Tuesday, December 23, 2008
As of December 19, I officially have a 2-year-old!!! If you're wondering why I haven't posted pics or stories of his party, it's because we are switching to half birthdays while he still doesn't have a concept of birthday parties. Therefore, the celebration will be June 19. It's a good thing too because once again Emerson's birthday brought a blizzard to town!
I'm going to unpack this box last :)
Jabba the Hut:
There is no reason I should be writing this when I have so much to do and my oldest is still asleep, but I feel obligated to explain to those of you that I've been ignoring what has been going on the past few weeks!
The good news is that Fionn is doing much better - still incredibly "high-need" (how's that for a euphemism?), but at least with enough work we can get him to stop crying and occasionally he even gives us big dimply smiles and giggles. When he's in those moods, I remember why I wanted another one. I can't get enough of his sweet-milk smell and nuzzling his enormous cheeks. I don't know why a fat baby is so satisfying, but fat he is.
The bad news is that fat babies or not, these past few weeks have been utter hell! We closed on the house a week after Fionn was born and had a little over a month to finish as many renovations as possible while taking care of two kids and packing the old house. Of course, renovations ran into constant problems, we all got sick with two rounds of a nasty cold (including a case of croup for Emerson that sent him to the emergency room), then Robbie ran into a really stressful time at work, the weekend we were moving Emerson got the stomach flu, followed by me, followed by Robbie - so the move was postponed and we didn't get nearly as much done as we needed. We had to spend every night last week until 2a.m. battling the blizzard conditions to finish packing and cleaning the old house. Now we're finally able to focus on the new house, which is good because I'm going insane trying to entertain a toddler and newborn in the midst of chaotic boxes piled everywhere and half-finished renovations! Don't even get me started on holiday preparations...
So that's our tale of woe. Last Friday was a snow day for the schools and so I watched heavily bundled children tromp through the high snow in the orchard by our house. They had snowball fights and made snow angels and explored the deserted streets. It made me wish I was that age again when lots of snow was a good thing and there was a parent ready with hot soup and dry clothes when you burst through the door at the end of the day.
At least it was a good reminder that people are still out there leading normal lives and having fun. Hopefully someday soon we'll be one of them again! I just have to keep telling myself that underneath all the clutter and to-do lists is a house that will be beautiful and totally ours once we're done.
And as for the boys, each day we get through they are that much closer to self-sufficiency and to playing with each other. A couple of days ago I was sitting next to Emerson and had the baby in my arms. I started making funny faces to get the baby to smile, which made Emerson laugh hysterically too. He leaned in to see the baby's face and the two of them spent a minute or two just smiling at each other. It reminded me of a woman I met right before Fionn was born who had two boys about the same distance apart. I asked her what it was like and she told me, "Just this morning they were hugging each other and it was the sweetest thing I have ever seen....Take a picture of that kind of stuff because it's the only thing that will get you through the rest of the day!"
Boy was she right.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
To make up for my last post, I thought I'd quickly share one of those "kids do the darndest things" stories. The other day I decided to get into the holiday spirit by pulling out my beloved "Disco Duck Christmas" record to play while Emerson and I packed (aka Emerson shredded packing peanuts while I frantically piled books into boxes).
I know you're probably asking yourself why I own a record with the words "duck" and "disco" in the title, but let's just say it's a combination of being a shameless disco fanatic and that the record is a bit of a family heirloom. My older sister literally rocked so hard to this record as a toddler that she fell out of her chair and broke her arm. I spent countless hours choreographing a Christmas dance pageant to this record with my childhood best friend who has since passed away. Every year I dance in the holidays with this timeless music and reminiscence about my childhood. Of course I was born after the disco generation, but I think this record captures the spirit well - it's like Santa on acid wearing tight red polyester pants.
Anyway, ever since I pulled out Disco Duck, Emerson has been asking me (via sign language) to play it again and again every day. He may look like Robbie and be a total daddy's boy, but at least I passed on my disco-lovin' genes. Now I've just got to track down this record for his birthday:
For fun, here's another blogger who reviewed Disco Duck. Although they don't appreciate its fine artistic quality the way I do, it is pretty funny - and includes a free music clip for your listening pleasure.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Little Fionn still has a very old soul demeanor about him so I don't regret his name, but the calm and easy part quickly went away. Here is a break down of our day:
Crying - 75% Eating - 15% Sleeping - 9.99%
Awake and Quiet - 0.01%
He hates the car, the sling, the pacifier, the swing, bathtime, eating, getting dressed, getting his diaper changed...basically anything you do to keep him alive and try to comfort him. He looks up at me with these huge weepy eyes with an expression that says "Why did you bring me to this earth? Why did you rip me out of the comfortable womb?" And in my exhaustion all I can say is "I don't know little man, I just don't know."
I truly thought he would be an easy baby because Emerson was hard in every way except colic. Instead I got a baby with colic. All the research swears that it goes away after 3 months, so if you want a happy post, you should check back in February. In the meantime Happy Holidays to all and to all some peace and quiet.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
After four months of searching and negotiating and crying a lot of frustrated tears, the house-buying process is finally over and the house-owning process had begun. Back four months ago, getting a new house seemed like such a good idea. Nine months ago, having a second baby seemed like such a good idea. Now, as I sit here with both my parents in town to help and still feeling like I'm going to lose my mind, I wonder exactly what we were thinking!
Here's just a snapshot from our days lately: imagine a baby is screaming for food and then proceeds to fill his diaper with poop, meanwhile the toddler who's running around like a maniac fills his diaper with an even more fragrant concoction, then the toilet malfunctions and fills the bathroom with an inch of water, then the previously mentioned baby throws up half of what he recently ate.
Or the scene from this morning when I dared to take a bath and witnessed the following: my mother struggling to dress a newly-bathed and screaming baby who promptly spits up while my father chases the toddler around the house trying to pin him into his highchair to eat breakfast, meanwhile the dog that everyone forgot to feed breakfast gets attention by throwing up bile all over the living room carpet. Add to that flooring estimates and spackling debates and paint samples spread all over the kitchen table and you have an idea of what life is like these days.
I just keep trying to remember how nice it's going to be when all the work is done and I have a house done the way I want and a rhythm to my days with two boys (or at least a survival plan). It will be good, it will be good, it will be good......
Here are some pictures of our new home and our new addition. (Oh, and a big brother update - Emerson will now gently pat his brother's head, "beep" his nose and push him in his baby swing. We're making progress!)
It's a 1948 house on a quiet street about 2 minutes from our current rental:
Our new street:
This is a little late, but I couldn't resist:
Little Fionn...has the weight of the world on his shoulders at 2 weeks old:
Friday, October 31, 2008
Here is the birth story for those who like nitty gritty details (if you've ever been an expecting mom, you can appreciate how important the details are in birth stories!)
As most of our friends and family know, I've been complaining about this pregnancy for some weeks now and was getting hysterical that he might be as overdue as his brother. Yes, I was officially what my friend Kelly calls "a mommy martyr." I thought first pregnancies were supposed to be the hardest, but this baby created pain in places I didn't even know existed, not to mention adding his fair share of new stretch marks and other pregnancy unpleasantries.
For the past couple of weeks, I'd have increasing contractions throughout the day and go to bed convinced that I'd be woken up by full labor. But, like my own personal Groundhog Day, I'd wake up the next morning back at step one.
On Wednesday morning, I was woken up around 8am by a really strong contraction. I was so excited I jumped out of bed and began walking in circles around the living room to keep the contractions coming. After three of four they stopped and I returned to bed more depressed than ever. I felt a few more here and there and generally felt worse than ever before, but I wasn't about to get my hopes up.
By 4pm, I called a local homeopathic store and asked about clary sage oil to help regulate and strengthen contractions. The owner, sensing my desperation, offered to whip up some concoction of oils that help induce labor, including clary sage. Robbie went to pick it up after work, so she showed him the pressure points to use on my ankles and asked him to give feedback on how quickly it worked.
He came home and immediately gave it a try, warning me "to be prepared." He acted as if he was about to launch a rocket, so I asked what the success rate of this stuff supposedly was. He replied, "10 out of 15 women went into labor within 72 hours." I moaned - THREE days?! That was not the reassuring answer I wanted to hear!
Without any other recourse at this point, I told him to give it a try and vowed to move up to something stronger like cohosh the next day. The oil massage did give me a couple strong contractions, but then nadda. Defeated, we went about our night, which included a mini gathering of friends to watch the Obama infomercial. You know you're pregnant when a well-produced political infomercial can make you all misty-eyed! I think Emerson must be a major Obama fan too because the only things he watches on tv are the Daily Show, the Colbert Report, some PBS documentary about Obama and this recent infomercial. He was mesmerized!
But I digress....
After everyone left, we tried the oil again and then got Emerson ready for bed. The contractions started coming....and coming. At close to 10pm, I broke down and started timing them, but they were anywhere from 5 minutes to 20 minutes apart. I would've given up completely except that I started needing Robbie's help with back compressions to get through them (yes, yet another back labor experience for me).
Emerson had taken a ridiculously long and late nap, so it wasn't until close to midnight that Robbie finally got him asleep. While he was in the other room, I turned to the labor necklace that my friends made me for help through the contractions. Women I know from all across the country sent me symbolic beads, so as I kneeled on my hands and knees on the floor trying to rock away the pain, I reached up and gripped the beads to help me focus.
Around 1am, I was still not convinced that I was in true labor, but I decided to give my parents a heads up just in case. My mom answered the phone and I knew that she knew what I was about to say. She couldn't contain her excitement, but I tried to warn her that it could still be hours...maybe even days...of labor, so she'd better go to bed. I knew she wouldn't.
After cutting our conversation short due to another contraction, I began to panic about how long Robbie was taking. On cue, he emerged from the bedroom and came to help me. I turned on some music I had ready for early labor and we rocked in rhythm to help ease the pain and lighten the mood. When a contraction came on and I dropped to the floor, Robbie kept dancing as he gave me back compressions, so I realized he didn't think this was the real deal. "This is getting serious, Robbie," I muttered through gritted teeth. He still didn't believe me.
Only a few minutes later, I told him it was time to get the labor tub ready. I could tell he thought this was ridiculously premature and I knew he was probably right, but something in my gut told me it was time. It's a good thing I listened to that feeling because by the time it was barely at the minimum level, I was ready to get in. I had told him at some point that getting into the tub too early can slow labor, so he was very skeptical about this move. He started timing contractions again to make sure. Despite my inclination to rip the stupid timer out of his hands, I thought "he is being the rational one."
Right before I got into the tub, I told Robbie to call our midwife and give her a heads up. She asked if I was zoned out even between contractions and Robbie said no. She said she would get things ready and wait for a call to come at the point when I was totally zoned out. I knew exactly what point she meant, but I couldn't completely zone out during this labor like I did with Emerson. One of the good things about homebirth is that no one is around to tell you what to do, but the downside is that you have to figure out what to do! The contractions were getting incredibly intense, but as soon as they were over, I started spouting instructions for Robbie to get me soup or a drink or adjust the pool or whatever. At about 2:55, I realized this was too much for us to do alone and I told Robbie to call the midwife - now.
When I was giving birth to Emerson, I didn't want to know how much time was passing or how far I had progressed because I knew I would get discouraged at how slowly things were moving. This time I kept asking for the time so I could reassure myself that enough time had passed and it could be possible I was getting toward the end. I feared that the midwife and apprentice would show up on my command, only to spend 10 more hours waiting for the baby to actually come. I shouldn't have worried.
The apprentice showed up 10 minutes after the phone call and helped Robbie with a sagging part of the pool. I felt ridiculous for calling her, but the contractions were getting faster and more intense. I'd say, "Robbie help!" and drop to my knees in the tub as he ran over for a back compression. I felt as if each one was ripping my back bones in two - like a giant wishbone being pulled apart on Thanksgiving. Robbie is not much of a talker and I couldn't tell him what I needed, so I silently coached myself. "I can't keep doing this for hours more....don't worry, this is the worst it's going to get...I can't handle this pain...you're doing it for the baby, the baby needs you..." At some point I looked up at Robbie in between contractions and said, "What if I have to do this for 10 more hours?" He shook his head and stroked my arms to help me relax. "When you were like this last time, Emerson was born only a couple hours later."
"Are you sure? I wasn't like this the first night I went into labor?"
He laughed. "No way, not even close. It won't be much longer."
I was relieved to hear this.
Ten minutes after the apprentice arrived, the midwife showed up as I was having a contraction and I suddenly felt a convulsion go through my body. I told her I just felt the unmistakable urge to push and she said, "That's fantastic!" I shook my head - clearly she wasn't understanding that this urge was coming way too fast to be real. When I made Robbie call her the first time, I started shaking uncontrollably and felt like I was going to throw up with every contraction - signs of the stage of late labor called "transition." I had ignored these signs because I couldn't possibly move this fast, but the urge to push had me in a panic. I was afraid if I pushed too soon I would inflame my cervix and slow labor, so I begged her to check my dilation ASAP. She said I was a conservative 8cm, but to go ahead and push if I felt like it.
I was relieved to hear I was indeed in transition, but I held back on pushing through the next contraction. She and the apprentice began to prep the oxygen tank just in case and were talking calmly when the next contraction hit. I had to push and there was no longer a line between contractions - it was just pushing. Suddenly I felt his head drop rapidly and I screamed out "He's coming too fast!!"
Everyone rushed to my side as I continued to scream out a play-by-play. "Something popped - I think my water broke...RING OF FIRE, RING OF FIRE!!!" This is phrase some women use for the head crowning and let me tell you - it does not do justice to the true feeling. I remember this as being the only truly hard part of my labor with Emerson, but unfortunately this time it seemed to last forever. I was still panicking, so the midwife told me to stop pushing or do little pushes if I needed to. I tried a couple small pushes, but then thought, "The hell with it - get this kid out of there NOW!" It seemed like an eternity of pain before his head emerged, but in truth I pushed for less than 5 minutes! I rested a minute and then pushed the rest of his body out as Robbie caught him underwater. The midwife called out the time - 3:30am on October 30.
Suddenly I was sitting and Robbie was handing me this cone-headed squirmy thing. Before he was even close enough to see well, I knew.
"He has white hair, doesn't he?"
Someone confirmed this as he came into view. I sat there holding him, stunned that he was there already and that I now had not only two children, but two children with albinism. Part of the reason I wanted a homebirth was so that I could have privacy during this moment of revelation. Everyone was so sure that he would come out with dark hair and the odds certainly favored that, but somehow I knew in my gut that he would have white hair. I didn't know what my reaction to this would be, but I wanted to experience it in private and not have hospital staff bustling around making comments. Now the moment was here and I felt...shock. I knew I was in for a long, hard road, but definitely easier than with Emerson. And I knew that this was the best for Emerson since they would always have each other - someone to understand what they were going through in ways even we as their parents could never understand. A feeling of calm came over me and I started to really take him in.
He peered up at me silently with these giant eyes and his body submerged in the pool. The midwife and apprentice stood back and greeted him and Robbie sat behind me, stroking his head lovingly. I suddenly became aware of how quiet it was compared to the hospital birth with Emerson. "Should we do something?" I asked. "Suction him out, get a blanket, deliver the placenta?"
The midwife shook her head no. "He's perfect just the way he is. Stay there as long as you want." I think by then the water had gotten a little cool and I was feeling unsure of what to do, so the baby began to fuss and cry and I gave the midwife a look that told her it was time to move.
While I gave him his first meal, the women prepped the couch with blankets and towels so we could get out. Then Robbie cut the cord and we made a dash to drier, warmer land. After some standard exams that revealed the baby was 20.5 inches and 8lbs, the women left us alone for our "babymooning."
Amazingly, despite my screaming toward the end and the clanging as the midwife cleaned the house and prepped an herbal bath, Emerson slept through it all in the next room. He stirred a little after they left, but Robbie only had to hand him his bottle and he fell asleep again until 11am!
When Emerson finally padded out of his room in footie pajamas with his white hair sticking up all over his head, it fully hit me that I was now the mother of two! Robbie rushed him over to see the baby and explain that he now has a brother, but Emerson completely ignored the situation and has been doing so ever since. The only time he acknowledges the baby is when he sneezes, which sends Emerson into fits of laughter! Robbie keeps telling him to "kiss the baby" but Emerson replies with "all done" and walks away. I guess no reaction is better than a bad reaction!
I learned the hard way that post-labor pains are worse with each new child, but for the most part recovery has been great. He nursed throughout the night last night but I was able to sleep through most of it, so exhaustion hasn't set in...yet.
We held off on naming the baby to see what name would fit his looks and personality. I think if it were up to Robbie to decide we would've called him "baby" forever, but his first dr.'s appointment today forced us to make up our minds (they don't appreciate filing charts under "baby x"). Despite some creative suggestions from friends and family, we settled on:
(I know, I know….but we live in Ann Arbor where you don’t fit in unless you have a weird name!) We will be calling him Fionn - pronounced “fin.” We would have put that name first, but it just didn't roll off the tongue right. Kepler is after the astronomer Johanne Kepler and Fionn is an Irish name that means "fair-haired" or "bright." It's also the name of the Irish mythological hero Fionn Macool, who gained his name when his hair turned prematurely white.
We chose Fionn over Kepler because so far, this baby seems to have an ancient soul worthy of such a name. Maybe it's just because we've done this before, but he seems so calm and easy compared to Emerson and Emerson was a relatively easy newborn! It's strange, especially considering what a little acrobat he was in the womb. I suppose only time will tell...
Speaking of which, all my "boys" are now awake from their naps, including a still exhausted Robbie, so I'd better go. Happy Halloween to all!
(For fun, here are some comparison pics - Emerson first then Fionn)
Saturday, October 25, 2008
I know that the website just randomly picked two words in my blog and made them into an ad to get people to search their site, but I couldn't help but wonder what kind of money you could make off exhausted parents willing to pay someone to walk their toddlers? I guess it's called a babysitter, but I like the idea of a toddler walker much better. It conjures up an image of a harried woman being pulled down the street by eight energetic toddlers on leashes disguised as teddy bear backpacks. (yet another product I once scoffed at but now totally understand)
Incidentally, I clicked on the ad and there were no actual toddler walkers to be found. Damn.
Anyway, it's three days until the due date and who knows how much longer until this baby joins the world. The past few weeks have been filled with a lot of pain - physical pain from a baby who thinks it's funny to put me into early labor every night and constantly flip somersaults; and mental pain - from our attempt to buy yet another house with mostly disastrous results. Our realtor keeps assuring me it's not usually this hard to buy a house, which leaves me wondering which real estate gods we angered to run into this much trouble. If, and that's a big if, things go well this week, we are set to close on November 7. Hopefully the baby won't decide to make his debut the same day!
Despite all the muck that is house buying and general daily life, I've also had some pretty amazing moments. Two weeks ago, my friends threw me an impromptu "Blessing Way" ceremony to help me prepare for the birth. They gave me symbolic gifts to help me through labor, wrote things that made me laugh and cry (a good cry), gave me a mini spa treatment, and filled me full of decadent goodies. It was exactly what I needed to prepare and so unexpectedly generous in every way.
Then yesterday, during a particularly low moment, I also got another surprise in the form of a card and gift card from a bunch of the NOAH moms. I've only been able to communicate with these women online, but they still reached out to me and did it exactly when I needed it most.
It's funny what parenting can bring into your life. There are moments like the other day when I poured a pitcher full of water over my cereal instead of milk and thought, "pregnancy and children have robbed me of every functioning brain cell." Or yesterday when I was scooping horrid toddler poop out of a diaper (we use cloth) and I thought, "maybe two children is enough - forget my plans of adopting a third!"
But then parenting has also brought many moments of grace. Sometimes it's in the form of Emerson's laughter and goofy antics, sometimes it's in the form of generous friends and family, and sometimes it's just connecting with parts of you that you didn't know existed before.
Every time I go into false labor lately, I'm filled with both excitement and anxiety. I have a feeling we are in for a hard ride ahead with two little ones, but hopefully we will also have twice as many moments of grace to make the trip worthwhile.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
A major chunk of our time has been spent house hunting and we quickly discovered that despite the news stories about desperate sellers giving away cars and properties sitting for months on the market, Ann Arbor is a whole different ballgame. This is the first time in decades that prices in Ann Arbor have come down into the sane range, so we figured now was the time to jump in.
Unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea - houses are selling two days after they are listed and usually at or above list price! We finally found our "dream home" right around the corner from where we currently live (I use quotes because it needs some...ahem...cosmetic work). We tracked it for a month through the foreclosure process and made an offer the day it was listed. Despite the countless showings and interested people, we managed to get our offer accepted before anyone else could move. That sweet victory, however, was followed by defeat when the inspection revealed that the entire foundation needed repair. We've been negotiating with the bank to get them to fix it for us before closing because, oddly, we don't have $40,000 sitting around for basement repair. After a month of this, we are still in limbo.
Just a few short weeks ago I HATED the idea of owning a house, but I started down this road for Robbie's sake. Now I am the obsessed one - watching hours of HGTV and losing sleep because I'm trying to calculate how best to arrange furniture or redesign a kitchen. It's a sickness...truly. I always wondered what possessed my parents to spend half their weekend watching "This Old House" and the other half slaving away on whatever the current house project was. I vowed never to let a wooden box with a roof and front door take over my life in such a way. And yet here I am.
Maybe it's just the ultimate nesting instinct during pregnancy or maybe it's some genetic obsessive compulsive tendencies (I won't say which family member). Maybe it's the fact that we're having a home birth this time around and I was really excited about being in "my place" by the time it happened. Even if we get this current house, we wouldn't close until after the birth at this point, so I am a little disappointed. I can't help but think how amazing it would've been to say to my son someday, "you were born right here in this room." Instead, I will have to drive by a dilapidated rental and say, "you were born in that house in a room where the floor was so slanted that you popped out of the birth canal and then rolled away." Sigh.
Speaking of that son, it's hard to believe the big date is only 5 weeks away! I suppose it could be 7 weeks away, but this baby seems more impatient to get out than Emerson did. In fact, he seems determined to claw and kick his way out at any given moment. As fate would have it, there is a midwives' conference two weeks before my due date and most of the midwives in the state will be hours away. I do have a back up (including a five minute drive to the hospital as a last resort) and I doubt I will go that early, but the situation does feel a little like the set-up for an episode of a sitcom. The kind where the woman goes into labor early and instantly it's an emergency that involves a lot of screaming and a birth in a car or elevator (after a 36-hour labor with Emerson, I realize just how unrealistic those birth scenes are!)
Since this baby is number two as well as another boy, there's really nothing to do to prepare. Nevertheless, my nesting instincts are already kicking in, so I spent all last night gathering birthkit supplies, folding baby clothes and repacking the nursery with tiny diapers. In some ways it's very sentimental, but in other ways I can't help but wonder, "didn't I just pack these clothes away?!" I know two years apart is a common spread, but sometimes I question what the heck we were thinking! (Usually this occurs as I'm bending over my giant belly to pick up my giant toddler for the 100th time that day. Then again when I get up to go to the bathroom for the 100th time that night and I can't move because my back is spasming again!)
Our neighbors just had their first baby a couple weeks ago and hearing about the labor and seeing their adorable bundle brought up a swell of emotions I wasn't ready for. They seem to be adjusting much, much better than we did those first few weeks, but seeing them still reminds me of how hard those times were. Rewarding and amazing, yes, but also hard. I suppose even if the next baby does have albinism, we will be much better prepared for it this time around. But Emerson is also finally at a stage I really love, which only reminds me of the challenges we've had to face to get here...challenges we may have to face all over again.
On the other hand, if this baby does have albinism, I will be happy that Emerson will have someone who knows exactly what he's going through. Assuming they don't kill each other during childhood, I really want them to be lifelong friends. Oh yeah...THAT'S why I'm torturing my body by going through this again so soon after the first one! I knew there was a good reason.
Back to Emerson - he is basically in the terrible twos, but I am having so much fun. He's fully walking now - and running, and spinning in circles, and even doing a fancy backward moonwalk every once in a while. I never get tired of seeing him toddle into a room or explore his surroundings with this new upright perspective. He's still as stubborn and dramatic as ever and his sleeping and eating habits have regressed in some ways (maybe due to the developmental spurts or the baby coming?). But he's also a total ham and constantly making us laugh.
He refuses to say words, yet every time he hands us something or we hand him something, he says "oh thank you" in a sing song voice. None of the actual words are there, but the intonation is unmistakable. He's also taken to crawling into the dog's kennel, hiding toys in strange places, spinning in circles until he falls down, and making "scary" faces when he's wrestling (his eyes get really big, he purses his lips, and he shakes his head with intensity...until he can't hold it anymore and dissolves into laughter).
The other day we were eating at a restaurant with some friends and Emerson was getting ancy toward the end of the meal. Robbie released him from the highchair and one of our friends decided to distract him by dressing him in his wife's puffy black vest with a hood. The vest came all the way to the floor like a cape since Emerson was so small - he ended up looking exactly like Rick Moranis in "Spaceballs." I tried to take a picture, but only got one blurry one since I was laughing so hard that tears were streaming down my face. The outfit itself was funny, but what really got us laughing was the fact that Emerson quickly became aware of the attention he was getting from other people in the restaurant. He decided to play it up by walking very stoically past every table until he was sure everyone had a chance to see his performance. I'm not sure if the waitstaff appreciated the uproar we created, but we left a good tip.
On a much less happy note, my poor family in Utah is dealing with some tough times. My uncle had an aneurysm burst in his brain and he's now in a coma with very poor odds of recovery. It's hard to imagine what my dad must be going through as he watches his younger brother go through this and struggles to help the other siblings. If you've got any spare positive thoughts to spare, please send them westward...
So here we are, plugging along, waiting for news on several fronts and trying to make the most of the time. Thank goodness we have this funny little person to distract us and remind us of what's most important in life....
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Saturday, August 16, 2008
On the walking front, I can (tentatively) say he's a walker! I say tentatively because he's only a walker during specific moods and in specific places, but he's making huge progress nonetheless. Our next major goal is outside so that we can sit and talk with friends during outdoor barbecues while watching him run around, rather than interrupting our conversation every two minutes because we are being dragged up and down the stairs by our toddler.
Since the walking has improved, my theory that other areas would start picking up speed has turned out to be true. He's starting to use more signs and seems genuinely interested in learning new ones. He also started copying us when we say, "uh oh," which seems like such a small thing, but it's actually a good sign that maybe, just maybe, he will take an interest in copying more sounds and eventually...words! Along the same lines of communication, he finally started identifying body parts when we ask. We'd frankly given up on that in the past few months (hey school is out for summer), but then one day he just started doing it!
He's also pointing to what he wants more often, wanting to push his own stroller around, wanting to feed himself with silverware, and in general taking more strides toward independence. Of course, along with all this comes the "terrible twos" syndrome (which is such a misnomer since it's more like 1-3) of wanting to do what they want, when they want, how they want. And if these criteria aren't met - tantrums. It's hard not to laugh at the way he literally throws himself down to the ground, kicking and screaming and burying his head in his hands. Look out Broadway....Emerson is already the master of dramatics!
Hopefully with the baby coming we will have more milestones to report soon. But for now, we can rest assured that our child will grow up knowing where his nose is and how to ask for another cracker. :)
Friday, August 15, 2008
1) No matter how close we get to the arrival of the new baby (and it's coming alarmingly fast this time!), I have yet to be wistful and teary-eyed about Emerson growing up to be the big brother. I don't worry about having enough love for both of them and I don't worry about Emerson feeling misplaced. And yet, pretty much every other mother I know who's having a second child or just had one is feeling this way. Is it because I'm a cold-hearted bitch? Is it because Emerson's developmental delays make the "growing up" part seem painfully slow? Maybe both?
I'm thinking it may be more the former. I think this because I am also not nearly as eager to meet this new baby as I was to meet Emerson. Don't get me wrong, I know this baby will bring our family to new heights of love. I know I won't feel complete until he's safely tucked in my arms and I can't wait to see what he'll look like. But I also know the sleepless nights and hard work ahead!
This morning, Emerson and I slept in until 11am (no matter how hard we try lately, he wants to stay up until 10 or 11 and then sleep in until the same time the next morning). I have to admit, it's been pure heaven and I am soaking up every minute of it because I know it won't last much longer!
Later this afternoon, a man came over to buy a baby monitor I had posted for sale on Craigslist. The moment I opened the door, I could see he was a man on the edge. He explained that he and his wife had a 3 week old daughter who was sleeping horribly and recently came down with a fever to make matters worse. They were hoping this new monitor (the kind that sets off an alarm if your baby stops breathing) would give them the peace of mind to let them rest. I tried to reassure him that it will get easier after the first month of hell, but I conveniently left out the part about how the next 10 or 11 months are only slightly better.
I suppose at least this time around, I have the reassurance that there is indeed light at the end of the tunnel and that most of the time, just surviving is good enough!
2) In the great parental competition, I am just the waterboy. (oh, don't worry - there are many more sports metaphors to come)
When you get pregnant, you start to suspect that parents are very competitive because every one is quick to offer advice and admonishment if you don't see it their way. When you have the child, you are immediately thrown into the ring and must battle it out for "who's child is the most beautiful/healthy/intelligent/coordinated/well-mannered/etc, etc." The way parents vie for their child's position at the top of the heap is sometimes subtle - just an apgar score dropped here or a "she's in the 90th percentile" there. Other times it's more obvious as one parent gloats over a new word their child learned and the next is quick to top it with the full sentence their child said the other day. It happens in playdates and on playgrounds - in coffee shops and church nurseries.
I know this not because I am a top competitor, but because I've watched it from the sidelines. I suppose one upside of having a child with developmental delays is that no one feels the need to compete with you. I've realized lately that I am like the gay friend who gets to come into the dressing room while you change - in other words, not a threat. This means that I not only witness the battles from a safe distance, parents also confide in me what they are thinking about their competitors.
I haven't quite sorted out how to feel about this status. Insulted? Relieved? I suppose at some point Emerson will be caught up to his peers and I will get a taste of what it's like out there. Or maybe the new baby will give me the opportunity sooner than I think. Either way, I should probably make the most of this cushy seat on the bench while I have it.
3) I know most people believe that you are only given what you can handle in life - what you need to teach you important lessons. I also know many parents who believe that each child is born to the perfect parents for them. If this is true for someone, or helps them get through the day, I sincerely support that. For me, however, it just does not hold true.
What is the one quality I struggle with the most? Patience. What is the one quality Emerson puts to the test on a daily basis? Patience. I suppose he is the perfect child to teach me what I need to learn. But I can't believe that was fate because I can't believe that learning a life lesson should be at the expense of a child. I think the perfect parent for a child with special needs - the kind of parent Emerson deserves - is one with enormous amounts of patience and optimism. I can think of many people who exemplify these qualities including my husband, but I am not among them.
I'd like to believe that I can somewhat make up for my deficiencies by the sheer amount of love I can show him. I can do my best to be what he needs at any given time and rest assured that Robbie will pick up where I fall down. But I will never come close to being the perfect parent for him.
The other day, we met up with some friends who just came back from a summer of visiting different meditation retreats. The one friend was confiding that the more she went within herself during these retreats, the more she struggled with the negativity that kept creeping up. At first she felt the need to change it and only be positive all the time, then she realized that maybe it was best to just accept it for what it was. Another friend agreed with her, and added jokingly, "Maybe you should make a t-shirt that says, 'I'm a bitch, but I'm at one with it.'"
I would be the first one to buy this shirt.
I am not a typical parent and I'm nowhere near the perfect parent, but I can be at one with that. Or at least I can try.
Monday, July 28, 2008
The Dairy is one of those quaint local spots that draws regular customers for decades. Every morning, old men gather to discuss how the world is going to hell in a handbasket over steaming cups of coffee and local business people rush in to buy a dozen of their amazing fresh donuts to keep the office workers happy. Every evening, residents of the Old West Side gather to eat ice cream and socialize with their neighbors on the wooden benches outside. It's usually a bustling crowd of giggling teenagers, sweaty kids in soccer uniforms, over-excited dogs and shuffling elderly couples. In short, it is a snapshot of life the way you wish it always was.
Despite the atmosphere, we usually don't linger too long since our dog and child are less than patient at this stage. So, as usual, we got our ice cream, talked with some people we knew for a bit, and then headed home with our cones in hand. We were only about 2 minutes into the walk when my cone suffered some sort of structural damage and dark chocolate ice cream immediately ran out in a stream - right onto my white tank top. It made a lovely brown trail down my enormous pregnant belly, which I proceeded to make even worse by trying to rub it away with a napkin.
There is truly no dignity in motherhood. I spent the rest of the walk home parading my brown-streaked belly for everyone to see (Robbie, bless his heart, did his best to cover me and cross the street when people approached us, but the great weather meant that every other house had a porch full of people watching us). Between laughing at myself and trying to frantically lick up the rest of the melting ice cream that continued to pour down my hands, I got home with a major stomachache and a lot of laundry.
To top off the night, my parents sent me this video from the Salt Lake City Jazz Festival which had me in fits again. The dance move at the end is truly worth watching:
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Monday, July 21, 2008
But when you marry a man after only dating him for two weeks, sometimes you miss a few details. Ok - I can't totally blame it on the short courtship when it was at least partly blind love. He told me his favorite movies were "When Harry Met Sally" and "There's Something About Mary." I just chose to focus on how sweet his first choice was and ignore the second. I also should have known what was coming when he told me his family considers one's poop to be a great source of medical information and therefore they discuss it regularly (no pun intended).
In any case, here I am, the wife of a man who gets endless joy out of horrifying me with typical "guy" humor. For instance, our nephew Alex came to visit from Texas this week and so not only did Robbie spend the entire visit wrestling with him and our little cousin Ricky, I also heard numerous comments from him along the lines of, "I'm going to sit on your face and fart!" Then he would make a farting noise and all the boys, including my only 18-month-old son, would giggle.
People wonder why I am so terrified of having not one - but TWO - sons. Can't they see I am drowning in the testosterone?!
As if the bathroom humor weren't enough, I also have to deal with the real poop deal on a daily basis. Every morning I wake up and start my morning by changing a poopy diaper, yelling at Robbie for leaving a stinky bathroom, scooping dog poop out of the dog's litter box, and trying to find one minute of my own time to elegantly retire to the "abode," which usually ends with Emerson flinging open the bathroom door (it doesn't latch properly) and whining to be picked up. Pretty soon we are going to add to this mix yet another boy who, for at least the first few months of life, will contribute half a dozen more mustard-yellow poopy diapers to a day already brimming with....well, you get the point.
After that, the years stretch out ahead of us, filled with belching competitions, feigned farts and poop jokes. I'll do my best (for the sake of my sons' future spouses) to counterbalance their education with lessons in things like table etiquette, proper cleaning, cooking and gift buying 101.
[Which brings me to a strange side-note. I was looking at reviews of Danish aebleskiver pans the other day - in the hopes of reviving my grandmother's tradition of making them on Christmas morning - when I came across this quote:
"I want to teach my sons how to cook aebleskivers themselves because they will be out on their own soon, and it never hurts to be able to attract a woman who loves Danish delicacies."
I found this immensely humorous for some reason. What does a woman who loves Danish delicacies look like - and do my sons really want to attract her?]
Anyway, I suppose poop and other disgusting things are ingrained somehow in the y chromosome. I once had a boyfriend that I thought would definitely break the stereotype. He was snooty and fastidious all rolled up in an effeminate package - certainly not the sort to tell a bathroom joke or see a Jim Carrey movie. But, alas, even he eventually revealed a secret delight in discussing all things feces.
I guess the point is that I know probably shouldn't be so hard on my husband. I'll still grit my teeth and give him the stink-eye whenever he says or does something nasty, but sooner or later I have to accept my fate. I love him dearly and I will love both our sons just as much....even after they learn to play the national anthem with their armpits.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Each visit has been profound in different ways, but the labyrinth was especially moving for me when it comes to my view of parenting. If you're not familiar with a labyrinth, they are not mazes in that you can't get lost - you follow a winding path to the center while meditating/praying and then follow the path back out again. (see http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/68/Labyrinth_at_Chartres_Cathedral.JPG for a pic of the labyrinth this one was modeled after)
The interesting thing about labyrinths is that everyone uses their own contemplative approach and therefore they interpret the metaphor of walking the path differently. For me it was inward-focused meditation and as I entered the path, I tried to think about what kinds of things I need to "let go" of in my life. It didn't take long for my mind to focus on the pain and frustration of dealing with albinism and how I can approach the possibility of having two young sons with special needs. I know that as Emerson gets older and more aware of the world around him, it's becoming increasingly important for me to approach our family challenges with more strength and optimism.
The thing about the labyrinth path - especially when you walk with a large group of people going at different speeds and in different directions - is that at times it's easy to think that somehow you got turned around and "messed up." Sometimes the path leads you close to the center and you think you're almost done, then suddenly you find yourself on the outer edge again. The hard part is trusting yourself enough to keep walking forward and only focus on what's immediately ahead. This is the second time I've done a labyrinth walk and yet I still had doubts along the way.
What came out of this experience was the realization that in many ways, parenting Emerson is my labyrinth. The parenting path I laid out in my mind before he was born was certainly very simple and clear, but what I got was a path full of twists and turns! I constantly doubt myself and beat myself up for "messing up," but there's no going back. I think the hardest part of our journey so far is that lack of control ...not being able to see where the path is heading.
The labyrinth offered the perfect metaphor for what I've known all along - I need to focus on what's immediately ahead. I should say that I personally don't believe in divine plans or destiny, so in that sense I don't think the way is already laid out. But I do believe that I have to make critical choices: I can choose to move forward resolutely or I can choose to waste time retracing my steps and trying to discern what's coming up.
How I move forward and become a good example for my sons will take a lot more time and reflection and discipline. I probably won't stop writing "depressing" posts (as much as some friends and family wish I would!) because I find this forum to be very therapeutic for myself and other parents of children with albinism who are dealing with similar issues in similar ways. But obviously I still have work to do on my own.
To finally beat this metaphorical horse to death, I just want to recognize that every parent has twists and turns in their path. Some have more than others; some are more obvious or dramatic than others...whatever it looks like, parenting is rarely simple or clear. I'm just glad to have crossed paths with so many amazing parents and wish every one the strength to keep moving forward!
Thursday, June 19, 2008
However, Emerson had a different plan in mind. The night before I left to visit Utah, Robbie decided to give an old trick another try. For a while we could get him to stand for a couple seconds before throwing himself into our arms. Pretty soon he caught on and instead went limp in anticipation, so we eventually gave up trying.
Anyway, Robbie tried it again and to our amazement, he took a couple of steps! We tried more and more, getting a little further apart each time until he was walking the length of the living room!
Robbie and I both said we didn't care if he took his first steps at grandma and grandpa's house when we weren't around - we just wanted him to learn. But after that exciting night, we were glad that he timed this momentous occassion so perfectly.
Since we've been in Utah, grandma and grandpa have worked diligently to take this initial success and make it official, but Emerson can out-stubborn the best of them. Some days he's willing to toddle between outstretched arms for several minutes (earning massive cheers and applause from his audience), other days he employs the totally limp or totally stiff technique along with screaming protests. One step forward, one step back...literally.
Tomorrow afternoon I leave for my week-long intensive class and Emerson will be staying with his grandparents here in Utah. They are determined that he'll practice his walking skills as long as it takes, but for the sake of their sanity I hope they don't work too hard!
Sometimes I get overwhelmed when I think about how hard we have to work to get him to hit every milestone and how many more milestones stretch out ahead of us. I'm trying to adopt the "who cares...he'll do it when he does it" approach, but that laid back attitude is hard to maintain when endless therapists and doctors question you weekly on his progress, what you as parents are doing or not doing, what he should be doing and what we need to do to make it happen. Every few months we get a stack of papers evaluating all his milestones and goals and then listing activities we need to do. It's very helpful to have, but also daunting when most days you're just trying to survive.
I wonder how many parents out there even know that holding three objects at one time is a major cognitive milestone much less know when their child reached this milestone? Their child just does it one day without fanfare or pushing and they blithely move on. Oi...sometimes ignorance truly is bliss!
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
I feel so lucky to have such great neighbors and it's been nice to share pregnancy with close friends this time. (We were the first of our original group of friends to get pregnant the first time, so rather than comparing pregnancy symptoms, they just kept asking me what the heck I was thinking!)
But the other day us preggos got into a discussion about childcare issues and it came up that all of them are eventually either doing part-time or full-time work and putting their kids in daycare. I realized that once all the babies are here, I'll still be the only full-time stay at home mom on the street. Among my 11 "mommy" or "mommy-to-be" friends, only 4 are full-time stay at home, which is amazing when you think about the fact that only 30 years ago nearly every woman in my mother's generation stayed at home!
Don't get me wrong, I certainly don't want to go back to those days. I am so grateful for all the feminists who have worked for generations to give us the choices we enjoy today. And I certainly don't think one childcare arrangement is better than another. It just feels strange to be such an anachronism...and it's a little lonely.
I realize now more than ever how amazing the "baby posse" was when Emerson was first born. It was a group of us that met in our natural childbirth class and we all ended up having boys within a month or two of each other. Every week, no matter how hard it had been, I knew I could look forward to spending a Friday afternoon talking and eating with a group of friends while our little guys did their thing. We compared notes, eased each other's fears, vented about hardships, celebrated the accomplishments, and in general kept each other sane.
After a year, Michigan's economy forced three of the five of them to move to other states, and the other mother returned to work part-time. I still try to get together with her and other part-time working moms I know, but scheduling around naptimes is hard enough without work schedules, so our get-togethers are scattered at best.
There are a couple mom's groups in this area, but the wide age ranges and high number of participants makes it nearly impossible to carry on a meaningful conversation. Not to mention that they are based on a certain parenting theory which, even though I agree with, many of the parents view as dogma. I think parents are too judgmental of each other as it is, so I don't want to sit around and bitch about those "bad" parents who don't follow the parenting theory I espouse.
The importance of being around other moms really hit me last week when we got together with some friends who have a 14-month-old boy. (We don't get to see them much since they live so far away.)
I have to admit, we were SO excited to see them struggling to diaper their son as he writhed and wriggled. The mom confessed that she has been brought to tears of frustration by diaper changes - especially since little boys always try to grab for their poop-covered crotches and then proceed to wipe the mess all over their hair, floor, clothes, etc. I wanted to hug her I was so relieved to learn that I wasn't the only one struggling with this! I kept beating myself up over the fact that a simple diaper change turned into a nuclear disaster almost every day. I figured other parents had it down and there was something wrong with me!
Hopefully just being around my neighbors as all our babies grow together will help in the same way, even if we can't talk for hours on a Friday afternoon. And who knows - maybe another "baby posse" will take form someday? In the meantime, I take comfort in a little bit of trivia I learned recently:
There are times when I feel overwhelmed by the one child I do have, so I try to think about all the tribal women in National Geographic who sling babies on their backs as they work the fields, cook, clean and generally scrape out an existence for their families. If they can do it under those circumstances, what the hell is wrong with me?
Then our neighbors who study monkeys in Ethiopia mentioned that tribal women there not only have the benefits of help from the other mothers in the tribe, they also expect that a young woman will come and live with them to help take care of the children in exchange for room and board. So I guess even the toughest women need some help.
Maybe I should just move to Ethiopia!
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Friday, May 30, 2008
These days I spend a lot of my time being dragged around by Emerson as he practices walking - he directs me by holding on to one finger and I am forced to retrace whatever 20 feet or so of sidewalk/grass he happens to be obsessed with that day. Or we walk around the block while he tries to explore everyone's front porch (he has a thing for stairs) and I desperately try to pull him away from walking up to strangers' houses. The point being that I have way too much time to think about how insipid motherhood can be.
Before Emerson was born, I imagined by this point in his development I would be delighting in the new things he would be learning every day and I would enjoy taking him on excursions to festivals, museums, parades, etc. I would be teaching him sign language and French, showing him to great works of art, and promoting his budding music skills. Instead, I spend my days begging him to walk and talk on his own. Just a single word - doggie, baba, shit for all I care - just any word!! He could care less about the events we take him to, which I'm sure has a lot to do with vision, but I keep hoping at least the colors and sounds and movement will interest him. He'd rather practice walking.
During pregnancy, even hearing the phrase "developmental delays" sent a shiver down my spine, so having it come true has been.....well, in ministry we call it "exploring our learning edges." In life I call it just plain crappy. I have been thinking a lot lately about why this problem bothers me so much - much more than the average person. The psychoanalyst part of me thinks it must be related to my type-A personality and growing up in a state who's mascot is a hive of busy bees. We Utahns still haven't gotten over our Mormon pioneer ethic of achievement and working until you drop (or until the Second-Coming, whichever comes first).
There is another part of it besides my impatient personality, though. A lot of other parents whose children did things early or on-time keep feeding us the same line: Don't worry, he'll be walking/talking before you know it, then you'll look back and wonder why you ever wanted him to do it!
Don't get me wrong - I miss those days when we could stick him on a blanket and he would be happy and stationary just as much as anyone. But I think people don't realize that even though his other areas of development are behind, his cognitive development is not. This means that when he turned 6 or so months old, he had the same drive and frustration about moving independently as his same-age friends. The difference is that his friends mastered crawling within a couple months, while it took him 6 months. The same goes for walking and talking - he's frustrated, we are frustrated, and this has been going on for another 6 months with no immediate end in sight.
Trust me, I have never wanted to go back to his pre-crawling days, and I promise you I will feel the same way when he masters the other major skills!
Ok, enough venting. Although Emerson's progress is not what we hoped, we do try to take comfort in some of the things he has picked up over the past few months. Such as:
- Dancing (this milestone was slow in coming too, but now that he's caught on, he dances to EVERYTHING. His favorite is turning on the clock radio by our bed first thing in the morning and rocking out to 80s-90s music).
- Pretending (with a little pushing, he will now pretend to feed a doll, brush our hair, "share" his crackers with me, etc. Not engaging in pretend play is an autism red flag, so his development in this area has been reassuring).
- Some sign language.
- Fake coughing (he picked this one up out of nowhere. He even covers his mouth ever so politely!)
- Throwing a ball...and anything else he can get airborne (unfortunately he also learned that he can throw objects at the dog's face to get her to leave him alone. We're going to have to work on curbing that one.)
- Climbing on all the furniture (the kid won't stand, but he'll dive head first off a chair!)
- And finally, eating everything in sight.
So we are enjoying these new things and mostly enjoying his very funny, unique personality that shines through more every day. We are going to Utah in another week and grandma and grandpa always get him to do new things, so I'm looking forward to that too.
As frustrated as I get most days, I am doing my best to keep perspective on what's ultimately important: having healthy and happy children. A friend's recent blog post about her nightmare experience in the hospital with an incredibly sick toddler and a dream I had about losing this second baby have reminded me of just how precious life really is.....even if things aren't turning out exactly as you expect them to.
Does anyone know how long cheese can stay out before going bad? I mean, $5 is a lot for muenster!
I'm off to see if the knife ended up in the cheese drawer....
Friday, May 16, 2008
I always figured women's looks went downhill after becoming mothers because they just gave up. Little did I know that it is actually a much slower - and more insidious - process. It begins with pregnancy, when your rapidly changing shape makes it difficult to find anything that fits well, much less be considered fashionable. The first pregnancy I ended up wearing loaned maternity clothes that I never would've been caught dead in otherwise. This time at least hasn't been quite as bad since the new style trend is empire waists and baggy dresses (why all these teenage girls WANT to look pregnant is beyond me). But slowly, and surely, your standards for your wardrobe begin to drop.
Next comes acne, stretch marks, either dry eczema or an oily sheen (pregnancy "glow" my ass!), only the most comfortable shoes, and eventually the ever-sexy waddle walk. When I was pregnant with Emerson, I also scratched my cornea when sand got into my eye. Since pregnancy makes your eyes change shape slightly, but frequently, I have never been able to wear contacts for more than a few hours without them re-scratching the old wound and incurring another infection. Thus came glasses.
After pregnancy your body is still constantly changing shape and reacting to the hormones of breastfeeding, so things don't improve much. Plus you get to add the spit up that decorates every shirt, leaving you smelling like sour milk all day. Not to mention the poop, pee and eventually mashed food that is splattered on your hair and clothes. (For those non-parents out there who think I'm exaggerating, I can assure you that even as I write this, my pj's are sprinkled with yogurt from breakfast and poopy water from when Emerson decided that the bathtub worked just as well as his diaper.)
My one pride and joy is that I do manage to shower and get dressed (eventually) every single day. My hair may go three times longer than it should without a haircut because I ran out of time to make an appointment, and I often get to the end of the day before realizing I forgot to put on makeup, but at least for twenty glorious minutes I am clean.
I have vowed that someday in the far future when this second baby is weaned and my hormone-raging days are officially over (until menopause anyway), I am going to get Lasik surgery, a decent haircut, squeeze myself back into my tightest clothes, put on my most uncomfortable pair of shoes, wear full make-up, and enjoy feeling completely and totally non-motherly.
In the meantime, I'm yet another mother who gave up.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
In the past 16 months of motherhood, I’ve experienced the highest and the lowest moments of my life. I’ve laughed a lot, cried a lot, been overwhelmed with love and been overwhelmed by the urge to scream at the top of my lungs. Through all of this, my understanding and appreciation of my own mother has grown immensely.
I’ve always known I had it pretty good in the parents department, but as my mom has listened to my venting this past year, she has been sympathetic by sharing stories that make Olympic athletes look like wimps.
So to honor my mother this Mother’s Day, I’d like to honor all the things she’s done over the years that don’t typically make it into Hallmark greeting cards:
Like most Utahns (especially in the 70s), my parents got married young and started a family soon after. As mentioned in a previous post, my mom spent much of her pregnancy with my sister either throwing up constantly or lying half-comatose on a pea green bean bag.
My sister was born with lactose intolerance, but since no one knew this back then and no one supported my mom in breastfeeding, the formula caused her to projectile vomit almost every time she ate. She was also constantly crying for three straight months. My mom was determined to be a successful young parent, so the few hours that my sister did sleep, she cooked and cleaned instead of resting herself. She was so frazzled by the time my dad got home from his long hours at work that every night she immediately ran to the local payphone (they lived in an apartment with no phone) to call my grandma crying. My grandmother – being my grandmother – never once offered to help babysit, even though she lived mere minutes away.
When my mom got pregnant with my older brother, she sensed something was wrong early on, but no one would tell her anything (the doctor told my grandmother and they agreed to keep it a secret). My brother was born with a rare recessive genetic disorder called Ellis Van Crefeld syndrome, causing him a variety of health problems. The most extreme was a heart condition that required open-heart surgery at 8 days old. Unfortunately, doctors didn’t know much about anesthesia for babies back then, so he went into shock and passed away during the procedure. As any parents knows or can imagine, there isn’t a word for the kind of pain that comes with losing a child.
A few years later, my mom decided she wanted to have another baby even though she knew there was a 25% chance it would have the syndrome. My father was terrified, but the moment she got pregnant with me, she had an instinct that everything was going to be ok.
My parents now had two kids and only one income, so mom did everything she could to save money. She sewed most of our clothes and handmade many of our gifts; she canned enough food to last until the Second-Coming, she made her own dryer sheets, helped my dad raise rabbits in our backyard for meat and to sell (yes, so illegal and so white-trash); tended a full garden; kept a composting bin; and never bought anything new for herself.
My mom also made sure every holiday and birthday was special for us. Even now that we are adults, my mom still throws joint birthday parties for me and my sister (we were both born in December) complete with homemade invitations, balloons, streamers and our favorite home-cooked meal. For Christmas we always got to decorate home-made gingerbread cookies, leave lettuce out for the reindeer, open stockings full of our favorite treats, and then my exhausted parents loaded up the car with presents so we could make the rounds to all the relatives.
On Thanksgiving she spent days cooking and preparing for the big meal, made little paper turkeys to hold dinner mints and tried her best to run interference with my grandmother. Even on Easter she stayed up all night writing age-appropriate clues, hiding eggs and little presents, and making Easter baskets.
Finally, there were the millions of little things she did every day: she stayed up late gluing together school projects; attended countless (and doubtless painful) softball games, recitals and school plays; she braided hair; shopped for prom dresses; planned vacations; kept the house spotless despite the fact that we teased her mercilessly for being OCD; lost sleep over our bad boyfriend choices; lost sleep over our career choices; and now loses sleep over the grandkids.
I’m not sure how she functioned so well for so many years on so little sleep, but all I can say now is….thanks mom.
Sunday, May 4, 2008
If you haven't already heard the news, we are expecting baby part deux (the final act) early November! Just another month until we find out the gender (think girly thoughts for me), but in the meantime everything has been going well. It seemed every day dragged by with Emerson and we couldn't wait until he was born. This time we know what to expect, so 9 months seems to by flying by WAY too fast!!
I'm about 14.5 weeks right now, but I' m posting a blog from the first trimester. Warning - if you are very squeamish, you might want to skip this!
Like any good parent, my mom provided us with birth control by telling stories about how she spent most of her pregnancies (except with me – I was the good kid) hurling her guts out in unusual places. One story I remember well was when she threw up in a drinking fountain. This gave me the distinct impression that morning sickness, or all day sickness in her case, made you spontaneously throw up with little warning.
So when I got pregnant the first two times, I waited for the onslaught to set in any minute….but it never did. I got a little nauseous and extremely bitchy if I didn’t eat pronto (imagine the girl in the Exorcist), but never so much as a dry heave. I figured I must be one of those lucky women who just don’t get sick during pregnancy.
Or so I thought. This pregnancy has been very different from the beginning. I’m more exhausted than before, achier, I’m expanding at twice the speed, and I’m definitely more nauseous. I’ve only thrown up once, but I wish I could more - just to get temporary relief.
The worse thing for me about being this nauseous is that I become fixated on throwing up. All I can think about are synonyms for throwing up (of which there are many) or I conjure up images and feelings from past experiences. It’s as if I’m trying to push myself over the edge. I remember being sick with the stomach flu once and just lying in bed reenacting over and over the scene from “
My mom has been trying to console me by saying it must be a girl because girls make you sicker. Robbie is trying to freak me out by saying it must be twins (not that twins are bad for patient moms like my friend Bethany, but they would be a bad idea for me!). And I am just trying to focus on the second trimester when it will hopefully come to an end.
In the meantime, I’m off to eat something that won’t make me gag – like the ice cream and jar of olives Robbie just bought me. Good man.
Friday, March 21, 2008
Monday, March 17, 2008
We were handed a huge packet of information on everything to avoid and then given a tutorial on how to use an Epi-Pen during an anaphylaxis attack. I am grateful for modern technology, but the idea of stabbing anything into my son's leg scares the crap out of me! As we prepared to leave the office after an exhausting day, the doctor looked at me and said sincerely, "I'm so sorry."
I couldn't understand all this since no one on either of our families has a history of food allergies. We have a dog and we don't clean compulsively (as much as I wish I could), so there goes the whole "our environments are too clean so our immune systems turn against themselves" theory. We waited the proper amount of time to introduce all his foods. So why a life-threatening allergy for a little boy who already has enough to worry about and set him apart? It was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.
In addition to the albinism and the allergy, I was already worried about Emerson's large delays in pretty much all his milestones. The more I worried and researched possible causes, the more hysterical I became. I cried nearly constantly for a couple of days.
At the height of this emotional breakdown, I took a trip down to the local library. It's become a favorite place for us lately because there is plenty of room for Emerson to explore and other children for him to interact with. This particular day a woman was there with her daughter and a son who turned out to be a few months older than Emerson. We started talking the normal mom chit-chat, then it came out that her son had just started walking at 19 months. She went on to say that he had been born with "some issues" that affected his development. As soon as she said this, I wanted to hug her!
We talked a little more here and there as we chased the kids around, but it eventually came out that they had moved out of state and were only here to catch up with old friends. My hopes of future play dates and learning more about her and her son were dashed - although we exchanged emails. But the gift came toward the end as I was getting Emerson ready to leave. She said, "You know how people always say they would never change anything about their child? I feel that way too - I just wish I could change the way the world views him." I nodded and started to cry again - right in front of this practical stranger. It was just what I needed to hear at that moment.
Later, things did get much better. I talked with Emerson's therapists and they said they didn't see anything that would suggest another serious condition yet, so that was nice to hear. They did agree to increase his speech therapy by having home visits, which has already helped.
I also think Emerson somehow sensed my desperation and has been making more of an effort. The past couple of weeks, he suddenly started clapping and waving (things we have been working on for soooo many months), he's willing to imitate more things (like patting and stomping when we do it, or pretending to brush my hair when I brush his), and he's even experimenting a little with the sign language we've been teaching him. I can't believe this is the same child!
Our life really is the cliche rollercoaster - a steep ascent followed by a gut-wrenching drop followed by another steep ascent. And then there are the loops that turn everything upside down....but I'll save that story for a later post.