Archive for February, 2011


As the hour of sunrise and sunset get closer and closer to each other, the days tick by faster and faster. With less than two weeks before the baby makes landfall, I find myself scrambling to get all those random projects around the house done while there’s still time. Sadly, I’ve run out of projects that I can do on my own, and now have to rely on my husband. I fear I may be turning into a nag with constantly asking him to do this or that around the house. I just want to get rid of the clutter. We’ve been in this house for seven years, and have accumulated a lot of junk. I feel as though I’m drowning.

There’s just so much stuff.

Boxes in the basement that are still packed from our move, box after box of movies and books, more candles than any human could ever hope to burn in a lifetime, clothes, shoes, toys, and it’s all suffocating me.

With the addition of another person, that means more stuff. I’m afraid that if we don’t clear some of this out, there won’t be room to move.

I’m already having difficulty breathing.

But it’s probably from all the dust.



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As the sticky heat of summer surrenders to the refreshing cool of fall, my favorite season begins.

From spring to summer, the only real change is more heat and less rain. But the slide of summer into fall means crisp nights that are perfect for sweatshirts and hot cocoa; beautiful fiery leaves clinging to trees lining the roads and peeking out from behind houses; and frost sparkling in the bright morning sun.

Fall is also when some of my favorite activities happen. Back to school, National Novel Writing Month, Thanksgiving, Halloween, and my birthday all happen in the fall (though back to school seems to be creeping farther and farther into the summer). Then there’s apple picking, pumpkin hunting and carving, and hay rack rides with hot apple cider.

The view from by grandma’s back porch in Penn.

I look forward to fall every year, but this year I have a few new reasons. With the baby due soon, I’ll have another birthday to celebrate as the days grow short and the nights get chilly. I love birthdays and having parties just to celebrate another year of life. I also love to make birthday cakes. My daughter has had at least one every year, everything from butterflies to mermaids and horses. Invariably, my daughter will walk into the kitchen when her cake is half done and tell me: “It doesn’t look very good” or “I don’t think that’s going to work” or (my personal favorite) “That’s not what I wanted at all,” but once I pipe that last flower, sea urchin, or rosette she is able to see the grand plan, and suddenly I’m the hero of the day. (If only I could get her to remember that from year to year.)

This year, the best part of moving from summer to fall has been the return of my ankles. With my daughter, I was at my most pregnant in early July, so it was hot, but not the infamous “State Fair Hot” that all Iowans are familiar with. My feet would swell daily and I lived in flip-flops, but thankfully it was only for the last few weeks. This time, things were a little different. There was a stretch of about six to eight weeks where my poor feet were unrecognizable as feet. If I slept with them elevated, they looked a little better for a few hours in the morning, but it rarely lasted past 10 am.

Then the weather started to cool and the humidity dropped off, and suddenly I had my feet back. I could wear shoes again! Putting socks on and getting the shoes tied is still quite a production, but I’m managing.

So, while the highlight of the seasonal shift this year is the return of my feet and ankles, I know that that is only temporary, and soon will be eclipsed by the joy I’ll feel as I hold this perfect new person for the first time. I’m already looking forward to Thanksgiving (mere days after the baby should arrive) when I’ll have one more thing to be thankful for, and I’m even looking on to next year when I’ll have another life to celebrate, another cake to bake. I can’t wait to find out if it will be a flower or a fire truck.

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If you’ve been following along with my posts the past few months, you know that my family will be growing by two feet soon, and I haven’t exactly been doing back flips. This baby was a surprise, to say the least, and for the past several months it has been the source of much stress and anxiety. That is, when it’s not a surreal notion that I’m not able to fully wrap my mind around.

I have struggled. I’ve had extreme emotional swings. I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve also revealed a lot to my husband, bringing us closer than we have ever been in nearly twelve years together.

After a little scare last week and a trip to labor and delivery for a non-stress test, things kind of jelled. I had distanced myself from this baby for so long that even with daily movement, VBAC classes, and birth preparation classes, it took a potential problem for that critical emotional connection to click on.

I did a complete emotional one-eighty in less than one second.

After speaking with our midwife, and making the decision that a non-stress test was the best course of action, I called H (my husband) to let him know what was going on. I had been strong and detached during the conversation with our midwife. With H, I broke down completely.

The thought that something could actually be wrong brought my baby to life in my heart.

At some level, the baby has always been there. He was there when I was cursing the hormones that caused morning sickness to hang on well into the third trimester when it should have stopped by the end of the first.

He was there when the same hormones caused me to become overly emotional at a funeral for an in-law that I didn’t really know. He was there when I got weepy over every scene in the final week of my favorite soap before it went off the air.

He was there in so many ways, but he had yet to crack the emotional barrier I had set up.

After one class, where H had a huge revelation about just how important the actual birth and bonding process is to both mother and baby, I felt the urge to unload my biggest fears and worries while he was still in a receptive frame of mind. I’m so glad that I followed that urge. He listened to my concerns, and was uncharacteristically reassuring.

I think his words helped to crack that emotional barrier, but it took that scare, that whisper of distress, to really break through.

I’m making a conscious effort to interact with this baby every day, now. Mostly I just talk to him. He’s not a mover like his sister was. I was able to play games with her. He seems to respond better to conversation than physical stimulation (which gives me hope that he’ll be more like me than his father or sister).

I’ve reached a Zen place of sorts. I’m feeling some anticipation, and even some excitement, when I think about meeting this new little human. That’s a far cry from the dread and despair I felt for months after I saw that second line appear on a home pregnancy test.

I’m coming to terms with the change that is quickly coming to our family. I’m not fully there yet, but hopefully I will be soon.

Getting there before the baby gets here would be nice.

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On Tuesday, my husband, R, picked The Angry Midget up from school. He also invited a friend of hers over for a play date. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem because this particular friend is very well behaved. However, there is, as they say, a first time for everything.

I was out at the grocery store and completely unaware of the play date in progress, or the disaster that was about to befall my living room.

After settling the girls in with a movie and some popcorn, R left them on the main floor while he went downstairs to work on a project. That was his first mistake. All children, no matter how well behaved, have the ability to be mischiefus. All they need is the right opportunity.

Living on a tight budget means I keep a close eye on prices. I keep an especially close eye on the ever-fluctuating price of gasoline. That vigilance may have saved my husband’s life.

After I called to tell him that gas was cheaper in Altoona, he went upstairs to check on the girls.

I’m sure panic set in as he turned the corner and saw the girls. They were in the middle of the living room in swim suits, soaking wet from head to toe, standing in a pool of water.

Not just a little puddle, but gallons of water all over our 50 year old hardwood floor.

I wish I could have been there to see the look on his face when he saw the scene and realized that he had less than ten minutes before a crabby pregnant woman was going to walk through the door, knowing he would be in much bigger trouble than the girls.

R launched into the fastest clean up he’s ever had to do, while simultaneously getting the girls dry and back in their clothes. He knew the clock was ticking.

I returned home to him, mop in hand, innocently cleaning the floor and looking a little too happy to be doing it. Looking closer, I saw he had his “lie face” on when he hadn’t even said anything yet. Usually, he has to at least verbalize the lie before the “lie face” shows up.

My “Mom Sense” kicked in immediately. It was apparent that something was going on. The floor was way too wet to be from the Swiffer mop R was holding, The Angry Midget’s friend, Emma, looked very guilty, and TAM was nowhere to be found.

At first, I thought maybe he had over filled the fish tank, and I asked Emma if that’s what happened. That kid couldn’t lie to save her own life. She is just too sweet and honest. She just shook her head no. When I asked where The Angry Midget was, she said, “In her room.” I then asked, “Is she in trouble? Did you two spill the fish tank somehow?”

All I got was the same response: “She’s in her room.”

The Angry Midget showed up then, wearing a different outfit from the one I sent her to school in. I asked her the same questions about the fish tank and the water on the floor. Let me just say right here that my daughter, while very loyal to her friends, will not go down for a crime alone. She saw the bus coming, and pulled Emma under it with her.

It took all of one minute for The Angry Midget to tell me that her friend had dumped a bottle of water on the floor. When I said that one bottle would not make such a big mess, she informed me that the bottle was refilled and dumped several times.

Why did they pour all this water on my floor? To make a slip ‘n slide, of course.

The whole time I was trying to get the real story out of the girls, R had his own strategy. He was trying to tell me that he had mopped the floor to “make me happy.”

It was sweet of him, but he does not mop floors. Ever. That’s when I asked the girls if R had been upstairs with them. He hadn’t.

That’s when R asked if I got my hair cut, because it “looks so nice.” He also asked if I wanted a back rub. He knew his goose was cooked.

I really wasn’t upset by it. By the time I got home, the girls were dressed, and the pool was cleaned up. Sure the floor was still wet, but the puddle was gone, and I didn’t have to be the one to clean it. I really wasn’t upset about it. Was I disappointed in the girls that they thought it was a good idea? Sure.

But R had invited someone else’s child over then went downstairs instead of being a responsible parent and staying with the girls. That upset me. What if something had happened? One or both of them could have been injured. Thankfully, nothing serious happened.

Once her friend had left for home, The Angry Midget turned to me and said, “Mama, I am so sorry. Can you ever forgive me?” Of course I said yes (it was just water).

Then I look at R, who had the most pathetic look on his face.

He said, “What about me? Can you ever forgive me?” It was so pathetic it was funny.

“It’ll take a little longer to forgive you,” I said.

On the plus side, he started dinner when I asked him to without a single peep, and he was extra attentive all night.

What do I hope he has learned from this? That no matter how well behaved a child is while under adult supervision, there is always that potential for misbehavior, given the opportunity.

What have I learned from this? Not to leave my husband unsupervised. Ever.

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Ahhh…Back to school time.

It’s a bittersweet time of year for most mothers. It signals the beginning of another year in their child’s life. It reminds them that time is forever moving forward, no matter how much we may want to stop it. Even, if for just a few seconds, we want to freeze our children in a stage of development, or at a specific milestone so that we can really take it all in, time denies us.

Back to school means new clothes and books, freshly sharpened pencils and crud-free glue sticks. It’s the end of summer, but the beginning of autumn. The carefree days of summer, spent by the pool and running through the sprinkler, are left behind for the structure of school and homework, sports practices and dance lessons.

While most moms shed a tear or two on the first day of school – especially if it’s the first day of pre-school or Kindergarten – the emotion behind those tears is not the same for each mother.

There are tears of sadness, because their baby is entering school for the first time, taking that first step on a path that will eventually lead them off into the world.

There are tears of pride, because they’ve done such a good job raising their little one that their child is ready to take that first step.

Then there are the tears of joy. These usually come from the “experienced” moms, the ones with a First Grader or higher. These moms shed a few tears on the last day of school, as they look ahead to twelve long weeks of summer vacation with bored kids. They count down through the hot summer days to that first day of freedom, to the day when they can drop their kids at school and return home to a quiet house.

Last year I was the first type of mom: sad and even a bit lost when I returned home. I wandered the house, unsure of what to do. At one point I even thought, “I better go check on D, she’s been too quiet for too long.” It took a beat or two before I remembered that she wasn’t home, and that’s why she was being so quiet.

Then the snow started. The snow started and it seemed it never stopped. Mixed in with all those snow days was Christmas break (almost a month long) and I had a glimpse of what I was in for with summer vacation. I was whimpering in surrender six days into the break. I had no idea how I was going to get through twelve weeks with a bored child.

The public library offered some relief in the form of a summer reading program. Still, I quickly found myself counting down the days to the first day of school.

I was proud that I managed the first day drop-off with just a threat of tears – a glaze that blurred my vision for a moment, but never actually fell. It wasn’t until I returned to the calm emptiness of the house that a tear escaped.

I wasn’t sad, really. I knew she was in good hands, and that she was going to do even better this year than last. I’m always proud of her and all of her efforts. Whether she is successful or not doesn’t matter, it’s the simple fact that she tried her best and put her heart into it that matters to me.

No, that was a tear of joy. I love my daughter, and I would never trade her for anything. However, we do not always mesh personality-wise. In fact we rarely mesh at all, and that makes for a stressful day when you spend every moment together.

It’s good for both of us to have time apart from each other so we can be happier in the time we do spend together. I know it makes me appreciate her more when I haven’t seen her for seven hours. I honestly don’t know how she feels about it. I’m a little afraid to ask. What if I don’t like the answer?

So, for now, I’m enjoying the peace from 8 am to 3 pm, counting down the days left until our newest addition shows his or her face, and trying not to think about the fact that Christmas break is only 113 days away.

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Dealing with the loss of a loved one is difficult and everyone handles it differently. Some people internalize it, afraid, unwilling, or just unable to show any emotion. Others reach out to friends and family for support, wearing their grief like a banner for everyone to see.

Still others fall between these two extremes. They may reach out eventually, but not right away. They may hold their emotions in check for days, months, possibly even years, afraid to let go. Afraid that if they grieve or mourn, the memories of their loved one will start to fade, leaving behind nothing but the pain of their loss.

Yes, memories fade over time. It becomes harder to recall the sound of their voice greeting you, the peal of laughter after a story or joke, the warmth of a hug, distinctive footsteps walking through the door every night.

Still other memories stay with you, sometimes creating anniversaries that remind you every year that someone is missing. Or there are the habits that remind you, sometimes harshly, that someone is gone.

A close friend’s grandmother passed away recently. She was one of her grandmother’s main care providers and had developed routines and habits over the years. When a heat advisory was posted shortly after her grandmother’s death, her first thought was: “I need to go check on Grandma.” It took a moment for her to remember that she didn’t have that responsibility any more.

I had a similar experience earlier this month. While at my grandma’s house, I kept waiting for my little brother to walk through the door. He never did. He never will again. Last April, he was killed in a car accident.

He was only 28, and left behind four little girls. The youngest was only nine months old.

As my cousin, H, prepared a birthday cake for her mom, I couldn’t help but think how wrong it was that only one name would be on it this year, and every year from here on out. Her birthday is just three days after my brother’s, and in our family, we did monthly birthday cakes with everyone’s names on it. We had to, or we would be eating birthday cake all the time.

That cake, nothing more than flour, eggs, sugar, and butter, set off emotions in me that I thought had been resolved. Perhaps they were close to the surface, because I was about to leave my family to return to Iowa. Perhaps they were spurred on by the extra hormones pregnancy has flooded my body with. I don’t know. What I do know is that it was too much.

Everything from the past year came bubbling up to the surface, boiling over in an uncontrollable torrent of anger, frustration, sadness, and an overwhelming sense of how unfair life was.

As I stood there in my mother’s arms, sobbing uncontrollably, I was comforted by her calm strength. I had lost a sibling, but she had lost a child. I still don’t know how she has been so strong through this. How she copes, alone in her apartment, my brother’s ashes in a plastic box sitting on her bookshelf. Maybe she’s just a stronger person than I am. Maybe she already had this moment with her own mother months ago, getting it out of her system before it had a chance to boil over. It’s something that I will likely never fully understand.

I hope that I don’t have to.

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Last week KCCI reported on a new set of less restrictive guidelines issued by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) that now favor vaginal birth after Caesarean (VBAC) as a viable option for women, even after two previous Cesarean deliveries. You can read the article in Medscape Today here (free account set up required) and the ACOG’s press release, which has even more information, here.

These new guidelines are an important step in the right direction. I agree, however, with Lamaze International that there is some wording in the new guidelines that can still limit a woman’s access to VBAC. As my doula explained, that’s where women, as consumers and paying customers, need to stand up and challenge the care providers. We need to tell them that this is what we want, and as the paying customer, we have every right to have the option.

The section of the ACOG’s press release that really gives me hope is this:

Restrictive VBAC policies should not be used to force women to undergo a repeat Cesarean delivery against their will if, for example, a woman in labor presents for care and declines a repeat Cesarean delivery at a center that does not support trial of labor after Cesarean.

The part that does worry me a little is the next sentence:

On the other hand, if, during prenatal care, a physician is uncomfortable with a patient’s desire to undergo VBAC, it is appropriate to refer her to another physician or center.

I’m worried that physicians will just start refusing to see patients who want a VBAC.

I know that Iowa City is very pro-VBAC, and I have heard that there are some physicians here in Des Moines who are willing to talk about it, but with limited access to a willing facility, the conversation soon transitions from “We’ll see how you progress” to “Let’s go ahead and get you scheduled.” I sincerely hope that these new guidelines and the patient’s desire for options will help expedite the process of change.

A C-section rate of 31% is too high (up from just 5% in 1970), and I hope that these new guidelines will help lower that rate. However, I think the ACOG needs to look at the reasons for first time C-sections and work on changing the policies that lead to unnecessary medical interventions and, ultimately, a surgical delivery. It stands to reason that, if the initial number of C-sections can be reduced, then the number of subsequent C-sections will drop as a result.

This is a step in the right direction for a woman’s choice in how to birth her baby, but it is just the first step of what is likely to be a marathon. Let’s keep this momentum going. Talk to your doctor, and demand the options that are rightfully yours.

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