Alternative Paths

Today is a day to consider alternatives. In an alternative universe, my sweet Adam Gabriel may have turned three today (which was his due date). We would be celebrating this bouncing little man and all he would have become thus far. We may have been watching A.G. and Adrian interacting and growing their brotherly love right in front of us, making our joyful parenting hearts leap right out in front of us in that cartoon-thumping, sappy way. 

Instead, today my husband had a surgery follow-up appointment (small surgery – he is fine) and we entered the same hospital complex where I gave birth to A.G.’s still body and left him 3.5 years ago. As we passed the labor and delivery unit, I commented on how there is still a photo of him at the hospital that the staff promised we could pick up if we ever felt we wanted it. (And I am coming around to recognizing a desire for it, but it has yet to outgrow my fear/sadness of making that phone call to ask for it. What do I say? “Ummmm, yes, my name is X and 3.5 years ago I had a baby…a miscarriage…a…and, well, I was told there might still be a picture of him….? Do you know who might know about that? Could you transfer me….? Thanks…”

Agh.

So, getting back on point…today is a day of reflection. This year, I still know I am okay. I accept his journey was not supposed to be with us for longer than it was. I still feel sadness when I think of him and miss him deeply. I continue to be thankful for my time with him…and amazed that I truly feel like I knew him. It’s a day of reaffirming truths and disappointments. It’s a day to remember how much he changed me.

Tonight, I let Adrian snuggle with me for an extra moment before putting him in his crib for bed. I squeezed him close to me and kissed his chubby cheeks, knowing how special it is that I get to be with him today and every day. He is this truly happy, charming child who smiles with his eyes; loves to giggle and squeal; and lunges with his little arms, trying to pet our dog (who still wants little-to-nothing to do with this imposter). 

Adrian doesn’t take away the pain of losing our other pregnancies. There is no replacement for losing A.G. and the others, and having dates all around the calendar that give me sorrowful twinges when they pass by. But, he does give me so much happiness and a reason to appreciate every day in a way I didn’t know I would ever get to experience. I have said this before, but I will not take this gift for granted. I know the struggle, the grief, and the confusion of infertility and loss, and I will savor every second of this alternative path – the one where I have a healthy biological son I get to watch grow, learn, and thrive. The grass is greener right here, right now…and although we didn’t eat a cake topped with three birthday candles today, this day is worth celebrating.

Christmas 2016

My family celebrates Christmas and we are on the way to see relatives on my husband’s side somewhere nice and warm. But, right now…? I am in the family bathroom of an airport, pumping way passed my preferred time, where I can hear my little boy’s cry coming from the pit of chairs across the hall from my current location. We just got word that his cousins (that have already arrived) have all gotten sick, but not to worry because it is probably just from motion sickness/the airplane. (Eeeeek! We hope so!!!) 

We have golf clubs, a stroller, a car seat and base, a cooler for taking extra breastmilk home at the end of the week, and all of the other usual items you need for adults and children for a few days in the sun. I hate clutter and extra stuff, so it makes me anxious to try and travel with so many items. 

I think one of the reasons I haven’t written much lately is because I feel like my life is just a big cliche now. I mean, I just spent a paragraph listing all of the stuff I have with me for this trip, and it bores me to write about it, yet I have real emotion behind these mundane circumstances. Anxiety, exhaustion, annoyance…But, however typical it is, I am really living in it. And it’s this living that makes me so fulfilled.

What I mean is that, for example, I feed my child…and there isn’t much to say about that. But, oh my, the pleasure of seeing him pause to smile or giggle at me. That’s where the lights turn on. I watch him play on the floor with his toys or just observe his joy at rolling over and over. I babysat a lot growing up and often it was pretty boring. But now there is so much meaning for me behind every block picked up or pacifier (yes, we use those) brought to his mouth by himself. And this is motherhood.

Being a mom, my husband says he has to go to the bathroom when we arrive here, so he goes while we wait. Then we pass through the gate and I find a bathroom to change my son’s diaper. And, then, about a half hour later, I finally get to do the thing I hate most, but have to do today…pump so my son has a bottle or two of milk for the plane. I don’t say this with any resentful emotion behind my words; I just mention it because it is interesting how universal it is for a mom to flip a switch the day her son or daughter is born and then not be first on the list anymore. Aside from the bathroom example, my husband is never first on the list either. I think most days he and I both feel like our needs come in last. But that’s just parenting. We still do a lot for ourselves, but there isn’t time or resources to take care like previously. And neither of us would trade this circumstance for even one day. 

The Christmas story is about a traveling family. The parents did the best they could to care for their son the night he was born. It wasn’t glamorous, but it was perfect. That’s how I feel most days. Like I am living the life of so many others all over the world, and it is spectacular in its ordinary way. 

Silence

I have been so silent in the blog world lately, but my life has been filled with: 

– the softest baby hands 

– Adrian giggles and crinkly-smile eyes

– sweet “hmmmm, hmmmm, hmmmm” sleep sounds

– the best cry face around, complete with a lower lip pout

– chunky, adorable thighs

– lots of love gazing in both directions 

Life is full. It’s gorgeous. I watch the golden sunrise when I am up way too early snuggling with my little guy. Stealing nectar this season couldn’t be easier. I am falling more in love every day, and even the challenges are life-giving. I have all of you – in your various stages of ravel or unravel – in my thoughts as we navigate the same and different wavelengths. I pray every person gets to experience a Big Love like this with whatever it is that fills you up entirely. Peace wishes in this holiday season to all. 

October 15

When I gave birth to Adrian this summer I thought, “Is there anyone in this hospital delivering an angel like I did three years ago (minus one week)?” When I heard screams from other women in labor, I prayed for everyone’s safety. When I heard babies crying, I hoped no  woman was hearing those cries who was going home unexpectedly without a crying baby of her own. I even heard a cart being rolled down the hallway very quickly – almost in a run – and it tore me up inside to think about the reason the cart (possibly containing a baby, of course) would be in such a rush to get somewhere. 

When I learned that Adrian had his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck during delivery, I was so thankful I had a doctor I trusted so thoroughly. There was a part of me that couldn’t even address it, though, because the scenario scared me as I could have lost him so quickly in those moments when my doctor was cutting his cord so he could breathe. 

And, now, sometimes I remain completely shocked at the horror of delivering my son who had already passed – the four days in the hospital waiting to deliver…the excruciating contractions without an epidural…the reality that I couldn’t change no matter how much time passed or how many tears I cried…

And to know so many women have a similar story. I literally know so many of them now. They go on to put themselves through pregnancy again in the hopes of a miracle…like I did, I am realizing as I type this. What brave women we are to deal with this knock-us-out loss that we aren’t supposed to talk about and somehow keep living – and even keep having babies. And even then, some of these subsequent babies make it into this world breathing and, for women like me, so many of these babies don’t. 

So today, I remember the pain. I remember that you can’t grieve if you never loved in the first place. I honor all of you brave humans that have risked it all for love. Sometimes the most common things are the most unbelievable, whether it is life or whether it is death. Because of these memories that I pause for today in a special way, I will always have a deep gratitude for my Adrian that I don’t believe I could have felt without loving and knowing my other four little lost ones.

Today, yes, I remember the pain, but I also remember all the love, especially as I cuddle and kiss my little, chubby, healthy three-month-old sweetheart. 

Dear Boobs…

Dear Boobs:

It’s time to get real. I am going to hurt your feelings and probably cause both of us to cringe with my honesty, but it has to be said. Please get a life of your own. You are infringing entirely too much on mine. I still love you, but you have become too needy. 

You used to be so agreeable, beautiful even. Soft, painfree, an acceptable size…I regret that I probably took you guys for granted. I know I am full of judgement, but you hardly resemble the old you in personality or looks! You used to just go with the flow, not asking for too much time or attention, but now…

Oh but now… 

Now, you demand to be cradled – but not too tightly – constantly. Too much hugging, and you get all tight and bothered – constipated – clogging our precious milk and holding it hostage. Too little swaddling and you throb. Come to think about it, you throb with too much hugging as well. I am breaking the bank trying to find out what amount of physical support is just right for you in various situations (e.g. sleep, a day out on the town, or a leisurely, neighborhood walk…).

You have been very sick (three infections in 8 weeks). I am keeping very good care of you, but you refuse to be healthy for a stretch of time. Treatment for one thing (with nasty antibiotics) begets infection (thrush) and so the cycle goes on. Many supplements have been added to my diet every day in hopes of preventing the previously mentioned plugged ducts and bacterial infections. You require vinegar rinses; soothing and sometimes medical applications; and absorbent pads layered with anti-chaffing pads. Oh, but yes, if the chaffing pads are resuable – I have just learned DON’T. Better to throw away each time or just use good old kitchen Saran Wrap because at least that is disposable and most hygienic. 

Because of your pickiness, I am exclusively pumping milk for my little boy which is like feeding him twice all day and night long. This cuts into my time previously reserved for many other things (like sleeping, eating, showering, or unloading the dishwasher), so I am not too happy with you. You demand to be emptied every three to four hours, regardless if my little one sleeps 2 or 6 hours. And could you at least coordinate schedules with him to maximize my time in between feeding activities?  That makes me hate you a little bit. I think I can still love you and hate you at the same time.

But then, Dear Finicky Boobs, you also don’t heal. You don’t heal under all of those layers of protective wraps and lotions, despite the extra like 20 pills of supplements I am taking daily. And so you want to be air dried. But, how do you expect me to dry you out when I am trying to keep you as clean as possible and have lots and lots of guests in my home and my new infant wants to constantly be held?! Why do you have to be located on my chest, my chest that is best for holding my son – my son that hasn’t mastered control over his jerky movements or over the English language that I might otherwise use to warn him of his thrashy, pain-inducing bats at your boobalicious territory?! Be honest, are you just jealous of my newborn human? 

And back to your former beauty. I am sorry, but I am going to go here and offend you. You used to be perky-ish, monotone, and smooth. Post-jealousy, you are now veiny,  monstrous in size, red everywhere from stretch marks (and sometimes mastitis), and torn up from breastfeeding attempts. I cringe thinking about your current visual state. When you are full, you are achy and quick to leak milk. (By the way, I especially did not appreciate this new way of tantruming while trying on bras at the store. It was especially difficult to keep drips of that precious fluid off the merchandise and simultaneously off the dressing room floor while debating your new size and particulars of comfort.) Not an attractive quality, Dear Breasts. This attention seeking is not endearing.

I am exhausted from worrying about your health. I am tired of trying to find bras and shirts in which you will be contained. You are big, ugly, and only minimally functional. Oh but that…in that function of feeding my child, I am eternally grateful. So I have to love you still. For all your whining, crying (milk), and fit throwing, you are somehow keeping the most precious human in my life alive, completely healthy, and even thriving. Oh, I love you, Dear Boobs. I thank you. I love you the most (did I say that already?)…even though I really do hate you a little.

XO (begrudgingly),

Stealing Nectar 

Miraculous Living

I have tried to write a baby update a few times now, and it seems that all I have to report are boring things about breastfeeding issues, losing pregnancy weight, diaper fiascos, gazing at my beautiful son for hours on end…basically, the new parenting stuff I think is pretty typical.

So, what I need to say: even though I am in a fog of responsibility and sleeplessness, life has never been better. The minute Adrian was born it seemed like he had been here forever. He just fit. I know the instant bond isn’t every parent’s experience, but – happily – my husband and I felt it. We actually commented – after an hour or two in the hospital with him – “How was he not here yesterday?!”

After 27 hours of labor that included an extremely difficult 2 hours of pushing, he arrived healthy and beautiful. These first weeks have been a cliche: harder and more incredible than I thought possible. 

Basically, even though I knew I have wanted a child for many years now, I feel so much more comfortable and excited to have him here than I thought I would. I prepared myself not to bond instantly, to anticipate how hard it would be, and to think about other, more negative, aspects of being tied down with a child. But, although it’s been physically very taxing (battling a couple infections, a fever, and sleepless nights), emotionally it’s been life-giving, miraculous, and sweeter than I thought possible. 

Now I know why parents are always encouraging people to start having kids. It’s amazing! I strongly feel people should have whatever type of family/non-family they desire (if possible, of course), but I now understand why there is so much encouragement to those on the fence about parenting. It’s an experience like none other and, so far for me, incredibly fulfilling.

To have Son Three right beside me, healthy, (snoring!) and so darn adorable…I once again feel the luckiest. All the years of miscarriages and what those do to your body and spirit seem less painful now somehow. And as I write that, I KNOW I am the luckiest because I know some of you reading this will not be validated in this way. And I weep with you. Truly. I definitely understand as I walked away from trying to conceive for nearly a full year before this fifth pregnancy. My heart will always be with those struggling to complete their families. 

My greatest wish is that my story can provide hope for someone struggling to see the way out of infertility and/or loss. I got to the point I was definitely okay not having a biological child – which provided huge peace for me – and, now I promise to all of you I will never take for granted the fact that I get to experience this. Truly, I am living a miracle.