Category Archives: Birth

37 weeks, again.

It’s 4AM. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone to bed so early. The words are back and it’s time to write. I owe baby M at least one reflection on my pregnancy.

I tried in the beginning to write, but it was too hard. I felt so sick. Then there were all the uncertainties and school started again and time flew.

Now, 37 weeks, 3 days. The exact point where labor began with her big sister.

It’s not time yet, but things are getting real.

At this point with E, it was all about the future. I dreamed about our adventures to come. I was ready.

With M, it’s about the present. I haven’t had the luxury of so much time. I haven’t laid awake talking to her in the middle of the night. Instead, I’ve worked and taken care of her sister and tried to take care of myself. I’ve folded all her clothes and gotten all the gear ready. I’ve done my best to prepare E for what’s to come. But, still, I haven’t figured out how to slow down and be fully present.

There have been moments. Like when we got to see her face by surprise during a growth scan. Her lips and expressions somehow mirroring her big sister’s. I cried and she was real. Of course, I feel her all the time. Her little knees and feet and elbows skimming across the right side of my belly, her body head down but turned toward my right. The day we found out she was a girl was surreal. Sisters. Of course, I’d thought she was a boy because of how sick I’d felt all summer, different than with her big sister.

Everything has been different. At our first doctor’s appointment we learned her due date was way off and held our breath for two weeks until we could return again to find a heartbeat. Then we discovered a possible challenge with her placenta. So far everything has been alright, which has taught me to take a google search of any diagnosis with a grain of salt. Mix in an extra crazy world and wow, this baby is brave.

Since the beginning, I’ve told her it’s by the grace of God she joins us. We hadn’t planned so soon, but still she’s a wished-for child. Two sentiments reflected perfectly in her name, or at least in the name we hold for her until our eyes meet and we know for sure.

Miriam Grace.

Two.

12842543_10104252860195903_1581912007_oLittle feet hit hard against my knees.

When did she get so long?

She screams as I press her tight against me. Memories of colic flooding back. Now she’s bigger and I know it will stop within minutes instead of hours. Still, night terrors bring all the same feelings back. Please. Make. It. Stop. Please.

Two years, today.

I’ve revisited each moment of anticipation for the past week. Going into the hospital to get checked. Sleeping every afternoon to build strength for the nightly contractions. Returning to the hospital again. An entire family anxious in the waiting room. And, finally, at 8:27 this morning, the moment when she was handed to me and everything changed.

Two years.

Everything is Thomas the Train now, even the little boy undies she’d prefer to wear outside. Obligatory morning hugs for her “grumpy” dogs. “I missed you” breaking and healing my heart simultaneously. Embraces worthy of a luchador, making me a little sorry for those maybe not-so-grumpy dogs. Wash everything, hands and blankies, but never teeth. “Mine” for all things she wants and “yours” for all things she doesn’t. The sweetest sleeping face I’ve ever seen, legs that seem to reach for the far end of the bed, or more often her dad’s face.

My growing girl. My little love. Sometimes I still can’t believe you’re real.

 

Two.

September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month

I will remember the night we spent in the pediatric wing of our local hospital for the rest of my life. E was just 4 days old and her jaundice had reached the highest level her pediatrician had ever treated. Not the best thing to tell first-time parents.

Even though we were reassured everything would be alright, my heart was ripped open. Here I was a mess of post-partum hormones being told I wouldn’t be able to hold my newborn baby while she cried in the glow of an artificial blue light. The nurses must have thought I was crazy. My tears just wouldn’t stop.

As I tried to settle into my fold-out chair for the night, my body still cramping in post-delivery discomfort, the sound of an emergency chime kept ringing in the hallway. Children in much worse states than my little girl needed immediate help. Quick footsteps and rushed voices repeated throughout the night. The urgency was palpable.

At some point in the early hours of the morning, worried about E’s persistence in peeling off her protective eye wear, I stumbled into the hallway in search of tape. The corridor was empty. Determined to find what I needed, I headed for the nurse’s station, but open doors caught my eye.

One stuck with me. The sock-covered feet of a mother who lay beside a crib, the room decorated with all kinds of items from home. These people lived in the hospital. A long-time patient, something seriously wrong. Suddenly my night of not being able to hold my baby became trivial.

It’s hard to think about sick kids but they’ve been on my mind a lot this week. A friend is raising money for a volunteer-run organization that directly funds innovative pediatric cancer research. Her friend lost her six-year-old daughter to a brain tumor.

After watching the video below, I couldn’t get the girl out of my thoughts. Her smiling, happy face. Her dancing in the midst of such darkness. Her mom wishing for just a couple more normal days filled with simple time together around the house.

September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month. Four days left. If you’d like to donate to the organization my friend volunteers for, click here. I already did and am also giving 10 busy bags to our local hospital. If you’d like to send me with more bags to keep sick kids busy, click here.

And, if nothing else, take this post as a reminder to appreciate the people you care about. Laugh and play. Love and gratitude. Simple enough.

Why Hello, Mama Tiger

Keeping another person alive, happy, and healthy can sometimes feel like a daunting task!
Keeping another person alive, happy, and healthy can sometimes feel like a daunting task!

Yesterday I got angry. I’m not sure how I reacted on the outside, but inside I was a ferocious beast. I left E in a supervised care area at a business that shall go unnamed and let’s just say she was less than supervised. I came back to her crying as popcorn was pulled from her mouth. Another child had fed her. There were only three children total in the space. She does not have molars and could have choked.

This should not have happened.

In retrospect, everything was fine. She lived. I lived. All good. But the experience got me thinking about the times parents lost their cool with me as a teacher, as well as the times they didn’t. I once had a kid electrocute himself without anyone getting angry, (granted he was in fourth grade and old enough to know better than to stick a paperclip in a socket). I also gave the Heimlich maneuver twice, (again, these kids had the appropriate teeth), but still those parents remained calm.

Maybe it comes with more practice.

Then again, there were all the parents who didn’t keep their cool about everything from grades to having to sit criss-cross-applesauce at the carpet. Oddly, I kind of get it. I used to take it personally, but now I realize they felt their children were in some way threatened. Our basic instinct is to respond emotionally when it comes to protecting our children. If I ever return to the classroom, I will be more understanding.

Speaking of which, teachers really do deserve more credit. They have to keep 30ish kids safe all day while also teaching each child at his or her individual level. That’s a HUGE job. Add in the scrutiny of rightfully-protective parents and WHOA. Talk about pressure. Makes me want to give all the teachers I know a hug, (and a raise).

So, this afternoon, I’m thankful for a lot of things. E is fine. I met my inner Mama Tiger and have a better understanding of both what it means to be a parent and to take care of other people’s kids. Turns out both jobs can be pretty intense. Thank goodness they are also rewarding.

“When are you going to stop breastfeeding?”

This picture is a throwback to when she was tiny and I was comfortable nursing in public... It's already starting to feel weird, which doesn't seem right to me.
This picture is a throwback to when I was comfortable nursing in public… It’s already starting to feel weird, which doesn’t seem right to me.

Parenting is filled with a lot of pesky questions. If you assume positive intent, most inquiries are well-meaning attempts at conversation. Still, when you start to get the same question over and over, it can begin to feel like societal pressure.

Like the ludicrous question everyone starts asking before your first baby is even crawling, “When are you going to have a second kid?”

Or, my current favorite, “When are you going to stop breastfeeding?”

This question seems to skyrocket around the one-year mark. And, I get it. Before I had E, my goal was to nurse for a year. However, with 12 months already gone, I am not ready to stop and neither is she. Accordingly, I started doing a little research to support my desire to continue and as it turns out, there are plenty of good reasons to keep nursing:

  • Breast milk passes immunities from mother to child, in many cases shortening the duration of illnesses. Likewise, breast milk is easier for sick kids to keep down than solids or cow’s milk.
  • Breast milk supplements the nutrition received from a toddler’s diet with good fats and vitamins, contributing to better overall health and higher intelligence levels.
  • Breastfeeding supports a special bond between mother and child, creating quiet time for both and helping to ease emotional challenges, such as tantrums. For me, the need to be still for 10-15 minutes a few times a day is like being forced to meditate. Sometimes I fight it, but the end result is centering in a world that rarely stops moving.
  • Premature weaning can be confusing and even traumatic for emotional toddlers who have depended on nursing for comfort, leading to more challenging behaviors as they struggle to establish other soothing methods, (although this obviously varies greatly by child).
  • Extended breastfeeding has been shown to decrease multiple long-term health risks for mom, including breast cancer.

I know there are additional arguments, but this list was reassuring enough for me. What I really don’t understand, is why nursing beyond one year is referred to as “extended” breastfeeding when the worldwide average is somewhere between two and four years with some cultures continuing even longer. The fact that this conversation continues to happen in the media and comment streams are filled with “disgusted” bystanders just goes to show how uncomfortable we still are as a society with such a basic, natural act.

On the same token, however, I also get why breastfeeding past one (or even to one) is not for all moms. When I started to ask around in my mom groups, I found moms breastfeeding well into toddlerhood who still pump regularly at work. While I am impressed by their dedication, I am not sure I would be as eager to continue if regular pumping were part of my equation. Likewise, I have talked to moms whose babies self-weaned earlier than one year or who faced physical challenges in sustaining the relationship.

Thankfully, many moms also shared positive stories of nursing well into the second and sometimes even the third year. By talking about it, I hope to be one more voice in normalizing breastfeeding past 12 months. I used to think “extended” breastfeeding would be uncomfortable, (in a non-judgmental-but-weird-for-me kind of way). Now that I have my own little person, it does not feel strange at all, excluding perhaps the vibe I sometimes get from others around me.

So, next time I am asked, I will smile and answer, “We’ll stop nursing when it stops working for one or both of us.”

For now, it works and I feel lucky.

***

Side note: While doing my homework, I enjoyed this interview on extended breastfeeding with Dr. Mayim Bialik, (oh to be so poised in the face of hostility!).