Thursday, January 28, 2010

Glad you asked

It is a really fascinating experience to share that we have just had a baby, because for many people, this news is wonderful, yet a bit confusing. I mean look at us. We are two women. How did we do this?

Our close friends and family of course know exactly what process we went through to have our sons, but others who are not so close, often ask the best questions. Not malicious questions, just curious.

For example, “who’s the father?” Once we explain that the boys have no father but two mothers, often we see the "blank look" so sometimes we share a bit more about how we used donor to conceive our children. Oh no. More wheels figuratively spinning around in people’s head trying to figure out what that really means. And I just know that there are those who end up thinking “well they must have just called up one of those cryobanks and said “hey, send us whatever you got there—any donor will do!” Well that or even more outlandish ideas. How can I say this? Um NO!

I can’t imagine what else goes on in their confused little heads so sometimes a little more information is in order.

Here is an excerpt from an e-mail I sent to a friend last year who really truly wanted to understand how our family came to be. He encouraged me to share this with others as he found it fascinating, so I’ve decided that now is as good a time as any to share it. Enjoy!

“…Anyway, your questions about our donor are no problem at all. Someday I'll probably even do a post about it because I think it's interesting to others as well. When Su and I first talked about having children, we both were very much leaning towards adopting a child. We'd both worked in Latin America and knew others who'd adopted kids from Guatemala so that seemed sort of logical to us. We signed up for a class at a clinic here in DC called Whitman Walker. The class was called “Maybe Baby” and is for gay people who are trying to learn all about the many options to have a family.

It was one night a week for about 8 weeks and we learned about adoption, alternative insemination, known donor, unknown donors, legal stuff etc... It was fascinating and as a wonderful aside we made some great friends who we are still close to.

By the time we finished the course we both ended up agreeing that there was no reason we couldn't try to have a baby using a donor. Susanne had always figured she'd have children one day—I never did have the “biological clock” thing and also since I’m a lot older than Susanne, she was the logical one to carry any baby we’d try to have. So, we arranged for some medical screening of hormone levels etc... and she was deemed super healthy by the reproductive endrocronologist we went to.

So...then the big decision became whether we would ask someone we knew to donate semen or select an anonymous donor who we'd never know or meet. We both have some awesome male friends who we could have asked, but after much introspection, we feared that any known donor we could choose would, of course, feel connected to our baby. And that was something that was not okay with either of us. Any child she gave birth to would be our baby-no one elses. So we started exploring the various cryobanks around the US.

On those sites you basically can search for donors who fit whatever profile you want. Hair color, ethnicity etc. Then for free you can read a short profile of the person and read a short paragraph they wrote in response to a question like "why did you decide to become a donor." You get to see a lot of details about their age, eye color, blood type etc... on this short profile. It was very interesting how easy it was to kick potential donors out of the mix because they couldn't write well (not that I'm so great a writer but that's not the point.)

Anyway, we decided to select someone with qualities similar to me so our baby would sort of look like both of our sides of the family. We narrowed it down to two and then picked the one that we both agreed seemed "right". We only had a number to identify our donor by.

Then we paid about $15.00 for a long profile with not only his full medical history and school history including GPA and other standardized test scores (like GMAT.) It included his and his entire immediate family's medical history which was great and it turned out they were a very healthy bunch! We then had the option to buy a picture of our donor as a toddler. We didn't do that right away, but later did. He's adorable, and that mop of hair you see on Danny's head? It's the exact same hair except for the color. (You can’t get a picture of an anonymous donor as an adult. This prevents walking down the street and seeing some guy and going “Dude!”)

We also purchased an audio profile of our donor being interviewed. He sounds like a really nice happy person and our plan is to share with Danny everything we have on the donor.

It’s termed “anonymous” because the donor does not want to be found later. One of the best questions we get asked is “what if you kid grows up and dates someone who it turns out is a progeny of that donor?” (They don’t ask it quite like that, but that is what they mean.) Well, the odds of that seem pretty darn small, but I tell them that we purposely chose to use a cryobank from a different state to reduce that possibility. I’m guessing statistically that the odds of that “dating scenario” happening would actually be much higher in an insular small town than in our situation, but who knows? As a friend once told me “mama’s baby, daddy’s maybe. ;-)

We definitely know that we want our children (if we are blessed with another child) to be a full sibling to Danny so when Su was pregnant with Danny we purchased extra vials of "our donor" and put them on ice so to speak (in a facility designed for such a thing.)

There are several way to conceive. “In vitro” is what everyone thinks of which is when the egg and sperm get together in a dish and are then implanted in the woman’s body. This is a method most often used when there are severe fertility problems. We didn’t have a fertility problem. We had a lack of sperm problem until working with the cryobank. So with a doctor’s assistance, the semen we chose was inserted into Su’s uterus at the exact right time during her cycle. It took lots of timing and tracking, and it did not work every time we tried. But when it did work, wahoo!

I wrote all of this before Benjamin was even conceived. Wow! Now we have TWO gorgeous sons!

It's kind of funny that we sort of say we "adopted some sperm" to have Danny and Benji.We know that they have half siblings somewhere out there but are not interested in trying to meet other families on what are called voluntary sibling registries. Perhaps the boys will want to do that when they get older. Totally their call.

Alrighty then. Just felt in the mood to share. –Monica

P.S. I am very grateful to our donor for becoming a donor. Yes, they are paid to do so, but go through very rigorous testing and it can’t be that fun. I just can't imagine my life without my two amazing sons, so again, grateful is the word when I think of most when I think about this.

Our house--early this morning

Danny picks up the remote while watching Sesame Street.

Mama: "Are you going to change the channel?"

D: "Yes, I news."

M: "You're going to watch the news?"

D: "Yes, I love news."


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Wake me up when the photo shoot is over okay mom?

Our Ben doing what he does best. Relaxing. Ahhhhhh.....

One day Danny will look at this in disbelief

Yes it's true number one son. You fit perfectly on our first step. You are precious. -Mommy

On the home front

Well, I'm back from visiting my mom in MN. It's been a week today since she fell. She ended up with a partial hip replacement (which I think means the whole left side) and as of Saturday moved to a transitional care facility to do physical therapy so she can move around and remain independent. Unfortuately though she has continued to be plauged by nausea, even now after she is off the stronger painkillers. Until she can stay nourished she can't really begin working hard on her PT and, or course she feels very tired and weak. I spent as much time with her in the hospital and the transitional care place as I could, but of course now I am home, thousands of miles away.

It is a great help that my siblings are there--particularly my sister who is a public health nurse who works a lot with families with relatives needing care like mom does. She is a great advocate. I can call and talk to mom, but she tires really quickly and I don't want to bother her. As you can tell, I find it all frustrating and worrisome.

She asked a lot about Danny and Benji when I was with her which was nice. Nothing like little kids to lighten things up right.

For example, the next story I'll tell her will be about dinner last night.

Danny likes to say "not" instead of "don't want". (For instance he'll say "I not get dressed")

So last night as he and Su were both drinking milk with dinner, we moms thought we'd be clever and model the right way to say this.

Monica to Susanne -  "Honey, would you like more milk?"

Susanne -  "No, I don't want more milk"

Monica to Danny - "Sweetie, would you like milk?"

Danny to both moms - "I have milk" (followed by puzzled face then a big grin)

I'm sure you all could hear us both laughing from wherever in the world you read this blog. -Monica

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Post surgery

Well I'm relieved to report that according to my mom's surgeon, the surgery went "perfectly". I actually just got a call from one of my sisters and she was able to put mom on the line. It was scary to hear her sound so tired, but she says she feels fine, actually can't feel anything. This actually makes sense since she is still under sedation.

Of course all she wanted to do was ask about Danny and Benji and I promised I'd bring some new photos for her when I fly in to see her day after tomorrow.

Whew. I feel very relieved. She's not out of the woods yet, but she just cleared a very big tree. -Monica

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sleep well mom

Today I got the call from one of my sisters that on some level I've always dreaded. I knew right away that something was wrong, so even though she politely asked if it was a good time to talk, I immediately asked her what was wrong.

Mom had taken a fall and unfortunately broke her hip. She'd just finished a "joints in motion" swimming class (good for you mom!) but on her way out to her car in the icy parking lot she fell. She's still pretty surprised that she couldn't just get up after she fell. She remembers feeling a bit dizzy and wondered whether her blood sugars were low and reached out to rest a second on a car. Then she was on the ground. That's never a good thing, and particularly not when you are 78 years old.

Thankfully there were people outside who saw it happen and immediately came to help. This all happened at around 1 pm CST (she is in the Twin Cities). The plan as we understood it was for her to have surgery this evening, but it's been delayed because the on call surgeon got pulled into some other surgery.

So we wait til the morning. My brothers and sisters were with her most of the evening and are heading home now. She is getting continuous pain medication which gives me great comfort. Even better, it gives her great comfort.

So now we wait. I've already booked a flight to get home at the end of the week.

Sleep well tonight mom. Just sleep well. We love you. -all of us


Danny got a nice thank you card in the mail for a donation he/we made to Children's Hospital this year during Advent. But as you can see, his thank you card got into a scuffle with a mail sorting machine somewhere along the way.

Nice of the USPS to say they were sorry when it came delivered in the special plastic pouch, but ouch! Thank goodness it wasn't something of more value, like a check or something. But that being said this is probably the worst I've seen after receiving close to a million pieces of mail in my life. Not a bad percentage.

Oh no! Danny's only gotten something like 20 things in the mail in his life. That percentage just jumped mightily! :-)

Embiggen to read the "mea culpa". -M

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A whole month of Benjamin!

Caption this.

My vote goes for Ben thinking "Matching PJs. Oh horrors! They are making us wear matching PJs!"

You can actually have fun looking at about 20 or so pics of Benjamin's first month by clicking on "Benji's first month" slide show. He's growing like a weed--we think he's nearing the 10 pound mark (can you say "sleep through the night soon?)

Our Benjamin. He's a bit of a character so he fits in very nicely around here ;-)

Happy first month birthday baby. We love you! -Mommy and Mama

P.S. They are only in matching PJs cuz we got these cute outfits from a dear friends. We don't anticipate too much "matchy matchy" but we'll see ;-)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Who me? Worry?

Yesterday two year old Danny stealthily crept up on his tiny brother, toy screwdriver in hand. Fortunately I was not in the room or I would have had a heart attack. Susanne who was in the room, explained to me later how Danny gently laid the tool into the sleeping baby's hand.

This is a good sign right? -Monica

Thursday, January 14, 2010

He's electric!

Every year Danny's grandparents (and great grandfather) get a really cute homemade calendar featuring photos taken the previous year. So now that it's January, 2010, they get to enjoy a look back at Danny in January, 2009. Susanne made some very nice "collage" type images for our annual project, and I've decided it would be fun to post them periodically here too.

Come January 2011, you can expect to see little Benjamin too that's for sure. My mom thought the photo of Danny's hair like this was hysterical. "How'd you do it?" she asked. As I recall we didn't have to do anything. Static electricity just loves the boy ;-) -Monica

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

If you're thinking about helping with Haiti relief, do it now

Yesterday's earthquake in Haiti couldn't have happened in a worse place. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, and this quake hit only a few miles from Port-au-Prince--the country's capital.
In 1998, after Hurricane Mitch hit, I went to Nicaragua to help with disaster relief. It's heartbreaking to see the results of such devastation, but I learned something while I was there. That is, that everybody wants to help, but they don't know how. Boat loads of clothes and goods were shipped there, many of which were diverted from those who needed them most due to some pretty blatant corruption. And frankly, a lot of goods that people donated were not even needed or helpful.

If you want to help I recommend you donate money. Money that can be intelligently used to purchase goods and services there that will not only help people in need, but will help get the local economy back on track as quickly as possible. Here is a list posted in the NY Times today of organizations that will take donations that will be used immediately in Haiti. We just donated to the Red Cross. If you're thinking of helping please just do it right this second. Agencies can only plan based on what they have available to them. That's where we can all help by making a donation now.

Please keep the people of Haiti in your prayers. I can't imagine the pain, terror and anguish that tens of thousands of people are suffering this very moment. May God grant them peace. And help now. -Monica

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Working it

Apparently while I was gone from work for the last three weeks, the world continued to spin without me. Oh, I knew what was happening as it was spinning, as I couldn’t help but peek at my Blackberry from time to time, but I’m pretty proud of myself for staying out of things.

My plant at work however did not continue to spin too well without me. It’s a rubber tree plant and I know it will recover from its giant thirst but it is one unhappy plant right now. I know this because as I watered it this morning it sucked up water like the Little Shop of Horrors plant screamed “FEED ME! FEED ME NOW!” I probably should have mentioned the plant to my wonderful co-workers who most certainly would have taken care of things. But short of coming into my workspace you don’t really see it on the windowsill, so no one knew. I must admit I keep glancing over at it now. It seems, well, angry with me. Or maybe as it absorbs the water it perks up and moves ever so slightly. Damn my peripheral vision!

Danny was not happy at all to learn that I would be going out the door before him this morning. “No work Mommy, no work!” I actually sort of agreed with him, but that whole bringing home the bacon thing makes it sort of imperative. I also caused great anguish for the child by breaking his Kashi waffle in half at breakfast. It was one of those days. Not as bad as the time when he wanted a sponge to wipe his new play kitchen down with, and I (horrors) wet it before giving it to him. He was very unhappy and it was near impossible to explain that it's not really possible to just "unwet" a sponge.

I am happy to cut him some slack though. He’s been though a big transition in the past few weeks. Case in point. Su’s mom drove to our house from South Carolina the day the baby was born (Dec. 17th), and was with us until around New Years. In the meanwhile we’d returned from the hospital with the baby. So the day Nana drove off, Su and Danny and I went outside to wave goodbye as she drove off, Danny very happily called out “Bye bye Nana. Bye bye Baby”. Yup. He thought she was taking the interloper with her. When we explained to him that the baby was staying he was not pleased. Not pleased at all.

But he’s coming around. Last night he laid on the couch with Benji and actually coached him on how to get his thumb into his mouth. Much giggling ensued and it was great fun to watch.

Alrighty then. I have to get back to my long list of things to do. Before my rubber tree plant scares me again! -Monica

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Wish I could stay home longer...

Darn it! Come Monday I'll be back to work which had me feeling a bit bummed. I've really enjoy this time at home for a few weeks with Benji just like I did with Danny two years ago. It's been restful and actually pretty productive. The baby has spent most of his time blissfully sleeping or nursing so we've had plenty of time to reorganized some spaces, go out shopping and still have plenty of time for cuddling.

I will say that being able to take Danny to Jenni's most days, just like he is used to, has been a blessing. God love him, but he is a bundle of energy and it works out very well for him to play his little buddies Oscar and Miles rather than bouncing off our our walls (and infant) all day. We really feel like we've been able to have a mellow and sweet time with Benjamin this first few weeks. Very nice. And, we are also really excited that my mom and brother will fly in for a short visit tomorrow.That will be a nice way to end my "vacation".

Benji is growing wonderfully and weighs around 8 1/2 lbs now. He still reminds us very much of Danny as an infant, although he is bigger. His pediatrician commented the other day that he seems very long limbed which doesn't surprise us, and even though his feet are not fat, the are so long that they are the exact same length as our friend Stacy's five month old daughter. Yikes! Danny, always been described as "long and lean" by the docs, and we suspect that Ben will be even taller as he gets bigger.

What else can I tell you about Benji? He is quite strong. He loves to have his hands up around his face and although swaddling worked quite well with his brother at this stage, Benjamin will have nothing to do with it.  Like his brother, he really prefers the over the shoulder carry as opposed to any other mode of transport and comforting. If you add some nice firm pats on the back he is in heaven.  He does however, have a bit of a "witching hour" in the evening where he just loves to cry no matter how you try to comfort him.

He is just a day shy of 3 weeks old so the only smiles we've seen have been courtesy of some gas in his belly, but we expect to see some real smiles soon. He is very engaged (when he is awake) and checks out everything with his piercing blue eyes. Danny's were also blue as an infant but they changed to brown so we would not be surprised to see the same with Benji. He has darker and wavier hair than his brother which is really cute.

Alrighty then, back to enjoying a few more days of relaxation with Su and the baby. She'll be able to stay home with him for several months for which we are very grateful. (She is so lucky!)

Anyway, I'll end with a pic of Danny singing a lullabye to his "bruder". VERY LOUDLY as you can see! (His godfather Luis gave him this guitar for Christmas and he has become a bit of a rock star 'round here.) -Monica

Monday, January 04, 2010


"Yes! I've finally found my right thumb mom, but something seems to be wrong with this left eye now."

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year!

Hope 2010 is the best year ever. For everyone. -Monica