18 Months

Ali turned 18 months three days ago. It feels like a big milestone. Halfway between an infant and a big, bad two-year-old. His vocabulary seems to grow by a word a day sometimes, and he repeats things often. My favorite is to say to him, “Why you so cute?” And he’ll say back, “Wiye so cuyt?”

It’s so cute ๐Ÿ˜€

He’s sleeping well again, so thank God for that, but he’s still getting more “toddlery” — more picky and temperamental. He knows what he wants, and he wants it. Still overwhelmingly sunny and sweet but with definite “toddlery” moments. Redirection still works sometimes, or just saying no and sticking with it until he gives up. He’s still obsessed with scissors, which we use to open the baby gate to the kitchen. (He figured out how to trip the latch with his fingers, so we had to tighten the gate until his fingers didn’t fit in the gap where the latch is, so now we need something very slim to open it — the regular button has never worked.) Every now and then I give in and give them to him for a few seconds, and he always tries to figure out how to open the gate with them. So far he can’t even quite line the scissors up enough to get them into the gap.

I finally broke down and got him a “learning tower” — such a pretentious name for a little gated step-stool. I can’t believe this hunk of plastic cost $70, but I couldn’t find a used one I liked and I had a feeling it’d be worth it despite the inflated price. Sure enough, Ali loves it. Every time he goes in the kitchen now, he walks right over to it and clambers in. He loves being up on my level seeing what’s going on. It also doubles as a place for him to eat snacks so if he drops or throws things, it’s on a laminate floor instead of over carpet.

tower

Of course he wants to get into everything all the time, so one by one I’ve had to move everything on the counter out of his reach that I didn’t want him getting into. And he’s still figured out how to bang his butt against the back of the tower to move it a few inches away from the counter so that he can reach into the drawers with his sticky or slimy hands. I guess I’ll have to clean those out and replace them with baby-friendly stuff. I also can’t leave him there unattended (he may slide over to the knife drawer at some point, or bang it too hard and tip over and crash, and he climbed all the way up onto the counter once), so it’s not like I can use it while I’m cooking or washing dishes. At least not yet. Still a worthy investment for sure.

I love how observant he is. There are so many things we, as adults, have learned to screen out, but Ali notices everything. If he suddenly barks like a dog, I look to see where the dog is that he’s seen, or strain to hear the distant barking he picked up. If he says “Mep!” I listen for the sound of an airplane and look to see if and where he’s pointing. (I don’t know why his word for airplane is ‘mep.’) If he makes the elephant trumpeting noise and raises his little arm like a trunk, I look around to see where on earth he’s spotted an elephant. (More likely a picture of an elephant, a stuffed elephant, or a random decorative wicker elephant.) If he just seems randomly agitated, I turn on my ears and usually hear a distant weed eater or something that my brain had completely filtered out.

UPDATE Oct 19 (my grandma’s birthay):

He did something amazing the other day. He came up to me and pointed to his diaper and said “Poop.” Usually this means he pooped, but sometimes it just means he wants immediate attention. I looked, no poop, and said, “I don’t see any poop, baby.” He was wet, though, so I said, “You want a new diaper?” He said “Eah!” (like “yeah” without the “y,” his current version of yes) and nodded enthusiastically, then walked right to his changing pad and lay down. He had never done that before.

It’s often a bit of a battle. I have to lead him there, and then often he wants to sit up and see what his poop looks like before I’m done cleaning his butt. I can’t really hold up the diaper and show him while he’s lying down, for fear of dropping a turd on his head. And I can’t let him sit up on his dirty bum and dirty either the changing pad or the diaper. Sometimes I resort to getting into a deep lunge and holding his shoulder down with my foot.

He can also somersault on his own now with no help from us. He’s even learned to do it so that he doesn’t roll straight off the mattress or into a wall. Quite the little acrobat. He’s fascinated with the movies Coco and Bolt. He’s always pointing at the TV screen and barking to ask for Bolt, and when we watch Coco, he tries to sing along with his high-pitched sing-song noises. He also immediately recognizes the guitar in his word book since watching it. Ahmed thinks he’s going to be a musician.

It’s fascinating to see him learn to ignore things as “unimportant” or “peripheral” when he used to see everything as equally curious, marvelous, important. An acorn was a revelation. He wanted to taste every stone he picked up. A random piece of trash was more grist for curiosity and sensory experience. What we saw as “the river path” was meaningless to him. It was all just ground to explore.

He still has a long way to go to develop something close to our adult filters, the way we judge and sort everything according to category and perceived value instead of taking it all in as one fascinating sensory experience. His brain will inevitably be pruned with the years and his delightful technicolor world will become more like ours.

I can see it already in his preferences for certain foods and toys (he’s super attached to his bear lovey now, apparently named “Bear”), his displeasure when we aren’t paying exactly as much attention to him as he wants (he threw a book at my head today and injured my eye socket bone — I was holding the book that we’d read a million times for him but kind of listening to a Youtube video, and he didn’t like that one bit — he grabbed the book and whipped around and nailed me with it), his frustration when we say no to a dangerous or destructive whim. He’s learning to categorize things as good or bad, desirable or not. It’s part of growing up, but it’s also a bit sad. He’s learning to see the world more like we do, when we could probably sometimes do well to learn to see the world more like he does.

But I’m so tired sometimes with the pregnancy insomnia and managing a house and cleaning up after him endlessly and trying to learn or enjoy or accomplish SOMETHING now and then, it’s hard not to just want him to “fall in line.” And then feel really bad for that.

I think I could use a break. Good thing a three-day meditation retreat (with my mom) is coming up at the end of the month. I’ll miss Ali, but some time away (first time ever) will be great for both of us I think. He deserves a less burned out mama.

A few recent pics:

 

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Top 10 Things Not to Say to Pregnant Women

It doesn’t bother me as much this time because I’m no longer a bundle of nerves heading into the unknown. I’ve been there. I know what’s rubbish and what’s not, I know what I’m capable of, and I know what detours from the “birth plan” are like. When people are wrong or discouraging, it doesn’t get to me as much. But it still bothers me seeing other pregnant women treated the way I often was.

Seriously, WHY do people feel such a burning need to be as discouraging as possible to pregnant women? And so rarely balanced by anything positive or encouraging!

So, for the record, here are my suggestions for what NOT to say to women who are about to become mothers for the first time.

1. Anything about how a woman’s body looks.

Just don’t do it. Unless you’re super close to her AND genuinely worried about something, keep your opinions to yourself. I’ll give you examples:

“Wow, you look so big for 20 weeks!” or

“Wow, you look really small for 20 week!”

Um. Are you a medical doctor? How do you know what’s “big” or “small”? Everyone carries differently. Some women barely look pregnant at 20 weeks. Some look like labor is imminent. Almost always, it’s absolutely normal for the woman in question.

By adding your worthless two cents, you risk making a woman feel self-conscious or even anxious that something is wrong. Why would you do that?

See also: “Man, you look ready to pop!”

“Are you sure it’s not twins in there?”

“I guess it’s true that girl babies steal your beauty!”

Ugh. Just. Stop.

2. Don’t even bother with a birth plan, nothing will go like you hope it will.

Sigh. Listen. Most women are not dumb. Most of us know sh*t can happen. If I make a plan to run a marathon, I understand the plan is not the same as running the actual marathon. I may sprain my ankle. I may find it’s more painful than I realized and decide it’s not for me. A million things can happen to derail my plan.

But if I told a friend, “I’m planning on running a marathon!” and her answer was, “Don’t even bother, it’ll never happen…” How do you think that would make me feel?

Just be supportive! If it happens, great. If not, be there for her.

And maybe ask yourself why your first instinct when someone is really hopeful and vulnerable about something is to immediately sh*t on her parade.

3. I know you want a drug-free birth, but it’s OK if you end up with an epidural / c-section.

This one is similar to the one above, and it tends to be coming from a good place. I get it. A large percentage of women do end up with epidurals and/or c-sections, and it is OK! A birth is a birth, and epidurals can be a godsend. C-sections save millions of lives every year. It’s wonderful that they’re an option when needed or wanted.

But again, when someone’s goal is not to have drugs or surgery even though she knows there’s a good chance she will, why be discouraging? It may not sound discouraging to your ears to say it’s OK whatever happens, but it’s just a gentler version of the previous entry.

If I say, “I’m going to try to run a marathon!” please don’t respond, “Well, it’s OK if you don’t.” Talk about taking the wind out of my sails.

4. You’ll try for an all-natural birth / VBAC, right?

First off, every birth is a “natural” birth. Our brains evolved over millions of years to be smart enough to help more women and babies survive than at any other time in the history of humanity. We’re all still part of nature. And whether you intend it or not, there’s an implied judgment in a question like that. People choose interventions, or interventions are needed, for any number of reasons, and those reasons are personal. If you believe a woman has a right to choose whether or not to be pregnant in the first place, you’d better damn well respect her right to choose HOW she gives birth.

See also: “You know breast is best, right?” and other lactivist bromides. Mind your own boobies, Karen.

5. Maybe you shouldn’t be having that sip of wine / cup of coffee / turkey sandwich.

See also: “I know you’re eating for two, but damn!”

Just, shut up. Close your mouth and walk away if you ever feel tempted to police a woman’s eating. That sip of wine or cup of coffee might be the only thing keeping a woman sane at a given moment, and that turkey sandwich (or donut) may be all she’s been able to hold down for the past week. (This is aside from the fact that none of these things are actually proven more dangerous than, say, eating ice cream or a salad, and no one gets weird about ice cream or salads.)

If she’s eating a lot, great! It may be her first real meal after weeks of nausea. It may be exactly the feast she needs.

You know what she doesn’t need? Your goddamn commentary.

6. So when will you have another?

Jesus Christ, can I get this one out safely before you start grilling me about future hypotheticals?

Plus, a woman may have dealt with devastating primary infertility and has no idea if she’ll even be able to have another, or how.

Calm down, my friend. One baby at a time.

7. You think you’re uncomfortable and sleepless now? Wait until the baby gets here!

See also: “You have a ways to go — the next few months are gonna be so much worse!”

Way to simultaneously invalidate someone’s current feelings and project your own negative bullshit onto their future feelings. It’s a nasty one-two punch. Don’t do it.

8. You have never experienced pain like childbirth. God help you!

See also: “You say you donโ€™t want an epidural but when youโ€™re actually giving birth youโ€™re going to want ALL the drugs. Just get it.”

Again: This is not about you. Whatever you felt, whatever you chose, that’s you, not the person standing in front of you.

For me, the pain wasn’t the hard part. The hard part was the fear and exhaustion. The pain was just big muscle cramps, which are no fun, but hardly the worst pain I’ve ever felt. When I pushed the baby out, the pain simply didn’t matter. Relief overwhelmed it.

So, just, please — don’t project your experience onto others, especially in a negative way. Not helpful.

9. Get your fun in now. You know your life will be over once the baby gets here, right?

I mean, things change. In good and bad — and unique! — ways. Let them unfold as they will for other people. Right now, this “advice” is meaningless anyway. No one really knows what parenthood is like until they get there. Try not to throw your own dark cloud over it before it even begins.

10. Aren’t you a little old / young to be having a child?

Hello? Hi there. So listen. This may shock you, but I actually know how old I am! And I know that I’m having a child! I chose to continue the pregnancy, and birth is imminent. Apparently the thing is happening! So what could POSSIBLY be the point of your saying this now?

WHAT TO SAY INSTEAD

You may be thinking, “Well, damn, you’ve just destroyed every single one of my pregnant lady talking points!” And that’s fair enough. We’ve all been socialized to say a lot of this stuff. I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer some alternatives.

So here are my top ten things to say to pregnant ladies!

1. Aren’t you excited?

Most pregnant women are excited. Sometimes nervous. They often have questions or want to get things off their chest. This kind of upbeat opening can put them at ease to say whatever’s on their mind.

2. Do you want to talk about your birth plan?

Much better than immediately crapping on the very idea of a birth plan.

Sure, no one wants to be blindsided by things going sideways. But believe me, whether you’re encouraging or not before the birth, she’ll still be blindsided if things go sideways. Either way, letting her keep her optimism and excitement as long as possible can only be a good thing, right? Or if she’s scared, she can use this opening to talk about her goals and hopes and get back to a good mindset.

3. Do you want to hear about my birth experience? The good and the bad? Keeping in mind every birth is unique, of course. What was true for me may not be true for you!

A little humility goes a long way. You may be excited about all the things you learned during your birth, ecstatically triumphant or deeply bitter about how certain things went. But don’t let the intensity of your own experience blind you to the vulnerable woman in front of you whose experience will be uniquely her own.

Good advice in general: Don’t make this about you.

But if she wants to hear how things went for you and how you handled any curveballs thrown your way, feel free to be honest while acknowledging it was YOUR experience, and everyone’s is different.

4. The moment you see your baby for the first time is so magical.

However the birth happens, whatever feeding method is used, the whole thing is completely magical. Fact.

5. Bon Appรฉtit!

If you see a pregnant woman eating, feel free to offer a culturally appropriate blessing, offer her more food or a beverage, or just say nothing at all!

6. Will you need any help once the baby is here?

See also: “I’m here to talk after the birth, no matter what you’re feeling. There is a wide range of normal, believe me!”

Offering help is always appreciated. Having a newborn can be overwhelming, both mentally and physically. Anything you can offer to ease the burden a little is much better than just pointing out what a burden it’s going to be.

And definitely follow up and check in after the birth. Postpartum depression and anxiety can lay on your head like a hundred-pound cat and give you awful tunnel vision. A friend checking in can help tremendously. That’s the time to let them know there’s professional help available if their own experience is that they feel like they’re drowning.

7. Ugh, I know, the third trimester can be really tough. There’s nothing worse than pregnancy sleep. For me, it was so much better when the baby got here!

I slept MUCH better and felt MUCH more comfortable once the baby was out. Having a newborn is its own kind of boot camp, but for us it was a lot more fun (babies are amazing!), and while my sleep was frequently interrupted, it was better quality sleep. I no longer had to get up every 30 minutes to pee and no one was kicking the shit out of my insides the whole time. Ahhhhh, sweet relief!

If you’re going to project something onto someone else, at least make it pleasant.

8. Most of the weight you’ve gained is fluids, baby, bigger boobs, a bigger uterus, a new organ (placenta), increased blood volume, and a few pounds of fat and nutrient stores. Most of that is gone the day of birth or is sweated or peed out over a few days.

Some people lose most or all of the baby weight right away. Others hang onto some of it for years. Either way, when you feel as big as a house and clumsy as an ox, it’s heartening to know there’s at least some light at the end of the tunnel, and maybe much more than you expected!

9. You have so much fun in store for you. First steps, first words, the first time they figure out sarcasm, haha. Parenthood is amazing! It’s also very humbling, with so much potential for personal growth. Etc.

I mean, it’s a lot of work, it’s a pain in the ass sometimes, but it is amazing. And it’s nice to hear that when it’s coming at you like a freight train ๐Ÿ™‚

10 (a). There are lots of upsides to having a child young. You’ll have more energy, and you’ll still be pretty young when the kid(s) move out — you’ll have so much more life left to live!

10 (b). You’ll have so much wisdom, stability, and/or life experience to share with your child. They’re lucky to have you.

It’s not rocket science, folks. Literally. Anything. Encouraging.

I understand that you don’t want to leave a new mama with rose-colored glasses. It’s not all gauzy bows and pastel blue booties, after all. It’s gritty. It’s real. It’s dangerous. It can be brutal in so many ways.

But trust me: WE KNOW. Most of us have already been bombarded with negativity. We don’t need you piling on.

Treat us like anyone with a big, difficult project ahead. Tell us we’re strong. Tell us we can do it.

Celebrate with us when we do. And be there for us if things go pear-shaped.

You know what else? Ask us about the movies we’ve seen, the books we’re reading, the projects we’re working on. We’re not just baby vessels. We’re people, too.

Thanks! ๐Ÿ˜€

Puerto Vallarta

Long story short: I’m never taking an 18-month-old on vacation again, haha. We battled his sleep the whole time, and he became grumpier and more tantrum-y as the week wore on. He was almost a different kid by the end — still a great kid, mostly sunny, but much more fragile, impatient, and unreasonable. I won’t detail every nap and every night, but it was a never-ending struggle. I was so tired and discouraged (especially when he kept on refusing sleep when we got home), I thought, “Jesus, did I break my son?”

The flight to get there was uneventful. Ali was alert and quiet on the short leg of the flight and slept through the longer leg. But it required an insanely early start to the day, and neither of us slept a wink the night before. So by the time we got to our hotel, we were too busted to do anything but just kind of eat and wait until we could try to put Ali to sleep so we could sleep.

He abjectly refused the knockoff Pack n Play provided by the hotel, and we weren’t keen to try to sleep train him then and there by any measure, so we brought him into bed with us. Because he had gotten up so early, hadn’t had a real nap, and was over-stimulated by everything, he was also super over-tired, and while it wasn’t a great night of sleep for any of us, we did feel a bit more human the next day, which we spent exploring the hotel, taking the free shuttle into town to dip our toes in the ocean, explore the boardwalk, and get groceries, and swimming in the hotel’s pools. The hotel is on a hill and the view over the Pacific and the lush jungly forest was absolutely gorgeous.

The next day we did pretty much nothing, just enjoying the food and pools, and on Tuesday Ahmed went into town to watch a soccer match on TV while Ali and I tried to nap. Wednesday a minor hurricane rolled in, and we tried to do a hike on a creek up to a waterfall but got caught in an absolute deluge of rain and had to turn back. Thursday it wasn’t raining quite as hard, and we explored the PV boardwalk and some river cafes under an umbrella.

Friday we took a bus to the Botanic Garden, which was definitely a highlight of the trip. The rain was over and it was oppressively hot, but it was really lovely watching so many different species of hummingbird compete for space at the feeders on the second floor of the main lodge while I drank a virgin vanilla mojito (with vanilla from the garden itself, I believe). We hiked down to the river and back up through the jungle, and my lower legs got covered by bloodied bug bites. We did a few more walks and hikes, but since Ali had had no nap at all that day, and we were exhausted from the full week of poor sleep, we called it a day earlier than expected and headed back to the hotel. Ali was so busted he slept through the jangliest, bumpiest, hair-raisingest hair-pin-turn speeding bus ride south of the Rio Grande.

But it still wasn’t a proper nap, and he was becoming a stereotypical annoying toddler with meltdowns and tantrums, and by that point we were just looking forward to getting back home so we could rest!

It doesn’t sound like much, but it was nice to take a break in a new place, practice some Spanish, soak in some serious beauty, introduce ourselves to a new city, and forget for a while about laundry, cloth diapers, and dishes. The breakfasts were amazing, too, with all the green smoothies we could drink, a good spread of fresh fruits, and gourmet a la carte options. (The buffet on the first couple of days was better, but I think for the last four days there just weren’t enough people in the hotel to justify it.)

But we were very glad to get home and try to get back to normal sleep… except now Ali refused his own Pack n Play, too! The battles continued. I really felt like I had destroyed my son’s good sleep and like I’d be stuck in this exhausted tunnel forever. (I do not do well with sleep deprivation — it robs me of joy, patience, and perspective.)

Slowly it’s gotten better, though. My husband wouldn’t let me let him cry, so my idea of quickly re-sleep-training was effectively vetoed, and so we just kept reinforcing his bad habits. (One of us would lay down on the mattress with him until he fell asleep, then we’d transfer him to the Pack n Play. Two hours later he’d wake up crying and we’d do it all over again. If we were lucky, he’d then sleep until an early wake-up. If not so lucky, it’d be an all-night battle. Ugh.)

Finally, when my husband was going to play a late soccer game on Wednesday, he told me I could do whatever I wanted with his sleep. But there was a thunderstorm, and I wasn’t going to let my son cry through a thunderstorm.

Thankfully he slept until YET ANOTHER thunderstorm around 5am, at which point he woke up screaming hysterically and wouldn’t stop for quite some time.

Sigh. Hopefully the worst is over-ish? It really is good to get home. Other than the laundry and dishes!

Meanwhile Ali’s vocabulary is absolutely exploding. It’s super fun to watch. I love that kid more and more every day.

His sister has been kicking more and more so that I feel it quite plainly from the inside even without putting my hand over it. Current favorite girl name is Ayla Cassini. Ayla is a Turkish name that means the halo that forms around the moon sometimes when there are ice crystals high in the atmosphere. Cassini was a famous astronomer, famous Saturn space probe, and the namesake of the major gap in Saturn’s rings. I kind of like the “heavenly rings” connection and the “ring” of how the name sounds — a more androgynous middle name to offset the flowery first name, in case she wants to go by Cass or something. Thoughts welcome. I’m worried the middle name is a little too dorky, haha.

UPDATE: After a full week of sleep-deprived misery following the vacation, Ahmed finally let me re-sleep-train Ali. Within 24 hours, we were back on a much more even keel, and Ali’s sleeping great again, and we all feel human again. (I have pregnancy insomnia anyway, and it’s probably just going to get worse until I’m back on the sweet but exhausting newborn roller coaster — the last thing I need is to be battling sleep with my toddler, too.)

One of the great perks of sleep training is that now when Ali wakes up and cries in the night, I can be pretty sure something is wrong and he’s not just upset because he doesn’t know how to put himself back to sleep. After several nights in a row of sleeping 11 hours straight, he woke up twice last night, once after wetting through his diaper and sleep sack, and once after pooping. He never poops at night, but I could smell it as soon as I walked in the room, haha. A quick change, sway, and sing, and we were both back to dream land.

Healthy Baby Girl

I’m 19 weeks with a baby girl who flew through her mid-pregnancy scan with flying colors. Size is right around 54th percentile. She’s an active little thing.

I’m so relieved and grateful. We finally announced it on Facebook. Like with Ali, it starts to feel more real little by little.

We would have been perfectly happy with another donor embryo baby and/or with another boy. But it’ll be fascinating to do “the girl thing.” I mean, a baby is a baby, and I smirked when my mom said, “You’ll have to buy all new clothes for her. She can’t wear anything you have now.”

Um… yes she can, haha. But something tells me Grandma is going to shower her with “girly stuff” after enjoying her 7 grandsons all this time! And it’ll be interesting to see if and how she differs from her brother, even though two babies is a very small sample size.

I truly can’t imagine her, just like I couldn’t imagine Ali. She’ll be another surprise, unfolding day by day.

Here’s our announcement:

So, Ali’s little sister is due to join us in February, inshallah.

A very happy surprise! Ali will be 22 months when she’s due ๐Ÿ™‚

He wasn’t sure about it at first, but he seems to be coming around ๐Ÿ˜› He’ll be an amazing big bro!

Hand Foot & Mouth

It has been a miserable four days in our household. Ali woke up on Friday morning with a slight fever. He didn’t eat much and was clingy, didn’t sleep for crap that night (kept waking up crying, and Motrin didn’t do much), was super clingy and didn’t eat ANYTHING on Saturday, and it just got worse and worse. Not eating. Not sleeping (which meant no one was sleeping). He drank some clear fluids but wouldn’t touch milk. We managed to feed him some french fries and ice cream a couple times.

I assumed it was teething at first, but that’s only supposed to last for a couple of days. On the fourth day of almost no eating and no sleeping, we took him in to the pediatrician to make sure it wasn’t strep or an ear infection.

She diagnosed him within seconds of looking at his throat: Hand foot and mouth disease. It’s a virus that affects said body parts with lesions that look like pimples or mosquito bites on the hands and feet. Apparently almost all of his lesions were inside his poor little mouth. He’s had a little spot on his elbow and one on his chin for some time, and I just assumed they were mosquito bites. Ahmed found one on the sole of his foot, too, and I found a couple on his bottom once I knew what to look for.

The doc said all we could do was keep pushing fluids and keep trying to feed him bland food, keep him comfortable with Tylenol and Motrin, cuddle and play (he’s pretty chipper a lot of the time but will devolve into scream-whining at the smallest thing, which is understandable given that he’s starving and way over-tired and his mouth hurts), and try to stay sane.

It’s been rough. He’s not really napping, either, which means I’m not napping, so there’s no chance to recover from several nights in a row of not more than three to six hours of sleep. And that’s after weeks of pregnancy insomnia. Ugh, it’s like having a newborn all over again without any of the excitement of just creating and getting to know new life. I mean, sure, Ali is exciting on his own, but right now I’d be glad for a long break from him if I’m really honest. I. Am. Tired. And I resorted to wearing earplugs all day so as not to go too nuts from all the inconsolable scream-whining.

Finally this morning — the fifth day — he ate a pretty good amount of soft bread at breakfast, drank a big cup of pedialyte mixed with juice and water without prompting, and eventually moved on to a few other things like tons of blueberries and a few goldfish crackers and yogurt melts. We ordered chicken soup for him tonight (I am way too fried to cook) and hope that goes over well.

Exciting stuff coming up soon. The 19 week scan and definitive gender determination on Thursday, then on Saturday we’re heading to Mexico for a week. Our first vacation in more than 3 years. I’m hoping this HFM disease is behind us by then, and Ahmed and I don’t both end up coming down with it.

I hope the scan goes well. I’ve been feeling the baby move more and more, even feeling it outright (in my belly) instead of feeling it secondarily by placing my hand on my belly. It’ll be interesting to see if she shapes up to be as much of a mad kicker as her brother. Oh man I was glad to get that kid on the outside, haha. But of course I don’t really care either way. Small price to pay. You do you, little raspberry. Or little mango by now, I suppose… Mmm, sounds like the start of an awesome smoothie…

Heartbeats and Elephants

Little Raspberry’s heart is still beating, at 160 bpm (though she’s more like a Haas avocado now). She even kicked the doppler probe. I can breathe for another little while. Next stop is the anatomy scan at 19 weeks (since I’ll be in Mexico when I’m 20 weeks).

Meanwhile Ali likes to lift the trunks of his stuffed elephants and make a cute little “trumpet” noise that I taught him. So I thought he might like to see some videos of actual elephants. The first video went well — they were just walking around, drinking water, eating plants, helping baby elephants climb up a riverbank. But none of them were making noise.

So I looked for “Elephants making noise” on Youtube, and it turns out — at least in the video I found — elephants apparently make noise only when they’re angry. So he saw a bunch of angry, stomping, trumpeting elephants, and he started crying. Poor little guy. I turned the elephants off and showed him videos of panda bears instead. All they do is eat and poop and nap. I figured he could relate ๐Ÿ˜›

In the afternoon was my prenatal appointment, and the poor guy still has a horrible phobia of nurses because he always fears he’s going to get shots. He clung to me like a barnacle and cried. But at least he calmed down by the time my midwife entered and managed to just sit quietly in my lap and then in his stroller while she answered my questions and found the heartbeat. I was very proud of him.

I’m going to have to start watching my mouth, though. He’s become quite the little mimic. The worst thing he’s repeated so far has been “Jeez,” so that’s good. It’s actually really cute when he says it.

He still mostly calls everyone Baba — me, his dad, and even himself. He finally said his name a couple of times, but then he went right back to patting his chest and calling himself Baba. He says Mama every now and then, but I think he has it in his mind somehow that everyone in his immediate family is Baba. Oh well!

UPDATE: On Thursday evening, August 22, Ali got scared by a storm for the first time — it happened to hit just exactly as he was trying to get to sleep for the night. (Other storms have happened during the day or long after he fell asleep. Or when he was younger and just kind of oblivious to it.)

He lay on my shoulder for an hour, shuddering every time he heard thunder, until he fell into deep sleep and I could put him in his Pack n Play. Something so sweet about it all.

He also sometimes, when he wakes up in the morning, stands in his Pack n Play for a while and rocks his little bear lovey against his shoulder the same way we rock him to sleep. It melts my heart so much โค

Joy

I’ve finally been settling into the joy of being Ali’s mama. I know it seems like late in the game, but after all those years of fertility hell, barely believing in what turned out to be my successful pregnancy, and then being thrust into new motherhood with all the learning and worrying and sleep deprivation and feeling like I was wandering in a dark wood with no map (or a thousand maps, and I didn’t know which was the best one)…

I’m someone who tends to bury myself in to-do lists, feeling always like I’m behind, and then if another snag comes in, like teething or nap transitions, it feels like I’m just trying to put out fires. And then there was the stress of “When are we going to have another child? And how?” Followed by the much better but still very real stress of “Does this fully geriatric pregnancy have any chance of making it?” Throw in the sadness of weaning somewhere in there.

Now that Ali’s on a pretty good schedule, I’m getting caught up on sleep, I’ve passed the terrifying first trimester, I’ve started getting better about self-care, and I’ve even been working on my novel…

Now it’s like I can exhale a little bit, look around, and actually savor things instead of feeling like I’m just trying to get through them.

But then, any time I do start to feel a sense of freedom and joy, I tend to clench up again, bury myself in reading the news or spending too much time on Facebook, as if I’m afraid of flying, and the only thing that’s keeping the plane in the air is me white-knuckling the armrests and gritting my teeth, or taking sedatives (my sedatives of choice being obsessively following Democratic primary polls, which change by the minute anyway, or writing trenchant posts and comments on Facebook *eyeroll*). I do not dare relax and enjoy the flight. Ever. That’s when they crash.

I wish I wasn’t like that. It serves no purpose, and I know that. Worrying about things that haven’t happened yet does nothing but rob joy from the present moment. Part of why I’m writing my novel is to have a book that can remind me of that. And sometimes it really does. Sometimes after I work on it for a while, I feel free and happy and like life can just be good, while it’s good, and I really can enjoy it without feeling guilty or afraid.

Because life is quite good right now. My son is an absolute delight. He’s learning roughly a new word every day, it seems, and just tonight he started saying “Hi!” to strangers at the appropriate time so that they answered back. Previously he’d wait until they passed and then say to no one in particular, “Hi!” Very cute, but not very effective ๐Ÿ˜›

He’s sweet and he’s fun and he’s always exploring and doing funny and unexpected things. He’s more than I could have dreamed of. Parenthood is a lot of work, but once you finally accept, “OK, this is my life for now,” and settle into it, it’s a lot of fun, too. A lot of beauty. Constant improvisation as you both learn and grow.

And even the possibility that I get to do it again, this time with so much more knowledge and understanding and growth under my belt, with all the supplies I need already (no futzing around with a registry or helping organize a baby shower, as fun as that was last time!), better able to appreciate each phase as it happens, knowing it’s a phase and not giving into that terrifying tunnel vision, able to marvel at a newborn, truly understanding how fleeting a precious that time is and how much there is to look forward to…

It seems impossible I could be this lucky. I certainly don’t deserve it. No one really “deserves” anything in this life, at least when it comes to things we have little control over. The rain falls on the saint and the sinner alike. But I’m thankful for it, and God help me I’m trying to relax and enjoy it, and I’m finally making some headway.

Tomorrow I go to my midwife again and will hopefully hear a good heartbeat. I’m still in that dreaded “In Between” time in pregnancy where I have no symptoms (other than bloat and tiredness) and just don’t feel pregnant at all, and it’s psychologically not so easy, though definitely better since I had a good 13 week scan. The tech told me the placenta looked either anterior or fundal, and either way that might mean it’ll be a long time until I feel this babe moving. Trying not to give in and get a doppler, because I know it can’t change anything anyway. But I’m so ready to start being kicked.

Either way, I’m so grateful to have my husband and my son. They would be more than enough. That alone makes this pregnancy easier than the last one by far.

Jun29