Friday, December 9, 2011


I have a confession.  I have baby fever.  Badly.

I have had this condition since the moment my J was born.  Perhaps it was that I didn't expect her to be here for at least 3 more weeks, perhaps it was her impatience and insistence on being born in the fashion she was.  But man, I want another baby.

My children fulfill me in ways that are indescribable.  Everything has the potential to be fun, exciting, terrifying, and a new life experience for us all.  A trip to the grocery store, a day at the mall, breastfeeding my little baby as I browse electronics.  Our secret, sweet, intimate moments on full display (because that is how I get down) and yet when I catch her shimmering, happy little eyes in mine, everything else fails to exist for that moment.  I get to relive my favorite childhood moments through them, and its even better this time, because now I know how precious and amazing and temporary those moments are.  And I do my best to lock at least part of it away in my brain so it may someday be a flash, just an instant in time, where I can see their faces frozen in time until the end of mine.  All I want is to collect these internal photographs, as many as I can.  And for what I can not store in my head, I take thousands of pictures.  That is not at all an exaggeration, either.  I take, and develop, thousands.  They are amazing.  I cant imagine loving anyone else as much as I love them, and yet, I know I would if I had another baby.

My relationship with my girls is unique and special to each of them.  But, it is a very different entity than my relationship to them while they grew inside me.  It feels different, it was a different life, a different being.  After they were born they were different people to me than the ones who first fluttered and turned, then eventually evenly violently kicking and jerking.  Those sweet hiccups, rhythmically soothing my nerves.  The luxurious rolling as they learn to twist and stretch tiny limbs in their dark warmth.  All of these moments, memories. Before they ever saw me, and I them.  Heart aching moments that are gone forever, and as much as I love these amazing beings that fill my days and nights with laughter and happiness, I still do mourn the memory of our most intimate growth together.   I long for that again.  I want it back so badly, even though I know how fleeting that time truly is.

I thought she died.  So many times.  6 weeks.  8 weeks.  10 weeks. 12 weeks....and more.  I thought I lost here every time.  I look at her today, and think, how could this amazing little person, who laughs, and sings and counts and loves animals, how could I ever live if I had lost her?  Because I knew I lost her, so many times.  Seeing all the blood, feeling the pain, knowing she was gone, would never be born, be here, sing a song and dance around the room.  She died so many times to me.  But she never left me.  I know I never could have enjoyed much of my pregnancy with her, but I still regret that I did not let myself love her more as she slowly took over my body.  She deserved so much more than I could give then, and she gives me so much more now.  I am so sorry, baby.  I am sorry I ever doubted your strength, sorry I couldn't love you enough to believe you would stay, sorry I didn't just enjoy you more when I could have.  It's nothing you will ever remember, but I always will.

My two girls.  My dream come true, not just once but every day I spend with you.  Every word you say, and every laugh that escapes your perfect little pink mouths makes me soar.  I can't even start to take credit for you, for you are far too special to ever have been created in my mind.  You couldn't have ever been imagined before you existed, because I had no idea what was possible.

And now I want more.  Selfish, perhaps.  I have the two most beautiful, amazing, happy, wonderful children.  I am so happy, I am fulfilled completely.  Except.

I want more.  You give me so much love and happiness, its addicting.  I want that feeling again.  I know I can't hold it forever, but I can't remember it now.  I want to be reminded of it.  Maybe if I feel it just once more I will be able to hold in that feeling, lock it away and access it whenever I want to feel that connection.  It's like trying to remember the exact feeling of a hug, not the face of the hugger, not their smell, but the actual hug.  I can't do it.  I don't know if anyone can.  I know they were in me, I know I grew them, I know I felt them, all the time.  I have the photos, I have video...but I am missing the feeling.

It isn't my time.  Someday I will have my light, but not now.  Probably not even soon.  But I will have that feeling again, I will enjoy it, hold it, capture it, and then, eventually...

set it free.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Homage to a Power Outage

For the second time in two months, we have found ourselves in the midst of a week long power outage due to storms.  The first, a hot summer hurricane which toppled eight of our old trees, though sparing our house, cars and possessions.  The second, an October snowstorm which robbed us of our Autumn and blanketed all remaining red and gold in heavy, white snow.  So heavy, that trees that have withstood hundreds of years of unpredictable weather, thousands of pounds of snow and ice, and winds strong enough to topple houses, bent to the ground, bowing to the strange storm.  Many snapped and crashed through houses, on cars, taking down power lines in a domino effect, leaving the vast majority of our state in unseasonably cold darkness.

Being without power is difficult.  Having children you cannot explain this too make things more difficult, the first day.  Then there is a second day, and a third.

I remember hurricane Gloria.  I remember the excitement I felt as a child, taping up the windows and staring through the small space in the basement, looking up at a greenish, whirling sky and watchings the silvery undersides of leaves whip furiously around each other and tear off.  I was in the dark, with my parents, and it was fun.  I remember eating food that was cooked on our wood stove, playing board games by candlelight and sleeping on our bellies on blankets in the living room.  This is one of my fondest memories as a child.  I felt completely safe, and warm, and happy, and loved.  It was exciting, different, and an opportunity to be with my family like I never had before, and haven't since.  I am reminded that these things which annoy adults to no end, are likely creating happy life long memories in the eyes of our children.

Now my children will likely not remember these days.  They don't care if that have been bathed, what they look or smell like, if they have clean clothes or what they play with.  My daughter spends much more time playing with food and laundry and my shoes that any of her toys, even combined.

People are so angry.  They are cursing each other out, throwing hot coffee, raging at complete strangers who actually are trying to restore normalcy.  Did we not survive as a human race before electricity was in every home?  Did we not find ways to entertain ourselves for centuries?

I was bored.  I missed my internet, my DVR, long hot showers, doing laundry.  But it is nothing but electricity.  It is essential, I know.  But we have witnessed not long ago a significant part of our country ravaged by hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes, and we are fortunate to have lost only electricity.  I still have my house, my cars, all my possessions and above all else my family.  A week without lights?  I am reminded too often of how good life is to curse my neighbors.  (I also highly recommend a generator, which seems to take the edge off).

There is just something that can't be duplicated about the taste of food cooked over a fire, or the beauty of a child when they dance in candlelight.  There is a rejuvenation that comes of being unable to access the internet no vacation can bring.  Or the fun of playing cards and drinking wine with my husband, instead of spending nights bent over computers with reruns in the background.  There is no amount of oil that can warm me as much as my family of four huddled in one big bed together, sharing a blanket.  A week without electricity has taught me only again, how amazing life is, here and now.  How fortunate we are to have all we do, and how we have no control over so many things.

A week without electricity.  That is just fine.  Because I have all the power I need.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Two years...

Two Years.

Two years ago tonight, large, fluffy snowflakes were falling silently on grass that was still vibrantly green.  I was experiencing waves of pain unlike anything I have ever felt before, and have only felt once more since.  I had no idea what to expect, or what life would be in the next two years, I only knew things were about to change forever.

In two years, I have learned more from you than any number of years spent in school.  No amount of money could buy anyone this type of education.  Life, as a young adult without children, is quite static in general.  Small variations here and there, but in two years of my twenties, little changed.  Different relationships, different friends, a different job.  Even leaving college to start my next chapter seemed less significant than it should have been, even at the time. Two years is nothing in the lifetime of mine until you were born.  Now, I truly understand the significance of two years.

In two years, I have watched you grow from a helpless, albeit, large and quite loud infant, who incessantly screamed her demands in an untranslatable language to her tired parents who felt helpless and useless.  No amount of baby books, classes, reading or even advice from be-there-done-that persons could have ever prepared us for you. We spent many of those first nights clinging to fleeting moments of silence and sleep and wondering when it would all change. We counted the days until we could regain normalcy...and now I long for a moment back in those sleepless months to look at you again, memorize your face, your smell, your laugh.  I have many pictures, thousands really, and even hours of home video capturing your first steps, words, giggles and smiles.  But I still long for the nights of moments I would have never thought to record.

In two years, you have become a little person, physically, but your personality is as big as it will ever be.  Your sweet demands make me smile, and I stare at you wondering when you became so smart, so descriptive, so communicative.  I think back over the past few months, how much you have changed since the winter, since your sister was born, since yesterday.  I feel so proud for you, so proud of you.

But it also makes me realize how unchanged I am.  You understand most of a language you have taught yourself by observation in less than 2 years.  I could never do that in my adult life, ever.  I still only remember the bad words from four years of Spanish class.  But you, you know what to say, you understand even more.  And my mind is powerless to learn in comparison to yours.  I often hear of the young mind described as a sponge, which sounds metaphorical, until you see the literal version.  It is enough to blow my non-absorbent mind.

I am most amazed by you as a sister.  I watched you so closely today, your long blond hair blowing in wisps as you sailed back and forth on your swing.  When did your hair get so long?  You have amazed me most with your incredible growth since you sister was born. There was no transition for you, you took to her as though she had always been there, and though I know you may never remember life without your sister, it was there.  The day she was born you instantly lost any interest in my once swollen belly, I know you knew that your sister was here in the flesh and my womb no longer carried any more importance.  You loved her from day one, and I have never seen siblings act as you do together.

I am fascinated by you.  The way you are selfless, as a two-year-old, where selflessness does not typically exist.  But then there is you.  A two-year-old who is concerned about where her sister is, when she needs to eat, be bathed and cared for.  A two-year-old who sacrificed her time on a swing today so she could push her little sister gently in her swing and extract bubbly giggles.  I know I loved you even before you were born, but watching you take care of your baby sister, watching you love her with this selfless unconditional, pure emotion, makes me feel so incredibly inadequate.  Because I could never communicate through any medium the feelings I have for you today.  Its not just love, not even close.  It is not a word I have ever known.  I am sure one doesn't exist.

All I can do is tell you I love you over and over, hoping words have some exponential value that add up over time and if I can just say it an infinite amount of times you will someday understand.  But you won't, I know, until your first baby is two years old, and you try to explain to her how you feel.

And all I can do for now, is look forward to your tomorrows, and try to slow down time, lock in these memories and hope I am everything you need me to be, because you are everything thats gives my life meaning.

Happy birthday, my baby girl...

Thursday, September 1, 2011


I am 30 today.

I have all the grandparents I have ever known.  They are still alive and well, and I talk to them often.  It took me nearly 30 years to really appreciate their insights.  To admire their amazing commitment to their lives and each other.  I love to hear their stories of the old days, how they struggled for food, made 30 cents a day, worked a week for a days worth of food, lost their lovers to war, and suffered from diseases that have long been eradicated.

I am 30 today, and I am humbled.

I have best friends in the form of sisters who can always make me laugh, and who are always around to talk and whom I share so many wonderful childhood moments.  I have parents who understand me, love me unconditionally.  Who have guided me through the best and hardest parts of my life.  Offered sound advice for every challenge and who made me feel I would never be unloved, or against the world on my own.  Parents who make me want to be a better mother, who have taught me about real love before I knew anything of it.  Parents who light up when they see my children, and children who can't contain their happiness when they see their grandparents. 

I am 30 today, and a mother, and still my parents' child. 

 I have transitioned from a completely dependent infant, to a carefree child, to my teenage years where even admitting to having parents was embarrassing.  Weren't we so cool that we simply generated from our own awesomeness?  Did I not try, behind closed doors, to explain to my parents how uncool they were, and their very existence was eroding my own coolness.  I think my eyes rolled into my head for 4 years straight, no wonder my vision sucks.  Determined never to be like them....though sometimes they were right.....OK, a lot of times they seem to be right......I need to talk to my parents before I make this decision, they will know what to do....

They don't embarrass me now, not even a little.  Not even when my father introduces me by my name, profession, the number of children I have, their ages, how high they can count, something cute they just did/said, and (if he hasn't yet been cut off with a faux phone call) my sisters' names, professions, Alma Maters and children (even in their absence), often to complete strangers. 

I am 30 today, and I am still so cool, but my parents are even cooler. 

I have experienced pregnancy, a life being formed within me.  I have grown that life, nurtured that life, dreamed of these lives, and birthed them.  I have birthed a baby in a hospital, surrounded by doctors, nurses, and family.  I have birthed a daughter in my car alone, with nothing but the voice of my husband and a thick fog to guide me.  I have two daughters whose beauty overwhelms me, whose intelligence astounds me, and whose love envelopes me. 

I am 30 today, and I am surrounded by love.

I have the house I want, in the town I want, bought and paid for with a job I love.  A job which shows me the very worse parts of life, and allows me to experience the best.  A job that fulfills me in a deep way, but makes me look forward everyday to holding my family at the end of every day and reminding me to be very grateful for all that I have.  A job which allows me to spend most of my time at home with my family, a husband who would do anything for our daughters, which is all I ever wanted.  Two girls, who can stop me in my tracks, even on my busiest day, to just stare at them.  I am addicted to their faces, the sound of their voices, the smell of their hair, and their sleepy eyes in the morning, goofy smiles, and eyes that dance with happiness at things that instill chills of disgust in my over stimulated adult mind, spider webs, zig-zagging earwigs, slimy worms.  Gross critters that turn my stomach, can make my kids giggle.  They are fearless, wanting to touch, hold, and even taste.  I am full of fear, thinking of all the diseases they could catch, all the holes that could be invaded, all the night hours I am not watching that my children, my husband, myself, could be covered in disgusting, segmented bodies.  But my babies, they see none of the bad.  They only see fun bugs.  When did I lose that?  Well before 30, I am sure.  But now, I have my own silly bugs, and I too watch them for hours, giggling at their silliness and wanting nothing more than to pick them up and touch them, smell them, kiss them and wait for the next amazing thing this life has to offer.  I have a feeling, it won't be long. 

I am 30 today, and I am fulfilled. 
I am so very happy.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


I am not, nor have I ever been a religious person.  I do believe in some semblance of order in this life.   There is too much symmetry, too many infinite patterns, too much perfection, for me to believe any differently.

I cringe at phrases such as " all things happen for a reason", in part because I feel it is a copout, in part because I believe it is true, and in part, because I know it isn't, but desperately want it to be, need it to be.

What good can possibly come from anyone with cancer, a child who never makes it through childhood, or is robbed of it,made to grow older than possible in a short life.  Or one who is fated never to make it even to birth.  How can we hide behind a mysterious "reason" for any of that?  How can we justify the worst things that can happen with an assumption that there is some entity, some power choosing this?  Some order we know nothing of but must accept as fate?  Is there a lesson in all things tragic?  Are we supposed to find a glimmer of hope and happiness in all things that devastate us?

Maybe we are.  Perhaps it is our responsibility, to our own selves, to find that reason in every instance of sadness.  To create a place where we are safe, even if we can not see, or feel it.  That reason, behind all things, being something we create ourselves.  Is this what I am to teach my children, to find the good in all bad, the wonder in all things sad, the beauty, in all things that make us cringe with discomfort, and to use their own minds to create happiness, and contentment?

I don't know.  I haven't a clue, except, perhaps..., well, yes, I think it just may be.  

Monday, August 15, 2011

Blind Hope

My children amaze me, everyday.  I never thought I wanted my babies to be this close in age, never planned on this, but life changed my mind.

It really is literally indescribable, how much I love my babies, but I will try to do so, after all, this whole blog thing is for my babies.  So that they might know one day, maybe when I am gone, how very much they filled my life with love, happiness, and a desire to give up everything I ever thought I wanted in life, to watch them enjoy theirs.

I never understood.  I couldn't.   How a mother could become hypnotized by a toddler's babbling lips, the blue crescendo of a newborn's eyes, the glow of satiny skin that disappears into deep crevices of soft flesh, only to mound up again into hill after hill of chubbiness.  The effortless beauty and innocence of a child.  Absolute perfection, so far from what I have become, so much potential in this little life.

I long to replicate the feeling of the all consuming embrace of warmth I felt the first time Jada's sweet, chubby face curled into a smile so big her eyes disappeared beneath folds of soft, smooth brown flesh and her little noise wrinkled up into her downy forehead.  Her black-brown hair refused to stop at her forehead, and grows sparingly, but steadily down her face, combining into her eyebrows and connecting her temples.  The small swirl atop her brow, a genetic gift from her auntie.  The way I have to slide my hand up to the knuckles under her chin to reach her neck..another signature of my Italian family.  My husband's genetic contribution, a completely contented personality, and one very distinct eyebrow that rises slightly only to give way to a concave curve, rise up to the summit of the brow and crash down again.  Only hers is on the opposite side of her father's, so they match up as they face each other.  Incredible.

The way my children came from the same two people, and can be so completely different.  Di has translucent skin, so light I can trace the paths of her veins from head to toe.  The one trait from my bloodline, a quirky pinky toenail that grows straight up from the tip of her toe, just as my mother's does.  That nail is impossible to paint.   She is going to hate that nail when she's older...I will always love it.   Her wispy blond hair, so fine and feathery that no clip or ponytail holder can manage to contain it for more than a minute.  Her hair rejects all accessories and styling efforts, curling and twisting in different directions and ways throughout the day.  I don't have the heart to cut it, even a little bit.  I want to let it be free and wild and natural, as she is.   Her blue eyes actually taper to brown at the border of the pupil, spiral out in flecks of yellow and green to the sapphire border of her iris.  The whites of her eyes are blue tinged as well, and the corners turn down, which certainly works to her advantage when asking her parents for a treat.

J's eyes are blue as well, but distinctly different.  The blue is lighter in the center, without a trace of any other color, and light, early morning sky blue which ascends and descends simultaneously around her inquisitive pupils to a thick, deep sapphire ring.  That ring holds her big eyes in place beneath her slanted, almond lids.  I get lost in her eyes.  The way she stares at me, and returns my admiring gaze with a huge, toothless grin.  She even stops suckling on me for a moment or two just to let me know she sees my face, she smiles at me and I know, despite the fact that it will be many months before she and I can converse in a traditional sense, these moments are our very first mother daughter "talks".

Pretty basic.  Me: "I love you baby, you make my world everything I could ever want, and I can't believe you are my baby"

Her: "I like boob".

They astound me.  Every moment of my day.  How much I can love, how happy I can feel, how little you really need to make life worth living.  How they can fulfill my life to absolute completeness and contentment.  How they could replace any other dreams and aspirations I ever had, because they are more than enough to satisfy any aspect of my life.  I could give up eating and be nourished with their smiles and laughter.  (Well...for a few minutes, anyway).  I could give up television and internet and be perpetually entertained by their antics, they way they eat food, read books and interact with each other.  Of course, my children sleep, and I do not find my husband eating quite as intriguing, so I utilize the DVR nightly.

"Love" doesn't seem strong enough.  I can't replicate with a word the warmth, the joy that effervesces from every part of my body when my baby laughs with me, or my big girl asks to hold her sister, or kisses her when she thinks I am not looking.  When her baby sister cries and the look on her face is pure concern as she rushes to her sister's aide, not a hint of annoyance or irritation.  Just love.  "Amazed" doesn't ignite nearly the same feeling I get as I stare at them, asking myself and them, "you do that? when did you learn to do that? Are you really mine?"  Even photographs, they do not do my babies justice.  A moment, captured, still forever and even that, it can't give me the same feelings I get when I hold them, smell them, feel their skin on mine, their hair in my nose.  I need to memorize them, they way they smile so purely, from only joy, not obligation.  They way they smell of natural sweetness, like a breeze on a summer night, not of perfumes or colognes.  They way they are so breath-takingly beautiful, without a touch of makeup, hair dye or skin product.  They way they are perfect people, who use their bodies for what they are designed for and don't question any of it.  The way they live recklessly and love unconditionally.

My children have so very much to teach me.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

One Year

One year.  Yesterday was one year from the day I found out about my mother's cancer.  One year, from the day my world as I knew it, crumbled before me and my mind raced as I scrambled to cling to the pieces.  Denial, a wonderful defense mechanism, which at first feels good.   To have a belief in waking from a nightmare is possible, though denial only truly disguises another gut wrenching, heart dropping reality.  One year.

In one year, my mother had discovered her cancer, had surgery, chemotherapy.  Her hair has fallen out and grown back, erasing the scar.  With the growth of hair, comes the growth of new hope.  All the useless, and now potentially deadly organs that once housed myself and my sisters, created and gave life to, gone.  Diseased and useless.  The first time I ever had to see my mother sick, lying helpless in a hospital bed, too weak to move, wondering if this was the first of many nights I would spend there.  Now, my mother calls me daily, breathless as she manages to hold an hour long conversation while exercising rather vigorously between her full time job and countless errands and phenomenal grandmothering.  One year.

In one year, my Jada was dreamed of, conceived, carried in my womb, delivered in my car, and is now the amazing little smiling creature before me.  One year.  My baby girl, my first born, has transformed into a little girl, from a baby who could barely crawl, to a child I can barely run after, speaking in full sentences, caring for her new sister, painting pictures, signing and singing about a hundred songs I never knew she knew.  Just one year.

One year.  We made the move from Massachusetts to our dream life in Connecticut.  Bought the house we loved in the town we adored.  Painted the walls with my own two hands and started our life here, planted the roots of our young family, among the roots of the many trees that have been hear for decades, some maybe for a century.  All this, in one year.

So many amazing moments, most that I will vividly remember all my life.  From that terrifying night I realized my life would never be the same again, all security ripped away, to now understanding that same terror is liberating.  Because now that you are here, cancer, we can fight you.  It is the unseen enemy I fear most, and I see you, clearly.  I do not fear you now.  You have been revealed.  And we have conquered you.  All, in just one year.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Adventures in Breastfeeding

For my first daughter, I thought it was going to be so easy. How can anyone not breastfeed? It's there, it's free, it's natural. It all seemed so simple. I read books, stalked online forums and bought out the store with every product and accessory you can find for a breastfeeding mother. I was excited to do it.  

When Di was born I couldn't be with her for several hours, they warned me it might be hard for her to latch. She did immediately. To this day, she eats anything and everything in site. I should have known when I first locked eyes with my beautiful first born baby girl and she instantly opened her mouth at the sight of me, that food would be a driving factor in her life.

Everyone says it shouldn't hurt. Everyone says it is the most natural thing. Both are true, but not in my case. I had mastitis, I know this now, but at the time it felt like the worst flu I ever had, combined with breast pain and red streaks on my body. It felt like knives slicing off my nipples with every latch. Chunks of skin were ripped from my breasts, hanging like shredded tissue paper. I bled, I cried, I screamed every session, I even caught myself squeezing my daughter as an involuntary reflex to the pain. I still remember the look on her face, confusion. She was just a newborn but she conveyed a message to me I already felt: I was failing.

I will be honest, I looked for every excuse to quit. I needed permission, someone to tell me to just stop. I wanted to hear that she was allergic to my milk, it would explain her horrible, constant colic and alleviate me of my pain and responsibility. I got permission from no one. I even felt a bit guilted into continuing by the online community...I am forever grateful for that.

I purchased a breastpump and OH! What sweet relief! I could pump bottles of milk without pain, my daughter ate to her heart's content, and my husband actually is one of the few men in this world who would wake up at night to feed her. I loved pumping for her. I became proud of it. We call ourselves EPers (exclusive pumper). Its a small group, and it can be tough to feel like you belong. Nursing mothers don't relate, neither do formula mothers. So I didn't tell many people. I proudly said I breastfed, but I didn't say how. I pumped for 10 and a half months, and thanks to an oversupply that could simultaneously feed all the Duggar children, I had enough frozen breastmilk to last well over a year. Good thing too, because now I was pregnant with my little J.

My second daughter wasn't quite as interested in breastfeeding immediately. Probably because the first thing she ever saw, smelled and felt in this world was the floor mat of my Honda CR-V. But after several hours of being apart, her naked body was placed on my naked body. She sniffed at her hands and sniffed at me, searching. The nurses told me not to interfere, to let her find my breast on her own. Incredibly, she did, but was too exhausted to do much nursing. So she used it as a pillow instead, and we slept a long while.  

Less than a week after J was born, I had shaking chills, a high fever and pain in my abdomen, breasts and back. Turns out, after many tests, I had mastitis in my left breast, a kidney infection and retained placenta which caused a uterine infection. I was put on 2 oral antibiotics and scheduled for a D&C, during which I got a round of IV antibiotics. Luckily, my mother and grandmother were patient enough to feed J with a syringe as not to compromise our nursing relationship with nipple confusion, and even luckier, I had enough breastmilk pumped to sustain her as I had to pump and dump for 24 hours after.  

I m sure I announced to everyone that would come within 6 feet of me that I was breastfeeding, so any procedure, medication or treatment had to be conducive to doing so. I refused any anxiety meds, so I was wide awake in the OR as they strapped me down to a table the width of a popsicle stick and about the same temperature as one. Cozy. I look around the room at the 2 dozen people who will soon have their heads between my legs. A comforting last thought as the light slips from my vision and I am falling into a heavy sleep.  

A week later, I am feeling better. My nipples are still cracked and sore. My breast starts to hurt again, that familiar pain, shaking chills, high fevers and red streaks. Mastitis, again. Well crap, I had it before, and a lot of people seem to have it twice. I saw my OB the next day, back on antibiotics. 4 times a day, as if a breastfeeding mom of 2 kids under two has nothing better to do than remember to take pills 4 times a day when I dont remember to eat three times a day or brush my teeth twice a day. But I know I have to, so I set timers and reminders and I diligently, religiously take my pills at 6am, 12 noon, 6pm and midnight.  

The pain gets worse, now its on my right breast as well. Back to the doctor, my fever is 102. My OB is dumbfounded, she tells me this. She asks other OBs, and midwives. No one knows what to do. I am already on the strongest, best medication for mastitis and it's getting worse. I have and ultrasound, luckily, no abscess and I am able to avoid another surgery. But now I dont have an answer either. Off to see a specialist of infectious disease. He is an older doctor, who of course recommended stopping breastfeeding immediately. There it is. The excuse I silently begged for the first time. The words I had longed to hear from someone, anyone last time I was in this position. But now, things are different. This time, there is not a chance.  I tell him this is not possible, that I won't even consider stopping. He assures me it will cure my mastitis. I do agree with him, but again, reiterate my point. I won't quit, I don't even consider it.

He respects my choice, luckily, as the infection has drained me of energy to fight that battle. He recommends 10 days of IV antibiotics. I start that day in the hospital and have a follow up with a visiting nurse. The nurse who comes to see me is in her 70s and has just badly injured her knee. I have a long, rock driveway and a dozen steps, including several uneven stone steps outside. Because why not break a hip as well. I have to help her up my stairs and help her draw my blood and place a new line. When she is leaving she nearly tumbles down my stone steps and I have to hold her and walk her to her poor nurse.  

It is not easy to have a line in your arm for 10 days with a curious toddler and a newborn baby. Di wants to constantly see my boo boo. I can't shower really, and I forget it is there during late night nursing sessions. Luckily, I was able to keep up with it and clear my infection. Finally, I am feeling good.  

A few days later, I had horrendous pain in my abdomen. It started out like labor, coming in waves of rolling contractions and banding out across my abdomen under my ribs. Its impossible to sleep, or even think. To the ER I go, convinced I have gallstones. It appears that the lovely antibiotics did the trick with the infection, but now caused gastritis and pancreatitis. I have a CT scan (hello radiation) and have to pump and dump for 24 hours (I do 36 hours, just to be safe). The bitch of it all is, really, there is nothing they can do. I can take pain meds and antacids and eat bland foods but only time will heal it. I am missing bonding time with my baby, but I am still nursing her, whenever she wants, as much as she wants. I am finally feeling better, just in time to go back to work.  

I think I am turning my final rough corner. I can see this going on for a long time. I love to watch her sweet, chubby cheeks pulse as she drinks deeply from me. We sleep together in a tangle of arms, legs and naked bellies pressed to each other. Her dark skin glows blue in the early morning light when she simply turns her head slightly to feed from me.  I can't stop staring at her, but those moments, I know with live vividly in my head forever. Where I once struggled to make it to each month's "milkstone", now I feel the months slipping away too quickly, and I desperately want to wrap my arms around time, dig my heels in and hold on as much as I can.

Finally. I am doing it, I am winning. And I don't want to stop. Not even a little, not even for a second.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Why being a mom is like being stoned..

Now before you go calling CPS, I am no drug addict, nor have I ever been.  I had my fun in college but those days are long gone.  My fun now, while it may seem quite dull to most people, even other parents, is watching my daughter squeal at an ant as it wriggles by, or watch her try a new food for the first time, or repeat the occasional curse word that slips out.  It shouldn't, but even that gives me great joy and pride.

I got to thinking what being a parent is like, and if I ever could have imagined it when I was living a life without my children.  No, babysitting, or being a nanny, or having a puppy, is not like being a parent, not even a little bit.  So when I talk to people I knew back in my carefree days of late nights for different reasons, I imagine how I could describe being a mother.  I have decided, it could be comparable to being perpetually stoned, and here's why:

#1.  You are constantly paranoid.  About everything.  Other people look at you funny and try to convince you everything is fine.  You don't agree.  Every small object can be choked on, or swallowed, perhaps cause a bowel obstruction.  All my furniture is bolted to the walls of our house to prevent anything from falling.  I have installed more drawer ties and locks and baby gates than I can count.  Every piece of glass can break, every window is a death trap, every drop of water a drowning hazard. You get the point.

And not just about physical safety, I worry if I don't eat right in front of them, will they learn bad habits?  Or what if I eat too healthy and give them a complex?  What about teenage girls and driving in cars and eating disorders and losing their virginity to a boy who thinks he is a man because he has a penis and some tattoos?  What about their first broken heart, first fail, first broken bone?

Then, the more you parent, the worse it gets.  I fear food dyes and artificial sweeteners as if they were poison, what if they are?  What if they eat non-organic fruits and vegetables and ingest pesticides?  What about hormones in their food, mercury in fish?  Crap, I am breastfeeding, now I have to be even more careful about what I eat because JJ eats that...sort of.

The thing is, once you get started on a paranoid streak, it just keeps getting worse.  Total buzz kill.

#2:  You are always hungry.  Breastfeeding makes you pretty ravenous at times.  I also forget to eat breakfast, every single day.  I feed the kids and organize the house and set up activities and calm tantrums and screaming babies and then it's 11:30 and time for lunch and I have to nurse a baby while cutting up avocado and change diapers and put the toddler down for a nap and the most lunch I get it whatever I dare lick off my finger or a knife which may not always be a butter knife...impaired judgement.  At this point I am so hungry that I think of very creative food eating that fig bar covered in peanut butter and applesauce....several food groups involved anyway...and it is good!  I also make a lot of macaroni and cheese, and order pizza at night, which usually is eaten cold the next day.

#3:  Everything is hilarious.  This is the best part.  Absolutely everything my kids do, is freaking hilarious.  They are comedians, the funniest I have ever seen.  Blowing spit bubbles, laying a loud fart, or imitating an adult, is the funniest thing you will ever see.  Other people don't see the humor, they may even get annoyed at how funny you think it is.  They are probably bored with it, bored with you.  But you, a parent, in your own little reality, don't care.  You just want to watch and laugh and admire this fascinating little creature you are quite sure is some sort of genius the world has never seen.

#4:  You think you have discovered something the world has never seen.  Your child is the smartest...advanced, no, a genius.  Maybe not in a traditional sense, but that noise they just made, that smile, that block they just stacked.  Amazing.  There is no way any other child in this world has ever done that before.  Even if it is not your first child, you are still convinced there is something Earth stopping about this behavior.  No one else may understand, but they don't know what you know, they can't see what you see, and it is deeply enthralling, consuming.

Although I have long ago said farewell to my old life as a college cheerleader with a very fulfilling social life, my life now feels like one big party.  Everyday I wake up excited, knowing what fun the day will bring.  Even the worst day as a parent has a lot of fun in it.  Every night I reflect again on my day and my husband and I laugh as we retell each other the same stories about that day that we were both present for anyway, but again laugh and smile and relive those moments.

I know now though, that I won't be young forever, and my children will age much faster than I will at this stage.  So I love these moments, I take a lot of pictures, press my nose to my babies' heads and breath deeply, memorizing the smell of them, how soft their skin is and the look in their sky blue eyes when they laugh, cry, pout, or how their eyes twitch in their sleep.  I know now, this time is limited, and I want to capture every moment, every first, second and last.  I want to remember and relive these moments tomorrow, next week, forever.  And I look forward to so many more.  

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Jada Nadine

I realized right after my last post how quickly we forget.  I guess because the beginning of my pregnancy with Dilena was so difficult, and the beginning with Jada was so easy, and given her dramatic birth, I did forget some things.  I have to have something to guilt Jada with later on in life, after all.

I did lose control of my hands, they would often go numb in the middle of the night.  Being the hypochondriac I can be, of course my thought is I was having a stroke.  Carpal tunnel, pregnancy induced, and no treatment other than to wear these braces which make life with computers even more annoying and painful.  Then at 35 weeks, I found myself waking up at night to scour the palms of my hands and soles of my feet on my carpet, for hours.  I considered rubbing my belly with a steel wool pad.  If you know what PUPPPs is, I'm sorry, because you have probably had it.  If you don't, you are lucky.

AT 32 weeks, I went to see my OB because I was having contractions that would not stop.  Not painful, but rhythmic and persistent.  I was admitted for dehydration, the result of yet another fun GI bug circulating my family.  Being pregnant when you are raising a toddler germ factory isn't fun.   i was given a liter of fluid.  Still contracting 2-4 minutes apart, no pain though, this can't be real labor.  I know real labor.   Another liter.  Still contracting.  The look on Mark's face at the mention of PTL was pretty scary, he has absolutely no game face at all.  We started to think about the repercussions of having a baby so early, NICU time, all the potential complications and how unprepared we were.  Mark had to leave to pick up Di, and I was left alone.  Not dilating, but still contracting.  A shot of terb and another half liter later, and I'm slowing way down.  After 5 hours I am sent home to rest.  It is a scary reminder of how lucky I am to have full term, healthy babies.

Back to the Monday after Easter.  I was 37 weeks and 5 days pregnant.  My baby girl is as active as ever.  I was on the phone with a friend from my parenting forum, I remember it was past midnight because she lives in California and told me to hang up because I was pregnant and needed sleep and it was after midnight.  I had been sleeping on the couch as I do when I am heavily pregnant.  For one, the back support is nice, and everything Mark does annoys me at this point, the sound of his breathing keeps me awake.  I also have severe insomnia at night, so it's nice to be near the TV and computer so I can entertain myself at 3 am, when I wake up nightly during my third trimester.

I can not get comfortable for the life of me.  I decide to try the bed.  I make myself a pregnancy nest, it consists of 2 body pillows, a pregnancy wedge and 3-4 regular pillows and a throw pillow.  It is quite a process, but very nice on the big belly.  Again, I am so uncomfortable I can't sleep.  I tell Mark something feels off.  "HmmmphhhfffT".  Yeah, thanks.  Back to the couch as I am fully annoyed now.  It takes about 15 minutes to crawl out of my nest.  I remake my nest on the couch and sink in.  A bit of wetness. Hmmmm.  Now, its about to get a lot more graphic, so I will ease you in.  One of my pregnancy issues is I can't control my bladder so well.  Sneezing, coughing, jumping, running water and vomiting (which was really a fun surprise) leads to varying degrees of pants-pissing.

So I figured I had let a little go.  Don't judge me, I didnt even want to get up.  I think it will dry, right?  But I am not sleeping anyway, so I guess I'll change, maybe empty my bladder to avoid any more fun.  As I stood up, I was soaked.  Hmmm, again, very well could have been my awful bladder control, but I am suspicious now.  I wake up Mark, tell him I think my water broke.  I don't want to be one of those women who think their water broke only to realize they have in fact, pissed in their pants.  But then I am shaking, hard.  Its about 80 degrees in my house.  Sick again  I have coughed throughout my pregnancy with Jada with various colds and sinus infections, and had several rounds of a lovely GI bug, hence the experience with simultaneously emptying the contents of my stomach and bladder.

I decided to shower, if this is labor, I am really needing to shave my legs, a luxury reserved now only for doctors appointments as it takes quite a bit of contortionism to reach the necessary parts of my body.  Now I am having contractions.  Mark is back in bed.  I have to call him for 20 minutes before he comes in the bathroom "what?".  What the hell do you mean what, I just told you my water may have broke.  Does he think I am screaming his name and risking waking up my sleeping daughter just to chat?

Of course, I do wake up Di.  She is not interested in sleeping tonight, as if she knows something is brewing.  Mark is timing my contractions on his computer, which has the battery life as long as Britney Spears' marriages.   1-2 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute.  Just like Dilena.  Ok, I figure I have time.  If Dilena's birth took 14 hours, this one will take 10...maybe 8 if I am lucky.  I swipe the razor over my legs between contractions.  They get more intense.  I fill the tub now and finish shaving in there.  During contractions I sing Snuggle Puppy and Personal Penguin as loud as I can, in lieu of the obscenities I would much prefer to scream at my husband.  Dilena thinks its funny and asks for " more, more" between contractions.   I am not as amused as I think Mark is.

Finally, I have Mark call my mom and OB.  My mom just arrived home from work and has an hour long trip up.  It is a very foggy night and we live in a very dark part of the state, deep in the woods of Connecticut.  It isn't a drive you can do quickly.  Perfect for those late night emergencies.

My OB is on call tonight, I am so happy I screamed out loud.  I talk to her between contractions, breathless, panting.  She was obviously sound asleep.  "I'll be there in an hour or so, I have to wait for my mom to get here"

"OK," she is yawning.  OK.  I am going in.  This is the real deal.  Next step, getting clothes on.  It isn't easy.  By this time my contractions are so painful, standing really isn't possible.  My mother is on her way, I am exhausted already.  If I have to be in this much pain, I am going to at least rest between.  I lay on my bed, and its the most comfortable thing I have ever laid on.  During my contractions I squeeze my eyes shut, bite into my pillow and hug my arms around it so tight, that to this day it remains deformed.  I put so much tension into my face, hands and arms in an effort to relax my lower body completely, not an easy task.  At one point, I put my hand on my stomach during a contraction.  I feel Jada move, kick about and wiggle through it.  It has to be rough on her too.  I feel so connected to her in that moment, it helps me get through.

By the time my mom is by my side, I am really screaming.  I have forgotten the words to Snuggle Puppy.  I have forbidden Mark from coming in the room, he is keeping Di away.  My mom has the task of dressing me as I lay writhing in pain.  It takes 20 minutes.  As I try to stand, a raging contraction.  With absolutely no control, I find myself pushing as hard as I can.  A rush of fluid.  I stop in my tracks.  Tell my mom in a panic to call 911, I am having the baby now.  As she leaves I have a couple more contractions, no pushing.  As she dials I stop her, I feel stupid.  It's fine, I have hours, I tell myself.  I don't want to overreact.  We can make it.

As we leave, my mother, the psychic she is, I hear her tell Mark to pull over and call an ambulance if we don't make it.  I internally roll my eyes, as the pain prevents any actual movement.  She is so paranoid, I am thinking, as I have 3 contractions just walking to my car.

I stop by the door, I am looking in.  I do not want to get in the car.  The thought of sitting in that seat for the next 40 minutes reduces me to tears and hopelessness.  The only reason I get in, is the thought that I can get an epidural in 45 minutes, its enough to push me into that car.

We have a choice of an unraked dirt road, or a paved road with a dozen speed bumps.  We choose the more predictable speed bumps.  I have my body suspended over the seat by propping myself up with the armrests.  It alleviates some of the pain.  It is so foggy out, and cold.  I have the heat blasting on my feet and my head out the window, howling at the invisible moon like a dying dog.  The wetness of the fog is whipping my face, keeping me in reality, while the heat at my feet keeps my body from the racking chills I have been fighting.  More contractions, now I am pushing each time.  More fluid.  More pain.

We can barely see the road.  I have to tell Mark to slow down, as much as I am dreaming of my epidural relief, I am afraid we will run off the dark roads or hit a deer.  Thats what we need, a car accident.  Suddenly, during a contraction, I feel her head drop into my pelvis.  I can feel the roundness, the pressure.  No pain, but I know she is coming, right now.

I tell Mark to pull over.  "We're in the middle of the road".  No shit Mark, I know.  He pulls into the Cumberland Farms.

"Call 911"  I am panting, "she is coming right now".  He is on the phone with the EMS as I yank down my pants.  I am envisioning, with horror, delivering my baby in my pants and trying to untangle her body.  My feet on the dashboard, I pull my pants down to my ankles as Marks parks the car.  I feel for a head...nothing.  For a fraction of a second, I feel a slight embarrassment.  I am being paranoid again, is she really coming.  I had so expected to feel a head, anything...but I felt nothing.  It didn't last long, in the next second, the familiar pain and a push, and her head was in my hand.  So much hair, I marveled.  As I reached for her with my other hand, her body flew out in a silent, slippery motion, surrounded by waves of water.  She slipped through my hands.  So warm, wet, smooth.  I hope I forever remember that feeling.  The feeling of my daughter leaving my body.  It is the saddest, most amazing, enchanting, exhilarating feeling there is.  Our bodies, going from one to two, her life starting outside of me.  Feeling that little body that kicked me for so long, that I grew for almost a year.  The little life I have pictured, dreamed of,  My pregnancy, ending.  My belly, my beautiful round, smooth belly, reduced to a deflated balloon.  My muscles finally relaxing after the most intense and painful workout humanly possible.  My daughter's birth.  Nothing like I had ever imagined.  With no doctors, no hospital, no medication, no assistance.  Just born into the world, the way women have done it for thousands of years...minus the fluorescent lights and gas pumps.

She is so warm and wet, her seal-like body slips through my hands onto the floor of my car.  I am in shock.  Mark is on the phone with 911, he hangs up.  This is where he comes through for me.  I am a tangle of pants and shoes and umbilical cord.  I can't reach my baby.  Mark picks her up, and in a moment of pure comedy, tries to hand her to me, which isn't possible because the cord protruding from my body into hers is too short.  He then tries to thread my little needle through my legs.  Finally, we take a second, I untangle my pants from my flip-flops which have cuffed my feet together on my dashboard.  The cord is still too short to hold her on my chest, so I hunch over as much as I can to at least get her head skin-to-skin on my body.  Mark calls the ambulance back again and we see lights in the distant fog.  I have never experienced such long, thick silence.  The fog absorbs all noise, and we are in a bubble of thick cloud, the air is heavy and cold.  "We have to keep her warm".  I am able to mumble.  Mark takes off his sweatshirt and I wrap it around her body.  " is a girl, right?"  I can't think of anything else to say.  Mark looks at me funny, I don't blame him.

"I didn't check" he is looking for the ambulance.

"I have to check, I have to".  A quick peak provides me with relief, everything is pink at home.  She is so tiny.  I know in an instant she is much smaller than Dilena, I knew it as she was coming out.  She is so fragile.  I rub her back as vigorously as I dare, to stimulate her breathing.  She cries three times, a gurgley, choking cry.  I am scared she has too much fluid in her.  I know a quick delivery doesn't provide necessary squeezing required to rid her body of the fluid she has been living in.  I hold her warm body, kiss her matted hair and wait.

As the ambulance pulls in, I tell Mark to take a picture.  Again, I am robbed of my graphic delivery photo footage, but that one picture I will treasure always.

The EMS is here now, they look as shocked as I am.  "First car birth?" I manage to say with a smirk.  One young EMT looks close to losing his cookies.  I have to step out of my car, naked, from the waist down, covered in blood, mucus and a lot of other unmentionable substances, and walk a few steps to the stretcher.  It is then I notice the elderly gentleman working inside the Cumberland Farms store.

In the ambulance, the young, weary EMT is attempting to cut the cord with a scalpel.  He is shaking and almost forgets to clamp it first.  I placed my hand over my baby's body below the cord.  "I don't want to cut you" he says.  Yeah, well I don't want your shaking hand to cut my baby, buddy.  The blood sprays out, under pressure from the clamps.  My baby is free from my body.  I am still in disbelief this had happened.  We are wrapped in the silver space blanket and I hold on to my baby as the ambulance whips around corners.  They refuse to take me to my hospital, we are going to the local hospital down the street.  Unfortunately, Mark does not know that, so he drives on to Massachusetts.  This whole scenario is much funnier now.

The doors of the ambulance open, and I am greeted by dozens of nurses, doctors, pediatricians and probably a few curious janitorial members.  I feel a bit like a celebrity, people are smiling at me, laughing, clapping and surrounding Jada and I like ants on a melted popsicle.  I am clinging to her, but of course the y take her.  In the ER, I am baby-less, husbandless and alone.  I am, for the first time, afraid.  I cry a little.

I am finally pushed into a maternity room where I deliver the placenta, am examined by a hundred people, stitched up and left to wait.  Mark finally gets to the right hospital and they bring in my Jada bug.  They lay her, completely naked, on my naked body.  We stay like that for hours.  No diaper, not a piece of clothing between us.  She dabbles with nursing, but mostly, she sleeps.  She is absolutely, amazingly beautiful.  She is so small, so sweet.  She is my miracle, my strength, and everything I imagined she would be.  She is mine.  And we sleep like that, bodies melted to each other, and for a short time, we are one again.

Love like this, can heal deep hurt.  Love like this, is what I have been living for.

Jada Nadine
6 pounds, 12 oz, 20 inches at 3:43 am.  4/26/11

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Pregnancy and Chemotherapy

I am newly pregnant, my mother is undergoing chemo.  We share the symptoms of nausea, metallic tastes, constipation and irritability.  My belly protrudes by about 9 weeks, and I don't fight the maternity clothes this time.

I have at this point, decided to leave my job at the cancer center.  It is by far the best, most rewarding and amazing position I have ever held.  I finally understood why some people felt so fulfilled by their jobs, because I did too.  The problem is, the people who you see the most, become the closest to, the people whose families you know and life stories you hear over and over, these are the sickest.  The ones that lose long battles after years of friendship.  The people who beat their cancers, they visit, send flowers and fruit baskets and Christmas cards, but as you should, you forget them over time and focus on your sicker patients.  It distorts your reality, you begin to feel that everyone is doomed.  It is an emotionally draining job at times, and I decided that cancer in my mom was enough cancer in my life.  I returned to my "regular" hospital job.  My safety job.  It takes less of my brain, less of my emotions, and a lot more paperwork.

This helps a bit.  I still regret and at the same time feel relieved about leaving the cancer center.  I know how close we become with our patients, I know how close my mom is with her nurses and staff at her cancer center.  I do feel like I abandoned my patients, like a mother, no one can take care of my kids the way I can.  That is the same thing I felt, do feel, about my patients.

I like being distracted though.  The baby growing in me helps tremendously.  My mom does so well with her treatment, we shop for baby clothes and pick out the perfect shade of pink for the room I am convinced will belong to two girls.  My mind won't even allow me to think I am having a boy.  To this day, Mark and I can not find a boy name we like.  We both believe we are likely destined to have all girls, which I would be ecstatic about.

This pregnancy is very different.  No bleeding, similar salt and cheese cravings, less weight gain.  I am busy helping my mom and family as much as possible, working, taking care of Dilena.  The weeks are flying back faster than I can keep track.  Our 12 week ultrasound, our bitty baby is bouncing off the walls (uterine walls, that is).  My twin sister is convinced it is a boy, because my nephew apparently was very active in utero.  No, I am convinced, she is a girl.  I buy a silly pee test, it says girl.  I stare at "nub" shots, it looks pretty boy.  I am so anxious to see what is inside me.

Jada Evangeline is the name we pick out for our second girl, long before I was pregnant with her.   During the early months of my pregnancy, I changed the middle name to Nadine, a little present for my mother, she loves word puzzles.  I find myself absolutely obsessed with having another girl, as I did later in my pregnancy with Dilena.  I hope this is a sign that I know, on some level, that she is a girl.  My mother joins us for our gender scan.  We like to keep our names a secret from everyone, until that baby is born.  My mother loves to spoil surprises and she is terrible at waiting for a surprise, so she constantly quizzes me.  Occasionally I offer her a very vague hint, but this only leads to more aggressive questioning, so mostly I shut her efforts down.

So here we are, in line to check in for my scan.  My stomach is in knots.  My mother, with her incredibly cute scarfed head, is prodding me for information about our name choices.  She tells me she has a girl name for us.  " I don't want to hear it, we have our name already", I tell her and look away, afraid I will cave.

 "But it's a good one" she is insisting.  I have a very weird feeling.  We have not so much as breathed a whisper of as to what the name will be.

But, I can't stand my own curiosity.  "Fine, tell me".

"Jada Rose".

"Why that name?"

"Jada because of you initials and your great great grandmother Ada, and Rose is an old family name".

CRAP! I can not freaking believe she guessed our name.  I mean, "knowing" Dilena's gender at 9 weeks was a bit creepy, but guessing our baby girls name before our gender scan, FREAK-Y.  I mean, she was off on the middle name, but Jada?  I could barely keep a straight face.  I simply told her that we had our name and weren't considering changing it (all true, I can't lie to my mom).

Our scan confirmed my suspicions and alleviated my all-consuming obsession.  We are having another girl.  She was jumping and flipping and dancing so much it took a long time to get a convincing shot.  Our tech is young and pretty and 19 weeks pregnant with a boy, I am 18 weeks and bigger than her.  In my fear of having another lazy, non-moving baby, I chugged a can of root beer before the ultrasound, which almost backfired as the baby was too active.  Whoops.  But healthy.  Her profile was so cute, different from Dilena's.  Her legs are long and lean, her arm shape looks like mine.  I think she has my nose ( I hope).   I am floating in my happiness and excitement.  I buy my pink paint the next day.

I am very active this pregnancy, which is also very very different from my last.  I chase Di and cook meals and garden my butt off.  I make Mark dig a hundred holes for all my fruit and nut trees, I lug garbage cans full of fresh manure all over my yard and dig trenches for my asparagus beds.  We relocate hydrangea, plant phlox and lilies and gladiolas and zinnias and dahlias.  I prep my garden and buy my seeds.  My goal is to plant it all in early May, a bit early, but it has been warm and I'm due May 11th, I figure I will be a week late, so I have time.  Ha!

Easter Sunday.  We hide eggs, we do the hunt, we eat our chocolate and color eggs that are overly hard-boiled.  I do my thing and cook and clean and continue to nest my fingers to the bone, even at other people's houses.  My baby girl is super active, always moving, always.  Again, so very different from Dilena. I love feeling her so much, I love that she jumps at loud noises, and that she hiccups daily and stretches to the point where my body looks awkwardly distorted.  Leah hennas my belly at 32 weeks, I plan to have her do it again soon, so I can have it for my delivery.  I so look forward to my delivery, I picture it, pack for it, prepare for it.  Not enough, so it would be.

We leave my parents house Monday evening and make the hour long drive back home.  I am buzzing with energy.  I talk Mark's ear off about all my plans before the baby comes.  I am planning all my sister's pre-wedding festivities and helping her with all the details.  I have much to do in the next few weeks while we are still newborn-free.

At one point over the weekend, I made a joke to my father about having the baby on their anniversary.  Mark and I were married on my mother's birthday, so I thought it would be funny if our baby's birthday was their anniversary.  Between my mother and I, we would have more psychic clients than Miss Cleo.  Because just after midnight, on April 26th, the day of my parents' 31st wedding anniversary, my water broke.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A new reality

It is a sad, scary and frustrating day when you realize your parents are mortal.  Most people will lose their parents in their lifetimes, if you don't then you are even less fortunate to pass before they do.  I always envisioned my parents living well into their 90s, as most of our family does.

The diagnosis isn't immediate.  I am at work when my mother sees her GYN.  They do ultrasounds.  Not comforting.  They do a CT scan.  Less comforting.  I hear the word "mass" used.  I am getting very concerned.  I have trouble concentrating at work.  Whatever it is, has to come out.  Her surgery is scheduled.  I have good days and bad, I cry, and I feel at times that everything is fine.  We await her operation.

That day my father brings her in.  I decided to clean her kitchen, which hasn't seen a good cleaning I'm sure since they moved in.  I am scrubbing to keep my mind off things.  4-5 hour surgery, they say, longer, if something is wrong.  She goes in at 7 am.  By 12 pm, I stop cleaning.  I call my poor father over and over.  He hasn't heard anything.  I can feel the pain in his voice.  This isn't good news.  Finally, my Dad calls me.  I am bending over the windowsill in our dining room, staring at the plastic apples and berries my mom has in a bowl.  "It is cancer".  We don't know the extent, it will be another long wait.  I hang up, numb.  I walk into the living room and give my Nana (my mother's mother) the news.  We cry, and hold each other and just try to absorb this, and reject it.  I go to the hospital then.  My mom doesn't know yet, but she tells me later she did know.  I want her to have us there for the news.

So there it is.  All my fears coming true.  Cancer, in my family, in my mother.  It certainly does and doesn't help that I work in a cancer hospital.  I begin researching, then I stop.  I learn, over time, that no amount of statistics and research will ever predict your outcome.  We go to the appointments, the second opinions.  My mother has surgery to remove her ovaries, fallopian tubes where the cancer was spreading, her uterus and a couple dozen biopsy sites.  The waiting was the most painful time I have ever experienced.  I spent three nights in the hospital, sitting in a wooden chair, because I never wanted my mother to wake up in the middle of the night alone, to realize it wasn't all a bad dream.  That she is where she is and she has what she has.  She was always there for me.  My turn.  I wouldn't let her be alone, not even for a minute.

She has a bad hospital course.  She has pain and can't eat and she vomits a lot.  She is weak and sad and pale.  I have never seen her like this.  Its horrifying, its humbling.  I go into dietitian mode and demand supplements and prealbumin levels.  She is 10 days in the hospital and not eating, with cancer and after major surgery.  She is coping with her diagnosis.  Its hard for her, for us.  My father is a mess, my sister can't hear the word "mom" without crying.  I truly never have, nor will I ever doubt the amazing strength and influence a loving family of support provides.

We get news finally that her lymph nodes are clean.  An early stage ovarian cancer.  Ovarian cancer is a rare cancer, and because its symptoms are so slight, it is often not diagnosed until it has spread enough to cause symptoms.  In my mother's case, it had caused large, fluid filled cysts to develop, which she was able to feel and prompted her to see a doctor.  I am so grateful she didn't wait.

She is offered a clinical trial, and is accepted.  She is emotionally not well before treatment, but once she started, and realized how well she handled it, her attitude and outlook became very positive.  Slowly, as she healed, we were all able to become happy again.  Something I thought would never happened again, after I heard the C word.  I thought my life was changed forever, and it was, but not in the same way.

There it was.  My worst nightmare.  And there we were, getting through it.  Once your worse fear is realized, it can't hurt you anymore.  It frees you.  My dark cloud dissipates, and I am happy again.  as cliche as it sounds, it does make you appreciate life.  I never ignore my mother's calls now, no matter what it's about.  I never rush her off the phone.  I try to see my parents at least once a week.  I listen to their advice more often, and ask for it more.  I want it.

I feel love like I never have before, I hug my Di closer.  I talk to my sisters even more.  I smell the air and make future plans.  I care less about my clean house and how much money is in the bank.  I decide that for all the reasons we have to put off having more children, none of them is a s important as spending time with your kids.  At the end of my life, I want to have had my kids in as much of it as possible.  I'm off to a good start.  Because, 9 months after my beautiful baby girl is born, I am pregnant.

The best laid plans...

Dilena was a beautiful baby, but soon after her birth we realized she wasn't typical.  I read all the books, watched videos and talked with the wonderful mothers on my parenting forum.  We took her to the pediatrician frequently.  She was diagnosed as a colicky baby.  Ha!

My Dilena was not simply colicky, she literally screamed for about 18-20 hours a day. She slept in 45 minute increments.  The advice new mothers are given to "sleep when you baby sleeps" certainly does not apply to babies like this.  I fell into a funk.  I wasn't the mother I had dreamed of being.  I wasn't the carefree, multitasking supermom I knew I would be.  Dilena screamed, I couldn't comfort her.  I would wear her in my Moby wrap all day and pace my apartment, waiting for Mark to get home.  If I stopped pacing, tried to sit or eat or change pace, she screamed.

I got sick with what I thought was a flu, but was mastitis, twice.  She screamed at the breast and I eventually began to pump milk for her which I thought, at the time, was my only option.  It was very hard work, but in our case did turn out well.  When Mark got home I would sleep, for a few hours in our bedroom.  He had a trick, taking her into the bathroom, the fan would usually calm her.  I even napped in our bathtub with her just to get some silence.  At night, I would get up and take my little Di into the bedroom and Mark slept on the couch.  I held my baby, watched silent Roseanne reruns while she screamed.  I talked to her through her cries.  Told her what we would do when she was older, how we would fish and swim and play together.  I would beg her to sleep so that we could ride unicorns together in dreamland.  Occasionally, I would get a 45 minute reprieve.  Otherwise, she would cry and I would hold her and cringe at what our neighbors were thinking.

I was lucky enough to be able to work part time after Dilena was born.  I didn't sleep at all the night before my maternity leave ended.  I begged Mark to let me stay home, I told him I couldn't leave her.  We found a great little daycare but I can't, I cant leave her with strangers.  My heart ached, I was nauseous.  All these months all I wanted was some time away from my screaming baby, but now I can;t bear the thought of leaving her even for a second.  I have never experienced this intensity of anxiety.   I drop her off, I give the sweet women a long list of very specific instructions.  I warn them I will be calling every hour...maybe more.  My heart is pounding.  I leave, prepared for big tears and then...nothing.  I go back to my job,which I love, and I feel good.  Happy, balanced, even empowered.  As I get back into my work groove, I realize I can be a mom and work.  I can balance it all.  I don't call daycare as much as I expect I would.  I miss her, but her absence doesn't consume me.  I am doing it.

Dilena starts sleeping more, crying less.  Eventually she is diagnosed with severe reflux.  Medications help.  When she starts solids foods it helps too, and she loves food.   I like being a mom now.  Mark and I buy a house in the town we had dreamed about living in for several years.  Thats when I realize that we are really parents, homeowners and adults.  Scary.

Life is settling.  Our cute house in our beautiful town.  We discuss more kids several years down the road.  We are happy, settled.  Still.  Something menacing is deep within me.  Postpartum depression?  No, it is something deeper, but something else.  I have this sense of impending doom.  I stare at my beautiful surroundings, and yet, deep within me, a sadness.  I cant pinpoint what it was, or why.  I think about my own mortality a lot.  Why?  My dark cloud looms.  We go on with life.

I visit my parents a lot.  I love them so much.  I love being friends with my parents.  Mark and I vacation with them every year.  We hang out.  I don't go very many days without talking to my mother, never have.  My mom is a small woman, active, healthy eater, non-smoker.  I have always felt protected by this bubble of longevity in our family, our spotless family medical history (save for some alcoholism) and my parents healthy lifestyle.

Then, one night, my mother says to me "Julie, feel this, what is this?".  She has a large, soft bump in her belly.  She is laying flat, and it is obvious now, but not so when she is standing.  A hernia?  It isn't painful.  A cyst?  My great-grandmother had a cyst so large she looked 6 months pregnant.  I am not too worried.  This popped up so suddenly.  It has to be nothing.

It isn't nothing.  It is something.  Something awful.  It is cancer.


It is snowing.  It is October 18th, and it is snowing.  Not flurries either.  Its big, fat, fluffly snowflakes.  Enough to cover the green grass.  I am pacing outside.  I can't bring myself to get in the car.  I am in excruciating pain, is that even accurate.  The pain is worse than excruciation.  I am being crucified, but is that similar to excruciating, I am thinking as I pace through the snow.  My mother coaxes me into the car.  My labor music is playing.  I am gripping the handles and throwing my head back and making sounds I didn't think I could make.  I scream at Mark when he slows down, when he speeds up, and for every bump along route 9.  So this is labor, this is what I waited for? This is what I so desperately wanted to feel?  What the hell was I thinking.  Suddenly I am longing for the c-section.

We make it to the hospital, I don't know how.  I have to go back to register, I can't even sign papers.  Why oh why do they make a woman in labor sit down and sign papers and answer stupid f-ing questions when I am in so much pain I don't know my own name?  I guess I freaked out the girl enough so she skipped the paperwork.

Finally in my room.  I need drugs, now.  All my hypno-birthing tapes, all my reading, all my research.  To hell with it all, I want drugs.  The sooner, the better.  The more the merrier. Now.

I change into that pale blue gown.  I turn my back to everyone and brace myself between the bed rail and the wall through my contractions.  I use the rails in the bathroom to rock myself through contractions.  I get really really pissed when I am forced to leave any position and change.  My mom attempts to drink coffee in my presence, I order her out.  The smell makes me retch.  A not-so-considerate nurse comes in with a mouthful of freshly masticated Doritoes and demonstrates proper breathing...blowing moist flecks of Cooler Ranch chunks in my face.  I will myself not to punch her teeth out, so that I can prevent further Dorito consumption.

Finally, a lovely midwife intelligently checks me and does a stretch, which instantly dilates me from one to four cm.  I have some relief.  She hypothesizes that my cervix was scarred in my miscarriage and the scar tissue was preventing dilatation, which is why my contractions were so fast and hard and painful.  They space out a bit.  four minutes apart.  I rock myself in the rocking chair and wait for my epidural.  I have no interest in a med free birth at this point.  I need relief, badly.  My doulas have not returned calls. They are absent for my birth, and I am lost.

The anesthesiologist is white haired and beautiful.  Probably not, but anyone with pain relief was beautiful then.  I have three contractions while he works.  I have never summoned so much strength as I did to keep my body still through that.  I loved the epidural.  Once it worked, I was a happy, peaceful, lovely person again.  I was hungry and laughing, looking at that disgusting giant zit popping video on YouTube.  We watched TV, updated facebook and generally had a great time.

2 am.  I am ready to push.  I feel nothing.  I know I am not pushing well, I don't know how.  I don't even know where my own ass is at the moment, I am numb.  Epidural is turned off. Sensation begins to return. There is mumbling.  They can't track the baby's heart rate.  They go inside and screw that nasty looking needle into her head and the once pleasant, horse galloping rhythm of my baby's heartbeat is now an obnoxious wooden knocker, load, harsh and unsettling.  It stops periodically.  I can't ignore it. They turn it off.  I ask if the baby is OK.  My nurse smiles sweetly and tells me, "honey, if something bad happened, you would see about 20 people run into this room".  I am relieved, briefly.  Until about 20 people, quickly, silently, enter my room.

Pushing was awkward.  I tried everything they asked me too.  Being on all fours was far too graphic for my imagination.  I know I shouldn't have, I know how normal childbirth is, but honestly, being in that position in front of all those people, it was difficult to forget that a bunch of strangers are looking at my naked, oozing body.  It did inhibit my pushing, and my enjoyment of the moment.  That and the pain.  I wanted to push on the toilet, I begged them to let me do that.  My sister and mom are crying. I know I hear them talking about a c-section now.  Good.  Bring it.  I am done.  I have been pushing for two hours, vomiting on myself between contractions and the pain is worse than before.  I am dying.  I have no concept of reality, I am not having a baby.  I am dying.  The nurse tells me I need to push for my baby, I need to get my baby out.  My baby isn't doing well and she needs to come out.  What baby, I don't even care.  The pain is all consuming.  Everything is black, are my eyes closed, or did I just block out this memmory?  I still have no idea.  All I remember is pain, blackness and all those voices.

The baby's heart rate is doing rapid decelerations.  I know this is bad, my sister, who is a nurse, knows its bad and she is crying.  My husband is a particular shade of green.  I remember digging my nails into his hands, trying to separate the tendons so that I could pull on something.  At one point the nurse forces him to sit down.  I am getting close to c-section time.  The nurse urges me to push.  No.  I am done, I refuse, I give up.  The doctor tells me she will help me, she whips out the scary looking scissors for an episiotomy and the tiny vacuum, which sounds horrific but looks innocent enough.  She attaches it to my baby's head, which hasn't moved in hours.  She pulls gently as I push and POP!  It flies off immediately.  As she fumbles to reattach it, I relax, and my baby shoots out of me entirely in one push.  No crowning, no burning, nothing.  Just baby, out, completely.  The doctor is still fumbling with the vacuum and just yells, "Julie, look!"  And I open my eyes to my baby girl, her legs just exiting my body.  Mark chokes out, "its a girl" and I am dumbfounded.  I didn't even push that time.  as if all along she would have come, when she wanted.  I should have known, my Dilena wanted to be born when she wanted to be born.  She avoided two, nearly 3 c-sections and an induction.  My baby girl was here.

The NICU team took her.  My nurse in a moment of craziness kissed me, I kissed her back.  We yelled at each other the entire labor, but now I love her.  The pain is all gone and I am amazed.  The pediatricians are silent, but I hear baby cries.  I keep asking how my baby is, no one answers.  Finally a women says "she's fine" barely looking up.

It takes an hour to sew me up.  I have 4th degree tears.  I ask to see my placenta, its quite pretty, in a strange way.  It looks like a bloody liver on one side, but has a beautiful fern, or tree -like pattern on the other side.  Neat.  I look at the floor, the nurses and doctors are slipping in puddles of blood.  Mark later told me it looked like a scene from Saving Private Ryan.  

The first time I ever saw Dilena's face, is one of those moments that is forever imprinted in my mind, with a halo of white cloud around it.  Her eyes are open, she is holding up her own head.  I know breast feeding may be difficult, because it has been so long since I gave birth and didn't do skin-to-skin or hold her.  I wasn't even the first to hold her, but I wanted her to be held by someone, even if it was not me.  My first thought was that she was so cute.  I reached for her, all bundled in those hospital blankets, her little knitted hat.  She is already opening her mouth when she sees me.  She starts eating immediately, she is sucking before I even have her on my breast.  To this day, my Dilena doesn't miss a meal.  This is my baby, my daughter.  She is perfect, she is beautiful, she is mine.  Ours.

Dilena Cecelia, 10/19/2009, 03:58; 8 pounds, 2.6 oz, 21 inches.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

when We became Three (part three)

I am very very pregnant.  My feet continue to swell, and I barely recognize myself in the mirror anymore.  I am so very grateful that I ma still pregnant, that I will be a momma, but I can't help but hate my body right now.  I have never been happy with my weight, but this was a new level of self disgust.  Part of me reveled in it, I am big because of this baby and I am not allowed to exercise at all or even move that much, so I am bored and I eat and its hot and I don't care.  Except I do.  I care even more when after 32 weeks of diligently applying my bio-oil and cocoa butter and stretch mark cream, my once beautiful, full, smooth belly crackled out in spider web like flames from my bely button out.  They ached, they itched, and they are ugly.  Still very much worth my baby, but certainly enough to induce some hormonally fueled self loathing.

I am taking my vitamins still, I add more to help with labor.  We don't have a lot of money, but I want a doula badly.  I know I will need the support to do this the right way, the way I always dreamed.  We decide to hire a student doula, so we can experience this new territory all together.  It feels good.  The first doula we hire seems wonderful, very excited to help us.  I continue to plan our birth.  I devour books on the subject, I read horrifying accounts of the first medically attended births, about chloroform and broken pelvic bones and extremely disturbing chronicles of unfortunate babies who got stuck in the birth canal.  Natural for me, for sure.  For all those women who ever suffered, I will do this my way.

A disheartening call.  Our student doula has decided to forgo our birth to take a trip to Sweden.  Our birth is only a couple months away, we have a hard time believing this was a newly scheduled trip, however we wish her well and look back to the doula school.  We find Cynthia.  A lovely girl who has attended several home births.  We meet for coffee, we talk, we click.  I like her.  We schedule follow up meetings.  Cynthia has a difficult time keeping our appointments.  Still, we like her and I have confidence she will be there when we need her.

The baby is getting very large, they tell me.  And she is still breech.  Her head is wedged up in my ribcage, her feet planted down as far as they can be.  She doesn't budge.  Finally, my wonderful OB, breaks the news.  C-section is on.  We choose October 2nd, and I am crushed.  ll my preparation, all my work...gone.  I attend my birthing classes still but only half listen.  Mark and I attend a safety and CPR class for infants.  While we are blowing into these lifelike, freaky little dolls, the girl sitting behind us gasps.  "My water just broke".  The class cheers.  A rush of excitement, then complete disappointment.  I am deflating.  I won't get that experience.  I won't have that excitement, the when, the where, the how.  I am stuck, with October 2nd.

Cynthia still plans on coming to our c-section.  I will need the support with breastfeeding and bonding and all that.  She will help me after by coming to our apartment after to assist me.  She is inexpensive as far as doulas go, so we pay her and wait for the date.

At one point, a lovely midwife tells me she feels a head near my pelvis.  I absolutely adored my time with midwives.  There are like caring aunts.  If ever I have the money and motivation to continue schooling, I would become a midwife.  I have seen so much of the end of life, I would like to see more of the beginning of it.  I want to wear a white lab coat (well, I already do that) over an eclectic, patterned dress with a long gray ponytail and big brass earrings and I want to be covered in placenta and baby goo.  That's my alternate life.

Unfortunately, that midwife wasn't so accurate, and the baby's head was still firmly planted between my ribcage.  My OB gives me an option.  She can try an external version to manually turn the baby at 37 weeks.  After 37 weeks, the baby will be too big.  The bad part is that if the version failed, I would have an emergency c-section right then and there.  My placenta had moved from covering my cervix, right up the front, so that the version could possibly abrupt my placenta.  There was no other option, try for the version, and if it failed, a c-section at 37 weeks, or a c-section at 39 weeks.  I didn't have to think long.  I wanted my baby to be in me as long as possible, I didn't want a c-section, but I certainly didn't want to risk one two weeks earlier.  So I told my bosses and prepped my apartment and made plans.  October 2nd.  My baby would be here.  Meanwhile, I was trying everything I have ever read about to get this baby to turn on her own.  Ice pack/heat pack combo, hanging upside down, music, flashlights, talking to her, begging her to move.  I felt nothing.  It felt useless, and about a week before my c-section, I gave up.  Excitement began to creep up over the disappointment and I started to gain some acceptance.

I am so very big.  I can barely eat.  I have several low blood sugars a day.  A low blood sugar is akin to being an addict going through withdrawal, you need food and sugar and carbohydrates terribly bad.  You shake, you can't see straight, you panic.  You take way more than you need.  I am still gaining weight at a pretty alarming rate.  I don't care.  I am so excited to see my baby.  I picture my baby.  I picture a girl, with a little brown hair and big eyes (actually, I picture almost exactly what my Jada looks like).  I want a girl so bad I get sick thinking about having a boy.  I must have known all along.

October 1st.  My mom and Dad and sister are up at our apartment.  I have made food for several days.  We are packed.  We have a last dinner of Mango, our favorite restaurant.  We watch TV, odd things.  I remember watching the Shakira "She Wolf" video.  I have no idea why.  I play with my cats and give the nursery a once over.  Pack the cameras and videos and computers.  We are so prepared, I feel powerful.  I barely sleep.

The way to the hospital is fuzzy.  There is a rotary right before St. Vincent's, it has strange inverted road bumps, like those on the side of the highway.  What the hell are those things called?  I remember going over these bumps thinking " I will never go over these again without being a mother, without knowing what my baby looks like".  I am amazed by what is happening.

I register and make my way down to maternity.  The nurse is a little snippy.  I am a few minutes late to maternity because registration took so long.  I was at the hospital when they asked me to be, sheesh.  My OB comes in.  Mark is gowned up in OR gear.  I have my IVs put in, my lovely pale blue hospital johnny is in place.   I am about to have major surgery, I wonder what it will be like.  I focus on my baby.  My OB wants to do a last minute ultrasound, to see the placement of the baby.  She will have to cut through my placenta, which is scary to me, I will bleed a lot.

The ultrasound wand in on and everyone is silent.  The nurse yells out, "there's the head, its down!".  My brain does not process this.  So?  "you get to go home", she says with a smile.  I burst out crying.  How could they do this, send me home babyless, when I was so sure I would be holding my baby is a few hours.  Now, once again, I have nothing but a bloated body and nothing to show for it.  They told me time and time again this baby would not move, and she did?  "Induce me" I blurt out.  "induce me today, you can't send me home".  My OB half laughs at me.  She explains to this crazy, overly pregnant woman that she can not do this for no medical reason.  I know this, I don't really want it. But I cry anyway.   The IVs come out, Mark strips of his paper garb and I change back into my clothes.  I have to face my family, in the waiting room.  I sulk back to them like a puppy who didn't quite make it outside.  I have failed, yet again.  I just can't believe this emotional ping-pong.  We go home, babyless.  I am out of work.  I am bored, anxious and completely lost.  It sounds ridiculous, but even though I know that the baby can't possibly stay in there forever, I still feel like I will never be a mother.  Two weeks of eternity. I tried everything (everything) to get her out.  Log walks, spicy food, castor oil, etc.  No so much as a cramp.

Ok, my OB schedules an induction, finally.  I don't want to be induced, but at this point I don't care anymore.  I just want my baby.  I am wasting precious maternity leave on nothing, watching A Baby Story reruns.  I want to spend my days with my baby.  I am to go in Sunday, to start the induction.  I will have the baby Monday, October 19th.  The date doesn't resonate with me, but oh well.  I want to meet my baby.

Induction day.  My mom is coming.  I am packing, cleaning etc.  I have accepted my fate.  Cynthia has not returned my calls, but she knows my induction date and has promised to be there.  She did warn us that she was having family issues, and had a back up doula for us just in case she was out of town.  Mark leaves messages, no answers.  I barely care.  I am having a baby tomorrow.  I am packing.  I am having a baby tomorrow. I am cleaning.  Having a baby tomorrow.  I keep running to the bathroom.  I am having a baby.  I keep having cramps.  I am having a baby.  My mom calls.  I AM HAVING A BABY. She hears my moans, my cries.  I am bent over the couch, on all fours in my bedroom.  I am having a baby.  I am in labor, full blown contractions, two minutes apart.  I am having a baby, right now!