Thursday, February 26, 2015

Our Routines

Can we talk about routines for a minute? I know it's the everyday details that I won't be able to recall even a few months from now, so I want to make a little record of what we're doing these days.

Our work day week days are actually running pretty smoothly (as long as I get up on time!), but it's because we're doing the super boring and responsible thing of getting things organized and laid out the night before.

(I don't like doing this. I would rather be watching television and checking Instagram and reading blogs and texting people and eating popcorn and RELAXING the night before work. Instead, I'm packing diapers and prepping bottles and I really can't even bitch about it because I'm saying "I" but David does a lot of it.)

I'm also doing the pick out clothes for the whole week thing. I'm in charge of everyone's clothes--I pick out and iron David's outfits as well as the girls and myself. For some reason it's easier for me to do this for everyone in my family than it is for me to do this for myself--especially right now since I'm six months postpartum and still things don't quite fit me right. My favorite leggings are so stretched out that they sag by the end of the day, but my regular pants are still snug and often give me the dreaded muffin top, my boobs are still total milk maids so I don't want to wear anything fitted, nursing puts dresses mostly out of the equation and I usually love wearing dresses, I am intolerant of any fabric that's not totally soft and comfortable since there will be babies rutting around on me, I am hating anything that holds static cling, and if it can't hide a little bit of spit-up, that's a problem...

And then there's shoes. I usually like to teach in heels because they make me feel put together, but you try carrying a pumpkin seat, a purse, a school bag of papers and books, Coco's bag of bottles and diapers, the bag that holds my pumping stuff, and then walk in heels out the back door, down five steps, and to the car. It's exhausting. Plus there's the fact that shoes aren't allowed in the infant room at our daycare (a policy I fully support), so I need something I can slip on and off fairly easily (they do provide hospital booties you can put on over your shoes, but that's another trick when your arms are full of baby and baby accessories). I've taken to wearing my moccasin slippers and then changing into boots once I get to the parking lot at work, but I dread the day I forget to bring my change of shoes with me and have to teach in moccasins all day! (Oh, who am I kidding--my students probably wouldn't even notice)

Mostly I am trying to wear simple outfits and throw on a scarf. I love scarves right now for three main reasons:

(1) They make me feel French.
(2) They dress up any outfit.
(3) They hide my boobs and any potential outfit malfunction related to nursing/pumping.

All this to say, I spent some time ironing on Sunday afternoon. It is not my least favorite chore by any means--I love little kid clothes and I sort of enjoy the ironing process (the effects of my labor are so visible and pleasing to the eye!) but it is one more thing that has to happen when I'd really rather be lounging.

And I guess the real issue is that I'd rather be lounging than doing a lot of things. Like pretty much everything, really.

Anyway, here's my current routine: My alarm goes off at 6:15am. I am almost always already half-awake when it goes off, which I find frustrating. Coco has started this thing where she wakes and wants to nurse at 5:44 am, which is obviously the WORST time possible, given that I'm supposed to be up for the day in just half an hour. So occasionally I will hit snooze, which I ALWAYS regret, because then I don't have enough time up and awake by myself before Zuzu is up.

Zuzu wakes up and says to me EVERY SINGLE MORNING: "Where my daddy?"

I say, "Daddy's at work."

And then two out of three mornings, she bursts into a dramatic fake cry and throws herself in a heap on the ground. (She's kind of a daddy's girl lately.)

You can imagine how this gets my day off to a fantastic start.

I generally ignore her for a few minutes while I finish slapping on some make up.

My make up routine these days: primer (because it really does make an enormous difference), BB creme, cheek stain, eyeliner, mascara, done. I wash my hair at night because ain't nobody got time for that. I hate washing my hair at night because that means it never really looks good. I also wash my hair every other day because it's winter and dry and my hairdresser says it's better not to wash it everyday and I love that because I'm lazy and I can always put it in a ponytail.

So once I've finished putting on make up and frowning at my hair, I pick up the pitiful toddler who only wants her daddy and sweet talk her into getting her diaper changed and I let her choose from two outfits I've laid out the night before.

Then I go get Coco, who is usually awake and looking around by this point, and I change her and dress her while Zuzu whines incessantly for breakfast. I end up saying, "We are GOING to have breakfast in JUST A MINUTE. I just need to get your sister dressed," at least seventeen times.

We all go downstairs for breakfast and I make Zuzu either silver dollar pancakes (microwave) with dollops of Greek yogurt on top and a side of fruit or a bagel with cream cheese and a side of fruit. She whines for whatever I'm fixing the entire THIRTY SECONDS it takes to fix it and sometimes screams at me that she wants her bagel COLD, not toasted. She also reminds me that she wants, "CHEESE, PLEASE" as though I might forget and serve her a cold, plain bagel.

Once she has food in front of her, she is generally MUCH more pleasant. Coco sits in the high chair next to Zuzu at the table and they chatter and entertain each other while I fix something for myself to eat (usually a bagel or peanutbutter on an English muffin), sometimes make a cup of decaf coffee or hot tea, and sip on a smoothie that David leaves in the fridge for me each morning.

I also make at least four additional trips upstairs for something that we've forgotten in spite of our organizational efforts--a hair bow, a blanky, my coat, Coco's hat, etc. Zuzu and I talk about school and about who will pick her up that day and about how we don't hit or push our friends and about how she should pee on the potty. She is usually quite agreeable to all of this, but I feel good about reinforcing basic expectations of human interaction.

I usually make a trip out to the car to start it and load it with at least half our stuff before I buckle Coco into her carseat and get Zuzu into her coat and shoes. She can put her shoes on the right feet now all by herself, so even though she always chooses the same pair, I'm celebrating that milestone!

Then we head out to the car together. I often have to coax Cooper back inside with treats, and sometimes Coco is fussy about getting in the carseat, and sometimes Zuzu chooses to wander the backyard instead of follow me to the car, but generally we get loaded up with little fanfare.

Then we head to school, unload everything, and stagger inside. Zuzu is usually more than happy to kiss me good-bye out in the hallway and stroll into her classroom with her bag on her arm, but it always seems that any morning I'm running late or in a rush (and especially if her teacher is occupied and can't drop everything to lavish attention on Zuzu when she walks in the door), she needs me to come in her classroom with her and hang up her coat and get her seated for Second Breakfast that she eats as soon as she gets to school. Weirdly, she does not enjoy being greeted enthusiastically by her friends when she first arrives. If they run up to her at the door, she gets really clingy. She kind of needs to ease her way into the day. (I can relate to this, so maybe she has some introverted tendencies.)

Coco is occasionally asleep in her carseat by the time we get to school, but more often she's awake and smiley. She goes happily to her teachers in the infant room (they call her "Sunshine"), and I chat with them about when she last ate while I load up her diaper bin and put her bottles and a puree in the fridge. Then I smooch her cheeks one last time and say good-bye. I like to peek in the window to Zuzu's classroom before I leave, and she's always sitting up with perfect posture at the table, happily snacking on her second breakfast.

It never fails that I feel a weird twinge of regret and relief as I head out for the day--my job has its stressors, but I enjoy it. Staying home all day is hard and not always fun, and yet it's equally hard to leave the girls, even when they are perfectly content at school.

I listen to NPR or a podcast as I drive the twenty-five minutes to work from daycare (I keep thinking I need to get another audiobook, but podcasts are so entertaining), and I arrive by 9am and then head up to my office for an hour of class prep and responding to e-mail and making photocopies and pumping before I teach back to back classes of World Literature II (Hamlet to the present day). I have an hour for lunch and then I teach British Literature II (eighteenth century to present day). Then I have a couple of office hours for meeting, grading, reading, e-mailing, and more pumping before I head home. I try to get out of there by 4pm each day, but I'm always having to leave stuff undone, which drives me kind of crazy. Being there five days a week makes it much easier to get out of there earlier, but of course I feel really fortunate to have stay-at-home days this semester.

On stay-at-home days, we sleep in a little later (usually until about 7:30) and typically both of the girls end up in my bed. I have one stay-at-home day with just Coco and the other with both girls. On the days it's just Coco, I usually try to run errands in the morning and I can get work done while she's napping in the afternoon. On the days I have both girls, it's a little trickier.

Breakfast is a little more elaborate (by which I mean I fixed oatmeal and eggs this morning). Some days we head to the library in the morning (we'll hit the park when the weather warms up) and sometimes (like today) we don't change out of our pajamas all day long. Between nap times and the girls keeping each other entertained, I managed to prep for class and get a few exams graded today, as well as staying on top of e-mail, so today felt like a pretty productive day. (I've had much worse.) I also do a load of diapers on every stay at home day, and I try to throw in an extra load or two of laundry when those are finished.

So that's our deal these days. It feels like it's been like this forever, even though it's only been a few months. And it feels like there's no end in sight, but obviously summer break will be here eventually. And then we'll get in a new routine. What's that saying, "The days are long but the years are short"? Totally feeling that right about now.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Reading Around

Just wanted to share some links...

I want to hang out with the writer of this article (and I maybe should go ahead and re-name my blog by plagiarizing the title of her essay): "My Baby Died and I Can't Shut Up About It."

My friend Jamie sent me this article yesterday. I'd already read it, but it was worth a second read. It's great, and a great one to pass along to people who just don't get it: "Getting Grief Right."

A while back, I read Meghan O'Rourke's book The Long Good-bye. It's about losing her mom, and the first half of the book recounts her mother's struggle with cancer. The second half is a more general reflection on grief that really resonated with me. So much that I e-mailed the author a fan letter and I was so excited she wrote me back! #nerdalert

I've been reading I Am Malala while I nurse Coco. The straightforward prose is a quick read, but the story is haunting. It's so easy to push aside the news of ISIS and not think about it because it feels too big, too scary, and also removed from my reality. But reading about Malala's experience with the Taliban is a painful reminder that there are real people in crisis.

Speaking of ISIS, my friend Natalie sent me this article. It's not exactly fun reading, but it certainly is eye-opening: "What ISIS Really Wants."

Related to the idea of wishing that bad news would go away is this gem of an article that my friend Carol sent me, knowing it was right up my alley: "If You Think Life is Fair, You Might be a Terrible Person." If I were on, I'd be posting that all over the place.

I'm also reading The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern. It's a great little escape, especially if you like magical things and the nineteenth century (for me: ding! ding! winner!). And I just lent my mom my library copy of Big Little Lies, which was just as engaging as promised by several book lists. I recommend both of them.

Read anything good lately? I'm on the hunt for an article titled something along the lines of "How to Get Your Six and a Half Month Old Baby to Sleep Through the Night Without Crying After You've Spent Six and a Half Months Nursing Her On Demand in the Comfort of Your Bed Because then She Stops Crying and You Can Lie Down and Close Your Eyes." If you've read something like that (or written it!) send it my way, mm-kay?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Project [Bitchin'] Kitchen

Over Valentine's weekend, in addition to having family photos taken, treating Coco's ear infection, and dealing with Zuzu's stomach virus, we decided to update the kitchen by raising our cabinets and adding a backsplash and a shelf. Because we like to take on just a little bit more than we can handle. It's what we do.

Just to give you a quick reminder... Here's a flashback to the kitchen over a year ago, when we first moved in.

(The wood actually photographs better than it looked in person.) Then we had the cabinets painted:

That was just about a year ago exactly. So it was time for the next phase of our project.

We started by raising the cabinets. One other thing the "before" pictures don't really show is that the cabinet piece was off-center. You can see in the photo below that we split a piece of wood that had been up to the left side of the cabinets and centered the cabinets on the wall. The wood didn't fit perfectly because our walls aren't perfectly straight--they get wider toward the top (#oldhouseproblems) but we were able to caulk it to make it work (#makeitwork).

If you think the cabinets look really high, you're right. They are really high. All part of the plan!

I thought raising the cabinets would be simple--unscrew, lift them up, rescrew, right? But it actually took way more time/effort than I'd anticipated (of course!). It was a little tricky because we have plaster walls up against a brick exterior, and because the walls aren't perfectly square. We really couldn't have done it without the expertise of my dad who is an engineer/former contractor/has lots of construction experience/and is a multi-talented jack-of-all-trades, and we are VERY grateful that he was there to help us out (with only a little bit of grumbling).

We also added crown moulding to the top of the cabinet to create a more finished line. And here you can see the sides all caulked and painted. The paint is still wet here, so the moulding looks a bit brighter than the doors, but it dried just fine.

Having your dad (or at least my dad) help with projects is great because he works for free beer, but you also get some pushback that you wouldn't get from someone you just hired to do the job.

For example, we selected white subway tiles. I like the simple, classic look. I thought it would look appropriate in our older home and wouldn't be too flashy, especially considering we are still working with laminate countertops (perhaps those will be replaced in Phase 3 of the kitchen project). It helps that they are all over Pinterest and have been trending for a while in DIY blog land, but the clincher was that they are very affordable.

I'd followed Decor and the Dog's kitchen backsplash install, and I liked the look of their contrasting grout. I thought it would be a nice way for us to tie in our darker cabinets and countertops, and obviously dark grout doesn't stain if chili or red sauce splatters. I wanted 1/8" grout lines, so I bought 1/8" spacers.

Here's where my dad and I disagreed. He didn't think we should use spacers at all. (He also thought the tiles would look good lined up straight instead of staggered like bricks.) I told him that I knew what I wanted--I've only been looking at kitchens on Pinterest and in magazines and reading blogs for years. We actually ended up having this exchange, pretty much verbatim:

     Dad: This is why I don't work for other people anymore!

     Me: Because you can't handle it when they don't want to do what you want?

     Dad: No! Because they look at some pictures and think they know what they want, but they don't!

     Me: ...

(LOL. I mean, how do you respond to that? There are many things I don't know, but my opinion of what I happen to like in terms of backsplash grout is actually pretty solid.)

In spite of my dad's claims to know better than I do what I actually wanted, I was determined to have my 1/8" grout lines.

But I am actually glad that his point about the shape of the tiles made me reconsider the spacers. He observed that the tiles were designed to be slightly wider (about 1/8") in the back than they are in the front (so yes, one could, if she wanted, grout them without using spacers). This means that I would create a larger grout line than I'd originally intended if I used 1/8" spacers because it would have increased the space at the front of the tile. I decided I didn't want that, but I still overruled my dad's idea that we go with no spacers. So we'll call it a compromise... we went with 1/16" spacers.

And because he is my dad and he loves me and he knows that I'm as stubborn as he is, he obliged me and the tiling began!

After raising the cabinets, we had 30" between the counters and the cabinet bottoms that needed tiling. David also cut and painted a thin piece of plywood to cover the unfinished bottom of the cabinets. (Not pictured, but very noticeable in person).

We (ok, my dad) wrapped around the corner and did the sink side the same height--30" up the wall, but with 2" high border tiles at the top.

Meanwhile, David got to work tiling the stove side. We couldn't move the cabinets up on this side due to an air vent over the top, so this was the more standard 16" high.

Once all the tile was up, they grouted with the contrasting gray grout. I know it's a love or hate it kinda thing for many people, but I'm very happy with the contrast and really like the look for my kitchen.

We hit another tricky moment in the process when it came time to add the shelf under the cabinets. We had to drill through the tile, so once again we were really glad to have my dad here since he actually knew what he doing and I'd just watched a few You Tube videos...

David is touch-up painting the shelf here. I wanted the clean "floating" look, so we installed it by using screwing crown moulding into the tile all along the back on on each side underneath the shelf for it to rest on. We used plywood shelving [correction: MDF board] for this, so to strengthen it, we followed my dad's suggestion to add a piece of hardwood (oak [correction: poplar, because it has a less pronounced grain and takes paint well]) trim across the front. This gave the shelf its thicker appearance and helped make it sturdy. And when it was dry (finally) we filled it up!

Doesn't it look dreamy? I mean, I don't know why more magazines don't feature a Boon drying rack with breast pump valves in their photo shoots of kitchens. #keepingitreal

Here's the stove side. You can see we added moulding to these cabinets as well, even though they don't reach the ceiling. I still think it gives them a finished look.

And the other side of the kitchen. The glare from the light makes some of the grout lines look funky--the closer up picture of the shelf (above) is more accurate.

So back to the before...

And after!

And one more shot of the whole thing from floor to ceiling. The red step stool definitely comes in handy for those upper shelves in the cabinets, but we keep the stuff we use every day out on the shelf or on the lowest level of the cabinet. Some of the stuff isn't necessarily pretty (the drying rack, the mixing bowls) but we won't have those out forever, either--it's crazy to think I'll be finished with bottles and washing pump parts in just a few more months.

So there you have it! Our weekend kitchen project. It took every bit of a three day weekend, plus another day to get it all put away and reorganized, and I was twitchy by the end of it since the cabinets were emptied onto the dining room table. But I am so, so happy with the result, and very grateful to my dad and David for being patient with my demands requests. They did such great work. It really transformed the space.

And since the labor was free and my dad had most of the tools we needed on hand already, the whole project cost us less than $200. No kidding. The tiles are really affordable, grout and mortar is not very costly, and we worked with the cabinets we had, so the only additional costs were the crown moulding and wood for the shelf. Not too shabby, right? I am very lucky to have a dad who is handy and a husband who is a quick learner.

Our kitchen may still be a work in progress... we'd eventually like to replace the floor (the tile photographs ok, but it's not my favorite) and the countertops, but I'm also really happy with where things are right now.

As I said when I posted a sneak peak on IG, it's almost enough to make me want to cook!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Conversations with Zuzu Part IV

January-February 2015 edition.

Scene: In the kitchen. I made snack for Zuzu, and then one for myself.

Zuzu: Oh, that's my orange!

Me: You already ate your orange. This is Mommy's orange.

Zuzu: Let's share! I like to share.

Me: Sure you do, kid. When it benefits you, you love to share!

* * *

Scene: In the living room. Zuzu climbs up on a counter-height stool that I usually use as a plant stand.

Zuzu: I'm up here!

Me: That looks dangerous.

Zuzu: Yes. I fall down and I get hurt!

Me: Well, as long as you're aware of the risks.

* * *

Scene: Loading up in the car after daycare. I'm parked next to the drainage grate by the curb and Zuzu stands on the manhole cover. A lady slows down in her car driving by to tell me my kid is standing on the manhole cover (okay, jumping on it) because the lady is worried she might fall through. (Uh... I don't manholes are supposed to do that, but better safe than sorry, I guess.)

Me: Zuzu, come stand over here. You don't want to fall down the drain. (in a silly voice) That would be scary!

Zuzu: There's alligators down there! They eat me up!

Me: Alligators?

Zuzu: Yes.

Me: Well, I'd jump down there and save you.

Zuzu: And I say, "Settle down, alligators! Don't eat my mommy!"

Me: Oh, thanks, honey.

* * *

Scene: Overheard while playing with Disney figurines.

Zuzu: Ok, boys. You gotta be nice. Or no Christmas for you. Ever.

(She is also frequently overheard having her figurines rescue each other: "It's ok, Daisy! I got you!" and telling them, "Settle down, boys!")

* * *
Scene: In the kitchen. I'm fixing lunch.

Zuzu: I need help, Mama.

Me: What do you need help with?

Zuzu: I need help with Zuzu.

* * *

Scene: Basement. Freaking dog has pooped on the carpet.

Me: Oh no, Cooper!

Zuzu: Holy Moses! Cooper, you need to poopoo on potty!

* * *

Scene: On our bed, playing with Coco.

Zuzu: Oh, Coco, what big cheeks you have! (pinches cheeks)

Me: Be gentle!

Zuzu: Oh, Coco, what big tongue you have!

David: All the better to eat you with, my dear!

Zuzu: That not My Dear! That Coco!

* * *

Scene: At the doctor's office for Coco's six month well visit.

Doctor: Well, hello there!

Zuzu: That my sister, Coco.

Doctor: You call her Coco? What's her real name?

Zuzu: Coco.

Me: No, what's Coco's whole name?

Zuzu: Coco Puff.

* * *
Scene: On our couch, telling Grammy about how mad she was when I flushed the toilet after dumping her diaper in it, instead of letting her flush the toilet. (Because, YES, she's still in diapers.)

Zuzu: (scolding very seriously) That not your turd, Mommy. That my turd!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

But a Little More About Me

Last week I shared French fries with Judy Shepard. As in Matthew Shepard's mom (she calls him Matt). She was such a kind, genuine person. One of my favorite things she said was that she wished she could just be the supportive mom baking cookies for PFLAG meetings, and not doing all the speaking and traveling she does (although she enjoys it). She said that it should be Matt up there speaking, and she just wishes she could know what he would have done with his life.

Not only is she generous about sharing French fries, but she also has some of the longest eyelashes I've ever seen on a real person (Matt had them too).  Her message when she spoke on campus was simple and straight-forward: LGTB people have rights. Those who wish to deny this: Why do you care? They aren't hurting you.

It was awesome to meet her and as I drove her back to her hotel after the talk, I talked a little bit about Eliza--I guess I wanted to explain that I am familiar with grief and that I can imagine the pain of losing your child to someone else's hatred and violence is even more excruciating. She was compassionate, classy, and down-to-earth, and I'm so glad I got to meet her. 

I'd really to go to Chicago to see the film that's just been released: Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine, (and invite myself over to the Wilsons' while I'm at it) but I don't think a weekend away is in my future. I'll have to wait for Netflix.

* * *

In other news, Faces of Loss is not only up and running, but is up to date. We're still working on updating some of the info and fixing broken links, but the most important part is that the stories have all been posted. A few new ones are coming in, which is both good and bad of course. We are glad to see that the site is still providing a connection and platform that people want and need, but of course, we hate that people are dealing with the heartbreak of pregnancy loss or baby loss.

That said, it's so important to tell your story, so if you have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth or infant loss, I invite you to consider putting your experience in words and submitting it to Faces of Loss.

* * *

I'm going to do a whole post on this soon, but I just have to say that David and my dad did such a great job working on our kitchen over the weekend. The changes were mostly cosmetic, but that doesn't mean they weren't complicated! And the end result is fabulous. The difference is huge and the kitchen makes me very happy. It's almost enough to make me want to cook!


* * *

I'm still a little worried about Zuzu. She hasn't barfed since yesterday afternoon, but she's so sluggish and wimpy. She got a little of her spunk back when I turned off Mickey Mouse's [Godforsaken] Clubhouse and she yelled at me about it, but I still hate seeing her so unlike her chatty, bouncy little self. She's eaten half a bagel and had a little bit of water today, but she's not interested in Pedialyte or applesauce or popsicles or crackers or ice chips.

* * *

I've had some sympathy nausea over the weekend (mostly from smelling her barf, I think) but my appetite is fine today. I had nachos for lunch. Confession: Nachos are a frequent and favorite lunch choice. Tortilla chips, some shredded cheese, refried or black beans, and salsa. I'll throw some rice on there if it's already made up. Yum.

* * *

And now, for a few minutes anyway, both girls are sleeping simultaneously. I'd really like to catch up on Downton Abbey, but I have a stack of Hamlet journals that need to be graded. DUTY vs. PLEASURE: Who will win???

Six Months Later

It wasn't that long ago when we had newborn photos taken of our little Coco-Puff. She was nine days old (and had a head full of hair!)

Six months of male-pattern baldness later, she's just as cute as she was the day she entered the world!

As I mentioned before, we had Katie come over on Saturday and take photos of our six-month-old girl (and her sister). I haven't seen all of them yet, but I had to go ahead and share the sneak peek that Katie posted on her blog.

I know I'm biased, but aren't they darling?

You'd never guess that Coco had an ear infection and Zuzu started vomiting and running a fever that afternoon! Hashtag memories....

Monday, February 16, 2015

Well, That Was Romantical

The plan for the weekend was to have Coco's six month photos taken Saturday morning, tackle the backsplash in the kitchen Saturday afternoon, and then leave the girls home with my parents while David and I went to a movie.

But Coco woke up Saturday morning with her eyes crusted shut and dried green snot around her nose.

I knew the moment I looked at her that she had an ear infection, but I made David come back upstairs and look at her. I wiped her face with a warm wash cloth and she was as smiley and happy as usual and didn't have a fever, so we decided to go ahead with pictures (our photographer was coming over at 10:00 am) and managed to get a doctor appointment for 11:30 am.

The photo session went okay...  Coco was napping when the photographer arrived and I felt bad about having to wake her, but she did pretty well. She was smiley and happy for a while, though she did get cranky toward the end.  Zuzu wanted to be in photos, and had a great time showing off and getting some individual photos taken before Coco woke up, but then she only wanted to be slightly cooperative in terms of following directions and doing what the photographer occasionally asked her to do. She was pretty hit or miss, and she really wanted her princess lunchbox to be in all the photos.

(It probably goes without saying, but I did not want her princess lunchbox to be in all the photos.)

By the time we tried to get photos with all of us, including my parents, the girls were kind of done. Coco wanted to nurse so we had to take a quick break, and then Zuzu got really cranky and pouty, which was out of character for her since she usually enjoys being the center of attention. We bribed her with an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse if she'd smile for a few more pictures and that worked pretty well.

Right after our session ended, I rushed Coco to the doctor's office, David and my dad started on the kitchen project (more on that later), and my mom fixed some lunch for Zuzu and planned to put her down for a nap.

Coco was so happy and smiley at the doctor's office that I felt a little silly when the nurse said, "So... what's your concern today?" as Coco grinned and babbled cheerfully at her--maybe I was overreacting? On the other hand, eye gunk was Zuzu's tell-tale sign of an ear infection and she rarely had a fever, so I wanted to get her checked out and not have things get worse on Sunday afternoon.

Fortunately/unfortunately, I was right. Coco did have an ear infection. (You get what I mean, right? I'm glad I'm not crazy, but I wish she weren't sick.)

We finally made it home with her prescription, although I was pretty annoyed when I pulled up to the pharmacy drive through and they were like, "We just got the electronic prescription, so if you could come back in like 15 minutes..." I wanted to be like, "Really? It's going to take you 15 MINUTES to take a bottle of a Amoxicillin of the shelf and stick it in a paper bag?" But Coco was asleep in the backseat, so I just sat in the parking lot for 15 minutes until it was ready.

By the time I got home, Zuzu was napping (sign #1 something was off since she is usually too excited to nap when Grammy and Bop are in town) and she hadn't eaten any lunch. My mom had fixed her favorites--a bagel with cream cheese and fruit, but she didn't want any of it (sign #2).

David said, "Zuzu hasn't been acting right. She's just lying around and wanting hugs." (sign #3)

My mom and I were giving Coco her first dose of medicine when I heard Zuzu coughing and then crying. I walked in her room and she said, "Mama, I burp-ed." (Translation: she barfed. So, yeah... she was definitely off.)

She'd puked all over her sheets and herself and there wasn't all that much of it, but it smelled terrible. It really took everything I had not to start gagging myself. (And there's no prize for cleaning up vomit.)

So she got a bath and we got the laundry going and I hoped it was just a fluke. Zuzu has only vomited a few times in her life, and each time was just an isolated incident.

This time, we were not so lucky. Poor little pumpkin got sick three times on Saturday. At one point, she begged for bread and I let her have a piece because I figured it wouldn't make any difference--bread wasn't going to make her barf, and sometimes it's better to have something in your stomach if you have to get sick. She seemed to perk up a little after she ate it, but she was also running a low fever. When I tried to give her another dose of Tylenol, she took a tiny sip and then barfed again (we caught most of it in a bowl because at least we were prepared this time).

She was so pitiful. Just listless and feverish and quiet--basically the opposite of our normally chatty, spirited Zuzu.

David and I did not go to a movie and leave my parents home with two sick babies (although it was a little tempting, and Coco was pretty much her normal happy self except with more snot than usual, Zuzu was just too pitiful). Instead, we both went to bed early on Valentines Day and slept in separate beds--me with the congested baby, him with the barfy toddler. Good times!

It was definitely not the most romantic weekend, but in a twist of good fortune, my school canceled classes today so we're all home for the snow day. Zuzu seems to be feeling better, although she vomited again this morning. (We made it to the bathroom, but she hit the rug and her PJ pants.)

At least this way I have time to catch up on grading and laundry, and I can keep her home tomorrow, too. And hopefully we can keep everyone else healthy!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Ghost Belly: Reflections and Regrets

I have been reading Ghost Belly at the recommendation of a friend. It's well-written and good and interesting and challenging and last night I had to stop because it was breaking the grief wide open and I just don't have the capacity to handle that right now. It's weird to find myself a place where breaking down feels almost... indulgent? (that's not quite the right word)...  but I guess that's where I am. I need to put the book--and my grief--away.

My friend Sarah had a better analogy, which was to say that grief is like a sleeping tiger. We can't afford to wake him up right now because there are so many other things that need attention. Life is hard enough without a tiger on the loose. So we tiptoe around him, trying to pretend he's not there, that his teeth aren't still sharp, that he won't snatch us up should we stumble.

One thing I was struck by in the book (right before I had to put it down last night, actually) is how lovingly the author, Elizabeth Heineman, treated the body of her dead baby. It seemed like such a contrast to my own timid response.

I held Eliza, and touched her hands, and kissed her forehead, but I did so fearfully even more than tenderly. I was scared to touch her. Honestly, I didn't really want to touch her, but I guess I was a little afraid of feeling like a terrible person later if I didn't touch her.

Really, I was afraid of her. I was scared of holding a dead body, even if it was my baby. I was scared of how morbid and terrible it all seemed. I felt like I was someone else watching this scene play out and everything felt awkward and forced, like I was performing these rituals that weren't offering me any comfort whatsoever. I was not caught up in the moment. People talk about how meeting their stillborn baby was both the best and worst but for me it only felt like the worst. I was not overwhelmed with any feelings except sadness and disappointment and guilt.

Don't mistake me--I'm glad now that I did what I did then, but I still didn't really want to do it at the time. I did not marvel over her the way I wish I would have, the way I did her sisters. I did not bathe her (the nurse did that) or dress her (again, our nurse Stephanie, to whom I am so grateful) or measure her size with my hands. I was too worried about how she smelled, too horrified by how her nose kept bleeding. I wanted to know the color of her eyes, but I was too afraid to lift her eyelids.

As new parents, there's a shift when you get used to the way a newborn feels, the surprising combination of heft and lightness. You marvel at the wrinkly skin, and the way it changes in just a few minutes from grayish purplish to rosy and then to (in the case of my caucasian babies) pale. You watch your baby start to stretch and change before your eyes and all of it is so miraculous and awesome in the true sense of the word. I thought Eliza's hands looked weird. (It turns out all my babies' hands look weird! I had no idea! They cute right up--they are just weird at the very beginning.)

But I didn't really know that yet. I had been around a few newborn babies visiting friends, but I'd always held them swaddled up and wearing hats and mostly sleeping. I didn't know that they were always curled up and wrinkly. I didn't understand how much of Eliza's appearance was typical newborn baby and how much was dead baby and so all of it scared me and freaked me out.

The nurses did such a great job of telling me she was beautiful and holding her like it was no big deal she wasn't breathing, but I (her mother!) never could really see past the deadness. I was too shocked and too horrified.

I know I told her I love her, and I know I told her again and again that I was so sorry, but I am quite sure that I did not "mother" her the way I did my other babies.

I've been through enough therapy to know now that I did the best I could at that time. I know that I am allowed to forgive myself for being unprepared and completely freaked out. I believe that Eliza felt our love the whole time she was in my belly. And if I didn't do such a good job of loving her after that...

Well, as I told a friend in a comment on one of her blog posts (which she actually wrote in response to one of my posts, so it was kind of like an actual conversation) I think that everything that happens after the baby is born--the rituals, the photographs, the bathing and dressing--that's for us. It's not for them. We may feel better if we held them for hours, or introduced them to everyone in our family, or dressed them in the clothes they should have worn home from the hospital, or had them christened or blessed or planned a memorial service for them. I personally did not do any of those things except have Eliza blessed by a random chaplain (I wish we had called a minister we knew, but at that time I didn't want to--I think now I didn't want it to be real, and telling someone else like that would have made it real), but I know many people who did those things and are glad they did them.

But I suspect there are also many of us who didn't do the things we wish now we would have. I wonder if I would do things differently now. I know for sure there are some choices I would change without a doubt, but I also know that we were in an impossible situation and we were just trying to keep from completely falling apart. That doesn't change the fact that I have enormous regrets, and I'm still trying to get past some of them.

I admire bereaved parents who were able to process their reality, the horror of the situation, and then go on to make decisions they feel really good about now, who were able to "parent" their baby in a way that I was not. One friend of mine called and had her daughter's Christmas dress brought to the hospital so she could see her in it. That never would have occurred to me. I try to remember that I truly was not able--it's not like I didn't want to, I truly didn't know how I was supposed to parent a dead baby or what I was supposed to do. I had never prepared for this situation. I mostly just wanted to die myself, but I didn't want to make David feel worse so I didn't say that out loud.

When I read Ghost Belly, and read about how she was able to make decisions that other people would find controversial or bizarre, and how she made them unapologetically, for herself and her dead son, not only do I admire her, but I also envy that awareness. I cannot measure up to that. I did not do a good job of anything in regard to parenting Eliza after she was born. The best things I did were at the nurse's suggestion. The worst things I did (or didn't do) were my own ideas, a product of my squeamishness and fear and reluctance to accept the truth that our baby was dead. As though denial would make it all go away.

I had to stop reading Ghost Belly, even though it's lovely and true and good, because it brought those moments in the hospital back to me, and all I could see were my own inadequacies.

Heineman had a living son when she lost her second child, and I wonder if I would have been a different kind of parent to Eliza if I'd already had a living baby. I wonder if I could have loved her not better, but differently, in the hospital. I think maybe I was half afraid of a living newborn baby, so a dead one was simply beyond my capacity for functioning as a mother of any sort.

At any rate, I hope to return to the book someday, but for now I'm trying not to break that grief wide open. I'm trying to put that tiger back to sleep. I'm trying to extend to myself the kind of compassion that I would offer a friend struggling with similar feelings of guilt and failure. I still believe what I wrote in my comment:

Oh, Veronica. I just want to see you and hug you and cry with you. We are all so angry and we all feel so guilty and filled with regret. I do think some people were able to understand what was happening and cope with it faster than I was able to, and I envy them their foresight in doing things that I would later wish I had done.

But you, like me, no matter how guilty and sad we feel, must believe that we did everything that mattered for our babies when it counted. What happened after Alexander died, there were things you could have done that might ease your ache now, that might help YOU. But the baby you'd fallen in love with--he was already gone. There was nothing more you could have done for HIM. He was gone, but in his short, perfect life, he already had everything you could give him--all the love, all the care, all the warmth and the safety. He knew your voice and your laugh and the rhythm of your walk. You were his mama as long as he was here and there's no way you could have done that with more love or joy or care. It's obvious from the way you write about him how much he is loved, how much he is wanted, how much he is missed. I don't know how things really work in life or death or what comes after, but I know that Alexander felt that love while he was with you, and what happened after--those are memories we cling to for comfort (or torture) but they are ours alone. They don't burden our babies. I believe that with every ounce of me.

I DO believe it. But I also think I need to say it in an effort to convince myself. Even if it's true--and I do, actually, really think it's true--my disappointment in myself, for what I failed to do for Eliza after she died and was born, cannot be written away.

I just realized, too, in linking up to those posts that it was really about this time last year that I was struggling with heavy grief in much the same way I am now. I don't really know why--we're past Eliza's birth date and due date and I have never been pregnant in late January or early February. I guess it's something about this cold, dark time of year, when the momentum of resolutions has already started to lull and spring break still seems so far away that I get caught up in regret.

My therapist would prescribe self-care. (Man, I kind of miss meeting with someone a couple times a month who would always promise me that I was doing okay and encourage me to get a massage and meet up with friends and attend a yoga class. No wonder I paid her so much money.)

My version of self-care, for now: Last night, I had a good ugly cry, tried to distract myself with a rerun of Castle, and was actually relieved when Coco fussed in the middle of the night so I had an excuse to get her out of bed and cuddle her.

The thing about these regrets is that there's no fixing them. There's no do-over. We just have to try to redirect our energy and figure out how to put that tiger back to bed. You'd think by now I'd be an expert on this sort of thing. Nope. Still working on it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Holy Moses

Tuesdays and Thursdays are our stay-at-home days this semester, but I usually send Zuzu to school on Tuesdays. This week I have a meeting and an evening event on campus on Thursday, so I kept both girls home today so they could go on Thursday instead. This meant that I had to take Zuzu with me to Coco's six month appointment, so I tried not to freak out about the germs.

As we got ready to go this morning, Zuzu was entertaining herself by carrying her purse and two lunchboxes around the house, packing and unpacking them with toys, blocks, and some random pieces of paper. She tried to insist that she needed to bring all of these accessories to the doctor appointment. I told her to choose one. After much deliberation, she selected the larger lunch box.

Zuzu was toting the lunch box, I was carrying the baby in the car seat, the diaper bag, and my purse, and we were about to head out the door when I realized that I didn't have my rings on. I knew it would drive me nuts to not be wearing them, so I dumped my bags and raced upstairs to grab them.

They weren't in their little dish on my dresser where I put them each night.

They weren't on the bathroom sink, where they sometimes get left if I'm very tired or distracted.

I'd given Coco a bath in the sink last night, but they weren't in the little dish in the kitchen, or on the counter.

Then I remembered that I'd put lotion on her in the living room, and I vaguely remembered removing my rings to do so. But they weren't on the mantle or on a bookshelf or on an end table.

I was feeling vaguely uneasy about this, but I didn't have time to look around further because we were already pushing it in terms of arriving on time for the doctor appointment, so I loaded up the girls and headed out. My hands felt naked and weird on the steering wheel, but I told myself I'd do a thorough search when we got home. I knew I'd had them on last night, so they had to be in the house somewhere.

Coco's appointment went well--she was declared perfectly healthy and was thoroughly enchanted with her own reflection in the mirror. 16 pounds, 25 inches. That means her weight has not quite doubled (she started at 8 pounds 7 ounces, though she was down to 8 pounds when we left the hospital) and she's grown almost 5 inches in six months (starting at 20 1/4"). Isn't that incredible?

Zuzu entertained herself by carrying around her lunchbox and putting stickers in it. She was chatty with the pediatrician but declined to let him help her onto a chair.

After he left, I changed Coco's diaper and Zuzu shouted, "Holy Moses!" when I pulled it off of her even though it was only wet. This has been her exclamation of choice lately, and it always makes me laugh.

The nurse came back in to give Coco her shots and while I held Coco and tried to comfort her, Zuzu proceeded to provide us with a turd that would have actually warranted an exclamation of "Holy Moses!"--a process which added a delightful aroma to the exam room.

The nurse exited quickly (who could blame her) and after I got Coco dressed, settled, and in her car seat, I turned to deal with Zuzu and her diaper situation.

As I lifted Zuzu up onto the table, I heard the lunch box rattling really loudly--like metal on metal. It occurred to me that I had no idea what toys she'd packed in there.

I popped it open to find (1) a breast pump connector and valve (2) a post-it note with notes on it for Act 3 of Hamlet and (3) MY WEDDING RINGS.

Holy Moses she had been walking around with those all morning.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope


When I posted last week about the feeling of isolation that comes with losing a baby, it prompted several e-mails from people who said they had my blog and found it helpful. Some people were on a timeline similar to my loss, some people have had more recent losses. 

I love hearing from people who are reading, but it never fails to surprise me that someone besides my mom and my three loyal commenters are actually out there reading. E-mails and comments from people I don't know I remember that the story I'm telling is, unfortunately, a story that lots of people can relate to. I remember how much I needed to read stories of baby loss written by people who had eventually found their way through the grief, back to some version of themselves that wasn't impossible to live with. 

This idea of desperately needing connection after an event that feels so isolating obviously resonates with people, and in a weird coincidence with timing (or maybe no coincidence at all, since feelings of isolation and connection have obviously been on my mind), I am really excited to announce that I just recently became involved with a project that is all about making connections.

The website Faces of Loss was created in 2010 by Kristin, after the loss of her daughter, Stevie Joy. She created a corner of the internet where women could tell their stories of pregnancy and baby loss and, most importantly, find each other. It's one of the ways that my little tribe came together.

If it sounds like a directory of grief, that's because it is.

But it was also incontrovertible proof that I was not alone in my grief. And that was life-changing.

In the past year or so, the site has not been active, although interest has continued. Submissions were being e-mailed quite regularly for a while, but they weren't getting posted online. When my friend Brandy wanted to recommend the site to someone she knew who had a recent loss, she discovered that the website wasn't being updated. Because it had been such a valuable resource for her after the loss of her son Andrew, she decided to investigate, and I told her that if she would get things going, I'd volunteer to help edit and post submissions.

It turns out that the original team simply didn't have the time or resources to devote to the website, and Kristin was relieved to have people offer to work on a project that she wanted to see continue. So Brandy got a small team together and we are picking up where things were left off in 2012. We have been working to post every single submission that was received between then and now.

We have just now gotten through a significant number of the submissions that were waiting in the queue, and we're now accepting new submissions. Bring 'em on. These are stories that need to be told.

I ordered this shirt (no longer available, though they have other great designs) from To Write Love on Her Arms and I love the reminder.)
I'm really honored to be part of this storytelling process. I have to admit, I wasn't sure what to expect when I started sending out e-mails, asking women who submitted their stories over a year ago if they'd still like to have them posted. I thought maybe they would be annoyed that the stories had been sitting in a queue for so long. I thought (though it seems kind of crazy) that maybe they would have "moved on" and no longer be interested in having the story of their loss put out there on the internet.

But, so far anyway, my e-mails have received positive responses. People are still eager to have their child's story told.

And this shouldn't surprise me. Of course we want our babies to make some mark on this world, the way they made their marks on our lives. Of course we want to put a voice to our suffering. Of course we want to tell our story. We need to hear someone else say, "Me too."

I'm not going to lie--it's not easy to read all these stories as I format the posts to go up. They are heart-wrenching. It's like sometimes I forget that I've lived through this too, because I read these stories of women having to say good-bye to the babies they would willingly have died to protect, and I think, "Oh my gosh, how did she survive?" (How does any of us?)

And I think that's another reason NOT to stay silent. Another reason to Speak Your Truth. Because someone else's life may look easy from the outside, but all those cute, smiling faces on the website are the faces of bereaved mothers. Planet My Baby Died is unfortunately rather well-populated.

Please feel free to spread the word of Faces of Loss as a resource for bereaved parents. If you're on Facebook (I'm still not!), you can "like" our Facebook page here. Many of the women who tell stories also share their e-mail addresses or blog addresses if you want to get in touch with someone whose story that really speaks to you; you can also share the love by leaving comments at the website saying "I'm sorry" or "Me too."

And thanks for reading here, and for (sometimes) letting me know you're out there. Your sympathy, your empathy, your share in our grief and joys, even if I don't know your name, as cheesy as it sounds, I swear that I can feel the love.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Halloween 2015 Preview

I have no idea what the girls' costumes will be, but look for David and me dressed up like this:

photo borrowed from Business Insider

If I keep the breastfeeding going till then, I'll even be able to fill out the beach balls. It will be epic.

And of course David will be the Shark on the Left.