Checking in (barely)

I can’t believe it’s been around 17 months since I last blogged! If there’s ever been a welcome to the reality of motherhood, my absence from writing (aka time to/for myself) speaks volumes.  My gorgeous little man is almost 20 months old now and we are mostly just ordinary and happy. We have rituals and daily rhythms, a healthy amount of chaos, silliness, laughter and singing (so much singing!), proud mama moments (with a little prompting he counted to five tonight in the bathtub!) and of course the inevitable time-outs, that we both need to take on occasion.  These days I mostly just spam Instagram with pictures of my little love, my short-cut version of tributing motherhood.

I hope to get back to writing and reflecting soon.  There’s so much material these days … but after I put Eliot to bed at night, order my house, feed the dog, look through the mail, bla bla bla … the seduction of TV is ooooh so strong.  Lame.

Here’s Eliot now, from our coffee date at Fido this morning, 19 1/2 months old.

Parenting reflections on day 72

I’m exactly 72 days into parenting. 10 weeks and some change. At this particular moment I’m sitting at Whole Foods, large latte and muffin beside me, while a dear friend is with my little prince. I’m rested, showered and happy to be out. And —finally, reflecting on motherhood. Lesson number 1: reflection goes out the window when you’re a new mom. Who has the time to reflect? Life is a daily grind and a constant shuffle of strategic attempts to keep your baby fed, sleeping and dry. Success is momentary: I got the baby to sleep (bonus points if it’s in one of the actual sleeping designations versus in my arms); he seems full, he had a good poop, a good burp, good toots … the fanfare over bodily functions is no small thing! Success also comes in the form of a shower, getting out of the house, a lovely stroller ride where my little one doesn’t scream his head off and a successful stroll around the house or Target with Eliot in the ergo. I don’t even feel reflective enough to say, “it’s the little things” because it IS the little things—they are BIG things, and every triumph is in earnest these days.

That said, today I’m reflecting. I’m reflecting and eating a piece of cake masked as a muffin (german chocolate muffin, seriously Whole Foods?) because really I’m celebrating my most recent success, which is a sleep schedule. For 8 consecutive days I’ve put Baby E down at 8 PM and he’s slept, minus two brief feedings, until 8 AM. I know enough to know not to get too attached to the good or the bad during these changing baby days but still [for now] … if I’m dealing with a good sleeper, this is a game changer. (I can’t help the optimism; it’s in my DNA!) When Eliot (and I would think this goes for ALL babies) gets good naps and good sleep at night, the world is a better place. Cue the chirping birds.

A few words about Eliot: He’s such a delight. He’s giving away smiles in spades these days and mostly just looks at me and the world around him with these big, curious dirt-brown eyes … like he knows something the rest of us don’t. He loves taking baths with me—loves being submerged in the water; he’s pretty chill with most people and often calms down when we go outside—the great equalizer, much like his mama. I can get lost with him most days in the  cocoon of our home, listening to The Wiggles and reciting the nursery rhymes and rhythms I’m learning in baby yoga, provoking smiles and coos. Yesterday at BYOB (bring your own baby) Yoga another mom looked at us both and said, “He’s starting to look so much like you!” I just smiled, thinking of my little adopted embryo doppelgänger. What a little miracle, all of it.

It’s not all baby bliss. I get board. I get lonely. Occasionally I get blue. I’m impatient and cranky on days where the whining doesn’t seem to let up. But the mainstay of my mood has (thankfully) been one of optimism and gratitude. The love is real. And oh so sweet.

I’m heading back to work next week. Leaving my little cabbage with his “manny” (male nanny) starting Monday. His manny, who happens to live across the street, truly loves my little guy, which is the main comfort for a going-back-to-work mama. I’ll be working in three hour increments so in a way I’m dipping my toes into a world outside of baby. Still coming home to nurse. And before I know it he’ll be a quarter of a year old, then a year old, then in high school … make it stop!

If I have any true reflection from the past 72 days it is this: Parenting is a LOT of work. Babies are all need right out of the shoot, and unapologetically so. The crying jags are real; the witching hours (for us 5 PM-7 PM) are real, and the hormonal sways are real. But when I can totally surrender —generally what baby wants, baby gets —and maintain my sense of humor when plans are thwarted or baby makes a sport out of crying, the sweet moments are the sweetest of my life. And tomorrow is always a new day.

That’s all I got. (Literally. My time is up. Have to go relieve my friend and feed the baby!)

babyeliot-6

Game Time

Well, baby is due tomorrow and I’m officially just biding my time now, until my little guy makes his debut appearance. The sentimentally of being pregnant, the long journey I’ve had to get here and the magnitude of upcoming motherhood has taken a back burner to Project Get Baby Out. I’m sure there will be an emotional deluge once Eliot Michael wiggles his way out of and onto my body. I think about that moment a lot. And I’m so excited to see his little face, his brand new body, his little lips rooting for milk at my breast, to meet him! But for now I’m focused on long walks, spicy food, acupuncture and seeking out professionals that claim to have magic tricks for getting baby’s out of uterus’s. (My masseuse claims percussion on the lowback, along with digital circles around the carpal bones and the ankles has induced labor for some of her new mama’s.) It may all be folklore but there’s the second benefit of magical thinking: it also passes the time, which I have a lot of right now as I’m officially gone on maternity leave for the next 8-12 weeks.

I’ve been so blessed with this big adventure. Even now—as I write, baby E is doing a headstand on my bladder; I really am grateful. About a year ago is when I got the phone call from the doctor: We have an embryo; do you want it?

And here I am; here we are. This little miracle and me, getting ready to make a go of it. Yes!

Designer baby musings

Hello blog. It’s been a while. In pregnancy news I’m 6 1//2 months prego. In vegetable terms, baby Eliot is as big as a head of lettuce, although nothing about my waste resembles a cute little salad. It’s more like a balloon filled with little rockets that fancy going off and landing right between my breasts. Ode to the sweet, sentimental butterfly flutters from a few weeks past … my womb has turned into a playground and I have an active and curious little monkey in there.

Still over the moon though. Mostly.

The second trimester was pretty sweet. All the meds, shots, bruising and fatigue from the first trimester IVF cycle have been forgotten and forgiven. First lesson in parenting, I suppose. As the third trimester descends upon me, so does reality. The actual pregnancy (ouch, OMG, EASY TURBO, is that an elbow or a foot pounding into my ribs?!), decorating the nursery, finding the perfect nanny, the right diapers, the 101 on strollers, carseats and all baby things with gadgets, reading birth stories and parenting books (my favorite so far) … three months is a blink of the eye! In the heat of August my little designer baby love will be here. Eliot Michael Hart. I can’t wait to meet him! Speaking of my designer-love: If you remember from the last blog, I did an embryo adoption. That means that I am the recipient of another woman’s labor of love. The story has been told to me (from my doctor’s office) like this: a woman wanted a baby. Unable to produce one herself, for reasons of which I’m unaware, she found a Latino egg donor and an Irish sperm donor that she assumedly liked, had an embryo created in a pea-tree dish, did the ET (embryo transfer) and didn’t get pregnant. Distraught by her outcome, she didn’t try again and put her leftover embryo’s up for adoption. Enter: me. Lately I’ve felt particularly indebted to her, for giving me this gift. I’ve wanted to meet her, to thank her, although as my friend E pointed out, it would probably be very hard for her to meet happy, perky, basketball-bellied me. I suppose it’s a bitter-sweet mercy for her, to stay anonymous.

And a nod to embryo adoptions: This is my story, for now. Soon it will be more of Eliot’s story. And it’s a good story. There’s redemption and mystery; it’s progressive and filled with love, friends, humor and support; parts are bitter-sweet —no second parent, anonymous donor’s Eliot won’t be able to track down; most of the story is still unfolding. But in my research of embryo adoptions or “snowflake babies,” for the more sentimental than I, I’m learning about how new this way of having a baby really is! A quick history: in 2004 there were 213 babies born this way. President Bush invited them all to the White House, as these were the days when stem cell research was a hot topic, and adopting the embryo’s versus sending them off to science was all the rage in pro-life circles. According to my Internet research, as of 2013 there were 3,500 adopted embryo babies born in the U.S.A. I’m sure the number is much higher now, but STILL! I feel a small thrill to be a part of this budding new alternative to having a family. Most go through adoption agencies, with intensive home studies and social workers. I didn’t do any of that. There are 200 infertility clinics in the USA that do embryo adoptions and my then-doctor happened to be one of them! After getting to know me for a year of trying the old-fashioned way—IUI’s with a sperm donor, he recommended this option to me. It took me a minute to say yes. A minute and six months. But I did and well, here we are. Here I am. Sitting on my screened in porch on the quintessential spring day, eating local strawberries with my laptop and beautiful belly bump in tow.

I never would’ve thought I’d be so happy and content during the unfolding of Plan C in life. But I am. Lots of people are. We dont’ get what we want. We cry, then wipe our tears, and the sweet mystery is this: there’s still so much happiness and gratitude left for the taking. Maybe even more, since much of the entitlement and expectations drop off after a while. It doesn’t all feel like forced capitulation anymore. I said yes—when I almost said no, to am embryo adoption. And why this doctor (who offers embryo adoptions!) versus the other clinic in town—a flip of the coin, at the time. Life is coming together in such an unexpected way. It’s my norm at this point and the moments of lamenting a more conventional path are small. I do long to find companionship in this journey someday, even now, and sweet “daddy moments” I observe well me up a bit… but it doesn’t take away from my current love story. Baby Eliot has my heart–even in utero, and being single has not compromised any of the love or anticipation that I feel, which puts me in the universal pool of motherhood: single, married, partnered, biological child, adopted at birth or as an organism. It’s all the same journey of love. Mine is connected to a pregnancy and motherhood, but I don’t think this kind of grace is limited to child-rearing. Rather, it’s having the courage to keep going; Plan C, D, E or Z — to keep choosing a love story … there are myriad options waiting on us.

Bambino Time / Take Two

Hello long lost blog. It’s been a while … a little over a year, to be exact. Well, in that little-over-a-year I got pregnant. So, that’s exciting! It’s a bit of a miracle story, how it all went down. Here’s the scoop:

After my last post I took a break for a few months and then saddled back up to the sperm donor sites last February. I went to Australia for a few weeks, came home and tried again. This time with shots and meds … the whole bit. Didn’t get prego but I did get discouraged and started to wonder if this was really my path.

At that point, May 2014, my doctor suggested an embryo adoption. This is where the potential mother adopts an embryo left over from another person’s IVF cycle. They are referred to as “snowflake babies,” which may be a bit cutesy for my personal sensibilities, but I digress. He recommended this as it’s a lot cheaper than IVF (around $12k versus $$40k) and I’d have a higher success rate, since I DID have post-40-year-old eggs. It was a lot to take in. After that appointment I jumped in a car with three girlfriends for a road trip to Asheville, NC, cried a bit, grieving the newest hand dealt—0 DNA versus 1/2 of my DNA, and then we started listening to 80’s music and cracking up and essentially, I put the whole baby drama aside.

I moved into a beautiful new house, played interior decorator for a few months, got on with my summer and courted a little around-the-world romance with a bloke I’d met in Australia.

And then.

I got the call. On Thursday, July 31st actually, two days before my 42nd birthday. That night I was hosting a party for 30+ people for visiting friends from Australia. My cousin from L.A. was coming in for the weekend. It was going to be a bustling birthday weekend!

“We have an embryo ready for you. Do you want it?”

“Uh…”

They sent me limited info, including: picture of the egg donor and her biological child. She is petite, hispanic, sweet smile and her child is beautiful (looks to be around six in the picture). They sent info on the sperm donor—profile from California Cryobank: Irish, dark hair and eyes, 5.11”, lawyer, plays guitar, good teeth, no picture. Not a couple. Both donors. Both want to be kept anonymous.

Of course I had so many questions. Mainly, who put this DNA together if it’s not a couple?! Apparently another woman did. Was she single, gay, married; why did she hand pick this egg and sperm donor? I don’t know her story. What I DO know is that she didn’t achieve pregnancy, and instead of trying again she decided to put her leftover embryo’s up for adoption.

Cut to: Me. At work, getting a voicemail from a nurse, whilst in-between clients, asking if I wanted this embryo.

I eventually said yes. We set an appt for two weeks later. And then I said wait. Too much, too soon. I wasn’t emotionally prepared for an IVF cycle—four months of daily inter-muscular hip shots, 3 vaginal inserts a day, 8 pills a day. And so much money … I held off until November, still a bit ambivalent but glad to know that there was an embryo out there, mine for the taking, if I wanted it.  Literally days prior to the revised appt (now in Oct) I decided to say YES to this unconventional option in front of me.

And I did it. A month of birth control, hormones, stomach and then hip shots, blood draws … all in preparation for the big ET –embryo transfer day.  My friend K went with me to the hospital.  I signed lots of papers, was given a Xanax, taken to a room with lots of nurses and my doc came in and implanted two embryo’s in my uterus. My nearest and dearest brought food and company during the four days of bed rest following the transfer. I took shots and suffered sore, bruised and lumpy hips. In the middle of the night on week two, when I got up to use the rest room I took a test, on a whim. I fell back asleep before I saw the results. The next morning whilst brushing my teeth I looked down (I’d forgotten I’d taken it) and lo and behold, two lines.

Still sleepy, I called my friend K. “I think I might be pregnant.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah, it’s two lines. OMG!”

And that was the grand moment of discovery.

I went to Arizona the next day for Thanksgiving break and told my family. I was happy but the fatigue was so unrelenting it was hard to feel much of anything, besides sleepy and zoned out. My family started to excite over the first “designer baby” in the family. I played happy too.

Meanwhile, I was having a little bit of buyers (or rather, psuedo-baby-making) remorse. I was so sore from the shots, tired beyond belief, moody and bloated from all the pills and the guy from Sydney lost interest after the pregnancy news … two weeks in and I already wanted my “old life” back! Be careful what you ask for.

My saving grace was history. I have a history of loving children, and of wanting them. On my faith journey I would pray that all that love and affection would kick back in. And finally, it did. When I started bleeding.

Six weeks in I bled. I tried not to worry. After three days of spotting it turned bright red, which is the opposite of okay when you’re pregnant. I left work in an emotional frenzy one afternoon for an emergency ultrasound, to see if the pregnancy was still viable. J, my loyal colleague, held my hand in the sonogram room as we waited TWO HOURS for my doctor to come in. The ultrasound showed an embryo sac. I cried tears of relief.

Two days later I bled profusely, worse than a menstrual cycle. Blood clots. Cramps. I was so scared, panicked really. I knew I was having a miscarriage but it was so confusing as my hormone numbers were so good two days earlier, the embryo sac was there, with my developing baby. My only hope was that it was a vanishing twin. I was miscarrying the second embryo. When we did the ultrasound—K holding my hand, both of us crying, the embryo sac showed up. So did a healthy little heartbeat! 147 bpm. What a strange sensation to be grieving and then rejoicing with the same set of tears.

It was a “vanishing twin” and although I was relieved with the sight of one healthy embryo, I grieved my second baby. All so surreal, really. Two babies for six weeks.

And then there was one. And there’s still one. With ear buds, developing vocal chords, a huge noggin and a strong heartbeat.

I’m now on week 13.  Baby is the size of a peach. Just a few more shots ALLELUIA, pills and vaginal inserts. Placenta is taking over and no need to artificially take care of the baby anymore. I’ve finally made it into the normal-pregnant-woman’s club versus the high-risk IVF pregnant one.  Next week I get the release from the infertility doctor and will start seeing my midwife from here on out.  Have gained lots of breast weight so far, but that’s about it … so more “porn star” than “pregnancy glow” at this stage as I’m still waiting for a little baby bump.  Dreaming up nursery themes, researching parenting philosophies and lamaze classes and feeling like a pregnant cliche, as I ate two jars of pickles JUST this past week!

Mama bear is thrilled in her core, that this little mystery miracle baby is living and growing and manifesting inside her; inside me. God willing, I’m having a baby when I turn 43.  Due date is August 6, 2015. My birthday is August 2, 1972. “I’ll be a grandma having a baby,” I joke with my friends.  Always a truth in jest …

Life is so strange. And I’m so very grateful.  Oh, and he’s a BOY! Here he is, week 13, showing off his junk.  Ultrasound was from this morning! I’m over the moon.

The Score

Negative Pregnancy Tests: 5 / Me: 0

I’m clearly lagging behind here.  The good news is that I feel a bit positive about it right now.  Maybe there is a plan that eludes my current sensibilities.  Thats what I’m banking on, anyway.  It’s getting exhausting to be chronically depressed and disappointed, so I’m trying a new tactic.

Here’s an update in this journey that I’ve affectionately named: The Everyday Life of a Sperm Sleuth.

I’ve asked exactly three people to be un-frozen sperm donors: a local good friend, a new African friend and a dear friend’s gay cousin, who lives out of state.   In each scenario I had a “buckle up” moment with the guy, and then plead my case.  I may be so bold as to say that you haven’t really lived until you’ve sat with a grad student from Ghana at a local coffee shop and popped the big question: May I have your sperm? I’ll pay you.

Yeah, I did that.  Three times.

For truly legitimate and thoughtful reasons, each of them said no.  But my Ghana friend now thinks Americans are even more audacious than he assumed when coming to this country, and we did go see Delivery Man together.  He rolls his eyes when I lament about my once-in-a-lifetime-shot at birthing a biracial baby.  I laugh when he rolls his eyes because Africans aren’t, culturally speaking, sarcastic.

I’ve not taken a true break until now.  I’ve intended to but the past few months I’ve made quarterback decisions to try again.  And by try again I mean scurrying about in the final pre-ovulatory days to find a new donor (goodbye days of thoughtful and prayerful dedication to my perfect sperm counterpart) and getting all the moving parts aligned: cyro tank fed ex’d, predicted ovulation sorted out and coordinating the schedules of my A-Team inseminators.  In a way, I’m getting a leg up on the multi-tasking that comes with children.

Also, it helps when life-beyond-trying-to-get-pregnant is happening.  I had a lovely, spontaneous trip to NYC a few weekends ago with a new friend.  I’m in Washington DC right now with old friends. And honestly, getting pregnant artificially has taken a back burner.  For now.  I’ve decided that my Christmas present to myself is a true little break (back into the medicine cabinet Mr. Thermometer) from temping and being an expert in the nuance of cervical fluids.

I’m assuming I’ll be back in the baby-making-game in 2014, but for now I’m wiping the scoreboard clean.  Let’s hope for a better season next year.

Keep Calm and Carry On

I’ve been avoiding my blog because I haven’t sorted out how to write about my recent disappointments.  The quick: I’m not pregnant. After five vaginal ultrasounds and anxiety-producing blood draws I got a “trigger shot” which is a shot that goes into the hip to promote ovulation. Then I went in the next day for the IUI.  When the doctor analyzed the sperm he determined that my donor had a low sperm count.  As in get-a-refund-low sperm count. In layman’s terms, only 7% of his little swimmers could swim in a straight line (to presumably meet the egg).  Earlier that day I’d made a quarterback decision to order another vial, same day delivery (aka $1,000) and have my friend E do a 2nd IUI the following morning, at home.  This was before I knew my donor was a dud.   Those 7% didn’t make it either morning.  I’m hoping to get a refund for the vial that was analyzed.  Unfortunately, I have to eat the cost for the other five vials, since the only analysis of those vials were my friends and I … well, looking at them.  I was upset.  Well, truth be told, I got a little crazy.  The doctor had me on nine hormone pills a day post IUI, for the two week wait.  When the nurse called me and told me I wasn’t pregnant and that the doctor was not available for a post-procedure consult, I lost the plot. I turned into an unhinged, desperate lady on the phone, accosting the messenger.

Are you telling me the doctor won’t talk to me?  I just spent #$^%& dollars (shamefully, I went there) at your clinic and now my body is all jacked up, I’m on all these hormones and I just want to talk to the doctor!  I’ll talk to him on the phone, I don’t care.  Doesn’t he OWE ME a follow up?!

I’m so sorry, but he doesn’t really do that.  Would you like to set up an appointment to meet again and talk about trying again?

Will that cost me money?

Well yes, it’ll cost the initial consult fee of $150.

I looked down at my arm, which was still bruised and hurting from the confirmation-you’re-not-pregnant blood draw earlier that day. The nurse had dropped the cotton ball when she was ready to pull the needle out and had me reach across the room to grab another one for her, with the needle in my arm.  It was an accident, but the needle moved in my arm when I moved and created an ache that I hadn’t experienced prior to that particular blood draw.

Are you serious?  He won’t just talk to me and let me know what he suggests now?  I just want to know if my eggs are good.  Was it solely the sperm?  Do I have fertility issues? How long until my body gets back to normal?  What about all these hormones?!  

I’m embarrassed to say that I was almost yelling by this point.  I wasn’t truly yelling, but I wasn’t just talking either.

Well, I uh can talk to the doctor and uh call you back.

I gathered the shred of composure I had left and told the nurse I’d collect myself and get back to her in a few days.

Then I walked into a client session.

The whole scene was not one of my better life moments.

That was a week ago.  Since then I’ve stopped all the extra hormones, decided to see a therapist for a little while and have slowly started to think about the next step.  I’ve decided to take this month off, mostly because of finances, but also for some sanity.  And perspective, as elusive as it is at times.

I’m sure all this sounds terribly dramatic for those of you that haven’t experienced infertility, or trying to have a baby on your own.  I think it would to me. I can hear the judge in my own head: get a grip; it takes a while; you can’t get pregnant if you don’t chill out and relax.  I know, I know.  And still … you know–if you’ve been down any semblance of this road, how crazy sneaks up on you.  It becomes a primal face-off: maternal desire meets unbridled emotion.

Longing and capitulation; then repeat.

Last night I made tapioca pudding, which is what I do when I’m feeling down or stressed.  The rhythmic slowness of stirring the milk, eggs, sugar and tapioca from liquid to pudding soothes me. The transformation of the elements offers perspective. I think, ultimately, this is what most spirituality and therapy boils down to: a reduction. In foodie terms a reduction is the process of thickening and intensifying the flavor …  I’m realizing that as I’m up against the most elemental parts of myself, everything does intensify. I’m being exposed to what I’m fundamentally made of; my relationship with impulse control, tenacity, trusting the process, trusting God, vulnerability, hope and renewal.  It all gets cracked open and exposed, with or without my consent. Recapitulation.  Last night I made pudding, which made me happy.  It was really good too, I might add.

I’m not really desperate or hopeless or unhinged, in the grander sense of the words.  I can pick back up, try again and maybe again, and life will take its course.  Right now I’m a student of my own process, learning what I’m made of and what I can endure.  That’s life-giving and edifying, in it’s own paradoxical way.

Recently I read this line by J.M. Barrie in his book The Little White Bird: Shall we make a new rule in life … always to try to be a little kinder than is necessary?

Kinder than necessary.  What a marvelous line.  Kinder than is necessary.  I love that line, that concept, because it reminds me that we carry with us, as human beings, not just the capacity to be kind, but the very choice of kindness.  Kindness to others, to ourselves, to God and the universe when they serve up the wrong order. In the face of primal rage, there’s the primal counterparts too — love and grace and the simpleness of kindness.

So I grapple with this and other existential truths while I’m researching other sperm banks, more pregnancy options, having drinks with friends, going to NFL games and laughing when things are funny.

Keep Calm and Carry On.  So cliche; so true.