Thursday, December 29, 2011

Pregnancy Article

Just saw this posted by a fellow doula...  Wow....  That's all I've got.

(In defense, I just deleted a file I needed for a CBE assignment (well, I overwrote it) and frustrated is a light term.  Peter's trying to recover it, but we are both doubtful it's going to happen...  And more Casa Haytko drama, but that's for another time...)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Happy December 27th

Why a happy December 27th?  Why not...

Christmas was lovely.  I dont have any pictures uploaded yet(except one that P's aunt took of Maya), so I'll share that.  Her smile pretty much sums it up!

We had a lovely two day celebration.  Christmas Eve, we went to my in-laws for a traditional Puerto Rican Christmas Eve dinner, then we went to 7pm Mass, which was lovely.  Later on, my mother in law and I went to Midnight Mass at our local parish; again, lovely.  I cantored the 7:30am Mass on Christmas Day, where my in-laws and father joined me (the kids were asleep from a much later than usual night, so Peter stayed with them).  I prepared our annual brunch when I got home and we were surrounded by family for a nice meal.  Later, we went to Peter's aunt's home for dinner with family.  All in all, it was truly a wonderful time with family.

We dont do a huge amount of gift giving, but I was touched that Peter selected 2 dresses for me from Shabby Apple (and I'm sad I'm returning them because the arms just dont fit my broad shoulders well).  The thought that went into his selections really warmed me. :)  He's a sweetheart...

Yesterday, Peter had a 'daddy day'.  I met up with Sarah for a 4 mile run on some of the trails in the county, and then we had brunch.  I finished up the afternoon by catching a movie with Peter's aunt then came home and we had dinner together.  So, a nice Boxing Day too! :)

Well, kids are waking from naptime...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Peaces of Joy

A double meaning... "Pieces" of joy as well as [the] peaces of joy.  :) 

I keep up with the ex-boyfriend on facebook and he wrote a status a few weeks ago about how it isnt what he buys his daughter (who's Bobby and Maya's age), it's his love for her and the fact that, as she's growing up, she knows how much he loves her.  It was a sweet thing to say and something that I find oh so true.  Borrowing a bit from my friend Mrs. J., we instituted gift giving "rules" if we can call them that because it was important to Peter and I that our children grow up knowing that the holiday season isnt about how much someone spends or how much they get.  It isnt about expecting gifts or even about giving gifts in the traditional sense of the word.  It's not oh, we have to buy X, Y, and Z something.  Even pre-kids, it was bring a bottle of wine somewhere or you saw something that screamed out X's name and had to get it (and the holidays were your built in excuse) or you knew how much someone liked something you do, so you put together a gift of ingredients, etc.  With the exception of our parents, we never felt "obliged" to buy something (and I dont mean to imply that our parents/siblings were obligations, just that we always knew we'd find something 'perfect' for them).  Since becoming parents/aunts/uncles/godparents, we've definitely added to the buy-for list, again because there is a desire in our hearts to see the joy... Not because we have to spend, spend, spend.  As R so succinctly put it, our love will be there long after the excitement over the gift (or even the gift itself) lasts.  Isn't that really what's important? 

Which isnt to say our children arent spoiled by people; they are.  And we are grateful that so many people love them.  But as anyone who knows a grandparent (or excited aunt/uncle) knows, it helps to make things clear when you are raising your kids a certain way.  So, the 1 gift rule went into effect.  (And before you think I'm an ogre, we celebrate more than one holiday in the month, so these kids arent deprived, nor are their family deprived of picking out something 'perfect').  Starting on St. Nicholas's Day (Dec. 6), the kids leave out a shoe and St. Nick deposits a coin and piece of candy.  This year, I missed it, but I know that Peter enjoyed being with them.  (I was in Chicago, and he took that week off work).  He told them the story of St. Nicholas and they watched a 20 minute cartoon about his life and works.  And, he told them about our little saint, Nicholas, whose name day it was...  And then, there's Yule/Winter Solstice.  We celebrate the return of the sun with giving gifts to Nature (and by getting a winter themed gift in return!).  Their first solstice, they got snow suits; this year, gloves and hats and, for Bobby, a coat (because he desperately needed one, whereas Maya has 2 that fit).  As to gift giving, we sprinkle birdseed and drop cranberries on the ground for our outside friends.  And I can't tell you what it's like watching their faces as they sprinkle birdseed on the ground or sprinkle berries where the squirrels like to traverse.  And then, from the window as they watch 'brother bird' and 'sister squirrel' eating their "gifts!"  Maya especially shrieks with joy and poor Bobby ends up scaring them away by pounding on the window with excitement.  It's beautiful to watch.  We also trimmed some of our holly branches and decorated our Blessed Mother shrine.

Christmas Eve is my mother's birthday.  When I was growing up, we always got to open one gift on Christmas Eve.  And, nice enough, because Peter's maternal family is Puerto Rican and Christmas Eve was always such a big deal in his house, he remembers opening a gift on the Eve too!  So, the kids get a gift.  Since we go to Uita & Grandpa's house, it's fitting that the gift be at their place (and this year is a gift that will stay at their house for when the kids visit). 

And then, Christmas Day.  A gift from us, a gift from their twin, a gift from their siblings.  That's it.  Sure, they will get gifts from grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc, so there are more than those under the tree for them.  But we dont buy the store.  Growing up (and dont get me wrong, I loved it), you couldnt walk in our living room.  We were relatively poor, but my parents put in long hours and saved all year to get us whatever they could on Christmas.  I look back and remember the excitement and the glee... But very few of the actual presents.  (Bikes, I remember...  Oh, and my trenchcoat and fedora during my "Untouchables" phase!  Loved that year!) 

Three Kings Day/Epiphany (aka Little Christmas) the kids get three more gifts (one from each king).  Traditionally, I get them clothes.  Either three pieces or, if they are inexpensive (thank you, Kohl's!), three outfits.  We exchange gifts with godfamilies around this day and have our annual Epiphany gathering.    So, like I said, it isnt like we dont  do gifts.

But, when I look back over my own childhood, the things that stick out arent what I got or how late my poor dad stayed up putting together bikes and sneaking them into the house.  They are my memories...  Memories of making cookies with my mom.  Jimmy and I would stand on kitchen stairs (when we were little) so we could lean over the table my grandfather built and would either cookie cutter out cookies from dough my mom made or we would help drop drop-cookies onto the pan.  We'd wait like kids with ants in their pants who desperately needed to pee until that first batch came out so that we could test them for "Santa".  We'd eat pineapple dream cake that my Mamaw made every year for my Mom's birthday cake and discourse on why Christmas babies got shafted with gifts. :)  (It's true, isnt it Katie!).  My dad would start his long, slow, overnight cooking of ham.  We'd put out cookies and milk, and hang our stockings over the fire.  Eventually, we'd get sent to bed (but only after watching the news and hearing the weather man say that Santa's sleigh had been spotted over NYC and we'd all better get to be if we expected him to visit).  We'd pray for snow.  We'd finally pass out due to exaustion (but usually after we'd tried peeking into the living room (in our house, the LR was inbetween my brother's bedroom and mine).  Whoever woke up first would take the long way around the house and crawl into bed with the other and Jimmy and I would lay there for what felt like hours until we finally heard a parent up.  We'd wait in the kitchen (and the smell would be DIVINE) until both parents were up and we could tear into the living room.  I dont remember the presents, but I remember how I felt... How things smelled... How they felt.

I wonder what Bobby and Maya will remember.  Will it be the sprinkling of birdseed on the Solstice?  Me making batch after batch of cookies for our family's annual Christmas Eve cookie exchange?  Christmas Eve dinner and Mass?  7:30am Mass with Mommy cantoring on Christmas Day and our annual brunch afterwards? 

Will they remember baking brownies or cookies for the firemen, policemen, and EMTs and delivering them?  The looks on their faces?  Will they wonder why we do that?  How it started? 

We went to the farm store to pick up eggs and then to the supermarket to buy disposable pans for brownies.  We baked brownies and lovingly attached cards.  Thank you for all that you do for our community for our local men and woman, Thank you for all that you do for the community; even though we are no longer residents of Harleysville, we will never forget your service and kindness to our family in 2008 to the men and women of our old town.  6 batches...  And, because the post office staff were so kind when I bought 300 stamps (plus my half dozen internationals), we made a batch for them this year, and a batch for the funeral home (a few blocks from us) who handled the arrangements for Nicholas, Sophia, and Alexander).  People were so appreciative and kind; it was an early Christmas gift for me.

Will they remember going to the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, where their siblings and uncle have perpetual memorial candles in the candle chapel?  Will they remember going inside the chapel and lighting a special Christmas candle, asking the Blessed Mother to hold their siblings especially close on Christmas?  Walking to the creche with live animals afterwards?  Yesterday, we went.  The three of us held hands and I pointed out the candles from the window.  Then we went inside.  Maya put the candle donation in the bin and Bobby took a red candle.  Maya helped me light it and place it next to the icon of Our Lady.  Then, they both took to the kneeler.  Bobby stood, hands in prayer, looking at the icon, and started talking/praying.  (Only he, Maya, and the Virgin knew what he was saying, but it sounded prayerful to me :) )  Maya knelt (which she does in church) and was quiet, while Bobby spoke for all of us. 
When he was finished, she stood and took my hand, he stepped off the kneeler and took my hand, and we saw the candles for the kids and Robert one last time before walking to the Nativity set.  The kids were amazed by the animals and Maya began to identify the statues.  "Daddy Joe... Mama Mary..." and then stunned silence and pleading eyes.  "Jesus? Jesus?"

"Jesus wont be put in the manger until midnight on Christmas," I tell her.

"No Jesus?!?  No Jesus!?!" She obviously very upset that she cant see a baby Jesus in the manger.  One of the monks was standing off to the side as he walked by and I saw his lips curl up into a smile.  After I promised her again that Jesus would indeed make his way to the manger by the weekend, we walked over to a grotto area with a Virgin Mary statue, which Bobby wanted to touch her feet while Maya gave her a high five.  (I blame Aunt Sarah for this...)  Then, before going back to the car, we had to go so the JPII statue (if we dont, there is a complete meltdown... I tell you, he visited the kids in the womb and they know his face- they REFUSE to go to the car if they havent visited his area at the Shrine first.) 

Will they remember these winter visits to the Shrine?  The heat of the candles against the stark chill of the cold air? 

Peace... Joy...  Memories...  All wrapped up, a tight bow, binding.

It's this I hope for them.  Not billions of presents or dollars spent.  Not something that will break or accidently be thrown away.  But this...  The feelings... The warmth... The memories... The love.  Our love for them, their love for the world.

On this eve of the Eve, I wish it for you too...  Peace... Joy... and Love.  Lots and lots and lots of love, wrapped up in your memories and remembrances.

Praying For Noah

Whomever you pray to or wherever you send your thoughts, can you remember this family and their son, Noah, who is extremely ill?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Here Comes The Sun

It's Winter Solstice today...  Right now the sun is out, high in the sky, there's no sign of "winter" snow in sight, and it's warm enough to go sans coat.  Well... For me and my flipflops at least...  I have the common sense to put the kids in jackets...

It's a time of new beginnings... Of the birth of new things... A chance to change and to 'get it right'.  Again.  If we said good-bye to the old as we moved beyond the harvest season, then the rebirth of the sun gives us a chance to wake up again.  To start a new year.  To make resolutions (and try to keep them this time...)  You know the deal. 

Yesterday was the darkest, longest day.  It was grey and rainy here.  Overcast. 
A good day for reflection, I suppose...  A good day to let go...  Not that I planned it that way.

I dropped the kids at my in-laws with plans to meet Peter for lunch in between my cleaning.  We met and, as the conversation ended and we were leaving, we found ourselves discussing that topic that most infertiles and orphaned parents with living children find themselves discussing: more children.  And, suprising enough, the following words were uttered.
Me: You sound as though you want to try and have more children.
Peter: And you sound as though you want to try and never have more.

I have to admit.  The comment struck me off guard.  I couldnt really speak.  We had to part ways anyway- he needed to go to work and I needed to get back home to finish up.  But I didnt go home.  I found myself driving the longest way home that I could think of (thanks GPS), through tree covered, windy streets, as rain pelted the windshield, the windows open so the wind could rip through my hair.  Chill the tears that refused to cry.  Was he right?  Do I never want to have more children?

It plagued me for the rest of the day.  And then, on the darkest night, as the kids slept and we laid in back, the dark thoughts that I've kept nestled in the pit of my heart gushed out in sobs...  Horrible, gut aching wails that I buried into my pillow and Peter's arms. Words I never thought I'd say.  Feelings I never imagined I'd have.

Funny enough, the question isn't "Do I want more children?"  That answer is yes.  It's simple.  When Peter and I discussed our hopes and dreams, having a large family was one of them.  In today's society, having more than one or two is seen differently, I realize, but for us, it was something that we dreamed of.  Nothing like have 2 dozen, but we joked that having enough to play a good round of baseball would be nice. :)  (I guess since we are such Giant fans, we should have said "football" instead...)  In a way, we have that dream fulfilled, but there is an emptiness of not having a house full of living children.  And it's hard, too, to see the other side.  We are SO fortunate to have Bobby and Maya; many parents in our situation dont go on to having living children, just as there are many infertile couples who live childfree not by choice.  I do recognize the gift that we have in Bobby and Maya, and there is a part of me that thinks having more children is pushing the envelope on luck.  A second key point is that I never want Bobby and Maya to feel like they werent/arent 'enough'.  That parenting them is something how; it's not.  It never could.  Having more children wouldnt downplay the gift of parenting them, and I would hope they would never see it as such.  But now I'm rambling...

The truth of it is that my pregnancies and births have been awful.  They've been traumatic.  They've been horrific.  The only beauty from my four labors were that I was able to hold 5 beautiful children afterwards.  But even that is marred with death, fear, and intervention.  Until last night, I dont think that I've ever said the words "I had traumatic births", "I'm afraid of being pregnant and having another baby", "I havent let go of the stress and the hurt".  And, as I said it and I cried for that woman- that naive, innocent woman who lost her first baby to miscarriage... that excited woman who finally got pregnant- and with twins no doubt!- who had the notion and dreams of "natural" homebirth ripped from her grasp... that hopeful woman who prayed and lost again and again... that terrified but trusting woman who begged for for the two lives she tried so desperately to hold inside- as I wept for her and mourned for all that she lost and the wounds that cut her so deeply that she wasnt healed years (and in one case, over a decade) later, I took it in.  It's not a "she"- it's "me".  That woman is me.  That hurt, that pain- it's mine.  I own it. 

It wasnt my fault.  It wasnt my plan. 

I did everything "right".  I ate well.  I took my prenatals.  I did yoga.  I saw my doctor.  And nothing I did changed the fact that my pregnancies and births were awful.

I believed in birth- and I still do.  Yet, I dont believe in my birth... in my ability to birth.

What an awful things...  To be trained in how to help women give birth naturally... To believe that birth is beautiful...  To hate your own body and your own inability...

The last year, as I've read and trained as a doula and childbirth educator, I think the healing started without me know.  As I read and worked, these feelings of hurt and trauma were working their way forward.  The texts and assignments brought out dialogue- self conversations and talks with Peter- about conception, pregnancy, and birth.  And last night, as I submitted my final doula assignment and evaluated the less than half dozen CBE assignments I have left, I think it all came to a head.  And the longest, darkest night of the year became mine.

And wounds became scars.

And the anger, the pain, the loss of what I'd dreamed of and hoped for in birth became acceptance of what I have left. 

It finally was clear that the choice is to accept what I have and to release what I dont... what I can never have... and to choose to be whole.  To choose to let the wounds heal and become scars of where I've been... But not of who I am.

I cried.  I wept.  I was angry and hurt and afraid.  I lamented the fact that I'll never have a normal birth experience... that I'll never give birth with a midwife at my side, with a doula holding my hand, with Peter catching our baby as he or she is born at home...  It's gone.  It's a choice that was robbed from me.  It's a gift ungiven, a thing I am incapable of.

And, in those tears, I accepted it.  I accepted that the only birth experience now available to me is a clinical, surgical one.  That, if I am lucky enough to beat the 'infertility' odds and conceive a child and carry it beyond the first trimester, then the TAC will provide me with the ability to carry to term- something I couldnt do without it- and that I will have a surgical delivery, attended by a team of obstetricians, and with Peter holding my hand.  I accepted that there will never be a surprise due date (because I'll schedule a cesarean) and there will never be a natural, drug fee labor (because I'll have a spinal for the surgery). 

The darkest night of the year gives way to the birth of the sun.

I've accepted it.  I could argue that there isnt a choice but to accept what is, but it goes beyond that.  The shadow of those feelings- of the stress of getting pregnant, staying pregnant, traumatic birth experiences, infant loss, hospital and NICU stays- that bleakness and pain that overshadowed the possibility of having more biological children...  It was lifted when the sun poured through this morning.

It's fitting that the day is bright and warm, I think.  A confirmation that I'm going to be okay.  It snowed when Nicholas, Sophia, and Alexander were born; it rained a bit on Bobby and Maya's birth day.  Precipitation.  Tears.  Frozen tears... wet tears...  But then the sun came out.  I remember being angry that the sun could shine like there was no problem as I cradled Nicholas's body that next morning...  I remember the sunlight streaming in through the living room window as I collapsed into tears on the floor when I came home after saying goodbye to Sophia's perfect little body for the last time at the funeral home before she was cremated...  I remember the first walk I took in the warm sun when I came home after Alexander was born and the way I felt him when I hear the first bars of "Hear comes the sun..." on the radio...  I remember the feel of the sun on my face when I stepped outside for the first time in months after Bobby and Maya were born, of how it felt when we took them for their neighborhood walk when they first came home.  And today: how it felt, warm and bright and new, against my skin when I stepped outside.  How it felt like I could finally breathe again.  Like a weight was gone.

Birth Trauma is real.  And while I'd never thought to apply the term to my own experiences or to seek out help, there are groups like Solice for Mothers and counselors available to help mothers heal.  If only I'd looked... If only I'd not taken the "be happy for what you have" and the "be grateful that Bobby and Maya are okay" comments at face value and as ways to bury my own hurt without speaking out... If only I'd talked about the nightmares I had after my births, of the numbness that I felt when thinking about my pregnancies and the disassociation I would have so that I could put a positive spin on my experiences when talking to others, of the panic attacks that I've had since having the TAC 2 weeks ago and contemplating the possibility of actually getting pregnant and carrying a baby and delivering by a planned c-section (even though I've read about positive c-section experiences)...

Months ago, I talked about the possibility of having a tubal ligation and I even wrote the words "I loved being pregnant".  I loved the idea of having a baby, no doubt, but I can finally accept that I didnt love the stress and the worry, that the time was a time of deep trauma in my life that I can only now full acknowledge.  Later, I wrote about the Church not granting us a dispensation for a tubal and, in talking about pregnancy said "My body just wasnt meant to do this."  What a slap for someone who believes in birth... What a sign of just how much I was hurting even though I wouldnt/couldnt/didnt admit it.  It was clear in our life that we couldnt go on the way we were... The fear of getting pregnant and losing another child had sent our sex life into a nose dive and, while we were still intimate in nonphysical ways, we love each other and a healthy 'marital' relationship is a natural expression of that love.  So, we consulted with Dr. Haney and I wrote about going to have the TAC placed, which I did, two and a half weeks ago.  Since then, I havent really discussed sexuality or intimacy.

But, since coming home, it's been something out there...  The first week was all about healing.  Then there was that tentative 'first time', the whole 'does this still work the same way' type of thing.  And nothing since.  Not that I want this to turn into a soft-core porn ranting or anything.  But I think the last week and a half, since that trial run, turned my hidden fears into overdrive.  Fears of pregnancy, nightmares, panic attacks.  Thankfully things that happened when the kids were sleeping... I've never been more grateful for them keeping me busy and my mind off of things I didnt want to think about.  But recently, my CBE assignements kept bringing me back to the "Birth Is Natural" philosophy... and there'd be the weight on my heart... and the fear of intimacy because, God forbid,...  Yes, I was going to say it, God forbid I get pregnant.  Not because I didnt want more kids, but because, deep down, the idea of the pregnancy and delivery scared the shit out of me.  Something else I couldnt admit to myself... The lies we tell ourselves- I'm an expert in those.

And we are back to the longest night of the year...  And the tears and the fears and the release.

And a return to intimacy.

And I didnt worry that I was CD17 or that I  might be ovulating or that I might get pregnant.  I didnt think about it all.  I didnt worry about the pregnancy or the surgery or anything else.  I just was.  And it was nice to feel the weightlessness that comes with just being.  With just being with the person you love.

I cant say that there will be future pregnancies in my future; I cant say that there wont be either.  Only biology can say that.  But I'm not yet 32 and my cycle seems to have leveled off at about 32 days.  I'm healthy now for the first time in a very long time.  So there's no reason to say it's impossible.  And my IC is cured, which puts me on equal footing with the next girl for a full term pregnancy.  As far as delivery: 1/3 of women deliver by c-section, so I'm not exactly alone in that.  Is it ideal?  What I wanted?  No.  But it's mine; just like the grief and the pain were mine, the possibility and hope can be mine too.

So I'll take it.  It doesnt mean there wont be rainy days or dark days ahead.  It doesnt mean a life spared from grief or worry.  It doesnt mean that I wont wonder about Nick, Sophie, and Alex, and who they might have grown up to be or that I wont miss them.  It doesnt mean that I wont ever have a nightmare about a traumatic delivery.  But, just like I drove a car again after the car accident that nearly killed Peter and I in 1999 (and brought its fair share of serious emotional trauma about even being in a car), I know that I can own myself... And come out on top of it.

Here comes the sun...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

Holiday Greetings

I'm a little late in sending out our holiday greetings.  I'm normally a cards-out-on-the-day-after-Thanksgiving kind of gal, but with waiting for the adoption... Well, I was waiting and that meant I waited until the last minute.  So, I finally ordered them today and, hopefully, they will get to the 213+ names on my mailing list before 2012 actually gets here.  We shall see!!!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Annual Visit to Santa

2012, 27 months old
This year, the kids were NOT having it.  Hence Mama in the photo (and looking oh so "I do NOT want my picture taken").  But, the grandmas demand Santa photos!  And, it's a cute way to keep up with the kids over the years.
2010, 15 months old
2009, 3 months old

I can't blame the kids for not wanting to sit with Santa this year.  At 2 years old, they have the concept of a stranger down pat.  We tell them "Don't talk to strangers", "Don't go off with strangers", and then your own mother sticks you in some strange guy's lap!  Yeah, I wouldn't be overjoyed either.

But, for whatever it's worth, the 2011 picture has been taken, and I'm sure next year will be better!  Hopefully... For the grandmothers' sakes...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Announcement That Wasn't

If you've seen me on FB today, you already know the outcome of this story...

So... What has Maya's former room become?  A yoga studio?  An office?  A guest room?

A nursery?

Shortly after Bobby and Maya's second birthday, a friend of ours approached us.  She and her husband had been asked by a mother to adopt the child growing in her womb and quickly approaching her due date.  Raising the child was not an option for her.  Our friend was asking for permission to pass on our information.  Peter and I talked about it and, ultimately, felt like we were called to foster an older child once Bobby and Maya grew up a little more.  But, we also felt like we should talk to the mother, if for no other reason to encourage her to raise the baby or to seek out an adoption agency, where there are countless couples waiting for a baby to adopt.  As I spoke to this mom on the phone and we shared stories about our children (she has a number of older children and a child Bobby and Maya's age) as well as her reasons for choosing adoption and my adoption history, it was chilling to hear how much her story of this pregnancy and my own conception/prebirth story lined up.  And then the kickers: she told me that the child was conceived in Nicholas and Sophia's birth month and due on Alexander's birthday.  After some discussion, we told her that, once the child was born, if she truly felt she couldn't raise him or her, then we would do so with all the love in our world. 

And then there was silence.  We got our ducks in a row (which, thankfully they were mostly in because of the previous adoption discussion) and waited.  In the middle of the November, conversations increased and adoption of this precious baby stepped closer and closer towards reality.  We laundered linens and clothes and with a bit of fear mixed with hope, set up the nursery.  We also started using baby language with Bobby and Maya.

The day before her due date, Mom was feeling pressure but no contractions.  Alex's birthday (and the EDD) came and went...  Thanksgiving brought us no news...  The day after gave us our annual tree trimming get together and still nothing...  November came to a close and December began...  One week post dates...  I went to Chicago for the TAC, saddened that I might miss the birth, but nothing... 2 weeks past her EDD, still nothing...  So now, today, the day before what would be 3 weeks post dates and the idea of a baby in the house for Christmas comes to a crashing halt.

Things the birthmother had told us started to not add up.  And then, the due date and conception story...  When I spoke to her today, she was incensed that I told her our attorneys would need a new due date to rework the paperwork and that this would require us to talk about the birthfather.  She said that she no longer wanted to work with us and slammed the phone down.  So that is that, it seems.

Pennsylvania (as most states I'm sure) has strict laws that require birthfather's sign off on adoptions.  The only exceptions are where the mother has no idea who the father is, such as in cases of assault.  In that scenario, the mother must appear in court and testify to the attack (in closed court), resulting in the judge terminating the rights of the father.  As a survivor of assault, it nauseates me to think that people would use this scenario to skirt the law on birthfather notification.  I dont know what's going on in this situation, to be honest, but as the discussion on a new due date came up, I know the door came to a crushing close.  And that says something.

We are saddened, but there are many emotions.  Once again, because we didnt go into this planning to adopt a child, there arent the emotions that many pre-adoptive parents may feel.  And, because we went in with eyes WIDE open, we knew this was a very real possibility.  We've even encouraged the birthmom to review her choices and to know that, should she want to keep and raise the baby, we'd be supportive of that.  So, in that way, we are okay and at peace.  But there is still sadness... Still the ache of having that room ready and knowing that it is to remain empty.  Of having to explain to the kids (especially Maya, who asks "Baby?  Here?" that there wont be a baby here... Not right now...  Perhaps not ever... We dont know what the future holds.)  There is also some relief, if I am honest.  The last few months have felt like we were dangling on a string- especially the last few weeks.  Wondering, not knowing, waiting for information that didn't come.  Being told there would be doctor's appointments and updates, only to learn that the appointments werent made or were missed.  To that, I am relieved to be able to know that part of our journey is over.  I cant help but hope that things will be okay and that the baby will be loved and taken care of.  That hope, I've decided, will cloud over whatever other feelings I have.

But, especially compounded with my blogger friend's heartache at burying her son today, my heart is heavy. 

I dont know what Maya's old bedroom will become.  Perhaps I'll use it as an office for Mending Heart Bellies...  We shall see...  Right now, I think I just want to lay down and not think of anything.

Unexpected and Hearbroken

A dear blog friend, Tanika, and I have been through the rough things that only those who've lost babies can get... That hurt, that grief...  She lost three daughters due to IC.  I was actually the person who referred her to Dr. Haney, sight unseen actually, where she had her TAC placed.  She had a beautiful pregnancy with her son, Ethan, who just turned a year old a bit back, and was anxiously awaiting the birth of their second son, Israel.  Her c-section was scheduled for the end of this week.  Everything was fine... Perfect pregnancy...  A few days before her c-section, Israel's heartbeat stopped.  She recently delivered her beautiful, perfect son... As I write this, she is probably selecting the outfit to wear to his funeral, which is today at 2pm.

There is a lump in my throat that wont go away.  Tears that lace my eyelids that I try to wipe away so that the kids dont know I'm upset.  There simply arent words... But if you could find some and pop over to her blog to let her know that you are with her today in spirit, I'd be appreciative.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Leaving Chicago

Today is my last day in Chicago; Sarah and I are mostly packed and, currently, are enjoying the free wi-fi at the Panera 2 blocks from our hotel, where we are having coffee and breakfast.  I walked here and, although it took what felt like forever, I feel like I'll be able to walk the five blocks to the Metro so that we can get back to the airport easily (and way more cheaply than taking a taxi). 

I've decided to take half of the recommended pain medication (which works just fine for me) until I get home (at least).  Dr. Haney had told me that recovering from this surgery in comparison to recoverying from my c-section at 70-80 pounds heavier, would be easier and he's right.  It hurts, but it's a world of difference.  The pain is similar, but I feel more movable, more able to do what I need to do.  Which is nice, considering I'm going home to take care of my family in addition to healing.

I couldnt have done this trip without Sarah.  I truly couldnt have.  She slept like a new mom; everytime I got up, she asked if I was okay or needed help.  When I was awake, she talked to me.  When I was tired, she put me to sleep (literally).  If she ever wants a career as a Reikist, she could set her own fortune.  Whether it was stroking my hair and forehead or gently rubbing my shoulders, she sent in this wave of peaceful energy that helped with pain relief before I took any narcotics and brought me to a peaceful place that allowed me sleep.  It wasnt just lugging our crap around while I was in the hospital or sleeping on the cot so she could be sure I was okay or filling my prescriptions so I didnt have to.  We may have joked about her being my nurse, but truly, she was a godsend and I'm so damn fortunate that if I dont cut myself off, I may just go on and on about how wonderful she's been to me these last few days.

Funny story: I have a low resting heart rate because of all the running (45-55 is average).  This freaked out some of my PSAs in the hospital, and I had to be monitored every 3 hours.  (Why?  I have no idea...)  So, every 3 hours, someone would come into the room, check my BP/Temp/HR and then go.  Wee hours of the morning, this happens.  Sarah, mommy that she was to me, is by my side and, as soon as they are gone, rubs my head and I drift to sleep.  Moments later, a phlebotomist comes in.  (Side note, I have NINE sticks for the one IV that worked during my surgery... Crappy Veins to the 10th degree here).  Sarah said her first thought was "I JUST GOT HER TO SLEEP! WTF!"  I laughed and told her she now truly has an idea of what it's like to take care of a baby, get them to sleep, and then have the doorbell rang.  We had quite the laugh over that.

So, we'll soon be leaving the Windy City.  Had some deep dish for dinner last night (thanks Giordano's for delivering) and topped it off with cannoli (which kicked serious delicious booty!).  Saw the City from atop the Hancock Building.  Got to spend time with Sarah's sis.  While this wasnt a vacation by any stretch of the imagination, it was a good trip for what it was. 

The staff at UIC were AMAZING.  They were kind and caring; it reminded me of the loving care I received at Lankenau (but without the seven week stay).  Dr. Haney was amazing; the nurses who cared for me were exactly what you want your nurses to be like.  Everyone, from housekeeping to dietary to medical personnel made the hospital stay as nice as it could have been, and for that, I'm appreciative and grateful.

Peter and the kids have had a great time at home too.  While he says it's clear they miss me, he's loved his daddy time and so have they.  They've been fine, and that's a relief.  I miss them and cant wait to see them and wrap my arms around them, but it's nice to know that they have had a good time being home with their papa and that it wasn't a terrible nightmare to get them to bed, etc.

Well, time to log off and get going!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Feeling It Now!

I was, perhaps, a bit too optimistic about the lack-of-pain!  Late morning, the soreness moved into the wow-I-just-had-surgery realm.  So, now I'm taking a percocet every 6 hours to keep the edge off until I get home.  Let's be honest... The place that you dont want to be in pain is a 2.5 hour flight home!

So... We'll be heading to our hotel in the next hour or so, once I'm discharged.  And, hopefully, I'll be feasting on deep dish tonight (assuming I'm not nauseous!)!!

Coming Around

Thanks for all the warm thoughts and prayers.  I appreciate the FB and text messages.  While it's all fresh in my mind, I'll relay the last few days, although I'm sure recovery info will be included as the days progress.

Sarah and I flew into Chicago Sunday afternoon.  What a great public transportation system (as compared to Philly).  We got out of Midway, went straightaway to a waiting METRO car, and were at the stop for our hotel on the Loop in less than a half hour.  Our hotel, the Congress Plaza, makes you feel like you've stepped back into the days of Elliot Ness and Al Capone (which was one of the reasons I chose it- that and a SWEET deal).  We checked in and, although we intended to use the "24 Hour Fitness Center", the only bummer of the hotel was the fact that it was a terrifying room (that smelled bad) in the basement.  I wouldnt go there alone (and it didnt feel safe with us together!), so we trashed the idea of hitting the treadmills (and I'm glad I ran in the morning).  There's no free internet at the hotel, which sucks too (and wasn't clear when making reservations or checking in... Bummer...  May hit up a local coffee shop tomorrow to log in...)

We met up with Sarah's sister, Maureen, at the Signature Lounge in the Hancock Bldg for overpriced drinks but a priceless view. Well worth it.  Then, we went downstairs for dinner (at Cheesecake Factory).  While I'm normally a eat local kind of girl, I needed to pack in some serious food for the next day, since I knew eating would be pretty much out of the question.  And I wanted a slice of cheesecake.  So it all worked out.

Bright and early Monday morning, we took a cab to UIC and checked in.  I went into pre-op relatively quickly and then the joys of finding a vein kicked in.  God has made it clear to me in two main ways that I would never be able to be an IV drug user.  My veins are pains to find and get, and I get extremely pukey with narcotics.  Fun times.  So, the poor nurse tried twice before calling an anesthesiologist, who, on her third try was able to get a vein- in my wrist.  Like where you slice your wrist area.  If you've never had an IV there, I can tell you it's not the most comfortable place in the world...  But, hey, it was in.  They hoped that once I was out, they'd get another one elsewhere.  (The tried 2 more sticks when I was unconscious... But, that didnt work either.  I tell you- crappy veins.)

So, Ani... One of the initial reasons I felt okay about the TAC was that Dr. Haney told me I could have a spinal if I was uncomfortable with general.  I've had 2 spinals, but never had 'gone under' and wasnt looking forward to being asleep for surgery.  Both he and the anesthesiologist were fine with whatever I chose, but because of the possible scaring of Bobby and Maya's c/section and not knowing how long I'd need to be under (since the spinal has a more finite period than general), not to mention the fact that I didn't sleep at all on Sunday night (nerves and missing the fam), I decided to take a sleep.  As Sarah joked with me (they let her back with me after I was initially gowned up in pre-op until I was being led to the OR, which was unexpected and really nice), it's great when we make the grown up decisions last minute and under duress!

I got on the table and laid down, was given "oxygen", and the next thing I remember, I was waking up in the recovery ICU and several hours had passed.  A strange sensation to say the least.  They explained that my IV was hooked up to a morphine drip that I could use on-demand, and that I had a catheter in, so there was no need to get out of bed.  While I can tell you that I was uncomfortable and crampy, I was no where near where I would consider using an Advil, let alone morphine that would cause me to hurl.  The nurses were all surprised this morning, when my IV was pulled, that I hadn't used any of the drip; the pain wasn't that much.  But I'm skipping ahead...

What I've learned post TVC and C/S is that I cant eat after anesthesia or surgery.  No drugs, no food.  Water and ginger ale are hard enough to hold down, even with anti-nausea meds (like Zophran).  Dr. Haney told Sarah to expect me to be completely out of it for the day and to not even know she was there, probably because he presumed I'd be doped up.  But, other than being tired and taking catnaps throughout the day, I was fine.  Sore, crampy (because, of course, my monthly was due and came right on schedule!), but fine.  I ordered dinner, but didnt have more than a few sips of soup and bites of bread before I felt like I'd be sick.  I kept it and tried two rounds, spread out by an hour, but ultimately, I felt bad that it had barely been touched.   Sarah was a great nurse!  She made sure there was always water and ice and gingerale ready.  Whenever I was woken in the middle of the night, she was right by my side, just being there or rubbing my head until I fell back to sleep.  She had the option of staying with her sister, but instead, slept on a rollaway (where she's actually dozing now, poor thing).  Because my resting heartrate is lower (45-55: thanks running!), I had my vitals checked every 3 hours, which meant lights on every three hours.  Add to it the changing of nursing staff, changing of my IV bag, emptying of the cath, and a middle of the night blood count check, and there werent a lot of solid hours of sleep.  She was a trooper!  My night nurse was awesome and gave me a middle-of-the-night room service menu, and around midnight, I ate half a PB&J sandwich, some applesauce, a PB cookie, and split a Choc Chip Cookie Sarah had gotten from the AuBonPain downstairs.  It may not sound great, but it was the Four Seasons for me because I actually wanted to eat it.  Before heading off to bed, I had some liquid Motrin and Zophran put through my IV to try and allow me some uninterupted sleep.  Honestly, though, pain management hasn't been a problem.

This morning, around 4:45am local time, my nurse came in to remove my catheter and IV.  So now, I'm officially off-the-hook. :)  Sarah helped me get out of bed for a very brief walkaround and I'm sitting up in bed now.  I'm sore.  There's no denying that.  But I can't say that I'm in pain.  Some of the cramps are menstrual, some of the pain is gas pain (which is common post general ani, anyway), and some of it, no doubt, is from the surgery itself.  It's almost 6am here and I'm hoping to get a shower after I see Dr. Haney on his rounds and get info about the incision, dressing, etc.  He wrote a script for Percocet, which is acetaminophen tripped out with oxycodone), for home use, but I plan on asking for a high-dose ibuprophen instead.  We'll see what he says and his suggestion.

I talked to the kids on the phone last night.  It was great; I missed them a lot.  Today, is St. Nicholas's Day, so last night Peter told them the stories and they left out a shoe.  This morning, they will find a dollar coin and some tasty treats!  I'm really sad to miss this... 

They are doing fine.  I had no doubts about Peter's ability to do it; I was more concerned about how they would handle not seeing me for a few days.  While they've had some moments, he tells me that they are doing fine for the most part.  He took them to the Mall on Sunday afternoon, they went to the playground yesterday, and I'm sure he'll find something fun for them today and tomorrow as well!  I'll get home around dinner time tomorrow, so I'm not expecting to really do anything out-of-the-house with them.

I've had a lot of folks ask if we are pregnant or if the TAC is a precursor to becoming pregnant.  First off, I'm not pregnant.  As to getting pregnant, Dr. Haney assures me that I could now carry a pregnancy with no concern, and I don't doubt that.  His exact words yesterday were "You don't go buy a gown and not go to the dance."  But, we aren't planning another pregnancy.  We don't believe in birth control, so is another pregnancy possible?  Yes.  Would we be grateful and excited?  You bet!  Terrified (even with the TAC)?  Completely.   We're not planning on trying to chart out cycles, time intercourse, take fertiity meds, etc.  If our family is complete as is, then so be it.  If another soul chooses us to be his or her parents, then we are delighted.  But it's not as simple as 1-2-3 for us.  We chose the TAC as a preventative measure.  I didnt expect to get pregnant again; last year, I was shocked.  Although Grace's pregnancy ended in an early miscarriage, it did bring sight to the fact that a pregnancy would be possible and we knew then that we needed to figure out what to do.  Hence the TAC.

A TAC won't prevent a miscarriage and, in the event I had a miscarriage in the first trimester, I would either have a natural loss or a D&C like the average mother.  A second trimester miscarriage or stillbirth at term would, like a live birth, be handled as a cesarean delivery.  The trade off for having a full term pregnancy via the TAC is required c/s.  (for more information on Transabdominal Cerclages, click here and here)  In my case, however, of being able to carry a healthy pregnancy into the second trimester, Dr. Haney feels that we could have success with multiple, full term pregnancies, including twins if we were so blessed again.  But whether or not there are more babies at casa Haytko, via adoption or birth, is something we're leaving to the Universe.

Thanks again for all the get-well wishes and warm thoughts.  I'll post more in the future, once I'm out and about.  Sarah and I are (fingers crossed) going to grab some deep dish for dinner!!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Glimpse Of What Might Have Been

The other day, after two beautiful days of sunshiney bliss, it was still warm but rainy.  So, to stave off the 'what-do-you-mean-we-can't-play-outside' doom&gloom stares, we went to Mr. B's for some indoor jungle gyming.  Normally, we are there about 20 minutes.  It's a 20 minutes drive, 20 minutes of yelling/jumping/climbing/etc (sometimes with Mommy nursing a delicious cup of locally roasted, fair trade coffee), then 20 minutes home.  It's a great, after-nap/late-afternoon/'where's-daddy' adventure.  So, it's around 3:30 when we leave.  I plan on being home by 4:30 at the latest...  Before dark, especially with the rain and the holiday shoppers.

We get there and there's a break in the clouds!  Yay!  The kids love to walk up the parking lot, identifying the numbers on the buildings as we go, but in the rain, it's a hang on and sprint trial.  They were thrilled with the light drizzle and the hand holding, and off we went.  At the same time, a dad and his two daughters began making their way into the coffeeshop and, politely, he held the door for us.  I thanked him and we made polite chat as we walked the four kids towards the play area.  Shoes came off and kids went wild.  He (like many parents) walked back into the coffee shop (there are glass walls so that you can eat/use your laptop/have adult talk and still be able to see your kids; inside, there are chairs for parents who stay inside).  I stay inside because I dont like the idea of leaving toddling 2 year olds to fend for themselves with older kids (and because I'm slightly overprotective, I guess).  If it's just them, sometimes I'll go out and grab coffee, but 99% of the time, I'm inside.  Texting, chatting with the kids, occasionally even playing with them!  (it's meant for kids under 10...  bummer...)

One of the little girls takes a liking to Maya.  They are talking (as though she understands M completely) and laughing and climbing.  All the way to the top.  Several times.  I may have gotten a little misty... And Bobby, deep in the thick with a group of boys, is tumbling and playing and climbing on the lower levels.

When the dad came in to do a check, we were talking and he mentioned the girls were twins...  Almost 4 years old...  And that's when my breath caught.

I have almost 4 year old twins... Had... Have... Love... Miss... 

A glimpse of Maya playing with an older sister.  The laughing and the secret sharing...  The playing with hair and twirling around so skirts swishy and sash-shay.  Of Bobby, entangled with older brothers...  Flipping over the jungle gym...  Running and sliding...  Laughing conspiratorially together. 

We were there for over an hour.  Even telling the kids that they were going to miss Daddy arriving home didn't encourage them out of their play.  (And, when Maya looks at you with those big doe eyes and says, while sighing at the same time, "one more? one more?" it's hard to say anything other than "okay, one more time and THEN WE GO!")

When Bobby's playmates left for the day, Maya and her newfound friend played with him on the lower levels until he wanted to climb up to the top with them.  (Which was sweet.  His buddies left and he called out to Maya, who was on the third level.  She ran to the fourth level slide, slid down, and was there in an instant, and when her friend said "want to slide?" she shook her head 'no' and said something that I'll assume was "Let's play with my brother" and the three of them played together, until they were off again!)

And then yesterday... The house quiet since the kids were at their grandparents while I cleaned...  Glancing at the tree... A play on the picture window and the shadows cast by the multicolored lights...  For a second, I saw them.  All of them.  Children yet older than time would have them all today.  I couldn't breathe, couldn't stop the sob from escaping, couldn't keep my knees standing as I slumped to the couch.  No words... Just heartbroken tears, wept in silence, hot against my cheek.

Often times, I think those words "If they were all here" and it is another knife through the heart.  It's an impossibility.  They could never all be here.  I could have five children (9 children) here right now...  But the uniqueness of each of babies was wrapped up in them...  And that uniqueness, I dont know that that could be... Not in this universe...  And then the thoughts brought on by my upcoming surgery, of the talk with Dr. Haney, of hearing that a TAC could have prevented the losses...  I know that I couldnt have saved Nicholas and Sophia; we didnt know and, not knowing, there isn't a doctor in the world who would do a preventative TAC without basis.  Alexander?  Maybe... Just maybe there was a chance... 

But that thought pattern... That bargaining one child for another...  That taking this what might have been for what is...  It's something that crosses my mind (and this blog) regularly.  It always will I suppose.  No amount of being grateful for all I have, for being supremely blessed for each and one of my children- for what I had when those who have died were alive with me and for what they bring each day now as well as for what I have with Bobby and Maya-, nothing can really quell that longing and wondering I suppose.

And, when I see those moments, like at Mr. B's, it makes me long for living siblings for Bobby and Maya.  For them to be able to express their love and joy with other children on a regular basis.  We are lucky that we have so many friends with kids older and younger, for whom Bobby and Maya can have that relationship.  When their godsiblings or other friends' kids are here, it's a joy to see them all together.  From the oldest ones to the ones closer in age, it's an image of family that never fails- even now- to bring a smile to my face.

As December comes to a start, I find my heart heavy.  There's the missing and the longing and the wondering 'what if', but it's more than that.  It's a deep rooted thankfulness for the fullness that life has brought, for the gifts of my family, for the love we have.  For all that we have, and especially all we have together. 

Of what is.