growing up · letting go · parenthood

“There are no text updates in heaven.”

This Tuesday was my 5-month old daughter’s first day of daycare, as I will return to full-time, in-person teaching on Monday. Though we have left her with a babysitter for a few hours (even went to the actual movie theater on my birthday!), mostly I have been with my girl or within a quick Target-dash drive from her every minute of every day since her birth.

This, of course, has been exhausting. Baby care — all day, every day — is not for the faint-hearted. And, as every new parent I know has echoed, Single parents? “We’re Not Worthy”!

But, being with my girl for such concentrated time has given me a front-row seat to the biggest game in town: the dawning of consciousness. Watching newborn HB stare for minutes on end at the corner where the shadows intersect. Watching as she incrementally begins to understand that our cat, Stella, is also a being — one whom she can pet, albeit with grasping, groping pudge-fingers. Watching her face light up like Times Square when her dad comes nearby…

Front row ticket to the miracle of life.

And now: Leave it.

Leave her. Leave her to be watched and known by those other than us? G U T T E D.

Today is Day 3 and I feel hardly more compos mentis than I did on Tuesday, when I stared into space for minutes on end, my brain molasses as I (not so virulently) tried to kick it into gear.

I mean, What about the night prior when I laughed maniacally at the proposition of getting to nap any time of the day for as long as I want wherever I want?? What about the gossamer plans to “actually do some work” before I show up to school Monday morning? What did I actually do on Day 1 of daycare? Stared at the wall. Took a bath for as long as I could stand not “doing something.” Talked on the phone with a friend for almost an hour, which I really felt as mere distraction from my preoccupation with where and how and what my daughter was doing.

I don’t even think I ate lunch.

So much for the freedom it was supposed to give me! HA!

On the phone with my friend that day, I told her that at least the daycare posted updates about my girl. Her naps, her diapers, her mood. And I got delightful photos of her and another baby her age just staring curiously at one another while on tummy time.

But what I said to my friend, too, was that this is truly the end of an epoch. From now until she’s 18, she will (for the most part) spend 40 hours a week outside the house. Outside the sphere of my ability to observe. Outside my ability to witness. She is already starting to live a life that I am not privy to, one that will include her own joys and challenges and friendships and mistakes. (I joked that I might as well buy her one of those diaries with a lock on it!) She is, starting now, embarking on a life bigger than the circle of our home.

“But,” I told my friend, “at least I get text updates. There are no text updates in heaven.” (To which my friend, a parent herself, cried, Don’t tell me that!)

Yet, of course it’s where I go! I’ve said that as soon as they’re out of the womb, they’re leaving for college. And they are. Parenthood, a continuous — daily, hourly — progression of allowing and introducing your child into the world. How … lonely, yes, and yes, How exciting.

I told J early on (I mean, she’s only 5-months old — how much earlier can it get!) that I am aware that HB isn’t “ours.” She’s not mine. She’s hers. She’s her own person, with her own destiny. In many ways, we are (were?) simply the vehicle for her to get to the starting line; the rest of the path is hers to forge and discover. We are her stewards — shepherding, ushering, guiding — but she does not belong to us. And how exciting that is for her. How exciting — and laden — it is a responsibility to have a life of one’s own.

And, how mournful, aching, and hopeful for me and for J that she’s arrived to claim it.

There are no text updates in heaven. But there are at daycare. And until such a day when I can no longer receive missives about or from this ineffable bundle of cheeks and wonder, I will celebrate the brimful utterance of her very existence.

fertility · ivf · parenthood

“So, How Was It?” IVF Edition

Any regular readers of my blog — assuming I was writing regularly, Oops — will have noticed that I hadn’t posted anything between the blog last December about our first IVF transfer and the one this October about newborn-babying being a blur. Clearly, there were some interstitial events! So, what happened? My intention, as it stands at 6am next to a sleeping bebe, is to write a few blogs that account for IVF, Pregnancy, Labor & Birth, and, now, more on Life as a Family of Three (plus a cat, Stella would have me add). We’ll see how it goes. 😉

J and I were lucky (very lucky) to have been able to create and save 5 embryos from my IVF last summer/fall. We were very lucky with all the numbers, in fact, especially for a then 38-year-old cancer survivor and a 46-year-old dude man. The number of eggs I “matured” each month was high, the number of eggs collected to be inseminated was high, the number of embryos sent to the lab for genetic testing was high, and, finally, the number of embryos that came back chromosomally normal was high.

The whole thing is/was a bit boggling, honestly. Science was enabling us to bypass continued months of trying, and failing, to produce a healthy embryo, pretty much without our having to do… well, anything. Aside from, you know, months of shots (belly and bum, morning and night), pills, creams, blood draws, ice packs, heat packs, internal exams, external exams, “couch” rest, abstention, and more trips across the Bay Bridge in a few months than I’d made in several years — but, you know, aside from that!!!

Aside from that, J and I were able to check our email and have a video visit with a genetic counselor and our doctor and learn that there were 5 genetically normal embryos. 5 potential life forms. 5 potential chances for us to have a family (a larger one, that is, than us two). And 5 potential chances for us to fail. (And, please, I use the word “fail” extremely lightly.)

As you may have read in the blog post last December, our first embryo transfer did not “take.” And as soon as it was healthy to do so, we all tried again with the next embryo on the list. Though, it must be said, I still even now think about that one embryo, the one labeled and now so-named in my head and heart “Number 10.” Number 10 on our chart listing our “products of conception,” as the medical team calls them. It’s as hard as any miscarriage we’d had before, except that this time we knew the gender (or sex) of the embryo. We knew how it would present in the world were it carried to term as a healthy being. We (I) could envision it… could envision Her. And so, Number 10 remains in my psyche. But … she’s gone. And when I talk about her, I use euphemisms like the one I wrote above: “It didn’t ‘take.'”

So much is encapsulated in those three words. And because of that experience, and all the ones prior (See: Pee Stick Dance), I spent much of my winter holiday with J mildly(?) terrified. We went up to Lake Tahoe for the week between Christmas and New Years ’20-’21, ostensibly to ski. But, having just had a new embryo transfer and then several positive pregnancy tests, as J and I descended the ski slopes, every single jolt over the snow set off a shock wave of anxiety. Did I knock the embryo out? Did that wobble over the hill dislodge her from my uterine wall? Am I about to right now have a(nother) miscarriage?

I just couldn’t do it.

I told J that he could ski but I was going to stay in the rental apartment and watch bad tv and drink tea. With the snow falling outside the floor-to-ceiling picture windows, this was not an altogether unpleasant sequestering! Lucky, too, was I that I’d reached out to and begun to see regularly (via Zoom) a therapist who specialized in people facing fertility challenges. And grateful was I that I got to have a session (maybe even 2?) while we were up on vacation. I got to tell her how scared I was, how reluctant to even acknowledge that there was at that moment a bundle of cells oh-so-rapidly dividing and multiplying. How could I hold on to hope, to belief, when so much had happened to make such hopes feel … fruitless? So, yes, luckily I had a person to talk with about and through my fears. And, yes, luckily, I was able to get though to my doctor to talk about and through my questions. And, yes, luckily: She stayed. She took, as it were.

And now, she, Hannah Berlin, has thoroughly taken us. Over the moon. Into vast heartlands. To the edge of sanity, true. But:

She stayed.

memory · newmom · parenthood

“It’s a Blur.”

[Note: This was composed when Hannah Berlin was 5 weeks old… she’s now almost 10. I guess it really IS a blur!] 😉

I’ve asked multiple people how they got through the first few weeks of their new baby’s life. I’ve asked those who’ve had a baby 40 years ago, 20 years ago, even as recent as a year ago, and their responses are markedly uniform (and, frankly, not quite implementable as far as advice goes): It’s a Blur.

Being now in the 5th week of our daughter’s life, I can certainly see why this is the consensus. As I’ve read about people as they get older, the years can whirr by mainly because there aren’t weighstations of events to mark the calendar, to remind them that, “Oh yeah, that was the year that…” As people age, their years tend to settle into the routine of life, which while comfortable, does not lend itself to bold time stamps serving as sticking places for our memory.

And, this is how the first few weeks in BabyLand feel: As though there are no, or few, time stamps. However, being me, and having known this to be the case, I’ve been trying to take a few notes on anything remarkable. While the days themselves do not seem to vary widely, the small moments are the ones that I’m capturing:

  • The first time J. picked up the swaddled bundle of baby and zoomed her around the room like a rocket ship taking off.
  • J. “wrestling” with the baby, taking her tiny (oh so tiny!) balled fists and batting them at him and making “ringside” commentary.
  • Her first sleep smiles, all gums and ridiculous joy.
  • At her first sponge bath, J. towels her down as though waxing a car and, straight-faced, asks her: “Air freshener?”
  • The way her hands began to uncurl and how she stares for minutes at a time at the joining corner of two walls.
  • Her first pediatric visit where the doctor is so darn relaxed and slow-talking, J. and I joke that he’s likely stoned.
  • And, one of my favorites: At 4 days old, we start her bedtime routine, ending with a reading of Goodnight Moon, something we’ve continued to do now for the last month. (Plus the night J. forgot his glasses and so had to make up the words, including “Goodnight Ducati.”)

When taken as a whole, at 30,000 ft, our experience so far could certainly be summarized as an unending and unerring cycle of food, cleaning, soothing — but it will be these small moments, the victories, laughs, and milestones, that will anchor this frankly hallowed time.