Saturday, November 27, 2010

Get Out of Cooking -- Free!

Other moms assume my daughter eats cottage cheese and blueberries for dinner because I’m a working mom and I don’t have time to cook. If I were a stay at home mom. She'd be eating the same exact thing. Cooking is not my thing.

What’s wrong with cottage cheese and blueberries for dinner? I didn’t put her on a diet, I’m not a great role model for diet, it’s what she likes to eat. It’s not the only edible item in the house. I have frozen, canned and boxed things like macaroni. I read the nutritional panels and most of what I feed my daughter is a whole lot healthier than home cooking. Definitely healthier than the Joy of Cooking recipes I grew up with. The meals I ate at my friends houses, that is. Like lasagna and clams casino. 

My love for cooking comes from my mom. She had two cookbooks – The Campbell’s Soup Cookbook and Five Ingredients or Less. In our house, garlic salt was an exotic spice. It wasn’t until I was 19 that I learned iceberg wasn’t the world's only lettuce. 

When I was in high school, my service club had a bake sale. We’d get more points for homemade items than store brought ones. My mom thought the policy was unfair to culinary challenged individuals. So she bought a box of Entemann’s chocolate chip cookies, put them on tin foil, stuck them into the toaster oven, and burned them.

“Now they taste homemade,” she said. 

When I get fancy I make the blueberries on the cottage cheese into eyes and a smile. A raisin or a raspberry makes a nose even Martha Stewart would begrudgingly approve. I don’t use oil, saturated fats, butter, or even pots.

Why not eat leftover birthday cake for breakfast? As Bill Cosby famously pointed out, cake is eggs, milk, and wheat.

It’s not only that I don’t like to cook. I don’t like to think of what to make either. And I certainly don’t like to do the shopping for the ingredients for the dinners that I didn’t like thinking of in the first place. I make it fun for myself and for my daughter by thinking thematically. Some of my dinners:


Grilled cheese sandwich. Broccoli with cheese (frozen)


Cheddar cheese. Goldfish crackers. Orange slices. Carrots. 

 Turkey or veggie burger. Wagon wheel shaped pasta. Apple slices. Vanilla wafer. 

Yogurt, cereal and milk and fruit. 

If it’s not a theme, I try to arrange the chicken nuggets or fish fingers to look decorative.

I do pride myself in buying the healthiest pre-made ingredients I can. Amy’s Organic makes lovely frozen dinners. And they last a lot longer in the fridge than the fresh stuff.

Sure I have dreams of serving my daughter organic, low calorie Coconut Chicken Curry in the evenings with a crostini topped by black olive tapinade nosher. But I also have the fantasy of a handsome, virile young chef serving it up. One who does his own clean up and dish-washing.

Hating to cook and not doing it may sound selfish. But, while cooking is not my thing, I've replaced it with other things. Life is about balance and part of that is saying no to things we hate and yes to the equal replacements we like. That 30 minutes it takes to prepare a Rachel Ray standard (shopping time and do-overs not included), I use to play with my daughter and help her pick her clothes for the next day. I don't believe the lack of home made meals and memories of mom busy in the kitchen are going to be something my daughter will need a therapist for. I do believe all the puzzles we do, books we read and doll swimming pools we make out of blocks will be her “comfort food.” I see more than enough health benefits in that.

Aimee Heller

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Adoption "Gestational Period"?

I’ve spent over a year participating in and listening to the SMC-Trying to Conceive (TTC) forum. I even had my own failed attempt at TTC in March 2009. Then work, school, and dating postponed my plans until a year later. In March 2010, I began to consider adoption, an option I had explored before but ignored once I found Mr. Perfect Anonymous Donor and built up the courage (and money) to TTC. But once I really delved into the adoption choice again, it seemed very feasible and appropriate for where I am in my life. Plus, I thought it might be "easier"than TTC.

On the SMC-TTC board, I had read other women’s journeys through infertility and fertility treatments and miscarriages to finally bringing home a newborn sometimes years later. Well, now that I’m pursuing adoption, I realize the adoption journey isn’t exactly "easier", just different than TTC. There are many preparations and hurdles along the way. These unique challenges don’t involve reproductive endocrinologists (REs), but they do involve social workers, wire nuts, and a lawn crew. I’ll explain....

What I’ve found unique to the adoption process are the REQUIREMENTS that your home, emotional well-being, and finances be in order. Women who are trying to conceive are not scrutinized in this way. For example, women who conceive through reproductive technologies are not required to submit their driving record and proof of homeowners insurance. It’s not that their challenges are any easier, just different from the SMC-Adopters. However, the parities still exist. I liken the adoption waiting period to a gestational period. A pregnant woman might wonder if her baby will have her blue eyes, while I’m wondering which race my future adoptive children will be. A pregnant woman may be attending birthing classes while I’m going to CPR training.

So, I have decided to pursue foster-to-adopt through the U.S. Child Welfare System. In April 2010, I took two weeks of pre-service parenting classes. I loved it! I think all moms-to-be, including those TTC and Adopters, should consider parenting classes. But here’s the kicker; adopters who receive children through the foster care system must promise to discipline by the system’s standards. This includes no spanking. This is not a problem for me since I’m a staunch opponent to spanking; but for a few others in my class, it made them feel like they are being told how to parent. And well, they are.

Another challenge unique to adoption is the home environment requirements. Each state in the U.S. is different, but here are some of the things I’ve had to fix/change/BUY for my house to be compliant in Texas: fire extinguisher, new smoke detectors, lock boxes for medication, moved all cleaning supplies to upper cabinets, outlet covers, waterproof mattress covers, anti-siphoning devices for the outside spigots, "re-homed" one of my dogs because I had one too many for the city limit, pet vaccines, CPR training, first aid training, home health inspection, home fire inspection, post daily schedules, post house rules, post evacuation plan, trash cans with tight fitting lids, replaced a piece of rotten siding, hired lawn guys to mow on a regular basis, covered up tree roots in the backyard, replaced a ceiling fan that would have interfered with the bunk bed I erected (this is where I learned about wiring and wire nuts), researched daycares that accept state reimbursements, and I just bought an SUV to replace my two-door coupe. (OK, that last one wasn’t a necessity for adoption, but fun anyway!)

To add to the list of requirements, I had to provide three personal references, a break-down of my monthly expenses, TB test, auto insurance, homeowners insurance, transcripts, proof of income, pictures of my house and neighborhood, driving records, fingerprints for FBI criminal background check, and a child abuse background check. And then there’s the dreaded HOME STUDY. I had heard horror stories about probing questions you’d never be prepared to answer. For me it actually wasn’t bad, but some people really stress over it. Sometimes it seems like having a doctor inseminate me might be a lot less work! It’s not like your ER is going to make sure your smoke detectors have batteries before your IUI! I jest, of course!

The point of all this is that I have developed an appreciation for the adoption process and the people who have succeeded in adopting. Despite the mountain of paperwork, I feel that all the requirements are necessary. And in a way, the time spent fulfilling those requirements parallels the gestational period of women who conceive. The adoption process forces people to consider and prepare for all the things one needs to consider and prepare for when a new child is brought into a family. I think that sometimes the adoption process is minimalized in comparison to pregnancy. However, it doesn’t have to be that way; and for those of us going through it and those who made it through know it is an important time. I hope that years down the road, I’ll look back on this time and reflect on it like a woman who conceives might remember her pregnancy...except I don’t have to buy expandable pants and shea butter!

Allison, 30, Texas, waiting.....

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Public Service Announcement

by Anne Richter

November is Prematurity Awareness Month.

I think the main thing we need to be aware of about prematurity is that it sucks. 

It really sucks. 

Prematurity takes what should be a normal infancy and turns it into a journey into medical hell. It robs both parent and child of a normal infancy. Instead of filling baby books with milestones like "smiled for the first time" you make note of milestones like "weaned off ventilator." You and your baby are robbed of quiet, private moments. Instead, the two of you spend those moments in a room filled with strangers, doctors, nurses, monitors, alarms and machinery you didn't even know existed when you filling out your baby registry. People tell you well intentioned, yet terribly stupid things, like "things happen for a reason," "God doesn't give you more than you can bear," "at least you never got stretch marks since the baby was born so early" or "you're lucky you get to sleep at night since the baby is in the hospital."

You wake up day after day wondering if this is the last day you will see your child.

Prematurity financially devastates families. Contrary to popular belief, there is no insurance fairy that pays the tens of thousands of dollars of co-pays or the endless "uncovered" things like speech therapy or adaptive equipment. Even "good" insurance isn't "good enough" to cover prematurity. Instead of paying for a babysitter, you have to pay for a nurse to watch your child, instead of daycare, you have to hire a nanny, instead of working full time you have to take a leave or work part time because of the sheer number of medical appointments your child will have after leaving the NICU.

Prematurity is isolating, physically and emotionally. Because of the baby's fragile immune system, you have to limit to whom and what the baby is exposed. Of course friends and family assume you are simply nuts, because, as they will all tell you over and over, everyone needs to be exposed to germs. Actually not. It is emotionally isolating because no one, other than the other shipmates on the SS Prematurity have even a clue as to what it is like to take your infant to a minimum of one doctor visit every week, not have a single day for just you and your baby because three therapists show up everyday, on schedules that are convenient to them not you and your baby.

Prematurity devastates families emotionally (see all of the above).

Prematurity sucks even more for single mothers and their babies. There is no partner to act as a sounding board when you are making life altering decisions like whether to resuscitate your child, sign a DNR or decide whether to give your child a virtually experimental, yet potentially life saving drug. Bringing home a premature baby, particularly one with ongoing medical needs, can be a daunting task for single mother. Daycare settings are often inappropriate for health reasons, yet a nanny may not be financially feasible and few of us have the luxury of taking a year off from work.

So what can we all do to help make this suck less? 

Well, you can donate money to various charities in the hope that some of the research they fund might end prematurity. Or you can do something a bit closer to home and more personal. Call your local NICU or its support group and ask what you can do to make this whole thing suck less. Small things can make prematurity suck less. For example, my mother, my aunt and I make blankets and hats for the babies. There are dozens and dozens of babies that have worn my aunt's tiny "wee caps" and many who have been warmed by one of my mom's blankets and even though my blankets are far from "perfect" they are made with love. Some people make isolette covers, some people donate disposable cameras for moms to leave at the baby's bedside (yes we do take photos of our babies in the NICU), other folks donate gifts cards for coffee or gasoline to be given to those in need in the NICU. Others donate story books to the NICU (yes we read to our babies the same as you would at home). If you are feeling really generous, ask if you can send over bagels and coffee for a Sunday brunch for the moms and nurses (they get hungry too). Not all moms in the NICU can afford NICU clothes for their baby, so think about donating some NICU shirts or preemie clothes to your local NICU. Have your local SMC group contact your local NICU support group or hospital’s Family Advisory Council and offer to spend time with a single mom in the NICU, or help out a single mom whose baby has recently been discharge. You often hear the saying “it takes a village to raise a child.” Well what better way for that village to help, than to help the mother of a premature baby or child with medical needs.

Even if you can't prevent premature births, you can make prematurity suck less for the mothers and the babies who are in the NICU right in your hometown.

So this November, let's see if we can all make prematurity suck less.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Do I or Don't I???

I have just recently made my decision not to become an SMC. I should also preface this by saying that I came to this quandary late. I am 46.

Letting go of the dream of having a traditional family, i.e. a husband and kids, is a very big deal for most women. That's probably one of the first steps in deciding to become an SMC. And that's a rough one. I always had this assumption that it would happen, so it was hard to face the fact that it might not just "happen." What if it doesn't? How could it not? How long do I wait?

All kinds of people meet their mates and start families. My confidence about myself as an attractive, smart and lovable woman is a bit tangled up in that dream. I never wanted to visit the possibility that it might not happen. It's negative. It goes against the idea of having faith. But as time went on, I had to start to untangle my sense of self and my specific hopes from that dream. And I thought long and hard about starting my non-traditional family on my own. But for me it was also the ease of a traditional family that I needed-- having someone else to share in everything--emotionally, practically, financially. And lucky me, I'd finally found that -- a partner to share in everything -- it's just that he already has teenage kids, and is not up for any more.

At age 36 (had I seriously considered this then) my decision could have gone the other way. I always trusted that I would meet that fella I wanted to share my life with; I just assumed it would happen sooner than it did. I was never willing to go it alone...until the point when it became very real that I may never have children if I didn't do it as an SMC.

So I weighed everything-- financial feasibility, flexibility, willingness to make whatever change necessary, priority of motherhood, etc. For me, the partnership with a soul mate always came first. That may not be the case for everyone. You could go ahead and become an SMC and then meet someone afterward (there does come a time when the age appropriate men who are looking for age appropriate women aren't necessarily looking to become a first time dad, and would welcome someone who's already got a child).

It's so hard to know. And yes it's scary, it's a huge leap of faith, but as they say, with great risk comes great reward. I would encourage everyone to read as much as possible, and to talk to as many women as you can who have gone through this before making a decision. The women in this group are a fabulous resource.