The (anticipated) delights of being a NGP

I have a million things I’d like to write about (Baby’s two brand new teeth, the horrible cold we’ve endured this week, the constant struggle to get this kid to eat enough to gain weight, etc.). Instead, I’m going to write about how much I’m looking forward to being the Non Gestational Parent.

First, let me say that I LOVE being mommy to this baby girl. I love that she seeks me for comfort, our breastfeeding relationship, how intimately and instinctively I know her and her wants/needs, etc. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I love that there are moments when she looks just like me (even though she has blue eyes and blonde hair and I have green/brown, er…grey?). I love glimpsing certain quirks of her personality that I already know and understand because they are oh so familiar. I also love watching her relationship with her Momma, the NGP. I love how funny she thinks Momma is, and how they share a special cuddly and silly dynamic.

But can I say? I cannot WAIT to be the support parent during those first few days, weeks, and months. I cannot wait to NOT have the burden of making sure baby is fed enough, with all the right nutrients, from my boobs every day. I cannot wait to drink coffee or wine everyday and not have to worry about whether it will cause reflux. I cannot wait to offer the support pillow, a glass of water, a snack to my wife when I know she’ll need one because I’ve been there, attached to a kid who is sound asleep and needs sleep as badly as mom needs a stiff drink. I cannot wait to not shoulder the guilt that comes with feeling like the it’s my sole purpose in life to ensure that this child eats, breathes, poops, and sleeps to her maximum potential or I might damage her. To be fair, maybe I’m being overly optimistic and the NGP DOES feel this way. Maybe I’m being short-sided and this is a feature of my personality that will come through even if I don’t birth the next baby. Of course it does not mean I will love a baby that I don’t birth any less, but maybe I’ll be able to just enjoy the ride more. Maybe I’ll be able to have a healthier and more balanced approach to parenting – doing the best you can every day and letting go of the rest.

I’d love to hear the thoughts of others – do you think you feel more responsibility or guilt when you birth versus when you don’t? Do you think this has nothing to do with birth and postpartum hormones and more to do with who we are as parents? Or are there pros and cons to each role, inherently different?

All this to say, I am putting the cart WAY before the horse. We are 1DPO on IUI#4 (first medicated cycle) and the lining was only 6 mm at insem, so I’m not SUPER hopeful for this cycle. However, hopefully in the next few months I’ll get to start experiencing the other role. Even if it’s not as carefree and delightful as I hope, I cannot wait to find out!

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She LOVES her Momma.

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And Momma loves her!

Obligatory Sleep Post

Right after the usual questions: “How old is she?” and “What is her name?” people often ask “How is she sleeping?” I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because they don’t know what else to ask about a baby. Maybe they want to commiserate from their own experience with young children. Regardless, I have absolutely no idea how to answer. Honestly, I usually say, “I don’t know. She wakes up sometimes, but overall she’s a pretty good sleeper, I guess.”

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I have absolutely no judgment on any method of sleeping or parenting. I know that parenting is all about doing the best you can do in the circumstances you are in. Clearly, what makes sense for one family does not make any sense for another, and that’s totally okay.

We attempted the crib in our bedroom at first. We tried to put baby down “awake but drowsy” during those first few weeks home from the hospital. We got solid stretches of 4ish hours at the first part of the night, and then she’d wake up a few more times before morning. I remember one night of a 5 hour sleep stretch. I would wake up and nurse her in a chair next to her crib, staring at my wife who was sprawled out in bed, snoozing away. The first wake-up was fine. The second wake-up was pretty unbearable. I started to take the baby back to the bed with me to feed, then transfer her to the crib. Eventually, I gave up on the transfer, and we all snoozed away.

The crib thing lasted about 4 weeks, as best as I can remember. After that, I pretty much gave up and just started putting the baby to bed by nursing her in our bed. Very bad habits, I know. Once we started that pattern, she would nurse to sleep around 7:30 p.m., snooze until we went to bed closer to 10, eat again, and then periodically have a snack or few in the night. The pacifier would work sometimes. Other times she would want to eat. The pediatrician frowned on us for these bad habits, but we were also dealing with a baby who does NOT gain weight, so the doctor wanted us to keep getting calories into her through the night.

I was blessed/cursed with an oversupply of milk. It’s wonderful to have enough to feed my baby and donate my surplus, but it’s also challenging managing a supply that will soak every item of clothing and bedding I own. This meant that I couldn’t “sleep through” any nighttime feedings, because I would have to pump anyway. Not pumping or feeding would mean soaking in a puddle of milk all night. So, even though my wife was willing, I had to feed the baby.

So we ended up in the co-sleeping pattern of feeding baby as we both slept and cementied habits that I’m sure we will regret later. Around 6 months, she stopped taking the pacifier, so it’s nipple or nothing, and if she doesn’t get nipple, she escalates. A few mornings I have had a sore back from falling asleep with the nipple held jussssst the right place for her. Most nights I pull it away and roll onto my back and she keeps snoozing.

Back to the original question of how is she sleeping, I truly have no idea. I don’t have a clock in the room. I don’t usually fully wake up when I need to shift her over to the other side, and when I do, I fall right back to sleep. Some nights I know she spent nearly a whole night on one side or just had one shift over, and I consider those good nights. Some nights it seems like I shifted her over 4-5 times, and I consider those bad nights. But even on those nights I have 4-5 wake-ups of about 2-5 minutes each. I’m usually up for the day at 5:30, and I go to bed about 9:30, and I feel pretty rested overall. Unfortunately, I can’t have coffee or caffeine, because it doesn’t sit well with baby’s reflux, but I would rather keep breastfeeding  her than enjoy an Americano, so Starbucks will have to wait a few more months.

All this to say, I know many moms who are battling through these issues and trying to figure out what works for them. Our method is not perfect. It would be nice to have my bed back and be able to be closer to my wife, but I also cherish the snuggles, because I know that someday they won’t be so freely offered. I am sure that we will have a war to wage when we eventually move her into her own room and/or wean her from feeding through the night. We’ll just cross that bridge when we get to it, even if it feels a little irresponsible to be sowing the seeds of our demise in the present.

Good luck to all my friends sorting out the sleep issues and trying to remain sane! This is not easy stuff and there are no clear answers!

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A Miniature Baby

Well, despite using a 6’5″ donor and being 5’7″ myself, I somehow birthed a miniature human. She is now 8 months old, and she just weighed in at 11 lb, 2 oz. She’s 25.5″, which is at least ON the growth charts, but only about the 12th percentile for height. Her weight is so far beneath the bottom of the growth charts that it could be estimated as -10%ile, if that even existed. That’s “negative tenth” percentile…

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As I’ve written, she came about 5 weeks early, but she was a healthy 6 lb, 6 oz when born. She was not really very interested in eating, so we worked on breastfeeding and bottles in the NICU while she got fortified breast milk through a feeding tube until they deemed her big enough to go home. At home, we breastfed and continued to use some bottles, but she really prefers milk straight from the tap.

For the first six months, our pediatrician took a wait-and-see approach, which was fine with us. I know that the baby had some reflux, and at it’s peak (3-4 months?) she would vomit once or even twice a day, but she would usually recover the milk by re-eating from me. Luckily I have a prolific supply, otherwise those huge throw-ups would have been heartbreaking.

The reflux largely subsided by around 6 months, and we started introducing solids. She has a VERY sensitive gag reflex, so we lost some more food from vomit, but we persevered through trying all kinds of methods of eating (her holding larger items like apple slices, her feeding herself things like peanut butter with a spoon, us using a finger to deliver liquidy sauces, her sucking on the tips of food pouches, us using a spoon to shovel purees, etc.). The most success we’ve had is through spoon/purees, so we’re going with that for now. She has a great palate – she’ll eat almost anything…pesto, mexican food, indian food, fruits, tomato sauce, smoothies, yogurt, etc. (as long as it’s smooth and semi-liquid). She WANTS to eat bigger and chunkier things, but she can’t foresee the guaranteed gag and puke when she tries.

Once we started introducing foods (and I returned to work 100%, up from 75%), her growth seemed to slow even a little bit more. We went in for an 8-month appointment, because we knew weight was not picking up. At this point, the doctor decided we needed additional testing. She ordered blood work and a urine sample. Luckily, we avoided the catheter because the World’s Tiniest Baby has pretty much potty trained herself at 8 months, so all I had to do was catch the pee. I’ll write more about the whole using the toilet thing later. The blood draw was the WORST…holding her down while two nurses attempted to find her tiny vein and she screamed at me to help her.

So far, half the tests have come back normal…no signs of scary things like cystic fibrosis, celiac, liver disease, diabetes, etc. We’re waiting on the other half, but the pediatrician with whom I spoke yesterday (because our normal doctor was not in the office to relay results) seemed equally perplexed. She ordered a fecal sample, so I brought that in this morning. Her only guess was the baby isn’t absorbing something as well as she should (protein? fat?). The only other alternatives are that she’s simply not getting enough calories, or she has an insanely fast metabolism.

As far as calories, she admittedly refuses the bottle of freshly-pumped milk a lot of the time (though this has improved in the last month or so), but she reverse-cycles, meaning she eats a LOT from me when I get home at 3:00 and often eats through the night. She has started getting a few calories from food, but not really enough to matter.

In good news, her head is above 50th percentile, which just makes her look silly. One of our nicknames is “Starving Martian” because she has the skinniest, longest body with a giant head. In other good news, she’s very smart, developmentally average for an adjusted 7-month-old, and very happy. She sits with great confidence, plays with her toys, has excellent fine motor skills, talks and sings (without real words), and has started “scooching” forward in a method similar to crawling with her belly on the ground. She has also had a grand total of one short cold in her entire first 8 months.

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I don’t know…on one hand it’s bizarre to have what could be one of the smallest healthy babies on record. On the other hand, I really don’t feel very worried about it. Oddly, I’m more anxious about doctors knowing and believing that we are truly feeding her as much as we can possibly convince her to eat and we’ve tried nearly every method of increasing calories, including adding my own pumped milk fat to my own milk to make it richer. (We’ve also tried adding organic formula powder to my milk…doesn’t seem to make a difference).

The pediatrician referred us to a nutritionist (because she was grasping for any possible idea) and happily obliged when I suggested an occupational therapy referral to figure out how to get her chewing/swallowing in a more functional way. If the nutritionist suggests anything other than using breast milk as the foundation of the baby’s diet, I don’t think I’ll really entertain her.

One other bit of data we have is that I donate my extra milk to an adopted baby boy who was also preemie, and he’s a normal, healthy weight.

So, we press onward and wait for more test results. I’m pretty sick of people saying “oooh, a brand new baby!” whenever we’re in public, but I don’t really mind that she’s still so tiny that I can easily and comfortably carry and snuggle her all the time, haha.

Babysitting Offers

I am sure that in my past pre-parenting life I did this too. I’m sure I casually offered to every friend with children that I would be happy to watch their baby if they and their spouse wanted to get out for a date. It’s a sincere and thoughtful offer. I appreciate the positive sentiment. I honestly have two internal reactions that I won’t share anywhere but here. Inside I think, “Thank you for your offer, but…”

  1. my sensitive daughter would be TRAUMATIZED if I left her with someone other than her other mom, her nanny, or her grandma (or maybe my best friend). While your offer is kind, she would scream the entire time I was away and wonder who in the hell you are. Lately, I’ve had a surplus of casual “dog park friends” offering to babysit. I’ve never been to their homes, they have never held our baby, and I have no idea what their infant experience is. Being on the parenting side of things, it strikes me as absurd that anyone would consider this scenario.
  2. I do not want more time away from my daughter. I am away from her for about 40 hours each week while I work. That is plenty. I cherish and relish every moment we have together, and I co-sleep in part because I want more time and contact with her when I’m home.

I am pretty sick and tired of people asking if my wife and I have gone on a date alone together. (BTW, we did once, and I basically spent the whole time wondering why we hadn’t just brought the baby). I am REALLY tired of people acting like I need to get out! go to a movie! have fun! Blech. I get out to work, go to coffee shops, take long walks and hikes with baby and dogs, have at least two social engagements each weekend, and go out to dinner with my wife (and baby) at least once or twice a week. I don’t need to go out without the baby, so quit implying there is something wrong with taking her (nearly) everywhere I go.* Truly, if I felt like I needed some time away from her, I would happily make arrangements and take it. I don’t know why people seem to think I secretly want or need to take that time and am somehow denying myself the pleasure. It makes me wonder whether they needed more time away from their kid(s) (which is totally fine!) and so they assume I do too or whether I have some sort of separation anxiety and in a healthy world I should WANT more time for myself.

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Who would want more time away from this little peach? (Also, smoothie, not murder)

*I am not referring to events or activities NOT suitable for a baby, like formal weddings, loud concerts, etc.

Parenting and Pets

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With my brother’s dog on a road trip home from Oregon!

My wife and I often say that the hardest part of parenting is our pets. I’m not sure if this is unique to us, so I thought I’d put it out there and see how other people feel.

Let me start by saying that we are animal people. We have two dogs, but we both love all dogs and most other animals. Our dogs have always been included in every aspect of our lives, from hikes to trips to just lounging on the sofa. We have always bought them nice, comfy beds, toys, collars, and other accessories.image2(5).JPG

When we initially brought home the baby, our younger dog was positive we had brought her a prairie dog with its very own cage for our bedroom (crib). She was THRILLED and we panicked a little, researching high-priced, specialized trainers to help the dog understand she couldn’t eat the baby. It took her about 48 hours to realize it was a human, and then she kind of kept her distance. The older dog experienced a LOT of stress. He would hide in the closet when she cried, and he really started to keep to himself. I know he could sense my stress hormones with being a new parent, and this stressed him out too.

Cut to six months later and the baby loves the dogs and the dogs love the baby. They are at that really cute phase of sniffing her and she giggles when their whiskers tickle her or she reaches for them to touch their fur and they think she is scratching them. She lights up when one of them walks in the room. It’s cute.

Here’s the problem…as much as I love them both, the dogs have been driving me CRAZY for the last seven months. They have an uncanny ability to shake their heads and jingle their collars within 15 seconds of the baby falling asleep at least twice a day. The older one has really increased his bunny-chasing dreams, meaning he wakes us all up running and barking in his sleep in the middle of the night. The younger one steals pacifiers and delights in chewing the tip off and then tossing it around the house with glee. They also, both, for some reason now STAND exactly where I need to walk in the house, ALL. THE. TIME. Lastly, and this one isn’t really fair, but walking them has become SUCH a burden. I walk them morning and night between 20 and 60 minutes (sometimes even longer), and I usually have the baby strapped to me in the Lillebaby. In concept, it’s not such a big deal, but every afternoon it feels like such a chore. I used to enjoy the dog walk, but now I just daydream of strolling along with a sleeping baby and no dog insisting on sniffing EVERY BLADE OF GRASS or while the other dog is yanking and pulling toward the squirrel she saw cross the road 3,000 feet ahead of her. Alternatively, put the baby in the stroller and walk the dogs? No. The stroller wheels might touch their legs, because they persistently try to walk in front of the stroller on their leashes, and they jump 3 feet in the air like you’re clearly trying to murder them.

Maybe it’s just that we’re more tired, so we have less patience. Maybe the reduced attention is making them act out. Maybe I’ve just become bitchier with parenting. I feel terrible about it. I know that they are impacted, and they are coping in their own way, but sometimes they make me want to pull my hair out! I truly spend a LOT of time trying to remain calm, patient, and understanding with the dogs, because none of this change is their fault. I’m hopeful that this phase will pass and they will magically blend back into our daily routine and not feel like an additional burden on top of parenting a young child.

Attachment Advice Needed

So, my wife and I went out of our way to really try to balance out our daughter’s attachment to both of us. We split the first six months of work – I worked mornings and she worked afternoons. I pumped bottles for my wife to feed. We share bathing, diapers, etc. There are some things I do more of (walking dogs with baby in carrier everyday, clipping fingernails, etc.) and some things my wife does more of (riding in the backseat to comfort a cranky baby in her car seat, taking baby to music class and swim lessons, etc.) But, we really tried to both play active roles.

At about 6 months, our daughter started showing her preference toward me. At 7.5 months, it’s undeniable. In fact, she really doesn’t want ANYONE else holding her most of the time. She’ll tolerate short visits in other people’s arms, but for the most part, if I am present, she wants to be on or with me.

A big factor in this equation is that baby and I sleep pretty much attached. She nurses through the night, and I don’t really mind, so it is what it is (bad habits and all). She also has a strong preference for breast over bottle (from birth). So, if she thinks there is ANY chance she can have breast, she’ll stubbornly deny the bottle, even if it’s fresh, warm milk. Between 6:30 am and 3:00 pm, she will drink 5-6 ounces from the bottle from our nanny, and wait until I get home. At that point, she’ll chug milk through the afternoon and evening to make up for the lost calories. (Hellooooo reverse cycling).

My question is this: how long is the stage in which she insists that I be the one to tend to all of her needs going to last? It’s obviously frustrating for both my wife and I, and it clearly hurts my wife’s feelings. I try to remind her that it’s a healthy developmental stage, that it means our daughter is developing the essential skill of attachment, and that there will be PLENTY of times in the future when I am NOT the preferred parent and she is. Every baby goes through this, right? Do you have any suggestions? Any hope for when this will pass? Thank you!

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Practicing eating “solids” from a miniature silicone spatula, because she finds spoons to be extremely offensive.

Chemical Pregnancy

My wife’s period started on Saturday. I harassed the heck out of her, “are you SURE it’s full flow? do you have cramps? is it just spotting? what color?” She assures me that it’s an actual period. That puts us back at CD4, on the third attempt at an unmedicated IUI.

Initially, we intended to do just one unmedicated IUI, but our clinic requires you to have an HSG before using clomid or femara. The clinic also requires you to take a month off of trying to have an HSG. I know that this doesn’t make any sense, but it is what it is. When the first IUI didn’t work, we decided that we didn’t want to miss the opportunity for the baby to have a September birthday (we both really like September), so we pressed forward with natural try #2. After this last cycle, and a chemical pregnancy, we decided to just push forward with ONE more natural cycle. I have read that women are very fertile the cycle after a chemical pregnancy, so we’re going to go with that unscientific theory and try one more time. If it doesn’t work, we’ll pause for the HSG. At that point, we might take one more month off to avoid a Christmas birthday. I have always felt bad for kids who have their birthdays overshadowed by the holidays. Is this silly? If you have a December or early January birthday and love it, please tell me.

The only other consideration that is haunting me at the moment is how many vials it’s going to take to make the sibling(s). I REALLY want to have three kids. (I would have six, if I could…) My wife is pretty much on board with three. (She would probably prefer two, but she isn’t too resistant to three). We have eight vials left to make 1-2 more kids. That sounds like plenty, right? And it also sounds like so few! Our donor is all sold out, though I have asked the bank to contact me if any vials get returned.

Anyhow, we push onward, enjoying the day-to-day with our miniature daughter. She’s just crossed the 11 lb threshold at 7 months, though she also just started wearing 9-month jammies because she’s so long. She has been sitting independently for about a month, rolls both ways, and loves to stand, holding on to things. She isn’t making any movements toward crawling, which is fine with me, frankly. She’ll get there some day, and when she does, keeping track of her will be 900x harder. She also poops on the toilet with 95% reliability, is TRYING to figure out the solid food thing, and has started to enjoy reading books rather than just gnawing on them and trying to tear pages. Other new interest: swinging.

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Quick Update

We had another very faint positive test last night (14DPO). To be honest, all three of the pink dye tests looked about the same – all very faint. I’m a little bit concerned this could be an ectopic. My wife called the clinic to let them know she got a positive. She also needs to have her TSH tested again, because they put her on levothyroxine 30 days ago. We’re waiting to hear that they called the orders in to the lab, so she can go get a blood draw. Based on the faint pink lines, I think we’re going to hear a very low Beta. I probably won’t get another chance to update this weekend, but maybe by Monday I’ll have two beta numbers to compare.

Pink Dye Update

Well, I’m afraid we’re having a chemical pregnancy. Here is the test from last night (13DPO, 6 p.m.): 13dpo.jpg

The second line was definitely visible, but faint. I assumed that it was very light because we tested at the end of the day, not FMU. I expected this morning’s test to be darker.

And here is the test from this morning (14DPO, 6 a.m.):image1(4).JPG

The second line was much more faint…barely visible.

It’s pretty hard to ride the roller coaster of thinking you’re going to have a September baby, imagining announcements, calculating how far apart the siblings would be, etc. and then go to wondering when that sibling will ever come to be! When I was TTC, my wife was pretty oblivious to most of the ups and downs, and she didn’t know about things like chemical pregnancies, or the statistical probability that a test is accurate at 11, 12, 13 DPO. It’s not that she didn’t care, she just doesn’t obsessively research like I do, haha. This time it feels a little harder, because she is much more aware of the ups and downs, and I hate to see her be sad, angry, disappointed.

I haven’t given up all hope, but I do think a test should be darker on 14DPO if it’s a viable pregnancy. I’m turning to hoping that the cycle after a CP can be a very fertile time. I’m also glad to know that my wife’s tubes are open and she is capable of getting pregnant, because those are two hurdles that must be overcome! We’re going to do one more natural cycle before having an HSG and starting clomid. I think we’ll probably get a progesterone test during the TWW this time just to make sure that’s not what’s causing a problem.

Thank you all for your comments and feedback! It’s so nice to be able to have a community of people ready to throw their two cents in rather than rambling to a friend who has no idea what I’m talking about!

And just to end on an “up” note, this tiny bug has no idea of the roller coaster her moms are riding, hoping for her little brother or sister to materialize! image1(4).JPG

Conflicting Results….Thoughts?

So, my wife is in the midst of her second TWW on an unmedicated IUI. She used a trigger shot at 2 am the day before insem/ovulation, because she got a positive OPK when she got up in the night to pee.

She got a VERY faint positive with CBE Early Results (the plus sign) on 10 and 11 DPO. On 12DPO, the line was SLIGHTLY darker. Then today, 13DPO, she used CBE Digital, and it says “Not Pregnant.”

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To be fair, the 11DPO test barely shows any more line since it has dried. But, it was definitely there during the test window.

Possibilities:
1) The trigger was somehow creating a false positive THIRTEEN days later (at 12DPO). This seems far-fetched, and it doesn’t make sense why 12DPO would be darker than 11DPO, but the variation was very slight.
2) The second type of CBE (digital) is not as sensitive, so it’s not picking up the HCG yet, but she is actually pregnant.
3) Chemical pregnancy that is already ending.

Other considerations: she said she feels different than a normal PMS stage, and her boobs are much more sensitive. She said she feels “something happening” in there. Of course, as we all know, these can definitely be phantom symptoms. I’m not sure whether symptoms accompany a chemical pregnancy – I would guess not, but I’m sure it’s different for everyone.

Thoughts? Any other ideas? Has anyone gotten conflicting results from these two types of tests?

Here is the 12DPO test closer up. This photo was taken a full 24 hours after the test reading period, and the line was actually darker during the 10 minute window in which it should be read. As it dried/aged, the line faded. It was originally so clear that my wife could see it with just a lamp and without her glasses at 6 in the morning yesterday, but of course it was much lighter than the cross line.
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I appreciate your insight!!