Nine turns one.

Dear Kid,

Last weekend, we put our memories to rest in a tupperware container tucked below a rock on a hillside in a nature preserve. Embryo 10 was among them in a metal-tipped catheter inscribed with our medical record number and the date it first entered storage: 08/06/2011. Embryo 10: The baby we only ever got to know in our imaginations.

Before we did, we let you hold it, and we told you the story of how the essence of you lived this once in a little blue straw, pinched at the end and marked with the number “9.” The reason some other kid wasn’t holding the memory of you that day had everything to do with natural selection and that scientist’s determination that embryonic you was of superior quality to “10″ and, therefore, would be more likely to result in a viable pregnancy.

I don’t know about that, but I got pregnant. And I was glad.

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Now you won’t remember our talk or the way I told you I was happy you were “9.” And maybe, someday, when I recollect for you that day in the forest, you’ll think it sounds kind of strange: burying memories the way some folks bury their dead. Mostly, though, I hope you find it sort of beautiful.

Created ritual.

We made a long paper chain and, on each link, penned the names of babies we’d lost or decided not to know because we were content with our family of three. On each end, we attached additional links to represent your dad and me. And then we counted to the middle and added a third for you. Whether by the hand of the Great and Powerful G-d or some cosmic coincidence or nothing of the sort, and without any forethought or advance planning, the middle link belonged to your one-time womb mate, “Zoe.” I might have been surprised. But I wasn’t. Not even a little.

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We said Mourner’s Kaddish and asked G-d to bring us peace from Heaven, but the truth is, kid, sometimes I think we make our own.  And that’s precisely what we did that day. We returned to a place of hopelessness and despair and chose to see it differently. It was different. Because we were.

This time, we were your parents.

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In parting, you babbled a string of consonants and vowels that might have been a beautiful eulogy or a lot of nonsense. And we waved “bye-bye” to Embryo 10 and that place and the box full of memories that first made us Mama, Papa and Elbee. And we wandered down that hillside, Dad and I wondering out loud how our mystery became a baby and then a toddler like you.

Probably, it had something to do with time. And long naps in a rocking chair. Midnight bottles. Lullabies. Diaper explosions. Sickness. Health. Trips to the beach. The best laid plans. Splishy-splash. Boynton books. “Soggy Froggy.” Tweet, tweet goes the birdie! Carriage rides. The Cookie Monster. First flights. Petting puppies. Dance parties. Day care. Swings. Slides. Swim class. Beebo. Nature. Maybe even your mom and dad.

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We did it, baby girl. And probably we’re just getting started.

Happy birthday, Elbee K.

Ever,

Mama

Posted in Infertility, Parenting/Toddler | 1 Comment

A letter to my Lorax on the first week of daycare.

Dear Kid,

On the day after my first Mother’s Day, I ended my nearly 11-month stint as your “stay-at-home” mama. (“Stay-at-home” because, if we’re being honest, I stayed at home rarely on account of you wouldn’t let me. The outside beckoned.) I returned to work on Monday because I had no choice. Also, I really, really wanted to.

Which isn’t to say I wouldn’t have relished a little more time together, just the two of us. We’d already had more than most people, and we’ll have more later, I know. It’ll just happen on the weekends. And, the thing is, even if we had the rest of our lives to play and laugh and cry and explore, it probably wouldn’t be enough. When it came time to say goodbye, I’d still miss you.

You won’t remember the last 11 months, and I won’t forget them.

We started taking walks together when you were five days old. Through most of New England’s sweltering hot summer and breezy fall and icy winter and rainy spring, there were only a handful of days we missed. I watched as your sleepy eyes became more alert, staring inquisitively at the trees overhead, pointing at them, waving at them, talking to them in a language that sounded like celebration…happy because brown branches turned green, happy for their shade, happy for the birds, happy for nature’s mobile. You noticed things I failed to see, and you made me see them.

Once below a heavy, gray sky, I kept walking because you kept smiling until, a half-hour’s fast-paced run from our front door, it started to rain, pour, thunder. So I covered your carriage with a rain guard, and I ran. I ran and I ran and I ran. Screaming. Soaked to my underwear. And, because you had no choice, you ran with me. Laughing. Dry except, perhaps, for your diaper.

Another time, we came upon a Parks and Rec employee trimming back the branches of a low-hanging tree along our usual route. You burst into tears as if he’d nicked you with his gardening shears. Inconsolable. I knew you knew that tree. (Maybe you didn’t recognize it, per se, but you knew it like you knew all of them.) And so, without a second thought about how crazy I must have sounded, I was hollering for him to stop from 500 feet away. “Stop, stop! Wait! Don’t cut that tree!” To which he replied, in the native Boston accent that won’t sound like much of an accent to you, “Why not?” And I answered, running toward him, “Because it’s important!” To which he retorted, “Lady, it’s a f—in’ tree!” To which I responded, “It isn’t to her.” Which is when he really looked at you and put down his gardening shears. “Oh,” he said. He promised you he wouldn’t hurt the tree anymore and he gave you a piece of it to take with you. Your tears stopped like the flick of a switch as you stared at that big red leaf. As we walked on, I looked back now and again at the befuddled man who, hands on hips before the tree, found himself unable to continue his work…or the very decent man who waited until we were out of sight to do it. When we got home, I tucked the leaf away in the pages of a law school casebook where maybe one of us will wonder someday why we kept it. It won’t be me. I already know.

The thing that pained me most about our new reality was that feeling I knew was truth: You wouldn’t spend so much time outdoors. You’d miss the trees. And I’d miss you.

But if there’s one thing I learned over the course of our approximately 332 strolls together, it’s that, kiddo, the seasons (the ones that turn the leaves colors and the ones that see us grow up) turn, turn, turn. In this season, we learn to walk alone. Literally in the sense of first steps. Figuratively in the sense of spending so much time apart from that little/big person in whose face the sun rose and set every day since the day we met.

We’re just like the trees, honey child. We’re just like the trees. We keep right on growing, right on changing, right on weathering storms and being magnificent until the day we die. So, to this season and the next one and the one after that, I trust our little family will still be something to behold. And I trust we’re going be just fine.

Love,

Mama

Posted in Parenting/Toddler | 3 Comments

Good enough and best for me: This one time, I learned to compare my kid to herself.

I cross-checked my handiwork against yours. And by “cross-checked” I mean “compared.” By “handiwork” I mean my kid. By “yours,” I mean…well, yours: that small human who may have babbled first or crawled later or smiles less, who has more playdates or fewer playdates and never cries. Ever. And if you didn’t actually tell me any of this, don’t worry. I deduced it from those facebook pictures…a complete and accurate representation of your entire parenting experience. Also, I regret it.

I usually do.

Elbee’s not to thank for my neurosis diligence. No. It started a long, long time ago. Probably, my mother has everything something to do with it.

Once, I made the Honor Roll. Strike that. I always made the Honor Roll but this one time, I made second honors and my fifth grade bff made first. Of note, “She never makes first. You always make first. What happened?” (Long division, that’s what!) And whether for want of confidence in my number-crunching or honest-to-goodness lack of numerical aptitude but not because I didn’t try, I got a ‘B’ in the second quarter of fifth grade math. She got an ‘A.’ And nobody – not least of which a shamed and disappointed me – paid any regard to the fact that I still made the Honor Roll!  Or that I got a ‘B’ (a better than average mark) in a subject I found fundamentally challenging. As a result, I never congratulated my buddy for the way her extra studying paid off. I just quietly resented her. And she probably thought I was a bitch for failing to notice her accomplishment which, in lots of ways, was spot on. At best, I was a lousy friend.

Later I’d cross-check my college acceptance letters against everyone I knew (more competitive, less competitive), practicum placement, first job (in field, out of field, big city, small town), first apartment (one bedroom = not a studio = must be in better shape than…) and on. And on. And on.

Look, over the years, I’d learn that decorum dictates even when you’re teeming with upset, it’s necessary to back-burner all of it or risk isolating people who are really far too important. Take, for example, those years we spent trying to get knocked up and watching piles of our nearest and dearest welcome first babies, first babies turned toddlers before our very eyes, and those toddlers the same age our kid would be right now had she happened when we intended. Usually, lots of times, I sucked it up and mustered a congratulations. Occasionally, I even meant it. Always I wished I did.

Then I had a kid, whose little life, by its very new nature, is punctuated by milestones of greater/lesser importance and which are accomplished on a timetable everything and nothing like other kids’. At once, my mother made an ounce of twisted sense. And like my mother, and doubtless hers before her, I clamored after best because anything else meant room for improvement meant not all right right now,  so I consulted the baby books (and your facebook feed) to determine how my kid stacked up against others’.

Which is when I learned that usually she had yours beat. Smiling at four weeks, sitting at four months, responding to her name at four-and-a-half, peek-a-booing at five, standing at six, clapping, crawling and cruising at seven, waving at eight, pointing at nine. She dances in step with music, crosses her arms in displeasure, understands a couple of handfuls of words and can’t keep her mouth shut. She anticipates her favorite parts in favorite books and manipulates big kid toys. She engages with complete strangers, calling to them from across crowded rooms and holding out her arms to be picked up. “Scary bright,” notes her pediatrician. “Baby genius bright.”

Except for this one time when she didn’t because she lagged far, far behind. When your kid was self-feeding pasta fasul, mine was consuming nearly 100 percent of her 26oz. daily intake of hypoallergenic formula through a rubber nipple, unable to tolerate even the most delicious purees, gagging on the tiniest morsels of whole foods and screaming in the face of spoons until, at long last, it was apparent that we hadn’t neglected to serve her favorite food or cock the utensil at an appropriate angle to make her comfy. It had nothing to do with us or something we hadn’t tried and we were tiring at the suggestion. It wasn’t a case of retrograde picky eating, either. It was a pediatric feeding disorder.

Which is when I learned that cross-checking my kid alongside some textbook kid, or a real life kid who isn’t her, is totally futile. With each meal, Elbee drove home the point: She isn’t like other kids. At least not entirely. She is like herself. She hates bananas and gags on “puffs.” And, with each meal, I cared less and less about what your baby had for lunch. I cared what Elbee didn’t.

Which is when I learned there’s a difference between “best” and “best for.”  Best is an ‘A’. It’s textbook perfect…achieving milestones prescribed by some expert somewhere who knows a lot about babies but never met my kid. Or yours. “Best for”  takes into account that no two people are alike. Some of them find math challenging. And some of them need medical intervention and occupational therapy to master mealtime.

Which is when I decided to be ok with good enough. Whether as a condition of those long-suffering early months plagued by GERD and allergic colitis, a stress response to the trauma of choking – like, actually choking – on her first foods, because of a physical obstruction, lately-contracted c-diff or because she’s wired as differently (wonderfully) as G-d intended, our yardstick for what constitutes a nice family meal is different now. (Sometimes it’s a battle-weary mom nibbling from a fruit cup in a hospital cafeteria while the baby on her lap sips fitfully from a bottle. Which isn’t an NG tube. Which thank you, G-d.  Seriously.) I absolve my kid (and, while we’re at it, her parents) of the pressure to be best, aspire to what’s best for and vow to be content with good enough.

“Good enough.” That’s today for “f’ing epic.”

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The blessing of a black eye.

If I’ve been a little quiet lately, it isn’t for lack of things to say. It’s instead for want of two free hands and tired arms regularly extended as if poised to play catch in a trust fall.  In one week’s time, Elbee has become a master of maneuverability: scooting, crawling, ducking, grabbing, cruising her way across every square inch of hardwood floor – little red knees and a dusty bottom to show for it.

Author, Wendy Mogel, prepared me for just such a scenario in her book, “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children.” (Aside: Tremendous read and I somewhat suspect you don’t need to be a Jewish parent, or a parent at all, to appreciate it, but you tell me.) Anyway, the goal, she points out, is to raise the sort of kids who can function without you, who leave you someday feeling relatively ok about it and who ultimately trust themselves to do what’s right because you (and the mistakes you let them make) taught them invaluable life lessons. Also, our kids are on loan. Get ready. Get set.

For most folks, it goes a little something like this.

One day, your kid will be desperate for you to chauffeur her from the nursery to the living room in your arms, delight at your dramatic recitation of Sandra Boynton’s Belly Button Book, clap for you while you play with her toys and cling to the 2013 version of your apron strings. (Probably, she wants to taste your iPhone.)  The next day, forget you. Just unleash her. She has an entertainment center to reorganize anyway. And, by “reorganize,” I really just mean mess that ish up. If you’re lucky, she’ll turn her head in your general direction because she recognizes the sound of that voice muttering the word she’s probably beginning to think is her first name: No. And if seeing her cruise the coffee table takes your breath away, tough. Someday she’s going to ask for your car keys.

Now consider the fact that when our Elbee was three weeks old and newly-diagnosed with the trifecta of food allergies/allergic colitis/GERD, she aspirated on some combination of fresh breast milk and her own vomit. I’m not talking about a little oops-it-went-down-the-wrong-pipe, cough-cough, all-better scenario either. I’m talking she couldn’t breathe. At all. She turned purple. And I actually got to use some of what I learned in that Infant/Child CPR class. It was an experience that served the twofold purpose of heightening my anxiety and driving home the feeling that every second we’re blessed with our children is precious. Whereas I know things can get much worse, if my kid is still breathing, I have to believe I’m in relatively good shape here. Better get to livin’, as my girl Dolly Parton says. Better indeed.

I don’t want to be to thank for an emotionally crippled, neurotic, needlessly dependent human, after all. I want her to explore her world and test her limits. And better still if she can do so sans blood loss. Also, I hate wimps.

With this in mind, I enrolled her in swim lessons though I’m quietly terrified of drowning. I encouraged her to fraternize with that kid blowing snot bubbles and tugging at his little ears at play group last week. And I let her attempt to stand on her own two feet this afternoon, clapping emphatically when she fell flat on her baby face.  She wears her first black eye like a badge of courage which, in many respects, it is.

Maybe I could have caught her. Maybe. And maybe she wouldn’t look like such the Million Dollar Baby if I had. The point is, I didn’t.

Because I hope she likes water. (And, if not, I hope she at least learns to swim.) I hope she never fails to overlook opportunities to meet people who might become her best friends even if they are oozing from their orifices. And I hope she fails a lot in her quest to stand on her own two feet (metaphorically, actually, whatever)  because this means she’ll have really tried something. Chances are pretty good, too, that, occasionally, she’ll find she’s not that bad at it.

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Posted in Humor, Parenting/Infant | 3 Comments

On Zoe: How a doll named after the memory of your ‘blastosib’ saved nap time.

Dear Kid,

Probably – and in no small part because your Dad and I thought this through carefully – you’re going to be an only child. If we do things just right, your being an “only” won’t mean you’re “alone” or “lonely,” either. It’ll just mean your folks were done growing the family. With you, we were complete. And the universe agreed.

You might have been a quindicaplet. You weren’t. You were, however, one of 15 distinct petri-dish possibilities and the only one that lived long enough to be our baby.

Someday you’ll ask me about the others, and this is what I’ll tell you.

Sometimes, possibilities aren’t. No matter how badly you want them or how hard you work toward your end goal or how much expert assistance you employ in your valiant attempt to make those big ideas reality, occasionally it won’t matter because they were always destined to amount to not much of anything. That was the case for the first 10 of your “blastosibs” who, too fragile to grow, didn’t. Or, later, the one too weak to survive “The Great Thaw.”

Sometimes possibilities are but just for a little while. That was “Maggie.” (Dad and I only assigned pet names to those embryos we encountered personally, by the way –  less to personify them because that wasn’t the goal and we never quite believed they were people in the same sense as you and me…more to assign an easy moniker to our memories like, say, “Dad’s thirtieth birthday” or “Roadtrip 2000.” Maggie.) She was the one we declined to confirm was miscarried. I took this gritty cell phone picture of a veritable heap of  blood and tissue to ask Dr. P- whether, when IVF doesn’t work, it’s supposed to “look like this.” He eyeballed the picture, answered my question with his eyes – no, probably not – and told us we could try again in a couple of months. We did. I’ll get to that.

Sometimes, possibilities aren’t possible for you personally. That’s the way it was with “Francetta,” the embryo we had in storage until we couldn’t afford to keep her in storage any longer and because the idea of this someday/maybe/never baby wasn’t what we had in mind. We were pregnant with you. And when we learned the stem cell research program we’d contacted would cease taking donations before Francie ever arrived at the Stanford lab, we elected to take her home. Her. We were, of course, never sure whether she would have amounted to girl or boy or anything much at all. So when Dr. G- pulled that little vial from the smoking vat of liquid nitrogen and told your Dad and me she’d let us “take a minute,” I couldn’t imagine why. I was surprised when, just as quickly, I could.   Francetta would be forever and ever the baby we’d only ever know in our imaginations. And so we mourned over mystery.

And then, sometimes, the possibilities are endless like when we “tried again” a couple of months later.

Enter you. Also, enter “Zoe.”

For a little while, you were Zoe’s twin sister.  (We called you “Iggy” and insisted – though we had no idea, really – that you were the blotchy little blob to the left of the picture we got and she the pomegranate-shaped pop on the right.) At only seven days post-blastocyst transfer, I took a pregnancy test on a whim and saw the bluest line one Aspiring Pregger could have hoped to have seen, especially one poised to have, that same day, the we’re-infertile-and-if-this-cycle-doesn’t-see-us-knocked-up-we’ve-decided-to-live-child-free talk with our family and friends.  We had a talk. It was different. It was the we’re-infertile-and-newly-pregnant-and-probably-it’s-twins talk. In the days and weeks to come, blood tests would reveal we were indeed pregnant with hormone counts at double or better the norm for one fetus, but when we got as far as the ultrasound, Zoe had already left us.

Too soon, some might say. I’m not so sure. She had just enough time to fulfill a purpose that, at present, appears threefold but is just as likely much more multifaceted…something to be revealed in due course. The possibilities are endless. First, in tripping that early pregnancy test early, she made it so we never had to have that dreadful talk. (Look, we might have gone on to live a really blissful, child-free existence but not without a lot of bullshit pity.) Second, she made room for you. (I’m glad.) Third, she inspired in our family the sort of introspection that leads to the realization that even when life’s a first-rate cluster, it’s as it should be. When I need to be reminded as much, I call upon her memory.

Which is exactly what I did when, at nearly six months old, you still hadn’t managed to take so much as one nap outside my arms. Every attempt to put you down to rest was futile. You forced open your heavy, heavy eyelids. You screamed. You cried. You never “cried it out.” Hours passed. Days. Unrelenting tears, hyperventilating sobs, a side of vomit. You weren’t having it. I didn’t now why, though I sensed it had something vaguely to do with being unprepared to go it alone. I needed divine, cosmic intervention to convince you of the truth: You weren’t.

Anyway, it was your first Hanukkah, and you got this doll whose perfectly-pressed pink dress was monogrammed with the name of your bygone blastosib: Zoe. The doll was black. Or Asian. Bi-racial. We’re uncertain.  (She reminded Dad and me of how we were never really sure our kid, if we ever had one, would even vaguely resemble either one of us, and we couldn’t care less. Unimportant. We’d think she was the most beautiful thing we’d ever seen, and we’d be right.) Zoe-Doll was lovely like you.

You liked her. You really liked her. You liked her like you knew what she meant. Case in point.

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So I went out on a limb. Come nap time, I tucked you into your crib and tucked the Pottery Barn plush Zoe under your flailing arms. “Look,” I said. “You’re not alone. She’s right here.” I was talking about the doll. I was talking about the memory of Zoe, your blastosib and the way, sometimes, our memories sustain us when we’re sad or scared or lonely.

In that instance, I hoped yours would. I hoped whatever beautiful memories you made in six months’ time (your mom’s funny faces, play time with Dad, sweet potatoes, swings!) would sustain you when you got anxious because I was downstairs making a cup of coffee and you couldn’t see me.  And I hoped they’d sustain you when, someday, you were feasting on cafeteria food, missing Dad’s cooking, falling asleep in a too-tiny dorm room bed and waking up to an alarm clock that wasn’t your mom. Or juggling a host of responsibilities which may or may not include parenting your own kid(s) and wishing, even if just for a second, that somebody would take care of you for a change, like, say your parents used to. Or missing us because we’re gone to wherever folks go when they’re through living. When such time comes, I hope your memories sustain you.

And I hope you always sleep easy.

Love,

Mama

Posted in Infertility, Parenting/Infant, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Boobie-trapped: A breast and bottle-fed success story.

I was wallowing in the Waters of Woe-is-Me, sinking in the Sea of Failure… and I mistook my brestfriend for a life raft. I thought, surely, if I had all the right gadgets – to say nothing for the two (newly) bountiful orbs of fat and muscle dangling from my chest – that feeding my kid would come easily. Maybe it’d even be cute…like that hydrangea-embellished nursing cover.

But it wasn’t easy or cute. It was a wet-shirt-asunder/hyperventilating/tearful/postpartum mess.  Nobody told me (or if they did, I wasn’t paying attention) that though my breasts are quite functional and my kid quite capable, feeding her might be really freaking hard. Or impossible. Or dangerous. And I’m not sure that, even if they had, I could have prepared myself for how terrible it felt when this experience I’d been longing to have since before that stick turned blue, sparked some serious baby blues no-nonsense, legit depression instead.

Now, look, our pediatrician swears nipple confusion is a load of crap, and I’m still deciding whether I believe her. But the story of my botched breastfeeding started with a bottle: the one our kid just had to have because she was born with low blood sugar, time was of the essence and she hadn’t mastered the art of latch-on. By the time she had, she’d also grown tantrum-throwing impatient at the breast. And jaundiced. And lost 10 percent of her body weight rapidly enough that her docs insisted supplementing with factory food was medically necessary. (I never went to medical school, so I had absolutely no idea whether it was or wasn’t. I decided to trust them.)  I alternated between bottle-fed formula and breast milk and brought that screaming baby to my boobs whether she liked it or not because that’s what our first lactation consultant advised.

Then I went home and tried-tried-again with the help of visiting nurses and pediatricians and lactation consultants and breastfeeding friends and a wildly supportive Papa Progenitor, all the while trying to tune out that mounting din of (grand)motherly/friendly/perfect-strangerly concern coated in accusation: There’s something wrong with your nipples, no? Perhaps you’re not producing enough milk. Maybe you need to hold her differently. Is she latching? I don’t think she’s latching! 

It’s about to get real (personal): There’s nothing wrong with my nipples. They’re flat. Which, fortunately, isn’t a big deal since there are fingers and nipple shields for that. I produced a perfectly adequate supply of milk, which I know because my breast pump and lactation consultants told me. They also told me I have a text-book awesome hold and my kid, when she latched, appeared to latch perfectly.

I knew this to be true, and still I grew self-conscious.

And confused! So confused.

Every supposed expert I encountered had a different expert opinion about how to convert this child to Exclusive Breastfeeding: power through the teet-tantrums, bring her to the breast when she’s quiet alert, withhold the bottle, feed her only when she’s starving, bottle feed her first so she won’t be so hungry. And so on and so on. I tried everything more than once and enough to recognize when it wasn’t working.

It’s about to get “realer” still: I think there’s something to be said for a mother’s primal interest in feeding her baby, heightened here by the facts of the case. (I recovered from anorexia.) So I officially felt like the worst kind of screw-up for these failed attempts to feed my baby. If breast is best, what am I feeding her fifty percent of the time? How do you even pronounce this? What’s an L-Carnitine? How come she appears so damn unhappy to see my boobs? But I’m doing everything they told me! She’s hungry and she won’t take to the breast! She ate first, so she should be calm now. Dr. Google said if I can’t make this happen in the first three weeks of life, it’s never going to happen! What am I doing wrong? I wanted this.

Really, though, what I wanted was the fairytale simple experience I’d read about in the not-ill-advised books on the subject that suggested that breast is best and breastfeeding is this fundamentally natural thing people have been doing since the dawn of humanity. They’re partially spot-on: partially because they leave out the part where you might feel like shit when it doesn’t come easily. Maybe other mothers don’t. I did. But these books are meant to encourage new moms to stick with an experience that, when it goes right, is kind of wonderful.

And, for a moment, it went right. Cuddling without coaxing kept Baby Girl comfortable long enough to discern that my chest was a happy place. She was breastfeeding!

Later that same week, she started projectile vomiting and pooping blood. For, unbeknownst to this already battle-weary breastfeeding mama, she was allergic to something – many things, maybe – and I fed them to her myself. She developed food-allergy-induced colitis thanks, in no small part, to my practically poisonous breast milk.

Enter cathartic meltdown.

thought I wanted to breastfeed more than anything (and, it’s true, I wanted very much to breastfeed), but more than that, I wanted my kid to eat without getting sick. I wanted meal times to be happy. I didn’t want to resent her for not working with me.

Mid louder-than-my-baby’s sob, it occurred to me: I was the squirrel who failed to notice the cage for the pile of acorns, the prowler who overlooked the spring-loaded shotgun, Chester Copperpot.

Boobie-trapped.

On a quest for connection with my new daughter, I got stuck on the means to the end. So I filled a Dr. Brown’s bottle full of prescription-grade hypoallergenic formula, poured myself a glass of wine and never breastfed again.

Some other kid will benefit from my frozen breast milk. Mine will benefit from her mom’s realization that breast is best usually, not always, and definitely not for her: a fundamentally personal decision I feel empowered for having made. This is my breast and bottle-fed success story.

Posted in Breastfeeding, Humor | 4 Comments

The story of you.

Dear Kid,

The night before your birth day, you were too excited to sleep. I could feel you pulling and bouncing and spinning in my gargantuan belly the way I image you’ll pounce on our bed someday, wake me from a REM cycle and whisper things like, “Mom, I’m turning five tomorrow!” or “Do you know it’s three days until Hanukkah?” And in the same way as it’ll be an exercise in futility to ignore you or expect that you’ll go back to bed, and in the same way as I might (probably) acquiesce and let you sneak away to the kitchen to sample the icing on your special-order, fifth birthday cupcakes, the night before you were born, I cried uncle and schlepped downstairs to the couch where I lay, uncomfy, equally excited and fractionally terrified for the way it felt like you might tear through my belly button like a regular jill-in-the-box. I knew it: You were ready. Me too.

So the next morning, your father and I kept a regularly scheduled ultrasound to assess whether induction was really truly necessary. (I was exactly 40 weeks pregnant, with pre-existing diabetes and a blood clotting factor that put everyone – not least of which malpractice-weary physicians – on edge.) That’s when an otherwise conservative maternal-fetal medicine specialist informed us that an induction would maybe be a waste of time; you were measuring in at something like ten pounds. Macrosomic. I’d be wise to scrap my birth plan immediately and consider a C-section. I’d consider it, I said. And that’s when he told me he’d call upstairs to schedule the surgery. For that same afternoon.

This wasn’t how I envisioned it. I envisioned a quiet, dimly-lit labor suite, easing my pain in a birthing tub, Hypnobreathing our kid into existence, dad cutting the umbilical cord, putting baby to breast while she was still all slimy with vernix. A spinal block and a crowded operating room not so much.

If you want to make G-d laugh, tell Him about your plans. I did that once. In 2009. I said, “Dear G-d: You know that Costco-sized box of condoms we keep in the nightstand? It’s empty. It’s empty on purpose. So please, as it would be convenient for me, make it so the baby arrives before winter.” And G-d did. Just three years and IVF later. I should have known better. And maybe I did. I had packed an overnight bag.

So we went through the paces: forking over insurance cards and health care proxies and talking with nurses and doctors about what to expect which, truth be told, they couldn’t say. (Malpractice-weary.) Just this: The surgery was scheduled for 1:30pm. It would be over quickly. I might maybe be able to hold you in those first minutes but probably not. (If you were mostly healthy, Dad could.) And whether you were put to breast immediately would depend on whether your blood sugar was affected by the synthetic insulin in my system.

Plus, oh yeah, a brief stint on an electronic fetal monitor revealed I had managed, with your help, to go into labor spontaneously. Contractions were coming at four minutes apart. You agreed with our docs: It was an excellent day to be born.

So Dad and I slipped into hospital fatigues to match our doctor’s: a guy old enough to be your great-grandfather, by the way, with 4500 babies worth of experience to make us feel comfortable he probably had enough practice to get it right. Dad sat at my head. The nurse assigned to me stood nearby, holding up your first picture so I could see it and not be so scared this same old man might shake or die mid-incision. And because this was it. You were it.

I said what I guess was a prayer – not to G-d so much as to “Zoe,” your blastosib, the other embryo in that fertility clinic photo…the almost-baby whose only purpose was to live for a few days, trip an early pregnancy test early and make it so we didn’t have to tell our parents we were infertile sans any hope of resolution. (Instead we told them we were infertile and pregnant. Maybe, baby, with twins.) I told Zoe I was sorry she’d never have a birth day, and I asked her memory to make yours super special, to give you the wherewithal to see meaning in upset and to make you ever grateful, strong and fierce. I asked her to make me the same.

I can’t say exactly what happened on the other side of that blue curtain, but I have a good idea. I could, after all, feel so much tugging and pulling and stretching. I heard the clanking of metal, sucking sounds like a dentist’s office, a surgeon’s commentary: C-section indicated for macrosomic baby measuring 10lbs., 1oz. at last ultrasound…quite a lot of fluid there…suc-tion!…2 centimeters…lots of hair…looks like a big one, folks! And then: Dad, get your camera ready. You’re about to have a baby!

I held my breath.

At 2:17pm on June 22, that surgeon old enough to be your great-grandfather, with 4500 babies worth of experience and enough practice to get it right, held you atop that blue curtain: nothing, and absolutely everything, like what I imagined. 9lbs., 15oz., 20 inches long. A mop of black hair. Mischievous, midnight blue eyes. Chipmunk cheeks. The most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

From what I can tell, parenthood is like that, too. It’s nothing and absolutely everything like what I imagined: bedtime stories and sleepless nights and lullabies and diaper explosions and first baths and food allergies.  It’s also really beautiful: That time we had to forego fireworks at the Esplanade on your first Independence Day because you were too little. I was sad because it’s my most-favorite, wait-all-year-for-it holiday, and I wanted so badly to share it with you. So we determined to break our no-TV for babies rule and watch those fireworks telecast on CBS. Of course, Dad fell asleep and so did you, and I was postpartum-devastated. And then, just as those first red, white and blue pops of light lit up the screen to a backdrop of Colbie Caillat’s “Brighter Than the Sun,” – the soundtrack to this new mom’s life – you woke up, quiet and bright-eyed, held fast to my finger and watched with me.

I swear you hit me like a vision. I wasn’t expecting, but who am I to tell fate where it’s supposed to go? Don’t you blink you might miss it… It isn’t every day you get the chance to say: Oh, this is how it starts, lightning strikes the heart, goes off like a gun: brighter than the sun. 

Welcome, kid. I love being your mom.

Just sayin’,

Me.

Posted in Birth Story, Pregnancy | 9 Comments