Because the important moments in life just don’t fit in a status update! I started this blog when I was training for my first ½ Ironman, (70.3 miles) to record what I hoped would be growth and progress but ended up being a huge learning experience. Although fitness is one of the key ingredients to a happy life, it certainly isn't the only ingredient. My blog has evolved to document growth, progress and setbacks in other areas too. From my surprise proposal in Rome and wedding in the fall of 2013, to Mom's devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis and death 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Who knows what shape it will take, but thanks for being along for the ride.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

28 Months

I visited her daycare on my lunch break and she was sitting at a table with 6-8 other little ones, playing with play-doh. She wanted to get up when she saw me, but I sat on the floor beside her instead. I was so impressed with her fine motor skills. She was rolling the play-doh into 'snakes' and learned to roll a plastic pizza cutter/wheel while I was there. She quite pleased with herself, and would cut a piece and then give me a high-five.

She loves wearing her blue Disney Elsa princess dress, and loves to wear it to daycare with sneakers. I never want to forget dancing and twirling in the kitchen with her, as I made breakfast and we listened to "This is Halloween" from the Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack. Daddy came out and said "look at my girls!" as she approached him for a dance.

I read in monthly developmental milestones that she would start playing independently for up to 20 minutes at a time and like clockwork, she started! She loves little houses and figures, and can often be overheard speaking for them and putting them to bed.

We packed a lot of fun into this month, starting with a weekend at the Monarch Beach Resort (formerly the St. Regis) in Dana point. 

We also went to Zoomars on one of the first days they opened, before the crowds. She rode a pony all by herself for the first time, holding on to the saddle and being led away from me. She loved feeding the guinea pigs, chickens, lamas and goats and rode the train. She also loved the huge vat of corn, and stayed in there for close to 30 minutes before decorating her pumpkin that we got to take home.

We bought a 15 foot trampoline this month and she absolutely loves it! Her friend Tommy came over one weekend to jump, but mostly, she wants me in there with her and I oblige. Dad also takes her in while I have my piano lessons every Friday afternoon.

The Long Beach half marathon was my first half since becoming a Mom. I signed up for this race the day I learned that our 4th IVF did not work. It happened to fall on the 3rd anniversary of my Mom's death and I was reflecting on Mom a lot during my run, and missing her like crazy.  I thought of how she would not be at this finish, like she was at so many in the past, but then my thoughts turned to who was there: my amazing, precious little girl. The relief and thankfulness I had when I thought of how fortunate and blessed I am to have her was overwhelming. As I was running, I decided she would be a little race bandit, and cross the finish line with me. It's easy to focus on what we're missing out on when we loose someone so important that we hold so dear, but we need to remember what we do have. I could not ask for a more amazing little girl and cannot imagine my life without her in it. I feel as if my life really began when I became her Mom.

This month we also went to a local fair, Centennial Farms, another pumpkin patch, the Long Beach Aquarium and Disneyland. Although officially fall, the month ended with some days near 100 degrees. Little A continues to pick up new words weekly, if not daily. One day when I picked her up at daycare, I asked her to say goodbye to everybody. "Goodbye everybody!" she proudly exclaimed.

We purchased new baby chicks and a big project for the end of the month was a large coup for them on our side yard. I'm really impressed that my husband did most of the work, with help from his cousin Kevin. The end of her 28th month left us with Halloween  looming, and a lot to look forward to.

Things I don't want to forget about this month:

  • When she toots, she says "That's me!"
  • Crossing the finish line of the Long Beach half holding her hand.
  • One windy morning, her saying "Wolf outside! Huff, puff! Scary."
  • Hugs and kisses for Trevi, just because.
  • Asking for a baby from Santa.
  • On a run, telling her Grandpa was coming over and her asking "Glennie too?"

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Dear Mom

Image result for god is closer to the brokenhearted verse
It's been three years since you left this world for Heaven. That is where you are, right? I routinely ask for a sign that such a place exists and that you're up there. I don't usually get one, but somehow, my faith still grows stronger. While the pain of loosing you way too soon could easily cause me to be upset with God or distance myself from Him, it has only served to pull me in closer. I am closer to God today than that day you left our world because I find comfort in the idea of eternity, and being reunited with you again. And because it's a good way to live, and to raise your unbelievably amazing granddaughter who says "Nana. My Nana; Heaven" any time she sees your picture. Did I tell you? She will be going to Catholic school, just like you did.

There isn't a day that goes by that my heart doesn't ache for you to see her and hold her; for her to know you. You adored children, and I knew since a young age that you would relish being a Nana. I also knew that I needed to wait until I met the perfect husband, and could dedicate myself fully to being a Mom, like you did for me. Sometimes, I wish that it hadn't taken me quite so long to find him, but I know I wouldn't be the mom I am today if I were a decade younger. In His timing, right? He needed to make sure that as a Mom, I was ready to be as selfless as you were.
Printed in the OC Register for Mother's Day, 2007.
There is so much that I miss about you being here. Almost every day, I whisper "I miss you, Mom" when no one is around. The list of what I miss about you is too long to list, but what I miss the most is the pure joy and love that you infused into my life. I miss my best friend, and your laughter. Your always upbeat attitude is why I called you every day, often more than once. I'd call you on my way to work, on the way home from work and sometimes, also in the evening. When something went right, you were the first person I called, and you were also the first person I called when something went wrong. I called because I wanted to, and never out of a sense of obligation. No matter the topic, I always felt better after talking to you, and our conversation always involved a good laugh.

You were my strongest supporter, and always so proud of me. Last night as I was falling asleep, I was thinking about the time I moved into that super tiny studio apartment in Redlands, by the YMCA. We were shopping in a newly discovered ritzy thrift store (that sounds like an oxymoron, doesn't it?) down the street, and you proudly told the older volunteer that I just moved into the area. Unimpressed, she didn't really react, but you had a huge smile on your face as you browsed the racks that just did not go away. When I moved to "the OC" as you called it, you were so happy for me even though it hurt us both to only see each other a few times a month.

The anniversary of loosing you is tough and always will be in some way. Months ago, I signed up for the Long Beach half marathon without realizing it fell on October 8th. At first I felt bad with the idea of not visiting your grave today, but quickly realized that it would be time better spent, because going to your grave would be even more upsetting. You wouldn't want that. Plus, you're not there anyway, and I know you would understand. Running remains my panacea, and the race is a good way to honor your memory. You came out to countless races to support me, Dad or Glen over the years and even participated in a few. 
Huntington Beach distance derby - 2011

Mission Inn half, 2010
My 3rd LA Marathon, 2005
My little race bandit
Today, running alone, I thought of you at all of the races you came out to support me in. Running isn't a spectator sport, but you loved being there and cheering everyone on. It made me sad when I thought of how you would not be at this finish, my first distance run since having Baby A. My thoughts then turned to the miracle that she is, and seeing her at the finish line. And then, to me someday being at her races. I thank God every day that He gave me her, just as I thank Him every day for having you as my Mom.

It is because of your love that I am able to love her so fully and completely. You taught me how to love myself, how to love my daughter, and how to love my husband.

While I was driving to Zoomars with A this week, I reached over and pretended that I was holding your hand. I thought of you there next to me, knowing that this would be a trip we would surely make together, and imagining how much fun you would have with her. We would talk and sip our coffee, engaged in conversation interrupted here and there by "Look at me!" and love every second of it. I very much felt your presence, riding in the car with me without trying or realizing. While it did not actually feel like I was holding your hand, I still remember the smallness of your hand in mine and what it felt like, just as I still know your hug, or what it feels like to walk next to you with our arms around each other's waist. Thinking back on it now, it very much reminded me of how I felt your presence while riding the train to Reading to meet your sister Anna and see where you grew up. In both cases, it just happened, without me trying to imagine it first. 

Is it wishful thinking to think that it really was you there with me on the drive? Yes. But that doesn't mean that you weren't. Maybe sometimes I do get that sign I'm always asking and hoping for, and just discount it because I'm such a doubting Thomas. Either way, I enjoyed it. 

The love you gave me is enough to last a lifetime, and enough to transcend generations. A is so loved by me, because you loved me so. And one day when she's an amazing Mom, it will all be because of you. If I'm not around to see it, I hope I can watch from above, like you're doing now. And I hope that she will also still be able to feel my presence, too, especially when she needs it the most. 

One of my biggest fears since your death has been loosing our close connection and our bond. But the love I still feel from you is woven into the very fiber of my being, and can never be broken. All I have to do is close my eyes and I can feel you next to me like the day we sat on the pier, your love warming me more than the sunshine ever could. 

I love you eternally, Ma. I hope that I still make you proud, and give you a smile that doesn't easily dissipate. You will continue to do that for me, all the days of my life.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

27 Months

We started her 27th month preparing a place outside for her chickens. Outside, you say? Aren't chickens always outside? Yes, except for the first two months, which we learned after we purchased them. And by two months, they were so big that they almost filled their cage. We have them in a coup on the side of our house, but try to let them roam the backyard a few times a week. Baby A loved trying to catch them, and it is so cute how they always stick together! We were very sad to learn later in the month that Nemo is a rooster. We are not allowed to keep roosters in our neighborhood due to a noise ordnance, but luckily the store will re-home him for a fee. We also got on the wait-list for a hen, so that Dory would not be all alone.

Baby A is becoming increasingly aware of her environment, and will usually say "It's cold" when we leave in the morning and "It's dark" at night before bed. Her best sentence so far was "Mommy, I go plane Portugal pppeassse!" She has also learned to say "Not appropriate" which we are really having fun with. When prompted, she will sternly and enthusiastically tell just about anyone "Not appropriate!"

This month brought with it the return to school, and an increase in my mileage as training for the Long Beach half marathon. Baby A is doing really well with both of these. A year ago, she cried in the beginning of the new school year at drop off. Not this year! She walks right in and either starts playing, or sits at the table to finish her cup of milk. I sometimes need to reminder her I need a hug and a kiss! This allowed me to work back in some lunch visits, which I stopped doing last year when my leaving upset her. She made the transition to the "big playground" when she moved up into the 2 1/2-3 year old group. I have been able to visit her a few times when she's playing out there and after a few "Mommy has to leave in 5 minutes" warnings, she offers up a chipper "Bye Mommy!"

Leaving her for my long runs has also been easier than expected! For at least a year, my Dad and brother have been coming to visit every weekend. Although my Dad is enrolled in college full time and very busy, they never miss a weekend. When I tell her that "GranpaGlennie" are coming, she often lets out a squeal of excitement, and runs around repeating "GranpaGlennie!" I had the idea to let them watch her as I was increasing my mileage to 6. When that went well, I ran 8 the following week. She asked for me once, Glen explained I was running and she went back to playing. Since then, I did a 10 mile run (since I'm slow, this takes nearly 2 hours plus drive time!) and have plans for a 12 miler. Before this, she had never been left with anyone (other than at daycare) before! When training is over, we may even utilize them for a day-date.

One of my favorite things about this month is that she has started to sing "Beauty and the Beast." It is just about the sweetest thing ever. She most often does it at night time, when I am laying next to her in her bed, and get out her book by the same title. Tale as old as time, song as old as and the beast.

Fourth anniversary gift!
We bought her a 15 foot trampoline and she has been using it every day. She exclaims "Look at me!" as she's bouncing. She's often out of breath and always smiling. I love that it is such great exercise for her! While she's playing, I have an opportunity to practice piano. 

Piano? I've never played an instrument in my life, but signed up for weekly lessons in our home. I thought we could replace the un-tunable, un-fixable one we had later on. But my husband bought me a beautiful one off Craigslist and had it delivered before I knew what hit me. There's no backing out now! While A is too young for lessons, it is important to both of us for her to grow up with me playing. I want to be a little ahead of her and be able to teacher her. And, if later on in life she finds something difficult or challenging I can tell her that it's not nearly as tough as learning piano at my age! Forget about reading music, my fingers are just not used to moving independently of each other.

This month, A gave up her bottle completely, without even noticing or caring for the first few days. She had her last bottle on 9/17 and at the time I didn't know it was her last, or I probably would have cried. She was already only down to one in the evening. The next night, it was getting late and she had not asked for one. I asked my husband Should I give her that thing which we do not speak of, or skip it? He suggested skipping it, and so I did. The next night, the same thing happened; she did not mention it. After a few days, she did cry once or twice in the evening and ask for it, along with a very persuasive "Peeease?" but I remained strong. As it turns out, getting her off the bottle was a lot tougher on me than it was on her. Real evidence of her no longer being a baby. 
Is it possible to feel nostalgic about last year? I realized recently that I'm not able to watch baby videos of her without getting tears in my eyes or actually even crying! While I am enamored by the toddler she has become, I just miss that baby so much. Not just any baby, but her as a baby. And I know in a year or two, I'll be looking back on today and missing the toddler she is now. I just wish that every year with her lasted a decade, and that she would not turn 3 until 9 more years from now.

Alas, that's not how it works, and a huge part of what makes this time so precious. Plus, when she was a baby, she couldn't make faces like this:
Things I don't want to forget about this month:
  • Her excitement to me bringing Beast to daycare to pick her up.
  • Tuesday evenings at Round Table
  • "Beast so funny, Mommy! Funny guy."
  • "Watch me!"
  • Surprise visit to her daycare on 9/26 when she was rolling playdough into a snake and cutting it with a pizza wheel.
  • When I'm driving, she will say "catch it" about a bus, or other car.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

26 Months

Her 26th month started while we were in Oregon, with her exploring the property and what is a very large house, compared to ours. She is able to go upstairs now while I'm still downstairs or vice versa, without me worrying. We loved seeing her ride her pony, though some days she was more tentative than others.
Her language is developing rapidly, and she has started (sometimes) speaking in complete sentences. The cutest example of this was when we took the Gator up to the Orchard to let Trevi run loose. All of a sudden, Trevi came bolting, and we quickly realized she was chasing a deer. When we returned to the fire that was being built by the lake, she was excited to share with anyone who would listen: "Big deer! Trevi chased it!" 

We really enjoyed our 2 1/2 weeks in Oregon, and stayed for 3 nights at the Valley River Inn, where Baby A was able to swim in the "big pool." There were a lot of VIP family members with us there that we rarely get to see, like Aunt Nancy and Uncle Leonard from Michigan, Uncle Don from Pennsylvania and my Uncle TJ and Auntie Bex from D.C. Once everyone left, Baby A was able to have some quality time with her Grandma, and enjoyed showing her things and riding on her lap. Almost a month later, she is still asking about "Gramma."

No matter how much fun you have, it's always nice to be home. Baby A demonstrated her appreciation of being back by ransacking the place. Although we came in on a late flight and she had not napped, she had fun pulling most of her toys out and rediscovering them with vigor. The very next morning "GranpaGlennie!" came to see her and she was so excited. She ran through the house exclaiming "GranpaGlennie!" over and over. We worked in a Disney trip where she met the princess for the first time (the verdict is still out on this one) and a few days of not doing a lot before staying at The Great Wolf Lodge.

She started with the yellow slide on the left...
...and ended up tackling this blue one!
The Great Wolf Lodge was amazing. Only 6 miles from our house, I would go every month if I could. But it's expensive, so I'll settle for once or twice a year instead. We were there for three full days. On the first day, she was afraid to go down the yellow slide on the left. She went to the top all by herself and sat down, but as I was waiting at the bottom to catch her, she reached her arm out and said 'hand.' She was not budging. An employee staffing the line at the top saw her and walked over. Oh good, he's going to help her down the stairs I thought, picturing him carrying her back to me. Instead, he gave her a gentle push and she screamed and cried the whole way down. It was just what she needed, because 5 minutes later, she wanted to go again. 

On day two, I went up with her and the worker at the gate asked her what color she wanted to go down. She gave them a blank stare and I answered yellow for her. To my surprise, on our second trip up (Daddy was waiting at the bottom) she exclaimed "RED" to no one and everyone in particular. From then on, she went down the red slide. It was the first time I have ever really felt proud of her! Not that she hasn't done amazing things before, but milestones such as walking may be awe-inspiring, but they are also expected. This wasn't, and I was so happy she overcame her fear so quickly. 

After the red slide, she went down an even bigger enclosed slide again and again. That's the thing about this age - they love repetition. We spent the morning at the water park, and went back to the room for her to nap. GWL has a lot of fun activities sprinkled throughout the day, like crafts, story time and morning yoga. They also have different restaurants, and ice cream shop, bowling alley and kid spa that has mommy and me packages (I can't wait to us this when she's older). After nap, it was back to the waterpark. It feels too hot and humid when you walk in (it's always 84 degrees) but after you've been in the water, it's perfect.

"Beast, Belle coming too?"
On day three, my best friend Andrea joined us with her husband and son, "cousin Casey." Daddy was great-wolfed-out, and left around noon but we stayed until almost 8:30 pm. After more trips down the bigger slides, she kept asking to go down the big, blue slide. "Blue slide! I go der!" Assuming she would not be allowed, I asked a worker who said she could. Auntie Andrea waited at the bottom, as we climbed several flights of stairs to the top, figuring she would back out once we were up there. I asked a second worker who was at the top if she could go, and she said she could. She didn't back out, but I almost did! We were about 4 stories high, and the slide was not enclosed! I was even a bit hesitant to follow one she was down.
I couldn't believe that she did it, and then wanted to go again. It was the proudest I have ever felt, and we couldn't wait to tell Dad!

That weekend, she had her first "real" friend's birthday party at our local zoo. I love seeing her interact with Tommy. We also joined them at adventure playground in Irvine, before I returned to work that Monday. She was supposed to start back at daycare the following week, but my husband unexpectedly had to fly to Oregon. I was planning to readjust her sleeping schedule (she had been staying up until 10pm and sleeping in until 8) and visit daycare. But on the first day and the whole first week, she was fine! Her teacher said it was like she never left. 

First day back to daycare!
I started increasing my mileage this month to train for the Long Beach half marathon. While I still push her in the stroller for some 3 mile runs, there's no way I would want to go any further. That's where "GranpaGlennie" came in! They come every weekend to visit anyway, so I thought this would be a perfect opportunity. She had never been left with anyone before. Yet when it was time for me to leave, she really could not care less. She gets so excited when they are coming for a visit, and was in the middle of pulling out toys to show them. When I returned an hour later, they said it went really well. So the following weekend I ran further and drove to the Back Bay to run, instead of leaving out the front door. I was gone almost 2 and a half hours, and they're ready to watch her again next weekend!

Things I don't want to forget about this month:

  • "My go there!"
  • "Beast coming too?"
  • Her excitement in telling people things. "Deer! Big deer! Trevi chased it" or "Grandpa! Saw owl. Big owl!"
  • "No, my do it."
  • Told Dad "I love you Dada" while he was carrying her, completely unprompted.
  • Watching Beauty and the Beast and saying "Love" when they dance.
  • Saying "You're welcome" after I thanked her for giving me a flower.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Perpetual Love

I do a lot of thinking on runs. I'm not sure if its the increased oxygen to my brain, lack of the usual distractions, just a way to pass the time, or all of the above, but sometimes a good, hard run helps me see a previous problem in a new light.

It was late afternoon and close to 90 degrees in Oregon when I headed out the door. My preference for running would be first thing in the morning, but these days I am at the mercy of her nap time, unless I want to push 50 pounds (30 for her, and 20 for the stroller). I headed down the rural road, thinking of Mom the day that I got the call she had a 3 cm tumor in her brain four years ago. They didn't yet know if it was cancerous or benign that day I headed down the same road, killing time waiting for the second phone call which was everything I feared. 

My thoughts then drifted to her one trip here to the property in the spring of 2014 after she had been fighting her battle with the metastatic brain cancer, and how I told her we would bring her grandchild(ren) here. She was undergoing chemo, had blurry/double vision in one eye and was so weak that she slept in (something she had never done my whole life) and often sat to help prepare meals, like cabbage rolls.

She didn't want to come, really. She wanted to stay home. But I wasn't going to go if she didn't, because I didn't want to miss out on any time with her. And it was important to me for her to see it and know her grandchild(ren) would own a piece of it someday. I can be annoyingly persuasive, and do have a bit of guilt in asking her to come. But, I'm glad she did because she did enjoy herself here (like feeding the horses, here) and I have memories with her here now.

All of these thoughts were going through my head, and making the loss of her much more painful than usual, as usual. I have a tendency to do this periodically, and make myself feel guilty for what I did or didn't do. But on this run, something shifted, and I thought of my love for Baby A, and how much that love is reminiscent of the love Mom and I shared. Since it is so rural, I was able to speak out loud to Mom, without fear of another runner or cyclist whizzing by and questioning my sanity. "I guess the baby we lost needed a Nana up in heaven more than Baby A needed a Nana here on earth." 

I thought of how it seemed that my Mom's soul, or at least part of her spirit, is in Baby A, and how maybe that was why she had to go.

Far-fetched, and not likely. The idea that Mom's soul is in Baby A and we are sharing the same love and it will be repeated for eternity - just the two of us,  was comforting but not realistic or even plausible enough to entertain. A recycled idea from a book I read as a teen, The Bridge Across Forever, where two souls continually found each other over time. The brief but impossible thought that maybe Baby A really is my Mom and we will go on in this pattern for all of eternity was too far fetched and probably goes against most religions except the ones believing in reincarnation.  

I then thought of all the questions I would ask Mom if she were here. Was I as attached to her at Baby A's age as she is to me? And I immediately knew the answer: I was.

Then a thought so overly simple, but profound came to me and I clung to it because so few things make the pain of Mom being gone seem less, and I need to hang on to the ones that do. The love Baby A and I share is just like the love Mom and I shared. In this way, the love Mom and I shared is not gone. The love has just changed and transferred to a different relationship, but it is still here. It is here between Baby A and I because it was there between Mom and I. The love that she gave me and I am giving to Baby A can be given to her children and their children and go on for all of eternity.
This. This made sense to me. And it makes me feel better about the loss of my best friend and closest confidant...if anything can. Even now, days later, when I revisit it, it is like a warm, comforting memory that I enjoy thinking about. Instead of thoughts of Mom being gone and me raising her without a Nana, Mom is manifested in the time, love and patience that I give to her. 

I have previously thought of all the gifts that Baby A is missing out on because my Mom is not here. Mom gave me something small for every holiday. Lip gloss disguised as fancy chocolates for Valentine's Day; a potted clover for St. Paddy's. Not just presents, but presence. When Baby A excitedly Squeals "Granpa! Glennie!" a part of me is sad, because that sentence would have started with "Nana!" Or, I think of how few things of Mom's I have to pass on to Baby A. Not even her gold cross that she wore in her final days, likely stolen by our house cleaner. But this counters all of that.

Mom gave me the most precious gift of all in giving her unconditional love to me. For 37 years, she loved me with every fiber of her being and put the needs of my brother and I before her own. Not out of obligation, but because she loved doing so. She was fun, caring, optimistic, always happy and patient. What would I prefer? Having that, or a house full of items or nice jewelry to pass on to her? Some may have material items, but less love or more judgment instead. Mom was rare, with a laugh that was contagious, and the patience of a saint. She was the strongest person I have ever known, but you would never know it because she was so sweet. She endured a lot, without ever complaining, and always looked on the bright side of life.

The gift of her unconditional love is mine, but only for a time because I am more of a steward for it. It was intended, maybe from the beginning, to be passed down to Baby A. I have been able to bask in the glow of it, but in being given such a precious gift comes the great responsibility of passing it on. 

Perhaps its being in such a rural setting, out amongst the beauty of the world, or surrounded by 100ft(+) trees, but feeling small out here is part of the allure.  Although it may sound strange, being small brings me comfort in a way. The comfort comes from the idea of not being at the center of the world like we think we are when we're younger, but rather a link in a chain. A chain where my mother is on one side of me, and Baby A is on the other. In this chain, the force applied (pulling or pushing) does not not all pile on me. Instead, the force is shared by those before me, and those after me. So, even if the force is intense, I don't bare the load alone. I am surrounded by those I love, and they help share burden.  

The burden of losing mom is more than I thought I could bare, before I was faced with it. I never imagined being able to survive and function after losing my Mom, and perhaps I would not be able to do half as good of a job if I were not linked to Baby A. Every day, I find a way to channel the pain, and change it from hurt to love to give to Baby A. This ever-present loss keeps me keenly aware of the finiteness of life, which nudges me to enjoy the heck out of her, and build a relationship like what I shared with Mom.

The pressure from losing mom (hurt) transcends the here and now. It is more than a moment. It is more than the past, or the future. It is a force that must go on, it must travel down the chain, through me and beyond. But, as time goes on, I am finding out that I have the ability to control the pressure. It does not have to be as I originally perceived it (hurt); I have the ability to decide what I pass down the line.  

In Oregon, the idea that moments, memories, and values can transcend one life is obvious and apparent. This place, where I look forward to returning to before I have even left, will be here for Baby A. As she grows older, she will know that Oregon is where her loved ones spent time; a place that her Grandma Swanek calls heaven on earth. She'll have childhood memories of spending every summer and Christmas here. Unknowingly, she travels paths my Mom walked, or sits on a bench where Mom sat and I can almost feel her presence. She'll see where our initials are carved and so are hers, or hear us splashing in the waters and running down the hills, chasing Trevi and laughing like Mom and I did. I hope that when I'm gone, she too will realize that the moments, memories, and values will go beyond her and link her to her loved ones. I hope she'll know that I am still with her, especially when she remembers our love and bond, or sees it reflected in her love of her own child.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

25 Months

Her 25th month started as we entered our summer vacation, with two months off together. 

This month, she developed a love of the "big pool," baby chicks, wearing her backpack, going on the teacups and down slides with her arms up, fostering dogs, riding on the back of Daddy's bike, Playmobil, lobster tail, estate sales, running, Eggo waffles and play-dates with friends.
We started two weeks of Mommy 'n Me swim at a local high school. Dad came a few times, and Grandpa came one day. Every weekday at 9am, she went in the "big pool" with me, her teacher and one other boy. In the first week, she learned to kick her feet while being held horizontal. While she can float on her back in our spa almost by herself, she remains reluctant in the pool. By the end of the second week, she learned to reach her arms out while being held horizontally while kicking. The teacher gave her a certificate of participation, of which she was very proud. She showed Dad, and we put it on the fridge.

Right around Mom's birthday, we bought two baby chicks. Baby A is surprisingly gentle and very loving with "Nemo and Dory." Only a few days old when we bought them, they need to be inside with a heat lamp for 2 months! This means they had to go on our road trip to Oregon! One is a Polish standard, and the other is an Americana, or Easter-egger, which will lay blue eggs.

With the results of our last IVF being negative, I started running again. Sometimes, I ran while Daddy pushed Baby A in the stroller. Instead of just taking off on my own and not seeing them until I finished, I doubled back a lot. Each time I did, Baby A gave me a high five. This also helped me check and make sure she didn't fall asleep. Even a 10-20 minute snooze on our late morning walk will throw off her nap. She was dozing off one day with less than a mile left. So, we asked if she wanted to run with Mommy and she was very excited. She held my hand and was giggling, saying "Running!" Daddy snapped a few pictures of us, which I would like to share but they just look like "before" pictures. I'll wait until I have some "after" pics to put them next to - haha. I'm not always able to run, which is a bit frustrating, because consistency is key. I've been having periodic pain in my arm pit since the lymph node removal. Sometimes, I'm planning to run and can't because of a painful, red bump that lasts days. But we take it in stride.
We fostered two dogs, which she loved right from the beginning. She would wake up and say "Puppy?" and loved carrying BamBam around.

Baby A was a big help gardening this month. A few mornings per week, we would wake up and go outside first thing, while it was still overcast. She sat on her little table with a waffle, scrambled eggs, and fruit while I started gardening. Before long, she was right there helping. I had white flowers in the front planter that completely took over and were awful to try and get out. I softened the ground, put on gloves and pulled with all my might, only to have them snap off at the base, leaving their roots for me to dig out of our clay-like soil. Frustrated, I said these flowers are.....difficult. She looked up at me and clear as can be said "difficult?"

We had a lot of play dates. We Play Loud, Pretend City and the Discovery Science Center with Tommy, Big Air Laguna for Toddler Time with the Kelly's, Huemann's, and Soules, and our local park with Olivia from down the street.

On the 22nd, we flew to Oregon. She requires her own seat now, and is supposed to be in it for take off and landing, which I didn't realize. They didn't catch it for take off, so when the flight attendant told us that on the descent, we were not prepared. She cried and protested as they moved her to it, and wriggled herself free by the time they had moved on. The second flight was much better, because I prepped her for it. 

She is developing such a personality and sense of humor. She kept looking out the window of the plane and saying "Dinosaur! Look Mommy, see it? See it?" But when I asked her if it was real she had a sly smile and sometimes said no. I'm not sure if the mountain ranges below really did look like dinosaurs with her imagination, or if she was just trying to joke me. Either way, it was as cute as all get out.

The week before Oregon, we took away her morning 7oz bottle, leaving just one in the late afternoon/early evening. In typical Baby A fashion, it was as easy as pie. She actually didn't even seem to notice and only mentioned it once every other day or so. I need to nix the second one sometime soon, but am more reluctant because it is another sign that my little baby is disappearing right before my eyes.

We were in Oregon a few months ago, and it was amazing to see her show that she remembers certain things about it like where the horses are, and demonstrated memory of riding them "Mommy, ride horse, peeeeasse?" Her cousins were already up here, and a few days after we arrived, Auntie Bex and TJ flew in from DC. 

Our days up here are very full with the longer daylight. Some mornings she was out exploring the property with me by foot or in the Gator before the house awoke, and ended the night around 9:30 pm with a ride on the back of Daddy's bike down the long winding driveway in the cooling night air. One of my favorite things to do is ask her which way she wants to go, and just follow. When her Dad and Uncle Pat and TJ were dredging the lake and she said "Mommy, clothes off" her way of asking to go in the water, in the water we went. It is only up to my knees at that part, the whole reason they are dredging, and she loved picking up pebbles or inspecting moss. After some reluctance and wining, Trevi even joined in and hopped around in the cool water.

Things I don't want to forget:
  • Sitting on the front bench and watching the moon rise.
  • Riding our bikes for ice cream. Daddy ordered a root beer and Baby A pointed at the can and exclaimed "Beast!" When we saw a bull dog on the can, we understood.
  • "Big pool!" 
  • She prefers the live action Beauty and the Beast over the cartoon now and will sometimes say "Beast, scared!"
  • Beast! Castle.
  • "Mommy watch! Under!" Going under the stream of water from the hose as I was watering out front.
  • Asking "Scat sound, Mommy?" when she heard uncle Pat doing target practice.
  • Holding my hand while she sat in the passenger seat of the Gator.
  • "My tractor"

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Chasing that Rainbow (Baby)

A “rainbow baby” is a baby that is born following a miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death or infant loss. In the real world, a beautiful and bright rainbow follows a storm and gives hope of things getting better. A rainbow baby brings light, but by no means replaces the angel baby.

We just completed our 4th IVF, which was negative. Our 3rd IVF before that was supposed to be our last, but with a positive pregnancy and all genetic testing coming back normal at 10 weeks along, we thought we were in the clear. We also knew that it was a little girl, and started talking about names. 

The news of no heartbeat at 17 weeks and the words "fetal demise" came as more than a shock, and still hurt. Being pregnant with that little girl allowed us to dream, and to imagine our growing family. To dream of a sibling for Baby A, of a more chaotic household, of another little one to love.

I find myself dreaming of a last, last round and one more shot at a rainbow baby. While even the thought of a pregnancy is exciting to me, I am unsure. Unsure of so many things. The risk, the failure, the additional cost, the relationship between the two, and how that will pan out. After so many failures and the loss, we are both afraid to hope again.

My husband is more pragmatic, and likes to plan for worst-case scenarios, while I'm more of an idealist. He is mostly leaving the decision up to me, and says that he is good with how things are. There is no doubt we want a second, as we did two rounds of IVF after Baby A and were both over-the-moon with my second pregnancy. But when are we done? At what point do we just cut our losses and thank the lord for our perfect little girl? Not all who go through IVF have a baby at the end of it.

My husband says he likes our life how it is and our little family of three. And I do too. I love it so much that I feel another child would only enhance it. This mom-thing doesn't have me feeling overwhelmed or tired (for the most part..we all have our days), mostly it is just a whole lot fun. His reason for us possibly being done is my reason for not being done. I love being a Mom. No, I relish being a Mom. It is my life's mission now.

And another won't make me more of a Mom, but it will give us a fuller house. More excitement at Christmas and the holidays. And, someone to be with her at my funeral. Wait, what? Yes, this is something I think of; who she will have after we're gone. Our family is extremely small. While having a sibling isn't a guaranteed close friend for life, it is at least someone with your shared history and someone you can rely on. Someone to be there for you, through life's joys and sorrows. Someone who knows you really well and loves you unconditionally.

We have some serious introspection and praying to do. I have a consult set up with CNY Fertility in New York for mid-September; their first available. Until then, it's time to enjoy summer, our upcoming trip to Oregon, and our little family of three.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Fourth IVF: Negative

Today was my blood test and official negative results: 

Hello Megan,

I tried calling your cell twice just now and no answer, your HCG level came back at <1 which means negative. I am truly sorry I wish I had better news for you today. Dr. Frederick would like for you to stop all medications and would like for you to set up a consult so she can regroup with you on next steps. Roxy will let you know what are Dr. Frederick next openings. 

But we've known for almost a week that it didn't work, because I tested at home. Four times. The first time, I still held out hope that it was just too early. I kept checking the test and staring at it. If willing a squinter were possible, there would have been that extra line that I so desperately wanted to see. But with each negative test I took, that hope diminished. Last week I was just crushed. In part because I was so hopeful, we both were, and also because this is most likely our last attempt.

As we geared up for this last round, I was all prepared for it not to work. But on embryo transfer day when we found out we had four "good-looking" embryos, I couldn't help but be hopeful. That was the highest number we have ever had. I even found myself slightly concerned it could be twins, and worried because that would mean a higher risk pregnancy. What a good problem that would be to have.

I still went in for the blood test this morning at 7:30 a.m. because you're supposed to, but was so confident in the negative result that I went for a 3 mile run while we waited for the call. 

I also signed up for the Long Beach Half Marathon. These last two rounds of hormones, and one pregnancy (that ended at 17 weeks) have taken a toll on me. I'm up at least 25 pounds since our wedding day, and heavier now than even last summer when baby A was 13 months old.

I waiver about 25 times each day between trying again and being content with being a family of three. My husband said that it is up to me. He said that I enjoy being a Mom so much that he wants me to have that experience again, if I want to. Right now, in this moment, I am not in favor of trying again. Our Baby A has made me a Mom, and she is perfect. We hit it out of the park with her. All of these additional attempts only serve to highlight just what a miracle she is.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Her 2nd Year in Review

I'm surprised that I have kept up on her updates every month. When she was born, I promised myself I would jot things down every month, but was skeptical I would actually continue to do so beyond the first few. 

For me, what helped was starting each month's post on the very first day, and just writing a sentence or two in my free time as the month progressed. That way, it wasn't a looming task at the end. 

24 Months 
23 Months
22 Months
21 Months
20 Months
19 Months
18 Months
17 Months
16 Months
15 Months
14 Months
13 Months

And, for future reference when she goes of to college (grad school, not undergrad...yes, we have discussed this) and I want to reminisce, here's her First Year in Review.

And, for the heck of it, a video of her second birthday party.

Monday, June 26, 2017

24 Months

I wasn't sure I was going to continue the monthly updates on our little Bean. For this month, didn't update as the month progressed, like I usually do, and realized that I missed it. I found myself asking my husband What was that really cute thing she did last week? 

Sometimes my monthly updates on her are the bulk of what I write about. I don't want to stop just because tracking her age with the month no longer really applies. If I hadn't updated this month, I would have missed documenting the first time she said I love you, and some visits from important family members. Besides, she does way more now than she did when she was a helpless little baby, and I still wrote to my heart's content then. I guess I've gotten used to it, and maybe you have too.

I started blogging about the Positive Psychology course I'm taking through the University of Pennsylvania, a topic interesting to me that I thought would interesting to others. I was surprised by the low number of hits the posts had when compared to Baby A's updates. So while not everyone is as interested in my daughter as I am, at least they find her more interesting than the regurgitation of a class I'm taking. 

We started her first month officially being two with the discovery of a splash pad nearby that has been closed for a long time due to the drought: Pioneer Park. We visited the park four times this month alone, and it was never crowded.
Baby A did a lot of art this month and had lots of opportunities to get messy! Auntie Andrea gave her a chalk paint set that she absolutely adores. It looks like paint, but is super easy to clean up since it's really just chalk. It even easily came off of our garage door, which made a very nice canvas for her! 
She has somehow picked up please and thank you, and does it often, without any prompting, as demonstrated in the video below. It's the sweetest thing!

When I pick her up from daycare and give her a snack and her water, she often sings "Tank you Mommy!"

I thought she had been learning this at daycare, but when I asked them, they said that the model the behavior, but weren't specifically teaching it. It still catches me off guard, like when I gave her scrambled eggs at her table this morning and heard Tank you Mommy! in response.

Her friendship with a boy at her daycare really started to bloom. I work with his mom, and so we met up with them at the Santa Ana Zoo on Memorial Day. I think we were both surprised that beyond just recognizing or knowing each other, they truly seem to enjoy each other's company. When we asked them to hold hands for a picture, they walked around for quite awhile holding hands.

We had some very special family visits this month. My husband's brother and his wife were in town from DC for a wedding and stayed with us. We really wish they lived closer. At the same time, Grandpa Swanek was also in town from Oregon.  It was fun to get everyone together for In-n-Out and see the cousins in the hot tub.

Two other special family members were in town that weekend; my husband's cousins Sarah and Linda.

Linda lives in LA, but Sarah is in Salt Lake. We were fortunate to see both of them for Baby A's party a few weeks prior. We have Sarah to thank for having our Baby A. Sarah was the one who found the clinical trial that I enrolled in. If not for this, we would not have been able to do IVF for a lot longer, and she wouldn't have been...well, her! We would have had a different baby. It is so amazing to think about. I will never forget her helping us in this way.

I had egg retrieval surgery and the transfer of our four (!?) embryos followed by bed rest this month, so our outings kind of slowed down. But Bean loves being at home. This was the first time she has really started independent play, and loves her castle, little houses, train and small princess figures.

We ended the month with a beach trip. For the first hour, she enjoyed looking at the waves and wanted me to walk in the water, but was scared to be put down. We went to dog beach and brought Trevi, and she loved watching Trevi run and play with other dogs. 

My arm was hurting from holding her, and said we needed to go. "Noooooooo! Water!" she wailed. I explained that unless she went down, we had to go, because Mommy couldn't hold her anymore. Reluctantly, she wanted down but tightly gripped my hand as we headed back to the water. Within a few minutes, she was charging the mini waves that rose almost to her waist. She would run back to the dry sand, still holding my hand, and then back in the waves again, giggling and squealing the whole time. If you don't know, the water in CA is cold year 'round, but she didn't mind. She would have gone much deeper if I had let her.

After about 30 minutes in the same spot, suddenly there was a rogue wave that was up to my waist. I quickly lifted her up by one arm and brought her to my side, and was reminded of the importance of holding her hand. It would have covered her/knocked her down even though we weren't that far out. Fortunately, she loves holding my hand. I've been holding her a lot less lately and when she want up, will settle for holding Mommy's hand.

Things I don't want to forget about this month:
  • She learned to say I love you! First, it was by me prompting her to say it to Grandpa. But then, after a bout a week or so, she randomly said it to me and then pulled me in for a kiss. Out of nowhere.
  • Waking up from her nap and coming out into the living room with her shoes and socks, or Beauty and the Beast stuffed animals.
  • Saying "Yayyyyyyyyyyyyyy!" and clapping at the end of a show.
  • Coming into our bed in the morning before 6am and falling back asleep with her face touching mine and feeling her breathe.
  • Sitting by her wading pool in the back yard and watching her run off to chase birds.
  • Putting together three words like "Keys, car, go."

Monday, June 19, 2017

PUPO! Transfer of FOUR Embryos!

Pregnant until proven otherwise!

I checked into the clinic at 10:04 and received my wristband, while my husband parked the car. There she is! sung my doctor when she saw me, causing me to breathe a sigh of relief. We must have one or two, or she wouldn't be so chipper, I thought.

I was called back right away and shown to my room before using the restroom and returning. My husband came in moments before our doctor. We were (and both still are) shocked when she said that we had FOUR good embryos! We've never had that many. Here they are:
I've had 3, 2, and 3. Why do I, three years later, have more? I mean, with the round that gave us Baby A, I went from 6 that were mature and fertilized to only 2 on day three! The other 4 had 2 polar bodies and weren't unwinding. I know that correlation does not equal causation...but I have been taking DHEA for the last 2 months, at my clinic's suggestion, and I really think that helped.

Back to the embryos. Still in shock, we didn't know what to do and looked to Dr. Frederick for guidance. She recommended transferring all of them. I was all for it, while my husband was a bit more cautious and concerned. She was patient and took time with us, answering our questions, and reiterating that this would provide us with the best chance of success. She left to get the embryologist and our embryos and we had a few more moments to think. 

If we had not already transferred 3 on day 3 in the past...twice, I would be more hesitant. Remember, these are day 3 embryos not day 5 blastocycts. So even under the most perfect conditions - even if they had formed naturally - about half of these would not/could not ever become a baby. 

They are also not tested, which is another $5,000. And, testing is no guarantee. Our last little girl, who we lost when I was 17 weeks pregnant, was genetically normal. So even if we did test, it would not prevent a loss like that. And, we could put back only genetically tested embryos and they still may not implant.

And so, with a deep breath and ultrasound guidance, Dr. Frederick transferred all four. We are beyond thankful that we had any to transfer at all, let alone enough to slightly worry about the risk of twins, which still is not likely. From my best estimate, it seems I have a 30% chance of this working at all.

Thank you everyone for all your well-wishes. I'm here on bed-rest now and they all mean so much to me. Special shout out to Amanda Brooke Wright who mailed me Menopur, Aunt Cassandra for offering to help while on bed-rest and Traci for mailing me a bunch of pregnancy tests so I can POAS! Hoping and praying for a healthy baby carried to term.