October 15th, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

Despite my high hopes of having written something other than Dear Baby Ikes by now, I’ve…not.  I can’t even remember if I wrote anything at all last year on October 15th, but without going back to check, I suspect not.

I don’t feel the need to retell my story of loss here today (though I should recreate an About page or the like).  Suffice it to say that four miscarriages over five years or so makes for a very long story to tell. I do tell it when it seems to be the right thing to do, but this year it doesn’t feel like it’s my own story that weighs heaviest on my mind. Stuff has been rather…ugly, lately.  Not only for me; a friend’s marriage and a long-term relationship between two other friends both fell apart recently, with no solid indication in either case whether there’s even a chance for them to be put back together. Humpty Fucking Dumpty. That’s not what this day is actually about, of course, but for me that kind of grief touches very close to the sort grief with which I do have more experience. I’ve written previously here and there about the impact of my losses and how I did and didn’t deal with them on my marriage.  I’m not sure I have much new to say about it now, and while I logically know I’m not the only one who probably seems to struggle more than most (at least it seems that way to me), I will never be one to spout platitudes about how it only made us stronger, closer, better as a couple.  Maybe someday I’ll be able to look back with more perspective and see it that way, but I guess I’m still not far enough removed. Someday, I hope.

I always hate this time of year, anyway, mostly because my first miscarriage happened in September, but the way the changes in the daylight and the trees and the seasons always coincide never fails to leave me with a months-long hangover of remembered grief.  Last year I felt a little bit better equipped than usual to cope.  Having a baby will do that, at least in my super-scientific sample size of exactly one.  We even took Ike to the gathering at a local park organized by a local Face2Face group (find one in your area here).  He’s older this year, obviously, and the 7 pm International Wave of Light gets dangerously close to interfering with his bedtime, and he’s got a new tooth coming through, so I’m not going to try to take him to the park this year.  For other reasons, too, it simply is not as appealing to me right now.  The healing vibe has faded, through no fault at all of the organizer or the group, but for me…I just can’t do it this year.

What I have been able to do of late, is reach out and make connections with a couple of women I ordinarily am not very close with, who now unfortunately have their own history with pregnancy loss.  These are more real-life more-than-acquaintances/Face.book friends, but not members of the online ALI community, so in reaching out I did have a bit more trepidation that they wouldn’t be open to talking about it, that I’d end up hurting feelings more than I would be able to help. Thankfully that wasn’t the case in either situation, and both seemed somewhat relieved or at least touched and not hurt that I’d brought up the subject seemingly out of nowhere.  Their stories aren’t mine to tell; I could probably do so making them anonymous, but that isn’t really the point I want to make today.  I find it quite hard to articulate the gratitude I have for the ability to reach out and make those connections.  Like we often say, it’s not a club anyone wants to join, and there is of course nothing about their losses that actually makes me happy, but I am so very glad to have felt brave enough to reach out and offer to just listen, if nothing else.  It’s not something I could have ever done without having lived my own bit of hell. The community of ALI bloggers has been an unending and ever-present source of support when I’ve needed it (and hopefully I’ve been able to lend support back as well), and it felt rather amazing to take the risk and extend that support rather spontaneously to women who probably have no idea that an ALI community exists.  Paying it forward, I hope.

So that is my take on October 15th this year.  As you remember the babies that aren’t here with you or with your loved ones, look around and take the risk of reaching out.  Bet that saying something is going to help someone much more than saying nothing.  There will be many names on my mind this evening as I light my candles, and while I’d never wish for the list to grow, I hope that those grieving can have the tiniest bit of comfort knowing that they aren’t the only ones who will never forget.

Fifteen Plus

Dear Baby Ike,

More than two weeks ago already, you turned fifteen months.  I’m clearly having just as hard a time keeping up with these letters to you as I have keeping up with you these days.  You are very much on the move.  The pitter-patter of your still fairly tiny feet sound off at a pace that I suppose qualifies as running.  I can put you down in one spot, turn my head for just a second, and then have to guess which direction you went.  Usually, if we haven’t taken care to put Dexter’s water bowl up out of your reach, you’ll be found in the inevitable puddle.

At your fifteen month checkup with the pediatrician, you weighed in at 22 pounds and three ounces, and were measured at 30 inches tall, which again puts you right in the middle of the pack for weight, though on the shorter side.  Your head circumference is still on the higher end of the curve, which makes it very tempting to dress you up as Charlie Brown for Halloween.  All we’d need is a yellow tee shirt and some electrical tape!  While you still don’t have much hair on top of your head, you have sprouted some length in the back.  Business in the front, party in the back, baby-mullet style.  I already don’t ever want to give you a haircut, but your father will likely prevail before I let you look like too much of a flower child.

Really, I should find you a little doggie costume for Beggar’s Night, as that is still your favorite word, followed closely by ‘birdie’ and ‘apple,’ which sounds more like ‘ahh-puuuw.’  I can’t get enough of it.  When we read the Charley Harper ABCs book we borrowed from the library, you’ll chime right in on B is for BIR-DEEEE and D is for DAGG-EEEE. You find much joy in putting Daddy’s baseball cap on my head, which serves as a great distraction during the diaper changes you’ll hardly hold still for anymore.  You’re picking up more and more words every week, including ‘hat’ and also ‘head,’ which you’ll throw your hands onto when asked where it is.  You also say ‘cheese’ (kee) and ‘keys’ (dee-dee) and probably at least seven other words that I am forgetting right now.  Oh yes, PEE.  We hear that with regularity during diaper changes. You call every infant or kid, and some adults too, in photos or random product packaging, ‘bee-bee’ (baby).  When you see pictures of me and your dad you point and exclaim MOMMY and/or DADDY.  I’m a little sad to have Mama fade into Mommy already, but you still bring Mama back every once in a while, for which I’m ridiculously, sentimentally grateful.

It takes you a little while to warm up around new people or those you don’t see very often, but sooner than later your curiosity takes over and you’re all explorer, checking out what you can get into if we’ve taken you to a new place.  As we move further into toddler territory, I know that we need to set firm limits on a lot of things, but I hope that you will keep that overwhelming curiosity at the same time.  I love watching you discover the world, giving names to things, and seeing your face light up at our excitement as you start to say those names out loud.

Next month you’ll be the ring bearer in Uncle Mikey and [almost technically legally finally] Aunt Steph’s wedding.  Your tiny suit arrived last week.  I’m torn on whether to look further for dress shoes for you or to just let you rock the black and white sneaks you already have that are probably almost close enough to fitting to work.  I honestly have no idea how you’ll react to a church full of guests looking at us (I will accompany you as the Flower Maid – a hybrid of bridesmaid and flower girl) and oohing and ahhing over your cuteness.  Around the house or out and about you will sometimes take my hand and lead me over to show me something, but I don’t necessarily expect that to work well on the spot.  I’m searching for some much lower than I’d normally wear heels, because I expect I might end up having to pick you up and walk you down the aisle. Hopefully having Daddy at the other end will help; you can always steal the show taking off running toward him.  I just hope that if you do become the center of attention it’s not for thrashing or screaming or earnest fussing.  As long as I don’t try to brush your teeth during the ceremony, we probably won’t cause too much chaos…though those may be famous last words!

The next letter I write to you here will be for your half-birthday.  I can’t wait to see how much you change between now and then.  I know it will be a lot, but as the months go by, I find I can never quite imagine the amusement (and some frustrations, of course) you’ll provide for us next.

Love you so much,

Mama (hanging onto that as long as I can!), better known now as Mommy

Photo credit to your Aunt Jeni

Stopping in to see all the ladies at Aunt Steph’s shower.

Lucky Thirteen

Dear Baby Ike,

First, even though you are now a near-expert in the art and science of toddling, I declare that I will continue to call you Baby Ike (Toddler Ike really has no ring to it, sadly) for as long as I can get away with it.  I’ll try not to use it too often just to get under your skin when you’re a teenager, but I will never say never.  It’s fun to imagine you at thirteen years of age, but for now you are thirteen months, as of last week two weeks ago.  I do hope to continue writing you these letters, though it will probably happen with less frequency as you continue to get older.

So yes, you are definitely becoming more of a toddler and less of a baby every day.  You walk unassisted from one end of the house to the other in the most charming tiny-drunk-person fashion I’ve ever seen (bias:  showing).  You would much prefer to feed yourself than let us spoon things into your mouth, though you will still occasionally tolerate apples(auce), because they are your long-standing favorite. Sweet potatoes and carrots, though, have been shunned, and we do need to work harder at continually offering green vegetables, lest you end up as picky as your father.  You have been introduced to cows’ milk, and are taking to it just fine from what I can tell.  You do continue to nurse, and I am so happy that we made it to the one year mark and beyond, but I am bracing myself for the day when you’ll decide you’re done.  I am in no hurry, only hoping it will be a gradual process and I’ll continue to be able to appreciate the quiet moments we’ve had throughout our nursing relationship as it winds down.  I’m sure I’ll be sad when it’s over, but I’m hopeful we’ll find plenty of new ways to share closeness and cuddles.

I am pretty sure that you attempted to say the word “apple” (AAHH-BUH) the other day, along with “ball” (BAH) and “book” (BUH).  I still have no idea what “MEEE-NU” means, but I can at least surmise that it must be lots of fun for you to say and play around with variations on the theme; we hear it and things that sound almost like it an awful lot.  Most, if not all, of the animals that you see are declared “DOGGIN!” and you eye me with suspicion when I tell you that they are actually sheep or horses or cats, not doggies.  You may be earning yourself a new nickname with that tendency; your Uncle Mike pretty much just calls you Doggen.  I die of cute when I hear this.

Last Friday we (Grandma and ‘Aunt’ Jen and I) took you to the Columbus zoo.  Of course you fell asleep just before we arrived, so in order to let you try to get a decent nap we ended up clicking your car seat into the stroller as if you were a teeny-tiny still, rather than wake you up to put you directly into the stroller.  This was not the best configuration for you to see much, so there was much lifting you out to see the animals and luckily I had also brought a mei tai carrier, so we alternated between the two all day.  You were pretty much a champ all day long; we didn’t leave until around five pm, and you crashed hard in the car on the way home.  Hopefully next year we can go back while the larger animals like the giraffes and elephants are there, or maybe to The Wilds where they apparently were that day.

In the carrier at the zoo

Your top two teeth are finally starting to work their way in.  These two are being a bit rougher on you than the first bottom two were.  It seems like most babies your age have several more already, so I’m not sure whether to be grateful that yours are spacing their arrivals out more, or worried that you’ll end up losing them slowly, too, like I did as a kid, and some will end up needing to be pulled in order to put braces on adult teeth coming in behind the baby teeth that won’t want to fall out.  We have a long time before that will become clear, though, so for now I just hope that additional teeth will help you want to explore more foods (you really may turn into a Cheer.io, I fear). All I know for sure is that your smile is about to be even cuter, though I wouldn’t have ever thought it possible.  I am still completely in love with your dimple and I get ridiculously excited when I manage to capture it in a photo.  On Sunday we took you to a local park for more baby swing action and also let you play around on some of the playground equipment as there were hardly any other kids around. As we stood at the edges of the platforms to make sure you didn’t toddle right off, it was hard yet fun to imagine that you’ll soon be stomping around and climbing and jumping and we won’t always need to be right there next to you while you explore.

It’s so fun getting glimpses of the world through your eyes.

Love,

Mama

(photo credits to ‘Aunt’ Jen for the above shots)

Bonus Instagram playground pics:

Things. Wait. Nope, just a thing.

It’s been embarrassingly long since I wrote anything here other than the monthly letters to Ike. Not cool.  I must appear to have forgotten why I ever started this blog to begin with.  Not true, but if stereotypical mama-loves-baby blurbs are all that ever show up, I can’t see how I can expect anyone to believe otherwise.  I won’t make excuses, but I hope I can get into a better habit of doing brain dumps here, if nothing else.  

Things I’ve thought about writing about, but haven’t:

  • Let’s just start with the TMI, if there is such a thing.  My period came back.  A while ago.  The end of May, I believe?  I did make a point to note it on my phone calendar, so…nope, guess I dreamed that.  Fairly normal, other than the next one following three weeks later rather than four.  Then what I thought was a third followed only two and a half weeks after the second, but really I just had spotting for five or so days.  Very not normal for me, and way too reminiscent of the beginning of my…third? yes, third miscarriage.  So uncomfortably reminiscent that I bought a pack of peesticks.  Then I thought, how fucked up is it that my first thought is not ‘I wonder if I’m pregnant,’ but instead ‘I wonder if I’m having a miscarriage’.  Seems kinda fucked up to me, but what the hell do I know.  I admit I hoped to see a second line, even a squinter.  I squinted.  Repeatedly.  The next morning, too.  Definitively negative.  There is still one more test under the sink, but I am trying to refrain from thinking about how much I weirdly kind of like peeing on sticks.  Not that even the positive ones ever meant much in the way of outcome, statistically for me at least. I don’t know where I’m going with this, exactly.  We are definitely not trying right now, but then again, I have presented at least one narrative in the past that could possibly indicate that I don’t know how birth control works.  I do know how it works.  I swear.  Sometimes it just doesn’t work, and I thought this was another one of those times, but it appears not.  I never have mid-cycle bleeding, but there is no use wondering if that could have been a chemical pregnancy.  So what if it was?  Well, it does sort of make me want to buy a drugstore cheapie OPK to try and determine if/when I am ovulating.  You know, for science.
  • I would could should bang out another few bullet points, but I think instead I shall opt for a shower while I have the chance.  Must come back for more, and soon.

One Year

Dear Baby Ike,

Last week you turned one. One! A whole year has passed since I spent seventeen hours in labor on Father’s Day and then, finally, in the wee hours of the next morning, you were scooped up out of the water and placed into my arms for the first time. I look back at photos from that day and am still so thankful for and amazed at your safe arrival.

You are moving quickly away from babyhood toward toddlerhood. You can take a few steps on your own, though you still prefer to hold onto someone’s fingers for support so you can cover much more distance. You are still experimenting with all kinds of sounds verbally, stringing together your babble in ways that sound remarkably like actual conversation. Everything is a doggie, which still sounds more like “doggin” for now.

All of your grandparents and aunts and uncles were able to come to your birthday party, which we had on Father’s Day, and was wonderful. It wasn’t fancy or themed or at all elaborate, but it was full of love, which I hope is how you will also someday remember your childhood. You received many gifts of toys and cute clothing, for which I do plan to write thank you notes on your behalf. Hopefully I will have you do the same in a few years, carrying on a habit that my parents developed for me (I don’t claim to be 100% consistent, but I try!).

Somewhat sadly, yet hilariously, you were far from enthused with your first birthday (strawberry cream) cake. It may have just been that by that time if the afternoon you were past due for your second nap, but you wanted nothing to do with it, and were quite offended at our trying to get you to taste it. I had to go to the viewing for your aunt’s father-in-law the next afternoon, and while I was gone your dad and paternal grandparents gave you a second opportunity with a chocolate cupcake. You were highly suspicious, especially after touching the hot wax from the candle (Daddy felt awful for not getting it out of your reach quickly enough), but then Grandma had the brilliant idea to stick a few Cheerios in the frosting. This eventually enticed you to dig in, as Cheerios remain one of your most favorite things, and the resulting chocolate baby-beard exceeded all my hopes for messy cake-face birthday photos.

I am writing this from the road, as I had to go out if town for work for four nights this week, and I have missed you fiercely since the second we pulled out of the driveway. I know your father has taken great care of you, but I am so anxious to get home and at least see you. You will probably be asleep when I get there, so I will stop myself from waking you up to squeeze and snuggle you, but it won’t be easy for me to wait until you wake up to refill on Ike cuddles.

We’ve come a long way, Baby Ike. I admit to not really being ready to see you leave your babyhood behind, but I know that for every single thing I will miss about the tiny you, I will fall in love anew with multiple toddler things as you hurtle toward being a big kid. I’m sure we’ll have our share of frustrations and tantrums, but I promise to love you more than you could think would be possible, through all of it. Happy belated birthday, honey. May your second year be even sweeter than your first.

Love,
Mama

Eleven

Dear Baby Ike,

Yesterday you turned eleven months old.  Without looking back at my past ten letters to you, I’m willing to bet that the second sentence in each one has something to do with my disbelief that another month has flown by.  I suppose it should go without saying, but it continues to be remarkable to me, every single month.  It’s very hard to believe that next month we will celebrate your birthday, but the calendar doesn’t lie, and I can’t wait to see your first cake-covered birthday face.

The speed at which the days and weeks go by is not the only fast thing around here these days.  At approximately the speed of light, you went from all army-crawl scooting to short spurts of halting hands-and-knees crawling, and now to full on, full time crawling as if you’ve been doing it forever.  Plus lots of pulling up to standing and now cruising from one piece of furniture to another, testing your balance, holding onto our fingers and walking from one end of the house to the other.  You’re a pretty good sport about the bonks on the noggin that will happen most of the time, and you don’t mind falling on your butt from standing at all.  I thought at first it was due to the extra cushion from the prefold diapers, but you’ve done it many times during naked baby time (airing out the butt to try and get on top of some diaper rash) now, too, and it doesn’t seem to make any difference whether you plop down on the diaper or just your cute little baby cellulite covered tush.  The toys that used to occupy you for good chunks of time are much more often now cast aside in favor of whatever you may find somewhere else, simply because you can take yourself there now.  And you do, all the time.  We finally got a little weary of trying to head you off before you take a dip in Dexter’s water bowl and moved it to the counter.  Now we just have to remember not to dehydrate our doggie.

Speaking of doggie, I am pretty sure that you did.  Just yesterday we stepped outside the front door to look at the clematis blooms and Dexter was sitting on the back of the couch (as he does when someone goes out front without him – we are not the best dog trainers, for sure).  You noticed him there and I could swear that you said DOGGIE!  That one hasn’t been repeated clearly yet, so it may be a fluke or my imagination, but we have started to get lots of in-context Dadas and some Mamas (I wonder if you’d say it more if I didn’t coach you as much).  There is a monkey-with-banana decal on the wall above your changing table (which you now FREAK OUT every time we go near – not loving diaper changes AT ALL these days), and as I try to distract you with it, making monkey noises (dignity?  don’t need it), I asked you what a monkey eats – does it eat a banana? And you replied, ‘ANA!  That one has been repeated pretty clearly a few times now, though I’m honestly confused on what qualifies as a first word.  Must it be intelligible by anyone other than your father and me? I’m guessing so.

I was just starting to get concerned that we haven’t seen you wave bye-bye or clap yet, but yesterday your Aunt Jen came over to watch you for an hour or so while your father and I went out to do some stuff and we returned home to you waving bye-bye.  High five, Aunt Jen (context will come, I’m sure).  Still no clapping, but you do give fives (high, low, and mid), you still raise your arms up to answer Sooo Big when asked how big Baby Ike is (if you’re in the right mood, of course).

We’ve been trying to spend some time outside as often as possible now that the weather is finally staying pretty nice most of the time. Just sitting with you on a blanket in the shade under the Japanese maple in the backyard is probably my absolute favorite thing to do right now.  You alternate between turning random pages in your books and watching birds as they fly around the yard from tree to tree.  You are not yet a big fan of the texture of grass, though.  You touch it willingly, but then make a scrunchy EW face and give a little shudder, not unlike your reaction to the taste of green beans.  When I picked a blade that had gone to seed and twirled it around and tickled you, though, you thought it was hilarious.  This morning you were so interested in the cable guy climbing the pole in the corner of the neighbor’s yard that you held my hands and walked barefoot through the grass for several feet, apparently forgetting that you dislike touching it so.  Won’t be long until you’re all over the yard all on your own, not holding onto anyone or anything.

You’re still somewhat in the stranger/separation anxiety stage. Thankfully you are so happy to be with Grandma that every workday morning doesn’t involve tears upon my departure, but you often shyly lean into the shoulder of whomever is holding you if someone you’re not familiar or comfortable with approaches you.  As with all these phases, this too shall pass, and I am not ashamed to admit that I quite enjoy those snuggles, knowing you feel safe with us and will turn right to us for comfort when needed.  You do have your social moments, of course.  When we went out to eat with Grandma and Grandpa for Mother’s Day, we waited in the bar for our table to be ready, and as Grandpa carried you around to see all the things while killing the time, you got very smiley and played up your cuteness for at least one pretty girl.  When we get the timing right (soon after a second nap of the day and not too close to bedtime), you’re a delight for an early bird dinner out.

Your eating and drinking skills have advanced way past the days when I called you Stinky Milk Neck (pincer grasp, check; sippy cup, check), but now I can call you Stinky Feet Ike – when I pick up a foot and sniff it, make an EW face and tell you it’s soooo stinky! you laugh and laugh and laugh.  I’d do it all day long if it wouldn’t get old.  We try to keep baths to when they are absolutely necessary so as not to aggravate the few spots of eczema still hanging around, so they may indeed be stinky sometimes, but I often catch a whiff of your lingering baby smell and wish it could stay forever.  A couple of months ago a friend of mine came by as we were getting you ready for bed, and as she leaned in to give you a smooch on the cheek she asked in surprise how you could still smell like a newborn baby.  I’m not sure exactly how that works, but if I had to guess I would say it’s mostly due to you still breastfeeding, which I’m very happy about.  I don’t know how much longer we’ll be able to keep that going, but I will surely be sad when you begin to smell more like little boy than little baby.  I wish I could bottle up that scent and keep it close forever.

Love you so much,

Mama

Let me out!

Double Digits

Dear Baby Ike,

Two days ago you turned ten months old.  TEN!  I don’t mean to shout, but I have to emphasize it to myself somehow so I can really try to grasp it.  For some reason, going from nine months to ten seems like a big jump from mostly-baby to nearly-toddler, and I won’t even try to pretend that is easy for me to believe.  You are having no problem showing us how serious you are about the transition, though. As usual, I will catch on eventually – just in time to be dumbfounded by the next stage, I’m sure.

This month brought your second case of the sniffles.  Well, this one I actually think solidly qualified as a true cold, as you were a little more miserable than the first time around.  Between that and your first two teeth coming through, as evidenced here,

Two Teeny Tiny Teeth

you more than earned those very first couple of doses of ibuprofen. The first time you seemed to like the taste, but after that you were less cooperative, which required us to get a little creative, putting it into your applesauce or a little milk in a small bottle.  I hope that it eased your discomfort when you needed it, and I’m grateful that you haven’t had more than those two cases of illness so far in your short life.  It’s no fun at all for anyone, but I imagine that not even understanding why you feel so icky doesn’t help at all when we keep coming at your face with tissues and damp washcloths to clean up the nose faucet and try (but mostly fail) to prevent the dreaded crusty nose.  I know that there will be both colds and teeth to come that will be much harder on all of us; thankfully these initiations in each were not as awful as I probably feared as I realized they were starting.

I had just begun to think you weren’t going to bother with a true crawl before you started standing and walking, but in the past week or two I have seen you do a few deliberate “steps” up on hands and knees before reverting back to the army crawl/scoot you find so much more efficient.  You are quite the little speedster with that method, sliding along the hard floor after a toy that catches your eye or, more often, the dog’s toys or water bowl.  You’re getting to be such a  little explorer.  You’ve also pulled up to standing at the coffee table at least twice, and can stand for a second or five without support on occasion, though I don’ t think you quite realize you’re doing it yet. You will take a few awkward steps while holding onto our fingers, wobbling back and forth and giving us a tiny glimpse of your toddler days quickly approaching.

You’re continuing to develop your sense of humor, cracking up out of the blue at something I do or say.  Sometimes I can recreate it later and get more giggles, and other times you look at me like I’m just insane, which I find equally delightful.  You turn the pages of your board books for me at story time before bed and before naps on the weekends, and most of the time when we ask you, “How big is Baby Ike/Isaac?” you will lift your arms high over your head to answer “sooo big!”.  You still like to bang your hands on tables, trays, toys, or nothing, so we are working on converting that into “fives,” both high and low.  I’m thinking that will be what gets you clapping soon; patty-cake merely perplexes you so far, but peek-a-boo is still a big hit.

When I prompt you with “can you say Ma-ma?” you usually reply with either one mmmMEH/mmmmMUH/mmmmMUM or three MAs these days, and we are getting a lot more unprompted Da Da Das.  Your babbling and squealing is taking on the cadence of conversation more and more every day.  On one hand I am already wistful for the long gone days of mere coos, and on the other I am eager for the little chats about everything and nothing that are somehow just around the corner.

Love you so much, Ike.  Looking forward to what the next month and every one after has to bring!

Love,

Mama