Sunday, June 28, 2009

Navigating the Land of IF

When I saw that the Barren Bitches Book Brigade was reading Mel's book, Navigating the Land of IF, I decided to join in again, since I had already read half of the book! I pre-ordered it from Amazon this winter and was excited when it finally came in the mail in the spring.

Actually, when I first ordered it and received it I didn't think I would read it at all, since in my mind I am residing in Mamaland and I'm not marooned in IF anymore. I intended to tuck it away and eventually give it to a friend who was beginning her IF journey. But I love books and couldn't resist thumbing through the pages, getting a feel for the book's layout and style. Immediately the chapter on adoption caught my eye and I read from that chapter to the end of the book the first night the book came in the mail, then went back the next day and started reading from the beginning.

(I did end up using the book for its intended purpose, as well. As I'm typing this I don't have my copy of the book to refer to; I've lent it to a friend who, unfortunately, was dumped into the land of IF recently and is still in the diagnosis acquisition phase.)

Anyhow, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and got a lot more out of it than I thought I would. I admire Mel a lot, so I don't mean that I didn't expect her book to be great. It's just that I didn't think I could learn anything about infertility from a book that I hadn't already read online. I was wrong! It was an entertaining and informative read.

On to the book club questions.

1. Throughout Chapter Five, Mel gives us some laugh-out-loud 'free for all' responses to the insensitive, and sometimes downright INSANE comment we get from non-Iffers. What are your favorite 'words of wisdom' from others and what kind of free for all response do you wish you would have shot back at them (extra points for creativity)?
  • One thing that annoyed J and I to no end during our adoption wait was the perpetual question from our friends and family: "Have you heard anything?!" I know people meant well, but really. We're standing here talking to you after the church service. We just finished talking about your trip to California and our sick dog. Don't you think that if we'd heard anything about a BABY that we would have worked that into the conversation? What I should have said: "Actually, yeah. We're supposed to pick him up at the hospital today. What time is it? (Look at bare wrist) Crap, I hope we're not late! Bye! (rush out of church, get into car and leave)." OK, that wouldn't have worked, and would have offended people. But it would have amused me.

4. Chapters four and five cover the issues of telling others about your IF struggles and handling the comments if you do. What approach (proactive, reactive, evasive, or lying) have you used with your close friends and family? If you have told, have you gotten any surprising reactions, and how have you handled those? If you haven't told, has this omission created any friction as people make assumptions or comments about your lack of pregnancy?

  • This is a great question! We used different techniques with different groups of people or individuals and also different techniques for different parts of the journey. For example, we pretty much took the proactive approach once we were adopting, but used more evasion and reaction prior to our adoption decision. I don't think we outright lied to anyone, but came closest to it with my grandmother. She is just a difficult person and if she had known about our infertility she would have needed to discuss it ad nauseum with my mom on the phone twice or three times per week. A little dissembling was necessary to preserve my mom's sanity.

    Proactive: I was most proactive with my close girlfriends and wasn't shy about asking for support and prayers. We also stayed very open with our parents about the process; our moms were interested in the details, while our dads seemed less comfortable with infertility as a topic of conversation. I wonder why.....

    Reactive: On occasion I would be caught off guard by a stranger or acquaintance's question and instinctively respond with the blunt truth. Most of the time it was fine and didn't end in any awkwardness, but there was one occasion right before Lucy was born, at a wine club get-together...a woman (not a club member, a guest) heard other members asking me about Lucy and her impending birth and asked "what made you decide to adopt?" I was floored. I had never been asked that before; it seemed so obvious to me! I just looked flat at her and said dispassionately, "well, we haven't been able to have biological children..." I was about to elaborate a little bit beyond that, but her bright red face made me stop talking. I realized that she hadn't meant the question that way and she was mortified that she had caused me to say what I did. I dropped the topic and I still am not quite sure what she thought she was asking me.

    Evasive: this was the approach we commonly took early on in our infertility and even late into the adoption process with strangers. Them: "Do you have any children?" Us: "(brightly) No...some day! " Them: "How long have you been married?" or "How old are you?" (I look young enough that people aren't embarrassed to ask me this.) When my answers were "6 years" and "26" people would often say "oh, you have plenty of time to get around to it!" Gee, thanks. I needed your reassurance on that point. Once my answers were "10 years" and "30" I would get raised eyebrows and could see their brains figuring out either "she's infertile" or "what the heck is she waiting for?" Once we announced our adoption I discovered that our evasive approach hadn't fooled anyone, but it had successfully kept them from bringing up the topic. Once we announced we were adopting, nobody was surprised, and the "So, have you heard anything?!" questions began.

6. Did you read the book from front to back, or did you turn immediately to a certain chapter? If so, which chapter? Are there any chapters that you purposely avoided?

  • There are a few questions on the list for this tour that all ask versions of this question: did you read the whole book? What did you skip? I think it's interesting that more than one of us thought to ask this question. I suspect it means that we were all reading the book from points of view that are emotionally and financially invested in one path or another and were frightened that reading about a different path might upset the delicate balance of determination/hope/peace/patience that we all try to maintain through our time in the land of IF.

    As I mentioned above, the first chapter I read is the one about adoption. I suspect that many of us who didn't read the book from beginning to end decided to start with the chapter that most directly addresses our current residence in the land of IF. Honestly, there is at once a hunger to read words on a page that speak directly to our lives, and an interest in whether or not the chapter accurately "gets" where we are. I didn't find any glitches in the adoption chapter, at least not that I can remember now. It was well-written, but really didn't teach me anything since I've lived in that neighborhood for so long.

    I learned the most from the chapter about living child-free. That neighborhood was always scary and dangerous to me before we adopted Evie, but now that I am safely a mother and no longer worried that God's plan for me involves long-term residency on Child-free Lane, I could read about it with an open mind and discover that it isn't a dark and miserable place. It is a place of freedom, choice, love and family.

    I hesitate to write this, because I risk offending anyone reading who has chosen to live child-free, but I honestly pitied that choice in the past. Reading Mel's thoughtful take on the subject made me realize that just as I detested pity from others for my infertility, people living child-free probably feel the same way, so I'm resolved to shelve the pity and instead be happy for them that they've found peace in their lives. Thank you, Mel, for helping me become a better and more empathetic person in that way!

Hop along to another stop on this blog tour by visiting the main list at Stirrup Queens ( You can also sign up for the next book on this online book club: Moose by Stephanie Klein.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Nine Months Old!

Happy (belated) 9 months, Evie Bea!

I'm really maxed out. I apologize to all of my bloggy buddies that I've been a poor commenter recently. About all I have time and energy for is reading blogs in Blog*lines before crashing into bed. Hopefully Evie will cut me a break and start napping and sleeping well again soon. This month has been one of the most difficult of my life. Evie has pushed J and I to the limits of our patience and beyond the limits of our skills as parents (since we're new at this). We're not done with this phase yet, so I'm not ready to look back on it with 20/20 hindsight and sum it up in a neat little package. The best I can do right now is this: I am not Mary Poppins. I am not my mom. I am doing my best.

The majority of what we've been dealing with is teething, compulsive movement (who can sit or lie still when there are so many awesome things to cruise on?!), separation anxiety (if you ain't Mommy you ain't nobody!) and sleep hades. A few days in the past week she hasn't napped at all (seriously) and frequently in the past month she's napped twice for 1/2 or 3/4 hour at a time. Neither she nor I is satisfied with that amount of daytime sleep, but when she wakes up in her crib without Mama there, she is inconsolable.

I just keep telling myself "It's a phase, it's a phase, it's a phase, it's a phase." Please, let it be a phase.

Anyhow, I hope that month 9 is like childbirth...I'll forget the pain in a few months and remember only the good stuff. Here's a quick rundown. (I'm embarrassed to admit that many of the following pics are from my mom's visit and her camera. This month has been so exhausting that I've even forgotten to keep my camera at the ready for K*odak moments. I'll try to do better next month.)

Her hair is long enough to put bows in without a headband! We got lots of compliments in this outfit:
Not an attractive pic of either of us, but the pics of Evie and I together are sparse, since I'm usually the photographer:
This is the beginning of month 9, still tentative with the push walker. Now, at the end of month 9, beginning of month 10, she is a pro at pushing it and loves to walk back and forth across the playroom or porch (we still have to help her steer and turn her around at the end):

Top teeth are coming in. Everything still goes into the mouth, just in case it makes the gums feel good:
I heard about giving frozen bagels as teething aids. She loved them until she almost choked on a piece recently, so this is a thing of the past:

She loves to swing in our hammock! Right now it's way too hot to be on the porch, but we had some pleasant days:

Her swim lessons are over and she graduated with honors (kidding). She got a certificate of participation, though...her first certificate besides her birth certificate. She still loves water and did great at lessons, but in the past few days has developed a fear of having her hair rinsed in the bath. We have tear-free wash, but something must have spooked her.

Her favorite finger foods these days are cheese cubes, cooked peas, 1/2 blueberries, 1/4 grapes, puffs and tofu chunks coated in crushed Kashi cereal. She's an enthusiastic eater, but is starting to show signs of pickiness. If she has food on her tray, she'll often reject spoon feeding attempts, and she's started showing preferences by spitting things out and "requesting" something else by banging on her tray and looking at the item she wants. We're following the "food is fun until she's 1" approach, so we're pretty much giving in to her whims at this point, since her nutrition is still mostly from formula. We did start at her 9 month birthday giving about 1 oz. of whole milk in a sippy cup with each meal, and she seems to like it but is still getting used to how cold it is.

More tidbits from this month:

*She's starting to say "Mama" and "Dada" to the correct parent, in appropriate context. It's still pretty rare, and it melts our hearts.

*for about a week we took her mattress out of the crib and put it on the floor so that we could lie down next to her and soothe her to sleep. It worked OK until J went out of town because he is the one who is a pro at soothing her that way. When I try to do it she just gets excited that Mama is in bed with her and starts pulling my hair, poking my eyes and pinching my skin. Which reminds me:

My baby is an abuser. She tries to control my movements and keep me close to her at all times. She is jealous of anything that takes my attention away from her. She watches me closely and monitors everything I do. If I leave the room without her permission, she screams at me. When she gets frustrated, she hits, kicks, pinches and scratches me. I can't leave her, though, because I love her and she loves me. And she always makes it up to me with kisses and cuddles.

*As I mentioned in a previous post, we are starting to introduce allergenic foods because I read that introducing them in tiny portions at an early age may help prevent allergies from developing, and certainly doesn't cause allergies. If Evie does have an allergic reaction (which again, wouldn't be caused by the early introduction of the foods), we live a very short drive (4 minutes or so) from an ER. Anyhow, so far, so good...we've tried shrimp, peanut butter, egg whites and berries. She loves it all.

*Evie is now a clapper and a dancer. She LOVES music. She isn't really picky (she was dancing to M*ichael J*ackson music playing on CNN tonight, but also dances to the silly songs that J makes up and sings to her)...she wiggles, bounces, shakes her head and claps for any and all music with a good rhythm. The very first claps were to Julie Andrews singing "Do, Re, Mi" and the second claps were to Julie Andrews' "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." Let the love of musicals commence! (J sighs heavily.) (And no, I didn't have to look up the spelling of the second song. I learned to spell it in elementary school and still remember.)

*This month we went to a free trial class at G*ymboree play and music (the clothing store grew out of the play and music aspect originally, for those who don't know). Evie LOVED it, but we won't go back because it is way too $$$. But I did buy a few items while we were there, including a cage bell, maracas and the cool G*ymboree bubble maker. The white things on the porch carpet in Evie's 9 month video (below) are G*ymboree bubbles. I think they are great, and encourage anyone who has a baby or kid and a G*ymboree play & music location near them to go buy the bubbles (less than $10 for the solution and bubblemaker) because they rock.

*Physical milestones from this month: standing unsupported for a second or two, walking with only one hand on a support, squatting to retrieve an object and standing up again, sitting down carefully (slowly, with less "plop"), using her quads to get down instead of just gravity.

*We've had to deal with her wanting to stand up in the bathtub every night, but thank goodness it's a phase! In the past week she's been standing less and wanting to sit down more so that she can play with all of her cool bath toys. It was nice having her standing, though, because it was much easier to wash her! But sitting is safer.

*I've gotten some great yard sale stuff in the past couple of weeks. Evie now has a F*isher P*rice L*ittle P*eople castle ($5), a FP bounce and spin zebra ($3), many FP peek*a*blocks ($6) and much more. My super find today was a pair of brand new R*obeez for only $0.50. Too bad they are 0-6 month size, so they'll have to wait for the next baby. He's sure to be...a they will probably end up at another yard sale, but for a much more lucrative price.

Finally, Evie's 9 month interview. I just love the 3rd clip, even though she's crying, because it cracks me up how she goes back and bites my knee in retribution! :)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Another teaser...9 month portraits

(ETA: please note that Evie's orange nose in some of these pictures is a testament to her pure, deep and abiding love for all things beta carotene.)

Happy 9 months Evie Bea! Her official 9 month post will be late, like last month's. But I have portraits to show off today. (For the record, she's 20 pounds on the bathroom scale today. Her 9 month doctor visit isn't until the 29th of the month.)

We hadn't been to a professional (actually semi-professional, J*C*P*enney) portrait studio since Evie was 4.5 months old! So I decided to take her today for 9 month portraits and I'm glad I did. Turns out that Evie will actually hold still for pictures when she's intimidated by novel surroundings, whereas at home she's constantly on the move, especially when I'm down at her level holding a really cool electronic gadget with buttons and lights.

Here is a cool composite pic from the shoot, which they would have charged me $$ for if I had been silly enough to order it: We did 3 outfit changes. I'm putting them in reverse order in this post, for no particular reason. First "outfit" is Evie's birthday diaper. I'm happy I decided to let the photographer do the birthday diaper shoot this month because this is a great shot! Much better than I did last month.

Click HERE to see her in this birthday diaper on previous month birthdays.
(As I'm typing this we haven't yet done her interview, but I'll do it later and post it soon)
I brought Pearl along as a prop, and we caught Evie making out with her, as she always does:

The photographer was animating Pearl here:

Top tooth/teeth coming in = fingers in mouth a lot:

I love this! I wish it weren't so $$ to buy the enhanced pics:

The above pic and the 2 below are in a dress that used to belong to R, Evie's birthmother. It is so cute! It appears to be handmade, but R didn't tell me any details about its origin. It must be special, however, since R made a point of giving it to us (along with a few other items) when we had lunch with her and G in January. Next time we see her, I'll ask about it.
The source shot for the above:
This rocking horse plays "Yankee Doodle" and also belonged to R when she was a baby. Evie has been terrified of it and cried whenever she saw it, for months. But she did great with it today! (I think the reason she was terrified at first is that the horse's head traces slow circles in the air as it winds down; it is a little creepy.)

This third outfit is a gift from my mom:

I chose this one for my free 8x10:

But this was a runner-up:

Altogether a great photo shoot! Next time, though, I need to remember to give her a bath and brush her hair beforehand so that she doesn't have bedhead. It's so cute that her hair is long enough now to have that problem.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Open Adoption Annual Picnic

Dear Evie:

Today was a very special day because you got to see your birth father (G) at our adoption agency's annual open adoption reunion picnic. You took awhile to warm up to him because lately you are wary of anyone who isn't Mommy or Daddy, but he won you over with his Sesame Street t-shirt and a gift of a small stuffed Eeyore. You loved the Eeyore and promptly claimed it as your own by biting his nose and ears with your 2 sharp little bottom teeth. Here is a picture of you on G's lap during lunch (you ate fruit salad, pasta salad and tried to grab Mommy's jalapeno chips):

He agrees with us that you've always looked a lot like him, but now you are starting to look like your birth mother (R) more and more. You have her eyes in that they are blue and large and striking, but yours are darker than R's. Hers are light blue and G says that when she gets angry they change color, getting darker and more grey. When she's in natural light they are a light blue-green like the summer ocean.

We were all sad that she couldn't be there today, but G told us she is doing well and loves getting pictures of you, so I will be putting more in the mail to her this week. G also said that R sees a lot of similarities between you and her older daughter. I hope you two kids get to meet some day!

G was very excited to see you and was very happy when you let him hold and cuddle you. You had fun tugging on his goatee, instead of crying about it like you did last time we got together. And when he left, after the picnic was over, he gave you a sweet goodbye kiss on the cheek.

He enjoyed watching you crawl in the grass and practice walking in the mulch. He played one of your favorite game with you...stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down, stand up...etc. He was very impressed by how strong you are!

Your overalls were a little too long for you and the cuffs were dragging in the wet grass. We commented that you are a little too short for 12 month clothes yet and G told us that he was always the shortest kid in his classes until he growth spurted in Junior High, and now he is an average height. It will be fun to see if you follow the same pattern!

After the picnic, G was headed to a nearby lake to spend the rest of the weekend fishing. He's been working hard lately and needs a little vacation. Daddy and I think it's neat that he is an outdoorsman and we hope you grow up loving nature as well.

G has been watching videos of you that Mommy shoots and puts online, and his favorite is the one of you dancing. Next time we get together with him, remind me to bring one of your musical toys so that you can show off your rhythm for him!

It was a great day, and I'm sad that you won't have any memories of it. I hope that the photos I took and this letter will serve as a substitute memory for you...a memory of being surrounded by three adults who desperately love you.

Hugs and Kisses,

Monday, June 8, 2009

Open Adoption Roundtable

I'm excited that Heather at Production Not Reproduction has begun to offer a writing prompt for open adoption bloggers. Like others, I want to write more about open adoption but sometimes don't know what to say, so these prompts are a great idea.

(However, we'll be seeing G, Evie's birthfather, this coming weekend, so I'll post about that soon after it happens.)

The first prompt is: What one thing about open adoption would you tell your past self, if you could? My response is below; for more responses, visit this post.

If I had to choose only one thing to tell my past self, it would be that open adoption is largely a state of mind. I think one of the biggest fears of adoptive parents is that an open adoption makes them less of a parent because they are sharing the parenting with a child's first parents. The reality is that open adoption only makes you less of a parent if you decide to believe that it does.

This particular fear, I believe, comes from the fact that many adoptive parents are entering into open adoptions after struggling with infertility. They have been working so hard for the goal of parenthood! Open adoption feels like being a runner-up. At first glance it means "yes, you can finally be a parent, but not have to share the baby with this other family, too." This seems annoying, frustrating and scary. After waiting so long, we don't want to share anything with anyone.

The only parts of my experience that justified the fear of having to share, or co-parent, were the days we spent in hospitals literally sharing Lucy and Evie with their biological parents. In the first case, well, it turns out that M & T were sharing Lucy with us and not the other way around. In the second case, those long, tense 24 hours before R and G checked out of the hospital are now a distant memory. If I made a list of words to describe our relationship with R & G, co-parenting wouldn't be anywhere on it. Actually, there have been nights when I would have welcomed R and G to co-parent and help with feedings! Mostly kidding.

In the past 8 plus months, J and I have changed innumerable diapers, fed countless bottles, given dozens of baths and kissed Evie's scrumptious cheeks thousands of times. When we share Evie by letting friends hold her, grandmas bathe her and aunts and uncles give her a bottle, we do so with pride and generosity. We're happy that our friends and family love her and get to experience a little of the magic of our Evie Bea.

When we get together with R and G, we could feel differently. We could, instead, be jealous of them holding her and kissing her. We could feel annoyed that they are still a part of her life. We could begrudge them the time we spend keeping up their private blog and the gas we burn driving across town to see them. But we don't. We hand Evie to them each time and our eyes well up with pride and generosity. We're happy that they love her and get to experience a little of the magic of our Evie Bea.

Open adoption is a state of mind. It only makes you less of a parent if you decide to believe that it does.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Swimming Lessons! and A Conversation with Myself

Evie had her first baby swim lesson on Thursday afternoon and she did great! The instructor said she's a natural. She is the youngest in the class (the minimum age is 6 months and the maximum is 2.5) but that didn't stop her from having a blast. She didn't cry until drying off time, and didn't seem fazed by putting her face in the water or by going under for a second at a time. Her favorite activities were splashing, kicking and "jumping" (really falling) from the side of the pool into my arms. I didn't get any pictures, and I don't know if I'll be able to because J is working while we are at class twice a week, but here is a picture of Evie swimming in the backyard last weekend so that you can at least see her adorable swimsuit!

Thanks for all of the supportive comments on my last post. Things are a little different around here since that post, since we've started using co-sleeping at times to avoid having to use cry-it-out. Here's what's going on in my head:

Karen now: "Why won't she sleep? She's driving me insane! How can a baby survive on only 10 total hours of sleep per day? What are we doing wrong? How can we fix it?"

Karen 6 months ago: "What are you talking about, you mean that she's not going to keep sleeping through the night? I thought we won the baby lottery with this one! How much longer do I have to enjoy the 12 straight hours of sleep?"

Karen now: "You only have a month and a half more of this luxury, so live it up."

Karen 10 months ago: "You are such a whiner, what's the problem? I've read every single baby sleep book out there and it seems pretty clear-cut that all you need to do is XYZ. She's just a baby, be an adult and deal with it."

Karen now: "Shut up."

Karen 2 years ago: "All of you shut up! Don't you realize that your exhaustion and stress is all because you have a's what you were longing for and working toward for years. And now all you can do is whine about her imperfections? You disgust me. SHUT UP."

Karen now: (yawn)

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