Long Nights, Short Days

Today marks a month since our son was born – what a whirlwind it has been.  Ace Antonio Aguirre graced us with his commanding presence right on time on Wednesday, March 31st at 4:06pm – weighing in a whopping 8 lbs, 10 oz.  We fell in love instantly – this big handsome fella has a full head of hair and a hypnotic smile that he occasionally offers up in exchange for milk.

A parent once told me, “the nights are long, but the days are short.”

Looking back at photos of Ava only a year ago is a testament to how true this statement really is.  The time does go by so incredibly fast and you want to soak in every baby snuggle and sweet baby smell before it’s over in a heartbeat.

But to be honest, the last month has been a bit of a blur.  How easily one forgets what a brutal slog of sleepless nights, feeding, washing bottles, changing diapers and entertaining your older daughter (who is an amazingly loving big sister by the way) can be with a newborn. 

When you’re operating with weeks of consecutive sleep deprivation, that thoughtful ad age feels like a taunt.  DJ and I are at the very bottom of that Maslow’s pyramid of needs and sleep is that prized luxury we both crave.  These nights really are long, god darn it!

So what a blessing it has been to have our moms nearby.  They have both come to spend a night a week to watch Ace and to give us a bit of rest.  What a difference it has made!  We can better enjoy all those baby cuddles and pairing cute outfits with Ace’s already impressive sneaker collection.

We spent two weeks in Minneapolis and had an Easter Sunday brunch with Mandi and her kids before flying back home to San Francisco.  It was lovely to have Ava and Mandi’s little ones enjoy an egg hunt while they chased around a pet chicken named, Toots.  It was a great way for our families to continue to strengthen our friendship.  Mandi shared a perspective that we absolutely loved.  The notion that when you have a newborn child, you bond with the baby.  But in surrogacy, you actually bond with the whole family.  We couldn’t agree more. 

Looking back at this experience of forming our family, I pinch myself with how fortunate we are to have two beautiful children.  What a miracle that we were matched with two amazing surrogates who through selflessness gave us the gift of life.  That an anonymous egg donor shared with us her own genes so that we could have our babies – her traits which shine through like beacons that make these two kids unmistakably brother and sister.

And guess what?  Even as cranky dads in a sleep deficit, we’re both really great fathers.  We are an incredible team and have found a way to thrive and enjoy this experience now while looking forward to an even better future as a complete family.

Yes, the nights might be long, but hopefully we can take a few more naps to enjoy the coming days, too.

L.I.P.O. Baby Brother

As of this writing, we are less than five weeks away from meeting our son.  This is a dream that has been in the making for over five years, although if DJ and I are being honest, this is something that we’ve dreamt about for a lifetime.

A common question that we get is, “are you ready?”

Well, in the last couple of weeks, we’ve been getting everything in order to welcome our little guy.  We’ve graduated Ava to her big girl room – our former office/spare bedroom is now a child’s wonderland.  She loves it.  And, the nursery is undergoing an update as well.  Gone is the safari theme in favor of an aeronautical one – replete with plane and hot air balloon decals.  While we can’t celebrate with a baby shower due to the pandemic, we’ve set up a small Amazon registry so family and friends can help us stock up on a few items that we need.  The benefit of being second time parents is we have most of the big stuff ready to go!

Every day Ava seems to soak up more language – in both English and Spanish.  We’ve been telling her the story of her brother’s impending arrival, pointing out babies on television or in real life and explaining to her how she’ll soon meet her own little brother.  We’ve even gotten her a baby doll.  But so far, she’s remained disinterested.  We’re sure she’ll warm up to him once he’s here – delayed gratification is not a skill present in toddlers.

A couple of weeks ago we finally got to see our first glimpse of little man’s mug, we had a milestone ultrasound – this time we actually got a 3D rendering of his face.  It was an incredible moment to begin getting an idea of what he’ll look like when we finally meet.

Preparations have been completed for our travel to the birth – we arrive March 24th in Minneapolis, we’ll stay for 2 weeks at an Airbnb with the goal of returning April 8th.  We are scheduled to induce March 31st unless baby decides to make an early appearance.  Ava will be traveling with us so she gets to meet baby brother around the same time that we do and can travel home as a complete family. 

We’ll also be spending Easter Sunday in Minnesota with our surrogate, Mandi, and her kids.  Ava, Ella and Bennett have become fast friends – enjoying our weekend FaceTime visits to check on the progress of the pregnancy.  Ella and Bennett in particular have had a front row seat to the pregnancy and are excited to meet Ava’s little brother, too.  It’s been so wonderful to view this experience through their eyes – seeing the love and excitement that they have for this most intimate a process. 

So back to the question, “are you ready?” There is no good answer.  Are we nervous?  No, the first-time parent anxiety has subsided.  Instead, we’re curious what the baby’s personality will be?  We wonder if he’ll be easy going, a cuddler or a good sleeper?  No two babies are alike.  We’re curious how our home life will evolve.  Will the easy rhythm over the past 19 months be upended?  Will we be able to cope with a few months of sleeplessness, again?  Are you ever really ready for any life change?  All we can do is take the plunge and see how we feel at the other end of this wild ride.

We’ve prepared all that we can.  I often recite a mantra to myself when things feel chaotic or outside of my control which I’ve lovingly created an acronym for, “L.I.P.O” which stands for, “let it play out.”  I can think of no better sentiment to carry us through the next month as our lifetime dream finally manifests itself.  L.I.P.O indeed!

Crawl, Walk, Run

Our baby girl Ava is running.  It’s been amazing to see her tentative steps become steadier in such a short time.  Ava’s mobility evolution is no different than our journey as new parents.  You start off unsure, overwhelmed and anxious.  As the months pass you start to feel more confident.  And then voila, you’re a year in and feeling like you got this.

Whether that parental bravado is misplaced or not, we are running right towards having baby #2.  And as of this writing, we are officially 3 months pregnant with one baby boy!  Hello 2nd trimester!

Our baby boy is due April 3rd, 2021 – an Aries is heading our way in six short months and we couldn’t be more thrilled.

In our last update, we mentioned traveling to San Diego to meet our new surrogate, Mandi.  What we intentionally left out was the purpose of our visit – our embryo transfer.  We also left out a bit of the drama that ensued.

On that fateful day, we were delighted to finally get to meet Mandi in person after months of FaceTime, texts and phone calls.  We woke up early that morning to drive to San Diego (we were staying in Palm Springs for a few weeks on vacation).  The drive was uneventful, and we arrived at the fertility clinic a bit early. 

As we pulled up, we received a phone call from the clinic advising us that the embryo that we thawed was somehow damaged in the process and only half of the cells were showing signs of life.  This was devastating news as we only had 2 male embryos left and the one that we prioritized had scored much higher in our Pre-Genetic Screening.  We were advised to thaw the final remaining embryo and hope for the best.

We waited nervously in the clinic for 30 minutes while they thawed the new embryo and continued to monitor the cell reproduction of the first one in the hope that it might recover.  We asked to speak to Dr. D, our fertility doctor to get his professional opinion on how our chances stood given the revelations of that morning.

A nurse came in first to share telescopic photos of the two embryos – the first was still alive and reproducing cells, but we could see that half of it had no cell division.  The second embryo looked promising, however, we were still concerned that it had previously scored much lower genetically than the first embryo.

Dr. D came in with an idea that scared us to death.  He outlined the pros/cons of both embryos and recommended we transfer both.  He explained that either embryo would have roughly a 50-60% chance of successfully implanting.  But, by transferring both – that chance would increase to 80%.  Of course, we would also have the potential that both embryos would implant and we’d end up with fraternal twins. While that news would have been welcome the first time we did this process, we are certainly not signing up for twins now given that we have a 1 year old.

With Mandi’s blessing, we rolled the dice and implanted both embryos.  The transfer was successful and early on, Mandi took several home pregnancy tests that immediately indicated that she was pregnant.  She also had many symptoms – nausea, sensitivity to smells and certain foods that gave us confidence that things were looking good for us.

The good news kept coming, at the 8-week mark we had our first ultrasound and confirmed we had a healthy, single baby boy growing rapidly with a strong heartbeat.  And, just this past Tuesday, we had another sonogram that showed our little guy was growing fast – squirming around and making little faces.

Even our last appointment was not drama free.  While we were FaceTiming with Mandi and the OB doctor, Dr. Schoel could not find a heartbeat with two different sound wave machines.  So, within 15 minutes, we were having an unplanned ultrasound to confirm our baby boy was still thriving – we were relieved to find him dancing around with a 150 heart beats per minute.

It was a blessing to get that confirmation.  This process is never easy – there are a lot of ups and downs.  But we are so fortunate for many things including two successful first embryo transfer attempts and two amazing surrogates who are simply the most amazing women in the world.  I don’t want to tempt fate by declaring victory, we still have several months to go before our family is finally complete.  But boy does it feel good.

We might not know what life has in store for us, but we’re running, not walking, right into this next chapter as happy as can be.

Here We Go, Again

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These past twelve months were our personal light year – I still can’t believe our little girl turned one on Sunday!

Yet, it was such a joy seeing Ava celebrate this big milestone with both of our moms.  We weren’t able to throw her the birthday party that we would have wanted given a resurgence of coronavirus cases in our State.  Yet, we made it work – with Baby Shark decorations and many gifts from family and friends who showered Ava with love from afar.  Ava really got into the tearing of wrapping paper; it was fun to watch her open presents.

As we close out the past year as new fathers, we are also laying the groundwork for our growing family.  In addition to our new pug puppy, Poncho, we are also preparing for… (drum roll, please), our journey to give Ava a little brother.

As many of you know, we initially tried for twins, but unfortunately, one of the embryos did not take.  In many ways, it was a blessing in disguise as we had our hands full with just baby Ava who got 100% of our love and attention.  But now, we are well on our way to giving Ava a brother to play and fight with.  It’s important for us to have them be close in age so we are moving fast.

Moving fast is a bit of a misnomer, much of the work that we’ve been doing has truly taken a bit of time to line up behind the scenes.  Particularly because finding an amazing surrogate to give us the gift of life is no easy feat; these amazing women are truly unicorns.  We went on a waitlist shortly after discovering that Ava’s twin had not successfully implanted way back in February of 2019!

Some of you might be asking, but why didn’t you work with Ilsa?   Tía Ilsa is Ava’s amazing surrogate and now part of our extended family.  Unfortunately, while we really wanted to, some complications during our last pregnancy made that impossible.  Our fertility doctors at San Diego Fertility Center reviewed the case and found those same complications would likely reoccur putting both Ilsa and our baby’s life in jeopardy.

But, in a stroke of good luck, we have been matched with our new amazing surrogate, Mandi!  Mandi lives in the suburbs outside of Minneapolis, she is married and has two of the most adorable kids, ever.  We’ve really enjoyed getting to know Mandi and her family and recently got a chance to spend time together in person while we were visiting San Diego for a check-up at our clinic.  Mandi has a heart of gold – she’s genuine and her reasons for wanting to help us build our family are grounded in a place of love.  We can’t thank enough our agency, IARC, for their knack for finding people like Mandi and Ilsa who restore our faith in humanity, every day.

Many folks will likely ask, will Ava’s brother be biologically related to her or will you be using a different egg donor?  The answer is – her little brother will actually be her half sibling. We created all of our embryos at the same time way back in 2018, so technically, Ava’s little brother will be her fraternal half-twin who has been cryogenically frozen in time while she’s been growing out here with us!  We also know the gender of our remaining embryos since we did do initial genetic screening in order to detect any early genetic abnormalities that might impact our success rate.  So, all of this is very sci-fi, but in a good way.  It will make for a great story.

Things really are moving at warp speed.  But, we will continue to update you all on our journey towards making our dream a reality.  As they say, the best it yet to come.  And if the last year is any indication, there are great things in store for the ever-growing Aguirre family.

Caught Up in the Moment

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In under ten days, our little girl turns one year old.

Reflecting on the past year as new fathers – where do I even start to summarize how this experience has been?  In the midst of a global pandemic, a renewed focus on racial injustice, political divisiveness boiling over due to the coming Presidential election and economic collapse – it feels like the very fabric of our world is tearing at the seams.

And yet, this year for us has been filled with so many precious moments – too many to count.  The silver lining of suddenly working from home has been the joy of seeing Ava transform in front of our very eyes into a toddler.  We were there to see her successfully crawl for the first time – first tentatively, and now with precision, skill and tenacious speed.   Ava is now “Mission Impossible” walking – darting from furniture to walls to a nearby pug or cat – bracing herself for that inevitable first step without any support.  I predict she will be walking on her own in the next couple of weeks – maybe even in time for her birthday.

We’ve seen our baby turning into a little foodie.  She enjoys blueberries, strawberries, watermelon and nectarines.  She loves corn, peas and kale.  And, like a good Mexican girl, she is obsessed with rice and beans.

Her physical transformation has been equally as dramatic.  She’s taller, leaner, her hair is growing – currently it’s the length of actress Anne Heche circa late ‘90s.  Her bottom two front teeth have sprouted, and her top teeth are just about coming in.  Her eyelashes are so long, she should be the cover girl for Latisse.  She’s a beautiful girl.

Ava is so smart and funny.  While she has yet to say her first official word, she makes her opinions and thoughts well known.  She shakes her head and arms to say “no,” she makes her naughty squints when she’s getting into something that she knows she shouldn’t be in, she sings and loves to dance.  Her musical tastes are eclectic, she’s obsessed with Baby Shark and Missy Elliot.  She loves to tease her pug brothers with her cookies and fruit – occasionally dropping them a few morsels which keep them following her around like she’s the queen of the house.

We’ve spent the past two weeks vacationing in nearby Palm Springs – enjoying the pool as we seek refuge from the desert sun.  Ava is incredibly comfortable in the water – a testament to the months of swim classes we got in before Shelter in Place went into effect.

For the past few months, every day at 5:30pm, our little family takes a walk to a nearby park.  We leash up Murphy our 15-year-old pug, our new pug puppy, Poncho, and Ava goes in the Baby Björn and we walk and talk.  We stop and look at our neighbors’ gardens, we wave to neighbors and we just enjoy being a family.

Those walks are what I have enjoyed the most about this past year.  This pandemic has taught us to cherish the little moments – because that’s all that really matters in the end.  I am going to continue to savor every second, every giggle, every milestone, because I know that they will be gone in an instant, just like (hopefully) this troubled year.

 

A Nursery Worthy of Nesting

Well guys, being a parent is hard.  That’s one of those throwaway platitudes that only carries meaning to those of us who have been battle-tested.  But, every parent reading this blog knows what I’m talking about.

So, it’s no surprise it’s been a while since I last updated you on our journey.  There just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day these days.  But, I figured I’d give you a quick recap of the last few months of our little nesting adventure and then also share this beautiful nursery we created for our little Ava.

2019 has been marked by a cycle of ends and beginnings.  As most of you know, we lost our beloved pug, Gizmo.  That hurt.  But, then two and half months after the birth of our daughter, I lost my father.  Imagine that, becoming a father and losing your father all in the same year.  That’s some cosmic shit.

For those of you who previously read my blog on Dealing with Daddy Issues, you have a little background on the complicated relationship I had with my dad.  My brother, mom and I traveled to South Carolina to pay our respects and close that chapter in our lives last month.

It’s hard to describe the feeling of losing my dad.  But, the best way for me to articulate it is this – when you lose someone close to you, you miss them for what was – the great memories created and shared, the bond, the relationship and all that defined that connection.  When you lose someone who you wish you were closer to, what you miss is what could have been.  In many ways, that “what could have been” hurts more than the “what was” because you mourn all the ways your relationship was left incomplete, unfinished, un-realized.  I’ll share the eulogy for my dad with you all next time, I just need a little more time to process it all.

Aside from losing my dad, we’ve been neck deep in being, well….dads.  Ava is an amazing baby, she’s happy and curious and funny and strong-willed and easygoing and just a joy.  Don’t get me wrong, she has her moments, but for the most part, she’s just a miracle.

Speaking of miracles, it was a miracle we got our nursery done.  The other big life event we’ve been dealing with is our house remodel which of course took WAY longer than we anticipated and it really put a strain on our household (and relationship).

But, through this madness, we’ve created the cutest little nursery for Ava in what was our former bedroom.  Fortunately, we learned babies don’t sleep in their nurseries until a couple of months in – instead she had been sleeping in a bassinet up until recently.  So we had time to make it just right.

We designed the space around the seafoam blue/green color accent wall – treating it like an African sky landscape.  Hence, why there are some jungle animals in the mix.  (As an aside, we learned that Ava is absolutely obsessed with monkeys….it’s the cutest thing ever.)  We chose neutral cream/off-white textured furniture to complement the blue wall.

We also had this awesome pug looking over a wall painting in a similar seafoam color framed that looks like he’s watching over the changing table like a little pug guardian angel (an homage to Gizmo.)  We also bought this tree decal that while beautiful was a total pain in the you know what to stick up on the wall.  Fortunately, it looks great.

We’re happy.  Ava is happy.  And we are in full on nesting mode.  We couldn’t be any more over-joyed.  I guess it is true what they say, from ashes, trees grow.

Check out more pics of Ava’s nursery on our new Instagram:  dad.moves_sf

 

Sleepless in South Dakota

IMG_0029It’s been a little over two weeks since our Ava was born.  It feels like just yesterday and also a million years ago.  Quite honestly, the days and nights have blurred together as we’ve gotten into a sleep deprived rhythm caring for our little one.

Don’t get me wrong – Ava is a relatively easy baby.  She cries when she’s hungry, when she wants to be changed or when she’s gassy.  She is a voracious eater – she throws back milk every 2 hours like clockwork and that round the clock feeding schedule really does take a toll on you.

DJ and I have devised a shift system.  I take the 10:00p-2:30p shift while he sleeps.  Then, he takes the 2:30a-7:30a timeframe.  Then, I’m back up for the 7:30a shift until around 10:30am.  The good thing, Ava and I sorta nap together at this time depending on how she’s feeling.  So, we are getting sleep – just not a lot of it and certainly not the 7ish hours we used to get.

We’ve created quite a nice routine here in our home away from home.  We’re renting a 2-bedroom Airbnb which is super convenient – it has a washer/dryer (we do A LOT of baby laundry these days), it has a great kitchen, grill and the building has a gym, pool and even a movie theatre (not that we’ve used much of these things).  Sometimes we cook at home and we have tried a lot of great restaurants around Sioux Falls.

We’ve also gotten to spend some quality time with Ilsa and her family.  They’ve really helped us to feel at home here over the past few weeks and it has made being new dads a lot more enjoyable.  They’ve alleviated some of that cabin fever you get when you’re stuck indoors with a newborn.  Marilyn, Ilsa’s mom, has even babysat so we could do our first date night since Ava was born.

Overall, it is with mixed emotions that we wind down our time, here.  We fly back to California on Friday.  Early on, we decided to stay three weeks after the birth so we could ensure that most of the remodel work in our house would be done.  Who wants to have dust and construction noise with a baby?

It has also been nice to have these days to bond with Ava on our own – to really connect as a family before our eager moms and extended family descend on us.  They simply can’t wait to meet the newest addition of the family and we’ve been keeping them at bay sharing Ava’s daily #ootd (outfit of the day).  How can we resist playing dress up with this cute baby?  We can’t wait for our mom’s to meet their granddaughter – we know they will be instantly in love.

Speaking of love, I’ve been thinking a lot about the irony of some common sayings.  An old boss who used to encourage me to take advantage of lulls in the workplace used to say, “sleep when the baby sleeps.”  I now understand what that really means.  I also laugh at the saying, “sleeps like a baby.”  A baby does not sleep as soundly as the term implies, newborns sleep the way some people snack.  And so, here we are…a few more bags under our eyes, but our hearts still full.

Sleepy daddy and papá love you, Ava!

Our Dream Fulfilled

IMG_2942We have a baby!  The last two months were a whirlwind.  It feels like I’ve been sleep walking and I’ve really struggled to find time to update you all on what’s transpired.  But, now that I’m up in the middle of the night taking care of our little one, there is no moment like the present to tell you about how all our dreams came true.

Let me take you back to June for a second.  After our pug, Gizmo, passed away, we were devastated.  So it was a bit surreal that same weekend when our surrogate, Ilsa, and her mom, Marilyn, came out to San Francisco for our baby shower.  We had a beautiful afternoon at Mersea restaurant in Treasure Island overlooking the San Francisco Bay with our family and friends and it was just a perfect day.  The love and generosity we felt from everyone was so special – it was very healing for us.  Not to mention the joy we felt in seeing how warmly everyone embraced Ilsa and Marilyn as family.

The rest of June and July in all honesty was a blur.  We had the house remodel underway (it’s still going), work for both of us was crazy and we were racing to finish the nursery.  I want to do a big reveal for you guys so stay tuned for a nursery-related blog post.

Now, back in my chronology, we were coming up to the end of July and DJ and I were preparing to head out to South Dakota to be on “baby watch.”  Our girl was due on August 15th so the plan was for DJ and me to fly to Rapid City, South Dakota on July 27th and start a 3-day road trip through the State.  We figured, heck, baby is not due for 3 weeks so we can spend 3 days checking out Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse and the Badlands and then drive over to Sioux Falls with plenty of time to spare for us to be here safely for baby’s arrival.

Yeah, not so much.

So it’s Thursday morning around 8:30am and I’m about to head out the door for my company’s annual volunteer day.  I’m trying to fill up my water bottle and the faucet is not working because the contractors turned it off to adjust a pipe.  So, I’m chasing around one of the workers trying to get them to fix it so I can leave.  Then I get a call from Ilsa that sets up a chain of events.

Basically, Ilsa tells me that the itching she had complained to us about the day before was actually being caused by elevated hormones in her liver.  The test that Dr. Salama, our OB had ordered, revealed that the hormones were so elevated, that it raised the chances of our baby being still born.  She did not want to risk it and ordered Ilsa to be induced that evening at 7pm.  As Ilsa was telling me this, time slowed down…I could hear the words coming out of her mouth, but I was trying to process what she was saying.  Ilsa joked later that I sounded very matter of fact as I said, “OK, ok…we’ll figure this out.”

At the same time that Ilsa is telling me this information, I have the contractor also trying to talk to me to ask about the water pressure and I damn near cut his head off with my eyes as I pointed at the phone and I said, “this is an urgent phone call.  Stop talking to me!”  No doubt, I startled him, I certainly startled myself, but I was trying to figure out what Ilsa was saying and what I needed to do.

So, Ilsa and I hang up and I immediately call and text DJ.  He had just headed to the doctor and doesn’t respond.  I text again, “URGENT!  Baby is coming TONIGHT!”  He later told me, he thought I was joking.  Yeah, no.

Then I was in beast mode trying to get everything sorted.  DJ comes home and I make a list.  I put him on baby packing duty with a LONG list of things we need to bring with us while I change all of our travel arrangements.  I’m texting Ilsa trying to figure out alternative airports near Sioux Falls to see if we can arrive any earlier to make 7p.  We can’t.  So we opt to take a connecting flight that is scheduled to arrive at 11:30pm.  Not ideal, but we cross our fingers.

Next, I’m cancelling our hotel in Grand Rapids, trying to change our Airbnb and rental car in Sioux Falls and just getting everything else sorted.  In the middle of all of that, Dr. Salama calls to give a little more background on why inducing is necessary – she leaves a message and I just remember listening to it and not understanding a single word.  It was like the parents in Peanuts doing the “wah wah wah wah.”  All I could focus on was our to-do list.

We get to the airport to try to fly standby on an earlier flight, but they won’t let us on as it is packed and we have Coco with us (yes, we brought our cat with us given that we are remodeling and don’t have anywhere safe to leave her.)  And, apparently you can’t ride standby with a pet.  So, we wait for our flight and cross our fingers that we’ll be able to make our connection in Denver.  We do, because the flight from Denver to Sioux Falls is totally delayed.  Like, painfully so.  We don’t end up in Sioux Falls until 1am.  Luckily, Ilsa’s dad, Waldo, picks us up from the airport, we drop off our bags and terrified cat at the Marriott Residence Inn and we head straight to the hospital.

We find Ilsa and her mom in the maternity ward just hanging out and watching House Hunters.  We learned that when you induce, it’s not something that happens instantaneously – it takes time, especially when we’re talking about a baby that is 37 weeks and likely didn’t have any intention of coming out for 3 more weeks.

We hug, relieved that we’ve made it and that now we’re only 10 minutes away from Ilsa rather than 10 hours.  It was exhausting – but, our marathon was just beginning.

27 hours later – it’s now go-time!  It’s around 9pm and Ilsa’s painful contractions have been getting stronger.  She’s in so much pain and we felt so helpless to find ways to ease that suffering.  We’ve always had tremendous respect for women, but seeing Ilsa go through the birthing experience really reminded me of the strength that women possess that men can only dream of.  She was our Wonder Woman.  Tía Ilsa is always going to be our hero!

And then just like that at 10pm on July 26th, 2019, Ava Isabel Aguirre was born.  At 6 lbs, 2 oz and 19.25 inches long – she was tiny, but so strong.  She wailed as we did skin-on-skin.  And, she was hungrily searching for nipples on us from the moment she arrived – I’ve been calling her my little Walking Dead baby, her mouth wide open searching for her next meal.  This girl has not found milk she does not like – formula, breastmilk?  Warm or room temperature?  In a Dr. Brown’s or Avent bottle?  Don’t matter…this girl will eat it.  She is definitely an Aguirre!

After 2.5 years, our dream came true.  And, if we’re being honest, a dream that is far longer than that.  Ava is perfect.  As I write this and look over at her and her little nose, her little eyes and cheeks, her little murmurs and funny noises.  She is pure love incarnate.

Now, we’re living our dream which is a good thing, because we are doing less sleeping and therefore, less dreaming right now.  But, we wouldn’t have it any other way!  #love

Anguish Amidst Joy

IMG_0016Life has a funny way of reminding us of our humanity.  We are, and the world that we create around us are – impermanent.  As we prepare to celebrate new life with the birth of our daughter, the circle of life also includes an end.  No one wants to talk about that part, it hurts.

This past week has been a good reminder of that impermanence and our need to never take anything or anyone for granted.

On Saturday, DJ and I went to a baby care class – we learned to change diapers, check temperatures, hacks for comforting newborns and most importantly, how to simply keep our baby alive.  It was fun, informative and an exciting step to becoming dads.  DJ is an A-plus diaper changer, hopefully he does most of the changing moving forward.  (I hope that by saying that over and over again, it will simply become true.  Hint hint, DJ!)

This past weekend in San Francisco was beautiful.  We took our pugs Murphy and Gizmo to Fort Funston beach and then the next day to Precita Park.  It was unseasonably warm.  And, poor Gizmo has never done well with heat, his little flat nose and stout build always made it difficult for him to breathe.  I even invented a bluesy song a few years ago, titled, “Cool Down Gizzy,” given his propensity for heavy breathing during warm days.

While Murphy has always been athletic and better at coping with heat by constantly guzzling water, Gizmo was generally happy to simply lay on your lap and do absolutely nothing.  Murphy is 14 – a senior citizen and twice Gizmo’s age, yet Murphy had no trouble climbing the hill from the beach up to the parking lot.  Meanwhile, DJ had to carry Gizzy up the stairs – he just couldn’t do it.

Unfortunately, the mercury kept rising in San Francisco – in our neighborhood, it was 98 degrees on Tuesday – and we don’t have A/C at home – it’s just not common in the City.  Gizmo wanting to cool down decided to go lay on the cool tile in the mud room.  And DJ not seeing that he was in there, shut the door.

Our mud room is not insulated, it was once an outdoor porch that someone covered and converted into an indoor space many years ago before we bought the house.  And, as a result, when the sun starts to shine on our Western side of the property, that room gets really hot.  It’s basically like being in a hot car.  Poor Gizmo didn’t have a chance.  He passed away on that same floor curled up in a corner – the cool tile was now a hot box.

It was a heartbreaking discovery.  One that will forever be stamped into my memory.  Even now writing this, I am fighting back tears.  This is just a tragic accident and one I wish I could go back and change.  What if I got home sooner?  What if he would have barked louder so DJ could hear him?  But, that is a fool’s errand and not productive to healing.

We lost our little guy – our little demanding love bug.  And, in that I find some solace – a silver lining.  Gizmo was always super needy – he insisted on love whether you were prepared to give it or not.  He would follow us around incessantly, from the toilet, to the couch, to the shower – he simply wanted to be near us.  This little 22 lb dog, could take galaxies worth of love and still want more.  And in return, he gave it back to us in spades. What an amazing quality – what an amazing soul this little dog possessed.

But, we also worried about how Gizmo would take the new addition of a baby in the household.  If our cat, Coco, had sent him into a depression, what would he make of a newborn equally demanding of our time, attention and focus.   How would he cope?

So perhaps the universe has made a little more space in our household for our daughter to flourish.  Gizmo’s heart needed to be unleashed on the universe to feed that voracious hunger for love.  Yet, Gizmo’s untimely death has a left a galaxy sized hole in our hearts.  We miss him dearly.  He will always be our first baby that we got together as a couple.

Despite this huge loss, I know the impermanence of life is a gift.  A reminder to cherish every moment, every being – human or animal, that comes into our lives.  And, we hope our little guardian angel pug will watch diligently and lovingly over our little girl in the same way he watched over us.

Pride: Dealing With Daddy Issues

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It’s June, and that means it is also Pride month.  So, I feel like there is no better time to bring up the topic of dealing with daddy issues. For me, Pride is about celebrating our queerness, the differences that make us who we are and who we are in the process of becoming.
As an expectant father, my goal is to be 100% present for our little girl. She deserves it. And, in order for me to live up to that aspiration, I need to exorcise these last remaining remnants of abandonment that my absent dad left as little emotional scars. To continue the healing process, I need to shine a light on them; those feelings of self doubt.
Some quick personal history: my parents divorced early in my life. Honestly, I don’t remember much of my mom and dad being, together. Dad struggled with alcoholism and substance abuse along with what we later learned was bipolar disorder. From what mom has shared, he also had a predisposition for jealousy and could be rather controlling of my mom, a woman who is both beautiful and head strong. They were married in my opinion far too young – in their early 20’s. Add in the cultural differences of a white American Protestant and a Mexican Catholic and you have yourself a little powder keg. I’m surprised they lasted married as long as they did – a testament to the love they had for one another.
In fairness to dad, he had a pretty traumatic experience growing up. His dad (my paternal grandfather), was murdered when he was just a boy. Losing a dad during those formative years would be devastating for anyone, let alone for a boy who idolized his pop. So my dad experienced abandonment early on – and knowing that pain, he ironically passed that trauma down to my brother and me.
I won’t go into excruciating detail, but dad wasn’t around much – no roughhousing or throwing balls, no helping with homework and no one to discuss guy’s stuff.   (A bright spot, my uncles were amazing surrogate dads – they did their best and I’m eternally grateful to them.)  In the end, my parents tried unsuccessfully to reconcile a couple of times, but the grip of dad’s addiction was too tight.
One particular memory that is seared into my young mind is the time I decided to cook Thanksgiving dinner circa age 10 all by myself and insisted my dad come. My mom invited him, but he did not show up. We waited until the food got cold. I hated Thanksgiving for 15 years after – I refused to celebrate it and only reclaimed the holiday in my late twenties with my chosen family in New York who helped me see the beauty in a holiday that celebrates gratitude, again.
On the other side, my mom had a pretty crappy childhood herself. She was forced to raise my aunts and uncles while my grandparents worked which left her sometimes emotionally child-like. I say that in the most complimentary way possible – my mom has an incredible heart and she’s an eternal optimist, she was and continues to be my rock.
But, as a young boy, these experiences left me feeling like the only person I could rely on was myself. My grandmother often says that there is no bad from which good does not spring. And, I quickly learned that those feelings of abandonment actually can in certain individuals drive out their inherent strengths.
My life coach, Rodney Mueller, describes these gifts as super powers in his Absent Father podcast.  I discovered my super power early on: that I was the incredibly independent, resourceful boy. I flourished finding ways to excel in school, in work and ultimately, financially.
In an ode to my tendency for the dramatic, I remember watching that scene in Gone with the Wind, where Scarlett O’Hara has lost it all and is now working the fields of her family’s plantation, her hands blistered, her face dirty and sweaty looking up at the sky and crying out, “as God is my witness, I will never be hungry, again.”  That scene really spoke to me – to that drive for independence, to not depend on anyone!  Let me also make it clear that we never went hungry, our house was never short of beans, rice, tortillas and my mom’s famous spicy spaghetti.  We might have been poor, but we were always well-fed.
So I escaped poverty, was the first in my family to go to college, I achieved financial independence, own a home, have a successful career, married happily and my life is good. Not bad, right? What am I complaining about?
Well, now let’s talk about the dark side of abandonment caused by an absent father, my kryptonite, if you will. I struggle daily with trust and communication with my partner – the idea of being reliant in any way to another human, even my husband, is terrifying. It has nothing to do with him, it’s me. If I have a problem, my m.o. is usually to silently brood and keep it to myself much to DJ’s chagrin. When I’m angry or annoyed, I emotionally withdraw – my own micro-abandonment that I unleash on poor DJ.
Then you layer onto these feelings other experiences in my life- homophobic comments from colleagues or racist comments about Mexicans from people who did not know my cultural heritage. And more broadly in society, it wasn’t long ago that I could not legally marry the person I love or have children of my own. These encounters reinforced the feelings of that little abandoned boy who thinks he doesn’t deserve to be loved or cared for because he’s not good enough.
Then there are the coping mechanisms.  A couple of examples, I’ve constantly sought praise, the gold stars, the good job, JP! That’s the gluttonous blob that voraciously seeks validation for a void too big to ever satiate. And, there is the blob’s even darker sibling, who puts others down and has a sharp tongue all in an attempt to make himself feel better at the expense of others.
Yet, where there is darkness, there is also light. I’ve spent years focusing on these areas of my personal development – from therapy, couple’s therapy, life coaching, meditation and spiritual exploration.  And I’m still here, doing the work every single day to deal with my own daddy issues so I can be the father that my daughter deserves.
I have emotional awareness and I’m actively engaged in healing myself. Yes, I am a work in progress, but I’m proud of who I am and who I am becoming in the light.
Happy Pride!