If you’re reading this, you probably have a pre-existing condition

And, if the TrumpCare repeal of ObamaCare is approved tomorrow in Congress, your state may be able to allow insurance companies to charge you more or even deny you coverage for it.

Many people in the US population suffer from health concerns that can be classified as pre-existing conditions: asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, heart disease, and yes, even pregnancy and infertility.  Unlike our Mullerian anomalies, which are congenital (meaning we were born with them), some of these pre-existing conditions may have come about from environmental conditions – such as secondhand smoke or contaminated water – or from personal choices one has made – such as smoking or those supersized fries.  Sometimes cancer or heart disease happens to the “healthiest” people.

I’m not going to let someone turn me into a nameless number and decide I don’t deserve coverage because my parents smoked in the car.

I’m not going to stand by while children with neuroblastoma or leukemia awaiting expensive treatments like chemotherapy are told they can’t get life-saving treatment because they can’t afford the premiums, were placed in a high-risk pool and priced out of coverage.

I’m asking you to call your representatives and find out where they stand on this latest TrumpCare bill.  If they are opposed, thank them for protecting your right to affordable coverage.  If they support TrumpCare, tell them about your pre-existing condition and why it’s important to you – and your (potential) family – that pre-existing conditions continue to be fully protected under any new healthcare law.

You might also want to find out where the $600 billion in tax breaks in the law are going – and how lawmakers intend on making up for that $600 billion deficit?

Need to find your representative?  Here’s an easy finder.

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My 100th post… It’s a girl!

I am proud to announce the birth of my dearest daughter, who proved once again a little uu can go a long way.

Born via c-section and weighing a whopping (for me) 8 lbs 1 oz, 19.5 inches (the exact same length as her brother), my daughter is a beautiful way to celebrate this blog’s 100th post, springtime, Easter, and to give hope to women TTC everywhere.

Her birth was scheduled since the kids are too close together to do a vbac safely (at least according to my doctor) and I scheduled it for the 39th week. No complications with the pregnancy; her growth was normal and on track, so I didn’t have any big restrictions. A great pregnancy for a great little girl!

Happy New Year!

So I rang in the New Year sober, thanks to my little girl (yes, that’s right, it’s a girl!) whose growth in my UU has been ticking along right on target all these week.  And as my houseguests and DH indulged in glass of wine after glass of wine, or beer after beer, they looked at me with a half-pitying smile and said, “Poor Hope… another New Years sober.”  I don’t like being pitied because I’m pregnant.  I don’t like being pitied for any reason, in fact.

But the truth was, I couldn’t even remember if the 2011-2012 New Years celebration was a sober one for me, either.  Or if the one before that, 2010-2011, was.  They all started to blur together in my mind, especially as the reality of impending infertility began to rear its ugly head.  I think I might have let my guard down three years ago and had a drink or two.  And while many people find New Year’s an occasion to become the reveler you see in movies – doing shot after shot, playing music too loud, getting dressed up in the dead of winter and never wearing a coat – the sadness of my failure as a woman overrode the desire to get a buzz.  Like many other holidays – Christmas especially – it was a somber reminder of the potential memories I would never have: kids falling asleep waiting for the ball to drop, or kids waking me up in their little nightgowns and footie pajamas to tell me it was the new year, or just kids to be thankful for.

I didn’t wake up my son for the celebration of the new year.  I am too protective of his sleep patterns to allow that kind of disruption to take place, but also he’s really blissfully unaware of the meaning of days.  There will come a time he’ll want me to let him stay up.  Instead, I welcomed the new year with a new appreciation of the man my husband has become, to watch him as a father.  I marveled at the family that I thought I would never have – and at the new family member to join us this year – and wondered how I got to be so lucky after what I thought was a dead end.

The secret lives of moms: Mall shopping

Now that my son is a little bit older, he’s slightly more portable.  Though he still eats every three hours, if I time things just right I can make it to the mall and back without too much of a meltdown.  He takes a long early-afternoon nap so any trip to the mall must be done before it or after it.  Snacks help too.

I’ve begun to notice, from the few times I’ve made it to the mall, that there are two different types of weekday mall moms.  There are moms like me, who are out with the kid(s) and no other support.  And there are moms out with their kids and another adult, like grandma or a friend.  Moms like me walk fairly quickly throughout the mall: we know we are on a time-limit and we were lucky to get out of the house looking somewhat put together.  Moms with support are more relaxed, walk slower, and give me pitiful looks.  “Look at that poor, lonely mom.  Man, it’s a production getting to the mall on your own with a kid!”  I feel it every time.

But apparently there is an unspoken bond among moms like me, who have the courage to go it alone in public.  Like motorcyclists who give each other the low left-hand air 5 secret signal when they pass each other on the road, moms like me give a little smile and head nod.  It’s a mutual acknowledgement of the sheer strength – if not madness – it takes to make it to the mall and enjoy yourself.  Because let’s face it – the mall is for mommy, is it not?  It’s a relic of the carefree spending days, of the days spent looking for the perfect dress.  Those days may still exist – they just have a little different shadow to them.  A mom pooch, a mom bag, a mom budget – whatever the case is, the mall holds for it the promise that you are still yourself, maybe even better for the chatterbox trying to pull things off the shelves from the stroller seat.

Maybe I’m projecting towards the moms-with-friends with a little bit of jealousy.  It’s always nice to have extra hands on deck, and I wish I had that whenever I wanted it.  I wish I could either fit into my skinny jeans again or at least not feel guilty enough to splurge on a new pair.  I wish I could look cute at the mall again, not just presentable.  But moms-with-friends don’t give you a smile.  They don’t give you the head nod.  They just size your kid up (as you size theirs up), then size you up, and keep walking.  And all I can do is vow to be a little bit more forgiving if I’m ever lucky enough to be in their shoes.

The woman I’ve warned you about is me

I’ve had lots of curious recent discoveries into the world of infertilite mommyhood that I thought I would have been able to avoid, given my own story and situation.  But as I stared into the face of my sister-in-law as we walked through a children’s consignment sale during her 7th month of pregnancy, I realized that I had become my own worst nightmare.  I was the woman with the horror stories about giving birth.  I was the woman who thought it was better to give you the reality check than the comforting words you need to hear.  And I thought I was doing it all for the right reasons.

As it turns out, my advice is probably best suited for only other infertilites.  Although I was aware that my SIL had been told by her doctor she’d never be able to have kids, I didn’t know why and I never asked.  I knew she was devastated at the time, and as such, was (presumably) really psyched to actually be pregnant given her infertilite status.  She’s a very go-with-the-flow kind of free spirit, so I let her lead the way with questions for most of her pregnancy and I avoided mothering her too much.  I was proud of myself for having gotten this far, knowing that along her pregnancy she had some complications of her own – too much amniotic fluid, the baby grew very large, and she kept getting dehydrated.  So when it came time for some SIL-bonding at the sale, I took the opportunity to make sure she was more prepared than I was for the time of the birth.

This was an unfortunate mistake, however.  Because as it turns out, the advice that I have for someone who is pregnant isn’t really relevant for the majority of moms-to-be.  I had biweekly non-stress tests.  The doctors and midwives joked my baby would glow in the dark I had so many ultrasounds, because he didn’t grow to average size.  And I had a baby in the breech position with no chance of even squeezing out a natural birth.  Add in to the equation a few other factors, like the small size of my baby, my passing out hours after the c-section, my lack of labor pains (and them being back labor pains when I did have them all of two times), and my difficulty with breastfeeding, and you’ve got yourself a nightmare for a new mom-to-be.  Yikes!

So, yes, I told her all of these things…  mostly because she asked and was curious, and wanted to know what all of it was like.  But nearly every statement I said had to be qualified or dismissed with something like, “But that’s just because he was breech,” or “That’s just me, that’s not the normal experience.”  And with every piece of advice I could give, other than stocking up on sanitary pads, I became increasingly aware of how awful I must sound and how unhelpful it really was.  She really had no chance of having half the difficulties I did, so why bother scaring her with them?

Now that she’s had the baby, who was born a week after her due date, she’s remained just as relaxed about motherhood as you could imagine a free spirit being.  She’s had no troubles breastfeeding, her baby was a whopping 9 pounds, and she had to be induced.  After 24 hours of labor that went nowhere, the doctors gave her the option for a c-section and she took it.  Realizing how exhausting it had been for me to recover from that surgery – and mine was blissfully scheduled and relaxed, not preceded by a day of labor – my husband and I waited two full days before visiting in the hospital (unlike the rest of the family).  I don’t see a trace of shell-shock in her face, as I imagine mine was full of, and I keep my mouth shut about the aftermath of giving birth.  I nod as I listen because the first few weeks with a newborn are a universal period of unconditional love and personal sacrifice, and we all can relate to that.

In the meantime, I’ll be keeping my stories to myself until the day comes when someone who truly needs to know, for her own health, asks.  And, of course, to all of you – because you wouldn’t be reading my blog unless you hadn’t already wondered.

You need to read this magazine

My local library branch is small.  The building it’s in is basically a small modular ranch home; when you enter there is a small bedroom-sized space with all the book stacks, fiction and non-fiction.  The main part of the building is open, with four cushy chairs for seating in a circle, four computers for public use, magazine racks, and the circulation desk.  To the far left, with the highest ceiling and widest space, is the children’s section of the library, with a small desk with crayons on one side and a wooden alligator filled with board-books on the other.  What the library doesn’t have in books it makes up for in two important ways: one, the ability to have books from any other regional library delivered to this library when available; two, a great magazine selection.

Consumer Reports, Real Simple, Martha Stewart Living… ah yes, this is what dreams are made of.   Issues available for the loaning for two weeks, all free and within five miles of my home.  It was on one of these days thumbing through Consumer Reports for phone reviews a few years ago when I noticed the magazine placed next to it.  Brain, Child was the name.  The tagline: The magazine for thinking mothers.  I gave a half-smile, thinking, “Oh good, there will be a magazine to keep my brain from turning to mush when I have kids.”  I was still blissfully ignorant of how difficult of a time I would have becoming a mother at the time, and I tucked away the knowledge of a magazine I had never heard of before into that place where I save trivia for a rainy day.

Last summer, several months pregnant, I happily checked out my first issue of Brain, Child for a 12-hour car ride.  And within minutes of opening the pages, I was crushed: this issue was going to be the last.  I thought It figures, the minute I get close to becoming a mother one thing I looked forward to is taken away.  I read the magazine sad with my knowledge.  I guess there isn’t a market for thinking mothers.

Fast-forward to a few weeks ago.  Now that my son is no longer a ball of instinctual and evolutionary responses and is gasp! learning things daily, I am making more of an effort to give him purposeful activities.  This would include Saturday morning story hour at the library.  While waiting for other children to arrive, we wandered over to look at the magazines and lo and behold, Brain, Child was there on the shelf.  I thought they must have been saving the old issues for posterity.  But no, the date said “Summer 2013.”  Wait a minute, I thought.  Was this an episode of baby brain where I had completely missed the message?  I grabbed the oldest magazine there – Winter 2013 – and brought it home.

Turns out the magazine did end, but not long after someone had come along to purchase the magazine and keep it up and going.  The new owner/editor, Marcelle Soviero, was a reader who, like me, couldn’t let the deliciousness of the magazine slip away – and I am so grateful she took the leap to keep it alive.

You need to read this magazine, especially if you are an infertilite, but it’s not going to be easy for you.  Every poem, article, essay, and letter is written by a mother.  But every poem, article, essay, and letter is moving and impactful and considers different perspectives on what it means to be a mother, and what it means to have a family.  The Winter 2013 issue alone hears the voices of women who’ve had miscarriages, who are searching for egg donors, who are foster-cum-adoptive parents, who are infertile.  And I have cried at their stories, able to know exactly what they mean and so grateful they were brutally honest about their thoughts, emotions, experiences.  Brutally honest.  But underneath it all, every story is written by a “mother” in however way that means for her.  Unlike other pregnancy or parenting magazines which focus on what chic stroller you should buy or the latest in teething biscuits, this magazine gets to the root of discovering what it means to be a mother.  The decisions you make on behalf of your children and how you think through those; the emotions of reproductive endocrinologist waiting rooms and their travertine floors; understanding teenage neuroscience…  It’s all peacefully co-existing in the pages of one relatively-ad-free (there are a few) judgement-free magazine.

You won’t find this magazine easy to find.  There are no beautiful cover models.  The cover story of this issue is “Playing God? Do kids really need religion?” and beneath that, “Babies and BMI: How big is too big?”  Those headlines fall below the main water color painting on the issue of two red-brown owls with large magnetic black eyes.  But if you let yourself listen to these women and take the time to hear their stories, you’ll find that not only are you not alone but that there is hope for you too.

Go, now.  http://www.brainchildmag.com or @brainchildmag.

The infertilite marriage and divorce

When I got married, one of my vows was “to accept children lovingly” into my life.  I saw that on paper and cringed.  I was 26 and I didn’t want kids.  I thought kids trapped you, wrecked your body, sucked your bank account, turned your life into one full of mom-jeans and sensible flats, tripping over Tonka trucks and Legos and other endlessly messy toys strewn about.  When I repeated that vow on my wedding day six years ago, a voice inside me screamed, “Eeek!  No, I don’t!  No, I don’t!

A year later my niece arrived and she only reinforced my beliefs about children.  She was exhausting to babysit.  She never stopped crying.  She didn’t sleep anywhere but in your bed.  She played with loud toys that she left everywhere.  I didn’t see the joy in parenting.  That and I felt completely incompetent as a woman around her, unable to read her cues or understand her needs.  I never really babysat anyone before – a hazard of being among the youngest in the extended family – so I didn’t even really know how to change a diaper.

Meanwhile, my husband started saying weird things, like, “Wouldn’t it be fun to have four squirts?”  He was loving my niece and I was jealous he was so good with her (he being the oldest had a lot of experience raising kids).  But mostly we had these conversations playfully, to the point where we’d start categorizing activities as “things we couldn’t do with squirts.”  And every year we were married, he came down on his number of squirts.  And every year, I started moving more in his direction, particularly as both of our careers stabilized (though nothing is really stable in this economy).  Kids didn’t seem like a sentence anymore.  And I reached a point in my life when I found myself asking, “There’s got to be something more.”  I sensed a gap in my life that I knew would not be filled by experiences or things.  And that’s when we started trying to conceive.

That was three years ago, three years into our marriage and seven years into our relationship.  My husband and I are now wrapping our minds around the fact we’ve been together for ten years… but we’re also watching friends’ and families’ marriages fall apart.  And falling apart in part because of the baby question.

The average U.S. first marriage lasts 8 years, and the second lasts 10 years.  So our friends who married in their early to mid-20s are starting to divorce.  In two of the most recent cases I know about, babies and infertility are chief among the sticking points.  In one couple, the wife’s sisters and mother have all been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and have experienced heart-wrenching and life-threatening complications in the last two years.  No doubt the fear of having your opportunity to have children kicks your biological clock into high gear…  but her husband didn’t reciprocate the feeling.  Another couple discovered some minor complications while trying to conceive, and as a result the husband wants to talk about their options for growing their family and the wife doesn’t want to deal with it.  Both couples are now separated, and guess what?  They were both married for eight years.

When I tell people this story they ask, “Wouldn’t they have talked about kids before getting married?”  Sure, that’s what you’re supposed to do.  You’re supposed to talk about your finances and spending habits, your expectations for living together, your hesitations about each others’ families, your values, your ideas about having a family (or not).  But even if you did that, sometimes circumstances change your mind.  You lose your job, you travel abroad, your family moves away, you develop an allergy to cats, you find out you’re an infertilite.  And sometimes a couple can recover from that fundamental change and sometimes they can’t.

Being an infertilite alone is hard work enough.  When you are with a partner, it will challenge the foundation of your relationship.  You will have many long tearful conversations.  You will both feel pulled in so many different directions, and sometimes those directions are polar opposites.  You both deal with the stigma and with the difficult conversations with the outside world.  Focus on the love you share for each other to help you dig in.  Be honest.  Listen unconditionally.  Withhold your judgment.  Get a professional to help you communicate if that’s what you need.  We’ve all been there.  You are not alone.