My Family Took Extra

I’ve always wanted to be a mom.  But for a while I thought I might not be able to be one.  This is a story about that.  (…and it’s also a shameless plug for my friend, who is awesome.)

Once upon a time, in another life, a doctor with very large eyebrows told me that I had cysts all over my ovaries and I might not ever be able to have children.  It was one of the worst moments of my life, and it was the beginning of a whole chapter of other terrible moments, many of which I have no interest in reliving.

To be honest, it’s hard to describe infertility to people who haven’t been through it.  It seems so easy from the outside to just believe it’ll happen someday, to think there’s no real reason to worry about it because lovely people always get lovely babies.  (Not that I’m all that lovely, but I would have settled for average babies, too.)

And it’s a particularly funny thing to talk about infertility after the fact.  It’s like telling a ghost story and starting it with “Just so you know, everyone lives and the ghost was just a dog or something.”  All the suspense is gone.  All the angst seems silly.

But when you’re in it, it feels never-ending.  It feels deeply terrifying, and profoundly lonely.  My first blog, one so personal that I only shared it with strangers, was about that time.  Every entry chronicled my struggle to conceive, to keep my spirits up, and to not glare at pregnant women I passed on the street.  All the negative tests.  All the failed treatment plans.  All the tight smiles when people asked when we’d have kids.

Ultimately, here’s what it took for me: One year of trying, several months of strict dieting, a couple rounds of fertility drugs, two hours of waiting in line on Christmas day to get a refill of the fertility drugs I’d carelessly left at home, and a lot of luck.  In sum: it took a little extra.

For my friend Kaeleigh, who started our friendship as one of those very strangers reading my blog, it took a lot more: Three years.  Drugs.  IUI.  IVF.  A lot extra.

Now I’ve got two perfect children, and she’s got one with another on the way.  We got our happy ending/beginning.

But here’s the thing.

Kaeleigh is, like, a way better person than I am.

When I had my first child, I stopped writing in that blog, because I no longer needed it to feel ok.  It was just an outlet for my thoughts and feelings about my own journey, and I considered that journey completed.

Kaeleigh, on the other hand, continued to build her blog, because it was never just about her.  It’s about everyone who struggles.  It’s about community and support and awareness and love.  (It’s http://unpregnantchicken.com by the way, if you want to check it out.)

And a lot of people really responded to her voice.  Her platform basically exploded.  She has been asked to speak, published articles, even been on TV.  She’s amazing.

And now, most recently, she published a children’s book, and that book is really special.

It tells the sweet story of a little boy who, like our own kids, took a little “extra” to create.  He’s trying to figure out what that means, and wondering if being “extra” means he has extra powers, like a superhero.  His mother laughingly explains to him that it just means they had to take a few extra steps to be able to have him.  But the part that always gets me, that makes me feel validated and seen even if just by a fictional, 2-dimensional child, is when the little boy acknowledges his mom’s extra patience and effort in getting him by saying she’s “extra”, too.

Here’s my point.

You should buy this book.

Buy it here.

Buy it now.

Whether you have a kid that took “extra”, be it fertility drugs or adoption or something else, or you want to explain to your kid how different families come to be, or you just enjoy a sweet story, it’s a really great book written by a really great person who has really great hair.  (The hair part is irrelevant, but still true.)

And that is all I have to say to you today.

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How to Care for a Newborn, According to my Two-Year-Old

After “How’s he sleeping?”, the number one question I get is how Bunny’s dealing with a new baby in the house.  Well, don’t worry everyone, she’s just as in love as I am, and she’s doing great.  In fact, I think she’s got some tips for other big sisters who might be wondering what to do.

How to care for a newborn, according to my 2-year-old:

  1. The first thing you need to know is that parents constantly lose track of their babies. Hold them accountable by asking where the baby is every time you wake up in the morning, every time they come get you from nap, and also any time the baby is in a different room.  If they give you an unsatisfactory answer like “He’s sleeping in his crib, honey; he’s fine”, make sure you run around the house shouting “BABY!?  BABY!?” until they show you where he is.
  2. Babies love it when you share your food with them. Any time you are eating a snack near a baby, hold some of your food out to them.  If for some reason they do not take the food, help them out by putting your food in their mouth for them.  If your parents inexplicably try to stop you from doing this, fight them!  It’s VERY important!
  3. Mechanical swings are notoriously unreliable. If your baby brother is in a swing, keep it going by pushing it manually.  Ignore the loud and angry whirring noises it makes when you do this.  If pushing manually does not work and the baby starts to cry, do your best to climb into the swing to comfort him.  You will definitely fit.
  4. In general when the baby cries, the best way to comfort him is to shove something at his face. It doesn’t really matter what.  A pacifier, a toy, that snot-extracting bulb you saw Mama use when he was sick, or just whatever is lying around.  Again, if parents attempt to hinder you, fight back.  They have no idea what they’re doing.
  5. A huge source of concern for babies is whether they have all their facial features and body parts in place. Reassure them by taking the time to point out their nose, mouth, ears, hair, eyes, belly, and butt to them.  Jab hard at all these features so they know for sure where they are.
  6. Finally, whenever the baby is on someone’s lap, make sure he has company! Babies get lonely on laps, and they love to be readjusted to accommodate you.  Once there, give him adorable snuggles.  Your parents will find it so cute that for a short period of time after that they will let you get away with whatever you want.

Bunny sincerely hopes that this helps any future big sisters out there rise to the occasion.  It’s a tough job raising babies, but someone (other than the useless parents, obviously) needs to do it!

Halloween Firsts

As I’m sure you all know, yesterday was Halloween.  For us, it was a Halloween of firsts.  I shall endeavor to describe these firsts by family member so that you can get a fun glimpse of our night, but since at least a handful of those reading this are strangers on the internet, I’m going to use code names so as to decrease the probability of you hunting us down and slaughtering us in our sleep.  Not that I don’t trust you, Internet Strangers!

I don’t, though.

So my husband shall henceforth be known as The Hubs, my toddler shall be Bunny, and the newborn is stuck with the embarrassing moniker of Squishface.  A reminder: I have absolutely no control over the nicknames I give my family members.

With that out of the way, let’s proceed:

Squishface’s Firsts

Well, this one’s easy: Squishface was only born like three weeks ago, so this was his Very First Halloween Ever.  I’d say he rose to the occasion.  I put him in his parrot costume and he promptly spit up all over it.  I cleaned that up and then he was pretty much like, “Alright, well, that was all the trouble I had in me for tonight.  Carry on.”  And then he went to sleep for the rest of the evening.  Very successful holiday!

My Firsts

I love Halloween, and I love to celebrate it.  You’d think that after 27 years of celebrating the crap out of it, there would be no firsts left for me.  Well, you’d be wrong!  See, apparently, in the Midwest, they have this phenomenon called “weather”?  Have you guys heard about this?  I’m from California, so I have never, ever, in my life had to take this “weather” thing into account when picking my Halloween costume.

So that’s how my daughter and I ended up as pirates with skirts and bare shoulders on a night that the temperature was in the 30s.  We both had to wear coats that did not match our costumes at all, which hurt my artistic sensibilities.  Fortunately, we were clearly not the only ones in the neighborhood that faced such a dilemma, and everyone handing out candy was well-trained in identifying costumes based solely on the leg and head portions of the outfit.  Still, lesson learned!  Next year we’re all going as nice, warm Wookies.

Bunny’s Firsts

Since Bunny is a very grown-up two now, and since we actually live in a real neighborhood instead of an apartment building for the first time in her life, we decided that this was the year that she could start trick-or-treating.  Explaining the concept to her, however, was not smooth sailing.  In her defense, she hadn’t gotten a nap that day.  So, really, the whole endeavor was doomed from the start.

First of all, she did not understand why she was supposed to wear a costume, and she was not on board with the idea (Pun intended!  Because she’s a pirate, remember?  Get it?  Eh?).  She threw a fit and I had to appease her by brushing her teeth, because she’s a weird kid.

Then there was the issue of actually laying out the mechanics to her.  We went to the first house and urged her to knock.  She stared blankly.  We knocked for her and then urged her to say “trick or treat”.  She stared blankly.  Candy was given.  We urged her to say “thank you”.  She stared blankly.  We thanked the person for her and they closed the door.

Close enough!

We repeated this at approximately half a dozen more houses, and then we hit a snag.  We knocked on a door and nobody answered.  I shrugged and started walking away, holding Bunny because she’d given up on the walking thing about four houses ago.  But by this time, Bunny had started associated knocking on doors with candy-getting, and no candy had been gotten.  So she started throwing the second fit of the night and I had to try to explain to her that there are houses in the world that don’t contain a bowl of candy for her.  This was not a reality she was prepared to accept.

The rest of the evening was downhill from there (or uphill, if you’re one of those (but if you are, I’ll fight you)).  Despite the fact that every other house we went to did indeed give us candy, the trust had been broken.  Also, it was cold.  And as soon as it got dark, my street was suddenly swarming with cars filled with costumed children of every variety, and they soon flooded the streets.  It was madness.  So I dragged my crying toddler through the mob and back to our house where some carefully-selected YouTube videos finally appeased her.  All in all, she lasted about half an hour out there.  Not a trick or treating prodigy.  Oh well.

The Hubs’ Firsts

Lastly, I just want to give a shout out to my husband for wearing a piratey bandana for maybe an hour and a piratey hat for like fifteen minutes.  This is the most costumey he has ever been!  We are making progress!  Next year maybe a T-shirt or something?  I can dream.

The Aftermath

When all was said and done, my mom, who is awesome and a Halloween champion, made us a dinner of mummy calzones and spiderweb rice crispy treats.  Both were delicious.  So I guess what I’m trying to say is all’s well that ends well?  I had fun, anyway.

Happy Halloween, everybody! 🙂

Birthing Saga SparkNotes

Ok, so it’s been a little while.  Sorry about that.  I was having a baby or whatever.

Here’s a recap of my life in the last few weeks:

Pre-baby

First of all, my baby came a week late.  Which was very rude.  So I was not a happy camper.  This stage can best be summed up by some actual things that I said:

“I think I’m probably going to be pregnant forever.  This is just my life now.”

“I’m going to go put on my most emo maternity clothes.”

“I drew a frowny face on my stomach to try and make it a more hostile environment, but it doesn’t seem to be working.”

Baby Day

Finally, we scheduled an induction.  It was a huge relief to have an end date and time.  And even though an induction was not what I originally wanted, I started to get really on board with the idea.  I had plans to get plenty of sleep, have a nice, relaxing morning, eat a big, delicious breakfast, and then leisurely drop my toddler off with a friend and arrive at the hospital refreshed and ready to go.

So of course my boy decided to wake me up with hard contractions at 3am.  I guess all he needed was a deadline.

We rushed to the hospital, 2-year-old and all, and I was extremely nervous about how she was going to react to seeing me in so much pain.  Fortunately, she’s got the empathy of a sponge, because once we gave her Mario Kart on the 3DS she could not care less about Mama’s screaming.  Good to know.

(And don’t worry, our friend picked her up before things got too real.)

Now this is a public blog, so I won’t go into too much detail about the labor, but you know how these things go.  Pain, yelling, pushing, and then suddenly there’s a person in the world that wasn’t there before.  And he’s the most beautiful thing in the world.

Post-baby

Here are some things I’ve learned since then:

  • I was wrong about my daughter being the tiniest creature in existence. The little hands and toes that seemed so dainty to me before now seem enormous.  And she’s so sophisticated!  I mean, forget walking and talking, this kid can stay awake for more than half an hour!  Can you say prodigy!?
  • I have no control whatsoever over the nicknames I give my children. I call my oldest Bunny.  Why?  I don’t know.  She neither looks nor acts particularly bunny-like.  I have no affinity with bunnies in general.  I just started calling her that one day and never stopped.  Then again, it’s kinda cute because my husband and I call each other Bear, and I was hoping this baby would get another animal nickname so that together we could be a happy little woodland family.  But, nope!  Apparently, his name is Squishface.
  • Being a family of four is awesome, and totally worth the wait. 🙂

My Toddler is a Con Artist

So my daughter is tiny.  Like a dainty, adorable elf-creature.  She’s got lots of arm and leg, but her torso is basically the same size it has always, always been.  I’m not joking: last Sunday I was telling someone about her perpetual petiteness and they tried to call me out on it by asking what size clothing she wears.  I turned out the tag on her shirt and it was size 3-6 months.  She is almost 2.  So basically her torso is roughly 18-21 months behind schedule.

Pediatricians tell me this is not a problem because she’s always been skinny and because she is in every other way perfectly healthy at every single visit.  And I believe them!  They are medical professionals!

But even so, every time this girl asks for food, I’m like, “YES!  PLEASE!  YOU CAN EAT ANYTHING YOU WANT!  I WILL DROP EVERYTHING!  WHAT’S THAT?  YOU WANT A RARE KIND OF MUSHROOM FOUND ONLY AT THE TOP OF MOUNT EVEREST AND GUARDED BY DRAGONS?  I WILL SCALE IT AND FIGHT THEM RIGHT NOW; BRB.”

The problem?  She knows this.  She knows it very well.

So when it’s 5:30 in the morning and Mama does not want to get out of bed yet, my tiny fairy-creature will crawl up to me and say, “Eat!  Eat!”  Like she is starving.  Like she is about to faint on the spot.  Like I’ve never fed her in her life.

And even though I KNOW that once she has me out of bed and downstairs, she will magically not be hungry anymore… what if this is the one time that she is?  What kind of mother would I be if I let her wither away in starvation so I can get another couple minutes in my cozy bed?

So she dupes me.  Every single morning.  I cross my fingers that she will eat a full meal for once, and she takes those dreams and she crushes them in her tiny hands.  It is very sad for me.

Well, today the con has evolved.

Most of the day was typical, with me making her lots of food and her eating maaaaaybe a bite or two of about half the things I presented.  By the time we got to dinner, I decided to just stop trying and make corn dog bites.

But then… something completely magical happened!  She ate them!  She ate a LOT of them!  I watched her put them into her minuscule mouth and scamper off to enjoy them and then come back asking for more!  And more!  Kid went through three whole plates of them and was still coming back!  I was delirious with exultation.  I texted my husband and let him know that we were finally good parents capable of meeting our child’s basic needs.

And then I saw this:

Just in case you don’t know what you’re looking at, that is a pile of the mini-hot dogs found inside corn dog bites.  Somehow, and I have not yet ascertained how, my toddler figured out how to put the food into her mouth, chew off the deep-fried breading with no nutritional value (yes, I know that the nutritional value of hot dogs is not high, either, but at least it’s meat!) and then discretely spit out the insides and stash them on my entertainment system.  ALL WHILE I WAS IN THE SAME ROOM, PERIODICALLY CHECKING TO MAKE SURE SHE WAS STILL CHEWING.

She finished the third plate and came back asking for more and I was like:

Yes, I grow a beard when I’m angry.  Why?

A Riddle

Ok, I have a riddle for you.  How do I occupy my extremely busy toddler today?

Don’t answer yet!  I can practically see you bursting with craft ideas and educational games to nurture and cultivate her adorable mind.  But hold your horses.  You haven’t heard the rules yet.

Rule #1:

It has to be something I can do without a car.  We have one car and for some reason my husband thinks that he should get to use it to go to work every day.  Psh.

Oh, and he already left for the day.  So this also means I cannot go buy anything to use at home, either.

Rule #2:

It has to be something I can do without moving, like, at all.  See, I’m 8 months pregnant.  That means my body is one enormous (and I do mean enormous) column of pain right now.

“Pain is in the mind!” you say.  “When I was 8 months pregnant I ran a triathlon while teaching my 2-year-old to tango!”

First of all, get off my blog.  This blog is not for you.

Second of all, I was like you once.  My first pregnancy was a delight.  I took walking tours.  I climbed mountains.  People said things to me like, “You’re the spryest pregnant woman I’ve ever met!”

Turns out… not every pregnancy is the same.  And this one is of the Pain Column variety.  My ob-gyn actually said the following to me:

“You need to start limiting your strenuous activity.  Like standing.  Try not to stand too much anymore.”

So… moving is off the table.

Rule #3:

It cannot involve anything that my daughter will want to put in her mouth.  Because she has destroyed a lot of things that way.  Also, I do not want her to choke and die.  Or poison herself.  Or create super weird poops that I do not want to see.

So what does she like to put in her mouth, you ask?  Oh.  Everything.  Absolutely everything.  Except for actual food.

Rule #4:

If your suggestion is to watch a movie with her, the movie you suggest cannot be anything other than Trolls.  If you tell me to watch anything other than Trolls, what you are really telling me to do is watch a tantrum.  And, you know, no thank you.

Rule #5:

I AM NOT WATCHING TROLLS AGAIN.  I.  CAN’T.

 

That’s all the rules!  Easy, right?  Great.  I look forward to your brilliant solutions.

Dear Morning: Why!?

I want my daughter to excel in life.  As she acquires new skills, like talking and walking and opening a tube of toothpaste with her teeth, I enjoy watching her get better and better with each attempt.  It makes me proud, even when she gets so successful at twisty caps that I have to hide the toothpaste from her permanently so that she doesn’t squeeze the whole tube into her mouth and die.

BUT, when the skill she’s trying to acquire is waking up a little earlier each day to see how far she can push Mommy’s patience, I am less on board.

Yesterday we started our day at 5:22am with me whispering “Please make me happy, Princess Poppy” into my mug of coffee because I can no longer distinguish my life from Trolls.  And of the Trolls characters, I definitely relate most to Bergens before like 10am.

We then proceeded to have SUCH a delightful day!  My sleepy, fussy child threw charming tantrums about everything from what she ate to what she did to whether or not Mommy was allowed to have a blanket on her legs (usually no, but sometimes decidedly yes and how dare I suggest otherwise).

Surely, I thought to myself, this will be a one-day thing and she will be so sleepy tonight that she will quickly return to her usual 7am wake-up schedule.  The sun will come out tomorrow.  Maybe even BEFORE I open my eyes!

Wrong.  This morning started at 5:17.

It’s like 7am now, and she has had the following strong opinions so far:

  1. We should watch Netflix.
  2. We should not watch that on Netflix; pick something else.
  3. We should not watch that either.
  4. We should not watch that either.
  5. We should not watch that either (you get the gist).
  6. We should go upstairs and eat breakfast.
  7. We should not eat breakfast; breakfast is terrible. I would rather starve than eat absolutely anything you put in front of me.
  8. We should watch Netflix.
  9. Mama should not have a blanket on her lap.
  10. Mama should not even have a blanket on the floor in front of her; that is much too close. The blanket needs to be on the other side of the room.
  11. This blanket is too heavy.
  12. Everything is terrible.
  13. My diaper does not need to be changed despite strong evidence to the contrary.
  14. Mama should share her coffee (HARD PASS).
  15. We should not try to go back to sleep, why would you even suggest that, we are having a great time.
  16. Bubbles should be dumped on the floor and Mama is mean for saying they shouldn’t.
  17. Everything is the worst and nothing could possibly make it better.
  18. Alright, fine, bathtime with bubbles is pretty ok.

So… she’s calm for the moment, playing in the tub with my husband.  But I know in my heart that this is only a temporary truce.

Also, my husband leaves for work in about half an hour.

Send help.