She’s Here!

Well, she wasn’t as early as our first Baby Frugalista (who was five weeks premature), but our second little miss arrived at 37.5 weeks in the same exact manner — my water broke, and off to the hospital we went. My labor had to be induced again, as my body seems not to know how to start contractions on its own, but the experience was relatively positive. Miss Jenna Rose arrived on July 15 weighing 6 pounds and measuring 18 inches long, another little peanut! I delivered at a different area hospital this time, getting a lovely private suite and room-service meals. The baby was born completely healthy and two days later, we were home and a family of four.

 

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She’s 7 weeks old now. Our 3.5-year-old, Emily, has been trying to adjust to her new baby sister as best she can. We’ve had some hiccups with regressions in the area of toileting, but she’s back on track now. It’s tough to lose 100% of your parents’ attention, so we’re trying to make sure she feels as included as possible — she gets her own Mommy or Daddy & Me time.

I’m on maternity leave until November, and like last time, I’m torn between enjoying my time at home with my children and missing work. We’ve arranged daycare for Jenna when I go back to work, and Emily will be in preschool. Thankfully, my father-in-law has retired and will be able to help with pickup and aftercare until Mr. NSF gets home from work (I work later than he does). Hopefully all will go smoothly!

Little Tikes Cozy Coupe Assembly Nightmare

But look, it has googly eyes!

Three-and-a-half hours. That’s how long it took me to put together one of Baby Frugalista’s Christmas presents, the ubiquitous little red car many of us had as kids called the Little Tikes Cozy Coupe. I bought it because I had fond memories of playing with it at my cousins’ house, AND I got a great deal on it post-Black Friday.

It was the last thing left for us to assemble after Christmas. At first, I was just going to leave it in the box until spring, but the hubby suggested we put it together now, and I acquiesced. And I figured I could do it all by myself. With all of our newfound experience in assembling the baby’s other toys, this would be a snap.

Boy, was I wrong.

First of all, we were missing half of the directions. Yes, we scoured the inside of the box to see if it got stuck in the cardboard somewhere. It didn’t. Then, instead of opening the directions flat, I had it folded in half, looking only at the left page. This caused me to put it together out of order and screw it up. But to be fair to myself, the directions were terrible — unclear and almost impossible, even for someone like me, who can put together almost anything with barely a glance at the directions. ::brag::

The problem with putting it out of order? The wheels were now screwed up because I forgot to add the spacer to keep them away from the frame of the car.

After getting to the end of our half of the directions, I searched the Internet, hoping to find the rest of the directions by typing in “Cozy Coupe assembly.” While I did find the directions (printed AND video-demonstrated), I also stumbled upon a whole slew of message boards with comments from other frustrated parents who thought this Cozy Coupe was by far the worst kids’ toy they’d ever had to deal with assembling.

I also discovered that most of the parents also screwed up putting on the wheels. And that the manufacturer included extra parts because they KNOW most people will screw it up. It took both me and Mr. Not-So-Frugal to pry off the “acorn nut” caps that held the wheels to the frame in order to install the spacers, and it involved two pairs of pliers (needlenose & regular), two screwdrivers (for prying) and a hammer. The extra parts? Those acorn nuts caps.

So now, our almost-1-year-old daughter has her Cozy Coupe. She currently enjoys being pushed around the house in it — there’s a removable floorboard so her feet don’t get run over. I’m glad that she likes it and hopefully, she’ll use it for years to come.

A few days later, I was talking to my aunt, and I was complaining about how hard it was to put together this simple Cozy Coupe. Her response? “It was 25 years ago, but I remember it being a pain in the ass for us, too!”

Little Tikes, are you listening? Sheesh.

“Infertility” Isn’t a Dirty Word, Part II: How We Got From There to Here

This is a two-part series about a topic that I’ve wanted to write about for a while now — our road to having a baby. I hope it inspires others to try to achieve their dream of becoming parents — know that you are not alone. Read Infertility: Part I here.

Soon after Mr. Not-So-Frugal and I married, I giddily tossed my pack of birth control pills out the window — okay, I stashed them in the cabinet under the bathroom sink, but you get the idea. While I knew it could normally take up to a year to “get the timing right,” I didn’t think that would be the case. You see, I’m a planner. I had stocked up on a bunch of ovulation test strips so there would be little doubt about when would be the best time to try to conceive.

I figured all I’d have to do was just wait for Aunt Flo to show up once I stopped the birth control pills, and then about two weeks later, start POAS (“peeing on a stick” in the world of TTC, or “trying to conceive”) using the ovulation tests. August turned to September, and September to October with no signs of getting a period. Well, I had tons of phantom signs, but nothing ever materialized, so to speak. I knew something was very, very wrong. While I’d been on the pill for 13 years, I’d been nothing but regular before that — my cycle was longish, but 32-33 days is nothing when you’re going on 100 days of waiting.

Eventually, Aunt Flo showed up, but when it was going on 90-plus days the next time, I was in full freak-out mode. My body was ruining my chance at motherhood.

I sought the advice of my ob-gyn, who gave me some pills called Provera to “jump-start” my menstrual cycle. The good news is that they worked to start the bleeding, but the bad news was that it only cleared me out, so to speak. It didn’t make the next cycle any shorter — I was still about 3 months in between periods.

At this point, I did some research and self-diagnosed myself with PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome. The last time I diagnosed myself with something, it was my hypothyroid disease, and I was correct. Unfortunately, I’d turn out to be two-for-two.

Moving Forward

The ob-gyn was up front with me and said there really wasn’t anything more he could do for me, since we didn’t know the root of the problem. He suggested that I see a specialist and mentioned the dreaded word: “Infertility.” But he was kind enough to write down “amenorrhea” (lack of menstruation) on my referral. Gee, thanks.

Mr. Not-So-Frugal and I decided that seeing a reproductive endocrinologist — which meant going to a fertility clinic — was our best option. We both wanted children, and it didn’t look like it was going to happen naturally. We were going to need some help.

The doctor we chose was very nice and interviewed both of us. Then, during a VERY thorough exam of my interior lady parts, he diagnosed me with PCOS. “Duh,” I thought, “I already KNEW that. What are we going to do about it?” Later, I would see on my paperwork that the doctor noted that I was “anxious” during this initial interview and examination. Ya think?

In addition to my physical exam, 8 vials of blood were drawn — I passed out twice. I don’t do well with blood draws, and little did I know that it would become an almost daily occurrence! My husband also had to go through the bloodwork and had to provide a, uh, sample. Neither of us had any issues, and his little guys were moving along swimmingly. Basically, our issues lay with my reproductive system.

Initially, we were advised that IUI (intrauterine insemination, aka artificial insemination), was our best bet. This would require a round of Clomid (pills), to stimulate my ovaries to make lots of eggs and grow them to maturity.  Then, after an extremely-painful HSG (hysterosalpingogram) test, in which dye was injected into my fallopian tubes as I screamed bloody murder, it was discovered that one of my fallopian tubes were blocked. A second HSG test didn’t unblock the tube, especially after the x-ray machine up and died toward the end of the procedure. I elected not to go back a third time, because despite being medicated with a Valium and some Percoset, I was in agony (and again screaming bloody murder).

We re-weighed our options, which were pretty much limited to in vitro fertilization (IVF) because in addition to the PCOS and my autoimmune thyroid disease (which was already under treatment for a decade), we now had a blocked fallopian tube. I’d read there was a chance that eggs from the ovary on that side could ‘float’ to the other tube, but it seemed like a ridiculous idea.

The Guilt

I wondered what I did to deserve this diagnosis. I wondered if I did something to cause my infertility. I’d always wanted to be a mother, and now, after marrying my husband, I had visions of never having the family we’d dreamed of. I wondered why, when I was so responsible about not getting pregnant all these years, I was the one who had to deal with it. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of “artificially” making a baby.

I had crying jags. I lashed out. I wanted to decline invitations to baby showers. I couldn’t even listen to people talk about their pregnancies. My husband supported me through all of my emotional swings with the patience of Job. He talked me down from ledges, held my hand and told me that we WOULD be successful.

Then I realized I wasn’t the only one out there. I discovered a number of friends and acquaintances who have had to deal with the same thing. I managed to put together a support team, so to speak. Our parents knew we were going to have to “work” to get pregnant. We kept them apprised throughout the process.

Getting Pregnant, Getting Lucky

Despite my medical maladies, our reproductive endocrinologist did okay one shot at IUI, despite getting us approved for IVF treatments. But instead of using the Clomid pills, I would have to “move up” to injectibles. As someone who can’t even stand the sight of her own blood (but I was an EMT in a past life, so I’m okay with other people’s injuries, go figure), the thought of poking myself with needles every day for weeks was terrifying (refer back to my anecdote about bloodwork).

Also terrifying? IUI procedures have the highest risk of multiples, because you can’t control how many eggs are produced and possibly fertilized. Ever hear of Jon and Kate Gosselin? Kate had six babies at once because she produced too many eggs during the IUI/injectables cycle. She and her husband were advised to “cancel” the cycle — meaning, to abstain from sex — because if all of those eggs were to be fertilized, it’d be a very risky pregnancy. You all know that they ignored that advice. Unlike the Gosselins, we’d follow our doctor’s advice to cancel the cycle if it came down to it, but there would still be a chance of multiples if we went ahead with two or three mature eggs. Or, we’d even have to consider selective reduction if there were “too many” fertilized eggs to have a safe pregnancy. We didn’t even want to think about that, though.

So we had to wait for Aunt Flo to show up again, and she finally made an appearance on Memorial Day weekend of last year. I had already gotten my stash of needles and medications through the specialty pharmacy. I would be on the Follistim to “grow” a number of eggs to maturity, to be followed by two injections of Ovidrel, which serves as the “trigger” medication that tells my ovaries to release their mature eggs.

I had bloodwork and an ‘internal’ ultrasound (use your imaginations) every two days. The clinic hours for this were from 6 am to 7:30 am, and I had to travel 20 minutes in each direction to do so. If it was a weekend or a holiday, it was a 40-min trip each way to their other location. I had to give myself a shot of Follistim at the same time every evening. As I went in for morning monitorings, the doctor would check my ovaries for signs that follicles (eggs) were growing, and on which side.

After nearly two weeks, there were 6 egg follicles near maturity. Five of them were on the right ovary – the same side as the blocked fallopian tube. Of course. One was on the open, clear side, the left. I was devastated because our chance of success was reduced. After two  days of Ovidrel shots to trigger the release of the mature follicles, we went ahead with the insemination portion of the IUI cycle. Let me just say that Mr. NSF was a trooper, because he had to go two mornings in a row to give a ‘sample’ at the clinic. About an hour later, I’d show up, ready for my injection of ‘cleaned up’ sample. It sounds so gross, but it was a better shot than us doing the deed ourselves.

Then, the waiting began. We were heading to Vegas for a vacation with family and friends, but I knew I’d be a wreck the entire time — the blood test to check for pregnancy was scheduled for the day after our return.

The night before we were to leave, I started bleeding. I couldn’t believe it — I’d gotten my period. I didn’t think it was going to work on the first shot, and now, I figured I’d be able to have a good time in Vegas. We got on the plane the next morning. But the bleeding had stopped. I was confused. I decided to abstain from alcohol completely just in case.

Being the planner I am, I brought a few pregnancy tests to try, just in case. It would be a few days before I would know for sure, but I wanted to find out before the scheduled blood test. When two little lines showed up, I was in shock. I took two more tests before telling my husband. It was a miracle — it only took the one little egg!

I wasn’t 100% convinced I was pregnant until I went for my blood test after our return home. When they called me a few hours later to confirm it, I was in shock again. The nurse said I could have had implantation bleeding, as the fertilized egg was nestling itself into the uterine wall.

I was monitored by the fertility clinic until I hit 8 weeks. Every week, I held my breath as they did the ultrasound. At the 6-week visit, we saw the heartbeat, a little flicker of life in this apple-seed-sized embryo.

I would hold on to my secret for a few more weeks. It may have been bad karma, but we originally lied to our families and told them that the procedure had failed. I wanted to be sure the pregnancy continued to be viable. After the morning (and afternoon, and night) sickness appeared, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hide it much longer, so we shared the news with gifts of baby onesies.

My pregnancy was normal with no issues until Baby Frugalista decided to bust out of her amniotic sac five weeks early, and enter the world on Groundhog Day. What a holiday to be born on! It was worth traveling through the aftermath of an ice storm to receive the greatest present in the world.

The Takeaway

I know how damned lucky we were that the IUI worked on the first cycle, and that we didn’t have to move to IVF. I know people who waited years to have their children, and those who are still waiting. That’s why I want anyone facing an infertility diagnosis to know that you’re not alone. We’re out there.

I don’t know what it will take to have a second child should we decide to give Baby Frugalista a sibling. But I do know now that we know what we’re facing, it will be easier to deal with what life throws at us. And I know that even if I never have another child, I know how lucky we were to have the one.

“Infertility” Isn’t a Dirty Word: Part I

This is a two-part series about a topic that I’ve wanted to write about for a while now — our road to having a baby. I hope it inspires others to try to achieve their dream of becoming parents — know that you are not alone.

Every day I gaze at our amazing infant daughter and realize how lucky we are. Every time she gives that toothless smile, says “Mama” or rests her little head on my shoulder, I thank my lucky stars that we were blessed with her, after everything we had to go through to conceive.

I’m not ashamed to admit it: I’m infertile. Although many are reluctant to talk about it, infertility isn’t a dirty word. it doesn’t define who I am and, obviously, it didn’t stop me from becoming a mother.

The Infertility Diagnosis

Turns out that 13 years of being on birth control pills to not get pregnant masked the fact that I have PCOS — polycystic ovary syndrome. When left to do their thing, my little ovaries go into overdrive and produce a ton of follicles, few to none of which mature enough to make it down the fallopian tube once a month. No ovulation equals no chance of conception, which is hard enough to achieve as it is, believe it or not. Couple that with another diagnosis of a blocked fallopian tube, and our chances of conceiving, even with fertility treatments, dropped even further.

I won’t lie: hearing the word “infertility” tossed out by my ob-gyn and, later, my reproductive endocrinologist hurt — a lot. My reactions mirrored the five stages stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. I lingered under “anger” and “depression” longer than I care to admit. I was barely past the age of 30. I wasn’t 16 and pregnant. Why me? I started a (mostly) private blog to get out some of the thoughts and emotions that were slowly eating away at me, which helped to some degree.

It took visits nearly a year’s worth of visits to doctors and specialists before getting pregnant — a LOT of $40 insurance co-pays. In addition to my ob-gyn, I was seeing an endocrinologist to keep my pre-existing thyroid disease under control, and visiting my reproductive endocrinologist at the fertility clinic every few days for months at a time. There were also a few trips to a radiologist thrown in for good measure. Despite being told it would never work due to my blocked fallopian tube, after just one cycle of IUI (“artificial insemination” — use your imagination, folks), we had our miracle.

Discussing Infertility

While I didn’t announce to the world that we were having trouble conceiving, close friends and family knew what my husband and I were going through (he’ll want me to mention that his swimmers are fine, in case you were wondering), and everyone provided support in their own ways. I discovered that others I knew also had needed fertility treatments to conceive, and it was comforting to know that I wasn’t alone. Eventually, I resolved to talk about our experience freely. If I could help guide others on their journeys, why not?

From a young age, I knew I wanted to have children one day. When we were in our late 20s, I had friends who would say, “I’m too busy living life to have kids,” but for me, it was never a question. I never saw my future children as impediments to my happiness — they would be my happiness, my fulfillment.

Today, I smile every time our baby wakes at 2 in the morning or throws her food all over the place. I almost relish dirty diapers, and I gladly baby-proof the house. Because despite my infertility diagnosis — and her 5-weeks-early arrival — Baby Frugalista is here.

 

Tuesday: Look for Part II in this series, How We Got From There to Here

The Business of Being a Mom

Being a mom is a lot like running a business. There are bills to pay, budgets to adhere to, prep work, cleanup, managing employees (spouses, babysitters, even doctors). And the startup costs — yikes! Don’t get me started. At least you can buy items secondhand or get lucky enough to have gently used baby clothes handed down to you.

Just like running your own business, it’s hard work, but I love every minute of it.

Dealing With Clientele

Sometimes the client is overly demanding. If I can’t pick up Baby Frugalista in a specified amount of time (maybe I’m in the shower or washing dishes), she lets me know her displeasure, just like a customer waiting impatiently for a waitress to take her order. She may nod off on her own, or I might have to give her her pacifier (which Mr. NSF has dubbed a “bup-bup”) and rock her to sleep.

Baby Frugalista might want to eat 4 times a day, or she might want a bottle 8 times a day. I never know what I’m going to get. There’s definitely no monetary compensation involved and the hours are long, but in my book, a gummy grin is worth a million bucks.

Scheduling Feedings, Naps & Playtime

Staying home with a baby isn’t all fun and games. Well, now that Baby Frugalista is 5.5 months old, playtime is becoming more important. On any given day, the baby wakes up, and I change her and we play on her activity mat for a bit. Then it’s time for a bottle of yummy milk. I’m still sterilizing our filtered tap water for her bottles by boiling a full teakettle in the morning, which lasts all day.

As she gets older, Baby Frugalista’s naps and nap times continually change. She’s been taking 20-to-30-minute naps 3, 4 or 5 times a day for months now, with the occasional hour-long nap. If we nap together, she’ll sleep over an hour. Go figure! I need to get some things done around the house during her naps, so I can’t always sleep with her. Naps are usually in the morning, at noon, in the late afternoon and at dinnertime. There are many sessions of play and tummy time sprinkled in between. Feedings generally happen after naps. Now, with solids in the mix, that’s two more feedings that need to be scheduled.

Managing Employees

Not only do we have to deal with babysitters and daycare providers, many of us have to deal with our significant others. Training Mr. NSF to help take care of the baby has been an adventure, to say the least. But he’s now a pro at changing dirty diapers, giving bottles and changing her clothes. We’re still working on his “soothing” techniques, though!

Leaving the baby in the care of someone else involves lots of details. The babysitter needs to know what she eats/drinks and how often, her napping and sleeping patterns (okay, “patterns” might be the wrong word at this point). She’ll also learn our baby’s quirks and cues, hopefully much faster than Daddy and I did.

Preparing for a New Day of ‘Baby Business’

The end of the day is when I clean up and prepare for the next day.Some of the things I do after the baby is asleep for the night:

  • Clean up after bathtime.This involves scrubbing the the baby tub and the big tub, putting away the rubber duckies, removing the pillow I use when I kneel next to the tub (a lifesaver!), and rinsing out washcloths.
  • Put the baby’s laundry (clothes, towels, bibs, burp cloths, washcloths) in the hamper or do a load (or three).
  • Wash and sterilize the bottles, rubber-tipped spoons, dishes and bowls. Scour and bleach out the countertops.
  • Make sure there are enough supplies for the next day or two. This involves refilling the diaper stacker and wipes containers as necessary, and getting a new tube of diaper cream if the current one is about empty.

Oh yeah — I still have to do the usual chores to keep our house looking its best. Which, right now, means presentable and as clean as possible. I’m sure I’ll be forgiven if I don’t wash the baseboards every week anymore!

Defining Success

Despite all the hard work that goes into the business of being a mom, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m hopeful that Baby Frugalista grows up knowing how much Mommy and Daddy love her, and turns out to be a happy, well-adjusted child. That will be success enough.

Rolling With the Punches

Right now, the title says it all. I’m rolling with the punches… and kicks. This little life inside of me seems to be doing the can-can every once in a while, especially after dinner!

As we speak, I think I’ve got a foot in my pelvis. I went from feeling the ‘flutters’ that every pregnant woman talks about — and which I think is a misnomer, feels more like rolling or tingling — to little jabs. The rolling sensation started just last week, and I wasn’t even sure what I was feeling yet. It only happened about every other day. Today was the first time I felt little punches or kicks. It’s pretty amazing, if intermittent.

I didn’t expect to feel the ‘quickening’ this early, since this is my first pregnancy. But as my belly seems to have exploded outward in the past week, I can only assume this little one is growing even more quickly now and flexing his or her ever-strengthening extremities. I can’t imagine what this will feel like in another few weeks!

Another milestone: I somehow went from walking normally to gaining a little bit of a waddle. I suddenly feel off-kilter, gravity-wise. And I did have to spend some money on maternity clothes. Well, “some money” means about $280 worth of new clothes. I had first gone through all of my fall/winter clothes and realized that almost none of them were going to get me through this season. Therefore, the splurge. But I hardly spend money on myself, so I don’t feel TOO bad. I also got some maternity hand-me-downs from friends that I can work.

It was also an exciting weekend, as my BFF — the sister I never had — gave birth to a beautiful bouncing baby boy. It seems like yesterday we were 19 and driving around aimlessly, or going on 3 am diner runs. Now, she’s a mother and I will be soon. And one day, we’ll be hoping that our kids don’t do half the things that we did!