Our miracle RAINBOW BABY BOY is on the way! Due 8/2018

1st IVF = BFN
2nd IVF = Baby A, born May 2015
3rd IVF = Miscarriage at 14 weeks
4th IVF = BFN
After we paid for 5th IVF, positive pregnancy w/o IVF!

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, May 20, 2018

Our Koala Crate

After having A's dance photos this morning, we needed a fun activity! Putting a toddler in a tutu, tights, tap shoes and a hair bun and asking them to pose and smile isn't a good time for anyone involved (somehow, she did it!).  I want to share with you what's came in her Kiwi Co. Koala Crate this month, in case, like me, you're wondering if the subscription is worth it!

Use this link to try yours out for only $10!

This month's focus was: bugs. "Eeeww! Bugs!" she exclaimed when I told her, but was instantly curious. Each month includes three crafts/activities, a parent manual and a learning magazine.

First, we made her felt cape and headband. Each month's crate is specific to your child's age-range, (from 0-16!) so it was easy for her to stick the dot stickers on the back of the cape in any order she wanted. She had fun running around the house and yard with it on, and pretending for her two kittens that she was a bug. Then, told them "I'm kidding! I'm A!" She turned to me and said, "They think I'm a bug, Mom!" with a huge smile on her face.


Next, we put together her ladybug pouch used to store her bug-eye prism viewer. I mostly did this while she started working on her memory game.
Each month, I save activities like this in the box. She is almost 3 and the age range I have chosen is 3-4, so as her attention span increases, this is something we can pull back out of the closet and explore further. I started explaining that this viewer showed her how an insect looks at a flower, seeing it through each of its many lenses...but she was already on to the next activity; the memory game!

The bug matching game was already put together and just needed to be unwrapped. We started out playing memory but ended up just turning them all over and finding matches, naming each pair of bugs in the process.

I know what you're thinking: I received a year's worth of Koala Crates for this posting! Nope, not even a month's worth. We just really like it! I'm looking forward to having something on hand for her to do when baby arrives and she's out of daycare. Something fun, that I don't have to think about or plan.
Easy to follow manual "for the grownup assistant."

When we revisit this box, we'll also spend more time on the magazine that it came with. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

April Update - 34 Months

This month started with Easter, which was bookended with two egg hunts; one in the morning with GranpaGlennie, and one in the evening at her cousin's house. I have always loved holidays, even when I was single. But seeing her excited to hunt for eggs, find her Easter basket, and ask for "just one more Mommy, okay?" multiplies my joy infinitely.
MK, JP, Baby A
20 weeks pregnant!
We were front row for Cirque for Kids at the Segerstrom Center on a Saturday morning. The world's greatest circus artists from Cirque de la Symphonie will dazzle and delight in this first-ever Family series concert appearance. Experience a jaw-dropping fusion of fliers, acrobats, contortionists, dancers, jugglers and strongmen who perform their cirque acts while Pacific Symphony provides a soundtrack of classical masterpieces and contemporary favorites. With the symphony warming up off key, and the dramatic lighting, she was a bit unsure at first. But she quickly warmed to the performance, a glimpse of the glitter-laden outfits of performers catching her eye from the sides of the stage. She looked up a lot, as the performers flew above us. Her Daddy was even reluctantly a part of the show, as a juggler tossed him one of the pins repeatedly, as he stood with the spotlight shining on him.

The following weekend, we met her BFF Tommy at Imaginology at the OC Fairgrounds, where the two were thick as thieves. She also met her new friend Lucy there, the first female she has really taken to. 

We had some special family members in town this month. Aunt Nancy and Uncle Leonard from Michigan, and Baby A's Grandma drove down from Oregon on the 14th to spend time with her daughter, who delivered her baby on April 25th. We were able to have an amazing birthday lunch with her on the Queen Mary. As I was getting ready, Baby A saw me in my dress and, completely unprompted, said "You look pretty" for the first time. I try to tell her that she does at least once a day, and Dad does often, too, but this was the first time she randomly told me that.




Then, we were on Spring Break, and off for a week, so we headed to Wolf Hotel, where Lucy was able to join us for a day. I had high-hopes of preparing the nursery (right now it is our spare bedroom), but the week flew by without me accomplishing too much. We did have a special tea with Autumn's grandma, Aunt and cousin MK at Paris in a Cup. Grandma gave both her daughter and myself a beautiful double halo diamond necklace, ours until the girls are old enough. The attached note to baby A, which we have put away for safekeeping, made me cry, and talked about the necklace being a future reminder of her up in heaven. What an honor to be the custodian of something so special.

It was A's first "formal" tea. I was nervous because it was close to her nap time, but she did very well, playing with her little matchbox cars on the table, mostly sitting, and only relying on electronics (current favorite: cars changing colors) after her cousin was given a screen. I told her that if she did well, Tommy would come for a visit that evening, and so she was a little disappointed when we pulled into the driveway and he wasn't there.


This month, A had her first haircut. I was a bit reluctant to have her get bangs, but it was the right decision! She doesn't like me doing her hair, which includes pony tails, braids and sometimes, even brushing. I often resort to a bow, but when I pick her up from daycare, she has usually taken it out, and has hair in her face. The bangs are adorable and functional because they keep her hair out of her face all the time, and I don't need to "do" anything! But they sure do make her look more grown-up. She's turning into a little girl right before my eyes.






Monday, April 2, 2018

March Update - 33 Months

The beginning of March was uncharacteristically cold here in southern California, so you could say that it came in like a lion. Or, in A's case, like two fierce baby kittens. Bonnie and Clyde have continued to occupy and amuse her. She loves her baby kitties and is generally very gentle with them, though she does hold on to them longer than they would like. My husband bought them a huge cat tree and much to A's dismay, they are able to escape her for a time and love playing and napping together on the top perch.

Ever since I have started making her breakfast, it has been pancakes or eggies with milk and fruit. This month, she discovered that she could ask for both and they would be magically delivered. This made her pretty darn happy, as evidenced by the photo below. And making her happy makes me happy. 
I went to her St. Paddy's day lunch and she was so excited to see me walk into the class. But not nearly as excited as I was to be greeted by her "Mom!" exclamation and warm hug. Immediately, she led me over to the are she had just finished, pointed and telling me "See! I made this." I sat down next to her in a chair way too small for me, as she proudly began telling her friends "That's my Mom!" Have I mentioned that I love having her daycare so close to my work?

The weekend started as it always does; with 8:30 am dance class, which I love. We are finally through the "Mommy sit with me!" phase that lasted 3 long weeks. It all started with the addition of a new student, whose Mom broke the cardinal rule and went into the dance room, rather than watching through the glass doors. How did I get out of this? By shamelessly bribing her with ice cream. Now, when I mention dance class, she shows her understanding of "Mommy sits with other Mommies" and I thankfully don't still need to use ice cream as a reinforcement. The current students in her class are Iyla, Betty and Aria, and I cannot wait for pictures in May followed by their performance in June!

We swung by home after class to pick up Daddy and GranpaGlennie before heading to Irvine Park Railroad for opening day of the Easter Egg hunt with her cousins. The slight drizzle kept the crowds away, which was nice.
If you're not from Southern California, you might not realize that here, rain is treated like blizzards are on the East Coast. No one leaves their home for fear of...what, I'm not sure. For this reason, we decided to hit Disneyland right after nap and it was empty as well. We were able to walk right on Pirates of the Carribean, and rode the Pooh ride 5 times in a row, without getting off!

The following weekend, we did the egg-hunt again, with the Carter's and Tommy. It was a bit more crowded, but she still had a blast. I love seeing her hunt eggs and seeing little friendships develop. 

Later in the week, I had my anatomy scan for baby "Chaw-wals" (as she calls him) and everything looked perfect. Relieved and elated, we headed back to Disneyland to celebrate. We were seated in time for the 4:30 pm showing of Frozen, and she was able to meet both princesses afterwards. Then, we rode the Little Mermaid ride six times in a row without getting off! This time, it wasn't the rain that kept people away but the (false) promise of rain.

Later in the week, we attended a tea party with Alice in Wonderland on a Friday night at Le Petite Princesse to kick off the weekend. She had fun changing into different princess dresses, painting a little tea pot, listening to stories and playing hide-and-seek with a friend. I had fun watching her, and of course, taking pictures.

Baby A is a dream come true yes, but she is also a toddler. While my monthly accounts focus mostly on the amazing, heart-warming times, I do not mean to give the impression that parenting her is always easy! As with any toddler, there are difficult times, especially when either one of us is tired. Lately, transitions can be hard for her, especially when going from a preferred activity (the park) to a non-preferred activity (leaving the park). To help with this, we started giving her several prompts such as letting her know we just have "One more minute." While it generally doesn't work, it has taught her some great negotiating skills, with her adopting our own system: "Peeeeeeease! One more minute, Mommy!" Or even an order: "ONE MORE MINUTE!" It can sure be trying. To lighten the mood, make us laugh, and also introduce her to awesome music, we have proudly taught her to ask for her one more minute to the tune of Phil Collins' "One More Night." When she pulls out her demanding "ONE MORE MINUTE" order, we will often counter with That's not how you ask for it... to get her to sing the verse twice. When belted out properly, she usually ends up with 5 or 10 more minutes.

I hear "One more minute" requests now daily, and even her best friend at daycare told his Mommy that she says "One more minute" a lot. As with anything parenting-related that can be difficult, I remind myself that sadly, it won't last. I remember Mom's parenting philosophy was not to worry if a child was not off the bottle, potty trained or (fill in the blank) by a certain age. "They won't be walking in to a work meeting when they're an adult wearing a diaper or still sleeping in their Mom's bed." I can hear her say. It's all temporary, and sometimes, we find ourselves nostalgic for a time or place that was difficult when we were in the thick of it. Like Mom's treatment. Her chemotherapy was, at the time, my most difficult trial. But what I wouldn't give to relive one of those days right now. 

I don't ever want to forget this "One more minute" phase with Baby A. For that reason, when I heard this song on the radio, I couldn't help but think of her and how, when she's grown, I will want nothing more than five more minutes with her as a toddler, or five more minutes being directed to "Say hi, hi" with a princess figure in hand, sitting uncomfortably on the ground playing with her at her princess castle.


We had another fun weekend sticking close to home. Dance, local bookstore, play-date with her cousins, trip to the park, visit from Uncle Glen, visit from Uncle Kevin and we discovered a new-to-us local library. I used to take her to the library a lot, but it closed down when she was about 6 months and still has not re-opened. When we went to a local bookstore for a free mini photo-shoot, we purchased the new Fancy Nancy book and I realized just how much better it is for me to read a children's book that I don't already know the outcome of. Even though she has quite a collection, I have read all of her books multiple times. So we went to a new local library and checked out 5, which wasn't enough. A week later, we checked out the huge children's section at the Orange city library, at the suggestion of a co-worker. She had a blast. Falling more in love with reading than ever before, she has now developed book awareness and will "read" to herself or out-loud to me. She usually starts with "Once upon a time..." and then babbles on, sometimes describing what's happening in the pictures. For Rapunzel, "Took witch's lettuce; prince didn't hurt me!; cut off her hair; pushed down" etc. She also really likes audio read-along books in the car, and surprisingly, is usually on the correct page.

She has also started walking more and more on our 2-3 mile daily walks. In order to speed her up (toddlers can get distracted by anything!) Daddy has taught her to race. They will pick a starting line, and race to a physical marker. Little does she know, she's doing a fartlek, speed play that will come in handy when she trains for a race someday. Girl after my own heart. I can't wait to be able to run with her again, but for now, I trail slowly behind. This too is temporary, and I want to enjoy every minute of this pregnancy that doctors said couldn't happen.

The month ended with Bubble Fest and dying Easter eggs. She was having so much fun mixing up all of the colors, dying her hands and arms a hulk-shade of green, that I didn't have the heart to try and explain the "correct" way to do it. I guess the way she was doing it was correct, and she was sure having a blast.
So instead, I just sat back and watched her, filming the process. At the very end of this video, she just melts my heart. I told her I love you, Baby A, to which she responded: "Thanks, Mom! I love you too." It was the first time she has said I love you too, and it absolutely melts my heart. It makes a thousand "One more minute!" demands all worth it in an instant.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Pregnancy (and gender!) Reveal Party

We had been keeping my pregnancy a secret, and wanted to tell our friends in person. Not having a good reason to throw a party, I sent an invite out  about a month before for "Food + Friends." I tried to entice them by saying that we would be serving Baja Fresh and were looking forward to catching up. I learned later on that the mere fact we were throwing a party for no real reason tipped some people off, as did my weight gain and near-constant wearing of a vest.

As soon as I thought of the idea of a party back in December, I picked rainbows as a theme because this was our rainbow baby. Picking the theme early always helps, because it allows me to space out the spending so that it is not as noticeable! I created the card below for free on Canva, and printed 35 copies of the image this same size. I ordered a box of 35 full-size skittle bags from Sam's Club and attached the card with a drop from the hot glue gun, for a quick and easy favor. I placed a basket filled with them by the door (after the announcement, of course), along with a sign instructing each guest to take one in case I was in a different part of the house or yard when they left.

I didn't order too many decorations, but enough to set the tone for the cheerful message we were going to convey. I love setting up for parties at home, because I'm able to do it over the course of a week or more, so it's not stressful. I ordered the decorations from Amazon, Oriental Trading and Party City.

Gummie rainbows from Oriental Trading



I enjoy baking and was going to attempt to make the 48 cupcakes above. But when I called our local grocery store bakery, I realized that they were so inexpensive that it didn't really seem worth my time to mix up all of the different colors of frosting.


I ordered the rainbow roses from our local Grower's Direct two weeks ahead of time. A specialty item, they needed time to pick them up from the flower mart in LA.

Once everyone arrived and had a chance to mingle and eat, my husband started the announcement: 


The pregnancy announcement lead into our gender reveal:
  

My husband and I had found out a month prior that we were having a boy. A boy! At a dinner with just the two of us, I opened an envelope from my doctor's office based on blood work done at only 10 weeks and we celebrated. With baby A, we found out when everyone else did, at a gender reveal party when I was only 11 weeks pregnant. Click here to see Baby A's gender reveal party back in November of 2014. Shout-out to my friend Delia who makes a guest appearance in that video as well! 

Due to my previous miscarriage, we would not be announcing for another 6 weeks this time around, and there is just no way I could have gone a month and a half without finding out! After-all, I needed to get started on planning his nursery, first birthday and buying some clothes!

We are over-the-moon excited that Baby A is going to be a big sister to a little brother! There was a time when I worried that I may not have a child, and now we are being blessed with a second.



Wednesday, March 7, 2018

How To Throw An Unforgettable Birthday Party For Kids

This week, I'm sharing a guest post on my favorite topic: Kids' birthday parties! I won't share with you what I'm spending on Baby A's Beauty and The Beast themed party which is less than 2 months away, but will say that I'm probably exactly the type of parent she is referring to when she writes: There are ways to give your child a unique and special party, without dipping into their college fund. This article serves as a good reminder (to me and a lot of other parents out there) that parties can still certainly be memorable without breaking the bank. I may refer back to a few of these tips myself as I move forward starting next year with two birthday parties to throw within two months' time. What an amazing predicament to have, when there once was a time I worried about never becoming a Mom at all.
How To Throw An Unforgettable Birthday Party For Kids
There was a time when parents gave their kids traditional birthday parties. Most birthday parties had a cake, a few cheap games, (like Pin The Tail On The Donkey) presents and the “Happy Birthday” Song.

Today’s parents feel an obligation to make their child’s birthday party a major event. People spend huge amounts of money for professional entertainment, bounce houses, and rent out establishments with rides, food, and games that celebrity children could not compete with.

There are ways to give your child a unique and special party, without dipping into their college fund. We will share a few of these ideas with you below. Before we begin, we would like to point out that we are not going back to the plain traditional party, we will be pushing against tradition here. For example, instead of a sheet cake that costs a fortune, we suggest buying candy from an online supplier. Make goodie bags that match the theme of your party. If your party colors are blue, get with your supplier. For example,
buy pastels and blue candy from Sweet Services that will be unique and keep the theme color together. Save the cake for your family dinner that is in honor of your birthday child.


You can also set up a buffet or bar and display containers of candy. This is a cheap and easy way to treat guests. Get creative. You can use ice cream cones filled with scoops of pretty cotton candy, stuff small jars with gummy insects, or make lollipop trees. You are only limited by your imagination. There are many party favor boxes, bags, and bags to choose from.

Toddlers

Young children are easily entertained. They love simple parties that keep the focus on them for a few hours. For your cheap DIY toddler party, why not have a Teddy Bear Parade?

Invite each guest to bring their favorite teddy bear or other stuffed toy. Set up a “costume room”. This is where you will have baskets of dress-up clothes, shoes, bags, and other items. You can get your accessories from home, friends. The Goodwill, garage sales, and the local dollar store.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Sparkly materials
  • Hats
  • Ribbons
  • Bows
  • Beads and necklaces
  • Make-up
  • Flowers and floral leis
  • Umbrellas
  • Canes
  • Walking sticks
Check out the clearance section of your local hobby or fabric store.

Each guest goes to the costume room to dress up and to dress up their Teddy Bear. When everyone is ready, form a line and begin the parade.  March the party around the block or through the park. The parade ends at the location decorated and selected for the guest of honor to sit and unwrap gifts.

Photo credit

School-aged children

DIY Calming Glitter Jars are super fun and easy to make and costs very little. You need a jar (plastic if the kids are very young) with a lid, glitter glue in various colors, (chunky glitter and fairy dust are also recommended) food coloring, water, and some kids that want to have fun. Click here for exact instructions.

Some great ideas for older kids and teens include:

  • Scavenger hunt
  • Making decorative picture frames (use thrift store frames and buy accessories in bulk)
  • Karaoke
  • Races
  • Make a “weirdest tee shirts”

The most unforgettable part of any child’s birthday party is a present and attentive family. You can be a single parent or a large foster family. Your family may be made up of friends that you join with to create a community. The point is, children need to feel special. They need to understand the celebration is because they came into your world that day and you were forever changed. If you keep this in mind, an unforgettable party is guaranteed.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

February Update - 32 Months

What an amazing month it has been!



We started the first weekend with unusually warm weather, and a trip to the beach with GranpaGlennie. She had an absolute blast digging in the sand with them under the shade of our umbrella. She loved letting them bury her feat and my "Oh no, you're stuck!" reaction before breaking free and running in a large circle, only to come back and repeat the process. But nothing topped her belly laughs when Grandpa ran toward the water and then let the waves chase him:

On the second weekend of the month, we had a play-date with Tommy and then later, her cousins came over for dinner. She had not had a chance to play with them since before Christmas! She loves it when people come over, and likes showing them random toys, and directing them to play. "Tommy - go in my house" or "Over here!" etc. 
Daddy spoiled his girls on Valentine's Day. A month before, when he talked about getting her a gold locket with family photos inside, I loved the idea. But with her being 2 1/2, I did not expect her to appreciate the gift. Boy, was I wrong! She absolutely loved her gold 'A' locket necklace, and loved putting it in her new jewelry box. Because it was adult size, she was able to put it over her head without help. Even the next morning, she woke up and wanted to wear it before she left for school. She went into her room and placed it gently in her ballerina box before we left. 

Because he had 3 dozen roses delivered to my work, I was not expecting a gift. He surprised me with with a beautiful ring with three rows of rubies. It is important to him to have A grow up seeing me wearing jewelry that will one day be hers. 

We had dinner at a local Italian place and A was as good as gold. We had the iPad with us in case of emergency, but she didn't need it at all. Instead, eating her spaghetti seemed to occupy most of her time, much to my delight.

 

I continued with my piano lessons every Friday afternoon, and she continued with continued her dance lessons every Saturday morning. Learning piano as a complete beginner is slow-going for me, but she's picking up her routine quickly!


She went to her first movie in the theater with me (Peter Rabbit) and lasted the length of the film! We had pizza at Pieology before the movie, so that we would miss all the previews. As we were sitting there enjoying our pizza, she asked "How was school today, Mom?" Thinking I did not hear her right, I asked "What did you say?" And she repeated it again. She will also now almost always ask the title of each song I play when we are driving to and from school. " What's this song, Mama?" or "What's this song called?"
Before our movie.
My husband and I have a week off together every February because of the district we work for. We spent a lot of time at home preparing for our pregnancy reveal party, but also worked in two days at the "Wolf Hotel." As always, she had a blast! And so did I. I'm just so happy when we're there, causing my husband to be perplexed and say "I don't understand why you like this place so much!" Well, I don't, really. I can't go down any of the water slides because I'm pregnant, different pools are periodically closed due to poop accidents, and I can't relax or read a book because she continually wants me to play with her. But it is my favorite place to go because of just how excited she gets in the days leading up to our trip and while we're there. I love seeing a group of older girls there and the thought that we'll be returning for a decade or more, much to my husband's dismay. 

When we returned, we adopted two kittens for baby A. A brother/sister duo rescued from the city of Compton. We named them Bonnie and Clyde and we are all in love.  We keep them in a spare bathroom during the day because they are still being litter box trained, but in the mornings and as soon as we get home, they roam throughout the house. Baby A especially likes playing with them in her room, and will often stay in there with the door closed for up to a half hour! 

We ended the month with a pregnancy and gender reveal party at our house. More about that (and the gender!) in the next post! Baby A is going to be the best big sister; she's already pretty excited. For the weeks leading up to the party, she would proudly announce "My Mommy has a baby in her tummy!"

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

I'm PREGNANT!?

As I sit here, ready to publish this, I am 16 weeks pregnant. After 4 IVF procedures and only one baby girl earth-side, it's still hard for me to believe that we are pregnant without even trying. Sure, this happens to people; there are always outliers, but I never expected this to happen to me. Ever.
Photography by Julie Megill
We had just paid for what would be our 5th and final IVF at CNY in New York. It was planned for the same month I am now due: August, 2018. I had tried and tried to get some IUI procedures set up while we waited, and a doctor (Dr. Robert Anderson with Southern California Center for Reproductive Medicine) refuse to see me, stating that IUIs "Will not work for you." (More about this horrible experience in a future blog post). While I appreciated the honesty that it was not statistically likely, to be refused treatment was devastating to me. Especially because it came right on the heels of my 4th failed IVF which was right after my pregnancy loss at 14 weeks (but we found out at 17 weeks). In spite of the doctors' refusal to help me, I somehow held steadfast to the belief that neither doctor was God, and only He could say whether or not it would work. Looking back, I really had a feeling that I could still get pregnant. That was why I wanted to continue IUIs while we waited for IVF.

On December 6th, I was at a regularly scheduled appointment with my OBGYN, listening to him tell the patient in the next room, through the paper-thin walls, that she should not delay getting pregnant until she was 40. Wishing I could talk to her myself and echo that sentiment, it reminded me that I needed to try and schedule an IUI with the only other doctor covered by my insurance. As I emailed his nurse, I got my planner out to count my days, because I figured it would be soon. Hmmm....30 days!? I'm always 26 or 28. I never have 30 whole days between my cycles. Never.

When my doctor came in, I told him about my plans for CNY next summer and at the end, mentioned that I was late. Quite confident I was not pregnant (he knows my history and my low AMH levels), he smiled and said "Stick to your original plan" without even asking how late I was, and sent me on my way.

I texted my husband on my way home and asked him to pick up a pregnancy test. He must have thought I was crazy, but did so at my urging to remove any "false hope." Instead of waiting for morning, I took it right away. And right away, a double line appeared. Instead of in the past, after embryo transfers, when I keep looking and willing a line to appear, a strong line appeared right away. All I could do was start laughing. We had just paid CNY in NY in full the week prior...almost $10,000.

I came out of the bathroom, laughing, presenting the evidence to my husband who just said "No, no. You can't be." I could not believe it either. Immediately, I felt as though this was a miracle. That night, and every night after, we began praying that it would last. "Well, at least we have a chance" I said. At least it's a shot. I am not usually a person who dwells in fear, but after the loss of our previous pregnancy, I was beyond afraid this would end the same way. I tried to turn to God in my fear, to strengthen our bond and to let Him shoulder my burden of worry. When I had trouble sleeping, as I have in my other two pregnancies, I would get up early and do my readings and reflections from my Catholic planner.   

By the time you find out you're pregnant, you're already two weeks pregnant. While I appreciate what seems like a credit of time, waiting over a month for the first appointment in which a heart beat could be detected felt like torture. In the mean time, I was able to confirm the pregnancy through two blood tests. The first was positive, and gave me a beta number. The second, we would look for the beta number to double each day and be high enough to show that the embryo was growing. More torture. I remember Baby A and I were at The Great Wolf, and while I was enjoying my time with her immensely, the fear of the loss of the new-found hope was ever present. 

For this reason, I followed my husband's lead on not telling anyone. I wanted to shout this crazy miracle from the roof-tops, but then felt bad with the thought of getting people's hopes up, only to loose it the following week. Or, to have it end up being a chemical pregnancy and never get a heartbeat.

For my previous two pregnancies, I was with an IVF clinic and closely monitored. Although my doctor wrote me the same prescription for crinone and did do blood work, the first ultrasound would not be necessary and therefore, not covered by insurance. We opted to pay out of pocket, and set the appointment for December 21st. While I was hoping for the best, I prepared myself for the worst, and tried to remind myself that we would have all the joy of Christmas to focus on if there were to be no heartbeat. But oh how I hoped for one, imagining how much more magical Christmas would be with the thought of this pending baby.

When we saw that heartbeat at six weeks, right before Christmas, I cried with joy and my husband breathed a huge sigh of relief. This tiny little heart beating meant it was not a chemical pregnancy. But our risk of miscarriage was still high, and we were by no means in the clear. The next hurdle would be another ultrasound after the first of the year, when we returned from Oregon.

Again, there was a heartbeat and we were overjoyed! But with the joy comes rising hopes and that nagging, ever-present fear that this great gift from God will slip quietly away. Before the loss of my last pregnancy, I didn't realize that you could have a miscarriage with no signs or symptoms. In fact, that time we didn't even realize she had died until three weeks after the fact. My morning sickness was much more intense with this pregnancy. Every day, my husband would ask me if I was feeling sick, and both of us would feel uneasy all day when the answer was no. It was the only sign we had that everything was okay.

The next critical appointment was the blood test for chromosomal abnormalities (Down's syndrome, trisomy, etc.) at 10 weeks. I was shocked to learn that my chance of this baby having a chromosomal abnormality was 1 in 52. Just a few years ago, it was a more manageable 1 in 200. These new odds sounded too horrible to wrap my mind around, so instead I repeated the reverse to to myself: "That means that in 51 out of 52 pregnancies, everything is fine." Somehow, this sounded better. We got the call on January 22nd that everything was normal and I updated my status: God is good. I truly felt that He was. While the nurse had the gender too and I was beyond tempted, I asked her to write it down in a sealed envelope so my husband and I could open together that Saturday at dinner.

We had a sitter come to the house for the second time in Baby A's two and a half years. She was indifferent to us leaving, giving me a big hug and kiss before running off in the back yard to play with Ms. Jaime. We drove to Morton's Steakhouse and arrived just as they opened, with the linner (lunch + dinner) crowd. We were overjoyed with the results of the envelope, which I will reveal in a separate posting.

I had a neural translucency (NT) ultrasound on February first and we were able to see the baby in great detail. Miraculously, everything looked fine, even the developing brain. Even though I was just 12 weeks along, every part of the perfect 3 inch body was formed, and this seemed reassuring. But again, we remembered that I had this same NT scan on our baby girl right before she died. And that time too, everything looked perfect. 

Still reluctant and afraid, we sent out an evite "Food + Friends" to announce the pregnancy almost a month later, on February 25th, when I would be just starting my 16th week and firmly in the second trimester. The next few weeks were still treacherous, probably more so than the first few. It was so difficult to wait from February 1st until our next appointment on February 21st. While most women are happy to enter the second trimester at 14 weeks, instead it brought more fear and uncertainty, since that was when we lost our little girl, and because our hope was now higher. In order to get through, we purchased a doppler on Amazon that we used periodically for reassurance that the tiny heart was still beating. I used it last night in fact. I began to prepare for the party, and started to look forward to it.

People don't generally do pregnancy announcements as a surprise, because you run the risk of unintentionally upsetting those who have battled infertility or had a miscarriage that you don't know about. I would never intentionally spring the news on someone who had suffered a loss or had struggled with infertility in a group setting. To do so is just cruel. However, since I fit into both of those categories just last year, I felt that our announcement could instead bring hope to anyone who may be secretly struggling. Miracles do happen, and I cannot wait to hold this one in my arms. This baby will always be a reminder to me that God is in control, and things happen in His timing, not mine.

Oh, and yes, we did get our $10,000 back.    

Friday, February 9, 2018

The Fragile Generation: Bad policy and paranoid parenting are making kids too safe to succeed.

I don't usually publish other articles, but this is the best one I've read in years, so it's worthy of a share. You can find the original article here



One day last year, a citizen on a prairie path in the Chicago suburb of Elmhurst came upon a teen boy chopping wood. Not a body. Just some already-fallen branches. Nonetheless, the onlooker called the cops.
Officers interrogated the boy, who said he was trying to build a fort for himself and his friends. A local news site reports the police then "took the tools for safekeeping to be returned to the boy's parents."
Elsewhere in America, preschoolers at the Learning Collaborative in Charlotte, North Carolina, were thrilled to receive a set of gently used playground equipment. But the kids soon found out they would not be allowed to use it, because it was resting on grass, not wood chips. "It's a safety issue," explained a day care spokeswoman. Playing on grass is against local regulations.


And then there was the query that ran in Parents magazine a few years back: "Your child's old enough to stay home briefly, and often does. But is it okay to leave her and her playmate home while you dash to the dry cleaner?" Absolutely not, the magazine averred: "Take the kids with you, or save your errand for another time." After all, "you want to make sure that no one's feelings get too hurt if there's a squabble."
The principle here is simple: This generation of kids must be protected like none other. They can't use tools, they can't play on grass, and they certainly can't be expected to work through a spat with a friend.
And this, it could be argued, is why we have "safe spaces" on college campuses and millennials missing adult milestones today. We told a generation of kids that they can never be too safe—and they believed us.

Safety First

We've had the best of intentions, of course. But efforts to protect our children may be backfiring. When we raise kids unaccustomed to facing anything on their own, including risk, failure, and hurt feelings, our society and even our economy are threatened. Yet modern child-rearing practices and laws seem all but designed to cultivate this lack of preparedness. There's the fear that everything children see, do, eat, hear, and lick could hurt them. And there's a newer belief that has been spreading through higher education that words and ideas themselves can be traumatizing.
How did we come to think a generation of kids can't handle the basic challenges of growing up?
Beginning in the 1980s, American childhood changed. For a variety of reasons—including shifts in parenting norms, new academic expectations, increased regulation, technological advances, and especially a heightened fear of abduction (missing kids on milk cartons made it feel as if this exceedingly rare crime was rampant)—children largely lost the experience of having large swaths of unsupervised time to play, explore, and resolve conflicts on their own. This has left them more fragile, more easily offended, and more reliant on others. They have been taught to seek authority figures to solve their problems and shield them from discomfort, a condition sociologists call "moral dependency."
This poses a threat to the kind of open-mindedness and flexibility young people need to thrive at college and beyond. If they arrive at school or start careers unaccustomed to frustration and misunderstandings, we can expect them to be hypersensitive. And if they don't develop the resources to work through obstacles, molehills come to look like mountains.
This magnification of danger and hurt is prevalent on campus today. It no longer matters what a person intended to say, or how a reasonable listener would interpret a statement—what matters is whether any individual feels offended by it. If so, the speaker has committed a "microaggression," and the offended party's purely subjective reaction is a sufficient basis for emailing a dean or filing a complaint with the university's "bias response team." The net effect is that both professors and students today report that they are walking on eggshells. This interferes with the process of free inquiry and open debate—the active ingredients in a college education.
And if that's the case already, what of the kids still in grammar school, constantly reminded they might accidentally hurt each other with the wrong words? When today's 8-year-olds become the 18-year-olds starting college, will they still view free speech as worthy of protecting? As Daniel Shuchman, chairman of the free speech-promoting Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), puts it, "How likely are they to consider the First Amendment essential if they start learning in fifth grade that you're forbidden to say—or even think—certain things, especially at school?"
Parents, teachers, and professors are talking about the growing fragility they see. It's hard to avoid the conclusion that the overprotection of children and the hypersensitivity of college students could be two sides of the same coin. By trying so hard to protect our kids, we're making them too safe to succeed.

Children on a Leash

If you're over 40, chances are good that you had scads of free time as a child—after school, on weekends, over the summer. And chances are also good that, if you were asked about it now, you'd go on and on about playing in the woods and riding your bike until the streetlights came on.
Today many kids are raised like veal. Only 13 percent of them even walk to school. Many who take the bus wait at the stop with parents beside them like bodyguards. For a while, Rhode Island was considering a bill that would prohibit children from getting off the bus in the afternoon if there wasn't an adult waiting to walk them home. This would have applied until seventh grade.
As for summer frolicking, campers don't just have to take a buddy with them wherever they go, including the bathroom. Some are now required to take two—one to stay with whoever gets hurt, the other to run and get a grown-up. Walking to the john is treated like climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.
After school, kids no longer come home with a latchkey and roam the neighborhood. Instead, they're locked into organized, supervised activities. Youth sports are a $15 billion business that has grown by 55 percent since just 2010. Children as young as third grade are joining traveling teams—which means their parents spend a lot of time in the car, too. Or they're at tutoring. Or they're at music lessons. And if all else fails, they are in their rooms, online.

Even if parents want to shoo their kids outside—and don't come home till dinner!—it's not as easy as it once was. Often, there are no other children around to play with. Even more dishearteningly, adults who believe it's good for young people to run some errands or play kickball down the street have to think twice about letting them, because busybodies, cops, and social workers are primed to equate "unsupervised" with "neglected and in danger."
You may remember the story of the Meitivs in Maryland, investigated twice for letting their kids, 10 and 6, walk home together from the park. Or the Debra Harrell case in South Carolina, where a mom was thrown in jail for allowing her 9-year-old to play at the sprinkler playground while she worked at McDonald's. Or the 8-year-old Ohio boy who was supposed to get on the bus to Sunday school, but snuck off to the Family Dollar store instead. His dad was arrested for child endangerment.
These examples represent a new outlook: the belief that anytime kids are doing anything on their own, they are automatically under threat. But that outlook is wrong. The crime rate in America is back down to what it was in 1963, which means that most of today's parents grew up playing outside when it was more dangerous than it is today. And it hasn't gotten safer because we're hovering over our kids. All violent crime is down, including against adults.

Danger Things

And yet it doesn't feel safer. A 2010 study found "kidnapping" to be the top parental fear, despite the fact that merely being a passenger in a car is far more dangerous. Nine kids were kidnapped and murdered by strangers in 2011, while 1,140 died in vehicles that same year. While Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker writes in 2011's The Better Angels of Our Nature that life in most countries is safer today than at any time in human history, the press keeps pushing paranoia. This makes stepping back feel doubly risky: There's the fear of child kidnappers and the fear of Child Protective Services.
At times, it seems like our culture is conjuring dangers out of thin air, just to have something new to worry about. Thus, the Boulder Public Library in Colorado recently forbade anyone under 12 to enter without an adult, because "children may encounter hazards such as stairs, elevators, doors, furniture, electrical equipment, or other library patrons." Ah, yes, kids and library furniture. Always a lethal combo.
Happily, the library backed off that rule, perhaps thanks to merciless mocking in the media. But saner minds don't always prevail. At Mesa Elementary School, which also happens to be in Boulder, students got a list of the items they could not bring to the science fair. These included "chemicals," "plants in soil," and "organisms (living or dead)." And we wonder why American children score so low on international tests.
But perhaps the single best example of how fantastically fearful we've become occurred when the city of Richland, Washington, got rid of all the swings on its school playgrounds. The love of swinging is probably older than humanity itself, given our arboreal origins. But as a school district spokesman explained, "Swings have been determined to be the most unsafe of all the playground equipment on a playground."
You may think your town has avoided such overkill, but is there a merry-go-round at your local park, or a see-saw? Most likely they, too, have gone the way of lawn darts. The Consumer Product Safety Commission even warns parks of "tripping hazards, like…tree stumps and rocks," a fact unearthed (so to speak) by Philip Howard, author of 2010's Life Without Lawyers.
The problem is that kids learn by doing. Trip over a tree stump and you learn to look down. There's an old saying: Prepare your child for the path, not the path for your child. We're doing the opposite.
Ironically, there are real health dangers in not walking, or biking, or hopping over that stump. A Johns Hopkins study this summer found that the typical 19-year-old is as sedentary as a 65-year-old. The Army is worried that its recruits don't know how to skip or do somersaults.
But the cost of shielding kids from risks goes well beyond the physical, as a robust body of research has shown.

Of Trophies and Traumas

A few years ago, Boston College psychology professor emeritus Peter Gray was invited by the head of counseling services at a major university to a conference on "the decline in resilience among students." The organizer said that emergency counseling calls had doubled in the last five years. What's more, callers were seeking help coping with everyday problems, such as arguments with a roommate. Two students had dialed in because they'd found a mouse in their apartment. They also called the police, who came and set a mousetrap. And that's not to mention the sensitivity around grades. To some students, a B is the end of the world. (To some parents, too.)
Free play has little in common with the "play" we give children today. In organized activities, adults run the show. It's only when the grown-ups aren't around that the kids get to take over. Play is training for adulthood.
Part of the rise in calls could be attributed to the fact that admitting mental health issues no longer carries the stigma it once did, an undeniably positive development. But it could also be a sign, Gray realized, that failing at basic "adulting" no longer carries the stigma it once did. And that is far more troubling.
Is this outcome the apotheosis of participation-trophy culture? It's easy to scoff at a society that teaches kids that everything they do deserves applause. But more disturbing is the possibility that those trophies taught kids the opposite lesson: that they're so easily hurt, they can't handle the sad truth that they're not the best at something.
Not letting your kid climb a tree because he might fall robs him of a classic childhood experience. But being emotionally overprotective takes away something else. "We have raised a generation of young people who have not been given the opportunity to…experience failure and realize they can survive it," Gray has said. When Lenore's son came in eighth out of nine teams in a summer camp bowling league, he got an eighth-place trophy. The moral was clear: We don't think you can cope with the negative emotions of finishing second-to-last.
Of course, it's natural to want to see kids happy. But the real secret to happiness isn't more high fives; it's developing emotional resilience. In our mania for physical safety, coupled with our recent tendency to talk about "emotional safety," we have systematically deprived our children of the thousands of challenging—and sometimes upsetting—experiences that they need in order to learn that resiliency. And in our quest to protect them, we have stolen from children the best resilience training known to man: free play.

Play's the Thing

All mammals play. It is a drive installed by Mother Nature. Hippos do backflips in the water. Dogs fetch sticks. And gazelles run around, engaging in a game that looks an awful lot like tag.
Why would they do that? They're wasting valuable calories and exposing themselves to predators. Shouldn't they just sit quietly next to their mama gazelles, exploring the world through the magic of PBS Kids?
It must be because play is even more important to their long-term survival than simply being "safe." Gray's main body of research is on the importance of free play, and he stresses that it has little in common with the "play" we give kids today. In organized activities—Little League, for example—adults run the show. It's only when the grown-ups aren't around that the kids get to take over. Play is training for adulthood.
In free play, ideally with kids of mixed ages, the children decide what to do and how to do it. That's teamwork, literally. The little kids desperately want to be like the bigger kids, so instead of bawling when they strike out during a sandlot baseball game, they work hard to hold themselves together. This is the foundation of maturity.
The older kids, meanwhile, throw the ball more softly to the younger ones. They're learning empathy. And if someone yells, "Let's play on just one leg!"—something they couldn't do at Little League, with championships (and trophies!) on the line—the kids discover what it means to come up with and try out a different way of doing things. In Silicon Valley terms, they "pivot" and adopt a "new business model." They also learn that they, not just grown-ups, can collectively remake the rules to suit their needs. That's called participatory democracy.
Best of all, without adults intervening, the kids have to do all the problem solving for themselves, from deciding what game to play to making sure the teams are roughly equal. Then, when there's an argument, they have to resolve it themselves. That's a tough skill to learn, but the drive to continue playing motivates them to work things out. To get back to having fun, they first have to come up with a solution, so they do. This teaches them that they can disagree, hash it out, and—perhaps with some grumbling—move on.
These are the very skills that are suddenly in short supply on college campuses.
"Free play is the means by which children learn to make friends, overcome their fears, solve their own problems and generally take control of their own lives," Gray writes in 2013's Free to Learn (Basic Books). "Nothing we do, no amount of toys we buy or 'quality time' or special training we give our children, can compensate for the freedom we take away. The things that children learn through their own initiatives, in free play, cannot be taught in other ways."
Unstructured, unsupervised time for play is one of the most important things we have to give back to kids if we want them to be strong and happy and resilient.

Where Have All the Paperboys Gone?

It's not just that kids aren't playing much on their own. These days, they're not doing much of anything on their own. In an article in The Atlantic, Hanna Rosin admits that "when my daughter was 10, my husband and I suddenly realized that in her whole life, she had probably not spent more than 10 minutes unsupervised by an adult."
In earlier generations, this would have seemed a bizarre and wildly overprotective upbringing. Society had certain age-related milestones that most people agreed on. Kids might be trusted to walk to school by first grade. They might get a latchkey at 8, take on a newspaper route around 10, start babysitting at 12. But over the past generation or so, those milestones disappeared—buried by fears of kidnapping, the rise of supervised activities, and the pre-eminence of homework. Parents today know all about the academic milestones their kids are supposed to reach, but not about the moments when kids used to start joining the world.
It's not necessarily their fault. Calls to eight newspapers in North Carolina found none that would take anyone under the age of 18 to deliver papers. A police chief in New Albany, Ohio, went on record saying kids shouldn't be outside on their own till age 16, "the threshold where you see children getting a little bit more freedom." A study in Britain found that while just under half of all 16- to 17-year-olds had jobs as recently as 1992, today that number is 20 percent.
The responsibility expected of kids not so long ago has become almost inconceivable. Published in 1979, the book Your 6-Year-old: Loving and Defiant includes a simple checklist for what a child entering first grade should be able to do: Can he draw and color and stay within the lines of the design being colored? Can he ride a small two-wheeled bicycle without helper wheels? Can he travel alone in the neighborhood (four to eight blocks) to a store, school, playground, or friend's home?
Hang on. Walk to the store at 6—alone?
It's tempting to blame "helicopter parents" for today's less resilient kids. But when all the first-graders are walking themselves to school, it's easy to add yours to the mix. When your child is the only one, it's harder. And that's where we are today. Norms have dramatically changed. The kind of freedom that seemed unremarkable a generation ago has become taboo, and in some cases even illegal.

A Very Hampered Halloween

In Waynesboro, Georgia, "trick or treaters" must be 12 or younger; they must be in a costume; and they must be accompanied by an adult at least 21 years of age. So if you have kids who are 15, 10, and 8, you can't send them out together. The 15-year-old is not allowed to dress up, yet she won't be considered old enough to supervise her siblings for another six years. And this is on the one night of the entire year we traditionally let children pretend to be adults.
Other schools and community centers now send letters home asking parents not to let their children wear scary costumes. Some even organize "trunk or treats"—cars parked in a circle, trunks open and filled with candy, thus saving the kids from having to walk around the neighborhood or knock on doors. (That would be tiring and terrifying.) If this is childhood, is it any wonder college kids also expect to be micromanaged on Halloween?
At Yale in 2015, after 13 college administrators signed a letter outlining appropriate vs. inappropriate costume choices for students, the childhood development expert and campus lecturer Erika Christakis suggested that it would be better to allow kids to think for themselves. After all, Halloween is supposed to be about pushing boundaries. "Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little obnoxious…or, yes, offensive?" she wrote. "Have we lost faith in young people's capacity—your capacity—to ignore or reject things that trouble you?"
Apparently, yes. Angry students mobbed her husband, the professor Nicholas Christakis, surrounding him in the courtyard of the residential college where he served as master. They screamed obscenities and demanded he apologize for believing, along with his wife, that college students are in fact capable of handling offensive costumes on Halloween. "Be quiet!" a student shouted at him at one point. "As master, it is your job to create a place of comfort and home for the students!" She did not take kindly to his response that, to the contrary, he sees it as his job to create a space where students can grow intellectually.
As it turns out, Halloween is the perfect Petri dish for observing what we have done to childhood. We didn't think anything was safe enough for young people. And now we are witnessing the results.

No Fun and No Joy

When parents curtail their kids' independence, they're not just depriving the younglings of childhood fun. They are denying themselves the grown-up joy of seeing their kids do something smart, brave, or kind without parental guidance.
It's the kind of joy described by a Washington Post columnist who answered the phone one day and was shocked to find her 8-year-old son on the other end. He'd accidentally gone home when he was supposed to stay after school. Realizing she wasn't there, he decided to walk to the store a few blocks away—his first time. The mom raced over, fearing God knows what, and rushed in only to find her son happily helping the shopkeeper stock the shelves with meat. He'd had a snack and done his homework, too. It was an afternoon he'd never forget, and neither would his very proud mother.
When we don't let our kids do anything on their own, we don't get to see just how competent they can be—and isn't that, ultimately, the greatest reward of parenting? We need to make it easier for grown-ups to let go while living in a society that keeps warning them not to. And we need to make sure they won't get arrested for it.

What Is To Be Done?

By trying to keep children safe from all risks, obstacles, hurt feelings, and fears, our culture has taken away the opportunities they need to become successful adults. In treating them as fragile—emotionally, socially, and physically—society actually makes them so.
To combat this problem, we have established a new nonpartisan nonprofit, the Let Grow Foundation. Our goal is to restore resilience by overthrowing the culture of overprotection. We teamed up with Gray, the professor whose research we highlighted above, and FIRE's Shuchman, a New York investment fund manager who is now our chairman.
We are building an organization that seeks to change the social norms, policies, and laws that pressure and intimidate parents, schools, and towns into coddling their kids. We will research the effects of excessive caution, study the link between independence and success, and launch projects to give kids back some free time and free play. Most of all, the Let Grow Foundation will reject the assumption of fragility and promote intellectual, physical, and emotional resilience.
Children know that their parents had more freedom to roam than they do, and more unscheduled time to read or tinker or explore. They also realize that older generations were trusted to roll with some punches, at school and beyond. We hope kids today will start demanding that same independence and respect for themselves. It's their freedom that has been chiseled away, after all.
We want them to insist on their right to engage not just with the physical world, but also with the world of ideas. We want them to hear, read, and voice opinions that go against the grain. We want them to be insulted by the assumption that they and their classmates are so easily hurt that arguments must stop before they start. To this end, we hope to encourage their skepticism about the programs and policies that are ostensibly there to "protect" them from discomfort.
If this effort is successful, we'll soon see kids outside again. Common setbacks will be considered "resilience moments" rather than traumas. Children will read widely, express themselves freely, and work through disagreements without automatically calling on authority figures to solve their problems for them. The more adults step back, the more we believe kids will step up, growing brave in the face of risk and just plain happy in their independence.
Children today are safer and smarter than this culture gives them credit for. They deserve the freedom we had. The country's future prosperity and freedom depend on it.
Photo Credit: Joanna Andreasson

    Lenore Skenazy is founder of the book and blog Free-Range Kids, and president of the nonprofit Let Grow Foundation.
    Jonathan Haidt is the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University's Stern School of Business, author of The Righteous Mind (Pantheon Books), and a co-founder and board member of Let Grow.