Family reunion

Yesterday, K, E and I attended an event that’s hosted by the reproductive endocrinologist who helped us conceive E. It was held in a park with a bouncy house and free ice cream from an ice cream truck, and was meant to be a sort of family reunion for families who have expanded because of the staff’s loving expertise. K and I wanted to attend because our lives had gotten busy and we had never gotten the chance to take E into the office and thank the staff.

It was a lovely park that we didn’t even know existed, and the weather was perfect for the event. Staff members ooed and ahhed over E and other babies in attendance. The oddest part was an unofficial receiving line of sorts where parents and babies waited to speak to the doctor. It felt a little bit like an unintended “meet your maker” sort of moment, but likely only because there were so many thankful parents (like us) who wanted to say hello to the doc.

The doctor’s practice is located in a very upscale nearby community, so K and I weren’t sure what sort of crowd to expect at this gathering. I was pleased that so many of the families seemed down-to-earth and friendly. We chatted with some of the parents about each other’s babies, milestones, etc. K and I confessed to each other later that we each spent time wondering about each of these family’s experiences with infertility. Thoughts of, “I’ll bet you were a cycle monitored, fertility med sort of family,” and, “IVF with egg donor for sure,” kept swirling through my head.

There was one family that was among the demographic I expected to see at this event: a privileged blond woman with her equally privileged mother and baby. They were, as K put it, a spectacle. The baby’s grandma clearly had a lot of plastic surgery and the entire family was decked out in a wide array of upscale clothing brands. The baby was cruising in a $5 bajillion stroller and had no short of seventeen toys dangling in front of her glitter beret topped head. I imagined that the mother had been married to a very wealthy older gentleman and, upon his death, had a doctor harvest his sperm so that she could conceive her miracle baby and secure a larger part of his estate for her and his postmortem spawn.

I wondered what others assumed our fertility journey was, and mused that they were all likely very far off from the accurate story.

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Commence heteronormative parenting group

The hospital system through which E was born offers optional parenting groups based on a baby’s age and family’s location. For six months, a group meets every other week for two hours – the first half of the session is typically dedicated to a topic of interest to the group and the second half is for social time. While we have a lot of rad parents and kids in our lives, we liked the notion of connecting with parents whose children are experiencing similar milestones and challenges around the same pace. K and I decided to be brave and enroll in one of the evening groups and our group started this week.

Birth story aside, I knew that we’d be the weirdos of the group, and I say that mostly with pride. Even most of our mundane parenting choices and preferences (cloth diapering, baby-led weaning, babywearing, baby with a hyphenated last name, etc.) put us on the fringe of most circles. Oftentimes, the knowledge of our stark differences leaves us with the expectation of needing to defend our identities and choices, which doesn’t make for a very comfortable setting. Still, we figured that we’d be interacting with mainstream parents eventually and decided to dip our toes in when we still had the option of dropping out of this particular group.

I was right in our assumption that we were rather different from other parents, but I was expecting more judgment or hesitation from the other members. Instead, we were greeted with warm smiles and friendly questions. I also expected more stay-at-home mothers in the group, but I believe all are households in which both parents work outside of the home, likely because it’s an evening group offering. I imagine that our group feels and looks a bit different from the groups that are offered mid-morning and likely attract only mothers. I was also surprised to see that one of our group members is a local elected official who is very progressive.

K and I are on the fence about whether or not we will eventually tell the group members about E’s origins. We plan on being very open with our baby, family members and friends, but when it comes to the rest of the world, we’re kind of the standpoint of disclosing on a need-to-know basis, and I realize the privilege in our ability to make that decision. Ultimately, I want E to have as much agency as possible with regard to the disclosure of his birth story, and that can’t happen if we’ve told everyone and their brother. With that in mind, K and I were a little nervous when our icebreaker was to tell our birth stories. To sidestep the issue of needing to get into something so complex with literal strangers, I opted to tell a very vague but hilarious tale surrounding E’s birth, when he made his debut and promptly peed an arc above everyone in attendance. “He has enjoyed making a big first impression since day one,” I quipped.

E was very social and smiled at parents and babies alike. I think he might have been the only baby present who didn’t cry at least once. He had a great time wiggling on the floor with some of the other kiddles, and when we took a group picture of the babies, E had his arms casually slung around both of his neighbors, as if to say, “I’m hangin’ with my bros!” (There is only one girl in the entire group!)

One thing that I greatly dislike about the group relates to the hospital’s organization of it. At the time of each baby’s birth, the hospital promotes the parenting groups and gives everyone the option of signing up if it sounds interesting to them. Before we were discharged from the hospital with E, I sent an email to the parenting resources coordinator at the hospital to sign up for the group. In my email, I relayed the requested information including my full name, my husband’s name, our location and our baby’s date of birth. When the group was formed, K – not me – and a list of clearly all women received a mass email with the details, even though I had never sent his email address to the parenting resources coordinator. Then, the night of the group, our volunteer facilitator passed around the group roster, saying that this information was provided by the hospital, and asked us to update or change anything we needed or wanted. Luckily, she handed me the roster first, which allowed me an opportunity to black out inaccurate/inappropriate information before others saw it. The roster was a bolded list of all women’s names, including K’s legal/given name (again, I never disclosed that to the parenting resources coordinator), their contact information, babies’ names, and husband’s names with the word “father” in parentheses after the men’s names. E’s last name was listed as being K’s last name, which isn’t on ANY paperwork anywhere, and my name, which was in the “husband” area (not labeled, but clear that’s what the intention of that spot was) had parentheses with nothing inside of them, like they couldn’t even figure out what my relation to this family was! Now, it’s clear to me that the parenting resources coordinator used health information on file at the hospital instead of the information provided to them by the parents as they were signing up for the groups, and that does NOT sit well with me. I plan on reaching out to the coordinator right away to let them know that we are displeased by this fact and that we never consented for this information to be relayed to others.

For now, K and I plan to continue going to the group unless or until we decide it isn’t meeting our needs, or if the downsides end up outweighing the benefits. Hopefully, there are more interesting anecdotes to come..!

Baby milestones galore

There’s not a ton to report. We’ve sadly turned into those bloggers who write a ton about their baby-to-be and fears about parenting, but once we’re in the trenches, turn to total radio silence. So sorry about that!

Right now, baby E is teething. Yes, already. He likes to surprise his parents and others by doing a few things, including entering the world, a bit earlier than expected. I can see little white parts on the bottom center of his gums, he’s drooling like a monster, moans like he’s in pain, seems to have a much more difficult time coping with things that normally wouldn’t bother him, and constantly has his fingers in his mouth. He doesn’t seem too interested in traditional methods of soothing, no matter our efforts. I figure at least his fingers are organic. The hardest part about teething is when he cries and is near inconsolable. It breaks our hearts to hear our little guy in pain and know that there’s little we can do to help.

He’s also really progressing with his manual motor skills – reaching, grasping, holding. We took a short video tonight to show his surprise burst of progression in this area:

It’s so neat to see his personality blossom. Our guy is surprisingly mellow. Not much phases him. He’s also pretty verbal so far, gurgling and making a few sounds that begin with consonants. He also seems to really love everyone he meets, but especially women. He likes to give a shy, gummy smile and show off his adorable dimples. Trying to capture said smile via photograph is difficult, though. He seems to stop smiling the second the camera/phone appears! Here are a couple of recent grins I managed to capture:

No rain, no rainbows

skulls with daisies

Juggling all of life’s responsibilities and changes still continues to challenge and sometimes frustrate me on a daily basis, but I am so grateful for this little dude.

Baby E’s newborn photos

After a long wait we finally got our pics back from his photoshoot. He was only 12 days old in these pics and already looks so much bigger! There are a few more pictures but we are keeping the best ones to ourselves until we pick the one we will use on his announcements. We debated not sending out birth announcements at this point since it is 7 weeks past his birthday. Darn slow photographer! But I’m glad we are still going to do it. it’s a tradition I wouldn’t want to miss out on! Here are a few…

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Still swimming

I’ve been clamoring to draft a blog post for almost three weeks but have been too busy to do so. I wanted to check in to say that we’re all still here!

I temporarily suspended my maternity leave after we got home from the hospital because of the large fundraising event that was on the horizon. I knew that my coworkers would have been completely screwed had I decided not to come back to help and, while it would have been my justifiable right to do so, the guilt would have eaten me alive. My decision to go back to work for two weeks translated into the most chaotic mayhem and lack of work/life balance I’ve likely ever experienced.

I felt like I did my very best to maintain as much of the baby-related work as I possibly could while working 50-60 hours in a week. K took most of the nighttime feedings and diapering duties, letting me sleep as much as possible so I could be lucid enough to work. I was able to conduct the majority of my work from home and at all hours of the day or night, but this past week required me to be at the workplace more frequently. I thought that mommy guilt was going to eat me alive – and mommy guilt was pretty much the only thing eating, as I certainly wasn’t consuming food.

The event took place this past Thursday and I’m happy to report that we all survived. I think it went as well as expected. I now have a couple of work days next week that will be solely focused on event wrap-up, then I will resume my maternity leave. I am looking so forward to doing just that – spending time with my guys, bonding as a new unit, taking walks and naps, and learning what the new normal of our family will look like.

Looking back at these past few weeks, I can honestly say that I couldn’t have made it through without my family. Waking up with E’s milky breath in my face, seeing his sweet face and knowing that I could count on my handsome, loving and hardworking husband was my fuel.

Right now, I have a load of diaper laundry in the wash, just completed washing bottles, and am catching a rerun of Law & Order while E sweetly naps at my side. I’m waiting for him  to wake up for his next feeding, then will change his diaper, and run a few errands while he sleeps a few more hours. I’m still very much in a place of amazement about my new mommyhood status, but I’m loving it.

I promise I won’t be such a stranger in the coming weeks!