Sunday, August 17, 2008

Show and Tell

Well, we made it back from our anniversary celebration and everyone survived. I actually even relaxed and had a great time once I heard that all of the kids were doing great with the grandparents. It was really nice to have some "couple time" with DH and to revisit the place we went to on our honeymoon 10 years ago, Cap Juluca in Anguilla (about 5 miles north of St. Maartin). So my show and tell for today is the view from our suite- huge wooden folding doors (the length of the room) opened up to our veranda, where we sat each morning eating our breakfast. We could hear the waves crashing at night. Pure bliss:And one more of the beach at the resort....aaaah, I feel relaxed just looking at it again:
We had a heck of a time getting back (cancelled flight left us stranded one night in St. Maartin in a fancy-looking but actually gross hotel) but everything worked out fine in the end and I'm glad DH "forced" me to go on this trip :)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Kill 'em With Kindness

OK, I swear this is going to be my last in-law related post...this blog is not going to turn into a rant on my sister-in-law.

But just to close the loop on this whole "issue," after my last posts I did some soul-searching and decided I had two choices: 1) I could let this animosity continue to eat everyone alive or 2) I could suck it up and try to make the best of an annoying situation. Considering the fact that, whether I like it or not, SIL is family and she will always in our lives, I decided to take the high road. My mother always taught me that the best way to deal with difficult people is to "kill 'em with kindness." In other words, be the better person so they can never speak poorly about you (and won't know what to make of your unexpected kindness).

So as hard as it was for me, I decided to take the first step and extend an olive branch by seeing if SIL would like to get together for a playdate with the kids. I didn't tell DH I was doing it because I wasn't doing it to "prove" anything to him or make him feel like I was doing it for credit.

To make a long story short, SIL seemed interested, but in the end flip-flopped over several days and finally bailed-- not by telling me directly, though, but by sending her father (my FIL) with a message that she wouldn't be able to get together on the date we had finally settled upon after she had already changed her mind several times. And there's been no communication since (she wasn't at our standard Friday night dinner this past week). So I'm sort of in I take this as a hint that she doesn't even want to try to get along? Do I wait for her to come back and pick up the conversation to attempt to reschedule? Her big trip and our vacation is coming up so I'm just leaving it alone for now. When we all get back work will get busy for her and the kids will all be back in school (her kids are in school five days a week) so there's really no chance to get together. I guess maybe that's the way it'll end.

And now back to your regularly scheduled program...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Upshot

Thanks to everyone for your supportive words and suggestions. I was mulling over my options when DH tells me today that he spoke to his parents about it when he was at their house this morning. I was a little caught off guard because I was really leaning toward the "don't ask, don't tell" approach to keep the peace. So much for that idea.

Apparently MIL and FIL are very upset that SIL and I aren't BFF and take it personally. I don't know exactly what was said but I'm sure that they had some pretty stern words for me and I'm glad I wasn't there (although knowing them, they'd never tell me this to my face- well, maybe MIL would...) I feel pretty sad that they are upset about all of this and, I'm sure, blame me, but I hope that at least they recognize why I feel the way I do.

Also, DH (finally) confessed to being upset about this since Thursday. This is something he does all the time- stew about things and not tell me about it despite repeated "is everything OK" questions. I totally get why he's upset- he's stuck in the middle no matter what I do and he feels really torn. We had a pretty good talk- I asked him exactly what he needs me to do...but making it clear that I will not become best friends with her. I told him I have intentionally NOT bitched about her to him for a year now in order to keep him out of it, but he said that he doesn't want me holding back and would rather I tell him when things upset me instead of keeping it inside and having it eat me up. And I asked him to back me up when we're around her and she does something out of line (instead of leaving it to me to handle all by myself). So I think we're making some headway at least in terms of how it affects the two of us, and I'm going to try to make an effort to not be as hard on her as I usually am, because I'm sure by now I am looking for things to annoy me. Don't get me wrong- we're never going to be friends (because she's just not the type of person I would ever want for a friend) but I am going to try.

Oh, and the kicker? SIL is going to be away on her trip that weekend anyway. So as I suspected, all of this was for nothing and I could have looked like the better person by never saying anything in the first place, but I'm glad that DH and I got to hash it out and just hope that we can figure out a way to make everyone content from here on out. (Notice I said content, not happy, because MIL is never going to be happy unless SIL and I are BFF. Still not going to happen).

Friday, July 11, 2008

Another In-Law Related Dilemma

DH and I are going away for our first child-free vacation to celebrate our 10-year anniversary. We are going to the same very posh, exclusive resort on a small Carribbean Island that we went to for our honeymoon (when we could afford it a lot more than we can now, with three kids and after spending a crapload of our savings on IVF). Most of my friends are envious and keep saying, "Oh, my gosh- you must be so excited. Are you counting down the days?" Call me crazy, but I'm not. For a number of reasons.

First, I am scared out of my mind to leave our kids. I'm not so much worried about them-- Smiley will be staying with my in-laws, and MIL is a pediatrician. Can't get any safer than that. The twins will be staying with my parents and I know they will be fine. All of our parents are local and live within 7 miles of each other so this isn't a huge deal to split up the kids, and it just made more sense than to leave all three with one set. I am more worried about the fact that DH and I are going to be on an airplane together. As in if anything (G-d forbid) happens, it happens to both of us. I get sick even writing that.

Second, and this may be a totally unnecessary, irrational worry, but I worry that my MIL is going to let my SIL have "alone time" with Smiley while we're away. The thought only came to me after MIL suggested I leave Smiley with SIL while MIL and I take the twins to a doctor's appointment (another long story- MIL the pediatrician wants our twin daughter to see an orthopedic surgeon at her practice because she thinks she's walking funny...) As my previous posts indicate, I will be leaving my children in SIL's care WHEN HELL FREEZES OVER. And not even then. My major concern is SIL's temper-- she frequently loses it with her own children and has been known to scream at them to the point of making them cry, and even handling them roughly when she gets mad (although I would never say she's abusive). She can fly off the handle and be totally irrational. And while I know chances are she wouldn't do that to one of my kids (oh- wait- she already has...), I don't want to take that chance. SIL also has some larger emotional/psychological issues (that I won't get into) that make me not trust her judgment around my children.

So I can totally see MIL bringing Smiley over to SIL's house (she lives a mile away because she can't be without her Mommy) and leaving her there to "play with her cousins." MIL is constantly pushing for the kids to play together and has even gone so far as to do it behind my back (another long story) because she knows that other than Friday night dinners, I am not enthusiastic about everyone getting together. I can tell for a fact that she WILL have our neice and nephew over to play with Smiley at least once a day while we are gone. And I am having a hard time with that but as long as I know that MIL and/or is there supervising, I can live with it. But what I cannot live with is her leaving Smiley with SIL.

Now the question is how do I deal with this? I can't go away and worry the entire time that Smiley has been left with SIL. I don't know if I can leave without saying something to MIL, but how do I tell MIL that I don't trust her daughter with Smiley? Although MIL knows about SIL's issues, it's still her daughter and I think she would be highly offended if I said something. And DH isn't going to be of any help. Against my "speak no evil" rule, last night I brought up this concern- as diplomatically as possible- with him. His response was to ask me if his sister lost her temper with her kids when they were Smiley's age, implying that she only flies off the handle now that they're older. First of all, I do remember her losing her cool when they were younger and were crying inconsolably (she'd shove them off to her mother or husband and tell them to deal with them) or when they did something totally appropriate for a young toddler (her daughter ripped the page in a book by accident and she flipped out). Second, I don't care-- the fact that she flips out and loses her cool bothers me, period. It doesn't matter that she does it because her kids are older or not. He also asked me why I even think that MIL would leave Smiley with SIL. I understand- there's really no reason for her to do so- but I want to cover my basis just in case so that she can't play dumb and say "well I didn't think you'd mind" when we come back.

I asked my sister, who's opinion I really respect, what she'd do in my situation. She said that if I could live with the fact that Smiley might spend some alone time with SIL while we're on vacation, recognizing that in all likelihood nothing would happen or if it did (like SIL yelled or lost her cool), Smiley would never remember and it wouldn't affect her, then I shouldn't say anything. Take a "don't ask, don't tell" approach, recognizing that SIL isn't dangerous and I don't fear for Smiley's physical well being if she was with her. But she said if I was going to worry about it the entire time, I probably need to say something at the risk that it's going to piss MIL off.

So what do I do? Part of me thinks the "don't ask, don't tell" is probably a good approach because I know nothing bad is going to happen to Smiley and the chance is that MIL will be there the entire time anyway. Heck, for all I know, SIL may be out of town that week (she has a big work trip coming up but I haven't felt like asking her when it is). I don't want to make MIL upset. But the other part of me feels like I am the mother and I should be able to tell the person taking care of her that I don't want her left with anyone else while we're gone. And I REALLY don't want SIL spending time alone with her.

DH's lack of support in the matter isn't helping and I feel like it's creating tension between us again, like every time something comes up with his sister (that's why I have stopped saying anything about her to him). I really just don't know what to do.

And in the meantime, I'm still sick with worry about leaving at all. This wasn't my idea. DH is the one who really wanted to go back to where we went for our Honeymoon and bless his heart for being so romantic and splurging on this vacation. I can't crush his heart by saying I don't want to go (plus everything is now non-refundable) so we're going whether I like it or not, but that doesn't mean it's not keeping me awake every night.

I thought vacations were supposed to be relaxing!?!!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Show and Tell

In an attempt to lighten the mood around here, I thought it would be good to participate in Mel's weekly Show and Tell, and to talk about something that makes me happy (aside from my husband and kids, of course!)

I think I've mentioned it before on this blog, but early last year I decided to train for my first triathlon. I have been running competitively for years and was looking for something to mix it up a bit, and was very excited about getting into triathlons. I had a VERY old bike that my father, a big cyclist himself, had bought me years and years ago, so I was looking to buy a new bike that didn't weigh a million pounds when I got pregnant (let's not even talk about the fact that I got pregnant spontaneously when training vigorously for a triathlon, when during my six rounds of IVF I freaked out about even a light jog on the treadmill). So buying a new bike- and training for a triathlon- went onto the back burner.

I was determined to do that triathlon, so after Smiley was born I signed up again for this year's race. But I still needed that bike, knowing that I can get competitive in these races and I would not be able to be competitive at all on my old, million-pound bike. DH was all for me buying a new bike, but I felt guilty since I'm not working and, hence, not making the money around here. So I made a deal with myself: I'd save up money I made doing work for my father (he owns his own company and I do some work from home for him from time to time) and when I had enough to buy a bike, I'd buy it with that money. It made me feel better, since I felt like the bike was a splurge and DH doesn't splurge on anything for himself, so at least it would be a splurge paid for by "extra" money I made on my own.

Over the course of six months, I earned enough working for my dad to buy a decent entry-level road bike. It's not top of the line, but I figure I can always invest in a more expensive bike if I really get into racing and once I'm working again. But it is a great bike and I love it already. It has clipless pedals, which means you wear shoes with cleats on the bottom and "clip" into the pedals-- so your feet are actually stuck to the pedals (helps with efficiency) and you have to learn to clip out so you don't topple over when you stop.

I was scared about learning to ride a "real" bike, with the clipless pedals, but excited. And over the course of the past two months I've really gotten used to the bike and LOVE riding. My father and I used to ride together when I was much younger and it reminds me of those rides-- a special time we shared together-- and gives me the chance to ride with him again (we went out together a few weeks ago). I love having that shared interest with him. It also reminds me that I can do things that might scare me at first. Plus, I feel like a pretty bad@ss in my cleats, helmet, sunglasses, cycling jersey and gloves. And I love whizzing past guys.

This morning I went out on my first group ride-- a 55-mile ride that turned into a 60-mile ride because of a wrong turn-- and it was exhilarating. But the best part of the ride was who ended up riding with me. I got to the ride start and was a little intimidated to see that I was the only woman on the ride with a clearly VERY fast group of guys. But at the last minute before we left, a woman pulled up and got out with her bike. I didn't look at her closely but I did heave a sigh of relief and thought, "thank G-d there's another woman here!" It wasn't until I pulled up a little closer that she looked at me and said my name. It was a very, very dear friend of mine who I used to work with and who I had not seen in over two years. It was kind of an eerie irony that just a few days ago she sent me an email and we had been corresponding back and forth about triathlons, cycling, etc. In the course of the emails we both mentioned we were going to start riding with a group, but it never occured to us to compare notes as we don't leave that close to each other and I assumed she would be riding with a group closer to her house.

It turned out that we were the slowest in the group (those guys were not only fast, they were insane) so we rode the entire 4-hour ride together and had a chance to catch up. I really don't know what I would have done without her-- I would have been riding the entire way-- imagine farmlands and cornfields-- by myself and would have freaked out after missing the turn that we missed (and subsequently found-- but not until we stopped to ask a nice man who had a pickup truck and offered to drive us and our bikes back to the point where we missed the turn-off...yes, go ahead and yell at us for accepting a ride from a stranger but I would have NEVER done that by myself and not without knowing we both had our cellphones with us). So we had quite the adventure and a great ride. And it was so special to me to be able to catch up with her. I am not one to believe in "divine intervention" but I have to feel that someone was looking out for me today by sending her to a ride out of her area, the first group ride for both of us, on a ride where I would have ended up riding by myself if she wasn't there.

So my Show and Tell today is my new bike-- it's not only a bike, but it's taught me I can be strong and confident, learn new (kind of intimidating) things and it is the reason I ended up reconnecting with a very special friend today.

No Closure

So I went to the funeral mass for our neighbor and friend this week. I was hoping it would bring me some closure- or maybe more accurately some comfort or answers- because I just can't seem to shake this sadness that her death has brought. It's actually like our whole neighborhood is in a state of shock and mourning.

While it was comforting to come together with friends and support each other at this sad time, I left the service still haunted by the events of this past week, and now with a new sense of sadness because of the unforgettable sight of her husband and young children (especially her 8-year old daughter) following the pall into (and out of) the church, with such grief and pain in their faces. I don't think there are many things sadder than watching the young widower and children of a mother, and imagining what they face every morning when they wake up and realize that their wife and mother is no longer with them.

It's going to take a long time for the shock and sadness to wear off around here, but I do hope that the sense of gratitude that her death has brought sticks around for a long time. It's a crummy way to have to learn such an important lesson.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


I have a neighbor, L, who I became friendly with a little over a year ago when she was expecting twins. They were "surprise" twins...she and her husband have two older children (one going into kindergarten and the other already in elementary school) and wanted a third but were going to have three and four. She was excited, though, and we spoke a few times about preparations for twins, joining our local Parents of Multiples club, etc. And then the unimaginable happened: she went in for her scheduled c-section, a few days after a regular check-up that showed both babies doing well, and there were no heartbeats. She lost both twins at term. It was my worst nightmare and I felt so heartbroken for her. I saw her about 6 months after their passing and she was pregnant again, this time with a singleton. She told me that they never found any reason for the twins' stillbirth, except that they were identical and there was a chance it was twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome that went undetected or occur ed so quickly that it couldn't have been caught. So she was somewhat relieved to be carrying "just one" and mentioned that she'd be monitored more carefully this time and the baby would be delivered early just to be safe.

Earlier this week another neighbor friend of mine told me that the baby-- a girl-- was born healthy but that L was in ICU, sedated, because she had some serious complications from the birth related to hemorrhaging. And a few minutes ago I got the call to tell me she had passed away. I am in shock and heartbroken once again. How can one family have to endure two tragedies like this in a lifetime, never mind the course of one year? How can a husband and children live a normal, happy life after something like this? What can anyone do to help them cope with the pain?

I feel helpless. We didn't know the family well, but enough that I want to do something, even if just a token gesture, to let them know that L will always be remembered and that they have a community that loves them to help them through this horrible time and beyond. Nothing anyone can do will bring L back, I know that. But is there something we can do to show our support?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Highest Compliment

Tonight we took all three kids out to a nice dinner...DH had gift cards that had been sitting around forever and today we just said "why not?" and decided to take the whole fam to dinner. We never really thought twice about bringing the kids- they are well-behaved and we enjoy taking them with us to restaurants. We went on the early side because it was the only reservation available and, we thought, more likely to be "family time." In fact, when we got there, we were the only party with young children in tow.

Towards the end of our dinner, two older women who had been dining near us stopped by our table and one of them said, "I just wanted to let you know the two of you are wonderful parents. It is so refreshing to see children so well-behaved in a nice restaurant." The way she said it (and just judging by appearance) I assume she is someone who probably cringed when she saw us coming in the restaurant and being seated near her table. Her comment nearly brought me to tears. I have never in my life received a higher compliment.

Friday, May 9, 2008


This post has been sitting in my drafts waiting to be finished for a week now, so I have had some time to cool off but still feel angry about the whole situation...

I think I've vented about my sister-in-law before, but after what happened tonight at dinner, I feel a long-winded vent is well overdue and much needed if I want to be able to sleep tonight.

I'll start with the simple fact that I do NOT like my sister-in-law. I tolerate her because I love my husband and the rest of his family, and that means that I have to put a smile on my face and deal with her. I used to vent to DH about her, but I learned some time ago that it wasn't productive: while he agrees that his sister is more than a bit "off," you know the saying: blood is thicker than water, and when push comes to shove, it is still his sister. I think he used to be more "on my side" about the whole issue until she went through a "mental breakdown" about a year ago and she turned to him for support. He felt sorry for her (and probably a bit of pride in the fact that she trusted him enough to turn to him for support) and I saw a change in his attitude to much more defensive of her. When I'd make complaints about her, he'd say that I was only making the complaints because I didn't like her, and that in any other person I would tolerate or ignore the issue. I admit that I start with a bias because I JUST DON'T LIKE HER (for reasons I'll get into in a bit) but the issues I have are genuine and I'd have them with any of my friends if they acted like she does. I'd even have the issues with perfect strangers if they acted like she did.

In a nutshell, SIL is a self-absorbed know-it-all. Ask a question of someone at the dinner table with an area of expertise and she will pipe in with her "expert opinion" EVERY TIME, even if it's an issue she has no knowledge of and even if she is wrong. I think a lot of her personality stems from the fact that, based on what DH has told me about her teenaged years, she was shunned by the "in crowd" and in defense became "alternative" to convince herself and others that she didn't even want to be part of the in crowd. And then she went to law school, didn't do well and ended up never getting to practice law. She settled into policy work but lost about 5 jobs in the course of 3 or 4 years, from what I can tell due to the fact that she couldn't get along with her co-workers and many times couldn't do the work she was hired to do. So there seem to be a lot of insecurities there about being accepted and competent, and maybe her know-it-all attitude is part of that.

I will admit that a pivotal point in our relationship, and the point in time I think of as when I went from merely amused by her to actually disliking her, was at a dinner several years ago when DH and I were in the depths of fertility treatments. I think we had been through three or four rounds of IVF at the time and I was in a bad place myself. SIL is one of the "fertile myrtles" we all talk about, who has no clue (or at least doesn't act like she does) that it takes more than throwing away the BCP and one romp in the sack to get pregnant. Although I never talked to her directly about our struggles, she certainly knew about them. This particular night at dinner, DH leaned over to me about 15 minutes into the dinner and whispered a warning to me that his sister was pregnant. Sure enough, the waiter asks the table if they want wine and she says with much drama, "oh, no, I CANNOT drink wine tonight!" As in hint, hint, but I'm not coming out and saying it.

I appreciated DH's warning but it was too much for me, especially after the dramatic "I'm not drinking and everyone understands why but I'm not going to say it." I left the table and ended up in a sobbing mess in a bathroom stall. I can still remember the stall with vivid detail. I remember the horrible feeling with even more detail. After several minutes, I composed myself and came out of the stall to wash up and head back to the table. As I was washing up, who should happen to come into the bathroom guessed it...SIL. She looked at me and said, "oh, I have to pee SOOOOO know how it is." She knew at this point DH had told me she was pregnant. And the thought going through my head that I was too polite (because I'm a wuss) to say was "NO, B!TCH. I DO NOT KNOW HOW BADLY YOU HAVE TO PEE WHEN YOU ARE PREGNANT BECAUSE DESPITE THE FACT WE HAVE GONE THROUGH THREE FAILED CYCLES OF IVF, I HAVE YET TO EVEN EXPERIENCE A BFP." Instead, I mumbled something and headed out of the bathroom trying to hold back the sobbing that had I had just managed to stop moments before. Only now I was out in the open restaurant and couldn't even go back into my little stall to cry by myself.

So, needless to say, that moment sticks out as a defining moment in our relationship and shaped how I feel about her.

Regardless, even if things like this didn't happen, SIL is not someone I would have ever been friends with. She is a faux "intellectual" who talks about opera and international politics and art just to show off. She dresses funny. She has no girl friends (no friends at all, actually) except for two that live hundreds (one thousands) of miles away. She is a mommy's girl who is constantly whining to her "Mommy" (and yes, she calls her that in public.) In fact, she once had her mother come with her to a business conference because, in her words, "there's no way I could go on my own without my mommy!" (WTF?!) Mind you, she's a 36-year old mother of two. She immediately rubs people the wrong way when they meet her (my entire bridal party was ready to murder her after spending just 24 hours with her over our wedding weekend, and most of them had never met her before). I could go on and on with the stories about her troubling behavior. She's just not someone I'd ever spend time with if it weren't for the fact we are family.

Anyway, I have avoided up to this point any contact with her other than family gatherings. Unfortunately, DH's parents have a strong tradition of Friday night Shabbat dinners at their house (everyone is local) so I have spent almost every Friday night with her for the past 10+ years. And international vacations DH's family has been kind enough to take us on, until I drew the line and told him I just could not spend 24/7 in the same rented apartment as his sister. But again, I do it (1) because it's important to DH and (2) because I think it's special for our children to have a tradition of Shabbat dinners with their grandparents and extended family.

Tonight before dinner, DH was getting a bottle ready for the baby. Our son wanted to "help" and DH told him no, but he kept trying to reach for the bottle. SIL turns around, out of nowhere, and yells loudly, "NO!!!!" at our son. The look on his face made me want to cry myself- sheer confusion, then sadness, then the tears came. She scared the poor boy out of his mind. Immediately she knew what she did was wrong and out of line- MIL asked why our son was crying and she said "because I said something I shouldn't have." But no apology. I did everything possible to keep myself from knocking her upside the head (or at least screaming at her as loudly as she screamed at our son). I took our son aside and told her, "thank you, but I think we can handle discipline ourselves." I should have said so much more but I was so steaming mad and didn't want to say something I'd regret later.

This was all after I really made an effort to be cordial to her tonight-- asked her how her job was going, etc.-- but just like every other time I try to be nice and think that I can maybe even have a semblance of a relationship with her, she goes and does something like this.

I just don't know what to do. DH didn't bring it up after we left but was clearly annoyed with her. I've learned long ago not to talk about her to him because even though he recognizes she can be annoying, she is his sister, after all. And I just don't want to be the one pitting him against her. But what do I do- I have to see her almost every week, my MIL wants to get the kids together more often for playdates (I have some issues with her kids, too, namely they are starting to turn out like her but I do still love them), etc. Do I just continue to be cordial, but not friendly, and suck it up for the sake of DH? From my vantage point, that's my only option.

If you've made it this far, kudos to you. I needed to get this out and this post is mainly a venting mechanism. But if you've made it this far, what would you do?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Mother Runner

First of all, thank you to everyone who chimed in with advice on the insurance/billing issue. I'm waiting to hear back from my letter to the billing office, but in the meantime I am going to get all of the records from my insurance company from that cycle and look into getting a RN case manager to help me untangle the mystery so I am prepared when the hospital comes back to me with an answer.

I just got back from my first trip away from all three kids- and really my first extended trip away at all since I've had kids- to return to Boston to run the 2008 Boston Marathon. For those unfamiliar with the world of distance running, Boston is like the Super Bowl of running. The Stanley Cup. The Olympics. Runners must qualify to run with a certain time except for a few runners who run for charity causes. Boston is not just a marathon- it is an experience. Running Boston has always been the highlight of my entire year. This was my fifth time running Boston but only my first since having children, and I have to say that this particular time was one of the most memorable experiences for me for a number of reasons.

First, my finishing time (three hours and sixteen minutes) was almost a personal record for me- I have only run two of my eleven marathons faster than that, and one was Chicago (which is fast and flat anyway) and the other was an earlier Boston that I finished only seconds faster than my time yesterday. I felt better through the run and feel better today (I honestly feel like I could go out for a run) than I can ever remember feeling after any marathon with the exception of the one I ran "slowly" to help pace my husband so he could finish in his own goal time of under four hours. I don't know if I should attribute that to better training- I ran much more in my training than I used to, especially because I knew after giving birth almost six months ago I couldn't rest on shoddy training- or if my body is somehow stronger now that I am older.

Or maybe it's the inspiration my children gave me on this run. Every time I thought of slowing down, I'd see little kids on the side of the road, offering their hand for a "high five," and I'd think of our twins saying "Mommy run" (that's what they say every time they see a runner out on the roads). I'd think of the day they'll come up to Boston with DH to cheer me on. And I'd run just a little faster. I'd feel a little stronger.

I was reading an article in the Marathon program about last year's Boston Marathon women's wheelchair champion, Wakako Tsuchida from Japan. Tsuchida had a child seven months before her victory in 2007 and felt that

"giving birth has made her body stronger. 'Being a mother an an athlete means so much to me. To succeed in both roles, I need to seek a balance. I find that I train harder so I can spend more time with my son.' She is not the only elite athlete and mother to suggest that having a baby improved her athletic performance. Paula Radcliffe, the world record-holder in the marathon, won last year's ING New York City Marathon seven months after giving birth to a daughter, and stated afterward that giving birth made her a better runner."

While I don't know if the physical act of giving birth (especially because my children were all born by c-section, so I can't claim that the pain of a marathon is nothing compared to vaginal delivery!) has made me stronger, I do think that living my life for my children has given me such a sense of purpose and determination that I have become more focused and balanced.

The second reason this was such a memorable trip was that it reminded me what it's like to be on my own schedule again. I hadn't realized how much I had forgotten what that was like until I actually had a weekend with no one to answer to but myself. I went to bed when I wanted to (sadly, that was 7:30 p.m. the first night I was there, as I had been up since 3:30 a.m.!), decided what activities to do during the day, left the hotel within five minutes of deciding I wanted to leave, walked as fast as I wanted, ate what I wanted (in peace!) and when I wanted. I hadn't done that in over two years and it felt so foreign.

I won't lie- I loved the freedom of being on my own for a weekend. But I also can't deny that I missed my family terribly. Every little kid I saw reminded me of our own. I watched, teary-eyed, as I saw other runners walking around over the weekend and after the race, with their children. I got choked up when I saw little kids holding signs that said "Go Mommy" or "Go Daddy." I talked about my kids (and DH!) to as many of the other runners who would listen. I called home A LOT.

Another reason this trip was special was that I had a chance to meet-- in person-- someone I consider one of my closest friends but who, amazingly, I had never met in person until this weekend. We met on an online infertility discussion board four years ago and she's been one of my biggest supporters and inspiration through everything we've gone through over the years. It was so special to be able to meet her (and her sweet and funny DH) in person. Giving her a hug was really a highlight of the weekend. I also got to meet up with another "online" friend (who I had met before when I went to run Boston in 2005) and a friend I used to work with while I was practicing law. Reconnecting with all of these friends reminded me how lucky I have been to have such amazingly strong, inspirational women in my life.

Over the weekend I thought a lot about the differences between the last Boston Marathon I ran in 2005 and this year's race. In 2005 we were in between our fourth and fifth round of IVF. The race was a way for me to recover a little bit of who I was before we started going through infertility hell. I was poorly trained (thanks to having gone through a cycle just a few weeks before the marathon and lots of extra pounds complements of the injectible meds) and in a very negative state of mind. It showed in my finishing time (the worst of all of my 11 marathons) and in my condition at the end of the race (barely in one piece). This time I was really at peace and in the "right place," both physically and mentally. It's amazing what a difference a few years can make.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Statute of Limitations?

We finished the last of our five unsuccessful rounds of IVF with our local clinic almost three years ago in May of 2005. That's not counting the two IUIs we did before my RE convinced me I was such a "high responder" that it made more sense to move to IVF and not waste time on IUI. Five. Unsuccessful. Two of those with PGD that showed horribly messed up embryos (we're talking five of one chromosome, none of another, etc.) After which my RE told me the chances of me having a biological child with my own eggs was like "finding a needle in a haystack." And then proceeded to tell me that the Big Clinic we planned to go to for a second opinion (just to put our minds at rest that we did everything possible) would never accept us because I was too much of a "risk factor" to their statistics, given my horrible track record (Five. Unsuccessful. Remember?)

After we had success at Big Clinic, I tried not to dwell on the fact that we "wasted" SO much money at the local clinic before we went to Big Clinic. I justified it by telling myself that without the benefit of the hindsight of those five cycles, my RE at Big Clinic might not have been able to come up with the exact right protocol on the first shot. But it still made me shudder when I added up, mentally (and on our tax returns for purposes of medical expense deductions) how much we had spent. We were lucky enough to have some insurance coverage- 50% for most cycles- but with PGD and ICSI (not covered by insurance) we were easily out upwards of $50,000.

Last week in the mail I received a bill for $2,000 for a cycle from MARCH 2005. It's now April 2008. Trying to decipher the transactions on the bill, all I could make out was that even though the original charges were incurred in 3/05, something didn't happen with our insurance (an "adjustment"-- I am guessing that is their deduction for the agreed-upon price the clinic can charge according to my insurance company?) until March of this year.

My first reaction was rage. How can they send us a bill for a cycle from THREE YEARS AGO when we had checked numerous times after we left the clinic to make sure we had paid everything that was due? Luckily, I am pretty anally organized and had the paperwork on hand from that cycle, including an itemized statement showing that we paid a 50% co-pay of $3250 in addition to $5000 for PGD and $2000 for ICSI. Just looking at that statement- and all of the other statements in that pile of paperwork- made me want to throw up. If we had just a fraction of that money back today, it would seem like a fortune. At the time, I was working in a well-paid job and we could afford it, but now that I'm at home with the kids, money like that seems like an outrageous amount.

So of course I then spent the next several days gathering information, trying to get answers from the billing office, my clinic, and the insurance company. Each pointed to the other one-- "we don't know why you owe that amount-- check with [your insurance company, the billing office, the IVF clinic]." And it didn't help that the billing manager at the clinic ignored my phone calls until I sent an email, which I copied myself on in case I had to go to the doctor, which was my next step. She must have felt a little more accountable for a request that was in writing vs. my voice mails (no documentation) because she got back to me PDQ after I sent the first email.

From what I can tell (and this whole thing is so complicated and convoluted I really don't know which way is up any longer), they are claiming that the 50% co-pay the clinic charged us at the outset was not enough to cover the costs not covered by insurance, and that they did not get the final word from our insurance as to what it would cover until last month due to a lot of back-and-forth getting billing codes correct, etc. This is despite the fact that the policy of the clinic was to collect the full co-payment up front (after verifying with insurance how much I would owe) before the cycle. And despite the fact that we paid $10,250 for the cycle anyway. (OK, that makes me want to gag again. That was for ONE of our SIX cycles).

If anyone out there knows anything about medical billing and insurance reimbursement, do you have any insight into this? My response in the end was to mail the billing office a copy of the statement from our cycle- which showed that we paid the $3250 co-pay which was supposed to cover, among other things, the two services they are now billing for (retrieval and culture/fertilization) and requested a full explanation of why that co-pay did not cover what they are billing us for now and why it has taken three years for this charge to come to light. I want to put the burden on their shoulders to unravel this complicated web of insurance and medical charges because despite the fact I am an intelligent person (I'm actually an attorney- go figure...) I have NO idea why we're being charged for this now, or even if they can bring this up three years after the service. I have a sick feeling we're going to end up having to pay this in the end- to a clinic that basically kicked us out to the curb- but I'll fight it tooth and nail before we do.

Monday, April 14, 2008


One thing I really wanted to know before Smiley arrived was what the addition of a new baby to our family would mean in terms of our day-to-day life and logistical reality. So in case anyone is reading this blog who is expecting a third very soon after their twins (or even expecting their second child soon after their first), here are the major adjustments we've had to adapt to and issues we've faced over the last several months:

Zone Defense vs. Man-to-Man: This is probably the single biggest adjustment. With two kids, I was easily able to transport and supervise them myself. When we went out as a family to gatherings, like neighborhood barbecues or birthday parties, generally DH or myself could keep an eye on the kids while the other one hung out with friends, grabbed something to eat and otherwise relaxed. Now outings look something like this: I take care of Smiley, holding her and/or feeding her if she is not sleeping in her carseat, which barely happens any longer now that she's almost six months old. DH keeps an eye on the twins, getting their food and drink, making sure they don't try to pull things down from a counter or eat something they shouldn't, changing poopy diapers, etc. So neither of us really gets a chance to just relax. I've seen DH step up a LOT more now because of this. Before, it was generally me doing all the work with the twins while he got involved in a conversation with a friend or grabbed a bite to eat. Now he's on full duty with either Smiley or the twins. However, it is getting easier as the twins get older and they're able to go off on their own and play. We actually let them go down in a basement playroom at a neighbors' house to play with the "big kids" on their own recently. I was going down every two seconds to check on them to make sure they were OK, but I think it's the start of them getting more independent, freeing us up to take turns with the baby. In fact, we left Smiley with her grandparents this weekend while we took the twins to a birthday party and as the twins played off on their own with their friends, I mentioned to DH that I was actually bored without Smiley to take care of!

Out and About: When I'm out and about on my own, it's a little trickier to transport three kids, especially when one is an infant. At first I was doing a lot of double stroller/baby bjorn combinations but that was waking Smiley up and let's just say Smiley wasn't so Smiley when it was time to put her back in the carseat. So we ended up buying this "freak show" of a stroller which allows me to put Smiley, in her carseat, into the stroller, while one twin sits in the other seat and the other stands on the back. You should see the looks we get when we use this stroller. I really like it despite the fact it's huge. I don't use it all that often because for short walks the twins can walk or I can take the double stroller, put Smiley in one side, a twin in the other, and have the second twin hold my hand while we walk; but for shopping trips when I just need to get everyone in and out quickly or for longer commutes, this stroller is worth it's weight in gold.

Different Ages, Different Stages: I honestly think that it is probably easier to have triplets than to have twins and a newborn, just because of the different needs of the two different age groups. Whereas the twins want me to sit down with them and read a book, wait while they sit on the potty (but of course not actually "go") or play with them outside, Smiley needs to have a bottle, take a nap, etc. If all three needed the same type of attention, it wouldn't be as difficult as giving the two age groups (toddler and infant) different types of attention. There is a sort of economies of scale with multiples. So often I find myself feeling bad that Smiley is sitting in the Exersaucer while I read the twins a story or serve them their lunch, or when the twins are left to play by themselves while I give Smiley a bottle (speaking of which, I ended up nursing for one month and then pumping and bottle feeding-- mostly because of time and efficiency issues-- until she was 4.5 months old). It's times like this that I am actually thankful I have TWO older kids, though, as at least they have a friend to play with while I am busy with the baby. I also realize I'd have these issues no matter if I had just one older child or's simply an issue of different needs for different types of attention.

Scheduling: With a newborn/infant, scheduling is always tricky. Try synching that with the schedules of older twins. Luckily, for now at least, I think I've done a good job of coordinating Smiley's second nap of the day with the twins' one big nap of the day, typically (but not always) giving me one long stretch of time in the afternoon when all three kids are sleeping and I can get things done. But occasionally Smiley will wake up from her morning nap just in time for the twins to go down for their long nap. And you guessed it-- they are waking up from their nap just about the time she's going down for her second nap. I've figured out that if I keep Smiley awake by keeping her out and about in the mornings (which generally isn't difficult since we're always running around with the twins to their activities) I can usually sync their naps in the afternoon. Plus, I try to tweak her feeding schedule to fit into the twins' schedules. Usually it works, but it definitely takes some thought and coordination.

In general, though, now that we've gotten into a routine, things go pretty smoothly and it's fun having a baby around and watching the twins dote on their sister. I can tell already that the three of them are going to be VERY close, and it makes all of the work well worthwhile.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


OK, OK...I know it's been a very long time since my last post. And no, I really can't use the excuse of having three little ones for my utter lack of posting. First of all, ironically I no longer technically have "three under two," as our twins turned two years old at the end of March (!!!) Second of all, we've settled into a nice routine now that LS is 5 1/2 months old. Since she was about 4 months old, I've had my evenings back and can count on a pretty good night's sleep, as she goes down right before the twins around 7:00 and generally doesn't get up until somewhere between 5 and 7 a.m. I can't complain. I've had plenty of time to get back to my volunteer activities, train for my upcoming marathon and lurk on everyones' I have been keeping up with everyone else and always feel guilty for neglecting my own blog! It's just that I had let so much time slip by it seemed kind of silly to pop back in and start posting again.

But today I met up with the Order of the Plastic Uterus, an AMAZING group of women. Even though I only knew one of the members in attendance in real life (the utterly inspirational and tireless Mel), I really felt like I had known everyone else for a lifetime. Maybe it's our shared experiences or maybe it's the fact that I've been following their blogs through Mel's blogroll (and LJ's blogroll of the members of the Order) but I left feeling like I had just caught up with a bunch of old friends. I also left feeling like it was unfair that all of these ladies had allowed me an intimate look into their lives through their blogs, but I didn't reciprocate by keeping up a blog of my own. Not that everyone (or anyone for that matter) should necessarily find my life captivatingly interesting, but it only seems fair that if I get to look into their lives, they should have the opportunity to look into mine. Same goes for all of the other bloggers with blogs I read all the time.

So I am making a resolution to start posting more regularly again now that we've settled into a nice groove as a family of five. Don't get me wrong- there was plenty of adjustment going on the first few months (which I'll be sure to blog about in the future). But now it feels like we always had three kids and I'm really enjoying watching LS (who, by the way, I think I'll start calling Smiley because that is much more fitting than LS, since this baby smiles almost ALL of the time) go through the stages that are sort of a blur for the twins.

Before I sign off today, I just have to add that I'm feeling extremely self-conscious after I got home from our gathering today and our older daughter, now just barely two years old, points at my (admittedly bloated from too many brownies and cheesecake) tummy and says "Baby?!!" DH did his best to hold back his laughter as I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. No, sweetie-- no baby, just what Mommy's tummy looks like after having three babies in the course of 19 months. You can thank me later.