Gravity.

My baby is currently sleeping soundly on my chest while I sit here listening to the hum of our white noise machine.

We attempted sleep training this week as she turned 5 months old.

For the most part, I’m a pretty crunchy mama. My wife is kind of the opposite. But she acquiesces to my parenting desires a lot of the time. We cloth diaper. We occasionally co-sleep. We’re going to try baby-led weaning. But she was very adamant that we get this little lady on some kind of schedule.

She slept through the night beautifully for the first 4 months. 9-10 through about 7am for the most part. Then – at 4 months – it was as if a hellish demon took possession of my kid at 2 and 5am and turned her into a terrorist who held sleep hostage for a boob ransom.

Plus sleep routines – including bedtime – became increasingly longer and more stressful.

So we let her cry.

I cried too. I felt like the worst mom in the world.

The first night it went on for 25 minutes.

The 2nd night was about 8 minutes.

Ever since we’ve laid her down awake for bed and she fusses for a few minutes (no crying) and falls asleep.

She still wakes up at 2 and 5am (sometimes earlier, sometimes later). We tried letting her cry through those but we live in a condo so I dont think our neighbors enjoy the middle-of-the-night cacaphony so we’ve (..I..) decided to continue nursing her when she wakes at night. I suppose an easy bed routine is better than nothing!

Her naps have gotten slightly better as a result (though some days are still awful) and I am hopeful we can work that out as she is a totally different baby when she is well rested.

Right now she’s supposed to be napping in her crib. Instead shes in my arms.

The gravity of her body resting against mine sometimes feels like a metaphor for parenthood in general. The gravity of all of the decisions I make for her constantly weighs heavy on my shoulders. Am I doing this right? Is she going to be okay? Will she be confident? Happy? Well adjusted? Assertive? Intelligent?

Do I read to her enough? Am I on my phone too much? Do I spend too much time at work? Could i be doing more to try to exclusively breastfeed? Is she hitting her milestones on time? Etc. Etc.

It’s a lot.

But it’s incredible.

She’s becoming a tiny person. And I’m her mother.

I.

Am.

Her.

Mother.

I am a person’s mother. 5 months in and I still feel like a phony when I say that.

I hope we’re doing this right.

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The rest of our hospital stay.

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind. I’m sitting here writing listening to the soundtrack of my breast pump churning and wheezing and the little peanut is across the room cooing in her Rock N’ Play (which has been a Godsend since this child won’t sleep in many other places). I’m hoping that her little chirps are just indicators of sweet dreams and not the signs of her waking as I’m not even close to being done everything I intended to work on this afternoon.

Plans.

Go.

Out.

The.

Window.

When you have a newborn.

I mean, I knew that. People told me that.  But – I still thought my child might be different.

I can’t believe she has been out of my body for more than two weeks. Three weeks ago, I would have struggled to recall what life was like before my big belly. I didn’t remember what it was like to be able to paint my toenails, or shave in the shower, sleep on my stomach, or savor the rich taste of a glass of merlot. Now I’m struggling to recall what those tiny kicks felt like, or the weekly drives to the doctor’s office for my nonstress tests, or the round fullness of my pregnant belly.

I miss it SO much, sometimes.

Don’t get me wrong: I love that she is lying across from me. I love her tiny noises, the way her mouth curls up into a smile randomly (and then uncurls just as I grab my phone to take a picture), or the way she purses her lips with milk dripping from the corners when I pull her away from my breast.

I love how she wags her head and shakes her fists when she doesn’t get food fast enough: it’s like she is already demanding a space for herself in the world…asserting her needs…helping me to understand life on her terms.

But its not the same as when she was inside. She’ll never be as safe and secure. I’ll never be quite as full of life. We’ll never be physically connected ever again. And that made me just a little sad when it all finally set in.

The first night home from the hospital was hard.

Well, the hospital itself was hard.

Hadley was born at 7am, and I didn’t get to hold her until about 6pm that evening (I think…everything was a blur at that point due to the sheer exhaustion of having been awake for almost two days straight with short cat naps in between). They wheeled me in to see her in the NICU for the first time around 9am, I think. I watched her through the glass dome of her incubator and was only able to hold her hand and push her pacifier back in when she began to cry (which made ME cry). The soundtrack of our first official meeting was the bubbling noise of her CPAP machine, and all of the beeps from the monitors she was hooked up to. She had a tiny bruise on one hand from where they tried to insert an IV but failed (and she had one to match on the other hand once they finally removed her IV).

I asked if I could hold her and the NICU nurse scolded me: reminding me that she needed that time in the incubator and that the doctor would tell me when I could hold her.

That was so hard. She was MINE – just mine – for nine months. I knew her rhythmic kicks and she knew my heartbeat. And all of the sudden she belonged to a NICU nurse and I was simply a visitor.

I had a really tough time with that entire experience. I felt like I didnt know my child when she came home from the hospital and it hit me like a ton of bricks when I finally considered how traumatic her departure from me was after her birth.

My labor was so fast and intense and she came rocketing into this world quicker than I had a chance to process. Then she was whirled away to be measured and assessed while I delivered the placenta and got stitched up.

I was so bone tired that I didnt really process what was happening:

That we didn’t get to delay her cord clamping to give her a few extra minutes to build up her iron supply.

We didnt get skin-to-skin right away to give us a chance to bond and get to know each other.

I didnt get to feed her right away to help us bond and help my milk supply to come in faster.

I really didn’t “meet” my daughter until much later.

I joked that they could have taken my baby and given me back another and I wouldnt have known the difference.

That sounds horrible, doesn’t it? What mother doesn’t instinctively know her baby. But I felt like I didn’t. And that made me very sad.

I know everything was done in her best interest. I know she is healthy and more importantly – alive – because of the efforts of that medical staff. But it was still hard and emotional.

Before she was released from the NICU, I was able to see her four more times. That evening around 6 they allowed me to feed her after a lactation consultant visited me in my room earlier in the day for a lesson on breast feeding and pumping (thank God for that woman because breastfeeding is harder than it looks….more on that, later).

We went back with both sets of our parents later that night and again in the middle of the night to breastfeed. We went back for one final visit the following morning to feed her and give her a bath. I thought I knew how to bath a baby, but apparently there was more to it than I knew (like: wash the face first and dont use the same part of the cloth to wipe their eyes twice).

Around 4pm that next day (Sunday as I would later learn…what a blur of a stay) they brought her back to my room. She was all bundled up in the standard hospital blanket with a purple knit hat. I still wonder who made that – it gave me some comfort that she was adorned with something cozy and personal during part of her NICU stay.

They let us know that night that her bilirubin levels were high (which means that she had some jaundice) and they recommended phototherapy which commenced on Monday and earned us an extra day in the hospital. Fortunately, they allowed us to “room in” with Hadley so we didnt have to leave her and we were all able to go home together on Tuesday.

If you’ve never experienced phototherapy for a newborn: it looks cool but is actually torture. She had to lay on the equivalent of a bright tanning bed with foam goggles and she had to be naked (sans a diaper) and be swaddled down to the surface of the light board.

She hated it and cried hysterically all day, which led to us frequently picking her up to feed and comfort her which led to an extra 12 hours with the light when they came to re-test her later that night. In the middle of the night she was pretty much over the whole ordeal and cried hysterically at which point I said, “screw it” and swaddled her (against the rules since her swaddled skin wasnt exposed to the light). She slept soundly for two hours at which point I woke up in a sweat, terrified that I hadn’t heard her in two hours (the longest we’d gone with silence before that on the light treatment was about 20 minutes) and I was to find her not breathing. Both she and my wife (who was sleeping on a cot next to her) were sound asleep. Evidently the swaddle session helped her to reset and I was able to get her to sleep for the rest of the night without any major issues. No more two hour stretches but I think she slept for an hour at a time which was great.

I was super nervous for her morning blood test after basically removing her from the light for two hours, but I wasnt torturing the kid any more than she needed to be: we all needed that sleep and she desperately needed that comfort after the rough start to her life.

Fortunately she passed both that as well as the following blood test and we were discharged that afternoon.

That Monday (the day of the phototherapy) was HARD. I didnt leave the room all day and it rained so it just left me feeling very down. It was also tough because we had almost hourly checks from various hospital staff throughout our weekend stay, but that stopped on Monday when I was discharged and just “roomed in” with my daughter. The peace was nice, but when you have a newborn (especially a sick one) it is nice to just talk to other people. It helped me maintain sanity and normalcy: even though I didn’t know any of the staff particularly well.

When I got home from the hospital I cried a lot the first few days. I thought I would transition gracefully into motherhood: I’ve wanted this my ENTIRE life. But everything made me cry. Signs of my pregnancy like the big U-shaped pillow on the bed that had been my best friend for the prior two months. Or the look of my deflated belly in the bathroom mirror complete with stretch marks that I hadn’t really seen as they were on the underside of my belly prior to Hadley’s birth. It looked like a basketball that had been used too hard in its final game and was now deflated – sitting on the sidelines.

Even the sight of Hadley’s bedroom made me sad. We decorated it in hopeful anticipation and having her home was so scary: I didnt know what she wanted or needed in those first few days, and everything was so overwhelming.

I also wasnt making enough for her to eat which was nerve wracking, and likely was related to the fact that I didnt feed her for the first 12 hours of her life. I’m still struggling with breastfeeding, but I think that warrants it’s own blog entry.

Despite all of these challenges and the hecticness with which her life started, the love I feel for this child is indescribable. Even though I get so overwhelmed when she cries (mostly because I never truly know the reason), I know that the reasons are so basic: food, sleep (or lack thereof) and comfort. That’s basically it. She is so innocent and full of possibility and hope and I want to keep that alive in her forever. I want to meet any need that she ever has before she has it. I want her to see the world as beautiful, and kind, and loving. I want to ensure that she never knows hunger or pain or heartache. I want to wrap her in my love every day for the rest of her life.

I guess that’s what  being a parent is, right? Loving and supporting your child through everything, and taking the bad moments on the chin: knowing there are more good ones to come.

If that’s not it: let me know when you figure out the secret, will you? 😊

In the interim: some pictures of our little love:

 

Baby shower, birthing class, and new crib (oh my).

I’m sitting in the glider in baby’s room side-eyeing the brother 1034D serger that is sitting on the desk across the room like the evil villian in a super hero movie just waiting for me to make my first move.

(Can you tell I’m dramatic? In all seriousness, though, new projects are HARD for me to start. I sew regularly – nothing fancy – and I really want to use this to make a few blankets and cloth diaper inserts that I found patterns for online, but I’m so intimidated by the threading and can’t figure out how to even slip my fabric underneath. I felt like I had maybe hopped up to Level 200 sewing, but feel like an novice all over again with this machine).

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(The offender in all its evil glory)

I’m going to commit to figuring it out and at LEAST sewing a test piece after I finish this entry. Hold me to it, blogging world. Make me show you the next time I post.

Anyway, our families threw us a beautiful baby shower two weeks ago at a local pizzeria. Unlike our bridal shower, it was very casual. Everyone dined on pizza and salad at their leisure along with wine, the best cake ever (from my family’s favorite local bakery) and homemade Italian cookies made by some of the women of my wife’s family.

We got to catch up with many people we hadn’t seen recently and got lots of great advice from both new and experienced mamas.

I have to say: there wasn’t a single moment when I felt like we weren’t every other couple in America who was getting ready to welcome a baby. No one asked how we got pregnant, or who the donor is, or anything that you wouldn’t typically ask a straight couple. Overall, the only people who seemed comfortable enough to ask us those questions throughout this process anyway have been close friends and family – so I’m not entirely sure why I was expecting that.

Despite being wonderful, it was an exhausting and slightly overwhelming day and four hours felt like it passed in 45 minutes. We didn’t really get any photos with any of our guests (or even as a couple with the exception of a few candids as we opened gifts) but my wife snapped this one afterward. The pose was intentional as we took the same one with my sister when she was pregnant with my niece. I want to put them side by side in a frame and get one made for each of us.

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I wish I had a photo to share of the baby’s room after the shower. My wife – a self proclaimed neat freak – was almost hyperventilating when all of the boxes and bags were unloaded after the shower. Fortunately, I’m a master organizer and it only took me 5 days to get everything unboxed, sorted, and put away. We are so fortunate to have such generous friends and family and – aside from clothes – really have everything we need for most of the first year of baby’s life. We also bought quite a few of our big ticket items ourselves (many via a local yardsale site, and others from Babies R’ Us as they wrap up their final days before closing). I actually just ran out last night to get a second convertible car seat (we have one infant car seat and two bases, but only thought to get one convertible car seat initially, which is silly as you can’t take it from vehicle to vehicle easily). It was a $300 Chicco Nextfit IX and ended up being $150 as it was marked down 50% at BRU.  Our other carseats and stroller are Britax (which we selected due to the superior safety ratings, but BRU didn’t have anymore Britax models and we read great reviews about this Chicco) and we have a wonderful neighbor who works for emergency services and is trained in carseat installation who offered to help us set everything up.

One of our FAVORITE Babies R’ Us finds was our highchair (which we registered for and promptly removed from our registry when we found it at Babies R’ Us). It is a Stokke Tripp Trapp High Chair (in the Walnut color) and it was initially $250 and we found one left at Babies R’ Us for $100 at the beginning of their going out of business sale. I couldn’t believe it, and can’t wait to try it out. It is designed to grow with baby and turn into a stool and even a child to adult chair once the tray and baby set (that we received as a gift from a relative) are removed.

We (mostly me as my wife already does a good job with this) are trying to be minimalist in our approach to baby gear and find items that can be reused and not tossed out, donated, or sold (though we are open to the last two when necessary). I really pushed her past her comfort zone when I insisted on cloth diapers and she is extremely skeptical but excited after seeing all of the cute patterns and different diaper designs. Since I’ll be home for the first three months, I’m going to have to work really hard to keep up with the laundry and prove that we can do this. I’m fortunate that if I sent anything up with enough solid evidence for my wife, she’ll usually support me, but I absolutely have to respect how neat she is and work hard to stay on top of the maintenance of the diapers so she doesn’t get overwhelmed and throw in the towel. Plus they’ll save us a significant amount of money, which we can use in other ways for this baby.

Our childbirth education class was last weekend: we were the first of four couples to arrive and were greeted by our instructor as we stepped off of the elevator to look around for our conference room. My wife was carrying the two bed pillows that we were instructed to bring and the woman asked if we were each expecting. When we said we were not, she asked if we were a couple, to which I responded, “Yes, but it’s just me who is pregnant. She’s just carrying.” Then I realized how awkward that sounded before I added…”the pillows, not the baby.”

Fortunately, the awkardness didn’t continue throughout the day, and the class was actually very pleasant (albeit terrifying at times) and we learned about breathing and relaxation techniques before touring the state-of-the-art hospital including the birthing rooms and postpartum wing of the hospital. It was kind of surreal standing in the room in which we would soon be welcoming our baby (or one just like it, at least).

While we were in class, my brother-in-law sat at our house and waited for our crib to be delivered. We arrived home to the delivery folks putting it together (an unexpected but much welcome surprise!) and we were able to put in the mattress, launder the bedding, and dress it up afterward. The finished product (which is a deep navy blue but is looking very black):

 

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(yes, yes, we know. Pillow and bear come out of the crib before use. Also: don’t mind the messy desk next door. It’s getting cleaned up and moved). 

The entire process of getting a crib was quite an ordeal (Long story short: We ordered our first crib from a company called Evolur via Amazon. It was slated to arrive in 5-8 weeks. About 4 weeks in the order was cancelled due to no inventory. Why they took the order in the first place is beyond me. The Amazon rep generously offered me free shipping if I wanted to order another crib on the spot while I was on the phone with her, but I had to explain to her that I did hours of research and couldn’t pick a crib on the spot, plus I already got free shipping as a Prime member). Then I wrote a long letter to Evolur basically explaining how disappointed I was and asking if they could double check their inventory. They didn’t find it necessary to even acknowledge my email. So I wouldn’t recommend furniture orders from either.)

The story has a happy ending though, and we are thrilled with the crib we DID get (not from Amazon or Evolur).

We’re waiting for our changing table and a toy box we’d purchased from that same local Yardsale site, as we hired a woman to paint them for us to match the crib. Once those arrive, we can finally start to put everything back together.

In the meantime, we have an ultrasound on Thursday, and I always hate to say this when people ask, but I really feel great overall. I get a bit of heartburn here and there, had some rib pain earlier in the pregnancy, had some nausea in the first 12 weeks, but nothing serious and nothing lasting. I would say the hardest part of this entire pregnancy (aside from the SUA diagnosis and routine fear about baby’s general wellbeing) was having two colds and not being able to breathe at night.

I do get a tad restless at night sometimes and have to pee pretty much all the time, but other than that I feel great and so incredibly fortunate. I’m sure the tough times are ahead, but I’m trying to enjoy every moment leading up to them (and we DID have our share of heartache throughout our IVF process and with our first pregnancy so I’m feeling extra fortunate for a calm 2nd and 3rd trimester so far).

Okay. Back to battle with that serger (and a VERY large mosquito that I just saw wandering around baby’s room before I lost sight of it and retreated from the room with my laptop before closing the door behind me). I guess I’m up for two wars this morning.

Wish me luck…

A nightmare in a dream.

“So everything looked great today,” the ultrasound tech said as she wrapped up our anatomy scan. “But I do have one TINY concern. Nothing to worry about at all. I’m going to have the doctor talk to you before you leave. Your baby is supposed to have two arteries and one vein going into the umbilical cord, but it only has one. No big deal.”

My heart sank.

I felt the way my niece must feel after she falls or bumps herself and I scoop her up and tell her she’s fine before she has the chance to react or cry. Stunned. Confused. Not worried? Kind of worried. Panicky.

My wife and I looked at each other, and I think my eyes started to well up a little. “Seriously, you guys. Happens all the time. Practically normal. You’re VIP today so I’m going to grab the doctor and he’ll come out to get you in the waiting room.”

My brother-in-law happened to work on a play with one of the doctors of this particular MFM practice, so he called her and asked if she could help to ensure that we were placed with my sister-in-law’s favorite ultrasound tech (since she just had my niece two years ago and basically knew them all.)

My wife and I walked silently to the waiting room, and I began frantically googling once my butt hit the chair.

Still birth.

Heart defects.

Chromosomal Abnormalities. 

Low birth weight. 

Kidney problems. 

My face must have registered my panic. “You need to turn your phone off and stop googling, now.” My wife glared at me.

By the time the doctor called us back, I already had a list of questions ready. He explained that while Single Umbilical Artery (SUA) is often found in conjunction with other problems – including chromosomal abnormalities – it is often found on its own and in those cases it is simply a variation of normal. Pregnancies progress with no problem and babies are born perfectly healthy. Of course, if SUA is caused by another factor: it could lead to a host of other problems, but he recommended a fetal echocardiogram and monthly growth scans and sent us on our way.

“Do you think we should hold off on buying the crib?” my wife asked. My eyes welled up. “I mean, just in case…you know…”

Nope. No way.

This is my baby. This is our baby. There are no guarantees with pregnancy. Ever. If this child isn’t meant to be ours forever, it is at least ours now and I plan to prepare as though it will live a very long life. And that means purchasing the convertible crib we picked out that will follow our child into adulthood once it turns into a full sized bed.

(Side note: it still took me a month to buy the damn crib, but not because of the SUA. I’m partially indecisive and partially a procrastinator, but the crib is officially on order as of two days ago.)

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An appointment with our regular OB the following day, provided more of the same information.

Variation of normal.

Early testing showed no signs of chromosomal abnormalities.

Fetal echo and growth scans will help us monitor things.

A week later, we went in for the fetal echocardiogram which was done at our local MFM by a pediatric cardiologist from one of the leading children’s hospitals in our area, and she said that baby’s heart is looking PERFECT and she has no cause for concern. She confirmed what two other doctors (and my best friend, a Nurse Practitioner) all also confirmed: this appears to be a stand alone case of SUA with no other complicating issues, and we have every right to hope for a normal pregnancy and birth.

(although my friend added that we should likely not expect to go past my August 12th due date, as research suggests that babies with SUA should be delivered on or before their expected due dates to prevent further complications and since we are 100% certain of the due date because of our IVF procedure, I can expect that we’ll be meeting this kid in 113 days or less).

What a rollercoaster ride pregnancy is.

We started out fearful. Afraid to get our hopes up. Anxiously waiting.

For the 12th week.

For the heartbeat.

For the kicks.

For the week of viability.

And throughout that process, the little milestones set your heart on fire. Those first kicks. (oh, those first kicks). Those ultrasound pictures. Those sweet little baby belongings that pile up in the guest bedroom (that is really no longer a guest bedroom) waiting to be washed and sorted and put into the baby’s closet and drawers.

Then you get some kind of crazy news. Either a health problem for you, or a potential complication for baby.

And if you’re lucky, it resolves itself.

Gestational diabetes.

A hole in the heart.

A cyst.

Hypertension.

Sometimes it doesn’t. If you’re lucky, you still get to walk away healthy at the end with a sweet little babe to raise.

Then there are the ones that don’t walk away. Either at all, or with a baby. And those hurt my heart and scare me the most.

Bu then you feel another kick.

And everything feels right in the world.

Overall I feel so incredibly blessed. I have wanted this experience for longer than I can remember.

My mom said that when my sister was born [I was 17 months old at the time] she would find me trying to “breastfeed” my own dolls like she would feed my sister. When I got a little older, I would stuff a rolled up blanket under my shirt and tell her I was pregnant.

When I got older, still, I got this doll: it was Magic Nursery doll (shout out to my fellow 80s/90s mamas!) and it came in this pouch that you could wear on your belly (like a backwards backpack of sorts) and when you pushed a button it would mimic kicking sensations). I mean…in retrospect, it was probably a bad idea and maybe contributed to the rise in teen pregnancy rates in my generation…but I thought it was SO AMAZING and anxiously awaited the day when I’d feel it for real. I was like…8-years-old, y’all.

My sisters and I used to play “house” all the time as well. I was ALWAYS the mom, and had a plethora of children of assorted ages.

I get that having a baby is half of the process. Raising a human is the larger – inevitably more important half – and over the years, my dreams of baby kicks and snuggles grew to include teaching a toddler about being kind, and teaching a elementary school child to learn, and love art, and volunteer. Now my dreams even include watching a young adult graduate from high school, college, grad school, and whatever level of education and reach any level of success that his/her heart can possibly dream of: enjoying life and friends and art and culture and every piece of joy that the world has to offer in the process.

But first, I can’t wait to snuggle them.

And now…I can’t wait for that next kick.

Every day I realize how lucky I am. I try to remember to say a prayer of gratitude every night (not always successful, but I’m working on it). This was my dream. This IS my dream. And I am so thankful for it all. And with that, I leave you with what was my favorite printed shot from the anatomy scan session.

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(have you EVER seen such a cute little foot?)

A letter to my baby.

Dear Zophia (although that isn’t your name, and might be even stranger if you end up being a boy, it’s what you’re Mommy named you a few weeks ago, so it’s what we’ve been calling you in our texts to each other. If you’re wondering why…..don’t. I’m honestly not sure.)

Today you’ve been growing inside of me for sixteen weeks and five days. Technically, I’m nineteen weeks and three days pregnant with you, but the way that is all measured is really funny to me.

Some days, it feels like you’ve been a part of me forever: almost as if I’ve never worn pants that button at the waist, and I’ve always approached medicine with trepidation – terrified of what it could do to your tiny developing body: no matter how congested and sick I feel.

Other days, this process feels as though it’s taking forever, as I longingly stare at the wine cabinet in the corner of our living room, with my phone open to The Bump app, as I scan it to learn more about our most recent developments. I stand in front of the mirror and push my shirt down around my growing belly and imagine how much of that bump is comprised of you. I wonder where you are curled up as I poke and prod my belly, hoping you’ll tap back and remind me that you’re in there.

Last week, you did for the first time. I’d felt sensations that reminded me of bubbles and based on what everyone had told me, I’d figured it was you moving around. Then, on Wednesday evening, I was sitting with your mommy on the couch – eating dinner after a very long day – and I told her I thought I’d felt you move. A moment later, you kicked me with an intensity that I hadn’t felt before (and have longed to feel, since) and she was able to put her hand on my belly long enough to feel it, too. I felt you again and my eyes must have widened, as she looked at me and said, “that was a kick, wasn’t it?”

Since that day, you’ve only kicked me lightly, and now I’m much more aware of those sensations and I try to stop and enjoy them. Sometimes I think you know that, and like any child trying to tease their parents, you stop just when I get excited – leading me to wonder if I was just experiencing gas bubbles.

I wonder what you’re going to look like all the time. Next week, we’re going to have your anatomy scan: we’ll see all of your organs close up (well – almost all of them as we’re hoping to keep your sex a secret until you’re born), and I’m so excited to see your face again. I know you won’t look like me, and sometimes that makes me a tiny bit sad, but then I remember how much you’ll look like your beautiful mommy and I smile. Both she and our donor have curly hair, so I’m expecting to have to learn how to brush and style curls – a modest challenge for your mama who has had straight auburn hair her whole life. Your mommy straightens her curls every other night: pulling and ironing each curl into straight submission. You can do that too, if you want to, but I hope you love every part of yourself the way I already do: every hair, freckle, inch of your skin.

I hope you grow up to be happy. The world is sometimes a scary place, but I plan to expose you to as many of the happy and loving parts as I possibly can, so that you never know darkness more than you know light. When you experience the scary parts of this world, I promise to always remind you of your strength, your voice, and your heart – living in this family, I know you’ll have a steady voice and a good heart.

Speaking of this family: you’re going to love it. In addition to me, you have a really amazing mommy. Just tonight, she was out in the snow cleaning both of our cars so that I could get to work with no trouble in the morning. That’s pretty typical: she had a day off from work today, so she cleaned our entire house from top to bottom. She works so hard so that we can all be comfortable, she she must ask me 10 times a day how you are doing and if I’ve felt you move. She is patient, and quiet and will teach you so much about sports: I can say with total confidence that you’ll learn much more from her than almost all of your friends will from their dads. She’s a fantasy baseball champion (four years in a row now, but don’t remind her – she can be cocky about it!), and she follows football almost as closely. If you want to know about hockey, you have three uncles and an aunt who are total fanatics, and a Pop Pop who can rattle off stats about almost any sport you can think of. In fact, he can rattle off random facts about almost anything: he’s a trivia whiz, and will undoubtedly teach you lots of things about different topics. You have a mom mom who already loves your two cousins fiercely, and uses her precious vacation time after driving two hours just to watch them while your aunt goes to work. I hope she can retire sometime soon, although she’ll always be doing something (probably offering to watch you, if she does. She’s really excited that you’re going to live so close to her…she asks about you all the time). On the other side, you have another Pop Pop (who we’ll have to watch as I have a feeling he’ll try to teach you some pranks and….probably inappropriate jokes) but he’ll absolutely make you laugh when he says something unexpected. Your Nana always corrects him (she is very sweet and polite), and in addition to helping you to become a good person, she’ll teach you how to make all kinds of delicious Polish cookies like her mom (Great Nana) used to make. Although Great Nana isn’t with us anymore, I’m confident that she helped bring you to us: I would tell you that you’d love her, but I think you already do.

Finally: going back to our little family of four, in addition to me, you, and Mommy, you will have an amazing little guard dog – Barley. She’s kind of temperamental, and if you lay under a blanket and she decides to lay with you, don’t move any of your extremities until you lift them above the blanket: otherwise she’ll think it’s some kind of a monster and try to attack it. I may have had a toe or two nipped by her, but I swear she’s just trying to protect us. I ask her where you are sometimes: they say that dogs can sense babies, but she hasn’t let on that she knows you’re coming, yet. One time, a few weeks ago – when I was sick with the stomach virus – she stayed by my side for hours, even though your Mommy was also sick, and she’s usually Mommy’s best bud. I can only imagine that she knew I needed her (although we’ve also speculated that she sensed that Mommy had a fever and she was avoiding that), but either way: you can expect to be part of the group she guards with ferocity, and I hope your chubby little baby hands aren’t too hard on her curly fur.

We’re starting to prepare your nursery: since we won’t know your sex for a while still, we decided on a neutral color theme: gold and navy (which I just realized as I was writing this, is just like your Pop Pop’s favorite football team: Notre Dame. Clearly, though, it’s not why we chose it…especially since your Mama’s loyalty lies with a different school. But whether we like it or not, Pop Pop will definitely still try to teach you the Notre Dame fight song – so I guess I better start singing it to you now…). Some people have told us that it seems girly, and other’s have assumed you’re a boy because of it. This is why we’re keeping your name a secret until we have you snuggled in our arms: we love our (your) friends and family, but they can have some strong opinions (you probably will, too). That’s totally fine: but right now, we are just trying to figure out what is best for you, and we already second guess ourselves at least 100x a day: no need to add more stress to that.

Sweet baby, there is so much more I want to tell you, but I’ll save it for another letter on another day. Until then, please don’t be afraid to move around and kick me. I’ll admit: it did scare me the first time, but since then I’ve looked forward to it. I just like reminders that you’re still close by (I mean, aside from the app updates and my ever-growing belly…)

We love you very much. See you in 144 days if you come on your due date (or somewhere around 151 days if you take after me…)

Love You Always,

Mama

Champs.

My beautiful, strong, amazing wife made it through her retrieval today with flying colors. They pulled a really solid number of eggs, and we are waiting on a call tomorrow morning from the embryologist to find out how many of them were fertilized. I don’t know why, but I thought we’d leave knowing more – like how good the eggs looked, but we’ll know so soon that it’s not too bad.

We arrived at the clinic at 7:30 for her 8am appt, and we knew I’d be taken back at 8:30 for bloodwork and ultrasound. She signed in when we got there, and I set up my laptop to get work done – assuming we’d be waiting a bit, and my wife walked away to use the bathroom and a nurse came out and started calling my name. Since I hadn’t yet signed in myself, I didn’t respond and someone else then came out to ask if I knew my name was being called. They later explained that the doctor had a few moments before going back to start the two retrieval procedures he had lined up, so they wanted to take advantage of our earliness to squeeze in my ultrasound before he was tied up. I was so confused at that moment, though, and I didn’t know if I’d see my wife before her procedure. I just wanted to kiss her goodbye and tell her I loved her and was being escorted through one door for my ultrasound as she was being escorted into another across the room to wait for her procedure, and we were being separated while waving to one another like a scene in a sappy love movie.

After I composed myself, the doctor (not our usual guy, unfortunately) came in for my ultrasound. He popped in the wand with record speed and told me immediately that my uterus looked beautiful and that the fluid that had shown up on my last ultrasound was gone and my lining was at 10mm (which he was very pleased with). After he wrapped up, I met with a nurse who drew a blood sample and discussed my new medication calendar (which included the introduction of an oral steriod to prevent my body from rejecting the embryo) and progesterone in oil (a viscous liquid that is injected intramuscular-ly with a very long needle) in addition to my estrogen pill, prenatal vitamin, and baby asprin (a regimen I’ve been on for a few weeks, now).

I ended up back in the surgical waiting area with enough time to see my wife before her procedure (which was AMAZING) and after about 45 minutes of waiting (only about 20 of which were for the actual procedure) the doctor came out to tell me the results, followed by a nurse who brought me back to see her.

She was groggy for the first few minutes, but otherwise great. No major pain (just some abdominal cramping, which we expected) and she’s been chugging water and gatorade all day to try to keep herself hydrated and prevent the OHSS. She also has to monitor her weight as a key indicator of OHSS is rapid weight gain due to water retention, so I am keeping a close eye on her (not that she needs me as she’s tough as nails).

Tonight, I had my first progesterone shot (which I described above). We watched several videos on administering the shot, and followed tips that we found from fellow bloggers and online forums:

  • Iced the area for 5-10 minutes prior to injection
  • Warmed the bottle of the medication in a cup of warm water (it is an oil-based shot, and typically oils are more viscous at colder temperatures and become more thin and pourable at higher temperatures). That being said, we used warm water – not hot – as I wasn’t trying to cook my muscle tissue with hot sesame oil.
  • Laid down on the bed with some relaxing music (which was Rhianna for me tonight, haha)
  • Rubbed the area for a few moments afterward

I wanted to take a picture from my perspective of the shot, but my wife yelled at me because she was nervous so – no photo. Then I got nervous and began to dread the shot in the seconds leading up to it piercing my skin – though I’d been feeling fairly nonchalant about it all day. Turns out – the seconds of worry were for naught, as I literally could not feel the shot. Like – I kind of felt it pierce skin, and then I asked her what she was waiting for because I was starting to get nervous and she said, “I’m done!”

I totally thought she was kidding, but it was so easy and painless (and I am a HUGE baby when it comes to pain). I honestly think the ice helped a lot and where she injected the shot as well. They say you can inject the shot into any muscle, but the upper, outer quadrant of your buttcheek is the best place. Sooo…that’s my story. Hope the details help someone else to have a painless shot, too.

(Though I told my wife I’m partially nervous that she injected it into the wrong place and I’m going to end up with an issue from the oil in the wrong part of my body…but she swears it’s right).

So….5 day holding pattern. Monday is the big transfer and I don’t expect that much will happen between now and then.

We still have our eyes on that house, but are sitting tight to see how this all pans out, first. Still thinking of everyone else out there and hoping for good news for you all.

embryosinfavor

Donor decisions.

So we are cancelling one of our two upcoming fertility clinic appointments as we think we’ve narrowed down our search to the place that will (hopefully) help us make a baby in the near future. My best friend happens to work for the hospital with which this particular clinic is affiliated and highly recommended it before I began any of my online searches (did I mention that my best friend is a nurse practitioner in the women’s health field and her fiancee is a gynecologist? She is my go-to for all lady issues and has been AMAZING during this process because she seems to always know the answers to my questions before I know the questions themselves. More on her later…)

In addition to the fact that the bestie works for the hospital with which this clinic is affiliated, my own gynecologist recommended them (I go to a different practice than the one at which my friend works – I love asking her questions, but I think it would be weird opening my legs to her…though she’s told me plenty of times that “a vagina is a vagina”), and the lesbian couple with whom my wife and I had dinner a few weeks ago used this practice and got pregnant on their first try with this doctor (after trying for a while at home). We’re pretty stoked about the upcoming visit, and feel pretty confident that this is the practice we’ll be using to have a baby.

In the meantime, I’ve been casually perusing (read: incessantly searching) the database of the sperm bank we think we’d like to move forward with, and have about 20 favorites flagged to do more research on. We plan to reach out to the bank once the date gets closer for more in-depth info on our choices.

When we first discussed the possibility of having kids, we always knew I’d be the carrier. I’ve wanted to experience pregnancy for as long as I can remember (it was never NOT an option, really), and my wife is the total opposite (she says its a body sacrifice that she isn’t willing to make). We considered the idea of asking one of her two brothers to be our donor and attempt at-home inseminations or in-clinic IUI, however, one of her brothers who initially offered before we got married changed his mind (he and his wife just had a baby and I think they are afraid that it will complicate things for their daughter which I can certainly understand) and we aren’t terribly close with her other brother and we felt funny asking. So we began to discuss more and more the possibility of using donor sperm. At first, I was completely averse to the idea: I wanted my babies to understand from where (and from whom) they came and understand their complete family history, genetics, etc. What I didn’t realize, though, is how much of that is available through donor databases and now that I have been searching, I’m kind of excited by the idea of getting to select someone who has certain traits and characteristics and a particular background to help create our kids. It’s like…match.com, but for genetic traits and characteristics. And baby pictures. SO. MANY. BABY PICTURES.

I mean, if you’ve seen a bunch of baby pictures of someone, and you know about their hopes and dreams, and you know a little about their background and genetic makeup…you KIND OF know them right?

Then I tell myself: it doesn’t matter. This baby will be mine, and my wife’s. We will raise it, love it, nurture it, and support it: where it got 50% of its genetic makeup doesn’t matter. Or does it? I’d love to hear the perspective of someone who conceived with donor sperm. Am I crazy? Did you ever think this? Did it completely dissipate as your baby grew?

The other thing I am stuck on now, is whether or not to fixate on the idea of identifying an “open” donor or not. So sperm banks appear to have truly anonymous donors, as well as “open” donors with whom the child could have at LEAST one (more if both parties agree) communication with the donor when they turn 18. I like the idea that if my kid ever wanted to, they could at least ask the questions and perhaps get an answer or two – if not a relationship with this person with whom they share DNA. Again, I’m not sure if this matters. I don’t know anyone who was the offspring of someone who used donor sperm (nor a I close with anyone who was adopted to ask) so I don’t know if this is just me in my own head, or if it’s a realistic fear.

Another thought that’s been floating around my mind heading into tomorrow: St. Patrick’s Day. My family is predominately Irish (especially on my dad’s side) and I have always felt a connection with Irish-American culture, and I wonder if my sharing of that culture of my children will be enough if they don’t also share that blood-link to my Irish roots. If we go the route of reciprocal IVF (where I would carry my wife’s embryo) and don’t select a donor with a similar ancestry as me, my kids very well may NOT be Irish by blood – but will they still feel that connection to Irish music and food? Will they still feel that sense of belonging at Irish celebrations? And again…does it matter if they feel loved? I’m really torn.

Would love some insight, here.