**Warning: possible TMI ahead**
I am using “bloody” here as both the literal meaning and the English curse word.
As part of my testing to see if I can get pregnant again, I had a saline sonogram, which is like a regular ultrasound except they squirt fluid up into your uterus, which somehow gives them a better picture of what’s going on in there. It’s kind of uncomfortable because they have to stick a catheter up through your cervix, and then you have some cramping afterwards because your uterus is thinking, “Get this stuff out of me now, please.”
I didn’t really expect for my doctor to find anything. That seems oddly naive and optimistic of me, especially in hindsight. But I had passed my second shot at a prep cycle (I failed the first), so I felt like things were looking up. Maybe I could even cycle in the next few weeks.
But the doctor did find something. A four-centimeter fibroid that is pushing into the cavity. She said she would consult with the surgeon and let me know, but it would probably require a hysteroscopy. This is a procedure in which they go in through the vagina and clean you out. It involves anesthesia, but you go home right afterwards and recovery time is minimal. There is no actual cutting involved.
The next day I got a call from the doctor. She tells me that the surgeon thinks I need to actually have real surgery to remove this thing. “Like a laparoscopy?” I asked her. I had a lap six years ago to remove endometriosis. It was an outpatient procedure that involved four small incisions, through which a camera was inserted and the surgery was performed. “No, a laparotomy,” the doctor replied. “Like a C-section.”
So, as I understand it, this would mean actually cutting me open and going at the fibroid from the outside of the uterus. It would involve a couple of nights in the hospital, two weeks until I can drive and at least two or three months until I can try to get pregnant. It’s that last bit that is killing me. I don’t want to wait anymore. Now our timeline just got pushed back almost half a year, by the time we will actually be able to get this thing scheduled (apparently the surgeon is very busy).
Foggy Daddy said that maybe this is a sign we should go with adoption. Except that I don’t believe in signs (and, I thought, neither did he). Maybe he just meant that this is evidence that pregnancy is not the best route for us to have more children.
OK, so say we sign up with the adoption agency whenever it is that they start letting in new families (they told me “spring,” whenever that means). Then we have to get all our paperwork in order, have our home study, etc. Then we wait. Who knows how long it could be? What if we are waiting for a year or more? Then I’ll be thinking, Damn, I should have just had the surgery.
But on the other hand, what if it takes a while to get pregnant? Or what if it doesn’t happen at all? Then I’m going to be thinking that we should have gone with adoption, which at least has a definite end point. There will be, at some point in the future, a baby for us through adoption.
Once again, I have to make a decision without all the information.
So then I descend back into anger. I hate my stupid body. I hate my uterus more than any other part, because that stupid organ killed a bunch of my babies and now it’s preventing me from having more.
I suppose I should be grateful for it, because it gave me Sam. But it grew him sideways in such a way that he had to come out with a planned C-section. He was wedged in there so well they had to call in another doctor. They called him a “difficult extraction.”
I saw a blog post once about a woman who was having a hysterectomy. The title was “Die, bloody bitch” (I googled but I couldn’t find it again). For some reason that line has always stuck with me. I have had endometriosis, adenomyosis, fibroids, you name it. I don’t know how I ended up with such a messed up reproductive system, but I have a feeling somewhere in my future, after I am done with all this trying to get pregnant business, a hysterectomy awaits.
And I will be glad to see it go.
Have you ever felt you “hated” a part of your body?
When I first started breastfeeding, I was faced with many challenges, from a NICU stay due to failure to latch, to a milk protein allergy that had my doctor telling me to quit. But I persevered, and by around five months had established breastfeeding as a comforting (for both of us) routine and ritual. I loved it.
The thing about breastfeeding for me was that it helped prove to myself that my body was capable of doing something right, after years of infertility and miscarriages. It helped heal me, in a way. I was able to feed my baby, to make him grow. All that weight he gained? That was from me! It was an amazing feeling.
After I got laid off and decided to stay home, I ditched the pump and the bottle, and continued to let LM nurse on demand. Breastfeeding was a big part of our first year or so together, a way of bonding us together. This was something special only we shared.
As he passed a year, the age at which most babies are weaned, many of my mom friends stopped breastfeeding. But I didn’t see any reason to stop, so we kept going. Luckily, I faced no pressure from my husband or family to wean. They were supportive of my decision to keep nursing.
Eventually, though, in the back of my mind I started to think it might not be a bad thing if he weaned. Nursing a toddler is not as calming as nursing an infant. There is a lot of twisting, kicking, pulling, twiddling and general gymnastics going on. I wanted to tell him, “Just stay still!”
Plus, I wanted to think about having another baby, which would entail fertility treatments yet again. Now, doctors will generally tell you to wean before attempting an IVF for two reasons. One is concern about the medications, and another is that a raised prolactin level may impede your lining’s growth and make implantation less likely. But, both of these concerns are greater when you’re talking about an infant who gets all of his nutrition from nursing — less so when talking about a toddler who nurses once a day. Plus, although there haven’t been any studies on fertility meds one way or another, the little research I could find said that the drugs, which are naturally occurring in a woman’s body anyway, are safe.
There seems to be a bit of a “don’t ask don’t tell” attitude when it comes to fertility doctors and nursing. I was worried when we saw our RE (reproductive endocrinologist) that she would ask me if I was nursing, but she didn’t. I talked to a few other moms who cycled while nursing toddlers. I felt confident that I was producing so little milk that LM would not be at risk from nursing, nor would my prolactin level be too high (and bloodwork showed it wasn’t).
Then in a serendipitous turn of events, LM started weaning as I geared up for my fertility testing. The first to go was the nursing around naps. Our routine became such that he would fall asleep in the car on the way back from our morning activity, and then I would transfer him inside. When he woke he would sometimes ask for it, but after telling him no a few times, he stopped asking. He still threw a big tantrum after waking up from naps cranky, but he didn’t seem to connect that with needing to nurse anymore. Then, because he started staying up super late when he napped, we started encouraging him to go without napping anyway.
Then it was the morning. Because I’m lazy, I would generally take LM back to bed with me to nurse. But on the days Foggy Daddy got up with him, he just took LM straight downstairs. And LM didn’t seem to miss it. One Saturday morning LM burst back into our room after Foggy Daddy changed his diaper. I was still in bed, and he hopped up, asking to nurse. FD asked if he wanted to go downstairs with him. LM thought about it for a minute, said, “downstairs,” and got off the bed. He actually chose his breakfast (or his father) over me.
That left nursing before bed. It just so happened that last week my sister was visiting my parents, so we spent several evenings there. We’d change LM into his pjs before leaving, and he’d fall asleep in the car on the way home, and we’d transfer him to the bed. One night as I went to lay him down he woke up. “Mama, lay down,” he instructed. Here we go, I thought, believing he wanted to nurse. But he just cuddled next to me and went to sleep.
The last night at my parents’ house I decided to stay over. LM stayed on an airbed on the floor, and he made me sleep next to him. But, he woke up throughout the night, frequently asking to nurse. Because I had put my foot down on night nursing a long time ago, I felt comfortable refusing. In the morning, though, he asked again, and the desperate look in his eyes made me give in. A few sucks, a few minutes, and he was done. I was so tired I had my eyes closed the whole time, but now I wonder if I missed the last time he would ever nurse.
The real test would be putting him to bed at home. So far, two nights have passed in which I’ve put him down without nursing. The first day he asked, settling into position in the cradle of my arm, but I asked him if he wanted to read a book instead and he popped back up.
Last night he didn’t even ask.
So this might be it. This morning he did briefly ask, but I gently redirected him and he was OK with it. I don’t quite know how I feel about it. Part of me is glad — now I can pursue fertility treatments without worrying about it. But what if I can’t cycle after all, or if I don’t get pregnant? I feel like I would have encouraged him to wean for nothing. I could have maybe had a few more months of nursing my baby.
I will miss that special relationship. I tell myself that if I’m determined to have another child, I will nurse again. Even if our second child ends up being adopted, I will try to induce lactation, or at least feed him or her with a supplemental nursing system (in which a tube is taped to the nipple through which breastmilk or formula flows) in order to experience some of the same bonding I had with LM. There is no reason a baby can’t be nursed for comfort, even if he or she gets her nutrients elsewhere. I recently read about a tribe in Africa where the fathers actually nurse the babies when the mothers aren’t available.
So maybe it’s just time. There were no (or few) tears. True, there was gentle encouragement from me, but LM seemed to be going down that path anyway.
So, breastfeeding, thank you for allowing me to feel like a woman again. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to bond with my baby in that way. Thank you for this special gift that not everyone is able to experience.
I will miss you.
(Of course, there is a chance that LM could ask for nursing again. In fact, by writing this, I’ve probably jinxed it. So stay tuned.)
Extended breastfeeders, how did you feel when your child finally weaned? Did you have to encourage your child, or did he or she do it on their own?
LM’s tantrums lately have been EPIC. He just can’t calm himself down.
I know the feeling.
I feel like I’ve been on the verge of a meltdown myself lately. I always hold it all together, even as more and more is piled on top. I’m just not really sure how I’m doing it. It almost feels like muscle memory, the way I go through my day and take care of my toddler and make phone calls to doctors and therapists and write my stories and answer emails and talk to other moms. It all still feels, well, actually, foggy.
I remember when I felt more sure of my place in the world. When I knew what was going on in news and entertainment, when I didn’t constantly feel like I was behind the times. When I was out in front of things, instead of running to catch up. When I was gliding through my life effortlessly, instead of struggling to just keep my head above water.
I felt safe and secure. I had mental spaces I could go to that were places of comfort. I had activities I found therapeutic. I felt content.
It’s weird, this parent thing. In some ways I’m completely happy. But in other ways, I’m more stressed than I’ve ever been in my entire life. Can those two feelings coincide?
In some ways I think, Oh just get over yourself. And in other ways I think, F that, I do have it harder than other parents. I’m dealing with a kid who can’t hear. It’s hard. These two different voices are constantly battling in my head as I struggle to understand and accept my reality.
On top of that, I’ve decided to embark on an Extreme Fertility Challenge. Ready? First challenge: Grow an 8mm triple stripe uterine lining for your prep cycle! Uh oh, you failed, because your lining failed to convert to the proper striped pattern (betcha didn’t know that uterine linings can have patterns, did you?). Try again!
Next up: An OT evaluation for LM. OT stands for occupational therapy, but it has nothing to do with work. Well, not work in terms of employment. It’s more like how you work in your environment, or something. I’m not really sure. Anyway, LM failed (or passed, depending on how you want to look at it) that one too. Apparently all of his jumping and climbing, plus the picky eating and clothes sensitivity, plus his out-of-control tantrums mean he has some sensory issues going on. Again, not exactly sure what “sensory issues” are, but something having to do with the way you process input from your environment. Maybe at least now I have an explanation for all those shocked looks I get from other moms at the play gym when LM performs his usual crazy antics.
“You’re working way too hard,” the occupational therapist told me. “You’re trying so hard, doing everything you can. We need to help you out.” Finally, a validation! I’m not crazy. LM is f’ing hard! There is a reason I’m constantly on the verge!
I know I struggle with how much I put on my own plate and how much gets heap on there by life. But I don’t believe in doing things half-assed. There are things I want to accomplish in life. Every time I try to chill and relax and slack off, I feel guilty that I’m just being lazy because there are so many other things I should be doing. I have a hard time carving out “me” time. The time I do have never seems long enough, and then I’m back to regular life. I feel like I’m on a hamster wheel, going around and around again. Day after day, going through the motions.
I want to be able to just turn the wheel off and stop for a moment. Ironically, LM’s issues are forcing me to pay more attention to him when he’s playing, to try to engage him, to stay in the moment. When his therapists come over, sometimes they seem to just be playing with him, and I’ll think, “What the hell am I paying you for?” But then they will explain what they are doing, how they are using play to teach him. I try to replicate that, but it isn’t easy. Or maybe I’m just not a natural at it. But it’s hard.
Sometimes I wonder what would occupy my mind and my time if LM didn’t have any of his issues. And if I didn’t have “issues” getting pregnant. If LM was just a regular kid and I was just a regular mom who could get pregnant again whenever she felt like it in the privacy of her own bedroom. I fantasize about that. I know no life is perfect. I struggle on a daily basis with realizing that, with not trying to aspire to some nonexistent existence, with trying to find a way to make it through this fog to a place where I feel comfortable again. I want to get to a state of mind where I don’t find it necessary to remind myself whenever I start to feel light and happy of all the dark things in my life that should curb my enthusiasm. I know I should be happy in spite of all those things going on. But it just feels like too much.
I’m working way too hard.
Do you feel overwhelmed with the responsibilities in your life? How do you deal?
Sometimes I think I’m a glutton for punishment. Like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, I sometimes feel like I am living the same day over and over again, just trying to get it right. I often fail. And I often bring it on myself.
Case in point: After five years or so of relentless testing, poking, prodding and disappointment, I finally freed myself from the dreaded RE (reproductive endocrinologist, or fertility doctor)—but tomorrow, by choice, I’m going back.
I have a sense of deja vu about the whole thing: the making of appointments, the gathering of medical records, the filling out of senseless forms when they have all the information anyway. I’m sure I will feel that way when I walk through those doors tomorrow, hold out my arm to give blood, open my legs for my date with the vag cam (sorry if that’s TMI, but you fertility patients know what I’m talking about).
I don’t know if it’s a good idea to try to get pregnant again. Part of me wants the doctor to say, “You know what? Your messed-up body just can’t handle it. So don’t.” But will she say this? True, clinics want to hedge their bets to increase their success rates, but they also want to make money. Would they turn away a willing and eager participant? I do know my doctor, and I should give her more credit that that, I suppose.
I know that’s passive aggressive anyway. I should make my own decision. And I can’t afford to wait any longer. I want to know what the deal is, what our plan is. I’m not going to spend another five years on this. It’s now or never.
Adoption is on the table. I actually contacted our preferred adoption agency, but they are not accepting new families until the spring. Well, spring is fast approaching (didn’t Punxsutawney Phil predict an early one?) and I want to make a plan.
That is really what’s behind my whole drive to figure this thing out. Why on top of everything I’ve got going on with LM’s hearing loss do I want to open myself up for more responsibility? Not just the responsibility of going through treatments, but of having another baby? Because I need a plan. I can’t stand to have this hanging over my shoulders, the will-we-or-won’t-we have another baby. There is never a good time to have a second child, just like there is never a good time to have a first child.
So we’re going to just do it.
Well, hopefully. After all, that’s not totally up to us. I wish I could just get pregnant on my own terms, like so many of my mom friends are doing. I wish I didn’t have to think about it. I wish I didn’t have to go all through everything. Again. Like Groundhog Day.
But that is my choice, isn’t it?
I posed the question to my FB group of infertility survivors: How did you make the decision when and how to have a second child? Many of the moms responded that simply, they didn’t. They decided to be one and done. They couldn’t go through that again. And they couldn’t start a new process (adoption) that could very well involve years of waiting as well. They just didn’t have it in them.
Do I have it in me? I don’t consider myself stronger than anyone else. I don’t know if this is an utterly stupid thing to do, to decide to go back down the rabbit hole of my own personal Groundhog Day (how’s that for mixing rodent metaphors?).
But I really want another child. I know I could be happy with just LM, but it’s there, nagging at me, this thing that I really want that I feel I at least have to take a shot at.
So here we go.
Let Groundhog Day begin again.
Fellow fertility patients, how did you decide what to do about having more children? One-and-done moms, how did you make that decision as well?
I’m super excited to announce that I will have an essay in the upcoming anthology Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It: Life Journeys Inspired by the Bestselling Memoir, celebrating the tenth anniversary of Eat Pray Love. The original book, in which one woman has a life-changing journey in Italy, India and Indonesia, was such an inspiration to me as a travel lover and as someone at her own crossroads while dealing with infertility.
(In an interesting coincidence, when Foggy Daddy and I visited Rome for our one-year anniversary — pre-infertility struggle — we stayed on the same street as Julia Roberts’s character later would in the film version of Eat Pray Love.)
I’m so honored that Riverhead Books and author Elizabeth Gilbert chose my story to be included in the anthology. Please share this exciting news with your friends! I’ve also posted to Foggy Mommy’s Facebook and Twitter so feel free to share/retweet as well 😉
My essay focuses on a life-changing hike I took while traveling to the little-visited Caribbean island of Dominica. Dominica was in the news last fall after being hit hard by Hurricane Erika — in fact, the eco-resort where we stayed and which arranged the hike for us, Jungle Bay, was completely destroyed. It broke my heart to hear this. But, the owner recently announced he is rebuilding the resort at a site nearby. I hope my story might help bring some attention to the island and to Jungle Bay for future travelers.
Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It: Life Journeys Inspired by the Bestselling Memoir is out March 29. Can’t wait for you to read it! Pre-order on Amazon now.
I’m a perfectionist. Some may argue I’m high maintenance (I like things certain ways). As life has thrown me curveballs, like my infertility, I think I’ve become more relaxed about things. But sometimes my old self flairs up, the part that wants things, well, just so. Something I’ve known for a long time: I focus too much on what I think my life “should be.”
Last weekend, just before the weekend blizzard, LM got his hearing aids. I was hoping that he’d put them in and then realize all the sounds he was missing. He’d smile as he heard my voice clearly for the first time. I’d see that look of “a-ha” on his face.
Instead, he burst into tears.
The weekend was a challenge. Housebound, it seemed the perfect time to get him used to wearing his aids in a setting that was familiar. We had nowhere to go, nothing else to do. But LM did not cooperate. Although there were periods of relief in which he let us quietly read him a book, more often he was crying or clingy or pulling at his new ears.
OK, let’s try something different, I thought. Let’s go play in the snow.
This did not involve his hearing aids, which shouldn’t get wet. (This fact presents lots of logistical challenges, but I was trying not to think about those yet). For now, we’re just trying to get him used to them little by little at home.
Even without the hearing aids, though, going outside in the snow requires other demands be placed on LM. The result? He didn’t want his boots on. He didn’t want his hat on. He didn’t want his gloves on.
As I continued to struggle with him, I asked myself who I was doing this for. I wanted to play in the snow with him. I wanted to go sledding with him. I wanted to take cute pics of LM with the kiddie shovel I had bought for him, helping Foggy Daddy clear off the driveway.
But what did LM want? Was I trying to force him into my vision of the perfect snow day?
Eventually, LM agreed to keep everything on and I got him outside. And…he loved it. We went sledding in the backyard. We played in the snow. I felt vindicated — I wasn’t doing it just for me. I was doing it for him, too.
But the next day, I wanted to go out again, and LM wasn’t having it. He had spent the morning trying to rip out his hearing aids, and I just didn’t have another fight in me. So we spent a perfect sledding day, a perfect snow day, inside. I saw pictures online of my mom friends’ kids, all looking perfectly happy to be in their snow gear, and I felt sad.
But all this wasn’t just about sledding. It was that my life right now is just not that simple. Maybe no one’s is. But see other moms who have “easy” children who do whatever is asked of them. LM is just not like that.
And now besides dealing with his “difficult” personality, we have this whole other challenge heaped on us.
I’m tired of being strong. I just wanted life the way it “should be.” I thought that when we were finally able to have a baby, that was what I had waited for, and everything would be OK now. Life would settle into the well-traveled path that everyone else I knew seemed to be on. Our detour down that rough path was done.
But that’s not how things work, is it?
At least for me. Everyone else I know seems to have it so easy.
Or do they? What right do I have to assume others’ lives are perfect? Yes, it does seem like lots of other moms are happy with their obedient children, pregnant with their second baby, living in a big home, taking vacations to warm places and generally being happy. But do I really know what’s going on?
Foggy Daddy says I’m acting very “woe is me” lately. Maybe I am. Maybe I’m just dealing with the grieving process of what I thought my life was going to be like. I know this is valid. This is what parents of children with disabilities go through.
And just as LM’s personality doesn’t make it any easier to get him to wear his aids, my personality makes it harder for me to deal with the unexpected adjustments I must make. I try to be adaptable. But I still have this vision of the “perfect” life that I just can’t seem to shake.
Every time I think, if I can just get this part of my life under control, or that part, then things will be OK, I know I’m setting myself up for failure.
I have to learn to be OK with the messiness of life. Or at least with the messiness of my life. I have to stop comparing to some perfect ideal that I have in my head.
I have to learn to embrace my own version of perfect.
Are you a perfectionist? Do you have an idea of what your life should be, and does it upset you when things don’t go as planned?
We always romanticize the past, don’t we? I suppose that goes for parenting as well. But faced with all of our current challenges—hearing loss, uncontrollable tantrums, worrying about what special preschool to go to—I miss when the only thing I needed to worry about was LM. I miss my newborn.
I miss not having to worry about leaving the house. Sure, I felt like I was going stir crazy most of the time, but there was no pressure to attend activities or expose him to new things. All he needed was me.
I miss being able to lay on the couch and know that that was all I was supposed to do. Skin-to-skin contact is important. I was doing my job. My job was taking care of LM. And it meant that I had to just lay there.
I miss not having to worry about socializing him—or me, for that matter. I have gained so much from my mom group, but as an introvert, sometimes the mere act of talking to other people wears me out.
I miss nursing him as a calm newborn, not the crazy all-over-the-place acrobatics that is nursing a toddler.
I miss settling into my little nest at home and not feeling any pressure to be anywhere else. Now, if we stay home all day it is a recipe for a cranky kid with a lot of pent-up energy.
I miss not having to think about the bigger picture of the future, like where he’s going to go to school, or how I’m going to have to fight with our school district over the special services he needs for his hearing loss. True, we did have our newborn problems to work through (breastfeeding, for one), but once we got those figured out it seemed like smooth sailing.
I miss not having to worry about work. As much as I love this blog, lately I’ve been struggling to fit in the time to write. I have so many ideas floating around in my head, but I don’t have the time or energy to harness them. I see submission opportunities passing me by. I worry that I’m not pulling my weight financially. I miss when I wasn’t thinking or worrying about work at all, when my only responsibility was to LM.
I miss how newborns don’t move. LM can climb over any gate possible, so he has the run of the house now. I worry about his safety. I remember when I could just put him on the floor and go to the bathroom, because he couldn’t even roll over.
I miss the bucket seat. Getting LM in the car seat is a struggle every single time. I miss the days of just sitting him in the bucket, carrying it out to the car and clicking it in place. So much easier.
I miss that I could actually watch my TV shows and not have to worry if LM was in the room. I’d simply face the rock ‘n’ play away from the television and keep the volume low. But now, we’re fighting the battle of screen time, so I have to keep my own to a minimum.
I miss not having to worry about food. LM is such a picky eater and mealtimes are another battle. Having a newborn meant whipping out the boob. That’s it.
I miss being up in the middle of the night with him. What, am I crazy? Maybe, but it was like another world, where only the two of us existed.
I know, I know, this is all rose-colored glasses, right? Don’t I remember the sleep deprivation, the crying, the overwhelming, all-consuming life-sucking rabbit hole that is life with a newborn?
Yes, but knowing what I know now, it was easy compared with life with a toddler. Wait until you get to life with a teenager, you say. Little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems.
Sometimes when I’m putting LM to bed I sit with him in the glider and I remember how it was. My mind is so full right now, but then it wasn’t. There was one, and only one thing I needed to worry about. My baby. Everything was for my baby. All that extraneous stuff didn’t matter. I was utterly focused.
I know it will never be the same. Even if we have another baby, it won’t be just me and a newborn. It will be me and a toddler and a newborn. Something tells me that will make it very, very different.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my toddler. But I miss that newborn baby bubble. I miss it ever so much.
Do you miss life with a newborn? Or do you prefer the stages when they are older?
LM has a hearing loss.
I don’t even know exactly what to call it. His hearing is not normal, but he’s also not deaf — although I did see on this one deaf community website that anyone with any degree of hearing loss should be called deaf. Or maybe it was Deaf, capitalized. I don’t remember.
Maybe I’m coming at this all wrong. I can hear, after all. I don’t know what he’s going through, or what he will be going through as he grows up in a world around him where people can hear. What challenges will he face? How will he identify himself? Will he feel that he’s always trying to keep up in a hearing world, and it’s just too tough? Will he feel that he’s not good enough, that he’s “disabled,” that he’s somehow less worthy than people who can hear?
But at the same time, I don’t want him to feel abnormal and only able to “belong” in a closed community of other people who can’t hear. I feel like that would be limiting. But maybe it would be liberating. I don’t know.
I see so many parallels with my infertility journey:
- No, it’s not life-threatening. But is that the only consideration when figuring out how to deal with your much-altered life?
- “Oh, he can just get hearing aids,” sounds a bit to me like, “Oh, you can just adopt.”
- Negotiating with insurance companies who seem to be making it purposefully difficult to find out any information at all.
- Services that are not covered or not covered fully: IVF, hearing aids. Yup, hearing aids, FOR CHILDREN WHO OTHERWISE WILL NOT LEARN HOW TO SPEAK ENGLISH, are not fully covered.
- Only able to relate to a small, close-knit community because no one else understands what it’s like.
I’ve received different reactions from people when I tell them that LM has been diagnosed with hearing loss. But pretty much everyone reassures me that we are — he is — going to be “fine.” I know he will be fine. Sort of. He has a life-long, permanent disability. He is going to come up against challenges you probably wouldn’t think of: How to talk to girls at a party when he can barely hear (even with aids, noisy places can be tough), how to spend a day at the beach without getting his aids wet, how to deal with teachers who don’t know how to use (or don’t want to) the FM systems they have to wear to make it easier for him to hear over classroom noise…
One thing at a time, right? You don’t need to tell me that. I’ve been here before. This is all too familiar.
I’ve also been told that this is our “new normal.” That we thought we were on a plane ride to Italy but we landed in Holland. I’ve seen videos of kids wearing their hearing aids for the first time, how their faces light up. I saw the viral photo about the dad who got a hearing aid tattoo to match his daughter’s device. It’s all so “feel-good.”
I know I shouldn’t be putting my junk on LM. He’ll come up with enough baggage on his own. I don’t need to saddle him with mine. But that said, I admit that I have been feeling more isolated. Friends post videos of their kids doing all kinds of cool things, or saying things, or funny conversations they had. I can’t have conversations with LM. His behavior is lagging behind because he can’t hear. We are not searching for fancy preschools like the other kids because we will end up in the town special ed program, or, if we’re lucky, a school for the deaf.
We are different.
I am different.
I remember how it was to drift away from my friends who started having kids when I was still struggling. To gravitate toward other “infertiles,” who were the only people who understood. There was a divide that grew with my fertile friends as we could no longer relate to each others’ lives, and as my jealousy around what they had and I didn’t grew. This won’t be the same — I am grateful for my Little Man. Nothing will change that. But I am jealous of other moms who don’t have to face these challenges.
It could be worse. I’ve heard that one before too. I was infertile — I didn’t have cancer. So I wasn’t allowed to complain.
I have, though, also been told that I need to allow myself to grieve. To grieve the life I expected, to grieve that my child (and I) will have more hurdles to come. Part of me is just keeping calm and carrying on. And the other part of me is screaming, crying, Why me? Why us? Haven’t I been through enough?
Sorry if you think I’m being dramatic. But really, you don’t know what it’s like. You don’t know how it feels to walk in my shoes.
Have you had unexpected challenges in life? How have you found the strength to cope with them?
Lots of heavy stuff going on in my life with LM right now…but it’s Christmas Eve, so let’s do a fun post of holiday movies. I haven’t gotten around to seeing all of these this year before Christmas, so I deem it perfectly OK to celebrate Christmas past December 25, right through the end of the year. Isn’t Christmas supposed to be 12 days, anyway?
As a Christmas movie aficionado I feel myself qualified to name the movies you should watch, and ones you should skip. It will be tempting to share these all with your kids while they are home for winter break and driving you nuts, so I’ll include some parental advisories.
Do you agree with my list? In no particular order:
Love Actually: This is definitely one to watch after the kiddos have gone to bed. Lots of cursing and (possibly unnecessary) nudity. And some latent sexism. But despite all that, it’s hard not to love the spirit of this movie. How can you not feel a rush as the kids put on “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” or choke up as Colin Firth declares his love in broken Portuguese? Despite it’s flaws, for pure Christmas spirit, this one makes the list.
Elf: Will Ferrell goes all in, in his hilarious portrayal as a human adopted by elves who comes to New York to find his birth father. It may bring up some questions about adoption for kids, but everything is presented positively. The clash of Buddy’s pure innocence and his father’s New York cynicism is a great combo. So many great lines, it’s hard to pick a favorite, although “Santa, I know him!” comes close.
Holiday Inn: I’m not a huge fan of White Christmas — I prefer a younger Bing Crosby and the original version of the song, performed in Holiday Inn. Yes, there is a very unfortunate blackface scene (which is usually shortened for television). One could argue that’s just a reflection of the times, although that doesn’t completely excuse the bad taste it leaves in your mouth. But if you can move past that, this wonderful movie starring Fred Astaire shows off dancing and songs from the golden era of Hollywood.
Christmas with the Kranks: OK, you might think I’m a little crazy for including this comedy with Jamie Lee Curtis, Tim Allen and Dan Aykroyd. But after discovering it on cable a few years ago, I can’t stop watching. Why? I think I’m intrigued by their neighborhood, which, although for most of the movie is extremely nosy and all up in the Kranks’ business, at the end comes together to save Christmas. I wish I felt that way about my neighbors. As JLC says at the end, they have shown her “the true meaning of community.” Love that. Oh, and “Free Frosty!” Hilarious.
Meet Me in St. Louis: This year-in-the-life movie takes place in turn-of-the-century (you guessed it) St. Louis. I want to live in their house, a grand old Victorian. I want to wear those gorgeous dresses. Full of nostalgia for a time that probably didn’t even really exist, this movie features my favorite Christmas song, Judy Garland’s original “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” And the family dynamic, four sisters and one brother, makes me want to be part of a brood of five kids.
The Family Stone: This is another recent movie that might surprise you to see on the list. The characterizations are multi-layered, and I notice something new every time I see it. This year, I realized that each of the five grown kids in the family (yes, another big family) has a sweet, cathartic moment with their mother, played by the great Diane Keaton. It’s a very bittersweet, even sad, film, but it’s beautiful. Bonus points for paying homage to Meet Me in St. Louis. Some adult themes, so probably want to save this one until the kids are older.
It’s a Wonderful Life: OK, how can you beat this one? I would go far as to say this may be the best movie of all time. So relatable — the frustration at life not turning out the way you want it to. But then the realization that he did make a difference, that everyone makes a difference. Jimmy Stewart’s elation when he realizes he wants to live is so palpable, it’s impossible not to share his joy. And as he reunites with his kids and his wife, wow, such a beautiful scene. I would say, though, there is a lot of dark stuff in this movie. Not for small kids.
A Christmas Carol with Patrick Stewart: This version of the many that are out there was actually made for TV. I wrote about it when I was an editor for DirecTV’s television guide, and attended an event at the Plaza in New York. So I may be a little biased. But I love Patrick Stewart’s interpretation of this character. Watching it last weekend, I realized how timeless this story is, nearly two hundred years after it was written. How perfectly it illustrates why we should have generosity of spirit, as well as with our money. The ghost of Christmas future is kind of scary, though, and there is much reference to death and dying. I’m a big fan of Mickey’s Christmas Carol, the animated Disney half-hour version, which is more appropriate for kids, but still a bit scary at the end.
Home Alone: The ridiculousness of this movie doesn’t stop me from loving it. Beyond the pretty stupid (not to mention violent) antics of the burglars, it’s a heartwarming story about the importance of family, even as they drive you crazy. Watching it as a parent, I have a new appreciation for the mom’s desperation at trying to return home to her son, as well as her expression of pure love when she actually does.
A Christmas Story: I used to think this movie was kind of depressing when I was younger — not sure why, maybe the dark and somewhat dreary 1940s-era home, or the seeming-meaness of the dad. It wasn’t until I was older that I fully appreciated the irony that the one person Ralphie didn’t think to ask for his most wished-for present — his father — ultimately is the one to give it to him. He’s actually not mean at all! So sweet. The atmosphere of this movie, which is supposed to take place in Indiana, reminds me of Syracuse, where my parents are from and where I spent most of my childhood Christmases. Somehow I picture my dad as a little boy experiencing Christmas in Syracuse the way Ralphie does in this movie.
Miracle on 34th Street with Natalie Wood: I actually think the remake of this movie is pretty good, except that they change the ending explanation for “proving” that Santa Claus is real — why was that necessary? The original is a classic, though, even for someone who never believed in Kris Kringle. Although, I have a bit of a problem with the notion that just because a kid doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, or fairy tales, that means they have no imagination or magic in their lives. I think kids are perfectly capable of having a rich inner life of pretending and imagining, without actually believing such things are “real.” This movie, though, may bring up the question of why people wouldn’t believe in Santa Claus, so that might be something to consider if your kid does.
EDIT: Number 12!
The Family Man: I totally forgot about this great reverse-It’s a Wonderful Life, in which successful bachelor businessman Nicolas Cage gets to see what would have happened if he had married his college sweetheart. At first he thinks family life is dull, and inferior to his previous existence as a man about town, but he comes to see how it’s richer with people you love. What I love about the ending is that it sticks to the rules of the premise — this was just a glimpse, not permanent — but it is still thoroughly satisfying. It’s not totally a Christmas movie, but it is obviously inspired by Wonderful Life, and imbues much of the spirit of the season.
Close, but didn’t make the list: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (a bit too ridiculous without enough heartfelt sentiment at its core, like, say, Home Alone), The Holiday (a sweet romantic comedy but not really about Christmas), The Polar Express (never saw the whole thing, can’t get past the creepy animation), The Santa Clause (too silly).
Do you agree with my list? Did I forget any? Have yourself a merry little Christmas if you celebrate! I will be taking a bit of a holiday break but will see you in the New Year!
This really should be two separate posts, but as you may have guessed by my lack of posts in the past two weeks, we’ve been busy. LM is keeping me on my toes as usual. Never a dull moment. In fact, a dull moment would be nice. Please, can I have a dull moment?
OK, first up:
Blood, stitches and the ER
I was in the middle of what I thought was a dull moment. Actually not dull, just relaxing. LM had wandered into the living room, where we have the Christmas tree. He sat on the couch and stared at it. I sat down next to him. Isn’t this nice, I thought, to just sit calmly. LM snuck behind me and sat on the other side, closer to where we had pushed the coffee table to make room for our wide tree. Suddenly, and I’m not even sure how it happened, LM bounced off the couch, flying face first into the edge of the coffee table. I picked him up and saw blood. I took him into the kitchen where I could see better and got a towel to try to stop the bleeding. But it poured out onto the floor.
What do I do? What do I do? I thought helplessly. Finally, the blood slowed enough for me to see two deep gashes in his lip. I called my parents (Foggy Daddy wouldn’t know what to do, I reasoned). I knew I had to get him to the hospital, but how? My dad told me to call 911 if I couldn’t get him in the car seat. I grabbed my bag and ran out with LM in my arms, leaving a pile of bloody towels on the floor. Somehow I managed to coax him into the car seat, and we headed out.
My dad and Foggy Daddy met us at the hospital. The bleeding had pretty much stopped, but LM was understandably, very cranky. We had to wait for the plastic surgeon to stitch him up, since the cut was on his face and quite deep. But how was this going to happen without anesthesia? We helped the nurses get him in something they called a “papoose,” but what seemed more like a toddler straightjacket. He was wrapped up and strapped to a board so he couldn’t move, and one nurse held his head.
Among things you don’t ever want to see: your child being sewed up while screaming his head off. I don’t think I will forget the sight of the stitches tugging his lip as they were pulled through. I had to sit down for fear I would pass out. At one point, the nurse actually fell off the edge of her stool as she tried to restrain LM’s thrashing head.
Then it was over. Twelve stitches. Our first ER visit was complete.
But, I worried that this would throw off LM’s ABR hearing test, which was scheduled for a week later. Luckily, the ENT performing the procedure said it would be fine.
So next up:
LM’s sedated hearing test
Just when we had sufficiently recovered from the cut lip experience, it was time to have the sedated ABR, which we had waited two months for and gone through several different ENTs and audiologists in the process. We had tried it non-sedated, which was a colossal fail — and, we found out later, cost us $500.
The ABR was scheduled at 7 am, which is probably a good thing since he couldn’t have anything to eat or drink. We got to the surgery center at 6, at which time LM proceeded to scream his head off once again. Thankfully we were quickly ushered into the pre-op area. The anesthesiologist came in and said he could give him a little squirt of something up his butt to make him relax. Finally, he was calm. We got him into his little gown, and I also suited up to walk him into the OR. Taking care not to hurt his lip (which was actually well on its way to healing), the anesthesiologist put the mask on to make LM go to sleep. I kissed him and went back to wait.
The doctor came out part-way through and confirmed what we suspected: LM has a mild hearing loss in one hear and moderate in the other. Although I expected it, I felt angry at the universe for giving him—and me—this challenge. More doctors, more appointments, more not being “normal.” All I could think about were my fertility treatments, and how this felt eerily similar. Not life-threatening, no. But life-altering.
After the procedure was over, Foggy Daddy and I went back to see LM already waking up from the anesthesia. He nursed for a long time, and in fact didn’t want to stop. As the nurse pulled out the IV, he wouldn’t let her put pressure on it, and blood spurted out everywhere. More blood, I thought.
Eventually we were able to get him dressed and got the hell out of there, much to the relief of the other recovering patients, I’m sure.
So what now? The doctor also took ear molds for his hearing aids while he was sedated. We have followups with the doctor to check him out post-op, and another followup for just FD and I to discuss the plan for his hearing aids with the audiologist.
I don’t want to do this.
But I don’t have a choice.
All of this adds to everything going on right now: the holiday rush, my story assignments, trying to find time to blog about the million ideas I have in my head that I need to get out. Not to mention that LM’s behavior is getting worse and worse. Tantrums from the frustration of not being able to communicate, most likely. And lucky me, he saves them all up for the person he’s closest to.
I love him. I want to help him. I just wish it wasn’t this hard.
Any other moms have had to deal with their child’s hearing loss? What about ER visits? Share your stories, please!