Friday, February 27, 2009

Donor thoughts

I've written a bit before about how we've chosen not to share information about our donor (such as it is) with folks outside our immediate family while our kids are still too small to understand. We feel that information belongs to Leigh (and to this next baby), not really to us, or to the community at large.

That sounds fine and all, but I know other perfectly wonderful parents come at this completely differently. They reach out to donor sibling families, feeling it is their obligation as parents to make those connections, so their kids don't have to. And to be clear, I'm talking about unknown frozen bank donors here, either ID release or not. Navigating a KD relationship is a whole separate ballgame, and I can't really claim to know anything about that.

I notice I'm often careful to phrase this approach so it sounds like we're solely protecting our kid(s) interests, and in many ways we are. We modeled our approach after adoptive parents we know and respect very much, and at it's core, I do think it's the right thing for our family. But it is a bit disingenuous to claim we're only thinking of our kid(s).

Lately, I've realized that some portion of my unwillingness to freely share what we know has to do with my own discomfort (and I think Gail has some similar, but not identical, issues here). With Leigh, the existence of a donor at all implied that there was someone, and probably many people, with an arguably stronger link to my daughter than I had, at least at first, before we a few years of real life together under our belts. I found that deeply threatening, and for a while, it made me rather frantic to conceive our second ASAP by the same donor. Once we had this little baby, that connection outside our family felt like a threat, and even though there was absolutely no one who would have tried to take her away and I had full legal parental rights, my relationship to Leigh felt insecure and fragile. At that time I got some advice to focus on building my relationship with her instead of worrying about the donor or moving forward immediately on a second pregnancy (it was proving hard to convince Gail that was a good idea anyway). The fact was, my relationship with Leigh was what mattered and it wasn't under threat. Adding more complications to our life (via an immediate jump back into TTC) wasn't going to fix anything. If I could just wait, and get my footing, I might realize nothing was broken.

That was excellent advice. Two years later, it's hard to even remember what I felt like back then. I don't feel resentful of our donor. I feel several complicated things, but foremost among them is gratitude. I'm more comfortable with the idea of donor siblings. I'm certainly not chomping at the bit to make real life connections there, but I am much more OK that they exist at all.

And this has brought me back to re-evaluate our approach to the donor information, but not in how we interact with the outside world. Rather, I'm thinking about how we hold the presence of the donor within our own family. While not blabbing at the park with whoever wanders by about details of Leigh's genetic origins seems quite reasonable for our family, I'm afraid that some of that silence has carried over to our own internal family dynamics. We shy away from almost all resemblance talk. Gail and I never discuss the donor in Leigh's company. At all. We talk lots about different kinds of families and other age appropriate kids-of-queers stuff, but nothing about the donor. The same source of the good advice to focus on Leigh before frantically running off to the sperm bank also gave advice that we can wait to have any conversations with Leigh about the donor until she brings it up. I've heard that as conventional advice from other sources, but I think I may be using that as an excuse. I worry that pieces of our own remaining discomfort at having needed her donor's help at all will transmit to Leigh via our relative silence. Sure, we say we'll answer whatever she asks, but if the topic isn't truly an open one, she'll pick up on it, and then she won't ask.

So with that, Gail and I are working on opening up talk of the donor between us, and in Leigh's presence. I'm not talking a nitty-gritty sit down with our toddler to explain how lesbian babies are made, but rather working to cultivate comfort and openness in us parents. Job number one on this front is that when this new baby comes, Gail and I are going to resist shutting down resemblance talk. We didn't explicitly shut it down before, but our discomfort with the topic, at least on my part, was surely palpable. I will work very hard to suppress my automatic bristle should anyone talk about how Leigh and the new baby look alike. Once I get that under control, I'll work on seeing that connection between our two kids, which was one we were willing to fork over a lot of cash for, as a really great thing, and one that it is OK to actually talk about.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What is now, just barely, a funny story (and disgusting TMI)

Anyone who follows Gail on twitter (you can get to her feed at right) already knows a bit about my exciting incident last Friday. Here are the gory details.

[NB: There is absolutely no way to tell this story without it being way too much information. Proceed at your own risk. It is gross.]

Very early on Friday, just after breakfast, at perhaps 6:45 am, I was on the toilet for one of my many morning pees (of course, I'd already been up at least three times through the night, but apparently it wasn't enough). All of a sudden I was throwing up. Now, this came as a shock, since I haven't thrown up in at least a month. And this wasn't a paltry little dry heave. My entire breakfast was coming back to haunt me.

Because I haven't thrown up in so long, I was ill prepared. A few months ago, I wouldn't have sat down on the toilet at that time of day without also carrying a bowl along for just such an eventuality. But since I hadn't had such foresight, I stood quickly to spin around and deposit my remaining throw-up in the toilet. But anyone who has ever been inside our tiny bathroom will understand what a terrible mistake I made when I turned right instead of left.

As I turned right, with extreme speed, I bashed my face, in particular the bridge of my nose, extremely EXTREMELY hard onto the end of a towel rack that was very firmly attached to the wall and my nose did not fare well. The towel rack was relatively unscathed.

Suddenly, I was dripping what seemed like gallons of blood out of my nose directly into the toilet (along with the remaining puke, which was also strewn around the bathroom), and was absolutely convinced my nose was broken beyond repair. I managed a plaintive call of "Help me! Help me!" and Gail and Leigh rushed to my aid.

Leigh's first question was "What coming out you nose, Mama?" I was not in a state to answer, and so then she got worried, and then she got hysterical. Gail, got a towel onto my nose, and then left to get Leigh calmed down. Once Leigh was settled, Gail still didn't know what had happened, but came back to lead me to the couch, where I managed to explain the incident. Much icing of the nose ensued, as well as a call to my dad (at 5:30 his time) to figure out if I needed to go to the emergency room or wait for my doctor's office to open (Answer: If you think you may have broken your nose, but can still breathe OK, you can probably wait and go to your own doctor), and a call to the midwife to cancel our imminent appointment, and her admonition to take arnica, quickly. Throughout this recovery period, Leigh was bringing me blankets and stuffed animals and admonishing me to rest and feel better. She adjusted quickly.

I was queasy and dizzy for much of the rest of the day, and very very tired, but my doctor said my nose probably isn't broken, and if it is, it's a minor break (I'd need an xray to confirm, but don't want one due to pregnancy, and even if broken, it probably isn't bad enough to do anything about anyway. Though it would be a nice thing to hold over the kid's head later). Since then, the swelling has gone down, bruising is minimal (yay arnica!) and I mostly look like myself, though I have yet to recover from a day of missed work.

So, let this be a lesson to you. I'm not sure what the lesson is, though. Perhaps something about throwing up on the floor perhaps being better than the alternative.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Couvade: My Pregnancy Symptoms

Here's your new word of the day: Couvade, otherwise known as sympathetic pregnancy. All of the material around it calls it a condition of expectant fathers, ignoring those of us non-gestational parents who happen to be women. But whatever -- I think I may have it. Of course, in my case it's complicated by the fact that I am actually trying to trick my body into thinking I'm pregnant. Apparently it's working.

Aside from some breast swelling (which means that the lactation-induction project is on track so far), my biggest symptom is food cravings. I have intense round-the-clock craving for chocolate of any kind. If you have any, please send it to my house. Don't bother with small amounts of really good chocolate; send a 5 pound bag of M&Ms. Over the weekend I was settling down for a snack when Lyn asked me, in a somewhat accusatory tone: "What are you eating?" It was cheese dipped in kosher salt, which is quite good actually, but it had never occurred to me to try it before. Not having any chocolate at hand, I moved on to raisins after that, and that's when I got the great idea to melt cheese over a mixture of raisins and chocolate. Throw an olive or two on top and I'd be in heaven.

My other symptom is hip pain. I can no longer sleep without a pillow between my knees. What do you think happens when you complain about your hip pain to a pregnant lady? (Here's a hint: it involves laughter. Directed at you.)

So I throw it out to you other non-gestational parents. Do you have any pregnancy symptoms to share? Please, I don't want to be alone in my whining.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Apparently it's "revelations-while-hypnotized" week

To follow up on Gail's hypnosis-induced surprise insight, I had one at our last class as well. At various points our instructor has asked to imagine being in some lovely place, perhaps someplace in nature. I seem to have settled on this spot that my Dad and I backpacked to in Colorado over 10 years ago now (I can't believe it has been that long!). The weather was perfect and summer wildflowers were blooming everywhere. You could look from our tent across a small clear pond, and up out of a small bowl shaped valley to a rocky ridge that marked the continental divide. One morning we woke to see two large stags standing in dramatic profile at the top of that ridge.

I think I was about 19 when we made that trip. I was very surly, pining for my fling-of-the-moment girl back home, and still in the very early part of the awkward and painful decade of parental relations that followed my coming out (we've since worked things out pretty well and they love Gail to bits, but that's a story for another day). My dad, though, in his own somewhat awkward and stilted way, was taking this all in stride. In retrospect it is rather sweet. As a parent now, I have a bit more empathy for how strange I must have seemed to him, and how desperately far away. But outdoorsy things we could do. Of his three daughters, I've always been the most game for outdoor adventures, and at some point I became his most likely companion on such outings. We could plan a trip, walk in the woods, set up camp and cook dinner in pleasant company, without too much difficulty and tears, so that's what we did.

I found myself trying to edit the painful parts of this memory from the image, and as part of that, I found myself trying to remove my Dad. He didn't really fit in with the whole natural relaxation for birth theme (it seemed like there shouldn't be any other people, maybe just those flowers and the pond), but I just couldn't quite get rid of him. At some point I realized he might be sticking around for a reason, that there was some piece of me that really wants to have my father at our birth.

It will never happen. My parents live a 5 hour plane ride away. My father is a family doctor with a schedule to keep (he has actually caught many a baby). We'll be trying very hard not to schedule anything birth-wise, which would mean he'd need plan to be out here for weeks to be sure of being here, and in many ways I'd rather not have either of my very medical parents (my mom is an advanced practice nurse) anywhere near our attempt at a home birth. I can't imagine going through the decisions we had to make when Leigh was in the process of taking her own sweet time to join us with my parents anywhere nearby, even though I do love both of them dearly.

But it does seem somehow nice that my Dad, who I'm often guilty of kind of forgetting about and putting off to the side, has found his way into this particular corner of our preparations. He's a quiet and thoughtful man. He thinks deeply and conveys his thoughts slowly, often getting a bit run over in a family that contained four extremely opinionated and outspoken women, and now also contains 3 kids-in-law and 3 (soon to be 4) boisterous grandchildren. I may be guilty of sometimes failing to appreciate his peaceful and calming presence, and unfailing love, but I will endeavor to carry it with us as we move forward, even if he won't be here in person.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Imagine Our Perfect Birth

In our hypnobirthing class we did an exercise called "fear release." In this technique, you imagine yourself in a safe space, visualize your fears around birth, and then destroy or dispose of those fears. For instance, you might imagine a book containing pictures of the things that worry you. You tear those pages out of a book and burn them. You then replace the frightening images with peaceful images of a birth going just the way you want.

I honestly don't have many fears around the birth. Leigh's birth was long and much more difficult than we expected, and we survived just fine. As a bonus, this time my vagina and uterus won't be involved at all, so I'll probably be able to walk afterward.

I went into the fear release hypnosis pretty confident. I imagined scary scenes, most of which just had to do with my confidence as a person, not specifically around birth. I burned all the fears up and felt free. Then the hypnobirthing instructor told us to imagine ourselves  in the moments after birth, having had exactly the birth experience we desired. I got stuck. I was supposed to imagine myself as happy and fulfilled as I could be, but I suddenly felt sad.

In the picture in my head, I wasn't holding my baby. In the moments just after birth, Lyn gets to hold the baby first and put it to breast. I will be right there touching those little fingers and toes and glowing with pride, but I will still be just a supporting player.

So there I was, imagining one of the greatest moments of my life and I wasn't really part of the action. I started to wilt, worrying that the baby wasn't going to love me or that I wasn't going to love the baby. Suddenly, I was facing my real fears and they were right in the stinking middle of my beautiful birth fantasy. I realized that I will miss being being  the center of the birth experience this time, and I do have some grief around my baby starting his or her life deeply connected to someone else, not to me.

So I did the only sensible thing with my beautiful birth picture -- I moved the baby into my arms. Yes, in reality I'll have to wait for just a few minutes longer than Lyn to hold my delicious baby. But it's my fantasy, dammit. In my fantasy Lyn and the new baby have an amazing labor, peaceful and joyous. I catch the baby, place it on Lyn's belly, and we both drink in this new person, bonding as a trio as the baby wriggles its way up to the breast. Then Lyn hands me the baby. We have our long-awaited moment to get to know each other, and my joy and wonder erase any sadness that we were separate for so long.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


A couple nights ago, Gail asked "Am I absolutely crazy to be thinking it's great we're going to have a baby because then I don't have to work this summer?" Of course, she meant her paid work of being a math professor, and I'm sure she has conveniently forgotten the work of parenting a newborn, let alone newborn and toddler.

But I'm guilty of the same fantasizing.

Between now and June, I'm a bit under the gun at work. If all goes well, by June I will have polished off a paper that's almost through review, prepared and presented a conference poster, resubmitted the very important grant that will permit me to keep my job past next year, submitted a paper, and maybe done some supporting second/third author work for another project. Summer home with a newborn sounds like a vacation.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy my work (I'm a post-doctoral fellow, doing research at the interface of math and biology), semi-frequent career crises aside. It is really interesting. I get to work with really personable and smart people all day. My two bosses are fine that I take a day home per week with Leigh (one of them does the same with her kids) and no one is looking over my shoulder. On the other hand, I work with several people who think about nothing but scientific research 24/7 and really think that everyone should do the same, there is a lot of pressure to perform, I'm at a very do-or-die stage of my research career that most people would say is an awful time to have young kids and you'd better believe it's weird to be pregnant around here. (I really don't know what it's like for women who say they get pestered with pregnancy questions endlessly. I think everyone here just prefers not to think about it.) In many ways, the tradeoff for academic flexibility is constant academic guilt. I do OK keeping it at bay, much better than I used to, but I am looking forward to having a really great reason not to think about math or science anything for a couple months. If it works anything like when Leigh was born, I'll be more than ready to do science again, and do a better job of it, after a baby interlude.

Just don't remind me right now what a newborn is really like. I've blocked it out. Let me fantasize and exploit my conveniently selective memory for a little bit.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Note to self

For future reference, do not schedule the yearly condo meeting, kindly hosted in your own unit, for well "after" bedtime, anywhere remotely near the transition from crib to "big bed," especially considering the other two units in your building house child-free bachelors.

Fingers crossed for the late Shabbat dinner we're hosting for our congregation next week.