Monday, December 16, 2013

Laughing turns to crying

I have survived a lot of things: 
Winter in Iowa. Hang gliding. Centipedes in my house
Nursing school. Having an anniversary in December. Accutane. 
Going without chocolate for a WHOLE day. Natural childbirth (but just barely).

And I just survived Disneyland with 6 kids under 6. 

This is one of those things I swore I'd never do.


My family frequented Disneyland when I was young, and the haunting image of hundreds of toddlers simultaneously melting down after lunchtime has been forever seared into my memory. I vowed at that time never to bring any of my own kids to Disneyland until they were at least 5.

That vow has been BROKEN.

Up to this point I have a very strategic, very serious plan for approaching Disneyland. Without rehashing a previous post too much, my strategy includes arriving early, running (NEVER walking) from ride to ride, skipping all parades, musical shows, and unnecessary bathroom breaks, using Fast Passes as much as possible, and eating a churro EVERY day.

Under my previous strategy, one or two kid rides a day were acceptable ONLY directly after mealtimes to prevent barfing, and riding "It's a Small World" is never, NEVER allowed. Ever.

Well, Camber, adapt or die, because that strategy only works for 12-year-olds or immature young-at-heart adults. Not 6 wee ones that don't meet the height requirement for...anything.

So I revised my strategy.

Then I burned it.

The result was a Disneyland experience unlike any I'd ever had.

We rode the kid rides.

We took loooooong breaks.

We took pictures with Disney characters.

We watched meltdowns happen in rapid succession. We rode more kid rides. We walked slowly. 

We (gulp) watched the parade.
Don't be fooled by my smile.
I was still whining about watching the parade at this point.

We played duck duck goose while waiting for others on the grown-up rides.


And we kind of sort of possibly may have ridden It's a Small World. Ssssshhhhhhh......


And....we wore Construction Orange shirts with possibly the most prophetic phrase ever printed on a T-shirt:


This is a saying from our childhood that we like to joke about now.
Also it is as true today as it was back then.
Thanks to the shirt color, we could pick out members of our group from half a mile away. 

And the fulfillment of the T-shirt prophecy:

Laughing

Turns to crying

Aaaaaannd again...


Laughing

Turns to crying
And finally:
Disneyland success.
We're already talking about going back.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Cold Feet

This kid had cold feet about coming down to us. 




I can't blame her, really. We started trying for kids in the middle of the economic meltdown. That would make anybody think twice about, you know, being born. 




It took us, in fact, almost exactly 4 years and 3 months to get pregnant with Mary.

That's a number, just a number. I put it out there for perspective, not comparison. Some infertile couples wait much, much longer, some shorter. It is usually hard, regardless of the number.

The doctors never found anything wrong. Our diagnosis: Unexplained Infertility.

Some people hear this and say with derision: "Doctors! What do they know?"

In defense of the wonderful specialists we saw, it turns out that the process of becoming pregnant is incredibly complicated. There are hundreds of things that can go wrong and doctors can only test for a few of them. Human beings are, in fact, one of the least fertile animals on earth.

It's really no surprise, then, that about 1 in 4 couples will struggle with conceiving at some point in their lives.

These couples may not believe that when they see unwed teenagers effortlessly pump out unwanted babies. One reason for this is that infertility is age-related. Teenagers have an infertility rate of around 2-4%. 40-year-olds are around 40-50%.

For us, not having a diagnosis led to a maddening mix of hope and hopelessness. Every month I got my hopes up that this would be the month. Unexplained infertility meant endless waiting and uncertain guessing at which treatments to try. A part of us wished for a final, crushing diagnosis of Sterility. At least then we could mourn and move on.

When people found out how long we'd been married and that we were still childless, we generally got one of two reactions:


1) That's smart of you to wait to have kids. They are stressful and expensive. 

-or-

2) You know, you really shouldn't wait so long to have kids. It only gets harder the longer you wait.


It didn't seem to occur to anyone that there was a third possibility: 
We are not in control here. 

I may take my temperature every morning and use ovulation strips and take Clomid and go through embarrassing tests and procedures, but we are not in control. We cannot force my body to get pregnant. No one's in control, really. I know lots of people that have gotten pregnant on birth control. It goes both ways.

The treatments were hard in other ways, too. I was grumpy on the hormones. I had days when I did not want to be around a single person. I've always valued being kind and easy to get along with, but everyone seemed to do such irritating things during that time. Like stand in the same room as me. Breathing my air. 

I had some sad days and some really sad days, but you should also know that 4 years and 3 months of trying does not mean 4 years and 3 months of suffering. We had some really happy, fun times. We went to Hawaii. We went to the beach. We went on weekend trips to our favorite bed & breakfast. We both worked and that allowed us to save money. We hung out with friends. We enjoyed being together. I love being with Isaac a lot, and I was daily conscious that although we wanted kids, I was incredibly blessed to be married to a great guy.


Disneyland. Homecoming.
Ketchup and Mustard for Halloween. Zion National Park.
Further, although I wanted very much to be a mother, I was equally terrified of being a mother. I had deep, abiding doubts about being a good mom. I feared finally having a child and then resenting him for requiring so much work. The longer it took, the more I wanted kids and the more I feared them. I wondered if our infertility was some great cosmic sign that I wasn't cut out to be a mother.

It wasn't. 

Rather, it was the experience of infertility that has made me a better mother.

This brings me around to God. Some question how a loving God could withhold children from a couple like us, yet seemingly send them in droves to unwed teenagers and abusive homes.

While I cannot explain everything that God does, our experience made me more convinced, not less, that He exists, hears prayers, and cares about what is happening in my life.

We prayed every. single. day. for a baby. Those prayers were not answered right away, but they were eventually answered. And in the meantime other miracles happened in my life.

I prayed every day not only that we'd be able to have children, but also that God would take bitterness and jealousy out of my heart. He did that. I was able to be genuinely happy for other people that were having babies. 

Other miracles include being guided to move to a state and job with insurance that would cover fertility treatments (a rarity), frequently meeting others with infertility (giving me hope, or at least, community), and finding purpose and meaning in my work, marriage, and friendships. 

I am certain I would not be the mother I am today without infertility. 

Today I watch Mary with that sense of awe you feel when watching something miraculous. 

Without infertility, on hard days I wouldn't get to remember a time when I really thought I would never get to carry and give birth to a child. 

Without infertility I might not be filled with profound gratitude every time I hold that girl in my arms. 

And without infertility, I wouldn't whisper with quite so much sincerity, "Thank you, God, thank you."

We have no idea about if or when baby #2 will come. For now, I am convinced I will never get tired of looking at this face:



Thursday, October 10, 2013

My Daughter: The Zombie (and other news)

This girl,

at 9 1/2 months old,

changes every day.

Sports has two teeth:


Crawls. In a weird "Does she know that right leg works?" kind of way (11 seconds long):
video

Pulls herself up to stand.

Feeds herself Cheerios.

Is weaned (*sniff*).

Loves shoulder rides:


Babbles almost all the time.

Snuggles up to my shoulder when I hold her. 
Snuggles up to my shoulder to bring it within chewing range.

Makes me laugh:


Makes me cry.

Loves electronics (for chewing purposes only). 

Imitates zombies:

Turns the pages of books when I read to her.

Bursts out laughing when she sees other kids. 

And, my personal favorite, gasps (4 seconds long):

video

Please never, ever tell me, "Oh, just wait until she's a toddler. It's going to be horrible."

I'd rather not waste time dreading what's coming when I could be enjoying what IS.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The dreaded day

This semester in my program marks a big transition: beginning clinical rotations.

I have dreaded and anticipated this semester from day one of school.

Would I like working with patients?

Would I be able to find a doctor nice enough to be my preceptor?

Would I be able to handle the mountains of paperwork needed just to show up at said doctor's office?

Would I feel stupid all the time?

And finally, and most importantly, what about Mary?

Four weeks in to this semester, many of my fears have been allayed.

Yes, I LOVE working with patients. Yes I found a doctor to precept me and he is SO, SO nice. Yes, the paperwork darn near killed me off, and didn't all get completed and processed until the DAY I started clinicals (that was way too close for comfort). Yes, I frequently feel stupid, punctuated at times by rare, thrilling moments when I feel smart.

And...Mary.

Mary has been with me on this journey all along, from the positive pregnancy test FOUR days after I got my acceptance letter to her spectacular debut a few weeks after my first semester ended.

Then the real test came: now that I have a baby, do I keep going with this crazy school thing?

In the interest of full disclosures, I came very, very close to dropping out after my first semester with Mary.

I almost dropped out because I love being with her. I don't think staying at home with a baby is degrading or unfulfilling or a waste of a woman's time. I think it is the best use of my time possible.



I also began to question being in the program, the stresses of finding clinical sites, and the moolah--LOTS of moolah--that school tuition would drain out of our savings.

So I sat down to write an email to my family explaining to them why I was going to drop out of school.

I couldn't send that email. I could NOT sent that email, and I couldn't even finish writing it. And right then I knew I was going to finish school, no matter how hard it became.

And so, inevitably, the dreaded day arrived, when I would have to go to my scary, intimidating clinical site and Mary would go to a babysitter (her wonderful aunt). I have never left her with a babysitter for so long before.

I dropped her off...and she was fine. And I was fine. She had a great day with her cousin and was well-cared for, and I had my first day at clinicals and it wasn't as intimidating as I thought it would be.

Moving back out west has been an answer to more prayer than one--it has provided better means for me to finish. Better, closer clinical sites. Family nearby to help.

In other news, we had family pictures taken:
Isaac has a beard, which he has since shaved.
I couldn't get used to kissing facial hair, attractive as it was.
And Mary, it turns out, is more photogenic than her parents.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Blessed and Stressed

The last three months of my life can be best summed up in two words: blessed and stressed (see blog post title).

Why stressed?

I planned my summer semester with 6 credit hours, knowing we would take a 10-day trip to Utah and Idaho. I knew I'd have to work hard keep up with school over the trip. I also felt confident I could manage it if I was careful.

Isaac and Mary trying to scare off bears in Idaho.

Then Isaac got an unexpected job offer within days of returning home from that trip (which was super fun, BTW).

Then he accepted it after a few days of agonizing about what to do.

Then we moved two weeks later, after packing, writing a major paper, looking for new places to live, giving away our cat (*sob*), and saying good-bye to dear friends. Then we drove for 3 days to our new home.

Then we took a trip to Nevada and Arizona to see friends and family.

Then I took another trip to Arizona to stay with my mom after her surgery.

Lest anyone think to congratulate me on passing my classes and successfully navigating such a summer, I feel I must first come clean with you. I spent the last few months learning that I am even more  flawed than I already knew I was, and passed most of the summer scowling, snapping at Isaac, and eating chocolate.

(Thank goodness for those extra 500-a-day breastfeeding calories).

Well, then, why blessed?

Isaac struggled with his job in Cincinnati from day one. He felt bored and stagnant, and was frequently uninterested in the work he was doing there. His new job brought us back out west, minutes away from his family and an easy day's drive away from mine.

Also, during the move, all I really wanted was to curl up in a ball and hope that a natural disaster would come and wipe out our stuff so we wouldn't have to move it all.

None came.

But people came. We had help packing, help with meals, and even help driving the moving van and our car across country (thanks to Isaac's mom and brother). It would have been difficult at best to do it all alone, but we didn't have to.

There's more, too. I passed my classes. My mom recovered in record time from her surgery, staying in the hospital only one day when they told her to plan on 5. Isaac took the summer in stride, retaining his awesome attitude, putting up with AND consoling his stressed-out and grumpy wife, helping with Mary, and putting in long hours coordinating the difficult logistics of changing jobs and homes.

My mom out on a walk less than a week after her surgery.
With my brother and his adorable kids.
Smiling because we don't know we're about to be attacked by killer mosquitos.


And, of course, there's Mary, who, despite her continuing napping strike, still remained a ray of sunshine through all the stress.

Keeping it real on the road.

She's eating solids, babbling up a storm, sitting up and rolling over, and still has no teeth. She handled the three days in the car remarkably well. Better than I did, in fact.

As if she weren't entertaining enough, her feet move ALL the time. If she's awake, her little feet are moving in circles (my mom calls them prehensile toes). She also loves people, loves being outside, loves music, and laughs hysterically if you tickle just about any part of her body. 


I get comments on her cuteness and general squishiness almost wherever I go, and once in a elevator a man looked at Mary and then asked his wife if she wanted to have more kids. 

She has that effect on us, too.




Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Camping Paradox


Over Memorial Day weekend we went camping in northern Ohio with one of our favorite families in the world, the Parkers.

I wish everyone knew the Parkers.

And I discovered the Camping Paradox.

The first night out there the temperature dropped to the mid-30's. And despite my supposed 0-degree sleeping bag and double layers of clothing, I spent the night shivering and trying to sleep with numb toes.

Mary was dressed in 5 layers of clothing (nope. not exaggerating) plus a blanket and a hat and didn't make a peep all night. In the morning, in a panic, I felt her cheek to make sure she hadn't frozen to death. 

It was cold, and I almost fainted on the spot. 

Then she moved. My pulse gradually slowed to a normal rate.

I think she was far warmer than I was. Partly because of all that chubby insulation she has:


Having verified Mary's "still alive" status, I lay back down and tried to remember why people like camping. It's not the dodging mosquitos. It's not the greasy hair. It's not the woodsmoke perfume. And I don't think it's the latrines. 

In my hypothermic and sleep-deprived state, I hated camping with a passion unsurpassed by inflation, dill pickles, or mean people. I hated nature, I hated the cold, and I hated the people that rated my stupid sleeping bag at 0 degrees. 

As the day wore on and I thawed out a little, we went on a hike.

The entourage: 10 adults, 9 kids, and 3 babies


We laughed at the kids. We laughed at the dog. We ate a killer dutch oven dinner. We made s'mores. We stayed up far past our bedtimes talking around the campfire. We went to church smelling like woodsmoke. We shared recipes. We watched the kids put on a "parade". 


At the end of it all, we found ourselves asking when we were going to do it again. 

That, folks, is the Camping Paradox. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

To My Fellow Passengers

That child you hear screaming is normally an adorable, calm, and good-natured little cherub. 


The cherub. Smiling with her mouth wiiiiiiiide open.

You may be thinking to yourself, "Why didn't she keep that kid up during the morning so she'd be extra tired during the flight and sleep the whole time?" 

As a matter of fact, I did. That strategy bought me a whopping 30 minutes of nap-time during the flight.

Fail.

You may also be thinking, "Her ears are probably hurting. You're supposed to feed babies during take-off. Don't you read "Flying with babies" blogs?"

I did and I do, and I learned that when Mary doesn't want to eat, Mary DOESN'T WANT TO EAT and will employ every means in her limited language regimen to tell me that: ripping off the nursing cover, screaming, arching her back, etc. 

Fail. 

I prepared for the 3 1/2-hour flight by giving her a double-dose of lactulose the day before. This was to clean her out and prevent the inevitable blow-out during the flight. Because every parent who has flown with a baby knows about the Airplane Enema.

I think you all know that was Fail #3, because you saw me carry her gingerly to the bathroom and return with her in a different set of clothes. And whoever the unfortunate sap was who used the bathroom after we did...I sincerely hope that the poop that seemed to cover every inch of her body and probably my elbows didn't find its way onto the mirror, faucet, or soap handle. 

I also hope you weren't planning on breathing a lot while you were in there.

I surprised myself by not regretting for even a hair of a second being this girl's mom. I also didn't break down sobbing, even though apparently that's what Mary was doing.

I did regret that, due to financial constraints, Isaac and I could not charter a private aircraft. That would have spared those of you who took shorter naps than you planned on due to the noise. Except the guy across the aisle, who was deaf. If that wasn't a Providencial seating arrangement, I don't know what was.

However, you surprised me by withholding glares, advice, and snide comments. If there were any, I didn't see or hear them, even though that's what I expected after such a flight as we had together.

What I did hear was four separate people telling me after the flight that Mary was a good baby, that Isaac and I handled her well, and that her smiles during her calm times were adorable. FOUR people. 

Sometimes I forget that a lot of people are also parents. And that a lot of people are just good people. 

Thanks. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

First Child Syndrome

The other day my mom told me about an old saying, "Every old crow thinks hers is the blackest."

I had asked her if all parents think their child is adorable and brilliant, like I do Mary. At the moment Mary was playing with a dangling stuffed giraffe. Such dexterity! Such hand-eye coordination! I could sense her burgeoning IQ even as I watched.


You can't tell from the picture, but her movements were really quite nuanced.
Apparently an uncle told my mom the "crow" saying when she admiring her first baby. She was similarly convinced of his overwhelming cuteness. 

Yet even while I was pregnant I had difficulty believing that every single person in this world came from a woman that was pregnant. Surely it couldn't be that...common. I felt like I'd discovered this cool phenomenon other people must not know about. "Everybody!" I always felt like saying. "There's a miniature human being inside me RIGHT NOW and I can feel it MOVING!"

I've decided to call this First Child Syndrome. It also includes other features like copious picture-taking and obsessive binky sterilizing. 

Lesser known syndromes: 
Only Girl Syndrome--in which said only girl (er...ME) gets her own bedroom and bathroom, receives lax punishments, and is definitely her parents' favorite child,

 and, 

4th Child Syndrome--in which the parents clean off the pacifier by letting the dog lick it and routinely forget where they left they keys...and the baby (sorry Justin).

Yet as a first-time parent, I've decided to embrace the inevitable, and so have documented some additional moments of brilliance: 

Holding her own head up.
My little prodigy.

Following the baseball game (go Reds).
Extraordinary.

Helping me win Mouse Trap. Yes, I'm the yellow guy.
Side note: winning Mouse Trap is PURE skill.

My parental pride knows no bounds.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The awkward stage

I've often said that you should never hold anyone's middle school years against them. 

No one ever says, "Man, why can't life be more like when I was thirteen? Those were the days..."

But when I say you shouldn't hold anyone's middle school years against them, what I really mean is "Please don't hold my middle school years against me." (Or high school or early college for that matter.)

I had a few things working against me. 
1) I had some pretty epic acne, which started as early as 5th grade. 5th grade is well before anyone else gets acne, so the other kids could smugly tease me for it, not knowing it was in their very proximal future.
2) Most of my beauty and clothing advice came from my three brothers. They taught me, for instance, that an "outfit" was one of their X-large T-shirts and some ill-fitting jeans. 
3) I was smart and shy. That meant I got straight A's but never learned how to, you know, talk to people. 
4) I had braces. Sure, lots of people get braces. But I had them in addition to #1-3. 

I was a disaster.

Those who knew me as a child might be confused. As you can see, I started life as quite the beauty:




But my promising start crash-landed around 7th grade or so...
I'm front and right. The only girl in the picture.
Confession: I discovered this picture as I put it in a photo album for my family. I touched-up my acne for the album (shhhhhhhh). In the interest of full disclosure for this blog post I had to un-do the touch-up.

It would be nice to go back to that girl and offer words of comfort. 

Such as, "There really is life after high school," 

and, 

"Someday you're going to marry a great guy who will tell you you're beautiful," 

and, 

"Don't worry, once that acne clears up you'll look like this:"

I couldn't find a current picture of myself, so I settled for a close approximation.
And yet, I can't regret those years.

They made me compassionate. 

They taught me to base my self-esteem on something besides my looks. So I tried to be nice to people instead (with varying success).

They taught me to value other people for something besides their looks. (Except Isaac. I definitely married him for his ruggedly handsome features...)

Also, I learned in college that a surprising number of amazing people I met also hide away their middle school pictures. 

Whaaaaaaaat?!?

It turns out that acne and bad hair happen to other people too. I was so busy worrying about the newest eruption on my face that I overlooked the vast number of fellow nerds around me. We could have been friends! 

These days, that old 7th-grader self sometimes resurfaces in new situations or in big groups where I find myself feeling awkward, or around a bunch of exceptionally good-looking people (because let's be honest, I never did get good at clothes). But mostly I've quit worrying about Ugly or Pretty. I don't think of myself as either one. And I don't think of most other people as one or the other either.

As for looks, one of my favorite moments was this past year:

No one expects you to look good an hour after childbirth. I was exhausted and sans makeup and had limp hair. I had just completed one of the most un-glamorous and un-attractive activities of my life. 

And I felt amazing.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Disillusioned

I frequently hear, "Oh, being a nurse must help you so much in parenting!"

I used to think that myself.

Then I had Mary.

And I learned that 5 1/2 years of working in the hospital with adults has done little to help me prepare for a child. My illustrious nursing repertoire includes some incredibly helpful skills, such as

  • Making a bed with a 300-pound person in it
  • Convincing a grumpy old man that, indeed, it will be fun to get up and walk after his heart surgery
  • Getting a confused elderly woman to take her pills (hint: use applesauce)
  • And, convincing the same woman that I am not, in fact, the devil incarnate
It has been a bit of a let-down to realize that, so far, Mary does not require the use of any of my adult nursing prowess. She is 11 pounds, not 300, and has not yet had heart surgery. 

I have also learned that my training in pediatrics from nursing school and grad school has done nothing but provide fodder for the imagination. All parents worry, but my worries have names like Hirschprung disease and diabetes insipidus and ARDS. 

You'll notice that my list of nursing skills above does not include solutions to unanticipated quandaries like
  • How do I cut her fingernails without pinching her skin? (Yup, did that)
  • How do I get her to like tummy time?
  • What do I do about flailing while breastfeeding? (she flails, not me)
  • Why does she only poop once a week? (I assure you, this is a crisis with adults)
  • And, why do I watch her shots with tears in my eyes when I have unflinchingly doled out thousands of them in my day?
Next time, I'm majoring in something else. 

But, before I go, here is a month of Mary. In pictures.










Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Monogamous Man

A while ago, Isaac was reading a post on a pretty well-known political/social blog, and a reader sent in a comment about how marriage and monogamous relationships are outdated and too limiting and restrictive. 

He had a few things to say about that. 

I thought I would dedicate a post to his response. This is directed to the author of the blog:

I want to reply to something you posted the other day from a reader on this thread. He said: 
"First, the disclosures. I am 32, relatively single, childless, and I think monogamy is for those who are religious or need dependency. I say relatively single because when one rejects the premise that all dating is about finding ONE person for companionship, intimacy, dedication, commitment, sexual fulfillment and obligatory attendance at events, then one finds all these things in a series of overlapping relationships that are often more and better in many respects than monogamous couples find in seeking so much from just one person."
Now my disclosures: I am 28, married for 6 years, religious, and just had my first child a month ago (on Christmas Eve). I love my wife and new daughter with more fervor than I can describe.
I don't have a sophisticated response to this reader, other than to say that it rings so absolutely false to me. Becoming a father has been the strangest transition I've ever experienced, precisely because it has so completely measured up to every beautiful expectation I had for it. Now that I'm a parent, every idealized portrait of parenthood I've read, or seen in a movie, seems ... no longer idealized, but accurate. 
There is certainly an excitement that comes from a large network of lovers and relationships, but may I just say: breadth can never compensate for a lack of depth in this area. When I hold my daughter at night, her gazing into my eyes while I sing lullabies, with my wife on the couch reading a book and looking at both of us with love -- I'm sorry, but no network of lovers can compete with that. When your reader says that his "overlapping relationships ... are often more and better in many respects than monogamous couples find ... from just one person," I can only say: he speaks about a topic of which he knows little, or nothing. 
I drink from that fountain every day now. And knowing I'll have that fountain available for the rest of my life is the greatest joy I have ever known. I hope your reader someday settles down, finds a true companion, and drinks of it for himself.

And, because no blog post is complete without a picture, here's Mary:

From Mary's newborn photo shoot 2 1/2 weeks ago

Here's to monogamy!
Aaaaand we're kind of obsessed with taking pictures...