Thursday, April 30, 2009

(Another) article: "The Guilt of Secondary Infertility"

Lisa Belkin must have gotten the message about National Infertility Awareness Week! ; ) (although the words have not yet appeared in her blog) For the second consecutive day, the New York Times blog Motherlode tackles an infertility-related topic, via a guest blogger: secondary infertility.

11 comments so far... including several calls for further discussion on the subject of pregnancy loss.

As I mentioned on Emily's blog, I Google-News-ed "National Infertility Awareness Week" & came up with exactly 22 references... most of them press releases, with various organizations (including PETA!!) pushing their own angle. :(

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Article: "Too Many Ways to Have a Baby?"

Lisa Belkin's Motherlode blog at the New York Times asks the question today, "Too Many Ways to Have a Baby?" and "where is the line between reasonable and too much, and how do you know when you've reached it?"

101 reader comments (and counting...!)... with the usual share of "why don't they just adopt?"s, but also some thought-provoking points and personal stories.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Which would you choose?

Suddenly, I'm popular. Not just one, but two invitations for the same day -- and Mother's Day, no less!! Who'd-a thunk?? Little ol' infertile, deadbabymama me!

Since dh's mother died long before I was able to meet her, and my own mother lives 1,500 miles away, dh & I have usually been left to our own devices on Mother's Day -- which is generally how we like it. I wrote this post about Mother's Day & me last year.

We've already (reluctantly) accepted the first invitation we received last month. As I wrote earlier, dh & I will be spending Mother's Day living out every infertile woman/bereaved mother's bad dream -- attending a baptism (for stepBIL's son). Being that it is stepMIL's grandson -- her only, long-awaited grandchild -- we HAVE to go. There is no way we can excuse ourselves.

But today, I received an e-mail from one of dh's (female) cousins. If there is enough interest, she & one of the other female cousins are proposing to organize a Mother's Day brunch outing, just for "the girls" -- the aunts, the female cousins, their own daughters (who range in age from 2 to 18), & the male cousins' wives (including me).

I don't know whether the group brunch idea will ultimately come off. And obviously, having accepted the baptism invitation (& since FIL's wife trumps the aunts & cousins on the other side of the family anyway), I had to decline the brunch invitation.

I know there's a third choice -- digging in my heels & turning down both invitations, & doing what dh & I always do (cemetery, movie &/or shopping, avoidance, lol). Needless to say, I have no spine. ; )

But anyway, this got me thinking. Theoretically -- let's say I got both invitations on the same day at the same time -- and had to pick one (i.e., turning both down was not an option). Which invitation should/would I accept?

Other assumptions in this theoretical world:
  • I am not having any problems with food reactions, so they are not a consideration in thinking about the food. ; )

  • I don't have to worry about offending FIL if I go for brunch instead.
Factors to consider in each scenario:
  • Baptism: There will be about 40-50 people attending. Only a handful of small children, if any, although there will certainly be much to-do made over the guest of honour. I will know most of the people there (stepMIL's family), although not extremely well. There will be other childless women there, although they are the doting aunts of the baby. We will be attending a church service, followed by lunch at an Italian restaurant, all close to where dh & I live.

  • Brunch: If all those invited attend, there would be four older women, 10 cousins/cousins' wives, and five girls ages 2-18. I am probably more comfortable generally with this group, & they are a lot of fun to be around. I think it's nice to be included in the invitation. However!! I would be the only adult female there who does not have a (living) child. And, with the conversation at such gatherings usually very kid-focused, I am sure I would ultimately wind up feeling a little bored/frustrated/resentful/sad, etc. The restaurant has not been picked yet, and it would probably be farther from where I live (in which case I would have to either get dh to take me or hitch a ride with cousin/neighbour's wife, assuming she & her daughters are going too) but I'm sure it would be a nice brunch.
Which invitation would YOU accept, & why? I'm curious to hear your responses!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

She's a little bit country, I'm a little bit sappy...

(This is post #250!)

How sappy am I, you ask? OK, confession time (but remember, I grew up in the 1970s).

I was an Osmonds fan.

Still am, actually. (Yes, I admit it.) Yes, I know. The teeth. The hair. The squeaky-cleanness. The imitation Elvis jumpsuits. The barbershop harmonies. The corny skits on the Donny & Marie Show. The Andy Williams Show, for crying out loud.

But when you're a 12-year-old girl living a sheltered small-town life in the 1970s (pre-Internet, pre-cellphones -- even pre-Pong, for Pete's sake...), that can all be mighty appealing -- the very idea of a guy who doesn't drink, doesn't smoke, and won't push you to do things you might not be ready for. The Osmonds were Mormons. I didn't know much about the Mormon faith then -- Mormons being a pretty rare species in my part of the world back then -- but I did know (from that font of knowledge, Tiger Beat Magazine) that they married not just "till death do us part," but for "time & eternity" -- and that sounded wildly romantic to my teenaged self.

Previously, a big David Cassidy poster had graced the door of my bedroom. (It was starting to wear a little on his lips, where I kissed him every night before I went to bed.) One early 1970s summer, however, however, my best friends from across the street saw the Osmonds on "American Bandstand" (which they taped on their audio cassette tape recorder -- which is what we did if we wanted to preserve a TV memory in those pre-VCR days), bought the "Osmonds Live" album & before long, my sister & I were hooked too. (Donny sang Elton John's "Your Song" on that album. I don't think I had heard of Elton John at that point -- remember, I was only 11 or 12 years old! -- but I fell in love with that song. It's still one of my favourites, and was a close runner-up for our first dance song at our wedding. Still do. So if anything, I owe the Osmonds for introducing me to Elton John!)

Anyway, by the time I was in high school, the posters eventually came down & my musical tastes diversified to Elton John, the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt and Fleetwood Mac (eventually)(I'll tell you about my last big teen idol fling -- the Bay City Rollers -- some other time...!!). But I still got a kick out of seeing the Osmonds on TV now & then. And still do, perhaps even more so, as the years have passed. They're a fond reminder of the more innocent days of my growing up years.

Of course, that was (gulp) well over 35 years ago. They're all older and greyer now -- but hey, so am I. ; ) They have had their share of personal problems and pain. They ran into financial problems in the 1980s and spent years paying off debts. Alan has MS. Wayne had a brain tumour (that was successfully operated on). Marie has been divorced (twice). Donny admitted to suffering from social anxiety in his memoir, Life is Just What You Make It, and is now a grandfather (!!!). Both of their parents have passed away.

But I still think they are an immensely talented family. And they can still make me cry, albeit for different reasons than when I was a lovesick teenager. I watched their family reunion show on "Oprah" & their 50th anniversary special on PBS last winter, Kleenex box at my side.

Back in the mid-1990s, I finally got to meet Donny, after standing in line my entire lunch hour (& then some) at the Toronto Eaton Centre, when he made a promotional appearance for "Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" (when it played in Toronto the second time around). (My girlfriend & I later went to see the show & had a blast.) It was worth the wait. He was around 40 by then, I think -- he looked older (but hey, so did I!) -- but still damned good. : )

Anyway -- I didn't want to blog about the Osmonds for simple nostalgia's sake. I recently picked up Marie's new book, Might As Well Laugh About It Now. I had read her previous book, Behind the Smile, which described her struggles with post-partum depression, including a much-publicized incident in which she left her children with the babysitter and disappeared for a long drive up the California coast. (She later learned that her mother had done almost exactly the same thing, some 40 years earlier!) Marie now has eight children. Four of them are biological, four are adopted, and if you ask her which are which, she'll tell you she doesn't remember.

This book came about when she was asked to write a full autobiography. She decided she wasn't ready to do that but, in thinking back over the rich experiences of her life, she realized she had gained a lot of insight over the years that she could share. The book is a "Chicken Soup for the Soul" style collection of vignettes from Marie's personal and professional life -- some of them funny, some of them poignant -- and each chapter has a life lesson at its core for the reader.

The last chapter of the book, "You'll Be There," is the one that left me going, "Wow, I had no idea." I had dh read it & he had to admit it was pretty touching too. It describes the birth -- and death -- of Marie's niece, Jennifer -- her (non-performing) brother Tom's fifth child -- in 1981. Marie writes of how her mother and brother called her from the hospital, telling her the baby was not expected to live very long, and asking her to come support her brother.

Initially, Marie didn't think she could. She feared that she would "fall apart." "I couldn't face my brother's pain, knowing that there would be nothing I could do to fix it," she says.

But then she had a brief vision -- the image of a small, dark-haired girl, hugging her, greeting her at what appears to be the entrance to Heaven, saying, "You'll be there, won't you?

And so she went to the hospital. And comforted her brother. And held her tiny niece before she died.

"Jennifer was an impetus in the creation of the Children's Miracle Network, which, in turn, helps more than 17 million children and their families every single year," she writes. I knew that the Osmond family played a role in the creation of the Children's Miracle Network, but -- even though I consider myself a longtime fan -- I had never heard of baby Jennifer before this.

There is more to the story -- involving the death of Marie's mother a few years ago, the appearance of two monarch butterflies at her funeral (monarch butterflies, of course, hold a great deal of significance for dh & me and the members of our support group), and a Mother's Day shopping trip that leads to a special purchase (not to mention an ice cream sundae).

But I'll let you read it for yourself.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A funeral

Thursday morning, I was at my desk at work when my phone rang. The call display showed FIL's number.

I totally froze. My in-laws NEVER call me at work. I knew they were not just calling to say hello.

I did not want to pick up the phone.

But I knew I had to be a grownup. I steeled myself for whatever was about to come, & picked up the phone.

It was stepMIL -- and, as I had feared, it was bad news -- although not the news I had most dreaded. She was calling to tell me that one of dh's aunts had passed away. (SIL had given her my number; she didn't have dh's.) So I had the sad duty of calling my husband to tell him his aunt had died -- the first one of his father's siblings to pass away.

His aunt, not quite two years younger than FIL (who is the eldest of the 7 sibilings -- all but two now living in Canada) had not been entirely well. Alzheimer's disease has robbed her memory these last several years, to the point that she knew none of us anymore, but she actually died of a heart attack.

Visitation was Sunday, & the funeral was today. Dh & I had a volunteer meeting for our support group during the day, so we went in the evening. Even though I was among friends, & other bereaved mothers, I found my throat constricting during our volunteer meeting (hours after I'd had breakfast). Anxiety rearing its ugly, irrational head again. : ( On the bright side, I made it through lunch (a salmon salad sandwich with some cantaloupe & pineapple slices) without incident. Got through the funeral home visit OK, but felt a brief bit of anxiety again toward the end of our visit.

Woke up at 3 a.m. & couldn't get back to sleep. I finally figured out that there were two things that were bothering me. First, one of dh's cousins had remarked that Aunt's blood pressure the previous day had been unusually high -- 170/110 -- & the dr was to visit her to adjust her medication. (My own blood pressure, of course, has spiked at almost that level recently, albeit in the throes of a food reaction/anxiety attack.)

The second? Aunt was wearing her glasses in her casket. I had smiled & remarked to dh that I was glad they did that, because it made Aunt look more like herself. I recalled that my grandmother also wore her glasses in her casket. Illness had changed her appearance so much that, if it weren't for the glasses, she would have been totally unrecognizable to me. That got me thinking about my grandmother, & how much I still miss her, almost 10 years later. And that got me sobbing.

Finally drifted off to sleep again for a few more hours before we got up & got ready for the funeral. It was a Catholic mass, of course. Several of dh's cousins had brought their small children along (everyone in the family who could babysit was all there), including one sweet baby girl, born last November -- almost 10 years to the day from Katie's due date.

That alone might have been bearable -- but then the priest launched into his homily -- an ode to Aunt, & her devotion to motherhood & grandmotherhood. Really, what more could be said about Aunt? She did not work, certainly not after she had her children. When I first met her, some 25 years after her arrival in Canada, she still could barely speak English. Her family was her life.

The priest went on & on, extolling the virtues & the rewards of motherhood. He talked about the pains that mothers go through during delivery (like he knows??). "But the moment she hears her baby cry, the pain is all worth it."

Yes, I thought, but what about those of us who get to go through labour without hearing that cry at the end of it all? And those who never get to be pregnant at all, try as they might?

And then I remembered how, shortly after Katie's stillbirth, dh & I had gone over to FIL's house, & Aunt & Uncle had been there. Some brief condolences were exchanged. Aunt said something to dh in Italian & I saw his expression change. "Really??" he said.

He turned to me: "It happened to her, too." He asked her a question in Italian, & she responded, her eyes cast down at the table. "Seven months," he said to me. "I had no idea."

I touched Aunt's arm. "Girl or boy?" I said. "A little girl," she whispered, with pain in her eyes, & then shook her head, lips set together.

So before Aunt knew the joy of a baby's cry, she too also knew the wrenching sorrow of a silent delivery room. I thought of that, & of that nameless (to me, anyway), forgotten baby girl, as the priest talked.

I hope wherever they both are now, they have found each other at last.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Yesterday's visit with Dr. Allergist

I managed to make it through the rest of the week after Monday without another reaction (yay me). Yesterday was my long-awaited appointment with Dr. Allergist. I set my food diary in front of her & she said, "So, what conclusions have you reached?" (Like I'm the doctor?!)

I told her I don't dispute that I may have some food allergies -- but I thought that at least some of this might be anxiety-related. And after listening to me for awhile, although she didn't outright say so, I got the feeling she thought so too (!). She also didn't discount my hormones theory, saying there is definitely a connection between hormones & asthma and hormones & migraines... but then she said, "But then what do you do about it?" (i.e., there is not much you CAN do). She said she could send me to a gynecologist, & I told her I had already been to Dr. Ob-gyn that week & he didn't think I needed blood tests or hormone supplements at this point.

She did more scratch tests on me for about a dozen more fruits & vegetables (all of which were negative), & had some blood drawn. Told me I shouldn't be afraid to eat but to use caution on the foods that may be a problem for me. She seemed particularly concerned about those that cross-react with tree & grass pollen (which is sometimes a seasonal problem for me) -- including apples, pears, peaches, plums, nectarines, cherries, & almonds -- in raw form, that is (cooked is better, boiled is best). These have never been a problem for me in the past, but...

She also suggested that I should try taking a daily antihistamine for awhile,that it might help break the cycle I seem to be in right now. I asked whether that would raise my blood pressure, & she said no, it's decongestants that do that, not antihistamines. I'm going to double-check with my family dr, but I think I'd like to try it (especially since she said I can take one of the non-sedating ones instead of the Benadryl, which totally throws me for a loop). I'm going to go back to see her in July.

In the end, she told me she is not too worried about me -- & not to be afraid to eat! So I'm feeling better & more hopeful about the situation. It was a 15-minute walk there & then back again from the subway -- a wealthy, midtown neighbourhood full of big old brick houses & big old trees, not far from the apartment where we lived when we were first married. It was a GORGEOUS day! (& I went straight from the dr's office to the train station to meet dh) That made me feel better too. : )

Updates from earlier in a busy week

(I drafted the following post last Wednesday, April 15th, but have been too busy to revise & publish it until now. I'll bring things up to date in a separate post.)

The Easter long weekend was very quiet. We decided to do all the cleaning on Good Friday. I was in my grub clothes, unshowered, with my uncombed head stuck in one of the kitchen cupboards, reorganizing, when I heard dh talking to someone at the front door. Lo & behold, it was my 80-year-old FIL!! He hasn't dropped by like that in a long time.

He hugged me & then gave me a puzzled but concerned look & said, "Laura!! [He calls me Laura, Italian-style.] What happen to you??" I KNEW everyone would get their shorts in a knot when dh told stepMIL about my food reactions. I reassured him that I was OK, but I needed to be careful about what I eat, at least until I can see my dr again.

I was only half the reason he was there, of course. He produced a bag for dh & wished him a happy birthday. I know he was feeling guilty that we weren't going to be together for that, or for Easter. In it was a new golf shirt -- & a big package of sausages, lol. I could tell dh was totally tickled. I put down the dust rag & made them both espressos. I'm glad he came over.

*** *** ***

Many ideas for posts zoom through my head in a day. These last 2-3 weeks, however, I've been preoccupied with what the heck is happening to my body. Since Saturday, March 28, I have 9 (count 'em) reaction episodes (including three in a row, on dh's birthday Saturday, Easter and Easter Monday). Most of them, especially the last several, have thankfully been on the milder side.

Still, they take their toll. I've been going to bed early, & not sleeping too badly. But I've been having lots of weird dreams, & I still feel exhausted a great deal of the time. And HUNGRY. I've been trying to be very careful with what I eat, stick to the tried & true, eat very simply, not eat anything remotely questionable -- certainly not anything I've reacted to before -- at least until I can see Dr. Allergist again (this Friday). Which means my diet has been pretty narrow (not to mention monotonous). I've been taking leftovers for lunch to work most days the last two weeks. A lot of pasta with broccoli or peas or zucchini with garlic sautéed in olive oil, since I've been able to eat that without incident to date. I know I haven't been eating enough protein, or fruits & vegetables.

Yesterday (Tuesday), I went to see a counsellor from my company's employee assistance program to talk about the stress and anxiety I've been feeling related to my allergic reactions. I specifically asked to see a counsellor dh & I had seen about two years ago. She was really great in zooming in on the fact that both of us were basically dealing with midlife crisis issues (!) -- so I figured she would be sympathetic to this particular phase of mine (!), & she was. She is a social worker & not a psychologist, & so really can't "treat" anxiety -- but said she could provide me with a referral, if that's what I wanted. She said I'm doing all the right things to try to deal with this situation -- encouraged me to get more exercise & cut back on the caffeine, & told me about some mind-body meditation/relaxation programs I might investigate. I am going back to see her next week, after I get through this week's appointments.

Today (Wednesday) was my annual checkup with Dr. Ob-gyn. I hadn't given it much thought before I went… and his office is not in the same location it was during my pregnancy. Nevertheless, the entire floor he's on is devoted to reproductive biology, maternal-fetal medicine, etc. To get to his office, one must walk down a series of loooonnnnggggg, winding corridors -- all lined with pregnant women & babies, both in real life & in the posters on the wall. Eeeekkkk!!

In the waiting area, I deliberately sat in the first row of chairs, where I didn't have to look at any of the waiting patients & their pregnant bellies behind me, & buried my nose in the magazine I had brought with me… but I still saw them coming to the desk. I also found it hard to ignore a rambunctious toddler & his dad, who was carrying his newborn brother or sister around, waiting for mom.

Eventually I was called from the large waiting area to a row of chairs closer to the dr's office & the examination rooms. There was a pregnant woman in the room across the hall. The door remained open while the nurse took her blood pressure, & I could hear every word of the conversation. She was asking a great deal of questions, & then she said, "You see, I had a baby die inside of me before and…" and I froze. Another reminder that we never know what is going in the lives of people around us.

Even so, my bp was 120/80! I am glad the nurse took it when she did because, when she left me alone to get undressed, put on a gown & wait for the doctor, I could actually hear the unmistakable sound of the doppler in the examination room next door. I could hear every friggin' beat of that baby's heart, & while I am very glad that is what the mother got to hear, I thought it was going to drive me nuts. :(

Fortunately, I didn't have to wait too long for Dr. Ob-gyn to arrive. Internal was normal. I told him about my weird food reactions -- & the fact that so many of them seem to take place around my period or my PMS phase. He said they really know very little about the connections between allergies & hormones (& whether they in fact exist). And since my periods & cycles are still pretty much normal, he very much doubts there is anything hormonal going on. "You are NOT in menopause," he emphasized. He said he didn't think bloodwork would be worthwhile at this point, because hormonal levels fluctuate so much from day to day. He told me pretty much what I expected to hear, but I thought it was worthwhile tossing it out anyway.

Friday: Back to Dr. Allergist.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

"I Dreamed a Dream"

Have you seen the YouTube clip of Susan Boyle, wowing Simon Cowell, no less, with her rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" from "Les Miserables" in auditioning for "Britain's Got Talent"? This song chokes me up at the best of times, & I love the feel-good story attached to this version. I called dh upstairs to come look & we had to pass the Kleenex between us!

Dh & I saw "Les Miserables" in the early 1990s, when it was playing at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto, with Michael Burgess as Jean Valjean and Louise Pitre as Fantine (& we were passing the Kleenex then, too, lol). Pitre later went on to win a Tony in "Mamma Mia," in the role of Donna played by Meryl Streep in the movie. About five years ago, she headlined Emma's Song, a benefit show for the pregnancy loss support group dh & I volunteer with. The event was organized by a couple who knew her through their own work in the theatre, in memory of their stillborn daughter.

We saw & loved "Les Mis" long before we began ttc... Fantine's story, of course, was very different from ours... but listening to the words again, I couldn't help but think of those years of yearning, of loss, of crushing defeat & disappointment:

There was a time when men were kind
When their voices were soft
And their words inviting
There was a time when love was blind
And the world was a song
And the song was exciting
There was a time
Then it all went wrong

I dreamed a dream in times gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving
Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung
No wine untasted
But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
And they turn your dream to shame
He slept a summer by my side
He filled my days with endless wonder
He took my childhood in his stride
But he was gone when autumn came
And still I dream he'll come to me
That we'll live the years together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather
I had a dream my life would be
So much different from this hell I'm living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed
The dream I dreamed.

I dream new dreams now... but the hurt of the old, dead dream still lingers...

Sisterhood Award

I was touched when reading the comments on my last post to learn that Cait's Mom had bestowed a Sisterhood Award on me.

I also loved the fabulous poem that she included in her post, by Rachel Barenblat. It's not part of the award, but I wanted to share here it with you too, because it really says it all about sisterhood and our adoption/loss/infertility blogging community, in particular.


One by one
every woman I know
approaches me
carrying words

it happened to me
my mother
my sister
my best friend

four times in a row
before the baby came
once, before
I even knew

three times
over six years
and then children
healthy and perfect

just keep breathing
in and out
around the stone
you’ve swallowed

I’ve been there
I am holding you
you won’t feel this way

*** *** ***

Here are the rules:

Put the logo on your blog or post.

Ten people seems like a lot at first glance... but then again, it's hard to pick & choose when so many people easily fit the bill! Those I've nominated may have already been nominated by someone else... but I do think they are deserving! :

  • Melissa at Stirrup Queens and Sperm Palace Jesters: The "Den Mother" of the ALI blogging community. Here's to "kumbayaness," lol.
  • Pamela Jeanne at Coming 2 Terms: Making magnificent lemonade out of the lemons that life has handed her, her blog is a haven for those of us making the difficult transition to life without children after infertility treatment & loss.
  • Irish Girl at Plan B: Family of Two, who is likewise carving out a new life and career for herself, and remaining positive in the face of disappointment.
  • Deathstar at A Woman My Age: Talk about attitude & gratitude -- a Buddhist wearing killer red stilettos!!
  • Emily at Apron Strings for Emily: Emily somehow manages to find the sunshine, the silver lining in every cloud. Most recently, I've been moved by her posts about her grandmother's passing, & her gratitude for her grandmother's life and example.
  • Tash at Awful But Functioning: The very title of Tash's blog brilliantly sums up the babyloss experience. And her posts are awesome too. : )
  • Janis at Ferdinand's Gifts: I love the way Janis manages to express her joy & gratitude for her new daughter Lyra and her ongoing grief over the loss of her son, Ferdinand, often in the same well put sentence.
  • Mrs. Spit of Mrs. Spit Spouts Off: Eloquence and compassion in abundance. And humour!
  • Ellen at Miss E's Musings: Sometimes reading infertility blogs turned mommy blogs can be painful. I still love reading Ellen's blog, not only because her twin daughters are truly adorable, but she has never forgotten what it took to bring them here, or those of us who are still on the hard road of treatment, or taking different paths now.
  • and last but far from least, Julia of Life After Infertility & Loss: Julia & I "met" on the Internet nearly 10 years ago, & realized we had both lost daughters, Katie & Carena, on the very same day (August 7th, 1998). Then we both discovered blogging around the same time! We used to joke about being long-lost cousins. I think the Sisterhood Award is perfect for her. : )

Take it away, girls! : )

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Easter long weekend -- ho hum...

Looks like it will be pretty quiet. (Am I surprised?) Same old story.

StepMIL called last night with an invitation for Easter dinner -- with her & FIL, & the rest of her extended family, at her sister's (well over an hour's drive away). They are extremely nice people & we appreciated the invitation -- but we did it once a few years ago, & that was enough. They're not OUR family -- and to be honest, I'm not especially sure I'm up to a large social gathering right now -- having to put on a bright, happy face -- especially one with no control over the menu, given what the last week or two of food-related reactions & anxiety have been like for me.

Dh didn't want to go -- & actually used me as an excuse -- said I haven't been feeling well because of food allergies & have to be careful what I eat until we figure out what I can have & what I can't. StepMIL always mixes things up & I'm not sure FIL (who is hard of hearing & whose English is limited) totally understood. Who knows what I'll wind up being diagnosed with by the time the news gets around the family, lol.

Dh proposed we come to see them on Saturday night instead (which happens to be his birthday) -- but they will be at youngest stepBIL's, celebrating HIS birthday, which is also this weekend.

Of course, you may recall that stepBIL is also the father of stepMIL's 7-month-old only grandchild. His first birthday as a daddy!! Case closed.

So unless BIL & family want to come over, it will just be me & dh for his entire birthday/Easter weekend. His family generally doesn't make much of a fuss over birthdays anyway, & I guess I should be used to it by now -- but it just bugs me sometimes.

The whole blended family thing (especially when combined with our childlessness) sure makes for some strange situations sometimes. (Not only do I have inlaws to contend with, I have the inlaws' inlaws...!)

I think that (once I get my food allergies sorted out & can eat away from home again with some degree of confidence) dh & I need to start going away somewhere on holiday weekends, like Easter, & Thanksgiving. (We've always spent Christmas with my family, so those two seem to be the worst/hardest of the major holidays for us -- well, me! -- to deal with.) I feel like we're left at loose ends way too often. I just don't have the space (or, I'll admit, the nerves! -- especially right now!) to invite all of his family over -- & I'm not going to cook an entire turkey dinner for just the two of us. He's not keen on eating out at the best of times and he HATES waiting for anything, especially food!! so no point in trying to go for Easter brunch anywhere (we've tried). So maybe a weekend at a nice country inn or resort or something...

I don't know quite why I'm feeling so pissed off about the whole thing -- when I'll freely admit that I don't want to host myself, I'm not wild about the idea of spending an entire day with stepMIL's family (nice as they are), and I don't particularly want to be around alot of people & strange food right now anyway.

I think it all goes back to that feeling of "otherness," of being excluded, that I've felt just about all my life. Growing up & moving every 3-5 years, I was always the "new kid." I was smart, not pretty or athletic. When I got married, I was the only "mangiacake" in a family of Italians. Now I'm the only (or one of the few) childless (especially not by choice) women, navigating my way through a sea of pregnant bellies & toddlers in mega-strollers.

I'm tired of waiting around for his family to decide what they (= we) are doing -- &, more often than not, having so many holiday weekends wind up being just like any other. I want to feel like I have something to celebrate, to look forward to.

I want holidays to feel special again, like they were when I was little. (Or just special, period.) Aside from Christmas, which (despite infertility & loss) still manages to hold some of its meaning & charm for me, most holidays haven't been special that way in a long time -- and they won't ever be, unless we (I) do something to make it that way.

A weekend at a country inn sounds nice. I think it will help. But it won't ever completely fill the hole in my heart.

Here's what I really wish I was doing this weekend.

I want to be colouring Easter eggs, & making Easter baskets, & hiding chocolate rabbits, & buying little pastel dresses, & fuzzy white bunny ears, & sitting around the table with my family having roast pork or ham & scalloped potatoes, & maybe a few games of cards afterwards.

A few people that I've whined to about this have told me they would LOVE to be able to blow off their family obligations this weekend & spend it by themselves. I guess the grass is always greener, etc. etc.

But it's hard sometimes.

I feel cheated, damnit. :(

Of allergies & anxiety

Thank you for all your kind comments & good wishes on my earlier post. I may have some food allergies -- but I definitely believe anxiety is rearing its ugly head again, after an absence of some years.

After Friday's hasty exit from the classroom, I had people coming by my cubicle all Monday morning asking me how I was doing. One person even asked me, "How's the drama queen?" She was just joking (my immediate boss told me she didn't even realize I was gone!) but of course it made me feel hugely self-conscious.

I went to my Weight Watchers meeting at noon that day & I found I had lost 3.4 lbs over the past week. Not exactly the way you want to lose it, though. :( I told my leader & a few of the members chimed in with their own experiences with food allergies.

It was all sympathetic, but nevertheless, being in a group setting (& the centre of attention, albeit briefly) had an impact. I could feel my throat starting to tighten up & was feeling very, very uncomfortable by the end of the meeting -- all before I had a single bite to eat. I went into the washroom, & I could see a small red spot forming on my neck. Went to the cafeteria to pick up some soup & a bun for lunch, and brought it back to my desk. Looked in the mirror, & the small red spot had gotten a bit larger. Started eating & boom! it started spreading like wildfire. What does that tell you?

I took a Benadryl as a precaution. The redness ran its course within about an hour or so, but the tightness remained, letting up a tad once I got home & did some yoga. It was probably the worst my throat has felt to date, although I could still breathe, swallow & eat dinner (pasta) without any problems. It felt better (less tight, albeit still sore) after a good night's sleep.

I went downstairs at coffee time the next day with my cellphone & datebook, called our employee assistance program & booked an appointment next week with a counsellor I have seen before, who was a sympathetic listener and had a great handle on midlife crisis issues. I went to my family dr Tuesday morning for a regular blood pressure checkup (120/80, thankfully). I'll also be seeing Dr. Ob-gyn for my annual Pap, etc., next week, as well as the long-awaited followup with the allergist -- so I think I have all my bases covered. ; )

The rest of the week has gradually gotten better (knocking wood here!). I took Benadryl one more time after supper on Tuesday night, after I thought I saw a red spot on my neck & started feeling anxious again. But I've been trying very hard not to run for the mirror as soon as I've eaten, because I think it just feeds the anxiety, & right now, I think the anxiety is more of a problem than the allergies are. Dh promised to tell me if he saw any redness on my neck. I've had a few anxious moments here & there where I've felt on the brink of panic, & wished I had some at.i.van again, but so far, I think I'm coping OK. My throat has been sore (no wonder, it's had quite the workout, poor thing...) but I've been gargling with salt water (tried & true home remedy). I've also did some yoga workout tapes a few nights this week, & I think that's helped too.

I brought my lunch Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday -- leftovers from home that I had eaten without incident & could feel confident eating at work -- although I had to clean our department's microwave before I could bring myself to put my food in there to heat up (ugh) (reason #32 why I don't like packing a lunch...!). We've been eating very simply this week, & will probably continue to do so next week, until I get through my appointments & figure out just what is ailing me & what I can do about it. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Photo tag: Bittersweet birthday party

I've been tagged by Ya Chun, Serenity's mom.

Rules are: open your sixth picture folder in your computer. Post the sixth picture and give a bit of background about it. Tag 4 people -- I'm picking a few of my favourite bloggers whom I've seen posting photos before ; ) -- Julia S., Busted, Wordgirl and Miss E.

I have a lot of subfolders within folders... so I went to the sixth folder, went to the sixth folder in that. That one had three folders in it, so I went to the third & this was the sixth photo (at left).

I haven't published many, if any, identifiable photos of people in this blog yet, & I like that this is an appropriately anonymous photo. ; ) This is our oldest nephew (19 at the time), at a first birthday party for one of dh's cousin's kids last March (2008), held at an ancient, vintage 1960s, glow-in-the-dark bowling alley in the basement of a strip plaza. We almost didn't make it, as it was held the day after a gigantic early March snowstorm hit the city -- but we woke up to clear, sunny skies & the sound of snowplows -- although the snow was piled up so high, it was hard to find the entrance to the plaza where the bowling alley was located. I blogged about this cousin & his wife, and mentioned the birthday party, here.

I had to chuckle when I read the line saying, "I tried to keep busy taking photos whenever the mommy talk got a little too stifling." I have a reputation as "the family photographer." Partly because I love taking photos, but yes, it does give me something to do besides sit silently while the other women talk about their kids. When I think about it, the image of my camera as a protective shield comes to mind.

The party was a bittersweet event for us -- as most babies' first birthday parties are -- but especially so because, next to us, the baby's parents were the longest-married childless couple in dh's family. They had been married 11 years before this little girl finally made her appearance (with the help, it is rumoured, of IVF). Her mom was the one person I knew I could chat with about something other than diaper rash and report cards (although the "I" word never once crossed our lips). And now she'd abandoned me -- gone over to the other side. And had another baby, a boy, last September, when she was almost 45. I imagine there will be a birthday party this September, maybe even in the same place, & we'll be going to that one too.

Our oldest nephew is the second-oldest cousin of his generation. He was born when dh & I, & his parents, had been married for about three years. Dh & I were still living in a tiny apartment & struggling financially -- we knew children of our own were still a ways off, but we relished being an aunt & uncle, & loved to spend time with (and spoil) our nephew, and his younger brother, when he arrived four years later. By then, we had moved to the suburbs in one direction, and they had moved to the other side of the city -- but when our first nephew was born, we all lived in the city, and saw much more of each other than we have in more recent years.

The years have flown by so fast -- it's hard to believe sometimes. He will be starting community college this fall (he's been working since he graduated high school a few years back).

Have a good look, moms -- someday, your cute, chubby boy bundles will be all arms & legs & long, shaggy hair, like this. : )

Sunday, April 5, 2009

You say tomato, I... turn red?

I realize I haven't been a very "talkative" blogger lately. I've been a little preoccupied.

To make a long story (slightly) shorter, I've had not just one... or two... or even three... but FOUR (count 'em) food reactions/hot flashes/anxiety attacks/whatever they are in the past week (9 or 10 in total since last June)(as last described here).

Each of these incidents begins with a small reddish spot, usually on my right chin, and then spreads in a red flush down my neck, under my jaw & up the to the left side of my neck, up my face & down my chest. Sometimes (but not always) I will feel warm, my heart will begin beating faster & /or my throat may feel slightly scratchy. I usually take one or two Benadryls at the first sign of redness, which totally throw me for a loop, leaving me dry-mouthed & woozy. The redness generally passes & I start feeling better anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes after it started.

The first incident was a week ago Saturday night (after eating a grilled chicken salad -- which included tomatos -- which I tested positive for in scratch tests at the allergist's office last summer)(never mind that I'm married to an Italian...!). The second was on Sunday night after eating a pasta casserole at home that we've had many times before (with tomato sauce, and on the spicy side, which I don't tolerate well at the best of times).

Incident #3 was mid-lunch on Tuesday, which was turkey on a whole wheat baguette with potato chips (there was a tomato slice in there). This sent me first to the walk-in clinic near my office & later to the emergency room to be checked out (since my throat still did not feel quite normal, several hours later), where I was pronounced fine. I was left with a raw throat, however, & raw nerves to boot. I was afraid of every mouthful I took, & began obsessively checking the mirror after every meal.

I vowed to totally avoid anything tomato-related, at least for the foreseeable future. Earlier in the week, I made a followup appointment with my allergist for April 17th (the first available date). I played telephone tag with her on Wednesday & Thursday to ask her some questions & try to move the appointment up, without success. (I did eventually find out that she is away all next week, so the 17th it remains.)

And so we arrived at Friday. I was on course that day, at a location near my office, with a dozen other people from my department. I vowed to be extra careful, because I did NOT want anything to happen in front of all my colleagues.

My day started off most auspiciously: I woke up to hear Chad Kroeger from Nickelback on my clock radio, bellowing "If today was your last day..." (!!) I could barely choke down my breakfast oatmeal (& in fact ended up putting some of it down the sink). I picked up a grande tea latte at Starbucks on my way into class, & then had another tea with a rice krispie square at break around 11 -- I asked for a medium & they gave me a jumbo -- so I had more than my usual dosage of caffeine, on a relatively empty stomach.

All I had for lunch was a plain bagel with plain cream cheese. I sat at a table with some of my other co-workers while we all ate. Even after eating my bagel, I was so hungry -- & everything they were having looked so good! :( I was so aware of everything I was putting in my mouth, & of the wonderful ripe red tomatos in the Greek salads a few of them were eating.

I got back to my table as the class was resuming around 1 & checked my pocket mirror -- & sure enough, there was a red spot appearing on my chin. I checked again a few minutes later & it was spreading so I took a Benadryl & tried to stay calm. I finally had to ask the girl beside me "Am I red?" & she said, "Kinda -- are you OK?" I grabbed my purse & she grabbed her cellphone, & we went out & sat on two chairs in the hall near the washroom.

Then my boss came out, & another girl from my table (who eventually returned to the class, after bringing me my water bottle). We just sat out in the hall & talked while I tried to calm down. They kept asking me how I was feeling & how was my breathing, & told me I wasn't so red anymore. I eventually decided to call dh to come & get me (& they stayed with me until he did, & went back into the classroom to get my coat & other things). I figured that even if/when this passed, I wouldn't be able to focus on the rest of the class, & I didn't want to disrupt things any more than I already had. (It was a good class, too!) :(

Once dh arrived, we decided to go to the walk in clinic (where I'd been earlier in theweek) & get checked out. The redness was gone, my throat was good -- but my heart was still pounding & I was feeling very warm all over. The nurse came in to take my blood pressure -- & I burst into tears & said, "This isn't going to be very good!" She said, "I'll come back in a minute then," & left, & I collapsed into dh's arms & just bawled & bawled. I haven't cried like that in a long, long time. I guess I was overdue.

The (young, female) dr checked me out -- throat clear, breathing fine, heart beating normally (albeit a little faster than usual). Bp high, of course, but not surprisingly, given that I was upset & on antihistamines. She recommended I carry an epi-pen, if only for peace of mind, & said she'd be glad to give me a prescription for one, so we took her up on it & went straight to the pharmacy.

Caught the next available train & finally got home around 4. I bawled some more, left my clothes lying in a heap, crawled into bed & slept for three hours.

When I woke up (around 7) I was RAVENOUS -- & I felt better than I had for DAYS. Had some leftover pasta with broccoli, olive oil & garlic (which I had eaten earlier in the week without incident). Yesterday, I cleaned the bathroom, but that was about it. Had oatmeal for breakfast as usual (which tasted SO good, as opposed to Friday...!), & have had no further incidents to date. We've decided we will try to eat as carefully as we can over the next few weeks, totally avoiding tomatos (even tomato dishes that haven't been a problem for me in the past) & any other foods that seem to have been a problem, just to let my digestive/immune system (not to mention my nerves) settle down. I'm not sure whether that's a sound medical theory, but I think it's certainly true psychologically. ; )

Dh is convinced that stress is playing a huge role in this, & while I don't want to discount the realities of food allergies, I have to agree. When I first saw him, I said, "I was so afraid something like this would happen today," & he thought,"Bingo!!" He pointed out that I often get very red, in much a similar way, during our support group meetings.

I also keep thinking about the anxiety attacks I had 7-8 years ago. I haven't had one in years -- & they weren't exactly the same -- but the way I was feeling at the clinic, just prior to the big sobfest, brought back more than a few memories. Crying that way felt very cathartic, & as I noted, I felt so, so much better after I'd had that cry & a few hours sleep.

Dh thinks I carry around way too much stress. I like to think I work some of it out by venting here on my blog & on a few of the message boards I post on, etc. -- but I guess there's still too much. I'm thinking I may try to go back & talk to one of the counsellors I've seen before. I also want to try to start doing some yoga again (I have some tapes/DVDs here at home), & hopefully the weather will soon be nice enough to allow us to start walking again regularly after dinner.

In between reactions, I had lunch with an old friend on Thursday (I had the salmon, without incident). She's a couple of years older than me. I told her what had been happening. She's never had any problems with allergies & the like, but noted that she's started having problems with asthma just in the last three years or so. She said, "I hate to say it, Lori, but I really think these midlife hormones do all kinds of crazy things to us...!" & I said "I totally agree!" I am seeing my ob-gyn later this month... we'll see what he has to say!

I am also right at/just past midcycle -- which is when several of the other reactions I've had in the past have occurred (others have happened right around AF time, which is why I wonder how much aging midlife hormones are playing in this...). And is it only a coincidence that many of my anxiety attacks in the past, & this escalation in food-related incidents, have happened in the springtime -- a time when, 11 years ago, I was riding the pregnancy rollercoaster? Hmmm...

Tomorrow is my Weight Watchers at Work meeting. If I haven't lost weight this week, after everything that's happened & the restricted diet I've been on (I haven't touched a cookie or chocolate in days)... I give up!!