When toddlers attack

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Training children

Ho ho.. yeah, whatever.
She wants the Trader Joe's cat-shaped ginger cookies, and without a word,  the clear plastic mini-tub joins a similar package of mini-chocolate chip cookies in the cart.

"No, honey," I say with strained patience.  "Today's not a day for that."

She is not amused.

"Okay, if you want the ginger cookies, you have to put the chocolate chip cookies back," I say.  You're supposed to give them choices.  The chocolate chip cookies stay; ginger cats go back on the shelf.

A few steps and, before I can intervene, she's grabbed a package of puff pastry twists.  Into the cart they go.

"Those are yucky," I say.  "They're not good for you."

She purses her lips.  I worry a tantrum may follow.  She looks at the new package of cookies and reaches for it.  Then she looks at the label on the front.

"It says no animal fats and no high fructose corn syrup," she reads.  "What's wrong with that?"

Shopping with your mother is like being out with a daughter who won't allow you to tell her "no."

We are what you might call a multi-generational household.  Adrián and I have lived with my mother since moving back to Los Angeles in 2007, at first out of housing-bubble-induced necessity, then out of a growing sense of horror at how the woman feeds herself.  The woman never met a saturated fat she didn't like, never turns down a processed food product, practically weeps if a meal doesn't include red meat.  We plan to break ground soon on an addition that will allow us to house three generations (four will have lived in it, since it was my grandparent's house when I was a kid) and let us reward my mom's hospitality by allowing her to babysit two squalling twins.

Say we make a tasty chicken stew with fresh vegetables from the back yard -- "nothing for me dear, I already ate," she says.  If we're lucky, she'll eat a few spoonfuls.  Or if we serve her a small bowl of Greek yogurt with honey and fresh berries for breakfast:  "I can't eat that much," she'll say, staring at the three tablespoons of yogurt and half-dozen raspberries.  But let us place before her a plate of cha siu pork at Sam Woo's Barbecue and she develops the appetite of a 300 pound man who hasn't eaten in a week.  I wonder how this woman ever encouraged my taste for fruits and vegetables.  Hell, sometimes I wonder how I survived to adulthood if this is how she fed me.

Incredibly, the woman is surprisingly healthy, in spite of what we hope was a brief encounter with breast cancer over the summer (she's fine, knock wood).

"Look at the back," I say.  "It's made with palm oil.  Palm oil is saturated.  You'd be better off eating a stick of butter."

That would actually suit her just fine.  Palm oil doesn't.  She puts the pastry twists back on the shelf.

Parents are children with training wheels.  But I've won this one, for now.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Now we can call them twins

Don't spook the rednecks!  They might stampede!
While shopping fans across the US pushed, pulled and pepper-sprayed each other in the annual orgy of pre-Christmas consumerism known as Black Friday, we were opening our latest scan -- the first one that shows something that may be vaguely human:
According to Dr. Jolly, our remaining fetuses look healthy -- Twin One is 36 mm, gestational age of 10 weeks four days, with a heart rate of 160 beats per minute.  Twin Two is 29 mm, gestational age of 9 weeks five days, with a heart rate of 156 beats per minute.  

And if it's not too late for a Thanksgiving posting -- my cousin spent the holiday at Plymouth, where the native Wampanoag gave the Pilgrims food and in return the Pilgrims gave the Wampanoag... smallpox.  She took a photo of this cringe-worthy plaque, because you know that if they had to spell it out, people have actually said this stuff:

Actually,  "hey you!" works fine, too.
I suppose that after 400 years, one gets weary.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

That Thing No One Likes to Talk About

And then there were two.

Our surrogate had the selective reduction yesterday. We got the news this morning, and, truth be told, we're both very glad it's out of the way, hoping the procedure wasn't frightening or painful for the sweet, cheerful-looking woman who's carrying our children.  The email from SCI says she's doing fine, and so are our twins.

Both of us are firmly in support of a woman's right to choose what she does with her body -- and hey, in spite of what some opponents of surrogacy would say, isn't choosing to become a surrogate another expression of that freedom?

I've read about couples feeling a sense of loss after the procedure.  Nope, not here. While the shots of KCL stopped two heartbeats, I don't feel they were quite human yet -- soon, too uncomfortably soon to feel nothing, but not yet people.  Since we found out we were pregnant, we've never thought of ourselves as having four... just two.  According to this 2007 article from the Washington Post (which is great article if you want all the gory details):

Selective reduction is one of the most unpleasant facts of fertility medicine, which has helped hundreds of thousands of couples have children but has also produced a sharp rise in high-risk multiple pregnancies. There is no way to know how many pregnancies achieved by fertility treatment start out as triplets or quadruplets and are quietly reduced to something more manageable. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which publishes an annual report on fertility clinic outcomes, does not include selective-reduction figures because of the reluctance to report them.

 We understand there was never any real possibility of bringing four babies to term.  It radically increases the risk to both surrogate and baby:

Triplets pregnancies are far riskier than most people realize: Carrying three babies to term would more than double the woman's risk of developing the most severe diseases of pregnancy, such as preeclampsia. The average triplet is born two months premature, significantly raising the risk of disabilities such as cerebral palsy and of lifelong damage to the infant's lungs, eyes, brain and other organs. By reducing the pregnancy to twins, the woman and her husband would decrease the risk of severe prematurity. And the risk of losing her entire pregnancy would fall from 15 percent to 4 percent.
 We wouldn't have the resources to raise four children, anyway.  And while they're beginning to take on a human form, they're still more potential than human, the size of a lima bean.  At this stage, they look more like these things than a baby:
A potato bug...
...an alien...
...or la Duquesa de Alba.

Alive, but human? 

And yet... there's the profound awareness of having passed one of those points where fate pivots:  you will be this, not that.  This one survives, that one doesn't.  What just happened will affect the rest of our lives in every way.

I'm still waiting for a full report, so I'm not sure why the two eliminated embryos were chosen.  For now, I'm assuming all were healthy and normal and that the procedure targeted the two easiest to reach .   So I keep thinking... if that nearly random needle had chosen another, who would they have become?  What was lost? And what will we tell our kids if they ever ask "what, you mean it could have been me?"

Well, yes.  It could have.  But we all only exist because of a lucky string of accidents... my mom's family left Europe in the 1880s rather than stick around for the Holocaust... my dad's family were lucky enough not to starve those first few winters in 17th century New England... I wasn't flattened by a truck crossing Wilshire Boulevard last year.

It's all luck, all where the ball on the roulette wheel stops.

But I do know the most important thing I'll tell our children:  "we got exactly the kids we were meant to have."

Monday, November 21, 2011

The whisker vote

So over the past few weeks, Adrián once again decided to grow a beard:

I think it makes him look like a hot professor (which he is).  But even though he claims immunity, he too is susceptible to vanity.  He doesn't like the white part that insists on erupting on his chin, like the greying muzzle of a weary, faithful dog (which I have, too, and is the whole reason I no longer experiment with facial hair, but at least I admit my motives) and announced a few days ago he planned to shave it off.  That's something he didn't do when even he was compared to this man:

But this time, he claimed, his resolve was cold and steely.  The reason:  he felt his facial adornment is uncomfortably similar to this man's:

Mariano Rajoy is Spain's new prime minister. 

No hace falta meter el dedo con Rajoy en el buzón.

 There was much gnashing of teeth in our household as the elections approached and poll after poll showed the conservative party, the Partido Popular, surfing to victory on the crest of a wave of economic misery.  Somehow, the PP is much better at getting campaign literature all the way to California than the socialists, PSOE, the party that generally gets Adrián's vote.  The PP now has 186 out of 350 seats in parliament and faces the task of convincing the world that Spain won't follow Greece, Ireland and Portugal down the financial toilet.

"There will be no miracles," Rajoy said. "We haven't promised any."  But besides promising austerity measures that are hoped will help the country right its economic ship and convince Angela Merkel not to spank them, the PP certainly has suggested many things, among them undoing Spain's tough new law prohibiting smoking in enclosed public places (which makes our visits much more pleasant and aligns Spain with, well, the rest of the developed world) to annul Spain's law granting gay and lesbian couples the right to marry, which conceivably would undo our marriage.  Rajoy has said he'll hold his tongue until the Consitutional Court rules on a challenged filed to the law by the PP.  One family law expert predicts that the court will uphold the law.  If not, couples who married since 2005 would be likely to stay married while new same-sex couples would be unable to marry... which is exactly the situation we face in California, though in this case the interviewer wrongly says Californian couples are in legal limbo.

Here's a BBC story about the election:

Despite his indignation, Adrián never found time to go to the consulate to vote.  But when I woke up this morning, his beard was gone.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Nuestros cuatro bichitos

Is it just me, or would this go well with cocktail sauce?

My breasts are increasing in size, looking bigger and feeling heavier. They have become quite tender to touch.

The nipples have changed, the areola (the darker skin around the nipple) darker in color and tingling.

I feel a bit low and irritable at times; this is largely due to the changing levels of hormones in my body.

I become very emotional or irrational at times and suffer from mood swings. I cry at things that had previously not affected me.

Okay.  Not really.
But maybe that's why I teared up watching "How to Train Your Dragon" on a recent flight.  Hey, along with all the above changes, that's what websites like familyeducation.com would have me believe, so that's the story I'll stick to. 

In general, I like that website -- it gives us a "Hey!  What are they doing NOW?" day-by-day look at our developing progeny.  But I have to ask:  do these websites not have any male readers?  Do straight dads not care about this stuff?  Couldn't they be a little more inclusive to their readers -- male and female -- who are going through surrogacy?  Oh well... I suppose we're still a tiny minority of the reproducing public.

In other news, according to these websites, our embies have gone from looking like shrimp or sea slugs, to lizards, and now look something like tiny aliens (with shrimp-like tails that make me think of olive oil and garlic).  They're about 12mm long, and Adrián has christened them "los bichos;" the bugs.

The results of our second scan were waiting when I opened the laptop this morning, before even getting out of bed.  We still have four bichos, all doing well:

The heartrates clock in at 150, 158, 160 and 160 -- like last time, three seem more or less the same and one lags a bit behind, but all seem strong.  Selective reduction in two weeks.  Yuck.