Sunday, May 27, 2012

Monday, May 21, 2012

Supremely Disappointed

First, let me say that this is not a political post. It's a very personal one. If you can only respond from a partisan point of view, then keep your opinion to yourself. If you can respond to a mother's heart, then I'd love to hear your thoughts. If you're a reproductive lawyer in Southern California, I'd really like to hear your thoughts!

I don't think that I have blogged about this situation before, but today I just need to do so.

Prior to getting pregnant with Michaela, I had learned on a widows' online forum of a young widow in my local area who had conceived a child after her husband's death from cancer. She shared that after a 13 month battle with the Social Security Administration that she had finally won survivors benefits for her child. Now, I would have continued to pursue a pregnancy without this knowledge, but the idea that any child of Michael's and mine could receive benefits was a positive. As his widow, I am not entitled to any of Michael's SS benefits now or in the future. Being a teacher with a defined benefit pension plan, I am not entitled to his benefits, or mine from the years I paid into the system before becoming a teacher. That's just the way it is.

Anyway, I had no idea that there was any controversy surrounding Social Security benefits for "posthumously conceived children" as Michaela is referred to in a legal sense. So, the month after she was born, I made an appointment to apply for benefits. I provided documentation from my doctor to prove that she was Michael's child, and the young woman who helped me said that it usually took about a month for an application to be processed and for the benefits to start being received.

With that in mind, I made arrangements for my housekeeper to take on the additional responsibility of being Michaela's nanny two days per week. I figured if there was a delay in the receipt of the benefits, then my small savings account would cover me for several months of pay for our nanny. Surely, it couldn't take that long. Or could it?

Toward the end of the summer, I started calling the local SSA office to check on the status of my application. I was told that the young woman who had taken my application was no longer there, and that someone else had been assigned to my case. I left messages for this person, but never received a return call. At some point, I spoke with the operator in the office and was told that once again my application had been reassigned to yet someone else. I left messages again and again throughout the fall of 2011, but no one ever returned my call. Sometime toward the end of the year, I called the SSA's 1-800 number, and at that point I actually talked to someone who would only tell me that my application had been referred to "legal".

By the time I got that much information out of the SSA, I had already become aware that there was much controversy swirling around posthumously conceived children and whether or not they are entitled to survivor's benefits. In fact, I learned that the SCOTUS was going to hear arguments about a similar case this spring, which they did in March this year.

Then at some point in my research online, I came across a woman with a similar situation to mine who had gone through this nearly twenty years ago. Her fight with the SSA resulted in her daughter receiving benefits, and it motivated her to become a lawyer. She has since organized a private group for those of us she could locate with posthumously conceived children, and we've all been hanging in there together waiting for the SCOTUS's decision.

Today that decision came, and the court decided that benefits can only be allowed if the individual state's inheritance laws allow for it. That means I'm still in limbo because I do not know if our case will meet these terms, or not:

A posthumous child may inherit if: (1) the decedent consented in writing to be treated as a parent; (2) if the decedent designated an agent; (3) the decedent’s designated agent gives notice to the person with the power to control the distribution of the estate within 4 months of his death that the decedent’s genetic material is available; and (4) a child is conceived within 2 years after the decedent’s death.

Obviously, #4 applies, and Michael did sign his sperm over to me in case of his death. I contacted my RE's office today to request all documentation that indicates his consent. I should have it in hand very soon. #2 and #3 are not easy for me to understand. Michael had a will, and I was the agent (executor) of the will, and everything of Michael's was left to me in the will. But is that what #2 and #3 mean, or not?

So, I guess the next step will be for me to meet with a "reproductive lawyer" and discuss whether or not we qualify to petition the SSA for benefits or not. Great. Legal fees. Sigh... I think the thing that bothers me the most is that some have received benefits, and some have not. I am also surprised that a federal program like SS pays out based on states' laws instead of a uniform policy that applies to all Americans.

I am so blessed to be Michaela's mom, and I would do it all again no matter what, but those benefits would be a big help.

Why can't these things be easy?

Friday, May 18, 2012


Busy girl on her first birthday.
Not the best picture, but she doesn't really slow down for pictures these days!

The dreaded first birthday has arrived. Mommy was the only one dreading it. Michaela doesn't have a clue that today is her birthday, and everyone else is happy and excited. I just didn't want the first wonderful year to be over all ready. Thus, the dread. Oh, well. Onward!

Growth: Michaela is still wearing 12 months clothes, but we still have some 9 month items that fit, and there are some 18 month items that work for her, too. She still wears a size 3 diaper, but she has recently started wearing size 4 shoes. We will see the pediatrician next Thursday for more detailed information about height and weight. Update: Michaela's length was 29.75 inches long, and her weight was 21.6 pounds. That put her in the seventieth some-odd percentile for height, and the fiftieth some-odd percentile for weight.

Eating: Michaela is usually a good eater. She likes to feed herself, and she can get very frustrated if I help her too much. This is the first part of her personality that reminds me of me. My mom says I used to say, "I do!!!" Michaela can't say that yet, but I know that's what she means. It is also lots of fun to drop food on the floor, or feed her food to the dog. I do not like this, but for some reason I laugh when she does it. So, I guess she will continue doing it until I can pull myself together and give her one of my stern teacher looks instead. Just this week we stopped with the formula and switched to whole milk. She seems to love it, and it seems to agree with her. I am going to wait until school gets out to wean her off the bottle and transition to sippy cups for milk. She drinks water from a sippy cup, but I know she enjoys her bottle time.

Sleeping: Michaela usually takes a one or two hour nap in the morning, and about an hour nap in the afternoon. All naps take place in her crib. Her bedtime is 7 pm, and most nights she goes down without fussing. However, I can usually count on her awakening around 9 pm. Seems like she wakes up and thinks, "Hey, where' s Mom? I want to be in her bed now!" She's becoming more active in her sleep, and she really gets around through the night. I never know what direction she will be facing when I wake up. I read another co-sleeping parent's description of what kind of sleep one gets while sleeping with your child. She said it's a "decent" night's sleep. Not "great" but decent. That's an accurate description. I figure that I'd still be getting up in the night with Michaela if we weren't co-sleeping. She has a "chewy cloth" that she keeps in her mouth almost all night long, but if it comes out and she can't find it she cries. I'd be running into her room to find the chewy cloth more than once each night. This way, I just feel around and give it back to her. I can do that half asleep.

Other developments: Michaela's vocabulary is growing, but it's funny to me how she learns a word, uses it a lot, then abandons it for a while. The speech teacher at school said she's just storing it while she works on learning the next word she wants to use. So far I've heard her say "mama", "bur" (bird), "gog" (dog), "Buh-ee" for Buffy, "bay-bee" (baby), and "bye-bye". She chatters non-stop all day long. She also makes these vocalizations that I'm sure are her way of singing. She just has the cutest little voice.

While she's not walking on her own, she's very interested in walking. She likes to hold onto my hands and walk and walk. There is a toy at Grammy's with wheels on it that she can push along and walk behind. She really likes to do that. I am hoping she will wait to walk until school is out.

She spent her birthday with Grammy and Papa while Mommy worked and went to the doctor's after school. We stayed for dinner, and I brought her a little birthday cake from my favorite bakery. She smeared the frosting around, but wasn't very interested in the cake itself. Her birdie birthday bash is next weekend, and maybe she will eat some cake then. She has received several cards and gifts already. She loves the cards and the wrapping paper the most!

It has been an amazing year of developments and the reality of an answered prayer. I feel incredibly blessed to be Michaela's mommy. I try not to wish away a single day of this wonderful experience with her. I know from years of being an auntie, and from teaching, that children grow up way too fast. I don't want to miss a thing with this sweet child of mine.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

First Mother's Day

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Okay, so this was another one of those holidays that I had sort of been dreading as it approached. Mother's Day has become one of those Hallmark holidays where you're supposed to be lavished with jewelry and all sorts of pampering by your husband and children. Right? Well, when you're a widow with a very young child, that's just not going to happen. So, I had given myself a pep talk about how it really isn't that important, and what's important is that I am a mom - finally.

However, about a week before Mothers Day I was desperate for a pedicure, and I realized that the reason I didn't like the way my hair looked was because I hadn't had a haircut since late October or early November. It is just so hard to get those things done on the weekends with Michaela. So they get done very infrequently. In my desperation, I wrote on my Facebook wall that all I wanted for Mother's Day was a haircut and a pedicure, but that I needed a babysitter.

Coming to my rescue was my sweet friend, Ashley. She offered to come up on Saturday morning with her daughter, Sophie, and that they would keep Michaela entertained while I enjoyed my haircut and pedicure. I was so touched by Ashley's willingness to do so. She's just an incredibly generous and thoughtful person. Anyway, while Michaela played with Ashley and Sophie, I enjoyed some time to myself.

Ashley also surprised me with a bouquet of flowers and a card that Michaela had obviously "dictated" to her. Made me cry happy tears.

Sunday afternoon we went to my sister's to lounge in her beautiful garden. Michaela loves their koi pond, and she was delighted to put her hands in the pond and "pet" the fish. Julie (and company) put together a delicious dinner, too. It was such a nice afternoon.

So, I made it through my first Mother's Day without having to feel too sorry for myself. I am so blessed to be Michaela's mommy, and to have such loving and supportive friends and family.