Thursday, December 20, 2012


“What strange creatures brothers are!” ~ Jane Austen

Surely, this baby must be a girl.  I had little to no trouble with my pregnancy with Jack and this one has been quite a rocky road- blood clots in my leg, unrelenting nausea.  So logic would deduce that my body makes baby boys well and isn't so great at baby girls.

Logic has no place in pregnancy.

A few years ago, I was out to lunch with a wonderful friend who is the mother of 2 boys.  They knew while pregnant with their 2nd child that they would be finished having children.  I asked her if her thought changed once she found out she was having another boy.  "You know," she said, "I definitely wanted a daughter for me, but I wanted a brother for my son even more.  I considered it a win/win."

And it was with those wise words that happy tears sprung into my eyes when the ultrasound technician told me I was having another boy.  Images started appearing in my head.  Jack and his brother reading books together, running around together at the lake, sleeping in bunk-beds, giggling all night.  And then the inevitable battles, fights, scrapes.  But then, even farther into the future, I imagined them standing next to each other at Jack's wedding.  Of course, so many of these things are possible for a brother and sister.  I have both and love them all ferociously.  But there is something magical about sisters and brothers.  I feel incredibly grateful to be able to give Jack a sibling and I feel honored to give him a brother who I hope and pray will love him and look up to him for the rest of his life.

There is a wistfulness I feel when thinking that Trevor and I may not experience the love of a daughter.  I think any parent who has single sex children can attest that many of us just assume that we'll have both and each sex carries with it some unique moments and bonds that don't form in the same way as with the other sex.  Maybe someday Trevor and I will, but maybe we won't.  But we don't wish this child to be a girl, we don't wish this child to be anything other than the miraculous being he already is.  

A funny thought hit me the other day while I was standing in the kitchen watching Jack and Trevor play together.  Jack won't have a single memory of life before his brother.  All of his earliest memories will involve the presence of this new boy.  Trevor and I will have photos and videos and blogs of life before him, although I know there will come a day when even those fade and it feels like our entire life has existed with children and not child.  Most of his identity in our family will be as someone's big brother as most of the identity I had growing up was as someone's big sister.  How funny that he'll never recall the years during which Trevor and I attempted to figure all of this out.  He'll just enjoy the years of being a family and of having a Harpo to his Groucho, a Harry to his Will, an Orville to his Wilbur, a Luigi to his Mario, and of course, if we're lucky, a Jake to his Elwood.

And it bears mentioning that in a month of so much sadness in the news, of families whose hearts are breaking and stories of our nation being at odds over practically everything, nothing in the entire world brings more hope and joy than the sight of a brand new life on an ultrasound screen.  To see the formation of his brain, his heart, his spine, his limbs breathed fresh air into my heart and mind.  Thank you, thank you God for this great gift of new life.  

Our new boy.  

Our new son. 

Jack's new brother.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


I can't look at the news today and I can't read articles about the shooting at the Connecticut elementary school without tears welling up in my eyes and a lump the size of a walnut forming in my throat.  So I do what I can.  I love my baby.  Today, instead of putting Jack in his crib for his nap, I laid down next to him on our bed, held him in the crook of my arm, planted my lips on his forehead, stroked his hair, still curly from his morning's swim lesson and we fell asleep that way.  When I woke up 30 minutes later, my lips were still pressed against his head and my new baby was wriggling around inside of me.  I reflected in that dark room how moments like these are perhaps the only times in my life when I am certain of my babies' safety.  In the still, quiet room with the sound of cars driving by outside and airplanes flying overhead, I imagine them all being filled with someone else's children and how much sheer faith in humanity it takes to ever let them out of your sight.

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of "disaster," I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world."
-Fred Rogers

I think of the teachers who huddled their children together and read them stories to keep them calm.  I think of my own husband, a school teacher himself, who enters his school every day not knowing what the day will bring but doing his best to nurture, educate, and inspire those young people.  As with Columbine, Aurora, and 9/11 before this, the stories of the heroes & helpers will continue to emerge and I will mentally file them all away in an act of self-preservation so I'm not afraid to let my son out of my sight.

Jack's room has posters of "heroes" on the wall.  Iron Man, Spider-Man, Captain America.  He also has a picture of his dad on his bookshelf, a real hero.  I say a prayer of gratitude for our nation's helpers today.  Our teachers, our first responders- police, fire and EMTs, our pastors, priests, counselors, and volunteers.  All of them are someone's baby.  All of us are.

In one of my favorite movies "The Night of the Hunter", the strong female protagonist, a grandmotherly type who takes in orphans proclaims:

"It's a hard world for little things.  You know, when you're little, you have more endurance than God is ever to grant you again. Children are man at his strongest. They abide."

To those babies who were plucked from this earth at their strongest and to the babies, teachers, and staff members of that once joyful elementary school who must now endure the trauma that unfolded around them, I pray for those words to be true.  It is a hard world for little things, but they will endure and abide. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

My Cub

An excerpt from an article originally published in the Daily Mail UK, online, 9/26/11

Clinging on for dear life to the side of a vertical cliff, the tiny lion cub cries out pitifully for help.  His mother arrives at the edge of the precipice with three other lionesses and a male. The females start to clamber down together but turn back daunted by the sheer drop.
Eventually one single factor determines which of them will risk her life to save the youngster – motherly love.

Slowly, agonizingly  the big cat edges her way down towards her terrified son, using her powerful claws to grip the crumbling cliff side. One slip from her and both animals could end up dead at the bottom of the ravine.
Just as the exhausted cub seems about to fall, his mother circles beneath him and he is snatched up in her jaws. She then begins the equally perilous journey back to the top. 

Minutes later, they arrive and she gives the frightened creature a consoling lick on the head. 

Go on, grab a Kleenex.  Nature is such a powerful teacher.  If I'm being very honest, sometimes I'm afraid that I'm messing this whole motherhood thing up.  Should I be spending more time with him?  Should I be scolding him in different ways?  He's not even 2 yet so he can't always find the words to communicate with me and I sometimes imagine this silent scream (which is not often silent) coming from within him out of frustration that I just don't get it.

Mama said there'd be days like this

Last night Jack woke up in a fit of screaming.  He's getting his 2 year molars in and I can only imagine the agony.  In a reverse of the mother lion I ascended the cliff, otherwise known as our stairs and found my cub.  I brought him back downstairs to sleep with us in our bed.  Eventually, this amounts to his feet digging into Trevor's back and his skull nestled in between my shoulder blades.  From an aerial point of view, we make a big letter H.

Happy haphazard harbor

Trevor and I have oft repeated the parental mantra, "he won't be this little forever" and we wearily tell this to each other as we lay there preparing for what will be a long night.  Before Jack begins his bedtime break dance routine I feel his little warm body nestled against mine.

"Is he spooning me?" I ask.

"Ha. Yeah." says Trevor.

"Good." I reply.

I can't always be with my cub.  That's what separates us from the mother lions I suppose. Because I'd descend any cliff to rescue him, that's for sure.  So I think about the ways I am there for him and the times I do make sacrifices for him and that brings me some comfort even when I lose sleep.  I know that someday Jack will be making me lose sleep when he's not under my roof, when he's far, far away at school or work or with his own family.  I'll lose sleep in a warm bed with lots of room to roll around because he's no longer here.  So I will allow myself to lose sleep knowing that his little body is next time mine breathing and dreaming.  

And every new day is a fresh start as a mom.  I'll mess things up, I'll make things right.  I'll feel alternately racked with guilt and bursting with pride at the choices I make and the wonder that is my son.

And I know that he won't be this little forever, but he will always be my cub.

Incidentally, I can also tell you another thing that separates us from the lions.  Here's one last photo from that article.  Notice the three lionesses and the one clearly enlightened male lion attempting to climb down the cliff?  Notice the other male Lion relaxing off to the side?  Most likely thinking of his next hunt or the upcoming presidential election between Simba and Timon.  Well that ain't our daddy lion.  Before I ascended those stairs last night, Trevor had already gone up and I found him holding our cub whispering in Jack's ear as tears streamed down those tiny cheeks that everything would be alright.

With a pride like that, there's no way we'll mess this up.

"Looks like they have a good handle on the situation."

Friday, November 2, 2012

I love you. The end.

Jack is a lover.  He's scrappy too, but he is a lover in his heart.  He kisses and hugs the little boys and girls at his daycare freely and without hesitation.  I treasure this age.  I marvel at his instinctive displays of affection and tenderness because it won't always be this way.  Eventually he will learn boundaries and that not everyone appreciates it when you walk up and kiss them, especially on their bellies.  He's a belly kisser.

Last January, I wrote a poem for Jack's 1st birthday which you can read here.  Go ahead and read it if you haven't, it will make the rest of this make more sense.  It's ok, I can wait...

My first draft of the poem mentions Jack as a father in his bed on a birthday far into the future when his children come bouncing in with homemade birthday cards and his wife making pancakes in the kitchen.  After I wrote it and read it, something didn't quite work for me.  You see, I know plenty of married men and women, the majority of my friends are heterosexual couples.  But I also know Annette and Allison, Eric and Kris, Dava and Kristin, Myke and Mark, Amy and Zayda, Chris and Dan, Jennifer and Mary.  I know them all and I love them very much and I realized that if Jack is gay- and I won't know this for quite some time, but if he is gay, I don't ever want him to go back and read that very special poem and think for one second that my hopes and dreams for his life were wrapped up in him being married to a woman.  All I hope for him is that he is surrounded by more love than one heart can hold and that's what I tried to capture in that poem*.

Jack might be gay.  Those words will most likely sting some people I love very much, but they are words I need to come to terms with in the event that they're true.  Would I love him one bit less?  Absolutely, 100% no way, no how.  Would I be fearful or sad?  Sadly, yes.  I don't know how to raise this little ball of love in a world so deeply divided over something that to me seems so unbelievably simple and easy to embrace- the God of my understanding wants us to love everyone.  And if we can't love everyone, we shouldn't hurt them.  

Last summer, hundreds of people all across the country lined up to buy fast food chicken saying they were defending the 1st amendment.  But to me it sent a message that language intended to divide and judge is to be commended and celebrated and sponsored.  I can ignore the words of one man but I can't ignore the sight of people cheering and rallying to support him.  And maybe there was a time in my life when I could, but when I held that baby in my arms for the first time, I swore that I would love and defend him with all my might.  And what if they were all cheering against my own precious son?

As a mother I have to take a very clear and firm stance on this issue and be an advocate for the rights of my dear friends who only wish to be married to their partners and given all of the rights and privileges they deserve.  If not for my own children then for the thousands of children who live in fear of coming out to their families and friends; the children who are jumping off of bridges, crippled with anxiety and self-loathing.  I didn't carry my son for 38 weeks to love him "only if" or "only when".  I carried my boy into this earth to love him and protect him for as long as I can.

And Jack, I love you no matter what.  It is my heart's greatest desire that the love that overflows in your heart today never diminishes as the years go by.  I hope you find a partner to stand by you and love you for all the days of your life.  Please don't ever be afraid of who you are.  You were created by love, born by love and raised by love.  You are 1 part me and 1 part daddy, 1 part uniquely you and 100% deserving of love.

We love you Jack for all that you are and will be.  The end. 

*But Jack, I want grandchildren.  This is non-negotiable.

Monday, October 22, 2012


When I wake up in the morning, love
And the sunlight hurts my eyes
And something without warning, love
Bears heavy on my mind

Then I look at you

And the world's alright with me
Just one look at you
And I know it's gonna be
A lovely day
Lovely day, lovely day, lovely day

Parents are famous for saying that they wish they could freeze frame a moment with their children to travel back to it again and again.  Last night was a moment like that for me and Jack.

The kid wouldn't go to sleep.  Sunday nights are always challenging since the day typically consists of no routine and no set schedule.  We had two wonderful friends come to visit us which made Jack exceptionally excited and he ran around the house accordingly.  So by the time bedtime came and went and he was having nothing to do with sleep I gave Trevor a break and went upstairs to pick up crying Jack from his crib and attempt to rock him to sleep.

With only the soft green light of a nightlight to illuminate our faces I held Jack in a rocking chair while I wiped the tears off of his cheek.  We sat there slowly rocking cheek to cheek until his soft pudgy hands made their way around my neck and he turned and kissed me.  I sang Bill Withers' "Lovely Day" and we rocked and rocked together.

It would be truly "lovely" if the story ended there.

It does not.

Jack began to squirm and squirm until I threw in the towel and took him downstairs.  I gave him some dry cereal, but quickly realized that the change in scenery was perking up his energy again.  So into our bedroom we went.  Trevor was downstairs with Aunt Bean watching TV so Jack took Trevor's side of the bed and we just laid there together.

9pm on a Sunday night is quite possible the worst time of the week.  9pm on a Sunday is when you reflect on every piece of clothing that didn't get washed, the work you didn't get to and the dishes that didn't get put away and the fact that they will be waiting for you on Monday.

When the day that lies ahead of me
Seems impossible to face
When someone else instead of me
Always seems to know the way

Then I look at you

And the world's alright with me
Just one look at you
And I know it's gonna be
A lovely day

But Jack doesn't understand the awfulness of Mondays yet.  He just looked very content to be laying there next to me and so I allowed myself to be content too and not worry about everything that didn't get done.  I turned the lights off and turned on my Nook to find Richard Scarry's "Colors" book.  Now our faces were illuminated by Lowly Worm, Huckle Cat and Bananas Gorilla.  His tiny finger pointed out the "app-ulls", "tucks", "cawrs", and "titties" (that's kitties, I promise you).  After we had gone through every color from Red to White we shut off the book and laid there in the darkness.

And this time, the story ends there.  Jack's hands found my face and just explored it for a minute until the rustling of his legs against the sheets slowed down and his breath steadied and he fell fast asleep.  At some point I must have turned my back to him because the next thing I remember was the feeling of a little body spooning me.  Trevor came up and after getting ready for bed himself, scooped him up and took him back upstairs.

There was nothing magical about last night, no earth-shattering revelations about my boy.  There was just me and Jack holding space together for a little while in ways that won't always be possible for us.   I do wish I could always remember the way his tiny hands feel and how soft his cheeks are.  Even though I'm living those things right now, they can be easy to miss when focusing on his loud screams, how hard he can throw things when he's mad and how stubborn he can be.  So I need to remember the lovely times too.

Then I look at you
And the world's alright with me
Just one look at you
And I know it's gonna be
A lovely day


Friday, October 19, 2012


For almost 12 weeks I have not known how to talk or write about this pregnancy.  Any initial excitement we had was quickly brushed aside by an emergency room visit and hospital stay and then weeks of unrelenting nausea and sickness that haven't subsided.  It's been easy to forget about the baby growing inside of me when so much feels so wrong.

So when I walked into my appointment with my midwife this morning and she said "How are you doing?" I didn't quite know how to answer that.  I am all at once grateful, sick, sad, excited, anxious, nauseous, and tired.  In a word- it's complicated.

This morning on my way out the door to take Jack to daycare, a huge wave of nausea hit me and I found myself hunched over the kitchen sink puking up everything but the kitchen sink.  Jack just stood there holding his graham cracker watching me with a worried look on his face.  In between heaves I looked over at him and said "It's ok buddy, mama's ok".  He smiled and just stood there until I was done.  I feel guilty for all the time I haven't spent with him these past few weeks and I hope he understands.

I know there are women who love being pregnant, who glow and cultivate perfect bumps, who don't puff up or feel and look like zombies.  God love those women, but unfortunately that ain't me.  

Let me be super clear- the issues I'm dealing with pale in comparison with what I know other women have suffered through to carry their babies.  If you haven't yet watched "Call the Midwife" on PBS, do it!  I offer up all of this pain to the pregnant women featured on that show.  I have incredible support at work, world class insurance and a network of family and friends to help me when I need them.  There is no woe-is-me here, but right now, in my own little corner of the world I'm feeling very frayed at the edges.

My midwife had me lay on the table so she could listen to the baby's heartbeat.  Up until now I haven't had the chance to hear it.  I lifted up my shirt to expose a belly full of bruises from the shots I have to give myself each day.  She pressed the Doppler machine firmly onto my pelvis and all of a sudden, there it was.

woosh woosh woosh woosh woosh woosh

"There it is!" she exclaimed.  "170!  Nice and strong."  The sad tears I fought back earlier in the appointment became happy tears as I listened to the sound of my baby's beating heart.  Underneath those bruises lies a teeny tiny baby.  None of this is his or her fault, but it's been incredibly hard to find my baby in the midst of this never-ending whirlwind of illness.  

I have realized that it's ok to be incredibly grateful for your ability to have a baby while simultaneously hating being pregnant.  You can loathe every minute of the puffiness and puke while relishing the thought of holding your newborn baby in your arms.  

I have to believe that all of this has not been too easy on this little baby either.  Jack came 11 days before his due date at the tail end of what was a pretty nasty bout of bronchitis for me.  It was a 7 hour labor and delivery.  I swear he pulled the emergency escape hatch and got the hell out of there because he was over all the coughing.  I might not always be the most glowing or gracious hostess for these babies, but I sure do love them ferociously once they're in my arms.  I just need to try extra hard to find this baby again.  She or he has had to compete with a myriad of distractions including an older brother who needs a lot from me right now.

But find this baby I will.  There's a little woosh woosh woosh in there.  It's a little piece of me and Trevor and Jack and with each woosh this baby is making its way into our lives.  And baby, we can't wait!

9/19/12- Baby's 1st ultrasound w/ heartbeat at the bottom

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Aunt Bean & Uncle Cris

My sister Mary AKA Bean dances like no one's watching.  And if people are watching, they are probably at a concert because that's where she spends a great majority of her time feeding her love of music.  She does that arm flailing full of joy-I was born 40 years too late-Woodstockian flower-child dance and I marvel at her spirit.  Marvel and laugh at her because I'm her older sister and we do that.

Last year, at 20, Bean decided to be a grown up and work full time, attend school full time and in an act of sheer love and selflessness, watch Jack two days a week (her only days off of work) so we could ease him into day care.  They bonded over the Beatles and blankets strewn across the lawn while dappled sunlight danced in Jack's eyes through the lens of Bean's ever present iPhone.

This year, at 21, Bean decided to be a kid for the last year you can truly be a kid.  She doesn't come around as much, but when she does she greets her beloved Jack with a "PEANIEEEEE" our affectionate nickname for our little peanut.
Aunt Bean & Peanie at Indian Lake

This pregnancy has not gotten off to a blissful start.  I've been plagued by constant nausea which is worst at night plus a quick trip to the hospital with blood clots in my leg.  It's hard to not feel like I'm missing out on this precious time with Jack while I lay curled up on the bed trying to talk myself down from another wave of nausea.  Trevor has essentially become a single father in the evenings taking care of dinner and bath every night, but now he's in rehearsals for a play he's directing and help has become imperative. 

Last week, the side door burst open to the sound of "HI PEANIEEEEE!" and there was Aunt Bean wearing slipper socks, yoga pants and a hoodie sweatshirt- her standard visiting uniform.  I was in my standard position, curled up on my bed while Trevor was getting dinner ready.  Jack jumped into her arms and she gave him a huge hug.  The 3 of us sat on my bed talking about important things- the finale of Honey Boo Boo and the most recent concert she attended- Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.  

Then, the most wonderful thing happened.  We turned our cable to the music stations and she held an impromptu dance party with Jack.  "Wide Awake" by Katy Perry was playing.  The #1 song on the day Jack was born was "Firework", so Katy Perry has sort of become Jack's homegirl.  I sat on my bed feeling sick as a dog while my beloved sister danced around the room with my beloved son.  She swung him around while his little hand rested gently on her shoulder.  He laughed and giggled and smiled and I saw all of the things I wished I could do with him before my eyes, but he wasn't missing out on any of it because of Aunt Bean.

Uncle Cris is Trevor's younger (and only) brother.  He is a cheeky monkey who has shared more than 1 crazy adventure with Trevor and they have scars to prove it.   Cris can be incredibly elusive and we may go a few weeks without hearing from him.  He keeps busy with work and friends, but he is the kind of person who will drop everything to help you when you need him.

Uncle Cris & Sparky- 1/7/11
Cris found out we were expecting another baby while I was in the hospital for the blood clots earlier this month.  It was a "good news/bad news" phone call from Trevor to his brother from the hospital room.  Cris assured us he would help with anything we needed.

For two nights in a row this week and for as long as we need him to, Cris has come over at 5pm to wait for Jack (who he has called "Sparky" since the day of his birth) and I to return home so he can play with him and give him lots of attention during what is a very difficult and nauseous time of day for me.  He stays for dinner and gets to know his nephew better.  He has shown him the magic that is a cardboard box and has made promises to build complex (read- incredibly dangerous) obstacle courses and stairway slip 'n slides when Jack is older.  Yesterday, uncle and nephew, Cris and Sparky grabbed a soccer ball and went out to the backyard to play.  I could hear Jack's excited cries of "ball! ball! ball!" as Cris ushered him outside.

Trevor is adamant that Jack will call Uncle Cris "Uncle Luda".  Get it?  Luda-cris?  And while Jack hasn't mastered the word Cris, last night he did muster a Looo-a.  Trevor might just get his wish.  When we do ask him to say Cris, he puckers his lips and makes a kiss instead which I think is just about perfect.

Bean and Cris shared maid of honor/best man duties in our wedding.  Those titles weren't just captions in a wedding program, they have maintained that place of honor in our life as a couple and now as a family.  Does it take a village to raise a child?  Yes, I do believe it does.  It certainly takes a village to support two working parents.  I love our little village people Bean and Cris.  Jack loves them too.  

Someday Jack and his younger sibling will go sledding down the basement stairs on a cookie sheet while blasting The Beatles' "Helter Skelter" and I will know that the legacy of Bean and Cris lives on in my babies.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

In Gratitude for New Life

It is with great joy and much gratitude that Trevor, Jack and I announce that a new baby will be joining our family in May, 2013.  The depth of my gratitude comes from what was one of the most frightening days of my life.  I apologize that so many of you will hear this joyful news on Facebook, but there are parts of this story which will be hard to retell so I hope to share the joy of our new baby with you in person as soon and often as I can.

Last week an ache started forming in my calf that actually caused numbness in my foot.  It felt like a strained tendon or muscle and I dismissed it as such. I borrowed crutches from a friend and just did my best to limp around on it hoping that it would go away.  It was by chance that I stumbled on an article about deep vein thrombosis while researching sources of calf pain.  The article warned that calf pain could be a sign of blood clots forming in the deep veins of the leg, typically affecting only one leg and sometimes causing numbness in the feet.  I have known for years that I have a genetic mutation in my blood that makes it more likely for clots to form.  Pregnancy increases this risk greatly.  It was then I began to panic.  Clots that break free in veins can cause pulmonary embolisms, miscarriage, strokes, and death.  I was to have a routine checkup with my midwife on Thursday and I called to move it up to Wednesday.  Amazingly, she had an opening. 

I went to work Wednesday morning and did my best to move around and stay calm.  When I finally pulled into the hospital parking lot that afternoon, I let out a huge sigh of relief.  I knew that no matter what happened, I would be in a place where people would take care of me and my baby.  I told the nurse who checked me in that my immediate concern was for my calf.  The midwife came in and asked me questions about how long the pain had been there and what it felt like.  She ordered an ultrasound of my leg for 4:30 that day.  Before I left she wanted to check for the baby's heartbeat.  Looking back, she must have known that the danger was real because she seemed adamant that she didn't want me to leave before I heard the heartbeat so she performed an ultrasound on me.  There, on the screen, was our little 7 week old baby whose heart was beating strong and steady.  She printed the photos for me to take with me.

At 4:30 I had an ultrasound of my leg and the technician confirmed that 3 blood clots had formed in the veins of my calf.  She called my doctor who ordered me to be admitted to the ER immediately.  I called my mom to tell her I needed her to come.  I called Trevor who knew I was going in for the ultrasound.  You have to go get Jack, I said.  I'm on my way to the ER.  In his ever calm way, he said he'd be on his way.  We have never been so late to pick up Jack.  When Trevor arrived, he hugged him and wouldn't let go. 

In my room in the Labor and Delivery unit, they began asking all sorts of scary questions.  They inventoried my jewelry.  They asked me who could make decisions on my behalf if I was unable to.  They asked me if I wanted to fill out a form outlining my medical decisions.  I cried and cried.  I cried for missing Jack and Trevor.  I cried for fear that I was a ticking time bomb whose clots could break free at any moment.  But I also cried in gratitude that I was in a hospital where people could help me heal.  The first night I was there, I awoke from a deep sleep and looked at the clock- 3:40.  The next day my mom told me that Jack woke up around 3:45 in the morning crying out Mama!  Mama!  He finally feel asleep at 4am which is when I fell back asleep too.  If there was ever a doubt of the bond I share with my boy, that night confirmed it for me.

They began injecting me with a drug called Lovenox which acts like a blood thinner to keep new clots from forming while helping my body clear the ones already present.  I will inject myself with this drug 2 times a day for the rest of my pregnancy and for 6 weeks after delivery.  I will take a baby aspirin every day for the rest of my life.  Jack did end up making a trip to the hospital and he ran around the room gleefully playing with everything he could reach.

On Friday night, I was released from the hospital which was truly amazing because at first, no one knew whether it would be a few days or a few weeks that I would be under hospital care.  I was greeted at the door by Trevor and Jack.  Tears sprung in my eyes as I looked at the faces of the people who are most precious to me as the reality of all that could have been washed over me.  I thought of all the times I rubbed my leg or hit my leg while it was sore.  All the times when those clots might have moved but didn't.  I was so grateful to my midwife who knew to take that ultrasound so I didn't leave that office fearing for the life of my baby.  I was grateful to have healthcare that allows me to heal myself without breaking my family.  I was grateful to the friends who we did confide in during this ordeal who supported us and told us that they would do anything we needed them to.

Life will slowly return to normal for me.  I will be monitored throughout my entire pregnancy to make sure we're both safe.  They will run labs to make sure my blood is at a good level.  I can already walk around on my legs again, nearly completely free of pain.  My body is healing itself while it grows my baby.  Your prayers, happy thoughts and good wishes for the rest of the pregnancy are welcome and appreciated.

We are so excited for the gift of our new baby.  Expect plenty of excited and happy updates in the weeks and months ahead.  My due date is 5/5/13, three years to the day when I found out I was pregnant with Jack.  Life comes full circle for us if we're lucky.  And my little family is feeling incredibly lucky tonight.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Dark Night

As a mother, there are so many stories of violence and aggression in the world, that sometimes I worry that the fear and anxiety they cause may swallow me up whole, especially now that my baby is becoming a little boy- a little boy filled to the brim with curiosity and a spirit of exploration.  Right now he has no concept of how dark and lonely the world can be.  Within the confines of his minimal exposure to life he sees only goodness.  His day care report cards speak of a little boy who hugs and kisses everyone.

The domestic terrorism that occurred in Aurora, CO on Friday stings me on so many levels.  I continue to struggle in processing them all, so when life is joyful, I live it, when life is sorrowful, I write it.

My very first job was at a movie theatre.  Movie theatres have always been a sacred place for me.  Growing up, my dad struggled finding activities that would please both his sons and daughters across an 11 year age span so movies were always the answer.  Going to the movies is still one of the things I enjoy doing the most with my dad.  I remember fondly watching Shakespeare in Love with him and then talking for hours about literature.  Recently on a night when Trevor and I found ourselves blessed with a babysitter, on a night we could have done anything, we took in a double feature at the movie theatre near our house.  Walking into the theatre from the street, I felt the blast of cold air and the smell of popcorn wafting in the air.  Those feelings trigger deeply held happy memories of long ago days with my siblings and dad.  Looking up at the massive screen, sitting in an over-sized chair, eating popcorn from an over-sized bucket makes me feel like a kid again. 

I remember the first time I flew in a plane after 9/11.  It was December 23, 2001, just 3 months after that unspeakably tragic day.  I flew from NYC back to Michigan after my internship was over.  Suddenly something that had always felt so special seemed fraught with danger.  All of the security in the world couldn't take away that feeling that we were all in an incredibly vulnerable position sailing thousands of feet above the air.  I don't know when we will make it to the movies again.  Nights out are few and far between these days, but I know that looking at that dark room with the steep aisle will feel more foreboding now and less inviting.  Tiny exit doors will feel insufficient if danger arrives.  These feelings may subside, but for now they feel raw and deep.  That is what makes the events of July 20 acts of terrorism.  The vicious ripple effect that they cause through the fear they instill.

We all know by now that there were children & babies (as young as 4 months old) in the theatre that night.  As quickly as the details of that night emerged, the shock and anger at the nerve of these parents who dragged their children out at midnight to see a violent movie erupted.  I admit, I had those thoughts at first.  I had those thoughts until I saw an interview with the very young mother of the infant who was in the theatre that night.  It was difficult to make out her words through her sobs.  She talked about running to escape, about her young daughter tripping and falling and of her certainty that they would all be killed.  Her only plea to those running near her was to make sure her daughter got out safely, even if she had to stay behind and face the bullets.  I am a mother and I can say this on behalf of so many of us.  We often make foolish decisions, especially when we are exhausted, suffering from all forms of depression that frequently happen after pregnancy, and struggling with a sense of severe isolation.  That may cause some of us to wrap up our babies and head to a movie theatre late at night hoping that we feel human for just a little while again.  None of us could ever fathom that we'd be faced with such horror, forced to push our own children out of a theatre to save their lives at the cost of our own. I learned something very valuable from my rush to judgment of this very young, terrified mother.  We all live with the choices that we make for our babies, good and bad.  To be held up to such impossible criticism and judgment at a time when I am certain she is vilifying herself for bringing her children to Theatre 9 that night is unnecessary and undermines the need for all women to empathize with the choices we make as mothers.

My wise and wonderful friend Bobbie put it best when she wrote this response to a blog entry about ending the judgment of these families:
As parents, it's natural to point at things that "could have been prevented" in any bad situation. If we didn't think that way, if we really and wholly understood the chance of accidents that cannot be prevented happening to us and our children, we would be incapacitated. It's human nature to find things that you would do differently (or never do) to convince yourself that those tragic results could never happen to you and your family.
She so brilliantly summed up what I know we all do.  We all assume these things could never happen to us.  In the same way the parents of the young girl who was killed in the Tuscon, AZ shooting shouldn't blame themselves for taking their daughter to a grocery store that day.  These parents can't blame themselves for what happened to their children.  Whether it was a good or bad choice to bring a baby to a midnight showing of a movie is not up for debate in the court of public opinion right now.  These mothers will punish themselves long after the blogosphere quiets down.

But there are moments when I see the light through the darkness.  As the stories of the 12 victims were told, three stood out to me.  At least three young men died in the attack when they threw their bodies over their girlfriends.  I am certain more stories of heroism and courage emerge.

How strangely surreal it is that this massacre took place at a movie about heroes rising in a cold, dark world.  For that is exactly what happened on July 20 in Aurora.  Even in such a dark night, when for many of us the instinct would be to run, others stayed to protect and defend.  There are superheroes among us if we pick through the rubble of a devastating story like this to find them.  And it's in that faith that the grief I feel as a mother at the atrocities of this world won't swallow me whole or paralyze me with fear.

God grant me eyes to embrace the light, wisdom to learn from the dark, the ability to be present and active in my child's life to educate him on the full spectrum of who he shares this world with, good and bad.  May he learn these lessons slowly and over time.  Help me keep him a child for as long as I can.  Help me navigate these waters with faith.  Help us live every day of our lives.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

On Father's Day

On April 1st 2011 I returned to work after 12 weeks of maternity leave.  It was a Friday and the office was very quiet.  No fanfare, lots of hugs and about 800 emails to go through.  That afternoon I got a photo sent to my phone of Trevor and Jack.  It was Trevor's first day as a stay at home dad.  The plan was that he would stay at home with Jack all summer before finding a permanent day care solution in the fall.

The best laid plans...

On April 2nd, a Saturday, a letter came in the mail from the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship organization notifying Trevor that he had been awarded a Fellowship to earn his Masters in Education in just 1 year while teaching in an "at-need" school.  It is an extremely prestigious award, an honor, a blessing, and...oh...we had 2 weeks to accept the offer because classes started at the end of May.

I probably wasn't easy to live with those first couple of weeks after returning to work.  On one hand I was ecstatic that my wonderful Trevor was being honored in such an incredible way.  On the other hand, one of the ways in which I had mentally prepared for returning to work was in thinking that Trevor was staying home with our baby all summer.  I tried my best to celebrate him and push aside the fear that our baby would be left in some stranger's hands all summer.

Well we found an incredible day care 2 minutes from our house and my younger sister, in an incredible act of selflessness and love, moved in with us to watch Jack 2 days per week forcing her to spend the rest of the week at her job with no days off. We all made it through our first trial as a family.  It's hard to believe that was over a year go.

Tonight, Jack and I attended an awards ceremony for the 2011 Woodrow Wilson teaching fellows.  On a beautiful outdoor patio, Jack and I got to watch Trevor accept an award from his professor and mentor Marcia.  I watched as he was interviewed by the local paper talking about the past year- the ups and downs.  He held Jack as he was being interviewed and halfway through, Jack started squirming and doing back flips in Trevor's arms.  Trevor just kept on talking the entire time in a perfect display of how he's spent this past year- juggling his family commitments with work and school.

Trevor has worked a full time job all year in what is arguably the toughest profession for no pay.  Every morning he gets up at 5:30, packs Jack's lunch, checks a few emails and is out the door by 7am.  Now that he's directing a summer production, we eat by 5:30, he gives Jack a bath by 6:00 and is reading his bedtime stories by 6:20 so he can leave for rehearsal by 6:40.  He's back to bed by 10:30 only to do it all again the next day.

But that all ends tomorrow because he has finally reached the end of the school year.  And next week, a full year later, he will be a part time stay-at-home dad while he wraps up work on the 2 Masters Degrees he will earn this year.  I write all of this because I don't know how much our friends and family know about what Trevor's given up this year.  A social creature by nature, he's missed out on parties, bar hopping, movies and video games to study and work on his thesis, play with Jack, or spend an evening catching up on 20 hours worth of TV shows on our DVR with me.  And as incredible as all of that is, I read something tonight that brought a tear to my eye.

Each fellow wrote about one of the highlights of participating in the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship.  This is what Trevor wrote:

What is important for everyone to remember is that even though these are called "at-need" or "at-risk" schools, every single one of these students is a unique, driven, and wonderful person in their own right.  The moment we start treating these children like statistics, is the moment we lose our humanity.

I read that at dinner while speeches were being made and I'm glad I was wearing sunglasses, lest the Provost think I was crying at his speech.  I looked at Trevor.  He is the father of my son and he wrote that.  I gave my children the best gift anyone can receive- a loving father. 

I cannot wait to see what the future holds for our little family.  Trevor, you are on the precipice of so many great things.  I have watched you direct dozens of adoring children at the Civic, 2 of whom went on to be nominated for acting awards.  Every Saturday for 6 weeks you got into the YMCA pool and taught Jack to swim.  I see Jack's curiosity and voracious love of books and thank God for seeing to it that those little parts of you came straight through to our baby. 

This summer you have the precious time with Jack you had to give up last year.  My heart is happy thinking of the adventures you two will have together.  

But for tonight, you deserved every accolade, every kudo, every handshake.  You, my dear are going to make this world a better place and I am so honored to have a place by your side to watch it all unfold.

Happy Father's Day to the world's greatest dad.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

I majored in theatre in college. In doing so, I carried out a tradition that started with my maternal grandmother. Acting is in my genes. My great-grandfather performed skits in his basement in front of a camera. Footage that has been miraculously preserved for over 60 years. But the person from whom I really caught the bug was my mom. She was my acting coach in high school. I vividly remember us sitting outside of the Gilmore Theatre Complex in the spring of 1997 practicing my audition monologue for WMU. I got in on my first audition. I put that dream aside after college to focus on more practical things, like getting a full time job and figuring out who I was. In the summer of 2005 I auditioned for the first time in over 3 years. The play: Taming of the Shrew. The place: Celery Flats. That role led me to Trevor and we all know that story by now.

Tonight I have just put Jack to bed. The only sound I hear is the occasional dog bark from outside and the sound of 2 competing ticking clocks. Trevor is at Celery Flats, the most beloved place I know directing Shakespeare in the park. I sit in a quiet house and I don't quite know how to feel about it.  It's been over 2 years since I performed onstage. There are many reasons why, but first and foremost, I don't know of the show that would be special enough to take me away from Jack at night. But there is an exhilaration that comes with performing that is hard to find anywhere else. It doesn't compare to parenting. That would be like saying, I really love my sister, but I also love long walks along the beach. The love you have for your sister and the beach don't compete with each other, they comprise two very unique and distinct aspects of who you are. But while you can walk along the beach with your sister, it's very hard to rehearse for a show with a toddler.

I have written at length about the wonder of being a mom. It's the best thing I've done and has brought me more fulfillment than 10,000 plays ever could. But here's the thing about parenting. The thing that no one really wants to talk about for fear that they would appear ungrateful for the miracle of their children. The sacrifices that parenting demands can make you feel like parts of you are being stripped away and sometimes you don't quite know who's left. How do you think the "mom jean" phenomenon emerged? No one who remembered who she was in college would wear those things!!

So, for now I say goodbye to theatre and it is such sweet sorrow. The wonderful thing about theatre is that it will always be there. I know this time with Jack won't. It's an easy decision in my head, but in my heart I do miss that part of me who was an actress- who felt vivid and alive in a way that I don't always feel anymore.

In the summer of 2010, pregnant with Jack, I went to Celery Flats and sat in the audience for the very first time. After 5 straight years of performing, I was now playing the role of 3rd row center. The play: Romeo and Juliet. I watched with rapture as the lines tripped off the tongues of the actors, while swords clanked together, while fireflies danced around the stage above our heads. Shakespeare feels like a brother to me, a legendary brother who died before I was born, who left me this amazing legacy. Watching his work performed in that space is like being home. I was only 3 months pregnant. I rubbed the little bump and hoped that somehow the words were washing over him so that he'll love Shakespeare someday too.

So much changes with the arrival of a baby. Bodies change, schedules change, priorities change. Cabinets get safety locks on them. Toys, books, and gates start appearing throughout your entire house.  Your home is taken over by a 2 foot tall ball of curiosity and mischief.

Right now there are crumbs all over my dining room floor, tiny hand prints are embedded in the dust on the bookshelves (you will know how much time I spend with Jack by the amount of dust in the living room), an exersaucer and a pack & play (two things I never even knew existed 2 years ago) clutter up my kitchen and bedroom.

Right now Trevor is getting a reminder of who we were.

I am constantly reminded of who I am.

It's hard. No doubt about it, these choices are hard.

So for tonight, God is my director and I am cast in the role of "Mom". I read my lines with enthusiasm. I give the animals in "Where's Spot" special and unique voices. I gently sway around the room with a sleepy Jack while I sing lullabies and make up my own choreography.

For tonight, I am the star of this show.

Audience: Jack
The play: My Sweet Sweet Life

This play will run for quite some time and the audience may grow. There is no program, no critic, no intermission, no lights, no special effects, no costumes, NO MOM JEANS.

Just me and my baby and a wishful prayer to keep those parts of me that blossomed in the years before becoming a mom sacred and alive, even if it means reading each book as if Shakespeare wrote it himself.

Spot, Spot, wherefore art thou lost?
Emerge from thy basket and greet the young Jack
Who most passionately awaits your return.


Jack at Celery Flats Amphitheatre, October 2011

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Finding Spot


  1. Accustom (an infant or other young mammal) to food other than its mother's milk.
  2. Accustom (someone) to managing without something on which they have become dependent or of which they have become excessively fond
Last night Jack went to bed without nursing.  He has done this before, but never while I'm at home.

Oh boy.

We have been weaning in earnest for a while, but the nighttime feeding was the last one to go.  Lest you think I'm weaning because I think a 16 month old is too old to nurse, let me assure you, I don't.  I probably had a lot of opinions about moms who nurse their babies past 1 year, but that was before I had my own.  I am weaning for me, because I need to re-align my body.  No, I'm not pregnant, but I feel strongly that I need to get some things back in balance that have been out of balance before I become pregnant again.  Taking care of yourself as a mother is one of the most challenging things you can ever do.  I get that now.  In addition, Jack is starting to let go of it too and I'm following his lead.  It will be slow going, I don't have any deadlines, we'll go as long as we both can and then find new ways to bond.

We struggled a lot with nursing in the beginning.  I remember when Jack was 3 weeks old, Trevor and I went to the Bronson Breastfeeding Center to let the nurses there teach me how to hold him and coax him into a proper latch.  She weighed him and marked it on a piece of paper- right down to the ounce so she could weigh him after he ate to see how much milk he had gotten.  I remember the feeling of having him nurse correctly.  There was no pain and I could hear the faint sound of milk rushing through his tiny gummy mouth and into his belly.  The nurse left us alone for awhile while the 3 of us sat in the tiny room amazed at why we didn't seek help sooner.  When she returned she weighed him again.  I remember vividly the sight of tiny legs kicking on the scale.  "3 ounces!  Great job mama!"  It brings a tear to my eye recalling that moment when I said to myself- You can do it.  You have built this cathedral called Jack and you can feed him too.  Everything you are is all that you need.

I have nursed and pumped in all sorts of places- 
  • the backseat of my car
  • standing in the hallway outside of a restaurant while a gaggle of female family members created a perimeter around me
  • in various beds
  • in a single stall bathroom trying ever so delicately to keep the pump balanced on a sink
  • in my workplace's well equipped lactation room where, separated by a partition, I would talk to other moms doing the exact same thing, talking about our lives and our children
But it wasn't always breastmilk gymnastics.  We had many more times together, quiet times when nursing became a meditation for both of us, when heart rates slowed and breathing quieted.  When we both experienced the most familiar and comforting thing in our little world- the aspect of our relationship that had been there since the very beginning.  For my friends who couldn't or chose not to breastfeed, there is nothing here that doesn't apply to you.  Skin to skin contact comes in many forms.  I could have just as easily laid his cheek on my chest at the end of the day and we would have experienced the same peacefulness.  

Breastfeeding has been one of the greatest blessings of my life and I will miss it.  A lot.  One could even say, per the definition of weaning, that I've become excessively fond of it and I'm the one who's weaning more than Jack.

So what will I miss?

I will miss the way that his little hand would reach up and twist my hair or pat my cheek.

I will miss the way his little eyes got excited when it was time to nurse and yes, he would sometimes even giggle a little, he'd be so excited!

I will miss the time we shared in the evenings when the whole house was quiet except for the sound of Trevor upstairs washing dishes while Jack and I had our time together (these Gen X dads are so evolved, I love it :)

What will we gain?

I will experience my body again.  For 2 years I have shared it with another person, growing him inside of me and feeding him.  I have felt very disconnected from myself in many ways, although in other ways I have felt like the truest version of myself.  I will miss that paradox, but I am also freeing myself of it.

Jack will gain a nighttime ritual that will carry him through beyond his toddler years and into childhood.  One that will involve a lot of reading with his dad.  

Jack has a new favorite book- "Where's Spot?"  It's one of those square shaped board books and this one has flaps that open up revealing hidden pictures.  Jack takes great delight in opening up those flaps.  Trevor bought a bottle of Elmer's Glue for the times he gets a little too excited and rips one off.  After the 100th reading of this book we decided it was time to add to the nighttime reading collection.

Last night we took a trip to Barnes & Noble and TJ Maxx (TJ Maxx has some of the cheapest kids books in town fyi!).  We must have purchased 20 books between the two places.  I was looking at something on the shelf and heard Trevor say "Hey mom, can we get this one?"  I looked over and Jack was holding a book with two bears on the cover that said "I Love My Daddy."

I cannot express what my feelings were in that moment. 

I thought of the hundreds of nights that Trevor has so faithfully done the dishes and sorted the laundry so that Jack and I could nurse.  I recalled the thankfulness my heart felt every time I walked into the kitchen and saw all of my pump equipment drying on a bottle rack.  He never asked for praise or thanks for these great gifts.  He wasn't giving me clean bottles, he was giving me precious time with my baby.  Now it is my turn to give him that time.

Last night I curled up on the couch, a huge dinosaur stuffed animal as my pillow.  Trevor brought out "Where's Spot", "Spot Goes to the Park", and "Spot Says Goodnight".  I placed "I Love My Daddy" into the pile.  Trevor had nearly finished the "Daddy" book when Jack jumped out of his lap and into mine.  Just when Trevor was starting to feel rejected, we both realized that the only reason Jack came over to me was because "Where's Spot" was sitting on my lap.  Once the book was returned to Trevor, Jack climbed back into his lap.  

There were tears that first night weaning, tears and triumphs as all three of us committed to a new routine.  Jack won't ever remember these nights, but I hope that the closeness we've shared has cemented a feeling of security and love into his heart.

So where's Jack's spot?  It used to be on a pillow nursing with me.  Now it's nestled into his dad's lap reading stories as the still damp hair from his bath dries up and curls around his ears.  

Life is one long series of hellos and good-byes.  I think what matters the most is how you spend the time in between them.  For those nights we struggled, bonded, cried, and loved, I am exceedingly proud of both of us.

Good-bye to nursing.

Hello Spot.