Anyone know what this caterpillar will become?
I had a craving for shakshuka last night, but we didn’t have any of the key ingredients except for eggs. Tonight, I stopped at the grocery store on the way home and picked up everything I’d need: tomatoes (in summer, I use fresh instead of canned), feta, anaheim or jalepeno peppers, and parsley. (I use a variation of Smitten Kitchen’s recipe, found here.)
I wasn’t sure how it would go over with Hank, so I toned down the spice by using just three anaheim peppers. I probably needn’t have bothered: dinner was enthusiastically received among the toddler set. Hank ate with gusto (as he usually does with meals involving tomatoes and cheese). He also enjoys saying “shakshuka,” which he pronounces remarkably well.
The Mamas would have liked a bit more bite (my pre-toddler standard was 3-4 jalepenos), but still, this is a wonderful quick-and-easy and different recipe, and it’s vegetarian and gluten free. Probably better suited to brunch than dinner, but I can’t help when cravings strike.
I love yoga. I love the way it exercises the entire body. I love that it makes me feel simultaneously both more alert and more relaxed. I love that it helps with my insomnia, backaches, and migraines. I love that it makes me flexible and strong. I love what it does for my posture. I love that it is social, but introspective; challenging, but not competitive.
However, there is much about yoga that makes me roll my eyes and laugh: the crystal-sucking, sage-burning, flaky, New Age-y fluff that so often accompanies the actual exercises. In the abstract, I believe there is a great deal of value in practicing mindfulness, in learning to quiet the mental static and be in the moment. In reality, I am really, really not good at it, and honestly, I’m skeptical and even a little bit scornful of that side of yoga. I’ve never been able to meditate, to focus my inner eye, to set an intention, to visualize a result. Maybe I’m just undisciplined, or maybe my mind just doesn’t work that way. Maybe my mind doesn’t work that way because the second yoga instructors start getting New Age-y, my Inner Child shoves a finger down her throat and pretends to gag and choke.
Of course I know that yoga is not just a fitness fad, that it is also a spiritual and mental discipline rooted in ancient Hindu and Buddhist traditions. As my Auntie Anne pointed out to me, “What you see as all that new-age-y stuff might be sincere attempts to carry on that [non-Christian spiritual] tradition.” Of course she is absolutely right, but I have to confess — sincerity of spiritual practice does not make the sage-burning and fire breathing any less goofy to outside observers. Maybe that is part of the nature of any spiritual practice, at least for me. I am sincere in my Christian faith; I attend church services weekly, I believe in Christ’s redemptive love and in the kingdom of God, I try to live my life according to Christian values — but when I try to find quiet moments of contemplation and prayer, to actually speak to my Creator, it feels every bit as kooky and uncomfortable and superstitious as any of the New Age-y traditions that accompany yoga.
Skepticism aside, I’m trying to get pregnant, and in addition to the fertility drugs and ovulation predictor kits and countless doctor’s visits, I’m open to anything that might help. For the first time in my life (outside of church or situations of life-threatening fear or stress), I’ve been praying: intentionally, sincerely, frequently, fervently. For weeks, I’ve been drinking herbal tea full of stuff like chasteberry (to stimulate ovulation hormones), raspberry leaf (to promote fertility), and ladies mantle (to regulate the monthly cycle and tone the cervix). I’ve kept a journal charting my menstrual cycles and the cycles of the moon. I bring baby clothes to my insemination appointments as a talisman of good fortune and fertility.
And starting today, with the arrival of a brand new yoga-for-fertility DVD, I’ve been practicing yoga. Not the yoga-for-strength-and-flexibility that I have been practicing for years: the kind of yoga that would ordinarily make me roll my eyes so hard it hurts. This DVD is divided into four different series, one for each phase of a woman’s cycle: menstrual, follicular, ovulation, and luteal. The narrator’s soothing voice notes that the follicular phase is a time of growth and hope, and gently urges me to set the intention of preparing my uterus to nurture a healthy baby. There are poses designed to massage and stimulate the ovaries and uterus. There is a lot of Breath of Fire (a breathing exercise I find particularly goofy). This DVD has a drum soundtrack, for Chrissake. Penelope had to leave the room while I was practicing, because she couldn’t stop laughing.
About halfway through my practice, Hank suddenly developed an intense interest in what I was doing. He patted my back during downward-facing dog, leaned heavily on my plank pose, crawled under my warriors and over my cat-and-cow, lay on top of my bow pose, and bounced on my belly throughout my savasena. I can’t say that I was able to quiet my inner static and concentrate much on inner peace, but he was a better, more present and inescapable reminder of the intention to nurture a child than any mindfulness exercise yet dreamed up, and I am so grateful for him.
Hank loves water. He’s never shown the slightest fear, which is a bit of a problem now that he’s mobile and fast. When we take him to the beach or the pool (and to him, all water is either “tubby” or “pool,” even if it’s a river, pond, lake, or ocean), if there are bigger kids playing in the water, Hank will charge toward them, never mind that he’s only so tall and there’s only so far he can go and still keep his head above water. He doesn’t care; he’ll keep going, and then get mad at me or Penelope for hauling him back. He doesn’t realize we’re trying to save him from drowning, of course: he thinks we’re just meanies who won’t let him play with the kids. Fearless. Crazy. Scary. Fun.
Too hot for jimjams tonight. Hank is ready for bed, but first decided to take a spin around the living room in Mumma’s shoes. Every few steps, he’d fall out, but he’d painstakingly line the shoes up and mount again.
A few months ago, I wrote this post about discovering other families who have conceived using the same anonymous sperm donor we used to conceive Hank. At the time, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of Hank’s donor siblings (and there have been two new additions since then!) and a bit wary about whether and how deeply we wanted to get involved with this group of mamas. (Because, as I noted in my last post on the subject, we are all Mamas — either lesbian couples or single mothers by choice. This is true even of the two new families.)
I still have my worries about the number of kids/families, and part of me worries that perhaps it should have been Hank’s choice to seek out his donor siblings when the time came, and not mine, but now that the connection is made, I am finding myself growing more grateful for these women, this community, every day.
Our donor is Mormon–though not practicing, I presume, since I’m pretty sure the Mormon faith frowns on sperm donation–and Penelope and I jokingly call the other mamas our “sister-wives”, since, like the sister wives in a polygamous family, we all have babies by the same man. This is a surprisingly intimate connection, though we’ve never yet met in person. It is hard not to feel a sense of kinship with this group of women whose life paths and choices are so similar to our own, and who are raising children so similar to our own little guy. As a first-time parent, it is wonderfully reassuring to have a group of parents we can reach out to when Hank develops a new habit or enters a new developmental stage, to ask “Is this normal?” It is fascinating, as this cadre of half-siblings age out of infancy into toddlerhood and beyond, to spot new traits that must surely be inherited from the donor rather than the mamas, shared as they are between kids being raised in different states by different mothers in different circumstances. It is entertaining to share pictures and videos of our adorable offspring, as proud mamas are wont to do, and find such an appreciative audience. While I’m sure many of my Facebook friends from high school and college and the job I had for a year before law school must get dreadfully tired of the endless updates I share about Hank, the Sister-Wives respond with the enthusiasm of a score of proud aunties, because Hank’s adorableness reflects upon them and upon their adorable babies, too. Having a growing connection to these donor families helps to fill the void of all that we don’t know about the donor, about the other half of our son’s genetic history.
Lately, I am finding myself most grateful for this group of Sister-Wives because, like me, they have all been on the emotional roller coaster that is trying to conceive a child by artificial methods. There are tons of resources and communities online for families trying to conceive–millions of blogs, dozens of sites like Babycenter.com, sites with medical advice and information on various fertility treatments–but nothing connects as personally to my experience as the community I have found among the other donor mamas. Most people struggling with infertility are traditional heterosexual couples who are trying to get pregnant “the old fashioned way.” Maybe they need fertility drugs or treatment of various medical conditions, but mostly the medical interventions they need to conceive are nothing at all like the entirely clinical process by which my baby will be conceived. I don’t mean to minimize the struggles of these heterosexual couples in any way, because I’m sure they are just as significant as my own; I only mean that it is sometimes hard for me to relate to these people when our experiences are so different. -Not so with the Sister-Wives: they have stood in my shoes and fought the same battles. Several of them, like me, are trying to conceive a second baby, and so there is a sense that we are all in this together. They have advice and comfort and sympathy that resonates more deeply than the well-intentioned but occasionally-unhelpful support offered by even my dearest friends and closest relations.
In short, these women are wonderful, and I am so grateful to have found them.
It was a rough day on the mental health front. My period arrived yesterday morning, ending another two week wait. I was not surprised to see it, though I think Penelope had secret suspicions that we’d been successful this time — she was more solicitous than usual, especially during the last few days. Then again, maybe she just noticed the signs of my mounting insanity before I did and was trying not to poke the bear.
At any rate, that failure means it’s time to try something else, so I called our clinic to ask about switching medications from Clomid to Femara, because a) Clomid hasn’t been working, b) Clomid can thin the lining of the uterus, interfering with implantation of an embryo, and c) Femara worked for some good friends of mine when Clomid failed. I also decided it’s time for an HSG test (a hysterosalpingogram), where they flood your reproductive system with dye to check for blockages in the fallopian tubes. I had opted not to do the HSG test when I first started trying, because the clinic said that, since I am just 35 and ovulating regularly, there was no reason to suspect any problems. With three failed IUIs, I decided I was ready to know for sure there aren’t any problems, especially since each month’s try costs us almost $1,000 out-of-pocket. (Speaking of the cost of fertility treatments, a friend sent me this link to a wonderfully relatable post on the subject.)
The doctor at our clinic (whom I’ve met just twice, while Penelope was trying to conceive, and who I really didn’t like, but that’s a vent for another post) won’t do an HSG test on a medicated cycle, so yesterday I came to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t be on meds this month and so the chances of conceiving would be less than they would have been. Penelope and I discussed the merits of skipping this cycle altogether, because we are probably moving next month (see Saturday’s post, Swimming in the Sea of Uncertainty). However, we are both really resistant to taking a break, especially during Penelope’s summer vacation when it is so much easier for her to go to appointments with me than it is during the school year, so we opted to keep plugging on.
I made my peace with doing an unmedicated cycle, but then today the clinic called and said they don’t have any openings to do an HSG test this month. The woman who called, a receptionist in charge of scheduling and not a nurse or doctor, asked when I planned to start my period next month so she could schedule the procedure in July. “When do you plan to start your period?”–as if I am some kind of Swiss timepiece. Maybe some women could have answered her with confidence, but the best I could do was guess. (The HSG needs to be done between cycle days 3 and 12, but not on a heavy flow day.)
There I was, in my office with the door wide open to the hallway, talking on the phone to this total stranger about intimate details like how regularly I menstruate and how heavy my flow would be on days 3 or 4, and I just lost it. I got emotional and started to choke up, flustering the woman at the clinic. (Though you’d think they’d be a little more used to stressed-out, hormonal women, right?) I was disappointed and angry that they wouldn’t be able to get in for the test this cycle, frustrated that the information I’d been given yesterday (that it would be no problem to get me in next week) was not true today, stressed that I had to guess about when my next period will arrive in order to schedule an appointment next month and afraid if I guessed wrong that I’d have to reschedule only to find no openings available next month, too, and frankly, just overwrought and sad. (I should note that even when I’m not stressed out and trying to make a baby, I am so “Type A” that I don’t always handle sudden changes of plan with a whole lot of grace, though under ordinary circumstances, trouble scheduling a doctor’s appointment would not have made me cry at work.)
I got off the phone and went to the rest room and spent about fifteen minutes crying in the stall like a sixth grade girl at a school dance.
However, I managed to pull myself together enough to decide: it’s only cycle day 2, not too late to call and see if they can give me meds so I don’t have to skip this cycle after all. So that’s what I did, and I talked them into switching me to Femara from Clomid, though I could tell the doctor didn’t really see the point in the change. Maybe there is no point, from a medical standpoint, but here’s the point from where I stand: I can’t keep doing the same thing that I did last month and the month before and the month before without success. That’s the very definition of insanity, is it not?
Last month, when Penelope and I put an offer on a new house in the middle of the two week wait after my IUI, we had in the back of our minds the idea that buying a house might prove a good and necessary distraction from the interminable wait to see if I’d get pregnant. And yes, when my period arrived several days early (indicating it probably had been a bum cycle from the get go), the fact that we had a new house under contract softened the blow a bit. I wasn’t pregnant, but we had good things happening in our lives. I didn’t have much time to dwell on my disappointment: I had to schedule the home inspection and gather the mountains of documents required by the bank for financing.
This month, though, all the uncertainty is dragging on me. I am drawing near the end of another two week wait. Gut instinct tells me I have had no better luck this month, but then again, Penelope was dead certain she’d just gotten her period when the nurse called with the news that her second IVF transfer had worked. (She’d had some bleeding that morning — in retrospect, it was probably implantation spotting.) UPDATE 6/18/12 – My gut instinct was not wrong. No luck this month — harrumph!
As for the new house, the inspection went fine. It needs some insulation and the barn roof needs patching, and there are plenty of cosmetic changes we’ll want to make, but for a 160+ year old house, it’s in great shape.
Here’s the hitch: the sellers agreed to have the septic cleaned before the closing, and when they did that, they learned that the leach field was failing. They (the sellers) have some relative who they thought would be able to do some kind of ‘quick fix’ for just $1,000, but we didn’t think that would fly with our bank, and we didn’t want to wind up buying the house and having to replace the leach field two weeks later when the ‘quick fix’ failed. For a while, it seemed like this would derail the whole deal, but eventually we negotiated a new agreement: they will put in a new leach field, designed by a real engineer, and we will pay half the cost (but only if the sale goes through).
Now that we’ve settled that, we still have to wait for the results of the bank appraisal (which was done on Thursday), which is the last hurdle we need to clear in order to get our mortgage.
What about the house we already own, you ask? Good question. It’s been on the market forever, with very little interest — not because it’s not a nice house, but because the housing market in our present town is one of the most depressed markets in the whole state. But the rental market is booming, and we’ve had a lot of interest in our Craigslist ad, so that’s the plan: to rent it until the market improves enough to sell it. We’ve had a few prospective tenants in to see it, and we have two more families coming on Tuesday, so we’re confident we’ll be able to find tenants.
Here’s the other big hitch: We want this move to disrupt Hank’s life a little as possible. That means not starting to pack until we are 100% certain it’s actually going to happen. Initially, we thought the inspection would be the decision point, and that was scheduled within 14 days of going under contract, but we extended that deadline when the leach field problem was discovered.
Now here’s what I’m worrying about: the contracted closing date, while not set in stone, is on-or-before July 13. That is now less than a month away. UPDATE 6/18/12 – It’s going to take longer to get the new septic system than anticipated, so it looks like the closing will be pushed back by about 2 weeks.
Tonight at dinner, I made lists of things that need to be done in our present house before we move out, and things that will need to be done in the new house before (or shortly after) we move in. (Hank sometimes takes a long, long time to eat, and we try to stay at the table with him until he finishes, so it’s good to have something to do to pass the time.) Both lists were intimidatingly lengthy, and the tasks on each list were both time-consuming and expensive.
Here’s my fear: All the stars will align, the septic system will get fixed, the appraisal report won’t make the bank balk, we will get our official closing date, and we will have a mere two weeks to get everything done. Penelope and I moved seven times in the first decade of our relationship, so we have packing down to a science… but that was before we had a baby. As every parent knows, it’s hard to get anything done with a toddler nearby, especially if the task in question involves putting things into boxes: toddlers like nothing better than to pull things out of boxes so that they can look at them, play with them, carry them around, and hide them/flush them/break them/eat them.
And if my gut instinct is wrong, and ALL the stars align, toddler-patrol might be the only job I can do, since many of the things on the lists (painting, insulating, heavy lifting) are not safe for pregnancy. I should be so lucky, right? But if I am, will Penelope ever forgive me?