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The Melting Pot

The Bumps and Hurdles to Building a Family part 2

Around the time Master Yi-Yi hit a year old, I started having that “baby urge.”  I had it all planned out.  I would get pregnant within three months, and my kids would be exactly two years apart in school.  Don’t ask me what my reasoning was exactly.  All I know is that it didn’t turn out quite like I had expected.Ryan_one_year2.jpgOne Year Old Master Yi-Yi

Let’s back up a little bit.  At the time of my amnio with Master Yi-Yi, I knew that in the future, I would not be leaving the Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) gene up to chance again, but I wasn’t sure what my alternate path would be.  Then I read about Microsort in a magazine, and it just so happened that it was being pioneered at a fertility clinic in Fairfax, VA less than sixty miles from home.  I was so excited because I hadn’t been aware that something like Microsort existed.

So, as Master Yi-Yi approached his first birthday, I took it upon myself to call the clinic for a consultation.  It’s all a little fuzzy now, but I met with the doctor who laid out a plan.  He assured me that I was a prime candidate and things would go smoothly.  First, I had to undergo several tests.  All the tests came back normal except for one, the FSH test.  It indicated my fertility was more like that of a 40+ year old woman even though I was only 29 at the time.  The doctor thought it could be a fluke, and we proceeded. 

The cycle started with shots to suppress my hormones. Unfortunately, my hormone levels went down so low, they told me it could be months to get them back up.  So, they gave me hormone pills to speed up the process.  We started over with a different protocol, typically reserved for someone in their 40’s. This time the injections actually worked, and I held onto the hope that I would get pregnant.  Despite the development of several follicles, though, they only retrieved one egg, which turned into one embryo after fertilization.  From testing, I knew the embryo was female and after two very long days, it was transferred into me.

I was given instructions to take it easy for a couple days and some information on donor eggs.  So, while I was resting, wondering if this would really work, I read donor profiles.  I still remember looking them over and getting excited about the one with red hair.  When I was little, I always said I wanted a little girl with red hair.  I remember at one point thinking that it would be ok if this cycle didn’t work because I could use the red haired donor.

RyanOutside1.jpgMaster Yi-Yi (around the time of the first cycle)It was an agonizing two weeks until my pregnancy test, and to make it worse, I was loaded up with hormones that made me feel pregnant.  Finally, the day dawned for the blood test, and I anxiously drove to and from Fairfax that morning.  The day dragged on while I nervously waited for “the” phone call. And as you can probably guess, the test was negative.  Even though I had been really excited about the red haired donor and really didn’t have much confidence in the cycle, I was still devastated at the news.  For me, it was realistically the last hope I ever had of having children genetically related to me, which did make me sad. But, I was also willing to do whatever it took to have another baby.

Soon, I was back in Fairfax planning out the next step.  I could try another cycle using my own eggs which, due to premature ovarian failure, gave me a 10% chance of getting pregnant. My other option was to move immediately on to a donor cycle, which would raise the odds to 65%.  There really wasn’t much of a choice in my mind. I didn’t have the finances nor the emotional stamina to continue on with cycles that had little chance of working.  I knew I would love any baby whether he/she had my genes or not. At the same time, I tried to convince myself that if this option didn’t work, I would be ok with one child.  Let’s just say that my emotions were all over the place.

I made an appointment with the doctor in charge of donor eggs.  I pored over profiles, looked at baby pictures, and came up with a list of my top five choices.  For the most part, I chose ones who looked most like me and then added the one with red hair.  I was quickly paired up with an available donor (my first choice did not have red hair).  And then the donor fell through.  But by then, the red haired one was available and ready to cycle, so we proceeded with her. I guess it was just destined to be.

I started with the same hormone suppressing injections, but then moved onto pills.  Eventually the day came for my donors’ egg retrieval, so off to the clinic we went for my husband to give his sample and me to have bloodwork done.   I anxiously awaited the phone call letting me know how many embryos we had.  There were eight.  Now, I just had to make it through the next two days to see how many continued to grow until transfer.  Needless to say, I wasn’t much fun to be around.


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The Bumps and Hurdles to Building a Family part 1

When I was 17 weeks pregnant with my first child I had amniocentesis and learned I was carrying a boy. It was one of the most wonderful and terrifying moments of my life. Based upon my family history, I knew the baby inside me had a 50-50 chance of having a devastating disease:  Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy(DMD).LauraMikey72.jpgMe and Michael

How did I know this?  Let me catch you up…My brother, Michael, was born when I was two and a half years old, and from the beginning, I cherished him.  As he progressed into toddlerhood, my mother suspected something wasn’t right when he failed to meet some physical developmental milestones. The pediatrician brushed off her concerns and insisted that he would catch up.  Michael did eventually learn to walk, but he never jumped or ran.  Somewhere between his second and third birthday, she was referred to a specialist who had some suspicions about what could be wrong.  A muscle biopsy around his third birthday confirmed that he had DMD.

Later I was tested and doctors determined that I did not have the disorder, but that I was most likely a carrier.  There is something called a manifesting carrier, where some of the symptoms of the disease might be present, but are much less severe. My muscles have never been super strong and things like long distance running and the flexed arm hang/pull-ups in PE were totally humiliating, but that was the extent of my symptoms.

More testing, when I got closer to childbearing years, confirmed that my brother and I did in fact share the gene for DMD and I was definitely a carrier. Doctors told me if I ever had a boy, he would have a 50% chance of having the disease.  If I had a girl, she would have a 50% chance of being a carrier.

When my husband, Mark, and I were ready to start trying for a baby, we went to see a genetics counselor. She laid out several options for us, including getting pregnant naturally, avoid having children, adoption and donor eggs.  The part about donor eggs must not have sunk in because it was a few more years before I seriously considered it a viable option.  As I said in my original post, we took our chances with the first one.  I was just convinced I would have a girl.Ryan_1.jpgMaster Yi-Yi

Master Yi-Yi was conceived quite easily a few weeks shy of my twenty eighth birthday in the midst of my short lived teaching career. At the time, I was living in Richmond, but we had already decided to move to Fredericksburg before his birth, so I chose an OB up here. Other than some occasional nausea and fatigue, the first months were uneventful. I was busy with a recertification class and my first graders, and barely noticed I was pregnant. At 17 weeks, I had the amniocentesis, and found out we were having a boy.  I was simultaneously thrilled and heartbroken.

The six weeks it took to learn if the baby had DMD was, needless to say, one of the longest waits of my life.  I still remember driving to work every morning alternately praying for him to be fine and bracing myself for raising a child with muscular dystrophy. Luck was on my side, and it turned out Master Yi-Yi was fine.  I spent the rest of my pregnancy preparing for the arrival of my baby boy, as well as finishing up my final school year and packing up the apartment for our move.ME_RY01.JPGMichael and Master Yi-Yi

Master Yi-Yi’s birth came somewhat unexpectedly. The day of my weekly appointment dawned exactly two weeks before his due date. I felt a little off that morning with a slight backache, but didn’t think much about it. Normally Mark would not have been with me, but he planned to come to my OB appointment that morning.  I can’t for the life of me remember why he was coming along, but I do remember that big bowl of Fruity Pebbles I ate! So, off we went to my appointment. I mentioned the pain to my doctor, and the next thing I knew I was being ushered to the hospital in the beginning stages of labor. Apparently, that was a popular day for babies because it was very busy.

Early in my pregnancy, I had decided (like many first-time moms) that I was going to give birth without the use of any type of pain relief. That was before I knew how much it would hurt. Labor progressed steadily, and as the pain increased I decided maybe I did want an epidural. The anesthesiologist came in and announced I needed IV fluids first. I was in excruciating pain by then, and the nurse couldn’t get the IV in. It took about thirty minutes and she kept getting after me to stay still. If you’ve ever been in the middle of hard labor, you know this isn’t an easy task. Then they had to wait to run a bag of fluid. By then the anesthesiologist was backed up. Before he ever returned, they decided I was ready to deliver. Needless to say, I was not a happy camper. Thirty minutes later and about eight and a half hours after labor began; Master Yi-Yi was born. I never did get that epidural!

By the time I got settled into a room, I was starving, and the cafeteria had closed for the night.  My husband wound up bringing me a McDonald’s milkshake and fries.  He’s since brought McDonald’s French fries and milkshakes for Master Yi-Yi’s birthday every year, even though we’ve been divorced for six years. DSCN0993_001.JPGMaster Yi-Yi at 4For the four short years my brother lived after his birth, he absolutely adored his little nephew, and today, as a sixteen year old, Master Yi-Yi’s personality is very much like his uncle’s was.

When it was time to try for another baby, we decided to take a more conservative approach.  I had been researching IVF and the use of Microsort for gender selection.  I was naïve enough at the time to think this would be a simple undertaking.  It wasn’t long before I found out differently.  Next time, I will get more into the trials and tribulations of conceiving via IVF and the complex journey to Little H’s birth.

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Monkey Boy versus Homework, 0 to 1

20120723_10.JPGFall 2009Before I get started on my series of posts on infertility and my journey through in vitro fertilization (IVF) and ultimately donor eggs, I wanted to update you on Monkey Boy. I do actually split my time among three kids; it’s just that Monkey Boy requires a little, make that a lot of, extra attention.  I can’t even tell you what he does that’s different.  My other two kids aren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, and Master Yi-Yi has his own homework issues, but there’s something about Monkey Boy that makes you want to scream like a lunatic and rip your hair out one minute and just sit and hug him and protect him from the world the next.  And so began my thoughts for this post. 

Homework is a nightmare.  Once upon a time, I had a chart for Monkey Boy, and it worked really well for a while.  And then he got too smart, and decided the rewards weren’t worth it.  It’s amazing how much time he spends telling me he’s dumb, when he is so good at manipulation.  His favorite of late is to tell me he’s going to answer with what he thinks I want to hear whenever I ask him a question, just so I’ll leave him alone.  But back to the chart, there is no incentive for making him want to do homework.  Nothing competes with just plain old not having to do the work. 

This leads me to the whole point of this post: tonight’s homework.  The sad part is he is actually doing better with homework this year than he has for the past couple of years.  Of course, he wants to put it off until 7pm, when all remnants of his ADHD medicine are gone.  Technically, he should do it immediately after school.  But he needs a break.  And by the time we get settled and prepare, eat and clean up dinner, it is well after six.  I have found there is no good way to break it up, either, because if I lose him, I will never get him back.

He’s also insisted this year on doing his homework in the living room.  He absolutely refuses to do it at the table.  And I figure, ok, I’ll at least let him be comfortable.  Then we have the battle with the TV.  I don’t even know where this has come from.  It’s not like we ever did homework in front of the TV before.  I refuse to capitulate on this, obviously.  And then I feel like a pushover for letting him do homework in the living room to begin with. So, I tell him no TV or we do the work in another room.

275.JPGSpring 2013So, in his usual fashion, he goes from playing calmly in the family room, to bouncing everywhere in the living room.  The child actually has self-control when he wants to, that’s what I don’t get.  I thought kids with ADHD had no control over themselves, but I guess Monkey Boy proves me wrong.  Just getting near homework sets him off like a jumping bean.  So, tonight was math.  Five math problems shouldn’t take too long.  Ha!  Not with Monkey Boy.  What should take about ten minutes took at least 50.  They were word problems mainly with multiplication at their root. I would read and discuss the problems with him, and I even made little visuals to aid my explanation.  However, they only work if he will actually look at them.  So, for every problem, I probably ask the same questions at least 20 times.  In the meantime, I feel my patience level dwindle down to zero.  And I really did start out calmly trying to go through the problems attempting to rationalize that the sooner we started, the sooner we would be finished. He tells me that he’ll do the work if I don’t yell.  I tell him I won’t yell, if he’d listen to me the first time.  And so it goes, for all five problems.

And then I’m caught in this vicious thought cycle.  Am I pushing him too hard, am I spoiling him if I let it go, has he really had too much or is he just being ornery, does his brain literally have no more room in it for more work, if I let it go this once, then I’ll never get him to do homework and what am I going to do in middle school, when the homework load multiplies? And how is he ever going to handle middle school, period?

We finally get to the last problem.  And he bursts out crying.  This really isn’t typical, though I do have to say when this happens for whatever reason, not just homework; he gets angelic after he finishes weeping.  Thus my irritation segues into tenderness.  And he goes from being mad at me to letting me cuddle him.  And then I feel terrible.  This one definitely has me on an emotional roller coaster.

So, we finally finished math, but we had the twenty minutes of nonfiction reading left to do.  So far this year, I’ve read to him.  It’s generally while he’s in jumping bean mode.  Tonight it was through tears.  I make him read a sentence or two every so often, but ideally I want him sitting beside me reading along taking turns.  This is what I’m aspiring to.   I’ll keep you posted.

IMG_0582.JPGThe Woods Fall 2014We finished homework, and he went back to playing.  About ten minutes later he asked to go to bed.  And this cute little voice is telling me he wants to “relax with momma.” So, he’s back to sleeping in my bed.  And, yes, I seem to be the biggest pushover ever.  When absolutely everything is a battle, you have to pick and choose.  And sometimes, it just isn’t worth it, especially with Monkey Boy.  And when these far too rare sweet moments creep in, I can’t resist him at all.

By the way, despite the homework battles, Monkey Boy seems to be adjusting well to fifth grade.  He loves his teacher, and it seems like the perfect match.  I think he is even paying better attention in class.  We will see how it continues to pan out.

And next, we’ll begin the series of posts I promised you on how two of my beautiful children came to me via the miracle of donor eggs.  

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Unveiling the Mask of Dyslexia Part II

Meghan.jpgFirst Day of Seventh GradeIn my last post, Little H had completed elementary school with no real answers as to why she was having so much trouble with reading.  So, we were both a little worried when she started middle school.  Despite her problems, she has done very well.  Her English teachers really have no idea that her reading isn’t up to par. She even got an award for highest GPA in her sixth grade English class!  Her spelling and punctuation are lacking, but her storytelling ability and ideas are amazing.  She is also quite artistic.10153669_10204034447037564_5650165286231091969_n_001.jpgLittle H's Art

At home, I noticed that she still struggled with reading whenever she would read out loud.  And she was terrified of being called on to read in school.  She was fine with words she knew, but had trouble breaking down words she didn’t.  She would fly through parts of the passage and then read other parts slowly, all the while pretty much ignoring the punctuation.  I tried to get her to read like she spoke.  It didn’t really sink in.  Things like blends and digraphs meant nothing to her.  Differentiating between a “b” and a “d” has always been problematic.  I didn’t realize at the time that these were all signs pointing to dyslexia. 

607__5_.JPGTiger PaintingWhen I had Monkey Boy tested in the spring of 2014, I asked about Little H and finally had her tested, too.  We went through a clinical psychologist and were lucky that our insurance covered most of it.  She was super resistant to the idea, but dyslexia had been in the back of my mind for a while.  The test results were not unexpected.  She’s on a tenth grade level in comprehension, a twelfth grade level in essay writing, a fourth/fifth grade level in reading and just slightly below grade level in spelling.

Because she had done so well in school, we figured she didn’t qualify for services, and she didn’t want her disability made obvious. So through some networking, I found her a tutor for summer 2014.  At the same time, I was directed to the site for the International Dyslexia Association. There are only two tutors in the Fredericksburg area endorsed by this group.  Tutoring was the best thing I’ve ever done for her.  She did a lot of complaining at first, but now admits the activities are fun.  It also helps that she is putting her effort into something that is working.IMG_5874_001.JPGFirst Day of Eighth Grade

Her tutor uses the Wilson Method, and she has been doing this for many years.  Wilson is a multisensory program that essentially breaks language down into its smallest pieces and shows how to put it all back together.  All the different activities help build connections in the brain that are weak in dyslexics.  The best thing about Wilson is that it spans all ages, so it is never too late to get help.  Little H is doing great in the program and moving along rapidly.  We will continue tutoring throughout the school year, and hopefully, she will be in a good place when she enters high school next year.

If you think your child may have dyslexia or has problems similar to Little H, I strongly urge you to get testing done.  It is so worth it.  A few days ago, I asked Little H if she noticed a difference. She got a big smile on her face and told me that when she reads now, she understands and remembers all the details.  Her fluency is also so much better, and she is continuing to work on speed.  It’s absolutely amazing how far she has come in such a short time. 


Next up, I will take you back to Monkey Boy and his battle with fifth grade homework.  And finally, we will reenter the world of donor eggs with a short series of posts.


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Unveiling the Mask of Dyslexia Part I

Meghan_table.jpgTwo Years OldSince I’ve spent so much time honing in on Monkey Boy in my prior blog posts, I thought I’d give Little H her moment in the limelight.  Of course, she’d probably prefer to stay in the background, given the subject matter, but I want to delve into her dyslexia.  I think it is important because I really wish I had focused on it sooner, and maybe I can save some of you from the troubles my daughter had in school due to my ignorance.

Little H is thirteen years old and was just diagnosed with dyslexia in the spring.  Her case isn’t as severe as many (dyslexia has a spectrum just like autism), and she’s managed to adapt her learning over the course of her life to compensate for her weaknesses, which makes it less obvious.  And while that’s a good thing, it also prevented her from getting help sooner.  After all, who would believe that an honor roll student, who had made it into the National Junior Honor Society, could have a learning disability?

IMG_1176.jpgKindergartenLet’s go back a bit.  Little H was definitely the most verbal, at the youngest age, of all three of my kids.  She was putting two words together by fifteen months and talking in sentences by her second birthday.  She also tended to use vocabulary that was mature for her age.  She always loved to be read to, so this probably helped.   I should have known something was up when my bright, verbal preschooler had trouble learning her alphabet.  Master Yi-Yi had some difficulty at first, too, but eventually got it, so I thought Little H just needed a little more time.  I also attributed it to the fact that she hated to be corrected, which made practicing much more difficult.  Who can learn anything when they’re in the throes of a breakdown with lots of tears?  By the time she finished kindergarten, she knew most of her letters, but phonics was (and continued to be) a weakness. 

Little H spent kindergarten and first grade in a private school.  By the end of first grade, her teacher told me she was reading just fine.  I’m not sure where she got that information because Little H only read with great difficulty and could not sound out words well at all.  What she could do, though, was practice enough that it appeared that she could read better than she really could.  Why I didn’t seek help at this point, I don’t know.  I think part of it was I had no guidance, since no one else really saw a problem.  Dissatisfied with the quality of instruction and lack of resources at this school, we pulled her out of private school and sent her to public school.  I guess I hoped, consciously or unconsciously, that this would solve her “problem.”

IMG_0763.JPGSecond GradeHer second grade teacher noticed that she had some difficulty with reading, and she was put in a remedial group.  At this point, all of her comprehension scores were slightly below grade level.  Her phonics skills were poor in both reading and spelling, and she was unable to “sound out” unfamiliar words.  She did all right on spelling tests, mainly because they were words with patterns and she was motivated to study hard and memorize them.  In everyday writing, though, errors were more common. Her ability to use letter sounds for guidance was weak, and she often made mistakes like “firend” instead of “friend.” This continued throughout third grade.  Everyone just attributed it to the fact that she needed more practice. 

20100907_25-001_1.JPGFourth GradeFourth and fifth grade proceeded much the same way.  She no longer saw the reading specialist because they said she had the attitude that she didn’t belong there.  Part of me was thinking, so what if she has an attitude, that’s where she should be if she is doing so poorly, but the other part thought that if it really wasn’t helping, it was pointless.  She continued to test poorly in comprehension, and her teachers kept telling me that she just needed to read more.  Her reading levels did gradually rise throughout elementary school, but she remained barely on grade level each year.  She also managed to pass all of her SOL tests.  I recently asked her if she actually read the passages for the reading tests, and she told me sometimes.  For the most part, she deduces the answers without actually reading everything.

Little H has always hated reading out loud, even to me, so that made it a little harder to know exactly where she stood.  I took her to the eye doctor to make sure it wasn’t her vision.  She introduced me to a computer program called Dynamic Reader that was supposed to improve fluency and eye tracking.  It didn’t seem to be much help.  I invested in a reading program called Sound Reading that also worked on fluency.  I do think it helped slightly, but not as much as I had hoped. I would recommend this program to students who need to improve fluency, but do not have dyslexia. 

Before we knew it, middle school was on the horizon. Next post I’ll share how Little H adapted her way through the more challenging curriculum at this level and how and when she finally got her diagnosis.

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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!

Pouches' Community Corner

Trains, Planes and Automobiles Kids' Race Series


From a small beginning, Cathy Weise of the Ron Rosner YMCA has developed an ambitious three-race series for kids for this summer, with the help of The Great Train Race, Shannon Airport, Dominion Raceway & Entertainment, the Fredericksburg Area Service League and Race Timing Unlimited.

Great Train Race Director Jennifer Taylor was one of the first on board.