Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Have Baby, Will Travel...

I survived flying with a baby all by myself! While it's all fresh in my mind, here are my tips/recommendations based on our experience.

*An early start helped acclimate to the time change.
It wasn't intentional, but I wish I could claim that I were smart enough to incorporate such planning. I had a 7 AM departure, which meant I needed to leave the house by 4 AM for the 38 minute drive to the airport, 15-20 minutes getting from the long term car park to the terminal, and at least 30 minutes to go through security while building in some 'oh shit!' time, which now could actually include real shit. I woke Jate up at 3:30, which is 6:30 on the east coast, pretty close to her usual wake time. With an early start to her day, she easily went to sleep at 8:30 EST and slept through until 6:30 east coast time. It could not have been a more seamless transition... for her anyway. I'm still struggling with a bit of jet lag.

*Pack the car the night before
This is a very obvious and general packing tip for anyone who is travelling, but as someone who used to finish (or sometime start) packing right before leaving for the airport, I have to say it's a real time and sanity saver.

*Know the airline's policy for carry-on items
I looked up on Uni.ted Airlines webpage and learned that a breast pump and diaper bag are not counted as either your carry-on or your personal item. I had made arrangements to borrow a breast pump from one of Myrtle's friends, but I was considering bringing mine just so I could have some room for a few more items. However, it does translate to having more shit to carry. Instead I found a larger sized purse in the back of my closet.

*Streamline Security
Going through security is always a pain in the ass. Everyone is impatient and there are never enough plastic bins. I wore slip-on shoes and did not carry any liquids. (I had Husband buy me shampoo, conditioner etc... which I will just leave at my parent's house, but in the future I may continue this practice. Seriously, where in the world will I be travelling that I can't find a Walgreens?). I did notify the agent that I had breast milk, but it did not get checked. I had to separate the infant seat and collapse the pram and I had to carry her through the scanner. An older woman offered to hold her as I took apart the travel system and finished loading my bins.

*Random strangers were more helpful than airport staff
With the exception of a flight attendant who offer to hold her while I gathered her stroller after the flight (a moot point as I had her in the Baby Bj.orn), no one on the airport ground or flight staff offered to help. Fellow passengers were much more willing to offer assistance.

*Practice pushing the pram with one hand
I tucked the diaper bag in the storage under the stroller, carried my large purse on one side and pulled a standard size carry-on bag with my other hand. It was very awkward and I felt very uncoordinated. After making it through security, I stopped for some breakfast and then decided to change her before boarding the plane. Pushing the pram seemed very easy...OH FUCK! I left my carry-on bag at security! Fuck! fuck! fuck! I quickly ran back, expecting that my bag would have been confiscated and presented to the bomb sniffing dogs. I realised that I didn't even have a tag with my name or details on it. Oh, I am so fucked... Nope. the bag was just sitting right where I left it. I just had to tell an agent that I left my bag and he let me take it. I'm sure seeing a frantic woman with a baby convinced him that I was just an absent minded mother and not a terrorist.

*Know the airline's boarding priority
I must not have been paying attention, as I hadn't noticed that many airlines stopped the practice of allowing families and those travelling with small children to board first. Apparently, Uni.ted was one of the first to drop this practice, and I don't know if they started do this at the same time, but they do offer 'Premier Access' services, where for $39 you can get in a faster queue at security and board earlier. I object to this practice on so many levels, but Husband paid for me to have this service, so that I could be sure to have space in the over head bins near my seat. Pre-baby Jane wouldn't care. I'd put my Tetris skills to work and re-pack the bins to maximise the space.  I'd climb over seats if I saw some space in a bin a few rows back. Things you can't do while baby wearing and needing someone else to help with your bags. It was worth the extra expense. I was sure to get an early spot in the queue as I was passed by many passengers while collapsing the pram and infant seat.

*Appeal to your seat mates
The nurse who facilitates our New Parents Group mentioned that she would offer ear plugs to her fellow passengers when she was travelling with her babies and children. She found that if anything, it helped break the ice and most people appreciated that she acknowledged 'yeah, you're the unlucky one who got stuck next to a baby...' Ear plugs seemed obsolete as everyone would be wearing head phones to listen to the in-flight entertainment. I thought about buying a round of drinks when the beverage cart came around, but it was a 7 AM flight. So, I picked up a few $5 Star.bucks gift cards. I was very fortunate that I was surrounded by female passengers, a mother and adult daughter as well as two sisters who each have two children. I think they would have been patient and understanding and willing to help anyway, but they really appreciated the gesture.

*Prepare for take-off
A few years ago, I read a very funny editorial in Time magazine advocating for a 'baby and children' section of an airplane. He observed what seemed to be irony that tray tables must be fasten, laptops must be secured, but your infant can be loosely placed on your lap. One of my swim teammates is a flight attendant and she explained that infant lap belts are no longer used as they can cause severe injuries in the event of a sudden stop. She also informed me that Baby Bj.orn carriers are not allowed, but cloth wraps and carriers are permitted. I didn't want to bring the Baby K'tan wrap only to use it for take-off (plus she's still not very fond of it) but I brought the sash that goes with the Baby K'tan and with the help of my seatmate, I tied her to my torso. She started to fuss just as the plane was starting to taxi, so I nursed her until she dozed off. She did cry at all during the ascent nor the landing.

*Let me Entertain you
Jate slept for a good two and a half hour nap, but once she woke and fed, she was awake and alert. I nursed her and at that point I really didn't give a shit who saw my boobs, although I did cover with her blanket. I brought a brand new toy, hoping that the novelty would hold her attention for a little while longer.

*Beware of the blow-out
I have no helpful tips or whimsical insight. If this happens to you; you have my sympathies as it really sucks.

*Don't forget to hydrate
I should have picked up a large bottle of water at the airport. I didn't get anything from the drink cart, as I feared spilling it on her. When I took her to get changed, I asked the flight attendant for some water and chugged it down as quick as I could. The fact that I didn't need to pee once during the 5 hour flight indicates how dry I was. I hit the vending machines on the way out and slurpped down two Vitamin waters. While she was in her infant seat, I fed Jate with the bottle of expressed milk as we drove home, which made for a nice ride with a quiet, happy baby.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Three Months

Cheeky grin...

Everyone warns you how quickly time will pass once a baby arrives, and believe me, it has. I can't believe it's been three months already. Yet at the same time, it also feels much longer than that. My parents visit seems as if it were ages ago, and those first few nights in the hospital has become a distant memory. My pregnant is also a blur. I'm so happy to forget about the swollen ankles and numb fingers, but every now and then, I'll place my hand on my abdomen and try to conjure the memories of feeling her flip and kick inside me. Perhaps it is because we waited so long and wanted her in our life so badly, that her presence seems to be transcending time. It feels as if she has been with us for a lot longer than three months.

Recently, an event marked just how much has been accomplished in these three months. I went into a local boutique shop and brought a sleeping Jate in her infant carrier seat. She started to wake up as we approached my car. As there was a bit of time left on my meter, I decided to try to take her for a walk in the Baby Bj.orn. She did rather well for about twenty minutes, then began to fuss. She was due for a diaper change and a feed, so I stopped in a cafe to take care of both, as well as get a cup of tea for myself. I lost track of time, which resulted in a near sprint to make it back to my car before the meter-maid issued [another] $58 citation. Maybe Jate didn't like dashing about while strapped in the carrier, but whatever was upsetting her, she was showing no restraint to make her feelings known. She was screaming bloody murder at the top of her lungs. When I started to fasten her into her carseat, an event she hates while in a good mood, she began to wail even louder, which I didn't think was actually possible. Yeah, yeah, you're crying... I acknowledged to her while acknowledging something else to myself. Ten weeks ago the sound of such a stressed cry would have reduced me to a puddle of tears. As she had been fed and changed in the past half hour, I could be dismissive. Perhaps even a bit cavalier. Some people looked inside as the passed my car. This time, I welcomed their judgement. Yes, I am a terrible mother. Worst Mother in the World -right here! 

Yet, I can't believe it's already October and the holiday season is breathing down our necks. Pretty soon, we'll be ringing in another New Year. Recently, I've been becoming aware of certain anniversaries that brought us to Jate. It wasn't intentional, but I stopped at Star.bucks almost exactly a year to the date when a bathroom stop after the Farmer's Market announced AF's arrival and the commencement of our FET prep. It's funny how some details are still so salient. I remember that New Girl liked the dress I was wearing when I had my laminaria placed. I still recall the sense of relief when my RE declared that the transfer could not have been any smoother. I vividly remember the sense of panic when I started to cramp from my overdistended bladder and decided to risk getting off the table after only 8 minutes of rest. I remember there was a beautiful sunrise on the morning of my beta draw. I couldn't help to wonder if it were some sort of sign from the Universe, which I knew was just a silly thought. Nonetheless, I decided to pull my car over and stop to take a picture, even though I knew I would arrive at the lab late and be further down on the list. Now that I know the result, I like to think that there was some message in the sky...

Nicknames: Still the same

Stats: (unofficial) 13 lbs 6 oz, 24 inches

Eating: Still exclusively breastfeed. I know I said that I didn't want to set any goals for a particular duration, but once breastfeeding was well established, my first target was to hit the three month mark. As my paediatrician is pretty adamant about not starting solids before six months, that's my next goal and then we'll play things by ear once the solids start. Oh, I had another moment where I reversed a vow made by my former self. I had previously declared that if I ever had a baby and decided to breastfeed, I would NEVER feed in public without using a modesty cover. When Jate was five weeks, I attended my first session of a New Parents group. One of the other moms informed me that the discussion usually continues by going out for lunch after the class ends. I joined the other moms who were sitting with their babies in the outdoor eating space at the local Whole Foods. Jate, who had been calmly sleeping in the Baby Bjorn carried, decided to wake and go from zero to full out wailing in less than 5 seconds. I was in the far corner of the picnic table. Not only would I have needed other moms to get up to let me out, but my pram, which contained the my cover, was the furtherst away, so I would have had to crawl throughout a maze of strollers to reach it. Oh fuck it! I thought. Then another thought hit my brain like lightening. You're in WHOLE FOODS. In BERKELEY CALIFORNIA. I'm sure people would probably take more objection to your use of a cover! 

The thing is, I'm not so much worried about offending other people, as I don't think breastfeeding is offensive. I can appreciate that it make a situation awkward. Husband was always uncomfortable around breastfeeding mothers and he wasn't sure where to look and didn't want to accidentally see someone's boob. I think that is was resonates with me. I actually have fairly nice breasts (or at least they were nice). I don't want just anyone to see them. The exposure can translate to a certain feeling of vulnerability. Nonetheless, with a screaming baby, I did what I had to do and I breastfeed in public sans cover. Of course in the nanosecond between when I lifted my shirt and stuck Jate's mouth on as if it were a magnet, I looked up and saw a youngish guy looking my way. Oh Jane, why do you think he pays the higher prices at Whole Foods? He probably comes here hoping to see some boobs!

Sleeping: She has stretched her sleep to 8-9 hours uninterrupted each night. I truly hope she is a good night time sleeper and we're not being lulled into a false sense of security, which will come crashing down as she hits the four month sleep regression, right when I go back to work. I've also been fearing the night we have to wean her from swaddling, as I think that is one of the reasons why she sleeps so well. A few weeks ago, I noted that her size small swaddles were getting tight. The weight range was 7-14 pounds and she was barely 12 pounds at that time. I found one in the back of her drawer, which still fit, and led me to conclude that the others must have shrunk in the dryer. So when I washed the remaining swaddle, I let it air dry; only to find that it was also too small. I realised I had my washer set to "warm", which was still hot enough to shrink my swaddles. Alas, we had to break out the pack of medium swaddles, but they were a bit too big and she could easily wiggle her arms out. We decided that this was a good time to start swaddling with one arm out. It has been working both to protect her good sleep, but also to prepare for when we go sans swaddle. She will almost always release the second arm, and when I check on her, I'll often note that she will still have both arms by her side, as if they were wrapped in the swaddle; which is a bit odd, but also rather cute.

Likes: She is going to be a Blankie girl. She loves the soft muslin blankets and will cuddle with them. She also really loves her Wubbanubb and I'll often find her with her arm around the little giraffe, giving it a snuggle. She also seems to really enjoy bath time.

Dislikes: I'm afraid I have to add the Baby Bj.orn carrier to this list, although I've convinced that she just doesn't like it yet. I tried carrying her during a recent New Parents group gathering at Whole Foods, but she became fussy after fifteen minutes or so, and I put her back down in her pram. One of the other mothers observed, "maybe she just prefers reclining rather than being held upright". She's probably right, but in my more vulnerable lactation induced menopausal state, I felt as if I were failing in my bid to be a baby wearing mom. Now, this would be a big deal if I subscribed the the theory that strollers are evil and mothers who love their babies, wear their babies. Seriously, I didn't know this was such a thing. I recall watching the movie Away we Go on an airplane flight (98 minutes of my life that I'll never get back, as I couldn't figure out the point to that movie) where a character was anti-stroller as she proclaimed,  "We don't want to push our babies away from us." I thought the writers were trying to make her character really quirky, but one mom in my group shared that her brother and sister-in-law are anti-stroller and they make the seventy year old grandparents carry their baby and toddler up and down the steep streets in San Francisco! Um, how about sometimes a stroller is more convenient and sometimes a carrier is more convenient and let's not read anything else into it. When I'm at the Farmer's Market, I prefer to use the stroller. I would be worried about someone bumping into me and I don't have to overload myself carrying a baby and bags of fresh produce. Plus, it's easier to shield her from the sun and I kind of enjoy the fact that people will get out of your way. When I'm in the grocery store, I prefer to wear her in a carrier, so I have hands free to load and push the trolley.

Diapers: We moved up to size 2 Pamp.ers Swaddlers and still use regular size cloth diapers during the day. She still pees on the changing table at least once a day. While I was pregnant, Myrtle called me at work to let me know that I didn't register for enough changing table pad covers. "Really?" I asked, "two is not enough?" "Nope. Double it." she insisted. Okay, I thought as I figured I could keep them in their package and return them if I didn't need them. However, Jate must have been listening to our conversation and she decided "challenge accepted!" as she has gone through all four covers in one day...

Milestones: Nothing major this month. She's been more cooperative with tummy time and her head control is coming along. We've been working on sitting, both propping her on pillows and placing her in our laps. She's learned to bring her hands together and recently discovered her toes. She's been babbling more frequently, which sometimes turns into a bit of a howl, and is rather funny.

Looking forward to: Well, our trip to the East coast is right around the corner. I'm a little nervous as Husband is leaving five days before me. (He has many umpiring assignments and my parents aren't getting back from vacation until the day I arrive, so if I left at the same time as Husband, Jate and I would spend the better part of five days alone at my parents house. Bored out of our skulls). The prospect of flying by myself is daunting, but other experienced mothers have helped assure me that it's not as hard as it seems. I'm excited to see my parents again, and my in-laws are also visiting from England. Especially after being the lone parent for a long stretch of time, it will be nice to have many willing family members to take her off my hands. Myrtle is busy with a work event for part of our trip, but I'm excited to see her as well. I'm also hoping to meet up with a fellow blogger! I'll also be attending a continuing medical education conference just before I leave. The conference takes place on two of the days while Husband is away, so my cousin will watch Jate for a few hours while I attend the lectures. It will be a nice way to get a little break during my long stretch of solo parenting, but I'm looking forward to using that part of my mind again (which has gathered so much dust and cobwebs) and it will be a refresher before I go back to work. Ah yes, my mornings of watching Gilmore Girls will be coming to an end... 

"do we have to do this every month?"

Sunday, 4 October 2015

"A Sock Won't Protect My Heart!"

A little over a month ago, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, aired a brilliant segment about Sex Education in the United States. Most notable, the only consistent feature in the currcula from state to state is the slut shaming of any young woman who engages in any sexual intercourse (oral counts) before marriage. The "educators" (interestingly all female) describe a non virginal woman as a piece of tape that no longer adheres, and as a dried up piece of chewed gum. (Also interesting, there was no character assassination of the young men who are sharing the tape's adhesiveness, or chewing the gum...) In a more creative presentation, one Sex-Ed program shows a video of a young couple on their wedding night, where the bride, who is supposed to be giving her new husband that unique gift you can only give once, gives him a box with an old shoe. "It looks like an entire football team wore these!" exclaims the groom, just to make the point that she's not merely a slut, she's a mega-slut! "I made them all wear socks..." The deflowered bride tries to defend herself. "But Michelle, a sock won't protect my heart!" the groom proclaims, before he adds; "You can still get foot fungus from a sock!"

Okay, I love how they worked the foot fungus reference, as it almost prevents the analogy from seeming completely ridiculous. I encourage everyone to watch the clip, as it also contains a LWT produced sex education video, that is actually very relevant and informative with accurate information. It's also brilliantly cast with Will and Grace's Megan Mullally "Some people make make fun of you because of your choices. Those people are assholes." 30 Rock's Jack McBrayer aka Kenneth the Page "Here is a list of birth control methods. Google them!" and Laverne Cox "Lube is your friend. Believe me."

Oh my point, and I do have one... I'm back on birth control. Almost four years after I stopped contracepting. Had I conceived right away, I could be ready for my second Nex.planon device, rather than my first; but whose keeping track of details like that? After three years of passionately pursuing a pregnancy, I'm now back to avoiding one. I'm all too familiar with the spontaneous conception after infertility, and while it would be a wonderful blessing, it would also be a game changer. We would have to move to a larger house in a less expensive area. Maybe even consider going back east to be closer to my parents. We would have to revisit day care arrangements and my commute to work could increase. We've just begun figuring out how to balance our lives with one child, and we're not ready to complicate things by adding a second. I am in awe of all you moms of multiples and more than one kid. I cannot image taking care of a baby if I also had a toddler running around. You are heroes in my book!

When we announced my pregnancy to my parents and disclosed our infertility issues, my mother said, "I'm sure you'll conceive on your own after this baby is born..." Her comment annoyed me, as it sounded like my infertility was just some sort of phase that we were going through. "Actually," I informed her. "If we wanted a second child, I would rather use our remaining embryos than conceive spontaneously." Just as I said those words, my mind flashed back to the time when I proclaimed that I would never do IVF, which turned into a reluctant acceptance that IVF was needed to bring us a baby. Now I saw it superior to a natural conception. I would rather use my known euploid embryos conceived with my just turned 38 year old eggs than get a BFP at age forty-something, which has a high chance of a chromosomal abnormality.

On the subject of our frozen embies, just weeks before Jate was born, we received a letter from XYZ Embryology lab notifying us that we were due to renew our embryo storage if we wanted to keep our embryos available for future use. We really didn't give it any discussion and just paid the $600 fee to maintain our embryos for another year. As baby Jate wasn't born yet, it would have been another opportuntity to tempt fate. We didn't have much of a follow up conversation; if we did have a delivery of a healthy and thriving baby, what decision would we make next year? I think it will be likely that we'll feel our family is complete with Jate (and the whole not getting any younger thing, plus the expense of raising a child) but will we be ready to let go of our embryos in a year?

I know embryo donation is an amazing gift that has allowed many couples to become parents, but for various reasons, it isn't something we feel that we could do. One of my reasons is that it took us 6 embryos to achieve a successful pregnancy. I don't think our embryos would come highly recommended, and I would hate for another couple to invest so many financial and emotional resources to wind up with a BFN. Our intention is to donate our embies for scientific research. Maybe we can help another couple by gaining insight that will avoid multiple failed transfers. I know this is the right decision for us. I also feel strongly about our decision to only have one child. Yet, it doesn't make it any easier to say goodbye to the embryos we fought so hard to produce. It will be a tough day when we do notify XYZ that we've reached our decision. And a sock won't protect my heart...

In other related news, I saw on that my college roommate is expecting her third baby in April. As I keep track of these stats, she was five minutes pregnant with her first when I had my IUD removed and she was five minutes pregnant with her third when Jate was born. I sent her a text to congratulate her, as I half wondered if this was an 'Oops baby'. We met up last year, just before my transfer. I was in Boston watching Husband umpire some field hockey matches and she was in the city visiting her parents. I filled her in on all the details of our infertility journey, including the fact that my RE was two years younger than me. "Everyone is younger than us, Jane. We're old." She revealed that they most likely were done after two children, but weren't ready to officially close down the shop with a vasectomy. She replied that it was a planned pregnancy. "We decided that our family did not feel quite complete, so we rolled the dice." I figured she breastfeed until her second daughter was at least a year, which was at the end of May and she likely conceived in July. Also she has only one ovary and will be hitting the big 4-0 next month. Why is the process to complete her family easier than it is for us?