May I recommend:

To my daughter, who taught me not to worry about time

a beautiful reflection on motherhood via The Washington Post.

Have a beauty-full day!  (I know it’s cheesy.  I couldn’t help myself.)

 

A Poem for Mother’s Day

The Lanyard – by Billy Collins

“The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly-
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-clothes on my forehead,
and then led me out into the air light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift – not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-toned lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.”

I don’t recall ever giving my mother a lanyard, but I fear there may have been more than one macaroni necklace.
Thank you for everything, Mom, and I love you!

Two weeks and counting

Jacob has been home two and a half weeks now.  His due date is in about a week…still a little crazy to think about.

No weight update, unfortunately.  But it looks like I should stop trying to force him into premie size clothes.  Newborn, here we come!

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He’s actually acting very much like a normal newborn, more so than I had expected.  He’s spending more time awake, and he’s as noisy as ever.  (Did I mention that?  Even the first couple of weeks the nurses in NICU commented on how noisy Jacob was – always grunting or cooing or at least breathing loudly.  He fits right in at our house!)

We still have follow-up appointments for hearing tests, development tests, vision tests…it feels like a long list.  But, thank God, everything looks good so far.

Of course his brother and sisters adore him, and I have to fight for my turn to hold him, or even change his diaper!

Our big challenge right now is trying to transition from bottles to breastfeeding.  Which includes convincing my body to make enough milk to keep him growing.  Still not even close.  So we’re using a supplementary nursing system, plus pumping, which means I spend 3/4 of my day on some aspect of Jacob feeding – pumping, nursing, making bottles, heating bottles, cleaning bottles…and occasionally I eat and/or sleep myself.

We would be up a creek if the girls (and Isaac, for that matter!) weren’t so helpful.  Lucy practically runs the house, and she really does at least as good a job as I do.  She’s making red beans for supper as I write this.  I am doing the very important work of keeping Jacob asleep.  It looks a little like this:

 

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So technically I am still writing “while they are sleeping”…but also while they are cooking, dancing, playing violin, climbing trees, sewing, and playing family, or orphanage, or something similar.  It’s a full life.

 

 

The Good Times

This is why I like us all being home.

I’m making lunch and packing up to go visit Jacob this afternoon.

Lucy is practicing violin, working between piano, YouTube videos, and her metronome to get it “just right.”

I walked by the art room, and Samantha (who could not, would not read this time last year) is reading one of my childhood favorite books, Happy Birthday Moon, to Isaac (in Batman outfit) and Clare (caring for a baby bear).

These are the good times.  Lord, help me remember that!

Happy Birthday Jacob!

Jacob is one month old today.

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As of yesterday afternoon he weighed 3lbs 10oz.

We’ve come a long way. Here are some of the milestones from his first month:

-Ventilator taken off

-Umbilical IVs taken out

-CPAP taken off

-PICC line put in (that’s an IV from his foot to his heart)

-Humidity turned off in his incubator

-Oxygen taken off

-PICC line taken out

-Feedings “compressed” (a step from feeding tube towards bottle/breastfeeding)

The next steps are to learn to eat and to control his body temperature. And to just keep growing!

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One of the best parts of my day is going to visit him for “kangaroo care,” which means they take him out of the box and put him on my chest under a bunch of blankets. We nap, we read, we listen to the nurses gossiping. It’s lovely.

In another month we can start thinking about when he’ll be coming home. They say most premies come home “at term,” which would be March 6 at the earliest.  True this month went quickly…but another month feels like an eternity.

It’s been a wild, difficult month. I can’t pretend I don’t regret the 12 weeks I didn’t get to stay pregnant with Jacob. It’s true I complained about how big my belly was already, and aches and pains. But I wouldn’t have minded putting up with all that a little longer. It would certainly have been easier.

Still, as hard as it has been, I’ve also cherished getting to know this sweet, feisty baby. We get 12 extra weeks with him, even if it’s only a for an hour or two a day.

I wish he had been born later, and I’m glad he’s here now. I don’t know how to reconcile the two.

But Jacob is a joy and a blessing (just like all our children!) and I’m glad to be able to make this journey to health and [something approaching] wholeness with him.

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Waiting, part two

I wrote an essay on the theme of “waiting” for the Mudroom blog back in December.  You can find it here.

I thought, once this baby was born, the waiting would be over.  No such luck.  We started our waiting game over:

First waiting to meet my baby – I had be strong enough to get from the ICU bed into a wheel chair to make the trip to NICU.

Then waiting to get out of the hospital.

The waiting for Jacob to be big enough and free of enough cords so I could actually hold him.

And we were patient, more or less, and got through all of these.  And waited for each set of tubes to come out of Jacob’s little body.

But then there are the two long waits: one for my milk to come in (apparently trauma and massive blood loss slows these things down…) and the other for Jacob to come home.  Not to mention for him to start eating on his own, wearing clothes, getting out of the isollete (the big clear baby warmer).

God clearly wanted me to learn some more patience.

It’s frustrating, four weeks after birth, to get milk drops at a time, if at all.  Not a problem I’ve had in the past.  But the thought of not nursing this baby – this last baby – is heartbreaking.

And so I’m waiting, again.  And praying.  And pumping.  And eating oatmeal (a galactagogue – add that to your vocabulary!) in every conceivable form.  And praying…while pumping.

I think of St. Zelie Martin (mother of St. Therese of Liseiux), who couldn’t nurse some of her children and had to send them to live with wet nurses until they were old enough to wean, and I am grateful that I don’t live 100 or 150 years ago.  Not only are there doctors and nurses and hospitals which have been able to keep Jacob and me alive, but there is formula.  I would not have to ship off my baby to feed him.

But somehow that’s small comfort.  And I want some big, fat comfort, the kind that comes from a tiny, warm baby falling asleep at my breast.

On the other hand, we’re both here.  Alive, when by rights we probably shouldn’t be.  So maybe I’m asking too much.  But I’m not giving up either.  Not until Jacob has tried for himself, and my body has simply refused.

In the meantime, I’m celebrating every 0.1 mL of milk, and waiting.

Clare Anah Baker

I will post photos as soon as I find my transfer cable, but Clare Anah was born this morning (early due to a 3am bleeding episode). Mom and Clare are doing well and resting. Thank you for your prayers!
Craig

UPDATE:  Thanks to Justin’s IPhone for the first photo:

Chicken, anyone?

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mommies out there.  I hope you have a peaceful, love-filled day.  Here’s a Lucy quote to brighten (or not) your day.

Lucy: “Tell me about the chickens.”  (By which she means, the slightly gory story of how a chicken goes from the farm to our table.

So I do.  And I ask, “Does that make you want to eat a chicken?”

Lucy: “Yes!  I want to eat a chicken.”

Me (prepping her for the *eventual* move to a farm): “Would you like it if we raised chickens and killed them and ate them?”

Lucy: “Yes!  I want to kill a chicken!”

My grandmother lives on in this child.  Although, I’m not sure that she butchered chickens with quite this sort of relish.

Anyway, Happy Mother’s Day!

Goodbye, Goldilocks

I thought Lucy was still in bed yesterday morning.  And I went to put away come clean paintbrushes, and was surprised to see her standing at the table in the learning room.  I was even more surprised by what I noticed next:

Do you see it?  The little pile there under the scissors.  That’s right, Lucy reached that milestone every little girl reaches at some point in her life: her first self-imposed, clandestine haircut.

I almost cried.

But instead I laughed, and yelled, “Craig, come quick!  Bring the camera!”

(You can see around the hair the remnants of the Christmas card project.)  So today we have an extra little project in Baton Rouge – fixing Lucy’s new bangs.  I tried really, really hard to keep her from having bangs.  I hate bangs, because they’re a nuisance.  I didn’t want to have to keep them up or facilitate growing them out for her.  But it is Lucy’s hair, after all, and her scissors have spoken.  So bangs it is.  For now.

Requiem

Sorry, everyone, for the long silence.  It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, and I promised myself I wouldn’t write until I could be reasonably sure I wouldn’t be immediately interrupted.  We spent most of last week in Texas, because on October 21 my father passed away.  Even though we knew he had cancer and this was possible, it was not expected at the time or in the way that it happened, so it has still been a bit of a shock.

The Thursday before he died, Dad was feeling really well.  Then he started running a slight fever, which, because of the chemo, meant he had to go to the hospital.  They kept him over the weekend, and I last talked to him on Saturday.  He sounded good and was watching the Texas-OU game.  I didn’t call Monday or Tuesday to see if he was out of the hospital yet, and on Wednesday Mom called me.

When Mom left the hospital Tuesday night, Dad was fine.  He had not gone home yet because his white cell count was low, and when it got back up, his platelet count was still low.  Wednesday morning the hospital called Mom to tell her that Dad had had a fall during the night, and was now in the ICU.  She rushed over, and found that the hospital staff had spent most of the night trying to get Dad back to consciousness and figure out what was wrong.  This went on until around 2:30 in the afternoon, when he let go with my Mom, his brother, and his brother’s wife and daughter at his side.

I missed Mom’s call the first time, but something (my angel?) told me to check the cell phone just a few minutes later, so I talked to her before they had even finished taking out all the tubes and IVs and such.  I took the girls outside and we waited for Craig.  (Actually, I called several people to try and tell him not to go to his Campus Ministry meeting, but it had been canceled anyway.)  I must have explained to Lucy twenty times that Grandpa had died while I pushed her on the swing.  I think that helped it sink in, having to say it over and over to her.

Well, we packed up and went to Baton Rouge and Craig’s parents’ house for the night, and then drove on to Fort Worth Thursday.  We were able to see Dad that evening, then he was cremated and there was a graveside service the following Wednesday.  We think there were between seventy and a hundred people at the service.  Apparently that is a lot, but I didn’t have anything to compare it to, since I had never even been to a graveside service before.  For some reason, my parents thought they could sneak their funerals by without anyone noticing.  My dad taught almost everyone in our town, and two and even three generations of some families.  Sneaking by was really not possible.  The ladies at St. Peter’s put on a nice lunch for the family and a few of our friends, and the next day we drove back to Baton Rouge.  The girls and I stayed there, while Craig went back to N.O. for school on Friday, then joined us in B.R. for a baby shower, birthday party, and Trick-or-Treating.  And finally we are home again, the house is back in some semblance of order, and life is returning to “normal”.

Those are the basics of what happened, but there was so much more.  The outpouring of love, plants, prayers, and food was nearly overwhelming.  (And thank you for all those things!)  Knowing how much my Dad was loved and respected is wonderful, but in some ways I think it makes it even harder to miss him now, and to wonder if I appreciated him while he was here.  Believe me, it’s hard to write, or even think, anything of substance without tears.  There are a thousand little things to miss.  I know I haven’t even discovered so many of them yet.

I wrote down thoughts as all this was going on, on a note card which I’ve pinned to the bulletin board above the computer screen.  They are some of the things I’ll be thinking about and working out over the coming weeks.  But the most glaring thing I’ve noticed is, how can anyone grieve with little children around?  When they aren’t keeping you busy with diapers and other basic demands, they are snuggling, laughing, and doing outrageous things that keep your mind from wandering.  There is little room for moping, or sitting and thinking.  I’m having to devise a new way of grieving, both for a new kind of loss and a new situation.  It’s different.  I feel almost guilty for the hours I spend without a thought of my Dad, and the joy that wells up so often in spite of what I think I “should” feel, but the moments of realization are strong and effecatious.  I’m sure that is the wrong word, but I can’t think of anything closer.  And I remind myself that maybe now Dad’s enjoying watching Samantha walk (which she started doing in earnest in Texas), and Lucy run and laugh and learn more than he ever could here on earth.

And I question why I ever wanted to be so far away from my family, what pride made me think I was too good for my hometown and needed a bigger, better place.

Meanwhile, Samantha is walking.  She’s a different baby (toddler!) from when Dad last saw her.  Craig got a part-time youth ministry job in B.R. at his parish from high school, St. Jean Vianney.  Which means our ends really do meet again, and our schedules will be getting tighter.  The JustFaith group I was possibly going to lead fell through, which in light of Craig’s new job may actually be a blessing.  Life goes on.  This might be the hardest part to deal with so far.  The world doesn’t stop when someone dies, even someone very special and very important, at least to me.  My girls keep growing, the boys Craig teaches keep being boys, bills are still due, Fall keeps marching towards Winter.  The Saints keep winning.  We still need groceries and diapers and soap.  And tomorrow is Samantha’s first birthday.  It is difficult to keep it all in perspective, or even to hold it in (or near) my mind all at once.

So for now, we press on.  It seems anti-climatic, and maybe it is.  Where is the climax to this story?  Where was the climax to Dad’s story?  I’m not sure he thought he had even reached it yet.  Do our stories even fit the narrative structure we learn in literature classes?  Maybe it’s not the building to a climatic moment, but rather the small, quiet nows that make up a life.  The story might not play well on screen, but it wasn’t designed to.  It was designed to play in a human body, in a family, among friends and a community.  There is an online guestbook attached to the obituary in the newspaper, and there are so many people who commented that Dad touched them as a teacher or principal.  They were just small moments for him.  But clearly each of those small moments, each of those few words, each of the smiles he gave so generously made a difference.

If it is the small moments that matter, I have a lot of work to do.  If our magnum opus is not so much a single tower as a meandering pathway made of small, carefully laid bricks, I must be much more careful how I make breakfast in the morning, how I speak to my girls, how I welcome my husband home, how I treat the lady working the check-out.  Merton, among others, speaks of focusing on living in the “now”, being present to the people and situations around us at a given moment.  That seems especially hard right now, but also especially important.  I can’t change anything I said to my Dad, no matter how much I dwell on it.  But I can still decide how I treat people today and tomorrow and the next day.  I can make them feel special and important like Dad did for so many of his students.

It’s good to write, even if it gets to be rambling.  I don’t realize what I’m thinking sometimes until I see it on the screen, and there it all works itself out.  It’s a strange way to think.  But anyway, thank you for your patience, and especially for your prayers.  Please keep praying for me and my family.  We are missing a large part of our selves right now.  But I don’t doubt that the prayers help.  I know that they are that little push I get when I need it most these days.  So thank you.  Believe it or not, I don’t have anything else to say!