Friday, July 22, 2016

(Stuff Alex Made) - Wine Barrel Patio Furniture

It's only taken a few years, but the wine barrel patio furniture set is officially completed! I've already witnessed two questions/compliments from neighbors about the new chairs, so needless to say they all look great. You will note, though, that the chair in the right, the king's throne, is significantly more weathered than the fair Queen's new throne. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

(Stuff Jo Writes) - Portland Moms Blog: Just What is a 'Good Mom' Anyway?

As I posted on Facebook: "Shoutout to my therapist. And a good reminder to myself to 'tune' back into my family today, as yesterday was one of those out-of-tune-and-singing-off-key days. But seriously, ladies (and gentlemen), screw those parenting trends and focus on paying real attention and spending quality time with your nuggets. That goes for kids of any age, grown-up children, too. And if no one has told you today, you're doing a great job, and you're (probably) a good mama."

Portland Moms Blog posted this article of mine to its website today (with a few writing style edits that make it read just a bit less in my own voice). It is a post that is particularly close to my heart, as someone who is (just a bit) neurotic about ensuring my daughter's secure attachment. Thank god for what I've deemed postpartum elation (and maybe thanks to encapsulated placenta) and extended breastfeeding, despite returning to full-time very stressful work during her infancy. But the real answer to great parenting? Attunement.

Just What is a ‘Good Mom’ Anyway?

I find it a paradox of praise when people called me a ‘good mom’ for what they have seen of me on social media. I feel both flattered and self-conscious. But as I think about the qualities of a good mom, both what it is and isn’t, I have come to learn about the importance of being attuned.
Just What Is A GOOD Mom
A few months ago my husband and I high-fived each other and sang our family song, ‘we’re the three best friends that anyone could have …,’ before collapsing on the couch in self-satisfied exhaustion. We patted ourselves on the back for hosting an epic four-year-old birthday party. Okay, maybe not epic, but creative and DIY and fun for kids and parents alike.
I posted several photos from my daughter’s birthday to social media, which garnered the usual friends and family “likes.” Part of me appreciated the validation that my social media world agreed with the hilarity of my four-year-old daughter requesting an ambulance-themed birthday party. But I also received several comments to the effect of, ‘you’re such a good mom!’ Initially I felt flattered, but then self-conscious, pensive, and ultimately kind of defensive. For example:
  • Blowing up surgical gloves into balloons and decorating baby dolls with bandaids does not make you a ‘good mom.’
  • Baked goods in the shape of ambulances and cookies frosted to look like pills do not make you a ‘good mom.’
  • Staying up late to transform a wagon and a cardboard box into an ambulance with a siren and flashing lights does not make you a ‘good mom.’
Sure, our daughter loved her birthday party, and we helped her to feel extra special on the day we set aside to celebrate her in a major way. But it wasn’t because of the shape of the cake. Or the decor. Or even the presents.
Since then I have thought a lot about the notion of what makes a ‘good mom.’ As far as I can tell, they come in all shapes, sizes, and flavors. ‘Good moms’ have natural births with midwives, C-sections at the hospital, or adopt their baby from another country. They breastfeed, bottle feed, use a spoon, or practice baby-led weaning. They are employed full or part-time or not at all. They have one kid, two kids, three kids, or more. They are married, single, gay, or dating around. They have PhDs, GEDs and college degrees. They feed their kids home-cooked meals, frozen food, and grass-fed-gluten-free-garden-grown veggies. They allow twenty minutes of PBS programming per day, stream the Disney Channel all weekend long, or entirely restrict screen time. They are Free Rangers, Helicopter Parents, Yoga Moms, Snowplow Parents, Earth Mamas, Pinterest Perfectionists, Tiger Moms, and Lighthouse Parents.
The thing is, ‘bad moms’ can also do or be all of these things. So just what is a ‘good mom’ anyway? One who loves her children, of course, but love alone does not a good mama make. We ALL love our kids. We ALL want the best for our kids. We ALL hope for our kids to grow into healthy, happy, productive adults. A good mama not only wants these things for her children, but she provides them to the best of her ability.
So here is my list for a ‘good mom:’
  • She expresses and practices unconditional love
  • She is patient
  • She is open, supportive, and accepting
  • She is intuitive
  • She is honest
  • She provides warmth and comfort, but also protection
  • She respects her children and herself
  • She provides structure but is flexible
  • She is dynamic, willing to change and grow
  • She keeps perspective and has a sense of humor
  • She is a teacher, a healer, an enforcer, a counselor, and a protector
  • She is all of these things, but not all of these things all of the time
  • But most of all, a ‘good mom’ is attuned
By dictionary definition, to attune is to bring into harmony, to make aware or responsive ...

Friday, July 8, 2016

15 Years

July 8/9 marked 15 years since my mom died. Fifteen years seems pretty significant. But between recent travel and a new job, I wasn't particularly pensive about the anniversary. Save for the math that tells me in four years I will have spent as much of my life without a mom as with one. My dad, Alex, Francie and I did honor the date by eating delicious key lime pie at a yummy pie place in NW PDX after I worked. I had also just recently received photos from one of my mom's college BFFs so we looked through those and shared a few memories, like when she and my dad were just dating. and he took her backpacking in Kings Canyon and there was a flash flood. Needless to say, she passed his "test," but never really did much backpacking or rustic camping after that. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Still Infertile

"Why are you and Daddy going to the doctor together?" The Bean asked me in the morning.
"Remember what I told you yesterday?"
"Yes you do. Are we going to have our feet looked at?"
"Pft, no, that's silly."
"Then what?"
"Wah, wah," she pretends to cry.
I smile. "Yup, you got it."
"You're going to try and have a baby."
Well, kinda, but not exactly. We won't be LITERALLY trying for a baby in the Kaiser clinic room. That would be inappropriate. But we are going to talk to them about why we still haven't gotten pregnant, and what options we have available to us.
"Mama, tell me what the doctors did."
The doctors, a nurse practitioner, actually, didn't do a whole lot of anything, aside from ordering more labs. Blood draws timed for specific days of my cycle. But she did talk extensively with me and Alex about our continued issues with infertility. But not before Alex and I fought our way before, during, and after the appointment. I guess the post-separation honeymoon period can be easily squashed by a lengthy visit to the Kaiser Interstate medical clinic. Thanks to a long wait, talk of old eggs ("decreased ovarian reserve"), "incompatible reproductive systems" and "hostile cervical mucous," monthly pee tests, scheduling blood work, and a referral to an LCSW specializing in issues related to infertility. Throw in maternal ambivalence about a second child and paternal desires to procreate, and we've got a perfect storm for guilt, blame, and shutting down.
It's been nearly a year since I last had the extensive blood work completed, checking various levels reflecting hormonal peaks related to ovulation, the age of my eggs, etc. I've been instructed to get blood draws on Day 20/21 of this cycle, and Day 3 of the next cycle. The NP encouraged me to use ovulation predictor kits, and time sex on the day and the two days following a positive surge. She then explained that the likely next steps would include Clomid and IUI (intrauterine insemination, aka turkey basting), assuming I am in fact ovulating regularly. This would run us an extra $100-200 per cycle. Clomid does cause some negative side effects, including the increased incidence (risk?) of twins - my understanding is that 4-11 pregnancies out of 100 with Clomid result in multiples. 
I don't think Kay, the NP, took kindly to my inquiry about the possibility to 'reduce' should one become undesirably pregnant with two.
"Most people do not."
"But is it even allowed? Like at Kaiser? Or via insurance?"
"It increases the likelihood of miscarrying the other."
"Yeah, okay, I'm not at all saying that's what we would do, I'm just curious if it's even a discussion to be had at some point. We are NOT interested, or equipped, to have three children."
"What would you do if you got pregnant with twins naturally? I think that's how you have to think about it."
"Kill myself? I don't know. I can't really imagine that I would ever get pregnant with twins naturally," I said. Plus, using Clomid is not natural, I thought.
The Clomid would be timed to my cycle, and the IUI would involve taking Alex's semen, spinning it so that only the top 15th percentile of his sperm or something get inserted via some kind of medical-grade turkey baster inserts it directly into my uterus, foregoing the "hostile" part of my reproductive system. All of this requires that I pay even CLOSER attention to my cycle - pee sticks, my period, my cervical mucous, my body in general. That commitment alone horrifies me. In fact, it has the odd affect of making me not only feel fat and hate my body, but hate Alex, too. Like he's the one who wants the baby the most, and he doesn't have to do a damn thing beside splooge in a cup. And that's just to get pregnant. That speaks nothing to the myriad of changes me and my body have to undergo to then carry the baby, birth the baby, nurse the baby, and then raise the kid.
"If I could do all this for us, I would," he tells me. And I believe him. But he can't. And doesn't have to. 
I completed the Day 20/21 blood work, checking my AMH levels (anti mullerian hormone, whatever that is). Kaiser posted my results to my medical record promptly, but did not have any information by way of interrupting the test results. I assumed that meant everything was normal. But when I emailed the NP, Kay, to inquire about the possibility of completing the Day 3 labs elsewhere, as we should be camping and then in Tahoe for vacation, she provided additional information.
"The AMH demonstrates mild ovarian aging with the lab result being 0.71. You can consider starting treatment with Clomid/IUIs and whenever you are ready and do the labs a different cycle. I will order the Clomid medication and you can take starting Day 3 of your cycle if you decide to do that."
Her email goes on to tell me that there is controversy in the interpretation or significance of different AMH level ranges. According to Kaiser along with the OHSU reproductive endocrinologists they consult with, my AMH levels of 0.71 reflects "diminished ovarian reserve," which "signifies a short window of opportunity."
In other words, fuck me, I really am as old as I complain about.
"I'm sorry, babe. Do you want to talk about it?" Alex said to me after I texted him a copy of the email.
"Nope," I said, and went to shower. I surprised myself by actually crying about it. I didn't think I would be that affected by the results.
And later, "you okay, babe? I'm here if you want to talk."
"What's there to talk about? I have old eggs and now we know for sure it's all my fault," I say pitifully.
"I hope you know I don't think about it that way at all."
"Well that's nice, but I do. You're the one who wants a baby, I'm the one who only kinda wants one sometimes, and I'm the one who can't ever give you what you want."
I don't exactly remember, but Alex hugged me or said the right thing or was just silently sweet. Just another reminder how (mostly) well-adjusted, down to earth, and supportive he is.
The most stressful part of this whole infertility business is the waffling. One day I'm on Team Family of Four, and another day I'm shouting grateful expletives for having started my period. As I've said in the past, there is something particularly unsympathetic about being infertile but indifferent; it's a kind of lonely place to be. "Table for one, please," I imagine myself saying. 
As for the next step? We still don't entirely know. Although Alex and I have since recovered from our bickering, we haven't thoroughly re-visited the issue. A couple weeks later now and I'm thinking I want to keep trying the good ole fashioned way through the summer, maybe even with the aid of ovulation predictors. But I'm feeling pretty reticent about taking the treatment route. And I'm also not willing to just keep trying forever, or to not "try" but forego prevention; that's too whimsical for my blood. It's not that I'm morally opposed to Clomid and IUI, it just seems unnatural, and like I am defying what the world is trying to tell me, that I'm better as a mama of the one perfect Bean we already have. Like a "don't fix what's not broke" kinda thing. And not that she is the decision maker in the family (although sometimes it feels like the little queen actually does rule over the Closeman clan), she did tell me she'd be just fine if she never has a baby brother or sister. And Alex says the same thing, that ultimately he is delighted and so grateful for the family he already has.
I did get a few follow-up suggestions. One from the NP who recommended we explore an "anti-inflammatory diet." Another from Alex who said we should just bone even more (surprise surprise). And then one from Francie. She told me, "maybe you and daddy just aren't trying early enough."
"Trying what early enough?" I asked, unclear of the context.
"Making a baby."
I giggled. "Like early enough in the morning you mean?" I wasn't sure if she meant early enough in life, in my cycle, in the day, or just what.
"Yeah," she responds.
So before I even decide whether or not to try Clomid/IUI, I suppose I should eliminate caffeine and sugar from my diet, hump on the daily, and focus my timing on "earlier."

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