Sunday Night Soliloquy on a Thursday

On Sunday evenings, I watch Call the Midwife on PBS and it always makes me cry. The fictional stories of love and loss in childbirth in mid-century England always stir in my heart an appreciation and a recognition of the losses that I have endured and the happiness for what I have in my life right now.  Every Sunday evening, I feel like I love my babies a little bit more than I did the week before.  I remember all of the things they have learned that week and all of the ways that they have grown and I feel so lucky and happy to have them in my life.

This week is National Infertility Awareness week.  I am still infertile.  I am lucky because thanks to the miracle of modern medicine, I am lucky enough to have my babies in spite of my infertility.  My infertility wasn’t cured, but I was able to have children in spite of it.  Without modern medicine I never could have borne children of my own.  I still know how brutally difficult it is to try to find peace when dealing with infertility. The road is tough. It is littered with losses, failed efforts, thoughtless words from others, etc.  It is expensive to try to have children when you are infertile. Sometimes, it seems that giving up is the only viable option. I was to that point. I told David that the cycle that ultimately brought us the twins would be our last because I couldn’t handle the failures and losses anymore.  I was to the point where I knew I would be okay if we never had children, because I just wanted to stop feeling bad about myself and feeling like such a failure.

Thankfully, that last cycle brought us our boys.  They were the ones who were meant to make our family complete.  Every Sunday night watching Call the Midwife, I feel all of those feelings of loss, failure and ultimately redemption all over again.  I feel empathy for fictional characters on the television dealing with losses of their own.  It is so very hard. It is so very hard to not feel like a failure as a woman when you are infertile, because the messages that we receive now about our worth as women (perhaps more strongly in my faith tradition than in Western society at large) are still not so different from mid-century Britain.

The days go by so fast.  I want to remember everything that I can and take every opportunity I can to help my boys grow up feeling loved and supported. One day they will feel loss and failure. One day they will realize that the world can be a cruel place. I want them to know that I will be there for them during those times, because in ways they do not know and may never comprehend, they were always there with me during those times for me.

Here are some catch-up pictures of time going by:

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The boys were able to meet their great-grandmother, Grammy, on a recent trip down to the lake. It was a special day.

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There are many days I just want to document how they boys look so I will always remember it.

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This past weekend we went up to DC and stayed with friends. The boys went to their first Nats’ game, and thanks to our friends’ smart plan of buying club level tickets, we actually made it through the game since we had an air conditioned placed where we could retreat for feedings, naps and such. We also just generally had fun at their house, including making use of their son’s ball pit.
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The boys recently turned four months old. In the beautiful springtime of North Carolina, it is hard to wish for anything more.

New Developments in American Pop Culture

At this time in my life, I have neither the time nor inclination to keep up with most pop culture developments. Most things that are popular in our culture these days cause significant side-eye reflexes from me. However, one thing that I do approve of is the takeover of late night TV by witty non-Americans who speak English with charming accents. I am pleased to temporarily have HBO for no other reason than to watch John Oliver. If I could stay up late at night, I would happily watch The Late Late Show with James Corden (The Wrong Mans is still one of my favorite British comedy miniseries, and I am disappointed that James Corden’s new job means there probably won’t be another installment beyond the two part Christmas special). If only I could remember to turn on the TV when I am up at that hour either pumping or feeding the boys. When I heard that Trevor Noah was selected to take over The Daily Show when Jon Stewart steps down, I was predictably elated. He is hilarious, worldly, and intelligent. Now if only they could put a form of Jack Whitehall’s Backchat on American TV, we would be set.

I was thinking that I liked these American pop culture developments, because I thought it meant that Americans are becoming more worldly, and their comedic tastes are becoming more informed and international. But then in thinking more about it, I actually don’t think that is the case amongst the general American public. I think that the demographic that American advertisers are trying to appeal to are becoming more worldly, for sure. The professional, upper middle class who have whatever small percentage of this country’s wealth that the 1 percenters don’t have also probably are the last Americans with disposable incomes that spend them on things that networks are paid to advertise. Our political leanings are hilariously liberal and our preferred travel is international. It is why so many Tea Partiers seethe with rage at our demographic because you have people like me who go so far in these preferences so as to proclaim in the same vein as the Notorious RBG that the American Constitution isn’t even the best in the world anymore, the South African Constitution is. The sad fact though is that in spite of their superior Constitution, South Africa still suffers from the world’s worst income inequality, although U.S. political leaders are certainly trying to give them a run for their money in that regard.

So yes, I do love these late night pop culture trends, but I can’t help but think that because the American citizenry are so disempowered in the plutocratic political scheme in which we now live (it ain’t democracy), the only place we have these discussions anymore are in late night satires hosted by non-Americans.

And now, I come to the real purpose of this blog post, a chance to post pictures of my boys looking menacing in Chelsea gear. After all, if I learned anything from the book Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class when I read it (and I did learn quite a lot), it is about how soccer hooligan culture in the UK used to be this outlet for ingrained disillusionment with the rigid class system in the UK and now it is just another example of corporatized culture. We listened to a lot of The Streets to prepare for these photos (It’s all “Dry Your Eyes, Mate” whenever there are too many tears around here, y’all).

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Is it okay if in this new worldly pop culture landscape I comment on the social class struggles of non-Americans too? Or is that still too much the American exceptionalism (even if I certainly don’t view Americans as exceptional at much of anything these days except the brilliance of mall food courts and drive through everythings).

Why I want my boys to be like Coach Smith

http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/12563125/former-north-carolina-tar-heels-coach-dean-smith-leaves-200-letterman

Honestly, it isn’t even a question of whether or not they make coaches like Dean Smith anymore, but whether or not they make people like him.  There are a million and one stories I listened to about him during my life and more recently during his memorial period after his passing, but the fundamental thing is that he just cared about people large and small.  Because he cared about people, he did great things like stand for Civil Rights in North Carolina and stand for nuclear disarmament; but it all started because he cared about each person that came into his life.

Heck, I want to be like that.  I am so woefully not as thoughtful.

Firsts

I realize that in life there are one million firsts for everyone. For baby’s firsts, no one other than the baby’s immediate family members usually care about these firsts. Am I faithful in documenting either publicly or privately all of my babies’ firsts? No, but I do try to document the ones that really matter in some small way. Among those that significantly matter in our family are the following: Baby’s First Trip, Baby’s First Beach Visit, and Baby’s First Swim. Those matter because in my world, traveling, beaching, and swimming are three of my favorite leisure time activities and so I want my children to enjoy those things too so we can do them together.

We knocked all three things off the list this past weekend when my mom and I took the boys up to Virginia Beach to visit Melissa’ family. We stayed at the Sheraton on the beach, and although it was chilly and rainy for most of the weekend, a bad day at a mediocre beach is still much better than a good day elsewhere.

Stroller walks on the boardwalk were a must of course. I like to think the boys enjoyed the sound of the ocean because they were calm and content.

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Harrison was his usually energetic self and kept all of us entertained. DSC02404

We also enjoyed our views of the ocean from our hotel room balcony. When it warmed up a bit, we were able to leave the door open and enjoy the sound of the ocean while the boys napped. That is pretty ideal, in my view.

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Then there was the swimming. I have heard that young babies naturally enjoy the aquatic environment and my boys were no exception to that. Desmond, the natural cuddler, cuddled up, relaxed and also enjoyed some water tummy time.

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Calum liked laying on his back and kicking his feet.
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The boys were naturals in the water, much to my relief.

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Now I know that last picture exposes a shocking amount of cleavage from me. Look, this is my new reality. I was always someone who was a little larger on top, but all of this pumping and breastfeeding twins has made cleavage like this unavoidable for me. I had no idea how much milk I was producing until I stumbled onto a mom forum the other day (I had really avoided any sort of mom forum or discussion about parenting and babies since the boys’ births in part because I thought that would help me avoid some Mom guilt about not being good enough or doing things wrong), and I realized that the fact that I pump between 40 and 50 ounces of breastmilk daily in addition to nursing directly at least a few times a day is quite a lot. Now, my boys have enormous appetites, so even that amount doesn’t satiate them, but it turns out my breastfeeding expert doctor wasn’t just being nice when she told me how well I was doing because of how much milk I was producing. So all of that really hard and painful work (which continues to be hard and painful work) is paying off, so yay, I am not a failure at something biological when it comes to bearing children.

I leave you with this picture of Desmond, who already has perfected the look of a seasoned, weary business traveler in a hotel bed. It is something he must have inherited from his father.

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On Ice and Orthodoxy

I will get to the point, but let me start in a roundabout way.  I hate winter weather.  I am not one of those people who “needs four seasons.” To be perfectly honest, I do not understand those people.  The fact that you need so much gear to live in a climate that has winter weather tells me that human beings were not naturally meant to inhabit such places.  You can live easily in a hot sunny place where it rains without needing much.  This is where people belong.  I could easily live all of my days on an island with sun and a beach (and FYI people in the Pacific Northwest, if the ocean is below 65 degrees Farenheit, it isn’t a beach, it is a coast in my view). I have felt the instinctive need to keep moving South and to stay on the coast. Although my current address is in a coastal state, I still live too far from the beach for my liking.  I want to live somewhere I can swim every day, in other words.

Sadly, our winter lately has looked too much like this:

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The only redeeming part about this winter is that the terrible weather has coincided with my return to work so terrible weather means that the university has declared a ridiculous number of adverse weather days that have given me more guilt free days to spend at home with my babies, which I will gladly take.  That is another bonus of living somewhere winter isn’t usually expected to have so much fury – adverse weather days.  Let me tell you how many of those I got when I lived in New York – exactly zero.

In the LDS church, the baby blessing is somewhat of a rite of passage, although its exact purpose and value in the faith is somewhat questionable. In spite of being carried out by priesthood members, it isn’t a strict “priesthood ordinance” meaning that it doesn’t have any sort of redeeming value in an eternal context. People that die without being “blessed” don’t need it as an ordinance like baptism or the endowment for any sort of saving purpose in the next life.  To be perfectly honest, I really have always doubted the purpose of a baby blessing except it being a way for parents to show off their new offspring and have a public way to voice their desires for that child.

As a result of this, I have to admit when I finally had the boys, I was doubtful that I wanted to have any sort of public blessing. It is sort of gut wrenching for the kind of person that I am to know that because of my sex, I couldn’t be a part of a blessing for my babies.  I also don’t understand how it is that I can plead with God through my own personal prayers on their behalf but I cannot do the same in a blessing. If the effect of a “mother’s prayer” is just the same as a father’s priesthood blessing, then why can’t I bless my babies the same way? After all David can pray for them the same way I can.  I don’t find myself comfortable with these arbitrary distinctions the older I get.  Furthermore, before the experience of bearing kids, I had no idea that from the moment they came into this world I would feel very specific intuition and guidance about who these little babies are and what they can become. I felt it from the moment they were placed in my arms and we were contemplating names for them.  It made me a little sad to think that as their mother, I felt like carrying them inside of me and birthing them led me to know them in a unique and specific way, I couldn’t be a part of blessing them.

When I took Desmond to the hospital after his surgery, we spent the first night in this horrible unit where we had no walls and it was impossible to sleep.  Behind the curtain next to us was another little girl, her ailment not known to me. During the course of the evening, more women joined her mother on that side of the curtain and started singing religious hymns.  Then, they started praying together.  They were speaking French, but I think it was French Creole. From what I could make out, they were blessing this little girl. The blessing got louder and more animated. Soon they were all speaking at once and practically yelling. I cannot confirm what religion they were, because I didn’t ask, but I speculated, based on language and accent that perhaps they were voodoo priestesses? What religion they were didn’t matter, what was significant to me is that I was touched these women could express together to the heavens their wishes for this little girl’s health.  It made me feel sad that in my own religious tradition, I could not do the same for my boys.

Against the backdrop of these doubts, David and I decided to have a blessing.  In the end, I was the one that asked David to do it when he felt apathetic about it. I still don’t know why I wanted the blessings so much, except maybe I just didn’t want my boys to feel like they missed anything when they got older because their mom has too many questions. Whatever the reasons, we scheduled the blessing for a Sunday when we could have friends and family in town. The Sunday came and late in the morning we received an email from the bishop that because of the weather, church was being cancelled that day. I fumed, because it wasn’t snowing, only raining, and it wasn’t icing as they had speculated. After a couple of years with some “personnel” problems, shall we say, at church, I felt like once again, my family was less important than everyone else. I changed out of the Spanx and fancy Burberry dress I had planned to wear that day and threw on an easy jersey dress instead, opting to go barefoot and exposing my unshaven legs. And then, we ended up blessing the babies at home.  After the whole highstrung affair, with all of my doubts and questions, it felt as right as the baby blessings could possibly feel. I thought back to my own baptism and how it happened in our backyard pool instead of the church baptismal font. I have always been a bit unorthodox with these things, I guess. I have always been more comfortable outside of the spectacle of the formal, hierarchical, standard way we Mormons go about doing things. It is better to share an experience that I don’t entirely understand with just the people I love and with whom I can be myself instead of a ward congregation that includes some people who hate you and probably wouldn’t wish the best for your babies. The day felt more complete in its more less formal state. It gave me a moment just to be thankful for the boys and the fact that I got to be their mother and that I was able to share that with people I love.

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But yes, do I wish that I lived in a place that didn’t have the possibility of a weather forecast of freezing rain to send people scrambling? That goes without saying, even if, in this instance, the weather ultimately guided us where we needed to go.
 

 

Teach Other People’s Children Well

It isn’t anything new that I consider myself a passionate defender of public, state-supported education at every level. I grew up with a mom who was a fantastic public school teacher who at various points in her career, taught at every single level. This support for public education extends to medical education. Until this current school year, my sister taught at UNC’s medical school, and this year, she decided to add MD to her PhD and enroll in medical school itself. So I guess that I had a particular familial connection for the medical education component to this.

When I started seeing my reproductive endocrinologist at UNC fertility, I think I became more aware of residents and medical students as a part of my care team than before. In part, is because when you are having so many transvaginal ultrasounds, you become acutely aware of how many other people are in the room. When you are dealing with hard outcomes and talking about it with doctors and others present, you become aware of it too. So last year, when Sarah asked me to speak to her med students about my experiences and diagnoses, it actually was pretty easy to do so in a clinical way. By the time I actually managed to get and stay pregnant, I had no problem talking to any sort of medical students or professionals about my health issues. By the time the babies came, I don’t think I had much modesty with medical professionals (or the students and residents that accompanied them) left. Actually, while I have been in the hospital the past two months, this has also extended to pretty much anyone who works at the hospital who entered the hospital room, down to the housekeepers and the people who delivered food…

Because my adventures in breastfeeding have included many follow up appointments with lactation consultants as well as the Maternal and Fetal Medicine Doctor who specializes in breastfeeding problems, I wasn’t surprised when one day, the doctor asked me if it would be okay if she and her associates took some pictures of my battered, wonky breasts for possible inclusion in a textbook she is writing or other medical literature. I signed the permissions immediately. After all, if there is anything that I can do to educate others that sometimes breastfeeding hurts a lot and not all women have breasts perfectly situated for it, then I am all for it.

If only the elected officials of North Carolina shared my commitment to public education. Not only do I think that they wouldn’t strip down to educate others by showcasing the parts of them that are messed up and don’t work right (which for most of them, would be their brains), but they can’t even abide a university system that researches issues like poverty, biodiversity, and voter participation. Take a look at this webpage for full coverage of the Board of Governors (appointed by the NC General Assembly in the most partisan way possible) and their recommendations with regard to two important centers at the UNC Law School. I could go on and on about how their decisions stink of a dislike for academic freedom for professors who disagree with their regressive agenda and of a particular hatred for poor people and other disadvantaged populations. Yes, these are not people who have a commitment to public education at any level. It breaks my heart to think of the damage these people are inflicting to a university system that I love so much that I am willing to literally strip down to educate its’ students.

Insert Ferris Bueller quote about life moving fast here…

I realize that it probably is trite to say that as a new parent, time is something that I completely lack these days.  This week is the week that I officially started back to work (although that was somewhat thwarted by lots of ice around here), and it only compounded that problem.  With twins, I dare say that everything takes at least 1.5 times longer than with one baby (everything is at least 1.5 times more costly too).  The reality is though, I want to spend every moment I possibly can with them.  So many things that I ordinarily do, updating the blog being one of them, has fallen a bit by the wayside. I also don’t have time to post endless pictures to Pinterest from the new clothing lines during the Copenhagen/NY/London/Milan/Paris fashion weeks either. Darn. So little time for my so much shallow consumerism…

Additionally,some of the things that I had anticipated doing on my maternity leave – writing thank you cards, writing in baby books, cleaning and decluttering, etc. haven’t been done either.  Sometimes I feel guilty about that.  I feel guilty too that there doesn’t seem to be enough time to do all of the things with the babies that I want to do with them too.  I just have to accept the realities that time imposes and leave it at that.

My last week at home was mostly spent at the hospital with Desmond, as some minor surgery turned into a lengthy hospital stay.  He was a trooper, though, and thankfully, we are all home again.  The best day in the hospital was the day that my mom brought Calum to visit and I was able to have the two boys together again.At the hospitalThe boys are now officially two months, which meant after we arrived home from the hospital we took many pictures.

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I have found an additional use for my silly hats – the boys love to stare at them…
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Grandpa came out to help with some things after David went back to work. He and Mimi traded off visits, and now she is here to stay until the end of May. We couldn’t be happier, as no one does a better Grover voice than Mimi.
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Time goes fast, but we are trying to make the most of it.

Teach Your Children Well

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On MLK Day, I started to fret because I had not yet bought a children’s book to read to the boys about MLK and the Civil Rights movement in our country. It was a never-ending spiral from that point. I started thinking about all of the things that I wanted them to learn about and how little time I have to teach them those things. This is the problem with having a generalist as a parent: it isn’t just learning about the Civil Rights movement, it is also learning Bollywood dance moves, how to play the cello (which of course, I would not be the one to teach them), French social issues rap, and how to drive a John Deere Gator. There is so much in this world to learn about, and there are so many different people in the world to learn from.

Of course, I also cannot wait until they start to get older and we get to find out what they are interested in. My goal is to introduce them to as much as I can so they can decide what they want to learn about more (I hope that they love the animals as much as I do, because I have a million ideas for that). I cannot wait to travel with them and show them the world.

I cannot believe they are already six weeks old. It goes so fast. I feel like I missed so much of the first month, because I was sick. I am trying to make up for that time now.

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One Month and Still Going

I think one of the long term effects of infertility that people don’t talk about is an intense paranoia about health related issues. As I stated when I was pregnant, when you are used to things going wrong, you just keep assuming that is what is going to happen. I hoped that would stop after I gave birth, but the truth is, I love these boys so much, I cannot stop fretting about their own health issues. While it is true that both of them have required trips to specialists so far (with more trips to come), it is also true that they are both gaining weight and growing, and so by that measure, they are doing fine. Just as when Knightley was a puppy and I didn’t know what I was doing and I hated that he couldn’t tell me when he was feeling well, I have spent sleepless nights stressing out about every little sound I hear the boys make.

In the first month, I have also dealt with all of the feeding issues – the fact that the boys aren’t good at latching, the fact that I had to work incredibly hard to get a decent milk supply (that still has to be supplemented with formula), and the fact that I measure my days by how much milk I am able to pump. I have seen the specialist doctor about the pain issues I have with breastfeeding too. No one prepared me for how painful it has been. However, I have been reassured because the babies are growing and they are getting the antibodies that I have produced (which is particularly useful considering I was sick a solid three weeks of the first month – one week with the flu, two weeks with a terrible cold). The doctors have made me feel so much better about my abilities, and they still give me hope that Desmond can learn to latch.

So things have been tough in a way that maybe I wasn’t completely prepared for – the sickness in addition to the sleeplessness, the pain in addition to the supply issues. But at the end of one month I have two beautiful boys that I love so much.
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I love that face on Desmond, so that is the picture that I had to include here. Both boys make the funniest faces.