Christmas with my Pagan Family

It’s the gray end of a gray day, and I’ve been meaning to post something here. My mind is bouncing between Christmas and job, job and Christmas.

I have an interview tomorrow at a different company. The position here is taking longer to firm up than I’d anticipated, and this other possibility fell into my lap via a friend connection. It’s also in content marketing. I’d rather stay here, where I’m increasingly comfortable, but I’m annoyed by the wait for the contract to turn into a permanent role.

The good news is that I am slowly but surely coming to the realization that, for once in my life, my skill set is in demand. I do feel a sad distance between my present self and my past, more artsy self. I miss teaching, academia, being around other writers, and so on.

(The compensation, though.)

I’m finding it hard to get into the seasonal spirit. I usually love this time of year. The stress, though, is seeping in. Uno’s job is really busy right now, and she has a huge event coming up of which she is in charge. We have to get presents. Lots of family to juggle. Christmas cards – why are Christmas cards always such a calculus problem? We’re preparing to travel with the boys (!) the week after Xmas, and the whole trip is making me hyperventilate. Sort of. It’s to see the in-laws, and their rambunctious dogs, in their non-babyproofed house.

In the meantime, we are plotting some holiday cheer for the boys. Hoping to take Jaybird to a mini-Nutcracker performance, and maybe to some caroling. It’s hard to find activities that work for both a kindergartener and an unruly 17 month-old, I must say. Speaking of that, I’m not sure about the toddler + Christmas tree combination. Starling is on a climbing, grabbing, and running spree.

Jaybird is very excited this year, and that is a heartwarming antidote. Uno’s family was big into the Santa thing, and we are going with the facade. It’s weird for me, a bit, as my family didn’t put much effort into the whole shebang. We had tighter resources, and my mom has never been very sentimental. But I do like the pure delight that flashes on Jaybird’s face when we talk about Santa, Christmas, and so on. There are certain traditions I hold dear, like watching the 1981 animated film “The Snowman,” baking, and having an Advent calendar.

It’s odd, isn’t it, when you don’t have a religious tradition for the kids, and yet you’re doing up this Christian holiday? (With pagan roots, of course. I would love to make a family solstice tradition, but not really, because I don’t think I’d be able to take it seriously.) I was raised Catholic, and the Christmas season had a lot of ritual around it. I miss that. We had the Advent wreath with the tall candles, and each Sunday of Advent was important in a different way. Mom would turn off the lights and we’d sing and pray. Now – well, I feel false when I participate in things like that, but I would go to Mass just for the sensory experience. Maybe.

At any rate, I hope that we can instill a non-commercial sense of joy and reverence around the holiday. I wonder what that will look like, and how we’ll achieve it. This year, it’s more about presents and Santa. And cookies.



The Tired, Tired, Tired Mama

This morning I am so tired. Like, the kind of tired that feels like despair. Driving to work, I turned off NPR because it was needling me, those voices, and in the quiet I just stared at the waterfront and thought to myself, “unbearable.”

It’s amazing how sleep deprivation eats away at you. I know, and I forget, and then I am reminded. Starling doesn’t sleep through the night. He has once or twice, but mostly, he doesn’t. He’s a tease. Sometimes he only nurses once; often, he goes at least five hours without waking, from 1-6 or so, which is pretty decent. Yet there are still plenty of nights when he wakes up frequently enough that I feel like a zombie the next day.

Last night was one of them.

Sometimes I do let him cry. I couldn’t yesterday, because my mom is staying in his room and he was in a pack ‘n play at the foot of our bed. Which meant that he spent a lot of the night in our bed, rolling around, randomly sitting up, randomly crying out, wanting to nurse, then falling back asleep. He has a stuffy nose, and I guess it’s enough to keep him restless.

So, we have tried night-weaning of various kinds. He screams so hard, and so loud, and so long. It’s awful. I can’t take it after a while. Uno helps; she has occasionally been able to get him back to sleep without nursing, but it’s exhausting for her, because it takes so much longer.

Night nursing: it’s faster. I like the cuddliness – sometimes. I feel guilty about being gone for so much of the day, and I’m partially reluctant to night-wean because he only gets to nurse a few times otherwise. Then again, he’s 16 months, and he obviously CAN sleep through the night.

Being inconsistent is the worst. I know. We need to commit to something.

This kid! So stubborn. I finally got up with him at 6:15. We walked into the bathroom – he likes to see himself in the mirror – and he grinned at our reflection. My bed head and swollen eyes. His crusty nose. He gave me the sweetest hug then, pressing his little fuzzy head into my shoulder. That’s parenting, right? The agony and the ecstasy. Hyperbole seems warranted because I’m just so damn tired. I feel inside out.

Some part of me feels like I’m being melodramatic. “There are bigger problems in the world,” I tell myself. “This too shall pass. I’m alive, right? The sun is shining. I have coffee. He’ll grow out of this.” And so on and so forth…

Bah. I’m still tired.

When Is a Good Time to Mention That I Gave Birth to This Kid, But Not That One?

Let’s just say that I’m talking to someone I don’t know well, and the fact that I have a toddler comes up. This might be, say, when I’m talking to the only other nursing mom in the office, and we’re joking about the pumping room. Then, the conversation goes something like this:

“How old is your son?”

“He’s 16 months, and my older son is 5.”

“[Generic commentary about having kids. Sleep deprivation, childcare amiright!, aren’t they cute / don’t they make you crazy, haha.]”

At some point, we reach The Moment. Do I explain that I carried the younger one, and that my wife carried the older one? Does it matter? Probably not. But it can be awkward to NOT explain, especially if I’m going to see this person again. My supervisor, for example, recently said to me, “well, you’ve given birth twice, so you can handle anything.”

Which is a nice thing to say, but isn’t true…

…and I didn’t correct her, because the moment passed quickly. It’s bugging me, though.

It also comes up sometimes when someone mentions genetic resemblance. I don’t know. On the one hand, the world does not need to know. On the other hand, I know, my kids know, my wife knows, and it does affect our family dynamics – not negatively or positively, mind you, but it just IS. I’m reminded of writing this post, years ago, when Jaybird was little. I’m reminded of feeling like I was going “non-bio incognito” when I was out alone with Jaybird as a baby. I wonder, actually, sometimes, if Jaybird thinks about this when it’s just the two of us and someone refers to me as his “mom,” singular. He usually corrects people – “that’s my mama” – because of course, to him, that distinction is really important. Will it be later? I don’t know.

I mean, it’s not their business. I guess it’s most on my mind when I’m talking to other moms, like the other nursing mom at work, and I just know that she assumes that I nursed Jaybird too. It’s funny, for me. There’s the whole question of relating on a first-time-nursing-mom level, which I’d argue is different than relating to a second-time-nursing-mom.

Really, it’s not unlike the question of whether to come out when people assume that you have a husband. The answer to that is usually easier, for me. I try to say “WIFE” clearly at some point before things get awkward. But when it comes to the kiddos, it’s not so obvious.

Our Feisty Little Bird at 16 Months

Our little chunk-a-monk is 16 months. These “month-a-versaries” seemed so important with Jaybird, and I often wrote updates to commemorate them, but as is the case with second children, Starling isn’t getting the same treatment.

Not that he cares! He’s busy. He has a packed schedule. Most days, his to-do list includes: climb the furniture, remove things from cabinets, put shoes on hands, grab cats’ tails, throw food on floor, follow his brother, attempt to get his brother’s Legos, cry when interfered with …

He’s really got quite the agenda. It amazes me, the way he never stops moving. There are peaceful moments, though, too. He loves books, and sitting in laps to be read to. Favorites include such scintillating titles as “Rough and Tough Cars and Trucks” and “Hello, Texas!” (why?), but also “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” “Mommy, Mama, and Me,” “Goodnight Moon,” “I Like it When,” “I Am a Bunny,” and on and on. I’m impressed by this early focus and interest.

Starling is social, loud, and opinionated. He enjoys a hubbub. He has some stranger anxiety, but he warms up fairly easily, and likes to hand our visitors books with the expectation that they’ll scoop him up for a quick read. It’s fun to watch the way that he tracks faces, imitates tone, and makes himself heard. He babbles constantly; it sounds like a made-up-but-grammatically-consistent language that you’d hear in a fantasy movie. If you whisper, he’ll whisper back. He has some words that we can make out. These include “uh-oh,” “hi,” “mama,” and “kitty,” which sounds like “k-eee.” He likes to laugh, and make himself laugh, and he’s starting to give hugs and sloppy, open-mouth kisses. A favorite game is to steal the glasses off your face. Not really as fun for the adults, that one.

He’s feisty, too. All toddlers are working on autonomy. All toddlers protest when they don’t get their way. Starling, however, is extra-vocal in this regard. He screams and growls like some kind of crazed gremlin when he’s prevented from getting something or going somewhere. The other day, I shut the door to Jaybird’s room, thus preventing Starling from reaching the bounty of choking hazards inside. He collapsed in a sobbing heap, pressing his forehead to the floor. I tried to distract him with a wooden toy snake he likes; he took it from me and threw it, hard.

We’re making some attempts to night-wean him. If (when) he wakes up between 12 – 5, Uno goes in to offer comfort. He does not get milk. This enrages him. He was so loud about it last night that there was no hope of me getting any sleep, either. (She did manage to settle him. He does accept defeat, but it takes a while.) I felt guilty, but also determined, because it’s time. I need more sleep. We’ll get there.

Uno and I think that Starling is even more strong-willed than his brother. He’s a bit of a bruiser, too – tall, solid – and he doesn’t know his own strength. This combination makes him a little difficult to manage. He scratches, pinches, pulls, hits, grabs. Sigh. A lot of this comes out of frustration that he can’t do everything his brother can. He’s also very jealous of any attention that Jaybird gets. As soon as Jaybird is, say, sitting in one of our laps, Starling toddles headlong towards us and tries to wedge himself in.

They play together well, sometimes. Jaybird is generally attentive – if anything, hyper-vigilant about whatever Starling should or shouldn’t be doing. He likes to play chasing games with his brother, and they giggle hysterically together, which is heart-meltingly cute.

In general, I’d say that Starling is larger, louder, and more verbal than his brother was at this age. He’s … zesty. He’s also very happy, most of the time, and often content to toddle around exploring things and transporting items.

It’s interesting to see myself in him. He looks like my baby photos, and his brown eyes, so different than Jaybird’s, remind me of my sister’s. Perhaps his verbal tendencies are inherited – but I don’t want to ascribe too much to genetics. The world is so eager to do that.

At 16 months, Starling’s world is expanding. He understands more; he’s on the cusp of talking; he’s nearly running. I don’t get to witness these changes as much as I’d like. I miss him when I’m at work. I do enjoy the orderly, adult world of the office, and I’m not worried about Starling during the day. But by late afternoon, I start to get antsy about seeing him. I feel a deep tug. He’s quite delicious. I don’t think I’ve conveyed just how sweet, squishy, and funny he is. I don’t usually post photos, but take a gander at him in his Halloween costume this year, and you’ll see.


Five Years of Huge Changes and I’m Ready for a Nap

I started this blog a little over five years ago. Five. years. ago. I was 29, which seems almost quaint. Being in one’s twenties! I’ve acquired a few gray hairs and a few more pounds. Jaybird has gone from peanut to … kindergarten-attending peanut. There are other obvious changes, like oh, you know, an additional child. I’m struck by just how far we’ve come. I don’t mean to say that we’ve somehow progressed in a linear fashion. Life has turned inside-out for Uno and I, and then gone sideways a few times. We’re so ready for a period of calm. For stability. Heck, I’ll take boring.

Did you know that if you put a number in a title, more people will click on it? The Top 5 Things You Don’t Know About Life. 10 Reasons to Eat Cookies. The 12 Types of Toddler Tantrums. People love numbered lists. So, in five years …

Six: places we’ve lived.

Five: how many times we’ve packed and unpacked all of our belongings.

Two: babies. That would be two fertility clinics, two pregnancies, two births. I won’t count the IUIs.

Three: jobs for Uno.

Five: jobs for me.

Two: extended family members who’ve joined our household (MIL and BIL.)

One: grandmother with dementia whose affairs need a lot of handling. This falls on Uno.

One: mother with mental health problems who needed a lot of handling. That’d be on me.

Four: schools that Jaybird has attended.

Four: Brandi Carlile shows. Lol. Yes.

With the exception of the last point, just looking at the list exhausts me. Garage apartment. My parents’ place. Rental house in depressed naval town. Shitty rental house in cool ‘hood. Better rental house in quieter ‘hood. Current house in similar locale. Six! That’s six homes in five years. When we bought this house – which happened by some miracle, I swear, given the current market in this city – we said flatly, “we’re never moving again.” And I mean it. Boy, do I mean it. When we hit the two year mark in this house, it’ll be the longest stretch I’ve lived anywhere since childhood.

And the job stuff. This is on my mind because I think I have finally found a professional home. My contract is looking good to convert to FTE. No guarantees, but it’s promising. I will be a product marketing specialist with a focus on sales enablement, people.

Oof, how my undergrad self would have balked at that. My twenties self too, probably. Yet – it’s enough. It’s enough. Indeed, I am grateful. I understand that it’s cushy. There is free parking! And coffee, snacks, and office supplies. A view of the water. A smart (woman) boss. Global colleagues. I can set my own schedule, pretty much.

I have bounced around between adjuncting, being a teaching artist, freelancing, and working in corporate marketing. I’m so ready to be done with the uncertainty. At this point, I am okay with compromise. My job doesn’t need to be deeply fulfilling; it just needs to be stable, not awful, and provide enough income such that I’m not constantly in a mild panic about money. I don’t want to go from gig to gig, and I don’t want to be a starving artist. I’ve said goodbye to any ideas about working in academia, because the compensation is terrible and the work-life balance is too, and I never did feel appreciated by anyone but my students. (Who I miss. I do.)

All I want is stability. I welcome predictability, routine, and an attendant sense of peace.

Some part of me feels guilty for all of the changes that Jaybird has undergone, in particular. Yet, he’s a happy kid, so I hope that having the consistency of his moms has been enough. His household is busy, multigenerational, and his moms are juggling various commitments and ambitions, but at least it’s all interesting, right? With Starling, it’s different – he’s only going to have lived in one house, for instance – but I do think about how distracted I can be when I’m with him. Feeling pulled in different directions, having trouble quieting my busy brain.

I wonder, sometimes, how much of this we’ve invited into our lives. Uno and I are strivers, I suppose. The grass is always greener, and we’re interested in figuring out just how to get in on that action. My mom calls us “the implementers” and it’s apropos. So, it’s a good thing — though I worry about the difficulty we have in standing still. Fortunately, we’ve settled into our neighborhood, into Jaybird’s school, and, probably, into our jobs. This all in the last year. I think – dare I say it? – I think that we can calm down. Take a breath. Sit on the couch for a minute and have a glass of wine.

Yes, please, to that last one.

I’m pretty sure that all this stability will do two things for me. Okay, maybe three. 1) Make me a more grounded, present mother, 2) help me get more of my own writing done, and 3) take care of myself better. Exercise, dates with my wife, and so on.


And, with that, I had better go. I really do need a nap, because Starling is up aaaalllll night long lately, for some reason known only to him and the Universe, but instead I’m going to take advantage of the free coffee.

Becoming the Nursing Mom: What It’s Like to Take Turns

When we decided to get me pregnant, I was pretty excited about taking my turn as the lactating mom. Uno and Jaybird had a long nursing relationship, which I always supported, but which I was jealous of, too. I don’t think I’m the first NGP to envy that insta-bond, or the way that it soothed Jaybird like nothing else could. (I did develop my own expertise around comforting him, which in retrospect, was really important for us.) At the same time, I can appreciate, and now more than ever, the hard work on Uno’s part. The lack of sleep, the inability to be gone overnight, the annoyance of pumping. It’s not like it’s all wine and roses on this side of things! That said, I have enjoyed it. It has been satisfying and rewarding to breastfeed. I’m no evangelist, but I’m grateful for the experience.

Ever since I went back to full-time work this summer, right around Starling’s first birthday, our nursing relationship has changed a lot. I expected it, of course, but I’ve been surprised about how emotional it makes me. I find I’m really reluctant to give it up.

Starling has been an avid nurser, and I’ve had great supply, thankfully. The early months were more painful; I used a nipple shield, and then had to wean him off of it, which was hard for both of us. We did it, though, and we haven’t looked back. While I was teaching part-time I pumped and had plenty of frozen milk for bottles.

I mean, the end is not exactly imminent. We still nurse 3-5 times in a 24-hour period, and he’s not so much into sleeping through the night. Usually I just nurse him once in the night, which honestly, I don’t mind. Uno and I discuss night weaning, but I don’t feel ready, mostly because I don’t see him during the day that much. I recognize the hypocrisy, here. When Jaybird was a nursing toddler, I sometimes struggled with the arrangement.

The thing is, I’m starting to see that I could drop nursing more, and Starling would be fine. I recently stopped pumping — I was pumping once / day, but only getting a couple of ounces, and it just seemed silly to keep going. My frozen milk stash is gone, but Starling doesn’t really need bottles now. My MIL sometimes gives him one if he’s fussy in the afternoon, and he takes cow’s milk with no problems. I like to nurse him to sleep, but I don’t HAVE to; last night I had a work dinner, and Uno put him to bed with a bottle. All was well.

So, am I the one that’s clinging on to this? My cousin has 18 month-old twins she was thrilled to wean recently; she actively distracted them during their habitual nursing times, and after a few weeks they forgot. She told me that story and I nearly wept. Then she teased me about wanting to keep nursing Starling by saying something about how I just wanted to be his favorite, and what, am I going to nurse him till he’s 10?

As I type that out, I realize just how snarky it was. Ugh.

It got to me, though. She’s sorta right. I love the fact that Starling makes a beeline for me when I get home, doing the milk sign. I like cuddling him in the rocking chair. I like that nursing him gives us a special bond. I have an awesome bond with Jaybird, but, as I’ve talked about here, the kid is a Mommy’s boy. (And here and lots of other posts to the point of boring you all, I’m sure.)

Now, that’s not just about nursing. I think it’s a certain alchemy between them, related partly to their temperaments and to her parenting style. She’s more responsive than I am, and more likely to give him what he’s asking for – I don’t mean that she spoils him, but she’s more actively tuned in. I admit it. She spends time playing Lego Star Wars with him. Gah, I try, but I get so bored. I’m more businesslike, often trying to get (too many) things done, keep us moving along. I’m trying to be more aware of that and make time for unstructured play. 

And, Uno says that my anxiety contributes to this dynamic. Better said, that I’m hyper-aware and sensitive about Jaybird’s preferences. There’s truth to this. She IS right, a lot.

What of Starling? He’s less strong with his preferences than Jaybird was. He has a tight bond with my MIL, who watches him 3 hours/day, as well as with his nanny, and with Uno. That’s as it should be. He reaches for them plenty, seeks comfort or play from them, too. But if I’m around, he definitely has an eye on me. There’s that feeling of being the center of his world. I like it. Oh, man. That sounds egotistical. I bet you, though, that a lot of parents would cop to enjoying that feeling, now and again. If I stop nursing, will that connection go away? Obviously not, but secretly, I harbor that fear.

When I was struggling with Jaybird’s preference for Uno, it was painful. So I feel kind of like a jerk for being on this side of things. For enjoying it. Uno isn’t like me; she doesn’t mind. She takes both of their preferences as a matter of course, figuring that they’ll probably seek out bio-moms for comfort when they can, and that’s fine.

She’s unflappable, that wife of mine.

I better run. Point is: being the nursing mom comes with a lot of work, and also with a certain kind of privilege. I’m grappling with that reality. Like a lot of things about stepping into the bio-mom space.

Your Brother by Another Mother

Sibling, half-sibling, donor sibling, halfsie. Brother, half-brother. What’s in a name?

I have four younger siblings. The youngest has a different bio-dad than the rest of us. Once when he was about six, and we were walking to get ice cream, he said, “you’re just my half-sister, right?”

It floored me. I scrambled to tell him that it wasn’t true. Then I realized that it WAS true, of course, at one level, in that we have different genetics on the father’s side, and he was curious about that. I responded honestly – it’s not like we kept it secret. But I clarified that he was absolutely my “full” and “real” brother. We have never once used the qualifier “half” to describe our relationship with him, and we never would.

So. Our boys have the same donor, and different bio-moms. They share only half of their genetics. They are 100% brothers: we do not ever say “half-,” or god knows, “donor sibling.” I bristle when anyone expresses something about how “nice” it is that they’re “real” brothers. They’d be real brothers no matter what: they have the same parents, they’re being raised in the same household, as brothers. Obviously.

Let’s talk about donor siblings, though. That’s where things get a bit tricky.

I just got a newsy email from the the Donor Sibling Registry, and skimming it stirred up a lot of thoughts. I’m generally supportive of their work, which emphasizes transparency and better regulation of the gamete-donation industry, along with the rights of donor-conceived children to know about their genetic origins. Unlike some other organizations that purport to do this, the DSR seems genuinely celebratory of all kinds of families. There’s no scary right-wing agenda lurking beneath the surface. They are very firm in believing that it’s best for all donor-conceived kids to contact/meet/know their donor siblings and their donors. This might not sit well with everyone. Admittedly, it makes me a bit squirmy. After all, we chose to build our family in this way, and it can feel like there’s some sort of rebuke inherent in the transparency argument, like this was not the ideal thing to do, so now you’d better make up for it.

At the same time, I really, really, really want to see this from the point of view of the offspring. I grew up wondering about my biological father’s family; I knew who they were, but didn’t have contact. My closest cousin had no relationship with her birth father, who had never acknowledged her. Granted, these are very different scenarios, because they involve loss and pain and abandonment. Our boys were created purposefully, with great love; everyone involved, including the donor, I like to think, had the best of intentions.

Regardless, I think it’s natural to wonder about one’s genetics. I did, a lot. Thanks to social media, I’m in touch with some members of my father’s family now, and it satisfies a deep curiosity. I will never be close to my dad’s family, nor do I want to be, but I did want to know more about them. I think about this when I hear statements like, “IF the children want to know about their donor,” “when they’re older, IF they’re curious, we’ll look for donor siblings,” etc., because it seems almost certain that they’ll wonder. I don’t mean they’ll want to reject their family of origin! I just think they’ll be curious. And frankly, I don’t think that “love makes a family” is going to be a satisfying answer to adolescents in the throes of identity formation. That’s ok with me. My bond to my boys is unshakeable; I am not threatened by them exploring the donor side of the equation.

Well…maybe I’m just a WEE bit threatened, but I am doing my best to quell that, or at least, not let that get in their way.

Hence, our decision to reach out to other families who used the same donor. We are FB friends, and have met once in person with a few of them. Jaybird and Starling have 14 donor siblings that we know of, thanks to our bank’s private registry. We know the identities of about half that group. (This is because families can opt to post more or less info on the registry, and some have chosen to remain anonymous, which I totally get.) Those sweet-faced kiddos are technically their “half-siblings,” right? And in fact, they share as much genetic material with those relative strangers as they do with each other. Isn’t that weird? It’s weird to me.

I’ve noticed that the other moms in our little group use different language to refer to our kids’ relationship. A couple of them casually say “brother” or “sister,” while others are careful to say “donor sibling,” and one uses the term “halfsie.” Interestingly, all the sibs that we know are only children in their families. There is one exception: one of the single moms lives in the same city as one of the other single moms, and they loosely share parenting duties, though they live in separate houses. They refer to those two boys as “brothers.” I assume they chose the same donor intentionally.

I’ve also noticed, in the various donor sibling documentaries I’ve dug up, that donor-conceived teens and adults seem to like the term “brother” or “sister” instead of the other variations. I wonder if this is about identity: a way to stake a claim, to show investment. The featured teens, especially, have a defiant, fiercely loyal attitude about their donor sibling relationships. I can see that adolescence would engender this. Plus, some of these teens haven’t been raised with much info or transparency about their donor origins, and they’re understandably frustrated about that.

Our plan is to be honest about our choices, what we know about the donor, why we chose him, and that these siblings exist. My hope is that my boys will be able to talk to their donor sibs about the experience of being donor-conceived, and that they’ll find camaraderie there. What will their relationships look like, beyond that? I don’t know. They will determine that, eventually. For now, I just want to make sure the door is open.

That’s the idea. In practice, it can make me feel uncomfortable at times. I’m not sure how to navigate our relationships with these families. At this point it’s all via social media, pretty much.

What I didn’t expect is the level of affection I feel for the kids. I “know” them only via a constant stream of adorable photos and videos, but I just love them. I want to have them all over for cookies. I feel such a jolt of recognition when I see some of their expressions. There is quite a bit of resemblance between some of them, including our boys – Jaybird looks more like this one donor sibling than he does like Starling, for instance. They all seem to be confident, inquisitive, outgoing little people with a flair for the dramatic. They’re just so familiar to me, in a heart-squeezing sort of way.

Maybe that’s just because they have loving families who encourage them, though. I mean, how much is genetic? Who can say? Maybe I’m reading too much into the connection.

Beyond the kids, I like their parents. I feel close to some of them. We are similarly feminist, intellectual, witty, political, amused by and in love with our kids. (Yes, fine, I DID just describe 75% of the queer parent population.) But it goes beyond that – we share some definite career interests, educational experiences. A love of cooking, art. This is especially true with a couple of the families. I think we’d hang out, if we lived in the same city.

And, well …

One of the as-yet-anonymous families on the registry IS in our city. We know they have three kids, their genders and birth dates, and the first name of one of the parents. It’s an unusual first name, and thanks to Google, I’m 97% sure I know who this family is.

Oh, god, I know. I am SUCH a stalker. It’s terrible. Now I can’t un-know it! We aren’t friends IRL, but we do have friends in common, and they live in our area, and I can see the kids’ photos on FB and they look like the donor sibs, and are the same ages as what’s listed on the registry, including a set of twins – it’s just pretty obvious.

I’ve thought of sending a message to one of the moms. Then again, she’s chosen anonymity and I’ve gone and violated that, so maybe I should just keep my knowledge to myself. That’s what I’ve been doing.

How about all of you, dear readers? How do you name and navigate donor sibling relationships? Do you use the DSR, and what do you think of them? Do you think I’m super creepy for finding out who that family is? Wait, no, don’t answer that.

Recovery, Revival: Hello Again

It’s been a whole year since my last post. A year! I don’t believe it. I never intended to take such a long break, nor did I intend to let the blog die. I just … got caught up in other things.

2014 was hard. We bought a house, moved. We went from a family of three to a family of four. My mom had a complete breakdown and was hospitalized. I went back to teaching as an adjunct professor, with all of its attendant uncertainties. And money worries. I think tumultuous is the right adjective. Chaotic, maybe. Traumatic, maybe – not all of it, but the stuff with my mom, my difficult birth…

Then again, I hate saying “it was a hard year” because it gave us Starling. He’s such a light: a happy, chunky little guy who likes to be on the move. He has been an easy baby, really. Our boys had a good year, I think, I hope. Jaybird grew by leaps and bounds, turned the corner with potty training, learned to write his name, came to love Star Wars and gymnastics and puns. He’s spunky. Dramatic. Quick with a comeback. He’s in kindergarten, now! We worried about starting him in school because he’s still really short, and he has an August birthday, but we also knew he was ready. He needed the challenge. And it was the right decision. He’s thriving.

So much has happened. I would sometimes sit down to write here, and then feel overwhelmed about capturing all of it. Or any of it, perhaps. This has been my place to think about motherhood, and I have had a lot of occasion to do so, but it was hard to navigate or articulate. My mother’s illness, for one thing. She started decompensating – getting worse, and worse – towards the end of my pregnancy and through my birth and maternity leave. Just as my maternity leave was ending, she was institutionalized.

So, that really sucked.

I feel guilty that I was distracted by her illness during those precious early months with Starling. I wore him close to my body as I shuttled Mom to appointments and took her on walks in an attempt to rescue her from herself. At least he was always that – close to me, nestled against me or Uno.

Here we are, one year later. We’re on the other side. My new theme is self-care. I’m not very adept at it, but baby steps. I started therapy, finally, last fall, and I must say that it’s been amazing. I’m also gaining some traction and stability with career. Right now I’m working in a marketing job that pays well, which means I’m not constantly checking our accounts, and we can afford a nanny. Also, it’s easier than teaching. I’ve done more writing since I started there six months ago–my own writing, I mean. I published two essays, even! Uno’s job is more rewarding and easier, as time has passed and she’s been able to make the directorship her own. We have been working on mindfulness practices. Everybody is getting more sleep. Also, my mom was released last Christmas, and has steadily found the right balance of meds and providers. She’s back: her smile, her voice, herself.

Meanwhile, too, we have our brilliant little boys. Now, to be fair, there is a lot of shrieking. Things reach a fever-pitch on occasion, say at 8:15 in the morning when it’s time to get Jaybird out the door RIGHT NOW for school and he won’t eat and Starling only wants to be held and won’t stop screaming …

… but then, later, I get home from work, and they both run towards me as soon as I’m inside. Starling with his adorable, speedy waddle. I nurse him while Jaybird climbs on me, chattering on about Luke Skywalker. I squeeze them both over and over, relishing their laughter and their wild energy.

Yeah, they’re awesome. Two kids hasn’t been easy, necessarily, but Uno and I are pleased as punch that we went for it.

Well, there you have it. A recap of sorts! I plan to be back soon. (Office job). This has been a precious space, and still is.

Mama Day

Today was a Mama Day. Not a Professor Day, or a Writer Day, or a Wife Day, or a Daughter Day. It was a day full of my kiddos, and I am feeling it in a mostly pleasant, worn out-but-satisfied way. It’s good to remember that I don’t have to do ALL THE THINGS all the time – that I can focus on one aspect of my life and self and that can be plenty. I meant to grade papers. I meant to plan my upcoming workshop. I meant to do laundry. Welp, no. Instead I nursed Starling off and on all morning, between eating breakfast in small increments and doing minor, minor housework. I tickled him and squeezed his chubby limbs. I took both boys all the way to meet Uno for lunch. And then we went to the park and played for two hours. Jaybird got muddy and desperately tried to join in a game of freeze tag with Big Kids. It was heartbreakingly adorable. Amidst this, there were diaper changes, potty accidents (Jaybird…regression…), games of chase, and naps (Starling…in the carrier…). I managed to make dinner and roast the pumpkin seeds that Uno removed from the jack o’lantern she and Jaybird carved. I’m exhausted. But a good day.

Jaybird and I had so much fun. He was easy and companionable, chattering at me from the backseat and inviting me to play in his room. This is all it takes: me relaxing into the day, letting it flow, not worrying about my to-do list. Paying attention to him. No screen time, too. (He’s easier on days without it.) Starling, meanwhile, is pretty darn content as long as he can nurse when he wants to. Do not withhold the milk! That is the cardinal rule with him. Well, that and he needs to sleep enough. Kid is a cat napper extraordinaire – doesn’t stay with it, or in it, very long at any one time. Nonetheless, he’s easy. He’s asleep right now, having crashed hard at 6:30 p.m. A pretty good bedtime, I’d say.

Tomorrow I teach, and it’s a whole different self, but today: Mama. Even five years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to imagine this kind of day, how tiring but fulfilling it can be, alternately mundane and joyful. It’s funny to try and think back to that person, before Mama-hood. She seems so far away. She is, I suppose. She is.

Mama Date

Jaybird and I need a date. Much of our time together lately is with the baby, which means I’m often distracted or having to nurse or needing J to stop pulling on his brother’s face. Other times he’s mainly attended to by others: my wife or my brother- and mother-in-law, both of whom live with us, as you may recall. End result, he and I don’t get much quality time. We used to go on adventures together, taking city buses to the downtown library or just goofing off in the grocery store, and I miss it. Also, I want to put some good stuff in the bank with him. He’s been testing and I can get snippy, especially in the evening. He blithely chooses both Uno and – a bit more painful for me – my brother in law over me. I get it. BIL is way more fun, and Uno is Mommy, his lifelong love. Both of them have more energy for him lately, but they’re also just on Jaybird-duty more. Anyway. I try to get in on bedtime stories, which is cozy and sweet even though he initially doesn’t want me to do it over Uno.

I guess I’m a lot more matter-of-fact about his preferences now, especially since I know that love and favoritism aren’t the same. We love each other madly. But he does have a favorite parent. It’s okay. He’s little, and it’s not uncommon even in hetero families (Google confirms). Still, it can sting. I know the best antidote is time together. We need play time, special time. If I let myself get hurt about his preferences, then I’m putting the burden of affirmation on him, a four year old… So I’m thinking a lot about being proactive. I’m going to fend off the ouch I feel when he says he wants someone else.

Typing on my phone, and must go now to pick him up. Perhaps we’ll go for burgers even though I do have Starling, who needs a nap. Or hmmm…ice cream later? A little bribe is ok, right? Er, not to be all Disneyland Dad about it.

Oh this parenting thing. Heart on the line, much of the time.