Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The power of poop.

One of the things that perpetually amazes new parents is just how much their lives can be affected by their children's pee and poop. As adults, we take these biological processes for granted. If we're lucky, we don't have to think too much about it all. But you get a group of moms with young kids together often enough, and eventually they'll be sharing information about their children's "habits." You know, frequency. Color. Consistency (both the "regularity" and the "what texture" types of consistency). It's quite lovely.

So in the interest of honoring such an age-old tradition (heh), I'll share with you what's going on with Zoodle.

A few months back, I blogged about a very expensive trip Zoodle took to the ER, in which we found out he was constipated. It was a pricey way to get inside information on my kid's bowels. The diagnosis surprised me, because he was pooping pretty regularly. But he'd gotten "backed up" and we were instructed to give him Miralax. (We got a generic version.) I used it for about a week, and he seemed to get "cleaned out."

Fast forward to this week. Zoodle has been needing to pee frequently, but is often unable to. I was afraid he had a urinary tract infection, so I took him to the pediatrician today.

His urine was clear, but she said he's probably still constipated, even though, as before, he's been going fairly regularly. However, he's been putting it off until it's really urgent. She explained that the poop can get stuck up in the small intestine in little clumps. Softer stools can still come out, but the child can still be backed up. The intestine can even swell, pushing on the bladder, making him feel like he needs to pee, even when he doesn't.

Wow. So the pee problem was related to the poop problem. The doctor suggested that we give him Miralax daily for six months. The bottle says to only use it for seven days, which is why I stopped giving it to him when he seemed to be better last time. But she explained that the warning is there to make sure that people don't cover up a bigger problem by taking a laxative each day. Zoodle has already had the constipation diagnosis (confirmed by x-ray), so it's fine for him to take the medication for a longer time, to make sure he gets cleaned out and the intestines recover.

The moral of the story? Kids can be constipated even when they're pooping regularly. Even when their poop is soft. And the urgent need to pee isn't always a bladder issue.

I know this post should have a big, red, blinking "TOO MUCH INFORMATION!!!" warning on it. But I'm hoping it'll help some other parents. Because I know if you have little kids, you're aware of the power of poop.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Q & A...Carrying a friend's child

If you missed my post on Saturday, you'll want to read it before you read this one! Here it is: A Big Announcement.

I really appreciate those of you who submitted questions! I have answers for you! (I did reword some of the questions.)


Q. Will it be hard to carry a baby for nine months and then give it away?
A. This is the most common concern I hear! What's most important to realize is that from Day One, I've known this is not my child. That creates an entirely different mindset. (Honestly, at this point it's much harder for Ann than for me. She would really love to be carrying her own child!)

Think of it this way. If my own infant lived with me for nine months and then was taken away, it would be devastating. But let's say a friend (who works full-time) and her newborn come live with me for nine months. I take on a majority of the childcare for those nine months until my friend moves away, as planned. I would miss that baby! But I wouldn't want to keep it. It was never mine.

So I don't anticipate wanting to keep the baby--it's my best friend's baby, biologically and legally! I do anticipate I will miss the baby, after having it growing inside me for so long. Add in postpartum hormones, and I expect it to be an emotional time. But I don't think it will be devastating--just challenging! Mixed in with those challenges will be the joy of seeing that child often, and getting to know it--not as mother, but as auntie!

In order to be approved as a gestational carrier, I had to meet with psychologists and do psychological testing. (The Engineer, Ann, her husband, and I all met with the psychologist together too.) It feels good to know that, while there are inherent challenges in this type of situation, I've been "approved" as the type of person who handles those challenges well!

It also helps tremendously that Ann and I are considering this a "shared pregnancy." We see each other often. She comes to appointments with me. We've found other ways for her to feel connected to the baby and the pregnancy. There are frequent reminders that I am not this baby's mother! I'm just providing it with a place to stay for 9 months. (And the name "Beth" means "House" in Hebrew, so...maybe this is a role I was always meant to play!)

Q. Have you spoken to other gestational carriers about their experiences, unique things to expect as a carrier, emotional ups and downs, etc.?
A. I haven't. There are online message boards for carriers, but I think this is such an individual experience--what I struggle with will be different than what others struggle with. I didn't want to create problems in my head--I really want to stay positive! However, at the psychologist's office, we had an opportunity to discuss potential issues that many carriers and parents encounter. The psychologist who met with all four of us specializes in these situations, so she had great advice.

Q. How do your husband and kids feel about it?
A. The Engineer thinks it's great! When I first brought it up, he was open to the idea but needed time to adjust to it. Eventually he got used to the idea and saw it as a positive, a cool gift I could give to our friends. When the psychologist asked him if he would have trouble giving me emotional support through a pregnancy when it wasn't his child, his response was, "No, she's still my wife!" I loved that--and he has really been a great support to me!

The kids understand it and are excited about the process of pregnancy. They like to see pictures and diagrams of embryos online. They are young enough that they probably don't realize how unique this situation is, and they just "roll with it"! Sunday, Zoodle was talking to some friends of ours, and said, "Mommy has a baby in her tummy. But it's not our baby; it's Coqui and Peanut's [Ann's other kids'] baby. Their mommy couldn't have a baby because she doesn't have a uterus because her uterus got sick." (He's 3 1/2 years old!)

Q. Are you planning a natural birth again? Is there anything unique with how doctors/nurses/midwives will handle your situation?
A. I absolutely want to do another natural childbirth (maybe another waterbirth) at the same birthing center where Zoodle was born. We haven't met with the midwives yet, but I expect them to be very supportive.

Q. Is it/will it be weird having to explain to acquaintances and people you see around town? Do you expect criticism from people who just do not understand, and what will you say to them?
A. It can be a "different" thing to explain, but people love us and have been so supportive! And a large number of my friends are also Ann's friends, so they were already used to the idea since she's been through this process before. As for strangers who make comments when my belly is bigger, I'll just have to figure out what I want to say and when. When someone says to my kids, "Wow, you're going to have a brother or sister!" do I just smile, or briefly explain? (The kids may take care of it for me!) I'll figure it out as I go.

As for criticism, I think the best thing to do is just to briefly educate people on the facts (e.g., this baby belongs to its parents biologically and legally), and stay positive. This process is an awesome thing to be involved in, and I want people to know that--it's not just a blessing for Ann's family; it's a blessing for me too.

Q. Are there legally binding forms you sign going into this that automatically name Ann and her husband as the biological parents when the baby is born?
A. Yes; we have a long contract that covers everything from Ann and her husband's legal parentage of the baby, to my responsibility to follow doctors'/midwives' orders, to the fact that I have no right to name the baby. (I thought that clause was pretty funny!) We worked with lawyers who specialize in these situations. The baby will legally belong to Ann and her husband at birth!

Q. Will you provide breastmilk for the baby?
A. At this point I am not planning to. It's important to me that I be able to emotionally transition from the role of the baby's "temporary home" to the role of the baby's "auntie." Providing pumped milk would, to me, feel like a "mother" task, and it's very important to me that my mind and body remember that Ann is 100% this baby's mother! I'll be adjusting to the baby's absence, and I think that purposefully continuing to lactate would make that adjustment more difficult for me.


I think this is such a cool process, but it's definitely not one that many people are familiar with. I want the people around us to understand it, and I hope the Q&A helped with that!

When I talk to a woman about this situation, she automatically wonders how she'd handle being a carrier. What a lot of women don't think about is what it's like to be a mother who needs to partner with another woman to bear her child. This is really a unique experience for Ann, complete with its own challenges and joys.

Ann has offered to do her own Q&A! If you have questions for her, please post them here as a comment, or email me at cbethblog@gmail.com. I really appreciate her openness! The more we can share, the more people can get used to--and celebrate--the creative ways that God grows families!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A BIG announcement (and a blonde joke)

Remember back in the '90s when blonde jokes were all the rage? I felt totally justified telling them, because at the time, my hair was dirty blonde. (It got darker as I got older...uh, I mean wiser.) Plus, I knew I had plenty of my own ditzy moments, so I could relate to the jokes! Anyway, there was one joke that I thought was so funny. (And if you have blonde hair, don't take this personally, okay?)

Q: What's the first thing a blonde asks the doctor when he tells her she's pregnant?
A: "Is it mine?"

Well, here's my big announcement...

I'm pregnant.

And it's not mine.

I know, I know...I've got a lot of explainin' to do!

So, remember my beautiful best friend Ann? The one who has filled such an important spot in my life? Well, Ann is a cancer survivor.


When she found out she had cancer over four years ago, Ann and her husband had a son, "Coqui," who is just a little younger than Chickie. They definitely wanted more children.

Unfortunately, the surgery that removed Ann's cancer (completely--yay!) also left her unable to be pregnant. But her doctor gave her hope--if they could find someone who wanted to be a gestational carrier for them (a more accurate term than "surrogate" for a woman who carries someone else's biological child), then they could have more children--children that were biologically theirs.

Ann and her husband let people know what they were looking for, and her husband's cousin quickly volunteered to be their carrier. In a lab, embryos were created with Ann's eggs and her husband's sperm, and one of them was transferred to their carrier. She became pregnant, and now Ann and her husband have a vivacious little two-year-old daughter, "Peanut."

But there was one embryo left, which was carefully frozen and stored for almost three years. Recently, this tiny little embryo was thawed and placed in my womb. We waited the requisite time for a blood test...and it came back positive! It's official.... I'm pregnant with Ann and her husband's third child! It's pretty ideal--The Engineer and I feel that our family is beautifully complete, and Ann and her husband feel that with one more, their family will be just right. They had an embryo that needed a place to grow; I have a uterus and enjoy pregnancy and childbirth. A great fit, right?

I'll be eight weeks pregnant tomorrow (Sunday, 11/20). We had the pleasure of seeing the perfect little baby on a sonogram this week, with its heart beating at a perfect pace. What a miracle! It will be so beautiful to see Ann and her husband meet their little one in person around July 1 of next year! And I know that child will be so special to me--I'm looking forward to being an honorary auntie!

So, I know this is a lot to take in. Most of us haven't ever known anyone who has been a gestational carrier. I know you probably have some questions, so I invite you to ask them here. You can ask anything--and I'll answer it, as long as I feel comfortable disclosing the information!

This is such a wonderful, beautiful, exciting, and unique experience. It's something I started considering when Ann and her husband were first looking for a carrier, over three years ago! I knew it would be so rewarding and I am deeply blessed and happy that it has worked out. What a huge privilege, to provide a temporary home to a baby who will then have the blessing of joining its wonderful family--a family who is so special to me. Wow--it's pretty awesome!

Ann and I see God's fingerprints all over this. He gave life to those little embryos and is protecting them...two-year-old Peanut, and her tiny sister or brother who's growing perfectly and getting bigger by the day. He gives me the desire to do this, and the excitement for it! He instills faith in Ann and her husband, so they can entrust me with their child for nine months. And we look forward to seeing His amazing creative miracle when this child is born! God is the One behind this--we want Him to have the glory!

Thanks for sharing in our excitement!

(Oh, and I hope to be blogging more often now. My mind has been so distracted by this exciting process and by early pregnancy that I haven't been on Twitter, Facebook, or my blog as often! Now that I am sharing this with my online community, I hope to be talking to you all more frequently!)

Bring on those questions...! (Don't be afraid to ask them!)

You can read Ann's announcement post here.

Edited to add: You can read my first Q& A post here--the answers to your questions may be there, but if not, ask away!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Isn't my kid so cute and amazing?!

I just thought I'd go ahead and give the post that title--because let's be honest, that's what mommy brag posts should be titled, right? (The alternate title could be "Please don't be TOO annoyed as I post photos that I find incredibly cute because I'm incredibly biased.)

But, hey, I do think Chickie is cute and amazing, and my biased heart loves this little book she made, on her own, at home the other day.

Title Page
I like, by Chickie

Page 1
I like eating

Page 2
I like looking

Page 3
I like playing

The phonetic spelling, the sappy-sweet smiley faces, the tails on her D'Nealian letters.... Only one thing I can say about that...

I like Chickie!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Why I like YELLOW

Chickie's kindergarten class uses a color system for discipline.

GREEN: Well-behaved. (Everyone starts on green.)
YELLOW: Warning.
ORANGE: Sit out from 10 minutes of a "special" (like P.E. or music.)
BLUE: Sit out from a special, and teacher calls parents.
WHITE: Referral to assistant principal.

When students misbehave to the point that they need to progress on the discipline scale, they have to move their own "clips" (clothespins) to the next spot on a color-coded bar in the classroom.

Chickie usually stays on green. When she does, she gets a reward--she can ride her scooter to school the next day (instead of walking.) About once a week, however, she gets in the car at the end of the day and says,

"Mommy, I had to move to yellow."

We talk about what happened. It's small stuff, such as playing at a time when she's supposed to be learning. She hasn't had to move beyond yellow, and so far, just the disappointment of moving her clip has been enough consequence for her. I don't give her more consequences at home. I'm thrilled that she's so open with me about school, even when she misbehaves.

And you know what? I'm kind of glad she's not on green every single day.

You see, I was a very compliant, very "good" kid. But I know what I had to go through internally to be that "good." I was a perfectionist. I feared failure. When I very, very occasionally misbehaved enough that my name was written on the board (the 1980s version of "moving to yellow"), I was so nervous the rest of the day--so worried I'd get a checkmark by my name and get a real consequence, like detention.

My good behavior was somewhat motivated by the desire to do the right thing, and that's great. But my good behavior was also motivated by fear. Doing something wrong made me feel so guilty and so anxious. I didn't want to go through that. I also feared doing something to displease the teacher.

Yes, I want my children to make good choices. But I also want them to be kids. I want them to make mistakes, and to learn from those mistakes, and then to go out and make a few more. When they learn to behave better, I want it to be because they've realized life really works better when you do the right thing--not because they're afraid of doing something wrong.

I'm glad Chickie's clip usually stays on green. And don't tell her this...but I'm also glad she occasionally has to move it to yellow--and that she still realizes how wonderful she is, at any color.