Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter

Happy Easter from our favorite little bunny and her favorite little buddy.

two of a kind

kisses for Cooper

stink eye from Cooper
Easter cuteness

Monday, March 25, 2013

On the Move

I'm calling it.  After days of scooting, scooching, rolling, stretching, and worming across the floor, we officially have a crawler.  It's still a belabored and awkward crawl, but she is on the move!

And yes, she crawled for my iphone.  How did anyone ever get babies to crawl in the time before cell phones?  

She's not moving too quickly yet--crawling is still a deliberate and high-effort activity, which is good because we are hoping to be moved before she's mobile enough that we need to childproof this house.

We're still not sure how to childproof Little Mac, so we are vigilant about keeping a respectful distance between baby and little white dog.

As for a house and moving update...  I'm hesitant to say anything because we all know that nothing is set in stone until we actually close BUT... we do have a closing date and two contracts in the works.

That's right:  we accepted an offer on our house and made an offer that was accepted on another house.  So now I'm just holding my breath until we sign the papers and everything is really truly official.

We were incredibly lucky to get an offer on our current house after it had been on the market exactly a week.  We had four showings in the first week and then an open house on Sunday and we got the offer right after our open house.  This was a HUGE relief because keeping the house in show-ready levels of cleanliness was taxing enough, but even more complicated was the issue of coaxing the dogs out to the garage where they wailed like coyotes while other people walked through our home and we tried to figure out where we could go to entertain a baby during what should have been nap time.

Of course the offer is not what we wanted to get.  It's essentially what we paid for this place when we bought it NINE years ago, and we've poured a lot of love and more than a little bit of money into making this place our own.  I cried a lot the night we accepted the offer.  I think the reality of moving was sinking in and we all know that I'm not a huge fan of change. Even changes that I want!  But mostly I was also frustrated at the idea of putting in so much time and effort and money only to have nothing to show for it--although it was nothing like the grief of losing a baby, it felt kind of like the continuation of a theme:  Follow the "rules," be responsible, try to do everything right, and still the universe (or housing market) is still going to shit on you...  

So I gave myself a little pity party.  And then I got over it.  It's only money, right?  In the long run, it is JUST a house and we're lucky that it sold quickly, we're lucky that our mortgage wasn't ever under water, and frankly I think we're lucky that the buyers seem to really love our house--we learned from our realtor that they canceled another offer they were making after they saw our place.  It's an older couple who's retiring and downsizing and the wife kept saying, "I'm just smitten!" as she looked around our house.  I feel good about selling to someone who uses the word "smitten."

Plus the sale of this property allowed us to to make an offer on a house we love, and the crappy housing market allowed it to be in our price range.  You lose some, you win some, right?  

So... the new house!  After much consideration and Sunday afternoons spent driving around to various suburbs and imagining potential commutes, we ended up choosing a house that's only about five minutes from where we currently live.  That's right!  We decided to stay in the city.  We love the house, we love the neighborhood, we love the area.  I love that there's no worry about changing Zuzu's daycare.  We're within walking distance of a beautiful park, a library, and Target (otherwise known as the trifecta of happiness).

It's an older home, but it's been well-cared for and is in great condition.  There's plenty of room for "projects" (I know I'm old and boring because I'm super excited about creating a swanky laundry room) but at the same time, it's move-in ready.  Our backyard is small, but the house is a nice size.  It's a two story house and it has two and a half bathrooms!  I'd like to say we won't know what to do with all the space, but I expect that we'll have no trouble filling it up with books and bobbleheads.

Of course, down the road we'll face decisions about where to send Zuzu to school since the public school system in the city is not ideal.  But we decided, pardon the cliche, that we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.  If there is anything we know at this point, it's that we can't plan for everything.  We can have all the expectations we want, but we actually have no idea where we'll be in four years.  David and I both think that we'll still be at our current jobs, but life has a way of taking unexpected turns.  Instead of trying to solve problems that are years away, I'm just going to let Future Brooke handle that decision making.

Yes, the commute is still a bummer, but as we discovered in our driving around town, since we work in opposite directions, a commute is unavoidable. We're as close as we can get to splitting the difference in our commutes and allowing Zuzu to stay at her current daycare, so that basically makes it as close to ideal as we're going to get.  For now, anyway.

My BFF asked if this was my "forever house" and I took a second to think about it before finally saying, "Well, it could be."  It's true that I'd be happy to live there for forever.  But mostly it's the right house for right now, and that's what really matters.  

And I feel the need to emphasize that all of this is is based on the hopeful assumption that we will get through closing without anything crazy happening.  We've already had both the inspections and gotten the loan approvals, so we should be smooth sailing, but you never know.  Our closing date is set for early May, so we have a month to get ourselves packed up and organized.  You know, when we're not chasing the baby (good thing she's still moving pretty slow).  So much moving going on around here...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Back In the Game

For so long after Eliza died, I was shutting down.  I shut down and withdrew from everything and everyone.  Literally, figuratively, I was barely present even when I was there.

I remember feeling marked, not just that I would forever be a bereaved parent, but convinced that that is all I would EVER be.  The mother of a dead baby.  No more, no less.  My whole identity suddenly subsumed by grief.

These past weeks and months have been busy ones.  Busy doing, busy planning, busy juggling all the normal obligations of work and home and baby care.  It's tiring (David recently went away for the weekend to golf with friends and when I asked if he was having fun, he said, "I slept seven hours in a row.") and sometimes it's frustrating (I can seriously only clean up the urine of one living creature and GUESS WHAT Little Mac, it is NOT YOU), and sometimes it's boring (laundry, diapers, bottles, essays to grade, wash, rinse, repeat).

But it's good.  I've been feeling especially lucky (along with happy, a word I NEVER thought I'd use to describe myself) about the way my life has opened up to include so many good friends.  And by "good friends," I don't just mean people who are nice to me, although most of them are.  I mean really interesting and remarkable people that I've gotten to know, one way or another:

College friends who knew me when and still love me now, sometimes in spite of myself.  My BFF from high school who finally jumped on the Instagram bandwagon (and I'm still trying to recruit more friends, hint, hint!).  Grad school friends who keep in touch even though they've moved away and I'm not on facebook.  New friends I've met through work, professional connections that have become personal ones that are fun and make me love my job even more.  And most especially of late, I'm looking forward to meeting up with friends I've made because I'm Eliza's mom and friends I've made because I'm Zuzu's mom.

I spent so long say no to every invitation, to every opportunity, to every decision that felt the least bit risky.

And then we said yes to trying to have another baby, and then I said no lots more because pregnancy after loss was basically all I could handle.

And now--finally--it's gotten easy to say yes.  Instead of shutting down, I see the ways in which Eliza's life has opened the way to people and opportunities and friendships I would never have otherwise had.  It's no even trade, to be sure, but it's also not the dark tunnel of horror and shame that I thought my life was going to be.  I sat out on life for eighteen months, and then started working my way back.  It's still hard for me to believe that it's been over two years since Eliza died because it feels like I've aged a million years since I was pregnant with her, and yet it also feels like it just happened, because so little else occurred in my life between Eliza and Zuzu (You know, because I did nothing.  Ever.  Except blog.).  It was like I was on pause and I've finally hit play again.  It's NOT like everything is better or fixed or perfect now, but I do feel like I'm back in the game.

I've been thinking a lot about that Mary Oliver poem I love so much.  It's not that the burden has gotten lighter--Eliza's loss and my grief way heavily on me every single day.  It's that I've gotten better at carrying it, I've gotten so much better at balancing heartbreak with all of the things that fill up my heart every single day.  Some days are easier than others, but I'm figuring out how to carry my broken heart without falling apart.  It may be irreparably cracked, but it doesn't feel empty.

So, thanks for that.  For reading and commenting or just reading.  For sticking with me or meeting up with me.  For reminding me of the person I used to be or helping me find my way to the person I am now.  For filling up my heart.

And special thanks to a certain little miss who happens to fill up my heart and light up my life on a regular basis.  Like, daily.

If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands:

Happy baby = happy mama.

Also I think Zuzu looks a lot like my baby pictures in that last picture.  Could be the lumpy, slightly weird-shaped noggin.  Don't worry, honey.  Your hair will eventually cover that up.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Zuzu in a Tutu

Last week I took Zuzu to get Easter pictures taken.  We aren't having a traditional Easter celebration this year (more on that later) but you know that's not going to stop me from making sure this girl has an Easter dress and Easter portraits!  Actually, because I am a money saver (David, stop laughing), Zuzu is wearing a hand-me-down vintage dress for her Easter portraits.  It was MINE when I was a bebe.

Um, no I don't have any pictures of it.  I know, what a tease.  I pick them up next week so I guess then I'll post pictures of the pictures?  I know you will all stay tuned for THAT excitement.

(Please tell me that sarcasm sometimes translates in type?)

Anyway, although I brought her to get her photo taken in the Easter dress and the point of the photo session was focused on the dress, the photographer convinced me to take a few pictures of her in the tutu they had lying around.  And sure, the pictures were adorable (you take my baby's shirt off and throw a tutu on her and it's going to be cuteness overload no matter what).  But I resisted the impulse and only bought what I came for because I am a money saver.  (I also used an e-mail coupon AND a gift card to pay for the session, so I actually spent zero dollars.)

It did get me thinking, though, that I have a tutu and a cute baby at home, and a strand of fake pearls, and I might as well do my own little photo shoot.

So I waited until the perfect day one day when I was home and tried to take a few pictures.  Of course this happened to be the day that Zuzu had a snotty nose.  And of course Cooper mistakenly thought that he was the subject of the photo session.  And my ghetto-style backdrop looks exactly like the wrinkled bedsheet that it is.  But we still had a good time.

And the cuteness speaks for itself:

Hmm.  What is this business?

Interesting... Very interesting.

Oh, hey.  You wanna take my picture?

I guess I'm cool with that.

I'm pretty cute up close.
Wait... What?  Where are you going?

What do you mean I'm supposed to "be gentle" with my love?

Oh happy day!

And now I gaze thoughtfully into the distance... I wonder where Cooper is.

You wipe my nose again and I will cut you.

Photo sessions are FUN!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Looking Back on that First Year

The agony is great and yet I will stand it.  Had I not loved so much I would not hurt so much.  But goodness knows I would not want to diminish that precious love by one fraction of an ounce.  I will hurt.  And I will be grateful for the hurt for it bears witness to the depth of our meaning.  And for that I will be eternally grateful.  - Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

"You never get over the loss of a child."

I don't think anyone would dispute this, but I know there are people who experience loss during pregnancy and who feel pressure--sometimes unstated, but nonetheless present--to "get over it."  To bounce back.  To "try again" or "have another."

When I was six months out from my loss, a dear friend of mine wrote a well-meaning e-mail to me in which she said, "I thought you'd be better by now.  I thought you'd be pregnant again by now."

She was trying to express her own confusion and grief about the sharp turn our friendship had taken (when I basically dropped out of it).  I understood where she was coming from.

That e-mail almost ended our friendship.  I was stunned and frustrated and hurt and I couldn't even begin to explain to my (clueless) friend what I was going through on a daily basis.  I was barely making it myself; I couldn't coach my friend through this, too.

I told her as much, and we took some space and took some time and managed to maintain our friendship, although it still pains me the way things have changed--some of it, I'm sure, would have been inevitable even if Eliza hadn't died.  People get busy.  Having kids changes the amount of time we have for gabbing on the phone or going out to dinner.  Still, I'll never know how much my grief sabotaged my friendships.

Another friend of mine who had dealt with the completely shocking and unexpected loss of her mom while we were in college told me that it takes 3-5 years to recover from this kind of loss.  I nodded at her, my eyes filled with tears, because that timeline made sense to me.  And yet I was so discouraged by the thought that I would be so miserable for 3-5 years of my life.

In my experience, I think it was about fourteen months before my grief felt a little bit different, lighter, more mangeable.  Or at least I felt stronger and more capable of handling it.  Fourteen months is a long time to drop out of life, and that is exactly what I did.  I barely saw my friends.  I didn't attend a single social engagement that involved more than six people going out to dinner.  Going out to dinner happened rarely.

Eliza died in early December.  In late January, about seven weeks out from her death, I went back to teaching.  I taught two sections of a composition class.  Each class met for an hour a day, three days a week.  I had fourteen students in each section.  So I was on campus teaching six hours a week, plus prep and grading time, which I did at home, and which was minimal since I'd taught the class several times before.  I didn't hold office hours unless students made an appointment with me.  I went into my classroom and I went home and that was it.

It was the most exhausting semester of my life.

Holding myself together for class was an exercise in self-control that some days I barely passed.  I was calling upon my previous experience not in teaching, but in community and high school and college theater.  My whole classroom persona was a charade (although, in the same way, it was also a bit of an escape).  I could keep it together until my second class ended.  Then I'd walk quickly out to the parking garage, where I would sob in my car until I was calm enough to drive home.

Worse than teaching was my job directing a reading program at a learning center--little kids, clueless parents, too much time when I wasn't actively occupied with a task.  I was miserable at a job I had formerly enjoyed, and quitting a few months later was an enormous relief.

The internet was my lifeline, connecting me with other moms who'd experienced loss around the same time.  E-mails and texts with them were the only things that kept me tethered to sanity some days.  They reassured me that what I was feeling was normal because they were feeling it too.  Sometimes I would literally spend Tuesdays and Thursdays (my non-teaching days) in bed, on my laptop, exchanging e-mails, reading blogs, and crying because I shouldn't have had the luxury of sleeping in and wasting my day away.  But I didn't have the energy for anything else.

David and I grocery shopped together, which we hadn't done since our early days of dating and living together, when grocery shopping for two was still a novelty.  We were long past the days of the grocery store feeling like a date instead of a necessity, but throughout that cold winter and painfully-late spring, neither one of us felt strong enough to venture into public without having the other person there to hold onto.

We quit church.  Not because our church wasn't kind and supportive, not because they didn't reach out to us, not because we didn't like our minister.  We quit church because there were kids and babies and families there, and every time we'd gone, I'd imagined bringing Eliza there.  I couldn't go back there without her.  I just couldn't do it.  I couldn't bear to listen to messages of God's love when I felt so abandoned.  I couldn't bear to listen to messages of God sacrificing his only son when my only child was gone.  I envied people who found solace in their religion because church had become for me a place that simply reminded me of everything I'd lost, of a God who didn't answer my prayers for a healthy baby.

We skipped every holiday for a year.  Refused to acknowledge them, got out of town, ran away.  My first birthday after Eliza's death stands out as one of the worst days of my entire life.  I felt so guilty and so miserable being alive when my daughter was dead.  A suggestion from well-meaning friends that we get together to celebrate my birthday was met with me bursting into tears.  The notion of celebrating the fact that I was alive when my baby wasn't... it nauseated me.

I went to therapy weekly and then every other week, and, eventually once a month.  David accompanied me a lot of the time.  I sobbed my way through every appointment for at least the first six months, probably longer.  Sometimes it made me feel better.  Sometimes it seemed to dredge up my pain when I'd been having a good week.  But I went for the same reason that I read all the books on grief that we were given--because I wanted to figure out how to feel better given this new version of my life.  Because I'm a reader and a researcher and it's all I know how to do and I thought if I studied it and tried to understand my grief from the outside, I could do something about how I felt on the inside.

The truth is that nothing helped but time, which was just about the least helpful information I could find.

And I had moments where I was okay.  We went on a vacation to Florida over spring break and almost enjoyed ourselves.  David and I started making small weekly plans so that there would be something to look forward to.  It was almost always just the two of us, and the plans were usually to stay home and watch a movie and order in dinner.  But they were something.

Eventually the fog of grief lifted enough that I started to feel I had a little more energy.  I began repainting and redecorating the house, craving the distraction and the relief of having my focus on something--anything--besides my grief.

Interviewing for and getting a new job (the one I have currently) was something I almost didn't do--I didn't think I had the energy or the wherewithal to convince anyone that I was capable of doing anything but crying on the sofa (I was basically a black belt in that skill) but it ended up being the best thing I could have done.  It helped give me the confidence that I was something and someone besides a grieving mother, that I could do something besides cry.

We started going to church occasionally--a different church.  We needed to go somewhere that wasn't so full of the ghosts of what should have been.  Reading When Bad Things Happen to Good People gave me a way to think about God that made sense to both my head and my heart.  We weren't ready to jump back in to becoming active members of any congregation, but we were ready to sit in the pews and listen and think.

That summer we took a vacation to Vancouver and Whistler.  I had desperately hoped I'd be pregnant by the time we went on that vacation.  I wasn't.  I was seven months out from Eliza's loss and I was still a wreck a lot of the time.  It was on Whistler mountain, in the midst of a coniferous forest, that I took what I think was my first deep breath since Eliza had died.  My mom bought me a necklace on that trip that said, "Have Hope" and I wore it like a talisman.

That fall I got pregnant again (I wrote this post two days before my positive test).  It was a relief, a joy, a much-need hope that buoyed me up from the depths of despair.  It was also not as joyful as I wanted it to be.  I knew this baby wouldn't make up for losing Eliza, but I'd truly expected this pregnancy would make me feel happier.  It did make me happy, but it also made me sad.  Sad that I was so worried about the health of the new baby.  Sad that I had lost so much time--I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd fallen so far behind my friends, when we'd all been starting our families at the same time.  Now I was pregnant with what would (hopefully) be my my first living child and they were all having or planning for baby #2.  As happy as I was to be pregnant, I was so sad to have to be doing everything over again for a second time, with nothing to show for my first round except anxiety and dread.

I was disappointed in myself for not being better able to celebrate with my best friend, who was pregnant with her much-longed-for baby after three rounds of IVF.  I was also anxious because it was my first year at my new job and I was scheduling my day around doctor appointments.  I was overwhelmed by the very idea of approaching Eliza's first birthday, and sometimes overcome by the realization of how different my life was from the life I had wanted and expected and planned for when I thought for sure I'd be bringing my first baby home from the hospital.

Fall turned to winter, as it always does.  So much time had gone by, and it was still so very, very hard.  The end of November nearly crushed me with grief.  Her first birthday was full of gratitude and disappointment and heartache.  It was quickly followed by our attempt at an escape to Mexico.  Blue skies and sunshine and the ocean are remarkably therapeutic, but my second pregnancy seemed like it would stretch on forever-the end of June was so very far away from the end of December.  And we returned home to the knowledge that David's beloved grandpa was dying.

We said good bye to David's grandpa in January, the same month we revealed that I was pregnant again.  It was a mild winter and spring came early and I was so grateful to see the earth blooming with new life as I counted kicks and rubbed my belly and went to a doctor appointment every two weeks.

It was late February when I realized I wasn't so heavily weighed down with grief.  My anxiety about the Deuce was a separate thing, and very real, but the darkest days of grieving for Eliza were mostly behind me.  Dark days come back, of course.  Sometimes when I can anticipate them (around her birthday and Christmas) and sometimes when they are unexpected (like the week before Zuzu was born).  I wonder if my friend was right about the three-to-five year mark, and if I'll experience another lightening of my grief around that time.

I think back on that first year after Eliza died and it feels like it lasted forever.  And yet now it's been two years--two YEARS and three months from her death and I can't believe it's been so long.  It doesn't seem possible that so much time has gone by.  I can remember those early days, the stress and fear and ache and the impossibly huge sadness of that time, and it still brings tears to my eyes.

Missing Eliza today is a quieter ache.  It's a less selfish grief, if that makes sense.  A good part of what I grieved for initially was the loss of my own expectations, of my own plans for my life, of my opportunity to have a baby and raise a daughter.  I'm still coming to terms with this new version of my life, but I'm grateful to have another baby, to be raising a daughter.  And still I grieve for the baby we never got to know, for a life that ended just when it was supposed to begin, for the people we might have been if Eliza had lived.  I grieve for the months we lost to sadness.  I grieve for the friendships that were changed.  I grieve now for Zuzu, who will grow up without a big sister.

And just when I think I could get lost in all that grief again, I turn it around.

I celebrate the friends that Eliza brought into my life who make me laugh and who share my sadness in a way that eases my burden.  I celebrate the little sister she brought to us, who lights up our world.  I celebrate the closeness David and I have, the easy way we're able to prioritize what matters.

The year after we lost Eliza was absolutely the hardest, saddest, darkest year of my life.  It's hard for me to go back and read blog posts from that year, especially the first six months or so.  That pain was so close to unendurable, and those posts refresh the feeling of those dark times in a way that takes my breath away.  Out of that darkness comes a kind of understanding, harsh and unwelcome and full of truth.  I have a knowledge that I could not have had before, could not have otherwise gained.  It's nothing I wouldn't have gladly traded to get Eliza back, but we don't get to make those bargains.  So I can only take it for what it is, and hold on to it as something else of value that Eliza brought my way.

Two years and three months later, this process is still not easy and I know there will be more dark days to come.  I'll still feel jealous and bitter and jaded and angry and sad, far more often than anyone should.  But I can only remember that happiness and sadness are not mutually exclusive, that these things are not two sides of the same coin, but they can occupy my head and my heart at the same time.

So here's hoping that the days continue to get easier, that the light outshines the dark, that our greatest sorrow will one day be matched by our subsequent joy, and that we do all we can to choose love again, and again.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Eight Months with Zuzu: This Is the Fun Part.

This past month has been crazy busy at work for both David and me.  We've put our house on the market, received an offer, and started the negotiations and inspections and waiting games that are all part of selling a house.  We've had long conversations about where we'd like to live and what we see our family doing in two years and five years and ten years and every conversation ends with one of us commenting that we can't plan for everything and we have to decide what works right now.  The past few weeks have been filled with the kind of days where you're just dealing with what must be dealt with at the time--diapers are changed, dinner is made, papers are graded, but there's never a moment when I've felt like we're getting ahead.  It's all we can do to stay caught up.

In the midst of this, Zuzu has been challenging.  Sleeping habits sort of fell apart and my once-upon-a-dream-sleeper became a baby who woke up four times a night, SCREAMING, wanting nothing but the boob.  She continued to refuse purees, occasionally gnawed on hunks of people food, and nagged me to breastfeed as frequently as a newborn.  While breastfeeding, she would frequently get squirmy and distracted, pop on and off, twist her head around, and frequently pinch me.  I read on my Wonder Weeks app that it's normal for mothers to get frustrated and fed up with breastfeeding at this stage, and I was so glad to see that because this experience that had been so positive and delightful for us was suddenly becoming a source of irritation for me, and I needed to know that was normal and that we'd get past it.

Say it ain't so, Ma!
This week, though, we kind of turned a corner.  Sleep is still chancy (we had five good nights and two rotten ones this week) and she's still a little squirmy while nursing, but Zuzu is so. much. fun right now.  I can hardly handle it.

She's enthusiastic about and fascinated by new toys--especially new toys at her daycare.  She also loves repurposing other household objects as toys, most especially my wallet and the package of boogie wipes, shown here:

And how 'bout these sunglasses?  I'm so cool. (Sunglasses are actually getting returned because the wrap around thing doesn't quite work for Zuzu--as you can see, her ears get flattened)
She loves the other babies at her daycare, especially two little boys who are a couple of months older than her.  She grins when she sees them and giggles with delight as they crawl toward her.  She is known as a hair-puller at daycare.  Maybe she's jealous?  Or just curious?  At any rate, the best compliment ever was when her day care teacher told me, "Zuzu is very popular with the other babies," which I think is adorable and hilarious.

C'mom, Mom.  What baby wouldn't want to hang out with me?
I'm actually amazed at how interested she is in other babies.  I guess I didn't realize that babies really noticed each other that much at this age.  Last night she had a play date with her friend Evie, and when we first put them down on the blanket together, the two little girls just stared at each other and made happy shrieking noises while frantically flapping their arms.  (Zuzu did show Evie her hair-pulling trick later in the night, which made the shrieking less happy, but they still had a good time).

Hey there, Evie!  My hand is blurry because I'm so excited that we are FRIENDS!
She isn't crawling yet, but she scoots, lunges, and rolls to get where she wants to go.  She would rather pull herself up to standing than crawl on her hands and knees.  She loves to stand, even though she's terribly unsteady.  She will go to town in the jumperoo, flinging herself around and babbling.

I think I can... I think I can... I think I can...
The iphone is still the second best thing in the entire world after my boobs, and the few times she's gotten her hands on one, she coos and shrieks with joy.

She claps her hands in celebration, and grins at us when we do it.  Bubble baths are still a favorite, although she's started trying to stand up in the tub, which makes it much less relaxing for Mommy and Daddy!

Jeez, Mom.  SITTING in the tub is so lame.  Guess I'll just have to look at this stupid blue cup thing.
She picks up board books and flips through their pages.  Her favorites are the one about farm animals, the one about the St. Louis Cardinals (I wish I were kidding), and Good Night Moon.

Hey, folks!  It's a little Duck in a little duck towel.  Cuteness overload.
Our bedtime routine consists of putting on pajamas and a sleep sack and nursing, then snuggling in the rocking chair in the nursery.  We read two books from her collection and then finish up with Good Night Moon.  Then we turn off the lamp and sing lullabies.  Sometimes we sing along with the ipod, sometimes I just sing "Twinkle, Twinkle" and "You Are My Sunshine" and "Forever Young."  We rock in the darkness, illuminated by the baby monitor on the shelf, and sometimes by David's iPad if he lounges on the floor pillow and hangs out with us.  Then I tell Zuzu I love her and I put her in her crib.

Gratuitous photo of nekkid baby butt.
She goes down easily, with a pacifier in her mouth and the crib aquarium bubbling and playing soft music.  There's hardly ever any fussing at bedtime (we've come a long way from the early days of January!).  I turn on the Angel Care monitor and listen to the reassuring beep of her movement.

She still has no teeth at all, but she's turned a corner with food and is happily eating most purees (not a fan of peas--the green veggies are a hard sell).  Sweet potatoes are the clear favorite, so we're doing lots of mixing veggies with sweet potatoes.  She also eats yogurt and carrots and pears and cheese and bananas and cauliflower, and a favorite treat is to gnaw and suck on whole blackberries, which she devours like a champ.  We're still going slow on introducing new foods because food allergies are a concern since I have them, but I steamed and pureed a whole new batch of food this afternoon, and it's so much fun to see her tasting things for the first time (tonight was cauliflower) and opening her mouth like a little bird to get another bite.

This food stuff, it's not so bad.  And it makes for fun fingerpainting!
(I did change a diaper this afternoon with the Worst Poop Ever today.  It smelled almost like a grown up poop + sweet potatoes.  I gagged.  The one bummer about her eating real food...)

Yum!  Blackberries!
Her facial expressions continue to be hilarious, and the thing that most people comment on.  She gets a lot of compliments in public because she's willing to grin at complete strangers.  She especially like to smile for African American ladies who resemble her favorite daycare teachers and white men with gray beards who resemble her Gramps, but she'll usually return the favor to almost anybody who smiles at her.  And not to brag (more than usual, I mean), today the dude working the hot dog stand at Home Depot called out to me, "Your baby is adorable."  (Seriously!  The hot dog stand guy!).

I love you, Gramps!
She's still great about sleeping in the car, and a good little traveler even when she's not sleeping.  She's happy in the stroller and is an excellent shopping companion.  She's easy to run errands with as long as I keep her tummy full!

Let's walk Cooper!
She's babbling mamama and dadadada and it's seriously the sweetest sound.  She laughs at Cooper and at David when he's silly and at peek-a-boo.

Peek a boo is SO FUNNY.  That sh*t never gets old!
She doesn't nap very well at daycare--too much going on, I guess--but she naps pretty well for us at home, especially on Saturdays after swimming lessons!  Her face lights up when I go in her room to get her out of her crib.  It fills up my heart to see how happy she is to see me.  I will never get tired of that sweet face.

Life is too much fun to keep your tongue in your mouth.
Life with Zuzu has been sweet from the start, but we're having so much fun with her now.  She is the best reminder to savor these days, even when they are stressful and exhausting and full of uncertainty.  Because this really is the fun part and every day keeps getting better.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Perspectives on Parenting

Sometimes it's hard to know how I much I'm responding to something as a [typical] parent and how much I'm responding to something as the parent of a baby who died.  I heard two stories on the radio earlier this week that caused two very different emotional reactions.

The first was about a woman who walked in the room as her fourteen-month-old son jumping on the bed.  He tripped on a pillow and bounced OUTSIDE a half-opened second-story window.

What did the mom do?

She launched herself through the window, shattering the glass, and managed to grab the baby by his ankle, saving him from tumbling off the porch roof.

Grandma was outside having a smoke (who says cigarettes don't save lives?) and was able to catch the baby safely as the mom fell into the bushes below.

Mom was treated for scrapes and bruises, baby was checked out at the hospital and is doing just fine.  Grandma is probably glad that no one can nag her about quitting smoking now.

There is something about having a baby that makes you feel like you could have the kind of superhuman powers that require you to fling your body through pane glass in order to prevent your child from being injured.  It's crazy how all those brain chemicals work, and how much we are programmed to willingly sacrifice just about anything in order to protect a baby.

I don't think this is precisely ONLY a parenting thing either; it just seems to be a natural human impulse.  Baby in danger?  Save the baby!  People in this world are good!  We love babies!  Parents will do whatever it takes to save their babies!

Of course, then there is the other story.

A woman who was HIV positive delivered a baby after having zero prenatal care.  Other than being exposed to HIV, the baby was healthy.  Doctors began the antiviral drugs very early, treating the baby in order to hopefully keep it from getting HIV.

But then the mom quit bringing the baby (toddler by this point) to doctor appointments.  She also quit giving the baby any drugs/medicine to treat/prevent HIV.  The baby had no treatment of any kind for several months.

Which is why it's so amazing that when the doctor was able to locate the child months later, testing revealed no presence of HIV in the baby's blood.  The doctor assumed it was a laboratory error, and had everything re-tested.  Nope.  Baby is HIV-free, even though the mom discontinued treatment.  The HIV research community is totally abuzz because it suggests new progress in finding not just a treatment, but a cure for HIV.

And that's what the news story was about--the potentially amazing news that there could be a true cure for HIV.  Which IS great news, obviously.

But all I could think about is why this neglectful mother got to keep her baby when so many moms didn't.

I know there is probably much more to the story, and I know there are undoubtedly socioeconomic and educational issues at work her that cannot point to the mother as the sole villain at work in neglecting her child to the point of possibly allowing the baby to die from a potentially preventable (curable?) disease.  But it made me FURIOUS.

I can think of all the women I've come into contact with who would have literally thrown themselves from second story windows (or higher!) to save the babies taken from them, and I am so angry at the lack of justice in this world.

If anything, hearing these stories one after another made me think about how many wonderful people who would be wonderful parents are denied the opportunity to raise a child, and how many people who have no business procreating are popping out kids left and right.  After we lost Eliza, David actually struggled with this issue more than I did.  He saw kids at his school who were neglected or abused, while people like us who tried so hard to create a good home for our baby were left empty-handed and broken-hearted.

Fortune plays favorites without rhyme or reason, and we're left to make meaning from whatever cards we're dealt.  (To mix metaphors, which I would tell my students not to do, unless they're doing so deliberately and purposefully, which I really wasn't.  But you get the idea.)  Good people will grieve their infertility.  Bad people will have children accidentally or on purpose with relatively little effort.  AND the opposite is also true.

So I guess I'll focus on the fact that some of us in this world are the sort of people who would fling themselves out a window in order to save a baby.  Because that is pretty awesome.  And you know I'd totally do it for Zuzu.  But maybe I'll just double check that windows are shut when she's jumping on the bed.  That would still make me a good mom, right?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Optimism Bias

I saw her today in the cafe on campus.  I was slurping sipping tomato-basil soup, half reading my book, half watching a rerun of the new Dallas on the cafe television.  She walked in and my stomach sank.

She looked younger than me but older than my students--so maybe 25?  Chin length bob, a big grin on her face as she talked to her co-worker.  She was wearing a pastel colored tunic and khaki pants.  And she was pregnant.

I thought I was kind of over this.  I mean, I had a baby (who happens to be one of the very best babies in all the world, I'm absolutely convinced).  Why do I look at a pregnant girl and feel so. freaking. jealous?

Maybe it's because she probably just had two ultrasounds through her whole pregnancy and she doesn't even bother to do kick counts.

Maybe it's because questions about her pregnancy aren't loaded grief triggers.

Maybe it's because I feel like my smile will never look like that again.

Maybe it's because I'm not 100% sure I'll ever have another baby.

Maybe I was just having a rough morning.

I heard on the radio today that we have an optimism bias.  We are more inclined to accept good news and less likely to believe bad things will happen to us.  The example in the radio story was that many parents are concerned about childhood obesity; few are concerned for their own children.

I know the same is true for pregnancy.  Sure, stillbirth can happen.  Babies can die in the womb for a myriad of sad reasons or no reason at all.  But that only happens to other people.

David and I were in the Container Store over the weekend (just browsing!  because it's fun!) and I said, "Remember when I won that gift card here?  Just for watching a suitcase packing demonstration?  And I bought those suitcase organizers that we took to Italy?"  I smiled at that memory and then added, "That was back when I thought we were lucky."

I was the kind of person who won gift cards at the Container Store and a handbag one time at a Cole Haan store opening.  I thought I led a charmed life.  I guess I did lead a charmed life (I still love that handbag).

The optimism bias is why we buy lottery tickets and we don't fret that we're far more likely to wreck our car on the way home from work than we are to win the lottery.  It's a survival mechanism and the truth is that good things are more likely to happen when we expect them to happen (seriously, that's like a fact... also known as The Secret -- an idea that still rubs me the wrong way, given that my expectations for Eliza were perfect).

But once something happens to you that knocks your whole world off-kilter, once you witness how quickly your carefully laid plans can crumble into nothing, once you come home to an empty crib and you have no baby to put in it, well.  Your expectations are different.

The question is how to reconcile that with everything else in life.  Because my first baby died, do I assume that nothing in my life will ever work out?  Do I walk around in a state of perpetual dread, waiting for the bottom to fall out?  And why?  So I can say I told you so?  But how do I convince myself that things will (most likely) work out?  Probability is problematic for some of us.

Today in the cafe, I was sooooo jealous of that girl and her great expectations.  Absolutely sick-to-my-stomach, green-with-envy jealous.  I don't want her life, her baby, her husband, or her hair.  Or her ugly khaki maternity pants.

But dammit.  I want that sense of certainty back.  I want to be that kind of optimistic.

I don't want the loss of a baby to happen to ANYONE.  But I sure as hell don't want it to have happened to me.

Can't I just be the really nice and supportive friend who helps other people through their hard time?  Why do I have to have the kind of loss that other people won't even recognize as being POSSIBLE for them, based on their stupid optimism bias?

It's funny because I keep thinking that maybe someday I'm going to learn and grow and be nicer or something because of Eliza.  So much of the time, though, I'm just the bitter-and-jaded version of my old self me, all kinds of pissed off that this is my reality and that people will go on having baby showers and buying baby clothes and making cutesy pregnancy announcements with math that adds up (brother + daddy + pregnant mommy = 4!) even though there are no guarantees they'll get a baby in the end.  I want to scream and shake them by the shoulders and say "DON'T COUNT ON IT YET!"

But more than anything, I want to be one of those people who counts on it.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Open House

We had our first one today.  We cleaned and tidied and hid stuff away in the garage ("stuff" in this case including two small dogs--set up with food, water, and comfy dog beds).  We polished the shiny bits of our house until it sparkled and then we packed up the baby and headed out to a late lunch and some window shopping (for furniture we'd like to have in our new house, naturally).

As we drove to the restaurant, I looked at David and said, "Are you nervous?"

He kind of laughed and then said, "I think maybe that IS how I'm feeling."

It did make me feel nervous, to leave our house at the mercy of nosy neighbors and potential buyers, who were likely to open our closet and look at my clothes.  I wore all my Eliza jewelry at once because I had this sudden fear that someone touring our house might be a klepto.

Our realtor said it went well--there was good traffic and two different buyers who appeared to be serious.  I'm not expecting any offers yet, as I think if you are serious about a place, you go back and view it at least once more before you make an offer.  But we are feeling hopeful.

I want it to sell obviously to make this whole process go as smoothly as possible, but also because SERIOUSLY keeping the house show-ready is exhausting.  We had three showings this week before the open house, so we basically have to keep the house ready-to-go all the time.

We are pretty tidy people (David even more so than me) so it's not like our house is a disaster normally, but with the snow and the salt and the dogs going in and out, our floors have to be steam-mopped before a showing in order to not be filthy dirty.  And it's not like my closet always looks "staged"--I shoved a bunch of scarves into a tote bag, which I then crammed in behind my hanging clothes today because the scarves sort of looked like they were taking over the entire closet space.  Our kitchen counters are not usually completely clear either--they're usually sporting a Boon lawn drying rack, among other odds and ends.  So it has been a challenge.

We have managed to keep baby stuff fairly under control--all of Zuzu's toys can be put away either in the toy bucket in her room (it's actually a big white party bucket--the kind you put ice and beer bottles in) or in one of the cabinets on our buffet-made-over-TV-stand.  We put the jumperoo away for then open house today, but I left it for the showings during the week because SERIOUSLY we have to LIVE here.

Zuzu's mess may be minimal, but I have gotten pretty frustrated with some of the things David puts away that I actually use on a daily basis.  It gets super annoying every time I have to text him and say "Where is the [strainer] [extension cord] [basket of bath toys] [sewing kit] [mail organizer]" especially because I KNOW the answer will be "the garage" and the LAST thing I want to do when I am looking for something is walk out in the snow to the garage and dig around for it.  I told him that this whole thing is hard enough without him making it even more inconvenient for us.  He said, "I don't find it inconvenient."  And I said "EXACTLY!  Because I'M THE ONE who uses the shit that YOU are putting away!"  So annoying.

To further complicate things, David had a super busy week last week and worked late three out of five days, plus had to drive back out for an event Saturday night.  And I've been dealing with the Eye Plague all week, which has made me extremely tired and incredibly irritable.  You can imagine how much fun we've been having around here!

So here's hoping things move along fairly quickly...  And just in case you know anyone who's in the market for a cute little 2-bed, 1-bath house in the city...

Front yard in the spring time
Backyard in the summertime
Living Room - the front room in the house
Living Room from another angle 
The Back "Bonus" Room/Library
Back "Bonus" Room - also serves as my office
Kitchen - small but efficient use of space.  My BFF talked me into using that paint color and I absolutely love it in there. 
View of the bar/dining room from the kitchen

View of the bar/kitchen from the dining room

the dining room, looking toward the front of the house
our bedroom
from the doorway

baby's room

from the doorway
Bathroom - the one and only, so good thing it's cute! How do you like those horizontally striped walls? I love them.