Wednesday, February 6, 2019

I'm glad she asked

Last week I was checking in with my friend D, a Vice President at my organization who rocks, I love working with her.  She's smart, hella organized, works tirelessly for the nursing home workers she represents and just fucking kind.  She's also deeply, DEEPLY religious.

At the end of our meeting where we outlined some plans to save the world, she had a random question for me:

"My members have been talking about that new abortion law in NY.  It's a really hot topic and they just don't understand how the state could pass it. What am I missing? Do you know anything about it?"

"Funny you should ask that," I replied.

So I told her. I started with the miscarriages.  And then I got to Celine.  About how we were lucky to be able to see Celine's future pain on a 13 weeks scan and had a few weeks to talk to specialists. And how Samantha truly was a miracle for science and faith.  And then I explained exactly what the law was designed to cover, and shared with her these two articles:

This, Interview with a woman who had an abortion at 32 weeks,

And the follow-up to her story. (Spoiler: It has as happy an ending as anyone who suffers such trauma can claim).

I explained that this woman's advocacy (she lobbied HARD) led to the NY law's [assage.  And how sad it was that this was really HEALTHCARE legislation being dressed as morality. How no woman wants to say goodbye to their desperately loved baby, let alone have to fly to Colorado and spend tens of thousands of dollars to do it.

Well, D read both articles and thanked me for them.  She also printed them out for the workers she knew who were asking so many questions.

These past few months I have been pulling off of facebook.  This conversation was all the rage there too.

To say these past few weeks have been triggering and depressing have been an understatement.

But, they did one thing to firm my resolve: If we get to a point in this country where safe abortion services are as limited and non-existent as state houses across the country are trying to make them, well sign me up for the call to help.  I've got a spare room with a private bath (the nicest bathroom in our house).  Someone vulnerable needs a place to stay? My state has doctors who perform second trimester abortions.  I've got you covered.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

To my donor, on Samantha's birthday

I've been thinking about you with some frequency lately, because Samantha turned 1 the other day.

You gave us a cell that when brought together with Viking's cell, created a baby that makes me fucking weep with joy on a pretty regular basis.

If you ever choose to allow her to contact you personally in the future - and I hope you do - I want you to know the following:

 - She has her father's face.  Except her nose, I am pretty sure that's from you.
 - Her sister - who also shares her face - and our cat make her eyes light up. They're blue, like her dad's, except they twinkle more than his.  His Dad's eyes do that too.
- She is insanely musical. The jury is of course out on what path this will look like, but she responds to music in a way that is different from how her talented dancer sister did.  It's like she feels it, you can see songs coursing through her. Now, this could come from her Dad (the kind of guy who can pick up an instrument and teach himself to play it).  But it could have also come from you - your talents and musical family were one of the things that drew me to your profile.
 - I do believe in epigenetics.  There's something in her wide smile that looks a whole lot like mine. Her smile sort of looks like she of takes large bites out of life, a pretty good description of mine as well.
 - Her origin story is completely intertwined to my loss story.  Only through so many losses did I arrive at the moment where I could continue forward without my own genetics.  Turning to a (semi)anonymous donor to have a baby was honestly the closest thing to jumping off a cliff I've even done.
- I can't begin to express the joy that she has brought me from the moment doctors put her in my arms.  She burrowed into me. And eventually, when she could open her eyes, she stared into mine, deeply.  And today, when she burrows into me, and stares into my eyes, she smiles, deeply.
 - She will learn her origin story, and eventually, as she owns it, her sister will too. It won't be sprung on her like a shameful secret, it will unroll as she gets older with more detail.  I am steeling myself for the day when she matter-of-factly tells her friends that she was the product of a donor egg pregnancy. I'm also doing everything I can as a mother to make sure her sister will never ever say some stupid shit to her in a tantrum, like, I'm not her mom.
 - I believe it's my responsibility as her mother to ensure she can have as much information as she needs about her origins.  I have a flash drive with all of the pictures you provided to the clinic, as well as all of your written questionnaires. I keep it with our passports and other important documents and have told her Dad to make sure he knows to drag it out of the house if I'm ever gone and the house is burning down.
 - I am her biological mother.  I carried her, I delivered her, and I nursed her for a year. I am hoping that I am the only woman she ever considers her mother. But I won't erase you, she wouldn't exist without you. That said, I hope - really hope - that you never EVER refer to her as one of your children.
 - I'm hoping that you are at peace with what you did.  I hope the clinic gave you the medical and emotional support you need to move forward with your own life, with happiness and health.

Well, I guess that's pretty much it for now.


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Tex Mex for the memories

The last few weeks have felt a bit blurry, like a marathon.  I took the girls to NYC to be with my parents during Christmas, while Viking stayed behind to spend some time with his Dad and brother.

As always my mom and dad were kind and general champs about having so many people in their tiny apartment, but also as always, it was really nice to get back to my comfy - albeit messy- house.  Samantha would NOT SLEEP in her pack and play and since we were sharing a room - with Niblet, and I couldn't let her cry because the neighbors wouldn't take a crying baby very gracfeully, well, it was fucking exhausting.

I spent some quality time with one of my oldest best friends. "She's [Niblet] 2.0!" said my friend R, as we strolled around Bryant Park's holiday market.  "Wait she's even more [Viking] than Niblet was, that smirk she has, those blue eyes..." he continued. Yeah, tell me about it.  It was surreal walking around NYC with a baby in a carrier attached to me.  I used to stare longingly at women in the City during wintertime, with their babies all tight and snug.

When we returned to Baltimore we were as close to saying AAAAHHHHHHH as any tired family could.  And we spent some time with Viking and did a day trip to Winterthur, the DuPont family mansion in Delaware, taking one of Nibble's friends with us.

So here's a thing I've alluded to before: My clinic was in Delaware was chosen because it was the only clinic that was easily accessible to me which offered people seeking healthy eggs semi-anonymous donors.  In other words, she could potentially be contacted by Samantha when Samantha is 18.  I don't spend a lot of time thinking about Samantha's genetics.  I think about it them often as I think of Niblet's I suppose - will Niblet need x, w, z health screenings based on her family history, for example.  I do often look at Samantha's nose with wonder because it's the only clue that she is spring from a different genetic tree.  But this kid is so obviously blended into her paternal line, it's really not something I get hung up about.

But this weekend I really wanted to eat at the Mexican restaurant Viking and I lunched at while I was cycling. I was a little emotional about it, Viking, not so much, I'm not sure it registered the same way. Have I mentioned that all I wanted to eat before and during that pregnancy was Tex-Mex?  Niblet and her friend who joined us completely balked but being the hungry grownups in the car who really wanted fucking enchiladas, we prevailed.  It was a weirdly comforting meal, eating at a place where the whole science-y shebang of Samantha's conception really began.  I know there are DE moms who struggle with their feelings about not having a genetic link to their babies, I guess I got lucky.  While I don't shout our third-party reproduction to the hilltops, I'm really at peace with it.

But the cycling itself is like a dream.  I saw an Instagram picture I posted of myself years ago, taken  at a work retreat I attended when I was self-administering injections on the sly. I was cleaning out my bedroom and found a stash of needles.  Many people know I used IVF to have this baby, I'm completely honest about THAT.  Hell, a few weeks ago a woman in the grocery store who was sharing a bit too much on the checkout line asked me if I came by my baby naturally.  Nope, I had a little help I replied.  (BTW, I told Niblet about this conversation, and my 9YO astutely commented: She probably really needed someone to talk to.  God, my child...)

I will probably be more open about using DE too, but not for some time - I am maintaining a personal rule that it is no one's business until Samantha herself understands it and comes to terms with it.

To be honest, I feel something like survivor's guilt from these experiences.  Sure, it took six years to have this baby.  Sure, I experienced grief and lows from my losses that still punch me in the gut today.  But I have a baby. A beautiful healthy girl who is starting to cruise around the living room and can say "cat" who even charms her very tempestuous tweenaged sister.

I hope beyond hope that I do right by these children that I am insanely fortunate to have.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

All she left behind

We lost my mother-in-law last week to breast cancer.  She was 80 years old.

The last few weeks have been rough on my house.  We visited her each weekend the past month so she could see her grandchildren.  Viking was by her side for much of the time, she had decided against intervention, having undergone radiation and a double mastectomy ten years ago. She was fortunate to have the means to have a hospice nurse visit her daily.  Late last week my father-in-law had to go into the hospital himself - it was a prostate scare, he's fine, but his being admitted meant that she could no longer be at home.  She was transferred to a residential care unit at their retirement community and died later that night. It was peaceful and she was not in pain.

Niblet took it hard, and realized that she carries memories of her grandmother that her sister will never have. Viking is as good as could be expected, he has good days and bad.

I'm working through so many emotions.  My MIL was viewed by the world as a saint.  To some extent she was.  All of her outer life was lived for her husband and children.  I mean all of it.  She had many views that were a relic of the 50's.  My brother-in-law liked to joke that his parents stopped evolving in 1962, just before the British invasion. I was something of an alien to her: a Jewish New Yorker.  That I was a lawyer wasn't so shocking.  That I was a former dancer who continued dancing even after my professional days ended was ("Why would you pursue something that caused injuries?  You really danced every day even when you went to high school? Are you sure Niblet is safe pursuing ballet as you did?") I remember once lamenting not being able to get out of the house when Niblet was born and colicky.  I missed seeing other women.  I missed decompressing in a dance class, I missed enjoying a meal where I didn't have to try to eat while feeding another person.

"Those days are over for you right now," she said to me.  "Your needs have to be put on hold."

I recall being so resentful of this at the time. I was nursing and up every 2 hours.  I needed a shower and a massage. Was that really so selfish?

Looking back I have *so* much more sympathy for her.  She was, in fact, alone when she was raising her first son, her husband away in the Navy.  She was isolated.  I'll bet money she suffered from PPD without a support network, it was just what a young American mother was expected to do.

She had an inner life that most of us could only really scratch the surface of.  She looked like Grace Kelly (for real, she was stunningly beautiful as a young woman). She loved gardening.  Writing letters. (I've both vented and joked a ton about some of those letters on this blog, they were at times hilarious in their formality, and at times infuriating). She once told me she was interested in anthropology and would have studied it more in college if she could.  She wasn't interested at all in clothes or fashion or jewelry.  She enjoyed classical music, and could play piano, though she never did in front of us, even when we got our own piano - as it happens my FIL was a trained music major in college conservatory, and I imagine she stopped playing once he came into the picture.  Playing piano for an audience - even family members - was HIS thing. She was an awesome swimmer, once a lifeguard in her teens. She was fiercely in love with her husband and devoted to her sons. And loved her grandchildren. Both of them, despite her misgivings about my decision to have a second.  Babies made her smile.  

She was also a hoarder.  Oh man.  The boxes.  I mean BOXES.

But she gave me my Viking.  With all of his flaws (the hoarding tendencies inherited from her FO SHO).  

Her obituary was short - she was a wife of 57 years, mother to two surviving sons, grandmother to two grandchildren, sister to two surviving brothers.  That's it.  She refused to have a funeral, my BIL attributing this to her "unwavering modesty."  

In Judaism we say of the dead, "May their memory be for blessing."  Never have these words rung more true.  Her legacy is captured in our memories and it's our responsibility to ensure it lives on.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

It's been difficult to write

Writing has been a challenge.  Ideas flow into my head on posts all the time.  Then the realities of my day to day intervene and suddenly it's December.  How did it get to be December?

I'm waiting for the day when I'm matter of fact about the fact that Samantha is woven into the fabric of my family.  I'm still not there. I am and I'm not.  We have this baby - this sick cute, hilarious, snuggly little baby in our home and she has her father's face and to a great extent her sisters face.  And she's obsessed with me.  OBSESSED, and I'm absolutely her favorite human and I'm starting to think it's not just the milk I still produce.

And sometimes when we're driving I share her origin story with her.  It's something that I think will improve with practice.  We want - no really *I* want for this story to be, well, a nothingburger in her life.  The matter of fact hand of her genetics, not some scandalous revelation, or the topic of a very very special episode of family conversation.  My eggs were damaged.  I was fortunate to be donated some good ones.  We made a baby.  A baby that is biologically mine, even if genetically she isn't.

Niblet has good days and bad days, though mostly good.  She is starting to allow herself to be charmed by this tiny blob with big blue eyes, rather than feel threatened by her. She's protective of her in ways that make our nanny both smile and sigh, but we are all generally still feeling the endorphin rush of "THIS BABY IS REALLY HERE"

But maybe it's the still not sleeping through the night, maybe it's the times we live in, maybe it's the climate report of doom, maybe it's the family stress where parents are getting sick while Viking in I are like gerbils running on a wheel.... I'm spent.  And I feel guilty for saying that, like survivor's guilt.

I watched the movie "Private Life" with Paul Giamatti and Katherine Hahn, and OMG I was a fucking wreck afterwards.  The pain of that infertile couple was too real, it all hit too close to home, and when I was done I realized just how lucky I was to have Samantha - and Niblet - in my life.

What have I done to be so fortunate?  How will I ever be able to give my due to the universe for doing me such a monumental solid?  I mean sure, raising empathic children who aren't sociopaths is a good start....

Monday, October 15, 2018

I see you

So the thing is, the little spirit that was haunting me for so many many years is with us now, I believe that.  I look at her big blue eyes and she looks back at me, and I truly believe that we both are just like, "gee, it's you.  I'm so glad to see that it's you."

But for the mamas out there who are still reading my words, who are still in the thick of their grief and their hell - because it is indeed hell - I see you.  I wear my eight stacking rings religiously these days, not because I am worried I will forget.... I will never forget.  But they are comforting in a way, a tactile reminder of that hell.  When I'm stressed and worried I fiddle with them - in staff meetings and other venues - and tell myself that I can breathe and put one foot in front of the other.  I can plaster a smile on my face and continue on.

Today the smile is real, because she is alive.  She made it to me. She is healthy and she is like pure light.  But the pain is merely dulled.  So many years lost.  So many babies. 

I see you out there. I am crying with you too.  I am holding you in the light with so much love and so much hope for you.


Friday, October 12, 2018


I recently commented on a BBC birth board, offering virtual hugs and hope to a woman who just miscarried.  She was blaming herself and I offered the 1 in 4 statistic. And yes, I noted that I refused to blame myself for my eight losses.

She replied and asked how I kept going.

I kept going because I truly believed that the spirit of the baby I was trying to have was haunting me.

I always worry that framing my perseverance this way makes me out to be a loon, but sometimes vocabulary fails us, and honestly, it's the most accurate way I can get my point across.

There's a movie out on Netflix now called "Private Life" and by all reports it's a horrifyingly accurate portrayal of a couple in their forties trying to have a baby, ultimately exploring donor eggs and adoption.  The reviews of it on various support boards have all been positive so....

I downloaded it last night and wanted to check out a few minutes of it.  The opening scene has Paul Giamatti stabbing Katherine Hahn in the ass with what is supposed to be a progesterone needle.  Everything about the staging, her position on the bed, his apology for hitting a nerve, the bad of frozen peas, every fucking thing about the first four minutes of this movie told me I need to get in the proper headspace to watch it.  It was TOO real.  Not that I watch much these days, because S is only sleeping in 3 hours stretches at night right now.

I'll try to watch it this weekend and post a review, but keep in mind my inlaws are staying over this weekend, so watching a movie from start to finish is sort of aspirational.  I gave Viking the heads up that he might want to see it with me, he loves Paul Giamatti.  But I am also worried about being a crying mess from it.