Thursday, January 20, 2011

Letters unsent

I read Tash's post on Glow. The letters I've been thinking about but not sending are a little different:

Dear R, 
We got your Christmas card—L. looks great! We hope you've enjoyed a lot of time away from the hospital. I will never forget how you tried to help us the night we were afraid Henry would die. You stayed with our family for over an hour, trying to buck us up, to give us hope, to calm our fears. I really appreciated it. Later I learned that L. was on ECMO at the time and I appreciated it even more. 

Dear A, 
I don't think I ever thanked you for giving me back my baby. Dressing him, putting the quilt and stuffed animals on his bed, and setting up our cards and books made such a difference. Even now, more than three years later, that kindness stays with me. 

Dear R, 
I do remember you giving me a white rose at Henry's funeral and another at the mass for his first anniversary. They are dried in a vase in my office. Thank you, especially for remembering us on his first anniversary. I walked into the church heavy with grief and knowing we would see people who would see the new baby, not the sadness hanging off me. Thank you for recognizing that sorrow and for remembering. 

Dear M, 
Thank you for never shying away from talking about Henry. It means so much to me that you ask questions about him and refer to him as if he were any other member of our family, even though you met us after he died. 

Lately, these are the letters that have been running through my head. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

More than a month

Elizabeth has been here for more than a month now. We're sorting out what she likes (the sling, being swaddled) and what makes her grumpy (gas, gas, and more gas).

I'm finding my way with her as I did with Henry, as I did with Kathleen. The differences between Henry and Kathleen were pronounced and expected. She did not start her life in the NICU, did not have his low muscle tone, did not have a plethora of medical appointments in her first months of life. She had a healthy heart and started life "cordless." The early days with Kathleen were more what I expected with Henry—except I was doing the sleepless nights, new mom thing as a second time mom and a grieving mom. So I'm experienced now. I've mothered two babies—one sick, one not. Here I am, third time around and it is different yet again.

Elizabeth is not the swing-loving baby (not yet anyway) that her brother and sister were. She adores the sling (which I couldn't use with Henry and used sporadically with Kathleen). She sleeps better at night, which may be her or it may be me. I could not breastfeed Henry. It was too much work for him and my supply was lacking. With Kathleen, I expected supply would be an issue again, but wanted to what I could to maximize it. Part of that was frequent feeds, which meant that anytime I heard a peep out of Kathleen I snatched her up and tried to feed her. If I woke up after three hours and she showed no signs of stirring, I'd unswaddle her to encourage her to wake up to eat. With Elizabeth, if she is sleeping, I let her sleep. If she makes stirring noises, I wait; if she resettles, so do I. As a result, I'm in less of a fog. I'm tired, yes, exhausted even some days, but not sleepless haze I remember with Kathleen.

That rest when your baby rests thing that I found so hard to do with Kathleen is rarely an option now. Elizabeth most often eats and has a bout of gas while Kathleen sleeps, and Kathleen is up and if Elizabeth has a nap that doesn't involve being held. Somedays feeding Elizabeth without Kathleen climbing on me feels like a nap, though.

We're settling into a routine of sorts (Elizabeth most always wakes up for a feeding minutes before Kathleen wakes up from her nap; I stay up too late at night thinking Elizabeth will be ready to eat again soon). I'm still figuring out meeting the needs of my two girls and managing to sleep and eat myself. It's a work in progress, but we are managing—quite well some days, getting by the rest.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The changing view from where I sit

The past two Januarys I've sat in this chair and looked about and noticed the changes around me an within me. Here I sit again in my glider rocker in my living room.

I remember coming home from visiting my friend Kate in New York in 2007. I got off the train, jumped in my car and headed for a baby store that claimed to have a good selection of chairs because I wanted to try out the chair before I bought it. Then I made a trip to visit my sister to check out another store. This chair is the last one I would have picked from looking at it, but after back and forth back and forth sitting, I decided this was the one that fit me and felt the best. I imagined the chair in the nursery, but after Henry came home on oxygen we moved it to the living room and here it has stayed.

Toys—stuffed animals, puppets, puzzles, dolls, stroller, shopping cart, blocks, instruments . . . —have taken over much of this room and the next. I see Kathleen's coloring table in the next room, the school bus parked under the dining room table, the corner of the basket of play food that sits next to her kitchen set. Two milk crates and an old CD rack are filled to over flowing with books. This is clearly a house where children live.

Henry's pictures still sit on the mantle and above the TV and on the bookcase on the other side of the room. His memory lamp is still on the bookcase. I still light it every night and turn it off each morning.

There is one picture of Kathleen, one of us as a family, none yet framed of Elizabeth. There are also three pictures of Brian and me—us on top of a mountain, in front of a waterfall, on our wedding day—reminders of who we once were and things we loved to do. These are good reminders.

This year the swing is back next to my chair, though it hasn't gotten a lot of use yet. So far Elizabeth does not seem as enamored with it as Henry and Kathleen did. Right now she's lying in it, though I never turned it on, finally asleep after fussing with gas for a long time this evening. I sit with a toddler sleeping upstairs and an almost one month old asleep next to me. I sit, though I should sleep too.

I look at the fireplace, where the stockings still hang. They were filled this year with bubbles, books, socks, crayons, markers, and a regifted stuffed dog for Elizabeth. I had fun collecting these things and watching Kathleen pull them out. I look at December still with trepidation but with a sense that I may slowly find my way, feel the joy and the excitement that I want my girls to have.

I sit in this chair a lot again usually to feed the baby. Late at night, early morning, or during nap time, I sit along with Elizabeth. I sing her the song that is just for her. I trace her tiny ear, smile at the long hair that spikes on top of her head, feel the warmth of her body that fits perfectly across my belly right now. Or I sit with her and read a bit as she eats. The rest of the time, Kathleen, who rarely wants to sit with me any more often decides she must be in my lap if Elizabeth is. So we sit a big girl on one leg, a tiny one on the other, or I convince Kathleen to sit on the ottoman while I read her a book. Or I'm up out of the chair.

I remember the first January of sitting in this chair, numb, feeling like I didn't really belong in this much emptier room. Now it feels like home again.