PAIL Inspired Post: “Marriage 1st, Child 2nd?”

Since Bean’s conception, or perhaps even before, I have always put her first…husband second, me third.  Has that been the right decision, or even a healthy one?  Perhaps not, but it’s what the women who came before me did, it is the example set by friends, family, parenting books and the media, and it is all I seem to know how to do.   

If I were to be honest with myself, I would have to admit to feeling resentful at times…not resentful of Bean exactly, but resentful of those who get to think about themselves and their husbands first, those whose husbands still think of them first before anyone, and those whose marriages are still young, unencumbered and romantic.

For us, romance is my husband canceling a meeting to come home “early” to help out, when I’m already an exhausted wreck by 11am.  Romance is letting the other partner sleep an extra 30 minutes on Saturday morning by volunteering to “keep the baby”.  There are still flowers and chocolates on Valentines Day, but the real romance is waking to find my husband has already emptied the dishwasher.

I think we’ve mainly forgotten how to be romantic, either that or we are just too tired and busy.  There is always something to do, some list of chores or some work to complete before bedtime. 

Date night was supposed to be a priority…we promised each other back before Bean was born…yet it got lost in the tidal wave of parenthood.  We realized it was really expensive to have a babysitter AND pay for dinner, AND parking, and I guess it was also hard to coordinate.  It was easier, and cheaper to stay at home, and have a date night here.  It didn’t occur to us that this would lead to “date night” becoming just like every other night, except with the added stress to somehow make it special regardless of how hard and tiring the day might have been.

When we were dealing with infertility and IVF, we had so many conversations about “US”…the realization quickly dawning that infertility had drained us of everything but an extreme focus on having a baby.  We weren’t making time for each other, for the other things in our lives.  We weren’t having fun with each other.  We were sad, frustrated and socially isolated.  The result was we became closer as a couple, and we worked harder on our marriage than ever before.  We were working for each others’ happiness, and we felt so in love and so in sync with one another.

Why shouldn’t we make the same commitment to each other now?  Why should Bean always be first and our union second?  Isn’t our marriage and our happiness together one of the best examples we can set for her?  Isn’t giving her all of ourselves, while giving our marriage nothing, just a path to spousal resentment and separation?

Perhaps it is time to start putting our marriage first, or at least alternating priorities on occasion.  Our family is only as strong as the marriage that created it, isn’t it?  I think it is time we remembered how to be romantic, and started making more time for each other even it that means letting Bean wait for our attention now and again.

 

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Play Dates & Puppy Dog Tails

playdate

As a sometimes lonely, full-time stay at home mom, I feel I’ve perhaps been conned into believing that maintaining my sanity means landing in the right play group. Bean is now 14 months old and so far the experience of doing just that has been a failed series of stops and starts. New part-time employment opportunities, nap schedule differences and viruses are the usual culprits, and other times…well, let’s just face it…the moms don’t have all that much to say to each other outside of comparing baby accomplishments and weaning issues.

I’ve tried Meetup.com groups, mommy & me classes, local family network listings, and plain old inviting friends for some chit chat and coffee, but somehow an official, regularly meeting group never gets past two or three meetings before falling to pieces and/or drifting apart.

I’m beginning to think that it’s all a myth. That the whole perfect playgroup ideal, in which the moms and babies all get along well, stay friends forever, plan excursions together, babysit each others kids, and get to experience each others major milestones – like an extended family – is all a lie created and perpetuated by Hollywood, book writers and my mom.

Am I really asking for so much? I know kids get sick, and skip naps and change your plans on you at the last possible moment, but lately I feel more like the heavens are aligning in perfect formation against my heartfelt attempts at boosting my happiness – and Bean’s as well – with a variety of amusing morning and/or afternoon companionship opportunities.

Perhaps this is just the effect of living in a place where most of the moms work, at least part time? Maybe it is my own fault for not being able to live near longtime friends and family who have young kids of their own? Maybe it’s just something I need to work even harder at, and eventually it will all come together? Or, worst of all, maybe it is a myth and I just need to find another tree to bark up altogether.

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Ode to a SAHM

I realized that my post yesterday was a bit out of the blue, and might have sounded down on the whole being a SAHM thing.  I wanted to express that I’m not at all anit-SAHM, and I’m actually incredibly grateful that I get to be a SAHM to Bean – now, while she is still a baby.  My point was more that I don’t know how to be a SAHM mom once Bean goes off to pre-school and I really want to go back to work at that time, but I don’t know how or what I even want to do.

My sister is a SAHM mom to two kids, and she is awesome at it.  Not only is she a child educator and a master of arts and crafts, she also has a song for everything, she home schools her children, bakes, cooks, decorates cakes, gardens, prepares natural soaps and cleansers using herbs gleaned from her backyard, sews all their Halloween costumes and knits their sweaters and hats for winter, hosts other home schooled children in her home for special learning/social activities, and in her spare time she helps run a small organization for promoting doulas and safe birthing.

A good friend of mine, also a SAHM to two kids, is also a master of arts and crafts, cake decorating and cooking, as well as being a kids birthday party planner extraordinaire, a child educator (in her previous life), and member of various community boards and organizations.  This is a woman who – at the request of her 4 year old – made a rainbow themed birthday party complete with homemade decorations, a cake of marbleized rainbow food dye, similar cake pops as take home gifts, rainbow jello prepared on slices of of orange peel to look like actual orange slices, and a rainbow tie-dying station. I would have probably ordered pizza, set up some games, a pinata, and a gift table, and picked up some decorations from Party City.

These are women who know how to be SAHM moms, and I just don’t fit the bill.  That is what I meant by not wanting to pretend to be something I’m not.  I’m home with Bean now, because she is little, and I want to be here with her; cuddling, laughing, wiping away the tears, seeing all the firsts, and recording everything to watch a million times over again.  I just can’t continue to be a SAHM mom once Bean starts preschool and leaves me for many hours at a time.  I’m simply not cut out for it.

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On becoming employable

When should I go back to work, and what do I do when I get there?

careerThat’s the problem, I don’t really know what I want to do, and anything that takes me away from Bean right now just seems so terribly unappetizing.  I know I need to go back to work at some point.  I can’t be a SAHM forever.  I’m already stir crazy, so what will I do once Bean starts school?  I don’t knit or garden or bake, I’m not very artistic or dedicated to the perfection of my home, I don’t throw elaborate birthday parties or make Halloween costumes, and I just don’t think I can make myself happy or fulfilled trying to be someone I’m not.  I still want to be there for Bean after school, I want to make sure she has nutritious food to eat each and every day, and I want to be available to help her with her homework, and pick her up from school when she’s sick, but truly I can’t stomach the idea of staying home all day while she is away somewhere else and not with me.  I need something else in my life, I need to work.

Now come the questions? What to do? How to start?  Where do I invest my time, money, concentration, hours away from Bean, and husband’s time spent watching Bean for me?  Do we put Bean in daycare part-time, or hire a nanny?  How do we afford that?  Will we ever be able to save enough money to make a more settled life for ourselves, buy a home, take a vacation?  Can I really afford to be first “finding myself” at the age of 31…too many questions problems, and not enough answers solutions.  Do I just go back to what I was doing before?  I can’t do that.  I need to feel I’m moving forward, not stepping back.

What did I do before?  I worked here and there in non profit and higher education.  Constantly uprooting myself and remaking my life over again, made for a real problem with advancing in my career beyond entry level placements at each place I went.  I am trained in…what am I trained in?  I studied psychology, anthropology, museum studies, and walked away with an MA, and then worked as an administrative/program assistant for various causes and colleges.  I handled finances, travel and calendars, grants and proposals, journals and special events…not what you would call an illustrious career I suppose, but it’s what I’ve got to work with.

I need to try thinking more clearly about all this, but when should I do that exactly?  Here is what just writing this is like…type type..”oink oink here, and an oink oink there,” type type…”Yes baby, that is a cat” type type, “no don’t touch that…”, type type, “what happened?” stop typing, pick up Bean, wipe tears, distract with toys, “are you hungry sweetie,” give up completely, stop typing.

Later…husband is home early and able to spend a few minutes watching the Bean, so I look up a random sampling of potential jobs related to a degrees in anthropology – a special thanks to the Rutgers University website:

Museum Curator: already went down this path and it sadly led to nowhere.

Anthropologist: Not happening at this stage in the game, plus there are reasons I never pursued my PhD in anthropology.

Business Manager: I’m guessing they list this for every major

Librarian: hmm, something I’m already thinking about but it requires I go back to school for  another Masters (read time+money+more time I don’t have).

Nonprofit agency administrator: oh, hey wait, that’s what I did for most of my post college life…nope, try again, not interested

Marriage Counselor: Okay, now they are just throwing out anything

Probation/Parole Officer: Really?  What part of anthropologist screams parole officer?

There are other choices as well, but I think you get my point…the info there is pretty useless, time to try another type of search.  But where to focus?  What to ask Google?

Should I contact old employers?  Won’t I just look confused and unsure of myself?  How is that helpful?

I feel so lost in all this, and like I’m forever asking questions but never getting any answers. Why does it feel like every other mom I know has a career they are going back to, and not just that but a career where they can make their own hours, and/or work part-time from home if they want?  Why isn’t anyone else searching and hunting or just wishing they had chosen a different major in college?   I know, I’m not really being fair here.  There are others in my circles who are searching and/or dealing with the difficulty of not being home with their little one when they would so want to, but somehow it just feels like I have no one to talk to about this, or any kind of guide to help me along.  I need a mentor, a friend, a teacher even…and while I’m at it, someone to watch Bean for just a minute or two.  I need help becoming employable again.

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I Believe?

I just spent a little time looking over some of the entries to the Dr. Sher “I Believe” video contest, and I can barely contain my emotions.  There isn’t a family on the list who doesn’t deserve a chance at IVF, and it is a cruel injustice that only two winners will be selected and even then they must find the money to cover medicines, frozen embyro transfers, embryo storage, etc.  I keep asking myself why we do we not have mandated infertility coverage across all states and why this incredibly successful treatment is not being made available to all who might benefit from it?

Watching the videos of couples who have lost not just one child to early miscarriage, but two or three, my heart truly breaks.  How do these families keep their hope and marriages alive, how do they keep moving forward with treatments and subsequent pregnancies?  These are warriors on the front lines of infertility, and I wish I could vote for all of them. 

Please check some of these videos out for yourself, and then vote and give one of these incredibly courageous families a fighting chance.

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Snowy Day Snowy Thoughts

It is December 1st, it’s chilly and cold, the snow is falling, and my baby girl is almost a year old.  It has been a whirlwind year and a beautiful one at that, and now the inevitable…when to start trying for baby number 2.

At first we were thinking to start trying when Bean turns 15/16 months, that way we will have 6 months or so to try on our own before the clock really starts to tick again.  I hope for her to be close in age to her sibling, but not so close that we still have a first born child who is pretty much still a baby when her sibling comes along.  It just doesn’t seem fair to Bean to do that; plus I might lose my mind under such a circumstance…already the husband is gone so much that I feel like a single parent much of week, and I really can’t imagine having a super curious toddler running about and constantly getting into mischief while I’m also trying to care for a newborn.

On the flip side I’m afraid of waiting…the fear started when I my period finally returned, and it’s only grown with each passing cycle…

…What if my cycles start getting worse and worse, just as they did after going off the pill?  Right now my cycles are somewhat stable, but already I’m seeing phase fluctuations and long cycles.  I just don’t know what to expect as the months march forward.  Also, with hubby traveling all the time, who is to say how often he’ll actually be around to try and make a baby when I’m ovulating?

For right now we are waiting, but should we be?  I mean, aren’t the chances of us conceiving on our own slim to nil anyhow?  Shouldn’t we at least stop preventing?  Then, there is the voice of reason that pops up to intercede…sometimes my own voice, and sometimes that of my hubby’s.  The voice reminds me of the “what if” factor.  What if we magically get pregnant on the first try and suddenly I am pregnant, home alone, and trying to run after a baby who is just learning to get into everything and go everywhere and still doesn’t understand the word “no”.  Furthermore, what does this picuture paint for Bean’s life? Isn’t it unfair to ask her to make sacrifices when she is still only a baby still herself?

Then, of course, the infertile voice steps in again and reminds me that it could only be a blessing if we conceived one our own.  How amazing to not have to share my TTC experience with a gaggle of doctors, nurses, technicians and other medical office assistants, right?  With so much guilt to see natural conception right now as only a good thing, how would we handle this blessed situation that we never really wanted — two babies in two years.  Then again, how much worse would the grief of waiting and finding out that a) my cycles have become worse, and/or b) we still can’t conceive on our own, be if I thought for a moment that not waiting could have changed the outcome.

Finally, what of my frozen embies?  I try to remember that there is a chance they may not even survive thawing, but I still think of them as mine and the thought of returning to my doctor to try and give them life seems now a natural process to go through to have a baby.  Really, I don’t know anything else…I never did conceive before IVF (we still don’t know exactly why).  What happens to those embies if I do conceive naturally, and what happens to me emotionally and physically if we try to use them but they don’t survive or simply don’t take?

It’s confusing, and nerve-wracking to try and make decisions about things that we really have so little actual control over.

I know I’m afraid of the pain of finding myself infertile once more.  I know most infertile people don’t suddenly find themselves fertile after a pregnancy, but the stories and rumors have somehow found a home in that part of my soul that shelters and feeds my hopes.  How could they not when I see the evidence of my body’s own “fertile” efforts everyday — my beautiful baby girl.  She was created with help, it’s true, but she was still made by my husband and me.  She is possible, so why can’t anything be possible, right?

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Blocked!

It’s been a few weeks now since my last post…I tried, really I did…I tried to write something for the PAIL book club, I tried to write about some baby products I enjoy, and about being a stay at home mom, but nothing was coming.  I was totally and completely blocked.

I think I’ve figured out the problem…I need to write about what is on my mind, my latest obsessions, the emotions that fuel me, and what keeps me awake at night.  I’m not very good at having set topics, or writing about what I think I should be writing about.  I just need to write.  Sometimes, that may mean writing about completely non-mommy or infertility related things, but I feel okay with that if it gets me actually writing more.

This post, however, is going to be about infertility.

I have a question to pose…I’m wondering if any of you would ever consider moving to a different state just to have fertility treatments covered under your health insurance plan…

I know it’s an odd thought, but hear me out.  When Shobhit (my husband, who I will now refer to simply as S) and I were going through our trying to conceive hell, we were living in Illinois – S was a student at Northwestern. Now, technically Illinois does have mandated coverage for infertility, but we were somehow left out of that mandate through our crappy student health insurance plan.

Perhaps we could have waited to pursue treatment, at least till after S graduated, but I think I might have lost my mind in the process…I had actually started getting better, mentally and physically (taking better care of myself) once I knew that we had a plan of action, and that we were going to move forward with treatments in the immediate future.  I was still obsessed with my infertility, yes, but I was able to channel that obsessive focus into getting off the sofa and out of my depression, finding a temp job to keep busy, researching the best clinics, understanding my body and what was happening, understanding the different types of fertility treatments and how they work, exploring therapy and various forms of meditation to help me stay positive and relax etc.  All that just from having a plan.

It got even better once we started seeing an actual RE.  I had an initial bad experience with our first RE, and a serious but short meltdown around the whole, “do not pass go, go straight to IVF,” announcement, but then everything started falling into place.  S and I were finally really on the same page, and willing to take on the debt and do whatever was necessary to make this all happen.  I felt loved and understood by him in a whole new way, and I just kept getting stronger.

By the time my medication arrived, I was fearless (at least in that moment).  It was all so exciting.  I was ready…I had researched every last thing in detail, and had tricked myself into thinking I had some kind of control over what would happen.  I didn’t of course, but it felt good to feel that way.

If we had waited, perhaps I would have only crumbled further, losing myself more and more into my depression…I can’t know this for sure, but I know myself pretty well and I just feel it would have gone that way.  We didn’t wait…we begged and borrowed, and took on more debt, but we also got lucky;  It worked, and it was all totally worth it in the end.

“Yea, I’m totally worth it!”

Anyway, we now live in Massachusetts, and we have great health coverage that will cover our future fertility treatments including IVF (with no conditions about how long we’ve been on the plan, etc.).  I no longer have to play games with my doctors over the wording on my healthcare forms – how to get this ultrasound covered, how to make that HSG appear to be for something not infertility related, etc.  I no longer have to worry about how we’re going to pay for every office visit, every sonogram, every medication.  It’s a huge weight off my shoulders.

We haven’t come yet to trying for a second child, but I at least feel safe that I can now start thinking about saving money – for a house, for Bean’s college tuition, a fancy vacation, etc. – even while knowing that I may have another round of RE visits and IVF treatments in my future.  It’s kind of a miracle.

So I can’t help but wonder, knowing how liberating and exceptional it is to live without that infertility treatment financial burden hanging over my head, would someone ever move here – or to another state with similar IVF coverage – just to take advantage of our infertility mandate.  If you could make the move, would you, or is it just too crazy an idea to consider?

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My own “Wordless Wednesday”

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Birth Control? Really? – PAIL July themed post!

PAIL July 2012 monthly themed post – Considerations on Family Planning

A few months back, during my final postpartum visit with my midwife, she asked me a question that took me entirely by surprise…”what are you and your husband thinking about in terms of child spacing and birth control?”  I was stunned, startled, speechless…to be honest, I just assumed I’d be lucky to get to have another child period.  I guess when you spend years and thousands of dollars struggling to conceive your first child, the concept of interrupting conception for any reason ever or of actually having any kind of control whatsoever over when your next child will be born, never really enters your mind.

After this little visit with the midwife, I went home and had a chat with my husband…

“Honey, do you think we should be worried about birth control?”  His answer, “Yes!”  Now, I understood where he was coming from…there was that whole WHAT IF factor, especially when I was still recovering from my labor and postpartum trauma.  What if we did get pregnant right away?  Sure, we want another child, but how would we manage having two in such quick succession? How would it affect my health?  How would it affect Simran’s happiness and sense of security?  Plus, we were just barely hanging on to our sanity, not to mention our finances: both completely sleep deprived, stressed, pushed to our limits…what would it do to us to throw another baby thrown into the mix?

Then again…a spontaneous pregnancy would be such a miracle…and perhaps the old saying holds, “beggars can’t be choosers.”  Shouldn’t we at least try, maybe give my body that chance; a little time to just forget about fertility tests, LH strips, temping, and just see what happens, knowing all along that if a year were to go by and we hadn’t yet conceived, no worries; we would have our answer with no time lost and could calmly head back to the RE ready for the road ahead?

Our “final” decision – heavily influenced by my husband who remains the more practical one of the two of us – barrier birth control until we are ready to start actively trying again; with the plan of starting again earlier than we might otherwise, so that if I don’t become pregnant within a year there is still less “time” pressure once we head back to the RE.

So, here I am, an infertility veteran at six months postpartum, using birth control.  It seems a bit odd and wrong, practical yes, but emotionally wrong.  I guess I “know” it’s the right thing for all of us, particularly for Bean, yet in my heart it just doesn’t feel like the right thing for me; call it fear, call it doubt, call it selfishness.  I guess in my heart of hearts, I’ve given over to the belief that infertiles don’t really get the luxury of family planning.  If you want another child, how can you ever stop trying?  If you do, and down the road you find yourself unable to conceive again, how will you live with yourself knowing that you missed a year or more of opportunities to make a baby…hell, I used to go mad missing just one cycle?

Now, in all honesty, I haven’t actually had my first postpartum period as yet.  I don’t know what that experience will do to me, or how it will make me feel (i.e., will I suddenly freak out, change my mind completely and insist on no birth control until we are completely done having kids).  I know this is a very personal thing for each woman who goes through it, and for each couple, but still I wish I had some guidance to go on.

My midwife was certainly no help in this arena…she is currently pregnant, after trying for about a second, and actually perfectly timed her pregnancy with another two midwives in her practice so that their maternity leaves will not overlap…oh the world I will never know.

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Baby Foodie

“Hi momma!”

A few weeks back, right after her 6 month birthday, I started Simran (AKA the Bean, see below, *1), on pureed solids.   Why purees, especially when baby-led weaning seems to be all the rage?  Well, I guess because my only experiments with using whole foods led to nothing but a rejected carrot stick and a freakishly horrifying moment watching Bean choke on a bit of potato(see below, *2) — after which I actually swore off all solids for her for life for about 24 hours (at that point my husband pointed out why that might actually be a problem).

Enter the Beaba Babycook…now some of you may be thinking, why buy such an expensive, unnecessary thing to clutter up an already cluttered kitchen counter?  Why not just use a steamer and your trusty blender or a food mill?  Here’s why: 1) I got it on sale, 2) I am not a cook, AT ALL, but I thought having a fancy, overpriced gadget would encourage me to actually make Simran’s food – which admittedly it did, and 3) I really liked that it uses minimal amounts of water and then preserves that water so you can add it back to the puree – thus retaining important nutrients.  Overall, the Beaba is cute, easy to use, does everything all in one little gadget, and it’s actually a good investment when compared with the cost of buying bottles and bottles of organic baby food.

So far, the results have been nothing short of awesome.  I have prepared carrots, squash, sugar snap peas,

“mmm..carrots”

beets (very messy), and zucchini, and Bean has loved it all.  These days she dances in her seat when she sees her bowl and spoon come out, and she seems to truly delight in the experience of having new flavors and textures to try all the time.  Even more amazing, buying all this locally grown, organic food for Bean has made me more conscious of what I eat on a regular basis, and it is encouraging me to not only eat better but to introduce a greater variety of fruits and vegetables into my own diet (for example, I now know what kale, kohlrabi, radish and beet all taste like, and how to use them in cooking…I know, sad that I didn’t know this before now).

Trying peaches for the first time

On top of all these yummy pureed veggies, I’ve been giving Bean a taste of various fruits – peaches, mango, banana – in her Kidsme Feeder.  This little guy is awesome; you just stick a bit of fruit or other food in it and the baby does the rest.  Bean loves trying out new flavors in it, and squishing the fruit through the holes either in her mouth or between her fingers.  It’s also great for teething, as you can put cold or frozen foods in the end and let your little one go to town on it without the fear of choking.

All in all, I would say that solid foods are going great for us.  It’s always fun to see how she reacts to new flavors, and what faces she makes when that first taste touches her tongue.  I thought about getting a baby food cookbook, but for these introductory foods it doesn’t seem to matter much.  I mix together flavors based on how strong a taste they have and whether they are more or less sweet, and Bean gobbles them all down with fairly equal levels of excitement – though she’s a bit partial to anything with bananas!

My recipe of the week:

Summer squash mixed with a few sugar snap peas for more flavor (shelled, the pod has a bit of a strong flavor I think for a food newbie) and a little bit of carrot for texture.  You can also just do just the squash and peas for a lighter mix.  The squash will cook for a shorter time than the peas and and peas a slightly shorter time than the carrots.

I’ll update again soon with any new and exciting blends I discover, just in case anyone wants to steal a recipe or two, and please post any of your favorites in the comments section, as we would love to try them!

*1 Since before she was born, I generally referred to Simran as Bean or Little Bean, not really sure why (maybe because we were keeping her name a secret) but it was long before reading “Bringing Up Bebe” so that was certainly not the influence…anyway, it always felt oddly formal referring to Bean as Simran so often on this blog, so I’ve decided to start using Bean with more frequency while writing about her here. *

*2 Just making sure it’s clear that I did not actually try baby-led weaning, which I think is actually a really interesting and viable method of introducing solids.  I just witnessed Bean’s reaction to these two foods, freaked out a little and rejected the whole method outright out of my own neuroses about choking.*

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