Friday, December 31, 2010

The year in review

As I sit here with Elizabeth nestled on my chest, it is hard to believe this year began without even the tiniest presence of her, not even a glimmer. Yet here she is, solid and warm and snuggly.

In some ways it was a year of waiting—waiting for Brian to finish with school, waiting to be ready to try again, waiting out my pregnancy. All that waiting was worth it. Brian graduated in May and has been working as a nurse. He's still hoping for a full-time position in a hospital that will give him the experience he feels he needs, but for now he's working, gaining experience, feeling like he is doing his job again after two years of school. Since he's been out of school, we've had more family time for walks and hikes and visits and meals and play. And of course, Elizabeth is here and healthy and settling right in to our family.

Waiting for her had me looking ahead but also had me firmly planted in the present, watching, soaking in Kathleen and her rapid change. At the beginning of this year she was just starting to totter about. Now she runs and jumps (with both feet off the floor) and dances and climbs. She shouts, "Mine," and sometimes shares. She reads, cooks me water on her play stove, delights in her swing, and wants to hold her baby sister. She seems to have gotten bigger and sturdier in the past two weeks as we remembered just how little newborns, even those who start out over 8 lbs, are. I can hardly comprehend that two years ago she nestled on my chest like this. Two years ago, she was this small. Two years already—just two years.

As this year winds down, I am remembering how to be ambidextrous—how to cut my dinner, sign my name, and do most anything with my left hand if the baby is sleeping or nursing on the right. I've learned that football hold is good for avoiding pressure on an incision, but also for making more room in a lap. Along with Good Night, Moon and The Big Red Barn, I've now memorized The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Kathleen's current favorite (bunny book!). I'm finding time in my day for two little girls who need to eat and be held and changed and sung to. We are shuffling things around making room for baby gear and two sets of diapers and 0-3 clothes along with 2T clothes. We've made room in our house for two and room in our hearts for three.

I'm sure there are things I'm forgetting about 2010, but as I sit here with this snuggly girl breathing sleepily on my chest listening for my big girl to wake up from her nap, I know I remember what matters.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Red birds and stars

There is so much to tell, but somebody is beginning to stir and will need to eat soon and then I will gladly go to bed until she begins to stir again.

I'm so glad to be home and settling in. A week of doctor's visits and heel sticks is over, the phototherapy equipment just needs to be picked up, and her jaundice is a thing of the past. Today her weight is back up again and we are in the clear until her one-month appointment. I am thankful for this.

I'm thankful too for these red birds and stars that made their way to me over the past month.

Sierra's mom, Erika, saw this cardinal and thought of me and Henry. I love the smoothness of it, the heft of it in my hand and the way the stone takes on warmth. It came with me to the hospital, a talisman to get me through the 17th.

I participated in Jenni's ornament swap. This arrived in the mail while I was in the hospital. My parents were intrigued by my package from another country and brought it to me. This heart-centered star is my ornament from Marie-Josée with wishes for comfort, peace, and joy. 

This lovely red bird ornament came from Liam's mom Amy. It was a surprise on a day I needed a lift. We didn't do a tree this year, but this little red bird has greeted me each morning when I turn off Henry's memory lamp and again in the evening when I turn on the light. 

Thanks to every one who has made my dark season a little brighter.  

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Here and healthy

Elizabeth Ann was born alive and well on Wednesday. They gave me a mirror so I could watch over the drape as she she came out. With only her head out, she started screaming. Once the rest of her was out she was screaming and squirming hard.

Her birth deserves a fuller story, but I'm not up to telling it right now. I just wanted those of you who don't know me elsewhere to know that she is here and well.

Today I'm straddling the line between my baby born just yesterday and my baby who died three years ago tomorrow. I'm tired, so there is more to say, but it will have to be said later.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Almost time

It seems ages ago I found out I was pregnant, and yet I wonder how it is December already. The day after tomorrow is the big day. It hasn't really quite sunk in yet.

There is a bassinet in my dining room, a pile of newborn diapers in the bathroom. I'm sorting through slings and swaddles and tiny sleepers, making room for a swing. My freezer is stocked with meals. I have piles of things ready to go in they suitcase in my room. My parents will arrive tomorrow night to take care of Kathleen. I'm prepared.

Still somehow it seems surreal, hard to believe that in a few days there will be four of us living in this house. It isn't that I can't open myself to the possibility that everything will be okay, that the baby will be alive and healthy and come home in a normal course of time. No, it's simply that the change hasn't quite sunk in. I keep talking about Kathleen and how she doesn't know what's about to hit, how things are about to change. Maybe she isn't the only one.

It seems so long ago that I watched the light turn from gray to pink to yellow with her during early morning feeds. I remember—almost—the sleepless haze of those days. With just her, it was hard, but easy. I simply fell into her rhythm. Now she has a different rhythm, and falling into the baby rhythm of wake and sleep won't work. I wonder how it will, and I remind myself that people do this all the time.

I've spent nine months knowing I was going to have a baby, waiting, waiting, waiting, but here, two days before the birth is supposed to happen, I find myself filled with wonder that this is it, the time is here.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A birthday before a birth day

Kathleen is two today. I had planned a brunch with family and friends from our neighborhood and was trying to keep it low key and say yes whenever anybody asked if they could bring something. It was something I wanted to squeeze in, a birthday celebration in these last days before a birth day.

Monday Kathleen had a fever, a runny nose, and hacking cough. I rescheduled my Tuesday OB appointment.

Tuesday Kathleen had a fever, a runny nose, and hacking cough.

Wednesday Kathleen didn't have a fever. She still had the hacking cough and the gunk from her nose was green and there was some new gunk in her eyes. We went to the doctor. Wednesday Kathleen had an ear infection, pink eye, and a cold. I rescheduled my Thursday OB appointment. Brian came home from work with a hacking cough and a headache.

Thursday Kathleen was still coughing and still had a runny nose. Brian came home from work with chills, the hacking cough, and a headache. I cancelled the party. I let it go.

Friday we were back at the pediatrician for Kathleen's 2-year check up. He thought she might have a sinus infection. Fortunately she's already on an antibiotic for the pink eye and ear infection. Brian came home with a cough and sore throat. I finally saw my OB. Everything is looking good.

Saturday we got up. I took my time making blueberry pancakes and sausage for Kathleen's birthday breakfast. Her appetite, off all week, seems to be back. She was delighted with the two balloons I bought her. She was almost as happy with her new doll.

Friends stopped by with cookies. Another friend stopped by with a present. We walked around the block and stopped to wish a happy birthday to our 90 year old neighbor who shares her birthday.

And tonight dinner and cookies with our friends down the driveway. Low key, easy, and just right for a second birthday.

We've both changed a lot in these two years. I'm still amazed we are here.

Happy birthday to my sweet two year old!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The countdown

Just over a week until this baby is born.
If all goes as planned.

I feel the need to add that disclaimer. I usually say, "December 15—or early if the baby has other ideas," but lately I've been worried that it might be later. I've been fighting off a chest cold/asthma flair up. I feel like I've turned the corner, but I'm not 100% yet, not even 90%. I'm tired and coughing more than I'd like, certainly more than I'd like to be doing after abdominal surgery. Then Kathleen woke up with her nose running all over her face and had a fever by mid-morning yesterday. No fever so far, but green snots galore. I'm wiping her nose constantly and washing my hands obsessively and eating chicken soup and drinking orange juice and hot tea with honey and waiting to see how I feel a week from tomorrow.

My back, which bothered me since the earliest days of my pregnancy, seems to have decided it's okay. Aside from the coughing, I'm breathing easier. Sleep is elusive, though, but I'm trying to rest when I can.

That's the physical.

As for the emotional, that seems to be mostly okay too. I have moments of panic—that they won't do my c-section as scheduled, that the baby will need to go to the NICU and they won't let me in because of my cough, that Brian will catch something from one of us and won't be able to be there, that my low weight gain that my OBs have commented on but aren't worried about is actually a sign of something bad . . . mostly these thoughts stay in check except in the middle of the night when our demons are strongest.

December hasn't really hit me this year, but perhaps that's because my calendar ends on 12/15. I can focus on that mid-month date. I can spend less energy on the lead up to 12/17. There is no pressure, internal or external, to have a holly, jolly Christmas. I'm having a baby on 12/15, whatever I do for Christmas is enough. I can cut myself a little slack this year, as I did the year Kathleen was born. Other years, though, I don't want it to be like this. I want to put up a tree, bake cookies, sing carols, wrap presents, feel the magic and the joy and the anticipation.

This year there will be only Henry's little tree, a few presents wrapped, and anticipation, but not of the holiday, but of a birth that comes ten days before.

A week from tomorrow. If all goes as planned.