Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Story of Our Miscarriage (There Is Blood)

Trigger warning: This post discusses blood and miscarriage. 

Hello, readers. As discussed in my previous post, BJ and I learned on the evening of Sunday, October 25 that we had lost our beautiful unborn baby at 9-1/2 weeks. This was ascertained at the emergency room, where we learned that my HCG hormone levels were unexpectedly low and an ultrasound confirmed that baby Hjarta was measuring 3-1/2 weeks too small and did not have a heartbeat. The reasons why I'm sharing the details of my miscarriage are three-fold. The first is that it helps me feel better. I've never been one to suffer in silence! The second, and most important reason, is that it might help someone who is going through a miscarriage. After I learned that Hjarta had died, but before my body began actively miscarrying, I had no idea what to expect in the coming days. Two friends of mine who had previously miscarried volunteered to share their details with me so that I might have some idea of what to expect. Reading carefully through their stories was very helpful for me, and I believe it kept me from panicking when the genuine gushing began. Then, when my experience began to significantly deviate from both of theirs, I knew it was time to seek medical help. The third reason is that my miscarriage went terribly wrong and made for a semi-interesting story. So, if you enjoy ER drama, this post is for YOU! I can promise you some action!

I had not had any indications that anything had been wrong with the pregnancy until I started spotting blood about an hour before we trekked to the emergency room for the first of four times. As I was discharged on Sunday night with the terrible news, the ER physician told me to contact my OBGYN (Dr. Brown) the next morning and schedule a visit with him by Tuesday, at which time a D&C might be necessary. My bleeding was minimal, and my body had not yet given any indication that it would pass the baby naturally. For some reason, I was hoping against hope that I wouldn't need a D&C. Any unnecessary interventions just seemed too much to handle at the time. How was I to know that it would later save my life? I woke up on Monday and scheduled my appointment with Dr. Brown for early Tuesday morning. Throughout the day my bleeding became heavier and I more frequently needed to change maxi pads. I also started passing some tissue, all of which I took to be a good sign. It seemed that my body was doing its job of flushing the pregnancy out, and a D&C might not be necessary after all.

In the shower late Monday night the bleeding began to intensify. BJ and I got ready for bed, and I asked him to get me a towel to sleep on just in case I bled through my pad. I anticipated a night of up-and-down, to the bathroom and back, because of the increased bleeding. Then all of a sudden at 11:45pm, I felt an absolute gush. I bolted out of bed and shouted BJ's name as I ran for the toilet. The blood was coming quickly, much more quickly than before, at what I counted to be 3-4 drops per second. BJ sat with me for a few minutes, but I began to realize that this wasn't going to slow down anytime soon, so I sent him to bed. He agreed to go, reluctantly, but told me to shout if I needed him. I knew there was a possibility that I would need him later, and he would need to be rested for that, so I decided to go it alone in the bathroom.

Three magazines later, the bleeding wasn't slowing down at all. I moved over to the shower and sat on the shower floor until the water ran cold, about 45 minutes later. Then I went back to the toilet. At times the bleeding would seem to slow down, and then I would pass a large clot. I reckoned that the bleeding wasn't actually slowing down because as soon as the clot would pass, the bleeding would resume. Somewhere in the middle of it I passed Hjarta into my hand. I knew it was Hjarta because it didn't look or feel like anything else I had passed, although it also didn't look much like a baby. The tissue was about the size of a walnut.

A friend of mine who miscarried naturally told me that she bled intensely for a couple of hours; after three hours of bleeding alone in the bathroom, I decided I had had enough. I called the women's floor of Baptist Hospital, and the nurse thought I should probably come to the ER. I woke BJ up and we agreed that the best thing was for me to drive there alone. I knew I was clear-headed enough to do it, and I didn't want to wake up our three small boys to take them to the ER for the night. So BJ stayed on the phone with me as I drove across the city. I arrived at the hospital at about 3:15AM.

This was by far the least helpful ER visit I think I've ever had. The physician confirmed with ultrasound that I had passed nearly everything, including baby, and only had a tiny bit of tissue left. The nurse gave me a bag of fluids and some oxygen, but didn't seem too concerned when I told her that I felt nauseated and lightheaded. She gave me IV Zofran, and they prescribed Methergine to contract the uterus and help the bleeding to stop. The nurse acted like I was an idiot because I refused to take pain medication with the Methergine. I told her I had a high pain tolerance, had birthed naturally, and didn't want to be under the influence of pain medications at this time. She told me I would "regret it." (I didn't. The contractions from Methergine were nothing like childbirth and were only mildly painful.) The physician told me that he spoke with Dr. Brown, who was not on call that night, and that it was okay for me to be discharged. (Dr. Brown later was extremely angry about this; he said that he told the physician that I should be discharged only if my bleeding stopped. The trouble is, the physician never checked on me again to make sure that my bleeding stopped, and it didn't.) So, the ER sent me home with BJ, who had arrived to pick me up, and they assured me that the bleeding would stop soon. They were wrong.

We stopped at CVS Pharmacy on the way home to fill my prescription and get some Depends so that I could go to sleep. It was now about 7:00AM, and I was desperate to go to bed. I knew that maxi pads wouldn't cut it though, as I was still bleeding just as heavily as I had all night. BJ left me in the car with the sleeping boys while he ran into the store. As he was in there, I suddenly began dry-heaving. The nausea was quickly overwhelming, and I was extremely hot and dizzy. I had been on the phone with my mom (who was out of town), but I hung up because I wasn't able to talk anymore. I rolled down the window and thought, "Maybe I can scream for help." But there was no one to scream to, and I didn't have the energy. I looked at the phone in my hand and realized I needed to call BJ and tell him to hurry, but I couldn't figure out how to work my phone. I suddenly couldn't move, and I wasn't capable of simple cognition. I finally pushed the "BJ" button on my phone; however, I couldn't lift the phone to my ear, so I clumsily moved my thumb to the speaker button. I lost my vision and could only see stars. Just before I passed out, I told BJ as he answered that something was very wrong and I needed to go to the hospital.

BJ came out quickly, and I regained consciousness. I was sweating profusely, so he took off my hoodie, and I passed out again. BJ was calm, but I think he was terrified. He quickly drove to the Moore Medical Center about a mile away, holding my head up as he drove and feeling for my pulse at stoplights. He said he couldn't find it, but he didn't think I had died. At the ER, I came to as I was being wheeled back to my room. The ER staff said that I collapsed from low blood pressure, with my reading at 91/67. The Moore ER got me stabilized for a couple of hours, giving me fluids and gathering the records from the previous ER (which, incidentally, took hours to send even though I had just left there. Seriously.) The physician at Moore decided to send me through a non-emergency transfer back to Baptist, and he told me they might monitor me there or they might just do the D&C. Bear in mind, the bleeding had not slowed down in the least.
"D&C!" I begged. "Please! I'm afraid I'm going to die if my blood pressure gets that low again." I was truly terrified and had never felt so awful in my life. Things got worse as I passed out once again, this time in the bathroom with the nurse. Blood pressure reading: 88/64. Honestly! Just before I passed out the second time, I had the same symptoms as I did in the car: nausea and dry heaves, light-headedness, loss of vision, and complete inability to do anything.

When I came to again I was in a thick sweat and was being carried back into the bed. The nurses were all around me and two of them asked me to help get myself back in the bed. As if. I was completely incapable of moving, and I couldn't see anything except darkness and stars. For the next six or so hours, I remained essentially paralyzed. I couldn't move at all for about two hours, and then regained enough to move just a little. I did regain my vision. I didn't have the strength to lift my own head, sign consent forms, speak above a whisper, or offer my arms when the nurses need to check my bracelet, IV needles (yes, one in each arm!), etc. My transfer was quickly moved up in priority, and the ambulance arrived in what seemed like mere moments after my second collapse. The medic who stayed in the back of the ambulance with me was named Mel, and I loved her. I couldn't move, but she stayed close with me. She told me she had also lost two babies, and to hang in there, and that I wasn't going to die because I kept asking her if I might. Believe me--it's easy to start feeling that way when you go from normal to paralyzed in a matter of hours.

Dr. Brown was waiting for us in the ER as we arrived by ambulance at maybe 12:30ish. BJ had never been so happy to see him, although I think I had (remember when he arrived late to deliver Van, my 9-1/2 pound child that I delivered naturally??). He explained that the little bit of tissue left was probably part of the placenta, and that my body had become fooled and would not stop putting out blood unless we did a D&C. He told me that he and I had "a date" in the operating room at 5:15pm (they actually operated at 6:30 because the OR was running behind), and he promised that they would closely monitor my blood pressure and keep me full of fluids so that I wouldn't crash again. Later that afternoon he decided that my hemoglobin, which was below 7.0, was low enough to warrant two bags of blood. I never imagined I would need a transfusion, and I now give heartfelt thanks to blood donors! I spent the rest of the afternoon miserable up in the MDU, gushing blood, unable to move, nauseated, and constantly fearful of my blood pressure. Each time my cuff tightened for a reading, I sent a hawk-eye to BJ, who religiously read me the numbers and told me to relax, that I would be fine. He was amazing. (A big shout out to Christa, my amazing sister, and Susan who kept the kids safely for us at home while we handled the big excitement all day!)

The D&C was a simple, painless procedure. When it was all over with, Dr. Brown said it took only two minutes of me under general anesthesia to stop the bleeding nearly altogether. Upon awakening, I was given the transfusions, but I still thought I might die. I felt that awful. My post-op nurse was awesome and gave me a lot of one-on-one attention, and after awhile I was the only patient down there. She raised the head of my bed slowly--it probably took a solid hour to get me to a sitting position--because I kept protesting that if I sat up I would pass out. She didn't push me too hard. I got nauseated again so I was given Phenergan, Zofran, and a patch behind my ear, and with that I was able to hold down a cracker and some water. Slowly, slowly, I eventually made it to the bathroom and I laughed in relief when I sat down on the toilet: there were no clots barreling out of me, and the blood spot in my maxi pad was only the size of a quarter!
"Kelsey!" I feebly whispered in excitement to my nurse! "Look!"
"I know," she smiled. She knew how much blood I had lost and how far I had come that day.

When Kelsey and I were confident that I could make it with just BJ's help, we were discharged. It was 11:00pm. It felt like an eternity since I had left home at 2:55AM the night before, and I had been in three emergency room visits during that time (one of them twice). I'd also had my first ambulance ride, my first transfusions, and my first fainting episodes. That's a lot of firsts! We drove home and I was hardly even sad about Hjarta at the time; I think I was just so exhausted and so happy to be alive. We got home and relieved my sister, who went home to her own family after generously entertaining my children all evening and getting them to bed. She did all this while getting updates from my brother, who stayed with us while we were in Baptist the second time. I slept hard until 10:30 the next morning, when BJ woke me up with breakfast in bed.

The sadness would settle in again that afternoon, after some of the commotion died down. For several days I felt hopelessly in despair, looking forward to nothing, and I cried at least 50 times a day (no exaggeration) in grief for my lost baby. I also bled lightly for six days after the D&C. Although the physical part of my miscarriage was difficult, I would call the emotional part of it the much more difficult piece. It's a nightmare to lose a child, even an unborn child late in the first trimester. I think that some people dismiss the loss as trivial, given that the loss is kind of abstract, and much of what a mom grieves is the hopes and expectations that she had for the life within her. The joy of being pregnant is suddenly robbed and replaced with the death of a baby and a dream. The grief is real, and I don't think it can be understood unless it has been experienced.

I hope this has been helpful for moms who regrettably might use the information (or, at least I hope it's been entertaining, depending on your needs!). Friends, I will always be willing to share my experience or offer help if you need help and are going through a miscarriage. Please know that you can always contact me through phone, text, or Facebook, should you find yourself in the awful position of a miscarriage. Without the help and support of my own little group of friends who have also miscarried, I would have been isolated and alone during my experience. Let me help support you if you need it.

A happy shot of my four kids and me, exactly one week before we lost Hjarta

Sunday, November 1, 2015


On our tenth wedding anniversary, BJ and I took a weekend trip to New York City without our boys. On our third and final night away from them, I missed them like crazy. We called BJ's mom, who was keeping them, and she let us speak with both Silas and George (Van was still in utero). Both boys were wailing because they missed us, and after our conversation I hung up the phone in tears. Suddenly I didn't want one last night on the town sans children. What I really wanted was to be stepping off the plane into Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City and hugging my children tightly. In that hour, I was absolutely miserable.

The same helpless emotion that I felt in New York City that night is the same miserable emptiness that I have been feeling since I learned one week ago tonight that my unborn child has died. BJ and I studied the ultrasound monitor and could clearly see that our baby did not have a heartbeat. I have now gone seven days feeling like part of my heart has died too. I wouldn't wish this on anyone, yet I'm learning from my experience that a huge percentage of women know exactly how I feel because they, too, have lost little ones "extinguished before their time," as my friend Julie so eloquently stated. I had no idea that miscarriage was so common.

Let me not dwell on the loss, on the absence of my sweet child. Let me instead tell you that my child was real and was here. Let me tell you how excited I was to be sharing a body with this baby! I was nine and a half weeks pregnant with a beautiful being that was to be the fourth beloved child of our family. This child is deserving of all good things, and cannot be forgotten. Therefore, when my generous mother-in-law Susan drove to my house this past rainy Friday afternoon to corral my three kids and kick me out of the house, I knew where I needed to go. I drove to one of my favorite restaurants, ordered an iced coffee and a giant piece of chocolate cake, and sat down with my computer to name my baby. BJ told me the choice was entirely mine, and I took him up on it.

I am so pleased to announce that my baby's name is Hjarta. Pronounced Hyarta (the 'j' sounds like a 'y'), 'Hjarta' is the Icelandic word for 'heart.' I love that it denotes strength, compassion, and a deep-seated emotion--characteristics which I firmly believe that my child already embraces on the other side of eternity. I also love that it resonates so nicely with the song that I have chosen to dedicate to Hjarta, which is "King and Lionheart" by Of Monsters and Men. The song was written by lead singer Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir to symbolize her separation from her brother, which is one of the great emotional pains of her life. Choosing a beautiful, meaningful Icelandic word for my baby's name seemed perfect, given my interest in Iceland and the way in which the Icelandic band 'Of Monsters and Men' seems to have stirred my soul in recent months. Hjarta's entire existence was surrounded by this impactful music and the passion of a mother who loves nothing more than her children and husband. My friend Jennifer spoke the perfect words to me when I told her my baby's name. She replied that Hjarta is "a perfect name for a perfect life." Sweeter words could not have been spoken to this grieving mother.

How foolish I feel for not having announced my pregnancy with Hjarta on this blog! I have known for weeks of this beautiful being within me, and I chose not to share because I feared that I might miscarry and lose this child. And then what? Then I would have to tell everyone! Oh, but I feel foolish because I had no idea how desperately I would want everyone to know about the baby that once was. My beloved readers, I had a baby--a baby named Hjarta--a baby that was real and beautiful and lovely and loved. May everyone know far and wide, because the more people that know, the stronger my baby's voice is, and the more distinct Hjarta's identity is to others besides just me! I have a piece of my heart waiting for me on the other side of eternity, and my grief is as real as my child once was. I have a child named Hjarta that I will be with someday. My friend Sam, who has her own angel and who has been instrumental in this last week for me, pointed me to this poignant line from The Velveteen Rabbit: "Once you are real, you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always."

Not every single moment has been miserable since last Sunday. Monday night and Tuesday were spent just trying to survive a miscarriage gone wrong, as you may read about in the next post I will write. My kids still make me laugh, and my husband makes me feel more loved than ever, and my family members and friends have lavished me with hugs, kisses, cards, food, flowers, childcare, and listening ears. Acquaintances have suddenly become friends for life, as we have bonded in grief over our lost babies, some of whom passed away years ago and some only just this year. It hasn't all been horrible. The most peaceful moments I have had have been when I'm surrounded by my boys listening to this song and watching this video. Hjarta will forever be my Lionheart, and the figure of a lion will now always bring me comfort. When I hear this song, it's the closest thing to having Hjarta in my arms. "Though far away/ We're still the same."

A week has passed since the bleeding began, and it's easy to realize that the emotional wounds will last for a very long time. I'm better than I was a week ago, though. I'm not okay yet, but I'm making my way toward okay. I will be okay. But I will always be missing Hjarta and wondering what might have been.

Thank you for your support, my dearest friends and family. You make me feel special, and you make me feel what I already know to be true--that Hjarta is special, too.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Voice

Bedtime every night consists of reading books to our boys. While the older two usually choose only books and a little banter, Van requires both books and songs, in that order. Try to do the songs first, and you'll have yourself a bucking, writhing little boy quickly getting himself red-faced and noisy.

Like many young tots, Van enjoys a wide range of songs. His favorites, however, belong to two distinct genres: a) songs from the Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men, and b) Christmas songs. His favorite Of Monsters and Men song is undoubtedly "From Finner," which is literally a song about a city of people that take a long ride through the ocean on the back of an apparently large and friendly whale. We love the band and we love the song; Van has a real obsession with it. He seems particularly taken with the nautical sound of the "Na na na na HEY HEY!"'s at the end of the tune, and he walks around the house singing, "So ha-ppyyyyyyy na na na na HEY HEY!" Show him any YouTube video in the world, but you'll find none that he loves as much as this one, an acoustic live version of his beloved song:

If I'm not singing Of Monsters and Men to him then, I'm typically singing him Christmas carols. He comes by his love of Christmas carols honestly, as I have always chosen to sing Christmas songs to him year-round. Regular readers might recall the post "The December Birthday Dilemma," in which I named Van as my favorite-ever Christmas gift. I wrote then, "His very identity is part-Christmas to me, and I think it always will be that way." So, for my favorite Christmas gift of all time, I often choose bedtime songs that remind me of his sweet birth. The ultimate Christmas song for me is "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)" by Nat King Cole.

Even though I come from a lineage of singers (my maternal grandfather, among others, had a lovely voice and was a recording artist), there is no talent whatsoever in my vocal ability. Ce la vie. The wonderful part about these nightly songs is that I have a singing partner nowadays. I never expected my sweetest duet partner to be my toddler, but he dutifully joins in line by line with his age-appropriate quips and additions. Here is an honest verbatim of a song sung last night, with no exaggeration on my part of what his vocals were. A couple of things you should know about Van are that his voice is inherently a little deep, and that he often adds "mama" to the end of his words and phrases when he is speaking to me. In this case, he did so on literally every line we sang. The duet weaved itself together so that our lines overlapped, such as one might hear in "Baby It's Cold Outside." I was proud and amused.

"The Christmas Song" performed by Van and Jenny

J: Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
V: Fire, mama
J: Jack Frost nipping at your nose
V: Nose, mama. Eyes, mama
J: Yuletide carols being sung by a choir
V: Carol, mama
 J: And folks dressed up like Eskimoes.
V: Moes, mama
J: Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe
V: Turk, mama. Toe, mama
J: Help to make the season bright.
V: Help to, mama
J: Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow
V: Tots, mama
J: Will find it hard to sleep tonight.
V: ...
J: They know that Santa's on his way
V: His way, mama
J: He's loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh
V: Goodies, mama
J: And every mother's child is gonna spy
V: Child, mama. Spy, mama
J: To see if reindeer really know how to fly
V: Fly, mama
J: And so I'm offering this simple phrase
V: So so, mama
J: To kids from one to ninety-two:
V: Kids, mama
J: Although it's been said many times, many ways
    Merry Christmas to you.
V: Christmas again, mama. Again.

Note: Van's favorite Christmas song is "Jingle Bells," because he gets to shout "HEY!" after the words "one-horse open sleigh." My son has a thing with shouting "HEY" during songs, apparently, which makes Of Monsters and Men the perfect band for him. They do that a lot.

Apparently I like to only wear this Oklahoma City Thunder shirt, as seen in both photos.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Our "Car Friends"

At least once a day when we've been out and about, the boys ask me to drive home through an alternative route in our neighborhood. Although it adds a minute or two to our drive, this special route is important to them because it takes us past our "car friends."

Let me explain.

Some time ago, Silas became enamored with a silver dually truck that we sometimes drove by on our way into the neighborhood. The truck was always parked backwards in its driveway, and always had cool items like ladders in the back of it. Silas and BJ dubbed this truck "Silver Bullet," and Silas occasionally asked that we drive by to "say hello" to Silver Bullet. A few times a week we looked like creepers in my white minivan, pulling up slowly to the bend in the road and stopping so that Silas could have conversations with this truck.

"Hi Silver Bullet!" he'd say. "We just ate dinner, and now I'm going to go play outside! Why is one of your tires in the grass, Silver Bullet? You're silly!" Etc., etc.

Once, the owner of the truck was in his front yard when we stopped, and he waved to us. I rolled my window down and briefly explained the sitch to him, in case he had seen us driving by his house very slowly in recent weeks. He laughed and told Silas to come by anytime.

I wish for my sake that it had all ended with Silver Bullet, but alas it did not. Silver Bullet has since been sold and replaced by another, smaller truck which Silas has named "Black Dart." At some point, George jumped in on the fun too. He bestowed the name "Chon Chon" to the black truck that lives next door to Black Dart. The sports car at the house on the other side of Chon Chon became "Black Wheel," and then next door to Black Wheel we welcomed "Guna." (In case you can't tell from these few examples, my children have serious taste differences in their names for things. Silas, ever the literal one, has a favorite stuffed zebra named Tall Girl. George, with his creative flair, has a favorite stuffed tiger named Yetoon.) The frequency of our drive-by's has intensified from a few times a week to once a day, as the boys look eagerly to see which cars are home and which are out doing their jobs "or getting married or something," as Silas once suggested. Even Van chimes out, "Chon Chon!" as we approach the bend in the road that is the home to our car friends.

From right to left we have Black Dart, Chon Chon with his trailer, Moon, Black Wheel, CatCon, and Red the Smed. Not pictured because they were either out getting married or live further down the street to the left (Lord, yes, it continues) is Guna, Sky, Trailey (a trailer), Six-Wheel, Little Blueberry, Fall Tree and Leaf, Silver Bullet II, The Bean, and Blueberry Strawberry, which is actually a pink car with a teal hatchback. There you have it.

If you're ever wondering why I can't seem to remember important things about our friendship, or your kids' birthdays, or what vacations you recently took, it's because my precious brain space that I would normally save for things like that has now been relegated to completely useless information such as names of the cars on a street at the north end of our neighborhood. My apologies.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Gabardine Suit

This past weekend, I boarded a plane and left my family to spend a long weekend with our dear friends Sara and Jeremy in Portland, Oregon. I had an amazing time. Sara and Jeremy have no children, but are the godparents of our sons and they adore children. Hence, the weekend was child-free but still filled with stories of my kids that they patiently listened to and laughed at because they love me and they love my kids too. My time in the Pacific Northwest was fabulous as always, and we crammed every minute full of activities that are difficult, if not impossible, to do with young children. Examples include wandering around bookstores for hours, enjoying a coffee shop and not worrying that my very presence might be disturbing the patrons around me, perusing a menu at a restaurant, leisurely nursing beers at microbreweries, crossing rivers by jumping onto slippery rocks, reading books on an airplane, and occasionally sleeping at night. I was really able to let loose and indulge while I was away, though doing so many adult-oriented activities made me miss my husband like crazy. Of course, I missed my kids like crazy as well. I thought my nostalgia might do me in when we reached the small fountain at the International Rose Test Garden. The last time I was at this fountain it was steadily raining, and I snapped a photo of Silas as a toddler in a raincoat, examining a rose petal that he had pulled from the water with grubby fingers. When I looked at that fountain and imagined my baby standing there smiling at his prized petal, oblivious to my camera, I about wept.

The funny thing is that I felt like a fraud the entire time I was gone. At this point in my life, I find my identity wrapped up tightly in motherhood--so much so, in fact, that packing a suitcase and driving away from home for three and a half days led to my initial feelings of anxiety and loneliness. In my everyday life, if I run to the grocery store or pick up a pizza while the kids stay home with BJ, I feel like I'm tricking everyone that comes in contact with me. The cashier and fellow customers (if they notice me at all) notice a mid-thirties woman by herself, and may assume that I'm sailing along in life unattached. They can't see who I really am: a mother with three invisible children hanging on her legs, wiping boogers on her shirt, serenading her with stories of thwarting bad guys by intentionally setting the faucet to "too hot" so that enemies who might choose to bathe in our home will get what's coming to them. My kids are inextricably tangled around me and in me, and walking around without them seems deceitful. What you see is not what you get, for I really come in a package deal.

I remember the first time I ever felt this way. Silas was two weeks old, and BJ's parents kept him for a couple of hours so that BJ and I could enjoy a nice meal in a restaurant. I distinctly remember standing and waiting for a table when I was hit with a small wave of panic. I wondered, how will these people ever know that I'm a mother? They probably think I'm not a mother! For once, the evidence wasn't with me, either in utero or in my arms. Why I think this matters to anyone in the least is beyond me. It is my own self-consciousness, or perhaps my own self-indulgence, that leads me to surmise that anyone may wonder if anything might be amiss when I walk into a room alone. In any regard, the feeling is real, and I suspect I'm not the only mother who feels this way.
So here I sit on a small United airplane, flying over what I presume is the Painted Desert, counting down the minutes until I hug my husband and tackle my three children's soft, good-smelling skin with kisses. Only an hour and a half to go. It all reminds me of Simon and Garfunkel's "America," in which a couple on a bus pretends that fellow passengers are undercover spies in order to pass the time. I'm not a spy in a gabardine suit with a bow-tie that's really a camera, but I'm not who I appear to be either. And the people around me will never know my ruse.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Kindergarten: The Glad Game

Half a mile down the street is a little elementary school, only a few years old. We drive past it often, and ever since it opened we occasionally have told Silas as we passed it, "Some day that's going to be your school!" That 'some day' always seemed so far away.

'Some day' finally arrived last Wednesday, the day that my little boy strode into kindergarten sporting an awesome pair of light-up Star Wars kicks and a Despicable Me backpack, and holding his mother's nervous heart. Apparently I need never have worried. The kid loves his school day, adores his teacher, and has easily made some friends in his class. The school seems to be quite tight-knit, and as luck would have it, I even know some of the faculty and staff. The lovely "Ms. G.," who has been a friend of mine since I was 17, is a full-time teaching assistant who has eyes on my boy from the moment I drop him off until he comes running into my arms with a grin at 11:48AM, which is the end of his day (we're doing half-day kindergarten). At the open house last week, I even recognized the school secretary as the mother of one of my childhood friends, and I was happy to receive her bear-hug upon our recognition of one another. The school is new and lovely, his classroom is exciting yet cozy, and his teacher is creative and personable. Silas is clearly in great hands.

As kindergarten approached, I (mostly) persuaded myself to play Pollyanna's "Glad Game" in place of wallowing in sadness. After all, I reasoned, it's not like I'm losing Silas. He's actually introducing us to this new, awesome thing! Besides, he's only gone in the morning. I reminded myself of Malala Yousafzai, the widely-recognized young activist and Nobel Prize laureate who survived a Taliban gunshot to the head and has fought bravely for the rights of girls and women to receive an education in all corners of the world. We're lucky, I told myself, that Silas has the privilege not only to attend school, but to attend a great school. Sending him to a place where he can learn how to reach his potential is not a sad occasion. There are mothers in many places who long for this opportunity for their children and don't receive it. We have our lives, our health, strong social support, and exciting opportunities. No wonder Pollyanna played this game! I felt a million times better about sending Silas to kindergarten when my perspective changed from negative to positive. As Pollyanna herself said, "When you're hunting for the glad things, you sort of forget the other kind."

Malala Yousafzai, whose book I Am Malala is fabulous, by the way

Still, despite my best efforts, it was a bit of a sucker punch during the first morning's walk home without him. I held back tears until we were off school grounds, and even then I only shed a few as I pushed my other two along in the stroller. The waves of grief that day were brief and only brought on by my recollections of Silas as a newborn. I remember so well my maternity leave with him, those bright summer days spent falling in love with a new little baby so fast and so hard. I remember the kisses on his tiny face, smelling his hair, and falling into naps with him in my arms while Ellen DeGeneres and episodes of "Say Yes to the Dress" played in the background. Those were sweet, sweet days, and I'm lucky to have those memories. I've even been lucky enough to have them three different times with three different boys, two of which are still home with me full-time for years to come. Boy, am I excited when I think about that!

A new mom
 We're a little over one week into school now, and I'm very excited about the part in our lives that this little elementary school is already playing. Silas is currently enjoying School Spirit Week, which has included such antics as "Minion Day" and "Duct Tape Day," much to BJ's chagrin (I put BJ in charge of making duct tape accessories and he excelled---a new-found talent!). At occasional points throughout my life I have felt a sense of crisp clarity that I knew I was in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing. In the millions of directions I could have gone, somehow I had gotten it right and was following the correct path. Yesterday as I was chauffeuring my younger two around, another of those rare clarity moments hit me. Our family is in exactly the right home, in exactly the right school, in exactly the right class; the five of us belong here, and we are where we're supposed to be. I take great comfort in that intuition.

Nowadays, we still frequently drive by that little elementary school a half-mile down the road, but our words as we pass have changed a bit. Now we say, "Silas, there's your school! And George, that's going to be your school too some day!"

Some day.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Seinfeld-Potter Confluence

Some serious time has passed since my last post. You're welcome. I haven't wanted to write, and I couldn't think of anything to write about, so instead I spent my me-time after the boys go to sleep devouring travel memoirs and catching up on "VEEP" episodes. Last week on vacation, though, ideas for blog posts began popping into my mind in quick succession, so here I find myself again!

Topic number one: "Seinfeld." It seems to have been one of those love-it or hate-it shows, and I loved it. Elaine, Kramer, Jerry, and George are tops in my book. I've seen every episode at least once, and BJ and I regularly quote one-liners to one another when appropriate. Sometimes in my mind I pair a scene occurring with one of our boys with an equivalent "Seinfeld" scene and I smile inwardly. Occasionally this habit is my own personal "Serenity now!" that gets me through chaotic situations. There are just too many good scenarios and one-liners to ever capture in one place, but I thought I'd record some of our personal favorite "Seinfeld" quotes with images of our kids. My personal favorite scene had no appropriate place, but I hope the resulting Seinfeld-Potter Boy confluence brings a chuckle to "Seinfeld" fans. Enjoy!

George: "My name is George. I am unemployed and I live with my parents."

Kramer: "You think people will still be using napkins in the year 2000? Or is this mouth vacuum thing for real?"

Kramer: "These pretzels are making me thirsty."


Kramer: Here's to David Puddy for helping me install a much-needed and much-appreciated garbage disposal in my bathtub.
Peggy: You have a garbage disposal in your bathtub?
Kramer: Oh yeah, and I use it all the time. Yeah, I made this whole meal in there.
Elaine: This food was in the shower with you?
Kramer: Mm-hmmm. I prepared it as I bathed.

Kramer: Well, it's a story about love, deception, greed, lust and unbridled enthusiasm.
Elaine: Unbridled enthusiasm? 
Kramer: That's what led to Billy Mumphrey's downfall.
Elaine: Oh, boy.
Kramer: You see, Elaine, Billy was a simple country boy, you might say a cockeyed optimist, who got himself mixed up in the high-stakes game of world diplomacy and international intrigue.
Elaine: Oh, my God.

George: "Jerry, just remember, it's not a lie if you believe it."

Elaine: He's like a Svenjolly.
Jerry: Svengali.
Elaine: What did I say?
Jerry: Svenjolly.
Elaine: Svenjolly? I did not say Svenjolly.
Jerry: George?
George: Svenjolly. (licking some peanut butter off his finger)
Elaine: I don't see how I could've said Svenjolly.
Jerry: Well, maybe he's got, like, a cheerful mental hold on you.

Jerry: Elaine, have you ever gone out with a bald man?
Elaine: No.
Jerry: You know what that makes you? A baldist.

Jerry: "Did you know that the original title for War and Peace was War, What Is It Good For?"

George: "The sea was angry that day, my friends, like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli! I got about fifty feet out and suddenly, the great beast appeared before me. I tell ya, he was ten stories high if he was a foot."

George: "You should've seen her face. It was the exact same look my father gave me when I told him I wanted to be a ventriloquist." (In this photo, I'm referring to our George's countenance.)

Elaine: "We don’t know how long this will last. They are a very festive people."

Elaine, on pain pills: "Stella! STEEELLLLLAAAAA!" 

(Elaine is writing a catalogue with a mail room clerk that she intended to fire, but instead promoted because she was intimidated by his gruff voice and military fatigues.)
Eddie: I think I got something here! For the Bengalese galoshes. "It's tough keepin' your feet dry when you're kicking in a skull."
Elaine: Eddie...that might be just a tad harsh, for women's wear.
Eddie: Well, I'm not married to it. 
Elaine: Oh. Well, um, in that case why don't we take the phrase, "kicking in a skull" and we tweak it, you know, just a hair, to something like, what, like "strolling through a dewy meadow"? 

And finally, of course, the greatest of all:
Elaine: "You're through, Soup Nazi. Pack it up. No more soup for you. NEXT!"

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The First Daisy

Every fall, BJ and the boys plant a beautiful display of tulips in our front garden. Each spring, they wait with bated breath for the emergence of the leaves, then the bulbs, and the opening of the beautiful flowers. It is always a sight to behold, particularly with my favorite guys hovering near them, viewing them in admiration.

I love the tulips; don't get me wrong. What I really can't wait each year for, though, is my daisies. As April rolls into May each spring, I find myself hanging around my daisies more often, willing those little stems to shoot up buds, and then willing those promising little buds to show me what's inside. Every year I count on those daisies, and they never disappoint. They mean so much to me, in fact, that I have told BJ that if we ever move to another home (a thought that breaks my heart even to consider!), half of those daisies are coming with us.

The nostalgia behind those daisies is incredible for me. I remember well the evening of May 4, 2010. BJ and I came home from the hospital late that afternoon with our first newborn, a little guy named Silas. I was already deeply in love with him, and I relish even now the promise that that evening held--an entire lifetime to come with this amazing little boy. I felt terrified, yet on top of the world. That first night, though, I might have been mostly terrified. Because of that, BJ's mom Susan came to spend the night with us. She had a dinner engagement with her job, but once it was over in the early evening, she came to our house toting an air mattress, a tray of leftover food from the shindig, and a bucketful of daisies from her yard. I sat on the grey sectional in our living room, looking out our large front window and smelling my sweet new baby, as I watched BJ and his beloved mother plant those daisies in our front garden. It is perhaps the sweetest memory of my entire life.

Daisies are perennials, destined to come back each year, and for that I am so grateful. That means that every May, I get to look at our beautiful, humble garden and remember with swells in my heart what it felt like to have a new baby, a devoted husband, and a mother-in-law-turned-mother who would give her time, efforts, and love to her son, his wife, and her new grandson. Later that evening we all watched YouTube tutorials on how to swaddle a baby, and we all laid Silas down in his crib together. I remember Susan telling me to go to sleep and get some rest, and I asked with trepidation as I looked at that tiny being in that huge crib, "Are you sure there is no way he can die tonight like this?" She reassured me that Silas was fine, and then she met me in the living room during each nursing session that night to talk to me while I fed Silas, and then she put him back to sleep while I rested. It was the first night that she stayed, but it was by far not the last.

Last weekend, my first daisy opened. Then another, and another the next day. Silas excitedly ran to me last night and announced that five daisies are now in full bloom. The same little boy that snuggled sleeping in my arms five years ago now races on big-boy legs to tell me the big news...

The daisies have bloomed.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Parent Fail

When it comes to motherhood, I like to think that I get most of the important things right. There must always be a balance, however, and I more-than-occasionally tip the scale over to the side of "probably not the best-ever mother performance." My kids eat vegetables, but they also eat Happy Meals and suckers. They take baths or showers, but sometimes with a three-day stretch in between. They love reading, but they also love watching "American Ninja Warrior" and then building their own harrowing obstacle courses in the living room. They love exploring nature and handling toads and worms, but then I sometimes forget to wash their hands. They love to listen to music, but they may have a thing for Meghan Trainor. Currently, their favorite song is "Tribute" by Tenacious D, which they have dubbed "The Demon Song." I partially blame Jack Black for his awesome characterization of a hilarious, snorting demon. It cracks me up to hear my kids' tiny voices singing from the backseat, "We are but men. ROCK!" (George's pronunciation is more like, "We ah but men. WOCK!")

The award for "Mother of the Year" (as my friend Chanda jokingly calls herself) isn't likely to go to this gal, whose 17-month-old son calls all drinks "Coke." On the subject of drinks, though, Coke might be slightly better than the conversation I had with Silas the other day, in which we talked about how he is the oldest child and will therefore get to accomplish a whole lot of milestones first. We took turns listing them. I said he would go to school first, he said he would turn eight first. I said he would drive a car first, and so on, until he proudly announced that he would "get to drink beer first."

Nope, parenting isn't for the faint of heart. It's being stuck on an airplane with a sick child, using baby fingernail clippers to cut a Zofran in half because it's the only thing you can think of that might help. (It did!) It's letting your kids taste your coffee, realizing that they love it, and relinquishing what was yours when you spot the waffle bite from his mouth going back down your straw (I only give them the rest if it's decaf, at least). It's getting up from the table no less than eight times (I'm serious) during a meal to take care of spills, get refills, retrieve forgotten utensils, and take kids pee-pee. It's making room for one more in bed after a nightmare involving wolves in the house. It's just all-encompassing.

So forgive me for the following story, which is really the impetus for this post.

A couple of weeks ago, BJ was gone for a jog in the afternoon. Van was sleeping, so bear in mind that I only had two children to keep an eye on, not three! Silas and George played in the sandbox as I packed groceries to take to Susan's house, as we planned to cook a meal with her there. Even though the sandbox is easily in my line of sight from the kitchen, I must have lost track for a couple of moments because Silas stepped into the back door, lamely announcing that George had just covered his nice shirt in sand. As I stepped closer to Silas to help him brush off, I could see that he had sand in his hair too, and quite a bit of it. I stepped outside to put the kibosh on these shenanigans.

"George!" I began. "If I catch you dumping sand on your brother again..." My voice trailed off as I realized that what George had inflicted upon Silas was only about one-tenth of what he had done to himself. The sand was absolutely caked into his hair. What's a mother to do? There was no way that they were stepping into my house like that, so I stripped them down to their underwear and turned on the hose. The weather was warm, but the water was cold and I don't blame them for their reticence about getting hosed down. Silas screamed in laughter and enjoyed it, but George screamed as though I was murdering him, and promptly ran around to the front yard. Eventually I had enough sand off of my children to herd them inside, straight to the shower.

This they loved. However, I could hear that Van was awake and now playing in his crib, and we really needed to get ready to go to Susan's house. So, after a couple minutes of letting them spray each other and themselves, I took over and scrubbed scalps to remove the grit, beginning with Silas. Once out and dried, I pulled Silas close, said, "Listen bud. Look at me. I need you to go get some underwear and get dressed. That's your job right now is to get dressed. Got it?" He gave a thumbs up and trotted off, laughing as he went. I then tackled the trick of getting the sand out of George's hair. (As an aside, I don't think I actually got the last of it out until about ten days later.) George got out of the shower and we got him dried off, precisely as I was beginning to notice how quiet the house was. I suggested to George that we should go get dressed and find his brother, and he agreed.

Silas wasn't in his bedroom, nor was he in any room of the house. I went to the back door, which was still open from our trek in from the patio, and I didn't see him anywhere out back. He knows not to go out front without telling me, but my chest tightened a little and I thought, "He must have gone out front." Just as George and I reached the front glass door and opened it, I could see that BJ had returned from his jog and was walking down the cul-de-sac toward our house, laughing hysterically. And there was Silas, buck naked, riding his bicycle around the street of the cul-de-sac. The child had not a shred of clothing on, not even so much as a sock or a pair of Ninja Turtles underwear. Buck flipping naked.

When I later asked him why he didn't go straight to his room to put on his clothes as instructed, he told me that he had seen his bike on the front porch as he walked past the front door to go to his room, and he "forgot" his instructions and ran outside to go for a spin on the street. In that moment, caught by BJ--which doesn't really matter because BJ knows I don't always have it together anyway-- I had to come to terms with my limitations as a mom. Here I only really had two kids under my care since the third was in his crib, and still I had let it get away! And I sometimes have visions of a fourth?! Who am I kidding? A quick peek around our street confirmed that, fortunately, there were absolutely no neighbors outside to witness the spectacle of my son's garmentless joy ride. I'm not Catholic, but it only seemed appropriate to cross myself in that moment.

And so, dear Committee, this is why you should consider my application for "Mother of the Year" Award. And did I mention that last week my youngest son was taken to the emergency room twice in one night for entirely separate problems? I bet you don't have many applicants that can claim that! Hey, someone has to keep it real around here...