my brother, part 2

The days after my brother's birth were awesome. All three of us - my mom, dad, and myself - were overjoyed. We smiled nonstop and gave him nonstop attention. My dad spent the first hours of Christopher's life holding him in a rocking chair as my mom slept in the recovery room. Hospital policy said I couldn't hold the baby for the first 24 hours, because I was under the age of 14. In fact, I had to stay at least a few feet AWAY from Christopher during this period. My dad's head hung low in front of his chest as he stared at the new bundle. I sat in a folding chair, about 5 feet away, bored to death, willing the hours to pass so I could hold him myself.

The first time I held Christopher was wonderful. We were in a tiny shared hospital room with multiple chairs and a large bed on wheels. My mom was sore and out-of-it. My dad watched intently as I carefully cradled Christopher. I was a lanky preadolescent; uncoordination is a dominant trait in our family. Slowly, I stood up to move to the other side of the room. My dad leaned in, hands ready, nervous as hell. My foot gingerly stepped forward and barely brushed against the bedside. My dad's arms flew out to catch the falling baby, even though nothing had happened. I sighed and said something like, "I'm FINE, dad. I'm fine."

Christopher was a fantastic baby. My mom nursed him every hour and a half to make sure he was "thriving." He began sleeping ten hour stretches at an early age. He rarely cried and was prone to staring contentedly into space for long spells. I enjoyed being a big sister to the uttermost. My first day back at school was fun. The principle announced that I had a new brother on the intercom. Hugh Simpson was my heart throb that year (and the year before -- it was a long crush) and we sat next to each other. Thanks to Christopher, we had our first real conversation:

Hugh: So. You have a baby brother?

Me: Yeah.

Hugh: What's his name?

Me: Christopher Daniel

Hugh: Cool.

Me: Yeah.

(Maybe that explains why I never had boyfriends?) Those of you who read Part 1 of Christopher's story know that his middle name is NOT Daniel; it is Milton. I was embarrassed to tell Hugh, so I made up a different name! It was a spur of the moment decision in the midst of sweaty palms and a wildly beating heart. Maybe if I'd used the real name, it's uniqueness would have sparked a longer conversation. Probably not.


my brother, part 1

I've decided to post about my brother. He is ten and a half years younger than me and is my only sibling. He means the world to me, so I thought I'd write about him for awhile.

I was an only child as a young girl and I hated it. Most of the families we were knew had at least 3 children. I was the only, only-child I knew. Each day I'd beg my mom to call a friend to play with me. She'd say, "But we called them yesterday. We can't call two days in a row." The extrovert in me suffered.

When I was five years old my mom got pregnant. She lost the baby girl at 37 weeks. Each March our family still feels the sadness of her absence. We never found out the cause of death. I do not remember anything about that pregnancy or loss. My mom says I came into the hospital room and crawled onto the bed with her. I was crying and said, "I want the baby." She replied, "We'll get you another baby." I shook my head, "No. I want THAT baby." The one thing I recall was being in a dark hospital hallway with my caring Uncle Jerry. He gave me a medium sized stuffed bunny that had a music box inside. I wonder if he bought it for the baby and gave it to me instead?

After the stillborn, my parents didn't know if they'd be able to get pregnant again. Five years passed. My mom suffered with severe chronic fatique during that time; many of her days were spent in bed. I longed for a brother or sister with all my heart.

One day she was sick in bed and I was moping around the house, bored. My dad was in the bedroom with her, and they called me to the room. I sat at the foot of the bed and waited to hear what they wanted to say. My dad said, "You know your mom is sick a lot of the time. Usually we don't know what the cause of her illness. But today we do: She is pregnant!" I gulped in disbelief. A smile spread across my shocked face. An involuntary laugh bubbled from my mouth. As I giggled with delight, tears spilled down my face. It was the first time I cried for happiness.

The pregnancy was long. At the beginning there was bleeding and fear. One of the first appointments was scary. The doctor thought my mom was about 12 weeks along. A nurse listened for a heartbeat and heard nothing. My parents nervously waited, knowing the odds were against them with my mom's history and weak health. The doctor came in to attempt to hear the heartbeat. Nothing. He said, "Let's do an ultrasound and see what happened." My mom and dad began to cry, assuming the baby was gone.

The tech put the ultrasound wand to her belly. Their eyes turned to the screen expecting to see a still figure. Instead, they were greeted with a jumping, moving, healthy baby. They exclaimed with joy and shock. The baby was only 8 weeks along, not 12, which explained the undetectable heartbeat.

I remember the rest of the pregnancy as a long spell of bedrest, nausea and never-ending hunger for my mom. The kitchen was continually dirty; one morning the smell of moldy oatmeal sent my dad into a angry frenzy when he couldn't take it anymore. One day in the fifth month I remember going somewhere with my mom. As I clicked my seatbelt in our massive green Mercury, I looked over at her and smiled. I was excited to be out of the house with her. Until then, she had been too sick to leave the house. In the third trimester I remember her reclining in my dad's big blue chair. He treated her like a queen during the pregnancy, taking care to keep the baby safe. We'd take turns sitting next to the chair on our knees with our ear against her belly, trying to hear the heartbeat. I loved seeing her stomach jump methodically when the baby had the hiccups.

February 24th arrived. I got up to go to school and noticed my dad was in the living room. Typically he would've left the house for work already. I walked to the end of the hallway with a question on my face. He said, "We think today might be the day." I shrugged and turned back toward my room thinking, "Yeah right. She's going to be pregnant forever." I really felt that way. A few hours later I was sitting on the gym floor in PE, waiting for my turn in a game. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a familiar person. I turned and looked up to find my best friend's mom. Her plump face was shining with joy as she said robustly, "It's time!!"

The drive to the hospital was surreal. There was road construction on the way and I wanted the car to go faster. My heart raced and my hands were sweaty as we neared the hospital. In the waiting room I saw familiar faces. Church people. Aunts and uncles. Everyone was jittery with excitement. My mom had a c-section because she'd already had two of them. Behind the doors to the operating room, my dad was dressed in scrubs, head to toe. He actually WATCHED the doctor do the surgery. Instead of being terrified to see his wife cut open, he was fascinated. The doctor even showed my mom's organs to my dad!!!! He saw her stomach, liver, etc. He still boasts that he know's her "inside and out." Ew. I hate that story.

We did not know if the baby was a boy or a girl. My mom was given general anesthetic because her epidural didn't take. The only thing she recalls from the surgery was my dad YELLING, "It's a boy, Alice! It's a boy!" For some reason they had assumed it would be a girl. The surprise boy came out healthy. His name: Christopher Milton.

I was the first one taken to see my mom and the baby. I was ushered into a tiny room where I stood beside a bed on wheels. It frightened me to see my mom half asleep, trying to wake up from the anesthetic. Her cheeks shook as she attempted to smile at me. She was trying to ease my fears, I think. At the other end of the room, my dad held up Chistopher, like Simba in the Lion King. His tiny body was wrinkled and he resembled a frog in shape and color. I felt shocked with awe. I finally had a sibling. My parents could now say phrases like, "the kids" and "both of them."


frustration turned to peace

We've had a rough week. Melody has been whiny, needy, and not herself. She tries to be happy, but cannot. I can see her pleasant nature being snuffed out by what I assume is teething symptoms. We've had long nights of crying, running nose and wakefulness. It is so sad to see her unable to get good breaths due to a stopped up nose. If only she's breath through her mouth... The problem is, her fingers are usually inside her mouth while she sleeps.

This morning I am dazed and tired. I am finally drinking my coffee. It sat on the kitchen counter for over a hour, ready with soy milk and sugar in the raw. Now it is room temperature. This would usually bug me, but since it's 79ยบ in our house, cooler coffee is okay.

I could not do anything right with Melody this morning. We finally did her two favorite things: an outdoor walk; then a bath. A few times around the block at 8:30am, and I'm already hot and sticky. I'm ready for fall. She calmed down on the walk and then enjoyed the bathtub, until she tried pulling up to a standing position on the side of the tub. Slippery, hard surfaces plus naked, wet baby are not a good combination. She got frustrated when I pulled her away from the edge. We had a full-on meltdown when I finally took her out of the tub.

All of this wouldn't phase me if it weren't for two things: I'm tired and I have a freelance project due soon. I finally got Melody down for a morning nap. I am hoping she's worn out enough to sleep a few hours. (Please. Please. Please.)

Despite my whining, I still think motherhood isn't as hard as I thought it would be. The crying, snot, slobber, poop, night-time care, pick-up-the-toy-a-million-times game, baby gear in every corner of the house, extra laundry, babyfood sneezes.... I used to worry I'd hate all these things. I'd see moms in restuarants unable to eat their food because of the baby, and I'd involuntarily shiver, wondering how I'd cope when it was my turn. The thing that makes all these things okay is the amount of LOVE I have for Melody. Taking care of her is a pleasure, even when it is in the middle of the night. I get frustrated often, but when I stop and really think about it all, I come to the same conclusion every time. It is a delight to take care of her. On our walk this morning I found myself breathing prayers of thanksgiving for such a gift. I am overwhelmed by the blessing and goodness that has come with our strong Melody.

I did not expect this post to end this way... when I started it I was super frustrated and ready to complain, complain, complain. I feel better now. I have a friend who once said, "Writing is like throwing up. I always feel better afterward." This quote applies to me this morning. (Although I'd choose writing over throwing up any day of the year.)


font hell

I am in font hell. For weeks I've been trying to set up a computer work station at home. (That sounds really dumb.) I have a four year old G4 Powerbook. I love it. I also love designing. What I do not love is computer stuff. I do well with my limited software programs. I learn them well enough to work efficiently. I love key commands and shortcuts. I do not thrive on problem solving.

My latest problems surround the confusing world of fonts. Postscript. Open Type. True Type. Dfont. Unicode. &^#(@! What does these gibberish mean?! Why can't it be simplier? One of the things that is holding me back is I have to use the same exact fonts my vendors use. Even though there are thousands of versions of Caslon out there, I have to use the one and only one they use.

I dream of a day when I have a setup I fully understand. The projects I'm doing are simple, enjoyable, and routine IF I don't run into font hassles, printer problems, operating system glitches, internet woes and unexplainable mishaps. I guess these bumps in the road are what I'm really getting paid for -- I keep telling myself this is a GOOD thing. After all, the only way for me to learn hard stuff is to be forced into it. I will never in a million years say to myself, "Ohh. A computer problem. This is fascinating! Let me see... what is going on here?"


weight watchers and biting

Tonight I went to my first Weight Watchers meeting. I've always considered Weight Watchers to be a good method of weightloss. For a long time I knew it would be my "diet of chioce" if ever I decided to do something like that. It's time.

I was surprised by the large number of people in attendence; there were about fifty people present. The teacher was energetic, informative, and positive. I arrived 10 minutes late and had to squeeze into a row near the front. I felt extremely self consious because compared to the others I am not very big. I was surprised by how much courage it took to simply sit through the meeting. For some reason tears threatened to accumulate throughout the 45 minute gathering. I did not expect this surge of emotion.

I think the points method will help me be aware of mindless eating and empty calories. The first goal is to loose ten percent of one's current weight. That is 16 pounds for me. (I weighed in at 165.) If I loose 16 pounds I'll be at 149, which is close to my ultimate goal of 145. As a nursing mom I am allowed more points. This makes perfect sense, but I find myself resenting the fact that I need to eat more in order to breastfeed. The longer I breastfeed the more I realize how much self sacrifice it requires.

My expectation was to love breastfeeding. Many mothers rant and rave about how awesome it is. Now that Melody has teeth I am tense and nervous the whole time she eats. She bites me about three times a day and it HURTS so much. I yelp a loud "NO" which makes her sad for about half a second. Then she smiles as if to say, "You aren't really mad a me, Mommy... you love me. Remember?" I can't help but gather her tiny body close and smile as if to say back, "Yes. You are right. I love you with all my heart." And that is the reason I keep nursing.



I am realizing that feeling down doesn't necessarily mean I'm depressed. I am terrified of the depression coming back, so when ordinary sadness surfaces, I get scared. The death of my midwife's little girl has effected many people. When I mentioned my heartache to a friend, she said the day the little girl died set the stage for a dark and sad summer. I think she is right.

On a lighter note, I'll update you on Melody. We are still nursing. I received a new batch of domperidone in the mail yesterday. I ordered enough to last for several months. I came close to quitting, but decided to stick it out until she is a year old. To me it is more convenient to formula feed than breastfeed, but I can't deny the joy we share when nursing.

I love the way Melody calms down as soon as we're laying side by side. (We typically nurse laying down.) After she has eaten for awhile she pulls away and looks up at me. Her cheeks are flushed from our combined body heat. She grins with milk-glossed lips and my heart melts. Her eyes are bright with recognition as I talk to her.

Today we had a rough day. She cried a new cry. Shrill. Loud. Demanding. At first I wondered if it was a willful streak annoucing the arrival of a difficult stage. But as the day wore on, she seemed to be disturbed with pain. I cannot not tell if it is teething, growing pains, or stomach trouble. To ease her hard day I gave her two ice cubes worth of homemade peach babyfood. It is her favorite. Other foods she will tolerate are oatmeal, prunes, avocado, carrot, sweet potato and banana. She likes to clamp down onto the rubber spoon with her two tiny teeth. She grins as if it's a trick.


more sadness

I am depressed again. I am still taking my anti-depressant but the past two weeks have been a blur. I do not have an explaination.

I know I'm depressed because I'm apathetic about things that usually matter. I don't care if I quit breastfeeding. The kitchen floor is sticky; I don't mop. I call people to chat thinking it might help. I stare into space instead of making conversation and end up feeling worse. Melody's mild fussiness gets on my nerves. I don't want to go swimming.

I think the sadness began in mid-July when a tragedy occured. One morning at 6:30 I got a call from one of my mom-friends. I immediately knew something was wrong. She told me our midwife's daughter, a five year old, had died the night before. The cause of death: a rare, unexplained reaction to a spider bite.

Our midwife is an amazing woman. She is a strong force of goodwill, kindness, and caregiving in our community. She's a best friend to all her patients. After the last postpartum appointment we're known to go through withdraw because we miss her so much. The news of her daughter's sudden death shocked us all. We immediately began cooking spaghetti, buying flowers, writing cards, praying, etc. Of course none of these things felt like enough. The mother's grief swallowed us because we love her so much.

Since then, I've felt lost and sad.


a fast rundown

A lot has happened in recent weeks.
To summerize:

• I finished a huge freelance project. I feel FREE now. My sister-in-law visited for three weeks in order to help with the baby and the house while I worked. Having her here was spectacular. We got to know each other better than ever before. She was awesome with Melody.

• One of my best friends got married. The wedding was outside on a triple digit day. There were nine bridesmaids and eight groomsmen which made for a large affair. The poor boys melted in their black tuxes under a harsh Arkansas sun. Many friends from college were present. The reunion was fun, although I was awkwardly aware of my excess weight. No one else has had kids yet.

• I had a birthday. I am now one year away from the big 30 mark. Crazy. Chad and I had sushi together for the first time to celebrate. We liked it a lot; my favorite was the crab.

• Construction on our new house has begun. We're building a house in the country. It will be smaller than the one we're currently in. I'm happy about this because right now our meager furniture is swallowed up in this 1700 square feet. The new home will be around 1400. I'm envisioning a more cozy living area.

• I've been trying to spend on solid hour a day cleaning house. I'm excited about this plan. Things are looking more picked up than ever before. I like to do the hour of dirty work in the morning before I shower, if possible. This way I work like a mad woman and don't worry about getting grimmy.

• Melody is 7 months now and has two teeth. She sits up like a champ and loves to say da-da-da and ah-ba-ba. She weighs 14 lbs, 9 oz and is 26 inches long. I am having a blast with her.

Other very significant things have transpired during my blogging laspe. I am not able to list them in a piddly summary. I hope to expound, ask questions, and seek thoughts on the subjects soon.