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The Melting Pot

The Dreaded "D" Word

IMG_1709__2_.jpgMother's Day 2007I don’t think anyone plans to get divorced.  I know I certainly never did.  Yet, in March of 2007, I found myself separated from my husband and alone with three young children ages eight, five and two.  I remember the day he left quite vividly, with snow lingering on the ground and Little H clinging to her father’s leg crying inconsolably.  He managed to pry her off and walked out the door.  I’m not sure I’ve ever felt that much guilt.

If you are going through marital difficulties or divorce, I hope my story will help you. Let me tell you the rest…

When all was said and done, I guess my marriage ended rather diplomatically, but the reasons behind its demise were quite numerous. It wasn’t that we hated each other, nor was there much fighting or ill will.  A lot of it had to do with maturity and responsibility or lack thereof, and my husband’s desire for freedom.  In hindsight, our relationship was probably on a downward spiral for quite some time. 

We’d had some problems when Master Yi-Yi was small, but we went to counseling and vowed to make things work.  Eight years later, it dawned on me one morning that nothing had really changed, and I couldn’t see the future being any better.  So, one day in January of 2007, when I was in a particularly foul mood, my husband told me we needed to talk about our marriage, and I eloquently spewed out that “It sucks.”

At this point, our discussion became more one of ending it. A book that helped me with my decision was Should I Stay or Should I Go?: A Guide to Knowing if Your Relationship Can--and Should--be Saved.  I told him I wasn’t going to make him stay, but if he left, that was the end.  And I no longer wanted to be held accountable for his unhappiness. Somehow, we continued to live in the same house for two more months.

I think it shocked many people when we announced we were separating because we got along so well on the surface, but appearances can be deceiving. Even the mediator who drew up our separation agreement told us we got along so well, he wondered why we were considering divorce.  I was lucky to have a lot of support from my family and friends, and I also found the Babycenter bulletin boards helpful.20120723_14_2_.JPGFall 2008

Things were awkward at first, but as time went on, we developed a better relationship as friends, which continues into the present.  Our divorce was finalized in August of 2008. My ex-husband generally sees the kids about 3 times a month at my house with occasional visits to him, and he is invited to all the family holidays and birthday parties. We have both moved on and formed new relationships. I was remarried (to TR) in June of 2012, and for the most part, life is gratifying.

Does that mean everything is perfect now?  Of course it isn’t.  I still carry around some guilt even though it’s probably unwarranted. And there are times I am still sad that my children aren’t growing up with their father in their lives on a daily basis.  But I’m also married to a wonderful man, who I know is happy with the life we’ve made.  And although I don’t get to see them very often because they are in California, I’ve acquired two wonderful stepdaughters.

What I probably find most difficult is figuring out the right dynamic between TR and my kids.  It’s hard to know how much to expect of my second husband.  I’m still the one who mostly deals with homework and discipline.  Master Yi-Yi probably clashes with TR the most.  He’s never been one who has liked being told what to do and has always been very strong willed.  And he was old enough when his father left to be more set in his ways. But there are times when they go off just the two of them and have a great time together.  And then there are times when he is happier with his father. 

Dec_29_2008_010.jpgDecember 2008Because Monkey Boy was so young, the relationship between him and TR has been easier, though now we’re dealing with, “Dad is way more fun than either of you!” Little H has a good relationship with both her father and stepfather, and despite the rough start, seems to take everything in stride.  There are some days when everyone is clashing and I’m completely stressed out by the whole dynamic, but most days life just goes on as normal.  A good book about children and divorce is The Truth About Children and Divorce: Dealing with the Emotions So You and Your Children Can Thrive.

Our blended family is a work in progress.  Hopefully, my kids will have the ability to form healthy relationships despite their parents’ divorce.  They are all pretty well adjusted and in hindsight, I’m glad we ended it when they were young.  At one point, I thought staying together for their sake was the answer, but if they aren’t going to witness a positive relationship, I think divorce can be the best option.  It was, in any case, the best option for me.  

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The Times They Are a Changin’

Now that we are well into the new year and the second semester of school, change has been on my mind a lot lately.  2015 is going to be a big year of lasts and firsts.  And being a person who does not adapt easily to change, I am not looking forward to this.photos_for_changing4.jpg2007 and 2014

It will be Monkey Boy’s last year in elementary school and subsequently his first year of middle school.  Yikes!  As I sit here and write this, I can already feel the anxiety settling in.  My goal was to have his problems addressed by the time he started middle school, and I think we’ve made pretty good headway, though maybe not as much as I had hoped.  Although his teacher and I have seen some huge improvements in reading and math, he continues to test below grade level.  It is so frustrating to know that no matter how many gains he makes, he never catches up. 

And just this week marks the end of a year of weekly occupational therapy appointments.  It has been one of the best things we have done for Monkey Boy, and I love Helping Hands.  It’s the one therapy that I (and he to a degree) will miss.  And quite honestly, I’m a little scared to see it end.

photos_for_changing2.jpg2005 and 2014It will also be Little H’s last year of middle school and her first year in high school.  She’s already traveling to high school for German, so I think she’ll settle in fairly easily.  She continues to go to tutoring for her dyslexia, but that too will end sometime this year.  She’s really growing up and time can’t seem to go fast enough in her mind.  Our last conversation had me telling her that, “No way are you going to live with a boy when you go to college!”

Master Yi-Yi will be smack in the middle of his high school career.  His time as an underclassman will end and time as an upperclassman will begin.  Quite honestly, considering how this year is progressing, I think we’ll both be glad to see tenth grade come to an end.  There will still be changes on other fronts for him. In March, he will have fulfilled all of his requirements to get his driver’s license.  He and I are already battling over exactly how much freedom he will have.  I’ve decided that the hardest thing I will do as a parent thus far will be to watch him drive off by himself in a car for the first time.  I am positively dreading it.photos for changing2_1.jpg1999 and 2014

I still can’t believe how quickly everything changes.  I know a lot of it is good, and we are lucky to have made it this far.  These upcoming changes are firsts and lasts that are mostly predictable. We’ve made it through many “lasts” that only now do I realize never happened again…the last bath together, the last song goodnight, the last time Master Yi-Yi was shorter than me, etc.  And we’ve made it through plenty of “firsts.”

So, it’s time to brace myself and gear up for all these future changes.  And speaking of changes, in my next post, I will give you a glimpse into one of the biggest changes I endured….my separation and divorce in 2007.

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Multiplying the Madness Part 2

Ryan_kindergarten.jpgFall 2003As I went to bed shortly before midnight on May 30, 2004, I felt painful Braxton Hicks contractions. I didn’t think too much of the contractions, since I had experienced them countless times.  They did however wreak havoc on my bladder, so I lugged myself out of bed to use the bathroom.  As I stood up, my water broke.  I frantically shook my husband, called the doctor and arrived at the ER within an hour.  My due date was still 19 days away.  And what had begun as a rocky pregnancy segued into a bumpy labor. 

Let’s go back to the beginning.  As I said previously once I discovered that my insurance would pay for a donor egg cycle (at the time about $30,000), I took that path.  By this time, the red haired donor I had used for Little H was no longer an option.  I perused countless donor profiles and decided to look for one that more resembled my traits. I came up with my choices, and I was put on the donor lists (each donor essentially has a waiting list, and you wait to see who becomes available first).

It wasn’t too long before I received the call that one of my choices was available.  I was eager to begin my hormone regimen, and then the nurse dropped the bombshell that my donor was pregnant and no longer an option!  The clinic told me they had another donor in mind (not one of the ones on my list, but one I had considered) that was ready to begin immediately.  So, I read her profile again and decided to proceed. Image2_001.jpgEmbryo Transfer

The whole process of taking hormones, prepping my body and waiting for the donor to be ready for retrieval went relatively smoothly.  Before I knew it, they were calling me to let me know they had retrieved ten eggs.  My husband and I headed to Fairfax for him to give a sample.  I waited impatiently to find out how many embryos we had.  It turned out we had ten!  They chose the best three to transfer and froze the rest.  The same day, my husband and I headed back to Fairfax.  I arrived with my bladder full of that dreaded water, and I endured yet another transfer.  I took my bed rest seriously and took it pretty easy for several days. 

I barely remember the blood draw or the phone call telling me it was positive.  I do remember that my numbers were super high, and they warned me of the possibility of multiples.  I was ecstatic.  I was scheduled to come back for an ultrasound in two weeks.  And that’s when the trouble started.

Image3_001.jpgFirst UltrasoundAbout two days before my scheduled ultrasound, I was playing with Master Yi-Yi when I felt some wetness.  I headed to the bathroom, and discovered a pretty copious amount of blood.  I was terrified.  I called the clinic, and they reassured me that this wasn’t totally uncommon in IVF pregnancies and to stay on bed rest until my appointment.  I was both excited and petrified for the ultrasound. 

With much trepidation, I made my way up to Fairfax, this time with my mother.  I almost couldn’t bear to look as they inserted the transducer, but therewas a tiny sac.  They also found another sac filled with blood, and told me that’s where the bleeding had come from. It was never confirmed, but my guess was that it was from one of the other embryos that started to develop. Unfortunately, the uncertainty didn’t stop there.  The doctor said they could not identify the yolk sac and asked that I return for another ultrasound in ten days.  And this roller coaster of ups and downs continued throughout the pregnancy.

20_week_us.jpg20 Week UltrasoundOnce again, I was filled with dread on the way back to Fairfax.  But this time, there was nothing but good news.  The yolk sac and fetal poles showed up on the ultrasound, and I was able to see a tiny heartbeat.  Everything looked great, and they passed me on to my ob/gyn.  Things were going well, I hadn’t had any more bleeding, and I started to relax.  Until I hit about 12 weeks and, at my routine checkup, I was diagnosed with a bacterial infection that if not treated could lead to a miscarriage.  So, I was put on powerful antibiotics which led to a yeast infection and even more medicine.  I’m not sure that I was ever really able to relax again after that.

At 20 weeks, I was super excited to find out the sex of my baby.  I would be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping for another girl. For some reason, I had it in my head that most IVF babies are girls.  My mom and Little H accompanied me to the ultrasound appointment, and it wasn’t too long before they pointed out a tiny penis.  Little H immediately burst into tears.  To be honest, I was a little disappointed at first, too, but then I was able to focus on the joys of little boys.easter.jpgEaster 2004

Around my 25th week, I had another bleeding scare. I panicked as all these horrific thoughts went through my head…was it too early if he needed to be delivered…was there a problem with the placenta…would I actually be bringing a baby home…it’s not like I can just try again. Thankfully, the ER doctors concluded that the blood was in my urine and had nothing to do with the baby.  I was sent home and directed to see a urologist.  He put me on another powerful antibiotic in case there was an infection.  Needless to say, I spent the rest of my pregnancy on pins and needles and couldn’t wait to get it over with.

Which brings us back to the beginning…  Because my water broke before I really had any contractions, it took a while for labor to begin in earnest.  At 13 hours, this one wound up being the longest labor of all three kids.  As soon as the first contractions hit, I asked for an epidural.  I remember thinking; I’m really not ready to be doing this all over again.  Even the epidural didn’t seem to work as well this time around.  just_born.jpgJust Born

Finally, it was time to push.  The doctor and nurses encouraged me to get him out quickly because the contractions were causing dips in his heartrate.  And this time I was thinking; I am so tired, and I just want this done.  Monkey Boy made his arrival into the world after about three or four pushes on May 31, 2004.  Unfortunately, my joy was short lived as he had some fluid in his lungs.  They let me hold him briefly, but then whisked him off to the NICU. 

In the meantime, the epidural finally kicked in with full force.  I couldn’t get up for at least an hour because my legs wouldn’t work!  By then, I was extremely frustrated.  I couldn’t move, nor could I see my baby. We had a couple other minor setbacks, such as taking several tries to pass his hearing test and an anomaly they found at the base of his spine. He had a slight indentation, so they ordered an ultrasound.  Trying to get that completed held us up for almost an entire day, but everything turned out fine, and we were finally sent home Wednesday evening.

Matthew_blog.jpgMeeting their brother

From the beginning, I always thought about the other seven embryos.  I debated donating them to another couple, but I didn’t feel comfortable with that.  Donating them to science was never an option for me personally, nor was keeping them frozen for years. 

When Monkey Boy was nine months old, I made the decision to use the embryos myself.  There were several factors that influenced me. I wanted to use them before I truly got another “baby urge” and might be disappointed; Monkey Boy was such a good baby, I figured I could handle another; and I wasn’t getting any younger.  I also still wanted another girl, though I did have some fears about the possibility of multiples.spring_2005.jpgSpring 2005

 

The doctor at the clinic tried to talk me into only thawing four and keeping the rest frozen for another cycle. I managed to talk him into thawing all seven and letting them grow to the blastocyst stage (a stage many clinics let their embryos grow to begin with.)  Ultimately, it didn’t really matter.  Only three embryos survived the thaw, and I wound up having the transfer immediately.

Image1.jpgThe Surviving Embryos

As you might suspect, that cycle didn’t work.  I have to say I was a little disappointed, but not heartbroken like I had been with the other failed cycles.  Plus, I didn’t know then how much of a challenge Monkey Boy would become, and what’s more I had no idea that within 3 1/2 years, my husband would move out, we would be divorced, and I would be left to cope as a single mom of three young children.

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Multiplying the Madness Part 1

Image18.jpgLittle H turns oneWhy is it that when you’re told you can’t have/do something, you want it all the more?  That became my mindset when it came to having babies.  I’m not sure what I would have done if I hadn’t had the embryos left from Little H’s cycle.  I had a boy and a girl, and maybe I would have been happy to stop there. But I did have those five babysicles, so it became ingrained in my brain that I was going to have a third baby.  Shortly after little H turned one in the spring of 2002, I decided I wanted to try for a third (and I told myself, last) baby. 

I don’t think my timing could have been worse.  2002 was an all-out horrible year for my family. Thank goodness I had Master Yi-Yi and Little H to keep me grounded.  It started when one of my brother Michael’s longtime nurses completely disappeared.  Shortly after, the family dog died.  And then in July, Michael passed away.  By then, I had already contacted the IVF institute and gotten the ball rolling to embark on another tumultuous journey.  I think I briefly thought about stopping.  But I had also worked things out with my insurance company and started the hormones.  And everyone encouraged me to go ahead with the cycle. Image19_001.jpgMichael's last birthday

In hindsight, there is a lot I would have done differently.  I was partly obsessed with bringing new life into the world after Michael’s passing.  I certainly wasn’t in the healthiest frame of mind when I went through the IVF process.  I was also fixated on the idea of another red headed little girl.  I should have anticipated this cycle would end badly.

Since we already had the embryos, all I needed to do was take hormones (in the form of shots, pills and creams) to prep my body.  When I was ready, the IVF clinic would start the thaw and call to let me know how many (if any) survived to transfer. They had warned me that the survival rate was around 70%, so I was shocked when I heard that all five of them made it!  The doctor was slightly apprehensive about using all five, but we proceeded on with all of them.  Typically three embryos are transferred for fresh two day cycles, and four are transferred for frozen cycles.  I’d always thought twins would be cool anyway.  So in September, I once again drank a ton of water,  had the transfer and went home for the doctor-mandated 24 hours of bed rest.  My family was still in turmoil over my brother’s death, and I had a four year old and one year old who demanded a lot of attention!  The environment wasn’t exactly conducive to staying relaxed and stress free.  I still sometimes wonder if the cycle would have turned out differently had I waited.

Image20_001.jpgBingoI suffered through the usual post-IVF two week wait, and finally the day dawned for the pregnancy test.  My husband and I made yet another trip to Fairfax for the blood draw and came home to wait for the dreaded/anticipated phone call.  The phone finally rang, and I was so frustrated when the nurse told me it wasn’t a yes nor was it a no.  She said that my HCG levels were slightly elevated, but not as much as they would like to see for pregnancy.  So, she told me to come back in three days.  If the numbers doubled, then there was a chance of a successful pregnancy.  But it they didn’t, that would be the end. 

Of all of the waits with all of my cycles, that one was the worst.  I vividly remember that Master Yi-Yi was beginning tot soccer that day, so I put on a pseudo happy face like nothing was wrong, and trudged onto soccer for the afternoon.  I was pretty much in a daze and could barely interact with anyone.  Two days later I found out that my HCG numbers were at zero.  It was a chemical pregnancy, meaning that at least one embryo started to implant, but then failed to develop any further. 

I was devastated.  Everyone in my family was still upset about Michael’s recent death, so I didn’t get much sympathy.  I was, after all, mourning a child that never really existed.  I couldn’t even explain why I needed that affirmation of life so badly.  That was the next time I really questioned my timing.  But I also have to believe things happen for a reason.  Not long after that, the DC sniper was rampant along I95, and I was glad I didn’t have to travel up to the clinic.  But as time went by, I still couldn’t let go of my obsession with having another child.Image21_001.jpgMaster Yi-Yi is four

I thought about it on and off for a year.  I told myself that I should be fine with two beautiful, healthy children.  But I think it was the knowing I couldn’t spontaneously grab my husband and say, “Why don’t we try for another baby!?” that made it more difficult. It also didn’t help that several friends got pregnant with their third child around the same time.  While I was very happy for them, it also made my longing worse.

I wasn’t tied to IVF for baby #3; in fact, I researched several modes of adoption. From what I found, we didn’t qualify on several levels.   Ironically, it was also way more expensive for me to adopt than it was to go through IVF because I had insurance coverage.  At the time, it was very rare for insurance companies to pay anything for IVF.  Sometimes they would cover the drugs but not the procedures.  Occasionally, they would cover the procedures but not the donor fee.   I then researched donor embryos as well as split cycles where you share a donor with another person and split the eggs.  I talked to the IVF institute and was on board to go that route.  After they checked into my insurance more thoroughly, they told me I happened to have one of the only insurance companies that paid for a complete donor egg cycle including the donor fee.  I deemed it fate and wound up doing another complete donor egg cycle in the fall of 2003. 

Look for my next post and join me for the conclusion of my IVF saga complete with a roller coaster pregnancy leading to Monkey Boy and a cycle almost no one knows I did.

 

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The Bumps and Hurdles to Building a Family part 3

embryo transfer_1.jpgEmbryo TransferMy last post ended when we found out that there were eight embryos from my first cycle using donor eggs.  I was on pins and needles for two days waiting to hear how many, if any, survived.  The phone call (I don’t think the phone had ever caused me so much anxiety before my IVF cycles) on the morning of the transfer brought tremendous relief.  All eight embryos had survived! Of course, that relief was short lived because being me, there was always something else to worry about, and soon would be the dreaded “two week wait” for the pregnancy test.

Let’s back up a little bit.  In my opinion, the worst part of the transfer is the water.  I was told to drink 32 ounces of fluid within two hours of the procedure.  This was to provide a more accommodating angle for my uterus and to allow better visualization of the catheter used for the ultrasound-guided transfer.sonogram.jpgSonogram  So, on the hour trip to Fairfax, I consumed a massive amount of water.  Needless to say, I thought my bladder was going to explode.  I couldn’t even sit in the waiting room because I was too uncomfortable.  I then had to endure the transfer and lying flat on my back for thirty minutes with a full-to-bursting bladder.  It was so bad; I think that’s going to be what stands out about IVF in my mind forever. But anyway… The doctors transferred three healthy looking embryos that day and froze the other five to use later.

Once again, I was at the mercy of my hormonal body.  I attempted not to think too much of my symptoms, but I’m always apt to overthink everything anyway.  At least, I had Master Yi-Yi to keep me busy.  Two very long weeks later, I headed back to Fairfax for “The” blood test.  Once again, the phone produced massive amounts of anxiety.  But this time, I heard “congratulations, your numbers look great, come back in two days to make sure they increase.”  I was happy, though the numbers thing left some level of anxiety.  But, the numbers did exactly what they were supposed to do.  And two weeks later, I had an ultrasound and saw Little H’s heartbeat for the first time. Image5.jpgComing Home

My pregnancy was relatively uneventful after that, and I kept busy with an almost two year old Master Yi-Y for the next several months.  I couldn’t wait for the 20 week ultrasound to see if we would be having a boy or girl.  I have to admit that I was really hoping for a girl this time.  I was so excited when the ultrasound showed that to be the case (of course, being me I wouldn’t believe it 100% until she was born).  That didn’t stop me from picking out all sorts of cute pink things for the pending arrival, though! At the same time, I wondered what she would look like.  I didn’t know what to expect.  Little H had a pale skinned, red haired donor and a father who was half Thai.  We wondered what genes would win out.Image6.jpgMaster Yi-Yi and Little H

About three weeks before her due date, I ended up in the ER for what I thought might be contractions.  It turned out to be false labor.  You would have thought I would have recognized real labor pains the second time around, but apparently not.  Around four in the morning on February 2, ten days before she was due, I was cruelly reminded of what labor really felt like.  Up to this point, my thinking had been if I could do “natural” childbirth once, I could do it again.  Pretty much as I had the first contractions, I radically changed my mind.Image8.jpgMichael and Little H

Because it was early in the morning, I was admitted through the ER.  The orderly sent to take me to the maternity floor made for a humorous start.  First, he sent me to the wrong place, and then he arrived with a broken wheelchair.  Once we got the chair straightened out, he took me to the wrong floor, and he jokingly told us he hoped he didn’t get fired.  Eventually I did reach the correct floor, and I made it clear I wanted an epidural as soon as possible.

 Labor progressed rather routinely, and with the help of that epidural I wasn’t in much pain, so I sent Mark to get himself something to eat.Image9.jpgLittle H  He hadn’t been gone long when the baby’s heart monitor went off, so all these nurses came running in, flipped me on my side and shoved an oxygen mask on my face.  Mark returned in the middle of the chaos.  After that dramatic moment, labor continued on uneventfully.  Little H’s heart rate didn’t drop again until delivery, at which time they told me that I needed to push her out “now.”  Well, “now” didn’t happen, so they moved things along with the vacuum.  Approximately eight hours after labor began; Little H was born, complete with a little tuft of red hair! Both Master Yi-Yi and my brother Michael adored her.  In fact, the nickname Little H was coined by Michael.

Life was hectic, yet rewarding with two kids.  Those frozen embryos did stay in the back of my mind, and I knew I would use them eventually. Adoption was something else I considered, but that came later.  I will get into that more in my next post, as well as the events and circumstances that would eventually lead up to Monkey Boy’s birth.

 

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About Laura

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Laura is mostly a stay at home mom who works part time at the Central Rappahannock Regional Library.  In the past, she was a first grade teacher.  Over the years, she has kept herself busy volunteering at school, babysitting and caring for her children.  Currently, a lot of her time is spent dragging her youngest child, Monkey Boy, to various appointments in search of answers to his developmental issues.  She also has two teenagers, son:  Master Yi-Yi and daughter: Little H. Her melting pot family also includes her ex (father to her kids), the world’s best step-dad and husband, “TR” two step-daughters, two cats and a part-time dog!

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