Friday, March 25, 2011

March Musings

I have a love-hate relationship with March.

It is a messy month of melt and mud. The snow that remains is gray and gritty with sand. The snow that leaves reveals trash and dog poop and the yard and garden clean up you never finished in the fall.  Our snow retreated slowly, slowly earlier this month and then suddenly it was mostly gone. How good it is to see the ground again!
Almost spring

March is a month of stirring and awakening. The sap is running and that means maple syrup. As I start to get really sick of winter and know that there is a lot of mud and cold and messiness between me and spring, I focus on sugar shack season. It's my bridge between snow and spring. The sap is running in the trees; sometimes I feel like my sap starts running this time of year too, as if I'm starting to re-energize and getting ready to bloom. 

March teases. There are the occasional days when you can go out without a coat, when every one is outside and almost giddy. There are the days when you look out and think you can go out without a coat only to feel a raw wind overcoming the sun. Last week I packed away the snowpants and boots, but refused to put the bin up in the attic. There is always snow in March once you think you are done, but it never lasts long. 

My neighbor has a little plastic house on her porch that Kathleen loves to play in. All winter, whenever we walked by, she'd start up a chorus of "Little house, little house!"

"Not today. It's too cold," I'd tell her. Now it's March, and many days it's still too cold. Yesterday, though, I decided we could do it. We packed some snacks and our water bottles and the book I'm reading. We put on mud boots and coats and hats and set off down the driveway. Kathleen ate her snack while I fed Elizabeth. Then I snuggled Elizabeth close to keep her warm and opened Zeitoun, while Kathleen carried spoonful after spoonful of sand from the sand table to a bowl inside the little house. I love this porch and my neighbor who lets me visit whether or not she is home. I love getting outside again even if it is still a little chilly. 

Yesterday we stayed out for 45 minutes, came home and took our bread out of the oven, and went back out for Kathleen's "bikey." We ran into neighbors out for a walk and went around the block with them. Somewhere during that time it got really cold. The sun slipped down just enough, the wind picked up, and I found myself shivering and wishing for gloves. "We have to go in. I'm cold. Your hands are freezing," I told Kathleen, hearing all the while the murmurings of soon, soon, soon all around me. Soon we'll come out without coats. Soon I will sit with tea or ice coffee or white wine while the kids play. Soon we'll go in only because it is already past dinner time and nearly bedtime. Soon

Not yet, but soon. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Every Last One

I just finished reading Every Last One by Anna Quindlen. I read it like I read most things these days, in bits and spurts whenever I get a chance to sneak in a few pages or a few paragraphs as the case may be. Back in February I saw Every Last One on the new book table in the library, and having liked some of Quindlen's other novels, I checked it out along with a stack of other things. I renewed it once and was on the verge of bringing it back unread, but I dipped in and got hooked.

This isn't a babyloss book. It is a book about being a parent and about loss and grieving, though I don't think you'd know the latter from the blurb on the cover.

I felt like Quindlen got it right. Got the mundaneness of grief right, because while there are situations that knock us down, moments that take our breath, there is also the everydayness of it, the way loss colors the world we move through even when we aren't staring grief in the face or trying not to burst into tears at an unexpected trigger.

I'm glad I didn't just return it. I've whizzed through lots of books in the last three months, many of them are a blur, but this one is sticking with me. Check it out.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Fringe benefits

The wonders of breast feeding are widely touted. Your baby will be less prone to problems ranging from ear infections to obesity to death from SIDS. You will be less likely to get types of cancer, osteoporosis, or postpartum depression. Your baby will be smarter. Your weight will melt off. You'll form a special bond with your baby. You get to read.

Actually people don't talk about that last one much, but it's one of my favorites. I have been keeping the interlibrary loan system busy lately. The librarians are surprised, seeing me come in with toddler and newborn in tow. "When do you have time to read?" they ask as they check out my stack of books. When I nurse after Kathleen is in bed or in the early morning before she is up, in the wee hours of the night when I'm trying not to fall asleep in the chair. I'm reading more than I've read, well since I was nursing Kathleen.

After Kathleen was born, I snuggled in with favorites from my childhood: the Little House series, Little Women, The Secret Garden, The Little Princess, Harry Potter (okay, not from my childhood, but felt like it could have been), the Wrinkle in Time trilogy, . . . There were adult books too, though I don't remember them all that well.

This time around I worked on clearing books off my dusty "to read" shelf and picked up the latest by Stieg Larsson, Jodi Piccoult (two), and Jennifer Weiner. At a friend's suggestion, when I told her I couldn't get past the first page of Julie and Julia, I read My Life in France. I won and read The Red Thread by Ann Hood, prompting me to seek out some of her older novels. I jump back and forth between fiction and nonfiction. I admit much of it is light and some of it doesn't stick, but still I enjoy reading again.

My reading spurt may be slowing down. Elizabeth is going longer between feeds and finishing them more quickly. And today, she wanted to talk to me while she ate. She'd pop off and smile and gurgle at me and I smile and coo back. There will still be times when she wants to suck herself to sleep and I'll sit with her, perhaps longer than I have to enjoying her warm body snuggled in to me and telling myself I'll just finish the chapter before I go to bed, but these will wane. But for now, I'll keep reading.

Recently finished and heading back to the library: Amaryllis in Blueberry and Sing You Home
Currently on my reading table: First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria; Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day; and The Lemon Tree

Read anything good lately?

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I just read an article called "25 Things I Wish I Knew Before Having Kids." I nodded at some of them, shrugged off others, and thought about what my tip would be. I suppose mine would be something like #6 (you can read and read all the baby books in existence, and sometimes they just won't apply to your child), except I skipped reading all the baby books.

I did have images of how things would be. I pictured family and friends visiting in the hospital. I saw myself in bed holding my baby. I had ideas about what I'd do: I'd use a sling. I'd breastfeed. I'd puree organic vegetables and fruit when it was time to start solids. I'd use cloth diapers. We'd keep making bread and go hiking and do all the things that people told us we wouldn't have time to do once we had a baby.

I didn't picture the baby being taken away to another hospital before I had held him. I didn't expect a baby too weak to work at the breast, empty bottles when I pumped and pumped and pumped. I didn't think my baby would get most of his nutrition from bulked up formula or something that looked an awful  lot like Crisco put in through an NG tube. I never saw the oxygen tanks or the endless appointments or the ambulance rides. I didn't picture him turning blue in my arms. I never imagined a code. I didn't think I'd say goodbye to my baby before we got around to doing all those things people told us we wouldn't have time or energy to do.

Huh, where did all that come from? What I thought I was going to say is that sometimes the way you want to do things, the way you think you should do things, doesn't work, so you adjust. You find out not what the best thing for babies is, but what the best thing for you and your baby.

That holds true for every one. I have advice for mamas of rainbow babies, too. Give yourself permission to have bad days. Not my baby is in the hospital or my baby isn't breathing capital B capital D kinds of Bad Days, but regular old, run-of-the-mill bad days. It's okay to not like it that your baby has cried for five, seven, fifteen hours straight. You can be grateful that they are able to cry without actually enjoying the crying. You get to be exhausted and overwhelmed like everyone else. And it's okay to want a break. Usually when I have these thoughts it goes something like this: I'd love to be able to go for a run or to yoga or I'd like to have ten minutes to think or write or finish a conversation (but I just want a quick little break with my baby to come back to after).

I remember after Henry died I mentioned that I had just gotten up at 10:30, 11 AM. "Lucky," my friend said. I was bitter and wanted to ask her if she really wanted my kind of luck. She had been up half the night with her baby. I was up longing for mine. I knew even then, in the depth of my grief, that if I had another baby some day, there would be days that were hard, as much as I wanted the opportunity to face those challenges, I wouldn't love every minute or every situation. I gave myself permission then to have bad days. I am endlessly thankful to have my girls here with me, living, breathing, healthy. I feel lucky to have time with them and accept the tantrums and the colic and the sleepless nights as part of parenting, but somedays are hard. Some days I feel exhausted, overwhelmed, and inadequate. Some days I have cried right along with the baby. Yeah, I've had worse, but I still have (little b, little d) bad days.

What's your advice?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Morning light

My morning is about to end. Morning itself will continue for several hours. I hear Brian negotiating with Kathleen for a few more minutes in bed. Soon our morning will begin in earnest. Noise and activity will ramp up. The radio will go on. I'll bustle about getting breakfast. My morning will be done.

I've been sitting here in my chair turned toward the window, feet warm on the baseboard heater, for almost two hours. I got up with Elizabeth in the last dark of night. The sky was black, the room lit only by the little memory lamp on the bookcase. We sat in the quiet, her warmth snuggled up against me. Some mornings I might have pulled out a book, eager to squeeze in another chapter or two before Kathleen was up, but I finished a book yesterday and I'm not engrossed in anything yet. So I sat and enjoyed the morning. I saw the sky go from black to dusky violet to pink to gold. I caught sight of a tiny sliver of crescent moon and a single bright star over the leaves of the rhododendron that curtains our porch between the dark branches of the maple up front.

We sat in the quiet and stillness and changing light. I've never been a morning person, but nursing has brought me close. I remember these mornings with Kathleen, finding the peace and beauty in them even as I longed for more sleep, and here I am again with Elizabeth, sitting in the quiet before our day really begins.

Now the room is bright with daylight, the sky a winter white. I hear Kathleen's voice now and Brian stirring. The mystical morning is shattered and our day begins. The day may have moments of joy and beauty and delight, but nothing quite like these early morning moments.