Monday, October 29, 2012

The Back-to-Work Conflict

Here's the back-to-work pep talk I'm giving myself:

I'm looking forward to getting back to work.  I really like my job.  I'm lucky to have flexible hours, colleagues I really like, students who sometimes frustrate but sometimes delight me, a cozy (and private) little office.  I'm so lucky to enjoy an academic schedule that gives me a winter break, a spring break, and three months off in the summer.  I've made arrangements so that I teach just three days a week in the spring so that I have more time at home.  I'm looking forward to getting up and putting on real clothes (ooh! a reason to buy new black boots!) and having structure to my day.  I'm one of those people who accomplishes so much more when I have more to do (because there's no time to procrastinate!).  I also crave that certain satisfaction of a job well done (a stack of papers graded, an article completed, even an inbox full of e-mails attended to) that is very difficult to achieve with the never-ending job of caring for a baby.  I also want to use the academic part of my brain that feels a little mushy since it hasn't been exercised much in the past four months.  There's a part of me that is itching to get back to it.

I've had four amazing months at home with Zuzu, and I have savored every minute of it, in part because I knew it wouldn't last forever.  I was lucky to get 18 full weeks with her, and despite all my worries, I really do believe that the experience of day care will be good for her, too.  I was amazed at the way she watched the other kids when we attended a La Leche meeting, and I know that she will be stimulated and entertained in a room with other kids.  I'm also confident that she will be well cared for.  The day care center we chose got glowing recommendations from other parents who've sent their children there.  We visited again this morning and I just sat and chatted with the three women who work in the baby room and when we left, I felt good about having them take care of my baby.  They all have years of experience and they obviously love those kids.  I like that the day care is small and I like that they are three responsible, caring adults taking care of the babies and that they've all been there for years.  I'm glad they were asking us so many questions about her typical routine and that they asked me to provide notes about how we usually do things at home.  They told me that they had a baby previously who struggled with the bottle and they even fed him with a dropper until he agreed to take the bottle!  I like that they are cloth-diaper friendly (very few daycare centers are!).  I also like that when Zuzu starts there will just be seven babies (including her) with three providers, and she will be the youngest by three months.  I think this means she's likely to get lots of special attention and plenty of holding as the other kids are already much more mobile and active.

When I was at the La Leche meeting, I mentioned my anxieties about going back to work.  I wasn't sure what I was expecting to hear, as most (all?) of the women there were stay-at-home moms, but one of the leaders said something that I thought was really remarkable.  She assured me that kids do really well in daycare (and that she'd heard really good things about the place we've chosen).  She also said that our society seems to think that what's "natural" is for a mom to stay home with her kids, but that traditionally raising children was always a social experience--it was not one isolated individual caring for a baby (or babies).  It was a multi-generational effort, so kids were used to many different caregivers and many kinds of love.  Especially since David and I don't have family in town, and most of our friends look like us, I really want Caroline to have a broader experience beyond hanging out with me.  I want her to be confident that when she is dropped off somewhere that Mommy will always come back.  I want her to feel secure even when I'm not right there with her.

I keep telling myself what my friend Kristin told me about day care--it's really good for kids to have different people love them in different ways.

And then there's the fact that I went to school for a very long time so that I could pursue a career that I love. It can be as frustrating at times as it is rewarding at other times, but I'm doing what I set out to do.  I want Caro to know that her mom's career is just as important as her dad's career.  I want her to see that the reason I enjoy the kind of flexibility my job provides is because I worked really hard to get here.  She will always be my first priority, but I want her to know that my job is interesting and important also.  I think that the part-time schedule I have worked out will the best of both worlds for us--it might mean sacrificing immediate advancement at work, and it will certainly mean that publishing academic articles will probably be put on the back burner for a while, but I'll get four days a week with her and three days a week at work, and that seems like the best way things could work out for me and my family.

So that's the pep talk.

And here's what I think about (and cry about) before I give myself that pep talk:

I lost my first baby.  She died before she born and I missed out on everything I wanted for her.  Shouldn't I give up my job so that I don't miss a moment with the baby we were lucky enough to bring home?  Isn't that the unspoken expectation of everyone (including me)?  Shouldn't I have had an epiphany that says nothing is as important as being there with my kid?  Shouldn't I be willing to cut coupons and skip big vacations if we could really make it on one income?  Why would I be so selfish as to go back to work?  By the time we pay for day care and gas money and professional wardrobe, am I really making that much money anyway?

I've read all the depressing articles about how impossible it is for women to "have it all."  What if I can't make this work?  What if I end up slacking at work so I can hurry home and then feeling tired and rushed and frustrated at home because I have a bunch of work to do?  What if going back part-time keeps me from advancing to associate or full professor or department chair?  What if going back part-time makes Zuzu maladjusted and angry?  What if I fail at parenting and professoring?  (Oh, look.  I already failed at grammar!  And I'm an English professor!)

And the most pressing issue:  This is the one that can bring me to tears in a second.  This is the one that keeps me up at night.  This is the one that I can't rationalize or justify or pep-talk my way out of entirely.  What if she's really scared?  She's just a baby!  She needs her mama!  How will she understand that it's just temporary and I'm going to come back and get her?  She's really a mama's girl these days.  How will she adjust?  What if she gets hungry but she's so upset that she won't eat?  What if she cries so much that the caregivers dread seeing her?  What if she's sad the whole time I'm gone?  What if she thinks I've abandoned her and I don't love her anymore?  What if something happens and she needs me and I'm twenty-five minutes away?  She's my baby and I love her so much and I'm going to miss her so much.

Deep breath.

I think I need that pep talk again.

So that's the conversation my brain is having with itself these days.

If I were sure that she would adjust right away and enjoy day care (and, you know, eat enough to sustain her chubby cheeks), I would absolutely have no hesitation or worry about going back to work.  The truth is that I think a part-time schedule will be awesome and thoroughly enjoyable for me.  My biggest fear is that she will be scared or upset when I'm not there to fix it.

I know that it will just be a matter of transitioning and getting used to our new routine (that goes for both of us) and her getting to know the sweet ladies at the day care.  I know she can handle it.

I just hope I can handle it too.

I'd love your thoughts on this, but I'll be honest.  I'm feeling totally fragile, so if you cannot be supportive of the decision I have ALREADY MADE (meaning I am going back to work, albeit not full time for now), please keep your comments to yourself.  If you have gone back to work and made it work, I'd love to hear about it.  We're both going to be ok, right?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The 10-10-10 Rule

About a year ago, my mom came to St. Louis to go to a PEO convention.  She told me about a speaker she saw who talked about the 10-10-10 rule for decision making.  It's pretty simple.  Whenever you have to make a difficult decision, you consider a choice and ask yourself how you will feel 10 minutes after making that choice, 10 months, and 10 years.

Last September, I was desperate to get pregnant.  It hadn't happened yet, and I was starting to think that it never would.  I'd had all kinds of bloodwork done and everything came back normal, and I had an HSG test at the end of July to make sure that nothing was blocked up (it wasn't).  We couldn't find any specific problem, but I wasn't getting pregnant.  I was sure that just as Eliza's cause of death remained unknown, that I was now experiencing unexplained infertility.  I was convinced that my body was no longer able to do this.

By August we had been trying to get pregnant for four months, which I know does not sound like THAT long.  But it was.  From the moment we decided we were ready to get pregnant again, we were READY to get pregnant again.  And when it didn't happen right away, it felt like an enormous failure (which I wrote about here).

I didn't want anyone to know that we were trying again because I didn't want to feel the additional pressure of others' expectations.  In retrospect, that wasn't necessarily the best idea, because people didn't know how sensitive I was.  When a friend commented in July that she thought I'd be pregnant again by now, I cried for days.  It didn't occur to some people that news of other people's pregnancies might be difficult for us to hear, but it was.  Really difficult.  I felt old and sad and like I was falling so far behind where I'd wanted to be in my life.

It even got to the point where it was hard to hear about other bereaved parents who were pregnant again.  I was truly happy for them, but announcements started to make me feel envious and panicky.  Especially when people whose loss happened after Eliza were announcing pregnancies before I was.  GET IN LINE AND WAIT YOUR TURN, PEOPLE!

So I spent last summer doing everything I could to get my body ready for another pregnancy.  I ate healthy, adding more protein to my diet.  I upped my omega 3's.  I kept taking prenatal vitamins.  I didn't drink caffeine and I had alcohol only on rare occasions.  I walked the dogs regularly and started going to yoga again.  I did meditation CDs (halfheartedly, but still) and tried acupuncture.  I subscribed to Amazon's ovulation kits (the subscription means it's a reduced price and they mail them to you automatically each month until you cancel).  I peed on sticks and waited for smiley faces and tried for a while to track my basal temperature and basically obsessed.

And month after month of doing things "perfectly," I still wasn't pregnant.

I heard the "20% chance to get pregnant any given month" so many times that I wanted to throat punch anyone who started telling me not to worry.

Logically, I knew that all of my testing had come back normal.  I knew that I had gotten pregnant with Eliza with relatively little effort, but now everything felt different.  Something. Had. To. Be. Wrong.

After my HSG scan came back with nothing to report, I decided I had to take things to the next level.  I called a reproductive endocrinologist that my friend Angie had recommended.  And I lied and said I'd been referred by my OB.

Then I freaked out, thinking maybe the RE would check on that?  So I called my OB and left a message for him explaining what I'd done and saying I hoped that was ok.  (He called back and said that was fine.  I'm sure he was just going with whatever would keep me from losing my shit.)

I saw the RE for the first time in September of last year and he did a monitored cycle.  Meaning that I came into his office for ultrasounds so that he could watch me ovulate.  (Not as sexy as it sounds.  Also stressful to schedule around teaching, as this was the first month at my new job.)

What he discovered was that the follicle was developing normally.  It looked like all things were in working order.  But once the egg was mature and ready for release, my body wasn't releasing it.  So instead of traveling down the fallopian tubes to meet a sperm and make a baby duck in my ute, the egg was just hanging out and then... nada.

The RE explained to me that this was a hormonal issue. Basically, my brain wasn't communicating with my ovaries and there was no way to pinpoint the cause (stress? anxiety? grief? check and check and check).  He considered this good news, because for him it was an easy fix.  But as he was explaining this, I burst into tears.  All I could hear was that I couldn't get pregnant because my brain was broken. Which seemed fitting, given my state of mind at the time.  Anyway, he was slightly taken aback by me crying, but he very patiently explained that all he needed to do was inject me with an extra dose of hormone (the "trigger shot") that would tell my body to release the egg.  He felt confident that the rest would take care of itself.

So we tried that.

But I didn't get pregnant in September.

In October, he suggested putting me on Clomid so that we could time ovulation more exactly, and know precisely when to give me the trigger shot.  But I'd just had a pre-conception meeting with my MFM who put the fear of God in me re: Clomid and the risks associated with multiples.  So I freaked out and asked the RE if I could do Femara instead.  He agreed like it was no big deal, which then had me second guessing everything (Why is he letting ME make these decisions?  I don't have a medical degree!) but in the end we went with a very, very low dose of Femara.

Well, it was just enough to whack out my body.  Instead of the normal rate of egg maturity, things were like a week behind schedule at my next ultrasound.

As you can imagine, I was totally calm and I took all of this in stride, assuring David that everything would be fine.


Of course I completely freaked out.  But my RE had an "easy" fix for this "problem."  He said I should just use Follistim (another drug) to get my follicles growing in a timely fashion, then check back in to see when I needed to do the trigger shot.

I was flipping out because I wanted to know why.  Why were my hormones still whackadoodle?  Why did my body respond like this to the Femara?

My RE didn't really care why.  He wasn't interested in getting to the root of the problem; he was interested in solving the problem and getting me knocked up, and although he was really nice about everything, he seemed puzzled by my reaction.  He knew how to fix this!  Why was I being spastic?

So I left his office and drove to Walgreens with a prescription for the Follistim and the trigger shot (neither of which are especially inexpensive).  I called David on my way there, crying (because of course), and asking him what I should do.  He figured I should listen to the doctor.

But then I started worrying (out loud to David) about whether these drugs would be forcing my body to do something it wasn't ready to do...  whether this would somehow increase our chances for another loss...  whether I was just having an "off" cycle and maybe next month we wouldn't need any intervention and we'd get pregnant...  Plus the total cost of the medication would be like $300 and it wasn't like it was guaranteed to work.  Why was this so hard?  Why couldn't I just get pregnant like I had before?  So then David seemed to think maybe I should wait and we should see how next month went.

(We had already decided if I wasn't pregnant by November that we were going to stop trying until after the new year.  I didn't want to go through Eliza's birthday and Christmas with the anxiety and potential disappointment of a negative pregnancy test).

But when he started agreeing with me, I realized that by talking him out of it, I'd talked myself into it.

Or had I?

I decided to drop off the prescription and in the twenty minutes or so that it would take them to fill it, I continued to freak out and wonder what I should do.  That meant there was only one thing left to do:

Continue freaking out and call my mom.

I walked out to the parking lot and called my mom.  I went through the same pros/cons argument with her, and she suggested I use the 10-10-10 rule.

So, in the parking lot of Walgreens, I considered how I would feel in 10 minutes after picking up this prescription.

That was easy.  Cash poor.  And worried about the needle situation (oh yes, Follistim is administered through tiny needles in the belly, not to mention the big needle trigger shot!).

How would I feel in 10 months?

This one made me catch my breath.  Forget needles and prescription drug costs.  OMG.  In 10 months, I could have a baby.  A baby that would be worth every single needle poke and dollar spent.

And in 10 years?  In 10 years, I could be parenting a fourth grader.  What the WHAT?  Mind blown.

It felt like a HUGE leap of faith, deciding to fulfill that prescription, but the potential pay off was just too good to pass up.

So I did it.  Bought the drugs, did the needle sticks, did the trigger shot, and we waited.

Two weeks later, on October 23, 2011 (my brother's birthday), I peed on a stick and got two pink lines.  I had a positive pregnancy test.

And almost 10 months after that 10-10-10 decision day at Walgreens, I had this.

my 10-10-10 baby
I think we can all agree that this was the best decision I ever made.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

An Accidental Gift

Recently, a friend of ours commented on how nice it is that we have many things in our house that commemorate Eliza.  We don't have a specific shelf or table that's dedicated to her, but we have little things displayed throughout the house. In fact, almost every room of our house has something it that's specific to Eliza.  I didn't do that intentionally, but it seems natural to me that she would be seamlessly included in our family's stuff.  I want her to be a presence and not just an absence.

Of course, Zuzu's stuff takes up a lot more space, and Zuzu herself asserts her presence in a way that makes missing her sister a little more bearable and at the same time a little more sad because I know Eliza would have been just as awesome as she is, except different and I would love to know how that would work.  I wonder so much about what the two of them would have been like together.

My friend Natalie visited us a couple weeks ago and met Zuzu for the first time.  Nat and I have been friends forEVER (seriously since we were three years old) and she has been featured on this blog before.  (You are so welcome, dearie!).

So we spent the weekend eating, shopping, and sampling local beers.  We were out to lunch at one of our favorite breweries and Natalie was saying something about/to Caroline and she accidentally called her Eliza.

The moment it left her mouth, she realized what she had said and she was instantly apologetic.  She stopped talking abruptly and then started apologizing profusely.  I could tell that she felt really bad.

I told her that it was fine and I meant it.

What I couldn't quite articulate at the time was what a gift it was to hear her mix up their names.

Because it's the kind of thing that would happen all the time if they were both here.

We have these little things around our house--framed prints, a pencil portrait, her little footprints, an angel figurine, a Buddha figurine, her ultrasound picture in a frame--because it's important for me to commemorate Eliza as our first daughter (instead of just our dead baby).  She brought us so much joy before she died.  She made David and me the parents and the people we are today.  Her influence is huge, and not all of it is sad.  She has been incorporated into our family because of her life, not just her death.  I want my house to reflect that she existed even though she's no longer here.

And Natalie's name mix-up did exactly that.  It was a beautiful reminder that when she thinks about me and my family, she thinks about Eliza and Caroline both.

Hearing Natalie say her name was a simple reminder that Eliza was here, she was real, and she's just as important to our family as her sister is.  Her name might have come up by accident at that moment, but I loved hearing it.

My friend Becky posted this quote on her blog recently, and it says essentially the same thing.  It's from Elizabeth Edwards's book Resilience (which is worth reading, even if you haven't lost a child).  She writes a lot about the death of her son, Wade, in a car accident when he was sixteen years old.  Others are so often afraid to mention the child who is missing, afraid of upsetting people or making them cry.  Edwards explained in an talk she gave that this idea is misguided:

If you know someone who has lost a child and you're afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died, they didn't forget that they died.  You're not reminding them.  What you're reminding them of is that you remember they lived, and that's a great, great gift.

That's exactly what Natalie did when called Caroline by the wrong name.  She gave me the gift of showing me that she remembers Eliza when she sees Zuzu.  And that truly is a great, great gift.

Caro and her auntie Natalie

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Urban Farm Report

I am pleased to report that the second generation of Chik'n Sisters lived to grow up!  Blanche, Rose, and Dorothy appear to be thriving in the back yard habitat and now have a wing span that startles Cooper (and claws and beaks that make me nervous, frankly).

I have been hesitant to write about the chik'n sisters because the last time I gushed about how great the chickens were, it ended badly.

But Sunday, October 21 was an historical day as one of the Chik'n Sisters (we can't tell them apart, honestly, so let's just say it was Blanche) laid her first egg!

Zuzu is not impressed.
In other news, we had a friend come over on Saturday night, so Jodi and I were chatting away in the living room when David heard Cooper barking in the back yard and decided he should check it out.  He was gone for a few minutes, but I wasn't really paying attention.  Then he came back in the living to report that Cooper had been attacking a possum.



David said Cooper was circling the possum and the possum was turning and hissing but he couldn't turn fast enough to keep up with Cooper and then Cooper lunged and picked him up by his back and tossed him.  (Gah!) But the possum landed on his feet.  So David managed to yell at Cooper and get him away from the possom, then David opened our shed, grabbed the snow shovel, scooped up the possum, and dumped him the alley, where he landed on his feet and ran away.

I'm so glad I missed the whole thing.

David helpfully suggested we not let Cooper lick the baby's face now, since he'd just had a mouthful of possum.

As if we would EVER let that happen.

Oh, wait.


Have I mentioned that I hate possums?  Jodi and I had just been talking about our mutual fear and loathing of mice and possums are like mice but GROSSER and also larger.

At least I didn't have to witness any of it, although it did bring back fond memories of the first time David felt Caro kick.

In other urban farm news, I'm pleased to report that David's garden did well for us over the summer--we've got a nice supply of salsa in the freezer that was made from all garden-grown veggies and we had good eatings all summer long (with just a bit of supplementation from the farmers' market).  One more reason I'm glad to be married to David--his mad gardening skillz.

And to complete this little farm animal update, Little Mac appears to be losing her hearing as well as her eyesight.  She was in the kitchen with me and didn't hear Jodi arrive, then ran to bark aimlessly at the front door when Jodi was already seated on the couch.  Which is just great, as everyone needs a blind and deaf dog who is prone to aggressive behavior.




Sunday, October 21, 2012

Walk for Remembrance and Hope

So there was something else weighing on my mind last week (and making me cranky as hell).  I knew that I was tired and crabby and stressed out, but it wasn't really until Friday (when I cried about five times) that I realized how much of my anxiety was actually about the Share remembrance walk we were going to on Saturday.

Are you thinking that I should WANT to participate in these things?  Or that it's totally optional, and I shouldn't worry about doing it unless I wanted to?  Are you wondering why I would feel stressed out about an event that should be a meaningful and lovely ceremony?  

I was thinking and wondering all of those things.

There was a small part of me that didn't want to go at all.  I felt like it would be heartbreaking to hear all the names read.  I felt like it would be a heavy event and I was already feeling very weighed down.

I also felt like maybe I was doing Eliza an injustice because we wouldn't be one of those teams where everybody wears awesome personalized shirts and thirty people walk together and all release balloons at once.  (My friend Katie was that team-leader for her little Libby Lee and I was totally impressed.)  I knew I wasn't in a position to organize that stuff. The idea of it just overwhelmed me.

I was afraid to invite people to join us because I was afraid no one would come. (I already knew my parents couldn't come because my mom had a long-standing engagement that weekend and couldn't come to St. Louis.)

But I also felt like we absolutely had to go because it was something we could do for Eliza (since we do so many things for Caroline).  I want Caro to grow up knowing that we've always honored Eliza's memory.  I don't want to sit down and have a "talk" with her about Eliza.  I just want her to always be aware that she has a sister and we miss her and we also extend our love and compassion to many other families whose babies are not here.

In the end, I sent a few e-mails and I did invite some of our friends to join us.

And no one came.

And it was ok anyway.

My friends all had reasons for not being able to make it, and I think I'd already set my expectations low.

There was also the fact that I didn't know what to expect from the walk, so I wasn't super comfortable being a "host" for bunch of people anyway.  It was honestly a relief not to have to worry about anybody else being there.  I didn't want to put on a smiley face if I didn't feel like smiley and I didn't want to field questions I didn't know the answers to (like "How are you feeling?" or "Where are the restrooms?").  I knew it would be  tough day for me and even though my friends are great and supportive, sometimes I just don't want people witnessing my sorrow.

It was also sad.  Not that I didn't understand why they couldn't make it, but just that I had to work up a lot of courage to send out an invitation for an event like this and then everybody was too busy.

(I want to be clear that I am not upset with anybody for not being able to be there.  I'm really not or I wouldn't be writing about it at all--I'd be silently stewing over it.  I wasn't angry or insulted.  The situation was just sad.)

I think it's wonderful that Share organizes events like this.  I think it's important to acknowledge the many babies who are so loved and missed.  I think it's good for us to get together with our friends who have experienced a loss and truly get what we're going through.

But I also hate that we belong there.  I hate that we're on the mailing list for these events.  I hate that our baby's name is being read out loud in a memorial service.  I hate that I'm a bereaved mother.  I hate that I had to ask friends to be there for something like that.  I hate that I'm missing Eliza instead of snuggling her and kissing her and making her laugh.

That's the main reason I felt so uncomfortable about the walk.  I didn't want to belong there.

But we loaded up the car with the baby and the stroller and bag chairs and a blanket and we headed to the park and found a place to sit and got three balloons so we could each release one when Eliza's name was read and everything was actually really nice.

Waiting to hear sister's name.  I love Zuzu's little hands reaching for the strings.
I cried a little bit--I saw a young couple there and one of the volunteers asked how many balloons they needed.  The girl said, "Well, we just have one daughter.  So, one?"  And my eyes filled up with tears because I know how hard it is to just have one daughter and to have that daughter be dead.  I couldn't even go to the walk last year because that's where I was and it was too damn hard.  (The volunteer gave them two balloons so they could each release one.)  We saw another couple from our grief group who'd lost a baby girl, Claire, just a few days before Eliza was born.  They had a ten-month-old baby boy with them.  I hadn't seen them in over a year, so it was nice to run into them and see their little guy.

It also made me cry to see older kids there--kids who understood what was going on, and who listened eagerly for the name of their brother or sister to be read aloud and then released their balloons and pointed at them until they were tiny little dots.  Their excitement was sweet and made my heart itch.

The ceremony was pretty brief.  A local news anchor who experienced multiple losses before having her two little girls was the emcee.  Her daughter sang, "To the Moon and Back," which was sweet and well done.  A little boy read a poem.  And then they read all the names.

3 balloons for Eliza Taylor Duckworth
Which took far longer than it should have, given that no one should have to lose their baby.

And then we walked.  The park has a beautiful lake and when the sun came out it was a nice day.

Posing (awkwardly, in my case, as I appear to be dragging a bum leg) by the lake.  Caroline was sleeping but her bow is still visible!
In the end, I was glad we went.  Really glad.  It was important for me to be there, and it ended up being a nice day.  I especially enjoyed the low-key lunch we had afterward when we went to a restaurant with friends.

Engaging in conversation at lunch.
dreaming of Eliza?

comforting Daddy (special thanks to my friend Kim for taking many of these pictures)
I'm glad it's behind us now.  Next year will be easier.

Which is astonishing, considering I still don't know how any of us who have lost a child are still standing.

Next year will be easier.

But next year we will miss Eliza just as much as ever.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pour Me a Glass of Whine

My sinuses are going crazy.  I guess it's seasonal allergies, which I thought I had outgrown.  Until this year, when my nose to periodically produce vast amounts of snot while at the same time rendering me sluggish, cranky, and unmotivated.

I seriously need to organize the photos on my computer because they are a mess and kind of out of control and I really just want a new computer but why does the one I want have to cost so much money?  And I think I want this camera card that automatically syncs to my computer so I don't have to manually upload pictures but I need to find out more about it and right now that feels overwhelming.

At least I made the bed today.

I really should exercise.  I know I need to stretch.  Yoga would do me good.  Why is the idea of exercising so much more appealing than actually doing it?  Even though I know I'll feel so much better after it's done?  I feel the same way about writing for work.

The dogs are no longer respectful of the baby's quilt on the floor, so now it's a free for all play zone, which includes doggy activities such as Cooper licking his butt-hole and Little Mac rubbing her eye boogers.  This irritates me to no end, but my efforts to stop the butt-licking and booger-wiping are unsuccessful.  Let us hope I can just keep the baby from mimicking these habits.  Working in my favor is the fact that she is remarkably flexible, but still not built for butt-licking.

Here is something I'm sucking at working really hard on:  Enjoying the moment without stressing out so much about the future.

Example:  Caroline still sleeps in a little bassinet by our bed.  I love having her there.  We both do.  We like her close by, we like looking at her before we go to sleep, we like her being a literal arm's reach away when she wakes up in the wee hours and wants to eat.  It's easy and convenient and makes us all happy.

AND YET.  I think...  Should we be transitioning her to a crib?  What if she gets so used to the sleeper that she won't ever sleep in a crib?  What if we move her to a crib and she misses us?  What if we move her to her crib and she's still getting up in the middle of the night when she's almost a year old and I have to get up and go in the other room to feed her instead of just rolling over in bed and feeding her lying down?  

Or this:  Caroline won't take a bottle anymore.  I followed the "rules" and introduced it when she was about a month old and she did just fine but wasn't thrilled about that.  So we just gave her a bottle occasionally and then one day at about three months old, she flat-out refused it.  Baby hates bottles; loves boobs.  So I've googled and called lactation consultants and bought a wide variety of bottle nipples (including latex ones that they don't even sell in stores anymore) and...  she still doesn't like bottles.  AND I go back to work in three weeks!

What if she keeps refusing a bottle and starves at daycare and wonders why I have abandoned her and am no longer feeding her?  What if the daycare workers hate her because she's difficult?  What if she won't eat at daycare but wants to eat all night long and quits sleeping at night?  What if I have to feed her all evening long and I can't go anywhere without her after work ever?  

As you can see, my major concerns are over losing sleep and the baby missing me.  Ironically, I lose sleep over worrying about losing sleep.  And the baby will undoubtedly adjust to daycare more easily than I will.  And--at least for the months of November and December--it's only part time!

So I'm trying to focus on the fact that right NOW the baby sleeps and is well fed and everybody says that she will figure out the bottle thing or we'll just skip right to sippy cups or pilsner glasses or whatever.

The thing is, yesterday was like the perfect day.  The baby slept in while I got up and showered.  Then we attended a La Leche League meeting.  I don't know why I hadn't gone before.  I guess because we weren't really having breastfeeding issues.  But probably mostly because it's hard for me to go to a group knowing I'll meet new moms and I'll be the one with the dead baby.

Anyway, I went.  And it was really nice.  And yes, I did talk about my dead baby.  The ladies were all really cool.  Yes, they were cloth-diapering, exclusive-breast-feeding, Toms-wearing hippies, but hey...  so am I!  (Side note:  it's kind of weird to think that whole group of people is weirdly crunchy and then realize that you are just as crunchy as they are, minus the hipster glasses).  I'm not in the homebirthing category, but I totally watched the Ricki Lake documentary, so there's that.  We chatted babies and bottles and day care and politics and it was actually really nice.  It was a small group and Caro showed off her mad rolling over skills and everyone oohed and ahhed over her.

It was so interesting to me to see how much she was rolling (front to back AND back to front!), because I could tell that she was really watching a nine-month-old baby girl who was there, and Caro was WAY more active than she usually is at home (Here she likes to get halfway over and then shriek until I give her a nudge.  Or she doesn't roll at all because she's just feeling lazy and we're home and in the living room and instead of rolling actively, she convinces me that we should both lay around and watch one more episode of Parenthood on Netflix.  Girl's persuasive, too.).  It makes me think I need to be doing more playdates.  It also makes me feel a little excited about daycare, since she'll get to watch what other kids are doing (and hopefully she'll get peer-pressured into taking a bottle).  (Fast forward about fifteen years and I'll be talking about beer and hoping for the opposite, right?)

After LLL, Caroline and I came home for lunch, then headed back out to do some shopping.  She napped in the stroller while I browsed and tried on clothes (I tried on a pair of skinny corduroy pants and discovered I needed TWO sizes bigger than my usual size.  Eeep.  But then I overheard a sales girl saying that sometimes the sizes vary pretty widely because they cut so many layers of fabric at once in the factory so I choose to belief that this is just a factory fluke.)  When we got home, Caro was so sound asleep in her carseat that I was able to make veggie chili and apple crisp while she snoozed.  (Which we later ate with fritos and vanilla ice cream, respectively.  Wonder why I'm still not back to my regular size pants?  But you know what they said at LLL?  Three to six months is the super fat burning phase of breastfeeding.  So bring it on!)

By the time David got home from work, dinner was ready, the house smelled delicious, the baby was just waking up, and I was in a good mood.  Add a strand of pearls and I could have been the perfect housewife.  I felt like being a mom was so super easy.  Actually, if I'm being honest, I felt like I was just really good at it.

And then there's today.

It's almost past noon.  I haven't showered.  I fed Caro in bed this morning and then we both napped.  Now she's shrieking and writhing--first on the blanket, then on my lap.  Sometimes it sounds like a real cry, but mostly she's just making irritated noises.  I swear we're both having seasonal allergies even though supposedly babies can't have allergies like that?  Well maybe whoever says that should see my baby's boogers.

I have a long list of things to do (order photographs, vacuum living room, run to post office, return a couple things to Target, locate and purchase a Breastflow baby bottle...) and my motivation is nil.

Also David has to work late so I'm on my own for another nine hours or so.  Which is awesome since it seems that I am getting on my baby's last nerve and she'd rather hang out with anyone but me.  As long as they have lactating boobs.

UPDATE:  Baby is sleeping.  And I think we'll all feel better if I wash my hair.  And take an allergy pill.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Our Funny Girl in Pictures

Every day, without fail, this girl delights me, frustrates me, makes me laugh, and melts my heart.

It's been almost three and a half months with her here, and I feel like I've known her forever and I feel like we're still figuring her out.

She's become so alert and interested in the world around her.

She's already trying to voice her opinions, and she gets pretty irate when we misunderstand her cues!

She's Cooper's buddy (and Little Mac's friend from a distance).

She's chatty and squawky and screechy, but she also whispers a little sigh when she relaxes against me.

She rewards silly voices and crazy faces with sweet smiles.

She's our drama queen.

She's Grams's and Gramps's little sweetheart.

She's also Grams's little punkin.

And Gramps's little helper.

She's the only alarm clock I've ever loved.

She's Mommy's mini-me.

And Daddy's little Cardinal fan.

She's our tiny baby and our big girl.

She's our rainbow baby duck.

We're so proud.

We're so in love.

We're so lucky.

Monday, October 15, 2012

October 15 - Infant Loss Awareness

I will be brave with my story so others can be brave with theirs.
image from here

For nearly two years I've used this blog to try to articulate what it's long to lose a child and try to continue living.  No matter how I write it or think it or dream it, it all comes down to a few simple truths.

I love her.

I miss her.

My life will always be worse because she is not here.

My life is immeasurably better because she was here.

Today I'm lighting a candle and remembering our Eliza, and far too many other babies who aren't here with the families who love them.

We will always wish for you.

I'd love it if you'd leave a comment with the name of the baby you're remembering today.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Dose of Holy Water

Caroline's baptism was last weekend.  We had the ceremony at my parents' church in my hometown, which is the church I grew up in and the church where David and I were married.  It was a sweet ceremony with their new minister, Pastor Linda, and a lovely personalized song led by the choir.

the family - Nana and Papa are in the back, then my parents, David's grandma, and us

Caroline, Caroline, God claims you!
Zuzu was very well-behaved and didn't cry at all.  In fact, I think she would have fallen asleep in the pastor's arms if she'd been given a couple more minutes to snuggle.

The beared guy next to David was my first grade Sunday School teacher and later my high school principal!  Gotta love a small town.
It was a very nice day, and my mom made brunch afterward and the great-grandparents (David's grandma and my Nana and Papa) came over.  The weather was beautiful and the baby was adorable, so we really couldn't have asked for a better day.

family pic and bald baby
But it was definitely bittersweet because Eliza was on my mind a lot,especially at church.  How I wish I could have had a day like this for each of my girls.

Don't you love her tights?  Thanks, Heumader  family!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Bring Your Daughter to Work Day

Yesterday I went to campus to meet with my supervisor and some of my colleagues and talk about various projects that I will be taking on when I return.  Since I'm going back mid-semester, I won't be doing the traditional teaching, but instead will take on a few administrative duties and also work with the tutoring center to help some students who are in danger of failing writing classes.

I've had a lot of mixed feelings about going back to work, and I expect I'll be writing more about that stuff later as my back-to-work date approaches, but yesterday was "take the baby to work" day as I spent the afternoon on campus for a few informal meetings.

And I totally I managed to get up, shower, feed the baby, fix my hair and put on make up, put on a cute outfit, and leave the house by noon (so eventually getting out the door by 8:30am should be no problem, right?).

Speaking of outfits:  one of my besties works at a high-end department store and she gifted me a darling pair of hand-me-down dark skinny jeans (that have looooots of stretch in them).  I wore those with a big oatmeal colored sweater and boots and felt very casual-yet-professional and pulled together as I walked across campus in the crisp fall air with a sleeping baby in a carseat (um, those things are freaking heavy!), and a diaper bag worn as a backpack, and my purse-large-enough-to-hold-a-notebook.

I was totally a Competent Working Mother.  I was rocking it.  I was making it look easy because it WAS easy!

Oh, if I'd only known then...

Caroline woke up when we got to my office, so I fed her before the first meeting and she was angelic the whole time.  She smiled at my dean, she played on the floor on her blanket, she snoozed in her carseat in between meetings while I played on the internet sent very important e-mails, and then she sat on my lap during the second meeting.

So during the second meeting, I was holding her and talking with the dean and another professor (a new faculty member whom I was meeting for the second time and I want her to like me so we can be work-friends) about hiring a new faculty member in the fall.  Toward the end of the meeting, Caroline started making the cute cooing noises that she makes.  Except her coos are not so much sweet, soft noises as loud, scolding squawks.  And sometimes it really sounded like she was participating in the conversation as she would shout emphatically after we made certain points.  But for the most part she was being super well-behaved and adorable.

And then, as the meeting was drawing to a close, she started pooping.

(Oh, yes, this is another post about baby poop.  Perhaps I should start posting that warning at the beginning?)

It was one of those audible poops (as most of them are), so I was doing my best not to giggle as she farted loudly in my lap.

So anyway, she's pooping away as we're finishing up the meeting and I'm trying to keep a straight face as I agree to edit the job listing and e-mail it back and meanwhile I can feel the vibrations of this poop on my lap.

Then there was a final loud squirt as the dean of academics was getting up to leave, and I felt something warm all over the top of my legs (and my fancy new-to-me designer jeans).

And I knew with complete certainty that the baby had just blown out her (cloth!) diaper and shat all over my lap.

I was completely mortified and also totally grossed out.  I can handle baby poop just fine, but I like it to stay where it belongs (i.e. IN THE DIAPER) and not get ON MY CLOTHES.

So, not knowing exactly what to do, and not wanting to cause a huge ruckus and be known to my new colleague as "That professor whose daughter pooped all over her," I just sat very still and held the baby in place, on top of the puddle of poop on my lap.

I knew the meeting would be over any minute, so I just kept chatting politely and hoping no one would notice.  Just when I thought everyone was leaving, someone would make another point, and the conversation continued.

And the puddle of mustard-shit continued to soak into my fancy new jeans as I tried to roll my chair further under the desk so as to cover my thighs without squishing the baby.

Then Zuzu started crying and ran everyone out of the office and (amid baby wails) I was able to survey the damage.

OMG are you KIDDING me?  No.  That's mustard poop.
I had an extra outfit for the baby in the diaper bag, but it hadn't occurred to me to pack an extra outfit for myself.

And I had another meeting scheduled in twenty minutes.

So I attempted to wipe the jeans with some paper towels and baby wipes and then changed the baby's diaper on my desk.  Then I got a burp cloth wet in the drinking fountain and tried to clean my pants with the wet cloth.  Zuzu started screaming because she was hungry, so I had to pause in my clean-up efforts and feed her as I sat in wet, poopy pants.

So much for my "competent working mother" charade.

After she ate, I gave my pants another half-hearted swipe with some baby wipes and was left with this:

The remnants of mustard poo.
So I did the only thing I could think to do:  I put my scarf on as a belt and left the ends hanging down in front to try to cover the wet poop stains.

Looks totally normal, right?
And then I grabbed the baby, her blanket, a couple of toys, my notebook, and a pen, and headed downstairs to my final meeting.

Competent working mother here.  Totally rocking it.  Please ignore the poop stains.

Monday, October 8, 2012


Another blog linked me to this video and I had to pass it on.  A bunch of ducks were rescued from an animal hoarder and get their first swim in a pond.

Happy ducks are cute stuff.

Friday, October 5, 2012


So people have been asking how we came up with the nickname Zuzu and it's a long story.

OK, not really.  But you know I'll blab on about it for a long time anyway.

The "story" is that I was watching season 1 of Parks and Recreation on Netflix.  I find that show both hilarious and brilliant, and one of my favorite characters is April Ludgate.

image from here
If you're not familiar with the show, April works for the parks department and she is a scowly girl who rolls her eyes a lot.  She has mastered the WTF look.

Anyway, in stark contrast to April's apathetic eye-rolling, her parents (featured in just one episode that I know of) are supremely cheerful and vivacious and super cheesy.  April rolls her eyes at them constantly.  And their nickname for her is... Zuzu!

So one day I'd just watched that episode and I was being super silly and trying to make Caroline smile, and she just gave me her WTF look.  It seemed clear she was my own little Zuzu.

WTF, Mom?
So when David got home from work, I was calling her Zuzu and he thought that was funny because of some movie called The Adventures of Ford Fairlane starring Andrew Dice Clay, which evidently features a character named Zuzu Petals.  I thought that was a really cute name.  David informed me she's like a crazy drug addict or something.

image from here
Not exactly a role model for our Zuzu.  But of course the nickname stuck.  Now we call Caroline Zuzu Petals.  Or sometimes just Petals.  And sometimes just Zuzu.

My mom asked if Zuzu was from the little girl in It's a Wonderful Life, which it wasn't, but at least that's a nicer association than Ford Fairlane.

image from here
And thinking about Zuzu on It's A Wonderful Life got me thinking about that whole movie.  You know, I was never super crazy about It's A Wonderful Life.  My family's traditional Christmas movie is National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.  The angel story line kind of bugs me and George Bailey always seemed so whiny to me.

But now there's something about the message that his life made all the difference for his family and his town...  I like it.  I mean, I guess that's the point.  But I really like it.  It's kind of like the butterfly effect.  (Also the title of a lesser-known movie starring Ashton Kutcher, if I'm not mistaken.)  Both movies are predicated on the idea that if you change one small thing about the past, you change everything.  And that even if something seems like a terrible failure, good things can come of it.

Now don't get me wrong.  My life would be FAR MORE wonderful if Eliza were here.  Hands down, no question, no debate.  If I could have her and Caroline both, and I could somehow really know how lucky I was, I'd never want anything again.

But this isn't about the impossibility of having her alive and with us.  It's just that our Zuzu (and Zuzu from It's A Wonderful Life) has gotten me thinking about just how much it matters that Eliza was here at all.  After we lost her, I couldn't figure out why I had to have gotten pregnant at all if we were going to lose the baby before she was even born.  It seemed like it would have been easier if she had never existed.

Now I can see how much being pregnant with her changed everything.  Her death is the worst and saddest and most unjust thing that has ever happened to me.  I hate it and I rage against it and there is almost nothing I wouldn't do to get her back.

And still I can't deny that good things have come to me since then, because of her.  Her brief little life still matters.  It has influenced us to no end, and changed us and how it continues to shape me, and the relationships I have, and the kind of parent I am.  Not all these changes are good, but a lot of them are.

I was talking to a friend today about her frustrations with her four-month-old's bedtime routine.  She's working on being able to lay him down and have him fall asleep on his own.  It's a habit she established with her first son but her second little guy isn't going down as easily.

Before Eliza, I would have worried about that, too.  I would have been much more insistent on patterns and routines and habits and parenting by the book and not "spoiling" the baby.

But now I think about how fast these past three months have gone by, about how quickly Zuzu's babyhood will go, and (as I told my friend), I'll rock this baby to sleep every night for as long as she lets me.  I can't think of anything else I'd rather do.  I don't think I'm creating a night-time monster who will resist bedtime forever.  I think we (as a family) are establishing a nighttime routine we all like.  It's what's right for our family, even if it's not right for everyone.

And I think it's because of Eliza that I'm not worried about stuff like that.  She sleeps.  We sleep.  How we get there doesn't really matter as long as we're all happy and getting some sleep, right?

And it's because of Eliza that I'm savoring every single moment with Zuzu--even the ones when I'm frustrated and she's fussy.  I've been surprised by how relaxed I am--because if it's not fatal, it's really not a big deal.  We'll figure it out.

After all, there will come a day when she won't want to be rocked to sleep, when I won't get to spend the last hour of my day breathing in her baby smell and kissing her soft head and hearing her sigh as she relaxes against me.  So I'm going to soak it up while I can.

And that's just a tiny example of Eliza's butterfly effect.

So there you go.  I've gotten completely off topic.  But that's the story of our Zuzu and the three other Zuzus.  This one's my favorite:

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Our Lil' Punkin

My BFF Monica came in town.  We took our husbands and our mini-mes and went apple pickin' and pumpkin pickin'.

Because that's what you do when it's fall in the midwest.

(FYI:  Fall in the midwest does its best to make up for the humidity and bugginess of summer in the midwest.  And it does a pretty damn good job of it, as you can see.)

We took about a million pictures of our little adventure.

Because that's what you do when you have two adorable girl-babies along for the ride.

Behold the cute:

the girls.  we totally color-coordinated without even planning it.

we grow some big punkins 'round here

Ellie Kate liked them apples
She doesn't have teeth, but she latched on to the apple and sucked away!
Oooh, tempting!

Zuzu was worn out from apple picking

And Johnny was worn out from being our pack mule.

Duck and Caroline in the pumpkin patch

I think we picked the best little punkin in the whole patch.

Now we need to find time for pumpkin decorating and carving.  And I need to find the perfect recipe for apple crisp!

As we walked back to the cars, Monica and I were a few paces behind David and Johnny, who were carrying the babies.  We watched our husbands head across the parking lot to load our kids up in carseats and Monica said, "Can you believe this is who we are now?"

Grief aged me a million years and sometimes I still feel so far removed from the person I was before Eliza--which isn't all bad, but it isn't all good, either.

So, yeah.  I feel totally cheeseball, apple picking and taking a million pictures of my kid next to a huge pumpkin.  But cheeseball is not so bad.  In fact, this apple-crisp and pumpkin-patch phase of life is kind of kick ass.

we are totally those embarrassing parents. already.