Thursday, September 29, 2011

Throwing money at a problem

Every time I wake up at night I watch her chest move up and down. I'm checking for breathing, reassuring myself that Elliott's been just fine these past few hours while we were both sleeping. It used to be easy to check when she was in the Moses basket next to our bed. I would peak in, sometimes slightly startling her in her sleep as I leaned in closer and closer; I was always sad to disturb her...but that was small potatoes compared to the relaxing joy I felt that she was ok. Now that she's in her crib in her little "room" (yes, our walk-in closet), it's even harder for me to check without disturbing her. A couple of nights ago, I crawled in on the floor. As I peered in, somehow she sensed it in her sleep and wiggled a little. I backed away quickly, running into the dresser and causing a huge crash. Lo and behold, she woke up.

Mitch sighs and nods. I take that to mean that he wishes I wouldn't worry. But he doesn't blame me that I do.

So I've got it in my mind that the only solution is a video monitor. With a video monitor, I won't wake her up, and I'll still get the peace of mind to know that she's breathing fine through the night. If it were cheap, I would buy it in a heartbeat. Since it's by no means cheap, I push myself to think about whether I really need it. Will the monitor really make me not worry about her health and not worry that I could suddenly lose her if I let my guard down for one second (even actually sleep at night)? Or is it just throwing money at a problem? Perhaps it's a dream world to think that a video monitor will fix anything. When you've loved a child and lost him like we did Miles, you know how precious life is. We know how precious Miles was and Elliott is. I want to do whatever is needed to make sure she stays with us and gets to live a full life; I wanted that for Miles too but wasn't able to do it.  And so I realize that these dreams, these wishes are so much more than anything that can be assured by a video monitor. So maybe I won't buy it, but maybe I will because either way, let's face it, I'm going to obsess.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Elliott is (now over) two months old!

Each month, we took Miles' photo with his courage lion. As you can see, we love these photos and a couple of them are around on this blog. It was easy to pick the perfect animal for Miles, but I'm having a harder time figuring out which one to photograph Elliott with.
For Elliott, I couldn't decide whether to take her photo with her stuffed bunny (Hops), giraffe (currently nameless), or lamb (Lambie). Clearly impossible, right? Crazy how I made actual difficult decisions for Miles and then here I am spending time making insignificant ones for's a gift to do so actually. Truly. So I took her one month and two month photos with each animal to make up for my ridiculous indecisiveness on this...and to put off the decision until later. After this photo, though, I'm going to have to say that it looks like Hops might be the winner!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

On schedule

After 10 weeks of feeding "on demand," I'm now a scheduler.  Feeding on demand was often a nightmare really. Thankfully she's been a great night sleeper (knock on wood, knock on wood, I know) but then she's really been on the fussy side during the days...Elliott would get fussy and seemingly want to eat every hour to two hours during the day.  Seriously, she would eat and then we would all just wonder when she'd want to eat again--knowing that it would probably be pretty soon. She'd never really get filled up and I was going crazy. Even adding in formula wasn't helping. In sum: no one was all that full or all that happy.

SO I'm going Babywise. It happened quickly. Mitch was on call the night before last and when he walked in the door at 6:30 am, I said, "Elliott's now on a schedule. She eats at 6 AM, 9 AM, 12 PM, 3 PM, 6 PM, and 9 PM." And then I left for the dentist--hey, why not live it up? Pretty much that was it. I was fearful (understatement of the year) that Elliott would be upset and crying for food between feedings. But she totally didn't. She also didn't sleep really AT ALL during the matter how many times I explained to her that she needed to follow the eat, wake, sleep cycle, she kept her eyes open. "I have to keep my eye on you, mommy, you've got a fire under your ass evidently," is what she must have been thinking.

Today was day 2 of The Schedule. She rocked it, eating right on schedule and actually napping (with a bit of help from me, the paci, her sleep sheep, the rocker, but, hey, she's two months old and Rome wasn't built in a day). She even slept in her crib for a bit which is practically a first in her lifetime.

Life-changing. Yes, my life has improved already, but this change has also led to a few tears...and not just from Elliott. Since I'm trying to get Elliott to sleep her naps in the crib (instead of being held, which I've indulged her in for too long, I know), I tried soothing her in new ways today that somehow I just never needed because putting her to the breast or bouncing her around were always so easy to do. Essentially today I suddenly found myself soothing her in the ways I soothed Miles in the hospital. I patted her diaper until she relaxed, whispered in her ear while she listened, caressed her head until she slept. After watching her drift off to sleep so peacefully, I closed my eyes and cried while I stroked her head from back to front, thinking of the hours that I had done that for Miles.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A toast can be so much more than a toast

Always plus one. That's the name of this blog because that's how my life is now. There's Mitch, there's Miles, there's Elliott, there's me. So it looks like three now. But it's four. It's plus one. Always.

My little sister Paige got married on Saturday in St. Michaels, Maryland on the Miles River at the Maritime Museum. Miles' name was everywhere in the town, and most of all his spirit was matter where we go, he's there for me, too. Oh, how I miss Miles during the ordinary, everyday right now as I listen to his Rockabye Baby CD as I type, remembering the miracle of being able to see him, touch him, love him in person. And the big moments--like Paige's wedding--oh, he should have been there.

Yes, he was there in spirit, I know. As we looked out over the water, especially at night, with the stars and sky and wind...that's one of the places we have to find him now. The truth is, his name is fading away more and more with friends and family. Not with me because never will Miles fade for me. But I do protect his name, his memory, but I call out his spirit and my love for him when I can.

And so during the "Best Woman" speech (Paige graciously acknowledged that "Matron of Honor" makes me sound too, well, matronly and a million years old, so she renamed me the "Best Woman" like the "Best Man" much better), I truly called out Miles' name because if I am honest with how Paige has impacted my life and shared my joys and sorrows, Mitch and Miles and Elliott all have to be there. So I did it. Sure, I stuck to a light, humorous toast...because that's me...but I was also honest with emotion, including tears in my voice...because that's me now too. So with 150 people watching, I acknowledged Paige's role in standing my our sides with Miles in the hospital. How she loved him. How she rooted for him. How we all wish he were here. We love you, Miles.

This is my speech...making this the longest post need to read on, but I'm including it just because it feels right in marking where life has been taking me this past week...

~ ~

Paige Loves Beef Bouillon:
A Toast to Paige on Her Wedding Day
September 17, 2011

Oh, Paiger. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a long time.  You live life with such spirit, such intensity, and such spunk that it’s easy to celebrate you today on your wedding day…and very easy to tell a few stories about how everything you do is done in the most contagiously spirited, memorable way and sometimes sometimes to the extreme.

Yes, I remember Paige’s flair for life being evident in our board game playing at an early age. Paige, Drew and I would play the board game Risk.  It was rather calm as we rolled the dice, playing for hours, taking snack breaks while monitoring each other to make sure no one disturbed the board. But pretty much every game ended in the exact same way…and that was like this…Drew slowly crept toward total world domination until the moment that Paige had enough and the game would come, literally, to a crashing halt. Paige would slam the entire board against the wall, the pieces flying everywhere, the edges of the dice getting chipped yet again on the bricks of the fireplace…I would be laughing hysterically as Drew tried to send Paige to her room to think about what she had done.…ah, yes, one doesn’t forget board games with Paige.

And there were also less competitive games in our early years. Paige and I cooked up a storm in our play kitchen…our play kitchen had an oven that creaked when you opened it and a sink for washing the play dishes and a few plastic food items like a plastic egg and a plastic hot dog and by the way that plastic hot dog had been chewed up—not by me, I promise, and we never had a dog so that can’t be it, AND it is an absolute fact that there was a three month period during which Paige’s love for hotdogs resulted in her eating one every day for breakfast, heating those suckers up in the microwave every day…so you decide whom the likely hot dog chewer culprit is. But this story isn’t about hot dogs, it’s about beef bouillon. Mom would save all kinds of little empty containers from the real kitchen so we could use them in ours. And our favorite was a completely foul smelling beef bouillon cube container. It was empty and had been cleaned many times. But still the pungent smell remained and Paige and I got such joy from forcing each other to sniff it. We would often take breaks during our kitchen play to say, “here sniff this” while uncapping it and shoving it under the other one’s nose. I remember just how Paige’s nose would scrunch up, her eyes closing tight, while yelling out in disgust. And then I’d say…”just one more time” before she would laugh and laugh and always go for the second sniff because it was just too funny not to.

And then in high school. as we blossomed into real maturity, Paige was the pitcher and I was the catcher. As you would expect, we warmed up before games out in the outfield while the rest of the team was getting ready in the infield. What you might not expect is that I thought that Paige pitched better when she was a little angry.  Not a ton, just a little ticked off. So naturally I would say a few things to set her off. I may have gone too far that day—after all it was our first game with our brand new team in Chapel Hill so the stakes were high. So maybe I said too much. Let’s not get caught up in those details-shmetails. We’ll never know. But what I can tell you is that Paige and I ended up nose-to-nose having a few words with each other. And one thing led to another. Paige slapped me across the face and I returned the favor. Or perhaps vice versa. Depends on whom you ask.  We proceeded to join the team huddle and the entire team just turned and stared at us.  Turns out that we made quite the impression on the team as each of us had a red handprint on our faces.

Oh, Paige. Those were good times.

As the older sister, I like to think it was me who taught Paige the important things.  But it’s me who has learned from little Paige about making your opinion KNOWN and living each day with spirit.  It was always Paige I could count on to make life better—what started as using broomsticks as batons in the driveway grew. It was then Paige encouraging me not to ignore the crush I had on Jon Mitchell in college.  And it was then Paige and Bharat who came weekend after weekend to stand by our sides with our sweet Miles in the hospital.  It was Paige who was super nanny for Miles in the hospital, teaching me lyrics to children’s songs for me to sing to Miles in the PICU and now to Elliott.  

Paige, you live life with such spirit and that bubbles over to the rest of us. Bharat, I’m so happy that you recognize that spirit in her…and I wish you luck in handling it. Bharat, you are already an important part of my life, and I’m grateful that Paige recruited you into the family. And I hope to spend plenty of time competing with you and Paige on the golf course. And beating you.

So, Bharat and Paige…not to ruin the surprise, but your wedding present from Mitch and me is a jar of beef bouillon. We forgot to put in a card so hopefully no one else got that for you, too.
And with that, I hope that life brings nothing worse than an occasional slap in the face from your sister or a deep sniff of beef bouillon. But regardless, with all of life’s joys and pains, with all the intensity that comes along or that you create yourself, I know that living life with spirit and living it together is what matters.

Let’s raise a glass to Paige and Bharat and to living life with spirit! 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Two guilts

All mothers have guilt. I know. It's practically handed to you right after they hand you the baby. I know. But my guilt today feels mountainous.

I started supplementing with formula last night. I am truly so sold on breast feeding that it feels like a big fat failure to no longer be exclusively breast feeding. Every day of the past 8 weeks of breast feeding has felt like a major accomplishment, and if wanting to produce more milk resulted in it happening, I would be like Niagra Falls or Old Faithful or something that spews milk. Anyway, I was avoiding formula, avoiding it, avoiding it, and then I realized that I was basically letting Elliott go hungry because of my hang up with breast-only-policy and feeling like a failure. So now the buffet is really open...she's a breast-fed baby with a formula dessert (by the way I refused to buy enfamil though because I felt like the little bunny on the front was taunting me). I'm coming to terms with it...and it doesn't hurt that now she's going for longer between feeds (instead of every hour) and she's cooing a lot more (instead of screaming at a level to get us evicted from our apartment). I can realistically see that it was a practical decision but still...thar she is...the guilt.

Lots of mommies face that kind of guilt, I think, but then there's's too much...I can't look it straight in the eye because it hurts too much and because there would just be no coming back...

I received a package in the mail a few weeks ago asking me to participate in a study about birth defects. I agreed to do it immediately because I definitely want for there to be more information about what causes birth defects so that they can be avoided--simple as that--I owe it to Miles (not in a burdened way but in a it's-one-of-the-few-things-I-can-do-that-feels-like-it's-for-him way). For some reason, though, I actually thought that they would be asking about my pregnancy with Elliott. I guess that the timing of it made me think, "Oh, the hospital told them that Elliott was born so this study is about her...she'll be an example of a baby who doesn't have a birth defect." Still I knew it would be emotional because of course I would again think about everything from my pregnancy with Miles as well and maybe they'd ask some questions about previous pregnancies. On the phone this morning though, they said, "We'll be asking you about environmental and behavioral influences during your pregnancy with Miles." Of course. Obviously it's important to study the mothers of babies who were born with birth defects...and that's me and Miles.
As required by all studies, they had to list the risks; the only risk, they said, was emotional distress for me. Well, duh, I guess. So it was a straight-forward one-hour interview about every little thing I ate, what medications I took, what stress I had, what exercise I did, what water I drank, how lonh my showers were, what factors were present based on where I worked and lived. It wasn't an accusatory interview; yet they are trying to figure out what causes birth nature, they are trying to figure out what mothers of babies with birth defects did or were exposed to or just what went wrong. It's important. But it hurts. With each question, there's just a feeling that one of those little things somehow killed Miles. Nothing we talked about was anything I hadn't already run through on my head plenty of times--trying to figure it out until the Mitch-voice in my head said gently, "Enough. You'll make yourself crazy. It's not your fault. It's just terrible."
Yes, the fact that something I did or was exposed to caused Miles' heart defect is too much to handle. If only I could turn back time, change that one thing--yet I don't even know what it is. It caused him to be gone, to not get to live his life. It's tragic and there's guilt with that even though I can say the main feeling I have isn't's just heartbroken. If only. If only he could be here too.

And so a little formula truly isn't the worst thing. The worst thing was losing Miles.