Saturday, May 27, 2006

Rheumatoid Arthritis Helped Build My Family

Here's a guest article from Lisa Andrews

About four years ago, our clique of mid 30-something couples experienced a flurry of pregnancies. A hunk of cake with a baby’s bonnet plastered across it became a dietary staple for me as I numbly attended shower after shower. I never tired of seeing all the tiny hats, booties and onesies (or the delicious cake for that matter), but wondered, when would my turn come? When would I get to enjoy my bonnet-plastered cake?

At the tender ages of 34 (my husband) and 35 (me) and a year of marriage under our belts, we decided maybe it was time to start working on a family. I became obsessed with taking my basal body temperature, peeing on ovulation sticks and timing intercourse at just the right second. My cycles were normal and I came from a brood of five; I figured getting pregnant would be a snap! But after four months of trying and limping around from being off Enbrel for RA, my husband got checked for infertility. After all, his work up was much simpler than mine, and with RA, I didn’t want to be off my meds and wait out the compulsory six months of trying to conceive. The results were devastating. My husband was nearly sterile and our only chance of pregnancy was using the highest level of in vitro fertilization. If having children were natural, it would be anything but natural for us. Ours would be conceived in a petri dish.

Ironically, this was a blessing in disguise. Though I never got to experience the exhilaration of a surprise pregnancy, needing fertility treatments meant I could time when I could and couldn’t use Enbrel. No longer did I have to suffer for months at a time wondering if I’d be pregnant by month’s end. Being on Enbrel shots for five years also made administering hormone shots to myself, well, a piece of cake! After 15 months of work ups and two invitro fertilizations, I finally got pregnant by my 36th birthday.

My pregnancy was easy- no morning sickness, minor weight gain and I had loads of energy. My RA kicked my butt. By the time I reached my last trimester, I could barely walk and dreaded those first few steps in the morning. My baby must have known I was in wicked pain. Our sweet daughter (Iris Elizabeth) was born six weeks early, but perfectly healthy. To my surprise, the prednisone I was taking helped her lungs develop in utero. Talk about serendipity!

Fast-forward two years. Our friends were having their second (or often third) baby and all conversations centered around pregnancy again. Would we endure another hormonal roller coaster of in vitro fertilization? Could I handle another pregnancy? Would Iris be our only child? Could I love an adopted child? After a few months trials of more fertility treatment and a wicked flare of my RA, the answer became easy. In vitro fertilization was not cheap (financially or emotionally) and I was no spring chicken. Iris is a high-spirited, loving child that would likely benefit from a sibling. And, yes- I could love an adopted child. We chose to adopt from Guatemala because of the excellent foster care, the beautiful country and a previous visit to Central America years ago.

We completed our international dossier after three months of what seemed like endless paperwork and were ready for an infant referral from Guatemala. I could continue to take Enbrel, take care of Iris and not worry about when or how I’d become pregnant again. I couldn’t imagine sporting a giant watermelon shaped belly while I chased an active 3-year old around. We received our referral for baby Maria in January of 2006 and hope to have her home by late summer. We visited her in April and can’t wait to make her part of our family.

Though the road to building our family was more difficult due to RA, it has taught me many things. One-cherish your children. Be they biological or adopted, they bring so much joy to life. Two- listen to your body. Sure I could have limped my way through another pregnancy, but no one would have benefited from my pain. Three-believe that things happen for a reason. Had it not been for RA- we’d never have Maria in our lives.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Cracked into the MomForce

StuntMom suggested I post an update of my quest to break into the MomForce here in midcoast Maine. I was so lonely this past winter, my first winter in Rockland. Anyone remember my personal ad? Go back to January of this year...

On the Move Coffee Loving SAHM interested in occasionally hanging out with likeminded SAHM. Interests: books, the Brontes, grammar, hiking, cooking and baking, languages, children, picnics, gardening, and field trips.

Well, I did not post it anywhere. That just didn't feel right. Not me. But I have managed to meet a few moms, and make some friends. The Toy Library and Bea's art class were what turned the tide. I now feel like my family and I are a real part of the community up here in Rockland. When we go to the library, we are greeted by the librarians. When we go to the playground, we know some of the other kids' names. We get together about once a week with another mom and child for playtime/coffee. One new friend brought me over some of her tarragon and oregano for my herb garden. How cool.

And who remembers the chiding from StuntMom regarding the Brontes in my personal ad? She felt that was snobby. Well, guess what? I met someone right here in Rockland who is also a big fan of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. Who would have thought?? I still miss Portland and my wonderful community there (Indian restaurants, too), but it's coming together here in Rockland. There are good people everywhere! It's just a matter of finding them.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Importance of Work Outside the Home??

I had an interesting conversation with a student of mine months ago that has stuck with me. I was thinking of her, wondering how she was doing. At the time that she was in my class, she was a single mom who was working in housekeeping at a local hotel. She was taking my Reading and Writing class so that she could help her own children with their homework, and also get her GED. She always came to class looking exhausted, but always participated, and took to the work with amazing enthusiasm.

During a class break one evening, she explained to me that she could actually have more money if she quit her job, and collected welfare. She could also take more classes at once, and be that much closer to a GED and college-bound. But she thought it was important for her children to see their mother working. If they don't see me working, she explained, how will they understand that when they're older, they too will have to work to survive?

She had an interesting point. History does repeat itself, especially in families. Our lives (my student and mine) are so different, but there are still some common threads. My mom was a stay at home mom, and she continued to stay home until I was in college. So my secret belief (I'm embarrassed to admit this now) was that I would go to college, meet a husband, get married, and start having kids by the age of 22. Why would I dream up a life like that? Because that's what my mom did. She did not have a "career", and she did not work outside of the home. Nothing wrong with this, of course. But now, I can see that my student has a point. So, by staying home, am I setting my daughter up with funky expectations for her future?

Well, I teach a class once a week, so I do a tiny bit of work outside the home. It's nice to have a bit of Mom Only cash (even if it really only goes toward groceries). It's nice leaving the family in charge of my husband for one night a week. Instead of changing diapers and reading bedtime stories, I get to talk about paragraph organization, grammar, etc. with adults. It's really good for me to do this. I come home from class feeling so happy and refreshed. And, yes, I will admit, it means a lot to me that my children see that I can work, just like Daddy, outside the home, too.

Friday, May 05, 2006

UPDATED: Baby Has Arrived!

Penelope Rose was born at 8:15 on the morning of Wednesday, May 3. She weighed in at 7 pounds, 7 ounces. Mom and baby are doing well.

Some photos of the new baby can be found here.

Monday, May 01, 2006

A Few Days Late as Usual

Just to keep everyone informed- no, I haven't had baby number three yet. We are still waiting. I heard from a majority of my friends today, since the baby was due on Saturday. I will have stuntbec post the stats once the bundle arrives. Thanks for all of your emails, phone calls and visits. Any day now...