Saturday, June 30, 2007

Baby crazy

Apparently this baby obsession is contagious, as everyone in the Nest household has been affected with it to some extent.

I am very aware of the fact that had I conceived when I started trying last fall, I might already have a newborn at home. Even figuring from January, when I did get pregnant, I would be 5 1/2 months along if it had stuck.

The idea of a second baby is currently eating up a lot of my brain power. I have innumerable charts and calendars--What if my cycle is 26 days? 27 or 28? When might I ovulate? Under which conditions would that coincide with a day when I could actually get to Buffalo? If I did conceive on a particular date, when would I finish the first trimester? When would I deliver? I'm recording the most obsessive of my thoughts (because, seriously, it gets so much worse than this) in my journal... when I'm not drawing Trillian into the discussion.

Trillian is quieter in her thoughts on baby #2. But I know that the miscarriage was very hard on her too. She tends to tell me, when I debate about the timing of everything, that I need to do whatever will be best for me and she will support my decision. I called her out on this many months ago, asked if she was non-committal because she didn't really want to have another one. But she assured me that wasn't the case. In fact, her position is basically the sooner the better, but she doesn't want to push that to my detriment. And so I know that she is quietly rooting for the dates to fall just right and our timing to again be perfect.

Now we have been careful not to have these conversations in Scooter's hearing. He only recently stopped saying that I have a baby in my tummy (or telling his friends that--I won't soon forget the day one of the other kids at daycare came up to me and asked that!). We've decided not to start talking about it again until I get further along into the next pregnancy. But his doll, one that started life as a potty training aid since it can drink a bottle and pee, has now become his "little brother." It has slept with him and occasionally plays with him. On the way to school one morning, he started talking about how he has a little brother, though he eventually changed that to cousin (and got really mad at me when I tried to tell him his cousin is a girl--"No! He's a baby!" and, therefore, apparently genderless, "he" being Scooter's default pronoun.). While we're encouraging his play as big brother, we're also trying to avoid references to the eventual appearance of a real new baby.

So in the meantime, the adults will have their fingers figuratively crossed and Scooter will be carrying around his "little brother" (albeit by the legs). I will probably spare you the worst of the obsessions, but imagine it will occasionally leak over into this sphere.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Global Warming... Thursday

I started writing this as a response to comments on yesterday's post, but when I found myself flipping the page (I was proctoring an exam at the time, so it started just below my to-do list), I decided that maybe I should just turn it into a post.

Queen B picked up on the following line from my original post: "And I remain pretty convinced that my children will do more good than harm." I will concede her point that it's pretty much impossible for a human being to have no impact on the environment, but I think I meant this in less than absolute terms. In the grand scheme, I think that my children will be raised with a deep and abiding respect for nature and hope that they will inspire the same in others. I think that they will be raised in a household that makes many attempts beyond the average US household to conserve and pay attention to impact. I also consider "more good than harm" to include more than just a mathematical assessment of environmental impact.

I also think B&P is getting at one of my core assumptions: human existence will (and, to a large extent, should) continue. If I didn't believe that--in a very emotional way, I admit it--I certainly wouldn't have any children and would even question my own reasons for being here.

I also recognize the disparity of individual environmental footprints when comparing different parts of the world. But I stand by the bulk of what I said before, particularly when looking at trends:
  • Western/developed nations are generally in a position to reduce their carbon output. Whether initially a result of government or citizen action, the two often end up building on each other.
  • These nations also are the most likely to discover and develop technologies that will further alleviate humanity's burden on the planet.
  • If we can adjust current market economies along the sort of model suggested by No Impact Man (in the post I linked to yesterday), it may be possible to get such technologies established in developing nations before they succumb or move more fully to the usual environmental destruction that accompanies industrialization in the current model. Want an example? Run a search on the increase in pollution in China.
  • From an economic and political model, most developed nations cannot afford a significantly greater decrease in population than they are already projected to have (based on fertility rates) without some sort of collapse--and I have to think that a country in such trouble would probably be much harder on the environment.
  • My desire to see smart development brought to developing nations also goes beyond purely environmental concerns. I would like to see environmentally sensitive development that allows such areas to improve inhabitants' lives in all respects. Smart development like this would help avoid increased pollution while improving health. And, generally speaking, women in such situations have more control over their fertility.
  • I do recognize that the problem of an aging population outnumbering the young remains. It will end up being an issue at some point, and I don't entirely know how we will get over that. (Which makes me want to refer back to HBM's original proposal--in a totally tongue-in-cheek manner. But still...)
Even in writing the above, I recognize just how optimistic it sounds. And then I wonder what exactly is going on in my brain, because that's just not like me. I mean, let's face it, governments and most individuals aren't generally known for making the changes and sacrifices the world needs.

And yet...

I think that I need to believe the change can happen. Because otherwise I might as well give up.

I know that I believe that little changes made by a multitude can add up.

I have accepted that a certain amount of climate change is now inevitable. In my generation and my children's, probably my grandchildren's, we will experience profound changes. The causes of this have already been put into motion. It will get worse before it gets better.

But if we make changes now, if we can get things headed in the right direction, it will get better. And maybe then humans will better understand the concept of finding harmony with the world around them.

I know it's a pipe dream and that, even if the right changes occur, they will be slower and smaller than needed to turn things around in just a few generations. But I do believe it's possible.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Global Warming Wednesday: Are the children our future or will they destroy it?

In the mood for some satire? Go read Her Bad Mother's take on how we should deal with overpopulation and its strain on the environment. She links to a Globe and Mail article that profiles a number of people who have decided not to have children to lessen their environmental footprint. There's also a link to a blog entry that discusses the article--agreeing with it, as one might expect from "Childfree News."

Now this is an interesting and timely topic for me, seeing how I've been trying to return to my environmental roots but am also in the midst of trying for baby #2. And while I am aware that each human born will have an environmental impact on the world, I won't be stopping my efforts.

I have to admit that I do not, at this very moment, have a lot of research to cite here, and that this is an emotional enough issue for me that I'm pretty much going to lay my thoughts out here without too much shaping.

Reasons the article and post rub me the wrong way:
  • The arrogant tone of those who have chosen not to have children. They are convinced that they are better than people with children and are incredibly condescending.
  • The suggestion that my children are as likely to grow up to be "Hummer-driving jackasses" as not. While I can't rule that out completely, I think the better money's on them being environmentally concerned, possibly doing even better than I on reducing their footprints.
  • If we pull back and consider other factors, there is a need to approximately replace the population. In many developed nations (gross generalization alert), the fertility rate is below the level needed to keep the population steady, which is going to mess with their economies as the burden of supporting an aging population falls on a smaller number of young workers. (A problem HBM's proposal would fix. But seriously, satire!)
  • We need to be looking at the fertility rate on a global level. I don't think it's a bad idea if populations in the developed nations decrease a little, but even a large decrease in those areas wouldn't address the increases elsewhere. So maybe instead of casting insults at the neighbors' rug-rats, that energy would be better put towards improving international standards of living and improving access to birth control and the like.* For an interesting look at how capitalism might evolve into something more environmentally sustainable, have a look at this post from No Impact Man.
But here's the best way I have of explaining my annoyance with these articles. Trillian and I have been friends with a married couple for a very long time. They are childless and had made this decision even before they were married (a few months after Trillian and I got together). A big part of their reasoning was the issue of overpopulation and environmental impact. If one were to ask them about it, they would give an impassioned and convincing explanation of their decision--but they would never suggest that their decision is one that is necessarily right for others or better. The wife's sister has had three children, and our friend loves all of them and will even joke that her sister took care of her replacement. Because our friends do not have the expense of children, they have put aside savings to help pay for their nieces' and nephews' education.

As far as I can tell, more people are likely to be inspired to action by our friends' attitude than the people quoted in the article and post. They're not preachy, their arguments are more logical than emotional, and they recognize that there are as many answers as there are people.

Trillian and I decided a long time ago that 2 is our magic number, years before we took any action towards making children a reality for our family. Our concerns about overpopulation played a prominent role in the equation. Now that I know my youngest sister has absolutely no desire for children and that Trillian's brother is not enthusiastic about the proposition, I know that our extended family's net impact will be below the level of replacement (always a chance my other sister will have more than 2, but I definitely don't see her with 6, probably not more than 3!). And I remain pretty convinced that my children will do more good than harm. No I don't think they'll be discovering the cure for cancer or the renewable energy that will revolutionize life as we know it. But I do think that they will recycle, eat local and organic foods, maybe grow their own, and pay attention to the environmental impact of their lifestyles.

Can I guarantee that? No, but there's enough optimist in me to think it's worth a try.

*And no, this is not me supporting eugenics. I am not saying we sterilize all the adults in the third-world. I am saying that if better living conditions were the norm, if health care were available to all, if women had the opportunity to regulate their fertility, if women held a position beyond producers of heirs and cheap labor, I think that you'd see fertility rates drop and more children would be wanted children.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

My piece of the pie

Knocked Up has now grossed more than $100 million. Given that it cost about $35 million to make and market, that's an impressive performance to date. So I've decided that maybe Eckler has a good idea, and I should find a way to cash in.

Now obviously this won't work with Knocked Up. No matter how I try to spin it, I just can't make "committed lesbian couple carefully plan for a child after almost a decade together" fit "stoner accidentally gets entertainment reporter pregnant and they stumble into making a go of it."

No worries, though, I'll just mine Judd Apatow's earlier work. And so I submit to you that Apatow blatantly plagiarized my high school experience in creating the character of Lindsay Weir for "Freaks and Geeks," specifically my time in Grades 10 and 11.

Here's the core of my case:
  • Lindsay is a good-girl brainiac who attends high school in the 80s. I also was in high school in the 80s, at the top of my class, and considered a straight arrow.
  • Then Lindsay gets tired of that identity and begins to hang out with the "freaks," or the burnout druggies, eventually dating one of them. My first "steady" boyfriend was one of the burnouts, and I definitely felt rebellious hanging out with him and his friends.
The minutiae:
  • Lindsay's army surplus jacket. I wore one too, starting in about 8th grade.
  • Long, wavy brown hair? Check--exact same style.
  • Parents with no real clue. Mine either never suspected or purposely ignored their suspicions.
It's an airtight case!

If we gloss over just how Apatow got this intelligence on me. And that the show is set earlier in the 80s. And that my first boyfriend was more of a drunken burnout than a druggie burnout--though several of his friends match the latter description. And I never lied to my parents about going to math camp, but instead decided to follow the Grateful Dead. And that smart girls frequently get tired of the label and seek to shake things up. But those are immaterial points.

We'll just keep that information quiet, won't we? Play nice and I'll cut you in.

Monday, June 25, 2007

A mother of a phone call

My mother called this evening, which was quite the shock. I believe that our last phone call was when I called her in February to tell her I was pregnant. In March, I sent an email to let her and my sisters know about the miscarriage, and that was how we left things.

Trillian and I keep a family blog where we can post updates and pictures. Just about two weeks ago, Trillian wrote about the autism checklist and where things stood for Scooter. I was pretty sure that she had read the entry, but was actually relieved that I hadn't heard from her directly.

The conversation began with a discussion of the family reunion we're going to in August. She and at least one of my sisters will be heading down to see some family on the other side after the main event and wanted to see if I would want to join them. I'll still be teaching then, so I won't be able to extend the trip--something I actually regret since my favorite aunt is one of the people we'd be seeing.

Then she turned to the matter I would have expected to lead off. So we talked some about where we are in the process of getting Scooter evaluated. The role of genetics came up--when she mentioned that there are certain characteristics that run in our family. I agreed and mentioned that I'm pretty sure that, had the idea of high-functioning autism been the sort of thing tested for when I was a child, I probably would have fallen in the nebulous borders of such a diagnosis (more on that later). I decided not to point out that I'm pretty sure she would too, though I did mention that it tends to show up in children of engineers, computer experts, mathematicians, and the like. No need to remind her that her family is full of mathematicians, herself included.

And then I decided to slip in a subject I have avoided bringing up with her, our plans of moving closer to Trillian's parents. I started with the small town we're looking at, the high incidence of autism there, their public schools and incredibly well developed autism-support program, the public preschool for developmentally delayed children. And then I moved on to the possible job in the city where my in-laws live, but omitting all mention of said in-laws. No discernible reaction, something she'll probably meditate on for a while.

To my mother's credit, she was bearable, almost pleasant, nothing particular that rubbed me the wrong way. But I still wish it were more than that--more natural, less obligatory, a time when I didn't feel I need to guard my words. Luckily I have my aunt and mother-in-law, both of whom tend to say just the right thing or at least know when to just listen.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Girls' night out

What can you say about a night which included conversation that ranged from Hitchens, Machiavelli and religion (one conversation) to toddlers who won't sleep to the commodification of motherhood in academia to reality television? Must be a gathering of mommy bloggers!

Trillian came with me--she'd met HBM, Metro Mama, and Something Blue before, but this was her first chance to chat with MotherBumper and Kittenpie. McHotty, MM's husband, served as the bartender for the first couple of hours and held up very well in the midst of all that estrogen, even during all of the breastfeeding talk.

We left around midnight, reluctantly, but knew we needed to get some sleep before waking up early for Scooter's gymnastics class. Trillian said to me as we left, "I could easily have stayed a couple more hours." Which is really something for us old ladies--midnight's already incredibly late for us. I had stuck to lemonade, so only had sleepiness to contend with. Trillian lost count of just how many glasses of red wine she'd had--her glass was never allowed to go empty.

The day after... Well, let's just remark that I took Scooter to gymnastics on my own this morning. And we all napped for almost 3 hours this afternoon (working on my overall sleep deficit). But it was definitely worth it.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Getting back on the horse

As we drove home a couple weeks ago, trying to make individual sense of the sudden confirmation of what we had talked ourselves out of some time ago--that Scooter may be autistic--it became clear that Trillian and I were at the same stage in our thinking.

Scooter was asleep in the back seat, having missed his nap at school and worn out by the evaluation session. Trillian brought up the donor and the possibility of researching if any other offspring have problems. And while there are ways to do this and we probably will, I turned to her and said something along the lines of, "Seriously? It's my genetics. How can it not be?"

Now both of us have done the reading and know that there is a genetic component, but that there is no single gene that is responsible for autism. And even beyond genetics, there may be some environmental factors. And so I understand, intellectually, that this is not something where we can lay blame, that there are so many factors involved and, even though my genetics are most likely implicated, that I cannot be the sole source.

Another issue that came up around this time was how this might affect our attempts for baby #2. There was a part of me that wished I'd already had another kid or not had the miscarriage, just so I wouldn't have to question the wisdom of having another child. While the general incidence of autism is often put at around 1 in 150, the chances of having a second child with autism is estimated at 1 in 20. But interestingly, this has turned out to be a non-issue. I think that both Trillian and I were concerned that the other would want to back off, but a couple of conversations have proven the opposite.

As I said to Trillian during one of our discussions, I'd already thought about some of this, since it's not like I hadn't noticed that Scooter was not exactly like other kids. And I reasoned to myself that baby #2 would most likely be "normal," but even if baby #2 were a lot like Scooter, I could handle that. And if baby #2 has more severe problems? Well, I would let that play out as it might. Trillian and I formed a philosophy on this when I was pregnant with Scooter; by the time we were able to get blood work and ultrasounds that might indicate a problem, we knew that we were too attached to consider termination. And neither of us sees a reason to change our approach now.

My comfort with this decision grows as time passes and I get closer to returning to the craziness that is trying to get pregnant for me. Similarly, I find myself getting comfortable with the word "autism" and fitting it into my concept of my family. Hopefully things can continue in this vein.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A little help

Scooter is on the wait-list, and so now we just wait. We'll be doing a couple things in the meantime--hearing test (to rule that out), lead test (mostly because of the Thomas stuff, though developmental issues might come into play here too).

As Trillian and I have calmed down and been able to talk about things without roiling emotions, we've also found the humor in the reason why we finally got the referral process moving.

The provincial occupational therapist was not too concerned at the outset of Scooter's appointment, but by the end said that she would contact his current therapists to get a sense of their perspective. This happened because Scooter did not utter a single word the whole time he and Trillian were there. He would come over to Trillian and hold something out as if to ask, "Can I play with this?" But not a single word.

The speech therapist initially dismissed the provincial OT's concerns. But then she mentioned to a colleague the fact that Scooter was increasingly chewing on his clothing and had been grinding his teeth while talking. The colleague does both speech and occupational therapy and works extensively with autistic children. She made some suggestions about the chewing, but also indicated that this raised a red flag. And so we got the MCHAT.

During the colleague's evaluation of Scooter, she noted that he made limited eye contact, didn't follow gestures or make many himself, and was very limited in his pretend play. When they pretended to have a tea party and she mentioned needing a spoon, he insisted on finding a toy one, even when she showed him that she could pretend to have one--thus, demonstrating a more concrete approach to play than he should have at this age.

Now none of these behaviors are entirely unusual or unexpected for Scooter, yet in both situations his actions were exaggerated from his normal behavior. He can be quite chatty, even if his language lags a bit. Sometimes he purposely doesn't speak and uses sounds and gestures to try to make his point, but this is almost a game. And while he does gravitate to the same sort of toys and pretend play, he is quite capable of coming up with novel scenarios. The other day he picked up a balloon on a stick and turned it first into a violin and then a hockey stick.

I suspect that during both evaluations, Scooter found himself in unfamiliar situations and so was more restricted in his activities. I was surprised to hear he didn't speak at all during the one--is that my chatty boy? But, as Trillian and I have observed, this may have been the difference between being told to give him some time (yet again!) and moving forward in the process. I doubt Scooter has any concept of this, but he couldn't have picked a better time to be more idiosyncratic than usual.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Grandma's on the case

My mother-in-law is just a bit excited that we might move near them (even if it's to the smaller town just under an hour away). And so with recent developments and the fact that our final destination will depend at least a bit on the availability of services for Scooter, she has been on a mission. Both Trillian and I have been making a list of places we could call to get some information--the area autism clinic to find out about the waiting list for a developmental pediatrician, the public schools to see what is needed for services and if they would accept Canadian documentation, other research on therapies. We made the theoretical list, but hadn't gotten around to actually making those calls.

Grandma made those calls last week and left messages all over the place. She started hearing back today and making other calls as recommended by the first round. She collected all of the information, typed it up, and emailed it to us--in addition to giving Trillian the short version over the phone. She passed along names and phone numbers. Among the encouraging bits of information:
  • The public school system where we want to live is, according to the autism clinic, among the best in the country for supporting students all along the spectrum.
  • In order to get support for Scooter, we do not need to come in with a diagnosis. The evaluations we already have are enough to initiate educational evaluation with the schools and get him an IEP.
  • While there is a very long wait for evaluation with the developmental pediatrician, that clinic has received increased funding and is looking to speed up the process. But even absent that, there are several places in the area that provide services to autistic children before official diagnosis.
  • There is a pediatric clinic in my in-laws' city that has a good reputation for their support of autistic clients. There may also be a pediatrician in the smaller town who works extensively with autistic children.
  • There are support groups for kids and parents in both the town and nearby city.
  • If we move to the smaller town before Scooter is 5 or if child #2 needs similar services, there is a preschool program there--through the public schools--specifically aimed at children with developmental delays.
  • Yet again, we have affirmation that we have already put into place the therapies that Scooter needs.
We've heard that last bit a few times now, and I think it's finally starting to sink in. It doesn't mean I'll stop worrying--that's just not going to happen. But I can let up a little bit and focus on the therapy he's already receiving.

The rest of the information helps me relax a little about where we're headed (figuratively and geographically). Knowing that our in-laws' area will provide plenty of support for Scooter, I can settle into the decision we've made and quit second-guessing myself. And I can start working on the concrete steps--applying for a job in the in-laws' city, making progress on my comps, creating a timetable for buying a house and moving.

And let me just say: Grandma rocks! It is difficult to express just how much I appreciate the foundation that her research gives us. Trillian and I would have made the necessary calls at some point, not too long from now, but having the information now, without having to find the time to play phone tag, gets us moving much faster than we had planned.

Any surprise we want to live near Scooter's grandparents?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

'Lesbian' is not a synonym for 'infertile'

I loved my first obstetrician. Loved her. Since none of my lesbian friends had been through a pregnancy when I was trying to figure out what I needed to do, I got a recommendation from a straight friend at work. I went to my consultation with some trepidation, unsure of how the lesbian card would play. But she was wonderful and put me at ease. She looked at my medical history, discussed the process for getting started, and made it very clear that we didn't need to make things any more complicated than necessary. It was right around my 29th birthday: "You're young still. There's no reason to expect you'll have any trouble." And then the line I still like to quote: "It's not a fertility problem, more like a supply issue."

The biggest stress of that process was the fact that they would only do inseminations on regular workdays. My first attempt, on a Monday, was probably 16-24 hours too late. I worried before the second try that I was going in too early, but I had already picked up the pop-sicle and the next day was July 4th--closed for the holiday. But a little early ended up being just right.

This time, circumstances came together in such a way as to mandate the clinic I'm using. To get the pop-sicle into Canada, we would need to do all sorts of paperwork. Moving the process to Buffalo makes things easier, although there are further limitations to where I could do it. Because our cryobank is back where we used to live, any place I used needed to have storage available for me. And only one place fit the requirements, an infertility clinic.

The clinic is professional and has good results. They have protocols, and the specific one you follow depends on your exact situation. But even though they have worked with lesbians before, they cannot get out of the mindset that they are "treating" me.* The process they first set out for me:
  1. Call them on Day One of a new cycle and set up an ultrasound for Day Ten.
  2. Go in for ultrasound on Day Ten. This is to make sure that a follicle is developing and my lining is thickening.
  3. If given the go ahead, begin peeing on ovulation sticks to check for LH surge. But only first thing in the morning.
  4. Call on the morning I surge to set up insemination for the next day.
  5. Go in, have ultrasound to make sure lining is still OK and see if egg has been released (though technically conception is still possible if it has just been released).
  6. Inseminate and keep hips elevated for 15 minutes.
  7. Wait 2 weeks to see if the cycle starts all over again.
For the first cycle, they were willing to skip both ultrasounds, citing my travel time from Toronto and the fact that I'm paying out-of-pocket. But then they started to creep in. Even though this is not my first time through the process and I can usually advocate for myself, I found myself succumbing to the mindset and thinking of these interventions as necessary.

When I decided to take a couple of months off from trying around the holidays, I also reassessed what I was doing. And I knew that part of the problem was that I had bought into their approach and was ignoring my own instincts. Instincts that told me I am better off inseminating before the egg is released and that waiting for the surge line on the ovulation test would be too late. Instincts that got me my son.

So I listened to my body and called the clinic on the morning that felt just shy of ovulation. Claimed I had seen the surge. Which came that afternoon. Two weeks later I was pregnant. Although that pregnancy did not go past 9 weeks, I was at least validated in thinking I could read my own body's signs better than a pee stick.

So now I'm looking to start trying again and called the clinic to initiate the process, ready to stand up for myself. I want to say: "Since I ovulate regularly, I see no reason to come in for a preliminary ultrasound." But, of course, I have to play phone tag with the nurse and don't want to try to leave a detailed message, so I ask the answering service to leave something like: "I need to talk about timing for my cycle."

When the nurse called back, I discovered that this had been relayed to her and the doctor as, "I need to talk about the next step." She began by informing me that the doctor wanted to put me on a low dose of Femara, but this would require a consultation and had to be started on Day Three of my cycle and so we could do that next cycle.

I was momentarily stunned, but then gathered myself and said, "I'm not really comfortable with the idea of a fertility drug at this point. I ovulate regularly and I've only had the one miscarriage, and there's no reason to consider that a fertility problem." In the end, I was able to get her to agree that I would go about this cycle as usual (but without the extra ultrasound, as I wished).

After the phone call, I did a little research into Femara to see what exactly the doctor would have put me on. The intended use of Femara is as a drug to stop recurrence of breast cancer. Its fertility use is off-label and its safety in that regard has been debated. It works by inducing ovulation in those who do not ovulate regularly. For those women who are already ovulatory, it encourages the ovaries to mature and release extra eggs. Trillian and I had the same reaction: NO WAY! There is nothing in my history to suggest I am anovulatory. And although we would welcome twins if things worked out that way, we see no reason to encourage such an outcome.

If I had another option, I would not stay with this clinic. I do not like that their immediate answer is to put me on a fertility drug and an off-label use at that. Never mind that two minutes of research show me that this particular drug is just about the last thing I need. It just proves to me that they are not looking at me as an individual case and that they automatically treat pregnancy as a state that requires medical intervention.

Now I'm not saying that lesbians never deal with infertility issues--I've heard of plenty of lesbians who have discovered, once they start trying to get pregnant, that they need more help than they expected. But that should not be the default assumption and I resent being pushed into this category, especially when my history proves that I am fertile. Being treated like getting pregnant will be difficult raises my anxiety--talk about adding unnecessary stress.

I'm a lesbian and it's a supply issue!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Because I obviously meant that I need more stress...

Dana over at Mombian has a son about the same age as Scooter. And just before I was going to shut down my computer for the evening, I saw that she had posted about a recall of Thomas merchandise.

Turns out that the surface paint of a number of trains, sold between January 2005 and June 2007, contains lead. Turns out my son has 9 of the items on the recall list.

Any idea when Scooter got his first trains? Christmas 2004. Just a few trains then, steadily added starting in 2005.

My son has been playing with some of these trains for 2 1/2 years.

We've already pulled 8 of the items from his room--sneaking in and slipping them out as he sleeps. Still need to find the stop sign.

Needless to say, heart racing, short of breath, slight dizziness. Anger, frustration, fear. It has crossed my mind that lead causes developmental problems. (And no, I don't suddenly think the trains have caused all of his problems.)

So now I'm adding to my list:
  • Find Thomas stop sign.
  • Lead check for Scooter.
  • Resist cussing out RC2.


Written this morning while on campus:

I'm teetering on the brink of depression and it's taken me a week to recognize, to name it. I chalked the first couple days up to a combination of hormones and struggling to decide what this non-diagnosis of maybe-autism means for Scooter and me and our family. I recognized the hormonal fog well enough to know I shouldn't make any major decisions right then; the last two or three days before my period tend to find me convinced all my choices have been wrong and that I'm incompetent. But now, several days into my period, I can tell it's a different fog that is threatening.

It explains my utter exhaustion. Sure, I could stand to get a little more sleep, but I know that I would still be tired, bone-tired, defeated-tired.

It explains my wandering attention. I come home and can't do much more than go online or watch television. Grading a short quiz is a chore. Reading for my comps? Not happening.

It explains my continuing desire for chocolate, sweets, carbs, well beyond the usual pre-menstrual window.

It explains the low-grade, but ever-present, anxiety that gnaws at my mind and makes me second-guess everything I do and think.

It explains my inability to write my usual Wednesday fare. How can I write about saving the environment when the world feels like it's ready to implode?

This is not all a reaction to dealing with Scooter's issues, but rather a confluence of factors. A big part of the anxiety for me stems from the limbo we're in. I hate hurry-up-and-wait, and so I tend to make lists and plan and obsess. And as soon as new information comes in, I take those lists and plans and revise and obsess again.

And so I have my list and my obsessions:
  • Continue therapies (add social playgroups? behavioral therapy? can we do that ourselves?)
  • Wait for official evaluation (will a Canadian evaluation be honored in American schools?)
  • Finish comps (but can I actually finish so quickly when they usually suggest a longer timetable, even without the sort of outside responsibilities I have?)
  • Move near in-laws next year (but to their smallish city which has overpriced housing and questionable schools but is where I might get a job or to the town about 45 minutes away with excellent schools and cheaper housing but almost no job opportunities for me?)
  • Somehow finish dissertation while starting a new teacher-intensive job and parenting one child with special needs and possibly an infant (no question here. That's just plain nuts!)
I won't even get started on the whole second child thing right now, as that's an entire post unto itself. But that's been another source of stress for multiple reasons.

Even as I write this, I know what I need to do. In fact, writing this is the first step. I am sitting outside, pen (favorite pen) to paper, giving myself the time to indulge in this quasi-journal entry, to enjoy the physicality of writing. And at the same time, I am putting my emotions in black and white so that they no longer sit inside me and squeeze at my heart and lungs.

The next part is to step away from these words for a bit, to focus on being present in the moment. To limit the amount of time I spend each day on these issues. For me, that also means stepping away from the computer or rather limiting how long my laptop is on. Which means I will likely still post several times a week, but I will be limiting my reading and research activities online. I will spend the time that my son is awake on the family--playing, cooking, cleaning, talking. And I will carve out other time for yoga and meditation, a chance to calm both mind and body.

It's all a bit of a balancing act, and I'm searching for that spot in the middle right now.

Monday, June 11, 2007

"Knocked Up"

I feel the need to switch gears a bit, and so I thought I'd ruminate on Knocked Up, the film Trillian and I went to see just over a week ago. Before saying too much, however, I find it necessary to point out that Trillian and I both, in the depths of our hearts, are probably 14-year-old boys. And while we do not rush out to the theaters to see, for instance, every new Will Ferrell movie, you can bet they make it into our house eventually.

I should also add the disclaimer that we are Apatow fans, by means of Freaks and Geeks. Still pissed that they canceled the show! I think that he is particularly skilled at capturing life in all of its painful glory. And even when the premise might seem impossible, he doesn't have to push reality too much to make it work (e.g., 40-Year-Old Virgin and what kind of loser would still be a virgin at 40? And yet... I bought the explanation).

You have almost certainly heard the set up at this point: Alison, who has just been promoted to an on-air spot in the entertainment industry, goes out to celebrate and ends up having a one-night stand with Ben. Due to a misunderstanding, birth control falls by the way and 8 weeks later...

I was cracking up from the very beginning. First shot: the driveway of Ben's house with a couch, ping-pong table, and lifeguard's chair (which serves as the judge's seat for ping-pong matches). I had to keep myself from falling out of my chair. I know these people. OK, that was a little different, two couches on the porch (which eventually collapsed), less pot, more beer. But from just those few broad strokes, I understood Ben's world. Legally adults, he and his friends spend most of their time avoiding the title.

This world is juxtaposed with Alison's. But one thing I think many critics are missing is that she occupies a similar position in her world. She has a job, does it well, and has a promotion to show for it. But she lives in her sister's guest-house and is obviously not ready to sever that tie. Sure she can be the helpful aunt and take the kids to school, but that only makes it clear just how unprepared she is to be a parent.

One of the main criticisms I have seen of the movie is that it is highly unlikely that such a beautiful woman would end up with such a "schlub." I will definitely grant that Katherine Heigl is very good-looking. But in the movie, it's something required of her job and she's frequently done up by hair and makeup people. And it's not like Seth Rogen is ugly, as the criticism tends to imply. He is cute and a bit unkempt, but the kind of guy who would clean up nice. There's one promotional pic going around that I think captures the fact that there isn't the huge gulf often suggested. They are sitting in the waiting room, side-by-side, not looking at each other. Her hair is pulled back and she's wearing a basic polo shirt. Still good looking, but not quite so far out of Ben's league in my view.

Another thing that comes up time and again is the "glossing over" of abortion. I don't want to get into a huge thing here, but my counterpoints boil down to:
  1. If Alison had gotten an abortion, it would have been a very short movie.
  2. And let's face it, pregnancy hormones and delivery have greater comedy potential.
  3. Some people have locked onto the conversation Alison has with her mother. At one point the mother mentions a cousin who found herself in a similar situation: "She had it taken care of and now she has a real baby." Although the word "abortion" is not spoken, the reference is clear. And yes, the line made me gasp, but I also read it as a revelation of the mother's character and the amount of support she will give to Alison, not as a grand statement on abortion.
  4. Although the pregnancy might have a negative effect on the trajectory of her career, I can understand why Alison decides against an abortion. She's in her mid-20s and has already worked on her career--and the unexpected pregnancy means reevaluating her perspective on what's important.
The last thing I just have to say something about is Rebecca Eckler's recent accusation that Apatow and Rogen stole the idea from her book, also titled Knocked Up. Her book (apparently, since I haven't read it) recounts her experience getting pregnant just after her engagement party. She says that what convinced her was the fact that Alison is an up-and-coming journalist, as Eckler was. Never mind that they're in different fields (entertainment vs. print--and Alison is based in LA where everyone's in LA). Oh, and her fiance was also a Canadian Jew. Never mind that Rogen himself is a Jew who was born in Vancouver--they couldn't have gotten the idea from that. But I think the best take on this is a Toronto Star column by Patricia Pearson (not sure if registration is required, but take a look)! Pearson has written a novel, Playing House, with a plot that matches Knocked Up (the movie) even more closely, yet she has no plans on suing. As she points out, there are certain elements that are great comic fodder and it's probably all coincidence.

And it is definitely the case that Knocked Up frequently taps into emotions that many of us can relate to. As Trillian and I noted, there were certain points where we could tell who in the audience was a parent, because their laughter rang louder at things that elicited little reaction from the younger crowd. Nor does the movie gloss over fears and frustrations--though it does usually manage to twist them for a laugh. These probably hit me harder than most other people in the audience, and I found myself close to tears over things like the ultrasound images, but it was also cathartic to both laugh and cry so freely.

It says something that Trillian and I still are talking about this movie, a week after seeing it. This will make it to our DVD collection.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Blindsided, part 2, and regrouping

This is what I wrote Thursday afternoon after reading the post Trillian had sent to me:

I knew that Scooter's speech therapist was having another therapist come to his session this week--Trillian had told me that the time had been moved back a little to accommodate the other therapist's schedule. I didn't think twice about it, because at this point I'm used to doctors and therapists wanting to consult with a colleague or give a student some experience. Neither of us even thought to ask why.

And so I was dumbfounded when I checked in with Trillian after I was done teaching and found out that the therapist had gone through the M-CHAT and felt strongly enough about the results that we were suddenly getting a referral to a developmental pediatrician--something we had asked for four months ago when we first found out about the process for evaluation here, something we were dissuaded from and made to feel was unnecessary.

It is still possible that we are just looking at sensory issues. All kids with ASD have SPD, but the converse is not true. And the provincial occupational therapist said to Trillian a couple weeks ago that sometimes kids with SPD act just plain weird, because they are so overwhelmed by the world around them. Sometimes "weird" can manifest itself as behaviors that look like ASD. (Of course, by the end of the appointment, during which Scooter refused to utter a single word, she said she'd talk to our current service providers to determine is we need further testing.)

I comfort myself with the reminder that the most likely course of action for a high-functioning autistic child would be speech and occupational therapy--exactly what we've got him in now. And if we can get his sensory issues under control and help his verbal expression catch up with his thoughts, we'll then be able to sort out what else exactly he needs.

So now there is a greater urgency for us to figure out where we will be for Scooter's schooling. And then to make the move a reality. Short of finding out that there are no services available in my in-laws' state, that is where we want to be. They are on-board for homeschooling or whatever other support we might need. Living near them has always been an attractive proposition; now it may be our lifeline.

After a couple days to digest all of this, I feel I should add that we're moving past the initial moments of sadness, just as Trillian said she would in her post. And I'm able to recall something we had said to each other as Scooter got started in OT a couple months ago: While we might not have fully ruled out autism at that point, it would be OK if we didn't get that figured out for a bit longer since OT would be one of the first things suggested anyway.

I think that what this new development has done for us is make more concrete the likelihood that things won't necessarily be "all better" in time for kindergarten at age 5. We've both said all along that we want his earliest school experiences to be positive, so we also realize that this makes it more likely that we'll give homeschooling a chance, coupled with the therapies and controlled opportunities for socialization. Gives me something new to research, and I like to have a purpose.

Thursday, June 07, 2007


Trillian wrote this today as she wrestled with information we got yesterday. I've written a couple things too, but was preparing to give an exam today, so I still need to work on articulating my thoughts.

I've been crying off and on since last night. Grieving since yesterday afternoon. Scooter's MCHAT (Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers) assessment yesterday at speech therapy showed him to possibly be in the mild to moderate ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) range. That result is so bittersweet. We've been trying to get him assessed since he was 2 and I've had concerns since he was 14-16 months and still not walking. He's 4 yrs 2 months now. It took more than 2 frakking years to get anyone to take us seriously, to actually listen to us. I am both grateful and raging. Why the hell did it take so long? Why on earth were we forced to try to become experts in developmental disorders just to figure out what therapies we could get for him ourselves without a doctor's referral? No one should have to go through this. The woman who did the assessment yesterday looked at me and said "You should always trust your gut. It's seldom wrong!" I wanted to scream "I did trust my gut! No one else would!" As if somehow we could have gotten faster treatment if only I had listened to my gut. Lady, my gut has been screaming for 2 + years and I've been listening, where the hell were you!? We saw three different pediatricians (2 US, 1 Canada) who all told us to "wait and see, he'll probably grow out of it." Three doctors it's not like we only took him to one doctor and threw up our hands for f*&% sake! And then trying to find help in a foreign country, hell just trying to figure out what help to look for, was more than a little challenging. When your son's "symptoms" don't fit the profile of anything you're finding online. When they only vaguely seem a bit similar to a few of the lesser symptoms of an ASD, what the hell do you do then? I mean, I'm not a doctor! How the flying f*&% am I supposed to know what's going on. I know I'm worried, but when I tell a pediatrician that, it's immediately poo-pooed as just the usual parent anxiety. Anyone with kids will tell you that the second you say you're worried about little Johnny to your Pediatrician, they'll pat your hand and tell you everything is fine and all parents worry. Have doctors just completely forgotten (or have they never been taught) how to observe their patients, how to gather diagnostic information that is not based on lab results? Apparently, they have and it's causing real pain and problems for their patients. I am mad as hell. I am frustrated as hell. I feel guilty as hell for not being even more of a pain in the Dr.'s ass than I already am. And I am grieving.

I know that sounds strange. He is not going to die from this. But I am grieving for what I thought was going to be his life, his path. I am grieving for how I thought his life would progress. The dreams I had for him and for us. I've let the grief wash over me, pass through me, inhabit every cell. I've allowed it in and allowed it to wallow around in my consciousness. Why? Because it's necessary. I have to mourn the dreams and thoughts of the future I had for him. It's the only way to let them go, clean them out, so they can be replaced by his new path, his reality, his new future. A future which frankly may not be all that different from the one I had envisioned but we won't know that for sure for quite some time. It's best to let the concept I had of his path and future go to allow for this new situation. So I am allowing the wallow, but Grief, you're on notice. You have approximately 12 hours left to wallow before I grab you by the scruff and chuck you out the nearest mental egress. I need to tidy up a bit in there before I put the new plans and promises of a new future in place, so I can't have you mucking about for too long.

We have a lot to think about, a lot to plan for and a lot to do in the next few weeks to help make the next few years as productive as possible. We have to figure out whether we want him labeled, which will depend a lot on the actual assessment by the Dev. Pediatrician. If we are looking at high functioning/mild, maybe not. If we're looking at moderate, maybe so. We have to determine where to live so that he gets the most support (both familial and government based) that he can possibly get. Apparently, none of his therapy would be covered in the US or Canada. So staying here doesn't help us a damn bit and we're hundreds of miles away from the nearest familial support. Treatment would cost us the same out of pocket regardless. He might be eligible for assistance in school with a label but the type of "help" he may get may not be appropriate for him. So maybe homeschooling is the best option. Tons to think about and plan for, no time for bull sh*& wallowing. So Grief, don't get too comfortable, you're not a long term guest.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Global Warming Wednesday: Seeking inspiration

I have been a little down lately--just in general. It doesn't help that I'm only a day or so from PMS becoming full-on M, making this one of my worst hormonal days anyway. But we're also trying to balance planning for next year and some unexpected bit of news today (related to Scooter and his diagnosis/therapy, doesn't change anything, but possibly requires a shift in thinking and gives us an impetus to make sure we really get things sorted for next year). Still digesting that, though I'll probably write something on it soon.

Even before that, however, I was wondering what I might write about today. I'm not exactly stalled out--I'm doing my best at maintaining everything I've set in place so far--but I haven't been particularly inspired.

So of course it is timely that No Impact Man's last two posts have spoken to the core of the issue. In Why Bother, he responds to a reader's question:
We seem to be a pretty tenacious lot, we humans, and wouldn't it be best to realize that we can't save everybody, that some of us will survive the lack of ozone, and just let the chips fall where they may?
Part of his answer points back to a post in which he uses the starfish story (which makes me tear up just a little every time I encounter it--yes, it's sappy, but it makes a powerful point). He ends his answer by saying:
The question is: when things seem futile, do I want to be the kind of person who lets the “chips fall where they may,” or do I want to be the type who tries to do something anyway?
This post is a strong reminder of why I decided to renew my commitment to lessening my environmental impact.

His post today is titled Why I make environmental action personal. Had he not published yesterday's post, I'd probably be feeling worse right now. He cites a number of articles: brings up the White House's new global warming "initiative" and how it achieves nothing; another refers to a poll demonstrating that most Americans' commitment to stopping climate change is superficial; a third discusses just how much faster warming is occurring than was predicted in years past. Yet this all ties into the why of why it needs to be a personal action: If we wait for the government to "fix" things, it will be too late.

When I combine the two posts, some of the anxiety-producing urgency (or is it urgency-producing anxiety?) remains, but it is tempered by the conviction that this is something I find important. And I realize that I, alone, can't make all the difference, but at least I'll have done something.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

At the movies

Trillian and I have always lived a somewhat quiet lifestyle. Not many parties, late nights, fancy restaurants, etc. Some spontaneity, but we agreed that having a child would not require us to give up anything we would sorely miss. Our biggest sacrifice, I joked, would be going to the movies on a whim.

Which has turned out to be fairly prescient. We weren't frequent movie-goers even before Scooter, but it was something we tended to do spur-of-the-moment. Nowadays, the need to plan, find a babysitter, and then pay many dollars an hour tend to limit such outings.* So when we see movies in the theater, it tends to mean one of three things:
  1. Grandma and Grandpa are around (here or at their house) and have insisted we get out for a bit.
  2. Scooter's in daycare when we find ourselves with shared time off.
  3. We've split showings. Sometimes it's back-to-back showings, sometimes it's two days in a row.
The problem with #1 is that we can't be sure a movie we really want to see will be playing. But at least it's some time out--plus the grandparents don't mind if we hang out a bit before or after.

#2 is very nice when things align, especially if those 'things' include a movie we want to see. That worked for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. We were sharing the theater with a large number of school groups, but they were fine once the movie started. This summer, however, this plan will rarely work for us. I teach four afternoons a week; on the one afternoon I do have off, I take Scooter to OT. Now if a theater wanted to show movies at 10 am during the week, we'd be there!

Strategy #3 is employed for those movies we really want to see. And cannot stand to wait until #1 or #2 can be worked out or until it comes out on DVD. Sure we don't have the experience of sitting together and exchanging glances or whispers (very quiet, I promise). And whoever sees it first has to keep quiet about it for a bit; even harder, she then has to remember what she wanted to say. But these are movies that need to be seen in the theater.

The first movie we saw this way (I think) was Return of the King. We had seen the other two in the theater--I even sat through all of The Two Towers in my third trimester without getting up for the bathroom once! We each went back to the same theater for the third movie--gorgeous old theater, excellent view from the balcony--on a Saturday and a Sunday.

Another movie we did this way was Serenity. Firefly had been our favorite series when it was on and we lamented its early cancellation. We have it on DVD, but with only 13 episodes we were dying for more from Mal and his band. Plus, the buzz online was that a good enough early showing might bring about funding for another movie. Because of the timing of other things, Trillian took the 7 pm showing, I got the 9:30 showing. Needed an extra latte to make sure I was awake from the beginning, but once it started there was no chance I'd fall asleep. Very disappointed that it's unlikely there will be another.

This past weekend, we did the closest thing possible to a spontaneous trip to the movies: we decided, on that very day, that we would take in back-to-back showings of Knocked Up. It was a good choice and we both enjoyed ourselves immensely. A little alone mommy-time for each of us and fodder for discussion and laughs afterwards.

So maybe it's not quite the same as before Scooter, but it definitely works.

* We have done this, most notably for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. One of my students was our regular babysitter then (not something I usually would have done, but we started using her before she was in one of my classes, because Trillian met her through a team I coached and fully approved of her). I felt a little silly telling my student what we were going to see--but she liked the series too.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Weighing options

I am currently frustrated as I try to figure out how to arrange things for next year. The timing of my previous pregnancy was perfect. Sure, I might have been taking an exam at 8+ months pregnant, but then I'd be at the perfect spot to take a little time for myself, leisurely begin the next batch of studying for my program. And then taking my final seminar in the spring, along with the last exam--sometime in the summer--before entering the dissertation phase. While the miscarriage remains a loss I feel in my marrow, I am also frustrated that my plan is now impossible.

My original new plan was to wait until August to start trying again so that I would be due in May, after the end of my seminar. I'd still be able to take my final exam before the end of the summer and maintain the basic structure of my plan. But there are a few things that keep me from being fully satisfied with this:
  1. We've pretty much settled on moving to a small town near my in-laws. I have a pretty good shot at a job in that area, if not in the 2008-09 school year, then the year after. And even if I didn't get that job, we've talked about me piecing together work (high school, tutoring, whatever) so that we could live so close to Grandma and Grandpa.
  2. We've also fallen in love with a house there. Which has us itching to be able to move forward. And so we're debating about how soon we could swing a purchase before moving there permanently.
  3. But one wrinkle is that we will most likely need to stay here until after the next baby's birth (at least until we can get a birth certificate so that we can cross the border). There was a point where we thought Trillian might have a job that would include US health coverage for me, but that didn't come together. And any insurance I might be able to get would require a one year wait before maternity coverage would kick in (including my potential job's insurance).
  4. So if I wait until August to begin trying, but it takes me three or four months again, I wouldn't be delivering until the end of the summer--and we'd still have to wait several weeks, even with expediting everything possible, to get the necessary paperwork to move with the baby.
  5. But if I begin trying ASAP, I might deliver in the middle of my seminar, as early as March--and the course will run through the third week of April, plus have a paper due sometime after that.
So I'm feeling stuck. Here are the different sides of the two biggest issues (the job and house are big too, but those are less debatable and more wait-and-see):
  • In terms of seminars, I could go ahead and take one offered in the fall. That would mean another history seminar. Five total seminars are required; I've already taken two in history, despite being a literature person. I'm a little concerned about what one more would look like on paper. Plus it would mean starting up a seminar while finishing with an exam (possibly in my first trimester). In contrast, the one I intend to take in the spring is in literature and on an author I like. On the other hand, if I take a seminar in the spring, I'll be done with them sooner. And for the job I might get, the balance of my seminars wouldn't matter (it would just be an issue if I tried to switch jobs later).
  • In terms of the pregnancy, I'm impatient now. I've been tracking my ovulation the past couple months and itching to make the drive to Buffalo each time I watched the surge come and go. If the next time were to come on a day when I could take that amount of time and things worked out, I would be due in March. Even with the wait for bureaucracy, we could get everything together by sometime in May (plus that would allow for some healing time for me). I could fly back up for the exams. If I have the fall seminar, there would be no problem with the timing for school; if I were taking the literature seminar, however, I would have to miss at least a little class time, not something that is generally accepted at this level, making the wait to August preferable.
And so I find myself debating. Start now or later. Suffer through another history seminar so I can check of a requirement sooner or wait for the one that I will enjoy and that might even have a small tie into my dissertation. I already know which way I'm headed on each of these and how I would/should handle things with the department.

But it helps to sort them out here--and I certainly won't reject any weighing in that others might do.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Blogging for LGBT Families--Today and Everyday

Today is "Blogging for LGBT Families Day" and Mombian is keeping track of posts over at her place. In yesterday's post, I talked about the second-parent adoption that gave our family legal status. But if you look back through my archives, you'll see that I've frequently written about being a lesbian parent and the issues that brings up. And since I have always spoken about my family in a straightforward manner, any post about family events is, by definition, also a post about gay parenting.

Since I'm about two months shy of blogging for a year, this is the first "Blogging for LGBT Families Day" I've participated in, and I thought I would share some of the pieces I've written that touch on the topic.

In August, Her Bad Mother wrote about trying to express how her love for her daughter existed on a physical level; she called upon her readers to help her in this. And so I responded with My missing piece. Soon after, she had another post citing an email she received from a non-bio mom and the sorts of fear being in that position created for her. The post resonated strongly in me, in part out of sympathy for my wife, but also because I recognized some of that fear as coming from being a lesbian mom. My reaction was Fear of the (other) mother.

In response to another call to action from HBM, I wrote about how important gay rights are to me as a means for Protecting my family. And then in February, to mark both "Freedom to Marry Week" and my wedding anniversary, I wrote On marriage. There's also a lighter post figuring out What's in a name when there are two mommies.

Of course, the topic of being a lesbian-headed family has a tendency to creep into other posts, such as an answer to Sandra's question of what I'll miss most about Canada. And the fact that Scooter has two mommies is apparent in most family-related posts, from co-sleeping to his move to a big boy bed. Maybe I'd feel a little more revolutionary if Thomas the Tank Engine didn't make so many appearances.