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Archive for the ‘happiness’ Category

There is something deeply soul-satisfying about having your almost-toddler crawl over to you on the floor, put one arm around your neck, pat her diaper-covered tummy with the other, then stick her thumb in her mouth. What she has just done is say, “Mama, I need clean pants and a nap, please.”

And then, after a quick change and a tear-free cuddle in the rocking chair, she is sound asleep at 1:45 in the afternoon.

I know part of it is the night of interrupted sleep we all had last night and part of it is her newly found skill of pushing her walker all around the living room. But after three days of fighting the naps she so badly needed, days like this make me feel like I’m getting part of it right.

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I had to count to figure that out. I no longer carry this running tabulation of how long it’s been, just like I no longer carry a running count of how many weeks adjusted and chronological Olivia Moonpie is.

Where am I?

I remember when Glow in the Woods started up and the metaphor just clicked with me. I was so lost in this big, dark, scary woods and I had no idea which direction was the right one. I just kept putting one foot in front of another hoping and trusting that there had to be an end somewhere. It was perfect. I’ve been lost in woods before, literally. I have crawled on my hands and knees through a tangle of wild rhododendron so thick I couldn’t stand up and I couldn’t see more than a few feet ahead. The branches grabbed at my hair and my clothes, the roots tangled up my boots and hurt the palms of my hands. I had to just keep going, hoping it thinned out sooner rather than later. And that is exactly how my grief felt. It snagged and pulled and scratched. It was a million little papercuts that left me feeling thin and fragile and ready to shatter. There would be moments when I’d think I’d reached a clearing only to find myself plunged back into it by the most inane things.

One step at a time. Keep yourself busy. Go through the motions of life, whether you want to or not, whether you really feel it or not. Then one day you wake up and realize you are just living again.

Writing helped. Saying their names helped. It wasn’t easy. Just weeks after Zoë died, I had to call the IRS to figure out how to handle them on our taxes. That poor woman who had no idea what she was in for when she took that call from the queue sat with me until I could talk and waited until I could breathe again. Their names, Lennox and Zoë, caught in my throat more times than I can remember. Having to explain to various medical people how many times I’d been pregnant, how many children I had. “No, they were born alive. Lennox lived almost three days. Zoë lived three weeks.” I said that over and over. I know it was always more information than they needed, but I needed to say it, needed to have their short lives detailed, needed to let the world know that they were HERE. And like stones in a river, the sharp points are slowly wearing away. I find that I can talk about them, at least briefly without hearing that….thickness in my voice. You know what I mean, that sound that means the tears aren’t far behind.

It still gets me. Even now, I’m typing more by touch than sight because the tears have steamed up my glasses too much for me to see the screen or the keyboard. Olivia Moonpie turned one this week. She’s standing up and starting to cruise. She has gone from belly crawling to crawling on her hands and knees. She says, “Mama.” She feeds herself little bits of food. She will offer to share her puffs or her teething ring with you. I watch her and wonder what it would have been like with the twins. I wouldn’t have my Moonpie. Or maybe in a more perfect world, Moonpie would be trying hard to keep up with two three year old siblings and the house would be so full of noise and fun. I wonder all the time.

Olivia Moonpie was my lamp post in the snowy woods. She was the spraypainted blaze on the tree, marking the trail. She is a giggly, wiggly, drooly, silly, spinning YOU ARE HERE dot on the map. I try not to hold her tighter than she wants me too. I try not to get too many tears on her just barely not bald head when I rock her to sleep. She has done more to heal my heart than she will ever understand. The scars haven’t faded. They are still angry and red. They may never fade but, before Olivia Moonpie got here, the scars hadn’t formed and everything was raw and open.

Zoë and Lennox taught us to take as much pleasure in the small moments as we possibly can because they are so fleeting. We learned that NOW is what matters, far more than what might be ahead or what just passed. The laundry will wait ten minutes while we watch Miss Moonpie bounce like a bronco rider in her jumperoo. A cold dinner is a perfectly acceptable trade-off for a tickle-fest on the floor. Tomorrow, next month, next year there will be something else taking the place of right now, but right now she IS and we are blessed beyond belief to be witness to it and part of it.

That is right where I am. It isn’t where I ever thought I’d be and it may not be exactly how I wanted it. It just is. I’m not brave. I’m not strong. I’m not perfect. I just never gave up on the belief that I couldn’t possibly be lost in those woods forever. The trees have thinned out some. The thorns aren’t as dense or as sharp. I can see bits of sky now. There are still rocks to trip me up and sometimes the climb is steeper than I’m used to, but I’m getting there.

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The Right Where I Am Project can be found at Still Life With Circles. It’s a fantastic project with some amazing posts by parents in all different stages of grief. Bring your kleenex (and sorry I left out the link originally!)
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Six whole months

I can’t believe it. It seems like just yesterday we welcomed this sweet little thing into the world:

Six amazingly short months later…

Happy six month birthday, Olivia Moonpie. We love you more than you can imagine.

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Someone slept from 10:30pm until 5am last night!

I don’t say it out loud enough, and I really should…Shannon is the most wonderful guy. When I least expect it, he does something that just blows me away and makes me remember why I was so certain he was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with after only knowing him for a month. Yesterday, the three of us went to do some of our holiday grocery shopping. Shannon was in charge of Olivia Moonpie in the stroller while I did the actual shopping. Side note: Shannon has had his “weekends” on Wednesday and Thursday for a few weeks which has been fantastic! Also, we were in a “boutique” grocery store that is set up kind of like IKEA in that there’s sort of a route they want you to follow through the store from department to department. Back to the story — Throughout the store, he kept up a steady stream of chatter with her, showing her different vegetables, pointing out all the fancy holiday packages, and generally making sure she was entertained and happy. As we got near the end of the store, she was starting to get a little bored and a bit fussy. I realized I’d passed the frozen section and forgotten something, so I sent them back to get it while I went through the dairy department and on to the bakery. When I got to the bakery, they had pecan pie samples so I grabbed two and headed back to meet them. As I came around the corner to the dairy aisle I found Shannon standing in front of Olivia Moonpie, doing that silly bouncing dance we all seem to do for babies in chairs to the store music as she giggled and squealed. He was completely oblivious to the shoppers around him and about as happy and relaxed as I’ve ever seen him as he played the clown to make his little girl smile. That moment of pure silliness and love, the grin on his face and the sound of her laughing with him made was worth every single second I spent in a hospital bed or stuck on the couch. He gets up with her in the night so I can simply pump and go back to bed. When her reflux was so bad, he spent most nights sleeping propped up on the couch with her on his shoulder so she didn’t have to sleep flat on her back. He loves to pick out her clothes for the day so she looks good. He’ll do anything to make her smile.

When I got sick in April, Shannon was able to start working from home full time to take care of me. Then, when Olivia Moonpie came, he continued working from home to make it easier to get to the NICU and later on, to be an extra set of hands at home since she was a little more high needs. Having him around every day, all day has been wonderful. On Dec. 1, Shannon is starting a new job developing software for Macs. It’s his dream job and I’m so very happy for him. But, it means he’ll be leaving us every morning to go to an office. Olivia and I are a little sad about that. I’m more than a little nervous too. I know in my heart of hearts that I will be fine without having him as my backup all day. I know that I’ve been extraordinarily lucky to have him around as I get used to caring for Olivia Moonpie and in the real world, he would have been back in an office shortly after she was born and I’d have been on my own. Still, it leaves me with butterflies in my tummy. We’re going to miss Daddy very much.

I find myself at a loss for words these days. We struggled so much to get here. And while things aren’t perfect (I certainly didn’t expect to be unemployed for these last two years and I’d hoped we’d be happily settled in back in NC by now), I’m about as happy as I think any person can possibly be. When I bend over her bouncy seat to pick her up and Olivia Moonpie grins that big, pink, gummy grin and grabs a fistful of my hair, then snuggles her head down on my shoulder while I carry her, I can feel the balance sheet going from red to black. Every shot, every blood draw, every negative, every surgery, every early morning violation, every check we write to the credit card company ….it’s all paid now and the account is balanced by one sweet-smelling, wriggly, babbling 12 pound, fuzzy-headed girl in a big cloth diaper and footie pajamas who likes to sleep in my bed holding her daddy’s hand in one chubby fist and mine in the other.

Going to the grocery store yesterday to get ready for our first Thanksgiving:

The cutest cheeks out there:

My view of sleeping beauty as I write this post:

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Goodness. The days fly by don’t they? I wake up in the morning with every intention of returning to my lonely little blog (is anyone still out there? ) and before I’ve had time to think, I’m crashing into bed barely able to string enough words together to make a coherent sentence.

Olivia Moonpie is 11 weeks adjusted today. On Tuesday, she’ll be 22 weeks actual age. Five and a half months old. People who knew her when look at her now in amazement. The baby who could fit in the palm of your hand is now 12 pounds of chubby cheeks and thighs. The preemie who spoke in growls and squawks now giggles and babbles and make the most endearing “HUUUU” noise. She smiles so big her eyes crinkle up. At this very moment, she’s sitting in her bouncy seat telling her toy bug a very long, detailed and humorous story as she smacks said bug around. She holds her head up to look over our shoulders, she stands on her own two feet for as long as you’ll help her balance. I expect her to roll over any day now and if she could, I have no doubt that she’d take off running. She’s willful and opinionated. She has a tooth coming in.

We made the decision to not push nursing on her. I went in with her to the lactaction consultant recently and learned that her latch was too shallow. I could try to retrain her to open her mouth wider, but after lots of soul-searching and a couple of feedings that dissolved into tears and screaming, it simply made more sense to accept that almost four months of bottle feeding and two months of latching incorrectly (although we’d been told she had an excellent latch at earlier visits to the LC) has created a bottle fed baby. I still pump and provide everything she eats, so my goal of a breastfed baby is still being met and now, we have nursing sessions during the day that are as much about comfort and snuggling as they are about eating. When she’s hungry, she gets a bottle. I was sad at losing out on an experience that would have been a given had things gone “normally”. I’d dreamt of putting my child to my breast to feed her and it is yet another instance of feeling cheated out of something. However, I am working on readjusting my perspective. Instead of feeling cheated because I can’t nurse her, I have the freedom bottle-feeding provides while still having the ability to enjoy the closeness of nursing when it suits us both.

This funny, smart, goofy little monkey has completely altered our lives. The grief that lay over our days like a fog has faded. There are still so many times I find myself thinking about the “what ifs” or wondering how different things would be with Lennox and Zoë running around. Oddly enough, if they were here, Olivia Moonpie probably wouldn’t be. But, as I hold her and feel her snuggle her fuzzy head deeper into the crook of my neck, I find I can think of them with all the love I hold in my heart for them and miss them without feeling ripped to shreds. I tell Olivia Moonpie about them often. She wore the pajamas I’d bought for the twins to wear home from the hospital. She snuggles in blankets made for them. Their car seats keep her safe. I miss them terribly, but part of them live in their little sister and I find that my grief has lost it’s razor sharp edge. Yes, I am sad that this morning I didn’t have two squirmy almost three year olds in my bed, but I DID have a snuffly, snuggly Moonpie there.

I am having a difficult time accepting that there will be no more Moonpies for us. After the Great Ordeal, I’ve been informed that future pregnancies would be very very bad and extremely irresponsible. My body does not take to pregnancy well. My body does not take to abdominal surgery well. We still have a large number of high quality frozen embryos, but unless we decide to find a gestation surrogate, Miss Moonpie will be my only child. This is hard for me to wrap my brain around. I had hoped to have two children. I really wanted Olivia Moonpie to have a sibling who was close in age. I know first hand what it’s like to grow up with half-siblings who are significantly older. It takes a very long time before the relationship reaches a point where the decade or more age difference stops interfering.

I’m trying to figure out how to order my life so I can stop feeling like I’m caught in a game of The Sims and all my needs meters are in the red. I’ve never been the most organized person around. Oh, I always have good intentions and start out trying to be orderly. And I DID manage to survive having the house on the market for an entire year. But, as soon as it was off the market, I was right back to my old habits. I cannot seem to actually put away a basket of clean clothes to save my life. I need to change this. Billions of other mothers manage to maintain their lives while caring for a small, needy sack of cute potatoes and so can I. I just need to figure out how they do it. And I need to learn not to rely so heavily on the fact that Shannon works from home. I can’t count on that always being the case and it isn’t fair to him now. So, my early New Years resolution is to figure out this whole stay at home mom thing. One day at a time.

Fifteen years ago, I would have told you I didn’t see having kids in my future. Now, I don’t know how I lived without her. I survived the NICU. I stumbled through bringing her home and learning to care for her without the safety net of nurses and monitors. She thrives. She smiles. She lights up when she sees either one of us. I guess we’re doing something right after all. So, if things are a little quieter around here, don’t worry. We have our ups and downs, and there are days when none of us manage to get out of our pajamas and days when it seems like someone (usually me) is doing nothing but crying and also days when the bliss takes over and there’s nothing for it but to sit and sniff her head. And, I think, maybe, just maybe, we’re starting to find our path again. We’ve made it through the darkest of woods and the longest, scariest of nights and the shining light that brought us out safely is a little Moonpie.

Lennox and Zoë would approve, I think.

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