Sunday, January 30, 2011

IVF Reunion - A chain of love, friendship and hope

On Friday afternoon DD and I hosted our IVF friends for lunch. The excuse was that they didn't get to celebrate DD's birthday two months ago as we went to London. Then DD had her birthday at the nursery one month later so we were really done for this year. However, the real celebration is that S could came with her eight-week-old son, O. For that, it was worth having another birthday party.

We were five mothers and five children, ranging in age from three years to two months. That means we have waited three years and nine months for all of us to have successfully brought home a baby. And, strangely enough, after five long journeys and many disappointments along the way, each of us came home with the exact baby she wanted.

It all began when I met N whilst trying to get pregnant. We both succeeded but, sadly, after a difficult first trimester, I miscarried at 22 weeks. I followed N's continuing pregnancy with hope and excitement. Her success was vital to prove that IVF does work for us. My involvement with N helped me regard my situation as a big, disappointing and frustrating delay. It was not the end, just a setback.

During a subsequent attempt, I hooked up with S and R. On that cycle both S and I became pregnant. For me, one year later, this was a totally different pregnancy experience. The numbers were high, the signs were strong and there were no complications. S lost her baby at 19 weeks. She clung on to the fact that I had experienced the same tragedy only one year earlier and here I was, with a healthy pregnancy. And she didn't give up.

Meanwhile, by the time I gave birth to DD, R was three months pregnant. And another R, who had joined our unofficial family of mutual support and encouragement, was two months into her pregnancy. And S was still trying.

At DD's first birthday party S took the group photo of mothers and babies as she didn't feel the need to be in it. By the next first birthday - a picnic in the park - she was already pregnant, but didn't tell. I don't know how she managed not to say anything. I knew and I nearly gave it away twice.

Finally our little group is complete. I can't post the photo but I assure you that it is one that radiates pure joy. And DD thinks that she gets a birthday party, with presents, once a month.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mr Grasshead

Two weeks ago it was Tu B'Shvat - this is a Jewish holiday celebrating the rebirth of nature after the winter and specifically the blossoming of the almond trees (though this year it's fallen early so the almond trees didn't quite make it). It is the sort of minor holiday that can pass you by and has done for me for many many years. The sort of holiday that you need a young child to involve you in. In English we have dubbed it the New Year for Trees.

In the DD's nursery they had a Tu B'Shvat party in which they ate (tiny amounts) of 15 different fruits, they planted seeds and plants in the garden, sang tree songs, painted pictures and... they made Mr Grassheads to bring home. Of course I've seen these before, but nothing prepared me for the intense excitement I would feel on seeing a bit of grass grow out of the top of a soil-filled stocking.

First let me describe our Deshy. Desher is the Hebrew for grass and a very suitable name for Mr Grasshead. He is basically a length of stocking tied at one end, filled with soil, topped with grass seeds, and tied at the top. Then the children stuck on eyes, a nose and a mouth. Deshy came home with instructions to keep him saturated with water and watch his hair grow.

We sat Deshy in front of a sunny window and watered him faithfully for over a week unitl, last Friday, I suddenly noticed a few small shoots poking through his bald stocking scalp. "Look! DD Look!" I cried. I could hardly contain myself I was that excited. After that it was running to inspect Deshy's emerging coiffe every 10 minutes. And believe me, the hair was growing as we watched.

For I while I worried that he was going to have a bald patch where the seeds were unevenly distributed, but he seems to have covered it up quite cleverly by keeping the rest of his hair long and letting it flop over the barer bits. Funny how a comb-over looks ridiculous on anyone else, but when it's your own you sort of understand the emotion behind it. I will have to consider a haircut for Deshy soon, after okaying it with DD first of course.

Tu B'Shvat comes and goes every year. Here in Israel we all know about it because the dried fruit gift-boxes appear in the supermarket. However, this year I celebrated Tu B'Shvat and loved it. Who knew that would happen?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The First Visit to the IVF Clinic

Six years ago and after much deliberating, I evenutally made my first appointment at the IVF clinic at the hospital. I don't know why it took me so long to make an appointment. As my friend N said, when she gave me all the details, they don't make you come home with a baby after the first meeting. In hindsight - would that it were so easy.

Hadassah Hospital is in Jerusalem and, it being a smallish city, I was terrified of bumping into someone I know. In the event, I did bump into someone but it happened to be N who was visiting a friend. She was more than happy to take me up and introduce me. The receptionist greeted N with a big smile followed by a hug and a kiss. Then one of the nurses came out of the office and did the same. Hmm seems like a friendly place...

I was told to wait and I sat surveying the other clients lining the waiting-room. They ran the full gamut from ultra-orthadox Jews (the married ones with covered heads and the unmarried ones in the familiar modest style of dress), religious Moslems (in Arab head-covering and accompanied by their husbands), through to more modern and sometimes scantily clad women (with and without husbands and wedding rings). No one spoke or even exchanged smiles which is very unusual in Israel. Later, when we were all less scared, I started to make friends among the women I met along the journey - affectionately known as my IVF friends.

When my turn came I was shown into a small consulting room with a swarthy looking doctor. To my relief he offered to speak English. I can do Hebrew but sometimes you want to be sure you're saying exactly the right thing and understanding everything to the full. Anyway, the doctor was Israeli-Arab so neither of us had Hebrew as our mother-tongue.

Swarthy Doctor asked me for my medical history, age, etc... I was ready for the questions about why I wanted to do IVF and I had my speech prepared, and practised - a lot. But the questions never came. I was almost disappointed that I'd been done out of my performance. Instead I came out with a list of blood tests I needed to take, the phone number of the sperm bank, and a date for the next meeting.

I called N to tell her how it went. How quick and simple it had been. "I told you," she said, "they don't pry into your personal life. The initial signing up is like buying a fridge from people who care."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Great Sterilizing Debate

When DD was born I had a pretty good idea what I wanted to do about most areas of her care. For example, along with breastfeeding, which I did for six months, I knew that I was going to give her one bottle of formula a day. My reasons? As an older mother, I didn't totally trust my milk to be sufficient and I wanted to see at least one bottle of milk go down. As a single mother, I wanted her to be used to the bottle so that other people could feed her occasionally and it not be a big trauma - in case I was not available for any reason. Very soon other reasons joined the list such as, when I was with friends this was important adult company time for me and I didn't want to spend half the time in another room (or at least away from the dinner table) whilst feeding.

However, I had no idea whether sterilizing bottles was required or not. As with most issues, I went looking for the answer I wanted. The sterilizing units were very expensive and would take up yet more counterspace in my already cramped kitchen.

On one side were the mothers who told me that sterilizing was left over from the past when the water supply was not treated as it is today and could not be trusted to be clean enough. On the other side, mothers of children with allergies or sensitive constitutions told me I absolutely must sterilize. Others informed me that dishwashers are sufficiently hot to sterilize as they clean - I don't have one.

In the end a comment from a paediatrician swung the balance. She told me that there was no question I must sterilize. When I asked her why, she replied that parents bring her their babies with diarrhea and they don't make the connection between the runny-tummy and the shmootsy bits left on the bottles when you wash them by hand and don't sterilize. That did it for me - I don't leave shmootsy bits when I wash-up by hand! So I didn't sterilize (although I did pour boiling water over the clean bottles in a mixing bowl for a while) and DD was fine.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Lost Hours

When I first brought DD home from the hospital I read that a newborn baby sleeps for about 16 hours a day. That's perfect, I thought, I need about eight hours sleep so I'll have eight hours to do my stuff while she's asleep. I'm still not quite sure where those eight hours went.

I was reminded of this today as the following phenomenon occured. The nursery is open for five hours on a Friday morning; 7.30am until 12.30pm. I had to teach one English class lasting an hour and a half. The location of the class is one short bus ride away. So how come I dropped DD off at the nursery, went straight to my class, and then came directly back to the nusery to pick DD up? I swear I did nothing else this morning.

My life is full of these lost hours. It probably always was but I never noticed until every spare moment became so precious.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Best Advice I Ever Got

All my adult life I had been saying that if I didn't get married I would have a baby on my own. However, I was holding out to do it the traditional way with a loving other. Or at least an other. It wasn't until I saw my friend's twins, who had come into the world with the help of IVF, that I got over that hurdle. They were her babies, her family. I looked but I didn't see any question marks hanging over their heads.

Now, at the age of 41, I knew it was put your money where your mouth is. Either I did it now or I came to terms with the prospect of never being a mummy. I started to develop symptoms for about five major diseases. I am not a hypochondriac. I wasn't even registered with a doctor as I hadn't needed one for at least ten years. I was the opposite of a hypochondriac, if there is such a thing.

So I found a wonderful woman doctor (WWD) and told her about my pins and needles (MS), palpatations (heart disease), unstable hands (parkinsons), twitchy restlessness and buggy eyes (thyroid) and painful boobs (breast cancer). WWD diagnosed stress and then, with no prompting from myself, she asked me, "have you ever thought about having children?"
"All the time," I replied.
"Don't dwell on all the details of how you would cope or you'll scare yourself out of it. I know many many women who have done this on their own and not one of them has regretted it.."

That was the best advice I ever got.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The First Question About Daddy

It was at my daughter's birthday party at the nursery. Seventeen two-year-olds sat on little chairs in a circle and Darling Daughter (DD from now on) sat on the birthday throne. I sat next to her and waited eagerly for the teacher to begin - it was my first time. "Who's having a birthday today?" asked the teacher? "DD!" shouted the children (except that they used her real name of course). "And who has come to celebrate her birthday with DD?" "DD's mummy!" "That's right." Before she could continue a little voice from stage left called out, "where's daddy?"

I turned to the little girl and stetched my hands out, palms upward, with a look of I don't know, where could he possibly be? on my face, and we moved on. DD didn't even notice. As yet she has no idea (as far as I know) that our family of two is in any way unusual. However, this event has given me a 'heads up' that we are heading into question territory and it's possibly just around the corner.

So I came up with a line that we will use until more detailed explanations are appropriate: "DD doesn't have a daddy, but she has a mummy who loves her as much as a mummy and a daddy together!"