Wednesday, August 26, 2009

mixed emotions

For the past two summers, I've struggled with the start of the new school year.

One part of me is terribly excited for Super Boy to embark on another fun adventure of learning, apart from me and life at home, where he's becoming his own person. He loves school, loves his classmates, has a passion for learning, and does just fine. I also enjoy having my days to do housework, run errands, meet friends for coffee, workout, and write.

The other part of me feels sad at the prospect of not having my little buddy with me all day everyday, and hates the coming-to-an-end of summer and losing the freedom of doing whatever we want with our days as we go back to having a set schedule for nine solid months.

Today was "Meet the Teacher" day at Super Boy's school. It went well. He didn't get the teacher he was hoping for, but the teacher he got is a fine teacher, nonetheless, and I'm sure he'll end up being very glad he is in this class once he's into the swing of things.

It's always strange to adjust to a new teacher and a new classroom though. For Super Boy and for me.

I'm trying something a little different this year as far as my involvement in school is concerned. For the past two years, I've been a co-room parent; this year, I opted not to sign up for that position. That said, I noticed as I was leaving this afternoon that no one had signed up yet, so I told the teacher that I was available to do it if need be, but I intentionally wanted to leave the opportunity open to other parents this year.

Instead, I signed up to help out in other ways in the classroom: helping with library time (which I also did in Sr. Kindergarten), bringing in supplies or treats for the class parties, etc.

I have mixed feelings about my approach for this year, because I really liked being a room parent, and I know Super Boy liked having me as a room parent and frequently seeing me in the classroom. It also seems like few parents really want to take on that responsibility, for whatever reasons. I guess I'm odd in that way. Part of me hopes that the teacher ended up having two other parents sign up for the spots, and yet another part of me hopes that he still needs someone to volunteer so I can continue doing something I've enjoyed.

Either way, the new school year is starting next week. Ready or not, here it comes!

Best wishes to all of your children as they embark on another year of learning!!

Super Woman

Monday, August 17, 2009

oh, sweet summer

I'm not ready to say goodbye to you just yet.

You are the one season I look forward to during all the other cold months of the year. While the leaves fall, and the snow flies and the rain comes down in sheets, I dream only of you.

You are lovely, lush, abundant, warm, inviting. You make it possible for me to wear shorts and tank tops and swimsuits every single day. Because of you, I can feel the warm sun on my bare skin and take a dip in the cool waters of a pool or lake or pond. I can nap in my (new) hammock in the sun. I can spend LOTS of pleasant, comfortable time outdoors.

When you are here, I can walk barefoot. I love the feel of soft, hot sand or warm, verdant grass between my toes, cushioning my step. (Except when there's dog poop in the area, which is pretty much ALL THE TIME in my backyard. But that's another story.)

When you are here, it means that Super Boy is home with me all day, every day. I love that. During the blissful days of summer, we are able to fly by the seat of our pants, explore what we want to, when we want to. We can be lazy out in our own yard, or have picnics or go swimming or play at a park. Super Boy loves you just about as much as I do, although the lure of snow still calls to him in winter, the season I most dread. Of course, that's probably because I'm the one doing the majority of the shoveling and snow blowing, so really, who can blame me?

Speaking of Super Boy, as you draw to an end, o inimitable summer, it also marks the return to school for my little man. It's always a bittersweet thing for me, sending him on his way for another school year. There's of course some excitement in it, because I know how much Super Boy misses seeing all his friends all day long five days out of the week, and because he so enjoys learning new things and being able to tell me all about them at the end of his days. But there's sadness in this return as well, because it means that we're tied to a schedule again, we must wake up early and go to bed early again, and our days are no longer our own.

As always, dear sweet summer, I will continue to honor you until you blow your last warm breath (which, hopefully, won't be until end of October... I beg you) by leaving my moonroof open until it's too cold to bear it, sleeping with my windows open at night so you can continue to caress our sleeping forms, and spending as much time in anything other than jeans and real shoes for as long as my delicate, tender skin can take it.

I love you, summer. Please don't leave me.

Passionately yours,

I've become "that" woman...

The one in the room full of wonderfully, blessedly fertile woman who everyone else looks at with pity and discomfort immediately after another of their ranks announces she's pregnant. It's even worse when the newly pregnant have already "lapped" me in pregnancy before.

It's awful and awkward. It's incredibly, unbelievably uncomfortable. I don't know how to look back at everyone upon hearing the wonderful news and adequately express my genuine happiness and joy for the newly pregnant one without betraying the sadness and shame and embarrassment I feel inside for not being "one of them." And I don't know what to say or how to say it to put them at ease either. I know that my inevitable "Oh, that's wonderful! Congratulations!" comes out sounding just a little bit too cheerful, but I can't help it - I'm obviously over-compensating because I don't WANT to be the one no one wants to tell that happiest of news to.

It is, in a word, a nightmare.

Nonetheless, after three-and-a-half years of trying to conceive a second child without success, I knew it was bound to happen eventually, my metamorphosis into "that" woman. It was easy enough for everyone to hang with me in optimism and hope through the first year that we tried to conceive, and even through most of the second year. Almost that entire time, everyone who knew me felt totally comfortable and at ease asking me how that was all going and where we were at, etc., as the inevitable question came up often by the time Super Boy was 18-24 months: "So, are you guys planning to have more?" It was a perfectly reasonable question and I had no problem answering it, thinking as I did that it would happen "soon."

But I actually had my first taste of being The Last One to Find Out about a new pregnancy last year after a friend got pregnant with her third baby in a half-dozen years. It hurt being the last one to hear the great news, and yet it was precisely because of my struggles to conceive that she didn't want to tell me, in the hopes of sparing my feelings.

I know that those around me who know how long we've tried and how much I've agonized over this care about me and Super Man, and would love nothing more than to see us get our wish of another child. I think that most people don't try to be hurtful when it comes to that issue, and I'm enormously grateful for that. I just wish there was a way to make them understand that by treating me ANY differently than anyone else in sharing their pregnancy news only makes me feel worse, different... other. I want to be able to celebrate with them and share in their joy without having to feel like the pink elephant in the room.

Because the thing is, I never in a million years thought I'd find myself here, being "that" woman. We conceived Super Boy in three months, for crying out loud! And I was only 32 when we started trying for a second baby, when Super Boy was three, so we had every reason to believe that it would only take a few months to conceive again.

I cannot tell you how surprised I was when six months had gone by with no second pink lines or plus signs showing up on my pregnancy tests month after month. Or how absolutely flabbergasted I was when TWELVE months of the same had gone by.

By 24 months, I was definitely feeling some despair, both because I was still lacking the thing I want most, and because our insurance at the time was abysmal and wouldn't cover any testing to figure out what the problem was. It felt like the worst kind of limbo at the time, but I've come to find out that this new place I'm in is definitely worse.

After 36+ months of trying, even I feel more than a little pathetic, and like maybe this is hopeless. Despair doesn't even begin to cover how it feels. How can I blame anyone else for thinking that when they look at me after another friend or acquaintance announces their good news?

Since changing insurances, we've been fortunate to be able to pursue fertility testing, but the results have been "good news/bad news." The good news is that they're not finding a clear problem to pin the lack of conception on. The bad news is that despite the good news, they can't tell us why we're not getting pregnant after more than three years of trying.

This troubles me. This gnaws away at me month after month as I try to somehow pay closer attention to my body during what is supposed to be my "fertile time." Frankly, I'm wondering if I even HAVE a "fertile time," because it sure doesn't seem like I do! We've tried to target every day, every other day, every three days, starting a few days before, and continuing to try a few days after the supposed window... Nothing has worked.

I've laid in bed for 20 minutes afterward with my legs in the air, pillows under my ass, in crazy yoga poses with my feet all the way over my head and NOTHING.

I've tried Reiki, putting special stones that are supposed to enhance fertility over my abdomen, prayer and NOTHING.

All of this nothing is hard for an aging girl to take, I've gotta say. Between being 35 now and the potential for premature menopause breathing down my back due to the family history on both sides, with each month that ends in bloodshed my hope dwindles more.




I see my ob-gyn again in a few weeks for my annual. While she has been the one to order all of my and Super Man's tests and has run the show thus far, I'll be asking her to recommend some fertility specialists now. While I appreciate the steps she's taken, I feel like we're spinning our wheels and getting nowhere while the clock keeps ticking away. I need someone who can HELP us figure this out, to tell us what's not working and help us find the solution to the problem. If there is one...

And, if there's not, I just want to know. I need to know.

At this point, EVERY other aspect of my life is hinging on the question of second baby or no second baby. I feel more in limbo in my own life now than I ever have before. Because this is a HUGE chapter of my life, and it's one I'm not mentally ready to close the door on yet. If that door is closed for me, due to some problem that is out of our hands, that changes things. But until I know one way or the other, I cannot close that door yet.

I envy the women who had the precise number of kids they wanted to have and then made the CHOICE to be done, to "get fixed" or have their husbands fixed. They got the family they wanted and were able to prepare themselves for and come peacefully to the decision to close that phase of their lives. They were able to pack up and get rid of all the maternity clothes, the baby clothes, all the baby gear, all the random sippy cups still hiding in the corners of their kitchen cabinets. They were able to ditch the electric breast pumps, the bottles, the bibs. They could give away the potty seats/chairs, the sweet little baby bathtub, the infant car seats and strollers. They could take a few nostalgic photos and then paint over the nursery walls and move on to the big kid decor once and for all.

For me, I expected to follow in those footsteps. I expected that we would have the family we envisioned as we planned our life together all those years ago, to savor the two healthy, successful pregnancies we wanted. I thought I would get to care for two newborns, to nurse two babies, to raise two children together. I envisioned us bidding our farewell to all of the baby business and STUFF eventually, feeling content with that decision, that choice, even if it was a bit sad to think there would be no more babies.

To know at this point that I don't HAVE that choice, that I can't DO all of that, is frustrating. I feel cheated. I loved being pregnant with Super Boy. I LOVED it. Not the nausea those first few weeks, but EVERY other aspect of pregnancy was magical to me. I have always looked forward to experiencing it a second time. Especially these last two years of me being at home, because I could enjoy a more leisurely pace without a full-time job in the mix, and I could help ease Super Boy into being a big brother. I also looked forward to it because I'd be able to be home full-time with a second baby now to really experience all of the firsts this time, which was not my experience with Super Boy, much to my sadness. I don't want to move on from that hope until I'M ready to.

Is this a decision I can control? Well, sure - I suppose I could just say, "You know what? Forget it - I'm done with the drama of this. I will CHOOSE to be done having children." But in my heart of hearts, I know that I'm NOT done. And as long as I'm still fertile - and Super Man (who is older than I) still wants to tackle the whole newborn thing with me - I don't think I can make that choice to stop trying. Heck, even if I COULD do that, with my luck, about three years AFTER THAT would be about the time my body would stop screwing around and I'd get pregnant!

I do not wish any of this on anyone, be it those trying for their first, their second or their sixth. To ever want a baby and not be able to have one is a unique brand of heartache. It's different for each of us experiencing it, to be sure, but there is nothing like the feeling of that hole, that place where something - someone - is missing in a woman's heart.

For all of you who struggle with fertility problems, my thoughts and very best wishes are with you. While my "baby dust" doesn't appear to work very well, I send you what I can, and I hope that it's what you need.

Lots of love,

Monday, August 3, 2009

How Much is Enough?

Super Boy is six. Since he was about 12- or 18-months old, we've had him in classes of one sort or another, in part for education and in part for pure enjoyment. Obviously, as he's gotten older, the number of things he's interested in has increased, so choices often have to be made about which classes to "invest" in and which to leave for another time. The question is, how much is enough?

I found myself in a tough spot a few summers ago after signing Super Boy up for too many activities and classes, to the point where I felt like I had to schedule the rest of the summer around the classes. NOT good.

Then last summer I pretty much went too far in the other direction with not quite enough to do to break up the monotony of the normal day-to-day stuff. I can't even tell you how many times I heard the phrase every parent dreads and despises: "I'm BORED!"

This summer, I think I finally hit the sweet spot, so to speak. Hooray for me!

Super Boy has had a few all-day education classes - three, to be precise - on neat topics at our local zoo, and he took a martial arts class through the local rec department that was twice a week for six weeks, and now this week he's enrolled in a nature class through the parks department that takes place each morning for three hours. It's literally been the perfect mix of opportunities for Super Boy without dictating every minute of our days. After this week, he has absolutely NOTHING on the activity schedule until the start of school, and that's just fine by me!

We've been somewhat lucky, in retrospect, that June and July were cooler than average in our area. That's not to say that we haven't been to the pool or beach at all, but I will say that we've been there less than I originally would have liked. That said, with the bulk of Super Boy's activities taking place in July, I'm actually glad that now we'll have the month of August to just play and fly by the seat of our pants without classes interrupting the day. And I have a feeling that the temps will heat up a bit this month, making journeys to the beach and pool much more enjoyable.

As I look ahead to fall, however, I find myself wondering if my luck will hold up in terms of knowing just the right balance of activities to complement school and normal life.

Super Boy is already registered to participate in U7 soccer for the '09-'10 season; he's been playing since the ripe old age of 3, but the '08-'09 season on a U6 team was the first where actual games were played, and it's only going to get more technical and time-intensive as Super Boy advances through the ranks. I'd also like to get him back into swim lessons, which thankfully are only once a week, but the trick is registering for the prime class (the weekday afternoon) before all the slots are full. I'm usually woefully late and miss out on that class, and we end up either passing on that seven-week session or taking a spot in the middle of each Saturday afternoon, which I loathe.

But I have NO IDEA what to expect in terms of homework with Super Boy entering first grade this year. He rarely had any in Senior Kindergarten this past year, but he had occasional homework in Junior Kindergarten the year before, so I'm at least expecting some this year. I just want to be sure that we set the right tone now that school and homework come first, and if activities must be cut to keep up, then so be it.

We've witnessed first-hand Super Girl's struggles with finding the right balance, and we really hope to avoid that with Super Boy. Super Girl's mom has always enrolled her in multiple activities at a time, and that's fine while kids are trying out different things to figure out where their interests lie. However, a few years ago when Super Girl got into volleyball, basketball AND softball, there was significant overlap in the seasons, particularly when she started playing on a club (or select) volleyball team on top of the school and/or Y team(s). It got to the point where she rarely had a free afternoon after school or a free weekend day to just be a kid and relax or spend time with friends, and it was also having a major impact on our schedule with her, seeing as how we only have her every other weekend and she was in select tournaments or had practices to attend nearly every weekend. It also started to affect her grades in school for the worse, and it ultimately boiled down to making Super Girl choose which sports to invest her time (and her parents' money) in going forward, based on which activity(ies) she enjoyed best and showed the most talent at. Volleyball is her clear favorite, followed by basketball, so that's what she's focused on now, and it's helped tremendously for her to pare back a bit and really work on growing her technical skills, etc. instead of participating in a lot of different things without full effort.

I'm curious to hear from you readers about how you find this balance with your children, and how you help them manage their responsibilities to school, sports and other activities and still enjoy a normal childhood.

Thanks again for reading, and enjoy the rest of your summer!!

Your pal,