Family

Five Weeks in Vermont Postpartum

I thought we were crazy. Sure it sounded good, leaving New Orleans when it’s blazing hot to be in Vermont at the B&B (as we affectionately refer to my parent’s home), but packing up a toddler and a 3 month old baby was insane right? My motto with baby #2 was ‘how can I make it easier’? Every decisions from doula to dockatot to k’tan to king sized bed was guided by this and here we were, getting ready to leave this carefully crafted nest of comfort with our two dogs and two kids. Crazy.

I wasn’t even sure we were really going to do it. Every time my aunts checked in about our plans so they could meet us there there I’d remind them that it wasn’t in stone and I had Southwest tickets and it was all depending on how BabyG was doing. She was having some stomach issues that had already led to one late night emergency room visit so I wasn’t keen on leaving our pediatrician in another time zone. But I was trying to stay open to it while really being ready to bail at the first sign of trouble.

But somehow through my anxiety and fears I found myself getting on a plane with baby, toddler, and my Dad while A. started his two day journey with a packed car and our two dogs.

I was a wreck. I think we were both wrecked. We had spent the last two months with two kids on two different disrupted sleep schedules and A. I were like two ships passing in the night, occasionally sleeping in the same bed. It was not a good scene. We were exhausted.

And here I was, on a plane, leaving behind my carefully crafted nest to uproot to my parent’s house, extremely jealous that A. was about to have a night without any kids waking him up and two driving days where he could call friends to catchup or listen to books on tape/music to his heart’s desire. It sounded like heaven.

The first days were hard. Nono wailed that the room at my parent’s “isn’t my roooooooooom” and continued with his middle of the night wake-ups that now required A. to go downstairs and comfort him instead of next door. I started work again and had my baby, toddler, husband, Mom, four dogs, three cats, and a chicken in the background, as well as my Dad, my brother, and my brother’s dog intermittently coming in and out. I hopped off one call with co-workers exclaiming “I think my dog just attacked my Mom’s chicken, I’ve got to go!” (The chicken lost some feathers, but was fine.)

The weeks were carefully scheduled to accommodate my work needs and keep Nono busy since he was out of daycare and they flew by.

Suddenly it was time for my aunts’ visit which had seemed so far away, and then that was over too. Suddenly there weren’t weeks left, but days, and then hours.

And then it was the last full day.

Things had calmed enough for me to reflect on things by the end. The time was incredibly precious because of the family time on multiple levels:

For many family members, it was the first time they got to meet BabyG

For me, it was much needed time with Nono after a tough pregnancy made A. his primary caregiver and then the first couple of months kept me very busy with BabyG. Having Nono out of daycare was exhausting, but it gave me so much time with him after not enough for so long. And he is a hilarious and crazy little kid.

The four of us got to be together so much, when Nono was born A. took a month off after my maternity leave ended and I went back full time to an office. This time I used vacation to go back part time for June and I work remotely so we got to have 5 weeks of all of us together

My parents got to experience the amazing changes that happen in one of the early months with their grandbaby, the BabyG who left was a very different baby than when we arrived and they were there for all of the little moments of progression

My parents gave us support and a safe place to be while we figured out how to become a family of four and we got out of a very difficult period, we arrived a bit of a mess and we left ready to get back to our new lives

We got to reconnect with old friends and spend quality time with new friends. There is a big piece of my heart in Vermont with the friends I have there and the friends there span from childhood to college to San Francisco to in the last couple of years of when we’ve become friends

I spent a very important anniversary there. Five years ago I turned 30 and shortly after was diagnosed with some pretty lame cancer. We’ll never know if it was caused by the rhinestone birthday tiara my Mom gave me (I’ve never worn it since and I’ve never had cancer again, so I think evidence is pretty strong), but we arrived about to embark on a new chapter in our life in New Orleans involving kids and house and careers and instead got a frequent flyer membership to the hospital (just kidding, hospitals don’t give membership perks because the American healthcare system sucks). For my specific special snowflake diagnosis, the two significant anniversaries to reach without recurrence are two years and five years. It meant something to spend my 35th birthday at my parents (I think my Mom finally threw out the tiara) and be there with the family I have now in spite of what happened five years ago.

We’re going back in three weeks for a week. But who’s counting?

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A Mother’s Day With Two

My life was blown up the day that BabyG was born and the smoke hasn’t cleared so I’m not exactly sure what it looks like now. There are moments where I wish I could clear the smoke and rejoin the world where there is some measure of control/regularity in day-to-day, but most of the time I’m content to exist in the now in our small little world knowing that it will change and open up in months to come and these moments will be lost to time.

Having one kid, things changed but it felt like the change incorporated some of my familiar life, this time around I truly have no idea what life is going to look like, but at the same time, I have a clearer picture of “what do you think you’re life will look like in 5 years” than I’ve ever had before.

My first mother’s day I wore my rehearsal dinner dress from my wedding and we went to a craft fair, this mother’s day I wore shorts and it was a two tank-top type of the morning since my first got way too much spit-up on it to continue wearing. We started the morning in the sculpture garden and I cracked up as Nono touched sculpture butts and we talked about them. Post nap we went to the amusement park in City Park and we rode the carousel and train together and A.and I got to see Nono go on his first by himself rides. Wonderful.

In the morning Nono opened my mother’s day gift bag and took everything out “for me”, it was mostly food (I’m dairy free due to BabyG issues so indulgent food I can eat is pretty exciting and thoughtful). He then cried because I put his art he made me up on the wall instead of letting him play with it. Nono also gave me a card that he made at daycare that said, “I love my Mommy because she cooks chicken for me.” I’m not sure I’ve ever cooked chicken for him in his entire life. Then he asked me for money (change to put in his piggy bank, he doesn’t actually know what money is for).

A and I got to actually sleep in our bed together until 5:45 (when Nono came to get him) which was a rare treat and BabyG contributed the thoughtfulness by not doing one of her two hour staying awake sessions in the middle of the night which was nice.

Things are amazing right now and they are also really hard. Days are not really one vs the other but a combination that we do the best we can through. Maybe this isn’t a right now, but what life with two young kids will be for the foreseeable future?

But something I thought about that morning was my Mother’s Days are numbered, they’ll want to spend the whole day with me for a small portion of our lives. Normally I’m not a “make every day count” kind of person, but for this I decided that I only get so many of them, so I’m not going to use the day for “Mommy time” (ok I did take a bubble bath). I’m going to do fun things (that I want to do) with them.  These are hard days, but they’re also magic and I’m very lucky to have them.

♥ne

They told me it would go by quickly, but they didn’t tell me is that it would just keep getting better and better and I wouldn’t be left to dwell on the endings but would revel in the new beginnings.

A year flew by, but unlike other years, I felt incredibly present in it. I’m not surprised it’s been a year because it’s been jampacked and amazing.

A year has turned a little burrito into a laughing, walking, dancing, and babbling little boy. (more…)

I’m Thankful for Nono

2016 was a rough year for our country. A lot of terrible and tough things have happened and a lot of people are ready to close the books on it and not look back. For me, however, 2016 is a year I will treasure forever. 2016 is when we welcomed our son into the world.

It’s been a tough journey getting to him. It started in 2014 and was derailed by a cancer diagnosis. I had to deal with the risk that chemo brings of never being able to have kids. But I was lucky and got pregnant soon after my doctor gave me the green light this year. That was followed by a pregnancy that was anything but glowing. I had trouble gaining weight due to the nausea that plagued me for almost the entire pregnancy, I was exhausted, sore, and all of the normal pregnancy challenges. I spent several hours in the hospital when I went into preterm labor, afraid and not ready. Luckily Nono decided to wait a few more weeks. We had another scare when my midwife picked up an arrhythmia and there were also concerns about his growth. After hours spent in fear limbo, we were again cleared. Finally Nono joined our family after 32.5 hours of labor, healthy and without needing a c-section.

It was love at first sight. Even though he proceeded to poop on me twice within his first few minutes of outside the womb life. Everything I had been afraid of in becoming a Mom (what about everything I would be giving up? what if I didn’t bond immediately? ) faded away and didn’t matter at all. Being a Mom is like breathing, it doesn’t require thought. My world shifted in an irrevocable way and I didn’t even feel it happen.

There are challenges. I cry pretty much every day. I think the blog “why is my son crying” could have a precursor blog for new families called “why is Mommy crying?” Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s hard, there’s a lot of crazy emotional surge going on post baby. The struggle is real.

There’s a lot of things you can’t prepare for. I understood I wouldn’t be getting much sleep, but it’s different knowing that in theory and living with not knowing how much sleep I’ll get in a night or when I’ll get woken up. It’s really tough. Most physically tough things you have the ability to tell yourself you just need to get through an amount of time and it’ll get better. It may be years before I can sleep in my own bed and get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Luckily the reason that I’m going through sleep deprivation torture has the sweetest face and I love him with all of my heart. Once I manage to get myself up it’s all better, sometimes I sit there at 3am just looking at him as he’s fallen back asleep and marveling at how beautiful he is.

I also have an amazing partner in this that I am thankful for. He continues to take care of me through the good stuff and the tough stuff and he’s also head over heels for our beautiful son.

So thank you 2016 for changing my life in the best way possible.

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Technical Family

Ever heard the one about someone saying that they’re going out for a pack of cigarettes and then they don’t come back? Well family lore has it that that my Dad’s birth mother told her 5 kids she was heading to the grocery store before hitting the road.

I heard this story fairly young, I can’t remember the exact age but I knew in elementary school that Grammy and Grampy were actually my great-grandma and great-grandpa. Little kids are weird with facts so that was something that I mused over as a kid infrequently. I remember one night at my uncle (great-uncle technically)’s lake house, explaining to my friend who was spending the night, my non-traditional family tree and the story, as I knew it. It’s really no wonder that I had a friend in middle school tell me I was too weird to be friends with anymore. (more…)

Thankful

I’m split on the thankful piece. About 50% of me is very thankful and about 50% is very surly (and understandably so I believe). I’m going to try and focus on the thankful part right now.

What I’m thankful for:

1. My health. This one is a mixed bag, but I’m really thankful that I’m not sicker. I could have just as easily had cancer that had spread and I’m thankful it hadn’t. I’m thankful that it wasn’t in my lymph nodes and that even with the complications, I’ve healed well from my surgeries and haven’t had any illnesses through chemo (just knocked on wood). I’m thankful that I don’t need radiation or more chemo than I’m getting.

2. I’m thankful that the rest of my family seems to be healthy for the most part. This is a doozy and I think it would be tough on all of us if we had to worry about someone else this much too.

3. I’m thankful for A. I’m not surprised by how amazing he’s been, but I am so thankful that we found each other and decided to spend our lives together. I feel very lucky. I say “we” about almost everything I go through and have to mentally remind myself sometimes to say “I” because he’s with me every step of the way.

4. I’m thankful that my parents and I have the relationship the we do. I’m glad that I have their support and that we could live with them until we got our feet back under us. I know it’s hard for them that I’m not completing treatment where they can see me every day and I’m sorry for that, but I’m glad that we already had the relationship where we talk often.

Dinner with Mom and Dad

Dinner with Mom and Dad

5. I’m thankful for the last two visits I had with my brother and getting to meet his girlfriend who’s pretty rad.

Lil bro, me, and the lady

Lil bro, me, and the lady

6. I’m thankful for my extended family who did things like send me what I needed to be comfortably after surgery, send me an impossible 3D pirate ship puzzle, call daily for a while, fly across the country to spend time with my during chemo, take me golfing and for beers after I got diagnosed, and came by the hospital when I was staying there.

7. I’m thankful for A.’s (and now my) family who we’re now local with. We just had our first New Orleans thanksgiving together down here and it was great. I’m already looking forward to Christmas when more will be here. They’ve been so supportive from recommending an acupuncturist to taking me to the pharmacy when A. had an interview. I’ve also enjoyed how much the niece and nephew scar the crap out of our cats.

8. I’m thankful for my friends. I’ve mentioned before that I’m completely blown away by all the people who have offered their support and read this blog (I have analytics on this because I’m a total nerd). The things that people have sent have been so thoughtful, some being what I need physically, and some being what I need mentally because it makes me feel like you guys get me. You guys help me get through this impossible thing.

9. I’m thankful for the Hasenkitties. Their comfort, weirdness, and inability to know anything is wrong is what I need some days.

Neo and Myles giving me love and stare downs

Neo and Myles giving me love and stare downs

10. I’m thankful to have finally made it to New Orleans. It’s been a long road to get here.

Spanish moss on a live oak.

Spanish moss on a live oak.

11. I’m thankful to have 3 Taxol treatments left and to be chemo and cancer free in 2015.

12. I’m thankful for the puppy we’ll be getting in the not too distant future. The optimistic look on life and unconditional love is going to be a good reward for getting through this.

Not my puppies and not my photo

Not my puppies and not my photo

Apparently the last time I did this was 2011, so here I go again.

They Say You Can’t Go Home Again

I’ve identified with the Thomas Wolfe quote “you can’t go home again” since my little cousin Jessie informed me during the summer after my freshman year of college that my parents were giving my room to my little brother. After I lost my room I never felt the same about being home. 11 years later I can say that this was totally fair and that Luke deserved the much bigger and better room since he’d played second fiddle to room selection his entire life. But anyways, that’s besides the point.

I nested pretty heavily into my rooms at college. I painted one (obviously not a dorm room), and spent hours decorating and finding the right furniture to make them homey. However, I also moved constantly. There’s a point of pride at Dartmouth for those of us that move constantly. Dartmouth is on a trimester system and has summer terms so the “opportunity” to move rooms is pretty substantial. Here’s my Dartmouth/SF living history:

Dartmouth fall ’02-spring ’06
Freshmen year: Dorm all three terms
Freshmen summer: Parent’s house/football frat
Sophomore fall/winter: Dorm
Sophomore spring: Tabard room (the Closet)
Sophomore summer: Tabard room (the President’s room)
Junior fall: Panarchy room (forgot the name)
Junior winter: New Orleans (Anton’s parent’s house)
Junior Spring: Panarchy room (the Realm)
Junior Summer: off campus apartment
Senior fall: Tabard room (Social chair)
Senior winter: NYC apartment
Senior spring: Tabard room (Social Chair)
Senior summer: Parent’s house/Anton’s aunt and uncle’s in NOLA
August ’06-Spring ’07: Geary/Leavenworth apt
Spring ’07-Fall ’08: Hayes Valley apt
Winter ’08-Summer ’10: Lower Haight apt
Summer ’10-Winter ’12: Upper Haight apt
Winter ’12-Spring ’14: Buena Vista Park apt

So in the last 12 years I have had 18 homes. 11 of these have been with A. The crazy thing is I’m not one of those people that’s ambivalent about having a home, it’s actually really important to me and plays a pretty major role on my every day happiness. I love coming home to my space. I can explain the reasoning behind each move, but I never intended to make this many moves.

With so many moves and feeling totally displaced at the beginning of each one, home became where A. was. During those years we also left for two months and traveled around Europe and most recently went to Thailand for a month and then drove cross country. With the physical location being such a temporary thing, A. became my home and feeling of comfort.

The separation of home from my parent’s house and home started that summer after college, but it’s deepened with each year. I feel like a visitor staying in what I considered my brother’s room and then while he was in high school I was constantly missing being part of the family. I mean missing, like I wasn’t there, not that I was yearning to be a part of it from college. I was like most self-absorbed college kids and perfectly happy with my bubble of 18-22 year olds thinking we were all so important and cool. But when I came back to my parent’s house it was clear that I was a visitor, I wasn’t there for the regular family meals, family events, or my brother’s high school accomplishments for the most part. I also had felt like an outsider growing up in Vermont from my tiny grade school to my tiny high school (9 kids in my grade school class and 12 in my high school class) experiences. I tried like hell to fit in, but never really accomplished that and it was rough. In middle school the girl I considered my best friend from daycare wrote me a letter telling me ‘I was too weird to be friends with’. I had similar strike outs with the cool kids in high school. And yes, even with a school that small, there are still cool kids. Having briefly gone to a reasonably sized middle school (over 100 kids in my class), I think that the smaller school is actually much tougher when you don’t fit in than the large school where there’s more people to blend into. For instance, one of the cool girls who was a year older than me had a weekly South Park watching party at her house who she invited most of our soccer team to. See the word “most” and guess if I ever got to go. So every week I’d have to hear how awesome it was from my friends and teammates and because of the tiny size of our school, there wasn’t a social alternative for weirdo me. I watched South Park with my Mom.

Since then I’ve found plenty of fellow weirdos to be friends with and am very secure in my weirdness, but the reason I mention it is that not only did I have the displaced feeling from my parent’s house, but I didn’t exactly have a social world that made me feel like home when I came back to visit. Each year there grew a greater and greater divide. A lot of people I went to school with stayed in Vermont and as we grew up into adults I lost my footing in what to social situation was. I knew where we had all stood in high school, but since I wasn’t home that often in college and then only once a year or so afterwards I missed the social landscape changing as people grew up and changed and got to know each other as adults instead of hormonal teenagers. I also had a hard time letting go of dislike I had for people who had been a dick in high school because we never had any interactions to move past that unlike the people I was friends with that lived in Vermont and got to know them outside of high school. I had a couple of people I kept in touch with and would still try and see, but that could be difficult too when my one trip home was over Christmas and we got a snowstorm so we didn’t end up being able to connect. Each year I felt more and more like a stranger in my hometown even though I still think of myself as Vermonter to the core.

I actually had a couple of nightmares when we were on our way to Vermont to spend the summer because I was worried about how I’d feel being back but being so disconnected from my old life there. It was a weird thing to go from being independent and living in SF for almost 8 years to moving back into my old room in my parent’s house at 30, even if it was just for a couple of months. To go from having my own space to inviting friends over to hangout at my parent’s house. To go from having my own phone to people having to ask my Mom to talk to me because there’s only a landline that works there. It’s weird. It’s also kind of funny. Except for the fact that my parents are not always reliable in passing messages or answering call waiting. That’s enough to make me feel like a frustrated teenager again.

Then my world got turned upside down and two months turned into five and a half. My time in my old room was probably equal to the time I spent in there my whole senior year of high school because of all the time I spent recovering from surgery and chemo in bed. My parent’s house became home again. And leaving home when it’s your parent’s house again is really hard to do.

My room became my cocoon. I felt safe there and comfortable, two things that I sorely needed going through this. My parents and I settled into a hybrid relationship where I was an adult but they were still overprotective. It’s hard not to be overprotective when your kid had cancer, but I still only need my Mom to ask if I’m sure that I don’t want a sweater once. Or not at all. It was nice though too the moments where we all enjoyed each other’s company as adults, like going out to dinner or watching the Voice. Most of us don’t get to go home again and although I would trade it all to not have cancer (seriously, if you thought I was going to say otherwise you’ve watched too many Hallmark movies), I am glad that I got to have this. The two months I was originally going to spend there went by quickly and wasn’t enough to get comfortable. The five and a half months I had there made it home and made us not have to make the time count so much, we could get comfortable and just live. It’s hard to describe, but hopefully you’re following what I’m trying to say.

Leaving was really hard. Even when what you’re heading to is exciting and good, endings are sad. It makes it even sadder because it’s combined with two other things, it’s going to be a few months before I see either of my parents again and I’m used to being able to see them whenever I want, and I can’t imagine that I’ll ever live in Vermont/home again. It’s a big goodbye/ending that I didn’t expect and I’m going mourn it for a bit. The first day I cried in 4 out of 7 states that we drove through and I’m crying now just writing about it. I have no doubt in my mind about our living in New Orleans and i am so excited for our life here, but it doesn’t make it any easier or less sad to say goodbye to my home.

So on that note, call your Mom or Dad and tell them that you love them.