Wednesday, 4 December 2013

love, disloyalty?

I know it's been ages and yadda yadda yadda.

And I want to give you more guilty preamble because I feel like I'm supposed to, but actually I only have a few minutes until the babies wake up and there's something else I felt like I wanted to come here to talk about.

And that is, how much I am in love with my little boy.

Well, sure yes, duh. And gosh, how obnoxious for a formerly-infertily blogger to say. Also, funny to say when you have a little girl to be in love with too.

But bear with me.

I guess the thing is I'm realizing that how much I adore A is actually bringing up some feelings relating to the donor conception that I didn't really know to anticipate, that I really didn't think about at all... and that make me feel - I'm not quite sure how to say it really - but maybe a little disloyal to S? (my hubs, for those of you new here, if anyone is indeed still here)

Here's the thing - P (my little girl) is literally the spitting image of me. She looks exactly like I did as a baby and apparently is so much like how I was as well, down to the way she holds her feet (same as mine, according to photographic evidence and my mother going on about it all the time). I feel a closeness to her and also a frustration that I don't feel with A.

With A it's something somehow more admiring, but also a little more dangerous to me. It's partly to do with their personalities, P is more like me - more reticent, likes to take things in before committing to smiling. Whereas A is full of sunshine, grinning like a loon, really enthusiastic about everything (actually, a LOT like his dad in that respect, his smile is pure S).

He's also so handsome in this way that feels a little mysterious. I can see some aspects of my family in him (he looked a lot like my grandfather actually as a wrinkly newborn) but in many ways I suspect he's closer to what the donor looks like.

And admiring how handsome he is, how wonderful, feels somehow like I'm admiring someone who isn't my husband. It also feels a bit like having a crush on a random unattainable stranger - the way I would back in middle school - that feels a bit distant and slightly odd.

The other day I went out with some friends, one with a baby and one without. So the one without suddenly got one of mine thrust on her - A as he's generally the happier one to hand to people he doesn't know and therefore I guess the one that I literally 'see from a distance' more often.

He has the same coloring as this random friend and seemed to be really enjoying cuddling with her. And I felt so removed from it all, like this could have been her baby as easily as mine, but gosh what a lovely baby it is.

This blog is hugely partial now, since I probably do and only will come here to write about things that relate to our infertility and issues around donor conception rather than the whole run-of-the-mill parenting business (unless you guys want to hear that? I mean, let me know if you do. I have a funny covered-head-to-toe-in-parsnip-vomit story I can share). So I don't mean to somehow sound like this has been some all-consuming thing in my parenting.

But it's something I've been thinking about lately, and since this is the space where I puzzle this stuff through there it is.

Does this feel familiar to anyone?

Tuesday, 17 September 2013


Though I've completely fallen off the wagon with commenting lately, I am still a pretty avid reader of all of your blogs. I love keeping up with how things are going with everyone, but as I'm now reading on my phone or iphone all of the time it's hard to comment regularly.

One thing that seems to be coming up a lot lately is people either wanting or actively NOT wanting twins - either in the context of deciding how many embryos to put back or just fantasising about future possibilities.

I have nothing to compare to, having only ever (for the past 4 months anyhow) had twins. But it's something I think about, knowing how I was pretty freaked out when we I found out we were having two after a dIUI even though of course we knew it was a significant possibility.

The first three months with two babies was unbelievably hard. It's still hard. But there are these glimmers lately of the unreal amazingness of having two that I feel like I want to record, to remember.

A twin mum friend of mine and I were having coffee with the babies the other day (i.e. coffee sat on the table getting cold while I fed my 4-month-olds in succession and she wrangled her active smiley 13-month-olds). I know her through the Donor Conception Network so she's an extra special friend of mine to compare notes with.

A&P are just starting to 'interact' - and by interact I mean they are just starting to realise that there's another baby there, a baby that seems to always be there. But it's so fun to see, them checking each other out and every now and again they catch each others' hands and hold on and sit there shaking their arms around while gripping their siblings' fist. A sometimes gets his hand in P's mouth, and vice versa.

Often when they're in their bouncy chairs they sit there staring up at you and grinning. The feeling of four eyes and two big smiles pointing right at you is unreal. Is hilarious. Is such a deeply fantastic feeling.

My friend and I were talking about how there are these highs with twins that we feel like parents of singletons can't really conceive of. These incredible moments where seeing two babies grow into themselves individually but also as an interdependent pair is like seeing the secrets of the universe unfold. I'm not religious but it feels sort of sublime. 

But the lows. Man. They're low. Two babies screaming and needing you and you can only get to one at a time. Or the occasional melancholy look that they give you when you've been holding the other more - it hurts my heart. 

As time goes on I imagine there will be more highs and more lows. But its nice to emerge from those first few heady months and feel, rather than constantly jealous of how easy it seems to be with just one baby (though if I'm honest I do feel that still, especially when I see people out with their one babies in slings which I wish I could do more), like I've got something unbelievable and awe-inspiring unfolding right here.

Friday, 23 August 2013

August ICLW


It's been a (long) while since I signed up for ICLW, probably sometime last year when we were in the midst of treatments (oh here it is...)

Flash forward a year and we are parents to twins via non-anonymous unknown s.perm donation. The potted history is just there to your right --->

And here's the post where I explained more about our story of MFI.

Far from feeling that we've 'moved past' infertility, we are now negotiating our way through raising two beautiful children whose origins are a bit out of the norm. So far we've dealt with a difficult pregnancy, some troubles in the early days and now some of the complicated early feelings and practical issues that donor conception presents us with.

Mostly though, A&P are great and we're having a lovely time. Sometimes hard stuff again rears its ugly head, but we're managing to try to get through it little by little.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

donor issues

We've gotten past the three month mark now and A&P are emerging more and more as people everyday. I feel a bit more confident with them, though still so terrified that I'm doing a terrible job most of the time.

After my last post we decided to extend the storage on our remaining donor straws for another three years. It is hard to imagine the circumstances in which we would even think about trying to have another baby, but still, I felt unable to say goodbye to the chance of a full genetic sibling for A&P if we should change our minds.

When I called the clinic to extend the storage I decided to ask if they would give me information on how many other families had used the same donor. It wasn't entirely off-the-cuff - I had heard of other donor recipients asking for this information and being denied or clinics starting not to give it out so I wanted to ask sooner rather than later.

They told me that the donor had been discontinued because he'd 'reached his quota.' This means 25 families in the US and 27 families internationally (they wouldn't say which countries).

I'm not entirely surprised by this number but it's still a little overwhelming. That probably means at a minimum 50-something children (although I'm not totally clear on whether actually these all result in live births as it sounded that it was kind of unusual that we reported our success to them). And at a maximum, I have no idea? 100? 150? more?

I worry that this is a totally overwhelming number for A&P to take in someday. Though we went with a donor that was UK-compatible (10 families in the UK max) there was no guarantee of limiting the numbers. In a way I suppose there are some upsides - I have thought we would register them on the Donor Sibling Registry at some point and this means that there is even more likelihood of finding genetic half siblings for them (there are already 4 children on there).

But there's a lot that it brings up as well. In the short term, the hardest thing for me has been knowing how to talk to S about it. He's really shut down any time anything about the donor has come up, like when I've asked if he wants to register on the DSR or with the Human Fertilisation and E.mbryology Authority here.

He says he wants to feel more secure in his own relationship to them as their father before he starts thinking about the donor.

On the one hand I get this, I understand that we are just growing into our roles as parents and I certainly don't want to do anything to threaten that. On the other hand I'm sort of surprised about how much the discussion seems to affect him, I sort of thought he was in a more secure place about our decision and it scares/worries me a bit that it is so raw.

I worry that it will remain a hot button issue for him, in such a way that if A&P bring it up he'll react badly in the future. Or that they will subconsciously pick up that it is not okay to talk about it - the absolute LAST thing I want them to feel.

I don't know how to support him to get to a place where bringing it up doesn't have that kind of power over him. I was trying to encourage him to get back to counselling (either going together or on his own) or to connect with two of the men he knows from the Donor Conception Network. He doesn't seem keen to rush out to do either, and I'm left with trying to bide my time a little until he feels more ready.

It was a tough conversation. It is not about me and my timeline but at the same time I'm not sure he'd really get out there and get on with trying to deal with it proactively enough to make me feel like its a safe topic in the meantime.

Am I pushing too hard? Is it ridiculous to even be thinking about these things now? I wish I didn't feel so unsure of it all.

Friday, 9 August 2013

storage questions

I got two calls this week from the s.perm bank where we found our donor this time last year. What do we want to do about the remaining samples, they want to know.

First of all, wow. A year. A huge huge year. Unreal that just over a year ago we were debating the merits of different donors (knowing pretty well that all along we really felt good about the one we chose almost straightaway). And here we are with our babies exactly a year later.

Second. What to do?

In my total paranoia and worry that the process would take a lot longer than it did, we bought 10 straws. We had 4 sent to our clinic in London and the rest are still with the bank in the US.

We both wanted to have 2 kids, and so I wanted to make sure we weren't making treatment choices too early on based on the amount of straws we had left. So we over-purchased thinking it would buy us some options.

Of course, we actually did get pregnant on the third IUI so now we have one straw left at our London clinic and 6 more in the US.

On the one hand, it feels so unlikely that we'd ever try to get pregnant again. We have A&P, our gorgeous babies. And being pregnant was, for me (and to some extent for both of us), about the worst nine months ever. Constant physical exertion, pain, sickness and worry.*

So it sort of seems like we should either sell them back or get rid of them right?

But I can't do that yet.

There's a tiny part of me that just feels like - what if? What if in a few years I change my mind and want another baby? What if when everyone I've met around me in new baby circles starts having second children and I start thinking about it too?

As amazing as it is to see twins interact, I feel sort of sad that there's not going to be an older sibling/younger sibling relationship in this family - I won't get to see A&P try to interact with a younger sib, or a younger sib look up to them.

Then the worrying starts - what if I opened the door to that want and had a much harder time getting pregnant again? Or what if we got pregnant with twins again? Neither of us really wanted more than two kids originally... it feels much more overwhelming to have your kids outnumber you let alone having tiny toddler twins and a baby or two babies... And what if being pregnant again was just as hard, but with kids to look after.

The storage is really expensive, but maybe not prohibitively so. I mean, what's another several hundred dollars in the scheme of the insanity of IF costs?

My instinct is to store it for another 2-3 years and make a decision then. I can't imagine selling it back, for some reason it feels like underlining the commercial nature of all of this when I feel too far from that now. I think maybe we'd consider selling to another family who already used the same donor, but I'd have to cross that bridge when we get there.

But is it crazy to even think about that? To be anything other than 100% sure that this is the end for us? I'd love to know what you guys think, what would you do in my shoes?

*I can't stress enough how much better even the hardest times of the early days with twins are than being pregnant with twins... Though I should note this is for me. In my twin club we've compared notes and I had a much harder pregnancy than most, and a much more hands-on husband than most too.

Monday, 29 July 2013

making a family

And just like that, we are a family of four.

Not really, I mean you all know it's been a crazily long time coming. But as the weeks with A&P wear on I feel more and more like they've always been here, that I was never really pregnant at all (except the saggy belly), that this is somehow the natural order of things.

None of which is to say this is somehow 'coming naturally' - no, it's hard, confusing and confounding. But this is our family now, maybe it is the family that was always meant to be?

They're starting to be at more fun ages. A is smiling more consistently, P can do it but she reserves them for special occasions. I'm not sure if they really interact with each other or just wave their arms in the other's general direction.

This weekend we went to see S's family. They had been strangely absent the past few months which I know has pained him no small amount.

I didn't want to think the worst - that their absenteeism was to do with the fact that the babies were donor conceived - and instead was just hoping that they were just generally being a bit crap, or something else going on that I'm not tuned in enough to their odd duck-ness to figure out.

Happily, I don't think it was the former, but some combination of the latter. His mom still isn't fully recovered from her mini-stroke last year, and the rest of his family are a bit clueless. Plus, my crazy American brood has been over nearly constantly, and his family keeps saying 'oh we know you're so busy' which makes me feel terrible for taking up all the air. But anyhow...

At the party S's mum asked him to say a few words. He did his usual good job of being in equal parts funny and sincere (he's very comfortable in front of a crowd).

His family (like mine to an extent) is not one made up of entirely genetic ties. His Dad is really his step-dad, there are constantly long-lost adopted children coming out of the woodwork and estranged parents and uncles re-appearing. Not for nothing does he say they're like a Mike Leigh film.

S did a classy move of referencing to the assembled group how there are so many ways of making a family, and he's really happy his children will grow into this community where families are made and re-made. Nothing about our specific journey but any tuned-in listener would have heard it.

Do I wish they'd asked us more about it? Maybe? Maybe not. I guess I'll take calm acceptance and sweep-it-under-the-rug as much as exhaustive-analysis (my family).

But the most important thing is that everyone loved on A&P, passed them around so much they fell asleep within seconds that eve. And as we swept home in our newly minted mini-van the next day I felt like what he'd said had rung true, we are a family now, made and re-made again.

Monday, 1 July 2013

feeding the masses

The tiny babies aren't so tiny anymore. My little sparrows are starting to get chubbier cheeks, vague hints of fat rolls around their arms and big strong kicky legs.

I'd love to say it's because I'm snuggled up tight with them breastfeeding like a champ but it's not. It's because they're mostly on formula. And though I'm so glad to see them growing and thriving it's been pretty emotional.

From the very beginning the breastfeeding was the hardest part of this whole ride. Due to the prematurity (35 weeks isn't so premature for twins but is still preemie enough to lack some basic abilities in the feeding department), to the emergency c-section, to the preeclampsia etc etc I had no milk for the first five days and they had to learn to suck and breathe, and yet still needed to eat at the same time.

This meant that the babies were bottle fed on formula in the hospital, as there was a huge amount of pressure to get their weight up quickly given they were so small. Maybe I could have resisted this more? But I wasn't going to have them on feeding tubes unnecessarily.

Since then it's been a constant process of trying to play catch up. Of trying to get enough milk stimulated, of trying to latch either of them on. Of destroying whatever semblance of a routine we had in favour of 10 days of straight on-demand feeding to try to wean them off of the bottles, which therefore meant every 2 hours feeding in the night, but not the same hours (i.e. resulting in about 35 minutes of sleep at a go). Of trying to carve out time to pump during the day - taking me away from the babies or from sleeping or laundry or anything else that needs my attention more.

And in the end, it just hasn't worked. The lure of the bottle is too much, they're too used to it and frankly I can't figure out how the heck I would breastfeed them both at the same time, even if they would feed. They don't latch consistently, they don't really eat much when they're there, one of them is always starting to scream when I'm trying to feed the other one and so simultaneous feeding without topping up is receding as an ever-more-obvious pipe dream.

This probably sounds like a nothing thing, but after all that I felt like I'd already given up to the infertility, donor, high-risk pregnancy process, for some reason I had a vision that breastfeeding would be the one thing that would work. 

I didn't grumble (much) about having a c-section - I didn't love it but it wasn't horrible either - and there's a lot of other parenting things I'm not precious about. 

But this was something I really wanted for us all. That I felt I needed to bond with my babies, that I knew would be the healthiest thing for them and for me, and frankly, also the most convenient. Every time I'm up sterlizing bottles in the middle of the night or I see a friend pop their baby on their boob this point is hammered home to me, yet again.

For some reason I had this fantasy that this would be the thing that would finally work. After the infertility and the tough, tough pregnancy and the slightly traumatic birth... breastfeeding was going to be my jam.

Yes, that's giving it too much power and yes, we all know breastfeeding is hard, but it was there nonetheless.

So I've spent far too many hours in the last seven weeks weeping as a little face screamed and cried at my boob. Around week 5 I decided it was enough, that it wasn't working and that I'd focus my energy on pumping instead. I've been taking dom.peridone and fenugreek to try to get my supply up but I'm still only managing to find time to pump about four times a day (which is really hard even still) and not really trying to latch them on at all any more. So the supply is dwindling, which makes me feel like I've let them down all over again.

It's familiar, right, this feeling of wanting something so much to work out but being powerless to make it happen?

I was reading Jenny's post the other day about her similar situation and of course it reminded me that as much as I feel like a failure, I would never think it of someone else. I need to acknowledge that this situation is working out as I hoped, but rather than sitting her obsessing about what isn't working try to think about what is - that the babies are healthy (though their almost constant tummy issues make me feel so insecure yet again - this spitting up is from formula right? probably not but it feels like underlining what I'm not giving them...).

I'm trying hard to move on and appreciate the gorgeous babies that I have. But like so much else about this process it's hard for me to acknowledge that I wish it could have been otherwise, that I wish for once something could have been just a bit easy.