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.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

22 Months

One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, ‘Oh, why can’t you remain like this for ever!’ 
~J.M. Barrie

How can it be that my little baby is almost two years old? Before I had children, I would read or hear mothers lamenting the passing of time. When I had her, countless people advised me to enjoy her being a baby, and warned that it would pass far too quickly. I sit here today, with the realization that they were right. I feared they would be, and enjoyed the heck out of each baby-phase as much as I could, but it passed right by anyway, replacing my baby with a full-blown toddler. And still, I am powerless to stop it. 

But how could I trade this tiny person who runs and chases me, gives spontaneous kisses, says a sincere, tiny "Oh no!" when watching Beauty and the Beast and speaks full sentences to me, of which I cannot understand a single word, for that helpless baby that she once was? Her personality and sense of humor are shining through and I am loving every minute of it.

The awareness of the passing of time does serve to help me savor it. For example, when I get home from work, sometimes the last thing I want to do is be dragged by the hand and commanded to fit myself into a very small space in the farthest corner of our yard. "Mommy, house!" she orders. Would I rather change my clothes or sit and look through the mail? Sometimes, yes. But the "Not now, A - I have things to do" response is rarely uttered. Instead, I remind myself that she will not be like this forever, and that there may even come a time when she doesn't want me right by her side.

The first weekend of her 22nd month found us at Irvine Park Railroad for her first real Easter Egg hunt. I was surprised how well she did! About 5 minutes before Auntie Andrea, Casey, Bill, my Dad and brother arrived, she threw up all over me. She obviously was not feeling well, yet still hunted eggs with the best of 'em, acquiring more than her 8 egg limit. I tossed some back when she wasn't looking, so she could gather more. 

As her Dad put her down for a nap, and Andrea and I went to see Beauty and the Beast. Can you believe I escaped my childhood without seeing or even knowing the plotline? I fell in love with the story, and it instantly became my favorite Disney movie. I love the message it sends girls; to be smart, a little different, and acquire a voracious appetite for books. I love that Belle is discerning and does not blindly accept the first marriage proposal or, worse yet, give up her voice for a man she doesn't even know. 

I went home and put the Disney movie in my Amazon cart, as well as the soundtrack, which we have listened to non-stop all month. A sure sign that I've changed as a Mom: My new Depeche Mode cd remains in it's case even when she's not in the car. I knew my indoctrination was working the moment she applauded after one of the songs and asked for "More? More?" She also started exclaiming "Beast! Beast!" randomly, and sometimes following that with a growl. On 4/4, we were driving to school and she actually sung just the 'beast' portion of the title track. My heart melted. Of course I have already switched the theme for her 3rd birthday from Alice in Wonderland to Beauty. Good thing it's over a year away...

She continues to be affectionate, one day giving me 5 kisses before we were even out of bed to start the day! She will routinely kiss Trevi, her dolls, Daddy and Granka and Uncle Glen. Once we're out of the car and I'm carrying her into daycare, I am sure to get a very tight squeeze around my neck when I ask for a hug. One of the most adorable moments was at the end of Beauty and the Beast, when the two main characters are locked in a passionate kiss. She turned to me and kissed me!

She is loving the spa, and we have been in there almost every day after work! At the beginning of the month she was starting to go under water just a bit, and practicing floating with support, on on us.

For spring break, we flew to Oregon to stay with my in-laws. For over a week, I had been practicing "Dupa" with baby A, and she was getting pretty good at saying it. My husband told me that Dupa was Polish for grandfather, and I thought it would be good for her to have two different names for her grandfathers, to avoid confusion, and her expectation that my Dad would be up in Oregon. It was almost 11pm when we arrived at the house from the airport. Autumn's Grandma who picked us up was still in the car, but Baby A and I hurried in so that I could get her upstairs and into bed.
Best-dressed baby in the airport!

Patiently waiting at the kitchen table to greet us was my father-in-law, who I hadn't seen since November. "Look Baby A, it's your Dupa! Look, can you say Dupa?? Hi Dupa!" I proudly exclaimed, demonstrating my knowledge of his heritage and culture. He looked at me, a bit puzzled, as my husband said "Tell my Dad why you're calling him that." 

"Well, because that's what you called your grandfather. It's Polish for Grandpa." I replied. Shaking his head and looking down, he said "Nooooooooo!" and my husband started laughing. "Tell her what it means, Dad!" he prompted. "It means bottom. But the not so nice version." 

I love that my husband can still pull something like this off. Even though we know each other so well, I had no idea that he was tricking me!

We had not been there since our visit at Thanksgiving. At that time, she was afraid of pony, and cried when we placed her on top, even briefly for a photo. But this time, not only was not afraid of pony, but she was excited! After a moment on Butterscotch's back, she wanted to sit on the bigger horses; all of the bigger horses! This made me so happy. She enjoyed being by pony, and was comfortable brushing her and petting her. As I spent more time with Butterscotch, my comfort level increased as well. I went riding one day while she napped, and we took Butterscotch for a walk around the property with her. 

Baby A loved tackling the stairs at her grandparents' house. I was surprised and impressed by this, because I know other kids who are much older that still cannot navigate stairs. In fact, her Dupa, er...Grandpa, thought that she must be about to turn 3 instead of 2, because of how well she independently goes up and down the stairs, all by herself. I started out by spotting her, but after a day ow two she went up (or down) all by herself, without me even watching. 

She also loved riding in the larger gator with us, and the mini Power-Wheels version. She does not yet have any concept of steering, and didn't flinch when she narrowly missed the garage by an inch or two, as she sat back, munching on her piece of bread.

Uncle Ben loves holidays as much as I do!
I love the rain up there in April, and letting her splash in puddles. We did have several days of sunshine, and some rainbows, too. Other than a night out at the symphony with my in-laws, we stayed at home which was really relaxing. She had some good quality time with her grandparents and also Uncle Ben, who helped her with an indoor egg-hunt, and gave her a special Thumper rabbit. 
Playing with Grandma in her room.
Bye Grandpa!
The day after we returned, it was Easter and we had her cousins over. She enjoyed spending time with them. It was only the second time she had seen them this year, but the following Sunday they came over again, and it was so neat to see her level of comfort, fun and familiarity increase. She seemed excited beforehand when we told her "Your cousins are coming over" and she even learned to say "John-Paul." A few days later, she randomly asked for him which was quite endearing. 

Around the middle of the month, I had wide excisions surrounding some atypical moles. One of the moles was on the bottom of my foot, and so the surgery left me with limited mobility. For well over a week, I was not able to even put pressure on my foot, and had to use a walker. I used it as an opportunity to get down on her level, literally. We sat in the backyard and she had popsicles (two!) while I pulled weeds and watered. We colored on the floor, and I read up to 20 books in one sitting. Hearing her say "More book" is music to my ears.

It would have been easier to put on Peppa Pig or Beauty and the Beast, but when I realized that we had made it through Saturday with no TV, it became a goal for Sunday as well. Instead, we just played and played. The day seemed longer, which I liked.

At the very end of her 22nd month, she transitioned into the next classroom at daycare, with the 2-3 year old kids. Originally, they were talking about Sebastian and Isabelle moving over, but Baby A did so well on the trial days that they decided to move her instead of Sebastian. When Sebastian saw myself or my husband he asked for her by name or "where she?"

The ratio of kids to teachers is much higher (up to 12 children per teacher, for a total of 24 kids and 2 teachers) but they only have 8 per group right now, for a total of 16 with the two teachers. 

We were excited because the move up means a savings of $300 every month!

Things I do not want to forget about this month:
  • Night-time snuggles. Getting her to bed is still one of my favorite times of the day.
  • Some new words and phrases: "Mommy coming, Daddy baba, Trevi house." Too many words to list now, almost one a day. I love that any flying insect is a bee, and snails are "Mommy's friends."
  • Leaving daycare one day, it was really windy and she started belly laughing, so I started laughing too, which caused her to laugh even more.
  • How she will wrap her arms around Daddy's neck and pull him in close for a kiss.
  • We stopped using her baby monitor. When she wakes up, she knows where to find me! The only child-proofing we have (ever done) is one monkey lock on the hall door. She usually sleeps through the night in her own bed, but sometimes still wakes up in the middle of the night and we snuggle. I'm still a bit sad when she sleeps straight through.
  • Our evenings in the hot tub, and jumping off her special seat.
  • Running around chasing me, or being chased.
  • When her friend Olivia stops by and knocks on the door. She lives down the street, and when her parents take her on a walk now, she asks to go to our house which I love. Earlier this week, the girls started learning to play tag, and ran around holding their Daddy's hands while I sat on the bench and watched.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

21 Months

Her 21st month started with some very warm weather after all of the much-needed rain that we've been having here in California. It felt like spring arrived weeks early, and even before daylight savings had begun.

She continues to be an absolute delight. After an action-packed morning at Pretend City with her Grandpa and Uncle Glen, she went down for a record 3 1/2 hour nap. When she woke up, we took her with us to have dinner at our friend's place. 

But first, it was time to turn around her car-seat, a definite milestone.
Newly married and home owners, Doug and Jessica don't have kids just yet, but are both so good with them. As the evening progressed, a few more friends arrived. Although we were the only ones with a child, we didn't feel like 'those' people because she was so well-behaved. She had her very first drumstick, courtesy of Uncle Doug. We left by 7:30pm, (okay, now we're 'those' people) and she loved the ride home because she now has a much better view.

My brother turned 32 on March 8th. Although she's been "jumping" for months now, it was on his birthday that she actually got off the ground. We all jumped together in the back yard before leaving for Dave and Buster's and she was so proud of herself. 

Glen's birthday was a good excuse to start my cake-baking skills, since I want to make the cake for her birthday. She had a blast running around and looking at all the lights and pressing buttons. 

Our week was really hectic and so I planned a low-key weekend with *gasp* no plans. I had no idea how much I would love staying home for two whole days! It was revolutionary, really. I was able to get some organizing done, continued cleaning out the garage and regaining our workout space, did some gardening, went on our walks. Wait a minute, every weekend could be like this, I realized. I'm an adult and I can say no! This sounds so simple...but, I never thought of how I was in control of preventing us from being too busy. Each event I would commit to individually sounded fun but collectively, they become overwhelming, and never leave us with a free weekend. Since I'm the one who sets our social calendar, I realized it was within my power to change it and I made a vow to do it. My husband is excited about the prospect, but is reluctant to believe I can really do it.

In keeping with that commitment, I planned a Disneyland trip with her Thursday right after work, instead of on the weekend. We rode Alice in Wonderland and spent the rest of our time in Toon Town. She loved Minnie's house. 
On Friday, we had Aunt Cassandra and Dell over for corned beef and cabbage, just like Mom used to make.

Our only plans the following weekend were a visit to Marina Park with Granka and Uncle Glen. I love how, in this video, she walks confidently off to go down the slide again, but comes back for me saying "Mommy, slide." She started putting two words together this month. Other examples include "Trevi no" and "Mommy coming" when she wants me to go somewhere.

This time, she didn't wade in the water, but loved the park area. We all climbed up on the lifeguard tower, and she didn't want to come down.
We finally had our hot-tub fixed, and are left wondering why we didn't do it sooner. She absolutely loves it, and asks for "bubbles" or "swimming" when we get home. We've been in there for an hour every single night since it was fixed. 

For the first 10 minutes on the first night, she had a death-grip on me. I told my husband that pretty soon, she probably would not want to get out. I didn't think it would be that very same night!

So far, she's not comfortable going under water. But she has been walking on the bottom and on the sides while holding on. She will also "jump" to us from her special seat that we say is designed just for her because it's higher than all the others. She loves playing with the jets, and the lights at night. I'm hoping that as she becomes more comfortable, we can teach her to float on her back and some basic swimming techniques. Water safety is going to be an important thing for her to have because of our visits to Oregon.

Things I do not want to forget about this month:
  • Crawling around the house on our hands and knees, pretending to be horses with Daddy. Stopping to eat grass along the way.
  • "Introducing" me to her friend at daycare. I was by her side when another girl walked up to us. She turned and looked at me and said "Anya." I heard Anna, and asked staff, who nodded and smiled with the slight correction "Anya."
  • New words: Almost too many to list now...Trump, Daisy, Coco, Sasha (dog-sitting), tree, food, swimming. She's also starting to put two words together, like "Trevi no" and "Mommy car." Previous words: Yellow, purple, one, two, three, yea, please, sorry, red, boo(blue), Granka, feet, her name, thank you, nose, some,  bike, ball, bubbles, TV, cream, ciao, boat, plane, Mommydada (one word), shoe, meow, Trevi, apple, yummy, pay (while handing Daddy's credit card), Sunshine, cool, ouchie, book, cold, rawr, baa, animal, Dory, bow, bee, house, car, Dada, cat, tea (and some letters of the alphabet), fish, eye, cheese, no, mommy, more, mooo, ruff, baby, my, Nana, uh-oh, MoMo, baba, hi, bye, dog).
  • Sharing tea with me. When she sees it in the fridge, in mom's jug she will ask "Tea? Tea?" She likes starbucks passion fruit, or mint. I give her anything that is much better than juice, which is just sugar.
  • Walking around and saying "cheese" while trying to take selfies with my phone.
  • How she points her index finger when she says "no, no" and moves her hand.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

20 Months

“A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man’s brow.”  – Charles Brower

As a child, I remember "discovering" what I was certain was a new species. It was really just a millipede, but because I had never seen one before, in real-life or print, to me it was a brand-new discovery that I was certain to become famous for. I could barely contain my excitement as I rushed into the kitchen to my Mom, screen door slamming shut behind me. I can't remember if it was my idea or hers, but somehow I ended up calling our local library to tell them of my discovery, and to gather more information. What stays with me today is what she didn't do: laugh or say don't be ridiculous. Mom always supported, fostered and encouraged my ideas and imagination. 

This is how I aspire to be with Baby A. I do my best to encourage her exploration and curiosity, even if especially if it means getting messy in the garden or with art. Or, if her idea is for me to go in her house with her for the 20th time, I oblige. She can't articulate most of her ideas with words just yet, but they're there just the same, and my job is to encourage them.

This is my most lengthy monthly update yet. It seems like she is growing and changing faster than ever before. Her language acquisition is through the roof, with a new word every few days. This is the first month that I have had a hard time keeping up on documenting her updates. 

The loss of my pregnancy was a harsh reminder of how lucky and blessed we are to have her. She truly is a miracle unfolding, and it is a privilege and honor to be her Mom. She's trying more than ever to communicate with me, although sometimes, I have no idea what she's saying. She will look me right in the eye and say a whole sentence containing no recognizable words. So, I'll smile and nod, or ask her to take me and show me. 
The first weekend of her 20th month we stayed busy, to keep my mind off of things. So right after breakfast, before her dance class, it was craft time! 
Although I do let her watch TV or a movie a few times a week, I don't want it to become routine. Later in the month she started leading me by the hand to the couch and asking for "TV?" ...a sure sign that she needs less of it! On the flip side, she will also bring over a book and say "book!" which is her was of promoting me to read it to her.

After craft time, it was time to get ready for her dance class. I loved seeing her perfect little ballet slippers on those perfect little feet! The new class (still run through the city, but a different instructor) was still a lot more structured than I would like. She's great at collecting or returning items such as the princess wand or bean bags, but is unable to do certain things, like walking across the room on her tip-toes or skipping.

After class, I let her wander around a grassy area/park. I had no idea the class was right next to the free Adventure Playground, and she enjoyed this so much that the next week during dance, she kept pointing to the door. I was blown away by everything it featured, and how large it was! 
  • Tree House
  • Sensory garden
  • Climbing poles and stumps
  • Slides
  • Art wall
  • Kids fort zone
  • Meadows and natural play areas

The playground proved to be more of a draw over the next few classes and we proudly became dance-class dropouts. Saturday mornings are meant for fun, and she wasn't having much of it in this class.

On Sunday morning, "Granka" and Uncle Glen visited just before 9am and she had a blast with them, just in our back yard. My Dad relates to her so well, and acts like a big kid with her - chasing her and getting on her level, which she loves. He never can seem to catch her, though.
My husband and I kept busy the rest of the day, finally getting to cleaning out the garage to regain our workout space, and donating a bunch of stuff while she napped. We walked 3 miles with her in the stroller when she woke up, and did some gardening. 

Every night, she falls asleep in her bed with me snuggling beside her. I sneak out once she's fast asleep. She has never been put down on her own, and I like it this way because of the security and closeness it brings. She has been sleeping straight through the night since she was two months old, but recently has been waking up once between 1 and 5 a.m., I think due to her cough. That Monday morning found her awake at 5:15 a.m. But before you feel sorry for me, I have to admit that I sort of enjoy it because we get special cuddle time, and I'm usually able to fall back asleep. 

I knew that was going to be a tough week with a new semester starting and my caseload of 700, on top of the recent loss. As she was laying beside me that morning, I asked "Do you want to lay on Mommy?" and she quickly scooted herself on top of me like a starfish. Then I asked if I could have a hug and she gave me a hug with her whole body - including her legs. It was all I needed to get me through the day. I felt like I could live on that alone. No food or water needed; that would be enough to sustain me.

Exercise has been key to helping regulate my emotions and hormones, and I started forcing myself to run 3 miles almost daily. I try to run on my 30 minute lunch break, but wasn't able to squeeze one in that day. After work, we went on a run to some local goats (Lyle and Larry) that are, conveniently, 1.5 miles away. Running in general is tough for me right now and pushing 50 pounds (she weighs about 25, and so does the stroller) makes it even harder. My pace was slow and we stopped when I saw wildflowers so she could pick one and I as I said the color. I was amazed and surprised when she repeated "yellow" back to me!

Her new word reminded me of the Coldplay song by the same name, and so we started listening to it in the mornings. We had an impromptu dance party that next morning as I was cooking breakfast for her. Right now, her dancing is bending her knees followed by turning around in a circle. And it's just about the cutest thing ever. 

She had her second big meltdown outside of Marshall's that week (first was on a flight to Oregon) when I abruptly took away a ball she put in her mouth that suddenly seemed like it could be a choking hazard. To her, I seemed like a big bully taking away something she was so clearly enjoying and her frustration came with not being able to explain this (or, get me to give it back). In response, she ended up wailing, on the ground. When I picked her up to walk to the car, she used her body weight and threw herself backwards. By the time she was strapped in her car seat she had settled down, but of course all of this had to happen in front of my friend Christian, whose little baby boy was being being quite angelic by comparison. Fortunately, these incidents are super rare, and usually blamed on an interrupted nap at daycare. Thankfully, they're also quite normal, and blow past faster than a summer storm.

We walk to El Torrito most Wednesdays for their all-you-can-eat enchiladas. That first week, we met our friends/neighbors there. They have a girl a few months older than Baby A. After our meal, it was so cute to see them throwing coins in the fountain, and giving each other a hug goodbye. She asked Daddy for more change, but we were all out, so he said That's it...we don't throw money away. Without thinking, I quickly responded with Unless it's on IVF. Being able to make this joke, we both realized that I was starting to feel better and more like myself. 

I say this every month, but once again, this is my favorite age. She is understanding so much more and interacting. I never want to forget reading her Peter Rabbit and how very into the story and concerned she became when she realized Mr. McGregor was after Peter. She furrowed her brow, and turned the page back, wanting more of an explanation. Over animated, I explained that he was very angry because Peter was eating his cabbages and made the eating motion with my hands and mouth. "Eat?" she asked, putting her hand to her mouth and seemed satisfied with this response.

That weekend, she was very excited when grandpa and Uncle Glen arrived. I had been telling her since the night before that they were visiting. So when I said "Grandpa is here" she let out two squeals and a danced around in a circle.

On February 6th she said 'one, two, three' on her own for the first time, and she wasn't even repeating after me. We were getting ready for bed, and I asked her to count the lady bugs. I was so surprised when she did! The next day, I found out they were learning to count at daycare.
On Valentine's day, we had plans to have prime rib at Gulliver's, where we went for our
 first Valentine's in 2012. But little girl was really sick and so after extended care, we had prime rib picked up from at Coco's instead. Rather than being disappointed, we were both keenly aware of how lucky and blessed we were to have the "problem" of cancelling our reservations because of our sick child. Instead, what if we had no child? I gave my husband an avocado tree and he surprised me with an amazing ring that already looks like it's an heirloom piece. We talk about what he gives me being hers someday, and it brings me a level of comfort knowing that my jewelry will someday belong to her. I have so few pieces that belonged to Mom and I treasure them, especially when I have photos of her wearing them.


My Dad's 72nd birthday fell after Valentine's and so she was able to get in an extra visit that week with Granka. I love to see how much they're bonding, and that she will now rush into his arms, and also Uncle Glen's. She also gives them kisses when asked. We had the week of February 20th off. Usually a time of travel, we stayed home and recovered from our colds. We had our daily walks, lots of art time and squeezed in a trip to Disneyland. We watched their Frozen play, and I was surprised that it held her attention for the whole hour. She sat calmly on my lap and really seemed to enjoy it. 

We have never left her with a sitter before, ever. When some people find this out, they tell us that we need to. But I never feel like I need a break from her and really never want to do anything that doesn't include her. On the rare occasions that I do, I just miss the heck out of her. As for alone time, my husband and I are able to have time without her a few hours almost any night we want, since she is usually asleep by 7:30. We were never big on going out pre-parenthood, and watching a series we're following while snuggled on the couch sounds even more appealing than a noisy bar these days.

We were going to leave her for the first time this month, to visit my friends in LA, but she was recovering from a cold and so Dad elected to stay home with her instead. It was nice to catch up with friends my uninterrupted, without needing to keep her in my peripheral vision and dart off mid-conversation. 

We kept up on our outdoor activities and gardening time, with TV used sparingly. One of my favorite activities this month was the sweet-pea teepee that we planted. I can't wait for them to grow, and plan to plant them much earlier next time! I love how much she loves her little houses, and how once we're inside, she will yell "Trevi dog!" and clap her hands until Trevi comes running, like she's doing in this photo.

This has been quite a month. While it was a tough start, it ended well and left me with a new perspective on our little miracle unfolding, and just how amazing it is to be her Mom.

Things I do not want to forget about this month:
  • Still rubbing my chin for comfort.
  • Her reaction on 1/9 when I picked her up from daycare. She squealed like I would if you told me I had won the lottery, then turned to the kids in the class and exclaimed "Mommy!!" before running over to me and hugging me tightly around my neck.
  • Asking for frozen yogurt "Cream? Cream?"
  • New words: Yellow, purple, one, two, three, yea, please, sorry, red, boo(blue), Granka, feet, her name, thank you, nose, some,  bike, ball, bubbles, TV, cream. Previous words: Ciao, boat, plane, Mommydada (one word), shoe, meow, Trevi, apple, yummy, pay (while handing Daddy's credit card), Sunshine, cool, ouchie, book, cold, rawr, baa, animal, Dory, bow, bee, house, car, Dada, cat, tea (and some letters of the alphabet), fish, eye, cheese, no, mommy, more, mooo, ruff, baby, my, Nana, uh-oh, MoMo, baba, hi, bye, dog).
  • Saying "some" and then pointing to my cough drops, then her mouth.
  • Leading my by the hand places, like into her house. 
  • Cooking food for me in her kitchen
  • Running down the hallway after bath-time to Dad, and back again
  • Asking "TV?" and her uncontrollable giggles when I pretend-yelled "No TV!"
  • Exploring the side yard and finding the bamboo sticks.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Advice Following Miscarriage

In my career as a school counselor, one of the main things I don't do is give advice. People generally don't follow advice that another person gives, plus we should never put ourselves in a position of presuming to know what is best for another person. 

But I have some advice to share if you or someone you know suffers a miscarriage. Just a few things that have helped me since that awful day almost a month ago, when I learned at a routine appointment that she had no heartbeat. Be sure to check out the article I wrote for Fertility Authority here.

 1.) Know that you can keep her remains. Whether you have a D&C or a D&E like I had, keeping her remains is an option. I've mentioned this to a few people, who have said they didn't realize they could request this at such an early stage (I was 17 weeks). The doctor told us "People don't usually do this." Know that you can and if you choose not to, that is fine too, but you have the choice. The funeral home that took care of Mom coordinated with the hospital. All we had to do was make the call. We had her cremated, and her ashes are in a tiny urn, placed in a teddy bear. The plan is to have her buried with me.

2.) Put it in perspective. Going to Bible study helped, but not because of what I learned. It was a story that a woman at my table, in her 70's, told. Many years ago, she lost her only child to SIDS, at 7 weeks. She held her little girl, Angelica Elizabeth, in her arms until the police came and took her away. She divorced shortly after, and never had any more children. Tears welling up in my eyes, I said "I am so sorry...I cannot imagine." Her response? "But I am so thankful that for those 7 weeks, because I got to be her Mom." I marveled at what she said, imagining how much worse it has to be to lose a child who has been born. And how much worse it has to be when you don't have another. She said that it took her many years to come to that perspective. Remember, as heart-wrenching as it feels, it can always be worse. 

3.) Stop the 'what-ifs.' You can seriously drive yourself crazy questioning everything you did, or didn't do, in the weeks leading up to the loss. I shouldn't have had that second cup of coffee, or we shouldn't have flown to Italy were on loop in my mind until I countered them with: Remember that a healthy pregnancy will survive anything, even drug addiction. Sometimes, I had to say it out loud. Reminding myself of babies born addicted to hard drugs helped me realize that no, a second cup of coffee, which I had sometimes while pregnant with Baby A, did not cause her tiny heart to stop beating. Miscarriage happens because something is wrong with the baby. It does not happen because you played 'No more monkeys jumping on the bed' with your toddler. Read more here.

4.) Get some hormone replacement gel STAT! My husband is especially thankful I found this. Your hormones crash when you are no longer pregnant, but usually, you have a new life to celebrate. The fluctuating hormones, coupled with the sudden loss, had me crying every evening for two weeks. While this is to be expected following a loss, when I couldn't put my finger on why I was crying, I knew I needed some help. At my 2 week check-up, my doctor gave me Divigel 0.1% (estradiol gel) to rub on my arm. That evening we walked to El Torrito and I was laughing and joking with my husband without realizing that the gel was helping tremendously. It's not that I can't or don't get sad, but I finally felt in control.

5.) Exercise. Nothing beats endorphins for helping your mood. Nothing. Since that awful appointment on January 17th, I've logged over 30 miles, most of them on my lunch break. As always, I don't usually want to get out there, but I am always glad that I did. Swim, bike, hike, run or do an exercise video. Just get moving.

6.) Garner support. Not everyone is as open as I am. Because everyone at work knew what happened, I returned to a desk filled with flowers, an orchid and tulips along with heartfelt cards and "I've been there" talks. But I also, quite unexpectedly, received two of the most meaningful gifts from women I have never met, and only "know" through instagram. Nowadays, you can get support anonymously on-line, which is a resource our mothers never had. If you're a more private person, explore this route. Miscarriage is, unfortunately, very common. Knowing that you are not alone helps. Don't suffer in silence.

7.) Look to the future. It could be a trip, a weekend away, or just a good meal. For me, I've been focusing on her second birthday in May and planning and crafting for that, which I love. Just before this posting, I ordered her invites. I'm also excited about our next round of IVF and the consultation in 10 days. This was supposed to be our third and final round. But we have decided that we are going to try once more because this pregnancy helped us realize how much we do want a sibling for her. While the possibility of another pregnancy is exciting, I temper it with the statistics that it likely will not work. But, there is still hope there.

These are just a few things that worked for me. If you have anything that helped you, please leave it in the comments below so that anyone reading this can see it. It is a nightmare to go through and it changes you, some of which is for the better. I am reminded how much of a miracle our Baby A is. This loss has only served to intensify my love for her and solidify our bond.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

19 Months

We were in Venice and Milan for Christmas and through the New Year. Our sightseeing pace was slower with Baby A, with each day broken into two parts: Morning, before her nap back at the hotel, and late afternoon/evening after her nap. This slower pace was actually really nice, similar to what we did over summer.
One of her favorite activities in both cities was looking for dogs, and chasing pigeons. I was able to capture her smile in the picture on the left because the square in front of Milan Cathedral was filled with pigeons.

Venice amazing and beautiful, but hard to navigate with the stroller. There are over 400 bridges, all of them with steps. Our BOB weighs 25 pounds, and so does Baby A. I took the front end, and my husband took the back. After 8 days there, I was ready to move on to Milan, or The City of No Bridges as I now call it.

Milan is a city of 1.3 million, and very much had the big-city feel. Our hotel was centrally located, just blocks from the metro which was easy to navigate. We were also just blocks from The Last Supper, the real, original one painted between 1494-1498 by Leonardo DaVinci. We were just exploring the area around our hotel on the first day, and wandered into a nondescript, albeit old, Catholic church just as mass was starting. We lit a candle for Mom, attended confession, and listened to part of the mass, all in Italian before walking out. As we exited the building, my husband said "You know, there were signs in there talking about The Last Supper. I think it's here." What!? The real one? Can't be. But sure enough, we walked over to the rectory, which was closed since it was New Year's Day, and there was information explaining all about it! We returned the next day and were disappointed to learn that tickets were sold out one week in advance. We were able to go across the street and visit Leonardo's Vineyard, where he lived while he was working on the piece, and what he received as payment for the commissioned work.

The weather was perfect throughout our 15 days. We didn't have one drop of rain (probably because we packed all our rain gear), and with my heavy coat on, I was almost too warm walking around some days.

Baby A did well on the flight there, but it was a night-flight and she slept. Because we booked our business class tickets using awards miles, our return flights would involve 24 hours of travel time and three planes. We were so nervous about how she would do, that we looked at staying over-night in New York at the last minute just to break it up. But we weren't able to switch our flights because the layover was over 24 hours (27) and we were stuck with them. "It's okay, no one has died from traveling that long. We'll be fine." I said, trying to remain optimistic. But I was scared to death. We had Benadryll on hand just in case.

The flights could not have gone any better. I am honestly still so surprised that she did so well, and did not even cry once! On the 9 hour flight from Milan to New York, three hour layover in NY before our 5 hour flight to Phoenix. And then another flight back to Orange county. She slept on the last two flights. And didn't shed one tear.

Adjusting to our sleep once we were back from Italy proved to be a little more difficult and we were both up around 3am on those first two nights. This provided some good quality cuddle time until we both fell back asleep hours later and then slept in. We had to wake her from her afternoon naps after 3 hours because to her little body, it was night time.    

Back to work on that Monday, January 9th was tough because we so enjoyed all of our uninterrupted time together. We got back into our routines of walking to El Torrio on Wednesdays and Pretend City on the weekend and tried to do some unpacking here and there. Dad and Glen came to visit and the next day, we went to Disneyland. 

The significance of that perfect day filled with the tiki room, Casey's train, churros and "It's a Small World" is only apparent now. I was lovingly holding my tummy and little baby girl beneath, but she was already gone. I wouldn't find out until the next day at a routine appointment. This miscarriage has profoundly affected my husband and I in ways I can't fully understand let alone articulate. I may blog more on this topic in the future when I am stronger, that is all for this monthly update.

The rest of the week was a blur, but I did try very hard to fake it when around baby A and still have fun with her. My husband helped out a lot and would alternate, spinning her in the back year or watching her go down the slide. We still went on our walks.

That Saturday the 21st we attended a Mommy and Me dance class. I've been waiting and waiting for her to turn 1 1/2 (the minimum age required) for us to sign up, but was a bit disappointed because it was more focused on instruction and form rather than fun. I asked the instructor if all the classes would be similar of if the first one was filled more with technique and she said they would all be similar.
This picture was taken before class started and the fun stopped.

I called the city of Irvine and had her transferred to a different instructor who they said would be more focused on fun than form. The classes are every Saturday and run through April.

One of my favorite times with her is our nighttime routine. While brushing her teeth continues to be a struggle (I gave up counting how many she has!), I love our story-time and snuggling after that chore is out of the way. She is already showing favor over certain books and loves "I am a Bunny," "Hug-a-Bible," "Goodnight Moon," "Good Boy Fergus," and a fairytale book Daddy bought her in Italy. After we read for quite awhile, she will turn on her side and snuggle. I stay with her until she falls asleep, and sometimes I fall asleep too.

Things I do not want to forget about this month:
  • Chasing pigeons outside Doge's Palace.
  • Her reaction on 1/9 when I picked her up from daycare. She squealed like I would if you told me I had won the lottery, then turned to the kids in the class and exclaimed "Mommy!!" before running over to me and hugging me tightly around my neck.
  • New words: Ciao, boat, plane, Mommydada (one word), shoe, meow, Trevi, apple, yummy, pay (while handing Daddy's credit card). Previous words: Sunshine, cool, ouchie, book, cold, rawr, baa, animal, Dory, bow, bee, house, car, Dada, cat, tea (and some letters of the alphabet), fish, eye, cheese, no, mommy, more, mooo, ruff, baby, my, Nana, uh-oh, MoMo, baba, hi, bye, dog).
  • Learning to put her hands in her pockets.
  • Getting on top of the toilet seat. And then on top of the lid. To access my makeup bag.
  • Up and down stairs by herself. And back up. Repeat.
  • Laying down for a nap at the hotel in Milan, I was signing "Amazing Grace." She said "no." So instead, I started singing "Silent Night" and after I finished, she said "more."
  • How amazing she was on our 3 flights home from Italy. We had 24 hours of travel time, and not one tear (from her)!
  • When I pick her up from daycare and she spots me, she squeals and announces "Mommy!" before running to me and throwing her arms around my neck. It is the best feeling in the world.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

At 17 weeks pregnant, we lost our baby girl.

Caution: Very sad posting ahead. When done, be sure to read my Advice Following Miscarriage.

I have sat down to right countless papers for my undergraduate and graduate work. Very rarely was I excited about the topic, APA formatting or the citations needed. Never did I have something so personal to share that I dreaded putting into words. But this blog is supposed to be about life's ups and downs not just vacations we take so.... 

No Heart Beat. Fetal Demise.

These were the words I was told at my routine appointment three days ago when the archaic-looking cassette recorder my doctor uses to listen to the heartbeat didn't pick up anything. "Oh, she's not in the right place. I just had too much pasta in Italy," I thought. The doctor went from being jovial about President-elect Trump to dead silence. He took me down the hall to a room with a sonogram machine. I had to sit there awhile, alone, while the antiquated machine was roused from its slumber enough to start making annoying noises. I still felt like I knew everything was alright, because I hadn't had any signs or symptoms; no bleeding. He would be in here soon, and realize that it was all okay. Still, my heart started to quicken and my palms became sweaty as little shards of what this could mean shot through.

When he re-entered the room, I couldn't see the machine and so I remained fixed on his face, searching his expression for a sign it was all okay. More concern only took over and the silence became deafening. Then he turned to me and said "There is no heart beat. She stopped growing about two weeks ago. Her gestational age is showing 14 weeks." Yet I was 17 weeks. "I'm going to need to send you for a second opinion." Oh good, maybe these machines are too outdated and another, more expensive machine will tell us everything is okay. But of course that was wishful, desperate thinking. "Ummm, is there a chance she's just very still; sleeping?" I asked. "No. There is no heartbeat." 

"So a second opinion is just a matter of procedure?" I asked. "Yes, I'm sorry." He talked about me needing a D&E as I gathered my belongings and was ushered into the office assistant's desk to call my husband. Because of course this was the day I left my cell phone in the car. I called my husband and through tears and gasps said "You need to come here now." Panicked, he said he would get coverage for his class and be there right away. I neglected to tell him why or maybe I thought it was implied. He drove to me not knowing if there was a problem with the baby or if the problem was with me.

Devastated, I remained on hold the entire time I was waiting form him, trying to schedule the second opinion ultrasound. The soonest they could get me in was 4 hours from then. My husband called our IVF clinic who told us to come right away. Before we left, the doctor's staff told us that not many doctors perform D&Es. We could either go to doctor R. whom I had a very bad experience with years prior (botched/failed IUI) or, Planned Parenthood. I'm not going to either one of those was the last thing I said when we left.

Our IVF clinic ushered us into a room right away, but then we were waiting in there for what seemed like forever. My husband still held out hope, and so did I, in spite of the facts. My IVF doctor told us the same thing: there is no heartbeat and she stopped growing about 2 weeks ago.

That was when I last saw her on ultrasound. The day before our trip, I went in to have her spinal cord looked at and saw her moving. I saw her flip from one side to another, like a fish. I saw her respond to my stomach being pushed on. She could hear us, our voices and Baby A, Trevi barking and our laughter. Then sometime in the last few weeks the muffled sounds she was hearing fell silent, and no one knows why.

Immediately we began questioning everything we had done, starting with the trip. Carrying baby A, softly jumping on the bed with her. Drinking a cup of coffee every day. We were told time and again it would not be any one of those factors or even all of them. That a normal pregnancy can not just withstand such activities but thrive. Remember, babies whose mothers even abuse drugs usually make it though the pregnancy, or we wouldn't have drug-addicted babies born, someone told me. 

All signs point to this baby not having the genetic makeup to continue to grow and progress and join us in the real world out here, like we so desperately wanted her to. We will ask for genetic testing to be done on all 24 chromosomes, at the recommendation of my IVF doctor, and hope that this will give us some answers.

This is all a horrible nightmare. We thought we were in the clear. We were out of the first trimester. One round of genetic testing came back clear, and she was growing normally.

I was, and am, beyond devastated. Right next to me is the pink bonnet I was crocheting for her, a quarter finished.

It's not just this baby that has been taken away from us and our family. It is the loss for Baby A who was going to have a sister, and a best friend for life. It is the love we have for her now and the knowledge that would only continue to grow infinitely. I was starting to see her going through all of Baby A's stages and was beyond and thrilled to put her in some of her clothes. I began ordering her some outfits here and there and I would look at the doll-like clothes and imagine her in them. I placed an order about a week ago that hasn't even arrived yet. My husband will have to open it and send it back.

She's still with me now. And it is the strangest feeling in the world because her prefect little lifeless body is all curled up and safe. But our time together, at least in the physical realm, is coming to an end. My D&E procedure is scheduled for today, just a few hours from now. I want the procedure to take place and at the same time, I do not want to give her up. It is one of the worst trials I have been through and we sure seem to have had our fair share in these last few years, our first few years of marriage.

I have to remember one thing. On the way to that appointment, I called my husband and told him how happy I was. How perfect I felt our life currently was, and that it was not any one thing I could put my finger on. She was a huge part of that, because we were growing our family, but there were other things bringing me joy too. I have to remember that those other positive aspects are still there, though they are dimmed by the shadow this sadness is casting. I have to remember how lucky and blessed we are to have Baby A, a happy, healthy almost 20 month old. I imagine going through this and not having her, like many couples do.

It's too hard to see right now in the thick of it, but there is a reason for this. Her little life has had, and will continue to have, meaning.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

My Party Planning Obesession

I have a confession to make. I can't stop thinking about the girl's birthday parties. I already have a theme picked out for the first birthday of my baby that isn't due until June, and already have a theme for their combination 2nd/4th birthday party...which isn't until 2019. I seem to have developed S.O.P.P. syndrome. Or, sudden obsession with party planning syndrome. 

Last year, I planned a big party for Baby-A's first birthday, and had so much fun doing it. Previously, I viewed coordinating an event like this that involved vendors as a chore. Something to be avoided when possible, or to just get through, when necessary. I felt sorry for people who felt the pressure to organize something like this. To my surprise, I enjoyed every part of it, and didn't find it stressful at all. 

Usually a procrastinator, I found myself organizing and planning things starting when she was only a few months old. I went a little over-board, much to my husband's dismay. But it's her 1st, I reasoned, and that's how it's supposed to be. At least here in Orange County. "I won't have a party for her second" I assured him. 

Shortly after the big day last May, having no party turned into just a small one, and I started searching for themes. Picking the puppy paw-ty theme, I became excited about the planning all over again. Right about the time I discovered that you can rent puppies (and yes, they are already reserved), I knew I didn't stand a chance. Before I knew it, I was back in full party-planning mode. This time, I took it a step further and hired a party-planner. For a kid's party. Yes, there is such a thing, thanks to people like me.

My SOPP syndrome manifests itself in many ways. Most recently, I have found my thoughts occupied with picking the perfect outfit for her. Her classic hand-smocked dress with a Peter Pan collar arrived yesterday and I couldn't be happier:

My inspiration? Princess Charlotte, of course, who was seen wearing something very similar for her first appearance on the iconic balcony of Buckingham Palace. She is frequently seen in classic hand-smocked dresses like this with the Peter Pan collar. 

How would I know this? Well, while in Venice and Milan, I had a bit of free-time on my hands while baby and Daddy were napping for 2-3 hours every day. Not able to sleep myself, and not at home to tackle any chores, I found a blog devoted to What Kate's Kids Wore. 

How excited I was to discover someone had done the leg-work and chronicled every article of clothing she has made an appearance in and, more importantly; where to buy it? This was right up my alley. 

But as luck would have it, this particular dress was what the blogger calls an unidentified fashion object. And another dress that she wore for the birthday party in Canada that I loved was out of stock. I emailed the company, and they would not be restocking any more. 

And so, I started searching. I'm not sure what exactly is involved in hand-smocking, but it must be time consuming because all the dresses I found cost at least a hundred bucks, plus shipping, which is a lot when they're sending it all the way from France. I was so excited and surprised to the perfect dress at Amazon! 

If you're interested in the same dress or something similar, click here.

My husband loves a good deal, and the fact that I found the dress for less, with free shipping, was my negotiation power for ordering her shoes from Spain.

While I couldn't find the exact dress, I was able to order the brand of shoes Princess Charlotte wears frequently. They are made by Dona Carmen, and ordering them proved to be a bit of a challenge, but they're on their way! (Read about why Kate favors Spanish brands here). 

On their website, they do not have an option to ship to the United States. But I emailed them and they said they would be happy to send them our way for 50. Of course they would! I responded explaining that I couldn't justify spending that on shipping, since the shoes themselves only cost 29€ (very reasonable!). To my surprise, they said they would ship them for 20 and so I also ordered a pair of baby booties for Baby J. 

There is a bit more to me ordering these than just trying to dress my daughter like a princess. As you probably know, my Mom is from England. Her whole life, she has kept up on the Queen and her appearances, as any good subject of the Royal Crown does. Mom followed Princess Diana, and was also following the Duchess of Cambridge. If there was a special televised event, she would wake up early to watch it. I know she would be (hopefully, is) thrilled that I am choosing this for Baby A to wear. It is one very small way that I am able to pay homage to her.