Then there’s you, then came you

Meet our newest son, Milo Burke.

Born Sunday, April 14, at 6:16 a.m. He was 7 pounds, 3.3 ounces, and 20 inches long.

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In case you don’t follow me on Facebook or Twitter, where I’ve been documenting the last several days, we’ve had quite the tumultuous postpartum experience. Four days in the NICU for a bowel blockage, followed by two days at home, followed by my re-admittance to the hospital to treat an infection. The saga is not quite over yet — I’m slated to be released later today — but soon I’ll write more.

For now, though, know that Milo is doing great. He’s a perfect little baby, who looks a lot like his big brother Rowan, with some distinction of his own. Rowan is adjusting in his own unique way, though I know he’s craving a return to some semblance of (new) normalcy soon. And Roth is a rock star dad right now, taking care of Milo and Rowan on his own, juggling schedules and feedings and changings. When this is all over, this man deserves a medal. And all the beer.

To all who have reached out to offer help, express concern or extend well wishes, thank you. These last nine days have been the toughest stretch of days I’ve ever had to endure. But there is light here at the end.

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Before there were four

A couple of Saturdays ago, when the light was just right, the three of us loaded into the car and drove north to a park we’d never been to before (though it turned out Rowan had remembered going there once with my mom when she watched him in January) and met up with my friend Jess for a mini family photo shoot.

It should be noted that planned and scheduled photo shoots are probably Roth’s least favorite thing, ranked up high with calling to order takeout. Rowan doesn’t like posing for photos, either, not without the promise of candy in his very near future. So, let’s just say the two of them were not exactly looking forward to this photo shoot, despite knowing how much I was. After listening to the boys argue about which shoes Rowan needed to wear, I’d had enough of the bitching and moaning, and I blew up a bit. I let them know how disappointed I was that they couldn’t just feign interest for five minutes in this little photo project because it felt important to me.

I wasn’t interested in doing a family photo shoot because I needed a dozen different artfully posed shots of my belly, complete with sun flares and other photographic cliches, no. When my friend Jess, who I plan to officially hire to take newborn photos of the baby, offered to take some shots of us together before the baby is born, too, I jumped at the opportunity. This wouldn’t just be a maternity shoot (although that’d be part of it); it’d be a chance to document us how we are now. As a family of three. When our lives had grown simpler because we’d figured out how to just be a family. You, me, him. Rhythm and ease and comfort.

It’s not lost on me (or Roth) that our lives are very soon going to become complicated and messy again. We very easily could’ve chosen not to go down this road, to just continue on as a threesome, enjoying sleeping through the night and not changing diapers and everything that entails bringing up a baby, but in all our discussions about if and when to have another, I just knew Rowan needed to be a big brother. Both Roth and I are firstborns with younger siblings, and it just felt right to let our firstborn experience that, too.

We’re almost to the end now, and the timing of receiving these wonderful photos from Jess couldn’t have been more perfect. I’ve reached maximum capacity and most days I don’t feel particularly attractive, but somehow Jess managed to capture so much light and joy in these few shots, and I couldn’t be happier with how they turned out, despite initial reluctance from my boys. I will treasure these images just as I will these last couple of weeks … before we were four.


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All photos by Jessica Eskelsen.

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Belly of the beast

Know what the hardest part of this pregnancy is? Surprisingly, it’s not the weeks-long morning sickness, the Zofran-induced constipation, the searing acid reflux or the perpetually vibrating hands and fingers from third trimester carpal tunnel. (Although don’t get me wrong, all those common pregnancy ailments SUCK like whoa.) Nope. I’d say the toughest thing at this stage, as my belly swells beyond physical comprehension and with my due date rapidly approaching, is the unknown. It’s not being able to circle a square on the calendar as “the day the baby will be born.” Because if I could just do THAT, life would be so much simpler. Plans could be made. Nerves would be soothed. And maybe, just maybe, I could just chill the eff out.

Instead, I’ve been wringing my tingly hands raw while trying to figure out the best case scenario as we enter the final four (or less, I hope) weeks of my pregnancy. My biggest concern is not how the baby will be get here — I’ve got a pretty good idea of how that will happen — but rather who will be take care of baby’s big brother when I do go into labor. It’s difficult not having grandparents close by for these kinds of situations. It would be amazing to just have them on call, but instead we’re having to play a guessing game as to when the moment will arrive. Will this wee little Sapling decide to come early like Rowan? Or will we be twiddling our thumbs well into the 41st and 42nd weeks?

We’ve decided to take a leap of faith that the baby will be a bit early in order to take advantage of Roth’s mom’s latest chemo schedule, which will allow her to come up to Seattle between my 38th and 39th weeks. This feels like the “sweet spot” for something to happen, if it doesn’t happen earlier. We’ve also got a backup plan in place with local friends, too, in case of an early evacuation. If Sapling decides to copy Rowan, that would be in another week and a half!

Because of this remote possibility, we’ve spent the last couple of weeks getting everything ready for the baby by my 36th week, which is where I am now. We spent one Saturday washing and wiping down every thing, and now we’ve got the car seat, cradle and newborn clothes at the ready. We brought the glider up from the basement. The bouncer and recently inherited swing are ready to go. Yesterday, we finished up our 2012 taxes, a task that’d been looming over our heads. And last night, we packed our hospital bags.

I’m sure being THIS prepared will ensure the baby will NOT come early, but without a job to occupy my time, it’s been something to keep me busy. There are still a handful of household organizational projects I want to tackle, but if I went into labor tomorrow, we’d be ready. We’d be OK.

If I had my druthers, though, I’d prefer the baby held tight just a bit longer since I’ve got plans this weekend. Kerri (and Matt, too) is coming from Wenatchee, and we’re getting together with a couple other gals for pedicures and lunch out. I didn’t want a baby shower, as it felt wholly unnecessary this time around, but I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to prettify my toes and hang out with some lovely ladies before my life is turned upside down in a couple of weeks.

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I’m woefully behind on documenting this pregnancy’s progress here. I’ve been pretty good about having Roth take regular belly shots and posting selfies on Instagram, but I’ve definitely neglected this space. I decided to put together the last four shots, from 20 weeks to 35 weeks, into a collage, the results of which are more interesting than seeing a weekly shot, I think.

There’s not a lot of change from 20 (top left) to 25 weeks (top right), but holy belly growth from 30 (bottom left) to 35 weeks (bottom right)! Oh, and also, while my belly has grown several inches, I decided to lose several inches of hair last week, too.

I’m definitely feeling every inch and pound of this pregnancy. Restful sleep is getting harder to come by, with the frequent getting up to pee and more recently, my hands going completely numb from the aforementioned carpal tunnel syndrome. I do almost anything to avoid going up the stairs, for it renders me completely breathless. I’ve been going to a weekly prenatal yoga class on Sundays, and I find myself spending most of the time in child’s pose, just grateful for extended moments of stillness.

We’re at the homestretch, I think. A matter of just a couple weeks, and the baby will be here. I’m starting to get really excited about (finally!) finding out the sex. Most friends and family say I’m carrying high and all in front, which indicates girl. Just for fun, I’m curious what everyone thinks based on my 35-week pic. Is our little Sapling a he or a she?

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A means to a beginning

I spent a good chunk of time last week drafting a post essentially about how little I’ve enjoyed this pregnancy compared to the last. It was definitely a little glum in tone, which nicely complemented the funk I’d often found myself in the past couple of weeks since I last wrote about silver linings. For the most part, things are fine, but at least once, maybe twice, a week, I inadvertently wade into a dark, murky place where I can’t see the light shining through the trees, where the seeds of insecurity take root, and all perspective on my situation is clouded by a dearth of confidence.

It’s not a happy place, obviously. It usually manifests itself into a lot of couch wallowing, cookie eating and hours upon hours of Netflix watching rather than active engagement and interaction with the world’s greatest little boy. Sometimes there’s unfounded yelling, too, at the person who loves and supports me the most. And perhaps the saddest of all, I find myself willing these last few weeks of my pregnancy away.

I don’t know if it’s just my attitude, if I’ve indeed felt terribly worse this time around, or both, but I’ve let these last 33 weeks feel like a means to an end. Surely, a second pregnancy IS different from the get-go, especially if your first kid is still relatively young and needy. There’s simply not time in a day to sit and marvel at your burgeoning belly, daydreaming what it will be like when your bundle of joy decides to make its entrance into your world, but I’ve also grimaced far too many times at my belly as the gentle flutters from 20 weeks turned into Olympics-style flip-turns, preventing me from sleeping or even just finding a comfortable position in which to lay on said couch of wallow.

It’s so different this time not knowing if we’re having a boy or a girl, too, and I’m fairly certain that has played a small part in my not feeling super connected to the baby yet. I don’t regret not finding out, as I’m pretty sure the moment we do, when (s)he is born, it will be as magical as other parents have described, but for now, it’s just strange not knowing, not being able to refer to the baby as he or she. I try to say “the baby,” but more often than not, I use “it,” which is just weird and unfamiliar. Maybe even a little alien?

All this not to say that I am not excited to have another baby. I am! We are! And oh boy, am I ever excited for Rowan to become a big brother. A couple weeks ago, I took him to a class at the hospital called Sibling Preparation. There he got to sit in a circle with a handful of other little kids all about to become big brothers and sisters and talk about what it’s going to be like to have a new baby in the house, how he’ll need to try to be understanding when mom needs to rest, or that if the baby is crying, he might have to go to another part of the house, because that’s just what babies do. After the class, wherein the kids also watched a demo of a doll baby being born from a doll mama, we toured the birthing suites, which was pretty surreal for me. Oh hello, PTSD.

Rowan did really well in the class (naturally, he was the one kid of the bunch who asked, “But how did the baby get in there?”), and I think he’s starting to get excited about the baby, too. He’s not so much into feeling my belly when the baby is kicking — I think he’s actually quite scared of it, and rightfully so; it IS weird — but he will “hug” the baby/my belly and sometimes talk to him or her, too. Which is, of course, heart-meltingly sweet.

Earlier this week, we went for a third trimester ultrasound, to check on a possible umbilical cord cyst as seen at my 20-week ultrasound. We decided to take Rowan with us this time, which was pretty special, that he got to “see” the baby and ask a thousand questions. “What’s that, Dada?” “Why can’t I see the baby in color?” “Where are the baby’s eyes?” It was pretty awesome for me, too, maybe even more so than any other previous ultrasound, because I could finally imagine this baby as real. I got confirmation that what I’m feeling under my left ribs is indeed the baby’s bottom, and that the baby’s head is in fact down near the right side of my abdomen, where I’ve been feeling hiccups.

And thankfully, whatever that “cyst” was has since resolved itself or maybe never even existed.

Ultrasound: 32 weeks

Getting to see the baby’s face in profile was definitely the boost I’ve needed these past few weeks. Even though we’re starting the homestretch, with the baby estimated to  weigh around five pounds and his/her measurements putting me closer to the 34- or 35-week range (!), I think there’s still time to change my attitude, to turn things around. Instead of thinking about my due date as the end, I need to think of it as another beginning, another chapter.

I need to carve out pockets of time just for myself, to go get a pedicure or take a prenatal yoga class. I need to embrace the one-on-one time I’m getting with Rowan, rather than resent it, as I’ve done more often than not. I need to finalize plans for a date night with Roth, and for an afternoon of hanging out with girlfriends. I need to recognize and acknowledge all of the positive things in my life — a list forthcoming! I need to let go of what happened with the layoff, knowing that even though I didn’t deserve it, I do deserve this extra time I’m getting to prepare our house and our lives for becoming a family of four.

And I really, really need to not stumble into any more dark corners. It’s far better to be in the light.

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Silver linings

Last weekend, I met up with my good friend Terrell to see Silver Linings Playbook, a movie with much buzz and many nominations. I typically enjoy these sorts of movies, the ones that are hard to define in any one category, and for the most part I did like it, despite being almost too quirky for its own good. It’s not exactly a rom-com, nor is it a drama, but it featured romantic, comedic and dramatic elements, alongside a hefty serving of crazy, too. Maybe not theater-worthy, either, but I’m glad I saw it if nothing more than it got me thinking about my own silver linings.

So, obviously, the biggest silver lining to my layoff is getting to stay home with Rowan. A few people have pointed out the serendipitous timing of our one-on-one time together, what with my due date a mere two(ish) months away, and it’s definitely not lost on me. He’s at an age now when he may actually remember this time, how now we can drop whatever it is we’re doing to go get burgers and milkshakes for lunch at Dick’s Drive-In, or marvel at the butterfly exhibit at Pacific Science Center, while everyone else is either at work or school.

That’s not to say we’re not still adjusting to this new reality. We’re both — and forgive me for yet another seafaring analogy — navigating through unfamiliar waters, trying to figure out schedules and routines that make sense and make the most of our time. These past three weeks have been equal parts wonderful and overwhelming, for the both of us, I think.

Before I was let go, Rowan spent his week days at the same tiny in-home daycare he first went to when he was 4.5 months old. Even though we’d been prepping him for a change come fall with the introduction of full-time preschool, I don’t think he was ready to just be yanked from his cozy cocoon of familiarity. After a couple of days at home with him, I knew he needed something more than what I could provide, so we enrolled him in a very part-time preschool through a local community center. It’s just two days a week, for three hours each day, but so far, it’s helping to break up the large expanses of time we have to fill each week. (And allowing me to feel like an adult, too.)

Another silver lining to this unfortunate situation is that despite losing my full-time income and benefits, we’re actually going to be OK, financially speaking. When you subtract how much we were paying for full-time daycare, gas for commuting, daily back-and-forth tolls and lunches out, and then add in what I’m getting for unemployment, we’re doing just as well, if not better than (!), as before. Seeing those positive numbers in a spreadsheet, seeing that really, truly, we’re not going to drown, not anytime soon, really puts things in perspective. Obviously, this situation isn’t the ideal, nor is it our long-term plan, but for now, it’s OK.

I’m looking for work, as I’m required to do, and I will consider anything that comes my way — anything that makes sense given my impending due date and desire to be “off” after the baby arrives — but I’m really trying to see the forest for the trees, and other overwrought, cliche expressions. Now is the time to take a step back, evaluate my surroundings, decide who I am and who I want to be, and just go from here.

One week — one silver lining — at a time, anyway.

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