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.

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Tonight, I will do bullets, because I have a million disconnected thoughts.

  • The lentil soup I made tonight had the wrong textures of veggies and lentils. Or maybe just undercooked. Should I blend it? Sometimes easy recipes result in not-exciting dishes.
  • It’s amazing that I managed to make lentil soup from scratch and eat it before baby E’s bedtime, on a weeknight. It took a lot of focus. I set the intention last night and got home as early as I could after picking up E. That 5:30-7pm window is so critical.
  • I fell asleep while getting E to sleep (this happens often). When I woke up, I had another bowl of soup but this time added leftover farro. It was better.
  • E is patient while I get dinner ready. Thankfully, he is still relatively entertained in his exersaucer (i.e., “the office”). I also let him crawl around as he is compulsively climbing things–the cabinets, boxes, my legs. Tonight he opened one of the cabinet doors where the pots and pans are kept, and I said aloud, “this is the beginning of a new era.”
  • He waved back to my mom on facetime tonight.
  • Is it me or is there a trend of brilliant articles on the penalties of motherhood in this country? After my last post, a friend sent me this article out of UC Berkeley on how the cost of child care is stalling the gender revolution. Then this article came out at the New Republic on the effects of motherhood on one’s career (spoiler: they aren’t good)–the title and subtitle are provocative: “Labor Pains: More women than ever are having babies at the peak of their careers. When will we stop punishing them for it?” Both REALLY worth reading. It’s outrageous that there isn’t better support for working parents in this country.
  • It’s also outrageous that people aren’t vaccinating their children. I understand the impulse to be skeptical of the medical establishment. But vaccinations are necessary for public health and the risk of side effects is tiny compared to the risks of a nationwide epidemic. That study linking vaccinations to autism has been debunked a million times over. Can these people do three minutes of internet research? Choosing to not vaccinate your child for ‘personal reasons’ is needlessly putting your child in harm’s way, not to mention putting other people’s health at risk. I know that these parents must believe they are doing what’s best for their children, but it’s so hard to accept this when they are endangering everyone else’s children, especially those who are babies or immunocompromised or in treatment for an illness. This Onion article nails it. “Look, I’ve done the research on these issues, I’ve read the statistics, and I’ve carefully considered the costs and benefits, and there’s simply no question in my mind that inciting a nationwide health emergency by unleashing a disease that can kill 20 percent or more of its victims is the right one for my child.”
  • I love Anne Lamott. Here’s a sweet piece she wrote for O Magazine: “Becoming the Person You Were Meant to Be: Where to Start.” I bet you know what she’s going to say!
  • I’m still hungry. I think I’m going to have some Ben & Jerry’s Mint Cookie Ice Cream and call it a night.
  • E is getting curls!
  • Bonne nuit

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

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

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You guys! Merry Christmas!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xo

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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

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5/19/14

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