Aug 17, 2014

The Butterfly

A butterfly appeared this year. It flitters between our house and the neighbor's, disappearing over the fence or into the trees. I catch a glimpse of it's yellow and black wings as the girls play in the driveway.

The first day we brought Nora outside after bringing her home, the butterfly made it's first appearance, resting very briefly right on her nose and then fluttering quickly away. It has since visited numerous more times, above our heads, just out of reach, but close enough to be noticed.

This butterfly, it makes me think of Calvin.

I don't think the butterfly necessarily is Calvin, but I sort of think of it as a sign from Calvin. A periodic "hello," or a checking in to see his big sisters riding bikes, spraying the hose, singing and laughing. I think of the butterfly on Nora's nose as Calvin's acknowledgement of his little sister and a welcoming her home.

* * *

Today marks the one year anniversary of my delivery of Calvin. It marks one year since laboring at the hospital, the horrible contractions brought on by induction, the fuzzy calm of pain relievers. One year since seeing our baby boy for the first time. One year since the heartache of holding our stillborn son in our arms.

Today we all dressed ourselves in blue and went out for brunch. We bought a bouquet of brightly colored daisies and found a bridge over the river. Today we separated the blue daisies into five single flowers, one for each of us, and gently tossed them into the water. We followed them under the bridge, watching them drift down the river, until they were a tiny speck of blue in the distance.

Today we spent the day remembering our son, their brother. We lit his blueberry scented candle and rested together in the living room, reading the newspaper, playing games, cradling Nora.

My heart will forever break for the loss of my son. My soul will forever ache to know him.

I love you, my dear Calvin John. Always.

xoxo, christine

Aug 11, 2014

In the Middle of the Night

We are exhausted. I am exhausted.

I have two Big Girls who are right now packing their suitcases full of underwear and plastic food, and who somehow really believe they are driving themselves to Washington D.C. today to visit their Auntie. And I have one Baby Girl who is snuggled on my chest snoozing away.

All of this I want to be soaking up and enjoying fully, yet instead I am exhausted, finding myself vacillating between complete indifference and extreme irritation. (Yes, apparently when I am sleep deprived my irritability comes out like a maniacal monster.)

This beautiful miracle asleep with her legs curled under her and arms splayed, with her head of dark hair and pursed lips, with her chunky double chin and pointy elf ear, sleeps so peacefully.

Except when she doesn't. Which is usually at night.

Oh, hello. You mean I'm supposed to be sleeping right now?

The first several weeks were fine, good even. The next two weeks, when Adam was back at work, even seemed survivable. But this fifth week, my darling third daughter's fifth week of life is kicking me, hard.

I am coming off a week of mastitis and nights where I was awake with her anywhere between one and three hours at night. She is not crying uncontrollably, something I know to be incredibly grateful for, but anytime I try to put her to bed after nursing she wakes up and fusses. And the fussing turns to cries until she is picked back up, soothed, and rocked to sleep. All of which began with a sleep deficit already in place.

I am a zombie. I am one of those bleary-eyed, sleep-deprived, new moms. Except there's nothing funny or amusing about any of it. I am one "Mo-om" request away from breaking into sobs, one whiny-pout away from screaming.

I am not enjoying my three beautiful-spirited daughters, I am surviving. ("Surviving" is probably even questionable.) If I could, I would wrack up some major guilt. They are spending too much time in front to screens. They are not getting outside, going to the pool, seeing friends, getting out of the house, enough. Their diet is mostly snacks. I am crabby. I am short. I snap and sigh and spend too much time on the couch with my eyes closed. But I don't even have the energy for guilt.

There is no doubt in my mind this will all change. I know that eventually we will find our way, that Nora will get into better sleep habits, that none of this will last forever, or even very long. I am not wishing time away because already I feel like this month has flown by and my tiny newborn is quickly turning into a chunky baby. I know that everything is a season and I will look back and miss these early days, even though (or maybe especially because) they are foggy and filled with desperation (for sleep).

But right now I am tired. Oh-so-tired. And I am just trying to survive. Trying to remember to relax. To breathe. To not let my grouchiness get the better of me. To apologize. To give hugs. To love every minute I can -- even the ones I am awake for in the middle of the night. And to forgive myself when I can't.


Aug 4, 2014

I'll Take an Quadruple Shot of Espresso, Please

Well, it's only taken about four weeks, but I think the lack of sleep is finally catching up with me. Don't get me wrong, I've been exhausted since the beginning, but the past few nights Nora has needed extra cuddles and last night I was up with her from 2:00 until 4:30, and I'm pretty sure my patient parenting is fading quickly.

I have no problem giving her the cuddles she needs. In fact, I've spent the past four weeks feeling overwhelming love when she wakes me up at night (after the initial grogginess clears), smiling at her and whispering sweet words to her, even when she's awake multiple times per night, even when I've just put her down and snuggled back under my covers, only to be summoned back minutes later for more rocking and cuddles.

But like all humans, I have a breaking point, and there's a reason not letting prisoners sleep is a form of torture. I'm not quite the hot mess I expected to be today, but I can tell that a meltdown is bubbling just below the surface.

I am bone-tired. And when I'm tired I feel overwhelmed and grouchy and like I am lacking in all my titles. The big girls bear the brunt of my crabbiness, unfortunately, although I noticed last night that it was harder to smile and coo at Nora after already being up for an hour. This makes me unhappy on top of my lack-of-sleep irritability because I like being a patient and gentle parent. And I'm not feeling very gentle or patient today.

I know that all I need is more sleep, whether at night or napping during the day, and everything will be put back into perspective. I know that I am not a bad parent, that I'm just tired, and this tiredness will someday (soon?) be a distant memory. I need to go to bed earlier (even if Adam is still up) and sleep more when Nora does during the day (even if my older girls already feel like I'm napping too much).

I just need more sleep. And while I'm at it a couple of large coffees wouldn't hurt either.

Wishing you sweet dreams.

xoxo, christine

Jul 29, 2014

On Top of My Heart

It is late July. The usual hot and sticky pool weather of the Midwest is lost, replaced with a cool spring like breeze which drifts in through the open window. The feeling outside, with the warm sun and coolish wind reminds me of the weather in San Diego. When I close my eyes I can almost smell the salt and sand blowing across the beach.

The house is mostly quiet. While the big girls are over at a friend's, Nora and I are dozing in the living room, the occasional squeaky cry my reminder to feed her.

She fits perfectly on me with her legs curled up under her and her head against my chest. I wonder if the thumping of my chest in her ear reminds her of her time in the womb. I cradle her bottom in my hand and pat her gently on the back, breathing in her baby scents of Dreft and shampoo, with a dash of milky breath leftover from her most recent nursing session.

She stretches her arms above her head and yawns, her eyes still tightly shut. When she smiles I wonder if she's dreaming of milk. I close my eyes and feel the weight of her, all seven or eight pounds, on top of my heart.

* * *

I am in awe at how easily she fits into our family. How quickly she is finding her place. And how the big girls are adjusting to the newest member of our family. They are incredibly eager to help, grabbing diapers, wiping her spit up, informing me when they think she's hungry. Nora is doted upon and smothered with kisses, and each big sister has about three hundred requests per day to hold her.

We are ever-so-slowly finding a rhythm, one that is sure to change as quickly as she does, speeding up one day and the next day slowing to a crawl. We are sleeping four hours at a time one night followed by a night of multiple feedings with long episodes of rocking in between. We are taking trips to Target and the coffee shop, with lazy afternoons of snuggling together on the couch.

We are finding our way as a family of five, the family of just four slowly fading to a distant memory.

We are all in love. And it is so good.

xoxo, christine

Jul 24, 2014

Two Weeks and Back to Work

Adam went back to work on Tuesday. I can tell you how that makes me feel: Pthhhhhhhhhhht with a big Roger and Ebert Two Thumbs Down.

It also happened to be Nora's due date. (Kind of funny, to think that instead of starting his leave on her due date Nora is two weeks old and Adam is returning to work.)

I don't think it ruined Adam's time off, but the idea of him going back to work has been hiding in the corners, jumping out at me and causing great amounts of dread even since most of last week. I'm pretty sure it was haunting me more than him -- which was, in fact, confirmed by Adam himself. The idea of getting up alone at night with the baby, meeting the needs of the big girls, and functioning all day with no possibility of alone time made me break out in a cold sweat.

It would have been nice if Nora had given us a good night's sleep on Monday, to ease us into our new "regular" routine, but of course she's a fickle (although awfully adorable) little newborn that decided to have a long and fussy night. I'm not exactly sure how Adam survived his first day back to work, but I did it with a large coffee (yes that's three shots of espresso -- don't judge) and a visit from friends.

(Although the coffee kept me awake, it was the friends that made the day manageable with the playmates for the girls and help in the kitchen.)

Yesterday the girls and I went to a friend's house and today and tomorrow they are out of the house on play dates. Honestly, this week has been less scary than I thought it would be. The help is wonderful, and even the girls themselves are pretty easy going. Today they let me sleep in until ten o'clock.

I am exhausted by the end of the day though, and poor Adam comes home to a tired and most likely cranky wife, two big girls dying for his attention, and a new baby he wants to bond with. Somehow we are making it work, with most of the credit going to my dear husband who I could not do any of this without. Which explains why I was dreading his return to work.

But, two days in and it's going pretty well.

That, however, doesn't mean I'm not still counting down the days until the weekend. Two to go.

xoxo, christine

Jul 17, 2014

A Good Reason

Generally, I don't find myself ruminating about whether or not things happen for a reason (although I would certainly like to believe that they do), but several days after Nora's birth, I had the thought that her labor and delivery happened they way they did for a very good reason.

I know, of course, that part of the reason her delivery was so fast was simply because with subsequent pregnancies labor usually gets faster (and faster and faster). And with Paige being born less than two hours after being admitted to the hospital, friends and family were joking that I'd be lucky to make it to the hospital this time around.

I made it to the hospital.

But, I was not expecting to go so quickly that I hardly had time to register being in triage or moving to labor and delivery. And I certainly didn't expect for things to progress with no time for pain medication or the doctor barely making it in to "catch" our baby.

Physiologically, I understand exactly why Nora's birth worked out the way that it did. But I am starting to think that there was another very good reason she came so quickly.

One of my biggest fears about the labor with this pregnancy was knowing that we would be going back to the same hospital, the same triage, the same labor and delivery unit, where we met and said goodbye to Calvin. I knew that being there would be difficult, painful, emotional, and I was sure that the loss of Calvin would over-shadow the birth of this baby. And even though it made me sad and worried, I had pretty much accepted that this was just the way it would be.

Delivering Nora within forty-five minutes of arriving at the hospital left no room for me to think of anything other than making it through each contraction and getting this baby out. And even though there is some guilt about it, I can say that because of how everything played out, I did not think of Calvin or our experience delivering him until we were moving from Labor and Delivery to Recovery.

Nora's quick birth provided me with a wonderful (although extremely painful) distraction that left no room for the emotional pain of relieving my last moments of pregnancy with Calvin. She knew exactly what she was doing, and came exactly how she was supposed to, and I was well into falling in love with her and doting on her by the time I could register the sadness of being in the same place we said goodbye to our son.

She is a miracle in every way. And I can honestly say that her Birth Story is one of those things that happened exactly how it was supposed to, and for a very good reason.

xoxo, christine

Jul 13, 2014

Welcoming Our Baby Girl

So... we had a baby this week.

I feel like this post is a long time coming, it's already been five days, but the time to sit down and write does not feel as urgent as getting more sleep (as I'm sure you can imagine), and when I try to think about putting words to what's been going on it feels impossible. Partially due to finding time to sit down and think about the words, and partially due to finding the words themselves. Somehow, describing our past five days, especially her birthday, feels almost impossible.

But, back to the point.

On Tuesday morning at 4:02am I delivered Nora May. She was determined to stay on my good side, because Nora graced us with an "early" (but still full-term) arrival at 38 weeks exactly. She was a healthy 7lbs 5oz and 20in long, so I can't imagine how much chunkier she would've been if she'd waited another two weeks.

All three of my darling daughters have been born on Tuesdays, so I tried to convince Adam that at least her middle name should be Tuesday, but we settled on May instead. (A combination of our mom's first names.)

She came with a full head of dark hair, big chunky cheeks (complete with double chin), and the squished features of a newborn I like to refer to as looking like "a little garden gnome." I have been in love ever since.

We are slowly working on our at-home adjustments and getting enough rest to function (and not be a crabby mess -- that would be me). In some ways it still feels quite unreal that she is here. But she is here, and I can't imagine anyone else but this sweet baby being our Nora.

Next on my list, whenever I can sit and focus and write again, is getting her birth story down. Hopefully I can squeeze that in before too much time goes by, it's already starting to feel like a foggy dream.

We are so happy to introduce and welcome our Baby Nora!

xoxo, christine