Friday, October 29, 2010

The Magic of Mom’s Bed

By Nancy Nisselbaum

I don’t know what it is about mommy’s bed. But apparently, when a child can’t fall asleep, the only place to go is mom’s bed—and like magic, the sandman comes and knocks said child out. What I found out recently is that it doesn’t even have to be your mom. Marshall was having a friend sleep over the other night. Both boys were snoring happily by about 10 p.m. and I blithely went to bed. About 1 a.m., I sensed a presence by bed. It’s Max saying he can’t fall asleep so I groggily tell him to climb in. He’s asleep in seconds. When I awake in the morning, there’s a boy in bed next to me. No big surprise. But it takes me a minute to realize it’s not mine.

I never intended to co-sleep. But Marshall had other plans. From the minute he was born, he liked to be next to me—in my arms, lying by my side, lying on top of me. For the first week, the only place he slept was on top of my chest. At least he slept, right? I had heat rash from having his sweaty little (warm, lovely) body on top of me practically 24/7.

For the next two years, I pretended that we didn’t co-sleep. I’d put him in his crib and he’d pretend he would sleep through the night. It never happened. At some point, the crying would outlast any visions of sleeping alone dancing in my head. My goal was sleep, and it was best achieved with him beside me.

When he was 2.5, I changed his crib into a toddler bed and built a small wall around the dining room so that he would have more of an official bedroom. Well, that was the end of that. For the next year, I succumbed to the inevitable, stopped pretending, and put him to sleep in my bed. It just worked. My personal cutoff point was sitting in the room until he fell asleep. I refused. To me, that time was more important than sharing my sleeping space with a snoring, kicking, flip-flopping boy who for some reason slept well when in mom’s bed.

Yes, I woke up with toes in my nose. Yes, I woke to the sound of a child falling on the floor. Yes, I woke when he flip-flopped till he was lying on top of me. Yes, I got kicked in the kidneys, the ribs, anyplace he could land a good one. But overall, we slept. Overall, the amount and quality of sleep was better than when he was in a separate room.
At 3.5 years, we went bed shopping. He got a low loft bed and slept in it. Went to bed in it and woke up in it. Sure, there were times when I woke in the morning and there was a boy in my bed. Not sure how or when he got there, but he would wake up, come to my room, and crawl in beside me. And honestly, there were times I missed him, missed climbing in next to warm, snoring, flip-flopping little body. But it was time and he was willing. And again, for the most part, it worked. He went to bed and stayed there, and I got my own space back.

It’s not for everyone. But it worked for us. And now? Marshall is nine and there are still times when I have a boy in my bed. The night before the first day of school, I don’t even ask. I let him choose and consistently, he’s chosen my bed. It’s a comfort thing, a safe feeling, a primal urge. I don’t know and honestly, I don’t mind. Will he be there the night before the first day of middle school? High school? Probably not. But for now, he knows that if he needs the safety and magic of mom’s bed, he has it. And I guess his friend Max does too.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Life Lessons from Klickitat Street, Part One

I took Pink and Purple to see Ramona and Beezus at our local discount theater over the weekend. I didn’t expect to spend most of the movie in tears.
In the interest of full disclosure, I tend to cry at most kids’ movies. I don’t know why. I’m a notorious non-weeper in my personal life. Oh, I feel pain and sorrow, no doubt about it. It’s just that I internalize the negative emotions until they settle in the pit of my stomach like a pile of rusty razor blades, or clench them in my jaws like tetanus. But there’s something about movies that makes it ok for me to release all of that. I don’t know whether that’s particularly true of kids’ movies, or if it’s just that kids’ movies are all I seem to see anymore.

Ramona and Beezus was a little bit different, though. Setting aside the fact that [SPOILER] Ramona finds the cat dead of old age in his basket [SPOILER], which was rough for all of us, I found that the movie brought up a host of complicated feelings for me.

John Corbett plays the dad. I’ve always had a yen for John Corbett, ever since his Northern Exposure “Chris in the Morning” days. I find him physically attractive, and I associate Chris the character’s philosophical nature with John the actor (regardless of the actor’s personal shortcomings), and that makes the whole package pretty appealing.

So right away I have a higher-than-normal level of investment in this character. Then he loses his job, and the family feels the stress of his loss of income, so I also relate to his need to keep that stress from the kids as much as possible. I worry that my daughters will, like 9-year-old Ramona, feel compelled to do something to “save the house,” that they will shoulder a burden that is not theirs.

And Ramona’s dad, as played by Corbett, is warm and funny, creative and demonstrative. If I could go to the dad store and pick one out, that would be my preferred model. It wasn’t lost on my kids, either; early in the movie, Purple leaned over and whispered, “I wish I had a dad.”

I’m a grown-up. I know better than to believe the rom-com tropes. I used to dream of finding a "Chris in the Morning" of my own; I used to be a hopeless romantic who suffered because I hadn’t found that perfect cinematic love, and it took me longer than it probably should have to figure out that movies are escapism, that reality is much more complex and less pretty, that while reality does have its moments of breathtaking beauty and bliss, those moments are to be found sandwiched between a whole lot of mundane minutiae, daily grind, worry, and heartache. (It's taken me even longer to realize that heartache is the real meat of a life fully lived.) Real families don’t have screenwriters and editors and lush scores. But my daughters are 7. They haven’t figured all that out yet, and they probably won’t for quite a while. And that’s why I cried. I cried because they believed that what they were watching was more than just a Hollywood confection; they believed it was something very real, something they were missing.

Though it hasn’t come up very often, I’ve always been very open to discussion of the Daddy Issue. My daughters know, in an age-appropriate way, the mechanics of their conception by anonymous sperm donor. I’ve gone out of my way to acknowledge their feelings, to not be defensive or over-sensitive, to make sure they feel safe to bring up the subject without fear of upsetting me. I agree that, yes, sometimes it would be nice for me, too, if we had a dad in our family. I probe—gently—to find out what “having a dad” means to them. When they were younger, “having a dad” meant he would pick them up from preschool sometimes, like Z.’s dad did, and hug them. This weekend, discussing it on the drive home, I learned that “having a dad” also means having a fun guy to hang around with. I agreed that Ramona’s dad was pretty cool, and that, yeah, he’d be nice to have around. (Boy, howdy.) I asked if this was something they thought about a lot, the not having a dad, and they both replied that, no, most of the time they didn’t think about it at all. I explained that, if they had a dad, he would probably be at work a lot of the time, and he would get impatient sometimes, or be busy doing grown-up stuff when they wanted his attention, just like I often was. And I think they’re starting to understand that, on some level. But it doesn’t stop them from believing the fantasy exists out there somewhere.

Holly Vanderhaar


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Grieving a Bio Child

As I sit here writing, my house is filled with baby items from friends and freecycle. All I need is a baby. At least now I have hope—I’m on an adoption waiting list. But what a long journey it has been…

I became a thinker and joined SMC at age 39. People encouraged me to move forward, but I was stuck. I wanted a husband, then kids—the traditional family. At 40, I met someone I hoped could be Mr. Right, who turned out to be Mr. Autonomy Issues. At 41, I broke it off. I was devastated. I went into a depression, sought counseling and was stuck—I wanted biological kids, but I also wanted a traditional family. I kept thinking.

Looking back, I see how uneducated I was about fertility for women in their 40s. Despite the many women in the news having children well into their 40s, I didn’t know these women used donor eggs—not their own. So, with my eggs growing older by the day, I continued thinking.

Finally at 42 (and 10 months), I made what I thought was the most difficult decision of my life—to try to conceive on my own. I passed fertility tests with flying colors, but after seven tries—IUIs and IVFs—I had low egg quantity/quality. I had another difficult decision to make: Should I keep trying with my eggs? I had to think about finances, my age (43 and a half) and my desire to be a mom—how would I feel if I found myself six months later, age 44, still not pregnant?

I went to the counselor and grieved and grieved. All my dreams down the drain—my desire for a husband with three biological kids. All those years of envisioning my children, who they would take after—my mom, my sister, my brother? My connection to my heritage. It was one of my darkest hours.

But my desire to be a mom pushed me forward. I weighed donor egg vs. adoption. Donor egg seemed like an easier route. I picked a donor and did my first cycle at 44. Cut to me a year and a half later—three miscarriages and an inability to carry to term due to an immune issue. The first two miscarriages were devastating. By the third, I’d selected an adoption agency and knew if the pregnancy didn’t take, I’d immediately move on.

Last July, after learning my final pregnancy wasn’t viable, but before the actual miscarriage, I contact the adoption agency. They were enthusiastic at a time I needed enthusiasm. I was exhausted—2.5 years of fertility treatments, disappointments, miscarriages, poking/prodding and money out the door—all for nothing.

I did my home study and got on the waiting list in September 2009. I’m excited about adopting. With adoption I will be a mom. With fertility treatments, it was a crapshoot. Moving to adoption was a relief—no more needles, doctor appointments, miscarriages, disappointments, hormones. I could live my life more normally while I waited, although I have moments of grief that sneak up on me.

I try not to be bitter. Everyone has her own journey. I just never thought I’d have such a long road to motherhood. I believe God has a plan for me, even if I can’t see it. I date, trying to find someone to share my life with and be a father to my children. I keep busy while I wait for my match. I’m now 46 and, although I sometimes can’t believe it, this circuitous route to motherhood is my story.

Leslie C

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Our Last Weeks Alone

During the last few weeks the world around us has changed suddenly. Hot sticky days with harsh bright sunlight have been replaced by cool, crisp dry days that smell of fresh mown grass and distant fires. Many of the 6-foot-high corn fields have been mowed down, and the guy selling 12 ears for $4 out of the back of his truck has sold out for the season. The soybean fields are starting to turn golden, and maples and ash here and there are flaming red and yellow. It isn’t fall yet, but fall is definitely in the air. We leave the windows open at night, and some nights the brisk prairie winds from the west cool the house so much that I have to get up and close the windows. We leave for town every morning just as the sun is coming up, and as we turn east to head for Jamie’s Play Palace, the blinding sunlight makes Sammy demand that the sun go away. “Go away, icky sun. Go away,” he says.

But the weather is not all that is changing. I am slowing down, trying to memorize and appreciate every single moment I have with Sam. Our last few weeks alone. Our last few weeks before we have to share each other. Every night before bed we rock in the double-sized rocker in his room and talk about what we did during the day. He no longer lays on my lap… partially because my lap shrank as my belly grew bigger but mostly because he always wants to remind me that he’s a big boy, that he wants to sit next to me rather than on me. We squeeze into the chair side by side and I wrap my left arm around him and he leans into me resting his head on my belly. Sometimes he jumps up and makes a joke that Baby Sister just kicked him, but mostly he leans and tries to find a comfortable position for his head. He sometimes takes a while to settle with all the excitement he has when we talk about our day. The walks we took, the vegetables we picked, the friends we visited, the pies we baked, the bubbles we blew. Sunday he was so excited about the 3-man tent set up in the living room and the flashlight we used to read our bedtime stories (until he accidentally slammed it into my nose) that he could hardly sleep. Tonight he told me how excited he is to stay at Jamie’s house tomorrow night.

I’ve decided to give myself one night off every week. A night to recharge and stay horizontal and not have to cook or clean or sit on the bathroom floor next to Sam’s potty chair while he pushes and reads his Elmo potty book for fifteen minutes. I have been looking forward to giving myself these nights off for weeks, looking forward to a relief from the battle of do-this-why-because-i-said-so. But on the eve of my first weekly night off I find myself a little sad, a little unsure of whether I want to give up a night with him when we have so few left of just us, so few quiet nights when I’ll be able to sit and talk and cuddle and share and remember how truly lucky we are to have each other.

Tonight on the way home we saw a digger for sale just down the road from where the guy used to sell corn out of his pickup. Sam was telling me for the 25th time that he didn’t want pizza for dinner and he didn’t want noodles for dinner and we needed to stop and buy mangoes. Yummy mangoes. I had tired of the broken record conversation we were having and I pointed out the digger, told him it was for sale.


Can we buy it?” he asked.

I told him it was big and expensive and we didn’t have enough money.

“TT can buy it. TT has money.” TT is his grandma.

“No,” I said. “TT doesn’t have enough money either.”

Last week as we were pulling away from the daycare, the father of some of the other children was just pulling up. Outside the window Sammy heard Jamie say “Look whose daddy is here.” After we had turned the corner and gone a few blocks down the road, Sam said “I don’t have a daddy.”

“No,” I said. “Our family doesn’t have a daddy. Just a mommy.”

“I have a mommy,” he said, and I shifted the rearview mirror to see him smile. “Just a mommy and just a TT!”

“Yep,” I said. “You have a TT!” I didn’t remind him that in a few short weeks he will also have a Baby Sister.

Tonight as we rocked in the chair in the 7pm bedtime routine darkness, the flashlight put away on the “big boy dresser” across from his bed, he told me he loved me very much and stretched up to kiss me on the nose. “Sorry I hit your nose, Mommy. I hope your nose is all better,” he said. He patted me on the head with the same soft touch he uses whenever he apologizes to get off the naughty mat and I reassured him that I knew it was an accident, that I was okay. He kissed me on the nose again and repeated, “I love you very, very much.”


How do I take a night off from that?


Monday, October 4, 2010

My Journey to Motherhood via Adoption

I am single by choice. Did you know weird girls in high school who never wanted to get married (and/or have children)? That was me. I had my own philosophy about what marriage does to a woman's career choice and trajectory, self esteem, independence, you name it. My mother worried I'd never "get a man" with that attitude.

Though I knew I didn't want to marry, I was on the fence about becoming a parent. I put it that way because I never wanted to birth a baby. I always knew that I wanted to become a parent through adoption. At the age of 40 - two failed marriages later - I recognized I did indeed want to be a mom. So I dated while preparing to begin the adoption process.

Like many of us, I went the online dating route. My criteria were pretty strict: no kids, wanted or would consider having kids, age difference no more than +/- 5 years. It seems that most men in their late 30s/early 40s seek younger women if they want kids. One even said, "I like you, but I really want kids, and I don't know whether you'll be able to produce them." I chuckled and advised him to get a health check from a "young breeder" because age doesn't guarantee a woman can conceive or deliver a baby.

Anyway, I met a wonderful man (4 yrs my junior). His profile listed "undecided" in the kid category, but he said during our second date that he was leaning more toward no kids. We talked about my adoption plan during that date. I was very clear that I wasn't looking for a co-parent. Fast-forward two years when I informed him that I was beginning the adoption process. I gave him the opportunity to bail before the madness started. He just laughed.

Now, 4 months and 1 day into being a single parent at the age of 44, I know I did everything just right! I have an amazingly beautiful baby *and* an incredible boyfriend. I am a single mom by choice! I should have stuck with Plan A all along!