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lost and found

On MLK Day, I lost my water bottle. It was a Christmas gift from Evan, a bright coral Corkcicle high-end perfectly-designed water bottle that I’d apparently been waiting for all my life. I was loving everything about it- until it vanished from my life.

That day, the last time I had a Monday holiday off of work, I definitely had it with me at the gym. I couldn’t clearly remember if I’d left with it… Afterward, I’d gone to a café with the fam, and after that to another café to work by myself. I called the gym. I called the first café. Both checked their lost and founds but no dice.

At the second café, I remember being on the phone with my parents, regretting that I must have left my bottle in the car, and getting a cup of water at the water stand by the door. Why would I get a cup of water if I had the bottle with me? I never called the second café.

I proceeded to spend almost a full week in distress over my lost water bottle. My brain could not let go of replaying my movements that day. It was my perfect water bottle, a gift from my son… And yet so ridiculous to be in distress over a replaceable and relatively inexpensive object! Jorge called me over the weekend to let me know the bottle wasn’t coming back. I admitted he was right and ordered a new one. The same exact one. It arrived, and I was placated and moved on to worrying about other things.

Today, on President’s Day, I again reserved some time to myself to work from the café. I ran into my friend Isaiah who works there often. Sometimes I hurry off to my own table but today got pulled into a conversation and ended up sitting at the community table next to him, facing the cash register. I ordered a banana chocolate chip muffin and a latte and pulled out my computer and my notebook. I put my bright coral (Corkcicle wrongly calls it Off Red) water bottle on the table next to me.

After a little while, the woman working behind the counter said, “Excuse me,” and Isaiah said, “Me?” and she said, “No, her.” I looked up and she said, “Is that the first water bottle like that you’ve had or did you have one and lose it and order a new one in the same color?” I smiled in disbelief and said, slowly, putting it all together, “I lost it and ordered a new one in the same color!” And she pulls out my original water bottle from a lost and found shelf to the left of the cash register, where she’d been looking at my lost water bottle for the past month. The visual cue of my identical water bottle sitting on the table in her sight line lead her to put it all together and ask me precisely the right question!!

Her name is Christine. I ended up giving her the original water bottle because of her kindness. I showed her how I wrote my name and number on the bottom of mine so I won’t lose it ever again and she took a Sharpie to the bottom of hers, writing “From Katie, 2/18/19.” She said, “I love a good story.”

I mean. That was cool!!! What does it all mean? I don’t know!

Chloe looks at it and says, “aya aya aya aya aya aya” (agua)

(kiddos in taxi cart photo thrown in just because)

Good signs are everywhere…

xo

 

 

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scattered

I was scattered this week. Trying to push forward on too many fronts, I was jumping from one task to the next thought to the next incoming request… very much in reactive mode. It didn’t help that my phone started malfunctioning over the weekend, randomly crashing and then going into a reboot/crash cycle for hours at a time. Then I lost my water bottle.

The water bottle was a Christmas gift from my son Evan, a gift he thought up and purchased via my sister. It was a 25oz Corkcicle in Off Red, really more of a bright coral. During the month that I had it in my possession, I was in awe of its functionality- a textured surface that allowed for good gripping, a flat edge kept it from rolling, great insulation, and a rubber ring on the bottom to keep it from slipping. It was really the best water bottle I’ve ever had. And then it disappeared on MLK Day, somewhere between the gym and the car and the house (and maybe a café). My scattered brain could not deal.

In between calls to Apple Care, I meditated on my every step of that Monday, trying to recapture every detail of my movements in case there was clue as to my water bottle’s whereabouts. I called the lost and found of the gym (and the café) multiple times. I wandered around my house peering into nooks and crannies, as if a giant, bright-pink water bottle could be camouflaged in the clutter (after seeing a photo of it, J texted me “I’m sorry but how the F could you lose that thing???”). Someone on a local FB moms page posted a “Post your first world problems here.” I posted, in an effort to let it go. It was bothering me that it was bothering me… I mean, water bottles (and phones) are replaceable. Fortunately, it wasn’t bothering Evan, who said, “I’ll get you another one!” (my sister had paid)

On Wednesday, I picked him up early for soccer class and the three of us stopped at a local supermarket for dinner since class ends at 6 and I didn’t want to start cooking after that.

In the supermarket, I felt tired. I realized I should always get a cart to put the wiggly (and heavy) baby in, even if I”m only buying one thing. Evan wanted spaghetti and Pirate’s Booty and I didn’t have energy to insist on a vegetable. I got myself a chicken burrito to share with Chloe, and a kombucha. We paid and headed to the seating area.

As the TV blared Fox News, I stripped off all of our winter gear and set the food up at the table. Chloe didn’t want the highchair and fortunately, blessedly, she wanted to nurse, giving me the chance to eat.

Then there was a moment, as I scooped my unwieldy, loose, dripping burrito up to my mouth with my free hand, when I made eye contact with the mom who had just arrived with her two boys at the table next to us. She gave me the warmest smile. I mean it made time stop.

I suddenly saw my messy, tired self through her eyes- hunched over, nursing a squirming one-year-old, trying (and somewhat failing) to feed myself, while my 4-year-old ate a pretty darn unhealthy dinner and alternated between watching disturbing news and… climbing anything climbable.

And she was so well put-together, with calmer, older kids in colorful, expensive-looking ski-jackets, one quietly eating chicken soup and the other quietly eating sushi.

They were sitting close enough to us that I would normally strike up a friendly conversation with this other mom. But, in that moment, I let her smile validate my tiredness, my scatteredness, and her implicit message: that I am squarely in a season of little ones and I’m doing a good job and someday I will get back to using two hands for eating and buying myself a new pair of jeans that fit and I’ll have two civilized eaters and I’ll smile at the crazed baby mama with the wild hair at the next table over.

I’m rounding the corner. I ordered a new phone. And my new, same water bottle arrived yesterday! I Sharpied my name and number on the bottom.

I also started meditating every morning. It’s helping. xoxo

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baby steps

I created this blog during my first two week wait, back in April of 2012, almost seven years ago. I did a lot of inner reflection on the name, wanting something that could carry me well into the future. I discussed many possibilities with my sister Beez, sitting on a bench next to a serene, goose-filled pond at he SF Botanical Gardens, a moment I’ve thought back to many times. I chose “The Solo Mama Project,” reasoning that it was open-ended enough to apply to whatever happened next, for many years into the future, and I was right.

I don’t remember coming up with the tagline, “one baby step at a time.” I think it came to me in a creative flash as I sat at my laptop building the blog on WordPress- so clever! A double meaning: I was trying to have a baby (thus all steps would be baby-related steps) and, also, the more common meaning: you have to break big projects down into baby steps. Although my younger baby is on the verge of no longer being a baby, this one magically still applies as well.

The giant life lesson here, which I continue to learn over and over, is: Every giant life goal needs to be broken down into steps. Baby steps, to be precise. I’m reasonably sure there are no exceptions to this!

When I created my blog, I was in the midst of managing a million and one details around the fertility process: charting my cycles, choosing a donor, getting tests done, managing my finances, researching insurance, building a community, and keeping my inner circle up to date. Women who start thinking about becoming an SMC have no idea yet about the daily fertility-related to-do list of an active tryer- you mostly feel overwhelmed by the weight of the decision and alllllll the questions. Once you make the leap into actually trying to conceive (a giant psychic leap not to be underestimated), you realize that your life is now dominated by a calendar of steps. Today, the way I put my intention toward having a baby is by calling UCSF to ask if it makes a difference what time of day I pee on a stick to see if I’m ovulating. Tomorrow, I’ll be trying to have a baby by researching how to transport sperm from the sperm bank to the location of my IUI. The next day, I’ll be having coffee with a new SMC friend who is pregnant to compare notes. There is SO much waiting and so many steps seem incredibly distant from giving birth, but they all added up to… giving birth!

As we walked in to an ultrasound appointment to see how my follicles were developing in the lead-up to IVF retrieval, my sister met my nervousness with pure calm, “Picture yourself having the baby.” I wasn’t even pregnant yet! It felt so far away, almost unrelated. I was so fixated on the sub-goal of having enough follicles developing eggs. I had my baby boy under a year later in 2014.

Beez started sending me books about writing books in 2016 and 2017. She knew I had a book in me and that I didn’t know where or how to start. One day, I looked at one of them, a self-published book by a friend of hers called Published. It provided the structure I needed to get started- essentially: define the topic of your book, freely brainstorm notes on every topic related to your topic, organize the topics into chapter topics, create a detailed outline, then devote some chunk of time every day to writing it from start to finish. It was so much easier to write once I had a plan, until I got pregnant again and was too sleepy to wake up early…and I fell off the wagon.

Then, early in 2018 while I was on maternity leave, my friend J started inquiring about my book and whether I could work on it a bit while I was off of work. It sounded crazy but I decided to start writing for five minutes a day. I got into that groove. I found a writing accountabilibuddy, childhood friend Wig. We promised each other twenty minutes of writing per day. We checked in and gently chastised each other for missing a a day. I finished my first draft at the end of 2018. (It’s rough, it needs a lot of work… but it is written. And now I don’t know what the next step is so I’ll be taking my own advice here.)

Believe me, I am in shock that I accomplished this given current demands on my time. But it’s ALL because of baby steps. It’s the ONLY way to give birth to any big idea: writing a book, running a marathon, buying a house, starting a company, or accomplishing any of the other big life-changing, bucket-list life experiences and dreams we all have. It’s so hard to remember this- like, where do I start?

Start with five minutes a day. Start by brainstorming some initial steps. Make one of the steps info-gathering. Break that down into sub-steps like internet research, informational interviews, and joining an online community… I mean- those first five minutes are going to determine some exciting future five-minutes, which will lead to something else great. Always holding the vision of your end goal- it feels so freaking good to do these little steps, no matter how teensy. You’re on your way.

I write all of this as I try to move forward on a million fronts all at once… Once you get a taste of how incremental progress adds up, it’s hard to keep focused! Today, it was blogging. So there ya go.

And with that, I’ll wrap my Saturday morning at the gym and trudge hope through the (massive amounts of snow) to the products of all my past to-do lists- my sweetest kiddos. xoxosnow

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Mindfulness with a Fish Named Yellow

Last night, I took a mental snapshot to write about later. We had just fed our pet betta fish, Yellow, three tiny pellets of fish food and we were sitting on the floor, watching him dart around the tank. I can’t believe how fun it is to watch him. Soothing. Chloe was in my lap in a poofy little white dress with springtime floral pastels and thick white tights, a tiny ponytail sprouting on top of her head, repeating the intonation from high to low (but not the words) of “Hi, Yellow!” Evan had already changed into the pajamas he feels make him look more like a cheetah (named “Jack”), which are actually a blue, black, and white pattern with red trim. Evan was busy making cheetah lairs out of pillows around the bed. I realized I was actually watching the fish like it was TV. Chloe pushed herself to her feet and did her wide-stance stepping over to my desk to start pulling on my mouse. Evan saw the opening and flopped into my lap. I told him that Yellow is a really cool fish, he picked a good one (he was the least colorful one at the store but very active). Evan said,  “When we were in the store, he looked at me. So I knew I would take him home.”

So, you know, nothing really happened in this snapshot. And yet… it contains everything.

I try to take in these moments, as time flies. The baby is in that phase where I wonder how much longer I can call her the baby. She’s tall and walking, which I’m pretty sure is the definition of a toddler. Yesterday she slept later than we did, and made her morning appearance on foot. Evan started soccer one day a week. We’ve done soccer classes before but this is the first time he threw himself into it with full gusto. Every time the coach said, “Ready, set, CHEERIOS!” or “Ready, set, TWIZZLERS!”, Evan reliably laughed out loud. The class is at an elementary school which reminds me that kindergarten is right around the corner.

I read an article last year about how time actually does appear to speed up as we get older, something about how our brains ignore more and more of what it already knows. I would try to find it but I hear some restless tossing and turning in the other room and I might be about to have a munchkin joining me. I have to write fast these days.

I set the alarm for 5:30am this morning, but the baby wouldn’t let me get up until 6:15. She doesn’t wake up all the way, just starts giving protest pre-cries, threatening the full cry, while scrabbling her arms and legs, trying to find me (and the nipple), settling only once latched on. Once she’s in a deep sleep, I can unlatch. Today, I did the things that are hardest to do when she’s awake: shower, write, and enjoy my coffee.

I wonder how your New Year intentions are going thus far? Will you let me know? Mine are a bit all over the place because there’s so much I want to do with so little time. Choosing one task means postponing all the others. But I did have a revelation that I need to plan differently for daily practices vs. to-do items. Writing, like running, need to be regular, and the rest can be scheduled in here and there. I’m also open to evolving my goals. Last weekend, we were at the Museum of Science and Industry (or, as E called it initially, the “Museum of Science and Interesting”), and amidst the throngs of Sunday museum-goers, I ran into a guy who teaches an amazingly fun strength training class at the Y. He remembered me from two years ago when I was going to his class before getting prego and dropping out. I take this as a sign that I need to get back to that class.

I had a New Year’s resolution creep in on its own, without my setting the intention at all, and I’ve been enjoying it thoroughly: unsubscribing from just about everything that comes in to my email. My incoming email had gotten so out of control that I was missing important personal messages. So, now, every day, while on a call or to cleanse my palate between tasks, I bop over to gmail and unsubscribe those mofos. Feels amazing. Recommend!

Here comes the taller munchkin. “Is it OK if I post your Jack the Cheetah picture on my blog?” Small, sleepy voice, “Yeah.” Have a wonderful weekend, friends xoxoxo

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New Year, More Me

HI GUYS! Happy 2019! I didn’t post on here for eight months. I knew it would be challenging to find the time once I went back to work as a mom of two, but honestly that hiatus was pretty much unplanned. I focused on other writing projects (my book!) when I had a free 20 minutes. But I missed the blog format which is where I can run free. And I missed you!

How are you doing! We are great. I have so many thoughts flowing as always with any New Year. The last half of the year was so packed with nonstop work deadlines, many baby milestones, celebrations, travel. Our national sales meeting, which for 100 years has been the first week of January, was moved to the middle of December. At the time, it was nuts. I brought the whole gang (both kids and our au pair) to Florida. In retrospect, though, now that it went beautifully and is behind us, it was a brilliant idea. I rounded the corner at the end of 2018 feeling… spacious. Nowhere to fly, no massive deadlines on the near horizon. I finished the first draft of my book (a self-help-y memoir) on December 31 and I’m ready to blog again.

With holiday downtime, I’ve moved my child care hours around so that I have 9am-noon covered for the last two Saturdays. I run on the treadmill at the gym listening to podcasts (today it was The Daily from Jan 2, highly recommend). Then I head over to my fave café where I write with earbuds in. Today, just before arriving at L!ve, I noticed that Eva Jo had posted a link to a free playlist: “1200 Years of Women Composers: A Free 78-Hour Music Playlist,” which is now streaming into my earbuds. When I run and write, I am the best version of myself.

It’s clear and sunny today, with a high of 50 degrees. It’s January 5. My baby girl turned one on December 11. Just as all humans are, she is incredible, a little flame of eagerness and warmth and desire and learning, with an edge of fiery frustration. She hugs you by leaning her head against your head. She has a lot to say, most of which hasn’t taken the form of words. She has a unique giggle reserved for her big brother. Her ice blue eyes came out of nowhere. Her emerging curls were predictable. She’s walking with more confidence every day, and crawling is almost over (sniff).

Big brother is tall. He’s strong and sensitive and visibly working at managing big emotions which I can see as his eyes change from sad to frustrated to OK again to mad in the space of 10 seconds. He’s moved on from fire trucks into a solidly dinosaur and superhero era. He’s very into science. He’s starting to notice the difference between boys and girls. He said yesterday, “I’m not super into girls, but I am super into Kiera.” He wanted a pet for Christmas and we ended up getting a pet betta fish named “Yellow.” The three of us gather around the tank at dinnertime to give Yellow three pellets of food. It’s exciting and he’s brought a lot of joy (ask me again once we’ve attempted our maintenance of the tank later today). We have a calendar on which we put big X’s whenever we’ve fed the fish, plus a sticker if morning and bedtime routines go smoothly (right now we’ve remembered the fish every day but the stickers are two out of three).

I started this with “New Year, More Me” because the “New Year, New You” concept has increasingly bugged me over the last few years and I’ve been thinking about this a lot. With kids, many of us work to separate the behavior from the person, i.e. we say, “Thanks for putting your dirty undies in the hamper!” instead of, “Good boy!” When someone thinks their self-worth depends on certain achievements, they feel like a deep failure when those achievements don’t or can’t happen.

So- why should this be any different with grown-ups? We all have desires and goals and yearnings to pursue happiness and fulfillment and accomplishments. But our struggles are not ourselves. We are all perfect and beautiful as we are now. And there is beauty in the struggle too; it simply doesn’t have to define us. Believe me, I am ALL ABOUT goal-setting and aiming high. Yet I never want to confuse my successes and failures in that department with my nonstop awesomeness as a human being. I share this as a way to reassure you of the same- YES: set New Year’s resolutions and dream big! And do not beat yourself up or feel like a dolt if it doesn’t go the way you planned, or if the house is still cluttered or if you went ahead and ordered the cheesecake or if you write every day for 10 days and then miss one. You can always reset. Or you can enjoy things as they are and skip the resolutions. The essence of you, there from your conception, is still here! That’s comforting to me. You can change behaviors, which can be brutally hard and ultimately super fulfilling. You can’t change who you are. We do not want a New You.

We want More You!

These were the thoughts in my mind as I sat down to scribble out a few ideas with 10 available minutes on the afternoon of December 31. How can I be the me-est me? Be truest to myself and my own individual strengths, wishes, dreams? Get in the flow, follow my path, insert all the metaphors here.

My friends have so many different (inspiring) approaches to this, from an annual slogan to an annual word to a set of well-considered goals. I love the resolution of one of my friend J: to memorize a new song in a different language once a month. My friend Wig said she just wasn’t in the mood this year. All approaches valid and approved.

My goals are a work in progress. As my kids are now 4 and 1, there’s a teensy bit more space for me, in which I begin, with baby steps, to emerge from the family cocoon to exercise, write, spend time with friends, consider the future. There are big ideas brewing. A lot depends on running and writing. I feel fortunate to be here.

One solid intention for the New Year, obvious and organic in its formation, was to pick up my blog again. In the interest of setting myself up for success, I won’t put a specific time increment on this… so let me just say: see you again soon! xoxo

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adios y gracias, maternity leave

I’m in my final hour of child care before going back to work full time. How will I use it? Blogging, working on my book, and paying bills! We gotta pack it in.

This will be a quick blog. So many wonderful, luxurious long days of lounging with baby Chloe, so many house organization projects, so many middle of the night strategy sessions in my mind have led up to this moment.

I will admit that I kept my days productive. What began with a three-point plan (shower, make dinner, write for 5 minutes) turned into a four-point plan (adding in physical therapy for diastasis) and increasing the writing to 20 minutes with the help of my accountabilibuddy and childhood friend Wig. I am 80% done with a first draft of my book, written mostly in 20 minute sessions. I graduated physical therapy and started going to the gym, continuing exercises and getting on the treadmill up to 2.5 miles.

I made sure I spent some time every day gazing into my baby girl’s eyes. We did Mom & Baby Yoga. I let her nap in my arms while I watched Victoria.

The past month has been a flurry of activity for prepare for the arrival of our au pair, including shifting a lot of furniture around, giving away stuff we’re not using, better organizing the clothes, play areas, kitchen. I mean- there is not an area that went untouched. My parents were incredibly helpful. J was here for the final push this past weekend: meals out, pedicures, wine, closet purging, and shopping. Plus a trip to the zoo. Some people get married, and I have J. I’m not complaining!!!

We picked up our Colombian au pair S at O’Hare ten days ago- while we waited, Evan held a bouquet of flowers like a torch and a welcome sign. We made our way home, showed her to her room with balloons and goodies for her. She’s positive, loving, helpful, easygoing, and she’s definitely coachable. So much to learn for someone in the US for the first time!! She’s doing awesome- already making friends with other au pairs, exploring the city. I’m so excited that I get to use/improve my Spanish while she’s getting up and running learning English.

All this transition is not without sometimes a lot of anxiety for me. When my back acts up or my sleep gets erratic, I know that I’m running through so many “what ifs” in the background. It’s what moms do. It’s my job to keep everyone safe so I must anticipate every possible worst case scenario. Handing one’s baby over is so so so hard. Definitely exhausting at times. But all signs are pointing toward our family in a period of thriving once we’re solidly in our routine.

And I’m cool with the work itself. I know this job, I can do this job. There’s something sweet about being back in the swing of working life too. Not to mention kid-free hours (I never understood the benefit of this until I had my own kids!).

On the other side of the door, I hear a squeaky toy and baby girl babbling. Being in close proximity to the her all day is going to be tricky but I plan to nurse her at lunchtime, bottles in the morning/afternoon… and I’m grateful I don’t really have to leave.

Maternity leave, you have been a blessing beyond words. So very grateful for extended leaves with both my babes. I’m super duper grateful for this gift of time.

More on the baby soon- she’s changing, smiling, laughing, grabbing, rolling…

Once I get my feet under me, I’ll write again XO

 

 

 

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C is 12 weeks old

Oh little C, I’m writing so little about you, my second-born. How cliché of me to under-document your early days! But since you’re having happy nakey-time on the bed next to me, I’m going to put some details down.

First of all, you’re a mellow girl. Once we ironed out day and night, you’ve been pretty much placated by one of the following: nursing, sleeping, burping, diaper change, or change of scenery. If it’s not one of those, I go down the list again and usually I get a hit. You rarely flip out. The other night, you started drooling like crazy, fussing for none of those reasons and I think you may be teething early like your brother. I hear about babies who can’t be put down, babies who won’t sleep, and babies who have issues with nursing and I feel so very fortunate that you go with the flow.

At this moment, it’s 9:39am, the sun is streaming into the bedroom, and I’m wearing clothes from yesterday which I also slept in. You are wearing no clothes and no diaper because I can tell you love to be naked and haven’t gotten much of that, being a December baby. You’re sucking on your fist and doing ab crunches. Now you’re pushing your fist deeper into your mouth with your other hand. I just heard a little protest squeak that gives me a heads up that I may already be taking too long to shift gears to the next activity…

You’ve found your feet with your hands, the classic “happy baby” yoga pose although in its earliest stages, like you grabbed your ankle by chance or by mistake. I look at the delicious fat rolls of your thighs and ankles and I feel so proud of how we’re growing you!

More protest squeaks, hurry up, Mom! You get bored and want some stimulation. I’ll try turning on the ceiling fan (your brother adored those). I lay down with you to point out the ceiling fan and discover that you’ve peed and your toes are cold. I put a fresh diaper under you and keep writing. The fan is capturing your attention although will make you colder…

Bedtime is amazing. We do E’s bedtime routine (PJs, brush teeth, wash face, read 3 books, lights out) and you know once your sleep sack is on it’s time to wind down. Sometimes you nurse during 3 books, sometimes after lights out, but we all fall asleep together. I know that this won’t necessarily last but how freaking peaceful. What a gift to the single mom of two. We’re all sleeping or nursing from 8:30pm until 7am and we wake up together having cuddles.

Sometimes I sit up in the night to use the bathroom or check my phone and I watch as you and your brother naturally gravitate toward each other almost instantly. I know that I need to be either in the bed or watching you because you’re both cuddle magnets at night.

I can’t believe how much you actually move yourself already. You’re 12 weeks and I probably moved you six inches away from me six times last night. You micro-scoot your way back. Then you bonk me over and over with your head to get my attention. Or you let out protest snorts. There are many shots over the bough before any crying happens and it almost never does. I latch you on and we both go back to sleep.

You’re growing! Getting fatter. Charming people with those intense blue eyes that I never expected. You’re busy learning and demand new stimulation. You almost always smile back and your eyes smile too. You want to talk. Sometimes you coo, “I love you.” Sometimes you grunt, “I’m really sick of being in this car seat.” You hate having the hiccups, which you do right now.

Now you’re annoyed so I’ll wrap this up. You’re a delight of a human. xoxoxo

 

 

 

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snowy day

We’re home on a Sunday with no plans. This was just as well because it’s been snowing since this morning and apparently the temperature is dropping too, down to a low of 4 degrees. I had planned on going to the library this afternoon, but we couldn’t find the 9th of 9 books to be returned and E didn’t want to go and I’m still in my pajamas. Plus the weather. So.

We had a lazy morning. Rando YouTube videos in bed (E’s latest hot topics are eagles, volcanoes, and the blood moon), breakfast, built a tower, books on the couch, made banana bread together while the baby slept in the Ergo. Then we Facetimed with Mimi,  E made his own quesadilla, and we had warm, slightly crunchy banana bread with glasses of milk.

Baby C goes from sleepy to hungry to increasingly focused wake time. She is very quick at replacing her crusty eye after I clean it. She’s usually ready to smile if I engage her.

We just decided not to go out (phew). We have to schlep in the car every day of the week so might as well have a break. I feel like E is kind of missing out on snowy play time because I just don’t want to be standing out in the freezing cold with the baby. That’s reasonable, right? We did go to the playground yesterday because the temp climbed up to 38 degrees…but the wind chill is the wild card. It was super freezing. We lasted a little over 20 minutes (and there was no snow yesterday). Plus the logistics were a crazy: park, take off my coat (brr), put on the Ergo, put the baby in the Ergo, put my coat back on, wrap a blanket around the baby, then (somehow) undo E’s carseat (why didn’t I do that first), move the baby’s carseat to the front seat so he could get out, lock the car, put my mittens back on. Then all of this in reverse to get back in…)

Just before I sat down to write, E asked to watch more videos. I told him sure but he has to do three things first: put the books on the living room floor back on the shelf, put away the letter blocks from the tower we built, and organize his stickers which are all over the dining room table. Nothing could divert him faster from either watching a video or cleaning up. He has 100% moved on from that conversation and immediately got engrossed in some books in the living room. Now he’s back, trying to climb onto my lap, which is pretty limited because I’m wearing the baby in the Ergo and swaying from side to side. He says his leg itches. He says he’s tired (why don’t you lay down?). He’s now precariously balancing on my knee.

He wants to spell his name here because if I’m working on a laptop then clearly all he wants in the world, even more than videos, is to work on my laptop. “I don’t want to do something else!”

“OK, mama: when you’re done writing, I’m going to write my name on your computer, and then we’ll clean the house.”

Yeah, OK kiddo. Now he’s climbing on my back. Baby sleeps peacefully. My middle back hurts. I’m sure we’ll be watching a movie today.

E wants me to add the word “T-Rex.”

XOXO

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googling along

OK! Solo mom of two status does keep me from my blog as it turns out. Baby C is 6 weeks old and I have a new daily routine after a life coach-y call with my sister B: when I get home from dropping off E at school, I: 1) shower, 2) make dinner, 3) write for at least five minutes. Some days, it may take the whole day to get through this to-do list, and lots of things can and do happen between 1, 2, and 3, but this gives me just enough structure to feel like I’m getting the critical stuff done, taking care of myself, and getting a teensy bit of creative time. I feel like I had to get through all my bills and thank you cards and meal planning and etc. etc. to get here, and if writing isn’t to be last, I need to make it first. So, here I am. You should see the Mount Everest of clean laundry piled on the guest bed (4-5 loads) that needs folding.

Overall, we are doing very well! After my parents were with us for six incredibly appreciated weeks of help and support (making dinner, cleaning up, entertaining E, grocery shopping, organizing, etc. etc.), they took off for Arizona about three weeks ago. My true jumping-off point into solo parenting two. I dreaded it. I cried for a day. But then we just picked up and kept going and it’s really been fine. It’s basically like we continued with E’s routine only we have a little person who slows us down a lot.

Baby C is doing a good job: eating, sleeping, gaining weight, starting to hold up her head (which is a tall order since she is in the 99th percentile for head circumference), giving us explosive happy smiles on a more and more frequent basis. Sometimes I think I had the same baby again, her temperament is so much like E. E adores his baby sister, is so proud of her when I bring her into his school for pickups and dropoffs, likes to “play” with her and give her kisses. He’s also such a great helper- bringing me my water bottle, finding my phone, and answering the door- all things I (geniusly) trained him to do before C was born. I’m terrified of him feeling jealous or replaced, which would be altogether natural, but this goes into the category of not wanting one’s child to feel any pain in life (unrealistic)… I set the baby down last night on E’s side of the bed and he was indignantly like, “That’s my spot.” And I nervously was like “Oh, I just set her there until I can move over and put her on her side.” He’s rarely made comments in such a direct way. I know he’s managing some feelings about everything but, so far, he’s doing it courageously and with minimal disruption. Amazing. I am so lucky. I am so so so lucky.

I’ve done so much googling since the baby was born (despite this being my second go-round) that I felt it could be a good way to update you on what’s been happening around here. I just looked through my phone to see all the open browser windows from the last several weeks and here’s what I found:

britax infant car seat compatible stroller: OMG, figuring out the gear is still challenging even though I have 80% of it figured out from when E was a baby. My work colleagues generously gave me a new Britax infant car seat. I posted on a mom’s resale FB page that I needed a Snap N Go, which I thought was universal, but I got so many questions back about what it’s compatible with that I started googling what strollers are compatible with my specific model of car seat… and, blessedly, my SMC friend K saw my post and lent me her stroller which is also Britax and the car seat clicks in so simply and easily! Of course, just getting the stroller open and closed has required me standing next to my car for long, self-conscious minutes, looking all over the stroller for the magic button. But I’ve got it now.

costco magnatiles: This is from before xmas. E wanted a Maui hook (you’ll know what that is if you’ve seen Moana, which we’ve watched around 25 times), Magnatiles (shockingly expensive but awesome), and a porcelain bell Christmas ornament (we had one that he broke by accident). I ended up getting the Magnatiles at Target, the hook from amazon, and I never did find a bell. Maybe next year.

10 satisfying solutions that will unplug your baby’s nose: Baby C has been stuffed up since she was 2 weeks old. At first it was alarming as it sounded like she actually couldn’t breathe, since babies are nose-breathers. It’s unclear whether she’s just stuffy or actually reacting to a bug but I think it’s the former because she hasn’t had any other signs of being sick. The ped says that she just needs to grow so her airways get bigger. Poor thing. Meanwhile, I’ve discovered the magic of saline spray (she welcomes it now because she knows it feels better) and only use the Nosefrida when her nose is actually running. We also spend some time in the steamy bathroom.

treatment for infected stitches: I thought I might have an infection coming on somewhere in my undercarriage which turned into itchiness which is, very frustratingly, still unresolved. I was treated for a yeast infection (course of two pills), and it hasn’t gone away. I have yet another midwife appointment this afternoon but it’s definitely not a stitches infection because there’s no pain and a previous midwife appointment confirmed the healing is fine. Just aggravating itch. Baking soda baths seem to help. I will report back.

researchers propose “breastsleeping” as a new word and concept: I had to regain my confidence in cosleeping after all the doctors and nurses and our pediatrician stated and restated the dangers, so I read up on the recommendations and research. It’s different now with two kiddos but we’re now in a sweet groove. E has begun transitioning to his own bed, which is at the foot of my bed. I’m selling this as “one big bed” while encouraging him to sleep where he wants. When he does go in his bed, it gives me so much more real estate! But he’s more likely to feel scared and takes longer to fall asleep. When E is next to me, I stay between them and everything is set up safely. C and I have a fabulous “breastsleeping” relationship. We barely wake for feedings. In the morning, love waking up to her peaceful, tiny little face somewhere below my arm pit. We’re all getting plenty of sleep, minus when the baby isn’t on board for bedtime and we have to wait until she’s done squawking.

folded method moby newborn: The Moby wrap is so sweet for newborns. It’s also not that easy, at least for me. I was looking for videos on how to do the wrap. I can do it but it’s slightly different each time, sometimes the baby is melting down, down, down. It sure takes a long time to get it on when said baby is screaming her head off. I’m transitioning more to the Ergo, which I love.

Bedtime for Frances movie review: E has been getting a little more screen time while I get the baby thing figured out (but not too much!) and I try to look up shows and movies on Common Sense Media to see a review and whether it’s age-appropriate. I learned this lesson after showing him Lion King and totally forgetting how scary and dark that story is (he did fine since it was over his head). Sometimes I do the research to find the perfect show and it’s not available without a purchase, as I think was true for Bedtime for Frances, so we skip it.

Order changes- instacart: After a great experience in SF with Amazon Fresh, I’ve started up grocery delivery again! I paid the annual fee for Instacart which gets me deliveries from Costco, Pete’s Fresh Market, Whole Foods, CVS, etc. All the prices are jacked up on the Instacart site, plus tip, but, overall, what a miracle to get groceries within 1-2 hours of placing the order without having to step into frigid temperatures (not to mention with 1-2 kids)!

unique birth announcements: I started trying to find a birth announcement format I like and just hated them all so I decided it was too early and postponed this by several months. Hoping I’ll actually do it!

crusty goopy eye: Another joyous newborn health issue in addition to nonstop congestion is the goopy eye. Again, the eye drainage system is too small to handle all the tears so it builds up and crusts over on the eyes. Some days, I had to constantly wipe her eyes with a warm washcloth just to keep her eyes open. I also put breastmilk on both eyes regularly, which is the only remedy I’ve heard about (other than, again, waiting for the tear ducts to grow with the baby). This has improved in recent days!

How to get rid of lice: Yeah, E got lice. Ugh. I think we caught it early- did the treatment and the combing and we’re still combing this week. I didn’t get them, nor did the baby. I did a bunch of laundry. Fingers crossed we caught everything and it doesn’t turn into a bigger deal. I never said the word “lice” to E, just asked about itchiness, and he loves to get combed because he can watch a video. (He is currently super into “Sid the Science Kid.”

princess margaret, countess of snowdon: I watched the two available seasons of The Crown- so great. I still have the second season finale to watch. Fascinating. So well acted and filmed. I keep googling what really happened and it seems like the show doesn’t wildly divert from history. I’ll need another show soon and went back and watched the pilot of The West Wing- could easily fall into a WW binge although I’ve already watched the whole thing.

egift card for Grub Hub: A group of college friends put a bunch of money into Grub Hub for me and lots of (mostly SMC) friends have come by with food or placed an order for delivery- amazing. My friend K made a little extra every time she cooked for her family under she had around ten frozen tupperwares to add to my freezer. So very helpful. And, on the subject of helpers, my nieces have been coming over for individual “C time” as they learn about how to care for a baby (they are 6 and 9). They can hold her or entertain her while I take out the trash and fold laundry. Amazing. I know I’ll blink and they’ll be babysitting. I feel so lucky these kids get to grow up together.

All for now as C is squeaking. A few photos for you. Thanks for all the sweet notes, some of which I didn’t even respond to, gah! Morer soon, lots of love and happy 2018 ❤ ❤ ❤

 

 

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birth story 2!

The pregnancy was smooth and all was on track. Then, in the last few weeks before my due date, the baby seemed to be having trouble getting consistently into position. For quite a while, she was transverse, lying sideways across my belly. When my doula came by for a prenatal visit, she checked and said, oh good- now she’s head down. Phew! But then at my next midwife appointment, her head had moved way off to the left. The midwife was also able to feel that I had more than the normal amount of amniotic fluid. My belly felt juicy.

I was sent in for an ultrasound at 38 weeks to confirm the baby’s position. Her head was on my cervix, but way over to the left. Her shoulder was in my pelvic cavity. I had no idea that the cervix and the pelvic cavity could be in different places. The doctor actually asked me if I had more than one cervix, which I found to be a bewildering question- is that a thing? As far as I know, I only have one. They also confirmed that I had too much fluid. The midwives said they would consult with Maternal Fetal Medicine at UIC to see if I could get Level II Ultrasound.

I wasn’t worried- my doula said that she had never seen a baby not correct its position in labor if it was already somewhat head down. I knew that too much fluid was associated with some serious problems like diabetes and genetic abnormalities, but the testing I’d done had ruled out all of them. So, I went along, finishing up at work and making use of my remaining days to organize and prep for baby.

About ten days after my ultrasound and five days before my due date, one of the midwives (named Katy- they are almost all named Katy) called me, out of the blue at noon on a Saturday. MFM at UIC was saying that, given my risk factors, it wouldn’t be worth it to do an ultrasound at that point- they recommended induction. The midwives then contacted MFM at Northwestern, and they said the same thing. My risk factors were: too much fluid, advanced maternal age, a big baby (she measured almost 9 pounds at 38 weeks), and IVF.

None of these risk factors were considered risky by themselves, but, combined, the MFMs felt that the risk of waiting was putting the baby in jeopardy. The midwife recommended inducing not necessarily in the next hour but “today or tomorrow,” which was a shock, considering that my first baby was two weeks late and I was not mentally (or otherwise) prepared to go early. I got off the phone, cried, talked to my parents, called my doula. While I could have opted to delay induction, I knew that my anxiety would be overwhelming if I went against the recommendation of two MFM departments and my midwives. I knew that I could weather an induction (my first baby, Evan, was also successfully induced) and I knew that my baby would be safely delivered one way or another in the hospital. I called the midwife back to say OK, and she scheduled me for 8am the following morning.

This gave me mere hours to do the last of my mental and logistical prep. I’d already spent the morning de-cluttering my bedroom—it felt good to at least have a ready landing pad. I sent my dad to the store for labor snacks, read up on pain management, wrote a letter to my baby, cried, meditated. I went to my sister’s for dinner and had a glass of wine. I was on edge, more nervous than I expected. It’s a huge endeavor to have in your immediate future. In a way, the first time is scariest because it’s unknown, but the second time is also scary because it’s (at least somewhat) known.

I went to bed with Evan at 8pm, as usual, knowing that the next time I read him bedtime stories, our baby would be on the outside. I felt so nostalgic about our 3.5 years as a family of two coming to an end. Evan was nothing but excited to meet his baby sister.

Somehow, I slept. I woke up, as usual, two times to pee, and it took a little longer to go back to sleep but I did it. I got up at 6:30am and showered, shaving my legs for the first time in months (not even sure how or why that seemed important). Then I hurriedly packed, throwing baby clothes in a variety of sizes, battery-operated candles, toiletries, and snacks into bags, while trying to get through a breakfast of eggs, toast, bone broth. I said goodbye to Evan–he was brave and I was brave. My sister Diana picked me up and we drove to the hospital.

“I’m here to have a baby!” I said to the guy at the info desk. He directed us to the elevator to the 6th floor and said, “God bless.” From my labor room, I had a gorgeous view of the Chicago skyline, 8 miles east. A perfect mirror image of the east-facing view I had of the San Francisco skyline in 2014 for Evan’s birth.

skyline

I was put in a gown, set up with an IV (which took at least an hour by itself), and then we spent a lot of time talking through my induction plan. First, we decided to put a Cook’s catheter to ripen my cervix. This happened around 1pm. At four centimeters of dilation, it would fall out by itself. Great. Minimal discomfort. They started me on level 1 of Pitocin. They checked the baby’s position and her head was still to the left.

The midwife consulted with two OBs about whether we could safely turn the baby to get her head down (a version), and it was determined that this would be extremely unsafe. The abundance of fluid could cause more than usual pressure on the placenta and cause an abruption- so, this wasn’t an option.

The attending doctor, Dr. Morgan Madison, one of many super-talented women in this story, came in to chat with me- I happened to be on the phone with my amazing doula, Victoria, so I put the phone on speaker. Dr. Madison was young and beautiful, hair shaved on one side. A cool doctor and also confident and competent. She wanted to discuss how the baby’s position could result in a C-section. She told me I should stop, as of this precise moment, eating and drinking anything in case a C-section became necessary. Of course, I became instantly parched. The minute she left the room, my sister (trained as a doula) and Victoria both encouraged me to keep eating and drinking. Thank goodness- I can’t imagine how I would have gotten through 24 more hours without it.

My mom arrived, as did my doula Victoria (in a jacket that said “I’m the Doula!” and a shirt that said “I believe in your ability to birth your baby”) and my sister went home. My midwife Amy, whom I’d never met at checkups because she just does weekends on-call, was another super-talented woman who was thoughtful and quirky and has practiced midwifery all over the world. She had distracting dangly earrings, a messy bun, and used surprising metaphors like “this baby is monkeybars!” In the early afternoon, she checked the baby’s position. She was able to nudge the baby’s head manually into a fully down position. Yay! They put on a belly binder. It seemed like maybe we dodged a bullet.

For so many hours, we were waiting for my cervix to ripen and just killing a lot of time sitting around drinking coconut water and eating snacks. We did lots of reminiscing about our babies’ births. The afternoon turned into evening. The nurse came in every two seconds to adjust my monitors- one for the baby’s heartbeat and one for contractions. The contractions looked nice on the monitor but I couldn’t feel them at all. I tried to rest for what was to come.

shrine

Around 7pm, Amy came back and checked the baby’s position- she was still head down (vertex) but high. I was on my left side, trying to keep the baby in position (as if I could really control it). Two nurses came in around 9:30pm and struggled to find heart tones. I moved to my right side, and they found the heartbeat in a surprising place because she had changed position again. I could feel the baby changing position a lot.

Later on, Dr. Madison sent the message that we should discontinue the Pitocin because it is contraindicated for a transverse baby. Now the baby was sort of hanging like a rag doll with her back at the top and her limbs hanging down. Our conclusion was that the abundance of fluid was making it impossible for the baby to get her head reliably in position for a vaginal birth.

Close to midnight, we had a powwow: Dr. Madison, Amy, Victoria, the nurse Krystal, my mom, and me. The situation was not something any of them had seen before so it required a more creative brainstorming session, and, incredibly, they were willing to include us in that. They said, “We’re just going to talk this through right here.” I still can’t believe how much effort they put into giving me my best shot at a vaginal delivery.

The problem was too much fluid, which was not only keeping baby from getting into position but it would make contractions less productive (like pushing a rope). If we broke the amniotic bag, there would be a higher than normal risk of cord prolapse due to the additional pressure, meaning that with the rush of fluids come out, the cord would come down the birth canal before the head, potentially cutting off the baby’s oxygen. So, Victoria, my doula, voiced her brilliant idea of just doing a tiny pin prick with a pudenal block needle and guiding the baby’s head into position carefully with the hand. The team got really enthusiastic about this. They left the room for a while (I think it took them a long time to find the right needle) and came back with the full plan.

They would prep me for a C-section in case there was a cord prolapse so they could have the baby out before the 10-minute mark when oxygen supply would be depleted. They took out the Cook’s catheter and discovered that I was already seven centimeters dilated! For some reason it hadn’t fallen out! I had no idea that you could get to 7 cm dilation with no discernible contractions…

At 1am, they put me on a gurney (in case I needed to be rushed to the OR), shaved my incision line, wiped my body with chlorahexadrine. They put my head a little lower than my feet so that gravity would help keep the cord in. And then they started the procedure.

I remember feeling really focused and all my emotions were put aside as we carried out the plan. Amy did the pinprick. The fluid started dribbling out and Dr. Madison started pushing on the top of my belly (fundus) really hard to get the baby to descend. Amy guided the baby’s head with her hand. The fluid came out so gradually that she did another pinprick, and eventually used the more typical crochet hook. I was doing deep breathing as this position was so uncomfortable (plus I was already stiff from trying to hold myself in a left-lying position leading up to the procedure). As pockets of fluid were released, the baby descended. Dr. Madison had her full weight on my body and she was really strong. They kept apologizing to me. I kept thinking- we’re gearing up for a birth, I’m not expecting to be comfortable! After about an hour of this, the baby’s head was at -3 station and I was allowed to sit up which was a huge relief. It worked! They put the belly binder on tight.

The team was celebratory and now all I had to do was “pit this baby out!” (They apologized to me for this expression.) I was so grateful to Victoria for her contribution to our brainstorming sesh.

The nurse was soooo conservative with the pit. She kept saying that I had to show a clear pattern of contractions (rather than “artifacts” which were disorganized and choppy) before she would turn it up. I had spent the whole day at level 2. She turned it up to 3 around 2am, 4 at around 3:30am, and eventually I went to sleep. They also put a monitor on the baby’s head to track her heartbeat (rather than chasing it with the monitor on the outside) and they inserted another sensor to track contractions (which was supposed to sit next to the baby’s face but ultimately floated away and didn’t work). I had at least five cords to manage every time I went to the bathroom (which was a lot, since I’d been pounding coconut water all day).

While I was sleeping, the nurse finally turned the pit up to 5, 6, and 7- and by the time I woke up, I was having real contractions. I burst into tears knowing that the baby would be on her way soon- a big release. My sister Diana arrived again, and my doula Heather (who is also an experienced midwife) came to relieve Victoria. The midwife Annette, whom I had met at checkups and resembled Amy, came to relieve Amy. (Before leaving, Amy called this an “epic” birth, and she didn’t even get to see how it ended…)

From this point, labor progressed normally, although the baby was always described as “high.” At some point, I was determined to be 7.5 cm, which only added .5 cm to where I’d been many hours before. At first I couldn’t remember how to vocalize contractions but when they got stronger they vocalized themselves. As the contractions got stronger, I felt strong too, keeping my voice low, changing positions, staying focused. My labor team was awesome even though I don’t really know who was doing what as I retreated behind my closed eyes. It was comforting to know that I had Heather as well as my mom and sister, soothing me with voices, hands, sips of coconut water, and sometimes just an empathetic “I know…”

I started feeling back labor and wondered if she was “sunny side up” (posterior)- but I didn’t ask, and no one told me. Eventually, I couldn’t find a good resting position, pain was carrying through the spaces between contractions, and I felt really hesitant to change position or try something new. I tried the ball, a birthing stool, draping myself over the top of the raised bed, hands and knees, even runners lunge and side-lying (which was really intense but provided the best rest in between contractions). I started wanting to push but the cervix wasn’t totally effaced. In retrospect, I was having a premature urge to push due to a posterior baby.

Eventually, I was ready for full-on pushing and it did not feel anything like Evan’s birth. With him, I was harnessing the power of a train moving through my body and getting this huge forward motion, and I was feeling triumphant. This time, it was not smooth sailing. It felt like the transition didn’t quite happen and it was a mix of active labor contractions with some pushing at the end of each- it didn’t feel like I was in the flow. I was constantly wondering if I could do it and trying to be brave.

My team was cheering me on but they were also quiet sometimes. I pushed as hard as I could, waiting for their feedback, even having a passing thought about my poor (pre-existing) hemorrhoids. I wanted to get into easier positions but Heather kept me in the harder ones, which probably (thankfully) kept the whole pushing stage from going even longer. I wanted to get on my back, which is how I birthed Evan, but everyone felt that would slow things down, so at the end, after about two hours of pushing, I was in a partial side-lying position, gripping the railing so tightly that my arms were sore for days. I got her head partway out and my sister asked if I wanted to feel it and I said NO. I just wanted to get her out. A few more pushes and then that nothing-else-like-it sensation of her body coming out of mine, and she was here!

born

She looked just like Evan as a newborn to me, super healthy with an Apgar score of 9- she cried right away. I was very relieved but the pain didn’t stop; now they were massaging my belly to get my placenta to come out. I looked up and saw my mom and sister with tears in their eyes. I was trying to put her on the nipple and they were pushing on my belly and then I was cutting the cord (which took 5 cuts!) and then some negative-energy doctors came by to say that my placenta wasn’t coming out and they needed to reach in to try to detach it (and they mentioned that this was among the most painful things they do to anyone at the hospital). They put Fentanyl in my IV, felt around, determined it would not come out, and shipped me to the operating room to go under general anesthesia so they could get the placenta out. I handed the baby to my family and was rushed to the OR.

With the Fentanyl, I was confused and panicking- I had thought my doula was coming with me, I couldn’t recognize any of the doctors and nurses with their masks on… Eventually a nurse with an accent was putting a mask over my face and I told myself it was time to surrender.

While I was under (for about an hour), they removed my placenta successfully and I hemorrhaged even worse than I did with Evan (1600 ml vs. 1500 ml last time), and I was given a blood transfusion. When I woke up I was so disoriented- eventually I talked the nurse into bringing my mom, the baby, and my glasses into the recovery room.

Once they arrived, I felt huge relief and was completely fine again. If my mom is here, the baby is here, we’re all OK- I’m good. My baby girl started nursing and they wheeled us to our little postpartum room where we spent the next couple of days in the love nest together.

It was while I was in labor that her name solidified in my mind: Chloe. She is a “tender green shoot” and a fertility goddess, a sweet girl with an edge. After a birth of so many twists and turns, her first week of life has been absolutely smooth as she’s nailed all her metrics, mastered nursing, and squeaks and coos. I’ll be forever grateful to the incredible team who guided us through some raging storms to emerge on the other side where the clouds finally parted and life is nothing but sunshine. ❤

chloe