Okay. I'm 48 years old and I'm hosting a child's birthday party on Saturday for the first time in my life! What the hell can I get for the damn goodie bags? Seriously, I hate them. I've given Sunshine a lollipop from a goodie bag, then discretely "forgetten" the rest. But everybody does it. I've had moms tell me they like picking out the plastic crap, because the kids love it so much. Part of the challenge is that there will be a somewhat wide age range of kids. A 3 month old, an 18 month old, three 2 year olds (including mine (you've got give your own kid a goodie bag so they won't freak out)), a 3 year old, a 4 year old, and a 10 year old. I'm not planning on giving a goodie bag to the 3 month old.
What can I get that's cheap budget conscious, isn't made in China, and might appeal to a wide age range. I'm taking a vacation day tomorrow to get everything ready. I plan to hit the local discount stores (of which we have many, I live in the land of the mom and pop dollar stores) for decorations, plates, napkins, etc. in the morning after dropping off Sunshine at daycare. Then grocery shopping. I can go out for goody bag crap probably early afternoon. Help me, internetz!!
Any other cheap budget conscious toddler party ideas would also be welcome.
Happy birthday my precious, precious girl! (A day late.)
I can’t believe my tiny baby is TWO! A big girl who loves her kitties and her friends, who can run around and climb playground equipment, and who will tell anyone who’ll listen about “hawsies” that go “uppy down.”
Two years ago I was making my way to the hospital for your arrival. My birthday letter to you last year was about a baby. I don’t have a baby anymore. In your second year of life you became a toddler. A little girl. Your words started coming, and now you are learning new ones every day. You love to sing and dance, and you are SO funny! I wrote last year about your sense of humor. Little did I know! You started making jokes almost as soon as you could talk. One of your first words was cat. Then you called all animals “cat.” Even once you surely knew better. You would point to all the dogs in our neighborhood and shout, “CAT!” But you knew better. You’d get this little gleam in your eyes when you’d say it. Sometimes you would do the sign for dog, and say cat. Sometimes, to let you know I got your joke, I’d say, “Oh, Sunshine, you know that’s a doggie.” And you would smile and point again, and say, “CAT, CAT, CAT!” Now, of course, you know what so many animals are called. Your elephant impression, complete with your arm as the trunk, is adorable. A few carousel rides, and you’re obsessed with “hawsies!”
Right now Mommy is nervous about your upcoming surgery. On December 16th, you’re scheduled to have your tonsils and adenoids removed and ear tubes put in your ears. I’m so sorry that Mommy is distracted by this right now. I know you need this, but Mommy hates the idea of you being in pain. When you are older Mommy will show you a video of how loud your snoring was, and that you had sleep apnea because your adenoids and tonsils were so big. And as much as I’m dreading this, I’m looking forward to you hearing better. Right now, because of the constant fluid in your middle ears, you have about a 20-30% hearing loss. So, although you understand EVERYTHING, your speech is sometimes garbled. Soon you will be much easier to understand, and we will both be less frustrated. I know you have a lot to say!
You are a smart, sassy, affectionate, strong-willed, little girl. Strangers practically swoon when you smile at them. Last week, when you ran behind the counter at Starbux, I apologized to the barista, who said, “It’s okay. She’s so cute, she can have whatever she wants.” And he gave you a free goodie. You are so loved! And you know it! You have a confidence that I imagine comes from feeling so cherished. I hope you never lose that.
You still sometimes give me a hard time with diaper changes. Seriously, sometimes you scream so loudly someone might think I’m torturing you instead of just wiping poop off your tush. You are so smart and funny, but you are also a typical toddler in some ways. Your favorite words are NO and MINE! NO sometimes seems like your default answer to any question. But when I offer you something you want, your eyes light up, and you give me an enthusiastic “YEAH!”
At some point I think you might notice that you don’t have as many toys as some of your friends. I’m writing this for you to read when you’re older, and I want you to know and understand that this is a conscious choice. Even though it’s fun to give you new toys, I would rather you have toys that you really love and enjoy, than an overabundance. Yesterday we went to a play date at a friend’s house and you emptied a LARGE plastic bin of toys one at a time and didn’t play with any of them. This reinforced my belief that more is sometimes less. You certainly have plenty to play with at home, and never seem bored. I think not having so many toys spurs you to use your imagination. I love watching your imagination develop.
Oh, my sweet girl! I could go on and on, but I’ll just finish by saying that you are my joy. My life went from gray to technicolor with your arrival. Your smile, your laughter, your hugs and kisses … THE BEST!
Yesterday was a toddler rollercoaster of a day. Almost two is hard … for both of us. Sunshine started off the day in destructo toddler mode. All her books thrown on the floor, then all her wooden puzzles, the pieces thrown all over, then she started throwing around her mega blocks. At one point I picked up her puzzles and put them back on her bookshelf. “Noooooooooooooo!” she screamed, and threw them all over the floor again.
My awesome 10 year old mother’s helper came over at 10:15. We have a great arrangement. She comes over for two hours on Sunday mornings and plays with Sunshine in her room (with the door closed so she can’t see mommy), so I can get some chores done. She gets $5 an hour for this. It’s awesome! Yesterday I didn’t really do much in the way of chores, I relaxed a bit with my coffee, took a shower, and got myself ready to go out without a toddler hanging on me. At the end of the two hours Sunshine’s room was tidy, and she’d had a great time.
I gave Sunshine lunch, organized the diaper bag, and off we went for the afternoon. Yesterday was the Bolivian Day parade in our neighborhood, so we watched the dancers for a while, which she loved, then hit the subway. I was hoping she’d nap on the way to Manhattan, but no go. I'd told her in the morning that I would take her to ride a horsey on a carousel. She kept excitedly saying “horsey!” But when we got within sight of the carousel in Bryant Park, she started bouncing like crazy in her stroller, pumping her fists, shouting “HORSEY!!” She had a great time! She rode the carousel THREE times! I was planning to move on after the second ride, but she had a poopy diaper, and I convinced her to cooperate with the diaper change by telling her if she cooperated she could ride a horsey again. Shortly after this she finally fell asleep in her stroller. It was about 3:25. Late for her nap, but my plan was to keep moving, so she wouldn’t take too long a nap so close to bedtime. (At daycare she reliably naps from 12:30 to 2:30. On the weekends, all bets are off. She fights naps like they are the devil.) While she was asleep we headed uptown and with her both napping, then awake, we wandered around the Upper West Side.
We really had a lovely afternoon out together. It was a perfect Autumn afternoon. She’d had enough of the stroller on the subway ride home, but I managed to entertain her well enough that she didn’t melt down. When we got home, Sunshine’s friend who lives around the corner came over with her mom for a brief play date. She started throwing things on the floor again. Grrr!
After they left (mini meltdown when they left, as Sunshine HATES goodbyes), I was getting her dinner ready. In my defense regarding what came next, the pain killer I’d taken for my back earlier in the day had worn off, and I try not to take more than one a day, so I was in pain, tired, and hungry. There was a container with food I’d just warmed up on the kitchen table. I turned just in time to see Sunshine grab it off the table. “Nooooooooooo!” I screamed. But it was too late. The food was all over the floor, and splashed on the table and chair legs. I kind of lost it. I yelled at Sunshine about how she needed to listen better. I told her to go to her room (mainly to keep her from walking through the mess while I cleaned it up). I am not proud of the way I yelled at her while I cleaned up the mess. Dinnertime was not easy. We were both cranky. Bedtime wasn’t too bad. We had some good cuddling, and she was really tired, so went to sleep fairly easily.
It wasn’t until a couple of hours later, when I’d decompressed a bit that the guilt and remorse crept in. She’s not even two years old yet. Kids spill things. Yes, she probably knew she shouldn’t have grabbed the container, but she didn’t spill it on purpose. Unlike the way she was throwing things around her room, this was an accident. Mom fail.
This morning I talked to her about it. I told her I knew she didn’t do it on purpose and said I was sorry I yelled at her. She patted my face and gave me a hug. I hope she understood my apology.
The Single Moms by Choice organization is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a conference in New York City October 14-16th. Are you going? I would love to meet up with SMC bloggers and their children. I'm particularly looking forward to the panel of adult children of SMCs. I look forward to learning some things from them about how to talk to Sunshine about our special family. Also looking forward to meeting Wendy and Ryan Kramer, the founders of the Donor Sibling Registry, who will be speaking on a panel.
Please email me or leave a comment here if you'll be attending.
OH! EM! GEE! TODDLERS!!! They're crazy, little maniacs. By the time I get my Sunshine to sleep I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. The wailing because I dare to try to wipe the crap off her tush! Then, on the floor, bare-assed, screaming and crying because I want her to get in the tub. The screeches of “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” when it’s time to get out of the tub. But then there are the heart melting moments.
Saturday evening I was standing at the kitchen counter getting Sunshine’s dinner ready. She climbed onto a kitchen chair (I HATE the climbing, but these chairs are very heavy and would be hard to tip), stood there holding onto the chair back and called to me.
“I yuv you.”
BTW, this is the very first time she's said this unprompted. With prompting, she will say, "Yuv you," but this was all her initiative, and a full sentence including the proper pronoun. I'm so proud! OH! I love this girl so much!
"Hey! I had a chocolate cookie in my hand just a second ago. Where did it go?"
I thought about writing a post this weekend. Nap time isn't long enough, and I'm to wiped out after Sunshine gets to sleep. We stayed close to home this weekend, and Sunshine probably got a few more hugs and kisses than usual.
I avoided much of the tv coverage. I haven't read many of the blog posts. Although, the few I did read mention watching the events of that day and crying. Not me. I watched in horror. Then I went down there to help. Still no tears. I spend quite a bit of time volunteering at Ground Zero, and honestly, I don't ever remember seeing tears. Anguish, horror, fatigue, shock, but no tears. It took me a year to shed those tears. They rolled down my face on the first anniversary when I saw the empty pit. The pit that had been a pile of burning, smoking rubble, many stories high. I watched just a little of the ceremony yesterday morning. I held Sunshine for as long as she would allow me, and my eyes filled with tears as I listened to voices cracking with emotion as the names were read. I listened for the name of a friend's brother-in-law, who they believe died at the moment of the second plane's impact. Then I shut the tv.
It's hard to believe my tiny baby will be 2 years old in less than 3 months. After posting her cranky picture, I thought I'd show you more of my happy girl. She really is such a happy toddler. She wakes up with a big smile in the morning. It's so easy to make her giggle. Sunshine truly is a fitting blog name for her. She is radiant.
Her first carousel ride in Central Park. I took a bunch of pictures before the ride started, then held her for most of the ride.
Once she seemed secure on the horse, I stepped back a bit and took this video.
I love this picture. She's so happy at the playground.
Don't you just want to smooch her like crazy?
She LOVES the penguins at the Central Park Zoo.
How cute is she strutting around the playground with her purse?
I’m not writing this to brag. I know I’m very lucky that Sunshine’s temper tantrums are generally minor, and that that could change at any time. I’m writing this because I want to remember these moments. I love when Jen blogs about moments she wants to remember. And how cool is it that I was able to turn my girl’s toddler anger into giggles.
We are totally in temper tantrum territory. She’s right on target with this delightful stage of development. As I said, I’m very lucky that her tantrums are usually transitory, and she’s usually easily distracted (all hail the power of the goldfish cracker). Last night Sunshine had a meltdown when I tried to change her poopy diaper. She is so not ready for potty training. She used to ignore me when I asked her if she had a poopy diaper, now she lies about it.
Shortly after we got home I got a whiff of that telltale aroma. I asked her if she made a poopy. She angrily replied, “NO!” I said, “I smell a poopy. Do you have a poopy in your diaper? “NOOOOOOOOOOO!” And she ran from my bedroom into the kitchen. I followed her to pick her up to change the diaper and she flopped face down on the floor, kicking and yelling, “NOOOOOO!” I looked down at her and calmly said, “I know you’re angry. Go ahead and yell. I’m still going to change your diaper.” This really made her mad. She sat up and raised her hand to hit me. I backed up out of reach and laughed. She got up off the floor and tried to hit me again, although she had a little smile on her face. I backed up some more, then laughed again and turned and ran from the kitchen to the bedroom. She followed me, giggling like crazy. Then let me change her diaper without further outbursts.
And then this morning, she took her sneakers off about 3 minutes after I put them on. I told her I was going to put her in her high chair to brush her hair and put on her sneakers. (Her high chair is the easiest place to contain her to do her hair.) “NOOOOOOO! Again, on the floor. I reached for her to pick her up, as I didn’t have time to let her scream for a while. She sat up and scooted away from me. She wound up sitting against the kitchen wall. I approached her, wiggling my fingers in the universal tickling gesture, saying, “I’m gonna get you!” She starting laughing even before I started tickling. Crisis averted, shoes on, hair brushed, sweater on, ready to leave for daycare and work.
She’s also just started a new phase of, to use an archaic phrase, sounding like a broken record. “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy … hi.” OMG! How long does this last?
This is actually from 3 months ago. She's changed a lot since then, but I thought the photo fit the post. I was trying to take her picture, since she looks so cute in this outfit. She was NOT in the mood.
I know, I know. I haven’t blogged properly in forever. The intent is there, but between work stress, financial stress, minor, but cumulative physical stuff, and a very active toddler, when I have free time in front of the computer I just sort of space out and read. I fully intend to write a real update, with photos and video (although that would involve getting the files off the camera’s memory card), but this topic has been rattling around in my brain since I read Mel’s and Julie’s posts about the twin reduction article in the New York Times Magazine. I started writing comments in my head to both posts, but shortly realized I had quite a lot to say. I debated whether to post this or not, and probably will be debating with myself until I click on “Post.” I write this knowing I may lose readers. (Even though I know I haven’t been writing much for anyone to read, it’s nice to know there are a bunch of people who check in and are pleased to see something new here.)
As to what I thought of the article, meh. Jjiraffe’s post about the NYT and infertility nails it quite well. I know that people have very strong feelings about selective reduction, particularly twin to singleton reductions. I was a little surprised by the comments on Mel’s and Julie’s posts saying they didn’t understand why someone would transfer more than one embryo if they were not willing to parent multiples. I was glad to see others speak up about the long infertility/loss journey and the desperation that led to their decision about how many embryos to transfer.
In my own case, the decision was made based on the questionable quality of the donor embryos that were frozen on day two, and was made after discussions with my RE and the embryologist. My RE transferred three embryos on my first FET and I did not get pregnant. After further discussions, the decision was made to transfer four at my second transfer. All throughout my journey to get pregnant I considered and researched possible scenarios. I knew that if I needed to reduce for any reason, Dr. Evans and Dr. Stone (referred to and quoted in the article) were my best choices for a safe outcome. I believe I saw Dr. Stone bring a patient into the recovery room when I was there after my polypectomy. I assume it was a complicated reduction, as it was in the hospital, and the woman was somewhat sedated. The woman was wheeled in on a gurney and once settled, looked up at her doctor and said, “Thank you for not being judgmental.” In my own haze from the lovely IV pain meds, I thought to myself, that must be Dr. Stone. I’m not going to say what I would have done if I’d become pregnant with more than one. No matter how much one has thought about and researched something, I think it’s impossible to know for sure until you move from theoretical to reality. Let’s just say I was very happy to see one heartbeat on my first ultrasound. There was a second sac visible, but it was empty. My OB referred to it as a vanishing twin at my first appointment.
So why do I feel I need to write about this article? First of all, as I’ve written before, I am staunchly pro choice. I also personally know three women who’ve undergone twin to singleton reductions. One was due to dire medical necessity, one was for a combination of medical and social reasons, and one was for social reasons. I kind of feel “social” should be in quotes, as it can encompass so much. Financial considerations, physical considerations (i.e., older parents), lack of support system (i.e., single mom without nearby family), etc. I support these women in their decisions. I know they were not made glibly. It stings when I hear damning judgment of their choice. It stings because I could have easily been in their shoes. It stings because I know their reductions shredded them emotionally. They will have a raw spot in their hearts for the rest of their lives. Yet, I know each of them believes they made the right decision for their families.
I spent a lot of time talking on the phone, emailing and texting with my friend who reduced for “social” reasons when she was deciding what to do. She’s a single mom by choice in her mid forties. Oh, and she’s a twin herself. I told her several times during her decision making process that whatever she decided, it would be the right decision. I pointed her to the blog of a friend who wrote about reducing her twin pregnancy. I pointed her to twin mama blogs. I listened to her go back and forth. I answered questions about the challenges and joys of single motherhood. I told her that, according to my research, she and her remaining child would be in good hands with either Evans or Stone. I offered to accompany her to the procedure, but she opted to go alone. I hope I was a comfort when she called me, tearful, from the waiting room before the procedure.
I was thinking the other night about how I’m bothered by the judgment about this. There is more than enough judgment to go around regarding ART. Many judge IVF as wrong, donor gametes as wrong, gestational surrogacy as wrong, certainly many would judge me negatively for having a child on my own. Then I realized I’m a hypocrite. I have plenty of judgment for Nadya Suleman. I know I’m not the only one who knew she was lying when she said she had six embryos transferred and two split during an FET. (In case you haven’t heard, it came out during the investigation of her RE that it was actually a fresh IVF cycle and TWELVE embryos were transferred.)
But my bottom line is that the choice to reduce is very, very personal and needs to be available and safe. The NYT article was sensational, as usual. The women sounded callous about their decision. But we don’t know what their thought process was like when they were making it. And how many tears were shed. We don’t know what quotes the writer didn’t use or were edited out. I choose to give them the benefit of doubt and believe they love their children as much as I love mine.
Bless doctors like Joanne Stone and Mark Evans who believe that women are capable of deciding what’s right for their families. These doctors don’t hate babies, they care for women. For mothers.
Since Lori'sPerfect Moment Monday is currently on hiatus, thought I'd just post a quickie about a perfect moment. I have lots of stuff running through my head. I intend to post more soon.
My Perfect Mommy Moment: This morning I reached into my underwear drawer and took out what I thought was a pair of panties (knickers, for those in other parts of the world). It was one of my daughter's little t-shirts that got mixed in with my panties when I put away the laundry. It's not really much bigger than my undies. I smiled looking at it. Filled with gratitude for my little girl. I'm overwhelmed much of the time, tired all the time, and have way too many aches and pains, but I so love being a mom. Worth the wait and everything I had to go through to get here.
I'm wishing for these moments for my friends who haven't crossed over yet.
Ack! I’m late with my post. Sunshine has the crud … again. By that I mean pink eye (in one eye) and an ear infection on the same side. So yesterday involved a trip to the pediatrician, a day off from work for mama, and fighting with a squirmy toddler over eye drops. Today my mother is watching her so I can go to work.
How did finances play into my family building decisions? Well for many years I was without insurance. I was struggling financially, and without any insurance, attempting to have a child, particularly on my own, seemed impossible. I will admit to being “lax” about birth control in relationships during that time. But without insurance, I had no way of knowing I had a rather large polyp in my uterine lining. Nothing was going to stick with that there. On the other hand, I am glad I didn’t have a child with previous boyfriends. It may sound odd, but I’m glad for the obstacles on my journey to motherhood, because it brought me my daughter. I am so over the moon for HER. So I’m grateful for everything it took for me to have HER.
Once I had insurance, I learned that becoming a mom was not going to be a walk in the park. First I learned that at the advanced maternal age of 44, my chances of conceiving with my own eggs WITH IVF were in the neighborhood of 5%. Then I learned about the polyp. Having the polyp removed was actually one of the easiest parts of the journey. Totally covered by insurance, and back to normal two days later. I was very lucky in that I had fertility coverage as well. But there was a cap on the benefits. And at my age, the dosages of medication were so high, that they cost a fortune. Although covered by insurance, when a cycle’s worth of medication alone costs over $8,000, $20,000 worth of fertility coverage can be gone very, very quickly. I had one IVF cycle cancelled after 7 days of injections. That’s over $5,000 worth of meds. One evening I had an epic meltdown when a needle came loose on a syringe while I was mixing up my injection. Hundreds of dollars worth of hormones spilled onto my hands. Again, I was lucky in that I connected with a woman from an IVF message board who donated a full cycle’s worth of gonal-f to me. It enabled me to get through one complete IVF cycle. I didn’t get pregnant, but it helped me feel ready for the next step, embryo donation.
I feel so incredibly blessed to have connected with the woman who donated her extra embryos to me. As I’ve written about in the past, her IVF clinic would not treat me due to my unmarried state, so we moved the embryos to a clinic in Canada. Most of my fertility expenses were covered. Of course there were plenty of co-pays. My insurance company misinformed me about coverage for procedures in Canada. I was initially told that they would be treated as out of network bills, and I would be reimbursed 80%. After the fact I was told that only emergencies are covered out of the country. Still, embryo transfers alone are not that expensive. And at the time I went to Canada for my two transfers, the Canadian dollar was weak against the US dollar. I probably paid the Canadian clinic approximately $3,000 US for the initial consult, and the 2 thaws and transfers it took to become pregnant with Sunshine. Of course, there were the added expenses of two round trip airfares, two hotel stays, days off from work and other miscellaneous expenses. Price1ine helped with hotel costs, and for my second trip I flew up the morning of my transfer instead of the night before, even though it was more stressful, because the airfare was $200 less. My monitoring before and after the trips to Canada was fully covered by insurance. My donor very generously paid to have the embryos shipped to Canada. But still, compared to other methods, embryo donation was not at all cost prohibitive.
I’ve never added up the costs of becoming pregnant with Sunshine, but I know I got off relatively easy compared to others.
Now to the blog carnival questions:
1. Consider your now or future children as adults, and consider the fact that you had to spend money to either conceive them or make them part of your family. What effect do you think the latter will have on the former one day? What, do you think, your grown children might feel about the funds it took to create your family?
I hope it doesn’t matter to her at all. Hey, she might have cost less than the children conceived when their parents tried “relaxing and taking a vacation.” Other than our internet friends, we also have friends in our day to day life who have ART babies, donor egg babies, baby born with a gestational carrier, and adopted children. Sunshine will undoubtedly grow up knowing that sometimes family building is expensive.
2. How did/would you handle it if your child asks you, "Mom, how much did I cost?" How would you answer at age 7? At age 18?
I would probably truthfully say I didn’t know. Since I had insurance coverage, I did not have enough out of pocket expenses for a medical tax deduction, so I never added it all up. I might pull out the sharps container full of PIO needles I can’t seem to bring myself to get rid of and tell her she cost me an ouchy, lumpy butt. ;-)
3. When calculating the costs of your family building, what do you include? The direct costs are easy (such as RE fees for a cycle or homestudy fees), but what about fees that didn't directly lead to your child's existence in your life, such as cycles that didn't work, adoption outreach avenues that didn't work, failed adoptions, avenues that were explored (and that cost something) but not pursued, etc?
It all counts. The sperm donor profiles I paid for before my friend agreed to be my known donor count. The medical testing, semen analysis, and sperm cryo for my friend, even though we did not conceive together, counts. The first unsuccessful FET with donor embryos obviously counts as well.
4. If two children in a family "cost" different amounts, should that have any significance?
This is theoretical to me since I always planned on an only. I don’t think it should have any significance. It just is what it is. A blogger I met while in Canada for my first transfer (and also visited with on my second trip) has a daughter from an IUI, a son via IVF (after many failed IUIs), and now is pregnant with a freebie. I would imagine she feels that all her children are precious miracles.
5. To what extent have finances determined the family-building decisions you have made? How have you able to balance financial considerations against other factors such as medical, ethical, emotional...?
Finances are what led me to explore embryo donation. My BFF has a son via egg donation, and I knew that was not within my means. I also wasn’t sure that adoption was within my means either. And I really, really wanted to be pregnant. I wanted to be a mother most of all, but I wanted to experience pregnancy. I will never forget how it felt to feel Sunshine (aka in utero, my Rockette) doing high kicks before she was born. I grateful to have experienced that.
6. Has institutional and governmental support for certain family-building paths impacted your choices? For example, ART being covered by insurance, tax deductions for adoption expenses, etc.
Oh, yeah. As I’ve said, my insurance coverage was vital.
7. Have you considered having ART treatments abroad, either due to lower cost or due to certain methods being unavailable or illegal in your own country? In your decision-making, how did you balance the financial savings against issues like the unknowns of the country, perhaps not speaking the language, and medical practices that may differ from those of your home country? If you did travel abroad for treatments, what was your experience? Would you do it again?
Well, technically I did go to another country for treatment. But that was because, as I said above, the original US clinic wouldn’t treat me, and it was MUCH less complicated to move the embryos to Canada than another US clinic due to FDA guidelines regarding donor embryos.
I briefly considered overseas egg donation after my first FET failed. My donor offered to help finance a donor egg cycle after first FET. It was an incredible offer, and made me feel so supported and loved at a difficult time. But I just had a feeling there was a viable baby in the batch of embryos I received. Over and over again I looked at photos of my donor’s children, and imagined my own child with their coloring and features. Lately, Sunshine looks so much like her big brother, right down to the rosy cheeks he had at her age. Her hair color is smack in between the shades of her brother and sister’s hair. In other words, GORGEOUS!
Visit Write Mind Open Heart for more perspectives on the Dollars and $ense of Family Building and to add your own link to the blog hop by May 1, should you want to contribute your thoughts.
I read a post today on one of my SMC Yahoo groups that made me want to reach out and try to help somehow. So I offered Stacy my space in the hope that someone will read it and help her in a concrete way. I have received so much from the ALI community, and once you start reading her story, you'll know that Stacy is one of us.
My name is Stacy. I am almost 41 years old. I’ve been trying to have a child for over five years now. I have lost five babies of my own body and then had to have an emergency hysterectomy.
In 2009, I decided to pursue alternative methods to motherhood and hired a traditional surrogate (this means she is egg donor and carrier).
I used my Ex as the known (sperm) donor, with the intention that I would be a Single Mother by Choice.
Heather (the ‘surrogate’) and I drafted and signed notarized contracts outlining every detail of the arrangement. Ironically, in that contract, it states that if she defaults, she will pay for legal fees… (HA!). She also signed and notarized a Last Will and Testament, leaving me custody of her son Jason, in the event that anything happen to her during her pregnancy or delivery. I can see in retrospect that this was probably just a ruse to gain my trust.
When I first matched with Heather, she lived in another state. After we met and signed contracts, and had the occasion to talk almost every day, it became more and more clear to me how dire and volatile her living situation was. No heat for her son. Exposure to alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes for her and her son. Etcetera. Purely out of the goodness of my heart and concern for her, I opened my home to Heather and invited her to come stay with me for free until she got on her feet and got her own place. The plan all along was that I was going to give her a monthly payment during the pregnancy and pay the rest in a lump sum at the time of delivery. She was going to use the year that she was pregnant getting on her feet and getting job training and experience so that she could put herself through college and make a better life for her and her son. I took this agenda very much to heart and gave her every kind of support I could to improve her future.
After a month of living in my home, she expressed the desire to continue living with me through the entire surrogacy. We agreed that I would charge her a (well) below market rate for rent against her compensation. I also went out of my way in MANY ways to make her life as comfortable as possible during that year. All in all, Heather and Jason lived in my home for one year. I drove Heather and Jason to school and day care every day. I mentored Heather, counseled her, encouraged her, and gave in every way I could. I went with Heather to every doctor’s appointment she had for her or her son (not pregnancy related), to support her and advocate for her. I also loaned her other chunks of money throughout the year and counted only a small amount of them against her compensation. I also made it very clear to her that she was free to move out at any point and receive monthly cash payments against her compensation. I never coerced her into any part of our agreements. Everyone who witnessed us during this year could see very clearly that Heather was in charge and when she said “Jump” I answered “How High?” I was at her beck and call; after all, she was the angel who was making my baby dreams come true. Nothing was too much if it made her happy!
We attended child birth classes. I attended newborn care classes. I traded my sporty little car in for a wagon. I hired a live-in nanny. I shopped for baby gear and created the most beautiful baby’s room I could have ever imagined. I bought a Doppler and listened to my intended daughter’s heartbeat every few days. I took a picture of Heather every week as her belly expanded and gleefully posted them on Facebook, where all my many friends rejoiced with me that my dream was so close to coming true. I researched child rearing web sites every night, deciding on formulas, diaper choices, etc… I researched names endlessly and finally declared at my baby shower that my daughter would be called Selah Ruth; then all my sweet friends decorated onesies with that beautiful name on them.
On December 9, 2009, just three days after my baby shower, my world caved in on me when Heather instant messaged me to tell me she was keeping the baby. At my baby shower, she had stood in front all my family and friends and read a poem to me about the gift of motherhood. I had told attendees in the shower invitation to give her college money instead of gifts to me because I was already receiving the biggest gift I could ask for.
She never gave me an explanation for her sudden about-face. I still do not know whether she planned it all along or changed her mind at some point.
Heather never came home that night. I never saw Jason again; a child I had lived with for a year and had grown to love. She never even moved out of my house or disposed of her room full of belongings. She left all of that mess to me. Of course, she didn’t forget to take the cash gifts my friends and family had given her at the baby shower. She just disappeared and ignored all my attempts at mediation or discussion.
I crumbled that night. It might as well have been my daughter’s death. I was utterly heartbroken and it took every ounce of my strength to survive that loss. My friend came over that night to sit with me until my sister arrived from out of town. I just sat there, unable to speak, occasionally crying, trying to make sense of what had just blind-sided me. A few days later, my sweet 22 year old niece came to town to pack up the baby’s room while I was at work.
At first, I scrambled, for two months, thinking I could fight her. I called and emailed any attorney or district attorney or case worker I could. No one would help me for any amount of money that I could actually muster up. Social services had been told she was a refuge from a domestic violence situation (I never even threatened to hurt her, let alone actually hurt her… I do not have a violent bone in my body). Social services were also told that I was a potential adoptive mother, not an intended mother, who was trying to coerce her into giving up her baby. People closed ranks around ‘the poor sweet young thing’ and I could not make any headway.
In further vain attempts to turn this nightmare back into my dream, I married my Ex in a quick city hall ceremony in hopes of gaining more legal standing. We filed a petition to establish parentage without the guidance of a lawyer since we couldn’t afford one. Then, my Ex found out that filing such a petition might leave him vulnerable to child support demands and refused to show up for our court date. I have since finalized a divorce.
All I could afford to do was pay a lawyer to send her a demand letter but it went unacknowledged, like every other attempt I made to contact her, talk sense into her, mediate, discuss, or understand what the hell had happened.
For my own personal sanity, I made the decision to accept defeat, grieve the devastating loss, and move on. It was a long and painful year.
A year later, a summons was delivered to my house, for my Ex. It turns out Heather, Jason, and Baby Girl (that she named Lily) have been living off of public assistance and the county had decided to pursue my Ex for child support. Since my Ex has not lived in my house since long before Heather moved out, all I could do is call and inform him. But since he is unemployed, he decided to lay low and blow it off. There was nothing I could do to compel him to deal with the issue. There is a reason he is my Ex!
This past Friday evening, I came home to a summons with MY name on it. They have added me to the child support petition as a “Joinder” with the explanation, “DCSS was informed that Heather XX and Stacy XX entered into a surrogacy agreement regarding the minor child in this case. DCSS is requesting Stacy XX be joined so the issue of parentage can be resolved.” I called DCSS and they confirmed that it is possible that I could be ruled financially responsible for the child since it is in the best interest of the child to have financially responsible parties.
My court date is May 23. I need a Pro Bono or sliding scale lawyer who is knowledgeable in family law or child support or custody issues or surrogacy/third party reproduction issues, who can advise me how to proceed.
My finances are very limited, as I am still paying off the IVF I completed in a few months ago in the hopes of starting a new gestational surrogacy. Obviously, my dream of being a mother is now going to be further delayed. This nightmare just keeps coming back to life.
Yes, I do have contracts! I have an abundance of evidence establishing me as intended mother. Without tens of thousands of dollars to give up front, I could not find someone willing to litigate this case. The landmark case in California Buzzanca v. Buzzanca would have been my best shot at winning custody but it might also be the thing that forces me to pay child support. See more about it at: Buzzanca v. Buzzanca: The Ruling and Ramifications (http://www.surrogacy.com/legals/jaycee/jayceesum.html)
We tried to get Heather pregnant for four months; three of those months were doctor-assisted IUIs. The month we got pregnant was a home insemination.
Her profile on SurrogateMother.com was advertising for new intended parents just four months after Baby Girl was born. It is possible she is already engaging in a new surrogacy agreement!
She has garnered a lot of support from strangers, case workers, etc, by being extremely dishonest about the facts of the case.
She was living in a homeless shelter when she delivered the baby.
I had already paid her 80% of her compensation by the time she defaulted. I have never seen any money back.
Heather was using Legal Aid and Pro Bono Project services at some point (probably still is); they have confirmed that they cannot help me as it would be a conflict of interest and she was their client first.
Thank you for listening. If you can help me in any way, I would very much appreciate it.
I haven't participated in Lori's Perfect Moment Monday in quite a while. I've thought about it, I've certainly experienced many of those moments, but don't get around to putting my post together. I'm so grateful for it, because even though I may not get around to the post, it never hurts to have a reminder to appreciate these special moments. In case you don't know, "Perfect Moment Monday is about noticing a perfect moment rather than creating one. Perfect moments can be momentous or ordinary or somewhere in between."
Sunshine LOVES our cats. Obsessed might be more accurate. "Cat" is one of the words she says loud and clear, and did I mention, OFTEN! As far as she's concerned, if its got four legs and a tail, it's a cat. We'll be out and about, and see a dog and either she'll exclaim, "CAT!" or I'll say, "Look at the dog." and Sunshine will insist, "Cat, cat, cat!" She's got quite a gleam in her eyes and often laughs, so she knows, but she enjoys her own joke.
Yesterday she and our big cat took a nap together. The cat got the blankie first.
Let me start by saying, I LOVED THIS BOOK! Life from Scratch by Melissa Ford is everything I hoped it would be and more. Reading it felt like hanging out with old friends in the coziest café. I love that Rachel’s BFF is a single mom by choice. And that she didn’t get there easily. “After 2 miscarriages, three fresh IVF transfers, four frozen IVF transfers, several months of daily Lovenox injections, a premature delivery, and a NICU stay, Arianna had Beckett”For me, it was five cancelled IVF cycles, one fresh IVF transfer, two donor frozen embryo transfers, six weeks of Lovenox injections, eight weeks of progesterone in oil injections, and a c-section, that I have my Sunshine. I felt a kinship with Arianna. It’s hard enough to decide to become a parent on your own, having trouble conceiving compounds that.
I loved hearing Melissa’s voice in novel form. Loved the little New York details, like when Rachel and Arianna decide not to stop for bagels at H&H when on the way to Zabars. You have to really know New York city to know that H&H has the BEST bagels, and that they're across the street from Zabars.
I hope I can do the book justice with this post. I’m really feeling the sleep deprivation these days. My very active, teething, not great at sleeping 15 month old, our two cats, and I have just moved into a new apartment. The process has been long, stressful, and isn’t quite over. (Lots of odds and ends to still bring over, and still have to figure out where everything should go.) So this post may not be all I’d like it to be.
Now on to the questions.
If you had a year to do what you wanted, what would you do?Would you learn to cook or something different?
Ooooooh! Whatever I want?!?!?! I would travel! I love to travel, and really hope my daughter will love it, too. Ideally, I would have someone to deal with the luggage while I focus on wrangling Sunshine, and also to help with childcare so I could do things that you can’t do with a toddler in tow. I would love to take the opportunity to learn new things in different places. For instance, I know of a villa in Tuscany that offers workshops in Tuscan cooking. Maybe a glass blowing class in Venice. Show my daughter the world. See the world through her eyes. Watch her get covered in powdered sugar eating beignets at Café du Monde in New Orleans. Make sure she knows to “Mind the Gap” on the London Underground. Etc.
Rachel's blog Life from Scratch is itself a character in the story. Do you think non-bloggers will understand the details of blogging (blog awards, stats and stat counters, other true life blogs mentioned) and how does writing her blog tie into her story making it appeal to the mainstream?
I’m not really sure. I hope so. I am a mother, my daughter is here in the world, because of my blog. The generous woman who donated embryos to me found my blog through a mention on LFCA. A site maintained by Melissa Ford! It helps when people understand the blogging world when I tell our story. Although, I think even if non-bloggers understand the details of blogging, it’s really hard for outsiders to understand the kinship in the ALI community. We are there for each other through struggles, losses, and successes. It’s hard for outsiders to understand when I tell them I’ve received baby gifts from people I’ve never met face to face. That I sent a baby gift halfway around the world to a blogger I’ve never met in person. That a community is working together on a project for a blogger who’s suffered an unthinkable loss. That we send each other socks. Yes, socks. Because we know it makes it a tiny bit easier to put our feet in those damn stirrups when we see a pair of colorful socks that someone chose for us.
How would you react if your blog hit the big time -- if you had hundreds of thousands or even millions of readers hanging on your every word, if you won awards, if mainstream media wanted to interview and feature you? Are there aspects of blogging fame that you'd refuse? How would the content of your blog change?
Hmmmmm. Well, I just don’t think I’m that good a writer. I like being semi-anonymous with my blog. I use a pseudonym on here, but I’ve never hesitated to tell my fellow bloggers my real name via email. For a long time I didn’t post any identifiable photos. Since my daughter was born I’ve posted plenty of her, and a few of me. If my blog went viral, I might consider removing the photos and not posting any new ones of us. And regardless of my blog’s popularity, I’m sure I'll think harder about what I post about Sunshine as she gets older. I sure wouldn’t mind Heather Armstrong’s money, though. (And I'd be happy to review the iPad here if Apple wants to send me one! Hello, Apple Marketing Dept!) Fame is such an odd thing. I had a surreal moment at a friend’s baby shower/meet the baby party to celebrate the adoption of her son, when a woman came up to me and said, “I know you from your blog!” Wild! Turns out she’s another SMC blogger. We had no idea we had this mutual friend.
I love to hear that our story has inspired others. I had a long phone conversation with a blogger about our open embryo donation process. Since our conversation, she and her husband have donated their embryos. I received an email last year from a woman who said she passed my URL on to a friend who was single and struggling with the idea of winding up childless. I also recently found out that after meeting me and Sunshine at an SMC event last Summer and hearing our story, a woman donated several embryos to another woman she met at the same event. So, famous or not, we never really know when we tell our story, whose life we may change.
So, if you haven’t read it yet, hop over to Amazon.
This is a hard post to write. Not because I’m lacking in the strength of my convictions, but mostly because others have written so well on the issue of reproductive choice. I haven’t consciously shied away from controversial issues here, even though I may be in the minority as a donor embryo recipient regarding my pro-choice views. I have often commented in support of other pro-choice blog posts, but I’ve never written one. With what's going on right now in the Federal and various State Legislatures, I need to stand up and be heard.
For the details of all the craziness happening right now, read Keiko’s brilliant post. This is some scary shit! The attempt to de-fund Planned Parenthood is insane. Planned Parenthood uses NONE of the federal funds they receive for abortion services! In fact, just 3% of all they do is related to pregnancy termination. Read Cecily’s post for more information. In case you didn’t know, Cecily would likely not be alive if abortion was not a legal medical procedure in this country.
As our dear Mel said in a post last year, “Personally, I think it would behoove any person who wants the family building side of reproductive rights protected to also support termination, after all, if you don’t want your government making fertility treatments illegal, it would make sense to spread that protection to all aspects of reproductive rights.”
I don’t think it’s at all contradictory to be a pro-choice infertile. I encourage my pro-choice infertile sisters to speak out. For ourselves, for each other, for our children. I applaud my fellow bloggers who’ve spoken out on this issue. Who've bravely faced criticism so other women wouldn’t feel so alone. Like my friend Kristin, who posted about a termination that probably saved her life. Like the blogger who posted about her decision to reduce a multiple pregnancy. I KNOW that there will be women in crisis who will find those posts and find fellowship and comfort.
I’m going to quote from another post of Mel’s, because she says it so succinctly here. (And unlike me, she a professional writer. She’s had twobooks published, you know!) “But restricting access to abortion is just one step away from restricting access to fertility treatments, and I would like to retain control over what happens in my uterus. I don’t believe we should get into grey areas deeming some abortions ethical and others not; stating that within certain situations, it’s merciful and in others, it’s irresponsible. It’s a slippery slope once you step onto the rights of others, and anyone who favours outlawing or restricting abortion and is also infertile should consider how they would feel if the reach of the general public went into their body; went towards restricting assisted conception, making the use of fertility drugs illegal.”
Click here to sign a letter to Congress to protest the legislation to bar Planned Parenthood from federal funding.
There will be a Walk for Choice in many cities tomorrow. Please go if you can.
Our Valentine? Since I didn't get it together to send out holiday cards, Sunshine and I are sending out Valentine's Day cards. Would you like one? Email me your snail mail addy and I'll send one to you. Be warned, the cuteness is outa control!
Have loads to write, just not getting to it. I've been a terrible commenter, most often when I really have something meaningful to say. It's just easier to dash off a quick comment, then I feel bad when I don't leave a comment on someone's important post because it deserves more than a quickie. Please forgive me, I try to keep up on my blog reading, and I think of you all.
Woohoo! Got a great giveaway coming up to tell you about! First, let me start by saying I wouldn’t do a sponsored post if I didn’t really like the company. I first discovered CSN Stores about 2 1/2 years ago when I was having my kitchen and bathroom painted and wanted to get new ceiling light fixtures for both rooms. CSN Stores has over 200 online stores where you can find everything from handbags, a bathroom vanity, great cookware, or unique light fixtures! The stock on CSN Stores website is so extensive that I was able to find exactly what I wanted at a great price. I was able to sort by type of fixture and price, and browse away until I found what I was looking for.
As I mentioned in my last post about CSN Stores, Sunshine and I are moving into a new apartment. Renovations are done, and I am currently sorting (purging) through our things and moving what I can before movers come for the big furniture. The 2 light fixtures I purchased previously have been moved into the new apartment, as well as 2 new ones I found on CSN Stores lighting site. For my last post, CSN Stores provided me with a gift code to use on their website. I did not wind up getting either of the things I was originally contemplating, but I am very pleased with what I did get. I was quite practical about my purchases. I got a DVD player, as I was probably the last person around who didn’t have one (I could always play DVDs on my computer, and I <3 my DVR), I got a beautiful wall decal for Sunshine’s room, and a very cool closet organizer thingy.
Now CSN Stores is providing me with another opportunity to review an item from their websites. They are providing me with a $70 gift code for me, and a chance for my readers to win one as well. The actual giveaway post will be in a few weeks. You will have a chance to enter to win by commenting on that post, but for an extra entry, leave a comment on this post with a suggestion for what I should get with my gift code. Since I’m in the process of moving, I’m leaning towards something practical for the new apartment, but I also kind of think I deserve something indulgent just for me. Please do a little browsing and give me your suggestions. Your comment could win you $70 at CSNStores.com!
I'm absolutely heartbroken over the loss of Wiseguy's little Lola. Please go give her some love. Then pop over to Kristin's place to join in on the beautiful project that Kristin is putting together for Wiseguy.
Please click over and check out my latest baby product review at Who Wants To Know. It's a space saving baby/toddler bathtub. As added incentive to click over, there's a cute picture of Sunshine demonstrating the product (tightly cropped for modesty). Leave a comment with your best space saving tip for a chance to win one.