Thursday, January 24, 2008


Yesterday, out of the blue, Mystery asked me, "Do you ever think about what would have happened if our first IVF had worked?"

I looked at Eggbert and said, "what do you mean?"

He said, "you know, if you had gotten pregnant the first time, with a different baby."

My immediate reaction, "that would have been terrible!"

It's amazing how one's perspective changes, isn't it?

Friday, January 18, 2008

When bad news starts sounding like good news

A few weeks ago, I posted an update on my friend H, who is pregnant with twins again after losing her twin son and daughter to PPROM and preterm labor at 19-20 weeks last spring. When I posted, everything with the current pregnancy was looking good. She was on bed rest as a precaution, but everything was holding steady, with no signs of trouble.

Three weeks ago, that all changed. She went in for a weekly cervix check at 23 weeks and found that she had lost most of her cervical length, and that what was left had started funneling. She is also having regular contractions, so she is once again officially in preterm labor. She was given various meds and sent home to try "complete bed rest" (no showers even).

The good news is that the meds seem to be working. She hasn't lost any more cervical length, and the babies are still growing. She's now at 26 weeks, and her doctor thinks there's a very good chance that she'll make it to 28 weeks (when the chances of survival are much higher).

The bad news is that our standards for good news have dropped dramatically. When last I spoke with H, she said that she and her husband have stopped even worrying about minor disabilities resulting from prematurity. They will just be grateful if they get to take two living babies home. It's hard to argue with that. I just wish that things had gone differently, and that she could be happily decorating a nursery together and making a birth plan, rather than stewing in her own juices (that's four shower-free weeks now) on her left side in bed, praying that her babies survive.

They're little girls, by the way. Is it too much to hope that one day in the not-too-distant future, H and I can sit and watch our healthy children play together?

P.S. In response to the anonymous poster's question, no, this is not the tragedy that I was referring to, but since you asked, I thought I'd post an update. Thanks for thinking about H. She needs all of the positive thoughts that she can get.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The accidental co-sleeper

I never wanted to be a co-sleeper. In fact I was adamant about Eggbert sleeping in a crib. While I am not against co-sleeping in general, in our case, it seemed inappropriate for several reasons. First and foremost, Mystery and I are flailers. We both toss and turn, and have (accidentally, I swear) each awakened the other with a smack across the head more than once. So, we are particularly poor candidates for co-sleeping. In addition, I have a (perhaps irrational) fear that co-sleeping with an infant will lead to co-sleeping with a 10-year-old. Mystery and I like having a little "us" time in bed, and I don't like the idea of being accompanied by even the delicious Eggbert for years and years. Also, I have a friend who lost a six-week-old baby to SIDS, and while I am not completely convinced that co-sleeping is intrinsically a risk factor (the studies suggesting that it is are seriously flawed), I know I'd never forgive myself if something happened while co-sleeping. Finally, we do plan to keep Eggbert in our room for at least the first year, so having her in the bed too seemed a bit much.

That was then.

My plan was simple. I moved her crib right next to the bed, so that when she woke up in the middle of the night, I could pick her up right away, move to the glider (also conveniently placed nearby), feed her, and then lovingly return her to her crib. Putting her down while sleepy, but not asleep, would teach her to put herself to sleep, and ensure us a lifetime of all-adult bed time. Are the moms out there laughing hysterically at my naiveté yet?

Eggbert's plan was also simple. She would cry anytime I put her in the crib alone. Ever. After I fed her into a nice stupor in the glider, she would respond to my slightest movement toward the crib with howls. After several almost completely sleepless nights, I got the brilliant idea of nursing her in bed, so she'd already be lying down on her back, and I could just gently shift her to the crib without waking her. In response, Eggbert developed an exquisite radar system that allows her to detect breaches of the crib perimeter with uncanny precision, leading her to sleep soundly until my hands lowered her within the border, at which point she started awake and began whimpering.

We went back and forth for the first few nights, with her falling asleep in my arms, or later in the bed, but waking the second I put her in the crib. Then it happened. I fell asleep with her in the bed. We got four hours of delicious sleep, but I was absolutely horrified. I confessed to Mystery (who had adjourned to the guest bed prior to this incident in an attempt to both get some sleep, and give me more room in the bed to nurse Eggbert). He promised to check periodically to make sure that we weren't co-sleeping. And it worked. A few times. By worked, I mean that I fell asleep with the Egg in the bed several more times, and a few times he came in and noticed, and put her in the crib, at which point she howled.

I also won a few battles. Once in a while, she fell asleep and stayed asleep for a few hours in the crib. After a while I thought we were making real progress, when she spent over six hours in the crib each night.

Then we went to the US. In Korea, we can keep our tiny apartment at about 75 degrees F without much effort or expense. However, it would be impossible to raise my parents' house above 70 F without depleting the entire strategic oil reserve. So, the Egg no longer required her uncanny senses to determine that she was alone. The absence of a nearby adult was immediately detectable through a several-degree drop in the local air temperature. No matter how warmly she was dressed, she never slept for more than a couple of hours in the crib that her grandparents had so lovingly provided. I told myself that the (increasingly frequent) co-sleeping was temporary, and that we'd get back on track once we were back in Korea.

Now here we are, and last night she spent four hours in bed with me, and four hours in the crib. Can we call that a tie? I would, except that after a 1:30 am feeding and diaper change, I caught myself putting a sleepy Eggbert back in bed with me after the diaper change. The diaper change had been precipitated by a feeding (you've gotta love that gastro-colic reflex), so I couldn't even pretend that I was putting her in the bed to feed her. It's now official. She has trained me to co-sleep.

Now what to do? We're working on getting her to take naps in her crib (not easy after two weeks of being held 24-7 by a team consisting of both parents, two grandparents, an aunt, and about a million other visitors), but even that is hard, and generally results in very short naps. Does anyone have any tips for how to get the baby back out of the bed into the crib where she belongs?

I should mention that:

A) I never move when sleeping anymore. I wake up aching from head to toe from having spent the whole night (or at least the most recent sleeping bout) in exactly the same position. So, I'm no longer worried about Eggbert's safety, but I'm increasingly worried about my own.

B) Aches aside, I must admit that co-sleeping is the most delicious thing on earth. However, I still don't want to co-sleep with a toddler, and I would like to let Mystery back in the bed on a more consistent basis some time soon!

The lovely M-B asked for photos, so here she is:

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

What a difference...

...a year makes

The year 2007 slunk into the room with a decidedly hostile look on its face, only to catch me in the act of kicking 2006 in the ass and shoving it out the door. On December 30th, I had realized that our first IVF cycle seemed to be a big flop, a conclusion confirmed by a negative beta on January 2nd. Mystery and I, recent arrivals in Korea, spent the holidays feeling rather alone and blue. Not the most auspicious start to a new year.

We greeted 2008 in the USA, at my parents’ house, as the parents of a new baby daughter. While we didn’t plan any particular festivities, an impromptu party developed when two of my father’s siblings made an unexpected visit from the east coast (warning us only the night before of their imminent arrival in the morning), and my best friend, her finance, and their two-year-old son dropped by. It was an odd mix of people, but it just worked, and everybody had a fantastic time. We didn’t manage to stay up until anywhere near midnight, but it was still the best New Year’s Eve of my life.

...a month makes

A month ago, Eggbert was approaching her 4th week of life. She was the light of my life, and yet I must admit that charming as she was, she didn’t actually DO very much. Eating and sleeping were pretty much her only activities, and her only signs of recognition of Mystery’s and my presence were the shrieks that she emitted when our service as general comfort-providers wasn’t up to standard. Now, only a short month later, she spends much of her day smiling, flirting with her daddy, and generally delighting us with all of her new skills. She can hold up her head. She can even “stand up” if her upper body is supported. She’s a whole new person, even though she’s still our beloved little girl. It’s just amazing to watch her grow.

...a day makes

The day we returned to Korea after spending the holidays in the US, I put the Egg down in her crib for a little while to attend to something else. After a few minutes, I heard cooing coming from the crib. I went over to investigate, and found Eggbert staring at a toy that I had hung from the bars of the crib a few minutes earlier. At first I wasn’t sure that she was really looking at the toy, rather than just in its general direction, but then she started to bat happily at it, cooing louder when she made it swing. And just like that, my baby showed me that after seven weeks of complete disinterest, she had finally discovered objects. Every day seems to have a new surprise in store for us both.

...a generation makes

Spending time with my parents, my parents’ friends, and my friends’ parents as a new mother was absolutely fascinating. Not only was it moving to introduce my child to her grandparents for the first time, it was also really interesting to hear the comments that were made (many obviously inadvertently) about my parenting. For example, I couldn’t count the number of times I heard various forms of the sentence “it won’t hurt her to cry”. Generally this occurred when the senior citizen in question was holding the baby and the baby started screaming. While I had in most cases already explained that Eggbert is a really predictable child, and pretty much only cries when either 1) she’s hungry, 2) she has a poopy diaper, or 3) she wants to be held. As my visit to the US coincided with her six-week growth spurt, the vast majority of crying episodes involved option 1. So, when I heard her crying, my natural instinct was to take her and feed her. However, the instinct of everyone else in the room seemed to be to discuss her crying, and then to jiggle her ineffectively for several minutes while talking about how crying wouldn’t hurt her. At first, I was bewildered by their apparent callousness, until I realized that when THEY were parents of babies, they were actually told not to “spoil” their newborns by reacting to their cries by promptly meeting their needs. It was pretty amazing to see that even though they realize that parenting styles (and the advice of parenting experts) have changed radically over time, they still reacted instinctively by (implicitly) criticizing me for attempting to feed Eggbert on her own schedule, rather than mine. Well, either that or they just didn’t want to give her up. In a few cases, it took quite a bit of doing for me to get the baby back to feed her. I have similar problems in Korea, where middle-aged and older women routinely stop me on the street to scold me for taking the baby out of the house while she's so small, in an inappropriate fashion (a baby sling), and inadequately bundled up (I would think that four layers is enough, but apparently not here in Seoul). I don't understand everything that they're saying, but the subtitles in my mind read: "WORST MOTHER EVER!!!" However, Eggbert's smiles and giggles, the new layer of chub on her little thighs, and the additional chins that developed over the last few weeks reassure me we're doing just fine, regardless of what the village elders may think.

...a baby makes

Now that I’m a mother, I can no longer do many of the things that I used to take for granted. Most of them I don’t miss. During the first six weeks of Eggbert’s life, we mostly stayed at home. We don’t have a car in Korea, so I hadn’t had to deal with the joys of car travel with an infant. After two weeks of frantic activity in the US, I can now safely say “Wow. What a hassle!” She’s a pretty good traveler, mostly sleeping in the car, but once you get her out at your destination, anything can happen. Shopping trips took twice as long as she invariably realized (and announced to the world) that she was STARVING right after we got her into the car seat, or produced an enormous eye-watering poop the second we reached our destination, forcing me to immediately become very familiar with the nearest bathroom. The real shocker, though, was realizing that while being there for a friend in need has always been a priority for me, having a baby makes even that impossible in some cases. One of my very dearest friends suffered a horrible tragedy a few days after we arrived in the US, and my first instinct was to rush to be by her side. As fortune would have it, I was only a five-hour drive away, rather than half-way around the world, yet I realized that I might as well have been on Mars for all that. Previously I had only considered the way becoming a parent expands your ability to love exponentially, I had never even thought about the possibility that it might also force me to become a bit more selfish, or at least self-centered, as I focus on caring for the one individual who needs me most.

...a family makes

Throughout my first two months of being a mother, I have repeatedly thought about how incredibly hard it must be to parent alone. Spending time with my parents, sister, and extended family while Eggbert is still so small was such a joy, and while there have been some moments when I could strangle Mystery (e.g., when he slept in until 11 am on days that I was up at 5), he’s a fantastic dad. While our road to parenthood wasn’t easy, having arrived makes me realize how incredibly lucky we are not only to have finally reached this moment, but also to be able to share it with all of our closest loved ones.

Happy New Year! I hope that 2008 brings good health and happiness to all of us.