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.

“Last” Day in Alaska

Note: I started this post on the afternoon of our last day in Alaska, although I published it from Cuenca, Ecuador, a few days later. I couldn’t quite get it finished at home; my brain was too preoccupied with preparations and other priorities.


Well, the day has finally arrived. Actually, after creeping towards us for months, “The Last Day” swooped in and swept us away. It’s now afternoon on The Last Day, and while there is still a little more to do, we’re mostly ready to head to the airport. The primary goal for the rest of the day is to spend time with family … time is passing altogether too quickly.

In fact, our last weeks in Alaska seemed to defy the laws of nature, as each day dissolved into night in record time. Our to-do lists kept growing as available time kept shrinking. But we’re getting on that flight tonight; we’re headed to Ecuador.

With limited time and patience, I’m just going to quickly jot down some of our last-minute preparations/experiences:

  • We finalized our transition from a four-vehicle-family to a no-car family. Rod sold his ’69 Chevy last fall, the “big truck” went earlier this spring, and we both handed over the keys to our daily drivers two days ago. It felt like being a teenager again: Mom and Dad were very generous, both in allowing us to borrow their cars and in shuttling us to various family gatherings. For many people, not owning a car is not a big deal, but we’ve been dependent on private transportation for all the years we’ve lived in Alaska. Eschewing private vehicles is a huge leap for us.
  • This morning, the morning of our departure, we discovered that our plan to “port” our Alaskan phone numbers to Google Voice was ill-conceived. Google Voice (and most other VoIP service providers won’t port an Alaska number, it seems. We are now trying to figure out if there is any way to keep our current phone numbers … but it’s not looking good.
  • In the last months and weeks, I’ve struggled to balance preparations to leave, Nixin’s homeschool, and quality time with family and friends. If I were able to revise my choices, I would put greater effort into the relationships. Even so, I did get lots of hugs and kisses and squeals of laughter from my nieces and nephews to carry with me.
  • One last haul of clothes/belongings to a donation center. It’s funny, it was placing some of Rodney’s clothes in a bag for donation when it really hit me: all our belongings will be on our backs and in some checked luggage. When I was getting rid of my clothes it never struck me, but looking at Rodney’s t-shirts that I’m so used to seeing him wear, and that I’ll never see him wear again … my heart and throat clenched up a little. The reality of what we are doing, the “sacrifices” and adjustments we are making to experience a different way of living … it just sunk in a little deeper.
  •  Last minute decision to purchase compression hose for me … the double whammy of pregnancy and a lot of flying made it seem like a good idea.
  • While we were in town getting the hose, Rod talked me into replacing my rain coat. I was on the fence for months about this … I LOVE my Arcteryx shell … but I’ve been wearing it for about 5 years and it’s waterproofing isn’t great anymore. When I realized that I tend to avoid wet weather because of the jacket’s diminished impermeability, I knew I needed to get a new jacket. I wasn’t mentally prepared to drop several hundred to replace my incredible coat, though, so I got less expensive REI-brand raincoat. There weren’t a lot of color options, but I got one I never would have chosen in the past: “Flash Pink.” It’s kind of orangey/red/pink. Rod and I have noticed how nice it is to have easily-identifiable outerwear when we travel; we don’t like to lose one another. And while he has a gorgeously subtle navy blue Arcteryx, I’m content to be the eyesore if it means he can always find me 🙂

OK. Time to head to our family gathering; hard to believe we won’t get to be physically present with some of these loved ones for eight months. I know that many families are scattered across state lines and continents, but for the last eight years, I’ve been very close to my family, so this is going to be tough.

Tonight is the night: we say goodbye to Alaska for now, and head off for a new way of living.

2-For-1 Adventure: We’re Having a Baby in Ecuador

90 days until we depart Alaska for Ecuador … and about 25 weeks more of pregnancy.

(SURPRISE!!! We’re having a baby!)

Adventure #1 – Pregnancy, childbirth, and a baby

If you’re a general member of the public, you may not realize what a huge, huge, huge, huge deal this pregnancy is for us. We’ve been riding an agonizing emotional rollercoaster of infertility for several years, but last year we called it quits and finally gave up trying for a successful pregnancy. We had spent thousands on medical help, lost five (known) early pregnancies, and shed countless tears. The emotional toll of the endeavor had grown too great and we were ready to move on with our lives. And so we did.

Instead of draining our energy on unsuccessful family-building, we redirected ourselves towards positive life-building in general. Our infertility experience made it excruciatingly clear to us that we are unable to control all aspects of our existence, but that nonetheless, we have the power of choice in all situations. Sometimes the apparent options will all seem undesirable; but we still get to choose which is the least undesirable.

We were not able to choose to have our own biological children, but we could choose to forego the years of certain emotional turmoil that would come with sticking the course. We could choose to proactively build a healthier relationship and life while we are still physically and mentally able in lieu of the tenuous and dark path that would never guarantee a biological child at the end. We have a limited length of time to live in a healthy body, and our experience reminded us of the importance to control what we can in order to create a life worth living. (If you want to read more about our infertility experience, jump to my old blog: So, this is happening …)

OK … so where was I going before I got off course … oh, yeah!

SURPRISE! We’re having a baby!

We discovered I was pregnant Thursday, January 25th. The next day I was shocked (and elated and anxious) to find that a viable fetus with a heartbeat was snuggled in my uterus (every single ultrasound I’ve had prior to this one has shown us only disappointment or sorrow). Two weeks later, we were nearly 9 weeks into the pregnancy and the baby-to-be was still alive and growing at a normal rate. I had sobbed at all of my zillions of ultrasounds … but never from joy.

Rodney has been my pillar of strength and a well-spring of positive energy from the day we first discovered the pregnancy. You see, when I took that home pregnancy test on January 25th and it was positive … I wasn’t excited. Every positive pregnancy test I’ve ever received … ended with a dead fetus. I was certain that we were in for just another “character building” experience. I really did hold a tiny glimmer of hope deep in my heart … but it’s shine was desperately buried by the shadow of doubt nurtured by years of infertility. But Rodney, from that first day, bolstered me with his excitement and confidence. It was like he willed this baby into good health and denied my body from rejecting it.

We saw the baby in the 12th week … looking like a real baby. Unbelievable. It kicked and somersaulted and was undeniably alive. Today is the first day of week 16 and we’re officially carrying a baby into the second trimester. (Aaaaaaaaa! It’s still sinking in!!) My taste for coffee and hummus has returned, but my husband’s (usually delicious) homemade sauerkraut still repels me and my sweet tooth continues to be much stronger than it has ever been before this pregnancy.

Adventure #2 – Sticking to the lifestyle change

As soon as we realized that this baby intends to join our family, we started to analyze our plans and options. We have tickets to depart Alaska for Sweden in August; plans to  be in Spain and Portugal until October; make our way to Kathmandu for a TEFL course in November; and then hang out in Southeast Asia thereafter. Baby plans to arrive in September. Hm.

To most of our family and friends, there was one obvious and clear choice: delay departure until after Baby is born and then figure out what to do and when. For Rodney and I, this sounded very unappealing. We have been working hard towards and eagerly anticipating the upcoming lifestyle change. To delay departure doesn’t just mean putting off travel, it means that Rodney would be shackled to his 9-to-5 desk job with a daily commute merely to secure ongoing healthcare to afford the birth of Baby. And then, after Baby arrives, Rodney would have limited time off from work to be with his new child. Quite simply, that wasn’t the obvious and clear best choice for us.

We looked at the healthcare costs of various other countries to see if we could afford to stick to our original plan and have Baby along the way. Our minimal research suggested that we would probably pay a similar out-of-pocket amount for Baby to be born in Sweden or Spain as in Alaska, but what we didn’t know is if we would want to bunker down for awhile to adjust to life with new Baby. Additionally, if we were going to have give birth outside of the USA … how about securing dual citizenship as a bonus gift to Baby?

Jus soli, or birthright citizenship, is a privilege offered by relatively few nations- certainly not Sweden or Spain. But when we looked at countries that do confer birthright citizenship, we were excited to see that Ecuador (along with most American nations) is among the few. Ecuador ranked highly in our list of potential countries to move to when we started to talk about lifestyle changes about a year and a half ago. Ultimately, we decided to “slow travel” for an indefinite period before plunging into a more permanent move … but, here was Ecuador again. Waving it’s cheery flag of desirable characteristics.

Ecuador is well-known in the ex-pat community. Its affordable and relatively good healthcare, low-cost living, pleasant climate, incredible biodiversity, foreigner-friendly national language and visa policies have put Ecuador in the top rankings of “best countries for expats” for a handful of years (albeit, it’s rank has slipped a bit in the last year or two as other countries have gained popularity). Having already been on our radar as a potential country to move to, Ecuador quickly became our target destination when it appeared in the list of jus soli countries. We excitedly researched medical and visa options and then with some good-looking data to lean on, decided that moving to Ecuador to have Baby and stay indefinitely will be our new plan.

So there you have it. We’re off on a serendipitous 2-for-1 adventure, thanks to the inability to control all aspects of our existence, combined with the invaluable power to choose. It’s deliberosity, baby: there’s always a choice. And we are doing our best to make the most of our insignificant and fabulous lives. Woooot!!

Live more like Frida

— Some readers may find the last image on this post disturbing —

I vow to express myself more honestly, without reserve or fear, and to encourage that trait in our daughter.

Well, I actually vow to put effort into developing that trait.

I feel that too often in my life, I held myself back and deferred to other’s opinions and desires. To be polite, I willingly placed myself in the backseat of discussions  and social gatherings, as well as the actual backseat of vehicles. But I also think I put myself in the background because it was easier. And less risky. If your opinions are muted, nobody can challenge or ridicule them.

I want to push myself to become the person I’d like to be. A person unafraid of what other’s think of me, undaunted by the potential reactions and responses to my actions. My life is my own; I need to let myself be me. It’s not that I am dishonest about who I am. I am genuine in my relationships. I believe in honesty. But I haven’t always stood up for what I believe in moments that I should have. I have put too much thought into how others perceive me.

I can’t control the perception of others- they will think what they think. I have just one life and I shouldn’t spend it worrying about what other people might be thinking. I should just live how I want to live. I want to live more like Frida.

Photograph of Frida Kahlo

I honestly don’t know a great deal about this legendary artist, but there are aspects of her character that I am definitely impressed with and would like to cultivate in myself. Frida Kahlo inspires me to nurture my neglected self-confidence, self-expression, and boldness. I want to pursue my interests and follow my inclinations without deferring to the assumed perceptions of others. Frida’s tendency to do what she pleased, with seeming disregard to public opinion, is what first drew me to the artist, although she’s not the first to attract my attention with such characteristics. Tim Ferriss is another well-known, albeit contemporary, figure who inspires me for many of the same reasons. After a little more research, however, I discovered that Frida and I share a mutual, somewhat uncommon experience. It’s a painful and intimate experience which pulls Frida deep into my heart, and forges a strong personal link to this woman who lived and died long before I was born.

Frida was never able to have children. Her physical injuries prevented her from carrying a pregnancy to full term. Frida conceived, but ultimately lost each pregnancy. The losses of her potential children, and the destruction of her dream to have children with her husband, filled her with anguish and tormented her for many years. While it would be unfair for me to claim that I know how she felt, I do empathize with her agony and her need to express the very specific pain of loss. The loss of a life developing within her womb and the loss of her future as she had anticipated. I’m devastatingly familiar with the emotional trauma of loosing a pregnancy. And I’m still figuring out how to rebuild my life from the shards of broken dreams.

We expected to be mothers. We expected that the tiny being developing in our womb would one day lie warm and soft against our breast. We expected that tiny being to one day breathe in fresh air and feel the warmth of the sun while physically representing the love between ourselves and our husbands.  Instead what we experienced was the unexpected.

Even without a common experience, Frida Kahlo would have inspired me to pursue self-expression and self-confidence. Her fearlessness is beautiful and admirable. It is, however, the unexpected and sorrowful link between us which pushes her status as role model to an even higher regard. Frida endured unimaginable physical and emotional pain throughout her life and her dreams of being a medical professional and mother were denied by circumstance. Yet Frida reimagined herself and built a new identity, blessing the world with her creativity, perspective, and talent. The least I can do is choose to be active in my personal development and deliberate in my life; to live in the world and make choices that will make me, and Frida, proud.