Is there anyone still here? I certainly wouldn’t blame you if you lost interest and left. Yes, I’ve been a bad blogger. I’ve been conflicted about whether to keep this blog, start a new mommy blog for our new life with Ashlyn, or stop blogging altogether (which is sort of what has happened by default and my inaction). Perhaps it is reflective of other conflicted emotions too.
This will be a post with a variety of updates and random thoughts.
First, the fun stuff. Ashlyn is blasting past milestones faster than I can document them or share them. Here are a few notables:
For her first birthday, we had a small party with a few friends (many of whom hadn’t yet met her). We figured it was probably our only birthday party for her where we could invite more adults than kids and she wouldn’t notice. Here are a few of my favorite photos from that day:
Water Table Fun!
She is now just starting to walk. A few steps here and there – and it all started around 13 months. She still seems to be happier crawling, and she is lightning fast at that! But she also likes to walk letting me hold one of her hands. So grown up it is scary!
She is eating pretty much any and all foods these days. It is hard to believe that we went from mostly bottles to mostly self-fed food in just a few short months. Baby food is a thing of the past, formula is gone. Her favorite foods are whole sweet potatoes, watermelon, pumpkin pancakes or muffins, and she recently discovered a friend’s Pirate Booty, she can’t shove it in her mouth fast enough. She is drinking from a straw sippy cup aside from her one and a half bottles of milk per day now. I tried to put that in a sippy cup and you would have thought the world was ending.
Thankfully, still no interest in a pacifier, but she does love, love, love her white bunny lovey still. She smooshes her face in it before going to sleep. She will bury her face in it while cuddling with me before naps or bedtime.
She has 10 teeth, she got the first 8 (4 top and 4 bottom front) at 8 – 9 months, then nothing. About a month ago, the molars started – off and on….and just today both of them popped through, one on each side. So, that makes 10 teeth now!
The quickest way to make her laugh is to tickle her. So many choices of ticklish places too. She loves wrestling with daddy (or mommy in a pinch) rolling around, hanging upside down and in general being a little monkey. Her laughter and giggles are simply infectious. And yes, she also knows how to throw a temper tantrum when she doesn’t get her way – with screams that would convince you that the world is ending. Oh, and she loves to scream for fun too – just to hear herself. Big fun for Rusty, daddy and I!
She loves reading her books and is happy to read them by herself too - turning the pages and talking up a storm. She is a pretty good imitator, and has learned how to bark like a dog and carry toys and her bottle in her teeth like Rusty too! Her favorite toys seem to be the water table (photo above), a talking dinosaur, an electronic picnic basket with food, plates and utensils to put in and take out, and a little people car with a mommy and baby – she likes to put the baby in the driver’s seat and the mommy in the back! Uh oh, isn’t it a little soon for that?
We just finished our first Mommy & Me class – that went well even though she was one of the youngest in the class. She had two neighbor twins in the class with us too.
We had our first trip to the zoo yesterday – she was just chillin’ in the stroller, and had a great time – more people watching than animal watching though.
So, all in all, she is very healthy and happy, growing like a weed, babbling up a storm (still just says dada and mama occasionally but nothing else we can decipher yet), and brightening each and every day. I doubt that a single day has passed where she didn’t make me laugh or smile at least a dozen times with her antics.
On the adoption front, her original birth certificate finally arrived and everything is moving forward. We are hoping for a finalization court date this fall or winter.
So, that’s the update on Ashlyn. My update has a few more thorns with the roses.
Motherhood is hard. Let me say that again. Motherhood is hard, really hard. There is so much pressure that we put on ourselves to be perfect and do the right thing. It is pretty easy to feel like one failure after another. I love this little girl and wouldn’t trade motherhood for the world, but it is exhausting and consuming, and my perfectionism has no place in this world.
I feel a little lost in this new world of mine, so much has changed, and some things will never change and are just a part of the fabric that is my life. I am reminded of when I was a child and would anticipate some event (like Christmas or summer camp, or a vacation) and for months I would be planning, excitement building to a crescendo. And the big day would arrive, and then it would be over, and the day after the event I’d feel a little let down because all of that time spent planning and now it was over. I guess I’ve always been a bit of a “what next” girl. Always in a hurry to get to the next thing, it has definitely been harder for me to live in the moment and enjoy it for what it offered.
Well, motherhood has some similarities. Only this time the planning and preparation lasted about 20+ years with a lot of preparation, false starts, and ups and downs along the way (oh, if that isn’t the understatement of the year). And I think I spent so much time planning for the big event - when in reality although the arrival is a big event, it only marks the beginning of a life-long marathon. And after the “arrival” of Ashlyn, I am feeling a bit of a post struggle letdown. Not disappointment in being a mother, but not quite sure who I am without this major struggle ahead of me. Let’s face it, infertility had consumed much of my life and thoughts.
People keep asking me if (or when) we’ll have (or adopt) another child. Holy cow! Perhaps I will feel different later on, but at this point I can’t even imagine the kind of stamina, energy, patience and commitment that would require. And today, I have no extra of any of that to spare. Perhaps we are “one and done”. Selfish not to give her a sibling? Perhaps. But even though I have the perfect baby who sleeps 13 hours a night, I’m exhausted, not from staying awake at night, but just from the constant need to be “on” 24/7/365.
Okay, now I’m going to get dark for a bit here and probably offend anyone religious who is reading this. Feel free to avert your glance for the rest of this post. It is sort of like the needle at the dentist, sometimes you just don’t want to see it, and that’s okay.
I’ve been thinking a lot about all of these people in the world proclaiming “God won’t give me more than I can handle”. I see it so often in the adoption and infertility world. It’s been on my mind a lot lately. Someone’s adoption match for twins falls through, or a vanishing twin pregnancy naturally reduces to a singleton, or an IVF cycle for a sibling fails and it’s just “not meant to be” or because God wouldn’t give more than they could handle. “A miscarriage is God’s way of saving someone from the heartache of a special needs child.” All about believing that if you have or adopt a child it is a blessing, but a loss or miscarriage is because it wasn’t meant to be or God’s way of looking out for you and what you can handle. How does this make sense? What happened to that blessing? All of a sudden you don’t qualify for the blessing anymore? Or God changed his mind and decided that it was more than you could handle? Nope, not buying it.
It makes me angry. Because using that thought process means that my twins died because of ME – my inadequacy. Either I didn’t deserve a blessing? Or suddenly it was more than I could handle so God took them away? He created life, then took it away for what good? Can you see low I’m losing the logic here of how if it worked out I was being blessed and if it didn’t it was because God wanted to make sure I didn’t have more than I can handle? Surely he knew before they were conceived what I could handle.
I do think of how much work one child is, and wonder how I would have done it with two. And in my head, I believe that yes I could have done it without losing sanity – it would have been all that I knew. Would it have been hard? Heck yes! And then I wonder what if they had survived, being born so young would they have had major health issues? Is that the part that would have been more than I could handle?
You see how one could easily spiral into guilt over this train of thought. Like there weren’t already enough other things to look back on and second-guess.
I’ve been surprised at how the grief sneaks up on me. The dates of their birth and deaths come and go each month. Some months it passes and I am shocked that it didn’t consume me. Other months, it almost feels as fresh as when I was just a few months into this process.
The recent 10th month birth/death anniversaries were especially hard. I think it was compounded by the fact that my 19-year-old cat, Max, had been in declining health and was in renal failure. I knew we were going to have to make a hard choice, but I was hoping that I could get past the anniversaries. I had told my husband the prior week that we needed to do something about Max, but he convinced me that it was too soon and sort of made me feel guilty that I was willing to have him put to sleep. I should have followed my gut, but I let guilt cloud my decision. If I had been more aware, pushed the issue, I would have taken him to the vet the day before I finally did. His last night was hard on both of us – Max and I. His body was shutting down and he couldn’t move and he was meowing at me. It was heartbreaking. I spent the night laying on the floor of the guest bedroom with him – going back and forth in my head about whether I should take him to the emergency vet in the middle of the night, or wait until our regular vet opened where I knew it would be handled as humanely with as little stress to him as possible. We made it through that night, and the next morning I took him in and with the help of a very kind vet, held him as he passed. For anyone keeping score, that is two sons, a dog and a cat that have all died in my arms after I was forced to make a medical decision not to prolong their lives. That seems like more than my fair share of life ending decisions. I’m done.
Of course, it happened to be that Max passed away on the 10 month anniversary of Trace’s death. I felt angry that it happened on the same day of the month – I didn’t want anything else to steal attention from the importance of that day. But, I had to put that aside. A day is just a day unless we give it more power by assigning significance.
But, aside from the date coincidence, it brought me back to those days in the NICU and being asked to make decisions. Wondering if I was doing the right thing, and knowing in my gut in all of those cases that letting them pass away in my arms was the most humane and loving thing I could do. And please don’t chastise me for making a comparison – I really do understand with every fiber of my being that losing a pet is nothing like losing a child – but it can bring up feelings and memories.
One last dark note. I was so sad and disappointed in myself a few days ago. An online acquaintance is adopting a baby boy. He has been in the NICU for a few weeks and her blog joyously told the story of him being released – complete with pictures. I hadn’t realized how hard it would be to see pictures of the NICU equipment, isolettes, all of those familiar items unique to the NICU. I felt that sense of sadness, of what might have been, and then I got to the pivotal photo. The one that was pure joy for them because it meant their baby was going home, and it signified pure devastation for me…twice. It was the photo of the NICU monitor turned off. And even now I can’t even write about it without tears streaming down my face. Amazing how the exact same object could have such different significance to two people.
Back to my story though. My joy for their adoption and that gorgeous baby boy going home was completely overshadowed, completely lost. That one image, took me back to those darkest of days. I was shocked that it hit me so hard and was so unexpected. After all, in my work and life, I see and hear about lots of positive pregnancy tests, ultrasound photos, pregnant belly photos, pregnancy scares, newborn photos, twin photos, twins who were born shortly before my boys (which gives me the mental milestone of where they might have been now) – all of those things cross my path regularly with no meltdowns, I truly feel excited and happy for the parents of those children. And I guess because the feelings were so overwhelming and unexpected, I felt like it set me back on my heels a bit. I’m disappointed in myself that I couldn’t separate my experience from the situation and still feel the happiness for their good news. Frustrated that 10 months into this I can still be blindsided and feel completely at a loss of control over my feelings.
It leaves me ruminating over the upcoming 1 year marks and how that will feel, and whether I will have the courage to try to initiate some beautiful ritual, or whether I will just lock myself away and wallow in self-pity. A month ago I would have said that it is my choice to make those days what I wish for them to be. Today, I realize that maybe it isn’t just about choosing what I would like it to be, that I have to leave room for feeling the emotions that inevitably will come up on these momentous days. Grief, you suck!