Two Things

Hello all.  I’m here!

We’re coming up on Ezra’s birthday tomorrow.  Three years – he’d be three.  The further we get the harder it is to imagine, and yet I never give up imagining it.

I’ve spent much of the past year writing memoir, most of which hasn’t made its way here.  It was too raw, I think.  It’s starting to amass into quite a pile, and I’m not sure what my plan is as far as what to do with it.  Today, in lieu of new words, I’m going to give you last year’s words.  I wrote this as we approached Ezra’s birthday last summer.

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How do you want two things that can’t both be true?

It was a windy August afternoon, the kind where the air hitting your face cools it for a second, but leaves your lips and eyes dry and prickling.  I stood with Lauren in the sun, breathing in that warm wind and the smell of recently mowed grass and cut flowers.  It was my son’s birthday.

We stood together, and I stared at the brass plaque with his name on it.  I hadn’t been to the cemetery since it had been added to the marker, laying claim to the spot where we had laid him with Lauren’s mother.

I knelt with difficulty to place a handful of blue flowers on his grave.  I’d chosen them carefully at the florist that morning.  I’d wanted something small, delicate purple-blue buds for a boy who would always be tiny.  I traced his name with my finger, the letters standing out in shining newness beside his grandmother’s name, embossed almost 24 years earlier.  I had to reach a hand to Lauren to help me up.  I was nearly eight months pregnant.

How do you want two things that can’t both be true?

It was a painfully beautiful day and I stood a few minutes longer, delaying the moment when I would leave my son behind.  Glancing again at his name, Ezra, the name that nearly no one spoke aloud, the name that I had pictured writing in his jackets and shoes for daycare, crayoned onto the bottom corner of unidentifiable drawings.  I was still learning to wrap my mind around the plain fact that the grave marker was it; the last official mark of his existence.  No graduation program, no resume, no wedding announcement.  Nothing.  It still felt at times as though there might be some eleventh hour appeal, even as my daughter squirmed and stretched her feet into my ribs.

How do you want two things that can’t both be true?

Our daughter didn’t have a name yet.  It still felt too soon, although I’d long since stopped being able to see my feet and the doctors said that she was fine.  I told people that we were waiting to meet her first, but in truth, I couldn’t casually try on names the way I had before.  I pictured every name we discussed on a gravestone.  I held my breath through every ultrasound, every back cramp, every time she slept inside me and I was sure her heart had stopped.

I looked at the stone one last time and felt the familiar keening in my chest.  I want my son, I wrote over and over in my journal in those days.  I could never have imagined how much I would miss that baby.  I missed him viscerally, I missed him in my pores.  I oozed wanting, it tumbled out of me every day, everywhere I went.

I wanted my daughter too, so much that I was afraid to look straight at that wanting for fear of going blind.  It was too bright to manage.  Every day that passed was a trickle of hope into a larger pool, but it was an exhausting hope to tread water in.

How do you want two things that can’t both be true?

Nearly another year has passed since that sunny cemetery day.  I have a beautiful, funny, healthy baby daughter, and my son is still dead.

In quiet moments it sneaks up on me.  I want, I want, my heart always says, but I’m not sure anymore how that sentence ends.

I want it all, I want everything, or more accurately, I want everyone.  I want both of my children, never mind the fact that we would never have had the second if the first had lived.  I want to reach back somehow and watch my son draw a breath instead of lying so quietly in my arms.  I want to carry for the rest of my days the memory of my daughter screaming lustily the moment her face touched the air of the outside world.  Loving my daughter feels sometimes like a disloyalty to my firstborn, and pining for him feels like wishing her away.  There’s nothing for it, it’s an impossible puzzle.  I will never peacefully accept the idea of burying my child, and I can never wish that I didn’t have this bright eyed girl who giggles every time someone sneezes.

How do you want two things that can’t both be true?

I let the sun soak into my bare shoulders for a last minute with my hands resting on my swollen belly.  Brother and sister who will never meet, one above the earth and one below.  I finally turned away, not any more ready to leave the cemetery than I had been to leave the hospital empty handed.  We got into our car to drive back to the life we hadn’t expected.  I don’t know how it’s possible to want two things that can’t both be true.  I don’t think I’ll ever know.  I only know that I do want those two things, every single day.

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Crickets

Hello, if anyone is still checking.  It’s been so long, I wouldn’t blame anyone for wandering away!

Since I’m apparently a little short on inspiration, I’ve been toying with the idea of starting to post some of the writing I’ve done over the past three years about grief.  I work with an excellent writing coach, and I’ve been chipping away at what feels like a larger memoir project.  Writing that I did after Ezra died, during my pregnancy with Moose, and since her birth.  A scattered jumble of things, really, but maybe something.

Words kind of need to be freed, I’ve found, so I’m thinking of releasing them.  If you’re still here, stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

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Moose: Toddler Edition

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You guys, our baby has turned into a kid.  It feels like it happened overnight – one day she was stepping along like a cautious little zombie, the next she was conquering playground slides. She’s really something.

If we had to use one word to describe Moose these days, that word would be “busy.”  In child development, we often talk about play being the work of children, and it’s so obvious watching Moose that that’s what she’s doing – her work.  She is the most purposeful person that I’ve ever met.  She has clear ideas and opinions about everything, and while that certainly has its rough moments, it’s also really neat to watch.  She is delighted by almost everything that she discovers.

Some highlights:

  • Although Moose talks constantly we have yet to determine what language she is speaking (my vote is for Simlish).  We actually did a referral for speech and language services recently because she still didn’t have any consistent recognizable words.  In true Moose fashion she waited until we were worried, and then sailed past the milestone when she was good and ready.  The English words are starting to emerge, just in the last two weeks or so.  So far we’ve heard more (“mooooooooore”, accompanied by frantic signing and sometimes pointing towards the kitchen for good measure), mama, the occasional mommyyeah, book, look (yook), baby (baba), no, Elmo (of course) and Bobo (the little monkey in the book Hug). She also woofs at dogs and growls at pictures of lions or tigers. Today she said two sentences – “no more!” and “no, mama!”  I’m sensing a theme.
  • Moose’s receptive language is good – she can follow simple directions, point to body parts, etc.  I think she’s messing with us sometimes – if you ask her where her nose is, she might point to her ear and laugh.
  • Nobody does an ear infection more dramatically than this kid.  Good lord – I expected lots of bugs when she started daycare, but the amount of illness in the first few months was really quite incredible.  We managed to go her whole first year without an ER visit, and we’ve had three in the last three months.  Poor kid.  She had one really terrible bout of bronchiolitis and one disgusting stomach flu, but it’s the ear infections that are killing us.  We’re going to see the ENT next week.  I have a sneaking suspicion that the words came in slowly because she’s not hearing well out of the right ear half the time – it’s almost never totally clear.  We’ll see.
  • Moose loves her baby dolls and melts my heart by cuddling them close and patting their backs.  Actually, she cuddles everything.  Even the remote control has had it’s back patted on occasion. She also likes to walk things around in her doll stroller:

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    It’s nice that she’s given the magnet her doll’s pacifier for the ride.

  • Moose now gives really good hugs, with a nice squeeze around the neck.  She also likes to stick her fingers up your nose, so it’s a bit of a dice toss.
  • Our big girl is moving up to the toddler room at daycare next week!  We were able to get a spot at the school directly across the street (same daycare, different location), which is going to make life much easier.  She’s been doing transition visits and she is enthralled – older kids, different toys, a playground – it’s the big time.  She’s recently mastered both drinking from an open cup and sleeping on the little daycare cot instead of in her crib, so she’s all set.  I get teary every time I think about leaving her infant room teachers behind – she loves them, and so do Lauren and I.  I could not even remotely be managing my stressful job situation if I didn’t feel 100% amazing about where Moose is every day.
  • I’d forgotten how much this age is about imitation – Moose can spend long periods trying on all of our mittens and hats, clomping around in our shoes, “cooking” in her play kitchen (and blowing on the hot food), talking on anything she finds that might be a phone, sweeping the floor, etc.

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    What?

  • Her teeth are arriving in such an odd order (our doctor – “Well, that’s weird.”)  She got the front four that most kids get first, skipped the following eight teeth and went straight to the top molars, then one on the top left, then one halfway back on the bottom right.  Go figure.  Based on how swollen her gums are at the moment I suspect there’s a whole mouthful brewing.
  • Moose still loves music and dancing.  Her current favourite thing to do is shake her finger at those naughty bed-jumping monkeys.
  • She LOVES books – she reads them to herself throughout the day and brings them to us to read.  She has clear favourites and seems to dig through the pile to find specific ones.  I love watching her read lift-the-flap books, because she shouts “Oh!” every single time she lifts a flap.
  • We are definitely into clear toddler territory, behaviourally.  Moose does a great “dissolve into tears and crumple face-first onto the floor” when things don’t work out the way she planned.  It must be so hard to be little.

I’m sure that there’s more – there are so many little things that I want to remember about this age!  The first year really crawled by -sorry, future Moose, if you’re reading this –  but toddlerhood is a ton of fun and it seems so fleeting.

 

 

 

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We’re still here!

I’m not sure why I haven’t been blogging.

Well, the “not enough hours in the day” thing is part of it – working and parenting and trying to do laundry once in awhile takes up a lot of life’s moments.

The other part of it is harder to explain.  I’ve been really struggling with my mood over the last few months, and I find it both exhausting and a little shameful.  Professionally I say all the time that mental health should not have such a stigma attached, that we don’t judge anyone for seeking treatment for other medical conditions.  Personally – it’s harder. In this space especially, where I should feel totally free to write about whatever I want to, I walk away from drafted posts in the middle instead of trying to tease out the strands of my muddled thoughts.

I have a great circle of bereaved mom friends, and I wonder sometimes if this is common to us as a group.  No one feels totally free to talk about feeling sad when we have our beautiful, healthy rainbow* babies, conceived in a place of loss, gestated in a place of anxiety, wanted, loved, and so treasured. We forget that we’re allowed to feel love and gratitude at the same time as sadness. We’re mostly supposed to be happy now, I think.

And the funny part is… I don’t actually think my current difficulty with anxiety and depression actually has much to do with either of my children – pregnancy, loss, or parenting.  I’ve got some medical stuff happening that has led to pretty severe deficiencies in iron and B12, and I’m in a difficult situation at work (short story – my current placement is not a great fit and it’s extremely stressful).  There are plenty of reasons why I’m not feeling like myself, and none of them are a personal failing.  I’m not sure why it’s so hard to write about.

At any rate, I don’t want to deny myself this space.  Writing is good for me, and documenting this awesome toddler-ful stage of life is good for me too.

Re: the toddler – she’s awesome.  I’ll do a separate post, but aside from her obvious intention to win the award for baby to get the most ear infections in a 6 month period, we’re loving this age. Moose is almost 17 months old, runs everywhere, gets into everything, copies everything that Lauren and I do, and generally lives her life to the fullest.

And sleeps through the night too.  Alleluia.

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*”rainbow baby” is a commonly used term for a baby born after a lost sibling.  I actually struggle a lot with the term (although I think I’m the only one) because I have difficulty with using a label that defines Moose by Ezra’s death.  It worries me, that she might get the idea that she was born to make me feel happy again.  She was born to be her own wacky little self.  However, it’s the term people use and I don’t really have another one.

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One Year

Good lord, I’ve been working on this post for nearly a month.  We did survive what we are now referring to as Toothmageddon, and I’m choosing to resolutely believe that 4 is the perfect number of teeth and she’s done.  That level of baby angst/demon possession just does not seem sustainable.

So, in one-year news, our baby is suddenly not such a baby anymore!

Birthday porch portrait!

Birthday porch portrait!

I know that technically she’s still an infant (and have the child care fees to prove it), but she’s morphed from a squawky little bean into a determined, mobile, mischievous mini-toddler.

For Moose’s birthday we all got…the stomach flu.  Thanks, daycare!  The poor little thing.  It was the sickest she’s been in her life – 102 degree fever, being hydrated with 2ml at a time of Pedialyte in a syringe, the whole deal.  She was so pathetically cuddly, it broke my heart.  Also, I don’t know that I’ve ever done that much laundry in a 48 hour period.

Poor baby.

Poor baby.

She recovered in time for a small birthday party, where I think the highlight of her life so far was being given a cupcake.  She had no idea what to do with it at first, but once she tried it she was totally on board.

Cookie Monster cupcake duck face.

Cookie Monster cupcake duck face.

The leap in development at this age is really incredible – she’s always shocking us with what she knows how to do.  Much of the credit goes to her amazing teachers at daycare – thanks to them she will suddenly do things that it wouldn’t even occur to us to try.  Last week I realized that she knows how to use a fork!  What I’m dying to know is how they get the babies to eat from plates and bowls without throwing them on the floor.  We’re still working on that one.

Let’s do a one-year rundown:

  • Moose starting walking right after her birthday and almost immediately realized that if she picks up the pace she can get away.  She’s shockingly fast.
  • Climbing is also a sudden hit – she’s a daredevil.
  • No cupboard or drawer is safe – she empties everything that isn’t locked.
These are now hers - it keeps her out of the toilet.  Sigh.

These are now hers – it keeps her out of the toilet. Sigh.

  • She “talks” constantly.  Her teachers comment on it all the time – she’s one of the chattiest babies I’ve ever seen.  We’re slowly starting to be able to pick some English out of the mix (most of the time she sounds exactly like a Sim).  So far we know she can say dog (doug!), cat (kit!), and I’m fairly certain she says look (yook!) as well.
  • Moose has a temper.  It’s simultaneously hilarious and terrifying.  I didn’t expect tantrums quite so soon, but if there is something she wants that she can’t have, she throws herself on the floor and yells!  If you try to offer her an alternate item, she will either smack it out of your hand or take it and throw it.  The other night she had a complete meltdown in the high chair because Lauren wouldn’t let her have beer. I am grateful to be raising an independent thinker, but I anticipate some trying times ahead! So far distraction is our friend. I suspect it will also help when Moose has more words – she often seems to get frustrated if it’s not clear what she wants.
  • She continues to love daycare – it makes me so happy.  She has definite relationships with the babies in her class and she’s thrilled to see her teachers every morning.  We are very, very lucky.
  • Music continues to be one of her favourite things. She got some instruments for her birthday and she plays with them frequently – what always surprises me is that she does it correctly.  She knows to hold drumsticks and xylophone mallets differently, makes sure she has them right-side up, can play the tambourine and the castanets, and will shake a maraca to the beat of music.  It’s quite something.
  • She still eats everything and has put together that we sometimes have things that we don’t share with her.  She does not approve.
  • She is now totally weaned.  I replaced daytime nursing with whole milk bottles before I went back to work and right around her birthday she started refusing morning and night nursing. I was surprised, but it worked out well because it happened gradually and my supply had a chance to drop slowly.
  • Moose has a sense of humour.  She seems to understand when something is “silly” and will do silly things herself to make us laugh.
  • She is really into imitating us now and loves to “help”.  Of course, this usually means things like taking the clothes back out of the washer as I put them in, but we still want to encourage her and it’s pretty cute:
Sweeping.

Sweeping.

I’m sure that there’s more, but this post is late enough!  Coming soon:  Halloween pictures!

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Send help…

I promise, there is a one year post in the works.  We have a one-year-old!  Who walks, even!

Said one-year-old was toothless until right around her birthday, and is now cutting her fourth tooth in about two weeks.  We are sleepless, nonsense-spouting, defeated messes.  I don’t think that Moose has slept for more than two hours in a row in the last week.  It gets better, right?

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This working all day thing….

I totally forgot to do an 11 month update!  Lately I’ve been lucky if I remember to use shampoo and conditioner in the right order – the changes to our routine have been a huge, huge adjustment.

A quick rundown:

  • Moose is rocking daycare.  I went back to get her after two hours on the first day, expecting a confused and overtired baby who had missed her morning nap, and she was asleep.  Her teachers are magical creatures who get 10 babies to eat well and take naps, are often singing and dancing with the kids when I come in, and Moose absolutely loves them and her tiny baby friends.  I’m not sure that I have the words to convey how relieved and happy I am to feel so good about where she is.  We are so, so lucky.
  • I wish that I liked my new job as much as Moose likes school.  There’s not much to say about it – I knew it wasn’t a great fit and I took it anyway.  I can be at daycare by about 4:15 every day and that makes it worth being unhappy, but it’s been a hard pill to swallow.  I’ve been spoiled by 5 years of working in a fantastic autism classroom and implementing my own social skills and behaviour programming, and now I’m working in a…very different classroom one-on-one with a student, following someone else’s program and disagreeing with much of what is happening.  I felt ready to move on in some ways – I don’t think I ever really got over feeling so unsupported at school after Ezra died – but it’s still professionally frustrating. I’ll live.
  •  I had forgotten how exhausting it is to come out to large groups of new people.  I find it easiest to do it before anyone has time to develop a mental picture of me as a heterosexual (people seem oddly thrown when you correct them later), so there’s a lot of using the term “my wife” as often as possible and watching them fumble.  It’s not a big deal, but it’s tiring.
  • Not for the first time, it strikes me that “coming out” as a bereaved parent is not dissimilar.  It’s best to do it early, but it’s a real conversation stopper.
  • This needs its own post, and I’m going to try to find the words soon, but I’m really struggling with the world right now.  There has been an awful lot of tragedy of late, and too many dead kids.  I’m tearing up even as I think about writing about it, but it’s percolating, and I’ll try.
  • I’ll do a one year (!) post soon – her birthday is in two weeks – but in a nutshell, Moose is awesome.  She is a still toothless, nearly walking, mischievous, dancing, chatty little ball of energy.
I did at least remember to take a photo.

I did at least remember to take a photo.

I wondered when she would realize that the chair rocks...

I wondered when she would realize that the chair rocks…

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