Sunday, July 31, 2011

My Sweet Dreams Are Made of This

I have about 4 blog drafts on various topics and events sitting waiting to be written and I have every hope that I will actually sit down and write out at least one of them this week, but right now I can't stop staring at my sweet girl. And when I can't stare directly at her, I love to watch the millions of videos we've taken of her so far. Especially this latest one. She is discovering so many new things as she approaches the 4 month mark, the most heart melting of which is documented in this video.

I love watching her drift off into dreamland, and her new thumb discovery is not only cute, it's been a great help in getting her to sleep. She still wants her pacifier most nights when we lay her down, but now when it falls out she has discovered that her thumb makes a great substitute. That it's absolutely adorable entertainment for me is just a bonus. Every time I watch her sleep I can't help but wonder about the dreams that are filling her head. Whatever they are, I hope they are nothing but sweet.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Seeing the Signs

I can't believe how much my little Snow Pea is changing every day! She is developing new skills and I am seeing lots of signs. Specifically, signs that's it's time to start baby signs! Eliana is getting more and more aware of the world around her and is also becoming more vocal about it. She "talks" to everything she sees: me, Daddy, her mobile, her play mat and even her changing table. With this new found awareness of the world, she has also become even more aware of her hands and is constantly watching them and moving them to see just how much they're capable of. Her favorite thing is, of course, grabbing rattles and rings that hang in front of her or grasping onto her blankets and bibs promptly pulling everything into her mouth. But sometimes she simply twists her hands and fingers into different configurations, watching closely to see just what these amazing appendages of hers are capable of. And now I am thinking about what they're capable of too!

I have read a few of books, attended a new mom group that covered some signing basics and best of all I received a hand made sign instruction kit from my fabulous sister in law, who teaches a baby sign course (you can find the Facebook page for her class "Signing Fun for Babies" here) So I know the basics. Now I just need to get started.

I have decided to start simply and think about the words I say to her on a daily basis and begin incorporating the signs for those things when I say them. What I didn't realize however, is that many of these common words and phrases have different signs associated with them and I would have to decide which ones to use. There is a difference between American Sign Language and baby signs. Because many of the ASL signs are too intricate or detailed for an infant's little hands, many of the ASL signs have been modified to make them simpler. The problem is that depending on what resource you turn to to learn these modified versions, you will get slightly different signs.After researching video dictionaries on some of these words, I am opting to use signs that seem the simplest to understand and repeat with favoritism toward the signs closest to ASL signs. And what I am learning when using your hands to communicate with your baby, the most important factor is your baby. If can use whatever hand gesture I want to teach her to communicate with me. And if she modifies or makes one up herself that's great too! No two babies will sign the same and that's OK. Which is great because I am always afraid I am doing it wrong.

Tomorrow is my official signing start day. After doing some reading and listening to some words of wisdom of the matter, it seems that it will be best for us to start with just a few signs that we can repeat over and over and slowly expand our vocabulary. So Chad and I will be consistently focusing on signing things that are not only relevant to Eliana's daily life but things that are repeated throughout her day many times. The words I want to start with are milk, more, all done, Mommy, Daddy and star. "Star" may seem like the odd word out on a list that includes many basic daily experiences, but she is surrounded by the heavenly, five pointed shapes in her nursery everyday, and they have quickly become her favorite thing to look at. She also LOVES hearing me sing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" even calming from mid scream to giggles when I sing it, so I plan to begin signing it as I sing every time from now on.

I am so excited to get started! I know most babies don't sign on their own until about 7 months or later, but my niece did her first sign at 4 months and even if Eliana waits until 10 months or a year to talk with her hands, I still feel like this will be providing our family with a valuable communication tool. I adore having "cooing" conversations with my baby already where she coos, babbles and squeals in response to my voice and now I am looking forward to talking to her even more in a new, fun way!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Got Milk? Who Cares?

I have been looking at my life a lot lately and savoring the many things I have going for me. And while much of what I have has come from a lot of work, effort and patience on my part, I still can't believe the miracle of having my sweet, perfect daughter is here smiling at me right now. I certainly didn't do anything extraordinary to deserve her. Sure I charted, I OPKd, I timed, I payed thousands of dollars to receive hundreds of shots, I cried, I lost, I hurt, I prayed and I hoped but did I really do anything anyone else in my position hasn't done? No, absolutely not.

So why am I here while so many of my deserving sisters in the IF community are still hurting from prolonged adoptions,
BFNs and tragic losses? Not because these things are meant to or not meant to be or because I have good karma and they don't. I still struggle daily with infertility "survivor's guilt" knowing that so many people that I love dearly are still hurting and hoping for their time to come. I don't believe I am somehow more worthy of motherhood or somehow think I am somehow a better person than someone just because I have made the choice to be a parent and have been lucky enough to be able to do so. And the same goes for the choices I make as a parent, I don't believe mine are "right" and someone else's are "wrong".

I have been a mom for 3 and a half months, and with the exception of the first night in the hospital when Snow Pea was away from me in the nursery for observation, I have been fortunate enough to be able to breastfeed exclusively since she was born. I am very grateful that it has, for the most part, come easily to me and my daughter, but I don't take credit for it and I don't believe I am somehow superior because of it.

I am sure it is no secret to any of you that breastfeeding is a huge hot button issue. People are constantly throwing in their two cents on whether or not to do it, if it's ok to do it in public, whether it should be scheduled or "on demand" and what you're doing "wrong" if it doesn't go well. I have talked to friends and family members who have fallen on every side of all of these concerns and I have come to realize that breastfeeding carries with it so many of the same emotions and feelings as infertility.

One of the great gifts infertility has given me is gratitude. Of course, having struggled to become a mom, I don't take being one for granted, not for a second. And having learned that lesson with my fertility, I also realize how much my ability to nurse is something to be grateful for, something I got lucky with. So far, I have not had any trouble with supply or pain or infection and it has been pretty simple and painless for both Eliana and me. She is gaining weight perfectly and has even taken easily to a bottle of pumped milk anytime we offer it to her. But I don't think I did anything special to make any of this happen and I am also aware that it could all change at any time. Yes, I work at it and it can take a lot out of me, but that doesn't mean I have any control over it. I also worked hard to take my temperature every morning and chart my ovulation but I will never get pregnant without ART no matter how much work I put into it. It's just not something I can control. And just as someone who got pregnant on their first try is no more deserving of motherhood, I am no better at at it than friends who have had struggled with milk supply or who simply chose not to breastfeed for whatever reason. We all love our kids and we are all taking the best possible care of them in whatever form or fashion best suits our families.

I have seen and heard the hurt that comes from some of my friends who couldn't or have chosen not to breastfeed for whatever reason, and it reminds me so much of the pain of infertility. They seem to experience so many of the same emotions. And for those who struggled with IF before becoming parents, it can be even harder. There are similar feelings of helplessness, loss, and inadequacy. If you want to do it and can't, you can feel robbed of what you envisioned as a sacred experience and a rite of womanhood. If you choose not to breastfeed or become a mother without experiencing the hormonal changes of pregnancy and birth to trigger milk production, as in the case of adoption, you can feel completely left out by the rest of the boob-obsessed world we seem to live in. And in either situation guilt is lobbed at you in heaps. It all too often seems to make women feel like failures at motherhood if they don't breastfeed, just as I felt like a failure at womanhood when I couldn't get pregnant.

Being infertile, I highly value having relationships with others in my shoes that can relate, but I also have a great appreciation for my fertile friends and family that truly empathize with my experiences, those that acknowledge that they aren't somehow more deserving of being parents just because it happened easily for them. And in that same vein, I think it is important for me to acknowledge that no matter how hard I worked to get here or what choices that I make now that I have arrived, there is no amount of money I've spent, tears I've cried, shots I've received or milk I've produced that makes me a good or bad mother. I am a great mom because I love my child and I make choices every day that reflect that. I don't have control over many things, but loving her unconditionally and supporting everyone else that does the same for their families, that I can do.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

3 Months of Happy Tears

Snow Pea is 3 months old! Can you believe it? I certainly can't. And 3 months means the supposed "4th trimester" is at an end and my baby is no longer considered "brand new". It is all at once thrilling to think about all the growth and development that is on the horizon for her and bittersweet to say goodbye to her newborn status. It is a lot like when Chad and I were married for over a year and stopped being referred to as "newlyweds". We were excited to be a "real" married couple but it was still hard to say farewell to that shiny, glowing newness.

Saying goodbye to my daughter's brand newness definitely has its pluses though in the form of the trust she has in us. If you ever heard of "The Happiest Baby on the Block" you will have heard about the 4th trimester and the 5 S's used to soothe babies during this transition from life in the womb to life in the big, wide world. Basically, parents re-create the comforts and security of their child's life In Utero. Eliana has responded well to swaddling and white noise for comfort since day one and I am noticing now that she has learned to trust these things. She knows when she hears the crashing waves on her sound machine that it is time for sleep and thanks to this we have been able to soothe her to dreamland even when we are out and about and she needs to nap in her stroller or an unfamiliar new place.

In addition to providing the soothing comforts of lots of cuddles and kisses these past three months, we have also provided our Snow Pea with a routine that she has become very secure in. Not only does her routine give me a guideline to help structure my day, I can tell that she gets a lot of comfort from knowing what is coming next. Notice I didn't say schedule. We by no means follow a clock or force her to wait an hour to eat if she's hungry or wake her up if she's sleeping. But for our family, feeding her after waking, followed by playtime and then sleep has worked very well. I am by no means saying that my way is the best way or the only way, just that it's what our daughter has done these past three months and that she seems to really thrive with it. And thrive she has! She's now weighing in at 14 pounds and measuring 24 inches which puts her in about the 75th percentile and slowly into a new wardrobe of 3-6 month clothes.

Of course new outfits aren't the only milestones she's begun reaching in her third month. She has also become more and more vocal, making lots of cooing and trilling sounds every chance she gets. I could listen to those sweet sounds all day long! And it's clear that she is often "talking" to us with the way she makes eye contact and responds when we speak to her. It is incredible to see how Chad and I really are the center of her world and although she smiles and talks at almost every one she meets, there is a special level of communication reserved just for us. She even seems to have favorite songs and stories that she likes to hear from us. I don't know how I stumbled on it but if she's crying and I sing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star", she calms down immediately and is all smiles. She also loves hearing "Goodnight Moon" and watches the pictures intently as I turn the pages. She has even been chuckling and giggling every once in a while, but it's still not quite consistent and we're still waiting to capture the first true belly laughs. I can tell they are close though and I can't wait to hear them!

As for big physical milestones, she's showing no interest in rolling over or being mobile yet, but she has started tolerating tummy time now that she is able to lift her head, chest and shoulders off the mat. It's incredible to see how much stronger she gets every day! And on the 4th of July, just in time for her 3 month mark, she completed her first grab! Of course, the tragic part of this is that I just happened to be in the shower when it happened. It really isn't fair! I am home with her every day, all day and in the ten minutes I'm away to finally wash my hair and shave my legs while she hangs out with her daddy, she goes and does something exciting for the very first time! Luckily, Chad captured the entire thing on video and I of course have watched it over and over again. If you're interested you can see it too! Just click here. It's a bit long so you might want to skip through a bit but I highly recommend watching at about the one minute mark. Too cute!

I really can't believe she has been here three months, almost as much as I can't believe that I am somehow worthy to be mom to such an amazing little person. I keep thinking back to the years before she came into our lives and all of the hell and pain we experienced trying to become parents, and I know without a doubt that it was all completely worth it. I would do it all again and more for her. As much hurt as I have felt and as intense as the emotions of infertility still are sometimes, they come nowhere near the intensity of the love I have for her. During the 3 years we spent struggling to become parents, I cried more tears of heartbreak than I thought possible. Now in just 3 months, I think I have cried just as many tears of happiness. Thank you, Snow Pea.