I'm a multitasking writer/mom to multiple multi-ethnic little ones, via multiple routes to parenthood. Just call me Multimom!

How Many Kids Do You Want?

I grew up an only child, and while I didn’t really mind it as a kid–there were lots of cousins around to serve as almost-siblings–I also never planned to have an only child, myself.  But having spent most of my formative years in a household of exactly two, my mom and me (my parents divorced when I was 3), I never planned on a big family, either.  It sounded too chaotic, compared to what I was used to.  But then I met the man who would become my husband, who had 3 younger siblings and told me, very early on, that he wanted 5 kids.  I was only 19 when he announced this, and I thought he was insane. What on earth would we do with that many kids? We wouldn’t even have enough hands to hold onto them all!  Eventually we compromised on 3.


Flash forward to 4 years into our marriage, when I was 26 and we decided to start trying for the family we had discussed for years.  It never occurred to me that we would have trouble having a baby exactly when we planned.  But we did.  So much trouble.  There was male factor for him, low ovarian reserve for me.  He had surgery to correct his issue, which eventually helped that part of the equation, but there was nothing to be done about mine. We saw lots of fertility docs, tried IUIs and IVF which failed, 5 days after my 28th birthday.  I wondered if we would ever be parents.


And we realized that that was what mattered most to us–being parents, not the biology of it.  So we started the adoption process, and 3 months after we completed all the paperwork and jumping thru of hoops, our son was born.  He joined our family through open adoption and we were overjoyed.  My greatest fear–that I would never be a mom–was put to rest.  Parts of my life that had darkened during 3 years of infertility turned brighter than I could ever have imagined.  And now my attitude was “bring on the babies”–however many, however they came to us.  After everything we’d been through, we wanted at least 4, maybe 6.


We never gave up on infertility treatments.  Surgery for my newly diagnosed endometriosis, more IUIs, and finally the best shot at IVF we’d ever had, which gave us our daughter, two and a half years after our son.  Another miracle, another fear laid to rest–the fear that I would never experience pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. I knew that parenthood without those was beautiful, miraculous, and amazing anyway, but those were experiences that I’d always imagined I’d have, and I wanted them too. Not as desperately as I wanted to simply be a parent, but still, I was so glad to finally have this experience too.


We had 7 frozen embryos, and we also plan to adopt at least once more.  So I figured our huge family was a lock.  Last month, we started a cycle for our first frozen embryo transfer.  Two didn’t survive the thaw, but we transferred 2, and I was so sure it had worked again.  I had so many symptoms, just like last time.  But just a few days ago, I learned it had failed.  And I was devastated again.  So much less so than last time, 5 years ago, before I had a single baby.  Now I have an almost-4-year-old and an 18-month-old to fill my heart and my life.  And yet, I mourn the potential babies I lost, and fear that the big family that we dream of will not come to pass.  We have 3 embryos left and we will try again soon.  But that will, in all likelihood, be the end of our treatments. I am so hopeful for next time, but so frightened, too.


With so many frozen, it never occurred to me that my pregnancy with my daughter might be my only one.  It was hard on me, I won’t romanticize it–16 weeks of all-day sickness at the beginning, a month of pre-term labor requiring frequent hospital runs at the end–but I always just knew I’d be pregnant at least one more time.  I loved nursing my baby for 14 months, but if I’d known that might be the only time I could nourish a baby that way, I feel like I would’ve approached that differently too (I don’t know how, since she weaned herself at that point, but still).


At the same time, my thoughts are turning eagerly to adoption once more.  We had such a wonderful experience with our son’s adoption–we matched so quickly with his lovely birthfamily, and we still share a great relationship–and we’re excited to add to our family through adoption again.  I worry that with 2 or hopefully more kids already, it might be hard to find someone who wants to match with us, but I’m sure there are expectant mothers out there who dream of a big happy family for their child.


I am so delighted by the two beautiful children we have, yet I feel so strongly that our family is not yet complete.  There are people missing, and I want them here, already!  Of course our family won’t be completed instantly, but I am so hoping to be moving toward that goal soon, instead of just in a holding pattern once again.  Yes, it’s a much more joyful holding pattern now, filled with playgroups and snuggles and the seemingly endless but poignantly fleeting routine of feeding and clothing and changing and comforting and playing and bedtime. But it does hurt all over again that I can’t give my kids a younger sibling when we choose to, but only by beating the odds once again–and then one more time, too.

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Just Like Me

Today, at a kid birthday party, my son was so clingy. Even though lots of his friends were there, even though it was pirate-themed and he loves pirates, he didn’t want to participate in the games or activities, or sit or play with his friends. He just wanted to stay clamped onto my leg. Now, to some extent, I am pleased to have a boy who is so bonded to me. On the other hand, I was carrying his baby sister while also constantly holding his hand in the perfectly safe party room, flying solo while my husband is away on business.  While my friends chatted as their kids ran around doing planned activities, I was juggling two kids (luckily, you can usually still converse with two kids hanging off of you).  But I was getting a little frustrated, wishing he would participate like the other kids.

And then we got to the obligatory pirate treasure hunt, and he got really excited, cheering and running after the guy leading the activity, right along with all his friends.  He loves him some treasure.  To avoid total 3-year-old plundering mayhem, the guy had the kids wait in line to choose one toy from the box. When it was Dev’s turn, I grabbed a bracelet to placate his baby sister (it was probably totally safe for her to chew on…), while he stared into the treasure chest, deliberating over which prize to select.  Since other kids were waiting, I encouraged him to pick quickly, and, on impulse, he took a bracelet just like his sister’s (he is man enough to rock a pink bracelet with “princess” emblazoned on it).

He wore it happily, until we were sitting waiting for cake (he hates cake, but his sis was happy to eat his instead) and he noticed that a couple of other boys had gotten cars from the treasure chest.  Then he started saying, “Mommy, I want a car.” I have to be honest, having checked out the options in that box myself, the cars were totally the best loot. He was right to want those instead.  I told him we would see if we could switch, but then I couldn’t find either of the hired event leaders.  When I spotted the treasure chest in the back room, I figured I’d just make the trade for him, and we decided together on a cool little wizard finger puppet (Dev calls him his “magic guy”), and he was very happy.

Because the thing is, I remember so clearly that feeling from childhood. The excitement at what might be offered, the urge to pour over each item, making sure to choose the very best one, the disappointment upon seeing something even better and feeling that you made the wrong choice, the desperation to correct this mistake, and the powerlessness of being a small child who can’t actually fix this yourself.

This moment reminded me of two events from my childhood. First, a time at church when I was about his age, when the pastor called all of the children to the front and had us each pick an M&M. I think he was teaching us something about how despite our differences, we’re all the same inside.  But see, I’ve never liked chocolate. So I stood there, holding up the entire church service while I tried to decide what color of something I didn’t even want to select. My parents were apparently mortified, but I was calmly weighing the pros & cons of each option with zero concern that 100-something people probably thought I was weird.

This, here, is the first lesson I want to point out.  Here I was, worried that Dev wasn’t getting the most out of the party, or that other parents would think he wasn’t well-adjusted or something, and honestly, it just doesn’t matter. He had fun at the party, got into the action when it was something he really wanted to do (the treasure hunt), shared some laughs with his buddies, and avoided some really crazy scenes (note: giving a roomful of 3-year-olds two wading pools full of balls to throw is a recipe for disaster). He was enjoying it in his own way, and I never want to put pressure on him to act the way I think he “should” because it’s what others kids are doing.  He is, as I was, a thoughtful kid who likes to get the lay of the land before deciding to jump in–and who may choose not to jump in at all, at times.  That is a valid choice.  Also, plenty of other kids were clinging or acting up or melting down throughout the party–common kid party hazard. I doubt anyone thought anything about my son, who was merely clingy, not ill-behaved.  I think because I was labeled as a shy child for having a personality much like his, I worry a lot about him getting stuck with that label, and want to push him into greater extroversion–for his own good, of course.  But he is totally cool with himself, and I adore him, and I don’t, actually, want to push him to be anyone else.  I refuse to let anyone apply the “shy” label because I think it was harmful to me (I believed it for years, eventually taught myself to “fake” outgoingness as a teenager, and probably only as an adult have realized that I’m actually quite outgoing, in the right situation–and awkward other times, as I assume everyone is).  He, as I always did, has several close friends with whom he can be silly and hilarious. Actually, he has a lot of friends, and tends to be a leader with them (he’ll start doing something fun and funny and they immediately join in, copying him exactly), but he prefers to interact with these friends one (or two, maybe three) at a time. Having lots of his friends at the party today wasn’t as much of a plus as I’d assumed, because he didn’t get that one-on-one or small-group time with any of them.  He gets overwhelmed by big groups–but then, I think a kid party is pretty much the definition of overwhelming.  And he adores his mom and baby sister, and would rather party with us than with his friends–I think I better enjoy that while I can.  He is perfectly, wonderfully himself, full to the brim with awesome, and I don’t want him to change one bit because the bottom line is, he’s happy. He doesn’t need to be like anyone else, and truly, I don’t want him to be, because all I want is my one & only him.

The other thing this reminded me of was going to some kind of Disney on Ice thing with my dad, his friend, and the friend’s two daughters. The other girls wanted these Mickey Mouse flashlights, so I asked for one too. But after my dad got me one, I saw these fiber optic wands that to me, were stunningly beautiful (honestly, I still think those things are pretty amazing). I knew my dad wasn’t going to get me two souvenirs, but I wanted one of these wands so much I couldn’t stand it. I told him, and begged him to exchange the flashlight, and even though that can’t be standard policy from those arena vendors, and I’m sure he wasn’t thrilled at the idea, my dad did it. And I was so happy, to have gotten exactly what I wanted instead of being saddled with a toy that almost instantly disappointed me.  So I completely understood what my son was feeling, and instead of telling him that he’d made his choice and it was no big deal anyway, I tapped into my child-self and indulged him. Because I know how powerful that longing can be when you are a kid, and how much it means for an adult to make things right in a way that as a child, you just can’t.

It is true that Dev shares no biological or genetic ties, and yet, he is so clearly my boy, like me in so many ways. I was reminded of some, and noticed some new ones, today, and for that I am thankful.  I love my parents and I think they did many things well, but if I can be to Dev the parent that I would most like to have had, I think that will be exactly right.

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We had a hard day today. Dev was home from school because they sent him home one hour into yesterday’s schoolday with an alleged fever, and I didn’t want to deal with that again today, so it seemed easier to just stay in PJs at home.  I was (& still am), super sick, which is really the least useful of possible superpowers.  The husband was heading south for a convention this morning, but thanks to the repaving of our street, couldn’t leave till right around naptime–this was actually quite a win, since it meant he could put Dev down for nap while I took care of Lili, saving me an awful lot of putting-them-to-bed-simultaneously grief, and also make my own nap time arrive faster.

So the really bad didn’t start till after nap time. Baby woke up crying after I had actually managed to sleep, which was a plus. I fed her while Dev played quietly in his room (that’s how he always puts it: “I was playing quietly in my room”–I love it!) since he was having fun and she was clearly going to be a wreck till she had nursed. Then I went to retrieve him, and found his sheets covered in poo.  One of his hands was also coated, as was the railing of his bed.  When I went to change him (he’s been wearing Pullups for some naps and all bedtimes this past month, though he is fully daytime potty-trained), a big piece of poo fell on the floor. So much grossness!  He has always been fastidious–the kid won’t even eat cake because he doesn’t want icing on his fingers!–so I still don’t understand how this pootastrophe could have come to pass.  I was furious. I tried to stay cool, telling him simply, “You know how to poop in the potty” (he went, just a tiny bit, last week–other than that he’s been saving it for the Pullups, but at least I knew & he knew it was possible) and “Poop all over the bed is so disgusting!” I actually think I handled this ok, despite my illness-addled state, focusing on where poop belongs and that it is gross elsewhere (which I think we can all agree on), but not criticizing him or calling HIM gross.

But then, after I cleaned him up but while I was changing his sheets and scrubbing crap from side of his bed (seriously, how did this happen?!), he started merrily riding around on his Trunki, telling his busily crawling sister to “watch out” as he plowed past her. Yeah, I left her free-range on his floor while I dealt with the poopocalypse because really, I couldn’t think what else to do. I told him a couple of times to be careful, that he was the one who needed to watch out because he knows how and she doesn’t, but he kept laughingly advancing on her.  Seeing her tiny fingers dangerously close to his ride-on’s wheels, I finally lost it. I shouted something to the effect of, “If you don’t stop threatening your sister while I’m stuck cleaning up your crap, I will take that toy away FOREVER.”  Note: not okay with the use of “crap” in front of my kids, or with the unrealistic “forever” timeline on taking his Trunki, but that’s why this qualified as “losing it.” On the upside, though, it worked. He played further down the hallway (with the stairs safely gated off), and even helped direct his sister toward the safer zone of his room when she crawled determinedly after him.

And then here’s the really bright spot: after all of my complaints about the grossness of this cleanup job, he asked me to come to the bathroom with him at bedtime (he’s been big on going all by himself lately–or as he puts it, “all myself”).  He sat down and went right ahead and pooped in the potty, for the first time in a year of casual potty training plus a month of post-3-day-bootcamp potty-trainedness.  And there was much rejoicing! He was so proud, and I was so proud, and while today was likely not the last time he’ll have a #2 accident once the Pullup goes on, it was a HUGE step forward. So what felt at the time like a big parenting fail–that is, harping on the horrifyingness of the nap time poosplosion–actually, I believe, led to this breakthrough.  Neither one of us ever wanted to deal with a scene like that again, and he was ready to make sure we didn’t have to.  I would not have taken such a hard line if he hadn’t achieved a tiny bit of poopoo in the potty just last week, but now the timing was right and he was ready and it all worked out.

Which to me, is a wonderful reminder that even when I am not at my best (sick, and extra-exhausted from sickness-induced insomnia, and facing down a day and a half on my own with two lil’ ones thanks to husband’s business trip), and even when I don’t handle things exactly as I would want to in a perfect world where I got rehearsals for the crazy stuff kids throw at you, the overall environment of loving support that I’ve provided still makes great things possible for my kiddos. And even in the midst of what seems like a rough day, things can turn around in miraculous ways. Also, that I have a pretty amazing, sweet, fun and smart little guy on my hands–and his sister ain’t bad either.  Now all I need is for this cloud of sickness that has been plaguing me all week to lift, and I’ll be happy to guarantee a fabulous day tomorrow for all three of us. But short of that, I’m just hoping, as usual, for fewer low points and more high points, minimal frustration and tears and maximum joys and laughter. What more is there to hope for, after all?  Well, that, and that I will not have occasion to write or think nearly this much about poop again for quite some time.


Look At Me

Between writing for a living and raising my two little ones, it’s so easy to be distracted, to get caught up in multitasking and forget to actually focus in on what really matters.  But my kids have been reminding me lately that just looking, really looking at them, and giving them the gift of my undivided attention, can mean so much.  My daughter might be fussing or my son might start calling, “Mommy, Mommy!” and there is always the temptation to try to finish just one more thing before I turn back to them, but I’ve learned that what they need is simply to know that I am there, that I am looking and listening. They light up in the warmth of my gaze.  As someone who worked so long and hard to become a mom, it’s such a thrill to realize I’m that vital to another person, to be able to make them feel better simply by looking at them, or cuddling them, or playing with them.  It makes me never want to look away.  It reminds me to put down the iPhone and bask instead in the magic that is my children growing and changing with each passing moment.  I wonder how many adults who seem annoying might need nothing more than to be truly seen, too.  So that’s today’s lesson from my kiddos: to give the gift of my attention, to really look at them and others in my life, and enjoy what a difference that focus makes. 

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Don’t Judge

And now for the first is a series I’ll call “Lessons of Infertility:”

Lesson #1: Don’t Judge

At a recent playgroup, a new mom joined us for the first time. She was skinny and I, feeling fat in post-baby mode, felt a flash of jealousy. In that moment, and for no good reason at all, I made a whole set of assumptions–that she had gotten easily pregnant with the cute little boy at her side, that we wouldn’t have much in common. Of course, I always assume that I’m the only infertile in the room, which really makes no sense, given that one in eight couples (at a conservative estimate) experience infertility. Also given that I knew another mom there had gone through fertility treatments to have her son–but it’s hard to remember sometimes, when I feel like I’m constantly swimming in a sea of fertiles.

But somehow, we got to talking, this new playgroup member and me. She told me she and her husband were in the process of adopting internationally, but because it was taking so long, they were also pursuing IVF–with the same reproductive endocrinologist I see! Her son, like my daughter, was an IVF baby. She had had two recent losses after IVF as well (I had one, years ago). Suddenly we were sharing all of these intimate details, in a room full of other moms and rambunctious toddlers. My initial assumptions couldn’t have been more wrong: I liked her, a lot. It didn’t hurt that our boys hit it off, too.

This was such a good reminder to me, not only that I never know when I’ll encounter someone else in this unfortunate infertile sisterhood, and have the opportunity to reach out to her, but also that there’s no way to know in general what struggles someone else faces. Here I was, jealous of her slimness, when she would have loved to be working off baby weight. You never know what burdens someone else is carrying until you take the time to get to know them–and even then, they might be harboring a pain that they choose not to share, and need a little extra gentleness because of it. You can’t tell by looking who’s infertile or not, whose life is charmed, or not.

I think I’d been assuming that I stood out as infertile, even in this group of women I’ve become so close to in the years since my son made me a member of the mommy club. And I’m sure I do, to some degree, since we chose to adopt, and interracially, at that (well, and also because I’ve become very open about our struggles to become parents). But in many ways, I’m no more obvious an infertile than my new friend. And it doesn’t matter anyway, in that setting at least, where we are all just moms chasing our small children around the room. I’m grateful to my new friend for the reminder not to assume, not to judge, but instead to reach out and find that common ground.



Call Your Mother

I keep meaning to start with this big long post about our journey through infertility, adoption, and IVF that led us to these two absolutely fabulous babies:

But I’m just not feeling it.  I think because, these days, I’m so much in the thick of parenting after infertility that the 5 years of struggle just aren’t what I’m in the mood to write about.  I will get to that, I’m sure, since we are not finished having babies and it will never be easy for us, and I will always be an infertile lady who gets her hackles up when someone gloats about being “super fertile, tee hee!”  But for now, I’d like to start things off with a post in a series I’d like to call “Lessons From My Kids.”

Lesson 1: Call Your Mother

My baby girl is happy as long as she is near me.  If I’m holding her, looking at her, or at least within arm’s reach, she is perfectly cheerful and calm.  And I’ll be honest–while this does make working or playing with my son or doing pretty much anything but cuddling her a challenge, I really don’t mind.  Because with an almost-3-year-old boy who used to give me slobbery kisses all the time and now, if I’m lucky, sort of air-kisses before running off to his next adventure, I know how fleeting this dependency is.  I know how much I will miss our long, snuggly days–sleep deprivation and all–when she is older.  I miss it already with my son, and he’s just in preschool a couple of days a week, and with me constantly otherwise.

Which brings me to my point–I have not lived in the same state as my parents since I left for college 14 years ago.  I’ve been halfway across the country from them for 10 of those years–1 in New York and the last almost-9 (how is that possible?!) in Los Angeles.  My mom and I were super-close (and of course, in the preteen/teen years, sometimes at each other’s throats) when I was growing up, an only child raised primarily by a single mom.  I’m sure, in the midst of my childhood, it never occurred to her that this person she had created would one day be so far away.

But I think about it all the time.  I hope that my babies will never move so far that I only get to see them once or twice a year.  My hope is that they will be so used to sunny California that they won’t be able to stand living anywhere else, and thus will have to stay here (my Midwestern home didn’t have quite the same draw).  Looking at their sweet faces, snuggling up with their warm little bodies beside me, I can’t imagine what it was like for my parents when I moved away for good.

And that’s why I want to remind you all to call your mom (or dad, or other parental figure), as often as you can handle and then maybe a little bit more.  I know that once these little ones take off into the wide world, I won’t be able to get enough of hearing from them and seeing them, not ever, not when I’ve gotten so used to having them always within reach.  What I’ve learned is that I will always be my parents’ baby, just as these babies will always be mine, no matter how old they are or how far they roam.  One day, they’ll be walking around in the world, with jobs and houses and spouses and kids, and they’ll be thinking of themselves as adults and I will respect that and be amazed by it, and yet I will always see their soft baby cheeks and rosebud lips and pudgy little elbows and ankles, like the ones on my baby girl as she snoozes beside me right now.  I will always remember how they much they need me now, and I will be proud to have raised them to be adults who do not need me so desperately–and yet, I will always want to know that they do still need me, at least a little.  I bet your mom would like to know that, too.

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