Gray Matters

You know the feeling: you’re starving, and you really want a burger, but all you have is salad, so you eat the salad, and technically you aren’t hungry anymore because the salad was huge and had lots of avocado and sunflower seeds and stuff like that, but it wasn’t a burger, so you aren’t fully satisfied.

I spoke to a friend today who asked for the lowdown on how it feels to be the mom of a donor egg baby. Is it everything that it promises to be? Is it worth the financial cost, the emotional roller coaster of hope-turned-grief, and the risk of having yet another miscarriage? Or should she consider moving forward with her life and live child-free.

She wanted an honest answer, so I gave it to her. It’s kind of like a salad. It’s good, but what I really wanted was a burger. And I’m not fully satisfied.

I’m not sure who these women are who say that a donor egg baby is the same as an own-egg baby. That they never think about the donor again after getting a pee-stick positive, seeing the heartbeat, feeling a kick, or whatever other milestone is met. I guess these women exist because boundless baby bliss is all I ever heard about, but all I know is that I’m not one of them.

I think about the donor all the time. She’s who I see when I look at my daughter’s smile or wonder how I’m going to tame those crazy eyebrows. She’s the person I think about when my husband talks about the family that we’ve built. She’s what comes to mind when I see that my kid should have met some developmental skill and I wonder what consequences there’ll be from being deceived about my donor’s smarts on her profile.

This haunting motivated me to meet today with a therapist who specializes in infertility and third-party reproduction. I love my long-time therapist, but I’m not sure if she can help me with what I’m going through. As I mentioned in my last post, when I asked her why I’m feeling disconnected, she said that the why didn’t matter and that I just needed to work on connecting with my kid. You know: “process my intimacy issues.”

She’s wrong, I think. I think it does matter. If I’m uneasy about qualities in my donor that I see in my daughter, I need to work through that. If my involvement in the donor egg community is making me think too much about my baby’s conception, then I need to find a new distance with that world while still respecting whatever responsibility I owe my daughter. If there remains a shit ton of grief at the loss of my genetics, then I need to resolve that, too. And yes, process my intimacy issues blah blah fuck you.

So was my baby pursuit worth it in the end? I think so, but it’s not exactly black and white. Raising my daughter is a million thousand times better for me than being childless, but it hasn’t been easy. She isn’t a burger, but she is pretty damn good, and what I hope is that this work will turn these salad days into salad days.

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Posted in Donor Egg Parenting, My Head, Parenting | Tagged , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Eat, Play, Love

Eat.

I have video footage of my baby crying while nursing my left tit because I have almost no milk. She had better luck on the right, but not much. I won’t go into the details of how awful breastfeeding has been, but suffice it to say that it’s been both physically and emotionally painful for both me and my kid.

Now at 5 months, she’s almost exclusively formula fed. I have one last bottle of breast milk left, and I think I’ll cry when I feed it to her. The few successful breastfeedings were profoundly sweet. In those moments, I felt like a mom. But still, quitting will be a relief. But also sad. But also a relief.

 

Play.

The truth is that I don’t know how to interact with infants. Don’t get me wrong: I took great care of her and held her almost constantly when she was teeny tiny, but infants are incredibly stupid, and playing with an infant isn’t much different from playing with a bale of hay. You get about as much reciprocity: no eye contact and none of that cuddling that you imagine happens between mother and child. I tried to play with her as best I could, but really she was just a lot of noise and shitty diapers.

This changed over the last couple of months, and the 5-month mark was a special turning point. She laughs freely now, and it’s easy to get her to smile. We spend a lot of time dancing around and roughhousing; she likes getting thrown in the air, getting tickled, and when I fling her upside-down. Sometimes our games make her throw up, but bales of hay don’t throw up, so we’re moving in the right direction. And I’m having fun.

 

Love.

For these and other reasons (hello, 5 hours of sleep!), parenting has gotten easier, but to be honest, there remains a bit of discord in our relationship: I’m not sure if I’m fully bonded with my kid, and I can’t help but feel that it’s because of the egg donation thing.

I don’t know how parental love is supposed to feel, and maybe this is it. You hear about rainbows and unicorns popping out of women’s vaginas together with their spawn, and all that came with my baby was blood and slime, so it’s hard for me to tell.

It’s possible that this emotional barrier is just a part of my psychology because of my broken upbringing. My childhood had a good bit of neglect and some physical abuse, so I might feel this way no matter how my child came about. I tried to flesh it out in therapy, but when I asked my therapist why I was feeling this lack of connection, she said that the why didn’t matter and that I just needed to work on increasing my capacity for intimacy. (Intimacy issues? That’s real original, Therapy. You fucking whore.)

I do really like spending time with the kid, but as often as not, I look at her like I’m not sure who she is. But maybe that’s normal. Or maybe it’s not. What the hell do I know? I still can’t believe that the hospital let me take her home, to be honest. I mean, they don’t even know me.

Hell. I don’t know me.

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B is for Baby, Blog, and Banal

Here’s what’s happening: I keep trying to write. Not blog, but write. Entries like the ones I used to post about Frankenstein and my grandmother. But those take an admittedly embarrassing amount of time, and I don’t have that kind of time now, and consequently, I haven’t been posting anything.

So if I want to keep this record of my thoughts going, I have no choice but to stop writing and start blogging. If you were following me because you were interested in what I have to say, that will continue (or resume, I should say). If, however, you were following me because of how I said it, … sorry, but I can’t finish that thought because there’s a baby crying.

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You Came Out of My Vagina

You came out of my vagina, but that’s not when our story began.

Seven months before you came out of my vagina, I got a positive pregnancy test on the day my grandmother died, and I hoped this time I was really pregnant so that my dad (your granddad? weird.) could get some cheery news. Also, it would make me happy. I guess. Yes, of course it would. Happy. Obviously.

Five months before you came out of my vagina, I saw you on an ultrasound and found out you’re a girl. Bummer. I don’t like girls. Don’t get me wrong: I like women; I just find little girls to be annoying as shit – all that squealing and crying and frilly pink shit. It’s so much easier to deal with boys’ broken bones than girls’ broken hearts. But hopefully you’ll be an athlete or a lesbian or into cool music, and you’ll hate pink, too.

Three months before you came out of my vagina, I was scheduled for another ultrasound to get a better picture of your hands because so far it looks like you have no fingers, and I don’t know if I can love a kid with hand stumps. But no matter what the ultrasound shows, 50% of you comes from your dad’s genetics, so I’d be stuck with you. I wondered if this would be different if you were also 50% me, and this is when it becomes clear that I may not have been the best candidate for using a donor’s egg.

One month before you came out of my vagina, conversations with your dad go something like this: But what if I don’t love her? Don’t worry; you will. But what if I don’t? I know you; you will. But what if I don’t? Stop over-thinking it; you will. But what if I don’t? Etc. etc. etc. You can see why this is a problem, right?

The day you came out of my vagina, labor was short, and during the last few minutes, I wondered whether I could stop pushing and change my mind about the whole thing, but there were all these people around me saying things like “you’re almost there” and “I can see her head,” so I plowed forth.

You were a gross, slimy, wrinkly thing.

When it was over, a gross, slimy, wrinkly thing was handed to me, and I asked, “is this her?” Considering that the other end of your umbilical cord was still inside me, it should have been obvious that I wasn’t looking for an answer from the nurse as much as I was looking for an answer from myself.

“Is this her?” meant “Is this it?” It meant is this really happening and did seven years of wanting a baby just come to an end? It meant who will I be as a mom and who will you be as a daughter and what will we be to each other?

It meant that I really wished someone would help me figure out a game plan for what to do if I don’t love you.

During the first couple weeks after you came out of my vagina, you wouldn’t look at me. You just peed and cried and ate and slept and shit. No eye contact whatsoever, which – frankly – wasn’t a great way to get started on your part, now was it? As it was, what with our lack of genetic connection, how did you think we could build a relationship if you wouldn’t even look at me?

It was during this period that your dad asked me if I loved you. I said I didn’t know yet, which upset him. I guess he thought that the reality of your existence would melt my heart, but he overestimated my capacity to adore people that come out of my vagina.

I felt fiercely protective of you, though. I got pissed when you were left unattended on the changing table for a millisecond as if you could somehow leap to your demise at 2 days old. I woke up several times a night in a panic that you’d been scratched or had a fever or died from SIDS. And every time I picked you up, I was terrified that I’d trip and fall and smash your tiny skull into a wall. My every moment was riddled with anxiety that something awful would happen to you, and that with that, my world would crumble. But anxiety is not the same as love.

You looking at me.

And then some time later, you looked at me. Not a passing glance with untamed eyeballs, but actual eye contact. And that’s when I thought, “Oh, hi, baby. How nice to meet you.”

Was it love? Well, let’s not get crazy. I mean, we don’t really know each other yet, and one can’t rush into things like this.

But you came out of my vagina, and a little while after that, we met. And now that we have, and our story has begun, it’s possible that I’ll love you after all.

And as it turns out, you look seriously fucking cute in pink.

Posted in Donor Egg Parenting, Donor Egg Process, My Head, Pregnancy | Tagged , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

And Then There Were Three

SNG was born on Saturday, November 23rd, clocking in at 5 lbs 1 oz, 17.5 inches, and off-the-charts cuteness.

Labor was quick (not counting the weeks of hospital-bound preterm labor in September and October). I woke up with contractions at 3am, we got to the hospital at 4:30, and she was born at 6:01am. The delivery was unmedicated with the exception of half a glass of Asahi Black with dinner the night before.

Although petite, both mom and baby are healthy and in great spirits, but both get grumpy when not fed. One of us has been sleeping very well.

Dad is wonderful in every way.

Posted in Donor Egg Fertility Treatments, Donor Egg Parenting, Donor Egg Process, Parenting, Pregnancy | Tagged | 11 Comments

The Pre-Term Labor Movement

28 weeks and 1 day

10:00 am – Arrive at ultrasound to see if baby is still measuring 11 days behind.

10:15 am – Baby is getting back on track at 7 days behind. This is good.
My cervix, however, is 4mm thick when it’s supposed to be 4cm. This is bad.

10:45 am – I’m admitted to the Labor and Delivery ICU to see if I’m having contractions. I am.

11:00 am – Cervical exam #1: I’m not yet dilated. This is (relatively) good.

11:30 am – 3 IV bags in my veins and 2 fetal monitors on my belly attempt to stop the contractions. They aren’t working.

12:00 pm – I get my first steroid shot to develop the baby’s lungs because I might deliver at any moment. It hurts a lot.

10:00 pm – Cervical exam #2: I’m dilated to 1cm. They up my magnesium sulfate to 2.5 grams per hour. I spend the rest of the night throwing up.

12:00 am – I get a second steroid shot. It hurts a lot, too, but I don’t give a shit any more.

28 weeks and 2 days

I lay in the hospital bed, I sweat, I throw up, I pee in a bedpan, and I try not to pass out.
That’s all.
Nothing else.

28 weeks and 4 days

Bed rest continues with no foreseeable end. I’m now off the mag and on progesterone and nifedipine. With those drugs, they think it’s under control. They think that my current pattern of contractions won’t further compromise my cervix. They think I might stay at 1cm till at least the end of the month or 30 weeks gestation.

I’ve entered a world where delivering a baby 10 weeks early is considered a major success. I don’t like this world.

29 weeks and 6 days

They insert a pessary into my vagina, which is a plastic device propped against my cervix that may delay early labor. Next to the speculum, it’s the least fun device that’s ever been in there.

But I don’t really think much about it because instead I’m distracted by the news that I have gestational diabetes because of course I do.

30 weeks

I’ve reached 30 weeks, and I’m still pregnant. They’re sending me home on Saturday, but if I have any contractions, then I need to get to the hospital quickly. The only problems with this plan are (1) I still don’t know what a contraction feels like, and (2) I don’t live close enough to get to the hospital quickly.

Otherwise it’s a great plan.

Water Works: A Retrospective

For the past 2 weeks, this hospital bed has been my bubble bath of self-pity: a chorus of sadness suds popping at my ears and harmonizing in the key of poor me – a soundtrack that shuffles and repeats until long after my fingers are pruned by my tears.

I feel like saying this isn’t fair, but then I don’t believe in fairness. I want to cry that I don’t deserve this, but there’s no such thing as deserts. Yes, there’s fear, but that’s different from wallowing in self-pity, especially when the self in question is privileged, is healthy, and has insurance for those times when the body gives out.

The me-of-a-year-ago wouldn’t feel sorry for the me of today. The me-of-a-year-ago would say, “You know what? You should consider shutting up a little because you’re fine. You’re still pregnant, you’ll probably keep being pregnant, and even if you stop being pregnant and deliver pre-term, your baby will get the care she needs to make it just fine.

“Be grateful,” I’d say to me. “Quit crying, be thankful that you got pregnant in the first place, and remember that things could always be worse.”

I’m not sure if the me-of-a-year-ago is an asshole or not, but I’m fairly certain that the me-of-today could use something of an ass-kicking — but perhaps a gentle kick, because I really want the me-of-5-weeks-from-now to still be pregnant.

Posted in Pregnancy | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments