Friday, December 31, 2010

The Thank You Note

I grew up believing that you write thank you notes when you receive a gift.  You will usually find me, a day or two after a gift is received, sitting at the table, writing a thank you note and  trying to  convey to the giver just how I will use (or have used) their gift or how I will spend the money/giftcard they have so generously given.  The thank you's for the kids' Christmas gifts were mailed yesterday.  My wedding thank you's went out the day after our weekend honeymoon ended...  It's something you can set your watch by; you'll get a thank you from our family and it will be quickly.  It's the way I am.

However, the one person who doesn't get the pen and paper treatment is Peter.  I say thank you, but he doesnt get a handwritten note, perhaps because I know he will see me wearing the earrings or whatever it is he has given.  He will see, first hand, the joy that I have from his thoughtfulness.

But this year... As I end this year, I want it to be different.  And, because a handwritten note might be lost in the shuffle, I'm putting it here... For him to see whenever he may stumble across in his readings.

Thank you, Peter.  Thank you for so much that money can't buy.  And for the things you choose to buy with it.

Thank you for never complaining that $47/month comes out of our account for my YMCA membership.  Thank you for not counting whether I go 3/week in a given month or not at all because I was able to run outside (or just didnt feel like going).

Thank you for giving me a gift certificate to my favorite running store.  For "giving" me a new watch, a reflective vest, and a headband (the things I purchased with the gift certificate).  Thank you for understanding that running shoes have a shorter-than-average lifespan (about 6 months for the type of running I do) and not giving me a hard time for buying new shoes to protect my feet and ankles.

Thank you for supporting my dietary lifestyle change.  Thank you for commenting on how good meals taste, even when I've substituted traditional ingredients to lower calories.  Thank you for snacking on 100 calorie packs with me.  Thank you for being willing to try my baked goods when I replace sugar and for, own your own and without request from me, making the most delicious chocolate chip cookies ever with whole wheat and coconut flours.  Thank you for thinking of me and, when purchasing bread for dinner the other night, choosing the 100 calories "thin" buns versus bigger, more caloric buns.

Thank you for encouraging me to go to the gym and for runs, even when you are tired and would rather not be on "baby duty" alone.  Thank you for seeing my being gone to exercise not as me "leaving" you but instead as you getting to keep me for the long run.  Thank you for caring less about the size of my ass and more about the health of my heart.  Thank you for telling me, even at my heaviest, that I was beautiful- and for meaning it. Thank you for never judging me by my pants size and instead by how tight you could hug me.  Thank you for commenting on how I'm dropping weight (and clothes sizes) and for being as excited as I am when I tell you the new number on the scale.

Thank you for being on the other end of the phone when I am about to meltdown and want to eat the entire candy shelf at the supermarket.  Thank you for not judging me and just listening.  For realizing that there is nothing to "fix" or no advice needed, just your shoulder and your ear.  For saying "It's okay" and "I know you can do this".  For believing that I am strong, and for making me believe it too.

Thank you for supporting my newfound love of races- and for participating with me and with us as a family.  Thank you for encouraging me to sign up for whichever causes/races are important to me, and for never thinking I wont be able to do it.  Thank you for saying "I know you can" when I told you that I want to run 2 half marathons in 2011, both of which will take me out of town and away from you and the kids.

Thank you for telling me that you wanted to surprise me with a special gift when I hit my first weight goal, but that you werent sure if going out to dinner would be a good idea.  Thank you for remembering that goal and for wanting to celebrate it as an achievement.  Thank you for putting thought into a special evening for us, just because I'm getting healthier.

Thank you for believing that I'm not doing this as a means to an end, but that I've made a lifestyle change.  Thank you for believing that, in doing that, WE have made a healthier lifestyle change.  Thank you for being a part of it and not a spectator.

Thank you for loving me and for caring, for wanting my dreams for me and for making them happen with me.  For all that we were and all that we are and all that we will be tomorrow.  I may not give you a note every time- or any time- you do something worthy of a "thank you" but know that I am thankful for you every second of every single day.  You are more than a good husband or father; your are truly a remarkable human being.  And I love you so very much.  So very, very much.

Maya and I, as I end 2010 about 31 pounds lighter

Holding Out

I confess... I've been holding out on you.

This is the post that I wasn't going to write....

I wasn't going to write that my period was late...  That I finally broke down and bought a test when there was no period in sight...  That I saw a faint line...

I wasn't going to write that I made an appointment to have my blood drawn on Tuesday (a few days ago)...  That, on Christmas Eve, I started bleeding and cramping worse than I have in recent memories...  That I knew the pregnancy that had sent me into shock was over before it had even had a chance to really begin...

I wasn't going to write that I went for the blood draw anyway... That the results came in late this afternoon... That the number read to me over the phone showed my beta to be "2"...

I wasn't going to write that, in spite of knowing the risks and how terrifying it would be, that I was already excited about the new possibilities...

I wasn't going to tell you that I was another "urban myth"... That an infertile was unexpectedly expecting...  That, after years of fertility treatments I got "knocked up" the "old fashioned way"...  That I was pregnant for the fourth year in a row.

But I am.  My period has been pretty clockwork, between 28 and 35 days.  After week 5 came and went, I started to let my mind wonder...  What if?  I shrugged it off.  Couldn't be.  Even though I was starting to feel some of my tell-tale signs of feeling sick in the mornings and just an all around "off", I wrote it off.  Finally, at 6 weeks, I picked up a test at the store that would register a beta of 25 or higher.  I didnt even think much of it as I did the deed, since I rarely pick up anything when I pee on a stick.  But as I watched the window turn pink and the faint line appear, I almost fainted in the bathroom.  For a second, I thought I must have done something wrong.  There was no way in hell that I was pregnant.  I mean, I'm infertile.  It's impossible.  For a few moments, I was in utter shock.  I couldnt even breathe.

Peter and I had been discussing growing our family and had decided to no longer purse fertility treatments.  We both agreed that, if I were to get pregnant (unlikely), great, but otherwise, when the kids are a little older, we will go back to adoption and complete that route.  Pregnancies are difficult for me to say the least and there is a huge risk of preterm labor to the baby; it's not something we felt we would go to extraordinary means (and, for us, ovulation induction or IUIs are extraordinary means) for.  I can't lie and say I wasn't a little sad at the idea of never being pregnant again  because, even in the fear and hardship, it is a beautiful thing, but the conversation helped lay to rest the idea of seeing Dr. Lee again.

I've lost over 30 pounds and 4 pant sizes in the last 3 months.  In fact, my TSH levels were through the roof because my metabolism is reved up, and I've had to have my Synthroid increased.  I'm a healthier person than I've been in years and, looking in the mirror (or putting on pants that have a size I havent seen in years) I dont recognize myself at times.  So, in that regard, and in light of my regular menstrual cycles, I suppose pregnancy isn't something that is out in the realm of impossibility.

But, that being said, I thought it was pretty close.

I told Peter about the HPT and that I had scheduled blood work.  Due to the holidays, the earliest I could get in was the Tuesday after Christmas (the Tuesday of this week).  Christmas Eve morning, as I was getting ready to start cooking, I began bleeding.  Bright red.  The type of blood that no one wants to see after a positive pregnancy test.  At first, I tried to tell myself that it wasn't what I thought it was.  But after an hour or so, the intense cramping began, and then I knew.  We both knew.  We tried telling ourselves that maybe the test had been wrong and this was just my period showing up, but the cramping and the heavy bleeding and the pain were the markers of times gone by that we both know too well.  Going for the blood draw, I knew the number would be bad.  I had passed tissue and large clots, and the bleeding had finally began to slow down by Tuesday morning.  When I talked to the nurse yesterday afternoon (is it after midnight already???), I just knew.  She told me she was sorry, but my number was two.  Nonviable...

It's sad but, being an old hat at this, my mind immediately went into "reproductive technology" mode.  Perhaps my lining wasn't thick enough...  Perhaps the baby's chromosomes weren't matched correctly.  Perhaps the fertilized egg was never able to implant, resulting in a chemical pregnancy.  You know... The things that we've been told about miscarriages gone by...  The last semblance of control in a situation that you can't control.

You'd think that with my history I'd know better, but I fell... Hard...  Even though I knew the chances of loss were high, I let myself daydream.  A little girl... With hair darker than her sisters....  With big brown eyes like her daddy...  With ivory skin like her mom...  A little girl with a laugh like windchimes and a smile that warmed the winter snow.   A baby due around her father's birthday...

We've cried about it.  We've held each other.  We've acknowledged the hurt.  And it does hurt.  So much.  Even having only known for a short time, even miscarrying at only around 7 weeks (which means only 5 weeks since conception), it still hurts.  Having Bobby and Maya don't take that away... Understanding the process doesn't make it easier...  It still hurts.  It takes your very soul and crumples it into a ball and then rips it into pieces.

We've decided to call this whisper of hope Grace, or "G" as she'll be known in my sidebar.  When we first talked about having kids, only a few days after we'd met, we had chosen the name Grace.  It didn't feel right for either Sophia or Maya or our brief pregnancy with Zoe, but it felt right this time.  Although we didn't get to hold her in our arms or watch her grow up, we will always hold her in our hearts and our love is timeless.

I'm sorry that I'm not able to call my dear IRL friends or email you directly.  Honestly, I'm still in a fair amount of shock over all of it, and still trying to process it.  Thank you for understanding that blogging it is a much easier, much more cathartic way for me to express how I am feeling.

On that note, Good-bye 2010.  May 2011 bring us all peace and happiness, and endless hope.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Road Less Traveled

Or, perhaps a trail less traveled is more accurate.

In spite of the 37 degree temperature (which is quite balmy when you are in the sun and running), I decided to go for a run.  The kids were napping, Peter was relaxing on his computer, and I laced up and put on one of my new running shirts (thank you, kids!).  I also love to wear Peter's old sweat pants from college.  For a long time, I couldnt fit into them anymore.  But, now that I can, I love wearing them over my base level pants.  They are falling apart and soft from many washes, and they remind me of the boy I fell in love with so long ago...

I headed down our neighborhood toward one of my favorite parks.  And, although I couldnt snap a picture while running, this is close to what I saw.
The trail was covered by snow, but visible through the footprints of the runners before me.  It took me 48 minutes to run 3.4 miles, which is a little slower than my average these days, but it was the most beautiful run I've ever had.  For those moments, I was alone with nature and there was so much peace.

It was beautiful.  Truly beautiful.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bobby and Maya’s 15 Month Evaluation

Prior to their development assessment and at routine times, I usually put together how the kids are doing.  It saves a lot of questions and also gives me a place of "hey, this is going on", where I might otherwise forget.  For 15 months, the following is what I've put together.  I'm sure there is stuff I've forgotten, but I've got to record stuff somewhere!  At their appointment yesterday, the doctor pronounced them perfect and told us that we are addressing Bobby's behaviorial issues in an age appropriate and positive way (and that, thankfully) he will grow out of it soon!!!) :) Both kids are on target for their birth age of 15 months and, although Maya is in the bottom of her birth age percentile in weight, both are on the birth age charts (Bobby's height was 95th!!!).  So, all in all... A great appointment, even if the kids did get 2 booster shots (DPT and HIB).  They have their developmental assessment next week, so we'll see how that goes!

Bobby’s Statistics (as of 12/21/10 check-up)
height: 33.75 in.                
weight: 27 lbs.                   
head circumference: 19.5”

Maya’s Statistics (as of 12/21/10 check-up)
height: 29 in.                      
weight: 19 lbs.                   
head circumference: 18.25”

Standard Eating Schedule
Breakfast: eggs and toast -or- fruit, breakfast bar, maple corn puffs, water (self-feed)
8oz. bottle of milk before a.m. nap (60-90 min)   
beginning Jan. 2011, bottle to be replaced by straw cup
Lunch: cheese or veggie corn puffs, fruit cup (half), string cheese (half), water or juice (self-feed); fruit & vegetable baby food, yogurt (spoon-fed)

8oz. bottle of milk before p.m. nap (60-90 min)   
beginning Jan. 2011, bottle to be replaced by straw cup­
Dinner: cheese or veggie corn puffs, roll, vegetables, water or juice (self-feed); vegetable baby food, custard baby food (spoon-fed)
8oz. bottle of milk with one scoop of rice cereal before bed
  • Bobby and Maya will both hold spoons and sporks, however, their primary eating tools are their fingers
  • Bobby and Maya drink their juice and water from either Camelback Bite-Valve bottles or straw cups

General Notes:
A typical day begins at 6:30-8am with playtime.  Breakfast is normally 8:30-10am, depending on when the children wake up and begin showing “hungry signs”.  Morning nap follows about 90 minutes after breakfast.  During this time, the children have 15-20 minutes of schooling (shapes, colors, letters, numbers), watch an educational program, and play.  After their nap, they play together for 15-30 minutes, until they begin showing “hungry signs”.  After lunch, Bobby and Maya have 15-20 minutes of schooling, watch an educational or religious cartoon, and play.  We may have a visitor, do errands, or visit the library or park (in good weather) during the early afternoon.  Afternoon nap typically begins between 3-4pm and lasts an hour to an hour and a half.  When the children wake, they play, have 15-20 minutes of schooling, and watch an educational cartoon, before their father returns from work (when he plays with them).  We have dinner at the table as a family, and the children eat whatever we are eating (cut into smaller pieces) 90% of the time.  Bobby and Maya attend church services on the weekend, attend 1-2 playgroups a month (weather and health of other participants permitting), and go to restaurants once-twice per month.  Once a week, they visit their grandparents for 5-6 hours.  Bobby and Maya both walk and run, and they sleep in their own beds in their own rooms.  They will, on occasion, help put toys away when directed and shown what to do.    Both enjoy playing on the piano and try to mimic whenever a person plays the keys.  They will both go to the piano to play and sing when no one is playing on it.

Personal Hygiene
Bobby and Maya take baths once per day.  They enjoy bathtime and play for 15 minutes before they are bathed and removed from the tub.  They sit in bath chairs and are in the tub together.  They are both still in diapers (size 5).  Bobby has started patting his bottom when he has a bowel movement, however, no steps to potty train have been started for either child.

Discipline and Behavioral Issues
Overall, both children are well behaved, however Maya is the more laid back of the two.  Bobby will pull hair for no known reason or will pull/push Maya in order to take a toy away from her that he wants.  Maya rarely fights back or tries to take a toy from Bobby, although she will try to manipulate a toy from him (i.e. when he picks up a toy she wants, she will pick up one of his favorites and parade it around until he drops the toy she wants so that she can drop his toy and get hers).  To deal with Bobby’s hair pulling, etc, we have tried smacking his hand and saying “No”, although this did not seem to help.  Our current discipline includes removing him from the situation and forcing him to sit or lay on the floor near us for a preset period of time (30 seconds-1 minute).  After the 3rd offense where this is not working, he is placed in time out in his room.  We talk to him as we take him to his room, explaining the situation and why he is going to time out.  He stays in his room for 1 minute, 2 minutes, or 3 minutes (4th, 5th, 6th offense).  We haven’t had to go beyond 3 minutes thus far.  Maya has been to time out one time for pushing Bobby.  She showed no response to time out and hasn’t been back.  Bobby hasn’t been to time since 12/15 and seems to be moving away from the behavior after the 2nd or 3rd time.    Maya has exhibited some behavior that appears to be a type of masturbation.  She will take a toy and lay it underneath her and roll around on it for several minutes.  Then, she gets up and goes back about her business.  For a while, she was doing this several times a day.  Now, she does it perhaps once-twice a day.  Maya also enjoys chewing on her board books.  When told “No”, she will stop, but after an hour or so, will usually try again.

Verbal Communication
In addition to many non-verbal forms of communication, the children both communicate to their parents and each other.  When they are told it is time for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, they both will walk to the kitchen gate and, once inside, to their chairs.  When told it is time to be changed in X’s room, they will both go to the appropriate room.  When told “No”, they stop their behavior and look in the direction of the parent talking.  (Maya will stop the behavior; Bobby will usually go back to it and needs to be told multiple times.)  When they want to be held, they both can say “Up” and when they want to get down, they can both say “Down”.  When he is thirsty, Bobby will say “Drink”.  Both will tap their trays when they want more food and Maya will smack her lips when she is thirsty.  Maya will routinely mimic what is being said to her.  She will say several sentences based on what is going on.  Some favorites are “It’s raining” and “I did it”.  Bobby will echo a version of “I love you” when he is told that (usually a few times); he also routinely says “I’m done.”  He will also say “again” if you are singing to him or doing something that he likes.  The children routinely communicate to each other in verbal tones that we, as of yet, do not understand.  They also will communicate to us their needs in a way that leads us to believe stronger language skills are on the horizon.  

Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy Solstice!

Here we are, on the cusp of another "new" year as the sun is reborn and the days get longer.  The longest night... the shortest day... a rebirth... a new start.  I spent part of my evening last night with a dear friend and, around our firepit, we talked about some new hopes for the new year and the things that we hope to do and change.  So, today, I thought I'd share a story...

Yesterday morning, before church, I decided to bake a good, old-fashioned, from scratch cake.  I got out my cake flour, chocolate pieces, etc, and got to work poor-man-sifting (i.e. I cant find my sifter so I had to use a colander and do it by hand... over and hour!) and separating eggs.  Joy of Cooking on the counter, I finally had my batter finished, folded in my egg whites, and stuck that bad boy in the oven, a culmination of sweat (not in the cake- I promise!) and hard work.  In between, I'd made breakfast for Peter and the kids, gotten them dressed while he showered, and then, once the cake was in the oven, showered and got dressed myself.  The 30 minute bake time promised by the cookbook left me with no time to spare, since we would need to leave for church RIGHT-THEN.

The timer goes off.  I open the oven.  The cake is not done.  I mean, really, not done.  Like, very VERY wobbly not done.  I gently close the oven.  THIS.IS.NOT.COOL.  I mean, we cant just go to another Mass; Peter is lectoring.  We have to leave.  So, he decides to try and figure out the timer.  It's noisy.  There are some words.  The oven got bumped.  Finally, I open the oven to see if there is any chance that the cake is done... And...


My cake had fallen.

My beautiful bundt, completely collapsed, like a broken balloon.

I can't tell you how much I wanted to just break down and cry.  So much work.  So much love put into that cake.  To have it utterly ruined.

Peter says "Great, then we can just go." Turns off the oven and proceeds to put a kid in the car.  It's all I can do not to sob as I follow suit and we leave.  I dont know what was said at Mass.  I honestly dont remember.  But I do remember liking the homily (which is no surprise; I often like the homilies delivered by Fr. B.)

Sarah and I had our long run, so we actually changed in the church bathroom, Peter took our stuff, and we ran the long way (nearly 6 miles) through 2 towns from our church to home.  When I got there, I took the fallen cake out of the oven and decided to pry it from the pan so I could clean up the crud.  After some coaxing, it turned out and, from upside down, didnt look so bad.

I decided to cut a piece... I mean, it's chocolate cake.  How bad could it really be, right?  And I tasted it... And it tasted like... chocolate cake.  It was good.  Yummy even.  And you couldnt even tell it was so ugly underneath because it was a bundt cake and that part was hidden.  I drizzled the lemon-white chocolate glaze I had made over it.

The ugliness was really beauty, hidden beneath the exterior of what wasn't planned.

What an image of life.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Giving In

Today, I gave in...  I had a brownie (okay, 2 of them).  And some M&Ms (okay, 20 of them).  I really hope my period is on its way (who the hell ever says that????) because I've been craving sugar and salt like nobody's business!   Or, maybe it's because I got up and was on the track at the gym at 6am doing my short run (2 miles) this morning (since the windchill was 5 degrees and the temp was 15 degrees), and I've been starving (and wanting to destroy everything in my pantry!) all day.  I just keep repeating... Tomorrow will be better...

In interesting news, poor Miss Maya got her first black eye today...  She fell (and Bobby fell over her) while playing with a ball and the ball went, you guessed it, right under her left eye.  She's got a light shiner and, although she wailed for a few minutes, she was back in the same corner playing with the same ball five minutes later.  I'm hoping it clears up by Christmas.  I'd hate to have to explain that in the photos!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Reaching Out

Back in September, I wrote about my struggle with my weight and that I was ready to do something about it. I'm happy to report that 2 1/3 months has seen me drop 24.5 pounds and 2 sizes.  I strive to keep my caloric intake around 1700 and work out several times a week and I'm seeing good results.  It's hard, but I'm working at it.  Last night, for whatever reason, it was extra hard.

I went to my fave supermarket to pick up the organic milk that wasn't in at my last shopping trip and, while I was there, I was just overcome by the desire to E-A-T.  I wasn't hungry; I'd just ran almost 2 miles in 28 degree weather and had eaten a delicious meal of gumbo.  I wasn't hungry at all.  I just wanted to buy some milk and odds & ends.  But in the middle of the store, I felt like I absolutely NEEDED chocolate or sugar or something- anything- sweet.  I found myself standing in front of the candy.  Picking it up.  Putting it back.  Picking it up.  No one would ever know, the little voice in my head said.  By a few bars... You've been working so hard- you deserve it.  It would be a reward, not a failure!

How I wanted to listen.  Pick it up.  Put it back.  Pick it up.  Finally, I started reading the calories on them and doing the math in my head.  Looking at the calories... multiplying by the servings... O-M-G-that-is-freaking-insane.  Put it back.  Pick it up.  I dont know how long I was there.  Finally, I checked out with my six gallons of milk and got in the car.  My palms were sweating. My heart was throbbing in my throat.

EAT, the voice yelled.  FAST FOOD.  ANY FOOD.  SWEET.  SALTY.  JUST. E.A.T!!!  It took every ounce of willpower in me to drive passed the drive-through.  I started talking to myself outloud.  "You just ran.  In freezing weather.  You dont want to throw that away on a candy bar or a milk shake.  You've been dropping weight steadily.  You have a goal by Nicholas's birthday.  You dont want to ruin all the hardwork."

But it wasnt working.  I could feel my willpower wavering.  I could find the little demon on my shoulder mentally pointing out all of the possible stops between where I was and home... All the ways I could binge on sugar and salt and more sugar and never get caught (as if anyone other than me looks at my food journaling).  I felt defeated, even though I was fighting the urge.  Finally, I picked up the phone.

Peter answered on the fifth ring, just as I was about to fall apart.  I could hear the babies in the background, echoing his question of where I was.  After I told him my in-route location, I confessed.  "I want to eat.  I'm not hungry, but I just want to eat."  My words stumbled out; tears started to fall.

Shortened to the point, he talked me off the edge.  And, when he needed to hang up, Sarah called me.  (She was at our house, post run, hanging with the babies until my return.)  Before I knew it, I was turning into the driveway.  The urge was still there and how the candy dish beckoned (M&Ms have 11 calories each... I keep that in mind every time I walk by the dish and tell the little demon who assures me that the calories would be balanced by the dark chocolate antioxidants to back the hell off).  I was so jittery that I couldnt sit still.  I felt like a junky in detox.

Sarah reminded me that I keep snacks around for moments such as these.  100 calorie Skinny Cow bars or 60 calorie pudding cups for the sweet needs, 90 or 100 calorie snack packs for the salty needs.  "Have an ice cream bar," she suggested.  "It might help."

And it did.  That first taste was like sweet relief.  Chocolate... Sweet... Ah...

On one hand, I felt like I had failed because I gave in to the desire to eat when I wasn't hungry and when I didn't need another hundred calories to tally.  On the other hand, I was happy that I didnt eat the entire candy section of the supermarket and every gas station I passed in between there and home.  Maybe it's the fact that I'm on CD34 and expecting a visit from AF any day now.  Maybe it's because it was cold and I just wanted a pick me up.  I dont know what it was.  But today, I'm left feeling blah...

I'm disappointed, I think.  I let the desire get the best of me.  10 weeks in this new lifestyle of retraining my body to eat when hungry and not eat just for the hell of it, to take stock of everything I do eat in the hopes that I dont overeat and just nosh until satiated, and I almost lost it.  Over what?  A piece of chocolate?

It's important, I think, to keep snacks around in order to have lower calorie options available, but trying to make sure that they aren't a crutch for my lack of willpower may become a new challenge.  Given, it's only been this one time and (fingers crossed) hopefully it's a passing hormone fluctuation.  But it gave me a lot of food for thought, as I ran 3 miles on the track at my gym tonight.

As insane as it sounds, this entire experience is giving me such a new appreciation of the life cycle of food and how it gets from farm to plate, but also just how lucky we are to have access to so much.  I look back on the years of binging and crash dieting and overeating, and, more than anything else, I find myself being convicted of my selfishness.  So many people struggle for enough to survive; while perhaps my overeating didnt kill anyone, I cant help but wonder how my wastefulness- all for the sake of me-me-me- has impacted the small picture of the world in my life.  Savoring each bite now (because there are so fewer that there used to be), I am reminded constantly of the gratefulness of having them... How many people dont have them.

Losing weight.  Gaining perspective.

**In February, I plan on integrating my weight loss blog, which is currently set to private, into this one, as a page tab.  Honestly, the idea of sharing my weight high is just too much for me right now, but I've promised myself that, once I hit my first BIG goal, it's an important part of the healing process that I share.**

Friday, December 10, 2010

15 months

Bobby and Maya are 15 months old today.  The time has flown by.  It's amazing to think of these two walking, talking people as the tiny peanuts they were when they were born on that warm September night.  15 months...  A lifetime ago, a moment ago.

I remember touching their fragile fingers and, even as I heard "2 pounds", "CPAP", and the beeps of the NICU, all I could think of was how big they were, how strong they were... How they were old enough that something- anything- could be done to help them.  When they were off of their CPAP at less than a week old and taking in my breast milk with ease, I just kept hoping and praying that, one day, I'd be looking at the nearly 20-30 pound toddlers I have here with me now.

They are gently resting in the next rooms.  Sleeping soundly.  Peacefully.  Happy 15 month birthday, my sweets.  Mommy loves you so much.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Community (part 2)

(for part 1)

"It takes a village to raise a child." - African Proverb

I have to admit that I often smile a huge, kool-aid smile inside when someone tells me how well behaved Bobby and Maya are, or that they eat so well, or are so healthy and smart.  I beam when people marvel at my house being clean or that the kids are homeschooled (for that whole hour a day, but let's be honest, learning takes no time off!) or that I have the patience to take them to the library or church or that my homemade meals are delicious.  It's a great boost to my self-esteem; it's prideful, too, I know.  But, I have to be honest, it isn't just me.  It wouldn't get done without others people, my village so-to-speak.

Peter is the most amazing husband and father.  I know that I'm biased (as I should be) but he is.  He gets up in the middle of the night to comfort a teething child.  He rubs my sore shoulders.  His morning starts with snuggling a baby before he gets showered and dressed for work.  I make his breakfast, we eat and share (sometimes the only of the day) quiet time, he takes his lunch (which I've packed), and off he goes.  After working a long day as the sole breadwinner, he comes home, with a smile, to snuggle a baby and hug his wife. Two nights a week, he loses me immediately to the gym; two other nights, to a run.  All four of those nights, I'm gone for at least an hour, sometimes an hour and a half.  He's tired, he's worked all day, and now he's on solo-daddy time.  The kids adore it- and him.  Getting Daddy all to themselves is a highlight of their day.  I get home and he continues playing with the kids until dinner is ready, then we all sit around the table and eat.  One of us bathes the kids while the other straightens the kitchen.  When the day is said and done and the kids are in bed, we usually watch an hour of football or Psych or something we've DVR'ed (Law and Order: SVU? LA? UK?)  His payback for his nonstop day?  He likes to bikeride for a bit on the weekend.  But if it is busy, he stays home and doesnt complain.  He hasnt touched a videogame since we moved and rarely spends more than 5 minutes or so on his computer (when he's not looking something up for me).  He works hard, rarely plays, and usually has a smile on his face.  That's not to say we dont have our moments or disagreements; we do- we're normal.  But when I look at him, I can truly say that our family is blessed.  I am blessed.  When you see a well behaved child in church, see Peter.

Sarah and I have only known each other for about a decade.  We met in church just before she got married, and we clicked.  We were both new to an area, were far from our families, and had few people in our lives.  She's my best friend.  We've been through good times and bads.  Our lives have fell apart, and the other has helped put the pieces back together.  When I was delivered Nicholas, it was Sarah who went back to the house and cleaned up after.  When I came home pregnant with Sophia, it was Sarah who bought bleachable sheets and held me on the couch while the men set our bed up downstairs and I sobbed.  After Alexander was born, it was Sarah who called every single day to make sure that I was out of bed and okay.  When I was pregnant with Bobby and Maya, she visited the hospital (45 minutes from her house) 2-3 (and sometimes more!) times a week, bringing food, a decaf coffee, and craft time.  My room was full of joy and happiness, even when I wasnt able to bring that myself.  She always had a funny story or a to-pass-the-time activity.  All the while, she was going through a divorce.  Ask her about it, and she'll tell you it worked out... That she was able to be there for us in a way she might not have otherwise been able to be.  I dont know too many people who are able to cope with something so traumatic and give so much to someone else.  Since the kids were born, Aunt Sarah is never without lending a hand, whether it is watching kids so dinner can get made or playing with them so I can pee in peace.  She encouraged me when I told her I wanted to run again and we've competed several races together.  And lest I leave out her "voice of reason": she's more than happy to tell me when I'm being a bitch or am out of line (I need an independent voice on that sometimes...)  After work, you'll find her here a few nights a week.  When you see a home-cooked meal on the table, see Sarah.

My in-laws live about 6-7 minutes from us and my MIL usually pops in a few times a week.  Something that Peter suggested after we moved was that I drop the kids off for a day so that I could get stuff done.  Initially, he thought I might have so much spare time I might get to the gym or relax (HA HA) but since it takes me about 6 hours to top-to-bottom clean the house, that was blown from the water!  It took me some convincing, but he said that I shouldnt look at it as time away from me but time with their grandparents.  So, we tried it... And for several weeks, it's worked out well.  Wednesday mornings, usually after their breakfast, I load the kids up and take them to "Uita and Grandpa's" for the day.  They play, nap, eat, and have a good time for about 6 hours, while I swing by the grocery store and then get to work scrubbing away the grime and doing a week's worth of laundry.  Beds get stripped, floors get done, and wood gets dusted and polished.  You wouldnt think it would take so long to clean, but I take the opportunity to scrub toilets and bathtubs and everything else.  At the end of the day, I'm tired, but it's so validating to have a clean space.  During the week, floors may get swept, beds made, and toys are put away at the end of the night, but it's Housework Wednesdays when everything really gets done. In addition, my MIL is always happy to sit in the car with the kids if the weather is bed so that I can run into a store, or to hang with them at home for an hour so I can do a quick errand.  She has no aversion to changing butts or feeding them so that I can escape to the bathroom or just have a quick break.  We dont always agree, but we are there for one another and love one another.  When you see my clean house, see my in-laws.

I could go on and on and on.  From the people who drop off cute outfits they find when they are out to the folks who offer to bring us dinner to the people who hold a baby in church so that we can serve (or just have a break)...  The friends who call just because or email to say hi or post a FB message just because they are thinking of us... They are our community, our family of friends and neighbors (and, in some cases, family members).  I'm fortunate to be the primary caretaker of our children and home, but it isn't just me.  So, if you look around and see something nice, feel free to make the comment- it warms my heart!  But know that, behind that warm heart and smile, there is a village making it all work together.

Community (part 1)

The top 10 reasons I love shopping at Hennings
(also known as "why I drive passed 5 closer supermarkets to go to Hennings")
in no particular order...

1) When I ask if they have the milk (or anything else) I'm looking for, the answer isn't simply "yes" or "no".  It's a reason why and an apology that the milk wont be delivered until the next day, and then a question of if they can help me find something else that might work to tide me over.

2)  That you'll usually hear "X Henning, to the front/ line X/ to X Dept."  That's right... The family still works there.  And they care- a lot- about the experience you are getting at their family market, even though it is now the size of a super market, complete with hot bar, coffee bar, bakery, deli, fish counter, etc.

3) When my kids decide they are done shopping and want to get ancy, I've never once gotten a dirty look. Instead, staff have come up and talked to the kids, played with them, etc, and gotten a smile and laugh where I have failed- often enough to get me through the final 5 minutes of my trip.

4) When I lived within walking distance and would bring my cart down, there were never crazy looks when I said I wanted my groceries under the stroller in lieu of bags.  Instead, the bagger (see #5) would ingeniously figure out how to stuff $150 worth of food in the undercarriage of my stroller.  Once, a kid even offered to walk it home for me (since I had an extra bag to carry) over his break!

5) Baggers.  They still employ the young kids in our community as baggers and cashiers.  (and the not so young kids too!).  I have rarely bagged my own groceries.  And they do a phenomenal job!  No broken eggs, no mashed bread.  You want plastic- you got it.  Paper- sure thing.  Bring your own bags- no problem.  And can I push that out to your car?  Really?  I don't mind...

6) And, if you dont take them up on the offer to take your groceries to your car, there is usually a nice guy ready to take your cart back to store or to help unload your groceries.  Which is a LIFESAVER when it is cold/rainy/windy and you have folks to strap into carseats (or you are alone and just dont want to be cold/wet/blown away).  I've tried to tip and no one has ever taken me up on it.  To me, you unloading my groceries and then taking the cart so that I can hook up two crankopotami in their carseats is worth something extra.  The fact that you think it is part of your job is why I love you so much.

7) If they dont have it, they will get it.  I've asked for some of the craziest vegetarian things and they've always tried to get them.  Sometimes, the things dont sell well and they dont get them in the future (which then they'll actually apologize for!) but sometimes they become staples.  We've got coconut milk ice cream, a variety of faux meats, and a slew of organics.  Other chain super markets (Whole Foods excluded) dont compete.

8) L-O-C-A-L.  We are blessed to be able to go to local farms and dairies, where animals are treated with kindness and slaughtered respectfully; but, if you cant get to the farm yourself, trust that you can pick it up at Hennings.  And for a decent price too!  I've never been happier than when I walk in and see a "grown in Harleysville" or other local town in front of something.  They support local agriculture and dont break your bank to make a profit.

9) It's clean.  Not once have I ever found the store to be nasty or have I passed by produce because it looks like it ran by the best-eaten-by date and kept going.  From the food areas to the bathrooms to the eating areas, the staff take pride in their store and keep it clean.  And, if there is a mess, you can be sure it will be addressed right away.

10) Community.  They employ teens, the disabled, the elderly, and everyone in between.  Every week, they do a discount day for those 60 and over. They are always donating profits to local organizations, like the fire department and community center.  They give free meals from the hot bar to emergency personnel in uniform (and you can usually spot a policeman, EMT, or fireman dropping by for a quick, nutritious, home-cooked meal).  They really care.  It's not just a business- it's THEIR store; it's YOUR store; it's MY store.

Now, this isn't to say that you cant find a good deal at a chain or that a chain market wont have great employees.  But there is something to be said for keeping things in our local communities.  Shopping at our local, small businesses.  Supporting our local farms, dairies, and CSAs.

Right now, in the midst of holiday shopping, we spend, spend, spend, trying to stretch our buck and hitting up mega-stores to make every penny count.  Sometimes, I think, we lose sight of the people behind those low prices.  I love my as much as the next girl, but as I walk through my downtown and see the mom-and-pop shops struggling, I cant help but be convicted by my click-and-ship mentality.

I drive by five closer supermarkets to do a weekly Henning's run.  Even with shopping at Whole Foods, which is closer, for some things (and I love the WF personality, too), I feel like I need to get back and connect with my love of community (even if it is my former community).  I wish that the stores within walking distance had that feel.  They dont, but the one that is closest to it, I keep giving tries, in the hopes that I can find something like we had in our new town as well.  But, until then, I'll keep taking the 15 minute drive to the town next to ours...


Dreams & False Alarms had her twins at 28 weeks!  Go give her some love!!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

One Year Ago...

About a year ago, I took the kids to see Santa at the local mall.
They looked so tiny... I remember "Santa" saying that he'd never seen babies so small and asked if they had just been born.  Imagine his surprise when I said that they were a day shy of three months old (it was Dec 9th).  He wrote it up to their being twins and probably having been born early.  I laughed and said that it was about three months early!  I think the irony was lost of him... That they should have only been days old...  But he was a sweet man and I bought the picture of Bobby and Maya sleeping on him.

And so, this year...  Thursday, I took the kids back to the mall...  To the same Santa...  I dont think he remembered us- but really, who could blame him!  He's a mall Santa!  He sees thousands of kids a year!  And, dutifully, I put the kids in his lap (Okay, so I bribed them with Baby MumMums to sit there).  And we came away with this gem.
Santa hasnt changed... But my goodness- Bobby and Maya sure have.

I have so much to be thankful for this year...  Santa need not put anything else under my tree or in my stocking.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bobby's First TimeOut

Bobby decided to end November with his first timeout.  It's no secret that Peter and I dont believe in spanking (although we do smack hands to get an instant shock of "NO! DONT DO THAT!").  So, today, since Bobby insisted on pulling his sister's hair, I took him to his bedroom and left, closing the gate.  It's a five minute timeout (this is becoming a perpetual issue) and, as he is standing at the gate, whining (no tears crying), it is breaking my heart!  We aren't cry it out people (CIO method) and even though he isnt really crying, it is just killing me!

Update @ 8:15: And lest Maya be left out, she slapped Bobby in the face and got her little hand smacked.  Now that child wailed!  I swear... Drama, Drama, Drama... You'd think we were on the TNT network!!  Law and Order, anyone???

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Happiness Revisited

It's hard for me to imagine that, 2 short years ago, Alexander was born and died five minutes later.  It's even harder for me to realize that, in 2 months, it will be 3 years since Nicholas and Sophia were born and died soon after.  My life... gone.  Fallen apart.  The old me: dead.  Never to return.  Happiness vanished forever.

Or did it?  Could it?  Is happiness so fleeting... so mortal... that it cannot transcend death?  Isn't love stronger than death?  Isn't love the precursor of happiness?

I think we orphaned parents hold to the truth that our lives have been irrevocably changed and are hearts so shattered that we will never be able to go on.  Breathing hurts.  Living hurts.  How could it not?  We are alive, our days go on, while those of our children do not.  We age, one painful second at a time, but they never will, stopped as perpetual X hours/days/year olds.  Dreams ended.  Life- over.

And, for me, I know that whenever someone told me that my grieving should be over, that I should move on, that things were for the best, it just cemented me in my pain more.  Move on?  How does one "move on" from the death of a child?  How?  How could I?

You dont.  I havent.  The world has gone on around me.  The sun comes up and goes down.  Rain causes the earth to grow through her cycles.  But I cant move on.  I cant move beyond the deaths of some of the most important and most loved people in my life.  Nor, do I want to.

But it has become a part of me.  It no longer is about "moving on" or even "going forward".  It is simply about living a full life, the fullest life that I can because, as some remnant of their DNA floats within my body, it is the only life on this earth that continues for them.  It is living a life that results in Bobby and Maya knowing that they are my world... That gives them the life they deserve to have.  One that is full of memories of the past and hope for the future.

The old me died.  How could she not?  And, in that death, she gave birth to a new me... A me that tried to look beyond the fear and hope... A me that died again with Sophia and birthed Alexander's mother, who tried again and tried to believe that lightening wouldnt- couldnt- strike twice.  A woman who died and thought she may stay dead until she found life once again.  And now... This woman who has died and been reborn over and over again.  Who is she?  Who will she be?

She will be happy.

No.  She is happy.

The day before Thanksgiving, I loaded Bobby & Maya into their stroller and we walked to the library, then we did our errands.  And, as I walked through the crisp, fall day, I was slapped by happiness.  I was happy.  I was content.

It was a shocking realization.  And, as we walked, I had such an internal conversation with myself.  "Happy?  You cant be happy.  Your children died."

And I contemplated that.  Yes, they did die.  They will always be dead, in the physical sense, in this world.  I will never get them back to kiss or hug, hold or snuggle.  And that realization beats me into submission time and time again.  It rips the ground from my feet daily.  

But they lived.  They lived within my body.  They lived on this earth, albeit briefly.  They live in my soul and my heart and my memories.  They always will.  And that is a beautiful truth.  Yes, they died.  But they lived!  And that is more important.

And, I have Peter.  My love.  My soulmate.  The guy who smiles when he sees me in the morning.  The guinea pig who lets me test out my recipes on him.  The man who loves me unconditionally and has helped bring our beautiful family into existence.

And, on top of that, I have the privilege of today with Bobby and Maya.  I pray for tomorrow, but I can't dwell on it.  I have today.  And I desperately dont want to lose today because I am too focused on what might be tomorrow.  Those kisses and hugs and laughs... They will only be today for today.  I can't control tomorrow, so why waste my precious today worrying about it?

I will never be the person I was.  And I dont want to be.  That person didnt see joy in the small things.  She didnt see beyond herself in a lot of ways.  She wasnt Nicholas's mother or Sophia's or Alexander's or Bobby's or Maya's mom.  She wasnt the mother to our miscarried babies.  She wasnt... me.  Not the real me.  Not the me you see now.  

I'll also never "get over" being a bereaved parent.  My grief will never just vanish and my pain wont end.  It will always be with me.  I'll always miss them.  And that's okay.  It's a part of me.  And that part of me can find strength and wisdom and peace... and happiness.  True happiness.

I am happy.  Not because of this.  Or because of that.  But just "because".  Because Nicholas, Sophia, Alexander, and their miscarried siblings lived.  Because Bobby and Maya live.  Because Peter and I are not just in love, but love each other.  Because I am.  Because you are. 

I dont know if happiness would have come as this secret gift if Bobby and Maya had died... Or if they'd never been conceived.  I dont know if I'd have come to terms with our infertility if we'd never conceived.  And, thankfully, it's not a road I need to walk down or think about.  I'd like to think that, eventually, I would have found peace with the life I was living.  But, truly, I dont know.

But this life, today.  The one I have.  The person I am.  The mother and wife, daughter and friend I've become.  I'm happy.  It doesnt mean there wont be bad days or arguments or frustrations.  But, in my core, there is joy.

This Advent, the gift came early...  I hope you find something similar wrapped in your heart and that, if that is not your gift at present, that it will be someday soon.

Less Of Me

Back in September, I wrote a post detailing how I'd seen a picture of myself in a dear friend's wedding and how deeply it affected me because, indeed, I had "let myself go" for lack of a better phrase.  I'd let the comments of "You carry your weight well" confuse me into thinking that the fact I was carrying more weight than I should be was okay.  That picture changed my world.  It showed me the cruel, honest truth.  I was overweight.  According to my BMI, I'm not just overweight but had that other dreaded "O" word attached to my weight/height ratio.

I cried.  I beat the floor.  I told Peter how unfair it was.  I mean, I'm a good person.  I have PCOS.  I have a thyroid disorder.  I dont eat "that" much.  Hell, I'm running after babies all day and dont always eat!  Sobbing, I told him how it wasn't my fault.

But it was. Looking at my food life, I could see how drinking my weight in soda, making bad food choices when I did eat, not eating a few times a day, and not controlling portion sizes could do.  And then, there was the support I received here.  People shared their own struggles and what worked for them.  And for those eye openers, I am thankful.  But I am most grateful for being told that I am more than the sum of what has happened to me.

Just because I have PCOS doesnt give me leave to not workout.
Just because I have Hashimoto's doesnt mean I can have another piece of cake.
Just because my children died doesn't give me an open invitation to stand in front of the fridge and eat... and eat... and eat...

Hearing that, realizing it- it changed me.  I'm notorious for not having will power, and yet, these last 2 months have seen me a changed person.  A lesser person.  As of tonight, a 21 pound less person.  And, let me just say, I'm really proud of me.

I traded in my soda for Coke Zero or nothing.  It's my crutch, I realize.  But I wont drink soda except for that, so if I go somewhere and they dont have it, it's water.  And I drink water at home... Just because.  I stopped sweetening my tea and coffee (unless it's something special).  I like it black anyway, so this was just a good thing to get back into.  I started preparing our meals from scratch and calculating the calories in them AND really watching serving sizes.  I looked into lighter versions of foods I eat (like bread).

And I still have chocolate.  In fact, I have Skinny Cow Truffle Bars (100 calories) on speed dial!!  When my throat hurt and I was sick, I had one every single day!   And I still have cake.  In fact, I baked a kickass pear cake tonight that was only 80 calories a slice- and I had one slice.  It was delicious.

I write down what I eat religiously.  I told Peter that I'd have to take some "me" time around meal time to log what I eat.  I do it electronically because that helps me; right now, it's a private blog with no access but for me, but one day, I link it and integrate it into this one.  I'm just not at that place emotionally yet; honestly, my weight bothers me and I'm not ready to come clean with how heavy I let myself get.  But, I've decided that, as of Nicholas's birthday, I will.  I have a goal that is reasonable given my current loss and I think I will feel more ready to share in February.

I work out.  I run three times a week if I can and try to get to yoga once or twice.  I have a schedule up, but if I get to it 3 days in the week, I feel lucky.  (Yoga 2x week, running 3x week).  I walk to my errands; it's getting cold, but if I can and the weather holds, I take the kids out to the library, store, bank, and wherever via my legs and their stroller.  The other day, we did all of our errands by walking.  Sure, it took 90 minutes, but that's okay.  The kids loved the fall day and I got exercise on a day that I otherwise wouldn't have.

And then there is today... I logged a five and a half mile run today...  That's my longest run ever.  As in, in my whole life.  My max had always been about 4 miles when I was fit and in high school.  I beat that recently with Sarah.  But today, on my own, I did this huge milestone for myself.  I mapped out the run through town and just let loose.  I walked a few minutes to warm up, then took off and never looked back and kept a 5mph pace.  To say I am proud of myself is an understatement.

I am still heavy, but it doesnt matter.  Running is an equalizer.  When Sarah and I started training for TexMex at the end of spring, running a mile killed me.  In fact, I dont think we actually ran a mile without taking a couple of walk breaks.  As our mileage has increased, a lot of my being able to do it has been her constant encouragement as we are out.  Today, I was alone.  I prayed, I meditated, I just "was".  And the 5.5 flew by. Really.

I wont win any time trials, but I dont care.  I'm out there.  And it is great.

And, on another great note, my pants have fallen off.  I had to buy the size smaller.  :)  At the end of November, Peter will retake my measurements so I can see how many inches have left me in 2 months, but the 21 pounds?  That's enough for me right now.  I'm thrilled.

The beginning of the journey, at my friend's bridal shower:

Me, as of the day after Thanksgiving:

(What am I eating you ask?  Tonight's dinner was salmon herbed with fresh dill, fresh chives, & freshly grated lemongrass; mushroom & garlic souffle; warm kale & cauliflower salad; and pear cake.  All from scratch.  All never before made.  The salmon is my own creation, but the other three came out of either Vegetarian or The Vegan Table.  Total calories: 930.  While it's higher than my average 750c dinner, there was butter and milk in the souffle, and a large piece of salmon packs about 400c by itself.)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Bobby's First Haircut

Alexander's second birthday was special for a second big reason: Bobby had his first haircut!

Here he was before...

And here he was after!

I saved some of his hair and, even though it broke my heart to see it go, he's such a cutie pie!

(for all his haircut pictures...)

Excellent Blogs for Fertility Support

I'm honored to be a part of Nursing School's top 50 blogs for Fertility Support.  If you haven't already, stop by and see what other blogs they've selected!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Photo Shoot

Last Year...  Both babies, barely home...

This Year...  Settled into our new home...

Happy Thanksgiving. :)

A Breath of Fresh Air

The Fresh Air Fund is an independent, not-for-profit agency that provides free summer vacations to New York City children from low-income communities.  The Fresh Air Fund was established in 1877, and claims to have helped more than 1.7 million children. It programs reach nearly 10,000 children annually. In 2009, 5,000 children visited volunteer host families in suburbs and small town communities across 13 states from Virginia to Maine and Canada; 3,000 children attended five summer camps on a 2,300-acre site in Fishkill, New York; and The Fund’s year-round camping program serves an additional 2,000 young people each year.  In 2008, 75% of the total income of The Fund came from private individuals

I've been asked by the Fresh Air Fund to let you know about the opportunities available to make a difference in the life of a child.  Fresh Air children are boys and girls, six to 18 years old, who live in New York City. Children on first-time visits are six to 12 years old and stay for either one or two weeks. Youngsters who are re-invited by the same family may continue with The Fund through age 18, and many enjoy longer summertime visits, year after year. A visit to the home of a warm and loving volunteer host family can make all the difference in the world to an inner-city child. All it takes to create lifelong memories is laughing in the sunshine and making new friends.  The majority of Fresh Air children are from low-income communities. These are often families without the resources to send their children on summer vacations. Most inner-city youngsters grow up in towering apartment buildings without large, open outdoor play spaces. Concrete playgrounds cannot replace the freedom of running barefoot through the grass or riding bikes down country lanes. 

Maybe you could be a host family or, alternately, donate funds to give these kids a chance to experience a summer vacation they will never forget.

Happy Thanksgiving 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Years in Review

I'm not sure why this year was so much harder than last.  You'd think Alexander's first birthday would have been the hardest, but this year... This year, I felt the need (as you saw) to relive the days leading up to his birth and death.  In some ways, it was cathartic... I was able to accept those feelings, those memories, and let them rest as a piece of myself.  A piece that is at peace.  I am still angry with the initial resident who saw me and the on-call who refused to call Dr. B.  Maybe, just maybe, that would have changed things... But, maybe not.  And, without my life exactly as it was, I never would have experienced my children who followed Alex, Bobby and Maya among them.  And so, in remembering the details, I feel like I am at a place of peace with the events.

Last year, Bobby and Maya had just come home from the hospital, less than 10 days before we celebrated Alexander's first birthday.  We missed his Mass that year because we were still adjusting to the newness of having two infants with us.  We were getting used to the sleep a bit, change diapers, nurse, bottle to supplement, pump, go back to sleep, listen to them breathe, repeat...  We were still learning that we couldnt just allow a few extra minutes to get them ready.  We had the hang of it by the end of the month, but we just couldn't get things together to make the morning Mass being said for him.  Peter's parents went and, although I was glad they were able to be there, to this day, I feel guilty that we weren't.  We took the kids up to Bethlehem and enjoyed taking them on their first real outting.  They were so tiny then... I look back on the pictures of us wearing them in the maetai carriers... My goodness... Tiny.  Their presence took some of the sting out of the pain of not having Alex with us on his first birthday, but this year... This year, we are settled into our life and now... now the hurt hits.

Last year, Peter took the day off work and we took the kids out.  We did something special.  We bought a momento to remember.  This year, since Peter has just changed jobs, he took the morning off for Mass and breakfast, but that was the extent of our celebration.  I came home with the kids and cleaned the house.  Tonight, we picked up a local, organic, free range and humanely killed Thanksgiving turkey from a farm (literally) down the street for the family thanksgiving at Peter's parents.  We picked up some groceries.  We ate Alexander's dinner.  I did make a batch of fresh brownies with Icelandic chocolate (remind me to tell you about THAT sometime!!!) and we sang happy birthday with a candle.  And, on Sunday, we had family over, as has been our custom, for his dinner and a cake (lemon).  But there was no trip somewhere this year.  (Peter did, however, purchase a soft, stuffed cow, which is sitting next to me on the bed.  It's cute and has a sunshine happy face on its chest).

So, suffice it to say, this year was tougher than the last.  It's strange how grief comes at you sometimes.  Something you think you'll handle better than you expect crushes you, while the things you expect to knock you down don't hit nearly as hard...

A special thank you to all who facebooked, emailed, and left comments, remembering Alexander on his birthday, especially Aunt Sarah and Aunt Terri, his godmother.  Your thoughts and care mean so much to us.

Thank you, Leila, for sharing Nicholas, Sophia, and Alexander on your blog.  Thank you for remembering them in your prayers and keeping them close to your heart, especially on Alexander's birthday.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Second Birthday, Alexander

The priest was called and came.  Prayers were said.  We talked and sang and told Alex how much we loved him, that we were happy to have had him with us inside for so long, that we would soon hold him in our arms and kiss him and hug him.  That we were so grateful to be his parents.  That we would miss him very much, but knew that he would be with his big brother and sister in heaven.  We laid down together and took one final nap together.

At around 3:40, I woke up to an intense contraction.  I woke Peter up and we prepared for the final moments of Alexander in the womb.  In a few, breath filled pushes, our little feet-first, breech baby was born.  He kicked and grabbed at the world, finding solace in his father's arms.  We rang for the nurse, while Peter cuddled our son.  As previously discussed when the priest had visited, we asked that she baptize him and let him live his life in his father's arms.  There would be time enough to weigh him, etc, after he had died... We didnt want a moment away from him.

He was baptized and, soon after, his little feet found their rest, his little hands found their peace, and his once active body slipped into a sleep that he wouldn't wake from.  He was weighed and measured; a kind nurse wrapped him in a blanket and, after I had finished delivering, placed him in my arms, and Peter and I rested with him, as a family, as the first rays of sunlight started through the window.  Although the day would have phone calls and visitors, for that moment, it was us, a family, resting together.

After his shift was over, Dr. L. came back.  He apologized for not being able to help us, save honoring our wishes.  Later, when I was on bedrest with Bobby and Maya, Dr. L. once again was covering Dr. B.'s patients and we met again.  He told me that I looked familiar and I said that yes, a little less than a year before, he'd been with me as I delivered my 17 week son.  He nodded and proceeded to tell me what he remembered.  I was shocked that he remembered anything at all, really.  I was just another patient, my son was just another lost child.  But no... He did remember.  And, although I've seen him in his slacks and white coat more than I have any other way, I will always think of him as the doctor who came back to see me in jeans and with his motercycle helmet at his side... The doctor who just wanted to tell us that he was sorry... really sorry.  And to call him if we needed anything.

Our priest came... our new, young priest who we didn't really know all that well...  He came as Alexander was being prepared by the nurse for the undertaker.  He prayed and looked at the pictures the nurses had taken of Alex.  I remember him telling me that he had never seen a baby so young before.  I also remember him telling me that he could see Alexander had my chin.  Things I wont forget... that sentence ever ingrained in my memories of that day.

This passed Sunday, I was cantoring at church.  My dear friend, E, is our music director; she just lost her father.  Her parents are now both awaiting for her on the other side.  And yet, in the midst of this turmoil, she tells me that she prayed for Alexander and was thinking of us.  "He was born on Christ the King," she says...  And he was... Sunday's feast was the feast day of Christ the King; in 2008, it was November 23rd.  "I always remember that..." and I know that she will.  She won't forget... She's like that.  It was all I could do to not break down and cry right then and there.  Because, even though the 23rd is his birthday, it was a Sunday... That particular Sunday...  And, being there, and hearing her words...

That afternoon, we celebrated his 2nd birthday with his grandparents, siblings, and Aunt Sarah.  We ate our tuna sandwiches and tomato soup, then enjoyed some lemon cake.  It's our tradition... their special dinners with family on the weekend nearest their actual birthday... We did the same with Bobby and Maya's birthday party.


Happy Birthday, Alexander.
Two years have passed, although I dont know where the time has gone.  In an instant, my mind can return to your pregnancy and birth, to your kicks and your sweet face.  I miss you so much, my sweet baby boy... my cuddlebug.  I love you even more.
You are always in our hearts.  I hear your laughter in the wind as it blows through the windchimes on the porch.  I see your smile as lights flicker, your mischievous ways inherited, no doubt, from your mother... although I'll never admit that...  Our peacebringer... Our gift... Our Nathaniel Alexander.  Our time on this earth was short, but our time together is unending.
Have a beautiful birthday, my sweet one.  I love you so much.

Monday, November 22, 2010

And then there was blood

I was feeling confident going into November 22, 2008.  The day before had been, well, boring for a pregnant woman who had pPROMed.  By tonight, two years ago, I was happy we'd gotten another day, no worse for wear.  I was drinking a lot of water, wasnt leaking fluid, and could feel Alexander moving around.  I fell asleep, wrapped up in Peter's arms, waiting for the weekend to pass so that I could- fingers crossed- get a cerclage on Monday and carrying Alex through the new year.

I woke up around 11pm, covered in blood.  The bed was covered, my waist and below were covered, Peter was drenched.  I woke him up.  My worst fear was that I'd delivered in my sleep.  Peter quickly discovered that Alexander had not made his entrance, but there were huge clots and I was bleeding pretty terribly.  We rang for the nurse as he changed his bloody clothes.  Our favorite nurse from our time there- the same nurse who would ultimately baptize Alexander before he died- came in and paged the doctor as she set up the doppler.

I willed a sound to come out, but... nothing.  She looked and looked... Nothing.  "I'm sorry," she whispered, but I wouldnt let her go any further.

"He's not dead."  Even though I couldnt feel him moving... even though there was no sound from the machine... I just knew.  He couldn't be dead... He couldn't be.

Our door opened and another nurse, followed by Dr. L., who happened to be a friend of Dr. B. and was covering his patients, came him with an ultrasound machine.  Our nurse explained that she couldnt find Alexander's heartbeat and I tried to hold back a sob as Dr. L. started the ultrasound.

It was black.  I couldn't see a thing... including my cuddlebug.  I was on the verge of a complete meltdown when the doctor pointed and said "There he is, right there.  He's moving... But I dont think we're going to be able to see him too well."  He looked for what seemed like forever before shutting the machine off and, with a pained face, explained what we were facing.

My placenta had started to pull away from my uterus.  Labor was inevitable.  Alexander would be born soon... when was a matter of guessing.  But there was no delaying it any further.  I will never forget the look on his face or the gentleness of his voice as he said "I'm sorry, but there is nothing I can do to stop this."

But then, he said something that I am so thankful for.  Instead of trying to convince us to induce labor or to take medications to ease the birth, he looked at us and said "What can I do to help you?"

This doctor that I didnt know, that I'd never met before that evening, wanted to know how he could help...  Not what he could do from a textbook or how he could administer this drug or that one, but how we thought he could be assist us...  Peter explained to him that we had delivered extremely premature babies before and that we wanted to be as alone as medically safe, that we would deliver naturally and didnt want intervention, since we knew that Alexander's time would be measured in minutes- if we were lucky.  Dr. L understood and told us that he wouldn't bother us unless we rang for him, and advised the nurses to give us our space.

Our nurse asked if we wanted a priest called, which we did, and she left, and then we were alone.  Alone to contemplate the inevitable.  Our son would die.  He would be born only to leave the world.  It is the cruelest of realities... to know that you can't save your child.  To know that you would do anything in the world to do so- that you would die yourself if it meant that they would live- to know that nothing is enough.