Lucky Thirteen

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“Well,” I told Arthur back in January.  “It’s official.  We’ve been us for 20 years.  Can you believe we started dating that long ago?”

He nodded.  We were thick in the midst of house things, redecorating, and moving.  It felt like that statement should be more climactic somehow, but, well, we’d just bought a house.

So it goes.  Another year, another mile marker.  Thirteen years ago today, we held the official launch party formalizing our partnership and starting our family.

Arthur let me sleep in an hour and a half this morning and that’s the kind of gesture that feels somehow more romantic than the “traditional” sorts of gifts for a day like today.  I’ll put away the dishes and then go a bit extra to do the laundry that is typically his responsibility and tonight we’ll go to dinner and despite our best efforts, wind up talking about the nuts and bolts of running a life together.

As far as creative and collaborative endeavors go, I think it’s a success so far, that we still wake up and wouldn’t want to do this with anyone else.

This post is a part of Microblog Mondays.  If you want to read more, head on over to Stirrup Queens!  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.  

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A Little Overwhelmed

Christmas was a study in contrasts.  The day itself was quite lovely, restful, and calm.  Spending the day at home with my parents, we opened presents.  We relaxed.  I cooked a beef tenderloin and made a chocolate cheesecake that actually turned out beautifully.

The next day, I had plans to go to Arthur’s family in the morning (they live about an hour away from us) so the girls could play with their cousins, then Arthur would join us in the evening after work for gift exchange and time with family.  I arrived at the house, got the girls ushered in, and started talking with the adults.

Arthur’s middle sister MC recently got engaged with a wedding scheduled for the summer.  I knew MC was – naturally – excited about the wedding.  To make conversation, I asked her how things were going and about plans, etc.

I did not expect to be asked to be a bridesmaid.  MC and I have had some conflicts on and off over the last year or two, and I figured that she’d have friends and Arthur’s two other sisters to round out the bridal party.  MC asked if I would sing and if E would be a flower girl.  I told her yes, of course, and then asked if she had picked bridesmaids’ dresses and such.

Socially awkward introverts’ worst nightmare ensued: a smooth sailing, seemingly shallow conversation suddenly pitched into unexpectedly deep waters.  “Well,” MC told me, “SC [Arthur’s oldest sister] is my maid of honor, LC [Arthur’s youngest sister] is going to be a bridesmaid, my friend V, and, well, F.”

F, for the record, is married to Arthur’s brother D, so an in-law like me.  I sucked in a deep breath and tried not to react.  While I hadn’t been expecting to be asked to be a bridesmaid, I also hadn’t expected to be the only female in my generation to be left out of the wedding party.  I smiled, tried to be polite, and left the room a few minutes later with the baby to calm down.

MC followed me.  “Look,” she said, “I hope you’re not too upset about the bridesmaid thing.  I didn’t ask F just because she’s a sister-in-law.”

Ouch.

I’ve been with Arthur for around 20 years at this point, engaged or married for 15 of those years.  I’ve attended MC’s band concerts, events, graduations, and sent things to her at college.  It’s true that we’ve had a few moments in the last couple years – which I fully acknowledge to be partly on me – but to be told, essentially, “well, F is a friend and you…are just my sister in law” felt absolutely devastating.

It’s not even so much not being a bridesmaid.  It’s being close enough to hear all the inside jokes and far enough away to be left out of them.  It’s being the only female of my generation in the family photos that will be dressed differently and obviously not part of the group.  It’s that in Arthur’s family culture, this is a huge, huge slap in the face.

I spent the day trying not to cry.  When Arthur arrived, however, I lost it.  Seven hours of sitting on strong feelings was too much.  Instead of doing what I had planned, which was keeping things quiet and working it out later, I just felt the sobs pouring out of me and I could not bear to cry in front of everyone.  I ran out of the house and drove home, leaving Arthur and the girls to do the gift exchange and come home later.

Sh*t ensued.

It came out that at least three people had known about MC’s plans and had advised her that she would hurt me by making those choices.  Everyone is still insisting that MC didn’t mean to hurt me, that she’s stubborn and not as emotionally aware, but I’m having a hard time believing it.  I mean, MC is absolutely entitled to have whoever she wants in her wedding party, but she needs to own her decisions and not hide behind “oh, I asked you to sing and I never thought you’d be hurt”.

At this point, I’m just trying to take a step back and calm down a little.  There’s a lot of pressure on me to forgive, reconcile, and sing.  Truthfully, while that might be possible eventually, it’s hard to do when it’s all so fresh.

We closed on the house yesterday.  And it is glorious.  I am so, so excited about starting to paint and moving in.  A little overwhelmed, too, honestly.  To add to all of this, a driver rear-ended us yesterday as well, so creating another task.

So that’s how 2017 ended and 2018 is starting.  Lots of good, but plenty of delicate, difficult circumstances thrown in.

Once Bitten…

Content note: breastfeeding

After my experience trying (and failing) to breastfeed E, I was determined that if I was able to have another baby, I was going to breastfeed.  I tried to set myself up for success when I found out I was expecting M, reading books and purchasing a new, high quality double electric pump (I wore out the motor on the one I used with E).  When M was born, I worked on getting milk supply established, making sure she had a good latch and was feeding well.  I was fortunate my body responded this time, and we were happy.

For the last seven and a half months, everything went well.  M loved breastfeeding.  I had a huge supply.  I froze lots, and ultimately wound up donating to the local milk bank when I overflowed the freezer.  I followed all the new guidelines that stipulated exclusive breastfeeding until 6 months.  I loved breastfeeding and figured we were set.

(You can tell where this is going.)

Then, about two months ago, the first little crack in that rosy picture appeared when, out of nowhere, in the middle of a happy nursing session, my adorable baby smiled up at me…and promptly bit down.  Hard.

M didn’t have any teeth at the time, so while I was startled and it hurt, I just let out a little “ow!” and stared down at her.  She, seemingly oblivious, resumed nursing.  I figured it was a one-off and didn’t think much of it.

Until it happened again.  And again.  And again.  Thanks to no teeth, it didn’t bother me all that much, and eventually M quit, right around the time she got her first tooth.

Then, in late October, M started biting again.  The situation escalated over about a week, culminating with Halloween, where she bit me seven times, including once that drew blood.  I did some research, concluded that I needed to keep a closer eye on her when nursing and watched her latch like a hawk.  She bit me one more time on November 1, then we reached a détente.  M nursed.  I watched.  It was no longer quite the carefree, cuddly experience from before.

The peace held until Tuesday.  M bit me once in the morning.  I unlatched her, set her down, and told her “no” soberly.  The next nursing session went fine.  I went to latch her on for the afternoon session, and M bit.  This time, she drew blood.  I yelped, took her off, waited twenty minutes until I could see her giving hunger cues, then I gingerly started to put her onto the other breast.

Within seconds, I was bleeding again.

Because I am nothing if not persistent, I waited until I saw hunger cues again, about fifteen minutes later, and tried again on the first breast.  Before I knew it, she clamped down, leaving behind a pair of bloody toothmarks.

I called the lactation consultant, who advised that I pump and let myself heal.

I went to nurse M again on Thursday morning, and found myself terrified.  I could not bring myself to put my breast in that mouth, which turned out to be a correct instinct as she bit her bottle over and over.  I went and saw the lactation consultant.  We figured out a few things, but the upshot is, as of today, M screams whenever she sees my breast.  She’s on a nursing strike.

It’s like a lock has sprung open on all those crappy feelings from infertility and prematurity and my inability to breastfeed with E.  A representative sampling: This is why you’re infertile.  You’re a bad mother.  You caused this to happen, you reacted wrong.  You aren’t trying hard enough, anyone can breastfeed.  You gave up too soon with E, you know that you could have gotten her latched eventually.  If you can’t breastfeed M until she’s one, you’ve failed and she’s going to have tons of health problems.

I know these are ridiculous, and also?  Totally untrue.  I also know something else from all the past struggles: I can set myself up for success and do the work, but sometimes, the end result is out of my hands.  The problem is, it’s hard to keep reminding myself of those facts.

I have given M eight months of breastfeeding.  I found ways to bond with E that had nothing to do with nursing.  We are all going to be okay, regardless of the outcome, regardless of if I manage to get her back on the breast, or pump and feed for the next four months, or wind up formula feeding.  In the end, fed is best.

But right now?  The whole thing bites.   

The Old Guard

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Arthur and I went to see the RE today to talk about the two remaining embryos we have frozen.  The embryos are a discussion for another post, but as we stepped into the clinic, I had this odd sense that I no longer belonged there the way I once had.  It reminded me of going back to my alma mater, walking around the campus, seeing the current students going to classes, realizing I was an alumnus now and that era of my life was over.

We sat in the waiting room.  A couple came in.  They seemed happy, and I watched as they were ushered back in the direction of the ultrasound room and suspected they were here for a pregnancy check.  Unless the routine had vastly changed, I knew ultrasounds for follicle counts were done much earlier in the morning.  I hope that they got good news.

Eventually, we were ushered back to talk with Dr. E.  As we discussed the remaining embryos, it was clear that we were no longer there with that mixture of fear, anticipation, and hope that we had originally come into the clinic carrying four years ago.  Instead of trying to begin, we were bringing the journey to an end, working to figure out the last steps.

I’m not nostalgic about IVF or treatment.  A few days ago when I went write about a particular experience during my first IVF, I was surprised at how p*ssed I still felt when reliving that memory.  I don’t miss the uncertainty, the worry, and the torturous waits for everything from follicle checks to the infamous two-week wait.

I am slightly nostalgic for that nervous but hopeful person I was when I first walked into the clinic.

Many of the times I’ve gone to the clinic, there’s been the sense of doors opening.  Of possibilities and plans and fresh starts.

Today, we walked out with all but the last two doors closed behind us.

Want more Microblog Mondays posts?  Head over to Stirrup Queens and check them out!  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.

Odds and Ends

A couple of weeks ago, E knocked my laptop off the coffee table accidentally.  In a freak sort of moment, it hit the corner of a heavy basket I keep next to the table and cracked the screen.  Since the crack didn’t affect the LCD part of the screen (it was a very surface crack), I groaned and figured I’d keep using the laptop for a bit while researching potential replacements and saving.

A few days later, M spit up directly into the keypad.  I turned it off immediately, wiped up what I could, and waited.  The laptop is mostly working now, but has some sticky keys and is clearly running even more obviously on borrowed time than before.  Arthur is researching alternatives and hopefully we’ll get one ordered in the next week or so before this laptop dies entirely.  I’m backing up all my files to the external hard-drive and getting ready to move my bookmarks and such before that happens.

It is telling that upon seeing the screen crack, my first thought was: well, this will most likely be less expensive to replace than two vials of foll.istim and definitely less expensive than a single IUI.

Infertility has clearly skewed my view of the term “expensive”.

~*~

Life is in that busy but largely pleasant mode for the most part these days.  I’ve been back to work since mid-June, which is going well.  I enjoy what I do, so while I’m tired (trying to readjust to working nights is taking some time), it’s great to have a chance to interact with my coworkers and take on some projects.

Arthur and I got to go to a fundraiser for the local zoo on Friday with his parents and a couple of his siblings.  It’s a sort of local “taste and drink” deal, where many of the restaurants and catering companies in town set up booths with small portions and typically a signature drink or two.  Because I have a terrible sweet tooth, my favorite is the artisan chocolate company.  It was a lot of fun, made more so because the animals were far more active at night than they typically are during the day.

~*~

E is almost finished with speech therapy.  We have one last session in September just to make sure she hasn’t regressed.  I’m not too worried at this point.  The other day, she walked up to me and started talking about the “botanical garden”.  Yep, with the word ‘botanical’ clearly pronounced.  We’ve come a long way from the 18 month who had what the speech therapist termed a “moderate to severe” speech delay.

She’s doing extremely well overall.  Still doing some physical therapy for a few motor issues, but we see improvement and hope that soon enough the gymnastics class I’ve got her enrolled in at our local YMCA will be enough.  We’re gearing up for a minor procedure for E in September due to congenital partially blocked tear ducts, but hopefully that will be her final surgery for the foreseeable future.

M is growing so fast!  Having a term baby after a very premature one is a totally different game.  She’s a happy, giggly baby who smiles and babbles a lot.  It’s strange not to be in a doctor’s office on a regular basis and to watch her outgrow clothes at an absolutely (to me) extraordinary rate.

~*~

Arthur and I scheduled a consult with Dr. E to discuss our two remaining embryos.  We aren’t anywhere near ready to make a final decision, but we need information to make some of those decisions, time to potentially save up financially, and a discussion of what’s even possible or advisable at this point.

~*~

We’re starting to make appointments to prepare for a house purchase.  We’ve been looking at various neighborhoods, narrowed what we are looking for, and decided on a couple of financial institutions to talk to for the mortgage.  It’s both daunting and exciting to get to this point.

Things that go Bump in the Night

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A few months ago, Arthur and I started talking about buying a house.  After we spent our original down payment on IVF, it’s taken us awhile and a few breaks that went our way, but we’re starting to look a bit with the hope of finding something in the fall or early next spring.  As we were brainstorming questions to ask a potential seller, I looked at Arthur somewhat sheepishly.

“Do you think it would be completely weird if I asked if they had ever seen or heard…anything strange over the years they lived there?”

Arthur gave me a quizzical look.  “Like ghosts,” I clarified, slightly embarrassed.

Arthur considered for a moment.  “No…” he finally said.

“Well,” I hedged, “I don’t like being startled.  And I do think there are phenomena we don’t understand or can’t explain sometimes.  I don’t know that it’s anything that won’t eventually be explained, but I just want to cover all my bases.”

I have a sort of love/hate relationship with scary.  As a tween, one of my favorite books was Horror at the Haunted House by Peg Kehret (spoiler/content note: it has an infant loss plot point).  I also had – and still have – a highly overactive imagination and frequent nightmares.  I read several books by Betty Ren Wright that scared the heck out of me, read a couple of “real life” ghost books that did the same, reached Steven King in high school and after reading one or two of those, promptly quit dabbling at all in horror.  Eighteen years after reading the King books, I still have nightmares specific to those novels.  That being said, I’m a total sucker for a good creepy story.  Even when I know it’s bad for me, I can’t help reading them occasionally.

I don’t really believe in ghosts, or at least, I don’t believe in ghosts during the day when the sun is shining.  However, if we are purchasing a house to live in for a long time, I have zero desire to discover any sort of…quirkiness once the purchase is final.

So, even though I suspect I’m going to get a few odd looks, I think I’m going to ask.

If you want to read more Microblog Monday entries, head over to Stirrup Queens to check them out.  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.

One Project Finished

May and June comprised one of the busiest periods I’ve had in a long while.  As my BSN program drew to close and deadlines ticked down, I found myself running around completing a sixty-five hour practicum class that involved setting up and then interviewing community leaders on my chosen topic as well as doing the research for my classes to prepare for papers.  June finished out with an absolute orgy of writing as I wrote three major capstone projects totaling over seventy pages.  It was, to say the least, completely exhausting.

However, it was also rewarding as I got the notice on Monday that my final paper passed and my advisor recommended me to receive my diploma!

When I decided to go for the BSN, I initially rolled my eyes a little.  I already have a BA (in English) and I figured this degree would be more of the same.  However, with more and more push for RNs working in hospital settings to have BSNs, I knew I needed to go ahead and get the degree.  Otherwise, I risked a situation where, if I ever found a position I wanted to pursue in another hospital system or my system changed rules or ownership, I might find myself either unable to apply for a different position or told that I needed to complete the BSN within a certain number of years.

I was surprised at how much I learned.  While I definitely had a head start since my degree in English had taught me a good bit about research and writing, in my new coursework, I learned how to really evaluate scientific research.  I also learned about statistics and worked through the steps of problem-solving in a nursing setting.

In short, I know I’m better at what I do thanks to earning this degree.  Eventually, when I’m ready, it will also set me up much better to complete masters’ level coursework.

At this point, I’m looking forward to catching up with reading blogs, commenting, and writing here a bit more often.  I’m hoping to watch the documentary “Vegas Baby” about the Sh.er Inst.itutes IVF contest when it comes to Net.flix and read Belle Boggs’ The Art of Waiting.  I recently finished Kate Hopper’s memoir Ready for Air about the premature birth of her daughter and D. Knight Smith’s Letters to Ellie.  I’ve been thinking about infertility and NICU quite a bit.  It’s as though suddenly I’m really starting to process some parts of the experience that perhaps I couldn’t when I was going through them.