Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ash Wednesday

Dear Lord, I will never, ever, ever complain about my children again. Ok, I probably will, but not for a while at least. I just got home yesterday from 3 days with Caroline in isolation at Seattle Children's Hospital. I didn't expect quite such a visceral illustration of Ash Wednesday to intrude on my life, but that's the way it works sometimes, isn't it? The ashes on the foreheads of some of the parents I saw walking around the hallways seemed a little redundant - like they really needed a reminder of how fragile life is. One man looked at me in the elevator and shook his head with a wry smile: "This place. You're glad it's here, but..." "You'd rather be somewhere else?" I finished, and he nodded tiredly. My own experience seems pretty paltry compared to theirs, but I have definitely had enough of seeing people poke needles and tubes into my little girl. On the night we arrived in the ER with breathing problems and a fever, she had to have a blood draw, a catheter to collect a urine sample, and (the one I really had to sit down for) a spinal tap that took three tries to get done. In order to open up the spaces between her vertebrae, they had to fold her practically in half and hold her there until they got the right spot. When they handed her to me afterward, she looked at me with vacant, cloudy eyes that showed that she had mentally gone somewhere far, far away to deal with everything that had happened to her. I don't think I've ever had a sadder moment in my life.

The diagnosis of RSV meant that we were in a room by ourselves for 3 days. My meals were brought to me, and I spent the days eating, watching TV, sleeping, and rocking her in the chair they found for me. I left the room when Mark and Sam came to visit so I could take Sam to the cafeteria or gift shop to have some time with him. When I wasn't holding Caroline, she spent much of her time in a metal crib, swaddled in two blankets with her little boarded IV arm sticking out at an angle and her oxygen prongs taped to her little face. She went away from me for a day or so, sleeping for almost 24 straight hours while her body fought off the virus, waking up just to eat every few hours (which she thankfully was still doing well), and getting diaper changes. On the second night, the antibiodics they gave her upset her stomach, and she spent most of the night writhing around and fussing, while I rocked her in the chair and nodded off holding her. Finally, on Thursday afternoon she turned the corner, breathing just room air and starting to come back to us. On Friday, she was fully alert and given the ok to go home.

We've been practically giddy having her back and having our family reunited. This was obviously hard on Mark and Sam, too. Mark told me on Thursday that Sam had pointed at a bus on the road and told him that that bus was sad because his mommy was far away. We made up for some lost time this morning by piling on the bed together as a family, reading a book and admiring Caroline. The real reward for me, though, was a moment that we two had by ourselves earlier that morning. She had slept peacefully in her cosleeper for most of the night, but by 6:00 she was fussy and not settling with my usual pats and rubs. So I picked her up and laid her little head on my arm and snuggled down into the bed with her, something I hadn't been able to do for 4 days. She rewarded me with me most gorgeous, peaceful smile before drifting back to sleep. We're all so grateful to have her back.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I'm trying really, really hard to not freak out about the fact that Mark goes back to work on Monday. He's been working from home a few hours and had a few meetings over the last few days, and I'm getting a taste of what it's like to stay at home with two kids. Oh, and did I mention that they're both sick, along with Mark? In true motherhood style, I am the only one that did not get the Horrible Disgusting Cold. Someone has to take care of everyone, after all. So, Caroline is snorting and woofing her way through nursing sessions every few hours, Sam is snotting all over his own face and occasionally wiping it on me, and I am upstairs in Sam's bedroom with both of them, trying to not think about jumping out the window and running down the street.

Ok, it's not that bad all the time. But I got a taste of what venturing out with two kids is like on Saturday while Mark was at a meeting. The weather was nice, so I loaded Caroline in the sling and decided we'd take a walk to Discovery Park. One tantrum later, Sam was happily riding his tricycle down the sidewalk. All was going well - a visit to the playground, running into some friends - when Caroline got hungry. Instead of trying to dash for home, I decided to go to the visitor's center to feed her in the playrooom while Sam entertained himself. Unfortunately, entertaining himself meant dumping sand on the floor, taking another little girl's toy, and eventually whacking her. I, with Caroline in the sling and still nursing, hauled him out into the hallway for his timeout, after which he refused to apologize to the little girl, in spite of my threat that we would be leaving on the spot if he didn't. Time to make good on the threat. So, I hauled him under one arm to the entrance of the visitor's center where a Grand Mal tantrum was had, and I think there was something said about leaving the tricycle here for someone else to have before it was gotten upon and ridden home, crying and trying to turn around the whole way, while I tried to steer it forward with Caroline fussing and crying in the sling. Not really fun, all told.

Along with that, we've had countless tantrums, refusal to use the potty, and (Mark's personal favorite), a dump in the pants. I'm trying really hard to be patient, knowing that he has a lot going on and needs to adjust to not being the baby anymore, but it's taking just about all I have to not list him on E-Bay right now.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Week one

What a week! You know what's funny? The hardest part about all of this is not the lack of sleep (which has not really been that bad this time around), the endless diaper changes, the tantric baby positions designed to eliminate gas, or the nursing and more nursing. The part that has been the most emotionally and physically demanding is helping Sam adjust to his big brotherhood. To be clear, he has mostly been great. Any angst he feels is never directed at the baby. In fact, it's sort of like he's completely clueless that she is the source of what he's feeling. He is so loving with her, I have to keep him from diving in the basket or piling toys all over her. But, I see his stress in other ways. He has been off his feed and occasionally doesn't poop or pee all day, and (my favorite), he seems to have this little voice in his head that says things like, "Don't stab mommy in the foot with that fork. What? Stab mommy in the foot with that fork? What a good idea!" Basically, he seems subconsciously mad at me. I'm a big girl - I can take it - but I feel so bad for him. I have completely turned his world upside down, and he seems completely unaware of the cause beyond that life just doesn't feel right right now and he keeps stabbing me in the foot with forks and getting in trouble for it.

Other than that, I want a hut. I have told Mark that in some cultures women sit in a hut all day and are waited on hand and foot for a month while they recover from childbirth. He's not buying it, and is insisting that I go on these annoying walks every day. Fresh air, blegh. He's making me end this entry so that I can go to the hardware store with him with the promise that I can sit in the car. I mean, I did get to sit at home all day with Caroline while he and Sam went on some odyssey for a dehumidifier, so I suppose I should get out of the house. I lack the energy to be clever about this right now.

Monday, February 9, 2009

She's here!

How things change in just a few days. As I type this, Caroline Francesca is sleeping peacefully in her daddy's arms while Sam snoozes upstairs. I'm sitting here thinking that this is what women mean when they talk about how deliriously happy they are after having a baby. I always assumed they were just on more pain meds than me. Around this time in Sam's life, we were frantically trying to get him to nurse through jaundice while having him on a light bed at home, and I was having frequent crying jags and feelings of total helplessness. This was hardly Sam's fault - The birth had been long and difficult after an induction, and I was dealing with the aftermath of a birth experience that was in many ways the opposite of what I had wanted.

By comparison, Caroline's birth was picture-perfect. We suspected that I was in labor on Thursday night around 6 when I started having regular (but manageable) contractions, and made the call to send Sam to Erik and Laural's house for an overnight visit. We drove to the village and strolled around, popping in Starbucks and Bartells to wander around, me periodically leaning on Mark to breathe through a contraction. We were disappointed when things started to slow down, and we headed home where I planted myself on the bed to watch Grey's Anatomy. As if on cue, at 10 I started shaking, threw up once, and set in to strong contractions. I labored at home for two hours, we headed to the hospital around 12, I got in the tub at 1:15 to ride out about 20 minutes of serious transition contractions and my water finally broke, I felt the urge to push and got back into my room, pushed for 10 minutes, and out she came! It was obviously serious work, but the entire experience was delightfully fast and manageable. As I was getting in position to push, I looked at Mark and the midwife and remember saying, "I can't believe I get to push already!" There's even a picture of me with a big grin on my face between pushing contractions. And when she was finally on my chest, I was overwhelmed with joy.

And since then, she has been a delightful, calm, sweet baby. When she cries, it's this unobtrusive, hey-could-you-help-me-out sound, low and almost musical. She drifts off to sleep easily, and when she is unhappy it's been easy so far to figure out what she wants and how to fix it. Last night, she even let us sleep 4 hours in a row. I know that all of this isn't just her - I know much more now about how to handle a newborn and have much more realistic expectations. But I am overwhelmed with gratitude for everything that has happened over the last few days, for everything that she is, and for everything that our family has come to be through all of this.

Now, Sam...the final piece of this puzzle that is our new family. I will never forget the look on his face when Mark carried him into the hospital room to meet Caroline. He was completely taken with her, wanted to hold her right away, and got mad when Mark took away "his baby." On the way home, Sam and I were waiting for Mark to bring the car around when I looked over and caught Sam gazing at her in the car seat with a look of naked adoration, then he reached out and gently pulled the blanket up to her chin. I thought my heart was going to explode.

She's about to wake up, so I need to wrap this up but will continue later with some more about Sam and Caroline. I'll end by saying that although I'm tired, and although I know that we'll all have our ups and downs in the coming weeks, I never thought I would feel so happy and complete as when I look at all of us together, our new little family.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The next step

I can't believe that I'm a mere 2 days away from my due date. Not that that means anything, other than that I could have the baby in a few hours, or in a few weeks.

As we're on the cusp of adding a new person to our family, I find that I'm getting nostalgic about our sweet little threesome we've had for almost 3 years. A few months ago, I couldn't wait to drop off Sam at preschool so I could go to yoga, write, or grab a cup of coffee by myself. Today, I had plans to go to yoga, but Sam and I were having such a nice time this morning that I decided to forego it and stay at home and play with him. After all, our time is limited.

I always pictured having more than one child, and I still am on board with that plan. But, I also understand how a mom can fall so in love with her one child that it's hard to imagine sharing that love with anyone else on the planet. Our little weekday twosome time of going to the park, the zoo, for walks is all coming to an end. I look at him, though, and I think about the tremendous gift that he's going to be getting in return for this sacrifice. It's a gift he may not always want - learning to be a sibling is going to be tough. But siblinghood is a school for learning life skills he'd never otherwise have an opportunity to learn. He's going to have to share space, share time, be tender, not always get what he wants or get it himself, and how to fight well. And when he fails, he'll know that even though he or his sister may not say it, they love each other. They're stuck with each other. He has no idea that this is coming his way.

Or, maybe he does. He's also been super snuggly lately. Not clingy necessarily, although that's happened to, but huggy and kissy. This is a child who returns hugs but rarely initiates them. He's just always been that way - too busy. Not baby who nestled into me, he'd rather keep his head up and see what was going on around him. Now, it's not unusual for him to walk up to me and wrap his arms around me, head resting on my shoulder. This morning when I was helping him get on the potty he did exactly that, and we stayed there, hugging on the bathroom floor, for almost a minute. Then, in his little stage whisper, he said, "I don't want to let go of you, Mommy." I don't either, Sam.