Friday, April 29, 2011

Reconnecting - Dollars and $ense of Family Building

I started blogging when I started TTC.  After eight IUIs, I was lucky enough to have a pregnancy that lasted and resulted in the births of my twins.  Since then, I've blogged about our little family and used this space to get advice about raising my sons with topics like feeding, sleeping, childcare and surviving as a single mom of two.

While I've likely lost some old readers and gained some new ones with my blog transformations from TTC to pregnancy to parenting, I haven't felt like an active part of the ALI community lately.  It's the community no one wants to be a part of -until you are.  And then you can't imagine family building without it.  (Unless you're one of those fertile, clueless, lucky ones.)

Hooray for the blog carnival hosted by Write Mind, Open Heart and Baby Smiling in Back Seat.  I can contribute to the discussion on budgeting and financial family planning and feel like an active part of this community again.   (I have some other community related posts brewing which I hope keep me connected as well.)

When I decided to TTC, I didn't think it would take two years, an infertility diagnosis, a slew of fertility drugs, and three losses before I became a mother.  But it did.  And I'm one of the lucky ones.  Cycle after cycle, I kept waiting for them to say the letters, "IVF" and for the bottom to fall out financially but they never did.  In fact, I brought up in-vitro at my WTF meeting after loss number three.  The RE said it wouldn't necessarily help me since I was in fact getting pregnant.  It would just cost more.

My story started when my gynecologist gave me a referral for the fertility center and scheduled me for a FSH test and HSG without knowing if was fertile or not.  As a 39 year-old SMC wannabe, she said the fertility center would want the tests so I might as well do them while I waited for my consultation.  They were covered by insurance with a co-pay.  My insurance company also agreed to cover the fertility center consult and ultrasounds and lab work were partially covered as diagnostic testing.  The IUIs were out of pocket.  And of course the donor sperm was my cost.  My out-of-pocket cost for an IUI was $185.  Not a typo.  That was how much each of the first four IUIs cost me without insurance.  In fact, the cost of a single IUI was one of the least expensive of all the things I paid for. Donor sperm varied between $300 for local anonymous swimmers to $600 for semi-local open identity donors.  I started with the open identity variety and when the funds ran low, switched to the locals.

In six months, I did four cycles.  Clomid and ovidrel were the only meds I used during that time.    Fortunately for me, after six months of trying, and the REs interpretation of my lab results, I was diagnosed as infertile and was able to get up to six more IUIs now covered by insurance with only a co-pay.   This was a huge help as I was now moving onto injectible medications with varying insurance coverage.  I won't bore you with the cost specifics (if you want them, email me) but while I ended up paying out more than my original budget, I'm fairly certain my costs were much less than others.

I plan to be very open with my kids about how they came to be.  That has always been the plan even before I knew how long or how much money it would take to get them here. While I can't say for sure, I hope my openness will help them to accept that while they may not have been conceived the same way their friend who lives up the street was, they were created out of love and want.  And yes, it took some money.  And that's okay. 

Money has been a touchy subject in my family. My brother went through a messy divorce and his ex likes to talk about things like child support with their young children.  He struggles financially and his kids are very aware of that.  It's a burden I don't think their young minds should have.

If my children ask me how much they cost at age 7, (and I hope that they don't), I will try to answer in such a way that takes the focus off of money and more about us as a family.  They'll already know that they don't have a daddy and that many people worked hard to help Mommy have them.  I'll tell them getting pregnant cost a lot but it was worth every penny.  If they press me, I'll compare the cost to something they know we're paying for at the time like, "Lots and lots of soccer camps."  If they ask at age 18, I'll tell them that the process to get pregnant cost more than I had planned but not as much as many families pay.  Instead of a dollar amount, I'll tell them nearly all the money in my savings account at the time.  And remind them how important it is to save money for things you want.

When calculating how much they cost, I include every cycle, every donor sample, every loss, every procedure and every medication from the time I decided to start the process to graduation from the RE to my OB.  I even include the books I bought on becoming a SMC.

I took family building one day a time.  I knew that with each failed cycle or loss, I could be done based on cost but I was fortunate enough that I saved enough to do "one more cycle" -seven more times.  I also imagined I would only have one child and that money would be the reason. When it finally worked, I was sure I wouldn't have the money to go through the process again a few years later.  I feel very lucky (most of the time!) that I had twins and my boys will always have each other.

Visit Write Mind Open Heart for more perspectives on the Dollars and $ense of Family Building and to add your own link to the blog hop by May 1, should you want to contribute your thoughts.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

To My Babies: Volume 3

You're eight months old today!

Little Sweet Potato,

You are such a little flirt! You are especially happy now that your skin is mostly cleared up from the eczema. You smile all the time.  And you are such a chatterbox!!  Everyone loves to hear you "talk"!

Besides pulling off your socks which you've been doing for months, you pull off your bibs now too.  Mommy doesn't mind unless you're eating solid food - then she makes sure to put the bibs on that velcro in the back, not the side.

You just LOVE our kitty.  You get so excited when she comes in the room!  You reach out to pet her and can be a little rough but she tolerates it well.

Rolling over is still not your favorite thing but you'll do it if you need to.  You would much rather sit up on your own and do that pretty well!  Sometimes you tip over onto your side or back but not too often.

Now that the weather is warmer and we are able to get outside, you enjoy watching the cars drive down our street.   

Dearest Dynamo,

You are the one to watch for sure, always moving and rolling right off the playmat.  Mommy has been putting off really childproofing but you remind her often that she needs to do it very soon.

You love Puffs and can even put them in your mouth yourself!  Maybe not every time, but when you concentrate really hard, you manage to get one off the tray of your highchair and put it in your mouth.  Mommy let you try feeding yourself with the spoon once and you managed to get that in your mouth too but when you pulled it out, the food was still on it!  We'll try again soon though.

Waterbabies class is so much fun with you.  You still don't smile a lot while we're there but you're not unhappy.  You just take it all in and like to watch all the people.  You kick and move your arms with Mommy just like you're supposed to.  Next week we're going to try giving you an early dinner before class to see if that brings on the smiles.  

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Crap Week

I've had a crappy week.  To be fair, it started off last Saturday well.  The weather was nice and I was able to get the twins outside....

Then there was a systems issue at work and I had to go in.  The twins went with me.  They were less than thrilled....

Notice the kicking action going on in the back seat?

I spent about an hour in the office and then followed up with about five hours of work from home on Sunday.  Turns out it was all for nothing.  I had to work late Monday and had a mom-moment at work - I cried when I thought I wouldn't be able to put the twins to bed.  It would have been the first time I missed that.  Luckily, I made it by 15 minutes but crying at work?  Not fun.

Tuesday was swim day for me and the Dynamo.  He napped in the morning but not in the afternoon and the class is at 5:25 PM.  He managed okay, only a little fussing and he seemed to enjoy it but was visibly tired.  The worst part of the class was when another little one - I'm guessing about one year old - started crying.  She was not happy and her mother was not helping.  That kid just did not want to be there.  I nearly started crying myself (seriously).  Mom kept trying to get her to participate and I heard the word "naughty" come out of her mouth.  Not my business, I know, but she was unhappy and she's a baby!  Sit on the side for a minute and see if she calms down and if not, take her out of there.  Naughty?  Hardly.  Tired, hungry, scared?  More likely.  It was the first time I had seen them in the class.  They finally left.  That poor kid.

Wednesday may have been the only non-eventful day of the week.

Thursday I found out they created a new position at work and hired someone for it.  This person would be taking over part of my job - a part I enjoy but I do understand and am okay with.  The kicker - she will be working for my boss and WORKING FROM HOME.  She has an eight month-old baby girl. All that crap my boss fed me about company policy?  Apparently it was a line of BS.  And I really like my boss.  To catch you up, I wanted to work from home maybe two days per week.  I would have settled for one day and I would have been happy if he said I could only do it for X number of months.  Give me something.  Show me that you appreciate the 17 years I have put in and all the work from home I ALREADY do - most of which that is above and beyond my job requirements.  Nope.  His reasons included that he was worried about other employees asking to do it, there was no policy in place, and he wanted "his staff" in the office.  I heard about this Thursday right before I left work.  My boss doesn't know that I know.  Friday I called in sick - something I never do.  I have taken so few sick days in my years there that I was able to use three weeks of sick time when I was on maternity leave with more than a week to spare.  I spent Friday morning updating my resume and applied for job online.  It's time.  It's past time.

The twins had a better day than I did on Thursday....


Friday was the first day in a long time where I wasn't working and didn't have to take care of the babies.  I tried sleeping in then spent all morning on my resume and cover letter.  I have a long list of things to do that I can't ever do, that still didn't get done.  So much for that extra eight hours.   I did run a few errands but the laundry, spring cleaning, yard work and spring/winter clothes sorting are still on the agenda.

The babies didn't nap well on Friday - the Dynamo napped about for about a half-hour in the morning and that was it.  He was tired and miserable all day and was a bear to put down for the night.  He slept straight through - eleven hours without a peep - but Sweet Potato had one of those up every two-ish hours night.

Which brings us to today, Saturday.  May it be the end of the crap week.  Despite the awful weather, so far, so good.


Sweet Potato

the Dynamo

Friday, April 8, 2011

Ungrateful Indeed

And then Grandma sends me an email like this one:

"They both woke up a bit ago and both fussy, so I changed Sweet Potato's diaper upstairs and put him on the floor while I got the Dynamo.  I changed his diaper and put him on the floor next to Sweet Potato and finished dressing him.  Well the Dynamo was crying so Sweet Potato put his hand on the Dynamo's face as though to make him feel better.  He was talking and putting his hand on his brother's face.  And Sweet Potato has started placing his hand on his forehead as though he is contemplating the world's woes.  He was doing that at lunch and I said oh poor baby and he just looked at me.  He didn't cry, just was so serious that I started to laugh out loud.  The Dynamo laughed with me.  Sweet Potato just kept looking at me as though I was so uncaring. So cute."

Yeah, I likely wouldn't get play by plays from anyone else.  And I never use the twins' nicknames outside of this blog.  I edited the email message. 

Ungrateful Daughter?

My mom watches the twins at my house three days per week while I am at work.  Among other things, she will make my coffee, feed the cat, do the twins' laundry, make my bed, and wash baby bowls and bottles*.  Many nights she helps me put the twins down and will entertain one while I bathe the other.  She'll stay until I get the Dynamo down - he usually goes to bed about thirty minutes before Sweet Potato - and then she goes home.  I pay her one-third of what it would cost if I had them in daycare or had my other babysitter watching them instead.

She's a huge help.  I'm really lucky to have her.  I'm not sure I could afford childcare if I didn't have her.

That being said, she's starting to tick me off.

When I was pregnant and we discussed her babysitting the twins, I had a few concerns.  Mainly they stemmed from my lack of experience with babies and from their to-be-determined temperaments.  I wasn't sure how hard they would be to handle for one person both emotionally and physically.  She wanted to watch them five days per week.  She would quit her part-time job (she's 72 years-old, retired, and still working part-time at a supermarket) and work for me full-time.  I knew I didn't want that.  I wanted most of her time with the twins to be "Grandma time" - fun and not work.  I wanted this for them and for her.  I also feared she would undermine some of my decisions when it came to caring for them.  Don't get me wrong - she raised three kids on her own and I value her experience.  But Grandma has a strong personality.  And she's (how do I say this nicely?) -not always open to other opinions.  We discussed my concerns and settled on her babysitting a few days per week to start.  If it was too much, we would adjust the schedule.

Up until recently, it's been really good.  There have been some minor disagreements here and there but for the most part she has deferred to me when it came to baby decisions.  And lucky for me, the twins are pretty easy going.  With the exception of the Dynamo's witching hour phase during month three (note: earlier bedtime!), I think I've been pretty lucky.

The issues have been two biggies for infants: feeding and sleeping.

Feedings:  Gram has gone with me to every well-child visit except one.  At the last two visits, she's heard the pediatrician say, "Wait three to four days before introducing new foods."  While I know this may not be necessary, I'm doing it.  Especially with Sweet Potato's skin issues.  Not only did she hear the doc say it, I would remind her -at breakfast.  What would she do?  Give them something new -for breakfast! when they just had something new the day before.  When she would tell me what they ate and I would remind her of our chat, she would say she forgot.  Or she misunderstood.  I would repeat the conversation from the doctor and ask her if she understood (nicely, I swear) and she would get defensive (typical) and say something like, "Yes. I'm not an idiot."  I let it go.

This week on Tuesday and Wednesday, the twins had a first time food - a combo jar of pears and raspberries with their cereal.  Sweet Potato's eczema looked a little worse to me.  I wondered out loud if the berries had something to do with it.  Then I said we should wait to give them the apple-strawberry-banana mixed tub** for a few days because of the strawberries - they've never had them.  What did she do yesterday?  Take out the A-S-B mix for breakfast.  Grrrr.  I caught it before I left work and took out plain bananas.  When I asked her about it she said thought she picked up bananas.  I would have been okay with that until she added, "I didn't check." You didn't check?  YOU DIDN'T CHECK?  How can you not check?

Yesterday before breakfast Grandma was feeding Sweet Potato his morning bottle.  She started to tell me a story and as she told it, pulled the bottle out of his mouth, never looking at him as she spoke.  He began to move his arms and motion towards the bottle and squeak a little.  I interrupted and pointed this out.  She got pissed and stopped talking.  She gave him back the bottle, which in all honesty, he was nearly done with, and when I asked her to continue her story she said, "Nevermind.  It wasn't important."  To which I replied, "They are always going to come first.  I will interrupt you every time.  That's not going to change."  And it's not just story telling - it's the TV, the computer, the phone.  She focuses on those things when I think she should be focusing on them.  Does she neglect them?  Never.  Would Sweet Potato make it known if he was really hungry.  You bet.  I don't care.  Pay attention to them.

Onto sleeping:  The Dynamo is a great crib sleeper.  Naps, nighttime, he's a fan of the crib.  Momma is a fan of this!  Sweet Potato?  Not a fan of the crib.  Before this week, I was getting up with Sweet Potato usually three times at night.  Once before midnight and then twice before dawn.  After a really rough night where he was up about every two hours, I decided enough was enough.  Tuesday and Wednesday night I let him CIO***.  And it's been working.

Naps in the crib were coming along with Sweet Potato not lasting as long as the Dynamo, but getting there.  Naps in the cribs for both babies has been happening twice a day AT THE SAME TIME (Yay!) for a couple of weeks with a stray off day here and there.  Yesterday Sweet Potato fell asleep in the swing.  Grandma carried him upstairs, laid him in the crib where he woke up and began to fuss  -typical Sweet Potato behavior.  She thought he "looked pitiful" so she PICKED HIM UP and brought him back downstairs.  Ugh.  She told me this in an email.  It's a good thing there were computers and miles between us.  I wrote her back and told her if I have to let him cry at night (something she agrees with), she has to do it during the day.  And that she would have been better off leaving him in the swing than laying him in the crib only to pick him up when he cries.  I feel like she's undoing some of my hard work.  And if you've done any type of CIO, you know it's hard work!

Fortunately for me, no damage was done.  Sweet Potato fussed a little last night around 9 PM, I tried to give him a bottle which he refused (rare), he went back to sleep in the crib after a few cries and didn't make a peep until 5:15 this morning!  I left him with his occasion chatter for about an hour.  (Dynamo sleeps through Sweet Potato's cries every night.  I am soooo lucky.)

Am I over-reacting?  Probably.  Part of the reason for this blog is that I get to vent, irrational or not, and get feedback from those who have been there.  I know how lucky I am in so many ways but this could be just the tip of the iceberg as the twins grow up.  I sure hope not.

*These things are an enormous help to me and she does them without me asking.  That being said, it would be okay with me if she did fewer chores and played with the twins more.
** While I admit to purchasing the combo jar of pears and raspberries, the apple-strawberry-banana tubs came in a variety box of baby food.  I'm going to purchase individual flavors for awhile so I can pick and choose.

 ***My version of CIO is letting them fuss and yell but not really cry. When they sound like they are crying enough to make tears, I go get them. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

MeAndBaby Bits

  • I've decided to be a little more private and stop using the little ones' real names here.  It'll take me awhile to update old posts but from now on Baby A will be known as Sweet Potato and Baby B will be known as the Dynamo.  Sweet Potato and the Dynamo:  my little men.  :)
  • The Dynamo (okay not the easiest name to type) and I had our first swim class last week.  Class #2 is tonight.  I think he enjoyed it.  At the very least, he didn't hate it.  He looked around the whole time and was very interested in watching the lifeguard.  (Mommy was not as interested as the lifeguard looked to be about 12 years old.  Come on Universe: you couldn't give me some hot college-aged guy to look at?)  There were sing-a-longs in the class and I felt like a slacker being the only one who didn't know the lyrics.  I mean if they could only sing "The Wheels On The Bus", I'd be golden.
  • We finally had some warmer weather this past week.  I was able to get the twins outside!  They had a stroller ride around the neighborhood and enjoyed some tummy time on a blanket in the back yard.  They weren't as thrilled about these events as Mommy was.  But then this was their first winter and is their first spring.  They don't know any better.
  • Sweet Potato's eczema is getting harder to manage.  The steroid ointment worked for a few days and then stopped working and then we would take a break from it and then try it again and it would work for a few days and then stop working. The pediatrician wrote a script for an emollient foam that my usually pretty-good insurance company would not cover because the FDA has deemed it "ineffective."  Way to go, Doc.  It's a two and a-half week wait to get in with the dermatologist and my poor little man can't stop scratching his face and head -especially at night.  Loading up on Eucerin and Aquphor is helping a little.   And he remains a pretty happy guy.  I'm thankful for that.