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Posts from the ‘Musings’ Category

Come and Gone (A Miscarriage Remembrance)

I realized, late in the day, that today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I want to send a big virtual hug to all of the families that are hurting, today and every day, because of babies lost to miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss. It brings back memories for me of our first miscarriage, a pregnancy conceived in this month in 2012. This is the first October since then that I’ve held my baby boy. Every day, I feel grateful for him and how he has made our family feel whole. Most days, though, I still think about those lost pregnancies, and I feel so much empathy for families who are suffering and waiting for a baby. It’s really, really hard.

Today, I dug back to find this little piece of writing and thought I’d finally share it. I wrote this after my D&C procedure on January 4, 2013. By then, we had known that the pregnancy wasn’t viable for two weeks, and the D&C was needed to finally end the pregnancy. (I wrote more about this miscarriage here and here.) It’s a very strange feeling to be carrying around a non-viable pregnancy for a so long, but it is even stranger to wake up from general anesthesia and feel such complete emptiness.

Come and Gone

Little one, you are gone this morning. All that remains of you is a feeling and a memory, and what I write on this page.

You were conceived in late October, in a cozy state park cabin rented in the off-season. The next morning there was snow on the ground, and the world looked brand new.

You were unexpected fatigue and sore breasts. You were two little blue lines on a pregnancy test, and then another just to be sure. You were the good news we shared.

You were my nausea and aversion to cheese, mushrooms, and leafy greens. You were the return of my linea nigra, stretching from belly button down to groin.

You were my July baby. You were visions of long walks on perfect summer days, of blankets laid out in the grass. We would lie down together to watch leaves wave from tree branches and the clouds drift by above.

You were so real.

But on the ultrasound, you were a smudge of grey without form or movement. You were the doctor’s furrowed brow and the tear on your daddy’s cheek.

You were a clump of cells, inside a set of membranes, in my body that didn’t realize you were already gone. Your heart might never have beat at all. You were already the most you would ever be.

You were an expanse of possibility inside of me that then shriveled away. You were a dream, unraveled to a wisp of thread. I will keep it just the same, wrapped in the more substantive fabric of our lives.

You were a life that was part of my life for a time. Your handful of cells held some of me and some of your father. You were made of our fathers and mothers and theirs before them.

You were a love not proportional to your size, so big it took us off guard. Only in losing you did we see how much of our hearts you had filled.

You have come, and you have gone. You were not quite right for this world. You were our miscarriage.


A science note, because I can’t help it: At the time that I wrote this, I’m not sure if I knew that fetal cells can remain in a mother’s blood and tissues after pregnancy, even one that is lost. So, I guess the first two lines of the piece above aren’t quite accurate. I probably still carry cells from my lost pregnancies in my body, and they may even be part of BabyM as well. That’s a wonderful thought, actually. 

After Another School Shooting, Doing My Best to Parent in a Scary World

Since last week’s shooting at Umpqua Community College, I’ve been thinking a lot about the problem of gun violence in our country. This isn’t a typical topic for me, but of all the things that we worry about as parents, this should probably be among the top of our list. Read more

A Letter to My 3-Month-Old: On the First Season of Your Life

You are 3 months old, and as your mother, there is something I must confess to you: I haven't yet cracked open your baby book. It sits neatly on my nightstand, undisturbed and unmarked, while a succession of telling objects rotate around it as the nights go by: pacifiers (mainly rejected by you), nipple cream, novels, water glasses, vitamin D drops (barely remembered by me), burp cloths, tiny nail clippers, cards of congratulations, a copy of Goodnight Moon, and a messy pile of kids' books and scribbled papers left by your older sister. These last three months have been wonderfully full. I marvel at how much you've changed in such a short amount of time and know how quickly these present moments will slip into the past. I don't want to forget them.

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A Bedtime Conversation with My Daughter

In which I try to explain to my 4-year-old, who loves to stall at bedtime, why my time after she goes to sleep is so important to me.

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Introducing Our New Baby Boy!

I think it's time to officially introduce you to our new baby! If you follow me on Facebook, you know that our baby boy was born just before Christmas, and if you're not on Facebook, you've probably guessed as much. Here on the blog, I'll call him BabyM until I come up with a better blog name. (I have the foresight to realize that BabyM won't be an appropriate name forever, and nor will the other things I call him now, like Milk Man, Sweet Cheeks, or Little Guy. I'm already terrified of how quickly he will grow!)

BabyM's birthday went well. I started having contractions at midnight....

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Emerging: A Book, a Pregnancy, and Summertime

I'm back. In so many ways, I feel like I'm coming up for air after a long, long time.

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Hopeful for the New Year

I, for one, am not sad to see 2013 go. It’s been a rough year for me. I haven’t been blogging about it – haven’t been blogging about much of anything, actually – and I think it is time for an update.IMG_5374 2013 started with a miscarriage in progress, finally ending with a D&C on January 4. I grieved that lost pregnancy openly on this blog. It was therapeutic for me to blog about it and to feel support from women who had had similar experiences, or at least had empathy for the magnitude of love and hope that comes with a pregnancy. I started to feel better. I was confident that I would be pregnant again soon, and that was the obvious way to fill the gaping hole in my heart.

In the spring, I watched seedlings poke through wet dirt. Our neighborhood burst with color and new life, and I felt hopeful. But as the days grew longer and hotter, I felt sadder and sadder.  I still wasn’t pregnant. My previous due date came and went, now just another day, but such a heavy one for me. Cee and I sorted through newborn clothes in our hot attic, not for a new baby for our family, but to lend to a friend. Cee asked to keep a few onesies for her baby doll. I showed her how to fasten the snaps and then sent her downstairs so I could cry.

In August, I had another miscarriage, this time very early. Then, another one in October, early again (and thankfully spontaneous) but far enough out that I let myself think ahead to another summer due date. That one really crushed me. I know miscarriage is common, and it’s easy to chalk the first up to bad luck. But by the third time around, I had really lost faith in my body. It has failed, repeatedly, to do one of the things I feel it was always meant to do. I’ve always wanted children, and the family that I have, for which I am exceedingly grateful every day, doesn’t feel complete. There’s still a gaping hole here, and it’s only gotten bigger.

Meanwhile, Cee turned three in November. I know my sadness has affected her, and it’s affected my parenting, because my emotional reserve is just plain depleted. I am working hard at being enough for her and at assuring her that she is enough for me. (And she is. She really is. I’ve come to terms with that, most days anyway.) Read more

Two Mom-Driven Media Ventures You Should Follow (and Support!)

I want to take a minute to highlight a couple of newish media ventures that I think readers of this blog would love. Funnily enough, both are a little old-fashioned. One is a literary magazine, printed on real, honest-to-god, paper. It arrives in my mailbox, and I know I need to clear my evening – put away my laptop and phone and snuggle into my bed a few hours before I actually intend to go to sleep. And the other is a podcast. Maybe that doesn’t count as old-fashioned, but as I listen, this form brings all the warmth and comfort of a radio show that makes me want to slow down, close my eyes, and just listen.

Both of these projects are doing something special and filling our need for real parenting voices amidst the chatter from popular websites and advice-filled magazines.  After every installment, they leave me wanting more.

longest shortest time headerThe Longest Shortest Time is a podcast and accompanying blog created by Hillary Frank. Hillary is a writer and a professional radio producer, and her experience shows in the podcast. I love good radio, and this is good radio. I just discovered the Longest Shortest Time last summer, at the recommendation of a friend. I was immediately hooked, and I plowed through the 20 existing episodes, recorded over the last three years, while I packed up our house in preparation for our move.

The Longest Shortest Time is about stories. But stories are different when they’re told from one friend to another, or one mother to another, empathetic mother. That’s something that Hillary recognized. She says:

“Something I did know from having been a radio producer for about 15 years, is – if you have a microphone, and you stick a microphone in someone’s face, they will tell you just about anything, and it’s not awkward. I just started sitting down with moms and calling moms, and dads too, to hear their stories of struggles in early parenthood.”

These are some incredible stories. The most memorable is Hillary’s conversation with her friend Kelly McEvers, an NPR war correspondent, about what it was like to combine early motherhood with her very dangerous line of work. That’s a perspective that I’d never heard before. I am nothing like a war correspondent, in my personality or work, and my experience with motherhood is nothing like Kelly’s. But still, I felt a certain amount of kinship with Kelly when she said this:

LST kelly quote

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My Favorite Parenting Strategy

A few weeks ago, I blogged about Cee’s long, drawn-out process of getting ready in the morning. She was maddeningly slow at changing from pajamas to her clothes for the day, but she also insisted on doing it herself. If I tried to help, the pace of progress slowed even more. If I tried to take over, it became a physical battle, and I was sure that wasn’t worth it. I tried a few strategies to keep our mornings moving, and readers offered more great ideas in comments on my post.

One of my more brilliant ideas, I thought, was a hand-drawn morning schedule for Cee. I drew a step-by-step diagram of what she needed to do each morning – get dressed, go potty, brush teeth – and then I showed that we could have a few minutes to read a book or play together before leaving the house, assuming she could move through her schedule at a reasonable pace. We drew out the schedule and discussed it the night before, and she was really into it. She showed it to Daddy and carried it around for her bedtime routine, then carefully placed it by her bed before she went to sleep. In the morning, she was excited to follow the schedule and get to book time, and she did it! I thought it was quite a success story. But, by the next morning, Cee was bored with the schedule idea. In fact, I’m pretty sure she saw right through it as one more pressure tactic from me. Cee doesn’t respond well to pressure, thinly disguised or not.

So. I settled on my favorite parenting strategy: patience. Honestly, I can’t think of a more important asset to the parent of a toddler.

I did a lot of little things to ease our morning crunch. I got as much ready the night before as I could; I went to bed and got up earlier to get some work done before Cee woke; and I asked Husband to take over on mornings when he could squeeze it in his schedule, just to ease my nerves. And then, I tried to summon more patience and relax. I trusted that this was a phase that wouldn’t last forever.

dressed and ready

Dressed and ready to go

I’m happy to report that I was right. For the last few mornings, I have woken to the sound of little feet running down the hall. Cee has been waking early, dressing herself, and then coming to wake me up with bed head and a big smile. That whole dressing fiasco? It’s gone. She’s getting dressed on her own, while I’m still snoozing.

Why the change? It isn’t anything I did. Me telling her that she needed to get dressed faster had zero impact, I can assure you. It’s more likely that it prolonged the process. Maybe she’s discovered that it’s more pleasant to get dressed without me breathing down her neck. Maybe she herself got bored with the snail-paced process and figured she’d rather get on with more interesting things in her day. But whatever it is, she is very proud of herself, and I am too. We’re both relishing her autonomy.

But now Cee has moved on to other time-consuming projects. Lately, she’s been wanting to buckle her own car seat. She can do this, but it takes long minutes of sitting in the car waiting for her. Sometimes we’re in a hurry, and I tell her that I have to do it this time, and sometimes that causes a meltdown. But if I can, I try to find my patience and let her do it herself. Just like the dressing process, the learning part takes time – much longer than if I did it myself. But I trust that at some point she’ll get really good at buckling her own seatbelt (always followed by my check). And then she’ll feel proud and independent, and ultimately that means that she does more things for herself. So again, patience.

Patience tells a toddler: You don’t have to be more than you are right now. And when I choose the patience strategy, I’m telling myself the same thing: You don’t have to fix this. You don’t have to have an answer. Staying calm is enough.

It’s tempting to try to fix the little challenges of every stage, but so much of childhood we really can’t control. We can try to prevent meltdowns with attention to sleep, food, daily rhythms, and choices, but when it comes right down to it, the meltdowns are bound to happen at some point. We can do everything right (whatever that means) in the transition from diapers to undies, but we’re probably still going to have some accidents and setbacks along the way.  We can cosleep or sleep train or something in between, and we’re still going to have days when we’re dead tired. So much of parenting is riding out the stages, focusing on the parts of each that we love and then coping with the tough parts as best we can. And then waiting, with patience, trusting that we’ll come out the other side with our kids, who will be moving on to new challenges before we know it.

What are your kids working on that is requiring your patience? And maybe more importantly, where do you find more patience when you’re running low?

I’m Still Here.

Last week, I received a sweet email from a reader, saying that she was missing my posts and that she hoped everything was okay. And this morning, my Facebook inbox was graced with a photo of an adorable toddler, son to one of my most loyal readers.

I LOVE getting these little notes. I’m completely flattered and honored that there are parents around the world who have let me into their parenting lives and think of me even when my blog has grown quiet. But getting these notes also make me feel a tad bit guilty: “Crap! I should be blogging more! I need to be more of a resource! People are counting on me!”

At the moment, I have a few other projects that are taking precedence over blogging. I’m hard at work on my book, and that is pretty much consuming most of the energy I have for writing. It is harder work than I thought it would be. I’m falling deep into topics that I thought would be much simpler to sort through and translate into readable chapters. It’s really interesting and fun, and I can’t wait to share it with you. I had imagined that I would be able to whip off quick blog posts about my book research, but I haven’t been able to pull it off. But, I promise you, once I get this manuscript in (which admittedly, may be a while), I will get back to blogging regularly. I’m keeping a list of post ideas, which pop up a few times per day while I’m working on the book.

I’m also teaching a couple of nutrition classes at my local community college this summer, and we’re working on buying a house (and soon – moving!). And… it’s summer. The Oregon rain has nearly stopped. (Although, for some reason, we signed up for swim lessons starting last week, and we’ve been shivering at the outdoor pool in 60°F, drizzly weather these last few days.) We’re making time for camping, hiking, leisurely walks to the park, and picking strawberries.

Strawberries2 june13strawberries1 june13As a side note, let me just tell you that I’m having lots of fun parenting right now. Cee is two-and-a-half. She’s stubborn and independent, and most of the time, I love it. And oh! Read more