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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

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29 weeks

Wow, it’s 7:39pm on a Wednesday and I’m WRITING AT MY DINING ROOM TABLE! This hasn’t happened in… years?

For months now, I’ve gone to bed with E around 8 or 8:30. I was always a night person but you adjust, like adjusting to a new time zone. When we are reading the second book of three, I let out a huge yawn, and by the time we turn off the light, we’re both out.

Before I got pregnant, I was getting up at 5:15 to spend up to two hours of me time: meditating, writing, reading, doing yoga. For a while, it worked really well. Then, once I got pregnant, I started sleeping the whole duration of E’s sleep, like 10-11 hours. And then, once I was more pregnant, I started waking up consistently in the middle of the night for a snack.

The snack sesh usually takes place around 3am but could really happen anytime between midnight and 4am or so. I’d get a snack (usually a yogurt or cereal or both) and settle in to read stuff on my phone. It felt almost rebellious because I would inevitably get immersed in the internet and an hour would go by. I realized that it was my only me time, so why fight it? I’d go right back to sleep and still get 9-10 hours total.

Still, I was kind of beating myself up about the aimlessness of it. I’d surf around on facebook, letting other people curate my reading list. I’d respond to personal emails that got buried in the 50-60 emails from a zillion random mailing lists that arrive each day. I’d read everything in my Twitter feed from the past 24 hours. My rationale was that I needed this me time and I didn’t want to do something “productive” that would “wake me up more.”

Then, my sister D asked me to edit a book she wrote. I really wanted to do it, and I realized that the snack sesh time slot was my only hope. I wanted to get it done in a week, which meant working every night for two hours. Could I do it?

It’s still weird to me that I achieved this, but I’d wake up every night somewhere between 12-4am, do a five-minute check of the internet, and then work for two hours. I finished it in a week. I was totally able to focus. Some times were easier than others to go back to sleep, but I wasn’t sleep-deprived, and I was feeling gratified that I accomplished something.

Once I was done, I thought- awesome. I’ve carved out this time, now I can do a personal project. I have so many in mid-stream. The first night, I celebrated by going back to reading stuff on the internet. Then I moved on to baby name research (because I have to evaluate every name in existence and then meet the baby before I can choose a name). I also want to make a list of projects for when my parents come, like painting the dresser/changing table, washing baby clothes, and ridding my place of clutter. But I was dragging my feet about blogging or picking up my book-writing which was abandoned months ago at the end of Chapter 3.

This morning, E was a little lethargic. He was a little warm. Then he told me his legs were tired and his bones hurt. Sigh… He was sick. So he spent the day watching Moana and Paw Patrol and I spent the day missing cues on conference calls and trying to get him to nap. I pretended it was bedtime at 6:30pm and he went to sleep. I laid beside him dreaming of all I would do with my evening. Watch a show? Continue name research? Pick up book writing? Eat an ice cream bar?

I never would have believed how impossible it is to get time for oneself as a parent. I remember people telling me you don’t even have a chance to shower or take a shit. And I, like many people before they have kids, thought it would be different for me. Because how hard is it to problem-solve that? But what you forget is that you’ll be simultaneously problem-solving dinner, monitoring your kid who is climbing on the furniture like a jungle gym, checking a text that came in from a work colleague, and planning A-Z for tomorrow. And, obviously, there’s more to juggle when you’re single, and less time and energy to juggle it when you’re pregnant.

But I/we HAVE to get that time. Editing my sister’s book felt like a tropical vacation. On the days when I manage to meditate for ten minutes, I give myself a literal pat on the back. I listen to audio books on my way to pick up E from school. I schedule a lap swim in the middle of the work day. I call a long-distance friend when I have five to seven minutes to talk.

And now I’ll add a newborn to the mix!

Cheers to an evening with me.

(Here are two photos that mysteriously showed up on my phone.)

xo

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24 weeks

We have a mosquito problem. Four mornings ago, E woke up with a bunch of bites- a collection of three son his upper arm, three on his back, two on his forehead, one on his chin. The saddest. He always reacts to them so they look like welts. The bugger barely went after me, even though I have maybe 40% extra blood in circulation at the moment. The next night, he kept waking and whimpering ever couple of hours and I just thought he felt itchy, until I heard the unmistakable high-pitched whine buzzing my ear. I turned on the light, sat until I saw it, and killed it. Done.

Then the next night, the same. So I figured it wasn’t just an errant one that got in (I’ve lived here for a year and never had a mosquito in our room), and closed the windows and doors. Feeling like, “Aaah, now we’ll get a good night’s sleep,” we went to sleep last night and I was woken by another one in my ear. I killed FOUR. I went back to sleep and was just woken by another one. While I was trying to hit one way up high on the wall with a paperback children’s book, another one whizzed past. What’s going ON??? Are they growing in my water glass? Is there a hole in my window?? UGH.

But, it was almost 6am so I thought I’ll just roll with this and take a nap later. I can’t leave E in here as mosquito bait all by himself so I’m sitting next to him on the bed, writing on my laptop, and waiting for it to buzz my ear again so I can kill both mf-ers.

So, it’s been a while since I’ve been in here. My pregnancy sleep is expansive and consumes any productive me time like I used to have for meditation and writing. I do pretty routinely wake up at 3am and sometimes can pee and go back to sleep but most times I also have to eat cereal or yogurt, and then end up reading on my phone for an hour or more. I’ve considered making that time productive, but I’m really trying to stay in a twilight state of sleep and not fully wake up. So I don’t meal plan, clean, do yoga, or write. I pretty much read the news (which is also not restful). I’m really not sure how to get this time back, or maybe I just don’t for now, since my body wants to be in bed at 8pm and up around 7am, with a snack break in between… but I can keep experimenting.

The light is dim and a mourning dove is hoo hoo hooing. Baby is shifting around in my belly, happy she doesn’t yet live in the outside world of mosquitoes. E is scratching his forehead in his sleep. Despite my 2am snack of Grape Nuts, I’m hungry again and sleepy due to the 5:30am mosquito alarm.

In general, we’re doing great. I’ve been working with E on becoming more independent in preparation for being a helpful and somewhat self-sufficient big brother. I started with the morning routine, or, as he calls it, “The Whole Morning ‘Tine.” He has three things to do when he wakes up in the morning: get dressed, go potty, and eat breakfast, all of which he can do without my help. Each task completed gets a sticker on a big red chart we made, and 10 stickers = lollipop.

The first week went 100% perfectly. He felt proud. It still takes a lot of prodding to make the three tasks happen but he did them each morning before school. (It would be SO much faster to do everything for him, like 15 minutes vs. an hour.)

The second week pretty much fell apart because a) we started sleeping later, b) I had earlier than usual meetings, and c) the mosquitoes. I started doing everything for him in order to get out the door, the stickers trailed off, and he was reverting back to crying when I dropped him off at school. (I did coach him before dropoff yesterday that he’d be a brave boy and no more crying and you’ll have a fun day. He got positive and said, “Mom, today I’m going to kiss your cheek, kiss your belly, and give you a high five!” And he did.)

So now we have to regroup on the Whole Morning ‘Tine and also eventually work on evening. Last night, E overheard the NPR announcers talking about the hurricane and wanted to learn more about it. So, hoping that I wasn’t helping him develop a phobia, we watched a bunch of storm videos before bed. At 8pm, I turned it off and started moving him toward the bathroom. Evening ‘Tine is potty, brush teeth, wash face, put on jammies, read 3 books. It’s actually more steps than the morning. And he started screaming no and collapsing on the bathroom rug and I just didn’t have any more energy to coach him through it. So I said, “that’s it! no books! We’re going straight to bed!” and that’s how he ended up plopped into bed in his clothes with unbrushed teeth, unwashed face, and not having used the potty since school (but he’s a camel so don’t worry too much about that). He cried in the dark for a few minutes (I hoped that he was making connections about behaviors having consequences), and went to sleep ridiculously fast. Of course, a universal truth: the evening ‘Tine needs to start earlier.

I’m pretty sure this is how parenting will go: two steps forward, one step back. It’s so clear to me that this is a two-way street and many failures are because of me- I’m tired, I’m inconsistent, I’m annoyed, I didn’t plan well. But really, it’s mostly him! Which makes sense as he learns to navigate new feelings of independent and proud vs. rebellious and resistant- frankly, all good qualities to nurture in a person.

I really haven’t read any parenting books, just get a sense of different methodologies from articles other moms post on Facebook mom groups. I don’t see myself doling out punishments, although I do see myself enforcing natural consequences of behavior (yes, there is a fine line)- e.g. you don’t cooperate with the Evening ‘Tine, you don’t get books before bedtime. I also don’t want to push food on him. I’ve found myself hounding him about taking X bites and dangling dessert as a reward- then I just read an article about putting the food in front of them and not pushing anything. “You don’t have to eat that.” It’s like the potty- if I push, he resists, end of story. But he goes when he has to. I feel sympathetic because while pregnant, there sometimes foods I don’t feel like eating; even ones I put on my plate. It’s an icky feeling that someone would force you or coerce you into eating what you don’t feel like putting in your mouth. I get that. (Plus he does really well most of the time. He will shovel homemade kale chips into his mouth. Even if I’m pretty sure he would live on crackers and cheese if given the option.)

I feel good- honestly, just hungry and tired. All appointments and tests so far say things are progressing normally. The baby moves a lot, with little bumps turning into longer swooshes as she gets bigger. I obsess over her name, just like I did with E, and I sense that, like with him, I’ll have to see her first. I sense she will not be a girly girl, or is that just my idea of her because I know she’ll have a big bro and wear his hand-me-downs?

She instantly stops moving when anyone puts a hand on my belly to feel her kick (also universal?). I feel big for 24 weeks and as soon as I’m done writing this post I’m going to go back to my 24 week belly shot from my last pregnancy to see how the belly compares. I swear the maternity shirts aren’t even covering the roundness all the way, and I still have almost 4 months to go…

And I feel super out of shape. I walked downtown with E on his glider bike, about 5 blocks one way, to meet my sister’s family for Thursday Night Out (a little weekly summer street fair with food). By the time we got home, my body felt so creaky and imbalanced and sore. I remember the many-mile hikes of last pregnancy… which hasn’t been happening. My plan is to re-join the gym, as soon as they re-open from doing renovations, with the intention of swimming a few times a week. I want to be sure I’m going into the birth strong, like I felt last time.

Now I’m starving and need to shower before my sleeper awakes. Have a wonderful weekend! We are heading to the zoo. xo

 

 

 

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16 weeks

I woke up this morning to a cacophony of birds singing and squawking outside my window, thinking, “How does anyone sleep through this???” But also noting the cool breeze wafting through the open windows, the peaceful breathing of my sleeping boy beside me, and the delicate morning light. It felt too early to wake up, but I did anyway. I guess sometimes I need only eight hours (particularly if I sleep through the night with no middle-of-the-night snack and internet session).

I’m pretty sure that the baby woke me up, for the first time. I’m at the point where every muscle spasm or digestive click in the region of my belly feels like it could be the baby squirming, and I wonder but don’t feel quite sure. This morning, I felt more precise swift kicks and thought, “There you are!” as I woke to my peaceful 5am scene.

The need for sleep has kept me from my early-morning writing hour, but I’m dying to get back to it. I need to finish my book before we layer in a bombshell of a new routine on top of the existing one! It’s going to be wild. Or, who knows, maybe it’ll be easy and smooth and I’ll write while E is at school, rocking the Rock ‘N Play with my foot…

This week, I finally settled on where to give birth. This was such a long-term decision and at no point in the info-gathering process did I feel clarity. It was a murky process. You guys know that I planned a home birth with my first baby and worked with a home birth midwife whom I adore to pieces. I loved everything about her and my doula and their home birth community where I made so many friends. Even though I ended up being induced in the hospital at 42 weeks, I had a beautiful birth that I would like to replicate in almost all ways. (For the record, I’d like to put in an order for going into labor naturally, shaving some hours off of the pre-labor, and no post-partum hemorrhage, please.)

Once I got here to Illinois, I found a completely different birth scene. For one thing, home birth is much more restricted so there are few above-ground home birth practices. One, though, is in my exact village, and has a good reputation. But from the beginning, my gut was saying no. I can’t fully unpack why. I didn’t like that it was a “team” and you couldn’t know who would be at the actual birth. I couldn’t imagine building the kind of trust I had in my SF midwife, which felt crucial to an intimate home birth experience. The women I met with seemed very competent but inexperienced in that they were very young, which made me nervous. And their transfer hospital was thirteen miles away. And everything (as it was in SF) would be entirely out of pocket, not covered by insurance (a bigger consideration now that I’m trying to afford two kids). There were so many nice aspects to the practice and yet I was just not feeling it.

I visited a state-of-the-art hospital in a gorgeous new building with a friendly team of midwives who promote natural birth in the hospital setting, but they insisted on inducing me at 40 weeks, which was a dealbreaker for me.

I met with a local team of midwives who catch babies at a hospital but I was scared off by anecdotal stories of local moms who ran into long delays at their appointments and billing screw-ups. My free consultation started almost an hour late, and, I get it, someone was at a birth and they were running behind, but I didn’t want to risk taking a half day for every checkup.

I landed on a nonprofit family health center that includes a midwife practice and a birth center (the first in Illinois). The midwives are all former home birth midwives. The woman I met with in my free consultation was warm and gave me glimmers of my SF home birth community. The overall clinic seemed great and the two birthing rooms were painted unfortunately bright colors and had no windows… I couldn’t quite feel that it was the right place either. But I liked the fact that they transfer in an ambulance and the hospital was just 5 minutes away.

I started up prenatal care there, and, sure enough, my first appointment started almost an hour late. But once I was in, everyone was so kind and attentive and the midwife was fantastic. She spent so much time with me and we talked everything through at length. She took down a crazy amount of details about my medical history and requested all the medical records from my fertility process and E’s birth at UCSF. I felt like I had found my people.

However, the insurance coordinator could not get a straight answer from my insurance on whether a birth center birth would be covered in-network which could be a huge difference in price. She did explain that half of the midwives do births at the birth center and the other half at the hospital- I hadn’t realized this was an option, so I stayed right on the fence about which way to go.

I walked into my appointment last week thinking, “I don’t think I’ll be giving birth here.” And, sure enough, when I met with the same midwife again, she said she’d read through my birth records and was concerned about the postpartum hemorrhage. The records said that I’d lost 1.5 liters of blood (a visual estimate), which she felt was underestimated given that they had to give me the maximum meds to get the bleeding under control. Also, my blood pressure was dropping and my pulse rising, a sign that my body was struggling. She said she felt that I should be in the hospital where they could best handle this if it were to unfold the same way again. (Also, all is well with the baby.)

I felt relief. I realized that when I visualized a home or birth center birth, this was my underlying fear. The truth is, after all the fears I had about the hospital, I had a beautiful hospital birth. And I wanted to replicate it. It was a long road, but I finally landed on my decision.

This hospital has a low C-section rate and Alternative Birthing Rooms where they pretty much leave you alone to labor naturally. And it’s less than 2 miles from my house. We can do this.

I’ve been joined on the couch by a little rugrat who is watching Clifford on my phone while I wrap this up. As soon as we turn it off, he will want me to throw him a ball to hit with a tennis racquet. (It’s a padded ball so won’t do too much damage in the house.) He insists on being called Roger Federer, and I am Serena Williams.

We’re headed to the pool today. Happy 4th! xo

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big news!

OK, readers, I’ve been on a blog hiatus for more reasons than writing my book. I just couldn’t tell you until now, but I’m back with some very big news. First, I need to take you through the play by play.

After E was born, I had two PGS-tested embryos remaining in the freezer at UCSF. I remember that one of the last things Dr. Tran said to me as I exited his care was, “You have embryos, you’ll be back.” I really hadn’t gotten as far as thinking about a second baby, I was just hoping everything worked out with the first one. But, as soon as E was born, I thought about it a lot. As I packed up the first round of outgrown baby clothes, I wondered if this would be the first and last time I’d experience each stage of development.

As time went on, the idea of trying for a second was just always there. It didn’t need to happen soon, and it seemed a little crazy, but the fact of those embryos existing in the world, the full genetic siblings of my adored son, had my attention.

When E was about a year old, I met with Dr. Tran. I thought he’d be unsurprised, like “I knew you’d be back!” Instead, he said, “Why are you back here already???” and I said I wasn’t ready to try, just wanted to get some info. Would it matter how long I waited? The answer was no- my body should have the same chance of supporting a baby for years into the future. Do I really have to fully wean him before we do a transfer? Yes. Because there are lots of unknowns about the process, they want to completely clear the slate and control as many variables as possible, and nursing could send the body a mixed message. What would be the soonest I could try? This December (2016). E would be 1.5. The transfer would be a simple process.

I looked out Dr. T’s office window at the sparkling new campus of UCSF- Mission Bay, considering the expense of two kids in San Francisco. It really did seem impossible but it was nice to know I had some time.

Then, my only holdup was the weaning, and I also couldn’t imagine weaning him earlier than I (or he) wanted to for only the slim chance of getting pregnant again. I didn’t see myself going beyond those two embryos. I was definitely not up for the whole IVF retrieval process again. In my mind, it would be two tries and, if no success, making peace with having one, which really seemed like it could be OK. But I had to try for a sibling.

A year after seeing Dr. Tran, I met with Dr. Cedars. It was a little awkward because she assumed she had done my successful transfer with E, and acted like she knew me, but we sorted that out pretty quickly. She gave me my chances and advised me to transfer both. She also said that moving to Chicago would be no problem, because one of their colleagues, Dr. Zamah, had recently moved to UI-Chicago and could do my monitoring from there! Cosmic.

We moved across the country last summer. In the last few months of the year, the nursing started winding down naturally, and by December 31, E nursed for the last time at 2.5 years old. I set up an appointment with Dr. T at his new private practice.

He said not to bother moving over to his practice- it would be a simple procedure, nothing really strategic at this stage, plus I was under the care of Dr. Cedars, probably the most experienced of the doctors at UCSF. He said I should still do one at a time to avoid the risk of twins. He said I should stop by and say hello the next time I was in town. This was a free consultation. Love that guy!

I called UCSF and got set up with my new nurse, Teona, whom I loved. Everything was so easy- she set up my calendar, ordered my meds, answered my questions. I was clear that I only wanted to transfer one at a time, even though the prospect of the first one not working could result in me going through the whole process and flying again for a very low-chance embryo the second time… But the prospect of twins really felt impossible and like I would be totally sunk if that were to happen. We’d figure it out, but, you know, it would be not ideal.

So, I started up with birth control in January or so, then Lupron, then estrogen patches and progesterone. I had my calendar taped to the back of a cabinet door in the bathroom and did my regimen every morning/night, picking up these old steps through muscle memory. The transfer was scheduled for March 27, the week E’s school was closed for spring break. We planned a week’s vacation in SF.

The week before the transfer, I went into UI-C to Dr. Z’s office for them to check my lining. In the meantime, I had realized, thanks to my details in this blog, that Dr. Z. was the one to do the transfer which resulted in baby E in SF! And now he was looped into my next attempt. Even more cosmic. He wasn’t in the office that day, but my lining checked out as good and thick and I had a nice email exchange with him afterward.

On the morning of the transfer, my sister drove me and E up to the city from her place in Palo Alto. It was a glorious, perfect California day, and all the winter rain had made everything a vibrant green. I knew the place would look just impossibly beautiful after adjusting to the aesthetic of Chicago (which is nice, but, you know, no contest really), and it did.

On our way up Dolores Street, I glimpsed the house of my midwife and suddenly asked B to pull over. I had to see if she was home. As I was knocking on her door, she had just arrived and was walking up the steps behind me! I gave her a big hug and explained what I was doing in town, then asked her to come say hi to E in the car. Just as she was starting to tell me what she knows about midwives in Chicago (in case I would end up needing one), my phone rang, and somehow my sister noticed that it said UCSF and she handed it to me. It was Dr. Cedars.

The first, good-looking embryo didn’t really survive the thaw and was not looking viable. This happens to only about 5% of embryos these days. My brain was swimming. Did they want me to thaw the other one? Yes please.

In that moment, I felt like my chances plummeted. The last one was the one they didn’t want me to fly out for. I don’t understand the grading very well, but based on a visual analysis, they can see that the edges aren’t well defined, and other things that doctors know about, and they give it a grade. I don’t remember this embryo’s grade, I just knew that Dr. C. and Dr. T. gave it only a 15% chance.

We said goodbye to Em and headed to get a picnic from Bi-Rite. While E played on the playground, I took my valium which is prescribed for one hour before the procedure, to reduce any jiggling in your uterus when they put the embryo in. And causing the whole experience to be quite pleasant.

As the drug kicked in, I gazed around sunny Dolores Park wondering how all these families still afford to be here, wondering how it can be so f-ing beautiful, wondering if I was just meant to have one kid after all, even convincing myself it wasn’t probably a good idea to have another one, then hoping again that it would just work, and then feeling scared. Somewhere in my reverie while B and E were off somewhere playing, E jumped up suddenly while B was looking down at him and he broke her nose with the crown of his head. (She had broken it in high school so this was a re-break 😦  ) She didn’t actually find out it was broken until a week later when the pain wasn’t going away, and in my haze in the moment I showed sympathy and never asked about it again. (Amazingly, when the doctors reset the bone, it resulted in a much smoother shape that she’s really happy with. So, while I didn’t handle it well, and it sucked for B, it ended up with a good result, thanks E.)

B dropped me off at UCSF. I wasn’t feeling the same hope of recent weeks and months, thrown off by the last-minute news about the first embryo. I got checked in, said hi to Maria at the front desk, an old friend from when I was trying for E. I waited in a waiting room that had gentle spa music playing in the background. A nurse came in to go over some basic stuff with me, she was very kind. She led me into the transfer room, showed me where to put my stuff in a locker. Then Dr. Cedars came in.

She showed me photos of the embryos after the thaw, and the first embryo really had only about 15% viable cells. But, in more unexpected news, the second embryo thawed looking much better than expected, even starting to hatch. She asked me if I wanted to put both. She said that, while an embryo with any cells as a chance of working, it would more likely act as a “helper” to the other one. So, in a decision that would keep me up at night in the coming days, I said yes, put both.

I laid back on the warm blankets and looked up at a flat screen where my embryos were visible, a live view of them both. I watched the tube come in from the right and suck them both in. The embryologist came in, confirmed I was who I was, and Dr. C. put them in. On the ultrasound monitor, she pointed out the little white dots which were not the embryos themselves (they would still be too small to see) but bits of air clustered around each one. The settled in and we were done and I laid there for a moment once everyone left.

Then, we enjoyed ourselves with old friends through the week. The day after the transfer, I accidentally walked around four miles when we went to see animals at a little farm and it was a longer walk than anticipated. I also realized that I’d totally forgotten to do acupuncture, how could I forget?? Also, E wanted to be carried a lot. Looking back on the paperwork after getting home to Chicago, I realized that I wasn’t supposed to be walking or lifting or exerting myself, oops.

During the second week of the two week wait, I was mostly distracted by our regular routine but a few times did google pregnancy symptoms and did email Teona about the walking and lack of acupuncture I’d done. She said something existential like, “There’s unfortunately no way to know what makes an embryo implant or not.” It kind of made me feel better, what’s done is done.

When I got close to my beta day, my parents were here. I was feeling like it worked, but totally mistrusted that feeling. Monday morning, I went to the lab to give blood for the test but I couldn’t wait for the phone call from UCSF toward the end of the afternoon. I went to buy a pregnancy test (why didn’t I at least have one in the house?) and then tried to shoo my family out the door so I could get some privacy. They were all out in the backyard when I peed on the stick. It was immediately a big plus. Positive. Pregnant.

I think I said, “Oh my fucking God.” The first emotion was fear.

Shaking and overcome, I went into my office (also the guest room) and shut the door, sitting down on the floor to meditate and begin to absorb the news. Minutes later, my dad walked in.

I looked up at him weirdly, and he said, “What’s going on?” I held up the test. We ran into the backyard to show my mom. We were all wide-eyed and happy and disbelieving. I went inside and got under a blanket on the couch. OMG. OMG. I immediately started calculating my due date and going on overdrive planning around this news and praying for it not to be twins. It’s funny, and lucky, that I seem to still be able to get immediately excited despite having things go south in the past.

But they didn’t go south! Teona called later that day with a strong beta number, and then I tested again two days later and it doubled. At 6 weeks, I brought my new friend E to my ultrasound appointment and this time Dr. Z. was in and confirmed ONE heartbeat! Oh, hellelujah, one! I can handle one. I can get so excited about one. One is perfect. I went back at 8 weeks and everything was tracking perfectly. Holy cow. Another baby!!

Last week, I had my first midwife appointment and heard the heartbeat for the first time on the Doppler, which was the most real it’s felt so far, and music to any expecting mama’s ears. I have a cute belly now rather than the initial squishy muffin top and I’m at 13 weeks! I’m tired and hungry but have felt good the whole time.

CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS?! I had ONE shot for a sibling. That 15% final embryo was clearly a fighter.

E hugs my belly and says, “I love you so much, baby.” ❤ ❤ ❤

 

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donor sibs

Hi! I’ve been on a little blog hiatus while working on my book, among other things, and will be back soon to tell you about all of it. Meanwhile, I wanted to pop back to talk about a topic that I bookmarked a long time ago: donor sibs.

Last year, I joined the Donor Sibling Registry to see if I could find other families who conceived babies with McPiercy as their donor. On the site, you pay a $75 fee and then you can search on your donor’s number to see if anyone is registered with any info.

E just woke up sneezing and stumbled out with big messy hair to join me on the couch. He climbed into my lap and said, in all seriousness, “Mama, do you remember that I have a lot of cars?” Why, yes, I did remember that, looking around the living room at the display of vehicles. Now he’s watching a fire truck video beside me, under the blanket.

I emailed the three families that were listed. The problem is that after people connect in their first year, they often let their membership lapse. So maybe two of them got an email saying that they had a message waiting and would have to renew to read it. But at least one was active, thankfully, and she referred me to a private facebook page where they had all congregated.

There are four families besides us- one in Marin (4yo girl), one in LA (6yo boy and 4yo boy), one in Alabama (5yo girl), and one about an hour outside of Chicago (5yo girl). Ages are approximate! They’re all fantastic kids- healthy, adorable, smart. I’d say that they all look related. It’s really fun to see photos and hear about how they’re doing- many with soulful brown eyes, strong and active bodies, and spirited and quirky personalities. All the moms are lesbians except me.

We all feel indebted and grateful to McPiercy. Someone filmed the video of his interview and posted it to our page. It’s a special kind of admiration. Thanks for providing your genetic material, dude, because we got just the right kids!

About a year ago, we met one of the moms of the LA boys, in town visiting with her new girlfriend (without the boys unfortunately!), and the whole family from Marin- both moms and their daughter, L. We had everyone over to my place in SF and my parents happened to be visiting at the time. We had lots to talk about and it was fun to see E and L playing together.

What does it mean, really? I mean- genetics are one component of things, but, in a way, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything beyond biology. As in the case of adoption, when there is no genetic relationship, the familial connection is no less strong. Same goes for many gay parents who are not the biological parents of their children. Also women who conceive with donor eggs. The list goes on. A genetic connection isn’t necessary to create a loving family.

But it is something. My child is related to me and my family, but got half his genes from someone we’ve never met. If nothing else, it’s a curiosity, and fun to find out about these kids who are technically half siblings. It feels like there’s only upside potential. These are friends with whom E will have one big thing in common: being a donor kid, with the same donor. If that reality ever feels confusing or weird, he could have someone to talk to about it, who is in his exact same boat. And, given that they have an actual bio father in common, perhaps there are other things they’ll have in common. Who knows? It feels like a low-stakes way to see if there are any nice connections that we’d want to maintain. And, if not, no harm done.

A few months ago, we drove an hour west to Geneva to have dinner with another donor family. They have a teenage daughter from a known donor and then 5yo L. They also invited another lesbian couple and their two kids (unrelated to our donor). All the kids played together while we chatted at the table and, honestly, by the end of the evening I felt like I’d known them all for years! E and L became buddies and she offered him her light saber to take home.

All the moms are talking about planning a vacation together in the next couple of years. I love the idea of these kids knowing each other. And the moms too!

Here are E and L together in SF a year ago:

And here are E and L together in Illinois a couple of months ago:

When I tell people about this, they smile and shake their head and talk about this brave new world. I know it’s a new thing to get one’s head around. Yet it feels like only potential to expand the love. So I can’t wait to see where it all takes us!

lots o love xoxo

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new day

I’d been feeling on top of my game for weeks, and then a few things happened. Two late-night sleepovers over the weekend, daylight savings, a boatload of snow, and catching up on a few doctors appointments which is crowding out exercise. I feel logey. Is that actually a word? I had several meet-ups over the weekend and I was at least somewhat late to all of them. I’m laying in bed for twenty minutes after the alarm goes off. And, instead of nimbly leaping from one task to the next, I feel like I’m doing the breaststroke in jello.

I also found out that I gained at least five pounds at a recent doc appointment. This is unusual for me- I tend to stay right at my stasis point. But I think it was the weaning. I stopped nursing and didn’t change my food intake, so maybe it caught up with me. Metabolism shift. That’s what it seems like- my body is in a transition period.

Plus, you know, aging. As much as I believe that I am grateful and lucky to have the chance to age, I, ahem, don’t like these changes. I know that nobody does. I wish that being intellectually at peace with it was the same as actually being at peace with it. Formerly perky parts of my body are responding to the call of gravity and my skin is looser everywhere. I caught a glimpse of my face in the locker room mirror after swim class the other day and my face looked a thousand years old, like a tired elephant. It was not the most flattering of light.

I’m writing this out in the hope that I’ll get back on track. When I did The Desire Map last year, I settled on one word to describe how I want to feel: “juiced.” I want to feel that sensation you have after a tough workout, with sore muscles  and the tiredness of having expended energy. I want to feel physically and creatively stimulated. I want to produce.

I’m working on my book. I mind-mapped it, organized the mind-map, and created an outline. Next step is to start the actual writing. Tomorrow. Lately, E is getting up super early during my precious morning time. Yesterday, he woke up at 5:30 and called out in a scratchy morning voice that he was “very hungry.” So I gave him an apple and got him back to sleep. Today it was 5:45 and he needed the potty. Again, I managed to get him back to sleep (hooray!). Many days, though, he runs out here at 6:00 and wants a video. And we’re getting to bed too late- I blame daylight savings right now. My writing schedule may need to change but I hope not- I love the getting enough sleep part. As much as I do miss having anything like reading or watching TV time. It will come back someday.

As I chatted with my new doctor on Monday, I remembered a key market for my book: people who don’t know anything about SMCs. My doc was a lovely woman, perhaps late fifties early sixties, perhaps Haitian although I could be wrong as she had a very light accent. She was fascinated by my story and kept asking questions. She just about fell over when I told her about donor sibling families. And at the end, she said, “You seem like such a sweet person. Did you really try to date?” O lady. You’ll have to read the book.

POTTY UPDATE: He’s doing awesome. There was that one week of resistance and then he found his way back to the joys of using the potty again, both at home and at school. He’s had no accidents at home recently. He can really hold it- can go for an hour after waking up before he’s ready to go pee. But at school something happens where he gets his pants wet while sitting on the big toilet. I feel like the teachers should be paying more attention to helping him point is penis in the right direction but I also realize that there are lots of kids in there at once. So, we (or they) will keep working on that part, but I’m feeling confident that we have a lot of the work behind us. He is proud and I am proud too.

And he has a new love of the snow- the trip from the house to the car takes half an hour. The only limit on his snow time is that he insists on wearing knit gloves instead of snow gloves so, you know, there is a point where it becomes painfully cold. I’ll try to reason with him today. 🙂

Sun is coming up and the birds are chirping. Happy new day xo

evan snow

 

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katie v. katie

The doppelgänger story about me and the other Katie aired over the weekend on Snap Judgment! Check it out HEREkatie-v-katie

It was a fun experience. I knew it that the story was going live on Friday afternoon but around 11am that morning I got a text from my sister B, “I AM LISTENING TO YOUR VOICE!” The podcast had already deployed to subscribers.

Sure enough, the podcast had landed on my phone. I stopped what I was doing and played it on speaker. Pacing laps around my house. I loved it.

And then, at the end, Glynn Washington said the name of this blog, something I thought would be buried in my bio on their website. OMGGGG! And then I listened again.

The show was posted mid-afternoon to the WNYC site and I posted it on facebook. Then it aired over the weekend in public radio stations around the country. I got texts like “I just got into my car and heard your voice!” or “My husband thinks he just heard you on the radio!” Emails from strangers that said, “You won!” Twitter mentions, Facebook messages, comments on the blog. I got invited to do a magazine interview for a regional magazine. Blog traffic skyrocketed.

Most interesting for me has been to hear our story mirrored back with everyone’s ideas and interpretations about it. I heard from the other Katie’s friend from summer camp and her neighbor and her SMC friend in New Jersey. I heard from high school friends and colleagues and SMCs. I emailed with the director of the national SMC organization. A bunch of friends on Facebook theorized that the other Katie is a classic introvert. I don’t know. I still don’t know her at all and I didn’t think the story provided any more of a window into her emotional experience of this than her essay did. As one friend put it, “earnest is not her thing.”

But it was a great story in the same vein as so many Snap Judgment stories- they do a fantastic job editing, pacing, adding the music. It had an arc. It was compelling and surprising. It’s also a harmless story of coincidences in a time of awful daily news.

I was so proud and happy that they left in my mention of the “amazing, kick-ass women” of San Francisco single moms by choice. It seemed kind of extra to throw in that personal detail but it fit into the conversation seamlessly and was met with admiration. Of all things for me to plug on national radio, I’m thrilled that it was SMCs and my blog.

Over the weekend, we met another donor sibling! And I owe you a potty training update. More soon.

Lots of love to blog followers old and new!

xo

 

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potty party

I’m up early. We’re having a warm thunderstorms- not exactly your typical weather for Chicago in February. When I moved here last summer, people couldn’t wait to tell me that we were due for an epic winter- massive snow, subzero temperatures. The people were wrong and we haven’t had real snow since December!

Inside the house, we’re in a weather pattern that is not at all going the way I expected either.

For months now, I’ve asked E if he wanted to sit on the potty. The prevailing mom wisdom was: “Don’t try until he’s ready.” I was in no rush. My kid doesn’t have to do things first. But he always said no, except for a few random times. So, what does “ready” really mean? Maybe, I thought, while he may not be “interested,” he’s actually “ready.”

As the warm-weather long weekend approached, I decided to do potty training weekend boot camp. I didn’t read any books. My friend V googled a few pointers to me over the phone. My idea was: pants-off weekend, roll up the carpets, get some yummy drinks, and post a sticker chart. One sticker per something in the potty, and one lollipop every ten stickers. A  huge pile of enticing handed-down undies with sharks, trucks, airplanes, and dinosaurs in Santa hats. What could go wrong?

The first three days were almost perfect. This is where parenting will take your hand and lead you down a beautiful path and you actually think to yourself things like, “Other parents must be doing this wrong!” E happily  went to the potty with me every 20-30 minutes, peed or pooped almost every time with a proud twinkle in his eye, and celebrated his sticker win, happily pulling up his pants, washing hands, and going back to playing. We played T-ball in the backyard (pants on), I cooked a lot, I set an alarm with Alexa for every 20 minutes, and he did his business. He had a few accidents, which seemed good too, for additional reinforcement. He even wore undies overnight and stayed dry! We facetimed family members to share the good news and solicit more cheering. As I packed a bag of extra clothes and undies for school on Monday night, I basically felt like we were done.

Some friends asked on Facebook how it was going and I gave smug answers that now I need to go back and amend.

He went to school on Tuesday and I chatted with the teachers, who all oohed and aahed over E’s progress and congratulated him on his undies.

When I picked him up at the end of the day, the first thing I noticed was that he was wearing the same clothes I dropped him off in. Could it be that he had no accidents???

Yes! But he also didn’t go ALL DAY until ten minutes before I got there. See? A curveball I didn’t know was possible. They said they took him to the potty many times, but he cried and refused. Only now did I realize that it was a regular big toilet only, which must be a massive transition from the little plastic potty with your mom and the sticker chart at home.

We got home and he spent the evening dancing around not wanting to use the potty at home either. Total 180. He wanted nothing to do with it- it became the typical power struggle we have about everything with toddlers: eating, sleeping, getting dressed, brushing teeth, getting in the car… A lot of “NO!” and the more I pushed it, the more adamant he became. If I offered prizes, he just got so frustrated because he knew in his heart there was no way he would ever sit on the potty again. He went only the tiniest bit out of desperation and also had an accident. In the middle of the night, I was googling the dangers of holding it too long and feeling my anxiety thermometer rise.

On the second day, the teacher texted me that he went pee three times in the morning. I’m not kidding when I tell you that I felt euphoria over this, like I was on drugs. Mom brains are wired for this stuff. But he didn’t go all afternoon. And then he didn’t go all evening. And then all night. In the morning, I was freaking out again.

In the middle of that night, I found a research paper written by a doctor who recommended stopping the suggesting/nudging/urging- this is what creates the power struggle. Just drop it. Don’t bring it up at all. Let the child know it’s his body and he can decide when he needs to go. That rang true to me. So I dropped it.

In the morning, he was so uncomfortable but resolute. I almost had to admire his dedication, even if it was making me crazy. He was still drinking and eating, had no other symptoms of anything wrong, but was struggling both physically and emotionally. You just can’t rationalize with a two-year-old. He may understand what’s happening but rational argument can’t touch it.

I called the nurseline, and the nurse had never heard of a child who could hold their pee for that long, talked about possible obstructions… I also read online that 95% of kids can’t hold their pee. Do I have a kid in the 5%? Should I be proud?

I decided that it was more important to make sure he could relieve himself than to try to be consistent… so I put him in a diaper. And he did #1 and #2. (Again, the euphoria but tempered with wondering if I just started us back at square one.) Then back to undies.

Yesterday at school was the same: peed only in the morning and not all afternoon. In the evening, we had swimming lessons, so I feel like it’s safe to assume he peed a lot, as all kids must do. (Pools for kid swimming lessons must be so saturated in pee but let’s not think about it.) At home, he had an accident. I’m hoping for accidents now. Who could have predicted?

Partway through writing this, I heard, “Mom?” coming from the bedroom. I set my laptop down and went to the bedroom door, opening it into the dark room. I saw this little shadow person standing at the foot of the bed drop to the floor, saying, “noooooo!” My brain cycled through the possibilities- is he wet? And then he said, “I WANTED TO DO IT!” Lately, in the morning, he’s been coming out the other door and then running through hall and dining room to reach me on the couch. I had messed up his morning tradition. This is such a good example of a two-year-old.

I sat back down on the couch, awaiting his dramatic entrance. He came out the other way (the bedroom has two doors) and ran out with a mad expression on his face. He leaped into my arms. He was dry. I asked if he needed the potty and he said no. He requested fire truck videos and I said yes.

I officially don’t know what I’m doing now. But we’ll keep doing it!

xo

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mountain

This morning, I got up and did a morning meditation by Tara Brach. It was called Sitting Like a Mountain. I had a giant blanket around me, the exact shape of a mountain. A mountain is stable, it’s strong, it’s vast. And many things play out on its surface- wind, weather, light, darkness- yet it maintains its stillness and mountain-ness. The sense of being deeply grounded in the face of so much chaos in the world is what we all crave.

I was in the last few minutes of the meditation when I felt a “click tick tick” around my eyebrow, obviously not possible for anything to move at that moment after 20 minutes of stillness without some agency of its own. So, un-mountain-like, I pawed at my face and caught sight of a large bug that dropped to the blanket- I jumped to my feet and fumbled with the phone to pause Tara’s calming voice, suddenly so at odds with the scene unfolding. I looked at the bug. I’ve never seen a bug like this- sort of a molbugdy pumpkin seed beetle, with long legs. I caught this photo just before she took flight with a loud, low buzz and landed on the arm of the sofa.

I’m not phobic about bugs but, you know, a big one by your eye when you’re extremely unguarded isn’t awesome. Also, how did she sneak up on me like that without any telltale buzz? My house was cleaned yesterday. It’s winter. I’ve never seen any bug in my house. Random giant bugs are not allowed to sneak up at 5:30am.

I ran for a small jar and a pocket Constitution (I have a bunch from the ACLU if anyone needs one). I got the jar over the bug easily and then sat down to finish the meditation, hoping for no bug cousins to appear on my head. Then, while she walked up the jar, I slid the Constitution underneath and walked out into the oddly warm morning air. The sky was just beginning to lighten. I left her out there in the upright jar, leaving her to find her way home.

I came back inside, feeling my mountain-ness return. I had written one paragraph of this post when I heard rustling in the bedroom. Then the door slammed open. Then- the latest thing- E ran out here with a big smile, fully one hour too early. He jumped into my lap and snuggled with me under the blanket and almost but didn’t quite go back to sleep. He enjoyed the bug photo and requested fire truck videos.

I have a long way to go in becoming a mountain, considering how many creatures are slithering and digging and trotting across its surface all day and all night… but considering that I’m human, I thought I actually handled that one pretty well.

Hoping to stay grounded as we embark on potty training this weekend!!

xo