Our daughter’s relationship with our donor

On the weekend we went to our donor’s youngest daughter’s first birthday party. We knew that by choosing a close friend as a sperm donor we’d need to be OK with seeing a lot of each other; there was always a risk that once our baby was born we’d feel awkward about it and it would have a negative impact on our friendship. But we certainly didn’t anticipate that having him as our donor would make us closer as friends, and would see us spending more time together as families. I think this is a sign that our donor arrangement has gone really well.

At this birthday party, our donor took the time to play with Avery. He really engaged with her. It made me contemplate all the fears and trepidation we had while we worked out our donor contract. I used to worry a lot about people (either our donor, society, or even Avery herself) seeing him as a “father figure.”

But now, after watching them interact and knowing from the past 18 months of experience that there’s no awkwardness or selfish intentions, I want to see their relationship grow.

I feel a desire to be crystal clear about language here, though. We still don’t see him as a father figure, and we still don’t refer to him as a “biological father”. I don’t think he would, either. We refer to him as our donor, and we describe his role as the person who donated sperm to us so WE (my wife and I) could have a baby. Any special relationship that blossoms between them doesn’t have to change that language.

But a blossoming relationship seems kind of nice to me now, whereas before it was a bit terrifying. I like the idea of him caring about her. I like the idea of her knowing, and hopefully even liking, the person who contributed to her genetic makeup. She can look for bits and pieces of herself in him, if she chooses to. (She can also look for parts of herself in my wife, because genetics only takes you so far in making you who you are). I like that if she has questions about her genetic heritage, she can just call him up and ask.

This comfort with, and even preference for, a relationship between our daughter and her donor has taken me by surprise. I guess there’s really no way to predict what your kid’s relationship will look like with a known donor, or donor-siblings. I’m so thankful that ours seems to be better than we expected, when it could have gone the other way almost just as easily.

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An update on sleep

I’ve kind of settled into this life of little sleep. It has been 9 months and 1 week since I slept through the night. No, that’s not true. There was a while there when Avery was 5-6 months old that I demanded we bed share because the dreaded 4 month sleep regression had destroyed any possibility of putting my baby down, anywhere, without my body next to hers. During those weeks I slept a lot more back-to-back hours, but she was also waking up for the day at 4:30am. 
Here’s where we are now, at 9 months and 1 week, in a nutshell. 

7/7:30pm. Bedtime routine, then I nurse her to sleep (with a lullaby) on the floor of her room, on her crib mattress. 

8:30-9:30pm. At her first wake up of the night, about an hour to two hours later, I lift her mattress into her crib with one hand while holding her and Benny (her chosen Lovie) in the other, and I nurse her back to sleep in the chair before putting her down in the crib. 

We start the night on the floor because she is a lot more sensitive to wake ups early in the evening. By the time she has been sleeping for an hour or two, her wake ups are a lot quicker to manage and she settles in the crib a lot easier. I feed her at her first wake up even if it’s only an hour later because she wants it. It seems like her body wants to stock up for the night ahead. 

So by around 9:30-10 I am done my shift, and I am free to go to sleep (free does not equal able). My wife handles most wake ups from 10 – 1 by rocking. These wake ups are usually easy to deal with. She wakes crying but it’s only a couple of minutes of reassuring snuggles before she’ll stay asleep for the crib transfer. 

Of course, every time she wakes for my wife, usually 1 to 3 times between 10pm and 1am, I wake up. Occasionally my wife calls me in because Avery tries to nurse on my wife’s shoulder and we offer her milk. It’s usually just that she wants me to hold her, though. 

At 1:30am she wakes for milk. 

At 2:30am she wakes and I try rocking her but my legs are too weak from the tiredness and I feel nauseous and I have to sit. She is asleep on me and I fall asleep before I can get back up to put her in the crib. 

3:30am rolls around and she wakes again, this time in my arms in the chair. Oh fuck, I’m still in the chair. I rock her and put her in the crib and go back to bed where I find the cats have stolen my side of the bed and I am too tired to move them so I teeter on the edge of the bed, usually with no blankets. It’s so silly what the sleepy brain makes you do. Why can’t I think to just move them? 

4:30am she wakes and I waste no time bringing her into our bed with me for the best 1.5 hours of sleep I will have all night. I lock the cats out of the room so they won’t wake her by begging for breakfast. She sleeps next to me until her natural wake up time of 6am. 

Ocassionally we get a 3 hour stretch that happens totally out of the blue, always in the very middle of the night. The other night she slept from 11:30pm until 3:30am. 

I try to really pay attention to the progress we’ve made rather than focusing on how far we have yet to go. Although she still wakes a lot, there was a time when we COULD NOT put her down in the crib. No matter how long she had been sleeping for in our arms, a transfer would lead to SCREAMING. Now she responds well to crib transfers most of the time, and even pushes off of us at least once a night asking to be put down while still awake. On these rare but hopeful occasions, she rolls over and goes to sleep with a light back rub. That’s amazing progress. 

Although I would still love to bring back bed sharing, I’m kind of sneakily integrating bedsharing into the 4:30am wakeup when I’m just too tired to be up with her. That’s good enough for me right now. It’s nice to have our bed to ourselves for the first half of the night so we can watch tv and talk (and even have sex, TWICE, for the first time since part way through my pregnancy).  

I can see her growing up before my very eyes, and I can see her sleep abilities maturing, if I look really, really closely. Or rather, if I look at the big picture. I’m confident that another sleep update post a few months from now will look even better. 

3 Things on a Wednesday 

  1. We were all sick, all weekend. My wife took a sick day on Monday and it allowed me to take 20 minutes to get some garden weeding done and another 20 minutes to have a BATH!! (it has been so long since I’ve soaked…). But it’s true what they say, mothers don’t get a sick day. My wife is a mother too, of course, but being a salaried, Mon-Fri employee means she’s entitled to actual sick days. I see it from both sides – fair, because she has to rest up to be able to function to earn a salary, but fucked up because I have to function to keep a tiny human alive 24/7. Oh, modern family dynamics, how isolating and unrealistic you are. Despite the fact that I don’t like people that much, I sometimes wish we were raising this baby in a commune of hippy women. 
  2. Avery has been chatting up a storm, mixing consonants and playing with new sounds. My favourite is “Gah”, which we are trying to associate with “cat” (that would so be our child to say “cat” as her first word), and “Fuh” which kind of sounds like she’s trying to swear. Interestingly she has said “dada” a bunch of times, but she hasn’t yet been exposed to that as a word, so it’s just a random connection of sounds for her. 
  3. We are re-assessing our sleep plan. WTF else is new. My wife and I have struggled to get on the same page about infant sleep from the beginning, and I have avoided having conversations about it because I don’t want to have to face doing something outside of my instincts. I’m an attachment parent, turns out. Never would have expected it of myself. My wife’s philosophy is to let her know that we will always be there for her if she needs us (so no CIO, thank god), but to also show her that she doesn’t need us (so let her figure out how to get herself to sleep through lots of picking up briefly and putting back down). I like this philosophy, in theory, but it makes me sad to put it into practice. It might be more an emotional barrier on my part than an actual concern for Avery. I love sleeping next to her, feeling her breath, smelling her baby smell, and feeling needed. I love it so much that when we agreed to stop bed sharing at 6 months, I accepted my fate for the next [upwards of] 2.5 years as sleeping in her nursery chair with her in my arms. So now the plan is I won’t wait until I’ve nursed/rocked her for 20+ minutes before transferring her back to the crib (trying to ensure a deep sleep and sound-asleep transfer). It’ll be a pick up to comfort (the hand on her chest just aggravates her more now) and right back down once she is calm. My wife is also going to take over the first shift of wake ups that happen after we go to bed around 9:30/10 and I will start my shift around 1am so my wife can get some back-to-back hours of sleep before work. Evening wakeups are on me because that’s a big guzzling nursing time for her, like she’s trying to stock up for the night. 

On Photographing your Birth

I’ve written about this before in a post on regrets. I wanted a birth photographer, but in the end it was going to be too expensive to hire a professional and we didn’t know anyone I was comfortable enough letting into the delivery room (I’m weird that way… the closer someone is to me, the less comfortable I am showing them my vulnerability). We brought our nice camera to the hospital with us, but of course everyone in the room was too busy, you know, delivering a baby, to remember to snap pictures. There are 4 or 5 photos of all of us in the delivery room, and most of those have nip slips in them so I don’t even want to show them off.

I’m also a person who takes A. LOT. OF. PHOTOS. My wife teases me about it and asks why I can’t just settle for making a memory in my brain, rather than trying to capture everything in photos and live the actual experience from the other side of a lens. I take so many photos that both my laptop and my phone ran out of space after 6 months of having a baby. I was able to store some pictures in the cloud for a while, but then that too ran out of space. We finally bought a huge external hard drive and I’m now moving everything over to it (and forcing myself to pare down the photos I kept, from ~300 a month, to under 100 per month). 

In my photo sorting, I came across a folder from my nephew’s birth. My wife brought her fancy camera to that too, but this time was free to get creative and play the role of professional photographer. There are more photos of my nephew’s birth (actually the afternoon after he was born – we weren’t in the room for the gory stuff) than there are of Avery’s first 4 months combined (after paring down). There are beautiful shots of the clock on the wall, the contraction monitor, the little “it’s a boy” card, the baby with each and every one of his new extended family members, and about 50 of the new mom with baby, so she could pick the few that she looked best in.

I’m jealous. I’m disappointed for Avery’s sake that we didn’t plan to capture more of her special day. It only happens once in a person’s life, and the changes from that day forward are monumental, taking you away from the wrinkled, vernix-covered innocence to the round, chubby baby days in the blink of an eye. And birth itself is such an intense experience for the person birthing that photos would really help jog the memory when the dust settles and you find yourself wanting to reflect.

So if you are reading this and you are pregnant, I highly, highly, highly recommend having a birth photographer. Don’t lose out on the chance to capture those fleeting memories in all the raw, beautiful detail.

A Community of Families

I took Avery to campus with me this week to pick up some paperwork for my taxes, and I bumped into an old roommate. We hadn’t seen each other since before I married, although he knows my wife from when we were dating. He’s a really cool guy and I always wished we’d been able to maintain a friendship, but our lives just took us down different (but in many ways parallel) paths. 

In the 60 minute elevator ride we shared, he met Avery and was tickled to hear that I was still with the same woman and had had a child with her. He also shared that he had donated sperm to a lesbian couple in Toronto (neighbouring city), and they recently had the baby. It was such a cool connection that we suddenly shared. Even though he wasn’t OUR sperm donor, I feel like known sperm donors (and egg donors and surrogates) hold a special place in the community of LGBTQ families.

The sense of a common community of family building really hit home when he shared the name of the baby that this couple had – I instantly knew who he was talking about from the blog world. There are only so many two mom families in Toronto, narrowed down to those with a new baby, and finally pinpointed to one family with a baby with that name… 

Although I haven’t met any of the members of my LGBTQ Family blogging circle in real life, I am still struck by the sense of community that we share. I wonder if this is what it’s like for heterosexual couples in every day life – is the whole world their community? – or if the sense of common ground is lost in the masses. 

Avery’s 8th Month

Guys, Avery is 2/3rds of the way through her first year. I know how often new parents are warned, “it goes by so fast,” but holy hell, I think time is speeding up with every passing month. 
New This Month

         Mobility/Gross Motor

  • Crawling is on the horizon. She scoots forward and backward on her tummy. She gets up on all fours and sways. She spends more time voluntarily in Cobra position than on her bum now. 
  • She likes to hand her toys to us, she reaches into her toy basket and pulls out what she wants, and she shakes her shaker to the beat.
  • She gives HUGS. Heart melting, arms around you hugs. She’ll reach over and wrap her arms around us, lay her head on an arm or shoulder and gaze up at us with a smile. 

        Health

  • She has been teething on and off for the last 2 months, but no new teeth yet. Gums swell and white tooth tips poke through and then recede. 
  • Still battling eczema. Her body has been pretty much free and clear since 6 months, but her face and forearms were really bad (and constituted yet another trip to the doctor) through her entire 7th month. Now, with the help of a higher dose of corticosteroid (that we weren’t 100% comfortable with), her skin is usually a lot less inflamed. If we discontinue use of the higher dose of steroid, though, it flares right back up again. Not ideal, since it’s for temporary use only. 
  • First cold. It lasted 4 days and although there were some tough times to get through, she was super brave through the experience. 

         Nutrition/Baby-Led Weaning 

  • She drinks water from one of those 360° anti spill baby cups, just to wash down food when she eats lunch and dinner. She skipped the sippy cup with the spout – never did get the hang of it. 
  • Takes the bottle!!! We went 7 months dealing with her outright refusal to take the bottle, but we kept offering it (and kept having to dump pumped, expired milk down the drain  😢), and then one day she just guzzled a bottle down. Of course now we’re kind of outgrowing the bottle stage anyway… But it will be helpful for the two upcoming bedtimes Mo will have to do without me (because of evening work meetings…) 
  • She can eat most meals without getting food on the floor. Baby led weaning has done wonders on her pincher grasp. She’ll grab things like a single black bean and get it right in her mouth. And if we try to help her out with a spoonful she ignores it and prefers to feed herself. She eats everything we give her. 
  • We think she is starting to sign “milk.” we’ve been doing baby sign language from the start (about 4 months) and we’re eager to see when she’ll have the motor control to start doing signs herself. She doesn’t do the whole motion for milk, but she holds her fist out to us and seems very excited when I respond by letting her nurse. 

        Social

  • She and the cats are working their shit out. She grabbed a tail too tightly and the cat screeched at her, and Avery started to cry. Avery also cries if the one cat beats up the other cat, so I think she recognizes when a cat is being hurt or bothered and she doesn’t want that to happen. Since that interaction, she has been much more gentle. Still tries to grab them tightly if she gets too excited, but for the most part is happy to just watch them walk by. One cat even slept on her lap and she just smiled and sat quietly and enjoyed the moment.  
  • She has gotten over a lot of her stranger anxiety and separation anxiety (although I’m cautious about this one because I think it’s supposed to peak a lot later) and now lets almost anyone hold her if we give her fair warning. The only person she still seems to have a problem with is her 1 year old cousin… 

         Sleep

  • She sleeps in her crib at night now after spending most of this month sleeping with me on the floor mattress in her room. She sleeps for 1 to 3 hours at a time on her own now before waking and crying for me. 
  • Naps are good – predictable and easy (nurses to sleep and I do the ninja roll away, or bounces to sleep in the carrier). She has 3 naps a day: 8:30-9:30, 11:30-1:30, and 4-5. This was her naturally set schedule that we supported and nurtured, rather than enforced. We’re now getting her used to napping alone in her room using the old floor mattress trick. 
  • Yesterday she napped in her room for 2 hours while I got a  bunch of gardening done in the backyard with the baby monitor in my pocket. Definitely a first for that kind of independent nap in her room. 

        Likes

        • She still loves music class. She loves music and dancing outside of the class, too. When we dance around the house to oldies she kicks her legs to the beat, and when we clap for her, she slaps her knees to the beat. I really don’t care if she pursues music lessons as a kid or not, but she comes from a musical family and I know her grandparents in particular would love it if she continued to get enjoyment from it. 
        • Some of her favourite new foods this month have been: asparagus, trout, broccoli and meatloaf (omg she loved that meatloaf…). She’s a savoury girl. She makes a sour face at even the sweetest homemade apple sauce (which isn’t what I expected given that my pregnancy craving was lemons!). 
        • Thank god she loves sitting outside with us, just chilling in the back yard, playing with grass. She loves grass, and has already eaten some when I looked away. And some dirt. We’re going to be spending a lot of time in the back yard this summer what with building our chicken coop (and caring for chickens) and putting in a full garden this year that I didn’t have the energy for last year in my third trimester of pregnancy. 

        Dislikes

        • Sharing with her cousin. Although she’s happy to hand her toys over to her Mo and I, heaven forbid her 1 year old cousin tries to play with a toy she’s holding… One of the books we’re going to read in an upcoming parenting book club meeting is It’s ok not to share. I’m really curious about this book. I was always a terrible sharer (and still am… I’ll stab your hand with my fork if you think you’re sharing my food), but it’s important to me that Avery learn to share because I think it’s a part of being kind and compassionate to others. 
        • Bedtime. Her bedtime routine hasn’t changed, but now when she gets to the pyjama part of the routine she starts crying. Then she’s usually happy to brush her teeth, but cries wildly again when it’s time to settle in the dark. Maybe she really understands that it means sleep time now, and she is fighting sleep? 
        • Putting her arms through sleeves. I’m paranoid that she must have had her pinky bent back a few times and has built up this association with putting sleeves on. We can’t get a sweater on without tears. 
        • Sour things. She isn’t a big fan of kiwi or pineapple or off season berries that are sour. She’ll eat them (this girl never refuses food…), but she grimaces through it. Hopefully as we come into fresh spring berries in our back yard and at the market she’ll like them. 

          Phew, this was a big update! She is developing so much every day now that the changes from month to month seem huge. And now we’re seeing more personality developments and big mobility milestones, which is even more exciting than the earlier months (although first smile and laugh were pretty epic).  I can’t even fathom what I’ll be writing about her this time next month. The changes are so individual to her unique personality and developmental trajectory now. It just gets better and better…. 

          Separation Anxiety… In mama, not baby 

          I had a hair appointment yesterday. My wife stayed home with the baby so I could go and get an awesome new look and feel like a new me. It was supposed to be fun, relaxing, a happy escape for a couple of hours. But I was struck with separation anxiety about halfway through the dye job. 

          I haven’t been very successful at pumping lately. The only way to get more than a few drops (literally) is to pump first thing in the morning WHILE she nurses on the other side. I can usually get enough that way for a snack sized bottle that will hold her over. She’s used to nursing on demand every 2 hours or so throughout the day, so when I’m gone for more than 2 hours I at least want to have a snack sized bottle for her. But I didn’t get a chance to pump. I nursed her to sleep for her morning nap and then I left. 

          About an hour and a half into my appointment my stylist had only just finished putting foils in my hair. I have a lot of hair. And then 3.5 hours into my appointment, when I was getting a blow dry, she decided the colour hadn’t come out quite right and we had to use more toner. So back to the sink we went. And I hadn’t even gotten my cut yet. I was sitting in the chair fidgeting like crazy, looking at my phone every minute, wondering if my wife would even bother telling me if the baby NEEDED me and I needed to cut it short and come home. I would have run out of that place with foils in my hair if I’d gotten a message saying she was hungry. 

          But luckily, she wasn’t. She ate a yummy lunch of steamed carrots and zucchini and leftover ham, and she washed it down with some water out of her sippy cup. She went to the mall and my wife bought her some new summer outfits. When I finally got home (5 hours later…) she was passed out on my wife’s chest on the couch. 

          I didn’t need to worry. But I spent my time out of the house with elevated blood pressure, stress sweats, and an inability to stop worrying that my baby was starving without being able to breastfeed for 5 hours. 

          I think I’ll get better at being away from her as she starts to wean, and I know she really is getting the majority of her nutrition from food, and satisfies her thirst with efficient water drinking. It’s just a terrible feeling (and a recurring nightmare of mine) that she is hungry for milk and can’t access it for some reason. Mama bear instincts, or separation anxiety? 

          Anyway, here are some pics of the hair colour that caused all this emotion. When I got home we cuddled and played outside in the yard and it was magical.