Monday, July 8, 2019

Ordinary Milestones and Unexciting Revelations

I don't want to jinx us, but I think we've gotten into the rhythm of life with baby without too many missteps. Basically, this depends on Baby G being willing to chill in her car seat, nurse efficiently, and sleep for a couple long-ish stretches at night. Since she's been cooperative on that front, everything else (camps, swims, park playdates, ninja and gymnastic class) has fallen into place.

Of course, we were seventeen minutes later leaving the house than I wanted to be this morning, putting us ten minutes late for art camp, but that was not Baby G's fault! Coco was dragging and I was getting so frustrated with her. Finally I realized that she was nervous about a new camp and that was making her dawdle and change her clothes and refuse to put shoes on, etc.

I will say that I do feel the stretch of attention divided three ways. I'm glad the girls are old enough to be helpful (and really they are SUPER helpful with the babe) and understanding, but I also feel bad about how often I respond to their requests with "In a minute, after I feed/change the baby." But they are really great about it, and still very thrilled to be big sisters to a baby. Zuzu is counting down the days until I trust her to carry the baby (ummm... never?). I'm telling her that we'll reevaluate when G can hold her head steady.

Another shift this summer has been that Zuzu and Coco are really old enough for drop off play dates. Zuzu has gone over to friends houses and had friends over here, and Coco's bestie's mom is also home in the summers, so we've done play dates and park meet-ups that have worked really well. My friend Angie is also home a lot with her kids, and my brother's wife's brother's wife (haha but seriously) has recently moved here, so meeting up and having some adult conversation (in between chasing toddlers and feeding babies and trying to keep an eye on the bigger kids) has been a lifesaver.

Poor Zuzu was sick on her actual birthday, so we had to postpone her party. It's this Saturday and the loose theme is ninja obstacle course meets sno-cone party with confetti cupcakes. Sounds fun, right?

David has spent this summer transforming the backyard into his own childhood backyard fantasy. In addition to two swing sets (the one we had and the one the previous owners left), the sandbox, the playhouse, and the zip line, he's added a rope ladder, and a slack tightrope. He's adding a few more obstacles (tunnels and hurdles) for the party.

We finally got Zuzu riding on two wheels! We knew she was more than ready, but for some reason our fearless girl was pretty freaked out about bike riding. (Maybe because she's such a wuss about scraped knees?). Anyway, we didn't get out on bikes much last summer, mostly because we have to go somewhere to ride because our house is on a huge hill and the nearby neighborhood has no sidewalks and quite a bit of traffic, plus it's pretty hilly, too. We spent about 45 minutes in a flat parking lot down the street and she totally took off! She was so proud of herself. I was excited for her, but I still felt the pressure of tears as she pedaled away from me at top speed, ribbon streamers waving from the handle bars. My baby! Wasn't I just carrying her in a pumpkin seat?


Baby G has a portable fan we drag around so she spends a good deal of time snoozing in the shade with her own personal air flow keeping her cool and comfy. She went ahead and turned 2 MONTHS OLD on July 5 and I love that she's started smiling for real and I can't get enough of this little dimple she's got.


Meanwhile, Coco watched Zuzu take off on her bike and wanted her training wheels removed, too. She hasn't quite mastered the two wheel bike--she goes for a stretch, then wobbles and veers into the grass before crashing. But she's really close. And if we hadn't been operating in roiling humidity, she probably would have had the energy to keep at it last time. As it is, we've had two sessions of less than an hour each, and I'm so impressed at how quickly both of them have caught on!


The rest of our summer is looking busy... the girls have art camp this week, next week we'll visit my parents, the following weekend we go to a family reunion. And then it's August and Coco's birthday. And then school starts! I'm not teaching in the fall, so I'll mostly be home with Baby G, with some days on campus doing administrative stuff and overseeing senior thesis projects. Plus job hunting, or figuring out what next fall will look like for me.

Full disclosure: I am still vacillating between being in a completely freaked out cold sweat about what comes next, feeling super sad that this chapter is over, and feeling cautiously optimistic that I'll find something else. Of course the negative feelings overwhelm me in the middle of the night when I can't get back to sleep after nursing. I really struggle with the whole closed door / open window philosophy, but I'm working on it. I will totally embrace some woo-woo stuff (looking at you, pink Himalayan salt lamp!), so I have been keeping a gratitude journal in which I list at least three things each night that I'm grateful for, and I've started doing a list of daily affirmations where you write down things you want to happen as though they already have happened. We'll see if I can visualize my way to a good place by 2020!

(Side note: that makes me think of that meme that reads something like "Maybe it was your vision board, maybe it was your white privilege.")

Another revelation I've had this summer? Shopping at Aldi. YOU GUYS. It's so inexpensive. I'm getting ALL our groceries for the week and spending $100 or less. We occasionally have to pick up groceries elsewhere--we buy Cheerios in bulk at Sam's and can't give up our fresh ground peanut butter from Fresh Thyme, but shopping at Aldi has been a game changer and I find it very satisfying.

I've been thinking about my old novel a lot and decided to do some rewriting. I'm struggling a little bit with pacing. So I decided to get proactive and join a writer's circle on Facebook. That means next month I'll start meeting up with TOTAL STRANGERS and having them read my work and give me feedback. Just typing that is enough to make me feel like barfing, but it feels like a necessary step if I want to keep working on this thing.

Zuzu told me the other day that the days were short but the years were long, which cracked me up because that probably is how it feels to her, but of course parents of young kids are used to hearing the opposite (the days are long, but the years are short). I'm feeling both the rush of time and the endlessness of summer afternoons that are filled only with whining, fighting, and demands for snacks. Mostly I'm just trying to be present while also not feeling guilty if I need to escape into my phone for a little while.

And that pretty much sums up summer so far!

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Summer Solstice (a few days late)

I got an e-mail from my aunt Beth a few days ago asking if the date of June 8 was correct as the last time I updated my blog... I had not realized it had been so long! And there goes my summer plan of blogging once a week. Oh, summer. I have such big plans for you and then the time slips away.

More accurately, the time is CONSTANTLY INTERRUPTED. As of right now, I have the baby sleeping, but Coco just came in to tell me in tears that Zuzu wrecked the volcano she made in the sandbox: "She wrecked it and she didn't ask!"

Apparently she just wanted to report, because I said, "I'm so sorry that happened. What would you like me to do?" and she just walked away to go back outside and play. Okay, then!

At any rate, this will be another brain dump post of a few things on my mind of late because I don't have the wherewithal to actually construct an essay-style blog post on one subject.

I may have caught up a bit on sleep last night when I crashed downstairs in the recliner at 7pm while the girls were having Friday Night Movie Night watching The Grinch (Coco's choice). I woke up around 9:30pm, fed the baby, left her downstairs with David and went to bed. She did her "normal" routine of waking up at 2:00am, 5:00am, and 8:00am so I didn't get out of bed until after I'd fed her at 8:00.

I'm still tracking all her feedings in my phone and keeping track of diapers. Partly out of habit, and partly because I have no sense of the passage of time and I need my phone to keep track of anything.

I'm doing a diaper study right now for a local marketing company. They provided two weeks worth of diapers (seven diapers per day, we usually need eight so we supplement with our own) and a scale and I have to weigh the diaper when I change it and record whether she peed or pooped and if it leaked (so far we've had no leaking). It's a bit of a pain, but I think it's worth the cash money they're paying for the data we enter online.

In much more exciting news, my best friend from high school had her baby Thursday night! We graduated high school together and then decided to have geriatric pregnancies together! Wa-hoo! In all actuality, having kids has been much more complicated than that for both of us, but we ended up pregnant together and due three and a half weeks apart. Thanks to Miss G's dramatic entrance, our babies are six and a half weeks apart, but we still expect them to be best friends and potential life partners. I can't wait to meet baby Johnny and introduce him to Miss G.

Miss G still doesn't have a nickname (although I'm apparently calling her Miss G on the blog). Zuzu was actually 6 months old before she became Zuzu, so I'm not too worried about it. So far Veeves and Evie are strong contenders.

An IG friend/fellow babyloss mom recently attended a conference on stillbirth and pregnancy research, and she posted in her IG stories about the lack of research/funding for this area of medicine. It's so maddening to me. As another friend (baby Johnny's dad, actually) commented the other day, if this had to do with erections, we'd have the top notch technology worked out, but pregnant women are getting overlooked. One of the doctors who presented at the conference noted that the lack of attention and respect given to this health issue means that women who experience the loss of a child due to stillbirth have a sense of being marginalized and she used the term "disenfranchised grief."

That term really spoke to me--like some of us aren't sure how much we get to grieve publicly, or we have the painful experience of our grief being dismissed because it wasn't a "real" baby or whatever.

A guy I went to high school with posted on facebook today that he and his wife had lost their baby boy. I'm not sure how far along she was, but as I typed a comment on his post to tell him how sorry I was, it made me cry.

Life is so sweet these days (also exhausting, overwhelming, and occasionally really frustrating) but I still miss Eliza. I still mourn the fact that I should have an eight-year-old here. My friends from college hosted a "sprinkle" for Genevieve and we all got together with our families. It was so much fun, and so great to see everyone. But these are the friends who all had babies within a year of Eliza. Four of the kids there were born within two months of her birthday. It doesn't hurt as much to be around them--there were years when just seeing them was so painful it would take my breath away--but it still pushes on the bruised places in my broken heart. I love these friends and adore these kids, and I'm so glad they are still part of my life. It's just hard to know that there is one more kid who should be there.

Baby G's fan club of girls
One friend of mine has a six-year-old daughter who played with Zuzu and Coco and was delighted to hold the baby. When it was time to go, she jokingly said to her mom, "I'm going to be part of their family now!" and her mom laughed and said, "That's just what she needs! Another little girl!"

It was obviously a joke... of course I have my hands full. But it still made my heart lurch because truer words were never spoken. Another little girl is exactly what I need.

And I still can hardly believe that some people get that lucky--to get to keep all their babies and watch them grow up and take it for granted that they will.

True confession: It helps me to remember how fortunate I am to have these three little girls when I'm solo-parenting!

They look so sweet here, you'd never know what stinkers Z & C can be!
David has been at a conference for THREE NIGHTS (Who makes a conference last that long?! Terrible planning!). My parents came up to help me out because we've had a couple evenings where I couldn't handle the thought of being on my own while trying to cope with a fussy baby (what is it about the witching hour?) and make dinner for children whose appetites are unpredictable and subject to change at any given time (I'll never be the kind of parent who makes a separate meal for my kids! They can eat whatever we're having!... Excuse me while I eat my words for dinner.)

The dinner hour is hard for us, mostly because when I get hungry I get hangry too, and then nothing goes well! David had suggested we get a baby swing, but I'd been holding off. We had a small travel swing for Zuzu, but she hadn't been that crazy about it. Coco never used it because we couldn't keep two-year-old Zuzu out of it, so I think I gave it away to my brother. I didn't want to buy a big, bulky plastic swing that G would only use for a few months, so I looked half-heartedly on Facebook marketplace. Then I decided to put out a call on FB to see if any of my local friends had one we could borrow--and sure enough, my friend Angie came through for me!

loves the swing--she loves movement and music--so it has been a real sanity-saver.

I've been trying to get back into meal planning and since D was gone the past couple of days while my parents were here, I also did some cooking! (I made this enchilada recipe and it was delish). But tonight it's take and bake cheese sticks because I am only human and my parents left today.

Swimming lessons started this week. On Monday, I wanted to tear my hair out because my kids were acting like they'd hardly been in a pool before. Coco is the only kid in her class and she loves to be babied, so she was basically letting her instructor carry her around the pool like an infant in a mommy & me class. Zuzu was convinced that a sign indicated two people couldn't be on the diving block together actually indicated that she shouldn't dive off of it at all (what, like she's a rule follower all of a sudden?) so when another girl in her class refused to dive, she joined her in SITTING by the side of the pool. I was like WHAT IS HAPPENING?

But they don't allow parents on the pool deck, probably because they don't want us yelling, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING? COCO, YOU KNOW THAT YOU CAN SWIM BETTER THAN THAT! ZUZU, YOU DIVE ALL THE TIME!" Which is exactly what I wanted to do, LOL. Anyway, today they both turned it around. Coco was finally telling her instructor to back up farther so she could jump and swim to her instead of jumping directly into her arms, and Zuzu dove beautifully off the diving block after we explained the sign.

Zuzu will probably be ready for swim team next year, but we'll see if I'm ready for that commitment!

The other big excitement around here is the zip line that David installed in the backyard. The girls have been loving it. It only makes me a little nervous... I've been baffled by their inclination to zip line in the nude, but it does save me on laundry. The main reason why it's nice to have trees surrounding our house for privacy: backyard nudity.

a rare picture of them fully clothed!
The other thing we've been doing this summer is watching episodes of Little House on the Prairie in our downtime between lunch and afternoon activities. The girls have been very empathetic about the Ingalls family and their struggles. Pa broke his ribs and then a hailstorm ruined all their wheat. Zuzu kept calling it their "weed" which made me laugh. "Pa can't sell all his weed!" It's sparked some good conversations about white settlers encroaching on American Indian territories and the idea that the land was just open for them to take. And we've also talked about how you make flour from wheat, what alcoholism is (ahem, Mr. Edwards), and why it's important to get vaccinations (so you don't die from small pox). Who knew it would be such an educational experience?

All right... Coco is getting whiny so I'm wrapping up this post with no real conclusion... I hope to post soon about Zuzu's seventh birthday party! I can't believe my rainbow baby is going to be seven.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

A Few Things

Remember my last blog post, where I was all starry-eyed and smug about summer?

We've already devolved to that summer schedule meme that's like "breakfast, fight, fight, fight, anarchy."

In all seriousness, the girls do play really well together. Until they don't. And then they fight with each other until they decide to create a united front against me.

* * *

But look who turned ONE MONTH OLD!



* * *

The big girls are still crazy about baby sister. There's no jealousy or resentment there, but there is plenty of squabbling about who gets to hold her first/longest. They are pretty helpful about fetching things if I need help, and they've been really good sports about us not being out and about as much since baby G is here. I'm very grateful for that. Baby G is lucky to have these sisters!


* * *

The other morning Zuzu said I was "the meanest mom in the world" because it was time to turn off The Magic School Bus after she'd already watched three episodes. (I do like Ms. Frizzle and her weird shrinking school bus, but I'm also freak about screen time). Later, we were at the grocery store and I let the girls get juice bags for a picnic in the park. Zuzu was delighted and I said, "Who's the nicest mom in the world?" She smiled and said, "You!" Then she paused thoughtfully and added, completely serious and slightly apologetic, "Well, Ella's mom is actually really nice..." So I'm in second place to Ella's mom, I guess.

We're having a relaxing weekend because the big girls are at my mom and dad's. The house is SO QUIET. It's awesome but I also miss them SO MUCH. It's amazing to not be interrupted every five minutes with tattling, tears, or demands for snacks, and I'm sure they are having a blast, but I suspect I'll be ready to have them back.

David is outside on this day of relaxation doing yard work. I advised him of an excellent life-hack shortcut to yard work: Lower your standards.

So far he has not taken my advice.

* * *

I missed my regularly scheduled hair appointment because it was two weeks after Genevieve was born and I was not yet ready to leave my house/baby. I finally rescheduled it for three weeks later, so my hair was... unkempt. But after a trim and a root touch up and a blow dry, I feel like a whole new person!

* * *

Speaking of feeling sexy, my postpartum night sweats seem to have mostly stopped, so it's amazing to not wake up sweaty and disgusting!

* * *

Miss G (nickname still TBD) has been a good night sleeper for me (knock on wood and whatnot). Last night she slept from 11 to 3:30 and then after nursing she went back to sleep until 7. Lovely baby! Of course I somehow ended up wide awake after the 3:30 nursing session, so I tossed and turned until 4:30, then turned on my lamp and read City of Girls for a bit before dozing off again. I finished the book this morning and loved it.

As I mentioned on IG stories, I was predisposed to like the novel after seeing Liz Gilbert talk about her writing process and love and grief and creativity at the Brave Magic retreat back in September (where I remarked to my friend Julie that my period was a little late...). Liz Gilbert is so smart and funny and adorable and I want to be her friend and be just like her except I'm nowhere near cool enough. Anyway, it was another excellent read of 2019 and I recommend it.

* * *

Zuzu's birthday--YOU GUYS MY BABY ZUZU IS TURNING 7--is coming up at the end of the month. After much debate (in my head) she convinced me to have a small party at our house again. It's really all she wants. And while it would be easier to pay $200 to have the party somewhere else--a bounce house, a book store, the botanical gardens, the gym, the cupcake shop, etc.--she will be even happier to have it here at home. And we'll probably save some money too since we really just need to buy cupcakes and party favors.

The selling point was when she spent all afternoon one day last week making "treat bags" for the friends she wanted to invite to her "dog club birthday party." She took poop bags from the little poop bag container that clips on Clementine's leash and she wrote her friends' names on them in Sharpie and then she collected crap from around the house to give as party favors--stickers, tattoos, pencils, pictures she drew, and suggestions for what they could to "to help the earth," which were things like "Pick up litter" and "Help a wild dog."

(Side note: Coco calls litter "glitter" and I don't correct her because it's so precious and there are very few "baby words" she still says (occasionally yellow is "lellow" but not very often because Zuzu has dropped that all together.)

So now we are having a "dog club birthday party" but I'm only letting her invite four friends because I'm NOT the nicest mom in the world (see above). Of course now I worry--summer is so busy! What if only one of her friends can make it? But whatever. Then we'll call it a birthday playdate, I guess. Also Zuzu specifically asked me to put on the invitation that she wants her friends to bring presents. LOL. Many parties she's been to this year invite the entire girl scout troop (20 girls) and request no presents or donations to a particular charity. I think this is genius, but my poor underprivileged, toy-deprived child is not a fan of this idea. (Eye roll.) So the alternative is to limit the number of friends.

Zuzu wrote out her wish list last week, and it included an American Girl doll, which surprised and delighted me. I still have my old Kirsten doll at my parents' house but I am not ready to pass it along to the girls! They are not exactly gentle with the dolls they love. Plus they like to apply markers to them--the Target-version of American girl doll that Zuzu has now sports jewelry-like marker tattoos, and her beloved Elsa doll bears a Harry-Potter-esque lightening-shaped-scar on her forehead fashioned from blue marker. I am not prepared to see Kirsten defaced, so the girls don't even know she exists yet. BUT I went ahead and scouted around on FB marketplace and picked up the American Girl doll named Caroline (who is now retired). She was being offered for a reasonable price not too far from here, so David picked her up a couple of days ago. Then I ordered the Caroline books from ebay ($15 including shipping for all six of them; I was pretty pleased with myself).

She's also getting a Harry Potter Marauder's Map book, a Harry Potter t-shirt, a Shimmer and Shine toy she requested, and possibly a "new" bike from FB marketplace (we're going to look at it later today and see if it's lighter weight than the one she's currently riding).

* * *

We've only had one week of gymnastics for Coco and ninja class for Zuzu, but it went really well. Zuzu was the only girl in her class but she totally kept up with the six boys (ages 6-10). There was only obstacle that she didn't quite master, but she never gave up and had a great attitude about the whole thing. She's pumped to go back. Coco also loved gymastics and she did everything with great enthusiasm. Plus she looks so adorable in a leotard with two French braids. I am a biased for cuteness when it comes to short kids with huge heads, though.

* * *

The other big excitement coming up this week is the dance recital--they'll get back from my parents' just in time for dress rehearsal and then the big performance is a couple days later. I'm looking forward to seeing their performances.

* * *

Baby G and I have been binge-watching Fleabag while the girls are gone and I'm not sure it's everyone's flavor but it is definitely my cup of tea. (One friend on mine mentioned that the breaking of the fourth wall when she talks directly to the camera was annoying to her, but I love a metanarrative!) I find it hysterical and also touching. Season 2 was even better than season 1.

* * *

So that's the big excitement around here. Not sure if it's worth blogging about, but life gets a little smaller and more focused with a new baby at home, so that's just where we are at the moment. It's funny how intensely I'm trying to savor this little season at the same time I'm exhausted by it and also sometimes feeling nostalgic about it in advance. I guess that's basically the definition of modern parenting?

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Summer: Day 1

I have to confess I'm feeling pretty smug about day 1 of summer. I've been nervous about being home on my own with the baby and the big girls. Zuzu and Coco are pretty independent--but sometimes that's actually the problem! Often, they don't really feel a need to check in with us or ask for permission. They just do whatever the hell they want when we are not actively managing them (which is how they end up drawing make up on their faces with marker or attempting to ramp their kiddie jeep over a huge pile of mulch). And it's a lot harder to have an eye on them all the time when I'm also caring for a newborn.

But, somehow, this morning is going swimmingly! The girls have not been fighting or whining for screentime and they've already been awake for four hours--amazing!

Here are my lofty goals for summer so we can all have a good laugh about this later:

- "Homework." I have a couple of those grade-level work books and I'm inviting them to do a couple of sheets each day. I put it out on the breakfast table. I did this last night but didn't say anything to the girls about it. Sure enough, when G and I came downstairs this morning, they were already working on their worksheets! I know it's a novelty today, but we'll see if we can keep it up for a while.

- Reading time. I also selected a book for each of them to read. Zuzu read I Am a Unicorn and Coco read Dad and Sam. We're signing up today for library reading contests, so this was a good start.

- Read aloud time. I've decided to start the summer reading The Secret Garden. I'm not sure it will hold Coco's attention, but she's good about holding the baby or playing quietly with Barbies or characters while I read, so we'll see how it goes.

Everything else will be gravy... I anticipate lots of trips to the library. I am going to try to get myself in gear this summer and give the girls an allowance and then we'll do some thrift store shopping to practice counting and spending (and saving, hopefully!). We won't be doing the pool as much since G is so tiny, but I do have them signed up for two weeks of swimming lessons. The lessons are 30 minutes a day for two weeks and Baby G and I will either sit in the shade and watch or walk next door to the air conditioned office if the weather is too hot.

I have them signed up to go to a Vacation Bible School at a friend's church for a week, and a week at an art camp. I think the girls will also go to my parents' for a long weekend, although when my mom asked Coco about it, Coco said she wants to stay here with Mama. So it might just be Zuzu going to Grammy and Bops's. We'll see what Coco decides. I'm fine with it either way. I know my mom would like her to go, but she also doesn't want her to go and then have homesickness and regrets! So we'll just let Coco make that call.

The big excitement today was the decision to have them do a summer session of gymnastics. Actually, Coco is going to do gymnastics and Zuzu is going to try the kids ninja classes! I want to take adult ninja classes, really. The obstacles look so fun! I'm excited to watch her. She's pretty tenacious and definitely fearless, so I think she'll have a good time. I was kind of surprised Coco didn't want to do the same thing Zuzu chose, but I also love that she made up her own mind. Fortunately, the two classes are offered at the same time at a gym very close to our house, so that worked out really well.

Knock on wood, but Baby G has been easy enough that we're considering taking her to my parents' later on. And we're still considering a trip to West Virginia. I keep going back and forth about it, just because the drive feels daunting. I know that it would be fun, it just feels like a lot with a little bitty baby. We definitely will make a trip to Indiana for a family reunion like we did last summer (my Uncle Tim's house is half the distance and has a few more amenities than my brother's rustic cabin... mostly air conditioning!).

Anyway, I know every morning won't go as smoothly as this one has, but I'm relieved that summer got off to a good start.

Will check back tomorrow when everything goes off the rails, LOL. It's only a matter of time...

Sunday, May 26, 2019

5 Things I'm Loving

In an effort to maintain perspective in the wake of my (impending) job loss, I've started a gratitude journal. Each night before bed, I list three to five things I'm grateful for. Here are five material objects that are making my life easier:

(1) Haaka manual pump. If you're a nursing mom, you probably know all about this already. If not, you NEED to know. The haaka is this silicone bottle/flange that you suction on to one boob while you nurse the baby on the other boob. It collects milk that might otherwise get wasted and allows you start building a stash of breast milk without pumping. It is THE BEST.

We've been working on getting Baby G to gain weight and breast feeding burns a lot of calories for baby (and mama) so, at the advice of a lactation consultant, I started topping her off by giving her a bottle after some of our feeding sessions. It totally worked (she was 7lbs 3oz with clothes on yesterday!) and it's super easy. I can collect 1-2 ounces each time so I already have several ounces frozen, too. And it's inexpensive. I have the first generation, which costs $12.99 and is as simple as it gets. I'm playing it fast and loose without a topper or suction cup bottom (available on other models) and I do fear that it will spill sometimes before I get it transferred to another container, but I'm not buying a different one because even thought it feels like breastfeeding will never end, I know that this stage of leaky boobs and tiny infant will actually be over really soon.

(2) Loopy phone case. This thing is a lifesaver. You know how you need to carry a million things and then you drop your phone? Not if you have a loopy phone case.

I admit that I don't love the price (should a silicone loop really cost so much?) but it's been worth it for me. To be able to literally loop my phone over one finger while I carry water, bottles, baby, diaper bag, etc. has been revolutionary. I'm still tracking baby feeding and diapers on my phone (I am ready to stop tracking diapers, but still in the habit), so I need my phone with me because my head can't remember what time it is, what time I last fed her, or what side we started on, so I rely on the phone to be my brain. (I use the free Baby Tracker app and it's been great.)

Plus the Loopy seems to be kind of cool... when I was in the hospital with Genevieve, a few of the nurses commented on it and said they loved my phone case or wanted one, and they all appeared to be much younger and cooler than I am, so maybe it's a thing? I'm not sure. The practicality won me over, but the cute prints on the cases are also fun (I have the rose gold marble because I like my cell phone to be a little extra).

(3) Family Reading Time app. So... I have a summer bucket list for this summer that is probably way too ambitious. It has every little thing on it that I'd like to do this summer, from making our own popsicles to visiting my brother's cabin in West Virginia. I'm telling myself that it's just a list of suggestions rather than a to-do list. When I asked the girls what they want to do this summer, they said go to the pool and watch movies. Coco also wants to go to a baseball game. I feel like we can manage these things.

BUT The thing I want to focus on this summer is reading--reading out loud to the girls and having them practice reading. We'll sign up for the library reading challenges and Zuzu has a reading log to keep for school, but I remember it was a pain to track the books we read last year. So THIS year, I have an app for that! I heard about it on a podcast. The free app allows you to create logs for two readers, but I went ahead and upgraded to the full featured app for $1.99 so that I could have a list for Zuzu, a list for Coco, and a list for reading aloud. (I track my own books in Goodreads because some of my students like to follow me and see what I'm reading for fun, but I may create a list for me in Reading Time if that ends up being easier...).

Zuzu's reading has come such a long way this year and I'm so proud of her and so excited to get her reading some of my old favorites! This summer we plan to get through Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, The Secret Garden, The Penderwicks, Understood Betsy, Matilda, the Birchbark books, and some Beverly Cleary, as well as lots of picture books! (And I have a whole list of summer reading for me, too!)

I heard about this app on a podcast recently and the same podcast (Sorta Awesome) recommended picking one thing for the summer--just a focus for your family rather than a huge to-do list. We still have a to-do list of things like Ted Drewes custard and go to a matinee movie, but I'm focusing on reading as the thing we're going to do every single morning. This feels manageable since I can do it even with a baby on my boob, and manageable because it's something I WANT to do (as opposed to teaching Zuzu to finally ride a bike without training wheels, which I need David to just freaking DO ALREADY because she's definitely old enough and coordinated enough but she's got this mental block against it and also we don't have a flat street to practice on and I don't have the patience for it). All this to say: She may get to August on training wheels, but we're going to read a shit ton of books in the meantime.

(4) Family Movie Night. I guess this isn't a material item, but we've started doing movie night on Friday nights and it's been really fun. We started with the first three Harry Potter movies, then we watched a couple animated films, and last week we watched Annie. I want to watch Parent Trap with the girls (the one with Hayley Mills), David wants to watch Smallfoot, and Coco just requested "that Santa movie we watched at Uncle Buck's house" so I guess we'll watch The Christmas Chronicles again for a Christmas-in-July themed movie night! Speaking of Uncle Buck, I feel like we should watch Uncle Buck as well. The girls get really into it and it's such an easy and fun thing to do to make it a Friday night ritual.

(5) Books... I have had a book called Stitch in my kindle app for a while, and I started reading it while nursing Baby G. This book was written by a fellow baby loss mom who has become a friend of mine, Samantha Durante. Sam has been hugely supportive of my own book project and I trust her because she knows the process of book writing and all the different methods of publication.

Full disclosure: I was a little nervous to read her work because what if you read something written by someone you like and then you don't really care for it? But Sam's books (there's a trilogy) are great page-turners. They are dystopian fiction, but not predictable. Here's the official description, which is spot-on: The opening installment in a twist-laden trilogy, Stitch spans the genres of paranormal romance and dystopian sci-fi to explore the challenges of a society in transition, where morality, vision, and pragmatism collide leaving the average citizen to suffer the results.

I totally thought the first novel was headed one direction and then it did an about-face that I did NOT see coming and was way better than what I had been imagining. I think I actually liked the second book (Shudder) even better than the first, and I'm about to start on book number three (Stuck) today--I'm so curious to see how she wraps it up, especially the love triangle (rectangle? pentagon?). 

Another book I highly recommend: This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel. I thought this book was absolutely beautiful and I love how it captures the tender and fierce parts of parenting, especially parenting a child you know will struggle in the world. I finished reading it in the NICU with G and this passage made me weepy:

"You could sit down with another mom, even one halfway around the world whose life was very different from your own, and find easy conversation, shared spirit, someone who understood why you might bring your ten-year-old into a malarial jungle rather than leave him behind, someone who understood what unspeakable things sometimes befell children and to what lengths you might to go fend them off, someone who saw the horrors and the threats and the carving up and the carving out and also how hard they were to schedule around and how little they cared about your job and how much they wanted just to be touching you all the time and what they looked like when they first woke up in the morning and how they learned to talk and walk and read and how quickly they outgrew their clothes and how it was to live every moment of every day in that world..."

Even though this passage is about motherhood in general, it made me think particularly of the connection bereaved parents have with one another, no matter how different our lives are, and that sense of understanding that we have with one another. The entire book is fantastic, though, and I love the way it depicts marriage and family and the central questions of identity and gender.




Friday, May 24, 2019

Joblessness

Apologies if you came here for cute baby pictures or an update on Baby G. I have something else on my mind at the moment, and I need to get it out there.

We got home from the NICU with Genevieve on a Thursday. The following Monday, I lost my job. Or, to be more specific, I found out that I will lose my job a year from now.

The campus where I teach is closing its undergraduate program next year. Full stop. All faculty jobs over (this university did away with the tenure system years and years ago and all faculty are on annual contracts).

We have the opportunity to apply for jobs at the other, larger campus. (Spoiler: The likelihood of them hiring an English professor is slim to none.) We are being given an incentive in the form of a severance package if we stay on through May of 2020.

After that... who knows?

I got this in an e-mail because I was at home with a newborn. I texted my friends who were on campus because I couldn't believe it. They were told at a meeting. They couldn't believe it either. I cried a lot.

I love my job. I feel like I was meant to be an English professor. Talking about literature with a captive audience where I'm in charge of the discussion is a dream come true for me! Sure, grading papers is the worst, but I love the autonomy and freedom of my job, the mix of people-time and alone-time, and my office on campus. I love the students--especially the English majors--and I really like my colleagues--especially the English department, where there's just three of us and we call ourselves the Best Friends Club.

It's a huge loss for me.

A few weeks after Eliza died, I was encouraged to apply for this job and I said no. I couldn't do it. I didn't have the energy or the wherewithal to make it happen. Several weeks later, they reached out again, and this time I did it. I put together the materials and I put on a game face for the interviews. And I got the job.

It was a huge thing for me, to have something that made me feel capable and professional and like someone besides a mom whose baby died. It literally gave me a reason to get out of bed in the morning. And after a while, I started to get good at it. I felt good about it. I love thinking about complicated ideas with my students--post-colonialism, unreliable narrators, literary criticism. I love unpacking lines of poetry with students and seeing them have a light-bulb moment of understanding. I love working hard for two semesters and then having summers at home with my kids.

It's not an easy job, and there are weeks I work more than 40 hours between grading and prepping and responding to e-mails and committee work. But it feels meaningful. I feel like my work has a purpose AND I enjoy it.

And now it's gone.

Or it will be gone. It's so odd to mourn it a year in advance, but it's impossible not to mourn now that I know.

It gives me a feeling of failure even though I obviously have no control over the closure of the campus. I hadn't realized how much of my identity was wrapped up in being able to tell people, "I'm an English professor" or "I teach literature at the university." It's embarrassing to say that I've lost my job, even if it's through no fault of my own, and even when people are totally cool and sympathetic.

I spent seven years in graduate school, struggling with being a small fish in a big pond, with being unprepared for the rigors of graduate school, with feeling like an imposter, with stressing out so much about each step in the process. And then I finished my PhD and I got a job in a difficult market and I was able to stay in the city where we wanted to live and it finally felt like in a world where so many of the most important things (like, for example, whether your baby lives or dies) can be completely out of your control, this was something I could control and this was something that worked out in my favor. I got super lucky, yes, but I also worked super hard to make it happen.

And now I'm trying to imagine what life looks like after next May... and I have no idea.

The chances of me landing another job as an English professor at another university are quite unlikely. Openings are few and far between, especially if we are unwilling to relocate (we have no desire to relocate at this point). I'm also not particularly marketable, as my teaching institution emphasized teaching (heavy course load) and service (lots of committee work) rather than research and publishing, and I haven't attended many conferences since having kids, so I'm not sure I'd even get another job anywhere. The market is vicious and I'm sure there are fresh PhDs who have a better publishing record than I do at this point.

It's more likely I could get a job doing something like working at a writing center... but I'm more interested in teaching and pedagogy than I am in tutoring students in writing.

My old boss at the Kumon center will want me to buy his Kumon center so he can retire, but Kumon is sales and customer service and that's just not where I want to put my energy.

David suggested I get certified to teach high school... or teach at a private high school... neither of those ideas is particularly appealing to me, except for the academic schedule.

I might look into a job focused on writing--it would be like technical writing or copy writing... but maybe something I could do from home?

The other thing is that I need a job that really makes it worthwhile for me to work. Otherwise, by the time we pay for before/after school care and baby G's daycare, it might not be financially worth it for me to work at all. But I never imagined myself staying home full time. Sometimes I think it could be great--I could do the kind of writing I want to do and get this time with my last baby. Other times, all I can think about is how stressful the budgeting will be, and how unfulfilling and lonely it might be. Do I want to try to work from home? I don't exactly know what that would look like either.

So that is what is weighing on me most lately. I don't want it to be a cloud over this time with Genevieve, so I've mostly tried to push it to the side of my mind. Our pediatrician was asking me about it yesterday and I was telling her how weird it is to lose my job a year in advance... like I WANT to problem solve now and figure out next steps and job search and all of that, but I'm ahead of schedule and it makes the most sense financially and for my sanity to stay there through this year. She also pointed out that summer at home with two big kids and a newborn is probably not the time that I need to be focused on figuring all of this out.

I know she's right, but I hate the uncertainty. I hate not knowing. I hate feeling like my PhD and the years I've spent teaching have been a waste and that I'm a failure. (I know this isn't logical, but it's where my mind goes at 3am when I'm feeding the baby in a dark house and thinking about what comes next...) I worry about our retirement savings and what happens to our plans to pay off our mortgage and save for college when we're suddenly down to one income with three kids. I know we're actually quite fortunate, but it still feels difficult and scary not knowing what comes next. I cried for a while because I felt like I was losing summers at home with my kids and I'm so unwilling to give that up. Does that sound bratty of me? It's just that it was truly the biggest perk of my job outside of the job itself. But I'm not sure what options I'm left with if I'm not looking for a 12-month gig.

I'd love to hear from people who have made big career transitions, or who write and work from home, or who want to hire me to teach literature to college students (ha).

I'm trying to be optimistic, but I'm quite skeptical of windows opening when doors close and paths unfolding and the universe catching me when I take a leap of faith. I keep telling myself that if the worst case is that I stay at home with baby G for a while, that I'll be fine. Life is big and what happens next doesn't have to be forever.

But in addition to being scared and uncertain, I keep circling back to being really, really sad. Sad that I don't get to keep doing what I'm doing. Sad that what we worked so hard for on our campus wasn't enough. Sad that so many of us are displaced and unemployed and waking with a pit in our stomachs.

I will say that baby snuggles soften the blow of terrible news, so I'm trying to focus on that. Today is the girls' last day of school, so they'll certainly keep me busy in the coming weeks. And I know that I can be resilient, but damn, being resilient is exhausting, you know? I'd rather just be gainfully employed doing what I love to do.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

NICU

After all of the drama bringing Genevieve into the world, I was really hoping the hard part was over.

They tested her blood sugar shortly after she was born, and the numbers were lower than hoped for... they gave her some glucose gel, and retested a few hours later.

To be honest, these hours are really foggy in memory. She was born shortly before midnight on Sunday, and we were moved to the mother and baby room in the wee hours of Monday morning. I remember waking up feeling hot and sick to my stomach again, and I know they kept testing her blood sugar. She was very sleepy and not interested in nursing. We gave her a bit of formula and her blood sugar still wasn’t where it needed to be.

All this to say, baby girl ended up getting herself admitted to the NICU because of her low blood sugar.

Apparently this is an issue that is relatively common for "late pre-term" babies, and can show up in babies that have very long labors or very short labors. We're not really sure which one I had, since I was hooked up to an IV and having mild contractions for more than 48 hours, but I really didn't get anything going until the doctor broke my waters, and then she was born two hours later. So... fast or slow, she needed IV glucose.

They called her a "big kid" in the NICU because compared to their wee premies, a six pounder apparently seemed big to them. (Having had eight-and-a-half-pound Coco, I still felt like she was a teensy little thing.) They also called her one of their "sugar babies," which was cute sounding, except it all still meant that she was hooked up to an IV and monitor and had cords everywhere and her poor little heel was getting pricked every three hours to test her blood.

We were feeding her formula every three hours and upping her glucose IV as needed until her numbers got up above 60.

I have to say, I really liked the NICU doctor and the nurses were great. But being there was scary. We were in this dark little cubical of a room with a couch and what was literally the most uncomfortable recliner in existence. Sitting in in was painful, and it was so hard to put the foot rest down that I literally didn't have the core strength to do it. The monitors beeped incessantly.

The hospital gives you two nights for a vaginal birth... and since she was born at 11:32pm, the midnight that came half an hour later counted as my first night. My second night they moved me down to the NICU floor, which was good because I was close to Baby G and because there were far fewer interruptions--nobody took my vitals every few hours, so I actually got a bit of sleep that night, except that I got up to go feed the baby because I wanted to try breastfeeding before each bottle of formula that she was getting.

The nurses kept wanting me to pump, but I knew my milk hadn't come in and also I hate pumping. I have always had oversupply issues, and I knew that my milk would come in regardless of whether or not I was trying to "stimulate" it with a pump because it definitely came in after I lost Eliza and the engorgement was horrifying and traumatic. So it was just a waiting game. I pumped a couple of times as a show of good faith and gave her a couple pumped drops of colostrum, in addition to nursing her before each bottle feeding. It's freaking discouraging to pump for fifteen minutes and get nothing!

It was amazing to me how quickly we acclimated to the NICU. I went in wide eyed and terrified, and cried through the whole explanation from the nurse of what was happening and how she'd be monitored. By the end of the day, I was navigating the Giraffe pod and the parents lounge and the dim, beeping room suddenly felt like home.

I had to check out of the hospital on Tuesday, but Baby G was in the NICU for a couple more nights. David convinced me to go home and sleep for a few hours on Tuesday night after her midnight feeding, mostly because my poor mom had caught the stomach bug and was not functioning, so we wanted to help my dad manage getting the girls up and off to school in the morning.

We had sort of disappeared on the girls on Friday--one friend picked them up from school and fed them dinner, another friend picked them up from there are brought them home and put them to bed and waited for my parents to arrive. They got to meet Genevieve briefly on Monday morning before going to school, but then she was in the NICU and my mom was sick so no one was visiting. Coco was struggling a little bit (metldown city), so we decided it would be helpful for us to be at home briefly.

But let me tell you, leaving the hospital and leaving her there in the NICU felt impossible. I literally couldn't think about it. I walked out of the hospital and got in the car and drove home but I just couldn't wrap my head around what was happening.

The next morning, we were back in the NICU and told David that I was sleeping there until she got released. I was so swollen from my IV meds that my feet were unrecognizable. My eyelids felt grainy and dry.  My nasal congestion had immediately cleared up when I delivered, and my face was slightly less puffy as a result, but my muscles were still sore from the body aches. I felt like I had no appetite, but I had to eat and drink to flush the fluids out of my body. All I did was sit and hold the baby and drink water.

Her numbers were getting better at this point, but it was a slow weaning process from the glucose IV and she had to pass a "car seat test" where they put her in the car seat for 90 minutes and monitor all her vitals to make sure her heart rate and oxygen levels don't drop.

She failed the car seat test the first time--after an hour, her oxygen level dropped below 90 for 32 seconds (30 seconds is the limit). And this was so discouraging--we couldn't leave until she passed, and all I wanted to do was go home, but also I didn't want to take her home if she was in any danger of her oxygen levels dropping. I feel like I spent those NICU days just weeping on and off, knowing that it could be so much worse, but wanting everything to be different.

David went home again Wednesday night, and I stayed and slept on the couch in the NICU room. I felt like I didn't sleep at all, except apparently I was sound asleep when our pediatrician came through. (Side note: I loved so much that our pediatrician visited Genevieve in the hospital every single day--and she was friends with the NICU doctor from medical school, so it made me feel like they were a really collaborative team.)

Finally, it was Thursday and she was completely off the glucose IV and we tried the car seat test again that afternoon, with a specialist car seat fitter person making sure that everything was set up exactly right for our little six-pounder. This time, she passed the test perfectly and I cried again with happiness because we were finally headed home, almost a week after I'd initially been admitted to the hospital.

Of course, Thursday night I called the pediatrician in a panic because I thought Genevieve looked really jaundiced (and she was a little jaundiced, but the doctor assured me that her levels couldn't rise from where they'd been that afternoon to the danger zone in just a few hours. I was scheduled to see the pediatrician the next morning at 9am, so I went to bed feeling reassured). I was beyond relieved to be home, but suddenly it was terrifying not to have monitors and experienced eyes on all her vitals... it was just me!

(Well, me and the Owlet sock, which was definitely a good investment for my peace of mind.)

And so here we are... at home, baby asleep in my arms, the NICU in the rearview mirror. So grateful for the care she got, and so incredibly thankful that she is home with us now.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Genevieve's Birth Story

I'm starting this post by saying that there are parts that are scary and maybe triggery for anyone who has lost a baby late in pregnancy. One of the biggest struggles was keeping my mind off of the stories I know of babies in situations not unlike Genevieve's. Anyway, here it goes... it'a long, but I can promise you a happy ending.



I had a regular non-stress scheduled for Friday, May 3, along with a growth ultrasound. I'd had a monitoring appointment on Monday, saw my OB on Thursday, and had this appointment on Friday, so I was feeling relatively calm. I'd just finished up the last week of classes and had finished writing my final exams. I was 36 weeks and 4 days pregnant. My biggest concern was that my ankles and feet were swelling--not necessarily a big deal, but something I associate with my pregnancy with Eliza. Basically, I just kept asking every health care professional I saw last week to reassure me that it was fine (and they all did).

I'd mentioned to David that this would probably be my last big ultrasound, so if he had time, he should try to be there. He was swamped with meetings and end of year stuff at school, so I was shocked when I saw him walk into the waiting room. He gave me a quick kiss and then explained that he wasn't actually there to see me--he'd had to bring a student to the hospital. That was unfortunate, but then he did get to be there to see the ultrasound after all.

Baby looked perfect on the ultrasound. She practiced breathing, her weight was estimated around 6 pounds, they printed some pictures for us. D hung out with me as we started the NST and everything was going just fine. He decided he needed to get back to work and I told him that I'd stop by Trader Joe's on the way home.

Maybe ten minutes later, I was feeling a lot of movement and watching the monitor. I noticed that the baby's heartrate was going down instead of up as she moved, which I knew was problematic. I remember thinking that I want to ask the nurses about that. Then my phone dinged that I had a text and I looked down at it. I don't even remember who that text was from or what it said, because the next thing I knew, there were three nurses in the room with me. They leaned my chair all the way back and had me roll onto my side. I immediately started crying and shaking even though I wasn't sure what was going on. Later, I would learn that baby was having a serious deceleration--the downward trend I'd noticed kept going and ended up lasting three and a half minutes.

The nurse asked where my husband had gone and told me to call him and tell him to come back. Tell him that we were going to have the baby. The maternal fetal medicine doctor had made the call to admit me. I was still crying when they put me on a gurney and rushed me upstairs. They got me on monitors upstairs right away and I calmed down when baby looked absolutely fine and I knew that lots of eyes were watching her heart rate.

The nurse who checked me in was wonderful. She told me that the deceleration alone wasn't necessarily that "exciting," but combined with my history, they wanted to be extremely cautious. I remember asking her to call my OB and her explaining that he wasn't on call but she'd talk to his partner who was and I tried to explain that he is always on call for me! She knew my doctor (and all the nurses love him because he's awesome and because he brings them candy) so she said she would tell his partner to just give him a call. She told me that in this situation it was likely that they'd ask me what I wanted to do--be monitored for 24 hours or be induced. I told her that I wanted my doctor to make that decision (which he ended up doing).

At some point, David showed up and we were moved to another room. I texted my doula to let her know what was happening and she happened to be driving past the hospital on her way home from downtown, so she went ahead and came up to see us. Around that time, we learned that my doctor had given the orders to go ahead and induce. But instead of our usual game plan of cervidil, as I'd done successfully with both Zuzu and Coco, he wanted a pitocin drip instead. Pitocin can be shut off quickly, should the baby should appear to be in distress and they needed to do an emergency c-section. But once cervidil starts, it gets absorbed so you can't exactly turn it off.

This wasn't great news because of the terrible Bradley method class I took when I was pregnant with Eliza, which convinced me that pitocin was the devil and would always result in a "cascade of interventions." I was still hoping to deliver naturally without an epidural, but I also was more than ready to have a c-section to get this baby out alive, so I was definitely willing to follow my doctor's advice even though I'd never had pitocin before and it made me nervous.

We started the pitocin drip around 9pm and they upped the dosage every hour overnight. I had mild contractions--nothing I couldn't talk through--but I felt like we were making progress and it didn't seem to be the horror drug that the Bradley method woman had insisted it was.

My doula came back Saturday morning around 9am and I was hoping that we'd follow the same kind of timeline as we had with Zuzu and Coco--start induction overnight, deliver the baby in early afternoon, recover from all of that Saturday evening, have the girls come visit on Sunday, and spend Sunday evening with baby on breast watching Game of Thrones.

Despite the contractions being mild, I found it difficult to sleep Friday night. The bed felt to me like it was stuffed with gravel. Every point of contact was painfully sore. Then on Saturday morning, I started feeling cold, hot, and generally feverish. I wondered if these body aches were a side effect of the pitocin. I kept trying to articulate the discomfort I was feeling, but no one really expects to feel comfortable during natural labor. It wasn't long though, before I was sitting on an exercise ball and realized I felt light-headed. I lay down on the bed and then realized that I was going to throw up.

Now, I'm no stranger to puking during labor. I did this a LOT when I was delivering Zuzu--sometimes the contractions are just so strong that you've gotta barf. But this was different. Yes, I was having contractions. But they weren't connected to the waves of nausea that I was experiencing. The contractions were mild compared to the uncontrollable barfing that started happening.

Seriously, I could not stop puking. Even when there was nothing left in me, I was lying in the hospital bed on my left side, my hip and shoulder aching where they met the mattress, my stomach enormous and filled with moving baby and an intermittently contracting uterus, just dry-heaving my guts out. I puked so hard I wet the bed. And I felt so freaking sick that I didn't even care at all.

It was at the moment of bed-wetting that I realized this was unsustainable. I could not do this. The nurses were also realizing that what was going on with my fever and barfing had nothing to do with the induction. David--who by this point was also feeling nauseous and looking pale and gray--mentioned that Zuzu came home from school on Wednesday with a stomach virus and it wasn't long before it was determined that the same stomach bug had struck me--just at the very moment I was being induced.

They turned off the pitocin to focus on getting me through the worst of it. My pitocin drip was replaced with anti-nausea medicine and fluids to replenish everything I'd barfed (and peed) out. I still had occasional mild contractions, but the worst of it was the body aches, which just hurt all over and made lying in bed painful. Plus I started swelling from the fluids, so my legs and feet were unrecognizable.

Through all of this, baby is on the monitor looking 100% absolutely fine.

By Saturday night, my poor doula had already been with us for something like 10 hours and I was no where near having a baby. She had rubbed my sore muscles and put cold rags on my neck while I vomited, but that was just treating a stomach virus--it actually had nothing to do with pregnancy, labor, or delivery! As it turned out, I suppose having that stomach bug strike at the hospital was fortunate in that I had excellent care and IV meds that probably pulled me through much faster than I would have recovered at home--plus someone else to clean up all the vomit and urine. It was still pretty nightmareish, though. I'd never  even thought about being sick and being in labor at the same time!

Saturday night I was drained and exhausted, but I still felt much better, and we decided to restart the pitocin slowly around midnight. Baby still had to be born! My doula (bless her heart) agreed to come back the next day around 9:30am. I was still hopeful that things would go smoothly and I'd have the baby in time to watch Game of Thrones.

(Spoiler: I didn't get to see Sunday's episode of Game of Thrones.)

As it turned out, the fearsome pitocin, devil drug of pregnancy, was ineffective. My doctor shrugged and said, "Some uteruses are unresponsive to pitocin." And I apparently have one of them. They started cranking it up every half hour because I was never getting anything but mild and inconsistent contractions and around 4:30pm on Sunday, the pitocin was giving me 20 mUnit/min and we weren't really making any progress.

I mean really WTF.

Baby still looked perfect on the monitors, but I had been on IV fluids for more than 48 hours and was like a swollen tick. I asked David if he could believe how big my face was and he said he didn't think it looked that bad and I was like, "YOU THINK I ALWAYS LOOK LIKE THIS?"

It was time to take next steps. The nurse kept talking about when they'd break my waters, but I wanted to let my waters break on their own. My labor and delivery with Coco was so amazing and I think letting the waters break on their own was a big part of that. Plus I was like 1 1/2 cm dilated and maybe 70% effaced? My doctor suggested a Foley bulb.

I had just heard of this device from a friend of mine--and heard that it was a horror show. I was initially resistant based on her experience, but when it was that or break my waters, it seemed like the lesser of the two evils. Plus, I was sort of on a timeline since I'd been on the IV for so long and had been induced due to the baby being in distress (although she never showed further signs of distress once I got up to labor and delivery).

So my doctor inserted this balloon up above my cervix, promising that if I hated it or wanted it out, they'd remove it.

It felt disgusting. It felt gross and heavy and kind of like having a speculum inserted for a pap smear. Unpleasant and unnatural. But it was supposed to get me to dilate and I was so, so ready to get this baby out. So I hung out with it, first just resting, then taped to my thigh to put more pressure on the cervix. When it fell out, my doula was sort of astonished. She told me I was her first client to actually use the Foley bulb successfully rather than insist on having it removed. David said he was going to start calling me "Nails" because I was so tough. I was just VERY motivated, folks. I'd already been in the hospital for two days!

So I was four centimeters dilated, having more contractions, but still things weren't moving along super fast. We totally missed Game of Thrones and by 9:30pm I was SO ready to get this baby out of me.

A nurse had told me earlier that due to my low platelet count, anesthesiology wasn't sure I was a candidate for an epidural. I said that was fine; I didn't want one anyway, but she explained that it meant that in the case of an emergency c-section I'd have to go totally under general anesthesia. I was starting to get concerned that if I didn't deliver relatively soon that I'd end up needing a c-section, and I think if I'd had a different doctor, we probably would have gone in that direction. I'm so fortunate that baby's heart rate remained perfect on the monitor, no matter how much puking I did. But at this point, having a c-section on top of a stomach bug was really unappealing. I was ready to give it a go at pushing the baby out.

Once they broke my waters (around 9:30pm), I got in the big tub in the room to labor there. I was so uncomfortable because my legs were so swollen I couldn't sit on my knees and rest my butt on my heels. I ended up sitting sideways like a cheerleader in the tub. But finally the contractions started FOR REAL.

All the intensity and frequency that had been missing from my "surges" (in doula speak) showed up and I labored in the tub, trying to yoga breathe. I was not as cool, calm, and collected as I had been during Coco's birth. I was tired. I was still achy. I was swollen. I was scared.

(Baby still looked great on the monitor.)

I couldn't have told you how long I was in there, but labor progressed pretty rapidly. The nurse asked if she could check me and I told her no (in what could only be called an unfriendly tone). I also horked up the soup and bread bowl I'd eaten for dinner. Poor David thought that was going to make him puke, but instead he let me breathe barf breath all over him while he held the bucket and I squeezed his hand. This was vomiting directly related to contractions, although I still felt a bit nauseous the next morning (the bug also lingered a bit longer for David since he didn't get any IV meds for nausea and just had to soldier through it).

My doula told me to let her know when I had to push, and the way she whispered it to me, I thought it would be like a secret and I wouldn't have to get out of the tub. But no. When I said that I wanted to push, she went and told the nurse, and they had me get out of the tub and move over to the bed. Things got super painful and I had a flashback to Zuzu's birth when I thought she was broken into sharp pieces inside me. I remember yelling (screaming?) that something was wrong but everyone kept assuring me that everything was great and I was doing everything right. David said he was kind of worried when I started freaking out, but he kept watching my doctor's face and the doctor was so calm that he knew everything was fine. In fact, the doctor apparently got called to another birth WHILE I was pushing the baby out and he answered his cell phone with one hand and said calmly, "Okay, I'll be there as soon as I finish up here," before putting his phone away, pulling on a new glove and catching the baby.

And then finally, FINALLY she was out of me and I was so relieved and my doctor had to tell me to reach down and grab the baby, and I did and she was perfect. Tiny, but perfect.

6 pounds, 9 ounces. 20 inches long. Born at 36 weeks and 6 days after an entire weekend of being in labor or barfing or both. A perfect little punkin, and we are so grateful that she's ours.


Friday, April 26, 2019

So Close. So Far. 35 weeks, 4 days.

I had a dream that we went to pick up a crib. It was in a swanky apartment in Manhattan, but once we got inside, it was was so full we could hardly move around. I’d clearly misunderstood something. I thought the crib was from Restoration Hardware but instead it was from The Restoration—like the seventeenth century. It was elaborately carved, but all the bedding was in tatters. I thought we should take it anyway, but David was less sure. I don't know what we decided.

From there—still dreaming—we went to a monitoring appointment in a taxi in New York. We arrived at the hospital only to be told the baby had no heartbeat. I couldn't speak. “I’m so sorry,” said the young nurse wearing a pink and white striped uniform.

I woke then, panting. I lay still, my heart pounding, willing the baby to move. After several agonizing seconds, she did.

I nudged David. “I had a bad dream,” I whispered. When he asked me what it was about, I just started to cry.

***

My screen time usage has sky rocketed. Daily hours are double what it was in the fall. This is not because I can't stop scrolling Instagram or Pinterest. It's because most sedentary activity—reading, watching TV, being a passenger in a car—is paired with kick counting on an app. I do this in intervals of 10, mostly so I can make myself stop. And so I have comparable data points. How long does it take to get 10 kicks? Usually less than 10 minutes, now. But when baby was smaller, with my anterior placenta absorbing movement like the tempur-pedic mattress that doesn’t spill the wine glass even when the bowling ball is dropped on it, it took at least twenty minutes. Longer than any of my other babies. My doctor says 10 movements in two hours is fine. I’d crawl out of my skin waiting that long between the interior taps and pushes that promise me baby is, literally and figuratively, still kicking.

***
A friend asked me if hitting 35 weeks was a relief. She was acknowledging that I’m past the day of Eliza’s loss at 34 weeks 3 days. She wondered if I found relief in passing that milestone.
Yes, I said. Eliza was small. Maybe growth restricted? I’m being monitored so closely that I do believe if the exact same thing going on with Eliza was happening to this babe, we would know by now. We’d maybe even have the chance to intervene. So getting to 35 weeks makes things a bit easier.

And no. Because countless other things could also go wrong. Viability is pretty good at 35 weeks. Developmentally, it’s quite possible—likely even—that if i went into labor today, baby would survive on the outside. But while she’s still on the inside, i need to be hyper-vigilant. If something goes wrong, I have to notice decreased movement or some other symptom and take action in time to save the baby. I have to pay attention at all times—which is impossible.

“That‘s a lot of pressure,” said my friend.

Yes, I agreed. It can make it hard to sleep.

***

I’m typing this on my phone at 2am.

***

I tell myself that baby is big and healthy. Fluid levels are normal, Baby is active, heart rate has been strong and steady at every check in. I want to say that most babies are fine. I want to believe that my baby will be okay. Mostly, I do say this. I think this. I will myself to believe it.
But for every 99 women walking confidently with their bellies bulging and their nurseries decorated, there’s one of us. One of us who knows that normal measurements and steady heart rates don’t prevent a true knot in an umbilical cord. There’s one of us who knows that healthy, strong women trip and fall on the sidewalk, landing hard on that baby bump. There are placentas that inexplicably detach while you sit on your couch watching television—one moment you’re laughing at John Oliver, next moment you’re hemorrhaging in the bathroom. There are impossible to predict accidents that snatch healthy babies away just minutes or hours after their heartbeat comes galloping through the monitor or their foot reassuringly nudges your ribs. You can’t prepare. You can’t always prevent.

***

When people ask how I’m doing, I say, Fine! (Always with the exclamation mark.) Or great. I know how lucky I am to be pregnant, to have this chance. I don’t want to sound ungrateful. Sometimes, depending on the person, I’ll admit that I’m tired, that I’m ready for the baby to be on the outside. And partly that’s for all the reasons people expect: because my crotch literally aches when I climb stairs, and my back is sore, and my feet are tired, and baby is pressing on my sciatic nerve again, and my body is so cumbersome it takes monumental effort to roll over and get out of bed to go pee at least once every night. But mostly it’s because when the baby is on the outside, it’s easier for me to see that she’s breathing. I'm ready for this baby to be on the outside because my own anecdotal experience is so skewed that I'm quite sure my odds of keeping this baby alive are drastically improved once she’s out of my uterus.

***

“I’ll be a double big sister,” Zuzu remarks as she contemplates a new baby. She is eating Life cereal. She sounds pleased and quite important: “I’m the oldest kid in our family.” I pour hot water over a tea bag and say nothing, watching her face as she thinks this through. Her brain is thinking about sisters. She is working out birth order. She adjusts her statement as though she's clarifying things for me: “Well, I’ll be the oldest kid in our family who’s alive. Because Eliza is eight.”

She explains this to me gently, matter-of-factly, as though these are the observations every six-year-old makes over a breakfast of yogurt and cereal, as though this is an idea I might not have considered before she mentioned it. Oh, my dear girl. It has been considered. She's simply repeating an abbreviated description of the greatest grief of my life, a truth that is tattooed on my heart and revisited daily, my thoughts tracing the pattern of that ache in its infinity spiral: This is actually my fourth baby. All girls. Eliza would be eight.

***

I got home from monitoring yesterday. It was a gray-ish day, but it felt like spring time in our kitchen. A bright table cloth. Baseball on television. Clementine making good use of the doggie door we recently installed. (Cooper won't use it because he has figured out that humans are his servants.) David paused from the prep of a Blue Apron* meal to give me a hug and a kiss and ask how it went.

(*This post is not sponsored by Blue Apron, although the mere thought of this being a post sponsored by Blue Apron makes me laugh. Gallows humor, folks.)

“Good,” I said. “Normal fluid levels. Baby still head down. Passed the non-stress test quickly.”

Coco walked over, wrapping her little arm around my thigh. “Mama,” she said, looking up with her impossibly big eyes: “Is your baby still alive?”

My breath catches for the briefest second before I reply. “Yes.”

I squat down beside her, that move that Meghan Markle makes look effortless in three inch heels, but which makes me grimace and grunt as I ungracefully reach one hand out to steady myself against a kitchen cabinet. I wrap my other arm around Coco, pulling her in for a hug and breathing in her sturdy and reassuring smell of playground mulch and watercolor paint and the faintest trace of lavender soap near her hairline. I kiss her soft cheek and squeeze her tight.

“Baby is still alive.”

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Quick Check In!

35 weeks was yesterday.

Active, responsive, uneventful monitoring appointment. Baby was head down.

I'm rereading Bridget Jones's Diary to teach it as an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and it's so terribly anti-feminist and so much fun to read.

My anti-racism workshop wrapped up last night and while I am relieved to have my Monday evenings back, I was sad. It was nerve-wracking at first, but it became a kind of refuge and a place to think about and talk about really hard things with other people who also care about wrestling with really hard things, many of whom are involved in organizations and practices I still want to learn more about. In fact, our group is so reluctant to let go of the little community we've formed, that we've already made some potluck plans for the month of June. I'm not sure whether I'll be up for attending (depends how early or late in June, I suppose), but I certainly hope to cross paths with many of them again, and I sought out several people to friend on FB even though I have such mixed feelings about FB. I am grateful that I joined the workshop.

The calendar remains pretty full this week, although tonight is blissfully open. In fact, today is literally the only day in the month of April that doesn't have some appointment or event scribbled in its little square. I plan to go home after work, put my feet up and do a kick count, do some yoga for sciatica, help David make a Blue Apron meal, and maybe watch a TV show after the girls go to bed. It's a real party over here, folks!

Later this week, I have more monitoring, a reflexology appointment, work meetings, the girls have a birthday party, and on Saturday we have tickets to a Cardinals game that I am totally regretting. I may send David and the girls and see if he wants to take a friend? I'm just not into the idea of walking and sitting in uncomfortable seats. At a Cards game or anywhere, really.

I'm thinking about doing some baby laundry. Haven't tackled it yet, but maybe this weekend?

We met my cousin's new baby when we were home for Easter. David and I talked about how tiny she is! And she weighed 7 lbs 12 oz when she was born, so she's just regular newborn tiny. Part of it might be that she has a petite little head (my babies do not tend to have petite heads) so that makes her seem small, considering the head is a huge percentage of the total baby size. Coco was obsessed with the baby, wanted to hold her, wanted to change her diaper. Zuzu commented that she was adorable and then went to play with baby's big sister. But Coco was all over the baby. I think she's going to be such a big helper and only slightly overwhelming and exhausting for both baby and me.

Speaking of which, we picked up new headphones for the girls at Target. Zuzu was with me and I bought her a set for ages 6+ and Coco a set for ages 2-8. When they tried them on at home, we realized the set for 6+ seemed better quality and had bigger ear covers, which both girls liked, so I went to exchange Coco's for one like Zuzu's. (That was my sole purpose in going to Target, though I managed to spend an additional $38 as I walked from the front of the store to the back because that is what Target does to me.) Anyway, the lady at customer service asked me if anything was wrong with the pair we were returning and I said no, the other pair just fit better and Zuzu piped up, "My sister has a really big head!"

My sciatica flared up after driving back home on Easter Sunday and has been making me pretty miserable. It's usually at its worst first thing in the morning, which tends to make me very cranky as we are all getting ready for school. I told David he has to take at least one of the girls to school tomorrow because I cannot handle shooting pain in my back/butt/thighs AND the drama of getting them out the door. It is too much for me. Today Coco was in tears because she wanted to wear fake hair to school but her school doesn't allow fake hair. Zuzu screamed at me when I was brushing her hair because it was tangly.

Coco has also been doing a lot of babyish stuff--talking like a baby, crawling like a baby, pretending she's the baby... it's cute and I'm sure it's normal. It's also a test of my patience at times. But she's still so sweet and snuggly. She really is still a baby. Who just so happens to be starting kindergarten next year! Sniffle.

Okay... back to grading, prepping, and a bathroom break due to a baby pressing on my bladder. Mood generally pretty up today as baby is kicking a lot. As Bridget Jones would say, v.g.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Diaper Bag

I haven’t bought a car seat for the baby. I don’t have any diapers on hand (although Coco helpfully reminds me every time we go to the store that Baby Sister will need diapers). I don’t have a bed for the baby yet (a bassinet is coming—on loan from a friend). I have a two outfits from when the girls were newborns that I was too sentimental to part with, and a bin of hand me down baby clothes in the basement. I’m not putting together a nursery until baby is here because I don’t have the time or energy at the moment and Baby will sleep in our room for a few months anyway. (I think I’ve decided to move Coco into Zuzu’s room... I may need to invest in a new dresser to make that happen, though).

Today I was on the Lands End website, ordering clearance winter coats for the girls to wear next year (super sale prices, plus 5% back through Ebates) and I remembered that as much as I loved the Petunia Picklebottom diaper bag I got at Eliza’s baby shower, my mom gave us a Lands End diaper bag that we used more as the girls got older because it was a little less precious and more like a canvas tote/backpack, so I didn’t mind crumpling  it under the stroller. We passed that bag along to my brother and his wife, who now have a two year old and a baby, so it’s still getting used (even though part of the interior lining got ripped because Cooper are goldfish crackers right through the mesh pocket and ziplock bag they were in).

I mulled it over a bit, and after I put a couple cute jackets in my cart, I clicked on diaper bags... they had the backpack style that seems to be all the rage right now and it was 40% off with the promo code they were advertising, so... I ordered a diaper bag.

I didn’t monogram it because we aren’t 100% settled on The Closer’s name yet. I think we know, but I feel like I need to see her. A lot of people are asking if it will be another C, but of course people who know know that the pattern starts with E... so even though there are a couple C names that made the short list (Clara, Cecilia, and Corinne are all favorites), I think we are going in a different direction. We’d like to do a family name (a boy baby would have been named after each of our maternal grandfathers), so we’ll see if we land where I think we will when The Closer is actually here. The nickname is holding me up a bit... but Zuzu’s nickname came a few months after she was here, so I think maybe Baby will grow into that or it will happen organically? (Coco is hell bent on calling her Rosie Cutie Flower-Petal, which is maybe an improvement over Starlight Twinkle, the last front runner?).

At any rate, she doesn’t have a bed or a car seat or a changing pad or diapers, but a diaper bag is on its way, and that feels like something.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Oh, Hai!

I cannot believe it's been almost a month since I've posted anything. I realized recently that I have been incredibly lucky in that I was finished working at this point in my last two pregnancies. Having Zuzu at the end of June and Coco in August meant that I had summers off to lie around, do kick counts, and go to multiple doctor appointments per week as needed without having to schedule that around teaching, prepping, commuting, grading, or meetings.

I'm also trying to prioritize activities like napping and going to bed early, which is hard. Last week I made myself stay up late two nights in a row to plow through grading. This is not unusual for me, as I'd rather get it out of the way, but it resulted in me being so exhausted and emotionally unstable the following days that I realized it is just not something I can manage at this point. So that means I need to be managing my time better and fitting all of it in during normal daylight hours because I just can't stretch it into late nights and continue to function very well. And that means that I haven't been blogging and a few folks have wondered what's up (and feared the worst).

Let me say that things are still fine here. I'm in week 33 of this pregnancy, which means next week I'll hit 34 weeks 3 days (the day I lost Eliza) and my anxiety is feeling that anniversary. My keep-me-up-at-night worry has shifted from placental abruption (although that's still there) and is now mostly centered on cord accidents. Baby has been flipping from breech to head down and back. She's currently breech and I want her head down, but I also worry that all this somersaulting is going to knot the umbilical cord or wrap it around her neck/wrist/ankle and kill her.

Another doctor I saw briefly in the Maternal Fetal Medical center looked at my history, asked a bunch of questions, and then suggested that I'd had preeclampsia with Eliza. I was aware had many of the symptoms (particularly the swelling) but my blood pressure always runs quite low. There was never an official diagnosis or determination of cause of death for Eliza. There's also nothing that can really be done to prevent preeclampsia, although a baby aspirin can apparently help (which I'm already taking). It's not exactly new information, but it has made me hyper aware of any ankle swelling and it has reminded me that I may need to slow down and take it easy, even when there are things I don't want to miss out on.

So that's the pregnancy update. NSTs and modified biophysical profiles are going well. I had one NST that took a while for her to meet the heart rate accelerations they are looking for and it stressed me out a bit. I need to remember to bring a snack or a lemonade or something to those appointments. I definitely feel glad to be going twice a week; I'm scheduled for Mondays and Thursdays from now until delivery. The other good news is that as baby continues to get bigger, I'm feeling more movement (still all around the edges of the anterior placenta). I will take it!

* * *

In other news, I went to KC last weekend to visit my best friend and see Rachel Cargle speak. If you're not following Rachel Cargle, you are missing a challenging and important voice in anti-racism work. She writes primarily to an audience of white women, encouraging us to unpack white feminism and look at the ways in which we are (purposely or cluelessly) complicit in perpetuating racism. She does this not because she feels compelled to do white women a favor, but because she is actively trying to make the world a safer place for people of color, particularly women of color. She has also created a fund to pay for black women to go to therapy, prioritizing the mental health of those for whom existing in the world is more of a struggle than white women can possibly realize. She was a powerful speaker and while I intellectually have read and learned many of the things she mentioned regarding the problematic history of white feminism, it was both motivating and humbling to hear the message again coming from a woman of color.

* * *

I was in a terrible mood yesterday. My allergies have been so bad. My nose basically was so stuffed up that it sounded like I was talking and purposely plugging my nose, and my sinuses felt so much pressure it was like my face might just explode at any moment. Plus I started coughing on the stairs on my way to class and peed a tiny bit in my pants (thank goodness I was wearing black and it was only a tiny bit, but STILL not exactly making me feel like a competent professional as I head into a classroom to talk about Jane Austen).

I took out some of my frustration on my Missouri House State Representative, Dean Plocher, who went ahead and voted to allow guns to be concealed and carried on college campuses in Missouri with no required training or regulation. I can't even tell you how opposed to this I am. I felt a little better after leaving him a voicemail, even though I probably sounded like a crank caller with my nose completed clogged with snot.

* * *

I've been reading a parenting book I've found very helpful: How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen by Joanna Faber & Julie King. It takes effort on my part to follow their advice, but it actually works very well. I have noticed, though, when I am tired/not feeling well/cranky that I DON'T want to follow their advice and I just want my kids to do what I say the first time I say it. Unfortunately, my children's behavior is in NO WAY influenced by the mood Mommy happens to be in or the fact that Mommy's sinuses feel potentially explosive, so I really need to work on making these habits more automatic. Still, I highly recommend the book, and lots of it is skimmable (like the stories from parents) so it's a fairly quick read, though I still have it because I'm actually going to write myself up a little reminder cheat-sheet and hang it in our pantry to reference when I find myself thisclose to screaming at the small people in my house to put on their mother-effing shoes.

* * *

Here's some boring news: I'm really working on drinking lots and lots of water. I thought I'd been doing okay, but I was feeling so fatigued a few weeks ago and my doula asked me how much water I was drinking and I pretty quickly realized the answer was Not Enough. I used to have this app on my phone that was a little plant that reminded you to drink water, but I wasn't great at updating the app in real time and when the plant would wilt and look sad it made me feel really guilty (stupid cartoon plant) so I deleted it. But I do need a water tracker of some sort. My goal is to drink 80-100 ounces a day. This causes me to have to pee all the time (plus the aforementioned incident while coughing), but it does give me more energy and also keeps my amniotic fluid levels where they need to be, so lose/win/win.

* * *

Zuzu had some major girlfriend drama at school earlier this week when another girl in her class said her "Caroline Poopy-Pants Poops in her Pants." She told me all about it, VERY indignantly, and said, "AND IT ISN'T EVEN TRUE!" To make matters worse, another girl in the class laughed when her best friend said that. But Zuzu and her other friend didn't think it was funny! And Zuzu told the girl, "That really hurt my feelings!" She also reported it to the teacher. Anyway, Zuzu reported the next day that she had decided to forgive the insult and be friends again with that girl, so she seems to be navigating the treacherous world of first grade insults as well as can be expected.

* * *

The other day when the girls and I were in the car, we had the following conversation:

Zuzu: When we cut down trees, it hurts the earth. But we need paper so we can draw. So, it helps us. But it hurts the earth!

Me: Well, good paper companies will plant a new tree for every tree they cut down so the earth isn't hurt too bad.

Coco: (very somberly) One time, Sadie ate sand from the sandbox.

* * *

This morning, Zuzu asked me if I knew the most dangerous animal in the world. I guessed hippo, but she told me it's a fly because they carry diseases that kill 226 people a year. Is that true? It's so gross. And now I have officially reached the stage where my kid knows more than I do.