Only afraid in the dark

2016 is going to be the year that makes me tough.

Or maybe tough isn’t the right word. Let’s try ‘resilient.’ It sounds a little more like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Which theoretically there is. Remains to be seen though.

I keep trying to write about this thing we’re in, whatever it is. Phase. All of motherhood is one phase after another. And in their own way, they’re all hard. This one is, by far, the hardest. At least as far as I can remember. Sleep deprivation makes all things fuzzy and, to some extent, rose colored.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand… Oliver is sick, again. I’ve long since lost track of how many times. It started in September, I think, right at the beginning of flu season. Oliver scared the crap out of me by waking me up with a fever of nearly 105 degrees. Every time I tried to give him medicine, he threw it up, so we headed off to the ER at 3-something in the morning. They sat with us while we rode out the fever, and finally got some medicine in him, and then we were sent home, exhausted.

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A couple of weeks later, it happened again. We had just been to his doctor so we knew he had an ear infection, so we were ‘prepared’ with antibiotics and fever reducer. But again he woke up at 2am burning up. He was still a couple of hours away from being able to get another dose of his Tylenol (I didn’t know I could double up acetaminophen and ibuprofen yet.) So when he was already running a temperature over 104, we went back to the ER. They tried to give him medicine, which he promptly threw up like usual. They did a chest x-ray, a urinalysis, monitored his blood oxygen, all looking for what could be causing his crazy fever, because, according to the doctors who examined him, his ears didn’t even look that bad.

Finally the fever broke again, and they were just about to send us home, but they wanted to check his pulse/ox one more time, and it was low. So we were transferred to a pediatric hospital and admitted. It was an exhausting whirlwind of dehydration, several hours of trying to just get a damn IV started, a mega-dose of antibiotics, no clear diagnosis, and eventually going home. The only good thing I can say about this episode is that the hospital staff was amazing, and now we were finally armed with the tools to combat his high fevers from home.

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He continued to get sick though, every week or two. After the third (?) time since his hospital stay, I sat down with his doctor and said we need some answers. We agreed to look into allergy and immunology testing, and he gave us the name of a fantastic specialist. We were seen within a week, and again, I was super impressed with the level of care we received. The doctor heard everything I had to say, and actually told me I had done well and my instincts and experience were spot on. So now we knew what we were up against, finally. Officially: Transient Hypogammaglobulinemia of Infancy. Basically the immune system he was supposed to start developing between 6-12 months old is lagging behind. They think he will catch up and be ‘normal’ at some point (usually by 3 years old), but he will have to undergo regular testing to see what progress he’s making. And, his situation is further complicated by food and environmental allergies. And… AND… There’s no treatment, unless he were to not outgrow the condition.

Here is where we wait for that light at the end of the tunnel. But we’re not there yet.

Basically we do everything we can to protect him (including cancelling the trip back to Indiana for Oliver and me [even though that was kind of a bust because Brandon and Nora came back with colds, and he got sick anyway]), we almost never go out except for our weekly grocery runs, and even then I sanitize every surface within a foot of him and make him wear mittens the whole time.  And still he gets sick.

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Not one night goes by that I don’t reach out in the dark to feel his forehead.

I know in my head what the doctors say: that some day this will all be a distant memory. But my heart is tired. A sick baby burning up with fever is pitiful. He still scares me sometimes in the night, a couple of hours before he’s supposed to need medicine, too warm.  The rest of the time, I can be brave and roll with whatever his little body throws at us. In the dark though, you never know.

A thousand thousand moments

I’m still not writing nearly enough but sleep, oh precious sleep, has become far more important. It’s been an absolutely astounding month (six weeks?). Nora has weaned, and became a much better sleeper. For a few nights anyway. Then we got her own bed set up, and my goodness, she continues to amaze me. She even slept a solid 9 hours of sleep once! Just once though and every week or so she’s up two or three times until I join her in her tiny bed, or she finds her way into our room and snuggles with us. It’s working though.

Every day with her is magical. Toddlerhood is so full of wonder, and often frustration, and we work through all those moments and knit them all together into a day, a week, a month, a whole life. It’s exhausting, and just perfect. Part of me wonders how we’ll manage to find the time and energy and room in our hearts for a new baby, but everyone pretty much agrees that no matter how much you can’t imagine it, it always happens. I’m pretty inclined to believe them.

2014-04-30 22.37.46 We just found out that Nora is going to be the big sister to a little brother, and we’re planning on naming him Oliver Bernard when he makes his appearance and proves the ultrasound tech right. We’ve begun to purge our house of baby girl things (except those with some special memories) and assemble things of a less pink and purple hue. The only really big deal thing we need to figure out is cloth diapers. We know that’s the route we want to take this time around, but we need to start stocking up and figuring ‘all that stuff’ out. Nora doesn’t seem particularly inclined to potty train any time soon, so no real plans to switch her over. But all of this is still very much up in the air and could change tomorrow.

Everything else seems like we’ve got it covered from the first time around, although I’m just waiting to be proven wrong. But even if I am wrong, I’ve gained a sense of myself as a mother and a whole lot of confidence that I can make decent choices and manage not to screw things up too terribly either way. And Nora, my gosh. I know this whole big sister thing is a totally obscure concept for a two year old, but from all the pictures and stories and other examples she’s seen, she seems to be gleaning the idea that a tiny person is coming and will need lots of love and comfort from all of us. Really, what else could I hope for?

Tomorrow we’ll all be going down to Indianapolis for her (hopefully) very last visit to the orthopedic specialist to confirm she has indeed completely recovered from her hip dysplasia and we can move past that whole chapter in our lives. I think that one trial of motherhood has made me acutely aware of all the things I will not be able to control over the coming years, both with her and her brother. I wish I could say that it has also taught me how to handle them with grace, but that remains to be seen. Until then we just love and give and hope and relish each and every moment.

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Weaning Day

I know I said I was going to go back and review some of the big things that happened over the past three months, but I’ve got to talk about the present for a moment.

You see, it’s weaning day.

It’s here and even though I knew it was coming, the suddenness of it saddens me.  I wish I had been able to continue until Nora had decided she was done, but we have reached the point where no one is able to function in our house. I’m 4 months pregnant now, and I’ve pretty much been hating nursing since I was just a couple weeks in. It’s… excruciating. (Excuse the graphic nature of this next part.) The only way I can describe it is like my nipples are being cut and stabbed with little knives and needles. It’s hard to even stand under the shower.

So I knew we were going to have to wean, and soon. But I kept hanging on because it’s pretty much the only way I know how to get Nora to sleep in less than two hours (I’m not kidding.) We’ve never practiced cry it out, and this just worked, so why fix what isn’t broken? Because of the sheer exhaustion I felt during the first trimester, we just toughed it out. We cut back to nursing exclusively to initiate/continue sleep. And it worked for a while. But now… now the system is broken.

My milk supply is pretty much gone, which has been frustrating her more and more, and her sleep has just been worse and worse.  I should be finally feeling a bit more rested, and on nights where we’re only up once or twice, I actually feel pretty good.  Brandon has been helping a lot to let me sleep in on the weekends, but after several weeknights of getting 4 hours of interrupted sleep (or less), I was falling apart.  I have been impatient, easily frustrated, even yelling and hiding, and just generally not being the kind of parent I want to be.

This morning at 4am, Nora was awake, for the second day in a row. I’d had two hours of sleep because she’d been up nursing several times already. I lost it. I just sobbed while Brandon stepped in and finally we got her to sleep without nursing… at 6:30. But it was enough for me to acknowledge that this time has finally come. If I can hold on by myself for naptime (or lack thereof) today and tomorrow, we can tag team through the weekend, and maybe after 4 days she’ll start to get the hang of bedtime without the “boobies.”

I know that in all honesty, this may take a couple of weeks for her to really adjust… or even longer. But we can’t put it off anymore. And she will not be left alone to cry herself to sleep still. We’ll help her learn, and all be frustrated and exhausted and sad together. But because she is so loved, I have to draw the line today. I am a gentle parent, and it’s weaning day.

The B12 Dilemma

There is this thing I keep tripping over on my way to fully veg: the necessity to supplement B12, and a couple other vitamins minerals depending on how diligently you diversify your diet. It’s one thing for me to take a couple of pills every day (I’ve been doing it for years anyway) but it’s quite another to get Nora to take some pretty yucky supplements regularly. And plus also aren’t we supposed to be getting our nutrients from whole foods?

Side note: this is one of the most glaring contradictions in The China Study. Dr. Campbell berates the supplement industry as opportunistic and ineffective at best and dangerous at worst. And a few pages later makes an ever so casual mention that vegan diets require a little help from this same said industry.

So I’ve been digging deep and trying to find some appropriate sources for Nora to get her B12. Shellfish, low-mercury fish, and yes even liver are all on our list to find a local, ethically grown and slaughtered supply.

Which brings me to my next sticky spot. What counts as ‘ethically slaughtered’? I know I said before that I wasn’t interested in veganism for the animal rights issues, but since I wasn’t eating them anyway, I started reading about what the situation with factory farms really is. Ug. It’s bad, folks. Granted it’s not entirely black and white down on the farm either. And there are family farms practically in our back yard where we can see for ourselves how the animals live and die. There are just some things you can’t un-see.

I guess it all boils down to the fact that I’m not quite sure what we’re going to do. I literally lay awake most of the night trying to come to any half decision at all. And when exhaustion finally took over my brain and body, I drifted off to sleep with visions of Native Americans living as peaceful hunters, taking only what they need and thanking the beast for its sacrifice. (Yeah, I was pretty freaking tired. I don’t even know if that’s factual or just a stereotype.)
Regardless, that may be the solution for now. And as Nora gets old enough to weigh in on the conversation, we will try to help her decide for herself. Just like everything else, I suppose, for this is parenthood.

Dear Nora

It seems that it’s been a while since I last wrote to you. Probably because I spend so much of my day talking and interacting with you directly, now that you’re quite the expressive young lady. My heart can scarcely believe that you are officially one year old. In some ways, the time just flew by. And other days, the minutes just crawled. One thing I know for certain, though, is that I soaked up everything you had to offer. I baby-gazed at your precious tiny body for hours. I snuggled up close and breathed in your smell. I held you and rocked you whenever you let me. I swoon at your sweet laughter, kiss your messy avocado face, and enjoy every splash in your bath time games.

These days you adore reading, in a more active and demanding fashion. You will drag out all of your books from their hiding spot and insist on reading each of them several times in a row. You also love to play ‘tag’ with the kitty and, despite her grumbling when her tail gets pulled too hard, I’m pretty sure she loves it too.

You’re fiercely independent still, but also more accepting of help when you actually do need it. You feed yourself very healthy meals including broccoli, tomato, blueberries, and chicken. Honestly the things you won’t eat are few and far between, and I am hopeful that this continues long into toddlerhood.

You still struggle sometimes with separation anxiety, but you’re also becoming much more outgoing with people you’ve met a few times before.

For now, you are still sleeping in mommy and daddy’s bed. Sometimes it’s challenging, and sometimes it’s blissful. You are sometimes willing to sleep for a while in your crib (pushed up against our bed) and some nights you’re stuck to me like glue. Either way, we almost always manage a decent nights sleep.

And though you grow in leaps and bounds, and your skills expand daily, our bond through nursing continues. I know someday you will outgrow even this, but for now it’s a constant… a reliable quiet moment we share. I’m glad we’ve been able to make it this far, fairly effortlessly, actually. I feel very lucky to have gotten so much support and encouragement and good advice to help us along the way.

I can’t begin to imagine you, Nora, another year from now, and all the ways you will continue to shock and surprise us all. But one thing is absolutely sure: I love you more than I thought possible, and always will.
Happy birthday, baby!


The Next Baby

Everyone seems to be preoccupied with babies lately. I’m sure it’s just my age group, but we had scarcely given birth before the assaults of “when are you going to have another?” began. Perhaps it’s because my own mother had the three of us kids in less than three years, or because my sister has also managed two kids in less than a year and a half (!!), but at first I thought this would be our game plan as well.

And then I actually had a baby.

Now I absolutely adore this kid with every fiber of my being. But parenting is no joke. And since we more or less subscribe to the attachment parenting style, it’s been very demanding both physically and emotionally. I have lost maybe 10 lbs of baby weight and 5 of that can come back after one particularly stressful week of sleepless nights and comfort food. I’ve made a few attempts at scheduling some kind of exercise routine into my day, but quite frankly, it’s just not going to cut it. Thankfully at almost one year old, Nora has gotten pretty much to the point where I can leave the house for a few hours with minimal risk (as long as I’ve properly factored nap times and someone to hang with her that she’s comfortable with. Freaking separation anxiety is no joke either.)

So I’ve made a deal with my dear husband to get my squishy ass to the gym twice a week. Which is bare minimum but we have to start somewhere. Our membership expires in May and has gone unused for over a year now. (Surprise, surprise.) We’ve also decided not to renew it, but instead take the saved money and actually buy some home gym equipment. Craigslist should be flooded with failed resolution goodies by June, right? And been though we don’t really have space for more than a treadmill in the garage now, fingers crossed we’ll be nearly ready to move by then!

So anyway, back to my point, I still have a lot of work to do before even considering the idea of getting pregnant again. And there are still many days that Brandon and I look at each other and wonder of we really do want to start all over with another child. So there’s another reason to wait, yes?

Officially though, for the record, I’m still mostly on team 2-kids. Just not any time soon, folks.




The apple falls not far

My dear Nora,

Let me be the first to day it: you definitely have your mother’s knack for voicing your displeasure.

Most everyone who has ever met you would probably call me crazy. In truth, most of the time you are very calm and observant, or joyfully playful. You are the “good baby,” and people notice how happy you are. My favorite phrase to them is, “She’s very happy… Until she’s not.”

This isn’t quite true, though, or I’d be caught quite often with an epic meltdown. The signs you give are so very subtle that most don’t ever notice the shift. But when you give them, your father and I exchange that ‘countdown’ look, and we politely hightail ourselves to the nearest acceptable place for you to nurse and nap.

Of course we are far from perfect, and you are fond of changing the game as well. It seems that for as much as you enjoyed the holidays, now you want to spend a good bit more time ‘recharging’ with extra naps and marathon nursing. That’s cool, but you’ve still got to give us a little warning. Melting down whilst covered in avocado and still in need of a pre-nap diaper change makes life harder for everyone.

Ah well, we’ve come through this too. So forgive me for chuckling to myself while you shed a few tears. It’s just that you remind me of, well, me. And as your grandmother would often say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.