Something Haunts Me About Successful IVF

IMG_4072Sometimes successful in vitro fertilization has haunted me. Yes, you read that right. Successful. What could I possibly worry about? I am beyond grateful for my two-year-old IVF twin boys, but I can now see why some people may not feel comfortable with such extreme measures to create children.

The idea of “playing God” didn’t really worry me. After all, isn’t that what normal fertile people do when they create a baby in the bedroom? We had already done seven rounds of fertility pills, and six rounds of IUI (Intrauterine Insemination). We had had miscarriages and we had adopted. Wouldn’t all that also be playing with creation? We couldn’t see what we were doing, because it was happening inside my body, or inside our birthmother’s body, but we were still rolling the genetic dice.

The difference with IVF is that we were about to take the eggs out of my body and actually see – with our own eyes – what we were doing with them. We would subject them to microscopic scrutiny. We would sign legally binding documents to determine how they would be handled before, during, and after fertilization.

Those eggs, and later, those embryos, would be our property, but they would not yet be in my body. They would be our genetic offspring, but not yet our children. Some of those embryos would be dismissed for growing too slowly or too badly. A scientist or a doctor – and not my body – would decide which embryos were strong and which ones were weak. The weak embryos would be left to “stop progressing” and… discarded.

I think about the six embryos that didn’t grow during our second (and only successful) round of IVF. The ones that were… discarded. I often wonder what they would have looked like, had they progressed and finally grown into children. Would three of them have looked like my husband and Twin A? Would the other three have looked like me and Twin B? Would they have each have looked completely unique? Would they all have been boys? Would they have inherited my migraines or my husband’s allergies? Each of those things was written into those tiny eight-celled organisms.

I’m not sure I really know (believe?) that eight-celled embryos have a soul. Even my conservative church has stated that we don’t know when a soul enters the body. And yet, my heart hurts for the six that never grew. They weren’t my children, because I wasn’t pregnant, but what were they? Maybe they are our children. Will we raise them in the afterlife? They didn’t die, really, but weren’t they alive?

And the most haunting part of all is my two embryos that did live to be implanted in my uterus. As I have written before, we made the decision to implant both with a shrug at the Roy Rogers when my doctor called with her recommendation. “We have two clear frontrunners, but they are growing more slowly that I would like. Therefore, I change my recommendation to two embryos, as long as you understand that your risk of twins is 40% at your age.” She told us that they were not strong enough to make it to freezing, so it was now or never.

Shrug. Okay. It’s not going to work anyway, so we might as well.

I am haunted by that moment. I will be haunted for the rest of my life at my shrug, at my casual decision. Yes, it’s true that carrying those twins and birthing them nearly killed me. You might think that I regret my casual decision to implant two embryos because it put my life in danger. No. I would have happily died to give them life, although it hurts me to know how much that sentence must hurt my husband.

What haunts me about that moment is how casually we could have just decided to implant one embryo. What if we had just as casually shrugged and said, “Nah. Let’s just do one.” We would have had every right to do that, legally, ethically, and otherwise. We would have even perhaps been considered wise to do that. It would have been a more sound financial decision, and my life probably would not have been in danger.

What if?

Which one would it have been? The idea that one of my precious two-year-old twins could have been left to “stop growing” in that Petri dish makes me feel like I can’t breathe. Like I’m going to be sick. Faint. I can barely go there in my mind. It even hurts to type it.

My precious Twin A, with his big Charlie Brown head and his big pouty lips and his horrible siren-like cry, and his big feelings and his crooked toes and his perfect hugs? My precious Twin B, with his long eyelashes and his fiery temper and his shrieks of joy and the smell of his baby-head that never seems to go away?

What if?

How could I have been casual about any of that? How could I have made that decision in the Roy Rogers? (Granted, we had one hour before the procedure and had to decide.) What other decisions have I made that have had such far-reaching consequences, both good and bad?

What if one of them wasn’t here? …Discarded.

It haunts me.

White Parents, Black Child: People Ask Us the Tough Questions about Race

imageAs a parent of one black son and two white sons, many of my friends have asked me questions about race during the past few months. I feel grateful that people trust me enough to ask the tough stuff. I feel grateful that we can “have a dialog” (ugh!) about race and the events in the news… as long as you’re not a stranger in the mall.

The mere fact of having children of different races does not make me an expert on race. I am not a college professor or a news reporter or a humanitarian worker or a politician. I am a stay-at-home mom who is not as well-versed as she would like to be in current events, because most of my current events involve poop.

The only thing I know for sure is that the world feels different when you are raising a black son. Black parents have conversations with their black sons that white parents do not have with white children. That leaves my husband and me to straddle two worlds.

I just want you to know that the world looks different to us than it did before we adopted.

Here are just a few of the questions we have been asked recently:

  • How do you explain race to kids? When my kids were younger asked these questions, I always acknowledged them, and said that people come in different shades, from very dark brown to very pale almost white, and that there is beauty in diversity. What do you think of my approach?

Your approach sounds like what I have read: acknowledging color is best. What I have read (often) is that we were all taught “colorblindness” in the 1970s and 1980s, and the research now shows that this approach does NOT work. That is why my son and I talk about skin color outright. “Your skin is brown, like your birthmother’s skin.” Sometimes it’s hard for me to do that, but I am practicing while he’s young, so it will get easier. Adult black adopted children raised by white parents have stated that if their parents taught colorblindness, then they felt like their parents were ashamed of them, just because they never acknowledged the differences. Their adoptive parents were probably not ashamed of them, of course, but the children made their own assumptions. Parents need to help them navigate this stuff with proper language and outright discussions.

  • Have you felt that your son is treated differently?

No one at church or preschool treats him any differently, as far as I can tell. Our friends are very accepting, and I welcome any and all questions and discussion from them. If you are close to my family or my son, you have the right to ask *anything*, but not the right to treat him differently.

It’s mostly in public that we get stares, comments, and questions, some of which are inappropriate. My goal is to teach him which questions deserve answers, and which questions deserve nothing at all.

Beyond that, though, we worry about subtle racism. From what I have read, subtle racism, also called “everyday racism” or “covert racism”, is as damaging as outright slurs and Jim Crow laws. I think –and much of what I have read backs this up – is that believing racism doesn’t exist is the most dangerous thing of all.

Subtle racism is when someone throws their keys to President Obama, even though he was dressed in a tux at a gala, because they assumed he was the valet. (That actually happened to him, when he was a senator.) Subtle racism is when we let ourselves – or our subconscious – make immediate assumptions about others. I worry about these assumptions that people may accidentally make about our son.

  • I know you get weird responses from people trying to figure out your relationships, beyond that, just in how people interact with your son, do you see him treated differently? Or do you expect that to happen more when he is grown?

As I hinted above, a woman at the mall, who was cooing over my adorable (and white) twin sons, saw my adorable (and black) oldest son call me “momma”. She looked at me with surprise and exclaimed, “But he’s black!” Right in front of him. (I wrote a blog post about it, of course.)

I expect that a lot of the subtle racism he will experience will be in his teens, as I have heard black mothers explain. My husband and I feel that we are going to need to teach our black son a few different things than we teach our white sons. We feel that it will be our job to defend him, teach him to defend himself, and also teach him when to walk away.

  • How do you, as a white woman raising a black son, feel about what happened in Ferguson and other cities?

It makes me feel scared. I feel scared because I am raising a child of a different race and I have no idea how to do that. Will he be angry because he has white parents? Will he be angry because he experiences racism? Will he be angry because I don’t understand the racism he experiences? Will he be angry that he has to experience this racism alone, without black parents to guide him? Will he be angry that he is being raised in a racist culture that claims not to be racist?

If he does feel angry at any of these things, then I feel scared for him. How do I raise a boy to not act on his anger?

I just want people to know that my job of raising a black son in America is complicated.

There is no other way to make any progress in a country as complicated and divided as ours, other than talking and trying to understand more, just more, about each other. What do you teach your children about racism? Have you experienced subtle racism?

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This post was originally posted as members-only content on Beyond Infertility, where I am a regular contributor.

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For further reading…

Recent articles that I have read have really helped me put my feelings into words. The following three posts affected me deeply. They have given me the courage to understand and write what I’m thinking:

Cute Little Black Boys Do Grow Up to Be Black Men, Part II (from Johnson-McCormick Family Blog)

Black Moms Tell White Moms About the Race Talk (from uexpress.com)

Screw Kids Understanding Race (from the Scary Mommy Blog)

For more information on today’s subtle racism:

Definition of “subtle racism” from UnderstandingPrejudice.org

“The Invisible Discriminator”, a PSA from Australia about Aboriginal people, with a universal message

Genes Are a Funny Thing

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wpid-wp-1425383125280.jpegOne of my two-year-old twins, Twin B, still has that baby smell wafting from the top of his head. The other twin, Twin A, lost it when he was still a baby. I catch my husband inhaling that baby-scented toddler skull when he gets home from work. He breathes it in like a drug – I can tell. He catches my eye with a sheepish grin. I, too, find myself inhaling that kid’s head when I am stressed out, or when he wakes up from nap with tremendous sweaty baby-fine bedhead. He’s always clammy, like me. When I take off his winter hat after he has been playing in the snow, the humid smell from the last hour got all trapped inside and it’s a rush of baby scent. I wish I could trap it for my husband while he’s at work.

wpid-wp-1425383049220.jpegTwin B’s hair is still baby-fine and wispy. Twin A’s hair is the exact same shade, but long ago lost the baby smell. Also, Twin A has a manly head of hair that needs haircuts twice as often as his twin. Coincidence? Perhaps not. We have called him “The Toupee” since he was very small. Twin A isn’t clammy at all. Like his father, he is always dry and warm. He feels like a heavy blanket straight out of the dryer. His head is never humid!

I watched my twins grow from the time they were each an 8-celled embryo in a Petri dish, outside of my body. How many of you can say that? I know that they were equally 50% of each my husband’s and my DNA… but when they came out of my body, I was astounded by the fact that I made them. Me. Alone. Like any mother, I was just in awe of the fact that I built every hair on their heads, every bone in their bodies, every eyelash and organ. No wonder I was so sick: I built them. I made them from scratch. At the same time! After being infertile. It was amazing.

When I was three years old, I suddenly declared to my mother that I would stop sucking my thumb when I turned four. I used to rub the tip of her thumbnail with one hand, while simultaneously sucking my thumb on the other hand. While I was trying to quit the thumb-sucking, my mother gently told me that I could pick thumb-sucking or rubbing her thumbnail, but I couldn’t do both at the same time anymore. I guess this was her baby-steps plan for me. I remember thinking that her idea was both incredibly sensible and frustrating. I indeed quit sucking my thumb precisely on my fourth birthday. My mom said she checked on me often that night while I was sleeping, and I had an iron will, even in my sleep. My thumb would automatically raise to my mouth, and I would drop it while sleeping. However, I am fairly certain I kept rubbing her thumbnail for a while.

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Fast-forward thirty years. One day while nursing, Twin A began to rub the tip of my thumbnail with his fat little baby finger that has those inverted little knuckles. I burst into tears. Of three children, he was the only one to have “inherited” that particular trait. Even at two years old, he continues to do it when he is sick or just watching TV in my lap. How can that be a coincidence? But how could that be inherited? Our bodies are so awe-inspiring. He never saw me do it, so was it possibly picked up via “nature”?

My oldest son, who came to us through adoption, never rubbed my thumbnail or had that baby smell past the infancy stage. He has, sadly, inherited my absolutely worst trait: picking his cuticles. When I am nervous or anxious (all the time?), I pick at the skin on my fingers. It is gross, and Mr. Okayest absolutely hates it. I am certain that this is the only thing about me that he actually hates. If we were ever on a game show and the host asked me what my husband hates about me, this cuticle picking would be the answer. We would both win all the money because we would both answer the same thing. (In my defense, I have cut waaaay back. And I am constantly trying to stop.) My oldest son started doing this at eighteen months. I am absolutely ashamed that he picked this trait from me to “inherit”. He picked up that bad habit 100% from the “nurture” category. He sees me do it, and he does it.

Why have his twin brothers – who are biologically from my genes/ my body/ my nature- not picked up this nasty cuticle-picking trait? They have also seen me do it. Neither the nature nor the nurture has inclined them to harm themselves. My only guess is that they are just not anxious or nervous people. My oldest son must be more like me in that way, and this habit “works” for us. (Dr. Phil says people do it because it works. The pain actually releases the endorphins or dopamine or whatever to relieve your anxiety. That is why it is so hard to stop.) Let’s hope he picks up a good trait or two from me as well.

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He isn’t warm and dry like Twin A and Daddy. He isn’t clammy and cold like Twin B and Momma. He’s just him. He’s cool and dry, like none of us – or like all of us put together.

I look at his beautiful brown body, cool and dry, and I am in awe of his birthmother. Was she cool and dry? She made him. She built him from scratch. She carried him for 8 months and made every hair on his head and every bone in his body. She also gave him many of his traits, but I will probably never know which ones. I did not give him a single fingernail, but I gave him cuticle picking. And everything I have. And all my love.

Why am I telling you about these things? One son’s baby-head smell, one son’s rubbing his mother’s thumb, and one son picking up a bad trait? I’m not sure. Genes are a funny thing.

Nothing Like Having Your Head Slammed in the Door by a Toddler

Why do they hate me so much? Sometimes I feel like an indentured servant ruled by three tiny people who hate me. There is nothing quite like being screamed at while wiping butts.

…Except for maybe getting your head slammed in a French door by a freakishly strong 2-year-old.

….Except for maybe getting your head slammed in a closet door the very next day by the same freakishly stong two-year-old. (It’s weird: he’s not angry. He is like the Hulk without the anger.)

Seriously, moms have to do all these seriously nasty chores – on repeat – while little people yell at us about it. That feeling is magnified when there are three little people.

Why are you so mad when you have to let someone clean your bottom? Why are you so mad when you have to let someone fix you a delicious and nutritious meal? Wash your cellulite? Console your sadnesses and rock you to sleep and kiss your boo-boos? Sometimes it feels like pure hell to do all these things while they yell at me, or scream at me, or cry at me. Times three.

jumping on bedI know, I know, I know – they are growing up so fast and one day I will regret complaining about any of it. One day, soon, they won’t need me to wipe their butts. One day, soon, my snuggles and my kisses aren’t going to fix their bigger boo-boos. I know I will miss their innocence and their fat chubby toddler arms.

I know, I know, I know – I waited eight years for these babies. I survived adoption and 15 rounds of fertility drugs and bedrest and miscarriage and hemorrhage to get these three precious souls into my arms. How could I possibly complain about a single thing?

Because. Because none of that means it’s FUN to be kicked at when I’m trying to change their poops. It’s not sweet to get yelled at while fixing lunch not fast enough. It’s not adorable to get pummeled while trying to hug an upset child. Moms get beat up and knocked around more than they ever thought they would.

My kids are good kids. They are sweet and considerate and mostly obedient. They are also two years old, and two years old, and four years old. Sometimes, being two and being four isn’t pretty. Sometimes it isn’t sweet. They get frustrated. They get overwhelmed. It’s hard to be a toddler. And have you ever heard of a “mean drunk”? Well, some kids are a “mean sick” or a “mean injured”. (And some kids are just The Hulk without the anger. There’s a lot of testosterone in this house.)

I just wanted you to know that I feel like the ugly stepsister sometimes, just in case you do too.

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This post was originally published on Beyond Infertility, a website about parenting after infertility. I am a regular contributor to their website.

MLK and Me … and You

all three at sinkConfession: I’m not sure I ever cared enough about Martin Luther King Day in the past. Now that I have a black son and two white sons, I care. I care a lot.

I’m writing this post today to ask that you will care perhaps a little more than you already do. I’m writing this post to ask that you take a couple minutes to show your kids a picture of Dr. King’s face. Play a few minutes of his audio. Tell them why you care. Nothing fancy. If you have older kids, ask them what they know. Just take two minutes and say something.

I’m sitting in the passenger seat of my minivan while my husband is in the hardware store and my children of two colors are in the back begging for more goldfish crackers. I’m writing on my phone and stopping every sentence to settle a fight or apologize for forgetting the juice box.

My oldest (black) son asked why daddy was home today. As we do every year, we explained about who Martin Luther King, Jr. was – and why we care. I am well-versed in how hard it is to explain that to a five-year-old, since I taught Kindergarten. It was one of our state-mandated standards of learning.

It sucks to look at those little innocent faces and explain that people used to hate each other because of the color of their skin. Especially here in the south. I know it sucks to say it out loud. But, if you are a parent, I am asking you to do just that today.

r cuddlesAs a parent of a black son, I am going to have to take this discussion a step farther than I did as a teacher. This year he asked why Dr. King died. I had to explain that some people hated. Next year, I might have to explain that some people still hate. The year after that, I might have to explain that some people don’t think that they hate, but their heart does. I’m going to have to talk about these things, and it sucks. It sucks to say these things to his beautiful brown face.

People who were beaten in Selma, Alabama for trying to register to vote are still alive today. People whose schools were shut down for months rather than desegregate are still alive in our very own community. Furthermore, the people who prevented blacks from voting (even though it was their lawful right to vote then) are still alive today. The people who beat them and even killed them for trying are still alive*. The people who prevented blacks from entering the schools (even though segregation was illegal by then), and who made the decisions to shut down the white schools rather than allow blacks inside, are still alive.

This despicable history is not that far removed from us. Don’t leave it only to the teachers to explain this. Don’t leave it only to the adoptive moms to explain it. Teach your children.

Dr. King said, “I have a dream that one day… the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.” That’s what we do every night in my house. At my table. With my own sons.

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* In 1965, a state trooper named James Fowler shot and killed an unarmed (peaceful) protester named Jimmie Lee Jackson. He had run into a cafe to hide and protect his mother and grandfather. He was beaten and shot at close range. Fowler was charged in 2007 of first-degree murder. He pleaded guilty in 2010, 45 years after the murder.

Jimmie Lee Jackson’s story is told as part of the movie Selma, which was just released this month.

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Not sure what to say to your kids? Let LeVar Burton start the discussion for you: click here to watch him read a story about Dr. King on Reading Rainbow.

I Hit “Advanced Maternal Age” at Midnight

Omgosh. As the clock struck midnight on my birthday, I was officially “advanced maternal age”. Or, I would be, if I were pregnant.

&*!$)%!

Thirty-five.

I have been infertile. I have been in “spontaneous abortion”. I have adopted. I have been in a high-risk pregnancy. I have been pregnant with twins. I have been bedrest-ed. I have been C-section-ed. I have been on death’s door. But I’ve never been advanced maternal age before.

We hope for more children. We have been married for twelve years. We have three children, but none of them were created in my body. (One was created in someone else’s body; two were simultaneously created in Petri dishes.) All three of them belong in our home and in our arms.

Facing many of those issues when I was still in my 20s was … well, difficult. And important. It shines a light on the fact that I am now thirty-freaking-five. I don’t mind the number. I don’t mind the laugh lines. I don’t mind the squishy belly. But I do mind the fertility consequences of being 35.

We don’t know if we will be blessed with more children. We do know that I now would be in a completely different category if we were to attempt any more fertility treatments. We probably won’t, though, since 15 rounds is probably more than enough for a lifetime. We do know that egg quality goes down in a straight line from the age of 21 in a healthy female. We do know that endometriosis gets worse with time. We do know that the chances of conceiving a baby in any 35-year-old body decrease sharply.

If I couldn’t get pregnant in my twenties, the likelihood of getting pregnant when I am of “advanced maternal age” is ridiculous.

all three at sink

I am happy with my three boys. I am (finally) no longer sad each month when I realize I am not pregnant. However, I have the nagging feeling that someone is missing. I don’t know if that is from our miscarriage(s), or if there is really a soul out there who is trying to come to our family.

I can live contently with my three boys, even though I once wanted eight children! I am not always the best mother. I get terrible headaches. I am not always patient. I am stretched very thin. I am sometimes anxious and I am always tired and my neck always hurts. Nevertheless, I feel another soul out there.

Does she know I am of “advanced maternal age”?

 

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This post was originally written as members-only content for Beyond Infertility, a website about parenting after infertility. I am regular contributor to their website.

“But He’s Black!” (A Day in the Life of a Transracial Family)

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My triplets

I took all three of my sons to the mall today for “mall-walking” (i.e., trail walking when it’s cold). They were actually wearing matching outfits, as pictured above. I try to dress them alike in public places simply so I can spot them quickly. (It’s not easy to dress them alike when I thrift-shop, so sometimes I just put them in fluorescent orange safety vests.)

I am accustomed to getting more stares when I dress my “triplets” alike. If they are not dressed alike, I think people assume I am the nanny or something. Or a mom who babysits. It doesn’t matter, and I don’t really care. Usually. When I do dress them alike, people get puzzled and stare, trying to figure us out. I don’t mind too much. Usually.

After we did our four-mile circuit through the mall, we stopped at the indoor play place. A nice woman stopped me. Here’s our conversation:

Her: “Are they twins?”
Me: “Yes.”
Her: [Pleasant banter about twin cuteness]
My oldest son: [runs up to me in his matching outfit] “Momma?”
Her: “He is yours too?!”
Me: “Yes.”
Her: “But he’s black!”
Me: “Yes.”

I walked away. That was the end of that.

Then I took all three into the bathroom. My oldest was trailing directly behind me. A woman, walking behind him, said in a loud voice, “Who does this boy belong to?!”

What? He’s mine! He’s standing right behind me, following me, probably even touching my butt, and is dressed identically to his brothers!

I didn’t say all that. I just said, “He’s mine!”

She stammered, “I just wanted to be sure a man didn’t send him in here alone or something….”

Would she have said that if he was towheaded like I am? Lots of mothers look different than their children, so maybe this happens to you too, even with biological children.

When he was a baby, people would often say, “He’s going to grow up to be a basketball player!” I had to wonder why on earth people would say that. I wanted to ask, “Are you saying that because he’s black? Because I really can’t think of any other reason you would say that when his height is in the 7th percentile.” Instead, I would usually reply, “Actually, I was thinking he could be a doctor.” (I don’t think anyone has ever told me that my white sons are going to grow up to be basketball players, despite their heights being in the 90th percentile.)

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I understood when people asked me constantly, “Is he yours?” when he was an infant. We had different skin color; I get it. But I’m so tired of answering, “yes, he’s mine,” when he is holding my hand and calling me “momma.” I once made myself a T-shirt that said, “Yes, he’s mine.” Funny or not? I’m not sure.

But this is not about me. Besides, I’m used to it. He isn’t. He is only starting to notice race, adoption, and commentary from strangers. I have had four and a half years to get used to these comments, but he is only now cluing in to what is happening. I am happy to answer questions and perhaps even educate people about transracial adoption, but I don’t necessarily want to be forced to do so in front of my son. The best I can do is teach him the appropriate answers to these kinds of questions… and when it is appropriate to just walk away.

 

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This post was originally posted on Beyond Infertility as members-only content. I am a regular contributor to their website.

 

100th Post! … Or 105th or 107th? Anyway, Let’s Reflect!

One hundredth post?! Really? Well, actually, my 100th post was about tampons, but that seemed like an inappropriate time to bring up my milestone. This is my 107th post or something. I’m just okayest, remember? Anyway, how have I possibly had that much come out of my head?

It’s time to reflect… and/ or just give you a bunch of leftover thoughts (and way too many copious links):

I’m pretty sure blogging is dead. I’m also sure that the market is saturated. Have you seen how many of me there are? And yet…

… I have 2500+ followers here and almost 200 on my Facebook page. (Oh yeah, and I started a Facebook page.) I started blogging just a year and a half ago, when my twins were not even a year old, and not even walking yet. My oldest was just three and still in diapers. I had three children, three and under, in diapers. Then my niece moved in, and I had four children in diapers. Four children under four. It was a wild time.

My favorite post so far (if you care) is “110 Decibel Lullabies: Memories of  a Loud Childhood”. It was not popular at all, but it was a love letter to my parents that I worked on for years in my head. I am so proud of it. I hope I created a saturated portrait for my sons of what my own childhood was like.

My most-googled/ popular posts have been “My Birth Story: How I Almost Lost My Life, My Uterus, and a Twin”, and “So What is IVF Really Like? (A Thesis)”. Proceed with caution, though, since those two are pretty gory – and pretty dang long. But my all-time most widely-read post was “Benign Neglect: A Case Against Preschool”. It was chosen as a “Freshly Pressed” blog post that was featured on the WordPress Homepage. It had hundreds of comments and daily views. For a minute.

I had never read a blog before I started writing one. I’m sure I’ve made mistakes because of that, but I also hope it added some freshness to my blog.

My super private husband was the one to suggest I start blogging. He knows how verbal I am and how much I needed this outlet for anxious feelings. I figure out a lot out as I write, and even as I plan to write. I was a copious journal-keeper in my pre-kid life, but somehow that hasn’t… conveyed. Now, I blog. But one thing hasn’t changed: planning what I will write is my way to survive.

When times are bad, and there isn’t enough time or energy to actually write for an extended period of time, I get anxious. Too much builds up inside my head and it wants out. Also, when I don’t record something fairly quickly, or scribble a little note, it’s gone forever these days. Taking care of these little ones doesn’t leave much time for reflection or memory.

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It’s so important to me to record at least part of this crazy life for my kids (who probably will never care). I want my kid to know I dragged him along to vote recently, even though he thought I said “boat” instead of “vote”. I want my kids to know that I read one of them a book on the bathroom floor this morning, while one of them sat on the potty, and while the other soaked his diaper-rashed bum in the tub. I want them to know that their dad is working late again tonight and I have a terrific fear of the next three hours. Paralyzing, really. (I also want them to know that, as a result of that, they watched way too much Sesame Street today.)

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I want my kids to know that we stay busy each morning. We have a regular schedule of grandparents, play dates, and trail walking. Rain or shine, tantrums or smiles, poop or no poop, we are doing at least one thing each day. They don’t have normal lives: we don’t go to restaurants (my oldest almost made it to age five without a Happy Meal), and they don’t grocery shop with me. But once in a while they get to ride in a Target cart. (Don’t get me started on carts.)

I want my twins to know that the day I took away their binkies was the end of my life – for an entire month anyway. Okay, it was just the end of my sanity – oh, and the end of my stranglehold on our rigid schedule. You can probably find my mental black hole on this blog that corresponds with that month of hell.

Other than being mentally helpful, my blog has been good to me in other ways. It has generated a little income. I have several interviews coming out soon (you can read one of them here). I officially write for a website as a regular contributor. (They call me a “parenting expert”! Ha!!!) One of my posts, “My Twins Sucked at Breastfeeding”, was even featured on a popular mommy blog and had 11.2K shares at last check.

My blog has also been good to some strangers out there. Women from all over the world have contacted me with messages that are full of gratitude, and tears of sorrow or joy or laughter or relief. They are so grateful to me that I am telling it like it really is. And “it” can be the daily struggles of being a stay-at-home mom (sometimes I feel like a slave that everyone hates), or what IVF feels like, or the not-so-pretty parts of adoption or twins or transracial families. I am in a unique position to understand the infertile women, the parents of multiples, the white parents of black children, the adoptive mommies, and the stay-at-home moms. I try to write honestly about all those things when  I cover all of those experiences.

I have privacy concerns constantly. I try to balance the introversion of my husband and the privacy of my children with my own need to vent. I never know if I’m doing the right thing. While I can identify with many different parents and non-parents, I don’t ever want to throw any of my family members under this public internet bus when writing.

[Wait , someone’s crying. Be right back.]

I am trying to tell my own mothering story without sacrificing my family or my dignity. I give my husband veto power over my articles, and more than a few will stay on the cutting room floor that is my laptop. I hope my children will read all of this someday, so I am careful only to write things that I would say to their face in ten years or twenty years. I am as honest with my readers as I am going to be with my children. That means that there are some things that will never get written. I wish I could talk about body image issues, or the developmental delays of one of my sons, or hilarious things my husband says. I wish I could show you their adorable fat naked bums and cellulite (the kids’, not the husband’s*).

There are just some things that remain whispers between spouses, stuck forever in your bedsheets, even when you’re a public blogger.

But, hey, thanks for reading!

 

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* If you are reading this reference to my husband’s bum, then it survived his veto power. Woot!

 

Bedtime Will Be Your Favorite Part of the Day: Parenting after Infertility Doesn’t Make You Special

You worked really hard for your children, right? You had to do mountains of adoption paperwork, or hundreds of IVF injections, right? You put in more hours and effort – and, yes, money – than anybody should have to do to bring a child into this world, right? Well, here’s the thing: that doesn’t make you special.

Sure, it makes you special for a little while. But, now that your child (children) is (are) here, you are just like every other parent in the world. And that is just how you want it.

Bedtime will be your favorite part of the day.

You will catch your kid’s vomit in your hands (or, maybe, even in your mouth, like I did recently).

You will have sleep-deprivation so deep that you search the dryer for the frozen pizza and search the freezer for the clean blankie.

You will have to throw away that poopy underwear or cut off that poopy onesie after some horrific accident that isn’t even worth cleaning up properly.

You will sometimes only eat string cheese and animal crackers for dinner, and then you will proudly post a food-porn photo of it on social media to compete with all your non-parenting friends’ fancy dinners.

You will get a letter from the public library threatening to send you to a collections agency for those really really late books that “must be around here somewhere”.

Your kid’s whining will make you want to jump out of your skin – or at least out of your window.

You will one day think, “I would take a bullet for this kid.” And, then, one night when you think you can’t possibly get up one more time, you will realize that you are taking a bullet for this kid.

You aren’t special.

You are just a parent. You are like every other parent throughout all of human history, throughout the entire world, because you love that child. And that is just how it should be.

 

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Would you care to add to my list? What else makes bedtime your favorite part of the day?

 

This article originally appeared on Beyond Infertility, a website about how parenting after infertility is different. I am a regular contributor to their website. You can find the original article here.

 

White Mom, Black Hair

My son was born with straight hair. It turned curly, and then kinky. He had dreadlocks by the time he was five months old and a full-fledged afro by eight months. However, I didn’t want to cut it until he was a year old. I heard it was a bad luck to cut it before a year old, although the child abuse he endured when we tried to tame his dreadlocks was worse than bad luck. Some people snip a curl for the baby book, but I snipped a dread.

His hair didn’t get longer –it just got bigger. What we greasy white people don’t understand is that black hair needs moisture put in, not washed out. I took to washing it only once every two weeks or so, but moisturizing it every day. And I tried to keep it combed out every day. I don’t know if I did the right thing, because there was much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. (From him or me?) I created in him a phobia of head-touching that continues to this day.

IMG_2212a

What I quickly realized is that there seems to be no consensus among the African-American community about what hair-care products are best. It shouldn’t have been a surprise to me, since there is no consensus among white people either. Was it racist to have assumed that all black people would have had the same opinion about hair care products? Everyone’s hair  and opinions are different, no matter what your skin tone or kinky-ness level. Why did I think there would be an all-agreed-upon product guide or something? People would recommend all sorts of products to me, and lots of them were heavy-laden with chemicals. That was also a surprise to me. (Please watch Chris Rock’s documentary Good Hair!) After many months and dollars, I finally settled on shea butter for his hair. I tried everything- even olive oil and coconut oil. Shea butter was my personal winner: it works, it’s natural,  and it doesn’t smear all over my furniture. (And, perhaps most importantly of all, it is  one of the few smells that doesn’t trigger a migraine in his momma.)

My husband finally cut R’s afro on his first birthday. It was a shock to our son – and to us. He looked like a little boy! I continued to rarely wash – and constantly condition – but at least I didn’t have to torture him with comb-outs anymore.

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Hair isn’t just about the physical aspects. Emotion and belonging and tradition are weaved into hair too- and especially black hair. It isn’t just about the hair itself. Black hair is just a catch-all for all the things that I don’t know.

I am no expert here. I only know what I have read. One thing I have read in my adoption books and magazines is that black sons adopted by white parents wish that their parents had kept their hair shorter. White parents have a tendency to think that afros are cute on a black boy, and some children later express that they wished their hair had been kept closely-cropped so they would have fit in better with other black children.

This hair-length issue is a perfect example of things that may affect a black child that we white parents would never think about. Similarly, the literature encourages us to make an effort to take our child to a black barbershop. These are little suggestions, but they encourage me to consider things outside my typical line of vision. (However, I don’t think we’ll be going anywhere near a black barbershop until my son gets over his hair-touching phobia!)

My husband cuts R’s hair every weekend now. He is trying to learn how to do the edges from youtube videos – to make his haircut look more professional. By cutting his hair every week, we hope to desensitize that poor head of his. Also, we hope that by not letting it get long, the clippers won’t get stuck. See, we have no idea what we are doing! I am embarrassed to say that the clippers have gotten stuck in his curls before. What kind of clippers do black barbers use? Do they use attachments? What are we doing?!

And, if R had been a girl, this blog post would have been long enough to have needed its obalck wn blog website.

 

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Are any of you considering trans-racial adoption? What are your concerns? What have you learned about hair during your trans-racial adoptions? I’d love to know I’m not the only one who is learning and growing!

This article was originally published on Beyond Infertility, a website about how parenting after infertility is different. I am a regular contributor to their website.  You can find the original article here.

My Kids Eating Lunch Under a Blanket in Honor of National Breastfeeding Month

I’m not shy about the fact that, uh, my relationship with breastfeeding was, uh, complicated. Adoption. High-risk twin pregnancy resulting in near-death. ICU and NICU stays. Tandem twin feeding. Everything about me and breastfeeding is complicated. However, there is nothing complicated about THIS. I’m still happy that it’s National Breastfeeding Month and I honor it with this photo.

One Good Dad

Kids eating

In honor of National Breastfeeding month, I made my kids eat their lunch under a blanket just like the old days of when they were infants. It turns out it isn’t the ideal way to eat. Who knew?

Other posts on breastfeeding that you might enjoy:

A Dad’s Thoughts During National Breastfeeding Month

Reaction to the Time’s Breastfeeding Cover

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My Thoughts, as My Husband Leaves Me Alone with Three Toddlers for Five Days

OHMYGOSHDONTGODONTGO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

PLEASEPLEASEPLEASEPLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!

SOMEONEHELPME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!HELP!HELP!HELP!HELPME!!!!!!!!!!

His five-day-long business trip is bearing down on me like a freight train. I’ll be honest: I’m terrified. I’m not one of those amazing independent women who has it all together. I really really depend on Mr. Okayest. (Maybe I’m codependent. No, wait, nevermind. If I remember anything from my B.S. in Psychology, co-dependent does NOT mean what it sounds like it means.) I depended on him waaaaay before kids. I don’t do well without him. He is my rock, my anti-anxiety drug, and my dose of oxytocin.

My 35th birthday present from Mr. Okayest is this oxytocin molecule. Science can be sexy.

My 35th birthday present from Mr. Okayest is this oxytocin molecule. Science can be sexy.

How will I not crack?

How do single mothers do it, when they have no backup coming home at 5:30 PM every day?

I love my in-laws. I love them. They are swooping in like superheroes while their son is away.

How will my child-induced carpal tunnel/tendonitis wrist not break?

What will become of Twin B, who only ever relaxes for his Daddy? (Um, I can’t imagine where he got that trait.)

What will become of my oldest son, who is exactly like his non-biological father in every way except his appearance? He is a Daddy’s Boy, through and through, and he will have tantrums that will blow the roof off this house.

What will become of my naughty and very large dog, who is much naughtier when Alpha Male isn’t home?

How does anyone survive five days without seeing his handsome face?

I need to learn how to work video phone features on my new smartphone, like NOW.

Maybe I should throw a ladies’ night while he is away, after the kids are in bed. I can call it “Junk Food and an 80s Movie in my Funky Basement.” Would anyone come? Oh, dang it, I have never actually turned on that projector by myself. He needs to show me. Why have I never done it myself?

I love my in-laws. I love them.

What the heck is wrong with me? So-and-so’s husband is deployed, and she’s fine. She has pneumonia and four kids and she’s still fine. So-and-so’s husband…. Oh, stop doing this to yourself!

The children will not get bathed for five days. They won’t.

I hope none of the kids (or the dog) breaks a nail. I have never cut any of their nails. Mr. Okayest is responsible for 80 nails – 100 if you count the dog’s nails. (And 120 during pregnancy when I couldn’t reach mine. Oh, wait, I only couldn’t reach my TOEnails, so that would make it 110 that he had to cut.) Oh, don’t act so judgy, readers. I told you I’m just okayest.

He should mow the lawn before he leaves. I have never done that either.

Do I remember how to open the garage door if the power is out? Maybe he should show me the gas shut-off again too. Do we have gas? OHMYGOSH WHATIFTHEPOWERGOESOUT?

I am SO going to watch all those Netflix movies that he won’t watch with me. I’m thinking indie.

I wish I could drink.

Oh, thank goodness his stupid alarm won’t ring at 4:30 AM every single day.

At least I can eat boxed mac n’ cheese for dinner.

 

 

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Spellcheck had a field day with this one.

Note to potential stalkers: I waited to post this until *after* he came back. Duh.

Contributing to “Beyond Infertility” (My First Official Writing Job!)

Beyond intertility logoI am so excited to announce that I am an official contributor to Beyond Infertility, the new expert info & community support site for families expecting or parenting after infertility. They get that parenting after infertility is different. There seems to be a wealth of resources for those currently experiencing infertility, but not much information for parents like me who are now raising children AFTER the adoption or treatments are over. My favorite line of theirs is, “Having a baby does not cure infertility.” Now I’m not the only one out there saying that – I will be a regular parent writer/ “expert blogger” (!) for them!

http://www.beyondinfertility.com

(I’ve been sitting on this announcement for a while, but the site just went live! I’m right on the homepage!)

Reblog: Please Educate Your Kids About Adoption So Mine Don’t Have To

Dang it, I wish I had written this one myself. But, since I didn’t, and this woman says it so well, you get to read from someone else today. This mom has two brown (and adopted) sons and two white (and birthed) daughters. I think she knows a thing or two. Here is Kristen, from the Rage Against the Minivan blog:

Please Educate Your Kids About Adoption So Mine Don’t Have To

As my son gets closer to school-age, these kind of peer conversations are.going.to.happen. Help him out by teaching your children about all the different kinds of parents in this world.

(PS, Her selection of books is wonderful. My son and I just had a special moment over “A Mother For Choco”… but it’s too precious to write down here. Sorry.)

Mother’s Day Can Sometimes Feel Like a Bruise

Like many of you, my feelings about Mother’s Day are a little complex. Despite the fact that I have those chubby toddler arms (x6) around my neck, there are still “tender feelings – the way a bruise is tender” (to quote a sensitive leader of my church). My heart goes out to all of you for whom this day may feel a bit like a bruise.  My heart goes out to all of you who have lost a mother, or have adopted this year, or have placed a baby for adoption, or have experienced miscarriage, or have lost a full-grown child, or have chosen not to parent, or biology has chosen not to allow you to parent.

I think of my son’s birthmother today, on Mother’s Day. To say that I am thankful for her is an understatement. My heart hurts for her, and my soul is filled with love for her. I wonder if she is thinking of him. I hope she knows I am thinking of her.

Melissa and MomI think of my own mother today, on Mother’s Day. I am completely thankful for and in love with my own mother, who raised me well and taught me everything I know about parenting (well, almost… she didn’t know much about twins). She is a wonderful grandmother to my children. And, during my miscarriages and infertility treatments, she used to skip church with me on Mother’s Day to hike in the woods, so that I wouldn’t cry when they passed out flowers to the mothers in the congregation.

I think of my mother-in-law today, on Mother’s Day. She raised my favorite man. She gave me the gifts of teaching her son to hug perfectly and to listen well and to notice everything. She gives me every Tuesday morning off from motherhood while she plays with her grandbabies. I hope I can offer my future daughters-in-law even a fraction of those gifts.

I’m so lucky to have these women in my life, who have loved us and are still here with us to wrap their arms around us to literally hold us up. I am so lucky to have my three sons here on earth with me, to wrap their fat arms around my neck, to literally hold me down.

And yet, I miss the ones I have lost.

And yet, I think of you, the ones who might be hurting today. I am thinking of you women who, like me, have tender feelings for one reason or another. You are loved! I have not forgotten this wound, which is now just a tender bruise, and I have not forgotten you.

 

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Sorry I posted this *after* Mother’s Day. I am just Okayest, after all.

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Notes:

“While we tend to equate motherhood solely with maternity, in the Lord’s language, the word mother has layers of meaning. Of all the words they could have chosen to define her role and her essence, both God the Father and Adam called Eve “the mother of all living”- and they did so before she ever bore a child.” -Sheri L. Dew, “Are We Not All Mothers?”, LDS General Conference, October 2001

This blog post says it better than I can: http://www.messymiddle.com/2012/05/10/an-open-letter-to-pastors-a-non-mom-speaks-about-mothers-day/