Monday, October 13, 2014

Infertility still hurts but definitely less than it used to

I went to get a pelvic ultrasound last week because I've been having acute ovarian pain for a while. Pain that is bad enough that it burns and pinches and radiates through to my lower back. Pain that is bad enough it wakes me up at night and makes it hard to fall back asleep. Bad enough that three ibuprofen do not nullify it.

It turns out I have a pretty large hemorrhagic cyst on my left ovary. The radiologist who read my ultrasound (who is super cool and double boarded in OB/GYN and radiology) also thought that the degree and duration of pain might indicate my endometriosis has recurred. Which would be a bummer and would probably require another laparoscopy to confirm and potentially treat. Pooh on that.

When I arrived for the exam, the receptionist handed me a form to fill out. It's the first time I've been faced with having to write anything about my reproductive or medical history in awhile.

I tend to think I'm over the past. Magpie is here. Yes, it was a challenge to get her (understatement), but here we are (and thank you but let's not dwell in the past).

But when I had to actually answer the question: "How many pregnancies have you had?" and write "7" and then "How many live births?" and write "1," things came somewhat rushing back. I have to say it is HUGE to get to write "1" instead of "0," which is all I ever thought I'd get to write. But it still was hard to acknowledge that WOW, that was me. I was pregnant 7 times to get to Ms. Magpie. I used to live in a land of what felt like almost unbearable pain over it. Wow. And now, miraculously, I'm over here on the other side, with an amazing almost two-year-old and a large hemorrhagic cyst.

I had similar sense of unreality writing my and my family's cancer history. Can one's immediate and second-degree relatives have THAT many instances of cancer? Hard to believe...Oh boy we are not genetically favored in the cancer risk department.

So physical and lingering emotional pain aside, all is well. My history still looks like a train wreck and it still hurts to have to answer questions that acknowledge it. But it hurts a heck of a lot less than it used to.

For any of you still in the trenches, I wish the same for you.


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Thursday, October 9, 2014

The end of the pacifier era

When Magpie was 21 months old, we began thinking about reducing or eliminating the pacifier. We'd already cut her down to using it just during naps and overnights, with occasional use in the car (living in NYC, we don't use the car much) and on planes. Despite being consistent with this, Magpie would ask for the pacifier often, especially when upset. For some reason, she'd grown to call it "bottle" around the time we cut out bottles, and so when she was tired or unsettled, she'd start the litany: "Bottle, bottle, bottle, bottle, bottle, bottle, bottle, bottle, bottle, bottle." It almost seemed that the bottle...erm...I mean the pacifier...was making her more anxious rather than less.

Magpie has a lovey she has grown very attached to (see "Lambie" in vacation sleeping photo below). I picked Lambie as a lovey for Magpie when she was about 6 or 7 months old, and we actually have three of them that we rotate. Magpie looooves Lambie, shares food with Lambie, kisses Lambie, talks to Lambie, changes Lambie's diaper, etc. Lambie is a true friend. We hoped Lambie's presence would help with the transitioning out of the pacifier. 

Naptime in portable crib on vacation, with Lambie

But I struggled with it. I didn't want to be cruel or take away something that Magpie relied on for soothing. And I worried that she had become so used to going to sleep with the pacifier that she wouldn't be able to go to sleep without it, particularly at naptime. Truth be told, I was concerned that sans pacifier, MY CHILD MIGHT NEVER SLEEP AGAIN. Realistic? In hindsight probably not. But sleep has become an irrationally important and precious commodity for me, so I'll cut myself some slack.

On the other hand, the kid would need to move beyond the pacifier at some point. And the fact that she would launch into this perseverative request, "Bottle, bottle, bottle, bottle, bottle, bottle, bottle, bottle, bottle, bottle..." was annoying. (Poor kid...if she could have just quietly used the pacifier at the appropriate times and not made such a big deal out of it, she probably could have eked out another year with the pacifier.)

Let me start by saying I don't recommend our pacifier weaning strategy. But it's how it ended up happening, and we're all still alive, so I wanted to share.

One Saturday during Magpie's 21st month, we were driving to NJ and we forgot the pacifier (OMG!). She asked for it.

Magpie: "Bottle, bottle, bottle..."

Mama: "I'm sorry sweetie, we don't have the bottle today."

Magpie: "Bottle, bottle, bottle, bottle, bottle, bottle, bottle, bottle, bottle, bottle!"

Mama: "I know. You want the bottle. But I don't have it."

Magpie: "Bottle, bottle, bottle, BOTTLE!!!!!!!"

Mama: "Let's sing a song together!! A,B,C,D..."

Magpie: "No! No! No! Bottle, bottle, bottle, bottle..."

Mama: "Hmmm... The itsy bitsy spider crawled up..."

Magpie: "No! No! No! Bottle, bottle, bottle, bottle!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Mama: "I don't have it, hon. Would you like a snack?"

Magpie: "No! No! No! NO!!! Bottle, bottle, bottle..."

Mama: "How about some milk?"


Mama: "Do you want to hold mama's hand?"


You get the idea. But eventually, my girl drifted off to sleep as we continued to drive. Having no pacifier with me, I couldn't cave, which I would have done at our home. And I learned in the process that Magpie could get to sleep without the pacifier.

We were out all day. Magpie had a few short naps in the car, not her typical 2.5 hour nap, but maybe three shorter naps (in hindsight, I'd frame it as her getting to practice falling asleep three times without the pacifier...and me having the opportunity three times to learn that she could).

By the end of the car ride, Will and I were thinking...WOW. We're on a roll...maybe we should just not offer the pacifier tonight and see if we can all make it through this. It's a Saturday night, so if it's terrible, we can retreat from the plan and all recover tomorrow night before the week starts.

When we got home, I ran ahead into the apartment while Will and Magpie parked the car. In breakneck speed, I purged our apartment of pacifiers. We usually kept them in a cup on a shelf in her room. I left the cup, but emptied out the pacifiers. I also searched the diaper bag, behind the crib, in the kitchen drawers and on the drying rack, and every other place I thought there might be one. God forbid our poor girl saw one (seemed akin to me having to see a chocolate cake in the house while on a diet. Unfair to the highest degree). I didn't throw them away, but stored them out of sight.

We'd bought Magpie a Dora the Explorer pajama set while we were out, which she loved, and so we introduced it into the narrative. These were her new pajamas - new big girl pajamas that she would wear instead of using the pacifier. She was excited about the pajamas. She REALLY wanted to wear those pajamas. She was not thrilled about the no pacifier part.

That night, because she hadn't had her full-length nap, she was tired. We kept her up later than usual to make sure she was very tired. When we read her her bedtime story in the rocking chair, she started up again, "Bottle, bottle, bottle, bottle, bottle, bottle, bottle, bottle, bottle, bottle!" and I told her I didn't have it (so hard to lie...). I got the cup down from the shelf and together we looked in it. It was empty. (Again, so hard to pull this slight dishonesty with her, but she seemed to accept the lack of pacifiers once she saw the empty cup). After awhile she asked to be put in her crib (she typically tells me when she's ready to be put down in the bed), so I put her in, and I sat pensively in the rocking chair in her darkened room waiting to see what would happen.

And you wouldn't believe it, but SHE FELL ASLEEP! Not only that but, she slept through the night just the same as usual.

So we decided to do the same thing the next nap and nighttime. (I also quickly ordered a few more PJ sets). And it went a bit easier than before. Within a couple of days, Magpie would ask a bit wistfully, "Bottle?" and I'd explain that we didn't have those anymore, and she'd nod.

Within a couple of weeks, she was totally over the pacifier. We have survived numerous car trips, and even two plane flights since then, and everyone has survived ok, mom and dad included.

I had no idea it would be so easy. So now we have only pictures to show us the memory of my girl using the pacifier...

With big sister Moxie

At hotel after my sister's wedding this summer, looking a bit goth
First plane ride

Rare stroller nap last winter
Sleeping perpendicularly


Big Girl in her Dora pajamas!
And instead we now have this amazing young lady who proudly wears Dora PJs and falls asleep on her own.


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Monday, August 25, 2014

An orphan no more

After six long years, my friend Suzanne walked out of the orphanage in Kyrgyzstan today with her daughter Diana by her side. Suzanne was matched with Diana when she was five weeks old and expected to take her home when she was just a few months old. But there was delay after delay, and then all adoptions were put on indefinite hold.

Suzanne and Diana at age 22 months (Magpie's age now) 

Suzanne never gave up. She went back to Kyrgyzstan to visit Diana twice. She lobbied U.S. Congress. She wrote and produced an advertising campaign video to gather local support in the Kyrgyz community.  And more recently when things were looking the most promising they have in years, she set out with friends to make a bunch of quilts to raise money to so that she and her four year old (adopted domestically while she was waiting for Diana) could spend several weeks visiting at the orphanage, and then hopefully get to take Diana home. 

With your help, Suzanne raised more than $10,000, funding both her own trip and that of several other waiting families. 

Here's what you helped make happen:

Mom and daughter, finally together forever

Leaving the orphanage for the last time, forever.
Diana is beautiful. And she remembered her mama from her mama's last visit to Kyrgyzstan two years ago. She will face many challenges from spending her first years in an orphanage, but what a wonderful day today marks - to have a family and a home, to have a family of her own, finally after all of this time.Thank you all again for your help - for your support of my friend Suzanne.

And Suzanne, your indomitable spirit - never giving up in what seemed like such hopeless circumstances - has just saved the life, and drastically changed the future, of a beautiful little girl. I am just bursting with happiness for you, for your family of three. What a turning point today marks. Diana is so so lucky to have you as her mom.


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Monday, August 18, 2014

The quick and dirty, comic and tragic: A catch-up post

I owe you all a major catch-up post. There's no way to cover all that has happened, but we are all intact, and Magpie is doing great.

The most challenging aspect of things the past several months is that my mom was diagnosed with early stage lung cancer (non-small cell adenocarcinoma,  which unfortunately is pretty scary news even in the early stages). After her diagnosis, she spent a month in the hospital after having a major post-procedure complication. It was so hard to see her so sick and really difficult to juggle my desire to be physically present with her, to parent Magpie, to maintain my marriage to some degree, and to function professionally. Fortunately for me, although my mom lives across the country, she happened to be here when she was diagnosed and therefore underwent her much-more-complicated-than-expected procedure here, so at least physically I could see her daily and offer my love and support. She is doing much better now and has been discharged home on oxygen. The goal of the procedure was to ablate the cancer, but the doctors are not sure and won't know for months whether it was successful. My mom has significant other health issues, so I am not sure what options remain if she still has residual tumor. It's been a tough time, and I am definitely concerned that I will be losing my mom, and Magpie her grandma, much, much  sooner than I would wish.

To give a whirlwind update on the rest of the immediate and extended family that I sometimes blog about, Will is doing well at work and health-wise. My sister got married to a wonderful man (yay!). She got pregnant almost immediately (double yay! Especially given our worries on that score). Unfortunately, she then suffered a mid-first-trimester miscarriage (major ugh and lots of sadness and tears shed by all). Incredibly, she seems to be taking it in stride, which is impressive, and she is hopeful to try again in the coming months. My friend S. who has been in the midst of long LONG-term adoption efforts internationally, whom many of you helped in her fundraising effort and quilt raffle, is less than a month away from hopefully having her daughter finally home after six long years of waiting. I can't post more details about it now, at her request and out of an abundance of caution. But amazing things are underway on that front, so please send all positive thoughts her way. I will post a much bigger update on this when I get the all-clear to do so. Life in academic medicine is continuing apace, and the good news there is that I'm getting promoted. Not to leave out the animal kingdom in this post, our boxer dog Moxie celebrated her fifth birthday this summer. Yay for boxer dogs! She is amazing and such a good "boxer sister" to Ms. Magpie.

And Ms. Magpie herself? She has been doing great. She's 21 months now and is talking up a storm, eating well, running, jumping, starting to engage in imaginary play. She is still tiny - I put her in 6-12 month Gap jeans the other day...and they fell down around her knees! Yikes! She weighs 22 pounds-ish I think, but is very slender... She is more and more fun each day - it is a joy to watch her and to interact with her, even though she is an intense little creature. She's also sometimes now demonstrating some of the "terrible twos" behavior, even though she isn't yet two. I'll do a whole post on her development in the next few days if I can. Other Magpie developments in the works: We are in the first few days of unexpected pacifier weaning. I will do an entire post on this shortly, so stay tuned on that. ... We are also in the preparation phases for potty training...mostly gathering books on the subject for Magpie and potty chairs and even a Potty Time Elmo that will be presented at the appropriate time (who ever would have thought such a thing existed?). As part of the psych-ops preparations for potty training, I am spending much more time talking about pee and poop than I ever imagined. Seriously, in my wildest dreams...

More soon. I promise.


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Monday, June 9, 2014

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