Follow me on the crazy, hopeful, discouraging, funny, and ultimately successful (one way or another) path to parenthood while facing infertility.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

My Sick Sense of Humor Strikes Again

As an infertile woman, doctor's appointments suck. I have decided that from now on I am going to put the date range 2010-2014 and just list the number of egg retrievals, hysteroscopies, laparoscopies, and one very exciting pericentesis (thank you, Ovarian HyperStimulation Syndrome!) under "Surgeries," because it's just easier than listing them singly for each one, and far less depressing to lump them together than to give them the individual attention separate boxes would imply. I hate getting X-rays (as a clumsy woman, this happens more frequent than I'd like) and having to always answer the technician's question "Could you be pregnant?" with "NOT A CHANCE IN THE WORLD." I really, really love it when they ask me, "Are you SURE?"

But today, today I had the experience of an echocardiogram and a holter monitor adhered to my ladies, because I've been having stupid heart palpitations again. I had them a long, long time ago in my early twenties, and then they settled down, and then this past November had them ramping up quite a bit. I went to the regular doctor, had a bunch of bloodwork done, had all the symptoms of a thyroid issue, but bloodwork didn't support it. (In a weird way I was sort of hoping that was it and that that could be a sneaky reason why our last cycles didn't work at all, and why I am on the flubbier side, but nope. All the thyroid testing at the clinics we went to wasn't wrong, it definitely wasn't my thyroid. I get to blame my flubbiness on PCOS and love of good food only, sigh. Please note in no way am I wishing for a thyroid disorder here or diminishing those who have one.) Bloodwork did say I was borderline low for B12 and low for Vitamin D, so I started taking B12 lozenges that dissolve in your mouth, hopefully making absorption easier for this celiac dame, and became more diligent about the 2000 daily IUs of Vitamin D (not lozenge, maybe that's why it was still low?).

And for a while, the fluttering seemed to calm itself down. But about two weeks ago, I once again had the bird in my chest, or the more disconcerting feeling of a sudden vacuum, like someone is doing chest compressions that you definitely don't need and stealing beats from you.

It's probably nothing more than anxiety and possibly caffeine. I will cry if I need to quit the coffee altogether. It's just so necessary when you have to be on at 7:40 am and sometimes have parent meetings at 7:15 (which is cruel, by the way). What do I have to be anxious about? Oh, just school starting back up and the adoption process and saying goodbye to our embryos and stuff, no biggie. But, heart disease runs in my family and with an uncle who had a heart attack in his 40s and me recently entering my 40s, it's probably not a bad idea to make sure it's nothing more nefarious.

Here's where my sick sense of humor kicks in...

An echocardiogram is basically an ultrasound of your heart. It is incredibly cool, because you get to see your valves working away, which look like little trapdoors opening and closing, or a little weird muppet guy jumping up and down on a tube. At least that's kind of what it looked like to me. There's pretty red and blue colors, there's the sound of your heart beating from different angles, the swishing of blood, and just a really great view from so many sides of your hardest working muscle.

So I'm lying there on the table, watching my heart and its valves doing its thing, and hearing the weird sound of the beat from time to time, and I can't help myself.

"You know, after 5 1/2 years of infertility treatments, it's kind of funny that this is the first time I've seen a heartbeat on an ultrasound. It just happens to be mine."

Luckily I'd already mentioned the adoption process, so it wasn't totally out of left field, but WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? Why couldn't I just think that thought and leave it in my mind, instead of subjecting my dark humor on others? It was just an irony I couldn't leave alone.

It wasn't quite the same, as the transducer is going all over your chest, neck, and upper stomach and not lower where you would suss out a baby, but it a was a funny feeling nonetheless.

Well, funny to me, anyway.

(I also said my greatest fear is to have that hole in the heart thing that Barb.ara Her.shey had in Bea.ches, and the ultrasound technician said if anything was seriously wrong I'd know right then because she'd call the cardiologist in, so I said, "Whew! Plus, I mean, she really looked like shit when she collapsed and was diagnosed, so I guess I'm okay there." Thank goodness she laughed, because I am not a model or anything but I do have color in my face and lips.)

I have the joy of not showering for the next 48 hours as I have a holter monitor to hopefully catch the fluttering so they can see what it is, and I have to wear bigger t-shirts because while the monitor is way smaller than it used to be (like the original iPod with wires on your skin!), it still leaves weird lumpiness under my chest from the wires and it has to be a highnecked shirt kind of situation since there's an electrode fairly high near my collarbone. This is where I am thankful for huge boobs. I can hide quite a bit of this equipment in the space between, which is nice. It just goes a bit lower than the valley of the girls will conceal.

Well, that's my story of the day. I didn't appear to horrify the ultrasound tech too much, and I managed to keep my mouth shut while being hooked up with electrodes around my bra (huzzah for being able to wear a bra with this thing!). I guess if I horrify only one person today it will be a good day.

Monday, August 22, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: That Back To School Slide Show

It's that time of year again, and I sent off my picture(s) for the annual Back to School Staff Slide Show, and try to find something that wasn't already on Facebook and that doesn't make me feel sad about life.

In previous years this has been extremely difficult. I enjoy looking at all the new babies, people with new pregnancies, families out and about -- except it's literally watching the passage of time, the evolution of people's lives, the bellies that are now babies and the babies that are toddlers and so on. It's just a little depressing when you are continuously static in your pictures...unless you count the fact that I am ever so slightly chubbier with every passing year.

It's not just me, either -- I have a friend who is in her late thirties and single, and the slideshow is a parading of weddings and couples and families that show how her pictures are static, too.

Blah blah blah comparison is the thief of joy blah blah, it's more the contrast, the stark difference, between your stasis and everyone else's forward movement and constant change and procreating everywhere that can make a body feel a bit low at what's supposed to be a fun, celebratory kickoff day.

Last year was a lot of fun, because we had been homestudy approved and we spent the summer registering at the BBB baby store, and so my way of sharing this news was this picture:

So much excitement! It could be ANY DAY! (Or it could be a year later and no different!)
WELL. That forward movement sort of stalled out this year and I am missing the next picture in the series (and still haven't bought the stroller).

 I found myself struggling to find a picture, yet again, for the freaking slideshow.

I decided on these, because they are from our vacation (the Massachusetts part) and I think they are both fun and representative, although NARY A BABY TO BE SEEN:

Just sittin' on some rocks on the Atlantic coast (Marblehead, MA)

Just being my dorky self in front of The House of the Seven Gables, in Salem, MA
(Like the vine that is basically a shepherd's hook trying to whisk me away? )
Still us, still vacationing in New England, no baby, no real updates other than that almost-sorta-blind-profile-but-not-quite in July.

At least the goofy one hopefully will get a chuckle and fend off the "why no update?" questions, at least for a little while...

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy! 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Complex Emotions Surrounding Embryo Adoption

After writing yesterday's post, we did indeed have a rather teary Mexican restaurant date night. We talked about it on so many levels...I asked Bryce to read yesterday's post, because I could not read it out loud (as I usually do). It was so interesting to discover the different ways that we process this.

For me, I'm always in it. I never stopped thinking about the embryos when they were sitting in storage, and I haven't stopped thinking about them since. It's a little less present for Bryce, although in talking about it he was certainly emotional (lest you think he's some sort of robot).

Our Snowflakes contact actually sent me a picture of a balloon release in response to the note I sent her with our final notarized paperwork needed to ship them to the couple's clinic. I really can't speak highly enough of our experience with Snowflakes. Every person we have been in contact with has been just so compassionate, so understanding, and so open-minded to our own beliefs. She said that this part of the process is often the biggest hurdle mentally, because there's nothing more that we need to do after this final signature. We become bystanders, instead of an active part of the process. It's all on them now, and it's all about their family potential at this point, not ours.

She's so right. It's the finality that gets me. It's the fact that this part of our life is over.

Non Sequitur Chica sent me a link in a comment to an article that NPR did, on couples struggling with what to do with frozen embryos leftover, sitting in limbo, requiring storage fees or decisions every year, and how difficult that is: After IVF Some Struggle With What to Do With Leftover Embryos. It was an interesting read, and I made the mistake of reading the comments, where things were either taken too seriously or they were not taken seriously at all (a LOT of egg puns). One woman, a former employee in an IVF embryology lab, basically stated that no one wants other people's embryos. That if they'd wanted someone else's genetics, they'd adopt, and that you can't GIVE embryos away.

UM, HELLO? SNOWFLAKES? Snowflakes literally found a match for our embryos before we have had a match for our own infant adoption. From the time that we signed on to the time we got a match was a matter of months, as in less than 6. And now, after getting that call in June about the match, we are in August and the embryos are shipping. So, yeah, we can't GIVE them away, no one wants them, that certainly seems true. (Heavy, heavy sarcasm in case you missed it.)

The other thing about the article that was interesting is that all of the people ACTUALLY CONCEIVED AND HAD BABIES from their other embryos. They had completed their families, and then found themselves in the position of having "extra" embryos.

I feel like if this was my case, my feelings would be a lot less confusing. I would have living, breathing children who come from the same genetics as my embryos, and I would see them as siblings. They would be extra, yes, but they would be more of a direct loss in a way.

For us, we didn't get to complete our family this route. I don't have anything to visualize. I can't even really try. That's left me. We have the same choice -- destroy, donate to science, or donate to another infertile couple -- but for us, these are the only genetic pieces of ourselves we have, albeit fragmented and not together in one entity. These are precious in that way, because they're the only thing left from our journey other than a drawer full of embryo pictures, transfer pictures, ovary ultrasounds, surgical photos. And the ONLY way we'll get to see our little creations become anything. It is a loss, yes, but it is the only way to see if they could ever become anything.

So it's complicated, because this loss is also our gain.

It's that promise-and-pain dichotomy I wrote about yesterday.

We knew that transferring them to me would be a definite end, and strangely enough there weren't options that we could find to donate them for embryonic research, and I have complicated feelings about that anyway. I see these embryos as potential people, these specific embryos (more on this in another post, having so many hopes and dreams wrapped up in these embryos has complicated my feelings on that score, but not so much that it's changed my ideology). Donating to science would be a way of destruction, although with research benefits, and destroying them was just not an option. The only other option other than transferring was to donate/place. Transfer for people in the article seemed a good way for closure, but we hadn't had any success prior, so it felt like a beating of a very dead horse, and a very, very bad idea for me emotionally and physically.

Our feelings are different than the ones I've seen in the media, because I have yet to hear from someone who DIDN'T GET TO COMPLETE THEIR FAMILY and yet had embryos without a place to land. I would have loved to have transferred them, I would have loved to "use them all up." That was always our intent, either for the first or a sibling. It just didn't work out that way. We literally could not get to transfer despite multiple tries at the end.

We talked about all these things (minus the interesting article, which came through the interwebs today), about the finality, about all that's wrapped up in doing this hard for seven years, to feeling just so damn exhausted and cycling through hope and despair so rapidly. Earlier in the process we discovered that the couple decided to go to another clinic that was more friendly to the process in order to accept our embryos, and in the balloon-release email we found out that the clinic is THREE STATES AWAY for them. That was very moving, thinking on how I was so sure nobody would want our embryos and here is this couple who is literally traveling hundreds of miles to accept them. That's hard to wrap your head around, but man does it make us feel like they are the right choice. I hope our embryos are worth it...I hope they succeed where we failed.

It's just so crazy to think on everything that we have gone through -- all the complicated decisions, all the legwork needed for donor gametes one by one and then letting it all go in this way, the best way but definitely a hard way. We've always laughed that our dinnertime conversations about our family building efforts could be ethics classes, but this one takes the cake, I think.

It's just so complicated. I believe that it is absolutely the right decision, it's just hard to make sense of everything when you look at it holistically. To think that this loss of the potential beings we created and failed to sustain is another couple's potential gain and the only way we'll get to know what they could have been...just not with us. And while we are still waiting for our own adoption match to make its way to us. I guess while we had those embryos, albeit living in a superfrozen stasis, we were sort of their parents. And now we're not, not really, and we don't even have a picture of them in their cellular form. We can only hope for the outcome where we get baby pictures, toddler pictures, childhood pictures... what do with those is a topic for another ramble.

Now we have nothing physical out there that's ours, just potential in the ether on both sides -- this couple willing to travel to use what we can provide, and us...just waiting for that match to come through, to be as appealing to an expectant mom as this couple was to us, to hope that we also get the chance to parent, in a hands-on and not conceptual way.

Friday, August 19, 2016

So Many Goodbyes

I am not really sure how to feel right now... definitely not as upset as I was when we had the final bloodwork experience needed to release our embryos, but not super hunky-dory, either.

I am sad, to be perfectly honest. I'd say it surprises me but after the deluge with the bloodwork, I sort of expected it.

As I type this, our notarized release form to send our little embryos off from the cryobank associated with Snowflakes to the clinic where they'll hopefully be transferred to the couple in the Midwest, who will hopefully have way more success with the embryos than we ever did.

It's amazing, how many times we've had to have things notarized on this journey. Almost worth coercing a neighbor into becoming a notary on our behalf, because of all the calling to the bank to see when the notary is in which branch and making sure we're both around during banking hours, which can be surprisingly difficult to finagle. I am glad that this is the last time that we will have to explain exactly what all this stuff about embryos means, when they do due diligence and ask us what we're signing and if we understand it. We have notarized information for what to do with embryos in case we die or divorce, to transfer embryos to another clinic, to transfer embryos to Snowflake's cryobank, and I'm pretty sure there was some notarized stuff related to donor gametes along the way. I feel like we've had to take a trip to the notary at least three times just for Snowflakes alone.

And now it's done, and the embryos are no longer "our embryos" and should ship within the week to the couple they officially belong to--the lovely couple we said yes to and who inexplicably said yes to us in return, even given the risks of embryos with no successful cohorts.

It's a weird sort of goodbye. I told the contracts coordinator in my email that I felt like I should do a balloon release or something, because it feels momentous. I mean, I won't actually do that, because sea turtles will die, but it would be nice if there was some sort of ceremonial thing to do to acknowledge that these tiny potential humans that were ours are now going off to a new life, without us.

Why is it that all ceremonial things are technically littering? Balloon releases, those fire lantern things (one actually landed in our street once from a wedding or funeral or something like that...pretty little fire hazards those are!), releasing some super confused doves into an area they're not familiar with (and are they factory farmed, these doves?), butterfly releases...although I guess butterflies are the least damaging. Everyone needs more butterflies and they're pretty adaptable, right? Maybe I could somehow trap the ones that go to my garden and then let them go again. Seems unnecessary trauma, though.

I guess I just feel at a loss in this moment. Or a loss. Or 8 tiny losses, that are actually tiny hopes that maybe our decision to go through the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption program will really and truly give them the chance I never could. That's a bittersweet thought right there.

I feel like I just keep saying goodbye -- to all the 27 embryos that came before these lucky 8 that get some other uterus to hopefully survive and thrive in. To every piece of the original family building dream that I had once upon a time, where Bryce and I could have (in theory), with some technological help, conceive a baby that looked like either one of us and have a typical experience, as typical as a catheter and sperm washing would make it. My definition of "typical experience" just keeps shifting.

I really just want the experience, the ultimate experience of parenting, which is what we have to hold on to since we've let go of genetics bit by bit and pregnancy altogether. And I want this other couple to have their experience, to get pregnant with these embryos and give the embryos themselves a shot at the experience of being parented and existing as people, a victory made possible because we created these embryos out of love and hope and dreams and science.

And when that outcome happens I'll say goodbye again, to the uncertainty around why we just never could get this whole babymaking thing together, and know for sure that it was my uterus. That will be a tougher day than today, even though it will be pain and promise all wrapped up together again. Pain for me, promise for the embryos. Peace that the decision ended the way we'd hoped. I don't even want to think about the alternative outcome.

So byebye, little guys and gals...I hope you find a home in the Midwest and you stick around for that couple whose profile book I keep open in a tab so I can see their faces and personalities and remind myself that our embryos aren't going into a void, they're going to real people. Really nice people that seem to be very similar to ourselves in many regards.

Goodbye, so many goodbyes. I hope you know that somehow you are still part of the dream that we had, that we wish all the best things for you in life, and wish so badly that we could have been the ones to provide them...but know that you will have a great home with the people who hopefully will give you the chance to be. That is the hope.

Monday, August 15, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: I'm So Not Going to See Bridget Jones' Baby

I love Bridget Jones...the original, both the book and the movie. I have seen that movie, oh, THOUSANDS of times. I can pretty much quote it verbatim. Bridget is my hero, and while I was less enamored with the second one (although still funny and pithy, it just took a turn for the crazypants in Thailand), I consider the original a Christmas movie and put it in the rotation in December. I watch it when I am in a funk and need a good laugh. It just always makes me happy.

Which is why I was horrified when I saw the trailer for the new movie, Bridget Jones' Baby. I heard about it and assumed it was a re-titled version of the third book, which admittedly I haven't read yet, called Mad About the Boy. In the BOOK, Bridget is a 51-year old mom to a young boy and poor Mr. Darcy is no more (as in dead, this is not a spoiler), so she is navigating the world of single motherhood AND trying to learn how to date in a digital world. It sounds more hilarious than sad; I just haven't gotten around to it.

Bridget Jones' Baby looks like utter tripe (my apologies if you love tripe). It has NOTHING to do with the book at all: instead Mr. Darcy is her ex and Patrick Dempsey is a new love interest and whoopsy-daisy she messed around with both of them at times amenable to conception WITHOUT PROTECTION and has landed herself pregnant, I'm guessing in her early forties. Maybe late thirties. Hard to tell in movieland.

It sort of fills me with fury. The whole "who's the daddy" thing is so overused, and Bridget looks sort of like an idiot, although one who tearfully views her scan and says something like "That's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen," in a touching moment, but then is also carried, in labor, by both men, because presumably she's so MASSIVE. Ha, ha, Bridget is a fat pregnant lady. Although she looks like she's been dieting and doesn't need her scary stomach-holding in panties popular with grannies the world over, in the scenes before her bump makes an appearance.

Maybe it's just me, maybe I'm just bitter, but it seems pregnancy-as-gag is the WORST way they could have led Bridget. She was the champion of singletons in their thirties, she was a straight-shooter and I so would have enjoyed watching her work through the loss of Mr. Darcy, handling motherhood, and discovering the hilarious pitfalls of online dating and social media. Also, to see our quirky, funny heroine as a FIFTY-ONE YEAR OLD would have been nice... LET BRIDGET AGE!

Like I said, it fills me with fury. And I boycott it. And I think I will go buy Mad About the Boy and see what happens when Bridget grows well into middle age and deals with less idiotic problems than a pregnancy that's basically one big joke. I'm sure it will be hilarious, and poignant. I just hope I never see that stupid trailer for the movie again.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

More Only Child Thoughts

I really enjoyed collecting all of the perspectives on only childhood from friends and acquaintances that together made up this post. It was helpful in exploring my own feelings on having an only child, and sort of validating Bryce's assertions that having an only child from the beginning wasn't such a nutty idea.

It's kind of hard when your ideas of family size don't exactly match. I add it to the list of things that I feel behind on... deciding I was ready for adoption (Bryce was ready before I was), letting go of a phantom second child years and years into the journey (that was Bryce's preference from the start). It doesn't cause tension for us, although I really have struggled with guilt over the adoption readiness piece. If I could have let go of pregnancy earlier, who knows where'd we be now? It's all coulda woulda shoulda, nothing concrete or worth losing sleep over since it DID NOT HAPPEN, but I can't stop those particular wheels from turning.

I feel that my hopes for a family of more than one died when we couldn't transfer anymore. When those 8 embryos became homeless, I felt there was no more chance that we could have two kids. I was initially okay with twins, and then more trepidatious of twins as I knew more and more people who suffered tragic losses of one or both or had incredibly early labors and extended stays in the NICU. I started worrying that I was having a hard enough time getting and staying pregnant with one, so what made me think that I could do two at once? It was appealing for a time, though, because you could have two children in one shot. Or one cycle of shots, har har.

When we moved to adoption initially, we planned to hang on to those embryos as an insurance policy for siblings. We'd adopt, and then look into going back into the clinic since my body would have had a rest. But the further we got from being in the stirrups, the less I wanted to return there. It became this period of time that had very little light in it, and to return to that, with a toddler no less, sounded not only awful for me but logistically, too. Who was going to watch our toddler while I went to appointments? I had a rough time keeping myself together at the end of our journey without anyone really to be responsible for, how on earth would I manage that? I know people do this, but it just seems so much HARDER. And as time went on, we decided on the embryo adoption path instead. That my uterus was officially closed and we would fully commit ourselves to a family created through adoption only.

There are plenty of people who adopt more than one child. I just wasn't sure that we were going to be among them. Did you know that in the last year, my agency actually placed more babies with families who already had a child? Less went to homes that were beginning a family from scratch. I found that so interesting. One big reason why was that it was appealing for the expectant mother to know that her child would definitely have a sibling. We don't advertise that we probably won't adopt again, but we definitely can't promise a sibling.

It's just so hard, adopting one child. We aren't successful yet with one and this uncertainty is just awful -- you have these cycles of optimism and then cycles of complete doubt and fear that this just isn't going to happen, and it's all so out of your control. It's very tiring. Plus, I feel being in the over-forty camp makes things more tiring, and ever so slightly less likely to happen within a certain timeframe. I was talking with my chiropractor the other day, and she was saying, "you know, just one is so tiring when you're older. I love my daughter, and I am so glad we have her, but you are just completely sapped at the end of the day." I do believe the whole "having children keeps you young" to some extent, but I have seen my friends who are parents. It's exhausting. Rewarding and challenging and amazing, but if it's anything like End-Of-Year-Teacher-Tired, hoo boy. I'd like to give all my energy to one, to have a child who is parented energetically, rather than split it at this point.

Also, we were originally open to twins on our Child Interest Grid. This doesn't happen super frequently, but it does happen. Then we created our nursery. Then we took a long hard look at our house. I know that people raise families in tiny apartments in Manhattan, but it seems so tight. Our house seems tight just the two of us, and to add in two babies at once? Yikes. When we updated our grid for other things, we took twins off. And wondered what the hell we would have done had we actually become pregnant with two at once.

It is possible to have a situation where your child's birth mother becomes pregnant again and does not wish to parent. In those cases, the agency likes to keep biological siblings together. So there is an odd chance that this could happen. I know of situations where this has happened, and if that were to occur, we would not say no, barring some wacky other situation coming to pass that would make that difficult. But that is a very, very long shot.

Parenting two children who are adopted but have different birth families is also incredibly complex. PLENTY of families do it, but it comes with added difficulty. What happens if we have a great relationship with the first child's birth family, but the second child's family preferred a more closed relationship? Or isn't as consistent? How do you explain those differences? People do it, but I can't imagine how hard that would be. I feel like that could take sibling rivalry to all new levels, and cause all new kinds of pain when comparing situations, really on either side.

But at the same time, is it selfish for us to want to reduce complexity by having only one child? Are we robbing our adopted child of the experience of having a sibling who 100% gets what that's like? Or is that me fooling myself into thinking that they would band together in this way, as I know of people who had siblings who were adopted and they had more of a strained relationship because they viewed their adoptions very differently?

The fact is, it's unlikely that we will actually seek to adopt more than one baby, and here's why:

 -  Our age is big factor -- I originally wanted to have all my children before I was 30, and obviously that went the way of the dodo (and thank goodness, because they wouldn't have been with Bryce). Parenting after 40 IS different. Not worse, not better, although there are examples to support both, but different. I kind of want to revel in first-time parenthood and not worry about jumping back into this pool of waiting and homestudy visits and paperwork and feeling that weird dichotomy of it-could-be-tomorrow-or-it-could-be-next-year. I bet it's hard to explain to your child that their brother or sister is coming, but who knows when? How does THAT transition go? When you're pregnant it's a slow, gradual, visual transition. It's got to be interesting to work through that with a child when you're adopting a second. Having a second child in my midforties sounds completely exhausting.

 -  Space is a factor. I love our house. We love our house. Our house is adorable, if I do say so myself, but the space is limiting. I am highly jealous of the space in other friends' houses that are bigger, especially newer homes with large, non-terrifying basements. Basements that don't give their husbands concussions on the daily. BUT, if we had one child, we could stay in this house for longer and then move without a ton of financial hardship, because we would have that much more equity and could rebuild our savings without freezing the amount we have to keep in our savings for adoption. We have thought about moving many times, found homes that were wish-list-droolworthy, and every time we have to say, "not now, we can't risk the adoption fund."

 - Another factor is finances. We are fortunate, and I am not complaining by any means. However, we've been locked down with funds for IVF and funds for adoption, and the adoption fund is a large chunk that goes out pretty much all at once and has to be there as long as we're waiting... which makes other things not possible. I want to be out on maternity leave for a while, and that will eat away at what's left of our savings. It will be a while before we can build that back up. We'll be fine, but to then build up another adoption nest egg instead of using that money for quality experiences for our new child? Hard to think on.

 -  Lastly, the death of uncertainty. I WANT TO STOP LIVING IN THIS EFFING LIMBO. I want to live in a life where I'm not waiting for something to happen, for this next part of our lives to begin. I want it to begin already and have all the everyday uncertainties of worrying about my child, not whether or not I will have one. When I do have one, I don't want to restart this cycle for a second. I just don't.

It's complex, right? Part of me is so, so, so jealous of the people who can talk about their family building plans and make them happen. A friend of a friend on facebook made their pregnancy announcement (again complete with ultrasound, ugh), and it was the rhyme, "First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage!!!" OH HOLY JEEZUM. Is THAT how that goes? It's not, "And SEVEN YEARS LATER you're still trying to fill that baby carriage!?") I was at an event where this person was, in February, and she was talking about how she was starting to try to become pregnant. And she did. And if she envisions a family with more than one child, I bet that will happen, too. And that's the way it SHOULD be. I have to remind myself that this is what is "normal" in the fertile world. That having babies doesn't involve needles and lighting candles and special massages and surgeries and cycles of hope and despair for the chance to be pregnant. That there are people out there who will live their lives not really knowing what it's like to wonder if their family will turn out the way they dreamed, if a baby will materialize at all, and have to work so damn hard just for the hope that that can come to pass. It's just not their experience.

But it IS mine. And I have to weigh everything for myself, for us, for our family that hopefully gets to be one of three. And I take a little control back when I say, "You know what? I'm HAPPY to have one child. I turn the no-choice-not-really into MY CHOICE. I CHOOSE ONE. I will figure out how to make up for the things they won't have, and parent my one the best I can. But this is MY CHOICE." Really, it's me accepting the choice that is there given all the factors, but by golly, I'm going to claim it as my choice.

Bryce turned out awesome. So many of my friends who are onlys are awesome. It can be done. And we will do it...once we get the chance.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Is One So Bad? Exploring the Only Child Experience

For as long as I can remember, I've always wanted to have two children. One for each hand. One for each parent. The same thing that I had growing up -- a sibling to share things with, to scrap with, a built-in playmate for rainy days.

Bryce has always been okay with having one child, as that is what he experienced -- the idea of a sibling was foreign to him. When asked if he wanted one, he said, "How you can want something when you don't know what it is?" I have heard Bryce's thoughts on being an only child over the course of our courtship, our marriage, our quest to have a child (or two) of our own. He has said that he never remembers being bored. That he was able to entertain himself without a sibling -- he invented games, sometimes with mirrors; he read a lot; he played with his matchbox cars; he loved having a dog, who he considered a sibling of sorts. He had his things and didn't have to share them or feel any sense of competition over things or time or activities. He liked (and still likes) being alone. He was creative and continues to be that way.

There were downsides, too -- he said he had a harder time developing friends because he didn't really feel like he needed them to fill a boredom hole -- he favored computers and was (is) an introvert. Being an introvert isn't a bad thing, but even now Bryce hates playing cooperative games, because he didn't really learn to play them with a sibling or group of friends. He finds them stressful. He felt that he could be hard on himself and frustrated, with no one roughly his age to talk to about difficult stuff like all fell on him to deal with it. There wasn't someone going through the same thing to talk to about it. He also said that as an adult, he now has the sole responsibility for parental concerns as they age -- there's no one to share that responsibility with.

Overall, though, Bryce had an overwhelmingly positive experience as an only child. He said that if he were to gauge his interest in having a sibling on a scale of 1-10, that it would probably be 2-3. He credits being an only child with teaching him how to be bored and resolve that in creative ways, with being independent, with with being a problem-solver...all of which serve him incredibly well as an adult.

I feel like there can be a stigma with "choosing" to have an only child. It's particularly difficult when there really isn't much of a choice -- I would have loved to have had more than one (but no more than two), but circumstances conspired to make that incredibly difficult. If we'd gotten pregnant through IVF and had a baby, maybe two would have seemed manageable. If we'd moved on to adoption earlier, maybe the thought of adopting a second child wouldn't seem so daunting.

The fact is, I'm forty and Bryce is forty-two. It has been utterly exhausting to try to have a family so, so hard and, seven years later, to still not have met that goal. It was exhausting to move from IUI to IVF, even though we were told from the get-go that IVF was our best chance. It was exhausting to move from IVF to donor egg IVF. It was exhausting to move from one clinic to a new clinic and get to know a whole new climate and staff. It was exhausting to realize that donor egg WASN'T the silver bullet and that we would start over with donor sperm. It was exhausting to say goodbye to fertility treatment and the possibility of pregnancy and to move to adoption, even though adoption holds so much promise. And it remains exhausting to be over a year into a wait for adoption, a wait that could resolve itself next week or next year, a sort of insta-baby situation with very little idea of when all this is going to come to a close.

Trying and failing over YEARS to have just one child has been EXHAUSTING. Living in this uncertainty is EXHAUSTING. And so, over the past year or so, I've come to a peaceful place where I am like, I AM OKAY WITH HAVING ONE CHILD. In fact, at this point, I prefer it.

It's not just the financial aspect of adoption, which is definitely a factor. I want to be home for 6 months to a year after our child comes to us, and that sort of compounds the fact that our savings will be virtually wiped out after we settle up with all the adoption-associated fees and costs...making it harder for us to be without my salary for as long as I'd like. To think about then turning around and doing the same thing a couple years later, when I am closer to my mid-forties... it's daunting -- financially and emotionally.

It's also that I think a family of three would be just perfect for us at this point. Earlier in my journey this would make me incredibly angry, because it's a choice made for me. But, I feel that our "decision" is a sound one. And because in the world of infertility, this feeling of being forced into a decision to have one child for a variety of reasons is so difficult, I decided to survey people I know about their experiences as only children, or their experiences parenting only children. It couldn't be all bad, right? I wasn't sure what I'd get, but I thoroughly enjoyed the varied perspectives that did seem to skew more positive than negative. It made me feel a whole lot better.

I thought I'd share their thoughts with you:

- "I didn't have a built-in playmate."
- "I envy people with siblings, though I know from my friends and even my husband that being a sibling doesn't guarantee a close relationship at all." (as an adult)
- "I was an only child and I never knew any different but now as an adult I wish I had sisters/brothers -- like a lot."
- "I didn't go to camp in the summer but most of my friends did, so summers were long and boring and full of lots of whining."
- "I never learned to negotiate or argue."
- "I didn't know what to do with friends' siblings -- do we include them? Shun them? I just didn't know."
- "When I went off to college and had a roommate, I had NO idea how to share a room with someone and I sucked at negotiating."
- "My parents divorced when I was very young. I had a really hard time with the split custody in middle school and hated that I had no one in my situation that I could talk with about it."
- "My dad died when I was 10 and as my mom aged and died recently it was very difficult at times to not have someone to share the feelings and stress with."
- "My mom regrets that I will have to take care of her by myself when the time comes while she shares the burden with five siblings."
- "There were times growing up, especially in preteen and teen years, when I felt a little smothered." (unsure if this was because of being an only, or parental anxiety separate from that)

- "I loved being an only child and wouldn't want it any other way."
- "Being an only child was (and remains) a great experience for me."
- "I loved it."
- "My parents were able to come and support me in all my endeavors. They weren't split between multiple commitments."
- "For me, being an only child did allow my parents to focus on my needs, particularly my education."
- "It's much easier with one child to parent."
- "I got plenty of attention from my parents, and learned how to cope with alone time and quiet time from an early age."
- "My mom gives me her undivided attention always."
- "I never had anyone to compete with for my parents' attention."
- "Competing for your parents' attention lasts forever -- my mom is always available when we need her, but my husband's mom is sometimes already committed to his siblings when we ask her to dinner or to watch our kids."
- "At the end of my parents' lives I had them all to myself and no drama."
- "As a parent to two, it is really hard to split your attention fairly, especially when one is needier. The older child can feel like they aren't wanted anymore and aren't getting the time they need. It's heartbreaking."
- "We were able to travel a lot more as a family because it was a lot less expensive with the three of us."
- "I was able to be signed up for more camps and activities that I wanted to be a part of because they did not have to split funds between multiple children."
- "My parents did always have the resources to provide me with an abundance of experiences and materials -- classes, camps, vacations, art supplies, toys, musical instruments, a used car in high school, a college education, etc."
- "My parents are moving to be closer to us, and if I'd had a brother or a sister then they might have felt that they needed to spend an equal amount of time in another location."
- "I relate to others fine, I just REALLY like my alone time."
- "I never felt deprived and lonely. I played with neighborhood kids and had cousins who, to this day, are more like sisters."
- "I always had plenty of friends, so loneliness was not a problem."
- "There are shortcomings but I have wonderful friends that make a difference."
- "I was never bored."
-  "I think it made me more creative, independent, and possibly more reflective."
- "I ended up teaching myself a lot (how to draw, play guitar, code websites, etc) which was fun."
- "The 'spoiled only child' thing that people worry about does not have to be a thing. My parents taught me the values of empathy and generosity and gratitude and sharing. Even without siblings, I believe it can be done."

Parents of Only Children Say: 
- "It is SO much easier to travel and afford some extras when you have an only child."
- "We can do more and provide more for him because he is an only child (expensive camps, more trips)."
- "Being a parent of an only child is rewarding, wonderful and challenging. I wouldn't change having an only for anything."
- "Sometimes I feel bad that he doesn't have someone to play with by default. It's either us or by himself if he doesn't have a friend over."
- "In the summer it takes effort to arrange playdates for my daughter."
- "I know she is learning to navigate social situations and share at school."
- "People often ask if she is the only one and then give us a sad look when I say she is the only one. I don't want her thinking it is a bad thing."
- "People feel the need to constantly tell me I should have another like it is something they should somehow have a say in."
- "I had this lady who works with me actually yell at me for having only one."
- "As a parent to an only child, I can share that one experiences a lot of prejudices coming our way, mostly along the lines of how selfish one is not to provide siblings for one's child. There are assumptions that this means they are bound to be spoilt brats with no understanding/sensitivity for others."
- "Children are as empathetic, considerate, or as self centered as they are taught to be. These are learned behaviors. With proper guidance, excellent role models, and consistency (as with ALL parenting) only children are no worse off than those with siblings."
- WISE WORDS OF AN ONLY CHILD FRIEND WHO'S NOT A PARENT BUT SAID THIS: "I think with parents of only children, the worry comes from going through everything for the first time with their child. People who have two or three or six kids aren't more relaxed because of their number of extra children. They just have the benefit of having gone through every stage and milestone at least once, so they know what to expect, and worry less, because the other one(s) made it."

Interesting perspectives, right? I had a cousin who told me once, "All that Pinterest stuff? You can TOTALLY DO IT with ONE child. Have a second one and it's SO MUCH HARDER." I also have a friend who has more than two children and once she had her second, she was like... "THEY NEVER NAP AT THE SAME TIME. I will never sleep again..."

I worry that the inverse of that is that people believe that it's "easy" parenting to have one, that you are copping out somehow. I was both shocked and not shocked that people are so very stupid in what comes out of their mouths when it comes to judging parents of onlys. I mean, heaven help the person who implies that I was selfish to have only one. These decisions should not be up for public debate, but I guess that's the joys of motherhood now -- how you have your baby, feed your baby, parent your baby, school your baby, clothe your baby, diaper your baby... it's all up for debate in real life and social media.

For me, I felt like the positives made me feel better and the negatives gave me food for thought. I guess we should get a dog. I am going to need to be vigilant about setting up play dates or joining groups, because my child's cousins are over 18 (my sister's stepsons will be more like uncles than playmates, and Bryce has no siblings) and so many of my friends' kids will be older. I will have to hope for great connections through day care and possible same-ish-age kids moving into the neighborhood. I guess we'll have to really plan out our elder years to try and take some of that burden off our child. Especially since our child will be fairly young when we hit those years.

It was interesting to me how many onlys did not have an only child themselves. I didn't really feel it was my business to ask about that, as how you build your family is your business, but a few said that they swore they'd have more than one child to give their children the sibling experience they missed. That's great when it's a possibility to do that, when your bodies cooperate or you have the funds and energy/youth to adopt more than once. I really do believe that if we'd come to adoption earlier in our thirties instead of the dawn of our forties, maybe we'd feel differently. Maybe we wouldn't feel so tapped in every way.

Even though your childhood experience/parenting experience is largely individual, I did find it interesting that there were so many similar experiences, so many similarities in perspectives both negative and positive. It's definitely given me food for thought as the prospective mother of an only child, and I hope it does the same for you.