Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Minority

If you are still in the TTC trenches, you may want to skip this post. Please take care of yourself.

When I first figured out I was infertile, I felt a deep sense of isolation.  Especially after my miscarriage. Of course, at the time, many friends were already pregnant and some already had children. I was one of the few in my circle who was trying without success. There was so much shame, embarrassment, and envy. Every time I secretly found out someone I knew was also infertile, it felt like a covert mission to let her know, "Me too! Me too!" The blogosphere became my safe place. It also became the source of several very close friendships that remain so crucial for me to this day. But the source of that closeness always has a hint of sadness. Because, when you make friends under such awful circumstances, there is that sense of knowing that the issue that brought you close remains, on the back burner.

Then, there was Little Fab. With our miracle baby, we agreed to hope for/try for at-least-one-more miracle, to make our family complete. We both have siblings. We want a sibling(s) for LF. Done.

As I adjusted to motherhood, some of that isolation from infertility went away. My focus was totally changed, and the kind of support I needed was as well. Instead of needing to crawl my way through infertility, I could put all of that on hold. I could focus on becoming the parent I want to be and on raising my sweet boy without worrying about injections, ultrasounds, and procedures. For the last two years, I've enjoyed leaning on both my existing circle of fantastic friends, as well as many new ones, in the best way. To feel a part of the community I so desperately wanted to join has been an amazing blessing.

But, lately I've been feeling some of that loneliness creeping back in. As more and more people I know (both infertile and not) have had or are pregnant with their second (and sometimes third) child, I find myself entrenched in self-doubt, uncertainty, and isolation. Again.

There are a few levels to these emotions. On the surface, there is the obvious: I am still infertile. I do not ovulate. My ovaries are ridiculously dormant without injectable medication. My PCOS did not magically resolve after the birth of my boy. Really, nothing has changed on that front. Secondly, we are lucky enough to have some frozen embryos in storage. But, there is no guarantee that an FET will work. It is all a taxing, emotional, physical gamble. Thirdly, there is also a new financial consideration to this, thanks to changes to my insurance. (Even though I live in a state where infertility coverage is mandated, that does not mean we do not have huge deductibles and fees.)

But, those aren't the core issue.

The real problem is that I am not 100% sure I can do this again, or that I want to. I may be imagining this, but somehow I feel like because I am an infertile, I am supposed to want as many children as I can possibly carry. I am supposed to go right back into the game, blazing with enthusiasm.

Except, I'm not.

Having LF has been the most rewarding and amazing experience of my life. I love this kid with my entire heart. He is a piece of me, walking running around on two legs. He is smart, beautiful, funny, charming, and everything else you could want in a child.

But, I have no words for how much I underestimated how tough parenting would be - especially the first year. There was reflux. There were no naps. There was crippling postpartum depression and anxiety. There is STILL postpartum anxiety. There was a deep sense of losing myself and not knowing how to get myself back. I ended up back in intensive therapy and worked very hard to regain some semblance of a normal life.

As LF has gotten a little older, many of those issues resolved. He felt better. I felt better. Life stabilized and has actually gotten really fun.

We are happy.

What if adding another baby fucks all of that up? What if I fall back into that hole? What if there is not enough of me to go around?

I feel like the clock is ticking, too. If we start the FET process next spring (the current plan), LF will be around 4 (maybe a little less, maybe more) when another baby is born, assuming it is successful. That is less age difference than my sister and I have, but more than many first and second siblings. Will they get along? Will they hate each other? Again, you never know. We are constantly asked, "So when are you going to go for #2?" Like we are not meeting the schedule we are supposed to be on.

I'm embarrassed to admit these feelings and certainly know how lucky I am to have what I have. I know so many people don't have a choice about this. But there it is. Every time we are on the playground (or with friends with more than one kid) I see mothers doing it - spreading their love, attention, and energy to multiple children. I constantly sit and ask myself how they do it. How do they look so together? How are they standing without an IV of caffeine?

I feel really alone with these emotions, like I am once again in the minority. Most moms want another baby. Most infertiles would kill to have another. Right?

So what the hell is wrong with me?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Rules

I've broken a few rules in my day. You wouldn't guess to look at me now, the suburban mom I am, but it's true.

There were tattoos, punk shows, illegal substances, and various other daring adventures that made my younger years a tad exhilarating.

But really, when it comes down to it, I am a pretty straight and narrow kind of person at heart. Even while I was engaging in all that fun stuff, I worked, got good grades, graduated college and grad school, and generally showed what a responsible citizen I was.

I can't help it - I always really want to do what's right, no matter what the situation. I want to follow through on what is expected of me. To be truthful, I get annoyed when others don't.

I use my turn signal.
I wear my seat belt.
I show up on time.
I answer emails promptly. Mostly.

I. Follow. Rules.

Hell, I usually fess up to KG about tiny infractions, just to ease my conscience. I have a serious Jiminy Cricket inside of me, for better or for worse.

I've written before about how much of a test parenting is. Parents are constantly faced with open-ended problems that have no simple solution, only a "do whatever you think is best" type of response.

It starts during pregnancy with: "How much weight should you gain? "What should you eat/not eat?" Then there is the: "Will you breastfeed? Will you cloth diaper? Will you co-sleep? Will you practice Attachment Parenting?" Then it moves to: "Will you sleep train/CIO? When will you start solids? Will you do purees or Baby Led Weaning?" There are no rules on these things. You are supposed to just go on gut feeling. Really, it's anarchy. This drove my rule-driven sensibility insane.

On other things baby-related, there are some rules, or at least guidelines. Those pesky emails from fun parenting resource websites love to remind me of these.
Is your baby doing...?
Has your child started...?
Have you stopped...?

You know, just to make me slightly more paranoid about meeting expectations than I already am.

There are many rules I follow, especially about sleep, sunblock, and general safety related things. Those are non-negotiable. But some things, I'm figuring out, I need to be less rigid about in order to make our day to day work for all of us.

So here it goes:

Well, annoying-parenting-website-who-shall-remain-nameless: we are breaking some rules in our house. Gasp. 

I confess: my son is over 12 months (18 and a half thank you) and we are still on 2 bottles a day, morning and bedtime. And...he doesn't hold his own bottle. Never has and probably never will. We cuddle and he drinks his milk. And yes, we've tried sippy cups of milk and it is a no go.

The horror.

Confession 2: We eat snacks (and sometimes meals) while playing, and not in the high chair. Yup, he grabs a bite, plays, rinse, repeat. Does it make a mess? Yes. Does he eat more snack this way than trying to get him in the high chair 5 times a day? Yes.  If I can get him to eat in the chair 2-3 times a day I feel victorious.

Chaos I tell you.

Confession 3: We do screen time under the age of 2. There is Sesame Street. There is Curious George. There is Max and Ruby. There is Bubble Guppies. Not all day, but enough so KG and I can shower, make coffee, and get dressed. 

How dare we!

I could go on, but you get the idea.

That doesn't mean I don't have guilt about these things. Clearly, I am writing about them here, purging myself. But maybe I need to ease up on myself a bit, as several people from my mother's generation have told me. I've been such a stickler for rules my whole life, but times are changing. I am changing.

Who knew I had it in me?

What are the parenting "rules" that you break?