I Am Grateful

It’s been super rough for me the past few weeks. Let me clarify: it’s been rough being me. Some days are super and I can hang in there with patience and positivity, and generally enjoy my kids, my husband, and my circumstances. Unfortunately, most days I struggle to maintain composure for at least a good chunk of the day. I growl, I snap, and I’m ugly. I’m not the person I want to be. I blame it on lots of things: lack of sleep, trying circumstances due to pandemic, teething toddler who is super-needy. In the end, it’s only me who can make my life what I want it to be. It’s only me who can decide to be who I want to be. It’s a daily, moment-to-moment struggle.

The 28th of June I started writing a gratefulness journal to help me see the positive in every day. I wrote nearly every day for three-and-a-half weeks and then I floundered; It’s been 2 weeks that I haven’t written down what I’m grateful for. Well, now I’m starting again.

  1. I am grateful that this pandemic situation will not last forever and things will get better.
  2. I am grateful that Rodney is such a loving daddy and spouse.
  3. I am grateful that both of my babies are asleep at the same time for the moment …

Pretty much every weekend, Rod and I have been taking the kids for a walk by the river. Every weekend that we go, there are women washing laundry in the river. Their children are playing nearby or helping with the wash. I realized it’s yet another way that I am fortunate. When I got home after one of those walks I wrote a reminder on my whiteboard: “You don’t have to wash in the river.”

*******

I just told my mom and sister that if I had enough money, I would have hired a private plane already and gone back to Alaska with the kids and moved in with my sister. Perhaps though, I would be missing out on an opportunity to grow if I escaped back home. I’ve had a privileged life, and these months are certainly some of the tougher ones I’ve experienced in my life. I have to work on myself diligently during this time if I want to survive with sanity intact, and also enjoy life to some extent.

The newest baby just woke up. If it were here right now, I’d hop on that plane in a heartbeat. But it’s not here. Someday, I hope that I’m grateful for this period of time that I am pushed to work on myself. Right now, I’m grateful for my sweet gift of a little boy … and that he just smiled at me and drifted back to sleep.

(that lasted 30 seconds and then a minute later big sister awoke too)

2 Under 2 – 6 Weeks In!

The first post since Baby Lars joined our family and the world!!

P.S. Photos below!!

💖💕💖💕💖

I just remembered that I can publish a blog post from my phone- so here we are!! I haven’t managed to post from my computer, despite several attempts over the last weeks, so maybe the convenience of the WordPress App is the ticket! 

Baby Lars is 6 weeks old tomorrow and is currently slumbering on my chest. He is a sweet lump of baby boy that I never imagined would become a reality. But man, is life really real with two little ones to care for! I’m so grateful that Rodney is here with me and able to lend a generous helping hand every day. It’s because of him that I’m not merely surviving these challenging days. 
Lars is starting to squirm for my attention, so I’m going to leave this post with what I started to write weeks ago and have unsuccessfully tried to finish several times in the last weeks:

One Poop at a Time: Week 6 Postpartum; Week 15 Coronavirus Isolation 

June 24, 2020: I started this post 2 weeks ago and haven’t sat down to write since. Needless to say, I’m finding it difficult to make time to write. But here’s another go at it:
From June 12, 2020: 3 weeks and 2 days ago I gave birth to an 8.5 lb baby boy on my bed. I’m not pregnant anymore; I have two children under two years old! It’s truly remarkable how time marches on and how often it feels like we’ve gone through a time warp. How is my baby boy (my SECOND child?!) already nearly one month old, when just moments ago I was pregnant and anxious for him to arrive? Moments before that I was battling infertility with injections and diets and a few moments prior to that I was unattached and chasing lizards in Portugal.

However, at this moment, I’m on the couch in our apartment in Ecuador just weeks after giving birth and finding it harder than usual to find the words to express myself … and perhaps I’m not even forming cohesive thoughts. Bear with me as my tired, breastfeeding-in-the-middle-of-the-night brain tries to make sentences that make sense.
I wanted to write several posts in the last 3 weeks, but I am finding it difficult to juggle my various responsibilities and find time to do things like feed myself let alone write a blog post. Right now Py is sleeping and Lars is draped across my chest, alternately staring out at me and then rolling his eyes back in his head as he falls asleep- sweet little mouth wide open. There is no question that I won’t finish this post before Pyra wakes up and I need to go back to priority #1: caring for our children.

I WILL be writing a post about this birth experience, as many friends and family have asked to hear “the story.” I was able to jot down some notes in the previous weeks and hopefully I can get a full account written out fairly soon. I will say this for now: it was all that I hoped it would be, and maybe more. I am forever grateful to our midwife, and feel fortunate to have experienced childbirth in this way. We never left the apartment and barely needed to adjust our daily routine with Rod’s work and with Pyra. My body did just what it was supposed to and has been feeling great. Aside from the stretch marks and little bit of a tummy pooch I still have, I wouldn’t know that I had recently given birth- oh, the huge breasts leaking milk might be a give-away, though.

I (perhaps somewhat foolishly) started a fitness regime 3 days ago that I’ve not been entirely sure I can finish with the rules that I set out for myself (no grains, processed sugar, or dairy; veggies take priority on each plate; daily exercise). I’ve never been good at managing all my domestic tasks and food preparation often falls to the wayside. I often wait until I’m toooo hungry to find something to eat, so I’m scooping leftovers right out of the storage container into my mouth. It’s even tougher now with the new baby and limited resources/grocery opportunities, so I’m not sure what I was thinking. Well, I was thinking that I want to feel GREAT. I want more energy. I want to eat healthier and incorporate exercise into my rather sedentary quarantine lifestyle. I may end up relaxing my rules and just sticking to the exercise program and trying to incorporate more veggie whole foods and less crap … but we’ll see what happens. It’s day three, and I’ll keep trying.

Overall, things have been great since the birth. The first week I felt fabulous. More recently, I’m slipping back into negative thoughts about our situation: missing family, freedom to go outdoors or wherever we want; bored to tears with the “trapped” domestic lifestyle that little kids and quarantine bring about. Thank heavens for technology. My mom and sister responded to my SOS text yesterday, sending love, perspective, and encouraging words that I needed so badly.

Pyra is in love with her baby brother. When I open the door to let her into my bedroom in the morning, she ignores me and has eyes and kisses only for Lars. I do think she is experiencing some jealousy that comes out as grumpy and mischievous behavior, but not any negative actions towards Lars (except pulling his hair once!).
(and PyPy just started to call “Mom! Mom! Mom!” in her sweet little voice)
* * * * * *
OK- back to today. Well, once again, Lars is draped across my chest and Pyra is napping. Not too much has changed in the last two weeks, although now, Pyra can open my bedroom door on her own! She reaches up as high as she can on the tippiest of her tip-toes, and her chubby fingers just barely grasp the handle. But it’s enough to get her inside to see her favorite person in the family: Baby Lars.
I’m going to try to keep this brief so I can actually get it done. A few updates:
I’m still on the fitness band wagon. Week 3 started today and I’m loving my daily exercises. I quickly learned that it’s way more fun to have Pyra as my workout buddy than trying to find quiet time alone. Much easier too! Her pushups and squats and jumping and “breathing hard” like mom suffuse the experience with joy. The harder part is eating healthy. I feel like I’m constantly hungry, but I’ve been eating tons more veggies than usual and I have steered clear from grains, processed sugar, and dairy. I’m not super strict though: I just ate some dark chocolate pieces and I indulge in tastes of Rodney’s desserts and beer! I’m excited to accomplish 8 weeks and see how I look and feel at the end.

I’ve gone out a lot more recently, taking over some of the responsibilities that Rodney had single-handedly been covering on his own when I was pregnant. I’ve started to do some of the veggie/fruit shopping (especially since I’m needing more produce these days!), and have gone to the bank several times to pay rent and bills. I also took the kids for their vaccines, one kiddo each on two different days. Free healthcare for our little Ecuadorians at the local Centro de Salud. Getting there was good exercise for this recently postpartum mom: approximately 2-mile walk there and back. END PREVIOUS POST

Back to Tuesday, June 30- I AM still on the fitness program (wooot for me!) and plan to stick with it. Here’s the end of this post for today- my heart goes out to all my new-mommy-and-daddy friends, dealing with the challenges of new parenthood on top of the challenges of life during the pandemic. 

Someday this will all be behind us and we’ll sit in the sun together, side by side without masks and recount tales from those crazy, stifling days of coronavirus isolation. Until next time,

Much love from Cuenca,

Di 

Pregnancy: Week 41; Coronavirus Isolation: Week 10

Baby Boy must not realize that I’ve been marking off each day on the calendar for the last couple weeks, eagerly awaiting his arrival. He either doesn’t know that his due date has come and gone, or he just has a mind of his own. One way or the other, Baby Boy was “due” yesterday, but clearly isn’t ready to make his appearance yet. So we continue to wait and tonight I cross off another day on the calendar.

The last few days I’ve been walking the stairs of our apartment in a sort of squatty walk “with legs like a frog” as my midwife suggested, and today I spent 20 minutes on the exercise ball swiveling my hips around to encourage the baby to descend and my pelvis to loosen (at least I think that is what I was doing?). I also try to get into an “all fours” position several times a day which is supposed to encourage baby to move into a good position for delivery … and is nice to relieve pressure on the back and hips too.

While I worked on the ball today, I set Pyra up with her favorite “toys” (a handful of dice- see photo below and a couple more at the end of this post) and a Spanish language learning video borrowed on hoopla that she seemed to really enjoy. The video is part of a language-learning program for kids age 0-6 called Little Pim, available for multiple different languages. You can also borrow videos for free through your library, hoopla, or even Amazon Prime, if you’re a member. Pyra loved the images of real babies and children playing and counting and also the familiar objects (i.e. spoons, socks) and animals (i.e. dogs, cats, birds) that she was happy to point out. It was our first experience with the Little Pim videos, and I will definitely be checking out more of them.

Py entranced by the language-learning video.

I’m a little disappointed that I’ll probably need to sweep my floor and clean the bathroom again before I start labor- I was hoping I had done that for the last time before Baby Boy arrives. But I do appreciate that I had enough time and energy to make the blondies that I’ve been craving for months! That 13×9 pan of deliciousness on my kitchen counter will help me get through these last days (or weeks?!?) of waiting for baby. I’ve got a generous corner piece of blondie waiting next to my hot tea for me … and so I think I’ll cut this short. This pregnant old lady is more than ready to recline, enjoy her treat with a Harry Potter audiobook, and wait for Baby Boy ☺️.

Pregnancy: Week 39; Coronovirus Isolation: Week 8

It’s been 51 days since Pyra felt grass under her toes. 51 days since my sociable, sweet girl interacted with another child (in person). 51 days since my active, almost-20-month-old has run around outdoors and climbed something other than furniture or a parent. 51 days … and how many more?

But that’s the question we’re all asking right now, isn’t it? How much longer? No matter what our personal situation is, it certainly isn’t what we’re used to, nor how we want to live for an extended amount of time. You may have acres of outdoor space to romp in, but your activities or income are hindered. Maybe you go to work regularly, but you’re a little nervous about exposure to a virus that will be written about in medical and history books. We aren’t living our “normal,” no matter what our “normal” generally looks like, or even if we like our “normal” or not; but we certainly don’t want this current way of life to become the new normal. On that, I believe we could unanimously agree?

Anyhoo. 51 days of isolation. But here are some other figures that have been knocking around my head recently as well:

  • 38 ½ years old
  • 38 ½ weeks pregnant
  • 51 days of isolation due to a global pandemic

That darn “51 days of isolation” snuck back in there, refusing to be ignored!

My age and maternity situation just boggle my mind sometimes. I’m halfway through my 39th year of life and not only am I mother to a scrappy-sweet toddler girl, but I am also quite pregnant with a child whom we are told will have a penis and scrotum. Incredibly blessed to have the girl-boy combo, but did I mention that I’m 38 ½ years old?! At one point, I thought that 33 years old was sounding a little on the “old” side for starting a family. Ha!! That was back in 2014, when I first became pregnant and was ecstatic to begin our next phase in life; unfortunately, the next phase was “infertility rollercoaster” instead of “joyful life with munchkins.”

Yet here we are! Life is wonderfully uncertain and can always be counted on to throw a wrench – or a whole toolbox – into your plans and lead you down paths that twist and turn unexpectedly, frequently resulting in experiences and circumstances that we couldn’t have dreamt up, but wouldn’t change for all the cheese and bread in the world.

“Where would I be right now
If all my dreams had come true?
Deep down I know somehow
I’d have never seen your face.

This world would be a different place.
Darling, there’s no way to know
Which way your heart will go”

Mason Jennings, “Which Way Your Heart Will Go,”

For me, though, it’s not so much “which way your heart will go,” but where life’s twists and turns will lead you: almost undoubtedly away from your dreams, but very possibly into a beautiful, unexpected reality.

I wish I had been able to start a family when my body was younger, but I couldn’t. I wish I could have had babies without ever experiencing a lost pregnancy, but I couldn’t. But I would never choose to turn back the dial and do it over because I don’t know who I would be or where I would be in that alternate universe … I certainly wouldn’t have Pyra crawling into my lap for a toothy, slobbery kiss. And I likely wouldn’t be 38 ½ years old and 38 ½ weeks pregnant, in Cuenca, Ecuador.

Isolation Report

I don’t really have a lot to say on this front … not much changes over the weeks, except for the size of my belly and degree of weariness. I did leave the house for a couple hours last week- what a momentous and exhausting day that was!

I walked 40 mins (to avoid taking a taxi) to an ultrasound appointment. 40 very uncomfortable minutes because of my dang uterus. I had planned to enjoy a leisurely walk to the appointment as it would be my first lengthy walk outdoors in weeks, but instead I had “false labor” contractions* the entire way, which made the walk quite unpleasant and I just wanted to get there and stop walking as soon as possible. By the time I was a couple blocks away, I also had to pee so bad I was afraid I wouldn’t make it to the appointment with dry clothes. Thank goodness I’ve kept doing kegels now and again. (that means that I made it to the appointment without peeing myself!)

Anyway, the ultrasound went well and the results were reassuring. Baby boy has grown (although still small on the overall spectrum), my amniotic fluid and placenta look great (I didn’t even know that they can detect if a placenta starts “wearing out” but I guess they can!), and overall everything was super. The walk home was much better; my uterus must have been reassured by the good news and had settled down.

The previous day was also unusual and also because of prenatal medical appointments. However that day, the appointment came to my apartment. I was able to book a local hospital lab to come to my residence to take my blood and urine samples using WhatsApp (which is extremely common here as a primary means of communication, much to my delight). I sent the order for the tests by text and the lab even confirmed the appointment (in-person by text, not a robocall) on Sunday evening for the Monday morning appointment. They arrived at 8 am (30 minutes earlier than the appointment- so much for the Latin American stereotype of arriving late, right?) and the two technicians were in full protective gear, down to booties over their shoes. They proceeded to efficiently and painlessly draw several vials of blood for my prenatal bloodwork right at my dining room table, with Pyra and Rodney observing from a distance.

Everything went without a hitch, until they asked me for my urine sample. That is, they didn’t provide me with a sterile container and ask me to fill it … they just wanted me to hand over an already-prepared urine sample. Apparently, I was supposed to get a container at the pharmacy and have the sample ready, but nobody had enlightened me on this local tradition. The lab was kind enough to swing by a couple hours later, which gave me time to pop out to the pharmacy a couple blocks away and pick up the 25¢ sterile urine cup and fill that sucker up.

Can you imagine this scene? Waddling down the stairs of my apartment building with my huge belly, buzzing myself out of the security door and gate, my urine sample held discreetly in a paper towel and hoping that the neighbors all stay put? At least it wasn’t a stool sample, I suppose. Anyway … it all went well, and the results were accessible online by evening and showed everything to be normal. $70 for a lab to come to my home, take my samples, run a full panel of blood and urine analysis, and then have the results available remotely within 12 hours. What. A. Deal.

Recharging vitamin D during a few minutes of sunshine!

The only other thing I can think of to write about is that yesterday we finally inflated a kiddie pool for Pyra, and that has helped to eat up the long afternoon hours. We’ve waited for weeks to bring out the pool because the weather has been quite gloomy and rainy here. But yesterday we had a break in that trend and I blew up the pool. Like most kids, water play is one of Pyra’s most favorite activities, and the pool is the best $10 we’ve spent in months. However, the fun ended abruptly this afternoon when … can you guess what very predictable event happened? When a toddler is freed from the confines of a diaper and allowed to splash in a pool naked? Yeah. The afternoon water play turned into an afternoon of disinfecting the pool and terrace. Whoops. Silly mom. I just love to see her play naked!! But it was enough work for me that Pyra will be splashing around the pool with a diaper on for awhile.

I feel there were probably more interesting things to write about, but I’m done with writing for today. The magnetic force pulling me towards my pillow and bed is too great for me to withstand. I hope this ramble finds you well. Much love to you.

*I am convinced that I have an “irritable uterus.” From what I have read, I get an abnormal amount of Braxton-Hicks “false labor” or “practice” contractions. I had them a lot with Pyra too. This pregnancy feels worse, but I might just be more sensitive to them now. It’s crazy … sometimes I’ll just get one after another, after another, after another with only a minute or two between. And I think they frequently last longer (more like a minute) than “normal” Braxton-Hicks contractions. Usually, they are sporadic and I don’t mind them much at all, but when they keep going and going and I’m trying to do more than just lie around … it’s uncomfortable and annoying and I feel more than ready to be done being pregnant!!

Pregnancy: Week 36; Coronavirus Isolation: Week 5 (mostly whining and also a Pyra update)

My mood matches the weather. There’s a light misty rain falling. The clouds are high, so it’s not too dark; I can still see the mountains in the distance. It’s not a storm battering the earth with thunderous flashes of lightning, not even a drenching downpour to temporarily flood the streets. Just a half-hearted drizzle. Maybe when it’s over, the sun will appear from behind the clouds and the world -as viewed from our apartment windows- will feel brighter and fresher. One can hope.

I had some pretty great days in the past few weeks since I last posted, but this week was a greater struggle to maintain mood, perspective, and sanity. I was more tired in the last few days than I had been. The exhaustion exasperates the thinning patience of the afternoon and feelings of despair … that this situation has no end in sight. It often feels that there is no escape from the unchanging drudgery and constant responsibility as caregiver; that I have nothing to look forward to, no enjoyable activities, no hobbies to pursue without distraction. Even now, while I’m having “me time” in the back bedroom with the music in my headphones turned up, I can hear Pyra crying. It will only be for a moment … but I can’t completely tune out and escape, and when I try (like right now) I frequently end up feeling guilty. But. The drizzle has now ended and the clouds are a lighter grey- I am feeling better too. A little caffeine, a little quiet time, a little writing … these things do often help lift me out of poor spirits.

Today is the 36-week anniversary of Little Boy’s gestation. If the pregnancy continues without complications, we should see the tiny nameless man for the first time in 2-6 weeks. I can’t believe we’re already so close to his arrival. I can’t believe that I will be even more tired than I am now for at least the first week or so after his birth. I can’t believe these unchanging days will continue on and on indefinitely and that wandering outdoors with my babies without fear of illness is in some distant, almost unimaginable future. I can’t believe Tiny Little Man is unlikely to meet other humans (not to mention my family back in USA) for months after his arrival and that Pyra will continue to live without social interaction for so long.

I know I should just be grateful for our health, for all of our privileges and good fortune … but hormones and brain chemicals are tough competitors and they’re continually nudging negative perspective and self-pity to the surface of my turbulent sea of emotions. I try to push them down and argue them out of existence, but they persist. It is pregnancy hormones? Is it the dreary weather? Is it lack of sleep? Is it an unbalanced lifestyle? The uncertainty of our living situation? I suppose it’s a terrific mash-up of all of those options, plus others that I’ve currently forgotten or haven’t even yet considered.

There’s Pyra crying again. I’ll have to go relieve my guilt soon. Shower her with kisses … and hot water. Rod went out to the grocery stores twice this week after several weeks avoiding them, and yesterday he brought back a little plastic baby tub for Pyra (we don’t have a bathtub in this apartment, just showers). I plan to let her play in her tub for a long time while the hot shower washes away my negativity and the fun new water activity eats up some of the afternoon.

It’s so terrible of me to write during these moments of heightened distress. It’s an ugly distortion of my general existence and state of mind. Yet, that’s generally when my writing bug bites … not in the midst of satisfaction and joyful moments, but when the mood drops and yearns for some release, a means of expression that might help dissipate the unwanted feelings.

Well, I’ve not really provided much of any update except for my negative feelings. It feels like there’s nothing much to report, but I know I should make an effort. Let’s see. The washing machine won’t work and the internet is often slow or not functioning. Hm. No, that’s not a very good start. Let me try again.

I received some sourdough starter from my favorite bakery and have been semi-diligently feeding it. I’m still waiting for adequate energy to coincide with inspiration and timing to attempt my first baking with it. Meanwhile, I’m developing a nice amount of discard to make crepes with one of these days.

The midwife came for a week 35 checkup and everything seems to be well with Little Boy and me. Next week I’m supposed to get an ultrasound and blood and urine tests as we approach “full term.” I have no idea where or how that will transpire. I have left the apartment building only once in the last 5 weeks, and that was for approximately 30-40 mins and within a couple of blocks. I don’t know how far I’ll need to go, how long I’ll be out, nor if I can accomplish the tasks with one outing. I don’t want to unnecessarily increase the risk of getting corona in the last weeks of pregnancy, so I will be avoiding any transportation and walking my big belly wherever I need to go. I’ll report back when it’s all accomplished.

Pyra is a bright light in our lives and her development is entertaining and wondrous to experience. We are so lucky to have so much time with her! She is a cheery and active 19-month-old girl. Some of her favorite activities are: being naked; climbing, jumping and tumbling on the couch; playing with water; picking out new pants and socks to wear; watching and trying to pick up bugs; playing any sort of chase or rough-housing with mom and dad.

Py’s spoken vocabulary is still surprisingly limited, and hilariously pronounced, but her comprehension is phenomenal. Her physical abilities definitely outshine her verbal skills at this point. Pyra has great balance and strength and loves using her adorable body in physical play. She climbs in and out of her highchair on her own, climbs up onto a twin bed for diaper changes (with the motivation of almond and raisins for a treat), pushes a chair around the house to facilitate her reaching things she not supposed to or watch mom and dad in the kitchen. She isn’t overly clingy, but she loves snuggles and kisses (generally with a wide-open mouth involving teeth and tongue) and to be near mom and dad. Pyra enjoys music, watching family videos, FaceTiming with her grandparents, Auntie and cousins (in fact she often pats my computer and says “Papa, Papa, Papa” to request a FT call), and exercising with mom and dad- although she’ll often randomly bust out some “pushups” throughout the day, on her own too.

We appreciate her appetite and acceptance of a wide-range of foods. Some of her favorite foods include: peas, almonds, raisins/grapes, oatmeal, avocado, grenadilla fruit, banana, papaya, mango (pretty much all fruits), quinoa, noodles, sourdough bread, mushrooms, veggie soups, smoothies …. really, she likes so many things, it’s hard to make a favorites list. She even likes to take little tastes of ají (a local take on hot sauce). She’s getting really good at feeding herself with a spoon or fork. I even let her go at a bowl of yogurt and meusli with banana, and a surprising majority made it into her mouth.

Ok, well, my mood has lifted with the clouds. While the sun might not have actually appeared, it’s brighter both outside and inside this apartment and I’m ready to re-join my family. Time for Pyra to try out that new bath tub and for me to wash away the last of my gloominess.

I wish I had made this update during a cheerier mood … I feel like I misrepresent my overall disposition and that it’s not exactly uplifting to read my whiney rants. I don’t want to leave people with negativity. Oh well. This is where I am today, at this point in time. I plan to post some photos of Miss P to help lighten the mood. I wish the best to everyone out there, and hope that you’re managing your current situation with more grace, generosity, and patience than I have been. By admitting my less-than-satisfying recent perspective and behavior, I intend to make improvements. This is kind of like a pity-party that ends in a pep-talk. It’s somewhat embarrassing to reveal and share with others, but also an effective way to get my act together. To show myself just how low I’ve stooped and motivate myself to make changes.

All of a sudden I remember the much weightier trials that many loved ones are facing during these same times. Death. Illness. True tragedies. And I feel silly and petty for my behavior, mood, and perspective. I should feel silly and petty when I compare my “trials” with the real adversity and sorrow that others are facing. Why can it be so hard to push the “reset perspective” button, sometimes? Ugh. Now I feel ashamed of my feelings … not enough to push me lower down … enough to lift my chin a bit self-consciously. To be grateful again. Grateful for all of my good fortunate in a slightly inconvenient and uncertain time.

Anyway. That’s it for now. Rant over. Much love to everyone out there dealing with their own personal demons, with the coronavirus, with whatever life is flinging at them right now.

Life in Cuenca, Ecuador – Pregnancy: Week 32; Coronavirus Isolation: Week 1

Our adventure grows more and more interesting- I suppose that holds true for just about everyone these days!

The Move

Today is Saturday. On Monday, we moved into our “permanent” apartment on the last day before the isolation mandates from the local government became much more serious. We didn’t “need” to move until Thursday, and had planned a leisurely 4-day transfer to our new home. That was when confirmed coronavirus in Ecuador was limited to a single family in a distant city. Things changed quickly as our local government started to take preventative measures. We hadn’t even started packing when we heard that we needed to start home isolation on Tuesday and that Monday would also be the last day that the grocery stores would be open for regular business- good thing we had stocked up a bit on dry good and diapers already!!

I went to get the keys for the new apartment at 10 am on Monday (an hour earlier than scheduled because the owner of the apartment was getting out of the city to her country home in front of the impending “lockdown”). I got the request for an earlier meeting around 9 am as I was heading to our favorite local bakery to stock up on sourdough bread (3 loaves of classic and 4 loaves of seeded whole wheat ☺️). The bakery was serving one client at a time, and since we had ordered ahead, they had it packaged up and ready to go. I was glad to see they were already taking precautions to reduce risk to themselves and their customers.

Because we have no car and we needed to get all our stuff moved in as little time and as few trips as possible, I took a backpack and stroller-load of groceries and baby clothes with me to the apartment via taxi. Rodney stayed at home with Pyra so she could nap, and to limit our exposure. The driver wore a mask, but no gloves; I had neither. I had intended to handle all my luggage myself, but he started to help before I could say anything. I asked him how he was doing and he said he was a little scared. No kidding. Talk about an occupation that not only holds a high level of risk to contract the coronavirus, but will also likely be restricted or forbidden for an extended period of time.

I returned to our temporary apartment Rodney had started to pack up and together we finished packing and cleaning up in just a couple hours. A generous and dear friend had agreed to help us move back when coronavirus was much more abstract, an illness only affecting people in far-off places. All of a sudden the risk of contracting the virus was much more real. This friend decided she would still help us, despite our assurances that she was completely free of any obligation. Luckily, we were completely ready, and it only took two trips. We skipped any hugs or direct contact, and we were moved over and done with our old apartment in about an hour and a half. WHAT A RELIEF!!! We are so grateful for the generosity of our friend who no-doubt should have been getting groceries or tending to her own family’s needs, but chose to help us out. It was incredible and we are so thankful!! We didn’t make it to the grocery store that day, but we were completely moved and were supplied enough with necessities to survive awhile. We are Lord and Lady of our own little apartment ☺️.

The last load to take up to the new apartment! So much lovely crap 🙂

Isolation

So, this is only our 5th day of isolation and living in our new apartment, but it feels like so much longer! With nowhere to go, and nothing much else to do, we were able to clean up, organize and move-in much faster than we normally would have. In three days we were feeling pretty settled-in, despite the fact that we hadn’t been able to acquire many items we had intended to … like sheets for the beds, furniture for the terrace, and a couple of toys for Pyra. Luckily we were insane and brought SO MUCH STUFF with us from the US; having our favorite kitchen items and household goods on hand has helped out a ton during these crazy times. It has also helped me feel a lot more “at home” to have so many familiar items with us. I never imagined how important it would be to us- we had started out feeling pretty frustrated with ourselves for schlepping so much “crap” from the US … no regrets now!!!

Cleaning and organizing provided plenty of distraction this week!

Having to stay inside with Pyra with limited resources for entertainment hasn’t been easy, but it hasn’t been awful either. Kids love everyday items so much more than toys anyway. It’s just been a game of “what to let the 18-month-old run around with?” I’ve been much more lenient in what she’s allowed to handle … and I think that’s been good for both of us.

Trying to come up with stimulating new activities for Py … dried black beans and an empty egg carton for the win this morning!

We have small terrace which was one of the highlights of this apartment, and I am so happy we stuck to our guns and made outdoor space a priority. It is wonderful!!!!! Pyra and I stripped down to our skivvies to scrub it down after discovering that to play on it meant tracking in enormous amounts of filth. I put on my maternity bathing suit (thank you, sweet cousin, Emily!) and scrubbed that terrace on my hands and knees. It was much more fun than it might have been because I let Pyra help; her giggles and nude little body entertained me as we washed away the grime.

Enjoying the terrace 🙂 I confined waterplay to the tub and a swimsuit this afternoon after yesterday’s nudie waterplay ended in me disinfecting all the toys and terrace due to poop appearing on the scene!

Rodney did go to the grocery store once this week as we realized we needed more “flavor” for our cooking. We were so spoiled before all this started: going out for lunch or dinner several times a week. We’ve had to up our cooking game, and we realized we needed more options to create tasty meals. The grocery stores are open for only 30 customers at a time, so we were concerned that he might have to stand in line for a long time. Additionally, we had heard reports that some stores were refusing customers if they didn’t have masks or gloves. We haven’t purchased masks, but we wanted to get to the store one last time before coronavirus was in Cuenca in great numbers. So, Rod donned a bandana for a mask and winter gloves and ventured out with the stroller and backpack, looking ridiculous but as prepared as he could be. Fortunately, he arrived at the store at a good time and didn’t have to wait at all. Products were in good supply and Rod came home with lots of goodies to help us get through isolation with more convenience and less desperation. The ahí (a local take on hot sauce), eggs, and corn chips have made my life so much happier the last few days 😆.

Pregnancy

So here’s the subject that concerns me the most: giving birth to a baby (who lacks a developed immune system) in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. In Ecuador. Far from medical attention that I’m familiar with or trust. Far from family support. Far from ideal.

I am INCREDIBLY grateful that we were recommended to a midwife and we were able to meet her several weeks ago. I joined a childbirth preparation group that she leads and have been getting to know four other women who are due to give birth in the next few months as well. Despite so many uncertainties still lingering, I am not alone in this … WE are not alone in this situation, and we have a small support network that is so, so, precious to me.

Even before the issue of coronavirus had infiltrated our everyday lives, I was feeling super apprehensive about using the hospitals to give birth here. Nearly all hospital births are cesarean in this country and as I’ve been told by locals, the patient has very few rights. I even heard that random people (the doctor’s father) may be allowed in the room to witness the rare and fantastical vaginal birth, while spouses and family members may be denied access. What, what?! I was told that doctor’s don’t track c-section rates, because they are so commonplace and that of the vaginal births that do occur, 9 out of 10 are with an episiotomy. (Can you see me cringing and shrinking back with horror?!?!?! Because I am!)

Rodney and I were SO relieved to meet the midwife who is a professional (certified in Mexico) with tons of experience (started training in Columbia at the age of 17) and is incredibly empathetic, knowledgable, and makes us feel very confident in her (and our) abilities. Unfortunately, we can’t combine the assurances of modern medicine of the hospital, with the experience and knowledge of the mid-wife. The hospitals won’t allow her to be our primary provider, or even to be in the room during delivery. So we are pretty well set that we will be having this baby “at home.” Not what I had imagined when I first discovered that we were pregnant again; I had visions of a comfy North American hospital birth, with my mom and sister in attendance for support. Yeah, well, that’s not happening. We decided that dual citizenship was a higher priority for this little guy than my ideals for giving birth.

Of course now, I’m not even sure what is most responsible for me to do in terms of check-ups, ultrasounds, etc. Thank goodness I’m healthy and this pregnancy has had zero issues/complications! We still have to figure out whether benefits outweigh the risks to get the usual checkups and then an ultrasound later on as we near the due date. We have yet to discuss these concerns with our midwife. We still have a little time to make decisions and feel more comfortable: I complete 32 weeks tomorrow, giving us 6-8 more weeks before baby boy should arrive.

Until Next Time

Well, I should wrap up. Rod gifted me with time to myself, and I’ve spent it rambling away here. And now I hear my sweet little Py knocking on the door looking from Mommy. Actually, she melted straight to tears as Rod turned her away in an attempt to keep her distracted and let me be alone a bit longer. I should get back to my family so he doesn’t regret offering me this spectacular gift!!

Please take care of yourselves and your families. Respect government actions to help prevent the spread of this virus and protect the vulnerable individuals in our community. You may be healthy and fight off coronavirus easily, but your actions could potentially endanger others who wouldn’t be as lucky. People will die. But we can each help to reduce those numbers.

Much love and wishes of health and peace to you all.

Cuenca: Settling In

I wrote this post two days ago. And to be honest, I cried really hard today. Cried about being an introvert in a place that will be super-hard to make new, real friends. Cried about being so far away from my family. But that little sob session relieved some of those emotions that had been welling up the last weeks. Here’s what I wrote two days ago:

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I was a bit homesick, feeling unsure, and … unsettled the first week we were here in Cuenca, Ecuador. I was desperately exhausted from the 24 hours of travel with a busy no-nap toddler, pregnancy, and change in elevation (Spokane, WA: 562m/1,843ft vs Cuenca, Ecuador: 2,560m/8,400ft). I also wasn’t feeling especially confident about our move; the initial culture shock and realization of how far I am from friends and family weighed on me more than I was prepared for. Fortunately, it didn’t take too long to recover from travel and only a few more days before I began to feel more settled about our decision to stay in Ecuador for a while. Familiarity with the town and language helped a lot and catching up with some friends lent even more sense of support and security.

So here we are, two weeks and two days into our stay (actually four days, since it took me two more days to get the photos uploaded after I finished writing this!!). So much has already transpired, I can’t believe it’s only been two weeks! Here are a few of the things that make me feel like it’s been longer:

  • we found and leased an apartment already!! We had been looking online since our arrival (and even before) without much luck. A wonderful local facilitator was able to show us three apartments in an afternoon and one was so great that we decided not to look any further- now that’s apartment-searching success!
  • we have joined a local midwife’s childbirth preparedness group. The first meeting is tonight, but we’ve met with the midwife already and feel really great about having her guidance in the next couple months (2.5 months until 40 weeks?!). I have been craving a greater sense of support and confidence for this birth, not that anything went wrong with our first birth, but … I want something more/different for this one. I’m hoping that this midwife will be instrumental in helping me create the support and build the confidence I’m looking for.
  • I joined intermediate-level group Spanish lessons: a much-needed opportunity for challenge and practice that has kick-started my language usage
  • we’ve met up with friends at a local festival celebration in the park where we got to meet more families, and Py and I joined a playgroup session to catch-up with friends and make new ones.
  • we’ve been exploring our current neighborhood, primarily by enjoying the delicious inexpensive local food (large lunch for $3 can’t be beat!) and frequently going to the park to play
  • we’ve hit our favorite bakeries and tried some new ones (discovered a bakery nearby that might just have my most favorite sourdough bread in Cuenca yet! I can’t believe I hadn’t tried them before?! I’m smitten with the old-world style breads and can’t wait to talk more with the owner!)
  • Rod has been to the mercado four times already, and I think I’ve been 2 or three times- fresh food is so great!!! Guacamole from fresh and flavorful avocadoes and tomato, deliciously ripe papaya with lime, snacks of pears and strawberries, veggie soup packed with fresh local produce … oh man, oh man. I really don’t like cooking these days, so the instant pot we brought is proving to be SO WORTH IT! At this elevation, it takes forever to cook grains and legumes and pressure cookers are the only way to go. Rod tried cooking black beans the last time we were in Cuenca, and after a day of soaking and several days of cooking, those beans were still hardly edible! We couldn’t believe it. I’ve made black beans, lentils, and brown rice with great success, and just made a veggie-only soup last night that took so little time, but tastes amazing (Py devoured it for dinner and had some with breakfast- me too!)

OK, I’m sure there’s more, but I’ve got to wrap this up before the pip-squeak starts her chatter and wants out of bed. She sure is enjoying all the time we spend walking and being out-and-about. Our very friendly and social Py gets to wave and interact with so many people, pigeons, and dogs 😀

Impeccable timing- there’s the little bug now!!

I’m not disgusted- it’s the sun in my eyes! Pyra loves seeing the River Tomebamba.
Py enjoying fresh pineapple juice. We never gave Pyra juice in the US, but she gets to share our juices at lunch. They’re usually just fresh fruit blended with water- pulp and all!
Blowout!!! Everybody loves a blowout … right?!?! The diapers here don’t seem to fit too well, nor are there many changing areas, making for super-fun diapering on the go!

Spokane to Cuenca – we made it!

Here I am!! Sitting in the equatorial sun, listening to birds sing (and cars rush by) on the terrace of our rental. 24 hours after leaving Spokane, we arrived safely in Cuenca- feeling like zombies, but with all of our ridiculous, ridiculous amounts of luggage intact and accounted for!!

Pyra is so well adjusted to her nap routine at home in her bed that she had a really hard time sleeping during travel. During 24 hours of travel, she got about 6 hours of sleep. And I suppose you can guess: mom and dad got much less sleep. But we made it! And Pyra is currently napping soundly in her bed after an excellent night’s sleep. Man do we love her little travel bed. (Hummingbird chirping up a storm just above my head … and a little bird that looks like a miniature dove just flew into the garden).

We didn’t venture out much yesterday after our 6:30am arrival. But we did go out for our first “almuerzo” just a couple blocks from where we are staying. “Almuerzo” is one of our favorite culinary traditions here: an inexpensive set-plate lunch. Yesterday’s almuerzo was a $3 variety that was an exceptional value: fresh juice, lentil and sausage soup, rice, potatoes in sauce, some kind of stewed pork in a sauce, a tiny salad, and a tiny cookie. Man do I love almuerzo!!! The ability to walk from home to a $3 very-filling meal is the best!

Poor Pyra was out of sorts most of the day, but she loved waving and interacting with all the people while we were out and about. I heard her say “hola” for the first time: melt my heart!!! It was to a little boy at the restaurant that she was interacting with through a window 🙂 Later she smiled and waved a lot to the other kids at the park. There is a nice little neighborhood park just two blocks from where we are staying. Parks here are so awesome because they are well-attended by families, as residential yards and green spaces aren’t so common inside the city. Most parks are well-maintained and well-used. It’s one of the main (and favorite) ways we can “naturally” interact with locals.

Rod has his work station set up, and is plugging away, but the internet is a woeful affair in our rental. We were completely spoiled in our previous rental in Cuenca; it had the fastest internet any of our local friends had heard of. But we’ll get things figured out. We have this rental for one month while we look for more permanent accommodations. I suppose it’s time to start hunting. Ugh.

Another thing we need to look into is OB care and where to give birth this time around. We’re not sure if we want to go the same route as last time … I feel like I want a little more medical presence, although I don’t want to give up all the autonomy and flexibility we had before. We never visited a hospital the last time we were here, we may do that this time, just to get a better sense of what is available. Our little guy (little because he has at least 3 more months to bake, and little because he’s supposedly on the small side for his gestational age: 22nd percentile) isn’t expected for several more months, but I want to feel the security of having some kind of plan and support system in place, and the sooner the better.

Well, the equatorial sun is so fierce here that I need to go back inside to cool off. Only my legs and feet are in the sun, but dang is it hot when it’s out! The sun is super intense at this latitude and elevation, and it scorches quickly. We plan to go get Pyra a better sun hat later today; Rod and I still have ours from our last visit.

I’ll try to get photos on this blog and the Facebook page as the internet connection and Little P allow. Wish you all could be here on the terrace with me!!!! Big hugs and kisses from Cuenca.

Ecuador Again!

Our townhouse is emptied out and we’re checking off the last of our “to-do” items, because … we’re moving! In less than 24 hours. Out of the country. Again. To Ecuador. Yes, moving again after only 5 months in the Spokane, WA area. And while I’m definitely not excited to uproot ourselves so soon, the reason for our move definitely IS wonderfully exciting! We’re moving back to Ecuador for the same basic reasons that we went down in 2018, only this time … it’s a BOY baby that we’re expecting!!

This will be a short post because it’s the morning before we leave, and Little P is about to wake up. Today is a day of last-minute items like confirming that our (7!) checked bags are within weight restrictions and inventoried; meet the carpet cleaners at our rental and then return the keys; take our van to the storage lot; pack the last of our food items to give away; pack up our carry-ons (do we have enough diapers, snacks, and distractions for air travel with a 17-month old?); clean up at our temporary housing at the AirBnB and get to bed early (yeah right) for our 3:15am ride to the airport.

I just wanted to get this post out because it came to my attention that many of our friends and family weren’t actually aware of one or all of the following: that we’re expecting (and I’m already 27 weeks!), that we’re having a boy in May/June, that we are moving back to Ecuador. We plan to stay through until the end of the year and return to the USA for visiting over the holidays. I’m hoping this post reaches all the people who would want to know!

Well, I best be getting myself ready for this very busy day. Baby boy is already kicking at me to get going, and soon there will be a precious toddling girl calling for me. Rodney and I will have our hands full for the next 48 hours … but then we can rest at the equator and take deep breaths of mountain air at 8,400 feet in Cuenca, Ecuador.

One last thought before I sign off and get this day going …

The appreciation we feel for our family and friends could not be greater. We are wildly blessed with good fortune and loving support. We are going to miss everyone so, so, so incredibly much. We have deep gratitude and appreciation for all the help and love we’ve received these last months and in these last weeks and days. You know who you are … you wonderful people. And some of you may not even know how much you make us feel supported with just a few words now and then, but sent with sincerity and intention. From Alaska to Washington and Oregon, California and Arizona, south to Ecuador, across the oceans to Spain and Germany, and in so many places in-between … our support network is wide, deep, and rich with love. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

NEXT STOP: Cuenca, Ecuador!!!!

Hello again! A tiny bit of catch-up …

A crowded coffee shop, my Mannheim Steamroller’s Christmas music in my headphones to overpower the din of conversation and clatter of silverware. A steaming drink and a sweet treat … still hot, and all to myself, all by myself. Gosh, that sounds selfish! But I need it right now. I needed it all week, and the week before. I’m going to just sit and enjoy it for a minute …

Oh dear: my drink and treat are disappearing too fast, I better start writing again.

Man, I’m terrible with routine and consistency … well, for some things, anyway. I’ve actually been remarkably consistent with Little P’s sleep routine and schedule; I feed both my children every single day, multiple times a day; and I’m consistently amazed by both my incredibly fortunate life and how often I feel utterly exhausted. So, maybe I’m actually great with routine and consistency?! Perspective is a wonderful thing; I just need to continually adjust mine! I’m also consistently distracted from my task at hand … so, ahem, as I was saying …

I haven’t been great at updating this website, despite my frequent desire to work on it. I have two draft posts that never made it onto the blog. One post is from the end of March 2019 when we were in Cologne, Germany and the other I wrote at the beginning of May 2019 in Madrid, Spain. SO MUCH has happened, and I wish I had been documenting and sharing all along … but I prioritized the moment and need to be fine with that. I will, however, go ahead and paste in those two partial posts here:

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Sleep Training, Part 3- Traveling Takes its Toll

March 26, 2019 – First off, I want to say that I’m pretty sure it’s still worth it. I sat down to write this post feeling like I would mostly complain. But that would be rather weak of me. I’m always touting my mantra of “perspective, perspective, perspective” and that’s probably because I have a really hard time keeping things in perspective myself. I’m the one who needs the word “perspective” tattooed across my forehead. Hm. Maybe I will get a tattoo, after all ….

It’s true that things haven’t been easy with Pyra (now six and a half months old!) since we started to travel, but I would likely be second-guessing and having trying times if I were in one location anyway. I’m an over-thinker, analyzer type with postpartum empathy on over-drive. Then you throw in that we’re moving around to different housing, dealing with a 9-hour time, teething, illness, vaccinations, lack of sleep, lack of support system …. yeah, it makes sense that I might feel a bit overwhelmed, a bit exhausted, a bit like throwing in the towel and going home now and then. Only, where is home?! And would the grass truly be greener, more lush, and worth giving up all these other wonderful experiences and memories?

*pausing to get my crying baby …*

* * *

And, cut. that was the end of that post. HA! A rather appropriate conclusion given the post title. (I also consistently bring up the all-important “perspective!” High-five to myself!)

I looked back at my photos, and I took this photo on that day … a coffee that was drunk in many different sittings, as a parent often does when caring for an infant.

Rings on a tree trunk reveal the tree’s age. Rings on the coffee cup reveal how distracted you are by your children, or how often you had to choose to either reheat your beverage or drink it cold.

If I remember correctly, I was going to elaborate on some of the issues with baby’s sleep due to our travel schedule. I’m not going to try to finish the post, but I will recount a couple very memorable experiences.

Teething Infant + Major Construction

In Maui (where we were the last time I actually published a post, back in February of this year!), the condo we were staying at was under construction. I’m not talking about some light remodeling or major renovations in the tower next to ours … I’m talking about jackhammering into concrete on the level directly above ours. I’m talking about not being able to talk to one another in our living space, due to the intense noise level. And then there was Baby Pyra. Teething and needing a nap. I was about to lose my mind (over lost sleep and frustration), but children are incredibly adaptive and that sweet little girl ended up sleeping through the ridiculous noise … at least some of the time.

Teething Infant + Nine-Hour Time Change

The other memorable experience was the first several days in Europe after arriving from the west coast of the US. As it turns out, babies aren’t great at adjusting to major time changes without a great deal of external influence. The one recommendation I had read about before we traveled suggested that, a week or so before travel, the parent should begin to push baby’s sleep time either forward or back in 15-minute increments. This recommendation probably works wonderfully for an hour or two time difference. But our nine-hour time change would practically be a baby’s entire awake time for a day!

The travel tip would be tricky enough to implement as we were already on the road and could barely stick to a routine as it was, but throw in the little wrench of the amount of the time change and we would need 36 days to adjust Pyra’s sleep schedule according to recommendation! And even if we could adjust to half the difference, soon baby would be going to bed at 11:30pm and waking up at almost noon! Completely infeasible. So, instead, we got to Barcelona and I was awake all night with baby and asleep most of the day … for nearly three days, and with the baby in my arms for nearly all of it. After the flight, Pyra wanted to be in my arms all the time; I couldn’t lay her down to sleep. I was desperately tired, so I remember holding her in my arms until they shook with fatigue and sleeping inclined on the couch with a six-month-old on my chest. I was too exhausted to figure out what to do, so we continued this way until finally Rodney had had enough and forced me to make the necessary changes to adapt our sleep schedule. It weren’t no fun, let me tell you … but I’d do it all again to live my fortunate life with my precious family.

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Travels with Baby, Part 1

May 02, 2019 – It’s silent in the dimly lit room except for the whir of the fan and the occasional squeak of a mattress and turn of a page as my eldest daughter (tries to) read quietly on the springy hotel bed. My husband is lying on another bed, working on his phone, and I’m stretched out comfortably on my own bed, writing this.

What’s so noteworthy about this cozy scene in Madrid, Spain? It’s that our 7 and 1/2 month old daughter is taking a nap in the same room, in her own bed, after being put down awake. And I feel pretty well rested and in good humor. It is absolutely glorious. But I won’t lie, it’s not been exactly a piece of cake to get to this point.

We’ve been traveling for …. well, where do I start? From when we left Ecuador when the baby, Pyra, was 2 and 1/2 months old? Or when we left Alaska when she was 5 months? Let’s be conservative and I’ll say that we’ve been traveling for 11 weeks and 1 day. That’s how long it’s been since we took off from Alaska (we were there for 10 and 1/2 weeks and before that we were in Ecuador for 5 months, where Pyra was born).

* * *

I think folks can use their own imagination to suppose what kind of trials might arise when you travel extensively with an infant and a woman who doesn’t function well unless incredibly well-rested. I’m done dwelling on the downsides … I want to remember and relish the amazing experiences we shared as a family. My alone time should be wrapping up soon and I want to end this post with some fun memories and photos. So that’s what I’m going to do!! Here is just a tiny fraction of the 3.5 months we spent traveling … I’ll have to do more catch-up later.