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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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, 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

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

gratitude, parenthood, single mom by choice, SMC

this boy

Great news: we are communicating! Baby E started waving (sometimes it looks like more of a knee slap)–he waves at his reflection, at strangers, at loved ones. He waves when you wave to him. As we deplaned yesterday, he waved at everyone waiting behind us. It’s amazing to see such a small little brand-new person conveying his greetings.

He will also dance on command. The command is, “dancey dancey.” He’ll start bouncing his knees in an irregular way, with a big open-mouthed smile. This is our first evidence that he’s understanding language. When my mom first told me about it, I actually didn’t believe her. But today I tested it out of the blue, and he started dancing.

So, now that we’ve broken the ice, I’m thinking about all the other things I could teach him. Like, “please don’t bite my nipple.”

I’m seeing glimpses of an emerging personality. He’s outgoing. He might put his face in my shoulder for a second when he meets someone new, but after that he’ll slowly reach out his index finger until it’s on the person’s nose. When he is faced with something a little too scary (like someone who talks too loudly), his bottom lip will quiver and his eyes will fill with tears, but he will try to handle it rather than cry. He’s stoic. When he got a flu booster in his shoulder a few weeks ago, he gave a small protest whimper and that was that.

He really wants to crawl but so far is doing the ‘army’ crawl and/or scooting accidentally backward. He hasn’t figured out how to coordinate his legs to move forward and ends up in a plank or downward facing dog. Each time, I think, “Oh jeez. I can’t even do a plank right now.” This guy is strong.

I took him in a pool the other day, and I let him grab the side. He basically did a pull-up a foot above the water–I could have let go (I didn’t). He loves the water–big smiles and kicks and splashes. I just got us signed up for a swimming class.

He’s finally eating food! Although tonight’s sweet potato was mostly rejected, last night’s burrito offered bites of rice and beans which were met with arms-in-the-air excitement. That’s how I feel about burritos too!

I’ve gotten to know the after-hours nurse line more intimately in recent weeks. First, he stuck his finger in a hot pancake and got a big burn blister between the nail and knuckle. His hand was just too quick and the pancake was too molten. I felt horrible. Other than the moment it happened, it didn’t seem to bother him too much. Now it’s all healed (thank God it wasn’t more serious).

He also came down with croup right after Christmas. He got sick really fast and had this yucky-sounding cough. I took him to the pediatrician a block away and he heard the distinctive croup cough (think barking seal). He got steroids for two days and some fresh air. He recovered pretty quickly although we didn’t even realize how sick he was until he got better and returned to his squealing, jabbering, bouncing self.

As this personality emerges, I feel more and more like someone is here with me–less of that pure baby energy and more of this specific little boy.

A little boy who chooses to pee precisely when I take the diaper off, somewhere around 60% of the time right now! No joke!

One of E’s name meanings is “God is gracious,” which is as close as you can get to “gratitude.”

xo

evanoh

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)

birth, gratitude, parenthood, pregnancy, single mom by choice, SMC

backup

I decided that I can’t wait another day–the birth video has to get backed up tonight. The hour-plus video currently exists only on my iPhone and several people have reminded me that all I have to do is lose or damage the phone and that will be that. But the file is too big to send or upload and I’ve been too terrified to sync my phone.

Which is why my iPhone is propped up on a Buddha statue propped up on a stack of books, playing my birth video across from my iPad, which is recording it. At least if I have one backup I can feel a bit more confident about trying to sync it to iTunes.

And of course I have the volume up high so we catch all the audio, and sounds like the birth is happening in my apartment. Which is where it was originally supposed to happen. In fact, the recording session is set up right where the birth tub was located as we waited for the big day.

Meanwhile, the baby sleeps peacefully behind the bedroom door.

My midwife, Maria, had a crepe gathering at her house this morning, a regular event that I attended multiple times while pregnant. She and her wife regularly open their home to their community–pregnant moms, moms of babies and older kids, and their friends and families–everyone is welcome. One time, I had four friends visiting from out of town, and she said, “Bring them all!” Four of my new mom friends were there today, all of us with 4-5 month old babies in Ergos. AND there was a photographer, which is how we captured this adorableness of baby E and his BFFs:

e and pals

OMG it just got to the part of the video where I’m calling out the password to my iPad for the second time to the medical student who was holding it up like a mirror, “Little k big C…”

It was so cool to be back at Maria’s with baby E, after anticipating his arrival for so long, after wondering what sort of birth I would have. I hear her voice in the chorus around my bed, “K, you’re doing so amazing!”

She is so amazing. We all adore her. There are moms of older kids who show up to her house too, reminding us that this is a long-term midwife relationship. When she got married last summer, there were 55 flower children, each of which she delivered at home. When I hired her, I knew there was a community component but I had no idea how much it would add to my life–before, during, and after the birth, and forever.

Maria’s own midwife, who delivered her baby son who is now 23 years old, is nearing the end of her life and Maria is on call to go see her when that moment comes. A lifelong relationship as the circle of life keeps spinning.

E was just born on the video and I have tears pouring down my face. That little gurgly cry! That boy I now know so well.

I was scrolling through birth photos on my sister’s camera today and was jolted when I glanced up at him and saw just how much he’s changed in four months. Honestly, it’s hard to see the changes when you’re with someone 24/7, but he’s gone from a floppy little underwater creature to a baby who holds his head up high and looks all around, grips my shoulder, kicks his legs like a little Russian ballet dancer, grips toys and brings them to his mouth for sampling, and gives me a huge smile first thing every morning. He’s over 18 pounds and is already getting his first tooth, bottom right. He’s also getting those delicious thunder thighs.

Backup video complete!

There is a fine balance between living the moments and capturing them. Let’s do both!

lots of love xo

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

sleep

Sleep is definitely the most common topic of discussion among my mom friends. Those of us with babies at the 4-5 month mark are noticing changes in sleep patterns that are leaving us bleary-eyed and eager for solutions. (Didn’t it seem like sleep could only get easier after the first few months? Nope. I just read in “The Girlfriend’s Guide to Surviving the First Year of Motherhood, “Ultimately you are faced with having to teach and reteach your baby to go to sleep and STAY THERE. This will be your life’s work, in one fashion or another, for the next ten years, so pace yourself.”)

The debate rages on between co-sleeping and the million variations of cry-it-out, and new parents are so sleepy that it’s a tough time to sort through all of it. Some moms rave about their Ferberized baby sleeping through the night. Others are checking into hotels without their babies to try to get a few hours of sleep in a row. A simple cheerful comment from another mom like, “I put the baby down with her pacifier and some white noise and she’s out,” can send me spiraling into doubts about our sleep habits thus far.

As Baby E’s sleep patterns change and we experience more night wakings and nap resistance, I find myself paging through my baby books and googling things like “baby nap strike 4 months.” Overall, he’s been an awesome sleeper from about 8pm to 8am, with maybe 2-3 feedings. Naps have been no problem (if short)–swaddle and bounce has been our go-to for months. But now something is shifting as he matures and becomes more aware–in the past week, we had a couple of nights of waking every 1-2 hours. And for the past two days the only way to get him to sleep is to be in transit in the stroller or Ergo. (Today I tried for 1.5 hours to get him down for a morning nap, to no avail.)

We all go into this with ideas and expectations and our own neuroses, and then a little needy newborn arrives and we figure out as quickly as possible what gets them to sleep and what doesn’t. Clearly, you can’t put a newborn down in a crib awake right out of the gate. Or, maybe someone can, but we’ll ignore that person. More often, they need something else–rocking, swaddling, shushing, bouncing, driving, nursing, etc. Happiest baby on the block. Then you get a few months in, and the experts tell you that you’ve got them hooked on these things–they can’t go to sleep without them! And, annoyingly, they’re right.

When is the right time to break them of these habits? The danger is that the tools become crutches–oh, you nurse your baby to sleep? Oh, your baby requires motion? Oh, your baby takes naps on the go?

Just as in pregnancy and preparing for childbirth, I remind myself that only I know the best plan for E and me. Or–if I don’t know the best plan, I’m still the only one reacting to his actual needs and doing my best with that. While there are moms and babies who are more into schedules and tracking, I am not those moms. Even though my first thought is, “I should be doing that,” it just doesn’t fit. I’m more laid back and resist any rigid rules when it comes to all of it. That isn’t to say that I’m not thinking a lot about sleep and what’s best for E. Just that I purposely try to stay relaxed about it. If it’s basically working for us both, then we’ll stick with it. If it becomes a problem (i.e. baby won’t sleep or I become non-functional from lack of sleep), then we’ll try something new.

I was just reading Dr. Sears’ chapter on sleep in The Baby Book. While his recommendations are couched in language that softens the approach and makes it seem like any decision is fine if it works for you etc. etc. he really makes it sound like any version of cry-it-out is abusive: you are breaking a fragile bond and losing your child’s trust as they scream in the next room. (Meanwhile, we all hear about babies who are sleeping beautifully three nights later.) BUT: every parent IS in charge of determining when they want their child to learn to go to sleep on their own, whether it’s when they’re four months or 2 years or a teenager. (I have a friend who slept in the family bed until she was a teenager and still sleeps with a hot water bottle.) While the ‘training’ process is super hard for all parties (and I do not look forward to it), it’s a necessary step in a child’s development. I wouldn’t want to rob E of knowing how to fall asleep without me. I just think he’s a little small to do it now.

E and I have been co-sleeping since birth, and this works for now (for us!). I love it. I just ordered a siderail for the bed since he’s starting to roll. Ask me again in a few weeks or months when sleep patterns shift further… I see all points of view on this one, and I feel great compassion for those parents who are struggling. My mantra: whatever works. We all love our babies and don’t need added guilt on top of everything else. Whatever works. Sleep, baby, sleep.

Time for bed. xo

gratitude, parenthood, single mom by choice, SMC

blink of an eye

9:17pm, quiet. I have iced sparkling water with lemon on one side of the laptop and a hot ginger tea on the other. My back hurts. I’m wearing the nursing tank I slept in last night and it has new stains of undetermined origin. Angel baby is sleeping on fresh sheets.

Life is full. I don’t try to be super mom, I just try to stay one step ahead of the tidal wave of stuff to be done–dishes, laundry, taking the trash out, ordering more groceries. I remember reading a kids book (I think it was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) in which the dad tried to do everything in the fewest number of motions possible. I’m practically running from room to room with armfuls of stuff in between baby sessions of nursing, playing, and sleeping.

I never would have guessed it ahead of time, but it’s easier to go out than to stay in. I think this is because baby E is more entertained by going in and out of carriers and strollers and watching the scenery go by–and who wouldn’t be! At home, he’s got the same old light fixtures to gaze at, and he craves something new. Plus I’m not multi-tasking when we’re out. He also loves to be around his baby friends, even if he doesn’t really see them quite yet.

Our mom group is going strong–it’s my first group of friends that I see so often that we don’t really hug hello or goodbye, it feels like we’re always together and always available to make more plans for other weekdays. We flow from Child Development class to a full afternoon sitting on the grass in the Mission, to yoga, to Zumba, to Parents’ Circle. Plus lunches, ice creams, and coffees. I have no idea what I would do without these moms.

Today was a rare day when I didn’t have a plan with them. I was trying to get stuff done–coddling E into helping me with an email or cooking dinner or doing paperwork. By mid-afternoon, he was heavily campaigning for some kind of outing, so I strapped him on and we went for a walk in the chilly fog, me in my tank top because we get so hot belly to belly in the Ergo. He took a nice nap and I caught up with Mimi on the phone.

When we got home, he ate a hearty dinner and then I assembled the enchilada makings brought by J–so delicious! E got a bath on the kitchen counter, a massage with almond oil, and nursed to sleep at 7:30. I’m trying to move his bedtime earlier so I get a little more evening, and it worked–except I fell asleep too, for an hour.

Our day has a lovely flow–we can be late or not show up, we can skip looking in the mirror to see what we look like (although E enjoys smiling at himself and then turning away, shy).

Baby E is thriving. Yesterday at yoga class, I looked away from him for maybe five seconds during downward dog and when I looked back up he’d rolled off his blanket from his back to his belly onto the hard wood floor, at an angle that didn’t even make sense. He now hugs my neck with both arms and crosses his little feet in all resting positions. He knows I can’t hold him every minute of the day but wishes I would.

It’s all so sweet. I want it to last forever and yet life will continue from here into lots of new phases and it will change and he will grow. And, in another way, I don’t want it to last forever because I am 24/7 taking care of an infant and there’s a lot of life that gets crowded out, some of which will eventually be nice to invite back in. And my back hurts and my belly pooches and my pedicure is 6 weeks old and I’m starting to forget how to spell. But for now, rather than mourn each passing day or dread the big changes to come, I try to remind myself to stay present. Strangers come up to me on the street and say, “Blink of an eye…” and I know that this is a universal experience, that new mamas around the world wake up feeling so much love but also overwhelmed because it’s such hard work and yet goes by so fast–once the baby phase is over, it was the blink of an eye. The days are long but the years are short.

My friend K gave me a CD of lullabies which finally made it into my car where E and I listen to it every day. There are many songs that get me teary, but “If You Ain’t Got Love” by Mason Jennings feels a propos here. I’ll share partial lyrics below, listen to the full song here. It reminds me that life is short and all we have are these moments. So feel them.

xoxoxo

15 weeks

From “If You Ain’t Got Love,” by Mason Jennings:

At nine in the morning
After nine months of waiting
You were born and I saw your face
And you looked up at me

But before I could hold you
The doctors raced you from me
They told me that you might not live
Your heart was not healthy

And with wires coming from you
I sat beside you

I’m never gonna give you up
What do you got if you ain’t got love?
If you ain’t got love
What do you got if you ain’t got love?

Someday, someday soon
You and I will both be gone
And lately, I can’t help but think
That the love we feel will live on

At a little wooden cabin
Up in northern Minnesota
We ran together down to the dock
And you jumped right off it

And from out in the water
You called me to join you
And I said, “Baby, I cannot swim
If I jump, I’ll surely drown you”

You said, “Life has no limit
If you’re not afraid to get in it”
And oh, baby, I jumped to you
Since then there’s nothing I can’t do

I’m never gonna give you up
What do you got if you ain’t got love?
If you ain’t got love
What do you got if you ain’t got love?

Someday, someday soon
You and I will both be gone
But lately, I can’t help but think
That the love we feel will live on