Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

I have to admit, Halloween has never been a favorite holiday of mine.  I have a lot of bad childhood memories of the day (not worth rehashing; suffice it to say, one example is that my mom rarely let me wear the costumes I wanted and usually went a cheap route which resulted in my feeling uncomfortable and/or being teased by other children), and we got candy regularly from my grandmother during our childhood, so that part of the day didn't make it special for us. 

As an adult, I've rarely dressed up because I lack creativity.  I don't particularly like horror movies.  I don't enjoy decorating for any holiday, and Halloween is no exception.

MM, on the other hand, loves Halloween.  It's his favorite holiday.  So I've tried to make a bit more of an effort to get into the spirit of the holiday since we've been together.  I've dressed up two of the past four Halloweens (once as a "naughty nurse" and last year when I was pregnant, we went to a costume party dressed as Mary and Joseph).  I've carved pumpkins and bought a ghoul for the front walk.

Time will tell whether AJ & MJ love the holiday as much as their dad.  For this year, they will be dressed in their skeleton costumes to help us hand out candy to the neighborhood children, and their grandma and grandpa will be coming up to see them (and take photos of them in costume, no doubt).

Trick or treat.  Stay safe out there.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

The photos I am seeing of Manhattan and Hoboken, NJ--places I visited just a few years ago--are just unbelievable.  I hope that anyone who reads this blog who lives in the areas affected by this hurricane stays safe.

For today, I am grateful that I live in a part of the country where hurricanes don't hit.  It was 89 degrees and sunny here yesterday and promises to be the same today.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pumpkin patch

I wanted to get photos of our sons picking out their first pumpkins, but when we headed to the nearest pumpkin patch today, we had limited time and did not want to fight the large crowd we saw there.  (Good plan, waiting until the Sunday before Halloween to go.)  So instead, we stopped at a nearby church we'd passed on the way to the pumpkin patch that had a small bazaar going on and pumpkins for sale.

Things did not go as well as we had hoped.  Our sons had fallen asleep in the car--even though it wasn't their usual nap time--and they weren't into the whole scene and starting crying after a few seconds when we put them down near the pumpkins for photos. 

They were OK for a few minutes while MM snapped a few pictures of me holding them in my arms

But when MM took them over for photos with them, MJ promptly spit up all over his adorable Gymb.oree shirt, and both boys started crying.  We decided to quickly pick two small pumpkins for them and finish our photo taking in the park near our house.  That didn't work well either.

Oh well.  I am grateful for great weather here--particularly as over half the country is having storms--and grateful to have children to buy pumpkins for, even if they don't exactly love the pumpkins.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Did I jinx myself?

I'm wondering if maybe I shouldn't have written my post on gratitude.  Since I put up yesterday's post, I have had a lot of negative crap happen!  My father and my sister got into a huge fight on the phone, which led to calls from her yesterday and from him this morning where I got to hear about it from both sides.  My husband's car battery died twice yesterday, which meant he got home from work much later than usual, leaving me alone with the boys during their fussy period longer than usual.  (AJ had a meltdown at one point, and I must've removed them from the dog's water bowl at least 10 times while I was making their bedtime bottles before I finally gave up and put them in their play pens.)

Opposing counsel in one of my cases pulled a real d!ck move and filed a motion for something we had already discussed and that we had already agreed our firm would take care of without the necessity of such a motion.  Of course, the motion was filed at the end of the day, when I had already left the office, so I had to respond to emails from the partner on the case about what was going on while I was trying to feed the boys dinner.  I still have to straighten this out today.  Also, this has happened right at the outset of this case, which makes me dread having to work with this attorney on the other side for the next several months/couple of years.

MJ woke me at 5:15 this morning, which led to my being irritable.  (Nothing like being awakened in the dark 30 minutes before your alarm goes off to start the day on the wrong foot!)  MM didn't want to get up and take care of MJ when he was up for the day at 6:15 because he was "tired," which made me mad.  And he let MJ cry in his play pen while I was in the shower for so long and to such a point of distress that I jumped out of the shower dripping wet to find out what was wrong. . . right as he finally addressed the situation.  And then he "didn't hear" AJ fussing in his crib to be gotten up.  All these things led to my having a fight with MM this morning before leaving for work.

And I can't find my Gymbucks for the January redemption period (yes, I know I won't need them for three months), and I'm afraid I threw some of them away.  (You'd think I'd be able to just forget about this one, especially in light of everything else going on, but for some reason, I can't seem to.)  I was planning to use those to buy the boys' holiday clothes for next Christmas when they are on clearance in January.

Well, in spite of all this, I am grateful for having my job.  I may have to deal with annoying attorneys, and it's not my favorite place to be. . . but it pays the bills, and it gives me somewhere to go every day.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A month of gratitude

My posting here has been sporadic since my sons were born in January, which is to be expected.  I have far less free time these days than at any other time in my life.

I have found, though, that I enjoy writing here.  It's therapeutic for me, in a way, just to get my thoughts and feelings out on "paper," and when I get comments, that can be therapeutic as well.  So I want to get back to writing here more regularly.  Most of my posts are quick and dirty, rather than taking me hours to write and edit, so the time commitment really won't be that much.

I thought one good way to get back into the habit of posting regularly would be to do a daily post of things for which I'm grateful, and what better month than November, when we celebrate Thanksgiving Day here in the U.S., to do that?  I've done similar things before on this blog (one example here), but it's been a while, and I do believe in the positive effects of gratitude on mood and mental outlook.

When I was in my late 20s, single and childless, I actually managed to keep a gratitude journal for most of a whole year.  I still have it, and when I've looked backed on the things I've written, I smile.  I think it's always a good thing to pause and reflect on the things for which I am grateful on a daily basis.  Not just the big and obvious things, like my sons or good health, but the little things that happen in the course of going about living life.

Would anyone care to join me in this endeavor?  I would love to read your posts on this topic as well as sharing the things for which I'm grateful each day.

It's not November yet, but I'll go ahead and share something that happened to me for which I'm grateful.  I had a dental appointment this morning--just a routine cleaning--and on my way to the office, I stopped by the Star$$ drive-thru for my daily morning caffeine fix.  As I was pulling up to the lane for the drive-thru window, another car was pulling up around the same time.  The other driver was a little more assertive than I and pulled into the lane in front of me, although if we'd both maintained the same speed we'd been driving as we'd entered the parking lot, I would've been ahead of her in line.  No big deal, I just shrugged it off.  (I don't usually sweat that kind of small stuff; road rage isn't one of my problems.)

When I reached the window to pick up my caffe mocha, the barista told me that the woman ahead of me had paid for my coffee "because she cut you off."  Wasn't that a nice thing for her to do?  So I was grateful for saving the $4.50(!) I'd been prepared to pay for my morning coffee.

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Trading Places

This post is on a topic suggested by PAIL bloggers related to Keiko and Pamela's "To Mom or Not to Mom" 5-day open salon.

Because our journey to using DE IVF was a long and winding one, I have actually contemplated some of these questions before.  There were periods during our 3+ years TTC when I thought living the rest of my life without ever being a parent would be my reality.

What would it be like for you to have made the decision not to parent? 

MM and I joked a few times during our years TTC that if we never had children, we would just go on a two-week vacation to Europe every other year instead.  Although these comments were made in jest, they were also, to a degree, serious.  We both realized that if we never had children we would have more money, time and freedom for things like travel than we would have should we become parents.

For me, at least, had we made the difficult decision not to parent, I suspect my life would've continued on in much the same way it had for many years. . . working full time in a demanding profession, spending lots of time with friends, volunteering for various causes, reading lots of books (both fiction and non-fiction), lavishing attention and affection on my nephew, my friends' children and my dogs in lieu of having children of my own for whom I could do this. . . and yes, traveling to places I've longed to visit for years.

I know firsthand that the life I just described has its pleasures and its rewards because I lived a version of it for most of my adulthood.  I spent many years creating that life for myself.  At the same time, although it hasn't always been obvious due to the other choices I've made in my life, both personally and professionally, being a mother has been the desire of my heart for as long as I can remember.  

During a brief period a few months before our DE IVF cycle, MM had second thoughts about doing a DE IVF cycle because of the expense involved.  While we were in this limbo, it wasn't clear if there was any other way that I could/would become a mother.  At a counseling session during that period which I wrote about here, NC asked me how I felt about never being a mother, and I said "When I'm on my deathbed--which I hope won't be until I'm at least 75--I know I will regret it if I was never a mother" and uncharacteristically burst into tears.

Those words are some of the truest I've ever spoken.  If I hadn't had the opportunity to be a mother, I truly feel that I would've looked back on my life with regret and that all the other things I've experienced and accomplished would've meant little to me.  I know many women find a great deal of fulfillment and satisfaction in work, marriage, volunteering and other things--I'm friends with a few people who are either childless by choice or who never had children due to circumstance and have still lived happy lives--so I don't think that children are necessary to a woman's fulfillment.  But for me, even before having children, I suspected that there was nothing else that would bring me greater joy.

Now that I am a mother, I am even more certain of the truth of my words at that session.  It's difficult for me to even put into words what being a mother to my sons has meant to me, and when I think about the possibility that I might never have had this experience, just the thought makes me unspeakably sad.

Having said all that about myself, let me add this: I think that making that difficult decision is the right one for some people, and I applaud them for their strength in being able to make the choice.

What would it have taken for you to come to that place?

I was close to it more than once.  I think I would've had to go through a lot more counseling to come to terms with that loss, and I'm not sure I would've ever felt 100% OK about it.
How do you think you would feel about parenting if you had never experienced infertility or loss?

I think that, having waited so long to become a mother, I would've still been more than usually appreciative of the experience, but I do think that having gone through such a struggle to have my sons makes me more mindful of the great gift it is to have them in my life and makes me reflect more often on my gratitude at having the opportunity to be their mother.

What other aspects of your parenting journey could you see playing out differently in an alternate universe?

I do still sometimes fantasize about how different our lives would be had we conceived on our own.  We could have a 3-year-old by now if I'd gotten pregnant within our first few months of TTC.  We could have a 2-year-old if my miscarriage in August 2009 hadn't happened.  In either scenario, we'd have a lot more money in the bank because we wouldn't have paid for fertility testing and treatment, and we likely would've only had one child, so our current costs would be lower as well.

I am not sure I can fully visualize a life in which I never had children at all through any means, though.  Whether by birth or adoption, I do feel that being a mother is something I was meant to do.

How has the specific path to parenting that you have taken changed who you are as a person (or do you feel it hasn’t)?

Wow, heavy question.  I think that all we have gone through to get to this point has certainly made me more appreciative of the parenting experience and more eager to drink in every moment of my sons' babyhood: their growth and development, their emerging personalities, even the drudgery of bottles and diapers and laundry.  But I think that would be true of anyone who'd experienced infertility and/or loss.

Having used DE, I think I am much more aware than the average person of various alternative paths to parenthood, certainly much more aware of this than I was before we used DE.  Also, I hope that doing something like this which is still outside the norm has made me more open-minded.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Bullet Tuesday

No time for a real post, although I have a few percolating in my head, particularly after my session with NC this past weekend.  Soon, I hope. . . .
  • The boys turned 9 months old last Friday.  They have now been alive outside of my body longer than they were ever inside my body.  Crazy!  They are crawling everywhere and pulling up to stand, and AJ is trying to climb on everything: Daddy, the dog, the furniture.  He has become quite a daredevil!  MJ has always been very physical, but we've been surprised at these recent developments with AJ.
  • MJ says Mama pretty often now and usually seems to be directing it at me. It's very sweet.  (I try to get AJ to say it, too, but he just smiles and laughs.)
  • It's funny how, not long after posting about feeling stressed, I read some similar posts by other new-mom bloggers.  It seems I am not alone in feeling overwhelmed by new parenthood.
  • After feeling so good about our progress with MJ on the Ferber method, we've had both babies awake before 5 a.m. the past two nights in a row.  Not good.  Mama needs her sleep!
  • The weather here is FINALLY cool enough to take the boys places during the day!  We went for a long walk last Saturday morning with my friend J and her baby girl and are planning to do it again this coming Sunday.  We are meeting another twin mom (who I have yet to meet in real life) at the zoo a week from Saturday.  We are having our outdoor family photo shoot the same day.  I love fall in Arizona!
  • I am so glad the last presidential debate is over, and I am counting the days until the election.  I don't care to talk politics on this blog, and my own affiliation really doesn't matter.  Either way, I am tired of MM's obsession with CNN and all my friends' posts on about their respective candidates.
  • How did I miss that Justin Timberlake got married? I think I vaguely remember hearing that he and Jessica Biel were back together, but not sure I knew they were engaged and definitely didn't know they are now married. Hmm.
  • I am actually managing to read a little at bedtime each night!  This development is huge for me, as reading has long been one of my greatest pleasures, and it's something I've done very little since getting pregnant and having my sons.
Happy Tuesday!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Update on Ferberizing

First off, let me say thank you to those of you who commented on my last post.  It does help a little to know that I am not alone in feeling this way.  Knowing I'm not alone hasn't helped me to "snap out" of my mood, but at least I feel more normal and less like I'm the only loser who can't seem to handle all of this stress with a smile on my face and a cheery mood.

I was pleasantly surprised, too, at the number of moms who commented that they had also used some method of sleep training, and I wanted to follow up on that post.  Feeling that there was "no time like the present," MM and I decided to start "Ferberizing" MJ on Monday night.  (Aside: every time I read or hear the term Ferberizing, it makes me think of Little Jack in the movie Meet The Fockers.)

I agreed to take the first night because MM is home with the boys all day on Mondays.  Between caring for them and fitting in the work he can during the hours they sleep, Mondays are a long day for him.  It didn't seem fair to set him up for (potentially) a long, sleepless night on top of that.

MJ went to sleep not long after 8 p.m. and awoke the first time about 10:45.  Following the method set forth in Dr. Ferber's book, I immediately went in to make sure he wasn't hungry, wet, dirty or in pain or distress.  Finding that he didn't, strictly speaking, need anything, I gave MJ his pacifier, rubbed his back for about 10 seconds, and then left the room, returning at the intervals set forth in the book.

I'm not gonna lie: it was very hard.  I hated hearing MJ cry and seeing his little red, tear-soaked face when I went in to check on him at the prescribed intervals.  Another hard part was when he'd see me come in and would stretch his little arms up for me to lift him out of the crib.  Heartbreaking.

But I stuck to my guns, and after a little over 30 minutes of crying--with checks at intervals--he stopped crying and went to sleep, poor lamb.  (Surprisingly, AJ, who was sleeping in his crib adjacent to MJ's in the same room, never once woke up during this whole period of time.)

MJ only woke once more, around 5:20 a.m., and this time he went back to sleep in less than three minutes.  Decent first night.

Tuesday night was MM's turn.  MJ went down around 8 and slept straight through until 4:45 a.m.  MM said he checked on him at that time, gave him his pacifier and rubbed his back for a few seconds, and he was back asleep in less than a minute and slept until after 7:30.  (Probably tired out from the night before, I'd guess.)

Last night MJ went down a little after 8 and woke around 10:45.  This time he only cried for a little over five minutes before going back to sleep.  He woke once more just after 5, and after being resettled and given his pacifier, was back to sleep in less than a minute.  He then slept until 6:15, when both he and AJ were up for the day.

Tonight will be MM's night again, and we will see how MJ does.  Our pediatrician said that the majority of children are "sleep trained" in 3-5 days using this method, so I am optimistic that we are through the worst of this.

Meanwhile, AJ has only woken once briefly in the past three nights due to his pacifier having fallen out of his crib.  We have not had to change anything in regard to AJ but have been putting him down drowsy (instead of fully asleep) as the book recommends, just to be on the safe side.

Sorry for the boring post.  I guess I've written this more to aid my memory in the future than because it's really of much interest to anyone reading.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


(WARNING:  feelings about children and parenthood discussed.  If that is something you don't feel like reading at the present time, feel free to click away.)

I returned to work full time when my sons were 10 weeks old (just over 4 weeks adjusted age, since they were 34-week preemies).  My doing so was not entirely due to my own free choice: all things being equal, I would have preferred to take a longer maternity leave.  However, my employer would only permit me to take a total of 12 weeks of FMLA leave, and I was on bedrest for two weeks prior to delivery.   (This even though my leave was entirely unpaid and it would have cost them nothing to allow me additional time off, but that's a topic for another post.)

Even if my employer had been amenable to granting me additional (unpaid) time off, our financial situation would not have permitted it.  Between the cost of our DE IVF cycle and our other financial commitments, we simply did not have enough money saved to replace my income for any extended period of time.

(Yes, here is the opportunity for any of my non-U.S. readers to feel gratitude for the more favorable family leave policies in your countries.  My Irish cousins were appalled to learn that employers here in the U.S. are only required to grant 12 weeks[!] of unpaid [!] leave to new mothers.)

We were fortunate in that MM was able to take a full 12 weeks of paid leave through his (government) employer, due to the fact that he has been in his same job for nearly fifteen years and had a lot of sick leave and vacation time stored up.  (He has flexible scheduling, and so he rarely takes a sick day, preferring to make up the hours later in a pay period on the rare occasions when he is sick enough to miss work.)  It was nice that our boys had at least one parent home taking care of them until they were about five-and-a-half months old.

We have been fortunate again in that the nanny we chose for our children has worked out well.  "L" has been with us for just over three months now, and she seems to have genuine affection for the boys and to handle taking care of them very well.  They clearly like her as well, as evidenced by their interactions with her.

So although I was not thrilled to return to my full-time job 10 weeks after giving birth, I do not feel that our sons have suffered for it.  They have been well cared-for, first by my husband and then by L, at all times since I returned to work.  I know that my working is likely much harder on me than it is on them.

When I first came back to work, although it was an adjustment, I honestly felt that I was handling things OK.  Yes, I was a little tired at times, but who wouldn't be, with two young babies at home.  My mood overall was good-to-excellent most of the time, sleep deprivation notwithstanding.

That changed not too long after MM returned to work full time.  I started feeling more anxious and overwhelmed.  Nowadays, three months later, my anxiety waxes and wanes, but it never totally goes away.  In addition to feeling anxious a lot of the time--something that is not usual for me--I also feel down at times, when I really have no good reason to feel down.

Don't get me wrong: I adore my boys, and I love being their mother.  There isn't a day, an hour even, that I regret having them or second-guess the lengths to which we went to become parents.  Being with them makes me happy in a way I never knew I could be. 

It's not my sons themselves but all the life changes and stress that have come with them that I am finding hard to handle.  Anyone who tells you that becoming a parent is not life-changing and stressful is either not being truthful or is in the minority (like people who say "no matter what I eat, I can never gain weight").  Becoming a parent to two babies at once is even more challenging.

A friend and I were talking about the stressors she has had in her life over the past few years, which led me to direct her to the Holmes-Rahe Scale Life Stress Scale.  (There are several interactive online tools for this; here is a link to one.)  She and I were not surprised to learn that her total score was close to 300, a level correlated with an increased risk of stress-related illness.  Some of the possible stress-related illnesses it talks about are headache, diabetes, fatigue, hypertension, chest and back pain, ulcers, infectious diseases, etc.

What did surprise me was when I decided to score myself on this same scale, just out of curiosity.  Where my friend, who was feeling stressed to her limits and unable to cope and considering asking her doctor to prescribe an anti-depressant for her, had scored around 295, my score was 347.  The test states that a score of over 300 points "indicates a major life crisis and is highly predictive (80%) of serious physical illness within the next two years." 

(For comparison's sake, I'd note that just a normal, uncomplicated pregnancy and delivery and adjustment to new parenthood would probably yield a score of 201, which is correlated with a moderate life crisis and a 50%increase in risk of stress-related illness.)

Um, yeah.  So I guess it's not unreasonable that I feel stressed.

Although MM has always had lots of anxiety himself, he never accepts it when I tell him that I don't know why I am anxious or feel down.  He always says "there has to be a reason."  So I wrack my brain to try to figure out why, and apart from feeling tired sometimes and being discontent at work, I can never really come up with one.  And neither of those reasons seems to me to be an adequate explanation for the anxiety I have been feeling.

In addition to wanting to be happy and feel peaceful for my own sake, I never want my moods to adversely affect my sons or my interactions with them.  So far, I have mostly been able to put these negative feelings aside when I am with them--the fact that they are so cute and sweet and so entertaining and fun helps a lot--but I am concerned that if I don't address this issue, I won't continue to be able to.

Also, I find myself irritable much more often than I think I should be, and I take it out on MM more often than anyone.  I realize that my reactions to the things he does that annoy me are often disproportionate, and excessive when I compare them to how we interacted pre-parenthood, but I have a hard time controlling them.  (I better be careful: divorce scores 73 points on the stress scale, more than anything else but the death of a spouse.)

One seemingly simple solution would seem to be to change my work situation, but where I normally do not shy away from a job search, just the thought of adding that task to my already-over-full to-do list makes me feel physically sick.  And looking at the whole picture, I'm not even sure that a change to a more meaningful job would solve the problem, at least in the short term.  In fact, I think a job search and a job change would just add to my stress.

I honestly don't know what the solution is.  But I am going back to see NC, the counselor who helped me when I was coming to terms with DE, this weekend to see if she can help me figure it out.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Ferber method

(Today's post is about children/parenting.  If that's something you don't wish to read about today, feel free to click away.  Hope to see you again soon.)

I wrote here about the troubles we've had with MJ waking up at night for the past few weeks.  At our boys' 9-month well-check today, our (very experienced, well-respected) pediatrician strongly suggested that the best way to address this would be the Ferber method.  (If you don't know what the Ferber method is, wikipedia provides an explanation here.)  He assures us that a recent longitudinal study found no detrimental effect on mental or physical health in 12-year-olds whose parents had employed a "cry it out" method of sleep training.

I want to get honest input from moms who've had difficulty getting babies over 6 months of age to sleep through the night.  Did you use the Ferber method?  If not, what method did you use, if any? 

I do believe that sleep is very important to infants' growth and development.  I also know that it's not healthy for me to be constantly sleep-deprived. . . but I would never put my own needs before my boys' needs, even if it meant losing sleep.

I don't wish to influence the comments I'll get, so I will simply say that, in our household, one of us is in favor of the Ferber method and the other is not fully on board and let you figure out who is who.  :-)

Thank you in advance for your input!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Best children's clothing

On a related note to my last post about my recent shopping spree at my MOMs group's semi-annual consignment sale, I wanted to ask what brands of children's clothing my mom readers think are the best quality.  Up until now, our sons have grown quickly enough that wear-and-tear on their clothes has only been issue insofar as I might've wanted to pass on an item to someone else.  But now that they are crawling and pulling up, it won't be long before they are walking and running and making more messes.

Gap and Gymboree both seem to be highly rated for wearing well.  Do you agree?  What other brands would you recommend as durable and long-lasting?

An acquaintance of mine also mentioned that she buys mostly European brands of clothing for her children because she finds them to be of better quality, but I was distracted and didn't get to ask her what brands.  Does anyone else buy non-U.S. brands for their kids' clothing?


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I've become a bargain shopper

Throughout my life, I've found that, in many ways, I'm not a typical female.  One of those ways is that I don't really enjoy shopping.  To me, shopping isn't a recreational activity, so I don't ever do it for fun or "just to look."  When I do go shopping, I actually need something and usually something pretty specific.  So basically I generally shop like a man.

Many is the time while shopping that I have lamented the fact that I'm not a man.  MM can walk into a J Crew, Gap or Banana Republic store any time of year, any day of the week, and buy the basics he needs: solid-colored T-shirts, jeans, khakis, polo shirts, collared-shirts for work.  And most of the time, he doesn't have to try them on to know that they will fit: he just picks up his size and walks it up to the register.

And the clothes he wants will usually be available in the colors he wants, too. . . basic black, white, gray, navy and other blues. . . subtle plaid or striped patterns.  And those colors aren't going to change much from year to year or from season to season.

As any woman reading knows, the same cannot be said of shopping for women's clothing.  Unless you are buying a piece of clothing that you know is identical to another item you already own from the same store, you will certainly have to try the item on to ensure that it fits and hangs properly.  And your size will likely be different in each brand you try on.  Certain basics can be hard to find, and depending on what is "in" that season, you may or may not be able to find your desired color.  (Example: currently, the shade of blue many people call "royal" or "peacock"--my favorite color and one of the more flattering colors on me--is popular, and I am seeing it in stores everywhere.  But four years ago at this time, when I was trying to find a single shirt or sweater in that color to wear for our engagement photo session, it was nowhere to be found.  All I could find for blues were navy or a deep turquoise.  I ended up having to wear purple.)

Those are the reasons I don't like to shop.  Completely unrelated to money: I'd feel the same way if I were walking into a store with a blank check or if I were given $5,000 to spend ala What Not to Wear.  Enough with my anti-shopping talk. . . this is just to provide the backdrop for my new love of bargain shopping under certain circumstances.

Since our boys were born, and even before, I have been (understandably, I think) tempted by many sales at Gap, Gymboree, Carter's, The Children's Place and other stores.  Let's be honest, baby clothes are pretty cute.  (Girl clothes are cuter, but there are some cute boy clothes in these stores, too.)  I think the regular prices at the stores I've mentioned, particularly Gap and Gymboree, are too high (really, Gap?  $24.99 for a pair of khakis or jeans my sons will wear for a few months?), but I just love their clothes.

The typical fear-of-an-infertile kept me from buying too many things for our sons early in my pregnancy, save a few notable exceptions, and once I had my shower at 21 or 22 weeks (can't quite remember which), we had received so many clothes from generous friends and family that there was no real need to buy anything more than some plain white onesies and side-snap shirts for them.  Also, in addition to gifts, two friends gave me lots of hand-me-downs that were still in good-to-excellent condition in sizes from newborn to 2T, so even after we passed out of the little baby phase for which most everyone receives plenty of gifts, we still had enough clothes not to need to buy more.

Of course, just because our sons didn't (and don't) NEED clothes doesn't mean that I don't WANT to shop for them!  I've found that I actually LOVE shopping when it doesn't involve trying to find appropriate, well-fitting clothes for myself and instead involves finding adorable clothes for my babies (and others) who don't worry about things like muffin top or visible panty lines.

Money is tight in our household these days.  I don't want to "cry poor" because we are certainly doing just fine and are probably much better off financially than a majority of people in this country, but no one can go from being DINKs to a family of four without feeling the pinch.  Our biggest new expense is our nanny, and she is worth every penny. . . but it's a strain on any budget to pay $2000 a month for child care.  Add in the medical bills I wrote about in this post and the other unexpected expenses that come up for any of us (I lost a crown off a tooth; things are wearing out on my 7-year-old car), and there isn't a lot of extra spending money floating around for buying clothes our sons don't need just because I think they are super-cute.

So while I have WANTED to buy things for my sons, I have mostly resisted the impulse.  I stop myself by thinking about the fact that they don't know what they're wearing (and probably wouldn't care even if they did), and that I'm doing them much more good in the long run by having our financial house in order so that we can pay for things like preschool, sports and other activities, and college down the road.

I am fortunate that I have now found a way to buy our sons the name-brand clothes I love, and the baby gear I want, without breaking the bank: my Mothers of Multiples ("MOMs") group's semi-annual consignment sale!  I've shopped kids' consignment stores over the years, both for my sons and for a little girl in foster care for whom I was an advocate for several years, and the prices there don't even come close to the ones at this sale.

I don't generally buy used clothing for myself, but babies and toddlers wear their clothes for such a short time that it's unusual for them to wear them out.  And I find that many of the items at this sale appear to have never been worn.  Now, having my own babies, I can see why: it's entirely possible that they were a gift that was the wrong season or size or that the baby had a growth spurt and only wore the item once or twice or for a special occasion.

Because I've always shopped out of necessity, I've never really experienced the "rush" people talk about when they get a bargain before now.  I don't coupon, and I don't usually shop sales unless it's by accident.

I have to admit, even if the items I bought Saturday at the sale hadn't been things that I know my sons will wear and use, I'd have been hard-pressed to pass them up at those prices!  And I was really excited about the items I bought and about getting such great deals! I was browsing the local kids' consignment store the afternoon of the sale when I stopped to drop off an item for sale, and I found some items very similar to the ones I'd bought--some of which were not even in as good a condition--for three or four times the price I paid for mine.

At the MOMs sale, sellers are permitted to shop first, before regular, non-seller members or the general public, so we get the best selection.  That was the primary reason I agreed to sell, as it's a big time commitment and didn't really earn me a lot of money, comparatively speaking: I wanted to be the first to snap up any suitable double stroller that was sold, and I knew there wouldn't be many.  I figured anything I made from selling my stuff would be just an extra added bonus.

The main item I wanted to buy, the double stroller, would be a side-by-side model that would be suitable for jogging as well as for every day use.  (No, I don't jog, but MM does, and I'd like to have the option in the future if I ever follow through on my intention to get back in shape.  We also have quite a few nearby walking paths that are gravel/dirt vs. pavement, making a stroller that would only roll well on sidewalks or indoors impractical.)  I researched the reviews of various double strollers online, and I narrowed it down to four possible choices:  the Mountain Buggy Duet (retails for around $600); the Baby Jogger City Mini Double (retails for around $400); the Indie Bumbleride (retails for around $675); and the BOB Revolution Duallie (retails for around $500).

According to the reviews, all of these strollers are comfortable, versatile, durable, easy to steer and push, narrow enough to fit through most standard doorways, simple to fold and unfold, and can hold children up to 50-55 lbs each.  So, in theory, were I to buy any of them, it should be the only stroller I'll have to buy, as our sons will be too big for strollers in general by the time they're too big for this one.

As you can see from the prices I've included, they are also all quite expensive!  I've shopped around on the internet for the past few months periodically, and I rarely saw any of them for under $400, even on sale.  Even though it's an item that I plan to use a lot and for a long-ish period of time, I was reluctant to pay that much for a stroller.

At the sale, I was able to buy a used 2009 BOB Revolution Duallie for $180!  It had a flat back tire (it uses standard bicycle tires), and I ended up replacing both back tires and tubes with upgraded tires, to be on the safe side. . . but even with that extra expenditure, the stroller only cost me $250!  I couldn't be happier about it!

As it turned out, there were only two other strollers of my four preferred models besides the one I bought, a Mountain Buggy Duet and another BOB Revolution, and both were priced over $400.  So it's a good thing I participated as a seller, or I think it's very likely someone else would've bought the stroller I took home.  (Neither of the higher-priced strollers sold; I was there when the sale ended and saw their sellers taking them back.)

(Now if the daytime highs would just get under 90 here so I can actually use the stroller. . . OK, complaints about the Phoenix weather are pointless and a topic for another post.)

As I mentioned in a previous post, I sold enough of my items and clothing to cover the cost of the stroller I bought (though not the additional cost of replacing the tires/tubes).  So I was happy about that.  And what I didn't sell I designated to be donated to charity, so I didn't have to take any of it back to my house (which, up until this past weekend, looked a lot like a kids' consignment store inside).  Hooray for space!

I also shopped the toddler boys' clothes to round out what we needed in the 12-month, 18-month, and 2T sizes and got some great bargains there as well.  I had a few specific items in mind that I wanted, but I also wanted to see if I saw things that were cute and a good deal.

As it turned out, there were SO many cute clothes for boys in those sizes, most priced quite low, that I had to set myself some parameters or I'd have gone home with way too many things.  So I decided I would only consider an item if it was (1) Gap or Gymboree (I love their clothes, and they wear well), or Ralph Lauren or another high-end brand that I know would have a good resale value in case the boys didn't wear it much, or a brand I recognize and would usually buy and (2) priced below $3.

Even with those parameters in place to limit me, I ended up bringing home a lot of clothes.  I bought 49 items for my sons, and I only spent $68 for all those clothes!  All in good to excellent condition!

I also bought several nice Gap and Ralph Lauren shirts for my godson in 4T (and if he doesn't wear them out, they will eventually be passed back to us), two adorable shirts for his sister, and several outfits for my friend Jay's baby girl, as well as some gently-used baby gear a coworker asked me to get for her soon-to-be-arriving twin grandchildren.  (I got the baby gear--two bouncers and a boppy--for only $34 total.)

Here's a shot of all the shirts, sweaters and pajamas I bought them:

(I thought this shot would be somewhat reminiscent of the pictures people post of their IVF meds at the start of a cycle.)

Here are all the pants and jeans. . . among them two pairs of Gap and one each of Ralph Lauren and Levi's:

We seldom dress the boys alike--for one thing, they are fraternal, not identical--but it's fun to do it once in a while.  I bought them these two matching Gymboree rugby shirts:

I have seen shirts comparable to these ones for sale at Gymboree for $25-30, maybe $15-20 on sale.  These two shirts are like new--they literally look and feel like someone cut off the tags and washed them but the kids never wore them--and they cost me $2 each.

Here are two more matching Gymboree shirts:

These are also in like-new condition.  Cute!

Here is a shot of the rest of my Gymboree haul, minus a pair of Christmas overalls in 6-12-month size that are currently in the dresser in the nursery where my sons are sleeping:

I may have mentioned before that our nursery has a monkeys theme.  While the nursery theme was MM's idea, I like monkeys and enjoy dressing the boys in monkey-themed clothing.  (My BFF jokes that they will either love or hate monkeys when they are older as a result.)  I bought the two of them the most adorable matching shirts for their birthday from Gymboree, primarily because when I saw that the "I am 1" shirts had a monkey on them, it felt like they were destined to wear them.  (BTW, I bought the shirts on sale, 40% off.)

Take a look at these adorable outfits.  They are Carter's brand, so not as much of a "steal" at $1.50 and $2.00 each as the Gymboree clothes, but hey!  They have monkeys!

Given that the sale had been open to members for five hours and to the general public for three hours by the time I returned for my volunteer shift, I didn't expect to find too many more things I'd want to buy. I was wrong.  I found all these Ralph Lauren items, plus a pair of Ralph Lauren jeans I forgot to include in this photo:

Among other things, I found this Ralph Lauren sweater in 2T that looks like it was never even worn.  It was originally priced for the sale at $2.50, but had been discounted 50% when I bought it, so I got it for $1.25!  I checked the Ralph Lauren website, and similar sweaters sell for around $75!

I also bought this sweater for $.75 (reduced from $1.50):

I had never heard of the brand (Red Zebra), but I thought it was cute, and at 75 cents, if they wear it even once, I will have gotten my money's worth out of it.

In addition to the stroller and the clothes, I found a Star Wars backpack personalized with AJ's first name (I only call them AJ & MJ here; in real life, I call them by their first names) and an identical backpack without personalization for MJ!  (Fortunately, my MIL knows a woman who can embroider the second backpack with MJ's name to match the first.)

As I was paying for my items, the mom who sold the personalized backpack saw me and said "Did you find the matching lunchbox?"  I hadn't, but I went back and found it. . . it was priced at $1.50!  The mom told me that her son never even used the backpack because after they bought it he went to a different preschool that didn't allow them.  She despaired of anyone buying it with the personalization and priced it low: $4.50.  (I checked the Pottery Barn Kids website, where these items were originally purchased, and comparable Star Wars backpacks sell for $39.50, and the lunchbox for $22.50.  Plus another $7 per item for personalization.)

The sale stocks kids' clothes and shoes in sizes up to 14, and I noticed a good selection of items at least up to 5T, so I think I will be able to continue to buy the majority of our boys' wardrobe there for a few more years.  Obviously inventory varies based on what members decide to sell, but they have been doing these sales twice a year for the past twelve years, and there are always at least 60 MOMs selling stuff, and their kids are of various ages.

I'm already looking forward to the spring sale in April. . . . 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Guess I'm not alone

(Today's post is off the topic of infertility and parenthood)

I have hinted in previous posts that I am not particularly happy in my current job.  I sometimes feel guilty for feeling discontent, for a variety of reasons longer than I care to get into here, but I continue to feel discontent nonetheless.  It is what it is.

During a short mental break this morning, I impulsively googled "how to stay motivated at a job you hate" and got over 2.6 million results.  And the first few pages of results are multiple articles that actually give practical advice on this topic.

Hmm.  Clearly I'm not the only one feeling this way about work.

It is a good thing that, unlike, say five or ten years ago, I have other things in my life from which I derive fulfillment, my sons chief among them.  Being unhappy at work when work is just about the only thing in your life is terrible.  I know, because I've been there, too.

Something's got to change, and I know that, eventually, it will.  'Til then, I've just gotta keep on keepin' on. . . back to it.

Monday, October 8, 2012

How was your weekend?

Driving in to work today, I was so, so tired.  And when I reflected on my weekend, I realized why.  Here's a recap of how I spent my weekend, from 5 p.m. Friday to 8 p.m. Sunday.

  • Went straight from work Friday evening to the site for my local MOMs group's semi-annual consignment sale to check in and stock the (8 boxes of) items I was selling.  That took about an hour.
  • Realized when I stopped to pick up a pizza when I was most of the way home that I didn't have my wallet. . . so turned around and drove back to the office (20 minutes in the opposite direction).  Fortunately, my wallet was sitting on my desk, undisturbed.  Whew!
  • Rushed home to spend some time with my sons and help MM get them ready for bed (and quickly inhaled a couple of slices of pizza while playing with them)
  • Had the boys in bed by 9, and then did the usual straightening up, mixing of formula and preparation of bottles, etc., before hitting the hay myself.
  • Woke up twice with MJ before 3:00 (back to sleep within a few minutes each time)
  • Woke on my own at 4:40 with a migraine (ugh).
  • Took Imitrex and a megadose of Advil and returned to bed.
  • Woke with MJ again at 5:20, and this time he wouldn't return to his crib or Pack n Play in the living room
  • Took MJ into bed with me until 6:15, at which time I rose for the day and MJ (miraculously) stayed asleep in his Pack n Play. (Little angel AJ slept all night, as usual, and was still sleeping when I walked out the door at 6:35.)
  • Drove the 25 minutes from my house to the MOMs sale so I could be among the first people there, in hopes of finding on of the double strollers I wanted for a good price.
  • Shopped the sale for about an hour (more on that later)
  • Drove the 25 minutes home and got there in time to play with the boys for a while and then put them down for their mid-morning nap
  • Spent the hour that the boys were napping inventorying and organizing the clothes I have for them in sizes 12-month, 18-month, 24-month/2T, and 3T.  (They currently wear 9-month size but have received quite a few hand-me-downs from my godson and from MM's supervisor's nephew.)
  • AJ & MJ woke up, ate some fruit and cereal and their bottles, got diapers changed
  • MM left for the gym, so I watched the boys solo for an hour while he was gone
  • As soon as MM returned, I once again drove the 25 minutes from my house to the MOMs sale to work my (required) "volunteer" shift
  • As things were slow during shift, ended up doing some more shopping while at the sale (I got some great deals. . . more in a separate post)
  • Ducked out of sale a little early so that I could stop at my local kids' consignment store on the way home to sell an item I forgot to list in the sale.
  • Finally ate for the first time (at 2:30!)--migraines give me nausea, and the meds aren't great for my stomach either.
  • Drove 25 minutes home
  • Played with the boys for a while
  • Took a quick shower and got dressed up
  • Packed up the boys' stuff, including bottles, etc., for two feedings and drove 45 minutes to my in-laws' house
  • Fed the boys at my in-laws' house and left for MM's birthday dinner
  • Had a nice steak dinner out with MM to celebrate his 39th birthday
  • Returned to my in-laws' to find that poor AJ had been crying almost the whole two hours we were gone (he has always struggled a little with transitions, and though they go to their grandparents' house about once a month on average and have their whole lives, it still seems new to him each visit)
  • Tried in vain to feed both boys
  • Drove the 45 minutes home (boys sleeping most of the way)
  • Tried again (unsuccessfully) to feed the boys once we got home
  • Put the boys to bed
  • Went to bed myself (long, busy day + migraine = exhausted)
  • Woke with MJ twice before 5 (back to sleep within a few minutes each time)
  • Woke at 3:30 with a bad headache (not a migraine, just a garden variety tension headache this time)
  • Took Excedrin and returned to bed
  • MJ was up at 5:50, and AJ woke just as I started giving MJ his bottle at 6:30
  • Spent the morning with the boys and MM
  • When the boys went down for a nap, did more sorting and organizing of their larger-sized clothes (including those acquired at Saturday's sale)
  • Helped MM adjust mattress height of MJ's crib (he is pulling up now)
  • Started laundry (ended up washing, drying and folding 7 loads over course of day)
  • Out for lunch and errands with MM and boys
  • Fed and entertained boys, then went to grocery store while MM stayed with them
  • Put boys down for afternoon nap
  • Snuck out to backyard to start cleaning up double stroller I bought at my MOMs sale
  • MJ woke after 25 minutes, so spent next hour playing with MJ alone in another room while AJ slept
  • Boys' dinner of bottles, veggies & fruit, and cereal
  • Boys watched Baby Einsten video while I mixed formula and prepared bottles for bedtime and for Monday
  • Played with boys and ate dinner
  • Boys took their first bath together in the big tub (up until last night, they have been bathed individually in their little baby tub in the kitchen sink)
  • Diapered, dressed and fed, boys went to sleep around 8
Whew!  My weekends are usually busy these days, but this one was exceptionally so.

On a positive note, my commute today was much shorter than usual, thanks to the Columbus Day holiday (which is near-meaningless to those of us in private practice).  And I got SO many great deals at my MOMs sale. . . so many that they are deserving of their own separate post (which I hope to have time to write later this week).  In a nutshell, I not only got the double stroller I wanted (the BOB Revolution Duallie) at a great price, I also have all the clothes I need for my sons (except pajamas and socks and shoes) until after they outgrow size 2T!  And I earned enough money at the sale to offset the purchase price of the stroller--yea!

Book Review & Giveaway: Bringing in Finn

(Full disclosure: my copy of this book was provided to me at no charge by the publisher in exchange for my writing and posting this review.)

From Seal Press September 2012 Press Release:

In February 2011, 61-year-old Kristine Casey delivered the greatest gift of all to her daughter, Sara Connell: Sara’s son, Finnean. At that moment, Kristine—the gestational carrier of Sara and her husband Bill’s child—became the oldest woman ever to give birth in Chicago.  Bringing in Finn: An Extraordinary Surrogacy Story (Seal Press / September 2012 / $24.00) tells this modern family’s remarkable—and until now, untold—surrogacy story.

After trying to conceive naturally without success, Sara and her husband Bill dedicated years to a variety of fertility treatments—but after Sara lost a third pregnancy (including the loss of twins at twenty-two weeks), they started to give up their hope. When Kristine offered to be their surrogate, they were shocked; but Kristine was clear that helping Sara become a mother felt like a calling, something she felt inspired to do. In this achingly honest memoir, Connell recounts the tragedy and heartbreak of losing pregnancies; the process of opening her heart and mind to the idea of her sixty-one-year-old mother carrying her child for her; and the profound bond that blossomed between mother and daughter as a result of their unique experience together.

Although my free time is very limited these days, I had heard about this book and was interested to read it.  So when a publicist from Seal Press contacted me through this blog and asked me to review it, I was happy to oblige.

Bringing in Finn was a quick read for me.  I found the author's writing style very readable, and although our paths through infertility were different, I could relate to her story.  It bore a resemblance to many I have read in this community, at least up to the point where her mother offers to be her gestational carrier.  (I can't recall running across a blog of anyone whose mother had carried a surrogate pregnancy for her.)  Like many of us, Sara first tried to achieve natural conception, to enhance her fertility with eastern medicine practices and then eventually moved on to timed intercourse and stims and to pursuing parenthood through IVF.  

Sara writes poignantly about the emotions she experienced as a hopeful wife just starting to try to conceive, as an infertility patient and as a mother who lost twin boys at 22 weeks gestation.  She also does a good job of telling the story of her relationship with her parents before, during and after these experiences.

I think the part I enjoyed most about the book was how the surrogate pregnancy deepened the relationship between Sara and her mother.  And I couldn't help thinking as I read how my own mother would NEVER volunteer to do something like that at age 60 (heck, at age 50!).  What an exceptional person her mother must be!

I found a few things about Sara, as related in the book, to be remarkable and unusual.  Not so much so that I believed them to be untrue; for me, they served more to highlight how, in more ways than one, her experience was outside the norm I have come to know for patients with infertility.  First, it seemed that she and her husband remained positive and grateful throughout the process, despite the losses and failures.  I know firsthand that this is hard to do, indeed, impossible for many of us.

Second, Sara talks about how her relationship with Bill, her husband, was deepened by their experiences.  I certainly think that dealing with infertility and taking an alternative path to parenthood strengthened my relationship with MM in many ways, but I know from reading blogs of others over the past few years that infertility often has the opposite effect on a marriage.

Finally, Sara is the only infertility patient I know who actually obeyed her clinic's instruction not to POAS before her first beta!  LOL!  She followed this edict so closely during her treatment cycles that she is incredulous when she finds out her mother cheated and used a HPT the morning of her first beta.  OK, I kid a little. . . there must be *some* other people who actually follow this instruction besides Sara, but they are few and far between, I'd say, at least based on my experience.  (Even I, who was never much of a one for POAS, tested before my first beta.)

As I have found to be true of most books that talk about infertility, there were minor inaccuracies.  For example, when writing about her first IVF transfer, the author at one point talks about how one or more of the embryos would be "implanted" in her uterus in less than an hour, when I believe what she actually meant to express was that the embryos would be "transferred."  (It's a minor distinction, but a crucial one to anyone who has undergone IVF.  There is no way to make embryos implant; all you can do is transfer them to the uterus and hope for the best.)

Also, when writing about her mother's pregnancy as her gestational carrier, the writer makes reference to viability, the point at which the baby can survive on its own outside the womb, as being "somewhere between thirty and thirty-five weeks."  As a former nurse and a mom of preemie twins, I know that viability is actually more often around 24-25 weeks gestation, and in fact, I know of quite a few babies born before 30 weeks who have not only survived but thrived.

Still, most of the descriptions of her experiences with treatment and with pregnancy and loss seemed accurate, and her descriptions of her thoughts and feelings through the experience ran true.

The only other question that ran through my mind as I read the book was to wonder why Sara and Bill decided to take her mother up on her offer to act as their gestational surrogate rather than Sara's attempting another pregnancy herself.  Sara seems to attribute this to her extreme anxiety and fear after the loss of twins at 22 weeks due to incompetent cervix, and I do not doubt or discount those feelings.  But I know other women who have lost babies for the same reason who have gone on to successfully carry pregnancies to term, and it did not seem from reading the book that any doctor ever told Sara that she would've been physically unable to do this.

Ultimately, Sara and Bill were able to achieve their goal of parenthood through her mother's pregnancy with Finn, so perhaps they had simply decided that becoming parents was more important to them than the method by which they did so.  (BTW, this is not a spoiler alert, since Sara is pictured with Finn on the inside back cover. . . and he is an exceptionally cute baby.)

Overall, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it to a friend.  If that friend was still in the throes of infertility and treatment, or had suffered her own loss(es), I might caution her about reading an emotional account of someone going through similar experiences.  (I am not a crier by nature, and I bawled like a baby when I read the book So Close early on in my own TTC journey, not long after I'd been diagnosed as infertile.)  Nonetheless, I still think it is a worthwhile read, and I would probably read other books by the author.

Does Bringing in Finn sound like a book you'd like to read?  If so, you're in luck because Seal Press has agreed to provide a free copy of the book to one of my lucky readers!  Leave me a comment, along with a way to contact you via email (if your Blogger profile does not include that information), and I will choose someone at random after midnight PDT on Wednesday, October 10.

Friday, October 5, 2012

It's the little things

In the interest of complete candor, I have to say that we have been pretty lucky with our sons in that they are both happy and easy babies.  (G-d knows, not every parent, even parents of singletons, can say the same.)  They have slept through the night fairly consistently since the first week of June, and even with teething and colds, they seldom get so fussy that they cannot be comforted.

When I say they have "slept through the night," I don't mean to say that they've both slept all night without waking up a single time (although that has happened on occasion).  To me, sleeping through the night means that they are able to go from last bottle of the night (sometime between 7 and 9 pm, depending on your baby) to first morning bottle without having to wake for a feeding.  Even if you woke up 2-4 times and needed to be resettled (back rub, help repositioning of finding a lost pacifier), I would still count that as sleeping through the night.

AJ is an excellent sleeper and has been since he came home from the hospital.  He only wakes up during the night once a week on average, and that is usually just a quick wake-up and needed to be resettled.  MJ, on the other hand, I would describe as just a good sleeper.  Usually he wakes up anywhere from 2-4 times a night and needs his pacifier and a rub on the back to settle back down.  He generally would go back to sleep fairly quickly and easily after being resettled and seldom would full-on cry and need to actually be taken out of the crib.

For the past two weeks, though, MJ had started a troubling habit.  In addition to his 2-4 wake-ups, he would wake sometime between 3:00 and 5:00 a.m. and refuse to go back to sleep unless I held him in my arms.  Even after I got him back to sleep, if I set him down in his crib, or in his Pack n Play in the living room, he would wake up abruptly.

In the interest of getting him to sleep until a reasonable wake-up time for the day--and yes, I will admit, also in the interest of getting more sleep myself--I started taking him into bed with me.  (I don't sleep with MM; that is a topic for another post.)  Bad, I know.  I was very careful to do all the things you should do for safe co-sleeping, and it worked: he would go back to sleep until at least 5:45 (my wake-up time) or later each morning.

But I was concerned that I was setting a dangerous precedent.  I've never wanted to let my kids sleep in my bed, and I didn't want MJ getting in the habit of doing so.  Plus, I didn't sleep very soundly once he was in bed with me.  (Still better than not sleeping at all, but not nearly as good as sleeping alone.)

Last night, for the first time in about two weeks, MJ woke briefly only twice and was still sleeping in his crib when I left for work at 6:40 a.m.  Hallelujah!

Some days it really is the little things.

(But can someone please explain to me why I'm more tired today than usual?  LOL)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

What Do You Say?

(This post is completely off the topics of infertility and parenting.)

I am hoping that some of my readers can give me some advice.

I pride myself on being a good friend.  For many years, I have been the "go to" person for advice for many of my friends.  (I often think I chose poorly in both my careers and should have become a psychologist/counselor instead.)  I like listening to friends' problems and giving an objective, logical view of a situation.

Of course, I am careful to only give advice to friends who ask for it--if you just want to vent, I'm willing to listen, too, and won't advise unless asked--and I am well aware that oftentimes when I give friends advice, they don't take it.  I am fine with that, as I learned long ago that the only way to remain objective was to have no investment in the outcome, except to the extent that the friend feels heard and empowered to solve his/her (more typically her) problems.

I never say "I told you so" later if my friends acts contrary to my advice and doesn't get the outcome she'd hoped for (though I will admit, it's been hard to hold my tongue in some situations), and I don't generally judge my friends' choices.  (As one example, I've given advice to friend dating a married man, even though I did not think her doing so was "right.")

I have been in a situation for several months in which I'm not quite sure how to be most helpful to a friend.  "C" is one of my oldest friends; she is the only friend from high school with whom I have remained friends continuously since that time in my life.  Our lives have taken quite different paths: C met a (separated-but-still-married-with-children) man when she was 19 (and I was 17), and she married him when she was 21 (after his divorce was final).

He was in the military, so they lived overseas for a few years and then lived in the L.A. area for several years.  During those years, I was finishing college, starting my first job, moving around a lot, and we saw one another only sporadically, though we always kept in touch by phone and by cards/letters.  She and I only saw one another a few times, apart from a three-month period when I was living and working within driving distance of her.

As far as I knew during those years, C was happily married.  I saw her and her husband almost weekly during the three months I lived nearby, and I sensed no problems.

He retired from the military after 20 years of service, and they relocated back to his hometown, where C's mother also lived (and where C spent a portion of her childhood).  At least, I thought she was happy until she called me in 2006 to say that her husband was cheating on her and that they were divorcing.  Their divorce was final in April 2007, and he married his mistress not long after that.

C gave up a lot in marrying her ex-husband.  She had always wanted to work in film, either in front of or behind the camera, and, for various reasons, she had give that up during the time that she was living abroad.  And by the time she returned to the states, many of her possible connections to that industry had dissolved. . . and in any event, she was too busy working to make ends meet to have time to devote to pursuing her career dreams.

Additionally, her ex-husband had fathered three children during his first marriage, and after the third (unplanned) child, he had a vasectomy.  Yes, C was aware of this when she married him, but at 21, it wasn't something she dwelt on.  At that tender age, she wasn't even sure whether she would eventually want children, and she naively thought that if she did, her ex-husband could have his vasectomy reversed.  Perhaps he could've done so, but he didn't want to: he didn't want more children, and they were both heavily burdened financially by his child support payments to his first wife and by attorneys' fees related to that.  (Long story short, his ex-wife took him back to court on numerous occasions, trying to get more money; there is even a published court of appeals decision in California about their dispute.)

So C spent a lot of the money she earned at her various jobs paying to support the children from her ex-husband's first marriage--children they rarely saw because their mother had poisoned them against him--and paying legal fees.  Which was hard on her and delayed her completing her education.

And she never had children of her own.  When she raised the subject of a vasectomy reversal with her ex-husband not long after she turned 30, he told her he didn't want more children and that they couldn't afford them.  He refused to consider adoption, or even fostering, as options.

C turned 37 not long before her divorce was final, and the divorce wreaked financial havoc for her.  Her ex-husband just simply did not pay the debts assigned to him in their divorce, including tax payments.  Many of his creditors hounded C because the debts were originally joint debts, and the taxing authority in the state where they'd lived took money from her bank accounts to settle those obligations (over $3,000).  He allowed the house he was awarded in the decree to go into foreclosure, and because her name was still on the mortgage, the bank pursued her to pay that debt as well.

All of this resulted in her having to first take a number of temporary jobs out of state to attempt to earn more money to pay these debts and eventually, after that failed, having to file for bankruptcy protection.  All while trying to get her life as a newly-single-after-seventeen-years-of-marriage woman together, venturing back out onto the dating scene after nearly twenty years, and dealing with various drama in her extended family (too long to go into here).

Oh, and then two-and-a-half-years ago, her dad's cancer that had been in remission for twenty years returned.  And she moved to the state where he lived in the hope of renewing a relationship with him while he was still alive.  (They had grown distant over the years for reasons too long to go into here.) He died about a month ago.  And although he was in hospice just minutes from her, C wasn't able to be with him at the end because her stepmother called her too late.

All this background to say this: I get that C's life has not gone the way she'd hoped.  I know that she did not see herself alone and childless at 43, and she has had a lot of stressful things to deal with over the past few years.

By way of additional background, I should also add that while I am primarily a logic-driven person, C is primarily an emotion-driven person.  I make decisions by writing out lists of pros and cons; she "goes with her gut."  I make even most of the emotional decisions in my life logically (ex: marrying MM), while she makes most of her decisions emotionally (ex: buying a car more expensive than she can really afford because "I love it and have always dreamed of having one")

Finally, to my dilemma: what do you say to a friend in these circumstances who says things like "I have the worst luck" or "I'm cursed" or "If something bad can happen, it will happen to me"?  Some of the bad/stressful things in C's life have been things over which she had no control, like the return of her father's cancer.  But some of the other bad/stressful things have contained at least an element of choice, at least way, way back.

I don't think anyone can be an instrument of positive change in her own life unless she realizes that her choices shape her life, for good or bad, and takes responsibility for the consequences of her choices.  While bad things do happen to good people, and sometimes for reasons that are unclear or for no reason at all, accepting the role of victim for yourself is unlikely to lead to happiness and fulfillment in your life.

Also, I somewhat think that I am not the best person to offer C advice.  To her, my life is everything hers is not: I am happily married, I work in a relatively well-paying job, and I have two children.

Of course, never mind the fact that I was single until I was 37, and worked for several years in jobs I didn't enjoy and that did not pay well, and that it took me over three years and $30K in fertility treatments to become a mother.  I've had my own struggles, but I've never viewed them as "bad luck" or a "curse."  (I've filed my own struggles under the headings of "That's Life" and "Shit Happens" and "It Could Always Be Worse.")  Obviously C just sees my life as it is now and doesn't focus on what led me to this point.

So, oh wise women of internet. . . .how should I respond the next time C asks me for advice and says she is cursed/unlucky/bad things always happen to her?