Family Drama

Evidently, my father-in-law is refusing treatment for whatever mental illness he has.

I guess I should go back and explain.

A couple weeks ago, my in-laws spent a highly stressful 24 hours at our house. I won’t go into the details, so let’s just say my father-in-law’s manic/compulsive behavior was at an all-time high. There’s no reasoning with him or even talking to him. He literally doesn’t hear what anyone has to say when he has a bad spell like this one. The tension was so strong, even the baby could sense it. Thankfully, it was destined to be a short visit, as he can’t stand to be away from home for too long.

The very next day, my birthday, my he sent me a Happy Birthday text in the morning. That evening, at 10:30 pm, while M slept and I nursed my daughter, he sent another text, this one vicious. His exact words: “You atheists can go to hell, but you’re not taking C with you. Imagine the humiliation she will have to endure because you are too lazy.” At first I didn’t know what he was talking about, but the out of the blue nature of the message and the hurtful words, combined with the residual stress of the weekend, made me cry ugly tears. It woke up M, who came to investigate. I showed him the message, which he had also received. I immediately blocked my father-in-law from sending me any more, but M continued to receive increasingly mean and offensive messages about how we are awful people.

I should back track again.

During the stressful weekend, my mother-in-law and I looked through M’s baby book. I noted that he had two sets of godparents listed, something not very common here. She explained that the two family members they wanted to be the godparents couldn’t technically serve as they were not religious. So, they had to pick two church-goers to be the official godparents. Naturally, she asked if we were going to have C baptized. I said, “We’re not religious, so, no. But if C wants to be baptized when she’s older, we would support that.” That was it. No protest, no pressure, no mention of it again.

Except she mentioned it to my father-in-law on the drive home (which is fine; it wasn’t a secret). I can only speculate, but I imagine he stewed on the information for a good while. After all, that first text message didn’t arrive until about 34 hours after they left our home. The thing that really gets to me is that he didn’t ask us about it. He didn’t say, “You know, it’s important to me that C be baptized. Would you consider it, as a favor to me?” That I could respect. I would still say no, but I could respect that response. Instead, he sent a chain of vile, pseudo-religious messages, in an effort to shame and extort us into compliance. Ultimately, he disowned us. Yep. He told us we’re out of the family.

The whole time he was sending those messages to M, M attempted to recruit his mother and brother for some kind of mental health intervention, as he recognized this as the same behavior exhibited just before his dad’s last mental break. That’s right – this has happened before. Seven years ago he snapped and ended up spending several days in a hospital psychiatric ward. Upon discharge, he refused to continue treatment, other than medication prescribed by his family doctor, taken sporadically and sometimes abused.

All of this happened over the course of just 24 hours. My mother-in-law (who was out of town away from her husband through all this) apologized profusely and tried to mitigate the damage. She hasn’t said it, but I can tell she’s hoping this will all blow over and we’ll eventually forget and get along again. Wrong. There’s no way I can be in the same room as this man and pretend none of it happened. The only way we can begin to repair the relationship is if he commits himself to psychiatric treatment.

Needless to say, this complicates the holidays. I hate to be part of why it’s complicated, but I refuse to subject my family to his untreated mental illness. I’m certainly not going to play Midwest Nice and shove it all under the rug.

She’s Here!

It’s taken a week, but I finally have a few moments to tell you C’s birth story.

I was scheduled for a Cesarean birth early the morning of August 25, but C decided she couldn’t wait that long. My water broke 6 hours before the scheduled delivery and I quickly began having regular and increasingly strong contractions. Less than 3 hours after walking into labor and delivery, and 4 hours before my scheduled delivery, I had my C in my arms.

Overall, things went very well. The worst part was getting the spinal anesthesia. It wasn’t painful, but I had to curl my body and hunch forward in order to round out my spine enough for the anesthesiologist to do this thing. It took a long time and the operating room was cold and way too bright. Plus, we had to keep stopping because of my contractions. Everyone around me was so calm and reassuring, from the on-call OB who kept me distracted with questions about my work, to the nurse anesthetist who kept me entertained with jokes and coached me through some pretty extreme nausea.

In the end, the hospital was able to meet almost all of our birth preferences, except:

  • My doula was not able to be in the OR with us, they claim due to space restrictions, but the room was plenty large.
  • My hands were loosely strapped down, but immediately freed once the birth was completed.
  • The OR was not equipped to dim just some of the lights, so it remained quite bright.
  • C wouldn’t breathe on her own at first, so they did not hold her up for me to see, but they did bring her to me immediately after they got her breathing. We couldn’t do skin to skin until I was in recovery, which wasn’t long after birth.
  • Most of the OBs in the hospital do not practice delayed cord clamping after a Cesarean birth.

A few things in our birth plan we chose to change, including:

  • We allowed a pacifier between feedings to keep her calm.
  • We allowed a nurse to give C her first bath while we watched and learned.
  • We consented to the Hepatitis B vaccination after the pediatrician assured us she has never seen a baby respond poorly to it. (We were concerned about a fever response, which might send her to the NICU.)
  • We had planned for C to room in with us, but in order to get our rest, we asked she be taken to the nursery several times.

I spent about two and a half days in the hospital, learning to breastfeed and to let others take care of me. It was difficult with so many interruptions to check my vitals and get yet another lesson from one of the many lactation consultants. I was tired and frustrated at being so helpless, I broke down crying in front of one of the nurses – the one who just started her IVF journey at the same clinic we used. She was very sweet and reassuring.

Even though the nurses were awesome – constantly telling me I was doing a great job, despite feeling helpless and delirious from exhaustion – going home was the best feeling ever. No more distractions, just mom, dad, and baby. M has been taking great care of us, without a single complaint, which makes it even more difficult that he went back to work today. My mom has taken over as caregiver for the rest of the week, but it’s just not the same. Thankfully, I feel really good and can do most things on my own now. Don’t worry – I’m still letting others take care of me and getting as much rest as possible. It’s just nice to know I can do things and that I’m getting stronger every day.

C is a wonderful baby! She’s calm (most of the time), a great eater, and a decent sleeper. (I know this can and will change, but I’m enjoying it for now!) Every day she’s more alert and spends a little more time awake. I love to stare into her big blue eyes and talk to her about everything. It’s amazing how she already has a little personality all her own.

Since my blog is public, I’ve decided against posting a photo of C’s face.

I can't believe she's all mine.

I can’t believe she’s all mine.

My heart is still very much with all of you who are still waiting for your take-home babies, and with those whose journeys may not include children. I can’t tell you how much your support and encouragement has meant to me. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Eviction Date (Or, Careful What I Wish For)

I don’t think I’ve actually come out and said it here, but I’ve been ready to have this baby for several weeks now. Yes, it’s best for baby to stay put for the entire 40 weeks – or even longer – and I completely agree with that. In fact, from the beginning, I’ve known I would not accept any measures to induce labor before 42 weeks, unless medically necessary. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been wishing for her to come early on her own

Well, apparently, the universe chose to ignore the on her own part. Because she is breech, baby has been served an eviction notice in the form of a cesarean birth scheduled for August 25. The plan is to do one final ultrasound that day. If by some miracle she is head down, I will be sent home to wait until she’s ready, as originally planned. Otherwise, we proceed with the surgery. (I’ve updated my birth plan page to include our plan for a cesarean birth.)

Emotionally, I’m at peace with it. I have to be, since there’s not another option. Frank breech babies can be and are delivered vaginally, but my OB doesn’t have experience with it, nor do any of the others in the practice. Furthermore, I’m not a good candidate for ECV or external cephalic version. This is a procedure where the doctor attempts to turn the baby by manipulating her from the outside, all the while monitoring the baby for signs of stress. It’s safe for mom and baby (provided there are no known contraindications), though it can be painful for the pregnant person. It’s not always successful, and babies can turn back to breech even after a successful version. It’s usually done later in pregnancy to a) give the baby time to turn on her own, and b) make sure the baby is close to full term in case an emergency c-section is needed, which can happen.

After reading about ECV – personal stories, as well as studies – I honestly didn’t know whether or not I should try it. I was leaning toward not. On the one hand, I had my heart set on a medication-free, vaginal birth, and this was a chance to make that happen. On the other hand were a lot of risks (low, but still risks) and no guarantees that it would work. In the end, I’m relieved that the decision wasn’t mine. My OB declared that I was a poor candidate for ECV due to slightly low amniotic fluid and an anterior placenta.

Even though I’m at peace with having a cesarean birth, I’m still a little anxious about recovering from major surgery while taking care of a newborn. I will have lots of help, but it’s still a daunting thought. I’m trying to focus more on the end result: Our baby finally arriving, safe and sound.

So, it looks like I will get my wish for baby to arrive sooner rather than later. Of course, I was hoping for much different circumstances. I suppose I should be careful what I wish for!

Finding the Positive in Exhaustion

Maybe it’s the exhaustion talking, but I think I’ve uncovered the reason for it: Distraction. I’m way too exhausted to worry about this pregnancy. Well, not completely. I still have a few nagging fears, but they aren’t as strong as they were before.

And let me be clear: I’m not just tired. I’m completely drained. All. The. Time. It’s already taken me 20 minutes to write these few sentences, because my brain is so foggy, I can’t type accurately, let alone form coherent thoughts. Earlier today, I typed entirely wrong words in a work email. I had to read it through six times before sending it to make sure I didn’t sound like a complete idiot. I’m not even sure if any of this is making sense.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. I realize this sounds dangerously close to complaining… which I think I vowed not to do on this blog, but fuck it – pregnancy, no matter how hard you fought for it or how much you appreciate it, is not all rainbows and chocolate cake. It can downright suck. And right now, for me, the suckiest part is the mind-altering exhaustion. (Yeah, I know – it could be much worse. But this is MY worst, at the moment.) I’m barely functioning at work or at home. People like to tell me, If you think you’re tired now, just wait until the baby comes! And maybe they’re right. Maybe it will be 100 times worse. I can’t fathom that. I can’t think straight. I can’t make decisions. Not even what to have for dinner or which toilet paper to buy. I forget all the things: appointments, names, where I’m going, what my point was….

sleep

My typical sleep profile these days.

Oh, yes. I remember. Being this exhausted means I’m not too worried about the baby anymore. Hell, I’m not even upset at the prospect of possibly having a cesarean delivery due to the fact that she is still breech. At this point, I would be happy to just fall asleep and wake up with a baby in my arms. And that makes me feel guilty, because…. Well, there is a reason, but I can’t put it to words right now. On the flip side, it’s nice not to feel so anxious or scared. I’m literally just trying to get through one day at a time, and capture as much sleep as possible.

Celebrating Baby

One pregnancy milestone I’ve been both dreading and eagerly awaiting has been the Baby Shower. Even before my miscarriage, I’ve hated them. For some strange reason, women are the ones who traditionally organize and attend the baby shower. The father – and all men – are usually left out completely (until it’s time to assemble everything). During the many-hours-long event, the mother is “showered” with gifts for the baby, and guests are expected to ooh and aah as she opens each one. Everyone participates in mind-numbing games (like Guess What Candy Bar Was Melted Into This Diaper to Make it Look Like Poop), while enjoying themed snacks and refreshments. Women tell war stories about birth and projectile diarrhea, at the same time crooning about how the whole baby thing is a beautiful miracle. So, yeah…. traditional baby showers are not my cup of tea.

At the same time, I wanted – NEEDED – to celebrate our baby with friends and family. We’ve been through so much to get to this point, and our family and friends have been wonderfully supportive. My family is a very close-knit one, and in some ways, we all have a role in raising and shaping the kids. Up until now, my and my husband’s roles have been minor. A baby shower-type event for us is sort of like an initiation ritual, marking our transition into the role of parent.

And that’s exactly why I insisted that our “shower” part ways with tradition. I wanted my husband to be there, and for it to be a true family and friends event, with men, women, and children. No stupid games. Just a simple celebration with the people we care about. The only traditional thing about it was gifts for the baby. I felt a little weird about it, but honestly, babies are expensive (especially after IVF), and we could really use the help. But, we didn’t force everyone to watch as we opened them.

Overall, it was a fun and emotional afternoon. Cousins who I hadn’t seen in years were there, which made me cry. I was positively overwhelmed by how many people came to celebrate with us, and spent most of the party on the verge of happy tears. I did have one panicky moment where I couldn’t help but think What will we do with all of this stuff if something bad happens to the baby? What if something bad is happening right now? How horribly ironic would that be? The thoughts quickly dissipated, and I was quite relieved later when the baby wouldn’t stop kicking and dancing (even though she kept me up all night).

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35 Weeks Update

How far along: 35w4d (due August 28)

Total weight gain/loss: +15 pounds (?) over pre-pregnancy weight (I can’t be sure, because I haven’t weighed myself in a while and didn’t pay attention to it the last time I saw the OB)

Symptoms: 

  • Carpal tunnel – hands fall asleep during the night, keeping me awake most of the night. Left hand is almost always numb during the day.
  • Sore joints, especially my hands and knees.
  • Restless leg syndrome – actually, it’s my entire body that gets restless and a creepy crawly feeling all over just as I try to relax or go to sleep.
  • Swollen feet and hands – in this heat, it never goes away, no matter how much water I drink or how much I elevate.
  • Nausea has made a comeback.
  • Braxton Hicks
  • Wicked acid reflux

Maternity clothes: Goes without saying.

Sleep: What sleep?

Best moment: Surprisingly, the baby shower!

Movement: She loves to dance and kick the most when I’m trying to fall asleep at night.

Food cravings: Still none.

Sex of the baby: Female.

Labor signs: No real ones. Lots of Braxton Hicks.

Belly button: Still very much an innie.

What I miss: Wine. Sleep.

What I look forward to: Giving birth and finally meeting our little girl!

Baby buys: Swing and bouncer (on clearance), sheets for the bassinet, nursing supplies, dresser.

Milestones: Baby shower, painting the nursery, finalizing (sort of) our birth plan.

On “Forgetting” Infertility

In my online infertility network (Twitter), the topic of pregnant or parenting infertiles “forgetting” their infertility roots has cropped up several times in the last few months. A recent comment made me stop and really think about this idea. Do they really forget their roots? What is it about their words and/or actions that make those still in the trenches believe that?

The truth is that infertility is traumatic. No one likes to think about a traumatic experience, and most people try to move on from trauma, don’t they?

The same goes for infertility. Part of moving on may be distancing oneself from those who are still going through it. I know it sounds awful and cruel. You supported your friend through her roughest time, and as soon as she has a baby, she disappears. When you try to talk to her about your recent failed cycle, she ignores you or responds with a classic line from what not to say to an infertile. You find yourself stunned and angry. How could she? Has she forgotten what it’s like to be in my place?

No, she hasn’t. I can’t speak for everyone, but speaking from personal experience: There is an element of PTSD at work. Quite the opposite of forgetting, I vividly remember everything from the day we found out our first baby was gone, through all the infertility tests, surgery, pills, injections, and procedures… month after month of heartbreak with each negative pregnancy test… coming to terms with the fact that I can’t get pregnant without IVF… worry and resentment over the high price tag that comes with IVF. Reliving all of that through another person – even a friend – is sometimes too much. Obviously, my residual pain is nothing compared to the pain of someone actually living through it. But it’s enough to make me step back at times and let others provide the support. From time to time, I know I’ve said the wrong thing. Or worse – nothing at all.

I’m not saying that I or anyone else should be excused from supporting friends who are currently facing infertility head on. What I’m trying to say (not very eloquently or efficiently) is that we are all human with limitations and a tendency to avoid pain. So, when it seems a previously supportive friend has abandoned you and your infertility journey, it may be her way of coping. It’s not fair to you, and you have every right to feel angry and let down, but I hope looking at things from another perspective will help you understand what might be going on within her. Perhaps acknowledgement and validation of her feelings can lead to a better mutually supportive relationship.

Just food for thought.

Birth “Planning” with 8 Weeks to Go

In some ways, this pregnancy has flown by. In other ways, it seems to be dragging on forever.

I’ve had a great pregnancy so far – not much to complain about, aside from all the little discomforts – but I just want it to be done and have my little girl in my arms. People keep telling me to savor every last moment of pregnancy. They tell me I’ll miss being pregnant. Maybe, maybe not. The ultimate goal was never to be pregnant. Getting pregnant and staying pregnant were short-term goals towards the ultimate goal of raising a child. It’s not that I don’t appreciate how fortunate I am to get pregnant and to stay pregnant on our first cycle of IVF…. I do appreciate it, very much. I know many are not that lucky. I wish I was enjoying pregnancy more, finding the “miracle” and “magic” in it all, but that’s just not me. And there’s still that little voice – quiet, but persistent – that something could still go wrong yet….

8 weeks to go feels like forever and right around the corner, all at the same time. (I realize my countdown widget says 1 month. I’m not sure why.) Am I ready? Hell, yes! I’ve been ready for years. There are a million details to finish before she arrives, but in the grand scheme of things, none of it matters as much as her arrival.

Speaking of her arrival…. After reading the above, you may naturally think that I don’t care how she comes into this world as long as she is healthy. Of course that’s true, to an extent. Obviously, I want her to be healthy. But I still have some pretty strong opinions about how I would like the birth experience to unfold. It’s important to me that I’m able to finally trust my body to do what it needs to do. That hasn’t always been the case.

To that end, I posted my birth plan for you to read, if you like. Basically, I’m aiming for a medication-free, intervention-free hospital birth. I hope my birth plan communicates to the medical staff: Everything is on the table, but these are our priorities. We are reasonable people who know things will not go exactly as planned, but we appreciate your help in maintaining our priorities to the extent that it’s medically safe for both myself and our baby. That sounds reasonable, right?

**Baby update** As suspected, C has flipped from breech to head down! I felt her move about a week and a half ago, and today the OB confirmed. I have a final ultrasound on Monday to check her lower spine (could not see it before due to her position). Keeping my fingers crossed she holds position until her birth day!

 

Z hanging out at our new house.

Z hanging out at our new house.