silently tell him “thanks for letting me know you’re safe, do you mind keeping still now?”

Fat Foot
Some women blow up like a tick when they’re near the end of their pregnancies.  Water retention is no joke.  Apparently the only part of my body that wanted to participate in this rite of passage was my left foot.  I only have half a uterus and it’s the left half.  Maybe that means that I carried more weight on the left and that’s why I swelled on that side?  It was very painful.  Flip flops were my friend.  Work became tough and I ended up stopping when I was 34 weeks pregnant as I just couldn’t be on my feet anymore.

And that was it.  Being pregnant felt remarkably like not being pregnant except I had crazy alien movements going on in my belly.  I was really lucky!  But then I’d been very unlucky for the past couple of years so I deserved some luck finally.

Experiencing Infertility PTSD (part 1 – pregnancy)

You would think that the joy of being pregnant would erase the traumatic ordeal that had been infertility.

It didn’t.

Don’t get me wrong.  I was overwhelmed with happiness that I was finally pregnant, but I was also consumed by fear.  I’m aware that most women experience fear of loss. Pregnancy is scary.   However, I truly believe fear is compounded when you’ve had a loss or gone through infertility (or worse, both).

The desire to be a Mother was so encompassing that I couldn’t imagine living without realizing this dream.  Every ounce of my future happiness was dependent upon the growing life inside of me.  It was hard to shake the thought of something happening to my baby.  I feared what I might become if I experienced another loss.  I was out of funds, energy and hope.  If I lost this pregnancy I knew that I’d become bitter, hopeless and depressed.

There is a weird limbo to being pregnant after you’ve fought an infertility diagnosis.  You have a foot tentatively in both worlds.  Until there’s a baby in arms, it’s hard to get your mind out of the world you’ve just left.  You’re so used to being entrenched in it.

In spite of this, I LOVED being pregnant.  I embraced my changing shape.  I documented each month by going to a local photographer.  I wore the most figure hugging clothes.  I embraced the light whilst silencing the black fear that lurked beneath the surface.  I was conscious of being as positive as possible to infuse my future son with as much bright energy as I could.  And I was genuinely happy.

I didn’t equate being pregnant with having a baby though.  I know this sounds insane.  It felt like it was happening to someone else, not me.  Ultrasounds were an out of body experience.  That baby was actually inside of me?  I couldn’t wrap my head around it.  And while I loved being pregnant and was beyond excited to be a Mother, I didn’t believe it was going to happen until I was on the operating table waiting for him to be born.  There is nothing like a surgeons knife to give me a reality check!

Before that flesh and blood boy was placed on my chest I had fully pictured him only as a cartoon character.  A Pinocchio of sorts.  Like I was the Geppetto wishing for my real boy and never computing he was there all along.

Once my son was in my sight I knew him.  It was him all along.  I knew who he was and I loved him beyond anything I felt possible.  The relief… now I could see him, touch him and hold him it felt like I finally had control.  Infertility was behind me.

It’s one of the hardest things to explain to anyone other than a person who has lived through it.   I named it infertility PTSD but have since discovered that its a recognized syndrome.  I was never diagnosed with having it but there’s no other way to describe how it felt than this.

I thought these feelings would disappear once my son was born but in a strange way they actually just changed shape.  I think they’ll always be with me in some form.

I’d love to hear from others who have had these feelings.  How long did they last for you and did you feel like they changed once the baby was born?