Monday, September 26, 2016

TTC in the Rearview Mirror: Reflections on Infertility After 15 Months of Parenting

During the five years we tried to get pregnant, I had a lot of time to wonder what life "after" infertility would look like. I suspected that I would still feel infertile, that finally having children wouldn't be able to heal all of the pain or rewrite the part of my brain that identifies as infertile.

Now, as we celebrate the two year anniversary of our successful embryo transfer (September 25!), I have a little bit of distance on our childless time and felt like doing a little introspection on what has changed and what hasn't over the past two years since transfer and over the past 15 months since delivering our miracle twins. 

The biggest change, of course: My days are now filled with the giggling and squawking of toddler twins. I can't say for sure that I appreciate them more than I would've had we not fought for them for so long, but I can definitely promise that they are loved and treasured with all their parents' hearts. I'm not lonely during the day (although a little adult conversation is always appreciated), and I don't have that echoing silence taunting me that the house we bought to raise children in was well-below capacity. In no way do I feel like something or someone is missing from my life. 

I no longer cry at happy commercials with babies in them, and Carter's is no longer my least favorite place in the world. I remember a time when a friend took me shopping to cheer me up after a couple of IVF setbacks, and ended up dragging me through Carter's looking for gifts for the baby they had "adopted" from a tree for Christmas. I went home in a worse depression than before. Then this showed up in my TimeHop this morning... that was a switch that was thrown pretty quickly once I was "safely" pregnant. Now I can't get enough of the tiny baby things! 

Pregnancy announcements on social media... those can still be a little tricky.  There are times when I don't believe the parents will be good parents, or when someone has a baby younger than ours and is pregnant AGAIN, or honestly, some days when I have a hard time with it for no reason at all other than that I have emotional scars from our experiences. However... I did get to go to my first baby shower since we had our twins, and had an absolute blast and was unreservedly thrilled for the momma and daddy <3 (Hi other Katie!!)  I knew they'd be awesome parents, but before we had our kids, it still would've been difficult to go to a shower for anyone. So that does get better!

I still struggle with things I see that overly fetishize parenthood.  The same memes, commercials, trite sayings that hurt me before having babies still make me angry.  Yes, you CAN know real love without having children. As someone with children, let me assure you... I knew real love before them. But that may be another whole post for another time! ;-) There are so many similarly stupid things people like to say about how parenting is the most important thing you can do, etc... still obnoxious, and they always make me so sad for the infertile 1 in 8 who are also reading or hearing those things. 

Bad parenting still makes me livid. Nothing can put me through the roof faster than seeing someone mistreat their child. I always think, "THEY probably didn't have to try like we did. THEY probably got pregnant easily. I know SO MANY people who would cherish those angels if they'd been able to conceive them."  It isn't fair, and I can feel my BP and the color in my face rising, so I'm moving on to a new paragraph. Ugh.

I still remember the pain we went through in great detail, but almost in more academic terms.  I'm almost detached from it. I remember a Katie who stayed in bed some days, sobbing.  I remember what that felt like, the sucking empty feeling in her chest, but I no longer feel that pain. When I see someone else struggling, I can feel instant compassion and empathy, because I remember, but I can also immerse myself in supporting them because the FEELING doesn't threaten to overwhelm me anymore. I vividly remember how it felt, but I no longer feel it. That, I think, is the best surprising change I've noted, and a sign that there is healing on the other side. 

I reached out to a couple of my other infertile friends in the blog world, to ask what differences they've noticed since becoming parents, too.

Stephanie at The Joy Parade says about parenting after recurrent miscarriages, "Before my boys were born, I had a lot of "when I'm a mom I will NEVERs." I channeled so much of my grief and my jealousy into judging so many different parenting choices I saw as somehow taking for granted the gift of motherhood - and I didn't even realize I was doing it. I spent the first year of my first sons life desperately trying to be the perfect mother, because I felt like I had to be adequately grateful for the miracle of children. Once I let go of all those years of expectation and the pressure I was putting on myself, it was so much easier to stop judging other moms as well, and to permanently let go of all my "I would nevers" once and for all."

Kayleigh at Oh Ginger Snap and her husband decided to pursue adoption through the foster care system, and has this to say about that decision, "This choice isn't for everyone, and we could have continued to work through our fertility struggle. However, we truly feel that is not God's plan for us at this point in our life's. We have a very long road in front of us that will not be easy, but we also have a huge support system that could not be more excited to walk this road with us. It has taken us a very long time to realize God's plan, but if this process has taught me one thing, it is just have faith. He will prevail and he has a greater plan for you and me than we could ever imagine. We just have to be willing to walk that blind journey with him.

Jenna from Seasoned Sprinkles says, "Now that I am a parent after a miscarriage and a loss, I find patience I didn't know existed. Days when my daughter drives me crazy with constant clinginess or tantrums, I remember no matter how spent I am, I would rather be frustrated by my now toddler rather than be frustrated by my overwhelming sadness and desire to have a child to frustrate me."

And a sweet IVF friend of mine shared this thought that she really connected with, shortly after the birth of her miracle son, and I decided it needed the meme treatment. ;-)  

With a couple of years of parenting under my belt, I still feel like an infertile girl. I'm still committed to encouraging my infertile sisters and raising awareness for the medical and emotional issues that come along with an infertility diagnosis.  I haven't forgotten you, my sweet friends in the waiting. I pray for you constantly <3

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Stuffing a Stocking with Groupon Goods

[[This blog has been compensated by Groupon.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]]

We had to run into a store last night to make a quick return, and while Ethan handled that, Momma and babies ran off in search of a bathroom. On our way there, I noticed that they were starting to put up their Christmas section.  It wasn't even a craft store (where supplies for Christmas crafts go up in July because festival season starts in October and professional crafters need to have their inventories ready), but like... a normal store. 

OMG you guys, Christmas is coming up SO SOON!  I'm brainstorming Halloween costumes now, then once I'm done with those, it's Thanksgiving dinner time, then the whirlwind of Christmas gatherings and tasks starts. Whew.  I always feel like the last third of the year just WHOOSHES right by me.

I like to start on Christmas shopping as early as possible. We budget for the season with a separate account that we pay into from every pay check, so we can start making purchases as we see things we think our loved ones will enjoy. But, despite these plans... I inevitably end up scrambling to finish things right at the deadlines.  One of these things that I always always always have trouble finishing is filling Ethan's stocking. (Santa fills kid stockings, parents fill each other's.  Of course.) 
For stockings, I like to do small things that are quirky and/or useful, and I like to stick to a pretty small budget for it.  Usually, the "big" gift is wrapped separately and under the tree.  One place I have been able to consistently find good quality, inexpensive, and fun gifts has been Groupon Goods.
Did you know Groupon isn't just for tickets or restaurant discounts? Their "Goods" section has great discounts on THOUSANDS of fun products for everyone on your list. In fact, as I was scrolling through it just now, I found something I'll probably order for Ethan, something for our niece, my Papa's favorite cologne, aaaaand maybe a thing or two I need. Plus a water filter for our freezer (which, while not necessarily a great gift, is something I'm always glad to save money on!). Just on the first couple of pages!! Go dig through for yourself, let me know what awesomeness you find!

(And don't worry - if they're surprises for someone, I'll keep the secret, haha!)

(A word of caution, though - I was not anticipating stumbling across all of the "adults only" items. If you don't want your eyes bugging out of your head, your cheeks turning bright magenta, or your innocence getting a little bruised, you may want to use some filters or more targeted category searches.)

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Sick Day Rehydrating Gelatin

There has been an icky, unwelcome guest hanging out at the Hodge house lately, bringing with him the need for ER visits, lots of drugs, a liquid diet, and conscious effort to stay well-hydrated.  Ugh.

I have had precious little energy left for blogging, but I wanted to pop in real quickly today with a handy little tip for sick days like these.

G2 (the lower calorie, lower sugar drink from Gatorade) is my secret weapon when I'm sick.  It has helped me avoid serious complications and ICU stays when my blood sugar is out of whack, simply by not letting dehydration get out of control. :-) 

And flavored gelatin has long been associated with hospital food and liquid diets.  Our favorites around here are any of the red/pink ones (lol!) and orange.  Such a great comfort food for sore throats and upset stomachs.  

I like changing up my gelatin in fun little ways, so with this persistent little bug that has moved in with us, I decided to combine these two sick day powerhouses.  :-)

An hour or two before you're ready to make your gelatin, pop a bottle of G2 in the freezer.  You don't want it frozen, but well-chilled.  Slightly slushy is even better.   
Boil the water and mix in the gelatin powder as usual. Then instead of adding cold water, add in the same amount of cold G2.  Chill gelatin as directed.  :-) 

G2's favors are light (making them gentle on upset stomachs), so they won't change the flavor immensely.  I mixed fruit punch with cherry gelatin and can barely tell a difference.  There are lots of potentially fun flavor combinations to try though! Maybe lemon-lime G2 with lemon gelatin?  Grape on grape would make my husband's day. :-) 

I haven't tried it myself, but I would imagine other "-alyte" beverages, intended for children, could be used this way, too. I know some kids aren't big fans, so this would be a fun and tasty way to sneak in some extra electrolytes ;-) Someone out there try it and leave me a comment, let me know how it goes, okay? 

What are some of your favorite ways to stick to a liquid diet?  I'm running out of ideas for things that aren't broth or applesauce. ;-) Although my bestie reminded me last night that sherbet counts... woohoo!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Book Review: December Caravan by Rebecca VanDeMark

One of my new favorite things to do as a blogger is participate in book launches.  I love reading, and I admire anyone who is willing to pour so much of their time and hearts into writing a book.  Writing my own book is on my 30 by 30 list, and while that's one of the more far-fetched items on my list, I hope to accomplish it someday. It's an honor to support and encourage those brave souls who've made the formidable leap from "someday" to published. :-)

Never has it been more an honor, though, than this most recent book I've helped to launch, December Caravan, written by my dear friend and personal hero, Rebecca VanDeMark.  

Rebecca is a normal girl with normal girl stories. What makes this book powerful is her extraordinary reaction to these normal girl problems. She meets each challenge - heartbreak, longing, fear, pain - with grace, faith, and wisdom.  I so admire this about her, and she sets a sterling example for those of us who struggle to make sense of our own trials.  
Through her retelling of her stories, she explores the idea of hidden blessings, draws parallels to scripture, and wrestles with "why," while weaving strings of hope and peace throughout. This ability is one of the things about her that makes her an extraordinary friend to have, and I love that she is able to show a larger audience this quality, and in effect become the patient and wise best friend of everyone who reads her book. 
Maybe you haven't been through the exact same experiences Rebecca has, but chances are, you've been through something similar and will recognize yourself in her stories. If you're struggling to process the struggles of your normal girl life, check out December Caravan and be inspired by how a normal girl finds the "extraordinary" in her normal circumstances and turns them into a force for good.

Rebecca is offering bulk/group discounts if you'd like to use December Caravan as a study book for a book club, youth girls study, retreats, etc. :-)  I would love to see tons of teen girls learning from Rebecca's beautiful example all over this country!  Finding hope and strength in normal girl struggle is such an important skill, and I believe it is one that needs modeled and taught as opposed to being innate.  :-)  And really, isn't it a skill we can all stand to develop a little more? 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

10 Awesome Tote Bags for Moms, by Moms

My secret mom weapon of organization is tote bags :-)  I love having designated totes for all of my roles... my current diaper bag is a tote bag, and I have another bag containing things we need for taking the babies out to eat, one for taking to meetings or work days for my twin mom club's newsletter, one I can carry my blogging necessities in, and a bunch more for organizing travel (entertainment, road food, quick changes of clothes).

I also love supporting small businesses, so I've rounded up some of my favorite totes from online small businesses! Funny, clever, beautiful... and of course, super-practical!

Awesome Totes and Bags... for moms, by moms.
  1. PinkPigPrinting - Random Crap 
  2. Ringopie- Zipper tote.  The bow and trim at the top of this tote are made of zipper, and SO cute!
  3. Lemons and Limes Boutique - This boutique is owned by a twin mom friend of mine, and she carries adorable bags and really pretty jewelry :-) This "Large Package" bag is wide open and roomy, but others in the line have lots of pockets and organizing.
  4. Emerson Grace Boutique - #MomLife large zipper tote.  This one is a little closer to a duffel bag, but I'm still counting it because it's cute and "graphic" and the zipper makes it even more versatile :-)
  5. Mom Life Must Haves - This is my current diaper bag :-) And I love that it puts my standard answer to one of the most-made twin comments to me, right on the outside of my bag. ;-)  My hands may be full, but so is my heart!  (ALSO!! This is currently out of stock, but she'll restock eventually.  You can use code "alwayskatie" in her shop for 10% off your order, too!)
  6. Aria Paperie - For all the Target-loving moms out there :-)  I'm not *as* drawn to Target as a lot of my mom friends are, but there was definitely a little bit of that obsession that came with the postpartum hormones :-) 
  7. Click and Blossom - Mamarazzi tote.  Perfect for those of us constantly chasing our kids around with cameras.  This shop has lots of bags more oriented toward photography, too, so if that's your passion, check the others out, too!
  8. Heart of Life Design - Wonderful, important reminder, right on your bag! :-) 
  9. Get the Party Started - Haha!  This is so me... ;-) 
  10. Romantic Southern - This shop is where I got my Momma Bear tee shirt, and this bag matches the graphic on it. Fun!  And so rare to find "momma" spelled the way I prefer it, haha!
There ya go!  Ten of the awesomest bags the internet has to offer!  Happy shopping! ;-) 

What's your secret organizing weapon? Anybody else as obsessed with totes as I am?

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