The Outcome & The Oncologist

By Tanya Dodd-Hise

One week out from surgery.  The pain is intense; the drains are annoying as hell.  My post-op appointment with my surgeon is today, and I am SO hoping that she will remove at least one of the drains today.

We get to my appointment right on time, and are taken back right away, as usual.  She starts off by telling me that I am actually and officially only a stage 2 with my cancer; and based on the number of lymph nodes affected (9 out of 15), I was actually a 2a.  Initially, just after surgery, she had thought that based on the size of the tumor that she took out, I would for sure be a stage 3, which is what she told me in the hospital – thus upsetting me greatly before I was ready to go home.  But when I went in for this appointment, she told me right off that she had been mistaken, and I was truly only a stage 2.  She said that her first statement was based on the size of the tumor, and that it appeared to be 4 cm upon initial examination in the operating room.  The lab returned a result that it was actually 3.5 cm, and therefore only a stage 2.  I was VERY grateful for her error in judgment!  But this also told us that it had grown quite a bit, in quite a short period of time.  When I found it, my doctor estimated its size to be 2-2.5 cm.  The mammograms and ultrasounds measured it at 2.76 cm, just two weeks later.  The biopsies measured this tumor at 2.8 cm, and the final lab results after removal show 3.5 cm.  This is at least a full centimeter growth in less than six weeks!  She then went on to tell me that she got all of the cancer, to the best of her knowledge, but she suspected that the oncologist would want further body scans and brain scans, to make sure it hadn’t spread to other parts of my body (since it was so aggressive and fast growing).  I pray that the fact that it was fast growing says that it had not been there long when I found it.  I then got her to take out the right drain, which was heavenly; but she said I would have to wait a few days longer for the left drain.

baby

The Oncologist:
While on our way to my post-op appointment with the surgeon, I got a call from Texas Oncology – Carrollton. I made an appointment for my consultation with Dr. Enrique Perez for Friday, April 19th. The very nice lady, Roxann, emailed me new patient paperwork so I could be efficient and ready upon arrival. When Friday arrived, we went to lunch beforehand at one of favorite restaurants – Misto Bistro – run by one of my favorite friends, Janet. We have been friends for a while now, and I have worked with her doing catering (which I love); but our friendship has gone to a whole other level in the past several months, and she is even more special to me than before. After lunch, we headed to Texas Oncology of Carrollton, where I met the chick who will be my supercool nurse, Amy. I was ushered into a room, where I was asked a series of questions that I had already answered on all of the forms that I had previously filled out. Soon, we were being introduced to Dr. Perez – a very nice and very tall man with a wonderful disposition and bedside manner. He was able to put me to ease by anticipating my questions and answering them before I even got a chance to ask them. I told him that my genetics testing came back negative, and my hormone receptor testing came back as a triple negative – triple negative for estrogen, progesterone, and HER2. So now what? I am negative for everything. “What does that mean for me??” I asked the doctor. It basically means that it is harder to treat; but we are going to fight and we are going to do everything that we need to do to keep me alive. Well alright. That’s what I need to hear.
Dr. Perez went on to tell me that he wants me to have a PET scan, a CT scan, and an echocardiogram before starting chemo. He also said for me to go ahead and have the port put in, while I am waiting to start and waiting for my scars to heal. He explained that based on all of my negative results, he was going to do a certain course of drugs (which I can’t remember the names – except that one is the evil red one that I have read about) for four rounds, three weeks apart. The first four rounds will be two drugs together. After that I will do another four rounds, three weeks apart, of a third drug. He said that I WILL lose my hair, and other side effects could include diarrhea. Yay.
Three days later I was back in Dr. Garner’s office to get my left drain out (FINALLY, thank God!). I went over my oncologist visit with her, and we scheduled my outpatient surgery for the port placement. It would be a couple of days later, on Wednesday morning, and she assured me that it was nothing…a breeze. This procedure would be a walk in the park compared to the mastectomies.
So I guess here we go. No looking back. Part one is done. And as hard as it has been in the two weeks post surgery, I don’t think it will be anything compared to what is coming with six months of chemotherapy.
Guess we will see.

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The Cause

April 29, 2013 by  
Filed under Same Sex Parent, Tanya Dodd-Hise

By Tanya Dodd-Hise

It is very odd to lie flat on my back these days.  If I do, and I put my hands behind my head, then it makes the tumor in my breast very prominent and noticeable, even if just to me.  It is fairly large in size, so whenever I lay down, it is a constant reminder of what lies just beneath the surface.  Do you know how strange it is to walk around knowing that there is this thing with me, all the time, that I can touch and feel…a thing that has the potential to kill me?  I will tell you.  It is the most peculiar, uncomfortable, uneasy feeling that I have ever had in my life.  EVER.

As the days pass by, waiting for things to start moving and happening, it gives me a lot of time to think.  I have yet to have the inner dialogue of, “Oh God, why ME??  Woe is me and why would you do this to me, Lord??”  No, that hasn’t happened.  But I HAVE wondered what I could have done differently over the course of my previous 42 years to prevent this.  Did all of those years of smoking contribute to my cancer?  Did my miscarriages also raise my risk of developing this particular cancer?  I know that both of these things are supposedly risk factors that can increase a woman’s chances – but did they in my case?  I will never know that.  Did being overweight for so many years increase my chances?  Or being sedentary for so long?  Or perhaps the deoderant that I use – did using a rollon instead of a spray do it?  Yeah, there are all kinds of wacky theories out there.  But seriously, I have to sit and wonder what I did to contribute to the development and discovery of cancer in my body – and will I develop it somewhere else, too?

breast-cancer21

There is also the possibility that I inherited the gene that producees breast cancer. After all, my mother has had it. Her only sister has had it. I think they had maternal aunts with it. One of my father’s sisters has had it. I got whammied on both sides on the gene pool.

Tomorrow (Wednesday), I go back to UT Southwestern to have genetics draw blood and begin the process of testing me for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. My part is simple – they draw a vial of blood and send it off. The hard part is waiting for the results – 14 days. This, however, will help the surgeon determine if she should take just the affected breast, or preventatively take both (which is what I want). Even if I don’t test positive for the gene, I want to have both breasts removed, so that I don’t ever have to go through this again. For those who do not know, the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are known as tumor suppressors, and are linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancers (according the the National Cancer Instiitute). I read some interesting information regarding the genes and testing, which helped me understand it more.

Both men and women who have harmful BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations may be at increased risk of other cancers – NOT just breast or ovarian. Women who inherit a harmful mutation has an increased risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer at an early age (meaning before menopause). Men who inherit harmful BRCA1, in particular, also have an increased risk of breast cancer, and possibly, pancreatic, testicular, or prostate cancers. Lovely.

I believe that the foundation is covering my genetics testing, or they will bill to Medicaid once I get coverage. I was, however, encouraged to hear that if I am positive for either the BRCA1 or BRCA2, then there is a chance that the foundation will also bring my boys in and perform the test on them. It would be very beneficial to know if either of them are also positive for these genes, so that they can be proactive in their health to do whatever they need to prevent getting an active cancer diagnosis. Plus, Nicholas already has a baby girl, whom can also inherit this gene if her daddy is positive for it; something that I would HATE to see happen!

So I guess that if the tests come back as positive for this, the “breast cancer gene,” then that can pretty much explain the cause of my cancer. If not, I guess I will never know what caused it or how I possibly contributed. All I know is that it is here now, but I want it gone. Soon I will begin the fight for my life, and I am so truly grateful for every well wish, every email or Facebook message, every prayer, every offer for help and/or babysitting, and every dollar that has been donated to help during this time that I won’t be able to work. I truly believe that together we can and will triumph over this horrible mutation, and live to write about it all!

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I Adopted My Own Children

November 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Parenting, Same Sex Parent

By: Heather Somaini

Yes, you read that correctly. I adopted my own genetically biological children.

As same sex marriage continues to evolve in our great state of California and across the country, you might think that just having children and then getting your name put on their birth certificate would be everything a parent would need to do. But funny enough, same sex parents and their children fall into a legal grey area that sometimes feels like the Wild, Wild West to me. No one truly knows what “should” be done until a case is presented that tests the laws that exist.

But back in 2007 when our little guys were born, it was even more vague and grey. Before we got pregnant, Tere and I had completed and submitted all the appropriate paperwork for a Domestic Partnership in the state of California. A domestic partnership provides to same sex couples most, if not all, of the same rights, protections, and benefits that straight couples have. That sounds great, right? I agree.

What it doesn’t do, is require any other state to also grant those same rights and protections. What that means is that even though our family is protected in California, if we were ever to travel outside of, or move to, another state, we can’t be guaranteed those same rights. In fact, those rights are actually stripped away in other states every day.

We knew we had to protect ourselves and our children as much as we could and our lawyer highly recommended a Step-Parent Adoption which would legally define me as the twins’ second parent. Even though we used my eggs (and an anonymous sperm donor) and the babies were genetically mine, no one really pays attention to it. Instead, the birth mother (in this case, Tere) is considered the only true, legal parent. So we petitioned the court to legally recognize my kids as mine and subject me to the same responsibilities, obligations, and duties under the law of any other parent.

The process of adopting for us was not as stringent as a standard adoption. There was no home visit or psychological profile that needed to occur. Instead, the four of us had to trudge down to a social worker’s office and spend a few hours telling our entire life story, from how we met all the way through our extended journey through baby-making.

I know a number of other people were really upset by the whole process and even having to go through with it but I sort of felt like it was a learning experience just like any other. It made me really think about what it meant to be a parent to these two little creatures that I rushed to come home to, the ones that woke us up in the middle of the night, the munchkins that were putting me through the paces every day. They were mine and no one could say otherwise but this legal document would make it official.

A number of months later, we all went before a judge in Monterey Park. He asked some very serious questions. I answered them all in the affirmative. He pounded his gavel and made it official. That was it. The babies each got a stuffed animal. I know it will probably never really come up for the kids because it would be difficult for them to even understand family law until they’re much older and by then I’m sure it will have all been hashed out but hopefully they will know that we did everything we could to make sure we were all “covered” as a family.

For a brief moment in time, the state of California allowed same sex couples to marry. Almost a year after the finalization of the adoption, Tere and I were legally married by our friend Zach. Once again, we’re in a grey zone since same sex marriages soon after that were suspended and it’s all slowly making its way through the court system.

We have one of everything – a Domestic Partnership Certificate, a Marriage Certificate, and a Legal Step-parent Adoption – and we’ll wait and see how lots of people decide how to define what we already know. We’re a family and nothing they do in Sacramento or Washington DC or Tuscaloosa for that matter is ever going to change that.

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An Interview with Heather Somaini

November 4, 2011 by  
Filed under Family, Same Sex Parent

Interview with Heather Somaini by The Next Family

The Next Family thought it would be fun to begin conducting interviews with our writers to get to know them a bit better. If you have any questions of your own, feel free to ask Heather in the comments section. 

TNF: How has it been blogging for TNF for over a year now?

Well, it’s been scary and exciting and somewhat torturous. I never realized how much time and energy it takes to write 500+ words.  And I’m rarely happy with what I write.

TNF: What aspect has been scary for you?

Putting everything out there for everyone to see. I have to focus on not thinking about what other people will think about my writing or me or my weird thoughts. Otherwise, I turn into a pool of mush on the floor worrying that everyone will seriously laugh at me.

TNF: Do you feel like you hold back in your blogs for fear of judgment?

Sometimes, but I usually work through it and act like no one is ever going to read it. That makes it easier. The only thing that really holds me back is writing about people in my life right now that could ultimately affect me. So I don’t write about situations that have happened at work or with our kids’ school that I think are really sort of crazy.  I don’t think I would want to write anything about my family that would upset them or start a rift with them. I guess I just don’t want awkward situations with the people closest to me or the ones I have to see every day. But I do have thoughts about them and the sort of crazy situations they put me in.

TNF: That makes sense, although I’m always drawn to the most vulnerable writers. How does your family feel about being written about all the time?  Do they get approval rights before it goes live?

I always ask if they are ok with what I’m going to write about and give a bit of final approval although no one has really taken the opportunity to edit.  Tere probably gets the least amount of choice in what I write or any approval rights.  She definitely gets the shortest stick. The really funny thing is that some people in my life are not happy that they HAVEN’T been written about. Some are more straight forward about it than others but I guess everyone just wants to be acknowledged and celebrated.

TNF: I would think that Tere would get the most; it’s got to be tough being written about by your spouse. I guess that’s a sign of a good trusting relationship.  I have found reading your blogs to be particularly interesting in that you have a completely different perspective than I do. You represent the other mother or the non-birthmother.  How has that been for you –or do you even distinguish between the two?

I really feel like I’m some sort of new third type of parent that incorporates a bit of both a mom and a dad. It’s only a challenge when people expect me to be one thing and I end up being something else. We had a situation at our preschool last year and I think they were surprised when I pushed back hard on how things were playing out. It seemed their expectations of me were more “mom-like” and in the end I responded more “dad-like”. Those situations are difficult for me.  I have a very unique “spot” and role in a family.  It’s not a clear path and I feel quite often that I have to find my own way but I’m ok with that. I’ve never really taken the easy route to do anything so it fits. 

TNF: That’s really interesting.  Do you think the same happens to Tere or is her role more clear cut? Did the two of you have to work out who did what in the case of parenting or did you find it to be a natural transition?

I think Tere’s role is very clear cut. She’s the mom. Period. That’s it. The kids know it, everyone gets that. I think Tere was very stereotypical and wanted (still wants) to be Super Mom. My biggest challenge inside our house was to not be marginalized and shut out. It’s been and continues to be hard work to claim my space as a parent. It’s just not inherent in new mothers to share their parenting responsibility I think.  They want to run the show and lots of dads are ok with that. I wasn’t. I wanted a say – a big say.   

TNF: How did that go over with Tere?

Not well. It’s been a process. It still is. I’m pretty sure it’s not what Tere expected or maybe even wanted but in the end, I think she appreciates me. I think she would rather have it like this than having me check out and do my own thing. Or at least I tell myself that!

TNF: Do you think dads check out?

I think a lot do. Not all of them. We know lots of dads that are very involved. But at the end of the day, moms either end up staying home and take on the full responsibility of kids, or both parents work and the mom gets double duty. It’s just in our nature to take care of the people in our lives, especially the ones that really “need” us. So it becomes easy for dads to focus on work and other things.

TNF: I’m finding that less and less so in my observation of moms and dads, the roles seem to be shifting a bit but I get what you’re saying.  How about your kids, are they asking the tough mommy daddy questions yet?

No, not at all. I’m not sure why. We don’t even hear much about other kids at the preschool asking or commenting. We’re the only same sex parents in the school and it almost seems like no one really pays attention, which is a good thing.

TNF: Do you have many friends that are same sex parents?

No, not that many. It’s unfortunate but in reality, most parents are straight – like over 95% of them. 

Is it important to you to have other SSP’s in your life?

No, not exactly but it would be nice. It feels like there are so many components that go into finding other parents that we like, that have similar interests, similar challenges with their kids, similarly aged kids, etc.  We can’t be too picky when it comes to who we actually like and connect with. 

Thanks Heather for giving us insight into your world.  It’s been a pleasure having you blog for us.  Beautiful picture of the family too. 

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Nine Months and Counting!!

September 13, 2011 by  
Filed under Carol Rood, Family, Same Sex Parent

By:  Carol Rood

I love summertime. Ice cream, summer fruits, hot beach days, lying by the pool, drinking frozen drinks, hanging out with friends, staying light outside until 9:00 pm, and NO SCHOOL!!

I am a college student with three kids and two part-time jobs. I also have three cats, a dog, and a beautiful partner who works full time and also goes to college. My kids are 16, 14 and 12, so they are too old to be enrolled in a summer camp and too young to be able to stay home by themselves for long periods of time without getting into trouble. So, I don’t go to college during the summer, and try to work as little as possible during the week. I usually work on weekends.

It defies physics and logic, but somehow having that third child at home seems to be a catalyst for trouble. I can have any combination of them home as a pair and things will go smoothly and I don’t even have to bat an eye with worry about what is going on at home. But add that third kid and it is like fire around dynamite. I get phone calls, I come home to horrible messes and lots of tattling. It is inevitable. I just don’t get it.

They each have their own rooms, we have at least three tvs in the house so they can each watch a different show, we have plenty of food, drinks, and we even have a Wii if one of them wants to play video games. As a matter of fact I won’t even buy games that are for only one player, so there is never a possibility of only one child being able to play by themselves. Even the Wii can always be shared…

We also have a MAC computer that they share to play World of Warcraft (yes we are THOSE people), and goof off on Facebook. Actually, the oldest kid has his own phone that he pays for, and he can access the internet with it, so he just uses Facebook on it, and the middle kid has internet access on his iPod so he doesn’t use the computer for Facebook either. Keeping that in mind, can you believe they fight over the computer also? They each get two hours at a time on the computer, yet I still hear complaints about “He went over his time” and “I didn’t get my full 2 hours.” Really? Is that what I want to hear after coming home from seeing patients? I think not!

So what is it about having that third kid home that causes trouble? I have yet to figure that one out. And of course my partner works full time, so she goes to work and the kids know they better not bug her unless there is copious amounts of blood or broken bones, or the police at our door. Nothing less constitutes calling my Bluebell at work!

This arrangement of course leaves me to be the prime caretaker of the children, especially in the summertime. During the school year, Bluebell arrives home about 30 minutes after the kids arrive home, so we share parent time equally. But in the summer, oh my gosh, I am flying solo most of the time.

We were lucky this past summer because from the day after school ended until the first of August we had at least one kid gone every week. The oldest went to visit Bluebell’s family in Minnesota for most of July, and the middle one went to Boston for a church trip, then to Boy Scout Camp, then to visit my mother in Florida. The youngest really didn’t go anywhere (except when we visited my mother), but he did enjoy complete mom attention, and made out like a bandit with treats. With only one kid it is much more affordable to go out for lunch or grab a drink at Starbucks, so he was one happy camper!

But then August came, and baby, that was a blur. I don’t even really remember August 2011, except for the constant barrage of “can I go here or there?” “will you drive me to (fill in the blank)?” “Can we go bowling?” “Can we go to the beach?” Oh My Gawd! I just couldn’t catch a break. It was as if my three handsome boys were replaced by some aliens. It was exhausting and just a bit scary.

As a matter of fact, even after all of that, Bluebell and I must have had one too many beers the night we told the boys they could each invite a friend to go with us on our annual vacation to a summer rental house in Sandbridge Beach. WTF?! What were we smoking when we thought THAT was a good idea?

Can you imagine having six teenaged boys in a house together for a week? The good news is they all already knew each other because they swim on the same summer swim team and we all live in the same neighborhood. Actually, they all got along beautifully. To be honest, we really had a great time with them! Having a house full of teenaged boys is quite cool, and TONS of fun!! For example, I did not know prior to that week that playing Rock Band on the Wii is MUCH better when played in boxers with shorts on your head. That was a smidgen of information I didn’t have in my arsenal of knowledge. (Can you believe I didn’t have my camera at that moment?)

Now however, all of that summer fun is over, and the kids trudge out the door every morning at 6:45 to catch the yellow vehicle that takes them away to their institutions of learning. We only have to make it through nine more months until we can begin having more summer fun! I can’t wait!

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The First Year With Babies

August 12, 2011 by  
Filed under Family, Multiples, Same Sex Parent

By: Heather Somaini

I’ll be honest…I don’t have much to write about our babies’ first holidays. Nothing spectacular really happened. But if you’re like me, you love the holidays. It truly starts around Halloween, winds through to Thanksgiving, peaks at Christmas and finally goes out with a bang on New Year’s. I love the smell of the holidays. I love the feeling in the air, the change of colors and the urge to shop. I love how much love there is around me. It’s the time of year when everyone puts their best foot (or heart) forward. I like people best then. I love a little more. I try to argue a little less. Hopefully, I’m successful!

What I do have for you are some really fun pictures from our first holidays with the twins. For Halloween, Tere had to have two different costumes for them. One was for their Mommy and Me class (as Hershey’s Kisses) and the other was for actually going out trick or treating. Now we all know there’s no real trick or treating with 7-month-olds, but they sure did look cute as a bumble bee and a lady bug.

We spent Thanksgiving here in Los Angeles and got a jump on the “take your kids’ picture with Santa” thing.  As you can see, sitting with Santa is a little awkward for little ones.  Free even lost his shoe.

We also got these awesome shots of the kids in Santa hats…

My favorite pictures from that Christmas though are of the twins with their great-grandmother.  She adored their little faces and wanted nothing more than to just hold them as often as she could.

And here’s one last one of the kids in their holiday finest.  No mom can resist the temptation to dress their babies or kids up during the holidays!!

 

 

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Someone Stop Me. Please.

August 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Family, Same Sex Parent, Shannon Ralph

By: Shannon Ralph

Someone grab a fire extinguisher and douse me. Pinch me. Pour water in my face. Do something. I am afraid I have finally gone off the deep end. I am thirty-eight years old and as I type this, I feel my fertility oozing out of my body. Fertility that I have never really cared about in the past. Fertility that has been a non-issue for me for five years now. Suddenly, inexplicably, I have a desire to have another baby. What the hell?!

It all started with my partner, Ruanita. At least, I like to blame her for everything. Prior to a few months ago, the thought of having a fourth (fourth!) child never even crossed my mind. I have never been a woman who had an overwhelming need to have children. I wanted children, but didn’t feel like I had to have them or my life would be an empty shell. That is, until we started the process of trying to become pregnant. Then it became a competition. My will versus the family uteri. I was a temperature-taking, mucus-checking, ovulation-targeting phenom. In the end, I was victorious.

Don’t get me wrong. I like kids okay. Babies are cute. But puppies are cuter —and they learn to take that messy business outside after a couple of weeks. I’ve never been the type to ooh and aah over babies in the supermarket. I don’t feel the need to hold every baby that comes within an arm’s length of me. I adored my own children when they were babies but, if we’re being honest, I rarely notice babies that are not related to me.

Ruanita, however, is my polar opposite in this matter. She holds any and every baby whose mother is willing to give her up to the stranger foaming at the mouth over her child. She kisses and pinches cheeks and fawns all over other people’s children. It should have come as no surprise a couple of months ago when she started making thinly-veiled comments about having another baby. Or rather, not having a baby. Out of the blue, she would announce that we were, in no uncertain terms, not having another baby. While lying in bed doing a sudoku puzzle —with not a word of conversation passing between us— Ruanita would turn to me and say, “We’re not having another baby.” Ummm…okay. Or while emptying the dishwasher in the morning (Ruanita insists on emptying the dishwasher the minute she gets up in the morning —before breakfast or caffeine or any other wake-inducing substance) as I sit in a stupor at the kitchen table catching up on Facebook and chugging a Diet Pepsi (my rebellion against the crucial 6:00AM dishwasher purge), she will look up and say, “There’s no way we’re having another baby.” Ummm…okay.

This has gone on for months now. Obviously, Ruanita is thinking about having another baby or she would not be so vehemently opposed to something that we never discussed as a possibility to begin with. So now she has planted a seed. A seed that has rooted and is beginning to grow in my feeble, previously baby-indifferent mind. Suddenly, I find myself wanting a baby. The thing is, Ruanita is older than I am. I am 38. She is 47. If anyone in this duo is getting pregnant, it will certainly not be the 47-year-old. Strangely, I find myself not entirely opposed to being pregnant. See…I have lost my mind. Nine months of puking up my guts. Breaking out in a pimply rash from head to toe. Peeing on myself every time I cough. Gas and heartburn galore. Sounds heavenly, doesn’t it?

This weekend, I broached the topic of having another baby with Ruanita. She held firm and refused to do it. Thank God! However, I am afraid her resolve is not the impenetrable fortress I need it to be. I can be persuasive when I want to be. We were, in no uncertain terms, not getting a dog —until the day we went out and adopted a dog. It’s a slippery slope we’re treading. I have gone so far in recent days as to peruse sperm banks online. Last night, while Ruanita was channel surfing and I was checking out the alumni baby announcements in my college’s quarterly magazine, I actually found myself saying to Ruanita, “I like the name Griffin” and “Eliza is a nice name.” To which she did not respond by chucking the television remote at my head. She actually said Griffin was nice and asked me how I would spell Eliza. Come on Ruanita, you need to be stronger! Get violent with me if you have to!

Yesterday, we took the kids to the zoo. Babies as far as the eye could see. Babies in strollers. Babies snuggled all cozy in carriers. Babies toddling through the crowds. Babies smiling toothless grins. I miss my cuddly, sweet-smelling little little babies. Those same babies are starting kindergarten this year. Someone stop me. Please…

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Why Won’t Those Babies SLEEP???

August 10, 2011 by  
Filed under Family, Multiples, Same Sex Parent

By: Heather Somaini

Once we decided to have kids, life changed – incrementally at first and then in large swings into uncharted territory. No matter what we thought kids and parenting were about, we were wrong. That’s the one thing no one really tells you. The moms tell you all about the cute parts like buying baby clothes and how they smell. The dads tell you all about the hard parts like lack of sleep and poopie diapers. But no one tells you that what you’re about to experience is so outside your realm of understanding that it’s not even worth trying.

Each phase ratchets upwards like some sort of rollercoaster from a planet where rollercoasters are a mode of transportation from the ground to the top of a high-rise building. At first, they hand you this newborn that does nothing but eat, sleep, and poop. You burp them a lot and hope that they’re ok because you have no idea what they need or want. My only thought was to keep moving forward every day. The jolt to my normal sleep pattern was severe. Just. Keep. Moving. Forward.

After three months of that, they sleep less, eat more, and poop like crazy. There was a brief few weeks of euphoria – we made it through the first three months and it was easier! The babies were more than pet rocks, which helped. Life was better. I started talking about having more children. If we could manage so well with twins, one or two more would be a breeze, right? After six months, the euphoria had worn off; we were exhausted and I started to realize that this was like…forever. They weren’t going away.

We had to start sleep training. We had started. Don’t think we hadn’t but we needed to get serious about it. Tere chose the Sleep Easy Solution by Jill Spivack and Jennifer Waldburger. She searched high and low and really felt it was the best combination of sleep training and lack of torture for the parents. I use the term “parents” loosely because the only one who is really tortured during sleep training is the mom. The mom is the one who just can’t stand to let them “cry it out” like in the Ferber Method. In the Sleep Easy Solution, sleep training can start when a baby is a combination of age and weight. At 4 months and 14 pounds, they should be ready but some babies may take longer to hit that goal weight. There’s no crying it out and that’s what Tere liked best.

We read the book and did everything we were supposed to do. It would work for a bit but then it wouldn’t. Tere heard that Jill Spivack was doing a “talk” to promote her book and I happily agreed to go. After listening to story after story, many of their techniques suddenly made sense!

My favorite was the “dream feed”. Jill and Jennifer’s system requires that you determine when your baby actually needs to be fed at night and then “dream feed” them. Dream feeding allows you to feed the baby, usually with a bottle, while they’re sleeping. It avoids not only them waking up hungry and crying their heads off until you wake up, but also you spending a ton of time feeding them and getting them back to sleep. With a dream feed, they eat while they’re asleep and NEVER WAKE UP! It’s pretty awesome because you’re back in bed and asleep in less than 30 minutes.

Although life with babies would change again soon, at least for the time being we were getting a little more sleep and the babies were learning how to sleep through the night! Yippee!

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Margaritas Are Your Friend

August 5, 2011 by  
Filed under Family, Multiples, Same Sex Parent

By: Heather Somaini

I know you’re asking yourself what a picture of two babies floating aimlessly in a pool has to do with margaritas or more to the point, why margaritas are your friend.  But trust me, they are.

Tere nursed the twins for about seven months.  I use the term “nurse” loosely because she never really did nurse them.  We had so many complications before the babies were born and then after that a couple weeks in, we abandoned nursing altogether and my wife pumped exclusively.  The twins both ate formula with as much breast milk as Tere could produce.  Tere always said she wanted to nurse for at least six months.  I was happy to go along with whatever she wanted.  Six months seemed like a great amount of time to me.

Around five months in, Tere started talking about scaling it back and wanting to stop at the six-month mark.  I happily said I was in support of whatever she wanted to do.  One night she was struggling with her decision to stop pumping and asking me my thoughts.  I didn’t have many so that’s what I expressed.  She finally said “Am I the only one around here that’s upset and sad about the end of breastfeeding?”  I knew it was one of those moments where I should probably be thoughtful before I answered so I paused…and thought.  I finally said “Yes!”  Tere was devastated.  I guess she thought I was wracked with conflict over this.  The truth is, I only think the birth mother is the one that is attached to it.  It was actually great for me that the babies took formula – it gave me all the opportunity I wanted to feed them.

So here was Tere, completely wrecked about her decision to stop nursing.  And she just couldn’t do it.  She tried and she tried but something inside her just wouldn’t let her stop.  I’m sure she felt selfish, that wanting her body back as her own was not the selfless act that all mothers should naturally just do.  So no matter how hard she tried, she just kept on pumping.

Without me really realizing it, an answer was just ahead of us.  We went on vacation.  It was just a short four days down in Mexico at a resort that Tere and I knew well.  We had actually planned to go the year before but when Tere got pregnant, she didn’t want to leave the safety of our house and our doctors.  So, I sweet-talked the resort manager to let us postpone our trip by a year if I booked a second room.  We took my parents!

My parents came to Los Angeles a few days before and we all flew down together.  It was a bit of a trek with seven-month-old twins but when we arrived, it was paradise.  Off season and relatively empty – we had the place to ourselves.  After checking in, I promptly corralled my family into the lobby lounge area and started perusing the drink menu.  Soon I had the babies asleep in their strollers and all the grown-ups deciding what kind of margarita they wanted.  When the waiter came we ordered some food and EVERY MARGARITA ON THE MENU.  Yes, I’m serious.  We were on a margarita tasting high.  We must have looked like raging alcoholics.

Tere did not want to drink at all.  She knew that she needed to pump later that evening and any alcohol would be transferred to her breast milk and then ultimately to the babies.  After a bit of coaxing, she finally agreed to “pump and dump”.  If you’re not sure what that is, it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like.  The nursing mother pumps her breast milk like normal but then essentially throws it away or “dumps” it.  Tere sampled every margarita we ordered.

The next day we spent at the pool.  When the lunch order came around, my mom and I ordered a couple of our favorite margaritas from the night before.  Tere hesitated but then decided to drink one anyway.  She justified it by saying she was on vacation so it would be ok to “pump and dump” one more day.  We drank margaritas pretty much every day while we were in Mexico and so did Tere.  By the time we left to return home, she hadn’t pumped any breast milk for the babies and came to the decision to stop altogether.  Suddenly, it was the easiest decision she ever made.

So there you have it my friends.  If your wife is having a hard time bringing her nursing career to an end, just take her on vacation to a warm locale with great margaritas.  She’ll feel much better about it very soon.

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Change Happens!

August 3, 2011 by  
Filed under Family, Multiples, Same Sex Parent

By: Heather Somaini

Change happens. Sometimes it happens when it’s least expected and sometimes we plan change only to find out it happens much differently than we planned. I sort of love change. It forces me to constantly evaluate my life which can be a big pain but it almost always results in something better. I’ve never truly regretted making a big change in my life although I have had to make a few new changes when the first one didn’t work out. That does happen sometimes.

The year our babies were born held a lot of change for our little family. Tere had been in the hospital for something like three months before their birth. I went from using our big house as a place to sleep and change clothes to suddenly having a house full of people and crying babies.

Tere worked from her bed all during her stay at the hospital and then from home for another four months. When she finally went back to work, she started to realize it wasn’t the best fit for her. It wasn’t anyone’s fault; it just wasn’t a good fit. It happens. In the meantime, my 45-minute, one-way drive to work was becoming a problem. I couldn’t care less about the drive but I just didn’t want any extra time away from the things I needed and wanted to do. When I was done with work, I wanted to be home with our babies.

I had wanted to sell our house for a while. We had remodeled the entire thing. It was gorgeous but unless we were going to live in it for a very long time, there was no reason to hold on to it any longer. To get our investment out, we needed to sell. Tere wasn’t sure where she would end up next but it was certainly west of our house in the Hollywood Hills and I worked much further west as it was. I took the opportunity to press Tere to sell. She took me up on it and soon we were in sales mode. Selling your house is stressful but I love it. It doesn’t get much better – I really should have been a salesman of some sort! Soon we had multiple offers and lots of negotiating happening all around us.

As the end of the year approached, we had increased our family to four, Tere had started a position with a new company, and our house was closing escrow. It was the end of 2007 and real change was lurking around the corner. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

My real point is that even after what was probably the most stressful time in our lives, I look back very fondly on all of it. I see this picture of my wife and our son snoozing in our bed late one weekend morning and it makes me smile. I loved that house. I loved that time. I love driving the kids up that hill and showing them the house we brought them home to. They have no idea what I’m talking about but they humor me nonetheless.

Tere and I have had a lot of change. We will still have more change to come and although sometimes we sweat the small stuff, it’s moments like this picture that make me stop and realize what we’re really doing.

Living. Breathing. Being.

I hope you get a chance today to stop and breathe and maybe remember a great moment in your life when change happened.

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