Saturday, February 14, 2009

Mrs. Spit interviews Moi!

Interview questions courtesy of Mrs. Spit. Answers courtesy of myself (well, what did you expect? It is my blog after all!)

1. What would be your perfect day.

Any day where I feel well rested and have full mental acuity! Seriously though - it is hard to say which would be "more" perfect for me - being at home, and by that I mean home where I grew up with family; or a day spent at the beach in Maine with family, which is where many of my happiest childhood memories center around.

2. You are the mother of children in heaven and children on earth. What, if anything, do you tell your children on earth about the ones in heaven? Are they part of not just your memory, but your family's memory as well.

Initially it was pretty basic, we told our oldest nothing. I figured he was too little to really understand what was going on, and since I hadn't even told him I had been pregnant, how or why would I tell him I was now un-pregnant? While I was correct in assuming it wouldn't be something he would understand to grieve at the time - he was grieving in his own way - grieving a loss of his own, albeit a different one from that of mine. He noticed his parents grieving and this became quite unsettling to him. My son was just a year old when I had my first miscarriage and still not quite 2 by the time I had the third. He is a very sensitive soul though and my grief, tears, anger, frustration were not unnoticed by him. This led us to realize that we needed to address the losses in some way for him/any future living children. My son and daughter were going on 4 and 2 respectively when I had my next set of miscarriages. This is when we opened that dialog. Mostly we kept it simple. From our experience before, we knew they would notice our grief and wanted to make sure they understood that our grief had nothing to do with them, they didn't make us sad and that they were safe and loved and still wanted by us. We told them that I had a baby that had started growing in my tummy, just like they had: but unlike them, that baby couldn't grow big enough to live outside my body and the baby died. We have always been very careful of the words we chose , because we didn't want to say the baby was sleeping or lost, as kids tend to think rather literally. We also had to tell them that I had to go to the doctor (for my d&c's) and that I would be sore afterward and we would need to be gentle while I healed physically.

About this time I put together a charm necklace with charms for each of my babies - born and lost and they have always known which charms were theirs and that the other charms belonged to the babies I had lost. Beyond that, specifics were pretty sparse. I also hadn't named any of those babies yet. Things changed after the 5th loss however, when the children were 5 and 3. I had lost my 5th baby the summer before and had just been referred to a specialist in St. Louis. In preparation for that appointment, I had my medical records which I was going to hand deliver. I was going through them and came across the pathology report for the 5th baby and discovered the baby had been a girl. This was not information our doctor at the time had shared with us. Following this revelation, I felt my grief returning anew. Now I wasn't just mourning a lost baby, I was mourning a girl, my daughter. My oldest son came across me a few days later fingering my charm necklace, and without knowing what I knew or even knowing which one of the 5 lost baby charms belonged to which lost baby, pointed to the specific charm for my last little one and said, "I know that baby, she's a girl - her name is Carena. I played with her before I was born." Then he turned and left, leaving me completely dumbfounded. We knew no one with the name Carena. Not of his little friends at school or church, no relatives, no cartoon characters - no one - with that name. This wasn't even a name we had ever entertained as a potential moniker for any of our children. Where he came up with this name, I could never figure out in any easily explainable manner - nor could I explain how out of the 5, he knew exactly which one was hers. This moment though, became the catalyst for a different level of mourning and healing. The kids - at least the older two do, know that the babies I lost have names now - but we talk about them infrequently . For awhile, my oldest daughter use to tell everyone she saw that she was "the 5th child and we had a bunch of babies that didn't grow and got dieded(sic)" These experiences showed us that they not only remembered, but also thought about them. I didn't realize how much until I became pregnant after the 5th miscarriage. I was horribly sick and ended up being hospitalized at one point. We told the kids that I was pregnant and that was why I was so sick and also why I needed to rest a great deal because things were pretty rocky. After finding out that I was pregnant, our son who was almost 6, started asking me every morning if the baby had grown during the night. He kept bringing me food all the time too - even though I never asked him to or expressed any hunger. I soon realized it was because he was concerned for the welfare of the baby and had remembered what we had told him about the babies we lost not being able to grow big enough to live outside my body. He was going to feed that baby as best as he could figure how to make sure it grew.

The younger children really don't know much about my miscarriages. My last one was the year before our youngest daughter was born. The two pregnancies following her birth resulted in live births - so the topic didn't come up. They are also still fairly young. They all do know however, that I have special Christmas ornaments that I hang on the tree every year and that those ornaments are for our babies who are not here with us. I really haven't worn my charm necklace in years. With all the charms on it, the thing was getting really heavy to wear. For a Show and Tell a while back, I showed the mother's bracelet I made as a replacement, and those little babies are a part of that as are my living children.

So, a long way of saying that our living children do know they were not my only babies - but also that the information that we did give was fairly simplistic and pertinent. We never made a big dramatic ordeal of the losses for them, but didn't keep them a secret either. We just made sure they knew enough not to be afraid when they saw our tears, that it was okay to be sad, or angry and to ask questions. With my losses all being so early, this just seemed the best way to handle something that would be rather oblique for them.

3. Tell us about the craziest thing you've ever done.

Well, I told you last week I flashed the high school varsity football team! Though, that really wasn't intentional. An intentionally crazy thing then? This may fall more under the heading of "dumb stuff I did because of a guy". I saved all my waitress tip money the summer after I graduated so I could take a trip to Utah to see the guy I took to my senior prom. He was a senior Air Force Academy cadet and I fancied myself madly in love with him. My big beastie of a car was not working and so I talked a friend of mine into letting me drive his car to Utah. All so I could go see this guy. By the end of the trip I had been through two cars (one broke down and the other I managed to wreck), my self-esteemed completely decimated when it became clear the object of my affection did not feel the same way and then had to find a way home back to Colorado - since I now had no vehicle and limited money. I wrote said former object of my affection a long-winded, rambly letter including lyrics to a show tune (something like 3 pages worth!) before I left and then found another potential boyfriend on the way home. Call it the Scarlett O'Hara effect - but I landed on my feet. Though I did spend 4 months writing weepy, depressing, overly dramatic entries into my journal. Maybe not so crazy - but I look back at that trip and can't believe I took on such an adventure at that age and didn't think it was totally nuts to do it. At the time - it really was the biggest thing I planned to undertake.

4. All members of religious groups get judged by the crazies (because we all *must* believe the same things as the crazies). The LDS are judged by the FLDS. How does that make you feel?

Oh it makes me absolutely crazy! I really don't understand people who are not LDS telling me - who is and have been all my life - what I believe. Does this make any sense? I know what I believe. I know what I practice. Do they think I am going to say "I didn't know that!"? I also think I would notice if we had any extra wives living around our house. They tell us we're not Christian - and this is despite the fact each one of our church buildings prominantly says "The Church of Jesus Christ". Absence of a cross does not mean absence of belief. There are the stereotypes - I have a large family because I am Mormon. Yet, I know more families - some I am related to, that have half and even a third of the children I do and they consider themselves contentedly "done". Family planning is a big deal in the church. Most of us follow the counsel given us by our leaders - have the children you can care for physically, financially, emotionally and spiritually. The amount that turns out to be varies from person to person. Truly aggravating is seeing these misperceptions and stereotypes in the media. The most hurtful is when people who know me beyond a first impression, find out my religion, and all those stereotypes and media errors instantly color their perception of me and who I am as a person. All of sudden I am a completely different person to them, and I haven't changed at all! Ask me, ask me! Ask me before you believe everything you see on tv or read in the paper or heard from a friend of a friend who was related to a guy who knew somebody who lived next to someone they thought was a Mormon in Utah! In Jr. High I lost a friend who decided she couldn't like me anymore when she found out I was LDS. That was her only reason why she couldn't like me.

5. What do you think a mother's most important job is?

I have actually been discussing this quite a bit the last couple weeks with people following the recent birth of the octuplets in California. The most important job is to love my children. Unconditionally love them. To truly love them means their needs are more important than mine. That this love is not just lip service. That I teach them the things they need to know - whether it be manners or how to care for themselves. To equip them with the knowledge they need in order to live independently in the world, be a good person, a likeable person and how to love others and love themselves. With loving them this way also comes making sure they also know and feel that love from me. An all encompassing love - that utilizes not only my heart, but my hands and my brain as well.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Honest Scrap Award

Thanks to CLC for tagging me with this award.

The rules of the award:1) Choose a minimum of 7 blogs that you find brilliant in content or design.2) Show the 7 winners names and links on your blog, and leave a comment informing them that they were prized with "Honest Scrap." Well, there's no prize, but they can keep the nifty icon.3) List at least 10 honest things about yourself.

10 honest things about me:

1) I use to think I was most like my dad - getting married brought out my mom in me.
2) My own tears I can bear - someone elses, doesn't matter if it's over a skinned knee or loss of loved one and even if the person is a total stranger to me, I bawl and bawl.
3) People with no sense drive me crazy.
4) I am a planner - love to plan, love to see it all laid out in my head. Implementation however, not so much my thing!
5) Like CLC - I was a late bloomer - periods starting at 16, didn't even start ovulating on my own until the age of 36, my awkward phase seemed to go on interminably. I did get married young though - 23.
6) I can do algebraic equations, enjoy them even - like a puzzle to me. However, simple addition and subtraction trips me up all the time - it's like I'm numbers dyslexic.
7) I remember trivia - useless bits of information that make me good at Trivial Pursuit, but as about enjoyable to be around as Cliff Clavin from Cheers sometimes!
8) I had an Aunt Julie growing up who was the best. Now I tell my nieces and nephews that I had an awesome Aunt Julie and now they have one too!
9) I collect quotes - have for years. I've gleaned them off bathroom walls, from books, and even scratched into school desks.
10) I was a bit of an old soul in school - I started school later at the age of 6 and maybe being almost a full year older was some of it. Mostly I thought the kids in my high school was fabulously immature and fickle. I never felt like I fit in - felt older in a way. I dated guys who were much older than me - my prom dates were at least 3-4 years older than me. When I was 20, I dated a 34 and a 43 year old. The funny thing about that is I married a guy younger than me. I told him it was for completely pragmatic reasons - women have a longer life expectancy than men, so this way we might just even out and go together!

and a bonus:

11. I am a total pragmatist/realist - neither optimistic nor pessimistic. I don't see the glass as half full or as half empty. I see a dirty cup that someone is going to have to wash (and usually it ends up being me!)

I could cry that I always get picked last - but even if I were first at this, trying to choose would be extremely difficult and this has been going around a bit. There are so many excellent bloggers out there I would love to get to know a little more about so it is hard to narrow things down. But, here goes: Katie from Taking the Statistical Bullet, Kristin, Mrs. Spock, Lori at Weebles Wobblog, Kathy at Three of Kind, Kimberli of I'm a Smart One (and it's her birthday too!), & Natalie from Relaxing Doesn't Make Babies.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

After great pain a formal feeling comes --
The nerves sit ceremonious like tombs;
The stiff heart questions -- was it he that bore?
And yesterday - - or centuries before?

The feet, mechanical, go round
A wooden way
Of ground, or air, or ought,
Regardless grown,
A quartz contentment, like a stone.

This is the hour of lead
Remembered if outlived,
As freezing persons recollect the snow--
First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.

-Emily Dickinson-

-All the things I might have known and all the things I might not have known because of them-
"The heart never forgets"

I use to sign my posts on spals with those words. I'm sure Loribeth remembers - she and the other baby lost mamas on spals held my hand a time or two during some dark and sad days, including this one seven years ago.

It's not an easy thing, to be mother to the unseen. To want to tell everyone that they existed and feeling like the only one who ever really, truly knows that. To be keeper of their memories, of an entire existance, brief, but real.

Thank you for remembering this day with me. For remembering the little beings who were. For getting it. For being here.

I've written of my little one before on this day - you can go here for the tale. It is long, wordy as typical for me, and raw. Just knowing you're here though, helps. It makes a difference.

~i~ Matthew Thomas February 8th, 2002 ~i~

Show & Tell With Mel - Feb. 8th

Behold, I show you my Thespian Card. I was in my first play at the age of 5. My first role? That of "child". It was a musical - so I had songs to learn and sing. As with many musicals, there was also dancing involved. Since I was young (and cute at the time) my part in the one big dance number was to sit sweetly on the front edge of the stage and play with a dolly. I was to do nothing more than to sit, play with the dolly and sing. For some reason, on the night of the last show, I got it in my head I needed to do more than just sit, play, sing. So, when the dancers finished their number - which was a big square dance type thing and ended with them on their backs kicking their feet in the air, I decided to join them. They were wearing pantaloons - I was not. When you're 5 and cute - you can get away with flashing the audience in your days of the week undies with the polyester lace. I was a hit. Flash forward some almost 12 or 13 years . . . .

Definitely not as young. Still kind of cute though. Still not wearing pantaloons. This time I got to sing AND dance. We did a musical revue this year in high school. One of my big numbers was to sing "Baby Face" with 5 other girls. We started off sweet and adorable - note the big, dopey bow. We were supposed to end in a sort of burlesque-y grand finish with involved a chorus line bit of kicking and some shimmying. Given that we were a smallish high school with a drama budget to match, many of our costumes were pretty much spit and gum and mostly held together with safety pins. Our first performance was a matinee for the high school. The entire Varsity football team sat in the first two rows, together - a loud, rowdy and verbal bunch guaranteed to consider this an interactive type activity. When it came turn for our number, the other girls and I smartly marched out on stage and began singing and dancing. "baby face, you got the cutest little baby face . . . " Things were going quite well. Near the end of the song and before the chorus line kick, we were to kneel in a cheerleader pose. We knelt and when I stood up, caught the heel of my character shoes on the hem of my pinafore. So much for safety pins. So, now I am standing, heading into what it supposed to be an impressive show of shimmying followed by synchronized kicking with my dress around my ankles. Talk about a wardrobe malfunction. The first two rows are in an absolute uproar. I shimmied my pinafore to one foot and then kicked it into the front row. The show must go on right? And that, my good folks, is how I managed to moon the entire Varsity football team and earn my Thespian Card.

Now, stop snickering and go see who else is mooning the class . . .

Monday, February 2, 2009

Article on Recurrent Pregnancy Loss & California Octuplets

I've actually been sitting on this post a little while, having been distracted by other things. I came across this article last week on recurrent loss. Many articles I come across are usually pretty basic, mostly facts, a little human aspect which leaves you thinking "oh that's sad" and there is usually a nice pretty little tidy wrap-up; the lady in the story with the recurrent loss has a baby and they ride off into the sunset together - all better. This article was a bit different in the regard that there wasn't a happy ending - at least not yet. The author spoke about the conclusion to her story being either the physical and literal end of her childbearing years with another child or just having tried for that other child. Perhaps some of why the article got to me so much was because I could identify so strongly with much of what the author describes. I thought it was a very open and honest viewpoint that oftentimes gets neglected or glossed over. Many times the women who are deeply upset by loss are portrayed as desperate or obsessive and creatures to be pitied. The thing is - not all of us are like that, and just because we mourn our losses doesn't mean we aren't just normal human beings dealing with a difficult situation. I'm sure there have been people who pitied me over the years. I've been told a great many times how strong I must be, and just as many as there were who thought me strong, I am equally sure there have been a few who have thought me more crazy and obsessed. Personally, I think it was probably a little of each, with a healthy dose of mule-headed stubborn thrown in. I am sure that all of us have been told we are strong - strong at a time when we probably feel our most frail. Mostly though, I really just survived. Isn't that what you do? Survive?

In all I thought the article was a worthy read and got the point across without beating you over the head with it or going for the high drama factor. Hopefully the link will still work for you! If not, let me know.

The other topic that had me so distracted from getting this post up was the recent delivery of octuplets in California. I am not one to judge on family size and certainly not on the use of infertility treatments. I also don't tend to believe everything I read - but some of the stuff coming out since the delivery is a bit, well, mind-boggling and a bit unbelievable to say the least. Lately, a lady claiming to be the mother of the mother of the octuplets has been speaking to the press calling her daughter "obsessed" and also claiming that the woman not only lives at home with her parents, already has 6 children under the age of 7, is a student, not married and went through in-vitro. The thing I find most unsettling is if she truly went through IVF and ended up with 8 babies, that would mean they put EIGHT embryos back in this girl. This really disturbs me. Those of us who have been through infertility treatments know that the "litters" usually result from IUI and not IVF, since most doctors will only put back 2-3 embryos. With IUI, when overstimming, the doctor usually recommends scrapping the insemination and refraining from intercourse if there is a chance of a high order multiple pg occurring. Having been through the injections and trying to conceive beyond conventional means, I know how hard it would be to refrain if I have eggs and I am going to be ovulating - the whole point is trying to get pg right? What I am trying to figure out, is if this truly is a case of extreme IVF, who in their right mind would request eight (or more - since not all of them will take) embryos to be transferred at once and what kind of doctor would actually agree to that? Perhaps that is the issue - the right mind part. Which I rankle at because I have to wonder how many people will make the assumption that anyone who pursues assisted reproductive technologies must not be in their right mind and obsessed. Speaking to a friend of mine, she mused that maybe the doctor didn't think they would all take. Well, the chances of winning the lottery aren't that great either, but people do win the lottery, so it isn't impossible. Part of me doesn't think there should be "requirements" to be met for treatment. On the other hand, in situations that are somewhat extreme as this one in California may be - I have to wonder if there should be some sort of screening process in place, or even some restrictions. (Which I completely grate at that word - restrictions. As if infertility weren't limiting enough.) All anyone needs to do is google "octuplets" and you get a whole slew of articles detailing what may be the situation these 8 babies have been born into.

Another pet peeve of mine with this - is how all the press conferences at the hospital, they tell you that 8 babies ranging in weight from just over a pound to just over 3 lbs, born 9 weeks early and expected to stay in the NICU for at least a month are "all healthy, doing great and breathing unassisted." Okay - they may not be on vents - but most likely are receiving oxygen. My guess is mom received steroid shots to try and help mature their lungs faster prior to delivery. This was hailed as a "medical triumph" with 46 people in the delivery room and even a surprise "stow-a-way" extra baby. However, a baby who is expected to be in the NICU for at least a month and weighs less than a small bag of sugar cannot regulate their own body temp, let alone has enough energy stores to nurse adequately and is being fed intravenously or through gavage tube, is receiving oxygen that can lead to retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) but is a necessary "evil", and at risk for a whole plethora of not so great setbacks and/or permanent disabilities. That is not "doing great". Before I had my preemies (born at 33 and 36 weeks respectively - and not micro by any means, but still required NICU time), I had the mistaken idea that early babies were fine - just smaller than full term babies. News reports exactly like this one were what gave me that idea. The night my daughter was born at 33 weeks, I had no clue - not one iota of what giving birth to a premature infant really was going to be like. I really wish my doctor had prepared me better for the NICU. At 4 lbs, 17 inches, my daughter was bigger by a pound than the largest of these octuplets, I had been given steroid shots and gestated 2 weeks longer. She was on cpap at first because even though she could breathe on her own - she tired out rapidly and the alveoli in her little lungs were "sticky" due to immaturity - because these babies do not produce a much needed lung surfactant at first. That was the first day. She had an arterial line in her head. That was very upsetting to me as it is not easy to see this big tube stuck in a tiny, tiny head - and they don't put it in a vein, it goes in an artery. Her leg was splinted for her IV line and then her arm when they had to move the IV that supplied her with nutrition. The second day she developed a pneumothorax and they took a needle bigger than any I have ever seen before in my life and stuck it in her chest to draw off the air that had torn through her fragile lung tissue, so her lung could re-expand and she could breathe again. I didn't get to hold her until day 5 - because until then she was considered "Critical Care - Unstable" She was "Critical Care - Stable" when they finally let me hold her for the first time, arterial line still in place, leads attached to her chest, splinted arm, oxygen tube and all. The first week was literally hell. After that, things got better - slowly. There is a lot more she went through and yet, we were so fortunate. She has no lasting effects from her less than auspicious too early beginning and she came home at just over 3 weeks, weighing barely five pounds - dressed. We got off easy - no retinopathy, no hearing loss, no intercranial bleeds, no sepsis - just lots and lots of scars. Even after this - I still had the mistaken impression that my next preemie born at 36 weeks and weighing a whopping 7.5 lbs (for a month early, that's big) would be much better off. Not so. He had difficulty breathing at first too. Lungs. They get you every time. He only needed the cpap the first day and then was on oxygen for another week. He came home on the 8th day - but I didn't get to hold him for the first time and try breastfeeding him until the night before they discharged him. The doctor also wasn't convinced until 2 hours before they discharged him that he was going to be going home that day at all and that he wouldn't benefit from another week in the NICU.

Jessica NICU December 1996

The first time I had a NICU baby, I had one child at home - almost 3 years old. The second time, two children - one 6 and the other 3.5 years. I was torn. Wanting to be at the hospital every waking second - needing to be there, and wanting to be there for my other children at home, needing to be there too. I felt like a huge failure on all counts - my body failed my babies, I was a failure as a mom, I was a failure as a wife because the house was a wreck and I was a wreck too - notwithstanding I wasn't in great physical shape either - 3 weeks bedrest, hemorrhaging, csection - doesn't put you at fighting status. Being a NICU parent is emotionally and physically exhausting - even when things are going "well". I cannot even imagine multiplying that by 8 and throwing in six more children ranging from 2 to 7 years on top of that - by myself. Even once home, preemie infants are high maintenance - not a week went by without a visit to the pediatrician. Not having a phone call in to their office every other day was unusual. I had to keep a journal and calendar of all the medications and issues just ONE baby was having. Things were difficult enough even with another parent thrown in the mix. I wish that when they hold these press conferences they would honestly state that prematurity is a struggle. These are not just "mini" babies - say that they are doing about as well as can be expected for their size and gestation, and hopeful that every day will be a little bit better than the one before, but they require critical care and time.

Today I sit here and wonder though, me who has never criticized someone else for family size or the lengths they went to getting there, how much of a good idea it is not to ask some questions at least and if maybe a line should be drawn somewhere? Because at some point it stops being about me - what I want and need, and starts being about the child (or children) we bring into this world and what they need. Most of the time - these two purposes balance themselves out - in this instance, it seems a bit lopsided, okay - really lopsided. Wouldn't it also be beneficial to stop presenting this Oprah-esque, rose-colored glasses, riding off into the sunset view? The one thing I do know for certain, these eight newborns and their siblings are going to need a lot of care, love and attention. I hope they receive it. I hope they are all able to make it home and that home is ready for them.