Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Long, long overdue birth-week story

I know, you'd think that if anything would get me out of my blogging funk, the birth of my little girl would be it, right?  So why has it taken me almost 2 months to write (and rewrite) this?  It's because there was so much bad around the one amazing thing, and I think I've been holding my breath to see how it would turn out.  I also initially wrote this post with graphic detail, but it occurs to me now that I don't want to remember the bad things in detail; maybe if I skim over it, it will fade.  And besides, it was starting to read like "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day."  And that's no way to announce the birth of my daughter!

First, just so I don't get any grief from you, here are pictures of moi on Monday, March 10th at 39 weeks pregnant.  Tada!

This pregnancy was the easiest so far.  I had so much energy during the second trimester that I was easily able to do some full-time lawyering and stay up until midnight most nights editing pictures for my part-time photography business.  My blood pressure was only slightly elevated so I did not need to be on bedrest at all.  And while I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, it was such a mild case that it was easily controlled with diet, and it had the positive effect of making it so I only gained 25 pounds.

And here's the crap part that I'm going to skim over:   On Tuesday, March 11th -- one day before I was scheduled to give birth to our daughter -- things went to shit.  All three littles had terrible colds and were generally inconsolable.  Roar was in terrible pain from a medication he was taking, was barely able to eat, and had lost 14 lbs in one week so we were planning to take him to the hospital that day (his pediatrician ended up getting him an emergency visit with a gastroenterologist at the hospital, so no trip to the ER was required for him).  But the part of Tuesday that I still have nightmares about?  I watched and felt my dad, who had flown in from Iowa the night before to help my mom take care of my kids when I went into the hospital, near death on the floor of my hallway.  Making the 911 call, seeing my mom holding my dad in the hallway, and hearing dad's vitals (bp 70/30, temperature 90) that day, is not something I'm going to forget. 

Here's dad looking healthier in January
But I said I would skim over the crap, so here's the positive spin:  My dad was admitted to a hospital near my home, and one day per month, a pediatric gastroenterologist practices there.  The one day that month just happened to be on Tuesday, March 11th, so when I had to take Roar there for his emergency appointment, it was convenient to stop and see my dad as well.  :)  I also realized that I have good neighbors who came running over to give out hugs and see if there was anything they could do when the ambulance and fire truck showed up in our neighborhood.  And was reminded again, that I have a dear, dear friend in our former daycare provider, Cindy, who sped right over for a hug, to take care of me and my children, and to give me peace of mind that my children would be well taken care of the next day despite the fact that my well-planned childcare plan had gone to hell.

Okay, enough with that!  On Wednesday, March 12th (my mom's birthday), The Husband and I got up early to check in at a different hospital for our 7:30 am c-section.  Other than nearly passing out and throwing up after an IV was inserted incorrectly (lordy, that pain was worse than anything I've experienced in my child birth experiences), pre-op went smoothly and it was nice to just sit and chat with The Husband.  (Thanks again to my mom for taking such good care of my dad, and for Cindy for taking care of my kids; because of them I was able to concentrate on the beautiful thing that was going to happen that day.)  The c-section went off without a hitch, and my sweet, surprise baby girl, Alessa Soundari (named after my mom), was born at 8:04 am.  She was 7lbs, 5 oz, and 19 inches long.

As things were, The Husband was not able to stay with us in the hospital the whole time, and at nights, Alessa and I were on our own.  But we made it through, and I was able to spend some time getting to know this little sweetie who had been kicking me for so long.  She was ready and willing to nurse (but not good at latching in a way that didn't make me want to scream), she slept well when she wasn't refluxing, and very rarely cried.  Despite some concerns over her reflux and my then sky-rocketing blood pressure that earned me a prescription for weeks of post-partum bedrest, we were discharged in two days.

It was sweet coming home to my other little ones who were still sick and thus unable to get close to their baby sister (thus, no pictures of them together).  They were fascinated by her, and not the least bit jealous.  Zachary kept saying "Mommy, she's so cute!"  Inserting gratuitous pictures of Samantha and Conor here:

So that's pretty much it.  We've survived the first month of sleeplessness, and things are settling down.  I was released from bedrest last week, and I'm very grateful that Alessa is such a laid-back little girl who is happy to sleep or just be around people.  We are totally, madly in love with this girl.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Because this just HAS to be shared

It was a super Halloween!  This was the first year that Zachary was excited about trick-or-treating.  It could be because his best buddy, David, came over to go out with him.  They made it all the way around our street before deciding it would be more fun to come inside and play with cars.  Samantha and Conor did a surprisingly great job of tolerating their costumes, and made it to one house before deciding it would be more fun to poop in theirs.







Yeah, I know I could say a lot more, but time, people, time! It's not on my side lately. :) There is not even enough time to reduce the size of these accidentally gargantuan photos!! 

I hope you're all healthy and happy and that your Halloween was super as well!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Conor's first sentences!

Overdue pictures from Zachary's first-ever day of school to come tomorrow, but for now, I just had to share with you what has motivated Conor to speak!  He sat down in front of the pantry yesterday, and very clearly articulated, "Please cracker."  Awwwww!  (And yes, Roar, I'm sure that wasn't a derogatory statement.)  Later, he mixed sign language and speaking to come up with something even longer:  "Please (sign) cracker (spoken) eat (sign), thank you (sign)."  Isn't he brilliant? 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Yeah, um, so, about that...

You know what really surprises me?  You keep coming back here.  Yes, you.  You are awesome.  Thank you for checking in.  Actually, I've known all along how awesome you are, which is partially why I have been unable to post anything.  I want to be completely honest here, so I didn't feel like I could post without sharing the thing that's been preoccupying my thoughts. 

Okay, that's not entirely the truth.  Here's part of it:  Part of the truth is that I'm lazy, and busy, and lazy, and I haven't had a lot of motivation to post.  I've got pictures and we've gone places and had visitors and I started falling behind even further than usual and there was no way I was going to catch up.  I'll work on getting over that. 

But here's the other thing.  The Big Thing.  I'm pregnant.  Yes, again.  And no, this wasn't planned, and no, I didn't think it could happen.  Certainly not at 38 when not trying, and certainly not to us.  This couldn't happen, you see, because for a decade or so, we were not trying and then trying and then trying really, really hard, and then hoping, and wishing, and praying, and testing, and testing more, until we finally got the miraculous help we needed to make Zachary, Madeline, Conor, and Samantha.  Those little guys, they were meticulously planned.

And no, I didn't learn from my girl Tanika, who experienced her own Curve Ball, at the same age, in under almost the exact same circumstances.  Miracle, I had thought.

So the day after I muzed that I couldn't remember when I last had my period, and the day that I realized I could smell the subway train, I took a pregnancy test, or ten.  I spent the rest of the evening wide-eyed and in shock, and the Husband spent it vacillating between denial and bliss.  We can't afford another child, I thought.  We don't have the room.  I'm tired.  And we can't afford another child.  I might've freaked out a little.

But the next day?  We saw our baby's heartbeat on an ultrasound. 


The funny thing about all of this is that even after we had twins, when people were saying, You're done now, aren't you??  Even when my head was saying, We have enough children, thankyouverymuch, I knew, I JUST KNEW, that at least one person was missing.  I knew that despite the fact that we are not financially prepared, that we don't have the space, and that I'm exhausted, our family was not yet complete.  I felt it so strongly that I told a select few people that if medical assistance did not bring us that child, I would adopt. 

So here's our baby who fought some odds to pick us.  Sooner than expected.  Not in the manner I expected.  In short, not our plan, but Someone's plan. 

I still feel too old and tired and not ready, but mostly?  I'm grateful.  Really, truly grateful for our miracle.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


My dearest Samantha, one year ago today I held your hand for the first time.  Did you know then that with the grasp of your tiny hand, you had stolen my heart?

Samantha one week copy

Just look how much you've grown!  You've gained almost 13 pounds, and you're about 10 inches taller!  You've got four teeth (two lower central incisors, and two upper lateral incisors), and just this month, you started walking.  I love how you would take Frankenstein-like steps, fall down, and then get right back up again.  You never gave up and you're almost completely steady now!


My little girl, you don't hide your emotions.  I always know how you feel, and I hope that I'll always know how you feel.  The way you light up when you see me transforms even the worst day into something beautiful, and there's nothing you like better than being held.  When you're unhappy, your shriek could break glass.  But my baby, I have never heard a softer, sweeter voice than yours.  The other day you toddled up to your daddy, saying, "Dada," and then set yourself down on his lap.  I don't know whether it was your purposefulness, or your father's pride that brought tears to my eyes, but I could've stayed in that moment forever. 


Samantha, people say that we're a lot alike (and I see it too), but you are most definitely your own person.  You are so smart – you started using sign language a couple of months ago, and you can imitate things you just saw (like when you saw me performing "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" this week).  You are generous with your smile, but you reserve your laugh for truly funny things, like when you steal the paper that mommy is reading.  You're also kind – I've seen you offer your toys to Conor on numerous occasions, and sometimes, you won't cry when he takes it.


My love, it's only been a year, but I've known you forever.  You've heard me complain, and no doubt that for the rest of my life you'll continue to hear me complain about how difficult this first year has been.  But don't doubt for a second that if I was given the chance, I'd do it all over again, just so that I could end up with you.  I love you with every ounce of my being.

Happy birthday, my sweet little Samantha. 

DSC_4201 - Version 2

My dearest Conor, one year ago today, I looked into your beautiful eyes for the first time.  Did you know then that with one blink of your eyes, you had stolen my heart?

Conor one week copy

Just look how much you've grown!  You've gained about 14 pounds, and you're about 11 inches taller!  You've got five teeth (two lower central incisors, two upper central incisors, and one lateral incisor), and just last week, you started walking.  I love how you watched Samantha fumble and you practiced cruising around the room (and boy, could you cruise!), before you let go and took your first steps.  But when you did, it took no time at all for you to start taking many steps.  You're almost completely steady now!


My little boy, your sunny disposition shines through almost everything you do.  Even when you're sick, we can make you smile.  When you're unhappy, you flop yourself on the ground and throw a temper tantrum (and I'm sorry, it's so unlike you that I can't help but laugh).  You're also very independent, and you're generally happy to explore on your own.  But my baby, there is nothing as sweet as cuddling with you.   The other day, you weren't feeling well, so you toddled over to me, moaning, "Mama."  I took you upstairs, read you books and sang you songs, and rocked you until you fell asleep on my chest.  I don't know if it was knowing that you felt some relief, or the joy of snuggling with you that brought tears to my eyes, but I could've stayed in that moment forever.

Mom and Conor copy

Conor, people say you're a lot like your father (and I see it too), but you are most definitely your own person.  You're so smart – you take in everything and then take action.  You did it with crawling and with walking, and even now, I can see you devising plans to reach the remote control that I thought I placed out of your reach.  You are generous with your smile and your laugh, and nothing is quite as funny as raspberries on your belly. You're also kind – when Zachary was crying the other day, you went over to him and gave him a kiss, and then whacked him repeatedly on the head (I knew you were trying to pat him – we'll work more on being gentle later).   


My love, it's only been a year, but I've known you forever.  You've heard me complain, and no doubt that for the rest of my life you'll continue to hear me complain about how difficult this first year has been.  But don't doubt for a second that if I was given the chance, I'd do it all over again, just so that I could end up with you.  I love you with every ounce of my being.

Happy birthday, my sweet little Conor.

DSC_4217 - Version 2

Samantha and Conor Day 1 copy DSC_4261

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A weekend at camp

I spent this Memorial Day weekend as a volunteer photographer for a camp held in a hotel in Arlington, Virginia.  Five hundred children and their families attended.  Add in the five hundred mentors paired with the children, add in the volunteers and staff, and there were over 2200 people participating in this camp. 


There were so many smiling faces



and lots of malarky.








In fact, sometimes, when I could clear my mind and just watch and listen, I could almost forget that all of these kids...

these seemingly happy, silly kids...

had lost a servicemember parent or sibling.






one of the kids.


On Sunday morning, the kids wrote letters to their lost parents, and attached them to balloons.




and then released them.  Each balloon represents a fallen servicemember.  There were so many balloons.  Too many.


General Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff came to visit.



And we spent Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery




I can imagine few things more heartbreaking than witnessing a mother cleaning off her child's headstone.  This should NEVER happen.
This is the price of freedom.  

The heroes I photographed this weekend were remembering the love, celebrating life, and sharing the journey.  The organization that made it possible is called TAPS.  I promise never to solicit you again, but if you can donate your time or talent or funds to them, please do.  They make it possible for these survivors to be among a new family -- an unwillingly huge family who understands them in a way that we simply can't, and in a way I hope that we will never have to.