Wednesday, February 18, 2009

ABC Love

We are walking home from school, and I wish for the zillionth time that I possessed octopus arms. Why Muffin’s school bedding, 7 paintings (“No, Mommy, we can’t put it in your purse – it will get bent!”), and a recycled items sculpture all need to go home on the same day is beyond me but they always do. Muffin’s hands are occupied with a tiny pack of gummy bears, a souvenir from a classmate’s trip to Germany. Although I’ve never been there, I silently salute Deutshland for sponsoring this whine-free walk home.

We pop into the bodega to pick out a few items for dinner. I forget to grab a basket on the way in, so since I cannot spare the seven seconds it would take to go back, I start balancing groceries awkwardly in the crook of my elbow. Muffin is, as normal, ignoring my pleas to stick close, so I scan the aisles for her as I look for the items I need. My arms begin to ache, I’m fuzzy on the five ingredients I need (but I know there are five!), and I’m not entirely sure where my child is. I fantasize that I am not pregnant and can have a nerve-settling glass of wine when I get home.

Finally we rendezvous at the front of the store, and get in “line.” I use quotes because there’s no actual check-out line, people just wait uncertainly in the narrow aisles, right in the path of shoppers. Muffin and I get close to the register. I choose this moment to lose my grip on the pile of artwork, and it flutters to the ground in every direction. The other customers are treated to the balletic display of a pregnant woman attempting to bend at the waist gracefully while simultaneously holding canned goods and explaining why 3-year-olds may not have gum. I’m sorry to say there is grunting.

I force myself to smile and notice Muffin has polished off the gummy bears. Hoping to lighten my mood, I fall back on the same gag the Canuck and I have been doing forever: wait until she’s done, and then lay on the guilt.

“Hey, you didn’t even save any for me? But I looooove gummy bears.”

I realize she is not technically finished when, to my surprise, she pulls a shiny, headless bear from her mouth. Her eyes are solemn as she holds it out for me. She’s not calling my bluff, she’s giving me her last precious (partially chewed) gummy bear. I could not have been more touched if she'd offered a kidney.

I am the epitome of every frazzled working mom cliche in the world, but man, is she so way worth it. I am at the front of the line now, with people tapping their feet behind me, but I bend down to give her a long squeeze.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

22nd's Time's a Charm

Due August 15.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Staring Down Adoption

I’ve always said I might like to adopt someday. A lot of people do. How easy it is to imagine the best version of myself when it’s all theoretical.

We decided to try Clomid, but that was as far as we wanted to go with fertility treatments. With one biological child, I could accept missing the pregnancy experience this time around. And instead of IVF, it just seemed to make more sense to put our dollars into adoption, which would almost certainly result in a child. We could only do the Clomid for three to six months, and adoptions can take several years, so we figured we might as well pursue adoption at the same time. We’d know about a pregnancy well before we got a match.

I threw myself into research, talking to everyone I knew who’d done it, zeroing in on recommended agencies and familiarizing myself with the complicated process. I was very interested in adopting from a poor country and giving a child a chance for a much better life. I love my work, but it nags at me that I do nothing to make the world a better place (I don't think knowing how to pick a chic diaper bag qualifies). Here was my chance to make a difference – all the difference – to one kid. I zeroed in on Ethiopia, one of the most open countries right now, with infants available. I’d always had an interest in visiting Africa, and adoptions there could be completed fairly quickly with just one short visit.

Navigating the process was one thing. Wrapping my head around the idea was another. It seemed preposterous; I was going to travel somewhere, pick up a random kid, and they'd be mine forever? I looked at my friend’s kids, and tried to imagine them as my own. I never doubted I would adore my own flesh and blood, but what if the connection wasn’t there with an adopted child? It wasn’t something I could undo. I looked at the adoptive parents I knew, and they loved their kids just like I loved Muffin, although some admitted the infatuation was not instant. Still, it was hard to picture it.

The more I turned it around in my brain, the more I faced cringe-worthy truths about myself. A co-worker freaked me out with her story about how her daughter from Ethiopia spent her first weeks in the US in the ICU. That girl was her second match – the first had died before she could be adopted. Although you can specify if you’re unwilling to take on a special needs child, many still slip through the cracks due to a lack of competent doctors who can diagnose properly. And even relatively healthy kids can have many initial problems due to prenatal malnutrition. If Muffin became ill I’d drop everything to be by her side. But signing up to take that on, when I already had one kid who needed me and a career I loved – I had to admit I wasn’t up for it.

I also had to own up to some disturbingly shallow motivations. Ethiopian children seem to be exceptionally beautiful, and that eased some of my fears about bonding. Surely a gorgeous face would be easier to love. And I had to admit – ugh -- that I relished the idea of how the world would see me. A child of a different race would broadcast that I was a selfless, do-gooding, Angelina type. These were seriously pathetic reasons to adopt. I couldn’t decide if the ridiculous reasons negated the decent ones.

A chat with an old friend from college who’d adopted a son from Ethiopian jarred me into reality. She said a day didn’t go by that someone didn’t make a rude comment or a nosy query. She could never just be a mom with her kid. She also expected major identity issues in the teenage years, and planned to move to a mostly African-American neighborhood so her son could be surrounded by faces that resembled his own. I looked at my own network of friends and acquaintances and found it pretty vanilla. How would it feel to not only look totally different than your parents, but to have a sibling that was pretty much a carbon copy?

Even the thought of adopting a kid who looked more like us didn’t ease my fears. Wasn’t it still a crap shootin the end? What if I got a bad seed? I know from personal experience that biological siblings can be night and day, but still the false security is comforting. I wanted Muffin 2.0.

For someone with little belief in fate, adoption was going to be a quantum leap for me. But with big risks come big rewards. I had the same feeling I used to have when I was a teenager just starting to date – totally petrified of what might happen but pusling with excitement just the same. We signed up for meetings with domestic and international agencies – and filled the Clomid prescription.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Secondary Infertility: Who Knew?

How can someone who’s already had a baby be infertile? It was the most ridiculous thing I'd ever heard.

Many women have all the same tests I did and get no kind of answer. They are left to wonder if perhaps it really is just a matter of "relaxing" and "letting it happen." At least I knew I wasn't crazy, and I had a reason.

Perhaps I was always hormonally a little off and just got lucky the first time around. I doubted that, because I was briefly pregnant before Chloe (2 pregnancies in 8 months, not too shabby) but then again maybe this explained why I’d miscarried early on. My doctor said she wouldn’t have expected me to be having this issue at 33 years of age, but of course I am rapidly reaching – ugh – “advanced maternal age” and that wasn’t helping matters.

“Listen, I wouldn’t say that you could never ever get pregnant,” said my doctor. “But if it does happen, it will probably take a very long time.” She recommended Clomid. I immediately thought of Jon and Kate Plus 8, which has me petrified of multiples. That money shot of her Frankenbelly in the opening credits is like a car accident you can’t look away from. My OB explained the chance of multiples – mostly likely twins -- was 10%. She said I could totally do twins. I realized she didn’t know me very well.

What had happened in the last 4 years to mess with my fertility? I spent a lot of time wondering if anxiety was somehow depressing my lady parts. I have found the rhythm of the preschool years very challenging (drop-off and pick-up book-end my day with stressy subway rides) and I work in a much more intense work environment than I have previously. I find very little time for girlfriends, and with no close mommy friends with kids of the same age, I generally just let those days where I am pretty sure I am a total fraud of a mom fester and eat away at me. I don’t roll with the punches and can’t really pull off Zen. And then there was that cookie(s)-a-day habit, which unfortunately was not counter-balanced by a steady exercise routine. But I didn’t smoke, drank moderately and have never done drugs of any kind. And despite the chaotic pace, I am madly in love with my life and my family. Still, I couldn’t help wondering: Had I done this to myself?

(Ohh, that felt a little Carrie Bradshaw, if she ever wrote about something as unsexy as infertility)

I’ve always thought fertility science was a landmine. It seemed that there was a high probability that you’d have to make some awful decision about reducing multiples, or deciding just how bankrupt you want to make yourself chasing after pregnancy. And I hate even little decisions, not to mention thorny, life-altering one with multiple levels of moral ambiguity. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t fault anyone who’s experienced baby lust and made their way through the infertility funhouse in hot pursuit -- I just hoped I’d never have to go there.

And yet here I was, realizing if I wanted another biological child, I probably had no choice. My doc mentioned she could reduce if it was multiples but I knew in my heart I just couldn’t. And I also knew that if I had twins, somewhere down the road, probably after many years of no sleep, few vacations and stretch marks that look like a cougar mauled my belly, I would think back and realize that everything always somehow works out in the way you want it to, even if you're fuzzy on what you really want.

Or maybe that was a convenient theory to have when you've lost control over your reproductive destiny. But I'll take it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Remember that time I wrote about how I wasn’t sure I was ready to have another baby?

Soon after I wrote that, the Canuck and I decided to have another baby. I’m tricky like that. Freak in overblown manner, discuss ad nauseum, come to terms, make decision. That is my way.

Nine months later, I was in my OB’s office for my annual. I mentioned casually that I had been trying to get pregnant but wasn't having any luck. I wasn’t too worried because clearly I had the reproductive goods, and anyway it had taken 8 months to conceive Chloe, so this was only a little longer than that. “Huh,” she said. “If you’re not pregnant in three months, I want you to come back for some tests.”

Three months later, nada, not even a chemical pregnancy. We started the work-up. First, the Canuck took his lunch hour for a little love in the afternoon at Repro Lab. He would like you to know all his boys are the Michael Phelps of sperm. I was up next. I was a champion ovulator – check. My ovaries weren’t shriveling up – check. There was no fallopian tube blockage (oh do ask me over cocktails some time about the 18-inch catheter they put up my hoo-ha to help them make that determination) – check. However, blood tests revealed that I was woefully low in progesterone. A successful pregnancy usually requires at least a level of 15. I was a 7.

“Dx: Infertility” she wrote on my file.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Free Diapers, Size 5

The big girl underwear has landed.

Muffin potty-trained about a month ago. I wish I could say I figured out some brilliant no-fail system or that I was able to use some maternal Jedi mind tricks to sense that unlike the other 87 times we tried, she was now finally ready. But the truth is that my parents came to visit for the weekend, and Muffin wanted to dazzle them with her mad potty skillz, so she whizzed up a storm. We put her back in diapers for the school week, but then picked up the training again the following weekend. I kind of couldn’t believe it worked, to tell you the truth. On Monday, Muffin arrived at school, resplendent in panties and high-fiving her teachers. Except for one on-the-DL poop in the closet and a few nap-related leaks, she’s been pretty much accident-free. Goodbye, diaper bubble bum, hello baby plumber’s butt.

Cue the Sunrise, Sunset, but nothing drives home the point that Muffin's growing up more than seeing her wipe her own bum. But aside from fleeting moments of my baby! nostalgia, having a potty-trained kid rocks my world. I love getting rid of the diaper pail, and with it the Eau de Poop that hit you every time you walked into her room. I adore the so-cute-it-hurts underwear, all rainbows and hearts and poodles. I can’t get enough of the tender way she asks me every time we’re in a public bathroom, will you hold me so I don’t fall? And then, our faces close together, we make bets if this one’s a loud flusher or a quiet one.

I am also rather surprised at myself for embracing the whole process so easily. Before I became a mom, I cringed at the idea of using a cutesy word like “potty” or of needing to explain about girl parts and boy parts. (I probably haven’t done such a good job with the latter, because she insists only boys have butts). But I experience no shame or embarrassment (Exhibit A: this blog entry). When Muffin calls me over to the toilet to look at what she’s produced, I oohh and aahh without a bit of irony. I swear I could be having tea with the queen in Buckingham Palace but if Muffin started up with that suspicious leg-crossing action, I would not hesitate for a moment to ask her if she has to make pee-pee on the potty. And then I would smile proudly.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Top Three Weirdest Things My Kid Said to Me Today

3. "I love you, crazy baby Santa."

2. "I have a puppy in my tummy -- a boy puppy and a baby!"

1. "I use my toothbrush on my bum."