Friday, July 26, 2013

the "cloud" of infertility

"There are many of us who have gone through IF who do not live under it's cloud for the rest of our days."

Huh. Do I live under a cloud?

I don't think I do.

No, no. I definitely don't. "Infertility is not a cloud under which I live my life. Infertility is a disease with which I have been diagnosed - one that I feel the affects of daily and one that does not have a cure. I do not live under anything. I live WITH it, I embrace it, and, when possible, I use it to try to make a difference in the lives of others."

#endrant

But no. No. Fuck that. I don't want to end my rant there.

I am not a pawn in infertility's game.

I may have been at one time. In fact, I know I was. I let it run my life. I let it control every aspect of who I was and what I did. I used it as an excuse, a crutch.

But at some point, I took over the reigns. I took control of it. And it had nothing to do with me becoming a parent. In fact, it happened long before that. It wasn't an instantaneous change. It was gradual. First, writing my blog. Then, sharing it. Volunteering. Writing letters. Advocating. Supporting. Asking questions of my doctors. Every time I projected my voice, I was beating my disease. Every time I wrote or spoke or acted, I was giving infertility a swift kick in the balls.

So to speak.

You'd realize this if you were a regular reader of my blog, "Kelly." You would know that I don't live under a cloud.

Instead, I practically control the weather.

It's the ONE thing I can do. I can't take away my disease. I can't provide cures or give children to the millions of men and women whose lives it devastates. But I can use it. I can use it for good. I can use it to empower myself, others. I can use it to hopefully make a difference in the lives of future generations. So maybe they won't have to jump through the same hoops I did to receive treatment or become a parent.

Instead of leaving my past behind, I can carry it with me - not as baggage. Not as a box of leftover feelings of sadness and pain. No. I can carry it with me and use it as a platform. I can place my feet on that box and stand tall, knowing that I've conquered this journey. That I would have conquered it with or without parenthood waiting for me at the finish line.

The question is, can you say the same about yourself?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

royal truth

I've always loved the royal family.

I grew up idolizing Princess Diana, not just because she was a princess, but because she carried herself with such grace through adversity. I loved her because despite being a princess, she cared about and devoted herself to others who would never a fraction of the life that she held. I was devastated when she died; I still have the newspaper from the morning of her passing. I spent the rest of my youth crushing on the princes, first William and then Harry. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I still love Harry. His wild side combined with his kind heart are enough to make most women my age still swoon.

And then there came Kate: a reminder for so many of us of a young Diana. I cried when I watched her, with such innocence and poise, recite her vows in front of millions, wearing Diana's ring.

Yet, despite all of this, I couldn't find myself as attached to the coverage about the royal baby. Sure, I was happy for them - as happy as someone can be for a couple that she doesn't know personally. I wanted the baby to be healthy, of course. Yet, I felt overwhelmed at the 24/7 coverage, and I couldn't pinpoint why. Did it have something to do with infertility? Was it because I couldn't get pregnant? It certainly didn't have to do with the royal family or Kate herself. I'd loved and followed them for years. Why, all of the sudden, did I feel so uncomfortable with watching the updates on the newest member of the family's newest?

It took some time, but I slowly pieced my thoughts together. The lightbulb clicked on yesterday as I watched a short documentary on the DRC, and then turned on the television to see cameras on every news station fixed on a hospital door - waiting for a glimpse of the young prince.

What if we devoted this much to causes that matter?

All of the time, energy, and press: what if we divided that up and used that as a chance to shed some light on causes that need our attention?

Don't get me wrong. I understand those who see the royal birth as a way of escaping some of the horrible news we've seen in recent months. Mass killings, terrorism, the economy. It's not your fault that you've been sucked in. The media created and fed the frenzy. They've had correspondents camped out in London for weeks, watching and waiting to see when this baby would arrive. They've analyzed everything from name possibilities to the details of the baby's christening. It's hard to pull yourself away when the news stations practically drive their broadcast vans into the hospital room and invite themselves to the delivery.

Sadly, not everyone is as aware as you are. Others see what's broadcast on the nightly news, and that's the extent of their world exposure. They don't know that there are millions of children in the foster care system who don't have families to go home to each night. They aren't knowledgeable about infertility and how there are over 7 million people who don't think that the birth of a child is "ordinary." They don't read or hear about the changing adoption laws that may leave orphans in other countries and waiting families here in the United States hanging in the balance.

What's strangely ironic is how Diana spent years championing causes that, at the time, many others didn't think to touch. She shed light on AIDS and leprosy, and helped change the lives of millions of children affected by land mines. If anything, her spirit should be a reminder of what the media could do with its power. She should serve as an example of what all of us can do when we care enough about a cause.

Instead, the media will continue its quest for the perfect photograph or the inside scoop. And they will never stop, because we continue to watch. For not even Diana's death could get them to change the way they see the world - and themselves.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

ignorance is bliss

My daughter is not 100% white.

She's part Caucasian and part Hispanic. It's possible she may be part African American, as well. We don't know for sure. We will never know.

I've written before about some of the racial comments we've received from strangers, but we don't make a big deal about her race. It isn't an issue for us. We don't look at her and see the color of her skin. We look at her and see our beautiful baby. We still get the occasional comment or question from strangers - maybe now more so than when she was younger, because she looks much less like us the older she gets. But, thankfully, all of the recent dialogue has been incredibly thoughtful and polite.

We read her books about diversity. We watch clips of Sesame Street that talk about how we're all the same, but different. We say, "Yay! It's great to be different!" We surround ourselves with a diverse group of friends who believe in teaching their kids the same values - values that remind our children that they don't need to fit into a certain mold.

Most days, I feel good about the future. I think we're setting our daughter up to be protected from and prepared for any potential negative comments she may receive about her appearance. And then, I see things like this.

Many Americans don't feel this way. I get it. I do. I get the people who say that highlighting these comments only makes it seem as though this is the sentiment of the majority rather than the minority. I get that it's much easier to ignore this type of behavior. I get that it takes much more energy getting riled up about it than it does just to sweep it under the rug and move on. It's true what they say: ignorance is bliss. Let's ignore it. We can all be happy and pretend like there aren't people who feel this way.

What does that say about us, as a society? What kind of message does that send to our children? What kind of message would it send to my child if I simply ignored the fact that people still judge others by the color of their skin? Or their sexual orientation? Or their gender? Or the way they talk, walk, breathe?

Do you know why I don't ignore it? I don't ignore it because there will be a day, sometime in the future, when someone makes a comment about the way that K looks. This person will comment on the texture of her hair, or the color of her skin, or the many ways in which she looks differently from Joey and me. And we will not be there to protect her or defend her. That day will come, and it will hurt my heart. It may hurt her heart, too. But I want her to be able to look that person in the eyes and, instead of shed tears, provide an intelligence and educated response. Maybe the response is humor. Maybe it's a sympathetic smile. Maybe it's a simple, "fuck you."

Whatever the case may be, I want her to be ready for it.

I don't want her to be knocked off of her feet by hurtful words. I want her to be able to withstand the blow. I want her to come to the defense of her friends who are teased on the bus or bullied on the playground. I want her to stand up for what she knows is right and just. I want her to be a strong, independent woman - and this means being prepared for whatever is thrown her way. Ignoring bigotry will only set her up for failure. It's setting my adopted, minority, female child up to believe that she's less of a person because she is adopted. Or because she's a minority. Or because she's female.

The odds are stacked against her already. I don't want her inner voice to be stacked against her, too.

***

Next month is the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech. Many of you already know the words, I'm sure, but this quote in particular rang loudly in my ears this morning as I read the hatred in the article above:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I'm saddened that, nearly half a century later, we are nowhere closer to making this dream a reality.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

catching up

Thanks so much to those who contributed to the conversation about the ALI community. I enjoyed reading everyone's insights. It's interesting to get people's perspectives on how the community has changed and evolved over the years. I know this is a topic that many of us have written about before, and it's something I'll continue to examine as it's almost always on my mind when I'm immersed in the blogging world.

I also wanted to say thank you to everyone who offered well wishes about Joey and his work situation. He had an interview last week, and he should be starting part time with this company soon - with the possibility of moving to full time in the near future. In the meantime, he's been busying himself with home improvement projects. It's sad that it took one of us to be out of work to get things done around the house, but I'm glad that he's had something to keep him occupied.

Otherwise, we are doing well. K's first birthday party was last weekend, and she had her one-year appointment with the pedi last week. She's definitely getting taller - she's up to 29.25 inches, which is above the 50th percentile - but we've hit a lull in the weight gain. She's at 17 lbs. 4 oz., which barely registers on the chart. The pedi didn't seem concerned, though. We are still going off of the formula. In fact, she's already down to two or three bottles a day. She's also great with food. She'll eat almost anything you put in front of her. I think part of it is genetics. Her birth mom was petite. The other part is probably the increase in her mobility. She's extremely active, and I'm sure burning tons of calories.

We're still struggling with the transition from the infant room to the 1-year-old room. This is her third week in the space, and she's not thrilled about being there. Drop-offs and pick-ups are rough. We get lots of tears. She also had her "initiation" yesterday when a kid bit her in a fight over a toy. K's not a wallflower by any means, but I think the combination of being in a new space with much bigger kids has her feeling a bit overwhelmed.

That's about it as far as what's going on in my life. What's new in yours?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

the way we were

I used to feel like this community was a family. We were one, big, infertile family - whether we were just starting our journey, in the midst of a pregnancy, struggling with loss, waiting to adopt, or we'd resolved our infertility in one way or another. It didn't matter. We were all here for each other. There was blog reading, commenting, encouragement. It was a good feeling for me, for many of us who couldn't necessarily turn to our own families to validate our feelings about this disease.

Somewhere along the way, something happened. I'm not sure when or how or why. But our community began to fracture. There are people we communicated with on a regular basis who all but vanished when they became parents. There are people who choose child free living who exited stage left because they didn't feel they belonged. Sub-communities and separate communities formed for people who'd been through this particular procedure or that particular "stage" in their infertility journey. Instead of this collective unit, it began to feel like a broken one.

I'm not drawing this conclusion now. I'm stating it now because it's too obvious to ignore. Like the elephant in the room, it's sucking up the clean air to the point where all I can smell is shit. I'm stating a fact that's been somewhat apparent for a while, but that no one has wanted to address. Me included.

I don't know why I didn't want to talk about it. Perhaps, in true family form, I didn't want to call attention to our "dysfunction." You know, it's like your crazy Aunt Millie who won't stop talking about inappropriate things at Thanksgiving dinner. You never want to call attention to her; instead, you accept her for who she is, and you protect her from any outsiders who might think about exposing her faults. I see the ALI community the same way: I see us as a family. We may be dysfunctional at time, but I'll always protect my family.

Except I'm at the point where I'm so disappointed in some of its members, that I don't know if I can continue to protect them anymore.

We used to be about love, acceptance, unity, empathy, and - most of all - support. And while I still see these traits exemplified in many community members, I see it missing in a good number of others. I see anger. I see frustration. I see self-centeredness. The bad things don't necessarily outnumber the good things, but they are visible enough so that it feels as though I'm watching the nightly news: the good stories are becoming overshadowed by the bad, and I'm losing faith.

Here's the thing: I don't want to lose faith. I want to see the positive, and I do. I focus on that, and that's what motivates me to stay a part of this family and to keep fighting for us. It's what's kept me silent for so long. I didn't want to hurt anyone. I didn't want to step on anyone's toes or cause any more anger or frustration to boil over. However, I also don't want this to keep festering inside of me. I don't want to be surface-level with all of you. I want to be real, and these are my feelings: I feel like we've focused too much on ME and not enough on US.

Think back to when you first started this journey. Think back to when you first started blogging or attending support groups or participating in online discussion boards. Do you remember what that felt like to find (at last) a group of people who were going through the same thing? Do you remember what it was like to listen to someone else's story, to hold his or her hand, and to nod your head in agreement? Do you remember what it was like to finally realize that you weren't alone?

Let your mind settle on that moment for a second. That feeling of give and take. That feeling of empathy that you and someone else had for each other. It wasn't a feeling of just "take." It wasn't a feeling of just "give" either. It was a delicate balance: a see-saw of support.

Now, think about what your journey is like today: is it more give or is it more take? Are you constantly blogging and tweeting about your own infertility "adventures" and not taking the time for others? Are you always giving support to others but you don't have anyone who can lend you the support you need during tough times? Do you still support the people who were there for you, before you became a parent, in the same way you did before your child was born? Do you still support people who've resolved their infertility, even if you aren't at the end of your journey?

Wherever you are in your journey, however you fit, do you still try to maintain that balance?

I realize that this is easier said than done. I also realize that some people may perceive me as not having a balance. I want to emphasize that I'm not trying to be a know-it-all or some referee to how we communicate with others in this community. This post isn't meant to pass judgement. It's simply meant to remind us that we are all important. Our stories, our journeys, our feelings - we all matter, and we should all matter to one another. We are a family.

And that is what a family does. Even when we have different paths in life, even when we have differences in opinion - we are still a unit.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

special delivery

Sometimes, life hands you lemons when you least expect them.

We officially became a one-income family on Monday. Joey is out of a job. Not by choice, but not by accident, either. I won't get into the details, but it was a giant barrel of lemons left on our doorstep. The way I see it, we have two choices right now: we can let them sour our life, or we can choose to make lemonade out of them. Right now, we are trying our hardest to make that lemonade.

I have confidence he'll find something soon. We've been through this before, and we made it through just fine. But we've never had to endure as a one-income household with a child. I think that's the scariest part of this.

For now, if you don't mind, please keep us in your thoughts - and send along any advice on how to make lemonade.

Friday, July 5, 2013

repeat

Maybe because my health has been relatively drama-free for a while, my body decided it was time to shake things up a bit.

On the morning of K's birthday (Tuesday), I was in the shower when I started to feel lightheaded and weak. I got out and began to shake. Things went black for a moment, I vomited, and then I felt better. Sort of. My head began to throb and it didn't stop for the rest of the day and into Wednesday. On Wednesday afternoon, enough people put the pressure on me to get checked out by my doctor. By this time, I was also having occasional chest pains and a racing heartbeat. Despite several checks of my blood pressure and pulse, neither were going down. So, my doctor gave me a choice: did I want her to call 911 or could someone take me to the hospital?

Since no one was available to drive me and because I didn't think it was necessary to be riding in an ambulance, I opted to sign a waiver and drove myself. My mom met me in the ER and the words "chest" and "pain" got me back into a room almost immediately. After blood work, an EKG, and a chest x-ray, we still didn't have answers. So, what was next?

They wanted me to spend the night for observation.

Last year, on the 4th of July, we'd just become parents and we spent our day with K in the NICU - learning for the first time that we might be in the hospital for quite a few weeks. I was determined not to have a repeat of that day, a day spent stuck inside of those sterilized walls without a window in sight. I NEEDED to get out of there.

Luckily, all of my tests came back clear, and I was discharged around noon on July 4th.

Unluckily, we still don't know what happened. The doctor suggested that it might have something to do with my migraine history. Joey and I have a different theory: while I was in the shower, I was in an awful lot of pain. AF was here, and she's been increasingly painful each month (leading me to believe my endo is back, or I'm getting cysts again, or maybe both). I think that the combination of the pain and the hot shower and probably some hormonal fluctuation caused this to happen, and in turn caused the two-day headache that left me feeling so "off." Especially since my headaches usually coincide with my cycle.

I'm supposed to follow up with my regular doctor next week, but I think I'll also be calling my gynecologist.

I just hope that this call doesn't lead to another repeat - of me back on a surgical table.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

first

Dear K,

Today, you turn one. It's hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that its been a year since the day you arrived on this earth. It still feels like yesterday when I got a lump in my throat as I realized I'd missed several calls from your birth mother. I can still feel my heart racing as I tell your dad that "it's time," and we scramble to get to the hospital. It still feels like yesterday when my breath stopped for a second as I finally got a glimpse of you - through a plastic box, tangled in wires and tubes. Through the beeping of the monitor. Through your screams of fury. Through the droning of the doctors and nurses. There you were.

I've watched with pride as you've accomplished so much in the last year. You've overcome enormous obstacles already in your short life, and as much as I'm sad that this first year is gone, I'm also looking forward to what lies ahead.

I don't know yet who you'll be - what type of person you'll become - but I can see glimpses of it. I see them in the way you stubbornly pretend like you can't use your sippy cup, and then handle it with ease when we turn our backs. I see them in the way you glance out of the corner of your eye at us when we say no, and then continue forward into the mischief we were hoping you'd avoid. Mostly, though, I see it in your outgoing nature. The smile that's almost always on display. The laugh that you are willing to give to almost anyone.

Your dad and I aren't those parents who want you to become a certain way or a certain thing. We've only ever had one wish for you, even before we met you. It wasn't for you to become a doctor or lawyer, or to make millions. It wasn't for you to go to a particular college or take up a certain sport. We don't need you to become a classical musician or a brilliant artist. The only thing we've ever wanted for you was simply to "be happy," and it fills my heart with so much joy to see you embracing this wish.

Today, you are no longer a baby to most people, but you are still my baby. You are the girl who loves to crawl on my lap and watch Sesame Street. You are the girl who rests your head on my chest when it's time for a bottle - or, in most cases now, that dreaded sippy cup. You are still, in my eyes, that tiny little baby whose tears I wiped away. Only now you are bigger. You don't quite fit into my arms as well as you used to, but we make it work. I hope that you never stop sitting there. I hope that you never stop letting me comfort you, because every time you press yourself against me, you heal my broken heart.

But I don't just think about "us" in those moments. I think about your birth mother, too. My mind wanders back to the moment I first saw you and realized that you were mine. It was then when I realized that you were someone else's, too. You always will be. She had a few of your firsts. She felt your first kick. She saw your heartbeat on a monitor. She held you for the first time and fed you your first bottle. Then, she selflessly gave me the rest of your firsts. I can't pretend to know what it was like for her to make her decision, to place you with us. Yet, every time I look at you, I'm forever grateful that she did.

Happy birthday, my sweet baby girl. Thank you for giving me the most incredible, most amazing year of my life. I can't wait for all of the wonderful experiences yet to come - all the firsts I still have to look forward to.

I love you to the moon and back.

Mom