Potty Training

Because life goes on….

Of all the parenting decisions we’ve made in the last 2.25 years, potty training has been one of the most difficult. All around me, parents are talking about “readiness” signs, like hiding to poop (need for privacy), communicating that they need to pee/poop (or already have), ability to take their clothes on and off (pants, at least), and a handful of other signs. When I read these lists, it wasn’t clear to me if my daughter was ready or not, and the last thing I wanted to do was force her to do something before she was ready and forever scar her.

Then I found Oh Crap! Potty Training. Actually, I first heard the author interviewed on my favorite podcast, and I liked what she said. She dismisses the whole idea of “readiness,” pointing out that in her experience, waiting until kids are “ready”(usually around age 3) is too late. For some reason, it becomes harder to teach them how to use the toilet if you wait until you see the typical signs. Instead of “readiness,” she advises to consider whether your child is capable of learning how to use the toilet. There aren’t concrete signs, necessarily; it’s something each parent has to determine on their own. Also, in the author’s experience, age 20-30 months is the prime time to potty train with the greatest success. At 27 months, C was right in the zone.

After listening to the podcast, I bought the book and dove right in. The author outlines her method, which isn’t complicated by any means, but requires determination, focus, and commitment on the part of the parent(s). I decided that (American) Thanksgiving weekend would be the best time to start, since I would have 4 days in a row at home with my daughter. I told her daycare provider, and she agreed that C was more than ready, and wished us luck.

I won’t go into detail (you’re welcome), but I will say that it was very, very intense and exhausting those first few days. The first day is literally watching your pantless child for signs that she needs to pee or is in the process of going, and getting her to the toilet ASAP. You can’t look away for a second! Even though things clicked fairly quickly for C, it was still tiring and disappointing when she didn’t make it in time and I had to clean up yet another mess. But, by the end of that first day, she actually initiated peeing on the toilet herself! It just kept getting better from there. Her first day back at daycare was a disaster, but only because they do things differently there. Now that she has learned the ropes, she stays (mostly) dry all day long. The times she isn’t dry are primarily because the daycare provider couldn’t help her in time, or because…

….Poop. We’re still working on that one, 11 days later. In fact, there’s a whole chapter in the above-mentioned book devoted to the topic and all the ways it can be challenging. For C, it’s a matter of not yet recognizing when it’s coming. I can say we’ve had a few successes, which were celebrated with much fanfare. And there’s a standing promise of candy for each successful poop in the toilet. (The book actually recommends against rewards, but we’re doing it anyway.)

We also have not tackled night training. She discusses it in the book, but we decided to wait on night training until she’s more fully day trained. To be honest, I’m hoping she just learns to either hold it all night, or wake up on her own when she needs to go. (Ha! Famous last words, right?)

I cannot recommend this book enough! If potty training has crossed your mind at all, even if you don’t think you or your child is ready, I suggest reading this book now. At the very least, check out the podcast interview with the author, or read her blog. It gave me the confidence to say with certainty that my daughter was capable of learning, along with all the tools I needed to have a successful start. It will be months before I can say she’s fully trained, but at just 11 days into it, she’s already nailed one aspect of it. Also, there’s a Facebook group that goes along with the book, where you can get advice and tips from other parents. I’ve posted there a few times, sometimes just for reassurance, and it’s been a wonderful experience. Oh, I almost forgot, there’s also a YouTube channel.

Note: I was not paid or even asked to write all these positive things about the book. I just loved it that much! 

 

Heavy Heart

heavyheartI’m struggling today. My own grief over our recent loss combined with the grief and fear over the presidential election results are just too much. My heart is just too heavy.

I’ll admit, I haven’t been doing the grief work that I know I need to do in order to heal and move forward. My therapist and I talked about the importance of acknowledging the loss in some way, like a service or ceremony, or some sort of physical memorial, like a tree (or the tattoo I’m planning). She asked if the baby had a name, and I told her no. It’s true – we hadn’t officially decided on anything, though I had pretty much settled on one before we learned of her condition. I hadn’t told my husband, because I was afraid I might change my mind before she was born. I still haven’t told him, but now I think I probably should. I think I would like for her to have a name. And, as much as it hurts, I would like to talk about her more, and giving her a name would help with that.

We haven’t talked about trying again. I’m afraid to open that door, because I have a feeling he will want to slam it closed and weld it shut for good. I keep telling people that we’re not sure if we want to try again, but the truth is that I do want to try. I want to try with our embryos until we don’t have any left. If we don’t, I may grow to resent it. I worry, though, about the strain it may cause. My husband is already working like a maniac to support us. We’re far from poor, but paying for even one more FET would be a stretch. Not to mention the emotional strain. At this moment in time, however, my desire to have another baby is greater than my drive to avoid conflict or discomfort, greater than my fear of having another baby with a neural tube defect.

I used to think people who claimed fear or grief after an election were just being dramatic. I mean, I wasn’t happy when George W. was elected, but I was far from scared or depressed. But this year, I’m among those scared and despondent. Chief among the many reasons for feeling that way is what this means for reproductive rights. It was hard enough for me to get an abortion for medical reasons, I’m legitimately afraid of how much worse things could get not only for people in a similar position, but also for those seeking abortion for any reason. Not only that, I’m dismayed by how many of my loved ones support a president and other elected officials who would take away my right to choose to end my pregnancy. It makes me sick to think that people I love, who are supposed to love me, would force me to carry to term a baby with no chance of living. It hurts. Deeply.

I’m not dealing with all of this emotional turmoil very well. Writing this blog post is the healthiest thing I’ve done in a while. Mostly, I’ve just been eating my feelings, and then feeling terrible for it, and  then eating THOSE feelings. A vicious cycle.

Word Vomit

Excuse me while I vomit words all over this page. As I’m sure you can understand, I just need to get this out. Sorry if it doesn’t make sense.

In addition to the immobilizing grief of losing a baby, I’m experiencing a great deal of resentment and anger about all the different pieces of “fallout” from the loss. For instance:

  • Once again, I have to do the “unfollow” on social media dance. I had just gotten to a point where the infertility thing didn’t hurt so much, and even “fertile” pregnancies didn’t really bother me. I didn’t need to screen my social media accounts for triggering baby-related posts or advertisements, because nothing triggered me anymore.
    • New friends of ours went through IVF at the same time we did. In fact, their transfer was only 10 days after ours. It was her first, and I had helped answer questions for her about medications, and ease her mind about some spotting caused by the progesterone suppositories, and then put her at east again when it was time to stop the progesterone. My husband and her husband talked about the process and their feelings about infertility, which was amazing to me, as my husband doesn’t usually open up about this stuff. Her pregnancy is going well, thankfully, but it’s hard for me. I had to unfollow her on FB, as I just can’t bear to see what we SHOULD be experiencing at the same time. Not only that, I’m not in a position to support her while she navigates pregnancy after infertility. I’m literally the only person she knows who has gone through it, and it makes me feel terrible to just disappear. But I have to protect my heart.
  • Screening e-mail and snail mail, and unsubscribing from all the baby-related crap. I was actually beginning to enjoy some of it. Now I’m once again being triggered by offers for discounted birth announcements.
  • TTC… again… or not? This was supposed to be our second and last child. No more TTC ever again. After our baby was born, the plan was to purge all the maternity stuff from our home, and decide on permanent birth control/endometriosis management for me. Instead, we are faced with 1) deciding IF we will try again, and 2a) if so, HOW will we try – how much effort are we putting into it? OPKs, fertility monitors, supplements/medications, just have sex whenever we feel like it and hope for the best, FET? And for how long? 2b) if not, how do we make peace with that decision? When are we supposed to make these decision?
  • Related to the above, what the hell do we do with all the baby stuff we were getting ready to use again, for the last time? Hide it, so it doesn’t taunt me as we decide whether or not to try again, or while actively TTC? Get rid of it, because we will probably never need to use it? Every time I see a baby toy or bottle or even a nursing pad (for some reason, they are STILL floating around everywhere in my house), I break down in tears.
  • What about our plans to transition our toddler to a new bed and a new bedroom? Do we just abandon that idea, forgetting we ever planned to do it at all? Or do we proceed as planned, though we don’t need to? I literally go back and forth on this one all day long.
  • Now, I know we don’t need to make any decisions about this stuff right now, but the mere fact that we do eventually have to think about this shit is really pissing me off. Because it wasn’t supposed to be this way. IT WASN’T SUPPOSED TO FUCKING BE THIS WAY.
  • Therapy. I’m a huge fan. But right now, I’m fucking angry that I need it. I resent that I have to take PTO to go to sessions, that I have to plan it around meetings, so that I don’t walk in late with a tear-streaked face or red, puffy eyes. I know: No one wants to be grieving. Clearly, not a single person chooses this. But, of all the times I’ve grieved, this one seems to be very different in the sense that I’m resentful towards the whole process. I know I need to grieve, I need therapy, but I really hate being here at the start of it all. I hate that I have work through this shit. Does this even make sense to anyone other than me? Basically, I’m complaining about it being a major inconvenience. No shit.
  • Everyone asking me how I’m doing. I can’t tell you how sick I am of that question. I know people mean well by it. I’m glad they ask, even while I rant in my head about how impossible it is to answer that question. It’s not so much the fact that the answer changes from one moment to the next. It’s more the fact that I don’t fucking know in any given moment. I’m functional. I shower, I go to work, I play with my daughter and tend to her needs, I do household chores, I plan for future things. I’m sad most of the time, but I feel happy at times, too. I’m not in a state of constant despair, but I do have moments when I can’t even move from the weight of my grief, or when I need to close my office door so that my colleagues can’t see the tears suddenly welling up in my eyes. So, I guess it’s not the question that bothers me so much as the fact that I don’t know how to answer it.

Shittiest Birthday Ever

Today is my birthday. We lost our baby 553001473-lonely_birthdaytwo weeks ago, so this is pretty much the shittiest birthday ever. Three days ago was the shittiest birthday ever for my husband. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, Valentine’s Day (my due date was February 11)…. all of the holidays that will soon be upon us will be the shittiest ones we’ve ever had.

The due date for my first ever pregnancy was the day before our wedding anniversary in November, and my miscarriage of that pregnancy was the week before Mother’s Day. So, it’s safe to say that pretty much every holiday, birthday, and anniversary is ruined. Only my daughter’s August birthday is still safe.

I know things will get better over time. The main loss anniversaries will always hurt, and I’m pretty sure Fall is forever ruined for me, but I know I will eventually be able to celebrate my birthday and other holidays free of grief. I know it takes time. But right now, it really sucks.

I’m trying to take grieving one day at a time, but it’s hard not to think about the holidays coming up and how much they are going to suck this year. Next year will be better, I know. As will the year after that. But for next year or so, I’m anticipating lots of awful, sad celebrations.

No Longer Pregnant

I wanted to preface this entry by warning you that it will be long, and sometimes very detailed. This is more for me than for you, dear reader, so please don’t feel bad if you can’t get through it all. I have read every message since my last entry, and I am so very appreciative of all the kind words and supportive comments. 

I spent the last week begging my baby to go before our appointment to terminate. I explained that it wasn’t her time, but that she could and should come back to me as soon as possible. I told her over and over that I loved her, but that this body wasn’t meant to be hers. I promised that we would try hard to make a new one for her, one that would be more whole. I told her that if she left now, it would be a wonderful gift to mommy, so that I could stay home with my family. I don’t know if I even believe that she could understand that, or even if there was a “her” at all. But I was desperate. Desperate for this to be over. Desperate not to have to get on a plane and travel far from my home to say goodbye to my baby in a strange place.

Not only did I beg my baby to let go, I pleaded with gods I didn’t believe in, and with relatives who had passed long ago, to help me convince her to leave. And, you know, maybe she did leave. Maybe she left behind a shell that still had a strong heartbeat. I suppose that’s possible. I don’t know how this whole life/soul/spirit thing works.

But, of course, what I really wanted was for her heart to stop beating. Because if it did, termination wouldn’t be necessary, and I wouldn’t have to leave home for medical care. That didn’t happen.

Wednesday, September 21

I spent the morning of our flight unpacking my regular clothes and packing away most of my maternity stuff. I kept a few pieces out in case my body didn’t get the message right away. I fought back tears and hoped with all my might that I would soon need those maternity clothes again.

As the plane took off, I couldn’t help but notice that the trees were starting to show their fall colors. Fall is my favorite season. The weather is finally cooler, and soon it would be my birthday, and my husband’s birthday, then our anniversary, and the start of the holiday season. As I watched the ground get farther away, I felt my love for the season diminish. Fall will always hold a deep sadness from this point on. Fall was my favorite season.

Upon arrival in the Big City, our plane was met with some undesirable weather. We ended up in a holding pattern for a while, and the pilot warned us that if we were there too long, we would need to be diverted to another city. Great, I thought. The icing on the shittiest cake ever. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. Though we did experience some awful turbulence before landing.

fullsizerender

The storm that almost diverted us 300 miles from our destination.

Thursday, September 22

Morning came slowly, after a night of tossing and turning in an awful hotel bed. I managed to eat a little, but my stomach wouldn’t allow much. All I can think about is how today might go.

So much fucking waiting. I was warned about the time it would take, but that didn’t make it easier. Too much time to think. And cry. I tried to stay distracted by focusing on the conversations my husband and best friend were having, but it was all so trite and annoying.

When it was finally my time, I was taken to an exam room for vitals, etc., much like any doctor appointment. More waiting, then another ultrasound. Pure torture. I chose not to look, but I cried anyway. The tech was really nice, and told me I had an anterior placenta, which explains why I hadn’t felt much movement, even though she was always moving like crazy on the ultrasound.

More waiting, more information about what was to come, and finally it was time for the dilation rods, or laminaria. So far, everyone has been very courteous, but the support person assigned to me and the doctor who placed the rods were incredibly friendly and compassionate. The insertion was almost completely painless. In fact, I hadn’t even realized that she had started until she was nearly done. Right at the end, as the last rod was placed, I began to experience some pain. More waiting in the recovery area, then I was discharged for the day.

Back at the crappy hotel, the pain was almost unbearable, so I took the pain killers they gave me and tried to relax. Eventually, the drugs kicked in, and I was able to get some rest.

Friday, September 23 

19 weeks 6 days

I cried in the shower. This is not how this was supposed to go. At 20 weeks, I should be posting pictures on Facebook of my “half baked” baby bump, not getting ready to “terminate for medical reasons.” I can’t eat or drink, but, for the first time in my life, that’s just fine with me. We drove in silence to the clinic, arriving a half hour early. They called me back right on time. More consents, more vitals, and then I changed into a hospital gown. More waiting, then the IV, pain medication, and finally (but right on time) I’m in the surgical room. Everyone was kind and compassionate, telling me how sorry they were to meet me under these circumstances. The doctor asks me about our plans to try again, and gives me the same recommendation as the OB and MFM: at least 4 mg of folic acid, starting ASAP.

After I get comfortable in the stirrups with my ass hanging off the end of the bed, a cool breeze on my nether regions, they give me the fast-acting sedation. It’s glorious! The procedure took only a few minutes. It was mostly just uncomfortable, but as soon as I told them I was in pain, the doctor paused while the nurse gave me more pain medication. The nurse and doctor talked to me the whole time, asking me about my work and my daughter. I don’t remember much, but I am grateful for the distraction. It was over quickly, and I was wheeled back to recovery where I ate and drank and was discharged about an hour later.

Physically, I felt fine. I was expecting pain, but had none. I bled heavily the remainder of the day, but it was down to spotting by the time we arrived at the airport. Our flight was delayed by about 30 minutes, which isn’t bad at all, but feels like torture when all you want to do is be home and holding your child after losing your baby. It was about 10:30 pm by the time we walked through our front door, and I did indeed pull my little girl out of her bed to hold and rock her for a few minutes. I breathed in her scent, whispered how much I loved her, and told her I was sorry that she wouldn’t be a big sister just yet, but hopefully some day. I fell asleep, crying, but happy to be in my own bed.

Now

It’s hard to say at any given moment how I am doing. Now that the physical part is over, I feel like I can finally move ahead. I’ve returned to work, trying to get back into a normal routine, which will include regular therapy sessions for a while. I’m grateful to be surrounded by caring and supportive people in my “real” life and online. Friends and family are constantly checking on me, and sending lots of love and chocolate. I continue to feel good physically, and it’s my hope that my body will recover it’s “normal” cycle soon.

Very Bad News

“Anencephaly”

“Incompatible with life”

“Worst type of neural tube defect”

This has been the most horrible, awful week of my life. And I’m not exaggerating, not even a little bit.

Monday, September 12

I received a Facebook message from a high school classmate, someone I see around town occasionally. The Buddy Walk, a fundraising and awareness event for Down syndrome, is coming up soon, and I know she’s heavily involved, so I just assumed she was contacting me about that. I waited until later in the day to read the message. When I finally got around to it, she tells me that her cousin, and my friend, died the night before. Suicide. I was shocked, but not exactly surprised. I knew she struggled with anxiety and depression for quite some time. But I had no idea how bad it was. No one did. I somehow muddled through work, periodically looking at her Facebook page and the final messages she had shared late the night before. If only I had still been awake to see them, I kept thinking. I looked through all the photographs on her page. She was a wonderful photographer. In fact, she photographed my wedding, and took all of my daughter’s professional photos from birth. She never really liked taking pictures of people, but she would make exceptions for friends and family. It was hard to believe she was gone.

Tuesday, September 13

Still in shock and saddened by my friend’s death, I was looking forward to today and my anatomy scan. I wasn’t worried, because I had just heard baby’s heartbeat on my trusty home Doppler that morning. I couldn’t wait to see my baby, and maybe even come home with a nice image of her face.

The ultrasound tech was friendly and upbeat. She pointed out all of baby’s parts and noted how much she was jumping around. At the end, she said baby was lying really low, so she wasn’t able to get a good look at everything, and told me to expect to return in a couple of weeks. She sent me home with a few pictures of baby’s hands and feet.

An hour later, in my OB’s office, I found out the truth about why she didn’t let me see her face. Anencephaly. Incompatible with life. Those were my doctor’s words. Devastated is an understatement. The OB had me call my husband to deliver the bad news to him, too. She told us both that while she wanted us to see a specialist for confirmation (an MFM, or doctor of maternal fetal medicine), she was confident of the diagnosis. The condition is fatal. She will not survive.

We went home in tears, and I spent the rest of the day and night crying and telling my baby that I was sorry, so sorry that my body had failed her. I told her that I loved her with all my heart and soul, and that the universe was a son of a bitch, and that we didn’t deserve this horrible situation. I told her how much she was wanted, about all the things we had planned as a family. I cried until my head pounded, and then I cried even more when I realized that there was no longer a reason for me to avoid taking Advil.

Thursday, September 15

My husband and I left our toddler with my mom at 6:00 am to make the 3 hour drive to the MFM. Before the ultrasound, I found myself hoping, even praying, that my baby wouldn’t have a heartbeat. I already knew the outcome would not be good, that we wouldn’t be bringing this baby home. But as long as she had a heartbeat, the laws in my state would limit our options moving forward. So, I hoped for no heartbeat, something I never dreamed I would ever do.

The doctor confirmed the original diagnosis, adding that it was pretty much the worst type of neural tube defect possible. He said she didn’t have a brain, just a the stem, which was why she still had a heartbeat. Her body was developing normally, but her skull above the chin was missing. No nose, no eyes. No brain. But a perfect little body. And a strong heart. He went on to explain that this was “just a fluke.” My MTHFR mutation did not play a role, he said. I was already taking a high dose of folic acid, which was actually more than he would have recommended for someone like me, who had already had a successful pregnancy and healthy baby. I did everything right. And we still got fucked.

Though we were expecting bad news, I broke down again. It didn’t matter that I barely heard what the doctor said about our options going forward. I already knew. Our options were: 1) Terminate the pregnancy through induction or D&E. 2) Carry on with the pregnancy, and maybe she would pass away at some point before full term, or maybe we would make it to full term, but she wasn’t going to survive longer than a few hours.

Not such great options.

But I knew right away that I simply could not continue with the pregnancy. For some, it’s the right choice to carry to term. But not for me. Not for my family.

We chose termination through D&E, for which we would have to go out of state. A nurse put us in touch with Planned Parenthood, and we made an appointment for next week. It would mean two days and two nights away from home, away from our toddler. But it would also mean closure.

Friday, September 16

Today I’m feeling… Conflicted. I’m at peace with my decision, but I’m still torn between wanting my baby and wanting to no longer be pregnant. When you’re talking about a child who has already been born, you obviously want as much time with them as possible, right? But when you’re pregnant with a baby you know will not survive, it’s difficult to imagine how you can go on with the pregnancy with that knowledge. How do you go on with life? How do you go to work? How do you get up every day, shower, do chores? How do you look at your growing belly and not break down? How do you cope with all the terrible side effects that pregnancy brings, knowing that it’s all for nothing? Not to mention, what do you say to other people about your baby? People assume that a visibly pregnant woman is planning to bring that baby home. Or, at the very least, to expect to give birth to a live baby. They engage her in small talk about due dates and names and daycare options. What does she say to those people? How does she tell them she’s just waiting for her baby to die?

I feel horrible about it, but all I can think about is moving on, packing up my maternity clothes, boxing up the ultrasound images and few things that I purchased for the baby, and unsubscribing from all those pregnancy emails. Is there something wrong with me that I don’t want as much time as possible with her? That I don’t want to feel her moving? I’ve read so many stories about women who chose to carry to term, about how they “had beautiful moments” with their babies before they passed away. And all I can imagine are months of heartache and torture, followed by a painful (and maybe risky) labor and delivery. Only to have to say goodbye anyway.

So, one week from today we will be saying goodbye to our baby girl. I don’t know what happens after that.

When Is an Embryo a Fetus?

According to North Dakota law, an embryo is always a fetus. Science be damned, I guess.

As it turns out, it’s illegal for my husband and I, as residents of North Dakota, to donate our embryos for stem cell research. Specifically, it’s a Class C felony. This shouldn’t surprise me, as our lawmakers passed the most restrictive abortion law in the nation a few years ago. (It was ultimately struck down by a federal appeals court as unconstitutional.)

So, now we’re left with two options for our remaining embryos: Discard, or donate to another couple. I wonder, however, if it’s illegal to donate them for research, can it be legal to have them destroyed? I guess I’ll find out.

Edited for clarification: We haven’t decided to destroy them, but given what I learned today, I’m curious if that’s even an option anymore.