Please send some love

to my very dear labmonkey.

She just had a bfp from her last IUI before IVF reared its ugly head, but her betas are low and not doubling fast enough, so an ectopic is a real concern. She’s also probably going to have to cancel her European vacation in order to stay at home and wait and see what is happening.

It really sucks. She is getting her head around it all, but it still really sucks. Please let her know she is not alone.

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Filed under Family, Loss

Reset

I am in a slump.

I don’t know if anyone else gets like this, but I always hit a point where I am unfit enough and tired enough and stressed enough that it just seems impossible to imagine that I could change things.

When you are unfit, it is SO hard to actually break the routine of being unfit and start to (re)set new, better habits.

I gained quite a lot of weight while away down under. Enough that I sailed right past my usual “Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!” alarm bells marker and hit a weight I haven’t been (barring pregnancy) for more than seven years.

I need to buy new clothes desperately, but I won’t buy them because I’m carrying more weight than I should be. So instead I am barely managing to dress myself (really- I do not have a pair of shorts that actually fit other than athletic shorts and my only pair of capris were bought in 2008 and are faded and also do not fit very well).

My face is better than it was, but it’s still not great, especially when I’m on the week between packs of bcps, but I’m struggling with the whole foundation thing because it’s summer and it’s hot, and how do you put on sunscreen if you are dealing with foundation, and why does it matter because I’m dressed like a slob and carrying too much weight around?

I need to get my hair cut, but I can’t see the point of doing that when I am carrying around this weight and my face is a mess that I can’t be bothered to cover up, and I’m grocery shopping in clothes that a year ago I had strict rules about not wearing outside of the house.

And so it spirals.

I feel like an absolute mess right now.

The saving grace is that when I realized how much weight I had gained while on vacation, my first thought was, “That’s not me.”

I’ve written on here before about the body image problems I have. How I always see the fat girl that I used to be, even when running and infertility and anxiety had whittled me down to a frankly unsustainable and probably unhealthy weight.

I have an unbelievably skewed self-image.

So it came as a bit of a shock to realize that somewhere along the line my image of my self has changed.

I think of myself as a runner.

In a way, this self-image is as skewed as my old one. I only ran regularly for a couple of years. I only ran seriously for a bit over a year. I haven’t run- regularly or seriously- since getting pregnant with E. four years ago this month.

But I still think of myself as a runner.

My goal for the fall is to find a way to make that image of my self a true one again.

I know how hard the first weeks will be.

I know how hard my inner critic is going to work trying to convince me that there’s no reason to do this because I’m not any good at it and I’m such a mess anyway it won’t make a difference.

I know how hard it’s going to be to set an alarm and actually get out of bed when it goes off.

But I also know I can do this.

I’m tired of being a mess.

 

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Filed under Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Mirror, Mirror (Body Image), Running

Drawing to a close

I am starting to give things away.

Q.’s sister had a baby about this time last year, which made him (in the southern hemisphere) a spring baby. He has turned out to be a lean baby, like E. was. So before we went down under in June I e-mailed her to ask if she wanted any of E’s clothes.

She was so grateful that I offered. It turned out that she hadn’t ended up with any hand-me-downs- her friends had all finished having their children, or they had girls, or they weren’t done yet.

I was horrified to realize that she’d had to buy all of the clothes for her son (especially since she had to pay the inflated prices that come from living in a country with a small population a long way away from anywhere else, particularly the giant consumer market of the USofA). So in the midst of our early June madness, while my mother was here, I somehow found one evening to pull out the bins and I went through E’s clothes and absolutely stuffed a duffle bag full of clothes from 12 months to 2T to take with us.

“You will never get all of those clothes in that bag,” said my mother upon viewing the size of the bag and the size of the pile.

“This is a MEC duffle bag,” I countered. “Of course I will.”

And I did. And it gave me great glee to stuff all of those clothes, shirts and pants and shorts that E. had worn but wouldn’t wear again, into the bag, and take it with us across the ocean, and give it to my sister-in-law.

I only wish I’d remembered to ask her whether or not she used sleep sacks, as I could have brought her those too (although they would have had to go into our luggage as the duffle was bursting at the seams by the time I was done with it).

I checked with Q. first, of course. He also thought it was a good idea.

“If it turns out we need them again,” he said, “We can always get my mother to bring them back with her when she next comes to visit.”

I told my sister-in-law to keep them.

***

Last week I sent my Dad home on the train with another duffle bag of clothes (the same duffle, just not quite as full this time). One of my best friends from high school had a baby in June. Another spring/summer boy, just like E. So I went back through the bins and found the one full of 6-12 month clothing (because they are both tall and this child will also be tall) and pulled out anything I thought might work.

My friend’s two brothers-in-law both just had babies as well. The clothes will surely fit one of the new additions to their family.

“I don’t need any of it back,” I said in the e-mail. “Let me know what size he’s in when we come to town in the fall and I’ll bring you another load with some books and toys.”

***

I’m not getting rid of everything, of course. In each size I have hung on to the clothing that I (or E.) most loved, the clothing that has real memories for me, the clothing that matters.

I want, so very much, to be able to give them to my sister, who has been trying for a while now and who is staring over the IVF precipice, something which I never wanted her to experience.

I don’t really expect to use them again myself.

I tell myself that even if we get pregnant again and have a second child, what are the odds that said child will be another spring baby who will be long and lean like E. was? I don’t care much about gender- I would happily put a daughter in most of E’s clothes. But it feels like an almost impossible ask that we will end up with a second child who will be the right size at the right time.

It feels like an almost impossible ask that we will end up with a second child.

***

Our basement is literally filled with outgrown baby stuff. The change table, the rocking chair, the crib, the exersaucer, the music table, the gyminis, the high chair, the baby gates, the carriers, the bins and bins of clothes and books and toys. It would be far worse except our bouncy seat and travel crib are out on loan with friends who had a baby a year ago next month.

A year ago I was only ‘loaning’ our baby stuff out.

That was before the two FETs failed and the IVF worked until it didn’t.

That was before we only had one frozen embryo left.

The piles and piles of baby things were eating me up inside.

I couldn’t stand looking at them.

I couldn’t stand how much room they took up.

I couldn’t stand how I couldn’t get my basement under control until we were done with that stuff.

I couldn’t stand the UNKNOWING, especially as spring ticked into summer and we drew closer to the month where we should have needed it all again.

So I started to give things away.

***

We still have one embryo left.

I suppose it could still surprise us.

We will not try again if it doesn’t.

I know only that I have to have an answer, one way or the other. I can’t continue to live in limbo, weighed down literally and figuratively by reminders of what-may-never-be.

I need that last transfer to happen this fall.

But I don’t want to transfer that embryo around the time of my PhD defence, it being not exactly a stress-free sort of occasion. That snowbaby needs a fair chance.

We opted not to head back to the clinic as soon as we returned home from being overseas, because we anticipated I would be spending much of August frantically revising the thesis. My committee had undertaken to have read it by the end of July.

I haven’t heard anything from them yet.

I’m drawing close to the end of another package of bcps, and I catch myself wondering whether we should go back to the clinic now, in case it takes my committee another month or more to read the thesis. My supervisor wants a defence in late October, but that means I have to have the dissertation submitted by mid-September. That will become infeasible if my committee members do not appear out of the woodwork soon.

I want to line my ducks up in a row, but I can’t control one of my ducks.

So I wait. And when the anxiety creeps up on me again, I give more stuff away.

 

 

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Filed under E.- the fourth year, Friends, Grief, Lonely Onlies?, Second Thoughts

It Gets Better

Dear Turia,

I thought of you yesterday, when I was watching E. help his Daddy fix a section of the fence. I was standing there, watching E. hold the tape measure, asking his father twenty-five questions with every breath, and I remembered the summer Q. built the fence, the summer E. was born.

You spent a lot of time watching Q. build that fence.  Partly it was because Q. was an adult and you were desperate for adult contact and conversation- when you weren’t watching him build the fence you spent a lot of time in the late afternoons loitering on the front porch waiting to see if any of the neighbours were around and up for a chat. Partly it was to show E. what his Daddy was doing, even though E. wouldn’t have appreciated the rarity of having a father who is a tenured academic but who can also build fences. E. had only recently discovered he had hands at the point Q. started work on it.

But mostly it was just an excuse to get out of the house, away from the overwhelming anxiety you were feeling when the baby you loved so much wasn’t eating or wasn’t sleeping or wasn’t doing any of the things you thought he was SUPPOSED to be doing at that particular moment. So you’d scoop E. up, often in floods of tears, and take him out to watch Q. build the fence, and you’d cry and rant at Q., and he would say something undeniably true but not particularly helpful like “Babies do crazy things”, and you’d be so full of frustration and fear that you weren’t doing this parenting thing RIGHT and E. would be hopelessly damaged because he wasn’t sleeping enough or nursing enough. But it would be sunny outside, and warm, and eventually you and E. would both be quiet and happy and calm, and you’d pull yourself together to struggle on.

And so it went.

I wish I could walk past that fence, look at you in your sleep-deprived haze, clutching that tiny, fractious baby, with an air that I would like to say was equal parts exhilaration and panic but was really mostly just panic, and catch your eye. I wish I could give you a smile and a big hug and tell you what I know now.

It gets better.

I know you were at the end of your rope. At this stage three years ago, you’d only just started to transition E. back into his crib for naps, rather than strapping him to your chest in a carrier and pacing around the house non-stop. E. responded by refusing to nap for more than forty-five (or, if you were very unlucky, thirty) minutes at a time.  Carrier naps? He’d happily sleep for two hours, nestled in nice and cozy. You’d only just started to get his bedtime back to an early enough hour that you didn’t feel you had to go to bed as soon as he did.

You didn’t know what was coming down the pipe. You knew that he had a really gassy tummy in the early hours of the morning, but you were still months away from figuring out the MSPI issue. You were thrilled to have achieved even some semblance of independent sleep during the day, but you had no idea he would be ten months old before you no longer had to stand in the room, holding him on his side in the crib until he fell asleep. You didn’t know that there’d be phases where he would wake up for the day, every day, at 5 a.m., or that he would sleep so lightly that going to bed would wake him up, even if you and Q. brushed your teeth downstairs and tried to sneak up the stairs. You didn’t know that you would still be nursing him, twice a night, until after his first birthday, even though he wouldn’t nurse during the day.

E.’s sleep in his first year, in a nutshell, sucked.

I remember when you read a post on a friend’s blog, where she commented on how amazing it was that her son (who was older than E. and had also been a totally shit sleeper as an infant) would now tell her that he was tired, how wonderful it was that she could go into his room to check on him at night before she went to bed herself.

You cried.

You never, ever, believed you would reach that point with E.

Turia, you did.

Your son has slept through the night consistently since he was sixteen months old. He usually sleeps twelve hours or a bit more. He tells you when he’s tired and sometimes asks to go to bed early. He goes to sleep with little or no fuss, and needs no further parental intervention after one round of being checked on when he’s first tucked in. (You always ask the same three questions: “And how are you? How’s your nightlight? And your animals?” and E. always gives the same three answers: “I’m fine. It’s working. My animals are fine and I’m fine and my nightlight is working and everything’s fine.”) The routine didn’t change when you switched him from a crib to his medium-sized guy bed last month. He stays in bed when you put him there (at least until he wakes up the following morning).

Here is what you can do when you go into his room to check on him before you go to bed. You can pull back and adjust the covers. You can lift him up if he is too close to the edge of the bed and resettle him. You can put his head back on the pillow, or give him back his best bunny or his newest best friend, his puppy. You can put away laundry. You can adjust the curtains if he’s opened them while falling asleep. To be honest, you could probably have a conversation in there with Q. while jumping up and down and E. wouldn’t wake up.

Most of all, you can smooth back his hair from his forehead. You can give him another kiss. You can tell him that you love him. You can stand there, in the dark, and watch him sleep and notice how long his legs are getting and marvel at the little boy that fractious baby became.

I’m not sure we’re ever going to get a “do-again”. No one gets a “do-over”- E.’s infancy is finished and his and your experiences of it are set. But you often think, standing there in the dark, that it would have been nice to have a chance at a “do-again”, to go into parenting knowing this time that things change, sometimes overnight, and that eventually, eventually there is a light at the end of the sleep tunnel.

It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen, unfortunately. I can’t go back and find you watching that fence being built, so I’m writing this instead, hoping that someone else might find it one day and read it and feel, for a moment, maybe a little less alone and a little less frightened.

Because it gets better.

It does.

I promise.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Baby, Blink and you'll miss it, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), E.- the fourth year, MSPI, My addled brain, Nursing, Sleep

Travel tips

Dear Turia,

Here are some helpful things to remember the next time you travel down under.

  • It is actually winter there at this time of year. I know it’s ‘winter’ and there’s no snow, and half the time the daytime high is comparable to a pleasant spring day in your part of the Great White North, but your memories weren’t exaggerating about how cold the houses were going to be. Yes, you can pack your slippers and your giant cozy sweater. No, they are not taking up too much space.
  • But pack some shorts. And if you go to the coast, take them. You might get to wear them. Packing six pairs of shorts for E., however, is ambitious.
  • Don’t bother bringing running gear unless you are actually running regularly BEFORE you leave for the airport. You’ve done this twice now. If you’re not in a pattern of regular running before the holiday, you’re not going to magically find the time to start while there. Stop wasting space that your giant cozy sweater could be using.
  • Stop thinking you’re going to read books on the plane. You won’t have the brain capacity. Just admit you’re going to watch movies (at least when E.’s not asking you questions), and stop packing books. They’re heavy.
  • Learn to say no to alcohol, puddings, morning and afternoon teas, etc., at least some of the time. If you’re not running, you can’t eat whatever you want, whenever you want, for a month without consequences.
  • Do whatever it takes to achieve a quiet life on the plane. You’re never going to see those people again. If E. is happy to watch 17 hours of television, and he’s quiet the whole flight (because he’s either sleeping or watching television) except for when he’s shrieking with laughter at the television, call that a win. You are not a bad parent for doing this.
  • Do not turn into your mother. Yes, I understand that you’ve been sucked into the world of bird-watching. Q. has a very low tolerance for such activities. Strive for the happy medium.
  • Don’t think it will be a cheap holiday. Yes, you’re staying with family. Yes, you’re not doing a lot of travelling around. But you seem to always forget how expensive Q.’s country is, and how much Q.’s family likes to eat out. Coffees cost $4 and tea isn’t any cheaper. Just get used to it.
  • Use jet lag to your advantage. All routines go out the window on such a trip. Why not embrace the chaos and use it for good? Upon returning from this trip you managed to get E. to start brushing his teeth after breakfast, to get dressed after breakfast, to sleep in his medium-sized guy bed rather than a crib, and to start sitting on (and using!!!) the potty. All without arguments or hysterics. Frankly, looking at that list, the sky’s the limit.
  • Don’t think of it as a ‘vacation’. It’s not going to be relaxing. It will probably get easier as E. gets older, but it’s never going to feel like a break. You’re going to come home exhausted. Make sure to take lots of pictures and see some things you’ve never seen before. That’s what you’ll remember in the years to come.
  • Don’t regret the life you have. Oz has a funny habit of putting on a good show every time you go to visit. The weather’s amazing, Q.’s city has the most beautiful harbour in the world (and you never get tired of the view from the train as you ride across the Bridge), the newspapers are better, the dairy products are amazing, the trains are so much more civilized. Remember that you can’t afford to live in Q.’s city. Remember how much you hate the summers there. Remember that most things that crawl or slither can kill you. Remember that there is a casual acceptance of racism that you were never able to be reconciled to. Remember how far away it is from everywhere else. It is the best place in the world to visit, but you don’t want to stay there forever.
  • Try to be nicer. Granted, a month is too long to spend with family (as you and Q. both agree). Granted, they are going to say some truly hurtful things that imply your life as it stands must be terrible because you don’t live where they do, and they are going to continue to ask some truly ignorant questions about your country (no matter how many times they come to visit), and they are going to make some very passive-aggressive (or sometimes just plain aggressive) judgments about your parenting and about your son. Remember that Q. chose you. He loves you. You have a good life. His family misses him terribly, and they don’t understand why he moved across the world. Remember that they love E. with all their hearts. Try to cut them a bit more slack, even when they are driving you absolutely fucking crazy. You make this resolution every time you visit. Try to keep it next time.

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Filed under Down Under, Family, Running, What were we thinking? (aka travelling with small children)

Work Matters

It’s looking like our gamble didn’t pay off, at least not for this year.

I am looking at September, and I am, at this moment, unemployed.

I applied for contract teaching positions at four universities.

I didn’t get any of the positions.

Q. and I had a talk about it, while we were still in Oz, when it was becoming ever more obvious that there are just too many people out there with similar qualifications or with so much seniority that they are entrenched in a course even though they have no real qualifications in the subject (and I do). The irony is that I was a contract lecturer before I started the PhD, and if I had kept doing that, I myself would have been entrenched in those courses by this point, even though I would have been less qualified to teach them than I am now.

I told Q. that I wanted to stay home with E.

“This is our last year with him before he goes to school,” I said. “If he’s going to be it for us, I don’t want to have lost that year.”

Q. agreed.

So it looks like I am getting an unexpected year as a SAHM.

E. is going to continue to go to his nursery school, but probably for only three mornings a week rather than three full days. This will undoubtedly be better for him at this point, but we’re not sure how good it’s going to be as preparation for the following year, when our only option for JK is five full days. E. clearly is a child that would have done well with the old half-day program.

We are going to be stretched financially. We’re not going to be in danger of losing our house or anything, but we will have to prioritize differently, and we’re certainly not going to be putting a lot of money away.

But I know that I am lucky. I am lucky in that I have a husband who has a secure job and who makes a good wage, and I am lucky in that my husband wholeheartedly supports my desire to stay at home with E. for this year, while also at the same time understanding that, of course, I will want to do something else eventually. But I don’t have to figure out what that something else is RIGHT NOW.

We’ve never been without an income on my part. It’s fluctuated a lot over the last seven years, but it’s never come anywhere close to what Q. makes. My income was cut in half this past year after my scholarship ran out and I was back on the minimum guarantee. It paid for E’s nursery school with a bit left over to tuck away into our savings.

Losing that safety net is going to be hard for us. We’ve been so careful financially for so long, and we’ve worked so hard to save money, to pay off our mortgage faster, to build up investments, to pay for infertility treatments. We have no debt other than our mortgage. It will be a challenge for us to budget without our extra savings capacity, to feel comfortable with that smaller amount arriving every month, even if it is only for a year.

But Q. and I both believe it will be worth it if it means I can have that year with E.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at all worried about being at home with E. There was a comment made by a parent on Ask Moxie the other day responding to a post about preschool and daycare, where the mother said that she largely sent her children to preschool because she was a strong introvert and she needed the time to herself.

It was like a bomb went off in my head.

I’d somehow forgotten that, even though I’m E.’s Mummy, I’m still an introvert.

I can’t think of anything less well-suited to an introvert than to be a parent of a young child. There is no room for quiet and introspection and solitude when you are faced with such a constant well of need.

I love E. with all my heart, but I still often find being his mother exhausting.

Reading her comment made me feel better about all the times I get tired of E. I’m not actually tired of E. himself, I’m just tired of having someone else around me, asking me questions ALL THE TIME.

Most days I suspect I need his quiet time more than he does. Her comment made me understand (belatedly) why this is so.

My son is also an introvert. He is a delightful, highly sensitive child, who is happiest when he gets to stay at home, doing his own thing, with his mother.

And so, while I am a bit nervous about how I will cope with this uncharted territory (because I have never been free to ‘just’ be E’s mother- I have been working on the dissertation since before he was born), I know that E. will thrive.

I have promised myself that when E. is at nursery school, that time is my own.

I will not run errands.

I will not clean the house.

I would like to write, but I recognize that there will be some time after the dissertation is finished where I will not be able to do so. But maybe a bit later, after my brain starts to think about other things again, I can pick up the pieces of story in my head.

And at some point I will start to think about the long-term, and what we will do, what I will do, if this year was not just an anomaly, but an indication of what is to come.

There are huge advantages to being a contract lecturer when you are not the primary wage earner in your family.

It would keep Q. and I in academia together. Our years would follow a similar pattern. We would be free for holidays at the same time.

I could refuse to teach in the summer semester and be home with E. in the summers once he’s in school, which is something I’ve always wanted to do.

I could have relatively flexible hours and be around for most school pick ups and drop offs (and the ones I couldn’t make, Q. would be able to organize his schedule to make himself available).

I have known for a number of years now that I don’t want a tenure-stream position, even if one were to come available (which will happen when pigs fly, given how bad the job market is). I just don’t think there’s room for two in one family if there are children involved. A tenure-stream position demands too much of you. I’ve seen how hard Q. works. We can’t both work that hard without abdicating most of the day-to-day responsibilities of raising our son.

I’m just not willing to do that.

But contract work would have been a good alternative.

I may have to start thinking about other options, but I’m not ready to do that yet. I’ve been in school, as a student or a teacher or both, for almost my entire life. I am suited to it. It nourishes me. Contemplating a life built on other rhythms seems impossibly alien right now.

In an ideal world, I would find a job I wouldn’t hate going to in the morning, that allowed me to be there when my son got home from school most of the time, that would let me spend the summers with him.

Contract teaching would have worked, but that door might not open for me.

I’m not sure what else is out there that might fit the bill.

If I were really, really brave, I would say outright that I know exactly what I want to do: I want to write. But I have not earned the right to say this. I haven’t tried, not really, not properly, to write, to see if I could succeed at it. And it’s not fair to Q. to saddle him with the financial responsibilities of the family (which would cause him enormous stress), and it is not fair to myself to cut myself off from some sort of position that would grant me financial independence and stability if anything were to happen to my marriage. (I do not think that anything would happen to my marriage, but I am a child of divorce and I know what happens to many women who head single-parent families.)

There’s time enough to figure out what I might do.

This coming year belongs to my son, my miracle baby.

I am going to spend my days with him, and I am going to count myself lucky.

Because now I know how close we came to not having anyone else in our house at all.

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Filed under (Pre)School Days, E.- the fourth year, Money Matters, PhD, Writing

Adjustment

My ravens are less noisy now.

They don’t shout at me quite so often.

I don’t catch them speaking through my mouth as frequently.

They’re still perched there, black, hunched, brooding.

But they’ve had to be quiet. It was too exhausting otherwise.

Most days now, I am ok.

Most days I do not cry.

Most days I do not think about what might have been.

But when the reminders come, the pain resurfaces.

We had lunch with friends while we were in Oz. They have a daughter a year younger than E. They’re due again in September.

They’re due when we should have been.

The woman on my birth club, the only one of the three of us who didn’t lose her September baby, posted a selfie the other day. She was giant and glowing.

I logged out and remembered why I had stayed away from the birth club for so long.

I feel like I am ok, like I am coming to terms with things, like I am moving towards a place of acceptance of the fact that E. will, in all likelihood, be an only child.

And then I am forced to remember that it could have been otherwise, and I am reminded that, deep down, I’m not ok at all.

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Filed under 2.0 Pregnancy, Anxiety Overload, Grief, Loss, Second Thoughts, Siblings