Monday, December 31, 2012

the rearview mirror

It's over. This year has come to a close, and I face this closing door with mixed emotions.

2012 was the best year of my life. It was the year I fulfilled my dream of becoming a mother. But it didn't come without heartache. I don't forget that just weeks before K's arrival, we were making plans on what to do with all of the items in our nursery. We were not going to renew our home study. We were going to live child free.

As I sit here now, staring at K who is asleep in her swing, I realize how lucky we are. How close we were to never achieving this joy. How close we were to leaving this journey behind empty handed.

I don't usually make resolutions for the new year. It's not in my nature. I feel that - in general - if I work hard at all that I do, I will feel accomplished. And that's still true. But if I were to have a resolution for this coming year, it's this: to push forward in helping others achieve their dreams of parenthood.

To stay active in the infertility community.

To remain an advocate for all of you who still await your miracle.

Because while I will look back on 2012 as a year filled with joy, I know that so many others will not. All of you will be in my thoughts as we go into 2013. May this be the year that your dreams finally come true.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

merry christmas

Wishing all of you who celebrate a wonderful, safe, and very Merry Christmas.

Today I'm blessed to celebrate my daughter's first Christmas. But my heart is with those who are hurting this holiday season - from those who are suffering from infertility to those mourning the loss of loved ones.

Hugs to all.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

ICLW

Hi, everyone! Sorry I'm a couple of days late to the ICLW party. The holidays are always crazy around our house, and this year is no exception.

My name is Katie and you can gather most of the details of my journey from the pages above marked "My Story" and "Timeline." But in short, after over four years of infertility, my husband and I adopted our daughter this year. She was born in July, and we just finalized her adoption at the end of November. I refer to her as "K" (or sometimes "Miss K") on this blog to protect her privacy.

Right now I feel like I'm still sometimes trying to transition from infertility to motherhood. Baby announcements can still be incredibly painful for me - especially ones for second and third children. This is because we've decided that K will be our only child. Not only do I want to be sure we have the means to provide for her financially, but I also don't know if I can endure another round of trying for a baby (adoption or IF treatments) in a physical, emotional, or mental sense. However, it doesn't mean that I don't mourn the loss of my dreams for a big family.

But I won't end this on a down note. I'm truly excited for the next few days and the opportunity to celebrate our baby girl's first Christmas. We've waited years for this moment and it's finally here. So I'm going to enjoy this time and everything about it! I'm also taking this time to think about all of those still in the trenches, waiting for their miracle. I don't forget what it's like and I most definitely never will.

That's it for now. Welcome, and hopefully I'll have something more profound to write in the next few days. :)

Monday, December 17, 2012

a need for change

The tragedy in Newtown has hit me hard. I don't know how to explain it. Some have suggested its because I'm a parent now, but I don't agree with that. To quote Savannah Guthrie of the Today Show, "If you are lucky enough to love a child, you cannot shield your heart from how much this hurts."

Maybe it's because the victims were so young. Babies. Ages 6 and 7.

Maybe it's because my mom is a school teacher, and I increasingly fear for her safety.

Maybe it's because this same story repeats itself far too often.

Since the shooting, there has been so much talk about gun control. Mental illness. Safety in schools. I do believe that there are improvements we can make to keep our children safe. What I don't believe is that "solving" one, single issue will stop this from happening. It's far more complex than that.

We, as a society, must change.

We don't need to take away every single gun. We do need to make them more difficult to access. We need to keep them away from our children and away from individuals who want to use them for harm. Is it necessary to have an arsenal full of semiautomatic rifles in your home? No.

We do need to support the mentally ill, to let them know that they are not alone and they are not "crazy." We don't need to drastically take away their rights. Not every mentally ill person kills. Not every mentally ill person deserves to be locked away - ostracized further from society.

We do need better safety in schools and more support for our teachers. We do not need to arm them. They have difficult jobs as is. Let's find better ways of supporting them. Let's not wait until they have to take bullets for our children to hug them and tell them we appreciate them.

We need to teach our children that violence is not okay. We need to teach them to treat one another the way that they would want to be treated. We need to stop the bullying and the hatred. We need to teach peace and kindness toward all. "God" in schools isn't going to solve anything. Tolerance of ALL might - regardless of their religions. (If you haven't watched the Muslim prayer from last night's interfaith vigil, please do. Enlighten yourself and be sure you have tissues handy.)

We need to stop accepting this as normal. Because it's not. We need to start taking action. And it can't just be in our schools, or with our mentally ill, or with guns. It has to be everywhere, and it has to be everyone.

These babies. We can't let them die in vain. They had so much life to live. They will never know what it's like to get their first kiss. To get their acceptance letter to college. To walk across the stage at their high school graduation and toss their cap in the air. To go drinking all night on their 21st birthday. To buy their first car. To get their first job. To travel the world. To fall in love. To fall out of love. To get married to their soulmate. To have children or grandchildren. They will never get to make decisions about their future. Someone made that decision for them. But they can still make an impact through OUR actions.

For "there is no foot too small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world."

Saturday, December 15, 2012

newtown

I write this as K sleeps next to me in bed. She was restless most of the night, chatting and squealing away while Joey and I fought migraines.

But you know? I have no complaints. I feel so fortunate.

Because hundreds of miles away, there is a group of parents who weren't up in the middle of the night with their children. Instead, they were up in the middle of the night grieving them. 20 innocent faces. Some of them surely in the midst of Hanukkah. Others awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus. Now gone. Their hopes and dreams - their futures - now unreachable.

Hundreds of miles away, there is a group of surviving children - those who witnessed or heard the deaths of others. Those whose innocence will never be restored.

There are the families of the adult victims, the men and women who were there to nurture our young minds and hearts. Dead - many if not all of them in an effort to protects other children from becoming victims.

There are the teachers and other school officials, the police, the first responders... All heroes, but all witnesses to the carnage that took place yesterday morning. They held hands and dried tears, while trying to hold back tears of their own.

So today, I may be tired. But I will down that extra cup of coffee and keep going. I will hold K a little bit closer. Tell her again how much I love her. Because any day with her is a million times better than what the residents in Newtown are enduring at this moment.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

bah, humbug

The holiday season is in full swing. In the midst of Hanukkah and with Christmas right around the corner, I've heard from many friends who are struggling with how to cope during this difficult time of year - especially when it comes to family gatherings.

I've always been a big advocate for self care/preservation. I can't count how many times I had to back out of events or gatherings because I wasn't emotionally capable of handling it. Events with children were especially overwhelming.

So, I'm here to tell you that it's okay to skip out on the holiday events. That's right. I'm actually suggesting ditching your family.

I love my family. I truly do. But I wish I had listened to my own advice and bailed on them at least one holiday season of the four I endured while childless. This is a painful time to cope with this disease. There are the holiday commercials and the kid-centric events (such as meeting Santa or opening gifts). This is also the end of the year. Each January, all of us have renewed hope about conceiving or bringing home our child. By December, we are run down. We've tried our best, and we still haven't succeeded. The holidays only serve as a reminder of the end - another year gone by without becoming a parent.

Why endure sitting through the torture of large family dinners or those kids opening their gifts?

Family means well, but they don't understand what it's like to be surrounded by such cheer when you aren't feeling very cheerful yourself. Your crazy, drunk cousin doesn't get that saying "at least you can still drink!" is painful. Your mom doesn't get why you don't want to hold your sister's baby and pose for photos.

But I do. I get it. I've been there. That's why I'm giving you permission to not deal with it. Stay home. Fake illness. Book a last minute trip out of town. Do whatever you need to do. Just don't force yourself to participate if you aren't in a place to do so.

YOU are what's important - your well being. Take care of yourself. Take this time to refresh and rethink your goals for next year. Connect with other couples going through the same thing, if you can, and celebrate the holidays together. (Because you KNOW an infertile couples' holiday party would be a much better time than dealing with Uncle Ned's questions about your barren uterus.)

And be kind to yourself. It may have been a rough year. But 2013 is a new begininning.

Hugs.

For more tips on how to cope with infertility during the holidays, visit RESOLVE's website.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

at what cost?

This morning, I stumbled across this article while doing research for a project at work. For some reason, I never knew (or maybe I never wanted to know) that REs receive a kickback from IVF loans. It makes sense. Many receive them from drug companies, so it's logical that they would also receive them from the loan providers.

I agree with what this author is saying, but I think there is a broader issue here. I'm reading this on the heels of several conversations with friends and family members regarding the high cost, in general, of infertility and adoption services. It saddens me that it cost as much as it does to build a family - particularly when these are circumstances we cannot control. We didn't choose to be infertile; therefore, why should we be punished financially?

By no means do I expect these services to be dirt cheap. I understand that it's costly to run a clinic. However, for average couples, it's unreasonable to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a chance. This is a large reason why we chose adoption (and, going back to the study I posted about on Monday, I imagine it's a large reason why couples choose child-free living . . . they simply don't have the resources to attempt IVF an unlimited number of times).

Of course, this would be a non-issue if we had mandated infertility coverage. If we acknowledged infertility for what it is: a disease.

All we can do is continue to fight for our "equality." To make lawmakers, insurance companies, and doctors understand our point of view. We can call our Congressmen/women and fight for the passage of the Family Act. We can get involved in organizations like RESOLVE. And we can hope that, in our lifetime, we see a change in the way we are recognized by others outside of this community.

Monday, December 10, 2012

being infertile shortens your life

Or at least it does if you don't resolve it - so get on that.

Last week, a researcher at the University of Denmark released the results of a study on couples who underwent IVF for infertility. According to the study, the mortality rates for those couples who were childless were higher than those couples whose IVF treatments worked or who subsequently adopted children. Doctors attributed this to the stress cause by infertility treatment and/or the lifestyle difference between those with children and those without.

I don't buy this.

Don't get me wrong. Infertility treatments are stressful. This is a large reason why we didn't pursue IVF (that and it was expensive with no guarantee of the payoff). I wasn't sure that I could mentally handle a failed IVF cycle. I've always struggled with anxiety and depression, but both were exacerbated by infertility treatments. A failed IVF cycle would have pushed me over the edge. To be honest, a failed adoption would have pushed me over the edge, too. Thankfully, we never had to experience either.

But I don't believe that the stress of infertility will kill you. Nor do I believe that your lifestyle becomes so much different than those who have children.

It seems like scare tactics. As if people who want children and can't have them need to be pushed any further toward the cliff of complete insanity. But why bring on this discussion? What is the point of telling people who can't have kids that they are going to die sooner than everyone else around them if they don't succeed? Let's scare the shit out of a group that doesn't need anything else to fear. That sounds like fun. It makes me wonder if IVF clinics sponsored this, just to get more people coming through their doors.

It's also interesting that they focused solely on couples going through IVF treatment, as well, rather than focusing on the entire population of childless couples. What about couples who choose not to have children? Or couples who choose to adopt children without the diagnosis of infertility? Do they live longer as a result of those life choices?

How long we live depends on a myriad of factors. You can't point the finger at any one reason or the decision behind it. I could get hit by a bus and die tomorrow; I have a child. Those two things have nothing to do with one another. And unless my uterus explodes one day, I'm fairly confident that, when it is my time to go, my reproductive capabilities will have nothing to do with my exit from earth.

Infertility certainly feels like death some days. But don't believe for a second that it will kill you - with kids as the result or without.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

5 months

This is a baby-related post. Please feel free to skip if you are not comfortable reading.

K turned five months old on Sunday!

Weight & Length: She was over 23 inches long at her last check up (10-25%) and she weighs 12 lbs. 3 oz. (still 5-10%).

Sleeping: Sleep comes and goes. Sometimes she will make it through the night, or come close to it. Other times she will wake up every 3-4 hours to eat. She's also teething, and I know that discomfort doesn't help with her sleep patterns.

Eating: She's eating around 4 ounces at each feeding, and anywhere from 20 to 26 ounces a day. She was eating close to 5 ounces at each feed, but we took a step back late last week and over the weekend when she started struggling with her reflux again. The pediatrician upped her Zantac dose, so hopefully that does the trick. Prior to her tummy issues this weekend, we were also starting to introduce solid foods. So far, we've tried oatmeal (nay), bananas (nay), sweet potatoes (yay), avocado (yay), and apples (nay).

Diapers: We are still using cloth diapers at home, but daycare will only do disposable. So we are using Huggies Natural Care there, and she's almost ready to move out of size 1.

Clothing: Clothes that are 0-3 months are packed away, and so are many of the 3 month clothes. She's wearing mostly 3-6 month and 6 month sizes now.

Personality: SUCH A HAM. I promise there are times when she does cry, but for the most part, she's incredibly happy. And funny. She's started giggling uncontrollably when she finds something extra amusing, such as looking at herself in the mirror or playing peek-a-boo. She's also "found her voice" according to the pediatrician, because she shrieks and screams at times for no reason - and not in a sad way. She much prefers interacting with other people than being left alone, though she will occupy herself in her play gym for about 20-30 minutes at a time.

Milestones & Firsts: We had lots of big milestones this month, including trying solid foods for the first time (and sitting in her high chair) and, of course, finalization. She's sitting up a little bit on her own and rolling both ways with ease, though she's not a huge fan of rolling from back to tummy since she'd prefer not to be on her stomach. It seems to frustrate her, since she can't quite get her limbs coordinated in order to crawl yet. We've learned that putting a mirror in front of her does entice her to scoot forward, but it takes up a lot of her energy. She also celebrated her first Thanksgiving this month and met Santa for the first time.

I honestly can't believe that almost half a year has gone by already. Where is the time going? :(

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

officially official

On Friday morning, we piled into two cars: Joey, my father-in-law, my mother-in-law, and K in one; my mom, my brother, and me in the other.

We drove over an hour into the middle of nowhere, got lost walking to the courthouse, and arrived in front of the courtroom less than 10 minutes before our hearing.

It wasn't like the movies. There were no long testimonies about why we deserved to be parents or how much we love K. There wasn't even enough time for tears. We were sworn in, and it was over less than three minutes later.

Four and a half years in the making ended on Friday, November 30, 2012. We are legally parents. Finally!