anxiety, gratitude, single mom by choice, SMC

SF

I just made two big pots of soup for a meal exchange tomorrow, plus I have two zucchini breads baking. It’s quiet. I feel inexplicably sleepy considering that I literally went to bed at 7pm last night. But now it’s 10:45 and I’m just waiting for the bread to finish and to write a little post for you.

I’ve had a lot on my mind lately. Namely, how can I achieve the ideal balance of family flexibility with fulfilling work that brings in enough money? The conundrum of all parents. This, frankly, is the main area where I currently miss having a partner–the second income. The second income is so critical in a city like San Francisco. As I pay the bills each month, I’m pretty shocked that I’m even coming close to cutting it, given the ridiculously high cost of child care. And, while I’m more or less cutting it at the moment, at times it feels unsustainable.

First of all, WHY is child care so expensive? I’m not directing this question at our dear nanny V. Given the economics of child care in SF, she charges a fair rate and is very experienced, reliable, and loving, and she deserves it. But why in the world do we not have a subsidized child care options in this country? Why can’t we learn from European countries? It is a huge penalty that all families pay as soon as both parents go back to work–and it’s enough to drive many women (let’s face it) to stay home when they otherwise wouldn’t. I knew this was coming. But now that it’s here, it’s painful. My money is just flowing, flowing, flowing out of my accounts. It’s a huge adjustment.

On top of that, I live in a city with outrageous rental prices. I have a good deal on my place, but it’s still a two-bedroom that I’m covering by myself. Meanwhile, one-bedrooms are going for $2600/month on average, which makes everyone freeze in their tracks, realizing they are stuck wherever they are now. And more and more people talk about leaving–going to the East Bay, Portland, or back home, because no matter where that is, it will be cheaper. (Unless it’s New York.) Everyone is one eviction away from having to leave the city. It’s nuts.

But here’s the thing: I really, really love it here. Yes–the city is in one of its boom times, full of entitled, mega-rich, young people. And yes–this phenomenon ultimately drives out the very people who originally made the city interesting. But these phases come and go. And this place is so beautiful, so close to nature, so full of big-hearted people, even if they don’t say hi on the street. It’s quiet and slow-paced while simultaneously being the center of the tech universe that is radically changing the world. It is truly, almost unbelievably, diverse, in all senses of the word. And…the burritos!!

Plus, I love being a mom here. My mom friends are smart, generous, thoughtful, creative–and they seriously grow on trees. They are so easy to meet. I collect them, I love them. Not all places can claim such a nonstop fabulous collection of women.

And I want baby E to be a proud San Franciscan, to be surrounded by kids from all over the world and from non-nuclear family structures, where being a donor kid isn’t weird (or at least isn’t that weird). He’s already an outdoors kid. We’re going to hike many, many trails here.

I’m figuring it out. I’m visualizing abundance. I know why I’m here. And life is unpredictable–we’ll see if there’s a lucrative opportunity around some corner. I’m just happy we have the basics covered–and the blessings that money can’t buy.

xo

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anxiety, breakup, dating, family, gratitude, parenthood, pregnancy, single mom by choice, SMC

time

Baby E is 12 weeks old today. Does it feel like 12 weeks? Yes. And no. What can I compare it to? So many quiet moments and slow days but when looking back it seems like the time passes quickly.

My mom and I just watched the birth video (which she recorded on my iPhone) for the first time. First of all, she recorded it beautifully, keeping the frame perfectly centered on my vagina for almost an hour. Plus the video includes about 20 minutes of post-birth bonding time. It’s feature film-length with pretty nonstop action–the pushes are obviously productive, the chatter in the room like a chorus of female positive assurances, and there I am yodeling like a jungle woman. I had tears running down my face each time we got closer to seeing the sweet little face we’ve come to know so well.

We heard a gurgly newborn version of E’s current cry and watched him move his body in heavy slow-mo as if it were full of beans instead of bones. The intensity of his dark eyes was already there, and his big hands pawing at my chest. We laughed out loud as I, not once but twice, called out the complicated password to my iPad between pushes so the med student Kacy could continue to hold it up for me as a mirror.

Incidentally, if anyone knows of a way to get the video from my iPhone to the cloud or a computer, please let me know. I’m so terrified of losing it although I’m not sure baby E will ever in his life want to stare at my vagina for that long.

I came upstairs after watching to find him sleeping angelically in his sleep sack, a more rounded and rosier version of his newborn self. These days, his built-in superman curl (cowlick) is still going strong. He’s holding his head up pretty steadily and just today started really focusing on grabbing a toy dangling above his head. His hands, once spastic, got slow and steady, and, after a decent amount of crying in frustration, finally grabbed that damn owl’s tail. He loves his mom. He takes mini-breaks from nursing to look up at me adoringly with a big smile.

Whenever I’m here at my parents’ place in northern Michigan, I feel like it’s kind of a time-out from real life and therefore a good time to be reflective. It also feels like all my previous reflective visits are piled one on top of the other so that I’m experiencing those memories often throughout my days here. I remember bringing various boyfriends over the years. When I go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I remember taking a break in there from a middle-of-the-night argument with a boyfriend who had started having second thoughts about ever wanting kids. Then I remember how I signed a lease on an apartment to try to coax a boyfriend of four years into living with me (didn’t work), and how I made plans to quit my job and travel the world with the Alaskan (didn’t happen). I remember feeling like I could not could not could not get my life to move forward.

And then I decided to have a baby on my own. In retrospect, all these guys were poor matches and necessary steps on the way to Dr. Tran and baby E.

And, as my sister B says, it’s so clear that I found my path. What poetic justice that by being overly dependent, I learned to be totally independent.

This 5 weeks in Michigan is almost up, and the time has passed at a comfortable pace. When I’ve come for a two-week vacation, I could never wrangle it to go slowly enough. But five weeks is substantial enough to relax and stop watching the clock or calendar. E got to absorb a big dose of this family he has joined, thanks to the miracle of nature and UCSF, including his cousins and aunts and uncles and Mimi and Chacha and a whole lotta love.

And my maternity leave is about 60% complete, which is a clock and calendar that I would slow way down if I could. But how? Did anyone see this video if the little girl sobbing because she doesn’t want her baby brother to grow up? Sadie doesn’t want her baby brother to grow up

The paradox, of course, is that we want him to grow up and go off and live a meaningful life, but that also means eventually losing these baby cheeks and moving out of my bed. Wah!

I just finished reading Daring Greatly, by Brené Brown, in which she talks about how joyful moments can open up a feeling of vulnerability. The answer is to use this as a trigger to remember to practice gratitude, which keeps us in the moment. I love this!

And I’m pretty sure it’s the only reasonable way to slow the whole darn thing down.

xo

anxiety, family, gratitude, outdoors, parenthood, single mom by choice, SMC, writing

“getting stuff done”

I’m in super mama blogger mode as I sway back and forth on my feet standing at my parents’ bistro-height dining room table, baby in the Ergo, willing him to stay asleep long enough for me to churn this post out. He just had perhaps his biggest tantrum ever, alarming even the neighbors. Why? I really don’t know. This morning, I took him on a relaxing, 3-mile walk in the stroller–he looked up at the trees with big eyes, napped, woke up happy. When we got home, I thought we’d do a nice nurse-ourselves-into-a-nap together. We’ve done it many times before, and I was predicting that our sleep schedules would align. We got upstairs and he nursed on one side. When I switched to the other side, he kept getting distracted–looking up at me with big eyes and bursting out in big smiles (and then doing it again, and then doing it again, etc., adorable)–and eventually I gave up and thought–maybe we’ll just drift off to sleep together. There was a moment, maybe 30 seconds, when we were both still and I actually started falling asleep. That’s when he began the gradual but steady ramp-up to five-alarm fire mode. I tried everything: shushing, swaddling, walking, bouncing, nursing again, every position, giving him to my sister, giving him to my brother-in-law (both of whom were impressed by the force of his crying despite their own significant experience with five-alarm gila monster), giving up and eating a cookie, etc. This doesn’t often happen with E. But every baby will have their moments!

I stepped outside with E in the Ergo and ran into the W’s who were worried they had triggered the ordeal by playing their music too loud (I never heard the music) and asked me how they could help and I requested an iced coffee to replace the nap I didn’t get.

I woke up today feeling like I’m not “getting anything done.” Everyone else around me has projects, events, outings, work calls, errands, and I recently wore the same clothes from one morning, overnight, and the next day till the following night and hadn’t showered and was just flowing with the baby’s needs and feeling like I needed to wash my hair and change my underwear and breast pads. I really feel like I can’t (shouldn’t?) complain, yet I simultaneously I felt like I couldn’t quite manage the basics. A little downward spiral. I perhaps underestimated how much the mom has to do no matter how many willing helpers are surrounding her. (My family is wonderful and will do anything I ask–I probably should be doing a little more asking.)

So I complained to my mom this morning that I wasn’t ” getting anything done”  which obviously is crazy when I have been caring for my baby boy 24/7 for 10 weeks, and she said, ” honey, what do you feel like you’re not getting done?”  and I said quietly, “like washing my hair,” and at that moment the baby fell asleep and I bounded upstairs for a shower and straightened up my room, put sheets in the laundry, and prepared for a stroller walk. Man, sometimes all you need is 15 minutes to feel like a new person.

So–biggest tantrum ever, no nap, small showering victory, and we’re still moving forward incrementally on the bottle. Let’s be glad for progress–yesterday, he took 1/4 ounce, today he took 1/2 an ounce. He’s willing to give it a shot but not really sucking on the nipple, kind of gumming it and pushing it in and out of his mouth. I probably should have started this process weeks before I did but it felt overwhelming. Then he starts arching his back (a new move–he can practically make a bridge when on the floor, j/k but not really) and we do that a few more times. It stresses me out though because I feel like I will never be away from him for more than 1.5 hours without putting someone through the torture of this afternoon (on top of the stress of actually leaving him for any length of time), and I wish there were a third option. But let’s focus on the progress–progress! We’ll keep trying again each day and he’s a bright young man and he’ll get it figured out. I have a few months still before I go back to work (so grateful, truly a dream come true).

And then there are recent days that flow so well that it’s truly easy–and seriously guys, that’s been most days. We wake up and he gives me a series of good morning smiles. I feed him, wipe the green stuff out of his eyes with a warm washcloth, change his diaper, put on his clothes. He stares up at the ceiling fan lovingly. Sometimes my mom does the diaper and clothes. Then he’ll play on the activity mat and then go down easily for a nap. I have to be well-rested and have clarity on what’s top priority in order to use those nap windows efficiently. And somehow the past few days I’ve not felt well-rested. And I think the young sir has had some tummyaches (a sizable spit-up preceded his outburst today).

So, that’s me today. My back hurts from standing here with my 16+ pounder on my front and my feet hurt because we already did 3 miles and someone doesn’t want me to sit down. The iced coffee was just delivered by my dad (thanks, T!!!), and the sun is shining, and my baby is the most precious, beautiful boy in the world. And I am grateful to be a mom and see what this is all about.

Three days ago, I turned 41, and Baby E’s gift to me was: he laughed. Like, we made each other laugh back and forth a bunch of times. It made my heart grow ten sizes.

Lots of love to you!

PS: Sad addendum is that today we lost our dear friend H, at 86 years old. We got together with him many times in SF over the years and played many Scrabble games (he was a master of the two-letter word and kicked our butts most of the time). He followed my story, not through my blog but through his niece A on the east coast who reads the blog.  If it was a girl, he wanted me to name her “Perseverance.” He came over just last month to meet Baby E and hold him and I’m so glad I have photos of that day, so glad that day happened, and that we got to know and love H in the last years of his long and full life. We will miss him so much. xx

anxiety, family, gratitude, outdoors, parenthood, single mom by choice, SMC, writing

8 weeks

OMG I am having the hardest time getting time to write! It’s been more than two weeks and the topics are piling up. When I get a little free time I usually want to nap or take a shower. Or get outside. See how I hit the trifecta this morning? Baby sleeping, I’ve already showered, I’m well rested, and it’s pouring rain!

Ever since my last post I’ve been meaning to write about our placenta-burying ceremony–so San Francisco, right? This came about thanks to multiple factors. I had written in my birth plan that I wanted to take my placenta home from the hospital. Maybe to have encapsulated (i.e. dried and put into capsules to take as pills) and maybe to consume in smoothies, but I didn’t have a precise plan and hadn’t researched it at all. As a result, when we got home from the hospital I kind of forgot about it in the fridge (not the freezer, oops) until Day 5, which seemed a bit late for any kind of consumption. My doula, A, agreed, and she suggested that we bury it.

Since M had given birth the same day as me just five hours later, A suggested that we have a joint placenta-burying ceremony in her Secret Garden, a beautiful garden space in the Mission to which she has access. We both loved the idea as a way to thank the placentas, return their nutrients to the earth, and to commemorate the end of the first 40 days–the sacred beginning. So, on a hot and sunny SF day 40 days after the day our babies were born, we met up at the Secret Garden with our placentas in tupperware buckets (mine, which caused the hemorrhage, was as big as a cherry pie–no exaggeration). A was at a birth, so she sent her dear husband and kids with a well-researched kiwi plant and detailed instructions. M and her husband P brought a pitcher of icy lemonade. The kiwi was to be buried next to a trellis where it will climb and climb into the future!

We said a few words and dumped our placentas together into a hole in the earth, covered them up with dirt, and put the plant on top. A lovely way to give our children “roots”  in San Francisco forever and a way to mark the intertwined beginnings of babies E and E. Grateful for our connection to these two families! (After polling a couple of key blog readers who happen to be in the room with me, I decided not to include a photo of my placenta, even though I am grateful to it for nourishing baby E in the womb and think it looks awesome! Proud of my pie-sized placenta!)

photo 1

photo 2

 

About a week after that, I flew to Michigan. Flying with a baby is a rite of passage for any new parent–especially a single mom who is likely doing it on her own. I spent that week planning and plotting and accumulating everything we would need in a flurry of Ziploc bags. Miraculously, my sister in Chicago brought a bunch of key items that she had from her babies (breast pump, my brest friend, diaper changing pad, etc.) so I didn’t have to ship anything. I got everything to fit in one big suitcase (44 pounds), the Snap N Go stroller in my other hand, a carry-on backpack on my back and the baby in an Ergo on my front. I set the alarm for 3:15am for our 6:30am flight. I was admittedly nervous. I just kept picturing myself covered in sweat and milk and clutching a screaming baby.

E woke me at 2:45am to eat, so that was my official earliest wakeup time ever. I got myself ready, got him ready, got us and everything into the car and headed down the highway. E just took my word for it that it was time to start the day and was perfectly happy except for when his hat fell over his eyes, easily fixed from the driver’s seat by reaching back. We parked by the airport, felt like badasses as we rolled backpack and stroller to the airtrain and checked into the terminal and went through security. It was all super smooth–didn’t have to take off my shoes or the baby carrier. And when we got to the gate, the agent had the same name as my mom, so I chatted gaily with her as I attempted to be her BFF and get a good seat. She complied by giving us an ENTIRE ROW at the very back of the plane. Relief!!! I laid him down on a blanket beside me, and he happily kicked his legs and napped and had diaper changes right there. Only a couple of times did he get revved up into crying mode and I was able to walk up and down the aisle and rock him to sleep pretty effectively. Plus you forget that the white noise of the plane drowns out a lot.

The people who helped me most on the planes happened to be men (probably because by chance it was men, on both flights, who were sitting nearest to us). On the first leg, a guy across the aisle said to let him know if I needed any help, that he liked babies and that his baby was now the morose teenager sitting beside him engrossed in a video game. He smiled and said he preferred them smaller. I took him up on it when I couldn’t wait any longer to use the bathroom and handed E over. The second I shut the bathroom door, I heard E wailing and peed as fast as possible.

On the second flight, E was already wailing and hungry when we got on board (my moment to be covered in sweat and milk and clutching a screaming baby). For this flight, they gave us the more-leg-room seats by a window, with two guys in the inside seats. I’m sure they were full of dread when they saw us arrive. I tried everything possible to balance E in a way that I could get my hands free to put on my seatbelt but no dice. I asked the guy next to me to buckle it for me and he obliged! E settled right down once eating, and by the end that guy said, “Does he always fly this well?” Success!!!!

And now we’ve been up north for a week! I would have thought it would be easier to get time to write with all the help but we’ve had pretty nonstop activity. My sister D and her girls were here when we arrived. Then two dear friends and their families came through on different days. Then J decided to fly in from NYC (with literally one day notice) and is here now! Amazing how many friends have come through when we’re in such a remote place. Baby E draws many fans from all over!

We’ve also taken E on his first restaurant outing (he was an angel) and also to a Joshua Bell concert at Interlochen (he stayed outside with Chacha and J until I was summoned 45 minutes in and sent my dad in my place). These outings push me outside my comfort zone. Taking such a little baby into these loud and bouncy and completely new situations full of strangers can be stressful. But it’s good for us–with some balance. Now we’re enjoying a little down time, thanks to the rainy day.

J just said, “Are you writing?” from where he’s working on his laptop around the corner. He knows I’ve been trying to get to this for days!

It’s wonderful to be surrounded by people who love E and are delighted by his every teeny step of development (not to mention all the help!!). He is smiling a lot now and my mom got him to laugh! He’s eating less in the night. He loves to look up at the trees and feel the beach air. Once in a while, he’ll suddenly look at you with big, intense eyes and start telling you something critically important through pursed little lips, “Brlll.”

He’s almost always easily placated, so when he’s not, I get rattled. We came home early from a dinner party with our dear downstairs neighbors after everyone tried their magic with him and he was just over the edge. I really can’t stand listening to him cry! It’s awful! We came home and he calmed down right away. A side-lying nursing sesh and he was out. Aw, baby. Wish we could get a memo on what you need when you cry. Next up: getting him to take a bottle. We’ve made some progress on that but he’s so far pretty (understandably) offended by the idea of a bottle vs. the boob.

He’s a beautiful boy and growing fast–probably around 15 pounds now and I need to graduate the sweater he wore yesterday which looked more like a midriff top with 3/4 length sleeves.

J caught this photo of the little love the other day. Lots of love to you!

photo 3

acupuncture, anxiety, gratitude, meditation, parenthood, pregnancy, single mom by choice, SMC

‘late’

Well, here we are 4 days past the due date and babes is still acting pretty comfortable in there.

First, I should say that all is well! I feel great. I’m sleeping and eating well, walking, swimming, doing yoga. These days are still precious gifts of mental/physical/material preparation. AND I’m still within the range of normal: first-time Caucasian moms on average go 8 days past their due date. As you know, I am both a first-time mom and Caucasian, and I always thought/knew we would go late. So I’m honestly not too surprised to be here.

On the day after my due date, I went over the protocol for the next two weeks with my midwife. It’s crazy how on 5/3 he would have been “early” and on 5/5 I was already “late” and walking through all the possible complications and interventions. Damn the arbitrary due date! Yet, I reminded myself that even though this baby will most likely be born on a normal and perfect timetable of his own creation, we did need to walk through what-ifs now that we know he won’t be early or precisely on time. (It should be noted that, as a rule, I am neither early nor precisely on time either.)

So–this week, nothing really changes. I keep resting, eating well, getting my heart rate up for an hour a day, drinking pregnancy tea, taking Mother’s Blend and black currant oil, relaxing. Not stressing. Doing kick counts and taking fetal love breaks.

Starting at 41 weeks (Sunday), I need to go in for non-stress tests at the hospital to make sure the baby is still thriving. They check the variability of the heartbeat and the level of amniotic fluid. This can lead to a thumbs up and come back in a few days, or, if the results are not optimal, a quick induction. If nothing happens by the end of next week, we’d try natural (castor oil) and then finally hospital (pitocin) methods of induction to ensure that I don’t go past 42 weeks. So that’s the roadmap.

It’s a relief to have the plan although tough to so quickly be thrust into the mindset of being ‘late.’ (Even though ‘normal.’) Again–being ‘early’ would have completely thrown me and made me feel unprepared, yet ‘late’ makes me feel a bit like an overripe piece of fruit. I have seen this so often from an outside perspective–the mom goes past her due date and is just done, over it, uncomfortable, and all-around cranky. I remember thinking (in that way that you know you don’t really understand because you haven’t experienced it), ‘Why is she so cranky? She knows the baby will come soon one way or another and all she has to do is relax and watch movies…’ In yoga, the teacher often asks whoever’s at 41 weeks if her phone is blowing up and she nods and rolls her eyes and the teacher gives her strategies for telling people to back off (like sending them to haveyouhadthatbabyyet.com).

I now have four days of insight into this genre of living with uncertainty and managing the expectations of the outside world. I have the huge bonus of not being uncomfortable which means my own reserves of patience are pretty full. And baby is doing all his kicks so I’m not overly worrying about his well-being. The anticipation is growing but the days feel peaceful and luxurious and lovely.

What stresses me out is my phone. Every time I look at it, there’s another text or email or voicemail. Now, you guys know me by now– I love hearing that people are thinking about me and sending good wishes. This is always welcome and I have many times been the one impatiently waiting for news on the other side, sending tentative “thinking of you” texts while trying to avoid any hint that I’m actually “checking in” (which I probably am). You really want to know that the mom and baby are OK and sometimes it gets unbearable to hear nothing. You start feeling like the ecstatic new mom may have forgotten to deploy the basic stats in a birth announcement and is now ensconced in a love cocoon that will prevent her from remembering her outside world and their burning need for information. And you want to know the name and see a photo and be assured that all is well. I know. I’ve been there, even in the past few weeks!

It’s the questions (“Do you have a baby yet?” “Sooooo?” My favorite from J, “When is he coming!!! We are all waiting for him!!!!’). And any expectation of me calling back. I know these are also fueled by love and good wishes, but I then have to convey a disappointing lack of news and speculate about something I can’t predict, which turns out to be stressful for me. Which I know is no one’s wish.

So, here goes me asking for what I need. I humbly ask of my beloved community to please send frequent love and good wishes and ‘thinking of you’ texts and voicemails and blog comments which will be code for ‘I’m dying for news over here and love you and the baby so much my heart may burst!’ and I promise to get the birth announcement posted on the blog as soon as my new mom life makes it possible.

I’ll be over here focusing on being rested, fueled, and stress-free, and also getting things rolling with daily acupuncture and meditation and walking and generally getting my head in the game. And having chats with Baby Boy about how exciting life is on the outside. (“Here’s your new bed, and here are your new clothes, and here’s your Mimi and Chacha, and here are the beautiful woods, and over there is the Golden Gate Bridge.” etc.)

One thing we all know for sure: he’ll be here soon. And I can’t wait to introduce you!!!

xoxoxo

acupuncture, anxiety, breech, gratitude, homebirth, meditation, pregnancy, single mom by choice, SMC

turn, baby, turn

I had a directional ultrasound yesterday and confirmed that bébé is breech at 34 weeks. Eek!

He was head down at every other ultrasound, and even two weeks ago when Em checked me she felt his head in my pelvis. But on Thursday, Em couldn’t find his head–it seemed that baby boy felt the need to explore upward. Now I need to do everything in my power to get him to head back down.

My childhood friend V is visiting and came with me to the appt at UCSF yesterday, which was with a certified nurse midwife I’ve never seen before and I’m pretty sure the one most people don’t like. After giving my urine sample, she rushed me to the exam room, saying she had to hurry to make it to her own doctor’s appointment. (We had been 5 minutes late after missing the exit in Daly City.) She got me on the table, lubed me up with not-warm lube, and the very second she got the image on the monitor said, “the baby is breech.” So, not a lot of mysterious waiting. Then I watched a series of baby images fly by on the screen as she confirmed his position (including seeing his boy parts for the first time–cool), and then she said things like, “I strongly recommend not having a home birth with a breech baby.” (My understanding is that due to recent legislation, midwives are forbidden from assisting home births of breech babies, twins, and any baby being born outside of 37-42 weeks anyway, and I obviously wouldn’t do it unassisted.) Then she flew out.

Mostly I was annoyed that we didn’t get the chance to leisurely gaze at my baby on the monitor. I was pretty sure Em was right after the appointment the day before–I’d been getting a little obsessed over the previous week with figuring out the position of the baby, waking up at 3am and going to http://www.spinningbabies.com to work on belly mapping. But I just could not figure out what was what. Big kicks here, little flutters there, what the heck is this bump? Now I feel like my intuition was telling me something had changed.

I called Em, and she gave me a bunch of strategies for the coming days as we have 2-3 weeks to turn this situation around. After doing a bunch of googling, I can see that these are pretty universal:

  • Lie on an inverted ironing board against the couch with feet up and head down for 15 mins, twice a day. (I tried it this morning and it sucked. I googled further to find people complaining about it but found no complaints…maybe I did it wrong, but it was the same old discomfort of being on my back which cuts off circulation, plus not being able to breathe, plus feeling all my weigh pushing down on my neck, plus my tailbone grinding into the board. This one needs work–I’ll try with just pillows.)
  • Take pulsatilla, a homeopathic remedy–I took some last night.
  • Moxa: Chinese medicine technique of applying heat near an acupressure point associated with turning the baby: the outside pinkie toe (bladder 67). I’m getting some moxa from Em when I go to breakfast at her house tomorrow.
  • Acupuncture (same pinkie toe point–already had this on Thurs)
  • Lean forward, crawl around on hands and knees, do handstands and flips in the pool
  • Put frozen vegetables by the baby’s head and a warm compress near pelvis, coaxing him toward the warmth
  • Play music or shine light near the pelvis, maybe he’ll get curious and come on down?
  • Talk to baby, meditate, write out emotions, chant, recruit support and head-down vibes from blog followers

I won’t bother going into all the scenarios if he doesn’t flip by 37 weeks, because he will. He just will! (Visualization from V: I’m so grateful my baby flipped and I got to have a natural birth!)

Still, it’s upsetting, and my first lesson in a while in You Do Not Control This. This one is really up to the babe. I’m showing him every 5 minutes with my hands the direction to go, which is roughly counter-clockwise. Turn, baby!

I talked to my sister D last night and she said the same thing happened with her first–and she turned with plenty of time.

Yay, baby, yay baby!!!

acupuncture, anxiety, parenthood, pregnancy, single mom by choice, SMC

intuition

Today is the beginning of my third trimester: 28 weeks. Baby boy is the size of an eggplant and I’m starting to slow down and focus.

My doula came over today and we talked a lot about holding a sense of peace and clarity and connection with the baby amidst all that life and well-intentioned people and Google may throw at you. An interesting case study on this subject is that I recently got off the fence and got a flu shot. I had been abstaining with the idea that I would rather not inject anything I don’t absolutely have to, especially when they specifically tell you that studies haven’t been done on pregnant women. However, my acupuncturist made a gentle but strong case to me and the risk of getting really sick finally outweighed any potential risk of the actual shot. I’d been unsure and getting mixed messages for weeks and months, but finally I got clear.

I got the shot on Wednesday night, and on Thursday I developed a paranoia that the baby was quieter than usual. I knew that it was a manifestation of my anxiety and probably nothing more, yet I somehow felt like I gave him the flu. Then, he woke me up at 3am that night with unprecedented tumbling somersaults–the first time he ever woke me with his movement. My doula took this as a sign of good communication–he let me know he was OK.

As I get closer to becoming an actual mom, I wonder–how do you trust that you know what is right for your baby even when your trusted experts may disagree with each other and/or you? The flu shot was a relatively low-stakes version of this scenario but the question still looms large.

Last night, my mom asked me what has surprised me most about being pregnant, and I told her that it’s the intuition, the sense that I do have an open line of communication with this little guy, even as I’m on conference calls and scrubbing the bathtub and riding the bus. I couldn’t have anticipated this. No one else knows what he’s saying through his interpretive dances. I get every single email. Now this extra sense is a part of every waking (and sometimes sleeping) moment. I used to think it was a sci-fi alien experience to have a baby in your belly but in reality it feels like an extension of me, my new normal. I love his presence. I do have a sense of what’s right for him–yet I know it won’t always be black and white, and I will make lots and lots (and lots) of mistakes. I also know that I want to keep developing this intuition because it’s probably always right.

Today, my doula drew this for me:

photo (13)

Lately I do have a stronger sense of what I need, a tighter focus on what’s important. My former mentor once said, “Saying no to others is saying yes to yourself.” Saying no has always been tough for me. I won’t be able to be as accommodating as I’ve been in the past. No–I can’t make it, I can’t commit, I can’t say what I’ll be doing over Labor Day weekend. Even if I know that setting boundaries or opting out or canceling plans is really good and healthy for me, it’s still hard. Because it represents a fundamental shift in behavior–I won’t be so easygoing, flexible, no problem I’ll come to you. Some people won’t like it and will reflect back a note of disappointment. Most will completely understand. And I feel like this shift is something I’ve been working toward for a long time, and the baby is giving me a boost. Which is one of his first gifts to me.

The lessons just arrive one on top of the other through this journey. You know what you need. Trust it. Trust the emails from your baby. Trust that your body knows. Stay here.

This trust will serve me in the third trimester and in labor and through motherhood. Dropping the ‘shoulds’ and comparisons and what ifs and just being with what I already know, deep in my reptilian brain, ditching the frequently unhelpful neo-cortex. (As my doula noted, we are the only animal who attends birth prep classes.)

This week’s photo was taken outside the Kabuki Sundance theater where my sister and I saw “American Hustler” (good!) and ran out of interesting backdrops on this rainy night. The belly is now getting me a seat on the bus and my belly button is threatening to invert.

28 weeks

Have a great week, wise ones. xo

anxiety, Buddhism, family, IUI, IVF, meditation, pregnancy, single mom by choice, SMC, trying to conceive, ttc

sicker

I made a quick recovery from the stomach bug but the cough got worse. I steamed, drank a special concoction from my dad (hot water with honey, cider vinegar, and cayenne pepper), ate cough drops, drank lots of fluids, rested as much as I could. But it was time to go to the sales meeting and I depended the cough to neatly resolve itself which…it didn’t. During the first full day, I drank much hot water with honey and lemon, but I kept breaking into coughing fits and people were starting to give me that alarmed look like I should be quarantined. By full day 2, I lost my voice. I was hosting strategy breakfast and was almost unable to communicate in anything but a growl. Finally, I texted Em who wanted me to go to urgent care to have a doctor listen to my lungs.

Fortunately, the disruption to my team was minor because we were well-staffed. I waited 3 hours in urgent care to see the doctor because they only had one doctor on and there were many people waiting. When the doc finally listened to my lungs, I couldn’t take a full deep breath without lots of coughing and he stepped away and said, “You sound TERRIBLE.” He told me that if I don’t already have pneumonia I would soon, and that if I already wasn’t in such good shape I would be knocked out. No more sales meeting–rest, fluids, and a strong antibiotic.

Of course I wasn’t thrilled to have to take medicine, but triple-checked it with Em, Dr. B., and the doctor here confirmed it was a B-class drug for pregnancy, meaning the safest. And the alternative would be to get sicker, an obvious risk in itself. So I went to Walgreens and got the prescription, Emergen-C, Ricola drops, water. Then my phone died so I couldn’t call a cab and the nice people at Walgreens let me use their phone. The hotel sent a woman named Veronica in a black car to get me and I was noting how relatively luxurious it is to be sick on a work trip with an Am Ex corporate card.

My room is comfy (I’m in a JW Marriott) and I spent a while watching junky TV before landing on the season premiere of Downton Abbey. While I had missed the third season, I heard how it ended (thanks to facebook) and found this premiere to be really tepid with no compelling storylines. I hung in there hoping it would get better (it didn’t) before falling asleep for close to 10 hours.

A series of room service orders, naps, and baths later and I am in bed in my bathrobe listening to ambient spa music being piped outside my the open sliding door to the balcony. The antibiotic will take 24-48 hrs to kick in, so the deep wheezy cough is still there, but I don’t feel too miserable. In a few hours, I’ll put on my formal dress and heels and go down to the awards banquet for a little while–there’s lots to celebrate with my team and I want to at least make an appearance and exchange some hugs and high-fives. But not overdo it. And I definitely want to be sitting down the whole time.

At this meeting of nearly a thousand colleagues, there are many hugs and congratulations and everyone seems to already know my circumstances as I’m sure that part of the story travels like wildfire (since it’s unorthodox and therefore interesting). Only once was I asked if it was intentional, and only once was I asked if I’ll be coming back to work–aren’t these question off limits?? There was one colleague who very studiously was not acknowledging my news, and I realized he was waiting for me to tell him–good policy! Another friend told me over and over how proud she is of me for making it happen. Feels nice.

While here, I had two women tell me they’d be interested in knowing more about how I went about getting pregnant on my own because they may end up doing the same. I strive to be a good example to women like this–it helps to get serious about it when you know someone else’s story (for me, it was my friend C). I had another woman get teary and tell me how happy she was for me–and then confided that she’s been trying unsuccessfully to conceive for years and is in the process of trying to adopt. I always want to make it clear that this did not happen easily or quickly for me either–but, then again, what is easily or quickly? It’s all relative, everyone’s story and struggle is unique, and I remember looking at pregnant women on the ‘other side’ and wondering if I’d ever get there, almost disregarding how long her road had been. Does it matter how hard it was if you got there? (I recently told someone it took me “a long time” and she said, “Me too, ten years!” and I instantly felt like OMG–it didn’t take me long at all.) Rather than compare numbers of IUIs and IVF transfers, I can sincerely tell women that if you are totally committed to making it happen, it will happen, one way or another. Just keep trying.

Tomorrow, J and I will head back to my parents’ place for one more relaxing day, then fly back to SF. What a trip. I hope I can manage to stay healthy after this–extensive travel is not promoting good pregnancy health. Only one two-hour flight to go.

I had so much I wanted to say about the silent retreat but the experience got kind of blasted out of the water by all this illness–I never ‘transitioned out,’ I just barreled into survival mode. People have asked me how it went and I have a hard time putting it into words, and no one who hasn’t experienced it can really get it. In fact, I think most people think it sounds nuts to spend money on nothingness and silence. I’ll just say that while it’s happening, it’s intense, enlightening, intimidating, big–all stimulations and distractions are inside your own head. You face the stuff that stays buried underground most days but inevitably causes intermittent or unrelenting stress, anxiety, dread, etc–and it evolves and turns into an action-packed movie with rich visuals, a swirling sea of rising and falling emotions, and a series of surprising visitors, all punctuated by many, many moments of stillness and peace. All I can say is: give it a try.

My boy is growing and moving and I’m shifting into a new level of thinking and planning–it’s the new year, the year he will be born!

New Year’s resolution: clear time and space for new life!

xo

anxiety, donor sperm, gratitude, homebirth, IVF, pregnancy, single mom by choice, SMC

full disclosure

I woke up this morning at 6:15am and was so awake (despite having gone to bed at 11:45pm) that I decided to get up and write. So, I had a bit of plain whole-milk yogurt and checked in on some blogs (my midwife just sent me her food blog with great recipes, it’s here), and I’m back in bed with my laptop.

This week I told my team at work the big news! For almost two years, the solo mama project has been kept entirely separate from anything work-related; whereas all my friends and family have followed my every step (largely through this blog), the work folks knew nothing. When they asked me what’s new, I made something up. I’m not used to keeping such a big secret, especially one that is so central to my life–as you know, I’m not the most private person in the entire world. Clearly, though, it was smart to keep this one to myself. Even if it was difficult through all the appointments, the disappointments, the tearing my hair out over wondering if a conference was going to overlap with my fertile window, etc.

I know that disclosing a pregnancy at work is a pretty universally terrifying conversation. I’ve wondered why this is. I mean, how many managers really say, “How DARE you!” In my non-scientific sample size of friends’ anecdotes, the conversation usually goes fine, and managers are congratulatory. But I think it’s terrifying because it’s the very first time (of many) when this new child is inserting itself as an important enough priority to be discussed as something that will eventually conflict with work. And, knowing that this is a conflict that is essentially unresolvable, that, for the rest of our lives there will be tension between our careers and the needs of our children, breaking the ice on this just feels huge. HUGE.

So, I decided to tell my manager on our regular weekly phone call (she is in NY), with as unquavering a voice as I could manage as I paced around with my heart pounding. Once we had run through our list, I said, “Well, if there isn’t anything else, I have really big news from my personal life.” She said, “Uh oh.”

I told her I was 15 weeks pregnant. There was a pause. She said, “WHAT?!” in the most incredulous voice, then WOW!, then Oh my God, K, I am so happy for you! She asked a few questions about how I’ve been feeling as she absorbed this big news and I told her a bit more of the story, that I decided to become a single mom, used an anonymous donor, and couldn’t be more thrilled. We talked for a while longer, and she said how she knows I’ve wanted this for a long time (I shared this back when I was still dating) and she’s so impressed that I went for it and made it happen. She said she hoped I’d tell the rest of the team soon otherwise she wouldn’t be able to to explain her big, dumbfounded grin.

I got off the phone with a full heart. Ultimately, it felt like the disclosure wasn’t about work, or how this affects or fits in with work, it was purely about me and my life-changing news. I had kind of lost track of just how huge the news is, and her heartfelt reaction reminded me. It really couldn’t have gone better.

I went on to call the rest of my outside-of-SF team, one by one. They were all similar conversations and I realized that whether or not someone has kids, wants kids, or even likes kids, the story that rose to the top was that I wanted this and I made it happen, and they just loved that. There was only one co-worker who said, “I *thought* you had a lot of doctor’s appointments!” and I was like oh, honey, and I only called about a third of them doctor’s appointments!

The next day, I told the local team here in SF, and they had actually been speculating about my growing mid-section and all-day crunching at my desk. Apparently there was a meeting where I had my hand on my belly. They were less surprised but also extremely happy for me, some of the parents even got teary.

The release of all that held energy was so cathartic and also exhausting. I shared more of the back story. I sent my blog to a couple more people, although keeping a general boundary there (and my anonymity) seems like a smart thing to continue.

Life went mostly back to normal except now I can wear more form-fitting clothes and we talk about what fruit I’m  on (avocado) and people make references to how I won’t be needing drink tickets at our conference event.

Meanwhile, my midwife experience continues to be awesome (I’m going to her house for gluten-free crepes in a couple of hours), but my transition out of UCSF IVF and back into UCSF OB (as backup) has been a bureaucratic nightmare that reinforces my decision to have my primary care outside the system. I needed my medical records sent to Em, and the woman from whom I requested them was on emergency leave and no one checked her email–delay of 2 weeks. Then I called the OB dept and they couldn’t find me in their system at all, acted like I never existed and could find no records or scans, and insisted my midwife fax over my “file” even though she hasn’t received medical records from the IVF dept and had only had one appointment with me… Every time I called the OB dept and tried to get past the script in the call center, they blocked me–I tried dropping the midwife story and they just couldn’t believe that I hadn’t had prenatal care before now, or that I haven’t done any prenatal testing (which I haven’t, outside of genetic testing of the embryos). Finally, Olga came to the rescue and I think we solved it (so far).

I have an appointment with a midwife on 12/4, I’ll get set up in their systems and can make my appt for the 20-week ultrasound. Also, at my midwife appt next week I’m doing a blood test but I can’t really tell you which one…I’m enjoying paying less attention to the testing. I’m going with it because by checking out, I’m not feeling too worried.

And finally (because I’m starving), I hosted my first SF Single Moms by Choice meeting yesterday. We’d gotten kind of out of the habit of monthly meetings, and now we’re back. My best SMC friends were all there (B, C, and R, minus JJ who we think was in labor across the street), plus friends I’ve gotten to know more recently (T, J, L) and others I met for the first time–a couple of thinkers, many tryers, a few pregnant ladies, and moms with 4 babies and one toddler. My place is party-ready! And it was great to catch up with everyone’s stories.

Later today, dear friend and mom-of-three J is bringing a car load of baby gear over and I hired two Task Rabbits to carry a heavy changing table up the stairs. Welcome to baby furniture.

As I share my story with more people and get it reflected back to me by people such as the call center operators at UCSF OB, I realize just how niche-y I am as an SMC who is planning a homebirth… So sue me! It’s going to make a fascinating book! And I gotta be me.

Must eat. Love to all and happy Sunday xo

anxiety, gratitude, pregnancy, single mom by choice, SMC

it’s a baby!

Yesterday was an amazing day because I heard the baby’s heartbeat at 156 beats per minute, like a determined underwater creature saying, “I’m here, I’m here, I’m here!”

Today was an amazing day because I saw the baby for the first time in its identifiable baby shape, with a cute little profile and spindly limbs, reclining in the lap of luxury. I swear those legs are crossed.

All my chattering anxieties are calm tonight.

xo

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