And so it begins.

“I don’t think I’m going to get that sick this time,” says my wife. And then at exactly 6 weeks, the nausea hit full force. She’s still functioning, but she feels terrible and looks terrible (but gorgeous, of course). Luckily she has the rest of March off and can sort of ease back into work in April. I think last time she was feeling better by about 14 weeks.

We’re both surprised by how quickly things are changing. With D feeling rough, I’ve been doing more of the parenting than usual, and J has definitely noticed – she asks for D more often, and is a bit out of sorts. It seems like already the pregnancy is taking D away from J a bit, and like that is the beginning of what is in store when the newbie arrives – a division of parenting in which I’m parenting the toddler and D is parenting the newbie. And we’re thinking more about how hard this is going to be for J -first getting used to having less access to her Mama, and then getting used to sharing us with a new baby as well. It makes my heart hurt a bit.

And the question that plagues me right now is: How on earth can I be there for D and the new baby in the hospital (she’ll be having a planned repeat cesarean), and also make the absence/transition as smooth as possible for J? There is plenty of family to help, but I don’t want to totally disrupt her. Do I sleep at home, or at the hospital? How do I figure out a balance so that I’m not letting anyone down? If anyone has suggestions, I am all ears.

D’s first prenatal appointment was yesterday. She’ll be seeing our GP for a while and then transferring to an OB. She’s decided not to try a VBAC for a bunch of reasons, and we both feel good about that decision. In just under two weeks she’ll have a dating ultrasound, then NIPT at 9 weeks. Because of all the soft marker drama following J’s anatomy scan, we decided to pay out of pocket for NIPT. We just don’t want to go through what we went through last time if the baby has soft markers. It sounds like a weird thing to do, because obviously J didn’t end up having down’s syndrome or anything, so you’d think that if the same thing happened again we’d be calmer about it, but we just want to know. We’ll also find out the sex, which I am looking forward to. I have more of a preference than I did with J, but it doesn’t really matter to me hugely.

This all sound like we’re getting ahead of ourselves – it’s still SO early – for something that’s the size of a pea, but… it’s exciting. I’m trying not to succumb to the terror of everything that could go wrong, like I did the first time, and to instead focus on the most likely outcome – a small new person joining us out here in the world in 7 1/2 months.

 

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18 Months

It’s been too long since I’ve written an update about J, and since I haven’t been actually writing in her baby book, this has become my record of her babyhood – so I thought I’d finally get to it. I’ve resorted to bullets, but it’s something.

  • J is now 18 months old. I feel like we have such a strong sense of who she is, now. She’s watchful and meticulous, gregarious at home but a bit shy in public, very affectionate with her moms but choosy about who else holds or touches her. She likes order, and routine, and loves animals and nature. She loves reading, gymnastics, being in water, being outside, music, and food. She dislikes things being out of place, having sticky things on her hands, having people ruffle her hair, and pureed things. She is way more like me in personality than I thought she would be, though also like D, of course, and sometimes she reminds me of our donor and his daughter.
  • Her vocabulary is huge and she’s combining words much more often. My favourite words right now are “walnut”, “octopus” (pronounced aht-puh), “iguana”, and “mine” (though I imagine I’ll find the last one less cute very soon). Her ability to communicate is making this age a lot easier than it might otherwise be. She can name about 15 body parts, and if she hurts herself she will tell us what hurts, which is really great. The connections she makes between words is so interesting – we put a quilt on her new bed that has a few tiny seahorses on it, and without us naming them or drawing her attention to them, she pointed and said “neigh!” Because of course, a seahorse would say “neigh”, right? I can’t even recall talking to her about seahorses, other than at the aquarium a couple of months ago.
  • I’m loving the increased independent play that she’s been doing lately – we gave her a kitchen set for Christmas and that gets a lot of use, as she cooks and serves tea and soup all day long. Her other favourite play things are her little Schleich animals and a wooden barn (she ‘feeds’ her animals water from her water bottle and it kills me), and an indoor wooden Ikea slide that we picked up at a consignment shop. She is reasonably active but I think less so than a lot of toddlers – she’ll sit still reading books for up to an hour and her attention span seems uncanny.  It seems like she is always running over to one of us with a book, demanding “read, read!” Just recently, she’s started filling in words when we read familiar stories, and identifying objects in the pictures.
  • We started taking a gymnastics class about a month ago and she loves it. It’s for 16 month- to 3 year-olds, and the parents attend the class, too. She is the youngest and by far the shortest kid there, and she can’t do all of the activities, but it’s been so awesome to have the big, safe indoor space to run around in. They also do $5 drop in days, which is great. I think that it is helping with her upper body strength, which is not so strong – maybe because she didn’t crawl at all until fairly recently? She practices her gymnastic moves at home, and seems very proud of herself. I think it gives her a lot of confidence. I never imagined doing a structured class with such a young child, but she is getting so much out of it.
  • At her doctor’s appointment last week, J was exactly 23 pounds and 30 inches tall. She’s small and solid and baby-faced, and people think she’s way younger than she is. It’s hard because she’s quite advanced for her age, but I think people think she’s so young that they don’t try to engage her as much as they might otherwise.
  • J continues to love music, and is dancing more and more. If we ask her to shake her booty, she’ll dance, and if she dances by herself she’ll often make eye contact and say “booty!” She hums but doesn’t sing, though she loves being sung to – in fact, singing to her is getting us through a pretty terrible sleep regression right now.
  • As of a few days ago, she is sleeping in a toddler bed, and it seems to be going fine (though her sleep isn’t any better). She understands that she has to stay in the bed at night, though she climbs in and out all day. Often, she climbs in, gathers up all her animals, lies down and says “sleep. sleep.” She also pretends to fall asleep in the bath, which she thinks is hilarious but terrifies her moms. At night she is waking about every two hours lately. She’s been sick for a month with two back to back colds and reactive airway disease (with asthma-like symptoms) , is cutting teeth, and is going through so much developmentally, so who knows what is behind the poor sleep. It is terrifying that we might have a sleepless toddler and newborn at the same time.
  • The less pleasant side of this age is that has days where J says ‘no’ to everything, and throws stuff, and when she’s teething, biting joins the list. I feel out of my depth sometimes, trying to figure out what works as a behavioural corrective and what doesn’t. For instance, I think that trying to stop her from throwing things has resulted in her throwing things to get attention, but we can’t just ignore her, right? The weird thing about parenting is that every time you think that you’ve got this, things change. I’ve been reading parenting books and trying to figure out how we want to go forward with managing destructive behaviour, but it is so hard. I kind of hate telling people how to behave, which is… my job, now. I have to tell someone how to behave, so I need to figure out how to best do that, how to respect her autonomy and independence but also keep her from smashing objects, herself, and other people.
  • The week after D was away, J had a major potty regression where she refused to sit on the potty and peed in her training pants at least three times every day. We switched back to diapers for a week, and then she started using the potty again. She’s getting better at telling us when she wants to use it, rather than waiting for us to tell her it’s time to sit on the potty, and often will go the whole day (and sometimes night) dry. We’re basically just taking her to the potty frequently and being enthusiastic when she uses it, but it’d be really great if she were potty trained before the next baby. I am cautiously optimistic that that will happen, as we have almost 8 months.
  • We are finally getting to the point where we feel okay about leaving J with other people. Until now, she’s only spent the odd half-hour away from both of us, but I think she’s ready and so are we. My mom and step-dad have offered to take her for a couple hours maybe a million times (we’ve declined, but feel a bit better about the option as time goes by), and some friends of ours whom we trust are also willing to babysit. So sometime soon, we’re going to try that out. J really needs to be okay with being taken care of by others before we have another baby, so I think it makes sense to start now. Also, D and I could really use a date. I read somewhere that your marriage takes 18 months to recover from having a child, and that makes sense to me. I feel like we’re finally starting to feel more connected, more capable of conversation, etc. And then we thought we’d have another one? I’m equal parts excited and terrified, which is better than just terrified, but J just got the excitement. Poor second child is getting jilted from the get-g0.

Holy. Heck.

Since the insemination extravaganza, D hasn’t felt pregnant. With her first pregnancy, she felt pregnant within a few days, so we didn’t feel optimistic. At 8DPO, which is when we had a positive HPT with J, we did a FRER and it was starkly negative. I said “maybe it’s too early” but really, I was sure we were out, and moved on to thinking about the logistics of next month’s attempts. (That same day, Di had a few minutes of cramping  – the only unusual thing she’s felt in the last ten days.) Last night, we talked about Di testing again today, at 10DPO. But she forgot and peed in the morning, so we didn’t test until this evening. I still didn’t feel terrible optimistic. I have a baby shower to go to tomorrow for a good friend, and I picked up some adorable wool socks that I wasn’t sure whether to give to her with the gift or keep for our own future baby. In my head today, I did some silly bargaining. “If D is pregnant, friend can have the socks. If D is not pregnant, I can keep the socks.” (I think I just wanted to feel like not a jerk for keeping the socks when we don’t have a newborn/soon-to-be newborn.)

And so we tested. With not particularly concentrated pee, in the evening. And got this:

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We hugged. J bolted over and hugged with us, which she does every single time we hug. We all beamed at each other. Please stick, little bean. We’d like another person for our dorky family hugs.

 

I made it.

Well, I survived a week (okay, 6 days) of solo parenting. It was nowhere near as bad as I expected, but I did really miss my wife. And showering alone. And cooking without being heckled by the baby. The reason it wasn’t as bad as I expected is because this baby of ours SLEPT. Like, through the night – and I don’t mean the whole 5 hours in the early evening crap that supposedly counts as ‘sleeping through the night’, I mean from 11pm till 5am – and once, far longer. I can’t tell you how long or it will never ever happen again. Even saying this much is tempting fate.

And meanwhile, in a far away time zone, my wife hung out with our friend/donor and inseminated herself every day for 5 days. She didn’t do that much else while she was there because she was super sick (in fact she thinks her ear drum may have ruptured on the flight home). We chatted on FaceTime at least once a day, and J handled her absence much more gracefully than I did. It was a good reminder of how much I love my wife – sometimes I feel like parenting eclipses our relationship, but I missed my wife more than my co-parent. It was a good feeling to have – not to NEED her back because solo parenting was killing me, but to want her back.

We’re pretty sure the timing was right. She got a positive OPK yesterday – a true, dark positive for the first time ever – and her cervix was lower this morning. So I feel like we have a pretty decent chance, though I am trying not to get too too excited about the possibility of a potential scorpio baby because, well, getting the timing right doesn’t mean that you get a baby.

J is so much fun these days, I should really do an update about her rather than just talking about trying to make another baby. This morning, J tried to make my phone work to call her mama, and managed to activate Siri on my iPhone. J said “Mama. Mama?” Siri responded “I don’t know who your mother is. In fact, I don’t know who you are.” I was in the kitchen making lunch and overheard this, and it cracked me up. On a completely unrelated note, last night J nearly had a total meltdown because she wanted her iguana pyjamas on. She kept muttering “iguana” and pulling at her PJ shirt until I realized what she was talking about. The toddlerhood forecast is looking a bit stormy, but also so, so fun.

 

And she’s off.

Tomorrow, my wife flies to Europe to try to get pregnant. There were several points at which we thought this might not happen. First we thought maybe she’d ovulate too early (her saliva microscope has been showing ferning for a few days, but we figure her CM is probably a better indicator, anyway). Then, KD’s partner’s grandfather died, and KD thought he might be going to the funeral in another city (funeral isn’t for weeks, though). Then the next day, my grandmother died (I barely knew her) and we weren’t sure when that funeral would be (also weeks). And finally, J, D, and I all have colds, and KD works in a hospital, so my wife offered to cancel her flight (he said no worries).

But. It is happening. Tomorrow, my wife is actually leaving the country without us. And we think the timing is probably going to be right, this month. Which is good, but of course is hardly a guarantee. And it seems like so much effort, so many resources, to put into something with a relatively low chance of success. So while I’d like to be mostly hopeful, I vacillate between hopeful and pessimistic, and also extremely stressed about being left behind (is J going to cry for her mama the whole time? Am I going to crack under pressure and be disappointed in my parenting?). I spend time trying to figure out a back up plan for future cycles (none seems that realistic. Then again, neither does flying to Germany every month). I also spend some time resenting the fact that I can’t get my wife pregnant (something I thought would never bother me much, but does – not for the genetics, but for the ease). So much wallowing. It doesn’t help that I’m premenstrual, have a cold, and our sick baby woke us up at least hourly last night because she can’t breathe very well. She’s also cutting three teeth. Also, did I mention my wife will be away for her own birthday? Let’s just end this pity party right here.

 

Regrouping (and flying around the world in pursuit of sperm.)

So, D isn’t pregnant. Which isn’t much of a surprise, considering we only did one insemination and we weren’t sure about the timing, but it’s still disappointing – especially considering that our donor lives 6000km away.

We inseminated on the day 11 of D’s cycle. From day 9 until day 12, she got progressively darker lines on the OPKs, and then on day 13 they went really, really light. We thought, hey, great, maybe we got the timing right after all. But after inseminating it’s difficult to monitor CM (and also neither of us really wanted to meddle around in there) so for a couple of days it went unchecked. She kept doing OPKS, which had darker lines than on day 13, but not as dark as on day 11 and 12. Then on day 16, she had a lot of egg white cervical mucous. We flew home on day 17 (24+ hours of travel so she didn’t check her cervix or CM during that time, or do any OPKs), and when she checked her cervix on day 18 it was high but her CM was no longer fertile-quality. So we think maybe she ovulated on day 17/18 – which would be 6 days after inseminating. Which means basically no chance of conception, and also D just didn’t feel pregnant – with J, her body started to change even before we got a positive test at 8DPO. Because we’re a little silly, D still did a few pregnancy tests, including one of the ridiculously overpriced first response ones. And seeing that blank test is so… I mean, it’s like you’re getting rejected by the universe. I had no idea that it’d feel so crappy, and I know that is ridiculous and that this is our first failed cycle and that this could take ages. But… I saw a shooting star, and there was a full moon right after we inseminated, and a monarch flew over us while we were swimming in the ocean for the first time, and a chia seed sprouted in the door well of the shower. These felt like signs, and I think I’m going to have to stop thinking about stuff like that if I want to not lose my mind while we try to conceive.

So now? We are on to our second cycle. And D is flying to Germany next week, and staying for what amounts to 6 days including travel. Flying to Germany costs about the same amount as doing two in-clinic IUIs, but takes a whole lot longer. She’ll be able to try between cycle day 13 and 16, as many times as KD is willing, which should be a good window as long as Di ovulates between day 14 and 18. Assuming she’s ovulating. Yikes, TTC is so stressful. Which is news to, oh, probably no one who reads my blog.

But maybe the hardest part is that my person will be away, for 6 days. It’ll be D’s first time away from J for more than 8 hours. It’ll be my first time alone with J for more than 8 hours. And D and I haven’t spent a night apart for at least 5 years. I’m so nervous about all of it, and not thrilled about not being there for the inseminations. But we’d really like to make this work, as absurd as it seems to fly so far for, what, a 20-30% chance at getting pregnant? We’re thinking we’ll try this 2 or 3 times and then reconsider our options if it doesn’t work out. I really don’t care about our kids being (and I hate the term) ‘full’ genetic siblings, but if it’s possible I’d prefer them both to have KD as their donor.

Also also, I’ll be flying solo as both daytime and nighttime parent, and I’m a little afraid that I’m going to feel like a total failure by the end of the week. Or by the second day. I joked to D that I might message her with “stop! don’t depress the plunger! I can’t do two kids after all!” Hopefully that seems funny and no kind of prophetic in retrospect.

 

 

 

Project Sapling 2.0

So we did it. This might be all too much information if you’re the squeamish sort. If not, read on for a detailed account of our first attempt at making baby #2.

At our meet up with KD’s family, while everyone was out in the garden, KD snuck off to the bathroom in a sleep out at his mom’s house. Then when he was done, D, J and I swapped places with him. D got down on the bathroom floor, J played with her dog figurines on the toilet seat, and I used a syringe (from children’s tylenol, ha) to draw the sperm out of the Soft Cup. Then I inserted it, depressed the plunger, and inserted the Soft Cup with the dregs of the sperm (well, semen, but the sperm part is kind of the most important).  Then D hung out on the bathroom floor by herself for half an hour, trying to help things along and also replying to some emails. Who knows whether KDs family noticed her absence, or what they thought.

Our timing was not that great, but I think we’ve still got a chance. It Was cycle day eleven. We think D’s been ovulating around day 14, but have just been charting CM and OPKs, so not totally sure, and since it has only been three cycles since her period returned her cycle has been a bit unpredictable). D didn’t have EWCM – it was more watery, with just a tiny bit of stretch. She hasn’t had a positive OPK, but I don’t think she had one when J was conceived, either – so she’s going to keep testing to see if the line gets stronger or more faint. We only have limited phone internet right now, which is a relief because it stops me from relentlessly googling stuff about the chance of conception under various conditions. It doesn’t really matter whether she’s 10% likely or 30% likely, because she’ll either get 100% pregnant or 0% pregnant. Now we just have to wait. While I keep trying to tell myself that whatever happens will be alright, I want so much for this to work. And so I am throwing my whole self into hoping, hoping for a little spark to happen and to grow, grow, grow into a new family member for us.

The other night, while I was staring, awestruck, at the spectacular NZ night sky, I saw a shooting star – not out of the corner of my eye, but exactly where I was looking. And while it seems so hokey to say that it felt like a sign, I did feel as if it was meant for me. A sign, if nothing else, that I was in the right place. And for the last few days, I have felt that – that I am where I should be. It’s a good feeling, and one that I think I’ve been missing for a little while, as we shift from place to place.

I want to write more about meeting KDs family because there’s a lot to say, but I will say that it was a really great experience and I am so glad that we did it.

(Also also – we are off to meet Pepibebe and family today! Woo hoo!)