Wednesday, May 29, 2013

taking a bite out of the big apple

Joey and I took a big leap over the weekend:

We went on our first vacation post-baby. By ourselves.

Granted, it was not a long trip. We left late Friday night and returned Monday afternoon. But it was still a huge step. This was the first time we both left K with someone else, other than a handful of nights in the NICU.

She stayed with my mom, so she was in excellent hands. I think both of them are exhausted from the experience. :) We purchased the WiFi at the hotel so we could FaceTime with her, though I think she was more confused/upset over the fact that we were "stuck in a screen."

Meanwhile, Joey and I hopped on a plane to New York City. The original plan was to go up there to see a show: Breakfast at Tiffany's. It's one of my favorite movies, and I was ecstatic to learn last year that it would be made into a Broadway show. We'd been planning this for months, to go up and see it the weekend of our fifth anniversary. We bought tickets before the show even opened. Then, about a month ago, I got an email saying that the show was cancelled due to less-than-stellar reviews and low ticket sales. Cue disappointment. BUT, New York just so happens to be one of our favorite cities. So we decided to keep our travel arrangements and head up there anyway.

Our flight was delayed coming in on Friday night, so we didn't arrive at the hotel until after 1 a.m. on Saturday morning. Even though New York is the city that never sleeps, we opted for bed rather than venturing out that late.

Saturday's weather was awful. It was cold, windy, and rainy. We had brunch near Central Park, but couldn't eat outside, and when we arrived at our planned indoor activity (MoMA) it was PACKED. Everyone else had the same idea. Not willing to wait over an hour for tickets, we did some shopping instead and then headed back to the hotel for a much-needed nap. Luckily, it cleared up enough for us to venture out a little later to the Brooklyn Brewery, dinner, and a quick visit to the Top of the Rock.

Sunday was a much better day weather-wise. We had tickets to the 9/11 Memorial first thing in the morning. I'm glad we went. It was a humbling experience. I've stood on that ground several times, and it always amazes me to experience the transformation: from tall buildings, to a burial ground, to a construction site, and now to such a peaceful place. I loved seeing all of the people from different countries, different backgrounds, there to pay their respects.

After the memorial, we headed uptown to see if the wait for MoMA was any better, and it was. We spent a couple of hours walking the halls, admiring the artwork. When we were done at the museum, we stopped by Shake Shack for lunch. I've been to New York numerous times, but I've never eaten at Shake Shack. It was good. Not great, just good. I think it was a little overhyped, but then again I'm also picky about my hamburgers since I've only been eating them for a couple of years. (Though Joey didn't think it was great, either, and he's a hamburger connoisseur.)

We did a little bit more shopping in SoHo after lunch, and then headed back to the hotel to rest before dinner. We decided to make reservations for the same restaurant we ate at on our last visit to the city: Marc Forgione. We had such a wonderful meal there the first time, and this time was no exception. In fact, I'd venture to say that this year's dinner was better. If you're ever in New York, I highly recommend. It's reasonably priced as far as "fancy" restaurants go, and their food is incredible. After dinner and drinks, we were so full, we could barely walk back to the hotel and we were in bed by 10. (I know. We're old.)

Monday morning was relaxed. We took our time getting ready and eating breakfast, and then wandered around the city a bit before it was time to go - walking through Battery Park, around Union Square, and back around the Financial District.

As nice as it was to take some time for ourselves, it was even better to get back home after this crazy month of traveling and other obligations. NOW I feel like we can finally relax. Starting with this weekend: doing nothing!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

five years

Five years ago tomorrow, I said "I do" to the man I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.

These last five years have not been easy. I never expected them to be perfect, but I certainly didn't expect to endure some of what we've been through - particularly everything that we experienced with trying to start a family. When I think back on some of what's happened to us over the last five years, sometimes I'm surprised we survived as well as we did with our sanity still intact. I know so many couples who didn't, and I can understand why. It's easy to see it when you're in it: all of the frustrations boil over until you both reach your breaking point. I get it, and I know that we are very lucky to not only have withstood the test of infertility, but to become parents on top of that. We beat so many of the evils that were out to get us.

Yet, it's interesting how, in the last (almost) eleven months since we've been parents, all of those difficult times have been pushed away. We of course remember how we got here: all of the disappointment, all of the blood, sweat, and tears we shed to become parents. But none of it matters now, because now we are focused on devoting ourselves to her. Those difficult moments with each other have been boxed away - placed in the back of the closet to collect dust and get tossed out with the next round of spring cleaning.

Not that parenting is easy on us or our relationship. It's not. Every day is a new challenge, and I suspect these challenges will only grow more difficult as K gets older and we begin to experience all of what the universe has prepared for our child. But looking back on these last five years now, the tough times aren't what I think about. I don't think about the heated discussions on fertility treatments or the times I snapped (sometimes yelling, sometimes crying) from my body being overrun with hormones. I don't think about the sleepless nights of wondering whether this was some kind of punishment for either of us, or whether we even deserved to be parents.

Instead, I remember the acts of love, big and small, that we showed each other during these tough times. I remember the flowers that Joey would bring home after every failed treatment. I remember the way he told me endlessly how much he would always love me, even if we couldn't have children. I remember how he waited on me hand and foot after both of my surgeries. I remember the way he held my hand in the airport as we realized our last cycle had failed and we'd reached the end of the road with treatments. I remember when we made the decision to adopt. When I asked him, "Do you want me to pregnant, or do you want us to be parents?"

And, of course, I remember the moments when we found out we would be parents. I remember the reaction in Joey's voice when I told him we were matched. I remember the nerves both of us felt meeting K's birth mother for the first time. I remember watching him hold K for the first time and realizing that this was the reason I'd married this man: because I could always imagine him in this moment, being such a wonderful father to our little girl. And he's doing just that. He's an amazing father, maybe even more amazing than I imagined he would be when we first started dating.

He's not perfect. He doesn't push in his chair at the dinner table. He tears off his toenails instead of using nail clippers. (Gross, right?) But dwelling on the tough times and the imperfections isn't what marriage is about. It's focusing on the good. It's remembering the past so that you don't make the same mistakes, but looking toward the future.

In many ways, I'd grateful for infertility and what it did to our marriage. It put us through the ringer, but in the end, we are better for it. Many other couples don't get along over finances or they can't agree on what neighborhood to move into. We dealt with decisions that not only affected our health, but our future as a family and our potential child's future. We adopted and now parent a child who was born with multiple health issues and who, so far, has beat all of the odds that were stacked against her. In a way, infertility was a blessing. It made me realize how good life could truly be, and how lucky I was to share this good life with an equally good man.

I love you, Joey. Happy five year anniversary, and here's to many, many more.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

ICLW: May 2013

Hi, everyone! I'm Katie, and I've been blogging in this space for about 5.5 years now. Sometimes it's hard to believe that I have anything left to say after that long, but somehow I do. I'm a 28-year-old archivist living in Central Florida with my husband, Joey, 10.5-month-old daughter (K), and miniature dachshund (Danica). You can read more about my journey on the "my story" and "timeline" pages at the top of my blog, but my story can pretty much be summed up in these few sentences:

1. My lady parts don't know how to work.
2. We tried infertility treatments. They didn't work, either.
3. In late 2011, we became home study approved to adopt domestically.
4. On July 2, 2012, we became parents to K via open adoption.

My blog is sort of all over the places these days. I blog a lot about infertility and advocacy efforts, both mine and others. I write occasionally about K, though not often since I don't want to upset anyone reading who is still in the trenches. I try to write about family, but since I've blogged publicly for quite some time, there is only so much I feel comfortable sharing with my name and face attached to this place.

I'm not too sure where that leaves me. I've been in limbo for quite a while, and I haven't exactly grasped how to move forward from this limbo. It's a strange place to be. On one hand, parenting to me has become normal. Everyday. Comfortable. Make no mistake: I still look around sometimes I wonder how we got to this place after so much struggle. Mother's Day was particularly strange for me. I felt like an poser, a fake - not because my child was adopted, but because I spent so much time ignoring that day, I couldn't believe that I was finally the person being celebrated.

On the other hand, I'm still very much "in" infertility. I think part of me always will be. I, of course, still have friends dealing with treatments or waiting to adopt. But more than that, I still strive to be involved. "Never forget where you came from." That's the philosophy I've been embracing. Still, it can be challenging to balance the two, particularly in this space. I hope that I do a decent job in tackling this.

That said, I feel very fortunate to be on the other side of infertility after four years of enduring the pain and suffering that comes with waiting. Parenting has its own struggles. There are days that require an extra Xanax and two glasses of wine instead of one. Despite this, I know that every day is a gift, and there will always be a tomorrow, a new day to look forward to. And believe me: I remember there being no tomorrow to look forward to.

That's pretty much it: me and where I am - where this blog is - in a nutshell. Regardless of where the future takes me, I will still keep plugging away in this space. It's not only a reminder of where I've been, but it's a reminder of what I've become. And it's my child's story: from wishing and hoping for her, to finally holding her in my arms. It's from IF (infertility) to when . . . and beyond.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

10 months & surgery

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

K turned 10 months old on May 2. I know, I know - I'm WAY behind on this update. But I have good reason: two weeks in a row of travel, and then K had surgery on Monday (the 13th). More on this in a minute.

Weight & Length: She won't have another official weight and length check until her one year, but prior to her surgery, she weighed 16 lbs. 2 oz.

Sleeping: We are still doing well with sleep. Unless she's sick, she will sleep through the night - falling asleep between 7 and 8 pm and waking up between 6 and 7 am. Her naps are fairly regular, too, though she still naps better at daycare then at home. We joke that it's because she can't get enough of seeing us. :)

Eating: She's taking 5 ounces each bottle and and averaging between 23 and 26 ounces a day. She also takes 8 tablespoons of oatmeal and two pouches of fruits and veggies a day, as well as eating finger foods on a regular basis (usually at dinner time). We need to start pushing the sippy cup.

Clothing: We are in some 9-month clothing and some 12-month. I've officially had to stop shopping in the tiny baby section at Target. Sniff sniff.

Personality: We are going to have a Chatty Cathy on our hands. She's already incredibly talkative, babbling from the time she wakes up until she goes to bed at night. She's also strong willed. We are starting to see the stubborn side of her. She will ball up her fists and get frustrated when she can't accomplish certain tasks. If this is how she is now, we're in big trouble when she's a teenager! But she's not always hard headed. She still has an incredibly sweet and snuggly side to her. When she's tired, especially, all she wants to do is rest her head on our shoulders.

Milestones & Firsts: In addition to her first trip out of state (to my brother's college graduation in Atlanta), K underwent her first (and hopefully only) surgery this month to put in ear tubes. It was inevitable. She'd been battling constant ear infections since Christmas, and we were finally referred to an ENT a couple of weeks ago. Their audiologist did a hearing test, and K already had partial hearing loss. So this was the best option to save her hearing and hopefully revert it back to normal. The surgery went smoothly, and we've already noticed a difference in her hearing. She's turning her head toward sounds that she never used to notice. We'll have a follow-up test in mid-June, and go from there. If her hearing isn't 100%, they will try other methods/therapies.

This month was also a big month for mobility. She's finally moving forward! She doesn't crawl "traditionally." She prefers to army crawl or scoot on her butt. She's getting SO FAST, but she could care less about crawling toward toys or people (except Danica - she loves her dog!). Instead, she moves to the nearest piece of furniture so that she can pull herself into a standing position. It's forced us to rethink some of our current furniture. We had to replace the coffee table and the entertainment center with taller and sturdier options, and we are busy anchoring anything and everything to the walls and covering the outlets.

We are a month and a half away from her first birthday. It's unreal to me. We are planning to meet up with her biological grandfather for lunch next month, and I'm starting to think about her first birthday party. We've sold her baby swing, switched her to a convertible car seat, and she's almost ready to start "transitioning" to the toddler room at daycare. Lots of changes bring on many mixed emotions for me. But I'm just focused on the fact that she's healthy and happy, and how incredibly blessed I am to see her smiling face at the end of each day.

Monday, May 13, 2013

my advocacy day

I'm behind. Deeply behind. I still have to write K's 10-month update. And then I have to fill you in on her surgery (don't worry, she's fine). But I want to write first about Advocacy Day. I meant to do it as soon as I returned home on Thursday, but time - as it often happens - slips away quickly. In hindsight, I'm glad I didn't write about it immediately. It's given me time to reflect on my trip, the connections I made, or strengthened, in many cases, and what I walked away with.

I'll be perfectly honest: I started my day not knowing how I would feel once I arrived. I wasn't sure how I would react to sharing my story in front of strangers. Not that I don't do that here, in this space. But this was different. This was sitting down face-to-face and talking about some of the hardest, most intimate details about my life. Would I cry? I tend to be emotional. Would I get flustered? I'm not the best public speaker. Would my stomach be in knots the entire time?

I had the privilege of advocating alongside C, who blogs over at Stuck on Pause. In those initial moments walking through the halls and going over our talking points, I had butterflies. Major butterflies. I didn't know what to expect of myself. We had a training session before we scurried off to our meetings. We were never alone. We were completely, 100% prepared. None of this mattered: I still felt my nerves defying me in the pit of my stomach.

Yet, when I started to speak for the first time - in our meeting with Senator Bill Nelson's office - every one of my fears faded away. The weight on my shoulders about "not messing up" simply disappeared. It was in this moment when I realized that there wasn't any messing up to do. There were no mistakes to be made. I was in our nation's capitol, telling our government MY story about MY family, and lobbying for all of those who couldn't be with us. I was doing something. I was speaking out. I was doing my part to make a difference for this community. Everyone told me for weeks how empowering this would feel, but I had to experience it for myself to realize how true it rang.

But it didn't stop there. My time at Advocacy Day wasn't just about feeling empowered. It was also about feeling inspired. I met so many women - so many wonderful women - and heard dozens of stories that will impact me for the rest of my life. Stories of women who've gone through multiple rounds of IVF, suffered multiple losses, were injured serving this country, and the list goes on. Every person I met, every story I listened to, made me realize how much I love being a part of this community.

That's right: I love being infertile. I don't love what I had to go through to become a parent. I don't love what this disease has done to my body, my soul, or the bodies and souls of others who suffer. What I love is that we are a family. Sure, we're dysfunctional at times, but there's no other family that I can imagine myself being in. If I had to be cursed with any disease in the world, this is what I would choose all over again. Because instead of letting something like this define us, we go out and define it. We show others what we are capable of. We don't stand up with our backs to the walls. Instead, we march ourselves to Capitol Hill and we fight for our rights. We fight for what we are so deserving of: the families that we always dreamt we would have.

It was nothing short of amazing. Sadly, though, our work isn't done. Marching down the halls on Advocacy Day wasn't the finish line. It was merely a starting point. It was the energy we needed to propel us forward, full steam ahead, in the direction of positive change for infertility sufferers. We need your help to do that. We need every member of this community to step up. Tell your story. Reach out to your Congressmen. Ask them to support The Family Act (S 881/HR 1851) as well as The Women Veterans and Other Health Care Improvements Act (S 131/HR 958). Consider making a donation to RESOLVE, an organization that fights tirelessly on behalf of those who suffer from infertility.

And I hope that you'll join me next year on The Hill. As I told my Congressional leaders, my family building journey is complete. However, I won't stop fighting until my friends - my "sisters" - get the help they deserve. I won't back down until my disease is recognized. And I sure as hell won't leave this as a burden for my daughter to bear in 20 to 30 years.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

my mother's day wish

Mother's Day is hard. It's hard for so many people. For those who've lost their mothers. For those who've lost children. For those going through infertility or who've had failed adoptions. For birth mothers. The list continues.

So while I am incredibly thankful to be celebrating my first Mother's Day today, there is a part of my heart that will always find it hard. It's the part where those dark memories of waiting to become a mother live. It's the part where I hold many of my friends' stories and heartaches. It's impossible to experience this day without remembering those individuals - all of you who still yearn to have the moments of joy that so many mothers take for granted.

I hope you find peace today, whether that means stepping away or surrounding yourself with those you love. I hope you know that I'm thinking of you always. And I hope that this is the last Mother's Day you spend waiting.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

a semi-normal life

Joey and I have never quite had a normal life together. What do I mean by normal? I mean where both of us work 9-5, come home, cook dinner together, etc. When we first started dating, up until we were married for almost two years, Joey worked in retail, which meant crazy hours and sometimes hardly seeing each other. In fact, there was a period of time when he worked nights and I worked days and we NEVER saw each other except for when one of us was sleeping.

After he switched to a job with more regular hours, we both returned to school. This meant evenings were filled with classes, homework, tests, and writing/editing papers. We ended up ditching cable over a year ago because we never had time to watch it. (No, we don't miss it.) I finished my master's a year ago, but Joey had another year to go. He pushed himself hard, and all of that hard work has finally paid off: Joey graduates with his bachelor's degree today. I'm extremely proud of him for going back to school and accomplishing this, and I know he's excited to be finished. We both are. He finished classes about a week ago, and we've already been soaking up the nights of no school work. We finally have time to do things like cook dinner, run again after work, and - maybe in the coming weeks - we''ll actually get to see our friends again. And, of course, it's nice to have more time with K in the evenings.

So I want to take this time to congratulate my husband on his amazing success. I know it wasn't easy to go back to school after all this time, and it certainly wasn't easy to stay on track while working full-time, going through infertility treatments/the adoption process, and finishing strong with a newborn baby at home. But you did it. Now, nearly five years after we got married, let's get started on that "normal" life.

Or, you know . . . at least our version of "normal."