family, gratitude, outdoors, single mom by choice, SMC

camping

Since before E was born, I imagined that he’d be an outdoorsy type; someone who felt at home in nature, sleeping under the stars, exploring in the woods, scanning for wildlife. Our travel together would be to national parks. I can’t remember if this took hold before or after I was pregnant, but it’s been my dream for him. What tiny person wouldn’t be thrilled to explore the great outdoors?

I also imagined that I’d be camping with a baby sooner than I did. It sounded easy and fun since babies don’t move and sleep wherever you put them. When it came down to it, though, it didn’t feel right to take a tiny baby out into the elements, and a trip never materialized.

I finally got it together to plan something for 4th of July weekend, with my friend J and her daughter S. We went to Samuel P. Taylor State Park, a gorgeous place less than an hour from the city with giant redwoods, a calm, meandering river, and steep hikes that take you up to expansive views of Marin County and Tomales Bay. I’ve been there many times on major day-long hikes as well as my 39th birthday.

Since it was my first time going with E, plus since J isn’t an experienced camper, I took it upon myself to plan carefully. I started a google doc days beforehand. We planned meals over text. On the day of, I packed the car to the gills with camping gear, a cooler of ready-to-eat food, and several bags of stuff.

Upon arrival, E wandered around the campsite, thrilled to explore and instantly covered in dusty dirt. It was nearly impossible to set up a tent or really do anything productive given that he was constantly toddling off and I had to redirect him away from potential poison oak, the river, and/or the few cars that drove by. J showed up and it was equally hard with two babies and two adults although at least we could take turns watching the little ones while the other accomplished something. She got so frustrated with her borrowed tent that she asked the couple across the street to help her, which they did, while I kept the kids occupied with bubbles.

At this point, I was pretty proud of how it was going. The tents were up and we had an amazing spread of food. There was no way we’d get out on a hike given how long it took us to set up camp, but we’d go in the morning. I patted myself on the back for not forgetting anything major. (I even commented to J that I was pleased to have prepared so well.)

Well, the black bean burgers would have been better with mustard, which I forgot. Then I realized we didn’t have a corkscrew for the wine, which we were able to borrow from neighbors. THEN I realized that I hadn’t packed the gas to fuel the camping stove, so breakfast of oatmeal and coffee was an impossibility.

Finally, once I was getting ready for bed, it dawned on me: I hadn’t packed anything for myself. I’m actually not exaggerating. I packed comprehensively for E–many, many layers of clothing and extra clothing to account for possible spills or extra cold or wet weather. Toys and books. Diapers and wipes. Etc. I had focused a lot on the food and all the necessary tools for eating.

For myself, I packed a bathing suit (which I didn’t need). I did not pack extra clothes of any kind. I didn’t pack contacts or bring my glasses. I didn’t pack a toothbrush or face wash or even think about a cosmetic bag. I pretty much had the clothes on my back, and that was it. I simply forgot.

It was nothing tragic and did not ruin the trip. But I have to say–hugely eye-opening. At what other time in my life would I forget to pack anything (at all) for me?? It would be impossible. Such a shocking reminder of how mom’s needs go last and sometimes are utterly and completely overlooked!

Thankfully, it was just a reminder and I was not terribly uncomfortable except for the sleeping. I figured E would just share my sleeping bag and Thermarest but he’s gotten big and can sprawl out in his sleep. I lost a lot of Zs making sure he was always on the Thermarest with some sleeping bag over him while I made do with whatever was left (not much). Good thing it wasn’t cold. The kid needs his own sleeping set-up–a second Thermarest and a second sleeping bag. Or whatever you get for someone who’s 25 pounds. We will hook this up for Round 2!

Otherwise, he slept according to his normal routine, and the moms got to roast marshmallows and make perfect s’mores, accompanied by great conversation and red wine. In the morning, he woke up and said, in his own language, “Wait, we’re still here? We’re outside? In the woods?! We’re in a tent! This is awesome!”

We did some hiking, met some kids, checked out the river and some dogs and birds. Now he’s saying “tee” (tree) and “bow” (pronounced like the kind you take after a performance = ball).

And I’ve updated my packing list to include a section for “Mom.”

xo

spt1 spt2 spt3 spt4

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family, gratitude, parenthood, running, toddler

running/walking

I came up with the most brilliant idea. I still have to work out the logistics, but I’m going to start running home from work. It’s a distance of three miles. If I change at 4:30 and hit the door at 4:35, I should arrive to pick up E around 5:15pm, which is only ten minutes later than if I take the bus. Look at me, slipping in a workout AND outdoor time AND mood boost AND me time, all without changing our schedule!

There are some unresolved details here. I don’t think I can or should try to manage this while I’m still pumping. I’m not trying to run across San Francisco with breast milk sloshing in my fanny pack. I don’t even have a fanny pack (yet). Or whatever type of tight-fitting backpack I’ll need to carry my wallet and keys and phone. That part will be easily figured out, and I’m sure there are any number of running specialty stores excited to help me (and advice is welcome!). But not with milk and all the accoutrements in addition to work clothes/shoes and empty lunch containers and etc.

I think I’m almost ready to stop pumping. Heavily qualified by “I think” and “almost.” I like sending a bottle of my liquid gold each day. But even the nanny is saying he’s often not interested, AND he’s nursing more than ever in the hours we’re together, likely due to a gnarly moral coming in. I feel nervous about his daytime nutrients coming only from the food I’m preparing which he only sometimes wants to eat… And I guess I’m, oddly enough, nostalgic about the pump. Not that I love pumping, just feel like it’s part of the whole experience and now it’s almost over.

Our office just moved to a new location. In the old office, I had a cute little room with two comfy chairs and a fridge, and a window (with a curtain). In the new location, I have a windowless tiny storage room where I have to unplug a microwave to plug in the pump, set the accoutrements on boxes, and block the door which doesn’t lock. Yes, these are all signs! It’s time to wind it down.

They say they’re getting an “occupied” sign for the door. And of course it’s all guys who sit directly outside that door. Yesterday, I was asking this moving coordinator guy where to plug in and our IT guy made a joke about plugging into the adjoining server room, where you can hear buzzing and whirring of the server from behind the door. I said, “Yeah, I think that might be a little too much power,” and everyone laughed and it was at once terribly awkward and hilarious (which also kind of sums up pumping).

Anyway, not-pumping leads to the next dilemma–running home with super-full boobs. I suppose that’s all about the running bra. Won’t E be happy to see me showing up busting out! He literally makes the sign for nursing every time he looks at and/or touches me. Maybe he thinks it means, “Mom.” In a way, it really does.

E is only more and more delightful. Mostly–he can now get as frustrated as joyful, as his emotional spectrum gets more complex. He’s really reaching to communicate–he’ll say “Da? Da? DA? DA?!! DA???!!!!” increasing the volume to comical levels while pointing at something he wants, like more strawberries. One of my mom’s groups has been emailing about tantrums and there’s been nothing yet that I would call a tantrum, but definitely mounting frustration when it’s not what he wants. Usually he’s still distractable.

Oh and did I mention that he said his first word? I almost didn’t believe it when the nanny told me, and then, right before my eyes, E pointed at his little buddy and said, “Ta-ee!” or, “Charlie.” And then he did it about a million more times in case I didn’t believe it–in the evening, on the weekend, always with a big smile like he’s thinking about his friend. I think he’s also saying “Chacha” (or “Tata”) which is his grandpa. I’m hoping he learns “Mommy” and have been self-consciously referring to myself a lot in his presence. 😮

And he’s walking up a storm. He pretty much doesn’t want to be carried for transportation and insists on walking. He’s falling less and less but getting more and more circuitous in his route, checking out driveways and curbs and cars and not going in the direction we’re trying to go. It takes forever. I pick him up and he throws himself horizontal, trying to get himself back on the ground. He insists on climbing up the steps or walking up with my help, stopping to ring L’s doorbell and check out a bird toy on the top landing. I think he would go up and down the stairs all night if I let him.

My favorite thing he did lately, which my sister B was here to witness: I served dinner which included some butternut squash. I picked up one cube and blew on it twice before handing it to him. Then he blew on it twice and then put it in his mouth! Our eyes popped out!

HOW HOW HOW is it July tomorrow? I am in complete disbelief that the year is half over. But I’m not complaining that we’re heading for a long weekend and vacation not too long after that.

And I’m running and he’s walking. Kisses to the universe! xo

(shaking his bootay at Pride)

pride

birth, donor sperm, family, fertility, gratitude, homebirth, IUI, IVF, parenthood, pregnancy, single mom by choice, SMC, trying to conceive

once around the sun

I’m increasingly nostalgic as E’s birthday approaches. Today, May 4, was my due date. I watched it come and go and then spent another two weeks living in the surreal state of waiting and getting huger.

At this time of year, the sun travels more directly overhead. It rises in the morning, centered above the neighboring rooftop and shining straight onto my bed, where I lay like a whale last year. It sets in the evening, slanting through the kitchen window to the living room, where I sat on the couch and ordered omelets from my dad. Every day we waited, every day no sign. It was a happy time, yet, like so many things, not what I expected.

Now the sun rises, centered above the neighboring rooftop, and there’s a little person laying next to me going, “Gaba gaba gaba.” The sun sets, and he’s standing below me, raising his hands to be picked up, an expression on his face that says, “PICK ME UP” as emphatically as possible without words.

Tonight he correctly did two signs in context: he requested to nurse when he was feeling a bit distressed (I actually had him on my lap while I was peeing in an effort to avoid a big protest–he missed his afternoon nap today) and then during dinner he requested more blueberries. And when I suggest he find his blue car, he finds his blue car. When he wants to communicate in the affirmative, he says, “Yah.” When it’s negative, as demonstrated tonight when I offered tofu, bok choy, quinoa, and strawberries, he shakes his head vigorously. More blueberries.

One whole trip around the sun.

I decided to go see Dr. Tran. I know this seems out of the blue, but it’s not. I’ve been shy about telling you. There’s something about having a baby that made me immediately thing about #2, pretty much on a daily basis. Will this be the first and last time I experience all of these milestones? Will everyone think I’m completely off-my-rocker bananas for considering this much less going ahead with it? What if I never gave those frozen embryos, full siblings to E, a shot?

Let me first say that I’m 1000% sure that I want to try. And I hope that where there’s a will there’s a way. But there are a few hurdles to overcome here, namely the financials. And getting pregnant again. Which, let me remind you, dear readers, was not so easy the first time around.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves–I decided to go talk to Dr. Tran because when E was born I “gave myself a year” before thinking seriously about it. But what I most needed to find out was–with frozen embryos, is there any rush?

I met up with Dr. T. last Thursday in the shiny, sparkling brand-new Marc Benioff-funded facilities of UCSF that just opened in Mission Bay. I hadn’t seen Dr. T. in almost two years. It was like old times. As always, he looked handsome in scrubs.

I remember distinctly his last comment to me at my last appointment at 9 or 10 weeks pregnant: “You have embryos, you’ll be back.” It’s been ringing in my head ever since.

Upon greeting me in his office, he said, “Well, I didn’t think you’d be back THIS soon!” And I explained, bashfully, that this was purely informational, I wasn’t in any hurry. Just needed the information from him rather than trusting the internet or anecdotes from friends.

Essentially, he said that there’s no rush on the frozen embies. My relative chances will be the same next year, or the following year, or the year after that. Which felt like a relief… I realized that the decision was starting to weigh on me, as I paid a hefty annual storage fee for the embies plus five vials of sperm. And now I feel like I can give myself another year or more and just enjoy and really not worry about it either way.

I got choked up when I thanked him… He’s the closest thing to a babydaddy that I have–in so many words, I said thanks so much for knocking me up and helping bring this beautiful boy. It’s been a thrill and a joy! (Now take me out for dinner already!)

Beyond the FET (frozen embryo transfer) of my two remaining, PGS-tested embies (one good, one not-so-good quality), an IUI or IVF attempt would have low success rates at my fast-accelerating decline in fertility. So, I think I’m letting that go.

Dr. T asked why I would want another baby. Which is an intriguing question, and was the first time around as well. He asked if it’s just been so wonderful in all respects that I can’t wait to do it again? I think it’s not exactly that; even if it kind of is that. It’s sort of about going through it again and it’s about a sibling for E and becoming more of a clan than a pair. But, in a way, it’s not really those things… Like the first time, it’s just an intangible desire. I think everyone who chooses to become a parent knows what I’m talking about.

He kept encouraging me to enjoy my “sure thing” which is a totally Reproductive Endocrinologist way of saying that I already have a baby–a 100% guaranteed baby on the right side of all the odds. I’m still pinching myself that he arrived one year ago plus 15 days.

I just re-watched the birth video the other night with, as always, complete awe. My vagina blows up into the size and shape of a standard balloon as E’s head makes it’s way down the canal, and then they start yelling, “K, reach down and get your baby!” and someone is yelling, “Baby! Baby! Baby! Baby!” and there is chaos and the camera view flips around and then he’s there on my chest and I’m exclaiming, “Oh my god oh my god oh my god [hyperventilating]…”

In two weeks, we’ll celebrate his birthday in the park with the community who supports us every day and I will only moderately stress about the number of cupcakes and the placement of the balloons–my boy is turning ONE! It’s too awesome in the breathtaking sense. He is the one I love the most on the planet.

Even though I love you guys A LOT.

xoxo

11 point 5 months

I

family, gratitude

we are (almost) one

The banana bread is in the oven, the baby is sleeping, and I just sat down to write to you. (And then the baby woke up, I nursed him, put him back down, and sat back down to write to you.)

It’s Friday night. As if the lack of exercise weren’t enough, working from home means negative zero physical activity… I have pledged to run in the morning, with the stroller, in the rain if necessary. E’s first birthday approaches and has been kind of a mental New Year’s on the horizon in terms of getting back in shape. There’s just not enough time, no matter how you slice it.

I wailed to my co-worker the other day about the lack of time to write, “and then I walk out after putting the baby to bed and I have to do the dishes!!” She said, “The dishes can wait.” But, the thing is, I feel like they can’t wait. Not for very long. A 24-hour cycle of no one doing dishes is quite a pile and I can’t bear to let it snowball like that. I actually don’t mind doing dishes. It’s that part of your brain that just wants to shut down and watch completely mindless and random videos on facebook. It’s hard to stay productive when I reach that point.

But I must say that everything, EVERYTHING is easier now that we are WELL. Yes, we are well. People say, “How are you?” and I say, “I am well, thank you.” We are well, you guys! It feels so great. I’m only the teensiest bit paranoid whenever I see a little trickle out of E’s nose or hear more than a light little cough. But we should be good for a little bit (knock on wood). That was a long road.

E will be one year old in less than a month! It is totally unbelievable, isn’t it? I mean–yes and no. Like all times, it goes simultaneously fast and slow. In some regards, he’s huge. Otherwise, he’s still a really little person. I looked at him tonight thinking he didn’t grow that much in a year. But, then again, he more than doubled… And he has only days left of babyhood!

His babbling is taking on truly Chinese proportions. I’m convinced he’s speaking a language I just don’t understand yet. A few words may be coming into focus–he can answer in the affirmative, as in, “Should we have breakfast?” “YEAH.” And if he doesn’t want a specific bite of food I offer him, he can answer in the negative by vigorously shaking his head. He also does it after I say something with “don’t,” like “Don’t bite me!” (shakes head vigorously)

He also is getting way more confident with (assisted) walking–there’s a cooler and a kitchen rack on wheels that he alternately uses as his baby walker, always with his lips pursed and a true sense of mission. The exact expression of a guy working for a moving company. “Excuse me, outta the way, we got a cooler coming through… Yep, right here. OK. Great. Now we’re going to have to get it back into the kitchen.” Etc.

It’s surreal to be so close to this changing little person because you end up blinking and noticing a big leap. Today I felt like his movements were suddenly more fluid, his hair longer and curlier.

Did I tell you that his cousin E taught him how to hug??? Yes–and he’ll give me a hug on command, complete with the pat pat pat on my back.

He’s a sweet one. A great student of life, a cuddler, and a big sense of humor. Lots of smiles and jokes, mainly involving repetition of something (anything).

Tomorrow we’re heading to a joint birthday party of all the babies in my mom’s group. I can’t believe my good fortune to have landed in the company of these talented women. I’ve mentioned them before–a community started by two pregnant moms which grew and grew until it became several dozen women, all with babies born in the span of three months.

Now they’re all turning one, so we’re having one big playground party, complete with food, toys, games, t-shirts that say “We are ONE!”, a photo book of all the babies, a frozen meal exchange, a photographer, and probably more. I just looked at the google doc and there are 21 women planning to come, with their babies and husbands, and I know all of them–most of them I know pretty well. Maybe one or two I only recognize their names from emails. But it’s legit–a true, organic, functioning, active community.

E is one of the youngest (and biggest) of the group. I finally started planning his own party. After one location change and an evite which has resulted in an insane number of Yes RSVPs, I am super excited and trying to find my middle ground between laziness and Martha Stewart. I’d like to mark the occasion with a few sweet details and let most of it be about sharing time with our favorite people. No themes! No Pinterest scenes. But yes: a banner, balloons, cupcakes, snacks. And I’d like to say a few words! (I feel like it makes sense to make a bigger deal before he knows what’s going on!)

Banana bread is out and I need to get my tired-from-lack-of-activity bod to bed.

This guy says, “Happy weekend!”

11 months

family, gratitude, meditation, parenthood, single mom by choice, SMC

good things

It’s Friday night before a three-day weekend, yes!! And it’s been gorgeous, supernaturally summery, glowing, blue-sky weather, perfectly in the 70s. My nose is running on one side due to allergies from all the blooms and blossoms, including little pink flowers on the plum trees in front of my building. We had a storm come through last weekend, and the much-needed rain seems to have triggered expansive green lawns and the beginning of spring. I ended work early today and sat in the Botanical Gardens with J and K and babies E, M, and M while the low sun slid behind the trees and the babies shook their rattles and ate leaves when we weren’t looking.

I just got a text from my neighbor that Obama is dining at Spruce, a restaurant one block down the street from me, right now. What a crazy idea! Here I sit in my regular ol’ quiet apartment, as I do each night after E is asleep, and suddenly I’m in proximity to the President. Makes this moment seem rather extra-important. Hold on, I’m going to look out the window for Secret Service… Wow, the street is closed off in front of the restaurant and lots of vehicles out front. Makes me nostalgic for my many nights watching The West Wing while prego.

Today I watched a video of the woman in North Carolina who won $500+ million in the lottery yesterday. She’s 26 years old, with four kids, one of whom has cerebral palsy. She most recently worked at McDonald’s and Walmart and quit to take care of her kids–she seems to be a single mom. The reporter kept asking her about what she’s going to buy first–don’t you want a house, a car? And she was so contained. She just said, yes, she’ll get those things, but this is all for her kids, her family, which had been such a source of struggle for her. But all worth it. She wouldn’t change a thing–those kids are a blessing, she said.

This struck me for so many reasons. First, it dawns on me that even $500M doesn’t solve all your problems. If you weren’t grateful before, you’re not going to be grateful after (and she seemed authentically grateful). On top of that, now you have stresses about how to spend all that money, and people angling to get some of it. Which led me to my next realization, which I’ve had so many times before: you never “get there.” You never achieve that perfect equilibrium in all things that allows you to take a break and rest and be done. Even if that’s the directional goal, people only get there for probably a matter of a few minutes at a time. As they absorb the good news. Or as they reach a place of peace in meditation.

So we’re back to appreciating what we’ve got. MAN, I’m a one hit wonder on this. It’s like every single time I get reflective and have a meaningful realization, it’s the same one. We have to manually put the spotlight on the positive because there are always many, many, many things going right.

I have a work colleague who is also a facebook friend and she’s spending time cataloging “Good Things.” For example, this flowering bush she passed on the way to work. Or a roaring fire in the fireplace. She said that this project makes her walk around looking for “Good Things.” Why not?

The best thing to happen this past week is that I got E to sleep in his crib. He’s been co-sleeping with me since birth, and napping in the bed. Now that he’s crawling, I was trying to monitor him more carefully when I wasn’t in the room with him, but counting on the fact that he’d cry when he woke up. Well, he stopped crying upon waking and on Saturday I found him standing at the foot of the bed next to the gap where there is no side rail, holding onto the crib at the foot of the bed. Basically looming directly above the space where he could fall. I had put my mattress on the floor but it’s still over a foot off the ground. So, I thought, no more. No more naps in the bed.

But the next day I decided to try just one more time (because I needed to get a few things done) and I’d be really on top of it. And this time, he found a gap that had appeared between the bed and the wall and got himself wedged–I heard the thump (because I was right on the other side of the wall) and ran in, and he was fine but that was the last straw. Time to face some version of dreaded sleep training. Just so he will sleep in the crib when I’m not around (we continue to co-sleep after his first waking for the rest of the night).

Before having a baby, I thought I would be hard core–baby, get on my program! Sink or swim! But once he was here, it killed me to think of him crying, believing I was gone forever, giving up on me. I’ve been co-sleeping because it works for us both, but what is a mom to do when the baby is unsafe sleeping alone outside the crib, yet wakes up the second he’s put into it? I can’t be going to bed at 7 and taking every nap with him. For his safety, he has to go to sleep in his crib. (Also it will really help me get away in the evening once in a while to know he will go down easily.)

So, I came up with my own “crib training” routine and that little rascal was the perfect student. I’ve been really careful to maintain a consistent bedtime routine. Bath, diaper, massage, PJ’s, book, nurse. The first night, I set him in the crib and he was unhappy. I laid down on the bed next to the crib and reassured him, rubbed his back, sang, said shhhh. He was up and down, crying and quiet, frustrated, playing, reaching for me and saying, “MOM,” “MOM.” I was inches away from him and calm. I would guess it was 45 minutes by the time he finally flopped down and went to sleep.

The next night, it was 15 minutes with minimal crying. The next night, 5 minutes. Tonight–he was asleep when I set him down. He cried out once and was out again. Even his mid-evening wake-ups now involve like one or two cries and then he’s back to sleep. I think he feels more secure in there.

This is freaking unbelievable. I dreaded this process for so long and he just rolled with it like a champ. That first night was not easy but it also wasn’t the type of revving up that results in the child getting dangerously upset. I could tell he was reacting to the change, but he was still winding down. I feel so relieved that it wasn’t as bad as I had feared and also relieved that he is safe in there.

In the car, when I turn around to check on him in the mirror, his face goes from spaced-out to recognition to a huge smile that spreads across his face. Which of course makes me duplicate the action like ten times.

Tonight, every bite of food (black beans, spinach/broccoli/pear purée, and pasta with kale-walnut pesto) got a literal round of applause. There’s a mirror perfectly placed so that if we turn to the side, we can wave at our reflections. So we do.

I love watching this baby grow in slow-mo, beginning to babble-talk, making connections and anticipating things he knows (like when I say, “giddyup, giddyup, giddyup, giddyup,” I’m about to say, “WHOA” and turn him upside down). He points at everything. He wants to touch it and put it in his mouth, no matter what. He does “dancey-dancey” when he sees Mimi and Chacha on facetime. He smacks his hands on the hardwood floor when he crawls–I can always hear when he’s on the move.

I mean–I don’t have $500M. And our little two-person family doesn’t include a dad. And my job has its share of stress. But being a mom to E is just beyond words. The friends I’ve made, the rediscovery of the city I love most, the huge exponential love of my family… It’s nuts.

And we’re not done. We’ve got plenty of ups and downs ahead and I’ll keep re-realizing the importance of appreciating everything that’s happening right now. (And capturing some of the details here to remember later on.)

Warm night air through the open window. Sleeping baby in the crib. ‘Night, Obama.

piano

family, gratitude, meditation, single mom by choice

me time

You guys! Merry Christmas!

It’s been almost a month of no posts as I’ve been adjusting to my new working mama schedule and wow is it hard to make time for Me activities like writing for my blog! In 2015, my goal is to find and fiercely protect those slivers of time where I could be writing, reading, meditating, stretching, playing music, and maybe (gasp!) exercising. All of the above is currently totally out the window. I have to pat myself on the back for getting the basics down–sleep, meals, pick-up and drop-off, and my job. And the baby is doing awesome in all respects. But I’m pretty shocked on a daily basis by my lack of personal hygiene. Showers are less frequent. My hair is dull and frizzy since all the pregnancy hormones left my system months ago (at least it’s stopped falling out in clumps). My muscles ache from lack of use. I shower less frequently than I should, my outfits sort-of/almost fit (but not quite), I keep getting pimples on my chin. And there’s that poochy belly that will require the “Lose Your Mummy Tummy” exercises that I have neither the time nor the inclination to actually do.

SOOO, yes, this is all leading up to some new year’s resolutions that I haven’t yet defined but am thinking about a lot. Time definitely takes on new meaning as a parent, but especially as a solo parent. As E starts to pull himself up and scoot and roll, my moments of ‘getting stuff done’ are even fewer and further between. I identified months ago the necessity of being ready when 5 minutes present themselves–what needs to get done right now? GO!

I know that, ultimately, E is better off if I get to do at least some of my Me activities but wow yeah, I now understand the guilt that comes from working full-time and then trying to justify additional time away. But work is not enough to achieve balance. On the bus ride to work I’m prepping for meetings and on the bus home I’m completely burned out and staring at god knows what on my phone. I’ve been falling asleep with the baby at 7pm which might sound good but I actually think my body needs exercise to regulate work stress and require less sleep. I’ve gotten a handful of runs in when the nanny or my sister or parents are around. And recently my sister stayed with E on a Friday evening (he slept the entire time) while I drove over to my friend C’s to catch up and drink wine for an hour and a half while her baby slept in the other room. Driving across the city on a Friday night with the radio volume turned up high felt like old times in the best way. It felt like we beat the system. More of this, please!

E is totally rocking it. Just in the last few days, he’s started to pull himself up in that compulsive way of a baby who can do a new thing, i.e. lunging at and using anything within or slightly out of reach to get himself to a standing position. He is totally thrilled beyond belief each time he finds himself standing, waving one arm, doing knee bends, and smiling with his mouth open. I took him to a very noisy, musical, and stimulating holiday party and he was jabbering about it gleefully the whole way home. He’s a happy and social and cuddly guy.

He enjoyed Christmas with Mimi and Chacha, Aunt B, and Neighbor L! It was a mellow day with a super-delicious meal (he licked a green bean and crunched on some pie crust), just a couple of fun new toys, three naps instead of two, and lots of play time and babababa and mamamama and gagagaga storytelling. Sometimes, when he is truly making a request of me or is in some level of distress, he says, “MOM. MOM.” I don’t think he knows yet what (or who) it means but I do think it will segue into the real meaning seamlessly, because he already uses it in context.

We are so fortunate to have truly solid family and friend support. I think in my mind I’m always gearing up for when everyone is done helping and goes home and we’re on our own forever. But I’m starting to believe that won’t happen!  They keep coming back for more baby E! Thank you!!

I hope you had a lovely day with friends and fam! xo

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Buddhism, family, gratitude, IVF, meditation, parenthood

6 months

Today at brunch, while holding Baby E, my friend Ms. R. looked at me and said, “Look at this beautiful baby. Do you remember when we first met??” And it was one of those moments that felt like jumping into a chilly lake–I was suddenly wide awake, and looking at my friend holding my beautiful boy, remembering how three years ago Ms. R. and I met for brunch and got teary over our scrambles as we discussed our plans to become single moms. And, in that moment today, it was like we had just fast-forwarded through three years of struggle, torment, pain, joy, and now a miracle, and we were teary again.

On some level, you can’t really believe it’s real. I remember looking at other people’s babies and thinking how proud the mom must be of every square inch of their bodies. But now that I’m a mom I really feel more like all I did was align with the universe somehow and nature did the rest. Which is weird to say, considering the extent of artificial procedures that went into the IVF process, but still–sperm meets egg and a person begins. The plan is locked into place from that moment and then you’re off and running.

So, as a parent, I am awestruck whenever I get more than two feet away from E and really take him in. He’s just miraculous. It’s completely overwhelming. I can’t believe that there’s a 6-month-old sleeping in my bed who is barreling toward becoming a man.

Wow, even writing that makes me reel a little bit.

At the six-month mark, we are going through all kinds of transitions. We’re getting used to our routine minus my parents, which means he’s spending all day with the nanny and I’m doing my own cooking and laundry and cleaning up and so far the household is running pretty smoothly but it’s really only been a few days. A half day of child care yesterday set me way ahead–I made lentil soup and pesto, froze turkey burgers, cleaned the house, did laundry, etc etc.

E definitely has the bottle mastered. Now we’re trying to introduce solid food (and by we I mean me) and he is pretty much nonplussed. It’s shocking how disinterested he is in food when every other thing I put in front of him goes straight into his mouth (including things that shouldn’t, like paper–he ate a little piece off our name card at Thanksgiving). He is studiously disinterested, meaning that he glares at the food and then purposely diverts his attention to something else nearby, like a drawer handle. I’ve put many foods in front of him, including sweet potato, yogurt, banana, avocado, eggs, chicken… Once he licked a little strip of pizza. This morning he opened his mouth exactly twice to let me give him a teeny forkful of hummus. Overall, I’m trying to do baby-led weaning but I’ve also wanted to feed him a taste to jump-start the process (seems to have done the opposite). We’ll see what happens next but, again–the guy is a strong consumer of breast milk so I’m not worried yet about his nutrition. I absolutely expected a lumberjack appetite out of this guy after months of him watching me eat with strong interest. But I guess this will just take time so another lesson in patience for me.

Sleep is another changing terrain. For months we’ve had a bedtime routine of bath (every other night), massage, jammies, book (if he still has attention span), then nurse to sleep. This worked like a charm starting at 4 months when he suddenly wouldn’t be rocked or bounced to sleep and set down. I had mild guilt about it since it’s supposedly a bad sleep association or crutch–but it worked and I’m a firm believer in ‘whatever works.’ But now it’s taking longer and longer for him to fall deeply asleep enough to let me go. It can take up to an hour of me unlatching and him insisting on relatching and even when I finally tiptoe away he will often wake up again 30 minutes later, and maybe again after that. Here’s the thing–I thought I’d be the no-nonsense single mom who says, Baby! You need to get on my program. And my program says you’re asleep at 7pm because mom needs her evening to relax and prep for tomorrow! So don’t get ideas about a protracted bedtime routine or me laying down with you for the night at 7pm! Etc.

Of course, way easier said than done, and I have mostly felt change-averse about making any adjustments. So we rode with that plan while it worked. And…now it’s not really working. So, I’m thinking a lot about sleep and trying to shut out all the ‘camps,’ because no matter what you do there’s a camp that thinks you’re a horrible parent. For now, though, I just may be going to bed at 7pm more often in the coming days–twist my arm!

The house is quiet and clean and I just had a piece of sweet potato pie. All of a sudden, it started pouring rain, like the heavens just turned on a shower with excellent water pressure. The baby hasn’t woken up tonight since I put him down, although I hear him yawning and cooing in his sleep. A bird randomly chirps, letting its friends or babies know where to seek shelter from the rain.

There’s so much we could all worry about all the time. We don’t know how it’s all going to turn out or how we’ll get from point A to point B or how to solve problems of baby transitions or how to achieve work/life balance or how to pay for everything or how to find a dream job or partner. But we can ask ourselves, “Am I OK right now?”

Right now I’m so grateful for all of the above (and below!).

xo

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family, gratitude, parenthood

the perfect tree

What a month it’s been! Transitioning back to work as a new mom is seriously bananas. I’m sure it’s gone as smoothly as possible, AND I’ve had my parents here helping for several weeks, but yeah, wow–you all weren’t kidding.

My first day back in the office was very light work-wise, and it was a Thursday. On Friday, I worked from home. Friday night I slept 12 hours. As in, I laid down with E for his bedtime and never got up till the next day. The exhaustion came from so much anticipation plus wrenching feelings of handing your beloved child over to a near-stranger and trying to convince yourself that it’s all good and normal, then squeezing into pre-pregnancy clothes, stuffing a bunch of pumping equipment into a backpack, hoping your bus pass still has money on it (it didn’t), and remembering too late that the door to the office requires a badge that was stashed somewhere six months ago. Plus–will the baby eat? Will he be happy? Will he sleep? How do I disengage my brain from monitoring his every moment?

Well…let’s just say it’s a transition that takes more than a few days. It feels good to be on the other side of the anticipation/dread of the End of Maternity Leave.

I will be forever grateful that I got to spend E’s first six months with him full time.

But, yeah–it starts to make you realize how fast it all goes… this seriously made me wonder how in the world I’ll ever drop him off at college. Last night, I watched a PBS special called “A Sloth Named Velcro.” This is the first thing I’ve watched in ages and just about my speed as I can no longer tolerate violence or sadness of any variety in shows. It was all about sloths (fascinating creatures), and at the end there was a rehabilitated orphan sloth who was ready to be released into the wild. They drove for 3 hours at dawn to a preserved nature area in Costa Rica and were hiking around, trying to find the best spot to let him go. The woman who had rehabilitated him was being stoic but her heart was breaking at the same time because she had nurtured him for years. She had just said something about finding the perfect tree when the sloth reached out and grabbed a branch. She stopped and let him climb away and I was sobbing. I felt like–how will I ever find the perfect tree for E? Or–how will I stand it when he finds it himself?

Fortunately, outside of nature, we can still keep in touch and also visit. Plus, it’s 18 years away, so I can relax a little bit knowing that I will probably also have days between now and then when I want to drop him off at college a few years early. (I got an email from a Chinese friend recently–she said, “You must be hugging and kissing him all the time! My boys are 15 and 20 now, not fun anymore. But I’m glad they are healthy and kind.”)

I’ve said it before: the joy and the vulnerability are all wound up together in a big, messy bouquet. And I receive it with so much gratitude!

Today, we started E on solids. The highchair arrived from Ikea, I assembled it, washed it off, and put E in. He had his mom, aunt B, and grandparents all watching him expectantly as he looked around proudly like a king on his throne. I gave him tiny bits of avocado and quickly realized that it is impossible to grasp, even for an adult. The top of the tray turned to guacamole in about 10 seconds. I switched to banana and fed him a few pea-sized pieces. His expressions are amazing–sort of wincing to smiling to coughing to swallowing to a big smile. He kind of laughed too, like OMG I knew there would be something like this, and here it is!

So, although he is still eating minimally while I’m at work, he is taking a little more from the bottle each week and can now have solid food snacks. And he sure is not turning down the breastfeeding intensity–when I got home from work I just get topless because I know he’ll want to nurse and then roll around on me and bounce his mouth off my skin for up to an hour. Then he goes to bed at 7 and sometimes wakes 2-3 more times before I go to bed at 10. Then he nurses 2-3 times in the night. So, homeboy is not lacking in nutrition.

I’m confident that by the new year we will be in a great rhythm. And then something else will change and then we’ll be off and working to get the new rhythm. And repeat.

And, eventually, in 18 years, the perfect tree.

xo

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donor sperm, family, gratitude, single mom by choice, SMC

McPiercy

I’ve had McPiercy bookmarked in my mind as a blog topic for a long time, since people are often curious about the process of choosing a donor. I chose him before I created the blog and then I didn’t want to write about him until I was pregnant and then once I was pregnant I thought I should wait until the baby was born and then things were a tiny bit busy. Now that I’ve written about everything leading up to the creation of the blog (which starts during my first two-week-wait), I’m ready to share. Below is an excerpt from the book! (Read all the way to the bottom for McPiercy news.)

I began the search on the donor database of my chosen sperm bank, which felt shockingly similar to online dating. One puts in the parameters of their search (e.g. ethnicity, eye color, height), and the system pulls up your lucky matches. I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t online dating–it was a different type of search altogether. Or was it?

In considering what was most important to me in a donor, I came up with three main criteria. He should be 1) willing to be known (i.e. he’s agreed to be contacted if the child chooses to get in touch when he/she turns 18), 2) tall (this is one of my dating preferences but, more importantly, is an advantage in society), and 3) my coloring. I read somewhere that there will be enough questions to answer without also having to explain why the kid looks nothing like you. Beyond that, yes–of course he should be smart, driven, kind, fit, healthy, etc. etc. but, frankly, the sperm bank screens so selectively that most donors in their database are all fine genetic specimens, particularly when it comes to their health history. They are also uniformly 24 years old. They all need the money.

I did a fair amount of searching online, but this was expensive–in order to access adult and baby photos, you basically had to purchase and download them at around $15 a pop. Alternatively, you could go into the sperm bank office and pore over binders that included the donors’ extensive info and photos, for free. Of course, it wasn’t easy for me to get time to hang out in their office when I was working full-time.

Then I realized that they were open on Presidents’ Day, whereas my office was closed. Perfect–I would have time to at least narrow it down to my top three, and my plan was to share these with my immediate family. According to my fertility charting, the magic day was approaching.

By the end of that afternoon, I was tearing my hair out. I did not have my top three, and I was a wreck. Consider for a moment how major this decision is–determining the future genetics of your child! It felt, in a way, like I couldn’t screw it up, since the baby I ended up with would have to be the right baby. But, on the other hand, until I had that YES THAT’S HIM feeling, I was very hesitant to make any decision.

I remember going home that night and watching back-to-back episodes of Downton Abbey as an antidote to the stress of the whole donor selection process.

After taking a short break, I came back to the decision reinvigorated and somehow made time to get back in front of those binders. I narrowed it down to three and gave each contestant a name: McSmiler was a 6’4” sommelier of mostly Irish heritage and a big smile; McDreamy was handsome, short, an artist, and not smiling; and McPiercy, named for his ear- and lip-piercings, was also tall (6’3”), also handsome with dark hair and dark eyes (not my coloring), and was working as a waiter and substitute teacher.

Then, I sent my family this email:

“Dear Mom and Dad, D, and B,

At first I was detached from the donor selection process. When it was finally time to get serious about it, the other day I spent 1.5 hrs in the clinic going through binders, and I picked 6. Then I ordered their adult photos online and realized that sometimes cute babies grow up to be not-so-cute donors and cute donors can be not-so-cute babies. I mean–all babies are cute, but in the end there is a gut feeling about whether it’s a match for me. I’m asking you to please help me by reporting your gut feeling on these!

My major criteria are: that he is Willing To Be Known when the kid is 18, no major genetic health issues, has my basic coloring(ish), and is on the taller side. Nice-to-haves are: smart, positive, easygoing, athletic. Good person. Varied interests. When it comes down to it, though, when I try to get too specific, I feel like it’s kind of pointless considering how much of this is left to chance. So, I’m attempting to do the necessary research while not overthinking it.

Which is where you come in! I want to involve you because you’re my family and I need trusted people in on this decision. (I ask that you please keep the donor info between us for now.) I did manage to pick 3, after scrolling through the entire list of Willing To Be Known donors (around 130). These 130 guys are mostly not rocket scientists–they’re around 24 years old, students, many are artists of some kind (musicians, actors, etc.), they are pretty much not fully-realized adults yet. They’re not especially guys I would date or even necessarily be attracted to in their current phase of life. But, in many cases, there’s a nice vibe–a sweet smile, a positive outlook, a strong and healthy body, a thoughtful human. I’m looking for the one that feels comfy. I have pros and cons on these top 3, but I’m also aware that no one is perfect, there are no guarantees, etc.

So: please look these over soon if you can! Probably better to chat with me to let me know your impressions before talking to each other. Also: I reserve the right not to go with your choice! But I feel like your impressions will definitely help shape my process one way or the other. As a last-minute planner, I have high hopes that I can finalize my decision in the next couple of days and I can place my order (time is running out as I’m already on Day 2 of my cycle). Otherwise, I will wait one more month so I can take the time to feel really sure.

I’ll send the three donors in the next three separate emails, by donor #. In ranked order, starting with #3 for suspense. 🙂 Coming up! THANK YOU!

love,

K”

My family totally dropped everything they were doing that day to read through all the donor forms, evaluate photos, and weigh in on my selection. It meant a lot to me that they were all involved in this seemingly monumental decision, although we were far from consensus!

Each family member weighed in with a variety of ranked orders for lots of different, touching, well-considered reasons, and I was surprised and intrigued when my mom ranked McPiercy #1–the guy I had thrown in last-minute to have a third, but without really looking at his details. After all, he had dark hair and dark eyes, not meeting my criteria of having my coloring. I said, “Mom, #3? Really? I need to look at him again!”

I went back over his photos and details and realized I really liked him too. Analyzing his adult photo, I realized that I would be attracted to him in real life. He was “my type.” Suddenly this seemed imperative–of course you should be attracted to the guy you’re going to procreate with! And his baby photos were adorable–he was around 18 months and had big, messy, curly hair and sweet brown eyes.

I then consulted with two friends. The first had conceived with a donor more than ten years before and I wanted to know about her process for choosing. Back then, there were no photos and almost no info. He had listed his favorite animal as a dolphin, which just seemed perfect and right to her (and her partner)–and their daughter came out looking like her clone and waking up every morning singing.

The other friend is a single mom of two with addiction in her family–she warned me that addiction would be her biggest concern (McDreamy was a smoker).

Still, I didn’t make the final decision until I did an old-fashioned pro/con list, which is what I do in times of extreme duress over big life decisions. There was no competition–#3, McPiercy, had the most pros, and only two cons: his mother was allergic to penicillin (not really a con!), and he wasn’t my coloring (also not really a con!). Done and done!

McPiercy!

I meditated on it and then called to place my order with the sperm bank, checking and re-checking that I had the right donor number. I’d had no clue what my process would be for choosing when I went into it–and yet, somehow, the process was perfect and I felt really solid about my choice. I believe I started with three vials of sperm.

Now, after all the planning and prep, I really was on the precipice of becoming pregnant. I strongly suspected it would happen on the first try.”

(You can pick up the story at the beginning of this blog to see what happened next. SPOILER: it took eleven tries.)

AND HERE’S THE MCPIERCY NEWS: When I selected him, I had access to his adult and baby photos but ALSO a 7-minute video interview, which I never watched. I specifically didn’t watch it because most donors did not have videos and I didn’t feel I could compare a guy without a video to a guy with a video. So I didn’t watch it then, or while trying, or while pregnant. I watched it last week.

Why last week? I have no idea. It was like 11 in the morning on a Thursday and the baby was sleeping and I just suddenly felt it was the right moment. Like E is his own person to the point that it doesn’t matter what was on the video.

The video came on the screen and the still photo that I’ve studied so many times came to life. The questions were deep–why did you decide to be willing to be known? what are your best qualities? what do you hope for the future? what do you wish for the babies? And his answers were all so genuine, kind, and smart. He had a great smile, deep voice, and flashes of Baby E. He said we’re all here to create a great life. He plays his part and the parents play their part. He hopes they all have loving families and unlimited opportunities. I was crying.

I knew I couldn’t screw it up and that I’d get the right baby. But I have to say–McPiercy goes above and beyond all expectations. He’s my hero. I’m so grateful to him for bringing us Baby E and trust that if and when E looks him up down the road, they’ll have a meaningful and important conversation.

I hope McPiercy has a great life too.

xo

family, gratitude, parenthood, single mom by choice, SMC, working mom

heat wave

It’s 10:45pm and, finally, the heat is relenting. I don’t know how hot it got today but here in SF we get all bent out of shape about anything 80 and up.

Still, when I got to Starbucks this afternoon while my sister watched the baby for a bit, I ordered my decaf latte hot. Because I could. (And because I hate paying $4 for a cup full of mostly ice.)

The heat is scheduled to continue for the next few days and my tiny fan in the bedroom is probably not going to cut it. All the windows are wide open and baby E is sleeping in only a diaper. But–we do have chilled white wine AND lime popsicles, so we’ll probably be OK.

I’m too tired to write but it’s been too long! E nursed nonstop today and I think my body is depleted of calories. I’m trying to make up for that with some Hint-O-Mint Newman-O’s. The saddest moment of today was when I got my sister’s offer to pick up some In-N-Out burgers–30 mins too late! Now I’m craving In-N-Out like crazy and may have to make a special trip tomorrow.

Tomorrow we have Zumba and 9:30 which will probably be inhumanly hot but terribly fun and good one-hour child care practice for E. Then, after probably a nap at home, we’ll take the edge off with a family rec swim in the afternoon.

I love these days, and they are sliding past, and the light is beginning to glow with autumn (even if autumn is actually summer). It’s amazing how quickly we slide into the holidays at this time of year.

We are in October! The month I go back to work. It’s a big deal. I have so many mixed emotions about it. All in all, I was incredibly lucky to get six months. It’s been glorious.

In a few weeks, E will go to the perfect nanny share situation just ten minutes from home and my parents will be here for support and some child care responsibilities as we phase him in! Amazing! Still–moms should get a year off, like in Europe. Seriously.

E just grows and grows–almost 20 pounds at 4.5 months and 2 teeth already coming in the bottom! He now reaches up to touch or swat at whatever I’m eating or drinking, and actually pushed a bottle of water out of my mouth so I spilled it all over myself. He rolls onto his belly all the time now, and can even roll back (he looks up at me expecting accolades). He’s doing lots of ab work to prep for sitting up in the near future.

Here’s the man with his little bottom teeth. Love and cool breezes to you!

twoteeth)