Sunday, May 29, 2011

New fave.

Little guy's surgery.

This past Friday, my poor little rascal had to have surgery for an undescended testicle and inguinal hernia. We were hopeful that the testicle would move down on it's own by this time, but it didn't. (We even did testicle chants at bath time to will it down. Guess that doesn't work.) Although the procedure is fairly routine, as you can imagine, I was a nervous wreck. Nothing like adding one more thing to our already full plate. After following the pre-op instructions carefully, we drove down to Denver to the Rocky Mountain Children's Hospital. We had to arrive two hours before Calvin's procedure, so we ended up having to wait for a while before the surgeon took him back. The wait time was the worst. Calvin was so hungry and couldn't understand why I was withholding milk. We did many things to entertain and distract him during that two hour period including visiting the nurses, walking the hallways, playing with the toys we brought, smiling at another baby in the waiting area, and investigating the pulse-ox and blood pressure cuff. Finally, the nurse came and carried Calvin back into the operating room. He was so sweet as he left us, smiling at everyone and raking his hand up and down the nurse's shoulder. Angus and I hugged and went to the waiting room to wait which seemed like days but in reality was only about an hour. During that time, I called my dad to check in with him. Despite all my dad is going through, he was only concerned about Calvin and us. The love my dad possesses for those around him is simply amazing. Overall, the surgery was a success, and Calvin was a trooper for sure. He will have to return for a final procedure in about four months, but all should go well. As tough as it was to see my baby have to go under anesthesia and endure a surgery at such a young age, I couldn't help but think of the many families who are in the hospital almost full time with their children. They are inspirational.


Gown and booties.

My sweet baby boy in the horrible hospital cage post surgery.

The ride home.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


When I'm stressed, I hike. Today I decided that no matter how long it took, I was going to hike a mountain with Calvin. The whole way, I thought about my dad and prayed for him. He was my motivation - my inspiration - to make it to the top.

On our way up.

We made it!

The trail down.

The sleeping babe.

Monday, May 23, 2011

On turning 30.

This weekend, on Saturday the 21st of May at 11:57 a.m., I turned the big 3-0. I was 165 pounds and 69 inches long, a healthy young woman with a slightly graying (!!) full head of hair. When people ask me how it feels to be 30, I say that it snuck up on me. I say, "It feels the same as it felt to be 29." Or, I mutter something like, "Um, OK" and then change the subject. Depending on what kind of mood I'm in, I fake smile and say, "AAAHH-mazing. Oprah was right! Life gets better with age!" Really, what I should say is that 30 feels weird. 30 feels like I'm too young to have a dad with cancer. 30 feels overwhelming and great at the same time. The journey from 29 to 30 feels like both the best and worst year of my life. 30 feels frickin' crazy. Now pour me a glass of wine.

Last May, when I turned 29, I was five months pregnant and feeling spectacular. I had one of the most amazing summers of my entire life as I was able to visit with my family and prepare for my baby's entrance into the world. I walked and did yoga almost daily, and I felt an extreme sense of peace with my life. In September, my lovely baby boy was born, and I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful childbirth experience and was blessed with a healthy son. I fell in love all over again with my husband, and together we navigated the ups and downs of parenthood. After Calvin was born, my parents came to visit us. In the moments of those days, I realized that for all these years, they have loved me just as much as I love Calvin. I saw in their faces and actions a pure kind of love that knows no limits.

One morning in October, I got a call from my dad telling me that my mom had suffered a stroke. I thought I was dreaming. What the fuck. Seriously?! How could this happen? My dad was beyond upset because he was traveling in Buffalo, NY at the time, and my mom was all alone. Luckily, she had a few good friends by her side for the worst of it. After a series of tests, it was determined that my mom has atrial fibrillation, a irregular heart rhythm that can cause blood clots. Thank God/Buddha/the spirits above that she recovered completely and is now on a medication that will prevent future clots.

In November, my entire family came out to Boulder to spend Thanksgiving with us. Angus's parents came as well, and we cooked our first official dinner in our kitchen at 3101 Ouray. My dad carved the turkey, Angus's parents gnawed at the turkey legs, Calvin took in the action, and we all toasted with a good red wine. Katy got to meet her nephew for the first time. Their first meeting was love at first sight.

For Christmas, Angus and I took Calvin to Pennsylvania to spend time with my parents. It was Calvin's first flight, and he did great. His favorite events were walking around the living room with Poppy and looking at the lights and ornaments on the tree, sleeping in a new room, and opening his first ever Christmas presents.

The next phone call I got was from my mom. My dad went into the ER in January with flank pain and discovered a tumor growing on his remaining kidney. In shock and devastated, Dad went back to his surgeon to discuss options. After what seemed like a million different answers and a long waiting period, it was determined that the only option for a potential cure was to operate and remove the kidney. Immediately, we booked flights home and spend some time with my parents processing this news and preparing for surgery.

In March we returned to PA ready to stand by my dad has he underwent major surgery. The surgery was a success, and Dad left the hospital to return home after only one week. When we left, he was doing well and attempting to adjust to life on dialysis and heal from surgery.

We decided to return to PA once again in April for a visit as my dad's recovery was tough, and we wanted to lift his spirits. On our third day in Lancaster, Dad developed a fever and went to the hospital. He unfortunately had developed pneumonia and c-diff, an intestinal bacterial infection. Immediately, treatments were started, and Dad slowly began to feel better. He had a feeding tube placed to help with nutrition and continued to go to dialysis three days per week. The day we were supposed to fly back to CO, he developed a pulmonary embolism which required immediate intervention. Thank goodness, the doctors were able to catch it early and treat it right away.

The morning of my 30th birthday I got a call from my dad that I will never forget. He told me that they had found cancer on his lungs. The mother fucking son of a bitch cancer is now metastatic. Most recently, we have learned that there is also a tumor on his liver. We have found an amazing oncologist to work with who is hopeful about a targeted therapy called Sutent which attacks renal cell carcinoma specifically and slows the growth of the tumors. We are also hopeful that this will mean better days ahead for my dad. For God's sake, he deserves them.

Sometimes I imagine life's moments in Polaroids. So, for instance, I "take" a picture of a moment that means something and store it in my heart of hearts and promise to hold onto it forever. From 29 to 30, I've collected many Polaroids, many of which no doubt will be topics of writing to come although it's tough because most of the time these are moments that I can't even find words to describe. I have to say that this collection of photos has been my most special yet. From life's joys to life's heartaches, I hold them all close.

I am 30. I am a woman, a wife, a mother, a child. Here's to hoping that this year is full of good health, happiness and a lot of love.

There's a place I go sometimes that feels safe. It's the bathroom with the old, brown and blue floral wallpaper, with the dried boogies wiped on the wall above the toilet paper roll. The single sink with toothpaste stains and contact lenses cases and Old Spice shaving cream cans. Mr. Squeaky Shower and the smell of cologne. It's the creak, creak of the plastic tiled floor and the smell of the metallic water that we have delivered monthly because our well went dry. There's an old cross-stitched picture that hangs on the wall by the towel rack. It says something about family and leaves falling from trees and the change of seasons. I think it means that we will always stick together, but every time I pee, I read the saying and try to piece together its meaning. There's a mother with her children and the wind is blowing, and the house is calling them home.

Spring green dinner.

Arugula and mixed greens salad and spinach and zucchini soup. Perfect May dinner.

Friday, May 13, 2011

How far we've come.

Back in October, about a month after Calvin's birth, I wrote a post about my poor boobs. I wanted to follow up that post with this one because I honestly never thought I would come this far. I don't think mamas talk enough about their struggles with nursing. For some reason, it's taboo (BOOBS!), or maybe everyone likes to project the image that they have it all together. My hope is that, in some way, talking about my own struggle helps other mamas who are struggling with nursing. At the very least, I hope this opens peoples' eyes to the commitment and dedication it takes to breastfeed and the rewards that follow after doing so. I am by no means saying that nursing is the only right way to nourish a child. I am saying that it was the right way for me to nourish my child. I knew this before I even conceived, and I turned out to be very lucky that my body made milk (and a whole lot of it) making my choice to nurse Calvin possible.

The first 3 1/2 - 4 months of nursing were so difficult for me. I suffered from so many issues including sore, infected nipples, thrush, supply issues from pumping, nipple confusion (because we had to give Calvin bottles for 4 weeks while I healed), plugged ducts, mastitis (a milk duct infection), and high lipase content (which causes milk to have a funny smell and taste and requires scalding before storing). As a result of these issues, it was very difficult for me to feel comfortable nursing in public, to leave Calvin for an extended amount of time, get a full night's sleep, or even feel confident with my abilities as a mother. During my struggles, I worked closely with a lactation consultant and my amazingly supportive husband. Many people told me to throw in the towel and switch to formula, but I was stubborn and hell bent on pushing onward. People said that being a happy mama was more important than being a nursing mama, but for me, the two went hand-in-hand. In general, when I'm determined and have my sights set on a goal, not much can mess with me. During those 3 1/2 - 4 months, I couldn't really identify why exactly I needed to stick with nursing; I just knew I could handle more and would continue on. I know why now, but I'll get to that.

I'm not joking when I say that breastfeeding was at least 10 times more difficult than having a natural childbirth. Looking back, I definitely should have taken a class or met with a lactation consultant during pregnancy, but I just assumed it'd come naturally. I had a lovely vision of myself sitting in the grass on a blanket under a huge tree nursing my baby. So relaxed, so confident. Now I know differently. Almost every single woman I have met through yoga, mom's groups, etc. has had some sort of nursing issue she must overcome. It's no wonder the wealthy nobles back in the day hired nursemaids! I'm sure countless women and infants died from nursing related complications during that time period not to mention the millions of women living in countries without access to healthcare. (Don't get me started on that.) It's not to say that nursing can't ever become relaxed and confident; for me, it just took a lot of time, patience, and practice.

Somewhere around 4 months I found myself being able to say that nursing was "easy." Actually, I don't even know if "easy" is the right word, but compared to what it was before, I'd say it's an appropriate assessment. I started to LOVE the moments I shared with Calvin instead of tolerating them. It just felt right.

Here I am, and Calvin is 7 1/2 months old, and he's never had anything besides breastmilk (mine and a few bottles of donor milk when my supply dipped). We still have our bumps in the road, but for the most part it's amazing. Most of the time I'm super hard on myself and don't let myself feel genuine pride. I always think, "I could've done better." For one of the first times in my life, I feel a sense of pure pride when I think about all I've endured to nourish my son. I think whenever there are scars involved (NIPPLE scars, no less), pride is completely justified. Angus says it's what he loves most about me as a mother - how insanely proud I am for meeting my goal of breastfeeding Calvin. I'm not sure it's what I love most about my mothering, but it is something I do feel so good about every day.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but in a few months I am planning to wean Calvin down to two feedings (early morning and before bed), and then when I head back to work I'm planning to wean him completely. I recently saw an amazing Chinese medicine doctor who specializes in pediatrics. He told me that by 9 months babies have gained all of the immune benefits they will gain from breast milk. This was shocking to me since I always thought the "one year" mark was the rule of thumb. Part of me is excited to have some more freedom once I wean, but the other part of me (let's be honest - about 90% of me) is holding on. I used to look at women - many Boulderites, in fact - who nursed past one year to be kind of insane. Now I think I get it. I'm not going to do it, but I so get it. It's hard to believe that this weaning is going to happen in a little over than a month.

What I love about nursing my son is that it's the only time he isn't wiggley. He lays across my lap, sometimes with his eyes closed, and gently plays with my necklace or rakes his fingers up and down my chest and face. What I love about nursing my son is that when he wants comforted, he burrows his head in my chest and pulls at my shirt (which can be frustrating in public), and uses sign language to tell me he wants milk. What I love about nursing my son is that when he first latches at night, he furiously sucks as if all he wants in the whole world is milk, then he calms and slows into a soothing rhythm. What I love about nursing my son is that it's so animalistic. I feel in touch with Mother Earth and the creation and sustaining of life. I feel so amazed at my own body and it's power. What I love about nursing my son is that he needs me and trusts me to be there for him, which will never change, I hope, even after nursing is long over and he is all grown up.

I stuck with nursing my son because of all of this, and I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

First "real" bath.

Calvin had his first bath in the big bathtub tonight. He didn't topple over, and he loved splashing in the water.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sir Gigglesworth.

Calvin's laugh is so cute when he's sick. Unfortunately it also makes him cough.

For my mother.

Dear Mom,

I know these past few months have presented more challenges than sometimes we know what to do with, but I want you to know how proud I am of you and how you've handled all of it. As our mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, and Dad's wife, you've risen each time to meet the challenge head on, deal with it, and demand the best possible for your family. Your motherly instincts to protect and nurture go into full effect, and you've stood by each of us as we struggle to accept what is happening and cope. I know at times it feels like it's all coming undone, but that is far from what is real. You are keeping us together and busting your ass to do it. You have continued on in your roles and amazingly have been an even better mom, wife, grandmom, and friend now in a time when you are being pulled in so many directions. I hope that everything gets better for you and for us soon, but even if it's still a long road, I have confidence that you will continue to fight and expect the best, and that's all you can do but at the same time, just what you need to be doing - that and no more. You have been truly inspiring to watch as you support Dad through this time in his life, take care of yourself, and put everyone else around you before yourself. I hope I too can handle it all in my life and show Calvin the kind of love that you and Dad have demonstrated to us. It's the best gift you could ever give. Just purely loving those around you.

You say to us how proud you are and how blessed we are to be the women we are, and I want you to take this moment - today - to say to yourself, "I am a good mother." You and Dad shaped who Katy and I are today. Without you, we'd just be two bumps on a log. :) I am so grateful.

Happy 58th birthday, and happy Mother's Day and Grandmama's Day, too.

We love you.

Your daughter,