The Gayby Project | Making the Next Generation of Fabulous
One research obsessed post-punk political dyke and one wonder-endowed post-modern theater professor fall in love and decide to make some babies. Hilarity, awkwardness and, sometimes, tenderheartedness, ensues. Herein lies an adventure of queer infertility and making a family without biology on your side.
This post has taken like two weeks to write but I’m too fucking tired to start over so bear with the edits and updates.
I’ve had a series of difficult things happen, aside from operating at a half tank due to the shift parenting situation, which will last only one more week. (it’s over now, praise 7lb baby Jesus!) So, this is about hard things. That’s your content warning.
That pseudo promotion thing I was working toward? It was denied. And I am feeling all kinds of feelings about it, though mostly resentment. The problem, from my perspective, has to do with the combination of unions + bad communication. There are really good things about unions – they provide protections for jobs, bolster equity (or, should anyway) and support living wages and good benefits through collective bargaining. I am very much in support of unions. But, there are sometimes problems in application, and that’s the problem here. I work for a fucking huge local government, with lots of departments and jobs. Those jobs are all organized by classification to ensure equitable pay across departments, which is a great thing (again, in theory.) But, for this reason, they are necessarily broad and somewhat vague. There are also pay charts that work within the context of job classifications, so that X job class falls within a certain band within the pay chart and then you progress stepwise as you accumulate years of service. When I was hired, I assumed the salary I was offered was based on this table and calculated by my years of experience and my education. But this isn’t the case, it turns out. It also turns out that there are people on my team who are the same job class as me who aren’t doing the same work as me. And it turns out there are people on my team with far less experience who are making the same salary as me. The only recourse available to me was this job reclassification request, which was fully supported by my boss. But the determination was that the work I am doing is actually in the class I’m in (which means that those other people are actually doing work from a class lower than they are, but I doubt they are going to be asking to be downgraded anytime soon . . .) I’m not really sure how I am going to move forward in my job knowing all of this and feeling so incredibly resentful of my prior boss (who hired me at the low rate when, it turns out, she didn’t have to) and of my colleagues (one in particular) who doesn’t do her fucking job but is making a LOT of money (a lot more than me, because she has seniority) and a little bit one of the new ones who is making the same rate I am, though she’s basically new to the field (but she’s great, so I’m not as upset about that one.) Luckily, my current boss is super supportive and has offered to help me with an appeal (if I want to do that) or to find out what I need to do to have the reclass actually happen (what additional work would need to be done.) And, as long as I’m paying dues, I figured I might as well reach out to my union rep as well. Though it’s been a week and I haven’t heard from her so . . .
I talked to my union rep and she gave me a few options to pursue. I’m going to ask my boss about putting in for ‘lead pay’ which would both acknowledge my additional work and get me some $$. I’m also going to appeal the reclassification and work towards having the powers that be understand that the job description doesn’t accurately capture the work we do and THAT’S the issue. At least there’s a little hope on the horizon to temper my resentment for the time being.
My mom. In the last month, my father has had to call 911 three FOUR times for my mom. The first time was following a week of a severe stomach flu and she couldn’t stand and was in immense pain from her back (an ongoing issue after a spinal fusion that didn’t really help.) They took her in, rehydrated her and gave her a bunch of pain medication (in addition to the immense amount she already takes) then sent her to a rehab facility for a day where she did some PT and was then released. The second time, my dad found my mom confused and staring into space – just out of it – about 4 days after she got home from the rehab place. They took her in and determined she had toxic levels of pain medication in her system because she was so dehydrated, which they attributed to the stomach virus. They gave her fluids and then released her. The most recent time he again found her groggy, confused and slurring her speech. At the hospital they found her, again, basically poisoned by her own medications in kidney failure. When I spoke to my dad yesterday, he said her kidney values were doing better but were still dangerously low. I feel like there is something more going on here – as these levels of dehydration after being hydrated with IV fluids so much recently (plus, according to my eagle scout honest dad, drinking a LOT of water in between. My mom was released a few days later after her kidney values returned to normal (on a Monday) and then, this past Friday night, she started hallucinating and having seizures, and ultimately had to be restrained and medically sedated to be brought to the hospital, where she was intubated and taken to neuro ICU. They ran a number of tests to see if it was a virus or bacterial infection, but all the cultures came up clear. They reduced her medications again, once more thinking it is a drug interaction. You’ll have to pardon me if I don’t trust that diagnosis just yet. She came home yesterday and I am praying there won’t be any more trips to the hospital for a very long time. Confronting your parents’ morality is horrifying. I really can’t even fully contemplate losing my mom, even as complicated as my relationship with her has been.
About three weeks ago my left toe started getting tingly, kind of like it had fallen asleep, but no amount of moving around or shifting things seemed to help. Slowly, over a few days, the tingling/numbness starting spreading from my big toe to the next two toes into my foot, until the entire inside of my foot (but most notably the ball of my foot and my toes) were constantly pins and needles numb. Because this is the same foot where I had my ankle surgery, I assumed it was probably related. After a whole hullabaloo of getting records sent, I was finally able to see an orthopedic surgeon. (side note: I LOVED my ortho in Denver. He was so kind and wonderful and listened to me and was never an asshole.) This guy was a total dick. For one thing, after I wasn’t able to book an appointment to see him until ALL of my records came in, he clearly hadn’t read my chart at all. He took x-rays and immediately jumped in to telling me I needed an ankle fusion without even asking why I was there. After explaining that he wouldn’t do an ankle replacement (I didn’t ask him to) because people my age who get ankle replacements “end up with below the knee amputations in their 50s” and telling me ankle fusion was the only solution (to what? Not clear since he didn’t fucking let me get a word in edgewise, except when he corrected me while I was talking about the kind of surgery I got – sorry I’m not a surgeon, asshole.) He then launched into an intense lecture about weight loss. And I just about lost it except I was tender because (see above) so I just got really depressed instead of really angry. He ended up giving me a steroid shot which has not reduced my pain nor addressed the tingling at all. So, now I’m trying to get my records to another doctor for another consult because fuck that guy even if I have to get an ankle fusion I’m not gonna have him do it.
We are going to Denver on Friday for a visit and are celebrating Ansel’s third birthday (OMG WHAT?!? Also for another post) and getting Angus baptized by my Celebrity Lutheran Pastor Friend. That’s awesome. Less awesome? My brother and sister-in-law (who haven’t met Angus and who, in particular my brother, haven’t really even acknowledged that he exists) decided to go to Moab this weekend and “might be able to squeeze us in” after they get back. It makes me fucking angry but also really sad because I wish I had a brother who even gave a shit when we were coming to town to visit.
So, all of that’s hard. But, there are other things too:
Angus is 7 months as of Friday and is finally on the charts, in the 2nd percentile, just shy of 15 lbs. He’s still not sitting up unassisted, but does seem to be pushing up into pre-crawl type of postures. He’s sleeping like shit but maybe it’ll be better once he’s in his own room (which will happen as soon as we sell the mattress currently occupying it.)
Ansel got a bunk bed and he mostly loves it and he’s the cutest with his collection of toys and “friends” which have been so profuse lately that he’s been crowded out of bed.
Just generally, my kids are adorable and magical.
I’ve been going to the ELCA Lutheran church down the street with Ansel and Angus and while it’s complicated (because the church I went to in Denver was SO unique, and I helped found it, and my friend/pastor is magical and so nothing will probably ever live up to that) it’s also been really great. The church is very much a neighborhood church which, since our community is historically and predominately African-American, means its about 100X more diverse (racially, ethnically, theologically) than any other church I’ve been too. I immediately felt welcome and while there have been a few somewhat awkward moments when I’ve come out (which I’ve had to do more explicitly, since Laurie hasn’t been coming with me, which means it only becomes clear when I say something directly) everyone has been incredibly kind and friendly and even if I might be the first queer person they’ve had in their congregation, they are just new to it, not averse to it. I need to be going to church and I think this is the place I need to be. I think it’s going to stretch me but also, I want my kids to grow up in a community that has all of these different kind of people. And there’s something that really resonates with me about being in a faith community in my physical neighborhood even if it’s not full of people who are 100% on the same theological or social page as me but who are willing to still be in conversation and community. Like, that feels way more important in a faith journey for me than being around a bunch of white progressives who never push me to think differently. I’m sure I’ll be back to talk about this more as I keep thinking about it.
I got to see L in her show (she was the highlight, and if you don’t believe me because I’m a biased source, please see these reviews (here and here) which aren’t necessarily glowing until they talk about my boo) and we went to dinner after, which is the first time in over a year that we have been on a date, alone, without a child or children. It was pretty great.
I’m glad I did that, there at the end – reminded myself that I still have a lot to be grateful for in the midst of this shit sandwich I’ve been eating. May we all eat shit-sandwiches with a side of gratitude fries.
Ugh. I started writing almost two weeks ago and never got around to finishing because life feels like its mostly survival mode right now. As it happens, I have my full lunch break available to me before I need to leave to go give a training, and I am going to spend it updating because really, I need to write something for my own sanity.
I want to give an update on our lives because I use this blog so much as a virtual baby book/helpful memory tool for myself. But also . . .I feel like I need and want to address so much of the insanity of the world. I want to put down in words the anguish I feel that once again children were killed while going to FUCKING SCHOOL. I want to express my horror and outrage that these kids have never known a world that didn’t include regular school shootings – a utopia I was able to live with until my junior year of high school when Columbine happened down the street. I want to tell you that L and I are actually seriously saying things like, “do you think we should try and move somewhere that doesn’t have this problem before our kids are old enough to go to school?” and “yes, that or figure out how to educate them somewhere or somehow where this can’t happen.”
And I’ll sign all the things and donate money to all the organizations and march in the streets whenever there’s a reason to but it doesn’t seem to DO anything. Like, how many times do we let children get murdered in their classrooms before we actually address what’s happening? We’ll lock up tide pods and outlaw Kinder Eggs before we put any limitations on guns. My anger and my helplessness feels suffocating.
Of course, more than guns this is about the way we are raising boys in this country. Or, maybe not more . . .it’s the two together, the insane and sickening combination of the two. And I am doing my part to end that, but my boys are two out of thousands, the classes I teach are hundreds out of millions. I feel beat down and worn out and so, so scared for the lives of my little humans and all the little humans.
So. There’s that.
And also, my parents. My parent’s and their failing health and my distance and the guilt, but also the relief, that distance causes. My mom was in the hospital twice in a week – once for debilitating back pain they determined was caused by a stomach virus that had her down for the count, the second for a nuerological reaction caused by pain meds from the back pain + dehydration from the stomach virus. Those are unique things not chronic or regular conditions, but my parents are both limited in their mobility and really, honestly probably shouldn’t be living alone in a huge house. When they sold the home I grew up in, my brother and I were hopeful they’d look into a condo or apartment in a retirement community where they’d have access to some additional support. Instead, they bought an even bigger house but – at least – a ranch style with everything on one level. My brother had to go help my dad get my mom to the hospital and, because he’s a big selfish douchebag, was a real asshole about it but also it’s fair to set up boundaries and while I don’t think he can do that in a compassionate way, I do think he’s allowed to say no to some of this. But I’m not there – which saddens and also relieves me – so who am I to have an opinion?
Laurie is in tech this week (started Saturday with full day – 10a-10p – rehearsals both weekend days) which means there is no rest for the weary. These are longer nights and more involved rehearsals. They have preview nights on Thursday and Friday and then open this weekend. Once the show is officially open, things should slow down a little. I am doing a lot of breath work to let go of the things that I usually spend time on – wiping down all the counters every night, putting all the toys in their proper location – and focusing on getting the bare minimum done.
On the upside, Angus seems to have really turned a corner, going from still somewhat regularly cranky to a beaming ball of sunshine. This has been both slowly coming down the pike with age, but was boosted by getting him on omeprazole last week, which seems to have really improved his reflux. Like, y’all, he’s a different baby. Of course, our insurance doesn’t cover this medication because it’s compounded (hello, he’s a very small baby who needs things in small doses which are not always made by companies) and because it’s available over the counter (but only if you are an adult person who can swallow a pill in the available dosage.) So, we are in the process of appealing the decision, though we’ll likely fork over the $40/month if we have to because it’s made such a radical difference in his (and our) lives.
Ansel is also really on point with the cute these days (I hope I didn’t just tempt fate by writing that) and, mostly, not being too much of a turdler. He’s started being much more wildly imaginative in his play, which is SO FUN. He combines different universes he knows or has made up to create new ideas and has started telling hilariously outlandish stories. Of course, a lot of this is helped by his ever increasing vocabulary and understandability.
A few weeks ago, I decided to cut out our nighttime (before bed) nursing session to help make my life a bit easier when putting them both to bed alone. Nursing Ansel before bed, even for the limited amount of time I set up a while ago, meant having to either have Angus to sleep beforehand (a laudable, but not always achievable, goal), juggle him on my lap while Ansel is nursing (and he is a big back and forth guy) or lay him down somewhere and hope he doesn’t lose his shit. All of these options were stressful for me and ended up compromising my ability to be fully present for nursing or feeling bad for Angus or both. Once I’d made my mind up, I picked a day where L was home for a few nights in succession in case it really went sideways, then I told him it was the last night he’d have milk before bed. I’d done something similar with naps, so it wasn’t out of left field.
I was a little shocked to find that he took it in stride, for the most part. The first few nights he cried a little when I reminded him, but he was pretty easily distracted with books (I upped the number we read together) and snuggles. Since then, he has asked a couple of times, then acquiesced when reminded or, more recently, just stated “no milk” as a fact while getting ready for bed. Given his intense love of nursing, this is not what I was expecting.
So, that means we are down to just early mornings when he crawls into our bed and nurses. I’m inclined to keep this one for the foreseeable future, since it affords all of us a little extra sleep and without it, he’d likely just want to get up and go. So, for now, that one stays in place. Still, it feels huge that we are down to just once a day, since 6 months ago I was pretty well fair game when I was home.
Angus can sit with support, though he’s still working on his tripod. He call roll both directions, and loves putting things in his mouth. He continues to be very chatty, cawing and cooing and squawking all day long. He is beginning to settle into some patterns with sleeping that are making our nights less complicated. He has tried frozen banana (big win), a piece of waffle (which he gummed to bits and then easily swallowed) and tasted but disliked oatmeal. He already kind of seems better at chewing than his brother. We are proceeding with caution in terms of solids because he’s not sitting unassisted yet, but he’s SUPER interested in food and seems to be enjoying it, so we are gonna go for it. Doc, PT and IBCLC also seem to have varying opinions.
L started domperidone a few weeks ago to try and boost her supply and get Angus off donor milk (or at least less reliant on it.) It seems to be having the desired effect, though because the problem seems to be with his latch and frustration with slower letdowns, we are still using a lot of bottles. On her long days, she was easily able to pump the average/necessary 1 oz/hour and I keep reminding her that she is doing great. It’s much easier on this side of the pump, I must admit.
Angus hit 6 months on Feb 9th and Ansel will be 3 in less than a month. WHAT?!? Sometimes I still don’t understand how I am an adult enough to have two children but then I have moments of doing things that vaguely remind me of my childhood, but from the otherside and I’m like . . .oh, yeah. I’m a mom now. It’s mostly when I have a baby on my hip and am also cutting a sandwich into quarters or some other Normal Rockwellian type of shit. Strangely, when I am on my 5th cup of coffee in as many hours while attempting to both encourage the baby to move towards the light up turtle and fully embody Daisy Duck while she throws a part for the monster trucks, I don’t have that same sense of motherhood.
I think there’s more but this seems like a lot already and my time is running out anyway. But here are some cute pictures!
It has been a VERY long month. February, despite lasting all of two days, will probably follow suit. It is a marathon, not a sprint . . .I’m trying to pace myself.
I finished up one of my busiest parts of the year, where I am teaching 5-7 classes every day for weeks on end (often without a ‘planning period’ off because I am trying to cover so many schools and get to all of the sections of health in each of them), sometimes providing 8 hour trainings for teachers (which is a 10 hour day, without any commute) and waking up WAY earlier than usual (or than any human should. Why in fuck’s name do high schools start at 7 am!?!) I talked about birth control so much I’m sure I was reciting facts about IUDs (in developmentally appropriate, health literacy based language) in my sleep.
Having to get up so early (many days I was leaving the house at 6am or earlier) meant often not seeing my family until I got home in the evening. Ansel was less than excited about this turn of events. When he’d wake and find me not in my usual spot, where we usually have a little while to snuggle and nurse, he’d start sobbing and telling L he wanted her to go to work instead of me. So, all the exhaustion + some mom guilt + wishing I could save my partner from scorned toddler wrath.
When I have been home in the evenings and weekends, L has often been gone at rehearsal. After the first few tries of taking Angus with her and discovering that he was totally willing to scream his high pitched inconsolable wail for the entire drive from Tacoma to North Seattle (sometimes during rush hour), L called and told me she would have to quit the show – she couldn’t handle the stress of the screaming. Rather than do that, we decided she would just leave him home with me. The director also worked the schedule out so that in the early weeks, L was mostly just going on the weekends. Things are starting to pick up now, and will continue to do so for the next few weeks. Then, of course, they open at the end of February with a run through the first two weekends of March. Ships passing in the night, blah blah blah . . .
Shift parenting has been challenging. There has been reminding Ansel that I am also the boss of him (ha ha ha ha! As if any of us are actually the bosses of our toddlers!)and convincing him to nap when I’m home. I held out one weekend, even though it meant he didn’t actually go to sleep until close to 4pm but since then, he’s gone down much easier for me, so I’m calling it a win. It did also involve a lot of him telling me ‘I’m crying!” and saying “No thank you Mama!” to my offers of back rubs or songs. Cute + heartbreaking. Then, there is what I am calling “The StruggleGus” – which are the nights (always nights) when Angus is virtually inconsolable and screaming while I am trying to put Ansel to sleep. This week, I had two nights where I felt close to losing my shit. Ansel was a terror, the house was a wreck, Angus screamed for hours on end, the dogs got into the trash . . .and I thought maybe I couldn’t do it anymore. More seriously, I thought I wanted a cigarette really badly which isn’t a craving I’ve had in a long, long time.
I’m looking forward to the shift parenting being over, in part because weathering the hard stuff is SO much easier with a comrade in arms. To this end, last night I called in back up and our friend who lives nearby came and held the screaming baby while I put Ansel down, then switched off with me trying everything possible to get him to sleep. It still sucked, but it was much easier to keep my wits about me.
L has a couple of solid leads on some jobs, and she’s very excited about the prospect (minus the anxiety rabbit hole of childcare. I have resolutely stuck my head in the sand on that one!) which will have the benefit of both boosting her self esteem and getting her back into work she likes + adding some $$ to our family (hopefully . . .again, the childcare thing . . .) There’s a newly opened performing arts complex in the city just north of us and she has some connections there. They are city jobs that pay well and while it’s not her 100% dream job, it would be a good step forward.
I have also been working on getting a ‘promotion’ (not exactly the right term, but . . .) at my job as well. It’s a little complicated because unions + county government and how all of that works. Essentially, I have been asked to do work above my ‘classification’ basically since I started here, because it’s work I’d done before and have the skill and knowledge to do. This wasn’t a big deal to me because it’s work I like, but over the last 18 months I’ve grown steadily more resentful about it, primarily because (a) one of the other people in my position who has been here for 7+ years (in the job, with the county much longer) doesn’t even do the work we are supposed to do in our classification and is making a LOT more money than me because of seniority and (b) we just hired new people who I am training and who didn’t come with the skill I have and won’t be doing the work I’m doing and I know they were both hired at the same rate as me. It’s hard not to feel kind of taken advantage in this situation.
The process for moving to the next classification, though, is a lengthy and bureaucratic one which I began in November. I had a meeting almost two weeks ago with HR and my boss (and bosses boss) which was nerve wracking and intimidating (I almost cried afterwards from the stress) and it will be another 3-5 weeks before I hear anything. It would mean a slight raise and a II instead of a I on my classification, but it comes with the benefit of being a slightly more protected role (for complicated union reasons) and recognizing my work, which is what I’m really after. I have a lot of anxiety about what I’ll do if the reclassification doesn’t happen, in terms of managing my own feelings. But, cart before the horse.
It’s taken me almost a week to write this post, and things have changed a lot even in those few days, in terms of what I want to write about and what feels important enough to share and process. I wanted to write about #metoo and how to raise boys in this world who aren’t just concerned with not raping people but are also genuinely interested in active consent and mutual pleasure. I wanted to write about the complexities and gifts of being a non-gestational parent to one kid and a gestational parent to another – the ways in which biology can get in the way of parenting sometimes. I wanted to write about our upcoming trip to Denver and our plans to hire a Minnie Mouse character to come to the birthday/baptism party we are planning. I wanted to write about how we are starting to have community in the ways I want and need as a parent and a person – people who come over to hang out even when its hard and not fun, people who will of course watch your kid he’s so great! On short notice and with no pay and how good that feels and how sure it makes me that Tacoma was 100% the right choice. And there’s more . . .But if I don’t post this now, I never will. And, Ansel woke up at 4am today and I feel like I’m barely forming sentences let alone able to write anything of substance.
So, at least there’s a list – for me, if no one else. Maybe I’ll get back to those, maybe I won’t. There feels like both too much time and also never enough. When I have a swath of time laid in front of me, I can barely manage to stare into space or at my phone (though I rarely am able to make the more beneficial decision to go the fuck to sleep) and the rest of the time is taken up with all the other things.
But, there it is . . .an update or something like it.
Yesterday Angus hit 5 months! We haven’t take his ‘official’ 5 month pictures yet, but here’s one I caught yesterday to give you a peak:
Mostly I’m going to tell you about family drama.
There’s Xmas in Indiana, with L’s family. On the whole, it wasn’t bad. Since L’s mom sold her house in their hometown and is currently camped out with L’s brother and SIL while she waits for her house in Florida to be built, we don’t have a comfy space that feels like ‘ours.’ We stayed with L’s cousin who is lovely and was so kind, but it just never felt like we could settle. There was lots of room, but none of it really worked for us.
Then there was the church stuff. L has two older brothers – the older one has been involved with super conservative evangelical mega churches since L and I got together, and even works for one now (and has in the past.) The middle brother is less committal and generally more middle child, but has never been super involved with anything. His wife, however, recently got involved with the conservative mega church where Older Brother works. We had our suspicions after a few days that her involvement with the church may have shifted some of her feelings about us, mostly because she was being much colder and more distant from both of us. Then we learned that our niece had asked her mom about us – something along the lines of “Auntie Lala and Auntie Andie are both girls and they are married, right?” and her mom (middle bros wife) said, “Yes, but we don’t believe in that.”
I HATE the “we don’t believe in that” bullshit. Like, I’m sorry, what don’t you believe in – we are real people who are actually and legally married. So what you are actually saying is, we believe that they are wrong/going to hell/fucked up/whatever. You DO believe something about us, so say what you do believe in. You have to fess up to the fucked up implications if you do that, though, and SIL definitely doesn’t want to do that.
The worst of it, though, is how silent everyone else stays. No one said anything to SIL, in her recounting of this story, about how confusing that might be for our niece (to hear that her family ‘doesn’t believe’ in her aunts but . . .they’re her aunts and she should be nice to them?) or how hurtful it is to us, or how our GOD DAMN identity isn’t something that we can ‘agree to disagree’ about, or if you’re going to believe that stuff you should probably let us know and not pretend everything is fine and dandy. It’s hard to not feel slighted by the silence or their urging to just ‘ignore it,’ as though this were some friendly razzing.
Still . . .Christmas was still lovely because toddlers make holidays magical.
And then there’s my family . . .
We are visiting in March, since this year wasn’t our Denver xmas (side note: all Xmases going forward will be Washington/wherever-the-hell-we-live Xmases) and are trying to schedule everything out. For a variety of reasons (see here) we decided we didn’t want to spend all of the days and nights with my parents, and that we’d also spend part of the time staying with our besties M+L. I told my mom this, and she lost it. There was a lot about how she hasn’t met Gus yet, how I should recognize how important family is and prioritize that, how she hardly even knew us because we hardly saw her, etc etc etc. All of which just reaffirmed for me why we don’t want to stay there the whole time. There’s also the reality that my parents live pretty far out in the suburbs and our friends all live closer in to Denver or in the city proper, and we are NOT just going to Denver to see family and our friends are as important to us as our family is and that isn’t going to change.
The whole conversation was a mess. She wanted to talk about it more, even after I told her that more talking would not result in any change to our plans, and wanted to do some ‘let’s each take the other person’s perspective’ exercise which normally I’d be game for but she followed it up with, “like, you could try and understand why it would be so hurtful that you’d stay with someone besides me when I haven’t even met my youngest grandchild yet.” At which point I was like nopenopenope. Let’s not forget that they have also not come to visit us since Gus was born, nor does it seem like something they are planning to do. But, whatever. Fucking DRAMA. I imagine it is not going to go well when I tell them there will be no more Christmas visits. But, y’all . . .I don’t want my kids growing up having Christmas switch locations each year, without the opportunity to have our own traditions and experiences. So, whatever . . .everyone gets to have feelings and I’m not responsible for them and that’s what I’m gonna keep telling myself as I sit through this damned mess.
Ansel seems to have gone through some sort of developmental leap. He has gone from verbal to conversational (does that make sense? Like, before he said stuff but now he’s engaged in telling and back and forth and stories and experiences) and is taking things on easily that before were real chores – teeth brushing, table clearing, toy pick up. He’s also been about 95% sweet to his brother without even the aggressive love bubbling up, an improvement from the 75% he was at. I’ve started very slowly ‘weaning’ by limiting nursing to before nap when I’m home, before bed, and when we wake up. I have no idea when or how I’ll start dropping those others, but the goal is to stop nursing in the next 6ish months.
Angus can hold his head up and roll both ways – easily from front to back and from back to front with help/less consistently. He has the most charming smile and does this very adorable thing with his eyebrows. He’s still small – just hitting 12 lbs! – but continues gaining. He’s been getting fortified donor milk in addition to nursing which has taken the pressure off L a bit. He’s also been sick a lot, which sucks. It’s the saddest when a tiny dude is hacking and sneezing. Ansel didn’t get his first cold until he was 10 months old. Angus has not fared quite so well.
The flight to and from Indy went really well. I 110% 5 star highly recommend the cares harness (and shout out to Lemon Drop for the suggestion) which kept Ansel contained but still left us space in the seats. He did well watching the iPad and coloring and playing with his trolls. We told him he could only get out of the harness to take a nap on my lap, and that’s exactly what he did. The flight home went well in terms of toddler energy, but had it’s own complications. Ansel picked up a miserable cough while in Indy, and was hacking up a lung the whole flight. As often happens, his cough turned into vomiting, which happened forcefully and repeatedly at about hour 2.5 (out of 5.) So, I spent a lot of the flight covered in puke. No thumbs up, do not recommend.
We have continued asking Ansel about his interest in wearing Minnie Mouse or Paw Patrol chonies and/or peeing on the potty. He sometimes wants the underpants but never wants the potty. We gave it a bit more of a concentrated effort in the last couple days with 0 progression so, back to waiting we go. He’ll eventually be potty trained. I hope.
We have suspected for a while that Ansel would do well in the setting of an outdoor preschool. (for those of you who don’t know, there is a growing movement of outdoor schools – and yes, it’s outdoors ALL day, all year round – https://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/31/fashion/outdoor-preschool-in-nature.html, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/18/t-magazine/germany-forest-kindergarten-outdoor-preschool-waldkitas.html ) When we initially moved, we heard about a program that was starting in Seattle, and even signed up on the list to be contacted when Ansel turned 3. Of course, now we live in Tacoma so the Seattle program wouldn’t work . . .until they decided to open one in the suburb nearest us in 2018! There’s also an outdoor preschool at the Tacoma Nature Center, so we have options! The Seattle based school, Tiny Trees, is also very affordable so we are excited to explore it. It costs enough that we can’t afford it unless L goes back to work (which she wants to do anyway) but it’s still much more reasonable than typical preschool. We decided to do a free Tinkergarten trial to see if our hunch was right and, lo and behold, Ansel was more focused and engaged in the activities at Tinkergarten than he has been at any time in his regular preschool class. There’s growing evidence that being outdoors can work especially well for kids who are kinesthetic and need movement or who have ADHD. I think this is going to be a great solution for us and I’m SO excited to try and make it work.
Also, OMFG my kid is almost THREE?!
It’s my busy season at work with lots of early mornings and very long days. In addition, L was cast in a show with a local theater company, and rehearsals are three evenings a week and Saturday and Sunday afternoons. She can take Angus to rehearsal sometimes, but, in any case, shit is about to get really busy and we are about to see each other a lot less. Accordingly (and, hopefully she doesn’t mind my sharing this with my reading public) we have decided our 2018 resolution is to have sex every Saturday of the year (with reschedules possible for extenuating circumstances.) After months of parenting a toddler + an infant and all the requisite time/energy/self confidence sucks therein, it’s been waaay too long. We decided that setting aside a specific day and making a fun commitment would help us and, if we can beat our goal of 1x/week or 52 times this year, that would be even better! So far, we’re 1 for 1!
Well, late again but feeling less guilt ridden about it anyway.
Here’s the lowdown for this update:
FOUR MONTHS OLD! 11 lbs! Getting YUGE!
Gus continues to grow into a full fledged baby. He’s wearing 0-3 and some 3 month size clothing, and despite thinking we’d wait until after the holidays, he’s in cloth diapers too. We happened to get a haul of G-diapers from a free site and have boosted it with some cheap second hands, so now we have some diapers that are more his size to use (we used a service with Ansel until he was big enough to be in the small flats) I forgot how much I like using cloth diapers, and how adorable a fluffy butt is!
He is also getting calmer, falling asleep more easily, and engaging more. He’s giggling a lot these days – he’s super ticklish on his ribs and under his chin – and while he isn’t as quick or generous with a smile as Ansel was, his smile is incredibly sweet and very genuine, so it’s lovely when they do happen. Recently, we’ve been able to get him to sleep without a complex maze of calming techniques, which feels like a huge win.
He saw the doc for his 4 month visit and his growth had fallen off a bit. Likely, this is because we had gotten less consistent about giving him supplemental bottles, and were mostly replying on L nursing, with a fortified bottle in the middle of the night. Mostly, this was because asking L to pump in addition to nursing and caring for a toddler, without me there to help mitigate some of the demands, was just too much. She was able to pump consistently in the evenings after the kids are asleep, but all the other opportunities – before I went to work, during nap time – were easily messed up by early schedules or poorly napping toddlers or a host of other reasons. We had considered just giving him the formula for a few extra bottles but he was having more reflux when we tried that.
So, after hearing that the doc would like him to be gaining a bit quicker, we decided to pursue getting some breastmilk donations through HM4HB. Since we don’t need to get donations exclusively, we can make whatever we’re able to get last a while. This last week I drove out to Bremerton to pick up 200 oz of frozen breastmilk, which has allowed us to give him between 4-6 oz. of fortified milk in addition to what he gets nursing. L continues to pump at night and get about 2-3 oz to feed back to him, as well. Hopefully, we can get back to the quick gain that he really needs.
Thanks to the petri dish he lives with, he’s had a case of pink eye that he kind of can’t shake, and a cold and cough. Ansel made it to almost a year without sickness but you just can’t make that happen when you have a two year old all up in your grill all the time. The sickness has impacted his sleeping and while he’s still a better sleeper than Ansel, it’s not quite as lovely as it was before the crud kicked in.
He still super cute (and, IMO, getting cuter – as most babies do as they near the golden 6-9 month age range) and a very sweet baby. His eyes are clearly getting darker (L has hazel eyes, donor has blue – seems like Gus’ might be darker brown though) and his hair has stayed quite dark and is coming in full monk style (bald on top, thick around the neck.) I think he still has a bit of the old man look about him, but he’s starting to fill out in more babyish ways.
While Ansel has been well and fully into toddlerhood for a while (including many of the incumbent struggles) he has not been very ‘sassy.’ Until now. In the last few weeks he’s started up with some time honored gems. He has started awkwardly crossing his arms and stomping around saying, “Me mad!” when we’ve upset him, and more eye rollingly annoying, has started saying “No, I take YOU away, Mama!” when we tell him he’ll lose a toy/a privilege if he doesn’t use it appropriately. These things are mostly still cute, though I imagine them growing less so very soon. He is definitely inching towards three, though, and I can feel it. In fact, while I despise the XX months age references after two, I have to admit that he’s now 2 years 9 months (33 months!) which feels quite different than 2 ½ if I’m being honest.
He saw Santa and while he wasn’t scared, he was clear that he did not want to sit on Santa’s lap. Thankfully, the very nice Santa at Bass Pro Shop was quite understanding and had a great option. I’m proud of my kid for setting a boundary and having it heard. I’m also glad we got another solid Santa picture! He’s entranced with all things Christmas – “christcrist lights! Cristcris train!” – and Santa and his elf Red, and all of the rest of it. I’m so excited for him to open his gifts and have the Indiana Christmas experience next week. I now more fully understand why Christmas is so much better when you have little kids. Really, the magic feels so much more palpable and present, and being on this side of making it happen feels really special.
His speech continues to grow and develop, though he also continues to be difficult to understand. I think we’ll likely contact the school district for another evaluation when he turns three, in preparation for public preschool. We understand him quite well, but it does seem like there is a lot more interpretation necessary than for many of his peers. Angus’ PT has also recommended we get Ansel into some OT for his eating issues (he continues to spit things out and gag pretty frequently) and to maybe look at his proprioceptive sense and perhaps get support for that. We change insurance plans in January, so I’ll look into all of that with a new doc then.
Might still be dying? But seems perfectly healthy, at least from my perspective. So, we continue apace. As long as he’s eating and seems pain free, we’ll keep on keepin’ on. If things change, we look for new options. He has definitely become SO NAUGHTY because yes, we are letting him get away with more because, you know, dying.
And the rest . . .
I used my last 16 hours of paid parental leave this week. I’m sad to not be home as much but feel good about not being quite so split with my time and attention. Mostly deeply grateful that I was able to stretch things out so long.
Travelling to Indy next week and can’t decide: Put Ansel in the car seat for the flight or no? It’s a 5 hour direct flight. I feel like we can’t in good conscious keep him strapped in for all 5 hours but also know that if we let him out, it will be basically impossible for us to get him back in. Then again, the seat provides some containment. I am happily soliciting your opinions.
I’m so tired, all the time. I can’t make myself go to sleep any earlier though because I really also want the time to decompress or talk to my wife or do something besides work and child rearing.
It’s been sunny in Western WA for almost two weeks. It’s magical here in the winter with the sun out. All green trees and misty mornings and Mount Rainier pink lit in the sunrise. But, it started raining today so probably that’s over now.
We went to Portland last weekend for a Christmas train/to hang out with Pot + Lid + Kid and other friends. I love living so close to PDX and so many rad people. Ansel almost lost his mind to be on a ‘Cristcris Train’ and keeps talking about it. Now, whenever he hears a train he says, “Mama, that sound is cristcris train?”
Thanksgiving was lovely and magical and doing holidays with your friends instead of the way they’ve always been done with your family is so life affirming and empowering and comforting. We had a great time taking them around the area and doing some exploring ourselves. Highlight was this hike on Vashon to see a lovely little lighthouse. Also, the matching shirts. Duh.
This is our Christmas card and I think we really knocked it out of the park this year. Wish I knew just how scandalized some of our family members are . . .
I think there’s more but I’m so tired I can’t remember.
I’m behind on my once a month goal! I know NONE of you care, but I made a commitment to myself, damnit.
I feel like I want to organize my post a bit more than usual, since I actually feel like I have a lot on my mind that I’ve been wanting to share here. Also, then you can skip the parts you aren’t as into!
Angus – Month 3
The Littlest Bear hit three months last week on November 9th. As of this morning, he weighs 10 lbs 1oz – finally into double digits! He’s edging out of his newborn sized clothing, which means we are finally getting into our stash of hand me downs (we gave most of Ansel’s NB stuff away to a friend) and we are also finally feeling solid about putting him in cloth diapers. We are waiting until after the holidays because of travel, etc. So 2018 – here comes the cloth booty!
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned, but Angus has been a much “harder” baby than Ansel was. He tends to get upset more easily and have a harder time settling. In the evenings, his scream is the decibel and pitch to drive a small wedge of anxiety into your brain, and just when you think you’ve unlocked the master combination of swaying-holding-shushing-pacifier holding, he’ll lose it all over again. This + toddler has made the last few months SUPER difficult.
But, like most babies, he’s starting to come out of this inconsolable haze. Part of that is just growing up and getting bigger (size and development.) Part of it is getting him on some medication for reflux (I know, I know . . .it’s over prescribed and whatever but I think it’s helping, really) and part of it is getting some tips from his physical therapist (he’s seeing her for torticollis) on how to help him regulate his little nervous system. Apparently, because he didn’t get the kind of womb squeeze that more average sized newborns get, he needs more of it now. So, we’re doing a lot of pressure holds and helping him regulate himself.
He has good long stretches of being wide awake and calm, and even better – long stretches of smiling and cooing at us. Ansel wasn’t a huge coo-er, but Angus makes the sweetest little gurgles and sighs. It’s so lovely. Maybe I forgot how great it is to have a tiny baby stare and smile at you for basically doing nothing – afterall, once they get bigger you have to work for it at least a little. I’m excited that he is entering the infant vs. newborn stage now, which I personally find much more rewarding. Plus, they aren’t mobile yet.
Ansel is full on into complex sentences now, and his pronounciation is starting to shore up as well, so I’m less worried than I was a few months ago. He still loves school, his intense romance with Minnie Mouse has gotten even more intense, and he continues to be joy filled, smiling, and so very charming.
Lately, I’ve been struggling with his physicality and how that fits with other kids his age. There are a few components to this.
Ansel doesn’t really have the capacity to sit still, at least, not on his own. At school, this isn’t a huge deal. The teacher doesn’t believe it’s developmentally appropriate to expect them to sit and listen during circle time. So, they are encouraged, given space if they need to be walking or jumping or rolling or whatever, but they are asked to not play with other toys. Ansel really only sits during circle if I’m there as a working parent, or on occasion, when the teacher has him in her lap. But, we’ve also started taking him to various classes. In gymnastics, the kids are asked to do a LOT of sitting, paying attention, and waiting. It’s a parent-child class, and geared towards toddlers, so it feels a little weird that there is this level of focus needed from them. I spend about 60% of the class chasing after him or trying to keep him contained while the coach asks them to put their hands in their laps or drones on about how to do a somersault. I want him to keep going because I think he needs the physical interaction, but I don’t know if I can hang with all that’s being demanded.
What makes this harder is that Ansel seems to be in the minority around this. In school, there are 2-3 other kids (mostly boys) who also are up and busy most of the time. In gymnastics, he’s sometimes the only one. In both cases, he’s usually more apt to run off or run farther or faster or be less engaged. I feel judged, and I feel like HE is judged.
Ansel also likes to touch other people. I have never seen him do it in an aggressive way, or even in anger. He likes to hug, or crash into folks, or occasionally push – but it’s basically in a playful way, a desire to engage. No matter the intent, I don’t want him to touch people without their consent (hello, the news these days is full of guys who could have benefited from learning about consent earlier in their lives!) and even though he’s being fun and playful, others don’t always see it that way. I don’t want kids or their parents to dislike or be afraid of Ansel because of his physicality. The flip side of this is that he is SO snuggly and sweet and affectionate with us, and lots of other people. So how do I encourage this kind of affection while also helping him understand he needs to have permission to touch, and that touching isn’t always appropriate.
Parenting is fucking haaard.
As I said, the Minnie love is full on and hard core. He did go as Minnie Mouse for Halloween (and his little face lit up everytime he put on that dress) and he asks daily to watch “Minnie Bow-Tique, please” on YouTube. He has also recently gotten into old school Minnie cartoons, as well as this gem from a 1980’s Disney special called “Totally Disney.” My kid loving Minnie +Elton John = My personal gay agenda achieved.
Don't Go Breaking My Heart - Elton John & Minnie Mouse - YouTube
He has asked for a “Minnie car I drive” for Xmas which he is NOT getting because, hello – we don’t even have room for our actual vehicles in the garage. But, he will be having a very Minnie Mouse holiday, I am sure.
He’s also more generally into wearing princess dresses which has brought up some interesting responses from our families. So far, only raised eye brows or passive aggressive comments. But if anyone says anything more direct, I will not hesitate to fuck them up.
My sweet old dog Eliot is dying.
A few weeks ago, he and the little bulldog, Hilda, got in a little tiff. This is common and also, usually, NBD because bulldogs lack the basic anatomy to do much damage and Eliot is a sweet natured dude. But, on this occasion (of course, at 10pm) after their row, I noticed some blood coming from Eliot’s mouth. The only cause I could find was a strange piece of flesh in his mouth. Nervous he had some weird wound there, I took him to the emergency vet. We waited 2 hours to be seen, and when we were, the very nice vet (who was wearing a nice suit and vest at 10pm at an emergency vet?) told me there was no emergency issue, but that the lump of flesh in his mouth was a malignant melanoma. He also told me that melanomas in the mouth are incredibly aggressive, fast growing, and quickly spread. His recommendation was to see a Canine Oncologist, get the tumor excised and biopsied (a procedure that requires anesthesia) and then proceed with chemo therapy or radiation or some other cancer treatment. When I asked him to be honest and tell me what kind of prognosis my dog had, both with treatment and without, he told me that in either case I was looking at less than a year. With extensive treatment – maybe 6-9 months.
I left in tears. The next day, I talked to our regular vet who had by then seen the report from the emergency clinic. She told me she agreed with the diagnosis (though she hadn’t seen the actual tumor, based on the description as well as Eliot’s breed – he’s a spaniel – she felt fairly sure it was a malignant melanoma as well) and the prognosis. I talked through options with her again, and she agreed that even with extensive treatment, it was unlikely he had very long to live. She said that very often, by the time these tumors are even seen, it’s too late to do a whole lot.
I will not put my old, sweet dog through surgery and intensive cancer treatment to buy him (but really me) a few more months, even assuming I had the financial ability to do so. He is 13 years old and has lived a long and relatively pain free life. Right now, he continues to have energy, eat with gusto (indeed, his favorite pastime is stealing food from Ansel’s plate), and enjoy his life – though with more naps than he took when younger. If he starts to show signs of pain or distress or discomfort, we will reevaluate but, for now, we are doing nothing. Except, of course, loving him a little more, petting him a little longer, and letting him get away with stealing a few more goldfish crackers.
Folks who also follow Pot and Lid Make Kid may see a trend here . . .
Lately, I have seen a LOT of moms (particularly of the feminist/queer/lesbian variety) talking about their terror/disgust/fear of having and raising boy children. I have a lot of feelings about this, and they are very complex. First, I want to own the fact that when we were trying to get pregnant, I did feel a preference for a girl. But once we found out we were having a boy (for the record, when I say boy I mean a baby with XY chromosomes and a penis) I didn’t feel fear or disgust. I did feel a huge, looming responsibility, I did feel like I had even less room to fuck this thing called parenting up. But I also felt like the universe knows what its doing, giving boy children to queers and feminists, whether those boy children are actually trans feminine children who will need loving, supportive space to be themselves or if they grow up to be cisgender straight dudes who will need to not be dicks.
We are really trying to create space for either/both of these realities. Mostly, I want the same things for all kids, no matter their anatomy or identity. I want them to have access to things that give them comfort, to things that make their brains and hearts and souls happy. I want them to be healthy, and fed. To feel comfortable with their emotions and the emotions of other people. To feel ok being their truest self, whoever that is. And, I know that because we live in the world we do, my children will have different limitations imposed of those goals than would children with XX chromosomes and vaginas. I know that my kids need to learn to not touch without permission, to feel ok crying, to learn to manage their feelings without hurting other people. I know my kids will be told to be strong, to not have feelings, to take what they want because the world ‘owes’ them, and I want to throw a wrench in that.
But when feminists and queers fear boys, we are just reifying those things. When a person posts in a queer parenting group that they are afraid of gestating a boy child because of toxic masculinity and the behavior problems they see in boys, they will necessarily treat boys with those expectations, they will make those awful things real. I believe people behave the way we expect them to. And, I fear for how my boy children will be treated by people who profess to be feminist but who also expect them to be aggressive or harmful simply because of their anatomy. How in the world is this any less awful than when misogynists think women can’t govern because they menstruate?
Furthermore, I believe we can only know someone’s gender once they tell us. And that gender gets sticky and weird when married to biology. My kid likes a lot of boy things, he has “boy energy” (so I’m told, anyway), and is also adores Minnie Mouse and gets shakey-tearful excited when he sees himself in a poofy red dress and can’t handle doing preschool if he’s not in the blue ball gown. I don’t know his gender. I don’t think I’ll know it until he can articulate it. I call him a boy and use the pronouns I do because of the world we live in and the limitations of language. I also want him to have all the space in the world to define “boy” for himself, to be a boy in whatever ways he wants. I want for him and all boys for “boy” to include blue ball gowns and sensitivity and tenderness and glitter. I want for all children to have access to all things, and to define their identity not by what they like, or what they look like, but by what they feel inside to be true.
You guys I’m not allowed to wear headphones in my tiny cubicle space anymore and I am dying so I am now in the process of trying to be allowed to use them again but WTactualF, really???
Our BFF’s are coming for TGiving and I’m so psyched. I made iron ons for t-shirts today – aren’t they amazing? (Jabogusly is a combination of all of our last names, FYI) Our Seattle BFFs are also coming with their toddler for dinner on the actual tgiving day. It feels really nice to be hosting and feel like we have people here to do holidays with.
I’m feeling really proud that I’m posting once a month. I hope this will continue. Feel free to affirm the hell outta me about this, if you want.
Angus’ birthday isn’t the sole reason for posting, but it’s a good reminder that we’ve managed to make it through another month of keeping two kids alive and surviving as a family of four. So, why not use the excuse?
Ergo . . .
Yesterday, Angus hit two months!
As you can see, he’s up to 7 lbs 11 oz, which is 2 lbs in a month, and almost double his birth weight (and way more than double his lowest weight.) It also makes him about the size of an average newborn.
It’s weird to see him and feel like he’s HUGE and also know that HUGE 2 month old Angus = average sized just born baby. I’m sure it will continue to be weird for us, and I know that for folks who had much earlier and smaller preemies, it’s an even bigger contrast.
He also decided to pull out the real, big, social smiles yesterday, and upped his cooing quoitiant as well!
He’s meeting all of the other anticipated milestones, albeit a few weeks later than usual, which is to be expected. The ped is slightly worried about his muscle tone, so she’s referred him to a physical therapist for an evaluation. But, he continues to gain weight and meet or exceed expectations! And, he’s finally sturdy enough that we don’t feel like he’s made of glass!
Ansel continues to love school, and we’ve added in swim lessons 2x/week and gymnastics 1x/week. We decided to buy a membership to the YMCA in part so we could get him into these activities (all the classes are included with membership) and also get some dedicated time to ourselves for walking/bike riding/whatever. We even splurged for the “child watch’ which allows us some child care for Ansel so we can use the facilities too. So far, we’ve made it to all of the toddler’s classes but 0 activities for the moms. Gotta work on that.
Ansel really enjoys both of the activities, though he struggles with the direction following and waiting involved. But, this is partially the impetus for getting him in classes – to help him gain some of those skills. He’s getting better each week and seems to really appreciate the patterns in the classes.
PS – this is what he picked out to wear last week and wouldn’t take any of it off for gymnastics class later on. May my child always choose the glitter leggings. May he also always be this sassy.
Sibling relations continue to be terrifying and adorable, simultaneously. We cannot leave Ansel alone in a room with Angus because he will find his soft spot and push on it, or drop a train on his head, or . . .you know, almost anything well meaning but likely to get in the way of Project Keep Kids Alive. This, of course, makes getting anything besides child care a little difficult, but mostly works out ok. Ansel still loves Tiny and wants to hold him, or sing to him, or comfort him when he cries. He also steals the wubbanub pacifier out of Angus’ mouth and hides it near the toilet, so . . .win some, lose some.
Ansel has deepened his love for Minnie Mouse recently, and has taken to dragging around the very large stuffed Minnie toy we got him for xmas last year. (Yellow train has taken a back seat, though is still in rotation) He likes taking her to the park, tucking her in bed with him, and brushing her teeth. He dug out the Minnie ears from our trip to Disney and has been wearing them around the house frequently, usually along with his red white and blue tutu. He frequently makes us wear costumes as well.
We have been trying to explain Halloween to him and while I’m not sure he really gets it (mostly he loves ‘pumpums’ and ‘skeleons’) he has finally expressed a desire to dress as Mickey or maybe Minnie . . .seems to change with the day and circumstance. He also assigned the rest of us identities from the gang (I was also assigned Minnie, L got Pluto and Gus is Goofy) so I guess we are committed to it now. I’m making him a red tutu with Minnie Mouse trim and we’ll have some red shorts in waiting in case he decides he’d rather go with Mickey.
We took Ansel to be evaluated for development two weeks ago, since his verbal skills continue to track behind most of his peers. He talks, A LOT, but is very difficult to understand and frequently uses ‘jargon’ or gibberish instead of discernable sounds. The free early intervention folks were lovely, and told us that while he is indeed behind in his communication (receptive communication is fine, he just struggles to make sounds) he’s not far enough behind to qualify for services. So, we are looking into seeing a speech therapist through our insurance to help him get a little boost. Of course, the day after the intervention he started saying more words more clearly . . .that’s the way things go, right? They also recommended having his ears and adenoids checked, even though he’s never had an ear infection (#knockonwood #blessed) – apparently there can be liquid in the ear without infection? Anyway, it could be why he attempts speech but isn’t understandable. So, we’ll see.
L’s seroma is finally closed. It took almost exactly two weeks, but as of today she has been released from the wound clinic and her incision is healed! Last week she was hooked up to a PICO device which meant she couldn’t shower for 7 days (torture. showering is like the only humanity you have as a new, nursing parent) BUT it really seems to have done the job. It is, essentially, a vacuum to suck out the ongoing blood and liquid to help heal the wound. And, when she took it off today, it was in fact healed. Hooray!
I started back to work two days a week a few weeks ago. So far, I’m working from a coffee shop down the street once a week and then coming to the office on another day. My brain is foggy and sticky, and it’s a challenge to be here when, like last night, sleep was in short supply. But, it also feels good to be back to doing what I love and feeling connected to the outside world. We are working on figuring out ways for L to get this too, despite the fact that she doesn’t have a job to return to (although she has started the process of looking again and there’s a great opportunity SO CLOSE . . .!)
We are headed into birthday/holiday season! Next week I’ll be 36, on the downward slope to 40. In November, L bests me by turning 37. Then we roll onto Thanksgiving (our besties from denver are coming to stay with us for the week!!!!!) and Xmas in Indiana (more on our decision to make this xmas our last one travelling in a later post) And rain. I think it’s probably going to start raining soon.
We made it one whole month with two kids – who are both alive and, it would appear, thriving. I am still exhausted.
Some things have definitely gotten easier – Angus has gained enough weight continuously that we can now let him sleep a 3-4 hour stretch at night. L has been given the ok to cut pumping to just 3x/day instead of after every time she nurses. These two things mean that we can split the middle of the night feeding so that we each get a 3-4 hour stretch of sleep (God willing, all other factors/toddlers cooperating.) We also don’t have to supplement Gus after every feed – just a few times a day, which we do with fortified breast milk.
Ansel has also gotten more adjusted to the idea of being an older brother. He still struggles a little with me feeding Angus, but he isn’t having the daily struggles with . . .well, everything, anymore. He loves holding Angus and asks almost daily to sit in the chair with the “pihho” to do so. He still calls Gus “Tiny”, which I imagine may never end . . .I only hope that when they are both big dudes that it continues.
Some things are definitely still hard . . .
L has a seroma at the site of her cesarean incision, which effectively means that about an inch and a half of her incision still hasn’t closed. Initially, she was going to the doctor every day to have them pack it with gauze, but her surgeon eventually allowed us to start doing it at home. It is definitely improving – I am the lucky “packer” so I can see it growing more shallow – but it’s still an open wound. This means her recovery has been slower going than we anticipated, and has limited her ability to feel back to whatever normal you can obtain in the fourth trimester.
Angus is still very small and still very much needs to be monitored closely. He will see a pediatric nutritionist this week so his growth can be more closely monitored. Right now, he’s up to 5 lbs 12 oz, which is AMAZING, but they want to look at his head size, length and limbs to be sure he’s growing as he should. And while he is indeed “making gains”, we still have to track his intake, give him fortified breastmilk (which means pumping for L and lots of gas for the baby), and weigh him daily to be sure he’s staying on track.
A few weeks ago, we thought we’d up our game and decided to attempt potty training. You can file this firmly in the “what the actual fuck were they thinking” category. To answer that question: we were thinking I’m home on leave (so, theoretically, there would be two of us) and he’s consistently been waking up dry and telling us when he pooped. What we didn’t clearly factor in was our own exhaustion, the emotional intensity of trying to get another human to shit where you want them to, and the fact that our toddler has experienced massive change in a very short amount of time already. Needless to say, our attempt at the “Oh Crap!” method – which basically utilizes a 2-5 day “bootcamp” approach – did not work. We made a valiant effort for four whole days . . .at the end of this stretch, we were bickering and emotionally spent. The final straw was when Ansel had the biggest blow out crap of his life in a pull up at the park, after withholding the poo for three days. On the upside, since calling it quits, he’s self initiated peeing on the potty a few times. So, we’re kind of taking a no pressure approach for now.
And yes, things are still hard – I’m still the one mostly running this circus while L recovers and nurses – and some nights I feel totally DONE with all of it. But also, it’s pretty amazing. Like many other push-pulls in parenting, the tiny sweet moments seem to outweigh the hours of extra work or seemingly endless days of frustration. Ansel kisses Angus, or calls him “My Tiny” and it’s easy to forget that a moment earlier he almost jabbed his finger straight through the soft spot in his brother’s skull.
We’ve made some outings – the first to Ikea, then to parks, and most recently we made it to the State Fair and for a small hike. We are getting better at navigating the two kid thing in public. L gets extra stars for nursing a very tiny baby in public while also using the dreaded nipple shield (per the LC’s instructions) which is no small task. And I’ve gotten some great special time with Ansel so L can rest.
I will start transitioning back to work the last week of September – just one day a week at the office and one working from home for the first little while. It’s a daunting idea to us all, that L will have to be home with both Little Gus and Ansel by herself, but there isn’t any way around it. I still think it’s better to do a slow transition that stretches the leave out, rather than a full time leave for a full 12 weeks. I’m SO GRATEFUL to work for such a forward thinking organization, and feel really lucky to have so much paid time home with my family. But also – how could anyone do this without a second parent around?! I suppose if Ansel were in full time care and L could just focus on Angus, that would work but alone with a toddler and an infant 5 days a week? Ooof. The insanity of the American parental leave policy just becomes more and more apparent to me. This shouldn’t be a lucky benefit – it should be the norm.
Finally, Ansel started coop preschool this week! If you aren’t familiar, coop preschools involve a lot of parent work (ie: we work in the classroom as volunteer teachers 1-2 times/month, we fundraise, we sit on committees, etc.) in exchange for VERY inexpensive tuition (in our case, $50/month) It’s not childcare, for sure – it’s really designed for folks like us who have a parent home but want their kids to get some school experience. It’s a good fit for us right now – and since I have leave time and a lot of flexibility with my job, working in the classroom isn’t a big deal – although once I’m back full time, L will also be working (she can bring Angus until he’s 9 months old.) Once Ansel is 3, we can look into other preschool options, but right now we are pretty happy with this one!
Today was his first day, and he LOVED it. We all took him and hung out while they were on the playground for the first 15 minutes. He had a bit of a meltdown when they transitioned inside, but once I walked him in and he remembered the space, he ran off and didn’t look back. When I picked him up and said we were going home, he said “No home! More school!” May it always be so.
There is a LOT of joy in this chaos, but there’s also a lot of hard. It is gradually getting easier, although maybe not as fast as we thought. But we are happy. Exhausted, but very, very happy.
When we woke up on Wednesday morning, we knew induction was coming – but we thought we might have up to a week to get things finalized. You know, make a few more burritos, clean the house, that kind of thing.
At 9am, we saw the OB (Dr. Butts – NOT a pseudonym) who scheduled L for induction on Friday night at 11pm. Suddenly, our timeline shrunk by a few days. We left there, but the toddler down for a nap, and tried to figure out what we wanted to have happen in the next couple of days.
At 2:00pm, we had a growth scan and BPP with the MFM doctor. We knew as soon as she walked in that we were not waiting until Friday. Tiny was estimated at just 4lbs and had fallen even further behind on his curve. His placenta was also now showing clear signs of insufficiency. So, it was time. We were told L could go home and pack a bag, then she was to report to the hospital to be induced.
Cue panic. Because with 2 days, we were able to get L’s mom out to Tacoma to help u, but not with just a few hours. We went home, called the most amazing MIL ever (c) who made arrangements to get on a red eye from Indy out to us, then sent a group text to all of our (very small pool) of friends to see if someone could come hang at our house until MIL got here/pick MIL up from the airport.
It was looking a little dicey for a while, but finally we found some folks. I dropped L off at the hospital, then Ansel and I went to run the most important before-baby errands. When we got home, I furiously tried to finish the freezer meal prep I’d started while Ansel ate dinner. Via text, L told me that they had decided to do a pitocin stress test to see how well he would tolerate labor before fully inducing.
By 8:30, I was at the hospital, and the doctors had determined that Tiny did not like contractions and they needed to do a c-section. They took L back for a spinal while I got suited up. We have a very similar picture from two and a half years ago, roles reversed.
One of L’s biggest childbirth fears was getting a needle in the back for an epidural or, in this case, a spinal. I was waiting in the room while they did this and it was taking a LONG time . . .I was getting nervous that something had gone wrong or they’d forgotten me. Turns out, she was a hard stick even here and they needed ultrasound guidance to get it in! She has a nasty bruise on her back to show for it.
The OR environment felt really different for L’s cesarean than it had for mine. For one, there were far fewer people, and ALL of them – save the grumpy but loveable anesthsiologist – were women, which felt amazing. I sat by her head, and the OB talked to her a lot (the doc who did mine talked about his weekend plans . . .) When Angus came out, they dropped the sheet and showed him to us – a tiny but wailing and pink baby!
They delayed his cord clamping, then brought him over to get wiped down and assessed. He was so tiny, but so perfect, and scored a 9/9 on his apgar (his brother didn’t do as well!) Once cleaned down, I got to cut his cord!
Right after this, they put him skin-to-skin with L and we all got to enjoy that moment for a little while!
We went to the transition room, where Angus was weighed and measured – 17″, 4 lbs, 5.4oz! At the ultrasound earlier they’d estimated him at 4lbs even, so I’m glad it was off by a little! L was feeling a little sick in the recovery room, so Gus and I hung out and got acquainted until she got to feeling less nauseated.
L was able to nurse him here, and despite his small size, he did a good job getting latched and nursing for a bit. Once the hospital had confirmed that he didn’t have to visit the NICU based solely on his size, we got transferred down to the postpartum floor. Of course, then there were visits by various people, getting settled and medicated and set up with pumps and told the feeding protocol for late preterm/very small babies. Angus required regular heel pokes to check his blood sugar and his temperature. None of us got to sleep until almost dawn.
During this time, L’s mom had gotten in and our friend had picked her up and dropped her by the hospital to say hi. She went home to relieve the friend hanging out in the house.
The next morning, she brought Ansel over to meet Angus. He was excited for a while, then he wanted to push buttons.
Because of his small size and “preemie” status (he was born at 36w4d), he had to undergo additional monitoring – regular blood sugar monitoring, temperature checks, vital signs, car seat test – and he just kept passing with flying colors. Nurse shift changes would come on and being sort of shocked and horrified at his size, get cold and hard with us about rules and then . . .they’d soften because he was just doing so well. No jaundice, no temperature issues, nothing . . .just so, so small.
He did so well that L and Gus were released on Friday morning, less than 48 hours after he was born – shocking both for a cesarean and for such a small baby. But we were all happy to break out of the hospital – L needed to quit having people barge in, Gus needed people to quit poking him in the heel, I needed to not be sleeping on a lumpy cot, and Ansel needed to wake up to his moms at home.
Life has been a blur since then. Angus is, like most early and small babies, very sleepy. We have to wake him up to eat, otherwise he’d just snooze all day. He also has to get supplements after eating in order to boost his calorie intake. At the hospital, we got donor milk to supplement nursing. L started pumping the night Gus was born, and managed to get 3 cc’s of colostrum that night (hello, milk maid!) So as she’s built up her small stash, we’ve been able to cross over to just using her pumped milk to supplement his feeds. The first night we were home I also pumped a little to help – but barely managed to squeeze out 5 cc’s, so either Ansel is getting next to nothing or I just really don’t respond to a pump anymore. In any case, it was a special thing but ultimately is no longer necessary because L’s milk is fully in and she is very easily feeding him exclusively on her milk.
But, the process of nursing + supplement feeding + pumping is exhausting for everyone. Because Angus doesn’t wake up on his own, we have to set alarms to feed him. We both get up to feed him – L nurses then hands him off to me to supplement feed (with a SNS on my finger) and pumps. The whole process can take an hour +, which then leaves just two hours for sleeping.
And unlike when Ansel was born, we now also have to be on our game to raise a toddler who is having a LOT of feelings about having his schedule interrupted, his mommy unable to play with him in the same way, and a new baby brother taking up time and space.
It’s nice to be a two mom family with two gestational and breastfeeding parents in this case. I have taken on the bulk of caring for Ansel, both because it’s more physical work and L is recovering from a cesarean, but also because he seeks me out for comfort nursing. I’m glad we are able to split the ‘work’ in this way and give Ansel some focused energy and resources.
But, the downside is that I am not getting a lot of time with Gus. Ansel has been struggling if he sees me handling or feeding Angus, although he now seems to believe me when I assure him that Angus only gets the milk from mommy’s boobs – not any of his milk from me. It’s improving slightly, but still rough. His sleep has been tough – nighttime wake-ups that require me to sit next to him until he falls asleep, naps that are deeply delayed even when I am rocking/nursing him to sleep – and he is generally quicker to tantrums and frustrations, sadder at times and not handling transitions between activities well. That said, he’s still joyful and happy and kind on the whole, and I very much trust that he will adjust soon. Tonight he was able to tell me he was sad that L wasn’t reading stories with us, as she has usually done during his bedtime routine. We compromised by taking the books to her and reading.
So right now, I’m beyond tired. But I am also deeply grateful for my amazing mother in law, who is making life possible right now. She’s cooking and hanging out with Ansel (she took him to the zoo this morning so we could have some time just moms + Angus) and in all her ‘free time’ she also built Ansel a custom red and blue sandbox. Because midwest virgo.
Tomorrow Gus goes back to the pediatrician to check weight. He was released from the hospital at 4 lbs 1 oz, and had dropped another half ounce by the following day at the doctor. All told, he’s done really well with weight loss but, obviously, we don’t have a lot of wiggle room when it comes to his weight. Fingers crossed he’s gained, not lost. I cannot imagine he hasn’t gained weight – dude eats all the time.
I’m sure I’m forgetting things I wanted to talk about here but . . .that’s the breaks. 2 kids is no joke . . .but I truly believe once L has healed a bit and Angus gas gained some weight, we’ll settle into things a bit more. And, I have 6 weeks of full time leave ahead (then another 12 part time) so we’ll have space to figure things out!