Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Coming clean

I've been quiet lately. Here mostly, but also somewhat in real life. It's not that nothing has happened. On the contrary, my sister got married, we finally got our dog door, and my in-laws decided unannounced visits are fun (they're not). But I have something bigger on my mind, and when that happens, I am often unable to let other thoughts out because I feel like the other thoughts are tainted with the big thought. And I think if I can get the big thought out and off my chest, I can get back to the other thoughts. So bear with me.

I've mentioned before that Dan and I want to start our family. I've also vented my frustrations with comments and misconceptions. But what's bigger than the fact that we're trying to conceive is when that journey began. We recently hit our year mark. On April 12th, to be exact. On that day, after trying for a year and being under the age of 35, I - or rather we - joined a new rank. On that day, my chances of conceiving in any perfectly timed cycle dropped from 20% to only 13%. On that day, I became eligible to begin testing for infertility. I held out hope, having witnessed the unexpected joy of Cycle 12 pregnancies, but a mere week later, I learned for the 11th time in a row that I was not pregnant.

April 12, 2011 loomed over my head for a few weeks. It's been a difficult thing to face. I've had some bad days over it. My mentality has changed a lot since last year. I started out pretty happy-go-lucky, figuring Dan and I would be parents in no time. I bought Taking Charge of Your Fertility and read it from cover to cover. Armed with my thermometer to chart and track my cycles, I was excited not only to be a mom but to learn about my body, something I'd actually been afraid of since hitting puberty. I was liberated, for lack of a better word.

Cycle after cycle went on. At first, I got anxious about it not working. Then I realized, especially after my high blood pressure reading, that I had to chill, both for me and for my hope for a baby. I don't necessarily believe that my baby-wanting caused high blood pressure, given family health history, but it certainly wouldn't help. I relaxed on the charting and temping, and focused more on just trying to have decent timing and rolling with the punches. Almost thankfully, we also avoided pregnancies for 2 cycles in the year - once so I wouldn't be due around my sister's wedding, and again for my friend Rachel's wedding, both for which I was/am the maid of honor. Those avoiding cycles also contributed to calming my nerves. They gave us both a break and renewed our spirits.

Now I know what you might be thinking. I didn't have a full year of TTC. True. But we had 10 cycles with good timing. That's more than some ladies get. Statistically, we should have gotten lucky in 10 cycles. By the numbers, 50% of couples conceive in 6 months, and 80% in a year. So we're somewhere in the 75% figure with 10 cycles. We've gone from "this is taking time" to "we may need help."

And so, I made an appointment for the end of May. I wasn't going to. Not for a little while, maybe not until July. But that last cycle with no results hit me harder than anticipated. I'm wasting time if I don't. If something is wrong, waiting until July just wastes more time. I'm not gonna lie. I'm scared. I'm worried something is wrong, but it's worth it to me - and to Dan, who's so so supportive, I can't tell you how lucky I am - to find out what, if anything, we're dealing with. Maybe we just haven't gotten lucky yet. I'm willing to deal with that. But if something is not right and we can fix it, I want to.

It's hard to say we might have an issue with infertility. Even until now, I kept saying "maybe we just haven't gotten lucky yet." But infertility is defined as failure to conceive within 12 months with careful timing. I qualify, no matter how you dice it. It isn't a label I want to pick up. This isn't about wanting sympathy or attention. This is National Infertility Awareness Week, and in my circle of blog and Twitter and Facebook and Bump friends, there are posts loaded with encouragement and information everywhere. I'm the newbie to all this. There are ladies who've been poked and prodded and injected for years in their pursuit to have a baby. I don't want to go through that, but I may have to. Only time and testing will tell. And in the spirit of getting the word out, and bringing to light the fact that infertility can affect any couple, I'm coming clean.

I also just want to take a moment to thank the very supportive people in my life. There are some of you who've offered advice and knowledge, and I can't thank you enough. There are others who've lent ears and shoulders, and I appreciate that so much, too. I count my lucky stars for the incredible people I have in my life.

Monday, April 18, 2011

My little sister got married!

This past weekend was my beautiful sister's wedding day. She looked absolutely gorgeous, and we celebrated with a beautifully planned party. I'm so happy for her and my new brother-in-law, Daniel.

Check out the happy couple (sorry for the Blackberry photos, it's how I roll) taking it all in at the reception.

I wish you could see her whole dress - it's absolutely stunning.

And my labor of love: their cupcake display and cutting cake. Megan and Daniel chose red velvet, chocolate peanut butter, lemon, Oreo, and maple bacon for the flavors, and they were all a hit. My dad and Dan ended up setting up the display and they did a great job making sure it looked just right. Congrats, Megan and Daniel! Wishing you a lifetime of sweet moments!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Why I'm content spending $2.35 on toothpaste

Ugh, sorry for the wall of text. Blogger hates me today and doesn't give a darn about the spacing I've tried to insert. Last night was the series premier of a new reality TV show, Extreme Couponing (cue Dan leaving the house). I've actually been looking forward to this one. Who wouldn't, when the previews included sound clips such as "that's basically 99% savings." I mean, who doesn't want to save money? There were two episodes on last night, and while I'm not going to recap them, I'll bless you all with my thoughts and some highlights. All of the 4 women whose stories were featured in the two episodes have large areas of their home dedicated to food and product storage. There were blurbs all over Twitter and Facebook about how Extreme Couponing should have been named Hoarders: The Beginning. A couple of the ladies had either a huge basement or pantry for all their goods. But two families had to stock their stashes all over the house. In one, the mother of 7 children (whom she referred to as her litter) had some 1,400 rolls of toilet paper under her 2-year-old's bed, and "he doesn't even know!" Soup was stashed in the kids' playroom. Another mom of six had 75 boxes of cereal in her master bedroom closet, which she called her favorite room in the house. She even said her stock pile was almost as beautiful as her family. Bascially, all these people had amassed enough stuff to keep their families alive in the event of the zombie apocalypse, or for 3 years, whichever comes first. And how can they afford all this, because we know 75 boxes of cereal alone is worth more than many household food budgets? Well, couponing of course. Some of the ladies are able to be stay-at-home moms thanks to their efforts, but couponing is a full time job. They get anywhere from 3 to 12 Sunday papers a week to collect coupons. Then they make massive grocery shopping trips. Everything is organized down to the penny. In many stores, there are policies that necessitate multiple check-outs. One woman had to split her load into eighteen separate transactions to maximize her coupon potential. One couple bought all the same products but checked out separately to double the savings because the store's policy only allowed the doubling of one coupon. For the same reason, another couple had to call 5 friends to come to the store to stand in so they could beat the store's policy. I mean, this is serious effort and planning. All that planning pays off, though. The women featured saved anywhere from 91 to 99% on their groceries. Some were even paid to take stuff out of the store when coupons resulted in a negative balance on some items. They got free toilet paper, vitamins, cereal, and paper towels. Granted, it took some of them two hours just to check out, but it is definitely well worth it when you can say you walked out of the grocery store with $1,900 (OMG) worth of stuff for $103. Yeah, jaw dropping. Now, my issues. First, there's one thing they don't tell you or show you on this show, and it's something I know because I work with some serious couponers. Most of these ladies probably pay a service to keep track of what coupons are resulting in big savings. The taping showed them picking up their papers, circling deals, clipping coupons, and la-de-da-ing off to the store. Not so much. Coupons and deals at the store generally don't coincide. So there are services (or you could do it yourself if you are insane) that keep track of which coupons were issued and when and instruct you on how to organize them. You may have to hold onto them for a month before you can get your best benefit out of them. Some of them will expire. I know people who keep from 2,000 to 3,500 coupons on hand. Then, when the weekly circulars come out, the service alerts you to deals and points you in the direction of the stash where the helpful coupon should be for you to use. It's not as cut and dry as "clip and shop." It takes serious effort and organization, which I don't have. Also, as I mentioned, these ladies are using multiple transactions. I mean, they had spreadsheets of the order that things had to be rung up in order to not miss any savings opportunities. One extra can of corn in a transaction and they'd ::gasp:: pay full price. There's no way in hell I'm going to sort out exactly how to split up orders into 7 or 13 or 18 chunks. I'm just not. I'd personally be embarrassed to ask a cashier to go through all this song and dance. Second, I get that spending less than $10 on a year's supply of stuff for a whole household must be exhilarating, but what are you going to do with it all? I'm not spending my life living among groceries and convincing my kids that cans of soup are appropriate playroom decor. "Hey mom and dad, just pull up a seat on our paper towel chair! They were free!" No. Just, no. Granted, I realize I wouldn't have to hoard as much stuff. But at this point in my life, I just don't find it necessary to have 120,000 sheets of toilet paper on hand at all times. Also, I'm not judging what people feed their families, and I'm the first to admit we eat junk sometimes. But from what I've seen in what they're buying, it's a LOT of processed foods. Boxed cereal, while delicious, isn't what I'd consider the most healthy thing. And they're not buying Kaashi. They're buying Pops and Trix. Sugary stuff. There's also a ton of crackers, sodium-laden soups, hot dogs, etc. I didn't see any fresh produce in any of the carts. I try my hardest to avoid purchases of processed foods. Most of what goes in my cart is fresh meat, veggies, and dairy. I buy Dan crackers here and there, and I keep soup on hand for Crock Pot chicken, but most of what I buy has to be baked, grilled, broiled, roasted, or steamed from it's raw state. Like I said, I'm not saying we always eat the best food, but I don't see the point in saving 95% on processed foods when I try so very hard to make us the freshest meals possible. And I know this could change when we have kids, too. I understand the value in convenient food. Just for now, couponing to fill my shelves with boxes and cans isn't my style. It's definitely all fascinating though. There's a part of me that's jealous of the fact that what they spend on a year's worth of groceries is what I spend on a week's supply of Chobani yogurt (I may be exaggerating). But there's a trade-off, as there is with any choice in life. I'll keep my sanity and pay full price for toothpaste for now. What say you? Did you watch the show? Do you engage in extreme couponing? Non-extreme? Are you content like me to just pay what things cost? How do you save?