Monday, January 26, 2015


At Claire's 1-year pediatrician appointment this week, my biggest stressors were making sure Benjamin didn't crawl on the dirty floor and preventing Claire from putting that bench paper roll stuff in her mouth (gag). Both of which were extremely challenging, by the way.

It was an enormous relief to visit a doctor and not worry about something related to pregnancy, childbirth or child rearing. I was (for once) confident and like the rest of moms out there (I suspect). I feel like I talk so much about this topic, but for the last 5 years of my life, I was completely centered on those very things. If I wasn't stressed about being pregnant, it was about getting pregnant or making sure I was producing enough breastmilk to provide enough calories and liquid for my baby's diet. 

At the end of this (wonderfully) dull appointment, the doctor asked if Claire was born early--which I never inquired why, because she is perfectly average on the charts. I told him 36-weeks, and he commented that she was a week early. Funny. I thought he would've said 4 weeks. I told him the short of things (only specific to her pregnancy) and he kept probing for more. So I told him about Andrew being stillborn and having complicated pregnancies.

He opened up to me about his son being born with Down Syndrome and admitted that while his son is great now, that first year was hard for them as parents.

He stood up from his computer, looked me in the eyes and said something that hit me:

"I bet all of the joy in pregnancy was lost from then on for you guys, right?"

It's like he totally understood. No, we had very different journeys (and he fully admitted that having a son with special needs and a miscarriage was different than a stillbirth), but both caused us to fear pregnancy in a way that sucked the joy from the experience that was once magical. It was really calming to have him in there and talking with me in such a candid way, despite the two monkeys we had in our presence (see paragraph one). And, it was especially nice that the appointment was truly a "routine wellness checkup" as it was intended and no red flags or alarms were triggered.

I don't quite feel like we're in the clear or anything, but I do feel relieved that the pressure of being the pregnant one or breastfeeding one who is responsible for all the weight on my shoulders has somewhat passed. My body that has failed our children before is no longer entirely responsible for sustaining the lives of them anymore. It's a huge relief.

I really want to repeat Claire's first year. Aside from the discouraging first month stares when she was gaining slow (but well), she's been a fabulous baby. I can also say that now since she's been sleeping through the night completely for a month now, just to be clear. But really, can I have another year of her babyness? Soon she'll be walking and she's already talking a wee bit. Time is a thief. But time has also provided relief.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Coming Up for Air


In the last two weeks, we have been busy. Like bees.

Both sets of grandparents visited. I party planned and prepped and went grocery shopping for 6 adults + 2 kids and a house full of people to have lunch. We cleaned (a little), did preschool dropoffs, worked, made three round trips to the airport, packed, did no fewer than a dozen loads of laundry, baptized our last baby, celebrated her first birthday, had two long flights to & from Canada (first country for Claire!), drove a long time in a rental car, played with friends, drank a lot of beer, ate a lot of food, skied for the first time in 6 years... and... and...

Now we're back. We planted our feet back home on Tuesday night and Wednesday carried on like any normal weekday. Dad works and Mom takes kids to storytime and preschool and runs errands so we can eat things that don't come from cardboard boxes.

I've been sorting mail and writing thank-you cards and finally stuffing clean clothes back into our drawers.

We've invited friends over for dinner tomorrow night, so I hurriedly picked out a recipe for that occasion. I'm contemplating another 30-day Shred or quitting sugar... or something. I'm just so hungry still, and there's really no excuse anymore since I'm not pregnant and breastfeeding has slowed to about 5x each day. I don't really need the extra calories, but I'm finding myself rummaging through the pantry and fridge while the kids are napping or before I hit snooze for the night.

Claire's 1-year appointment was today and she is just perfect, except for the fact that she ripped off three bandages from her hemoglobin finger prick and proceeded to bleed all over about 100 things. Aside from being terrified of her brother (which I hate writing in the single form), she's thriving and loving and has a few words down. Benjamin is still using the toilet and usually wakes with that Buzz Lightyear Pull-up (only ones he'll use. GRUMBLE) dry. Except, he did (intentionally?) pee on the floor next to two potties while on vacation and went in the laundry room and did the other business on Wednesday. Not during travel or on airplanes or long car rides when there is no toilet around. Instead, when a toilet is literally feet away and there is no imminent rush. Sounds about right.

Benjamin continues to be two, almost three. His tantrums are frustrating and totally get the best of me. I hate that. And also, GODSPEED to four, please. Not that I want to speed up his childhood, but if he could be more human and less satan, I would totally appreciate it. He is really awesome when he's not attempting to destroy everything in his (socio)path. But when the switch has been flipped, it's like someone switched kids with me.

We put lots of dates on the calendar to use up some recent Groupon restaurant purchases to get us through the rest of winter, in addition to a trip to Arizona and California closer to spring. Our children's museum had a pipe burst, resulting in massive water damage and will be closed the rest of the winter for renovations. Looks like #museummondays will return to #storytimemondays once again.

I sported my life is good hat over vacation and while I know life could be greater, life is still pretty good.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

365 Glorious Baby Claire Days

You delight us beyond measure, baby girl. Life is more wonderful with you. Those giggles and nuzzles and smiles you share with us are so important and much needed. Those big cheeks and the even bigger smile make life way more exciting. Couldn't be more thrilled to be your parents.

Happy Birthday. HAPPY, HAPPY Birthday.

*posted at exactly 1 year from when you were born, to the minute. That (scary) emergency c-section was the best. decision. ever. Also marking 1 year since I've been pregnant. #hallelujah

Want a blast from the past (not me. I'm just enjoying this day-- well if the kids are cooperating on our 4.5 hour flight), read this.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Claire's Birthday Party & Baptism

Claire's actually 25 hours away from turning one. Well, 29 hours really, considering she was born at 4:17 a.m. on January 14th. We have travel plans coming on Claire's actual birthday (she's so fancy!), but we celebrated the little one this past weekend with a house full of 40 people, lots of food and both sets of grandparents.

We have a tradition of baptizing our children on their birthdays. Andrew was baptized on his birthday, Benjamin was baptized on his 1st birthday (exactly!) and Claire was baptized days before her first birthday. It's another tie we keep to hold our three together; a special bond they all share that doesn't matter at all, but pleases our hearts.

Both sets of grandparents flew in for the occasion, just as they did for Benjamin's first. Making it to a first birthday after losing a baby (and never celebrating any birthdays before) is really monumental. Benjamin's 1st birthday was epic and undoubtedly over the top, and Claire's was just following tradition (with a lot less stress this go around). Birthdays to follow will be more low-key and spent with families whose kids are like-ages.

On the day of her party, Claire woke up uncharacteristically early (of course) and since I was already up as she snoozed herself back to sleep, I headed out to grab donuts for the family and three balloons from the grocery store. I don't know why I chose three... just thought the colors were a cute combo. As soon as I left the grocery store after having the most talkative and slow worker ever at 6:45 in the morning (gah), I promptly walked the balloons right into a tree and popped one. Like immediately. Two balloons. I was totally not going back in that store to ask for another balloon. Donuts + two balloons did make it back home and the people you see in this picture below were happy.

Baptism done by our good friend, Jim. He also baptized Benjamin and his family has been a constant support in remembering and loving Andrew with us.
I should've taken better shots of these banners considering how much of a (huge) labor of love they are... that I started with Benjamin and ended with Claire. Only the first birthday, but goodness... reason enough to stop having children because they take forever!
I made the (horribly tasting, but egg free and who really cares anyway because cream cheese buttercream frosting with sprinkles trumps all cake) smash cake and my very talented and very pregnant friend Karoline baked those fabulous cupcakes.
We had a hot dog bar, chips and cupcakes. I was even sent this great party pack to share Beanitos puffs (um, delicious and my friends loved them, too!) with our party guests.  The hot dog bar consisted of two kinds of hot dogs grilled in-house because it was flipping freezing outside. The condiments included: caramelized onions, diced onions, pickles, sauerkraut, cheese, giardiniera, relish, jalapenos, tomatoes, hot sauces, Sriracha, ketchup, BBQ sauce, three kinds of mustard, chili-dog chili and vegetarian chili. I even had those paper boats to put them in. The only thing missing, said my local Chicagoan partygoers, was celery salt. To which I grabbed from my spice rack and slammed on the table. For the vegetarians or anti-hot dog people, there were corn chips and chili with all the condiments to top. Drinks were simple with the option of two sizes of bottled water and apple juice boxes for the kids. Beer only shows up when the parties are below 30 people. It's just easier to keep it simple and beer + holy baptism never seem to go together well. We ditched the ice cream or big cake for cupcakes. It was a (mostly) utensil free party and everyone happily ate. I'd definitely throw another one again.

We called Benjamin over to help with blowing out the candle and it was all over. He blew out the candle and hopped right up to sit shotgun with Claire while all the gawking grandmas and mamas (and friends) snapped away with their cameras. The cake was basically untouched, but the frosting was a hit. It could've been a cardboard box under there, for all my kids cared. Two outfit changes ensued immediately following the smash cake escapades. Benjamin was also caught singing happy birthday to Claire and doing about 3,460 adorable things during the maybe 15 minutes of them both sitting there and chowing away.
That hair I sported all day? Woke up with it. Not kidding.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

(Even the Littlest) People Matter.

I feel like I need to talk about other things than potty training and my naughty toddler. As a quick update, the toddler is still naughty, but he's totally potty trained for day and naps and it really was fine and good after five days. We're now on day 13 of zero diapers and totally set. We're about to throw his butt in pull-ups for nights though because Mama needs to sleep and do less laundry, but anyway. We have two living children and that's all that really matters.

We'll be celebrating our daughter's first birthday exactly 10 days from today. In six days, about 40 people will cram into our home to witness her baptism and first birthday festivities. Four days later (on her actual birthday!), we will be flying to Whistler for skiing, spa indulgences and fun with our good friends and fellow babyloss family who are also parents to Jack, Grace & Piper. Jack's fourth birthday was on New Year's Day. Who would've thought we'd be renting a ski condo in Canada with friends who also have a dead son, four years later? If you asked me on December 4, 2010, I would've called you a lunatic. But we're so grateful to have such close friends who literally carried us through some tough days in those first months of loss and still have so much support to offer.

Just a few days before Christmas, Andrew's print arrived in the mail. We decided on a professional pencil sketch for his 4th birthday. Like so many of our babyloss friends, we wanted something to display in our homes that would show the true beauty of our children while still keeping them sacred and protected from gawking and ill responses. We first caught a glimpse when I was sent the initial sketch two days after his birthday. I was so happy to receive this during his birth month.

When it first arrived in my inbox, I was underwhelmed. It was stunning and drawn with such care, but it wasn't the boy I held in that hospital room-- nothing one dimensional could possibly contain all that he was in our arms that evening. There were tiny changes I requested she make (space between fingers as I remember & skinnier nostril cartilage). It was beautiful, but I found myself underwhelmed because it wasn't really him, as if what I expected was to have him back in our arms for the cost of a pencil sketch. We will never have more of him and never another portrait or photograph or experience with him. This was it.

This was shared on her facebook page, and now here. Andrew, spitting image of Claire. 
After a day or so, I kept staring at his portrait and just fell in love with it. We received the professional copy just a week or so later and had it professionally framed. We picked up the framed piece two days before Christmas and it now has a place among our family photos. It is a cherished piece. We also ordered four copies that will be given to our families when they arrive this week.

Now four years after losing Andrew, we're still trying to find our place in this mess of babyloss. We want to contribute and help others. In many ways, we've already done that. My husband has recently signed up to help as a liaison for NILMDTS. My friend Brooke (who is basically a babyloss celebrity and contributing author to Three Minus One and I've had many meals with her and she slept in my house! Are you jealous?) blogged about a company called Sevenly recently. One of their recent campaigns supported Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. I bought up two shirts immediately and posted a picture of one of them on Instagram. They still have some available in four different prints, so check them out! They've raised over $19,000 in shirt sales for NILMDTS, donating $7 from each shirt to the organization.

We're just so passionate about supporting them and ones like it because it normalizes loss for everyone. It makes losing a child more bearable, less embarrassing and more accepted. It makes families like us feel like human beings with hearts and not looked at like charity cases and lepers. We gifted some local NILMDTS photographers gift cards during the holidays to encourage their efforts and thank them sincerely for all they have done for us and other families. I attempted and successfully managed to use my grant-writing skills to send $1k their way. We shop on Amazon Smile with with 0.5% of purchases going to the organization that is the sole reason we have images of our firstborn son and proof that he was real, ours, and is adored. 

If we ever get the guts, we'll use a NILMDTS photographer to shoot family pictures. We're not ready. Four years and two kids after losing our firstborn child, we still haven't had another professional photo shoot. He's always missing. It still hurts and there's still a void.

I'm considering another volunteer opportunity (because I really do need more to gab about than potty trianing, amiright?), but that's just being discussed and nothing concrete yet. It will probably take a village and in an effort to keep Andrew's memory alive and well within me, it's something I'm seriously considering.

People are still losing babies. I can't do anything about that (and neither can they, sadly), but it's something that hits me hard and something no one should go at alone.