Happy New Year!

Since the collage for Thanksgiving worked so well last month, we asked the ALI community once again for their words—this time for what they were looking forward to most in the new year!

Whether 2015 was good or bad, hard or easy, it was clear by the responses of those who answered that all are looking toward 2016 with a sense of positivity. While many looked forward to milestones with their little ones—sitting up unassisted, first words, first birthdays—some looked forward to things outside the immediate realm of parenthood—time with family, a wedding, starting pottery classes—and others looked forward to simple, yet still treasured things—sunshine, friendship, love, and cuddles.

(Note: Click on the image for highest resolution.)
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© Rainbows & Unicorns 2015

Happy New Year, everyone! We hope 2016 brings you everything you are hoping for and looking forward to experiencing. Celebrate safely!

— Rainbows & Unicorns Team

 

Learning to Walk Again

At the beginning of October, a friend brought up the challenge of walking 30 miles in 14 days. I looked it over, saw other people’s enthusiasm at the challenge and thought, “Meh, I would rather be a shut-in.” A week prior, the anxiety and depression had been overwhelming. The girls and I were struggling through a developmental leap, and I was counting the hours in the day until it was over and couldn’t be bothered to take more than two showers a week. The girls were on the brink of full mobility, and I was on the verge of a breakdown.

Copyright Beckdogenator 2015
© Beckdogenator 2015

It was bad.

I was not okay.

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© Beckdogenator 2015

When I am not okay, I know what I need to do in order to get myself out of the funk. I need human contact, exercise, and/or fresh air. Prior to our second IVF, I walked and eventually ran on the treadmill every day. I ate better food and lost 25 pounds. I felt proud of how I was treating myself. I knew I needed something to look forward to every day. On Twitter and Instagram, I saw people posting their miles. I was encouraged by their progress. On October 5th, with nine days left in the challenge, I decided to join. I walked three to four miles the first day. The girls were crawling around everywhere, climbing everything. A day alone with them holed up in the small play area was exhausting. I quickly learned to strap them in the stroller and pray for them to nap while we were out. It was less exhausting to walk for two hours than it was to chase them around the house for the same length of time. They were learning to walk. They were excited and trying out all of their new skills and they reminded me that I needed to walk, too.

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© Beckdogenator 2015

My anxiety had been palpable—my rapid heartbeat, the searing pain that comes with a tightened chest. I had applied for a job, struggling with the isolation of being a stay-at-home mom. I didn’t get the job. I felt like a failure. After the first day of walking, I felt a sense of accomplishment, but the anxiety over the job stayed my constant companion as I wondered what happened, why they didn’t like me, why I wasn’t good enough. I covered a lot of ground the first few days of walking and hit my 30 miles before the 14th. I felt the anxiety and embarrassment of not getting the job subside, but it took days of walking.

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© Beckdogenator 2015

I didn’t really want to walk very much before because I never knew when one or both of the girls would scream and cry, drawing all eyes to us on the walking path. It was normally Ruby that cried and she would only stop if I was carrying her. However, carrying a baby for two miles while pushing a double stroller was unsustainable for my back and arms. I would put her back into the stroller and screaming would ensue once again. People stared. I wanted to shout at them, “The only way to get her to stop crying is to get her home as soon as possible and the fastest way to do it is pushing her in the stroller!” I never said anything though to the onlookers except the occasional, “Well, at least I don’t need to let you know we are coming up behind you,” accompanied with a sheepish grin.

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© Beckdogenator 2015

Eventually, I figured out that they needed snacks. I packaged Cheerios and raisins in a large plastic bag and brought along those plastic cups that are supposed to prevent them from spilling their snacks everywhere—which of course just slows down the inevitable; Cheerios still end up everywhere. It gave them something to do, though, when they weren’t napping. Whenever we were out walking, I thought about what a cushy life they were living on these walks—snuggled in with blankets, either napping or snacking while strolling along. They weren’t climbing anything, though—for an hour or two every day, I felt like I was expending less energy walking and pushing a double stroller for five to eight miles than I was pulling them down off the couch or the coffee table. As the air became cooler and autumn leaves fell all around us, I got a weather shield for them. Even when the ambient temperature was 40°F or 50°F and/or it was raining, the girls would be warm and dry. I had no excuses for not walking, even in winter, or so I thought.

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© Beckdogenator 2015

Depending on my mood and the weather, the goals of the walk were different each day. Autumn on the East Coast of the United States is absolutely beautiful and I captured nature’s elegance with my phone’s camera whenever the girls would allow me to stop without crying. On the days I took photographs, I was focusing on filling my soul, slowing down to appreciate my surroundings. Those days, I wasn’t focused on distance. Other days, I battled against the rainy and cold weather conditions—placing the weather shield over the girls in the stroller, focused on getting out and getting home. Some days, I concentrated on distance—carefully weighing how long the girls would feasibly nap against how much they would snack and how long they would let us be out before a full-blown, wailing revolt.

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© Beckdogenator 2015

I know when I start to feel better. I start to daydream while I am walking instead of working through my nervous energy and anxiety. Sometimes I find myself far away from people and I worry about a zombie invasion, or I pretend that the people I am walking past are Russian spies still left here from the Cold War. I think of silly things to put in my Facebook statuses. I come home and I am calmer with the girls. I give them more space to explore their surroundings, their instincts, and their self-trust instead of hovering over them.

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© Beckdogenator 2015

In October, we walked 141 miles. November, 93 miles. For December, I set a goal of 30 miles. I wondered if I had set a goal of 100 miles again that the girls wouldn’t have gotten colds and my back wouldn’t have bothered me for two weeks. Two to three weeks without exercise, and I was decimated again—anxiety at its peak and self-loathing at its worst. In this cycle of anxiety and depression, I know I will always struggle. I just need to remember to walk. As my girls flail about, building the muscles and neurons to run, I hope to be able to run again, too, even though I can still feel—a year later—where the progesterone in oil was inserted into my gluteal muscles.

I will reach my goal of 30 miles in December, but I had forgotten why I needed to walk in the first place.

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© Beckdogenator 2015

In January, the goal goes back up to 100 miles again.

I started a Facebook group called 100in30. If you are interested in joining the group, please do. It is not about walking 100 miles, unless that is your goal. You set your own goals and receive encouragement from the group when you post your miles. You don’t have to do the same goals as anyone else. Ultimately, I just try to keep the goal of “do something.”

Happy Holidays!

Since all of us here at Rainbows & Unicorns are celebrating Christmas in some form or another, we do not have a “regular post” for today, Christmas Eve. (Check back with us on Monday for business as usual!) We do, however, have a fun treat for you that Holly put together to celebrate the occasion…

 

We wish you all a very happy holiday season with your little ones! Whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Pancha Ganapati, Yule, or even nothing at all—be safe, be happy, love and be loved. ♥

— Rainbows & Unicorns Team

 

Why Do I Talk About My Infertility?

I probably make a lot of people cringe on Facebook. Judging by how few Likes I get, much less actual comments, on posts I share or write about infertility, particularly egg donation, it seems most people just don’t know what to say.

So they do the worst thing possible: they say nothing.

It’s not like I clutter my timeline with infertility-related content multiple times a day—or even multiple times a week—but I am always disappointed by how few people interact with me on a subject that is very close to my heart. A recent post in which I said I was happy to answer questions about creating a family via egg donation fell on deaf ears. (Or blind eyes, as the case may be.)

I wonder if my friends who have shared posts about cancer, or Crohn’s disease, or autism, or racial inequality, or discrimination, or mental illness have also felt this groaning silence. Our culture isn’t very good at holding up a conversation if there’s any personal discomfort. People shy away from difficult subjects, but don’t we owe it to the people in our lives to show up to the conversation? Even if it’s to say, “I don’t know much about this, can you tell me more?”

I’ve lost count of the number of people with whom I have briefly and joyfully (but at first, timidly) shared how V got here and who have said nothing. I guess it’s easy to ignore an email. It’s even easier to scroll past a Facebook status update. But, sorry, not sorry, it’s just as easy for me to lose interest in someone who puts their personal comfort above holding space with someone who’s travelled a trickier path.

I’m not looking for pity.

I don’t need a shoulder to cry on.

I’m not confessing a dirty little secret.

I’m looking for a conversation that I think is worth having.

I’ll back up. Last Spring, I scoffed at the number of celebrities in their mid-40s or older who gave birth and implied their fertility had a direct correlation with how young they looked. OMIGOD, I rolled my eyes. They so obviously did donor egg IVF, I wish they would just ‘fess up. What’s the big deal? They need to lead by example, by showing that infertility is REAL and that it’s okay to build your family in a non-traditional way.

I was annoyed by the celebs at first. Then I cut myself a huge slice of humble pie. Um, Lauren, that’s rather hypocritical!

And that is when I decided to be 100% open about the fact that we had the help of an egg donor to create our family. Since ‘coming out’ I have had some wonderful responses. One person wrote that she was grateful to know she’s not alone. Someone else was relieved to know that she could still become a mother if she didn’t meet Mr. Right in time. Others are more at peace with the idea of doing DEIVF. My godmother found a quiet moment at a family gathering to let me know she supported our decision and was interested to learn more about it. I could tell she wasn’t sure how to broach the subject, but I was so delighted she did.

But these wonderful souls who showed up to have the conversation are outnumbered by the number of people who scrolled on by, presumably cringeing that I would share something so private or are embarrassed because they don’t know what to say or fear saying the wrong thing.

To them, I say this: When you’re trying to raise awareness, it hurts to be ignored or swiftly told to move on. Like the homeless person with a cardboard sign on the side of the road, it hurts when people pretend not to see you. If you can’t help, I’ll take a thumbs up!

I’m not trying to be the poster mom for egg donation. I’m inviting people to join in a conversation that is worth having the same way that I imagine parents via adoption had to 40 or 50 years ago. There are great parallels.

Did you know that until the 1960s adoptive parents hushed up their child’s birth story? It used to be that the child was adopted and never told about their genetic origins. The whole thing was swept under the proverbial mat. Sometimes people wouldn’t learn they had been adopted until they discovered the paperwork after their parents died. (Can you imagine being 50 years old and learning that your parents had hidden the truth from you your entire life? Talk about having an identity crisis!)

That is a far cry from today, when many adoptions are open – meaning the family has ongoing contact with the birth parent/s. Parents are open with their child about how they joined their family; and kids are raised knowing their birth mother isn’t their “real mother” but the woman who gave birth to them and placed them for adoption.

I said “placed for adoption.” People used to say, “She gave up her baby,” and now we say, “She placed her baby for adoption.” It’s not political correctness, it’s making a conscious decision to use positive language. Slowly, slowly, it’s finding its way into common parlance. I might be wrong, but everyone knows what adoption is—even if we don’t always get the terminology correct—and I’m guessing that most (?) cultures are comfortable with it, presumably because at some point people made the active choice to be open about adopting their child/ren.

This is why I want people to know what it means to have a baby via egg donation. To date, some five million babies have been born via IVF, and approximately 500,000 (N.B. my own research, compiled from multiple sources) have been born via donor egg IVF. That’s a sizeable minority. Chances are, you know a family created by egg donation but, like the adoptive parents before us, we parents via egg donation don’t usually discuss it.

But I think we should! We parents via egg donation, our children, and our friends and family shouldn’t be afraid to talk about the generosity of another woman’s eggs, or the marvels of modern medicine, or what makes our families a little different. So the more awareness I can bring to this alternative method of family building, the more normal it becomes and the safer the world will be for my daughter and other kiddos who came to their families via egg/sperm/embryo donation and/or surrogacy.

My Christmas wish this year is for the people in my life not to be afraid to talk about egg donation. Even if it’s just to say, “Hey, how great that this method of family building was available to you!” I would really love that. (My next post is about what to say.)

Thank you to all the people in my life who have shown interest and shown up. Whether or not you are reading this, I am more grateful to you than you know.

A version of this post first appeared on On Fecund Thought and is republished here with permission.

No, You Can’t Hold My Baby

Holidays are exciting enough on their own—the food, the giving and receiving of gifts, seeing family you perhaps haven’t seen in as long as half a year or more. Add a new baby to the mix, though, and the excitement builds. Especially if it’s the parents’ first child, or the grandparents’ first grandchild, or only the first or second of that child’s generation. And, in my case—because I’m “out”—even more so if your family knows you’re a parent after loss and infertility. Now, piled on top of the regular holiday cheer everyone is used to, is the thrill of seeing the new baby. Everyone wants to see the baby, touch the baby, hold the baby, squeal with delight in the poor baby’s face.

I’m not saying any of this is necessarily wrong. In fact, I’ve even been one of those “everyone.” Several times. But as a new mama, I’ve got a different perspective on it—and I’m setting some ground rules.

Last month, after a solid two-hour nap, I packed my son into the car along with two diaper bags full of I-couldn’t-even-tell-you-what and drove to my brother’s place for Thanksgiving dinner. Beyond the front door was a small space, already warm with the heat of so many people in too-small a space. It was loud. There was a chorus of exclamations about the baby from nearly everyone in the room (save for some of my brother’s girlfriend’s family whom I didn’t know). I navigated through the living room to the kitchen, saying my hellos as I went, hyper-aware of how stiff my son’s back had become and of the little ball of shirt fabric he was clutching at the nape of my neck.

My uncle reached out for him, and I—reluctantly and against my better judgement—let go. My uncle bounced him on his hip, talking to him, but my son’s gaze was unfocused and his eyes darted from person to person. At about the thirty-second mark, he hit his max and started crying. Full-on sobbing—this, coming from the child who rarely cries even when he’s held by people he’s never met. I reached out for my baby, internally berating myself for not heeding his body language, and my uncle handed him back to me after a few moments. As I quickly darted through the kitchen to the back porch (the only place I could think of in a pinch that would help him calm down), I overheard my uncle saying:

“If you only let him cry once in a while, he’d be fine…”

Babies cry because they have no other way of communicating. They can’t speak in full, coherent sentences—or even at all, sometimes—to tell you they’re hungry, or tired, or scared, or feeling unwell. Yes, babies eventually realize that crying can get your attention and they may learn it as a cause-and-effect type of situation. Yes, my son obviously needs to feel comfortable around people other than myself or my husband. But if he’s crying or pushing away from someone or even saying a basic “no,” I don’t think he should be forced to feel comfortable with them—instead, I want him to feel as much when he’s ready.

It’s not about him manipulating me. It’s about consent.

Unless contact is warranted in an emergency situation (he’s about to eat a phone charger or climb off the edge of a sofa) or caretaking situation (I’ll be facing this soon enough in the new year as my son enters daycare), I won’t force it nor will I allow anyone else to force it if my ten-month-old baby doesn’t want someone else to hug or hold him. Especially at his age, when he’s crawling well but still being carried, pulling up and standing but not yet walking—he is not entirely able to come and go as quickly as he pleases. When I walk into a room with him on my hip, I am the stand-in for his lack of complete mobility. If someone reaches for him and he leans back in disagreement, I can and will refuse to pass him off to someone when he might otherwise simply turn or run away. Right now, his comfort level is still somewhat my responsibility. When he’s a toddler, he’ll eventually be old enough to walk and get himself around, but I’ll still reinforce his personal space if someone asks for a hug and he hesitates. If he doesn’t want to, he doesn’t have to.

Allowing my child to choose whether or not he is held by someone else is just a small piece, the very beginning, of what I perceive to be a much larger concept. I don’t want him to think he has to show love or affection to someone if he doesn’t want to—holiday or no holiday. And by the same token, I don’t want him to think others should have to show him love and affection if they don’t want to, either. I want him to go through childhood respecting others’ space, and knowing that it’s okay to say no himself—even if it’s a family member. I want him to understand, as he matures into an older child, a teenager, a young adult, that touching someone who says “no” is not appropriate. I want him to understand at all those ages that it’s wrong for someone to touch him when he says no, and that he should tell me. To respect and be respected—I don’t think that’s too much to ask. And I don’t think there’s such a thing as starting too early.

So this Christmas, or next year at his birthday party, or at any of the holiday gatherings to come…if you ask me if you can hold my son, or if you ask him for a hug, and the answer is “no,” don’t be offended. Just let him do what he’s comfortable with—chances are next time that he’ll trust you more, and maybe the answer will be “yes” instead.

A Day in the Life: Holly and O

The Rainbows & Unicorns team is exploring ideas for regular columns and thought it would be interesting to read about a day in the life of other parents. Some of us work outside the home, some of us are stay-at-home parents, and others fall somewhere in between.

If you would like to share your Day in the Life story, let us know! Contact us or submit your post!


6:20 am — My husband, N, gets home from the night shift, comes in and changes and wakes us up for the morning. He goes to the kitchen and starts prepping “dinner.”

6:30 am — I’m up for the day, bringing O into the kitchen with me for breakfast. Some days it’s pancakes, some days it’s fruit. He hates oatmeal and, frankly, isn’t really a breakfast kid.

6:45 am — I get into the shower while N entertains the baby and starts packing his bag for daycare.

7:10 am — I get half-dressed by the time O decides he needs more milk. We lie in bed and nurse until he’s full.

7:40 am – I frantically finish dressing and blow-dry my hair while keeping O out of the toilet; he’s learned to open the lid but not how to keep his fingers out of the way while he slams the lid.

8:00 am — I’m almost always running late these days…still need to pack my pump stuff and make O’s milk and lunch for the day. I portion out three 3-oz bottles and put together lunch. A pouch, maybe leftovers from dinner. He’s starting to refuse the pouches more often in favor of “real” food. We’re going to have to start planning a little better. I think I need a lunch box for him.

8:20 am — We hustle out the door. Mentally checking off the list: purse, diaper bag, milk bag, pump bag, lunch bag, laptop. I’m like a pack mule. N carries out O to get him in the car seat. Kisses goodbye and off we go for our 40 minute commute. On the good days, O falls asleep before we hit the interstate. On the not-so-good days, I sing “Twinkle, Twinkle,” “You are my Sunshine,” and the Alphabet Song until my throat is sore to keep him from crying.

9:00 am — I pull up at the sitter, unload the baby, the diaper bag, and the milk bag. I cry a little inside every morning. I hate that I have to leave him every day. He loves Grandma Carol, and she’s amazing with him. He gets excited when we get to the door. Most days he doesn’t even come back to me for a final hug goodbye. It stings a little, but I would rather him do that than cry for me all day.

9:20 am — Work time. I get settled in for the day. Emails are piled up already, there are people to call back, co-workers that have questions. I’m overworked most days; it seems there is more to do than there is time in the day, but because I’m always waiting on someone else to get back to me…it’s a struggle.

11:00 am — Time to pump. At the time of writing this, I have 28 pumping days left to make my goal of 1 year. I’m excited and nervous. It has become such a big part of my life. Every day, twice a day now, I spend 30 minutes in the spare executive office, listening to the hum of the pump and playing games or scrolling the internet.

11:30 am — Back to work. Inevitably, someone came looking for me while I was pumping and assumed that I wasn’t at work that day. I’ve been pumping for almost 9 months and people still freak out when I’m not at my desk in the middle of the day. It used to annoy me; now, I just sigh.

12:30 pm — Lunch time. I eat at my desk most days. I struggle with feeling guilty for the time I spend pumping and the hours I keep at work. It’s a fine line to walk.

3:30 pm — Pumping again. It’s a daily game to make sure I get more than he takes for the day. Now that he’s having solids, he’s taking 9 oz each day. I’m pumping between 9 and 13 oz per day. I counted my “stash” the other day and had 300 oz! I was so surprised!

4:45 pm — I pack up for the day. If I don’t leave a little before 5:00 pm, my 1015 minute drive to the sitter turns into a 25+ minute drive with traffic.

5:00 pm — I pick up O. I’ve missed him so, and he’s missed me, too. He frantically pulls at my shirt, desperate to nurse. He melts into me, petting my chest and gulping greedily. Carol and I talk about his day, how he slept, what they did, how he ate, if he pooped. It’s weird, the things you talk about when you become a parent.

5:20 pm — I get him loaded into the car and get on the road. The traffic is now backed all the way up. Our commute home is an hour, easy. Sometimes he sleeps immediately, sometimes he screams. Several nights, I’ve stopped for long periods of time to nurse and cuddle him in the backseat to calm him down. I text N to let him know our progress and talk with the rest of the Rainbows & Unicorns team on Facebook chat to keep my anxiety in check.

6:20 pm — On a good night, we’re home. Nurse again, strip him down, and it’s time for dinner. N always makes “dinner” when he gets home in the morning so it’s ready for us when O and I finally get home. We started that recently and it made a huge difference in my nights alone with the baby. I scramble to eat quickly, then hopefully get bottles washed; if not, they’ll wait until the morning.

7:00 pm — We have an hour of playtime. We usually go into O’s room and play with blocks and read books. He crawls into my lap and lets me read 2 or 3 before he wiggles off to destroy something else.

8:00 pm — He’s starting to rub his eyes; it’s time for bed. We lie in bed and I turn on the TV. He nurses to sleep while I sing him lullabies. Sometimes he hums along. I rub his back and tummy and arms, stroking his skin as I sing to him. He’s so soft and sweet. I hope he stays like this forever. I know he won’t, though, so I try and soak up every moment. They won’t last forever; it won’t be like this for long.

SleepingO
© willbabymake3 2015

Please see below for more Day in the Life stories:

Lauren and Violet

I Hope You Don’t Hear Us

This is a piece written for us by a member of the infertility, loss, and adoption community on Twitter.


I hope you don’t hear us fight after we put you in your crib. The screaming at the top of our lungs should wake you up, but I suppose the white noise machine has multiple uses.

I hope you don’t hear all of the mean things we say when we are mad at each other, unable to control the anger that built up over weeks of pretending we “let the little things go” instead of talking about them as they came up.

I hope you don’t hear us mention divorce—something I don’t think we would ever actually do—but I wonder sometimes, as I hear the laundry list of things I am blamed for during these fights, why my husband would want to be with such “an awful person.”

I hope you don’t hear us act like children younger than you are, fighting over the smallest of issues because we don’t know how to adequately express ourselves about the things that really matter.

The truth is that we fought before you were born. The heartbreak of dealing with the miscarriage and then learning to not lay blame on whose fault it was that we weren’t conceiving easily strained us; the fertility medications certainly did not help with my ability to cope. It only made my anger and yelling more fierce and stringent. Marriage is a lot like giving your entire self over to another person, giving them your nuclear codes. You share a close space with them, emotionally and physically. Your father and I learned how to push each other’s buttons and at some point in time, instead of learning how to disarm each other, we created an arms race.

When we finally learned that you were on your way, the hormones of pregnancy replaced the fertility drugs coursing through my veins—and I was still emotional, still sensitive, worried that you wouldn’t make it and join us out in the fresh air. You arrived under unsettling circumstances, an emergency situation. Your father was more supportive than I have ever seen him and he was in love with you.

The first three months you were home were challenging. There is a reason that sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture. It brought me to my knees, sobbing on the floor in the living room, in the doctor’s office, the one time I escaped to a coffee shop while someone else watched you. I knew I loved you and your father, but it became clear to me that I needed to love and take care of myself just as much as the rest of the family or else resentment would build to a beast that I couldn’t control. The baby blues turned into a deeper shade that came close to black. It was no longer just me coming down off the hormones of pregnancy, but the cycling of depression and anxiety that would simultaneously keep us all alive and make me question whether or not I was even supposed to be a mother.

As your father and I learned how to deal with each other while dealing with you the first year, the fights got louder, angrier.

“WHY AREN’T YOU LISTENING TO ME? DON’T YOU TRUST ME? THIS IS ALL I DO ALL DAY LONG!”

“I WAS JUST ASKING A QUESTION, DON’T  I HAVE ANY SAY AS TO HOW MY CHILD IS RAISED? I AM NOT DOUBTING YOU AS A MOTHER!”

And we’d fight until we could get the anger out, the sobbing came for me. The muffled whimpers about how I was lonely and feel isolated despite having the privilege to spend all day with you—the one I fought so hard to have, the one I love just as much as your father. And I do love your father.

My wish is that while you are still small, language underdeveloped, your father and I will figure out how to talk to each other. We will find a way to discuss the small issues that represent larger things and be able to model that for you so when you grow up, you will seek out the same kind of relationship. My hope is that even when we are fighting, we will learn to leave the name-calling out of it, actively reminding one another that we love each other and have mutual respect for each other. My hope is that as you get older and our sleep gets better, we will all be more like those commercials on TV in which the children come in and happily climb into bed in the morning with their parents. I hope that I will be sleeping in our bed, instead of the one in our spare bedroom. I hope that the walls between your father and I will have come down a bit, and we won’t be fighting anymore about who was supposed to be watching you when you fell down and bloodied your lip.

Know this, though. None of our fights are ever your fault. You were wanted more than any child ever brought into this world. Your father and I love each other and we love you, too. My wish is that we will get this sorted out before you start to figure out that there is ever anything wrong. We will always have our conflicts; I am just hoping that you hear us talk things out instead of yelling at each other.

A Day in the Life: Lauren and Viva

The Rainbows & Unicorns team is exploring ideas for regular columns and thought it would be interesting to read about a day in the life of other parents. Some of us work outside the home, some of us are stay-at-home parents, and others fall somewhere in between.

If you would like to share your Day in the Life story, let us know! Contact us or submit your post!


Hi! I’m Lauren, one of the Rainbows & Unicorns team members, and blogger over at OnFecundThought.com. I’m a part-time WAHM. My husband, DH, also works from home—but his long hours mean I’m the primary caregiver to our 13-month-old daughter, V. I also do all the shopping / cooking / laundry, and most of the cleaning. Here’s a glimpse into a day in our life!

5.00 am: V wakes up and nurses. Some nights she wakes earlier, but 5.00 am is a solid nursing slot. She nurses for 15 minutes and goes back to sleep easily.

7.15 am: V is awake for the day. I’m usually pretty groggy so I put some books and toys in her crib. She’ll happily entertain herself for up to 30 minutes.

7.45 am: V nurses for 5-10 minutes, then I change her diaper and dress her. She is learning how to walk but prefers crawling, so I choose leggings and a t-shirt instead of a dress that will trip up her knees. Some weekend mornings, DH will give V breakfast to let me lie in.

8.00 am: Breakfast is usually a piece of multigrain toast with peanut butter. I supervise over a cup of coffee. And try to remember to unload the dishwasher.

8.20 am – 10.00 am: Playtime! I vowed our small, open-plan living space not to be overrun with baby paraphernalia, but oh, how things change… As a freelance part-time work-at-home mom, I have since concluded that a baby gate blocking off an area rug strewn with toys is a small price to pay for being able to sit on my sofa and write/design. I have my once-a-week work conference call which I am now free to do without a squirmy baby on my lap! On Mondays we have music class, which we both love. V seems very musical (I used to teach piano so have an inkling about these things) and it’s good for her to mingle with other tots. Our friends, H, a boy her age, and his mom, R, are usually there, too.

10.00 am – 12.00 pm: I nurse V until she is drowsy and then put her down for a nap. On a good day, V will sleep for at least two hours, although recently it’s been an hour and a half. This is her only nap of the day, so I try to make it count: I catch up on important emails, do some writing, or make phone calls. I also make a point of spending time with our dog who, sadly, doesn’t get the amount of attention he used to… I don’t run errands in the morning so as to avoid her falling asleep in the car. She has lots of energy, so a car nap amounts to a power nap, which really messes up the late morning nap. On Wednesdays, my mother-in-law comes over to help. In the early days after my caesarean, she did all the cleaning, made meals, changed diapers, and washed pump parts. Now that I’m more self-sufficient, she plays with V while I work on a writing/design/household project. How lucky am I to have such a fabulous MIL?!

12.30 pm: Lunch! V loves feeding herself so I stick with foods that she can easily eat with her fingers. Favourite meals include eggs scrambled with coconut oil and peas, or a fish cake with a squeeze of lemon and a piece of toast.

1.00 pm – 4.00 pm: After lunch is my opportunity to run errands, and V always comes with me. Out and about, I wear her in our trusty Tula—she’s still mostly on my front, but she is so heavy now (26 lbs/11.5 kgs) that I need to start wearing her on my back. I’m glad she enjoys sitting in the shopping cart because my shoulders get strained after a while. She likes to know what things are, so I point them out to her. And, without fail, I will hear at least two people say, “Wow, look at that red hair!” V’s dad works from home, so he’s good about helping me bring in the groceries; but he works very long hours, usually seven days a week, so I am definitely the primary caregiver. Most days I’m juggling baby, work, house, and keeping in touch with friends and family, most of whom live thousands of miles away. But this part of the afternoon is the time when I try to get us some fresh air. In the summer, I’d take V to our complex’s saltwater swimming pool, but now that the weather is cooler, I try to walk the dog with V in her stroller.

4.30 pm: It’s teatime, so I usually want a cup of tea. V has a mid-afternoon snack while I make a pot of Earl Grey. DH and I normally enjoy our afternoon cup with a piece of chocolate or a few cookies, but V is getting old enough that she wants some too… (I guess I’ll have to forgo my sweet treat if I want to enforce my no-sugar rule!) After tea, V plays in the living room while I prepare dinner. A few times—basically, if she’s cranky or wants to be in the kitchen with me, instead of 10 feet away in the living room—I’ve let her watch Sesame Street or Signing Time while I slice and dice. I learned the hard way that waiting until after bedtime to start meal prep means we’re not eating until 9.00 pm. By getting a head start on assembling the ingredients, we can eat at the more reasonable time of 8.00 pm. I actually try to cook a large batch of vegetables to last me for a few days. What doesn’t get eaten gets turned into a hearty soup!

5.00/5.30 pm: Suppertime for V! Dinner is usually our leftovers, like gnocchi or stir-fried veggies. I have only three rules about my daughter’s food: 1) she doesn’t get sugar in any form, except fruit; 2) she gets vegetables at every meal; 3) I refuse to be a short order cook. This means she eats pretty much what we eat, so a lot of that is organic and made from scratch, even if it’s just scrambled eggs on toast. And there are days I give her an Ella’s Kitchen pouch and supplement with fresh fruit.

6.15 pm: Time to wind down. If dinner was on the early side, V is in the bath. It’s not part of our bedtime routine because baths invigorate her! She loves to splash around. V has a lot of energy so I make a point of helping her unwind. If I remember, I show her it’s getting dark outside, to kickstart her melatonin. Otherwise it’s a bit of quiet play in the bedroom. Then the bedtime routine starts: draw the curtains, diaper, pyjamas, a final breastfeed, books, white noise machine, brush teeth, quiet cuddle, then lights out. Sometimes she protests for a couple of minutes, but most nights she goes down without any fuss.

7.30 pm – 11.00 pm: DH and I have dinner and watch a TV show (we’re currently watching The Affair, The Walking Dead, Broad City, and Angels in America). I spend the last hour or so of my evening writing blog posts, goofing around on social media, reading (I’m currently reading Mommies, Daddies, Donors, Surrogates: Answering Tough Questions and Building Strong Families, HONY Stories, and Oranges), folding laundry, or tidying up the living room ready for the next day’s onslaught of toddler mayhem…

11.00pm: Contacts out and teeth brushed, I creep into bed. Banjo follows me and usually flops on the floor at the foot of the bed. V still doesn’t sleep through the night consistently so she is prone to waking up at this time. She’s been sleeping better since I dropped the 11.00 pm nursing. On a good night, she’ll sleep until 5.00 am. On a bad night, she’ll wake every 75 minutes…or less…

Today was thrown off schedule because I was up every hour last night—V may be teething and Banjo had diarrhoea. So today I did not take a shower and we slept through music class. Nor did I make it to the post office or cook more chicken and rice for the dog. And V screamed in frustration on and off all day. ARGH!

But I did finish making my Rainbows & Unicorns Secret Santa gift! And I made a batch of tomato sauce, with enough left over to freeze, and we ate homemade pizza (blue cheese, red onions, and green peppers) which we enjoyed with a glass of (well-deserved!) red wine.

Art with the Littles, Vol. 2: Sensory Bottle

Author’s Disclaimer: Okay, before we dive into this, you have to promise me one thing: you aren’t allowed to laugh at my photography skills (or obvious lack thereof)! Promise? Okay, then let’s go!

When we were TTC (before I was jaded and angry) and when I finally did get pregnant, I might have gotten a little overzealous on Pinterest. I pinned more crafts than I’ve ever completed in my entire life (including my 3-week stint attending Kindergarten) and, let’s face it, I’m not a crafty person.

However, I wanted to change that. I wanted to do crafts with my son. So I continue pinning, and maybe one day we’ll do it all!

Since he’s not old enough for me to craft with him, here’s my foray in crafting for him.

I started off with a 2-liter bottle—label peeled, bottle rinsed and dried.

bottle
© willbabymake3 2015

Then I bought an assorted craft pack off of Amazon: pipe cleaners, fuzzy pom-poms, googly eyes, oh and some jewels too. (Because, Prime…why not?)

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© willbabymake3 2015
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© willbabymake3 2015

Then I jammed them in the bottle. I bent the pipe cleaners into different shapes just to make it more interesting.

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© willbabymake3 2015
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© willbabymake3 2015

I chose not to do water in this one and instead made it more of a shaker. I also squished it a little before putting the lid back on to make it crinkle. Apparently, it was really exciting:

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© willbabymake3 2015

It’s become a favorite toy of his. He likes to shake it and roll it across the floor. Standing on it makes a delightful crunching sound, and it makes a great chew toy!

It’s amazing how something as simple as an empty bottle full of trinkets can capture his attention for so long. I can’t wait to use this and other sensory bottles to teach him as he grows. I can ask him questions like:

  • Can you find the green pom-pom?
  • Do you see the heart jewel?
  • Which pipe cleaner is a spiral?
  • How many purple pom poms are there?

Further your babies’ learning for years to come with things you find around the house!


Please see below for more arts & crafts ideas for you and your babies!

Vol. 1: Footprint Butterflies

Learning To Accept Help

In May, I purchased tickets for myself and my husband for a concert in October. I assumed we could take our son, K—who would be 14 months at the time of the concert—since I’ve taken him to every other event we’ve ever attended. When I called the venue to ask a question, however, I was rudely told by the manager that he would “prefer” that I not bring my son with me.

That posed a problem. We live 8 hours from either of our families, and the venue was 3 hours away from where we lived, so I was nervous about leaving K with a babysitter overnight if we were so far away. One day over lunch, I told my friend, B, about our predicament. She quickly offered to watch him overnight so we could go to the concert. I thanked her for her offer, but said we weren’t 100% sure if we were even going to go. Over the next few days, my boss and coworker also said they would be willing to watch K. Again, I said we weren’t sure if we were going, but I would keep their offers in mind.

I mulled over the offers for days. I was having an internal debate. Part of me wanted to go to the concert; it was a band that we didn’t get to see often, and it would be a great opportunity for my husband and I to have some solo time together. But, on the other hand, I didn’t want to be a burden or annoyance to anyone. Even though my friends offered, I was still afraid that K would be difficult and ruin their Friday night.

Thankfully my husband knows me well, so he went ahead and arranged with B to take Kieran for the night. Thursday night, as I packed a bag for K, I cried. I was afraid of leaving my baby for such a long time. I was afraid he thought we were abandoning him, or would be scared sleeping in a strange room. He did fuss a little when I buckled him into his car seat in the back of B’s car on Friday, which almost made me call the entire thing off, but B drove off before I could say anything.

But B knew my worries, so she texted me regularly and let me know what they were doing and how K was. They went out to eat, played at the park, and K made fast friends with B’s dog (especially since he would regularly feed her cookies). He wore himself out by practicing his stair-climbing skills and went down for bed easily. Once I knew he was asleep, I felt like I could breathe easier. Bedtime was my biggest worry, and once that hurdle was over, I knew K would be okay.

My husband and I ended up having a wonderful time. A quiet dinner together where we didn’t have to cut up someone’s meal. Adult conversation that did wander to talk about K, but also included talk about our future and reminiscing about our past. A great concert that ended with us meeting the band. It almost felt like a date night taken from our college days.

We ended up driving home that night, and were able to sleep in. When we woke, we learned that K was still sleeping, so we took advantage of the free time and ran a few kid-free errands. Around 10:00AM, we drove to B’s house to pick up K. When he saw us, he had nothing but huge smiles and hugs.

Since that day, I’ve had to have friends watch K a few more times. Each time, I have to tell myself that the caretaker offered to watch K; they wouldn’t offer if they weren’t ready to take on the task of watching a rambunctious toddler. I still struggle with feeling like I’m being a burden on the person, but I am learning to accept help. I don’t know if my reluctance is from my stubborn need to be self-sufficient, or leftover from my infertility journey (I fought so hard to be a parent, I should be able to do it without help from others). Just like I have found a village of support online, I am learning to lean on my village of support in real life.