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

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)

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

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

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

Tonight’s post is short and sweet because:

I started writing my book! You knew this was coming, right? My SMC story will be told. So, my writing time is somewhat cramped as I just have post-8:30pm to work on it (plus everything else I can’t do while E is awake). I try to do an hour a night and follow Annie Lamott’s #1 advice, “Butt in the chair.” So far, so good.

I’m pumping as I write, which is weirdly hurting my back. I have the hands-free pumping bra but it’s hard to sit normally. Each night, starting last night, I’m attempting a “dream feed” with E, inserting the bottle’s nipple into his sleeping lips and hoping he’ll subconsciously latch and suck (and then remember how to do it when he’s awake). Last night, he was so asleep that he looked just like those dolls with a tiny hole between their lips for the bottle. He let it be there and eventually started sucking on it gently. Not much milk was transferred, yet. I have a friend who did this every night for weeks and eventually the babe caught on. The bulk of the pumped milk goes into the freezer stockpile.

Last night we had a 6.1 earthquake, centered in Napa! I woke at 3:20am to feel my building rocking, creaking, groaning. I clutched little E and sort of shielded his head from any eventual flying objects….it went on for a long time but didn’t reach the point where any damage was done. The biggest earthquake I’ve felt and definitely a different experience with a baby. Must get the earthquake kit together.

E is getting so giggly! I caught a photo of it today. Love to all and more soon as I become a wizard of time management.

xo

laughing e

Baby nap window! My moment to write.

We traveled home from Michigan last Friday and the trip was a bit more of an ordeal this time due to a lengthy flight delay in the Minneapolis airport (a total of 6 hours). We had just boarded our connecting flight and it was a big plane with two aisles–we had two seats all to ourselves. The baby was sleeping in the Ergo. I had boomchunkas I texted my sister D to say we had everything dialed.

Moments later, they announced that the cargo door wouldn’t close and we had to deplane and wait for another (smaller) plane to arrive from Atlanta.

It’s moments like this that make you want to cry but then you think–well, we’ll just deal. So you spend six hours quietly strategizing how to spend every minute. I said something super-obvious to my sister B when I got home, like, “Traveling with a baby is really nothing like traveling without a baby.”

E was a champ. He really rolled with it–loved laying on the airport floor (ew) on a blanket (OK) and kicking his legs. We even achieved tandem sleeping with him in the Ergo while on the plane. I woke up and was so out of it that I thought we were on a bus.

One of the coolest things about traveling with a baby is how many moms jump up to help you. Like the one who brought me my iPhone which I’d left on a seat at the gate. Or the one who zipped my bag and put it on my shoulder as we deplaned in SF while E was howling (it was 3am according to our body clocks). Moms make the world go round, I’m telling you.

It was sad to leave Michigan! It is a dream world of sunshine, beaches, freezing cold water, lush trees, and tons of time with beloved family. My mom’s cooking each day fortified me. Everyone gave E lots of love and let me be hands free. I got back to running!

One night, I had a dream about SF. I was in an area of the city that’s not particularly exciting (somewhere around Van Ness and Bush, let’s say) and it was cold and foggy, and I was saying excitedly, “I’m HOME, I’m HOME!” Which made me think a about what home is.

Home is where I’m from and also where I live. Home is where my family is. And home is now where my baby boy is.

And his home is me.

My sister B picked us up at the airport in my (cleaned!) car and spent the night and part of the next morning with us. When she left, and I was nursing the baby on my bed, and we were alone in our home, I had this ecstatic feeling about being back in our groove, just the two of us. Home.

Later that day, though, it became more of a reality that I was back to 24/7, and I missed everyone.

And then I swung back to blissfully setting up my schedule for the week: mom and baby yoga, mom meetup in the Mission, Zumba, pilates, walks, dinners. Saturday hike. This is why I pay to live in this crazy-expensive city: community.

E is totally thriving. While he is noticeably less patient about entertaining himself now that there are fewer people around, he is barreling through his milestones. He’s holding his head up with fewer bobbles every day. He can do tummy time like a champ. Yesterday, I left the room to run a bath and when I came back he had rolled over onto his belly! Uh oh!!!

And today he’s grasping a rattle and bringing it to his mouth AND grabbing his toes. (I’m proud.)

Babe’s up.
xo
13 weeks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lots of love to you!

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

Goodness it’s hard to find time to write–even surrounded by so much help, when the baby is sleeping I need to eat, shower, sleep, maybe run or jump in the lake. Just now at 10:40pm, I brought the half-asleep baby into our bedroom, turned on a dim light, and put him down. As he did his sleep-kicks and turned his head from side to side winding back down, I laid here with my hand on his belly, shushing him back to sleep. I noticed how this is my only free time and yet I am always too tired and yet- if not now, when? Then realized my iPad is downstairs and the door is creaky enough to wake the baby. And then I thought- I’m going to write this post on my iPhone. Screw it.

So here I am, hopefully not giving myself carpal tunnel as I tap this out on the tiny keyboard. Gold star for effort!

I wanted to write about my body. After weeks of belly shots, I gave birth to my ten pound baby and came home from the hospital still looking quite pregnant. Maybe seven months pregnant. Once the baby is out, what IS all that belly stuff that remains?? I don’t know, but it felt jiggly and jello-y and so not my body. pregnant or not pregnant. A pot of jello that you really just want to ignore and never touch in purpose. (We toyed with the idea of doing reverse belly shots but I wasn’t quite as thrilled about divulging my pot.)

Mercifully, the belly started melting away pretty quickly. Along with losing the pounds, I started losing hair: after months of luscious and thick locks, my body was going back to status quo. My skin turned dry. All those extra nutrients that supported the baby draining away! Too bad we can’t hang on to that forever.

The healing of what I like to call my “undercarriage” was fine–nothing much to report, which is newsworthy in and of itself since, as I mentioned, I pushed out a 10 pound baby. I was tempted to look with a mirror but never did, but both midwives have confirmed that the tears have healed nicely.

I started walking and doing a little yoga. Then, last week, I strapped on my new running shoes and started running again after a year’s hiatus:

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I’d been jealously watching runners for months! The danger for me is overdoing it, which I did two days ago by running 3 miles at close to my regular pace, breezing through the summer morning and then only stopping to take off my shoes before plunging into the lake. I’ve been extra tired since then. Little by little, my fitness will return.

My little pot of jello has plateaued at around 5-6 pounds above my pre-pregnancy weight, and because I have a decent diastisis I am doing “How to Lose your Mummy Tummy” exercises to bring my abs back together. And babe is giving me plenty of upper body exercise as I lift, carry, and rock his 15+ pound body day in and day out.

But enough about me! This guy is growing and developing fast and doing cool new stuff all the time. He is now somewhat mobile while on his back in that he can launch the bottom half of his body to one side over and over until he has turned himself up to 120 degrees. So, for example, if I fall asleep beside him parallel, I can wake up later and find his head in the same place but his feet pointing to the upper corner of the bed. As a result, I’ve doubled down on pillows stuffed between the bed and walk and also installed a side rail.

He also kicks me now to wake me up. No crying or grumbling, he just turns his body perpendicular to mine and kicks kicks kicks. OK, OK I get it!!

He also is hugely enamored of ceiling fans–cooing and smiling at them like long lost old friends. Someone told me that new babies can still see angels and I think they must be hanging out up there, telling him jokes.

While nursing, I love watching him working his hands. They are gesticulating like he’s giving a lecture in an auditorium. Or flagging down a waitress. Or pumping his fist at a soccer game. One night recently, he went 6 hours between feedings, and when he woke up and I was about to give him the boob, his little limbs we’re fluttering with total excitement–and my heart blew up for this adorable tiny human.

He’s starting to hold his head up with confidence and minimal bobbles. And I’m just starting to notice that he sometimes wants Mommy–not necessarily milk, and not necessarily just to be held, but to be held by me. That feels so good.

Still working on the bottle–we have graduated from instant fury to interesting toy (and I’m the one giving it to him, which breaks all the rules) but we have yet to get more than half an ounce into his little bod. Still, I’m confident that if his life depended on it, he could figure it out.

I’ve almost finished up this post, sitting in an un-ergonomic cross-legged hunched-over position in this dim light beside the baby spread eagle in the center of the bed with his angelic sleeping face. And I realize I’m hungry again (there is no hunger like breastfeeding), and so I’m going to have to open the creaky door after all.

Good night!

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